Saving Grace

A while back Mark asked me if I had seen a movie called “Saving Grace” about an English widow who grows marijuana to pay off her debts. I said yeah, but after reading the blurb on Netflix it didn’t sound that familiar, so I dumped in the queue.

The movie arrived in the mail yesterday and when I opened the envelope I though to myself, ‘maybe we have seen this.’ Then I remembered that if we had rented it from Netflix I could find out, I could check my movie spreadsheet and we had seen it, back in April of 2001. It didn’t have a DNF (did not finish) next to it, meaning we must have somewhat enjoyed it, so we watched it again today. And we watched it all the through this time too. An enjoyable comedy that only falls apart at the very end.

So Mark, thanks for the recommendation and because of that, I have granted your request of yesterday.

Started down, still down.
Miata Top Transitions since 10/24/08: 89

A Day Late

Saturday dawned foggy with a threat of rain and even with a splotch of green on the radar barreling down on our little town, Donna and I went for a walk in Hitchcock Woods. In deference to the verdant pixels on the Weather Channel site we packed small umbrellas and waterproof jackets. Halfway through the walk (of course it was halfway, momma didn’t raise no fools,…) it indeed started to lightly rain (…we know enough to come out of the rain), so we donned our jackets and turned around. Fortunately it has been a mild winter so hypothermia did not set in.

The title of this post is “A Day Late” because I’m writing it on Sunday, but I will date it late on Saturday, because when we got home last night it was too late for me to think about doing it then. The mild winter came into play then as well because the clouds and fog kept the temperature in the upper 50’s even at eleven o’clock at night, so we got to drive home from Augusta after dinner out with friends with top down.

Started up, went down, still down.
Miata Top Transitions since 10/24/08: 91


Donna’s youngest brother Scott and family live near Seattle and we have visited them there a couple times now and we both have come to enjoy the northwest. We didn’t visit them in 2008, instead opted to remodel our bathrooms, but this year we are planning a visit. As much as we like the northwest there is one part of the country we enjoy more, the southwest, which we last visited 20 years ago and now we have a chance to kill two birds with one stone. Scott’s wife Beth annually helps out at a cattle auction in New Mexico in April so we are sketching out plans for a visit to that area down where poor ol’ Bug Bunny keeps making wrong turns in, Albuquerque.

Do we drive or do we fly?

Flying nowadays is such a hassle and that is after you have wrestled with mystical flight planning. We can fly from Charlotte (our preferred airport) on Delta, but not non-stop. We would have to go through Atlanta (surprise.) So why don’t we fly from Atlanta, it is only a little further away than Charlotte? Yahoo Travel doesn’t offer that option. So I went to the Delta web site and found that I could do that, but it costs $200 more per person to fly fly 250 fewer miles.

Driving is our preferred method of travel, but from here to there the most direct way is 1,600 miles of mind numbing interstate. That translates into roughly four 8 hour days with more of the same in store for the way back, so we would probably rent a car (because the Miata is not really optimal for that sort of travel.) Even though we would have to rent a car in New Mexico if we flew, driving would probably mean a 2 week vacation instead of just a week for flying.

Flying and it’s shorter trip would mean the hotel and meals would be half the cost of driving, but 2 weeks and driving would mean we could do sightseeing on the way out and back.

What to do? What to do?

Started down, went up, still up.
Miata Top Transitions since 10/24/08: 92

Monday Night Off

Started up, went down, still down.
Miata Top Transitions since 10/24/08: 93


Last year sometime they stopped making instant Polaroid film, but don’t despair, now thanks to the magic of software you can recreate those “thrilling” green tinged soft focused images from your crystal clear perfectly color balanced 10 megapixel images your digital SLR produces. They have even recreated the agonizing wait while your photo develops, the only thing lacking is the ability to pick up your monitor and wave it around to help speed the process – Poladroid Project.

Maybe the reason I think this is so cool is because my very first camera at about 10 or 11 years-old was a Polaroid Swinger

Started up, still up.
Miata Top Transitions since 10/24/08: 96

Sunday Breakfast

We were originally intended to drive to Florence to meet Donna’s cousin Laurie for breakfast at the Cracker Barrel, but it got called off. Laurie had to go into work to cover for someone and couldn’t make it. It saved us having to get up real early and have to drive a 130 miles, but it didn’t save us from going out to eat. Donna was looking forward to not having to cook, and suggested we go to the Cracker Barrel in Augusta, but neither she nor I wanted to drive the 35 miles just to eat breakfast. I suggested we just go to the IHOP here in Aiken, a mere 3 miles away. Sold.

Started up, went down, still down.
Miata Top Transitions since 10/24/08: 99

Seperated At Birth?

Every time I watch LOST and I see Miles Straum I think he looks like that guy with all the kids. Every time I catch a few glimpses of Jon & Kate Plus 8 I think how much he looks like that weird psychic guy on LOST. (I’m not the only one) But as I went searching for photos with them in similar poses, I now see that they really don’t look much alike at all.

Windows 7 is gone. Booted into it, downloaded a copy of EasyBCD and used it to remove the Vista-like bootloader, booted back into XP and formatted the partition it resided on.

Started up, still up.
Miata Top Transitions since 10/24/08: 100

Martin Clunes

We have been watching Doc Martin, a British TV show, about a stuck up surgeon from London who gives up his practice because of a phobia of blood to become a GP in a small village in Cornwall. Most of the humor comes from the fact that the doctor has zero interpersonal skills and is entirely incapable of telling anything but the truth and usually in a scientific/doctorly way which is usually unpleasant to the listener. Nearly all the remaining laughs are generated by some of the totally odd inhabitants of the smal seaside village, with just a few left over for the budding romance between the Doc (with which he has no experience at) and the school’s headmistress.

They have filmed 3 Series of the show consisting of 6, 8 and 7 episodes each. The first Series we rented from Netflix, but numbers 2 & 3 haven’t been released in the US as of yet, so we had to turn to Nigel who had copies available in the boot of his Vauxhall Vectra saloon that he could sell us. We are now down to the last two episodes of Series 3 and we will be finished. For now, they are working on a Series 4 that is supposed to start filming in May of this year, so maybe by the end of 2009 we will be able to watch those shows too.

Doc Martin stars Martin Clunes who is proof positive that acting matters more than looks to the English. While not what you would call ugly, more like eccentric, he won’t be making the leap to leading man in Hollywood soon. We have seen him a couple of times before, in William & Mary, a romantic comedy TV show and in Saving Grace, which ended up inspiring the Doc Martin TV show.

William & Mary ran for 3 Series and of course only the first two were released in Region 1 (the US and others). We ran through those 12 shows thanks to Netflix, but the last Series wasn’t available, even from Nigel, so we ended up buying the DVDs from Amazon in the UK. I was going to buy just Series 3, but a box set with all three Series were available for only a couple quid more, so I went for the set. Now I have to do some digital magic and rip the DVDs to my computer and stripping the region code. Then I have to burn them back to some recordable DVDs while converting them from PAL to NTSC. Wish me luck.

Started up, still up.
Miata Top Transitions since 10/24/08: 100


Thanks Mark.

  1. Take the William & Mary Region 2 DVD in PAL format and run it through DVD Decrypter to copy it to your hard drive.
  2. Run it through VobBlanker to change it to from PAL to NTSC and save it to a new directory.
  3. Run those files through DVD Shrink 3.2, squishing the files (so they will fit on a single layer DVD) and save those to another directory.
  4. Finally burn this last directory to a blank DVD +r using ImageBurn.

Two hours in front of the computer and the DVD doesn’t play in the living room, the Region Code is still intact. I’ve got to delve into the process and find out where I strip the region code…tomorrow.

Started up, still up.
Miata Top Transitions since 10/24/08: 100

I’m So Excited

A coworker’s dad got a new laptop and they can’t get it to print on their home network. They have pretty much same set up as I do: broadband modem, wireless router for the laptop, desktop PC wired to router with attached printer. The big difference is dad’s laptop has Vista. I tried to talk her through a few things to check, but no progress was made. She’s no dummy, except, like me, in matters of Vista.

On Thursday, I printed out a bunch of stuff I found on the net about Vista and network printing and after work we headed over to visit dad. I thought I asked, but maybe not in a way that was clear, but the two PCs were not networked at all. The laptop did have access to the interweb through the router though. The domain names were the same on both PCs, we turned off the firewalls, I ran the networking wizard on the XP desktop and I think I got everything right on the Vista laptop, but there was no connection made.

I came home and hit the back alleys of the net to find a copy of Vista so I could try loading it on my laptop and see if I could network it. It took until late last night get the full torrent downloaded (I guess there is not a lot of folks out there that want a copy.)

Today I installed Vista onto the recently vacated partition where the Windows 7 Beta resided. I connected to the wireless router, changed a few networking settings on Vista and I was in. My only snafu was setting up the printer, but only because Vista didn’t have a native driver for it. A simple download later and I could print.

I wonder what it would take to start over with the whole networking thing on Dad’s machine?

I’m so excited about this coming week, but I’m not sure what about more:

  1. A new episode of House on Monday,
  2. the swearing in of 44,
  3. season five of LOST on Wednesday,
  4. or Friday afternoon off.
Started up, still up.
Miata Top Transitions since 10/24/08: 100

Big Snow Storm Covers Aiken!

Not really, more like persistent flurries dust us all day.

It was snowing lightly on the drive into work and once it became light, every time I passed a window or on our three shortened walks around the parking lot at break times there were widely scattered flakes fluttering to the ground. Heck at 4 o’clock quitting time the sun was shining, but there were still sporadic flakes tumbling down. But because our temperatures had not been cold enough for long enough nothing stuck, not even on the grass.

Started up, still up.
Miata Top Transitions since 10/24/08: 100


Today was a rainy day, just right for recovering from the flu and watching movies. First we watched Burn After Reading (or was it Burn Before Reading?) and somehow A-List writer/directors with an A-List cast somehow managed to produce a B-List movie. It was not bad, it was good, but it was not inspired like Fargo or The Big Lebowski.

The second movie was Henry Poole Is Here and I’m not really sure of what to make of this movie. I absolutely can’t think of anyone I could possibly recommend this movie to, but not because it was an awful movie, it was actually pretty good. It starts quirky, runs to questions of religion and faith, then somehow turns into a happy ending romance.

The Miss America pageant (or is it the Miss USA pageant?) is on TLC (The Learning Channel?) this evening and somehow 20-odd nicely proportioned, finely tanned women in black bikinis wearing high heels came off as unattractive.

Started down, went up, still up.
Miata Top Transitions since 10/24/08: 102

Ellen Page Film Festival

Finally got around to seeing last year’s independent movie that could, Juno. Ranks right up there with yesterday’s Henry Poole Is Here flick, quirky character navigates tricky life problem while surrounded by a circle of quirky friends/family to satisfyingly happy ending to a folksy acoustic soundtrack. Ellen Page is nicely cast as the protagonist, but no 16-year old is that smart or worldly.

Unless of course she a 17-year old Vanessa Wetherhold, daughter of an English Professor in the movie Smart People. I’ve had this movie in my rental queue for awhile now, but the other day it got moved into the Watch It Now category and while Donna watched something on the tube I watched it on the laptop. Some folks compare it to Sideways in tone, mostly I think because of Thomas Hayden Church, I didn’t see it in anything other than his similar sort of loose cannon with a purpose shtick. I enjoyed the movie and don’t regret the hour and a half I spent with it, but it is another one that I can’t recommend to anyone I know because I don’t know anyone else who likes this type of movie.

I do enjoy “independent style” movies, but after this weekend I think I need a dose of good ol’ Hollywood style unreality. Maybe I need to move The Dark Knight to the top of the queue.

Started up, still up.
Miata Top Transitions since 10/24/08: 102

Tax Man Cometh

The fine folks at TaxCut mailed me a CD again this year. I almost installed it.

I have used a computer program to do my taxes (TaxCut and TurboTax before it) for at least a dozen years. In the beginning they were sort of crude and it was more a novelty and a math check than anything. As each year went by they got better, they asked questions in plain English, you no longer had to read the form, read the explanation in the instructions, scratch your head, guess. It was almost fun to do your taxes.

I don’t remember what TaxCut cost last year, but this year they wanted $50 for the one that includes Federal & State and that apparently was my tipping point because I didn’t want to spend that much. I downloaded the 1040 form and instructions off the IRS site and then because we were out and about yesterday I ducked in the library and picked up a paper copies too (it is so much easier for me to read the instructions while filling out the form instead of flipping windows back and forth.)

Today I investigated the possibility of filling them out online for free, but they were limited to people making less than $53k which left us out. Then I found that both of the major players offered free online software and e-file for federal (will charge for doing the state though ~$30.) I picked TurboTax Free and in less than an hour I was done.

Admittedly ours is a piece of cake, we can’t even itemize anymore because our home mortgage interest is so low now, but I’m sure it will take longer to do the state on paper tomorrow.

Started up, still up.
Miata Top Transitions since 10/24/08: 102

Dr Cuddy?

We popped in the first disc of Season 1 of The West Wing tonight and watched a couple episodes. in the very first one Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) picks up a woman in bar and ends up spending the night with her. In the morning they accidentally swap pagers. Later that day “Sam’s” pager goes off and discovers the swap along with that he also finds out the woman works for an escort service! She looks vaguely familiar, I think I have an idea, but dismiss it as too far fetched.

Donna has the same idea, but is sure who it is, so she says it, “She’s from House.” Now when she speaks I can tell it is her, it is Lisa Edelstein, just 10 years younger than we’re used to.

Started up, still up.
Miata Top Transitions since 10/24/08: 102


I watched Superbad on Netflix Instant Watch and enjoyed it. Sometime, if you are just in the mood for some teenage raunch/stupid/low brow comedy, this movie will be for you.

Started up, went down, still down.
Miata Top Transitions since 10/24/08: 103


After work we drove to Augusta to meet some friends for dinner. Mmmm…ribs. When we were done eating it was decided that the 4 of us should go bowling, so we went back to their living room.

They just bought a Wii a couple weeks ago and have been bowling practically every night. Trust me it showed in the scores. We rolled a total of three games and each game my wife beat me by just a few pins. It is usually just the opposite in the real world, I come out on top there. Incredibly it works that way with the couple we were with too, only she is the better bowler in reality.

Started down, went up, still up.
Miata Top Transitions since 10/24/08: 104