Small Realities

Inside the mind of Lance Schonberg

Archive for the category “Geeky Goodness”

Beware the Ninja!

I’ve occasionally been overheard to say that I have no artistic talent whatsoever, usually adding that I have problems with stick people.  But that’s not quite true.  In fact, it’s all a lie.  Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Ahem.  Well, not all, but mostly.  I’m not much of an artist, but I do okay with stick people.  Witness the Renaissance Ninja:

He’s part of a larger work that I’m trying to find a way to squeeze into the header of the new blog/website.  I started sketching the RN when I first picked the title.  I’ve got him sitting at a computer (as above), playing a saxophone, looking through a telescope, trying to clip a Guinea Pig’s toenails… not the easiest thing to draw with my level of talent, I promise you.

But the point is that I drew him myself.

Which is kind of the point of the new blog, or at least part of the point.  It’s a major goal for me to continually try new things and to make sure they add some fun to my life and my family’s.  The kids all find my ninja amusing and even my wife (who’s actually an artist, with talent and stuff) said the larger picture is pretty good.  Made me all warm and tingly.

So the ninja will hang around for a while, but mainly at the new website, where you can see the entire picture the ninja is part of.  Speaking of which, the new sight is where new posts are going to go from now on.  I will crosspost here for a while, but that won’t last forever.

Hope all is well with everyone.


Halo Anniversary

I first played Halo near the end of 2003 when it had already been out for nearly two years.  Fell instantly in love with the story, the action, the characters.  And up until I bought Halo 2, not long after it finally released to PC, it was still the best FPS I’d ever played (and I go back to the original Wolfenstein 3D).

Took me a long time to play Halo 3 since it didn’t get released for PC and I didn’t feel the need for a console until my son was old enough to start bugging me constantly for something other than the old Gamecube or newer Wii (bought as a family system because I also have younger daughters).

He and I started playing Halo and Halo 2 on the PC well before the XBox came into the house.  We got Halo: Reach the same day as the XBox and we’ve both spent too much time on it (although Gamer Boy a lot more than me).  It’s his favourite game and the entire reason he wanted an XBox instead of anything else.  We backtracked to play Halo 3 and ODST, separately and together.

We got to play a multiplayer demo at FanExpo this year and, to be honest, it more or less felt like Reach.  Were the graphics a little better?  Hard to say.  Was the sound a little better?  Hard to say.  Multiplayer felt about the same as Reach so it didn’t really excite me all that much.  But the idea of playing the original campaign with Reach level tech, well, that excited me.

So, tomorrow morning, without telling my son (who doesn’t read my blog or pay attention to what I post on Facebook, so there’s no risk to this), I’ll be making a trip out for Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition.  How could I not?

And yes, I’m looking forward to Halo 4, too, but that’s next year.

Ring Tones

I almost feel like I’m cheating with this post.

Do you have any idea how easy it is to make your own ringtones?  Why would anyone pay for one?  I should rephrase the second question: why would anyone pay more for one than it costs to download the song you want to use?

I suppose the answer is convenience, but really, it’s a simple 5-step process. And it’s quick and fun.

  1. open up the song in some easy editing software (I like Audacity, because it’s free and does a lot of other stuff, but there are  a lot of low-cost choices available.)
  2. Set the time index where you want the ring to start and delete everything before it.
  3. set the time index to 30s later (a limit on a lot of phones and, apparently, I-phones) and delete everything after it
  4. Export/Save as an MP3 file, naming it whatever you like.
  5. Copy the file to your phone (or drag it into Ringtones in I-tunes).

 That’s it, you’re done.

I’ve made a dozen so far.  Once you’ve got the process worked out, it takes less than a minute.  I might be on a quest to have everyone in my address book have their own ringtones, but at the moment, my default is set to the Camelot song, from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  My son will get this one as his own. My wife’s cell number is now set to “Follow You, Follow Me” by Genesis and, to continue in that theme, our home number rings as “Take Me Home” by Phil Collins.

I am such a geek.

Star Trek

So two weeks ago today, 08 Sep 1966, was the 45th anniversary of the original airing of “The Man Trap”, the 45th anniversary of the dawn of the Star Trek era.  I let the day pass without public note (not really like me for something of this scale, but I’ll probably make a big deal out of the 50th when it comes—45 is just another year, really), but I’ll admit to a little private reflection.

Star Trek has been on my mind more than usual lately, not really because of the 45th anniversary, and not really because of my ridiculously slow production of Fractured Unity.  I’ve watched several documentaries recently, saw William Shatner at FanExpo at the end of August, and I’ve been dropping serious hints about the new bluray issues of the original series seasons (contains original and remastered versions of every episode) for potential Christmas and birthday gifts.   For me, of course.

I’m a Trekkie and I don’t really care about the nomenclature battles all that much.  Have your opinion, but don’t try to shove it down my throat (that goes for everything, really).  I’ve been a Trekkie for as long as I can remember.  My whole life.  One of my earliest memories is of sitting in my father’s lap in an old comfy chair and watching “The Immunity Syndrome” (giant space amoeba episode).  If Star Trek was on TV when I was a kid, I was watching it.  As an early teen, a local station broadcast it weekdays starting about five minutes after I got off the bus.  So convenient.  If I’m channel surfing (rare, but does happen), and come across it, I’ll stop there.

When TNG came along in the 80s, I watched it almost religiously, by myself or sometimes with a cluster of friends.   A new episode was cause to stop whatever we were doing and switch to the TV.  Sure, the characters were completely different, the uniforms were a little odd, Worf’s sash seemed pretty frilly for a Klingon (that got changed in season 2), and the hand phasers looked kind of like dust-busters, but it was certainly still Star Trek.

DS9, I had a bit of a harder time with in the early years.  The first few minutes of that first episode were great, and then it got kind of boring.  To boldly stay where no one has stayed before, we used to joke.  That got better, too, because the show had a chance to expand and grow.  It pushed things in new directions and we got the Changelings, shifting Klingon allegiances, and growth of both the Ferengi and Cardassians beyond cardboard cutouts.

Voyager had a lot more potential than it was allowed to realize in the first couple of seasons, but eventually hit its stride.  There were times when we called it the Love Boat in the Delta Quadrant because someone always seemed to be flirting with someone else.  A tinyislandofFederationtens of thousands of light years from home made that natural, I guess, but once the relationships settled out, the Janeway-Chakotay-Tuvok dynamic worked pretty well with most of the secondary characters just barely secondary and giving a real cultural mosaic in the crew, maybe for the first time.

Enterprisewas a bit tougher than any of the other series before it.  I don’t think it’s because of the Bryan Adams inspired theme song, although that didn’t help much.  It came onto the scene when TV shows didn’t get a chance to find their stride anymore.  Be good and grab an audience or be gone.  By the time the storytelling really found its stride, it was too late.  If you didn’t watch it that far, there were a lot of good episodes in the last season.  The fourth season, which is still more than TOS got, if you think about it, but it came on the heels of three series that got seven each.

I’ve seen every movie in the theatre, first run.  All eleven of them.  No, I wasn’t all that thrilled with ST V, but it had its moments.  The 2009 reboot?  Well, I’ve given my opinion on that one before.  Half a great movie.  The other half?  Let’s just say it averages out to about a 7 and go with that.  The next one needs to be better all the way through, not that I’m holding my breath. Hollywood in general hasn’t done a lot to impress me in the past few years, but there’s always hope.

I’ve watched fan film and listened to fan audio drama and I’ve read comic books and novels, and even a little fanfic here and there.  Yes, I’m a Trekkie.

The point of all this rambling is that I think it’s time Star Trek came back to TV.  Movies are all well and good, and there are plenty of reruns of all the old series, I suppose, but there’s been no new Trek since 2005.  Not as long a gap as from TOS to TNG, sure, but considering that from the beginning of TNG to the end of ENT was just about eighteen years, six is a long gap.  It’s lain fallow long enough, alternate timeline movies notwithstanding, and we need a new ship, a new crew, a new adventure.

The world needs more Star Trek.  Get on it,Paramount.

(And yes, I’ve heard the rumours.  I’m not interested in rumours, I’m interested in Trek.)

What I Hated About FanExpo

It’s not a secret that I don’t particularly like crowds.  By myself, it’s not quite so bad; yes, I hate the random, almost Brownian motion of the individual particles making up the crowd.  People should be able to watch where they’re going, after all, and not just suddenly stop in the middle of things, but I’m used to that from walking the floor at work, I guess.  It’s an extra level of stress when I’m trying to guide one or more of my children through the mess, though, and that’s kind of an irritating time.

But you can’t go to a SF convention and expect to avoid crowds.  Even the guests of honour, mostly shepherded behind the scenes, still have to come out once in a while, if only to stand in front of the rest of us and talk.  So that was an expected part of the con experience.

No, the one big problem I had with FanExpo happened when I took Gamer Boy to see the Season 4 premiere of Clone Wars.

For fear of someone capturing even a few seconds of the episode and setting it free on You Tube a mere three weeks before its release, the powers that be, whoever they were, asked everyone to check their cell phones and cameras before coming in.  A reasonable precaution, I supposed, if you’re talking about a major release, but it’s the fourth season of a mediocre (at its best, from what I’ve seen, but I’m willing to admit I haven’t seen all that many episodes) cartoon.  Still, I recognize the fear that pervades many entertainment industries, so I’m not really surprised.

Sealed, labelled, and numbered bags, with matching tickets for you to keep, stood guard over by two or three security officers and me carrying a crappy cell phone (as was Gamer Boy) and a camera with dead batteries (no, I did not check my I-pod, because it’s still quite new and I care very much about it by comparison).  Seems reasonable until you realize that they’re not storing those sealed bags in any kind of filing system, much as it might look that way at first glance from the sequential numbering.  No, the bags are being stored in a pile.

A pile.

Ai-ya.  Oy vey.  Hey-sus, Maria, and Giuseppe.

So, present your ticket and the security officer will dig through the pile until s/he finds your bag, verifies the contents with you, and gives you back your electronics.  It took half an hour to get out of the room and there were still several hundred people behind us.

It was all very orderly going in.  As a matter of fact, FanExpo did line ups (except the initial one to buy tickets) and room entrances in general very, very well.  But add something extra to getting out of the room and apparently whoever was supposed to oversee it didn’t have a clue that they actually needed to oversee it.

A pile is not the most efficient method of storing things you might have to search through later, even if it’s dirty laundry and especially not if it’s cell phones and cameras.  Trust me.

And if I could find a link on the official website for feedback, I’d let them know that way, but the closest match is their info e-mail (, so I used that instead.  Their office opened again yesterday–I wonder how long it will take to get a response.

Other than this one little thing, though, we had a great time.  Well, I wasn’t that thrilled with the head cold I came home with, either, but that’s not FanExpo’s fault.

FanExpo 2011 Sunday Highlights

A little faster to get in today, due partly to a lighter crowd and the willingness to pay cash.  As always, cash is king, or at least makes things a whole lot quicker to process.

The girls and my darling wife came today, too.  Depending on who you ask, it was for different reasons.  The Pink Princess for the shopping, Nature Girl to watch the cosplayers and check out some of the art and video games, Darling Wife because she should have known what she was getting in for when she married me.  (Not entirely fair.  I haven’t gone to a lot of conventions and only dragged her to this one because all three kids were coming, and I thought she might enjoy it.)

Didn’t focus as much on the cosplay today as patrolling Artists’ Alley with the girls (mostly my youngest) seemed more of a priority.  We picked up quite a few little pretties and shinies in the process.  Still, a few pictures are in order.

Waiting in line just to get into something isn’t a new experience for the girls, but it’s not usually in an underground parking garage.

Why they wanted a picture taken while crouching under the giant robot’s fists, I’ve no idea.

No, I said get the BIG gun.

Resistance sometimes requires detailed technical explanations.  This was by far the most impressive Borg I’ve run across without watching an episode of TNG to see it.

You have to admire this family’s dedication to the force.  At least, I assume they’re a family.  Seems kind of creepy, otherwise.

Who ya gonna call?  The Ontario Ghostbusters were out in full strength with a pretty impressive array of props to back them up.  It’s a tossup over which I’d rather have, the R/C R2D2 from the previous picture, or one of the proton packs this crew is wearing.

The 501st was out in full strength, fundraising for make a wish.  Nature Girl got more sticky hits than her brother, although his grouping was a bit tighter.  Big grins on both faces, though.

The thought running through the Pink Princess’ mind has nothing to do with the Muppets, but rather the hope that Daddy will be finished taking pictures soon so that she can get back to the shopping district (Artists’ Alley).

I saw more cosplayers travelling in groups today, and some put on a pretty impressive display.  And in light of how recent the Captain America movie released, this group impressed me.

Team Rocket lives!  Or at least the balloon they used to travel around in.

Of course, the geek highlight of my day was sitting six rows back from a stage containing William Shatner.  At 80, he’s an entertaining, energetic, and engaging speaker.  I’ve enjoyed his work for my entire life, as long as I can remember, or even longer.  (One of my earliest memories is of sitting in my father’s lap watching an episode of the original Star Trek.)  If I’m completely honest with myself, he’s the primary reason I came to FanExpo this year, and I’m very glad I got to see him.

But beyond the fanboy moment and all of the geeky goodness of FanExpo, I got to reconnect with an old friend, played FB/text tag with another, and met some new people, too.  Because, really, it’s all about relationships: with fandom, with celebrities, with people.

Happy FanExpo, everyone.  I’ve got a few more posts coming out of this weekend, but I’ll leave it here for now.



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