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Star Trek: The Motion Picture

2014 September 1
by Craig

Yesterday I watched the original Star Trek movie, simply named “The Motion Picture.” It was released in 1979. It was the only Star Trek movie I had not seen. I have watched all the others at some point in time.

I should mention that I watched the movies in an odd order. The first movie I watched in the series was part 4. I saw that in the theater back in the day when it came out in 1986. I later watched part 5, then 6. I will say that Star Trek 6 is my favorite of all the movies. I saw it in the theater as well, and it is excellent. Years later, I rented part 2, which is very popular among the fans. After that, I went on to watch part 3. I have also seen Generations, the other movies with The Next Generation cast, and the more recent franchise reboots. I think the new ones are great.

I had never watched the original movie because I always thought it looked kind of dated, and it was too long. The runtime is 2 hours and 10 minutes, which I find to be ridiculously too long. My uncle warned me about it years ago. He told me that I probably wouldn’t like it. Among other things, he cautioned that the special effects were bad.

Now having seen it, I enjoyed the movie. I liked it more than I thought I would going into it. That said, the movie moved incredibly slowly at times. They could have cut 30 or 45 minutes off of the film and still told the story. No kidding. The ultra-slow camera pans and drawn out space scenes were unbearable at times. I don’t know how the editing department got away with the amount of fluff that padded this movie.

The special effects were far better than I expected. I was quite impressed with them. For a movie made in the late 70s, the effects and imagery were stunningly good. (There’s a catch. More on that below.)

The sound effects and background music were a bit much. I thought that the music was dubbed too high in the sound mix in a lot of places. It was almost a distraction at times.

The plot was relatively simple. I didn’t find it all that interesting early on, but I think it had a good payoff at the end. It was a clever idea. The big element that this movie lacked was a starship battle of some kind. The Enterprise launched only one photon torpedo that I recall, and that was to get out of a worm hole. I would have liked to have seen a space battle at some point.

The cast looked a little older than I expected, considering that this was the first movie in the series. The acting was pretty solid. William Shatner acted like a jerk for the first half of the movie, which seemed a bit out of place for his character.

I didn’t care for the uniforms in this movie. The colors were dull and not very exciting. The occasional usage of short-sleeved uniforms was totally uncalled for. I didn’t care for that at all. The uniforms were designed much better in subsequent years.

After watching the movie, I listened to the Film Sack podcast (episode 200) where they discussed the film. They talked about how unnecessarily long the movie was, among many other things. Overall, they didn’t care for the movie, and even went so far to say that Star Trek 5 is better than this one. I would probably agree with that, even though it’s common knowledge that Star Trek 5 is pretty dumb.

Getting back to the topic of special effects, I found out some important information while listening to the podcast. It turns out that the movie I watched yesterday on Netflix is the director’s cut, which was released in 2001. When the movie was re-released at that time, the studio remade the special effects using 90 CGI images and sequences. With that in mind, it’s no wonder I was impressed with the effects. I don’t know what the original movie looked like when it came out.

Overall, I liked the movie. I am a fan of Star Trek in general and I can’t believe I went this long without seeing this movie. I’m glad I watched it, but I couldn’t imagine sitting through those long drawn out two hours again.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

The End of My AdSense Experiment

2014 August 30
by Craig

One year ago, I added Google AdSense ads to my website. I placed an unobtrusive box on the right sidebar where the ads would be contained. Placing ads on my site was an experiment to see if I could make enough change to cover my hosting fees. I wasn’t expecting to make a lot of money from it, but what I have made isn’t worth messing with.

After one full year using AdSense, I have earned a grand total of $6.52. Nearly half of that sum came from a single click not long after I got started. Looking at my current stats, I have earned a mere 3 cents in the last 28 days.

I chose not to put ads on the mobile version of my site. I thought that would look tacky. Considering that, and the fact that my site doesn’t get a lot of traffic, it’s sensible that my earnings would be very low.

I think that the quality of the ads was pretty good overall. I don’t recall a time when I looked at my site and was unhappy with the ad content. I just find them to be a distraction.

This morning I removed the ads. There’s not a compelling reason to leave them up. The page is cleaner, and my site is classier without them.

The Annoying iOS Game Center Banner

2014 August 6
tags: , ,
by Craig

I’d like to submit a complaint about the Game Center banner in iOS. When you load a game in iOS that works with Game Center, a banner slides down from the top of the screen that says, “Welcome back, [your username].” My argument is that it is too large and hangs around a little too long. Sure, this is a rather nit-picky thing to gripe about, but if you load games often enough, trust me, it will slowly chip away at your tolerance.

A great example of how the banner is super annoying is with one of my favorite games at the moment, called Kingdom Rush. Kingdom Rush has background game music that I prefer to turn off. (I turn off all in-game background music, actually.) The problem, particularly with Kingdom Rush is that the music is re-enabled every time I launch the game. The controls for turning it off are in the upper left corner of the launch screen. When I load the game, the music cranks up and I scramble to turn it off, except I can’t turn it off quickly because of the annoying Game Center banner that is lingering at the top of the screen.

I think that Apple should redesign the banner to take up less space in future versions of the operating system. Moreover, it would be nice to have an option to disable it entirely. I would disable it if I could.

Having said all that, I have an even greater idea for how to handle this. Perhaps they could reprogram it to only enable a (smaller) banner when the phone is silenced. When the phone is not silenced, how about a voice that simply whispers “Game Center” when you launch a game? It would be wispy and fun. Wouldn’t that be much better than the annoying banner? I think so.

iOS Game Center Banner

Mr. Wonderfuls Chicken and Waffles

2014 June 14
by Craig

I don’t know when the chicken and waffles trend started. I’ve always found it a little puzzling. There is an upscale restaurant downtown that sells them. I’ve wanted to try it, but it is often very busy. I found a knockoff version elsewhere in town called Mr. Wonderfuls Chicken and Waffles. The name cracked me up and I had to eat there for my tour of crazy restaurants in town.

I got a take-out order from this hilariously named place last night. The meals that include waffles seem to be priced rather expensively, so I opted for a simple 2-piece chicken meal. The meal came with 2 sides and a roll.

My fried chicken was a little overcooked and a tad dry. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it could have been plumper and moister. It may have been better if I had dined in the restaurant instead of taking it home and having the delay before I started eating.

There were plenty of sides to choose from. I chose cabbage and macaroni & cheese. Both sides were delicious, particularly the mac & cheese, which I must say was truly excellent. Seriously, if you eat there, you must order the mac & cheese.

The service was friendly. It took a little long to get my food. I’m sure that varies from day to day. There weren’t many people in the restaurant when I was there, but there may have been orders phoned in ahead of me that I wasn’t aware of. I would eat there again if I happened to be in the area, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.

Circus Family Restaurant

2014 June 8
by Craig

The Circus Family Restaurant is an odd place. It’s an old fast-food restaurant in Raleigh. I’m talking really old. Back in the late 90s I ate at the second location in Cary because I thought it would be funny. I joked about the old restaurant back then. The Cary location closed in 2012.

I drove past the Circus on Wake Forest Road recently, and to my surprise it is still in business. I had forgotten all about the place. It looks weathered and run down. I told myself I had to go eat there.

I went to Circus with a friend this week, just for laughs. When I got inside, it was quite warm. It was a very warm evening and inside the restaurant was warm and stuffy. If the air conditioning was on, it was set very high. Everything about the place looked old and dated. A little greasy. I checked the sanitation rating and they have a respectable score.

There are a lot of items on the menu. I ordered a double cheeseburger and onion rings. The food was good. I honestly didn’t expect it to be. The onion rings, in particular, were great. My burger could have used a little more lettuce, but overall, it was really good. I heard that they serve good shakes, but I didn’t order ice cream.

Circus doesn’t get a lot of business. My friend and I were the only people in the restaurant for more than a half-hour. Only a handful of customers came the whole time we were there. They have a drive-thru, but I only saw one car drive around. Perhaps it was just a slow night. Otherwise, I don’t know how they survive.

Circus doesn’t look like much, but I was pleased with the food. I would eat there again. The staff in the restaurant was very friendly on my visit. The building could use some remodeling, but maybe that run down look and feel is part of its charm.

Circus Family Restaurant

Rolling Stones Top List of Highest-Grossing Live Acts

2014 May 31
by Craig

The Rolling Stones topped Billboard’s list of the highest-grossing live acts of the last quarter century, with a whopping $1.56 billion in ticket sales since 1990. Wow! Keep on rocking, Mick and Keith!

Mick Jagger & Keith Richards on stage Shine a Light