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The personal journal of technology journalist and conference speaker Randall S. Newton.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Better Movie Sequels Start with Better Ideas

Recently Time Magazine said that it looks like 2007 will be the Year of the Threepeat in Hollywood. Sequels (and now sequels of sequels) are like the weather; everybody complains but nobody does anything about it.

Perhaps the problem is in the ideas Hollywood uses for their sequels. Remember, for every successful sequel, there are two flops (I submit "Dumb and Dumberer : When Harry Met Lloyd" into evidence.) I suggest several leading producers put into production the sequels I'd like to see. If they do, I guarantee Hollywood will think twice before going back to the old way of creating sequels.

All Dogs Burn In Hell: Charlie and Itchy reunite for one more caper. This time they go too far, with disastrous consequences. In a hilarious tour de force filled with doggie hijinks, not only are they denied a return ticket to heaven, but they manage to get every dog thrown out of heaven. Deleted scenes on the DVD include Charlie sniffing Itchy's butt and yelling “Worms!”

Schindler's Pissed: In a retelling of the story, Oscar Schindler decides late in the war that enough is enough. He gives a gun to every person on his List – even the children – and heads for Berlin. They storm the bunker just in time to pull the gun away from a babbling suicidal AdolfHilter. Eva Braun melts in Oscar's arms while little Jewish kids with machine guns tie a leash to Hitler and parade him around Berlin on all fours with a Star of David pinned to his butt.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Pintel and Ragetti Do London: Those lovable second-rate pirates Pintel (bald, bad teeth, mean) and Ragetti (wandering eyeball, goofy) are too slow when soldiers raid a cantina, so off they go to jail. Sentenced to life at hard labor, they are assigned as galley slaves to a ship in His Majesty's Navy. In a turn of events not even Captain Jack Sparrow could have imagined, Pintel and Ragetti are the only survivors when their ship hits a hurricane. Mistaken for the captain and the first mate, they are rescued and taken to London where they become the toast of the town. Deleted scenes on the DVD include Ragetti asking Pintel to help him relieve himself in the middle of the night "because me aums fella'sleep and I can't hold me wee."

The Batman vs. Dracula: This was already an animated movie, so all a producer has to do is follow the script and shoot it as a live action epic. Can The Caped Crusader save the day before The Menace of the Night turns everyone into his slave? Adam West makes a cameo appearance as the great-great-grandson of Dr. Gabriel van Helsing, who comes to Batman's aid.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Beating the Great Arctic Land Rush In Svalbard

Several months ago, writing about Google Earth for AECnews, I mentioned that I would be using it to identify a good place to buy oceanfront property in the Arctic. Why the Arctic? Because global warming means there will soon (more or less) be a year-around shipping channel connecting Europe to Asia via the Arctic Ocean. Property values will rise. I want in on the action. (You think I'm kidding, right?)

Well, I think I've found a good spot to look for land. Check out Svalbard, possibly the northernmost human settlement in the world.

Svalbard is located north of Iceland and Norway, east of Greenland. The largest town, Longyearbyen, has a population of 1,800--about half the total population. There are more polar bears on Svalbard than people. Despite its northern location, the western side has temperatures that could be considered moderate for an Arctic environment, due to the influence of the north Atlantic current. Today, for example, the high was -5C, about 24F. It's colder than that at my house today. The tallest peak is Newtontopp (love the name) at 1713m (5,620ft).

Svalbard has an interesting history. It is considered a part of the Kingdom of Norway, an administrative agreement established by an international treaty in 1920. But there are some unusual aspects. If you can get to Svalbard directly, and you are a citizen of one of the nations which signed the treaty, you "shall have equal liberty of access and entry for any reason or object whatever to the waters, fjords and ports of the territories." The signatory nations (including the US) have mineral extraction rights, but most of the coal mines there closed years ago. Some immigrants who were denied access to EU countries have supposedly moved on to Svalbard.

Two of the smaller communities on Svalbard were first settled by Russian mining interests, so to this day Russian is spoken in these villages. There is a small but growing tourism industry, catering mostly to Norwegians.

If you draw a line straight line from Copenhagen, Denmark to the Bering Straight, it goes right through Svalbard. NASA and the EU have scientific operations there, and a few years ago they laid a fiber optic cable to the island. So it has great internet service.

I've sent an email to the keeper of the Svalbard FAQ , asking if there are restrictions on buying real estate there. I think the place will become a cruise ship port in 20 years, so I want to buy my piece of the north now before prices go up.

Remember, you read it here first.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Tag! I'm It -- FIve Things You Don't Know About Me

It seems there is a "game" weaving its way through the blogosphere called "Tag--Five Things You Don't Know About Me." Adena Schutzberg of All Points Blog called me out, along with two other CAD writers. So here goes.

1. I am a blood relative to several card-carrying Native Americans, but I am not eligible to join an Indian tribe.
2. I completed all coursework for a masters degree (in education) but got REAL sick before I could compete the thesis. When I got half-way well, I got married. Nine kids later I'm still a thesis away from a master's degree. But unlike bachelor degree programs, master and doctoral programs have time limits.
3. I can look out my kitchen window and see the hospital I was born in.
4. The most famous person I ever interviewed was the late Dixy Lee Ray. It was my first assignment as a newly hired reporter for The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA) and I had 30 seconds to prepare. I was awful, and she was gracious.
5. My father hit me in the head with an ax once. Yes, it was an accident (an axident, yuk yuk). Yes, I bled like crazy. No, I was not knocked unconscious. The blade grazed my eyebrow. The ax traveled 20 feet uphill (very steep slope) to slice me -- nobody could have done a shot like that on purpose.

The rules of "Tag--Five Things You Don't Know About Me" say I have to tag another blogger to do the same thing. So, I tag Rick Stavanja and Rachael Taggart.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Tale of Two Optometrists

It has been way too long since my last eye exam, and I can tell my prescription has changed; I now take my glasses off to read tiny print or to work close-up.

So yesterday I made a couple of phone calls, pricing the cost of a standard optical exam. One clinic was in the US, the other in British Columbia, Canada. The two clinics are about the same driving distance, 25 miles. I will be paying cash for the exam. The US clinic wanted $161 plus a $30 refraction fee. The Canadian clinic wanted $80 CDN, and there is no separate refraction fee. At today's exchange rates, the price will be about $69 USD. You get one guess where I booked my appointment.

Bonus: I'm going around lunch time, and there are wider variety of good restaurants to choose from in Osoyoos, BC than in Omak, Washington.

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