Saturday, January 31, 2004

Return of the King

No, this isn't a post about Joe Gibbs returning, though maybe the excitement over that is my excuse for not seeing the latest Lord of the Rings movie until now.

The real excuse, though, is that between the holidays and Christina's extended stays in North Carolina and Rhode Island, we haven't had much of a chance for an evening out at the movies. So after calzones at Alario's, we headed to the Regal Bowie 14 to see Return of the King.

I don't have much insight to add to all the reviews. I will say that Chris Kattan has ruined Gollum for me. Overall, though, I enjoyed the epic sweep of things. It's been years since I read the book, but the memories of the story came back to me as I saw it acted out on the screen. Definitely a reasonable use of (yikes) $9.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Still Crazy After All These Years

One of my birthday gifts from my parents was The Paul Simon Collection. I really enjoy Paul Simon; I had the pleasure of seeing him perform on the Mall a few years back. The liner notes mentioned that the song "Still Crazy After All These Years" coined that phrase. I was somewhat surprised to hear that. It seems such a familiar phrase -- could that really be true? A little Googling turned up this 1993 interview, where Simon almost claims the coining of the phrase:

It's a title about which I've often thought - did I make that up? It seems like it's such a familiar phrase.

I think I'm right to be suspicious of claims for the origin of phrases. Recently, Gregg Easterbrook claimed, "The phrase "there's no such thing as a free lunch" originates in" Robert Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. That struck me as odd -- I read the book, but never got the sense that was the phrase's origin.

According to the site, I was right to be suspicious.

The exact phrase, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch, is also first used in the city by the bay in the 1 June 1949 edition of the San Francisco News (although this is claimed to be a reprint of a 1938 editorial so it may be even older, but the original has not been found).

The science fiction fans come into the picture in 1966 with the publication of Robert Heinlein's novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. He did much to popularize the phrase and seems to have coined its acronym, TANSTAAFL. More recently, it has become a favorite saying of economists, buoyed by Milton Friedman's frequent use of the phrase.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Gertrude's Galley

Christina and I had a nice lunch today at Gertrude's Galley, a seafood restaurant up here in Rhode Island. She had a crab cake sandwich, and I had a blue cheese, carmalized onion and baby spinach frittata. I'm having a nice, albeit brief, visit to the Ocean State.

I flew up from National last night to celebrate the last hour of my birthday with Christina, who is working up here. It has been about two years since I flew out of National, but I took advantage of a US Airways e-saver fare to catch a direct flight from there to Providence. The last time I flew into National, I remember looking out the window and seeing the scar in the Pentagon just starting to be repaired. This time, it was healed over and looking better than new.

I've had a relaxing day bumming around the hotel room while Christina is hard at work. Maybe I should feel vaguely guilty, but it's not like I'm the one making her work all weekend, right? And she's being paid an hourly rate, so we both benefit from the long hours she's putting in. Tonight we'll spend some of those long hours (or associated per diem) at a restaurant. I'm thinking sushi.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Christina's got her own domain now at There's nothing really there yet, as I have just set it up and haven't turned it over to her yet. Until then, read her post at her old web site.

Friday, January 16, 2004

More Bowlin'

I took Christina to the airport yesterday morning -- she's off on a business trip. When she did the electronic check-in, the kiosk informed her that her flight had been canceled. Bummer. But the kiosk actually did a pretty good job of handling this, as it offered her a selection of replacement flights. We selected the next one, which was in a couple of hours, checked her bags, and wondered what to do.

The answer of course -- bowling. When driving around near the airport looking for breakfast, we had passed Greenway Bowl in Odenton. Since Christina was already checked in and had her bag checked, we just needed to get her back in time to clear security and get to her plane. So we bowled a couple of games. I bowled a 136 and a 116. The 136 featured 4 strikes and 1 spare, which is unusual for me -- I usually pick up more spares than strikes. The second game, I was back to form with 3 spares and 1 strike. I didn't bowl as consistently as I did a couple of weeks ago. And I had left my bowling ball in the car, and I think the fact that it was so cold caused me to chip it. I should look into getting that repaired.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

The Dead Zone

With Christina in North Carolina, I find myself with some serious TV-watching time on my hands. Last night, I watched the movie The Dead Zone, which Christina had seen some time ago. We have been watching the TV series "The Dead Zone", which is based on the novel by Steven King. Well, actually it started up again last summer and TiVo got confused, so we missed a bunch of episodes, but we've seen all of them but seven, six of which we've now got stored on the TiVo.

The point of this (I think) is that I'm familiar with a different version of the same basic plot-line, so I spent more of the movie comparing it to the TV-series than evaluating it on its own merits.

Well, the verdict is in: Christopher Walken is creepier than Anthony Michael Hall. (Well, duh.) That underlies much of the difference between the two plots. Hall plays a much more sympathetic version of "Johnny Smith". I suppose that makes sense -- in an episodic format, you want your audience to sympathize with the main character. I appreciated the creepy element of the movie -- it added an element missing from the series. But overall, I like the series better.

The comparison may be unfair, since the TV series has more time to develop characters. But I like various touches from the series, like Johnny being the father of his ex-girlfriend's son.

Sunday, January 04, 2004


I went bowling yesterday with Christina and some of her friends. I bowled 132 and 99. I knocked over similar numbers of pins in both games, but I couldn't get any marks in the second until the 8th frame. In the first game, I was happy that in the first 9 frames, I knocked over at least 9 pins in each.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Board Game Geek

My friends and I have been playing a fair number of board games lately. So I did some searching and stumbled across the BoardGameGeek web site. One of the features is a gaming calendar, where you can see what board games I've played recently. (Hey, I did say Geek, right?) I also added that link to my now slightly more detailed gaming page.

As you can see from the calendar, the two games we've played the most lately are Carcassonne and Robo Rally. Carcassonne is a tile-laying game, which sounds wierd, but it's actually fairly simple and fun. You place tiles, which have roads, cities, farms, and cloisters. You then have a certain number of people pieces (called "meeples"), which you can place on the various board elements -- for example, as farmers on the farms, or as monks in the cloisters. It has a number of interesting elements -- it's somewhat cooperative, and it doesn't have the "get knocked out of the game" feature of a lot of other games. I'm not very good at it -- we've played 4 times, and I've been last every time. But it's a lot of fun.

Robo Rally is an older game, and in fact is now out of print. The basic concept of this game is that you "program" your robot by laying down 5 cards in order. The cards say things like "Move 1", "Turn Right", "Back Up". Your robot does things in the order that you tell it to -- except if you run into another robot programmed by someone else. Then your robot keeps doing those things, but he might get bumped off course and do completely unintended things. The other possibility is not paying attention and having a "bug" in your program. Running into other robots and my continual inability to tell my left from my right worked together pretty well yesterday, when I started doing the wrong thing, got bumped by Martin, and then ended up on a "healing" square to end the turn. Another source of fun/danger is the board itself, which represents a "factory", complete with conveyer belts, crushers, pits and other dangers.