Expectation levels for The Force Awakens are reaching critical mass

This past week we’ve seen some brick-shitting new stuff in the way of trailers and fresh looks at The Force Awakens.

After the official final trailer dropped here in the US, a slightly different version dropped overseas (which is usually the case) and offered folks even more new footage.

Now a new 30 second TV spot has dropped and we’ve got even more nerdgasm-ing to do.

I have to say I’m supremely impressed that Disney has managed to create so many trailers and peaks and the movie without giving very much away (seemingly).

All I know is that we’re in the home stretch now, and they keep giving us new bits. It’s getting harder and harder to keep waiting. Expectation levels are basically going through the roof at this point.

Watch the new TV spot, and the Japanese trailer below.

Amazing Pictures From Another Planet! or: When The World Goes To Shit, Keep In Mind Humans Do Great Things

With everything terrible that is happening in the world, I think people often forget some of the truly amazing accomplishments of the human race. There are a number of them happening right now.

The probes Voyager 1 & 2 – launched in the 70’s remember – have flown beyond everything we know and begun to enter interstellar space; the space between stars. (Voyager 1 is already there, Voyager 2 isn’t far behind). Guys, it’s 11.7 billion miles from Earth, and hurtling away at roughly 38,000 mph. Wrap your mind around that. It’s beyond the sphere of influence of our Sun’s gravity. In 40,000 years, it will reach another star. Another star.

The European Space Agency landed a probe on a comet. On a fucking comet. Not to mention the probe that’s been trailing that comet for even longer. Yes we’ve got all kinds of satellites flying around but we landed something the size of a washing machine, on a chunk of ice and rock flying through space at thousands of miles per hour. That’s goddamn awesome.

Comet 67P on 20 July 2015 – NavCam – Copyright ESA

Then we’ve got Cassini, which is out studying Saturn and its dozens of moons, while sending us back photos like this:
That arrow is point to Earth. Yeah. That’s us. Carl Sagan would love it, because it’s very reminiscent of the original Pale Blue Dot. (Video)

But here’s the reason I really started writing this post…

We’ve engineered technology thanks to good old fashioned human ingenuity and the drive for discovery and knowledge. And while we’ve sent small probes into the great unknown, perhaps even more exciting and fascinating is what’s happening right next door; on Mars. We’ve been sending hunks of machinery to Mars for decades, but only recently have been able to truly explore the planet with any real success. Read that again – explore another planet. Guys, we’re exploring another fucking planet. A planet that almost certainly supported life, and had water all over it.

Doesn’t anyone realize how unspeakably awesome that is?

So many people are consumed with themselves or their stupid opinions, ideals, and entitlements they can’t look beyond their political party lines and see things like this:

THIS IS ANOTHER PLANET!!! ANOTHER FREAKING PLANET!! Click the image to read more about it. Copyright NASA JPL

You’ll definitely want to CLICK HERE to download the full-res version of that photo. Do it. DO IT IT IS AMAZING.
(It’s a large file -but the ridiculous detail is…ridiculous)

Yesterday, JPL released another photo in the long series of ‘selfies’ Curiosity has taken during it’s mission on Mars. Most have been fun, but I don’t think most have been as remarkable as this one for two reasons: A) again, the resolution is so high the details on the full-size photo are astounding. You can literally see the crossbedding in the rock formations, and all the small rocks scattered across the Martian surface – not to mention the insane detail of the Rover itself. And B) the color & scenic location are fantastic.

Click the image to learn more about it! Copyright NASA JPL

Remember, Curiosity is currently climbing a mountain on Mars (Mt. Sharp). Yeah, a mountain on Mars.

You’ll also definitely want to CLICK HERE to download the full-res version of that photo, too. DO IT.
(Another large file)

As a bonus, the folks at NASA created a separate image from that image, a really sweet zoom in of Curiosity itself.

Click the image to learn more about it! Copyright NASA JPL

And again, you MUST CLICK HERE to download the full size version of it. Sure it looks a little weird with the rover’s arm being cut off in order to get the rest of the photos to stitch together, but you look beyond that when you start seeing everything else. DO IT. DOWNLOAD IT NOW.

So the next time you start to feel down and out because ISIS is being a bunch of dicks, or Donald Trump might be President, or some other goddamn wretched thing people seem to be capable of – keep in mind that humans are also capable of amazing feats of discovery. We are, right now, exploring another planet, and something we created at a time when computers in phones weren’t even conceived of yet, has gone beyond our little insignificant pocket of the vast Milky Way Galaxy.

This is an exciting time. Try to convince a friend to share in that excitement. Showing these pictures may help.

Brit Floyd @ the Bayou Music Center

Towards the end of July I had the privilege of getting as close to an actual Pink Floyd concert as I’ll ever get. Pink Floyd has IMG_1551been one of my favorite – if not the favorite – bands since I started really being into music (around middle school). I was too young to know about or go to their show at the Carrier Dome in 1994 on their Division Bell tour. But, after experiencing it via VHS on the P*U*L*S*E release 6 years later, I wish I had.

Enter Brit Floyd – a tribute band that really throws everything they have at making the spectacle as close to the real thing as possible. And they do it well. And they’ve been doing it for a while, too. They’ve got everything one needs for imitating Floyd’s big stage theatrics, and they can do it in whatever sized venue is around.

And I was blown away.

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Not to mention I was pretty giddy the whole night. My wife had wanted to get us tickets as a birthday present a few years ago but the dates ended up not working – so when I saw they were coming to Houston, we were definitely there.


So, the band itself is pretty spot on. They’ve got a guy that does a great David Gilmour, and a guy that does a pretty good Roger Waters. They’ve also got a group of fabulous back-up singers, featuring the lovely Ola Bienkowska belting out those amazing vocals during Great Gig In The Sky. Musically, they are nearly spot on. Sure, they each have their own style that is slightly different from the original Floyd members – and that’s probably for the best. The stage show is equally as impressive – and I can’t imagine the money these guys have to fork over for rights to use the same basic stage show as Floyd, not to mention the film footage, and animations straight out of The Wall. In the end, Floyd fans get the next best thing to the real thing. Now, I’m only 34, but the crowd was full of people my age – and mostly older. And there is nothing more awesome than old people rocking out. It’s a spectacle that makes you want to rock out with them. So that’s what we did.


The set was full of songs any Floyd fan would be hoping for – as well as some really excellent surprises. It was a good mix of the really old, the classic, and ‘modern’ Floyd. Highlights from the old were definitely See Emily Play, and an awesome Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun. For me, the biggest highlight came when they busted Sheep out of nowhere. I also must give them major props for learning and playing rather fantastically the ‘new’ song from the ‘new’ album: Louder Than Words. Add to that a poignant version of The Final Cut, a jump up & down rocking’ Run Like Hell, and a phenomenal Comfortably Numb with a solo that would make Gilmour proud.

Here is the setlist for the night:

Breathe ->
On the Run ->
Time / Breathe reprise ->
Great Gig In The Sky
Shine On You Crazy Diamond
See Emily Play
The Happiest Days of Our Lives ->
Another Brick in the Wall Pt 2
Keep Talking
On The Turning Away
Sheep
——
Intermission
——
One of These Days
Louder Than Words
Money
Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun
Have A Cigar
Wish You Were Here
The Final Cut
——
Intermission
——
Comfortably Numb
The Show Must Go On
In The Flesh
Run Like Hell
Waiting For The Worms
The Trial
Outside The Wall

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I hope Brit Floyd comes around again sometime soon – because we’ll be there. If they come around you, and you’re a Pink Floyd fan definitely make a point to go.

Pics & vids I took from the show have been scattered throughout this post, and there are more below. I didn’t take any really long videos because I don’t have a lot of storage go my iPhone and I wanted more short clips instead of just a few long clips. Check them out, and check out Brit Floyd.

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[REVIEW] LEGO Star Wars Ultimate Collector’s Series Red Five X-Wing Starfighter

Wow, that title is a mouthful.

A few months ago I got my hands on the LEGO Red-5 X-Wing, who any nerd knows is Luke’s callsign at the Battle of Yavin. So, clearly this is a must-have. I knew it was large, but didn’t have anywhere to put it so I left it in the box (a similar fate still plagues my UCS Star Destroyer – it’s been in the box, unassembled, for about 7 years). But as chance would have it, I was given an office at work, with a book shelf and some places to actually put stuff. So, like the giddy school boy I was, I eagerly went to work at assembling this piece of badass-ery. Yes, the set has been out for a long time, so this review is neither ground-breaking nor that insightful, but, you know what NBC used to say – “if you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you!” I’m also aware this is actually a rehash of the original UCS X-Wing from a long time ago. While I don’t own that one I’ve seen it many times, and this new version has many fantastic upgrades.

At over 1500 pieces, the set is pretty hefty. Interestingly enough though, once assembled it doesn’t seem like you just put over a thousand little plastic pieces together. Don’t get me wrong, the thing is huge and awesome, but it’s quite deceiving visually.

It took me about 13 hours to assemble it in total, but there were plenty of distractions: I watched The Wolf of Wall Street (which was fantastic btw), made dinner, walked the dog three times, and watched nearly the entire first season of The Unit on Amazon Prime. But, that’s how I roll. A more focused and dedicated person could probably get it done in about 3 hours. It was not a complicated build, even though some of its intricacies are fascinating.

Here are a few pics to get things rolling…
Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 6.20.23 PMThe set comes in 10 numbered bags making assembly and organization an easy step by step process. You never have more pieces on the table than you need for that particular part you’re building. The instructions were great with one exception: it neglected to point out where to put stickers on the opposite side of the fuselage after showing one side. It’s easy to figure out, but I didn’t even realize I had forgotten them until the entire thing was build, on the display stand, and I was picking everything up to throw away the scraps, and saw those 2 stickers still there. That almost was a detail disaster!

Beginnings of the engine compartment
IMG_0606With some added struts that will eventually work to lift the wings.

IMG_0607A little more. The turny button on the back works raises and lowers the wings as you turn it. It’s a really awesome design once you have all the pieces together.
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Below are some pics of the fuselage as it begins to come together.IMG_0609 The nose section plugs into the engine compartment, and the ship really starts to take shape.IMG_0610IMG_0611Attaching the nose cone…
IMG_0612This was maddening. The name plate is actually just a huge sticker – and we all know how daunting a task putting stickers onto the models are. If you screw it up and it’s crooked or off center – tough shit it’s there for good. So I was super nervous about trying to get this thing on there straight and centered. Thankfully, after about 45 seconds of fidgeting with the leading edges, I went for it, and the results were OK. Phew. LEGO. WE HATE STICKERS. Print that shit on the plate, dudes.
IMG_0603All that’s left are the wings, now. One MAJOR GRIPE: the cockpit windshield decals are stickers. And if you thought getting the nameplate thing on straight was tough, this was 10 times worse. There are 3 separate pieces, the two sides, and the front/top. The sides were mostly manageable, but still challenging. However the top part was super hard, and if you screw it up, you’re completely boned because the adhesive is mega sticky and it ruins the sticker piece to pull it off anyway. So it’s a complete loss – your sticker is ruined and there’s a gunky residue on the piece. I read this complaint numerous times in the reviews on the LEGO website for the model. It’s definitely the worst part of the build.

IMG_0613I didn’t take any pics of the wing assembly because it was pretty straightforward and repetitive (4 times), but here is the model sans it’s engines and blasters. 
IMG_0614And here are the engines. Well, two of them anyway. As you can see the rest still need assembly. They were a cinch to put together, and I really love the detail. It should be noted the open side goes against the fuselage so it’s not incomplete.IMG_0615A few engines attached.IMG_0616Done! With s-foils cruise position. Thankfully, the wings don’t sag too badly. They could be reinforced a little better I think but overall they are fairly sturdy.
IMG_0618IMG_0620Turn that knob to raise and lower the wings. Again, I like the detail of the engines.IMG_0621R2D2 is the only minifig that comes with set – mostly because it’s not really a 100% minifig scale set – and it’s not supposed to be. I like that it’s a larger display model instead of a true playable set.IMG_0622IMG_0623The detail on the front of the engines is nice too. The laser cannons are also well done, and an improvement over the previous X-Wing model.IMG_0624And of course, it wouldn’t truly be a great LEGO set if there weren’t hidden gems, like the targeting computer, complete with the visual of the trench run on the display.IMG_0625Here’s a pic I took for scale. That’s a Sharpie marker/pen on the table – as you can see, the model is sizable. IMG_0627And awesome.

Overall, I’m incredibly happy with the set. It’s expensive so it better be worth it. It has excellent sight lines, and of all the previous X-Wings looks most true to the original movie model. It doesn’t have a ton of playability because it’s not minifig scale, but like I said, for me, that’s OK. It’s supposed to be a display model – which is why the thing comes with a stand and a name plate.

UCS Red Five X-Wing:
Overall Look: 5/5
Detail: 4/5
Clarity of instructions: 5/5
Fun to build: 5/5
Price: 3/5
Time required: 4/5

LEGO Series 13 Minifigs

I finally was able to get my hands on all 16 of the new minifigs. I think this Series 13 has been a stronger showing than the previous Series 12, especially with the Unicorn, and Hot Dog.

I wasn’t able to find the hot dog costume until today – and it was the only one in the entire box. So I was pretty excited about that.

These are my 3 favorites aside from the hot dog.

These are my 3 favorites aside from the hot dog.

I like the king the best out of these.

I like the king the best out of these.

Nothing special about these, especially since you can't tell the cyclops is a female.

Nothing special about these, especially since you can’t tell the cyclops is a female.

Love the carpenter

Love the carpenter

OMG BEST MINIFIG EVER

OMG BEST MINIFIG EVER

[Movie Review] Big Hero 6, & Interstellar

Both of these have been out for quite a while now, so I’m sure you’ve read your fair share of reviews, so I don’t have much to say here except both of these movies are fantastic. Though, obviously for different reasons…

[Big Hero 6] 
d8ed22ee860790f58ad96cf0266b861457b9c7edDisney hit a solid home-run with this animated feature. It’s got a ton of laughs, and a pretty decent amount of heart, too. The trailer for the movie is pretty misleading, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Baymax, the lovable, huggable, Michelin-Man-esque robot provides audiences with much the same awww-inspiring personality that Wall*E brought into our lives those years ago. (Fun fact: to this day, WALL*E remains my favorite animated movie ever.) Much like Pixar’s Up, the movie’s characters, and audiences, are dealt a pretty devastation blow early in the film. Though here it takes a bit more of a sinister turn than it did with Mr. Fredrickson.

Despite some of the dark undertones the film follows, it takes a surprising turn and ends up being a pretty great ride with tons of laughs – some of which are very reminiscent of WALL*E, as it’s one of the only other recent films with a robot as a protagonist where the film makers effectively relayed emotion through non-human characters. The animation is fabulous, too, which is another perk. If you haven’t seen it, take the kids and go have some laughs.

Oh, and make sure you stay until the end of the credits 🙂

Big Hero 6: A 


[Interstellar]

If you have an IMAX theater in your town that is showing this movie in the 70mm IMAX film, see it. If you’ve got to settle for regular IMAX, see it. Don’t have an IMAX, see it.

So, I don’t want to spoil too much of this movie for those who haven’t seen it because in this case it really takes away from the whole point of the film. (See it.) But suffice to say, it’s a very stressful movie in many respects. The peril. The tugging of heartstrings. The unbelievably epic space-scapes. This movie is big, in every respect. Much like Inception, and The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan uses the musical score as more than an accompaniment to the film – it’s a character in the film. Yes, it’s supposed to be loud and overpowering. The music is supposed to be as deafening as the silence and grandeur of space.
interstellar.black_.hole_While the story is pretty straightforward, it’s very engaging. But it’s the science behind the movie that interests me the most. Because science is awesome. What’s so mind blowing about much of the science in the movie is that it’s as accurate as possible, and everything else, while creatively inventive, still is based on theories. The picture above is a shot from the movie showing a black hole. The most amazing thing about it, aside from how freakin’ awesome it looks, is that it’s mathematically accurate, and the most accurate depiction of what light swirling around the event horizon of a black hole would look like. Let’s not even get into time dilation because that’s a whole other breed of mind-fuck.

I was as fascinated by the science as I was by the film itself. It’s a thinker, for sure. We’re all used to our usual three dimensions; but Interstellar goes beyond to the fourth (time), and toys with the idea of gravity as a fifth dimension. It weaves a very complex web of events and story that will definitely have you leaving the theater pondering the universe in ways you probably haven’t before.

The movie is also not without its faults though – some pretty cliche dialogue, and a little deus ex machina toward the end, but I was willing to look past it all to enjoy the overall scope of the movie. You should too. Go see it.

Interstellar: A+

Please donate to help sponsor our ride in the 2015 BP MS150!

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It’s that time again! We’ve just registered for the 2015 MS150, and this year we’re getting started early on fund raising (we learned our lesson last year). It’s a fabulous cause, obviously, supporting the MS Society. For those who don’t know, the MS Society helps those diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and the MS150 is one of the largest fund raisers in the country.

If you’re curious about the MS Society, and it’s mission with the MS150 event, please check out the MS150’s official website.

The BP MS 150 is a two-day fundraising bike ride with 13,000 riders organized by staff and volunteers from the National MS Society South Central Region and is the largest of 100 Bike MS events in the United States. The 2013 BP MS 150 raised $18.1 million and the 2014 BP MS 150 is projected to raise $18.8 million which supports the mission of the National MS Society to create a world free of MS.

Last year was the first time my wife and I participated, riding as a part of the team for our company. It was an absolute blast, and amazing to be a part of something so substantial and important.

But this is where you come in; the MS150 is fundraiser so, uh, we need to raise some funds. In order to participate, each rider is required to raise a minimum of $400. I’m setting my goal at $500 for this year, and I hope you can help me get there. My wife will also need to raise the $400 as well, so I will update this post with her donation link when she registers and updates her donation page.

Donations are tax deductible!

To help Dan reach his $500 goal, click the button below!
Click to donate!

 

 
To help Annie reach her goal, click the button below!

Click to donate!

 

 

Thank you!

Here are some pics of last year’s event
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Click for full-size!

Click for full-size!

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