Wednesday, May 31, 2006
I thought the movie was great, even if it was a little under the quality of the first two. I liked that the storytelling was gutsy (even if it did suffer from too-much-in-too-little-time sindrome at parts) and that actions had consequences, no apologies. The movie was more comic book-y than the parts 1 and 2, but it wasn't cartoonish, and I thoroughly enjoyed the various nods to fans of the comic. It wasn't flawless, and there were a few things I could have done without or with more of, but overall I left the theatre pleased and psyched, as did my non-geek wife.
I'll come back later with a spoilers-included full review.
X-Men: The Last Stand - 4 out of 5 stars.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
First of all, I changed the layout to one that mirrored my personal webpage. Along with that, I have made this blog my personal site as well; going to www.dmperez.com now brings you here. Little by little I'm going to transfer the pages I had on my old site to backdated blog posts that I can then link here. I have started to use tags (linking to del.icio.us) as well, but I forget to use them all the time, so they aren't as comprehensive as they should be yet. Eventually I want to move this blog to be hosted at my own server where I can then keep a copy of it for posterity.
Second, for about two weeks now I have been linking two other of my blogs to this one, the Miami Daily Photo blog, and the Destination: Earth Travel blog.
The Miami Daily Photo blog chronicles my city one picture a day and is part of the City Daily Photo network, covering cities all around the world. I have lots of fun with this project, and I've actually learned a lot about my city through it. Instead of redirecting the daily posts here, however, I will post a weekly summary of the previous week's daily photos, probably on Sundays or Mondays. That way I showcase my work on that blog without overwhelming this one.
The Destination: Earth Travel blog serves as a news blog for my travel company, where I post interesting travel news bits and updates about our company's services. These two blogs are specialized and expanded expressions of things I would normally cover here anyway, which is why I decided to link them up.
Third, I have now started a new project that combines my passion for gaming and travel, a podcast called The Gamer Traveler. This mini podcast will play as a feature inside the Dragon's Landing Podcast every two weeks, more or less, and will feature me talking about some site around the world, giving it the travel show treatment, then talking about ways to incorporate it into your games. I am very excited about the podcast, and thank Chuck and Lonnie at the Dragon's Landing Podcast for the opportunity. The show notes for the introductory episode are now available at The Gamer Traveler blog and future show notes will appear here automatically once posted there.
I'll most likely take the Highmoon Media Productions site to a blog format as well, though that will probably happen later in the summer, as June is going to be a very busy month: there's regular work, the Jewish holy day of Shavuot, finishing Targum Magazine #1, finishing the layout for Lonnie Ezell's Daughter of the Sun, overseeing the launching of the new joint project between Highmoon Media and Reality Deviants, overseeing the Montdargent line being developed by JC Alvarez, doing at least one podcast, and leaving for my summer vacation, two weeks in Holland and Belgium (aka. The Hellhoot Adventure, see the ticker on the front page).
Off I go. Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Completed in 1999 to replace the venerable Miami Arena, the American Airlines Arena (AAA) has taken over as Miami's main venue for pretty much any show in town, as well as the home for our local NBA team, the Miami Heat. Right now it is hosting the Heat's playoff games, thus the gigantic banner on the front.
Posted by Daniel M. Perez to Miami Daily Photo at 5/27/2006 11:05:00 PM
Friday, May 26, 2006
Completed in 1925 as the headquarters of the Miami News & Metropolis Newspaper, the Freedom Tower became in the 1950's the Ellis Island of the Cuban exile community as they arrived in Miami fleeing from Castro's revolution. Located in Downtown Miami, the building was sold in the 70s and left abandoned until it became a center dedicated to the preservation of the history of the Cuban American community. The tower was slated for demolition to give way to new condos, but it was eventually donated to the Miami-Dade College and will soon reopen as a full-fledged museum. The Freedom Tower is another example of a Giralda tower (I've already shown you the Biltmore tower).
Posted by Daniel M. Perez to Miami Daily Photo at 5/26/2006 01:27:00 PM
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Royal Caribbean's new Freedom of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world and ever made, pulled into port here in Miami early this morning. The ship was christened last week in New York and has now sailed into its home port, from where it will carry 4375 passengers every time it sails out. Let me tell you, the thing is absolutely massive.
Confession: I did not take this pic, I took it from our local NBC affiliate. I did, however, see the ship this morning as I drove to work, but it was raining so I didn't chance taking one of my trademarked pics while driving.
Posted by Daniel M. Perez to Miami Daily Photo at 5/25/2006 11:13:00 PM
I mean, it's already hard talking to yourself without feeling like an idiot, wondering if you should stick to a script or wing it, and double-guessing whether anyone really cares to hear what you have to say, but on top of that, just getting the damned thing straight in the least number of takes possible is just hard. I have new-found respect for all those who do it on a weekly basis and make it seem so easy.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
One of the things they had at Cuba Nostalgia was a large map of the city of Havana as it looked in 1953. It was actually one of the highlights of the show, as pretty much everyone went by it so they could find their street from before they left Cuba. My Mother-in-law was able to show us where it was she lived, almost down to the lot.
Posted by Daniel M. Perez to Miami Daily Photo at 5/24/2006 11:34:00 PM
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Took this pic at the Cuba Nostalgia show, where as you can probably imagine, Ernesto "Che" Guevara is not exactly the most loved of people. The word is a play on the Spanish for assassin, replacing a syllable with the Che's name, and it speaks loud and clear to how the Cuban exile community feels about this man, who for some reason, many other people in the world revere. This is as quintessentially Miami as our beaches or the Everglades.
Posted by Daniel M. Perez to Miami Daily Photo at 5/23/2006 11:24:00 PM
Another new country for Europe
Montenegro voted to break from Serbia, with 55.4 percent in favor
The joyful fireworks and street parties that exploded in the streets of Podgorica on Sunday night, as Montenegrins celebrated a vote in favor of independence, found few echoes Monday in other European capitals.
Read the full article here.
Though the EU government is not exactly happy with this new development, I kinda like the idea of having another new nation go independent and add to the tapestry that is Europe. Though I understand why the Eurocrats are meeting the news of Montenegro's independence with tepid resignation--this would mean yet another mini state (only 650,000 inhabitants!) that the EU must contend with politically as if it were a France or a Germany--I am glad that these former Soviet-block nations are coming into their own. For example, I never considered Yugoslavia "Europe;" it was just Russia on the Adriatic. But as independent nations, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and now Montenegro (as well as Serbia), all stretch the borders of what Europe is a lot further east, opening the doors to tourists worldwide to come and experience a new side of Europe, a Europe that is coming into its own, rebuilding and growing with the enthusiasm of a child let loose. The larger, established members of the EU have a duty to act as mentors and make sure these child-like energies are channeled correctly, but also to welcome and embrace these younger cousins, remembering the periods in their past when they, too, found themselves emerging as their own nations. One thing is for certain, this World Cup will be the last one for the Serbia & Montenegro team. We'll see how they perform once the games begin on June 9.
Posted by Daniel M. Perez to Destination: Earth Travel Blog at 5/23/2006 12:41:00 PM
Monday, May 22, 2006
Yesterday I went to the Cuba Nostalgia fair, a yearly event where the Cuba of yesterday is both remembered and celebrated. There was music, food, vendors, memorabilia, food, guests, food, artists and food. It was a really cool event, especially for me as a Puerto Rican married to a Cuban American girl, thus married into a Cuban family, as I got to see and experience a little bit of the Cuba that existed before Fidel screwed it up, the Cuba that my parents-in-law had to escape and can never regain.
Posted by Daniel M. Perez to Miami Daily Photo at 5/22/2006 09:24:00 PM
Sunday, May 21, 2006
This new plane is huge, and Heathrow Airport has already rigged one of their gates to handle the A380's double deck configuration. Perhaps this will mean lower air fares? One can hope! Check out some pics of the Airbus flying over England taken by regular folk on the steets.
And on another rather strange concept from Airbus, who seems to be bent on pushing the envelope as far as passenger jets go, we get the standing-room only airplane. It seems Airbus has been pitching this idea to the Asian carriers first, though none seems to have gone for it (yet). The idea is that instead of seats, you get these recliner platforms to which you are strapped. I can somewhat see the advantage, but I'm far from convinced. What I truly wonder is, will you still be able to recline those 3/4 inch, and will is still make no difference? More at the New York Times.
Posted by Daniel M. Perez to Destination: Earth Travel Blog at 5/21/2006 01:38:00 PM
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Located across Miami Internationa Airport, the 94th Aero Squadron restaurant is housed inside a large wooden building decorated in World War I and II memorabilia, such as authentic (and decommissioned) trucks, abulances, machine gun emplacements and this plane (don't know what kind). The coolest thing about the restaurant is the restaurant-long glass wall that allows you to see airplanes landing and taking off at the airport, right across the street.
Posted by Daniel M. Perez to Miami Daily Photo at 5/21/2006 12:11:00 AM
Friday, May 19, 2006
For a very mundane shot today, here is the world corporate headquarters of Burger King, located right across from Miami International Airport. Back when I used to eat fast food, BK was certainly at the top for me. Today, they're just the company with the creepy King.
Posted by Daniel M. Perez to Miami Daily Photo at 5/19/2006 04:56:00 PM
Thursday, May 18, 2006
I had been looking around Miami for graffiti to photograph without much success when I arrived at my apartment and saw this drawn in chalk on the sidewalk by my 7 or 8-year-old neighbor. Hey, it counts!
Posted by Daniel M. Perez to Miami Daily Photo at 5/18/2006 11:09:00 PM
I had to go pick up my wife at the airport earlier this evening, and I took this pic from the roof of the multilevel parking garage. It was the contrast of the various levels that called my attention (not to mention the big traffic jam I had avoided simply by paying to park).
Posted by Daniel M. Perez to Miami Daily Photo at 5/17/2006 10:47:00 PM
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
This is at the Pelican Harbor Marina, same place where The Fin Project is installed. Originally you could walk out to the pier, but the walkway was destroyed during last year's hurricanes.
Posted by Daniel M. Perez to Miami Daily Photo at 5/16/2006 07:44:00 PM
Monday, May 15, 2006
Tonight starts the Jewish holiday of Lag B'Omer (literally, the 33rd day of the Omer), when Jews celebrate, among other things, the yartzeit (anniversary of death) of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a Second Temple-era scholar, and traditionally known as the author of the Zohar, the most sacred book of Jewish Mysticism or Kabbalah. We celebrate by lighting bonfires and by general merrymaking, precisely what we did at my synagogue earlier tonight, where I took this pic. I just love the color of those flames.
Posted by Daniel M. Perez to Miami Daily Photo at 5/15/2006 11:25:00 PM
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Friday, May 12, 2006
Well, it seems that finally things have been worked out in Puerto Rico and that there will be a semblance of normality back by Monday. A $741 million dollar loan has been approved, with repayment funds to come from various sources, including a yet-to-be-determined sales tax, the first overt one for the island (we normally pay an import tax and something akin to a Value Added Tax that is already added to an item's price, with few things avoiding it, such as books and other material with pre-printed prices).
It is an unfortunate truth that, in order for this solution to be reached, an independent panel had to be set up to break the stalemate of the two main political parties (we have a third one, but they really don't play that big a part). There was even a hint of a threat by the president of the main oppossition party that the Legislature was under no obligation to honor whatever solution was reached by the panel (this a day after stating for all the news cameras the exact opposite).
At least my Mom, along with 95,000+ public employees will be able to go back to work on Monday, and will indeed get paid their salary for the time they were out. Unfortunately, I still don't think things will be much better in the near future, nor that the administration will be able to avoid this fiasco from repeating itself next year, so I am urging my Mother to continue with her plans to move to Orlando, along with my sister and nephew, where they will be able to earn almost 1/3 more than what they earn right now doing exactly the same thing, with the added bonus of having the family together again (it is a lot easier, after all, to drive 4 hours to Orlando from Miami than to fly 2 1/2 to Puerto Rico).
The damage to my island, however, is done, and I don't know if there is any damage control that can take care of it. These shameful news have been broadcast worldwide, and that will impact our tourism industry, one of the (if not the) biggest sources of income for the island. ModernAgent.com (a news site for Travel Agents & Suppliers) reported that the tourism industry in the island was strong, despite the shutdown, though they make no mention of the ports having been blocked by a protest earlier this week, or the fact that the president of the Hotel and Tourism Association said that at least 20% of reservations had been cancelled due to the government shutdown. To that you can add the sudden and sharp decrease in the spending patterns of Puerto Ricans, who basically cut off all non-essentials from their shopping lists (and you need to understand, we are a nation of spenders), thus decreasing the amount of sales, which in turn decreased the operational budgets of many stores. To give a concrete example, my sister, who works retail at a women's accessory store, went from 40 hours/week to 20 hours this past week. That's a full one-half of her income right there, and she's not the only one I have spoken to in the same situation. And this in just two weeks! I don't even want to imagine what would have happened if this situation had gone on for a month or more.
I'm glad a solution was reached, but I am not confident enough anymore to trust the government of the island to take care of my family.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
I'd had the set for about three months and kept putting it off; I mean, have you see the size of the box? But since last week my wife has been working late completing a project, so I broke down and popped the DVD in the player, to give the show a second chance. Originally I was going to write this two days ago, when all I had seen was disc 1, the first 4 episodes, but yesterday I got through till ep. 8 (Confidence Man). The verdict?
Hung, to be honest. I have not become a rabid fan as of yet, but I am certainly intrigued by the mystery of the island. Unfortunately I know some stuff from season 2 simply from hanging out with friends and from blogs and forums I frequent that take away some of the mystery of the discoveries in season 1, though I am still intrigued in how those things get to happen.
The show so far is very reminiscent of another cult classic, (and an underappreciated, and undercredited, show) Twin Peaks, in how the story is about a mystery that unfolds through flashbacks (the murder of Laura Palmer and the events that lead to it, including the prequel movie, Fire, Walk With Me), mixes apparent supernatural stuff into an otherwise mundane situation (the lodges, the Little Man from Another Place, the giant, the owls, etc.), and in how it utilizes metareferences in order to enhance the in-show experience (Welcome to Twin Peaks guide, The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer novel, etc.). Of course, Twin Peaks did it some 15 years ago, and I've yet to see any show that comes even close to matching the sheer brilliance of the concept and execution (though we do need to ignore a good part in the middle of season 2). I digress, however.
I will give this to Lost: I want to keep on watching now. Even with the stuff I know from season 2, the mystery is still there, and I want to be able to catch up so I can be on par with most others out there (and so that everytime I do a search on Lost I don't have to skip over so much of the content) and see what else comes out of it. Will I watch the weekly episodes? Too early to tell, but I'll be awaiting the DVDs of season 2.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
There isn't much beyond the basic info from the official site, but I'll add more text later. The picture is mine, however, and I have released it into the Public Domain.
Pretty cool! Until this point I had yet to find a hole in Wikipedia's knowledge base.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Today was an anomaly: by 1:00 PM my wife and I were done with all the chores we had to do today and had the rest of the afternoon free of any other engagement. The day was beautiful, the temperature in the high 80's and a killer breeze was flowing in from the east, so we got in the car (we got my father-in-law's Lexus 330 for the weekend, since he's out of town) and started driving, determined to go somewhere, anywhere.
We took Biscayne Blvd. (US 1) to Downtown Miami, and kept going south until we reached Coconut Grove. We hadn't been to the Grove in almost a year, and as we looked around at all the changes that have taken pladce, we suddenly remembered there was one place right in the Grove that we had been wdanting to visit, The Barnacle Historic State Park. For the last 10 years that we had been visiting the Grove we had seen the sign to the Barnacle, but never really knew what it was cause it was always closed at the times we hung out at the Grove.
The Barnacle is a 115-year old house in the heart of Old Miami, right in front of Biscayne Bay, the oldest house in Miami-Dade still standing on its original site. It was built by Commodore Ralph Munroe, a New Yorker who moved down to the Miami he had fallen in love with in 1877 for the sake of the woman he loved. His wife had contracted tuberculosis and though the hotter climate helped her somewhat, she died in 1881. Monroe returned the year after and opened a hotel on Biscayne Bay, and in 1886 he purchased 40 acres of bayfront property for $400. In 1891 his house was completed, a one-story, solid wood, octagonal structure which he called the Barnacle. In 1908 the whole structure was raised and a new first floor was inserted underneath in order to accomodate the Commodore's new family with his second wife, Miss Jessie Wirth.
The house has since stood on the same spot, seeing Miami grow, withstanding hurricane after hurricane, including the two most disastrous storms to hit Miami, the 1926 hurricane and Andrew in 1992.
Munroe displayed an incredible foresight more than 100 years ago as well. The Barnacle stood in the middle of the original Miami Hammock, and Munroe only cut a path wide enough for one vehicle in order to preserve the most of the natural habitat as possible. Today, with only 5 acres of the property's original 40 remaining a part of the park, the Barnacle remains one of the few (if not the only) places where the original hammock remains.
The house is incredibly beautiful, too. It is an airy structure with large windows that let in a great amount of light and a wonderful breeze. The first floor is the public area of the house: the living room, the dining room, kitchen and study.
A staircase leads up to the second floor, the original octagonal structure, where bedrooms radiate in all directions. The rooms have been refurbished to show how they looked in the early 1900's, including a baby carriage, baby walker, sowing machine and of course, the beds and dressers.
A large skylight in the middle of the octagon lets the sun shine gloriously inside the house.
As you look east, out the door that once welcomed everyone into the house, you catch a glimpse of the azure waters of Biscayne Bay and can fully understand how the Munroes fell in love with this house and with this city.
If the house is great, the grounds are simply amazing. The front porch overlooks a long, clear avenue of grass leading to the boathouse and the bay waters.
A dried-out coral well stands to one side, once a gate to a fresh water acquifer underneath the house, now a home to spiders and crawling vines.
A winding path leads down to the water where one can see a replica of one of Munroe's original yatch designs moored in a small inlet flanked by patches of mangrove. In the distance you can see the islands of Biscayne Bay and Miami Beach just over the horizon.
We had a most wonderful day, and left once again amazed at the amount of history that hides in this city that so many simply dismiss as a party central, and incredibly glad that we had become part of that history.
Friday, May 05, 2006
Oh, yay! Does that mean now we can go back to having an actual and obvious enemy?
Yahoo! News - Russian Media Warn of New Cold War:
A Russian newspaper said Friday that Vice President Dick Cheney's harsh criticism of Moscow's human rights record signaled the start of a new Cold War.
I'll give you a moment to wipe that driping sarcasm from your screen.
You know, it's not that I agree 100% with what the Russians (and by that I mean Putin, aka. Dobbie) have been doing lately, what with their flagrant violations of human rights and freedoms, and their slow but steady de-evolment back to the good ole days of the USSR, but you gotta wonder about the White House's tactics! Seriously, we need to stop sending out these freakin' Republicans out into the world to represent our views before we have the absolute rest of the world, even freakin' Lichstenstein, against us! I mean, come on, Diplomacy is not just a skill in the d20 System.
What's really sad is that I actually see a behind-the-scenes reason for doing this (you can blame GMSkarka for keeping me so up to date via his blog that I can actually start to imagine plausible conspiracies, not just the cool, literary ones), and it has everything to do with my very first comment after the quote, above. We are currently fighting a war against a faceless enemy, which is why it is so important to keep Bin Laden and Alsarkawi (sp, I don't feel like checking to see if it's correctly spelled) as the "faces" of terrorism. That [insert your favorite cunning expletive here] in Iran is in the running for absconding the top spot, but historically, we never did so well as when we had the Russians as our antagonists back during the days of the Cold War. Does this mean that soon we'll have to add a "I" at the end?
Is 2008 here yet? G-d help us till then.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
London's Heathrow Airport recently released a new set of "enhancements to security procedures." Among these are common sense measures such as advising travelers to check in as much luggage as possible, and going to security as soon as possible after checking in. They also list things that can speed up the security check process, such as removing any sharp objects, removing laptop computers from their cases and removing any overcoats, among others.
To help travelers even more, they include packing tips, listing items that should not be in your hand baggage lest they be removed if discovered. The list includes obvious candidates like scissors (except where both blades are round-ended or less than three centimetres), razor blades (except those set in a plastic moulding), and knives with blades of any length, but then they go to list other less obvious items, such as household cutlery (including large spoons/tablespoons, though small teaspoons are ok), walking/hiking sticks (how big is your handbag?) and, my personal favorite: Catapults.
Yes, folks, that's correct, you cannot take your catapults in your handbags at Heathrow. If you want to lay siege to a city, you must check your catapults in your hold baggage. Weirdly enough, Heathrow does not make any mention about packing ballistae or trebuchets in your hand baggage, so you may still have a chance to pull off that siege you were planning.
Now, of course I'm being facetious, as I know that in American English what they mean is a slingshot, but just the thought, the mental image, of someone trying to put a catapult into their handbag, and often enough so that Heathrow Airport would have to specify it by name in their security enhancement, makes me laugh.
You can see the new security enhancements at Heathrow Airport here.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Monday, May 01, 2006
First one is in Puerto Rico, where 45 government agencies shut down today due to lack of funds to bankroll them for the last 2 months of the fiscal year. That means that, officially, as of this morning, my mother, a teacher of 14 years, is unemployed and will not get paid her next four checks. That is the case of an estimated 95,000 public employees, of which 40,000 constitute the entire Dept. of Education.
See those people below? They're teachers awaiting their last paycheck along with a letter stating they are unemployed with which they will be able to apply for Unemployment and possibly Food Stamps.
The whole government body--Governor, Senators and Representants--should hang their head in shame for allowing this travesty. They are all equally at fault here, and now the people are paying the price. Shame on you (trust me, I want to say stronger stuff, but I'll keep it PG).
The other protests (cause they're more than one) are those going on in support of the immigrants in the US and against the proposed immigration reforms. I'm going to save my opinion on the whole immigration bru-ha-ha for a later time, though I will say this: I think that everyone in this country of ours should remember and keep very much in mind what is written on the sign below: The USA was founded by immigrants. I feel a large number of people in the US conveniently forget about that.