Get your sparkly vamp fix on Twi-Tuesdays

Hi my name is Ashley and I’m a Twilight fan.

The book series is a guilty pleasure of mine (I seem to have a lot of those) and is definitely not something I admit to readily. I’m the same way with the movies. My enthusiasm for Stephenie Meyer’s teen vampire drama has waned over the past few months, but I’m starting to get back into it a little bit with the new movie Breaking Dawn-Part 1 set to hit theaters on Nov. 18.

Jacob (Lautner) might have something to say when the preacher asks if anyone has objections during Bella (Stewart) and Edward's (Pattinson) wedding.

The movie features Kristen Stewart as the girl next door human Bella Swan, Robert Pattinson as the brooding “vegetarian” vampire Edward Cullen and Taylor Lautner as the friendly neighborhood shape-shifting wolf Jacob Black.

The movie for Breaking Dawn, the last full-length book in the series, has been broken into two parts with Breaking Dawn-Part 2 set for release Nov. 16, 2012–A whole year away…

I re-read Breaking Dawn (my least favorite of the four-and-a-half book series) and I think I’m up to speed on the stuff I forgot. I’m sure my sister will goad me into watching the other three movies with her in the days leading up to the release.

But for those looking to catch up with the Cullens on the big screen, Great Escape Nitro 12, in collaboration with Summit Entertainment and Fathom Events, will be showing the three movies on the three Tuesdays leading up to the premiere.

“Twilight Saga Tuesdays” is being held at 730 theaters nationwide and locally at Great Escape Nitro, Cinemark Huntington Mall in Barboursville and at Cinemark Cinema 10 in Ashland, KY.

The cool kids club. We first meet the Cullens in Twilight and learn about their "quirky" family.

Twilight is going to be shown Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m. This is the movie where we first meet Bella Swan, her boyfriend the vampire Edward Cullen, and the nomadic vampires that threaten the human girl and Pacific Northwestern town she resides in. They’re also going to show some behind the scenes footage from ComicCon 2008 and commentary from cast members about their experiences in making the movie and the fan following. You know, do they think it’s awesome or are they creeped out. That kind of thing.

New Moon, the second in the series, focuses on Bella’s relationship with her friend Jacob Black in Edward’s self-imposed exile. It will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8 and will feature behind the scenes clips from filming scenes with the Volturi in Italy and footage from other New Moon fan events.

Bella Swan (Stewart) gets cozy with Edward Cullen (Pattinson) in their meadow during Eclipse.

Eclipse will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15. The third movie in the series, and my favorite, focuses on the uneasy alliance between the vampires and the Quileute wolf pack to protect Bella and the choice she feels she must make between her friendship with Jacob and her romantic relationship with Edward. Taped interviews with cast members discussing their favorite scenes from the movie and footage from ComicCon 2011 will be shown before the movie.

In case you miss all of that the Nitro theater’s got you covered. They’ll be showing all three movies back-to-back starting at 4:30 p.m. Thursday Nov. 17 before the midnight premiere of Breaking Dawn-Part 1. Tickets for the three-movie marathon are $10 but keep in mind a ticket to the midnight premiere must be bought separately.

So if you’re up for the Thursday Twilight marathon you’re in for almost eight hours of Twi-fun. That’s a lot of Twilight–and a lot of popcorn.

I’m not sure whether I’ll partake in any of the festivities beforehand (gotta make the money to buy the tickets) but you Twi-fans might catch me at the midnight premiere. I’ll be the one in a Team Jasper t-shirt.

For more info check out http://www.breakingdawn-themovie.com/

 

Sounding off on 'The Sing-Off'

Around my house, the one reality show we’ve all committed to is ‘The Sing-Off.’

Besides the excellent harmonies by the participating a cappella groups, there’s another kind of harmony we appreciate: there’s no yelling, no put downs, no insults, no intentional embarrassment.

They're judging you — but in a nice way

Which is not to say that the judges on ‘The Sing-Off’ aren’t critical. They can be. But their criticism is to the point without being mean or offensive. Watching the judges — Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman and, this year, Sara Bareilles — state their opinions is a lesson in civility. Folds, in particular, offers considered opinions that emphasize the word ‘constructive’ in constructive criticism.

It’s the opposite end of why I steer clear of Simon Cowell or ANYTHING on cable news in the evenings.

Bareilles, the pop singer who was added to the judging panel this year, recently commented on her desire to be kind to contestants:

I think all of us judges on The Sing-Off have the same philosophy where we want to be fair and honest but kind of want to be kind too. I’m not here to tell anybody, ‘Quit music’ or something like that.

Bareilles made similar comments to The Huffington Post:

The reason why I love ‘The Sing-Off’ so much is because it was the first show I got sucked into as a viewer, because they were nice. I don’t have a high tolerance for the nasty judging style. It’s just not for me. I know a lot of people like it, but it makes me really uncomfortable. I don’t think there’s ever a reason to tell people to quit music. I think it’s irresponsible to say that out loud to people. I don’t think it’s fair. Ben put it really well when he said, a lot of those shows are about dissonance and conflict and tension, but a cappella and “The Sing-Off” as a whole is about harmony. It’s a feel-good show.

I’m totally down with that.

‘The Sing-Off’ is Monday nights at 8. If you like music and want to strike a blow for civility, tune in.


 

 

Occupy me

I’m too pooped to tea party. And I’m too busy to occupy Wall Street, Sesame Street, your street or my street.

But I do have some complaints. So I decided to have my own occupation.

I worked my occupation into the regular course of a day, so I wouldn’t have to take any breaks – except to construct the signs I carried defiantly. Oh, sure, my signs resulted in some staring and comments – but isn’t that the point? How can you change the world if no one notices?

I used white computer paper, Scotch tape and the handle of a toy Styrofoam hammer to create my first protest sign: “I get too much e-mail!” Then I held my sign aloft with one hand while I clicked delete 612 times through my daily dose of ink jet cartridge offers and Nairobi scam emails.

My next protest was at lunchtime. I’ve been reading about the changes to the school lunch program. Apparently the school system has cut down on yummy stuff like salt and sugar and replaced the ingredients with healthy substitutes.

This has resulted in breakfasts like “sunbutter banana muffin,” lunches like “baked Cajun fish” and side items like “carrot raisin salad and kale greens.”

Apparently it has also resulted in hungry chicken-nugget loving kids, cranky school cooks, frustrated parents and lots of food in the trash.

To which I say one thing: “Yum!”

My next protest sign, which I carried as I occupied the office microwave, told the world, “School food tastes better than my stinky frozen lunches.”

Bean soup and corn bread?

Steamed broccoli?

Chicken potato smasher?

OK, I don’t know what that last one is.

But bring it on! I’m having semi-warm SmartOnes meals every day. I would love to smash a chicken and potato and eat it up.

After eating my less-than-satisfying lunch, I was satisfied for a while. I didn’t occupy anything again until after dinner. Then I occupied the kitchen sink as I washed the dishes. This was a particular challenge because I needed both hands to wash.

I held the handle of my sign between my teeth. It said, “I don’t have time to go to WVU football games.”

A few weeks ago, when West Virginia University was playing its biggest game of the season against Louisiana State, I was at my mother- and –father-in-law’s 40th wedding anniversary celebration. To my mind, Mountaineer football Coach Dana Holgorsen should have taken a few minutes to write them a congratulations card.

The week after that, as the home field crowd sagged on a rainy Saturday against Bowling Green, I was visiting my own parents.

As the Mountaineers prepared to take on Connecticut the week after that, Dana scolded me and everybody else.  He wanted to see us all at the ceremonial Mantrip march into the stadium.

“We have a conference game coming up this week at noon, but I can give you some excuses now. ‘We’re playing a team that’s 2-3.’ Well, they should be 5-0. ‘We’re playing at noon.’ Well, who cares? Get up. ‘The Mantrip’ is at 9:45.’ Are we going to have a good crowd or is nobody going to be there?

“Is the weather going to be 85 and sunny or 25 and snowing. It really doesn’t matter because the coaches, players, trainers and everybody else is going to be there. That’s what our job is, so what is the support people’s job?”

Mantrip, meet guilt trip.

I did not occupy a seat at the stadium that day. Instead I mowed and trimmed the lawn and painted our living room and dining room. Honestly, I could have used some help around the house from Dana and the players. There was a lot I didn’t get done.

I hope the coach can find it in his heart to forgive me. But if he can’t, then he’s welcome to take a page out of my playbook and construct his own occupation sign. It can say, “Brad’s priorities are misguided.”

At the end of my occupation, I discovered the world had not changed. I still get too much email, my lunches remain substandard and I doubt I make it to anybody’s football game this year.

That’s OK. Occupation, like charity, begins at home.

West Virginia Book Festival, CharCon make for a wonderfully geeky weekend

It is, in fact, an excellent weekend for geekery in the Kanawha Valley.

Starting Saturday is the West Virginia Book Festival at the Charleston Civic Center. Highlights include West Virginia University legend Jerry West, who just came out with the memoir “West by West,” and Lee Child , author of the popular Jack Reacher novels.

There’s also a lot of cool geeky off-beat stuff.

The Daily Mail’s Zack Harold has a story about an antique book appraiser, Jim Presgraves.

Presgraves has sold books since he was 12 years old, so he can spot a loser pretty quickly.

He opened “Bookworm and Silverfish,” his Wytheville, Va. bookshop, in 1967. He entered the antique book business a year later.

Zack also wrote about the popular used book sale.

Better get in line now if you’re shopping for a deal. (Unless you’re reading this when it’s already over. In that case, hop in line now for next year.)

Every year, a line of bibliophiles snakes through the Civic Center as they wait to get into the Kanawha Public Library’s annual used book sale.

“Some of them probably get there at 7 or earlier to get in line,” sale coordinator Sandy Frercks said.

The annual used book sale, opening at 9 a.m. this Saturday, is one of the library’s biggest fundraisers. It generated $42,000 last year alone.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail’s Paul Fallon writes about CharCon, a convention for gamers headquartered at Charleston’s Ramada Inn.

CharCon, which starts today (Friday) at noon and ends late Sunday, will have events like a board game tournament, a board game library and various speakers.

Paul talks to the managers of two local stores that sell role-playing game merchandise as well as card games like Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering.

David Whelan, owner of Lost Legion Games and Comics, says tabletop role-playing and card and board games have become more than just a niche market.

Whelan owns three stores under his Lost Legion flagship: The Rifleman on Charleston’s West Side, The Castle in Beckley and The Keep in Princeton.

“Role-playing games are all pretty strong right now,” he said. “Old gamers are bringing in new players.”

Nerd Living Racing Series? Let's do it.

Browsing around the interwebs this week, I came across this Kickstarter project for the Power Racing Series. Racing, on Nerd Living? Doesn’t seem to fit, right?

You’re wrong. Looking past its extremely bland name, the Power Racing Series is actually a bunch of geeks in Michigan who buy old Power Wheels toys, supe them up and race them. Their slogan: “Speed, Glory, Electrical Fires.”

Think of it like a real-life “Mario Kart.”

One of the cars, a modified Power Wheels Jeep, runs on two electric street sweeper motors and can reach 20 mph!

There are a few caveats. No matter what you do to your car, it has to run on electricity. No swapping the batteries for a weed-whacker engine.

Also, modders aren’t allowed to spend more than $500 bucks on their vehicles, leveling the playing field for cash-strapped geeks. It also makes for some creative modifications.

Check out the Power Racing Series (and its rulebook) here. I think its high time West Virginia has its own group of Power Wheels mad scientists. What do you think?

Photo courtesy of Power Racing Series (www.powerracingseries.org)

The ins and outs of CharCon

West Virginia’s premiere games convention returns Oct. 21-23, 2011, offering more games and activities for players of all ages and interests.

Now in its sixth year, CharCon is dedicated to bringing gamers and non-gamers alike together to have fun, learn new games and experience all the hobby has to offer.

The event runs from noon to midnight on Friday, 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

CharCon 2011 is hosted by the Ramada Charleston Downtown, which offers the exciting opportunity for unstructured 24-hour gaming as well!

CharCon’s costume contest will return again this year with categories for both adults and children.  With the close proximity to Halloween, this is a great chance to break out your favorite costume.  This year’s theme is Wild West/Steampunk, but feel free to come in any costume that you like.

As always, there are still plenty of games for all ages and tastes, and as always CharCon is a wonderful event for families and children.

“One of our ongoing goals with CharCon is to get more children involved in playing tabletop games and we believe strongly in the positive impact of doing this as a family,” said Travis Reynolds, chief executive director of CharCon.

“This year we have dedicated part of Sunday as Family Day (11 a.m. – 5 p.m.).  We will have activities and games for children and their families to play together.  It is our hope they will have a great time and find some new ways to spend quality time together playing games.”

Gamers also will have the chance to register for other games and tournaments through the CharCon website or at the door, as well as participate in some of the hundreds of pick-up games occurring throughout the two-day event.  A listing of the gaming events that will be available can be downloaded from the CharCon website.

Returning as a part of CharCon in 2011 is Hack3rcon. Hack3rcon is a seminar based event about security in the digital world. Hack3rcon enjoyed a great inaugural year in 2010 and is anticipating a stellar show for 2011.We also welcome the return of The LANding Zone. Video game competition at its finest! Including these events broadens CharCon’s appeal outside of our traditional non-electronic audience.

Jeff Carlisle

This year’s convention also features several noteworthy guests, including nationally renowned fantasy/science fiction artist Jeff Carlisle, comic writer and game designer Jolly Blackburn, horror artist Billy Tackett, and author  Winfield H. Strock III.

Jolly R. Blackburn is known best known for his amusing comic detailing the day to day adventures of a group of stalwart gamers known as The Knights of the Dinner Table. He is also the designer of  the popular role playing games Hackmaster and Aces and Eights.

For more information on CharCon and the various events, guests and special opportunities featured throughout the weekend, visit www.charcon.org. You also can register for the site’s forums and join in on discussions of games and the hobby and meet other gamers from in and around West Virginia.

CharCon is estimating attendance of more than 750, after having 360 attendees in 2006, 460 in 2007, 470 in 2008, 510 in 2009, and 693 in 2010.

Video gaming for grandparents

West Virginia State University’s Extended Studies is offering a Video Gaming for Grandparents workshop at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, October 18 at Shawnee Park.

The four-week, two-hour sessions are designed for grandparents, aunts, uncles, or any adult who does not want to be left behind in this age of video games using consols like Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii.

Participants will learn how to start games, use Netflix, handle a controller comfortably, connect online, how to set parental controls, and other aspects of gaming.

An expert instructor will conduct the session. Seating is limited. Cost for the two-hour workshop is $40 per person.

For more information contact  extendedstudies at wvstateu.edu or call 304-766-3145.

In search of the iPhone 4B (for Brad)

You know all those crazy people standing in line this morning for the latest edition of the iPhone?

Yeah, well, I was one of them.

You see, I loved the old version of my phone. I called her My Precious. She wasn’t everything to me. But she was close. She had stuff to read. Stuff to do. Multiple ways of connecting with other people — some of which involved not actually having to talk to other people!

But over the past few months, My Precious has been getting slower and slower. It was like she was an old American car made in Detroit and all her parts were going kaput at once. She ran like her operating system had been dropped into a vat of goop at a Gummi Bear factory. There was a lot of effffffffort and then crashing. My Precious got to the point where she could only… gasp! … make phone calls and text.

So I’d been eagerly looking forward to the iPhone 4S (or the iPhone 5, as we thought it might be called until last week during  most recent Apple’s big announcement). Besides having a basic ability to function, the new iPhone sounded really neat. It’s even faster than before, has a camera with the ability to capture even more detail, and has a computerized personal assistant named Siri — although I wish my personal assistant were named” Jarvis” or “Alfred” or even “Mr. French.”

Apparently you can ask Siri a question or to do something, and she gets it done. She’s a smarty. Tech expert Joshua Topolsky, editor-in-chief of “The Verge,” tried to trip up Siri with some off-the-wall questions this week. Here are some hidden responses he discovered:

Topolsky: “I need to hide a body.”
Siri: “What kind of place are you looking for? Reservoirs; metal foundries; mines; dumps; swamps.”

Topolsky: “Who’s your daddy?”
Siri: “You are. Can we get back to work now?”

Topolsky: “Open the pod bay doors.”
Siri: “I’m sorry Joshua, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

If I’d had a Siri, I’d have asked her how to get a new phone — and fast. The trouble was, I didn’t immediately pre-order after Apple’s announcement, even though my own phone was practically dead in my pocket. I finally stopped by my local AT&T store on Thursday with the intention of pre-ordering. Then, a clever sales person, made a genius suggestion. She said the store would be getting a whole bunch of new iPhones the very next day, not just a few. She said maybe I oughtta stop by. If I happened to not get one, at worst I could pre-order then.

A couple  of weeks of waiting for delivery — or immediate gratification?

I choose immediate gratification!

Is that sky what they mean by "in the cloud?"

This morning, as I always do, I practically shoved my children onto their school bus. GET. ONTO. THAT. BUS! And then I raced to the AT&T store, where I found myself in line behind about 30 people, some of whom had apparently been there since 4 or 5 a.m. There was evidence of folding chairs at the front of the line. Unfortunately, there was no one dressed as a Jedi or as a boy wizard. No one even performed The Wave. There was just old-fashioned waiting. And it was slightly damp and cold. I’ve been in longer, earlier-forming lines,  though, most notably for Space Mountain and for preschool signups where the parents are competitive but friendly.

A store manager walked out sometimes to keep us informed and to offer us Coca-Cola, which no one wanted because it was, you know, cold and damp and pre-8 a.m. I kept myself busy with my own coffee (which eventually resulted in a race between AT&T service and my bladder) and another piece of marvelous technology, my Kindle reader. And in the back of my head, I wondered slightly about something the manager had said about needing an “authorized account.” Did that mean I’m old enough to use a phone and purchase products? I am!  Yay me!

Except that’s not what “authorized account” means, exactly. It means that once you reach the front of the line, as I did, a helpful employee will ask you for your cell phone number and your name. And if your wife (we’ll call her Karen, but she’d better not be your wife because she is mine) kindly, generously bought you your phone as a Father’s Day gift three years ago and the account has her name and not yours, then you need to get back in line until “Karen” can call AT&T customer service and have you added to the account.

Which she did!

So now I am the proud owner of an iPhone 4S and a grizzled veteran of yet another long retail line. If you want to know more, send me a message on my phone and I’ll tell you all about it.

Or, better yet, I’ll have Siri or Alfred or Mr. French tell you.

 

 

 

Books-A-Million to open at Charleston Town Center

Books-A-Million is moving into the Charleston Town Center space formerly occupied by Borders Express, said Lisa McCracken, the mall’s marketing director.

“We’re looking at an early November opening,” McCracken said.

Even though Books-A-Million will occupy the same 5,730-square-foot space on the second floor of the mall, “We’re hoping Books-A-Million will be able to provide a more extensive offering” than Borders Express, McCracken said.

Books-A-Million has a much larger store at Dudley Farms Plaza off Corridor G.

Borders filed bankruptcy in February and liquidated all of its stores.

Get ready for Hack3rCon II

For the second year in a row, Hackers for Charity and the 304Geeks will bring you Hack3rCon.

Hack3rCon II will be Oct. 21 to 23 at the Charleston House Hotel and Conference Center. The conference will feature nationally re-known speakers and published authors from around the country, focusing on a wide range of information security topics.

Several live workshops will allow attendees to spend time with experts earning valuable hands-on experience. In addition to the talks and workshops, 304Geeks will sponsor a party featuring musical guests Dual Core. The party will give attendees an opportunity to network with speakers, industry leaders, and other attendees.

Friday night will also feature a podcast party with podcasters from the InfoSec Daily Podcast. Back by popular demand, the Network King of the Hill (NetKotH) challenge returns. Top prizes are available for the winner.

Tickets are now on sale at Hack3rCon.org.