This is Halloween

pumpkinsthis is Halloween…  And not a normal Halloween here in Beemsville, though opinions on ‘normal’ will vary.  In between the end of the soccer season, battling flu-like symptoms across multiple fronts, and our school’s upcoming auction/fundraising event, Halloween creeps in through the shadows.  Still we managed to summon the ghosts to the front yard, and we stepped it up in the Jack-o-Lantern category.  Nephew Jake exhibiting his artistic talents in the carving arena upon request of the kids.

As customary, the kids have three(!) separate costumes to wear at various events:  a friend’s birthday party (see below), the Halloween party at school (yes, we still do that at our school), and Trick-or-Treating (weather permitting).  It’s a different philosophy from my childhood, when Mom spent hours and hours on a costume and you wore it to everything to reward her efforts.

The theme for the grown-ups took a villainous turn this year, in part inspired by recent vacations.  The wife and I assumed our guises:  Captain Hook and Queen Maleficent (from Sleeping Beauty).  Other friends had similar ideas, as documented on social networking.  The wife created our two costumes from scraps of previous costumes, trips to the re-sale shop, and her own ingenuity.  I tried to talk her into ordering the creepy contact lenses, but we couldn’t rationalize the expense.    Still, who could complain?

We also extend a shout-out to our friends, the Romans, who pulled out the stops on this year’s Halloween party.  Note:  you will have to click through to the blog site to view the photo gallery slide show below.

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MLS Cup – Bracket Pick ’em

This past weekend saw the end of the MLS regular season, with the New York Red Bulls winning the Supporter’s Shield and #1 playoff overall seed.  Several other teams, including the Chicago Fire, saw their seasons end.  The playoff race was tight, with only a few teams out of the running for a spot.  The remaining teams are good squads, most of whom should feel they have a shot at going on a run to MLS Cup.  When you think back to the recent past, before expansion, you might have 8 of 12 teams make the playoffs.  And some of those teams were bad.

Speaking of bad, we will once again attempt to prognosticate and pick our playoff bracket.  The results of recent year’s predictions would have been truly hilarious if not for our safe choice of picking the L.A. Galaxy from the west…

So anyway, here’s the bracket:

And now, the Beemsville picks… Continue reading

Rube Report: Illini-McKendree

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Brother Rube checks in with a detailed breakdown of the Illini hoops exhibition opener…

First, its worth noting that McKendree is trying to break into Div. II basketball this year.  They were NAIA (think Millikin) before this season.  That being said, take the following with a grain of salt as I’m not sure our Intramural team couldn’t have played straight up against these guys for the most part.

For the first 15 minutes or so McKendree couldn’t miss.  Leading most of the first half and knocking down 80%+ of their 3’s going 5-6 or 7-8 in the first half.  THEY looked like the home team….at least shooting the ball.  They couldn’t miss, they looked like the team that had played games in the Assembly Hall (I refuse to call it the State Farm Center).  They had more assists, more rebounds and shot better….much better than the Illini for the first 15 minutes of the game.  The Illini looked out of sync, like they had a bunch of guys who’d never played a division 1 basketball game together…..oh wait….that’s exactly what we are this year.  We started Abrams at PG, Ekey at the 4, Rice at the 3, Bertrand at the 2 and Egwu at the 5.  Started OK with Ekey getting a dunk for our first basket of the season.  After that Illinois didn’t make a shot outside of FT’s, layups or dunks until after half time.  That is NO exaggeration….we made ZERO jumpshots in the first half….none, nada, zip, zilch….o’fer!  Groce substituted liberally and got everyone in the entire game and I believe that everyone got in, in the first half as well as the 2nd.  Everyone on the roster played at least 11 minutes (Mike Latulip being that man).  Continue reading

Video Editing Costs

Many people have lots and lots of home video footage they’ve shot – taking up space on their drives, piles of DVDs, even old VHS tapes you’ve been meaning to convert to digital before they disintegrate.  We are no exception.  And with the price of processing speed and data storage going down, with software programmers firmly entrenched in the consumer digital video arena, you would be amazed at the possibilities.

After some research, we settled on Cyberlink’s PowerDirector v.12 (Ultra).  You can pick it up for just under $100, and gives you a vast array of capabilities.  You could make some fairly slick home movies with this software, and it appears more than up to the task of collating and organizing the various kids’ sports events, recitals, holiday gatherings, etc. the Griswolds Beems would require.

But this capability will end up costing you in one facet – time.  Unless you’re a video editing veteran, you’re going to have to learn how to functionally operate the program.  As with many things, the greater the capabilities, the steeper the learning curve.  And while the Cyberlink user’s guide is thorough, it doesn’t include a tutorial.  Fortunately, Cyberlink hosts a number of tutorial videos on Youtube, and other users have added to this library also.  Having watched a few already, I feel a lot more confident.

That time cost, though…  It’s going to take some man-hours to get up to speed.  Any PowerDirector veterans out there – drop me a line and maybe you can provide some advice.

De Nada, Neighbor

If you aren’t lucky or obsessive enough to have BeIN Sports or Galavision, you missed a unique bit of sports drama that only rolls around every four years or so.  Tuesday night, the final games of Concacaf World Cup Qualifying occurred – all games starting at the same time to avoid any shenanigans.  The USA qualified a month ago and were only playing for the shirt and microscopic hopes of being seed in Brazil next summer.  Costa Rica – already qualified; but for Honduras, Panama, and Mexico, these matches were win or go home.

Honduras dispatched Jamaica without much trouble, leaving Mexico (playing at Costa Rica) and Panama (playing  at home against the US) left to duke it out for the chance to play New Zealand in a home and home series for the final slot in the World Cup.  Panama and Mexico were only a point apart in the standings, meaning all Mexico needed to do was tie or win.  Panama, playing a US team made up almost entirely of younger, B-squad players, needed to win and hope El Tri lost.

The USA didn’t play all that well for most of the match, and Panama took the lead in the first half.  Minutes later, the stadium erupted as news came across that Costa Rica had taken the lead over Mexico.  Not long after, Mexico equalized, and the stadium was eerily quiet.  The US played better in the second half and looked likely to score. Sure enough, Michael Orozco scored on a set piece and the Mexicans were celebrating.  They were double safe with the U.S. tying Panama and themselves tied with Costa Rica.  Ah, but Costa Rica scored again about 10 minutes later.  Again, in Panama, you could feel the electricity, and sure enough Luis Tejada jumped on a loose ball in the box and slammed it home in the 83rd minute.  Unbelievable scene.  Panama was ahead again, 2-1, and through. Continue reading

Recovery or Excuses?

I have a sore hamstring.  It’s been bothering me for about 4-6 weeks.  Nothing major, no severe pain or anything, but I can definitely feel it when I’m running, kicking the ball with the kids, or stretching.  This is the same leg that bothered me off and on when I was training to run a half-marathon a year-and-a-half ago.  And now that I think about it, the same leg for which I tore my hamstring and glute muscle pretty badly way back in high school.

In this situation, the obvious tonic is to rest, take it easy, so that’s just what I’m doing.  Have also been careful to stretch out that area without stressing it too much and massage it in the spa.  But this is also where you can start playing tricks on yourself.  Isn’t a certain amount of soreness expected – especially as you get older?  Are you just being too careful, not tough enough?  Is this the kind of soreness you just drive through with a few pain relievers and get on with it?  And how much recovery time do you really need? Continue reading

Walking Dead is back

One of the few episodic shows we continue to watch returns for its fourth season this Sunday:  The Walking Dead on AMC.  Not since we watched The Wire have we been so enamored with a show that can just be so damned depressing.  If you’re behind on episodes or looking to catch up with the plot again, AMC is currently running through all the prior seasons leading up to this Sunday.

I still remember picking up the very first trade of Robert Kirkman’s series back in the day, when the buzz about the comic book was starting to increase, and thinking the central premise was a pretty blatant rip-off of 28 Days Later (guy wakes up form coma and zombie apocalypse has ensued).  But the way he set up the characters and paid them such careful attention, the focus on the human element in the midst of such a horrible situation – these really stood out.  I still want to back and check out his book, Invincible, a character-driven take on the familiar teen and family superhero story.

Continue reading

Iron Man 3 – CBG Complaints

We took in Iron Man 3 this weekend for family movie night.  Mostly, it was what you’d expect: a fun comics themed actioner aimed squarely at the mass markets.  The kids and wife enjoyed it.  I mostly enjoyed it.  And we understand and fully support Disney/Marvel’s approach here.  We’re glad to have shared-world Avengers movies with a sense of continuity, big budgets, and A-list talent.  However….

However, and not to go all Comic Book Guy here, because Iron Man was never a personal favorite or anything, but I do have to go CBG here.  Because just like Man of Steel, the writers/director sort of missed some key elements with Iron Man 3 and kind of blew it to the point of ludicrousity.

Which isn’t really a word, but you get our point.  Major spoilers below…

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Fish Story

Like an ancient hunter, prowling the banks of the mighty river in search of quarry that will feed his family for days, he sees the mud swirl and the lazy flick of an immense black tail-fin.  This fish is older than him – wily, clever, strong like the currents of its river home.  The fish is the ancient challenge.  It is Catfish Hunter.  It is Sharknado.  And so, armed only with a cheap-o discount rod-and-reel and a laundry basket, he wades into the muck, braving the current and prepares to do battle…

catfish

vanquished

Well, most of that’s true.  Except it was my buddy’s dad’s stocked pond, so no dangerous current or muck.  The discount rod-and-reel part and the laundry basket to get that catfish landed – true.  It took awhile as that setup was meant for bluegill not (fairly) big cats.

And yeah, that’s probably the biggest fish I’ve ever caught – freshwater fish anyway.  Fishing’s not something we’ve done a lot of, but with the kids getting older and more outdoor activities on the horizon, I can see us doing more.  Soon after catching this one, the boy also hooked a decent sized catfish, which we helped him reel in and land.  He was excited.  What were we using to land them?  Trade secret.

Not as fun as a Bill Cubit offense, but definitely better than a Beatty/Gonzales offense in the overall theme of things last weekend.