Saturday, October 13, 2012

Nerf Armory

I blame my good buddy Weirdguy for this. He's an avid thrifter (and borderline picker) constantly scouring local thrift stores for used wares he can turn into one of two things: a profit - the first rule of picking is that one man's trash is another man's treasure. And secondly, he can choose to have some fun... like the time he found a Nerf Vulcan, repaired it and subsequently shot at any visitors to his basement.

So anyway, one Nerf blaster led to another, and before I knew it, I had to get into the action. But of course while I'm so much into thrifting, I am definitely into DEALS. I'm proud to say I've never paid full retail for any of my blasters.

I paid half-price for the Recon last fall. A few months later in the spring, I got the Raider by trading in a whole bunch of Canadian Tire Money while it was on sale (and it came with a bonus bag of foam darts). I grabbed the Ravyen at -40% during the summer. More recently, I was able to find the ammo-box on clearance at one of the Zellers liquidations. And finally, as if coming full-circle with Weirdguy, I scored the Longstrike at a local Goodwill for... wait for it... $3.

I guess what I'm trying to say, is, with a little patience, the deals are out there.

Actually... I realize I lied. I did pay full retail for a Jolt (not pictured). But the Jolt normally retails for only $5 or so. Are we okay with that? :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Catching up: Running

You know what I haven't done in a while? Even less than not keeping up with this blog? I haven't mentioned anything about life. True, I'm all over social media and if you're careful enough, eventually you find your way here from there (i.e.: Twitter, or maybe Facebook, or even the occasional enthusiast forum).

But I've been real quiet about non-enthusiast topics for a while mostly because... I kind of developed a social life. Kind of. Not that a lot changed, but there were times when I started to wonder if it was better to distance my on-line persona from real-life and vice-versa (this feeling started a few years back when one of my friends correctly identified someone else I usually used an alias for). From that point on, I tended to avoid mentioning real-life unless it was something unrelated to my regular readers (if I had any regular readers left).

Then I decided it wasn't so bad as long as I wouldn't write about people I frequently spent time with. So I will instead tell you about everything else that's happened to me this past year or so.

Partially inspired by a long-time reader (and also partially inspired by the desire to spite someone I know in real-life by proving I was as good as or better than them), I took up running. And I mean I took up serious training. I spent a few months last summer "running" but not making much headway. I just couldn't get past maintaining my speed and strength more than a few minutes at a time despite having read about interval training. In my tiny world, I felt like 5km was an admirable distance but damn near impossible. And frequently I wound up going about 2km or so and often taking nearly half an hour to do just that. In reality, I admit I was actually walking most of it.

In fact, let me rewind about 8 years... back to the day of eBloggy: I was a walker. I lived near downtown and spent my weekends walking across the provincial bridge for shopping and whatnot, often covering 5km easily. In fact, I conceivably covered 10km without even realizing it back then.

So when I decided one lazy Sunday to get up off my couch and walk 10km, I knew it could be done, but I also knew I wouldn't be doing it fast.

And after months of frustration, I took a chance and walked into my local Running Room store and signed up for my first clinic. I recounted my story about going 10km to the manager forgetting to mention that I actually walked most of it. Thankfully I chose the smarter option and signed up for the 5K clinic instead of the 10K. And that was one of the best decisions I ever made for a variety of reasons.

1) Because I ran semi-regularly, I was already more or less able to "run" 5 minutes at a time. I would learn that it wasn't so much the intensity of my work-out that was holding me back, but the consistency. Before I knew it, I was hooked on the 10:1 run/walk technique.

2) Timing was perfect because the instructor for that particular round happened to be a seasoned fitness instructor by trade rather than a random volunteer. She had loads organizational skills and ran the class like a drill instructor but also like a friendly kindergarten teacher at the same time.

3) Up to that point, one of my ongoing concerns was that I felt the obligation to "go home" on a regular basis. I didn't feel I had any right to commit to a weekly activity that would interfere with opportunities to be with family. Committing to this has freed my stress-levels incredibly. And on a side note, my parents were okay with this.

4) Up to this point, I was still rather embarrassed about my fitness level. I would talk about attempting my runs, but I refused to talk about how fast I was and avoided running with others, even making up excuses like, "you wouldn't want to smell me when I'm sweaty." This excuse later turned into fact, by the way.

I graduated the clinic and ran my first 5K race in March, clocking in at about 36 minutes. Which, if I took my before-clinic times into consideration meant I had cut almost 15 minutes off my best time. I enjoyed running with a group so much, I volunteered to be a group leader.

This is where things get a little bit weird for me. I loved group-leading. It was very rewarding to nurture other runners through the same experience I had by blowing away their doubts about their capacity for improvement. Telling them they ran so much farther than they thought and watching their smiles was a great feeling. But at the same time, I wasn't getting any faster or stronger. I spent the whole 10-week program running as slow as the slowest runners to make sure no one was left behind.

Come May, I ran the 5K at Ottawa Race Weekend and clocked 36 minutes again. As expected. Then things took a very unusual turn.

I took a few weeks off around this time. I went out of town - even tried to continue working out while away. But then one dreadful afternoon, a phone-call came. And it was possible the worst kind of phone-call one could receive: my grandfather was in a bad way.

Without getting into details, my extended family and I packed up and headed home to say our goodbyes.

When I got back to Ottawa, I threw myself in the training again. It was the only thing holding my nerves together and taking my mind off everything else. I ran so hard I wound up following the 10K clinic unofficially. I got along with them and was continually invited to join them on their clinic nights so I had my full 3-times-a-week schedule, following their hill-training through to the long-slow-distance runs on Sunday mornings. Before I knew it - the clinic was over. But due to weird timing, goal race for the group was actually 3 weeks away. I rallied the regulars and persuaded them to continue meeting me at the store to keep up our base training until the end.

In between last winter and now, I've lost about 18 pounds. I cut almost all junk food from my diet. I've continued to train 3 times a week (unless I was recovering after a race; or something came up). I stopped "midnight-snacking." I ran my first 10K race on August 21 clocking 1 hour and 8 minutes.Now I have plans to join the half-marathon group in September. There's no looking back now.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Revisiting Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan

There was this one time when I was little that Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan aired on network television. I stumbled on it during the interrogation scene and was frightened out of my mind as the eel squirmed across Chekov's face and into his ear. I remember changing the channel.

Many years later, I had my parents rush home immediately after a Parent-Teacher night so I could catch Wrath of Khan. I missed the very beginning but started taping just as the Enterprise disaster was revealed to be an Academy simulation.

And this time, I stared intently into the screen daring the eels to scare me again. Then I continued to stare right through to the end.

I have a special place in me for Reliant. It's the first evidence that Star Fleet had multiple ship designs. To me, that opens up a world of possibilities. It's agressive to the Enterpise's elegance. And we also saw the first extensive space-battle in Star Trek! It dictated fans' collective imagination of ship combat for years until the debut of Deep Space Nine when a similar ship was shown maneuvering around a Borg cube reminding us that ship speeds are relative.

I kept this movie on the same 6 hour cassette as Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I kept it right through to college when I showed it to my friends at a club we formed (no charter, but we booked communal rooms for screenings in its name).

Like the first film, I revisited Wrath of Khan when it was available on VHS for cheap. I was happy to finally see the openning credits, plus the recycled TMP footage of the Klingon ships. This didn't bother me anywhere near as much as it probably should have.

And finally, I got it on DVD, which was kind of a non-event. The double-disc release was billed as an extended cut but I honestly couldn't tell you what was added.

In fact, the most memorable thing about this movie isn't even something that happened in the film. Mad Magazine reprinted a spoof in their Star Trek special years later. In it, McCoy warns Spock not to enter the engine compartment or be exposed to a gazillion units of radiation. To which Spock responds, "don't worry, I've got gloves!" I guess, if anything, now we know the reactor core is hot enough to require oven-mitts...

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Avengers and more...

So I went to Avengers last night and it was freaking awesome.

...this video is not that movie...

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline

Just a rundown on the events that have shaped the "universe" so to speak...

965 A.D.:
- Jotunhiem and Asgard forces do battle in Tonsburg, Norway. The Asgardians take the Frost Giants' "Casket of Ancient Winters." Odin saves Laufey's son, Loki, and adopts him as his own.

- Howard Stark invents "repulsor" technology but does not have a proper power source.
- Nazi Germany invades Norway. Hydra agents recover the Tesseract in Tonsberg.
- Arnim Zola and the Red Skull use the Tesseract to power their hi-tech weapons.
- Super-soldier serum works but Dr.Erskine is killed making Steve Rogers the only successful subject. Operation Rebirth is abandoned and all samples of the serum are put in stasis.
- Captain America lost somewhere in the arctic and Red Skull "disappears." The damaged Tesseract is recovered by Howard Stark from the ocean floor.

- Howard Stark holds the Stark Expo '74. Films a message to his son.
- Howard Stark and Anton Vanko invent the arc-reactor.
- Some time later the Strategic Scientific Reserve becomes Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, Logistics Division.

About "5 years ago"
- Bruce Banner works on "biotech force enhancement" unaware his work is intended for the military.
- Banner becomes Hulk. Eventually winds up in Brazil while being pursued by General Ross. Both parties are observed by SHIELD.

Present Day ("6 months ago"):
- Tony Stark becomes Iron Man. He goes public after the Iron Monger incident.
- Anton Vanko dies, passing on his prototype arc-reactor blueprints to his son, Ivan Vanko.
- Nick Fury, director of SHIELD personally meets Tony Stark.
- Emil Blonsky undergoes "Weapon Plus" unaware that the process is incomplete without the "vita-ray" treatment.

Present Day (summer of 2010 and on).
- SHIELD recovers Captain America.
- Nick Fury reveals Stark's secretary was Agent Romanov a.k.a. The Black Widow.
- Iron Man Mk.2 is stolen and weaponized. James Rhodes becomes War Machine.
- Loki manipulates events in Asgard to have Thor banished to Earth. He discovers his true parentage.
- Agent Coulson and Agent Barton (a.k.a. Hawkeye) dispatched to New Mexico (Coulson discovers Mjolnir).
- Coulson has a "funny thing" happen to him on the way to New Mexico.
- Ivan Vanko becomes Whiplash during Stark Expo 2010.
- Hulk appears at Culver university campus. Stark Industries weapons are ineffective against Hulk.
- Fury hires Stark as a consultant.
- Blonsky becomes Abomination (Hulk escapes but is blamed for "The Brooklyn Incident"). Banner goes into hiding again and begins learning to control Hulk.
- A few weeks later, Nick Fury presents World Security Council with Avengers Initiative but they request Blonsky to join.
- Coulson sends SHIELD's new consultant to embarrass General Ross into keeping Blonsky out of the Avengers team.
- Coulson makes contact with Thor. Thor returns to Asgard and saves Jotenheim by destroying the Rainbow Bridge between realms. Loki disappears.
- Fury recruits Dr Selvig to work on the Tesseract. Loki revealed to be on Earth.

Now we are ready for the The Avengers...