Min and I were out grocery shopping the other day when we passed something that immediately caught our eyes. There on the shelf, tucked in with other gourmet candy bars was Dagoba brand chocolate bars. We both looked at each other and without skipping a beat, Min looked me in the eye and said, “I didn’t know Yoda made chocolate!”. We had a good laugh and decided that we should share our discovery with the geekverse.

Its obvious that the brand isn’t intentionally playing off our love of the little green fuzzy one. The wrapper explains that Dagoba is a Sandskrit name meaning “temple of the gods”. Lucas must have used this as inspiration for the fictitous home planet of the über-powerful Jedi Master. George slaps an “h” onto the name and all of a sudden millions of Star Wars fans have a new piece of trivia to share at conventions. You can thank me later.

Regardless of where the name came from, all Min and I could think to ourselves as we later munched was, “Yummie, this chocolate bar is!”

I for one am glad to see Congress finally taking an active role in its Constitutional duty to both enforce checks and balances as well as potential criminal activity. For the past 6 years, the country has turned a blind eye as the GOP in the House and Senate has rubber stamped everything Bush has done, said or asked for.

No longer, and it feels like a breath of fresh air.

Today’s exchange between Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Al Gore and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is a perfect example of why Americans voted for change this past November. The reaction in the room speaks volumes as does Gore’s quiet resolve to state his side of the story despite the seething and loathing that Inhofe has for him. Go watch it.

SPOILERS AHEAD: So if you have not watched up to episode 17 (Maelstrom) of season 3 of Sci-Fi’s Battlestar Galactica, then I urge you to stop reading this post right now. I really mean it, so just stop. Move on, nothing to see here. If you are caught up on Galactica, then by all means, continue on my fellow Colonial.

After episode 17 & 18 aired on Sci-fi, the lot of us over at the Iconfactory were discussing the episode over the proverbial “water cooler” and got into a feverish debate about the apparent death Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, one of the show’s central characters. I hate to brag, but this was the kind of debate that geek legend is made of. The central point of our discussion was “Is she really dead?”. My friend Corey was leaning toward thinking that Ron Moore really did get rid of the character. Why would he think this? Well, if you’ve listened to the podcast commentary from Moore on Maelstrom and The Son Also Rises, he does a very good job of making the case that Katee Sackhoff has in fact, left the show and her character is indeed dead. I don’t buy it for one fracking second.

Moore tells the tale of the writers discussing killing Starbuck off, calling Sackhoff up and letting her know, and even deducting the number of survivors between episodes 17 & 18 by one in the opening credits. Deliberate points laid out by the show’s creator to let the listener know that Starbuck is dead. Moore’s not kidding. Really. She’s really, really dead.

What? Still not convinced? Yeah, me neither. Here’s why:

1) Loose Ends: The writers just spent the better part of the last 6 episodes opening up an entirely new plot line dealing with Kara. She evidently has been having visions of the “Maelstrom” since she was a kid. Since this seems to be the key to finding Earth, its a little wierd that the writers would pick just this moment to just kill her off right before the completion of the arc.

2) The Non-Phantom Raider: Right before Kara’s viper exploded in Maelstrom, there was a quick 1-second shot where Lee saw her supposed “phantom” raider dart into the clouds. She wasn’t imagining it, it really was there and it did shoot her. There is no reason to show this except to give Moore an “out” to bring Starbuck back later on. Either she ejected and was picked up, or she’s…. a Cylon!

3) Savvy Moore: Ron Moore is about as far from a dummy as someone who works in television can get. He knows that the only way to retain the shock value for Starbuck being revealed as one of the “Five” later on is if the audience buys her death now. It therefore makes sense to try and build the foundation of Katee Sackhoff leaving the show in the episode’s podcast. We’re about to have the hiatus between seasons, so what difference does it make if Kara is not in the last 3 episodes? She might not even be in the first few of the new season. If Moore’s done his song and dance properly, then the fan base will believe and the trap is set.

So is Starbuck one of the final five models of Cylons? I’m leaning toward the answer being “yes.” As usual, the season finale will most likely serve up even more questions and keep us guessing all summer long. Moore and company have said publicly that next season everything will change. Nothing would be a bigger change than 5 of the characters we’ve come to know and love, turning out to be Cylons. Personally, I’d rather have Kara be a Cylon than accept her pointless death, and I’m betting that Moore and company feel the same way too.

I’m starting a new set of posts on a subject that is near and dear to my stomach, submarine sandwiches. Some call them hoagies, some grinders but most people call them subs. Ever since I moved to the Triad in 1994 I’ve been looking for somewhere that offered sub sandwiches at least as good or better than the place I fell in love with them – Dibella’s Old Fashion Subs in Rochester NY. In over 10 years of looking around the Triad, nothing has even come close. So to try and help my fellow denizens, I’m going to review sub sandwiches from various eateries around the Triad. The first in the series is a new place that just opened off of 68 called Penn Station East Coast Subs.

The Location

The Penn Station restaurant I visited is located off of highway 68 in High Point, NC near the Deep River shopping center. Its currently only one of two shops open in a new plaza so traffic to and from the restaurant was no problem. The restaurant itself is quite small with tables lining one side and a few booths in the rear. This makes moving around inside Penn Station rather cramped with no real places to wait if you have placed a “to go” order. The number of subs to choose from was rather small, so I ordered the signature “Philly Cheese Steak” sub as well as a standard 10″ Italian as a good baseline for the review.

The Food

The heart of any great sub is its bread. You can usually tell how good a sandwich is going to be by the freshness of the hoagie roll it comes on. Since you can’t specify a type of bread with your order, you have to hope the standard white roll is good. Penn Station’s bread was fresh and crunchy, but not something you’d write home about.

The meats on the Italian sub were hearty and flavorful. The sub itself was packed with ingredients, although way too many onions for my liking, but good overall. The oil and spices used brought out the nice flavors one would expect from an Italian sub and didn’t make the bread soggy or overly greasy.

Since the cheese steak sandwich is the selection that the chain is supposedly famous for, I also ordered a regular 10″ cheese steak with no extras such as mayo, mustard or (eegad) pizza sauce. The result was adequate, but not overly wonderful. A bit greasy and heavy on banana peppers, I’m sure that true Philly residents would balk at the notion of this hoagie being a real “Cheese steak” sandwich. If I returned to Penn Station again, I would like to try their Reuben or Artichoke subs just to see how the less popular subs stack up. Their french fries were nothing spectacular, although the fresh squeezed lemonade was indeed quite good. Not too sweet and not too tart.

The Wrap Up

Overall my visit to Penn Station East Coast Subs was enjoyable. I got in and out with my food in a timely manor. The staff was courteous and the subs themselves were better than average. The price of each 10″ sub was $6.49, which is about what I would expect to pay. On the downside, the food selection is rather small, and the dining area is tiny and cramped. Lastly, although I noted that the restaurant received a 96.5 health rating as of February 2007, I did see some troublesome spots both in front of and behind the counter. Spilled drinks, unclean trash areas and several messes in the kitchen didn’t inspire my appetite as I was leaving.

All things being equal, I would return to Penn Station again and try some of their other subs and I would definitely recommend them over Quizno’s almost any day of the week. Perhaps my largest disappointment was the lack of “true” sub-type sandwiches. Most were the toasted, heated, types of gourmet sandwiches that seem to have taken over today’s sub shops. Even the Italian sub I ordered came toasted, and while not really a bad thing, it made Penn Station seem like just another Quizno’s. My search for the perfect Triad sub continues…

What about you? Have a special place in the Triad that you think serves up the best subs in town? Post them in the comments thread and point me in their direction. I just might review them here!

I was all set to write this really great post tonight about the web’s latest darling – Twitter. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? If not, then you’ve probably been living under an online rock, ’cause its taking the blogging community by storm. I’ve found however, that its difficult to write about an online service when said service is running at the breakneck speed of molasses, or even worse, not running at all. Such is the high price of fame that Twitter is now experiencing.

All those über-geeks at SXSW seem to be pushing Twitter to the breaking point, and all those of us stuck at home must pay the price. Its a shame too because I can’t stay aprised of my favorite Twitter denizens like John Edwards, John Gruber and Darth Vader. So if you want more insightful Mac based commentary, or hilarious, geeky Star Wars wit delivered right to your desktop or mobile phone, let’s hope Twitter can survive its growing pains and blossom into the killer service we all know it is. Besides, I have it on very good authority that Vader ain’t got all day!

Shameless Plug: Keep your eyes peeled for an important update to the Iconfactory’s own Twitterrific app in the days ahead. I’ve probably said too much… now the Chief Typist will most likely put a hit out on me. Then again, he probably doesn’t even read this blog…

On Saturday, PotatoStew and I went to see 300, a movie based on the graphic novel from comic artist Frank Miller and directed by Zack Snyder. The film stylistically depicts the legendary Battle of Thermopylae that took place in 480 BC on the Greek Peloponnesus between a small army led by King Leonidas of Sparta and the massive forces of the Persian Empire commanded by Xerxes I. If you’re not up on Greek history or want to know more about the film’s plot, there are several summaries available.

I went into the film with next to no knowledge of the story, its background or history. All I knew was that it was supposed to be violent and based on a comic book by Frank Miller. Miller is perhaps best known for his work on graphic novels such as Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Sin City.

The film is visually stunning for its illustrative treatment of the characters, settings and costumes, but also for its graphical depiction of violence and blood lust. This is indeed a violent movie, but its treatment on the screen gives it a surreal quality that somehow makes it more palatable. Blood splatters, limbs are chopped and quite a few heads go flying, but it all seems somehow frozen in the panels of a comic book. Besides, cinematic violence can be beautiful when done purposefully and artfully (think Helms’ Deep on steroids) as it is in 300. There is a scene after the Persian’s initial failed attacks when Xerxes tries to bribe Leoniadas (played admirably by Gerard Butler) with Greece itself. All this and more can be his, if he’ll simply kneel before the god-king. We know Leonidas’ reply even before it comes. The audience seems to stand with the Spartans as he tells Xerxes that he will not kneel and that Xerxes’ blood will be spilled for even daring to set foot on Greek soil.

This being said, 300 isn’t for everyone. Some may think the character work is flat and that the 100% blue-screen generated environments diminish the ability of the actors to interact with each other in a meaningful way. To some extent this may be true, but 300 isn’t trying to something it’s not. Its trying to be a movie based on an incredibly visual and violent graphic novel. A popcorn movie of the highest order, and in that way, and many others, it succeeds brilliantly. Go see it.

One of my favorite video game franchises of all time has to be the Legend of Zelda series from Nintendo. My first experience with Zelda was back on the Nintendo 64 system with The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time and I have been hooked ever since.

Without a doubt one of the most compelling aspects of Zelda has to be the beautiful, haunting and often epic musical scores written by master composer Koji Kondo. From Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask to Wind Waker and now Twilight Princess, music has always played an integral part of the mood and gaming experience that is Zelda. And while there have been literally dozens of fan re-creations of these tracks, including some impressive MIDI re-mixes, I was recently put onto a wonderful collection of orchestrated versions from my friend Louie Mantia.

The ZREO (Zelda Reorchestrated) home page has free, downloadable MP3 tracks from all the major Zelda releases just waiting for you to enjoy. The largest collection hails from The Ocarina of Time, but my personal favorites are the Wind Waker series. The ZREO tracks of Link’s journey across the “Ocean” are simply wonderful, a true auditory journey filled with awe and adventure.

Some have theorized that the music in Zelda contains the audio equivalent of “Golden Proportions” that make them memorable. I’m not exactly sure about that, but I do know a good thing when I hear it, and these downloadable tracks are pure gold.

With the conviction of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on four of five counts in the Valarie Plame case, attention has naturally turned to the potential pardon of the man by President Bush. Newsweek recently ran a piece saying that Bush may indeed pardon Scooter, but he’ll be flaunting Justice Department rules and regulations to do it:

Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff does not qualify to even be considered for a presidential pardon under Justice Department guidelines.

From the day he took office, Bush seems to have followed those guidelines religiously. He’s taken an exceedingly stingy approach to pardons, granting only 113 in six years, mostly for relatively minor fraud, embezzlement and drug cases dating back more than two decades.

While 113 may seem like a great deal, in the grand scheme of history, its just a drop in the Presidential Pardon Bucket. Bill Clinton, for example, issued 456 pardons during his eight years in office. Ronald Reagan issued almost as many – 406. G.W. Bush’s dad however was mighty stingy with his pardons, he issued a measly 77.

So while Bush seems to be on track to not pardoning Libby, I think their assertion that Bush won’t do it due to Justice Department guidelines is baseless. This president has taken to bending and sometimes even breaking the law when it suited him. The pardon of Scooter Libby is not an act that he’ll have to pay for politically. He is not seeking re-election and his poll numbers are already in the basement. Additionally, no matter what Time Magazine may say, Vice President Cheney still has Bush’s ear and probably his balls in his back pocket, and so I am going to make the prediction that Bush will indeed pardon Libby. Cheney wants the Plame affair to end as soon as possible for obvious reasons, so I think its just a question of when. I’m going to go on record and say that Bush will issue the pardon no later than the end of May. If I had to put money on an actual date, I’d pick Friday, April 27th. The Bush administration loves to make Fridays punching bags for bad news to delay the 24 hours news cycle a bit.

What about you, do you think Scooter will get a pass? If you do, go ahead and pick a date in the comments thread. If and when it happens, we’ll see just who wins. Price Is Right rules apply, so the closest person to pick the actual date without going over wins. And what exactly is the prize? How about plain ol’ bragging rights? Come on down!

I’m pleased to say that this post has been over two years in the making. You see, back in March of 2005 when this episode of Fox’s hit show, 24 first aired, I thought to myself “If I had a blog, I’d post about this!” I didn’t have one at the time, but I do now, so I’m darned well posting it.

In the episode “6pm-7pm” in season 4 of 24, Jack and Curtis track one of the terrorist killers, a man named Marwan, down to a high tech front company named IDS Systems. Like all good TV companies, their logo is splashed all over the corporate cubicles and displayed prominently on their blank walls. At first glance the logo just looks like some high-tech circuit board of some kind (which I’m sure is what the art department wanted the audience to think), but the sharp eyed geeks out there will recognize the logo as the schematic layout of the fictional Moonbase Alpha from the sci-fi show Space:1999.

Perhaps the graphic designer in charge of making all those cubical graphics was under a tight deadline and grabbed something quick off the Internet, or maybe he was a big fan of Space:1999 and finally found a way to work in a clever plug for his favorite show from Gerry Anderson. Whatever the reason, I scored some major geek points from the guys at work for my clever spotting and now you can too the next time you watch 24 on DVD with your sci-fi friends. No thanks are necessary.

A Tale of Two Divas

March 6, 2007

BritinaIf I had become a sociologist instead of a designer, I would round up Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and study them both under a high powered lens until one of them burst into flames. These two women have very similar backgrounds, similar careers, similar fan bases and similar amounts of money at their disposal. Lately however, one has been prone to fits of anger, self-mutilation and shallow attempts at attention, while the other seems to be in cruise control.

Both Britney and Christina have had every advantage in their short lives. Both started out as cute Mouseketeers back when they were just young’ins. Both had flourishing music careers and legions of teeny-bopper fans who squealed at their every peep. Somewhere along the way Britney decided that she needed to marry at the age of 23 and have kids. So she hooked up with K-Fed and has now had her second child with the man that some refer to as the biggest loser on the face of the earth. She’s checked in and out of rehab more times than Robert Downey Jr., thinks its about time that the Sinead O’Connor / Ilia look comes back in fashion, and now we get reports that she’s tried to hang herself with her rehab bed sheets.

We all know Britney craves constant attention, and these latest antics are probably just more of the same. After all what do you do for an encore to selling millions of records, being an international sex symbol and looked up to as a huge role model for kids? I’m starting to wonder however, if somewhere deep inside she is looking to go out like Marilyn Monroe. A kind of freakish candle in the wind that lives forever when it finally is extinguished in a blaze of glory. Can any of us really picture the Britney of today growing old gracefully? Will she ever live down the the recent downward spiral of behavior she’s slipped into? In some strange way I feel sorry for her and there is a part of me that hopes she gets some serious help. Something tells me that’s not gonna happen though. Not as long as Christina seems to have it so together.