2009 Vacation: Day Two through Four

August 26th and 27th were fairly uneventful in terms of blogging excitement. That Wednesday, I met my cousin Laurie and her daughter at the shopping outlet. The two of us hadn’t seen each other in like three or four years, so it was great seeing her. We ate a quick late lunch and then wandered around the outlet shopping and talking.

Thursday, I hung out with my Aunt Linda, Uncle Bill and the kids. We went that afternoon post-lunch to the local inlet so the kids could collect snails and shells. This gave me a good opportunity to shoot some photos which was nice (see http://shannonshots.deviantart.com).

That brings us to Friday, August 28th. That morning, my Aunt Kyle and cousin Kim picked me up and we were off to Montauk Lighthouse. It ended up being a drizzly day, but we were determined to enjoy not only our time together, but the lighthouse despite the inclement weather. The drive out to Montauk took longer than per normal due to weekend Hampton traffic. This didn’t bother me though anyway because it gave me time to have a good conversation with my Aunt and cousin. We only see each other about once a year usually, so that was cool.

Once we got to the Lighthouse, my cousin decided she wasn’t interested in climbing it or seeing the sights inside. So, my Aunt and I went in while she wandered around the gift shop and read her book. The bottom portion of the place has a lot of pictures and history information about the lighthouse. The literature talked about erosion of the ground surrounding the lighthouse and how it has held up over the years. After you get through the history part, you can get in line to actually climb to the top of the lighthouse. We waited for about 15-20 minutes and then got our chance to do just that. Only fifteen people can go up at any given time, thus the wait can be long. The stairs up to the top are winding and narrow. With other visitors coming down as you are going up, it can be a little nerving as you make your way to the top of the stairs. Once you get there though, there’s nothing like it. The view was amazing. Very cool indeed.

After we climbed down from the top of the lighthouse, the drizzling rain had subsided, so I had a chance to shoot some photos from the ground of the beauty that surrounds the lighthouse. After popping into the gift shop, we decided our experience at Montauk was complete. A good time was had, but it was time to find someplace to have lunch. It took us just about as long to get back to Riverhead as it did to get there due to heavy traffic, but it gave me another opportunity to see the Hamptons from the car window as we drove.

Upon arriving back in Riverhead, we went for lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Normally, I don’t indulge in this kind of cuisine, but I was on vacation and had been craving some oriental food for awhile. I ordered Pepper Steak (my favorite) and it was delicious. Definitely worth allowing myself this treat while I was on vacation.

It was mid-afternoon once we finished eating lunch, and since I hadn’t been able to really do all the shopping and looking around that I had wanted to do two days before, we headed to the local outlet mall. My aunt was awesome in helping me find some nice pants and tops, which I was in great need of. I ended up finding some nice clothes in Eddie Bauer and the Gap, my favorite of which is the light jacket I bought at Eddie Bauer. I think it’s safe to say that Eddie Bauer is now one of my favorite places to shop. 🙂

We looked around the outlet for a little while longer and then headed to Borders. I have an addiction to bookstores, a love I share with my cousin. At the bookstore, I found a great book, Manhattan Noir 2 (I have the first one already) and got a cookies and cream frap at the coffee bar. My aunt and cousins found a couple of things to purchase, then the three of us headed out.

My aunt then brought me back to my Aunt Linda’s house and we said our good-byes. Fun was definitely had on this day, and I was very happy to have had the chance to spend the time with my Aunt Kyle and cousin Kim.

2009 Vacation: Day One

I had hoped to start posting my vacation journal stuff before now, but obviously, that didn’t happen. Anyway, here we go! 🙂

Tuesday, August 25, 2009. My most anticipated vacation week began with my alarm clock buzzing loudly to arouse me just before 9am. I got up, ate breakfast, showered and dressed. After ensuring I had everything, I gathered up my bags and loaded them into my dad’s Grand Prix. We were then off for the Orlando International Airport for my 9am flight.

The check-in was quick and easy, which is just how I always hope it will be. The security checkpoint wasn’t too bad despite a couple of folks in front of me who always seem to not know how to put all their stuff on the x-ray belt and remove their shoes. Sometimes, it’s the things that most of us see as simplistic and not requiring much brain activity that boggles the minds of a select few… reminds me of the people who think ordering a sub at Subway is a rocket science. I have to force myself to chuckle at these sorts of things and people, or I might go insane.

My airline of choice to Long Island, New York is Southwest Airlines, as they not only tend to have reasonable fares, but their staff always treats me right. In the past, I’ve flown with a few others like Delta (I recall the short-lived Delta Song!) and JetBlue, and while they were okay, honestly, they didn’t impress me in the least. I don’t expect a lot when I fly, but some airlines just know how to treat their customers better it seems.

The flight into Islip was pretty smooth, not a lot of turbulence. I had a local Long Island mom to my right who was returning home after helping her sophomore college son settle into his dorm. In the window seat was a middle-school aged kid who was also returning back home to Long Island, after visiting his dad in Florida for the summer. Both nice people to chat with during the two plus hour flight from Orlando.

Upon arriving in the Big Apple, my mom’s sister, Linda picked me up in her new Civic. In tow, my Aunt had my cousin Jimmy’s two kids, Brianna and Cameron. Having never met my second generation cousins, it was nice to finally get the opportunity to do so. Brianna is fourteen and starting high school this year, Cameron is six. The kids wanted to go to Chuck E. Cheese to play some games, so that was first up. Now, I haven’t been to a Chuck E. Cheese since I was probably like ten years-old. So, my feeling that the experience was going to be unlike it is through the eyes of a kid was spot on. To say the place is loud and overwhelming is probably and almost certainly and understatement. Kids of all rugrat sizes and ages were running all over the indoor playground. Between the sounds of kids squeeling for joy, the musical sounds of the games themselves and the blaring loudspeakers singing the praises of Chuck E. Cheese world, a few minutes of this place is enough for any adult to go bananas. How parents can manage to survive this sort of thing with their children, I do not know. It didn’t take me long to imagine how my own parents must have felt when I longed to play there as a youngster. For those years, I’m so sorry mom and dad.

Once my Aunt and I were able to prod the kids along in spending all of their game tokens, the experience wasn’t over, oh no. There were tickets won by playing said games that now needed to be redeemed on toys, ie: junk that is of course worth nothing…well, nothing unless you’re a kid that is. Watching my little cousins decide on prizes, my mind again went back to my childhood. I vividly remember an arcade place where you won tickets that you could exchange for similar junk toys or candy. My dad used to take my brother and I there pretty regularly when we were in elementary/middle school. So, I had to smile when I saw the indecision that my cousins went through in choosing their prizes.

Laffy taffy and plastic rubbery toys in hand, we finally left Chuckie’s land and made an immediate beeline for a a place I had been waiting for since booking my plane ticket the month prior. It was time for some real New York pizza goodness! And, it’s no lie that the best slices are found at “holes in the wall.” Totally true, at least in the state of New York it is. No atmosphere, but hands down the best pizza I had my entire trip. Oh, and the garlic knots are great as well. I had a good chuckle when my six-year-old cousin proclaimed out loud that Virginia (his home state) had better pizza that the slice he was slowly munching on. Ah, kids say the funniest things, don’t they?

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. We went back to my Aunt and Uncle’s place, where my Uncle Bill and I got to admire each others weight loss from the past year. He had lost more than 90lbs whereas I’ve lost 70lbs, and he looked great. He took me out to his local health good store, Wild By Nature. It is a nice store, I was impressed. It is down the road from their house, where a King Kullen grocery had previous been. I picked up a few items as did he before heading back to the house. We then changed into our workout clothes and headed out to the Nature Preserve for a walk. The Preserve has great trails for walking and I enjoyed taking in the fresh air as we went along the paths.

The day came to a close with a viewing of the Iron Man movie that I brought up with me. My Uncle and Aunt had never seen it, nor had the kids, so it was cool watching it again with people who hadn’t seen this awesome film before. Especially neat seeing the excitement in the eyes of a kid for it. All in all, it was a nice first day of my vacation. I was happy to finally be back up in New York.

New York 2009

I had an awesome time on my vacation up to New York. I’ve been posting some of my photos on my deviantart site, http://shannonshots.deviantart.com and will be updating here with more details on the trip itself. Came back to Orlando on Monday night, and had to go back to work on Wednesday, so as they say, there’s just not enough hours in the day to do it all. 🙂 Since this coming weekend includes a holiday (Labor Day), I have an extra day off, which will make getting some things done (aka writing more), easier.

New York writing space

Vacation and a cold?

So, here it is Sunday, just hours away from my vacation beginning, and I’m getting a cold? I woke up this morning and my throat felt scratchy and things just seemed to continue down that path today. As I sit here at 9pm, all I can hope is that the airborne I picked up today as well as the echinacea and vitamin C I’ve been downing will help me beat this thing. Not only do I want to be sick during my vacation, but I definitely don’t want to feel like crap flying in a plane to New York on Tuesday morning.

Stopped by Mini Megacon this afternoon for a couple of hours to see some friends who were in Artist Alley. Jeez was the con hall freezing! By the time I headed out, I was anxious for a parka or some sort of jacket. Brrrr! It was great seeing everyone, wish I could have hung out longer, but packing for my trip had to be attended to since I work tomorrow. Brought my camera and planned on shooting some pictures, but didn’t end up shooting one shot! Ha.

Mulder's Secret Past

I recently came across some old short stories and such that I have written throughout the last few years. This is a piece of a story that I wrote during season 9 of The X-Files. I was a huge fan of the show, and of course dreamed of being able to write for it. I feel I should note that I obviously have no legal right to The X-Files and it’s characters. This is merely a fan-fiction of sorts. And, while like I said, I don’t own the characters, if for some reason you want to re-post this somewhere, please ask first. Thoughts are welcome, as always. Thanks.

Scully enters her apartment after a long day at work. She is exhausted. “Mmm. What’s that wonderful smell?” She inquires aloud, as Fox Mulder appears in the entry way wearing an apron around his waist.
“Dinner. So, how was your day?” Mulder asks the redhead as helps her out of her beige trench coat.
“This case we’re working on has me downright exhausted. Thank goodness Agent Doggett was willing to stay behind, because I sure didn’t have the energy to look at those reports again today,” Scully muses. “How is William?”
“Sleeping. Just you, me and Fettuccine Alfredo tonight,” Mulder replies with a smile.
“Mulder, you never cook. What’s up?”
“Can’t a guy merely cook for his favorite G-woman without someone thinking that something is wrong? Now, you go change into something comfortable and I’ll take care of everything else.”
After a brief beat, Scully turns and makes way toward the bedroom. Mulder notices the question and apprehension in her eyes, but ignores it. He has already gone over it in his head again and again all week long. Tonight was the night he was going to tell her. It had to be.

The two enjoyed a candlelit dinner together complete with a bottle of champagne. It was all picture perfect and relaxing. With dinner over, Mulder took a deep breath, “there are some things I need to tell you Scully; some things I need to explain.”
“Mulder,” Scully began, “there isn’t anything you need to explain to me.”
“Please Scully, please just hear me out. I need to do this,” Mulder counters back at his former partner.
“After Quantico, I may have been everything my superiors envisioned in a future Bureau Director, less for my obsession for the paranormal. Things aren’t always what they seem however. Good profiling and investigative skills can only take you so far. To keep me on the fast track, I was introduced to a women and fellow F.B.I. Agent. The reasons for her being there were no secret. She was to keep me on track no matter what it took. It wasn’t long before I fell head over heels for her. She was everything I thought I needed or wanted in a woman. She filled in the gaps in my life. She even seemed to understand everything I was going through. My head told me to run, run as far away as I could from her. But, it was too late, she already had my heart wrapped around her finger. Six months later, we were walking down the aisle.”
A look of surprised shock overcomes Scully. She had never thought of the possibility that Mulder may have been previously married. Noticing the look, Mulder takes another deep breath and continues.
“If the Bureau thought I had lost interest in the paranormal and the search for my sister, they couldn’t have been more wrong. I played the good Agent for awhile, allowing them to believe that their plan had worked. This was until I had a run in with the Lone Gunmen. Although, they weren’t the Lone Gunmen back then, not yet. A simple case of apprehending a suspect turned into much more for everyone involved. And, when the day was done, I had far more questions than I had ever had before. Questions which their answers might only be found in the discovery of The X-Files. And, well, you know the rest of the story.” Mulder looks over at Scully, awaiting her response.
“I’ll admit, I never thought for a minute that you had been married.” Scully finally tells him, “but, that doesn’t change anything between us Mulder. The past is the past.”
Mulder shifts uncomfortably in his chair, “for some of us, the past really isn’t in the past,” he explains to her.
“I don’t understand, Mulder,” Scully echos back.
Mulder stands up and reaches into a nearby desk drawer, pulling out a large yellow manila envelope. He hands it to her.
“That came in the mail earlier this week,” he tells her.
Scully opens the envelope, revealing it’s contents. Inside is a handwritten letter, on plain white typing paper. As Scully reads it, Mulder watches her reaction with a knot in his stomach.
The letter is from Diana Fowley, stating how sorry she is that she couldn’t go through with signing the papers after all. That, it was too difficult for her to do.
After a brief moment, Scully looks over at Mulder, the pieces of the puzzle slowly coming together.
“Monday would have been our eleventh wedding anniversary,” Mulder manages to mumble.

Comic Book Review: INFERNO

INFERNO (One-shot, DC Comics)
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Greg Scott

To begin with, I feel I should note that until this summer, I have previously been a dedicated Marvel fan and reader. Easily, 99% of my pull list at the comic shop was for Marvel titles. This isn’t to say that I had anything against DC Comics. On the contrary, I just never knew where or when I could “jump on” to a particular titles seeing as how DC’s books seemed to always have some kind of a Crisis going on which connected everything together. For someone not overly familiar with the DC Universe, I felt a bit overwhelmed by their offerings.

This all has seemingly changed in 2009. DC Comics has, in my opinion, really become accessible for any and everyone. Yes, there is a huge storyline going on with Batman, but entering into their world has been fairly easy. I feel as connected to Batman or the Lantern Corps as I do with Marvel characters like Spider-man or The Avengers. To this I must say, “bravo DC creative team, bravo.”

INFERNO is a one-shot book written by J. Michael Straczynski with artwork by Greg Scott. I spotted this title on the shelf at my shop and immediately passed by it. That was, until the scribe of the book caught my eye, Straczynski. It was his work on Babylon 5 that lead me to read comics at all (with the help of a friend). My first taste of comics and JMS was the first arc of his creator-owned series, RISING STARS. Wow, was that an amazing, mind-blowing tale. Truly, a work of greatest in my mind. Definitely go out and pick up the first arc collected if you have yet to, highly recommended. Anyway, since Straczynski had done me nothing but good in the past with his work in comics (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, MIDNIGHT NATION, the list goes on), I figured this INFERNO book was worth a second glance.

In the book, we meet an odd man who is the only survivor of a cruise liner explosion that killed more than two-hundred people. The man has given a name to the hospital staff, but no one knows for sure if the name belongs to him or if he was trying to tell them something. This lone survivor appears to be suffering from a bout of amnesia. He doesn’t remember anything beyond that there was an explosion. Meanwhile, the one name he spoke, Frank Verrano becomes a dead end for the police detective looking into the case. She cannot find a single piece of information, not even a birth certificate.

The mystery man is suddenly attacked in the hospital and a huge, fire-filled action sequence breaks out. Fire-filled due to amnesia man being able to turn into his own version of the Human Torch. Anyway, his overseeing doctor plays a big role in the scenes to come as well. Another boat becomes victim to an odd bombing and an APB is put out on the fire man now calling himself, INFERNO. His story is one part of something called The Red Circle.

Now, I looked into this Red Circle a bit to see if I could find out anything since this is the first I’ve heard of them. According to Wikipedia, DC Comics recently bought the licensing for the catalog of characters from the former Red Circle Comics line. Red Circle Comics first came to light in 1973, publishing a title called Chilling Adventures in Sorcery. The comic book line ascends from the well-known Archie Comics Publications, as the company used it to publish stories that were non-Archie characters, specifically superhero stories.

The bottom line is, definitely check out this book. Not only is the writing superb, but Greg Scott’s artwork is beautiful and really compliments Straczynski’s words. This is the first work I’ve seen from Scott and thus far, I’m impressed and look forward to seeing more of what he can do.

One Minute Writer: Green

(this was actually Friday’s prompt, but I didn’t get a chance to post what I wrote last night.)

PROMPT: Green. Write a brief bit of fiction involving money.
http://oneminutewriter.blogspot.com/

It was all about the money, it always was from the start. Yes, it’s true that I loved her beautiful soft flowing blonde locks and her oh so alluring charms, but she was just the temptation, the temptress. I have to right out admit that in all honesty, the greed of the pay off was all the more important. I was definitely a greedy bastard. Who wouldn’t have been? A quick million smackers was enough to make even a formerly honest salesman like me turn to the dark side. To a life of crime. To a life now behind bars. What in the hell was I thinking?

Movie: Double Indemnity

“Paramount’s shocking, suspense-filled masterpiece of love…and murder.”

While I have been a film noir lover for years now, somehow, I had never sat down and watched Double Indemnity. Of course, after finally renting it, I saw how spectacular of a film I had been missing all these years.

Visually, Double Indemnity is amazing, it is absolutely the king of film noir classics. The use of the venetian blinds to continually cast their shadows upon each scene as well as the femme fatale using the protagonist insurance salesman to do her will is all signature noir style.

The story itself that was the basis for the picture is a 1927 crime committed by a married Queens women and her lover. The scandal was turned into fiction by author, James Cain. Later, Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder co-adapted the tale into the screenplay. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, but didn’t take home any statues.

Fred MacMurray, who portrays the insurance salesman, Walter Neff is first-rate in the role. He is likable, and makes you feel sorry for him even after he has committed murder and is deserving of whatever the fates throw at him. His narration throughout the film is fantastic, I enjoyed it just as much as his moments with the conniving wife and his boss, Keyes.

Barton Keyes, Neff’s insurance investigator supervisor was played by the excellent Edward Robinson. Robinson was well known for his spectacular performance as the title role of the ambitious criminal Rico in the movie, Little Caesar in 1931. He does an amazing job as the determined Keyes in Double Indemnity whose gut instincts seem to never fail to lead him to the truth.

Our femme fatale, Phyllis Dietrichson performed by Barbara Stanwyck puts on a stunning portrayal. She is alluring and convincing in the role as the motivated wife. It isn’t difficult to see why she is nominated for her third Academy Award for Best Actress in the picture, as she more than deserved the honor.

All in all, I would recommend the movie highly to anyone who is wanting to see some of the best Hollywood has had to offer through the years. Double Indemnity is easily one of the best films ever made, without hesitation, without a doubt one that should be a part of any movie buff’s collection.

Nikon has disappointed me

You know, I used to have high expectations for the Nikon name and brand. That was until now. About a week and a half ago, I sent my D5000 DSLR back to them for the service advisory repair since my camera was one that might be affected per their website. I packaged the box well and tight, so as my camera was well cushioned during it’s trip to Connecticut where Nikon is doing the repairs.

Jump to last Friday morning. I had checked earlier in the week on the tracking, and UPS reported that the package containing my D5000 had reached the repair facility on Monday, August 3rd. Okay, I figured by this time I should have had some sort of email or what have you from Nikon about the ETA of repair on my camera. So, I called them. After waiting on hold for almost ten minutes, a representative was less than helpful or insightful. He informed me that he couldn’t tell me anything about my specific camera and that I should be hearing something from Nikon by Monday. So, basically, I just sent them my $800 piece of equipment and they couldn’t give me any information on what was going on with it. This astonished me, I thought, ‘I expect better from Nikon than this.’ But, I decided to be patient and give them some more time despite part of me wanting to call back and request to speak with a supervisor.

Here’s where we arrive at the present. I got home from work this evening to discover a box addressed to me. Since I wasn’t expecting anything, it surprised me a bit. Opening it up, it became clear very quickly who the box was from, Nikon. Inside was my camera. The packing of the box itself was shoddy. The box containing my camera was barely secured. Thankfully, the camera body itself seems okay, no damage from what I can tell. I searched the box for paperwork. Nothing, nadda. What? You supposedly did some sort of repair on the equipment but no paperwork? How am I to believe that anything was done at all to it? And, they never, not once communicated with me through the process, a process mind you that had to take place because Nikon messed up on the D5000 line. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that sometimes things happen, and I didn’t get upset when I heard about the service advisory, but no communication? Come on, Nikon. I honestly expected better from you than this. I guess my expectations have been set too high. Now, you have disappointed a loyal Nikon customer, one who has only purchased Nikon cameras now for over ten years. After all this, I’m not so sure that my next camera will be a Nikon. Yeah, I’m starting to reconsider my loyalty to the brand. Canon may start to get my business in the future. Sorry Nikon, but you are just not showing the loyalty to your customers that some of us have shown to you. If that’s the new way you are conducting business, I will be taking my money elsewhere. I work too hard to hand it over to a company who appears to not care about their consumer.

One Minute Writer Prompt: Quote

PROMPT: In 100 years, what one statement would you like others to remember you as having said?
http://oneminutewriter.blogspot.com/

This is a tough one, isn’t it? Well, I would hope it would be something inspirational, something motivational. While I may not do acts to necessarily purposefully motivate or inspire, it’s nice to know when you do just this for someone else.

So, probably, “Believe in yourself, and never give up.” Something along those lines would be a great statement/quote to remember me by I think.