Invasion Of The Pumpkin Snatchers

I have never seen or heard anything like this. I called my Dad in Sacramento and told him about it. He had never heard of seeds sprouting from the inside of a pumpkin. He suggested that I try to make pumpkin pie out of it. I did that one year but it didn’t work out too well. Turns out that Jack O’Lantern pumpkins are unsuitable for pies. Sugar pumpkins are better for pies. A quick Google search reveals that you can cook fairytale pumpkins into pies. Maybe next year with a pumpkin that doesn’t have green sprouts growing inside it.

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Carving a pumpkin with a three-inch thick wall wasn’t an easy task. I wanted to do a side-to-side grin with tiny sharp teeth that would look down from the balcony on the one or two kids who come trick-or-treating in the complex. (Most of the kids go to the Halloween party hosted by the leasing office at the clubhouse on Friday.) I ended up carving half the pumpkin away to have a big set of teeth. This was the best I could to do given that my sharpest knife was the biggest knife that I have. The pumpkin guts with the sprouted seeds ended up in the trash.

The nice thing about being a writer is that I’m thinking about turning this fairytale pumpkin into a short story. I’ve been wanting to do an “Invasion of The Body Snatchers” story for some time but I haven’t found a unique angle to trick out the story with. Sprouted seeds inside a pumpkin appears to the perfect treat: “They look like ordinary pumpkins until they were carved open and the green tendrils among the discarded pumpkin guts slithered out of the trash to eat people.”

Maybe I should put the trash out before I go to bed tonight. Happy Halloween 2010!

Update Tuesday 2 November 2010 @ 1:45PM – A little research reveals that the seeds inside the pumpkin can sprout if the pumpkin was kept too warm (about 70F degrees) for an extended period of time. Since the grocery store kept the pumpkins near the entrance that gets direct sunlight and there was a recent one-week heatwave, it was enough to get the the seeds to start sprouting. Remember that the next time you shop for a pumpkin.


A “Tron: Legacy” Night At The IMAX

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I don’t remember much of the original movie beyond Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) being sucked into the system and the special effects that were pretty cool back in the early 1980s when computer animation was still in its infancy. The original movie is no longer available on DVD or even Netflix Instant for viewing. That will probably change when the marketing for the new movie kicks into high gear. I kept an open mind about the half-dozen scenes that I saw, which was a challenge since I’m not a big fan of Hollywood forsaking new ideas to recycle classic movies and TV shows from the last 30 years.

The segment starts off in the real world that’s in 2D, where Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) is informed by his father’s close friend, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), that he received a page from a phone number that’s been disconnected for 25 years. Why someone would keep a working pager in the modern era of cellphone texting is something that I hope the movie will explain. Sam heads down to the old arcade where his father’s office is located and turns on the circuit breaker that brings the arcade alive with the familiar sounds of multiple video game machines and a jukebox playing 1980s music. A Tron arcade machine stands alone against the wall in the back. He puts in a quarter that falls out on to the floor since it’s not an arcade token, discovers heavy scoring marks on the concrete floor, and pushes back the arcade machine to find a secret passage to his father’s lab. A still active virtual touch screen comes alive. He enters the command line, guess the password, enters the whoami command to discover that this was father’s account, and runs the last command that was executed. A camera laser sucks him into the 3D virtual world of Tron that his father had made.

The arcade scene was genuinely authentic. I used to crawl the arcade scene when I was a teenager in the early 1980s. My parents gave me a $30/week allowance. I blew half in the arcades and the other half. My parents thought that this was a strange combination, but they were relieved that I wasn’t involved in sex and drugs like too many young people in my generation. (I was really fat and nerdy back then like most of the people watching last night). I recognized Dig DugMissile Command and Pac-Manfrom the cacophony of arcade game sounds. I never played Tron that much back then. Star Wars was the hot arcade game that put you in the seat of a X-Wing fighter flying over the Death Star trench in all its vector graphics glory.

When Sam appears in the virtual world, he is immediately picked up by a recognizer, the iconic machine that picks up stray programs (people) that shouldn’t be running around lose. I don’t remember the original version at all. This one had two guards, a pilot, and about eight prisoners. Sam is locked down without any explanation and frighten by the person next to him who has only half a head. After the recognizer flies across the virtual world, it lands and the prisoners are sorted out. One prisoner runs off to jump over the side and asunder into a thousand electronic bits when hitting the next level. Sam is slated for the games. He is escorted into a room where four women stripes him of his clothing and dress him in his virtual clothing with a security disc that is also his weapon. One of them notes that he is a different kind of program before sending him off into the arena.

The next set of scenes are the virtual highlights that we expect to find: the laser disc fight to the death, the light cycle competition to create a wall of light that forces the other light cycle to crash into, and the extended cycle chase through the virtual world when Sam is rescued by the mysterious Quorra (Olivia Wilde), who reminds me of Trixie (Christina Ricci) from “Speed Racer”. She takes him to the safe house where his father has been in hiding for 25 years, where father and son are reunited. The segment blends into the trailer for the movie and comes to an end.

“Tron: Legacy” appears to be a worthy successor not only to the original movie but also to “The Matrix” series. Every decade needs to have a signature film that looks ahead to the future in both the real and virtual worlds. The 2D virtual touch screen currently exists on the Apple iPad/iPhone/Touch family of mobile devices, and one exhibtor at the 2010 MacWorld Expo demonstrated the Mac OS X desktop being projected on a desktop surface that could manipulate things. The 3D virtual world overall was very beautiful with a deep monochromatic background and bright neon colors. Some of the newer video game engines like id Software’s RAGE are becoming more photo realistic. Unlike all the other recycled movies coming out in recent years, Disney got this one right.

Howell and I turned in our 3D glasses and retrieved our cellphones. A free movie poster and a card for an Asus video card (who sponsored this event) were available. We also got coupons for to see any movie that night for $5 USD and a free drink-and-popcorn combo for our next visit. There were no good movies to watch that night. Besides, unless it was free, we couldn’t see it anyway. The combo coupon happens to expire the day before the new Harry Potter movie comes out. Bummer, AMC!


State of The Website (Or, Lack Thereof)

My author website got a few significant updates that reflected my growing list of publication credits. A writing blog using WordPress CMS was soon abandoned and neglected after getting started, and a books page was added to list all the anthologies that are available with my short stories. (Please buy yourself some copies, read my short stories and make me rich.) I don’t plan to make a significant changes to the author website in the near future. I do plan to resume blogging on writing topics at least once a month.

I’ve been very busy with my business website (a.k.a., programming website) over the last month, reviewing and updating all mysoftware modules for Joomla. The Show TwitGoo, Show TwitPic, and Show Plixi (formerly TweetPhoto) modules were updated with new features. The Show TwitrPix module was added, which prompted another round of updates for the Show modules after I switched over the SimplePie RSS parser (better error reporting and foreign language support). Added the TwitPic Widget and TwitrPix Widget modules. I’m still plan to review and add more Flair modules for the Stack Exchange family of websites. I’m also learning how to write software components using the Joomla Framework API, which may result in all the Show modules becoming Show components. (Modules display simple content on the sides, tops or bottoms of a web page, whereas components display complex content in the center.) I’m focusing my programming efforts on becoming a Joomla developer for now. I don’t plan on adding a programming blog.

Once my programming tasks are done, I’ll turn my focus on finishing the transition of the legacy website here. Adding ten years of content is a daunting task, especially when that content is locked away in an old database, need to be manually moved over and updated to remove legacy web links that don’t work anymore. I’ve learned a lot about updating and maintaining Joomla websites over the summer. I should have that project done by the end of winter. (Maybe, maybe not, we will see.) I’m planning to resume blogging at least once a week. There are events going on in the world that I want to comment on and I need a bigger soapbox to do that.