2015 Christmas Cruise – Day 9

This is the first of the cruise’s two sea days as we make our way back to port. It was pretty boring, but there were a few things to note. We slept in, got some breakfast, then headed down to deck 7 in order to buy a couple future cruise credits. They’re a great deal if you’re going to cruise again in the next two years. Basically, Princess considers them a deposit, and gives you some on-board spending money for using them that varies by the length of the cruise you book. We’ve already decided to do this again next year, so it was a no brainer to save some money.

After lunch, we did a little packing and got ready for the final formal night of the cruise. We did a few more pictures, but dined pretty early because there was a movie playing on the Movies Under The Stars screen that we wanted to see. We got to lay back on comfy deck chairs, munch on popcorn, and watch Ant Man in the beautiful Caribbean weather. It was a relaxing way to spend an evening. And I finally got to try the Denali Red beer, by Kenai River Brewing Company which was also pretty good.

The New HTPC Is Up And Running

As part of the hardware refresh I’m working on, I’ve replaced the Mac Mini that I’ve been using with a custom built Sandy Bridge based box. The XBMC forums were a great source of information on what would work and what I needed. I had to change up their recommendations slightly because my receiver does not have HDMI ports, so bitstreaming audio was out. I saved some money because I already had a hard drive and a Blu-Ray drive, so that that into account if you’re pricing this out. The hardware arrived yesterday, and after I finished my school work I started assembling. It was all put together and ready for an OS install before I turned in. I finished it off this evening and got XBMC installed. The numbers are impressive. It’s quiet and powerful, with VC-1 Blu Ray rips playing without a problem. That was something the Mini struggled with because if its lack of hardware acceleration for anything except h.264. Now the Mini will get rebuilt and become my desktop/server, and an Air will be coming home to be the traveling machine.

Here’s the list of the hardware I used in the build:

  • [amazon_link id=”B001H0BA24″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Apex MI-008 case[/amazon_link]
  • [amazon_link id=”B004TJWI7Q” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Gigabyte GA-H67N-USB3-B3 H67 LGA1155 Mini-ITX motherboard[/amazon_link]
  • 1 [amazon_link id=”B003ZDJ42O” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Corsair XMS3 4 GB PC3-10666 DIMM[/amazon_link]
  • [amazon_link id=”B00520HSZS” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Pentium G840 CPU[/amazon_link]
  • [amazon_link id=”B004XLPJNK” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Sapphire Radeon HD 6450 1 GB fanless graphics card[/amazon_link]
  • [amazon_link id=”B004LPHKWG” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Lite-On Blu Ray drive[/amazon_link]
  • 160 gig hard drive from an old, decommissioned server.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Heather and I went over to AMC Grapevine Mills to see the latest Pirates movie.  It was a lot of fun, even without the leads from the previous three.  Jack’s just as gleefully amoral (Heather’s words) as ever, and the Spanish are a hoot when they finally get some screen time.  We saw it in 2D, in one of the Fork and Screen theaters, and enjoyed a good pizza and some delicious hummus while the movie played.  It was definitely a good successor to the previous installments and is worth the time and money to go see it.  Yummy brain fluff.


We met up with some friends to catch the latest comic book movie, Thor, down at AMC Grapevine Mills.  This was my first time in the renovated theaters since they’ve converted half of them to in theater dining, and I wasn’t disappointed.  The food was good and the service was ok.

The movie was a lot of fun, with some (so I’m told) good eye candy for the ladies, humor, action, and great special effects.  I didn’t read too many of the comics growing up, but got the basic story down.  And the cross-overs with Captain America, The Avengers, and more of the Marvel universe were nice to see.  The volume was a little high, and judging by what others have said, that wasn’t specific to the theater we were in.

The Eagle

Heather and I met a couple friends out at Harkins – Southlake to go see The Eagle.  It’s a story of a son trying to redeem his father’s honor (not to mention Rome’s) by recovering the IX Legion’s lost standard.  There are definitely some historical inaccuracies, and the plot was a little predictable in places, but it was still a lot of fun.  It’d be nice to see some more historical dramas like this, instead of everything being set in Elizabethan or Victorian times…

TRON: Legacy

Scratched another one off the list tonight, and in 3D no less.  I think it was a good sequel, staying mostly true to the original.  There were some great cameos and off-hand references to things from the original as well.  I’m truly pleased that they did not put in the sight gags that too many of the 3D films have.  It’s not like we don’t already know that we’re seeing a 3D film, what with the higher ticket price and glasses, so we don’t need you waving things in our faces.  But back on subject, it was a good film, and I’ve got no complaints.  The score was well matched to the scenes as well, and I just might have to pick the album up for some background coding music.

Go see it if you haven’t already!

True Grit

I went out to see the Coen brothers’ production of True Grit tonight and can honestly say that I enjoyed it immensely.  I’m displaying my cultural ignorance but I didn’t know that it was based on a [amazon_link id=”159020459X” target=”_blank” ]book[/amazon_link].  I thought that the John Wayne version was the original, but during the promotional tour for the movie Matt Damon mentioned that it was more true to the book.  I’ll admit that I didn’t want to go see it up until that point, but once that was clear I decided to give it a chance.  I’m glad I did.  Jeff Bridges was great, I loved his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn.  And Hailee Steinfeld did an amazing job as Mattie Ross.  Now I’ve got to add the [amazon_link id=”159020459X” target=”_blank” ]book[/amazon_link] to my ever growing to-read stack!


Heather and I went to see Red tonight. It’s based on a graphic novel about some retired spies having to fight back as they’re being hunted. There’s a lot more to it than that, and the cast was great. Between Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, and Hellen Mirren and cameos by a few others, it was full of fun. I’m really liking all of the comics/graphic novels that have been made in to movies lately. Hopefully that’ll continue…

An Evening With Ken Burns

Heather and I went down to UT Arlington tonight to see Ken Burns speak. We stopped at Prince Lebanese Grill for dinner beforehand and really enjoyed the food. It was one of Guy’s stops on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and was well worth the trip.

The setup for Mr. Burns’s presentation wasn’t a lecture so much as an interview, conducted by one of the local PBS radio personalities. He was a pleasure to listen to, very well spoke and intelligent. I really enjoyed listening to his insights on baseball, war, American history and culture, and more. There was a short Q-and-A session afterwords, followed by a chance to go up and get something signed. I got my copy of [amazon_link id=”0679755438″ target=”_blank” ]The Civil War[/amazon_link] book signed, which was nice…

The Karate Kid

Reese and I went out to see The Karate Kid remake today. It was enjoyable fluff, mostly the same plot line as the original, just updated for today. I probably wouldn’t have gone to see it on my own, but the company made it fun.