Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Savage Mill Christmas 2018

One of our favorite shopping spots is Savage Mill in Savage, Maryland. They had their big Christmas season kick-off right after Thanksgiving since they are loaded with small businesses (Saturday was Small Business Saturday). The decorations were amazing.

View from the mezzanine

Finishing a tree

The tree in front of the game store

Santa was there and our youngest was happy (and shy) to visit with him.

Negotiating a gift list

He wasn't really sure what he wanted from Santa for Christmas, so it was the usual awkward conversation. He was happy to get his picture taken, though.

They made a deal

Candy canes were offered after talking to Santa. Our preschooler politely refused because they are "too minty." He's tried mint toothpaste and doesn't like it, so he didn't just make up the excuse.

We saw another Santa outside working on his Naughty/Nice list.

Outdoor Santa

The Mill is having a "Twelve Days of Christmas" celebration, so if you are in the area and read this post before the kickoff on the 12th, come check them out!



Monday, December 10, 2018

Book Review: The Walking Dead Vol. 30 by R. Kirkman et al.

The Walking Dead Volume 30: New World Order written by Robert Kirkman, pencils by Charlie Adlard, inks by Stefano Gaudiano, and gray tones by Cliff Rathburn


The group sent to meet the mysterious new community run into a heavily armed and armored group at the rendezvous point. They are taken to the community which is called the Commonwealth. Michonne, Eugene, and crew meet the governor, who decides to interview Michonne. Michonne was a lawyer in the pre-zombie life, so she is considered the highest-ranking in their group. Michonne is less interested in the interview because she saw a picture of one of her daughters on a memorial sign just outside the Commonwealth. She has a tearful and moving reunion. Eugene finally meets his radio pal Stephanie, which goes well. The governor seems reasonable if a little controlling.

Meanwhile, the relationships back at Rick's compound get more soap opera than ever before. I found that stuff fairly boring. Happily, most of the focus in this book is on Michonne and her daughter, which is easily the best part of the book. The new community has some problems with it (though which community doesn't?) that Rick seems ready to deal with, but how exactly?

The on-going story has good and bad parts. The good outweighs the bad in this issue.

Recommended.


Friday, December 7, 2018

Movie Review: Mimic The Director's Cut (1997)

Mimic The Director's Cut (1997) directed by Guillermo del Toro


A disease carried by common cockroaches is wiping out children in New York City. To prevent the spread of the disease, entomologist Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) creates the Judas Bug, a cockroach-like insect that wipes out the cockroach population. The Judases are designed to be infertile, so they won't last more than six months. The bugs work and Dr. Tyler falls for the Center for Disease Control guy in charge (Jeremy Northam). The story jumps to three years later, where the couple is trying to have a child. Some kids bring a weird bug specimen to Dr. Tyler. The bug has a key characteristic like the Judas Bug, though the specimen is lost when a mysterious figure invades her lab. She decides to go back down into the subterranean levels of New York to see if the Judases are still around. Since they are coming up to the surface, it's a good guess there are plenty of them below.

The movie has the standard B-movie plot where the creation turns on its creator. Del Toro's direction gives it more nuance and style. The dark, muted world of the bugs is occasionally pierced by warm amber and golden hues brought by the humans. The bugs are imaginatively crafted, making their transition from a seemingly human figure into a clearly insect figure believable. There are a few blood and guts horror moments but mostly the film relies on atmosphere and careful editing to raise tension. The special effects hold up really well, probably because they are mostly practical effects.

This director's cut of the movie came out in 2011 on disc. I hadn't heard about it until reading a book on del Toro. I hadn't watched the original film in at least fifteen years. I have only general memories of it so I am not sure what changed. It seemed like this version has more focus on the couple's fertility, which makes thematic sense since they are dealing with the unexpected fertility of the bugs.

Recommended as a B-movie horror with a bit more style and thought (though not a whole lot).


Thursday, December 6, 2018

TV Review: The Dragon Prince Book 1: Moon (2018)

The Dragon Prince Book One: Moon (2018) created by Aaron Ehasz and Justin Richmond


A magical kingdom is divided in half. The humans live in the west, the elves in the east. They used to live together in harmony until the humans used dark magic. The elves and the dragons banished humans to the west, with the dragons maintaining the boarder. The humans attacked and killed the dragon king and destroyed his egg (and thus his offspring). In revenge, the elves sent a small team of Moonshadow Elf assassins to kill the human king. The story begins with that attack. One of the elves, Rayla, can't go through with killing humans. She pursues the king's young son Ezran and older step-son Callum through the castle. In a secret room, they all discover the dragon egg still intact. Rayla realizes this changes everything and the three young persons make an uneasy alliance to return the egg to the dragons.

They don't enlist the aid of their elders because both sides are caught on the brink of war. The king's counselor, Viren, wants the war to go forward and has been using dark magic to help things along. With the king dead and the princes missing, he takes over, making things harder for everyone.

The show has a lot of heavy elements (racist attitudes between the elves and humans; some really dastardly political manipulations; torture of prisoners; black magic) but manages to have many lighter moments and fun action sequences to balance them out. The focus is on the kids' journey with the egg and their slow overcoming of their differences. The characters are interesting for both old and young viewers (my four year-old, nine year-old, and eleven year-old all love the show, as do I). Co-creator Aaron Ehasz was head writer and co-executive producer of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and this show is very much in that style.

The story manages to have a big finale that clearly leads into another season. The show is available streaming through Netflix and word on the internet is Book Two will come some time in 2019. We can't wait.

Looks good, but also vague

Recommended.


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Book Review: Your Child's Writing Life by Pam Allyn

Your Child's Writing Life: How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity, and Skill at Every Age by Pam Allyn


Pam Allyn is the executive director for LitLife and LitWorld, organizations that promote literacy nationally and globally. She has worked many years teaching children of many ages to write. In this book, she presents what has worked for her, along with some research on the value of writing for children of all ages.

She introduces five keys to writing for children, using the acronym WRITE. Word power is the first key. It emphasizes learning and using new words. Reading life encourages young readers to have a broad spectrum of reading--not just fiction, but other categories that will inform and challenge the reader. Identity is two-fold. First, it encompasses how the child likes to write in concrete details--where in the house, what time of day, what special writing tools (pens, pencils, paper, etc.), and so on. Second, Identity shows the style of writing, which naturally develops over time but can be quite distinctive. Time involves both finding time to write and building up stamina in writing, i.e. being able to sit and compose for longer and longer periods of time. Environment is the final key, which is the area where they write--at a desk, on the couch, under the blanket, and any other comfortable and inspirational spot they may find. So the five keys overlap a little but give some concrete steps to encourage writing.

She also has chapters focused in various challenges. One chapter goes through the various ages of children and what they may typically be doing in their writing life. Another recommends strategies for overcoming frustration or unwillingness to write. She recommends twenty children's books to serve as writing inspirations and gives fifty writing prompts to get the creative juices flowing.

The book has lots of useful tools and interesting recommendations. It also has a lot of encouraging words and inspirational stories. For me, there was too many "Rah-rah! You can do it!" parts in the book though I can see how that is appealing. The kids aren't the only ones who need encouragement.

Recommended.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Book Review: My Hero Academia Vol. 1 by Kohei Horikoshi

My Hero Academia Volume 1 by Kohei Horikoshi


The world is a very different place in this story. Most people manifest "quirks," which are superpowers that come in a great variety (like X-Men mutations). Heroes are trained to maintain order as others use their quirks for villainy. Of course, the population has a small number of people without quirks, like Izuku Midoriya. Izuku's lack of quirk hasn't ended his desire to be a hero and his hope to get into U.A., the most prestigious hero-training high school in Japan. A few months before his application to the school, Izuku has a run-in with the ultra-popular and ultra-successful hero All Might, who has a plan that will give Izuku the chance that he wants so badly.

The story is a classic example of the little guy with the right spirit who finally gets the right power to match that spirit (the most famous example being Steve Rogers/Captain America). The plot is a bit predictable but is imaginatively executed. All Might has an interesting twist or two with his story. Izuku is the typical overwhelmed boy going into a new school and finding his place among the students. He even has the cute blonde girl who's interested in him, though he can barely manage to speak to her. Typical high school situations are made fresher with the superhero academy setting raising the stakes.

Recommended. I'll keep reading.


Monday, December 3, 2018

Cute Kid Pix November 2018

More pictures that didn't make their own post...

My birthday was in November. One celebration was going to The Ale House in Columbia for dinner, where we had to try out the soft pretzel because that's what we do at restaurants nowadays.

Someone can't wait!

To go with it, I ordered the Belgian wheat ale called Staring at the Sun from the Oliver Brewing Company. It was tasty and refreshing and went well with the meal. It was Taco Tuesday at the restaurant, so I ordered ala carte tacos. Yummy!

Staring at the Sun

We didn't get dessert at the restaurant since our children were inspired by The Great British Bake Off to make Baked Alaska. It came out very well.

Separating eggs the old-fashioned way

Getting a meringue by cooking the egg whites and sugar

Whipped to perfection

Final results

They made cookies as the base for the Baked Alaskas. The leftover dough made a nice way to spell my name.

Doughfont has no capital letters

We visited cousins in Virginia for Thanksgiving and brought a pumpkin pie that we made at home. The pie was extra-special since we did a fancy top from the spare pie crust that came in the ready-made pack we bought at the store.

Made at home!

Our youngest has started a new sports class, Mighty Kickers, that teaches soccer skills in an indoor setting (since the weather is putting the Brrr in November). The teacher does a great job goofing off and being entertaining along with teaching skills. My son is enjoying it a lot.

He's a good listener, just look at those ears!

Carrying and kicking

We made it to one library storytime that had a craft. The theme was Peace (leading into Christmas season). We glued and colored a dove and some hand. I think the hands were supposed to be holding each other, but maybe not.

Coloring

Talk to the hand(s)