Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I-15 Insanity

(Day 53 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-24-2012)

I mentioned in a former blog post that the I-15 runs right through Utah, and is the main highway that connects Utah Valley to the Salt Lake Valley.  One thing I didn't mention is all the insane road work that's going on.

Back in 2010 construction began to expand the highway to accommodate the large population that lives here.  It's been quite a project, dealing with constant road closers, off ramp closers, and so forth.  At one point, the highway actually split into two sections, one way, and if you weren't paying attention and ended up on the left side of the split, chances are you could miss the off ramp you needed.  This phase of the construction even got a commercial spot in the theaters, warning people to be aware of which lane they were in, so you wouldn't miss your exit.  Actually, it was quite fun, and I would purposely hang in the left lane.

The current phase of work is supposed to end at the end of this year, and let's just say, I can't wait!  It'll be nice, too, because with all the road congestion in the two valleys, this will make rush hour all the nicer.

Anyone who lives here and would like information on the construction, road closers, and other tid-bits, you can find what you need here.

This photo has nothing to do with the theme of this entry, only that I took it on the same time, and was amused by those prickly balls hanging on the tree.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I wouldn't be a Stufflebeam if it wasn't for the Black Plague

(By Theodor Kittselsen.  Image in the Public Domain.)

When a lot of people ask me about my last name, Stufflebeam, they quickly ask the origin of the name.  It's Americanized German, from Stoppelbein.  As was common with early settlers in America, surnames changed due to poor writing and speaking, or when someone aurally heard a name and guessed at the spelling.  As time progressed, the "o" became a "u," the "p's" became "f''s" and so on.  

My first ancestor to go by Stufflebeam was John George Michael Stufflebeam, born 1756.  He fought gallantly in the American Revolution.  Actually, he spent a couple years as a POW in an English camp, and when he was free he was wondering through the wilderness, and fighting Indians, but that's a story for another blog entry.

The first recorded Stoppelbein is found in Laubenheim Germany; Johannes was born about 1600.  His son, Johann "Hans," was born in 1632, and this is where the dreaded Black Plague enters my family line.  Johann was first married to an Elizabeth, and with her he had two sons and two daughters.  Then in 1666 the Black Plague struck Laubenheim, and within a couple weeks Johann lost his Mother, one son, both daughters, and his wife to death.  Then in 1667 he married Anna Maria Mullerin who is my 8th Great-Grandmother.

 (Aerial view of modern Laubenheim Germany, by Hansueli Krapf.
Source information here.)

It's strange thinking that something so deadly, the great Black Death that ravaged Europe and took so many lives, changed the course of my 8th Great-Grandfather, sending his life down a path that led to my existence.  With his second wife Johann went on to have 8 more children.

This makes me wonder, if we could all see the past, how many of us wouldn't be here now, as we are, if it wasn't for the Black Plague.

Now on that happy thought I hope you have a great day!

(Information found by family historian John F. Stufflebeam, who wrote Down Through The Stoppelbein Stufflebeam Years.)  

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games Movie Review

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (It would be a 4.5 if it wasn't for the excessive handheld camera work in the first act.)

Yesterday I saw the Hunger Games on a spectacular IMAX screen.  You can find my review of the Hunger Games book series here, this review will focus mainly on the movie itself.

The basic premise of the books and movie is that this story takes place in a shattered future.  The United States is now Panem, and there are no States, only districts.  Each year 12 districts, there was a 13th district that was bombed, must offer a boy and a girl as tribute, and all 24 children, ranging in age between 12-18, must fight to the death, leaving a single victor.  The is done to oppress the districts, discourage revolution, and remind them that the revolution they attempted 75 years in their past was a total failure.  The Capitol has absolute power.  We follow Katniss, from district 12, and Peeta, another District 12 tribute, as they navigate the horrendous circumstances they've been trapped in, and their battle in the Hunger Games.   

I was not disappointed, and the film was worth the hype.  Were there scenes in the book left out? Sure, but this has got to be one of the best book to film adaptations I've seen.  At first I was worried that a book written in first person perspective wouldn't translate well, but it was nice seeing throughout the movie what the Hunger Game makers were up to, and added scenes between President Snow and Seneca Crane, the Hunger Games head game-maker.  Plus having Caesar Flickerman, through his broadcasts, explain aspects of the Hunger Games was affective.

Having read the book was a benefit, because there was information that was referenced, and not highlighted.  My Mom, who had never read the book, kept leaning over and asking me questions, but she would have enjoyed it even without my added insight into the book.  Actually, she was getting really into it, making even the silliest of comments to me, which she never does.   

The violent scenes were tasteful, as tasteful as a story about kids killing kids could be.  The violence wasn't glorified, but the important moments in the book weren't left out.  There was a shaky camera technique used to add intensity, but also helped blur the violence.  The "shaky camera technique," which I'm sure has a proper technical name, was used throughout during moments of anxiety.  Usually I hate when movies do this, but during the game sequences I appreciated it.  (Though this technique was also used in the beginning of the movie, and I found that more distracting then beneficial emotionally).

I had mixed feelings of this movie as March 23rd neared.  A part of me was quite excited, looking foreward to a movie that appeared well made and well casted, which it was.

But there was a part of me who kept thinking of the Capitalist.  No, not Capitalist, those who are pro-business, but those who live in the government center of Panem, which in this stories future is geographically located in Denver Colorado.  After each Hunger Games, the arenas are preserved, like a museum, where those from the Capitol could go and reenact past games, reliving favorite moments.  

There was a moment in the film where Haymitch, who is Katniss and Peeta's menter, watches in disgust a family in the capitol; The parents give their son a sword, and laugh when he chases their daughter with it.

Before the movie came out, at the midnight showings, many theaters were holding Hunger Game parties, where they reenacted the Hunger Games, and the person who won, won a prize for all those in their "district."  I understand that it's all for fun, I went to a Harry Potter pre-midnight release party after all, but I found the idea of it strange and eerie.

Overall I do give the movie a huge thumbs up and worth the ticket price.  

Hope you're having a great weekend!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

365 Day Photo challenge: Days 50-55

(Day 50 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-21-2012)

One of the most beautiful places on the planet.  It was snowy and cold that night, but I'm glad I had a camera to take this shot.

 (Day 51 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-22-2012)

My brother got this piano score book, plus it's fallow up, in Japan.  Sadly it's the only place where you can buy it!  And that's a tragedy, because the music, based on the game Final Fantasy X and X-2, is absolutely gorgeous.  Breathtaking.  I'm working through a few peaces.  Don't be fooled into thinking the music is Mario-Brotheresque.  It's soft and serene, taking inspiration from New Age, Classical, and Jazz styles, and blending it all harmoniously.  There are companion CD's, Import only unfortunately, but you can hear some of the music here and here.  It's worth your time to take a listen.

    (Day 52 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-23-2012)

This shot is a view across Utah Lake, taken up on a hill in Pleasant Grove.  It was so hard getting a clear shot!  The slightest bump made it go blurry.  But I'm glad this one turned out.

(Day 54 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-25-2012)

This is an official full length, printed on both sides, movie poster!  I saw this with my Mom and Grandma at the dollar theater, and it was fantastic.  Both the music and the story were well done.  After the show my Mom and Grandma met with the manager, and spontaneously he brought this out and gave it to us.  Very nice, and very cool.

  (Day 55 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-26-2012)

I got this a few years ago and quickly put it on my wall, where it still hangs.  It's one of my most favorite quotes of all time.  We all go through our storms.  You can't avoid them, or run from them.  The best thing we can do is embrace life's challenges and learn from them.

I didn't put up the picture for Day 53, because that's getting its own post.

Tomorrow the Hunger Games come out!  I'm seeing it on the IMAX, and right now there's a whole bunch of pre-parties happening.  Crazy how popular this series is getting.  Tomorrow will be a great day.

Have a fantastic weekend!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Barbie, The Muppets, and BYU

(Day 49 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-20-2012)

When the BYU barbie came out back in 1998, I didn't know it was so controversial, and that some people didn't like the skinny, skimpy doll posing as a BYU cheerleader.   At the time I was in High School, living in Porterville California, dreaming of attending the school, and surprised that the local Target had her in stock.  She was vying for a spot on the shelf with other notable schools.  Of course when I moved to Utah Valley about a decade ago, I had no clue how BYU was perceived, and the dynamics between all the schools here.  It was quite a shock.  

There are three top notch schools within 50 miles of each other: BYU Provo, Utah Valley University (which was Utah Valley State College when I moved here), and the University of Utah.  BYU and U of U have an extraordinarily loyal fan base here, and you're either a fan of one or the other; the football games between both school are a serious affair.  UVU/UVSC doesn't have a football team.  They have sports teams, but they pride themselves for focusing on academics, which is awesome.  I started attending UV, which I fell in love with, when I first moved here and was turned off whenever I visited BYU campus and had people tell me the school was nothing more then a continuation of High School.  And so I was quick to speak up and defend UV, and quickly lost all interest in attending BYU.  

Of course, thanks to my love of music, and knowing BYU had a more solid program back in 2004, I transferred, and I am proud to call it my alma mater.  It was harder adjusting to BYU then the other three schools I attended (Porterville College, College of the Sequoias, and UVSC), because there is an overachieving atmosphere of high stress at the Y, but I learned so much, and I'm glad I had those opportunities. 

The other item in the picture sitting next to Barbie is Animal from The Muppets.  My Dad had one just like it when I was a kid, and he would put the record of the first movie on the record player (I remember a life before CD players), and he would make Animal mouth the words.  I wanted my own, and so for my birthday last year he found one on ebay, and hid it in my closet a few months before my b-day, which I found within a month.  I was shocked when I found him.  Actually, I wondered if there was a chance my Dad's Muppet ended up in my closet by mistake, but it looked too clean to be his.  Running around the house I asked if anyone knew what was going on, and they were all clueless.  So in a panic I called my Dad, and he pretended at first that he didn't know what I was talking about, until he finally told me it was an early present. 

The first Muppet Movie will always be the best, with the Muppet Christmas Choral as an easy second.  I saw the new movie back when it came out last year, and as time has passed, I've grown less fond of it.  The new movie doesn't have the charm of the original, though I do appreciate the new film bringing the Muppet's back to the front of popular culture.          

Hope you're having a nice day!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Disneyland Day!

(I took this picture, minus the one I'm in, and all that fallow)

I'm not at Disneyland now.  I wish!  But that is the point of this entry.  My family has what we call "Disneyland Days."  They're days that are so perfect we should be at Disneyland, and this was such a day.  The temperature was a cozy 61 degrees, partly cloudy, with a light breeze. 

(My brother Robbie and I)

We grew up a short 3 1/2 hour drive from Disneyland, and when I was a few years old we lived only 8 miles away.  To say the least, I've been many, many times.  It's one of the hardest things about living in Utah.  Don't get me wrong, I love Utah and all the natural beauties found here, but nothing beats being a hop, skip, and a jump from the Magic Kingdom.

 (In the line waiting for Indiana Jones)

Anyway, this last week we've been obsessing with the thought of going to Disneyland.  You know, withdrawals aren't easy, and we're Disney addicts.  My brother Steven has been particularly bad.  He's mentioned at least three times a day, minimum, "Can we go to Disneyland?"  And it doesn't help that the I-15, which connects Utah Valley and the Salt Lake Valley, happens to run by Disneyland.  Driving south on the highway, albeit for 12 hours, will lead us to our wishful destination.  It's both a nice and tortuous thought at the same time.  At dinner time we're even going as far as planning a trip around the world to visit all Disney locations: Anaheim, Florida, Paris, Hong Kong, and Japan.  Personally, I think it's a brilliant idea.  Oh, and we can't forget Disney Cruises, which I hear are amazing.

So compound all this and how glorious the weather was today!  We couldn't go to Disneyland, though we did get an In-N-Out burger.  Okay, there's no comparison, and my brother told me I was insulting the Happiest Place on Earth with the thought.  Well, for a moment I was able to close my eyes and dream myself in California.  Imaginations are a nice thing to have.

Hope your day was wonderful!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

24 Hour Cupcake Goodness.

(Wikimedia Commons photo by katja Seaton.  Source information found here.)
This has got to be one of the coolest things I've ever seen!  A couple days ago my brother showed me this video about a Sprinkles Cupcake ATM machine.  Technically it's a vending machine, but one of the most elaborate vending machines I've even seen.  It's in Beverly Hills, and seems to be the first of it's kind. Now I wish I could go and try one, to see if the cupcakes taste as good as it's novel display.        
The Huffington Post has an article about it here.

Have a great day!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Shannon Hale and Austenland

On February 18, 2012, I attended a book signing by Shannon Hale, of the Princess Academy, Honorary Newbery fame.  A book I honestly haven't read.  On this day the only book I had read of hers was The Actor and the Housewife.  The book is about a Mormon housewife who becomes friends with her favorite  movie actor.  I found the book at Costco, started reading it on the spot, and knew I was doomed to buy it and bring it home with me.  The book is kinda controversial due to the subject mater, one of the reasons I had to finish the story, and you either love it or hate.  Personally I enjoyed the read.

Shannon was promoting her newest book, Midnight in Austenland, the second book in her Austenland series.  The first book is going to be a movie, currently in post-production, and according to its IMDb website, it is slated for a December 4, 2012 release.  The movie date is subject to change and it may be a limited release.  I was surprised to find that Keri Russell, of Felicity and August Rush fame, is staring in the movie.  Jennifer Coolidge and Jane Seymour are co-starring.  You can find more information about the movie here.    

Mrs. Hale was delightful and wonderfully down to Earth.  She shared writing tips, which I soaked up, and related what it was like having a book turn into a movie.

This whole event got me thinking: What is the future of book signings?  With Borders closing, I hope Barnes & Noble will thrive.  I downloaded both Austenland books to my Kindle, and if more people continue to do this, the book industry will continue to change.   You can't go and get an ebook signed.  And is it wise to get a Kindle autographed in a Barnes and Nobel?  Don't get me wrong, I still love good old fashioned hard covers, and I hope they wont go away.  After all, You can still buy CD's even with the widespread popularity of the iPod.

Austenland is a Jane Austen fan girls dream. It's 19th century larping in its grandest form.  This fictional place, though I wish it was real, is a manor filled with paid actors, maids, and servants.  You leave the 21 century behind for Regency England, complete with authentic costumes, meals, party games, and other period endeavors.  And you may find romance along the way, the problem is, is it real?  Is the man, who is paying you attention, scripted or genuine?  And what of the other players?  What and who can you trust?  That's the main issue in both books.

The first was a cute romance, and as lead characters go I prefer the heroine, Jane Hayes, in the first book.  The plot got a little silly in the love story, but it was a fun, and I can't wait to see the movie adaptation.

The second book was more engrossing, because there is a murder/ghost story that those in Austenland are playing through, though, like the first book, you don't know what is real and not real.  And Charlotte Kinder must sort through the fact from the fiction.  I was annoyed with Charlotte, honestly, with her thought process, though I enjoyed the cast of characters in the second book more then the first.  And the second book, Midnight in Austenland, was more laugh out loud funny.  It is a little more Adult then the first, only because there are marriage like things mentioned in accordance to Charlotte's failed marriage.       

          (Public Domain.  Source information can be found here.)

When reading the two books, it was fun trying to imagine myself in Austenland.  (Come on!  A girl can dream!)  Though I don't think I'd like a man pretending to dote on me.  The whole "is his admiration real or not?" would get annoying fast.  

But in Austenland you're in 1816, and as an American that is a very interesting time period in history, and role-playing as an American in England would be fascinating and devilishly fun.

America was in the throws of the Second Great Awaking, which lasted roughly between 1800-1840, so religion was a heavy topic on many minds.  The American Revolution ended 33 years before 1816.  The French Revolution was still fresh on everyone's minds.  James Madison, father of the Constitution, was President.  And the War of 1812, another war against the British, had just ended, lasting between 1812-1815.  William Wilberforce, in Britain, led to the end of the Slave Trade in 1807, though slavery was thriving in America during that time.  The Brits would have that on me in 1816, because I'm 100% Yankee.  The Regency was an interesting period in History.

And for the record, I'd rather a Gilbert Blythe over a Mr. Darcy any day!  Should I admit that?

Hope you had a good day,

Edit:  I should note that I probably shouldn't claim I'm 100% Yankee, in that I'm still doing my genealogical research, and I have a lot of lost ancestors who seem to want to remain lost.  Only, I relate to my ancestors in the North.  (No offense, southern ancestors.) 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

365 Day Photo challenge: Days 45-48

 (Day 45 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-16-2012)

 This quote is found on the side of the Idaho Utah Map store, which, after living here 10 years, I finally checked out!  It's amazing how many gems exist here that I've never even bothered with.  It's such a fun place!  The maps are interesting, and the lower level is nothing but toys and learning material.  Also, I love this quote.  Ralph Waldo Emerson is my 4th cousin, 10 times removed.  The only famous individual I can find any claim to.  I like to think my love of writing poetry stems from my connection to him.

  (Day 46 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-17-2012)

I was practicing my 5k training, which, on this date, I was keeping up quite well . . . currently I have slacked a little.  This was taken underneath the bleachers at a football field.  The angle is interesting, and I love the light and shadows. 

  (Day 47 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-18-2012)

 I attending this event, and it was quite enjoyable.  I'll write about it in a blog post tomorrow, my thoughts on Austenland, and how I feel about book signings in general.

 (Day 48 of the 365 day photo challenge 02-19-2012)

This is a picture of my Great-Great Grandmother's Angeline Dee's autograph book.  I was over at my Grandma's working on genealogy, and decided it was about time I photograph the pages.  Unfortunately the battery died in the middle of this endever, so I need to return and finish the job.  Here are a couple of the pages:

   (Written June 24, 1889)

 (Written June 24, 1892)

I really, really want to know the stories behind what is written on the left side of the second photo.  Whatever it was, those would have been fantastic stories.  What was the "note" that was passed around at a party?  And something about a braw??!!  If pages could unleash their secrets.  

Have a great day!