The Ant Bully is yet another computer-animated ant movie that was released recently. The first two were Antz and A Bug's Life, which were both released in close proximity in 1998 by Dreamworks and Pixar, respectively. Warner's take on the common six-legged bugs with the Ant Bully is a tad different than the earlier two, yet with some similarities.  The story of The Ant Bully follows the bully himself, Lucas "Peanut the Destroyer" Nickle, who is abused by his "friends" and takes out his frustration on the ants in his yard. The ants subsequently take revenge on Lucas by shrinking him down to their size, and then put him on trial as the destroyer of their home. The queen of the colony sentences Lucas to become an ant and work in the colony to learn some empathy. And so begins his little adventure.  The ants in The Ant Bully are crafted more toward the jagged brown style of Antz than the smooth colorful style of A Bug's Life. Particularly, they accentuated this angular characteristic in the details of the ants faces. I'm not sure why they chose to do this, but there it is. Otherwise, the story renders quite well. I would be interested to see the IMAX 3D version, to see how it differs from the flat screen.  The story of the bully is much more complex than the simple "save the colony" idea put forth by both Antz and A Bug's Life. The theme of valuing teamwork is present throughout. It also puts a good spin on the bully situation in general.  There are more simple details in this movie about interesting bug facts than in the other films. The crack about Lucas being inside-out was humourous and educational. I wonder how much actual bug fact went into these movies. Obviously, bugs don't talk, but in this movie wasps also attack the ants, which doesn't seem like something they do in nature.  The Any Bully doesn't have any music, which suits me fine. There are magic elements, where there is a potion used to transform Lucas and make him smaller, but I can't see parents being opposed to this sort of thing unless they're also opposed to other harmless movie magic. This is a story about ants that talk after all. There are also some more interesting adult themes concerning how to punish Lucas for destroying the ant hill.  Both Abby and Riley enjoyed the movie. They've wanted to see it again. It's enjoyable for an adult to sit through, unlike some more of the made-for-kids shows that I can't stand. If you're looking for a movie to take the kids to, The Ant Bully is a pretty good choice. In my mind, it stands out over the other two buggy offerings.

Yesterday, Berta and I took a day off work to finalize the purchase of our new home.  We dropped off Abby at school/camp around 8am, then waited around at Manhatten Bagel until 9:15 before our walkthrough of the house at 9:30.  When we arrived at the house, the previous owner had three cars parked in the driveway and a ton of crap still sitting in the garage. Judy, our realtor, drove up shortly after we arrived, and we headed toward the house.  The seller followed us aroudn the house as we looked to make sure everything was still in working order. He would not stop talking. Judy told him, "I've done a few of these, I can probably manage on my own," meaning, "go finish moving," but he didn't take the hint. I thought she was going to blow a gasket with all of this jabbering. I was irritated, but I figure that's easy enough to do that I've built up a tolerance for my own irritation.  Apparently, he had some kind of family crisis overnight with his son being manhandled by his ex's new boyfriend, and he hadn't had any sleep, nor enough time to move, nor any luck getting a new moving van, since their original van wasn't large enough to hold everything.  Anyway, aside from the garage and the refrigerator still containing stuff, the house seemed in working order. So we departed for our 10:30 signing of the papers. With about 45 minutes to kill, we stopped at Target and wandered around looking at various things in a weird "no place better to be" sort of pre-mortgage limbo.

Soon after, we went to the Keller Williams office, and found Judy. We sat in a small conference room with Bruce, representing our lender, and he started to go through all of the paperwork.  Everyone says that there is a lot of paperwork involved in a mortgage, and that you'll be signing a lot of stuff. But really, I don't find the paperwork disproportionate to the lending involved. If they were only loaning us $50, then yeah, that's overboard. I think they probably could reduce the amount of paperwork involved, but it's probably just easier to break everything into individual parts, since it seems like it all has to go to separate places to be handled, anyway.  As we were going through the paperwork, the realtor for the prior owner showed up. He was one of those "big" people.  There is a whole impression I got while dealing with our realtors about the Assist-To-Sell company that the prior owner of our new house (heretofore named "Lemmy") used for his sale. The basic idea is that they put your house into the computer system with the required paperwork, they give you a sign to put in your yard, nd they tell you when your house will be shown, and they send someone to the closing with your paperwork. Apart from that, they don't do too much.  A while ago, we received the disclosure on the property from Lemmy's realtor. The disclosure did not include reference to a capital improvement fee required by the homeowner's association (this is a one-time fee that new owners pay into a fund that pays for improvements in the common areas in the development). Also, the documentation that we got for the HOA was missing every other page. It was quite some time before we got these notices, and they even neglected to tell us about a significant increase in the capital improvement fee from when we finally received it.  Well, our realtor called Assist To Sell, and they hashed out a plan where Lemmy would pay half of the increase. One of the realtors at Assist To Sell wrote out a check to us for that amount.  The big guy that arrived for our closing was not aware of this, and he started to have a discussion with Judy about it. Berta and I were trying to go over the mortgage with Bruce, and I just couldn't her him over their arguing. So I told them, "Sorry guys, but I can't hear Bruce over you, and we're spending a lot of money here, so if you don't mind..."

I mean, really, $167 is nothing compared to the whole mortgage.  Anyway, Lemmy eventually arrived to the meeting. I assume he had still been moving things out of the house. He was kind of disheveled, and he seemed a little out of it.  We got so far into the payoff and he had some kind of issue with the alimony his wife owed. It was something about her being in arrears. I don't know what that's all about, and I'm not really concerned. I mean, after the fact, I suppose I feel a bit sorry for the guy, but we're at the table ready to buy his house, I don't want to have to hear him argue for 15 minutes over $450 in back alimony with the notary and his realtor.  Anyway, everything finally got signed and we were done with the paperwork.  We decided to let him just finish up moving out, rather than make a big deal out of it. It wasn't like he was trying to get away with something, just that he'd run over. Judy suggested that our alternative might have been to hold some money until he was totally out, but he said he would be gone by 4pm, and that didn't seem too unreasonable. Had we been in a moving van with all our stuff, that would have been different, but we weren't in a rush to be in the house that afternoon.  The afternoon went by really slowly.  Finally, Berta, Riley, and I went to pick up Abby from camp, and we drove some toys up to the new house. Lemmy and his family were still there at 4:45 moving the last bits of his stuff into the van. They had everything out, and basically only needed to hitch the car to the van, but they hung around for a while fiddling with this and that. The thought crossed my mind that they might not leave after all, but they finally did.  Berta and the kids spent a good bit of time in the back yard looking at the willow tree. I chased the kids around in the basement. We sized up some rooms and dumped a bin of the kids' toys into the living room.  There is virtually nothing in the house now but toys. We'll have to take pictures before we really start moving in.  Things are going to be busy over the next week or two. We've got all the utilities coming out to hook us up. Dish is on Monday, FiOS is next Friday. I forget when the new washer and dryer are supposed to arrive. Maybe Tuesday. Geez, if someone's got to be at the house to accept all these shipments, that's not going to leave a lot of time to pack for the movers on Wednesday and Thursday.  At some point soon we're going to have to change the locks. Berta wasn't too concerned, but they haven't been changed since the house was built, and the last folks were in that sketchy divorce arrangement, so who knows who has a key. We'll also have to see about the codes for the security system, and for the garage door opener. He gave me his code (he couldn't figure out how to change it) for the alarm, but he didn't know the code for the garage. It's odd, considering that the garage is the main entry for the house - the front door has only the dead bolt lock.  Hmm. More things to think about...

I'm siting in my car and I'm inspired to talk about daydreams.  If I could be paid to daydream - what a lovely and lucrative career. I know, you're thinking, "Yeah, it would be great to sit around and do nothing all day - nice job." But I'm talking about real creative work here, something of value that I think I can offer.  I've had a lot of dreams over the years. Many are profitable in and of themselves, if only there was someone with the time and determination to see them through to the end. One of my favorites is the one about the cookbook.

It seems to me that cookbooks are often simply either collections of recipes or instructions how to perform generic cooking tasks, like "cook a chicken" or "bake a cake". There aren't any great meal planning guides, and even those assume you keep ingredients (saffron??) around the house that you wouldn't ever think to buy without planning for that meal in advance.  What I would like to see in a cookbook is one that helps you plan out a shopping list that changes very infrequently, perhaps only when you specifically plan ahead for a special event. It might also help plan a "starter" shopping list for the things that you might use rarely, but would need often enough to want to avoid a special trip, like certain spices.  The recipes in the book would not be geared simply to what you have on hand, but coordinate with what you should have based on the shopping list it helps you generate. The ideas in the book should let you mix and match ingredients to get wildly different dishes from the same base set of ingredients, plus a dash or two from items on the starter list.  The book would help you determine what dishes you liked best, what to keep on your list and what to take off based on what recipes you enjoyed. It would keep in mind that if you're budgeting your money on groceries, you're possibly also budgeting your time, and should let you filter out meals with long cook times when your time is in short supply. It shouldn't skimp on flavor, and it should try to offer healthy choices.  Our best cookbooks at home usually focus on just one thing. Either they pick "10-minute meals" or they pick "budget dinners" or they pick "fat-free foods". Many try to hit all three, but always neglect the effort it takes to gather the raw materials in advance. I think this is a key component; more important than what "famous" Food Network host has her photo on the cover.  If I had the skill of a chef, I might have attempted this long ago. I enjoy the experimentation of cooking (available to me less now that the kids are so finnicky), but not so much to waste the experimentation time that this book would require. Of course, if it was my job to think creatively all day, then I would have much more time to experiment with such things.  That said, if someone else published a book like this, I would be very interested in checking it out.  What's funny about this post is that I had originally intended to describe a completely different daydream idea. Maybe I'll share that one some other time.

I wrote a linklog post a while back that pointed to this "instruction manual" for being an assassin. I thought it was an interesting idea, even if the manual itself is lacking quite a bit. (And rightly so, because it shouldn't be so easy to learn these things over the web.)

After a while, I started getting comments of people looking to become assassins. They were looking for training or something, I'm not exactly sure. I played along in my comments, telling them that they needed to find an "admission counselor" to get into our program. Obviously, they would not actually find such a counselor here, but they might spin their wheels trying to get into our exclusive (and reclusive) club.  Whether these folks have started taking this thing seriously, or are just playing along, I can't say. It's disturbing that there are so many reputed young people that have interest in this line of work. It's disturbing that so many other folks seem to think they know anything about assassination. The comments both on the post and still in the moderation queue are replete with messages of, "It's not like you see in the movies, fools." As if those people even know. But why are these people even coming to my site based on a one-sentence link?

Apparently, if you search for "become an assassin" on Google, my old one-line, one-link page is the fourth result. Unbelieveable. Why are people searching for this? Do they really think that they can find some technical information about online assassin training?  While poking around on the net a bit to figure out why people had found my original post, I found something else that's disturbing. It seems that people have actually listed "be an assassin" as a goal. I can't even imagine. Most of them list assassination as the only thing they could think of wanting to do. The others either list "become an assassin" right next to paradoxical entries like "become a doctor", or near other similar entries, like "kill some people" and the weird one, "kill someone in self defense". Can you really have that as a goal? Weird.  Assassination isn't a profession you aspire to, people. It's kind of like prostitution — you don't grow up fantasizing about prostituting yourself, your situation dictates what you need to do to survive.  If you're really interested in assassination, here are my recommendations:

Buy a video game. Video games these days give you plenty of chances to kill other people for money. My recent favorite, Oblivion, has a whole hidden guild and contracts that let you work your way up to the top of the organization. There are even plenty of assassin organizations in the massively multiplayer games where you can work outside the game rules as an assassin.  Play Street Wars. Street Wars is a game you play in real life with water guns. You get contracts, and you attack them with non-lethal water sprays. Don't let the description lull you into thinking it's a simple game. The participants usually go out of their way to concoct elaborate true-assassin "killing" methods.  Read a book. There have been a ton of famous assassinations over the years. US presidents Lincoln, Garfield (neat link!), McKinley, and Kennedy were assassinated. Practically every major country in the world has had an assassination attempt on its leaders. Famous authors have written popular plays about assassins. There is assassin fiction out the wazooRole play. There used to be a dedicated full class for Assassins in 2nd Edition D&D, but it's a prestige class in 3rd Edition and it's not all that impressive. Nonetheless, as with any roleplaying game, you get out of it what you make of it. Just remember that you're playing a game, and the action stops there. Or you could be into something else entirely.  The bottom line is, I don't condone this behavior, and am becoming more disturbed by the interest in it, especially from people who say they're 12 years old. Seriously, I've gotten more interest in the assassin post than I have for errant searches for nonces that have terminated here.  If you're a teenager or a pre-teen looking to become an assassin instead of finishing school, please seek counseling. If you're older, you should know better than to take any of this seriously.