Archive for the Main Category

In Disney’s 1975 classic Escape from Witch Mountain, one of the film’s mysterious interstellar twins carries with her the Star Case, s small box with a picture of two stars next to one another. That’s where I learned about binary stars — two stars that orbit around one another and depend on each other for survival.

Last week, Lemmy Kilmister, lead singer of the band Motorhead passed away at the age of 70. Last night was David Bowie’s turn. He was 69.

I discovered Motorhead on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball back in the late 80s. After a couple of hours of the latest hard rock and heavy metal songs, the show would slip in videos from newer, unknown bands and older classics. The vintage, straight-forward aspect of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spaces” stood out at a time when budgets for music videos were typically in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many music videos of that era featured flashy costumes, big sets, special effects and roving locations. Not the 100 mile per hour classic anthem “Ace of Spades.” In it, we get a smokey stage with Lemmy up front, warts (er, moles) and all.

In a music industry full of fast cars, Motorhead was a semi-truck barreling forward, largely unchanged and not stopping for anyone.

Quite the opposite was David Bowie. If Lemmy was the guy standing in front of you daring you to hit him, Bowie was a master boxer, always moving about the ring and only appearing moments before he delivered his attack, precisely picking his shots.

While Lemmy only had one personality both on and off the stage, Bowie had dozens throughout the years. My introduction to David Bowie was a silly one: his duet with Mick Jagger on “Dancing in the Streets.” Throughout the years Bowie would record duets with dozens of artists, including John Lennon (“Fame”), Bing Crosby (“Little Drummer Boy”), Queen (“Under Pressure”), and Trent Reznor (“I’m Afraid of Americans”). When David Bowie made his appearance as The Goblin King in 1986’s Labyrinth, I didn’t appreciate just how versatile the guy was. It wasn’t until I was a little older that I discovered Ziggy Stardust (around the time Marilyn Manson, and his critics, were citing Bowie as an influence). You never knew what style of music you were getting with David Bowie’s next album, but you always knew you were getting something artistically interesting.

Last week, David Bowie released his final album, “Blackstar.” The UK’s Mirror called it “perhaps the most extraordinary in his amazing career“.

Last November, Motorhead was in Paris the night of the terrorist attacks and was scheduled to play the following night. When their show was cancelled, Lemmy went on television to call the terrorists “assholes and cowards.”

Binary stars. It’s better to burn out than fade away. RIP Lemmy and Bowie.

Located in Anahola on the beautiful island of Kauai in Hawaii sits the Anahola mountain range.

One of the range’s most unique formations is Kalalea Mountain (that one that sticks up in the middle). Kalalea Mountain was originally named Mano (Hawaiian for “shark”), but due to its resemblance to a gorilla’s head (facing left in my pictures), the mountain was given a new nickname: Kong Mountain.

The Anahola mountain range has appeared in dozens of movies and the island of Kauai was substituted for everything from Costa Rica to Vietnam. In fact, some of the locals used to joke that the island has appeared as everything but itself in films, although films such as Blue Hawaii and South Pacific were both filmed here.

Because of its distinct outline, it’s pretty simple to spot the Anahola mountains in the background of many films, especially if they were filmed from the same direction that I took my pictures from.

In the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Paramount mountain logo dissolves into Kalalea Mountain. Right after the dissolve, Harrison Ford (as Indiana Jones) steps in front of it, but you can still make it out in this screen shot.

Most of the opening sequence from Raiders of the Lost Ark was shot in Kauai, save for a few scenes that were shot on a sound stage.

This was not Harrison Ford’s last trip to the island. Check out where he landed his plane in Six Days, Seven Nights.

Did you spot Kong Mountain? The funniest part of this movie is, once you’ve been there, you realize that the two of them were “stranded” on the same island on a beach not too far from where they started. (Then again, in Hawaii, most trips on land end not too far from where you start.)

In the 2008 comedy Tropic Thunder, Kauai became Vietnam. Check out the mountain range behind this explosion!

Take that, Kong! And when the mountains aren’t busy being blown up, Paula Abdul can be found dancing in front of them.

If you want to watch the video for Paula Abdul’s “Promise of a New Day” on YouTube you will see Kong Mountain at least a hundred times.

With the nickname “Kong Mountain” you may be wondering if the Mighty Kong himself ever saw the mountain. You will be glad to know that the 1976 remake of King Kong was filmed on Kauai island. Kong Mountain isn’t visible in this particular screen shot but I think you’ll recognize the mountain range.

Unfortunately as more and more movies begin to use digital effects to create their backgrounds, Kalalea Mountain may not appear in as many films in the future — although, oddly enough, many filmmakers take digital pictures of real locations and use them in their background effect shots. Could that be Kong Mountain in the background of the 2005 version of King Kong?

The trailer for next year’s highly anticipated Star Wars film Rogue One hasn’t officially been released yet, but screen shots of it have. One of the mountains in the bottom of this shot looks vaguely familiar…

Lots of other movies have been filmed on Kauai, including The Time Machine, Honeymoon in Vegas, Jurassic Park, Honeymoon in Vegas, and several others, however the movies above are just a few of the ones I found where I could clearly identify Kalalea Mountain (aka Kong Mountain).

The year twenty fifteen brought me lots of personal highs and only a couple of lows.

In 2015, I celebrated both my 20th wedding anniversary, and my 20th year of working at the FAA. In October of 2014 I moved to a new department at work, and was promptly assigned to a different work detail, which I spent the majority of 2015 working on. I applied for a different position in the summer of 2015, which I got and began in November. I spent a lot of time spinning my wheels at work in 2015, but I am very excited about my new position (which involves writing and communications) and I’m hoping things begin to move forward again for me in 2016.

In February of 2015, my last grandparent, Grandma O’Hara, passed away at the age of 85. “Gramma O” had been suffering from dementia for a couple of years, and while of course I was sad that she passed away, it was just as sad for me to see her confused and unable to remember me. I am super glad that my kids were old enough to know her and visit her and have their own memories of her.

Not counting the road trip to Chicago for Grandma O’s funeral, our family took four trips this year. In March of 2015 we took a road trip to Washington DC by way of Louisville, Kentucky, where we got to visit our friend Betty from work and visit Churchill Downs and the Louisville Slugger Factory. After spending a week in DC I was able to continue on to Tonawanda, New York and met Sean (my co-host on the Throwback Reviews Podcast) in person for the first time. I had a great time hanging out with Sean and his family. In May, Susan, the kids and I took a road trip up north and, among other things, stayed in a Futuro UFO house for several days. During that trip we saw and did things in Iowa, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Minnesota. In October, the four of us once again visited Colorado, where we got to briefly visit Robb Sherwin before heading up to Gransby, Colorado and spending a few days hanging out with my buddy Jeff and his family. Finally, in December, our family flew to Los Angeles and then boarded a cruise ship and sailed to Hawaii. And, in case you missed the announcement, Hawaii was my 50th state to visit, so I can finally mark that off as an achievement.

As usual, I did a lot with computers last year. After experiencing a server crash at home I migrated most of my websites off to another hosting service (robohara.com is the only one still at the house, and I’ll be moving it soon as well). I spent some time with virtual DOS machines, eventually getting TCP/IP and USB flash drives working on a FreeDOS machine running on VMWare, but ultimately virtual DOS machines just don’t feel like the real thing. This year I upgraded all my client machines to Windows 10, and spent some time playing with my Raspberry Pi computers. I also continued to digitize things, everything from old cassette tapes to VHS tapes full of old commercials. I sold all but one of my remaining arcade games to the wonderful guys at Arkadia Retrocade in Arkansas. Oklahoma City got its own retro arcade, the FlashBack RetroPub.

I continued to podcast last year. I released multiple episodes of You Don’t Know Flack, Sprite Castle, and Throwback Reviews. I temporarily joined the great arcade-themed podcast No Quarter, and started another movie-themed show, Multiple Sadness. I also set up a web page with links to all of my podcasts and feeds. I also worked on recording the audiobook version of Commodork, which will be released in 2016 for the book’s 10th anniversary.

In the summer of 2015 I was diagnosed with Stargardt Disease, a genetic vision disorder that inevitably leads to blindness. It affects your fine central vision and mostly leaves your peripheral vision alone, which means that, should the disease progress as my doctor expects it will, I will lose the ability to read and drive but not walk around. The Dean McGee Eye Institute asked me to come back for additional tests, as I currently only show major retinal damage in one eye, which in the doctor’s words, was “unheard of.” After my latest round of tests, my doctor suggested if I enjoy driving or reading “you should do a lot of it before the age of 50.”

Partially based on that diagnosis, I decided to go back to school and pursue my master’s degree. I began attending classes at the University of Oklahoma in the summer of 2015. I finished my first class (“Writing the Short Story”) and begin two more classes later this month, with a goal of earning a Master’s of Professional Writing by the summer of 2018. Attending class inspired me to submit some of my short stories to various magazines. I haven’t been published yet, but that’s a goal for 2016. I also wrote a lot more “article-style” blog entries here at RobOHara.com.

In the summer of 2015, Star Wars toys began arriving in local stores. I bought all of them. (Okay, not all of them, but a lot of them.) My Star Wars room at the house is now busting at the seams. Star Wars hype culminated on December 17th, 2015, when the kids, Susan, and I saw Episode 7: The Force Awakens in El Capitan theater in Los Angeles before boarding our cruise. The movie wasn’t perfect, but it was good — better than the prequels, and did a great job of jump starting a franchise that a lot of people had given up hope on.

I haven’t made any official New Year’s resolutions for 2016 yet, and considering today is the 6th, I’m not sure I’ll get around to it. The simplest bet is to go with “less weight, less stuff” and hope for the best.

Back in the summer of 2009 I posted a blog post noting that I had visited 38 of the 50 states. After realizing that I had visited almost 80% of the US, I made it a goal to visit all 50 states.

In March of this year, after a 2,500 mile family road trip I was able to mark Iowa, North Dakota, and Wisconsin off the list, leaving just Hawaii. On December 23rd, 2015, after arriving in Oahu, I was able to officially mark Hawaii off the list. That officially makes all 50 plus Washington DC, Mexico, Canada, and the Bahamas.

There are a couple of states on my list that are sketchy at best (South Carolina and Rhode Island, specifically) that I plan on revisiting. I’ve definitely driven through them on other trips, although I might not have done more than get gas or grab a burger. I didn’t count any states that I simply flew over or anything, but I did count the ones that I physically drove through.

You can check out all my state travels on this page. I tried documenting some of the things I did in each state and most of the entries have pictures, so be sure to click on your own state and see what I did there!

I have no idea what my future travel goals are, but I’m sure I will make some soon!

George Lucas loves it when history repeats itself in the Star Wars universe, whether it’s father and son losing the same hand, or generations of characters “having a bad feeling about this.”

Thirty-two years ago, the day after I had my tonsils removed, my dad took me to see Return of the Jedi. My throat was on fire the entire time. When we got to the theater, people were lined up outside all the way around it. Many were dressed in costumes and carrying toy lightsabers. When the film began, the theater erupted in applause, and each time something great happened in the film, they cheered wildly.

I’ve never had another theater experience like it. Until last night.

Those same fans were out in force (har) last night at the El Capitan theater in L.A. For nearly an hour we stood on street with other fans (and their kids) dressed in costume, waving their (much more high tech) lightsabers in the air. Around us, conversations drifted from Star Wars video games to trivia about those horrible made for television Ewok movies from the 1980s.

Oh, and Morgan has a sore throat, and has given it to me. Kudos, Mr. Lucas.

I’ve never heard of El Capitan and didn’t know what to expect, but once inside the theater we found a man playing the pipe organ on stage. For 10-15 minutes, while people found their seats, he piped out the classic movie themes t E.T., Superman, and many other classic films from John Williams. After we heard (and sang along to) the theme from Star Wars we knew it was almost showtime.

When the lights went out we were then treated to a laser light show, the likes of which I’ve never seen. Lasers filled the theater all around us. A rigging lowered, with motorized lightsabers swinging and twirling from it. X-Wing fighters screamed across the movie screen as lasers lit up the theater. Fog rolled out as blasts went off all around us. It was an incredible surprise.

Then the theater went dark. The words “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” appeared on screen. The audience erupted more loudly than I’ve ever heard people cheer before in a theater before.

It was showtime.

Earlier this year when I was diagnosed with Stargardt Disease, one of the questions the doctor asked me upon each visit was, “Have you noticed yourself falling or tripping over things more frequently?”. I hadn’t at the time, no.

The building at college I attend class at is a block away from my bus stop. Yesterday after class I left my building and walked out to the sidewalk, where there was only one person — a lady, 50ish I’m guessing — walking slowly down the sidewalk. It is my nature to let women go first, so I filed onto the sidewalk behind her. It wasn’t until after I got behind her that I realized just how slowly she was walking. The sidewalk is plenty wide for two people to pass once another, and so that’s what I attempted to do.

Moments after I had walked past the woman, I misjudged the edge of the sidewalk. My left foot slid off the side of the sidewalk. My ankle rolled and I fell, landing on my hands and knees. I was wearing shorts, and instantly felt the sting of the scrapes on my knees from the pavement.

Mind you, this is the equivalent of passing a car that is driving slow, only to crash at the top of the next hill.

I don’t fall as gracefully as I used to. As a teen, I was really into skateboarding. Often times a crack in the road or stray piece of gravel would stop my board and I fall to the ground, but I was always able to “tuck and roll,” rolling into a ball and popping back up on my feet, usually unscathed. Not anymore. When I hit the ground yesterday I hit it hard. Before I felt the stinging scrapes on my knees I heard the involuntary “OOF” sound I made as the sidewalk pushed all the air out of my fat belly.

As I stood up and dusted myself off, the woman asked if I was okay. “That happened to me once,” she said. “I walk on the right hand side now.” It’s hard not to take advice from someone who is still standing as you are sprawled out on a sidewalk for the world to see.

This morning, my ankle, knees, palms (and yes, pride) are sore. Any time my doctor asks me about symptoms, I second guess everything.

“Have you felt chills lately?”

“Well, last year, on our trip to Alaska…”

Vision related or not, I’m going to have to be a bit more careful walking down that sidewalk in the future.

December 3rd will always be an important day for me. As some or many of you know and remember, on December 3rd, 1998, I was hit by a truck while walking down the side of the interstate. Calling it a “bad day” is kind of an understatement. It was scary as hell, to be honest. Being told by a doctor that you were literally one to two inches away from having your back broken or (more likely) being killed is a sobering event.

The first anniversary of that date was a really big deal to me; the next one, slightly less. It’s (unbelievably) been seventeen years now. Most of the emotion attached to that date is gone (I’ve even missed it a year or two), but when I do remember the date, I try to take a moment and assess where I’ve been and where I’m going.

Earlier this week, two great things happened: I started a new position at work, and I got my final, official acceptance for graduate school. At work, I’ve moved to the communication branch. I’ll be writing internal press releases, and helping other branches and divisions with their communication plans. I’m super excited about that, and equally excited about being accepted in the Masters of Professional Writing graduate program at the University of Oklahoma. I’ve had a blast this past semester getting back into the swing of things in my “Writing the Short Story.” I’ve received a lot of positive feedback in regards to my stories from both my professor and several of my classmates. I feel like this is something I might actually be able to do!

December 3rd was pretty good this year. Some years, it’s better than others.

I have no good way to end this post but I just learned it is Ozzy Osbourne’s 67’s birthday. Happy birthday, Oz!

Every year for the past five years or so, I’ve posted open Thanksgiving invitations to our home. Literally, I’ve publicly stated that if “anyone reading this” doesn’t have anyone to spend Thanksgiving with, they could spend it with us. I’ve had a few friends say this is very kind and generous. My wife says this is very crazy and stressful. Then again, I’m simply the one that unleashes this madness upon the world. Susan is the one that has to worry if we’ll have enough mashed potatoes to go around if two hundred people were to show up.

As a compromise, I made a minor concession this year — the offer still stands, but if you plan on coming, please let me/us know in advance. (That way, Susan won’t freak out quite so bad.) Between Facebook, Twitter and e-mail subscribers to my blog, over 2,000 people will be immediately notified the minute this offer goes live. I think an RSVP is fair.

I’m getting sappier in my old age, and hate the thought of people I know spending time alone during the holidays. If you don’t have anyone else to hang with, you can always come hang with me.

I’ve been taking a lot of photos for my Star Wednesday posts, and decided the other day that I would like to set up a clutter-free area where I could take those pictures. It wouldn’t have to be large or permanent — just a small place where I could take clear pictures of my Star Wars items. On the backs of the early vintage action figure cards, each figure appeared in their own little colored box. I decided that this was the look I wanted to emulate.

I can’t remember if I read about it, saw it, or just figured it out on my own, but somehow at some point it came to me that you could recreate this look with a single sheet of poster board. By placing the poster board flat on a table and then bending the back up at a 90 degree angle, the color runs together and you get that look.

I bought a sheet of poster board from Dollar Tree for 50 cents, placed it on a metal chair, and placed a figure on top of it. Then I took a picture of it with my phone.

Here’s the same shot from a bit further away:

The one thing I hadn’t anticipated was the shadow cast by the figure. Each of these pictures were taken under terrible lighting conditions (LED bulbs inside a ceiling fan’s light fixture). I may need to relocate closer to a window or use another piece of poster board to reflect some of the light.

Based on the results of my trial run I went back and bought three more sheets of poster board: blue, green, and orange.

The solid colors also make it pretty easy to cut out the backgrounds and drop different ones in.

I’ll need to do a little work to clean up the shadows, but other than that I think this will work!

Friday evening I was in the middle of writing a blog post about photography when my social media feeds began to fill with posts about an active shooting incident in Paris. As the situation escalated, I lost all interest in writing. Instead I spent the next several hours glued to the television, flipping between CNN and MSNBC to follow breaking news updates as the carnage unfolded.

To me, the difference between warfare and terrorism is the difference between a scheduled boxing match and randomly walking up to an old lady at the mall and punching her in the face when she’s not looking. Warfare is a scheduled event, for lack of a better term. Two entities, be it religious factions, countries, or large coalitions — agree to do battle. There are rules. “We agree to only shoot these people, in these places.” But as we have all unfortunately come to understand, with terrorists, there are no rules. There are no gentlemen’s agreements to be made with terrorists.

I only know a little bit about ISIS or ISIL (or Daesh, as they are sometimes referred to). I read about their caliphate declaration on Wikipedia and how their goal is to “continue to seize land and take over the entire Earth.” My dad has a theory that if spiders were the size of dogs, they could not co-exist with human beings. Either the spiders would have to go, or we would. I think the same rule applies to ISIS. When an organized group of terrorists has announced their plan is to take over the earth, it seems like the unstoppable force will eventually meet the immovable object. Both cannot succeed.

The attacks in Paris were attacks on freedom. Specifically, “soft targets” (groups of unarmed civilians) enjoying food, sports, and music were slaughtered. I find the targeting of non-combatants cowardly, but the targeting of people enjoying art downright despicable. If we are not allowed to enjoy the fruits of this world without being persecuted and attacked by others that do not agree with us… what is left? I have always stood behind “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” (which may or may not have actually been said by Voltaire). Along those same lines, I believe people should be able to enjoy anything that does not harm another person. I am all for other people enjoying types of music, art, books and films that I do not care for. Variety is the spice of life, after all. It is this freedom of choice that makes the free world free, and when a group comes along that declares violently that other people shall not have this right… we both cannot exist.

I cannot help but think that eventually these fighters will arrive on our shores. Several of the targets in Paris, including a professional sporting event and a concert, are places where Americans are not allowed to carry weapons. I am afraid that attacking those types of locations here would have similar results. ISIS will never attack a gun show here in the Midwest. If and when they do attack on American soil it will be against unarmed and unsuspecting civilians. And it will be terrible.