Carrie Fisher: 1956-2016

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She’s been gone for almost a month now, and I still haven’t been able to put words together here on this blog. I keep waiting for the right words, the best words, but they don’t seem to come. Perhaps they never will. Until then, here are some interim words.

Princess Leia has been a part of my life since I was 8 years old. I almost can’t remember my life without Leia in it. I saw Star Wars when I was a young girl, and immediately started to want to be her (and Luke). I played with my brother’s Star Wars toys. I asked Santa for every Princess Leia action figure and doll they made. I had a doll house and Leia, not some doll, lived in it. I drew her image countless times when I was teaching myself to draw faces. I wrote letters to Carrie Fisher (the kind only a 10 year old can write) and have the autographed picture of her she sent me in response saved in my photo album of Star Wars memorabilia.

Yes, Princess Leia a fictitious character, but she was also a huge part of my childhood. Someone I looked up to. Someone I emulated. I know that the internet is quick to remind everyone who only mentions Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia when they remember that they are missing much of what she was and who she was and what she was important. For the me growing up, Princess Leia was everything.

Growing up, I liked science, math, and engineering. I knew I wanted to do something in the sciences from a very young age. While Leia wasn’t a scientist, she was an ever present example that women were equal to men. Women could be leaders, be looked up to, and take care of themselves and their friends. I never once thought I couldn’t do math, or I couldn’t go to college and graduate school. I never once thought there were things I couldn’t do because I was a woman. I just did them. If Leia could walk in to a room and immediately command respect of those who followed her, I could take advanced calculus and orbital mechanics.

When I heard the news over Christmas break that Carrie Fisher had suffered a cardiac event while on a flight home to LA from London, I braced for the worst. I searched the internet for news of her condition every day. I waited for something positive. When I heard she was in stable condition, I started to hope. Then the news came that she’d passed away and I felt empty. I know that Carrie fought her demons, but she seemed to have possessed some immortal quality. I wasn’t ready to lose her. Her story wasn’t over. She wasn’t done telling it. I wasn’t done listening to it.

My heart goes out to her daughter, Billy. My father died when I was only 26, so I understand the heartbreak of losing a parent (especially one that had their battles with their own chemical demons), just not losing one quite so publicly.

My biggest regret is that I never had the chance to tell Ms Fisher how much she meant to me, how much Princess Leia meant to me. I never got the chance to tell her that I am probably a Rocket Scientist today because her Leia instilled in me the belief that I could do anything I put my mind to. I am sure she heard this same story countless times, and after reading the Princess Diarist,  maybe if I had been able to tell her, I think her response would have been.

” I know.”

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Rogue One: My initial reactions

rogueone_onesheeta_1000_309ed8f6I saw Rogue One this past Saturday, during opening weekend. As I reflected on that, it occurred to me that Rogue One is the first Star Wars movie to come out since I have been an adult, that I did not see on opening night. In fact, even though I wasn’t old enough to drive yet, my parents indulged me and took me to see Return of the Jedi on it’s opening night way back in 1983.  Up until a week ago, I wasn’t even sure I was going to go see it at all, let alone during opening weekend. I’ve lost much of my interest in the new Disney Star Wars movies after they undid everything Luke, Han, and Leia accomplished with The Force Awakens. These new stories just don’t feel like my Star Wars.

Happily, my initial impressions were very positive. Perhaps it’s because I went in really expecting not to like it at all. Or that this one was set during my favorite part of the Star Wars story: the rebellion. Or that I also went in anticipating the fates of the main characters. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it here, but suffice to say that I was correct in what happened to each of them and found I didn’t really get attached to any of them. It felt, sounded and looked like the Star Wars universe. The call outs to the original trilogy and to the current cartoon show on Disney XD Star Wars: Rebels were wonderful. I found myself laughing in delight and pointing at the screen several times.

I left the theater pronouncing that I really enjoyed and even liked this one. That it made up for my disappointment and dislike of The Force Awakens and all of its depressing storytelling choices. I thought the story of Rogue One was good, and the characters interesting. The special effects were, for the most part, wonderful. The last act was action and triumph and space battles. I even posted to my Facebook wall to let my friends know that this time I wasn’t let down by Disney.

Then I lived with the movie for a few days and now I am conflicted.

Rogue One’ story follows in the tradition of the great hollywood westerns or Shakespeare, but  I am one of those ‘not really grown up, grown ups’ who wishes that Star Wars would stay the gee-wiz happy story of my youth. (I know that it probably won’t given the story telling styles and interests of audiences of today.) Had I seen Rogue One as my first introduction to the Star Wars saga, I doubt I’d be the fan I am today. It was the sense of hope and triumph over bad guys in A New Hope (then just Star Wars) that so enchanted me when I was 8 years old in ’77. So, as much as I loved each and every shout out to the original trilogy and was overjoyed at the easter eggs for Star Wars: Rebels (my favorite of the new Star Wars offerings), I was still bummed at the ending. I saw it coming, but I wished I was wrong. If I could change anything, that’s what I’d change, but only for me. I realize that most of the audience loved it and would probably revolt if it were the way I would like it.  I also realize that changing it would change the gravity of the story and take away from what occurred.

(now I am reading that when the movie was originally pitched, the ending might have been closer to what I’d have rather seen).

As for some of the special effects, I will use initials here so I don’t spoil anyone. They shouldn’t be hard to crack, and those who can crack them probably have already seen the movie by now. I agree with a number of bloggers that the GMT CGI was a bit much. It stuck out as fake to me every time he was on screen. The reflections in the glass, or some holographic images would have been a better use of the technology. LO was better because she was used sparingly. These two instances are probably the only special effects I’d change, but it was an interesting attempt, so I can forgive it being a technology that’s just not quite there yet.

As I think about the movie and all of the things I love about it, I find that they had nothing to do with this new story or these new characters. All of the things I loved had to do with the easter eggs to A New Hope, and the original universe that George set up for us.  Aside from the wonderful K-2SO and Donny Yen‘s character, Chirrut, I didn’t find I cared at all about the new heroes. What I loved about Rogue One was the Star Wars goodness that came from George, not the new stuff from this new director. It was a good movie, even and enjoyable movie. I liked this one but not for the reasons I should.

Slowly, I am starting to accept that no matter where Disney takes the Star Wars universe from here on out, it won’t have “That Thing” that George infused into it (a Forbes writer sort of agrees with me here). It might be good but it won’t really be Star Wars. At least not for me. Maybe that’s ok. I haven’t decided yet.

iPhone 6s Battery Replacement Positive Story

A few weeks ago, I read in an article that some models of the iPhone 6s were having issues with shutting down, were covered under a new Apple battery replacement program. After checking Apple’s site for the details and inputting my iPhone’s serial number where indicated, I found out that my iPhone 6s was one of the iPhones covered by this warranty.

I had noticed over the last few months that my iPhone was starting to work strangely. It completely shut down a couple of times when it had over 50% charge remaining, requiring me to do a hard reboot for several panicked sections in order to wake it up again. Another time, it went from 100% down to 20% in the space of an hour when I wasn’t even using it. And lately it’s been going from 100% to 80% after 10 minutes of use playing the Disney Magic Kingdoms game.

Once I knew my iPhone was part of this repair program, I set up a Genius bar appointment and made my way over to the Apple store. The start of the process couldn’t have been easier. They looked up my iPhone’s serial number in their system, verified it was part of the battery replacement program and opened a ticket for work to be done. They don’t keep the batteries in stock, but they do perform the repair in the store, so all they had to do was order the battery and give me a call later. They expected it to take a week to 10 days for the battery to arrive. I was worried I’d have to be without the iPhone for an extended period of time as they shipped it back to Apple. Happily, I would only be without it for the hour it would take to perform the replacement.

As it happens, it took much less than a week before they called me to set up my appointment to have them replace the battery. Since I was on vacation last week when they called, I set up the next genius bar appointment for this week.  After having to reschedule the appointment 3 times in favor of meeting conflicts at work I have just returned from getting my new battery.

I arrived about 10 minutes ahead of my appointment, and checked in with the Apple store employee with the iPad who greeted me at the front door. They looked up my appointment, asked for my iPhone to look up the serial number and turned off “Find my iPhone” once they’d verified that my iPhone was covered by this warranty. The cost to replace the battery was $79 but since this was a covered replacement, I owed nothing.

They told me it would take just over an hour to do the replacement, so my husband and I did some Christmas shopping and grabbed lunch at Cheesecake factory. We returned about and hour and 10 minutes later and checked in again. The iPhone was finished, so they had me wait by the side for one of the Apple genius folks to bring it out to me.

Less than 5 minutes later I had my old iPhone back in my hands. No issues so far except that this new battery had only a 20% charge and was entering low power mode, but all of my photos, and games, and apps were all still there. I had made backups to both iTunes and iCloud last night just to be safe. I read an article on cult of Mac today that an Apple employee was lamenting that the replacement program was a mess. This was definitely not my experience. Everything seemed to move smoothly. The Apple geniuses did appear to be doing several battery replacements but they didn’t seem to be overloaded with requests. Perhaps it helped that I’d scheduled my appointment so they could allocate their staff accordingly.

Now I have a new battery, a year in to owning and using this iPhone, so when I hand this down to my daughter next year, I know she’s going to be able to use this one for even longer than I anticipated before we have to upgrade her. It is things like this that make me continue to be a happy Apple iPhone owner. This is my 4th iPhone model since, and including, the original and I am already planning to buy whatever wonderfulness Apple releases next year.

 

Her Universe Annual Christmas Pin

20161202_ghibli_01_ahsokapinIt’s available! In spite of the recent Her Universe/Hot Topic merger, Ashley Eckstein has continued the annual tradition of an autographed Star Wars themed holiday pin included in orders of Her Universe items at Hot Topic for a limited time.

I was actually worried about this one when I learned about Ashley’s new path with Her Universe. I have put in an order at Her Universe on Black Friday every year sine she started offering these free Star Wars limited edition holiday pins with an autograph card. This year the pin is so awesome, I knew I had to have it. It’s a Holiday Ahsoka!

I logged in to Hot Topic early this morning, not quite at the stroke of midnight, but before the kids woke up. Sadly, almost all of the Her Universe Star Wars clothing had sold out of my size. So I bought an item that probably won’t fit me but might just fit my daughter, and was able to get the pin!

Looking forward to wearing this one on Christmas with my family.

Thanks, Ashley, for such a wonderful tradition. I wish you and Her Universe many more years of happiness. Looking forward to what you bring us next year.

RSM

RSM Review: Ahsoka (novel) by E. K. Johnston

ahsokanovelThis one is a tough one for me to review. I have mixed feelings about the book itself, so I don’t know what to say about it.

I love Ahsoka Tano. She’s fast become one of my top two favorite characters in all of the Star Wars universe, second only to Leia. I saw the original Star Wars when I was 8, and have been a devoted fan ever since. I’ve read a ton of the Expanded Universe novels and am trying to come to grips with it all having been reclassified as Legends. This universe is one my favorite places to visit.

I loved Ahsoka since she first appears in the Clone Wars cartoon movie, even though most found her annoying. As she grew and matured throughout the course of the Clone Wars TV show, I loved her even more. When she returned to the Rebels cartoon, I was beyond overjoyed. That’s about how I felt when I found out a book would be coming out with more of her story.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but only found parts of it that made me feel that same sense of joy. I attribute most of this to the completely forgettable secondary characters with which Ashoka spends almost the entirety of the book living interacting with. I just didn’t care about any of them. I know we’re supposed to, but they were so bland that I had trouble even remembering their names.

The only new characters that I found remotely interesting were the other Togruta who owned the bar on the planet where most of the action takes place and a young force sensitive girl that Ahsoka met prior to the main action of the novel.

There are a series of anecdotes of things that happened prior to the novel every few chapters. Darth Maul and Captain Rex appear in them and answer some open questions from the Clone Wars. I enjoyed these vignettes a great deal. My favorite part happened toward the end of the book and involved an old friend. I won’t mention it here in case it spoils things. These chapter were what I was hoping the entire book would be like, and added to my disinterest in the main storyline.

As the book ended, I was actually excited for what could be the next book. I felt like this book served as a set up to what will be some really amazing stories. Thankfully this book sold really well (it went to #1 on the on New York Times YA best sellers list), so I am hopeful that there are more Ahsoka stories to come.

My review: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

princess-diaristI am near the end of The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher, as I type this review. I didn’t actually read the book, but rather have borrowed the audio book from the library so I can listen to Carrie Fisher (and her daughter) narrate it to me. This has made all the difference. Carrie is not Princess Leia, and she’s wrestled with this her whole life. But I think she means it when she says that being Leia has been something important to her, and something she hasn’t ever really regretted.

There are some spoilers in the next paragraph but nothing that hasn’t already been mentioned on every website and review.

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I found the chapters about her affair with Harrison Ford when she was 19 and he was in his early 30s while they were filming the original Star Wars in 1979 to be really heartbreaking. Her daughter reads pages from the diary she kept at the time, and which she found recently sending her on a trip down memory lane. The diary entries are brilliant. They capture the raw emotions of a young, inexperienced, 19 year old woman in love with an older man. Harrison doesn’t necessary come across as much of a romantic knight in shining armor, but Carrie’s not really trying to make him come across as anything other than what he was. Her honesty is really impressive. She makes no judgment, just presents what happened. She regrets the adultery, but I think she doesn’t really regret the relationship. I suspect she is still just a little bit in love with him and always will be.

Heck, when I was 19 myself (and younger) I had my own crush on Harrison Ford (or rather Han Solo) so I can completely understand her plight.

I was a young girl when I first saw Star Wars, and it completely changed my life. I am where I am today (at NASA) and what I am today (A rocket Scientist) in large part to having experienced Star Wars. Princess Leia was a huge part of that. Here’s a woman who’s strong, brave, and not in need of saving. She’s not just a woman, she’s a princess and a leader. No one questions her authority. No one makes mention that she’s a girl. In fact, being a girl is just something she happens to be not something that defines her.

I just cannot say enough about my love of Leia as created by Carrie. That Carrie could create Leia as she did in spite of the turmoil in her young heart while filming Star Wars is very impressive.

Overall, having listened to this book, I feel like I have settled down to hear to some very personal thoughts and memories from someone I’ve admired for her on screen persona for almost my entire life. I caution parents out there, that it’s definitely not safe to listen to while children are within earshot. There is a lot of salty language and talk of rather adult themes of sex, adultery and drugs. I listened to it in the car after having dropped my children off at school.

I am glad I checked this one out. I’ve meant to read others of Carrie Fisher’s books. She has a very talented writing style and unique voice.
Thank you for sharing all of it Ms. Fisher. It was appreciated.

Sharing some of my birthday pixie dust

Wednesday was my birthday. Since I’m fairly far into my adult years, I don’t want for much on my birthday. I buy Disney Vera Bradley or Dooney and Bourke purses when I see them and don’t wait for special days or for my husband to buy them for me (or I buy them and give them to him to give to me!) In fact, the birthday wish I shared on my FaceBook page was a note reminding my friends that even if we don’t agree we can still be kind. This is especially important to me as I watch the country fight over this darned election.

In keeping with my birthday week, I shared a little pixie dust and magic with a stranger this morning. I am not overly religious but I am a person of faith, and when I am quiet and listen inside to that little voice that urges me to do good things, I feel like there’s something more than just me in this universe. I listened to that little voice this morning, and it has filled me with much happiness.

I was at Target, picking up candy for the office and for my children to give out at Halloween when I stopped to get my birthday drink from the Starbucks. A very pregnant Mom with an adorable little daughter who had to be somewhere around 1 1/2 got into line behind me. As I was waiting for my Pumpkin Spice Latte, the mom chatted along with her daughter, giving her stickers to put into her book to keep her pleasantly busy as they waited for their coffee. She ordered a Latte, and when her daughter gently asked for a muffin (complete with a “please”) I was overcome with the urge to treat them to their order. I don’t know why. It just felt like what I should do.

So I asked her if I might treat her and her daughter, and she graciously accepted. Then I went on to compliment her on her the brilliant sticker and notebook idea to help her daughter to also enjoy shopping. She told me that her husband is in the Army and they move around a lot. She stumbled on the sticker trick when they stopped in a Target’s dollar aisle and ever since then, it’s been her lifeline to keep her daughter busy on plane flights or shopping trips. I asked if her husband was in town, and she said he’s currently deployed outside of DC at an Army base, training to be an combat doctor and undergoing combat simulations right now. They’ve been apart for a bit, but will get to see him this weekend.

That’s why my little voice told me to treat her. She’s raising an amazing little girl, probably mostly on her own, with warmth and love and caring. She’s about to have another one. It was obvious that she was very pregnant, but I didn’t ask what she’s having or when she’s due. But soon, she’ll be raising two little ones most likely on her own in new towns away from family while her husband spends time away. I have so much love and respect for this woman, for the kindness she showed to her daughter, and for the kindness she brought into my morning.

Thank you, little voice, celestial energy, God, for urging me to spread some love this morning. It came back to me as so much more than what it cost me to buy that latte and muffin.

Today, the world is a slightly better place than it was yesterday. That’s really my birthday wish.

The return of the All About the Mouse Disney Podcast

aatm-disney-podcastAs you all know, I am a huge Walt Disney World fan. I’m also an ardent member of the Apple ecosystem since forever. So it is natural that I’m also a podcast listener. One of my favorite podcasts on the topic of Walt Disney World was the All About the Mouse Disney Podcast.

It was a sad day back in 2010 when AATM went “off the air” as the two co-hosts decided that life had made it difficult for them to continue to bring out a weekly dose of Magic and Mayhem. Thankfully, just this summer, Bryan and Jonathan decided they had been retired from Disney podcasting long enough and came back better than ever, complete with a new website: All About the Mouse Central.

They’ve been back for about six episodes at the time of my writing this blog post, and each episode has had the same or better level of energy, professionalism, production value and fun as what I remember. Both Bryan and Jonathan have a lot of love for Disney and it shows. They segment their shows with a little banter, some Disney news, some interaction with their listeners, and then a highlight segment which consists of either reviews or interviews with notable folks in the Disney community. The episodes have been a bit long, but since I’ve got a long commute to work, one episode can easily fill both my morning and evening drives.

I’m a bit personally invested in this one because I had the honor of being “interviewed” during one of their episodes through a segment they call MouseCalls. They will randomly call listeners who have signed up and given them their phone number and ask them a series of questions about their favorite things at Disney World. It was a heck of a lot of fun, and I’d encourage all their listeners to sign up and give it a try.

Podcasting is hard. It takes a lot of work both to produce the episodes and to find your nitch and keep it. I’d like to see All About the Mouse continue for a good long while before the guys decide to retire again.

Welcome back guys. You’ve been missed.

RSM

 

Taking Your Children out of School for a Walt Disney World Family Vacation

I am trying to write a blog post about my thoughts on taking my children out of school for a family trip to Walt Disney World. My thoughts and feelings about it have shifted around as my children have grown and continued through school. Basically, I take them out as long as I feel they can make up the work. This is getting harder as they get further along in school.
I started with the following bulleted list of pros and cons. I thought I’d post those here to my blog as a sneak peek into my thoughts and also to ask for inputs from anyone who might read this.
 
Pros
  • Able to pick times with Lower crowds (potentially)
  • Able to pick times with potentially cooler temperatures
  • Might help to coordinate multi-family trips
  • Hard ticket special events: MNSSHP, MVMCP, WDW’s anniversary (Oct 1st), Walt’s birthday (Dec 5)
  • Educational opportunity
Cons
  • Missing class time, especially the first time teacher goes over something
  • Having to make up homework, classwork
  • No perfect attendance
  • Too much work to make up upon return (higher grades especially)
How to mitigate issues
  • Plan long in advance
  • Don’t pick the beginning of the school year when your child and the teachers are just getting into things
  • Let the teachers, school know long in advance of the trip and work with them to make up homework/classwork
  • Pick out dates that are best in terms of testing, homework, projects
  • know your child, Can they make up the work or will they fall behind
What are your thoughts? Send me comments and I will add to what I’ve captured above.

Thank you, Person of Interest

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It was a week of waiting for me, before I could watch the Final Episode ever of Person of Interest. My husband was out of town, and I just couldn’t watch it without him. While he was gone, I watched the last four episodes of season 5 with my children to get us all ready to watch the finale as soon as Dad got home.

I will write up my own thoughts and review of “return 0” in another post. This one is a post of thanks. Thank you to the amazing cast, writers, producers, and creators for giving me a series that touched my head, my heart and my soul. I will miss this show more than I can say, but it ended so perfectly, it feels not like I’ve lost it but just that I have reached an ending.

As The Machine learned in the finale, if we are remembered, if we are loved after we are gone, we never really die. Person of Interest, you will never really die.

Thank you,

RSM