Since my birthday was on a Monday this year, The Gryphon and I celebrated it Saturday. First, he helped me get some Wild Violet pages done. Then he bought me a very thoughtful birthday gift and took me out to dinner and a movie.
When he'd asked me what I wanted, I suggested something to make my computer function better. I've had problems lately with the computer lately. First, it was both restarting and freezing, which we decided were two separate problems.
When the computer restarted, it gave us a message that there was a device or driver problem. As it turns out, this error was being caused by a bad USB hub, which was supposed to give you the capacity to plug in extra USB devices. Even when nothing was plugged into it, it was causing problems.
Even after removing the USB hub, the freezing continued, and after looking at my memory use, The Gryphon determined that, typically, I was using more memory due to all the applications I had open than my system actually had. This meant, he explained, that the computer had to switch memory use back and forth between applications, which was probably why my computer would freeze. He wanted to double the amount of memory, taking it up to 1G.
Just to make sure we'd get something compatible, he used a program that enabled him to look at the specifics of my motherboard. Using this, he identified possible matches.
It was a miserable day when we set out for Micro Center in St. Davids, the place where all serious computer technies go for parts and upgrades. The rain poured from the sky, puddling on the highway, and the wind provided so much resistance that I began to wonder if my engine was experiencing trouble. Between that and the hydroplaning, it was a fairly frightening trip. We were glad when we arrived safely, even if it meant we had to run through the rain to get inside.
The store employees were very helpful, pulling the requested memory out of their warehouse. While we were there, The Gryphon also bought some memory for his laptop, plus a wireless hub so that he can print things on my printer from his laptop. We also picked up compressed air and a disc case for me to put my backup discs.
The rain was tapering off a little as we drove to the restaurant in West Chester where The Gryphon had made reservations. He'd asked me for input, and I suggested something ethnic, so we'd decided on a Mexican restaurant called Coyote Crossing [warning: site has sound]. We got a little wet on the way from the parking lot to the restaurant, and the wind nearly blew my rain hat off. I had to whip my hands up to pull it back down. The hostess hung our coats in a closet for us so that we didn't have to drape wet coats over our chairs.
The restaurant looked like either a converted bank or perhaps another converted store, with high ceilings and sturdy walls. It was decorated in a modern Southwest style, with tan walls and abstract art in reds, oranges and earthtones, painted directly on the wall, sometimes in relief.
They offered a variety of specialty drinks. I ordered a pomegranate mojito, while The Gryphon ordered a regular lime mojito. For my entree, I got a grilled shrimp dish, served with grilled vegetables and a white bean salsa. The Gryphon ordered the skirt steak special. We both were really pleased with our meals. I especially liked the grilled shrimp, which was cooked with grapefruit juice, and the white bean salsa.
After having half of my dinner boxed, we ordered dessert. I got the chocolate mousse, and The Gryphon ordered the flan. The mousse was delicious, but even better, it was served in a dark chocolate bowl. I didn't know this until I started scraping the sides of the bowl and realized that the spoon was digging into the bowl itself. Chocolate in a chocolate bowl: that really made me happy!
By the time we were leaving, the rain had tapered off. I couldn't find my car key anywhere: not in my coat, not in my purse. I was pretty sure I'd put it in my coat pocket, so it should have still been in there. I was just about to go inside and check the closet when The Gryphon remembered me whipping my hands out of my pockets to catch my rain hat. He thought maybe that's when I lost my key, so he walked ahead and checked the street corner where the wind had hit us.
Sure enough, he found my key lying on the sidewalk. Fortunately, nobody had picked it up and started trying it on the cars in the parking lot, or it would have been the worst birthday celebration ever!
Then we drove to the Granite Run Mall to see Tropic Thunder. We bought our tickets, and since we had time to spare, checked out the book store in the mall. I bought The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, because The Cheshire Cat told me that director Peter Jackson's next movie is an adaptation of that book. The Gryphon says that both The Tech Guru and another friend of his read it and liked it.
Now a few words about the movie. I have not laughed so hard during a movie for a long time. As we talked about it afterwards, we realized that there's something in the movie to appeal every sense of humor. You have lowbrow humor and physical humor, provided by Jack Black. You have movie satire and cultural commentary, provided by everyone but particularly by Ben Stiller and his dimwitted action star. Then you have character-driven comedy, which comes from the improv tradition, done to perfection by Robert Downey Jr. and Brandon T. Jackson, in their interactions as a method actor (Downey) who had a skin pigmentation procedure in order to play an African-American soldier, and a rap artist (Jackson) striving to break into acting.
The movie tells the story of three A-list actors, along with a rap artist and a supporting actor, who get dropped in the middle of a jungle in Southeast Asia to make a guerrilla-style action film, shot with hidden cameras, rigged explosives and planned ambushes. When the actors encounter a real-life drug cartel, they assume it's part of the movie.
I thought Tropic Thunder did a great job of skewering the modern action film, along with taking jabs at celebrity culture and its inherent materialistic superficiality. This is epitomized by Ben Stiller's character, who demands a TiVo even on a remote location shoot.
The supporting cast is fabulous, including Jay Baruchel as a supporting actor who gets drawn into the adventure; Danny McBride as Cody, an accident-prone special effects coordinator; and Tom Cruise, who is so unrecognizable in his part that it took me a while to identify him.
Tropic Thunder is one of the few movies I'd watch a second time, just so I could pay attention to more of the little details that make the movie so funny. It was definitely a great way to celebrate my birthday.
On a stormy day, secure all valuables before walking through the rain.