Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Qwest Continues...

Chapter two in the saga of my attempt to get DirecTV HD. This story should only have had one chapter, and now it's going to have at least three.

Since last I recounted the tale, I finally got in touch with this supervisor-type woman who apologized for the first technician's apparent ineptitude, and told me I could have my pick of any time to have a different installer come out to upgrade my TV to HD. She'd put a credit on my account, too. She even offered a Saturday appointment. "Between 9 and 1," she said.

So, that Saturday rolled around. 1:00 came. No technician. No phone call as to his whereabouts. Nothing.

I call Qwest and get a guy who calls me "ma'am" four times before I stop him and ask, "what the hell? Do I actually sound like a woman to you?" He takes five minutes to tell me yes, the technician is running late.

"How late? And don't you think someone should have called to tell me that?"

He had no answer for that.

2:00 rolls around, and the guy finally shows up. He goes over to the junction box outside my building. It's too high. Do I have a ladder or step stool he can use?

A few thoughts roll through my mind. What kind of install guy doesn't have his own ladder? And what would happen if I were to let him use something of mine and it should break or something and he gets injured? Might not he have some legal recourse against me? But I want the damn thing done already, so here, stand on this and hook up the damn box.

He looks in and says the hardware isn't there to provide the full array of HD channels. I say I specifically asked on the phone whether this package was all HD channels or only some, and was told I'd get all.

Well, I can get all here, but I have to have the hardware. Which, along with a ladder, is also not on the truck.

Again, I'm stupified as to why the TV install guy wouldn't have basic tools of his job with him. While pondering a way to convey my bewilderment, he hits me with:

"I can hook you up, and you'll at least get about 10 channels."

"Well, what 10?" I ask, fast becoming exasperated.


"Okay, stop. Forget it. Or wait, what about this? Can you hook up those, leave me the box, and then schedule somebody to come by and put in this hardware in this box outside without me being here?"

"No, cause we'll have to make a change on your HD receiver once we do."

Well, screw this.

He leaves. Again, nothing having been done.

I call on Monday morning, just this side of livid. I have no direct number to reach this supervisor, so I have to call the lower level guy again. He apologizes profusely, and says he'll have the woman higher up get in touch with me again.


Late Monday afternoon, I call him back. She hasn't contacted me, I say. What the hell? He'll talk to her again right away.

Tuesday goes by. Nothing.

Wednesday afternoon, I call him for the third time. What is wrong with you people?

Fifteen minutes after I hung up from that call, the supervisor woman calls me again. From a Blocked ID, so I still don't have her direct phone number.

More meaningless but profuse apologies. More promises of credits on my bill. This time, she'll send the managing technician to me.

"It has nothing to do with the technicians you're sending me. Why don't they actually have any, you know, tools on their trucks?!"

This guy will have the right materials, she assures me.

I've got the exact part names needed from the last guy who came, so I read the list to her... "this guy's going to actually have a [reverse ratcheting teflon-coated nerve refuser]?"

Yes, absolutely. When do I want him to come by? Are Saturdays still most desirable to me?

"No, not if I'm actually going to waste my entire Saturday waiting around for someone who isn't going to show up on time."

"We can have him call you 30 minutes before he arrives."

So that's where it all stands now. I've been told the guy who knows what he's doing and who has the necessary equipment will be here on Saturday. I've been told he'll call me before he arrives, so I can actually still go run my errands (within 30 minutes of my place).

And, of course, I still remain completely without an alternative to instead go with a standard cable provider, as I wanted to do in the first place. Or, in other words, if Qwest and DirecTV screw up (and screw me) yet again, what recourse do I have?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Authentic Rock Band Experience

Lately, I've branched out with my Rock Band playing, and have started to mess around with the online play. That's turned out to be a whole new form of obsession, but that's not really the point of tonight's tale.

In the course of playing the game online, I've had quite a few random strangers from who-knows-where offer to become a "Friend" of mine on the Playstation Network. And what the heck -- if I happen to play with someone online who is pretty good at the game, why NOT try to play with them again some time?

So, I found this quality drummer a few nights ago. And unlike the other people I've met online (who are pretty passive), this guy's always pinging me with chat requests, always seems to be on no matter what time I'm on. It's not quite so annoying (yet) so as to, shall we say, "unfriend" the guy, but it was kinda weird. I was starting to wonder just a little what this guy must be like.

Well, last night, I get this chat invite from him, so I log on and figure, what the heck?

I see this giant Bud Light can appear on my television screen. Down in a window in the corner, I see the "Lemmings" icon I've chosen to represent me. I'd never used the chat before, but ah! I get it! This guy has taken this beer can picture to represent him.

But no... suddenly the beer can starts to pull away. And this weird voice drones:

"You want this, don't you?"

Like Stoner Emperor Palpatine.

The guy has his PSEye camera plugged in, and now the Bud falls out of view, and I behold the absolute cliche of what every U.S. Congressman seems to think video game players are like. Bare white walls. Dirty clothes and empty pizza boxes everywhere.

I must be imagining that I'm seeing bong smoke in the air -- the resolution on these cameras isn't really that good.

The guy brags for a while about how good he is at Rock Band, how he's already drunk and baked, and how he really doesn't do anything but sit around and play games all day.

I back slowly out of the chat room.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Rink Up

So, this short tale/observation is kinda-sorta related to the fall of the drive-in movie theater I recently recounted. Kinda. Sorta.

There's this big indoor fun-nasium type kids place a few miles from my house. It's been there since the late 80s, when it first opened under the name Funplex. There was a bowling alley, two mini-golf courses, a bunch of rides and video games, and a skating rink. And a thing that always changed; for a while it was a Laser Tag arena, then it was this funky basketball obstacle course with trick backboards and crap. Now it's just more places to eat, I think.

Anyway, some time in the late 90s, it closed, then reopened under the name Fat City. You know, like Phat... but not. They tore out one of the mini-golf courses and put in a giant kid romper-room type place. But it was still basically the same thing.

Driving past it the other day, I noticed it had undergone another of its once-a-decade transformations, and has become Mr. Biggs. And it still probably hasn't changed.

Which got me thinking. Specifically, about that skating rink that's in there. Has been since day one. It's still there. Even though every free-standing skating rink I've ever known of closed its doors probably at least 15 years ago.

And is that surprising? When you get down to it, what's so neat about a skating rink? "Hey, you know what would be fun?! Let's go pay money to skate around in circles for a few hours!"

They try to change it up, of course. Spend two hours in a skating rink, and they'll pull out the limbo poles, have a song or two of "backwards skating," "couples skating," and whatever. But still, you're basically skating around in circles.

I can't believe I ever thought that was even remotely fun. And given all the super-fun distractions there are for the children of today, I can't imagine why any of them would find it remotely fun either.

All I can figure is the only reason this skating rink is still there is because it's attached to a mini-golf course, bowling alley, arcade, and romper room that's pulling in the money. Still, you'd think they would have long ago torn out the skating rink to put something else -- anything else -- in.

Unless someone can enlighten me as to what appeal there might be in the skating rink?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

It Blowed Up Real Good

I hope you all had a very pleasant Low-Flow Toilet Blowup Day.

This web site affirmed for me that no cause is too strange for people to get behind it. Or too small for there not to be a sub-group of people who go about advocating their cause in a really strange way.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Escape Velocity

I found this week's Battlestar Galactica to be a big improvement over the last, and a great sign that things are right back on track. I complained last week that the story had been overburdened with sub-plots -- things like life on the Cylon base ship, and Starbuck's search for Earth. It's not that I was saying any particular subplot was bad, but that by stuffing them all in one episode, none were given the chance to breathe and play out.

As if by request, this week excised a few running plots to focus more squarely on a few others, and things were much better for it. Best of all, each of the remaining plots had a very strong element of character and emotion to it.

We got a lot of great material on the way "the four" (well, minus Anders) are dealing with their guilt. Tory is becoming sociopathic, and while I've always found the actress playing her to be one of the weakest recurring performers ever to be on the series, I admit I got a chill or two from her demeanor this episode.

Galen was sloppy on the job, and in the end lashed out at his life, his job, at Cally, and at Admiral Adama, in a shocking scene that appears to have resulted in the "Chief" being Chief-no-more, and getting kicked off Galactica. Watching Tyrol pour out all that pent-up hatred toward Cally (and, really, himself) about how he's "settled" for a terrible life was very hard to watch, in that great way that Battlestar Galactica makes the hard-to-watch so compelling.

None of which had anything on that totally creepy story for Colonel Tigh. His haunting visions of his wife Ellen (made, I think, doubly effective by just how almost natural she looked dressed up as Six; you can totally buy the hallucinatory confusion of the two) really put him through the wringer. And it ended up in the very unsettling place of "Caprica" kissing him. Yikes!

Not that all the good drama was Cylon-centric. In fact, as seems to be the norm these days, the stellar moments of the episode went to Baltar. The political commentary on impeding his right to assemble "for his own protection" was very effective, and it culminated with another incredible James Callis performance of another incredible speech. Most of you know I'm not really a religious fellow myself, but I found his speech about "something in this universe loves me, and I'm perfect" to be very powerful.

It's a tricky thing, episodes I enjoy this much. They make me love that the show is back on, but they also immediately get me sad that there's so few of them before the show goes away again for another who-knows-how-long break? (I believe there's only six more episodes before the strike-created gap in the middle of this final season.)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Driven Away

I had a Rock Band get-together at my place tonight, and due to it running quite late, the regularly scheduled Battlestar Galactica observations will have to wait until tomorrow, when I've actually had a chance to see the episode. Instead, a sad story (but short, since I'm soon bound for bed).

Because of my move, I've started driving to work in a different way than I'd been used to. It takes me past a site where a drive-in movie theater stands.

Used to stand.

Now it's just a dirt waste being leveled by heavy machinery. Strangely though, the sign is still there.

At one point, I remember being told in a completely anecdotal, unconfirmed way that this was one of less than 200 drive-in theaters left in the United States. I'd also heard (with a similar level of reliability) that it had been threatened for years. Apparently, even though it was actually making money (or at least, not losing money), the owners of the land had wanted to demolish the place for years to sell out to theoretically more high-ticket businesses. Small organizations of people had fought them on it for a while on the basis of it being an historical landmark, and had successfully forestalled the demolition for a few years.

But no more, obviously. I hadn't heard the battle had finally been lost. And it's disappointing too, because going there had always been on my list of "things I'd like to do." (As I said, the place was profitable, so you can't say that by my NOT going there, I caused it to go away.) Now the opportunity is lost.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Shape of Things to Come

Lost was back on the air tonight, and back in the quality form it's had for almost every episode this season. At the risk of repeating myself, this was another episode that had the perfect cocktail of what makes a great episode of Lost.

On the dramatic front, there were very powerful, emotional moments revolving around the characters. We've never seen the character of Ben in places like this before; first, truly terrified at the coming of the strike team; then, truly lost and without a plan to deal with them once they arrived; and ultimately, grief stricken at the loss of his daughter. We also saw how that loss will begin to impact his future.

We learned a very sad chapter in Sayid's future, that he actually succeeded in finding the woman he was searching for for years, only to have her for too short a time and then lose her. (And perhaps the subtle implication that Ben may have actually orchestrated her death just to press Sayid into his service.)

On the mystery front, the trend continued of starting to close off an existing question or two, only to raise new ones. We learned that Ben has a means by which to (at least in part) control the smoke monster.

But we also learned that Ben and Widmore's feud goes back a long time, that it had apparent "rules of engagement," one of them apparently being they're unable to kill one another.

There was the suggestion that there's a way to teleport off the island, a means that might involve time travel, hinted by Ben's arrival in Tunisia at the start of the episode (and mirroring the discovery of the polar bear there by Charlotte in an early flashback this season).

The mystery of the island's time distortion deepened, as a washed up body was found dead that apparently has yet to die back on the freighter.

In all, it was another episode that left me very excited to watch the next installment.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bad Comparison

So why is it that high-speed internet providers always talk about how much faster they are than dial-up?

"Up to 5 times faster than dial-up!"

"Over 20 times faster than dial-up!"

You know, as though this is a cool thing. Come on, some carrier pigeons are faster than dial-up. I think I know of one person who uses the internet in any capacity and does it with dial-up.

On those occasions when, say, Coke and Pepsi decide to actually talk comparisons, they always talk about how "this many people in some taste test prefered the taste of Pepsi to Coke" or "Coke over Pepsi" or whatever. They're not saying "65% of those surveyed prefered the taste of Coke to a glass of sewer water."

You people are comparing apples and piano wire.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


If you've ever found yourself thinking, "man, it's just so far to reach from my computer chair to my keyboard," then have I got the pants for you:

The article implies these pants are somehow Geek Chic, but I think they're just an excuse for keeping your hands near your crotch.

Or keeping other people from using your computer.

Or encouraging other people to use your computer?

Monday, April 21, 2008

And So It Begins

So, I've now had my first "ah... the proud homeowner" moment. It came tonight, just after I'd come home after work and stepped inside my front door. I pulled my shoes off, and then happened to notice a real chill near my feet. What the hell?

I kneel down on the floor and look, and find there's about a quarter inch gap below the front door, with the cold night air seeping in.

Not a big deal. Nevertheless, I've now got my first home repair lined up.

Son of a bitch.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Great Balls of Fire!

Here's a story that takes "don't tase me, bro" to a new level: a man's pants caught fire as a result of being tasered by a police officer.

This particular news item is tantalizingly brief. Most mysterious is the failure to identify this "flammable object" in the man's pants. But what it lacks in detail, it makes up with the truly awesome headline: Taser shock triggers fire in man's pants.

Gooooooooodnight, everybody!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Lonely Items

Among the features of my new place are a second bathroom off the master bedroom, and a significantly larger kitchen than I had before. This has led to a few incredibly lonely items "living" in those places.

I now have a "guest" bathroom. I barely had things out in my own bathroom at my old apartment, prefering to keep most things tucked away in drawers. Now there's this second bathroom, and aside from the shower curtain, all that's in there are what a friend of mine dubbed "the loneliest towels in the world." They're just hanging there on the rack, nothing else around.

Similarly, in the kitchen, I used to keep this large glass measuring cup I have in the same cabinet with "spill-over" glasses. Tacky glasses I got on trivia nights, weird shot glasses and what-not. Well, now those all fit in the cabinet with all the other glasses. And yet, it doesn't quite seem to make sense to stick a measuring cup in there with the glasses and bowls and plates. And so I find myself with a cabinet that has nothing else in it but this lonely measuring cup.

I certainly want to resist the urge to start buying crap to fill space just because I have space to fill. My new walk-in closet, for example, has a lot more empty room in it, and I'll not be filling it any time soon. And yet, these other two cases seem to cry out for something. A random toothbrush holder, a miscellaneous cooking implement or two?

The thing is, I don't really need anything there, so I have no ideas.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Ties That Bind

For the most part, I wasn't really liking tonight's Battlestar Galactica. It was an entirely character-driven episode, which ordinarily would make it a big plus in my book. But it was covering so many characters that I felt like we were being given only the most superficial treatment of all of them.

We saw Lee Adama's first days on his new job, and Zarek trying to sink teeth into him, but the few minutes of screen time this was given didn't truly tell us much.

There was the touching moment of Admiral Adama reading a story to a bed-ridden Roslin... but then he vanished entirely for the rest of the episode.

There was such a cursory look aboard the Demetrius that we might as well not have seen anything at all. It almost amounted to telling us as much as showing us that tempers are fraying there and Starbuck is basically lost.

Baltar wasn't even in the episode, and he'd been the highlight of the season's first two.

But then there was that final act, and it was quite compelling indeed. I've never really been a Cally fan (nor disliked her either, exactly), but I know there are such fans out there. Having her die was a rather important development, especially in what it says about "the final four."

Tory didn't seem to have any problems with killing Cally to keep the secret safe. And earlier in the episode, she'd been talking about how different things were now feeling to her, and how she was actually liking that. In short, it seems she's really "embracing" her Cylon nature. Or at least her idea of what that must mean. She's either being compelled to do things of a darker character, or has decided that's to be expected of her now.

Will this happen to the other three?

More likely, I expect this could cause a fracture among the four of them, to mirror the fracturing occuring between the "normal seven" Cylons. Put simply, Chief Tyrol isn't going to take kindly to the murder of his wife. (He may not know now that Tory was responsible, but you can bet he'll find out at some point before the series is over.) And then so what if they're all in the same boat together? That can't just be ignored.

The bottom line is that this episode really just seemed to be setting things up for future episodes. And the last act landed a lot more powerfully in my mind than the bulk of the episode.

But at least the stage being set seems an interesting one.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Qwest Doomed to Failure

So, as of this afternoon, I have television again. But oh.... what a long and sad story it is. (Hopefully interesting too, since I'm about to tell it.)

It begins about a month ago. I'd been eyeing a TiVo HD for some time. Knowing that I had a TV that was already HD capable, I figured on this plan: I'll buy the new TiVo with a couple weeks to go before the move. I'll need to call the cable company to bring out the Cable Cards required for it to decode the HD channels, but I'll have them do that at the new place -- one trip out, hook up new cable, install the Cards, easy!

So I actually bought the TiVo HD. And about two days later, I discovered something awful. There actually wasn't cable in the condo complex I was moving into!! They'd contracted with Qwest somehow, so only DirecTV is available here. Which the new TiVo HDs are completely incompatible with.

I had a few people offer to possibly buy that unusable TiVo off me, but fortunately, it wasn't too much of a hassle to get TiVo to refund my subscription and get the store to take the actual device back.

So now it seemed I'd need a DirecTV box. But hey... I still kinda wanted HD, so sign me up for that! An HD receiver with a built-in DirecTV brand DVR. And the rep I spoke to said, "sure, we can do that." He couldn't be helpful enough to schedule the installation of it on Monday when a guy was already here from Qwest putting in my DSL. No, that would be too convenient. But at least he did something.

I was contemplating having to take another day (or part day) off work to be here for the TV guy, but my mother kindly offered to come over and wait around for me. Aw.... thanks, Mom!

Well, I get a call from her today. The guy is here, and he is telling her HD is not available in my complex.

"No," I say, "the guy on the phone specifically checked and said it is."

"The installer says it's only in certain buildings."

"What? No one said anything about that."

(A few moments of grousing....) "Alright, fine," I say, "have him put a regular old DVR in, then."

"He doesn't have that with him on the truck."

"He's the TV guy? He must have all sorts of things on the truck!"

"Yeah, I thought so too," says Mom. "But no, only a couple basic boxes and the few things he's supposed to install."

(More grumbling....)

A short while later, I'm on the phone with the same rep I spoke to days ago. "You said there was HD."

"There is."

"The installer said there's not."

"I'm quite sure there is."

"Well, he took off and didn't even leave the box behind. And now I don't even have the DVR I wanted. AND, if this really can be fixed like you say, now I have to arrange for the third time for someone to be at my house to install what you should have done right the last two times."

(Long pause.)

"I'm going to forward you on up to this other person who will get in touch with you and work this out for you," he says.

This fabled other person never called me back. You can bet I'll be calling for another round of complaining tomorrow. Though sadly, I'm not expecting it will do any good. And sadder still, whether it does or not, what other option do I have? I'm only in this stupid situation precisely because I have no other choice. If I could have just stayed with the cable company and happily kept using my spiffy new TiVo HD, I would have.

So, one black mark against what has otherwise shaped up to be a fantastic new place to live. Of course, it's hitting me square in the television, so while this wouldn't bother most people much, it's been extra annoying to me...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Treading Water

Tonight was a frustrating night of unpacking. I worked through just as many boxes tonight as I did the night before, which was good. But last night, I felt like the stacks of unopened boxes actually shrank. Tonight, I just feel like piles of things got moved around. It's like the boxes multiplied tonight while I wasn't looking. Obnoxious.

I've also reached this point where I've already decided I don't like where I've chosen to put a few things. So maybe that's what's going on. I didn't really get through as many boxes tonight as I think. Instead, I spent a bunch of time going, "I'm switching that dresser and that bookcase," "I'm moving that a bit out of the corner."

And then there was the hour-ish I spent building a new DVD case to replace the one lost in the Battle of the Move.

Yeah, okay, so I didn't do as much actual unpacking tonight as I'd have wished.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tangiential Intimacy

One thing that has struck me repeatedly as I've been settling into the new place is the weird connection I'm having with the former owners. It's not like I'm feeling it's not my place; actually, even though I'm still partly in boxes and getting things where I want them, I'm actually finding myself "at home" pretty quickly.

It's kind of a "ghostly" feeling, for lack of any other way of describing it. This couple... I sat across a table from them for barely over an hour. It seems very likely to me that this is the only time I will ever see them in my life. Yet here I am, sharing this bizarre "tangiential intimacy" with them through this space they lived in.

The marks their furniture made in the carpet are still here.

The short black little hairs from their dog are probably going to be here even longer.

I don't know if most people have any thoughts along these lines when they move into a formerly occupied place. I certainly didn't when I moved into my apartment before this, or into any of the houses I shared with roommates before that. Is this a quirk of ownership?

Or am I just not finding enough distractions with my cable TV not getting hooked up until Thursday?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Back in Action

Here I am, blogging from my new place! Fair warning, I'm probably going to be full of tales of and thoughts on moving for the next little while. You can help make this a not-boring experience by sharing any tales and thoughts of your own on the subject!

I'm still in the process of unpacking, of course, but it's going rather quickly. I think the unpacking goes a whole lot faster than the packing... which matches up with the fact that on the actual day of the move, the unloading goes much faster than the loading. "Un" is speedier.

And while there are still boxes to explore, I've gone through all the breakables. I think I can state with some confidence that there was only one casualty of the move. And there's a sad/funny story to go with it.

Many of you know I have a rather ponderous DVD collection. And while I've stopped adding to it at the ludicrous rate I did a few years ago, it still grew enough last year that I went out and bought this giant, six foot tall rack to hold some of it. It looked really nice, held nearly half the collection, and generally felt like a good purchase.

But the thing was rickety as hell from the day I put it together. Nothing I'd done wrong... it's just I think the thing was engineered to hold the weight of what you'd put on the shelves, barely, and nothing else. I remember pushing into place against the wall felt a bit suspect to me originally.

One of my friends took charge when we came to move this thing. She'd had one just like it, and it had unfortunately gotten destroyed in her last move. So here's the plan, she says. We have to tip it sideways, not on its front or back, and walk with it like this, watch that we support it there... and so on. And sure enough, she and I carried the thing all the way down from my third floor apartment and out to the rental truck without a scratch.

Then we stood the thing up while we stopped to play "Tetris" in the back of the truck, trying to figure out where to put that, a dresser, and a bookcase that were all down there waiting to get on the truck.

And while we're there in the truck planning, a gust of wind comes along and blows the giant DVD rack over. It didn't just break, it shattered, into about a dozen little pieces.

Sigh. Nobody's fault but ours. But now, if we should ever have to move a third rack like this one, we've added one more data point about how to successfully do so.

In the meantime, I'm gonna have to pick up another thing to hold my DVDs.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Scheduled Down Time

Moving day is nigh! I'm all packed up, and tomorrow I'm heading to new Chez Heimlich. That means until I'm all reconnected to the Wacky World Wide Web (WWWW), I won't be sharing any more Maneuvers. But the up side is, I'm all scheduled for that on Monday, barring whatever nonsense might be out of my control.

So, if you're looking for something to do on Sunday when I'm not around, perhaps you might enjoy taking these trivia quizzes about Firefly and Serenity? If you've never seen Firefly or Serenity, you now have your homework assignment. I expect it to be completed by the time I return.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Six of One

I found this week's Battlestar Galactica a lot better than last week's opener. Things didn't move so far "plot wise," but I found that to be a good thing. The show had more room to breathe and explore those character moments that I'd felt were missing last time. And it served up a bunch of good ones.

The confrontation between Roslin and Adama about each fearing to be alone was incredibly strong, almost shocking, and had a hell of bang for the ending with Roslin breaking down as she found her hair falling out.

The full military send-off for Lee as he officially left pilot duty was also moving. It was clear what the moment meant to his character, and equally clear how much wasn't said (and maybe wasn't needed to be said) between he and Dualla.

The new dimension of Baltar's neurosis, of seeing himself, was fascinating. Right on the heels of him finally having one altruistic moment last week, he now has arguably his most narcissitic moment ever as he literally flatters himself. Great acting by James Callis, too.

I found the material on the Cylon baseship less compelling, but it felt like necessary pipe to lay for future stories, so I don't really mind it. Plus, I always enjoy when they bring Dean Stockwell back on the show.

Really, the only scene that fell totally flat for me was the meeting between Lee and Starbuck in her cell. I was on board with the whole Lee/Starbuck will-they/won't-they story last season, but now I think to me it had less to do with them than it did poor Dualla and Anders, getting completely frakked in the middle of it. I'm fine with the characters of Lee and Kara separately... but I think I'm glad he's off to work in the government and she's off on an expedition that could keep her separated from him for a while.

A small mark against an otherwise very enjoyable episode.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Move Along

The latest update in the condo saga, for those of you following it. My closing was today... there it is, done. I move in on Sunday. Which can't really get here fast enough, because I'm now at that terribly inconvenient state of packing that I'm sure many of you know well.

In the interests of being prepared, I've tried to pack as much as possible. And it's not that I've packed any essentials I've going to need in the next few days. But I've packed enough of my stuff that I don't feel like I'm actually "living" in this place anymore. None of "my stuff" is around, so it just feels alien and uncomfortable. Worst part of moving, if you ask me. Even worse than the actual moving of the stuff.

Though those who might end up helping to carry my big screen TV or my double-recliner couch might disagree on that point...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


For reasons I don't quite understand, about a week or two ago, all pictures on all Blogger web pages stopped displaying for me. I gather it's an Opera thing, because they show up fine when I start up (shudder) Internet Explorer. And it's definitely some kind of problem with Blogger's code, because all other web sites show up fine for me.

Anyway.... tonight, I went to post a comment on someone else's blog, and the Word Verification, being a picture, wouldn't show up. I could have loaded up (hiss) Internet Explorer, but there was a button right there to try an audio form of verification. "Listen and type the numbers you hear." What the hell, I thought... let's see what that's like.

Wow. If you thought it was hard to read those frakkin' letters sometimes, they've got nothing on this audio verification. You have to try this thing. It sounds like about two or three backwards recordings overlapping simultaneously for about fifteen seconds, during which six numbers are dropped in that I could barely pick out.

Obviously, the primary purpose of this audio verification is to provide an alternative password system for the blind, not for my unusual situation. But the Blogger folks have got to be relying on the popular wisdom that says people who have no sight somehow have Superman-like hearing instead.

If they can actually make out these audio verifications, I can believe it.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

To Ketchup a Criminal

At the risk of it looking like my blog is turning into a "Bash the UK" haven (and with apologies to those I know who are from there), I've found the ban that possibly tops "samurai swords" for absolute lunacy.

If you're under 18, the Norfolk Constabulary thinks you should be banned from buying ketchup or eggs. There's been a rash of prank vandalism with squirt bottle ketchup and eggs, see. And a few bad... er... tomatoes... are enough to spoil them all.

Because there's absolutely no legitimate reason for anyone under the age of 18 to be in possession of tomatoes or eggs.

And there's no other substance an unruly teenager could possibly use to vandalize property with.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Da Sworderly Conduct

Here's a word of warning: if you're planning a visit to England or Wales, leave your samurai sword at home. They have just been banned from sales, production, and importing.

Now, before I start criticizing the culture of someone else's country, let me say straight out -- mine has some pretty flaky social priorities at times, too. I don't even find it too hard to identify with a national bias to "take some weapons off the streets."

But samurai swords?

First of all, are there that many samurai killings going on in England? Sure, the story cites two and mentions "several." Is that enough to merit a ban?

Secondly, why specifically samurai swords? Are they any more potentially lethal that your average Arthurian-type broad sword? Of course, banning a foreign culture is perfectly fine; banning your own culture would be unthinkable. (That's why we in the U.S. honor the spirit and memory of General Washington's automatic assault rifle, donchaknow?)

Thirdly, is a sword of any type that much more deadly than, say, a knife? Sure, you've got several extra feet of reach with a sword, but then on the other hand, you can throw the knife. And if distance is your thing, how about a gun? Or, understanding those are somewhat more controlled across the pond, maybe a bow and arrow?

I'm not trying to say "if we outlaw samurai swords, only outlaws will have samurai swords." I'm just saying that while yes, many laws are arbitrary, this one screams of... uh... arbitrariness.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Cycle Power

Courtesy of regular reader "FKL" is this fan-recreated version of the light cycle sequence from Tron, done with cardboard.

It takes some crazy levels of love and dedication to put something like this together. And you know, for the right thing, I can mostly understand that. But for Tron?

Man, I remember thinking Tron was the coolest thing imaginable when I first saw it. (Which wasn't in the original theatrical run, but was only a year or two later, on home video.) But the last time I watched it (a few years ago), I could barely make it through without falling asleep.

Tron gave us super-awesome video games for the time (that frankly aren't half bad even today, in terms of fun), and a handful of super-geeky quotes you can whip out every now and then ("end of line," "yesyesyes"). Too bad there wasn't an entertaining or halfway coherent movie to go with the "holy crap, how are they doing this?!" feeling the visual effects triggered at the time.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Tales from a Chinese Menu

Take a look:

Note that items in green letters are low fat and healthy.

Note that 16 ounces of Daily Fried Rice is not low fat and healthy.

...but 26 ounces is.

Your head asplode.

Friday, April 04, 2008

He That Believeth in Me

It's been over a year since Battlestar Galactica's third season concluded, but at long last, tonight brought us a new installment. And it wasn't a bad episode, but let's be real here -- nothing could have lived up to that kind of anticipation.

The real flaw tonight was that it was "incomplete." Not that I'm at all surprised; anyone who didn't expect a two-part episode (or more) for the season premiere was kidding themselves.

Yet at the same time, despite having more than one episode in which to spread out the story, things seemed overly crowded tonight. Again, probably not a huge surprise, given how chock full of story the current situation was. They had to deal with the Cylon attack, the return of Starbuck, the search for Earth, the fallout of the "four" realizing their Cylon identities, Baltar hiding away with his newfound cult, the shared dreams of Athena and Roslin and Caprica... (head spinning)... Because of all that stuff, there just weren't many real character moments, the parts that really make the show great. Two really did land for me, though.

First, there was Baltar who, after a lifetime of self-interest and unchecked survival instinct, actually reached a place where he was sincerely ready to die for someone else. This is a major moment for his character -- and notably, his "Head Six" changed in appearance and demeanor as well. James Callis played both the moment of Baltar's prayer and the moment of the knife at his throat extremely well.

Secondly, there was the scene between Admiral Adama and his son, where Lee decides not to go back to the cockpit. I found it to be a good moment not because of Lee's choice, but because his brother Zack was brought into the conversation. It was really just the briefest of moments, but the question "what if it was Zack returning now instead of Starbuck?" was a powerful one for those characters, and I think both actors made you feel that even with little dialogue.

Of course, all these balls in the air will still have to be juggled next week, so I expect another rather plot-heavy installment then. But I'm hopeful the show will get completely back on its game once the cliffhangers are resolved and the season is off and running.

In any case, Battlestar Galactica is back, and I'm glad to have it.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Lost in the Darko

For a while now, I'd been hearing about the movie Donnie Darko. It was supposed to be incredible. It's ranked relatively high on the top 250 list over at It was loaded with actors I liked in other films. It was supposed to be strange and fascinating.

Now I've seen it, and I have to say I have no idea what all the fuss was about. About 30 minutes into the movie, I felt really untethered and bewildered, and I began to wonder what all those people could have possibly seen in this movie.
Maybe they identified with the title character? A lost and confused misfit, having visions that he may be truly important in ways he never realized? People could maybe respond to that, right? But no... it's not like this Donnie Darko was a particularly likeable character.

I thought it could maybe be the way the film was staged and filmed. There's some truly effective lighting schemes. Things look dark and sinister, and really unsettling in ways that movies trying to horrify don't achieve. There are moments where Donnie looks chillingly evil. But effective visuals alone aren't generally enough to spur the adorations of a cult fan base -- just some nods from movie critics, usually.

Maybe it was this big ending I'd vaguely heard about? But when I got there, I felt sure no, that couldn't be it -- because it made absolutely no sense at all. Up until that point, in fact, I was kind of getting to a place where I thought, "well, if Donnie Darko turns about to be this schizophrenic slowly losing his mind, that might salvage some interest in it for me." Then it turns out to be some sort of predestination time paradox mind screw that left me wondering what the hell I'd just witnessed. And not in a "that was freakin' cool!" 12 Monkeys kind of way.

I was so thrown by the "resolution" of the film that I trolled the web a bit to see just what all those fans seemed to think it all meant. Turns out that the director (in commentaries and writings) had offered up quite a lot on this subject. He wasn't taking the easy "let people see what they want to see in it" way out.

But what he was saying didn't make a lick of sense, either. Suddenly, these bogus terms like Living Receiver, The Artifact, Fourth Dimensional Powers, The Manipulated Dead, and The Tangent Universe are flying at me. Now look, I'm all for having a movie with deeper layers of meanings that aren't necessarily spelled out. But in my view, the movie didn't provide any context for any of this stuff. If it was all supposed to mean this one thing and NOT be open to interpretation, then there was a higher mark that needed to be reached to explain that meaning.

And on that level, the movie was a complete and utter failure.

So, I'm left with awesome visual sensibilities, a few genuinely creepy moments, and laudable performances from several actors (Jake Gyllenhaal most of all) acting their hearts out to try to lend coherence to something arguably less sensible than a Samuel Beckett or Eugéne Ionesco play. It adds up to around a C-, in my book.

And I remain confused as to what all the fuss is about.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April Humor Day

So, I never got "fooled" today, but I did have a lot of laughs. This year, it seemed like lots of places were into humorous little stunts that were more about getting you to smile than actually tricking you. Such as... (and who knows how many of these links will actually work if you're not checking them out on April Fools' Day)...

The forthcoming four-necked Guitar Hero IV controller.

Every link on YouTube's front page Rickrolling you. (A web slang I confess I'd not heard of before today.)

The amazing trailer for a console game from Blizzard, The Molten Core.

Gmail's exciting new feature: Custom Time.

As I said, lots of laughs.