Saturday, November 12, 2005
So today I lost a crown.
A real question: How is it possible a crown could fall out while I was taking my first bite of scrambled eggs?
A rhetorical question: Why is it you always lose a crown on a weekend when the dentist's office is closed?
You know how uncomfortable flying is, even first class? Well, now you can bring that experience to your home with these seats. Used seats. I read about them in Boing Boing, but you can buy them from On-The-Fly... which, in fairness, has some pretty cool stuff.
Seriously, when you have a baby, does an auditory switch shut off in your brain?
I am in a Starbucks now that is crawling with babies. And toddlers. And whatever comes between babies and toddlers.
And they are screaming.
No, make that screeching.
I'm not talking about the healthy gurgling and cooing of adorable children enjoying themselves. I'm talking about the paint-peeling, high-pitched yowling of children with soiled diapers and bad attitudes and God-knows-what-else... and meanwhile the parents are blissfully gobbling biscotti and making no move to calm them down.
I have actually put on headphones without listening to music, that's how bad it's gotten.
Society bends over backwards to avoid intruding on peoples' lungs (anti-smoking laws) and eyes (anti-smut laws) and assorted orifices (anti-rape laws)... Don't my ears deserve a litle protection from what offends them?
Friday, November 11, 2005
As noted in the Washington Post's Security Fix, Stewart Baker, recently appointed DHS assistant secretary for policy, referred to the fracas over Sony's anti-piracy tactics in his opening remarks at an intellectual property theft panel in D.C. on Thursday:
"'I wanted to raise one point of caution as we go forward, because we are also responsible for maintaining the security of the information infrastructure of the United States and making sure peoples' [and] businesses' computers are secure. ... There's been a lot of publicity recently about tactics used in pursuing protection for music and DVD CDs in which questions have been raised about whether the protection measures install hidden files on peoples' computers that even the system administrators can’t find.'
The blonde, alien-infected Mom? So let me get this straight: She divorced the hunkiest, do-goodiest guy in town and married the creepiest, most sinister guy in town... and we now know that he was already creepy and sinister back then?
And are these aliens infecting these people or replacing them? Like is that blonde Mom herself or is she not herself? And if she's been replaced -- like the little girl said in the pilot -- then why doesn't she know what's going on, but other replacees seem to know everything?
Why does only one of her children speak with a Hispanic accent?
Is this not the dirtiest town on TV? I mean, can we get these people some running water and some soap stat?
Who's dumber: the evil Air Force personnel who let a pregnant woman freely wander all over a Top Secret military facility to her heart's content, then let her drive off, then run her off the road, then let her run off and don't follow her at all? Or the evil government assassins on Surface who kill a scientist by hitting him with a car but he doesn't die -- not even close -- and then he goes to the hospital and he has visitors and he talks to them and he gives them clues and they go to the place he stored the stuff he told them about and no one follows them and then they go back to their house and see the assassins there ransacking the place so they run away but no one follows them at all?
And while we're on the subject of Surface, how transparently pander-y was it that Lake Bell was cleavage ahoy for most of the show? And what the hell kind of "scientist" puts the alien plant specimen on the rickety shelf in the fridge with the beer?! Is there a worse cliche than meeting the sinister conspiracy leader as he tends to his greenhouse?! And has any kid in the last forty years even heard the word "Nimrod"??? But I digress.
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The Swedish flag, a yellow cross on a blue background, dates back to the 16th Century.
Sweden is as well-known for its social reforms, including the modern welfare state, as it is for its midnight sun.
Sweden is sometimes said to have the most highly-developed infrastructure in the world, and is a world-leader in information technologies.
Oh, and Victoria Silvstedt is from there.
You can learn more about Sweden by visiting the Official Sweden Gateway, or FHM. Up to you.
At least for the time being. The CD's -- yet another example of DRM run amok -- were supposed to keep you from ripping a CD too many times (!) by installing some software on your PC. (!!)
Except it turns out the software -- no surprise -- was also a nifty delivery system for trojans and other viruses... Oh, and uninstalling the software could render Windows unable to play any CD's at all.
Makes you wonder about the DRM in the upcoming Blu-Ray DVD's that can apparently tamper with the firmware in your DVD player, doesn't it?
Anyway, before you stick your Sony CD in your PC, check this info from the EFF. Among the culprits so far are discs from Trey Anastasio, Natasha Bedingfield, and hacker favorites Neil Diamond and Celine Dion.
Fired Apprentice Markus Garrison dashed off an email to The Defamer defending his reputation against what he perceives as an attempt by the show to use editing tricks to make him a "fall guy" and "easy target."
Okay, so the yo-yo thing was a bit sketchy... but Markus, come on. You slacked off on that Zathura task, admit it. And as far as editing goes, whether you ramble at the time or later, you still ramble. The fact remains I'd gnaw off my own legs to get out of being trapped in an elevator with you, and no editing can manufacture that.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Tonight I was in a store where a very disagreeable woman was bustling around putting up very elaborate Christmas decorations. I apologize for the rawness of these pictures, but they're the best I could do. I was using my camera phone surreptitiously, so as to avoid being busted by this woman. I just had to document for you this: The Ugliest Christmas Decoration Thing I've ever seen.
I wish I could tell you it's the crude photography that makes it an unidentifiable mess, but no... it's actually an unidentifiable mess. It's just a sixteen inch tall, ceiling-hanging, collection of... well... things. All sort of clumped together. Meant to be... Christmasy.
And the most horrifying thing of all is what you can't see: like all the Christmas decorations in the store, it had a price tag on it. They were all for sale!
So I'm blogging from the car (clogging?) while listening to KCRW's The Business, a show about the entertainment industry. It's a rare treat for there to be any serious, in-depth coverage of the industry, so I'm grateful for the show...
I just wish it didn't drip with contempt for the very industry it covers.
The show is constantly peppered with snide remarks and knowing winks about the greed or stupidity of those who work in show business. I know these people. They're mostly good, hard-working people. They're no worse than the people I used to work with in aerospace. Yet I never hear the aerospace industry covered with such disdain.
It gets wearying. A report on the Writers Computer Store in Westwood? The people who go there are losers. The reporters who cover red carpet premieres? Whores participating in a staged sham. (as opposed to the integrity of reporters covering the spontaneous wow-splosion that is a campaign photo op, I suppose)
And the only two filmmakers interviewed in the last month were Adam Goldberg and Craig Lucas, directors of two films (I Love Your Work and The Dying Gaul) which arguably shine a less-than-flattering light on showfolk.
And then, the report I just heard, about a service called Good In A Room that helps writers develop pitching skills. A writer, clearly shy, kindly consented to have his coaching session taped for the show. So what did they do? They followed it up by cruelly spoofing as cheesy the movie pitch he was honing. (And the pitch actually sounded interesting, at least to me)
It could be such a good show. Just get some producers in there who LIKE the subject.
A New Low:
The White House is involved in a dispute with, oh, everyone who was present at an October 31st press briefing. And everyone who watches the tape now.
Asked by David Gregory of NBC if Karl Rove and Irving "Scooter" Libby had conversations about "somebody who Patrick Fitzgerald said was a covert officer of the Central Intelligence Agency," Scott McClellan said, "That's accurate."
At least that's what everyone present says. And that's what the Congressional Quarterly transcript, the Federal News Service transcript and the video tape shows.
But according to the White House transcript, McClellan said, "I don't think that's accurate."
The White House is sticking to its story, proving Costanza's point. Read more about this tale of "Who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?" in Editor & Publisher.
And if you'd like to see for yourself, watch the video here. The question happens about 5:15 in.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
From the first episode of the first season of The Amazing Race, there has been no bigger fan than yours truly. And even the worst episode of Race is better than most TV.
Having said that... Please: NO MORE FAMILY EDITIONS!
From the baffling dislike some of the families have for each other, to the claustrophobic nature of the race itself -- we finally just left the U.S. and now we're back???? -- this has been a bit of a bummer.
Oh, well, after all these seasons of escalating quality, they were due one... what should we call it? "Rebuilding year?" "Course correction?" "Lapse?"
Anyhoo, I can't wait for the race to be amazing again.
So asks Peter Cochrane in his blog at silicon.com:
"Late last night I checked into yet another hotel with a front desk from hell. I stood there mesmerised as the receptionist tapped away at the keyboard between asking me questions about my reservation, home address, company, wake-up call, newspaper etc, and swiping my credit and loyalty card. It was impressive! A total of 148 keystrokes were required before I got a plastic key and a room allocated.
"This morning, in the same hotel, I purchased two coffees, a croissant, a banana and a packet of biscuits for a mere 48 keystrokes. Last week I may have witnessed a world record attempt for the Electronic Point of Sale (Epos) keystroke inefficiency cup. All I wanted was a cup of coffee but it cost 48 keystrokes - for a cash purchase! "
Of course, we all have stories like this. RadioShack used to be the worst, asking you for everything from your phone number to your blood type before they'd let you buy anything. That was before they changed their policy and just stopped selling anything anyone wants to buy. (Have you been in RadioShack lately? It's what I imagine computer stores were like in Moscow in 1980.)
Even my own favorite sanctuary, my home-away-from-home, Starbucks, has an oddly inefficient system: I place my order, which the clerk repeats back to me, then punches into the register, which has a digital readout, which I can see. I give the clerk my Sbux card. Then the clerk shouts the order to the barrista, then the clerk checks the appropriate boxes on the cup and writes my name, then the clerk asks me if I want my balance, which I don't, so the clerk gives me my card back and waits for the receipt no one wants so he/she can throw it away.
A Modest Proposal: Wouldn't it be simpler to place a second digital readout in front of the barrista? One with a memory? So that when the drink orders are keyed in by the clerk, they remain on the screen in front of the barrista?
And instead of printing out receipts, why not have a sticker-printing machine next to the register, that will print out the name of the drink? Then the clerk can slap that on the cup, instead of doing that whole Sharpie-box-checking thing.
Starbucks, if you're reading this, and you adopt these measures, and they revolutionize your business, you know where to reach me so you can fill up my Sbux card for free. A little somethin', y'know, for the effort.
First of all, I've tried every universal remote out there, and none of them are as easy to use -- yet as versatile -- as the Harmony 880 from Logitech. I'm generally leery of remotes you have to program with a computer, but this one was effortless... much moreso than previous Harmony remotes, which were nightmares (at least for me). I have thoroughly enjoyed using this remote, and here's the highest praise: I use it instead of the TiVo remote.
I have also had some tough times with car audio installs. We're not talking about a job for Xzibit here, I'm just talking about wanting to take my iPod on the road. It always ends up being a hassle. And in my Escape Hybrid, it ended up being a very expensive hassle, as installer after installer told me it was impossible to even have an iPod in an Escape (without the dreaded FM modulation, which is just wrong), or actually crippled key auto functions in order to jury-rig a half-assed solution. Then I found Victor Chavez, and he did it fast, right and reasonable. Check out his work: he's a really good guy, and he can do big jobs or small. (His website is siriousabooutthis.tripod.com)
If you're still going out to do your shopping, you're missing out. Here in Southern California, Vons and Albertsons deliver, and do a great job (I personally prefer Vons' meat and produce choices, but YMMV)... and you're not even allowed to tip. As always, if your delivery person does a good job, be sure to let customer service know. An email or phone call costs you nothing but can mean a lot come salary review time.
And finally, I may be tempting fate here, but I have not had a cold in over a year (knock wood!)... not since I bought the VIOlight. It's a toothbrush holder that sanitizes your toothbrush with germicidal UV light. Okay, and it also gives off a really cool purplish glow. Hey, who knows, all I can say is it seems like it makes sense, and I feel powerful each time I blast the little microbes trying to gain a foothold on my toothbrush, and that's gotta be worth something.
Apparently, Lewis Black is going to be on The Weather Channel's Evening Edition tonight, as the first in a new series of celebrity commentators the channel will be featuring. It's a smart move from a channel I never, ever watch... but even Lewis Black can't tempt me away from Lost.
Of course, if TWC were smart, they'd abandon the whole format and just let Triumph the Insult Comic Dog do what he did in Hawaii24 hours a day. Then I'd watch.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Glarkware, the snarky retail sister site of my favorite TV site, TelevisionWithoutPity.com, has a series of Lost-themed postcards you can order now that will ship December 30th. For anyone who loves the show as much as I do (which is entirely too much) these postcards are perfect. There is also an awesome T-shirt depicting Sawyer's Frankenglasses. (though I should hasten to add that none of this merchandise is is licensed, and the site never claims otherwise.) Glarkware has an uncanny way with design... Check them out.
You know T-Bag on Prison Break? He's played by Rob Knepper. I went to college with Rob, who is about as far from that guy as is humanly possible. It would be as if Tony Blair played Larry the Cable Guy.
I haven't seen last night's episode yet, but I still feel confident in asking: what the hell is going on on Surface? No, seriously, what?
I have to admit, I watched Two and a Half Men last night and it was one of the funniest half hours of television I have seen in years. I mean, joke after joke after joke, laugh-out-loud funny.
Nothing, however, is as funny as the one-two punch of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.
That little girl on Commander In Chief? Who's supposed to be ten years old? She talks like she's, maybe, five. It's really creepy. Maybe it'll turn out she has a developmental disability. I mean, I'm just guessing, that's not a spoiler or anything. At least I hope not. Now I feel bad...
And that's just what PDFpen does.
You open up a PDF form, and PDFpen lets you fill in the form by typing right on it. Not a new idea, but a useful one. It's a little pricey at $49, but it's worth it for the convenience. And if you're like me, and you use an online fax site like efax or myfax or send2fax, you can fill in, sign and fax a form without ever printing. Saves time, trouble and trees.
By the way, according to their website, the company that makes PDFpen, Smile On My Mac, has a new product called Browseback that looks intriguing. It stores a thumbnail of every web page you visit, so you can scan back whenever you like and remember that one that got away. It's still in beta, but I will definitely check back when it's done... If it's not a hog, I need something just like that.
I am in Starbucks right now, supposedly working, but I am on the horns of a terrible dilemma. The guy in the chair next to mine left me watching his laptop, which is totally cool... I love the Sbux Code of Tech Honor, and I wish more people observed it.
Anyway, here is my problem. To my right is a hot girl who might be Morgan Webb, the Goddess of Gaming.. It probably isn't... but I can't be sure without really looking... and you know how there's a fine line between "really looking" and "staring"? I just know I'll be totally busted...
So don't look at her, right?
But in front of me to my left are FOUR, count 'em, four policemen.
Now maybe I'm the only one, and kids who are reading this, remember, the policeman is your pal, but...
I live in constant irrational fear that I will run afoul of John Law. Which is totally irrational, because I've never been in trouble with the law. So what am I so afraid of? But if I look at them, they will wonder why I'm looking at them and it will look suspicious...
And I can't just bury my nose in my laptop because that's not how I work. I've got to look up and daydream somewhere... and there's nowhere to look.
And I can't move because I'm watching this guy's laptop.
Now I'm peeking at Morgan... or the faux Morgan.
If she's not Morgan, she's a reasonable facsimile.
I have a feeling this will all end with her asking the police to arrest me for hassling her. So if this is my last post you'll know why.
Anyway, Morgan Webb, if you were in a Burbank Starbucks at 4:20 today and some guy was NOT staring at you, then staring at you, now you know why.
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It seems like years I've been hearing about the development of The Movies, a massive and detailed sim game from Activision and Lionhead that puts you in control of a studio, allowing you to make your own movies.
Well, the game is almost out and Gamespy has a review; like most sims, it's a lot of fun or it's drudgery, depending on how you feel about sims. But apparently there is no shortage of detail and micro-games and ways to immerse yourself in the experience of running a studio, from the '20's to the present.
The Best Friends "Strut Your Mutt L.A." in Van Nuys is this Sunday. It's a walk for homeless pets, and you can read all about it and become a sponsor and/or donor here.
The Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah is an extraordinary place. From their website:
"On any given day, there are about 1,500 dogs, cats and other animals who have come to the sanctuary for special care from shelters and rescue groups all across the country. Once they're here, we make sure nothing bad will ever happen to them again. Many of them are soon ready to go to good new homes with loving families. Others find lifetime care here at the nation's largest sanctuary. For them, Best Friends is a unique home and haven. There's just nothing else like it anywhere."
That's for sure. It's a wonderful charity, and there's so much to read and enjoy at their website about the Sanctuary in beautiful Angel Canyon... you can adopt an animal, sponsor an animal, or even arrange to visit and vacation there yourself! Read the stories -- all with happy endings -- and please open your checkbook.
According to today's New York Post, Sunday's live West Wing debate episode "gave a boost" to Alan Alda's Republican candidate, according to Zogby International polls taken before and after the show:
"Last week, in the days leading up to the debate, Santos (Jimmy Smits) led Vinick (Alan Alda) by a margin of 59 percent to 29 percent. After the debate, in which Vinick apparently impressed many viewers, Zogby found that the gap had narrowed, although Vinick still trails Santos significantly — 54 percent for Santos, 38 percent for Vinick."
I think it's been an astonishing and resurgent year for The West Wing, and my only regret is that one of these guys eventually has to lose. I had been concerned that Vinick was unrealistically moral and decent to be a believable Republican candidate, but the writers cleverly surrounded him with true believers who manage to represent their point of view without being mustache-twirlers.
Still, anyone who thought Alda was being set up by a "liberal show" to take a fall Sunday night had to be impressed with the evenhanded way the episode presented the two candidates. Not to mention the fact that this "phony" debate featured a more nuanced and enlightening discussion of health care and prescription drug policy than I've seen on the 24-hour news channels!
If only our real debates were as spirited and intelligent, and our actual candidates were as intellectually honest, think how great our democracy could be.
(All that having been said, of course I'm voting for Santos)
Monday, November 07, 2005
So says the blog buzzmachine, in what seems to be an attack out of nowhere... but since the author lives in New York City, he probably knows best. After all, people in L.A. are vain and untalented, whereas New Yorkers are justly celebrated and would never allow anyone to alter their appearance.
So I thought I might pay tribute to some of the talented, creative and naturally beautiful folks who live in New York City:
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