Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Crusin' For Trouble

PT Cruiser's "Danger Will Robinson" light came on today - along with a bout of rough idling and hiccups while accelerating. It's now at the shop - a couple of months after having over $1000 of work done on various things.

Disillusionment factor with car = approaching warp 10

DVD Spending Tab IX

Bought the Ghostbusters/Stripes/Groundhog Day Triple Pack from Deep Discount for $6.98 with free shipping.

Also bought a used copy of Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit for $3.00.

Yearly total: 21 movies, $104.98 spent.

Friday, December 14, 2007

An Early New Year's Resolution

Maybe I need to work on getting this number higher next year:

52%How Addicted to Apple Are You?

Of course, they didn't ask me how many blog posts about Apple ads I've written.

if (you.crying() || you.pouting()) { you.tell("why"); }

"He sees you when you're in sleep mode...."

That line was funny. Man, I'm such a nerd.

Grammar Is Fun

Rusty Hardin, attorney for Roger Clemens, on his client's appearance in the Mitchell Report:

Roger Clemens adamantly, vehemently and whatever other adjectives can be used, denies that he has ever used steroids or whatever the word is for improper substances.

I guess English is kind of optional in law school. "Whatever the word is" for adamantly and vehemently is adverb, genius.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

TV Review: Tin Man - Part Two

Well, we didn't find out a lot more about what was going on than we knew in Part One. And we didn't get to play "spot the reference" anymore - the only new Wizard of Oz reference in this part was the rather ham-handed introduction of Toto, and why it made sense to cast him as an elderly black guy who just happens to morph into a small dog is beyond me.

As for the current story, we didn't really find out anything more substantive about either Glitch, Cain or the Lion (I don't even remember his name here in "The O.Z."). Our "Tin Man" found out his son may or may not be alive, but we still don't know why the mini-series is called Tin Man when he doesn't seem to be the focus of the story.

D.G. doesn't turn out much better. She gradually reveals repressed memories and magical talents whenever it is convenient for the plot to have her do so, but we don't have any bigger picture of what exactly is going on with her. And Zooey Deschanel continues to be the weak link in the acting department (although Toto was no great shakes in this episode either). She did manage to show a little emotion at the end, as she found her way to her old childhood home, but it took almost four hours of screen time to see it.

In fact, we don't really find out much of interest until the very end. The big reveal taking place in the final five minutes of the episode was pretty well-done - finding out what the source of the noise was actually had some mystery for a change, we get some explanation for how the evil sister came to be, and we see that there is an opportunity for redemption in part three. But again - it doesn't seem like we needed four hours to get to that point. This seems to me like some sub-plots could have been jettisoned and the whole thing done in a two-parter.

Part three is sitting on the Tivo - time to find out if the whole thing was worth it, or if it will fumble the slim chance it has away in the final drive.

There's Nothing Sadder Than An Aging Hipster

So, what's the first thing that comes into your mind when you think of a lexicographer?

That's right - cool.

No, not really. But I guess that's what Merriam-Webster has been shooting for recently. Last year, they attempted to jump on the Gen-Y, super-ironic, satirical bandwagon by selecting the Stephen-Colbert-coined "truthiness" as the "Word of the Year". This year, they've switched over to the l33t bandwagon by selecting "w00t" (yep, spelled with zeroes, not letters) as the "Word of the Year".

I know, I know - I can't remember the number of times I've used or heard the word "w00t" used over the past year. Oh wait - yes I can. Zero.

Hopefully, the fact that the "establishment" has now recognized the importance of l33tspeak will reduce its attractiveness - maybe it will die the quick death it deserves.

And get off my lawn!

Winter, Spring, Winter, Spring, Winter

The high temperature in Austin (according to Weather Underground) for December 8th through 13th:


Besides showing the wild temperature swings we've been having recently (no doubt induced by manmade global warming, or perhaps just the exhaust from Al Gore's jets), this is mainly just an excuse to see how the Google Chart API works. Now, I'm only limited to 50,000 hits on this URL per day, so I sure hope I don't get a sudden influx of hits here. (I think I'll be OK.)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Ummm, Go, Speed Racer, Go?

The trailer for the Wachowski Brothers Siblings version of Speed Racer is out.

Looks like the twisted offspring of F-Zero GX and Ang Lee's Hulk. I'm guessing an IMAX version will cause some children to explode in a massive seizure.

Don't think this one will be high on my must-watch list.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Run, Kay, Run!

Kay Bailey Hutchison has apparently failed to move up to more of a leadership position in the reshuffling following Trent Lott's stepping-down. This isn't a surprise - she isn't a strong conservative, and I don't really want her any higher in the pecking order than she is.

Except...for this little nugget down in the article:

For now, her decision stymies the ambitions of fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn to move up a notch, from vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, the No. 5 post.

"I wouldn't say blocked. I'd say deferred," Mr. Cornyn said.


Cornyn is someone who has done nothing but impress me since going to Washington - much more than he ever did in Austin. His work on the Senate Judicial Committee has been exemplary, especially once the Democrats took over. It probably shouldn't surprise me, given the other wackiness and clique-iness (invented a new word have I) firmly in place in Washington, but I didn't realize that Hutchison was blocking Cornyn from a more senior leadership post just because she was the "senior senator".

Man, that rule must have really chapped Hillary's leathery hide - until she found another, more senior post to go after that didn't have Chucky-boy sitting in the way.

So, now I'm an even bigger supporter of Kay's upcoming gubernatorial run. I still don't want her to actually win it (although it is a relatively harmless place for her to sit), but it would get her out of Cornyn's way, and also allow Texas to send a real conservative in her place.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

TV Review: Tin Man - Part One

I had seen a lot of mediocre-to-negative buzz around this Sci-Fi Channel miniseries - maybe with good reason, since Sci-Fi hasn't exactly covered themselves in glory recently, preferring crappy lowball movies and the occasionally wrestling show to anything really sci-fi related. But it's only three episodes long, and since nothing else this fall has really captured my attention, I decided to give it a shot.

So far - not too bad.

Yeah, a lot of the pleasure is just in spotting the references back to the original source material - the Outer Zone or "O.Z." for Oz, the "zipperhead" for the Scarecrow, and so on. There's also new material added to the original story - but so far, it seems to be a fairly standard issue "lost princess - evil sister - missing relic" type fantasy story. I'm expecting to see things expand a bit, if for no other reason that it needs to fill out another four hours of screen time. But the fact that the story is called Tin Man makes me wonder how exactly that character will be fleshed out - he's got a backstory, more than the Scarecrow or Lion so far, but not enough to have the entire show named after him.

Actor-wise, things are pretty good, with Alan Cummings standing out as the Scarecrow-analog Glitch. The weak link in the cast is unfortunately the lead, Zooey Deschanel. She seems to have just one expression - a wide-eyed distant stare - but she matches it with a kind of above-it-all, barely-there acting style. It's not as if she's playing it as a goof, or as a self-aware person who knows she's in the middle of a fairy tale. She's just doesn't seem really involved in anything. And boy, Richard Dreyfus sure has expanded recently - Jaws would need two bites to get him down, now. The design and effects are also mostly OK, although there is some dodgy CGI (especially with the flying monkeys appearing at the end of part one).

Altogether, it's enough to keep me watching into part two. Now that the interest of "spot the reference" has largely ended (although the ruby slippers have yet to make an appearance), it'll be up to the story to keep things going - let's see if they can manage.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Least Wanted Gift

OK - maybe not least wanted, but it's pretty far down the line.

Individual episodes of the CBS Evening News for $18 each.

I don't think this is any particularly notable day, just May 24, 2000. Isreal withdraws from Lebanon is about it. There's several different days available.

If you are out there shopping for me - please don't get me one of these. The very thought that someone would pay extra to watch Dan Rather's reruns is almost too stupid to contemplate.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A Tale Of Two Safaris

I've used a mix of Safari and Firefox for browsing on my Mac for a while now - primarily Safari. My office PC has Firefox and Internet Explorer, with IE used mainly for internal sites that "require" IE (many of which don't have any technical requirement to use IE). Now that Safari 3 has come out, I've upgraded on both my home Mac and my work PC.

And gotten two different stories.

I had previously installed the Safari beta for Windows on my PC. I really preferred the font rendering on Safari compared to other Windows apps - the darker, fuller letters were much better to read, and I was genuinely surprised to see so many PC users blasting the rendering as being "broken". Unfortunately, the browser was just too unstable to use regularly; I was getting a crash at least once an hour, compared to almost never from Firefox and IE. It was just a beta, so I wasn't worried or surprised, but it meant that an uninstall was coming.

Now a new beta release has been made. I'm not sure what functionality increases were made, but the stability was vastly improved, to where I could now use it as my primary browser over Firefox.

The opposite has been true on my Mac. Safari just never crashed before - I never had a problem, while Firefox would occasionally (but still very rarely) crash. Safari 3 does crash on me, however. I was really surprised the first time, since Safari had always been so stable. But it now happens - well, not regularly, but often enough to notice.

It's too bad, because it's a nice browser, but I'm afraid I may have to switch back to Firefox as my primary browser on my Mac. At least until a Safari update is released.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Things To Come

So, Austin mayor Will Gore, err, Wynn had a little run-in with a construction truck operating during rush hour downtown. Apparently, the truck was blocking traffic and inconvenienced hizzonor.

A Question: what exactly does he think will happen when he quintuples the number of people living downtown? As downtown loft construction continues? Does he think those people just magically appear with no kind of support vehicles? What about more garbage trucks? More grocery store deliveries? Deliveries to all of that "street-level retail"? Oh, and not to mention his wonderful new trolley system - that probably won't block up any streets.

Mayor, the net result of your proposals may be a little less congestion on the freeways, but there will be a lot more congestion downtown. Get used to this kind of delay, because there will just be more of it as we continue down your Golden Path.

Monday, November 26, 2007

fUtility Reloaded

Spent the weekend in a cold, rainy Waco, having paid $40 (and another $85 for a motel room) to watch Bailey wander around the ring sniffing things again. It got so bad on Sunday that I gave up and left the ring before trying the last two exercises - it just wasn't going to happen. Not five minutes earlier, Bailey was watching me, heeling quickly, grabbing articles and running back - but when we get in the ring, it all just goes away. It's either something I'm doing or something she's doing, but either way, it isn't happening.

I'm entering Bailey in a show in Hutto in a couple of weeks. If she doesn't show me something positive there, she's retiring.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

That's Too Bad

Overheard on TV during the Texans-Saints game today:

Marquis Colston has literally exploded over the last few weeks.

Wow, that must have been messy.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Movie Review: Head

Well, I guess anyone could make any movie they wanted to back in the 60's.

This is the "protest" movie made by the Monkees shortly after the television show ended, with a writing assist from Jack Nicholson. What were the Monkees protesting? Well, what've ya got? There's one part vague war protest, one part conformity protest (several scenes show the band trying, ultimately unsuccessfully, to break out of a giant metal box they keep getting trapped in), and several parts Monkees image protest. There's a bunch of deconstruction of the "pre-fab four" image of the band going on here, from a scene where Peter Tork knocks out a woman and then asks if the kids will forgive him, to the songs which are a lot more on the psychodelic pop side than their more familiar hits up to that point.

There's also a bit of the structure that Monty Python would perfect in their show (which was still a year or two in the future). The movie is a series of vaguely-connected sketches, most of which would end without any real resolution. Often, the band members would simply wander off the set onto the backlot, eventually landing in some other scenario with no explanation. While the whole thing doesn't make a lot of sense (beyond the general "don't be a conformist" theme), several of the individual sketches are at least interesting to watch.

There seems to be a lot of focus on Micky Dolenz, especially at the start - a lot of manic energy across several different sketches. Peter Tork really doesn't get much to do anywhere - the one sketch where he gets to be the lead has him mimicing some typically-60's Maharishi-type nonsense he heard earlier as the band struggles to understand the box they're trapped in - it says something that Davy promptly calls him on the bullshit and forcibly breaks out of the box and into an extended fight sequence. This sort of "meta-commentary" happens a few times - a surprise rave-up birthday party for Mike Nesmith (another standard 60's theme) is abruptly shut down as Mike complains about how he doesn't like surprises or parties. Mike's laconic, above-it-all vibe works well in a bunch of other skits where he is a supporting character, as well.

I hadn't heard too many of the songs featured here - the opening "Porpoise Song", Mike's "Circle Sky" and the eastern "Can You Dig It" are all good songs, and not at all like the usual Monkees fare. Davy's Broadway-esque song-and-dance number in the middle could have been excised without much loss - but again, the movie helps us out here by having Frank Zappa show up and complain that the song was "pretty white."

Things kind of fall apart at the end, as the movie fast-forwards its way through a bunch of the previously-seen sets, and all of the other characters they've annoyed along the way (and a giant Victor Mature!) chase after them. It gets a little too frantic, even for this film. I'm not sure what Monkees fans would have thought about this at the time, but after almost forty years, it ends up as a pretty interesting little experiment. Three stars.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Movie Review: Silver Hawk

A typically-cheesy Chinese martial-arts/superhero film. Michelle Yeoh stars as the billionairess orphan by day, barely-disguised motorcycle vigilante by, umm, day. All of the requisites surround her - the perky assistant back at the base to guide her around; the friendly cop who has a past with Silver Hawk but can't tell who she is past her, ahem, disguise; the scientist with the amazing invention; and the Dr. Evil clone who kidnaps the scientist for his own nefarious ends. Silver Hawk manages to defeat him through a cunning mix of gadgets, wire-fu and quick edits.

This film is an overlong mess. The action scenes were hard to follow and not very interesting, despite the effort to "Gen-X" them up (fighters on bungee cords, fighters on roller blades, etc.). The big bad guy, Alexander Wolf, is written and acted horribly. The cop doesn't actually seem to do much police work. Everyone in the film overacts (even relative to other Chinese action films, not always known for subtlety).

I kind of though Michelle Yeoh would be past this kind of thing, having elevated to "real" films like Tomorrow Never Dies and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But seeing as how she executive produced this film, I guess this is what she wants. She can have it. One star.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lamb Chops

No, not a Lions For Lambs movie review from me - if I didn't get around to shelling out money for films I was interested in (like Grindhouse), you know I'm not opening the wallet for leftist crap like this. But while I get to enjoy the movie's failure ($7 million in the first weekend, not likely to recoup its $35 million cost), I thought I'd take a look at some other reviews. Metacritic posts reviews from various newspapers and divides them up into green-yellow-red. Here are some quotes from some of the green reviews for Lions For Lambs:

The tiny scale and armchair talkiness mark the movie as a bit of a folly, an act of idealistic hubris in today's commercial marketplace, yet that's its (minor) fascination too. - Entertainment Weekly

All the good intentions in the world and solid performances from three of the biggest and most respected movie stars of our time cannot disguise the fact that Lions for Lambs is resting on a talky, disjointed and not-very-well-thought-out script. - Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Though characters make some strong points, the film feels preachy and falls flat as entertainment. - USA Today

All true, but not new -- and not especially compelling. - Charlotte Observer

There is a long stretch toward the beginning of the film when we're interested, under the delusion that it's going somewhere. When we begin to suspect it's going in circles, our interest flags, and at the end, while rousing music plays, I would have preferred the Peggy Lee version of "Is That All There Is?" - Chicago Sun-Times

And remember - these are the good reviews.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Actors vs. Doers

Remember the Dell Dude? He's apparently now between acting gigs and, understanding that some publicity is better than no publicity, has popped up in the news working as a bartender. Newsworthy? Well, at least he wasn't busted running drugs or (shudder) working in porn.

More interesting is the fate of child actor Charles Korsmo. Who? Well, he played the kid in Dick Tracy, Hook and What About Bob?, where Bill Murray taught him to dive after Richard Dreyfus failed (I'd rather have Murray for a father, anyway). Hook was quite a long time ago, though - what happened since then?

Well, according to IMDb, he stopped acting, and went on to:
  • graduate from M.I.T. with a degree in physics
  • get a law degree from Yale
  • work for a while on the Missile Defense Project, and
  • currently work as a Deputy Domestic Policy Analyst for the House Republicans
Too bad he couldn't be out there making a real difference - like some other actors.

Is Our Children Hugging?

Apparently a middle school in Kyle has decided to ban hugging in the hallways. Not because of innappropriate "public displays of affection" (and not a sight of ABC News in the area). No, the problem is congestion.

Not the nasal type. The logistics type.

Yes, the school officials decided that all of the hugging going on in the hallways was blocking traffic too much, and that students were showing up late for class because they couldn't reach their classrooms in time.

Really. This is the excuse they are giving. Presumably with straight faces.

Well, we already have a solution for this here in Central Texas. If there is a congestion problem on the roads, we simply build a toll road and the problem is magically solved.

(It must be magically solved - there don't seem to be any other plans in place except for the commuter rail line that will carry upwards of a few hundred people a day to downtown.)

So, all they need to do is rope off part of the hallway as a special tolled "hugging-allowed" lane. Pay an extra $1 a day, and you can hug your BFF until your arms fall off. Plus it forms an extra revenue stream for the school. It's a win-win.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

But Don't Forget The Rest Of November

Some usually-rational parts of the blogosphere are overly impressed by the haul Ron Paul managed to rake in yesterday. Apparently, a heavy fundraising push netted over $4 million, well short of their target, but still a large amount.

O.K. - an impressive amount to be sure. But as Hot Air notes, this still is way behind the fundraising efforts of the real candidates.

This is just a variation on the old "don't buy gas on Saturday" boycott. The ever-rabid Ronulans have known about this day for a while (and you know those nutjobs love the symbolic ties to their anarchist wet-dream V For Vendetta). So they've held up any contributions to be counted on that day. Let's see what happens before and after that day. There will be a big drop outside of November 5, and the total amount for the quarter will still be lagging the rest of the crowd.

As will the poll numbers. This guy is on the fringe - he has a few good ideas, but they are buried underneath a huge steaming pile of bullshit and whackjob followers, and the sooner this guy is completely off the radar (instead of just mostly) the better for the country.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

It's Not Easy Being Green Stupid

This may be the stupiest "green" stunt I've ever seen. NBC has apparently dimmed the lights in the studio for its Sunday NFL game between Dallas and Philly. I haven't actually been listening to them - I prefer to listen to the Dallas radio broadcast rather than Madden, Costas and (the horror, the horror) Olbermann. But just seeing these tools sitting in their dark studio - with several large flat-screen monitors, the scrolling sign in the background, the large lit-up "Football Night In America" signs, not to mention all the things we don't see like the teleprompters, and so on, and so on - makes me roll my eyes like few things I've ever seen. Are we supposed to pretend that NBC is somehow "saving the planet" by cutting a few watts out of the huge energy draw they are expending to bring us this football game - hell, even just the studio show.

If they really want to cut some energy and "save the planet", here's a good idea - turn off MSNBC. The twelve people watching will find something else to do.

Listening to: Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble - Boot Hill

via FoxyTunes

Friday, November 2, 2007

Movie Review: Freaks

Gee...who woulda thought circus people would be so dysfunctional?

Oh, right - everyone.

This movie didn't do much for me for the first forty minutes or so - just a so-so set of dysfunctional couples...who happen to be midgets, armless, conjoined, or what-have-you. Even the famous "one of us" dinner scene didn't actually do much for me, certainly not based on its reputation.

But once that first knife shows casually...

Brrrrrrrrr that was quite an ending. I can only imagine how freaked out (so to speak) contemporary viewers must have been at that. Three stars.

Listening to: Soulhat - Brian's Waltz

via FoxyTunes

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I joined EDS straight out of UT back in 1993. I had the good fortune to be recruited and hired by the EDS R&D Lab in Austin, which means that rather than maintaining COBOL systems as the typical EDS'er was doing back then, I got to work on cool things, like using Prolog to do program analysis and transformation, getting an early jump on things like Java, and so on. EDS has changed a bunch over the years, deciding it really didn't want a full-time R&D group, and so we became a kind of shadow group - we'd examine some technology at the behest of a specific account, produce some really nice tools out of it, and occasionally build services or offerings out of them. That's how we got into Y2K business for a while.

The problem with our group has always been: we're too good. Most of our group have doctorates (just a Master's degree, myself). We aren't well-suited to working on project plans and the ever-increasing amount of process that seems to surround everything here. Not to say we can't do it - we can, it's just not our forte. And as any elite group, it becomes more expensive to keep us around. Even moreso because we are trying to stay down here in Austin, while EDS is currently in the midst of consolidating more of its people into a few larger sites.

And so this morning we got word that the latest attempt to relocate our group as a unit into somewhere new in the org chart has likely failed. We're probably going to be moved into a new organization, but not as a team - instead, we'll just be individual resources available to help troubleshoot accounts that need help. So, the effective end of "The Austin Team" - we're now just "The Austin Location".

It's too bad, because I think EDS will be losing out as a result of this; a couple of our team members have decided to take an early retirement offer rather than join the new organization, and those that remain will be lessened by losing the team organizations we've built up over the years. (And of course, this is still in flux - technically, there is still the possibility of just being laid off completely).

I suppose I should probably be amazed that we held our group together as long as we did, given the realities of the technical workplace these days. Still, it's sad to see a group that has been successful for over 15 years go away.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Movie Review: The Black Hole

In my earlier review of Tron, I noticed that the movie was not as good as I had remembered. With this other early Disney sci-fi effort, I found the opposite to be true: it held up better than I expected. Story-wise, things aren't very complicated here: space exploration ship Palomino comes across a long-lost "ghost ship", the Cygnus perched at the edge of a black hole, and the crew goes aboard to investigate. There are plenty of co-incidences: one of the Palomino's crew members had a father serving on the Cygnus; they just happened to arrive on the very night the mad scientist's plan to enter the black hole is ready to begin; and so on. Still, while there might not be a lot of surprises in store (there's really only one mystery point here - the true nature of the robotic crew of the Cygnus), the script mostly keeps things moving right along without too much of the dialog cheesiness of Tron. The exception: Anthony Perkins gets a little too much into his idol worship of the mad scientist Dr. Reinhardt, and his conversion over to his side comes a little too quickly for my taste. Otherwise, though, not too bad.

The design and effects work here is actually more impressive to me than what happened on Tron. Sure, Tron was the more technically-intensive and groundbreaking work, but the costume design there just didn't do it for me. The work in realizing the massive Cygnus - and its destruction as it heads into the abyss - is to me better realized and quite impressive. I even mostly liked the cutesy robot design for VINCENT and BOB (although there was no reason to give BOB the folksy accents of Slim Pickens as a voice). The main downsides for me are mostly centered on Dr. Reinhardt's robotic guards, which carry out the inevitable shootout sequences by marching in lockstep with each other, and then standing around waiting to be shot. As a whole, these action scenes are poorly thought out and executed, and really drag things down during what is supposed to be the exciting, action-y part of the film (which really hasn't had a lot of activity up until then). 

But soon enough, the shootouts are over and we are back to seeing if the Palomino crew can escape the black hole's grip. Well, you can't have a film set at a black hole and not show the trip into it, can you? Nope - and so we get a strange variant on the ending of 2001, where the crew and the mad scientist (and for some reason, their robots) make a trip through literal heaven and hell, with flames and angels and the whole hackneyed two bits. At least Kubrick took a little effort into making his metaphysical journey into a strange mind warp of a type (even if it was just a helicopter shot run through a bunch of filters). While the fiery mountains of The Black Hole's version of hell are nicely realized, they are also a weird combination of lazy and nonsensical. 

Despite the ending, the whole thing does come off better than I had remembered. This movie usually seems to be remembered as an interesting failure, and I don't think it's as bad as all that, and certainly a better result than Tron (for what that's worth). Three stars.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Movie Review: The Defender

A Hong Kong version of The Bodyguard, the horrible Kevin Costner-Whitney Houston movie. Moving it to China and having Jet Li play the bodyguard role doesn't make it any better. There's the spoiled rich girl who is the target of assassins after witnessing a murder, and the pair of inept "comic relief" policemen. There's plenty of false scares, and bouts of frenetic "action" (mostly Li striking dramatic fighting poses - no real extended fight scenes until the very end) amongst what seems like hours of pouting by the girl and smart remarks from her young brother. If only someone could have protected me from this movie. One star.

Friday, October 26, 2007

iTunes Colors X: Purple

The last color in my collection (I think).

Song titles in my collection mentioning the color "purple" = 1

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: "Purple Haze"

Oh Good, Another Proposal

For the love of God, someone stop him before he proposes again:

Austin Mayor Will Wynn today will call for a November 2008 election to build a Central Austin passenger rail system connecting the airport, downtown and the University of Texas, along with the Triangle and Mueller developments in near North Austin.

Because that's what we need - another dysfunctional transit system to go along with CAMPO, Cap Metro, etc.

Unlike the current commuter rail project, which Capital Metro is building with its own, diminishing resources, Wynn will propose creating a task force of several jurisdictions to work out plans for the city and other governmental entities — and possibly developers and private companies — to pay for the project. This could include, Austin City Council Member Brewster McCracken says, selling bonds to be paid back with general city tax revenue as well as profits from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Remember, if you really want to waste money, you're going to need several jurisdictions working together.

Wynn said he would hope to avoid using general obligation debt, which would require a property tax increase.

You mean, besides the tax and fee increase you've already pushed through as part of your "green building" boondoggle?

"I'm going to try to build the case that now folks, we have to begin the next and obvious phase of our desperately needed comprehensive transportation system," Wynn said. "It should be our goal to do it with no new taxes."

You just got through saying you are going to fund it with Airport money and bonds. Where do you think the money used to replace the funds spent on this thing will come from? This is already a tax increase, you moron.

Wynn said he hopes that the task force could conclude its business within six months, allowing the beginning of a rail election campaign by the summer.

Not to mention the money for this - spending my money to convince me to waste more of my money.

Selling bonds would require permission of City of Austin voters (or Travis County voters, if commissioners decided to throw in some borrowed money as well), and Capital Metro under state law cannot build and operate additional lines without voter approval. This could mean simultaneous elections by the two sets of mostly the same voters, McCracken said, one to borrow the money and the other to allow the project.

So we will probably have the best of all possible worlds - we will vote to have the system, but not to pay for it. Oh, who am I kidding - the people of this town have proven time and again they will vote for any new expenditure put before them.

No one knows what this would cost at this point.

Yeah - no shit.

Capital Metro in 2006 proposed spending about $230 million to build a streetcar line from downtown to Mueller; the agency has revised that cost downward to $210.4 million. But what the mayor is discussing would be much more extensive, including a spur to the Triangle and a several mile run out to the airport that would have to include crossings of Interstate 35, Texas 71 and U.S. 183.

McCracken, in fact, has another extension in mind, this one to Zilker Park.

If there's one bozo on the council I hate more than Wynn, it's McCracken and his half-baked city planning schemes. Oh, and little Jennifer Kim, who just decided she didn't mean to upset the panhandlers, and is willing to pay them more of my money to prove it.

Look, here's a simple idea. You want to move people around from downtown to Meuller or the Triange or wherever, here's a brilliant idea - RUN A BUS LINE THERE. What is more likely is that you already do, and PEOPLE AREN'T USING THEM. You think shiny new streetcars will be more trendy than buses, so people will start using them. What will happen is some people will switch from buses to streetcars, but no additional traffic, and then you will be stuck with a streetcar route that cannot be changed.

Look guys, I know you council folks have a severe case of San Francisco envy - you're still steaming over the fact they thought of banning plastic bags before you did. I'm not particularly interested in living in San Francisco, or Seattle, or Portland or whatever other West Coast shithole city you think we should be turning into. You like it so much, fucking move there yourself.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

iTunes Colors IX: Orange

Song titles in my collection mentioning the color "orange" = 2

Miles Davis: "Orange"
Rubert Hine: "Orange Song"

Movie Review: Transporter 2

Well, there's mindless action films, and then there's this. It takes mindless to a new level. There's not much of a plot here - some bad guys try to take out a roomful of drug agents with a virus by infecting a kid, who infects his father, who infects everyone else. There was probably four hundred easier ways to make this happen, but there you are. Once the plot is discovered, none of the "good guys" inform the authorities about it until the infection has been spread, presumably to at least hundreds of people, although that aspect really isn't explored here. And of course, only our unstoppable hero, Jason Statham, can track down the bad guy and get the cure.

So, not much of a plot. Also not much in terms of production. I understand that impossible things are supposed to happen in this universe, but there are two CGI car jump stunts in the first half hour that make the bus jump from Speed seem like documentary footage. Not much joy in the hand-to-hand action either, although I did enjoy one fight late where Statham takes down a dozen men - with a fire hose.

I was all prepared to give this film the requisite two stars, but unfortunately they also threw in a couple of technological goofs that I just couldn't get past. My favorite one: Statham breaks into a security room, finds a picture of one of the bad guys, uploads it to a handy iPod (really?), then uploads it from the iPod to his Audi (really??), then uploads it from the Audi to a random police computer that a friend of his, fresh off the plane from France, happens to have access to (really???), who then uses an unfamiliar search program to locate the identity of the person in the picture in about thirty seconds and get his location back to Statham (really????).

I know, I know: The Rule is "nothing you see a computer doing in a movie is possible." But this one was just too stupid to ignore. It's not really as bad a movie as my other one-star specials this year (like Norbit), but that's what you get for misusing an iPod. One star. 

(Oh and I forgot - the DVD cover has Statham blasting away with two guns John Woo-style. That actually never happens in the whole film. It might have been better if it did.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

iTunes Colors VIII: Yellow

Song titles in my collection mentioning the color "yellow" = 4

Porcupine Tree: "Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape"
The Beatles: "Yellow Submarine"
Elton John: "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"
Chick Corea: "The Yellow Nimbus"

Run, Kay, Run!

The DREAM Amnesty Act bill has apparently been killed off yet again. Of course, like light rail or the airport, they can always bring it up again and again - it only has to pass once. However, voting for cloture (moving to a vote) on the bill was the Texas senatorette, Kay Bailey Hutchinson. (John Cornyn, a far more reliable conservative, voted against.)

I'm not a big fan of Kay - the only significant thing I can remember her pushing was an expansion of Amtrak, of all things. The rumor is, she has her eye on the Texas governorship for some reason. If she's going to continue to be squishy on things like immigration, then I'm all for her running for governor - so I can vote against her with a clear conscious and we can get a real conservative in that senate seat. I frankly don't care if she ends up as governor - it's a fairly meaningless position in Texas except as a path to higher things, and a lightweight like Kay ain't going anywhere higher than that. So I say - run, Kay, run! Go for the governorship! Leave the senate to more responsible parties.

iTunes Colors VII: Silver

Song titles in my collection mentioning the color "silver" = 4

David Gray: "Silver Lining"
Hawkwind: "Silver Machine"
Genesis: "Silver Rainbow"
Chick Corea Elektric Band: "Silver Temple"

Near misses = 2

Mark Knopfler: "Silvertown Blues"
Pink Floyd: "Quicksilver"

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Go, Fred!, Go

Oh, yeah...the Fred! gets a big boost in my eyes for this alone:

Some of our cities in this country, for their own individual reasons and notions, have basically said to their locals, ‘You can’t cooperate with federal authorities. If you run across illegal aliens, you cannot cooperate with [the federal government], you cannot reveal them to federal authorities.’ That’s wrong.
I propose that we cut off some discretionary funding to those cities. [Austin - this means you.] If you’re going to do that, you’re not going to do it with federal money. As far as colleges and universities are concerned, part of the law is that you may not induce people to come in illegally and become part of the university by giving them in-state tuition treatment, unless you give it to everybody else, which of course nobody does. But they continue to do so. There are discretionary funds there that need to be cut off from colleges and universities that insist on violating the law. [I don't know if this includes UT.]

Absolutely fucking yes. I absolutely hate this policy - a city that says to its police officers "don't enforce the law." Council members that put forth this position should be removed from office - taking away their money is the next best thing. (Of course, cities should be getting less federal money anyway - because there should be less taxes going to Washington before going back to the cities in the first place.)

All I know about Fred! so far are his sound bites, most of which were sent around the right blogosphere when they say the right things, like smacking down the round mound of inanity that is Michael Moore. I don't think I would mind Rudy or Mitt too much (but no McCain, please), but Fred! is sounding like a winner to me. They are sound bites, but they are absolutely positively the right sound bites.

Movie Review: Aeon Flux

Sigh. Another day, another dystopian future where strangely dispassionate but perfect soldiers plan the overthrow of a repressive government. Nobody seems to have much emotion here (and not a drop of Librium in sight), even as they talk about possibly destroying the last of the human race. Action scenes here are largely boring - lines of black-clad riot police and Our Heroes spraying automatic weapons around randomly, and the Bad Guys fall down. The main Bad-Guy-Turned-Good-Guy gets shot in the back twice during the last half-hour and still manages to commando his way around without much problem. Hand-to-hand combat scenes are primarily filmed in confuse-o-vision - herky-jerky cameras, too tightly shot, and poorly edited.

The plotting isn't any better. The security employed by the Bad Guys is laughable - you have a cloning operation essential to the continuation of both your government and society, and you put it in an orbiting blimp that can be reached by jumping off of a building, where it can be destroyed by a couple of bombs? Oh, O.K. There are a total of five-million people in one city, they have access to every one of them in the womb, and the government can't put tracker devices or something in each one. I see. The lead character calls off an assassination attempt on the leader because she suddenly has a repressed memory of them being together - and this memory didn't appear during the thousands of other times his image was seen (his face is on murals all over the city)? Yeah, sure.

This is just an attempt at style over substance, and there's not much of either. Two stars.

Monday, October 22, 2007

iTunes Colors VI: Brown

Song titles in my collection mentioning the color "brown" = 4

ZZ Top: "Brown Sugar"
The Rolling Stones: "Brown Sugar"
Van Morrison: "Brown-Eyed Girl"
The Beatles: "Old Brown Shoe"

Near misses = 2

Widespread Panic: "C. Brown"
Amani A.W.-Murray: "Charlie Brown Theme"

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like October

Well, it took until October 22nd this year, but here's fall.

Temperature in the 50's and steady, gusty north wind, moderate rainfall.
And expected to be in the 70's and sunny the rest of the week.

And it's about time. I can finally shut off the A/C!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

iTunes Colors V: White

Song titles in my collection mentioning the color "white" = 6

The Vaughan Brothers: "White Boots"
David Gray: "White Ladder"
Umphrey's McGee: "White Man's Moccasins"
Cream: "White Room"
Billy Idol: "White Wedding"
Ayreon: "Out Of The White Hole"

Friday, October 19, 2007

iTunes Colors IV: Green

Song titles in my collection mentioning the color "green" = 12

Steely Dan: "Green Book"
Steely Dan: "Green Earrings"
Donald Fagen: "Green Flower Street"
Pink Floyd: "Green Is The Colour"
Mike Jones: "Green Mills Blues"
Booker T & The MG's: "Green Onions"
Sugarloaf: "Green-Eyed Lady"
Miles Davis: "Blue In Green"
Metallica: "Last Caress/Green Hell"
Jeff Beck: "Love Is Green"
Chick Corea Akoustic Band: "On Green Dolphin Street"
Al Di Meola: "Opus In Green"

Listening to: Mullmuzzler - Shores Of Avalon

via FoxyTunes

They Finally Did It

It took a while, but I finally saw the moron callers on C-SPAN Washington Journal piss off the host. I don't know all these guys names, but they try so, so hard to keep things going on these shows in the face of the endless stream of stupidity coming at them from their phone lines. This morning's guest was Michael Ledeen, speaking about the possibility of internal revolution in Iran. Just about every caller, on all three lines, talking about "the Zionists" or "the Jews" or "fighting for Isreal". The problem is - they did so without even listening to what Ledeen was saying. He explicitly rejected calls for military action against Iran during that interview. But just about every caller accused Ledeen of trying to stir up support for "another war in support of the Zionists". By the end of the interview, the host was finally fed up enough to start cutting off callers and finally hanging up on them.

The thing is - today wasn't that much different than most other days. I wonder if these hosts might finally start realizing just what it is they're up against here.

And wow - even as I am typing - Ledeen's segment has ended and the morons are still calling up and defending all of the anti-semetism in the previous segment. Sheesh.

Listening to: U2 - The Fly

via FoxyTunes

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Movie Review: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum

I guess I'm not really into musicals that much, so it's a good thing that this one is mostly movie and not so much musical. There's only a few songs, and none are particularly memorable aside from the overture-of-sorts, "Comedy Tonight". This is one of those farces that keep piling on the subplots and complications for its fast-talking lead, and keeps the funny one-liners coming at a quick clip. "Let's see...who do we know that's dead?" "You'll never learn, you'll be a eunuch all your life. " Definite echoes for the later Roman segment of Mel Brooks' History of the World, Part I.

It's too bad the whole thing falls apart by the end. The writers appear to have written themselves into a corner and so came up with one of those wacky chase scenes that pop up frequently in these 60's comedies, this one done on chariots. That couldn't have come directly from the Broadway version (but then, I've never seen it, so I don't know what else was changed). The chase scene never really works; just a series of bad visual gags that end up with everyone captured - where the conflicts are resolved in about two sentences, and then the movie ends. Oh, well - it was very good for the first hour or so.

Plus you get to see Buster Keaton doing stuntwork at age 70, and a brief cameo by the future Doctor #3, Jon Pertwee. So, certainly a fine effort all around - four stars.

iTunes Colors III: Red

Song titles from my collection mentioning the color "red" = 12

King Crimson: "Red"
Miles Davis: "Red"
Rush: "Red Barchetta"
Widespread Panic: "Red Hot Momma"
Rush: "Red Lenses"
Rush: "Red Sector A"
David Gilmour: "Red Sky At Night"
Rush: "Red Tide"
Elvis Costello: "(Angels Want To Wear My) Red Shoes"
Miles Davis: "Electric Red"
King Crimson: "One More Red Nightmare"
Traveling Wilburys: "Under The Red Sky"

El Final De Las Manitas

The saga of Las Manitas is over. I hope.

The Statesman article doesn't say definitively that there won't still be (more) public money thrown at any of the parties involved, and it doesn't say that there weren't payoffs made by the developers to the Perez sisters, but at least we will finally be rid of Las Manitas. I'm not a big fan of all of the construction going on downtown, but anything that gets those racist bitches out of the picture is a good thing in my view.

Now I assume they will still be going through with their relocation - you know, the one that was far too expensive and for which the city just had to give them a $750000 gift, errr, forgivable loan. So they will probably still be around for the politicos and "real Austinites" to patronize. Just as long as they do it with their own money, and not mine.

And it means I can get rid of this badge:

No Manitas

iTunes Colors II: Black

Song titles in my collection mentioning the color "black" = 21

Gentle Giant: "Black Cat"
Steely Dan: "Black Cow"
Led Zeppelin: "Black Dog"
Claude Bolling: "Black Folks"
Steely Dan: "Black Friday"
Soundgarden: "Black Hole Sun"
Mainline: "Black Honey"
Santana: "Black Magic Woman"
Brand X: "Black Moon"
Deep Purple: "Black Night"
Black Sabbath: "Black Sabbath"
Buick MacKane: "Black Shiny Beast"
The Doobie Brothers: "Black Water"
Porcupine Tree: "Blackest Eyes"
AC/DC: "Back In Black"
Dire Straits: "Fade To Black"
Soundgarden: "Fell On Black Days"
Ayreon: "Into The Black Hold"
The Rolling Stones: "Paint It, Black"
Queensryche: "The Lady Wore Black"
Johnny Cash: "The Long Black Veil"

Near misses = 7

The Black Crowes: "Blackberry"
The Beatles: "Blackbird"
Scorpions: "Blackout"
Widespread Panic: "Blackout Blues"
Weather Report: "Blackthorn Rose"
Miles Davis: "Bye Bye Blackbird"
ZZ Top: "Mexican Blackbird"

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

iTunes Colors I: Blue

Song titles in my collection mentioning the color "blue" = 31

The Who: "Behind Blue Eyes"
Bob Schneider: "Big Blue Sea"
Miles Davis: "Blue"
Styx: "Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)"
Umphrey's McGee: "Blue Echo"
Cary Brothers: "Blue Eyes"
Elton John: "Blue Eyes"
Miles Davis: "Blue in Green"
Widespread Panic: "Blue Indian"
The Beatles: "Blue Jay Way"
David Bowie: "Blue Jean"
ZZ Top: "Blue Jean Blues"
David Gilmour: "Blue Light"
Chick Corea Elektric Band II: "Blue Miles"
Fats Domino: "Blue Monday"
Chick Corea: "Blue Monk"
Los Lobos: "Blue Moonlight"
Foreigner: "Blue Morning, Blue Day"
Bela Fleck: "Blue Mountain Hop"
Dave Brubeck Quartet: "Blue Rondo a la Turk"
Elvis Presley: "Blue Suede Shoes"
Carl Perkins: "Blue Suede Shoes"
The Doors: "Blue Sunday"
Jeff Beck: "Blue Wind"
Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels: "Devil With A Blue Dress"
Pink Floyd: "Goodbye Blue Sky"
Traveling Wilburys: "New Blue Moon"
Alan Parsons: "Out Of The Blue"
Widespread Panic: "Peace Frog/Blue Monday"
George Gershwin: "Rhapsody In Blue"
David Gilmour: "The Blue"

Near misses ("the blues" doesn't count as the color "blue") = 35

Fats Domino: "Blueberry Hill"
Steely Dan: "Blues Beach"
Chick Corea: "Blues Connotation"
John Coltrane: "Blues Legacy"
Queensryche: "A Junkie's Blues"
Miles Davis: "All Blues"
Claude Bolling: "Baroque And Blue"
Chick Corea: "Bessie's Blues"
Steely Dan: "Deacon Blues"
Chick Corea & Origin: "Early Afternoon Blues"
Taj Mahal: "Fishing Blues"
Johnny Cash: "Folsom Prison Blues"
The Beatles: "For You Blue"
Mike Jones: "Green Mills Blues"
The Black Crowes: "High Head Blues"
Sting: "Jeremiah Blues (Part 1)"
ZZ Top: "Joe Blues"
Pink Floyd: "Jugband Blues"
Widespread Panic: "Me And The Devil Blues"
Johhny Winter: "Mean Town Blues"
Aerosmith: "Milk Cow Blues"
Pink Floyd: "More Blues"
Joe Henderson: "No More Blues"
The Doors: "Roadhouse Blues"
The Blues Brothers: "Shotgun Blues"
Mark Knopfler: "Silvertown Blues"
Bob Dylan: "Subterranean Homesick Blues"
The Who: "Summertime Blues"
Rush: "Summertime Blues"
Spock's Beard: "The 39th Street Blues (I'm Sick)"
Stevie Ray Vaughan: "These Blues Is Killing Me"
Led Zeppelin: "Travelling Riverside Blues"
Johnny Cash: "Walking The Blues"
The Beatles: "Yer Blues"
The Who: "Young Man Blues"

Listening to: Three Dog Night - An Old Fashioned Love Song

via FoxyTunes

The Most Respected Name In News

I haven't watched either the NBC Nightly News or Saturday Night Live in years, but this did catch my eye...

Here's an interesting bit of news: NBC news anchor Brian Williams will host Saturday Night Live next month. He was asked based on his stint at the anchor desk on Weekend Update last year. ... Going on SNL will allow people to see Williams' funnier side (he shows it off on The Daily Show occasionally), but will it compromise his respect as an anchor man?

Anchor man? Respect?

Oh yeah, a prominent journalist sure wouldn't want to lose any respect:

Journalists nudged out governors with 26 percent rating their ethics as high or very high and 25 scoring them low or very low.

Of course, it's questionable whether a guy reading words off of a teleprompter actually counts as a "journalist" or not, but there you go.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Movie Review: The Pink Panther

Bad. Very bad. Watching this movie makes me forget when Steve Martin used to be funny. I don't know what Jean Reno did to deserve this role - I'm not sure I've seen an actor look so embarrassed to be on screen. Exactly one funny line in the whole movie: just after being invited to Beyonce Knowles' hotel room, Reno warns Martin that it may be a trap.

His response: "Who cares?"

Other than that, avoid with extreme prejudice. One star.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Postman Doesn't Ring Here Anymore

Reading a blog post about Saint Al's newest consolation prize on RedState, I saw a parenthetic note that David Brin was blogging up a left-wing nutroot storm. Now, I'm a fan of Brin's work, so hearing that another artist I enjoy was somewhere off the reservation was not encouraging.

So I clicked over to his blog. The first sentence of the newest entry:

Looking back across earlier portions of this series, we can see these dismal trends continuing in real time. For example, see a detailed look at the effort to transform the US military into a force for radical christianity.

"Radical Christianity". Wow - even worse than I thought.

Well, another artist I can toss on the back shelf, never to be seen again. Too bad.

See, the thing is: it's a buyer's market for content - books, music, movies, web sites. I own more movies than I have time to watch. I have enough music on my iPod to listen to everything once for almost two weeks straight with no sleep before I repeat. And if I ever did get through all of my books, movies and music - there's an ever-increasing amount of it being made.

The net effect is: very little of it could possibly be considered essential. I can snip out any number of creators (such as Brin, or R.E.M. or George Clooney or any number of others) without materially affecting my life at all. There's just so much more to see.

So when someone comes along and drops crap like this, true barking moonbattery, I don't feel too bad about kicking their ass to the curb. I see Brin's name on the spine now, I'm going to see this stupid blog entry (and the dozens of similar entries before it) pop into my mind, and I'm just going to move along to the next book. Does that say something about me? Sure it does - it says I'm a little too plugged into politics, that I can't compartmentalize a radically-stupid political opinion from other parts of the artist's work. Guess what? I'm the one that decided how I spend my time and money, so he's got to pander to me, not the other way around. I don't feel the need to patronize those who think I'm an idiot, a "radical christian", a "nazi" or whatever.

Which makes the decision to spew stuff like "Radical Christianity" all the more puzzling. Why piss off a large group of customers like that? Does he really think that he'll get more people buying his books than he loses? Maybe he doesn't care; if so, then he's on his own little personal crusade, and he should be the last one preaching about "Radical" religionism.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Did That Happen?

Still awake - just got through watching the highlights of the game again.

I still don't fucking believe it.

I Just Don't Believe It

The strangest fucking football game I've ever seen. I'd feel a little bad for Buffalo if those assholes hadn't called that last timeout to ice Nick Folk - he jammed that 53-yarder right down their throat twice. FUCKING EAT IT YOU LOSERS.

Bad TiVo, Bad!

I guess I found the capacity of my TiVo. I just started watching Ed Wood yesterday, and then found this morning that it had been deleted. Yeah, I didn't have it marked "Don't Delete Until I Say", but I might hope that the TiVo would note that I had been accessing that program just yesterday and selected some other unmarked show to delete first. Oh, well.

Morning Constitutional XII

Amy Babich is one of the local bicycle, ummm, somethings. I think "enthusiast" is not nearly strong enough a word - were she mayor (I believe she has run before), she would make downtown Austin a car-free zone. Her periodic letters to the Austin Comicle are usually good for a laugh, even amongst the other free-range idiocy expressed in the letters-to-the-editor section.

Her latest letter (sorry, don't know how to link directly to that letter - just search for Babich) is a typical rant about development not meeting her bizarre worldview. She decries the development of The Domain for not being more accessible to walkers or bikers - from downtown.

The distance from downtown to The Domain, according to Google Maps? About 11 miles.

Hands up? How many people want to walk 11 miles from downtown, enjoy a day of shopping and dining, and then walk back 11 miles?

None? OK - how about biking 11 miles instead?

Still none? I didn't think so. Amy, the reason people don't walk in Austin for transportation purposes is because it is too hot and things are far away. Yes, I can already hear her say - that's the point! If we all lived, worked, shopped and ate downtown, then we'd all be able to walk around in paradise!

But Amy - I don't want to live downtown. I like having a house, with a yard, with neighbors I'm not sharing a wall with. I like that I didn't pay a couple of hundred thousand dollars for an apartment. I like having large supermarkets available, instead of going to a tiny convenience store or the one grocery store (Whole Foods) allowed in the central city. You want to live that way, fine, go right ahead - don't complain about those of us that don't want to live in whatever "Austin Weird" version of Manhattan you are trying to create.

This isn't even the part dumb enough to be worthy of a Morning Constitutional.

No, that part is this sentence. Austin should work to make the city pedestrian-friendly, because:

As a side benefit, the city could evacuate in an emergency.

OK - so let's think about why we might need to evacuate the city. Uhhh, maybe a hurricane is holding together long enough to adversely effect Austin? Maybe there was some kind of terrorist attack (UT is actually a reasonable target for that kind of thing)? You know, either nuclear or biological?

Right - so we're going to evacuate the city. Is your first thought "I better get my bike", "I better put on some comfortable shoes for my long walk", or "I better get in my car?"

If for some reason I really need to evacuate Austin, you better believe I'm not doing it on foot or bike. If so, this city might as well kiss its ass goodbye.

Amy, you really are a single-minded moron. Thanks for making me feel smarter all day long.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Oh Good, More Celebrities Talking!!!

Jesus, it's like they're specifically trying to drive me away...

The last week has seen Comedy [sic] Central announce renewals of the brain-dead Lil' Bush and the god-awful annoyance that is Mind of Mencia. Besides the endless streams of smarm that are The Daily Show and The Colbert Report (and you people with "Stewart/Colbert '08" stickers on your car need to go far away), they've now found yet another venue for members of that writing staff.

A show with celebrities debating current events moderated by Lewis Black.

They'd have a hard time finding a show I'd be less interested in watching then yet another revival of Politically Incorrect with an angrier, trollier version of Bill Maher. Maybe if Rosie O'Donnell was a regular panel member, but that's about it.

Don't know about you, but I never get enough of celebrities expounding upon the issues of the day with their special brand of wisdom. Finally, I'll find out what to think from the folks that really matter.

Sigh. If it weren't for South Park, I'd just as soon take this channel of my TV altogether.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Looking Behind To Look Ahead

I was listening to KLBJ's Football Show podcast yesterday. Jeff and Jeff were discussing the fate of the loser of this weekend's UT-OU game. That team would be 0-2 in conference, two games back of the winner and perhaps three games back in the Big 12 South. They would definitely be out of the national championship chase and probably out of the Big 12 South chase. At that point, they would be struggling to get to the Alamo or Holiday Bowl, at best.

So I took a look at some historical records, just to see when Texas was last in this situation.

In the Big 12 race, UT has sometimes had a loss to OU, and then usually cruise a while until a late loss at Tech or A&M. In 1999, UT lost to Kansas State for their first conference loss, but went on to beat OU and Nebraska before closing out with losses to A&M, Nebraska (in the conference title game) and Arkansas (in the Cotton Bowl).

But when was the last time UT had two early conference losses? That would be 1997, when UT lost to Oklahoma State before barely beating OU, and then starting a four-game conference losing streak en route to a 4-7 finish. That was Mackovic's last year as coach.

I sure hope we are more like 1999 this year than 1997.

By the way, a UT loss would also drop them out of the Top 25. The last time they were not ranked was 2000 - surprisingly dropping out after a win. I'm looking for that string to break this season.

Movie Review: The Devil's Rejects

Having watched and been less-than-impressed with this movie's predecessor, House of 1000 Corpses, I wasn't expecting much from this one when it showed up on my TiVo. I gave it a shot, though, because I had heard it was a better effort.


This one was actually worse. At least Ho1KC had a few surrealistic touches, like the opening ride through Captain Spaulding's funhouse and the chase through Dr. Satan's realm underground. Sure, they didn't make any sense, but they were at least something interesting to look at. It also tried to go for more of an underground vibe in terms of production, with shock cuts, cheapo video effects and so on.

This movie played it mostly straight, getting rid of most of the bizarre stuff and replacing it with more torture porn and more white trash. A subplot was added involving a sheriff out for revenge, in an attempt (I suppose) to keep us rooting for the Driftwoods, the psycho family that are the nominal protagonists here. It didn't work - each new character that was introduced was worse than the last, resulting in a film full of people I didn't want to spend any more time with.

Tiresome, pointless and only a minimal amount of fun. The best parts by far were the opening credits (set to "Midnight Rider") and the closing credits (a nice relaxing swoop over some country roadways set to a cool song called "Seed Of Memory" that I hadn't heard before). Everything else can go away. One star.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Fantasy Football: Week 3 Recap

Finally, a good week - all four teams got victories. My money league team benefited primarily from a career week by Dallas Cowboys WR Patrick Crayton, allowing the Hanging Chads to pull out a 16-point victory. Lee Evans finally made a non-trivial appearance, as well. A lot of teams in that league had very low scoring weeks, with QBs like McNabb, Rivers and Alex Smith all pulling in less than one point each. This only gets me up to 1-3, but at least I'm off the floor.

My Yahoo league team continued its dominance, going to 4-0. The gap has narrowed a bit, although I'm still the highest-scoring team in the league. Jon Kitna had another good week, and Cleveland's Braylon Edwards showed up big.

My NFL league team pulled out a narrow victory to even their record at 2-2, now one game back from the division lead. This is very much an average team - not the most points, not the least points. With Steven Jackson out, this team probably won't get a lot of traction, so hopefully he'll be back soon.

And my ESPN league team pulled out a close five-point win to move to 3-1, also one game back. Carson Palmer and Travis Henry were the big stars here - and Henry may be injured now. So hopefully, he'll be back soon as well to keep things rolling.

Ten Hours To Glory

Well, well, well - look what one of my long-lost WishList entries in my TiVo hunted up for me:

Hallelujah! It's been a while since these were shown over on TLC (they're now on Discovery Home), so there's even a chance I've forgotten the endings to some of them.
The only down side - they appear to be sadly lacking Robert Llewellyn and Cathy Rogers. The first batch is the American version with Tyler Harcott and Karyn Bryant. So - not perfect, but it'll do.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Trouble In Big D - Again

I can remember back to the halcyon days when Al Lipscome and Diane Ragsdale were city-wide jokes, race-baiting citizens of Dallas into fleeing the city. As long as I can remember, the Dallas City Council (and city government as a whole) has been a do-nothing joke, a record continued up to the most recent group, led by mayorette Laura Miller's losing the Dallas Cowboys for the second time.

But now I see they've gone one further and decided to take the plunge into extortion, bribery and embezzlement.

And yes, it's related to another government welfare program.

As bad as the Austin City Council is (and they are bad), I'm extra glad I'm not still living in Dallas and that my family has all moved to better places up north.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Game Review: Texas vs Kansas State

And the run to a five-loss season

A Texas team that looked bad in six of their last seven games finally found an opponent this year that could take advantage. Texas blew an opportunity to jump ahead in the Big 12 standings and the national polls, and now is looking like a team with some big problems. Colt McCoy looked horrible. He threw four interceptions, and could easily have had more. When forced to move around, he was flailing, throwing the ball wildly. Attempts to scramble and run resulted in very little gain. He got hit big just before halftime and got up woozy - he should have been sit down at that point.

The coaching was abysmal. Besides not taking McCoy out, the play calling continues to be horrible on both offense and defense. Third-and-long; short pass for two yards. Fourth-and-long; missed short pass for three yards. KState got a long run off to inside the Texas 10 at one point because Texas was still getting its defense on the field - KState was not running a hurry-up. This Texas team cannot run the ball and cannot throw the ball down the field. This is fault of Mack Brown and Greg Davis - period.

The special teams were horrific. Two returns for touchdowns. Plenty of other long returns. This unit is in big trouble.

The defense was bad, but not as bad as the offense and special teams. They consistently overran and missed tackles, and while they got a little pressure on the KState QB late, they never sacked him. I'm cutting them a little slack because all of the turnovers and big returns placed them in bad situations, but they were not very good.

Bottom line is - this team is going to lose big to Oklahoma (who will be pissed at their own loss today; UT doesn't seem to be capable of getting pissed off enough to improve), they will lose to Nebraska, they will lose at least one of Tech and A&M. The best they can hope for is 8-4. This team is simply an OK team - nothing special this year.

Listening to: Chick Corea & Béla Fleck - Spectacle
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ah, Wonderful

Another car related hassle. The PT Cruiser got me and Bailey to dog training last night, but decided not to get us back. No advanced warning - just a complete power loss. A jump attempt got things going as long as the charger was attached, but once it was removed, the car died. So this morning, I had an early morning trip back to Austin Canine Central to get my car towed to the dealer. Fortunately, I still had the AT&T Roadside Assistance, which actually has turned out to work pretty well so far. I may actually keep it.

So we are looking at four possible outcomes:

  1. A dead battery. Unlikely, since it was recently replaced.
  2. A corroded battery cable. There is some corrosion, but I don't know if it would cause these symptoms.
  3. A bad alternator. The first diagnosis of the guy who gave me the attempted jump.
  4. Something else mysterious in the electrical system.
Hopefully, it is number 1 or 2, which look like the cheapest and easiest to fix.

This car continues its string of bad luck. This is one of the first problems I've had that were the car's fault - I can't blame it for being rear-ended twice, or my ripping the front-end off, or the flat tire. But I never had this many bad-luck events with the old Altima (until it got totaled by the garbage truck).

And by the way - just out of curiosity, I checked on what a taxi ride from my house to my car (about 7 miles) would cost by taxi. The answer is about $20, but the odd thing is: it appears that taxi rates in Austin are calculated to the nearest 1/7th of a mile.

One-seventh? What in the world else do we measure in sevenths - besides days in a week? The fact that they chose such a goofy increment makes me suspect that it somehow screws the rider - they think more in eighths or something, so they think they're getting a better deal. Like having gas be $2.899 per gallon instead of $2.90. Oh, well, I'm not cynical or anything.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

And I Want An iPony

So after a couple of months of modding and a couple of weeks of veiled warnings from Apple, Apple has announced that iPhone unlock mods might cause incompatibility with future firmware updates, and that those incompatibilities might result in non-working iPhones.

And people are somehow getting upset about this.

Wha? Why in the world would people think Apple would support a hacked iPhone? One of the reasons Apple maintains (relatively) high quality in their software is because they rule their hardware with an iron fist. Now that they are in the more "wild west" territory of cell phones (with the hacking community a lot wilder than anything the Macintosh has had to deal with), suddenly people are expecting them to change. I'm not sure why - Apple has a long tradition of trusting its own counsel, for right or wrong.

Look - you people signed a contract. When you decided to unlock your phone, you effectively transfered the support responsibilities from Apple and AT&T to yourselves. Go talk to the mod team you got the unlock from and deal with them now.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Where's The Shine?

It's a little bit off for the new iPod classic.
  • This is my first iPod with the shiny-metal back - and yep, despite my best efforts, it's already got some scratches. Protective case, STAT!
  • I can tell there's a hard disk in the thing, because I can hear it spin when I'm using it without listening to it. You can feel it a little bit, too. I haven't been out jogging yet, but I'll be able to tell then, I suspect.
  • A couple of sync oddities: whenever it is synching, I see a letter "P" in the title bar on the screen. What's up with that? Also, the iPod seems to go right to eject mode once it has finished with the sync, but iTunes still lists the iPod as attached.
  • CoverFlow is still pretty much useless. I suspect I'll take it off of the menu.
  • I've already had a crash. It occurred while playing the iQuiz game - maybe an issue while loading a cover?
  • Even with the update, the menus are still slower than the old mini. Don't know if they are slower than more recent iPods.
But the pros:
  • It seems to work fine with my existing car adapter, speakers and home dock (audio only). The only accessories I'll have to depart with are the remote and iTrip, both of which use the old iPod mini jack. But I don't use either of those regularly anyway.
  • I'm glad I went with the classic video screen, rather than the nano. The screen is certainly big enough for TV shows - don't know if widescreen movies will look as good.
  • Musically, no change. Still sounds fine, although I'll need to do a little playlist rearranging now that I'm carrying around 40GB of music rather than 6GB.
All in all, this is more of an evolutionary step than revolutionary - maybe I was expecting more. Once a video out solution is available, we'll see how this works as a video-to-TV solution.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Happy Birthday To Me (Again)!

Finally picked up my birthday present for myself:

This replaces my trusty silver 6GB iPod mini. I wasn't sure how much I would use it when I got it, but as it turns out I probably use it more than any other piece of technology I own besides the computer I use at the office - I listen to it in my car, at my office, while exercising, and just at home. I've gotten into podcasting, and in fact use it to timeshift TV and radio programs that I may have missed (and usually commercial-free).

I knew I wasn't going to get the new iPod touch, although my first encounter with it an the Apple Store had a very high drool factor. I was most impressed by the web browser aspect of it, but I just couldn't see dropping the extra money for just a small increase in storage and capability, and it didn't seem like the kind of thing I'd want to take jogging for some reason. It's beautiful to be sure, but just not what I'm looking for.

The nano was tempting, but I had decided to start using these things for some video use. I don't know how much will be piped to my TV versus using the built-in screen, but the nano screen was just too small for video use in my opinion. And the small increase in storage (6GB to 8GB) wasn't very tempting either.

So it was the 80GB classic all the way for me. After playing around in the store, I decided to go with the black one over the silver one just because the black border seemed better suited for acting as a boundary around the video screen.

I had decided to wait for the initial shakedown period - which revealed a few glitches in the new iPod:
  1. slow menu response
  2. slow Cover Flow response
  3. incompatible with existing video out solutions
  4. incompatible with existing iPod games
However, items 1 and 2 appear to have been solved with a firmware update, and items 3 and 4 don't apply to me since my previous iPod didn't support video or games (outside of the preloaded ones).

My music library is currently about 30GB, and as I mentioned I don't currently have any videos since my old mini didn't support them. But I'll be getting into them now, essentially using the iPod as my AppleTV. I'm not sure why anyone would buy an actual AppleTV given that they can get most of the same behavior with an iPod classic for about the same money.

Now comes time to drop the old mini plus the accessories I have that don't work with the classic off to CraigsList. I'm hoping to get a little over $100 for it, which seems to be the going rate on eBay - so my $249 iPod dropped in value by 60% in just over two years. Given the amount of use I've gotten from it, I'd say that was money well-spent. Hopefully the same will be true for the new one.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I'm In "Control"

NBC, shortly after booting themselves off of iTunes, lies to my face:

“With the creation of this new service, we are acknowledging that now, more than ever, viewers want to be in control of how, when and where they consume their favorite entertainment,” said Vivi Zigler, the executive vice president of NBC Digital Entertainment. “Not only does this feature give them more control, but it also gives them a higher quality video experience.”

Ah, so that explains why they switched to a new distribution scheme that supports fewer users than iTunes, the one they were on before. The new service does not support my machine of choice, the Macintosh, nor does it support iTunes or the iPod.

It also explains why the downloaded shows have embedded commercials that cannot be skipped, and why the downloaded shows expire after seven days.

Because they want me, the user, to be in control of "how, when and where".

It's probably just as well that the only NBC show I watch with any regularity is Law & Order, and even that has been slipping down my interest list.

Via Slashdot.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Kick Him Again! Kick Him Again!

Dan Rather just doesn't know when to stay down. Does he really want to go through all this again? Not as stupid as having to dive back into the O.J. cess pool, or Donovan F. McNabb deciding to replay the whole Rush Limbaugh debacle (and swipe me and "my ilk" as racists on the side), but it's gotta be up there on the list. Dan, you've got a new job with a new sugar daddy - just count your blessings and shut up, OK?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fantasy Football: Week 2 Recap

"And then depression set in..." - Bill Murray, Stripes

My money league team dropped to 0-2 after another pathetic performance from my WR corps (or corpse, to be more accurate). Lee Evans, my third-round WR1, had another invisible day and is currently the 93rd highest-scoring wide receiver in our league. Patrick Crayton, replacing a still injured Terry Glenn, dislocated his pinky and turned in a measly two points. The lone bright spot has been Andre Johnson, who caught another 2 touchdowns.

And then got injured - he's doubtful for next week.

My running back group - McGahee, Travis Henry and Foster - did OK but nothing spectacular. The Miami defense was shredded by Dallas and turned in a lousy performance. And speaking of Dallas, Marion Barber was starting for my opponent, so his late touchdown run was another big dagger, as was Devin Hester's long punt return for a touchdown (this league counts individual return stats). It all added up to a 29-point loss, and a quick trip to the league's cellar. I'm not quite the worst team in the league, but I'm only ranking 8th out of 12 in scoring, and that's not going to get me anywhere near the playoffs. These WRs better start earning their pay.

Elsewhere, my Yahoo team continued to dominate. We have 215 points through two games; the next highest total is 177. Here's where all of my WRs have been hiding out - Chad Johnson, Plaxico Burress and Braylon Edwards have all been studs, more than making up for the fact that I only have one real running back (Alexander). They're an easy 2-0.

My NFL team pulled out a narrow 115-97 victory to go to 1-1 (10 of the 12 teams are 1-1). Jake Delhomme was the stud here with 3 TD passes. My ESPN team fell to 1-1 with a narrow 113-101 loss. I couldn't overcome big games by Randy Moss and Steve Smith. (Funny, WR success or failure seems to be the big theme so far. That's not good for my money league.)

So I've got a 2-0 team, two 1-1 teams and an 0-2 team. I guess that's balance of some type. Too bad the team I care about is the 0-2 one.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Game Review: Texas vs Central Florida

Ah, another week, another pushover team. Right?


Oh, right. Texas has to have another fourth-quarter comeback against a huge underdog, letting them stick around until a last-minute onside kick. Sound familiar?

Now, Texas didn't look as bad as they did against Arkansas State, and UCF is a better team than Arkansas State. So, the amount of panic here isn't as great as after Week One.

But still, Texas made a bad team look good. Their defense continues to disappoint. While the front-line at least got a little pressure early (some sacks and batted balls), the secondary and linebackers are just non-existant at times. And even the front-line disappeared as the game went on, allowing a 65-yard drive all on the ground in the third quarter to give UCF the lead.

Offensively, Texas still had to rely on the short passes, five to ten yards. For a while, we were able to get some results with that, but eventually, the lack of running game and long passing game shut Texas down in the second half. Bottom line, this is a team that isn't going to scare anyone this year, and the likes of OU and Nebraska are going to destroy us. This is still at very best a nine-win team, and more likely to be a seven- or eight-win team.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Conundrum

From dealmac:

Walgreens printable coupon: Free printer cartridge refill

Today only, get a free printer cartridge refill at your local Walgreens via this printable coupon. With no purchase being necessary, that's the best deal we've seen on a single ink cartridge. You can choose to bring either a black or color cartridge to receive the refill. (Note that you're not getting a new cartridge; rather, a used one is getting refilled.) This coupon does not apply to Canon or Epson refills.

So...if you need a printer refill, how can you print out the coupon? Hmm....

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Morning Constitutional XI

(An ongoing series of observations - where the stupidity around me makes me feel a little bit smarter to start my day.)

Seen at a Costco station this morning - check out the middle picture, showing "how not to pump gas."

Who the heck puts the nozzle into their car upside down? Is this such a problem that Costco needed to print up a bunch of signs instructing customers how to use the pump?

Fantasy Football: Week 1 Recap

The agony of close defeat.

My money league team let me down big time last night. My opponents rode the Ravens D/ST (punt return for a TD and a block) and T.J. Houshmanwhatever (9 catches and a TD) to a come-from-behind victory, 135.18 to 134.70.

That's five rush yards. That's one catch. That's one freaking blocked extra point.


The main letdown for my squad was Lee Evans, with 2 catches for 5 yards. Considering I've already replaced an injured Terry Glenn with Patrick Crayton, I really can't afford to have issues with my main receiver. The Bills need to find their offense in a hurry.

Elsewhere, my Yahoo team dominated, scoring thirty more points than the next closest team in winning 112-59. Kitna, Plaxico and the Vikings all came up big, and I could have scored even more points had I started Eli Manning instead of Kitna.

My ESPN team held on to win 112-91. My Randy Moss concerns were held off for one week in a big way, and Kitna came through also (as mentioned earlier). Enough to overcome a good Tom Brady performance from my opponent.

My NFL autopick team came up a little short, losing 104-91. It was a subpar performance from a stud that let me down here - Steven Jackson's 61 total yards with 2 fumbles. Oh, and going up against Tony Romo didn't help either. 91 points is still the 4th highest, so not time to panic yet.

So, a mediocre 2-2 start, plus 0-1 in my money league. Not off to a great start record wise, but assuming the Bills and Ravens can get their offenses running, I'm not ready to panic yet.

My Suicide League pick of Pittsburgh over Cleveland won, and it's 30 players moving on, 5 players eliminated. My Suicide League Points pick, Seattle over Tampa, was popular, placing me in a large group in 4th place with +14 points.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Game Review: Texas vs. TCU

Getting better, but still not quite all the way there.

Either TCU proved to be a bit overrated, or the UT defense finally showed up. This was a pretty dominating performance, holding TCU to only 43 yards rushing, getting four turnovers and a defensive touchdown. Offensively, things took a while to get going, as UT scored no points themselves in the first half, and had two turnovers that directly contributed to all of TCU's 10 first-half points. McCoy looked pretty bad in the first half, making some bad decisions, missing Limus Sweed twice, and having an interception returned for a TD.

By the second half, Texas found a play that worked, and ran it over and over - that center slant where the receiver slants outside, catches the ball, then spins back into the center. It was like the out pass that Arkansas State used so well against Texas last week - just keep running it until the other guys stop it. TCU never did.

UT also showed a little running ability - whenever they ran up the middle. I hope Greg Davis learned something from that. Jamal Charles had 134 yards rushing (although 39 of those were on a late trash-time TD run as the clock was running out), and continued to look good up the middle. UT still isn't blowing the other guys off the line, but they are getting some results.

So, we're calling off the emergency warnings. The next two games are against UCF (which should be a victory - UT favored by 19.5) and Rice (which just got blown out by Baylor, for God's sake). Hopefully, that will get us in good shape for the Big 12 opponents.