Monday, April 30, 2007

Feeling A Little Draft

I didn’t watch much of the NFL draft, since I was out at the EDS Byron Nelson Tournament most of the day Saturday and was driving to Austin on Sunday. But I did see a couple of interesting points from the first round:

The Happy Surprise Award: Brady Quinn dropping to the 22nd pick (Cleveland)

I don’t really know much about Brady Quinn – except that he is the Notre Dame quarterback. Therefore, I hate him more than anyone else on Earth. Well, no. Not really. But seeing an Irish QB projected at one point to perhaps be the number one drop down into the twenties is the best QB drop story since Chris Simms. And since the Cowboys got Cleveland’s first round pick next year as part of the deal, I even get to root against Quinn and Cleveland with a clear conscious next season.

The Unhappy Surprise Award: Anthony Gonzalez at the 32nd pick (Indianapolis)

Forget about Ted Ginn – this is the man at “An” Ohio State University. He absolutely torched the Longhorns at their game in Austin last year. And now he gets to be the number three receiver on the Colts with Peyton Manning throwing to him. Wow – the rich really get richer here.

The Suck-Up Award: Michael Griffin at the 19th pick (Tennessee)
Our local CBS affiliate pretty much gave up on the hapless Texans midway through last season, and with good reason. They passed up on local hero Vince Young for “Super” Mario, and promptly went out and had another lousy season. So what did KEYE-TV do? They decided to pick up Tennessee Titan games once they dropped Billy Volek for Vince, and went on their impressive season-closing streak. They also had well-regarded Bo Scaife as a backup tight-end. Adding a third Longhorn to the lineup will only help solidify the Titans as Austin’s second-favorite team (behind the Cowboys).

As for the Cowboys, I don’t know anything about this Spencer guy, but if he is a pass-rush stud as advertised, then I’m relatively happy. I always like to see a strong pass-rush. And if Jerry Jones can hit a home run with next year’s two first-round picks, then they’ll be well-set into the future.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Movie Review: Magnificent Butcher

I went into this film not knowing too much about it besides the fact that it was a well-regarded Sammo Hung film. And sure enough, it starred a very young looking Sammo; even though he wasn't too far away from the movies he would make with Jackie Chan, he looked much younger than I was expecting. As the movie started, I was reminded of another movie in terms of tone and design - it took me a while before I came up with Jackie's original Drunken Master as the film I was trying to think of. That movie was filmed the year before, albeit with the same director and crew.

And as soon as I did, the drunken mentor character entered the movie - almost an exact duplicate of the Sam Seed/Su Hua Chi character from Drunken Master (although not apparently the same actor). However, Magnificent Butcher doesn't really turn into a remake - there is no drunken boxing, although there is a drunken rooster - as Sammo's Butcher Wing character doesn't really turn into an unstoppable machine after getting his training, and the training scenes are actually fairly brief in this one - not nearly as much torture for Sammo.

The plot involves a lot of mistaken identity - Wing's long-lost brother and bride show up looking for Wing but instead run into trouble in the form of Ko Tai-Hoi, the prodigal son of a rival school's leader. Ko kidnaps the bride, and then enlists Wing's help against his (as yet unknown) brother. When Wing learns the truth, the brothers team up to rescue the bride, but end up getting involved in a conflict between Ko and his god-sister. Ko kills the sister (in a fairly brutal attempted rape-turned-murder scene for what is otherwise a relatively light-hearted movie), and Wing is framed. Wing must clear himself and fight back for revenge as the body count around Ko continues to grow.

Sammo actually doesn't get very involved in the fighting until late in the film. Not to say there aren't impressive fights - with Woo-ping Yuen directing, you know you'll see some interesting fights, and an early calligraphy-based fight between the two school's leaders is typically inventive. But it isn't until the rest of the school is defeated that Sammo (assisted by his drunken mentor) comes to the front, in three closing fights. The first, against an annoying but dangerous character appropriately named Wildcat, and the last, againt Ko's father, are both terrific. The latter especially shows off Sammo's great acrobatic talent. The middle fight, between Wing and Ko, doesn't really do much, since Ko is more of a sneak than a great fighter.

I don't know that I can really bump this up to four stars - it does still feel like a pale imitation of a Jackie Chan film. I'm giving it three stars in the end, but it is still a solid movie, and fans of this period of Jackie Chan's career will likely enjoy this one as well.

Friday, April 20, 2007

I Guess He's Right

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is taking a lot of flak for his assertion that "the war is lost".

The problem is...he's right.

Not militarily. Not in terms of the Bush administration's policies. Rather, it is lost here at home.

It is lost because of the inability of Bush et al to rally public support for a necessary conflict.

It is lost because of the power lust of the Democratic party, all too willing to sell out the long-term security of the United States to satisfy their Bush Derangement Syndrome desires.

It is lost because of the willingness of the media, here and abroad, to do whatever it takes to demonstrate their waning power in this country - even if it means fabrication, distortion and omission.

And it is lost because of the increased lack of backbone of the American public, who simultaneously complain about how this can't be a real war because they haven't been asked to "sacrifice" - and that the government is looking too hard at their library records.

The number 3000 gets used a lot to refer to the September 11 attacks - but it isn't the right number. The Islamic terrorists did not hijack four planes in an attempt to kill 3000 people. The World Trade Center typically contained upwards of 100,000 people. The Pentagon holds 26,000 people - and the leaders of our national military. The Capitol building holds a few thousand people - and the leaders of our national legislature. That was the target on that day - around 150,000 people and a crippling of our national government.

President Bush, in his 2002 State of the Union speech, told us that the war against Islamic terrorism was a different kind of war, and that it would last many years, decades even. I thought the American people might rise to the occasion. But the murders of September 11 managed to sustain the American drive for almost four years before fading into the usual backbiting.

So we know where the bar is set. To actually fight and win the war on terror, America will have to sustain much higher losses - which pretty much means the loss of a major city. And I'm not talking about a New Orleans-style loss - I mean the complete loss of a large city and its residents. Nuclear, biological, whatever - we've decided that losing dozens or hundreds in "small" skirmishes (like September 11th) is acceptable losses.

The attack will come, since we have decided to wait for it rather than prevent it. I can only hope when it does, it does not strike a city that holds my friends or family. But that's the best I'm hoping for now.

Monday, April 16, 2007

No Way To Run A Railroad

I was at the post office (or actually, post offices) over the weekend to mail my tax payment. Not my tax return - that was done electronically - but my estimated tax payment for 2007. I never get the withholding correct, and so I end up having to write a big check in April and then quarterly checks the rest of the year.

However, I needed a stamp. I almost never keep stamps around the house, since I use them so infrequently. When I need a stamp, I usually buy one from the office, but this was on the weekend, so I actually needed to get one from the post office.

At the first post office I stopped at, there were three stamp machines. One of them was completely out-of-order, another one was 75% sold out, and the third did not sell single 39-cent stamps. I could buy twenty stamps (which would probably be about a five-year supply, except for the inevitable rate increases), but not one.

So I left. This post office was near the store I was at, and there was another one back in the direction of my house.

The second post office also had three stamp machines. Two of them were out-of-order. There was an old lady at the third, feeding in dollar bills and coins that were repeatedly rejected. The machine would reject a quarter, and then later accept the same quarter. The same thing with bills. This lady was trying to get five stamps, but couldn't get more than one dollar successfully fed into the machine. So she decided to settle for two stamps - upon which the machine notified her that it would not return change amounts less than one dollar. So she would be paying 50 cents for each stamp, rather than 39 cents, with the rest "donated" to the post office. After much trying and retrying, I managed to insert enough change to get the total up to $1.56, which was enough to get her three stamps, plus one for me.

Across America, there are probably tens of thousands of vending machines of all types - sodas, chips, sandwiches - hell, even things like cell phones. The owners of these machines generally try to keep them in working order, because a broken machine is a machine that is not generating income. Not so for the post office, which, like many government organizations, does not need to worry about things like profitability, customer satisfaction, and so on - because they have a government-enforced monopoly.

Most people already turn their children over to organizations like this to teach their children, and they'd like nothing better than to put them in charge of all aspects of our health care. Just amazing.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Counting Through My iTunes

One - Fates Warning
Two Bucks In Cash - Agents Of Good Roots
Three Of A Perfect Pair - King Crimson
Four Sticks - Led Zeppelin
Five Hundred Miles High - Chick Corea & Return To Forever
Six Blade Knife - Dire Straits
Seven And Seven Is - Rush
Eight Days A Week - The Beatles
Cloud Nine - George Harrison
Ten Years Gone - Led Zeppelin

Hmmmph - I don't have any songs that start with "nine".
Well, there's "Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five" by Wings, "99" by Toto, "914" by Liquid Tension Syndrome, "99th Floor" by The Moving Sidewalks...but strictly speaking those don't start with "nine".

Turning Around

Well...I guess she wasn't on death's door. She sure had me fooled, though.

She bottomed out on Wednesday morning - basically, no interest in any food, barely wanting to open her eyes, just about able to stagger outside to go pee and get back in to lie down. I was half-expecting to get back home from the office to find a dead Bailey.

But since then, she's slowly getting back. A trip to the internal medicine vet showed no physical issues with her kidneys or with fluid build-up. We kept her off some of her medications, and that seems to be helping her appetite some. It's still not back to normal - that being, all of her food inhaled within five seconds of her bowl hitting the floor. It's taking some chicken-and-rice to encourage her back to her bowl, and while she does eat it all, she still isn't wolfing it down as she would have in the past.

She's also back to watching out the window and barking, and playing with some of her toys. Again, not to the level she was at before - there's still more sleeping going on than there was before, and her active periods are shorter, but at least she's back up and around.

There was a period of a couple of days where she was getting a lot of mucous build-up around her eyes and nose, so maybe this was just some weird allergy reaction. Hopefully the cool front that came through helped clear out whatever it was. At any rate, she's still on the mend, but not on the death-watch list anymore.

Of course, this is just a delay in the inevitable, since those kidneys will still likely get her, and probably within the year. Man, after what happened this past week, I'm not looking forward to that.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Just Like That

Sunday morning, she's running around and playing with her friend, Mac.
Tuesday evening, she doesn't want to get up off of the pillow.

Sunday morning, she runs into the kitchen when she hears the cereal box open.
Tuesday evening, I'm having to hand-feed her dog food to get her to eat.

Sunday morning, she's alert to every sound there is, barking at any intrusion in her neighborhood.
Tuesday evening, she stays back in the bedroom when I come in from jogging.

Just like that, I think Bailey's kidney problems have taken a turn for the disastrous, and I don't know if she's going to make it through the week.


DVD Spending Tab V

Another Circuit City eBay purchase:

Kung Fu Hustle - $6.89

Yearly total: 10 movies - $65.68

TV Review: 24 - 10:00 pm - 11:00 pm

"Damn, Jack."


I guess the writers decided the nuke plotline had gone far enough, so they went all out to wrap things up in one hour. Two fakeouts in the first twenty minutes - and both of them were more about faking out the audience. Especially the President's fake nuclear attack - there was no real reason for him to keep his security advisers in the dark about what he was doing, so that was purely to fake out the audience. Jack's fakeout might have been more suspenseful had they left Doyle alive but wounded. Once it was seen that everyone got hit, then it was clear the whole thing was a fake.

But still, at least we're seeing some action, topped off with Jack's homage to Cape Fear and his one-man death squad. (And was I the only one flashing back to The Simpsons "Cape Feare" episode - "Hey Fayed - want to drive through that cactus patch?") The end assault was a classic, with the terrorists spraying automatic fire around at random, and Jack picking off a bad guy seemingly with every shot. Add in an ending hand-to-hand fight with Fayed, a zippy one-liner ("Say hello to your brother!") - and you end up with an outstanding episode.

And that's before they sprung the Audrey surprise on us - those Chinese sure know how to show up at the right time! Weren't they tipped off last time by Jack's dad - is that how they get Pappa Bauer back into the plot at the end (as has been rumored)? I sure thought they would save this for later, or maybe the movie, but I guess it's a good way to start off the last third of the season.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Miscellaneous TV Reviews

Just a couple of shows that I don't think I'll be tracking separately:

Finally got around to watching "New Earth", the first episode of the second season of the rebooted Doctor Who. David Tennent's first regular episode as the new Doctor (or the "new new Doctor" as he puts it) shows him already in good form - a young infectious version of the Doctor, not wholly unlike Eccelston, but so far without the darker side that would crop up every so often for the Ninth Doctor. Of course, we've only seen him for about two hours of screen time, so far, so we'll have to see how things develop.

Unfortunately, the storyline wasn't too much help. A trip to a futuristic hospital turned into a more-or-less standard, run-away-from-the-zombies story. I didn't much like the whole "they have every disease in the universe" description - wouldn't it make more sense to have individual carriers of each possible disease? I also didn't like Cassandra's possession jumping around from character to character with such ease. It seemed a little too easy somehow, although I guess we've seen it before on the show. And speaking of too easy, Cassandra sure did have a change of heart at the end, deciding to accept her death after all of the work she had done to prolong it. So, on the whole, only a partially-successful episode. And I'm not looking forward to the next one either, which according to the previews promises a visit from Queen Victoria?

Also watched MST3K episode number 202, "The Sidehackers". God, what a horrible movie this was. Joel's song on "Love Pads The Film" didn't do much for me - this film was padded with crap. And there wasn't even much sidehacking! The riffing wasn't anything special this time around either, although Joel's Sidehacking song is definitely worth the praise it gets from long-time MiSTies. This was still fairly early in the show's run, and they hadn't quite hit the stride they would reach in season four.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Just Wait A Minute....

....if you don't like the weather in Texas.

Yesterday, April 6 - 70 degrees, sunny, windy.

Today, April 7 - 35 degrees, cloudy, freezing rain.

I don't think Al Gore had a trip scheduled to Austin today, so I'm at a loss to explain it. Damn that Global Warming, err, Cooling, err, Climate Change!

Friday, April 6, 2007

Movie Review: Supercop 2

A sequel to the earlier Jackie Chan movie, this one takes Michelle Yeoh's character Inspector Jessica Yang as the lead. Here, she is sent to Hong Kong to assist in tracking down a gang that has broken into a security firm's computer, allowing them access to any of the firm's clients. The twist is that the leader of the gang is Yang's boyfriend David, an ex-cop that for some reason decided to dump his girlfriend and go bad. Or at least, somewhat bad - it's not clear if he intended to try to get Yang to join him in Hong Kong at some point, but he also didn't seem to have much of a plan for explaining things. Suffice it to say that a lot of plot points and decisions don't seem to be very well thought out in this movie.

But maybe the plot isn't the point - after all, we don't watch Jackie Chan movies for the plot, do we? Unfortunately, Supercop 2 doesn't consistently bring either the amazing stunt work or the good martial fighting I was looking for either. Much of the standoffs involve bad guys spraying automatic guns around, hoping to hit something. And since many of the standoffs have to take time out for David to avoid being discovered or killing Jessica, there really isn't any of these battles that do much in terms of deep strategy or action.

By the end of the film, David is himself set up by his partner, the standard evil American that occasionally shows up in these films, and so David is now fighting for his life against both his partner and the cops, now led by Yang. (If it seems like this movie would perhaps be better with David's character as the lead rather than Jessica's, you're not alone.) And while there is a final showdown between David and Jessica, it ends up being a disappointment, as they only stand around and point guns at each other.

So if the drama and the action are out, what about the comedy? Well, for the most part, this movie plays it pretty straight - with the notable exception of a bizarre cameo appearance by Jackie Chan as an undercover cop in drag who happens to be at one of the potential crime scenes. He plays out a weird pantomime act with another actor, in identical drag makeup. It's just strange, even for Jackie, and is completely superfluous to the main plot - clearly just there to get a few more butts in the seats.

It's not all bad - there is one impressive sequence where Jessica is taking on a giant American mercenary-type while her partner takes on a pair of other bad guys. But for the most part, Supercop 2 is a disappointment, both on its own merits and in comparison to the original Supercop. Two stars.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

TV Review: The Shield - On The Jones


The Shield sure didn't take any time getting right back into the swing of things. It's amazing how much stuff they managed to fit into an hour (well, an hour and a few minutes overrun). They dropped the bomb on Shane that Lem's murder was for nothing, got Kavanaugh almost kicked out the door twice, had Kavanugh set up Vic for a fall twice, Dutch's mass murder discovery, Claudette already being on the outs with the brass, a near catfight between Vic's ex and his lover, Shane almost offing himself twice,...

It's no wonder Billings wasn't missed at work that day.

Two little things stood out. First, when the Strike Team found the man killed by his roommate, Vic says "If this is what his friend did to him I'd hate to meet his enemy." - and the camera caught Shane in the background giving himself another mental punishment over what he did to his friend.

Second, Aceveda stays true to his nature - he accuses Vic of blaming everyone but himself for what happened to Lem - and then when Vic asks if he is going to throw Lem's reputation under the bus, he says he is just following orders. What a slime.

There's no way Shane makes it through this season. I hope he got Lem's ulcer prescription before tossing the grenade, because it's clear Shane doesn't quite have enough stomach for what he's gotten into this time.

With the large dip in the quality of Lost and the smaller dip for 24, this is now the best show going for me. I hope they can keep it rolling - but given what the writers have done in past seasons, I'm not too worried.

I Forgot My Brain...In San Francisco

As I asked in my last post, why on Earth would anyone live in San Francisco? Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with these people?

Susan Ferrando, her husband, their two children and three preteens had come to San Francisco from Redwood City to celebrate the birthday of Ferrando's 11-year-old daughter. They went to Japantown, where they enjoyed shopping and taking in the blooming cherry blossoms.

Things took a turn for the worse at about 9 p.m., when the family was leaving Japantown -- just as the party of about 3,000 bikers was winding down its monthly red-lights-be-damned ride through the city.

Suddenly, Ferrando said, her car was surrounded by hundreds of cyclists.


A biker in front blocked her as another biker began pounding on the windshield. Another was pounding on her window. Another pounded the other side.

"It seemed like they were using their bikes as weapons,'' Ferrando said. One of the bikers then threw his bike -- shattering the rear window and terrifying the young girls inside.

I'll be heading to San Francisco for JavaOne in a few weeks. I'll be spending most of my time at the Moscone Center and the quickly returning to my hotel. I'll be avoiding the rest of this cesspool.

Again, via Michelle Malkin.

Morning Constitutional IV

Via Michelle Malkin, an article from (where else?) San Francisco about moonbats, err, conscientious patriots who are refusing to pay their income taxes to protest the war. O.K., whatever - most of the people cited in the article are 65 and over who probably pay little anyway, and if these morons feel they're Speaking Truth To Power, then fine. They can have their little protest, they won't actually be negatively affecting our war effort, and when they get caught, their relatives will have the pleasure of dealing with outstanding liens against their estates once they've passed beyond the reach of the earthly authorities.

But the reason this counts as a Morning Constitutional is because it includes the story of this moron:

Some war tax resisters will go to extremes to avoid breaking the law without compromising their convictions. For example, David Gross, 37, of San Francisco took a pay cut so he would fall below the tax line.

"I started with the invasion of Iraq," Gross said. "I was having a real hard time with the money that already went toward missiles and I knew that some of it was mine."

Four years ago, Gross was managing a group of technology writers at a software company, making close to $100,000 a year. He approached his human resources department about taking a pay cut so that his income would fall below the tax line and exempt him from paying federal taxes. His company refused, so he quit.

Today, Gross said, he makes about $28,000 doing contract work. He has moved some of that money into an individual retirement account and a health savings account, bringing his take-home pay to $15,000 and allowing him to avoid taxes.

The adjustment to his lifestyle has been much easier than he thought, Gross said. He now lives in an apartment in San Francisco's Richmond District and cooks at home a lot.

"For me, I don't feel like I've made sacrifices," he said. "The life I live now is more fulfilling than I had before."

OK - first off, this guy ain't living in San Francisco on $15K take-home per year, unless he is sharing his apartment with about 25 others. And he's not cooking at home a lot - he's cooking a lot of Top Ramen at home a lot. And of course, at this level his "fulfilling" life he is living is likely due to generous city, state and federal assistance. Most of this comes off the back of the California middle and upper class, who continue to not only put up with this kind of crap, but actively vote to expand it.

I will never understand it - California is a nice enough place to visit, but why on God's Green Earth would anybody making above minimum wage want to live there? It is just financially stupid compared to almost everywhere else in the country.

So because of the evil BushCheneyHalliburtonExxonRoveMcChimpy War Machine, he decides to go from a $100K / year job (which in San Francisco is barely enough to be middle class - and I'm going to go out on a limb and assume this guy is single) to scratching out a much more meager existence.

Wow - way to Stick It To The Man.

Don't worry, moron - we're working to save the country for the likes of you, too. You're welcome.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

TV Review: 24 - 9:00pm - 10:00pm

And the award for Least-Accurate Prediction Of The Year goes to...

"If you listen to me, we'll both get away from here alive!"

Of course, his brilliant plan was: chop off his arm, run into Jack "Show me your head!" Bauer, turn over his only hope of escape to an angry mob, and then stagger around the beach until he collapsed from blood loss. For a guy who seemed to me keeping everyone off-kilter early in the season, Gradenko sure didn't go out very well.

And who knew the 25th Amendment was so simple? The President and the Vice-President each get to talk for, oh, 30 seconds or so, and then the Cabinet votes? Sheesh - the contestants on American Idol get more time to plead their cases than that. By the way, has the Palmer-Daniels administration's party ever been mentioned? There's just no way Daniels could possibly be a Democrat - the last time a Democrat was this assertive militarily was LBJ - but I sure thought that David Palmer was mentioned as a Democrat. How on Earth did Daniels get on the ticket?

Oh, well - pretty entertaining while you're watching it, but like much of 24, it doesn't stand up to any thought. I'm hoping we're about done with the Daniels plot thread for a while.

Oh, and The Shield finally starts up again tonight. Finally!!!!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Stuff and Things...and Things

  • Another disastrous show for Bailey, as the fUtility tour continues. This time, we were in Navasota. I had forgotten that this show was held in the Grimes County Expo Center, otherwise known as a livestock barn, with a dirt floor saturated with great smells. It was covered, but the sides were open, and a torrential rainstorm that came through Friday night left the barn floor a soupy, muddy mess. The show organizers were scrambling when I arrived to move rings around so they weren't located in the middle of a bog.

    Once again, Bailey's nose got her into trouble. When she found a good area to sniff around, she locked onto it completely, ignoring anything I was doing. The only thing she managed to do was the Moving Stand exercise, because it is the only exercise where I'm no more than ten feet away from her at all times. She can do all of these exercises at the training site and at home, but she is completely lost once we get into a strange environment. I've got to find a way to fix this.

  • While the show itself was a disaster, at least the drive between Austin and Navasota was nice. The wildflowers are out in mass, with some very nice displays around Elgin and Brenham. I found a relatively safe space to pull over a grab a few pictures with Bailey:

  • I managed to come in third place in the office pool this year, which is a nice way of saying I AM A LOSER. I hung in until the Final Four, getting knocked out with Georgetown's loss on Saturday. Amazingly, nobody in our pool picked Florida to win it.