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.