Thursday, January 31, 2008

Now Where's That Parachute?

Well, following the break-up of the Austin Lab group at EDS, I've now decided to take the next step. I've actually given notice and accepted a job offer at a new company.


This is the first "real" job I've had - I started the week after graduating from UT, and while we've been shunted around to different spots in the org chart and we've moved offices once, I've pretty much been hanging with the same group and in the same cube for almost 15 years. I managed to hold on here through a few economic and tech industry downturns, and I've seen this group grow and shrink pretty dramatically. I'm generally pretty conservative (I'm talking in terms of risk-and-reward here, not politically), so the thought of jumping ship here and going to a much smaller private company is a combination of exciting and scary. But I had come to the conclusion that the new role I was being placed in was not really what I wanted to be doing. I likely would have been checking around for other opportunities at some point (and some friends of mine that are a little more tuned into the Austin job market than I are claiming that that market is doing OK right now, regardless of the overall economic condition).

I'm pretty sure the work at my new company is going to be more suitable for me than what they had lined up for me at EDS, which was more of a development process consulting task than actual technical work. And of course, being at a small company means I will simultaneously have more of an impact on the success of the company and more visibility (for good or bad). EDS has good and bad points, but one thing that's true in a company this big - it's pretty easy to hide. And finally, several others in my group are also making the move - that's the primary reason I'm accepting this offer, as opposed to looking for other outside offers.

EDS certainly can be frustrating (the Dick Brown era comes to mind, as do my underwater stock options), but I'm generally looking back on my time at EDS favorably. Our various string of managers didn't always know what to do with us, but I think for the most part they were doing what they thought was right and trying to do good by us - I didn't often feel like someone was out to screw us.

So I'm sure I'm in for an interesting few months ahead while we dive into a new codebase and try to hit the ground running. That whole "visibility" thing, you know.

Monday, January 28, 2008

As Stupid As A Gramatica

Yeah, I've laughed at athletes that injure themselves in stupid ways. I vaguely remember a local Dallas pro hitting the injured list due to some butter knife injury (although I can't find a pointer to it just now). This article from Cracked lists a bunch, including my favorite, kicker Bill Gramatica knocking himself out for the season after jumping around like an idiot while celebrating an otherwise meaningless field goal.

But I now have to raise the bar a bit for ridicule after I sliced my finger open - on a jar of salsa.

You see, it had some of that dried salsa on the edge of the lid, and when I grabbed it, my finger caught on a chunk of pepper or something, and...

Well, I guess you had to be there.

But I'm still going to laugh at Gramatica.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

O Brave New World

I don't get Second Life.

Yeah, I get online communities, and I get things like buying and selling things that aren't "real". But I don't get the whole completely-immersive thing - having virtual TV shows, running virtual real-estate offices and banks, building virtual houses.... Things that make the World of Warcraft guys seem like they have a firm grip on reality.

Apparently, there is currently a big banking meltdown on Second Life. People have been opening up virtual banks, promising extravagant interest rates to get people (err, avatars) in the door. These banks store fake money (called Linden dollars), which are somehow backed by real money. And what do these banks do with the fake money they are holding? Well, the same thing real banks do, except fake - buy fake real estate (backed up by fake scarcity, no doubt), do fake investing, spend it on fake gambling, whatever. And then somehow, the fake depositors are supposed to get their money back with the extravagant interest.

And so people are surprised when the real money somehow disappears.

Unfortunately, the vision I have of Second Life is that it mostly consists of a bunch of freaks. This is mostly based on the fact that every story I see about it includes people like this:

"Everyone thinks that because you're losing play money, it excuses everything, but it's convertible to real money," says a Second Life player whose avatar is named UpMe Beam. On Sunday night, the female character was wandering topless through the virtual lobby of a Second Life bank called BCX Bank, where a sign said it was "not currently accepting deposits or paying interest."

In real life, UpMe Beam is a man who says that he is a certified public accountant who has audited banks. He wouldn't disclose his name, but says he has been unable to withdraw $5 he deposited in November to see how a Second Life bank works.

Oh, I see - he's doing some kind of experimental study to see how he might be able to participate in an exciting new market for his profession.

As a virtual topless woman.

Forget Second Life - I think this guy needs to work on his first life for a while.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pay Or Play

I'm at least a lukewarm supporter of the FairTax - at least, it sounds like the best, most fleshed out alternative to the disaster we call our current federal tax system. And it's stories like this that convince me more each day:

The Sierra Club -- a group dedicated to environmentalism and preservation -- has proposed that a tax be levied against kids who choose video games or computers rather than venturing out-of-doors. The tax, also being referred to as "No Child Left Inside," would ostensibly encourage kids to get up off of their fat, lazy back-ends and hit the trails, mountains, and waterways of our nation's parks and other natural treasures... by further taxing video games and TVs.

This is one of the big reasons our tax system is the enormous disaster that it is. A tax system should be used to fund government operations (a separate discussion is what those operations should be, but that's not the topic here). It should not be used for social engineering. (And by the way, neither should the military, or the courts, or any number of other things.) This happens on both the left and the right, by the way, so this isn't my usual right-wing polemic. Republicans just recently instituted a strip-club tax in Texas, and I'm as much against that kind of tinkering with taxes as I am against lunacy like this video-game tax.

So let's take that power out of the hands of government. Apart from all of the other good reasons to go with something like the FairTax (increased productivity, better business environment, more transparency, less opportunity for fraud and hidden income), this to me is one of the top reasons.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Random Acts of Stupidity

1. After posting about the annoyance tendency of Keith R. A. DeCandido to use the word chuckle far and above the call of duty, I decided to see what his home page looked like. What I learned about Mr. DeCandido - (1) he seems to concentrate on TV franchise-related books; I saw books for Star Trek, Buffy, CSI, etc. (2) he has almost no sense of web page aesthetics (and that's coming from a techie that's just as happy with black text on a white background as anything) and (3) he's a moonbat.

At the bottom of his page, he has something called "The FreedomClock". It is a countdown applet, with (as of this writing) about 360-something days on it. Hmmm, what happens in about a year? Oh yes, the next president will be sworn it. So to Mr. DeCandido, Bush leaving office is the start of "freedom".

How enlightened.

It's probably just as well that I had decided to kick him to the curb over his chuckle-happy ways, but now I can throw this guy on the heap with the other idiots.

2. I saw perhaps the stupidest bumper sticker yet (and given that I live here in the People's Republic of Austin, where liberals love to dispense their special brand of "knowledge" in 10" x 3" increments, that's saying something indeed). Can't find an image of it on-line but it read "The Dixie Chicks For President".

Wow. The amazing level of moonbattery required to think that counts as some form of reality-based political commentary is stunning. I was so shocked I forgot to see if it was on a Volvo or not.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Happy Birthday... Bailey. The Fierce Corgi is eight years old today. Pretty remarkable, given that she was diagnosed with kidney problems a year-and-a-half ago, and given a prognosis of six to twelve months. But thanks to her vet Drs. Schroeder and Anderson at Milwood Vet Clinic, we've managed to find a combination of medicines that have kept her various internal numbers stable, if still not in the "normal" range.

Her day-to-day is pretty much normal for a Corgi of her age - still real active, alert and vocal - but she is showing some signs of aging. For one thing, she's going gray - noticeably gray - on her head and a bit on her back. But she's also slowing down a little bit - her play sessions last a little less time, and her training sessions are a little less active by the end.

Her birthday present was a squeaky toy, which she managed to destroy in about thirty minutes. It would have been less, but there was a rope portion of the toy that had to be unraveled first, and that took up some valuable time. She goes through squeaker toys like a hot Corgi through butter, so it's a rare treat for her. I hope she enjoyed it, although I know it's already out of her mind - with the toy remnants in the trash, she's already back to her trusty Nylabone.

I don't know if she'll be around for her ninth birthday or not, but I sure hope in a year, she and I will be celebrating it - and it would be nice if she had a Utility degree, too.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

When The Cowboys Hand You Lemons...

So now that the Cowboys have gone to work on their golf game, and now that I've been booted from my playoff survivor pool (thanks, Bolts over Colts), I now find myself without any specific motivation for the remaining two weeks of NFL playoffs. I could just sit back and enjoy the games, except that this week's games don't look too competitive on paper (although I thought the same about last week's games).

So what can I use to help me root for either of the teams likely to be in the Super Bowl?

Well, if the Patriots win, they will have gone undefeated, 19-0. That means we won't have to hear anymore from those ass-clowns, the surviving '72 Dolphins. Every year, we get several stories about their popping the cork on the champagne once the final undefeated team loses. That's pretty low-class, and I'm tired of seeing these guys.

And speaking of tired, I'm also pretty tired of the Brett Farve deification. Yes, he's a great quarterback. Yes, he's obviously Hall-of-Fame. Yes, he's generally considered a "good guy". But enough is enough with announcers, columnists and commentators slurping this guy. Tony Kornheiser is perhaps the worst - I can hardly stand to watch a Green Bay game because of this very thing. So, if Green Bay somehow beats the Patriots, maybe Farve will go the John Elway route and retire on top. Then I can stop hearing about him for a while.

Of course, if the Giants or Chargers end up winning, I guess I won't have anything to hold onto. Fortunately, neither of those scenarios look very likely.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Top 10 Purely Locational Songs

In my iTunes library, that is.
  1. The Beatles: "Here, There & Everywhere"
  2. Men At Work: "Down Under"
  3. Widespread Panic: "Down"
  4. Rush: "Beneath, Between & Behind"
  5. Chick Corea Elektric Band: "Inside Out"
  6. Ratt: "Round And Round"
  7. Traveling Wilburys: "Inside Out"
  8. Chick Corea: "Straight Up And Down"
  9. The Yardbirds: "Over, Under, Sideways, Down"
  10. Jimmie Vaughan: "Out There"

Monday, January 14, 2008

In The Future, No One Will Laugh

Dear Keith R. A. DeCandido,

I was reading a Star Trek novel a few months back. I didn't remember the title or author, but there are a couple of things I did remember about it. First, the concept was "The West Wing meets Star Trek." Rather than focus on Picard and crew out in space, the novel primarily followed the political side of the Star Trek universe - the President of the Federation, the head of Starfleet, and so on, as they dealt with some political/diplomatic crisis the details of which elude me. It isn't a bad premise, although the fact that not many of the details stuck with me makes me think not much was done with it.

The second thing I remember about the novel is the chuckling.

I don't normally notice things like this while I'm reading, but in this book the word chuckled kept reappearing. A lot. A whole lot. Someone would say something, and another person would respond - with a chuckle. It's a kind of strange word. Chuckle. Say it a few times. Chuckle.


At any rate, everyone in this book chuckled. Repeatedly. It got to where I would see the word ahead on the page and dread the time when I would reach it. It was following me around.


I finally gave up when two characters chuckled at each other on the same page. I just couldn't take it anymore.

Fast forward to this past week. I picked up another Star Trek book from the library - Q & A by Keith R. A. DeCandido. And as I began to read, here it came again. Over and over.


So I did a quick Google search to see if I could find the name and author of that previous book. And I found it.

Articles of the Federation by.....Keith R. A. DeCandido.

A search for "chuckle and DeCandido" also reveals this excerpt:
"Doesn't it?" Zeus asked with a chuckle.

"If we let Ogun get away with this, it'll be a signal that we're vulnerable! This could be the beginning of a strike against us."

Again Zeus chuckled. "Must everything be a game of tactics with you, Ares?" Before Ares could reply, Zeus said, "It doesn't matter. No Olympian shall have contact with outside gods. My word is final. If you do interfere, Ares, you will be punished."
That's twice in three paragraphs. Google searches pick up at least ten other excerpts with DeCandido's characters chuckling.

I swear, I don't normally get focused on things like this, but Keith - for the love of God - please pick up a thesaurus or something. Find some other word.

Don't let your characters chuckle any more.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Damn That Jessica Simpson!

Just kidding, but goddamn it!

So, college basketball, anyone?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Movie Review: The Eye

This is the original 2002 Chinese film, not the (inevitable) 2008 remake. I had seen this movie touted a lot by J-Horror fans as right up there with the likes of Ringu, Ju-On and other Asian horror films that had crossed over to America with some success. In my view, this was merely an O.K. movie, one that squandered a pretty good set-up.

A young girl, blind since age 2, undergoes a transplant operation to restore her sight. While learning how to see again, she begins seeing strange visions of people and other shadowy forms (although she doesn't recognize her visions as unusual at first, since she doesn't know what "normal sight" is). She also begins hearing from these visions; it isn't ever explained how receiving magical corneas result in magical hearing, though.

At any rate, after a few good scares, the story eventually devolves into the "help a restless spirit achieve peace" cliche. This sort of thing can be effective. In Ringu and The Ring, there was a notion of an active investigation, some threat to the protagonist to drive tension, and a countdown clock. In The Eye, there are some effective scares early on, but we never see if there is some threat to the heroine, Mun, or if she is simply able to see things others aren't (a la The Sixth Sense or The Frighteners). Indeed, at one point she comes to the decision that maybe this is something she can live with.

There really isn't any investigation here, either - Mun and her psychologist browbeat a couple of doctors into revealing the backstory of the donor that is causing Mun's visions, but the journey is essentially a straight line with no shocks. Worse, almost immediately after getting the donor's doctor to tell the backstory, the movie then proceeds to show us the same backstory in the form of a flashback. As a result, there was almost no tension in the second retelling.

So, The Eye doesn't really end up with either the scares, the mystery or the atmosphere of other ghost stories. As I said, it's an O.K. movie, but one comes away thinking more could have been done. I'm just not expecting Jessica Alba to be the one to do it. Three stars.

(As last year, I'm tracking all the movies I see this year on the DVDTalk forums.)

Friday, January 11, 2008

I Exist

Amazing - I actually found a link leading into this blog. Somehow, an editor of the Mahalo "human-powered" search engine decided to post a link to my review of Cape Fear on their Cape Fear page.

Unfortunately, they labelled it as "Cape Fear (1991) post", when it's actually a review of the 1962 original. I haven't figured out how to correct this yet. Mahalo seems to be built on a wiki engine (looks very similar to MediaWiki, but I haven't dug around enough to tell). There are a couple of different editors listed, and I don't know what "human-powered" means in this context. It isn't a completely public wiki like Wikipedia; there's some level of editorial control.

Well, maybe someday I'll see if I can get the link name corrected. And maybe - just maybe - someday someone will actually follow that link.....

"Leave Tony Alone!"

I am now officially tired of the whole Tony Romo - Jessica Simpson - Jessica's Dad trip to Mexico story. I know, I know - the east coast press (and The Worldwide Leader In Sports) are pimping the Giants because that's what they do - pimp east coast teams. Wow - they played the Patriots close for about three quarters - sign them up for the Super Bowl!

Guys, you want to try to make some mountain out of a team-approved off-week trip to Mexico, go right ahead. I happen to think Tony can probably do better (and smarter), but that's neither here nor there with respect to Sunday's game. If you writers and commentators want to hitch your wagon to the steaming pile of meh that is Eli Manning, then take him - he's yours.

As for me - Dallas wins by double-digits.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Movie Review: Casino Royale

Not the recent "straight" version, this is the 1967 spoof version starring David Niven, Woody Allen, Ursula Andress, at least five other actors and two seals, all as "James Bond". I wish I was kidding about that.

Back in my review of Head, I said:

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

This was apparently what I meant. Why anybody thought this mess of a film, with five directors, at least that many plotlines, and a denouement straight out of Benny Hill would actually work is beyond me. I guess Orson Welles really did do anything for money.

I'm only one week into 2008, and I sincerely hope I've already seen the worst film I will see this year. One star, and that's just because it's as low as I go.

Reduced and Removed

The Austin Comicle published a review for Brian De Palma's epic bomb Redacted this past week. Apparently, this was its opening weekend in Austin. As expected, the Comicle gave it as positive a review as possible, given what it was - a poorly-written, poorly-produced piece of agitprop for the Blame America First crowd. Three out of five stars. 

I checked to see where it was playing and saw something I hadn't seen before. Redacted was playing at one theater - and only six showings over three days. That's it. I guess even the Alamo Drafthouse has a limit on how much money it was willing to lose in showing this film, even in the People's Republic of Austin, by not giving it anything near a full run.

So now I thought I would check back at Box Office Mojo to see how much money it took in. I don't know how they determine gross receipts, but Redacted was not listed at all for the weekend of January 4. By comparison, the last movie listed for that weekend was something called King Corn, which played at one theater and took in $75.

So either Redacted wasn't tracked for the weekend, or it took in less than $75 (which at $8.25 per ticket means less than nine viewers for the entire weekend). It's possible it wasn't tracked, but other older films (such as the similarly-themed In The Valley Of Elah, 2 screens, $158 gross) were.

So it would appear that, even in Austin, shit like Redacted can't draw flies.

Monday, January 7, 2008

It Just Isn't Worth It

Last night, I started off with the Republican debate - made it about 10 minutes.

Switched over to the new American Gladiators - made it about 15 minutes.

Pulled up Casino Royale from my Tivo (this is the spoof version from the 60's, not the more recent "official" version) - I'm only 30 minutes into it, and I'll slog my way through it eventually, but it is horrible.

Some nights, it's better just to switch off the TV.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Movin' On

Following on the heels of revelations about David Brin, I see that another artist I usually enjoy has decided to jump on the "speaking truth to power" bandwagon. This time around, it's none other than Long Island's favorite tree surgeon, Billy Joel, who decided to come out of retirement to pen a new "pro-soldier" song entitled "Christmas in Fallujah."

How do I know it's "pro-soldier" and not "anti-war?" Because he said so.

Certainly not because the lyrics for the song call soldiers serving in Iraq "crusaders" and "armies of the empire" fighting for "a sea of oil in the sand." No, that couldn't be it at all.

(At least he did a little better than Roger Waters. Yeesh.)

And certainly not because the left and the paleo-cons seem to be celebrating another artist coming out on the anti-war side.

It is a bit ironic (doncha think) that Joel chose to set his "typical soldier" in Fallujah, which in his mind is probably representative of the failure of "the empire." As it turns out, the early losses there were largely a media-driven failure, and Fallujah now is pretty much (but not completely) on the way to stability. Probably moreso than, say, Paris.

I will give Joel partial credit; he claims he is donating proceeds from the single to Homes For Our Troops. So at least some good will come of things.

But otherwise...maybe he should have just stayed retired. Enjoy fighting that 2004 fight, Billy, cause I don't think I'll be following much of your future work.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

WTF, Team!

An AT&T radio spot airing now features a high-school cheerleading squad chanting "WTG Team! WTG Team!" Their coach stops them, and they explain that they are saying "Way to go, team!" using IM slang. Why? "To save our voices."

Hmmm...."Way to go, team" has four syllables, "WTG, Team" has six syllables. 

Yeah - that should save their voices. Six less than four - must be cheerleaders at a public school.

(Hey - I just noticed that the Blogger post editor for Safari now has all of the same formatting widgets as the Firefox version!)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Actual Responsible Growth

Being out of town for most of the last two weeks, I hadn't seen that the circle-jerking morons at Responsible Growth For Northcross (sic) lost their latest legal argument attempting to stop a property owner from developing their property within the legal and zoning constraints in place at the time they published their development plan.

Well, at least they tried to act like adults and sought relief in court. Probably better than trying to levitate the mall with their minds.

But now that they've lost, they will no doubt be back to the usual lefty tactics of human chains, shouting crowds at City Hall and (if we're lucky) large papier-mache heads. In the meantime, construction can now actually get started. Hallelujah - this is the best way to get people back to the black hole that is currently Northcross Mausoleum, err, Mall.

2007 - The Year In Talking To Myself

And I see that I managed to make it all the way through the year in posting to this blog. There were a few dead spaces in there where I was either too busy or away from Teh Intertubes, but I did end up posting 238 entries, ranging in interest from negative to almost zero. The only real source of content I had going in was posting mini-reviews of movies as I saw them, with occasional TV and music reviews thrown in. There was the periodic political rant (mainly directed at Las Manitas) and the Morning Constitutional series (mainly directed at idiots appearing on or calling into C-SPAN Washington Journal).

And as far as I can tell, no one read any of this other than me.

Oh, well. I haven't particularly advertised this blog, and it's mostly for my own benefit anyway.

Here's to 2008 and my first reader!

2007 - The Year In Movies

I kept track of all the movies I saw at this message board. For 2007, it appears I saw 57 new films last year, but only 5 of them at a theater: 300, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Smokin' Aces, Spider-Man 3 and Transformers.

So what was the best new film I saw last year? Casablanca. Yep, sue me - I hadn't seen it before, and it ended up being better than anything else I saw. 300 was the best of the movies released last year.

The worst new film for me last year? There were a few horrible films to choose from, with Norbit and The Pink Panther standing out. But I'd have to say Jet Li's The Defender tops (or bottoms?) the list - it was both bad and boring, and managed to have Jet Li have no interesting fight scenes at all. Just inexcusable.

There are a few films I'll be waiting for with interest, although I'll probably end up missing most of them just like this year (still haven't seen either of the Grindhouse films, for instance). Looking ahead on the schedule, I see: Cloverfield, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Iron Man, Kung Fu Panda, Star Trek 11, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Wall-E and Bond 22. And I've probably missed a few.

But whichever films I do see, I'll keep track of them all here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Morning Constitutional

Only a few hours into the new year, and I already feel smarter than even after reading this story:

Oklahoma defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger will miss the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl after being sent home from Arizona following an arrest for shoplifting.

Granger, a starter, was arrested Saturday in Tempe after he tried to steal a jacket from the Burlington Coat Factory inside Arizona Mills Mall, Tempe police reported.

"Mr. Granger removed an anti-theft device from a jacket and then concealed the jacket in a bag. He exited the store walking past the cash registers without paying for the jacket," Mike Horn, a spokesman for the Tempe Police Department, said in a statement.

Wow, sent to a bowl game and you shoplift a $60 coat while at the bowl? Something tells me this isn't this guy's first run-in with the law.

Once a thug, always a thug. Life's hard - it's a lot harder when you're stupid.

(Morning Constitutional is an ongoing series of stupid people I read about in the morning, helping me feel smarter by comparison.)