Thursday, November 18, 2010

It Is Still Government Motors

Just heard a mind-bogglingly stupid news report on KLBJ-AM at the bottom of the hour. It was embedded in a stock market update, where it was mentioned that the new GM stock was trading up at around $35/share, compared to under $1/share when it previously went bankrupt.


As if the old price could in any way be compared to the new price. This makes it sound somehow as if GM is suddenly 35 times more valuable than it was before. The crisis is over! But about a few questions, like: how many shares exist now, compared to back then? What is the market cap now, compared to back then? What assets does the company possess now, as opposed to back then?

So many morons on the Democrat line of C-SPAN's Cavalcade Of Idiots, er, Washington Journal believed somehow that because an IPO had gone out, somehow that meant that we had recouped the GM bail-out money. Misleading reports like this just serve to reinforce that incorrect belief.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

DVD Spending Tab III

An early Black Friday-type sale at Walmart yielded a couple of Blu-Ray 2-packs:

Rambo/First Blood (Blu-Ray) - $10
Terminator 2: Judgment Day/Total Recall (Blu-Ray) - $10

There's also a 2-pack out there that includes The Forbidden Kingdom, if I can find it.

Yearly total: 7 movies, $32.59 total, $4.66/movie

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tis The Season, Apparently

Let it be known that yesterday, November 3rd, was the day I heard the first Christmas (oops, sorry - holiday) oriented radio ad.

Ho Ho Ho.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stay Classy, San Francisco

Here's some footage from the first episode of the new AMC series, The Walking Dead, where zombies attack someone trapped in a car.

Video link

Oh, wait...sorry. That's actually the fine, upstanding citizens of San Francisco "celebrating" the Giants victory over the Texas Rangers. By attacking someone trapped in a car.

Tell me yet again...why in the hell would anybody choose to live in San Francisco?

Oh, and this would not have happened in Arlington or Dallas. Guaranteed.

Monday, November 1, 2010

And Now For An Important Mess...

Lord knows I don't know much about web design - I am, after all, a coder primarily, and if we were left in charge, most web sites today would still be black text on a plain gray background.

But I do know that I don't like this:

This is a weather alert box on The Weather Channel's web site. If you can't read the text, it says "Severe Thunderstorm W....".

Now, there are two possible endings to this phrase: "Watch" or "Warning". And they mean two different things. One means that it could happen, one means that it is actually happening or is imminent. And you should take different action depending on which one it is.

Unfortunately, the way they chose to lay out this text makes it impossible to tell. Yeah, you could click through - in the grand scheme of things, not a big deal - but that's an extra step you have to take to view one of the more important pieces of information this web site actually provides. It's the difference between good design and adequate or poor design.

Of course, the cynic in me then realizes that having an extra mouse click means they get to serve up another set of banner ads. I've really got to work on that cynicism.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Welcome To The Fold, Google

Work + World Of Warcraft + Sleep = no blogging.

In other news, I see that the new GoogleTV is suffering from the same case of streamus-interruptus that my Playstation 3 contracted last year. Hulu, CBS, NBC, ABC - all are detecting access from the Google/Sony set-top box, and blocking it. It's still the case that the content providers are paranoid about the screen you are using - if you view via a computer monitor, that's OK, but using a digital TV, not so good.

So, another target market that the networks could have snapped up and served ads to will instead now be served by the ad-free market that is the world of BitTorrents and their variants. Congrats, guys - heckuva job!

Well, Steve Jobs managed to break the music labels eventually - maybe he can do the same to the video morons.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

DVD Spending Tab II

My meager DVD purchasing this year gets a small bump, courtesy of the clearance shelf at Half-Price Books (yep, I'm cheap - but I hear it's a good movie):

Curse of the Golden Flower - $2.60

Yearly total: 3 movies, $12.59 total, $4.20/movie average

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Head Office Says Jump!

I guess the new marching orders are out. While watching C-SPAN's Cavalcade of Idiots, errr, Washington Journal this morning, the first phone segment was seeking comments on last night's primary elections. I expected most of the comments from the reliably left-leaning callers to somehow find a way to bash Sarah Palin despite the apparent strong-showing of one of her endorsees in Alaska.

Instead, three of the first few Democrat callers chose to go after Koch Industries, apparently seeking to paint its owners as attempting to subjugate democracy itself by daring to fund organizations that oppose the Obama agenda. The very nerve! I mean, it certainly isn't as though any super-rich industrialists on the left have ever sought to materially affect public policy through funding advocacy organizations. That's just the kind of thing devious right-wingers do.

So we got the usual set of calls to "unleash the dogs": demanding Congressional investigations (sorry, morons, Nancy's a little busy with other investigations at the moment), demanding boycotts (apparently if you dig down far enough, you find out that the Kochs are responsible for Dixie cups, so watch out!), and the now-standard Wikipedia defacing (check out the edit wars already under way).

So beware, you 50-to-60-percenters! Your betters are watching you!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Is It October Yet?

Because that's when Rock Band 3 comes out. I've just upgraded my drums with the three cymbal set, so they're now fully RB3-ready. And I'm all ready to shell out the bucks for the new keyboard instrument and the lesser of the two pro guitars. I've never played guitar before at all, so I'm really looking forward to seeing how the training mode works out.

The playlist is slowly starting to leak out. Here's what I'm seeing so far:

Songs I'm ready to play right now:
Dio – Rainbow in the Dark
Jane’s Addiction – Been Caught Stealing
Ozzy Osbourne – Crazy Train
The Doors – Break On Through
Whitesnake – Here I Go Again
Yes – Roundabout
B-52′s – Rock Lobster
Def Leppard – Foolin’
David Bowie – Space Oddity
Devo – Whip It
The Police – Don’t Stand So Close To Me
The Ramones – I Wanna Be Sedated
Steve Miller Band – Fly Like An Eagle
Primus – Jerry Was a Race Car Driver
Golden Earring – Radar Love
Elton John – Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)
Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water
Dire Straits – Walk of Life

Songs that I won't mind when they show up:
Huey Lewis and the News – The Power of Love
Jimi Hendrix – Crosstown Traffic
Joan Jett – I Love Rock and Roll
Night Ranger – Sister Christian
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
Foreigner – Cold as Ice
Tears for Fears – Everybody Wants to Rule the World
War – Low Rider
The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations (Live)
Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird
Blondie – Heart of Glass
The Who – I Can See For Miles
James Brown – I Got You (I Feel Good)
John Lennon – Imagine
INXS – Need You Tonight

Songs I'm going to assign one lighter to and hopefully will never see again:
Smash Mouth – Walkin’ on the Sun
Stone Temple Pilots – Plush
Warren Zevon – Werewolves Of London

Plus there's still a few more rumored songs, like 25 or 6 to 4, 20th Century Boy and some as yet unnamed Rush song, and a bunch of stuff I've never heard of (what are those pesky kids listening to these days? And get off my lawn!).

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Tale Of Two Non-Quarterbacks

1. Chris Simms arraigned on driving-while-impaired charges

I actually had no idea he was back in the league after being cut by yet another team. He says he was just misquoted but that he "can't get into the details". OK, Chrissy. Sure thing. Hee hee.

But I'm not bitter.

2. Mack Brown says that John Chiles will not be moved back to quarterback for Texas

Thank God. Yeah, Chiles is one of those "natural athlete" types, but man was he lousy at quarterback. He isn't much better at receiver, but anything's better than having him waste snaps behind center.

The Update That Wasn't

From Engadget comes news that the long-awaited (by me) updated UVerse iPhone app is now released, with the main new feature being streaming video from your DVR!

Except...not so much.

The UVerse DVR is just a networked computer, so there's no reason that captured content couldn't be streamed to remote clients, but for whatever reason (technical, security, rights restrictions), that's not what they have. Instead, there is a download-and-view capability, not streaming. And it isn't the shows on my DVR - rather, it's just a provided list of show episodes. And, it isn't for any customer, only for customers that have the U300-tier of service, not the U200 that I have.

So....this update really doesn't do anything for me that the previous one didn't.

Um, hooray?

It Isn't That Hard

I am in the process of trying to buy a new car. Being as I am a technical person, I am of course attempting to do so in the way that involves the least amount of human contact, especially when those humans are car salesmen. Most dealerships now list their cars on their web sites, and usually have handy "Click for Quote" buttons next to the pretty stock photos.

So I am somewhat amazed when not one but two different dealerships made the same kind of mistake in responding to the "Click for Quote" button. Here is one of the responses with dealership details redacted:

Hello Bill -

Welcome to xxxxxx, where car buying is fun! Get ready for a relaxed, informative and enjoyable online shopping experience.

Below please find my e-commerce price quote for your review:

2011 xxxxx xxxxx, U124906
Exterior color / Interior color .
With automatic manual transmission and the following options/upgrades:
The MSRP on this car is $.
The wholesale invoice on this car is $.
My #DEALERSHIP NAME# discount Internet shopping price is $ + TT&L.

The "xxxxx" parts are the parts I redacted. The other places where information appears to be missing, like the prices and colors - those were left out in the original message.

Now, I'm pretty sure that electronic form letters are not exactly cutting-edge technology. Taking information from one place and sticking in another is pretty much all that computers really do. So for two different auto dealerships, with two different back-end systems, to make this same kind of silly mistake doesn't really inspire a lot of confidence in their ability to do other tasks, like say, help me maintain my car.

Of course, there is also the other dealership that didn't even bother to reply. I guess business is really good for them, they can afford to ignore a customer?

Just amazing. Glad my tax dollars aren't going to bail these guys out.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Drop Into The Pacific

Bans on plastic shopping bags.

Bans on cokes in vending machines.

Bans on pets.

Bans on whole bagels.

On top of all of the ruinous taxation, endless streams of bums, and earthquakes.

So, tell me again...why on Earth would any sane individual choose to live in San Francisco?

Friday, July 2, 2010

(Still) So Much For Hulu

I've had a few struggles in the past with trying to use my network-connected PS3 to view Hulu-hosted videos. When I first bought my PS3, I could use the built-in web browser to connect to Hulu and watch videos. But shortly thereafter, Hulu decided to explicitly block the PS3 as a web client.

Now they've announced Hulu Plus, which will (at some future point) bring the entire Hulu library (including more shows than are available in the standard Hulu) to non-PC devices, like the iPhone and the PS3.

This will only cost you....$10/month.
Oh, and on the PS3, you will apparently also need to subscribe to the Playstation Network Plus, which runs another $50/year. So, tack on about $175 a year or so.

Now...Terry White asks "Will you pay for content that once was free?"

For many tech-heads, that's the wrong question. The question is: "Will you pay for content that is still free, and at a higher-quality, and without advertisements?"

Because that's still the competition for me - these shows are in enough places on-line that this kind of deal just doesn't offer enough in convenience/quality/whatever to make it competitive. No Hulu plus for me.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

DVD Blu-Ray Spending Tab I

I haven't been buying (or watching) too many movies this year. In fact, this is probably the first purchase I've made this year. It's definitely the first Blu-Ray purchase I've made - a good way to kick off the new format, while keeping to my cheap ways :)

Where Eagles Dare / Kelly's Heroes (Blu-Ray) - $9.99 at Target

Yearly total: 2 movies, $4.99 / movie

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Movie Review: Mr. Nice Guy

The next Jackie Chan film in my on-going, never-ending film festival is similar in outline to some of his previous films, such as Thunderbolt and Rumble In The Bronx. That is, it's set in contemporary times and he isn't playing a cop or a spy, just an ordinary guy....who happens to be a martial arts expert. This time, he's a TV chef who gets caught up in helping a female reporter escape from two groups of mobsters whose drug deal she managed to videotape. Along for the ride are his newly-arrived fiance and his female producer, who prove to be much less annoying than the female threesome Jackie schleped around the desert with in Operation Condor.

If you liked his other movies of this period (such as the above mentioned movies and the preceding First Strike), you'll probably like this one. It's the same mix of a thin plot, destructive stunts, and some fascinating fight scenes set in locales with lots of stuff to throw around. A Jackie Chan fight scene set at a construction site is certain to be fun, and the one here is no exception (stunts set on an operating table saw are a highlight).

The painful humor level is toned down a bit - this one was apparently targeting a more Western audience, as it was filmed in Australia and features a mostly English-speaking cast. (The director, the great Sammo Hung, does give himself a pretty funny cameo appearance.) What isn't toned down, though, is the scenery-chewing by the bad guys. Half of them are another faux-eighties street gang similar to the one from Bronx, and the other half are led by a cigar-chomping Richard Norton - neither side seems particularly scary or at all realistic.

And sadly, it's another movie (like Thunderbolt and Bronx) where things don't end up with a Jackie Chan fight against "the big boss" - instead, it's a vehicular stunt sequence, with Jackie tearing down a mansion with what may be the largest construction truck seen on film. An impressive amount of damage, to be sure, but why can't we end with an impressive fight scene, like his early films?

So, all-in-all another solid three star effort for this one. As I said, Jackie was in a very consistent state during this part of his career, so if you liked any of these early 90's films, you should probably give the others a shot, too. Up next: Jackie forgets his name, but probably not his moves, in Who Am I.

Monday, May 17, 2010

How Not To Inspire Confidence

It's just a camera phone shot, so not very high-rez, but still...

This is a screenshot from Time Warner Cable's new DVR box, informing the customer that they aren't subscribed to a channel.

Or rather...that they "aren$t" subscribed.

I'm guessing the text message uses a "smart quote", but the font they used didn't have that character, or they used the wrong encoding, or something similarly dumb. So a garbage character appears on screen.

Come on, Time Warner Cable...believe me, I understand testing is hard, but how stupid do you have to be to not catch this during even the most basic functional test? Would this make you feel good about having Time Warner Cable handle your TV connection? Your internet connection? Your phone line?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Morning Afternoon Constitutional

My old Morning Constitutional posts were on dumb things I heard people say on C-SPAN's Washington Journal show. The theory was: hearing somebody say something so dumb would make me feel smarter by comparison.

The problem with that theory was: these people are also out there, driving....and voting.

Shudder. At any rate, I scaled back my C-SPAN viewing a bunch, because I just couldn't take the endless stream of dumb.

However, I can dust the series off for this bit of genius from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Almost everything he's said in relation to the recent Times Square bombing attempt has been the work of an idiot, but this one might take the cake:

"There is no evidence here of a conspiracy, there is no evidence that it's tied into anything else. It looks like an amateurish job done by at least one person," he told Couric.

Wow, really? "At least one person" did this? So, we can rule out zero people? Or a negative number of people?

What a maroon.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Movie Review: Jackie Chan's First Strike

This film is pretty typical of the movies in this period of Jackie Chan's career - a comedy/action film set in the current-day, with heavy emphasis on the stunts and "environmental fights" (fight sequences that focus on Jackie using any- and everything around him to fight off his opponents). Nominally connected in some way to the earlier Police Story movies, my English dub simply calls his character "Jackie" and doesn't pretend to be a sequel in any way.

What hasn't changed is that he is still "the only cop that can do the job" - here, he starts out assisting the C.I.A. on some operation and then somehow gets loaned out to the K.G.B. as part of a joint American-Russian operation (!?!?). The goal is to track down a rogue double agent trying to sell nuclear material to another rogue Russian officer (lots of rogues in this one). But, as usual, keeping track of the plot holes really isn't the point - just let all that drift away as we go from one action set piece and one odd comedy bit to the next.

There are several good sequences to be found here. I had happened across the opening of the James Bond flick A View To A Kill earlier in the day, and the ski/snowmobile/helicopter chase in First Strike is miles better than the one that opens the Bond film. A particular highlight occurs late, when Jackie takes on a staff-welding gang in a church and holds them off with tables, chairs and a stepladder. That's the kind of sequence that got me into Jackie's films in the first place, and this one is just great. Add in an underwater battle in a shark tank, and you got enough Jackie Chan action bits to keep you satisfied.

And I'm not sure where they found so many seven-foot tall mountain men for Jackie to run away from.

After a few films where Jackie seemed to have the comedy bits more under control, things slip way off the deep end here. There's a scene where Jackie is stripped naked by a bad guy looking for a wire (one for the ladies, I guess) - he then is handed a giant penguin mascot suit to wear in its place, and the next few scenes process in all seriousness with Jackie dressed as the mascot. Just bizarre.

Like most of his 90's films, this one is no classic, but it's an above average action film. Just turn off your brain in between the set pieces, and you'll have a lot of fun. Three solid stars here. Next up: Jackie is once again the ordinary man (who happens to be a karate superman) in the wrong place in Mr. Nice Guy.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

That Wraps Up The Next Election Some More

As I said - freaking morons:

The Austin City Council will formally consider limiting travel to Arizona and terminating any business contracts currently in place with the state. A resolution will be introduced at a May 13 meeting, according to a statement issued today from Councilman Mike Martinez’s office.

Yeah - how dare they enforce the law!

Ordinarily, I would say I truly can't wait to vote against each and every one of these idiots in the next municipal election - except that (a) I know there won't be anyone better to vote for either, and (b) these idiots will all easily win re-election anyway.

Sigh. All I can hope is that the state government manages the regional economy well enough to overcome the local stupidity here in Bezerkely East.

Friday, April 23, 2010

That Wraps Up The Next Election

So, the City Council votes for a (sigh) "green" energy plan that will give us 35% of our energy from green sources in exchange for a minimum 20% increase in our energy rates.

Note: this is the estimate from Austin Energy, the ones trying to sell us on this. They're saying the rates will go up 20%. I'm treating this government estimate like I do most - as a steaming pile of crap. The actual raise will be much much higher.

And what's the benefit? "There's a goal to reduce our carbon footprint by 20% below the 2005 levels by the year 2020."

That's not a benefit, that's a goal. What the heck good does this do for me as an Austin Energy customer?

This is exactly why I never vote for incumbents for Austin City Council. Because they are all freaking morons. If they want to start burning bio-mass, I can think of seven lumps of bio-mass I'm willing to feed in first - Lee Leffingwell, Sheryl Cole, Randi Shade, Laura Morrison, Bill Spelman, Mike Martinez, and Chris Riley.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Doctor Was Almost In

Last weekend, BBC America had a marathon of Doctor Who episodes leading up the premiere of the new Eleventh Doctor. As I mentioned earlier, I'm pretty far behind in my viewing - not to mention my reviewing - and so I was hoping to DVR several episodes on my new UVerse setup (although, sadly, BBC America is not in HD).

However, when I sat down to watch my first episode, the sixty-minute special, "The Next Doctor", I found that I only had thirty minutes worth. Hmmm. Taking a look in my recordings list, I saw numerous other problems. The episode labelled "The Last Of The Time Lords" was actually part one of "The End Of Time". Another episode was only 15 minutes long - the minimum should have been an hour. And so on.

So I don't know who was responsible for messing up the programming schedule - it could have been AT&T, or Yahoo! (which runs the web app that can control the DVR), or Microsoft (which created the underlying software suite that runs the set-top box) or BBC America (which could have given the wrong schedule information to AT&T).

But regardless, my first major misstep from my new UVerse service. At least the actual first episode was recorded correctly, so while I'm not caught up, at least I'm not falling further behind.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Help! Help! He's Being Repressed!

Outrage at Apple yet again. Now that Mark Fiore has won a Pulitzer Prize (no doubt, for explaining how to talk "like a tea bagger"), a few have noticed that his iPhone App was rejected a few months back.

Now, Apple's rejection criteria has been, to say the least, fluid. However, Apple has started clearing the dross of the app store, rejecting apps that are just graphics collections (i.e. usually softcore porn). Their claim (and rightly so) is that those can be better viewed just as web applications by a browser.

However, a few folks have decided this is political censorship:

Are you to be the new Digital Taliban?

If you cannot understand the First Amendment, if you can’t understand it supercedes your narrow monetary interests, perhaps you might want to consider moving your Corporate headquarters to a place like Singapore or Malaysia, where you’d at least have the excuse of hiding behind their similarly-repressive governments.

Yes, clearly Apple - with board members like Al Freaking Gore - is a bastion of repressive, right-wing anger. Or maybe, they realize that releasing politically-polarizing material - on either side of the aisle - is a good way to lose customers. Oh, and comparisons of a corporation making a minor policy decision to a fundamentalist terrorist group like the Taliban are always nice - what's the matter? Afraid to go full Godwin here?

Since you suggested it, let's take a look at the First Amendment, shall we?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

"Congress shall make no law..." Now, the Amendment's reach has been extended to other governments besides just Congress. But it hasn't been extended to Apple Inc., and as far as I know, Apple cannot pass a law.

The First Amendment means that the state cannot prevent you from speaking your mind. Indeed, this guys publishes on NPR - the state is actively supporting his speech. The Amendment does not say you get to choose how your speech is distributed. If Apple doesn't want to distribute political speech, that is their right. Just as it is your right to complain, boycott Apple, whatever you want.

Because I hope you really don't want the government forcing corporations - any corporation, not just networks or newspapers - to support any type of speech that comes down the road. That truly is fascism, not just the pretend label that gets slapped on anything politically disagreeable these days.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Movie Review: Rumble In The Bronx

Well, this movie sure turned on the crazy at the end. The latest in my never-ending Jackie Chan Film Festival is the movie that finally got Jackie some positive exposure over here in the States, although it still be a few more years before he really hit it big with Rush Hour. This one starts out as more of an '80's style actioner - you know, where the street gangs all have neon dune buggies, ripped shirts and extraneous athletic gear? And there are automatic weapons shootouts in the middle of crowded streets (and no one gets hit)?

Jackie, newly arrived in America and helping to run a Chinese market, gets on the wrong side of said gang during a destructive street race, and so from there it looks like the plot will mostly be: gang beats up Jackie, Jackie fights back, gang trashes market, Jackie fights back, ... and so on until Jackie fights the big boss - the end. But instead, the script suddenly throws in a new plot line involving stolen diamonds and a larger (and better armed) crime syndicate - and now it's Jackie and the gang versus the syndicate. And here's where things go from standard action flick to full-on weird - people fed into woodchippers, a building torn down around Jackie (a bit taken from Thunderbolt, by the way), waterskiing without skis, and a street chase with a giant hovercraft!

Most of this is completely extraneous to the plot - Jackie's waterski adventure doesn't really lead anywhere, since the cops show up to continue the chase without his help, for example - but as a showcase for the insanity of Jackie and his stunt crew, it works out well. We'll continue to see this sort of stuff in future films (Mr. Nice Guy, in particular, will crib a lot of these action beats). The fight scenes take a bit of a back seat to the stunt work this time around, although once again, Jackie shows great imagination in the staging (the best sequence is set in a warehouse full of stolen merchandise, which Jackie takes full advantage of). And there was one moment involving a pipe wrench that was a laugh-out-loud moment for me.

This one is certainly enjoyable - it's not a standout in the overall Chan filmography, but it's a solid enough film and a template for much of the rest of his '90's work. Three stars. Up next: Jackie goes undercover in Jackie Chan's First Strike.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Denver Broncos Update

New quarterback brought in - Brady Quinn.
Odd-man-out quarterback cut - Chris Simms!

Is it petty of me to feel happy as Chrissy is cut from yet another team?

It is? Oh, well.

Suck it, Simms!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Movie Review: Thunderbolt

Kind of an odd movie in the Jackie Chan filmography, Thunderbolt sees Jackie playing....well, it's kind of hard to tell. The opening credits montage seems to show him as an automotive engineer, a car test driver, a tow truck driver, and auto racer and a corporate mail delivery boy(?). Once the movie itself starts, he appears to be doing automobile customization work, but he's also helping the police bust illegal street racers.

Suffice it to say, this may not have been the most carefully thought-out film.

Which is surprising, because it looks like they might have had to spend some money on this one. There's an extensive set piece where Jackie's workshop/living quarters are destroyed by a trailer swung around on a crane, another where a Pachinko parlor is destroyed, and this being a racing film, there is of course a lengthy race scene at the end, with numerous crashes (it's more like a demolition derby by the final few laps). I doubt anyone was paid real money for this work, but it still looks impressive.

There's also a couple of good action/fight scenes. The aforementioned property destruction is one, but the standout actually occurs earlier, when a gang first tries to just beat up Jackie in his shop. This isn't the more light-hearted style of fighting usually seen in Chan's movies; things seem to be taken a little more seriously here. This is particularly seen in an assault on a police station with grenades and automatic weapons - actually on-screen bloodshed was pretty rare in Jackie Chan movies at this point in his career, and this part was more of a Western-style action film than Hong Kong.

Sadly, the early momentum is not sustained, and once we hit the big race at the end, we are treated to a lot of scenes of cars passing each other and crashing. I'm not a big race fan, so this really didn't do much for me. The camerawork in general didn't help much either - lots of stuttering slow-motion type effects were used for some reason, enough to be distracting. I'd rather see the big finale to a Jackie Chan movie be a big fight scene, not watching a stuntman drive a car around.

So in the end, a few parts are of interest, but on the whole, not a good effort. Two stars. Up next in my ongoing chronological Jackie Chan film festival: Jackie makes attempt number four to enter the U.S. market with Rumble In The Bronx.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Pair Of Reallys

From Slashfilm:

In late-2008, we told you that Sherwood Schwartz and his son Lloyd Schwartz had signed a deal to bring Gilligan’s Island to the big screen.But we haven’t really heard anything about the big screen adaptation for over a year, until now. Variety reports that Warner Bros is developing the feature film with Atlas Entertainment. Charles Roven and Richard Suckle are on board to produce, and screenwriter Brad Copeland has been hired to write the screenplay.

First off - a Gilligan's Island movie? Inevitable, I suppose, but still...really?

Second - "Richard Suckle"? Aka "Dick Suckle"....really?

Friday, February 26, 2010

House Call

I guess I need to finish up my Fourth Doctor review series, so that I can get caught up on my Tenth Doctor episodes. Because now I see I'm about to be two Doctors behind....

BBC America has announced that season 5 will debut on Saturday, April 17th, less than two weeks after it airs in Great Britain (on Easter, or April 4th).

I did watch the Eccleston-era episodes, but I only just got started on the David Tennant episodes before it dropped off my radar, for some reason. So I've got about two-and-a-half seasons worth of shows to watch if I want to get up to date before the premiere.

I've finished my rewatch of Tom Baker's Season 17 - I just need to write it up. And then I'll need to slog through Season 18; can you tell it's not one of my favorites? Oh, well.

(From BBC via Topless Robot)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Movie Review: Drunken Master II

AKA The Legend of Drunken Master in the United States.

This is it. I've reviewed a whole heap of Jackie Chan movies, but if you watch only one, this is the one to watch. Unlike some of the older movies, you aren't waiting around for the big fight at the end to see the fireworks. Here, just about every fight sequence is outstanding - a staff-versus-sword fight underneath a train, a drunken fighting battle in a marketplace, Jackie taking on an axe-wielding gang with a bamboo pole, and the final classic scene in a foundry with Jackie taking on kick-fighting expert Ken Lo (and a pit of red-hot coals). This is Jackie at his top form- fluid, acrobatic and imaginative.

And for a change, the non-action scenes mostly keep up with the action. This is mostly due to the efforts of Anita Mui, playing Jackie's step-mother (despite being younger than Jackie). She channels her inner Lucille Ball here, switching from comic schemer to penitent dutiful wife in an instant when her long-suffering husband appears. Between Jackie's Wong Fei-hung and Anita's wife, it's amazing the husband stayed sane as long as he did.

The plotline is not unusual for a Jackie film. He plays a young man (despite his being way too old for that type of role by this point) who is talented in martial arts but undisciplined. He finally run afoul of his father (too much drunken boxing, even if in a good cause) and is cast out. Unlike other films, though, he doesn't end up getting trained by an older master - here, he just finds the right path by himself. He ends up working to battle the typical "evil British masters" who are working to smuggle out jade artifacts and close a local factory and take over Jackie's family home. As I said, little pieces from many movies in the past, but put together much better here.

This really is the peak for Jackie Chan films. Five stars for sure. Up next in the Festival: Jackie tries a new occupation, getting behind the wheel in Thunderbolt.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It's Nice To Be Wanted

I cancelled my DirecTV service that I have had since 2002 and switched over to AT&T UVerse. I called to cancel my service on Sunday night. Since then, two and one half days later, I've received ten calls to my house from a 1-800 number that I've since found out is owned by DirecTV. Ten calls - averaging four times a day. They haven't ever left a message, but I can see all of the missed calls courtesy of UVerse's digital phone service, which logs the missed phone calls for me.

For the record - I didn't particularly have any problem with DirecTV. I thought their customer service, for the few times I used it, was generally good and effective. And I didn't have any real issues with the DirecTV service itself - I grumbled when the prices increased, of course, but not to excess.

I dropped DirecTV because (a) UVerse was cheaper, especially once I bundled in HDTV upgrades, (b) UVerse provided better functionality than DirecTV (in particular, the Total Home DVR), (c) the UVerse TV/Phone/Internet combo was cheaper and a better deal than the corresponding DirecTV/SBC/Earthlink combo I had at the time, (d) UVerse stuck in a $400 rebate, and (e) there wasn't a contract period with UVerse, so I felt I could switch back if the service proved unsatisfactory.

Now, I told the DirecTV customer support person when I cancelled that I already had started service with a new provider. So there really isn't any reason for ten calls in two days. I've now forwarded calls from DirecTV to come over to my cell (another nice UVerse service), so I can catch one of these calls and hopefully bring them to an end. Hopefully, this won't prove to be an ongoing problem. But I think it is an indication of how cutthroat things are for cable/satellite providers right now that they would put this much effort into holding onto a customer.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Chance At History

Has there ever been a team start 17-0....and not make the NCAA tournament?

They might still be one of the top 65 teams in the nation, but they aren't in the top 32. This team is bad. Is it baseball season yet?

Monday, February 8, 2010

More Stuff I Now Know

Some things I found out today:
  1. Looks like now that I am with UVerse instead of Time Warner Cable/Earthlink, I now have access to for streaming video. I'll have to see if this is accessible on my TV (presumably by streaming through my PS3, as I doubt there is direct access from the Bravia TV itself. Yet.). At any rate - cool. More stuff to watch.
  2. I also get access to AT&T Wifi hotspots, which is good for my iPod touch.
  3. In dealing with the Hulu-blocking-PS3-access issue, it looks like some people were having success getting around this by using a proxy server to change the User-Agent HTTP header to mimic a standard Windows browser. More recent messages seem to indicate that a new block has been put up that stops even this. My guess - they are now querying the Flash run-time for user-agent info, and Flash isn't going through the proxy server. So I won't even try to get that up and running yet. Why does Hulu hate this path so much?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

HDTV Review: Sony KDL-52W5100

So, now that I've got my new UVerse installation up and running, it was time for the next step - the new HDTV. I've finally picked up a Sony KDL-52W5100. I was originally aiming for a 46- or 47-inch model at around $1000, and Costco has a Sony KDL-46VL150 on sale for $800 now. But at the last second, I decided I would go for the next bigger model, on the theory that you should always by as much capacity as you can afford. The next step up at Costco had the 52-inch W5100 on sale for $1200. Besides the larger size, this model also has an updated video processor (Bravia Engine 3 vs 2), and also network capabilities.

This last one was the final tipping point for me. I've posted a few times about streaming to my home theater from the media on my Mac through my Playstation 3. Well, this TV is also supposed to support the same DLNA client functionality, meaning I could have one less device in the loop. The W5100 also has various network apps provided by Sony, such as some rather useless Yahoo widgets and a variety of streaming audio and video channels.

So far, the streaming audio and video provided by Sony works great. No stuttering with my UVerse 12Mpbs service. The quality is what it is - most video channels look pretty good, except for the YouTube video, which is being blown up a little too much for its own good. The real find for me so far is the support for the Slacker radio service. I was familiar with Pandora, which is a similar service. But while Pandora provides streaming radio "stations" based on your preferences, the Slacker service seems to provide more control over what goes into your custom stations, and also provides a large collection of existing stations. The selection of Rock stations is great, and the audio quality is wonderful. There's also a Slacker app for the iPhone. I'm going to be using this a lot, especially since the URGE music channels provided by UVerse are rather meager in comparison.

However, the current downside is that the DLNA streaming so far is not working. The Bravia reports finding both Mac-based (MediaLink, Rivet) and PC-based (Windows Media Player sharing) servers, but then reports a problem connecting to either of them. I don't know if this is a router issue - maybe the UVerse router is somehow blocking access? Or maybe DLNA is not as "standard" as I think - maybe DLNA for the PS3 is somehow subtly different than DLNA on the Bravia. At any rate, it still needs work.

[Update: I've now gotten WMP to share with the W5100. In WMP, you have to approve each device individually for connection. I thought the TV was on the list, but they were all listed as "Unknown Device", and it turns out the two I had approved were my PS3 and the UVerse set-top box (which also has some media streaming support). Once I approved the Bravia TV, the sharing worked fine. Of course, this doesn't directly help me, since my main goal is to share from my Mac-based iTunes library, not my Windows-based WMP library. But at least it's a step forward.]

Video-wise, I'm mostly satisfied with the W5100. It's my first HDTV, so obviously anything is an improvement over what I had. Considering all of the horror stories out there, I found that this TV actually does a pretty good job with standard-def signals. Ordinary DVDs look great, too, although I don't know if the Playstation 3 upscaling or the Bravia TV processing is responsible. The High-Def looks great, as well - the only problem I've seen is a little bit of fuzz around some players while watching a basketball game, so I'm going to have to keep an eye on the high-speed processing. But TV shows, other sports like football, etc. all look great. No Blu-Ray disks yet, so I can't report on how wonderful they look compared to plain DVDs.

So, finally - I've scrambled up to 2008-level home theater technology! Now where's my hovercar?

Friday, February 5, 2010

UVerse First Impressions

So, I never thought I would say this, but - I'm now an all AT&T shop. My cell phone has been with AT&T since I got it (well, technically it was Cingular to start with, but still the same provider). But now I've switched over my phone, tv and internet to AT&T UVerse. It did take a while - the UVerse web-site didn't believe I was in a service area until I alerted them to the problem. But once that was resolved, the order and install went pretty smoothly. My install took about two hours, which included installing a new junction box (or whatever they call it) on the outside of my house and replacing a telephone port on one wall, but not running any new cables. We just reused the coaxial cable from my existing DirecTV installation to connect the set-top box in my living room to the main gateway box in the back office.

First impressions:

  • The Total Home DVR service is nice. I can setup and view recordings on either of my two boxes, with up to four streams recording. My previous DirecTV setup only had one box capable of recording/viewing, with two streams maximum.
  • The DVR itself is not quite as capable as the Tivo box from DirecTV. There is no thumbs-up/thumbs-down ranking available, no automatic recording suggestions, and while there are searches available, it doesn't look like I can setup a recording schedule based on that search. It terms of the basics, however, the UVerse DVR is certainly capable enough for most use cases.
  • Basic TV viewing is fine. The channel surfing is faster than the DirecTV boxes, but I haven't found a way to only surf through my favorites. I don't really want to pass by the channels that I don't even receive - that's just a dumb interface. The Tivo box was much better in this regard.
  • There are some rudimentary interactive capabilities. The Weather On Demand might get some use (I had this problem with DirecTV also - no local weather from The Weather Channel), but I tend to use the internet on my iPod touch for "instant" weather information. But at least they are there, and maybe they will get more robust over time.
  • There is home media server support through Media Share on UVerse, but it is officially Windows-only. My media is on my iMac, so I'm going to poke around to see if there is any way to trick Media Share into seeing my iTunes-based library.
  • On a related note, the UVerse router is blocking my existing UPnP-based media sharing (which I currently use to stream from my Mac to my PS3). I'm going to need to find out what firewall rules need to be relaxed for this to work - this is a major show stopper for me.
  • Other than this UPnP issue, the router itself seems to work fine. None of my devices (computers, iPods, PS3) had any problem connecting, and the speeds and signal strength seem to be good enough for my house. According to SpeedTest, I'm getting close to the advertised 12 Mbps speed for downloads.
  • The phone service also looks good. I was able to switch over my cell phone to use the same voicemail system as the UVerse land-line, so now both phones drop messages into the same box, and the messages can be retrieved on phone or over the web. Nice.
  • UVerse comes with its own branded version of the Yahoo services. However, I already had my own Yahoo account (along with related accounts like Flickr). It isn't clear that I can merge the two in any way, so I have to decide if I want to migrate to the new AT&T Yahoo account, stick with the old one, or maintain both of them.
So, really, the only big sticking point for now is the UPnP blocking. It also remains to be seen how the HDTV signal looks, once I get my new TV (which may be happening this weekend). And of course, it's nice that the bundle is going to be cheaper than my existing SBC/DirecTV/Earthlink combo, while also providing me with better features. Ah, technology.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Movie Review: Crime Story

After the extremely goofy City Hunter, we now rebound in the opposite direction in the Jackie Chan filmography. Crime Story is a rarity for Chan - a relatively serious film. The overall concept certainly isn't new. Jackie once again plays one of the few competent police detectives around, here tasked with first protecting and then rescuing a kidnapped businessman (guess the "protecting" part didn't work out so well). Jackie's character, "Eddie" Chan, is unknowingly battling a crime syndicate that has a highly-placed mole in the police department, working to lead the investigation astray until the ransom can be collected.

What is different is the movie's tone. There is no wacky subplot where Jackie's girlfriend misinterprets some innocent action and goes off on Jackie. There's no comic sidekick character causing trouble for Jackie until the end when he suddenly becomes barely competent. Instead, things are played as a relatively straight procedural, and it ends on a relatively ambiguous note - the businessman is saved, but Jackie isn't in on the final rescue, and most of the bad guys seem to have gotten away with most of the ransom money. However, it is a "normal" Jackie Chan movie at times - near the end, a fight breaks out at the apartment complex with the most flaming natural gas leaks ever seen.

Now, don't get me wrong - this isn't Infernal Affairs or Heat. There isn't a lot of complexity or depth here, just a few hints. But compared to the usual tenor for Jackie's movies, it's a noticeable change. It does, however, come at the expense of the martial arts action. The focus here is more on stunts and gunplay, with Jackie doing a particularly painful-looking series of stunts on board a ship. As usual, there's good stuff there, and it builds up towards the end, but the emphasis isn't on hand-to-hand work.

This is a good solid effort, and there's a few echoes of this later on in Jackie's New Police Story. Three stars. Next up in the Jackie Chan Film Festival, a true classic: Drunken Master 2 (aka The Legend of Drunken Master).

Friday, January 29, 2010

500th Post

That means in two years I've approximated three days of Instapundit's output.

And the almost two thousand hits I've accumulated are probably about two minutes' worth of Instapundit hits. While I do get an occasional look at one of my many Jackie Chan movie reviews, by far most of the hits are to my posting on streaming from my Mac to my Playstation 3. I guess iTunes is more interesting than martial arts.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Movie Review: City Hunter

The Jackie Chan Film Festival continues with a lesser entry, City Hunter, which is apparently based on a popular Japanese manga. I have no idea what the tone of the original source material is, but the keyword for this film version is "goofy". And not the American type of goofy - this is the goofy used in Asian films (and the comedy over there is already way up on the goofy scale). Lots of mugging, double-takes, cartoon sound effects and ogling bodies going on as a large collection of characters intersect on a cruise ship. It had me longing for the relative restraint of the Lucky Stars films.

And somewhere in the midst of all of this is Jackie, playing the title character as a womanizing, self-important and vain private detective. It really is a fairly unlikeable character, quite unlike the normal Jackie Chan character. It doesn't help that most other characters in the movie aren't any better. There's City Hunter's attractive young ward, always wishing that he would hit on her for a change; a terrorist leader that all but twirls his non-existent mustache; the slimy on-the-prowl sidekick that is predictably hit on - by one of the male terrorists; and a pair of god-awful-annoying "comics" who get an extended song-and-dance number halfway through the movie.

There really isn't anything remotely of promise until near the end, where Jackie finally starts fighting his way through the bad guys. One imaginative scene has City Hunter crashing into an arcade machine; when he wakes up, he and his opponent have been transformed into Street Fighter characters, right down to the special moves and sound effects. It's pretty well-done (more so than most of the rest of the film) and got a few actual laughs. Beyond that scene, though, there really isn't much else that sticks in the memory in a good way.

My advice - if you must, just forward ahead to the last thirty minutes. You can find a little bit to interest you there. But as for the rest - avoid. One star. Up next: Jackie gets a little more serious (although it would be hard not to) in Crime Story.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Morning Constitutional

I used to do a series of posts called "Morning Constitutional" where I would highlight particularly stupid callers to C-SPAN's Washington Journal program. The theory was: hearing someone so incredibly stupid would make me feel smarter by comparison, and so help motivate me for the day. I gave up on it, because the theory was wrong: hearing these moronic callers and realizing they were out there - driving, voting - was more depressing than anything else, and so Washington Journal dropped off my morning radar.

But I do still turn in from time to time. This morning made me realize why I stopped. They had a phone-in segment on the recent earthquake in Haiti. Well, that's not quite right - sure, they could have done a segment with an on-site reporter, to give us more in-depth info. Or they could have highlighted relief efforts. Or even had a discussion on what the U.S. policy on Haiti should be going forward.

But instead, they decided to have discussion on Pat Robertson's latest moronic declaration - that the earthquake hit Haiti because it was "cursed" after making a "deal with the devil".

Pat Robertson is insane. He is a nutbag. He is off of the tracks. This is clear, and has been for years. The only possible reason for anyone, let alone C-SPAN, to give him any time on air that he didn't already buy is to prop him up yet again as an easy target to skewer Christians in general, and evangelicals in particular.

These are the same people that insist that the terrorist-supporting Muslims are just a tiny minority (which isn't always true) and that we shouldn't paint with such a broad brush. But in keeping with their multicultural "principles", the same standards don't apply to the predominant religion here in America.

To see C-SPAN continue to sink to the low end of the pool with stunts like this is sad, but predicable.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Back To Square One

Nine straight days with a post...broken today. Oh well.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Noticed In Sports Illustrated

Two notes from this past week's SI:

Maybe you've found yourself wondering, while watching the Olympic halfpipe every four years: Where can they possibly take the sport from here?

No, that actually wasn't what I was wondering. What I was wondering is: who the heck considers this an actual sport? This is the Winter Olympics desperately trying to be something besides just a figure skating exhibition by bringing in another X-Games "sport" under its banner.

The incident [an auto accident] marked the fourth fatality since the [Dakar Rally] off-road race moved to South America amidst terrorist concerns last year and at least the 50th death since the event's inception in 1979.

Let me get this straight - they've held this thing for 30 years and killed 50 people? More than one person each year dies - because of a road race? This seems like a good thing to consider canceling.

But what do I know?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Movie Review: Operation Condor

The restarted Jackie Chan Film Festival reaches the 1991 sequel to Jackie's 1985 film, Armour Of God. He is apparently playing the same character (although my English dub called him "Jackie", while the first film called him "Hawk"), an archeologist with no apparent archeological skills. This film has a prologue where he just kind of bumbles into a cave full of natives and starts grabbing crystals at random - he only invokes their anger when he drinks their sacred water. In the end, he loses the crystals (come to think of it, he doesn't actually succeed at anything in the movie. Nor in the first one either. Hmmm.)

This one is played strictly for laughs - that is, the usual overly-broad laughs found in many Asian films. No one is played seriously; just about everyone in the movie is pretty appallingly characterized - the various natives are loincloth-draped dancing savages, the Arabs are Allah-praising idiots, and the females are constantly needing rescue (except when their towels are being yanked off).

There are several nice stunt sequences here, particularly a motorcycle chase early i n the film, and of course, the big finale set in an underground German wind tunnel (why a wind tunnel in the middle of the desert? Try not to think too much). This isn't one for impressive fight sequences - there are a few, but they tend to be short and more about the stunt-work than the fight moves.

As usual with the films of this period, if you can switch off enough brainpower to deal with the plot inanities, there's a lot of decent action work to be had. Three stars. Next up: I'll need to take that advice even more to heart, as we go full-on comic weirdness with City Hunter.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Tax Too Far

The "Apple Tax" is the higher price paid for Apple products over "comparable" products from the Windows side of the world (for some definition of "comparable"). It's usually worth it, because the Apple products are usually more capable than the corresponding Windows products. For example, my shiny new iMac not only runs Mac OS X programs, but it is already a fully-capable Unix box (including POSIX and X11), and now that Apple uses Intel chips, it is also a great Windows box. So I get the best of all possible worlds (even though one of them is Windows).

However, in some cases, it does come back to bite you. I was previously using a PowerMac G5 and a 17" Apple Studio Display. The two communicated by means of an Apple Display Connector (ADC), which looks like a standard DVI connector, but is different. This is the latest in a long line of "almost compatible" display connectors that Apple uses, which traces its lineage back to the old NeXT cubes, which also used a single cable for power, video, keyboard/mouse, etc.

My shiny new iMac has a built-in monitor, of course, but it also supports an external display through a new connector called a Mini DisplayPort. This is not really a proprietary connector like the ADC, but it doesn't appear to have wide-ranging support. So I headed down to the Apple Store to see what I would need to use my Studio Display with my iMac.

The answer is apparently: 1 Mini DisplayPort-to-DVI adaptor ($30) and 1 DVI-to-ADC convertor ($100!!!!).

So - for just $130, I can connect my several-year old monitor to my new iMac. Or - I could sell it along with my PowerMac (the going rate seems to be around ($50) and buy a completely new second monitor for not much more than the $130 price of the adapter.

Apple - you lose out on this price comparison easily.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Mandalorian, please!

Wow, this is really geeky...

...and, ummm, insane?

A Boba Fett cookie jar that warns you not to eat any cookies stored in it, because it would be harmful? Yikes.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Post-Game Reaction

Well, that sucked.

It's unfortunate that Colt McCoy's legacy, as writ by ESPN, the Worldwide Leader In Tim Tebow Coverage, will likely be almost losing to Nebraska and getting knocked out of the BCS game last night, rather than the last four years of greatness (most victories in history - yes, even more than Saint Tim). But just as Vince Young has already eclipsed the last golden boy, Matt Leinart, in the NFL, I suspect Colt's pro career will easily overshadow that of Timmy.

Otherwise, it's clear that the better team won. You can't blame all of the dropped passes, stupid penalties and blown run defenses on Colt's absence. Texas gave them every opportunity to win, and Alabama did what champions do - they took them. We had to force them into a passing game on offense, and instead they ran whenever they wanted to. I didn't think they would be able to do it, but they sure did.

Gary Gilbert looks like a winner, but we knew that already. What it will come down to next year is - can we get back any kind of running game to go along with him, or are we going to remain a one- or two-player offense for the next three years. We got lucky with Major, Vince and Colt; asking the football gods to do it yet again for us is probably pushing our luck.

So - with the volleyball team losing its championship hopes last month, that gives Texas two silver medals and no golds. Next up - men's basketball. Hook 'em!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Noticed This Morning

I'll just assume the actual reading was 87654.321 miles.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Redbox has certainly become more popular as their kiosks have multiplied, but it seems possible that the expansion has overreached a bit. Not that I'm having a hard time finding movies - I'm having a hard time returning movies. I've had several occasions where I've tried to return a movie, only to be informed that the kiosks was full and not accepting returns. This means I now have to drive to another location (usually the next Walgreen's down the road), and try again there, often to fail again. And of course, there is a time limit on the search - you can't wait and try again tomorrow without paying again.

The two points in favor of Redbox are convenience and price. This problem endangers both benefits. Perhaps they haven't hired enough staff to service their expanded deployment?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Do The Charleston

The North Carolina Tarheels lost to...the College of Charleston?

Good for Charleston, not so good for Texas. That makes the earlier Longhorn stomping of Carolina look less impressive, thus costing them a little bit come tournament time.

And what was Carolina doing still ranked number 9, anyway? They already had three losses - to good schools, certainly, but still, three losses is three losses. No way they should have been in the top ten.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Austin Needs Puppies!

Had a fairly quiet Christmas break. I brought a couple of books to read, including one from the Austin library. The Cutie, by one of my favorite authors, Donald E. Westlake, as published by one of my favorite publishers, Hard Case Crime.

But while the cases may be hard, the books themselves are not, and so The Cutie fell victim to the wrath of the new Fierce Corgi, Wylie, who fished it out of my luggage and dismembered it.

Amazon tells me that the book sells for $7.00 plus shipping. So I figured the Austin library would charge about ten dollars or so to replace it.

Nope. Seventeen dollars and seventy-four cents. A ten dollar markup for processing.

With the Austin library cutting back on hours due to lack of funds, maybe they should just start importing and distributing puppies to their customers. The resulting processing fees should more than make up the difference.