Wed, June 30
I spent 48 hours in Chicago over the weekend, which sounds like a lot, except that I was in a conference for about eight of them, plus unconscious for a good ten more or so. This made for very quick sightseeing, but it was such a blast! (Read more.)
Tue, June 29
As much as I didn't want to get dragged into the frenzied controversy over the politics of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, here we are. (Read more.)
SHOCKER! I know you won't be able to believe it, but I really enjoyed Fahrenheit 9/11. I'm glad I saw it, and I think everyone should. However, this isn't just going to be an effusive shower of adoration for Michael Moore. Hell, half of it isn't even about the movie! (Read more.)
Thu, June 24
There's plenty of hullabaloo about the upcoming film Spider-Man 2. And I'm all for it. I think it will be the most amazing sequel ever. But not enough attention is being paid to the outfit. (Read more.)
Heading for "Pop" Country—1:20 AM
I'll be at a conference in Chicago Thursday through Saturday, so the long-form, photo-heavy update on the TiVo situation will have to wait. (Short version: things are good, possibly even getting better.) Hopefully I'll have Internet at the hotel, so I can do the reality TV update on Friday night, but just in case I don't get a chance, I stayed up late and published the Spider-Man column I've been thinking about for the last week or so. It's fun; it'll tide you over.
Enjoy! Come back often! Try not to miss me too much! And, say a prayer for Mary-Kate Olsen!
Sun, June 20
It's the customer service, stupid—11:35 AM
I'm traveling to Chicago Thursday thru Saturday for a conference, and I'm flying American because they had the best direct flights. The USC travel agency booked the flight for me back in April, and at the time I didn't have an AAdvantage (frequent flier program) account. Since I booked another flight with American last week, I now have an AAdvantage account and I thought it would be nice to be able to earn miles for next week's trip while I was at it.
I called American, pressed like three buttons, and a friendly young lady took my information and set it up so that I would earn miles for the Chicago trip. I didn't even have to wait on hold on a Sunday morning. Total call time: maybe five minutes. And some of that was me having to go through the menus more than once because I was playing a video game at the time, and not paying close attention.
Contrast to AT&T Wireless who tortured me for an hour in their store and another hour or so on three separate phone calls, all just because I want to get rid of my 2 1/2 year old phone and get a new one. Or, of course, Canon. They still have my camera that I was hoping to take with me to the windy city next week. I'll be calling them in the morning to check status, but I'm hardly hopeful.
(Rebecca at Drive Savers was also really sweet yesterday, although that hardly counts; the Drive Savers folks can afford to be nice – the average customer spends a few thousand with them. TiVo on the other hand, as much as I love them, disappointed me a tad. I described my problem and got kicked up to Senior Tech Support, just so they could tell me that I needed to send it in. The JV squad couldn't have said, "Send it in"?)
There's been a teensy upswing in economic indicators (which the Bush administration believes thereby absolves them of any mishandling of the economy). If we have any chance of snowballing that into real growth, I think it's essential that companies relate to their customers in a pleasant, helpful, and efficient manner. These days, if I get halfway decent customer service, I'm shocked; a few years ago, I would have been surprised by bad customer service.
Snappy Snap—10:20 AM
This site is gradually getting a little more photography, with even more to come. In the meantime, I've finally assembled a few shots and started contributing to Snap Club.
The second rule of Snap Club is that you do not talk about Snap Club.
Anyway, you can see the first few here: Snap Club
Sat, June 19
Buy Two Of Everything—12:00 PM
I'm preparing for my Schadenfreude Detector to hit OVERLOAD... last night, my TiVo died in its sleep.
The real kicker here is that it's probably a hardware issue, which means the unit has to be replaced. And, because my TiVo unit is over two years old, they're telling me that the model I have is most likely not available. I'm having to call all over town to see if anyone has one in stock. Why can't stores just have things? Why does everything have to get discontinued? It never breaks in the first two weeks, when you could head back to the store and find a plethora of identical TiVos. No, it waits until the entire product line has been pulled – then you need one and you have about 45 frantic minutes before you're committed to an event across town, so you get to scramble around like an idiot.
Update: It would appear that nobody sells the same unit anywhere in town. My options are to find a new unit on eBay, or to just try replacing the hard drive in my current unit. I'm leaning towards replacing the hard drive, because I'm virtually positive that it's just a hardware failure. I've also contacted über-expensive data recovery experts Drive Savers and they may be able to recover my recordings and put them on a new drive that I can pop back into TiVo. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Fri, June 18
I couldn't bring myself to watch The Simple Life 2 – one episode of the first series was enough for me – but you can bet I'll tune in next week when they visit a nudist colony. However, the reality recap is still full of textures... and moments. (Read more.)
Thu, June 17
"Elbow room!" said Daniel Boone—2:24 PM
I had to purchase a flight on the American Airlines website this week, and of course the most important part of any online flight booking is picking your seats. Up until recently, I always flew Delta. So I only had experience with their austere, abstract seat picker. But then Delta decided that they hate their passengers, so I had to switch.
Two major differences using American: they orient the plane vertically, which is wildly stupid because all computer screens are wider than they are tall; and, they use little stick figures to represent "claimed" seats instead of a grey box.
Unsurprisingly, the little stick figures hog the armrests, just like the real passengers do.
Tue, June 15
Coffee and Cigarettes wasn't necessarily a bad film, although I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to call it a good one. It did have some interesting moments, but overall it just wasn't a film for me. (Read more.)
Don't worry, Virginia! Everyone's favorite underage fantasy duo has crossed that arbitrary line into Total Mature Understanding of Sexual Relationships and the Ensuing Consequences, so we don't need sites like this anymore!
Also, my favorite part, the old standby in web design. "We're not quite ready to go live yet."
Mon, June 14
For summer, I'm instituting a weekly reality TV wrap-up. It's just the shows I watch; if yours isn't included, I'm sorry. Also, beware: (I won't always declare something so obvious, but Arksie was out of town Thursday night) some spoilers ahead. (Read more.)
Oh, dammit...—9:06 PM
Stanley Tucci was on The Daily Show tonight to talk about The Terminal and I'm reminded – as I always am, whenever I see him – how much he looks like Peter Sellers. And, particularly in films like The Impostors, he has very similar comic mannerisms.
So, I checked online because I know there's this movie coming up called The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. Surely, reason would prevail and Tucci would play Sellers! Not so. Geoffrey ("Arrrr, missy!") Rush. Damn.
Worse yet, Tucci is in the movie, but he's playing Stanley Kubrick. The ultimate injustice, having to sit around and watch someone else do it. Plus, woe be us, the pitiful moviegoers. We have to suffer through another Adrien Brody/Jim Caviezel mirror-image identical-costar death march.
Sun, June 13
What was I supposed to do, not mention it? The Olsen twins turn 18 today, and a thousand Internet clocks are finally going to count down to zero. However, I don't think it has to be as bad as all that that implies. (Read more.)
This country is too paranoid—11:43 AM
I bought windshield wiper fluid at Ralphs the other day, because my car's computer readout had been whining about it for weeks. (If it had come with Bill Daniels's voice, I'd have listened right away.)
Anyway, I got out to the car, and I unscrewed the cap off the bottle of wiper fluid, and there was a tamper-proof seal under there. What the fuck?
Wouldn't it make more sense to have a warning label that reads: "Do not drink wiper fluid; it may have been poisoned due to the lack of tamper-proof seal. (Also: it probably wouldn't be a good idea to drink unpoisoned wiper fluid, either.)"
I mean, what can someone possibly put into wiper fluid that warrants a tamper-proof seal? Windshield acid? Wouldn't that eat through the bottle? Bug food, to attract insects to your windshield in a cruel prank? I just don't get it.
Off Topic: I also noticed a few billboards for a new TV series on SciFi called Five Days to Midnight. It looks as though it's meant to be a gripping dramatic thriller. All I can think whenever I see the poor guy on the poster is, "Dude! There's one tonight!"
Fri, June 11
I finally realized how much I need the 24-hour cable news networks. Otherwise, how would we be able to know whether or not Reagan is still dead? (Read more.)
Your own name is at the top of the "recent comments" section of your website.
Mac Market Share—1:55 PM
The Daring and magnificent John Gruber has been talking a bit about security on the Mac platform lately, because of the recent publicity (some deserved, some not) that it's been getting. All of it well worth reading, even if you don't have a Mac (or a computer at all, which I guess means you're at the library right now). Particularly Security Cannot Be Spun.
Today, he posted this little chart of market share as measured by Google. It's quite interesting, but I think the point should be made that this is a slightly skewed sample.
This isn't really computer market share, it's computer market share as represented by computers that do a Google search. (I'm guessing this includes Google-based searches on other sites, but I'm not sure.) The point is, they're on the net, and they're visiting Google. If they're on the net, there's a better than average chance they're at the office, and most offices are outfitted with PCs, even if the users might have Macs at home. (However, I'm sure a higher percentage of Mac owners are connected than Windows users, simply because it's a smaller pool and the income and computer use skew slightly higher in the Mac group.) So, I can't say which way the data is skewing, but it's always important to consider the source and the conditions for testing.
Same with this:
Are these mall interviews? Online polls? What qualifies a respondent for a specific county? Do people supply their zip codes or is it just the county in which the poll took place?
In our current USA Today world, I think analytical thinking is woefully lacking when approaching statistical data. Not that I'm accusing Gruber of sloppy analysis. He's the best there is. It's a perfectly good measure of market share, it's just not the same as "percentage of every computer owned by anyone." It's close, and much easier to attain. The thought just popped in my head when looking at the chart, and the Coke map. Maybe I'm channelling Edward Tufte here.
So a certain rabble-rouser, who shall remain anonymous until it is politically convenient for me to expose this person in public and bring much shame upon him/her, has just forwarded me this link:
I have no idea what the hell it means. My best guess is that it is an ongoing story based on the results of a Dungeons & Dragons game, although I suppose it could just be D&D fiction unrelated to any specific game. But I'm still confused. Wasn't there supposed to be a horse named Franc?
Anyway, from the context, this instigator implies that Tidball, the onebee.com Patron Saint of Off-Site Links, is either "spyscribe" (the chronicler in this case), or perhaps just one of the participants. I think the point that's meant to be made is, "Look at this geek! You must hate him!" Which I think is a little unfair to me, and a lot unfair to him (where "he" is spyscribe and/or the poor, innocent Tidball).
I guess I should go on the record as saying I'm not really so shallow that I judge people based on broad generalizations. I'm not a racist. There may be individual Mexican-Americans I dislike, even an anonymous one who cuts me off in traffic, but I'm not shouting "Kill all Mexicans!" I don't begrudge anyone's interest in fantasy role-playing games (if, in fact, that's the category D&D would fall into – I'm ignorant here). I don't begrudge anyone's appreciation of LOTR, in book or movie form. I begrudge the way the films were made, I begrudge the Oscar sweep, but I don't begrudge the fans. (I'd have to hate, like, half of America! And I already hate half for voting for Bush!) I think a rich and vivid imagination is a wonderful thing, and if a game like D&D is your chosen outlet for expressing that, more power to you. I'm meticulous and obsessive. I'm sure if I sat in on a game, I'd be caught right up in it. (Although maybe I'd skip the part where you wear puffy hats and walk around saying "Forsooth.")
Ha ha, only teasing about the hats. And that's the point here. Sure, D&D is very easy to make fun of. All of us do it. But 26-year-old virgins are easy to make fun of, too. I can laugh at myself, just as this merry band of D&D'ers can. Just because the jokes are easy doesn't mean they're malicious. I wouldn't dare to judge a group of people just because they play Dungeons & Dragons.
(Well, not anymore. In the tenth grade I had to stay after school to make up a Chemistry exam, and the room I had to do it in was also hosting the school's D&D club – a handful of spindly seventh and eighth graders with sunken chests and overactive sebaceous glands, who loudly proclaimed after every roll of the die, "You want to have sex with it!!" amid much snorting and wheezing and groping for inhalers. ([dice roll] "We encounter... a cow." "And you want to have sex with it!!" [laugh/snort/shove]) They kind of perpetuated the stereotype a tad much. I related this to a classmate, who said he was making up a test in a similar situation and apparently the distraction finally snapped him. He says he got all up in their shit, screaming, "You are inexcusable!" at the top of his voice. This was a pretty geeky looking guy; in a lineup, he'd get picked as the D&D grand wizard or whatever they have. So it's a really funny image for me to remember.)
So, if the point is to say "Tidball is a dork," well, yes. But who among us isn't? I don't think you can have a blog and not be a dork. But what's wrong with that? He's the coolest dork I know. He has an earring, for crying out loud! This new information doesn't really push the meter in either direction. If the point is to say "Jameson is a hypocrite," well, yes. I frequently rail against Bush for things that I'd easily let Clinton get away with. I frequently call for the head of Julianne Moore on a stick, but I'd give her daily pedicures for a year if she'd introduce me to Spielberg. I'm a hypocrite, and proudly so. However, I don't think I am in this case.
(And if the emoticon isn't clear enough on the subject, please read the comments before allowing anything above to upset you. Thanks!)
Wed, June 9
If you click one off-site link this month, make it this one:
A Week on the Set with the Wal-Mart Smiley [McSweeney's]
Sure, the point can be made that making the Smiley surly and irritable is a pretty obvious choice, once you're writing a piece like this. But that's just it – first, you have to have an idea as ingenious as this.
Tidball: Unplugged—3:08 AM
This evening, I had the great pleasure to dine with Jeff Tidball, of jefftidball.com fame. I'm delighted to report that he's as friendly, witty, and knowledgeable in real life as he is on the web. (And also, celebrating his seventh anniversary this week. Congrats!)
(In fairness, I have to admit that I actually did meet Tidball in person before I met him online, but anyone would agree that the bulk of our exchange has been blog-to-blog, which made the whole thing feel like a cyber-date ... or maybe just a tech summit.)
At any rate, we got together to hang out with a mutual – and mutually surprising – friend J-Zo (from my work and his film school class). It was a great time and it felt like things really came full circle – from Arksie and I growling "Tidballlll!" at the Oscar pool scoreboard, to me joining the growing community of jefftidball.com readers, to J-Zo saying off-hand, "my buddy Jeff Tidball's blog" and my head exploding, to sitting down for some nice pizza. Tidball: a worthy Oscar pool adversary, an erudite cataloguer of the Tidball experience, and a true gentleman. I look forward to more encounters in the future (although perhaps with less of the accompanying giddy anticipation – I don't need to feel any more like a girl than I already do).
Speaking of anniversaries, my parents' 31st anniversary is today, which is why the Wayback Machine is featuring my column about their 30th. xoxo, Mom and Dad!
Fri, June 4
Thank You for the Music—6:38 PM
Without a song or a dance what are we? Mom, here's your Evian Water Boy link, as well as a few other musical treats from the past.
(And, for good measure: Good Ol' Bananaphone)
I'm a riot—3:51 PM
From a phone conversation last night with the comely Jody:
Everyone always says, "In the future, you won't need a TV! You'll be able to watch TV on your eyelids!" Who wants to have friends over to watch your eyelids?
Couldn't have said it better myself—10:05 AM
This is very funny; it's just a coincidence that it happens to be anti-Bush.
Don't Be an Ass [Wonkette]
(I'd have linked straight to the Flash show, except that would mean passing over Wonkette's Guffman quote. Not gonna happen!)
Thu, June 3
Not a spoiler—10:55 PM
"If they didn't have a river in poker, I'd be a billionaire." –James Woods, Celebrity Poker Showdown
God, this is the best TV show in history.
Shield your eyes! Computer talk!—3:32 PM
I don't talk a lot about technology here – mostly out of an interest in protecting my readers from boredom-induced comas – but maybe I should reconsider that. Anyway, this was interesting to me:
Microsoft's Sacred Cash Cow [Seattle Weekly]
Users of Microsoft’s free Hotmail e-mail have better spam protection than small business users who buy Microsoft’s Exchange Server.
I mean, we may not all like talking about UNIX and MySQL, but we can at least agree that Windows sucks, right?
Wed, June 2
Bee Week!—1:32 PM
Let's all root for Katie Olson! She's hanging in there!
(And no, not because her last name rhymes with that of some very hot teenagers who've made a name for themselves in non-spelling-related fields – because she's from my hometown!) (You sickos.)
Tue, June 1
I've always been a fan of highlighting and discrediting straw man arguments, because to me it feels a lot like cheating. Particularly in the current political climate, where people – including the press – are generally uninterested in doing the research to see if the portrait of the opponent's position is a truthful representation.
I only got halfway into Darwin's Black Box, by Michael Behe, which was basically just one giant straw man argument against evolution. (I keep meaning to give it another try – I'm confident I can finish the thing, infuriating as it is, if I just grit my teeth and power through.)
(By the way, the Bush quote at the end of the WP column is out of context. Don't consider my link to the column as an endorsement of that kind of thing. Stupid liberal media.)
The woman has excellent sources—12:52 PM
(Mission Impossible Theme Song Goes Here) [Permanently Disco]
Plus, she got to relive part of The Day After Tomorrow last week!