Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Agatha Christie = Cheez Doodles.

They're light, crisp and fairly cheesy. You pretty much always know what you're going to get when you crack one open. And I really, really like them.

Am I talking about Agatha Christie novels or Cheez Doodles? Why can't it be both?

They're both good for the beach or a quiet weekend at home, and it's only a matter of time before LilBud loves Dame Agatha as much as he loves "oodle-oodle-oodles".

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Election Day 2005

Originally uploaded by Vaguely Artistic.

Done did my civic duty, even though this election is only a bunch of propositions here in CA.

Just a taste of success in the '90s and I'm hooked... unfortunately the last few Election Days haven't gone my way.

Doesn't keep me from trying.

Monday, November 07, 2005

There's just too many of them! Sports Edition

The problem with being an omnivore is that there is just way too much to talk about.

"Is too much. Let me sum up."
  • Keano's comments - As I learned from reading his autobiography, Roy Keane is not afraid to say what he thinks. He called teammates on the carpet by name after the embarrassing slaughter last week by 'Boro. The difference between this and T.O. is that Keano did it in an interview that would be screened by the boss before airing -- therefore it never aired. Still doesn't win him any prizes.
  • ManU vs. Chelsea - Hooray! There was much dancing that startled the kitty. Should Keano get any credit? Who cares?
  • Colts vs. Patriots - Not snobby about types of football, regardless of soccer fan stereotype. It was a tight game for a long time, then the Pats started getting petulant. It was ugly to see.
  • Fantasy Leagues - I'm participating in a fantasy EPL and a fantasy NFL. Each has their drawbacks, but going forward I'm going to stick with the FEPL. Much more fun, much less confusing. But it still doesn't change the fact that my older brother seems to be running away with the FEPL title. Again.
  • NHL rule changes - Definitely making a big difference. Those extra three feet inside the blue line make it that much tougher to clear the zone on the penalty kill. The long breakout passes are spectacular. Now if only the Sharks could win a game in regulation...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Hair color's just about right.

Another one of those quizzes for fun...

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?


Possessing a rare combination of wisdom and humility, while serenely dominating your environment you selflessly use your powers to care for others.

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

I could change the course of the future. I'd still have to bum rides off people.

(Hat tip to WWdN:iX)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Review: Keane

I read this book to find out more about Roy Keane, fiery Irish midfielder for my favorite footballers, Manchester United. It was a fairly quick read, not really going into any depth on most of his life. The main emphasis was on some of the events that had made him a somewhat notorious public figure in England.

Being a new fan of the English Premier League, a lot of the events were unfamiliar to me. In each of them, Keane is portrayed - of course! - as being a victim of circumstance because of his inability to put up with bullsh*t. Whether you buy that or not, it is interesting to see how he came to find himself dismissed from the Irish squad for World Cup 2002 (which I remember hearing about) or getting set up for tabloid fodder by a couple of conniving women.

What is perhaps most ironic of all about this book is that the blurbs all compliment the candor with which Keane writes... and then a new added chapter shows that one of the most controversial passages about a run-in on the pitch with another player was forcibly censored by the English Football Association.

Funniest thing about the whole book: several times Keane says something along the lines of "Gary Neville was born an adult" and "Gary Neville was never a child." If you've ever seen G. Neville play, it totally fits.

As for recommending it to read, only if you're a real fan. Might bore the socks off you otherwise. Good insight on some of the greats that Keane played with such as Eric Cantona and Steve Bruce, and it has some great pictures. My personal favorite is the infamous Bruce Lee move executed by Cantona on a hapless fan in the stands.

New Phone Phun

SigO and I finally got of our duffs and got on a family plan for our cell phones. Ridiculous that we should have gone so long without one, I know, but it was just one of those "Duh" moments.

Since I am an AT&T Wireless stepchild of a customer to Cingular, my existing line was added to SigO's plan after jumping through several hoops involving 800 numbers and identity checks. Hooray. And as a testament to my stubbornness in not wanting to get email or take photos on my phone, I got the more recent version of my basic flippy, the Samsung X497 (pictured above).

So far so good on the service, but the ringtones and graphics are LAME. I may be stubborn but I'm not that stubborn. I want cool crap on my phone! Looks like my best friends will no longer be able to trigger "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?" and "Happy Valentine's Day" by Outkast will no longer signal SigO. And since I am now the subordinate on the plan, I can't log on to the web to download, and for some reason can't access downloadable ringtones or graphics from my cell phone.

Someone decided that IM would be a good idea, however, so now I seem to be permanently signed in to Yahoo! Messenger. Curiouser and curiouser.

Actual added bonus, however, is that Caller ID now shows my cell phone number with SigO's name. Heh. Mistaken identity hijinks set to ensue!

Daylight Savings Time GRR!

Yeah, this is what I'm coming back with.

Still completely out of sorts from the time change two days ago. Why can't we just leave the clock alone?

Don't make me move to Arizona.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Blogging for Fun and Profit

Yeah, I'm still here. Just haven't had much to share, really... except for a wedding and a trip to the beach. Those involve photos so they won't be up here.

What's bugging me today -- the large issues like Katrina and gas prices aside -- is the newly-discovered "personal branding portfolio". Like the practice of networking for the sake of networking, there is a level of disingenuousness to it that I don't appreciate.

Hypocritical of me, maybe? I probably wouldn't be bothered by it if I were running a successful blog. It may also be why I'm still unemployed right now, not forthright enough in my forthrightness.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Go! Team - San Francisco

Go! Team
Originally uploaded by gregoryperez.

This picture is from a different show, but the vibe is captured well. The Go! Team is a UK band with high energy music that SigO discovered via Pitchfork Media a few months ago, and we couldn't resist the chance to see them at Bimbo's in the city last night.

Their music is difficult to describe, with samples, heavy drums, singing, rapping, guitars, piano... it's just crazy fun.

I've told my little brother he has to see them, since they're going to be in LA tonight and tomorrow night.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Review: The Birth of Venus

My mother recommended this book to me, which I guess is a testament to the fact that I'm all grown up because it has sex in it. We proper Southern women don't discuss such things.

Anyhoo, I found myself getting sucked into it, although the story seemed like the familiar set-in-the-past-rebellious-woman thing that I feel like I've run into before. It was entertaining enough to keep reading, even though I made the mistake of wandering through the discussion questions at the end -- it was one of those book club editions -- that tipped some of the plot points. Probably would have been better without that.

Despite the fact that I swallowed it whole in about three days, it gets an "eh". If you enjoyed Girl with a Pearl Earring or The Red Tent, you will probably enjoy this one as well.

Real Madrid vs. LA Galaxy - July 18th

Real Madrid vs. LA Galaxy
Originally uploaded by laNDN.

SigO and I spent the weekend with his parents in Redondo Beach so that we could all go to this game on Monday night in Carson. What a treat!

We also got to meet up with my little brother who lives down there, which is always cool.

Of course, Real Madrid just made it look like they were playing against a practice squad, but you know. They took it easy on the Galaxy and only won 2-0.

Good thing my dad brought back a Zizu jersey from Italy so I could wear it!

Pictured here are Beckham, Roberto Carlos and Michael Owen. Other players on the team include Zinedine Zidane (Zizu), Gravesen, Figo, Raul and Ronaldo.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Review: Blink

This book read surprisingly quickly for what is basically a sociology text. It's really not very long, and it dissects a concept called the adaptive unconscious, which is described by the subtitle of the book, "The Power of Thinking Without Thinking". This is a trait that allows one to make snap decisions based on input that one is not even aware of.

The most striking example that Malcolm Gladwell gives is of a situation where the mind's ability to interpret facial expressions and body language failed, which is the case of Amadou Dialo, an innocent who was shot 41 times by NYC officers in a blind panic a few years back. In more subtle cases, he describes how corporations use packaging shapes and colors to influence consumers. It is definitely a book that provides food for thought, and surprisingly readable for a book dealing with such an abstract concept.

And not one to miss an opportunity for subtle digs, the military exercise chapter is frightening -- when faced with unconventional tactics during war games that cost them victory, the powers that be call a "do over" and handicap their faux renegade general so that they can predict the outcome. Given that this occurred back in 2000 according to the book, it's easy to see how the US military can apparently be taken off guard.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Review: The Master and Margarita

Picked up this book by Mikhail Bulgakov on a whim because I remembered that my little brother had recommended it a few years back. I had wandered into a bookstore to pre-order Harry Potter #6 -- nothing wrong with that -- and felt stupid walking out of a store with just a receipt. That and there was a picture of a cat on the cover.

It takes some time to get started and is a bit confusing because of the Russian patronymics, but it really does pull you in. The edition that I got was a newer translation from the Russian. The author, Bulgakov, is extremely popular now in that country, but his works were banned during his lifetime under the Communist regime.

I can't begin to explain this book, but the simple version is that the Devil comes to Moscow and very strange and gruesome things begin to happen. This is interwoven with a novel by The Master, who is writing about Pontius Pilate at a time when anything that is in any way religious is banned. While it sounds depressing, what emerges is an allegorical satire about life in the Soviet state that is laugh-out-loud funny at times. Fortunately the notes at the end are very thorough in explaining some discrepancies in the narrative and some of the name and word choices that the author makes.

Very highly recommended. In fact, it became my best friend's birthday present, to whom I always try to give the best book I've read that year. Hopefully she won't see this before she gets the package!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Armstrong = Super Fantastique

It must suck to be Jan Ullrich. Sure, you've won the Tour de France, but then along comes this Yank who's supposed to have died of cancer and proceeds to dominate the prime of your career.

Reminds me of a quote from the golfing world a few years back:

Interviewer: What would you have to shoot this weekend in order to win?
Respondent: Tiger Woods.

Should be a wide-open field next year, but this year's TDF is making Mr. Armstrong look invincible. He's just toying with people, man, I can see how one might not appreciate that.

If you've got OLN, you'd best watch. Me, I'm watching mostly to see the fantastic French countryside and spectacular aerial shots.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Review: Lindbergh (Finally!)

For being such a great biography, it really took me a long time to get through it. So long in fact, that I renewed it too many times, had to return it to the library, then checked it out again. And then I still had to renew it once. I think the problem was that I had several reserves come through at the same time, and they had definite time constraints because other people had requested them as well. Lindbergh was not in high demand so it got a lower priority.

At any rate, I decided to read this book after reading Kate Remembered, A. Scott Berg's memoir about his relationship with Katharine Hepburn that he published after her death. I liked his writing style and was intrigued by the high praise he had received for his other biographies of Max Perkins and Samuel Goldwyn. I also wanted to read about Lindbergh because I had read somewhere that the Hepburn/Tracy film "Keeper of the Flame" was loosely based on him because of his controversial involvement in an isolationist movement called America First at the beginning of WW II. He was accused of being a pro-Nazi fascist with aspirations to creating his own dictatorship -- and he was too naive to deign to address these aspersions directly.

There is a breathtaking level of detail in the book, the culmination of nine years of research. Berg was the first author given complete access to the diaries, letters and other documents of Lindbergh himself, his wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh, their children, and any other associates that might have had a bearing on creating this portrait of the enigmatic flyer. The density of facts is a bit overwhelming and necessitates a kind of focus that makes it impossible to read bits and pieces here and there as I was trying to do. It clocks in at over 600 pages and comes with several sections of photographs, some of which are from the private Lindbergh collections, and are great illustrations of the people and places described in the pages.

Overall, it was a fascinating picture of a man that even his family did not know well. Linbergh comes across as distant, willful and motivated by an unbending need to control everything around him. His flight to Paris was attempted not to bring him the fame that haunted him for the rest of his life, but to prove that the challenge could be met. This unwilling international hero tried to keep some things for himself and his family, but the press was relentless in their pursuit in a way that echoes the current paparazzi scourge. After the kidnapping death of their first child and the subsequent media circus, the Lindberghs were forced to emigrate to Europe to retrieve some measure of a "normal" life. The chapter on the "Trial of the Century" is a real page-turner, even if it does cast doubt on the idea that the perpetrator was able to pull off this astonishing atrocity by himself. Lindbergh's level of fame seems astonishing now, in an age where such "heroes" are manufacturing on a weekly, if not daily, basis and left behind just as quickly.

Interestingly enough, all of this fame and glory was tarnished by his unabashed admiration for the technological advances of Nazi Germany and his apparent refusal to explicitly state his aversion to the attempted genocide of the Holocaust. To be fair, although he did advocate that the US stay out of the "European" war, he was the first to try and reenlist in the armed forces once Pearl Harbor happened. Unfortunately he had put himself on the wrong side of FDR and had to find other ways to serve -- including acting as a guinea pig for aeronautics companies that were working through the technical problems of creating pressurized flight decks. Eventually he was able to find his way into the service as a "technical rep" and unofficially flew 50 bombing missions in the Pacific. His recommendations on increasing power and fuel efficiency expanded the attack radius of the fleets in the Pacific and brought a much-needed element of surprise to US battle plans there.

To be sure, it was not all sunshine and roses, particularly where his marriage was concerned. However, I think that those interested in the great man and his rise, fall and subsequent redemption through his conservation efforts will find this book a valuable resource. I knew that he was buried at Hana when I visited Maui six years ago, but if I had read this book before going there, I would not have stopped short of making it to his gravesite.

I was impressed enough to contemplate reading Berg's two other biographies; however, I think I will take my time in getting to them.

Review: The World is Flat

I am waayyyy behind on reviewing what I've read, so I'll just stick to the most recent few. This book, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century, is written by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and explores the way that technology has removed the barriers to globalization. In particular, he focuses on the advent of the web and the fall of the Berlin Wall and how they have affected the distribution of productivity around the globe. We've obviously just reached the tip of the iceberg here, as technology keeps ramping up efficiencies.

I was fascinated by his take on things, much as I was when reading his The Lexus and The Olive Tree. His style of writing is very clear and interesting, even when the subjects aren't necessarily scintillating. He writes about offshoring, outsourcing, and how they can factor into geopolitics. One frightening point he makes is that we have yet to see what will happen to the global economy once all of India and China are online and bring their massive populations' energy demands to the world market. And we think gas prices are high now...

Definitely recommend this book for brain spinach reading. If you're looking for a break from light summer fare, this is a good bet.

And one note: I'm using Safari at the moment to post, which apparently does not support all of the Blogger functionality. No inserted links or formatting capabilities!!

Taproot Foundation

So how else am I filling my time, you ask? What useful thing am I doing to offset the absence of employment?

Working with the Taproot Foundation, of course! This is a great organization with chapters scattered around the country that does pro bono marketing work for non-profit organizations. Is my halo showing yet?

More information here:

The project I've been assigned to is a redesign of a website for Downtown College Prep, a charter public school dedicated to preparing underachieving kids from downtown San Jose to attend 4-year colleges and succeed. Way cool.

Their current website is here:

See if there is a chapter in your area and sign up as a volunteer today!

Blog Hiatus

I know there's a funny term for it, the blog hiatus, but I can't think of it right now. Working my way back into posting between my current obsession with finding more work and the Tour de France on OLN. I'm writing today in fact because it's a rest day. Sad really.

I'm also writing surrounded by my all-Apple all-the-time technology, including a 12" iBook, and iPod Mini plugged into JBL speakers. The crowning glory, my Targus optical mini-mouse, as recommended by Backup Brain.

And of course, this post is just a test of my Blogger posting Widget. Love that Mac OS X.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

This Day in History: The Magna Carta

As some of you may remember from your middle school world history lessons, the Magna Carta is always touted as a pretty big deal. Well, according to the History Channel website, King John sealed the deal on this date.

Interesting to note, however, that the actual execution of the document is not all it's cracked up to be:
The Magna Carta has been subject to a great deal of historical exaggeration; it did not establish Parliament, as some have claimed, nor more than vaguely allude to the liberal democratic ideals of later centuries. However, as a symbol of the sovereignty of the rule of law, it was of fundamental importance to the constitutional development of England.
Wonder how many other significant milestones we've learned by rote that aren't what we think they are?

The Declaration of Independence comes to mind... July 4th is great and all, but we still had to fight a big, bloody war after that.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Review: We the Media

Because I spend a lot of time monitoring blogs for my current assignment, I became aware of Dan Gillmor and his contributions to the online community. Based on what I had read by him and about him, I thought I would check out his book, We the Media, about the changing role of blogs and the potential they have to be the news delivery system.

An interesting premise, and he develops his case thoroughly using specific examples of where blogs have affected events and outcomes, as well as providing the background and definitions for those who might not be conversant in the exact terminology. One chapter I was glad to see was specifically related to RSS and its uses, which I have had some trouble explaining to my family members who are not involved in technology.

I was also surprised to find how big of a role the online community has played in certain events, as it continues to do with coverage of the Iraq war and the response to the Thai tsunami in late 2004. I wonder though if there will not be the inevitable backlash against online sources as their credibility and legitimacy are challenged both online and in the courts. Allegations even surfaced today that a prominent news organization had become so desperate for online traffic that they enlisted a shady organization to raise their page rank -- if they are also sucked down, what will be left?

Mostly what the book did for me is underscore the point that the journalism profession is reliant upon a stringent code of ethics that sometimes seems to be enforced on a strictly "honor policy" basis. It makes it difficult to know whom to trust, much less believe. I don't like being a cynic, but it's difficult to feel that all news reporting now is not just spin based on the political agenda of the transmitting organization. It makes a sad statement that the only "news" program that I watch is "The Daily Show". But at least I am also well-informed enough to know when they get something wrong.

Overall, I would recommend this book as reading for those who are just becoming familiar with the "blogosphere" and what it can do.

Episode III: Take Two

SigO and I went to see Episode III last week in digital. It was great
-- crystal clear, astounding visuals... and still clunky dialogue. But
we knew that.

I was still able to feel compassion for Anakin; be bewildered by his
sudden decision to bow to Sidious; and feel sorry for Hayden
Christensen for being saddled with the thankless task of delivering an
emotional performance for a director that wouldn't know one if it
walked up and bit him. Banter, he can do up to a point, as demonstrated by the interplay between Anakin and Obi-Wan in the first act. Sigh.

SigO has just completed his Phantom Edit and is already planning the
same for Clones and ROTS. I have many suggestions for him, but I'm
sure he's got them covered.

Note: adding links has started to bug me, so I'm posting this without
them for now.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Magic Number to Find Job?

Your Birthdate: April 8

Born on the 8th day of the month, you have a special gift for business, as you can conceive and plan on a grand scale.

You have good executive skills and you're a good judge of values.

You should try to own your own business, because you have such a strong desire to be in control.

You are generally reliable when it comes to handling money; you can be trusted in this regard.

Idealistic by nature, you are never too busy to spend some time on worthwhile causes, especially if managerial support are needed.

There is much potential for material success associated with this number.

What Does Your Birth Date Mean?

Too bad I can't use this as a reference for finding a full time job. Somehow it's difficult to get this across on a resume.

If I could throw this into the ring, I could then use my horoscope and my numerology profile to back it up.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

PXNA05 - Warfield

The Pixies
The Pixies,
originally uploaded by fannymcgee.

We had a great Memorial Day weekend, capped off by seeing the Pixies at the Warfield on Monday night. It was a bizarre set up where they played two shows in one night, the first starting at 7:00 and the second at 11:30. SigO was braver than I and stayed through both.

Here's the set list from the show I went to:
Show #1: Lady In The Radiator Song, Wave of Mutilation (UK surf), Where is My Mind, La La Love You, Here Comes Your Man, Nimrod's Son, Vamos, Mr. Grieves, Blown Away, Winterlong, Into the White, Bone Machine, Gigantic, Caribou, Monkey Gone to Heaven, The Sad Punk, Stormy Weather, Hey, Dead, Tame, River Euphrates, Ed is Dead, Alec Eiffel, Planet of Sound. Encore: Gouge Away, Debaser.
Courtesy of T. Malone, who was also there. We were standing on the floor right near the front, great view all around & rocked out as much as our old bones could stand. SigO finally got to see "River Euphrates" live, and I got to hear "Winterlong", which is one of my favorites to sing along to. We went to see them last year at the Greek Ampitheatre over in Berkeley and up at UC Davis, and they really have it all together now.

Unfortunately there was a guy on Monday behind us doing his best imitation of a smoke machine of the wacky kind so it was very pungent -- but easily ignored.

If you give a damn and you can get out to see 'em, I recommend it.

Episode III: Sigh.


I actually saw Episode III: ROTS the day after it came out, but I've been busy with other things. I think it did a good job overall because it made me really, really sad in spite of the fact that most of the dialogue was excruciating and some of the acting was terrible. I kinda knew what to expect in that regard because "I've got a bad feeling about this", while a Lucas catch phrase that I myself use fairly often, is not stellar writing.

I ended up seeing it with my family while in VA, and I told SigO later as we compared notes that I felt like LilBud in the second half of the movie saying "Noo." in the whiny little voice of a two-year-old being asked to do something they don't want to do. I knew how it was going to end, but I didn't want him to go out like that. It was not a satisfying turn to the dark side in my mind. Even though they were building to it effectively, in the end it was more of a squeak than even a whimper when Anakin succumbs to Sidious.

And then there was poor Natalie Portman. It makes me wonder how much better I would have felt about the part of Padme if I didn't know her as a great actress -- I felt like she was wasted here. More unknowns in other parts might have helped, too, to eliminate some of the feelings of stunt casting that have been haunting the prequels.

SigO says that it improves upon second viewing, but you know it's bad when my Dad, Mr. Blow-'em-up-flick-fan, thinks that the light saber battles are too long. But even given all of that, I know that we will have to get the DVD, and I can't wait to see the special features.

This is why George Lucas is worth approximately a gazillion dollars.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Oo! Oo! Wal-Mart is Out!!

Well I'll be darned. Looks like someone realizes that Netflix has a great thing going:

Under the agreement, Wal-Mart will offer its online customers the opportunity to sign up with Netflix at their current monthly subscription price of $12.97 for a year, and Netflix will promote Wal-Mart DVD sales to its 3 million subscribers.
Blockbuster is still in it; Amazon is still a darkhorse, but this can only be good for Netflix.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Cruise/Holmes = Huh?

Many props to the Manolo for this series of pictures, which somehow captures my feeling about the whole thing.

Kind of happy for them, I guess, but in some respects it just seems creepy. The main difference between this relationship and that of Ms. Moore and Mr. Kutcher is that Mr. Kutcher did not profess a desire to be married to Ms. Moore before he met her.

I want to believe that this is on the up and up, but somehow I just can't. That being said, they are a phenomenally attractive couple.

English Premier League Map - Circa ??

Source: Educational Services

My older brother sent this out to the fam today and I just had to share. They used to have this great satellite zoom before each of the EPL games on Fox Sports World (now Fox Soccer Channel), which I liked because it would show you specifically where the matches were taking place, even down to what the stadium looked like from the air. It was way cool.

Teams on this list that are currently not in the EPL: Sunderland (they were up two seasons ago!); Bradford City; Leeds United (they were up last season!); Derby County; Leicester City (they were up last season!); Coventry City (butt of a Monty Python joke!); Ipswich Town; West Ham United (they were up two seasons ago!); and, as of this past Sunday, Southampton.

It's Funny because it's True...

Spencer the Katt from eWeek

Saw this cartoon mentioned on Scobleizer and just had to share because a large part of my job involves tracking blogs and trying to get my company covered on them.

The cynicism is well-earned.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Bay to Breakers 2005

originally uploaded by davelu37.
Just a sample of the wackiness that went on yesterday at the Bay to Breakers in San Francisco. We actually saw this guy leaving the hotel, he was staying on our floor!

SigO and I walked the 7+ miles due to our gimpiness, but it was very entertaining. Many travelling alcohol dispensaries, sexual organs real and simulated, and a swarm of salmon running upstream to spawn. That one was my favorite.

Check out Flickr for more pics!

Friday, May 13, 2005

"Time keeps on tickin tickin tickin...

...into the future..."

Ah, that was one of my favorite songs growing up. Has some great electronic special effects in it, especially if you're six years old.

As things pick up at work and as I get ready to go on a jaunt back home to see my family, I've found it hard to get around to posting to this site. Add in the fact that the home Internet connection is wonky (grumble grumble Comcast sux grumble grumble), and you've got a recipe for "eh".

So I'm going to copy Jeremy Zawodny (without quite as much seriousness in the content) and put in a list of things rather than separate posts.

  1. FEPL Update: We're nearing the end of the season, and it looks like my older brother has run away with the title, much in the spirit of Chelsea. Which actually had a lot to do with it since he consistently made Frank Lampard the captain of his fantasy team, and Lampard had a dream season. At least I'm not coming in last...but that's really an itty bitty consolation. Note to self: whenever SigO picks someone for his team, and particularly if he makes that player his captain, drop him like a hot rock. He's either about to get hurt or not play that week.
  2. ManU & Glazer: Can't believe that this guy is getting his foot in the door, especially with a bid that includes so much debt. I'm with Sir Alex. It's also worrisome given that the team's quality seems to have fallen off this season. SigO and I have debated their seeming inability to finish and the lack of consistency (except for Rio Ferdinand) on the back line. If Mr. Glazer were intending to revitalize the team the way that Abramovich has Chelsea, it might be a different thing. At the moment, I'll have to use a Lucasism: "I've got a bad feeling about this."
  3. Disney + Muppets: In the same vein, I have to agree with this article about the takeover of the Muppets by Disney and what it could possibly mean for the future of the characters. I grew up with the Muppet movies and The Muppet Show because it happened in the era between The Rescuers and The Little Mermaid when Disney animation just wasn't all that great (The Black Cauldron, anyone? And I loved the Lloyd Alexander series). I'm going to be watching "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz", don't get me wrong, I'm just not expecting to like it very much.
  4. Fanzone: Fox Soccer Channel sometimes shows the Sky Sports coverage of EPL games called Fanzone, which involves a fan for each team on the pitch and a mediator, covering the game. There's no play-by-play, it's all color. There's plenty of screaming and smack-talking involved, and it's absolutely hilarious. Particularly the reaction to Rooney's spectacular goal against Newcastle United, where the ManU fan just ended up screaming for about 15 seconds.
  5. Aussie Rules: One of my summertime treats is Australian Rules Football on Fox Soccer Channel. I just caught it randomly one night when FSC was still called Fox Sports World, and I got hooked. Mostly because I had to figure out what the heck was going on, but it's great! These guys make American football players look like pansies because Americans wear pads. Some similarities to rugby, but it's really a wide open game. The commentators are great, too. My favorite quotes from last week: "He chose the third of two options." and "He's got delusions of adequacy." Then there's also just the general screaming and carrying on that they do when they're excited.
  6. Getting Things Done: I had been reading about this book in several blogs so I decided to check it out. It does have some interesting ideas, but my psychological makeup may be such that I don't get as much benefit from it as some others might. I'm always thinking of tiny detail things that need to be done just when I have no way to capture them, such as when I'm in the shower or driving. I also don't seem to find some of the open loops floating around in my brain to be important enough to merit writing down... which of course is a good way to undermine the entire system. I also found that I have a lot of the recommended habits already (do it if it's under 2 min, write things down, etc.). One good thing that did come out of it is that I picked up a wireless keyboard for my Tungsten E that is fantastic. It's also given me a bit more confidence that I'm getting things under control, and led me to try some interesting new online services such as Ta-Da lists, Backpack and AirSet. I'm a part-time marketing consultant using my client's PC as my base computer, and having the online sync capacities means that I don't have to clutter my Palm with the crap I don't want on there. Still working out the kinks in the system, but it has so far inspired me to take a more active role in running my rec league soccer team.
  7. CWRISP!: This is an ongoing lament that SigO and I have with respect to the Oakland A's. Their record is terrible at the moment, and it's very discouraging to watch them. Mostly it has to do with how horribly they've been doing with Runners In Scoring Position, hence the acronym "Crappy With Runners In Scoring Position". I've taken to shouting that whenever they've got someone on 2nd or 3rd because generally that person is never moving any closer to home base. It does however mean that they are willing to try new things, which has resulted in such novel developments as a lead-off bunt single. But it's still not enough. Also Gold Glover winner Eric Chavez is having a slower start than he usually does -- personally I blame EA Sports MLB 2005. At least local boy Eric Byrnes is as nutty as ever.
I've got many more, but I've already been working on this for too long. SigO will be wondering where I am... hasta.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Google Logo: National Teacher's Day

Couldn't let this one slide by as my older brother is one of the few, the proud, the high school calculus teachers.

Give a teacher you know an attaboy! Or girl!

Monday, May 02, 2005

Review: Suspense and Sensibility

Whipped through this one in a little over a day, much as I knew that I would. Suspense and Sensibility is the second book in the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery series by Carrie Bebris, and it picks up a few weeks after the first book, Pride and Prescience (see previous review) leaves off.

This time we are introduced to the characters from Sense and Sensibility some 15 years after we meet them in the original novel. Again there is the supernatural element that of course Darcy scoffs at, obviously making him the Scully to Elizabeth Bennet Darcy's Mulder in this relationship.

As I was describing this book to a friend of mine, she raised a very good question -- how is it that someone can take these characters and create a completely different story? I can only imagine that it has something to do with public domain as I could not find any acknowledgement of copyright or reference to permission from the Austen estate.

In any case, it is a mildly diverting addition to the Austenite pantheon; once again, perfect for a long flight. Some elements are not that well disguised, particularly for anyone who has read The Picture of Dorian Gray, but it is still very creative in its use of the characters.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Simpler IS better! Amazon's New Look

Whoa! Clean version of amazon
Whoa! Clean version of amazon,
originally uploaded by mathowie.
I like the look of this, particularly since I'm on the site a couple of times a week, if only researching books or ordering gifts.

Now if they could only stay in business...

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Amazon's Earnings Dilemma

Amazon announced earnings yesterday, and it's interesting to note that the full swing away from the dotcom era seems to be complete. Now if you aren't making enough profit you're in trouble.

Interesting to note that part of the problem seems to be the Amazon Prime program that I wrote about earlier, with the annual fee for 2-day shipping. They've been through the hard part, though, they've gotten their physical infrastructure in place.

Now if they would just buy Netflix, my worries would be over! Maybe.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

RSS: The New Crack

I've recently been introduced to the wide wonderful world of RSS -- I'm not an early adopter (see blog start date) -- and I'm finding that it's more addicting than email or the web.

What's new?! What headlines have been published in the past five minutes on the websites that I track?! MUST KNOW NOW.

I use RSS Bandit, an aggregator endorsed by some other bloggers, and I like it because it's straightforward. I can use it in addition to my tracking software to keep tabs on competitors, industry news, you name it.

And I'm even vain enough to subscribe to my own Atom feed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Review: Metropolis

HOLY COW! FIREFOX JUST EXPLODED SO I LOST THIS WHOLE POST! That can't be good. And all of my cleverness and wit was poured into the review I just lost. Crap.

/Saving as Draft
As they say in the Monty Python skits , "Start again".

Metropolis was one of those books that I found having praise lavished all over it by several different magazines. I put in a request for it at my local library -- see my previous post about already owning too many books -- and patiently waited my turn. As often happens, when I finally did get it, it was trapped in a flood of other books that I had requested that I also wanted to read. Unfortunately I was not as interested in it as I had been when I requested it, a problem that I also often have with Netflix.

Long story short, I ended up have to blaze through the book in order to finish it before it was due at the library. I couldn't renew it because someone else had requested it after me, and I refuse to be someone who thinks that paying fines for overdue library books is OK. Call it a thing.

In its defense, I did find myself getting sucked in. I started it in order to decide whether or not I really wanted to try to read it in two days, and I figured, "Why not?" (Some who read the book might think that's a pun but it's not.)

Some of the characters were interesting, but the central love story between Beatrice O'Gahmna and Frank Harris was just annoying. So annoying in fact that I ascribed it to the fact that the author was a woman and had to include some overweening passion to motivate her characters and keep readers interested. And I'm a woman! At least there weren't the gratuitous sex scenes that I had to sit through in Rise of Endymion. Ugh.

I did enjoy the picture it painted of life in New York City in the late 1860s, particularly the descriptions of the open spaces that had not yet been filled to overflowing on Manhattan Island and the surrounding boroughs. The author also had some playful spots where she injected herself into the story -- "Shall I end it here?" -- and talked about the nature of fate. She also succeeded in building a sense of dread because you knew that Frank's luck was such that he was going to end up a sucker for Undertoe again.

Would I recommend it? Eh. It was well researched, fairly well written, but I won't be running out to buy it.

Three Weeks + 2 Days...

to Episode III!

I'm half expecting to be disappointed when I finally see it, but I know it's going to be a hell of a ride on the big screen. Another clue in the D.O. chronology: I saw each film in the original Star Wars trilogy during their original theatrical releases.

And no sir, I don't really appreciate some of the changes that were incorporated into the "Special" editions. Even though I saw all of those in the theater, too. I'm sorry, Greedo didn't shoot first and Han didn't duck. Doesn't work for me.

Source: BBC News

Mr. McGregor is just tops -- he makes the '60s sex comedy satire Down With Love extremely watchable. Any DVD you can find of his films, be sure to watch the behind the scenes doc if they have one. High-larious.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Beauteous Spring in CA

Rancho San Antonio, April 2005
Rancho San Antonio, April 2005,
originally uploaded by domnivore.
This photo was taken at the top of the Wildcat Loop Trail at Rancho San Antonio in Cupertino.

It's a great open space preserve, and SigO and I have taken to hiking there while training for the Bay to Breakers.

The view is good motivation, no?

For the record, we will not be wearing silly costumes or our birthday suits for the race. We are quite boring that way.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Earth Day 2005 - Google style

Google continues its lovely logos.

Get out of your car and sniff a flower today.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Review: Rise of Endymion

Well, I finally finished the Shrike (or Hyperion as I guess it's called) series. The last book, Rise of Endymion, does tie up some loose ends, but to a linear thinker like me there are still some questions to answer.

There are some loopy time-shifting things going on, and Simmons doesn't bother to go back and explain where the empathy part of the human UI has gone or fits into the narrative and why John Keats of all other poets is important... I think I'm even confusing myself trying to write about it. It does end on a bit of a happy note, albeit still confusing because of the time travel things as I think back over the story of all four books. Maybe I should just accept that I won't understand it and leave it at that.

Still left me feeling a bit unsatisfied, though. Simmons creates a slow-on-the-uptake narrator in Raul Endymion that keeps him from having to explain things. Serves his purposes, but not mine. Grumble grumble grumble.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I Demand a Recount!

Your Linguistic Profile:

50% General American English

25% Yankee

20% Dixie

5% Upper Midwestern

0% Midwestern

What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

Surely I can't have more Yankee than Dixie in my language make-up... surely. Ah sweah that ah am frum thu Sa-outh!

(Well, maybe not that far South.)

Review: Practical Demonkeeping

I would say that overall, I liked this book. It started out well, really funny and off-kilter in a Matt Ruff kind of way. The set up is hilarious, and it is not one of those books that takes its sweet time getting where it wants to go. After reading so much Dan Simmons (Hyperion, Fall of Hyperion, Endymion), I can really appreciate that in an author.

I seem to keep coming back to the light and fluffy in my reading materials and the accompaying descriptions, and this qualifies as that definitely. Note: not recommended for those who might be overly dismayed by a main character demon whose main purpose seems to be eating people in three bites, starting at the head. The subtitle of this is "A Comedy of Horrors" for a reason.

TiVo + Search Engines = Yeah, what he said.

I could not agree more with this assessment. I understand that TiVo is looking at any and all ways to get its name out there and court potential consumer users and potential corporate acquirers, but I need some convincing before I can take a partnership between TiVo and Yahoo or Google seriously.

Caveat: the title of this blog isn't "The Discriminating Omniscience". I've been surprised more than once by how these things turn out.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Review: Riding Giants

If I took the time to review all the movies I watch, there wouldn't be time for much else, but this one really stands out so it gets special treatment.

I had wanted to see this because SigO and I each have a soft spot in our hearts for surf films, and I was not at all disappointed. I found myself wanting to buy a copy of this to share with my (as yet unborn) kids so that they could feel my awe and love of the beach and the ocean and understand how compelling it can be.

I haven't seen any other Stacy Peralta films, but now I really want to. The structure worked, the animation and 3-D shots they used to fill gaps in the history of surfing were fantastic... I felt the cynic thinking "Of course Laird Hamilton is portrayed as a god, he's an executive producer", but the visuals overwhelm that kind of thinking. I can only imagine what it must have been like on the big screen.

This all comes from a non-surfer, by the way, I don't actually count bodysurfing. Just a beach lover who's spent a week a year on the shores of North Carolina for most of her life. If everything goes well, I'll get to retire near the water somewhere.

NYY vs. BOS = Big Trouble

Turns out that the Italians don't have the market cornered on sports fans issues. All hell broke lose during the Yankees/Red Sox game in Boston last night when a drunken idiot brushed Gary Sheffield as he was trying to field a ball in play in right field.

I saw the slo-mo and it looked like the guy was off-balance and boozin' -- he wasn't even looking at Sheffield when his hand hit him. Imagine his surprise when Sheffield came up swinging and knocked the beer out of his hand. Not that you can blame the player, I don't think you'd find a more hostile place to play as a Yankee than Fenway.

But it brought up images of the NBA melee in Detroit in November and other incidents that have happened in recent years. It's all ugly.

Leonardo da Google

Google is continuing its cool logo shifts for various things... who knew that Leonardo was born on tax day?

Amazon + Netflix??

Reading through the blogs I track this morning, I noticed this bit on Techdirt. It seems strange to me that Amazon is considering entering the DVD rental business... maybe some kind of advertising partnership or making Amazon the go-to place where you can buy the DVDs that you liked on Netflix would make sense, but not this, as far as I can tell.

According to the article, they like the idea:
It keeps Amazon from competing directly, and gives them access not only to Amazon's marketing reach, but also could allow them to better tie into Amazon's customer database and recommendation information -- which could strengthen Netflix's own recommendation offering.
I just really can't see why Amazon wouldn't just buy Netflix if it really wants to get into this market. What real motivation does Netflix have? I guess the marketing reach is tempting, but I honestly don't even know of any other online DVD rental service (I don't count Blockbuster) so to me that means that Netflix is top-of-mind.

We'll have to see how this pans out, I guess. The Netflix + Tivo combo makes much more sense to me, though, both as a business person and as a customer.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Mayhem in Milan

Source: AP

Pandemonium in Champions League Football Tuesday. Who can justify this level of violence? They hit Dida in the head with a burning flare for crying out loud!

It's just embarrassing for the international game. And apparently the culmination of several days of violent behavior from fans of Italian football teams around that nation. Fortunately the Liverpool/Juventus game went off without a hitch.

Unless you're a Juve fan.

Review: Murphy's Law (A Molly Murphy Mystery)

See, I told you had a lot of reviews to catch up on! When I get on a tear, I can really plow through some books. Shorter ones, anyway.

Saw another book in this series in the bookstore, and instead of buying it I exercised some control and decided to check it out at the library. Discovered that the book I had seen was not the first in the series and decided to start at the beginning, with Murphy's Law. Again, light and fluffy. Almost as insubstantial as cotton candy, actually.

The only thing that kept me reading this book is I wanted to see if Molly would be able to get off the boat and deliver the kids to their dad. That's really it. Then I was so much closer to the end and didn't have anything better to do so I finished it. I didn't really care who had committed the murder on Ellis Island or who would have something to hide worth killing for.

There were some elements that were romance-novel-esque that were a bit distracting and annoying... but if I were looking for something to fill up a trip cross-country by air, I might pick up another in the series.

And by "pick up" I mean check out of the library. I've already mentioned that I own too many books.

Review: Pride and Prescience

Light and fluffy, this book is nothing more than another addition to the genre that takes existing literary characters and plops them down in new situations. Books like Grendel, which retells the Beowulf legend from the point of view of the monster, or The Wide Sargasso Sea, which tells the story of Jane Eyre from the point of view of Rochester's mad wife, are good examples.

Pride and Prescience takes things in quite a different direction, however, as it starts after the wedding scene that ends Pride and Prejudice and takes the characters through a mysterious adventure. Probably only interesting to Jane Austen fans or fans of the original book, it is engrossing enough to keep you reading. I must say that for me the mystery was secondary to the byplay between the characters in the book.

At one point I did feel a little ill-used because the series obviously plays on the fascination that I and many others have for Jane Austen's characters. There are chinks where the modernity of the author peeks through, but if you're reading the book in earnest and wilfully suspending your disbelief like a good little audience, you'll be willing to ignore them.

I knocked this one out in less than a day and would recommend it to anyone else looking for some nice brain candy. I've already got its sequel, Suspense and Sensibility, in my reading queue.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Review: Endymion

The Shrike series continues with Endymion, the third book of four. It's a bit different from Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion in that it only has two characters that narrate, which leaves the character of Aenea even more mysterious because she is not one of the two so we don't know what's going on in her brain.

The first is Raul Endymion, an aimless denizen of post-Fall Hyperion who gets sucked into events that he doesn't understand by Martin Silenus, the randy poet figure from the first two books. The second is Captain Father - you know, I can't remember. I really must learn to read these things more slowly.

Anyway, as I was reading, I was trying to piece together the rest of the pieces of the puzzle including Moneta, the Shrike -- who has a MUCH different role in this one -- the quicksilver suits, the Time Tombs, and how all this fits into the metasphere thing (That sentence would make sense if you've read the first two books.).

Unfortunately, none of these questions were really answered. As I believe I've mentioned before, I'm an American, which means that I have to have things spelled out for me a lot. Not that I'm stupid, just that I don't always make the connections that the author/artist/director might think are obvious.

I'm hoping that the final book, The Rise of Endymion, might finally answer some of these questions. Somehow, I doubt it, since even in this penultimate book in the series the author brings in a new (short-lived) character with 10 chapters to go that introduces all kinds of new plot questions that Simmons doesn't really take time to address. But hope springs eternal, yadda yadda yadda.

Review: The Power of Now

Oohhhmmmm.... ooohhhhmmmm.... this book purports to combine philosophies from around the world into a single, simple way to drive the anxiety out of everyday life. It also claims to make it clear for those reading it how they might accomplish this kind of zen balance in their own lives.

It sure didn't do a good job of it. However, if I were interested in their line of supplementary materials, it probably would have made a whole lot more sense.

Question: Is it ironic that I had so much trouble staying focused enough on a book called The Power of Now that I had a hard time getting through it?

The author would say that it is my thinking mind that it is interfering with my ability to absorb his teachings and experience the Real Me that just Is (paraphrasing). Although it is interesting to note that he points out that words are not actual meanings in themselves but just signposts to the meaning underneath. I wrote a paper about that very topic for my Honors class on India back in college during our segment on Buddhism. Hooray.

Review: Inside Intuit

SigO works there so I was able to get my hands on a free copy of this book. I was pointed to it by a friend of mine who is running a startup and aspiring to the same level of market penetration. I thought it would be a good case study.

It's a good general overview of the genesis of the company at Scott Cook's kitchen table and its metamorphosis into the ginormous organization that it is today. It is not, however, a scientific dissection of the business practices and processes that supported its growth, although they do address some of that. Mostly it's a rah-rah-sis-boom-bah book that is disturbingly detailed in some areas and annoyingly shallow in others.

It begins with fairly intricate descriptions of the opening staff, and as it moves through the company timeline devolves into name-dropping people and assuming that the reader knows who they are. The inconsistency is frustrating, but I guess if they stayed at the same level of detail the book would be 600 pages long.

Bottom line: Great idea - right time, right team. Whether or not the model can be replicated is questionable. They sure aren't going to tell you how to do it in this book, but I guess that would be giving away their competitive advantage.

Catching Up...

The massive technology conspiracy continues. I barely got the Germans Love Him! post done last week because of problems with Blogger, then my Comcast connection at home went kaput. Still down as of last night.

Thank goodness for the "service upgrade". I've got tons of review and updates to post so bear with me... if I can get them up even now. Trying to surreptitiously hack away at them while I'm still at work.

Fingers crossed that this goes up.

My Birfday

I recently had a birthday, which was unfortunately shared with the funeral rites for one Pope John Paul II. Better that than Camilla and Charles, I say.

I guess it is only fitting since my folks were in Rome and had visited the Vatican the day he died. We were also visiting the day Ling-Ling died at the National Zoo. Not that the Pope compares to a giant panda, but when does a coincidence become a pattern?

SigO came through for me with roses, champagne, and a ManU jersey from my favorite player. He's feisty, Irish, and a Jerk to Play Against.


Photo source: Manchester United

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Germans Love Him!

(Hat tip to Norm MacDonald)

I recently came upon a treasure trove of Hasselhoff-related materials that are just too amusing to be described. Thanks to the Manolo for posting a link to the first, many thanks to TonyT for adding the others in the comments.

My oh my.

Tidal Dave

Prepare to Lose Your Mind

Monday, April 04, 2005

DST - Damn Silly Thing

This whole changing around of the clock thing is really tiresome.

I like the longer days of summer and can't understand why we have to switch them back in the fall. Mostly because it gives me a case of the mean reds that even Tiffany's wouldn't be able to snap me out of.

Also because at the moment, like most of the rest of the poor saps who have to go through this government-mandated hoohah, I am groggy and cranky.

Review: Snobs

I got interested in this book because I really enjoyed the film Gosford Park, for which Julian Fellowes wrote the screenplay. It took me a while to get through it, even though it isn't that long, simply because I had a bad feeling about where it was going. I don't like to see people make fools of themselves or get hurt.

It's fairly amusing in its skewering of the still-extant social castes in modern England, but the story focuses on the ascension of Edith Lavery to the haughty Broughton clan and the not-so-hilarious hijinks that ensue. Which is not to say that it's a total downer, but it does have its rough bits.

Overall a fair bit of light reading, but nothing that I would gush about and then recommend to everyone within earshot.

Review: Cat's Eyewitness

I am a fan of the Mrs. Murphy mysteries for two reasons. 1) I love animals, and the series features several recurring animal characters who are usually key to moving the plot along; and 2) they're set in Crozet, Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains and make me homesick as heck. There are several thousand miles and several gradients of environmental climate between here and there, and the setting for these books really brings it home. To the point where I was almost in tears while reading this one. Autumn leaves and snow. I remember those!

The series in general is silly, with a closed-town atmosphere that means that any new given character introduced is most likely going to bump off another new character. Exceptions appear in the series, of course, but you know that the big 8-10 characters will stick around.

Cat's Eyewitness, the latest in the series, sticks to the formula well and throws in a few red herrings here and there to keep you guessing, but it's never really mysterious who of the three possibilities is the culprit. The main focus, however, is on some surprising character developments for a character that has been around since the beginning of the series. It also follows the continuing story of Harry and her progress toward reconciling with her ex-husband, Fair.

For series fans, definitely, but I mostly recommend it for the descriptions of the weather in the Blue Ridge and as a light read for a plane trip. I'm from near there, and I really miss it sometimes.

Friday, April 01, 2005

You're Very Smart. Now Shut Up.

I have a sense of humor, I swear that I do, but people have just got to get over this April Fool's thing. Seeing as how I have a job which requires that a large portion of my time be spent poring over websites to keep up on industry and competitive news, today's redundant headlines and snickering are really a bit much.

It also makes it more difficult to cull the signal from the noise, but some of the jokes are a bit more obvious than others. I hope.

Or maybe I just need to get in a good nap this afternoon because I'm cranky.

Review: The Fall of Hyperion

As I mentioned earlier, I carried on straight through to the sequel to Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion. More of the story threads were tied up, but much room was left open for more books. Of which, of course, there are a few. To which I say: Bah Humbug.

To be fair, I did feel myself propelled through this one to find out more about the Shrike and what the characters had to do with one another, but it didn't resolve enough for me with respect to the overarching conflict between the humans and the AIs. As mentioned by Gavril in the comments on the last review, it's easy to lose patience with the whole thing.

It also made me wonder how differently I would have viewed the book if I weren't so familiar with Frank Herbert, who is the master of building characters and universes and then setting them on their ears. He was the first author I read (1st book: Dune at age 11 thanks to the David Lynch movie on cable and a crush on Kyle MacLachlan) who actually killed off characters that you didn't expect to see die and orchestrated "plans within plans" that really kept you off-kilter.

Or maybe I just put him at the pinnacle because I was 11 and hadn't yet read a book where people died who weren't technically the bad guys. Anyway, the result was that the twists of Fall were not as twisty because I have been schooled in the Herbert Method of Reader Bewilderment.

Simmons also throws in some religious and political elements for good measure. I'm not saying that he was mimicking Herbert by any means -- there are still enough unusual and inventive elements in the story to make it stand out -- but there are some definite similarities in the effort to be ponderous and deep.

All of that being said, I still have Endymion, the next book in the series, in my rather-large-and-growing pile of books to read next.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Bah Humbug - US Men vs. Guatemala

We've been treated to several World Cup Qualifiers this week, through the magic of Fox Soccer Channel and TiVo. I didn't write about the Sunday game vs. Mexico (on ESPN) because, well, it got my blood pressure up too high.

Last night (on ESPN2) wasn't much better, even though they won. Sunday's game had me asking myself what would happen if they didn't qualify for the World Cup. Last night's game told me that even if they did, they still wouldn't get very far. Unless their finishing and their defense really picks up between now and then. A distinct possibility, of course, but I'm not holding my breath (pessimist!).

Can't tell you how many times an American missed a fantastic chance at net and SigO turned to me saying, "Rooney would have buried that."

After having watched the EPL for the past few years, it's hard to see the US men's squad as anything but pretenders. Sigh. So they get the quaint, non-profane expletive that I use whenever something annoys me or is generally too silly for further comment: Bah Humbug.

That or "wet popcorn", referring to the ages-past era when my friends and I used to dip our popcorn in our Kool Aid and throw it at the TV whenever Boss Hogg appeared on the screen during our Friday night sleepovers. (That'll put me on the chronological map for ya, won't it?)

TiVo Getting Some Brains

Another aspect of the TiVo service they're rolling out to placate the advertisers is a pop-up that will apparently appear as you fast forward through ads.

I'm sure this is going to be annoying as heck to have to deal with, but I'd rather have TiVo as a company getting another revenue stream/keeping the larger advertisers off its back than as a company with impervious integrity and going out of business.

It's another step along the path that they initiated when they put two guys (Chuck Fruit & Joe Uva) who are prominent in the ad industry on their board: "Please don't hurt us, mega-corporations! We can play nice!"

I want my TiVo around!

If only because I turned the sound effects back on while SigO was out of town so the TiVo could keep me company... I especially like the tympani "error" sound.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

How do I add this to my Amazon Wishlist?

I just have four words for you:

PC EZ-Bake Oven.

Mmm.... source: ThinkGeek

I never got to have one as a kid, why shouldn't I get one now?

Van Google

Source: Google

I had to convert it to JPEG in order to use Hello and get it in here. As a result it's not fantastic-looking here -- but Mr. Van Gogh gets his own Google tribute today for his birfday.

This is based on one of my favorite paintings, of which a poster resided on a wall in many an apartment of mine for many years. Sig O can vouch.

Censorship on Blogger?

Interesting. Turns out that yesterday there was a major problem with Blogger, and in my frustration I turned to posting via email. One of those emails went through and is on the site, no problem.

The other, sent to the exact same email address, was bounced. Here it is in its entirety:

Blogger is Down... I repeat... Blogger is Down.

The perils of not hosting your own, I guess.

I'm trying to add more entries today, I swear. We'll see if I can do it via this email conduit.

Surely there must be some explanation besides the conclusion I'm leaping to? I'm thinking they just don't like proof that "a bad kernel upgrade that has significantly impacted the service" has ticked someone off.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

No Tsunami, Thank God.

When I heard that there had been another earthquake in the same region in Indonesia yesterday, I was really worried that there would be a repeat of the December disaster.

In January I donated to tsunami relief in the name of Carol Shellhorn, who I worked with for a brief time last year in September and October.

She was vacationing in Thailand with her husband when the wave hit. He made it, she didn't. Here in the office we still have her postcard from her journey through Africa, which she completed before catching up with her husband for Christmas. I still think about her a lot.

The kicker is, I wouldn't have the job that I have now if she were still alive -- they wanted to bring her back as a consultant but had to settle for me.

Please continue to donate to the ongoing relief effort, particularly in light of the recent temblor.

Poor Basil Rathbone.

Sure, he also became known for playing a definitive Sherlock Holmes, but judging by most of the movies I've seen him in (see list at right), he was mostly known for playing a cad.

Anna Karenina: he is Karenin, the cold husband.
David Copperfield: he is Murdstone, the cold stepfather.
The Adventures of Robin Hood: he is Sir Guy, the bad guy who dies in the climactic sword fight with Errol Flynn.
Captain Blood: he is LeVasseur, the pirate who dies in a sword fight with Errol Flynn.

I haven't seen the movie or read the book, but I'm sure that his role in A Tale of Two Cities is also unsavory. According to the Internet Movie Database, he played the bad guy so often that he only won one sword fight during his entire 40+ year film career.

He does have that pursed lip thing down, though. And looks so nasty with a Vandyke beard.

Review: Hyperion

I don't know how I got interested in reading this book, perhaps because I'd been sucked in by the conceit of Ilium, also by Dan Simmons. That book sets the Trojan War on Mars with the gods as some kind of intergalactic beings... but you should check that out for yourself. Because it's a Hugo Award winner, Hyperion seemed like it might be a good read, too. It already had someone else's stamp of approval on it -- we all know that there is plenty of sci-fi dreck out there.

Hyperion has an interesting story structure, using The Canterbury Tales approach of having a group of characters on a journey, each of whom tells the story of what brought them on the journey, using their own words. The most fascinating aspect of the book is of course the Shrike, a mysterious figure who is worshipped as a god by some but mostly feared by all because it is bloodthirsty, made of metal and seems to be able to manipulate time and space in its home range on Hyperion. But I can't even begin to do it justice.

Like most sci-fi novels it takes some time to get used to the jargon that the author has created to describe the technologies available in this future universe, things like "fatline" and "farcasting" and other terms that aren't really explained fully, other than in context. I was really drawn in by the story structure, drawn in enough to continue directly on to the sequel The Fall of Hyperion, particularly since none of the story threads are resolved in the first book after 400+ pages (in paperback form).

Definite recommendation for sci-fi fans who like their stories a little bit dense, surprising and a whole lot interesting.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Baseball Widow - 5 Days Only...For Now.

Took SigO to the airport this morning for his now-annual pilgrimage to Arizona for Spring Training with the boyz. He won't be getting the blazing desert heat of years past because of the freaky non-spring weather we've been having, but I'm sure he'll still find a way to enjoy himself.

Meanwhile I'll enjoy a nice quiet weekend at home. Hoping to finish a few books, catch up on some Netflix and TiVo movies... and whatever I feel like for the next five days. Including a nice quiet Easter brunch for myself.

At least it means I get to finish the Easter candy without any competition.

Review: The Pleasure of My Company

This is a novella so it read pretty quickly. It had some interesting bits, particularly its portrayal of the narrator's struggle with what appears to be obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, the length of it leaves one asking questions and looking for more information on some of the characters.

But maybe I'm just the typical American that has to have everything explained to me. Don't know that I can recommend it to anyone but fans of Steve Martin's writing. It was really hard not to picture him as the protagonist the whole time, too. Check out (of the library) if you feel blazing through a book quickly.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

TiVo & Comcast Sitting in a Tree...

I'm excited to see a deal like this come across the wire. It's a step in the right direction for the company behind my beloved DVR and might help to save them. SigO and I went through a TiVo-less period last summer when our first machine melted, and there is no going back, I tell ya!

It also makes me happy because back in B-school I did an analysis of TiVo and what it would need to do in order to survive as behemoths like Comcast developed their own competing technology, and this type of licensing was one of my primary suggestions. The TiVo technology runs circles around the other offerings, particularly in the user interface department. Current digital cable program listings just plain stink.

Hopefully this will mean that Engadget can discontinue their TiVo Deathwatch sometime soon!

UPDATE: This interview with the CEO of Comcast kind of supports what I'm saying... we'll see how it actually pans out. Apparently there are some TiVo purists who are freaking out.

Feedster & BlogStreet!

Trying to get this thing out there, more for curiosity than anything else.

No Need to Click Here - I'm just claiming my feed at Feedster

I'm also on Blogdex, Technorati & a couple others. Hooray for me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Review: The Winter Queen

Since there was nothing on TV last night and I didn't feel like watching a movie on TiVo, I took the evening to finish The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin. I am a big fan of a good mystery -- I like trying to figure them out -- and had read about the most recent installment of this series in Entertainment Weekly. Of course I had to start at the beginning.

Set in the 1870s in Russia, it has some interesting details about the way they lived then and some contrasts between Russia and Europe. Although I had it figured out fairly quickly, it was still engaging enough to finish reading. If you're looking for something light to get you through a plane ride, this could be your book.

Another interesting aspect was the fact that the book was originally written in Russian and translated. It makes one wonder what might nuances might have been lost.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Review: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

I just finished this book last night. Set in the early 1800s in England during the Napoleonic Wars, its literary style echoes that of the period. It proposes an alternate history where English magic is an actual fact and is used to assist Lord Wellington in defeating Napoleon. There is much more to the story than that, as well there should be in a book that runs on to 782 pages or thereabouts.

That is my primary complaint, that the length is excessive. I did make myself read it all the way through because it is rare that I do not finish a book, and I did want to see how this one ended. It features a dry sense of humor and a sense of secrecy that draws one in, but as one knows all the way through the solution to the mystery that one of the characters is trying to solve, it tends to drag on.

Another intriguing stylistic feature is the use of footnotes to tell most of the fairy tale "history" rather than integrating it into the narrative. I can recommend it to those who have patience in reading and are interested in a new approach to the fantasy and magic genres. It has a dark, understated way of telling the story that does not evoke visions of Harry Potter and the like and is definitely adult.