Archive for September, 2005

Friday Night Miscellaneous

Friday, September 30th, 2005

I’m too far behind on posting the tiny things of life, so I don’t have the luxury of doing one coherent post tonight:

I get misty … : Chances are … that Texas-born Johnny Mathis turns the Big Seven-Oh today.

Our blogging buddy (and fellow soldier in the Adoptee Wars) Pamibe got so inspired by my tales of participation in the Genographic Project that she sent in her own cheek swab, and today she got her results back: She’s in Haplogroup H, a predominantly European people, according to the National Geographic site.

I told her she needs to dig deeper into the message boards, though, because the NG site at first told me my origins were Balkan, but further research and marker comparisons led me to origins in Scotland and Iceland.

There’s nothing wrong with being Bulgarian or Romanian of course … but the prospect of having the blood of Vikings is SO cool.

But of course, any information at all is better than nothing, which is what most adoptees have in the way of a genetic heritage: A big huge honking NOTHING.

That’s why living in the age of easy DNA analysis rocks so much. Pam and I and thousands of others might have the many doors of the Adoption Bureacracy slammed in our faces, but they can’t stop us from climbing in the window of Science.

(All together now: “Science!”)

And speaking of The Motherland, I’ve been meaning to check out other modern Icelandic music (there’s more than just Bjork, you know), so tonight I’ve been listening to the Takk, latest album by Sigur Ros.

It’s really enjoyable. I see it as the kind of music I like to listen to during cool evenings (now that we finally have some) tinkering with my Linux computer in the garage or on the patio. (The Lost in Translation soundtrack also serves that purpose well.) It’s very light and spacy, every evocative.

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Okay, that’s all, now let’s get some rest.

Cool Topics … literally

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

Coolness! Finally!

A full week after the start of Fall we finally got some cool weather today — lows in the high 50’s last night where I live.

It’s about freaking time: After we got short-changed from Hurricane Rita — not one stinking drop of rain made it our way, after the near-flooding that was predicted — we’ll settle for a break from near-100 temperatures.

My lawn might live into winter after all.

Best of all, the cool breezes today have been invigorating, especially after a couple of months of stepping out of the house into a pizza oven.

And now here’s some more cool topics:

What do you get when you accidentally leave a pear in a cooler with some dry ice? If you’re neurobiologist Galen Kaufman, you look at the end result as the prototype for Fizzy Fruit, a line of fresh fruit that has been given a carbonated kick.

Fizzy Fruit is not available to the public now, being sold to school cafeterias before it’s unleashed on the general market.

I haven’t posted anything about My Ancestral Homeland in a while, so this seems like a good time: Iceland photo pool on Flickr.

There was a riddle on Lost last night, one used as a pass-phrase: “What did one snowman say to the other snowman?”

It’s actually a fairly old joke; I won’t tell you the punchline in case you want to stay in suspense, but if you really want to know it you can find out the answer here.

BTW: Someone noted on message boards that Hurley told that joke to somebody last season (although I don’t remember it); does this mean he’s the one for whom the pass phrase is meant?

This is for Yay Kim: Penguin games!

Maytag is famous for its commercials showing their supposedly “lonely” repairmen — that is, repairmen who don’t have anything to do since Maytags don’t need fixing.

All I know is that we keep our local Maytag guys hopping — we’ve had them out to fix our ice maker three times in the past seven years; good thing The Wife got an extended warranty, huh?

This past Tuesday we noticed the ice maker wasn’t producing, so, first things first, I went to the store and got a sack of ice.

Then I removed a piece of ice that was lodged in the machinery, and slowly but surely it started being productive member of society again.

“Lost” Tonight!

Wednesday, September 28th, 2005

Do I need to break “Lost” off into a separate category? Or even a separate blog? We’ll see …

Meanwhile: Has “Make Your Own Kind of Music” been running through your head too, since it was used in a pivotal scene in last week’s episode?

No? It’s just me?

Another great line from last week: Hurley to Kate: “Yeah, good idea, dude — go look down the fiery death hole.”

TV Squad has an excellent analysis of the Asian symbol on the cabinet and uniform in the first episode of the season; be sure to read the comments to get the readers’ input too.

In fact, you can keep track of all that site’s Lost discussions here.

Sudoku You Too …

Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

The attitude of most American corporations is, “If the customers are accustomed to it … we’ve got to muck it up to keep them off balance!”, and Dallas Morning News. For the past couple of weeks they’ve been running some badly animated TV commercials that we’re so vague, with a very general “quality of life” message, that the real point of the ads — that we’d never be able to find anything in the newspaper, ever again — was hopelessly obscured.

That seems odd, especially since they sprung for Candace Bergen to do the voiceover, but in retrospect I can see why they wanted the true message to be less than clear.

What they did was to change the “Texas Living” section (which had only had that name for about five years, which shows their penchant for changing things) into the “Lifestyles” section and somehow mashing that up with a print version of their parent company’s (Belo Corp) GuideLive.com.

Translation: That one section is now in tabloid form, and the comic strips that were once found on three large pages have now been scattered over six or more pages.

ANYWAY: All of that has little to do with my original point which is this: In addidtion to the usual puzzles, we now have a new one, called Sudoku.

A Sudoku puzzle is a 9 by 9 grid, dividied up into nine 3 by 3 grids, with some of the blanks filled in with numbers. Your goal is to fill in the rest of the numbers so that each line, row, and 3 by 3 section contains all the numbers one through nine inclusive.

It sounds harder than it is (or maybe it doesn’t), but it’s really quite addictive. I usually work the Friday and Saturday New York Times crosswords, since I’m a word geek, but Sudoku appeals to the number geek in me; I get a true enjoyment out of figuring out the numbers by process of elimination.

But don’t take my word for it: Go get a puzzle and try it for yourself. You can find puzzles here, here and here.

Sorry About That …

Monday, September 26th, 2005

Would you believe ... I got hit with roaming charges?!It’s been a dark month for classic TV: First it was Gilligan, now it’s Maxwell Smart.

Don Adams, dead at age 82.

When Get Smart first went on the air in 1965, it took us fifth-grade boys by storm. We were too young to really get into James Bond, and just a bit not quite ready for Man from U.N.C.L.E. — but Get Smart seemed to tap into our late-prepubescent dreams.

The opening sequence alone blew our little minds: Agent 86 began by going into a seemingly ordinary storefront — then down a flight of secret stairs! He’d keep walking, and sets of horizontal sliding doors, each set different from the last, would slide open to let him pass, then silently snap shut behind him.

At the end of this underground tunnel, he came to a phone booth: He dialed some numbers, put back the receiving… then disappeared through the bottom of the booth — all this to enter CONTROL headquarters.

He had the most wonderful gadgets, including weapons and communications devices, all disguised as ordinary, everyday items, and foremost among these was his trademark shoe phone.

It was a TELEPHONE … and it was in his SHOE!!! Sure it was rotary dial, but it was a mobile phone! In 1965!

There was no more Cops & Robbers for us, no more Cowboys & Indians: Now it was always “Let’s play ‘Get Smart’!” We were running around, hiding behind walls, talking into the soles of our shoes, fashioning make-believe detonation devices from the pieces of ballpoint pens and anything else we could take apart. We would write each other messages in invisible ink (lemon juice) and backwards-alphabet cipher. We practiced walking down stairs (the ones in our junior high were about the only stairs in town) just like Maxwell Smart, with each foot flicking outward with each step.

Our parents, who had previously been subjected to the incessant catchphrases of our Three Stooges phases, now had to listen to a whole new set of joke lines, this time in a high-pitched nasal twang: “Sorry about that, Chief!” “Would you believe …?!” “The old (whatever) trick!”

I even had a “Would You Believe” beach towel (and might have still had it today, but for X-Wife).

But enough pointless Boomer nostalgia. Let’s do some links …:

Don Adams’ IMDB page.

Of course, gadgets and danger aside, it could be argued that a huge draw for the show was the smoldering-hot Barbara Feldon. (And apparently a lot of people are searching for her today.)

I always get a kick out of seeing U.S. pop culture news items like this being report in the foreign press, like Japan Today, TV New Zealand, WebIndia.

I especially enjoy finding these things on the Al-Jazeera site, but this time it was not to be.

On Wikipedia: Don Adams, Get Smart, Barbara Feldon, Inspector Gadget (long before Matthew Broderick came along), and Tennessee Tuxedo, a cartoon about a penguin, which was the job Adams had immediately before becoming Maxwell Smart.

The technology of Get Smart: A photo gallery.

Technology catching up to entertainment: A real life Cone of Silence. And this one might actually work.

A fan sight dedicated to Ed Platt, the actor who played the long-suffering Chief.

WouldYouBelieve.com, a Get Smart fan site.

Adams owes a lot of his succes to his comedian buddy Bill Dana, who gave him a part as a bumbling hotel detective on Dana’s sitcom which, like the Andy Griffith Show, was spun off from the Danny Thomas Show.

Spy Lady X’s Get Smart Page.

And Would You Believe … I started compiling Get Smart links last Friday, figuring that one of these days I would get motivated to find more links and do a Get Smart post.

I guess this was the day …

The Return of Son of Back to the TeeVee

Sunday, September 25th, 2005

I’ve gotten behind on Fall Premiere Week, so here’s some past, present and near-future:

Desperate Housewives — Season premiere tonight! Except for Lost, this is one of the most interesting shows in years. Multiple lead characters, interweaving plotlines, fresh new stories as needed, and an ever-changing set of assumptions.

Plus: I’m glad they finally got around to adding a black housewife, and I’m glad it’s Alfre Woodard.

Ever notice that everybody who knows anything at all about TV & movies likes and respects Alfre Woodard? Some actors are like that, and she’s one.

Threshold — The best new show I’ve seen so far this season. Three episodes now, and it still looks promising. It’s a nice touch that they have a team of people, each with different skills — especially the mathematician/linguist.

My only complaint the concentration of testosterone: Of the six main characters, only one is female. Admittedly, she’s the leader of the team (except when the government guy has to step in), but that’s no excuse for casting mostly men.

Three Wishes — This comes on at the same time as Threshold, so I missed the premiere, but from what I can tell, this is what happens when NBC says, “What can we do to copy the ratings of ‘Extreme Home Makeover’?”

It would be preferable if they said, “What can we do to help families the way that ‘Extreme Home Makeover’ does?”, but we’ll take what we can get.

Anyway, at least this ripoff has a brand-name celebrity (Amy Grant), and when people are being helped, it seems less like a ripoff.

The West Wing — Season premiere is tonight; I’ve tried to watch that show, but it makes me queasy.

But here’s why I bring it up: I think it’s funny that the network and all the entertainment “criticism” media is pretending that there’s any suspense at all as to whether the show’s upcoming election will produce a Democratic or Republican president.

Is there anybody who really thinks for one nanosecond that “West Wing” will have a Republican president?

That’s like watching a 007 movie and worrying that James Bond won’t make it out of the death trap.

OF COURSE the Democrat will win. Does anybody really think that the producers would: 1) Replace the entire cast; and 2) Do a show about a Republican administration struggling with the world’s problems???

Oh yeah, that’ll happen.

Commander-in-Chief — Speaking of “Liberals Good, Conservatives Bad”: I was actually interested in this show, with the prospect of seeing a woman President, but the awful commercials they’ve been showing over the summer have turned me completely off.

The ad shows Donald Sutherland telling about-to-be-President Geena Davis that she can’t be President because she only wants it for the power.

She says, “No, I don’t!”, and he replies, “Well, that’s the problem! You shouldn’t be President unless you want the power.”

Uh … HUH.

In other words, she shouldn’t be President because he’s the Speaker of the House, and next in line for the White House.

And of course, he’s a conservative, so in Hollywood that means he’s Evil with a capital E.

Note to Hollywood: 70-year-old Conservatives don’t have hair that long.

Especially the evil ones.

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Okay, I had bunches more, but it’ll have to wait.

Check back tomorrow, okay?

Okay!

Back to the TeeVee …

Saturday, September 24th, 2005

We now return to our TV (& Movie) coverage, already in progress:

If you liked Subservient Chicken and Servient Chicken and Barmaids 2 and 20 Questions with Darth Vader, check out the new Family Guy equivalent, Subservient Stewie.

You know the drill: Tell him to do stuff, and he often will.

Be patient, though, because the site was featured on Attack of the Show yesterday, so the server tends to get overloaded. Keep checking back.

The City of Heroes MMORPG holds an annual superhero film festival contest, and the winning entries are actually pretty good. Check out the newest winners here, and the first year’s winners here (you’ll have to scroll down past about three game-advertising movies to get to the contest entries).

People at work, like Todn8r‘s wife Dora, still haven’t watched the tape they made of the season premier of Lost – can you believe it?

So on Friday I ran out of patience and decided to tell them what happened anyway: It was revealed that all the survivors aren’t on an island, and they hadn’t even been on a plane: They were customers in a nightclub, watching a hypnotist who put the whole audience in a trance, then died of a heart attack.

The people who think they’re on an island are actually in a deep hypnotic state, and several doctors and pyschotherapists, including some that look just like Ethan Rom and the French woman are trying to bring them out.

Dora didn’t want to hear any of this; she ran into the parking lot, putting her hands over her ears and making noise so she couldn’t hear what I was saying.

Actually, I tend to have that effect on people, even when I’m not spoiling TV shows for them.

Seriously, though: That’s not what really happened on the show, as you already know if you watched it, but I couldn’t help messing with their heads.

Besides, I’ve used the old “they’re really robots with implanted memories” and “they’re in an alien petting zoo” so many times that hardly anybody believes those any more.

The serious prankster has to constantly strive to keep at the top of his game.

The Disaster WILL be televised

Friday, September 23rd, 2005

Here’s something I forgot to mention yesterday about the impending hurricane:

Steve from Look at This sent me this link to a webcam set up in a bait shop 50 yards offshore at Gulfport, Texas, directly in the path of Hurricane Rita. You’ll be able to watch a direct feed of some of the storm’s destruction, because, according to the site, “We do not expect the pier nor the webcams to survive.”

As of this morning, the first cam is already showing a Java error, but the second one is still up. If you look closely, you can see the hanging nets swaying, probably because of the waves hitting against the pier.

It can only get worse, so stay tuned …

We Interrupt the Fall TV Season …

Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

As much as it pains me, let’s cover some non-TV topics … before we get back to the important things …

Tomorrow (Friday) is Free Music Friday at Look at This, and from the looks of the sneak preview he gave me, it looks like another doozy, so check it out.

It’s Day 2 of Autumn, but the 100-degree temperatures continue. The heat is even breaking records set in 1998, the height of El Niño, and the worst summer in my 20 years in Dallas.

Hopefully we’ll get a good drenching in the next couple of days.

And speaking of which …

Hurricane Nation: Disaster Insanity is setting in. Around 1 this afternoon, one of my co-workers was going around saying that another co-working heard from a friend that at 3:00, all the gas stations in Dallas were going to be shut down so that they could only serve the Rita evacuees coming up from Houston.

Um .. okay

Do we have a source on that?

“Well … Angela said she heard it from a friend … and her friend heard it from another friend … and, um, they said it was on the NEWS …”

Oh, well, then, that’s good enough for me to accept it as the gospel truth.

Even though I knew it couldn’t be right, though, it left a taste of anxiety in my brain all afternoon, because I had just enough gas to get home, and I knew The Wife would need gas too.

Fortunately, the pumps were still open to us insignificant non-evacuees by the time I got off work at 4:30, and I was able to fill up my truck before I got home.

Heading out for The Wife’s gas, though, was a different story: By the time I finished filling up, every other pump (out of 9) was in use, and people were beginning to wait in line.

The gas station also had duct tape over all the regular unleaded buttons and monitor screens, probably indicating that they had sold out, and The Wife said that several stations in Richardson had completely run out of gas.

From the gas station I went to Mi Casa Tex-Mex to pick up our dinner, and as I was waiting for the food, I struck up a conversation with one of the managers, telling him of my experience at the gas station on the corner.

I could tell he was starting to get worried and form a plan of action, and several of the customers within earshot were sitting at attention as well.

Now see? That’s the way to start a rumor: Base it on fact and personal experience, not on sixth-hand hearsay, and make the topic more specific and immediate.

It causes a much more satisfying panic that way.

Seriously, though: It’s fascinating to watch people turn into animals in the face of a crisis, even though we’re nowhere near the coast.

“Lost”, the next day …

Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

Well, shoot, I still can’t talk about last night’s Lost, because everybody I know (including The Wife) that likes the show hasn’t watched it yet … !

Oh, well, let’s see how much I can say without undue spoilage:

You’ll be glad to learn that they do show inside the hatch this time, and it’s not just some vague nothing (i.e., it’s not more locked doors).

On the other hand, it also raises even more questions, but that’s okay, because at least we’re moving forward.

Great bit of conversation:

Hurley: What’s that thing where doctors make people feel better by talking to them?
Jack: Bedside manner?
Hurley: Yeah, that’s it … well, dude, yours sucks.

You know that scene where one of the characters whispers something, but you couldn’t make out what he was saying? Well, the internet community (i.e., Those Folk With Way Too Much Time on their Hands) have determined that: 1) The vocal track was backward; and 2) When reversed, what was said was, “Push the buttons; no buttons are bad.”

And now you know. (And you also know why I’m not afraid of spoiling that part for those who haven’t seen it: Because it tells us ZIP.)

The backstory (his FOURTH, when most other characters have only had one; weren’t they originally going to kill him off early?) was of his days as a Cocky Young Surgeon, in hair that made him look like Adam Sandler circa Billy Madison: Not really surgeon-like, but definitely young.

People who got virtually no screen time: Sun, Claire, and Charlie. Also: We learned a big fat nothing about the fate of the folks on the destroyed raft (except for a brief … appearance … by one of them.