Thursday, December 29, 2005

I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas. I went up to my sister's for the weekend. The three of us, myself, my mom, and my dog, left at 6:30 Saturday morning. I had hoped that traffic wouldn't be too bad on Christmas Eve, and that everyone would have gotten where they were going Friday. Apparently I was right, as there was no traffic to speak of (though the drive going South on I-5 looked less pleasant). Furthermore, the weather was perfect. But that wasn't enough to make Tanner enjoy the ride. He was excited at first; he had seen us packing, and was relieved to learn he was going with us. But he had never been on such a long drive, and didn't know what to make of it. We stopped a lot, in Griffith Park and in various rest stops along the grapevine. Unfortunately, Tanner does not like to go to the bathroom while on his leash, so just getting him to go potty was frustrating. Still, the lack of traffic made the drive a lot less unpleasant than I had anticipated. We arrived in San Jose around 2:00.

Michelle has two dogs, and how they would get along with Tanner was the major wildcard of this trip. It turns out Tanner was fine with them, and Scout the beagle was fine with Tanner, but Ebi the corgi was not fine with Tanner. As soon as Michelle let the dogs out, Ebi jumped on Tanner and bit his ear. I pulled Ebi off him, and Tanner retreated, with Scout bounding off after him. Michelle and Eric reined in Ebi, and after Scout and Tanner got introduced, they tried again to introduce Ebi to Tanner, but Ebi still was nipping at Tanner. And Tanner got right in Ebi's face, making it very clear he wasn't going to put up with that crap. So long story short, Michelle's dogs spent most of Christmas weekend in their kennel, and barked at Tanner whenever he went outside (Tanner slept in the guest cottage with me, while her dogs slept in the house).

When Tanner wasn't dealing with the dogs, he was trying to come to terms with the baby. This was my first time seeing Grace. She's cute enough, with big ol' chipmunk cheeks and a tuft of blond hair. She seems pretty chunky, I suppose--everyone comments on what a big baby she is, but she seems fairly typical to me. She's nice enough, I suppose, as babies go, and I'm sure once she can talk and control her bodily functions, we'll get along swimmingly. Tanner didn't like her, though, especially when mom or I would hold her. I think Tanner was afraid he was being traded in for Grace, and we were going to leave him there. He never really relaxed the whole trip, and just didn't have a very good time. On a happy note, Tanner was so upset, he would get even more anxious than usual when seperated from me, so I was able to get out of going to church on Christmas Eve. Stayed home and checked out Michelle's digital cable instead.

Christmas was fine. I got pretty much what I expected. Not a lot of gifts, but mostly stuff I wanted. I got the latest releases of MST3K and The Simpsons on DVD, as well as Lifeboat and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I also got some books, an Allison Moorer CD, and a clock radio into which I can plug my iPod (works pretty good, except it lets out a horribly obnoxious beeping when you set the alarm, which is annoying when you're trying to set the alarm at two in the morning and others are asleep). My sister got me a martini shaker with stuff in it, so that you can make a lemon drop martini just by adding vodka. Neat idea. I got my sister We Love Katamari. Unfortunately, so did Eric. So I need to return that for her and get her a gift card. I also burned her a copy of the Katamari Damacy soundtrack, which I put inside an iPod box, to keep my mom from guessing that I was giving her an iPod (used, my old 20 gig model). We listened to my iPod on the drive up, and she had nice things to say about it, and seemed very excited to have one of her own (especially as she will be flying up to Michelle's pretty regularly, and will have a lot of time to kill in airports). I had uploaded her CD library onto the iPod, as well as other CDs I thought she would enjoy. I got her Brian Setzer's Christmas album, among others. Then a few days before we left, she suggested that I buy "Barry Spitzer's Christmas music" for us to listen to on the long drive. Once I figured out what she was talking about, I was bummed she had to come up with that idea independently. But she was still surprised on Christmas morning. She even said, god help me, "Now I can listen to Barry Spitzer on my iPad" (I've given up on correcting her, instead just trying to move her over to at least a more reasonable wrong name, like "Brian Seltzer"--I mean, I'm pretty sure no one named Barry has had much success recording rockabilly songs). I also gave her a copy of The Orchid Thief I came across while cleaning out my closet, which I thought she might enjoy, as well as season two of Columbo (unfortunately, I bought season two on sale some time ago, unaware that season three--which includes the Johnny Cash episode--would be out in time for Christmas). I got Eric a collection of home-made monster movies on DVD, which he seemed to enjoy, as well as some odd CDs. But the most exciting gift was probably Michelle's gift for Mom. Through a friend with extensive connections, she was able to get my mother a personally autographed picture of Judge Judy herself. Quite a coup.

Christmas was over around 9:45 or so, and I went back to bed. After I got up and we ate, I joined Michelle and Eric on a trip to the movies. We were going to see the dreamworld of magic that is Narnia, but it was sold out. So we saw The Producers. It was okay, not nearly as bad as the reviews suggested. The direction of the film was terrible, but in a rather fascinating, what-the-hell-were-they-thinking-when-they-set-up-this-shot sort of way. The main problem with the film was that it was unnecessary: Most of the funny bits in the movie are from the original, and were better back then. In particular, Matthew Broderick is no Gene Wilder. Making the whole thing seem particularly pointless was, that the weakest part of the musical is the music. The songs aren't funny, and just serve to slow down the pace. The only exception might be Will Farrell's numbers, which were pretty funny, especially his audition. I can't really recommend it, but it's not as bad as the reviews suggest.

After that, we had dinner and killed time playing games. Mom got herself a game for Christmas, the Turner Classic Movies version of Scene It, one of those DVD-based board games (and let me just say right now, someone needs to release the old Clue VCR mystery game on DVD...I bought the original off eBay some time ago, but was shocked to learn that just about anyone else who remembered playing that game in the early '80s had rather unpleasant memories of it, and getting people to play it with me is difficult). We played a game of that, and Mom won, though I was at least competitive, while Michelle didn't do very good (Eric doesn't watch many old movies, and it showed). Mom had one handicap in the game, though, in that she couldn't keep her mouth shut during the DVD segments, and would repeatedly give away answers to the question that would ultimately be asked. After that happened several times, a clip from To Have and Have Not came up, and Mom volunteered that Lauren Bacall was 18 when she acted in that film. I joked that the question would be about Bacall's age, and then, sure enough, the question was, "How old was Lauren Bacall when this movie was released?" The answer was 20, not 18 (though she might have been 18 when the film was shot, if it took a long time to release), but it was multiple-choice, so Eric got it right. Yet after that, Mom still would talk during the questions. (We played another game last night--Michelle is down here for a wedding--and things went more smoothly, and though Mom won again, it was an extremely close game)

We drove back Monday morning, leaving around 7:30. I was sure that traffic would be much worse on Monday, especially as it was raining. But it wasn't bad at all. The only traffic we hit was by Magic Mountain. We were home by 3:00, and Tanner was very relieved to be back on his own turf (so was I, truth be told). It was too bad that Tanner didn't get along with Michelle's dogs, but otherwise it was a good trip.

A new security hole in Windows has been discovered. Until Microsoft issues a patch, you can protect yourself by going to "run" on the start menu and entering the following:
regsvr32 /u shimgvw.dll

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

PopMatters' Top 10 Country Albums of 2005. Good list, though I would have picked Georgia Hard as number one. I don't think I'll make a top-ten album list, since I tend to drag my feet so long in hearing new albums, I'm not sure whether some of my favorite albums are new to 2005 or just new to me. But Georgia Hard is right up at the top, were I to make a list.
A collection of banned album art.
Peekaboom is like a visual version of Password. And apparently it helps improve computer technology or something.
Vincent Schiavelli, dead at 57. If you don't know the name (I didn't), you'll know the face.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Saturday Night Live sketch I mentioned in my previous post is available for free on iTunes, if you want a copy to call your very own.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

On Saturday Night Live last week, they had one of the funniest things I've seen on that show for some time. And sure enough, it's on the web. Check out "Lazy Sunday."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Nellie McKay leaves Sony. Good news for those of us who wanted to buy her new album, but are boycotting Sony.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Sometimes I wonder why I still subscribe to Outside Magazine, and then I read an article like "Raising the Dead", from the August issue (yes, I'm a little behind in my reading). A suspenseful adventure yarn of the highest order, it still always remains respectful to the morbid subject matter--Dave Shaw's effort to recover the body of a diver trapped about 800 feet down in an underwater cave. I don't want to say too much, so just read the article.

Don't click on these links until you've read the article:

A collection of media coverage of the story, compiled by Tim Zimmerman, author of the Outside piece.

Dave Shaw's website

Monday, December 12, 2005

This weekend, I watched some old-school TV, dusting off a few DVDs I've picked up some time ago. First off was The Best of Ernie Kovacs. Bizzare by the standards of his time, bizarre by modern standards. Sort of like David Letterman meets Spike Jones and His City Slickers meets Monty Python at their silliest. More surreal than outright hilarious most of the time, but the Nairobi Trio certainly made me laugh--a musical trio of men in monkey masks, you could tell the conductor monkey was getting enraged by the antics of his peers when the man in the mask would breathe heavy and suck the mask in and out...I guess you'd just have to see it. And the various syncronized musical numbers were pretty awesome. If you've never seen him (I hadn't), it's worth checking out. The Best of Ernie Kovacs DVD has a lot of material, though after about 90 minutes in one sitting, it becomes a bit overwhelming. Be sure to pace yourself.

After that, I watched a couple episodes of Peter Gunn. I've enjoyed the soundtrack CD from the show, and figured I should check out the source. It's decent entertainment. It was a bit ridiculous, in the tradition of old serials, in that it seemed like Peter Gunn should have died in every episode I watched (but I guess Peter Gunn as the Detective who Dies wouldn't be very exciting). And 25 minutes isn't really enough time for a well-developed film noir detective story to play out. But it's still reasonably exciting, with great music and a hip style. I was surprised how well the episodes I saw held up. Not earth-shattering stuff, but not bad.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Radio DavidByrne's playlist for December has an awesome mix of classic country. I'm just not in the habit of tuning in to Byrne's radio station, but I'll have to try to check it out more often, he plays some great stuff.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I've had my computer back for a few days now. Seems to be working pretty good. A fair amount of data was saved, but plenty of data was lost, too. I've gotten most of the essential software reinstalled, but most of my time has been spent getting my music library back in shape. It seemed like all my music files were salvaged, but once I got everything set up, it appeared that several hundred songs were missing. So I decided to discard those songs and retrieve the songs from my iPod, but in the process of doing that I accidentally lost several songs, including virtually every song I purchased from iTunes. And I also lost my playlists, song ratings, and so on, which is no big deal, but certainly a minor inconvenience. But I've been able to recover a good part of what was lost from Limewire, and have dug up several CDs I need to reburn. Of course, I'm not entirely sure of which songs were lost, so I'm sure some months down the road I'll want to hear a song, and it'll be gone. But slowly things are returning to normalcy. Being without my computer really threw me for a loop.

Monday, December 05, 2005

I spoke to the repair place, and I'm getting a computer overhaul, rather than a new computer. I didn't want to buy another Dell, due to their crappy customer support, so I went to HP's website. With the holidays, there is quite a wait for customized computers, but I found one with nice specs for $760 after rebate. So I called the tech guy to see how my computer was coming along, and we agreed it was time to cut our losses. He suggested that I purchase a new processor and hard drive from him, and have it installed into my existing system. I had considered this, but was of the mind that I'd rather just have a brand new system. But he ended up offering me a pretty good deal, so that I get the new processor and memory and hard drive, including installation and transfer of the data recovered from my old hard drive, for about $370. I decided this was an offer worth taking, and decided to pass on the brand new system. And the best part is, he says he might have it ready today, which would be fantastic. So maybe the next posting on this blog with be composed on my new old computer.
My computer is still sick. The guy at the repair place says there are other problems beyond the hard drive, and I might need a new motherboard. So I'm thinking maybe it'd be worth it to just buy a new computer. The repair guy should be calling me back today, and then I should be able to make that decision. In the meantime, I am without computer at home (this is being composed on the company's dime), and at a total loss at home. At least I've managed to get some reading done, and do some cleaing. My closet is much more organized, so that it is now actually theoretically possible to find a book I might be looking for in there.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

My involvement in Paradise Poker's Million-Dollar Freeroll has come to an end. Out of 4871 players I came in 3359th place. I was on the verge of elimination when I managed to triple-up, and get right back in the action, but then pocket kings got cracked by J10 on the river, and the following hand, in dire straits, I went all-in with a flush draw, against trips, and I made my flush while my opponent caught the fourth king, to send me home. So I am not going to be on TV, playing poker in a mystery tropical location.

Friday, December 02, 2005

My hard drive crashed on Thursday. I'm writing this on a borrowed laptop. My computer is in a repair shop, where hopefully a technician will be able to recover some of my data (I've backed up a few crucial files, but not nearly as much as I should, and this could be a bad loss). Dell customer support sucks. I ended up paying $100 for them to keep me on the phone for four hours before telling me I needed to take my computer somewhere. The repair shop is reasonable, though, $49 for diagnosis and installing a new hard drive, and $49 for data recovery.

The timing was rather poor, however, as this weekend is Paradise Poker's Million-Dollar Freeroll, for which I have won a seat. Fortunately, I was able to borrow this computer, so I don't have to worry about my computer being repaired in time for the tournament's 11:00 start time tomorrow morning. I have about a 1 in 5000 chance of winning $1,000,000, and a 1 in 500 chance of winning $10,000 and a trip to a mystery tropical location.