Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I'm sick. The timing sucks; why couldn't I be sick last week, when I didn't have anything to do? Went to my morning tutoring session this morning; fortunately, she was sick, too, so I could go home. Had to call in sick to the library, who got all passive-agreesive on me; you know what, if I wanted Halloween off, I would've taken it off, seeing as I am a volunteer and all. If I say I'm sick, I'm sick. Hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow; after last week, I can't really afford to miss more school.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Porter Wagoner, dead at 80. He apparently announced he had lung cancer about a week ago, and was in hospice, dying during the Country Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

It is nice that he managed to put out his final album, received to such high acclaim (I was quite fond of the album myself), as his was a reputation that needed some restoration. But considering the magnitude of the impact of his televison show on country music, it was more than fair that he should go out on the top of his game.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The American Masters profile on Charles Schulz airs tomorrow (check local listings). My PBS affiliate is showing it on their HD channel, which is nice.

Amazon has shipped the new biography to me, but I haven't yet received it. I don't want to comment too specifically without reading the book, but it seems strange that so much of the coverage of the biography has focused on the fact that he was unhappy, as though this was a revelation. Have the people covering the biography actually read the strip, or would they just skip the strips that didn't feature Snoopy? I actually found it more interesting, as discussed in Newsweek, that Schulz seemed to cultivate his depression, nursing imagined childhood slights. Perhaps he needed to feel like the tortured artist, as discussed in the New York Times (love the artwork that accompanies that article), or felt he needed a more tragic back story to lend gravitas to his art, in a field not generally taken seriously.

As far as Schulz's family's complaints about the biography, I would not question their perception of their own father, but I haven't heard anything substantial to cause me to question the accuracy of the biography. Schulz's son complains to Editor & Publisher that 28 pages are spent on Schulz's affair, claiming that to be excessive. 28 pages in a 650+ page book devoted to the affair that destroyed his first marriage certainly sounds reasonable to me. He also specifically claims that the author mentions Jeannie Schulz's trips without Sparky, but doesn't mention when he would travel with his wife; it seems to me a similar complaint could be directed to the family's own Charles Schulz museum, which portrays him as a creature of habit loath to travel any further than the Warm Puppy Cafe a block from his home. Again, my opinion will have more weight, I suppose, once I've actually read the book, but the portrait I'm getting from the reviews doesn't seem too terribly different from what I carried away from my trip to the museum. If anything, he's more well-rounded and human.

And kudos to the Wall Street Journal for getting Bill Waterson of Calvin and Hobbes fame to review the new biography.

Mustaches of the Ninteenth Century.
The entire run of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is now available online. I've bitched in the past about Comedy Central's website, so its nice to see that their website is reasonably well-designed and navigatable. I still have the problem I've always had with Comedy Central's website where about one video in three simply will not play; I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that this is due to the site's beta status. The site layout suggests that Craig Kilborn clips will be coming, which the New York Times confirms. Which is great; I never thought I'd see those clips again, and I miss A. Whitney Brown.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Things seem to be improving today, with fire fighters finally able to get in and fight the flames, with the winds improving. Still very hot, though that's supposed to improve tomorrow. But air quality is worsening, and as the winds die down, should actually get worse, as all the smoke blown out over the ocean returns. Only one fatality so far, so at least by the most important yardstick, this isn't as bad as the Cedar fire. Acres burned will certainly exceed Cedar, but I'm not sure about homes lost.

School's canceled for the week. Library reopened today, with limited hours, so I'm about to go in for my volunteer shift. My tutoring session this morning was canceled. No word yet on if work will be closed Friday; being part of the campus, it should be closed, but we'll see.

Felt absolutely awful yesterday, barely able to function, but today I don't feel too bad. Probably because I haven't been outside; we'll see how I feel after I head down to the library (I just heard on the news it's 100 degrees in El Cajon).

Monday, October 22, 2007

I just got back from Qualcomm Stadium, where they are expecting over 100,000 evacuees tonight. Dropped off some water and food, and was happy to see lots of private and corporate citizens were making donations; Costco was bringing in huge truckloads of water. I recommend bringing your own handcart if you bring donations, as it's hard to park very close to gate P, where they're taking donations. Lugging in the water wasn't too difficult, but with the poor air quality, I really felt like crap once I'd hauled it all in (fortunately, a Marine helped me with the last few cases of water).

But yeah, the air is definitely bad. Even here in La Mesa, where the sky is still, inexplicably, blue, the air is deceptively poor. Just going out to breakfast, I found my eyes burning.

Fallbrook is under a mandatory evacuation, now, and parts of Chula Vista have a voluntary evacuation advisory. Solana Beach has been advised to prepare to evacuate. Still, very little can be done to directly fight the fire; the goal now just seems to keep the fire from reaching to the ocean. UCSD, like all schools in the county, will remain closed tomorrow, since it seems extremely inadvisable to leave your home if you don't have to.

UCSD, like many schools in the county, is closed today. The fires shifted dramatically to the west since I went to bed last night, with homes burning in Rancho Bernardo, and large regions to the west of the I-15 have been evacuated. The evacuation area north of the 56 extends all the way to I-5. Sheriff Kolender describes things as "worse than the Cedar fire." I haven't heard of any more deaths, though, which is fortunate.

The odd thing is, while there is definitely smoke here, the air quality in La Mesa isn't bad at all. Driving home from work yesterday, as I passed through Mission Valley, the sky was black to the north and west, but past there the sky suddenly turned clear blue. Things are a bit smokier today, but still fairly blue, though from my back yard I can see menacing smoke in the distance. But nothing like what I'm seeing on the news.

So, the Amazon MP3 store has been open for awhile now. I didn't mention it, because I'm getting bored with the trickle of new sources for DRM-free music, and I wasn't in the market for any music not available from my usual sources. But I did finally make a few purchases recently from Amazon, downloading the two tracks on the Pipettes' American debut that weren't on the original album I downloaded from eMusic, when it was available from them in the States, and also purchasing the new Nellie McKay album, Obligatory Villagers. If you want my opinion, the Amazon store is pretty nice, but nothing immediately game-changing. One-click shopping works fine, but I would prefer the option of a shopping cart; for instance, I would have liked to purchase the two Pipettes tracks in one transaction, and I would like to select my payment method without having to change my default settings. But the price is right, at least when it comes to albums. I think the Amazon MP3 store will be successful, but for online sales to really take off, they need to offer a complete, or nearly complete, catalog. Bring on the celestial jukebox!

As for the music itself, one could live a full and complete life without hearing the two new songs on the Pipettes album (the less said about "Dance and Boogie," the better). As for McKay's album, I've only listened to it once, so I can't pass definitive judgement. I will say, her politics can get a bit tiresome, due to her tendency to create straw men arguments to attack in her lyrics (the fact that I share her politics only makes it more aggravating). But other than that, it's a very interesting album, and musically is quite compelling, obviously influenced from her experience on stage as Polly Peachum. Like her first album, it will no doubt take me many listens to digest. But it's quite an improvement from her last album (though to be fair, I only heard the leaked version, not what was ultimately released). I recommend it (and for those unfamiliar with her, I highly recommend Get Away From Me).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

One dead in San Diego fires. It also appears that the Santa Ysabel fire has overtaken the Potrero fire, with over 3000 acres burned.
Fire consumes 2500+ acres near Potrero, 70 miles east of San Diego. I've called around town, and elsewhere there's no sign of smoke, but apparently the Santa Ana winds are funneling the smoke right to La Jolla. The air quality is reminiscent of the Cedar fire of 2003, though not nearly as bad--soot doesn't seem to be making the 70 mile trek, so it's just smoke we're dealing with, and I rather doubt I'll find an inch of ash on my car when I leave work today. But it is still quite poor air quality here in La Jolla, and I anticipate things will be getting worse in the near term; this is really the first day of the Santa Ana, and already two fires are burning in the county. Should various fires start meeting up, as they did with the Ceder fire, things could be unpleasant.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Slate asks why The Office sucks so badly this season. And I agree, this season has been pretty bad so far. Tonight's episode was an improvement, but the office-centered antics left me a bit cold. I was happy to return to Dwight's farm; I can't say I enjoy those scenes, exactly, but I appreciate the mindset from which such scenes emerge. But having Pam and Jim there to so blatantly gawk at the freaks just made things feel tawdry and cruel.

In my opinion, the new season sucks because Michael has been lobotomized the same way Dwight was last season. I'm waiting for the episode where Dwight falls down a well, and Michael waits up for the Great Pumpkin. Really, the whole driving-into-a-lake thing was just too much.

Joey Bishop, dead at 89.
A few comics I enjoyed recently:

Get Fuzzy: perhaps the first time Satchel knew real fear.

Wondermark: Tomorrow's Memes, today. Of course, Bears in Ill-Fitting Hats never go out of style. The Russians knew this:
Okay, so the hat was on the human, I just wanted an excuse to share the video.

And, of course, I have to mention Slylock Fox and Cassandra Cat. I think Cassie looks quite fetching in her housekeeping garb. The Comics Curmudgeon has weighed in on her most recent appearance, as has Reynard Noir. I'll just add that, if it means more Cassandra Cat goodness, I whole-heartedly approve of the approach, evident in this strip, of depicting Cassandra flirting with various police personnel, while the crucial clues that prove her undoing are out-of-frame. It makes things easier on the eyes, and torments innocent children trained by the strip to look for hidden visual clues. A real win-win. Of course, it would be even better if the clue was out of sight because it was stuck to Cassie's ass, which would of course explain the glassy-eyed stares of Slylock and Max (at least Max has the decency to hold his hand to his chin, feigning thoughtfulness and concealing the drool). I'll gladly sit through weeks upon weeks of aliens as long as the strip keeps eventually giving up the goods. And that is all I will say about that, since I seem to have sceeved myself out a bit. But I'm sure that's nothing that can't be cured by watching the Russian magical realism bear video a few hundred times.

UPDATE: I got so flustered by that darn cat, I forgot to mention Gil Thorp: Turns out not only is the team's new quaterback unbearably lame, he also killed a guy. Gotta admit I didn't see that one coming. The story sort of lost steam after the big reveal, but the depiction of a (obviously drug-fueled) wrestling accident was pretty sweet. But please, if you decide to follow Gil Thorp, don't go it alone, go to This Week in Milford. That site somehow got me through the entire "Rock and Roll Carol King"-gets-threatening-or-at-the-least-rather-unpleastantly-negative-letters-from-a-young-Ben-Franklin storyline relatively unscathed, and I'm sure it can help you, too.

Do magicians "own" their tricks? This article reminded me of a spat last year between Ricky Jay and Eric Walton, which raised the question, who owns old magic tricks? Or rather, who gets credit for their rediscovery.

Did I mention how disappointed I was I didn't know about Ricky Jay's L.A. performances until after the fact? I did, of course. But I'll bitch about it again, since it still bums me out to no end. His collection of broadsides is on display in L.A., however, and I still have time to check it out.

Colbert is running for president. I'm a bit uncertain about this. I enjoyed watching him, on the interview circuit promoting his book, goad various interviewers into asking him if he has presidential ambition, only to act agog at the question, like many a candidate before him. But an actual campaign just seems gimmicky. I'm tempted to mention Pat Paulsen as a cautionary example, but it's hard to fault someone for following in the Smothers Brothers' footsteps. So godspeed, Colbert.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

An update regarding my failed water cooler: I gave up on finding a home-filtered solution. There are some coolers available that will filter tap water, but require plumbing, which isn't available where I wanted to keep the cooler. I looked at home delivery, finding Sparkletts to be the best deal, at $30/mo. for 20 gallons/mo., including cooler rental. I was almost willing to pay that much for convenience, but a $20 set-up fee and two-year committment led me to decide to just buy a water cooler from CostCo, and get filtered water from the store by my old high school for thirty cents a gallon. The cooler was a tad expensive, but doing the math, I come out ahead after seven months (maybe eight; the five-gallon jugs were more expensive than I thought), and then I should save some twenty-odd bucks a month going forward. And the water from the store tastes pretty good; definitely better than what the Brita filter produced.

So I'm satisfied with the solution. I miss the convenience of the Brita water cooler, but filling up jugs every two weeks or so isn't so bad, and given that there is an improvement in water quality (it has got that oddly-too-clean, sterile quality to it, but that I don't mind so much), I don't mind a minor inconvenience.

In other water news, I got a notice in the mail that my water district will begin fluoridation next month, after having fought the move for years, going so far as requesting not to receive funding in order to avoid adapting fluoridation. But apparently Helix has given in, and the Communist attack on our precious bodily fluids takes another step forward.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

eMusic has some free tracks available highlighting what's available over at Daytrotter. Checking out the site, I was greeted by the music of Smoosh, whom I mentioned favorably when I saw them open for the Pipettes, and who have several free songs available on Daytrotter. Their stuff on Daytrotter's pretty good, and the site seems to have a lot of music available (I already had some Casey Dienel tracks from the site, somehow, even though I'm pretty sure I've never been to the site before); one would probably be well rewarded for spending some time in their archives.
Larry Craig vows not to resign, even after guilty plea upheld. When the story first broke, he said he was not guilty, not gay, but said he would resign. Now he's a demonstrable liar on one point, but expects us to believe that he is most certainly not a dreadful homosexual. I just don't understand why he would want to put himself through further humiliation. Just leave D.C. and take your pension with you, and put this behind you.

I take no position on sex in public restrooms, but a Senator who thinks he can plead guilty to a sex-related crime and no one will ever hear about it lacks the judgement to be a Senator.

A few years back, I bought a Brita water cooler. It's like one of those coolers you would get from Sparkletts, but instead of having to have bottled water delivered, you just fill up a jug with tap water, and the cooler filters it and keeps it cool. Very handy, and more environmentally friendly than bottled water. Unfortunately, last night it sprung a leak, right after I had filled it up, spilling three gallons of water onto the kitchen floor. Quite a mess. Since I had just filled it, and there was still water in the cooler's reservoir, I just figured I put the bottle back on wrong somehow, so I put some more water in the bottle, and watched it for awhile, but soon I discovered there definitely had a leak in the machine itself. I don't know where the receipt is, but I got it about two years ago, and I think there's about a 50/50 chance the warranty has expired (and without the receipt, I'm hosed either way). No big deal, I thought, since the thing wasn't that expensive ($80 or so, if memory serves), but now I find the product appears to have been discontinued. Maybe they leak too much. But I can't find a suitable replacement for this unit. There are coolers that just take tap water, which I could live with, but without the filtering, why not just drink from the tap? Which I guess is what I'll end up doing, but if anyone knows where I can find a discontinued Brita water cooler, let me know.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Atari 2600 is 30 years old this month. Makes me want to break out one of my classic-gaming anthologies and fire up some old-school Atari, and wonder how I ever found those games fun.

And speaking of Atari anthologies, when are we going to see E.T. in one of those collections? That I would pay for. They could do a super-deluxe version, sort of like the Showgirls DVD. Can video games be so-bad-they're-good?