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My Archives: October 2003

Friday, October 31, 2003

No contest
Posted by CKL @ 04:09 PM PST
Clearly, I had no chance of winning the costume contest at work today...

DSC00242-1 (109k <BR>image)


Happy Halloween!
Posted by CKL @ 10:29 AM PST
Headline of the week:
"Film producer guilty of frog smuggling"

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt
Posted by CKL @ 10:20 AM PST
From the Wall Street Journal, by way of IMDB:
Nielsen Insists Its Numbers Are Correct
Responding to complaints by network executives about data showing a huge drop in 18-34-year-old viewers, Nielsen Research said Tuesday that after rechecking its data, it had concluded that the demographic group, much prized by advertisers, is watching 8-12 percent fewer primetime programs than a year ago. Instead, Nielsen said, younger viewers are now watching more cable, DVDs, playing video games, and surfing the Internet. The latest ratings flap involving the networks and Nielsen is by no means the first. In an interview with today's (Wednesday) Wall Street Journal, Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus remarked: "When ratings are up, it's the programs. When they're down, it's Nielsen."
I just saw Presidential hopeful Howard Dean speak at Google this morning, and he said something similar about the current administration: that when the facts don't fit their theory, they choose to disregard fact so they won't have to change the theory. I think all politicians do this to some extent, but nowhere near as bad as Hollywood types. Check and balances, people! Checks and balances!

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Well, it's better than having a big "H" glued to your forehead
Posted by CKL @ 04:52 PM PST


How To Make Fake Blood
Posted by CKL @ 01:24 PM PST
"The only negative side to this fake blood is that it will attract flies."

Witchy Woman
Posted by CKL @ 09:45 AM PST
Just in time for Halloween: Secret Spells Barbie!
Hey, witches are cool. Everyone knows witches are cool. Way, way cool. Willow from "Buffy" was cool, and the vaguely lesbian witchly threesome on "Charmed" are ostensibly cool (in a bitchy backstabbing black-mascara mall-hopping sort of way), and even "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" is passably cool if you're, like, 12...
-- San Francisco Chronicle
Of course, I can't hear "Barbie" now without thinking of Jon Stewart on the Daily Show: "The small-nosed blond chick is Jewish? My Hebrew school sucked!"

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

back in the saddle
Posted by CKL @ 11:05 PM PST
Got home around 6pm tonight, which was about what I expected, and my gamble appears to have paid off. No note from Pac Bell (excuse me, SBC), but we had dialtone again, and DSL was back on. Presumably the repair tech arrived earlier in the day and fixed something outside our house. Since this disconnection has now happened twice in as many months, I'm both curious to find out what the problem was and anxious for it not to happen again. Guess I'll call customer service tomorrow and spend an hour in hell.

Off the hook
Posted by CKL @ 08:44 AM PST
Came home last night to find that our telephone had no dialtone, and more importantly, our DSL was out. Called the nice DSL customer service people, who took a whole bunch of information and gave me a case number before telling me that I had to call the main customer service line because they couldn't do anything until after I got my dialtone back. Thanks, bub. I then spent way too long navigating IVR menus because, of course, the main customer service folks go home at six o'clock.

Eventually, I made an appointment for a repair tech to come out this afternoon between 4pm and 8pm. (My other choices were: anytime after 8am, between 8am and noon, and between 1pm and 6pm. Riiight.) I'm gambling that either they won't show before 6pm (when I expect to get home), or it'll turn out to be a problem outside the house and they'll just fix it and leave a note on the door, like they did last time.

I'm feeling lucky.


Monday, October 27, 2003

wedding plans
Posted by CKL @ 12:12 PM PST
Last night, DeeAnn and I drove by Freedom Hall, a wedding venue in Santa Clara. It's right next to a Marriott and just down the street from Mission College, the AMC Mercado 20 movie theatre, and Great America. It also happens to be in a business park and, apparently, shares the space with De La Cruz Deli during the week. It was after dark when we got there-- damn that Daylight Savings Time change!-- so we'll have to go back during the day. Maybe it looks better from the inside.

This is the problem: we don't have any locations that are already meaningful to us which would be appropriate for a wedding or reception. I know friends who've held weddings at favorite restaurants (all of ours are smallish) or local churches (we're not religious) or in their backyard (too small for our nearly 200 guests). Another problem is that we're thinking of the whole thing as a big party, but say the word "wedding" and people have all kinds of preconceived notions about what we need to do and how much we have to spend.

It's tough being in the minority.


Thursday, October 23, 2003

Posted by CKL @ 12:49 PM PST
OneCall is offering the new Pioneer DVR810HS DVD Recorder with Tivo for $832. Free shipping. That's a good 30% off the list price of $1,200.

Must... resist... techno-lust...

Seriously, it's still eight hundred freakin' dollars. Toshiba makes a combo TiVo/DVD player (no recording capability) that lists at $550, which is ridiculously overpriced, considering that you could get comparable functionality out of two separate units for at least $200 less.

I'd think about the Pioneer if I could get it for around $600. I'd really think about it if DirecTV got into the game. And I'd be sold, now, if it supported HDTV out of the box. But, as I've said before, that's not going to happen for a while.


Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Bad Tarzan! No banana.
Posted by CKL @ 09:56 AM PST
In case you were wondering, The WB's Tarzan sucks. Some of the acrobatic stunts are pretty cool, and I have it on good authority that Travis Fimmel is hot, but overall, pretty damn crappy.

They tried something similar last year, with the also-sucky Birds of Prey. Unfortunately, as long as misguided teenagers and dirty old men keep watching Smallville, they're going to keep trying this. Maybe they'll figure it out someday: purely episodic television is dead!

But the thing that bugs me most is the overuse of music as a substitute for actual character development. I don't need a Creed song playing in the background to tell me how to feel about a scene. Give me dialogue, or hey, how about some acting? If I want to see a music video, I'll watch VH1.


Tuesday, October 21, 2003

DeeAnn's Birthday
Posted by CKL @ 10:10 PM PST
Happy Birthday to DeeAnn!

Monday, October 20, 2003

Futures told here. Accuracy not guaranteed.
Posted by CKL @ 11:37 PM PST
E-mail from one of my college buddies:

"I'm still in Knoxville, and probably will be for some time to come. This job is actually quite fun, and I'm starting to make a name for myself, besides the one you made for me... ;-) Used to be, if you did a search on me on the web, you'd come up with your Superluminary bio. I've got a few more entries now, although the Superluminary still appears at the top... if you'll pardon the brief self-aggrandizement."

Hey, nothing but the best made-up histories for my friends!

Speaking of small worlds, my manager at my new job used to work with The Notorious BHB at WebTV, and one of the other managers in my group went to school with one of my fellow Richter Scales. I'm sure one of their cousins had a roommate who knew a waitress who dated Kevin Bacon's dry cleaner.


news flash of the day
Posted by CKL @ 12:53 PM PST
"There are other ways to have fun besides drinking alcohol."
-- Nanci Howe, assistant dean and director of student services at Stanford University

Sunday, October 19, 2003

pay or play
Posted by CKL @ 03:16 AM PST
Things I know about TiVo: "Showcases" can be used for good (movie trailers) or evil (car ads and lame music videos).

In some cases, a Showcase can be both good and evil. For example, the latest promotional videos for the new Pioneer DVD burner with TiVo. It's a great demo of the product, but the narrator, Pioneer's Manager of New Technology Development, is a horrible spokesman. Why don't these companies hire professional actors who can actually deliver presentations well? Look at it this way: would you rather fluff one executive's ego, or actually sell more of your product?

Anyway. This new toy is pretty damn cool, but I'm not ready to pay more than $1,000 for it. I might change my mind if DirecTV also hops on the bandwagon, so it really will be all digital, from satellite to DVD. But that's not going to happen anytime soon.


Tru or False
Posted by CKL @ 12:36 AM PST
Thanks to for linking me to this Sneak Peek of Tru Calling on the Fox web site, containing the first 13+ minutes of the pilot, minus final sound mix (no foley, no music). I don't really consider this a spoiler, since it's actual content, not secondary reportage. More like an extended teaser.

The only downside is that you need to download Macromedia's Flash Player 7 to view it. I'll be so much happier when standards start to take a firmer foothold in the world of "rich" web content, so I don't have to install a new plug-in for every other freakin' piece of "exclusive content".

Anyway, I'm only watching Tru Calling because of Eliza... and more than half hoping it flops.

SFX Magazine: Would you do Faith the Vampire Slayer if Eliza Dushku would commit to it?
Joss Whedon: Sure.



Friday, October 17, 2003

Day 5: What do you want, information?
Posted by CKL @ 06:03 PM PST
After five days, I'm starting to get a sense of the high-- dare I say, great-- expectations that my new co-workers seem to have for me. I think I've been managing to live up to them so far, which hasn't been easy, what with attending various training sessions and orientation meetings and starting to get up to speed on the back-end system details which aren't covered in training...

Fundamentally, it's a lot of learning. A lot. And a lot more learning than I've had to do for my day job in several years.

I love it.


TV or not TV
Posted by CKL @ 12:21 AM PST
According to the latest TiVo Newsletter:

Top 10 Season Pass™ Recordings

1. Friends
2. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
3. The West Wing
4. Sex and the City
5. ER
6. Survivor: Pearl Islands
7. Will & Grace
8. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
9. CSI: Miami
10. Alias

Based on anonymous, aggregated data, week ending 10/5/03

Compare that with the traditional TV ratings:

Nielsen Media Research Top 20 - Week of Sept. 29-Oct. 5, 2003

1. CSI
2. Friends
3. ER
4. Everybody Loves Raymond
5. Law & Order
6. (football)
7. Survivor: Pearl Islands
8. Scrubs
9. CSI: Miami
10. Will & Grace
11. West Wing
12. (football)
13. Two and a Half Men
14. Without a Trace
15. 8 Simple Rules
16. (baseball)
17. Law & Order: Criminal Intent
18. Cold Case
19. King of Queens
20. Coupling

as reported at

Okay, so this isn't apples to apples, since people might have recorded or watched other shows without having created Season Passes for them. But notice that "Sex and the City" and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy", which are on cable, aren't even represented in the Nielsen ratings. Does anybody else think more people would be watching these shows if they were more readily available? And how long will it be before TiVo starts offering special Season Passes for sports tournaments? I'm sure lots of subscribers would be willing to pay a few dollars extra to make sure they caught every game of the World Series, or Wimbledon, or (insert name of playoffs here)...


Thursday, October 16, 2003

You're just jealous, NASA
Posted by CKL @ 12:08 AM PST
From the New York Times' reportage on China's first man in space:

"It's significant that we now have a third nation to send a man into space," said Roger Launius, the former chief historian for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. But Mr. Launius noted that the mission was making few waves in the United States and Russia, where sending astronauts into near-orbit of the Earth is commonplace.

"In the overall scheme of things, this is not a technologically mesmerizing event," Mr. Launius said. "A lot of people are saying, `Been there, done that.' "

Maybe it's not a technological advancement, but it's a giant leap for Mankind (pun intended) that more nations are really getting into the manned space exploration game. And the U.S. doesn't want to admit it, but Russia has been more consistently successful with its space program than America ever was. We have spurts of national interest, as in the 1960s with going to the Moon, but then we move on to the next fad.

Russia and China are old countries. They've got thousands of years of history and culture to inform their decisions. When they get into something big, they're in it for the long haul. These are the countries that will get it done and keep doing it. These are the people who will move humanity into space.

We may have the coolest new toys, but being first is not always the most important thing.


Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Day 3: Things to do today
Posted by CKL @ 05:56 PM PST
Finished my second day of training with some confusion as to how much and what training I'm actually supposed to do. Verified with my manager that he wants me to continue the formal training schedule, but also start taking meetings with the rest of the group and learning other stuff about the systems here.

Of course, all of that will be difficult without a computer of my own (I'm using a borrowed laptop now), so it's probably just as well that I'll be in training for at least the next week or so. Maybe the help desk is doing this on purpose, so I'll be that much more grateful when I finally get my Linux box.

My Mr. Potato Head is grinning at me.

Happy to be here.


Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Day 2: Made very welcome.
Posted by CKL @ 11:50 PM PST
Spent most of my second day at the new job in training. Most of tomorrow will be more training. It gets a bit mind-numbing after a few hours, but the mere fact that there's a policy covering "porn ratings" is great.

And it's refreshing to be at a company that actually takes security seriously. The trainer wouldn't even let us take our binders out of the conference room. Plus, all the conference room data ports are outside the corporate firewall, so you need to VPN in using a code card.

Of course we'd all be happier if security wasn't necessary and everybody would just be excellent to each other, but given that we live in a world that has walls, I like people who know how to build and guard those walls. And I want those people on my side.


Road Trip Review
Posted by CKL @ 11:36 PM PST
As I mentioned earlier, DeeAnn and I were in San Diego this past weekend. We drove instead of flying, mainly because I wanted to see how we'd do on a longish road trip. I had also been hoping that I could get some friends to come along, but that didn't work out.

Of course, we'd driven from Chicago to the bay area back in 1998, but that was a multi-day journey with lots of stops and built-in distractions from the two cats in the back of the car. And going up to Mendocino for New Year's Eve, 1999, had been a bit taxing, but our previous trip up there, for Thanksgiving, had gone pretty well.

We can get to a lot more places by driving than we can by flying, especially in and around the bay area. And going down to southern California is a bit of a toss-up; flying might take a little less time, but can be more stressful, and not having a car in Los Angeles is really inconvenient.

If we do this again, we'll probably take our time getting down to LA, maybe spend the night somewhere or at least stop along the way to do some sightseeing.


Monday, October 13, 2003

Day 1: Today... a beautiful day.
Posted by CKL @ 05:24 PM PST
I started my new job today. So far, it's been about four hours of orientation, half an hour for lunch, a few minutes of running around to figure out why my laptop wasn't ready yet, and the rest of the time browsing through lots of intranet web pages to get myself properly set up with e-mail, voicemail, online calendar (not Outlook, thank ghod), and all that good stuff.

It's been a little overwhelming, but good. Very good. I'm happy to be here in building e.


Sunday, October 12, 2003

Weekend Update
Posted by CKL @ 08:54 PM PST
I just returned today from The First Annual BuffyFest San Diego, where I saw a screening of Chance (and then got the DVD for "free"-- more on that later), was converted to Judaism by the mystical on-stage crooning of Adam Busch and Danny Strong, and learned that Alyson Hannigan got married yesterday.

Okay, so I didn't really get converted-- I like my foreskin too much for that-- and besides, everyone knows you need at least three Jews for it to be a proper beit din. And no, I didn't really get the Chance DVD for free; as the film's writer-director-producer-cheerleader Amber Benson told me, because the production hasn't actually paid their actors yet, SAG rules prohibit them from selling the DVD or VHS tape. However, they can give it away for free as a promotional item. So I bought an overpriced 8x10 glossy and got a "free" DVD, both of which my close personal friend Amber signed just for DeeAnn and me.

But yes, Alyson really tied the knot yesterday. Lucky dog.

I also met Amber Benson's mom, who is very nice, and Robin Sachs, who is very British. I picked up an album by Adam Busch's band, Common Rotation. Their cover of TMBG's "Don't Let's Start" goes on for about a minute too long, but is otherwise pretty damn good.

Andy Hallett never made it, and Sarah Hagan was pretty shy on stage, but not so much when stagefighting with her little sister. I felt kinda bad for James Leary and Mark Lutz, whose autograph table had been jammed into a hallway, and who didn't seem to be getting many takers for their $10 John Hancocks.

Did I mention that I met Amber Benson? Am I drooling again? I'll stop now.


Wednesday, October 8, 2003

You Fools!
Posted by CKL @ 11:54 AM PST
Well, I guess the pendulum is swinging back now. How much fun is it to have a two-party political system?

The astonishing thing, to me, is how geography affects voting. Check out the county-by-county map of returns from yesterday's California statewide special election. Green indicates a "yes" vote for the gubernatorial recall, and red indicates "no:"

Now compare that to the 2000 Presidential election results by county. Redder regions indicate a higher percentage of votes for Gore, and more bluish regions indicate more votes for Bush:

It seems clear that there's a critical mass of something in the population centers of the United States, something which doesn't exist in sufficient quantities in rural areas-- and I'm not talking about Democrats. I won't call it "intelligence," but I think people who live closer to new technology and radical ideas are more likely to embrace progress on a variety of fronts. Call it a difference in culture. There's something there, and we need to start dealing with it before the chasm becomes uncrossable.

Just my opinion. Could be wrong.


Posted by CKL @ 09:04 AM PST
That good-for-nothing Joss Whedon and his cronies are taunting me again...

"Look at this shiny Firefly DVD box set! Isn't it pretty? Wouldn't you like to have one of your very own? Oh, I'm sorry, you'll have to wait until December. But please, feel free to give us your money now."
firefly_dvd_box (49k image)
Grr. Argh.


Tuesday, October 7, 2003

the future of television
Posted by CKL @ 05:28 PM PST
"TiVo and personal video recorders dramatically failed to rock anyone's world when they originally launched in the UK. Consumers just couldn't see the benefits for their 10 a month subscription. But in homes with Personal video recorders (or PVRs), around 70 percent of viewing is time-shifted: PVRs will mean we are able to finally break free of the 50 year long tyranny of the TV schedule...

"[I predict that] PVRs will become mass market in the next 5 years and make a profound impact on programming. It will mean advert skipping, lower channel/brand awareness and less ability to hammock audiences from one programme to another."

-- Ashley Highfield, Director of BBC New Media & Technology


I agree with the 9th Circuit Court
Posted by CKL @ 10:47 AM PST
Not all the time, but definitely in this case:

In an opinion issued Monday, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the FCC erred when it classified high-speed Internet over cable as just an "information service" -- a move that effectively locked out competitors.

The judges, basing their ruling on a decision in an earlier case, said cable-based broadband also is a "telecommunications service," which would make it subject to the same rules that the phone companies must adhere to -- such as allowing access to competitive providers.

"Giving consumers a choice of Internet service providers would open the door to more competition, and let people choose services with better privacy and less spam," said Chris Murray, Consumers Union's legislative counsel.

Hey, a legislative counsel just said "spam" on the record. Is that good or bad?

And if you live in California, don't forget to vote today. Me, I'm making it easy on myself: "no" on everything! Recall? No! Ban racial profiling? No! Whatever that other proposition is? No!

But I do have to admit it's been amusing to get pre-recorded telephone calls from people like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Al Gore. DeeAnn's had great fun hanging up on them.


Friday, October 3, 2003

Posted by CKL @ 04:04 PM PST
This is the coolest thing I've seen all day. You hear a song on the radio, jukebox, in the mall, whatever. You love the tune and want to know what it is. So you dial a number on your mobile phone, point it toward the music, wait 30 seconds, and Shazam! You receive a text message with the name of the song and artist.

If this service were available in the US, I'd be throwing money at it just to try it out. Alas, it's only in the UK right now, and only for certain mobile phone service providers. But clearly, this is a killer app for any kind of mobile device with a microphone and a wireless network connection. Put it on any cell phone, a BlackBerry, a Tungsten W. Kick ass.


Thursday, October 2, 2003

Super Fishies!
Posted by CKL @ 12:21 AM PST
Actually, it's spelled "superficies," the noun form of "superficial," but is pronounced "super fishies," according to Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day. Isn't language fun?

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

How gullible are you?
Posted by CKL @ 12:20 AM PST
Back in late 2000 and early 2001, some guy (or bunch of guys) calling himself "John Titor" wove an intricate fiction on the Internet about being a time traveler from the year 2036, sent back by the military to find an old IBM 5100 computer from 1975. As Dr. Evil might say: Riiight. Okay, I'm sure someone who swallowed this malarkey is going to jump on me for stripping this well-constructed pack of lies down to a TV logline, but really, fifteen seconds of critical thinking and it's all over. And I find it pretty damn appalling that so many people seem ready-- even eager-- to believe this junk.

What do I think? It was a hoax, plain and simple. The guy (or guys) who came up with it were survival nuts who also happened to be computer geeks, and wanted to have a bit of fun. They posted to Art Bell's web site, for crying out loud! You can rationalize it all you want, find meaning in all the coincidences, but you don't even have to read between the lines to see it.

Let's start with the most obvious fallacy. The web site claims:

John said he would not make predictions or tell us what happens in the future, he did make enough comments that leave a trail of what might be called predictions.
However, according to the same site, "John Titor" said in a posting on November 4, 2000:
A world war in 2015 killed nearly three billion people.

This isn't even about the substance of the hoax itself. This is about the other guy, the one who registered the domain name, spent days scouring the Net for relevant information, and then more days putting it all on a web site. How the hell can you say the second sentence above "might be called [a] prediction?" There's no ambiguity there! If you can't wrap your head around basic facts, how can your judgment in any other matter be sound? What scares me the most is that I'm pretty sure it's not a hoax-within-a-hoax. The second guy actually and truly believes the first joker. Shudder.

But let's get back to why I think "John Titor" was a survivalist. Here's another of his gems which could, I suppose, possibly be called a prediction (all emphasis below is mine):

There is a civil war in the United States that starts in 2005. That conflict flares up and down for 10 years. In 2015, Russia launches a nuclear strike against the major cities in the United States (which is the "other side" of the civil war from my perspective), China and Europe. The United States counter attacks. The US cities are destroyed along with the AFE (American Federal Empire)...thus we (in the country) won. The European Union and China were also destroyed. Russia is now our largest trading partner and the Capitol of the US was moved to Omaha Nebraska.
Oh, yeah. It gets better:
(In response to the question: "Is there anything we can do to prepare for the war you are describing?")
I tried to consolidate your questions into a basic list. I hope this helps.
1. Do not eat or use products from any animal that is fed and eats parts of its own dead.
2. Do not kiss or have intimate relations with anyone you do not know.
3. Learn basic sanitation and water purification.
4. Be comfortable around firearms. Learn to shoot and clean a gun.

5. Get a good first aid kit and learn to use it.
6. Find 5 people within 100 miles that you trust with your life and stay in contact with them.
7. Get a copy of the US Constitution and read it.
8. Eat less.
9. Get a bicycle and two sets of spare tires. Ride it 10 miles a week.
10. Consider what you would bring with you if you had to leave your home in 10 min. and never return.
Wait, there's more!
Russia's enemy in the United States is not you, the average person. Russia's enemy is the United States government.
And here's the cherry on top:
The civil war in the United States will start in 2004. I would describe it as having a Waco type event every month that steadily gets worse. The conflict will consume everyone in the US by 2012 and end in 2015 with a very short WWIII.

Ding ding ding! We have a winner! I suppose I should be grateful that "John Titor" is only perpetrating an Internet hoax and not holed up in a cabin in Montana making mail bombs. Then again, since he stopped posting in March, 2001, I don't really know that he's not doing the latter right now. Hmm.

I'd like to close this topic with some actual wisdom from

Even if a prophecy contains something that makes no sense whatsoever, believers will find a way to make it fit.

People believe what they want to believe. I don't just believe that, I know it. And it makes me sad.

But wait! It's my birthday. I should be happy. And I am happy. Especially after watching Gilmore Girls tonight. Copper! Boom!


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