Thursday, September 29, 2005

Alton Brown would hate it

The mini-fridge in my hotel room has this clever-but-unnecessary plastic rack for storing those short 8-ounce cans of soda (or, as they say up here in Oregon, "pop") commonly found in hospitals. But where would one acquire such a specialty item? Why, from the Target store just down the street, of course!

It's really quite strange. I keep wondering if it's actually supposed to be used for something else-- like, I dunno, ostrich eggs-- but the soda cans just fit too perfectly in the rack for it to have been designed for anything else. Maybe it's a Pacific Northwest thing.

Browncoat Blues Redux

It's almost 11:00 PM on Thursday, September 29th. In just a few minutes, dozens of Browncoats waiting in line to see the midnight show of Serenity in San Francisco will start singing "The Ballad of Serenity" (the theme from the TV series Firefly, on which the movie is based) and "The Man They Call Jayne" (from the episode "Jaynestown") and whatever else the guy with the guitar can conjure up.

Meanwhile, I'm in Medford, Oregon, getting ready to go to bed so I can wake up bright and early to help decorate my friend Loren's wedding reception site for the shindig on Saturday. I got here this afternoon, picked up my tuxedo (I'm one of his groomsmen), and drove out to the farm owned by his bride-to-be's family. We had a nice dinner outside, walked around and watched the cows being fed, and played with the dog (Blue) and twin black kittens-- known interchangeably as "Kitten #1" and "Kitten #2".

No, I did not suggest that they name the kittens Fanty and Mingo.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Palm drops the other shoe

Well, it finally happened. Earlier today, Palm (or are they still PalmOne? I can't keep track) issued a press release stating that their new Treo 700 will run Windows Mobile instead of PalmOS.

And, less than three weeks ago, PalmSource announced that they were being bought by the Japanese company ACCESS (who produced the NetFront web browser that was bundled with my Sony CLIE).

I can still remember how giddy with excitement I was, back in 1996, when I picked up my U.S. Robotics Pilot 5000 and found that it was every bit as useful and user-friendly as advertised. It's a testament to the product that it survived for almost ten years, despite gross mismanagement by its parent companies. Developers loved this platform, but the manufacturers never really understood what they had or how to properly exploit it.

So long, PalmOS, and thanks for all the fish. Here's hoping somebody else can learn from your owners' mistakes.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Flavor of the Week: Airline Pilot

The JetBlue pilot who landed his aircraft despite malfunctioning landing gear-- not just safely, but perfectly, keeping the wheels right on the centerline-- is refusing to talk to reporters. He's not taking their phone calls, and he's asked friends and family not to speak to the press.

People are calling him a hero. Okay, if the shoe fits, whatever. But there seems to be some public expectation that any person at the center of an event like this-- which was broadcast live on television and captured the attention of millions of Americans-- should want to tell his story. Or, to be precise, that he should sell the rights to his story so somebody else can concoct a not-quite-true-but-shamelessly-pandering version to peddle as a news article, a book, a TV movie of the week, or what have you.

And I really have to ask those somebodies else: what the hell is wrong with you?

Leave the man alone. He did his job, he did it well, and if he desires no accolades, so be it. It is not your job to force him into the spotlight. "The people" are not entitled to receive everything they want or unreasonably demand.

Every reporter who called this man, visited his house, or accosted his acquaintances after he made his wish for privacy known should be ashamed of himself or herself. Anyone who attempts to sensationalize this impressive but ultimately minor achievement in aviation needs to get a new hobby.

And remember, kids: "Based on a true story" is always a lie.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

My Name Is E.T.

Just watched two time-shifted pilots tonight, and here's what I think.

Threshold: not good. Did they really need two hours to tell this shell of a story, with clunky exposition and obvious plot twists? And is anyone else annoyed that this lobotomized mishmash of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Darwin's Radio got a green light, while the far more interesting Global Frequency* didn't even sell the pilot? There ain't no justice.

My Name Is Earl: better. Jason Lee is perfect for the title role, and there's plenty of room for the character to grow. But I can also see the series degenerating into farce, as Malcolm in the Middle (and, to some extent, Quantum Leap) did, by allowing the ongoing conflicts (annoying ex-wife, idiot brother, money troubles) and their attendant, more pedestrian antagonisms to overshadow the "A" plots.

* also about a group of experts assembled from various disciplines to solve world-threatening crises

Hot New Fall TV

Another list of premiere dates-- this one from TiVo, with hyperlinks to show info.

Of interest tonight: My Name is Earl, which fellow TV geek Ammy says is "widely pitched as the best new show this year." We'll see. I like Jason Lee, but not sitcoms in general, because they tend to rely on ridiculous, nonsensical schadenfreude, and I really don't like watching stupid people do stupid things for stupid reasons. (Your definition of "stupid" may vary.)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Thursday, September 15, 2005

It's a hell of a town, Part 1

Last weekend, D and I flew to New York City for the wedding of one of my best friends from high school. This was D's first time in Manhattan, so we made an effort to be atypically active and do some sightseeing.

On Friday, we arrived after midnight at JFK and took a cab from the airport, across Queens, through the midtown tunnel, to the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers. I'd spent a lot of time researching hotels for this trip, since the wedding was at Columbia University and there aren't many good lodging options that far uptown. I have to say, is a great source of information, but it's difficult to know how much to trust some of the more extreme reviews-- whether positive or negative.

We got up early on Saturday morning for a fabulous breakfast at Norma's, where we had a 9:00 AM reservation. Our waitress was great, the food was delicious (I had Norma's Eggs Benedict), and I'm pretty sure it's the only restaurant where the coffee was actually stronger than I usually like it (but some sugar made it perfect).

After breakfast, we walked up 7th Avenue to Central Park and strolled for a while. D enjoyed exploring the tame wilderness, and we saw plenty of squirrels and birds. On the way back, we passed the Steuben Parade coming up 5th Avenue. Though it's nominally a celebration of German-American heritage, most of the groups we saw marching were labor unions, and not German. Any excuse for a parade, I guess.

The wedding was that afternoon, in St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia. We took a cab from the hotel, and boy, am I glad we didn't have to drive ourselves around Manhattan.

We got to the chapel with mere minutes to spare-- or so we thought. The invitations had said 3:00 PM, but when we arrived, the programs said 3:30 PM. We had a laugh and mentioned this discrepancy to a few other people. A couple of them remarked, jokingly, that the bride and groom had probably realized how many Koreans were attending and pushed back the time to allow for their inevitable lateness.

I've heard members of several different ethnic groups lay claim to this-- e.g., "Indian Standard Time" being an hour behind-- but I suspect that quite a few people out of any large group will tend to be late, regardless of race. It's interesting that so many people seem to want to adopt this trait as some kind of cultural heritage.

The couple were married by one of their close friends, who also happens to be a huge Star Trek fan, and he managed to slip "live long and prosper" into the closing of the ceremony. I loved it.

After the wedding, we were asked to stick around for pictures. The groom, who's always been a bit of a photo slut, wanted to get group shots of himself and his bride with different groups of attendees-- high school friends, college friends, co-workers, various permutations of extended family, etc. Did I mention he's also a bit anal-rententive?

Then came cocktail hour and the dinner reception, on the fourth and second floors, respectively, of the Faculty Club. It wasn't as hot as I had feared it might be in the city, but it still got pretty warm during dinner and dancing-- the room was shaped like a "T", with few windows, and the staff had to set up fans to get some air circulating through. But otherwise, it was a great party, with surprisingly good food, and I got to catch up with some old high school classmates.

The best man invited us to join him and a few others for dim sum the next morning, but we decided we'd rather maximize our sightseeing time. We walked over to Broadway and caught a cab back to the hotel, then went for a walk around Times Square (which feels a lot like Las Vegas) and picked up some supplies at a Duane Reade before calling it a night.

In the morning, we had a room service breakfast and then headed out around 10:00 AM. After a slight detour into the street fair which was taking place right outside the hotel, where D bought two pashmina scarves ($10 each-- such a deal!), we walked up to Columbus Circle, then down into the subway, and rode the "C" train to 81st Street and the American Museum of Natural History.

To be continued...

Fall TV Premiere Schedule

Linked from the title, above. For tomorrow (new shows in bold):

FRI., SEPT. 16
8PM – 'What I Like About You' (WB)
8:30PM – 'Twins' (WB)
9PM – 'Threshold' (CBS, two-hour premiere)
9PM – 'Reba' (WB)
9:30PM – 'Living With Fran' (WB)

I'm curious but pessimistic about Threshold. As with many shows, I like the cast (which includes Carla Gugino, Brent Spiner, Peter Dinklage, and Charles S. Dutton) but am less enthused about other aspects. We'll see if Brannon Braga can manage not to totally screw up a science fiction show for once.

Next week, I'm hopeful but pessimistic about How I Met Your Mother (with Alyson Hannigan) and Kitchen Confidential (with Nicholas Brendon) next Monday. Yes, even after all these years, it's still all about Buffy. Then it's the second season premiere of Lost on Wednesday, from which I'm sure we can expect some great storytelling but not much actual story.

The Big Box o' Buffy

Coming November 15th: every fantastic episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, plus new extras, on 40 DVDs. Now available for pre-order ($130 from

For seven years, this was the best damn show on television. Anybody who tells you otherwise is not your friend. Shun them. SHUN THEM! Or, y'know, don't.

(photo from

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

What's Curtis Watching? (Fall 2005)

Just a quick overview. Rants will come after actual viewing. My rating scale:

Hell yeah!
Okay, I'm interested.
Not interested.
Fuck no.

The grids below were stolen from The TV IV Wiki (but hey, it's okay):


Network 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30
ABC Wife Swap Monday Night Football
CBS The King of Queens How I Met Your Mother* Two and a Half Men Out of Practice CSI: Miami
FOX Arrested Development Kitchen Confidential* Prison Break Local Programming
NBC Surface Las Vegas Medium**
UPN One on One All of Us Girlfriends Half & Half Local Programming
The WB 7th Heaven Just Legal Local Programming

* It's Xander and Willow!

** Surprisingly good. Usually pretty clever about tweaking the idea of precognition, and otherwise carried by a great regular cast.


Network 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30
ABC According to Jim Rodney Commander-in-Chief** Boston Legal
CBS NCIS The Amazing Race Close to Home
FOX Bones* House Local Programming
NBC The Biggest Loser My Name is Earl The Office Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
UPN America's Next Top Model (encores) Sex, Love & Secrets Local Programming
The WB Gilmore Girls Supernatural Local Programming

* It's Angel!

** An intriguing high concept, but all the previews I've seen are beyond lame, and I hated series producer Rod Lurie's two pretentious, twee, and very similarly premised political dramas, Deterrence and The Contender.


Network 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30
ABC George Lopez Freddie Lost Invasion
CBS Still Standing Yes, Dear Criminal Minds* CSI: New York
FOX That '70s Show Stacked Head Cases Local Programming
NBC The Apprentice: Martha Stewart E-Ring** Law & Order
UPN America's Next Top Model Veronica Mars Local Programming
The WB One Tree Hill Related Local Programming

* It's Mandy Patinkin!

** Dennis Hopper? In the Pentagon? What kind of crazy alternate reality is this?


Network 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30
ABC Alias The Night Stalker Primetime Live
CBS Survivor CSI Without a Trace
FOX The O.C. Reunion Local Programming
NBC Joey Will & Grace The Apprentice ER
UPN Everybody Hates Chris Eve Cuts Love, Inc. Local Programming
The WB Smallville* Everwood Local Programming

* It's Spike!


Network 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30
ABC Supernanny Hope & Faith Hot Properties 20/20
CBS The Ghost Whisperer Threshold* NUMB3RS
FOX The Bernie Mac Show Malcolm in the Middle Killer Instinct Local Programming
NBC Dateline NBC Three Wishes Inconceivable
UPN WWE Smackdown Local Programming
The WB What I Like About You Twins Reba Living With Fran Local Programming

* It's Data!


Network 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30
ABC ABC Movie of the Week
CBS Crime Time Saturday Crime Time Saturday 48 Hours Mystery
FOX Cops Cops America's Most Wanted Local Programming
NBC The NBC Saturday Night Movie


Network 7:00 7:30 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30
ABC America's Funniest Home Videos Extreme Makeover: The Home Edition Desperate Housewives Grey's Anatomy
CBS 60 Minutes Cold Case CBS Sunday Night Movie
FOX NFL Overrun King of the Hill The Simpsons The War at Home Family Guy American Dad Local Programming
NBC Dateline NBC The West Wing Law & Order: Criminal Intent Crossing Jordan
The WB Reba Reba Charmed Blue Collar TV Blue Collar TV Local Programming

If you're counting, that's 14.5 broadcast hours per week of TV I'm interested in watching. That doesn't include cable, of course, which is most of what I'll actually watch-- more on that later-- and 90% of the new shows will turn out to be crap anyway. (Thank you, Theodore Sturgeon.)

the best damn show on television

Right now, it's got to be Gilmore Girls, which just started its sixth season last night. Like any TV series, it's had its share of missteps, but I can't think of another show currently on the air that has a better overall sense of what it wants to be, and knows how to do it. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll kiss many hours good-bye (especially if you catch up with the DVD box sets).

Over on premium cable, the second and third episodes of HBO's Rome have proved to be very engrossing. The pilot was, as John Rogers said, "the draggy, pipe-y, way too much gratuitous nudity first ep", but they seem to be on track now. If you missed it altogether, the "inevitable coming three-fer night" is this Friday.

I'll write more on TV later this week, now that the fall season is incipient and some of the shows I actually care about have premiered. I used to get more excited about this time of year, but now I'm starting to agree with D: TV pilots, as a rule, suck. They're usually clunky because of all the necessary exposition, and because the writers and actors don't have a handle on the characters or conflicts yet. Start with the second or third episode, then go back and catch the first in reruns if you happen to start liking the show.

But I'm still going to watch the pilots of the new shows starring Buffy alums: Bones (David "Angel" Boreanaz), Kitchen Confidential (Nicholas "Xander" Brendon), and How I Met Your Mother (Alyson "Willow" Hannigan). Yes, I'll even watch a goddamn sitcom with a lame, gimmicky premise. Because I am a drooling fanboy. But you knew that.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

No, wait, let me guess... does the "F." stand for "Fabio"? Posted by Picasa

At the wedding reception: enterprising parents set up a makeshift kiddie theatre using booster seats and a portable DVD player. Posted by Picasa

"If they could see me now...!" Posted by Picasa

The bride and groom get their money's worth out of the wedding photographer. Posted by Picasa

Stained glass. Purty. Posted by Picasa

Inside St. Paul's Chapel, waiting for the wedding ceremony to start. Posted by Picasa

St Paul's Chapel at Columbia University. Posted by Picasa

In Central Park: hungry fish swarm around enormous bread crumbs. Posted by Picasa

In Central Park: ducks crowd a manmade floating island while remote-controlled toy boats circle. Posted by Picasa

In Central Park: D seeks stable footing on aforementioned large rock. Posted by Picasa

In Central Park: the view from atop a large rock. Posted by Picasa

In Central Park: D observes a waterfall birdbath. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 09, 2005

mergers, acquisitions, and platitudes

In today's business news:
Japanese mobile content delivery provider Access said Friday it was acquiring PalmSource, the company spun off from handheld device maker Palm to develop the Palm operating system software, for about $324.3 million, or an 83 percent premium.

The $18.50 per share offer from Access represents $8.41 more than PalmSource’s closing price of $10.09 Thursday.

The announcement drove PalmSource shares sharply higher Friday, up $7.82, or 78 percent, to $17.91 in recent trading...

-- "Access Buys PalmSource",
I can't say I'm surprised. I could reminisce about my brief stint at PalmSource, reflecting on what misguidance I witnessed from the inside, but I've sung that song before. The bigger story here is this: Americans don't want PDAs.

In fact, very few people want PDAs or handheld computers; even in Asian markets where an actual majority of the population loves and buys new tech like there's no tomorrow, the killer app is not a calendar or address book, it's a telephone. If your new phone happens to have a calendar, address book, digital camera, wireless net access, mp3 player, etc. built in, so much the better. But if you can't use it to talk to your friends-- no sale.

The Treo is a step in the right direction, but it's still got it backwards-- we don't want a computer that happens to also be a phone, we want a phone that also happens to be a computer and can do lots of cool stuff. All that cool stuff is secondary to the primary purpose-- communication.

Remember those cheesy long distance commercials? "Reach out and touch someone", "I won't drift away", and so on. The Bell monopoly was ugly, but they knew their business.

UPDATE 9/12: Apparently, so does eBay, who just bought Skype for $2.6 billion.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Getting into Stanford the hard way

My emphasis below.
For undergraduate students who are admitted to universities that have closed because of Hurricane Katrina:
  • Stanford will be admitting academically qualified students from these universities as non-matriculated students for the fall quarter, which starts on September 26 and ends on December 16. Students should note that most schools are on the semester system, while Stanford uses the quarter system. The home university will decide how to credit these courses toward their degrees.
  • Preference will be given to students from the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Stanford will provide housing on campus for students who are accepted.
  • Stanford wishes to support the home universities that have been damaged by the hurricane. Thus, the students admitted are expected to return to their home campuses. While the financial details will need to be finalized, Stanford will not charge the students and their families tuition to attend Stanford. Students should continue to pay tuition to their home universities. Students will only have to pay Stanford for room and board and incidental expenses. Stanford will work with students, their families, and the home institutions on financial aid issues...
Stanford also has developed an opportunity for academically eligible graduate students displaced from colleges and universities in the affected area to apply for one term as non-degree graduate guests. Students who are accommodated at Stanford can attend without tuition and student association fee costs. This program is also operated under the assumption that tuition will be paid to your home college or university and will be utilized there to rebuild.

Things like this make me proud to be an alumnus.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Big but not Easy

Not to put too fine a point on it: New Orleans is fucked.

If you haven't already, please make a donation to any relief organization now working in Louisiana or Mississippi. Yes, I know you would like to do something more personal to help, but as my friend Jeff says: "Giving of your time is useful, but nothing is more useful than money. The reason is that money moves at the speed of light to the disaster. There are no logisitical nightmares in trying to move money. All money works equally well (as opposed to some foods, which might be inappropriate in the community they reach), it doesn't need to be cleaned first (like clothes do), and it isn't the wrong kind (like building materials can be)."

If you don't have a favorite charity, the American Red Cross is always good. If your employer doesn't do matching gifts, send it through Kung Fu Monkey (look for the PayPal button) and John Rogers will personally match your donation at the end of the month.