Sunday, March 26, 2006

We Hate It At Levitz

Two things I know I hate are dealing with hardware and dealing with salesmen. You might then, with good reason, ask what the hell I was doing in a furniture store in the first place.

Well, this was last Saturday, the 18th. D and I had gone to San Francisco to see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (a great show, go see it in person if at all possible), then enjoyed a late lunch at Max's and decided we didn't want to wait 2 hours to see a movie at the Metreon. On our way home, we stopped at the Levitz in San Carlos and bought a headboard.

The salespeople were friendly enough, but-- as we found out later-- totally clueless about their products. We originally went in looking for a larger dining table, and though we couldn't find any suitable sets (all the chairs were too wide), we did find a couple of nice headboards, which we'd also been seeking. We went for the larger one, which was a solid piece and seemed a bit sturdier, and arranged for delivery.

The headboard arrived this morning, and the delivery men put it in the bedroom. After they left, I moved it to the head of the bed and discovered that it didn't have the right fittings to attach to our metal bed frame. Let me back up and say that we weren't looking for a whole bed; we just wanted a headboard which we could bolt onto our existing metal bed frame. We don't want a footboard or posts or any other fancy stuff. We just want a damn headboard.

Anyway, it was back to Levitz this evening to see if we could get the proper fittings to attach the headboard. We had two problems: first, that we needed a hook-in frame for this particular headboard; and second, that the bed frame needed to be higher off the ground (12" instead of 6"). It took two salesdroids nearly half an hour to determine that they didn't actually have a bed frame which fit those criteria, despite their having assured us last week that we would have no problem putting the headboard on our existing bed frame.


So now D's going to call their customer service office-- in New York-- and demand that they exchange our useless hunk of wood for the other headboard we'd been considering, which comes with a whole bed and no footboard. Yay. Ghod knows how long that's all going to take to sort out.

I suppose the third lesson here is that if you ever want anything unusual or special ordered, be prepared for a truckload of hassle. Salespeople aren't prepared or inclined to deal with people who have weird requests. Sure, they'll promise you the moon, but they are lying liars who lie.

So, to summarize: Hate dealing with hardware. Hate salespeople. Hate Levitz. Don't attempt special orders. Liars and lying. Spelling Bee musical good.

Good night, and good luck.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Running on Empty

For the last couple of weeks, I have not been getting enough sleep.

I should preface this by saying that I'm pretty sure I've been running a sleep debt since high school. I remember once staying up all night, and staying on the phone with a friend, to finish a physics problem set. We met behind the band room at 7:00 AM to write up our answers, then unpacked our instruments and joined our bandmates on the field for practice.

More generally, I always liked staying up late, probably because that's when everyone else was asleep, and I was free to do whatever I wanted without interference or comment from others. Even if that was something as mundane as sitting on the couch and reading a book.

My senior year, I tried out for the part of Sky Masterson in Guys & Dolls, mostly because I wanted to sing "My Time of Day". I didn't get the part.

But enough about high school.

For the last couple of weeks, D has been involved in an FDA audit at work, and had to get to work earlier than usual-- at least half an hour, sometimes more than an hour earlier.

We're a one-car family, and my office is located between our house and her work, so she drops me off in the morning and picks me up at night. This means I'm usually at work for close to 10 hours each day, but last Thursday and Friday, it was more like 12, and I had to set my alarm for 6:00 AM.

Left to my own devices, I'll happily stay up until almost 2:00 AM on a weeknight-- usually just screwing around online-- before I notice that the heater's no longer running (the thermostat is timed to shut down at 11:00 PM) and it's damned cold. That doesn't work if I have to get up four hours later.

There's a couch in my shared office at work, and I actually took a nap on it one afternoon. I used to love taking afternoon naps in college, and still enjoy doing so on weekends or vacations. But it's not really practical at work.

And here's the unoriginal-metaphor part of the post: there aren't enough hours in a day for everything I want to do-- sleep, work, play. It's a microcosm for life, wherein we don't ever have enough time for-- anything.

To quote Blade Runner: "I want more life, fucker."

Choice is not always freedom. Because my time is limited, I'm forced to choose how to spend it. Even choosing not to choose is an implicit choice. (Not to go all Neil Peart on you or anything.)

Wow, I'm really rambling here. This post is even more of a mess than usual.

I need to get some sleep.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Natalie Raps

A day in the life of Natalie Portman.

Brought to you by the same comic geniuses who did Chronic of Narnia. They are, by all reports, the best thing to happen to Saturday Night Live in many a year.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Chiasmus of the Day

"Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You didn't place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."

-- Jamie Raskin

Hooray for rhetoric!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

You tell 'em, jra!

Last week, D and I (and several other people) helped our friend Jeff prepare a talk for the FCC Independent Panel Reviewing the Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Communications Networks. He gave the talk on Monday, and he reports that it went pretty well.

He also participated in the discussion after the formal presentations, during which he said things like "IP stands for internet protocol, but it might as well stand for Interoperability Protocol" and "Stop waiting for the vendors to solve your problems, and show them that the marketplace is only buying open systems." Go Jeff!

For complete details, see his blog entry jra's thoughts: How my talk went. Also check out the previous entry, which links to PDFs of both his FCC talk and the longer report he'd previously written up as a post-mortem on his work with Radio Response.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Oscar's shorts

"But," you say, "he lives in a trash can! Why would he even need to wear pants?"

Slow down there, buckaroo. I'm talking about the Academy Awards, not the Grouch.

If you're in the bay area, you can still go to San Francisco's Lumiere Theatre and see all of the live-action and animated shorts nominated for this year's awards. They're presented as two separate shows, but on the same screen, so you can easily make a double feature out of it. D and I went last Sunday and really enjoyed it.

If you're not local, you can download the live-action shorts from iTunes. They cost $2 each, which might seem a bit steep for the amount of content you're getting, but when you consider that it's the only way for some people to ever see these films-- totally worth it, dude. This is the future of media.

I might buy "Our Time is Up", my favorite of the live-action shorts, just to support the initiative. The film may put some people off just because it's so quintessentially American, but it packs an entire feature's worth of emotion and wit into just twelve minutes. No wasted moments. It's a lean, mean, entertainin' machine.

The black comedy "Six Shooter" ran a close second for me, followed by "Ausreisser (The Runaway)". "The Last Farm" was beautifully shot, but left me a bit cold, and not in a good way. "Cashback" had a promising start but quickly degenerated into soft porn-- again, not in a good way.

I found it interesting that so many of the shorts-- four out of five-- had death as a central theme. Are short-subject filmmakers more depressed than others? Or do they just have more freedom, unencumbered by box office pressures, to explore darker ideas in their art?

The animated shorts were, to my surprise, a bit disappointing. They were all technically well done, but I literally fell asleep during the interminable "The Moon and the Son".

And it says something that three of the five animated shorts-- “The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello”, "9", and Pixar's "One Man Band"-- were very evocative of computer games in both animation style and narrative drive. The machines in "Jasper Morello" felt like a steampunk twist on Myst; "One Man Band" reminded me of the humor in classic LucasArts adventure games; and the dialogue-free "9", now being developed as a feature by Focus Features and Tim Burton, depicted a rich fantasy world that I'd gladly pay $50 to explore for more than just two hours.

Word of the day: POSTPWNED

Courtesy of the greatest webcomic in the universe, Penny Arcade.

Speaking of video games, last night, I watched the first part of Will Wright's Spore demo from GDC, and... wow. Seriously, WOW. See for yourself:

I also saw a presentation by the Second Life guys earlier this week. They pitch their online world as the Metaverse from Snow Crash, and it really is. There's no explicit gaming aspect to it; it's not WoW or CoH-- it's an entire virtual world, with such seemingly mundane things as land auctions and shopping malls. Users can even build objects and sell them to other users. The economy now moves more money than Monaco. They also mentioned that they're picking up more and more users from places where the standard of living is somewhat lacking, where Second Life can actually compete with real life. (It's too bad they can't call it Better Than Life.)

All this is interesting to me because these are not games in the traditional sense; they're more like simulation engines. I like to describe The Sims (which should be regulated as a controlled substance) as a dollhouse: it's a toy, which you can use to play any number of games of your own design. The parameters are finite, but the goals are open-ended. It makes the user experience much more personal, because it's likely that no one else is doing exactly what you are-- there's no linear storyline to follow, no precise combination of moves that will defeat the boss on each level.

The good news is, I'm pretty sure "god games" encourage players to think in more creative ways. The bad news is, it's going to be a few more years before we have holodecks and can actually escape real life. Dammit!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Perry Bible Fellowship

Not what you think: it's a sick, twisted, and utterly hilarious webcomic spanning a vast range of artistic and narrative styles. Check out the PBF archives.

I have to say, though, that creator Nicholas Gurewitch does seem unhealthily obsessed with cuckoldry.

(Thanks to bradley's almanac (and, indirectly, the creators of Penny Arcade) for the linkage.)