Tuesday, November 29, 2005

overdue Thanksgiving weekend review

On Thursday, we went to see Walk The Line, which was a good movie made better by the strength of the performances in it. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are clearly the early Oscar front-runners. And the music was just excellent. I might have to see it again. We went to Virgil's in midtown for Thanksgiving dinner with friends, and had some delicious smoked turkey, stuffing, potatoes, biscuits, and dessert.

On Friday, we saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which was a fair and accurate retelling of the book, though not as well done as Azkaban was. Brendan Gleeson was especially entertaining as "Mad-Eye" Moody, and we loved the ball scene during which Filch danced with Mrs. Norris, his cat. As usual, we can't wait to see the next movie.

On Saturday, we had dinner with some friends at Dinosaur BBQ in Harlem, then went home to watch the Transformers movie on DVD. Why, God? Why do the Autobots breakdance to Weird Al Yankovic's "Dare To Be Stupid" halfway through the movie, when they think their leader is dead? And who was the music editor for the movie? The soundtrack is all synthesizers and rock songs, most of which are upbeat and don't suit the action (robots being killed while happy music plays). We think that his voice-over role of Unicron, the planet that eats other planets, was what killed Orson Welles.

And on Sunday, we relaxed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I've got that holiday feeling

In the "I can't believe it's already Thanksgiving" department:

I had expected the subway to be relatively commuter-free this morning, since today is the big travel day, etc., etc., but instead, I had to wait longer than usual for a train, and then it was even more crowded for a typical Wednesday morning. Work has been about what I figured, though: most people are out, so the only big issues are coming from our foreign offices, who don't know what this "Thanksgiving" holiday is all about. I had a busy morning working with one of our offices, trying to get one component of our now mixed Windows 2000/XP/NetWare/Active Directory environment to function. It's still broken, and they're going to reboot their servers tomorrow evening instead of tonight and see what happens. I guess I'll be doing some work on Friday morning now, though at least it will be from home if needed.

And now that the boss has left for the day, I think it's safe for me to do the same. (Of course, this is usually the time when I get an urgent call from the help desk to work on something that will keep me here until my usual departure after 6 PM.) If I think about it, maybe I'll try a little liveblogging about the Macy's Parade tomorrow morning, assuming I wake up early enough to see any of it. I'm making French toast for brunch, then we're going to see Walk The Line and have dinner with some friends at Virgil's in Times Square. Maybe I'll even get to watch some of the Broncos-Cowboys game, which should be better than the Falcons-Lions crapfest earlier in the afternoon. Whatever happens, I'm looking forward to passing out in a food-induced haze around 10 PM. Good times.

Protect yourself from the robots

Last week, the author of a new book on robots and the coming robot uprising chatted with Washington Post readers. I can tell you it's one of the top chats ever on the Post web site, rivalling even the zombie protection chat (the link to that one is at the end of the robot chat transcript). Of course, the whole thing reminded me (as well as one of the participants) of SNL's commercial for robot attack insurance for seniors, featuring Sam Waterston. Remember:
"You need to feel safe . . . because robots may strike at any time."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Christmas music?!? Already?!?!?

I know it's cliched to bash all things Christmas when they appear before Black Friday, but I'm still moved to write by the onslaught of Christmas music in the past few weeks. A few weeks ago, when we went to New Jersey for a wedding, my parents mentioned that they found an all-Christmas music station while driving to the wedding. That was November 4. On Sunday, my local pizza joint was playing Christmas carols while I waited for my order. That was November 20. Today, our cafeteria had Tony Bennett singing some holiday classic or another, and then the immortal "Feliz Navidad." I have never wanted to pop my own eardrums so badly. Then Liz called me from Macy's to tell me that they were having some kind of Christmas serenade near Santa's workshop/photo studio. It's too much. I had to cleanse my musical palate with Mozart and Bach, and I can still hear those holiday tunes in my head.

I know that the holiday is little more than a month away. I'm willing to get into the holiday spirit starting Friday or even Thursday while watching the parades. And I can understand Macy's turning on the Christmas charm this early (Liz says that the only reason they hold off until now is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade). But can we hold off on the Christmas music in every other public space until the end of the week? Please? I swear, if I hear another Christmas song before I go home on Wednesday evening, I just might crack. Woe be unto the wayward waif who tries to squeeze a few more dollars out of my fellow commuters by subjecting my subway car to "Jingle Bells" before Thursday.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Scene: Last night, around 2 AM, in my apartment building's hallway. Girl who lives two floors up from us is coming home, talking to someone she's brought in with her.

"Those people have three cats. Not that apartment, THAT one." [Her voice is louder as she's walking past our door, heading upstairs.]
"And I bet that all their names are the names they'll give to their kids."

For the record, our cats are named Vladimir, Magenta, and Mr. Starlite.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Theismann play, 20 years ago today

Deadspin, along with other news sites, notes that the most famous injury in NFL history happened 20 years ago today. Lawrence Taylor hit Joe Theismann's right leg in the 2nd quarter of a Giants-Redskins Monday Night Football game, breaking the leg in two places and ending Theismann's playing career. I remember watching that game and seeing that hit. My parents were divorced and on Monday nights, my mother had orchestra rehearsal, so my brother and I would spend the night at my dad's apartment. Dad and I are both football fans, so MNF was a must-watch in our house. I don't remember my reaction to seeing the injury on live TV, but I think ABC played it over and over. It was definitely the worst thing I'd ever seen in a football game to that time. I'm a little surprised HBO didn't make this into a segment on "Inside the NFL" this week, though I'm sure they've covered it in depth before. (The "On the Road with Peter King" segment on Wednesday night was excellent, and they don't really need to rehash the Theismann injury anyway.) Anyway, I'm reminiscing, mostly because that's what I like to do. And I'm about to head out for the weekend, so blogging seemed like a good way to pass a few minutes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Extreme book sale

The entire ExtremeTech line of books is on sale this month at Barnes & Noble. If you've been itching to buy a copy of my book or any other in the series, shop at B&N in November and save 40%.

While I'm here, I'll toss in a plug for
Build the Ultimate Gaming PC, by my colleague Kerry Bourgoine. I've worked with Kerry on a few projects at the office, and late last year his wife put me in touch with the editors at Wiley who needed authors for Hacking Firefox. As the lead author on his book, he'd benefit more than I would if you bought his book, so please take a look if you're thinking about building your own monster gaming rig. I cannot imagine who might read this blog and fall into that category, but you never know.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

wedding photos are up

I'm jumping on the Flickr bandwagon, so you can find the wedding photos here. They uploaded in the wrong order, so I'm still working out the kinks. The photos from the wedding itself come up first, then the ones from the party the night before the wedding. But I've never been crazy about Webshots, so I'll see how Flickr goes over with my audience of three.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Best. Cheerleaders. EVER.

It's like a scene from a Skinemax movie, up until some punches were thrown. Two Carolina Panthers cheerleaders were arrested early Sunday morning after getting into an altercation with other patrons at a Tampa nightclub. But the reason they got into a fight in the first place was that the cheerleaders were in the nightclub's bathroom, holding up the line outside while they engaged in, let's say, the pleasures of each other's company. I'm sure these ladies won't be employed by the team much past this afternoon, but I bet they'll have offers from Playboy and Maxim by Tuesday morning.

Here's my issue with the story: in the late-night movies and other films I've seen where people get their freak on in a restroom in a bar, restaurant, or club, the bathroom is always enormous and immaculately clean. Apparently movie producers know that it's impossible to show an actual bar bathroom in a movie. Some of them are so small there's hardly room for one person, let alone two, and there's nothing clean or sexy about the typical bar bathroom. I'd avoid them completely if it weren't for the fact that you only "rent" beer. I guess the fact that one of the women in the story was so drunk she could hardly walk helps to explain why she thought that sex in the nightclub's bathroom was a hot idea.

I think I need to write another tech post now, to compensate for this one.

quick weekend report

We spent Friday and Saturday in southern New Jersey at a friend's wedding. My stepmother and father were there as well (since they're friends of the bride as well) so it was great to spend some time with them. Pictures will be posted tonight or tomorrow or whenever I remember to do it.

Yesterday we watched the NYC Marathon from our apartment and briefly from the street outside. I saw one of the two runners I was watching for, though I don't think she saw me or heard me cheering for her. I did see "Mr. Testicles" late in the race, though, and cheered him on. We love being able to watch the marathon from our windows, and that event combined with the traffic problems in the city and in New Jersey for the Jets game factored in our decision to come back from the wedding on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning.

I also watched the Steelers-Packers game Sunday afternoon, making it the second week in a row I've been able to see a Pittsburgh game and the fourth time this season. Last week's Monday night game was tough enough to watch (a 20-19 last-second Steelers victory) and while yesterday's win wasn't as close, the team didn't play nearly well enough for me to relax until the end. Brett Favre may be getting old but he's still dangerous, and Donald Driver picked up enough of the receptions to stay a threat all game. However, Troy Polamalu is one hell of a defender. That fumble return for a touchdown was impressive. Charlie Batch isn't about to make anyone forget about Ben Roethlisberger, though he does appear to be a capable backup until Big Ben returns in a week or two. But they could sure use Jerome Bettis in the lineup. Duce Staley looked good but rusty, and Willie Parker wasn't able to get anything going. There's always room for improvement, so maybe they'll play a little more carefully and decisively against the Browns next Sunday. I won't be able to watch the game, which is probably a good thing for my nerves. I love the Steelers, but it's too stressful to see them every weekend.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

e-mail tech notes

I've started aggregating all of my Earthlink mail in Gmail. I've had a Gmail account for over a year, but I never had much use for it until recently. Last month I had to reinstall Windows on my home PC, and I lost a few weeks' worth of old e-mail in the process. So I set up a rule on my Earthlink account to forward a copy of every e-mail to my Gmail account. Then, on Sunday night, my home PC blew up again, this time apparently because of something that went awry during a routine "chkdsk" operation. (I'm starting to think there's a problem with the hard drive on this PC, but I'll give it a little more time.) Once again, I had to reinstall Windows, but since I'd just backed up my files the day before, I only lost a few hours of data. And this time I didn't lose any e-mail, since Gmail's keeping copies of everything.

I'm not ready to abandon my Earthlink account entirely, since I've had that e-mail address for almost eight years and everyone knows it. But Gmail lets you send e-mail with a different e-mail address for replies. So I can write e-mails from Gmail as if they were coming from my Earthlink account, and people shouldn't notice a difference. I still have to remember to check my Earthlink spam filter, as that's the one feature I can't access from Gmail. But Gmail gives me everything I need, and it's a faster, sleeker interface for e-mail than Earthlink's webmail application. I used to think I needed a desktop e-mail client, but lately I'm all about the webmail. And, of course, my constant companion, my Blackberry, which gives me access to my work and home e-mails on the same device. That's why I'm never out of touch.