Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Knicks vs. Heat at MSG

I went to my first Knicks game last night at the Garden, where they beat the Heat 99-93. It was a close game most of the way but Eddy Curry and Stephon Marbury played well and held on for the win. I didn't know until this morning that Shaq scored his 25,000th point last night, though since he was on the road it wouldn't make sense for the MSG scoreboard to make a note of that fact. It was exciting to see him and Alonzo Mourning playing (not at the same time). Even if Shaq is on the tail end of his career, he's still a force on the court. One of the Knicks fouled him hard early in the 1st quarter, and I could tell they were hoping to treat him that way the whole game. Mourning, even with his age and his physical condition, was able to contribute when Shaq was on the bench. Unfortunately for the Heat, both centers got in foul trouble so they had to play Michael Doleac for a while in the 2nd half. And when I bought the tickets from a friend it was in the expectation that I'd get to see Dwyane Wade and Shaq together. Then Wade dislocated his shoulder last week and may be out for the season, so he wasn't playing. Still, it was an exciting game, and it's always fun to see your team win.

I'm kicking myself a little for not bringing my camera. The Garden's web site says cameras are prohibited (along with backpacks), so I left my stuff at work. James brought his backpack and had no trouble getting in, and I saw plenty of people with cameras. I'm consoling myself with the thought that most of my sports photos are dull and taken from too far away to show anything interesting. That would have been true last night as well. We had good seats, but I couldn't have gotten any shots of the game from where we were. But I'll remember my camera next time, just the same.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Which laptops would the "Heroes" use?

I was amused by this link from Gearlog about the perfect laptops for some of the characters on NBC's "Heroes", which is, by the way, my favorite new show of the season. (I did have to look up Hana Gitelman, but she's new to the show. Her ability is definitely the one I'd want.)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

clearly, decorating isn't for me

I've been living alone for a year now, and I've still got a giant empty space on one wall of my living room. The other walls are occupied by the things that have been there since I didn't live alone and had someone to design the interior space for me. I have vague plans to buy a poster or other piece of art and hang it on the hook on the wall, but that hasn't happened yet. I'm hosting a small gathering of friends to watch the Oscars on Sunday night, and I had considered getting something for that wall by Sunday. But the wall is still there, mocking me with its bare picture hook. My latest idea is to take one of my own photos and "posterize" it: print it out on several sheets of paper like a collage, then assemble the pieces and hang or tape up the results. I'm afraid that's going to look too much like something I'd have done in my dorm room had I gone to college in this decade instead of the previous one. Last night would have been the perfect time for me to tackle a home improvement project, but I sat around watching TV and playing computer games instead. Apparently, motivation isn't for me either.

I still have two full days plus Friday night to clean the apartment and, if desired, print out a photo and stick it on the wall to make it look like I give a damn about my living space. If I do actually follow through with this idea, and it looks like crap, I can tell people that I'm trying something new. Anything is better than the nothing that's there now.

Also, this story illustrates why I should never buy a house on my own. I'd never bother to fix up the place, living with whatever awful wallpaper and carpet the previous owner left behind.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

the long-awaited review of my new cell phone

I've had my new cell phone for about two months now, so it's time I posted the review I promised when I got it.

After years of using "candybar"-style phones, I wanted a clamshell/"flip" phone this time around. I spent several months checking Cingular and T-Mobile for possibilities, but I didn't see anything I liked enough to make the switch. Finally, in December I'd had enough, and I settled on either the Cingular 3125 (the "Star Trek" phone) or the Cingular SYNC/Samsung A707 (Cingular calls it the SYNC, Samsung the A707, so for simplicity I'll call it the SYNC for this review). Over Christmas I went to a Cingular store with my mother and we each looked at a variety of new phones. I spent about 20 minutes fiddling with the SYNC and really liked it. But I'd been lusting after the 3125 for months, so it was still at the top of my list despite a steeper price tag and the hefty service plan requirements from Cingular (a smartphone data plan for an extra $40/month on top of the voice plan). But the store in Johnstown didn't have the 3125, so I couldn't compare it to the SYNC. When I got back to New York, I went to a Cingular store in Manhattan and found both phones side by side. And when I tried each one out, I found that I didn't like the keypad on the 3125. It was a membrane-style keypad instead of buttons. I've got huge fingers, and I thought the potential for misdialing numbers was fairly high. That, and the SYNC's lower price, tipped the balance in favor of the Samsung phone. I made the switch, got a new voice plan with Rollover, a text message plan, and, the best part of the deal, unlimited data usage.

The SYNC is one of Cingular's new music phones. The idea is that you'll put your music on the phone and use it instead of an iPod. And for added benefit for Cingular, the phone provides easy access to Cingular's online music store, where you can buy and download songs directly to the phone. Verizon has had this service for about a year. Of course, my iPod is like a child to me, so I have no intention of using the music features of the phone. Besides, the phone doesn't come with headphones or a memory card. Cingular sells those as optional add-ons. It's also a video player. There's a link to "Cingular Video" on the menu, where you can watch TV show clips, sports highlights, and movie trailers. While this is a cool feature, I haven't used it much.

Here's what I like about the new phone:

  • The size: it's about half as thin as my old Nokia smartphone, and weighs about half as much as the old phone. When it's opened up for talking, it feels like a phone should feel. I don't feel like I have to cover my mouth and the phone's microphone to make myself heard. Also, it doesn't have an external antenna.
  • The large color screen. It's larger, brighter and more detailed than most of the other phones I looked at. And when I'm using the data service to read web pages, the text is easy to read.
  • The camera is better quality than my old phone, though the absence of a flash means that most of my photos come out muddy and dark anyway. I didn't buy the phone for the camera, though.
  • The MP3 ringtones. I've gone back to using the "Krusty the Clown" theme song as my ringtone, but unlike the version I had two phones ago, this time it's an MP3 of the track from one of my Simpsons soundtrack CDs.
  • The unlimited data plan. I already had unlimited data on my Blackberry, and that's paid for by the office, so initially I didn't want to get a data plan on my new phone. But it was a good deal on the phone so I got it anyway. And this weekend I figured out how to use the phone as a cellular modem, which means I can get online just about anywhere I can get a data signal. On Cingular's high-speed network, I had a connection around 250-275 Kbps, which is about 8 times faster than a typical dial-up connection. Next time my home Internet connection is down, I can use the phone as a modem in an emergency.
Here are some things I don't quite like:

  • opening the phone is a little difficult with one hand. I can flip it open with my thumb, but the amount of force required means that I usually push one of the buttons in the process. I haven't had a problem answering a call yet, but I'm sure eventually I'll flip it open and hang up accidentally.
  • The menu organization can't be changed. My old Nokia phone let you move menu items around and remove icons you don't use. The SYNC's menu is the same no matter what.
  • I can't re-map the "Music" button on the keypad to something more useful to me. I'm never going to use the phone to download or listen to music so I'd rather use that button for something else.
  • Somehow, this weekend, I found a way to turn on the music player while the phone was still in my pocket. The annoying thing is that the only MP3 files on the phone are my ringtones, so my phone started playing "Krusty The Clown" but no one was calling. I think I've figured out how to prevent this from happening, but we'll see.
  • The battery life is about 1/3 less than the old phone. I recharge the phone every other night, while the old Nokia phone could go three days without a recharge.
Overall, I'm really happy with my phone. I bought a charge/sync cable for my laptop, so I can recharge the phone at work, use it as a modem, and copy photos and songs to and from my home PC. I'm still not adept at texting quickly, and I don't have too many situations where a text message works but a phone call doesn't, so I usually just call. Like any new toy, I keep fiddling with the phone and messing around with it when I'm not doing anything else. So if we haven't talked in a while, give me a call. If I don't pick up right away, I'm just enjoying the "Krusty" theme.

full disclosure

When I got back from the gym this morning, I turned on the TV before I took off my coat.

my family and our relationship with the TV

My grandfather used to turn on the TV when he got home and start watching it before he took his coat off. And Grandpa would watch anything that was on. My father is the same way. On Saturday night, when we got home from dinner, I had barely walked in the door behind my dad before I heard the TV. He did have his coat off, but it couldn't have been more than a minute between when he came in the door and when he started watching TV.

Also, my dad will watch ANYTHING. On Friday night we watched part of "Crocodile Dundee II" and argued about who played the chauffeur in the first movie. My dad and my brother both said it was the guy who played the dad on "Family Matters," and they were right. I should know to trust my dad on anything Urkel-related; he watched that show for years. On Sunday afternoon, before my train left, we watched a show on modding off-road trucks, another show on souping up car engines, "Nigella Bites" on Food Network (which reminded me of the old "Two Fat Ladies" cooking show on PBS, only with a younger, hotter host), and finally, "Sell This House!," an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition clone where the builders take a house that's not selling and redo the interiors for under $500. Despite his interest in cars and engines, my father had no interest in the Daytona 500. He prefers Grand Prix races where they turn left AND right. So do I, for the most part.

We also watched the usual Saturday evening British sitcoms. The last time I visited my family was in August. I don't know how this happens, but I saw the same episodes of "Are You Being Served?" and "Fawlty Towers" this past Saturday night as I saw back in August. I like those shows, but I also like a little variety. If I go back in a few months and see the same Fawlty Towers again, where Basil keeps trying to catch one of the guests sneaking a girl into his room, I'll assume that WETA is tracking my movements.

Monday, February 19, 2007

what I did on my holiday weekend

I didn't get to see my father, stepmother, or brother over Christmas, so I took Friday off and took the train to Washington, DC, for a quick weekend visit. My dad had warned me on Wednesday that they didn't have electricity at the house because of the bad weather, so he suggested I ask my brother if I could stay there should the power not be back on by the time I arrived. (Regular readers of my escapades may remember my ill-fated vacation to visit my family in September 2003, when I arrived just in time for a hurricane to knock out power for most of a week.) As of Friday afternoon the power was still off at his house. I went straight downtown and met a friend for lunch, then went over to my dad's office and met some of his co-workers who were my co-workers ten years ago when I worked at Georgetown. Then we went home. As we pulled up to the house, we could see that the floodlight in the backyard was on, as were lights in the neighboring houses. When we walked up to the front door, the power went out again. So we went out for dinner. Two hours later, we came back to a still-dark house. We sat in the kitchen with the TV running off a battery and the stovetop burners providing a bit of heat. When the power did come back on around 8:30 PM, we kept the lights off for a few more minutes, not wanting to tempt fate. But except for a few quick hiccups over the next 24 hours, the power was back on for good at that point. My brother didn't get a houseguest after all.

On Saturday I went back downtown to meet some other friends for lunch. When I got back home, my dad and my brother and I discussed home theater systems for the better part of two hours. I'm ready to start upgrading my home audio and video setup to HD and surround sound, so A/V was a big topic all weekend. After much debate and argument, Michael and I decided to go to one of the high-end electronics stores nearby just to look. Well, it was 5:55 PM, and they closed at 6. So we went to Best Buy instead. We left with a few of my questions answered, but added a few new ones to my list. And I knew this already, but it's refreshing to hear a Best Buy blue shirt tell a customer "I'm the only one here, and I don't know anything about this stuff."

I came back to New York on Sunday evening, just in time to get to a friend's apartment to watch "The Amazing Race" and "Grease! You're The One That I Want!" I hadn't intended to watch the second show, but my friends insisted, and I didn't have to work on Monday, so what the hell.

I spent Monday relaxing at home and at the movies, and then at Best Buy in Manhattan looking once more at home theater equipment. One guy shopping for his own system tried to sell me on a Bose system that cost $1000. I'm looking to spend about half that on the audio half of my new system. Besides, I'm not about to take advice from a guy who's spending the money he earned after he got hit by a car. I think I've found the audio system I want to buy, but I'm going to comparison shop at a few other stores first. I'd love to buy something this week and have everything in place before I host an Oscar party this Sunday evening, but that might be pushing it. And I want to do my tax forms first. If I'm getting a refund, I know what I'm spending it on this year.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

domain name adjustment

Blogger now supports custom domain names directly, so I've tweaked the settings so that my blog's real domain name is now www.fiveguysproductions.com. The old BlogSpot.com URL and backlinks should continue to work, so there's no need to update your links if you're one of the two or three other blogs with mine in your blogroll.

I've got some more interesting posts coming up, I promise.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

some minor changes

I've upgraded my blog template to Blogger's new layout system, so I had to edit the links on the right side. And while I was at it, I found a Flash widget for Flickr so you can see my most recent photos right on the blog, albeit in tiny thumbnail form.

I really should write more. I'm coming up on my 5-year anniversary as a blogger. You'd think I'd have more to say.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

How to insure you never get another date again

Wear one of these to celebrate your team's championship.

Although, for $130, I might have considered getting one a few years ago when I won my league. It would probably have wound up in the same drawer as the watch I got my senior year of high school for being one of the football team's managers.

Monday, February 05, 2007

last night's Super Bowl review

This year's Super Bowl party threatened to be as bleak as the one several years ago when it was just James and I watching the game at his apartment. As of 3 PM he and I were the only ones who were going to be there. I'd bought enough food for 6-8 people, so when only one other guy showed up, we had lots of leftovers. But we had a good time, so if you were invited and didn't come, here's what you missed.

We made breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches, which are an Indiana state delicacy (according to our Internet research showed). We also made cole slaw and I put together a seven-layer dip in the morning. I've got over a pound of cole slaw left over and about a third of the dip, so that will be my dinner for the next few nights. As for the game, we were impressed with Devin Hester's opening kickoff return for a touchdown, but the rain, while entertaining, made for a sloppy game. Prince's halftime show wasn't bad considering the conditions he had to perform in. I thought the Bud Light ad with the couple picking up hitchhikers ("He's got an axe!" "But he has Bud Light!") was the funniest one of the night. Based on my conversations with co-workers this afternoon, I seem to be in the minority. (I tend to enjoy the lowbrow beer commercials. One of my all-time favorites is the Bud Light ad where the guy has put a shock collar on his roommate to prevent the roommate from drinking his beer.) I can't say that it was more fun to watch the game this year, when I didn't have any real connection to either team. But it was much less stressful than last year's Super Bowl where I screamed at the TV during every play.

Congratulations to Peyton Manning, Tony Dungy and the Indianapolis Colts, who finally won the championship that's eluded them for years. With the Steelers changing coaches, I'm hopeful but not too optimistic that they'll be back in the hunt for the Super Bowl in 2007. I guess I'll get a little excited about college basketball now.

Although the 2007 NFL draft is only 10 weeks away.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

"Cartoon Morons" in Boston and the media reaction

I just love the story about the "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" movie promotion that sparked a terror scare in Boston. Specifically, I'm enjoying the media response. ATHF is such an underground show that the news outlets don't know how to characterize it. Most aren't even bothering to try to explain it, opting to just mention the show's name and network. However, the New York Post, displaying the evenhanded treatment they give to all their stories, refers to ATHF as a show "...geared toward the Doritos-munching insomniac stoner crowd." Wow! That's me! I also saw a bit of the local FOX station's morning show coverage of the story, and while I don't remember any of their exact remarks, the anchors thought the cartoon was idiotic. The "Today" show covered the story at the top of the show, and they blurred out Ignignokt's upraised middle finger and referred to it as an obscene gesture. But FOX 5 showed the device and its offensive digit unobscured. God forbid the children should see a pixelated middle finger!

I can understand why people would be scared of strange devices depicting the Mooninites. Unlike the Plutonians, if Ignignokt and Err ever got their act together, they could take over the world.