Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hello from the boredom

Well, I'm blogging from class.

It's a moderate-level Adobe InDesign training class. Whoo-hoo. Not terribly interesting, and not necessarily something I don't know, but these classes do learn you a trick or two. Plus, it gets me out of the office and in to DC for a week.

Hope you're all well.

Monday, January 28, 2008

In DC

In DC for a couple of days of training, couple of days of sight-seeing. Got the fam' with me, so that's nice.

May check in while I'm gone. May not.

So there.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Unintentional racist joke

Earlier I was in a meeting.

Yes meetings suck.

In this particular meeting, I tend to sit in the back, not at the adult table, because I'm not actually an active member of these meetings. I'm just there to gleen useful information for communication's products.

Anyway. I'm sitting in the back.

At these meetings, people usually bring candy. The chair of this meeting arrives and has a big bowl -- like a Halloween bowl. Someone says, "Ah, here's the candy." The chair answers, "This in only part one."

Later, as the meeting is about to begin, the second candy provider shows up. She's a lovely African-American lady carrying a large bowl of mini candy bars.

The same person who spoke up earlier says: "All right! Here's the chocolate."

I almost fell out of my chair.

Perhaps you had to be there.

A post, where I talk about TV, because, really, that's about all that's going on right now

Well that's not entirely true. There's school too, but who wants to discuss the wonderful world of Media Law or Communication Theories? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Guess I better get around to a point ... uh ... so, does anyone even care about the Apprentice now that Gene Simmons isn't on the show? It's slightly entertaining to watch Tito Ortiz attempt to wrap his mind around the stuff that the Baldwin and the Brit dude are doing, but it doesn't carry the show. Last night was of interest to me because Vince McMahon, chairman of the WWE, was one of the guest "judges." It's just, without Simmons, the show is now lacking its main selling point. It's Celebrity Apprentice filled with a bunch of celebrities we don't really care about. Simmons had the charisma and business savvy to make the show entertaining -- though very one sided.

If there had been a better balance of power the show might be going over better. As things are, the men are destroying the women.

It was good to see Chuck back on the air. Again, not groundbreaking television or anything, but entertaining fluff. Fun and funny characters and just enough attractive women kicking each other to fill an hour. What more could you ask?

Have I mentioned that the Mythbusters made a lead balloon? How freakin' cool is that?

Speaking of Mythbusters, has anyone else caught Smash Lab? I tell you, I first watched the show with mixed anticipation and skepticism. I thought, "Why are they making Mythbusters 2?" And, honestly, the show comes across exactly like that, "Mythbusters: The Sequel, starring people you don't know." The similarities outweigh the differences, though they are there. While Mythbusters takes on two, three or four different topics, Smash Lab tackles one topic from a couple of different angles. They have a four-person team and two members will usually be the "build" portion of the task while the other two will take care of the "test" portion of the task. While blatantly ripping off aspects of Mythbusters, the show works exactly because they do. Mythbusters is a wildly successful show for a cable network, why not capitalize on that kind of format? The other main difference is that Smash Lab isn't really tackling the "myths" that Mythbusters go after. They seem to be looking at how to make new or different products applicable for different situations. They looked at making soft concrete barriers or medians to help in traffic accidents (dismal failure that), and they used carbon fiber to reinforce a house to protect it from hurricane force winds and debris (a rousing success).

Lastly, there's American Idol. I was commenting at a blog-friend's site. She mentioned that this might be her last season of Idol. I'm beginning to wonder if it might be mine as well. The last two seasons were so enjoyable during the audition process. This season is not living up to that so far. I don't know if that's because we're milking the concept dry or if it's because of the slight format change. Well, not format change, a change in the approach by the judges. Everything is so non-confrontational this year. I know they caught a lot of flak for that last year, but come on ... controversy sells, folks. Anyway, contestants this year are supposed to have to use instruments and such. I hope that's true. It should liven up the competition. Here's hoping the season gets better, it can't get much worse.

That's my sad collection of thoughts on recent TV. Please, feel free to share yours.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Idol thoughts 1/23

There was plenty to laugh about last night, but not much to get excited about as far as performers are concerned. This is shaping up to be a mediocre, if not downright suck, year.

Sarahk and American Midol have the wraps if you're concerned. I watched the thing and I'm not much. It was far more interesting, in the long run, that the Mythbusters made a lead balloon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Support

Well, since Fred has tanked it's time to throw my not-unconsiderable weight (well, physically anway) somwhere.

I've decided to jump on this bandwagon:

The GET OFFA MY LAWN! Party.



You want me to pay taxes for public schools even though I home school? GET OFFA MY LAWN!

You want to coddle fence jumpers when it's hard enough for John or Jane America to get a job? GET OFFA MY LAWN!

Idol thoughts 1/22

I really don't have much to say about last night. There were some entertaining performers. There were some bland ones. Honestly, no one stood out all that much to me. I did like the guy with his little boy; I hope he does well.

Otherwise, meh.

I'll let some others speak. This week, my primary round up are polar opposites as far as snark is concerned.

Sarahk can't seem to handle long hair on a boy.

The American Midol girls are more accepting, but more biting.

One last link, and I caution you not to click this one if you want to maintain your American Idol illusions: Vote for the Worst, the site that attempts to get voters to vote for the worst (they say, truly entertaining) contestant, have made some discoveries about several of this year's batch of contestants. It seems that last night's heavy hitter, Carly Smithson is a record industry failure who is now being pushed on Idol. They claim, anyway. They list several other auditioners who have also failed in the recording industry.

I have mixed emotions about this. VFTW claims that by having industry failures compete, it flies in the face of Idol's purpose: to find America's next, great undiscovered talent. However, I also think that if someone failed in the recording industry, they aren't exactly known to America. I'm not sure, but I don't think it's entirely fair. It does seem to go a bit of a way toward explaining why the judges are nicer this year.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Customer suckus

My biggest, number one, everything else hinges on this customer service rule: I (the customer) should not have to call you (the service provider).

Look, if you are providing a good or service, I don't care if you're going to be late. I don't care if something went wrong. I don't care if you're delayed or if you have to reschedule. As long as you call me.

Call me and let me know you are running late. Call me and let me know that something's up. That call absolves most anything.

In other news: Ugh, hurry up Dish Network guy.

UPDATE: So, the guy is scheduled to come between 8 a.m. and noon. He doesn't show. I didn't get a call from anyone until about 10:45 telling me that they'd try to be there by noon. I wind up calling customer service many, many times until 6 p.m. when they tell me that they'd tried to call me to tell me they'd have to reschedule. Bullshit. The only time I was on the phone today was with you. I came >this< close to going with the competition. Unfortunately, the closest package through DirecTV is more than $20 a month more expensive and local cable is about $30 a month more expensive.

On top of this, they were telling us that the earliest they could come back out would be Thursday. Fucking insane. First, you bump me, then penalize me because you fucked up. I couldn't even talk to them. So, the wife talks to them a few times and finally asks to speak with a supervisor. We got scheduled to be the first stop tomorrow morning.

We'll see how this goes. What a way for a business to start their relationship with a customer.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Idol thoughts 1/16, or, why the last contestant is sometimes an epiphany

Yeah, I got done with class early enough to catch the last 45 minutes or so of Idol. But I was busy checking e-mail and crap right next to the TV and no one really caught my attention until the last audition came up. There was a guy, an Asian with a heavy accent, dressed like a cross between a pimp and, well, someone who ministers to pimps, I guess.

Well, he comes into the audition room and, of course, the crew aren't looking forward to hearing him. I mean, when someone shows up on costume on this show, it's usually to offset the fact that they're really bad singers. Well, this guy was no exception. He wasn't all that good. But he was a lot of fun. Simon, Paula and Randy all got into it, started singing along with him (he was singing an original composition even) and toward the end got up and danced with him. It went on for several minutes.

The judges all seemed to genuinely like the guy. But not in an American Idol, go to Hollywood kind of way. So, they told him that they liked him but he wasn't Idol material.

To be fair, the guy was a whack job. I mean, a bit over the top, but in a harmless kind of way. Less crazy and more socially inept, and I think that could be because of the difference in upbringing where he's from originally. They gave his "I'm from" town as Vegas. Hell, his outfit fit right in there.

At this point, most contestants lose their minds. Even the costumed ones. The American contestants, by and large, can't seem to understand how the judges can't see their talent, can't understand how they're entitled to be on the show. They cuss, call Simon a variety of names and the post-audition interviews are even worse because they show the depth of these folk's delusions.

But this guy, obviously a first-generation immigrant, goes into that post-audition interview gushing praise for Simon. He says, thank you Simon for this chance. You do such a wonderful thing, giving all these people a chance.

And that, my friends is why America, as a collective society sucks right now. There was a time we were happy to have a chance. Now we believe we're entitled to have whatever the chance offers.

This bit of TV nonsense helped me realize something I want my kids to know: Grasp your dreams early and fight hard for them, because no one's going to hand them to you. Most importantly though, always be thankful for someone who gives you a chance. You never know what kind of dividends gratitude can pay.

Class two, thoughts too

Last night was class #2. I'm only taking two classes this semester to see how well I can manage the load with my regular life, such that it is.

Night #1 was communication theories and last night was media law. I gotta tell you, last night's class was the better one for me because of the subject. Also, the instructor lectured less and involved us more, which always helps. I've always wanted to have a better understanding of media law though, so I'm finding the topic fascinating right now. Ask me again when I'm into my research paper.

One of the things I've realized that I need is one of those headsets with the built-in microphone. I've been using headphones with a separate mic, but that just isn't working out well. The other thing I've come to expect are technical difficulties. My wireless crapped out in the middle of a pretty neat topic. No rhyme or reason for it. My laptop just decided it didn't want to find my router any longer. A couple of minutes later and all was well, though.

Should be an interesting semester.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Idol thoughts 1/15

Yeah, I watched the show. My class let out early and I was able to catch some of it. I missed the first 45 minutes or so; I don't have DVR any longer (Yet! Dish is being hooked up Thursday).

What I did see was scary, cringe-inducing, good and bad. Which is what the show is supposed to be.

I got to see the stalker guy. While creepy, I loved the "Peterfalkher" line. I'm a sucker for bad humor.

I felt really bad for Princess Leia girl. At first. When she first came out, actually, when they first told her no, I felt bad. I mean, she's obviously not at an Idol level, but she didn't sing terribly. Easily better than 60 percent of the auditions we get to see on the show. But she quickly degenerated into the average contestant's response of "Bleep this" and "Bleep that" and "Bleep you, Simon." All my sympathy for her went right back into the dictionary.

The last girl of the show was all right. By her demeanor (and the fact she was from near-Phoenix, AZ) I bet she's a Mormon. That whole no-rated-R-movie-thing is pretty common. My wife doesn't watch 'em. Anyway, it'll come out if she makes it. It won't if she don't.

More lucid thoughts than mine can be found:

Sarahk pontificates at Snark Raving Mad.

The girls at American Midol have unleashed their collective obsession on the poor internets.

Tracey at Beyond the Pale puts up some of her thoughts.

First class thoughts

The program I am enrolled in is entirely online. Most of the enrollees are out-of-state. In fact, in my class, I think I'm the online Memphis-ite. During my bachelor's program, I took several online classes, but none were quite like this one.

My prior classes were all text-based with the instructor posting lessons in text, requiring certain assignments be posted by certain times/days and usually requiring some kind of class participation via a comment system -- much like what you see on active blogs. But this class used a chat room with audio. The instructor lectured while students posted comments in text, or could "raise their hand" to comment via audio as well. It was a bit more ... manic, I guess, than what I'm used to.

I do, however, like the fact that our assignments are laid out and that classes are just classes. This particular instructor hates tests so we're writing two research papers for class, which is my kind of thing.

Class 2 tonight. Thoughts part 2 tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Frightening

Day 1, Class 1 for my masters. Wish me luck.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Who would keep you home?

I have spoken with, or read on blogs of, many conservatives who are debating sitting out the upcoming presidential election. When I first heard this I thought, "Why? You're just giving the election away." As we get deeper into the primary season and we get closer to having set candidates, I begin to understand the sentiment.

Being a conservative, there's no Democrat I could vote for. That leaves the Republicans. Generally, I am of the opinion that any Republican is better than a Democrat, but there are a couple of candidates in the field who I'm not so sure about. Obviously, Ron Paul is a nut. If there were some way that he could actually win the nomination, I know I would sit out. But as I've learned more about Mike Huckabee, I think if he won the nomination I would probably have to sit out also. I'm on the fence about Romney; I think I could still vote for him if he got the nomination.

I fully understand that by not voting, I'm participating in giving away my vote to my ideological opposition, but I just couldn't bring myself to vote for either of those folks.

So ... anyone else? Are there any candidates that would keep you home?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A moment for the greatest musicians on the planet

So, tesco posted this bit about drummers earlier. I mentioned Mike Portnoy and he posted a link to a drum solo of Portnoy's on You Tube. Because of this I've been spending all evening watching Dream Theater videos and ran across this one. I have the DVD, but it's been a while. Jeebus these folks can play.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Surviving

My best Christmas present? I got a copy of “World War Z” by Max Brooks. For those who don’t know, this is a sequel to his satirical survival guide send-up: “The Zombie Survival Guide.”

This book takes place an indeterminate amount of time after a zombie apocalypse. It is an “oral history” of the zombie war. A member of the UN travels the world interviewing different people about their experiences during the war.

Zombie fan or not, this is an engrossing piece of fiction. By telling his story through the eyes of survivors and putting it in the interview format, Brooks sidesteps the suspension of disbelief issue with fiction storytelling. We become enthralled with each character’s take on the collective woe. The apocalypse takes a back seat to the character drama.

There are some slow parts. Some characters don’t come across quite as well as others and there are tedious bits throughout, but overall, it’s a very good book.

Kudos to Brooks and I look forward to the upcoming movie.

Teh Suck

This is my first day back to work since my 10-day vacation.

Sigh.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Geetree update

So, in an earlier post I talked about the purchase of a cheap guitar and my wondering if it's going to remain an instrument or become art. I believe I have my answer without doing any work on it.

I did some Googling about fixing neck angles and with a bolt-on neck, it's just a shim. But I found a wealth of info about guys who've standard, glue in/on necks on acoustics and archtops. One of the common things they found on older instruments was that the bracing inside the body had warped or broken.

Looking here, you can see the guitar body warping back, right at the neck joint. I believe this is causing the majority of the neck angle problems. It also means that repairing it is out of the question. If this were an old Gibson or Gretsch, I'd have no problem whatsoever getting the repair done. Heck, it'd be criminal not to. But it'd cost three or four times as much to get it repaired than what I paid for it.

So begins my collection of guitar wall art.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Probably not a year wiser

We're on vacation, folks. We've been on vacation since Dec. 28. Traveled south from the home of rock and roll to North Lowsy-ana. Spent a couple of days there with my parents and headed down to Biloxi to spend a couple of days with my wife's dad.

Been a decent trip. Normally, we wind up spending way too much money and have a lot of regret. This time, not so much. Went to one of my old music-store stomping grounds today and found it very hard not to spend any money (lots of guitars 50% off). But, I made it. Barely.

And, today, I hit 34. Happy birthday to me. I hope 2008 is more stable and more fun than 2007; my kids sure plan to help with the latter.