Ring It Up

Dec. 30th, 2008 09:13 am
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Christmas was a quiet affair here. I never did get totally in the spirit and neither Chris nor I were really wanting to spend a lot on each other. Chris also went out to California for a few days to be with his family. He returned on Christmas Day and I cooked up a big pot of chili for the two of us. I think this kicks off our attempt to cook more for ourselves and try to save some money.

In the saving money category we went out to the mall Sunday, and I think people have decided to stay away, which was good. There's only one store in our local mall that carries my size, and that's Dillards. Despite being told that retailers have slashed prices to try to get people to buy, Dillards didn't seem to follow the trend, at least not for the big boys sizes. Chris was looking for a new coat and didn't quite find what he wanted. Macys selection was terrible and for some reason they don't have the big-boy love at all. What's up with that?

One thing we did finally do was buy our wedding bands. We had made some attempts to check out some stores, but apparently trying to buy jewelry at retail stores is just a giant rip-off. We went to Robbins Bros., a specialist on wedding rings here in town and totally felt that we were being sold a car. Would you like floormats with your rings? That will be an extra charge of several hundred dollars. The salesman there wanted to give us drinks and sell us something a lot more than what we were expecting. It was ridiculous.

Let's face it, wedding bands shouldn't cost as much as women's rings with diamonds and all. It's a symbol, not necessarily an investment. Right now I don't have the money for a big investment and I don't want to go into debt. If we want something more extravagant several years from now, we can do that later. I personally want to get out of debt, and maybe look at things like a house. Jewelry isn't my main worry.

Well, we finally found a ring we liked that was made of tungsten. It's great, meets my requirement of being inexpensive, and is what we wanted in looks and color, etc. It will be nice to have them before the state of California decides whether we stay married, officially or not.

Work has been interesting these last few weeks. Call volume has quieted a bit, but I had to work Saturday and it was quite busy. I know the next few weeks will be very busy, especially as the new statements come out and people learn that they lost a lot over the last few weeks.

Work has already started reducing our lunches from an hour to thirty minutes, which really makes me mad. I really do need that time to decompress. I'd rather come to work earlier, or stay later than have my lunch cut short.

I've been watching a little more football lately, with the bowls and the NFL playoffs coming. I'm glad the at Cowboys are out of the playoffs because I think their owner, Jerry Jones is an idiot and needs to be slapped in the face and told he doesn't know what he is doing. The man spends a lot of money on talented people, but doesn't understand that they are all cancers to team unity and success. The man gets what he deserves. I wish he would sell the team - a wish I've had since he bought the team, but not one I'm likely to see.

Otherwise in the small, means nothing bowl games, I'm rooting for the Rice Owls tonight in the Texas Bowl. The Owls have been underdogs for years. They have always been the smart school in a league that was too strong for them. This year they almost won the conference and they beat my Alma Mater for the Bayou Bucket.

Speaking of the alma Mater, the Houston Cougars play Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl tomorrow. I'm rooting for Air Force. I think UH puts far to much money and emphasis on the football program, a program that always loses money. The school would do better, and be more competitive if they moved down to Div II A, but no. They must keep going on playing Div IA and being a middle of the pack team in an awful conference. The School sent out an email begging alumni to attend this game as the school can lose money if the tickets aren't sold. In the same email they said that UH would be looking for it's first bowl game win in 28 years - not a good way to sell the team!

i think the end of the year has sent me into an introspective mood.
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It seems that Turner Classic Movies channel (TCM) has gotten hold of much of the Disney Live Action films for the 50's 60's and 70's and has been shoing them on Sundays this month. I saw one of the old Kurt-Russel movies, The World's Strongest Man last Sunday, and noticed they had also been showing The Love Bug, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and The Parent Trap among others.

Today was the best, though. Movies that really brought back memories. This morning 1979's The Black Hole was on, followed by Escape to Witch Mountain - which really doesn't hold up over time, but is cute. [livejournal.com profile] joshjeffcoat came by to watch Bedknobs and Broomsticks and besides loving Angela Lansbury we both realized we knew a lot of the songs.

It continued tonight with Candleshoe and later the original Freaky Friday both with Jodie Foster. Candleshoe is a fun little young-person's mystery that doesn't get it's due. It's amazing that both of theses squeaky-clean Disney movies were shot after her role as a teenage prostitute in Taxi Driver. They are a lot of fun though, and the Original Friday is a lot better than the Lindsay Loahan remake.

I saw all of these films in the theater growing up, and it's good to see them all again. I normally don't look to TMC for entertainment. I'm not much of an old movie buff, but I do enjoy these bits of nostalgia.

Speaking of nostalgia, TCM is showing two other movies this week I'm interested in. They are showing Fiddler on the Roof tomorrow (as a part of a Chanukah lineup that sadly includes Yentl) and The Man Who Came To Dinner (which is not Guess Who's Coming To Dinner). They were two of the plays I was in while in high school, so it's always fun to revisit those shows.

I guess I'll have to watch TCM's schedule a little more closely from now on.
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We were watching Heroes last night. Surprisingly one of the more plot-heavy episodes. We seem to be following the show just to see if they can actually pull it out of the tailspin that it's been on since the last episode of the first season. Every once in a while there's a spark of life in it, but more often it's full of comic book clichés and characters that change motivations on a whim. Two of the biggest things that bug me, everyone can see the future and to many characters die only to see them come back to life, often in the same episode!

Strangely, this isn't a entry about Heroes, but about network television. One thing about Heroes is that it seems to be run on a series of polls. We're trying to redeem Sylar. Oh no, test audiences don't like that, now he's back to being evil again. Enough of that. The show needs to grow a pair and try to tell a consistent story, but I'm thinking that network executives won't allow it.

Too much of network television is dumbed down for the masses, just when the competitive marketplace shows they should be taking more risks. There needs to be more talked about shows and not just another season of Two and a Half Men.

Sadly, those talked about shows don't seem to find an audience large enough for the networks, so a show like Pushing Daisies gets canned. It seems that the networks have an unrealistic audience expectation in a world where there's too many other choices. I would have loved if Daisies appeared on a cable network that would have been happy for the loyalty, but that cable network wouldn't have had the money to produce such a show. Well, maybe HBO would have but there's not enough sex on Dasies to have a boob shot now and again.

I guess it's dammed if you do, damed if you don't these days. Shows like Law and Order and CSI can go on and on since there's little to follow from week to week and actors can be plugged in and out at any time. CBS seems to have an entire line up of these shows, and they manage to win in the ratings again and again. What reason would a network have to try something like Lost when you have to hope that an audience will keep watching.

The only show I watch on CBS in The Amazing Race. I really don't like procedural shows. I want something with a little more story, something that make me feel good for remembering something from the first season. The only problem is we all expect these shows to be cancelled (I'm just waiting for Josh Whedon's Dollhouse) so no one wants to get too involved.

So that brings me to the news from NBC yesterday. Apparently NBC has given up, again. A couple of years ago NBC said that they would no longer put scripted shows in the 8 o'clock hour (7 Central), relying on a series of reality and game shows to fill the time. It was purely a cost cutting move, and suddenly you saw as many episodes of Deal or No Deal as you do Law and Order on TNT.

NBC backed off of that plan a little bit, but you may notice that most networks no longer program new shows on Saturday nights, and even Friday night seems to be filled with reruns. The Networks are putting on fewer new shows than ever. The cost-cutting has meant that the big three (NBC, ABC and CBS, Fox never did program a full schedule) no longer have something different scheduled each night. In a 500 channel and TiVo world this doesn't seem to be significant, but from growing up in a time before Cable, it seems crazy to me.

NBC announced yesterday that it was planning to give Jay Leno a new talk show, rather than have him run off to another network. Leno was losing the Tonight Show gig after originally planning to retire, but then changed his mind. For his new talk show, NBC will clear out the 10 o'clock (9 o'clock central) schedule. That's right, NBC will move the Tonight Show with Jay Leno up before your local news and give up on their last hour of programming. This will mean fewer episodes of Dateline, which is fine, but it's seems to be a sign that NBC has given up. They are unwilling to produce shows and try to build up an audience.

If I were a local NBC station that had to earn ratings for my late local news, I think I'd be pretty pissed with this decision. I can't understand why people watch Leno anyway - heck, I can't watch Letterman anymore, either, but Leno always seemed to be a bad host and interviewer. Now they are going to entrust 5 hours of prime time programming to him each week?

I'll admit that good TV doesn't have to come from the networks, but it seems that they are no longer trying, which is odd as advertising gets more scarce. You'd think someone would want to take more risks. The Networks have become so inclined to try to appeal to the masses that they are turning people away from their product. It seems that the Networks are becoming less relevant to the total entertainment package as fewer people watch television in real time, over the air. When does it become viable to pass up the Nets all together and just produce a show strictly for on-demad delivery?

I think many of us are very close to ditching the networks and cable because the programming is available elsewhere. As it becomes easier to get content away from the networks and watch it how we want, well maybe it's time for Network TV to give way and for television to be produced without the need for an actual airdate.

I know I'd be happy to have a few more seasons of Pushing Dasies. Where do I subscribe?
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First the bad. Above is a picture of an older Mercury Sable. In order to improve the car, the owner has not only put on some ridiculous rims that raise the sedan several inches off the ground, giving the wheels an oversized look, but worst of all he added these dumb faux air vents to the side.

I've seen the "air vents" on several cars and they look like you just stick them on after peeling off the paper to reveal the adhesive layer. The effect is even worse when they aren't lined up properly. These aren't exactly following the lines of the car.

The dumbest thing is that the air vents (or vintiports) were long a signature of Buicks. Why would any "fly guy" want his car to look like a Buick?

The good is Phineas and Ferb on the Disney Channel. The show is clever and has lots of good reoccurring in-jokes that make it fun to watch. I think the best parts are with Dr. Dufenschmertz, the evil mad scientist who is always foiled by the boys pet, Perry the Platapus.

There's nothing else work watching on the disney channel, but I do enjoy this.
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● Chris and I like the Austin City Limits Festival so much that we have already bought tickets for 2009. They went on sale yesterday for those on the mailing list. Here’s hoping there’s some great acts next year, but it’s always a good excuse to get away to Austin. I hope more people will join us!

● Chris is going to Anaheim today to enjoy Miley Cyrus' big birthday bash at Disney. My travel budget is already shot for the year, and I already was close to Miley this year when I was in New York. I don't think I could take any more excitement like that. I was already at Disneyland this year too, but not with the 30,000 gays they are predicting for this weekend. Maybe next year, if everything is good, I might get to go.

● I’d like to give a shout out to Salon.com and the column/blog How the World Works by Andrew Leonard for keeping me informed about the financial credit crisis. Although I work in the financial world (at an extremely low level), I'm not a business major, economist or even an accountant, I have a large learning curve on some of the issues. I was warned about the mortgage crisis a long time ago (a hat tip goes to Trey ([livejournal.com profile] arkanjil), and I even had to learn about mortgage-backed securities and selling short when taking my licensing tests, but it’s been getting the broader picture, on how this has swelled into a lending crisis that’s hurting businesses that’s been the education lately.

● Again, I’m lucky to work for a company that’s financially strong, but since we aren’t a bank, and our retirement accounts are mostly annuities, not brokerage accounts, we have many callers who are concerned since we’re not FDIC or SPIC insured. Luckily since we’re a not for-profit company, we aren’t leveraged to the hilt. It's tough to re-assure people when their account balances are falling. Still, people don’t understand, even if they have been trough recessions before, that investment in the stock market can and will go down at times. Investment involves risk, plain and simple.

● Even though the House may vote for the $700 billion bailout bill today, that will be just a band-aid for what the economy is going through at this time. Even with the ability for banks to place bad loans at the feet of the US government, there’s severe trouble in lending right now that’s affecting businesses and consumers. Just like the gas shortages in the Southeast, we are a society that is so used to “just-in-time” logistics and deliveries, so when those deliveries don’t come, there’s no inventory to rely on. Many companies now take short term loans to help them meet payroll and purchase equipment, etc. This is done on a very short time table, rather than having a long term financial plan for financing, especially for small employers. When they can’t get the credit, or the small loans they require, business ends up having to curtail growth, laying-off workers and stopping production.

It’s going to be a while before money is flowing as freely as credit has been, if it ever does again. Many banks were far out-leveraging themselves to make these loans happen, and now with fewer big players, and the specter of more regulation on the horizon, both businesses and consumers are going to have to take a hard look at how they spend, and how much credit they will be able to access.

The biggest problem is that American’s have been made to consume everything at a rapid, get it today pace that really shouldn't be allowed. The desire to live beyond your means has been encouraged not only by big business, but by the Bush administration as well, and blame needs to be laid there on his feet. It’s this administration’s effort to not have any American have to sacrifice that has led to big deficits and an economy that was unable to sustain itself as there was no fundamentally sound underpinning. I wonder if Bush was just hoping to get out of office before the bubble burst. He sure looks like he’s just waiting for the bell to ring in January.

I’m wondering how the American people are going to take to a message of tighten your belts when we’ve been coddled so long by a system that says if you want it, get it, damn the future.

What’s interesting is hearing about the far flung suburbs, especially places like the inland Empire in California where tons of expensive McMansions were built and sold for inflated prices to people who couldn’t afford the mortgage payments and now can’t afford the gas prices to commute to and from them, so the houses are foreclosed, the people abandon the homes, and leave all their possessions creating ghost towns out of these suburbs as no one wants to buy them, even at bargain prices. I’m surprised we don’t see more of that in Texas where it seems the cities have grown so far out from the city core, that it’s created more, smaller city cores to compensate, but is that enough to justify driving for miles for everything?

The next president, who ever he, or perhaps she given some odd twist of fate, is, will have the very difficult task of having to pull us along through an economic crisis that may resemble the 1970’s. There’s likely to be some comparisons to Jimmy Carter, who inherited the spiraling inflation, high unemployment and stagnant economy from Nixon/Ford, and he found it very difficult to find a way out of it. Something tells me that no matter whom the president is, 2012 will be a big election year as well.

● Funny thing is that today at work they are feeding us, and passed out a slip of paper with a picture of a baked potato on it that we are to redeem for our lunch. Some people have said that one potato will not be enough, and others have said we should copy the paper in order to get two potatoes. With that there has been talk that we would just create a crisis if there were more slips of paper than potatoes and that the value of the slip of paper would fall as there was no promise of a potato backing the value of these “potato-based securities.” We’ve been having fun with talk of the failure of the potato market and since the delivery of potatoes hasn’t come in yet, the fact that the slips are based on nothing but the full faith that potatoes will appear. There’s also been word of a modern “potato famine” here in the office, but we are waiting for a bailout from management. It’s a funny way to apply the economic lessons we’ve learned these past few weeks.
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From Left to Right: Ben ([livejournal.com profile] qualitykill), Paul ([livejournal.com profile] skacubby), Scott and Chris.

Another day in the books as we saw The Fratellis, MGMT, John Fogarty, Robert Earl Keen, Alison Krause and Robert Plant and a great set from Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Lots of energy today. Many more people in the park today than yesterday, so much so we couldn't leave where we were to go see Iron and Wine. Sad about that, but still some good fun and good people here, again.

Some crazy lady insisted she take this photo of us from my iPhone. She did not know how to use it, and this was the third try. So much for me back there! Another girl wanted to know all about us because she saw the Bear episode of Kathy Griffin and recognized the Bear Flag.

Now my cold has really kicked in. Not good, especially with all the dust kicked up in the park.
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A few notes today:

● First, I watched the season premier of Heroes the other day, and I think we can start a drinking game with the number of stolen plots. Sure, they say there are only 153 plots in the world, but when you can clearly see they are stealing from “The 4400”, “X-Men”, “The Sixth Sense” and every other movie where the villain is somehow related to the hero. It doesn’t feel fresh and new. Of course, reading comics for so many years makes most of the plots and characters seem kind of old.

Although they didn’t introduce many new characters, there’s too many of them out there, and they rarely work together in any meaningful way. Sure, the idea is that at the end of the story, everything comes together, but the writers seem to have a hard time with that. Here are a couple of thoughts. Kill some characters. We’re starting to get some redundancy in powers and it just muddles everything. When you do kill some of them, then let them stay dead. There’s no way the audience can feel for the danger the characters are in if everyone can easily come back to life.

Speaking of new characters, there was the one “villain” who was locked up with the others in the paper factory. He is a cute Hispanic cubby, but since he apparently has been switched out with Peter Petrelli, now that he’s escaped, we the audience only see Peter, and the cute cubby in mirrors and reflections. It’s a lazy way to not have to explain to the audience that he’s really Peter, but that could be explained in dialogue. I’d rather see the cubby.

It’s also interesting how they are spending their effects budget. Some effects look great (the freezing, the speedster’s streak) others look terrible. I know you are working on a television budget, so you need to choose carefully.

Hopefully with the extra time off, Heroes writers worked harder to put together a season-long story arc like there was with the first season. There’s some indication of this, but it is tough to see how some of the storylines work together. One last thing. Too many characters can see the future. One is OK, but you have dreamers and travelers and sometimes they see different visions. It’s confusing to the audience and it’s used as a cheap way to build a threat – much like our current administration warning about attacks that haven’t happened. Let’s limit the visions of the future on this show.

● The Emmy Awards show was terrible, but I like both Mad Men and 30 Rock. It’s rare that I like the shows that win.

● I love that to try to preserve the economy until at least a week into November the Bush Administration wants to have an unelected official have the power to distribute 700 billion dollars of taxpayers’ money to banks and investment firms that couldn’t control their own businesses? No way. The Bush Administration has done terrible damage to the country grabbing powers that were not a part of the executive branch, or once had oversight by other branches of government. Congress has too many times rolled over to let them take it’s oversight power, or allowed the administration to write in restrictions to judicial oversight. Sorry, but this time we need to say no, even when the economy is tanking.

The bailout will happen, but it needs to be on terms that protects taxpayers and works to protect the government from falling into deeper debt. Mortgage lenders don’t like the idea of the government coming in and re-writing loan provisions, but it’s better to prevent foreclosure and have people pay back the loans rather than to have them just walk away. This was done in the great depression and can be done now. I hope Congress will have the guts to demand it.

I’m sure Republicans will try to block the bailout legislation if it comes in with a lot of oversight. They will say that the Democrats were just trying to grow government and put in a lot of wins for them, but the Republicans can easily use the bill to try to make political points as well by refusing it. Since Republicans like to say they are for free and open markets, they can say, oh, the bill didn’t pass because there were too many demands (like the CEO pay bit) that made it unpalatable to business, and argue that business will drive the economy if it’s left alone. Bull. These companies got into trouble and are driving the economy to ruin. I don’t want long-term oversight, or government ownership, but there has to be restrictions and accountability. I don’t think the Republicans are up to the challenge. Hopefully the Dems will be.

● I’m getting ready with Chris to go to Austin City Limits Festival (ACL) this weekend. I’m ready to get away from the calls and callers we’ve had these last two weeks. It’s been crazy as people are looking for advice, but we can only provide information and a bit of guidance. People always pick the worst time to take action with their retirement accounts, selling out of funds when they are down, and buying “hot” funds when they already are at their highpoint. It’s tough to tell them that. I also hate when we are told to reduce our lunchtime due to the high volume of calls. I’d be happier to stay later than cut my lunchtime.

● As for ACL, I don’t think there are many people we know going. I’ve heard from a couple, and of course we are excited to see Nakia ([livejournal.com profile] austinchubbylimits) take the stage at the event. It should be cooler this year, too. 90 degrees instead of 108. There’s a lot of overlap this year during the afternoon hours where two or even three good bands are on at the same time. There will be lots of choices to be made.

● Damn, I’m already wanting lunch and it doesn’t come until 2:30 today. The person who popped popcorn needs to die.
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ABC is promoting Pushing Daisies by sending out a mobile Pie Hole to cities. Today it is at Addison Oktoberfest. No stars here though.

People Who Need Pie

And the little pies they were serving...
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● My parents said their lights came back on last night. I got the answering machine earlier, so I knew things were good. Several parts of their area are still out, and it will take time before all power is restored in the area. My mom was quite happy that she could start washing clothes again, as she has a bit of an OCD thing with laundry.

● The market crisis has been interesting to see how the government and the presidential candidates have handled it. I find it interesting how much it shows that President Bush really has no real power here. Everything is being done by the Fed Chairman and the Treasury Secretary. Even the Congress is getting upset because these big money decisions are being made without their input. I saw the President blathering along, trying to assure people that the free markets are strong, even though we just federalized a major insurance provider. That’s not a free market, laissez-faire move there, that’s the move of a socialist country. When did Republicans become Democrats?

Obama seems to be keeping his cool, trying to show leadership, but he isn’t making headlines. McCain is making headlines, but more for his gaffes than for his leadership. McCain is trying so hard to look like he’s in charge, it makes mistakes like saying he would, as president, fire the chairman of the SEC (or as he said ones, the FEC, a totally different regulation group), which the president does not have the authority to do, look like he doesn’t know what he is doing. Finally the media is noticing this, and calling him on it.

It’s sad to see McCain try to blame everyone but his own party that was responsible for the de-regulation that caused this problem in the first place. It makes him look like he’s floundering, not trying to lay blame on Bush, or other Republicans, but on the regulators that have been de-clawed by legislation and the businessmen who were allowed to run free as they lobbied for the right to do so. Who’s asleep at the wheel here? It’s hard to say you are going to reform “something” when everyone knows you are cozy with the people, and corporations you’re trying to say are bad. It’s bad to be the insider trying to wear the outsider’s clothing.

Otherwise, the bailout plan looks to be another huge taxpayer-funded band-aid on the problem. Much like the Savings and Loan scandal in the 1980’s (which McCain was also involved in, see the lobbying scandal called The Keating Five – it rarely gets talked about), the government is going to open a clearing house to buy up all the bad debt these investment companies and banks have on their hands. As Chris said today, we’re letting them purge, but we’re not putting these companies on a 12-step program to actually deal with the problem.

It will be interesting to see if either candidate actually proposes real regulations to prevent the return to relying on these leveraged investments that had shaky foundations in the first place.

● I’m glad that I worked last weekend, and not this one. This week has been such a drain, especially with people getting out of stocks only to see that the market is regaining most of its losses. Of course it’s hard to tell people to ride it out, or to convince them not to sell at a low point. Heck, I have enough trouble with holding pat in my 401(k) seeing the losses this year, but I try not to think about it too much.

● Something less political, or financial – this weekend looks to be busy. First for me is trying to get goodies at the “Mobile Pie Hole” – the trailer that ABC is using to promote Pushing Daisies. It will be at the Addison Oktoberfest this weekend. My sister wants a pie cutter that they will be giving away. Hopefully there won’t be a whole line of people waiting to get one.

After that, there’s gay days at Six Flags, along with many other pride weekend festivities here in Dallas. I don’t know about going for the parade, but I know I will go out to the rally on Sunday. Chris has to work, so he may join in later.

Somewhere along the way I need to do laundry. Lots of laundry. That’s one thing I wish my mother still did for me.

● Lastly, I’ve come up with a name of the workplace. The Shooting Gallery. The reason is that the office building is next to a skeet range. It’s far enough off that you don’t here people shouting “pull!” but the actual rifle shots echo off the building. Luckily there are trees in between us, and a few horses. They aren’t shooting towards the building. They do shoot towards I-35E, though.
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A right-wing news site called Newsmax likes to drop in ads that they hope people will click on in order to "vote" for something. All clicking on it really does is allow them to start spamming you with a lot of bullshit email (I'm sad to say I was curious and fell for it). The emails are less entertaining than that of the AFA, when I used to be on thier list. I think the AFA kept track of how I voted in their polls and took me off the list.

Nevertheless, Newsmax usually has pics of Hillary or Obama asking "Hillary Finished?" or "Over for Obama?" I think that they are trying to get Democrat-leaning independents to come over to visit their propaganda.

The last couple of days they've features the picture below. I guess Sarah Palin is so new to the national scene it's difficult to find a good picture. Still, the picture for me looks like an advertisement for a bad sitcom.

Here's how I think the network description for the sitcom would go:

John McCain (John McCain) was having trouble keeping his business organized. When Sarah(Megan Mullally), fresh from her small Alaska town showed up at the office John thought she was sent by the temp agency. Sarah, trying to make it in the big city will do anything to help, and quickly finds herself running the office. Sarah's honest, good natured attempts to help Mr. McCain lead to comedic complications. John, finds himself attracted to her rural ways, but watch out John, this gal is packing heat!

Also starring Debbie Reynolds as Sarah's Mother, Hillary and Leslie Jordan as the closeted office queen everyone knows about, Billy, both who serve as Sarahs' foils for her good deeds. Watch the sparks fly between the mis-matched pair John and Sarah in this May-December comedy starting this fall on NBC!
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I'm probably writing this way too late, but system problems at work yesterday made the whole day a total bitch, and I never did get around to writing down my final Olympic thoughts, so here goes.

First, credit where credit is due, NBC did do a better job of showing all of the different sports this year - if you had cable; and you were willing to stay up into the wee hours. Badminton? Sure. Wrestling? Yes, a day after it happened, but yes. Where NBC used to show a more diverse lineup of sports in their latenight segment, this year they just placed it all on cable. There's still the bias of showing events that American's are in, but not as much as NBC Primetime.

NBC does a lot to protect it's affiliates, holding many of the big sports for primetime. This year was very odd because some events would be taking place live in the morning, Beijing time, and others would be held back from the night before. Of course everything was highly edited. It's odd when they are covering just a small group of competitors and suddenly you find that someone has taken a medal and was never covered.

Lets reduce the amount of beach volleyball. it's an awful sport and only serves as a way to get scantily clad women on TV. At least they aren't underage, but still. They barely show the Decathlon, the classic Olympic sport, won by an American even, but they show hours of people in the sand.

The second week of the games just fell flat, not only because the Michael Phelps show was over, but because the US wasn't doing so well in the running events (we did fine in the field events, but they don't focus on that), that NBC seemed a little bitchy about it. The games seemed to run out of steam after swimming and gymnastics were over.

Lastly, the closing ceremonies certainly didn't bring the excitement and the wonder that the opening ceremonies did. It didn't help that NBC tried to stretch out a 90 minute event into 3 hours with tons of flashbacks. The large tower just made the floor show look like the worlds largest showing of Chinese Acrobats at Six Flags. The fireworks still amaze, though.

London really came in and rattled the whole thing with the rock-and-roll double decker bus. Leona Lewis and Jimmy Page? Talk about a change in tenor at the ceremonies. They really livened up the ceremony, and then China couldn't really comeback because their pop-spectacular features government friendly songs sung by Jackie Chan and a group of people you never heard of. "Beijing, I Love You" is no "Whole Lotta Love."

For the 2012 games London should just load up the entire opening ceremonies with world-class pop acts, Annie Lennox, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Pet Shop Boys, Spice Girls, and whoever is hot at the time. Screw the thing of we have a billion people, just show that a small island has put out a ton of pop culture over the last 50 years or so and have that as your opening ceremony. Done.

Hey, note to the Republican convention guys, if you also thought the second week of the Olympics was too much, so will the second week of political stump speeches. People are already tired of presidential politics this year, and will be even more so next week when your giant American flag is up in St. Paul.

Otherwise, I am sunburned again. I can't seem to use the aerosol spray cans of sunscreen without missing some very large swaths. I have stripes right now.

Off to work, from what I hear the software problem we had yesterday still isn't fixed, so it should be quite a day.

Eating Out

Aug. 22nd, 2008 12:08 pm
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I like my in-laws. They are very accepting and supporting, but man, I’m always feeling that I have to be on point with them. Not only do I have to be a good guy, but I have to be witty and smart as well. It’s kind of intimidating.

In a way, it’s a feeling I seem to share with Chris. Having his parents around seems to make him a bit nervous and on edge as well, especially when our dog is being exceptionally needy around them.

It was a nice, if uneventful visit. They stayed at the house and generally just watched the Olympics, taking over the couch, with the dog. They also brought snacks. Lots of snacks. Personally, I try to stay away from snacks, but luckily the snacks they brought I wasn’t tempted by.

Chris and I tend to eat our meals late. Part of this is simply because of our work schedules, but we do tend to push dinner later than we should. Now add in Chris’ parents who have been snacking and don’t feel like getting off the couch, and suddenly it becomes even later. Eventually all you have is late night fast food that’s available, which is fine for them, but unlike me, they just want someone to go get it and bring it back so they can keep watching the Olympics.

Here’s a pet peeve of mine. I really don’t like takeout. If I’m going to eat out, I would rather eat it at the restaurant. This even goes for Taco Bell. I don’t like bringing bags of quickly cooling food home, and then have a mess because of it. I’d much rather have either a waitress take it away, or just be able to throw it into the nearest “Thank You” embossed bin. No muss, no fuss. If I’m going to make the drive for food, I might as well get it hot and fresh.

This includes lunch. I will often go out and someone else is at the same fast food place getting it to go. What, come back and eat over my desk? Eat in the breakroom? No thanks. I should be bringing my lunch more often to save some cash, but that’s different than if I’m going to take the trouble to go to Whataburger.

I know, you are thinking, well, here’s why he never learned to cook. He just likes to eat out. Well, sort of. I do like to eat out, but I never learned to cook because my mother decided to stop cooking when I was in jr. high. She was given a microwave for Christmas one year and that was the end of true cooking. You have never had Thanksgiving until you’ve had an all microwaved Thanksgiving.

My mother has even given up on that, though. The last few Thanksgivings I was with my folks we went out to Steak and Ale because it was one of the few places open. Why mess up her never-used kitchen? Now that Steak and Ale and Benigains are permanently closed, what are non-cooking people going to do on holidays?

Cooking is fine, and I like to eat food at home when I actually get around to doing it, but I do not like to eat my chili-cheese burrito out of the plastic bag while watching drag queens on Project Runway. It just feels white trash.

Out of frustration Chris cooked for his parents one night, which was very nice of him. Basically it was a cooked snack, rather than no-name cheese doodles. It was much better match with the millionth hour of girl’s gymnastics.

This is not to say that Chris’ generous parents didn’t take us out to eat. Oh, and also bought gifts for the two of us. I’m always a little worried about receiving gifts from the in-laws. They are always very nice, but I feel bad because my parents don’t give gifts to Chris. It’s not philosophical or political or anything, heck, my parents don’t get me gifts anymore either. I shouldn’t make a big deal if one group is more giving than the other, but I do feel more obligated that I should get them something as well. I’ll have to work on that.

Sitting with Chris’ folks over the last weekend did pretty much finish off my Olympic Fever. I’ve seen more hours of some of the silliest sports around, trampoline, equestrian, rowing. It’s all what you do when you are eating on the couch.
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Wait a minute, the Olympics are on, and McDonalds has commercials on, but where's the game? You know, the one where you pull off the tabs on the fries and drinks and they give you a sport to watch the results of?

Why am I not getting a free order of fries because the men's swimming relay team won a gold medal? What's happened McDonalds? Can we no longer afford to put out some food for those of us who are not in training? I want my McFlurry because someone won a bronze medal in trampoline!

Instead we just get those ads with McDonalds attempt to create a Chick-fil-A sandwich, and sell it on Sundays. The ads show atheletes who I'm sure would never go near something deep fried (except for the rifle-shooting guys, they don't care about fitness, they have a gun).

Oh, I know I've gotten too olympic-centric here, but i have to admit that NBC has been doing a little better in sports diversity this year - not on the prime-time broadcast, mind you, but on the cable channels. I've seen some doubles badminton and men's field hockey. Still, I think they could do better if they really embrace the internet for more than just clips and highlights. I do see that I can watch a women's team handball feed right now, so maybe there's some progress being made here. Still, it seems to be sports that none of the broadcast stations are showing. The swimming events wouldn't be on the net.

Otherwise, the weekend was dull, since I had to work Saturday. We did a big batch of nothing...well I did. Chris actually planted some flowers. Now we have to do some cleaning this week as Chris' parents are coming in next weekend.
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The Olympics have arrived. Get ready for one of the biggest expenditures of cash around, and I don't necessarily mean the Chinese. NBC will be spending millions to bring you the games while probably suffering a further viewership decline.

One reason is that the games don't seem to have the same gravitas they did during the cold war era. Rather than hurling bombs, the battle between east and West was truly played out in the pool, or on the track. Now world conflict is so spread and sporadic, the games suffer from a lack of black and white, even while coming into your homes in living color.

NBC is in a particular quandary this year as they want to exploit the political tension of having the games in China, returning politics to their coverage of the games. Unfortunately they are in China as a guest of the government and have to play somewhat nice as all their resources are at stake. We've already had trouble with painting the Chinese as enemies despite the fact we bristle at thier human rights violations and crack downs of information, but we find it had to see communists in the old sense, of have total contempt for a country that manufactures a great deal of what's on the shelves at Wal-Mart.

Frankly, NBC's coverage suffers from three problems, packaging, timeliness, and focus.

As I type, there are many accounts of the Opening Ceremonies being written, and even we won't see for hours on US television. I'm sure thought, If I wanted to, I can find it on the internet being played on some other network in the world. What's great about the internet is that we don't necessarily have to have the constraints of our local, authorized provider, but we do end up having to watch in Italian, of Finnish.

During the last Winter Olympics, some footage I saw coming out of the CBC was more complete than the NBC coverage, wasn't so "mostly American" centric, and showed sports that NBC thought had no interest to US viewers.

Personally, I think I may do some digging to find more Archery, Weightlifting, Wrestling and Team Handball. The latter never gets coverage, because the sport has never been properly explained to Americans. It's not that it's full of hotties, but it's interesting and different, and something you don't see between showings of "World Series of Poker" on our local sports networks. One of the biggest problems with NBC's coverage is they don't use the opportunity to show interesting sports that don't get airtime. They continue to feed us hours of women's gymnastics (or as I like to say, NBC's tribute to pedophilia) and leave field hockey fans to try to catch a few moments on the 3 AM telecast on CNBC.

Trampoline fans, you many get some coverage during one of those late night oddity segments, oh, but for ratings the BMX competition will be shown because we know that 18-25 demographic loves their X-Games.

I get nostalgic for Jim McKay and the ABC coverage of the games back in the 70's. Sure, the times were clearly different, and ABC initiated the "Up Close and Personal" coverage of the games, but they still showed it as a sports competition, not entertainment, editing and presenting the games in ways they don't even happen. NBC takes advantage of the time difference to change the order of competitors, place strategic commercials, and overall try to heighten the drama just as much as any reality TV show does today. It comes of fake and over worked, like Joan Rivers' face.

I still loved the NBC Olympics Triplecast from Barcelona in 1992. NBC created three pay-per-view channels that just showed feeds from different events. Here's hours of equestrian, here's the entire table tennis matches, and what I was kept glued to, hours of wrestling coverage. Hello Bruce Baumgartner! The effort was a failure then, and my family was refunded it's money for the event because we were one of two families who actually ordered the thing in our town.

Still, NBC could do the triplecast now because it owns so many cable networks, but they don't, cutting from sport to sport never giving the full coverage even on early morning coverage on channels you never knew you had. You don't need to change sports after every commercial break. We can change the channel now!

It's not that I won't watch the Olympics this year, I still like to watch the Opening and Closing ceremonies (the closest thing to Cirque de Solei that i'll watch), but you have to admit that the events are greatly enhanced by Tivo.

I'll also be watching for LJ bear approved Hotties Christian Cantwell (Shot put) and Casey Burgener (weightlifting) and previous year weightlifter and current broadcaster Shane Hamman, and looking for who is the new hot wrestler.

Really, I'm not so American-centric that i can't root for a hot Turkish weightlifter of a Swedish javelin thrower or a Spanish archer. I just have to be able to find them, and NBC does such a poor job of showing anything besides Americans in sports that aren't Gymnastics, Swimming, Beach Volleyball (women in bikinis, men can't go shirtless? What's up with that?) and Basketball. Oh and running, no Field, where the hotties are, only Track.

Just finding when something is on is a sport in itself. Personally, if someone knows where the best internet feeds are, please let me know.

EDIT: Well hot redhead Casey is not going to compete (story HERE), so now I have to find a new hottie. Damn.

Another Day

Aug. 4th, 2008 09:00 am
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The last weekend just confirmed that my 40's are here to stay.

41 seems to be such a non-event, and after the excitement of my vacation not so long ago, there really wasn't much to be done for my birthday. Although it's always nice to be acknowledged, I really didn't want to make a big effort or make a fuss.

Chris and I went out to Dave and Busters for a while and played some games. Chris finally got enough coupons to pick up Guitar Hero III for the PS3. I'm not sure how long he had been hanging on to all of those points. We came home and he played the game for a while while I napped. It truly was that exciting of a day.

Chris did cook for me last night. Note that this takes some measure of effort because I won't eat just anything. I'm super picky. Most of the recipes that Chris wants to cook he'd just be cooking for himself. I can only cook hamburger helper and mac and cheese, so I'm not much of a help as he's trying to eat healthier and trying to not eat out as much.

On Saturday we went to two pool parties. One was in the middle of the day, and I think it was a miracle that we didn't have a bunch of dehydrated men after the 105 degree heat and a lot of alcohol. It wasn't a party where I felt particularly comfortable as I think you needed a Big Muscle Bears Profile to get in. Normally those guys won't talk to me, and I make myself look more unapproachable as I sit silently amongst the crowd, with my shirt on. There were a lot of skimpy swimsuits, and plenty of good looking fur to watch, but I get ignored by most of the people. There were a few people I talked to here and there, so not a total loss. The hosts, however are very nice, and really put out quite the effort for these folks.

The evening's pool party was much more relaxed, thought the earlier party had me kind of closed in and anti-social. Still the people were friendlier and I actually did get into the pool this time. It made for a better evening.

My parents called me to wish me a happy birthday last night and my father and I got in an argument about politics. As much as my father tries to deny it, he'd just pushing the talking points he hears on talk radio: "We have plenty of oil if we'd just be allowed to drill it", "Alternative energy is dangerous and unreliable", oh, and my favorite "Obama is a communist" Really? A communist? I know you lived through the cold war, but I don't think you even know the meaning of the word anymore! Socialist, maybe, but not communist. I try to counter that the current administration is corrupt and a house cleaning is needed, but that doesn't seem to catch on. I said we needed to agree to disagree, and get off the subject.

So that's the excitement. Another birthday come and gone. Quiet and unassuming. For those who sent your wishes, thank you very much. I look forward to next year as I should be learning the secret to life, the universe and everything, right?


Aug. 1st, 2008 09:12 am
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As we are wont to do on Thursday nights, Chris and I went over to BW3 and has the boneless wings and played trivia.

Well, the people over at Buzztime/NTN have changed up the trivia format.

I like some of the changes, having a 10 question game in fifteen minutes means a faster pace and more questions per half hour than the old 30 minute game, but what if you have to go pee? It's also all "Wipeout" now, as in it's formated like an older game where the possible answers are displayed, and one by one they remove the wrong ones until one remains. They no longer have the game where all the answers remain on the screen and clues are given. I suppose they had to let the clue writer go.

I'm a big enough geek to have signed up for the Players Plus points. Generally it's nothing, just an acknowledgement that you've been playing for a while. Because I signed up I won a set of pint glasses for winning a "premium" game several years ago. Last night I saw nothing that said I was a points member or that I was even earning any points for playing, so why even sign in?

Speaking of that, the monthly leaderboard was gone. It's always fun to come back in later in the month and still see that you have one of the top scores, but now there's no such incentive.

Also, the game used to have five possible answers, now it only has four. I suppose that makes it easier for some, but I kept pressing five on the controlbox as I was trying to put in for the last answer on the list. I'm sure I'll get used to that, but still. The other thing is they changed to a new font, likely a smaller font to go with their new snazzy graphics, and now it's harder to read from across the restaurant. What were they thinking?

I guess that Buzztime/NTN is trying to attract new players to the game, but from what I'm already hearing the older players are not liking the changes. I've been playing pretty regularly for the past 15 years, so I guess I'm just set in my ways. Still, I know with the new format, I won't be staying and playing as long because the games are shorter. It's easer to leave at the 15 or 45 minute mark where they used to keep me captivated for a full 30 minutes.

We'll see what tweaks they make for the new format, but after the first night of it, I'm not too thrilled.
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I'm having a blast here in New York City. There's still so much to see, and I think I'm getting to the point where I'll need to take things off the list to see. This is why Chris didn't want to come, he knows I get obsessed about running all over town seeing everything I can. My legs are getting a great workout, though. My legs are sore every night from walking.

I have only to go to Brooklyn today to have visited all five boroughs.

My sister, Laura joined me yesterday, and we saw the Mets game, and walked over to the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows park. The Unisphere is the huge steel globe that was the center piece for the 1964 world's fair. I know many people would know if from the movie Men in Black, but I know it's the cover of the B-52's greatest hits album.

We saw Xanadu on Broadway last night. Man it was great. I laughed the entire time, and they even acknowledge in the show that their target audience is gay men in their 40's. It was a perfect send up of everything that didn't make sense in the movie, and still uses the movie music you are familiar with. I thought it was fun that two of the muses are guys, but yet still "sisters". They are the two best dancers, too. There was a cute cubbie usher who gave us our glowsticks for the finale.

After having a great Italian meal, we tied to see if we could make a late trip to the Top of the Rock, the observation deck on 30 Rock. We were a little late, but we were wondering why there was a crowd of screaming girls out at midnight in Rockefeller center. We asked an NBC hand who was helping set up for the Friday morning concert for the Today show and he said the girls were waiting for Miley Cyrus (aka Hanna Montana). He said some of them were camped out from the night before. He also said they were closing more streets than they had for any other artist. We were happy to get out of the area.

I find that I can't quite walk as fast as most of the locals, but I can outpace the tourists, and they annoy me! If you want to gawk at the sights, move over and let us get through! I find I'm already getting to be a local!
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If you went back 20 years and told my younger self that I would have spent last night at a concert featuring Cyndi Lauper, The B-52's and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, my younger self would have probably wondered what you were smoking. I would have also thought, wait, aren't most of those performer's in their late 50's and early 60's? What are they doing trying to do a rock tour?

Now if you also included that they were also doing a tour supporting gay rights, well then I probably would have told you that you were crazy.

Still, Chris and I had a wonderful time at the True Colors Tour, which for Dallas was pretty much our Pride event since the actual "freedom parade" isn't until September. It's nice that you can go to a concert, listen to Cyndi sing "All Through The Night", and hug your loved one and not feel like someone is going to get upset. Or worse.

We caught up with Mike ([livejournal.com profile] starzcub) there, and met Tom and Jeff ([livejournal.com profile] tomebear and [livejournal.com profile] cuddlcub) who were in town for the weekend from Kansas. It was really nice to meet the two of them. There were others who seemed to be peppered out on the lawn.

Of course if I could go back twenty years I'd sure have a lot to say to my younger self.

Before going out to the concert, we went to the home of one of Chris' friends. He's a doctor and has a very nice home in Oak Cliff. I told Chris if we want to live in a home like this (which we certainly do) we will need to play the lottery more often.

We also went out with some friends on Friday and saw Kung Fu Panda again. It was a lot of fun. Probably one of the best non-Pixar animated movies to come out. We headed out to the Eagle for a bit, but the whole scene was pretty boring. I guess I'm not all that interested in getting drunk and standing around.

Also this weekend, George Carlin died. It's really too bad. He was one of the funnies guys around. He may not seem controversial now, but his fame was stunted by the fact that he took risks, a lot of them, and mainstream broadcasting couldn't put up with that. Still, he deserves the Mark Twain Prize, more than several who've already received it, and I hope they do well in paying tribute to him when they do have the presentation in November.
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It's 71 degrees and the coolest it's been in a couple of weeks. Ahh Texas summers.

Here's a few upcoming things that aren't, thankfully, work related.

★Chris and I will be attending the True Colors Tour on Sunday the 22nd at the rechristened Starplex (or Smirnoff, if you know that name). It's now the Superpages.Com Amphitheater. Apparently naming rights are feeling the economic downturn as well.

We didn't attend last year's show, but seeing the B-52's and having $10 tickets (with an $8 convenience charge, thanks ticketmaster) made it more attractive this year.

★In September we'll be going back to the Austin City Limits Festival. It's a really good lineup this year, and it's two weeks later than in the past, so hopefully it won't be 108 degrees like it's been in the past. they actually have the schedule out - early this year, so now I know when I'll see Nakia ([livejournal.com profile] atxchubbylimits) with his full band.

I hope some other guys will come down to Austin as well. It's always fun to enjoy the event with friends. If you're thinking about coming now is the time to get tickets and plane fare!

★Lastly, I'll be going to New York City for the first time towards the end of July. in my quest to see the major league ballparks I have to see Yankee and Shea stadiums before they are torn down at the end of the year, so I found a week where they both had day games.

I won't be there for the full wee, as I will be visiting my sister in Baltimore again. I'm actually flying to Baltimore, will take the train up to NYC, and then go back to fly home from Baltimore. Strange, but we'll see how it goes. Who knows, maybe I can work it out to spend an evening on the Jersey shore as well.

I know very little about New York City, so any ideas are welcomed. I think my sister will be joining me for a couple of days as well, so maybe we'll see if we can get tickets for Avenue Q or Xanadu.

So if you only have a few days in New York City, what do you do? Any suggestions?
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I helped the Zeus boys out for CAPE! today. CAPE! is a Free Comic Book Day event, and there are several artists and writers signing and meeting fans. It was actually chilly in my shorts and T-shirt as we got started. Otherwise it's been a lovely day and I think CAPE! is going quite well. There was a lot of help this morning, which I'm sure Richard ([livejournal.com profile] dedagda) was grateful for after his recent injury.

After my shift was over, I ran around the tents, probably spending more time looking at the artists and writers who are cute because I rarely remember who writes or draws the comics I read. There were a lot of cute ones this year. Chris did a good job of getting pics of them.

There were a lot of good looking customers, too!

I've never seen so many Iron Man T-shirts in one place. The movie's barely been out and everyone is already spending their economic stimulus checks on merchandise.

In the end, I'm dog tired as I realized I haven't done that much physical labor in a while, especially standing for a long period, even though it was on grass this year. I don't have the standing stamina I did when I worked retail many years ago.

The other problem is that I forgot sunscreen, and although it doesn't make that much of a difference, there wasn't a cloud in the sky at the park. The farmer's tan look will be out in full force when I peel off the upper layer of my skin in a few days. I looked around, and there's no aloe vera in the house. Damn!

Joey's looking at me and thinking of cracklin' pork rinds, I'm sure.

Here's a picture of Josh at CAPE! You can see it was a highly sun-tacular event.
Josh at CAPE!
A few more pics will be on flickr shortly.


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