Thursday, November 29, 2007

No Time for Love, Dr. Jones!

A little pressed for time today so I'll point you to Castle Forrester, where you can listen to such great tunes as "If Chauffeurs Ruled the World" and "The Janitor Song". Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Excuse Me for Being Male for a Moment

Whatever fashion guru decided that go-go boots should make their comeback really needs to be commended on the highest order. No, I'm not a creepy foot guy but it's kind of cool riding on the subway with women who could double as extras in a Bond film.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Exterminez-vous! Part Six - Le Sixieme Docteur (The Sixth Doctor)


When last we left off, the Fifth Doctor had faced off against not one, but two different Dalek plots by factions led by a thawed-out Davros and the Dalek Supreme. We now come to the Sixth Doctor, played by Colin Baker (pictured left—again, no relation to Tom).

I'm not really a fan of the Sixth Doctor. His outfit is as disjointed as the Doctor's personality, and the stories aren't so great in my not-so humble opinion. However, Siskoid says that the original audio adventures featuring the Sixth Doctor are pretty darn cool so I'll have to give them a try someday.

Like the Fifth Doctor, the Sixth Doctor faced off against the Daleks just once. The story was the two-part Revelation of the Daleks and again featured different factions of Daleks as well as an interstellar hitman and an alien DJ (I swear I'm not making this up).

The Doctor and his companion Peri Brown (played by uber hottie Nicola Bryant, pictured right) visit the planet Necros to pay their respects to a deceased scientist when the Doctor is attacked by some mutant claiming that it's all the Great Healer's fault. Well, we find out that the Great Healer is the disembodied head of Davros and he's trying to turn people into Daleks. Eventually, the some Daleks from the home planet of Skaro get wind of what's going on and capture Davros so he can be executed for tainting the Dalek race. Allegedly, the space mercenary manages to destroy the Daleks' ship—ending the Dalek threat...

I'm not entirely certain of the politics involved at the BBC at this point, but whatever they were, they were responsible for the Sixth Doctor's rather lackluster exit. The TARDIS was attacked by a renegade Tim Lord known as the Rani who appeared to have caused the Doctor to regenerate, leaving his companion Melanie more or less okay. I'm not even going to attempt to rationalize it, so there it sits for the more accomplished Whovian to dissect. After two seasons, Colin Baker's version of the Doctor gave way to Sylvester McCoy (pictured left)—the man who would nurse the series along until the end of its original television run.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

One Step Beyond or De Channels Lewis Black

Since I agreed to fry a turkey for my mother this weekend (she does the traditional Thanksgiving stuff on the weekend in lieu of Thursday), I needed supplies. This year, I thought I'd increase the safety factor a bit and use an infrared thermometer. While I would have loved to hit the local Sur La Table or Crate & Barrel, there are none of those crazy froo-froo establishments in the confines of Manassas. So, I was left with Bed Bath and Beyond.

Past experience has taught me that shopping at Bed Bath and Beyond usually nets me what I'm looking for. However, you would have thought I'd asked for the Ark of the Covenant on today's trip. $500 chef knives are only a glass case away but asking for a $100 thermometer is like asking if you can piss on the comforters. Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick.

So no, I did not obtain an infrared thermometer today. It appears I'll have to order such a new-fangled gadget from them thar Interwebs.

Thankfully, I managed to get the turkey fried without too much trouble - no thanks to Bed Bath and friggin' Beyond.

Fried Turkey Time!


Using Alton Brown's Turkey Derrick, I avoid both death and dismemberment.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Read It - Learn It - Live It


Pretty self-explanatory but you still have to spell it out for some folks.

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Oh Thank You for Teaching Me How to Shop

The legend that is Allyn Gibson posted about buying video games from stores like GameStop and linked to this article at the Consumerist purportedly written by one of their managers. The 28-point list reads as both a desperate defense of questionable policies and a training manual for the general public when shopping in their venues. Unfortunately, I recognized several of these policies' striking similarities to when I worked for Suncoast back in the day (2001-2003).

The biggest topic I could relate to was about reserves. This was standard practice before I was employed by Suncoast and I don't think it's an inherently bad idea—in concept. We were always pushed by corporate to nab as many reserves as humanly possible. However, we were often restricted to a corporate-generated list which, of course, was full of all the "hot, new" releases i.e., blockbusters and anime. If someone wanted something not on that list, like a Criterion Collection disc that was planned for release two or three months from now, it was virtually impossible to do unless some kind soul at Corporate HQ had entered the inventory info into the database. If you consider the amount of advertising the studios bought from Suncoast (in the form of sales fliers, those stupid things around the employees' necks, ad posters, etc.), it doesn't take a genius to see who gets priority. So we ended up losing customers coming to a movie specialty store because of our inability to pre-order a movie. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it? Oh, and if your reserves didn't meet a given quota, the manager had the power to file a written warning in your employee file whether or not you excelled in other areas like selling (more on that later).

Another item that really bugged me in that article was that reserves are what determined the allocations of various titles to individual stores. Don't get me wrong, automated inventory can be a good thing but it doesn't account for common sense and essentially takes that power away from store managers that should know their clientèle a bit better than a database administrator in the corporate ivory tower. The practice on relying solely on automated inventory essentially relegates store managers to being referees and secretaries. My managers at Suncoast did their level best to bypass the automated system as much as possible, but it was often a case of too little, too late.

Thankfully, our store never went the route of selling used DVDs while I worked there, but we did have the Replay loyalty card that gave you store credit after purchasing a set amount (I think it was $5 after every $100 spent). Every employee had to push this card or offer a renewal in the event someone already had one. For the regulars who would come into our store, this was good thing. However, for the customer who only came in maybe twice a year (if that), then this wouldn't work for them despite blowing a wad of cash at one time. In addition, every employee had to offer "trial" subscriptions of Entertainment Weekly, one of the most useless magazines ever printed, to anyone using a credit/debit card. And I say "trial," since the hope was you'd forget about having to pay for a subscription after the six free issues because you'd continue to receive the stupid magazine and it was a pain in the ass to cancel it. No, that's not underhanded at all.

Hitting up the customer for more stuff at the register is where I went awry of corporate's idea of a model employee. When it was busy around the holidays, I knew people wanted to get in and get out with the least amount of hassle so I often did not ask them if they wanted a loyalty card or "trial" subscription to a stupid magazine. My product knowledge was fairly substantial and I used it to sell movies, and lots of them. If someone came in wanting a particular title and we had it, chances are I could get that someone to walk out with that movie and something else without it feeling like a hassle. This is what sales personnel do. However, I was let go because I didn't bring in enough bacon (i.e., the extra crap) during the one day a week I was working at the time. Despite the often-complimented customer service, it evidently wasn't enough. I harbor no animosity toward the manager, but toward the stupid corporate policies designed to reward the wrong (in my eyes) priorities.

Lastly, the article ends with other "tips" helpful to keep in mind when shopping at GameStop. This is beyond ludicrous. A store should shape its policies to serve the customer first, not shape the customer to its policies. I fully realize that many customers are outright dicks but making it ever more difficult to buy stuff isn't the answer either especially when there are plenty of other venues for one to pick up this stuff—ones that aren't so specialized.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

El Turkerino

Well, I manage to miss the turkey pre-carving so no pics after all. Hope everyone had a semi-decent holiday at the very least.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Turkey Fact #12

"Turkeys contain enough L-tryptophan to knock you on your Thanksgiving ass."
-- Crow T. Robot
Tomorrow's the day folks. Since I helped out with your food preparation needs yesterday, I thought I'd suggest some post-dinner activities. I don't tend to watch sports on TV, especially not NFL football's four-hour commercial blocks punctuated by occasional game play. Instead, I like to turn to the shiny little platters of goodness whose siren songs convince me to spend more and money on them: DVDs. And what better sequel to a meal of turkey is there than watching "turkeys"?

Here are a few gems (a term I use very lightly) you might enjoy falling asleep to when that good ol' turkey magic kicks into high gear:
  • Tim Burton's adaptation of Planet of the Apes—Not a totally awful movie, but not very good either. Plenty of idiocy to laugh at and hopefully you'll fall asleep before the "WTF" ending.
  • Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace—Sorry my fellow fans, this film pretty much blows goats. Aside from a few cool scenes, this serves as the perfect time waster. You won't miss a thing in your turkey-induced stupor.
  • Dungeons & Dragons—Imagine the worst RPG group you ever played with and then imagine them making a movie. Not even seeing Zoe McLellan trussed up in Ren Faire garb could keep me awake through this film and that's without the benefit of a turkey dinner.
So there you go. I don't plan on posting tomorrow save for some pics so a big happy Thanksgiving to all of you. Thanks for reading the blog and helping me steer clear of the voices that tell me to set fires. We'll be back on Friday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'm such a lush


What can I say? I'm a sucker for sodas with real sugar in them.

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Turkey for You, Turkey for Me

Since we're all of two days away from the yearly gorgefest known as Thanksgiving, I thought some helpful holiday turkey hints would be appropriate. If you're having ham, I can't help you. If you're having turducken, please tell me you live locally so I can try some.
  • Brine your turkey
If you're having turkey, brine it overnight using this brine recipe or any other brine recipe that catches your fancy. The brining process adds flavor before roasting or frying, making a better-tasting bird.
  • If roasting in an oven, use a roasting pan
I cannot stress this enough. How many times have you been eager to dive into some turkey goodness only to find the breast meat (and just about every other part too) is a huge hunk of turkey jerky? Moisture evaporates in the cooking process, so you need some way to keep as much moisture as possible from escaping. Enter the roasting pan. Make sure it has a cover or else this exercise will have been for naught. If you dig an especially juicy bird, use a roasting bag (available next to the aluminum foil) along with your roasting pan and be prepared for turkey you can cut with a fork.
  • If frying, don't be a moron
Every year you hear about some doofus who managed to flash fry himself or burn his house down. Don't be that doofus.

Invest in some safe equipment, despite the allure of that $60 kit stacked to the rafters at your local store. That kit is $60 for a reason—it's designed cheaply so it can ship cheaply and sell (reasonably) cheaply. Your life isn't cheap. See where you have to screw on the legs? As Adam Savage would say, "There's your problem!" Imagine a partially-stripped screw being included in the kit and it doesn't take a genius to think about four gallons of 200+ degree peanut oil potentially throwing your holiday into the crapper.

The legend that is Alton Brown has assembled a set of directions to make the turkey-frying process safer (it's in PDF format so you'll need Acrobat Reader to view it). Read it, learn it, know it, and then read it again.

Okay, enough with the culinary preaching. Just remember that all it takes is a little preparation to have this:

Monday, November 19, 2007

Updates of Sorts

There's not an awful lot going on. With the holidays fastly approaching, it's been fairly slow at work and most of the spare time has been used to help ready the house for visitors. Over the weekend, I did pick up a few DVDs but that's been about the extent of excitement around here (though "Time Crash" helped).

Speaking of DVDs, Deep Discount is doing their 20%-off sale again. Use SUPERSALE as your coupon and save a bit of cash. It does help a bit when shopping for the holidays. I wish I could have picked up some of the more expensive box sets this time around (I'm looking at you, Space: 1999) but with the federal government not having passed a budget yet, my freelance proposal work has pretty much dried up whereas I was working 12-hour days this time last year and making some pretty good cash. However, I am pleased to even be moderately employed at the moment.

Okay, I'm heading out to have dinner with a friend and don't plan to return before bedtime. So until tomorrow, True Believers... Excelsior!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

"You were my Doctor."

The Children in Need special aired in the UK yesterday and featured an eight-minute Doctor Who short titled "Time Crash". I'll let this picture explain why it was so cool:

Check it out here and be prepared to have a smile on your face by the end.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Because I'm 12

Over at Dave's Long Box, Dave pontificates what is quite possibly the most important question of our time.

The WOMEN!!

This past Tuesday, Em, my friend Kristen, and I joined the local Star Trek Meetup group for the screening of "The Menagerie" at the Regal Countryside 20 in lovely Sterling, Virginia.

The episodes were preceded by an introduction by Eugene Roddenberry, Jr., which then morphed into a behind-the-scenes featurette on the restoration, the new optical effects, and the re-scoring of Alexander Courage's famous theme. After a commercial for the HD-DVD Season 1 set, the story started in beautiful HD. It was truly gorgeous to see such detail on a screen so huge.

The audience was pretty much made up of old-school Trek fans (I will never use the term "Trekkie") though there were some younger folks, which was nice to see. As far as theater outings go, this was one of the best as no one talked throughout the show. Thankfully, there weren't any overzealous fans in ill-fitting uniforms to be found at all and only a few Comic Book Guys. In fact. the only piece of Trek apparel I saw was a lapel pin on some skinny guy who was apparently allergic to razors.

Sure, $13.50 is somewhat exorbitant for a movie ticket, but was the expense worth it? BEEP.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Exterminez-vous! Part Cinq - Le Cinquieme Docteur (The Fifth Doctor)


Back in May, I left off my series of the Doctor's history with the Daleks with Tom Baker, the fourth incarnation of the Doctor. I have a bit of time today, so let's take a look at Peter Davison (pictured right) and how he tangled with Terry Nation's nefarious cyborgs.

When I first discovered Doctor Who in college, it was the pinball game that tipped me off to how cool the television series could be. Peter Davison was the first Doctor I watched on TV in the story arc, "Arc of Infinity." I would check in from time to time with the series but never watched it regularly until Chris Eccleston ushered in the new age of Who. However, Davison's portrayal has stuck with me all these years.

So how did the Fifth Doctor fare against the Daleks? Well, he only encountered them once in his final year (Season 21)—in the four-part story arc Resurrection of the Daleks.

In this story, the TARDIS is dragged to 1984 Earth due to "turbulence" in a time corridor. The Doctor and his companions, the ever shrill Tegan and schoolboy Turlough, end up in (where else) London. There they attempt to investigate the time corridor only to eventually end up face-to-eye stalk with a Dalek that they disable with machine gun fire and push out a window (I kid you not). The Doctor takes the TARDIS to the other end of the time corridor only to land on a Dalek ship and be captured.

The devious plan (devised by the Dalek Supreme) here is to clone the Doctor and his companions and have them kill the Time Lord Council (and at some point, invade the Earth). However, a convenient change of heart by a human Dalek agent and infighting between a recently unfrozen Davros and the Dalek Supreme pretty much puts the kibosh on that, especially when Davros's germ warfare scheme backfires, seemingly killing him along with most of the other Daleks. The Dalek Supreme has already placed human duplicates all over Earth but the Doctor doesn't seem to think the plan will get very far and doesn't do anything about it. The human Dalek agent from before wipes out the Dalek forces, which horrifies Tegan. She decides to leave the Doctor, sparing him from the shrill cries of "Doctor!!" forever.

The Fifth Doctor met his end as a result of fatal chemical exposure while preventing a war. After three seasons and the cool anniversary special, The Five Doctors, Peter Davison passed things on to Colin Baker (pictured right, no relation to Tom) and his doofy umbrella.

Umm... okay?


This wonderfully hand-crafted sign was found during the mistake that was eating at Golden Corral.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Shootout at the Golden Corral

Sorry for the absence folks. I typically haven't been updating on the weekends anyway, but some major pain in my legs kept me off my feet Monday and Tuesday and I wasn't in the mood for blogging. But enough of that stuff...

After having worked a bit late tonight, I took the family to the local Borders where I had hoped to find some films by Henri-Georges Clouzot but came up empty-handed. I did attempt to order them with the help of the lovely sales associate so we'll see what happens.

Food was next on the agenda so we decided to try the local Golden Corral. The restaurant has been around for at least as long as Em and I have been married, but we've always decided against eating there due to our disdain for buffet restaurants and the eat, eat, eat mentality they typically engender. We really should have trusted our instincts because Golden Corral blows big time.

You can get steak cooked to order, which isn't too bad. However, the rest of the items on the hot bar are pretty lame. It's pretty much like elementary school cafeteria food only topped with a buttload of cholesterol. Wednesday was "Fajita Night" (lucky us) so I partook of a fajita that required me to go to the opposite end of the hot bar to spoon on some pretty weak salsa atop my dessicated flank steak. After I finished my meat, I decided I'd better eat a salad. The salad bar was pretty embarrassing. Sure, they had greens in addition to iceberg lettuce but there was certainly a dearth of vegetables. I settled for a couple of red onions and some broccoli, but could not find any dressing that didn't appear to clog arteries so I went without.

Golden Corral is one of the few places in Northern Virginia where I've been able to order sweet tea (a Southern staple, which is just awesome and has less sugar than soda) but that alone cannot atone for the quality of the food. If I were Tom Sietsema, I'd give the Golden Corral one star and that's for the iced tea.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sell Out

Okay, I went ahead and did it. Over on the left, in the Currently Reading section, you'll find an Amazon link to the book that I'm currently immersed in when I'm not doing things like working or sleeping. My primary purpose was to have a semi-decent graphic of the book cover as scrounging around for pictures that fit the box was becoming a tad labor-intensive.

And yes, I do receive a small referral fee if you use the link to buy stuff. Frankly, I really don't care if you buy stuff through the link or not. I'm just too lazy to look for and edit pics.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Writers Strike

The ever-eloquent Mark Evanier writes about the strike situation in a number of blog entries and explains it way better than I ever could. I highly recommend you check it out if you're even remotely interested in what's going on.

I am, however, getting really sick of how the mainstream media is presenting the writers as the villains why you won't see new episodes of Letterman or how they're disrupting location shoots of Desperate Housewives. Compared to the eight-figure salaries many a producer is making, the writers asked for a very small increase (8 cents per DVD—up from 4 cents—and a small percentage of Internet and future media sales). Heck, the Writers Guild dropped the DVD issue and the producers still told them to get bent.

So walk on Writers Guild. You more than deserve what you're asking for and shame on the producers for making things get to this point.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Mmm... Crunchy


Yeah, I think I agree with the insurance company's assessment. Goodbye old friend.

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Monday, November 5, 2007

The Week Ends, the Week Begins

Once again, I tour the week that was with regard to a smattering of subjects. Come along... if you dare...

DVDs

I'm about halfway through the first disc of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, Volume One and the review so far is mixed at best. The film My First Adventure starts with the first half of the first episode of the TV series with eight-year old Indy first meeting his tutor Miss Seymour and beginning his travels as part of his father's world lecture tour. This is then followed by an installment filmed later, featuring an older Corey Carrier as Indy, despite it alleging to take place immediately after the first part. When the series premiered on ABC back in 1992, the two-hour film opening the series had the eight-year old Indy set up the mystery with the older 16-year old Indy solving it. Now, the second half of the mystery takes place in another film (Spring Break Adventure). I guess I wouldn't have a problem with it so much if the second half didn't end so abruptly (it literally just goes away without any mention of it whatsoever in the second half). Sure, the production values are awesome and you do get a sense of being there but the film as it exists on the disc is way too uneven to be taken seriously.

While the film isn't any great shakes, the documentaries I've watched so far are pretty damn cool. The first doc, Archaeology: Unearthing Our Past is a very good overview of the science of archaeology and why it matters to find stuff buried under tons of dirt. It took me a minute to piece together that the Kent Weeks featured in the documentary is the same guy who found the lost tomb of Rameses II in 1995, which was one of the most significant finds of the last century second only to Howard Carter's 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb (now immortalized by Steve Martin's nutty song and dance number). I thought it was cool...

The other docs on the to-watch list deal with Howard Carter, T.E. Lawrence, and the peculiar institution of slavery. If they're produced with the same quality as the first doc then these are going to be awesome.

Books

I'm about two-thirds of the way through Don't Eat This Book: Fast Food and the Supersizing of America. I appreciate Morgan Spurlock's conversational style as he attempts to prove his thesis about Big Food being as big a problem as Big Tobacco. However, his points would be better served with some kind of footnotes or end notes in order to keep his critics at bay.

Other Stuff

I just finished talking to my insurance agent about my dear, departed 2004 Kia Rio. My car loan is paid off and there's a little bit left over that will serve as a decent down payment on the next vehicle that dares to serve as my commuting chariot. Tomorrow morning's plans are to bid my totaled vehicle a tearful farewell and take my assorted stuff out of it—namely my DJ equipment, a couple of suit jackets, and the plethora of CDs that need to be transferred to the iPod.

Friday's Morrissey concert was okay. I was surprised by how many old favorites he sang. The encore of "How Soon is Now" was beyond awesome!! The band used a giant drum and a gi-normous gong as accompaniment, which planted the seed in my mind that the Blue Man Group really needs to cover this song (BMG's cover of "Baba O'Riley" is a good example of how they could cover it).

However, the balcony seats of Constitution Hall are pretty damn small. Clowns in Volkswagens would laugh at these seats. The uncomfortable positioning, combined with the remnants of the traffic accident, made it sheer hell to sit through two hours of concert. Oh yeah, I'm officially old now as the music was (I'm so going to get it now) too loud. The Smiths and Morrissey were never the type of musical groups I would play very loudly to begin with (not even "How Soon is Now"), so it was a bit jarring. The pain combined with the killer headache essentially put the kibosh on Saturday, when I was supposed to hang out with the legend that is Smacky. I'm definitely not 25 anymore.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Farewell Sweet ThinkPad

It was inevitable, but I still type this with a hint of sadness. My trusty IBM ThinkPad laptop is no longer able to be my constant companion. The screen has decided that it no longer needs to remain operating while I'm using it thus, it had to have its core memory dumped at Anchorhead and be put on the south ridge by midday.

So, I'm typing this on my brand new Compaq Presario. Unfortunately, it's running Windows Vista -- also known as Microsoft's lame-ass attempt at the Mac OS. But... trying to uninstall and re-image this thing would be more time-consuming than its worth, so Vista it is.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Live at the Morrissey concert!


Stop me if you've heard this one before ;)

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This Charming Man


Heading out tonight to see the legend that is Morrissey at Constitution Hall. Though I wish he would get over his feud with Johnny Marr, I'm just happy to finally see one of my favorite musicians live in concert.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

DEEP HURTING!

Smacky mentioned in one of the comments links that Joel Hodgson had formed Cinematic Titanic—his homage to good ol' Mystery Science Theater 3000. Clicking the link, Joel promises cool stuff in store and you can subscribe to the newsletter (I did, but you don't necessarily have to—or do you?). Never in a million years did I think we'd see so much MST3K even if most of these projects aren't calling themselves MST3K (except for Jim Mallon's thing).

Speaking of the show that just won't die, I found an entire blog devoted to the greatness that is the Satellite of Love that calls itself Deep Ape. That title just sounds so wrong yet I can't help but keep looking.

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