But what do I know? I'm just a twice clicken brown shirt teabaggin tjroll. Right? --PatP

Not now. There are dirty, swaying men at my door. They’re looking for Brian. I need to go deal with that. --Thor

If Joss Wedon was near me, I'd of kicked his ass. --PaulC

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Elementary, my dear Cthulhu

Statue of Sherlock Holmes in Edinburgh

Image via Wikipedia

The title of this post is intentionally mis-leading. The recently-released Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law is not a faptastic romp down miskatonic lane. That’s what I was worried about when I saw the trailers. That, and that they were going to turn our beloved Holmes into a worldly, playful, man-about-town, bereft of any sense of dignity, who just happens to be the world’s only consulting detective.

All of my fears were needless. Holmes is brilliantly portrayed by the increasingly-impressive Robert Downey Jr, who must have spent many hours watching countless episodes of Jeremy Brett’s portrayal of the same character. That being said, this is not simply Robert Downey Jr channeling Jeremy Brett. While he certainly took some cues from the old man (dry wit, an air of detached amusement concerning the human race in general), he also brought his own unique touch to the role (indignant refusal to wipe away the wine thrown in his face).

The characterization of Holmes, both by writer and actor, are, in short, brilliant. In long: This particular adventure could easily have been written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It lacks none of his subtle attention to nuance and character, and the plot and themes are typical of his style. I don’t know what to say, other than “fear not. This is Sherlock Holmes.”

At the beginning of the film, everything felt so familiar that I kept trying to figure out what actual Holmes adventure the movie was based on. There are several elements pulled from different cases, and they kept gnawing at my brain. For example, upon the initial appearance of Irene Adler, I leaned over to Kerry and whispered “the woman.”

From Holmes’ dry (and mostly successful) attempts at wit, to Watson’s feigned unwillingness to participate in Holmes’ shenanigans, to the climactic end scene, in which Holmes reveals the few missing details of the case, this is a Sherlock Holmes tale like any other. In my humble opinion, it lacked only a visit from Mycroft, who could easily still have been played by the legendary Christopher Lee.

To those who have seen the trailers: Yes, there is dabblement in the occult, magic and the supernatural. No, these still are not real things in the world of Sherlock Holmes. Do not go into this movie with the assumption that this is anything other than an adventure of Sherlock Holmes, as recorded and reported (and embellished) by Dr. Watson.

I just can’t say enough how much this movie exceeded my expectations. After seeing the previews, I was setup for a huge disappointment. Had I done my homework, I would have known ahead of time that this is a Guy Ritchie film, and since it is not titled “Revolver” (don’t even bother with that one), I probably have nothing to worry about.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Verizon’s “outrageous” Early Termination Fee

First, here’s the link to the horseshit that sparked this rant. Within, there is the full (brief, unrevealing, biased, dataless) text of an FCC press release.

Second, here’s the rant. A DROID retails for 600 dollars. I paid two hundred for mine. Verizon makes up that 400 bucks by me subscribing to their service. If I open a new line for a DROID and immediately cancel it, VZW charges me 350 dollars. They're out fifty bucks. The ETF needs to be that high for Verizon to protect themselves from staggering losses. It not only covers most of their loss if I terminate my contract, but also discourages me from doing so. Not much "investigation" to be done there. Mignon Clyburn needs to learn some basic economics.

Also, this is not a "hidden fee." You know when you signup for a plan that the ETF is huge. If you don't like it, go to AT&T and be part of "the world's fastest 3G network." Verizon is overall the best mobile carrier for smartphones. If you want a good selection of devices, a comprehensive data network and an equally-comprehensive online user portal, you're going to pay more than you would for an outdated network, an iPhone and an orange box store.

Bottom line: Verizon isn't doing anything shady, and no one's being forced into a contract. If you don't like having an enormous ETF by which the carrier could still potentially take a loss, maybe a you shouldn’t have a phone that’s smarter than you.

My question is: how do other carriers protect themselves from this kind of crippling loss of money? Some carriers do it by selling their subscriber information to law-enforcement agencies. Some do it by holding on to their customers with misleading advertising.

The FCC needs to stop demonizing legitimate business practices and get on to important issues. For example: the obsolescence of the FCC. Anybody else remember the whole “Saving Private Ryan” debacle (in which, when asked by ABC affiliates “will we be fined if we air Saving Private Ryan un-edited?” the FCC’ responded: “dunno. Do it and you’ll find out.”)?

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Thursday, December 17, 2009


So PaulC shared this article in Google Reader today. After reading it, I was really excited to try out T3Desk. T3Desk is not a Terminator-themed desktop manager. It is a three-dimensional desktop manager. At first blush, wicked cool. After < three minutes, already uninstalled. Yes, the idea of this software is very cool. I’ve always had a soft spot for cool-looking desktop managers, even though I’ve never really found one that made my life easier. I remember there was one years ago that took away your desktop and turned it into a first-person 3D environment in which walking through a door represented opening a folder and desktop icons could be dragged and dropped within the environment. You opened a file just by walking into it. It was really cool. But, like T3 Desk, it had its limitations.

The article lists some drawbacks to the software, and they are all true. I just don’t care. Yes, it’s true you can’t re-map the hotkeys. But who cares? The hotkeys are what they are because nobody ever uses the “\” key for anything outside of writing code. You can only have 3D windows on your primary monitor. Looking back, that should have made me think “somebody’s not too familiar with their development environment.” But whatever. I only have one monitor, so who cares?

Well, the bottom line is it’s buggy, and it’s not customizable enough. The first time you “3Dmize” a window, no problem. It zooms out and goes transparent. If you then drag it to an edge of your screen, it docks there and tilts toward the center of your monitor. So far, so awesome. Well, now I want it back in the center of my screen. I don’t want it in focus, I don’t want it in the foreground. I want it to stay zoomed out and transparent, and I want it just hovering in the background. Sorry. Can’t do it. Once you dock a window, it’s docked for life. You can move it around your desktop, but when you move it away from the edge, it doesn’t tilt back toward you. It tilts gradually away from you, so that if your place it directly in the center of your screen, you can only see the “edge” of the window. It’s pretty much invisible.

So, check it out. It’s neat, but don’t use it for too long or you will get frustrated.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thor’s New Look

I’ve been getting complaints (most notably from PaulC) that the right-hand column of my blog was not formatting properly. I’ve known about this since I started this blog, but I haven’t done anything about it because Google has made me soft. All I had to do was go into my BlogSpot settings and choose a different layout template. The only problem with this is that I liked my old color scheme. I tried just copying the colors section of the html, but the new layout didn’t like it.

So now I have new colors (which I like well enough) in addition to my new layout (which I hate). It’s a shame, because  I really liked my old layout, with all the square bubbles everywhere. But, alas, all the layouts I like the look of have right-hand columns that don’t format properly. So, problem solved. Left-hand column and new layout.

Also, I’m trying out this new thing called Zemanta (at the behest of PaulC). It runs as a sidebar in Live Writer Windows Live Writerwhile I’m writing a post. As I type, it picks out words that it thinks I might want to link, and displays different options for linking them. That Google link, for example, links to Google’s NASDAQ info. It also shows me what it thinks are pertinent images and related articles so that I can easily insert them. Every link in this post so far was a one-click affair. Except for PaulC. That was a zero-click affair. I have Live Writer setup so that the first time I type “PaulC” in any post, it automagically links to his blog.Wookieepedia's logo.

In my Zemanta settings, I also listed teampaulc.org and Wookieepedia, so it will (presumably) offer me links from those site as well. It also offered me that Wookieepedia logo over to the right, as well as the Zemanta and Live Writer graphics above. Unfortunately, no such love for the Team PaulC logo. Dunno what that’s about. But I do know where to find it:

So I’m diggin’ this. What do you all think of it? I think it livens up the ol’ blog a bit.


PS Anybody remember when it looked like this?Google's homepage in 1998

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Time's Best gadgets of the year.

My mom told me the DROID is Time's best gadget of the year. "Cool," I said. "Send me the article. so she did. Here's the article.


The article was basically a paid ad. Based on there's a plasma tv on the list, a canon and the nook instead of the kindle. I'm a canon man, but general sentiment is nikon or nothin. Also, the droid and the iPhone are both on it. The iphone is two years old, but still gets on this year's list because they make it "faster" now. But it's "okay" because the droid is number one.

And Dr. Dre headphones? Really? Sorry, but headphones that don't say Sony, Sennheiser or Skull Candy on them are not the best.

Neither is a plasma tv. coolest new technology this year? The DROID is really cool, but it's just an amalgam of old tech. the coolest new tech this year is the LED television.

Dyson air multiplier. Cool? sure. Best gadget of the year? surely not. It's just a fan. Put the new Dyson vaccuum on the list. That's a "best gadget."

Dell laptop. Any laptop that doesn't have a touchscreen is not the best gadget of the year. Any computer that is not a table or a window is not the best gadget of the year.

A Casio watch. It's a watch. A solar-powered watch. Is that supposed to wow me? It doesn't do anything, it's just a watch. Who even calls that a gadget?

Okay. Maybe it's not a paid ad, but it sure feels like one.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Alice was awful.

Oh my God. I can't believe I have to do this. To anyone who read my review of Alice from yesterday and subsequently watched it, I sincerely apologize. I wrote that review before I watched the second half of the miniseries. Having just now finished it, don't bother. PaulC: You're welcome for not reminding you about it. You can take those four hours of your life and… do nothing at all. You’ll be better off than if you had watched Alice.

This film was AWFUL. It was so bad you need to see it. Not even kidding. The first three hours were as good as Tin Man, because it was the same as Tin Man. The last hour was absolutely unbearable. Oh my God. I am so mad right now. I can't believe I just watched that terrible, horrible, awful, abominable film. I don't know if I'm madder that the first three hours were good and the last hour sucked or that I sat through three hours of what I thought was a decent film to get to that steaming pile of crap that was the end. I am almost as mad as I was at the end of the series that shall not be named.

And can we talk about Galactica for a minute? No, we can't, because Gramma reads my blog.

So, again, I apologize if anyone watched Alice because I said it wasn't horrible. I further apologize by way of admitting: it was horrible.

SciFi Channel's Alice

I don't know if anyone else saw Alice on the SciFi channel this week, but it was pretty disappointing. It's not that it was in any particular way bad, so much as it was uninteresting. It was basically the same premise as their previous miniseries, Tin Man. Alice takes place in what we would call the future of Wonderland, the original story having taken place in the almost-distant past. There might be people alive who still remember it, but probably not.

Again, it's not bad. It's just nothing new. It feels like the same writers, casting director and production designers had fun with Tin Man and decided to have the same fun with Alice. It's not poorly-written, poorly cast or poorly-designed. Quite the opposite. It's brilliant. It's just the same as Tin Man.

The casting is, in point of fact, pretty near perfect. Colm Meaney as the King of Hearts was brilliantly bumblesome, and the guy who plays Hatter was fun and plucky. The light comedy was as good as Tin Man, the clever interpretation of the characters and themes was equally fun.

The acting was... well... less than brilliant for the most part, but that's not to say bad. There were enough seasoned actors to pick up the slack when the inexperienced ones dropped it. The director was a bit below par for a SciFi Channel series, but the visuals were good enough that you really didn't notice his (or her) shortcomings.

So... As I said, all in all, not bad, just nothing new. If you saw Tin Man, you'll probably be a little disappointed with Alice, just because you've seen it already. If you didn't, you'll love it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

New Bad Guys Please!

This is a rant that's mostly about "same old Star Wars game." By that I mean Star Wars games tend to all have similar stories and situations, with one or two brilliant exceptions. If you didn’t follow the link here from 1up.com, follow this link there to know what I’m talking about, or it really won’t make any sense. This post is not linked, and really only exists because the 1up.com yak page has a 1000-char limit. Seriously. Who does that? On with the show.

Why are we hearing about "imperial agents" and seeing screenshots of what look very much like clone troopers? Is this The Old Republic, or the Dawn of the Empire? In the KOTOR games, Sith troops were vaguely reminiscent of imperial stormtroopers, but their armor was silver and they had Cobra Commander-ish helmets. They looked just enough like the boys in white that they were immediately identifiable as the bad guys. That screenshot of a Mandalorian getting hit with force lightning looks pretty much like an episode 3 clone trooper to me.

If I missed a memo somewhere, please excuse my ignorance, but if these things make it into the final product as is, I'm gonna be pretty pissed. I'll still play it, just like I still play Force Unleashed on my Wii, even though the levels are painfully linear and half of them (literally, every other level) are the same level over and over again. But as a die-hard Star Wars geek, I'm already pretty pissed.

I read some of the info on the game, and I get that it's the Sith Empire, and not Palpatine's Empire. So can we call them "Sith Agents?" Please? Better yet can we call it the "Sith Dominion," or better still the "Sith Kingdom?" Since it's not technically an empire, is it too much to ask that we don't call it one? There's no Sith emperor. There's a Dark Lord. For every practical purpose, it's a theocracy. The supreme pontiff of the Sith religion is also the supreme ruler of the Sith government.

And I get that those are Mandalorian warriors. So can we make them look like their armor was designed three thousand years before Vader's stormtroopers, rather than looking like a rough cut of that finished product? What's wrong with the armor from KOTOR? It looks just enough like the Stormtrooper armor that you can kinda see how the one inspired the other, without looking like it was backward-engineered.

Can we please stop using Star Wars as a creative crutch and come up with something original for me to swing a lightsaber at? If it's not KOTOR's "sith empire," who's silver-clad troopers look mostly like stormtroopers, but not quite, then it's Jedi Academy's "Imperial Remnant" with actual stormtroopers and absolutely no new ideas (see fifteen-year-old comics for Marka Ragnos).

And now TOR has imperial agents and Mandalorian warriors, that look just like Imperial officers and... well... Stormtroopers. Again.

Look, I'm all for getting away from classic Star Wars and playing a character that doesn't have a lightsaber (I too mourn the loss of SWG), but Can I have some new bad guys please? I've killed enough stormtroopers and Imperial officers to fill a large space station (or perhaps a small moon). How about something new? Or at least something that looks like it's new.

And how about a new story while we're at it. Is this only the fourth time we'll be fighting a war of liberation against a vastly superior empire? Let's count. There was the Galactic Civil War (the original trilogy), the Yuuzhan Vong invasion (New Jedi Order series), The Jedi Civil War (KOTOR)... That's three, and TOR makes four. And those aren't all in video games, I know. But we've had so many games that focus on the timeline of the original trilogy that any game that doesn't really needs to not be about a war of liberation.

That's what was (WAS) great about SWG. Nothing was at stake. The rebellion wasn't going to succeed or fail based on my actions. I wasn't a hero: just another soldier. When every player's a hero, what fun is there? When everyone's pointedly nothing special, then you make yourself a hero. Hopefully, TOR will take at least a few notes from pre-Smiley SWG.

I won't even get into what I think of the cartoon graphics. Clone Wars is a fun show, but it's just for kids. If that's what they want people to think of this game, they're off to a good start.

Speaking of visuals, this game is looking more and more like it was styled after the movies than anything else. Am I really supposed to believe that after three thousand years, droids will still need to be as large as people, lightsabers will still be... exactly the same, and there still won't be any such thing as blaster-proof armor? Here on Earth, we've miniaturized robots, made swords all but obsolete and have nearly figured out bulletproof armor. Three thousand years ago, we had neither robots nor bullets (and by that I mean firearms, not slings with rocks), and swords were mostly just metal clubs. We also no longer have most of the religions that were around three thousand years ago, while Jedi pervade every era of Star Wars. My understanding is that we have Roger Evoy to thank for this particular infestation of anachronism.

Now I'm beginning to ramble, so I'll quit the Star Wars rant and get on to the BioWare rant.

I'm as excited as the next guy that there's another Star Wars MMO in the works. I loved SWG (before Guy Smiley killed it), and I loved KOTOR. I've since been disappointed with BioWare's work. I've played KOTOR twice on purpose, and have been duped into playing it twice more, in the guise of BioWare's more recent titles.

Mass Effect was fun at first, but got boring after about three days. I'm actually dreading the sequel. Dragon Age has a great story, but absolutely nothing new as far as gameplay is concerned. I've had more fun playing Dragon Age: Journeys, the online flash game than I have with Dragon Age: Origins. They're basically the same game. For a flash game, it's freakin' awesome. For a full-blown PC title with a fifty-dollar price tag, it's a huge disappointment. It's basically Neverwinter with a facelift.

I hope against hope That The Old Republic is not just "BioWare Game 7: Kotor Online." I really want to love BioWare again, but they seem incapable of innovation. Steal some Blizzard employees. Hire somebody who hated KOTOR. Just do something different for God's sake. Dragon Age really and truly is a fun game, but it's the same game as KOTOR and Neverwinter, which detracts greatly from it's appeal, and makes me lose some faith in the potential awesomeness of TOR.

And are we going to have fifteen companions with a max party size of three again? From a gaming standpoint, this makes sense. From a storytelling standpoint, it makes none. I've got no problem only having two companions with me per mission. But you chose them for me, and tell me a good story that explains why I have who I have. Alistair won't go into Redcliff because of his history. Fine. Morrigan won't go because there are too many Chantrymen. Fine. That leaves me with Sten, Leliana, and my trusty Mutt. One thing that can be said for "BioWare game": there's no such thing as a bad party. They design the characters so that any combination can be successful.

In Mass Effect, there was no logical reason I shouldn't walk around with a six-person party all the time. It makes no sense to leave half my team on the ship when I'm heading into an inevitable firefight where one more gun could mean the difference between victory and defeat. Ditto EVERY OTHER GAME. Where three lightsabers are good, six are better.

Wow. When I sat down five hours ago to write this, I thought it was just going to be "want different bad guys please!" Well, I guess that's what a bottle of Blackstone and the internet at my fingertips gets me.

Here’s hoping this game really is about the Old Republic, and not the Elderly Republic.

Flame on.

PS As a side note: Please tell me we're not still calling "force push," "force pull," "choke," and "throw my lightsaber" four separate powers that need to be levelled-up individually. It's all telekinesis. If I can push a dude across the room, I can also pull him back, squeeze his throat, and throw my lightsaber at him, all with equal skill. That's just been my biggest beef with Star Wars games since Jedi Knight, and it's really beginning to wear on me. As far as I'm concerned, Force Unleashed featured two force powers: telekinesis and lightning.