Tuesday, May 29, 2007

TV Writers Need a New Gimmick

I just watched the season finale of Lost and I feel the need to rant. If you haven't seen it, bug out now.

So yet another character gains an advantage and doesn't lock it in. How many friggin' times am I going to see someone shoot/hurt/knock down their enemy, then walk away and have a conversation with somebody else, only to turn around and see the enemy at their throat again. Are writers just getting lazy? Take Lost, for example, where the characters have been trapped on the island for months and terrified by "The Others". Charlie and Desmond shoot one of them down, a very bloodthirsty one, but instead of taking an extra two seconds to shoot him again, or push him into the pool where he'd die for sure, or just jump on his head and make sure he's dead, the writers leave him alive, and he takes his revenge at the end of the episode.

I feel insulted if the writers of the show expect me to suspend disbelief this far. I don't think the characters are *that* stupid to not lock in their advantage when they have the chance. If I was trapped and scared and managed to knock down my enemy, I can promise you they would not stand up ever again. I like to watch smart characters, but I can only conclude these characters are not. Or that the writers are lazy. I'll go with that. On the show "Heroes", Hiro did the same thing after stabbing Sylar - ignore the body and fail to finish him off. BTW Do you buy that Sylar let Hiro charge him from twenty feet away and didn't stop him? Me neither.

The finale had a few too many of the "You must do I tell you, but I won't tell you why" moments, mainly from Ben and Locke. Ben has, of course, done this many times before and seems genuinely perplexed that the Losties won't take his advice, after he's kept them in terrified isolation and killed some of them. Can't anyone on this show communicate properly? If it's so important that things be done your way, just explain it. Or explain why you *can't* explain it. Anything *but* repeat the order while commiting random acts of kidnap and violence.

Are the writers trying to drag this whole thing out by having people not ask obvious questions. Like the new character, Naomi, who parachutes onto the island and says her boat is waiting offshore. Did anyone ask her who sent her, or is it going to be a big surprising reveal that her intentions are not good? I hope more of the Losties get taken out of the gene pool, because such incuriosity and bovine acceptance is frankly infuriating to watch.

And the way they shot it, he could *totally* have got out of that chamber before the end.

If you're a fan of the show and haven't seen Lostpedia yet, you're missing out!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Can't Catch a Break

I bought a Nintendo Wii a little while ago and I like the sports game that came with it. I was most interested in the bowling game, but that's turned out to be harder to master than I thought. Here's a frustrating game I played - I got a spare in every frame, including a tricky split in the 6th, and not one solitary strike. Even the last bonus throw in the 10th resulted in a nine!

Have you ever heard that joke by Steven Wright about buying a humidifier and a de-humidifier, putting them in the same room and let them fight it out? I saw this principle in action at an office a couple of days ago while I was running errands. The a/c was set rather low in this office building and the staff in the lobby had no control over it. So they fought back with a small heater down by their feet. A few years ago I'd have laughed it off, but the energy usage is nothing to laugh at. I hope they get their a/c sorted out, but its more than likely they'll just keep things as they are. As long as the power bill stays where it is and there's enough profit to handle it without blinking, they'll leave the settings alone.

I spent a week in Jackson, Mississippi for work, where we installed some new software I've written. It's a billing system, which again demonstrates a principle I've noticed. Most software in businesses is built to move data from one place to another; simple as that. I wonder if anyone has, or will, come up with a computer language specifically designed to make such a task easier. I love writing in Delphi, an object-oriented extension of Pascal, but you do have to re-invent the wheel somewhat with each project, building objects and structures which do much the same task as the last project you wrote.

I'm reading a very interesting book at the moment, called Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life. It's a summary of the science which informs our speculation about life, so that when we go to places such as Mars and Europa we'll be able to make intelligent guesses about what sort of life we'd find there. Recommended if you like reading about science and history.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Negotiating the Vending of some Cheesy Comestibles

I like cheese, but I'm not sure how to feel about Pasteurized process cheese food. Are you? If you hadn't noticed yet, many of the sliced cheeses you buy at the supermarket is labelled with some starkly plain wording, untouched by the hands of the marketing department. Cheese food, cheese product, imitation cheese and pasteurized process cheese product...all these terms seem chosen to scare off anyone who reads the package and thinks "But...I just want to buy some cheese!"

Luckily for us, Steve Ritter wondered the same thing a few years ago and wrote down what he found out. It turns out they each describe a cheese made from different blends of cheese, fat, moisture, curds, whey etc. It doesn't appear than any of them are hideously unnatural, but I'm surprised they use such odd, direct terminology to describe each of the "non-cheese" varieties. I know a lot of businesses go out of their way to make sure their products have "nice" names that won't cause potential buyers to hesitate if they read the packaging carefully.

I ended up buying some sliced Havarti today - real cheese :)

Other than that, I had a very productive morning - I ran several errands and did the laundry and grocery shopping, and tonight I have the final concert of the band I'm in, and then we take a break for the summer. We have to show up early tonight to have a band photograph taken - this happens every five years, so I'll post a picture when I get a copy.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Getting Better Mileage From My Car

When I first bought my car, a 2000 Saturn SL2, I got excellent mileage. Low 30s near home, 40 and up if I did a lot of highway driving. Over the years it seemed to drop away - I used to get around 320 miles on a tank and lately I'd been having to fill up around the 260-270 mile mark. I wondered what was happening?

The last time I took it for an oil-change I asked the mechanics what it might be. They said it was just part of cars ageing, and for a while I left it at that. But in the last month or so I've been on an efficiency kick, seeing if there was anything cheap and easy I could do that would make better use of what I buy, and reduce my carbon footprint. I'm recycling more, I bought CF light bulbs and raised my a/c temperature a little bit...but not too much :) Everyone who knows me knows I don't enjoy heat at all :)

So I thought about my car again - was there something I could do? A quick net search turns up plenty of web sites (like this "real world" test report) and I noticed a one easy change right away - don't accelerate so hard! I'm accelerate fairly quickly at the lights and thought it didn't make much difference, but it really does. On my last full tank of gas, which just ran out today, I made sure I took about 12-15 seconds to get up to my target speed, and I kept my speed to 55-60 wherever I went, even on the freeway.

Bottom line: I got 320 miles on this tank, using about 10.5 gallons. That's over 30 mpg, which is about a 20% improvement from my previous results. Every little bit helps :)