Nostalgic Rumblings
The Ramblings of an Old Man

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July 2009
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So I’m Still an XM Subscriber…

Filed under: Radio Today — Charlie Summers @ 12:13 am

As many of you know, my plan was to cancel my two XM Satellite Radio subscriptions…I honestly haven’t listened to the radio for weeks now other than for a minute or two in the car until I get annoyed with the lousy sound quality, and only hear daily The Bob Edwards Show episodes via the on-line feed (something I had planned on explaining once I canceled), but those plans went horribly awry.

Anyone who knows us knows that in all things, I am “bad cop,” where my wife is “good cop.” That is, I have a firm outline of right and wrong and tend to expound on it at the top of my considerable lungs, where she is the diplomat, the one who uses kindness to get what she wants. So I had her call XM to cancel, knowing if I did it and the retention expert started lying to me about where the $1.98 in rate hike is going, I would end up going ballistic for no good reason on some schlub who is trying to make a living getting people to continue to throw money into a dying industry. I told her to handle it, and…er…she did. And we still have two radios subscribed.

Seems the retention expert gave her a deal in exchange for an up-front payment equal to two months without the improper rate hike, and she bit. I still haven’t decided whether or not the poor sound quality and unimpressive programming is worth the $4.00/month/radio, although I pegged the worth of the on-line feed for my listening to one show at $5.00/month (again, something I wanted to explain once I canceled), but this does buy me a few months to get my act together in the car - there’s another MP3 player on-order that you will read a review of once I put it through its paces. And at least we aren’t paying $15.00/month, which I assure you XM Satellite Radio is not worth. (Especially now that the board of directors has extended the contract of the CEO that caused the downfall of satellite radio as an industry, and given him a quarter-million-dollar-per-year raise to boot.)

Edit August 6, 2009: Checked my invoice, and it turns out the guy Annie talked to at XM was a lying weasel. Ok, so it’s only a little over three dollars, but I really hate being lied to and hate it more when someone lies to my family, so they can kiss my patoots come December.

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How I Spent My Summer Television

Filed under: Television — Charlie Summers @ 12:22 pm

It’s summer time, and other then spending about a month of it suffering from the flu, it’s been a beautiful season. Around here, it’s been warm but not too hot days, cool nights, and delicious raspberries to enjoy, at least earlier in the season.

But when it comes to television, things are a little less promising, generally. So let me tell you what I watched so far on my summer vacation…

Dollhouse: I finally forced myself to watch all of the episodes (including the original pilot and unaired 13th episode)…and for the record, the only reason I did was because the silly thing was renewed. I can’t understand why any intelligent person would watch this show, nor why any intelligent network executive would renew such a boring, rambling, confused, and frankly idiotic program. Oh, right…”intelligent” and “network exec” so very rarely belong in the same sentence…truth is, the only episode I can say I honestly enjoyed is the unaired “final” episode. Could be because it had some really fine acting; yeah, the regular cast was by-and-large missing. (Truth in Advertising: I think Eliza Dushku is a beautiful girl who couldn’t act her way out of a wet paper bag…and for a show which is set up to be basically an anthology series al la Quantum Leap, having a lead actress who can’t handle one role let alone a different one every week is an unmitigated disaster, even with talent like Reed Diamond and Harry Lenox backing her. Surely there are many actresses out there with beauty and chops?)

Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles: I also forced my way to the end of this one, which blissfully has not been renewed. By the time I finished watching all those episodes, I swear I was ready to go back in time myself to smother John Conner in his crib, just so this series would never see production. At least someone had the sense to kill this before it could insult the viewer’s intelligence again…

The Unusuals: This is absolutely the best show you didn’t see last year. I really liked this show…a cop procedural with a twisted sense of humor, populated by characters somewhere right out of the Island of Misfit Toys. Yet, for all their over-the-top eccentricities, somehow they all got under my skin, and I looked forward to every episode until the final one, which was in my opinion the best of the entire short-lived series. In the unlikely event you get the chance, watch this series, and cry with me that it wasn’t picked up.

Primeval: I’m miffed at the United Kingdom right now, what with their over-reliance on “reality” television crowding out all of the excellent dramas. Granted, Primeval this season lost its driving force in Douglas Henshall’s Nick Cutter and in doing so became considerably less interesting, but that’s no reason to cancel the series. Nope, it was money that killed this one. There’s a rumor of a Primeval movie, but you know they’ll go so far all-out for it that they’ll lose the human drama the show really focused on…instead, it’ll be little more than Jurassic Park on steroids. (Other brit series are also biting the dust, with ITV refusing to air any dramas before ten and the BBC cutting way back, too. Too bad…some of my favorite shows came from the U.K., like Hustle and the amazing UK series and mostly-unseen US film, State of Play.)

Cupid: I’m confused. When is the last time a major network re-worked a failed series, using basically the same lines coming from the lips of an inferior cast? Please don’t misunderstand, I like Sarah Paulson as much as the next guy and she should find a series sometime, but she’s no Paula Marshall…and pity anyone who needs to follow Jeremy Piven in the role of the god of love.

The only thing watching the remake did is force me to find copies of the original 1998 series, just to see if it was as much better than the lastest incarnation as my memory insisted. It is, it really is. If you ever get the chance, watch the original series with Piven literally firing his words like a machine gun, and Marshall the perfect Psyche with both strength and vulnerability. Even my eleven-year-old daughter, who saw episodes of the 2009 version first, prefers the original. ‘Nuff said.

Burn Notice: Oh, c’mon, it’s a fun little show. If you’re looking for Shakespeare, look elsewhere; if you want a fun forty-minutes every week, this is the place for you.

The Closer: One of the best series anywhere on television…thank heavens it isn’t on a “big-four” network, or Brenda Lee would have a chimp as a sidekick. One week, the episode is one of the funniest shows on television, and the next week it ripped my heart out over the murder of two police officers. Amazing cast, solid writing, what more could anyone ask for?

Most Idiotic Rebranding: The SciFi channel, which gave up Science Fiction a long time ago with the decision to run wrestling, has rebranded itself, now calling itself SyFy. I have decided that should be pronounced around here, “SIF-fee,” hopefully just to tick them all off. Seriously, kids, why don’t you rebrand yourself honestly; call your channel “Irrelevant.” I mean, other than the repetitious Stargate and the still-fresh Eureka, what exactly do you have anymore? The glory-days of Farscape are long frelling gone…

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Disney Takes Web Surfers to the Lab to See Which Ads Work

Filed under: News — Charlie Summers @ 11:27 pm

From the New York Times: Disney Takes Web Surfers to the Lab to See Which Ads Work

From the article: “The goal, quite simply, is to increase ad revenue by offering skittish clients serious research about what works and what does not in new media, said Peter Seymour, the unit’s executive vice president for strategy and research.”

If you want a chilling look at how “science” is being corrupted to force you to purchase things you can’t afford, read this article. And be afraid.

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Zero-tolerance for “answer-back” anti-spam routines

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 7:57 pm

Believe me, I understand everyone’s frustration with spam. As someone who probably handles more email addresses than anyone who might read this, I probably field hundreds of spam emails every day between those that make it through and those that end up in a collection box I need to go through every few days to make sure nothing important ended up there.

But I am becoming really frustrated with “answer-back” solutions, particularly from Earthlink users who have apparently just discovered them. These users have their accounts set up to send a “challenge” email to any sender, requiring them to respond to a web page proving they are human. That’s nice and all, but the Internet OTR Digest (and other lists) mailing list server ain’t a human, so it can’t respond. And, to be blunt, I have way too much to do in a day’s time to spend any responding to these silly things to prove I am a human, or the list mail the user subscribed to is actually wanted email and not spam.

So any account that sends an auto-challenge to the server is immediately unsubscribed from any mailing lists that account is connected to. I apologize, but if you think about it, it is really pretty foolish to subscribe to an automated mailing list server and then expect it to prove it’s a human. Either manually whitelist the server, or be unsubscribed.

(Yeah, I know, I’m supposed to baby my subscribers. Sorry, kids, but while I don’t ask anyone to know how to program a mail server, I do expect subscribers to have the sense to whitelist mail that subscriber requests. If he or she doesn’t want to take enough responsibility to do that one simple thing, why should I hand-hold him or her?)

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MyMovieMoment…creepy, but amusing…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 6:13 pm

These are a little creepy, and a little funny, and a little amazing in the technology involved. My daughter took a quick digital snapshot of me, and Oddcast’s software created a 3D model of it and superimposed it on the various movie scenes. Some work better than others…this is my personal favorite, and I don’t want to think what that says about me:

Here the bodytype and hair is a little closer, but I can’t dive like this:

Ok, this one doesn’t work at all…on oh, so many levels…

And this one is just a little silly:

I couldn’t help but wonder what Katie would look like as RoboCop. Funny, she looks kinda the same as anytime she drinks too much soda:

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First Impressions: Saeco Sirena Espresso Machine

Filed under: Reviews and Impressions — Charlie Summers @ 3:06 pm

As many of you know, I love coffee. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not a snob about it…I don’t spend hours “temperature surfing” or searching for the prefect grind. I just want a good espresso coupled with an equal amount of steamed milk, with some foamed milk on top, and I don’t want to spend all day doing it.

In that search for a good cappuccino, I’ve gone through a lot of low-end pump machines. Some make good coffee but can’t steam milk very well (DeLonghi), others steam well (once removing the silly plastic or rubber steamer aids) but couldn’t produce crema to save their rear-ends (Hamilton Beach), and some can’t do either (Mr. Coffee). The only machine I ever really liked was the first one my wife gave me many many years ago, purchased at a chain that no longer exists, and I honestly cannot remember the brand…but it did everything really well and, more importantly, really fast.

I stumbled over a great deal on a mid-line espresso machine, the Saeco Sirena. Oh, before I go any farther, I need to mention that this machine is “branded” by a certain coffee chain I don’t have a lot of time for (I have frequently referred to it as, “The coffee shop for people who hate coffee”), but I will in this article refer to it by its manufacturer and name, not branding. Even with that name (only on the thermometer, which is easily ignored) I simply couldn’t pass up this machine…it lists at $599, sells at that faux-coffee shop for $399, can be found on Amazon for $350, and was mine new complete with warranty for $200 and $5 shipping. Now that I’ve played with it for a while, I thought I’d describe my experiences.

The main pro: this machine looks good. With a design by BMW, I suppose it should, but it really is one good-looking machine, and that photo up there really doesn’t so it justice. The “Ooh…Shiny!” factor of this puppy sitting on a counter-top or table simply cannot be ignored.

It’s a semi-automatic, which means only that it stops itself. It also has a self-pressurizing portafilter, which coffee snobs hate. I admit it’s a little odd not to be tamping down the portafilter, and odder still not getting a hockey-puck out of it when cleaning, but ok, I can live with this.

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Oscar Mayer Wienermobile crashes into Wis. home

Filed under: News — Charlie Summers @ 11:54 pm

From the AP via Yahoo: Oscar Mayer Wienermobile crashes into Wis. home

From the article: “Police said the driver was trying to turn the Wienermobile around in the driveway and thought she was moving in reverse. But she instead went forward and hit the home. It sat in the driveway as if it were stuck in the garage Friday afternoon.”

A few years ago, we bumped into a Wienermobile, only not like this - we were just surprised to find one where we were vacationing. Prescient comments, though, about the carnage of running into the garage…

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Review: V-Touch Personal MP3/Video Player

Filed under: Reviews and Impressions — Charlie Summers @ 6:13 pm

As most of you know, I am canceling my XM Satellite Radio, which means I need something for the car…something that can play music and downloaded podcasts, particularly news and talk shows like The Bob Edwards Show. But I’m afraid the V-Touch VL-875 isn’t anywhere near it.

Wow, what a deal!

This player, according to the distributor’s web site, has a list price of $249.99, and I only paid $60!!! Um, no, to be serious, if you pay more than $90 for this player, you’ve been severely ripped off regardless of the manufacturer’s list price. I purchased mine when had a sale with free shipping, including a set of “high-end” earphones. (The earphones turned out to be Visual Land’s SSB-10’s, which list for $30 and are commonly available for under $10. And I’m not a fan of in-ear earphones anyway, preferring something that sits outside the canal. But still, it made the $60 a somewhat better deal, although not much, as you’ll see.)

The player has a 2.8″ touch screen which is a whole lot smaller than it sounds, and plays MP3/WMA/WAV/AAC audio files (depending on where on the website you read…some places omit the AAC, and others omit the WAV as well - me, I’ll bet on MP3 and forget the rest), and AVI/3GP/MP4 video files (more on this mess a little later), as well as JPG/GIF/BMP photo files, and plain-text “ebooks.” (Yeah, it has a text reader. Be still, my heart.)

Opening Up…

The box is kinda classy, a book that needs to be opened to expose the player. Mine was sealed in a cellophane bag (you know the kind, with the folded sticky-strip on the end), with the accessories (included earphones not dissimilar to the SSB-10’s, USB cable, USB wall-wart, and sexy little carry-bag) in the larger side. The first disappointment was a small mar on the touch screen…I couldn’t remove it using my favorite screen cleaning method, vinegar-and-water with a micro-fiber cloth. It’s still there, and visible while watching video; I can only assume it occurred either during manufacturing or testing…I’d hate to think the unit I received was remanufactured, even when on sale.

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Almost feeling human again…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 11:16 pm

After better than two weeks being under the weather, I’m starting to feel like a person again. Still prone to coughing fits, and can’t run up a flight of stairs without becoming completely exhausted, but all of that is actually an improvement. (Yipe.)

Anyway, tomorrow I start working on catching up with the tons of email I’ve pushed to the side…figure by Wednesday, assuming I don’t end up relapsing to yet another fever, I should have the old inbox cleared out. Thanks for the patience.

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Google Plans to Introduce a PC Operating System

Filed under: News — Charlie Summers @ 1:14 am

From The New York Times: Google Plans to Introduce a PC Operating System

From the article: “In a direct challenge to Microsoft, Google announced late Tuesday that it is developing an operating system for PCs based on its Chrome Web browser.”

Now there’s a terrifying thought…Google is apparently not satisfied watching everything you do on the Web, now it wants to watch you as you work on the desktop, too. *shudder*

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Music Labels Reach Royalty Deal With Online Stations

Filed under: News, Radio Today — Charlie Summers @ 3:10 pm

From the New York Times: Music Labels Reach Royalty Deal With Online Stations

Of course, artists don’t get any of this windfall…only the major studios will receive this ransom payment. Still, as long as Slacker Radio lasts for a few more months, I should be able to legally record enough music to last me the rest of my life, so screw the labels.

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More on OTR Digest vs. secureserver/GoDaddy, and the flu

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 12:22 pm machines are still rejecting the Internet OTR Digest routinely. I have made various attempts at contacting people there, and as yet have been completely unable to speak to anything approximating a human being. If you are leasing webspace or have your mail services through Go Daddy, and are not receiving the OTR Digest, please file a support ticket to complain about their rejection, and feel free to give them my contact info. I’ll happily help them figure out what screwy content filter is misfiring to reject a family-friendly list like the Digest, if they’ll only have the decency to have an open contact point. (And if they don’t fix this, consider hosting your personal or small-business website elsewhere; there are lots of reasonably-priced registrars and web-hosting services that don’t use such draconian content-filters. I mean, think about it…if they are rejecting the Digest, what other legitimate mail are they bouncing?)

And on the illness front, as I mentioned on Twitter but don’t think I did here, I’ve been diagnosed with the flu. Which flu? Dunno…apparently in this area there are enough strains running around that the CDC is bored and no longer requesting strain tests. I haven’t seen the appearance of a curly tail, though, so I’m thinking Squirrel Flu (hey, we have a lot of ‘em running around the trees in the neighborhood).

Still, it’s been pretty miserable. I can’t even say definitively that I have “rounded the corner” what with all the coughing and nonsense, although I’m no longer feverish and am spending a little more time out of bed every day. It’ll be d*mned nice to get back in-the-groove, and catch up on all the stuff I’ve let slide while feeling like death-warmed-over. Heck, I’m two days behind on listening to The Bob Edwards Show, so you know I’m sick.

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Actor Karl Malden dead at 97, manager says

Filed under: Television, News — Charlie Summers @ 4:00 pm

From The CNN Wire: Actor Karl Malden dead at 97, manager says

Actor Karl Malden died Wednesday at age 97, his manager said. Links to obits will be added once they are posted. Anyone know if Mr. Malden had any OTR credits?

Edit: New York Times Obit.
CNN Obit.

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