Category Archives: can’t ignore my techno

First world problems

There’s a truism that gets updated for every generation, that runs roughly like this: Nobody wants to hear your bad beat story.

This rule even applies to Paul McCartney, though he tries his best in “Junior’s Farm” –

You should have seen me with the poker man
I had a honey and I bet a grand
Just in the nick of time, I looked at his hand

Even this isn’t a “bad beat,” since it’s obvious he dodged the worst of it; this makes him bold enough to share the story TWICE, the first to launch the song, and the second in response to an “old man” who asks him why the prices for groceries are higher.  That’s real 1% behavior for you – poor guy’s griping about feeding himself on a fixed income in the poor economy of 1974, and Macca blows him off with an anecdote about high-stakes gambling.  So it turns out that Sir Paul came within a rollicking beat of inventing “first world problems” AND the Occupy Movement.  Silly love songs, indeed.  No wonder Lennon was annoyed with him.

But this just goes to show that there are certain things that people just can’t wait for you to not gripe about – they’re dying inside to be spared the sorry tales of uninteresting struggles with the barest of inconveniences and personal hobbies.  My hockey buddies and I can spend ten minutes talking about ten seconds of a game we’ve just watched, and if we were playing, we’ll go a half-hour.  (Our games in full only last 44 minutes.)  Very few of those stories make it onto this blog, however.  I mean, we’re aging homebodies who who play hockey on foot with an orange ball.  There’s a reason you don’t see the highlights on the news.

If an incident makes a larger point,though, I’ll mention it, and that’s why this post from Andrea about “not missing my show” spurs me on here.  It’s not only a First World Problem but a cultural change that looks to be going full-circle even within a few decades: “can’t miss tv” went from the networks’ schedule to ours, and is going back to theirs again – but for entirely different reasons.  As a couple of her commenters point out, if you save it for later, you miss the fun of chatting about it immediately.  The traditional water cooler chat has moved online.

Then, of course, we tied ourselves to a TV schedule because if we missed something, it was likely gone for years.  VCRs took some of the sting from that, as did the resulting proliferation of movies (and eventually TV shows) that one could own copies of.  Eventually we valued the convenience of our own timetables and no commercials.  With the internet and social media being so much more immedaite, though, it’s much harder to dodge spoilers.  It would be completely impossible now to do the twist of The Empire Strikes Back, for example – or even the twist of The Sixth Sense.  Even if you check YouTube or seomthing later for the clips, it’s not the same as immediately bonding over an episode with others who love the show.  We’re going right back to the old paradigm, but for an amalgam of reasons that the slower pace of 70’s life sent at us one at a time.

This leads to another first-world problem:  DVRs can record two shows at once, but if you are currently watching the TV, you are limited to watching one of those two, or else a previously-recorded show.  If you were watching something while recording it for a family member, for example, you’d be stuck watching it twice.  But on occasion my wife and I run into another difficulty: she’s got two shows she loves, so she has them recording, and I wind up missing the bulk of the hockey game I’ve hoped to see.  I can’t watch it then and there, and if I’m at the rink in one of my own games, I can’t watch it later either.

Oh, and one other first-world problem, relevant here both on the general topic and because of Andrea’s habit of weekly site overhauls.

Besides reading Andrea for her content, I use her regular design changes as cheap research.  Her aesthetic sense is quite different and I get ideas that I probably would miss otherwise.  For example, I’m currently looking for a replacement font for headers, since the one I just chose seems to enjoy sticking random hyphens in my post titles – but not in my sidebar headers, even though it’s the same font.  I wonder if it’s something to do with the permalinks, which use the hyphens instead of blank spaces.  Pity.  I like the look of it otherwise.

Adventures in cable-shifting

“Hello.  Thank you for calling Cable Behemoth’s cancellation department.  All operators are busy right now; your estimated wait time is twelve minutes.”

That’s not a good sign, when everyone is so busy cancelling accounts that they can’t get rid of you for another twelve minutes.  A worse sign is that they actually took nearly 20 minutes to get to me.

On the bright side, I got some of the best service ever from Cable Behemoth in the ten minutes that I was trying to end our professional relationship.  On balance I would consider that a positive.  It would have been very easy for them to be pissy and snide while I was leaving.  Sure, they were trying to re-up me along the way, but the man didn’t whine and he didn’t get passive-aggressive.

In fact, he actually beat the price we got from Alternative Broadcast by 13 bucks a month.  That’s not too shabby – 150 bucks a year – except that the AB guys are giving us a much nicer DVR and the Internet has been noticeably faster.  Another key for me?  CB wouldn’t give us this price last year after our two-year intro rate expired.  It wasn’t until we were out the door that they suddenly tried to make us feel like valued guests.

Sorry guys.

The next step is to ditch all forms of broadcast for an a la carte approach with streaming services and perhaps a PC tuner.

Nightfly: the Special Edition (blu-ray)

Y’all will remember how badly we geeks lost our minds over the terribleness of the Star Wars prequels.

That was a bitty-bit our fault, I suppose.  George Lucas re-released the original three movies in the run up to the 1999 debut of The Phantom Menace*, and these Special Editions featured some nifty spruced-up effects, but mostly they featured the restoration of redundant deleted footage, a bunch of CGI clutter blocking the view of the actual movie, and Greedo shooting first – an egregious affront on a lot of levels, not least of which was the damage done to Han Solo’s character.** Maybe we should have been a little more wary of The Phantom Menace as a… ZOMG NEW STAR WARS squeeeeeee !!1!eleven~!!

*Yeah, it’s been twelve years.

**First off, the guy’s a smuggler and a gangster who may have double-crossed his crime-lord boss. He’s not gonna wait for a pretty-please. Second, he can’t possibly be dumb enough to expect Greedo to miss a shot from four feet. Third, it’s obvious that he banks on Greedo not shooting at him at all, because then Greedo would be out the bounty money; that’s how Han gets the drop on him the first place.  The edit makes no sense on any level.

But we convinced ourselves otherwise.  We seem even to have convinced George, who actually un-tinkered somewhat when the original movies were remastered again.  Not that it stopped him from making all of the same mistakes in the other two prequels: bad characters, inexplicable choices, and endless clutter on the screen.  We just thought that he’d leave well enough alone with what he’d already done.

Well, now it’s obvious.  We only convinced George Lucas of one thing – that we’re all ungrateful peasants, and as a result he’s decided to tinker and tinker to the bitter end.

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Following Chekhov’s advice

No, not “Keptin, enemy wessel approaching.”  The original Chekhov.  It goes something like this: “If you mention a podcast while Twittering the first act, you must post a link to it in the third act.”

Or something.  But anyway, I did mention one – specifically, that I made a huge goof about ten minutes into my involvement.  But don’t let that stop y’all.  Here’s WebBard, Keith, and (partway in) yours truly from Lighthouse Hockey, talking about the sport in general and the Islanders in specific, on the Flashlight Podcast.

Comments on Lighthouse are limited to SBN members (with a 24-hour wait) to discourage spambots and trolls, so if you’ve got some feedback, please leave it here for me.  I desperately need it if I’m going to join in regularly.  Thanks!

Overheard

One thing about Twitter is the curiosity inspired by one side of the conversation.

If you’re following someone, and they wind up in a to-and-fro with someone whom you don’t follow, you’re insulated and confused.  It’s a little like overhearing someone on a phone:

No – I never said that!

But why would you think that’s what I meant?

That has nothing to do with this!

There are some differences, of course, the biggest one being that at the end of a few of those snippets, you’ll get a bit.ly or tiny.url link.  And you may get the other half after all, if you click on the @suchandso tag.  (Hm… I wonder if there IS a @suchandso on Twitter?)  (Nope.  Not yet anyway.)  These one-sided debates get filled in a little bit, provided of course that the debate has occured entirely within the 140-character confines.

That’s where we go back to one-sided.  What can you say in 140 characters, especially if you’re going to start in with details, charts, graphs, and (probably) stuff you’ve already blogged about?  Half the debates begin with someone Twittering about some horrible/wonderful thing they’ve read elsewhere.  Just in the time it takes to catch up, you may miss a bunch of kudos and jeers.  More likely, you’ve already missed all that, and you’re like the person at a party who comes out of the bathroom wondering what all the ruckus is about.

Here’s the thing – you may never really know.

Folks on Twitter are stuck – not exactly bystanders, but certainly not full participats in everything around them.  “Partygoer” might just be the closest analogy (and I’m open to better ones).  A person is Twittering to alert all the followers about what’s going on… as in “You may find this interesting.”  But if hundreds of followers jump in, with half of those only getting one or the other half of the situation?  That’s chaos, really.  And retweets add to the complexity, as followers of followers of followers (some of whom may despise one or both original parties) are suddenly brought into range.

It’s not reasonable to expect a direct answer from one of the participants, who are busy with each other at the moment.  If you ask “What’s up?” you may get no more info than you had coming in – and you may just get “None of your business,” unless one of the other followers takes you aside, as it were.  It’d be rude to jump into an overheard conversation in a shop or a subway; how different is Twitter, anyway?  If you’re following a public personality or other well-known person, are they really going to fill you in on the details?  If you know them well enough to expect an answer when you ask, you can probably call or email them.  If you don’t, Twittering isn’t likely to get you anywhere useful.  The window into their world is one-way, and not to be prized open.  Merely following an actor or an athlete isn’t the same as knowing them, it’s just knowing a little bit about them – and only the bits they reveal.

That’s the trick, really – a private, in person argument that gets loud in public can have only a few people chiming in, just due to the limits of people getting close enough to have their say… and it can be resolved by going off somewhere behind a door.  Twitter removes those doors, removes the limits, and suddenly anyone can have their say.  Is that the price to be paid for participating in a public forum?

If there’s one thing I’ve observed about the rapid advance of communication, it’s that the rules of the game adapt rather than transform, and the people involved are always the priority.  Posting on a blog, for example: especially if you have comments, you invite feedback – but that also seems to draw a certain class of person who enjoys telling you how wrong you are about the post, or how ridiculous you are personally.  They seem taken aback when the poster is offended by this, even though it was meant to be offensive.  What could be an exchange of ideas devolves into a pissing contest because the priorities have been lost, and the rules of the game have been forgotten rather than adapted. 

Would you buttonhole a public speaker and berate them face-to-face?  It’s rude.  (On a more practical level, it can get you punched in the head.)  Well – what about a blog post suddenly makes it OK to be rude?  If you were a guest in a home you would presumably not spit at the host, or dump your coffee on the carpet on purpose… why is a guest on a blog different?  Is it the lack of immediate consequence?  Some people enjoy stirring the pot, especially when they know there will be no repurcussions.  It’s nothing to them to be banned from a blog; there are millions of others to visit.  Is it the anonymity?  I don’t get it.

Don’t roll your eyes at someone, even if they can’t see you.  Don’t speak rashly, or out of turn, even if it’s easier than ever.  Don’t lie, don’t bully, and don’t butt in.  Just because there are pseudonyms and aliases, doesn’t make the person on the other end imaginary.

Seduced by the dark side of the Web

No… not Facebook.

Twitter.

@nightflyblog.

Good heavens, as if I didn’t ignore this blog enough.  I must be mad.

The joys of modern living

So I dropped my phone a couple of weeks ago, and broke the top half: it could still make and take calls, but I could neither hear the other party, nor see who they were, because the display was fried.  My own fault.

Since my two years were up in August, I looked into using my upgrade for a nicer phone.  It would cost about $50 or so, after the rebate.  But it turns out that I had “insurance” on the old phone.  Well, hey – I can get an even nicer phone for Christmas – nice².  Right?  Cool.  I fill out the forms and get the phone in the mail a couple of days later.

Heh – to get the EXACT SAME out-of-date phone as I had – it cost $50.  AND on top of that, Verizon charged me another ten-spot to transfer all my data from one phone to the other.  AND if I didn’t send back the old broken phone it was another surcharge.  AND², that comes on top of the six bucks a month I paid for said “insurance” on the old phone, for 26 months.

Total cost of replacement old-model phone: $215.74.  This is a phone that cost me only $75 when I bought it over two years ago.  I should have just bought the newer model and waited two more years for nice².  I got suckered.  What a scam this phone protection scheme was – I didn’t even get the fun of colorful ethnic stereotypes telling me how nice a phone it wuz, and how terribles it woulds be if sumtins would happen to it.

Technology has been like that to me lately.  My desktop, for example, is pushing six years old – pleostecene in PC standards.  It’s had iced tea accidentally dumped on it, it’s been tripped over, it’s been suddenly shut down in storms and power failures… and it keeps chugging.  Of course, it chugs slow, and exceedingly fine.

Recently I was in the middle of something when I was informed that the machine would restart in fifteen minutes because of some automatic update – unless I clicked “restart later,” in which case it would wait fifteen minutes and then annoy me with another interruption about the automatic restart.  I clicked, was duly annoyed in fifteen minutes, saved my work…  and then the fun began.

First it took about fifteen minutes to finally shut everything down, with my having to manually force closed a ton of background processes.  (I’ve tried and tried to rid myself of all this background bunkum, but it only makes the system unstable.  Apparently working quickly makes the poor old thing need a lie-down every five minutes.  Must be a union machine.)  Then it took about fifteen more to restart and get everything running again.  THEN, joy of joys, it took twenty minutes to look for more updates, even though it was a system update that caused the restart to begin with.

Imagine my delight when it actually found another update, which required a lengthy download and another restart.

Overall, from clicking “shut down” the first time to being able to resume work, it took over 75 minutes.  By that time, it was too late to keep working because it was nearly midnight.  So, you guessed it – I shut the computer back down.  Went out like a dream in under two minutes.