What's with the "documentary" style in SciFi these days?

I've been watching ST:U (Stargate Universe for the non-SyFy watchers out there) and I just can't understand what the deal is with recent SciFi shows and the urge to make them look like documentaries.  It's bad enough that they have to use hand-held cameras and that I feel like I'm going to be sea sick after watching a few minutes of the show.  And I can even tolerate the quick zoom to get close ups on people's faces.  As annoying as they are, they fit the style of the show (which I'm starting to hate, but that's a different topic).  But why do they use the same techniques when they are in space?

The concept of ST:U is that they are in a ship millions of light years from earth and completely cut off (except for some convienent faster-than-light ancient-technology communications devices that they just happened to grab before leaving the planet they were escaping from).  So who is it following them in a chase ship with the hand-held camera who doesn't know how to operate a zoom? 

What happened to nice steady establishing shots with a slow zoom into the subject?

Travel season!

American Airlines is running a double mile deal, so it's time to run all over the place on the weekends to try and keep my status with them for next year.  Believe me, it's worth it -- the upgrades to first/business the past two weekends have more than paid for the flight it took to get the status last year.

Anyway, so far it's been Boston and NYC over the past two weekends.  It has been a few years since I've been to Boston, so it was great to see friends on their home turf (and have a really nice dinner with rwgill  and ted_badger).  We even had a chance to walk part of the Freedom Trail and to play my first GPSMission mission.

NYC was rushed, but worth the trip.  Shrek the Musical really is a lot of fun, and we got to meet Brain D'Arcy James (Shrek) on the street outside the theatre beforehand.  It was really random, we had just picked up our tickets and were heading down the street next to the theater when we passed him.  At the same time, we turned to look at him to see if it was really him, and he turned to check out my Shrek the Third crew jacket -- we ended up talking for a bit and now I have autographed tickets! :)  The evening show of Little Mermaid wasn't as exciting -- it really is just a theme park show on a Broadway budget.  The sets are nice, the actor playing Flounder has an amazing voice, but that's about it.  I don't see this one lasting all that long.

The high point of the trip was dinner after the show at Babbo -- Maril Batali's restaurant down in the village.  While it was a bit late (reservations at 11:15pm), the food was spectacular!  The only drawback was leaving the restaurant at 1:30am and having to get back uptown, but I can live with that for a meal that good.

Next on the agenda (in no particular order) are Napa, Honolulu, Tokyo, Disneyland, and Boston again -- the latter just being a day trip with only 9 hours on the ground -- the things I do for airline miles! :)

(no subject)

Welcome to California, one of only three states to have a constitution that removes rights from it's citizens (and the only one to remove one after it was legally granted).  Or at least it looks that way at the moment, since proposition 8 is on the brink of passing.

I'm not sure which disgusts me more -- the borderline illegal methods used by the "yes on 8" folks (for those of you who don't live here they included everything from telling people that the issue included things that it didn't such as parental rights and that it would require teaching gay marriage in the schools to automated phone calls using Obama sound bits to claim that he supported the issue), or the fact that over half of the people in the state believed them.  It also doesn't help that all you need to amend the constitution in this state is a single vote approved by a simple majority.  And let's not forget all of the things that could have been done with the $75 million+ that was spent on both fighting and supporting this issue.

Of course the lawsuits will start flying later today or tomorrow, so this is going to be tied up in the courts for the next year or two.  I'm not sure whether the next best step is to try and repeal the amendment or to try and pass one that removes the ability for the state to recognize any form of marriage.  If the religious groups are so concerned about gay marriage destroying traditional marriage then let's make it a religious issue and not a legal one.

  • Current Mood
    disappointed disappointed

New car!!!

Ok, so my name finally came up on the list and I got my new Prius -- after only waiting 65 days. Apparently that is a short wait, I've heard stories of folks waiting for as much as 4-5 months, and then paying a few $K over the sticker price! Thank you Costco. I paid $250 under MSRP and got the car I wanted.

I saw the full Costco price list on Saturday, it is rather entertaining. Almost everything Toyota sells is a couple hundred dollars over the invoice price. The two hybrid cars are $250 *under* MSRP. Gee, I wonder which ones are selling and which ones aren't.... :)

This means that the Saturn pumpkin is gone, so no looking for me in the parking lot any more by my rather obvious orange car!

Remember when the sky was blue?

Can I have some clear skies please? The smoke from the fires in northern Cal. has done a really nice job of filling the air in the bay area. Here's an example:

Last Saturday's San Jose Sky


Today's San Jose Sky


Customer Service - part 2

I just realized that I never followed up on my experiences with Sprint and E*Trade. Just for the record, they did both do something to try and make me happy -- while not completely resolving the issue.

I ended up filing a complaint with the CaPUC on Sprint. Low and behold, they called me a few weeks later to say "we got this complaint and we are concerned that you aren't happy with our service. We wish you had brought this to our attention before going to the PUC." And of course, happily ignoring the fact that I *did* try and resolve it with them first. To make a long story short, they ended up crediting the $1.95 to my account for the period that they had been misrepresenting the fee, and would be charging me $4.95 from here on out. Of course, the last time I checked my account still shows that the fee is $3.00.... It doesn't really matter, I stopped using them as my long distance carrier and closed the account, now I just have to wait for the refund check.

E*Trade was a little bit better about it, I only had to argue with two people before they credited the charges. In the past month though, I have realized that they shouldn't be allowed to handle money with the rate the charge for things and then credit them back to the account (not just this one, there have been a couple of other fees that have appeared and then magically disappeared as well). This is another account that I am closing, unfortunately much like a credit card you have to argue with them to do it. I haven't had the time to take this one up yet.

Whatever happened to customer service?

It seems like any time I call anyone lately I end up arguing with their customer "service" people, and then their managers. What every happened to the concept of customer *service* instead of "we repeat what is written in front of us and ignore everything you say".

As an example, I noticed a couple of weeks ago that Sprint stated my monthly charge for long distance was $3, but they were charging me $4.95. I called them to see what was up, and was told "our prices went up". After repeatedly trying to explain to them that it is illegal in California to charge more that the lowest posted price I asked for a supervisor. Not only would this person not listen to my complaint, she had the nerve to be rude about it! In talking to two different people (and two more via. e-mail) I have been told three different times that the rate increase supposedly occurred, have been told that the only way I can see statements over 3 months old is to pay $3-$5 each for them (even though they charge you if you want paper statements), and that they would not credit the excess charges. For even more fun, try and find anything on their web site that lists their current rates -- you won't be able to do it. For that matter, try and find anything at all about their long distance service on sprint.com. I ended up filing a complaint with the Ca. PUC on them, we'll see if anything comes of it. Oh, and I switched my long distance service to someone who will give me the same rate with no monthly fee. And I just checked -- it *still* shows a monthly charge of $3 on my account page yet a $4.95 charge on my bill.

Then there is E*Trade. In my last statement I noticed that they have started charging me a quarterly service fee -- out of the blue with no notification. When I called them on it, I got the "your company no longer participates in E*Trade so we have to charge you". First some background, the only thing in my E*Trade account is my old SGI ESPP stock and a handful of MIPS shares I got when SGI spun MIPS off as a separate company. And, I haven't worked for SGI in twelve years. The account has only been around as a holding account for that stock. And, SGI went bankrupt over a year ago and my SGI stock evaporated. Apparently, E*Trade has just finally noticed this, and since the company is no longer paying the fee, they decided to pass it on to me. To make a long story short, after spending nearly a half hour on the phone arguing with the customer service moron and finally giving up and asking for a supervisor, I got the fee reversed. Well, at least one of them (turns out there was on on the last statement as well).

So, my options with E*Trade are:
1. Pay $60 to transfer $45 of MIPS stock to another brokerage
2. Pay $40 to have stock certificates issued
3. Pay ~$15 to sell the $45 worth of stock
4. Leave it alone and pay E*Trade $40/quarter to keep it
And remember, there is already a negative balance on the account due to the fee from last quarter. So, in other words, it is going to end up *costing* me money to do anything with stock that I never paid for in the first place (it was a grant when MIPS was spun off). I put in the sell order on Friday, but now I'm being told that I can't close the account for 3-5 days until the trade "settles". WTF? That's a new one by me. Apparently it's how E*Trade makes money -- by sitting on it for several days.

The moral of the story -- customer "service" isn't, and stay away from both Sprint and E*Trade unless you like having their hands in your pockets. They will take your money at every opportunity, give you no recourse to dispute it, and in most cases, not care.

Another year, another junior show

As of Sunday another year has passed and the annual junior theatre production has come to a close. As usual, we had lots of kids (47 8-18 year olds, 7 weeks of rehearsal, 15 performances over 4 weekends), and as always some were great, some not so great, and some merely annoying. Pippin may have been an odd choice for a junior production, but it's all water under the bridge now.

It's still fun, but this year has got to be the must frustrating yet. First of all, I know better than to be the tech director and asst. stage manager for one show while attempting to stage manage the next one. It's just too much work at once. While trying to make sure everything is done for the first show, at the same time I have to do the prep work and auditions for the second. Not to mention that all four weeks of performances overlap with rehearsals -- you know it's bad when you have to look at your script to even know what show is in front of you that moment.

To be honest, this wasn't one of our better shows. While the kids were trying (in every sense of the word :) ), the rest of the show just wasn't up to it. The stage manager really should not be allowed in a booth, as she never really took control over what was going on. We had curtains as late as 25 minutes past the scheduled show start. Sure, we padded the time with the "magic trick from hell", but it was still 8:25 before the curtain opened not 8pm. Which of course meant that we didn't end up getting out of the building until after 11:30pm. Let's not even talk about how the show was called or what time she would wander into the theatre every night.

And then there was the drama between the vocal director and the orchestra director, who at this point aren't speaking to each other. And the directing that gave the actors no motivation for anything they did on stage. Let's not forget the almost complete lack of any real color on the stage (come on folks, it's *Pippin* -- it needs color!). I could go on, suffice it to say that the audience reaction was as lacking as the show itself. I never thought I would say this, but I miss the old production team we had years ago. While I didn't agree with some of their methods (memories of actors crying backstage), they produced vibrant shows that involved the kids and packed the houses.

That aside, the cast for the next show is amazing. Sure, they're giving me some new gray hairs, but after watching them work through the entire opening last night I am impressed (and told them so). The opening number for Fame is nearly 10 minutes long, but their dancing and energy held my interest for the entire time. Too bad I'll never see it once the show opens. Knowing our lighting designer, I am going to have my nose buried in my script every night just trying to keep up with the cues. :)

Why do folks want to get into my car?

(back dating to last week since I should have posted this then)

So I get back to my car at the train station Thursday night, hit my remote, and at the same time I notice a pile of things behind the car hear the "chirp chirp" that means someone set off the alarm. Then I look at the car an notice something missing -- mainly the driver's side window.

Yes, again someone decided to break into my car at the train station. This time they didn't get the stereo, I took the face plate with me so they left it alone. Apparently they saw the Borders bag on the back seat and decided it must be something good. So I hope they are enjoying the APress Python book as much as I enjoyed paying $230 to have the window replaced. They also snagged my bluetooth GPS receiver, it was in the center console storage, so if they ever figure out what it is I'm sure they will have fun with it too. And they can do their laundry now with the $1.50 in quarters that they took as well.

I just don't get it. It's a Saturn! Not like it's the car to steal (which is probably why they just break in and leave it there).

Oh, the pile behind the car wasn't mine, it looks like they hit multiple cars on Thursday. I don't keep D&D books and dice in my car. While the sheriff was there taking my report one other woman pulled up who was missing a stereo, so it looks like they got at least three cars this time.

Hey Caltrain -- how about some security in the parking lot?
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    pissed off pissed off