Thursday, May 26, 2005

Finale Thoughts

Seems like most of the shows I watch on a regular basis have wrapped up for the summer...I guess I should chime in with my two cents; after all, everyone else is.

24 - Great conclusion to the best season since the last one. I've posted how much I love this show before, and it never disappoints. Two complaints: the last half hour was secondary to this season's primary plot, although necessary to set up next season, and I could have done without the "teaser" for next season that undid the suspense of "will he or won't he be back" that the aforementioned last half hour set up.

House - Neat two-episode arc that added a lot to the title character, although I can't say I'm excited to see Sela Ward added to the cast full-time. I don't know if I'm showing my age or how little TV I actually watch, but I'm not sure why I was supposed to be excited that she was guest starring in the first place. That aside, House is probably the best character on TV right now, and if you haven't seen this show, you're really missing out.

Law and Order - In a word: meh. Trial by Jury had the best final ep out of the four shows, but it had such a short run that it never had a chance to get going, and it won't be back. The "parent" show had a much more interesting show the previous week, compounded by the fact that the headline that the finale was ripped from had already been "ripped" by Criminal Intent earlier this spring. CI's finale was solid, but felt like just another episode, and didn't do anything to set up the fact that there will be two pairs of detectives, each doing half the shows next season. And SVU? Well, this year's best-in-series had the absolute worst finale, centering around a conspiracy theory that wouldn't have flown on The X-Files.

Fortunately, there are still a few episodes of The Shield and an entire summer season of Rescue Me to cover me through Rerunville until my programs start up again.

The Anti-Minutemen

Call me heartless, but it seems to me that with all the trouble this country is having with illegal immigrants, organizations like this one are making it all the more difficult to properly secure our borders. After all, the more dangerous it is to illegally cross the border, the fewer people will make the attempt. If stories like this become more common and make their way over the border, the pressure on our already overextended border patrol may lessen somewhat before the government has to spend any of our hard-earned tax dollars.

Funny, too...I thought aiding and abetting in the commission of a crime was also a crime in and of itself. Humane Borders exists as an organization for the sole purpose of aiding and abetting people who violate federal immigration law on a daily basis. It's unfathomable to me that they haven't been shut down or even charged with a crime.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Repeat offender

What a surprise.

Lionel Tate arrested in armed robbery

I mean, really, who would ever in their right mind have thought that a person who beat a six-year-old to death would continue to commit crimes? This story can be summed up in four sentences from the article linked above: "He was convicted in 1999 and sent to prison for life without chance of parole. He won a new trial on appeal and went free in January 2004 under a deal that placed him under house arrest for a year followed by probation for 10 years. [...] He was arrested in September for violating probation by being out of his home overnight... A judge added another five years to the 10 years Tate had left on the original probation."

Just so we have it straight, Your Honor...he violates probation, so the solution is...more of the same proven ineffective probation? What a Solomonic decision. Why can't certain people see that some so-called people simply have no place in society?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Much like Squidly, I'm also getting tired of World of Warcraft, though for very different reasons: Squidly has advanced his character to the highest level possible, and pretty much done and seen everything the game has to offer, while my character is pretty well stuck a few rungs shy of the top of the level ladder, thanks to an ill-advised revamping of their Player vs. Player system. I got the game about six months ago, and enjoyed almost every minute of the first five of those months. In the beginning, our gaming group chose to play on the PvP Azgalor server. This gave players and teams from the game's opposing factions that chance to test their skills and teamwork against one another. And at first, it all worked more or less the way it should. There was a definite advantage to grouping up and watching one another's backs, but it wasn't required...except for a few underdeveloped minds with IQs slightly above the level of cabbage who enjoyed attacking people half as powerful as them, most of the PvP fights were relatively fair, with the majority of folks winning as many battles as they lost. Then came the 1.4 patch, and suddenly everything changed.

With the new patch came a point system that rewarded killing players roughly the same level as you, with in-game equipment rewards to go along with it. Sounds good on paper, but unfortunately, the key words in that sentence are "roughly the same level"...and Blizzard Entertainment and I apparently have very different ideas of what that phrase means. Suddenly, a group of level 60 characters (the highest level in the game) can benefit from ganging up on a lone level 50 who wouldn't stand a chance against any one of his opponents. And it's very ironic that the score is measured in "honor points", because the best way to get kills is very dishonorable--simply attack an enemy character who's already got his hands full fighting a computer-generated enemy. It's reached the point where the frustration factor of not being able to complete the easiest of quests on my own because of interference from roving packs of opposing players has outweighed the fun factor of the times when I am able to play at the same times as my pals. So I've quit, and I post this review mainly as a warning to anyone thinking of joining the fun: it's just not the same game as it was when I was singing its praises. Blizzard believes that this problem will work itself out on its own when their Battlegrounds dedicated PvP areas come online, but I'm simply not willing to continue spending my money while I wait to see if that acutally happens. When my subscription runs out this time, I won't be renewing it. In the meantime, you can find me playing World War II Online.

And just because it has been over a week since my last update, I'll vent a little more spleen your way, dear reader. A couple of updates ago, I promised that I'd write something resembling a review of Ben Folds's latest album, Songs for Silverman once I'd had a chance to listen to it a few times. I'm about as big a fan of Ben as they come (I do believe I have every studio track he's ever recorded, and last year I went to see him in concert not once but twice), but in all honesty, this album left me a little bit disappointed, and I'm not entirely sure why. There's not any particular song that I don't like, but there really aren't any that stand out, either. The instrumental music is as good as it's ever been, but most of Ben's best songs have been about loss and rejection. Now that he's a happily married father, those songs that still follow that theme don't make quite the impact they once did. Take, for example, "Trusted"--it could have been a really great, emotional song, but the strongest emotion it evokes is a sort of mild, detached disappointment. And it's a shame that one of the album's 11 songs is a remix of "Give Judy My Notice" from his Speed Graphic EP. Still, as far as I'm concerned, Ben Folds is like The Simpsons, Law & Order, and Stephen King: a lesser entry from any of them is usually better than a good outing from just about anyone else. My final recommendation is to give it a listen, especially if you can find the version that comes with the bonus CD Songs for Goldfish, which contains a bunch of live tracks and a decent studio track that's neve been released before.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Weekend Fun

Whew...a nice, quiet weekend at home....yeah, right!

I had my semi-regular poker game last night. It's the damnedest thing--it seems like whenever I play poker, I end up with a hangover the next morning. They should research that in one of those medical journals.

Eventually, I recovered enough to go in to work--I had to replace the monitoring card in an IBM eServer. Those are really cool machines--we've got ours configured so that any of us can plug our laptops in and view the system logs no matter what condition the server itself is in. When I was finished, I walked over from my office to the Chapel Street Playhouse to see one of my coworkers play the lead role in a play called Taking Leave. It's about an English professor forced into retirement by the ravages of Alzheimer's disease. There are plenty of funny moments, but I was particularly touched by it given that the disease runs in my mother's side of my family. It will run one last time this coming weekend, so if you live anywhere near Newark, Delaware, I highly recommend you go see it.

Sunday morning, it was time to get up early (at least for me on a Sunday morning) and brave the drizzly weather to head up to On Target Paintball for some games with my friend Squidly. He was trying to get a new marker set up for tournament play, and I was trying to solve a problem with ball breakage inside the gun. My problem was easily solved after I shot through a pod of the Squidmeister's paint--the stuff I started out with was left over from last season. It went against every frugal bone in my body, but once I dumped out a quarter case of 2004's leftovers and opened a fresh box I bought on my way to work on Saturday, they miraculously stopped breaking in the barrel. I'm still having some difficulty with undershooting right now--I'm not shooting the gun fast enough, and two and three balls are dropping into the chamber. That's one of my areas to work on next time--firing shorter, faster bursts so they don't back up in the barrel. Mentally, I still need to work on my timing for moving up and staying back, and also to get better at staying low and wrapping around the bunkers instead of coming over the top to shoot.

It was a great time, though--really, the first time I was able to effectively use my BKO (my first outing was marred by the aforementioned barrel breaks). It makes a huge difference in accuracy, moving from a semi-auto CO2 powered gun to an electronic compressed air model. I got more kills yesterday than in any previous outing--maybe even more than all of last season. I was able to shoot exposed heads, feet, and hoppers with something resembling consistency, something I would only be able to do through blind luck with my old Spyder. One game in particular, a group of five young kids needed a sixth to get a three-on-three match going, so I took the field--and proceeded to shoot all three opponents out in about two minutes. The kids were all smiling when they came off the field, though, so I didn't feel too bad about it. We played from about 10:30 in the morning until about 3:00 in the afternoon--due a shortage of refs and a surprisingly high turnout, we only got about three games in before lunch, but the sun came out a little before noon, and we played almost nonstop for the rest of the day. Then it was back to Casa de Squid for the traditional postgame beer/chat--it's amazing how much his daughter's grown in the past year. It's also amazing how much better shape I'm in than I was at the start of last season--last year, my legs were fixing to fall off by the time I went home, and all I could do was sack out on the couch with McDonald's or a pizza. Last night, I had enough energy to cook myself a decent dinner (orange roughy in a tomato, white wine, and cream sauce and spinach sauteed with butter and garlic), and even stayed awake long enough to watch Law and Order: Criminal Intent on Tivo before going to bed a little after 11:00.

Maybe this weekend will be one to relax at home....but I hope not.