Coming Out of Left Field

Monday, January 30, 2006

Bueller? Bueller?

Today was a school day, so I double-checked the contents of my backpack before I left the house:

Textbook -- check.
Notebook -- check.
Folder with syllabus and homework assignment -- check.
Writing implements -- check.
"Barton Fink" and "Raising Arizona", to return to the library -- check.

I remembered all these, but forgot to put "instructor" on the list. When I got down to school, he was nowhere to be found, and there was a "class cancelled" note on the wall. It would've been nice to have known that before I made the 1 1/2-hour trek to school, but it does mean I got to see the wife earlier. I just hope the instructor doesn't make a habit of this. A textbook, I can always resell. A class, not so much.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

One for the "duh" department

The text for my sound design class has a cool appendix listing some common sound effects and ways of producing them. For instance, if you need the sound of a cow being milked and don't happen to have a cow handy, you can get a water pistol, fill in and squirt it into an empy metal bucket or other container. For a gunshot, prick a balloon with a pin or slam a book shut. For hoofbeats, bang coconut shells together (a la the knights in Monty Python).

Most of the other effects sound just as fun, with the notable exception of the doorbell, which is explained concisely if not that originally:

"Use a real doorbell."

Wow, it's a good thing that was included in the book. I never would've figured that one out on my own. Nice to know I'm getting my money's worth -- and at $97, I want every single penny of it.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Let's welcome back Theo, our new ... er ... um?

It's been five days since the Red Sox announced Theo Epstein was returning to the team, but they have yet to say what his position would be (and apparently are going to do so via statement instead of a press conference). Like many other fans, I've been speculating on what Theo will be doing, and came up with some possibilities:

Chief custodian
Pros: Comes with its own (small) office. Allows unlimited access to all departments.
Con: Would force Epstein to clean up other people's messes.

Center fielder
Pros: Many opportunities for travel. High visibility. Would cost the Sox less than Coco Crisp.
Cons: Requires actual playing ability. Would probably not solve team's need for a leadoff hitter.

Pro: Would share responsibility and decision-making authority with Larry Lucchino.
Con: Would share responsibility and decision-making authority with Larry Lucchino.

Hopefully the Sox have designed something better. If they haven't, we're in real trouble.

Update: the team finally released their announcement: Theo returns as GM, and will be the Executive Vice President to boot. No word on whether he'll still have to run things by Lucchino or whether he gets to report directly to John Henry and Tom Werner.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

The West Wing: "Duck and Cover"

"Duck and Cover" was an appropriate title for this episode, since it's what NBC should be doing right now:

NBC canceling 'West Wing' after 7 seasons

This isn't a complete surprise, but it's still sad. I'm going to miss the characters a lot. Oh well, I guess there's always DVD, right?

Anyway, on to the episode, which was extremely intense. The nuclear incident was handled pretty well, both in how it was presented (seriously, but not in an overblown "disaster of the week" style) and how it was managed by the characters. Made me wish that Jed Bartlet -- or even Martin Sheen -- had been in charge of Katrina relief.

It was interesting to see how the two campaigns handled their response to the incident. According to the above link, the writers have been arguing over who's going to win the election, but I can't see how Vinick has a chance. Part of that is because we just haven't seen that much of him lately. I'm not sure, but I don't think he's really been in an episode since the presidential debate. The other part is that, after appearing so intelligent and savvy at the beginning, Vinick has become a less attractive character (rigid, opportunistic, more prone to politics as usual) and in this episode didn't act that smart at all. For once, Santos won not by making a great speech, but by not saying anything at all.

Other comments:

-- The handheld camera took a little getting used to. It helped that there weren't a lot of jump cuts, quick pans or odd framing.
-- How much longer are they going to draw out the China-Kazakhstan conflict? It's almost like CNN Headline News, the way it keeps popping up through the episode ("And now, an update from ...").
-- I missed Leo (who was campaigning somewhere else), Louise (who might have been with him), and Abby (who's on another show altogether, though I've heard cancellation rumors).
-- I just went on NBC's West Wing site to find out when there'll be a new episode, and apparently it won't be until March 12. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Theo's returning!

The Red Sox are getting their GM back, yay! In what capacity I don't know (it could be as janitor for all I care), but it'll be full-time, and that's good. There's hope for Bosox fans yet!

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Brain dump

Some scattered thoughts while I wait for the content management system at work to let me do something with my content ...

-- Damn, Pats are out (and, sadly, deserved to be). So, when does spring training start?

-- Saw Deborah Henson-Conant in concert last Sunday, and had to completely my perception of harpists. Funny stories, a killer voice and an energetic mix of Latin, jazz and other music will do that to you.

-- Caught the new West Wing that night. It was decent, with some nice stuff between CJ and Danny, but not one of my more favorite episodes. And the CA nuclear incident just yells "cheap ratings stunt", though if they draw parallels to Katrina it might be interesting.

-- Saw the latest Harry Potter movie on Monday -- great fun. I did miss the whole bugging subplot (its omission shrunk Hermione's role a bit), but no major goofs.

-- The baby-making process, I've decided, is good prep for baby-raising, particularly the sleep deprivation part.

-- "We can't do anything about it" is never what you want to hear from a tech person. This is particularly true when the "it" is a publishing system that isn't actually publishing, and even more true when you have deadlines to meet.


Sunday, January 15, 2006

Go, Rogue Slayer!

I have lots of stuff to blog about (Pats game, harp concert, West Wing), but none of those are as important as what my friend Rogue Slayer Law Student has decided to do. I just read on her blog that she's committed to participate in the Boston Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Between now and May she and her other team members need to raise $1800 per person, and would preferably like to raise more for the cause. So if you can, please visit her team page and chip in. They, and the many people affected by breast cancer, will be grateful.

I look forward to hearing about RSLS's progress, and hope that her team gets much better weather than my team did when we tried to walk in NYC four years ago.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Tuesday TV

While waiting for "Boston Legal" to start last night, the wife and I caught the last several minutes of "Commander in Chief", which was several minutes too long for us. It's not just that I want Geena Davis to be a female version of Jed Bartlet (I'd settle for her being an individual, period). It's more that the show is so damn obvious, from the storylines to the flat characters to the cinematography. (Would someone tell the DP we know the show takes place in the White House, so he doesn't have to show the presidential seal every chance he gets?) And the music is ubiquitous, annoying and in most cases completely unnecessary. Any show that doesn't trust viewers to get it won't get my trust anytime soon.

Luckily, "Boston Legal" was on right after that, and was worth every minute. It's bad for Michael J. Fox's character that the guy suing him wouldn't settle, but it's good for fans of Fox. I also look forward to seeing how Allan Shore is going to approach the defense of Jerry (aka "Hands"). Maybe Shore's willingness to speak the truth is why he's not a partner.

I got home too late for "Gilmore Girls", but the wife informed me I didn't miss much. Her exact words: "It was like The L Word", in that both were catch-up/filler episodes. Otherwise they're not much alike, though blending the two would open up some interesting -- if bizarre -- possibilities. Crossover, anyone? :D


Interview follow-up

Last week at my interview I'd gotten some homework, which was to go through the site and come up comments and suggestions for new features. I spent the whole week off and on looking at pages and brainstorming ideas (something that doesn't come naturally to me), wrote everything into a hopefully coherent e-mail and sent it off this afternoon. Now it's just wait and see, another thing that doesn't come naturally.

The reassuring thing is that, regardless of what happens with this job, my current contracting stint is going to last longer than I'd expected -- it'll go through the end of February instead of January. That should buy me a little time, and help pay the bills too.


Monday, January 09, 2006

The West Wing: "Running Mates"

Thanks to all the stuff that's going on lately, my brain hasn't been firing on all cylinders, but the wife and I still managed to enjoy last night's episode, and not just because it was the first new one in a month. There was some nice witty dialogue, and the main plot was handled pretty well. I liked the interplay between Josh, Louise and the rest of the staff as they tried to salvage Leo's chances in the debate. I did want Leo to go in and blow his opponent away with a kick-butt speech (ala Santos), but it was probably more realistic that he didn't.

I was less taken with the privacy subplot. This must've cropped up as soon as Santos won the nomination, so why hasn't the issue appeared until now? Does he really not have a clue about what has been going on at home? I also find it hard to believe that at this stage Helen Santos hasn't thought about her role in a Santos White House. Seems out of character for someone that smart.

Other comments:
-- The jump cuts at the beginning had me worried. Thank heaven the DP used them for a specific purpose (Leo's starts and stops), rather than as a stylistic choice for the whole episode.
-- The Kate/Will thing is still weird. But I'm starting to see how it could work. Who knew Harper could flirt?
-- Nice exchange between Josh and Toby. It'll be sad when Toby is gone for good, and we won't have that dynamic anymore.
-- It's also very, very sad watching Leo. :(
-- Hope next week's episode isn't all sex scandal. The tabloid thing was tacky and gratuitous enough.

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Swingtime Saturday

A public service announcement on behalf of Swingtime Boston:

Hello Everyone,

Now that the holidays are behind us it's time to kick off our shoes and dance off those extra pounds.  Be sure to join us this Saturday, January 7th for Swingtime's Black and White Dance.  Feel free to dress up or dress down.  We will be featuring the Ballroom Dance Fox Trot. 

Ms. Liz Nania will give a beginner lesson in Foxtrot at 8:00 pm.  The dance will run from 9:00 to 11:00 pm.  DJ Leandra Maclennon will spin all your favorite Swing, Latin, Ballroom, and Two-Step tunes.  

Cover charge at the door is $8.00.  Refreshments are free and there is parking both in the lot and on the street.  Swingtime dances are located at The Brookline Academy of Dance, 136 Westbourne Terrace, corner of Corey Rd. and Westbourne Terrace,Brookline MA. 
For more info call 617 364-7207 and don't forget to check out our new webstite at
See you all there and don't forget to bring a friend!!!


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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Impending interview

I have an interview tomorrow. The thought uppermost in my mind right now: "Ulp."

All day I've been reminding myself that I'm not walking into a completely new situation. Not only did I use to work at this company, but I've been doing some training in another department for some fill-in work. So if I happened to get hired, I wouldn't take as long to get up to speed on the publishing system. The position itself would involve creating and updating interesting content, unlike my last job. (When was the last time anyone actually read a fund prospectus?) And even if this doesn't go well, I'll probably still have the contract work to tide me over for a bit.

Hopefully I'll remember all this when I wake up at 3 a.m. and the nerves kick in. Ulp.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

HP = prevention?

Harry, Ron, and Hermione are often in harm's way. But according to a study by British researchers (passed on by my brother, a reliable source of laughable links), the trio from the Harry Potter books may be ensuring the safety of their young readers:

With Harry Potter, injuries dip like magic

"Given the lack of horizontal velocity, height, wheels or sharp edges associated with this particular craze ... we were interested to investigate the impact the Harry Potter books had on children's traumatic injuries during the peak of their use."

Guess none of the kids tried out for the local Quidditch team, huh?


Monday, January 02, 2006

Weekend doings

The wife and I had a very, very good New Year's. On Saturday, we drove over to the home of Rogue Slayer Law Student and the Girl, where we'd been invited to spend the night. We ate a wonderful dinner (loved the lamb, mmmm), chatted, and admired RSLS's kitchen renovations. We'd originally planned to watch movies, but RSLS and the Girl had been watching Season 2 of The L-Word (preparing for next week's season premiere), so we watched a few episodes that night, and finished up the season the following morning. They kindly loaned us Season 1 on DVD so we can catch up. Yes, the wife and I are now hooked. We even feel sorry for Jenny, something I hadn't thought possible. I hope she gets some therapy and some time in a nice quiet room, preferably padded.

After the mini-marathon and a yummy brunch, we went to a New Year's Day party, spent some time eating and socializing, and headed home tired but happy. Today started earlier than we would've wished (thanks to an 8:15 a.m. medical appointment), but we took it easier the rest of the day -- lunch with friends, then a two-hour nap. Not a bad way to start off 2006!