Friday, February 23, 2007

Amazon Pricing is... Bizarre

The X-Files, Season 1 on DVD, in the new thin pack, is $24.99.

Season 2 is $49.95.

Season 3 is $36.99.

Season 4, 5, and 7 are $23.49 each.

Season 6, 8, and 9 are $34.99 each.

All the sets come with six DVDs, except for season 9 which has five.

Nope, I can't explain it either. But I can almost guarantee that if you go to your brick-and-mortar retailer, these boxed sets will be the same price!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Veronica Loves Music

We have exposed Veronica to all kinds of music, but so far the single piece of music that excites her the most is Bizet's Carmen. She likes this even more than dance music.

We found this out accidentally. We recently watched a biopic about Dorothy Dandridge, and became interested in her version of Carmen (called Carmen Jones). It's quite an amazing adaptation. When we put the movie in for the first time and the orchestra began playing the Prelude, Vera went berserk, dancing and waving her arms. She loves most of it, in fact, including the Toreador's Song and the Habanera.

Carmen Jones is a very clever adaptation; some of the songs are sung in near-literal translation, while some borrow only the melody. Veronica watched Carmen Jones over and over, until we were thoroughly sick of it (although it ends tragically, she probably was not clear on just what was happening, and so the fact that it is a bit of a downer didn't reduce her enthusiasm for the music). Last weekend I bought her a copy of the 1964 Leontyne Price recording (abridged, on one CD) and she's been playing that non-stop.

I find it endlessly amazing that a 43-year-old recording of a 132-year-old opera would be the piece of music to fascinate a two-year-old girl. Grace thinks she's going to be a conductor!

The Netgear Router Flakes Out

So, my second Netgear hardware router/firewall/wireless access point is starting to flake out. This morning it was crashed, so the wireless network was down, the wired clients couldn't get a rise out of it, and I couldn't get a response via HTTP on

A few weeks ago it did the same thing.

This is a FWG114P box which I bought a year ago to replace the previous Netgear box which had become unreliable.

After I had rebooted it, its logs were empty. Great. It would have been interesting to see what it thought it was doing. It has only one or two ports set to forward to my PC, which is off most of the time; everything else incoming is closed up.

As I wrote a year ago: "This thing is supposed to be an appliance. Do I need to reboot my refrigerator every month and throw out all the food?"

Or do I just need to assume that I'll have to throw away my router/firewall every year and get a new one? Grrr...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


We accidentally put one of my little USB flash drives through a complete wash and dry cycle at the laundromat.

The little case for it got slightly melted and doesn't fit any more, but the cap still fits and... it still works! I'm impressed!

It's a SanDisk "Cruzer Micro" 512 MB. I have a handful of these things (I just bought some 1 GB drives now that they have become dirt-cheap) and they are all different brands, shapes, and sizes. I doubt that all of them would have survived this particular form of abuse!

Healing and Shivering, and a new Unicorn

I've had a second and third acupuncture treatment for the continuing pain and light-sensitivity in my right eye and I'm pleased to report that the situation is continuing to improve. I still have to wear my sunglasses indoors occasionally. I have one more acupuncture treatment scheduled, since it seems to be reaching a poind of diminishing returns. While this recovery seems like it is taking forever, it hasn't actually been that long: it hasn't even been two months yet.

It was a strange weekend in Ann Arbor. Once again our heat failed, just in time for below-zero temperatures. Our radiators were not producing any heat at all, and the only heat in our apartment was apparently coming from the basement. That put the ambient temperature in our apartment in the 50s. Not dangerous, certainly, but not comfortable either, especially for a three-month-old baby. We spent Sunday bundled up in layers with hats and wool socks on, drinking hot tea and hot cocoa and went to bed with all the gear still on, trying to keep baby Sam warm.

We heard from our neighbors that they were in the same boat. This is the fourth time this season that we've had problems with our heat. Their response has been to bang on the pipes and tell us about stuck valves. The Ann Arbor Woods approach to maintenance is notably underwhelming. It took four rounds of leaking before they replaced our air conditioners last summer. And don't get me started about the roof leak that required a year of complaints (and, eventually, a collapsed ceiling and threats of withholding rent) before any effective repairs happened. Not that we want them to start ripping up plumbing now -- but how about next summer? Then there's the driveway and parking lot in front of our apartment, crumbling and turning to potholes for lack of minor repair at the appropriate time. Never spend a dollar now when you can spend ten later!

One of Veronica's favorite videos is the movie version of The Last Unicorn, so for a bedtime story on Sunday I read the first three chapters of the book. I'm not sure she realizes that the story with the "icorn" on the cover is the same as the story of the DVD, but I tried to copy the voice of the butterfly. Quite a few lines are unchanged, since the novel is short and the movie a relatively straightforward adaptation.

In one of those odd coincidences that seem to happen to me more and more often, the next morning I found that you can now buy a remastered copy of the movie on DVD, and if you buy this one, Peter S. Beagle will actually receive royalties. (Granada media has sold nearly a million copies of the movie without paying Peter a penny in royalties). You can buy a copy through the Conlan Press web site here.

I've ordered a copy signed and personalized for Veronica. It's a great movie, animated beautifully in much the same style as the animated version of The Hobbit. It is especially notable for some really inspired voice work. The minor characters steal the show for me: Christopher Lee plays the embittered King Haggard, Brother Theodore plays a half-crazed (OK, fully crazed) Ruhk, and in my favorite scene, Rene Auberjonois plays a talking skeleton who is fooled into drinking a nonexistent bottle of wine -- and enjoying it immensely! The main characters are somewhat colorless by comparison, but still pretty decent, especially Alan Arkin as the nervous Schmendrick the Magician ("the last of the red-hot swamis!")

The previous DVD edition was a piece of pan-and-scan hack work. The video is fuzzy, with a lot of background noise and poor contrast, and the audio transfer is downright bad. If you don't know much about audio, you might not notice exactly what is wrong, but you will definitely notice that some of the songs in particular sound bad. The dynamic range is poor, the frequency range is truncated, there's no stereo imaging to speak of, and in some of the songs there is even very noticeable wow and flutter together with audible drop-outs, as if the sound was dubbed from a worn casette tape. This makes it sound as if Mia Farrow couldn't stay on pitch and as if lead singer of America recorded his parts drunk. I don't think either of these things are true, so I'm really looking forward to a release with a better audio track. Support Peter S. Beagle and order a copy today!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Democrats: Useless or Worthless?

Did they threaten his family?

Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) is now saying that impeachment is "off the table." He's also claiming that the right wing has led an orchestrated campaign to distort his position on impeachment.

This from the man who has been a relentless critic, publishing extremely detailed accounts of administration misconduct on his web site, including a piece called "The Constitution in Crisis" on the run-up to the Iraq war and another called "What Went Wrong in Ohio" on the orchestrated fiasco that was the 2004 election.

86% of the public supports impeachment, but for some truly unfathomable reason the Democrats, helpless as my newborn infant son, can't even take an issue the American public has handed them on a silver platter and run with it.

Are they trying to bring civility back to government? Are they afraid people will think this is somehow "payback" for Clinton? Please. If ever there was such a thing as an impeachable offense, this administration has committed it. Many of them, in fact. Impeachment is not a dirty trick or low blow -- it is the tool for putting forth a vote of no confidence. It doesn't do anything in and of itself, but it's a starting point.

Democrats -- useless or worthless? It's no wonder I can't bring myself to vote for one of them!