Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Calvin & the Snowmen, part 9

Jack Bauer vs. the evil Republican

“24” almost lost me last night.

We’ve known for some time that presidential aide Walt Cummings was a bad guy, complicit in the assassination of former President David Palmer, the attacks on the others at CTU that knew Jack Bauer was still alive and the murder of several civilians during the hostage crisis at the airport. And that was all just before lunch!

But last night we finally learned his motivation. It was all a plot to plant false evidence of weapons of mass destruction to justify further U.S. troop deployments to secure the flow of foreign oil!

Oh, brother. As soon as I heard “weapons of mass destruction” and “oil” I had to groan. The evil Republicans strike again.

I love “24” and will keep watching, but that was a bit much.

Friday, January 27, 2006

'Tell me where the campaign finance reform is!'

Aaron sent me this "24" tidbit from USA Today:

McCain has a role in '24' — but just for a 'blink'

Viewers will be able to spot a real government figure on the Feb. 6 episode of 24 (Fox, 9 p.m. ET/PT). Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a fan, was visiting the set in the fall when producers asked if he was interested in doing "a little Alfred Hitchcock star turn," executive producer Howard Gordon says. "We had a scene in which Audrey Raines (Kim Raver) needs to get a file folder from someone, and Sen. McCain delivered it."

McCain's non-speaking cameo as an unidentified bureaucrat is so brief it seems like a "Where's Waldo?" moment, Gordon says. "If you blink, you'll miss it."

Before the scene, producers talked politics with McCain. "He was more interested in talking about scenes from 24," Gordon says. "He was able to cite chapter and verse from the seasons."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

'Raiders' rides again

I went with Aaron tonight to see my all time favorite movie at the Palace Theatre in Albany: “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

You have to understand, seeing this movie—especially on the big screen—is like a religious experience for me. When I hear the familiar John Williams music I get chills. And several times during the movie I became consciously aware that I was staring at the screen with a big smile on my face. For me, “Raiders” is simply everything that’s great about the movies!

“Raiders” will mark its 25th anniversary later this year. The print we watched was scratchy in parts, but all-in-all in pretty good shape.

Yes, I own the Indiana Jones DVDs, but you know what? Give me a scratchy print at a movie theater any day! There is something about the shared experience of watching your favorite film in a theater full of people who ooh and ah, and laugh and cheer in all the right places.

There’s another reason I prefer the old scratchy print to the DVDs. As much as I love this movie, I’ll be the first to admit it’s far from a perfect film. It has its share of flaws, some of which, through the magic of digital technology, were cleaned up for the DVD. Perhaps the most obvious example is the famous reflection of the cobra in the Plexiglas separating Harrison Ford from the deadly snake. I miss the reflection! To me, it’s part of the charm of the movie. When we were kids and we discovered that reflection, we felt like we were in on some big secret.

By my count this was about the 40th time I’ve watched this movie (and the fifth time on the big screen—three times when I was kid and another screening the old Madison theater seven or eight years ago). Even after seeing it all those times, tonight I still noticed some details hadn’t spotted before—giving me reason to watch it a few more times.

It’s one thing to enjoy a movie. But no other film makes me feel happy like “Raiders” does.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bawdy B-and-B

Boy…you drive past a place a million times and you never realize what’s going on inside.

If memory serves, this building—located in an area filled with doctor’s offices and private homes—used to be some sort of nursing home. But not anymore!

I think the AP article about the Union Street Bed and Breakfast put it best:
There's more than R-and-R going on at a B-and-B in Schenectady. There's also some S-and-M, and neighbors say that's not O-K.
There was an article about the B-and-B on the front page of the Times Union today. WNYT also has a story with video.

Among the amenities offered at the Union Street Bed and Breakfast are the “dungeon room,” the “examination table” and a selection of adult toys. All of which you can see pictures of on their site. I’m a little hesitant to offer a link here. But Albany Eye has the link, so go check his site out.

Some of the questions being asked around the water cooler this morning: Does the Union Street Bed and Breakfast get any Metroplex money? Are they offering any cross-promotions with “Phantom of the Opera” at Proctors? What can we buy there for $18.70?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Multi-million dollar makeover

All the buildings in the Niskayuna Central School District will be getting a major facelift. The $94.5 million bond proposal passed 2,712 to 1,553.

Construction will begin in the spring of 2007 and will be completed in phases, with some completed in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Alumni should come back and visit their schools soon. Before long they won’t look a thing like you remember (and that’s a good thing for our kids).

While the cat's away...

Is it time already to set limits on having girls in their rooms?

Kris took this picture last week while Thomas’ friend Stephanie was over visiting. While Kris was putting Nolan on the bus, they took the opportunity to jump in bed and pretend to be taking a nap.

Day of decision for Nisky schools

Today is the big day for the Niskayuna Central School District. Voters are going to the polls to decide if a $94.5 million bond issue gets approved.

The district wants to make extensive renovations to all eight of its buildings, including new classrooms, building repairs, updated heating/cooling systems and technology upgrades.

The state will kick in enough aid to cover 67 percent of the total bill. That means we taxpayers would have to cough up $31 million over the next 20 years.

The big sticking point for me was a plan to relocate the media center in the high school—the one was just expanded and remodeled only 15 years ago. The plan is to move it to center of the building and turn the former media center into classroom space.

The district claims the current media center is not big enough anymore and that they get more aid from the state this way than if they tried to expand it again. That’s also why they aren’t building a whole new high school, as was once considered. Apparently the state gives more for renovating than building new.

There is also the added convenience of having it centrally located, instead of being at the back of the school where it is now.

I wasn’t completely convinced this was necessary. However, I voted “yes” anyway because so much of the work is needed.

You can get detailed descriptions of what’s planned for each school on the district’s site.

Network merger

Perennial fifth and sixth placed TV networks UPN and the WB are going to merge into one network.

CBS Corp., owners of UPN, and Warner Bros., owners of the WB, will be partners in the new network, which will be called the CW.

The CW will be broadcast on Tribune-owned stations, which locally includes WEWB (WB 45).

It will be interesting to see what this means for WNYA (UPN Capital Region).

I don’t care which channel it’s on, as long as they keep “Everybody Hates Chris” on the air!

Actually, the CW will be run by execs from both UPN and the WB who say UPN shows “Chris,” “Veronica Mars” and “America’s Next Top Model” along with WB shows “Gilmore Girls” and “Smallville” will be among the programs on the new network next fall.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Calvin & the Snowmen, part 8

You're fired

NBC is making a bunch of changes to its schedule. Among them, Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” is moving to Monday at 9 p.m.

That means I’m done with the Donald, since that move puts the show opposite my favorite show, “24.”

I’ve always enjoyed “The Apprentice,” but I don’t like it so much that I’m willing to tape it every week while the vastly superior “24” is on. So that’s the end of that.

Meanwhile, “The West Wing” has also been officially cancelled. I don’t think this surprised anyone. A lot of people expected this to be the last year for that show.

I stopped being a regular viewer somewhere during season four. But lately I’ve been checking the show out more often. I thought last night’s episode was very good. It’s ironic they turned out such a good episode the same weekend they announced the show’s cancellation.

Life with the Rooneys

Remember a month or so ago when I mentioned school was canceled even though we only got two or three inches of snow? We had the opposite problem today. School remained open despite some pretty sloppy roads.

It usually takes me 30 minutes to get to work. Today it took over an hour with traffic barely moving on Route 7 heading towards Latham.

We checked this morning and saw that school was open. So Kris put Nolan on the bus. But it turns out that a late decision was made to cancel p.m. kindergarten. Neither we nor the bus driver knew this. So the bus had to eventually turn around and bring him back home.

Things were moving slow today, but we had an action-packed weekend. We recently became members at the Children’s Museum of Science and Technology—a very cool place—and took the kids there again Saturday morning. Among other things, we checked out their nifty Molecularium show.

Then later that night we attended a pot luck dinner held on the Siena College campus for families of adopted Asian kids.

But of course, a high point of the weekend for any kid is always a trip to McDonald’s. Yesterday we went to one of the ones with a giant play area and met our friends the Price family there. Nolan was excited because he and Thomas got two toys in their Happy Meals (I think they’re just trying to unload surplus toys from past promotions)!

We rounded the weekend out with dinner at my mom’s house.

Now you’re caught up with us. Kris has some cute photos she’s taken recently that I haven’t posted yet. Hopefully I’ll get those up soon.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Osama's book club

What does this say about Americans?

In his taped message yesterday, Osama bin Laden suggested Americans go out and read a book called “Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower” by William Blum.

It’s been noted on The Daily Nightly that yesterday that book was ranked 209,572 on Amazon.com's book list.

Now that it’s on Osama’s must-read list—it’s jumped to 43rd!

More reasons to dislike Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise is apparently unhappy with the depiction of him in a recent “South Park” episode—and is using his clout to keep it from airing again.

I wouldn’t say I watch “South Park” regularly, but when I do more often than not I wind up laughing out loud.

The funniest episode I saw from the recent season was a hysterical spoof of Scientology, in which Scientologists believed Stan was the second coming of L. Ron Hubbard.

The same episode, entitled “Trapped in the Closet,” featured a subplot in which a cartoon version of Cruise locked himself in a closet and refused to come out.

Cartoon versions of ex-wife Nicole Kidman and fellow Scientologist John Travolta try to coax Cruise out.

“Don't you think this has gone on long enough? It's time for you to come out of the closet. You're not fooling anyone,” the cartoon Kidman says.

Cruise has convinced Paramount to keep the episode off the air in the United Kingdom, and apparently they’ve agreed not rerun it in the United States either. Although the Comedy Central site says it’s scheduled to air Monday night (or is that this past Monday?).

Paramount released Cruise’s “War of the Worlds” last year and will release his “Mission: Impossible 3” this summer. Apparently they don’t want to risk angering their big shot star.

This is unbelievable. As if I wasn’t already sick enough of Tom Cruise. If he’s going to live his life in the public eye—with his couch jumping and berating of Brooke Shields—then he needs to learn to lighten up.

At least the “South Park” folks are lucky he didn’t unleash the Dark Side of the Force on them.

Welcome to the Blogosphere

My oldest buddy, Aaron Hull, has launched his own blog--The World of the Hulls.

Aaron is a frequent commenter here, never missing an opportunity to jump into a fiery debate about politics or baseball.

Aaron and I go way back to Little League baseball in the 2nd grade. We both played for Goldstock's Sporting Goods. His dad was our coach.

He plans to use his blog to show off pictures of Baby Hull, who is due to arrive in the next few weeks.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Death of a Soulman

The news just crossed that soul legend Wilson Pickett has died of a heart attack at age 64.

Pickett’s “Mustang Sally” was always a favorite of mine—especially after seeing the movie “The Commitments.”

You could always tell I’d reached sloppy-drunk status at a party in college when I could be found laying on the floor somewhere belligerently insisting that I get to hear “Mustang Sally.” In fact, I can remember one end-of-the-year PSTV party where I spent several minutes annoying many people as I slumped in a bean bag chair outdoors yelling, “Play ‘Mustang Sally!’”

Perhaps I’ve said too much…

Anyway, RIP Wilson.

Lift off!

The New Horizons space probe just launched on its nine-year trek to Pluto.

Here’s an amazing fact: NBC’s Jay Barbree just reported that the spacecraft is traveling so fast it will pass the moon in nine hours. It took the Apollo astronauts three days to get to the moon!

So how fast is New Horizons? Barbree just said it’s moving at 36,000 mph.

Hopefully in 2015 New Horizons will reach its destination and we can learn all about Pluto, the ninth planet in our solar system.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam

Here’s how much of a geek I am: upon hearing that Clarence Ray Allen’s last words before being executed in California were “It’s a good day to die,” the first thing I thought of was, “Hey! That’s a Klingon phrase!”

I’m such a loser. It’s like the Taunton Dam all over again.

NOTE: No, I did not know that translation off the top of my head. I had to google it. I'm not that much of a geek that I speak fluent Klingon!


I was running late getting to the TV Sunday night for the start of “24.” We had dinner at my sister’s house. By the time we got home and got the kids to bed, it was past 8 p.m.

You just can’t start watching a “24” episode in the middle of the show. I already had the VCR set up to tape it just in case and I figured I’d wait to watch the two-hour season premiere at 10 p.m.

But I lucked out. I turned the TV on just to make sure it was taping properly and to my surprise, “24” hadn’t started yet. Football ran late on Fox.

Unfortunately, fans of the Jack Bauer Power Hour in Columbia, S.C. were not so lucky. They were outraged when their Fox affiliate’s 10 p.m. newscast started on time, cutting off the last 10 minutes of the show.

Bad move. “24” viewers are fanatical when it comes to their favorite show. Like this guy:
Paul Teeple, 43, of Columbia, hadn’t missed a second of “24” from the start — even from 2001 to 2003, while working in Nicaragua for his employer, an international development nonprofit organization. He had friends record it for him.

“I’m mad, I’m upset, and I’m having a hard time rationalizing this,” he said. “This is the one TV show you wait for and wait for, and there’s always a cliffhanger — but this is too much.

Another fan put it best:
“Somebody has lost their mind,” said Steve Arnold, a fan who was watching the show at his Irmo home.
I know all too well that it doesn’t take much to get the phone ringing off the hook at a TV station with calls from irate, crazy viewers. I’m sure the folks WACH got an earful.

Christmas II

We finally capped off the holidays this weekend with a visit from Kris’ patents. The way the timing of things worked out, we weren’t able to get together closer to Christmas.

We had a very nice visit. The kids always love seeing grandma & grandpa. Plus this time there was the added bonus of…more presents!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Gimme all yer money...and a job

Job trainee accused of robbing restaurant that hired him

GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. (AP) - The Burger King worker thought the new guy working alongside her looked familiar. That's because he was the same guy who had robbed the restaurant a week earlier.

Erie County sheriff's deputies say that's the scene that played out Wednesday at the Burger King in Grand Island, near Buffalo, when 29-year-old Adam Ruiz showed up for his first day of work.

A female cashier told deputies she almost fainted when she turned around and saw Ruiz working next to her behind the counter. She told authorities it was the same man who had handed her a note demanding money while she was on duty last Friday.

The robber made off with more than 200 dollars.

After recognizing Ruiz as the alleged robber, the woman had a co-worker call 9-1-1. Deputies arrested Ruiz at the Burger King, where he was going through on-the-job training.
He was arraigned yesterday on armed robbery charges.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Doctor Woohoo!

There is great news for all of us “Doctor Who” fans on this side of the pond. The first season of the new series is finally coming to the United States!

The Sci-Fi Channel will air the show on Fridays at 9 p.m. beginning in March—most likely March 17, according to Outpost Gallifrey.

The deal is for last year’s season one—featuring all 13 Christopher Eccleston episodes—with an option to pick up season two, which will begin airing on the BBC around the same time.

I first spotted the news this morning on the BBC’s official Doctor Who site, where the homepage featured a flash animation showing the TARDIS materializing in front of the White House with red, white and blue fireworks going off above and the Star Spangled Banner playing in the background.

There were rumors last year that Sci-Fi passed on the show, which wouldn’t surprise me if all they saw was the lackluster pilot episode, “Rose.” But the show improved week after week and proved a ratings success in the U.K. Let’s see how it does over here.

Meanwhile, the Internet has spoiled me. I’ll probably continue using bit torrent to catch the new David Tennant episodes this spring, rather than wait for them to show up on Sci-Fi.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Calvin & the Snowmen, part 7

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Gearing up for baseball season

We signed Nolan up for another year of baseball last night.

He’s graduating from Tee Ball and moving on the “Rookie” level. Rookie basically follows Tee Ball rules, except coaches pitch to the kids and outs are now recorded in the field. However, no matter how many outs everyone still gets a turn at bat each inning. There are no strike-outs and no walks. If the batter swings and misses five or six times then he/she gets to use a tee.

Like Tee Ball, no “official” score is kept. But as we saw in soccer, the kids will probably keep track anyway.

It looks like Nolan will get to have the same manager as last year and many of the same teammates, which is very cool. I’m also hoping to be an assistant coach again.

I took Nolan with me to the sign-ups at the high school. He was disappointed because he thought he was actually going to get to play ball last night. He didn’t like it when I told him he had to wait four more months before the season starts.

Spring training is right around the corner...

Monday, January 09, 2006

Going postal

The US Postal Service sucks.

I’ve come to terms with the increased price of a postage stamp. I understand that stamp prices go up from time to time—that’s just the way life is.

But here’s what ticks me off: I just came back from the Post Office with a handful letters with 37-cent stamps on them. I couldn’t mail them because they were all out of 1- and 2-cent stamps!

Actually, the guy in front of me bought the last of the 1-cent stamps.

Seriously, they’ve known about the postage increase for how long and they couldn’t make sure every Post Office would have enough stamps?

The Music of the Night

I’m a happy camper today. I scored a couple of tickets to “The Phantom of the Opera” at Proctor’s Theatre next month. We got pretty good seats too—only three rows back from the stage!

I’ve been dying to see this show since I was in high school. I loved the music when we sang it in the high school choir. I got a copy of the soundtrack and read everything I could about the show. I felt like I knew it backward and forward, but I never actually saw it. So this is long overdue.

Meanwhile, “Phantom” will officially become the longest running show in Broadway history when the curtain goes up tonight. That must be good timing for the Proctor’s folks with all the extra publicity around the show right before it comes to Schenectady for a month’s worth of performances.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Wacky warnings

The winners have been announced for the 2005 Wacky Warning Label Contest.

The contest, now in its ninth year, is conducted by Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch to reveal how lawsuits, and concern about lawsuits, have created a need for common sense warnings on products.

And the winners are:
1st place: A heat gun and paint remover that produces temperatures of 1,000 degrees and warns users, “Do not use this tool as a hair dryer.”

2nd place: A label on a kitchen knife that warns: “Never try to catch a falling knife.”

3rd place: A cocktail napkin with a map of the waterways around Hilton Head, S.C. printed on it along with this: “Caution: Not to be used for navigation.”

Honorable mention: A warning label he found on a bottle of dried bobcat urine made to keep rodents and other pests away from garden plants. It says: “Not for human consumption.”

Honorable mention: A warning label on a baking pan: “Ovenware will get hot when used in oven.”

Start the clock...

I can't wait for the new season of "24" to kick off on Jan. 15. Unlike last year, I didn't get my hands on a preview of the first few hours. So that means I'll be settling in for four hours of Jack Bauer action on the 15th and 16th.

"24" is one of the few shows where I try to remain spoiler-free. But I did allow myself to read the article about the new season on EW.com. Here's a sample...

...the opening minutes of the first episode are so shocking...well, we'll leave the hyperbole to the 24 folks. ''[Fans] are going to be really stressed out — even more so than before,'' says Mary Lynn Rajskub, who plays cranky systems analyst Chloe. ''Like, people should take a Valium or something.'' Teases [exec producer Howard] Gordon: ''It'll scramble everyone's eggs. Whereas in the past we've had this slow-mounting tension, this year starts out with a bang and doesn't let up. Just when Jack thought he'd lost everything, he finds out there's something more to lose.''

'Late Show' Smackdown

I can’t believe I missed the Letterman-O’Reilly clash on Tuesday’s “Late Show!”

Bill O’Reilly of Fox News Channel came on Letterman’s show, but the interview was not your typical late night happy talk. Dave let him have it.

It started with ridiculing O’Reilly’s war on “the war on Christmas.” Then things really heated up when they started talking about Iraq and Cindy Sheehan.

At one point Letterman told O’Reilly:
“I'm not smart enough to debate you point to point on this, but I have the feeling, I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap.”

Newsday has a transcript of the whole interview. If you like, skip to page 3 where the sparks really start to fly. Or better yet, watch the video clip.

This is why Letterman’s show is so much better than “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Something like this would never happen during a Jay Leno interview. Remember when Letterman had Oprah on last month? He started asking her serious questions about her relief efforts in Africa and she seemed quite taken aback and surprised by his tone, asking him at one point, “Do you really want to talk about this?”

Letterman can handle diving into serious topics when he wants to. When he finally retires from late night TV (sooner rather than later I suspect), he will probably fade into private life like the late Johnny Carson did. But I think it would be fun to see him hosting a 30-minute Larry King-style show.

In this case, after reading the transcript and watching the clip, I sometimes agreed with Letterman and sometimes agreed with O’Reilly. But the problem with O’Reilly is that he’s such a blowhard, such an abrasive personality and so full of himself that even when I agree with him I still dislike him.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The media & the mine

I should clarify that in my earlier post about the Sago Mine tragedy (titled “Making a tragedy even worse”), by pointing out the erroneous newspaper headlines I was not blaming the media for making things worse. I was referring to the initial “miscommunication.”

A lot of fingers have been pointed at “The Media” (i.e.: big, bad, evil, journalistic vultures we all watch and/or read anyway or else they wouldn’t still have jobs).

It was not the media that informed the family members the miners were alive when they weren’t. They were merely reporting the scene when everyone started celebrating and saying the miners were okay.

As long as media outlets attributed their information (“Family members say…”) then I have no problem with the way things were conducted. Even better if they threw in a mention that there was not yet any official confirmation.

I do take issue with the headlines that ran in The Times Union and Daily Gazette, which declared the miners were safe without clarifying where that info came from. Both papers ran the same Associated Press article which accurately sourced the inaccurate info and contained a paragraph stating there was no official confirmation. But the headlines weren’t cautious enough.

However, an inaccurate headline in the newspaper is a drop in the bucket compared to the pain family members were already feeling. And the scene that resulted from the miscommunication would’ve played out pretty much the same regardless of whether there were any reporters and cameras there.

Calvin & the Snowmen, part 6

Robertson's mouth runs off again

Pat Robertson says Sharon's stroke may be God's punishment
One of these days God is going to come down here and say to Pat Robertson, "You're not my spokesman...cut it out!"

The Reverend Pat Robertson says Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's massive stroke could be God's punishment for giving up Israeli territory.

Here's the best part:
Robertson added, 'I would say woe to any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course.'

He noted that former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.

Yup, that's right, Pat. God condones assisination.

The worst part is that people listen to this guy.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Making a tragedy even worse

My heart goes out to all of the families and friends connected to the Sago Mine tragedy. I can’t begin to imagine the kick in the gut of being told your loved one was alive only to have someone turn around a few hours later and say, “Oops. On second thought…”

The hardest to hear quote was from a woman who said this:
“We don’t know if there is a Lord anymore. We had a miracle and it was taken away.”

Just like so many papers in the rest of the country, the local papers here went to press before the other shoe dropped, carrying headlines like “12 miners dicovered alive” (The Daily Gazette) and “12 found alive inside mine” (The Times Union).


What's interesting is that both papers make available on their sites a graphic image of the day's front page. Neither of them altered, updated or removed those images (that's where I got the pictures I used here).

Chain reaction

This sounds like one for the Darwin Awards...

Artist chains feet in desert, loses key:
"BAKER, Calif. (AP) — An artist who chained his legs together to draw a picture of the image hopped 12 hours through the desert after realizing he lost the key and couldn't unlock the restraints, authorities said Wednesday."

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Calvin & the Snowmen, part 5

We got about four to five inches of heavy, wet snow this morning...good snowman-making material...