Thursday, August 30, 2007

Fall preview

Summer is almost over. How did you spend your summer vacation?

Here's what Michael, Dwight, Jim, Pam and the others at "The Office" have been up to for the last few months...



While we're on the subjected of the fall TV season, I've been meaning to mention that I recently got to see the pilot episode for NBC's updated"Bionic Woman."

When I first heard this classic show from the 1970s was being remade, I was not enthused. I thought it sounded like a lame idea.

But then I watched the BBC's "Jekyll" (great show!), which also featured "Bionic Woman" star Michelle Ryan. I liked her in that. So I decided to check "Bionic Woman" out.

I was pleasantly surprised. They've updated the show very well. It's kind of a cross between the original series and "Alias" (with maybe a little "Buffy" thrown in). I'll probably be back for more...and I think I'm already a Michelle Ryan fan.

Staying connected

This morning while working out at the Y I saw a girl riding an exercise bike while listening to her iPod, reading a book and holding her cellphone -- which she at least once used to make a quick call or check a text message. Oh, and there was also a TV on in front of her.

Hey, I'm all into the Information Age, but that just seemed like a little sensory overload to me.

Just the facts, ma'am

Part of me is embarassed for Sen. Larry Craig and his family.

But if he's telling the truth and he's innocent, then he's completely handled this situation wrong and shot himself in the foot.

If the allegations against Craig are true, then he turns out to be a big hypocrite. Although I would still feel bad for him since he has remained closeted his entire life and is apparently terrified of his secret getting out. That's kind of sad.

All the same, this re-enactment of his arrest from MSNBC's "Countdown" is quite funny. The dialogue (most of it anyway) comes directly from the Minneapolis police arrest report.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

How Vonage lost a customer

In the early days of this blog I went into great detail about our disastrous turn with AT&T’s broadband phone service.

But we were still interested in VoIP and in time we switched to Vonage. I was pretty pleased the with service most of the time.

Now, a little more than two years later we’ve dumped Vonage and changed to Time Warner’s digital phone service. Here’s what happened…

Back in July we picked up the phone one day and discovered there was no dial tone. Eventually, when I couldn’t solve the problem on my own, I broke down and called tech support. After spending an hour on the phone with a technician, she determined that our phone adapter was dead and needed to be replaced.

For those unfamiliar with VoIP, the adapter is a box that connects to both our phone line in the house and our cable modem.

Anyway, the technician told me that the warranty had expired on our adapter. So we would have to buy and new one ourselves out of our own pocket. They range in price from $50 to about $80.

We kind of felt like we were getting screwed and didn’t want to shell out the money for a new device. So we decided make the switch to Time Warner. But Vonage doesn’t make it easy for their customers to leave and it took about a month for the switch to take effect.

Here’s the kicker. Yesterday we were switched over. Today I got a phone call at work (I don’t know how they got my work number) from Vonage. The woman said she was returning a call from us.

I said, “No, we didn’t call you – in fact we just discontinued your service.” Then I explained why.

So she offered to send me a free adapter and give me a 60-day free trial to lure me back. But I told her that I just got done with the month-long process of switching and didn’t want to start messing with my phone service again.

She assured me that she wasn’t going to switch me now. She was just going to send me the free device. Then if I decided in the next 60 days that I wanted Vonage, all I had to do was just call them and I’d already have the device and be good to go.

Ok. Fine. If it’s free, then what the hell. Go ahead and send me the adapter. Maybe upon further review we would decide Vonage would save us more money and decide to switch back. We could at least think about.

So she starts taking all of my information – address, phone number, etc. – and then tells me she’s going to charge me $14.95 for shipping and a $29.95 activation fee!

Woah! Hold it right there. Forget it, I told her. I didn’t want to give them any money.

She insisted that all of this would be refunded if after 60 days I still didn’t want Vonage. But I still said no. So she offered to waive the activation fee.

That’s when I said, “Look, it’s nice you want to give me a free adapter now. But if you had just given me the free adapter back in July you’d still have me as a customer and we wouldn’t be having this conversation now.”

At this point I reminded her that she had called me at work and that I needed to go. We had been on the phone for almost 10 minutes now. She wouldn’t take no for an answer and continued the hard sell. So I basically hung up on her.

So the moral of the story: take care of your customers when they need your help. If you don’t they’ll move on – and no matter what you try, you might not get them back.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

WristStrong

Check it out...I signed Stephen Colbert's cast!

My name might not be as big as some of the others (Brian Williams, Katie Couric, Tim Russert, Nancy Pelosi) to sign the cast that will be auctioned for charity on eBay, but it's pretty cool nonetheless.

Find out how you can sign the cast and also do your part to your part to raise awareness for wrist health at Colbert Nation.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Great Chiken Wing Hunt

A noble pursuit of there ever was one. This group of wing buffs passed through Albany recently and declared it was a great wing town (who knew?!?). Their quest is being made into a documentary about the search for the best chicken wing.



MMmmm...it's been too long since I've parked myself in front of a plate of wings. Anyone out there remember Tuesday night Wing Nights in high school? Or how about a heaping order of wings from Monopole in Plattsburgh?

Ok, now my mouth is watering.

Going to the dogs

A friend passed this along this morning...

Thanks, Pat.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Leona's legacy

How would you like to be remembered? The obit for Leona Helmsley on Forbes.com begins like this:
Leona Helmsley, the "Queen of Mean," has died of heart failure at the age of 87, surprising since many thought her heart had stopped working long ago.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Gotcha Day 2007

Today we celebrated Gotcha Day -- the fourth anniversary of when we got Thomas.

It was a low-key event this year. We just hung out around the house today playing in the backyard. But tonight we splurged and went out to dinner.

Here are the annual then-and-now photos...

Scout Night at the Joe

Last night Nolan and I went to the Tri-City ValleyCats game at Joe Bruno Stadium for "Scout Night."

All of the scouts who came to the game got a patch. But the really cool part was that after the game we got to go down on the field, pitch our tent and spend the night sleeping in the outfield.

It was a late night. We wound up joining an impromptu whiffle ball game in left field. There was also a flag football game going on in right field, and the movie "Garfield" was playing on the jumbo screen. The whiffle ball game broke up a little before midnight, at which point we got in our tent and watched the end of "Garfield."

We had a great time, despite the fact we were the sole representatives of our Pack. We didn't know anyone else there, but fortunately for Nolan he's always been good at making new friends. As long as there is a bunch of kids, that's good enough for him. You could drop him in a foreign country where they don't speak English and he'd do fine as long as there were some other kids willing to share their ball or Frisbee or whatever their playing with. I really admire that about him.

The only other downer on the night was the outcome of the ValleyCats game. The Cats are in last place in the New York-Penn League. They got clobbered by the first place Oneonta Tigers, 14-1.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Doing what I do best

Making a fool of myself, that is.

A couple of weeks ago we attended a fun event at the Niskayuna Community Center. They put up a big screen outdoors and showed the movie "Happy Feet." People could bring blankets and lawn chairs and watch the movie under the stars.

The movie started once the sun went down. But before the movie, Radio Disney was there with music and all sorts of games and activities for the kids.

One of the games involved hula-hoops. I think we were supposed to see who could keep their hula-hoop going the longest. I couldn't do it very well around my hips. So I opted for the around-the-neck technique.

Anyway, this event was sponsored by the county. Small world that it is, it turns out that a friend we haven't spoken to in a long time was in charge of organizing it. She snapped this picture of me being a goofball and just passed it along yesterday. Thanks, Wendy!

(BTW, although the rest of the family liked it, I wasn't wild about "Happy Feet." I thought it was too preachy. But I still had fun anyway.)

Another sign we're getting old...

The baby on the cover of Nirvana's hugely successful 1991 album "Nevermind" is now a 17-year-old high school student in California.

Spencer Elden says he feels like a porn star because so many people have seen him naked.

The ire of Red Sox Nation

I saw this on The Onion this morning. It appears to have been written a couple of days ago. It would be even funnier if the Yankees hadn't just dropped their last two games against Baltimore...

Fucking Yankees, Reports Nation

The Onion

Fucking Yankees, Reports Nation

BOSTON—Moments after the New York Yankees continued a month-long stretch that has seen them climb from the bottom of the AL East to pull within a once unfathomable four games of the first-place Red Sox by defeating the Baltimore Orioles...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Last trip of the summer


We made our final camping trip of the summer over the weekend with a return to Old Forge.

In the five years that we’ve been camping, this is the first time that we’ve ever repeated a campground (not counting our stays at Uncle Rush’s cabin this year and in 2005). Usually we always try to pick a different spot, but we enjoyed Limekiln Lake so much last year that we went back this year.

Our campsite was even better this time. This year we were right on the water. The panoramic shot above is the view from our site.

Being on the water also meant that we had some extra visitors. As soon as we arrived, a duck heard us and swam over to the shore. He came out of the water, hopped up the embankment and then waddled right over to the picnic table where we were eating lunch. We didn’t give him any food, but he was persistent. He returned several times, and with reinforcements. The ducks were obviously used to getting free handouts.

We also made a return visit to Enchanted Forest Water Safari. Once again, I let the family pick any slide in the park for me to go down. This time they wanted me to go down “The Shadow” – a 42-foot-tall twisty, curvy tube that sends you sliding down pretty fast.

Nolan wanted to try to The Shadow too, which really surprised me. I remember how scared he was of most of the rides at Disney World and last year it took us while to convince him to try the kiddy slides at Water Safari. This time he seemed all into it. He stood in line, but had a change of heart at the last minute. That’s probably just was well. The ride was faster and little scarier than I thought it would be.

We were supposed to stay for two nights, but with the end of our busy summer in sight the fatigue is starting to set in. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want summer to end. But we’ve been doing so much that our heart wasn’t completely into this trip. We might have skipped the whole thing, but the kids (ok, and me too) were looking forward to Water Safari. So we only went for one night instead.

Next year we might take a break from tent camping and stick to cabins. But you never know. That’s what we say now. Maybe by next summer we’ll be anxious to break out the camping gear again.

BTW, it was cloudy the one night we stayed (in fact, there was a thunderstorm overnight). So we didn’t see any of the meteor shower. Bummer.

Here are some more photos from the trip…

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Wish upon a falling star

Cool! We're going to be out camping i the woods tomorrow night when the Perseid meteor shower hits. We should have a great view.

That's assuming I remember to look up. The light show begins at 9 p.m., but will hit its peak around 2 a.m. when there should be one or two meteors streaking across the sky per minute.

Friday, August 10, 2007

'The Procedure'

You've got to wonder why Willem Defore hasn't been cast in more comedies. Check him out in this short film with Will Farrell, Andy Richter and Ana Gasteyer.

The Procedure, with Willem Dafoe & WIll Ferrell

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Quest for the big screen

This is crazy. Just yesterday I was talking to a co-worker, saying how for the life of me I never understood why someone hasn't tried to make a live action "Johnny Quest" movie. Now this morning, I read that it's in the works!

This was one of my favorite shows on Saturday mornings as a kid -- although I always preferred the reruns from the 1960s to the newer 70s episodes. The original episodes were a little darker, had more action and relied less on comic relief.

When I was a freshman in college, Dennis Miller came to perform on campus. During his stand-up routine he made a reference to Race Bannon that fell flat. Miller muttered that it was a sign he was getting old when no one knew who Race Bannon was. That's when my roommate and I enthusiastically yelled out "Johnny Quest!" He pointed to us and smiled and said "Hey, alright!"

So who do we cast in the movie? How about George Clooney as Dr. Quest? Ten years ago I would have pushed for either Arnold Scharzenegger or Harrison Ford as Race Bannon. Who do you think should play him now?

Finally, here's the way-cool original title sequence...

This and that

There’s been a lot going on lately that’s been blogworthy, but I just haven’t had the time to get to it all here…
  • Kris and the kids are keeping quite busy this week with Vacation Bible School. Everyone seems to be enjoying it.
  • We visited Kris’ parents last weekend. Grandma had redecorated the room the boys usually stay in. The d├ęcor includes some of their favorites: the Yankees, Spider-Man and SpongeBob SquarePants. They loved it.
  • Along the way we made stops in Schroon Lake and Ticonderoga to complete our collection of commemorative Adirondack pins. Unfortunately, the Ticonderoga Chamber of Commerce was closed when we stopped by. So that’s the only pin we’re missing in the set.
  • I finished “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” in about a week. Kris is reading it now. I loved it and was very satisfied with the ending. There’s lots I could say about it, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone still looking forward to reading it.
  • I’ve discovered a great new show – the BBC drama “Jekyll.” Joe Video has been telling for a while to check this out. It’s written by the same guy who has penned some of the best of the new “Doctor Who” episodes. I believe it recently started running on BBC America. I don’t get that channel. So I had to find it on the Internets. However you find it, it’s worth checking out. Here's a trailer.

To know him is to love him

We had Chinese food for dinner the other night and this was Thomas' fortune...


If you know Thomas, then you realize just how appropriate that is. We thought it was pretty funny. So we set that fortune aside to hold on to.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

'They're coming to get you, Barbara!'

President Bush has apparently been reading this book.



Thanks to Little Lost Robot.

Taking the Enterprise to search for Xenu

Now this presents a dilema. I made the statement a wihle ago that I had no desire to watch another Tom Cruise movie. So what do I do if he winds up in the next "Star Trek" film?

SciFi Wire reports that "Trek XI" producer/director J.J. Abrams is hoping to get his "Mission: Impossible III" star to make a cameo as Capt. Christopher Pike.

Cruise earned a reputation as a Scientology nut, alienating a lot fans and Paramount honcho Sumner Redstone in the process. Obviously, he still has enough fans to be a bankable movie star, but I'm not one of them. What about Redstone? Has he had a change of heart?