Shouldn’t it ‘just work’ ?

Posted in Meanderings on July 19, 2011 by weirleader

my shiny new drive
So excited — just got my 1TB NAS (that means network storage) installed and I’m taking it for a spin!  Cleaned off every picture and music file from both my desktop and laptop and then I realized…  I can even redirect my folders, so that when I click on My Documents it will point to the network drive from any computer in my home.  Now that is slick!  No more worrying if I have this file on this or that computer…  it’s available on all of them.

And it worked!  Just like I planned it…  or so I thought…

I then wiped our laptop (which has been running slowly for a while now) and prepared to reinstall only those software items that we use regularly.  It worked for the first few, but the minute I hit some of the more powerful packages (MS Office; Adobe Reader) it tanked.  It absolutely does not like the fact that I’m pointing files at a network shared drive.

Seriously.  The drive is mapped, it’s visible normally in windows…  basically it should be foolproof.  But no — this software (even the most recent version of Adobe Reader) can’t handle something as straightforward as a network drive!  I could understand 5 years ago if this happened, but now?  This is increasingly common — the only reason I’m just jumping on the bandwagon is lack of funds.

I did a Google search (ok, several actually) to see what’s up and I’m coming across the same behavior from 2007!  How is it that this problem has existed for 4+ years and nobody has seen fit to improve on it?!  Perhaps I really am in the minority.  But even so…  this is not some pie-in-the-sky request.  Just install your software and let me manage my drives!

OK, enough of my rant.  Kind of a weird way to revive the blog, but I’ve been meaning to and this just had me fed up.

At what cost? Subsidized malnutrition.

Posted in current events, Family, Health, Politics, Things that make you go Arrgh! with tags , , , , , on March 2, 2009 by weirleader

Wish I could spare the time to do more than drop on a quick post.  Still, this is largely self-explanatory and utterly disturbing.

First, this video:

Then, this article.

Sci-fi Book Meme

Posted in Books / Movies / TV on December 18, 2008 by weirleader

picking up from Half Awake, I figured I’d enjoy continuing this thread.  Of course, it helps that I’m an avid reader and enjoy flaunting it.

From Half Awake:

According to the Science Fiction Book Club, these are the 50 most significant SF & Fantasy Books of the last 50 Years, 1953-2002. Bold the ones you’ve read, strike the ones you hated, italicize the ones you couldn’t get through, asterisks for the ones you loved (more asterisks, more love), exclamation points for the ones you own.

  1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien!***
  2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov!****
  3. Dune, Frank Herbert!****
  4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein!
  5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin!
  6. Neuromancer, William Gibson!
  7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke!*
  8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick!
  9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley!
  10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury!**
  11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe!
  12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.!*
  13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov!*
  14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
  15. Cities in Flight, James Blish!
  16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett!
  17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison!
  18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison!
  19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester!
  20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany!
  21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey!*
  22. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card!****
  23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson!*
  24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman!
  25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl!
  26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling!
  27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams!
  28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
  29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
  30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin!
  31. Little, Big, John Crowley!
  32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny!
  33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick!
  34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement!
  35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon!
  36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith!
  37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
  38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke!
  39. Ringworld, Larry Niven!*
  40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
  41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien!
  42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut!
  43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson!***
  44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner!
  45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester!
  46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein!***
  47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock!
  48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks**
  49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
  50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer!

What also struck me about many of the rest of books on the list was that I either a) knew exactly what the cover looked like (i.e., I’ve seen them on the shelf for years and contemplated purchasing them, but had no real reason to commend them) or b) actually own them and just haven’t gotten around to trying them.

edit: just noticed the bit about asterisks…  now added.

V for Vendetta (2006)

Posted in Books / Movies / TV, Sci-Fi on December 11, 2008 by weirleader

For my birthday, I received a copy of the graphic novel ‘V for Vendetta‘.  It’s been on my radar for quite some time, but I just wasn’t sure what to make of it.  Despite a love of comics, superheroes, graphic novels, sci-fi & fantasy, this one was new to me (relatively speaking) and I was cautious in my expectations.  Nevertheless, it got such a nice review by the Girl Detective that I figured it was worth a shot.

Of course, I’m also pretty thrifty and never got around to buying it.  I might’ve borrowed it from the library, but I’ve been pretty busy — which is why it coming as a birthday gift place it in the right place at the right time.  Over the course of a few days I devoured it —  and what a nice treat it was!  It was certainly not the typical saccharine fare I associate with more mainstream comics, but then what I think of as mainstream probably isn’t the mainstream any more.  And, while I enjoy a happy ending as much as the average Hollywood exec hopes that I do, I found the well-balanced darkness embedded in the story to be refreshing.

I found myself continually impressed with the writing and story arc.  There was a great deal of creativity, which is what has always drawn me to the genre (comics/sci-fi/fantasy), in addition to a smattering of well-quoted literature.  And I find it especially impressive how well the author integrated the ‘V’ theme throughout.

But this is not intended to be a review of the graphic novel.  Or, perhaps, it is a review of both the GN and the film.  I just returned to Netflix after a 5- or 6-year hiatus and thought, given the timing, that it would be nice to start off with ‘V for Vendetta’ (especially since I’m currently sans-wife…  I wasn’t sure what she’d think of it).  Boy was that a fun movie!  I went into it extremely skeptical and came out perfectly happy.  The acting was quite good (I was especially impressed with John Hurt‘s rabid performance of Sutler) and while the story didn’t follow the original to the letter it held enough of the right intent and spirit that I felt satisfied.  There were some choices I questioned and a part or two I was sad to find absent but, on the whole, it did what it was intended to do and without a wasted portion.  Purists will, no doubt, question any deviation from the original but I think I can understand the need to a) make it fit the correct time frame, b) bring it in line with the current era (technology, for instance), and c) for a director to place his/her own personal touch on the finished product.

Also, in retrospect, I’m pretty sure my wife would enjoy the film — probably not as much as I, but she’d enjoy it nonetheless.  If you like your superhero movies (and I use that term very loosely here) dark and brooding, give this one a shot!

Now I’ve got to figure out where next to turn my attentions…  there’s such a large world of graphic novels out there!  Perhaps some more Queen & Country?  I’m curious how the upcoming Whiteout will turn out (go, go, go Kate Beckinsale!) — that was a fun read and might very well make a good film.  Here’s to hoping!

ADDED LATER: The Alaskan Librarian just reviewed the GN and made some good points that I had missed by consuming the GN followed by the book (he viewed the film followed by the book).  Namely, the GN fleshed out some important details that do make the story flow better — I, of course, took these for granted since they were fresh in my mind.  On its own, the movie might leave you wondering just how he knew so much about his victims (there was a lot implied, but very little explained) and where things would go after a lot of stuff gets blown up (don’t want to spoil to much!)  😉   Anyhow, it’s probably not a bad idea to consume both book and film to fill in those gaps.

Caveat Emptor – Orbitz style

Posted in Meanderings, Money on November 17, 2008 by weirleader

There aren’t many days I wish I was a big-time columnist. I mean, I enjoy writing and really wish I found it easier to make more time to update my blog (especially lately), but I don’t generally feel disappointed that my career and interests have taken me in a direction other than a literary one.

That being the case, the times that I do feel that lack tend to be when I wish I could share knowledge with the world and so I am going to do my pathetically small part to bemoan the sad state of affairs with regards to shady advertising and small print.

I’m reminded of a time many years ago when I was employed by OfficeMax (I try not to think of it often), and one of our mandates was to sell, sell, sell extended warranties on all electronics. “If it has a power cable”, then we were supposed to offer one of these warranties. It didn’t matter if it was a pencil sharpener that likely would last 20 years, we were supposed to convince the customer that it’s really wisest to purchase a warranty — all in the name of helping the customer, of course. It couldn’t possibly be that the store wanted to make money in this exchange!

Lest I get bitter, I’ll move on to my current topic of frustration. This one is, I think, more egregious. At least with the warranty you know that if the product breaks you’ll get to replace it. But in the case of Orbitz, the trickery lies in the fine print of their “Travel Insurance” (I’m sure they’re not alone in offering this, but multiple culprits don’t excuse the fact). I usually don’t opt for the travel insurance, but decided to look into it because I know that my family’s current situation is shaky. They’re coming out for Christmas but, if the house sells, the situation might arise that we no longer need the tickets. What to do? If you wait much closer to Christmas you won’t be able to get a good deal on tickets — but if you purchase now you could be out the money on tickets you have no need of (unless you’re willing to pay the airline double the money on refundable tickets — another ridiculous concept). Anyhow, I looked into the details and found that Orbitz will gladly take your money knowing full well that they probably won’t have to pay out even if you do need to cancel.

I’m making up numbers here, but I’d estimate that travel insurance pays out for about 2% of all the people that think they might need it (if that). What does it pay for? Last minute problem outside your control? Nope — not most of ’em. It pays for life-threatening illness, acts of God (i.e., Hurricane Katrina), airline disaster; but it seems to me that an airline should already be prepared to compensate travelers in these circumstances.  If an airline’s workers go on strike, is that really my problem?  Do I need to buy insurance for that?  I was under the impression that airline tickets were like a contract…  if they don’t fulfill their end of the bargain then I ought to at least receive my money back.  Is it up to ME to insure THEM?

It’s more interesting to look at what it doesn’t pay for. Does it pay for the fact that my family might not need these tickets a month from now because our house might sell? Nope. Does it pay for the fact that a family member bought a flight to go see a specialist only to have that specialist call at the last minute and cancel? Nope. Does it pay for the fact that a crisis at work requires revising travel plans? Nope. In other words, it doesn’t pay for the minutiae of life… it only pays for ridiculously uncommon issues that should already be covered.

I understand that companies need to make money, but it really gets under my skin when they practice deception and diversion, bury the details in the fine print, and in general take advantage of the ignorant consumer. You wanna take advantage of the greedy consumer? Go ahead. Sell Apple products at a huge markup to people that worship the Apple image… sell Harley Davidson’s to promote an image, even if the workmanship is no longer what it once was… but don’t sell something to people who think they might need it and then whip out the fine print telling them how you sold them a different, lesser product — how you don’t need to follow through on your implied commitment because they fell for your gimmick.

Shame on you, Orbitz. Google sure as shooting isn’t perfect, but you could stand to focus on their mantra for a bit: Don’t be evil.

The day of decision…

Posted in Meanderings on October 28, 2008 by weirleader

…is swiftly approaching.  I’m very curious to see how it all pans out.  Like my brother said, after the craziness of the past few elections I don’t have the heart to get my hopes up; but I will be keeping a close eye on how things progress.

This video is interesting – it might be just a lot of propoganda, but it might mean the beginning of a landslide.  You won’t find me predicting which one, though (don’t want to jinx myself)  🙂

House of Cards

Posted in Meanderings on October 10, 2008 by weirleader
Another Frightening Show About the Economy

Another Frightening Show About the Economy

I’ve become increasingly intrigued by the current financial crisis – in honesty, much of this stems from conversations with others who’ve got me thinking more than I had been.  Aside from knowing that a lot of major business and financial institutions were struggling mightily, I didn’t really know (or care) what the big deal was.

Then my dad mentioned a really good piece on This American Life – a show that I’ve listened to once or twice and that my brother always highly recommends – so I figured I’d give it another go.  The first piece he mentioned was actually a sort of follow-up to an earlier piece and I figured (as is my wont) that it’d play better in chronological order (I’m sort of neurotic that way)… and to that end I’m actually going to link to the earlier piece first.

The first piece was entitled Giant Pool of Money, and gave a really good explanation of just what was going on; it was done in a very accessible manner, without being overly technical and I found it eminently understandable (and I don’t think that has anything to do with my math background – the hosts are great).  So I got some insight into what was going on, it was a bit unsettling, but rather upbeat at the end.  I returned home, talked it over with my dad, and was a bit surprised to find that he didn’t feel as upbeat as I did.  Then it dawned on me…  I’d only listened to the first part, from back in May!

Back to TAL… now the episode is titled Another Frightening Show About the Economy, and I think it lives up to its billing.  It again is really lucid and fills in a lot that has changed since the first show — most importantly, what’s gone wrong and how it’s shaken some of the best and brightest in the financial world.  I think another thing that I find amazing about these shows (both of them) is how they can at the very same time sound so exquisitely sobering and yet full of dry wit.

Frightening, yes; but I continue to remain hopeful.  What else is there to do?  Things are tied together in a way that makes escape from a collapse seem nigh to impossible…   Is the bailout a wise course of action?  I leave it to better, more informed minds to determine.  I think it’s a telling point that one of those “more informed” types quoted on the show made an about face on this point after watching the current state of affairs grow more and more bleak.

The one bright side, if it can be called that, for me is that we’ve been too tight for the past 5 or 6 years to have any presence in the stock market (besides a small 401(k) type deal — so at least I didn’t take a bath (metaphorically speaking).  😉

And I can’t recommend TAL highly enough – after enjoying those shows so very thoroughly, I found myself bingeing on whatever I could find.  A few that I really liked:

  • Act V (a piece on convicts performing Shakespeare… fascinating and entertaining)
  • A Better Mousetrap (stories about people trying to find new solutions to age-old problems)