the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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Random Bafflements and Minor Disgruntlings

Sometimes, life utterly baffles me.

Sears somehow thinks that, while fully aware that I'm a 29-year-old white male, adverts for "Olga Panties" are something that they should include with my bill. Even the name scares me... I mean, seriously, even if I were the panty-buying type, "OLGA PANTIES" just screams of bad branding. But that's just the tip of the iceberg...

My brother-in-law Andy had a baby last Thursday (actually, his wife had the baby, har-de-har-har isn't that a clever and not-at-all overused joke). They'd managed to not know the gender up until delivery, so they hadn't invested yet in any gender-specific items yet. Thus it was that Liz and I went to Baby Gap this weekend with orders to procure things that loudly and proudly declared the complete and utter cuteness of their new little girl. We found some really cute stuff at surprisingly reasonable prices, and as luck would have it, I ended up with another of their "do our survey and get a discount later" coupons. So, since I like discounts, I filled out the survey tonight, and I have to say, there's some stuff on the survey that really makes no sense at all. Like... How am I, 29-year-old white male that I am, supposed to know if the infant clothes that I was shopping for fit me comfortably? Maybe I could put a "If You Think I'm Cute You Should See My Dad" T-shirt over my head, or hang the little bunny shoes on my ears, but besides being utterly freakish, neither of those options sounds like it would be comfortable. And the really off-the-wall questions like that are, naturally, the ones with no "N/A" option.

And in more surreal news, I've recently been getting a string of calls to my cell phone from a mysterious number that I don't recognize. Usually they're at strange times where I've either got my phone turned off, or it's away from me, or I'm in a part of my gargantuan corporate labyrinth that gets crap for cell coverage, and my policy is to not bother returning the call if I don't recognize it and they don't feel like leaving voice mail. Finally, yesterday evening, I managed to have my phone on me when the mystery caller rang. At first it seemed like a perfectly normal wrong number situation, except... My mystery caller wasn't trying to call anyone--she was trying to check her voice mail, and for whatever reason, Sprint was convinced that they should connect her to my cell number. So... How does a mobile phone company manage to mix up their internal voice mail with a phone on another company's network? It made for a couple of amusing, albeit brief calls (Mystery Caller and later Sprint tech support), but it fundamentally bothers me. Did the call take a wrong turn at the NSA or something?

I've got some other stuff I want to blog about, but the most profound bafflement of all seems to be figuring out when it's going to happen, as work remains insane. Argh!! I want my (sad imitation of a) life back at some point. Please?

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Better Days

Luckily, fortunately, thankfully, I've had a string of pretty good days lately.

Liz had to work for most of Saturday, so I used the time to knock a bunch of things off my to-do list, including a trip to the library to refresh my influx of new music, and a half-day of being able to work in peace in the office. Saturday night, she took me to Grovewood Tavern for dinner, which was utterly fabulous (I had the "Quackitori", seared duck breast yakitori style, and I highly recommend it, especially paired with the Parallel 45 Cotes du Rhone). After dinner, we hit the Velvet Tango Room for post-dinner cocktails, where I was introduced to the shimmering delight that is the French 75. I totally dig VTR's vibe, and I got an especially geeky thrill from recognizing Winchester '73 playing on the TV by the bar. VTR is a bit pricey, but the experience--especially on the weekend, where your lady friend gets a perfect rose--is worth it.

On Sunday I managed to get more stuff on my list done, and then we hit the local movie theatre for a matinee of Thank You For Smoking, a cheerfully subversive little movie that anyone with two brain cells and a sense of humor should see as soon as possible. Seriously--run, don't walk; it's that good. My only issue was with the quality of the audience, as we seemed to be seated directly in front of, next to, and behind people who insisted on sharing their running commentary, explaining jokes to each other, and so forth. Sorry, folks, but if I wanted the commentary track, I'd buy the DVD, and you wouldn't be part of it. Though it was almost worth it to hear the person next to me try to explain a joke and then, verbally, loudly, not get it... (Seriously, she didn't understand why it might be funny that the firearms lobbyist set off the metal detector at a security checkpoint. "Must be something metal," my next-door Ebert observed.)

Monday marked a return to workplace madness, but it ended early as Liz and I had picked up tickets to see K.T. Tunstall at the House of Blues. It was a pretty much spur-of-the-moment decision a couple of weeks ago when I realized that she was in town. I admit, I'm a total poseur, and it took her solo appearance on NBC's "Today" show for her to arrive on my musical radar... I wasn't sure what to expect from seeing her live, but I figured I wouldn't be disappointed, and the ticket price was pretty fair, so I figured there were worse ways to spend a Monday night. We had a nice dinner at the HOB (assisted in part by a small parade of happy-hour mixed drinks), and then proceeded to be completely blown away by her live performance. She's touring with a band to back her up, which helps fill out her sound nicely, and there were particularly nice bits featuring various band members soloing on drums, keyboards, trumpet, guitars, and cello. Mellower tracks had a nice dash of psychadelia that reminded me of early Pink Floyd, while the more raucus, upbeat numbers struck me as the perfect soundtrack for blasting down a desert highway, windows down and stereo cranked. In short, even if she's getting mainstream radio (and worse, grocery store!) airplay, K.T. is the real deal, and you should check her out, especially live. Seriously good times.

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Dr. WTF?

I grew up watching "Dr. Who" on the PBS station out of Albuquerque, usually late at night, and in my earliest experiences, with my hands over my eyes to protect me from those damned terrifying Daleks. My inner four-year-old can still hear the cries of "EXTERMINATE!" echo in the darkness of my childhood bedroom. As I got older, I got hip to exactly how low-budget the FX were, and love replaced fear. Sure, the scripts were pretty dreadful, the sets and effects worse, but the show had a charm and earnestness that were really endearing, much the same way that the first Star Wars or the original "Star Trek" did. It was goofy, geeky, cheesy, but it had soul.

I was pretty upset when the BBC, in its infinite wisdom, decided to cancel the good doctor, and I had almost completely given up hope of it ever starting back up again after years of on-again, off-again rumors (and one made-for-TV film that was too flawed and too off-mainstream to have ever gone anywhere, despite some glimmers of potential). When I heard that there was to be a new series, and that it would run on the Sci-Fi Network--so I wouldn't even have to worry about being an evil internet pirate, g'yarr!--I leapt to the Tivo with all the glee of being a little kid again...

A little kid who was about to get his childhood crapped all over.

So... Gosh. Wow. I watched the premiere on Friday night, and I'm simply stunned by its awfulness. It's the sort of thing that makes Jar-Jar Binks seem like a pretty good idea.

The new version of the theme music strikes me as pretty bad, and it runs on top of a really ugly opening sequence that looks like a cross between the time-travel sequences in the Bill & Ted movies and the giant, swooshy block letters of Superman. There's almost constant incidental music throughout the entire show, and it is reliably inappropriate and awkward throughout; the least offensive stuff is like a Casio keyboard demo on speed, while the worst is, quite literally, a Britney Spears track. The effects are just as low budget as before, but instead of having the well-intentioned, practical charm of prior incarnations, we are now treated to bad CGI in diarrhea-like abundance (highlights include a character being attacked and eaten by a hungry rubbish bin and the Doctor arguing with a giant mass of molten anger that sloshes around a lot). And the acting... I will admit that the original series were far from great acting, but there was an honesty about it that made you not care. The cast of this latest go-round is pretty well-rounded in its not-very-goodness, but the new Doctor is simply terrible, played completely cartoonishly--and not the good kind of cartoon like the classic Bugs Bunny who has some wit and guile about him, oh, no; this Doctor is Pokemon-grade, Ash Katchum as a Time Lord. And, if you'll permit one more fanboy rant after all that, I am really tired of having the TARDIS set changed every time someone wants to try reviving "Dr. Who." The interior of the TARDIS was what gave the show a needed sense of continuity between regenerations; this "new Doctor, new TARDIS, new music, new everything" approach is just tacky.

Everything about the new show is unconvincing and artificial, a through-and-through phony attempt to cash in on decades of fan support for a beloved and much-missed show. In short, it's missing a soul. Perhaps that was the price of its resurrection.

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Grr. Arg!

I've spent most of the past year being completely pleased by the Harmony 688 that Santa brought for Christmas last year, delivering us from the tyranny of far, far too many remote controls. Consequently, when, just about forty-five minutes ago, it committed hara-kiri, it dropped me back into a world of pissed off and cranky. Logitech's support site suggests that if the LCD is blank, that the only "possible cause" is "low batteries." Three sets of completely new batteries, each of different brands, seems to have proved this to be an insufficient solution.

So! Into the closets and file folders in search of the warranty information. After several minutes of digging and swearing, the manual surfaced, and lo and behold, my defunct little ex-miracle of technology is still seven days shy of the one-year warranty expiration. So, time to do battle with the dread legions of customer support phone lines... Which closed thirty-seven seconds before I found the phone number. Sigh.

In the mean time, it's quite bizarre trying to remember how all of my retired remotes work...

(Yes, I know I should consider myself lucky to have such trivial problems. And I do. That doesn't make me less annoyed.)

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The Sleepy Cat Health Care Plan

Originally uploaded by mikepirnat.

It's funny how much better life is when you have cats pin you down in bed for several days on end. I'm feeling significantly better, and quite thankful to have shaken off the worst of what by all accounts is the Cold From Hell. Everyone seems to be getting it, and it seems to be a uniformly miserable experience. It does make for some fun conversations, though--"Have you gotten The Headache yet?" and similar.


In other news:

I thoroughly enjoyed the Wallace and Gromit movie, which is not so much laugh-a-minute as it is a constant good-natured chuckle. It's a delightful little film.

I was not prepared for the "Madagascar Penguins" Christmas-themed short cartoon though--is it just me, or does Christmas start sooner every year? It was a cute cartoon, but it probably won't even be playing when it's even remotely seasonal. Can we please, pretty please, with Jack Skellington on top, please not start with the holiday cheer until after Halloween?

I determined that my lack of forward motion on experimenting with TurboGears was the lack of a proverbial itch to scratch (well, that and the whole coughing up my lungs thing). Luckily, I think I've managed to uncover an itch from some ages back, so at least now I have a little direction and focus. It's also been a bit of fun to hang on the #turbogears IRC channel and occasionally have something useful to contribute.

On house-related matters, not only am I now the proud owner of attic insulation (installed even), we are halfway to having bathroom fans that are actually effective at circulating air and moisture out of the house. Much rejoicing! To counterbalance this otherwise sunny progress report, however, it seems that our lawn mower has, with a saddening sigh, released the last of its Magic Blue Smoke, and try as we might to convince it otherwise, it seems that it shall mow no more. The timing was oddly perfect--the first dry day that both of us have been in good enough health or schedule to allow us to partake lawn maintenance, and boom! It wouldn't be that bad, except both neighbors mowed their lawns this weekend, so ours bears an increasing resemblance to jungle foliage. Definitely not high on the curb appeal scale.

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And Just When I Thought My Week Would Only Suck...

So on top of being stressed out about the huge project I've been working on that might or might not launch this week, which kept me in the office until 9:30 PM on Friday night, and Liz being gone for the week for her class, and being ignored by the cats, this week has decided to kick me squarely in the metaphorical nuts by bestowing upon me that greatest of joys, car trouble.

I had the typical "gee it looks like my battery is about to die" experience this morning as I fought with a recalcitrant starter, pumping the gas in an attempt to coax the engine into turning over just enough to get running. After some perseverance, determination, and swearing, it coughed to life, the dashboard computer displaying the cheerfully ominous message, "ALTERNATOR WORKSHOP!" Right. Fine. The engine's running, I thought, take it over to the dealership while I can--it's probably just the battery or the alternator flaking out. I figured I would have to sit around for awhile, but that it could at least get dealt with.

But of course, once I got the car into the shop, it started acting just fine. Started without complaint. And of course there is no record of the alert, so they don't know what's wrong with it. So they're keeping it, to play with it tomorrow when it's a cold start. Ordinarily, this wouldn't be an issue -- my intrepid and caring wife would have given me a lift in to work, and, had I behaved myself, would have even given me a ride back to the shop to retrieve it again. But, she's not here, so now I'm screwed and have to put up with the dealership-supplied rental; no one seemed terribly interested in just giving me a ride home so that I could use Liz's car.

Now, I was fine with that concept, and I know a rental car is never going to live up to what I've come to take for granted in my Jetta, but:

  1. It steers like a cow.
  2. The gas and brakes are incredibly touchy.
  3. It has huge bug corpses smashed inexplicably onto the mirrors (I would have thought they'd be on the leading edges of the vehicle).
  4. The cup holder came with the previous driver's empty styrofoam coffee cup and trash.
  5. The driver's seat apparently doesn't lean back at all.
  6. I can't place the smell, but I don't like it.
  7. The gas tank was almost dry; what they described as "an eighth of a tank" was in actuality "hovering imperceptibly above empty," and I consider myself lucky that I was able to even get the damn thing to a gas station.

And just to make my week complete, my left eye has developed the nagging, intermittent twitch that means I need more sleep and less stress before I get all "Hulk smash!" on stuff.

Sigh. It's all temporary, right?

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Things Bad and Good

Crappy day at work, due largely to the inability of others to do simple things like notice that they need to do something, or read the painstakingly simple and clear instructions that I prepared for them, despite the use of several meetings, emails, tickets, face-to-face conversations, and the use of many asterisks and all-caps typing on the subject. What does it take, fucking smoke signals?

But, the bane of my professional existence is now nearly cast off for good, so I guess there's always an up side...

Liz made me food, poured me a nice glass of wine, and took me to see Kung Fu Hustle, so life is now a lot, lot better. Interestingly enough, I am now in physical possession of my 12:01 tickets for Episode 3, as the machine at the box office automatically prints all pending tickets for your credit card. So, now I just have to defend them from all harm for 21 days, one hour, and 35 minutes, and the circle will be complete!

I am sure that there was something else I wanted to write about, but I'll be damned if I can remember what it was. Hmm.

I am uploading Philly photos as we speak and will hopefully start posting a few of them over the next couple of days for your enjoyment. In the mean time, you might enjoy this...

Morimoto autograph
"With a strong foundation, you can achieve your dreams!"

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Flying Blind

Insert your favorite endless torrent of swearing here. And then multiply it by a factor of Denis Leary raised to the Sam Kinnison power.

So, things at work broke close to or right after I left. I don't know why, but I have my suspicions (usually it has to do with letting our UI folks within 10 feet of anything that requires interesting functionality).

The network setup at PyCon is unfriendly to VPN, so I can't fix stuff during the day. The network setup back at the hotel is just a big goddamn tease--I can make the VPN connection, ssh into our dev environment to make changes, and so forth... But I can't manage to fully VNC (so I can't check files in or out from !#%@ing SourceSafe), and--even better!--I can't seem to load a page from our dev web server, so I can't even test to see if what I have done has actually fixed the problem!

I predict a long night of being very, very frustrated. Grr...

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Incredible Stupidity

I've been meaning to vent about this (admittedly utterly trivial event) since Tuesday, so here goes...

We preorder most of our Disney DVD's through the Disney store, since there is usually a set of lithographs that go with whatever animated film they are about to release. Liz has been doing this for years; her litho collection is complete back into somewhere in the early '90's (if not beyond). Eventually it means we will have an art gallery's worth of kid-friendly art that we can rotate through, but that has little to do with this story.

So, Tuesday was the big day--The Incredibles dropped to stores, and, pre-order receipt in hand, we were ready to pick it up and bask in its warm glow of perfection, as one can generally expect to do with any Pixar release. We strolled into the Disney Store, briefly messed with the various Stitch plushes, and then made for the counter to pick up our DVD. The clerk started to ring us up and slid the disc towards us...

"Whoa! Hold it right there!" I exclaimed. Right there, on the top of the box, was a word that I hate to see, and which I won't buy unless I have no other choice:


Having just walked past the Suncoast, chock-a-block full of widescreen copies, we were a little put out. It turns out that some genius at Disney decided that Disney Stores should only carry the fullscreen edition. Period. It's not quite as bad of a bait-and-switch as pre-selling a two-disc edtion of Lilo and Stitch, then releasing a barebones one-disc release, but for a freaking Pixar movie--which just won an Academy Award, for cryin' out loud!--I expect better.

After negotiating a refund, we walked out and voted elsewhere with our dollars. Thinking about the Disney Store, packed with clothes that no one buys, plushes that no one buys, toys that no one buys, crap that no one buys, and now DVD's that no one (at least not me) wants to buy, I can't help but wonder if they are deliberately committing retail suicide, or if it's just a giant spectacular accident.

Either way... Caveat emptor.

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