Today Is Super Monday

So my four day staycation is over, and I dragged myself out of bed at 5:40 and was sleepily waiting on the platform for the Metro at 6:10. I’m back in the Office, at my cube, trying to remember what exactly it is I do for a living, urging myself to pick up the phone, to double-check data from India.

It’s like Monday.

Only it’s worse. It’s like Super Monday.

A coworker joked that was because I’d had two weekends, essentially, back-to-back.

But he’s wrong. Because, see, I usually work at the Bookstore on Sundays. So Saturday, that one, lone day, is my only weekend. So, really, I had four weekends, back-to-back. Four. And y’know what? That makes Monday four times as hard to face as usual, even if today really is just Tuesday.

Netflix Raises Blu Ray Rates (and what you can do to maybe make them change their minds)

I have been a member of Netflix since 2005. However, despite the fact that I bought a blu-ray player last September, I have never had blu-ray discs selected on my preferences. The reason is simple: Netflix charges an extra buck for a person to be able to rent blu-rays, and, oddly, I’m just too cheap to pay it.

Honestly, given that my HD TV is 22″, I sometimes wonder why I even bought a blu-ray player (answer: it was on sale). However, I will say that Quantum of Solace is gorgeous in blu.

Anyway, so Netflix recently upped its blu-ray subscriber fee. You can read more about that at The Digital Bits.

But I wanted to point out JWER’s response to this increase:

I am a dork and have a blu-ray player, so when [Netflix] first offered blu-ray movies, I was psyched. When they added a $1 monthly surcharge for them, I was annoyed, but left my preferences alone. Now they’re increasing that to $4/month, and I am removing it from my preferences. Their stock is up 5% on the news.

Why is $3 more the breaking point? Hard to say, really. It just annoys me that they are squeezing me for money that they don’t have to. Their argument is that blu-ray discs cost up to 30% more than DVDs, and more people are adding blu-ray to their queue, so they gotta buy more, blar blar blar.

Fine. That’s great. But here’s the thing: they have over 100K DVDs. They have about 1500 blu-rays. There are only about 3500 blu-ray titles available right now. So at the moment, they stand to pay a pretty tiny premium. Yes, I know that more titles are released every day. I also know that Netflix doesn’t pay retail for their discs, or they’d better not, and I can get plenty of older titles on blu-ray for about the same as their DVD equivalent.

OK, great, so they’re looking forward to the point at which blu-ray is widespread enough that they have to buy 10’s of thousands of the things. But once they have 50K or so titles, they’ll only have to buy the new releases, a handful per month.

And they don’t pay anything more to ship them to me.

Oh yeah, and you can’t email their CS, you can only call them. Jerks.

Or! You could e-mail them. I don’t mean some customer service flunky, I mean Netflix upper management.

Reed Hastings, CEO: rhastings@netflix.com

Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer: tsarandos@netflix.com (you can also call his office at 310-734-2901).

Leslie Kilgore, Chief Marketing Officer: lkilgore@netflix.com

Brian McCarthy, Chief Financial Officer: bmccarthy@netflix.com

What say? Drop a note. Say Boo!

Towson University Revisited

So my folks were up in New York these last few days, and allowed me access to my dad’s car, which, incidentally, used to be my car. In any case, although I had fears that I had forgotten how to drive a stick, my fears were unfounded. Saturday I used my four-wheel transport to stock up on important stuff, like toilet paper, and several 30lb buckets of cat litter from PetSmart.

I also drove up to Hunt Valley, hoping to collect a W2 which for some reason I cannot seem to get my grubby little fingers on. Alas, the W2 was not to be had (I am so not amused), but since I was up there anyway, I swung past my alma mater, Towson University, to see how far along the various construction projects had proceeded.

I began at TU in 1999, then dropped out, and finally went back in ’96, finishing my degree in spring of 2007. When I left, the early stages of some mass construction was going on: Lida Lee Tall was torn down to make room for a new Liberal Arts Building, which would eventually replace Linthicum Hall, the Psychology Building, and Hawkins Hall. Meanwhile, the Towson Town parking garage was being expanded to meet the parking needs of the students. (I got onto campus at 8am for 11am classes so I didn’t have to hunt for parking).

I think Saturday was my first time on campus since graduation. Actually, I know that’s not true since I went for lunch with a friend to Bateman’s, the on-campus bar, but that’s on the other side of the University.

The parking garage is done. And it’s great. Whereas before maneuvering through the garage was a series of adventures in “omg holy shit I’m going to die!”, big arrows on the concrete and angled parking spots actually seem to have imposed order on the chaos. In addition, a bridge which used to allow access to the second level of the parking garage, has been blocked off and is now for pedestrian use only.

Meanwhile, the big change, is that most of the Liberal Arts Building is up. If I remember correctly, the building is actually supposed to be built in two stages, so there’s still another big wing to come. Some photos, from the top of the garage:

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Looking south, Hawkins Hall & The Psychology Building in the background.

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Also looking south, that’s the pedestrian bridge below, and Linthicum Hall in the background, and it looks like there’s some construction by the energy plant. Also, you can see the Linthicum Traffic Circle is now blocked to traffic.

If It Made Me Cry, It’s A Good Movie

So, I spent the evening watching Spike Lee’s “Miracle at St. Anna”, a WWII epic about four black troops behind enemy lines in Italy. It starts, however, in 1983 — with a bang, literally.

I had to pause this film a few times — not because it’s bad, but because it’s just so damn long, nearly three hours. Also, I have a hard time focusing my attention on just about anything that long and needed to get away to eat dinner (and check in on the Interwebernets).

There are war movies, and then there are epic war movies. Glory is a war movie, but Saving Private Ryan is a fucking epic war movie. Miracle at St. Anna is sort of like Spike Lee took Glory, smooshed it into SPR, and added a bit of Pan’s Labyrinth. But not the weird crazy Hellboy II aspects of Pan’s Labyrinth, but the partisan/guerilla warfare parts of Pan’s Labyrinth. Actually, if I had to sum this film up in two words, the first one would be “identity”, and the second one would be “crisis.”

Which isn’t at all to say it’s a bad film, just weirdly disjointed at parts. Like Glory, it has a tendency to preach a bit too much. Everything’s summed up in a conversation two characters have, when one remarks he feels more free in this foreign country, than he ever has in his own. And unlike Glory, this time when a black soldier is handling a white woman, no one shoots him. And this is good not just because they’re two completely different scenes, with two completely different contexts, and not just that really bare no resemblance to each other and shouldn’t even be compared to each other, but also because we get to see nice firm Italian boobs: Hooray!

Also, the movie could have used some pacing. And some editing. I’m not used to Spike Lee’s movies not moving faster, and I’ll chalk this up to “older director has a story to tell and the Hollywood political power to keep the studio out of his editing room, much to the detriment of the film.” Look, some times, stuff needs to be cut, and there’s a lot of extraneous stuff in this movie. Finally, while the movie’s supposed to be about the four soldiers from the 92nd, it spends way too much time with the Italians and the partisans. I don’t mind subtitles, but I do mind being taken out of the story.

Finally, however, no matter how cheesy the ending (and it sure is), the simple fact is that the film worked on me, and that the tears started gushing. Yeah, I’m a crier. I cried at the end of Saving Private Ryan, too, but lest you think it takes a war epic to motivate my tears, they come at the end of Bender’s Big Score, too.

So, in short: Miracle at St. Anna. A WWII epic that doesn’t quite know what kind of movie it wants to be, but still plays enough on the heartstrings. Plus, at nearly three hours long, you’re not getting max quantity for your rental investment. (Assuming, of course, that you’re the only person in the world not on Netflix).

generally, if I’m up at 3:30 am, I’m possibly borderline homicidal

I’ve blogged before about the problems I’ve had with my neighbors down the hall, which is to say that in a building with virtually no sound proofing, they both seem absolutely oblivious to why their screaming at the top of their lungs in the middle of the night angers their neighbors. I’ve spoken to them about it before, which means that at five am one morning on a Sunday a few months ago, I threw on some jeans and a t-shirt and staggered down the hall, politely asking them to keep it down.

I was just woken up by a neighbor asking them to keep it down. I was in a very nice, very sound sleep, right up until:

“Hey, fuck you, it’s a Friday night!”

“Hey, fuck you, keep it down or I’m calling the cops!”

Thank goodness one of my neighbors has balls (unlike me).

I tend to think one basic thing about apartment living: respect thy neighbors. Which is to say, since I’ve gotta live in close proximity to these guys and gals for a long time, there’s no reason to needlessly antagonize them.

So the guys at the end of the hall, to me, are just a bunch of selfish pricks in need of being jumped in an alley. Look, it’d be one thing if there were decent soundproofing here — even there, though, in apartment or condo living, you gotta be aware that while you might not have to wake up at bum-fuck-early-o’clock, a lot of your neighbors probably do.

Five days of the week, my alarm goes off at 5:30am, and okay, maybe it’s closer to 5:45 by the time I drag myself out of bed, and maybe the reason I get up so early is because the sooner I get into the Office is the sooner I get out of the Office, but the reality is also that a lot of days, I go to my part-time job straight after, and you don’t want to mess with me when I’m being woken up in the middle of the night by some jerkwads who aren’t considerate enough to be mindful of the fact that I’m working a fifteen hour day and have a shotgun packed in my closet and need to shut the fuck up.

So, yes, I’m glad it’s Friday night. Technically, it’s Saturday morning. Technically, HAH! Also, for those of us in the habit of waking up so early so much of the week, it’s kind of hard to break that habit on weekends or vacations, which means that as I’m writing this post at 3:30am EST, I know that after I go back to bed, I’ll still be awake at six at the latest, and if making noise and being loud to all hours is what you want, GO TO FUCKING ADAMS MORGAN ITS A TEN MINUTE WALK!

Motherfuck.

One Year

Tuesday marked my one year anniversary at the Office, and today I sat down with my team leader for my evaluation. He asked me to fill out a self-assessment, and I scored myself much lower than he did. Personally, I think he’s being over generous, but it’s always nice to hear good things about oneself, and he had many nice things to say (which was nice).

The big thing, though, is that apparently I’ve gotten “comfortable.” My output isn’t what it used to be — I used to be a SuperStar, a Michael Jordan. Now I was just sort of above average.

That’s always been sort of hard to measure at the Office — the company is maybe two years old, but we’re still a start-up. Still in the red. Still trying to determine metrics to accurately track what it is we’re doing, and how well we’re doing it. We had a contest recently, to get caught up: a lot of people finished before me, but the upper boss is apparently very upset about the quality of a lot of that data. All this comes back to what I and many others have said: you can have quality, or you can have quantity, but it’s hard to have both.

In any case, as one of the bonuses for finishing early was X amount of PTO, I opted to take tomorrow, and Monday, off. This works well, as I’d already taken the weekend off from the Bookstore — it’s my Mom’s birthday next week, and she and Dad are heading up to NYC to see Hair. They’re taking the Chinatown bus, and leaving the Matrix at the Metro station for me.

For those of you who are unaware: I bought the Matrix in December ’07 after totaling my Celica into a deer the week after Thanksgiving. It was brand new, blue, manual transmission. Great car, loved it. About four months later, I got the Office job and realized I was going to be commuting from north of Baltimore to north of DC five days a week. I moved into DC in mid-June, and sold my car to my Dad (who needed a new one) on July 4th.

So, technically, it’s “his” car. I mean, he wrote me a big check, and it’s now in his name and all.

But for the weekend, at least, the extended one, this “staycation”, it’s mine again. I’ve got big plans on it: oh, yeah, Petsmart, I’m stocking up on cat litter!

(You can tell I’m planning on partying my ass off, can’t you?)

Leopard Cubs!

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So the big news today is that Clouded Leopards at the National Zoo’s facility in Virginia gave birth to two little cubs. I found out about this while reading my copy of The Express on the Woodley Park platform this morning, and was stuck by the line describing the tendency of animals in captivity to kill their young.

I think that’s sad — but very understandable.

Don’t get me wrong — I love the Zoo. I love walking through it after work, and I love stopping by to visit the cats — the Big Cats, the Cheetahs, the Clouded Leopards. I have a particularly warm place in my heart for the Leopards, the first time I saw them, they were playing with each other like really, really, really big kittens.

But I thought it was so heartbreaking to read that many animal parents kill their young when they’re born in captivity. And I can’t help but think, that the animals know that they’re in captivity. Sure, we rationalize it by saying, “Well, here they’re safe from hunters, safe from deforestation, they’re fed regularly, there are teams of vets keeping them in good health.”

But a prison is still a prison, no matter how comfortable and beautiful the cages are.

And, no, I don’t believe an animal’s life is worth the same as a person’s, but I’ve been around animals enough to know that while they may not be sentient, they’re certainly intelligent. Their love is not a “learned behavior.”

I’m not going to stop going to the Zoo. But I think I’m going to be considerably sadder when I do.

Two Quick Things In Five Short Paragraphs

Two notable things happened today:

First, it was a year ago today that I started my first professional Office job. I’m still there. I’m at a different desk, in a different cubicle, and there’s a signed poster of Joe the Plumber on the wall, but I’m still there. I even make a little bit more than I did when I started, but not much. My review is Thursday. Fingers crossed, as me and the bossman have been havin’ some tensions lately.

(Technically, this week is also the one year anniversary of my hiring at the Bookstore, although I didn’t actually start until early April).

Second, my sister came home for a few days. She’s out in Colorado going to graduate school. She brought home her boyfriend, and we all met up at Union Station late in the afternoon for a quick bite and “Hi, how are you” session. Something I’ve noticed about my little sister is that she, like me, generally avoids relationships — we both had high school relationships, but if she’s had any real, actual, relationships since then, they’ve not been on my radar. Me? I’ve been stupid/clueless/scared enough to drive away any potential relationshipees before anything reached that point.

In any case, it was kind of weird seeing my sister with this guy, because I’m used to her being single. By all accounts, he’s a nice enough dude, and I liked him. I was debating whether I should give him a hard time or not, but once I found out my parents are letting them sleep in the same room, I gave up on that tact, instead deciding to embarrass my sister by declaring, “What? She’s not a virgin?” She turned quite red but, to be honest, so did I.

Places People Go To Wank

I was browsing my Google Reader this morning when I came across this post from The Change I Wish To See, featuring, shockingly, my Bookstore.

Do “customers” wank in the Bookstore? Oh, good lordy, yes. Did you forget this post from not quite two weeks ago?

However, in my experience, a lot of customers don’t wank in the bathroom. I’m not saying none do — we’ve asked a few kindly to never ever fucking come into our store again. However, wankers generally fit into two categories:

The Don’t Give A Fuck Wankers. These guys don’t care about notions like “privacy”. If they’re browsing the front of the store and see a pretty lady on a cover, their pants are coming unzipped right there and then. This tends to happen most frequently in the Art and Photography sections, possibly because no one can ever find our Sex section.

Then you’ve got the customers who come in, grab wanking materials, and take it down to the Kids section to beat. Because it’s isolated and rarely trafficked (we don’t get a lot of kids coming into the store), it’s seclusion (particularly the far-right, past that tall bookshelf), it’s a favorite spot of beaters and shoplifters. When we’re sweeping the lower level, we make sure to stop into that section. Sometimes we catch people in the act, sometimes we just find a broken keeper, and every now and then we’re “Uh, service manager, there’s a Playboy open here in Kids. I’m scared to touch it.”

Really, I think all of the employees would be a lot happier if the customers would stop coming in. Okay, it’d be really boring, but what’s so hard about not masturbating in our store? For that matter, why do you leave your empty coffee cup on the shelf instead of throwing it away?

Assholes.

Things I Hate Today

I hate this time of the year. It’s cold when I head out, so I throw on a coat. Then, by the time I leave, it’s warm enough that I don’t need a coat, so I just look like a fucking jackass, wearing a coat when it’s sixty degrees out. Fortunately, by the time I leave the Bookstore at the end of the night, it’s cold out again, and I need to be warm so I’m not chattering my teeth out while waiting for the bus to arrive.

***

Which is, let’s face it, the nice thing about being a guy: there’s no pressure to dress for appearance and not comfort. I mean, I don’t consider myself a particularly fashionable person. Right now I’m wearing gray sneakers with dark brown cargo pants and a pink button up shirt with a blue-gray t-shirt visible underneath it. Color coordinated, I’m not. But when I make an effort, I can put myself together: black shoes, dark blue jeans, button-up shirt with tie and sweater vest, topped with a coat, scarf, and warm hat. Sometimes, I actually look like I know what I’m doing in my closet. (As opposed to this morning where my overriding concern was oh shit, oh shit, I’ve overslept and I’m going to be late, oh shit, oh shit.)

So I got to Grosvenor and I bolted for my shuttle. Of course, it was packed with people. This is another reason I like waking up on time and getting out the door on time: the shuttle, it’s a small one, is like empty. Today, I had to scramble over some skinny lady wearing sandals (it was 30 degrees out! sandals! WTF), in the process of which I stepped on one of her feet.

Whoops.

She was pissed. She’s always pissed. I loathe this woman with all of my heart. Okay, that’s not entirely true, but she just seems very closed off and angry all the time. In any case, I tried to apologize to her, but she was all “harumph!” and turned away from me, which was just fine by me.

Of course, if she hadn’t sat on the aisle seat, I wouldn’t have had to squeeze past her. And look, I’m no skinny guy here, I’m pretty big (in every way you can imagine). But seriously, if you’re wearing sandals, and you’re sitting on the aisle seat, and all you’re going to do to allow someone to pass you is to tuck your legs in a bit, I think you have to accept at least some of the responsibility for having your feet stepped on.

Also: I don’t know why she was wearing sandals, especially given that it was actually cold this morning, but, really, lady, if you’re willing to sacrifice your comfort for your appearance, well, having your feet stepped on? That sort of goes along with that.

BSG – “DAYLIGHT” (SPOILERS)

Daylight Parts One and Two, the final “three hour” (works out to much less minus the commercials) episode of Battlestar Galactica, is all over the map. I don’t think this is a bad thing, and I enthusiastically enjoyed it and simultaneously wished for some more specific answers. As finales go, I think it hit all the right notes, especially providing the audience with sufficient closure, which might sound weird, but when you’ve been following a show for so many years, you kind of want to know what happens to everyone.

The series finale begins with flashbacks to Caprica, before the Cylon attack, where we visit with our main characters: Laura Roslin, dealing with the deaths of her father and sisters in a car accident; Baltar and Six, at the start of their relationship; Kara Thrace and Lee Adama, discovering their mutual attraction while Kara’s boyfriend (Lee’s brother), is asleep in the next room; Bill Adama, being vetted for a civilian job he doesn’t want.

Back in the present, Bill Adama realizes he’s made a mistake in not pursuing Hera. He uses tape to mark a line down Galactica’s hanger and tells the crew they must make a choice: he’s going for the girl, anyone who wants to join him needs to step over the line. A lot do, a lot more don’t. The Cylon Colony is located in the accretion disk of a black hole, and mutineer Racetrack, released from her cell when she agrees to help, finds this out the hard way but jumps back after finding a way in: the only jump point is located right in front of the colony’s weapons.

At the last moment, Baltar stays on the ship. Caprica is proud of him, and they’re both part of the reserve force to prevent the ship from being swarmed. Galactica jumps in, takes a pounding, but Sam is able to do his hybrid thing and take the defenses off line. Galactica’s Vipers engage Cylon raiders, and Galactica rams the Colony. Departing from airlocks, Lee Adama leads a force of Marines and Cylons (painted red to distinguish them). Meanwhile, a force of Raptors makes their jumps from inside the Galactica’s museum flight pod, utterly destroying the structure, but positioning them unseen for a second entry. The Raptors are dealt heavy casualties: Helo and Starbuck’s get through, but others are smashed: Racetrack and Skulls are among those killed.

Boomer turns her coat, kills the Simon preparing to operate on Hera, and finds her way to Helo and Athena’s Marine group. Once Helo has Hera, Boomer tells Athena to pass a message on to Adama: she owed him one, and she paid him back. Athena guns her down, which is understandable, and leads to a flashback to a scene before the attack, when Boomer was dressed down for her performance by Adama and Tigh. With Hera recovered, Galactica’s forces retreat back to the ship, which has been assaulted by Cylons. They’ve found their way to CIC, with all but Cavil killed. Cavil manages to seize Hera, but remarkably, it’s Gaius Baltar who talks him into a truce, declaring that he sees Angels, and talks about God’s plan. It’s weird, but it’s enough for Cavil.

Sadly, the truce doesn’t go well: the Final Five have agreed to give Cavil resurrection technology, and Cavil has agreed to leave humanity alone. Unfortunately, once the Final Five all pool their knowledge, Tyrol strangles Tory for the murder of his wife. This doesn’t exactly please the Cylons led by Cavil, who open fire and are all killed — with the exception of Cavil, who blows his own brains out.

Meanwhile, in a total fluke of fate, Racetrack’s Raptor, armed with nukes, is just floating around, everyone in it dead. A rock hits the Raptor with enough force, that Racetrack’s arm hits the release button, and the Raptor fires all its nukes at the Colony. As the Colony begins to explode, Adama orders Thrace to jump the ship, but she doesn’t have the coordinates to rendezvous with the Fleet. “Doesn’t matter, just jump anywhere!”

On January 14th, in my post on “A Disquiet Follows My Soul”, I wrote:

Lastly: I went back and watched the final 4.0 episode’s end. That planet doesn’t necessarily look like our Earth, or at least, you can’t tell – it’s green ,it’s blue, there are clouds, but I couldn’t make out any continent that I would point to and say “Oh, that’s Asia!” or “That’s Africa!” I think there’s some misdirection going on here, and while the planet found may indeed be their Earth, there’s nothing to stop the Colonials from finding another habitable world nearby, one with recognizable continents, and christening it Earth: our Earth.

Looks like I guessed right.

So Kara enters the numbers she’d put to the “All Along The Watchtower” notes that Hera had written for her. The Galactica jumps, and it’s traumatic: the ship is buckling, the skin is ripping away, and it’s pretty clear that there’s really nothing much left holding the big old girl together.

“Where are we, Starbuck?” Adama asked. And the camera switches to an exterior view: Galactica is orbiting a pockmarked gray moon. In the distance, continents clearly visible: Earth. Our Earth.

I won’t go too much into the final scenes. In short, Lee thinks that the survivors of humanity should throw their ships into the sun and settle on this planet without anything but the clothes on their backs. And everyone pretty much does. Bill Adama is the last one off Galactica, launching a Viper and taking a last look at the Big G before Sam remotely pilots the fleet, himself included, into the sun.

There’s not a lot of happiness on Earth. Bill parts with his son, forever, taking Laura to see up close and personal this planet’s wildlife in a Raptor. She dies during the flight, and he chooses a site not only to bury her, but also to build the cabin they’ve so often spoken of.

Kara reveals to Lee that she’s an angel, sent by God. She doesn’t say it in quite so many words, but one moment she’s there, telling him she’s completed her mission, and the next, she’s just gone. This doesn’t quite seem to fit with all of the “Kara Thrace is the harbinger of doom” stuff the Cylon hybrids kept spouting, but they might just’ve been insane.

Karl Agathon is revealed to have (mostly) recovered from his injuries, but he’s walking with a cane, playfully arguing with his wife while Hera runs in front of them. Tyrol is tired of people, and settles by himself in what sounded like a description of Scotland. Saul Tigh and Ellen, of course, remain together.

And with that, we flash forward one hundred and fifty thousand years, to New York City, circa right the frak now, where the Angelic versions of Baltar and Six debate whether the cycle has been broken while a montage of modern development of robots plays on monitors.

It’s a pretty creepy ending, but not nearly as much of a mind fuck as the Sopranos finale.