January 31, 2007

Top Chef Pre-Show

Filed under: Not Tech, Top Chef, TV — Chris @ 12:51 am

Are you psyched for the finale?! If Ilan wins, I think I might cry. Here’s my attempt at an objective assessment.


Pros: He’s creative and interesting. He has a sense of humor about himself and a remarkably professional attitude towards those who teased, taunted, and assaulted him. His colleagues at The Mansion seem to respect him, even if none of his fellow contestants did. He kicked ass last week.

Cons: He didn’t make a single memorably delicious-seeming dish all season. He seems to lack some basic cooking chops and gets lost when he doesn’t have access to xanthan gum or a thermal immersion circulator. He made foams at least as often as Sam made pickles. And, it must be noted, almost everybody on the show hated him.


Pros: He seems to be a skilled cook. He has prepared several dishes through the season that look delicious and which the judges all enjoyed. He showed some leadership skills in the course of the season.

Cons: The leadership he showed was in inspiring others to hate Marcel. So, more your cold prickly Hitler-y leadership,* not your warm fuzzy FDR-y stuff. He’s an asshole. Every successful dish he made (e.g., paella, fideos) could have come (did come?) from the menu of his restaurant. The things he made that weren’t classic Spanish recipes (e.g., chocolate-covered liver) were often disgusting. Both Gail and Padma seemed ready to send him home last week.**

My Prediction: Marcel by a nose.***

Bonus Prediction: The final Elimination Challenge will not bring back previously eliminated contestants to work under the finalists: this set-up hurt Tiffani’s chances last year (recall that all four helper chefs, including her own teammates, picked Harold to win) and it would probably be ruinous to Marcel. I could swear there was promo footage of Stephen Asprinio towards the beginning of the season… Maybe they’ll bring back last year’s contestants as kitchen helpers? Stephen and Marcel would make a great team…

* Hell yeah, I just went there.
** Although I am typically a very credulous reality television viewer, I must say that choosing Ilan over Sam last week seems to betray an interest in “good television” over “good food.”
*** The “by a nose” bit is meaningless. The judge’s always present it as if it’s “by a nose,” especially in the finale.

UPDATE: I meant to say, also, that it is obviously the case that neither Marcel nor Ilan can hold a candle to Harold (or even Tiffani) (and probably Lee Anne). That said, I will note that this is a cooking-themed reality television show and not an objective search for the Best Chef in the Universe. (I believe that’s called The Next Food Network Star.) You gotta play them as they lay.


The Ic Factor

Filed under: Not Tech, Politics — Chris @ 12:43 am

Note to George Bush: It’s called the Democratic party, and you sound like an asshole. (What’s new?) (Via les commentaires de Sausagely)

January 30, 2007

BSG 3.13: "Taking a Break from All Your Worries"

Filed under: Battlestar Galactica, Not Tech, TV — Chris @ 3:18 pm

Yeah, this episode reminded me of “Cheers.”

Despite its use of one of my great filmic pet peeves, the revelatory dream sequence, this was one of my favorite episodes in a long time. I have little patience for the “mythological” elements of the show (e.g., the Arrow of Apollo, the Eye of Jupiter, and the Quest for Earth) and this season has been thick with them. Consequently, there have been episodes this season (particularly 3.5, “Torn,” the episode that took us inside a Cylon basestar for the first time, alongside Baltar) that bored me senseless. I think the show is strongest when it’s dealing with the grim reality of its characters’ situation, sucking in the bleakest realities of our modern age and remixing/re-contextualizing them in surprising and insightful ways. We got a bit of that this week, a little canon of coercive interrogation with an unexpected hint of MK-ULTRA, and the promise of more to come (does anybody think the trial of Gaius Baltar may contain a dash or two of Saddam Hussein?).

Query the First: Given that BSG has a habit of omitting key events in character’s relationships until they become dramatically useful (e.g., the tryst between Apollo and Starbuck that occurred half a season before we got a hint of it) and given the odd and inappropriate snuggling between Laura Roslin and Admiral Adama in this and previous episodes (see 3.9, “Unfinished Business”), may I assume their relationship is sexual in nature?

Query the Second: In this season, we have: Helo sabotaging a plan that could have ended the human/Cylon war forever (3.7, “A Measure of Salvation”); Helo “delivering” Sharon to the Cylons, to whom she may have provided sensitive intelligence (3.11, “Rapture); and Gaeta stabbing a high-value detainee in the neck. Again, I ask: is there anything a person can do to get court-martialled on this ship?

Query the Third: Is it “court-martialled” or “court-martialed”? Google is inconclusive. Blogger doesn’t like me verbing “martial”.

Fun at the Post Office

Filed under: Not Tech — Chris @ 2:52 pm

The post office has some odd rules that seem crudely designed to discourage people from mailing bombs or anthrax. For instance, you probably know that a return address is now required for all mail, lest if be delayed as “suspicious.” A related rule is that a package may not display any “advertisements” (i.e., names or logos) for any company that is not the sender. It is not enough to scribble out a logo with a marker; one must cover it with brown paper-backed packing tape. Postal employees make compliance with this rule especially pleasant by being both inconsistent and snide about it.

A rule which is new to me is, I think, as follows: if a package weighs more than a pound and the postage is affixed in the form of stamps, then the package must be presented in person to a post office employee. This means: don’t put it in the automated service kiosk and don’t hand it to the guy in your office mail room. H tried to send a package to her cousin last week and decided to use some very old stamps I’ve had since five first-class postage rates ago (they were very nice “collectible” stamps that were given to me as a gift and I want to “ruin” them by using them for postage… because I’m a friggin’ idiot). The package was actually delivered back to us, with several bright green stickers explaining why a piece of mail with adequate postage would not be forwarded to its recipient. (One nice thing is that they didn’t cancel the postage.)

The box is now sitting in the living room, waiting for one of us to face the living death that is standing in line at the post office. Be warned.

UPDATE: That’s weird. I just had my all-time least aggravating trip to the post office.

(Actual) Fun at the Post Office

Filed under: Not Tech — Chris @ 11:36 am

After my griping of this morning, it’s only fair that I report on my trip to hand H’s mysterious package to a postal employee in person. Before I had even gotten in line, a man magically appeared from the back room of the post office and asked me if my package had correct postage pre-applied. I told him it did and pointed to the admonitory stickers affixed. He took the package from me and disappeared into the back room, almost before I could thank him. I was in the post office for less than two minutes.

Now I only hope we don’t get it back with more stickers.

January 27, 2007

Linux Wireless: Almost There

Filed under: Linux, Tech — Chris @ 11:44 pm

I finally gave up on ever getting my old Broadcom BCM4401 wireless card to work under Linux, so I went out and bought an Intel 3945ABG card (which is actually one of the cards Dell ships with my laptop model, just not the one I happened to get (through no fault of my own)). Out-of-the-box support from the stock ipw3945 driver. Plays nice with the Network Manager and the proprietary nVidia driver. Suspend works. Sweet.

Having taken a moment to appreciate this vast improvement in my computing situation, I will now proceed to bitch. Every now and then—say every 3rd or 4th time I suspend—the wireless card doesn’t come on after I resume. All I have to do is “rmmod ipw3945; modprobe ipw3945” and it comes back fine (which is better than manually fussing with the ESSID, which I have often had to do in the past).

I filed a bug on this and one of the maintainers suggested I add the module to the “suspend blacklist”. I politely asked both the maintainer and Google what and where the “suspend blacklist” is, but I’ve gotten no answers. There’s a bunch of scripts in /etc/acpi that seem relevant, but from what I can tell, they should already being doing what I want to hack them to do. Which might mean they’re not even being used anywhere anyway…

At less frequent intervals—say every 9th or 10th time I suspend—the module is “busy” when I try the unload/reload step and I have to reboot to get things back in order. I can’t figure out how to find out which process has a lock on the module either…


January 25, 2007

The Penultimate Chef

Filed under: Not Tech, Top Chef, TV — Chris @ 4:38 am

Wow, I thought Sam was going to take it. Marcel really stepped up and cooked this week. And Elia took a nose dive, from sweet and talented to just another bully to clawing desperately on her way out. What is wrong with her? And what is wrong with Ilan? Which do you think is more debilitating: Ilan’s inability to sac up and just pretend Marcel doesn’t exist, or Ilan’s inability to cook anything that doesn’t contain saffron?

P.S. There goes the prevailing Internet theory that the timeline manipulation (and ex post Elia-cropping) in the last episode was meant to whitewash Elia’s involvement in the whole affair because she was the winner… What’s the deal, Bravo? Because, if Ilan wins, none of your editing did anything to make him look any less like a quivering sack of shit… And it’s got all the Internets confused and paranoid…

January 22, 2007

Presidential Cohorts

Filed under: Not Tech, Politics — Chris @ 4:44 am

The presidents from JFK to Bush I (1960-1992) were all born between 1908 and 1924. That is to say, over 32 years the presidency was held by an age cohort (the World War II generation) of just 16 years. Both Clinton and George W. Bush were born in 1946, a gap of 22 years from the next-youngest presidents (Carter and George H.W. Bush). The only failed major-party nominees who fall into this gap are: Walter Mondale (b. 1928), Michael Dukakis (b. 1933), and John Kerry (b. 1943). Nobody born between 1924 and 1943 has even come close to being the president. I don’t have the time to look up all the 12 million people who are running in 2008, but I’m sure John McCain is the oldest and he was born in 1936. If he is elected (and he won’t be, knock wood), he would be the first (and almost certainly the only) president born in the 1930s. What’s the deal? Were all the children born of the depression jerks or what?

Now that I look at it, there’s a similar gap from Eisenhower (born 1890) to Johnson (born 1908). Since there’s only one or two presidents a decade, on average, it sort of makes sense that the birth distribution would be uneven. But still, isn’t it strange that an entire generation didn’t bring forth one worthy man? Who’s the all time best Washington politician born 1924-1946? Bernie Sanders? Daniel Patrick Moynihan? Dick Cheney?

The BSG is Back

Filed under: Battlestar Galactica, Not Tech, TV — Chris @ 4:34 am

A pretty strong start to the second half of the season, but… I’m losing track of which Cylons are which. And tell me: is there anything Helo could possibly do to get charged with treason? Anything at all?

P.S. If there’s anyone in the world who actually checked out Battlestar Galactica this season on my recommendation, I apologize. I mean, did you understand a single word?

Printing on Index Cards*

Filed under: Tech — Chris @ 1:59 am

Fun! Preferably, the document in question will already be in a 3×5 layout. I recommend Adobe Acrobat Reader and not one of your light-weight and/or free alternatives. Now, just because you have a printer preset called “Index Cards” doesn’t mean you can just go hitting Ctrl-P and expect things to work. Go to “File -> Print Settings” and choose “Index Cards” in there. Now hit Ctrl-P and maybe “Index Cards” is already chosen or maybe you should choose it now. Cross your fingers and go for it.

* This post assumes that you already set up your index card presets a year ago and have merely forgotten how to use them. I.e., that you are me. Good luck to everybody else.

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