As promised, I was just about to write a review recommending simplyaudiobooks.com for all your non-encrypted audiobook rental needs. Aside from the incredibly slow turnaround time on rentals (I had 3 shipments in the month of December, amounting to one and a half books and am looking at about the same this month, despite the fact that I rip them and return them the same day) I've been pretty happy with them.
Unfortunately, I just received my third "you really should pay us more money and upgrade your account, because only losers pay for the cheap plan. What's another $10 a month, anyway??" email in under a month.
I am no longer able make such a recommendation, and am now obligated to find a different mail-order audiobook rental service. (Boy am I glad I didn't pay for a whole year in advance.) I'll post another update regarding my next audiobook provider after I find one.
Why companies would think that badgering their customers is a good idea is beyond me, as it's the best sure-fire way to ensure that I stop being one.
A while back, some random person on flickr created an account just so's he could contact me. He said he enjoyed looking at my pictures, and wondered if I had a large copy of the usericon I use to identify myself there. (Those reading via livejournal are very familiar with said icon, but for those who aren't I've included it over there on the right.)
His name is Curtis, and he told me that he really liked that particular picture and asked if it would be OK if he drew it. He said he was just getting into drawing and would like to hone his chops on me.
Boy would it! How could I pass up the opportunity to have a random internet person draw a picture of me?!
I immediately began scrounging around for the large version of that particular picture, but it seems that I lost it somewhere in the many harddrive failures over the years. I did the next best thing, though, by sending him some recent pictures and a few pictures from around that point in time. Oh, and some naked ones, just so he can get a feel for "me." (Curtis, call me!)
Some time passed and I got email from him, saying that he had started working on the picture. Over the next few weeks, Curtis would spend a little time here and there working on it, sending me snapshots of it so that I could see the progress. When it was finished, I asked if it would be OK to post his drawing here on my site where other random internet people can appreciate it. He said no, so I just pretended that GMail lost that particular message.
Here it is:
I think it came out really great. It is immediately obvious to me that it's supposed to be me. It's like looking into a mirror.
Curtis doesn't yet have a website or anything, but I've been trying to badger him into setting one up because I would love to follow his progress. In addition to being very good at drawing -- despite having only a handful of portraits under his belt -- he's also a talented photographer, has awesome facial hair (we exchanged many mails regarding handlebar moustaches and moustache wax recipes), looks like a soccer hooligan with his new chrome-dome 'do, and smokes a bad-ass pipe.
If you feel like helping my efforts to badger him into creating some sort of online presence, he might be checking in on the comments at some point.
This movie is fantastic, frightening, and freakin' hilarious.
Did I mention frightening? Don't expect high-brow, but do expect ripping on consumer/corporate-driven culture. Warning: Might make you feel guilty for your decision not to breed. (Or proud that you decided to breed.)
Do you remember the self-help book I put out a few years back? Well it's in a brand new printing, so I figure it's time to plug it again.
Do you ever wish you could spend your day frolicking about without ever worrying about a thing? Do you wish sex was less relationship-driven and more of a recreational activity? Do you wish you could do a double back flip, and kill sharks with only your nose?
This best-selling motivational book has helped millions lead the fulfilling lives they always wished they could, and now with the new chapter on whistle-based communication, you can do all that and help get ideas across to others in a more efficient manner.
Some of my more notable past inventions include the snappy-bracelet-wristwatch, shoes that you can "pump up," toy lightsabers1 that retract fully into the handles and spring out, the Internet2 (damn you Al Gore!), and many others that I can't recall now.
The one that made me think of this today is the heating-element-blender, which would allow you to blend and cook all in one step. Soup couldn't possibly get any easier. Anyway, I was describing this invention when someone piped in that they had seen that very thing being demonstrated at Costco last weekend. I have no idea how someone managed to produce my product in the 2 minutes it took to describe it to someone, but I suspect it has something to do with the time machine I'm currently inventing.
1: This was in fact before I knew the word "lightsaber." I didn't see Star Wars until 1989 or so, but invented toy swords that were just handles until which time as you push a button and the blade telescopes out at some point way prior to that. I do recall seeing toy lightabers back then, but they were just flashlights with long detachable colored tubes. Lame.
2: I just threw this one in to make an Al Gore joke, in complete disregard of the fact that Al Gore really was instrumental in the creation of the Internet.
Today I remembered an amusing story from my childhood, so I figured I'd share it here.
When I was 7 or 8 I recall visiting my grandmother, where I would watch The Edison Twins on the Disney Channel whenever possible. (We had recently canceled our subscription to the Disney Channel, and I missed The Edison Twins severely.)
One time mid-episode, my mother and grandmother came in, switched off the tv, and sat me down for an important talk. This was a bit unnerving, but I wasn't too perturbed because I knew how this particular episode ended, but I sure was wierded out.
It turns out my grandmother had convinced my mom that it was time to tell me about the dangers of The Pot. I learned that people would be offering The Pot to me, and that I should say no when they did, no matter how cool they made it sound.
I recall being pretty spechless, other than asking just what it was that people expected me to do with The Pot when it was offered, and was it anything like the teapot grandma used.
"Oh. Well, no... It's green and you'd smoke it," was the answer I eventually got after much meaning-conveying glancing between my mother and her mother.
I recall wondering just why in the heck I'd want to do that, already having learned that Smoking Is Bad. I don't know why smoking a different substance would suddenly be OK, but I guess that hadn't occurred to them. Maybe they just weren't as tight with Smokey the Bear and Hootsie the Owl as I was, and didn't know what I had already been convinced of through simple logic; smoking causes forest fires and pollution, two things I'd never want to do. I can't imagine how anti-smoking I'd have been if McGruff the Crime Dog had gotten in on the action as well.
In case you're wondering, I was eventually offered The Pot, but not until I was in my early twenties.
I've been playing a fair bit of Tetris DS online against a wide variety of people at different skill levels, which is a lot of fun. Playing online seems to require a somewhat less forward-thinking style of play than that to which I've been accustomed; you simply don't have the luxury of thinking about where to put things for more than a split second. You have to kind of play each piece in turn, clearing out single lines wherever possible, keeping things from piling up too much as your opponent clears lines. If you spend too much time waiting for a Long One, you're going to lose. If you get the wrong Z, you just have to stick it somewhere and work from that point up without worrying too much about it; if you spend too long finding a painless spot to stick it, you're going to lose.
This rapid-paced playing style demands some serius speed. I've gotten considerably faster in a pretty short time, but I'm at the point now where I can't physically push the buttons any faster. I'm still not fast enough to keep up with some of my opponents, though, so I'm looking to gain a little speed in the only area I can.
Historically I've only ever rotated pieces in one direction. My brain knows exactly how many button presses it takes to orient the pieces the way I need them, but often times it takes 3 button presses to orient something when only a single rotation in the opposite direction would have sufficed. Clearly I need to learn to rotate both ways if I expect to gain any speed.
Today I spent some time playing against the computer making every effort to rotate pieces in either direction, but I'm having more trouble than I expected to. It is slowing me way down and my brain hurts from the effort of thinking about which direction I should rotate it. Most times, I rotate it the wrong way, causing even more confusion when it ends up in a completely different position than I expected.
This is incredibly frustrating and I do not look forward to competing like this so I may have to just resign myself to being slow, making up for my slighly slower-than-optimum speed by putting things in better places in the first place.
Do you rotate both directions when you play, or just the one?
(T-shirt idea: "I go both ways," spelled out in Tetris blocks.")
I first heard about ABC's The Knights of Prosperity six months or so ago, when Maz Jabroni was talking a bit about why he signed on to it. His love for the show was enough to sell me on it without even knowing what it was about; he talked in length about how it concerns Everyday Joes trying to overcome their lots in life, to scrape ahead and make something of themselves through somewhat unconventional means. Sounds great. He also said it was really funny. Bonus.
Then I found out the show was originally called "Let's Rob Mick Jagger!," and that it was created as a vehicle to allow Donal Logue's real-life personality to shine through and to allow him to stretch his "wacky character" muscles in ways he hasn't had the opportunity to since you saw him in MTV's "Jimmy the Cab Driver" spots back in the mid-nineties. Donal Logue is easily one of my favorite actors of all time, so I had to mark another point in the "I want to watch this show" column.
So then I heard that it's a serial arc, where throughout the season they get progressively closer to accomplishing what they've set out to accomplish, each week getting slightly closer to the better lives they desperately want to make for themselves. It's kind of a bumbling-criminal 24/Prison Break -- except funny, and not gimmicky, unrealistic or overrated. I've been saying for some time that networks need to embrace long-term arcs that don't require strict adherence to their timeslot shackles, and it seems ABC is taking the chance. The show is designed such that you can miss episodes without any worry; each one is self-contained, yet progresses through the overall arc painlessly. I really hope it pays off, because I'd like to see more tv like that.
I just watched the pilot episode and have to say that it surpassed even my extremely lofty expectations. It is very funny in ways that most comedy programs are not: there's no laugh track and no "jokes" per se, most of the humor is situational and dialog based. For instance: Maz Jabroni's character is a taxi driver who has hired a naive student to "intern" for college credit for their crime syndicate, having convinced him that they're producing the film "Taxi 2 (colon) Step On It." There's an amusing anti-cliche wherein an outsider wants into the syndicate, and the leader (Donal Logue) thinks it will be hard to convince the others to approve it. Seconds after seeing that this particular outsider is in fact a smokin' hot chick, all the syndicate members gladly approve her joining. It's exactly the way I think a bunch of inexperienced criminals would behave, but exactly the way they never do in fiction.
The characters are all quite likeable, and all pretty grounded in the "blue collar" day-to-day lifestyle that most of us live in. They don't sit around drinking expensive coffee or shopping at fancy stores. They have realistic problems. This is no Friends or Will & Grace; you're laughing because it's funny, not because the tv started laughing so that you know it's time to.
The show is put together pretty slickly as well as being well-written. There are many cuts to an E! Channel program about Mick Jagger's home, wherein Mick shows us completely over-the-top extravagances such as a hat-storage room with a sophisticated climate-control system and a swiming pool that is only used by Mick's dogs -- ensuring that even the most law-abiding viewer doesn't feel too bad about what the Knights are trying to accomplish. The soundtrack is all Dick-Dale-meets-Enrico-Morriconi surf-guitar renditions of a popular spaghetti western theme that really helps to set up the exciting situations they get into, punctuating their lack of grace as these bumbling, inexperienced criminals execute their plans.
This is my new favorite comedy, and I give it a full five (out of five) Chicken Enchilada Grilled Stuft Burritos -- a rare feat in this age of lousy, derivative television. I couldn't possibly have loved the first episode any more, which is rare for me as I find that even the best shows usually take a few episodes to really catch a stride and hook me. I greatly look forward to next week's episode, and hope that you either catch the pilot when ABC runs it again Friday Jan 5th at 9pm, or acquire it via some other means.
For reference purposes, here are some fiction programs that I enjoy (in no particular order): Battlestar Galactica, Dead Like Me, Veronica Mars, Dexter, Medium, Brisco County Jr., Northern Exposure, Firefly, Spaced, That's My Bush, South Park, Scrubs, Robot Chicken, Home Movies, Heroes (though to a lesser degree after each episode), House.
Some that I dislike: Smallville, any of the CSIs, Psych, Friends, Will & Grace, Family Guy, Eureka, Monk.
If anyone would like reasonings for my likes/dislikes, I'd be happy to provide them in the comments. I just list them in case I overlap at all with your tastes, thus increasing the likelihood that you don't miss out on a great show.