Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

Goodbye, Tony Soprano. Hello John from Cincinnati.

Monday, June 11th, 2007

I knew Tony Soprano. I worked with Tony Soprano. And believe me, John from Cincinnati, you’re no Tony Soprano.

* * *
As for the finale itself: The world seems outraged by the “ambiguous” ending to the Sopranos last night, but I thought it was perfect. In retrospect, Chase hardly could have written either ending that people expected.

Stupid Survivor decisions

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007

This is, in my opinion, the second dumbest Survivor decision in Survivor history.

(Spoilers after the break; don’t read if you haven’t seen the Survivor episode from Thursday, March 1st.)


Immune to Oscar Fever

Monday, February 26th, 2007

We just didn’t catch the fever this year. Kimi asked me to record the Oscars, and around 6:15pm I went to set up the recording and realized it started at 5:30pm. My DVR reminded me it was a live event and I should pad it, and offered an hour. “An hour?” I thought. “It’s already 3 hours, how much longer can it run?” So I changed the post-padding to 15 minutes. That meant we missed all the important awards, since the dang thing ran nearly four hours. O wise TiVo DVR, I’ll never ignore your advice again.

So even with missing the beginning and end, and even with fast forwarding through a bunch of stuff (“Celine Dion is singing? NOOOOOOOO”) we watched nearly two hours of the thing. Sure, Ellen was pretty funny, and it’s always great to see the stars all dressed up and acting all self-congratulatory, but I feel like my IQ went down a lot. Mimes? Really?

I didn’t make any guesses this year, but I think I would have nailed about 12 of them. I would have guessed correctly for most of the biggies. I know people are all surpised about The Departed (which I haven’t seen yet) winning the goods, but it seemed like a no-brainer to me.

Watching Heroes from NBC’s site

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

I wrote about watching the first nine episodes of “Heroes” previously. The other week, I went to watch the second half of the season but realized I had failed to set the Season Pass priority high enough, and one of Kimi’s shows had been recorded instead. Fortunately, NBC offers Heroes free from their site, so I was interested in trying out their experience.

First off, thanks NBC for offering full-length shows free from your site, but the experience was pretty bad. I expected ads that couldn’t be fast-forwarded, but I didn’t expect the same ad multiple times. Six times viewing the exact same ad is irksome and off-putting. If I were an advertiser, I wouldn’t be caught dead trying that — the frustration factor is too intense. I’m actually less likely to purchase the particular product being advertised now because of how annoying the ad was. In addition, the UI needs work. After each break (and each commercial), I had to re-maximize the video to full screen. I had to disable my screen saver.

And worst of all, the video was grainy, too dark, and had too much macroblocking. The streaming was faster than real time, though. And the price was right.

On a more individual level, I really didn’t like watching a full hour of TV on my computer. Wrong light, wrong chair, wrong ergonomics. I much prefer watching TV on my couch in the living room.

Survivor: Fiji, episode 1

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

I can’t say any of these people made any impression on me, with the shining exception of Yau Man, who is now my pick to go all the way and may end as one of my favorite survivors ever. (He’s a chemistry professor at Cal, too, so I have the hometown angle going. Go Bears!)

Interesting that they ended up with the “rich camp/poor camp” concept that’s also the main twist for this season of the Apprentice. Sure it creates some dramatic tension, and you root for the underdogs in the rough to win back a chance at living at the luxury camp, but the main challenge of Survivor is doing well with nothing. The seasons where the survivors are given coffee makers and showers and a relatively easy time of it are less interesting than when you worry for them possibly starving to death. So the “haves” end up seeming vacuous and boring to me, and I don’t think it’s a good idea for half of the contestants to be dull.

The teams seem evenly matched, though, so I’m betting the challenges will be interesting to watch this season.

Superbowl: teaching America the Roman numeral system, one year at a time

Sunday, February 4th, 2007

I watch about one NFL football game a year. Superbowl XLI, well, what can I say? I didn’t watch it this year, because at 4pm I was due up at Jennie’s in Oakland doing a rehearsal for our upcoming Chinese New Year play. I put it on a few minutes after it started, right before I left, so I could record it. I missed the historic kickoff touchdown return.

I might watch it later, although it’s a little anticlimactic after knowing who won (yeah, I know who won — you can’t avoid all the spoilers on the web and radio).

I care nothing for the Bears or the Colts, so I suppose I’m more interested in the commercials. We saw a couple in the fourth quarter when we switched it on briefly, and I didn’t see anything exciting. My bet is there’s nothing that I think is worth the $2.6 million price.

UPDATE: Kimi and I watched the halftime show last night (she wasn’t interested in plays or commercials, but Prince playing Purple Rain in the pouring rain was worth a watch), and then I watched most of it after she went to bed. Some impressive rain-generated turnovers and fumbles, and this morning I’m not really thinking about any of the commercials so nothing really stuck. I did laugh a couple of times. But nothing earned $2.6 million.

Survivor: Fiji starts February 8th… Get your Season Pass now.

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

No matter what other reality shows come and go, the only one that I really still care about is Survivor. The challenges, personalities, cinematography and nature footage make it continually compelling for me. I remember the first season (in Summer of 2000) was promoted via our old TiVo TV show, TiVo Takes, and when we were in the midst of a huge project to migrate our financial system in August, 2000, the whole team took time out during a data load one evening to watch one of the episodes. It was a bit mystifying to some, but was compelling and is still mostly compelling now.

The new season is set in Fiji and starts on Thursday, February 8th.

Because they change the title every season, any old Season Pass you might have set up won’t work for this season. (Some day we are going to fix that…). So, set up your Season Pass for Survivor using TiVo Central Online now, while you’re thinking about it.

HBO options GRRM’s Song of Ice and Fire

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

People tend to remember HBO’s hits (The Sopranos, Sex & the City, Big Love, Six Feet Under, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Deadwood) more than its misses (Lucky Louie, Family Bonds, The Comeback, Arliss, K Street). However, generally speaking, I’m interested in most new series that HBO decides to put on the air.

I’m also a big fan of George R. R. Martin‘s Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series. I got Kimi’s sister Tomi hooked on them too last time she was out. They’re sprawling books with multi-character viewpoints set in a meticulously detailed world, with more politics and backstabbing than magic, and Martin manages to avoid all of the fantasy cliches. The only warning would be to not get too attached to any particular character, since anyone’s vulnerable. (Sort of the opposite of this author.)

So I was thrilled to read this news. HBO plus GRRM, can’t wait. I haven’t been this excited about a TV series in a long time.

Apprentice LA (spoilers)

Monday, January 8th, 2007

Sunday night started the new season of The Apprentice, and I could barely stay awake through it. The changes smack of desperation to try to breathe life into a format that was interesting for the first two or three seasons and then became staler than thrice-regifted Christmas pudding.

But the NBC promo folks are in full battle gear. Just check out the wacky new hijiinks! (Or don’t check them out if you don’t want the show spoiled.)

  • It’s set in LA now!
  • Caroline is so fired!
  • Instead of her and George, there’s the strangely compelling Ivanka, who studied at Wharton and is very impressive or so her father, The Donald himself, tells us!
  • The losers sleep out in a tent!
  • The winners sleep in a mansion and lounge around in a hot tub!
  • Eighteen candidates now! (Wait, only season 1 had 16, the rest had 18.) That’s NOT changed!
  • The winning project manager continues on as project manager next week!
  • The winning project manager participates during the board room firing of the losers! Although since he or she didn’t really see what the losers did, they don’t really have much they can give input on!
  • Writing bullet points with exclamation points all the time is tiring!

I think I’m gonna drop this show.

Go Bears!

Friday, December 29th, 2006

My friend John R. invited Sam P., Patti S. and me over last night to watch the California Golden Bears compete against Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl. We had Chinese food (thanks John!) and Kimi made us a couple of small cakes (chocolate and pumpkin spice) for dessert.

I couldn’t believe how big Isaac and Adam (John and Darin’s two sons) are getting. Isaac made us a spaceship out of a new toy Adam got for Christmas (I don’t know the name of the toy, but it was sort of like tinkertoys except much larger scale and made out of foam), and we blasted off to the moon since we didn’t have time to go to Pluto.

(Stop right here if you recorded the game and haven’t watched it yet.)

Oops in a Box

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

So a couple of weeks ago I watched the “Saturday Night Live” episode hosted by Justin Timberlake, and they had this parody video on, called “A Special Christmas Box,” which I found quite funny. Later I was reading a TiVo Community forum thread about it, and followed a link therein to the uncensored YouTube version uploaded by NBC (which, on a tangent, I think is a good move on NBC’s part, since it helps increase the popularity of SNL).

Here comes the “oops” part. At the same time, I was sending an e-mail to a couple of internal mailing lists about a problem some customers were encountering. Instead of sending the proper URL to the forum thread, I inadvertently pasted in the YouTube URL to the video below.

First sign of a problem was when someone wrote me back and said:

Stephen, what thread were you trying to post? The link just goes to some weird music video.

Now I’m expecting HR to knock on my door. If I get fired this week, now you know why.

On the other hand, another guy wrote me this:

Stephen – Funniest video I’ve seen in years….thanks!!!!

Happy Thanksgiving — let’s hear it for four-day weekends

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

The last few years we’ve had Thanksgiving at my parents’ place up in Elk Grove. This year, Kelly and Rob hosted. This was great for two reasons: First, it’s a lot closer, and second, they did almost all of the cooking, so we could relax a lot more. The only downside is that I didn’t get to see my brother Phil and his wife Erin and daughter Sarah, since they went to Erin’s parents instead.

Kimi made a pair of sweet potato cheesecakes topped with maple cream. In addition to the traditional menu (mostly cooked by Kelly and Rob’s friend Keith), Rob also cooked some crab, which tasted really great although I have to say it felt out of place. A memorable addition, to be sure.

Kelly’s step-mom, dad, sister Tara, and brother-in-law-to-be Geoff were also there, so it was a big group. After dinner, a few folks watched football and the rest of us played some Outburst (one of my favorite party boardgames). Sammy was well-behaved the whole day and managed to take a nap at 3 in the office. Kimi ended up taking him home around 7, and Harry and I followed a bit later (we had invited him to spend the night).

It felt good to see my parents again, and I appreciated Joanna driving them down and back. If we had more room in our house I think we would have invited them to stay as well as Harry.

At home, Kimi went to bed early so Harry and I played some Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, completing the series we had started the week before. In this two-player board game that shares some similarities with Stratego, the black side (Sauron’s minions — the orcs, cave troll, warg, and other bad guys) are definitely stronger than the white side (the Fellowship and assorted other good characters). Harry’s very good at this game, and gets a lot of practice since they apparently play a lot at his work. With Harry playing the more difficult white side, he beat me 2-1 in the first series, but I managed to win the second series 2-1. The new deluxe edition has some variant characters, and when we played with those, he beat me 3-0 alternating sides. I don’t like the variant characters nearly as much, but I do recommend the game overall — a really interesting game for two players that somehow manages to capture the feel of the books better than any other Lord of the Rings-inspired game I’ve played.

Thursday night we watched BloodRayne, a truly awful inspired-by-a-videogame-neither-of-us-have-ever-played movie, and Friday we basically vegged out and watched Heroes all a bit during the day and finishing up after Sammy went to bed. We had a mini-marathon and succeeded in watching the first nine episodes. I enjoyed Heroes quite a bit, and it’s clear the writers actually know where the first few episodes are going. I was a bit surprised at how much gore there was; it’s not for kids at all. The series plays around with comic books as a theme but ultimately I think the series has more to do with a cross between The 4400, X-Files and Lost than with any particular comic book.

As I write this, Kimi and I are doing a movie-trade. She’s seeing the 7:10 showing of Casino Royale and I’ll see the 10:30 showing.
I’ll add my impressions later.

Oscar Shmoscar

Monday, March 6th, 2006

I hate being sick. Most of the weekend I felt really run-down and low-energy, with a nasty headache and weak joints. Saturday night we had Rob and Kelly over for dinner, which was nice, and Sunday we had Yvonne over to watch the Oscars, which was also nice. Both events were low-key enough that I could handle it, and I really owe it to Kimi for taking the load off me to let me recover even though she’s in a lot of back pain herself.

As I write this, I definitely am fighting something. And poor Sammy — when I picked him up from Jen, his nanny, his nose was running and he too is now under the weather. He hated being horizontal and feeding him was hard due to his congestion. Fortunately after a bath he settled down for the night.

Anyway — I was posting this to talk about last night’s Oscars. We ordered Thai food from Amarin, and all three of us filled out our ballots to make a game of it.

Since if you’re reading this you might well be a DVR user, and there is some chance you haven’t yet watched the Oscars, I will hide the rest of this entry behind one of these “click here to read more” thingies. (more…)

‘Four Things’ Meme

Thursday, February 16th, 2006

This is the blogging equivalent of a chain letter. Dave Zatz tagged me (and I could follow the tagging back nine places, to this site, where the trail stopped). I’m not sure how many tags like this I’ll pass on, but who am I to resist talking about myself?

Four shows I enjoy (other than Survivor, the Olympics, 30 Days, and Mythbusters which I’ve mentioned in this blog previously):

Four jobs I’ve held (prior to TiVo, and setting aside my freelance technical writing and web design gigs):

  • Caterer (in high school and summers of college)
  • High School debate coach (during college)
  • Corporate trainer (for a training company, SJSU continuing education, and freelance)
  • Software release manager (at SGI, where a lot of the early folks at TiVo came from, including the co-founders)

Four places I’ve vacationed:

  • Montreal
  • Las Vegas (for BARGE)
  • Kauai
  • Tulum, Mexico (on our honeymoon)

Four cool toys (well, the upcoming Series3 would top the list, but excluding TiVo products):

Four Web sites I visit daily (other than the blogs listed in my blogroll):

Four places I’d rather be:

  • Retired, living in Crete, writing short fiction
  • Snowboarding in Lake Tahoe
  • Playing poker at the TOC
  • Stars Hollow

Four bloggers I’m tagging:

Olympic Fever

Monday, February 13th, 2006

As a boy growing up in England, I have fond memories of watching the Olympics every four years with my family, rooting for the British athletes. The medal count for the Brits may have been low, but the sense of pride and patriotism was palpable (we’d discuss the events ad nauseum in the schoolyards).

Even though I’m not really a sports guy, the habit has stayed with me and I love watching the Olympics to this day. Sports I wouldn’t normally spare two brain cells to think about — short track, curling, alpine skiing — become riveting. Even Kimi will watch the figure skating with me. (Unlike me, she shows some restraint and stops watching sometime before her eyes start bleeding.)

This year in Turin, I was impressed by the Cirque-du-Soleil-like opening ceremonies, and I’ve been really impressed by the snowboarding.

TiVo, of course, makes watching the Olympics bearable. Four-hour blocks (the kind that include several sporting events preliminaries or athlete profiles you don’t care about) can be devoured in under an hour. Even I’m getting sick of how often some of the commercials are repeated, and I don’t have to watch them — I’m fast-forwarding by at 60x. The last time I watched the Olympics with commercials was 1996. Ah, technology!

It was good to watch the profile about _____ ____ (name too hard to spell or pronounce), who has dominated his event since a young boy. With his hours of practice and years of dedication, he quickly climbed to the highest ranks of international competition. A hero in his hometown of _____, few could believe upon meeting this humble and unassuming (blond/brunette) with (salient physical feature) that he was a world-renowned champion. With top finishes in the regional world nationals, everyone believed he would take the gold in 2002 at Salt Lake. The pressure was enormous. Tragically, however, just two weeks before flying to Utah, _____ was struck down with a rare and undiagnosed case of ______. The tests confirmed the diagnosis. (Orchestra swells here.) Doctors told him he would never (skate/ski/jump) again. (fade to black)

(Fade in to montage) But ____ never gave up. No, not _____. He worked night and day to regain his form. Last year, he competed in (minor event). He told himself he would be happy just to finish. But he won. And he kept on winning. And now, miraculously, he is here in Turin, and once again eyes around the world are on ____, wondering if he has what it takes to take the gold.

Not a crummy silver or bronze, or heaven forbid he only come in fourth or fifth. Because it’s not enough to be one of the ten best in the world. The only thing that counts is the complete and utter humiliation of his opponents. Which we certainly hope ___ can deliver tonight. No pressure or anything. Now back to you, Jim.

Jim: Thank you for that report, Suzanne. But before we bring you to that thrilling race with _____, we’re off first to the Sestrianilini Race Track, where we’ve just received word of an upset in the men’s 1500 meter single skate hop, and…

Personal impact

Friday, February 10th, 2006

FX is re-running Morgan Spurlock‘s excellent documentary series 30 Days (highly recommended — along with his movie Super Size Me), and in particular I was thinking about the episode “Off the Grid” as it relates to Sammy.

It’s amazing how much water I use to wash or heat his bottles, and because of his clothes (and how quickly he dirties them) we do a lot more laundry than we used to, and each day we go through a dozen diapers at least. We used to use a diaper service (Tiny Tots of Campbell) but we canceled it the other week because:

  • it was too expensive;
  • it was sometimes too messy compared to disposable diapers (spill issues, enough said); and
  • it was too hard for Sammy to sleep though the night after he wet his cloth diaper.

Two things I do miss about the service were the diaper fairies mysteriously leaving fresh clean diapers on my doorstep every week, and the fact that I wasn’t creating so much landfill. Just ten days ago I was at Costco buying a gigantic box of diapers, and we’re going through them at a scary rate.

I do worry about the enormous impact that an individual person has, in terms of resources consumed and waste generated.

In high school I remember there was some class with a special homework assignment: for one week, you could not throw out any kind of trash, except into a garbage bag that you personally carried around with you the entire week. The idea was to give you tangible feedback of how much trash you create and waste packaging you purchase. I think everyone cheated and threw stuff out “illegally” anyway but I couldn’t imagine carrying around Sammy’s weekly trash production (at least not without a gas mask).


Sunday, February 5th, 2006

I watch an average of one professional football game a year. Superbowl Sunday gave me a good excuse to see what’s new in commercials (not much to be excited about, although I do have to give some respect to the FedEx caveman commercial) and to eat some chips and relax/unwind after the CNY party.

The part of the game that stands out for me is the degree to which the outcome was decided by the officials instead of the players. (Kimi says it’s fixed — I scoffed, but maybe so, maybe so.)

When (spoilers ahead — just in case you recorded this and haven’t watched it yet, in which case you are clearly from Pluto) Seattle completed a pass that put the ball on the one yard line while the score was 14-10 for the Steelers, it looked like it was about to be one of the most exciting Superbowls ever. But, the officials ruled that there was holding (I didn’t see any holding, personally), the pass was undone and un-completed, and in the do-over, Seattle instead throws an interception and — clearly demoralized — went on to remove themselves from contention.

I didn’t really care strongly either way, but I was rooting for the West coast.

CBS’s stupidity costs them a sale

Friday, February 3rd, 2006

I forgot that Survivor’s new season started last night, so I had not set up a Season Pass on any of my TiVo DVRs. (For most shows, such as, say, CSI, a Season Pass works all the time. But Survivor changes its title every season, so each season has to have its own Season Pass.)

While Sammy was napping, I figured I’d download and watch the first episode. I had already decided I’d be willing to pay $1.99 to try out CBS’s newly announced download service.

I first checked iTunes, but no Survivor was listed there. So, instead, I went to And sure, enough, a big ad in the lower left told me I could pay $1.99 to use “CBS on demand” and “Watch Survivor: Panama-Exile Island on your computer.”

But an even bigger section of video in the upper right (for no charge) gave away the face and name of the first contestant eliminated. And in case there was any doubt the caption said, “____ The Day After, Part 1 — The morning after being voted out of their tribe, ____ feels good about their performance in the game and feels they could have stayed around if their tribe had included ______.” (Gender and names removed because, unlike CBS, I know not to spoil popular shows.)

Of all the stupid moves, CBS! Stupid, stupid, stupid! I have zero interest in watching the show after knowing who gets voted off, and most people I know feel the same way.

If a CBS executive happens by, and you’re wondering why sales aren’t too high for your new On Demand service — well, Mr. Right Hand, here’s Ms. Left Hand. You two should talk.

If I should happen to watch the first episode (unlikely), you can bet I won’t pay for it now. Instead, there’s a little thing called Bit Torrent.