Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

Weak End Urp Date

Full of Sound and Fury, and signifying nothing....

This weekend's main project was to find a way to ship four automobile tires to Sparks, NV. For less than:
A) The warranty rebate will be, and
B) Less than it would cost to simply drive to Sparks myself

UPS and Fedex both gave online quotes of $160+, but USPS said $12 per tire, if they were in a box. And there's the challenge - to find a sturdy box 24x24x8 inches. Four of them, actually. U-haul only had light-weight 24" boxes. Ditto the storage place. Office Depot and Office Max both only went up to 18". Saturday I had stopped in a strip mall for something else, and decided to just ask at the Kinko/Fedex place. An extraordinarily hyper, but helpful man named Ian pulled out the Big Book of Right Answers and showed me that for tires, they would allow them to be un-boxed, as long as I made a band of shipping tape across the treads so the bar code would stick, and lie flat. For about $12 a piece.

So I went home and wrapped about a 4" wide band of tape around each tire, and set them aside, thinking I would bring them in on Monday and have them make the labels. More on that later.

While I was in Office Max, the pager went off. I called in and there was an alarm going off on one of the servers in Wisconsin. So I went home, logged in, and saw nothing wrong on the server they had mentioned. I tried to call back to report this, but after 20 minutes on hold, I just left them voicemail, and parked myself in front of the TV to watch the first of 3 DVDs, Earthsea.

I've never read the Earthsea trilogy, but I had read The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, and I consider The Lathe of Heaven one of the best works of science fiction ever. So I was unprepared for the fantasy nature of Earthsea. I have a prejudice against fantasy. Most of the time, I think of it as cheating. The authors of fantasy almost always make up their own rules, often as they go, usually inconsistently and if they need to get out of a literary dead end they make up some additional Magic to save their sorry asses.

I'm sorry to say Earthsea smacks of all these traits.

To add insult to injury, the dialog in this movie just plain sucked. The acting was pretty much on a par with the dialog, the exceptions being Sebastian Roché as the egocentric king, and whoever played the young wizard's village girlfriend in the opening scene. And I feel truly sorry for Danny Glover and Chris Gauthier, both fine actors who were given the most inane lines and tacky blocking, and did as best they could.

The plot is pretty inane too, and utterly predictable. Which is another thing I dislike about fantasy fiction. This was a Sci-Fi Channel mini-series, which explains a lot.

Sometime while I was watching the DVD, the phone rang, it was the folks who had paged me, letting me know they had told me the wrong server. So I went back online and lo and behold, that server had blown a hard drive. The drive is half of a mirrored array, so the machine was still up and running, I just needed to set the wheels in motion to get a replacement drive out to them after calling my boss to make sure there was nothing else I could do from here.

Since I had the PC on, I checked the next Perl assignment, and once again the instructor has given us something mathematical, this time requiring more research than actual programming, and imposing some strict rules which completely defeat the purpose of using Perl as opposed to C. Looks like I will be dropping this class, since I'm not learning what I signed up to learn, there is no access to computers during the class, and I don't relish the thought of hand-writing two more quizzes. I have to drop by Feb 3 to get a non-grade, March 3 for a "W". Not sure which one to do yet. Since I'm not getting a refund, my instinct is to go to as many classes as possible before dropping.

Next fun on the PC was to take another stab at converting my sister's wav file of orca sounds to MIDI. I'm using a program called Intelliscore Polyphinic, which is the best I was able to find, but it's a challenge to get the settings right because like all MIDI software it assumes you are going to feed it music. Music with particular voices and instruments (they don't list Killer Whale in the patch set), music with a beat (whales don't generally tap their toes, possibly because they haven't any), music within the range of an orchestra (orcas can vocalize way above and a little below that range). The more voices I ask it to pull from the audio, the longer it takes - this one is 2.5 hours, so I set it running and go downstairs for dinner and a movie.

This movie is Batman Begins which is almost good.
Baman Begins
Christian Bale is an okay Bruce Wayne, Morgan Freeman is always good (and is kind of wasted here, but I don't begrudge him the easy $$), and there is some good cinematography and the effects aren't too bad either.

Michael Caine is pretty bad in this one, he obviously thinks the role of the butler is beneath him, and does everything he can to let the audience know this. One wonders what happened to Michael Goff, who played Alfred in all the other Bat-dude flicks. He did a voice-over in a film last year, but he is, after all, getting on - 88 years old last year.

I was an avid Batman comic book reader in my youth, and I don't think there was anything in the 50's-60's which said more about his beginnings than the oft-repeated tale of his parents being shot in front of him by a vagrant thief. The movie invents a reason for him to blame himself for their deaths, and invents a Fall From Grace, followed by an arduous training regime under the tutelage of a guy who later becomes his worst nightmare. This all flies in the face of the Batman comic tradition of Batman using his brain, clever technical tricks, and the occasional Duchess of Queensbury fisticuffs against his foes. Making him into the white Bruce Lee + ninja master flies in the face of the Batman tradition.

Two other things I didn't like. One is his girl next door heart throb (played by Katie Holmes) is just too scrawny to be attractive to him. The other thing is the lack of camp - this movie takes itself too seriously.

After the movie, something Ian at Kinko's said to me got me logged into the Fedex web site, where I saw it was a piece of cake to sign up for an account, and print the shipping labels myself. No hand-writing required, and lots faster than waiting for someone else to type in all the info. So I pre-paid the shipping, printed up labels, slapped them onto the tires, and also did the same for their RMA number.

Sunday morning I was up early for a Sunday, skipped breakfast because I was meeting friends for brunch in Capitola at 11. This gave me an hour to kill, so I put the tires in the car, and drove to Kinko's, where I was surprised to see Ian working. Unfortunately he was working with a couple who appeared to be father/adult daughter, who were making a ragged box safe to ship by laboriously wrapping every edge in shipping tape. It took 20 minutes. Ian works like a madman, but it takes a while for him to actually get stuff done, so it was 9:45 before I was on the road.

The trip over the hill was interesting - lots of light mist, many people Driving While Slow and others Driving While Stupid. Brunch at Zelda's was very good, I got to meet some new people, excellent conversation, and it turned out to be a warm, sunny day. Capitola's beach was a mess, though. The tide was in more than I have ever seen it - only a couple of feet from the patio - and there was a mass of driftwood on what little beach remained.

After brunch I drove back over the hill, since I was taking a chance being that far from home with the pager (I had my laptop in the car, but a wireless hot spot connection is pretty slow for some of the things I might have to do online if I get a call). The livingroom looks pretty empty without those tires.

Looked online for another MIDI program, tried out one, but the demo version was so seriously crippled it was useless. The other only allowed mono audio, so that's out. A third I didn't download because it was only for solo voice. So I built a patch panel in Intelliscore, and set it off on a 4-hour job.

And then downstairs for dinner and the final movie of the weekend, From Hell.

From Hell
I got this one because I like Johnny Depp. I wanted to see what he was like playing Jack the Ripper. As it turns out, he is not playing the villain, he is the police inspector who is trying to track down Jack. The movie has more flaws than positive attributes, but I'll start with the good things. Depp is once again superb, playing yet another character. Heather Graham as the Hooker With A Heart Of Gold and flaming red hair, is very good, but they have her wearing costumes which are too new and too well tailored for a Whitechapel lady of the evening. Oh wait, I said good stuff. Robbie Coltraine is excellent as Depp's sidekick, and Joanna Page puts in a brief but memorable performance. Ian Holm starts out okay but goes way over the top in the end. Ian Richardson maintains an excellent character act throughout.

Some great acting is ruined or at least severely mangled by horrible directing, and a plot so absurd as to be laughable. One of the themes is the Ripper crimes were part of a Masonic ritual. Another theme is the murders were to hide the fact that Prince Albert had married and had a child with a prostitute, and was keeping wife and child (who would be heir to the throne) in a flat in Whitechapel.

I was also annoyed by the crudity of the dream sequences. Horribly crude special effects.

Did some laundry, and finally found closet space for the Thai batiks and embroidery. Need to take the silk clothes to the cleaners, and also have to hem three pakamas.

Back to work tomorrow. Probably will play more with orca sounds. Dentist Tuesday morning, Perl class in the evening.


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