Thursday, January 31, 2008

"Law and Order" and "Celebrity Apprentice"

"Law and Order: SVU"

This was an episode that hit home in a lot of ways.

A container of fertilized eggs was stolen from a fertility clinic. The container had the ability to keep the eggs viable only for a certain amount of time, so the detectives were up against a ticking clock to find the container. They interviewed a number of suspects, including parents who have one child who had a physical ailment that would keep her mentally at the level of a child forever, so they were also allowing her physical growth to be stunted so that she would be easier to handle physically, since she had so many needs. The mother was incapable of having another child, so the parents authorized fertility treatments for their daughter with the plan to harvest one of her eggs so that the parents could have another child.

The eggs in the container that was stolen belonged to all manner of people who were using the clinic for one reason or another. After much investigation, they discovered that two members of a group called the Values Defense League stole the eggs. The clinic screened all fertilized eggs for potential problems and any unused fertilized eggs were sometimes donated to science or just destroyed. The League believed that was cruel, that every fertilized egg was a person, and they'd prefer that any unused fertilized eggs were brought to term and then adopted out - to heterosexual couples. It turned out that they sent the container back to the clinic via a courier service, who were supposed to deliver the package in plenty of time for the eggs to be transferred into a new container. However, the courier service was late in making their delivery and by the time the eggs were brought back to the clinic, the container had already failed, and the eggs were all destroyed.

One of the people with eggs in the container was a woman who was going to be going through chemo and radiation to treat her cancer, so she had eggs removed and fertilized and put into storage before receiving her treatment. She had wanted the eggs implanted, but her doctor didn't want to do it until she had been in remission for six months. Olivia has been speaking to her all along the way, and she was the one who had to relay the news that all of her eggs had been destroyed.

The man who was responsible for actually stealing the eggs (the female served as a diversion) held a press conference to try to personally apologize to all the people whose eggs were destroyed. When he was shot and killed, the detectives eventually found the culprit. A husband had a wife who was being sent to Iraq, and she left eggs behind in case anything happened to her, so her husband would still be able to have a child with her. Her eggs were in the container and thus destroyed - and the detectives found the man as he was meeting the casket that was holding her body as it was being returned to the States.

Throughout the story, the various detectives had been making comments to Olivia, pushing her to have children. She had also heard the fertility doctors say that many women put eggs away because they put off child-bearing until later as they pursue their careers. In her talks with various people during her investigation, they asked why she didn't have any children, and when she tried to explain (not revealing, however, that her being a product of rape and her own mother's treatment of her had contributed to her not knowing if she wanted to have children), they couldn't understand why a woman would postpone having children. In the end, Olivia revealed to Elliot that some time previous, she looked into adopting but was turned down because of her single status and her occupation.

I have my particular feelings about using science to aid in having children, but I won't go into that. What spoke to me about this episode was really about the attitudes being tossed at Olivia because she didn't have children and wasn't necessarily gung-ho to have them. I've encountered that sort of attitude myself. When people ask "do you have any children", it's almost a rhetorical question to them. They assume that you're going to say "yes", and they're startled when you say "no", moreso if conversation continues and you tell them you're not going to have any children. I've run across people who then have no idea what to say to you after that point. They don't know how to deal with someone, especially a woman, who doesn't have children, who has chosen not to have children and who doesn't have any interest in having children.

"Law and Order: CI" - I found this episode to be too convoluted and not all that interesting. An assistant at a company was an aspiring writer, but she was found dead after doing a reading of one of her short stories at a club. Suspicion initially fell on a sleazy agent who approached her after the reading, but eventually, it is discovered that her mentor had been hiding many secrets. He was in danger of having it revealed that he had actually taken her draft book and rewritten it himself, to be released as a book under his name. In addition, he was mentoring another writer who had also published a book with experiences that weren't in fact his. The writer had a volatile temper, and the mentor set him up to kill the aspiring writer. Yeah, ok, didn't really care that much.

"Law and Order" - A teenage white boy and a 10 year old black girl were both found shot in the same vicinity in a neighborhood that had been predominantly black but which was being revitalized, so more white people were moving in and driving up the housing prices, thus driving out a lot of the black people. Tensions between black and white were high in this neighborhood. It's discovered that the boy who was killed was with two other white boys (brothers) who were about to attack a black boy, whose father shot at them in defense of his son and in the process of killing one of the white boys, he also killed the black girl accidentally. As the investigation developed further, it turned out that the black boy was one of a group who had stolen a basketball from the white boys earlier in the day, and the white boys were goaded by the brothers' mother to stand up for themselves. She urged them to go back with baseball bats and even drove them back to the area to get the basketball back. One of her sons said that she told them just to scare the black boys, but when the white boys were chasing the black boy with bats, including swinging the bats at the black boy, there was no way to know they weren't actually going to harm him. The black father who fired the shots and the white mother who goaded the boys were charged with both deaths. With the racial angle and the problems which could arise if one were acquitted while the other was found guilty, the ADA decided to try both cases together - two separate defendants for one single crime. And for the first time this season, the trial actually went all the way through, and the new ADA made a summation speech. He was actually pretty good, but he was no Jack McCoy. Both defendants were found not-guilty for the boy's death but guilty for the girl's death. This was an interesting episode, and I liked the culpability heaped onto both parents. The trial's still not really doing it for me as much as it used to.

"Celebrity Apprentice"

In this episode, the teams would be selling tickets to four Broadway shows. Eight shows were made available, and two people from each team met to negotiate which team would get which show. Empresario with project manager Marilu Henner ended up with "Spring Awakenings", "Hairspray", "Curtains" and "Avenue Q". Hydra with project manager Vinnie (the actor from "The Sopranos") ended up with "Rent", "Spamalot", "Chicago" and one other show that I never found out.

Celebrity contacts definitely played a huge roll in this challenge, even more so than in the hot dog challenge. Piers (the talent show judge) called Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic, who agreed to buy $10,000 worth of tickets. Marilu Henner arranged for David Hyde-Pierce, who was starring in "Curtains", to come to Empresario's booth and meet people to draw more attention to them. Bob Saget visited Hydra's booth for no reason that was explained. Trace, the country singer, contacted some people at EMI, who came through with $5,000. Nely contacted people that she knew to buy tickets as well.

When it came time to announce the winner, it turned out that Hydra had beat Empresario again, but this time, only by a narrow margin of about $2,000. Some of the people that Nely contacted showed up after the deadline, so their contribution didn't count. Had they made it there in time, Empresario would have won.

Marilu brought Carol and Jennie back into the boardroom. Empresario had already been told that they did a poor job of properly using their assets. David Hyde-Pierce was there, but he was wearing a baseball cap and there wasn't enough attempt to make his presence known. Carol and Jennie, two of the more beautiful women of the group, were kept inside the tent doing administrative work instead of being out front and attracting attention. Hydra had been praised for doing a great job in attracting attention with their use of a bullhorn but also because they managed to get a knight's costume for Piers, who was advertising "Spamalot". As has been the pattern when Empresario has lost, except in the case of Gene Simmons, the least aggressive and quietest person was kicked off, this time, in the form of Jennie. Ivanka noted to Donald that Marilu couldn't bring Nely back into the boardroom because Empresario needs her if they have any hope of winning, and Marilu even admitted that she had brought back the two people she thought were most expendable. Wonder how well that comment is going to sit with Carol.

This week's episode runs for two hours. I'm not sure if that's necessited by the episode itself or because NBC is trying to counter against the season premiere of "Lost" on ABC tonight.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

As the husband said: You did better than Bean.

Well, I'm actually on a jury. It's supposed to last a couple days. I'm not entirely happy about it, but I'm not mad either. Work is pretty busy right now, so I'm having to do what I can to scramble on things (I hadn't entirely prepared for being out - I was hoping not to be or at least not for more than just today), and one of my co-workers is having to cover for me. On the other hand, I'm figuring on taking advantage of having a shorter "work day" by running errands.

We got let out shortly before 4pm today, so I drove to the nearest DMV. I've done my last two driver's license renewals by mail, so I had to actually go in this time. It wasn't too bad. When I checked in, they gave me a number (G314). They have TV screens around the office to tell you when your number is being called and what window to report to (it was almost like being in Las Vegas with the Keno games, having people stare at the screens with these letters and numbers going by). Some unintelligible recorded voice was also reading off the numbers and window assignments. I ended up waiting about 15 minutes before my number came out. I paid my fee, signed various documents, took the short vision test and then went to have my picture taken. Ugh, I hate DMV pictures. Might as well be mug shots. They made me take my glasses off because the guy said the flash bounces and everyone looks like Casper. I thought that was funny. But the flash was so frickin' bright - I swear when I was done and put my glasses back on and was leaving, I could see spots in front of my eyes. They had also had me sign electronically and do a thumb print. I don't remember doing a thumb print previously. Does that show up on your license now? Or do they just keep it as a database for government/police use, or what do they do with it? The license is supposed to be mailed to me in 2 or 3 weeks.

Orkid is due for a dental appointment, so rather than me having to take a day off to do that, I'm doing it over the next couple days. Her vet is closer to home, but I work on the other side of the city, so with my hours and the drive time and the hours of the vet's office, there's no way I can normally drop her off and then go to work and then be able to leave work in time to pick her up before the office closes. And they only do dental appointments from Tuesday through Friday. So I'm going to bring her in Friday morning and drop her off for her dental appointment and then pick her up after I'm done in the afternoon. She needs to go in the day before so they can draw blood and do bloodwork to make sure she's ok for the dental stuff, so I'm taking her in tomorrow afternoon after I'm done with court.

So, Orkid has learned to be terrified of her carrier, since most of the time we use it, it's to take her to the vet, which she hates. They're really nice to her, and they think she's really sweet, but she's petrified of being there, probably because they're strangers and they poke and prod at her. I've learned that I need to take the carrier out ahead of time, because there's no way I'm getting her into it otherwise. As soon as she sees it, she runs. I just took out the carrier in preparation for tomorrow. Orkid had been napping on the nearby sofa, but when she saw/heard me take the carrier out and unlatch it, she bolted upstairs, probably to hide. I don't think she's figured out yet that when I take it out, it doesn't mean she's going then and there, so running doesn't help. She's not going to be too happy with me tomorrow when I come home, scoop her up and put her in the carrier and then take her to the vet so they can get blood from her. She's going to be even unhappier on Friday morning when she gets put in the carrier to be taken to the vet's and left there all day.

The Sixth Amendment

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed."

That might be me soon. No, not the one on trial - one of the people on the jury.

I was originally scheduled for jury duty the week before Christmas, but that was a seriously bad time, so I decided to postpone and pretty much arbitrarily picked the week of January 28. My jury service this time was on a call-in basis, so I didn't end up having to go in on Monday or Tuesday. But when I called on Tuesday, the recording said I did have to go in on Wednesday, bright and early at 8am. Ugh.

8am is bad enough, so what am I doing up now? Well, that's a completely different topic.

I'll post an update later today after I get home.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

it don't matter if it's black or white

I have been watching the daytime soap opera "All My Children" for a very long time. My oldest sister used to watch the show (she even named her daughter after one of the show's characters), so since it was on, I'd watch too, and that's how I became hooked. Because of school, and because AMC has always been on at noon, I could only watch the show during summer and school holidays. I don't remember if I watched the show regularly when I was in high school, but I remember that when I was in college, if I didn't have a noon class, I would sometimes arrange to have lunch at that time at a pizza place that showed AMC. (That's actually how I found out about the Challenger explosion. I'd gone to the restaurant to have lunch and watch the show, and at first, I couldn't figure out why Peter Jennings was on the screen. And then they showed the Challenger footage over and over again. And then I knew. But I digress.)

As I entered the work force, I stopped watching regularly. I'd maybe watch a show here and there if I was home, or I'd follow the plot by reading magazines or on-line summaries. If I knew that a particular story was coming up, I might tape the show again for some period of time to watch that particular story, and then I'd stop again when that story was done. I've now been taping and watching the show regularly again for some time now. I think I started again when Maria Santos came back from the dead, and there have been enough stories to keep me watching, though I do fast forward through quite a bit. I subscribe to the weekly magazine Soap Opera Digest, which keeps me updated on AMC as well as the other two soaps that I watched for a long time, "One Live to Live" and "General Hospital", and I'm also now acquainted with most of the other soaps and their characters from reading the weekly synopses and articles. My interest in AMC has waned some but there is one particular story - Tad finding out that Kathy is actually his missing daughter Kate - that I'm waiting to develop, so I'll at least continue taping for now.

The big news in the past week or two has been the return of Rebecca Budig as Greenlee, but even bigger news have been the impending returns of Debbi Morgan and Darnell Williams as Angie and Jesse Hubbard. Angie and Jesse were one of the supercouples from the 80s, and they were involved in the same storyline as another supercouple, Greg and Jenny. Debbi Morgan took her character of Angie to another related soap for a while, and Darnell Williams played another character on that same related soap and has also been the resident acting coach on AMC for some time now. So now, we come to their grand return. Oh, did I mention that Jesse died *years* ago? If I recall, he died on-screen after being shot, and Angie cried buckets for him. He was a much loved character, so it was a huge deal. Darnell has made one or two appearances as Jesse over the years, sometimes serving as a sort of conscience for good friend Tad, but Jesse was also one of the spirits who welcomed Gillian to the other side when she died. So when I heard that Darnell Williams was coming back as Jessie, I didn't know if he was going to be some sort of spirit (a la Alan and Emily on GH) or what they were going to do. Well, in last Friday's episode, Jesse showed up, alive and well and in the flesh to visit his sick son, Frankie. According to what I've read, they're going to play the "Jesse was involved in some really dangerous stuff so he faked his death to protect his family" angle. Ummm, ok, he must have been involved in some really serious stuff - I can't remember what he was doing that resulted in him getting shot, but it is totally against his character to have abandoned his wife and young son at that time and to further put them through the pain of losing him to that kind of death. Why couldn't they have gone into witness protection, like Noah and Julia did later? And how do you account for his being alive? OK, you could dismiss his appearances to Tad as a figment of Tad's imagination, but how do you reconcile the stuff with Gillian? Gillian wouldn't have known him from before - why would she have hallucinated him with her dying breath? And wasn't Jesse's appearance one of the things that was supposed to convince the audience that Gillian was indeed going to heaven? Yeah, I know, soaps re-write deaths all the time, but I've gotta see how this pans out, no matter how happy I am to see Jesse on again and Darnell back on-screen.

Oh, btw, did I mention that Angie and Jesse are black? No, I didn't think so, because to me, it didn't matter. They were hailed as the first black supercouple. I really don't remember it occuring to me or really noticing that they were black. Angie was from a richer family, and Jesse was a poor kid that Angie's father forbid her to see because he was from the wrong side of the tracks. Angie and Jesse and Greg and Jenny and Tad and all of them were just really interesting characters. I'm trying to remember if a big deal was made of the fact that best friends Jenny and Jesse ran away to New York and lived together for a while when they were running away from various things, and therefore, it meant that a black man and a white woman were sharing an apartment together. I can't remember that much from those days, but to me, they were just best friends leaning on each other during a really bad time. When Angie and Jesse were reunited, again, it was just another great couple. It didn't matter to me, and I don't think it even occurred to me to pay attention to what color they were.

There's been some talk recently about how people of color aren't represented on soaps as much as they used to be. I think I'm beginning to figure out that "people of color" pretty much just means black people because there isn't usually any kind of roll call about how many latinos or asians or other non-white non-blacks there are on daytime whenever the subject of "people of color" is brought up.

On the "people of color" front, AMC also has Dre, who we don't know much about, but it looks like they're ramping up his story with Colby, especially with the impending departure of Sean Montgomery, not to mention Sean's inexplicable romp in the hay with Hannah. Mario Van Peebles is also imminently joining the cast as Erica's new love interest and presumably, Dre's father.

My determination of whether or not I'm going to be interested is going to be based on the characters, not what color they are. I'm glad to see Jesse back because I love the character and I love seeing Darnell again, not because of the color of his skin.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Is that birthday cake made out of Legos?

Today marks the 50th birthday of the Lego brick. I've loved Legos since I was a little kid. I didn't have a lot of toys, especially name-brand ones, but I had a box of mixed Lego bricks, and I loved playing with them. There were never enough bricks, of course, but that was the only problem. They used to have windows that you could open and roof tiles, but I haven't seen those in years. As an adult, it just means I can afford more Legos. :)

Even Google is joining in the celebration today.

Here's a Lego shop that I heard about today. You can buy, rent, have parties and even take classes! Redondo Beach is a bit of a pain to get to, but I might have to pay a visit just to check it out.

I also found this site about a Lego birthday cake. The picture below is taken from her site. She also has this site about a Lego wedding cake. I love the views of the "slices" taken out and the "yellow cake" underneath. Incredible.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Who needs writers?

With the new deal made between producers and directors, there's hope that the over-two-months-long writers' strike will shortly be coming to an end. Many shows have no new episodes, and networks are relying on a lot of reality programming.

A friend sent me a link some time ago, but I finally got around to watching it.

I remember when I used to spend HOURS playing tetris. Mike Okuda once joked at a convention that it was a weapon launched by the Russians to seriously decrease productivity in the States. There's apparently even one scene in Next Generation where on the background computer screen, a tetris piece can be seen falling. No, I haven't seen it for myself, and I can't remember which episode it's in.

Anyway, what if you made a variation of tetris but made it with real people? I recommend watching the whole video, which is a little over 4 minutes long. I just found myself laughing harder as it progressed. The spacesuit type outfits were funky.

How about an American version of this show? I'd watch it!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

celebrity used for good

All too often, you see some celebrity endorsing a product or an organization or even a political candidate. I'm not a fan of people taking that endorsement at face value and following blindly simply because they might like said celebrity, but I do think that celebrity can be a good way to draw attention to something that you can then research yourself. Here are two organizations I found out about that way.

A Journey for 9/11 is an organization/endeavour that I heard about a couple weeks ago, but last night, I heard an interview with George Martin, former NFL player for the New York Giants, who is the founder of the organization.

September 11, 2001 is seemingly a day that no one will ever forget. As time passes, though, and the day recedes further and further into the past, for many people who weren't directly affected by the events of the day, the feelings and memories of the day fade as well. I've heard a number of people say that it's silly to keep remembering what happened that day or to have any feeling at all about that day anymore - it was so long ago. But for some people, like the first responder rescue and recovery workers, the effects of "so long ago" continue to this day. Many are experiencing serious physical health problems from their efforts that day, ranging from toxins that they inhaled which continue to compromise their circulatory systems to the trauma they experienced at what they had to see and sift through during the day and the devastating aftermath. Many are unable to afford the health care necessary to treat their problems, so George Martin embarked on a mission to walk across America, from the George Washington Bridge in New York to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, to raise awareness about this situation as well as to raise funds. He has some corporate sponsorship, but much of the money being raised comes from everyday citizens. He has people who are making the journey with him, but he is the one who is personally walking the entire route. The journey started in September of 2007 and is expected to conclude Spring of this year.

Friends & Helpers is an organization that I heard about on the morning radio show Kevin and Bean. It's an organization spearheaded by Kevin's wife, and the organization is designed to assist victims of abuse who often leave their abusive situations with no resources at their disposal. The organization provides them with some necessary physical items but also with counseling and assistance programs and also has specific programs in providing school supplies and an assistance program for the schools in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. All overhead costs are covered by the organization, so all donations go directly to those being helped by the various programs.

Friday, January 25, 2008


"Snickers really satisfies" is a slogan for the candy bar that's been used in their advertising for some time. Well, now, apparently, Snickers satisfies even more of your cravings. For a limited time only, of course, they're releasing Snickers Charged, which not only includes the well-known peanuts and nougat but will also be loaded with caffeine, taurine (used as an active ingredient in energy drinks) and B vitamins. The caffeine contained in the candy bar is about the equivalent of an 8 ounce cup of coffee and about twice of what's in an 8 ounce soft drink. Snickers has chocolate in it of course, so that must have been the source of some caffeine as well. Apparently, the sugar boost you get from the bar wasn't enough, so now, it's supercharged. I like my word better. "Charged" just sounds so banal, so "not trying hard enough". If it's Supercharged, it's got to be better! (Hey, maybe I'm learning from having watched Gene Simmons on "Celebrity Apprentice".)

I'm not a particular fan of Snickers, though I have enjoyed the little bite-sized versions. Peanuts are ok, but I generally prefer other kinds of nuts, and Snickers with almonds still didn't do anything for me. Nougat also isn't really my thing, which is why I hate 3 Musketeers. Obviously, this new promotion isn't aimed at me. But I marvel at what I see as an increasing trend in candy and food - let's put as many different substances in one thing as we can. I saw another candy bar the other day - it might have been Snickers as well, I can't remember - which now had peanut butter added in it. Pretty soon, there's just going to be one candy bar that has milk and dark and white chocolate and peanuts and almonds and cashews and brazil nuts and nougat and caramel and wafers and coconut and peanut butter, and also infused with caffeine, ginger, ginkgo baloba, chai tea and a splash of grenadine.

Maybe I'm weird in that I really just like the simpler stuff. My favorite candy bar is Almond Joy, though Mounds are good too. I'm not a fan of having everything packed into one thing. I'd rather have little pieces of different things. I think this applies to candy and food (which is why I like dim sum, sushi and tapas), but for ice cream, I like different things mixed in.

Here's a link to the press release about Snickers Charged.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

"Law and Order", "Celebrity Apprentice" and "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles"

"Law and Order: SVU" - This was an interesting episode but was a bit of a headline-grabber. The detectives discover that a 9ish year old boy has been raped, and the boy has been in a sort of tug-of-war between his divorced parents, his Jewish father and his non-Jewish mother. Evidence initially points to someone in his father's Jewish community, but it is eventually discovered that the culprit was a 14 year old boy in his same secular school. The 14 year old boy is being raised by a single father and spends a lot of time by himself, much of it watching very explicit pornographic movies. He says that he watched a prison rape movie and so he was just re-enacting what he saw when he raped the younger boy. It's then discovered that he has also raped several young girls at the same school. His defense lawyer says that he should be found not guilty by reason of mental defect - basically, that he sees how sex is portrayed on TV, in movies and in songs, and he has no idea that what he was doing was wrong. Under questioning, he admits that the girls and the younger boy all said "no" when he raped them, but he says that's how it goes in the movies - isn't that the way it's supposed to be? The jury finds him not guilty, and he is relegated to a mental health/correctional institute as the victims look on. The ADAs discuss that many of the jurors are probably parents who don't necessarily have the time or inclination to supervise their children constantly and could see themselves in the same position and so voted not guilty out of their own sense of guilt. When they first mentioned the media representation defense, I found it to be preposterous. To me, it's a cop-out to blame it on that. At 14, he should know better. But then the question comes up - if that's all he's ever really known and he's been exposed only to violent images and impressions of sex growing up, how is he supposed to know better? Who gets the blame then? Presumably, the parent. But do you imprison the father for the actions of his son or for his own inaction? But then, what happens to the boy and the other son in the family? And what effect does this have on the victims, who have been violated and who have then seen their violator go unpunished?

"Law and Order: CI" - This episode wasn't as interesting to me as others have been. I'm not enamoured of Logan's new sidekick, but she does look a bit like the actress who plays Natalie on "One Life to Live". It was the story of two brothers who were both doctors, one of whom was found murdered. Turns out that back in med school, the other brother was fairly prolific in his donations to a sperm bank, and many of the children produced by his donated sperm formed a network, one of whom actually managed to track him down. He had a brother who was ill and needed bone marrow, but his father refused to donate. He then approached the uncle, but an ensuing argument resulted in a crime of passion and his uncle's death. In return for the murder confession by the son, the father is strong-armed into agreeing to donate his marrow.

"Law and Order" - This week's story involved a Walmart-type company who had an executive that knowingly bought a large order of contaminated toothpaste and then resold it to other places like prisons and retirement homes, where deaths wouldn't be thought to be suspect. This discovery is made by way of the murdered daughter of owners of a dry cleaning business, where the daughter had been working on a case that involved another company employee. It turns out that a previous police captain now works for the company, and at first, he lies on the stand to cover up the redistributed contaminated product, but in the end, he ends up telling the truth. It was an ok episode, but again, no summation at trial. Now that Fred Thompson has dropped out of the presidential race, maybe he'll come back to "Law and Order" and Sam Waterston can go back to doing what he does best.

"Celebrity Apprentice"

Because the women have suffered two devastating defeats, Donald Trump offers Gene Simmons the challenge of being the project manager for Empresario on the next project, which Simmons accepts. Each team will be provided with an air stream trailer, and they need to create an "experience" to sell Kodak's new printer. The presentation of the task actually seemed confusing to me - it took me a while to figure out exactly what it was they were supposed to do. The men come up with an idea but through a serious mishap, they lose much of their data and have to do a makeshift job in completing the project. Simmons on the other hand zeroes in on the product and a tag line. The men's project seems sloppy and haphazard. The women's project seems much more put together and professional. But in the end, the Kodak executives wanted to emphasize the new printer's lower-priced ink as a selling point, so even though the men's presentation was much sloppier, they did focus on that point. Simmons only sent two women to attend the meeting with the Kodak executives, who were put off not only by that but also because they didn't feel that the two women listened to them during that meeting. The women's project emphasized a re-branding of the Kodak product at large instead of the ink that the executives wanted to focus on. In addition, the men ended up selling more because Stephen Baldwin called brother Alec, who apparently bought a few of them for an exhorbitant price. Alec's appearance seemed totally out of place, especially since, unlike with the hot dog challenge, celebrity and contacts really didn't seem to have a place in this challenge.

Simmons is defiant in the boardroom and absolutely refuses to admit that he did anything wrong, instead insisting that the Kodak executives were wrong in not knowing how to market their own product. Trump points out a few of the women that he thinks might have contributed to the loss, but Simmons refuses to pass along any blame and instead holds fast to his position and in the end, brings back with him the two women least responsible for the outcome of the challenge. Trump has no choice but to fire Simmons.

Simmons' move to bring back two women that Trump couldn't possibly fire seemed like a suicide move. Some have speculated that he was done with the show and just wanted out. To me, it seemed like he was just grandstanding, that he was absolutely not going to admit he was wrong in any way. He might have come up with the better campaign, but he didn't come up with what the clients asked for. It was funny to listen to his bravado during the challenge, but his refusal to come off that in the boardroom cemented his ouster. I'm also wondering how much of it was that he wanted to be kicked off the show on his own terms. Sure, he was technically "fired", but you could say that he didn't completely deserve to be fired, even though he was the one who had come up with the overall plan. But absent his bringing back two people Trump could absolutely not fire, who knows how long Simmons would have been in the game, not to mention if or when he might make a big enough mistake that would actually warrant his firing. I heard him on a radio show this morning, and he was maintaining the same position, that he was right and the Kodak executives were wrong, and he was taking total responsibility for the outcome and wasn't going to lay the blame on any of the women.

"Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles"

At the beginning, Sarah talks about the scientists who developed the atomic bomb, whether they knew what they were building, how they could rationalize the completely devasting device they were creating and if given the opportunity, whether anyone would have killed them before they could complete their project. This is clearly a comparison to those who developed Skynet.

Sarah and Cameron revisit the slain resistant fighters and discover that they were a Cyberdyne hunting team, looking to stop the creation of Skynet in the same way that Sarah and Cameron were now doing. Sarah goes to see Miles Dyson's wife again, and she ends up reluctantly identifying a picture of a man who used to be an intern at Cyberdyne - Andy. Sarah tracks him down and eventually gets to know him, even agreeing to go on a date with him to find out whether he might be responsible for Skynet. Andy eventually reveals to her that he has been building a chess-playing computer, but Andy sees it as much more than a machine, and the machine has in fact been displaying more than normal machine behaviour, being "moody" as Andy describes it. Cameron tells Sarah that Andy needs to be killed, and Sarah wrestles with the issue. In the end, instead of killing Andy, Sarah ends up destroying his computer with a house fire.

In the meantime, Cameron and John are trying to get acclimated in their new school. There's a lot of awkwardness as Cameron tries to fit in (reminiscent of the Terminator's adjustment to society and young John's instructions in T2), but when John first met Cameron, she seemed like a normal girl, enough that he never suspected her of being a terminator, but now, all of a sudden, she doesn't know how to fit into a school? There's also another mystery that arises when painted doors with words and images show up around the school, greatly upsetting one particular female student that Cameron ends up befriending. However, the girl commits suicide by jumping off a roof, which upsets John who had wanted to try to stop her, but Cameron prevented him so as not to draw attention to himself. I have no idea if I missed something and was supposed to figure out what all that was about or if we're going to be told more later.

Meanwhile, the terminator who was teleported into 2007 along with Cameron, John and Sarah has almost succeeded in completely rebuilding himself. The terminator is able to enlist the services of a scientist by providing him with the formula for making synthetic skin. As we had all already figured out but which apparently escaped the scientist completely, as soon as the terminator is able to re-skin himself, he kills the scientist, stealing his eyes in the process.

There was also a segment where the FBI agent who has been tracking Sarah pays a visit to the nephew who made new identification papers for Sarah et al. The scene really didn't go anywhere, but then the FBI agent is roped into trying to figure out why one of the group of men killed (the resistance fighters) showed up displaying the fingerprints of a young child in another state.

This was an ok episode compared to the first two. It was much more of an intellectual questioning - would you be able to kill a person if you knew that killing that person was going to save many other lives in the future?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

How much is that kitty in the suitcase?

Gracie Mae has apparently used up some of her nine lives. The 10-month-old tabby cat snuck into her owner's suitcase and made the plane trip from Florida to Texas undetected. A stranger mistakenly picked up the wrong suitcase and had a surprise when he was unpacking at home and the cat jumped out. The cat has been returned to its owner.

Here's a picture of Gracie Mae.

And here's a link to her story.

Orkid has a habit of jumping into our bags and suitcases. I think she knows that we're going somewhere and she's not coming with us, so she makes herself comfy in the bags in protest, and she's sometimes a terror to get out. She'd never end up as a stowaway, though. We always say goodbye to her before we leave, so we'd notice. Heck, I always say goodbye to her before I leave for work in the morning, and there have been times when I've ransacked the house for 10 minutes looking for her, only to have her then suddenly appear from whatever hiding place she was sleeping in.

I need LoJack for her.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

dolphins at play

On the same visit to the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage that I mentioned previously, we also had a chance to look at the dolphins in the exhibit. Many of them were very young and very playful.

Monday, January 21, 2008

"24" - season 7

Wow, can you believe that they started the seventh season of "24" like that? They always have a bang-up start to the season. I love that they've been jump starting the season with two hours on Sunday, and I can't wait to see what will happen in the two hours they're showing tonight. I also love that they run all the episodes at once, but it means the show only runs from January to May. It's so weird in May for them to say, ok, see you in January, so I always look forward to getting new episodes in January, and I'm so glad the show is back.

What, you didn't see the season premiere of season seven of "24" last night?

Well, neither did I. They have about half the episodes of the new season done, but with the writers' strike, everything came to a halt. They decided that instead of running the episodes and then possibly not being able to finish the season, not knowing when the strike would be over, they were going to hold the show until the strike was over and production resumed so they'd know they could run the show like they normally do.

The past couple years, they've started the new season over MLK, Jr. weekend, with two hours on Sunday night and two hours on Monday night. But this year, I get no "24". Stupid writers' strike.

I'm all the more frustrated because they released a trailer of the new season in the U.K., and it looks kick-ass. And I had no idea who would be returning to the show this season. So I'm doubly frustrated and mad.

Here's the trailer to tide you over until the show actually starts. Or to piss you off too, knowing what you're missing.

Come back soon, Jack.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

killer clowns (from outer space and elsewhere)

They had to actually conduct a poll to figure out that clowns are creepy? No duh. I don't think I've ever gotten the whole "clowns are fun and funny" thing. They're creepy and weird. Hasn't anyone seen "Poltergeist"? Or "It"? Heck, don't people know about Krusty the Clown?

OK, and here's my weird clown story. I used to take the 101 freeway to work, heading towards the Hollywood area. One day, in traffic, I noticed that the car in front of me had nudged the car in front of it, but it wasn't a serious crash or anything. I expected to see the two drivers get out to have a quick look, so I was just waiting until they were done and would get out of my way. And then I noticed the driver getting out of the car in front of me. It was a clown. No, seriously, it was a clown in full costume - clothes, face makeup, the works. He (I think it was a he, but who can really tell?) got out, looked at the front of his car/the back of the car in front of his, exchanged a couple words with the driver of the other car, and then they both got back in their cars and drove off.

This is one of those experiences that only happens in L.A., right?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sheriel and Prince Eraccoon

We spend a lot of time at Disneyland, and we subsequently know the various shows pretty well, especially Fantasmic, their nighttime spectacular. If you're not familiar with it, it's hard to describe, and any description is bound to fail miserably at conveying how amazing a show it is.

There are lots of different elements to the show. During various times, images are projected onto water screens that are created on the Rivers of America. At other times, there may be characters or other elements on the stage. At still other times, various manner of water craft ferry different characters around the River. Lots of music and singing and fun, and scary bits and funny bits and cool bits and fireworks and great stuff.

See, I told you a description would fail miserably.

In any case, the talent who perform the various characters in Fantasmic also play the characters in other parts of the park as well. We discovered that Fantasmic performers even do walkaround characters.

A couple years ago, we were at Disneyland on July 17, its birthday, and we were having lunch at the Big Thunder Country Picnic the only summer it was open. Mmmmm, chilled fried chicken and vegetables on a hot day. Yum. Shame that they only did it that one year. Anyway, they had a character at that picnic, and for whatever reason, it was Meeko the raccoon, one of the sidekicks from the Disney film "Pocahontas". We had a great time watching him interact with other people and small children, but we had even more fun when he came over to play with our group of about 8 adults. We happened to discover that Meeko was *very* familiar with Fantasmic, and when he wanted to recreate a particular segment from Fantasmic, we knew who had to be the volunteer.

Happy Birthday, Sherry!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Do you know the way to San Jose?

Well, I do, and not just because I was there for almost 24 hours last year. But, I'll be heading back to San Jose in February of 2009. According to this Playbill article, a revised version of the Broadway musical "Tarzan" will be making its way to the American Musical Theatre of San Jose at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts next February.

"Tarzan" originally played on Broadway for a little over a year in 2006/2007. I am a huge Phil Collins fan in general, and I also happened to love the animated Disney film of "Tarzan", so when I heard about the musical, I eventually decided that I wasn't going to wait for it to make the rounds - New York wasn't that far away and there was no reason I couldn't go there. So I went.

I saw the show twice, once from the orchestra and once from the balcony. From what I knew of the show and its staging and from having seen "The Lion King" from both the orchestra and balcony, I knew that the experience was different from each of those two vantage points. It wasn't like I could see "Tarzan" any time I wanted to and seeing something once wasn't going to be enough for me to remember as much as I wanted to, so I decided to go twice to see it from different locations.

Generally, I liked the show. There were a few elements that I wasn't crazy about and one particular element that I thought was pretty stupid and completely unworthy of being in a professional production much less on Broadway proper. However, there were other elements that I really liked and a couple specific things that really just blew me away. I was very impressed with Josh Strickland, who played Tarzan, and Jenn Gambatese, who played Jane. I liked some of the new songs written for the show and some not so much, but the love ballad, "For the First Time", was incredible. I've still got my notes from having seen the shows, but I could never figure out a proper way to organize all my comments. Maybe someday, I'll be able to fashion a coherent review out of them.

In any case, I'm interested in seeing the show again, and San Jose is only a short Southwest hop away. I might be going to see the show twice again, depending on the configuration of the theatre. I figure I'll decide when tickets become available. I'm interested in seeing what elements they're going to change as well as to see what new people will be like in the show.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Here, kitty, kitty, kitty

Several years ago, on one of our then-yearly visits to Las Vegas, we went to the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage. We enjoyed looking at the dolphins and the different big cats in the various exhibits. We came across one white tiger who apparently decided he needed a few more greens (and dirt) on this day and was having a great time just tearing up the turf.

Have a look.

Nice kitty!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Law and Order", "Celebrity Apprentice" and "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles"

"Law and Order: SVU" - The episode started out a bit slowly, but it really picked up. At first, I thought Erika Christensen as the FBI agent was a bit stilted, but as the story developed and her character was more flushed out, she was terrific. This episode was very disturbing in that it showed Olivia completely affected by what happens and what she witnesses. So often, she encounters horrible things, and you wonder how she manages to deal with it. In this case, the look of abject horror on her face when they discover the torture room and the torture table and the many instruments of terror was just incredible. The idea of what the women had to endure, hours of unspeakable torture, and even watching videos of women who had been tortured before them, all the while knowing they would eventually be killed was just horrific. Then when they were reviewing the scene, you could see they were just focussing on the professional aspect because to feel anything about what they're seeing would be devastating. When they find the last victim, still alive, the FBI agent makes it worse by trying to cut her restraints with one of the implements, sending the victim into a frenzied panic attack. And then you get to the twist at the end, when Olivia is confronting the FBI agent over her part in the investigation, and then the very end, with the line "one of the rules of chasing monsters is that you can't become one of them", and Olivia screams as the FBI agent shoots herself. You also see that this situation stays with Olivia, through the conclusion of the investigation. Very powerful episode.

"Law and Order: CI" - This episode was slightly different than normal episodes because it was very personal on a work level, as opposed to some of the personal life stuff of the characters that has come out previously. A police officer is killed, and it turns out he was the partner of Alex's husband, who was also killed in the line of duty. The investigation becomes more complicated and eventually points back to the murder of Alex's husband, and while Bobby is putting the pieces together, Alex plaintively says to him that this isn't just one of his puzzles. They eventually do figure out that the recent murder of the cop is related to the murder of Alex's husband, and she has to relive his death all over again.

"Law and Order" - I loved the subject of this episode. A pregnant woman is hurt in a bomb explosion, and in the course of the investigation, it's discovered that the bomb was meant for a doctor in the same building. The doctor had previously pinpointed a genetic marker for being gay, which was embraced by the gay community as it bolstered the nature argument. However, the "gay gene" could also be detected in fetuses, which meant that gay children could be detected long before they were born and thus, could also be aborted, so the gay community was then against further research on the subject. It turns out that the bomb was planted by the gay brother-in-law of the wounded woman. At the last minute, the woman's father inexplicably provides an alibi for the brother-in-law, but the detectives discover that the alibi comes at a very high price. The baby had been tested and had indeed showed signs of having the gay gene, and since the grandfather was severely homophobic, he agreed to alibi his comatose daughter's brother-in-law in exchange for his son-in-law aborting the supposedly gay baby - his potential grandson. The gay brother finds out about the deal and confesses fully to thwart the abortion. It was indeed a very powerful episode that touched on a lot of interesting issues. I still have a concern though. It's only the second show of the season, but so far, no full trials and therefore, no summation. How long are they going to do that for? I guess this means they realize how much they're missing with Jack now being in the DA's chair? I'm not optimistic about how the rest of the season is going to be.

"Celebrity Apprentice" - The previews seemed to indicate that it would be a good show, but the confrontation between Gene Simmons and Donald Trump over Trump's daughter was really just a red herring. Yes, Gene was mildly dismissive of and rude to her, but nothing major and when confronted by Trump over it, Gene apologized. The challenge this time involved Pedigree pet food, and each team had to make a public service announcement advocating dog adoption. Hydra came up with the brilliant idea of centering it around Lennox Lewis and a lovable dog. The commercial was amazing, with images of Lennox playing with the dog. The music alone that starts the spot is enough to make your eyes start to tear, and then the voiceover just adds to the emotion of the spot. Someone later on questions whether Lennox Lewis is well-known enough to be identifiable and that they should have identified who he was, but to me, it didn't matter. The image alone of the big black man turned into a puddle because of the little dog was enough. Empresario on the other hand decided to focus on several dogs, none of which had the same impact, especially since the voice-overs (supposedly of the dogs) were just awful. In the boardroom, the hispanic news lady picked Nadia Comaneci and Carol the supermodel. I think Nadia was fired ultimately because she was so weak and didn't stand up for herself (similar to Tiffany from the week before), but you have to figure that news lady is going to be headed for the door if she's in the boardroom again. Her biggest mistake was really in picking Carol as one of the two to rejoin her instead of picking Marilu. And on a side note, what in the heck was with the matching yellow and black outfits on the women?!?!?!?!?

"Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles"

I'm a huge fan of the Terminator movies (though T3 not as much), so I've really been looking forward to seeing this show. I was not disappointed.

The series is set up to fall within the timeline of the known story, but you get enough information so that I don't think you're lost if you're not familiar with the movies. The timeline of the show starts about 2 years after the events of T2. (I love the nod to history by having their last name be "Reese", the name of John's father.) John is now 15, and Sarah has never gotten over her wanderlust or fear, as manifested in her continued nightmares about John being killed by terminators, and even though she has recently become engaged, she takes John, and they run. When the fiance goes to the police with his concern about their disappearance, he unwittingly alerts an FBI agent who has been pursuing Sarah and who fills him in on Sarah's history with the mental hospital, Miles Dyson and Cyberdyne.

Sarah and John have meanwhile started a new life in New Mexico. John makes friends with Cameron, a pretty girl in his new school who turns out to be much more. When a substitute teacher tries to kill John during roll call (that scene of him stabbing into his leg to get at the concealed gun was gory and great), Cameron steps in front of the gunshots, and John gets away, with Cameron later incapacitating the terminator and rescuing John again, much to his amazement. Later in the story, the fight scenes between the two terminators were spectacular. They did a great job in deciding to make John's protector a slim attractive girl this time. This is completely against what you'd expect and very different from the terminators in the movies. It also makes for great action scenes when the little girlie takes on the big bad killer terminator and basically kicks his ass.

It also seems to be a trend (a la "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Alias" and "Chuck") where the seemingly defenseless girl has killer abilities. John also reminds me of Buffy in that he's a teenager who just wants to live a normal teenage life, but he has a much more important calling that he reluctantly must live up to and which basically ruins his normal life.

Sarah wants to run again, but John convinces her to try once again to put a stop to Cyberdyne, so they return to the Dyson residence. When the FBI agent was showing pictures of the Dyson family, I noticed they weren't the same as the people in T2, and I wondered about that change and didn't know if it was a matter of getting the previous actors' permission. But since they had to actually return to the house, the recasting made sense. They of course have a new Mrs. Dyson since Dyson's wife from T2 has been playing Lt. Van Buren on "Law and Order" for some time now.

The trio then head to a bank at Cameron's instruction, and she arranges to have bank personnel lock them in the vault, which comes in handy later as it takes the terminator some time to break it down. It turns out that parts to create a gun that will defeat the terminator have been stashed there, as well as a machine that basically teleports them elsewhere. When they arrive, causing quite a scene as they arrive naked, Sarah asks where they are, and I love Cameron's response: "Same where, different when". They have travelled 8 years in the future, to 2007.

When the second episode picks up, they have set up residence, and Cameron says there are other resistance fighters in that time, who she takes Sarah to for help, but they discover that the entire group has been killed.

They think they're safe in this timeline since no one knows where they went, but it turns out that their arrival and specifically Sarah was caught on a camera phone, alerting the FBI agent of their presence. In addition, unbeknownst to them, the terminator was blown up but was teleported along with them, and apparently, its component parts can exist on their own, so he eventually manages to put himself back together again.

After the first attack, Sarah rails against Cameron for bringing them there, but Cameron reveals that in the regular timeline Sarah died in 2005, of cancer. After all the fighting she did with unnatural forces, the irony is that she was killed by a natural force even more malevolent. Sarah then goes to an old friend for fake IDs, but the friend is now out of the business and refers her to his nephew, who has taken over. After some negotiation and interaction, they finally get their new IDs. During the course of the episode, Sarah refers to Cameron as "tin man", and it takes a while for Cameron to get the reference, but she then tells Sarah that John never told Sarah, but John's favorite memory was of Sarah reading "The Wizard of Oz" to him. Fittingly, we find out later that Sarah's new name is Sarah Baum.

While Sarah and Cameron are out, John has been instructed to stay indoors, but cabin fever gets the better of him, and he heads to the local mall to get a sense of normalcy but in the process finds out about his former potential stepfather. He heads to his stepfather's house and inadvertently runs into him. The stepfather can't believe what he sees, but he doesn't seem to particularly notice that 8 years have passed but John looks exactly the same.

Sarah eventually goes back to the old friend's house, worried because of what she overhead his nephew say, and she's concerned that her friend may be ratting her out. Cameron ends up killing the old friend, which stuns and upsets Sarah. I wasn't sure why Cameron killed him, but we find out later that he was about to talk to the FBI agent with a promise to give him good information. We also see Sarah going in for treatment of her developing cancer.

So far, I love what I've seen - good action and good story. I think it's going to be difficult to sustain a television show with this premise, but I'm eager to go along for the ride to see how it turns out. At least there's more going on than just the terminator. Not only are Sarah and John running from the terminator that wants to kill John, but they're also running from the FBI agent who doesn't buy the "machines" story, and they also now have to figure out who took over Miles Dyson's work and to once again prevent the coming of Judgement Day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fu's Palace - Chinese restaurant on the west side

I headed over to Fu's Palace for lunch today. Many of my co-workers love the place, and it's a favorite lunch spot. But I like it for different reasons. Yeah, they've got lunch specials. That's what a lot of people get. I personally find the entrees on the lunch specials list to be boring, and they tend to be the over-sauced, Americanized dishes which aren't really my preference. I've learned that if I order off the regular menu, I'm a lot happier.

One of my favorite things at Fu's Palace is the sizzling rice soup. Not all Chinese restaurants offer that since it's a lot of work to make. The regular soup portion contains vegetables and different meats (in this case, chicken, shrimp and pork), and the broth is piping hot. Poured into the hot soup are pieces of rice patties, which are made from the cooked rice that's stuck at the bottom of the pan which have then been deep-fried, almost like puffed rice cakes. When the fresh deep-fried rice is put into the hot broth - voila, sizzling. I love the flavor of the soup, and they have a good selection of vegetables and meat, and the rice is perfectly done. Some places can start with rice patties that are too thin or too thick or not fresh enough, and the staleness of the rice definitely comes through. But not at Fu's - it's delicious and a definite recommend. If you've had it before, you'll love it hear. If you've never had it before, this is a great place to give it a try.

I also had an order of the pan-fried pork dumplings. It arrived at the table very hot, and one of the things I like about Fu's is that it also comes with a dish of vinegar and sliced ginger to go with the dumplings. Not too many places seem to offer that but it adds great flavor to the dumplings.

Fu's also has really good hot and sour soup - great flavor and lots of bits in the soup. I brought an order of that back for a friend at the office.

Here's a website with some reviews and more information as well as a link to the menu.

Fu's Palace
8751 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035

Monday, January 14, 2008

Who's guiltier?

I found this story in the news recently.

So who should be in more trouble, the husband or the wife?

I think the husband should be in more trouble. He's cheating because he wants to cheat, and he's spending money to boot. The wife is at least making money.

Kind of like "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" by Rupert Holmes but without the happily-ever-after.

So I waited with high hopes
And she walked in the place
I knew her smile in an instant
I knew the curve of her face
It was my own lovely lady
And she said, "Oh it's you."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

German polar bear cub

I love polar bears. But what's cuter than a polar bear? How about a polar bear cub?

Zoo officials took the cub away from its mother after the mother showed signs of possibly hurting the cub, so zoo officials will be hand-rearing the cub.

Here's the news story.

And here's the German website for the polar bear cub.

This link has videos of the cub, and they seem to be adding new videos all the time, though unlike the pictures link, I can't seem to find archives of older videos. But then, I can't read German.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Tale of Two Deaths

It was the best of times

Carl Karcher, founder of Carl's Jr., died on Friday at the age of 90. He turned a minor hot dog cart business into the empire that became Carl Karcher Enterprises. He stayed involved in his business until health issues forced him to retire several years ago. He had a long and happy live, stayed involved with his business and his growing family.

We're having lunch at Carl's Jr. today in his honor.

Here's an article about his death.

It was the worst of times

I happened to catch a story on the news a little while ago because the television was on where I was grabbing some lunch. A female pregnant marine had gone missing, and there was concern that she'd been kidnapped, her disappearance happening days after her meeting with military prosecutors, though they didn't disclose what the issue was about. I had figured that she must have been a witness in a case or something, and whoever the case was about might have arranged for her disappearance. It has since been revealed that she was accusing a fellow Marine of rape, and the rape is what resulted in her pregnancy. They have now found the burned and buried remains of someone on the property of the man who she said raped her. He left a note denying he had killed her, but saying instead that he'd buried her after she committed suicide in front of him. Evidence apparently refutes the suicide claim and instead points to her being killed. The male Marine has gone missing. They're examining the remains to see if it's the female marine, and there's an ongoing investigation. Authorities have so far declined to state whether the remains include those of a child. She was due to give birth in mid-February, so the child she was carrying was close to full term.

Once she went missing, I would figure it was presumed that they weren't going to find her alive. But the discovery of what are presumed to be her remains is still devastating, all the more so given the circumstances of her rape. And then there's the child. No one knows yet if the child is alive or if it's another case where the biological father killed the mother and the child him/herself. Yeah, I know, there's no conviction, and he's not even been charged with a crime yet. But all the evidence seems to point to it. Authorities had figured that once the child was born, DNA tests could be done to prove the paternity of the child, thereby providing proof of the rape if the results came back positive. Maybe that would provide additional motivation for killing the child. But I'm hoping and praying that whatever happened that resulted in the death of the mother, that the child was spared. That's about the most that can be hoped for at this point.

Here's a story about the case.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Home Grown goodness

We discovered the Home Grown line a few years ago. We saw some of the figurines in a Hallmark store, and I thought some were cute and some were weird. Well, a lot more have come out in the line. Let me share some of my favorites with you.

This horseradish seal is the only one I've purchased for myself. I only saw it a couple months ago, and it was just too cute.

I'd not seen this one before, but a friend got this eggplant porpoise for me. I think it would have been billed better as a killer whale, except for the coloring, because the shape resembles more of a killer whale than a porpoise or dolphin, but I still think it's really cute.

This is another gift from the same friend. I'd seen the radish polar bear before but hadn't picked it up, so it's a nice addition to my polar bear collection.

This potato hippo is something that we bought for a friend. Pretty cute, huh?

I saw this corn seahorse just before Christmas and had to pick it up for a friend who likes seahorses.

I picked up this starfruit starfish for the same friend. I had thought about getting it for myself, but it went really well with the ocean theme, so I got it for her instead.

This banana octopus was one of the first figurines I'd seen. Cute and ingenious.

These carrot rabbits were also in the first batch that I saw. I loved that they were cute and that they made the animal from one of the food that it eats.

This pineapple turtle is a favorite of mine as well because I think it's a great usage of the fruit.

I think these peapod caterpillars are just adorable.

I just saw this online recently, and I think I'm going to have to pick it up. I absolutely love brussel sprouts, and the fish looks cute.

I saw these strawberry hens, and they look pretty funny. Not something I'm going to pick up, but I still like them.

I think this is good use of grapes to make a poodle. Weird colored dog, though.

This kiwi mouse is kind of interesting.

This cucumber alligator is cool but creepy. Good use of the fruit.

I laughed when I saw this. Who even knows what durian is, and a hedgehog isn't exactly the most well-known animal either, so I guess it's a good match. (Tangent: I like durian ok. Some people don't like it because it has a very strong odor and taste. I don't mind it if it's fresh, but if it's remotely not, it's awful.)

This is billed as a zucchini frog, but it looks more like it's made from a small cucumber to me.

Each figurine comes in a little box that has a really cute "nutrition label" on it. It also has a little line at the bottom that says "Ingredients: resin".

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Forbidden Mountain

One year ago today, I discovered Everest. No, not that big cold scary you're-going-to-die-there mountain. I mean Expedition Everest inside Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. We didn't go to Animal Kingdom on our first visit to WDW in November 1999, but when we made our second trip in January 2007, we did decide to include Animal Kingdom in our plans, partly because we wanted to see the park in general since neither of us had been, but mostly because we wanted to ride Everest.

We ended up riding it twice - once in the daytime and once at night. Both were absolutely thrilling. It was a clear day, so in the daytime, you had a great view of the surrounding areas. At night, you had an amazing view of everything all lit up.

I absolutely loved this ride, and I think it became my favorite Disney coaster. It was a great coaster, AND it had a great theme. We weren't able to use Fastpass because they were already all gone, but we didn't mind waiting in stand-by. The line wasn't terribly long, and the queue had so much to look at that we didn't even get a chance to see everything. It was the same feeling I got when I first went on Star Tours or Indy at Disneyland, with their amazingly detailed queues. The queue for Everest was even more elaborate - they basically recreated a Tibetan village, and as you went further through the line, there were various outposts for travelers, and you also learned about the legend of the yeti and what it meant to the locals.

I loved the backwards section of the ride, and I loved the shadow view of the yeti, but I especially loved the yeti himself. In all the commercials, they never showed him, so it was a great payoff when you actually saw him on the ride.

A friend of mine managed to get great video from the front seat, and he has given his permission for me to show it here. Thanks, Mox!

Two things to note about the video:

1. At the broken track section, right before you go backwards, I remember an eagle (or some kind of similar bird) rising up next to the twisted torn track. I didn't see that on his video, and I'd heard that the bird sometimes didn't work, so maybe it wasn't working at the time he took the video.

2. The animatronic yeti wasn't working during his ride, but he said they had a strobe effect going that made it look like it was moving, and he said it was really cool. You'll get just a few short quick glimpses of the yeti because of that. When I rode it, the yeti was working just fine, and I was screaming and ducking out of its way. Both times. Yeah, ok, so I'm a coward and an idiot. :p

Expedition Everest from Jeffry Moxley on Vimeo.

As with Star Tours, the ride exits into the adjacent merchandise store. They had a lot of cool stuff, including a great t-shirt that I ended up getting, but my favorite was that they had a yeti as part of the roundie collection. You don't really have to ask if he came home with me, do you?

I can't believe it's been a whole year, and the only consolation for me about not being at WDW this year is that since this particular bout of feeling completely like crap has lasted a couple months now, there would be no possible way I could go on Everest at the moment, so I'd probably be even sadder to be there and not be able to ride it. Or I'd ride it anyway and feel even more like crap. Blech.

But it'll be there next time I go back. Everest calls, and Everest waits.

If you want to read my trip report notes from the WDW trip, go here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

OK, first, a disclosure. I didn't make up the blurb that I'm using as the title of this entry. I saw it on a website that I read, and it took me a second to figure it out, but once I did, I loved it.

OK, so I've had a few Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moments in the last couple weeks:

Situation 1

This has been going on for a couple of months now, but the component parts have just escalated. Now, people who know me well will know that I do not suffer fools easily. But sometimes, when the fools are people I have to deal with because of work, I have to suffer them more than in non-work situations. Screaming at someone, whether on the phone or over email, "WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!?" is not something that I can do at work. It's taking everything I've got to maintain a professional demeanor with this person ("A"), and I've already decided that I'm keeping all my interaction via email only. With email, I can wait until I've calmed down before I respond, and I can edit and re-edit my response before sending it. I'm not confident that I'll have the same self-control on the phone.

strike one

There had been some discussion on a particular document I was working on as there had been several drafts. When asked for the latest, I sent through a July draft. "A" references an October draft of the document, that the October draft must be the most current, and can I confirm the terms of the document. I reiterate that the July draft is more current and explain the circumstances of how it arose. "A" again responds that the October draft must be most current, and "A" just needs me to confirm the terms. Pissed off beyond all belief that I even have to make this distinction, I point out in no uncertain terms that while it was November 2007 at the time, the October draft was not in fact more recent than the July draft as the October draft was clearly dated October 2006 whereas the July draft was clearly dated July 2007. OH MY HECK!!!!!

strike two

With regard to a different document, "A" told me that the current annual number of 9600 is incorrect as the number had been increased, so I should use 1200 instead. I responded to say that we're using annual amounts, not monthly, so I need the annual amount. "A" again responded that it should be 1200. I asked one more time if "A" was sure that the number had been decreased from 9600 to 1200 or whether "A" really meant 12000. "A" responded that oh yeah, "A" meant 12000. OH MY DOUBLE HECK!!!!!

strike three (and you're out)

Regarding a different annual number, "A" said that the current 3600 is incorrect and should be 2600 instead. I responded to ask if "A" was sure about that since 3600 had been what's been used in all other similar situations. "A" responded that yes, it's 2600. Another person asked if it shouldn't be 3600 since the monthly number is 300, which you multiply by 12. "A" then responded that oh, yeah, it's 3600. AAAAUUUUGGGHHHH!!!!!

Situation 2

Yesterday, I had lunch in a cafeteria-type environment. I was enjoying my soup and the book that I was reading. Random person walking by my table pointed to my book and said to me, "Where'd you get that book?" I looked at her and said, "At the bookstore." She smiled back at me and said, "Oh, yeah, the bookstore" and continued on her way.

This wasn't like a doctor's office or something where there's a corner of reading material, and someone might not know where the reading material was. And I've gotten stopped before by random strangers because they liked my shoes or my shirt or my jacket and wanted to know where I got it. That at least makes sense since particular designs are available in particular places. But a book? Aren't they pretty much available in lots of locations? OK, so maybe the local grocery store or the kiosk at the airport won't have something because they only carry a small number of books, but any large bookstore or something like Amazon would either have in stock or be able to order pretty much anything.

And I wasn't reading a rare book or a first edition or anything limited like that. It's a very popular book, so much so that even though it's not a recently-released book, I picked it up off the shelf at Borders a week ago.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

"Law and Order", "Celebrity Apprentice" and "Desperate Housewives"

"Law and Order: SVU" - This was a really good episode, with the hallmarks of SVU. The story of the homeless kids and the families that they create on the streets was heartbreaking. (That scene with Olivia and Elliott eating in front of Josie was just cruel!) Some of what the homeless people do is reprehensible, but when you find out what Cassidy had to deal with as a child, you can almost understand how she's gotten where she is and why she's so adamant about helping her "children". Your heart breaks for her when she's testifying against Cole, and he just completely loses it on her. But then comes the twist - Cassidy is not in fact an abused runaway. She was a bored, bratty Park Avenue debutante who rebelled against her parents and ran away, and it turns out that she was ultimately the one responsible for the death that the detectives were investigating.

"Law and Order" - The series returned with two back-to-back episodes and three major cast changes. Fred Thompson left the show because of his run for president, so Sam Waterston's Jack McCoy is the new District Attorney, and a new actor has been hired as the new ADA. In addition, Jeremy Sisto joins the cast as a newly-transferred-in detective. I remember him from the cancelled TV show "Kidnapped". I liked him in that show, so I'm happy about his joining L&O, although I did like the lady detective who was there the last two seasons.

I thought the shows themselves were ok but nothing really special. Jeremy Sisto was very good, and I think he's going to fit right in. However, I did not like the new ADA. He's a sort of renegade, almost an ADA version of Mike Logan, but I like him. I guess I'll have to see if he grows on me.

My major concern, though, is about Jack McCoy. When I heard that he was the new DA, I wasn't sure how the show was going to go. The DAs that I've seen on the show aren't on it much, just making an appearance here and there, so was Sam Waterston going to be reduced to cameos? Well, they're apparently changing that dynamic as Jack was on screen more than Arthur generally was, but then, Jack now seems to pretty much be babysitting the new ADA. I'm not sure how much I'm going to enjoy that aspect, but what I'll really miss are Jack's closing arguments. Sam Waterston was a master at that.

"Celebrity Apprentice"

I've seen a handful of episodes of "The Apprentice", but it wasn't a show that I watched on a regular basis. And celebrity versions of shows don't always catch my attention, but for some reason, this particular one did. I think the major curiosity factor for me is Gene Simmons. The thought of him going up against Donald Trump sounded like it was going to be fun.

The first show started with the introduction of the celebrities. I'll admit to not knowing most of them, but then, they're mostly from areas that I don't follow. The only ones I really knew were Gene Simmons, Marilu Henner (from "Taxi"), Nadia Comaneci (though I would never have recognized her - but then, it's been a billion years since I've seen her), and Stephen Baldwin, and I've heard of Lennox Lewis, and once they identified him, I got that Piers Morgan was the Simon Cowell-esque judge from another reality show. I never watched "The Sopranos", so I didn't know that actor. And of course, I'm familiar with Omarosa.

Once they divided the groups into men vs. women, the two groups were sent off to come up with their group names. I liked Empresario ok, but I really loved Hydra.

With the hot dog selling challenge, the men in general and Gene Simmons in particular had the right idea. They're celebrities with lots of contacts. Instead of selling $2 dogs for charity, why not sell $1,000 dogs for charity? Using the phone was a way to expend minimal effort with maximum results.

On the flipside, though, Omarosa's declaration that they were going to go with selling the product itself rather than using the celebrity and the women seemed like a thud idea, but the other women ultimately went along with it.

As expected, the men crushed the women, raising something like $52,000 to the women's $18,000.

And when it came time for the boardroom, Omarosa reverted to form, her protestations of her change notwithstanding. She never really accepted the blame for insisting on the failing business model and instead blamed other people. (And what the heck with the Latina news person who was totally backing her up? Yeah, she was perfect in every way, except that when it came to choosing the very foundation of the plan, she picked a sucky one, so the entire thing crumbled - you don't think that's her fault?) I'm not really sure why Omarosa focussed on Tiffany. But Tiffany never fought back adequately. When Donald Trump asked why she didn't call her major contact (Hugh Hefner) when Marilu Henner had called people, she didn't stridently tell him that Marilu did it by going against Omarosa's explicit directive. Instead, she went for the "I'm saving him for something better" route. That was her downfall. Had she laid the blame on Omarosa where it really belonged, she might have still been let go, but I think she would have at least had a fighting chance instead of going out with a whimper.

Next week's episode looks interesting with the tease that Donald Trump is going to go after Gene Simmons because of some comment about Ivanka.

"Desperate Housewives"

This episode was all about the aftermath of the tornado. There is some tension as they're digging out the Scavos, but the drama ends as we expected it to - Tom and the kids survived, but Ida didn't. Much of the episode is about Ida, or more accurately, what we didn't know about Ida. Lynette is stunned when Karen tells her that Ida used to be on a baseball league, and she was a star at it. But Lynette is even more stunned when her oldest son tells her that Ida basically sacrificed herself to save Lynette's husband and children. Lynette is appalled at the flippant attitude of Ida's niece (I loved the "you passed bitchy 10 minutes ago" line) and manages to "save" Ida. And the scene with Lynette and Karen on the field scattering Ida's ashes, the ensuing police chase and then the two of them heading out for some beers was terrific. I hope they develop that relationship further.

Gabrielle's story got a little more interesting with the funeral scene where Victor's father blackmailed her into leaving before the service. It's been nice watching Mike Farrell in this role. I used to love him as B.J. on "MASH", but circumstances had made it difficult for me to watch him anymore. And we find out that Carlos has been keeping a secret from Gabrielle - he's blind from the accident. (BTW, when Gabrielle kept clicking on the pain meds for him and they pretty much took effect immediately after she kept pushing it repeatedly - BZZZZTTT, thanks for playing. Yes, you can medicate yourself, but the machine only lets you have so much medication in a certain period of time, no matter how many times you continuously click it.) But I'm still not that engaged in this story. Of everyone, I think Gabrielle is the least sympathetic character. She has blatantly and unrepentantly cheated on both her husbands, and she is much more self-centered with many fewer redeeming qualities than the other women, and I don't think they've really shown the other side of her that they've even managed to show in Edie.

Bree and Orson end up staying with Susan and Julie, which Susan at first dreads, but when Bree ends up playing mother to both of them, Susan doesn't want to let Bree go. I liked the last scene between them when Susan admits that she needs Bree there. I was a little surprised that they played the angle of Bree trying to use Andrew to seduce the contractor into fixing her house after all. After the whole reconciliation and everything, it just seemed really callous, especially since she didn't get his permission or even warn him about it ahead of time.

But the kicker to the entire episode centered around Katherine's big secret. She kicks Adam out since he did in fact have an affair, but just before he leaves, he finds the note that Katherine's aunt wrote that had fallen under the bed. And he leaves on his own terms, but not before letting her know that he knows her secret. And at the very end, Dylan rustles through the ashes of the not-quite-burned paper and finds out the secret herself.

AAAAUUUUUGGGHHHHH!!!!!! This is the one story that I've been most engaged in, and I've been happy with the little bits we've been told regularly, but now, nothing. This was the last episode completed before the writers' strike, so nothing else will come out until that whole thing is settled. I'm dying to know what the secret is, but part of me wonders whether or not Marc Cherry has even come up with it yet.