Category Archives: Rants

James Cameron, TV Guardian of the Universe

I procrastinated writing an article on using a cool little device called the  TV Guardian  which allows you to watch TV and DVD with the foul language muted.  You can read more about it here but in short:  it scans the Close-Caption (CC) signal and everytime it detects a “bad word” it mutes the sound and presents a “cleaned-up” version of the dialogue in the close captions area (eg: Let’s have sex !!  became Let’s have hugs.1)

Unfortunately, my delay has cost me dearly.  In the years since I tried out this fantastic new technology, most studios have disabled the Close-Captioning signal opting instead for built-in subtitles.  So TV Guardian has in effect stopped working for 50% of the movies on DVD and all movies on Blu-Ray, which does not carry the CC signal.

Enter James Cameron, my hero.

He is releasing a 3-disc collector’s edition of Avatar,  featuring a family-friendly language track.  In this New York Times article,  he mentions that he was motivated to do this by watching his kids picking up foul language from watching the original movie soundtrack.  He reasons that the clean language track will be made available for airline and network showing, so why not include it now in the Collector’s Edition release.

Continue reading James Cameron, TV Guardian of the Universe

  1. Exclamation points deleted, because nobody gets excited about a hug []

Attention Stupid People… please leave.

I subscribe to several different woodworking periodicals and I also read several woodworking blogs and view several woodworking pod casts.  Never before have I been so angry at the stupidity of a fellow woodworker.  A couple of months ago a man in Boston was awarded $1.5 Million dollars by a jury (even though he was only seeking $250,000) for nearly chopping off a few fingers while using a table saw.  Does anyone remember when someone won a law suit against McDonald’s for spilling hot coffee in their lap?  Did anyone else get angry about that one?  Well, that’s how I feel about this.

Continue reading Attention Stupid People… please leave.

In Defense of Cuss Words

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I believe cuss words are bad.  They are considered rude language, vulgar, low-rent.  And with good reason; they are only used when you run out of ideas, want to vent at someone or something or want to look tough in the eyes of someone even dumber than you.  Cuss words are often used as the default adverb or adjective for any ocassion, and they replace words which have actual meaning1.  So your language starts meaning less and less, when you use cuss words.

There’s even a club in Pasadena, CA that promotes the eradication of cuss words, and their membership is growing.  And folks are taking to making up fake words that *sound* like cuss words so that they can avoid doing the nasty2.









But don’t judge them too harshly.  There’s a reason ‘bad’ words are used today and were in use in Shakespeare’s time (although I don’t think he ever put anything too harsh in his works).   They are a great substitute for *actually* punching someone/something out because you are mad/frustrated at some perceived slight.  Think about it:  primitive peoples chose some random sound and assigned it a ‘bad’ meaning, and agreed that using that sound would connote anger and pseudo-violence.   So instead of fighting it out with the guy who cuts you off in the freeway,  you can let a few cuss words fly and it has the same effect3

Continue reading In Defense of Cuss Words

  1. Remember how awful it was when people started using “Smurfy” instead of a real word? []
  2. My favorite comes from Dahl’s move “The Amazing Mr. Fox” where the word “cuss” actually takes the place of a cuss word.  Brilliant !! []
  3. Well, sometimes words escalate into violence, but that’s not how it’s supposed to work. []

The world is too advanced for it’s own good.

I am a tech junkie. I have seven computers (despite the fact that there’s only four of us living here). There’s six TVs, three satellite radio receivers, four DVD players, and we each have our own Nintendo DSi. Two PSPs as well.

I am sure this impresses no one on the Crack Team, and may even be laughable to some. The Crack Team contains many savvy enthusiasts that most would find to be eccentric. I disagree with this assertion. I’d like to think we are NORMAL while everyone else falls below the mark as far as tech goes.

I’ll explain with an example.
My wife is the head Veterinary Technician at a 24 hour animal emergency hospital. She knows things about medicine I will never know, and she is definitely smarter than any other woman I’ve been with.
That said, she is a complete fucking idiot when it comes to tech. Although she has come a long way since she’s been with me, she will never get to our level.
True story – When I met her, she thought that the computers main ‘body’ or case was called the “modem.” It took a long time for her to stop calling it that. Whenever she had a problem, she would confuse the hell out of me by saying that she turned the modem on, but saw nothing on the screen.
This is just one example of many.
Just the other week, I had to show her where the “search” function was on her Rhapsody account. It’s not as if they hide these things on purpose. If anything they WANT you to easily search through their catalog. Boom, there it is right on top. You scrolled down too quickly.
This kind of stuff happens frequently and not just with Rhapsody. She’ll download something, but can’t find where it went even though she CHOSE it’s download location.
I can tell when it’s time to help her before she even asks. She’ll be at her laptop, then she’ll start huffing and shaking her head. Finally she’ll say something like “I hate computers.”
and I think I know why.
Two reasons:
One: The majority of tech software and hardware is designed FOR tech people. This is why the few tech companies that CATER to the lesser-savvy majority, are so successful. It’s true! Companies with great products are far more successful when they dumb-down their interface.
Take Google for example. The king of online search. Why is this so? They aren’t the oldest.
Lets look at their main page. (Do not sign in)
Note how basic it is! Sure it’s not flashy, but as far as functionality goes, 99.9% of users can use this page without instruction.
Now let’s look at Yahoo, a veteran search provider. I admit I use Yahoo frequently despite Google’s popularity. However it’s easy to see why most don’t. It’s interface is complicated when placed next to Google’s. There are many viewing options, and even if you want the most basic layout, you must go through some steps to get there and have your setting saved, which of coarse is only available if you remain signed in on your own computer.
It’s this simple: Users and customers don’t like to think. They don’t have time! They want something basic that works with no effort and there’s plenty of companies who thrive off of this.
Apple understands this all too well.
The iPod is not the first disk-free player, yet they capitalize on design and interface so well, that many of Apple’s sheep THINK they invented the mobile media device.
The same goes for the iPhone.
My first PDA-phone was the Samsung SCH-i700 I got back in 2003 (which was nowhere near the first PDA-phone hybrid).
Utilizing a mobile version of Windows, it was amazing. It had a swiveling camera, memory card slot, 3.5 inch touch screen, played MP3s and movies, and connected to my computer for file transfers and backup. It even had a true 3D pool game that I played for hours a day. I was so happy with this device, that I showed it off to everyone I knew.
Fast forward to 2007. I’ve been through two more PDA-phones by this point, my favorite being the HTC 6700 which came with a built-in joystick which was GREAT for gaming, but still a serious PDA to it’s core.
Suddenly people are coming up to me and showing off their new iPhone with the “first ever touch screen” with camera and music player built in.
Excuse me? Did I miss something here? What’s new about this? The CAPACITIVE touchscreen is new, although most had no idea what that even meant.
I grabbed their iPhone and was less than impressed. Although I can see why teens would like this device. It was fun, easy to use… but a little “basic” for me. It was like holding a cartoon in my hand. As opposed to my PDA-phones which were like holding a mini-computer. And even today I still prefer resistive touchscreens for the precision you only get with a stylus, plus the ability to use anything to manipulate the screen. IE fingers, pens, toothpicks, whatever.
Not to mention how HORRIBLY slow the internet was on the iPhone with AT&T. All I wanted to do was show someone what a Bird-of-Paradise flower looked like. I’m not exaggerating when I say it took 30 minutes to accomplish. Pages loaded so slowly, that I would have to put the phone down, do something else, and come back to check the progress. I’m reminded of those Commodore 64 days where you’d have to load a program with the tape player by pressing PLAY and then go outside to skate for a while before checking back to see if we could play Joust yet. Also the iPhone had a tendency to disconnect from it’s data service, which means you had to reconnect and start browsing online from scratch, NOT from where you left off.
The experience was FAR from what the commercials showed, although I’m sure the latest generation iPhone is far better even though it took years for the device to live up to the original hype.
But again, Apple did it right. Commercials, commercials, commercials, and a simple interface designed for the masses.
I am NOT in any way ridiculing anyone on the team if they happen to own an iPhone. If I had extra money, I might own one too. It’s a fun device with many uses. However I am turned off by the lack of customization when compared to a windows based device.
As with any PDA, to get some interesting hacks out of the iPhone you must unlock the firmware. However on the iPhone, if you “jailbreak” the device for expanded uses, you run the risk of being banned from the app community and other Apple services.
HTC on the other hand could give a rats ass what you do with their phones. It’s at your own risk. Play all you want.
Back at the end of 2007, I had a HTC 6800 which had a hidden GPS chip installed for future research. It was not meant for public use, but thanks to the underground/mod community, users were able to reflash the stock ROM with a GPS enabled one. So basically, I had a PDA-Phone with true GPS (actual satellite link) WAY before this was even marketed as a standard feature in other phones. In fact, the iPhone didn’t get true GPS until 2009.
Why is this? Simple. The GPS feature in my 6800 back in 2007 was not without flaws. The device took about 2 minutes to get a solid position lock, and it would only update your position once every ten seconds, which is an eternity when you are driving.
It took about a month of further tweaking to get the GPS to a solid usable state.
So you see why these kind of features take so long to reach the community. Customers want things to work flawlessly, straight out of the box. Which is great, but the downfall for such reliability is that once these kinds of features are released, they are far from cutting-edge anymore.
Now back to my point. Companies that commercialize well, and distribute a product or feature with 3rd grade usability, will be successful.

And now the second reason why the majority are not tech-junkies:
They aren’t given enough time.
Technology upgrades far faster than it needs to.
Unfortunately, consumers demand products to be faster, smaller, and more eco-friendly without knowing why. The only real gain for them is to SAY they own the fastest, smallest, and cleanest product, when the reality is; they haven’t gotten full use out of the existing product yet.
What there needs to be is a final exam. Most don’t enter 4th grade without graduating 3rd. So why buy iKewl 2.0 when you barely understand the functions of iKewl 1.0? It’s because they aren’t given much choice. Suddenly you can’t find iKewl 1.0 anymore. Commercials brainwash you to the point where you feel you can’t exist without iKewl 2.0, and anyone still using iKewl 1.0 is a fucking loser.

Thankfully, this is where we fit in. As anyone who reads Dilbert knows, just as there’s a few people who easily understand advanced math, and others who can quickly pick up a foreign language, there are some people who just get technology. I don’t believe it’s something that can be taught. either you have it or you don’t.
I took three years of Spanish in high-school, yet still, I barely understand anything past the Taco Bell menu. Although I could learn the language, it would require a lot of time and energy that I don’t have. My brain is just not wired to pick this stuff up as easily as others do.
But when it comes to electronics….
This is embarrassing, but I’m going to tell you this anyway in hopes that someone else may feel the same way or at least get a laugh out of this. (Comedy comes before pride):
When I open a new box to something electrical for the first time…. like a new laptop for example. I am much like an animal with a fresh kill. I don’t want to be crowded. GET AWAY! grrrr. I’ll show you later, after I’m done looking it over.
I even smell the item. I’m serious. New electronics have a certain smell, much like the new-car-smell which doesn’t last long, but fills me with a sense of – “oooh good things are going to happen!”
In my house the rule is, it doesn’t matter what the item is or who it’s for. If it has a power button,… I am the first to open it. I don’t care if it’s a freaking vacuum cleaner, my wife ordered. I must be the one to open it, play with all the accessories,…. and of coarse smell it.
Before you laugh, you must consider it from my viewpoint. Chances are, I am the one who needs to put it together anyway, teach others how to use it correctly, not to mention the one who must deal with it if it breaks or has missing parts. It’s best for me to “test drive” the item first to insure the user can’t blame anything on factory defects.

So back to the point. Soon The crack Team will get their hands on a portable teleportation device. It will be great. We can just appear on the East Coast for a nice dinner in New York, then (swoosh) right back to California! Practically for free! (The machine will use no more power than a fridge).
But of coarse, two years after that, the Apple iZoom will come out. It will only have a range of 100 miles, and teleport sites must be Apple approved or it wont work. BUT it will come in many nifty colors with an incredibility easy to operate, one-button interface.

Zoom away!

Guitar Heroine

My sister bought me Rock Band 2 for Christmas. I’m a little late to the rhythm beat-style game phenomenon, but I was instantly hooked and so was my wife and kids. So much so, that I went driving all around the next weekend looking for a second guitar since there’s four of us in the house, but the game ‘only’ comes with one guitar, a microphone and a drum set. The following weekend, I got the cymbal attachments for my drum-set. “I call drums!”
We now have a room pretty much devoted to this game.
Last Saturday (with a little alcohol) we played the game from 8pm until 3am. Kids too.
I’m telling ya…, hooked up to a nice tv with a good sound setup, you easily feel as if you are really playing that shit.
Which brings me to my point.
I FEEL as though I am playing but I KNOW I am not.
I have no delusions that I am actually a rock star despite my hours of fake drumming. None at all. Yes I feel that MAYBE I have a better sense of timing. Yes MAYBE I have a better understanding of using both hands and feet while following a beat. BUT I AM NO ROCK STAR. I CAN NOT PLAY DRUMS.
I am so sick of hearing mediocre musicians (and the media) criticize people who play the game.
They make blanket statements like this: “Guitar Hero punks who think they can really play guitar.”
Lets get something straight. NO ONE WHO PLAYS THESE GAMES, BELIEVES THEY CAN REALLY PLAY AN INSTRUMENT BECAUSE OF IT. NO ONE. Please show me ONE person, just one, who truly thinks this way because I have yet to see it.
As soon as I put the band controllers down, I return to my no-music-talent world of dullness, and I am fully aware of it.
Why all the hate over these music games?
You never hear NASA criticize people for playing Mass Effect. “So what, you think your some kind of astronaut now?”
Nor does the NFL come down on anyone. “Look at him playing Madden 09,… he thinks he’s a real football player!”

Hell, even those people who do that role playing with costumes don’t get as much flak. And they are throwing tennis balls in place of Magic Missiles! However, when the costume comes off, the player doesn’t continue to believe they are really wizards.

I will admit that one time while mixing prescription meds and playing Nintendo, I was pretty sure I was Mario. I did a lot of damage to my house with a hammer that day…

Anyway, to all the insecure musicians out there…
Look, I’m sorry that when I press four buttons on a guitar shaped joystick, that it somehow attacks your thrashing credibility.
Maybe if you stopped worrying about what I do in my living room and started practicing more, you’d actually get laid. and believe me, once you get laid for the first time, you will forget all about Guitar Hero.
Let me know how it works out.

Conservative Time-For-Tea

Time for a little break.  So much going on at work, you tend to stay away from TV, movies and popular culture.  But those who are blessed with a job1, however tenuously, should take a break and thank the Power-That-Be for the people responsible for these humorous asides:


Sarah Palin does a pretty credible job getting back at our old friend William Shatner.  If Bill’s reaction is genuine surprise at her sudden appearance, then I am even more impressed with Bill’s acting abilities !!  Someone really, really needs to get him in the Star Trek sequel quickly, before he joins Scotty and Bones in the big Starship in the Sky. 

Oh, and by the way.  Bill is a Canadian actor taking valuable Hollywood jobs away from US citizens.  Can someone get the immigration problem in this country corrected?  Too many Canadians are coming down to take our high-paying white-collar jobs in this country.   Forget the Mexican border; folks down there are coming to take the lesser-paying jobs and will not affect your six-figure, professional position.   It’s the Canadians that are the problem.  And they look just like you and me so that they are harder to find and deport.

However, good going Conan.   You are so good at this that I may start watching the Tonight Show again.  I stayed away for the last 15 or so years, but I think the Show is in good, capable hands again.   Can anyone tell me what happened to Triumph, the Insult Dog?2

Finally,  I just have to mention this item that I read in the news about poor Tiger Woods.  No more jokes, this is serious.   Here’s the excerpt in the news from one of his supporters:

“One thing people don’t understand is that we’re human,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said in Miami. “You’re not born with a menu on how not to do things wrong. You’re going to make mistakes like every human being.”

Actually Dwyane, there is a menu that you were given when you were small.   It’s called The Bible.   Sure it’s old and seemingly out-of-date or out-of-touch.  It’s as old as Humanity, and it does seem to be in touch with the foibles and peccadillos that affect all of us, all of the time, since the beginning of time.    I don’t think Mr. Woods is the first person that has ever cheated on his wife; plenty of those stories in the Bible.  You may want to crack it open one of these days.

  1. I’m not implying that most bloggers are out-of-work, left-of-center hipsters with too much time on their hands.  But it is an effective stereotype. []
  2. As I said earlier,  I’ve been away from TV for awhile. []

Fashion Tips For Women

I was reading Fashion tips for women from a guy
who knows dick about fashion
(NSFW), which is quite funny and true and cruel and still relevant, sadly. He attacks Crocs and “tittie curtains” and various other fashion trends, a few of which are (thankfully) rarely seen today (it was written in ’07). I thought I’d add to his work of scholarship.

First, I will echo his plea that women with low self esteem shouldn’t read this. Heck, any woman who knows me shouldn’t read this. But if you’ve got low self esteem, close your browser and go spend some quality time with someone who loves you for you. Really.
Continue reading Fashion Tips For Women

Hitler was amazing

ly evil.
Lately it seems every reference to wrongdoing is now compared to Hitler or at least one of his actions. It’s especially seen on the news. People believe that their point won’t be realized unless the reader/viewer comes to terms with the following:
If you disagree with me, you are pretty much a Nazi.
and it works. “I don’t want to be like Hitler! So I agree with you!”
Hitler. The go-to bad guy, king of the unholy.
Did he set the bar or what?
Osama Bin Ladin is like “helloooo, I’m blowing things up here! Compare something to me!”
Even Satan’s sighing “You know… once everyone blamed ME for all the evil in the world.”
Dude. Hitler gased and cooked millions of innocents, wanted to take over as much of the world as possible, and got much of his country to agree with his actions. Wow!
When it came to charisma, this dude rolled an 18 for sure.
Sorry Satan, but anything short of armageddon ain’t going to outshine Hitler’s life. Stop dancing around in that lame red ensemble, drop the pitchfork and get to work.
And Osama, look at you! at least Hilter knew the importance of grooming. Hitler was married to Eva Braun. She was hot!
Come on Osama. Hanging out in caves plotting with other men day after day, does nothing for your image.
All I’m saying is, when it came to evil, Hitler turned it up to eleven.
Hitler is to bad
golf balls are to hail.
Without him, there’d be no decent reference.
You gotta respect a guy for giving it his all.
Like it or not. He’s immortal.

President Obama and Hitler’s coloring book

There’s been opposition to the President’s plan to broadcast  a “do well in school” message to the American student body.  In and of itself,  the message is probably harmless and probably a good idea;  who is better able to motivate our students than a good-looking, young President Obama?   Why are people making a fuss and opposing the president at every turn?  The problem lies in that it is being encouraged (some would say pushed) onto the American school system.

Officially, it is a voluntary program.  But we remember other “voluntary” programs like prayer in schools.  In that instance, any kids that refused to pray with all of the others were either ostracized or branded as atheists.   So I’m sure that any kids that opt out of the President’s inspirational message will be similarly affected.  I personally do not mind being branded a discontent at age 10, but it does affect your chances to get hired at the local hardware store for the summer when you turn 14.   That’s a heavy burden to bear.

The President should bear in mind other efforts to inspire young people without a chance for other voices to be heard.  This one-party messaging could eventually morph into something akin to Hitler’s propaganda machine.  One of their weirder efforts was this coloring book exhorting the Young German to do something that was probably decent and helpful.  But when a commendable exhortation turns into “obey my orders”  and “kill Jewish people”  then we have a little problem.1

Hitler's Coloring Book
Hitler's Coloring Book
  1. Just to make sure my message doesn’t get lost: Hitler was a bad man and killed a lot of innocent people.  We don’t want to be like him []

Do Not Call For Cell Phones

So about 5 years ago, I wrote about how you didn’t need to add your cell phone to the National Do Not Call Registry, and how rumors that the gov’t would allow telemarketers to call them were BS. Well, recently I’ve been getting calls from telemarketers on my cell phone, but when I went to complain, they wouldn’t allow it because my phone number wasn’t registered. There was no “this is a cell phone” box to check. Thank you, bastard politicians or shortsighted bureaucrats, whichever the case may be. So go register your cell number before they get you, too.

BTW, these weren’t 800/866/888 numbers, they were local (310) numbers I didn’t recognize. I didn’t answer, they didn’t leave a message, but I Googled the numbers and found them on Pretty handy site.