Thursday, July 28, 2011

netflix > comcast

The thing is, I don't understand people complaining about Netflix, especially when I think about Comcast and the way they've always behaved. At least Netflix was upfront about their bullshit. Comcast just sent me a letter saying that I’d been getting more than I’d been paying for. Effective August 4, that would no longer be the case; I’d be losing channels.

When I called the number on the letter to find out which channels I’d be losing, the lady answered, asking if I was calling about the letter. So clearly, they know they’re in trouble. People have been calling. I replied that I was, and that all I wanted to know was which channels I’d be losing. I explained that I didn’t watch a lot of TV as it was, and I just wanted to know if I’d be losing one of the four channels I actually do watch. She ignored the question, referring me to the brochure sent with the letter, and tried to upsell me on a new package, plus a free premium channel for a year. I told her again that I don’t watch that much TV, I’m not interested in premium channels and asked a different question. “What about HD? I’m paying for an HD package and it looks like I’m not getting any HD channels in this new package that you’re telling me is all I’m paying for.” She rushed, “Oh no, many of those channels broadcast in HD.” “OK,” I replied, “but what about this Digital HDTV Package? Isn’t that what I’m paying for? And they have channels that are all-HD, all-the-time, including my local channels! But those aren’t on this package that you’re saying is all I’m going to get. So, am I going to get some of those channels?” She brushed it off again: “I’m going to try this one more time. You’re paying for the Digital Starter package. You can pay to upgrade and receive a free premium channel. Or you can stick with your package.” I told her I was sticking with it.

More like getting stuck. This shit blows. Instead of being brash and arrogant like Netflix (aggravating in its own right), Comcast has decided to change our packages and act like its our own fault?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

the nfl lockout is over.

On Monday morning, the good news started pouring in for fans of football in America. The lockout which had threatened America's (true, modern) pastime was finally finished. The focus now turns to the actual start of the season, currently slated for September 8-12.

When the new football season begins, there will be a couple important differences, but most of them will be invisible. When it comes to the changes that either side wanted that were going to be physical manifestations, there was compromise instead of hard-line posturing - at least at this point. The schedule will remain a 16-game affair - for now. Owners will be getting more money than they were previously. Practices will change, and there is already grumbling from those who are attached to the old schedule.

These differences, however, are inevitable when two sides are fighting for every inch. All told, in the process of negotiation, the NFL was officially locked out for more than 4 months, the longest lockout in NFL history. However, the good news is that no official games were lost to the labor dispute, save an exhibition game which had been scheduled for August 7.

A great summary of the winners and losers of the draft has been written up at ESPN. In contrast to one of those last points, though, I'd defy anyone to go out and talk to a football fan. There is a reason that this was the top story on ESPN for the last three days, and why it continues to get mention on CNN. In times like these, when people are looking toward August 2 as a potential for the United States government defaulting on its debt, Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, took the time to point out that if football can get a deal done, certainly the bureaucrats in Washington should be able to follow suit; especially when the matter is of such increased gravity. For those who prefer their sports without politics, there's a handy comparison, too: the NFL lockout being resolved in a timely fashion gives hope to the fans of the NBA, which is similarly engaged in a lockout currently.

At the end of the day, though, despite lists of winners and losers and total amount of time lost to this lockout, the easiest proof is in the pudding. Next time you're out and about, ask someone, whether it's at a bar, at work, or even just at a stoplight. Ask a stranger, "Hey, how do you feel that the NFL lockout is over?" Chances are, they'll gripe a bit. They'll mention how it was millionaires fighting with billionaires. And they'll say how ridiculous it was to have to slog through the news. But, at the end of that conversation, most people, as Americans who love football above all others, will smile and say, "Hey, I'm just glad it's back."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

netflix is confusing.

So, sometimes, I disappear for summers. Sorry, yeah, that happened. The good news (for those who care) is that usually, when I come back, there's been a spate of activity for me to comment on and it's as though this is an actual blog for a while. (For those of you outside of your comfort zone, don't worry: we'll get back to comic recaps and lazy sports blogging soon enough.)

The basic gist of this post is that, while I was hanging out in Seattle, apparently, Netflix went a little cuckoo. Raising your rates by that much, at one time, is probably not a sound business strategy. And we could sit here and debate the history of such moves, or the political nature of the Internet and the ISPs that led Netflix to think that it could or had to make this move. But that wouldn't be nearly as much fun as what actually happened.

People, essentially, split in half.

On the one hand, you had some people who thought this move was solid confirmation of Lucifer's reincarnation.

On the other hand, you had some people who thought that we'd been getting too sweet a deal for too long.

As usual when sides disagree this vociferously, the real truth is somewhere in the middle. Obviously, I tend to side a bit more with Mindy C, not just because she's my friend, but because, well, hey, look, I still have a Netflix subscription, and I don't forsee that changing any time soon.

(Sidenote here to say that I did find it extremely odd that I missed literally all of this news. I wasn't listening to the news or reading tech blogs and my subscription was on hold - even though it rolled past where it was supposed to:

so when I returned home and reintegrated with the world, I was more than a bit flabbergasted. To this day, I've still received no email or documentation from Netflix themselves. Odd, to say the least.)

But here's thing thing: the haters have a point. (They always do.) It's been said that no press is bad press. But that's not true and we've all known it for far longer than we've known what the word infamous means. Netflix might survive - I hope they do, I enjoy the services they provide - but it can't be sitting around in its boardrooms, having meetings saying, "Hey, at least they're talking about us."

Plus, when you get down to the bottom line, I'm of the belief that price hikes are ultimately bad for consumers. Netflix suffers a bit, but lives through it, therefore Apple and Amazon and Wal=Mart, et. al. see that they can do so, too. Our bills go up even more. Bummer.

But, bouncing back to the other side, we've been streaming movies. We don't have to go somewhere to pick up the disc. It's convenient! And, even more so, it's putting a burden on the resources upon which we rely to get us that very medium. Can't even barely browse the Internet when every fool's streaming movies, eh?

So...what to do? Netflix made their choice. And I promise, no matter which side of the debate you fall onto, it'll be OK. Different? Yeah. But still OK.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

comics for the week of 07/13/11.

Comics are starting to become something that I'm not sure if I'm going to keep up with. Which is a weird feeling to have now that I'm past the point where most people give them up, if they're going to.

Batgirl 23 - Annnnd the conclusion that the fans have been asking for. This is nice because this book will feel like it told a complete story and like it was something that, perhaps, they were meaning to do, as opposed to DC screwing them over and eradicating a new character that was surviving and thriving on her own. The story itself continues the Reapers gang, and there's a riot in prison and a big fight and a cool team-up, but none of those are actually central to the point of this book. The main point is the discussion that Stephanie gets to have with the Detective (dropping a hint for the relaunched Batgirl?) and the ending with the mastermind behind the whole Reapers plot. If you didn't see that reveal coming, you haven't been reading comics long enough and if you weren't delighted by it, you're reading comics for the wrong reason. I'm really looking forward to next issue, where they'll be given a chance to wrap things up. And I'm still pissed at DC for robbing us of this character.

Detective Comics 879 - Another look at how good things are right now. Scott Snyder continues to write the best Bat book that's existed in a long time (seriously, when was any Batman title better than Detective is right now? Hush?) and Francavilla pencils the hell out of the issue, giving a nice break from Jock. This is the way the artists should be handled, sequencing logically around the story, and putting the book in capable hands, regardless of who's there. (There's gonna be a counterpoint later on.) The story has no Batman in it, but that doesn't hurt it at all - in fact, the Gordon-centric approach on this book has been one of the highlights. We have great family ties with the looks at Jim and Barbara and a throwback look to Dr. Leslie and her clinic (hello, another tie to Stephanie Brown!) that show how well-rounded the Bat-universe is. The plot, of course, is looking at James Jr. and questioning whether he's recovered or not. Thanks to the last page of the last issue, we definitely know for sure that he is not. But the dramatic irony of the issue is that Jim wants to believe in his son, even while he knows, in the back of his mind, that he's wrong. The art has already been compared to Mazzucchelli and that comparison is dead-on, so let's not make any bones about it: a great team, doing great work, on a great book. Detective is the must-read mainline DC superhero book right now.

FF 6 - This, on the other hand, is how you lose readers. I have faith in Jonathan Hickman, and I like the idea of the alternate Reeds, but this was the worst comic I've read all year. Taking us completely out of the momentum of the great story they'd been building, switching artists (and this was a bad switch! I'm sorry, I know I'm not an artist and I shouldn't talk smack on things I can't do, but Greg Tocchini & Paul Mounts gave me shivers at the poor quality of their work) and offering no ties whatsoever to anything that I care about means that I can comfortably drop FF without wondering what's going on. If the story pans out again, I'll check it out, but here's how much I don't care: the story was about the formation of the Inhumans. There was something about celestials and Black Bolt's five wives and...that's it. I'm done.

Flashpoint 3 (of 5) - This story feels emptier than all of the DC titles combined. Instead of the neat twists of the Age of Apocalypse or the wonder of the Amalgam Universe, we have here a holdover. AOA was neat because we knew that, four months later, it'd be gone; get it while you can! AU was amazing because we'd been waiting our whole lives for something like this! Flashpoint, on the other hand, feels like it's just something they're tiding us over with. The Old DC doesn't matter, but neither does the world of Flashpoint. 2 months from now, everything is going to be different. It gives the current books a sad tinge, but it makes me wonder why anyone cares about the Flashpoint books at all. This Superman, while interesting, isn't going to be the new Superman. And he has nothing to do with the current Superman. There are exceptions, of course. Obviously, this Cyborg will have a lot to do with the one they're going to be pushing hard in the JLA. There are hints here, echoes that are going to live on in the DCnU. But I'm so angry with the idea, with the execution, with the blatant disregard for longtime fans, that it's hard to care about any of those. Maybe this story will read better after the New 52 has existed for a while. Regardless, in this story, Barry Allen gets struck by lightning again, at his insistence, because he's not a scientist and he doesn't know about the Speed Force and he can't think of any better way to get his powers back than by almost killing himself in back to back attempts. Surprise! It works. He saves Batman from near death, makes a new costume and goes to save the world. They find the Superman of this world, but he's crazy different (we see Krypto's skeleton, it's kind of sad) and Superman abandons them. Also, there's a bit with Lois Lane and the resistance - we see Grifter. I wish I was more enthused about that.

Green Lantern 67 - Another book where the overall story, which I should be psyched about, felt derailed by the plans for the future. The conclusion to the War of the Green Lanterns is sweeeet (although, even as a fan of Kyle Rayner, I literally laughed out loud at Hal's grand plan for freeing the other Guardians from the Book of the Black - really?!) and I'll say that I honestly did not see this twist coming. I'd talked to my friends about my doubts regarding the new GL book and who was going to be in it, but I did not see this coming. The quick summary: Krona certainly appears to be dead, and how did Ganthet apparently survive? The looks at the New Guardians before they get their rings back is amazing, Sinestro is still a badass and the (old) Guardians are dumber than I've ever seen them act. The conclusion while semi-shocking and very cool story-wise, makes no sense. They would never act that way. No matter what. Hal's will is too strong, they're scared, it just doesn't make sense. Also, where did Sinestro's ring go? Great, great story, leaves us with tons of questions, but it seems like none of them will matter now. I know there are people who say they will, that the stories are still here, but they're irrevocably changed. I'm a fan of change, but this feels far from natural.

The Unwritten 27 - The worst book of the run so far proves how much better this book is than everything else. Tom Taylor is fully in charge now and he's using his father's journals to try to figure out something about the Cabal. The journals, he discovers, can bring old memories back to life (or at least let him [and Lizzie] see what happened) and so he begins his quest. The idea of Savoy being in charge of the network is a good use of his character, and I like the reality of his complaining of substandard tools, but, even in a comic book, I can't stretch my suspension if disbelief that far; no way would he be able to run that server with those enemies trailing him. The main story, though, concerns Wilson Taylor in New York sometime between World Wars and the creation of a pre-Superman superhero called the Tinker. There's definitely echoes of things we've seen from the Cabal and from Tom (and Tommy) so it's obviously important. I love that Carey is expanding the universe from just fictional books to comic books as well. It's clear that he has a love for the genre and I love when people wear that on their sleeve. All that being said, it felt like a long intro to get to the meat of next issue, where we'll meet the author of the Tinker and try to get some information on how this is all relevant. Still a great issue

Book of the week, however, does not go to the Unwritten. I'll repeat what I've said times before: Detective Comics is the best superhero book being put out by the Big Two and in 2 months, it's going to be changed in a way that will be impossibly difficult to remedy. Pick it up now while you still can and enjoy some of the best Bat storytelling in a long, long time. And then, yes, give the New 52 Batman #1 a try, because Snyder will still be writing it. Hold out hope. But beware the change in artist.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

team usa loses women's world cup final.

Team USA prided itself on getting out of the shadow of its former incarnations. They wanted the pressure. In the final match of the 2011 Women's World Cup, that pressure might have proven to be too much. The US played a better game at every single point of the game that mattered, until the part that mattered the most. Up by 1 in regulation and then again up by 1 in overtime, the Women's team twice let its lead evaporate and headed to penalty kicks. The only other Women's World Cup that had gone to penalty kicks was the famous 1999 Brandi Chastain-imprinted win. When it came time to shoot down those echoes of the past, however, this team simply could not do it.

When the game started, it looked as though it was going to be a US-dominated affair. Lauren Cheney got things off on the right foot with a quick run up the left side within the first minute. Megan Rapinoe continued the US pressure with a killer cross to Cheney in the 8th minute and Carli Lloyd almost had a neat clean up at the 11th minute. Cheney passed to Rapinoe for a fantastic straight-on shot only 20 seconds later.

After an advantage call in the 28th minute, Abby Wambach had a shot bounce off the top of the crossbar, in a dramatic instance that would be repeated time and time again. Despite numerous chances, the United States did not seem as though they'd be able to capitalize.

Things started to pick up for Japan when Shinobu Ohno got a good shot in the 30th minute, but US goalkeeper Hope Solo cut off that effort easily. In the 2011 Women's World Cup, 3 of Japan's 10 goals had previously come on set pieces. And at the 37th minute, despite being outplayed for virtually the entire first half, they got a corner kick where they might have had another one of those set piece goals. One minute later, Japan got a great service for Kozue Ando, but Solo came off her line quickly and successfully.

As the first half ended, the momentum appeared to have shifted, albeit slightly. The United States had more chances – all missed – but they couldn't capitalize at any point. They played so well for almost the entire half, but they could not come out ahead. It was at this point that the question of pressure had to be rising in many people's minds.

To counter that doubt, coach Pia Sundhage started the second half by removing Cheney and putting in Alex Morgan, who almost put in a cross to the short corner a mere four minutes into the second half. After the referee incorrectly called an offside offense against Japan, Heather O'Reilly hit Wambach with a lift in the 64th minute that Wambach nearly headed just above the Japan keeper.

In the 68th minute, super-sub Morgan got an excellent feed from Rapinoe. Morgan was on the right side of the field for avoiding an offside call as well as taking advantage of her speed. Morgan took one touch on the ball and blasted a left-footed shot into the lower right hand corner to take the lid off the goal for the Americans.

In the 80th minute, though, Japan got an equalizer from Aya Miyama and put on non-stop pressure. With two more chances in the next minute for Japan, it seemed as though the US was on its heels. Making it through the last ten minutes of the regulation game was its own blessing, though, and the World Cup Final went to overtime.

Team USA got overtime started in a similar fashion, with an on-target header from Wambach that was halted by Ayumi Kaihori. However, as the first half of the overtime period moved toward its conclusion, in the 103rd minute, Morgan sent a small cross sailing past the Japanese goal which Wambach redirected masterfully into the back of the net off a header.

In the 111th minute, Team USA survived a scare, as Solo came off her line, missed the ball and then two defenders collided while attempting to clear the ball. Luckily, Japan could not convert. Shortly after, Rapinoe got subbed out in favor of Tobin Heath finishing the game with fresh legs. The threats were not over, however, for the United States, as Yukari Kinga broke toward the goal off a feed from Homare Sawa. Solo was hurt and remained on the ground, but captain Christine Rampone was there to clear the goal. Unfortunately, on the resulting corner kick in the 116th minute, Sawa put in the cross to knot things up 2-2.

There would be no more points scored in the overtime period, and there was only one goal for Team USA afterwards period. While Japan converted three of their first four penalty kicks, Team USA was only able to put in one of five, total.

As the pressure finally cracked, nothing good came of it. There was no tremendous release, no dismissal of the specters of the past. There was a better finish for Team USA than in the previous World Cup. That's the silver lining. But for the game they played, the way they executed, the near-perfect, minus goal-scoring, team effort, it's hard to focus on that silver lining. For a team that was aiming for a championship or bust, second place cannot be anything other than first loser.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

rooting a nexus one running android 2.3.4 w/ build GRJ22

I've poked around so many forums and so many threads that it's about to make my head explode. Honestly, I consider myself kind of a technophilic person, but some of the jargon that's tossed around in these communities makes me truly doubt myself. Bootloading, rooting, OEM, flashing, custom ROMs, etc. And this is from a guy that's rooted his Nook Color. It's running the CM7 custom ROM. It's not like I don't get it at all. It's not like I don't understand anything that's being said. It's just...too much.

So, here's my hope. The last time I put up a semi-techie topic on this blog, I got tons of random hits from people who had stumbled across. Therefore, I figured, instead of wasting anyone's times on the forums and threads where that seems to be pretty much all they get regardless, I'd just throw up my flag here.

I'm looking to root my NexusOne. I don't really care, though, about the common reasons why. I run CM7 on my Nook and I like it well enough, but I'm not desperate for it on the N1. I don't really need (because I don't know of) any of the apps that need superuser permissions. What I really want to root for is to be able to remove some of the tied-in applications (like the stock browser or the default Twitter client) that are (seemingly) part of the hardware. I also want the ability to move any of the applications that I then (or have already) download(ed) to the SD card. This is honestly the single biggest reason why I want to root.

Why? Because the N1, despite being almost the phone of my dreams, comes with a scant 190 MB of internal storage for applications. And I'm at the limit now of applications that I can put on my phone, even with as many on the SD card as is currently allowed. I'm so low that my phone sometimes refuses application updates. I'm so low that I often have the dreaded low storage space icon in the upper left-hand corner. I'm so low that I had to take Google+ off my phone, even though I'm really psyched on it.

If this is a possible result of rooting my phone (and if that can even be done) and anyone stumbles across this post, I'd love any help you could toss my way. If it's not a possible result of rooting my phone, then I guess I'm gonna have to come to grips with the fact that I'll be looking at newer phones sooner rather than later.

Friday, July 1, 2011

comics for the week of 06/29/11.

The DC Reboot makes me more and more angry every day.

Detective Comics 878 - Dick Grayson is a great Batman! It's so easy to love this book. Snyder's writing and Jock's art is a perfect mix and the fact that Dick Grayson is finally in the cape and the cowl allows for soooooo much rich storytelling, exactly like we've got in this book (and in "The Hungry City" overall). Here we get a conclusion worthy of this three part arc, with Dick telling more circus stories (opportunity!) and the Zucco family getting its due. The villain is a great addition to the oeuvre (Tiger Shark - what a great throwback name) and I hope he gets to stick around...but he won't. As I've mentioned previously, it's really hard to enjoy any of these books when I know that the slate is going to be wiped in a few months. For now, I will say that this is my favorite Bat book in a long, long time. And I'm hopeful that, with Snyder still writing the main Bat title post-relaunch, it'll still be great.

FF 5 - I really didn't think that I would stick around even this long for this book. Hickman's track record with me is good, though, and I'm willing to take a chance on alternate Reed stories, especially when they involve Spidey, whom I don't get enough (any) of nowadays, and even more especially when they involve Doom getting invited into the Baxter Building (is it still called that?). I wish we would have gotten to see more of the other Reed and his manipulations of the Mole Man, but I know that's being a little greedy. That being said, this issue felt like it bounced around just a little too much. There was something for everyone but, because of that, there wasn't enough focus on any one of the storylines. I did love the interaction between Sue and Fake Reed as well as Sue and Real Reed. I love that she could tell a difference right away, and I love that she was watching her husband so closely and knows him so well that she could almost instantly tell that something else was happening. A good enough story is keeping me in the fold of buying the book. Keep it up fellas.

Walking Dead 86 - This is such a hard book for me to include. For the last three years or so, I've been reading the Walking Dead via TPB, and I've loved it that way. However, my friends have convinced me to hop on monthly, and it's just a completely different experience. It's good, and I love the book, so let me start there. But damn. It's kind of unfulfilling. I mean, when you're used to more than 75 pages, 22's hard to deal with. The story continues here with Rick trying to come to grips with the new way he's feeling, since Carl got shot. It's understandable and it's positive character development, so I'm going to hold in any criticism for now, but let me just say that it feels super abrupt. (I guess there's a pun to make here about how quick guns work.) The Walking Dead is a completely different book than Invincible, which makes me feel confident in saying that Robert Kirkman is one of the best writers in the biz nowadays.

Book of the Week goes to Detective Comics - get it while you can! 'Nuff said.