Battlestar Galactica: A great TV series ends

When I recall very good TV series like Six Feet Under and The Wire I feel could go back and watch the final episode any time for a reminder of the quality of the series and the characters in it. Battlestar Galactica is an excellent TV series, but I think I’ll be watching the pilot episodes, season 1, and not the finale.

Tonio sums up all that was good and bad about the series finale (beware, here be spoilers):
Battlestar Galactica Ends

Here’s my take on the end of the best Science Fiction TV series in history: it hit the right emotional notes, and it was reasonably satisfying, but it was not a worthy ending to the series, and I suspect that as we all go back and watch the whole thing through we’ll find a lot of threads left dangling or essentially forgotten by the writers.

TED: Philippe Starck

“Because I have nothing to show, nothing to say, we shall try to speak about something else.”

I’ve watched a lot of TED videos, but this one is the most fun. Philippe Starck designed that citrus juicer, and a whole lot of other very special everyday items. Even though he has nothing to say, his humility, outlook on life and motivation are well worth 20 minutes of your time.

Via Metacool.

Windows Live Writer

I’ve been using Windows Live Writer for the last couple of posts.  If you’re looking for WYSIWYG editing on WordPress, I can recommend it. 

Live Writer grocks your site’s styles (I doubt it can handle coded style extensions, though) so you can get a pretty accurate preview before you post.  It automatically handles image uploads, categories, gives you buttons to access the dashboard and comments management and produces pretty spare markup.  I haven’t used the video options or any of the other options, but I can acknowledge they’re there. 

It even allows me to gratuitously show off my new toy with…

In all, Live Writer has proven to be a very pleasant offline blog editor.  Between OneNote and Live Writer, I’m in danger of becoming a Microsoft fanboy!

Short review: Art Rage 2.5

At US$25 you can’t go wrong with Art Rage

kingsperiment

How much is Painter again?

eyething

Sure, my images are crappy, childish and abstract… but that’s so very me!  Just wait until I get into my cubist period.  In my defense, these pictures were just thrown together for this post to show a little of what’s possible.

seacreatures

My kids seem to sense when I’m using it.  It’s very hard to get time alone with the new computer when Art Rage is loaded.

rainbow-experiment

Random Apple Store anecdote

I walked into an Apple Store to buy an AV cable for my iPod. The place was rocking. It was packed with people at 4 on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

I found a cheap Belkin AV cable and approached the counter at the back of the store. I wrangled approximately the right cash out of my wallet and was suddenly approached by two sales staff with concern in their faces.

“Err, our systems are down. We can’t take your cash.”

“Oh?” I said.

“If you have a credit card we can help you, but our cash drawer is out of action until the network comes up.”

The whole transaction from then on consisted of scanning the bar code with a PalmPilot-sized wireless POS terminal, swiping my credit card (again with the hand-held POS terminal), and typing in the unique portion of my Gmail address (for my receipt).”

Pesky cash.

Letters to the editor

Some troublemaker managed lead letter in the Sydney Morning Herald today.

As the debate about housing affordability continues, I would like to see more discussion of the attitude towards renters.

It’s like a dirty secret in which we are all complicit. Once we’ve got our own patch, we seem happy to forget about the miseries of renting. There are no substantive policies or meaningful law reform. With renting recognised as the only option available to many over a lifetime, the time to act is now.

Renters are treated like second-class citizens by agents and owners alike. While there are clearly many fair landlords, and real estate agents, we see this as good fortune, rather than a right to expect. I was a good tenant: paid rent on time, looked after the places I’ve occupied, got on with the neighbours and still had humiliating battles to get my bond back.

Managing rental properties would be the lowest rung of real estate business and it seems to fall to the most junior staff. Determining the quality of our steam cleaning was often in the hands of a 20-year-old trainee. As I was young, too, this was merely galling. It must be excruciating for older renters.

Dealing directly with an owner is usually worse. One, when asked to fix the hot water service, launched into a tale of his kitchen renovation woes. Tell someone who cares. Learn a little about your responsibilities.

In a friend’s case, the bond was put into the owner’s business, and had to be paid back in instalments. Just weeks ago, someone else I know had an owner change his mind and tell him to move out just days after he’d moved in. With no lease signed at that point, what was he to do? Although I hear good things about the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal, it is still a fight that many don’t have the stomach for.

Renting hinges on a relationship that is fundamentally unequal and is founded on private return to the owner. The expectations of the tenants and their ability to plan and live their lives come a distant second.

Why can a business enjoy a five-year lease, with an option to extend, but the shelter which people need to live can be removed with minimal notice? Until this is addressed, nobody will see renting as an alternative to home ownership.

Kudos to J! It’s the biggest day in letter-writing in our house since J got lead letter, and 2 of the 3 other letters on the same topic were from friends of ours too.

I have vivid memories of talking to our landlord of yore about how we were tired of waiting for some long lost blue-collar member of his family to clear up some time to come fix our hot water service. Two days without hot water in winter would usually constitute a need for “emergency plumbing.” He began to tell me about how his family suffered when they were renovating their bathroom (not the kitchen as stated above — oops). I objected, saying that if we had rented through an agent, or any other landlord we would have at least seen a plumber by now. “Are you implying I’m not a good landlord?” he said. “I’m not implying anything. I’m telling you you’re a bad landlord.”

That felt good, and later that day we had working hot water again. We were informed that our rent was increasing soon after.

Yellow Bird Black Spider

One of my current personal favourite kids stories is a library book one of the kids borrowed recently: “Yellow Bird Black Spider

It’s only a 5 minute read, and might be a bit young, but it’s a nice story with a very satisfying conclusion.

The synopsis:

Yellow bird is a quirky and idiosyncratic individual. Yellow bird enjoys strumming guitar on the beach (with an amplifier that goes up to eleven), sailing, and having baths with his stripy socks on. Black spider suggests a way for yellow bird to act more like a bird on every second page .

Anyway, I don’t think I’m giving anything away if I say they all live happily ever after.

Except for spider.

Tipping software developers after a free ride

I subscribe to the view that if you use a piece of free demo software a lot, and there is a means to donate or pay for the software, then once in a while you should take the plunge and pay. For a (usually) small amount of money you can reward your favourite developers, feel good inside and occasionally get access to useful new features only available in the paid-up versions.

EverNote

EverNote is software I install on my regularly used Windows machines. EverNote provides me with an always-on alternative to notepad.exe that understands text formatting and graphics, and keeps track of where things were pasted from. The downside is that it doesn’t have an official online sharing site (apparently there is one in beta) to compete with Google Notepad’s webby ubiquity. A synced EverNote database on a USB drive — or (previous to owning the sync feature) remembering to use Google Notepad to save data I need to access from somewhere unpredictable yet Internet-enabled — serves much the same purpose for me. Unlike Google Notepad, EverNote works offline. I don’t have a pen device, but EverNote seems to be the darling of tablet PC enthusiasts for its ability to capture and manage pen-entered text and graphics.

EverNote stores notes in a searchable, indexed, tagged and otherwise categorized virtual endless tape. I’ve never seen it crash, and never seen it complained about by Windows at shutdown. It’s fast and easy to get used to.

The price was US$49.95 to upgrade to EverNote Plus, which I did out of loyalty to a couple of years good service and access to the the sync feature.

Tomato firmware

Tomato is an alternative firmware for Linksys WRT54G Linux-era routers. It’s reliable, fast, simple and sexy.

I had stuck with Sveasoft firmware for 2 years waiting for specific features to turn up. I gave up too long after its history of never achieving promised functionality or feature release schedules should have sent warning signs that even a $20 subscription was too much. I dabbled with a few alternative firmware releases before settling on Tomato and making a donation.

Vale Kurt Vonnegut

The Martian troops, moreover, had no control over where their ships were to land. Their ships were controlled by fully automatic pilot-navigators, and these electronic devices were set by technicians on Mars so as to make the ships land at particular points on Earth, regardless of how awful the military situation might be down there.

The only controls available to those on board were two push-buttons on the centre post of the cabin — one labelled on and one labelled off. The on button simply started a flight from Mars. The off button was connected to nothing. It was installed at the insistence of Martian mental-health experts, who said that human beings were always happier with machinery they thought they could turn off.

  • From Chapter Seven, The Sirens of Titan, 1959

Also… on The Daily Show

Threadless

Threadless.com is an online T-shirt design competition which “publishes” “winning” “T-shirts” all the time. I recently got 3 Threadless shirts, which I like… a lot. They aren’t real cheap (about AU$29.00 per shirt), but they’re not too shabby compared with typical local shirt prices.

Sadly, I didn’t see this T-shirt when I ordered:

bad teddy!

My favourite album of 2006

The war on Christmas 2006 is in its last throes, so it’s time to post some 2006 retrospectives!

For many Nouvelle Vague’s Bande à Part is a disposable novelty album, for 80’s tragics like me it’s pure musical ambrosia. A treasure trove of both loved and unloved 80s songs beautifully arranged and adorned with fragile French-accented pronunciation.

Highlights include lovingly restored versions of Blue Monday, Don’t Go, Heart of Glass, Dance With Me and a cover of Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself that fills that elusive Bossanova Rockabilly category in the record store.

From their site:

[…]re-arranging the greatest, but rarely covered early ’80s post-punk numbers in an original and personal way – we tried to once again re-evaluate music that was seldom considered in terms of ‘real’ songs.

I then had the idea to set these songs in a very different dimension, namely the Caribbean between 1940 and 1970. Just as on the first album I’d imagined a young Brazilian girl singing Love Will Tear Us Apart on a Rio beach in the ’60s, this time I envisaged a young Jamaican with his acoustic guitar singing Heart Of Glass in his Kingston township suburb.

At the same time, I also had another particular scene in my mind: a young blind girl singing Fade To Grey in the corridors of the Parisian Metro, alone with her accordion, ignored by everyone…

A stocking stuffer par excellence!