3/26/2002

Out of touch Tiffany and I depart today for a week in Switzerland, so there won't be anything new here until next Tuesday. I recommend all the fine links on the left to hold you off until then. See you next week!

3/25/2002

It was bound to happen sooner or later... Playboy is inviting current and former Enron employees to audition for a Women of Enron pictorial. I heard the teaser for this on the news but didn't catch the segment, which was no doubt presented in a restrained and dignified manner. Is there anything I can actually add to this? Probably not. Good night.
Digital rights Patrick points me to this article by Dan Gillmor about the SSSCA. It's interesting that Dan doesn't hope that a President who is committed to free trade would step in and lobby against this obviously obstructionist bill. Of course, we don't have such a President, so I guess the point is moot anyway.

(Yeah, I know, the DCMA passed on Clinton's watch. A pox on his house for it.)
There are many things I hate about moving. Near the top of this long list is dealing with phone and utility companies. Today I spoke to my local telco about switching service. I had no trouble getting through to an actual human, and he was quite helpful for the most part. The problem is that one cannot ever deal with the phone company without having them try to sell you a bunch of useless crap that you'll never use and barely comprehend in the first damn place.

Case in point: We've taken care of the basics, and now my guy launches into his spiel about the two different options for local calling. Option One is where you get a limited amount of local calls for a fixed fee, then you pay a per-call charge. This option, my rep solemnly intoned, is Not What He Would Recommend. Option Two is the Full Package, which includes unlimited local calls, call waiting, caller ID, caller ID for call waiting, phone repair insurance, moon roof, whitewall tires, and a year's supply of Rice-a-Roni (the San Francisco Treat).

"Well," I say naively, "I have most of these things already. What I want at the new house is exactly what I've got at this house. Can you do that?"

"Okay," Phone Rep says brightly. "That's Option Two. Your monthly bill with that service is $84.95..."

"WHAT??? My current phone bill is nowhere near that expensive. What is all that crap?"

"Well, it's caller ID, call waiting..."

"Yes, yes, yes, I got all that. What I want is what I've got now. Give me exactly what I've got now."

We get that straightened out. As far as I could tell, the only difference between his Option Two and my Status Quo was that I do not currently have phone repair insurance. There was some gibberish about CallNotes as well, but I couldn't tell if it was a subscription to CallNotes or "access to" CallNotes, whatever the hell that means. Not that I care, since I have a perfectly good answering machine and a phone bill that's a lot cheaper than Option Two.

At this point, I thought I was in the home stretch, but I had one more hurdle to clear. Phone Rep had a sales script for some whizbangy feature-rich phones that supported all of the features I subscribe to and which were on sale at really amazingly min-bogglingly stupendously how-can-you-not-succumb-to-my-siren-call low prices. I tried to interrupt as soon as I realized that this was a sales pitch to say that we have all the phones we need thankyouverymuch, but Phone Rep was undeterred. He got right back on track and by god he finished his sales pitch. Having to listen to this and decline as politely and firmly as I could made me a bit late for a team meeting, which is the very definition of a mixed blessing.

So local phone service is in place. Now I have to deal with electricity (which means switching companies), gas, water, cable, installing DSL...
The name game Chron politics columnist John Williams explains how State Supreme Court judge Xavier Rodriguez, the lone Hispanic GOP candidate in Texas, lost the nomination to retain his position to a guy with a simple American name.

This isn't the first time a serious candidate with an ethnic name has been tripped up by an unknown with a familiar name. In Illinois in 1986, two followers of right-wing nutball Lyndon LaRouche won the Democratic nominations for Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State by capitalizing on ignorant voters and easy-to-pronounce surnames. And this sort of thing happens all the time here.
The Final Four I have to say, I like the fact that Indiana made it to the Final Four while Bobby Knight once again got bounced in the first round. For several years, one of my hard and fast rules for handicapping the NCAA Tournament was "always pick the Hoosiers to lose in the first round". May you never see the Sweet Sixteen again.

It's awfully tough for a non-BCS conference school to make it to the Final Four. Since Marquette won the championship in 1977 in a Final Four that included UNLV and UNC-Charlotte, only 17 of 104 participants in the Final Four have come from non-BCS conferences. Four of those are UNLV and three are Houston in the Olajuwon/Drexler years. Only Cincinnati (1992) and Utah (1998) have done it in the last ten years.

Personally, I find that I'm more interested in the early games, when the little guys are still around. I know there have been some great games this year, but to me it's like watching the NBA playoffs: You know in the end there aren't going to be any surprises.
Oscar thoughts So last night Tiffany and I attended an Oscar party thrown by our friends Pete and Tory. It was one of those parties where guests are asked to dress up as if they were attending the actual Academy Awards. I've never quite understood this, and it's not just my normal phobia of wearing nice clothes talking here. I mean, do people ever put on cleats and shoulder pads to watch the Super Bowl? What's up with that?

The good news is that we were not expected to take the whole pomp-and-pageantry thing seriously. We were not there to worship the stars (okay, one woman had a pretty huge crush on Denzel Washington, no big surprise there) but to be snarky about them. That was fun.

What was the deal with Tom Cruise's spiel before Whoopi came out? None of us could figure it out, though we were too distracted by his retro Risky Business look to really concentrate on the question. When he talked about seeing 2001:A Space Odyssey at the age of six, I blurted out "Holy crap! He's gonna be forty this year!" (On July 3, in fact. Mark your calendar.)

Oh, and if the idea of Tom Cruise turning 40 doesn't make you feel old, go check out Modern Maturity's movie awards. They call them La Chaise D'Or (The Golden Chair), but it's pretty clear from the picture that "chair" is a bit underdescriptive. How do you say "Barcalounger" in French?

Nobody, and I mean nobody, liked JLo's hair. She looked like she was channeling Elizabeth Montgomery from Bewitched. If the sprinkler system had gone off, her dress would have remained dry. Second-worst hair of the evening went to Cameron Diaz, who appeared to have driven to the awards show with all the windows down in her car.

Okay, Woody Allen was funny, but his intro went on waaaay too long. And I agree with Jeff Jarvis - Any decent film montage of New York City should include the Twin Towers. It would have been a nice moment, not a bad one.

(Side note: I was channel surfing awhile back and caught a few minutes of Working Girl. One of the scenes I saw was of Tess on the ferry going back to Manhattan after she's just caught her boyfriend in flagrante. There's this gorgeous nighttime shot of the skyline from the ferry, including the Towers, all lit up. Seeing that churned up all sorts of emotions, but none of them was anger at the filmmakers or editors who could have cut that in order to spare my delicate sensibilities. It is respectful to remember the dead, to talk about them and all the things about them that we liked and loved and put up with and miss. It is disrespectful to ignore them and to pretend that by ignoring them we are helping ourselves to "get over" them.)

Second biggest reaction of the evening, right behind the reaction to JLo's hair, was to the clip from Saturday Night Fever. Admit it - you heard the guitar lick, you saw Tony Manero strut down the street, Barry Gibb's voice kicked in - your hips started to sway.

I don't know whose knee Ian McKellen had his hand on, but wowzer. Success does have its rewards.

We didn't stay very late - I get up very early (5:15 AM) for work, and Tiffany needed to be up almost that early today because her whole company is moving to a new office that's 15 miles farther away from our house. There's only so much of that I can take, anyway, even with all the smack talk to keep me occupied. So yeah, I missed out on Halle and Denzel getting honored. And no, I don't care if their awards were partially motivated by racial guilt. They did good work and they were rewarded for it. Move along, nothing to see here.

3/24/2002

Oscar, schmoscar Who cares who's going to win Best Picture? The more important news is that Tom Green won five Razzies for his work in Freddy Got Fingered.
Court shopping Girls in Texas who want an abortion but are required to get parental consent have been looking to courts in Austin and San Antonio for judicial bypass. Houston and Dallas have had almost no such reviews filed since the law took effect in January, 1999 - in fact, Houston has had exactly one case since last September and 19 overall, compared to 191 in San Antonio and 110 in Austin. Dallas has had 13 such cases.

It's somewhat hard to say why this is, because the rulings are sealed and the Texas Supreme Court does not keep statistics. It's understandable to a point in that the judges in Dallas County and Houston's Harris County are all Republican, while the judges in Austin's Travis County are largely Democrat. It's not hard to believe that the petitioners think they're more likely to get a favorable ruling in Austin because of this. The curiosity is San Antonio's Bexar County, where the judiciary is mixed. Houston judges tend to be tied to local uber-conservative activist Stephen Hotze, who brooks no disagreement on issues like this and has no qualms about endorsing someone else in the primary if he doesn't like how you rule. Maybe the Bexar County judges have more freedom to actually interpret the law, I don't know.

In any event, I was surprised that no one was quoted expressing outrage at the prospect of court shopping. Maybe the usual suspects were all out of town. Oh, and one more thing: Go to the Chronicle home page and see how they headline this story there. (For those who don't read this until Monday, the link is entitled "Girls turning to liberal courts to avoid parental notice of abortion".) What would Bernard Goldberg say?
Better late than never After 30 years, The Last Picture Show will finally play in Archer City, the small Texas town in which it was filmed. The town's lone movie theater had burned down before the film premiered in 1971. The rebuilt Royal Theater is hosting the 30th anniversary celebration.