Crisis in America

Below is  a video which highlights a crisis in this country. You can help to resolve it.

Netflix Relief Fund with Jason Alexander from Jason Alexander
Published in: on 30 July, 2011 at 5:49  Leave a Comment  

News to Drive One to Drink

I received sad news yesterday; news so sad that it would drive me to drink, were it not for the fact that the news was that one of my favourite drinks is no longer available. I was in Bevmo, stocking up on Gin, Vinho Verde, and Licor Beirao. Whilst the first two were easy to find, I could not locate the third. I asked after my favourite Portuguese liqueur, only to be told that it was no longer stocked. There was one last bottle in their Albany store, which they will transfer to my local stop. At least I have time whilst I savour the final bottle from Bevmo to locate another source

Published in: on 24 July, 2011 at 8:59  Comments (1)  

European PI day

Here in the US, PI day is 14 March (3/14) since 3.14 is PI to 3 significant places. Writing dates in the International format, 14/3 looks a lot less like PI. Yesterday, 22nd July, is a better date to pick as PI day for non-Americans as the ratio 22/7 is an approximation for PI.

A group of colleagues from work decided to celebrate this auspicious day with an evening of “geekery”.  We took advantage of Netflix having recently added four of the five Star Trek series to their streaming content to watch one episode of each.

From the original series we saw The City on the Edge of Forever, the story written by Harlan Ellison and featuring a guest appearance from Joan Collins. The Next Gen representative was the thoughtful Darmok, which has the acting debut of Ashley Judd in a minor role as an engineering ensign. From Voyager we watched the character piece Someone to Watch Over Me. The final piece was Carbon Creek from Enterprise. It was not intentional in the selection process, but this episode had echoes of the first one we had seen with the theft of clothes and use of woollen hats to cover Vulcan ears.


The other Trek series, Deep Space Nine, arrives in October. We should do a similar event at some point after that, if only to provide an excuse to watch the DS9 tribble episode, preferably in combination with the original one. From last night’s viewing, we even have a suitable date; April 5 which is the anniversary of first contact between humans and Vulcans. The 2013 instance, which is exactly fifty years before the event falls on a Friday, so that would be an ideal day for Trek celebrations

Published in: on 23 July, 2011 at 9:05  Comments (5)  

Tales of the City

I was back in the UK in October 2009 for my mother’s 80th birthday. It was the first time since emigration that I had met up with my half-sisters. We were in the local pub and Sally asked that as I lived so close to SF, had I read “Tales of the City“. I responded in the negative. After lunch she went for a walk, dropped into a local secondhand bookshop, found a copy of the book and bought it for me.

I read it during my stay and adored the style and content. The short chapters suited reading opportunities whilst on holiday at my parents. On returning to the US, I bought several more of the series and read them with just as much pleasure. The plots might be far fetched, but the characters feel real.

A few months back I saw a poster for “Tales of the City – A New Musical”. As soon as I saw it, it made sense. The episodic nature of the books seemed a natural fit for a musical. When we had a playwright friend visit, it seemed the ideal opportunity to go into the city and attend a performance.

The whole experience was wonderful. The ACT building is a great venue. The staging, pacing, performances, and music were all spot on. Jake Shears from The Scissor Sisters had a score that echoed the 70s to perfection. The plot used elements from the first two books, which helped explain some important character issues that were left unresolved from the opening book.

The way that seventies SF was shown on stage might have appeared over the top, but that afternoon we had walked down Market through Gay Pride, so the play seemed positively tame.

Published in: on 19 July, 2011 at 18:12  Leave a Comment  

Not so smart technology

My DVR demonstrated a failing yesterday. I set it to record the Women’s World Cup Final and it did so, but took no account of the extra time and penalties. Thus, I watched ninety minutes of an entertaining game that the US should have won, but for some horrible defending that allowed Japan to score a late equaliser.

I did not see extra time or penalties, but had to check online to see the outcome. The USA again had all the chances in extra time, took the lead, only to surrender it again with three minutes remaining. USA scored just once from the spot-kicks and lost 3-1. Congratulations to Japan.


Note to self, when setting DVR to record a game I need to make sure that I extend recording time for extra time and penalties – unless England are playing in which case I need just include extra time as the outcome of penalties is a foregone conclusion

Published in: on 18 July, 2011 at 6:16  Comments (1)  

How not to announce bad news

Netflix is a company that offers a DVD by mail service. You pay a monthly subscription. You maintain an ordered list via their website and and are sent the highest placed available DVD which you mail back after watching it and another one is sent to you.  We signed up for the service in 2008 when we moved into our current home. Netflix also offered Internet streaming of video included in the main plan. This allowed us to watch a selection of films and TV shows on demand on a PC. Netflix also enabled streaming to other devices, so we have a Blu-ray player that allows us to stream to our TV and we can also watch on our iPad. Netflix has increased the range of content available to view instantly. We watch far more stuff via streaming than on DVD; although the range of DVD material remains far wider.

Last week Netflix announced a change in pricing and created a storm of negative reaction. They announced that they were introducing a new DVD only plan at their lowest ever price, $7.99. This is less than the current $10.99 subscription. There was already an existing streaming only plan for $7.99. The catch, however, was in the second paragraph.

Second, we are separating unlimited DVDs by mail and unlimited streaming into separate plans to better reflect the costs of each and to give our members a choice: a streaming only plan, a DVD only plan or the option to subscribe to both. With this change, we will no longer offer a plan that includes both unlimited streaming and DVDs by mail.

Note how they try to make this sound as though they are offering a choice to their customers, while hiding the sting in the last sentence; they are removing the option of a plan that includes both streaming and DVD. You can subscribe to both plans, but they offer no discount to those who do so. Thus to get the service we currently get we pay $15.98, which is about 60% more than at present. If Netflix needs to increase prices by 60%, they should at least be honest and state that.

We shall keep the streaming service as it represents good value, especially with all the Doctor Who, Star Trek, and BSG to watch. The $7.99 DVD has a dimmer future, with two local stores offering DVD rental for $1 a night, that means that we could watch the disc a week we manage for half the price. Even though Blockbuster and other rental stores have died from the Netflix effect in recent years, there are still other options. The badly managed pricing increase has made me and others consider those options.

Published in: on 18 July, 2011 at 6:06  Comments (1)  


I am British. It seems that for many people here, such a simple statement is not possible. They will describe themselves as Irish-American, Italian-American; even if they are generations removed from the country of their nationality.

I saw this is an a particularly stark fashion recently. A colleague asked a consultant where he was from and he replied Nigeria. In further discussions, it transpired that he had never been to Nigeria. Thus I have spent more time, albeit less than two weeks, than a gentleman who identifies that country as his origin.

Published in: on 16 July, 2011 at 8:36  Comments (1)  


At the weekend, the English women’s football team showed that they can match the male team by emulating their achievements; they lost on penalties.

A day later, the US team, down to 10 women against Brazil, came back from 2-1 behind to force the game to penalties. They demonstrated that they are not English by winning the shoot out.


Published in: on 12 July, 2011 at 20:14  Leave a Comment  

The City

We took my wife’s niece into San Francisco today. This trip made me realize two odd habits of natives from this area. They call San Francisco “The City”; with a definite article. This despite the fact that there are several other cities in the area, including one, San Jose, which is more populous than San Francisco.

The other odd habit is dropping the word “Street” when referring to thoroughfares. Thus Market Street is called simply Market, although the name on the signs along the road refer to it fully.


Published in: on 10 July, 2011 at 20:11  Comments (2)  

Remember, Remember the Fourth of July

I was watching a firework display on Monday, the Fourth of July. It was 9:30 at night. I was wearing a tee-shirt and was perfectly warm. This is not something that I have experienced in the UK for fireworks; probably because November is not famed for  balmy weather.

Mind you, on the other side, there is no need to wait until 9:30 for it to get dark in the UK in November.

Published in: on 7 July, 2011 at 12:23  Leave a Comment