Click away!

I am actually really glad I don’t have any monitoring equipment hooked up to the computers any more. I suspect I’m still “lost” as far as tracking and being tracked goes, but that little thing seems to help.

July 31, 2016
I’ve picked out a show that I like and I’ve made an effort to see it “live” rather than recorded. I really enjoy Killjoys. It’s fast paced and has interesting characters. They’re working on building up a long term story arc. I’m interested in where it goes.
I’m genuinely hopeful this will have an effect on programming. I’m not sure how much my little contribution will help, but I’m hopeful. I can say that having the rating box connected to my TV has made me more cognizant of tracking shows and when they’re on. There aren’t many things on TV I like, so I really want the ones I like to survive. I’ve also specifically stayed away from things I think are terrible. Even if I’m interested I won’t go and watch them if I don’t want them to get any kind of bump on the ratings. I know the monitoring is working. I know this because we switched my daughter over to her own computer. When we did this we didn’t think to notify the Nielsen people. See, there’s also a little tracking thing that’s plugged into our computer so they can tell if we watch something on a network then go run to an advertiser site we just saw. Well, my daughter spends a fair amount of time on the computer – and when she wasn’t clicking the little computer check box and signing in all the time like she was before, they noticed. They called and asked what was up. Then they set up an appointment and came over to install the same little tracker thing on my daughter’s new system.
I’m thinking about it now and I’m not sure if I’m amazed or horrified at this technology. You’re not clicking away like you used to. We’re coming to your house to check on you. That sounds like 1984 (the book – not the year).
This is one of those incremental shifts. You don’t really notice or worry until one day you’re so far down the road that when you look back you’re not entirely certain how you’ve arrived at your current location. When our promotional TV subscription ends, I wonder if we’ll actually shut it off.

Cold Enough for Television

It’s cold enough outside right now that staying in and doing NOTHING other than staying warm and watching TV sounds like a great idea. It’s been a while since my last installment of my “big secret” posts.

May 13, 2016

Friday the 13th! Lucky for me – I had some free time. I’ve got friends coming over again tonight and you know what? I’m totally not adding them in on the rating box thing. It’s a pain and then they ask questions about it. I have clever friends – I suspect they’ve got an idea of what’s going on but are polite enough to not ask.

I’m also trying to remember the terminology when you’re aware of the results being studied during scientific experiments… because that’s totally the case here. We’re all aware of the fact that people are looking at what we watch and don’t watch. It skews the data. Can’t be helped. We’re aware of the study, therefore the study is changed.

It’s also interesting that as we get further from the “new” feeling of the ratings thing that we seem to be reverting to our old habits and watching less and less television. We put music up (streaming via our smart TV) and then we just let it go. Sometimes even when I go out and leave it running my wife won’t actually be listening, but will just absentmindedly hit the ‘refresh’ button whenever she walks past. I’m not in the house and still contributing to the ratings. I wonder how much they account for that.

I also can’t wait to be able to publish this stuff. Keeping a secret this long is difficult.

Happy New Year!

It’s actually a little difficult to believe that 2018 is upon us. The past year has certainly gone faster than I would have imagined – and not nearly as cleanly. There are lots of reasons that 2017 wasn’t fantastic – but there were certainly a lot of good things for me personally and that’s the level I really have to work at here.

For anyone keeping track I haven’t changed my personal view on resolutions. Many years ago I made a New Year’s resolution to NEVER make a New Year’s resolution again. Guess what? Totally nailed it. Still going strong on that one. IF you want or need change in your life, the calendar is convenient, but not required. Make the change to grow or get better when you make that choice. You can do it!

That being said I do intend to keep forging ahead with my personal projects this year. I’ve still got about 9 things going at any one time. I’m still being a fan, an author and an artist. I game, I work at the day job and I spend time with my awesome family.

I genuinely hope that you and yours have an excellent year – positive feelings and good things should come your way!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Still Burning

Centralia (Images of America: Pennsylvania)Centralia by Deryl B. Johnson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a single sitting book for me. Generally I really like that as an idea, but somehow for this book it didn’t work. I had difficulty with the pictures. I understand that many of the actual photos would not be easy to see – but having them reproduced in this volume somehow managed to make them even harder to see clearly.

I think I wanted more of a timeline based series of pictures. Some of the photos are doubled up in here and they don’t always progress chronologically. The author mentions at least 3 times the play that he wrote… once would have been enough, particularly given the brevity of the written word in here.

The story of Centralia is certainly an interesting one and for that I’m glad to have taken this quick peek back in time. IF it were anything more than a quick peek I would have been very disappointed. As it is, one sitting works for me and I’m moving along.

View all my reviews

Bright

In a rare moment of timeliness I’ve actually had the opportunity to watch “Bright”, the new film from Netflix. It was released yesterday (December 22, 2017). I watched at home with a couple of close friends. I think that’s the most telling thing ~ this is a movie production with a number of well known Hollywood actors that I didn’t go to the theater to see when it opened, I went to the couch. Best seat I’ve had for a new movie in a while. That was a good thing because this movie felt like it was longer than the listed two hours it was supposed to be.

Spoilers ahead ~

I thought it was a very interesting choice by the storytellers to just dump us into a modern day society where elves and orcs simply live. There was no long text explanation about why or when this happened. There was no “this is when things changed”, it was simply the way things are. Interesting, but maybe not the best choice. I get it, you can’t do a LOTR thing where you’ve got 6 hours of movie… OH, wait. It’s Netflix, so yes that totally could have been done. Netflix routinely posts entire seasons of shows all at once. People then watch when and where they can. I hear some folks out there, “but this is a movie…” and I will counter that with the abomination that was a string of special effects and made up romances supposedly based on The Hobbit. Those three awful things are one film. As much as I dislike the result, the example stands. Netflix and the storytellers could have really expanded this world and given a deep, rich background that wouldn’t leave people looking at light up milk bath trees and thinking “what?”.

I will actually compare this to a role playing game / series of novels from the 90s – Shadowrun. Shadowrun did the world building behind the change. They brought magic and magical races into the world and then shook society up to make the changes in the world understandable. In Bright ‘Elves run the world’ really felt like a cosmetic application that allowed for comparison to how “gritty” the part of the story we’re dealing with really is. In Shadowrun Native Americans gain power based on how the world changed. It’s explained in terms relative to the story. It mattered and followed through. Bright felt like they wanted to paint over a things as they are today with a makeup brush and say “it’s allegory” without explaining what happened to bring us there. Telling me you’ve got 2,000 years of history isn’t the same as making me believe it in the story without being told. We never learn anything about the background that makes a “prophecy” believable in this context.

On to that portion of our program. OF course Will Smith was capable of picking up the wand with his bare hand and not blowing up. Saw that coming all the way. That’s why we’re riding with these guys. OF course they were going to win, there was very little doubt of that.

I will say I didn’t see the resurrection of the orc coming. I thought it would have been really interesting if they’d just let him die and deal with the results of that. OF course that would have meant a movie that went a very different direction and that’s never where we were headed. Now ANY future show or movie in this franchise will be required to deal with the idea that people who were dead can be made NOT dead by waving the magic stick around – even if the person waving the stick has only a “new recruit” level of training. The cost looked totally survivable, although that was tossed directly into the “obscure character death” category so we didn’t need to deal with what that meant in this world.

The other thing that bothered me was a standard thing with films. It’s so standard that I’ve actually taken to trying to avoid watching movie trailers altogether. I used to love to see what was coming out. Now all those trailers do is spoil all the best parts of any movie. The same was totally true for this film. I saw all the best parts in the previews. That was the most disappointing part of it all. Not only was the story predictable, but the best and funniest moments were all shown before I started watching. There were really funny parts that still landed in context, but I knew they were coming.

All of this might sound really negative, but I did actually enjoy watching the film. I don’t think I’m rushing back to watch it again but I will be interested to see how this all plays out ~ will there be more from this world? Go, check out some urban fantasy and see if you think this will be the next trendy thing in film or if it will just die and go away… and maybe be brought back by magic wand.

SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!

I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t read further if you’d like to avoid spoilers for the movie Star Wars The Last Jedi.

You’ve been warned.

As I move through all the comments I have on this movie please keep in mind that I really enjoyed this movie. It’s a good film. There are issues, there is no perfect film. I still found myself excited and filled with anticipation. I will admit it might be nostalgia that works for me when the music starts and the letters start to scroll up the screen. It won’t ever match the first time a star destroyer thundered over my head and into the top of the frame – how could it? The visuals and the music were as amazing as they were expected to be. The ships, the worlds, the creatures and the outfits are always the best. I was not disappointed in any of that.

The biggest thing that bothered me was bad casting. Not the main characters, the secondary characters. Give me more folks like Kelly Marie Tran. Please. We don’t need big name people in secondary roles. I would have loved any unknown woman leading the rebel fleet but I was pushed out of my suspension of disbelief and right out of the flow of the movie when I first saw Laura Dern. She’s a fantastic actor. Love her stuff – great in October Sky, really liked her Jurassic Park role. It took me another third of the movie to remember who she was and where else I’d seen her and that just broke the flow of the story completely. The only thing worse than that? Benicio del Toro. I hate that he’s in there. I do not like his work at all – never have. I recognized him right away, so less distracting on that front but just aggravated me every time he was on the screen. His character wasn’t meant to be likable, but putting him in that role made me wish some officer channeled Vader and altered the deal… with a blaster. Get out of Star Wars you giant distractions!

Stuff that other fans freaked out over. Snoke. He was what I would call a standard Sith let down. I haven’t seen a Sith since Vader that was worth a damn. They die in short order every time. I have no idea why people expected anything else. It was a sneaky, deceptive way that he was killed and that was cool. Where an outright fight would be lost, deception took the day. Moving on from that ~ Rey’s parents. This movie supposedly answers that. I disagree. We just said how sneaky Kylo Ren was, why would you believe that he would tell Rey the truth? He’s a lying liar who lies – manipulate to get what you want, rage when you don’t get it. I am fine with the “reveal” that really wasn’t. Didn’t matter to me. A lot of other things mattered more.

I love that Yoda was back in this film. It made me smile. I missed him as much as me missed “young Skywalker”.

Skywalker. I could see the tie backs to the other movies. I was waiting for Luke to pull an Obi-wan on Ben Solo. He did, but in a far better way than I expected him to. That was really well done. Loved it. Punched me in the feelings when he simply said, “where’s Han?” and then the movie cut away. The film makers let you do the emotional work on that one.

I didn’t like that Leia used the force to save herself. I would have been fine with her not surviving the bridge blast. It’s terrible, but that’s how war goes. It would have given a certain amount of realism to their battle. There’s real danger to the main characters. Now I don’t know what they’ll do, but I’m thinking it won’t be a satisfying story reason for not being on screen again.

And that leads me to another thing about this movie. For as much as I loved it, the feeling was certainly bittersweet. No more Luke. No more Han. Yes, they’re going back in time to show us who he was before all the Star Wars stuff, but it’s not the same. No more Leia. No more Vader. We’ve got BB-8 rather than R2-D2. It’s a marker that shows an ending point to things from my youth. Perhaps, like Luke I make a choice to move on without the Jedi. I’m sure that Disney will wring out the franchise for everything they can, but I’ll certainly have to wait and see if I go back for more in the theater. As much as anything else, this really felt like an ending for me. A good ending, but and ending none the less. I hope there’s a kid out there right now looking for a Poe Dameron action figure flying an X-wing around. I hope that generation can come back in 40 years and still enjoy this story.

Goodreads Technology

I shouldn’t be grumpy about the wonderful technological thing I’ve been able to do… but I am.

I have been posting personal reviews of books I’ve read to Goodreads since 2009. I’ve got hundreds of books up on there. I like being able to share my thoughts with friends both local and distant. I like being able to go back and look at the list of things I’ve read and be able to sort them into various categories or descriptions. Others have tried to tell me there are better systems out there, but I haven’t really felt the need to move.

Much like any other business that wants to remain relevant, Goodreads has an app. I can access my account from my phone to look things up while I am out and about. Excellent. I love having access to the data. They also have a little part of that app that allows users to scan books by the ISBN code on the cover of the book. I can basically let my phone look at a picture of a code and the book in question will come up on my phone. IF the code doesn’t work, I can just let the phone look at the cover of the book and it will likely find the book that way. Amazing.

I needed to clear up some space in the back room. I moved a recently acquired book shelf (thanks mom!) in there and needed to put a stack of books on it so that I could reclaim the various flat surfaces where they’d been living. It was a random collection of stuff. I went into Goodreads, made up new “shelves” so that when I scanned the books I could put them together as actual, physical copies that reside in the house rather than the Kindle variety.

Here’s where I get picky about this little app. Of the 40(ish) books I scanned, 5 of them didn’t work. Some were old and didn’t have the right code but a couple just failed. Not a big deal – I’ve got weird stuff in the collection (I think you’re only allowed to use eccentric if you’re rich…). The problem was the process. First, there are 3 base categories that ALL your collection falls into – want it or not – “want to read”, “currently reading” and “read”. That’s it. No matter what other virtual shelves you create your book automatically falls into one of those, you can’t change it or avoid it. I hear somebody out there saying, “well, yeah – why would you have a book if you don’t actually want to read it or have read it?”. What if it’s an additional version that’s part of a collection? Yes, it’s likely that it falls into the “read” category or why would you have it, but I found the lack of an option there to be really annoying.

I also didn’t really want those books to qualify under the “read” category for other reasons. I have specifically resisted putting all the books I read before I was a Goodreads member up on the site. It seemed disingenuous to post something without a review while claiming to have read it. As I re-read titles I go back and add them. If I’m not re-reading them, I’d like the option to qualify my listing in another way. I don’t want the 40 books I scanned today to be added to my “read” count for the year. That’s bad data. I want it to sort better than that.

Yes, in the end it’s great technology to be able to do what I have done. No, it is not perfect. Hopefully there will continue to be improvements as the site keeps moving forward. I also hope they make it possible to cross post to Amazon reviews – but that’s another post.

MHI Again!

The Monster Hunter Files (Monster Hunters International Book 7)The Monster Hunter Files by Larry Correia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a really fun collection of short stories. I particularly liked the first two stories, even if the one by Jim Butcher was released ahead of the book itself (and I read it long before I actually bought the book). There was a lot of what I would consider “classic” monster hunter stuff in here. I was really amused by the story in the Enchanted Forest. One of my favorites.

Not all the stories were in that vein however. There were a couple of stories that felt like they were forced to fit the world building of the monster hunter universe. These were stories from popular authors that have series of their own that didn’t stretch out past the characters as they’re known in the other series. Those stories were easily the weakest to me.

All in all, I was really happy with this one. IF you like the monster hunter series I suggest you go and grab this book.

View all my reviews

Bad Ball

The football season this year is not exactly making for “must see TV”. I’m struggling to put a finger on exactly why this season totally stinks, but there you have it. It’s dull. I HATE the celebrations. They could be a topic unto themselves, but this is definitely one of those cases where the ‘less is more’ rule applies. I know the “No Fun League” brought them back because people thought outlawing the touchdown celebration was draconian but we were better off without them. It’s difficult enough to get through and average play and not have some idiot showboating that he did his job – frequently to the detriment of actually finishing the play.

Along those lines, here’s the next installment of what I wrote about my time as a Neilsen family. It flashes back to other writing I did about television. It’s almost like that part in Deadpool where there’s a fourth wall break inside a fourth wall break (that’s like 16 walls!), but not actually like that at all.

February 7, 2016

So, the ‘big game’ is on and I’m contributing to the ratings (even if I’m only half watching it). While it’s on I’ve been searching an archive for something I wrote in the past and came across something very interesting. Apparently we’d been given the opportunity to fill out a paper survey for Nielsen way back in 2009. Here’s what I wrote about it at the time:

July 6th, 2009
How average are you?
02:23 pm
We are apparently average (or lucky?) enough to join the ratings system. Yup, that’s right – it’s the Nielsen Ratings system for July Sweeps. Yipee(ish).

I’ve discovered a few things in this process.

First, while the folks at Nielsen DO apparently have electronic devices for monitoring this kind of thing – they still use a little paper booklet for millions of families. Yeah, you read it right – little paper books. Here’s there statement:

“Diaries continue to be a valuable instrument in our measurement toolbox, and are used to collect viewing information from sample homes in almost every television market in the United States. Each year we process approximately 2 million paper diaries from households across the country for the months of November, February, May and July — also known as the “sweeps” rating periods. ”

Second – the depths of my laziness know no bounds. I can honestly say that the simple fact that I’d have to write it down has kept me away from channel clicking when I might have otherwise. Totally not working the way it’s supposed to for ratings, but there you have it. I’m addicted to the TV, but having to do even the tiniest bit of work to get there and I’m completely put off. How’s that for lazy?

My last observation is actually about the amount of TV that actually gets watched at our house. Not much is the short answer (and it’s almost all me). Since we started this last Thursday we’ve totalled approximately 3 hours of TV time, most of that taken up by a movie that lists it’s running time at well over 2 hrs. Don’t get me wrong, the kiddo has watched a movie on DVD and we listen to our 24 hour digital music channel via the cable, but we haven’t really watched anything “on tv”. I looked at the listings over the next couple of days, but really haven’t seen anything world shaking. I’ll probably try to catch the premier of Warehouse 13 (despite the fact that it’s on the syphilis channel) but we might not be home until around the time it comes on. We have lives outside the box – so if we get there, we get there, if we don’t, we don’t.

Have you ever been lucky enough to be picked?
How much TV do you watch on average?

Interesting to see what has changed and what hasn’t in those intervening years.

Back To TV

Having the chance over the holiday weekend to sit and relax a little also gave an opportunity to watch some television. I realized that I just don’t watch that many shows on a regular basis and what I do watch is generally inconsistent but heavily influenced by my friends and those in my social circles.

Here’s one of the moments that I’ve been wanting to share since it happened. I really, really wanted to shut the person in question down, but wouldn’t trade influence for showing off.

December 14, 2015

It’s funny to me that I had just about moved past the annoyance phase and not given much thought to the ratings box attached to the TV when it cropped up in conversation someplace else.

I didn’t give up my secret, but it was horribly tempting. I was sitting in a meeting with a relatively large number of folks in attendance. The topic of discussion (that was not directly related to the meeting but that was happening anyway, in the middle of the rest of the meeting) moved to upcoming television programs and when they were scheduled. People began to debate various aspects of these shows and their relative value when one particularly waspish lady declared, “What difference does it make? Nobody here is a Nielssen family…”

I was sorely tempted to shut her down very publicly, but other people jumped on her declaration and gave me time to consider my desire and quash that flame. That is likely for the best because then I’d have to explain myself and I really had no desire to get dragged through the ashes of that discussion.

Assumptions like that in a crowd are not a great idea. You really don’t know – well, at least you don’t if the person in question can actually keep that secret.