April 2004 Archives

Pyrrhic Victory

Shii-Ann was right-- Amber is going to win the million. But I doubt that's much comfort to her. Perhaps she knew her number was up, but if not she certainly talked her way onto the jury, where she's the second guaranteed Amber vote (Lex being the other; I suspect Kathy is an Amber vote also, but her tribal council vote against Amber makes the a bit more questionable).

The rampaging idiocy of Tom, Rupert, and Jenna just boggled my mind at first, but then I realized that all three of them had to join Shii-Ann in voting out Amber in order for it to work without risking a tie-breaker. And given Tom's inexplicable belief that he has a prayer of going to the final two with Rob, that wasn't likely to happen.

Next week, however, is the perfect-- and last-- chance to split the Rob/Amber alliance. I'd lay money that Rupert, Jenna, and Tom will be unable to come together to make it happen.

Rob, of course, has a major problem on his hands. The jury is now stacked with people who would sooner give Richard the million than hand it over to him. His gameplay has been effective thusfar, but I don't see a viable endgame strategy for him. He's burned too many bridges to hope that the jury will reward him for a game well played. Right now Amber is sitting pretty. And when you consider that Amber was the last person selected to be in the game, only making the cut because Colleen, Elisabeth, and possibly Christy turned the opportunity down... apparently Mr. Burnett's contract with the devil is long-term.

Speaking of which-- have you been watching The Restaurant? Another little piece of Burnett's soul siphoned down below in exchange for that little slice of serendipity. Obviously the timing was carefully orchestrated so that the coup would happen on-camera, but I wonder who waited for whom. Either way, it's dynamite television.

Let me direct your attention to my blog entry of January 1. You'll recall I made a fabulously tasty lamb tagine, and in so doing scalded my thumb grasping the lid of the pot after removing it from the oven to add some ingredients.


Tonight I made that dish again. I also made the SAME FREAKING MISTAKE with the lid. Only this time it's a 2nd degree burn on my left index finger.

I'd like to say that I've learned my lesson the hard way, but history suggests otherwise.

Comment (1) | last by Chris Lemon, Apr 29, 6:14 PM

As delightful as the Harry Potter books are, they've always infuriated me because all the adults are idiots. Despite the danger to Harry, the serious threat Voldemort poses to him, the irrevocable link binding Harry to Voldemort, and the remarkable capability and valor Harry has repeatedly demonstrated, all of the people charged with safeguarding him treat him as a child and go out of their way to keep him in the dark about matters which directly pertain to him.

Perhaps this very behavior is partly responsible for the books' success. In the real world, adults routinely underestimate the maturity and capability of children. Having the main character go through the same kind of treatment may make him more sympathetic to young adult readers. But I don't think so. When I was a kid, this kind of thing ticked me off just as much as it does today. When the police chief dismissed the Hardy Boys' suspicions despite their impressive track record, it always exasperated me. Kids may be inexperienced, but they're not stupid.

Seeing Dumbledore, McGonagall, the Weasleys, and the rest of the authority figures continually ignoring not only the wisdom of keeping Harry in the loop but Harry's demonstrated ability to handle it always struck me as lazy writing. The characters needed to be stupid to advance the plot. And since the plot was entertaining, I begrudgingly went along for the ride.

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, it finally became too much to ignore. The kid almost has his brain sucked out by dementors, and still the adults don't think it might be prudent to let Harry in on what's going on? Un-freaking-believable. Literally. It just wasn't believable. Nobody's that myopic. Did it not occur to anyone that perhaps Harry would be far more diligent about studying occlumency if he knew why it was so vital? The raging stupidity of all the adult characters was just too much to bear, and I resolved that this would be the last Harry Potter book I'd read.

And then J.K. Rowling unexpectedly came clean.

I'm not sure if she planned it this way from the beginning, or if she looked back at the past four books and realized she had some 'splaining to do-- but she finally addressed the issue head-on. The characters actually talk about why the adults-- and Dumbledore in particular-- have been such spectacular morons. And while it doesn't excuse their behavior for the past five books, it at least casts it in a new light and gives me enough confidence in Rowling to continue reading.

Comment (1) | last by Brian L, Apr 27, 8:07 AM

The Alias writers have admitted in today's New York Times that they're making things up as they go along. For weeks they had no idea what "the passenger" was, despite the characters' fevered attempts to find it. They wrote Lauren as nothing more than a romantic foil for Sydney for eleven weeks, then decided it would be more fun if she were evil. They're flying by the seat of their collective pants, like The X-Files and Twin Peaks before them. Is it too much to ask for serial writers to have a road map, instead of throwing things at the wall and then writing around whatever sticks? The whole arc of the show just got much less interesting, since it's clear they have no idea what the whole Rimbaldi payoff will be yet and are just frantically laying down railroad tracks in front of the locomotive.

Comments (6) | last by David desJardins, May 29, 4:07 PM


A pretty weak episode of Survivor tonight, but bully for Shii-Ann for sticking it out and nabbing immunity when she needed it. I'm glad the gang-up-on-someone challenge, one of my long-held pet peeves about Survivor, was for reward instead of immunity-- that would have been a sucky way for Shii-Ann to get booted.

With everyone thinking they're in 'til the final four with Rob, it's no surprise that a coup wasn't forthcoming. I'm beginning to think the most brilliant player in the game is-- wait for it-- Amber, letting Rob play the heavy while protecting her and doing all her dirty work. If it comes down to Rob and Amber, will people vote with their heads and give Rob credit for how well he's played, or will they vote with their hearts and vote against him as payback for his betrayals?

Comment (1) | last by Geoff, Apr 23, 5:22 AM

Happiness is a Full Tivo

I'm back from a week in Columbus, OH for this year's Gathering of Friends. The trip home was a bad dream (not quite a nightmare), with the Minneapolis airport shut down for a few hours thanks to tornados. The 1.5 hour flight from Columbus to Minneapolis was delayed 2 hours and then took 4.5 hours to complete, including about 45 minutes on the ground in Minneapolis while a) another airplane was assigned the same gate as ours, b) strewn baggage blocked the tarmac, c) the jetway at our gate ceased functioning, and d) we were finally towed to another gate. It was like the airport was being run by the Keystone Kops. Fortunately my connecting flight to Seattle was also delayed, and I was able to dash to that gate and hop right on board thanks to my foresight in checking in for the flight from the hotel computer that morning (even got myself an emergency exit row that way-- huzzah!).

I've got a week's worth of television saved up (although I watched Survivor and The Apprentice from Columbus-- with Kathy gone, the only person worth rooting for (Rupert) has no chance of winning; although at this point, I'll officially start the "Anyone But Amber or Tom" campaign), and look forward to vegging out a bit this week to catch up.

As for my game show, I'd say it went pretty well. We had about 110 participants, which was more than I expected (I'd written the software to handle up to 26 teams, which was 6 more than I had last time, and we could have gone to 28 or 29) and a new Gathering record. There was much merriment, the game didn't end in a tie, there were no software snafus (although there were some hardware issues-- the speakers I brought were terrible and as a result the sound was much softer than I'd have liked; the hotel microphone couldn't reach the center of the room, so I had to emcee from the side), and I got many compliments for both the programming/presentation and the content. It appeared that most people had a lot of fun. As expected, the first round was the hardest of the three but the third round was the most fun, so I think I made the right choice in ordering them as I did. I think I raised the bar for myself yet again with this event. Thanks to everyone who played, and to Michael Adams for helping to run it, Chris Lohroff for bringing the data projector, John Garnett for use of his laptop and data key, and Greg Aleknevicus for helping to set up the room.

Bovine Envy

For those who were unsure, I can now offer some supporting evidence that I am not, in fact, a cow.

Now if you'll excuse me, it's milking time and I'm udderly exhausted.

Comments (4) | last by Eddie, Apr 23, 12:55 PM

Open Letter to Omarosa

You lied. With nothing at stake for yourself and with your employer and former teammate betting everything on your capability, you flat-out lied to him for no apparent reason.

And you wonder why everyone hates you?

Talk to the hand.

Comments (2) | last by Krista, Apr 10, 6:34 PM

Great drama tonight, as Lex discovered what we've known all along-- Rob is simply not to be trusted. There was obviously some out-of-game dynamics involved in Lex's decision to help Rob last week, but he was a fool to confuse the game with real life. Rob's making no such mistake. Banking on Rob's good will-- without even hammering out the details in advance, but just taking it on faith that Rob would make good-- was just insanity, regardless of their relationship outside of the game. Lex himself turned on Ethan. This seems like a bit of poetic justice. And much as I'd have liked to have seen Lex win, he brought this on himself when he got rid of Richard, then Colby, then Jerri. By the time of the merge, he'd killed his own cannon fodder.

I think Rupert also made a very naive choice in bringing Amber along with him to the reward-- a choice which didn't further his standing in the game at all. His alliance with Jenna was already strong, and Amber is never going to choose Rupert over Rob. Rupert might have been wiser to take Kathy, Shii-Ann, or Alicia and forge his own alliances, waiting for the opportunity to drive a wedge into Rob's inner circle. Except, of course, he thinks he's inside that circle.

Comment (1) | last by Brian L, Apr 9, 5:16 AM


Someone should tell this guy that the wheel isn't all red and black.

And what's with this guy not getting paid by Sky? If he was smart, he'd have gotten them to pony up some more money for his wager and really put it all on the line.

Comments (5) | last by Scott Hardie, Apr 11, 4:51 PM

Why Man Creates

For the past couple of weeks I've been keeping very late hours at the computer. While this isn't in itself unusual, the reason why is. I've been foregoing my usual recreational activities to create a game show for a 250+ person gathering I'm attending this month. I'm not getting paid to do so. In fact, I volunteered the offer on my own accord a year ago. I'm just not sure why.

Last year I ran a massively multiplayer Family Feud game that went very well. I wrote custom software for that, which took some time but really not too much. Emboldened, I upped the ante for myself this year by creating an entirely new game show format-- which required new software. And instead of writing in languages I already knew like Javascript or C, I decided to use this as an opportunity to learn Flash.

The result has been 2-3 weeks of intensive labor and an application that's a mish-mash of coding styles reflecting the evolution of my Flash knowledge. Round 1 of the game, for example, makes extensive use of the Flash timeline. By round 3 I'd chucked that approach in favor of a completely script-driven state machine. It's embarrassingly bad code, as most learning exercises are. But the game looks promising. It even has some visual sizzle, despite my lack of mad graphic design skillz, and I'm hopeful that it will go over well.

I'm just not sure why I signed on for it. The idea was that once I'd written the app, I could run the game again with new content in future years, or at other venues. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. I'm just waxing a bit philosophical about why idiots like me are willing to put so much work into something that's not only "just for fun," but in this case will only last under an hour. Let's call it 50 hours of labor to create a one-hour experience. Why bother?

I can posit some answers. The egoboo. The satisfaction in a job well-done, and in giving enjoyment to others. The attention of a crowd. The opportunity to scream, "Look how clever and creative I am!" through my work. The chance to create in a genre for which I've had a life-long passion. The fantasy that I might make a living at this kind of thing again some day. Any, or all, or none of these things.

Today, dog-tired, guzzing sugar and caffeine to avoid falling asleep in the office after the latest wee-hour binge, the question looms larger than the answers. In a couple of weeks, with the event a ringing success and behind me, perhaps I'll see more clearly.

And post lucid blog entries.

Comments (5) | last by Harlan, Apr 8, 11:58 AM

Oh, yes-- Wyoming!

Loath though I am to be a shill for American Express, I'd be remiss if I did not direct your attention to The Adventures of Jerry and Superman. This will be a series of 5-minute web shorts, the first of which is available now. And if this one's any indicator of what's to come, they're gonna be high-larious.

Be sure to move your mouse over the projection screen while the page loads.

Comments (4) | last by robert, Jun 14, 1:15 PM

A friend of mine is fond of claiming that Mark Burnett has a deal with the devil, as evidenced by the spectacular good fortune with which he's been blessed in various Survivor goings-on: the women beating the pants of the men at the start of the Amazon series, Rudy staying around well past any reasonable expectations in season one, etc. But this week that contract seemingly expired, as his bid to shuffle up the teams failed spectacularly. The odds against each team staying together as they did are roughly .5 ^ 8, or about 0.4%, which is 1:250. Clearly not what Burnett had in mind.

But then codacil 1542.71 kicked in, as Amber miraculously squirmed her way off the chopping block thanks to mass idiocy at Mogo Mogo. If I'm understanding the logic correctly, Lex decided to oust Jerri-- who would likely have supported him to the very end, as she said-- because he thinks Rob will help him out later and would carry a grudge if he voted Amber out.

Ex-CUSE me?

Lex is an idiot. If there's someone you genuinely fear in the game, the idea is to get him out. Evicting Amber would have seriously thrown Rob off his game and would have kept Mogo Mogo intact, in stronger position to survive post-merge. Instead, Amber and Rob have succeeded in eating away at Mogo Mogo from within.

Worse, why in the WORLD would Shii-Ann and Kathy go along with this plan? Kathy heard Rob beg Lex for Amber's life and offer him future aid in return for keeping Amber alive. So Lex, at least, felt he was getting something. But there was nothing in it for Kathy. Shii-Ann, I'm sure, was just happy it wasn't her own head on the block.

Or are they afraid Rob will hold a grudge OUTSIDE the game? I've heard that one of Rob's strategies was to gather as much dirt on the other Survivors as possible to use as leverage. Maybe he has something on Lex and Kathy that they'd rather not get out. Far-fetched, but I'm trying to make sense of their baffling idiocy.

One thing's for sure-- when Rob and Amber make it to the final four, they'll have definitely earned their spots. I wasn't crazy about their inclusion in All-Stars, but they're both playing much better their second time around.

And everyone else seems to be playing much worse.

Comments (3) | last by Dave, Apr 3, 5:21 PM

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