Thursday, September 30, 2004


We had a motion capture facial shoot to do at work today, and I got tired of everyone trying to shirk out of being the talent, so I finally volunteered. I think you can see why from this pic why nobody ever wants to be the face talent.

And yes, the ones on the eyelids are extremely annoying.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


I'm trying to picture the pitch meeting for yet ANOTHER installment of CSI, especially after watching the NY premier. I mean, I'm a FAN of Vegas and Miami, and I begrudgingly tuned into NY (just like I did with Miami), but holy mother of pearl, the letdown was AUDIBLE.

Gritty, Matrix-style green and blue lens-filters? Check.
A-List talent? Check.
Big-city appeal? Check.
Okay, no story. We can work around that.


Sweet lord it was like watching A-List actors do cold readings on-set. Honestly, sometimes Melina Kanakaredies' primary motivation looked to be "okay, I've read my line, so now I walk off-set to read my next line." Actors, Directors, we understand that your characters care very much about their jobs as CSIs and the people they are supposedly helping, but furrowed brows and a mysterious dedication to a job do not make good characters. Go back and watch the original episode for the very first CSI. There are people there who have lives outside of their jobs. And they managed to convey that in the very first ep. Please, get over your A-list status and your tired, over-used gritty New York #2 filters and try telling a story with some characters that I might actually give a shit or two about.

And the sets? Uh, I didn't know that Crime Scene Investigators of New York had taken over Arkham Asylum. No, really. Underground crime labs that look like they're covered in filth, with asbestos falling down from the steel ceiling joyce that was laid in 1943 do not exactly convey a "dedicated to pristine and clean evidence" sort of feeling. I kept expecting to see Hannibal Lector working on some evidence behind the glass walls there.

Also, the Robo-cop scanning gun with the PDA on the back of it that could find a lead bullet in a dead rat from ten feet away? I'VE SEEN BETTER PROPS IN ROGER CORMAN MOVIES. Just two weeks ago when my mother was in town I successfully negotiated an argument with her where I managed to describe that while yes, some of the tools they use on CSI have not been invented yet, they are based on actual scientific proceedure and are displayed as new technology so as not to bog down the show by having someone spray luminol over the entire crimescene every. Single. Scene.

And then you blow it all by whipping out the frickin' toy from the remake of Mars Attacks. And glue a PDA to the back of it. Thanks.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Definitely More Than You Need

My friend Gina's outrage at this freak of vehicular nature reminded me that I was going to post about my one day adventure in the GMC Envoy XL.

GMC has an expression: "Not More Than You Need; Just More Than You're Used To."

Nowhere in the history of car slogans has there been more b.s. flung in the face of consumers.

That thing is the very definition of "More Than You Need." Mike Brady is about the only person who needs to seat seven adults comfortably, and he was still able to accomplish this somehow with a station wagon. The people driving this thing are commuting to work in it. They aren't being purchased for busing around families. Of the 4 Envoys I saw on the road to work while riding in one myself, NONE of them had more than just the one driver in them. Taking "More Than You Need" to heart, I'd say they could have accomplished the same commute in a small car. Hell, they even could have done it in a luxury car for all I care. They weren't hauling around 3 safes, a pallet of lumber and a refridgerator back there (and trust me, this isn't an exaggeration. It can seriously hold all that shit). They were commuting to work.

I used $12 worth of gas to travel 102 miles. $12 gets you a quarter tank in this behemoth. Doing the quick math, that's a $48 fillup with the cheap gas. I spend that much on gas in a week (that's two and a half fillups using the mid-range gas, not the cheap gas, including my weekend driving). It would cost me exactly $60/week just to commute to and from work and do nothing else in this thing, so probably more like $70-80/week including weekend driving.

I've felt safer driving a 10 ft. U-Haul box truck filled to capacity. This thing's center of gravity is so high that even small shifts and corrections to stay in the middle of my lane had me feeling like it was starting to roll. It wants to go straight and straight only, so any amount of turning at speed was met with some disagreement in the mass and inertia department. Seriously, this thing is a boat on wheels, and it handles like one. I'm normally a very comfident and typically semi-aggressive car driver, and I was white-knuckling it driving this thing on the highway. I guarantee you that if I was given one of these for free, I could flip and roll it on the very first try in a large parking lot. It's that unstable. Sure, city surface street driving in it is fine, but there is no way this vehicle is safe for anyone above 45mph.

Finally, it's massive. And I don't just mean heavy. This thing is loooooong. I actually hit a display stand at the gas station with the back end of this thing just trying to get it around the gas pump to re-fill that quarter tank of gas. I even gave myself more room than I normally would if I were driving my car, and I still hit the display with the back side of the truck. The wheelbase is so wide that I think I could almost fit my entire Civic inbetween the outside edge of the two wheels.

To summarize: Nobody short of a bus service needs this truck. More Than I'm Used To? You got that right. More Than I Need? It goes without saying. It's more than anyone needs.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

It's Only a Matter of Time...

I used to tell myself that phrase as I'd pass by wrecks on the highway on my way to work. Some days, I'd feel that my driving experience and skill would keep me out of harm's way forever (a somewhat naive thought, yes), while other days I'd do the math and realize that someday, my number's going to come up.

How long has it been? Six years? Seven? I've been commuting 100 miles every day for longer than I care to think. I've put roughly 238,000 miles on two cars. Sometime, someplace, I would finally be put in a situation that I couldn't escape, and sure enough, fate finally caught up to me on Tuesday.

I was exiting the 90/94 Westbound ramp at about 55mph with the rest of rush hour traffic attempting to merge on to 294 Southbound. The problem with this ramp is that the 90/94 Eastbound ramp also comes up and becomes a second on-ramp lane to the right of our lane, and faster, more aggressive cars will shoot across our lane in an attempt to set up a 5 lane crossing in order to get to the I-Pass lanes at the toll on the far left a few miles down the highway.

I'm not exactly sure if that's what happened, but as I was looking in my left-hand mirror to check the speed of traffic in the lane to my left (I too needed to make a 4 lane crossing to eventually get to that I-Pass), I caught some quick velocity change movement in my peripheral vision (directly in front of me). Before my eyes even moved to look ahead, my foot was already on the way to the brake pedal. The minivan in front of me was on the brakes hard, and now so was I. I took a deep breath as I kept my tires from locking up and quickly realized that I was going to stop a good seven to ten feet short of hitting the mini-van. Normally this is a good thing, but we're on not only a highway and at almost a dead-stop, but we're still in an on-ramp that has cars accelerating attempting to get up to the 75mph traffic typically moves at through this section.

I glanced into my rearview mirror, and to my very distinct horror, I saw the Chevy Tahoe barreling down my lane behind me maybe 40 yards back. It wasn't slowing down, in fact, it appeared to be slightly nose-up. It was accelerating. I tapped my brake once to hopefully get his attention, and then got off my brake so I would close the distance to the Nissan mini-van ahead of me. I know people have to describe things like this all the time for these situations, but this whole thing wend down in maybe 3 whole seconds. I got as close as I dared (maybe a foot?) to the mini-van's bumper, and checked my mirror one more time. The Tahoe was hard on its brakes at this point, possibly even sliding, but it was too late. It was maybe ten yards back and still moving way too fast to stop in time. It was too late for me to get out of the lane. I hadn't had time to scan the lanes on either side of me to see if I had room to pull out (since I had to stop as soon as I had started checking in the first place), so I couldn't risk pulling out of this lane in front of another vehicle that was doing 75mph. I just stared straight ahead so my neck wouldn't be in the wrong position when I got hit and grabbed the wheel with both hands.

The shot to my back from the truck hurt pretty bad initially. It's certainly the hardest and most "completely" I've ever been rear ended (I've had one other car "tap" me in line for a toll and another car glance off the corner of the bumper). The impact knocked the wind out of my lungs, causing me to involuntarily yell on impact, and sent my car forwards hard enough that I immediately bounced off of the mini-van in front of me I was being so careful to avoid. I luckily had remembered a lesson way back in Driver's Ed, which states that if you can tell you're going to be rear-ended, don't stand on the brake. I don't remember exactly why they said this, but I think it has something to do with inertia and energy transfer. That if you're coasting and off the brake, the vehicle's energy behind you will transfer into velocity for you, like one pool ball striking another pool ball. If you stand on the brake, I think the implication is more like you're now an immovable (not totally) object, and more of the impacting vehicle's inertia will be transferred into damage and compression in your vehicle's crumple zones. Seeing as my car is less than half of the mass of the SUV that hit me, I really didn't want to get crumpled.

Evidently getting off the brakes right before impact saved my car from being totalled. Amazingly, after I got out, it didn't even appear to be all that damaged. In fact, the front end looked the worst as I had gone slightly under the bumper of the mini-van and bent up my hood a bit. I was fully expecting to see my rear bumper inside of my trunk with the trunk folded in half like a closet door on its side, and yet the car hardly appears to have been involved in an accident. My back and neck were throbbing however, and people driving by probably were wondering why the three of us had even pulled over. I'm sure the damage to the car wasn't even visible from the road.

At any rate, I would find out later from the driver of the Tahoe (a very nice man, who by the way had just raised his deductable from $250 to $500 earlier that day, irony of ironies) that his son probably saved my life. He hadn't put it that way, of course, but he never even noticed that we were almost completely stopped in front of him. He (like myself) had been looking in his mirror and peering out onto the highway to look for holes in traffic so he could merge left, only he never saw the stoppage. His son was the one that noticed it, and had yelled for his Dad to stop. If he hadn't, I probably would have been rear-ended by a vehicle travelling over 65mph that was more than twice the mass of my own car. To be honest, when I saw it coming at me in my rear-view with its nose still up, my first thought was that I might be next looking at my wife and baby from a hospital bed, if I even got to see them again at all.

Speaking of ironies (see deductable above), the kid that mitigated the damage from this accident was probably the incidental core of it (besides the ass-hat who cut off the car in front of the mini-van). His father (the Tahoe driver) was taking him to a college expo at the Marriot in Oak Brook. They wouldn't have even been on the road if it weren't for him.

And more ironic still? My rental vehicle? A GMC Envoy XL. No, seriously, the huge-assed SUV comes in EXTRA FUCKING LARGE sizes. Jesus H. Christ, it was the only thing they had left, and it seats SEVEN. COMFORTABLY. I'M DRIVING A GOD-DAMNED BUS WITH QUITE POSSIBLY THE BEST STEREO SYSTEM, CUPHOLDERS, AND MORE LIGHTER OUTLETS THAT ANY BUS HAS EVER SEEN. Just what I need. A gas guzzler for my 100 mile/day commuter. I'm sure my gas bill will be like $100/week. Woo-hoo! (And yes, I already have a standing order to downgrade me to the Dodge Neon as soon as one comes in. The Envoy was the only vehicle on the lot, and they're renting it to me at the Neon rate. I figure even with the savings on the rental price, I'm losing $80/week on the gas.)

And as if I thought the accident wasn't scary enough to live through, I come home to find out that my insurance company had mistakenly dropped me from the policy a year and a half ago. Let me clarify. Due to a clerical error on behalf of Liberty Mutual, I have been driving without insurance for the past year and a half, unbeknownst to me. They tried to weasel out of it, saying that it's my fault for not catching it on the renewal forms, when the renewal forms for both auto and home have a multiple vehicle discount for one car. Can you smell the fucking incompetence? It's rank. I got about 4 hours of sleep last night contemplating what would have happened had I been in an unfortunate position where I caused an accident where someone was hospitalized. Then, I woke up on Tuesday, and set about finding an alternate insurance carrier, and dropped Liberty Mutual like a, well, a horribly fucking irresponsible insurance company that they are.

Lessons learned in the last two days:

1). Always have an escape route.
2). Keep buying Hondas. Their collision absorption/deflection is AMAZING (my wife can also testify to this, as did the Tahoe driver who ALSO thought that his bumper was going to be visiting my backseat. He was still marvelling an hour later at how well that bumper took the shock out of the collision).
3). Check your renewal forms for insurer incompetence.
4). Never, ever, not even for a million dollars insure your family with Liberty Mutual.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

A Burger By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

So on the way back from PAX, I felt it would be proper to eat lunch, as most humans are want to do when hunger strikes. My choices in the stranded S concourse at Seatle Tacoma were either to have some Udon noodles or some Burger King. I've come to really hate ethnic food served in a fast-food setting (love ethnic food; hate it when it's mass produced), so of course I decide to try that new Angus burger, and order one up.

Imagine my confusion when what I get is a plain old Whopper. Much to my chagrin, I simply suspected that they had replaced the Whopper with the Angus in name only, and that they were one and the same burger. I have since debunked this with a tiny bit of web surfing, and come to the realization that it was just a common occurance of crappy service.

But upon arriving home, I relayed this erroneous information to my wife, and we had the following conversation:

Me: So did you know that the "Angus" is really just a fucking Whopper?

Liz: What?? Well, you know why they did that, right?

Me: Because "Angus" doesn't sound so much like "This burger will make your ass huge, such as 'Whopper'"

Liz: Exactly.

Me: So what next? Is McDonalds going to return fire by changing the "Big Mac" to "Little Mac?"

Liz: No, "Reasonable Mac."

Me: "Sufficient Mac."

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