A Slew of Screeds

Today’s agenda will be dealing with Heroes, T-Shirts, San Jose Sharks, San Francisco and TiVo. Also if you visit GameSpot or subscribe to the RSS feed, my video game-specific blog has a post regarding the New Super Mario Bros. game for DS. You may have noticed that I put an RSS feed thing over in the right column for the GameSpot blog (titled “A Gamer Darkly” for no real particular reason) which may not be all that useful but does at least provide an updated link to the latest posts made over there.

The Hero Lies In You

Someone on the TiVo web forum mentioned in the discussion of last night’s episode of Heroes that so far the Heroes aren’t really acting very… heroic. This is a fair criticism for a show called “Heroes” but I think one of the themes the show is very effectively dealing with is that just because someone is born extraordinary doesn’t mean they’re born with an understanding of how to cope with that. Many of the characters on the show are either in denial about their abilities or not convinced that they aren’t just plain crazy rather than remarkable.

Another complaint I’ve heard a lot was regarding Hiro’s ability to communicate with Nathan in the diner in this week’s “Hiros” episode. I’m not quite sure I understand that gripe since in a previous episode (in which Hiro travelled to the future) he was able to more or less communicate with everyone until the conversation got so specific and law-enforcement related (which is almost a subset of English in itself) that Hiro realized he may not be fully comprehending what was being said and wanted his English-fluent friend to talk to the officials to make sure he didn’t get himself into more hot water than he was already in.

It’s not unreasonable for a Japanese guy to understand basic English (probably at about a third or fourth grade level speaking-wise) and he seems to have a decent grasp for reading it (based on his familiarity with American comic books and television) so his ability to have a fairly simple conversation about a topic he is familiar with in English terms makes total sense to me. As a few people pointed out also, there’s no better way to crash-course language than through immersion and he’s certainly been immersed in English-speaking environments for several days now. I didn’t find it at all unusual for him to speak to Nathan.

Some people have wondered what is so special about Claire that she warrants the “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World” mantra. My personal theory is that Peter is the key to stopping the bomb, but he needs the powers of the others in order to do so and specifically, he needs Claire’s ability to regenerate to keep him alive long enough to pull off his world-saving gambit. But that’s just speculation.

One interesting question that I haven’t been able to determine from the information presented so far is whether Isaac’s future-reading powers are triggered or in any way related to his heroin use or if that is simply a mechanism he’s instituted for himself to cope with the ability. I would guess based on the fact that Peter can use the power when in his presence without any drugs (and Isaac wasn’t high at the time either) that the heroin-power connection is all in Isaac’s mind.

Here’s something else that’s interesting: Most supernatural comic book characters (i.e., those that aren’t just heroic humans like Batman) have a hefty amount of combat-readiness to their powers. Consider that Spider-Man has exceptional strength and agility (certainly an asset in a fight); Storm can control the weather such that she can send bolts of lightning at foes; Cyclops is practically all combat with his laser-eyes and so on. But most of the characters in Heroes actually don’t have a lot of combat ability: Isaac’s future-seeing (at least in its current incarnation) wouldn’t help much in a fight; Matt’s mind-reading is certainly useful but not really combat-ready; Peter’s power absorption isn’t intrinsically combat-ready unless he was fighting someone who’s powers were combat-oriented; even Nathan’s flight ability is helpful but aside from the apparent speed he has, he hasn’t shown any hint of being capable of handling more pain or taking more punishment than anyone else which means that while he could speed-fly fist-first into a foe, he would probably hurt himself as much as whomever he was fighting. In fact, only Niki (whose powers are still vague at best but who may be super-strong based on the fact that she probably weighs about 110 lbs. and she cut a guy in half), Hiro and Claire are likely to be of any real use in a fight and even then, Claire would survive the fight for a long time, but her ability to win such a combat (except by attrition) is questionable.

Shirts Shaped Like Tees

So I ordered some shirts off of Threadless.com yesterday because they were having a sweet sale where most of the shirts were only $10. The site is pretty cool in that it allows people to upload T-shirt designs which get voted on by the site users and the most popular designs actually get made and put up for sale.

I have a strong dislike for clothing that turns me into a walking billboard which is why most of the clothes I wear are either plain or feature something I like such as a band. I guess band shirts make you into a walking ad for that particular group, but somehow that works for me since it’s something I actually endorse versus wearing a Nike shirt or something that very obviously came from Wal-Mart or whatever.

In this case many of the designs are clever but avoid being at all ad-like, which means I don’t feel quite as boring as wearing one of my (literally) six plain black shirts but I don’t have to worry about my soul.

Plus, $10 each. How can you go wrong?


I was reading an article on ESPN.com about the Red Wings’ fall to mediocrity and in the article columnist Damien Cox uses the adjective “powerhouse” to describe the Sharks.

That was kind of nice to read.

Of course the Sharks are obviously not invincible. While I’m certainly happy with the start to the season 7-2-0, and it is definitely a plus that three of those seven wins have been shutouts in the Sharks favor, those two losses were kind of ugly. One was the really bizarre game versus the Edmonton Oilers in which there were two natural hat tricks (one by Cheechoo to put the Sharks up 4-1 and then one by Ryan Smyth which ended up putting the Oilers ahead). That game could be written off just because of the strangeness of it all but the 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild was pretty sad considering the Sharks out shot the Wild 32 to 18 and the Wild beat Nabokov four times while Manny Fernandez only missed one of the barrage.

I certainly understand that the Sharks can’t be expected to win every game and I don’t mind giving up the occasional 6-4 insanity game or even a 3-2 nailbiter that goes down to the last five minutes of the third period. But I certainly don’t want to the see the Sharks out there in a futile effort through two periods and only score once just to keep themselves off the shutout. The tough thing about the Sharks being a “powerhouse” is that it’s hard not to watch them play and expect them to win pretty much every game.

The big test comes tonight when the Sharks play in Detroit, a road venue they have practically never emerged from victorious during the regular season. They handled the Red Wings soundly the other night in San Jose but if they can show the same poise and ability in Detroit, that will be quite a statement to Sharks fans.

One other thing I was thinking about which stemmed from my recent visit to the Tank for the Dallas game is that the HP Pavillion needs to do a bit of upgrading. For one thing they need those arena-spanning HD screens between decks. They installed them at AT&T park in San Francisco and I noticed that several of the road games the Sharks have played have been in stadiums with those wraparound screens. They look nice because for one the quality is phenomenal which means you can put player photos and stuff on there and they actually look like someone you might recognize (versus the aging JumboTron technology which still looks like staring at a newspaper print way too closely to my eyes) but also because they wrap around the whole stadium you can get some nice graphical effects going with bright, vibrant colors that really help with the atmosphere. Plus, I thought the Sharks were supposed to be this very technology-friendly team and they have these embarrassingly antique Lite Brite-looking signs. So lame.

Fog City

Nik and I spent some time in San Francisco this weekend, belatedly celebrating our seventh wedding anniversary. We would have celebrated closer to the actual date but I was afflicted with my hades-spawned flu which was not very romantic, to say the least.

Anyway we mostly just hung out and wandered around the touristy areas like Pier 39, which we’ve both done about a thousand times before but the point wasn’t what we were doing but who we were doing it with. Eventually we wandered down the waterfront so we could eat at Joe’s Crab Shack which is a sort of tacky little place that has some really tasty food and, of course, copious options for crab lovers.

I recently was able to turn Nikki on to the joy of crab and she’s been near-insatiable ever since. I think her 1 lb. fresh dungeness crab order may have cured her for the time being but she certainly seemed to enjoy her meal. We stayed there for quite a while, talking and eating and watching the Bushman across the street.

If you’ve never been to San Francisco you probably aren’t familiar with the extraordinary number of street performers that crowd the touristy locations around the city. Street performers are a kind of unique beast in that they are simultaneously fascinating and yet annoying. Some of them are actually remarkably talented: Musicians, performance artists, etc. But at the same time they are only a slight step above your average panhandler which there are far too many of in SF anyway.

Still, all that is forgiven in the case of the Bushman.

The Bushman is a street performer whose schtick is pure genius in its cleverness. Basically he gathers up a bunch of random tree branches; medium-sized ones, obviously never anything that requires a large amount of effort to obtain. He gathers two fistfuls of these branches and squats on a little stool or empty bucket, clutching the branches in front of him so he is basically hidden from one side of the sidewalk. He does this right on a regular sidewalk so to careful observers he basically sticks out like a sore thumb. But most people aren’t that observant so if they’re coming toward the “bush” they will probably dismiss it as nothing spectacular and continue on their way.

When they get close, Bushman drops the branches just a bit a scares the heck out of the passerby.

The good thing is that he doesn’t go out of his way for the huge scare. That would probably be a little mean. And part of the joke is that once you’ve been burned, you realize how silly it was to not notice a random bush in the middle of the sidewalk.

The best part (and where Bushman makes his money) is being in on the joke as an observer. Bushman is pretty good about understanding when to try his scare (too often and people would see it happen up ahead and be prepared, too infrequent and the constantly gathered crowd would get bored and drift away). A few folks with good senses of humor will tip Bushman after falling for his trap, amusingly it is often the boyfriend or husband of the startled woman (girls react far more entertainingly than most guys) who drops some cash for the laugh. But mostly the Bushman hits up the crowds of laughing onlookers for tips.

Sitting up in Joe’s Crab Shack (right across from Bushman’s favorite haunt), you can observe his prowess without being prone to his requests for donations. It’s a good time. And the crab ain’t bad, either.

TiVo is Hurting Itself

Much has been made of the demise of TiVo. Granted, they have and will continue to have a hard time competing with cable-company and satellite TV company offerings, despite the constant complaints about those knock-off interfaces and feature sets being sub-par. Users will put up with a lot of crud for the sake of convenience.

But there are things that TiVo could do to help itself, and it seems to me that they aren’t doing them.

For one thing, they move slow. I would expect the behemoth cable companies to be playing catch-up to TiVo, but I haven’t seen that to be the case. How long did it take TiVo to get a unit out that could record HD? And when it did come out, they priced it at an insane $800 MSRP. Whew.

And don’t even get me started on Mac support for the TiVo2Go software/feature. After “working hard” on the issue for like two years, we get this back in January and then nothing for nine months. Look, it takes less time to fabricate a human being than it’s taken to even see a beta of this product. Come on.

What really frustrates me is the simple things. TiVo’s features should be fairly easily updatable and yet there are so few service upgrades getting pushed out to users it’s kind of criminal. Take a look at this list of requested enhancements. Most of those are very reasonable requests, especially stuff like complete boolean capabilities for Wish Lists. I can’t tell you how badly I want to have my “49ERS” season pass not pick up junk like “49ers Preview Show” and “49ers Total Access” and “49ers Playbook.” I want the game, not the rest of the junk. But 49ers games show up on a title search as the generic “NFL Football” so I can’t just get a Season Pass to that or I’d get the stupid Jets vs. Dolphins games and stuff, probably at the expense of Niners games or at the very least at the expense of something else I’d rather watch. If I could say “Title = ‘NFL Football’ AND Description CONTAINS (‘San Francisco’ OR ’49ERS’)” I would be golden.

This has been a problem since the Series1 TiVos, so what’s the holdup? In the meantime I end up juggling my Season Pass list constantly, trying to find a happy medium. For example, I want Sharks games almost all the time. But sometimes it depends on when the game starts and what else is playing. I can put it below something like Lost or Heroes and know that the Sharks game will always be pre-empted for those shows, but what frustrates me is that if the Sharks game starts at 5:30 and a show I don’t want to miss will start at 8:00, I’d rather have the first two and a half hours of the game and then switch over to the show. I thought that was what the clipping feature was supposed to do but unless I’m doing something wrong it doesn’t work like that.

At the time it hardly matters, I’d rather have my TiVo than not and I don’t really qualify (what with our freakish cable situation) for any other options. But eventually we’ll move out of this apartment and when Comcast comes knocking on my door offering me a $9.99 additional fee for dual-tuner DVR functionality with a higher capacity than I have now my loyalty to TiVo is going to be tested because I just don’t feel like TiVo is working hard enough to keep me loyal.

So what do you say, TiVo? How ’bout you step it up and keep a once-happy customer?

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