In all Hollywood thrillers, there’s a certain suspension of belief the audience is expected to give. And in every movie, there are gaffes, missteps, and mistakes. But the one scene in The Bourne Identity that has always, and continues, with subsequent viewings, to bother me, is the one at the farmhouse, the confrontation between Jason Bourne and Clive Owen’s character, the Professor.

The plot points us to the Professor being one of Bourne’s equals. They’re both from the Treadstone project. They’re both “super weapons” of a kind. They’re both highly trained, and highly skilled. When Eamon’s dog is missing, and Jason realizes a killer is out there waiting for him, he does what we expect him to do: take the fight to the killer. It’s here the writers take the easy way out.

If the Professor was as highly skilled and as highly trained as we’ve been led to believe up to this point Treadstone agents are, he would never do the following:

  1. Give up the high ground.
  2. Give up the quiet shooting ability of the suppressor on his SIG 55x rifle.
  3. Give up the superior range and firepower of the SIG 55x rifle for a backup pistol.

Jason doesn’t know the Professor’s location. Given the layout of the farmhouse and the surrounding area, he suspects, but he doesn’t know. When he runs out into the trees from the farmhouse, the Professor attempts a shot, and after missing, decides to come down from his perch on the hill? Why give up the high ground, and the sun behind you? Your target is still below you, still within range, just hidden in the trees. Shift your position, attempt to reacquire, but you DON’T COME DOWN FROM ON HIGH.

And as he gives up the high ground, he simultaneously gives up sound suppression on a firearm? Jason Bourne may be the best Treadstone produced, but he still wouldn’t be able to track the shots by sound, even if he suspected the Professor’s hide at the top of the hill. Not at that range.

Finally, after coming down from the hill, the Professor inexplicably takes the only sighting device on the rifle off—why no iron sight backups? He then decides, as the birds Jason sent into flight with a shotgun blast whirl noisily about, to put down the weapon that could reach to any edge of the big clearing they’re in, and take up a small pistol with a more limited range and fewer available rounds.

I just can’t buy it. The film’s technical advisor(s) really let the production down in this area, and allowed the writers a cheap and easy way out to put down the other Treadstone agent on Jason’s trail. Way, way easier than it should have been. At least Castel lost a straight-up, one-on-one fight with Bourne. It is, for me, a thoroughly disappointing scene in an otherwise enjoyable (if imperfect) action thriller.

Splitting the difference

Jeff Jacoby:

WINTER DOESN’T OFFICIALLY END for another three weeks, but Daylight Savings Time arrives next Sunday, and with it the semiannual aggravation of resetting every clock and watch in our lives. (Don’t forget the microwave! And the car dashboard!) Must we be saddled forever with this World War I-era relic? Contrary to popular belief, daylight savings doesn’t reduce energy consumption, it increases it. And not everybody relishes late-evening daylight; plenty of people would rather see sunlight earlier in the morning.

We can end this spring-forward-fall-back madness once and for all — and we can do so without having to choose between daylight time and standard time. The solution is simply to split the difference: Let’s amend the Uniform Time Act so that clocks would be shifted by 30 minutes — then let’s leave them that way for good.

The End Times

Tony Woodlief never fails to amuse me in some fashion:

[T]his is what we have come to: a grown man, grooming his eyebrows in traffic, using his rear-view mirror. In Wichita.

Yeah, what he said

Tom’s thoughts on the National Anthem mirror my own.

The missus can regale you with many a tale of Super Bowl, college bowl, NASCAR, baseball, hockey, and other sports viewing wherein I severely critique the anthem singing because they fail in one of the ways Tom speaks of.

Look, we know you’re a good singer. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have been chosen in the first place. And if it’s a major sporting event, we know you’re a great singer.

(Or you’re just the flavor of the month, since we all know popularity doesn’t necessarily reflect impressive skill.)
(We do know that, right?)

Don’t Ban Incandescents

From the 02.26.07 edition of Red Herring magazine:

California’s proposed incandescent bulb ban (see “Could California Ban the Bulb?” RedHerring.com, February 1, 2007) is ridiculous! Fluorescent bulbs may last longer (not in my house) but you have to include the cost of the ballast and the starter in both energy to produce and additional expense of the fixture. When these and the additional cost of installation are included in the equation, plus fixture replacement costs due to poor reliability, the cost of fluorescent lighting is vastly more expensive than incandescent lighting. Incandescent lighting is also better for the health of our eyes and sanity as that endless flicker fatigues the eyes and drives people nuts!

Fluorescent bulbs are also considered hazardous waste. The energy costs to clean up or keep the environment clean are not worth the few bucks saved at the meter. This ban is not a good idea. Neither is Title 24, which bans incandescent sockets in new-home construction. People just change out the fluorescent fixtures to incandescent after the house has been inspected. Then the fixtures just end up in the dump. I for one will just buy my bulbs out of state and stock up.

The best way to reduce energy waste is to educate people and business to not waste it. Turn the lights off when not in use!

–Roger Smith, Bishop, California
With the mass, recent push for everyone to switch to fluorescent bulbs, I thought a contrarian point of view might be good for discussion.

Doomed by the dish

So it’s the biggest college football weekend of the year.
And I’m missing all of it.
I am not doing so willingly.
Friday, we had some thunderstorms in the area. Nothing too bad, though the rain was intense at times, and we had a few lightning strikes here and there. But it’s rained much worse, and we’ve had lightning last longer.
Our DirecTV satellite dish system became inoperable at some point Friday afternoon. Two days later, still nothing. It would seem, after all the troubleshooting I’ve done, that the problem is the dish is out of alignment.
My bride thinks the disalignment began with the severe cold snap we got last month, which brought in some ice, and we lost the satellite signal for about a day. She thinks, and I can’t find any fault in her logic, the weight from whatever ice collected on the dish was enough to begin the process, and wind since has steadily moved it more until it’s just off enough that we’re getting nothing.
Except last night.
At midnight.
When we were turning in, and I just kicked on the satellite receiver for the heck of it.
This morning, nada. Nothing. Reset all three receivers. Zip. Zero. On startup, the receivers never get beyond 0% in receiving the satellite signal. I’ve checked cables on all the receivers. I checked the cables in the OnQ box upstairs. My friend Drew suggested I disconnect one of the satellite lines from the multiplexer in the OnQ box and hook it directly in to one of the receivers, to rule out the multiplexer as the problem.
So I lugged my JVC 13-inch television, and the attached receiver, from the study, upstairs to the OnQ box, and plugged it in directly. Still nothing.
So, having ruled out everything else, it has to be the dish itself.
This is what was determined yesterday afternoon, when, after 24 hours of no signal, I called DirecTV technical support. (Note: If you have to do this, never waste time with the first-line customer service reps. All of the ones I’ve spoken with have been pleasant, but they’ve got limited knowledge, and your best bet is to ask them to connect you to “second-tier tech support”, where more knowledgeable folks reside.) The tech rep I spoke with, after I explained to her everything I had done to that point, said it sounded like everything had been ruled out but the dish itself. So she scheduled a technician to come out to the house to get up on the roof to realign the dish.
Just in case you didn’t catch that, the tech is coming on Thursday.
Thursday, January 4th. After which there is only one bowl game of any significance, the BCS Championship Game.

[continue reading…]

Frustration at the P.O.

(With apologies to Eudora Welty.)
Since I began unloading some CDs on Amazon Marketplace, I’ve been spending more time than usual at my local post office. In an effort to maximize my profit margin, like a good little capitalist, I’ve been using my tax dollar-funded government mail service to ship the Marketplace-sold items.
The majority of these items have been CDs, which I pop in to a CD mailer–purchased in bulk at our local OfficeMax–then slap a postage label on to before depositing it in the outgoing mail slot within the post office. I haven’t stood in line to interact with a postal worker to mail any of these items, instead using my good friend, the Automated Postal Center. (If you’ve never used an APC, think of it as an ATM that instead of dispensing cash takes it, and in return weighs your letter or light package and spits out the proper postage.)
So, as I was saying, I’ve always used the APC, and never had to wait in line to get postage.
Until today.
On Saturday, while out with my sweet, I stopped by the post office with the full intent of using the APC and leaving the outgoing CD in the appropriate mail slot, and getting on with the rest of our evening.
Only the APC was unable to dispense the postage for this particular parcel.
Because it’s going to an APO.
I got a message on the APC’s screen stating it was unable to provide postage for APO addresses, and I would have to stand in the always-long line and wait to interact with a postal worker. Sigh…
Today, after dropping the little phisch off at school, I steeled myself and entered the doors of the post office. Looking forlornly at the Automated Postal Center, standing by itself, waiting to be used, which no one was, I shuffled to the back of the already-long line.
Then I noticed that of the four stations at the counter from which a postal worker should be interacting with the citizens that fund their always-in-the-red dysfunctional “business”, there was one worker.
Twenty-five minutes later–I was so glad I had the foresight to bring a magazine–I began my interaction with the aforementioned solo postal worker. She did not know why the APC was unable to handle postage for an APO address. No, there was nothing really special about the APO address which would negate the APC being able to to process postage for it. It was likely just a matter of someone somewhere not having gotten around to programming the APC to handle APO postage. (Or better yet, some management bureaucrat not having made the decision to provide postage for APO addresses through the APC.) No, the APO postage for first-class mail was not any more expensive than first-class mail to any where else in the country. (Every CD I’ve shipped individually has been US $1.35. Every one. Including this one.)
So a half hour out of my morning to get the same little sticky piece of postage from a human that I could have gotten in two minutes from the Automated Postal Center. I’m thinking of running the calculations to see if the half hour of my time was worth the profit-margin savings. Then again, that just might frustrate me more.

We have a Sony DirecTV/Tivo unit my mother-in-law gave as a Christmas gift to us several years ago. In techno-age, it’s ready to retire and move to Florida, but it still does the job, and the TiVo interface is still light-years ahead of DirecTV’s own DVR receivers, of which we have two.
Some of the buttons on the Sony remote have stopped working, however, and it’s finally gotten to the point where we need a new remote. A trip to Sony’s web site reveals they no longer sell the remote (shocker, I know), but there is an online form with which you can inquire as to parts. So I fill it out, noting we have the DirecTV receiver/TiVo DVR combo unit, as well as putting in the only part numbers I’m able to find any where on the remote itself.
This was a month ago.
Today, I receive a reply from Sony. Therein, I’m told:

I think you might have model SVR2000. If this is it, the remote is rmtv303 (147603612) which is nla. Please go on www.yahoo.com and type in either the part number of the model number of the remote and do a search. There still should be internet distribuors that carry it.
Fine and dandy, this was along the lines of what I was expecting. Except the genius got the model number wrong, and the part number for the remote wrong. I only discovered this after doing exactly what is suggested above, running a Yahoo search. On one page which listed several remotes, I discovered another part number for a Sony TiVo remote, and it turned out to be the correct one.
For the record, the SVR2000 is the Sony TiVo DVR; it is not the DirecTV receiver/TiVo combo. That is model SAT-T60. The remote part number for the SAT-T60 is RM-Y809. I found a new one for $55, with a 30-day, money-back guarantee (yay, Yahoo!). This is future reference for myself, as well as help for anyone else who may find themselves in a similar situation.
I just think it shows very bad form for a Sony employee to, (a) take a month to respond, and (b) when finally responding, providing the wrong information. I was very explicit in noting that we had the DirecTV receiver/TiVo combo, and not the TiVo-only SVR2000.
Sony has rested on its laurels, and formerly well-deserved reputation, for too long, and it continues to result in products no one are buying, and poor customer service after the fact.

Do you know what sucks?

Having a quarter bottle of picante sauce in the fridge, plus an unopened bottle in the pantry, and not a single tortilla chip any where in the house.