Category Archives: Technology

TV Thursday – 1/31/13

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Arrow #1×11 – “Trust But Verify” – After a series of armored car robberies, Oliver realizes that one of the people on his list may very well be part of the heist ring.  Unfortunately, it also happens to be one of Diggle’s ex-military buddies and he refuses to believe that Ted Gaynor could have anything to do with it, after all, Gaynor had saved his life.  The two fight and Diggle storms off to meet with Gaynor, protects him from an interrogation session with Arrow and ends up being recruited into his security organization of former military veterans.  Arrow swipes a security key, which he takes to Felicity at Queen Consolidated to decrypt, promising her a bottle of expensive wine if she does.  It turns out to be routing information for all of the armored car companies in the city.  Meanwhile, Oliver’s sister Thea is moping around, she thinks her mother is cheating on the still-missing Walter and worse yet, she doesn’t think she’s going to get a car for her birthday. They have a massive party for her birthday and she does get a car.  She also gets a bag of a new illegal drug called Vertigo.  After the party, she takes the drug, gets in her new car and promptly crashes it.  Using the data, Arrow predicts where the crew will strike next and foils their next robbery and kills one of the ring.  Gaynor, who actually is running the crew, orders Diggle to take over the open spot or he will kill his sister-in-law.  Arrow swings in though, kills Gaynor, rescues Diggle and his sister-in-law and saves the day.  Finally, the police show up and arrest Thea because her tox-screen at the hospital shows she was driving under the influence.  We do get some more good information about Oliver’s time on the island, including the shocker that Yao Fei, the man who had saved him, was working with Fyers all along and was just using him.  That alone makes up for the fact that this was a very basic crime story, there are no super-powered villains, it isn’t even much of a surprise when Gaynor is revealed to be in charge.  We do get a little more movement on the mom/Merlyn plot, we know Walter is still alive at least.  All in all, not a fantastic episode, but a quite enjoyable one in the end.

Thumbs DownBones #8×13 – “The Twist in the Plot” – When a fat chick on a Segway falls on a corpse in the woods, Booth and Bones discover that it’s not just one body but two.  The first was a cancer patient, legally buried in a shallow grave to help her decompose rapidly, the second was her “death coach”, who was supposed to lead her to a peaceful demise.  However, none of these deaths are what they seem and it leads on a quest to discover who could want these two women dead.  Also, that idiot Daisy returns, not only with all of her demented stupidity, but a whole ton of angst as she and Sweets work together again for the first time since breaking up.  Now I’m never an advocate in these shows of the whole “who is fucking who” thing, these are supposed to be police procedurals or crime dramas, not soap operas.  I hate that Booth and Bones are screwing, I hated Sweets and Daisy together… no, I just hate Daisy with a passion, I want to see her dunked into a tank of sulfuric acid and pulled apart by a team of mules.  Having her be angsty on top of that?  It’s torture.  I thought Sweets was shooting low when they were together, in fact, he could have been boning a Great Dane and had more taste.  Daisy is a horrible, awful character, the worst of the squint-terns and most of them are nothing to write home about in the first place.  I was afraid the moment they saw each other, they’d be screwing on a desk somewhere, luckily they weren’t.  Yet.  I have no doubt whatsoever they’ll end up together because honestly, neither of them could get laid in a whorehouse otherwise.  The whole case was obnoxious too.  First, all of the new-age nonsense was dumb.  It was great seeing Vik Sahay again now that Chuck is gone, my first comment was “this is what happens when Jeffster breaks up”.  The whole “I only sleep with someone for four months” crap that the dead doula was slinging around was stupid too.  Dumb bitch deserved to die.  A bad case, paired with a re-appearance of Daisy, makes this episode relatively puke-worthy.  Unfortunately, a lot of Bones episodes have been like that lately.

Thumbs UpContinuum #1×01 – “A Stitch In Time” – Yes, I know this hasn’t aired in the U.S. yet, but it’s a Canadian property and the entire first season has already aired there, the second season is scheduled to start in April so I just went and got the entire Canadian run.  Good thing too, since the American version will be censored and I don’t want that.  I only had a chance to watch the pilot this week, I very well may get through 2-3 episodes per week in the coming weeks until I finish all 10 in the first season.  In 2077, the world is a paradise, run by corporations.  It’s not the kind of dystopian nightmare you see in cyberpunk Bladerunner-esque stories, it seems like a pretty nice place to be.  8 members of the terrorist organization Liber8, executed a plan to topple the corporations by killing their leaders in an attack that also killed thousands of innocents.  They were captured and sentenced to death, but at the last moment, manage to escape through a wormhole to the year 2012, accidentally dragging a Protector, Kiera Cameron, with them.  The terrorists have a plan, they want to destroy the corporate future before it happens, Kiera is the only one who knows who they are and what they’re planning to do.  She almost immediately makes contact with a young Alec Sadler, the genius upon whose work much of the future is based, who had only recently developed the secure frequencies that Kiera’s radio operates on.  She also meets up with a Vancouver cop named Carlos Fonnegra, who is impressed with her knowledge of the terrorist gang and encourages her to work with the Vancouver police department after they are directly attacked by the gang to retrieve one of their own who had been captured by Kiera.  Faced with no way to get home, she agrees.  I will say, I really liked this first episode a lot, I was worried that, since it’s a mixture of sci-fi and cop show, it would be too much one or the other but, so far at least, the balance is just about perfect.  There’s a lot of potential for a really great show here, even if there were one or two forehead-slapping moments.  Kiera initially doesn’t want to give Carlos her name, which he finds odd, so she “borrows” a name and badge number from another cop and claims to be from another precinct.  That’s easy enough to check out, but later on, when the chief of police asks her to stay on to help, he asks her to call her commanding officer and ask permission.  In reality, it would be him that would have to do so, but if he tried, the jig would be up.  I’m sure that will come up again later but it never should have flown by in the first place.  The police have procedures in place for a reason.  Still, I’m willing to overlook that for the moment, so long as it comes back to haunt her later.  Now I can’t wait to watch more.

Following #1×02 – “Chapter Two” – I complained somewhat about the first episode of this series and I’m still on the fence, although I might be starting to fall over.  At the end of the last episode, Carroll’s son had been kidnapped by the nanny and everyone was out looking for him.  They discovered that the nanny didn’t really exist, she was a plant by Joe Carroll named Emma, who was actually in love with one of the two guys playing gay lovers in the last episode.  Except I don’t think one of them was playing, he’s clearly got the hots for his former roommate and this is going to become a problem soon.  Anyhow, the half-wit Jordy goes on a killing spree, wiping out a sorority, just to prove he’s a follower in the Carroll Cult.  We introduce a new “head of the operation”, Debra Parker, to lead the investigation and she doesn’t like Ryan Hardy very much.  I guess I can understand why but she is openly hostile to him even being around, expert on the Carroll killings or not.  Almost immediately, Carroll calls for an interview with his wife and she’s told to play it cool and get him to tell her where their son is.  She freaks out and screams at him and pretty much spills the beans on everything Ryan has been trying to keep confidential.  Good job!  They discover Emma’s real identity and they quickly find her last known address.  It’s a long shot, but everyone races to the house.  There was a funny line when Shawn Ashmore’s character, Mike Weston said they couldn’t break into the house and Hardy responded “no, you can’t do it” and proceeds to smash in the back door.  We see Weston heading off the porch, but apparently he didn’t go into the house because Hardy is attacked by an absurdly obvious Poe-masked assailant who then escapes, even though at least three people are supposed to be at the house.  They check out the house and now, Parker wants to call it a cult case, even though she refused to do so just an hour or so earlier.  Make up your mind bitch.  When they were first walking into the house, I said that Emma’s mother was probably in the refrigerator, after all, it had pizza boxes on top of it and there were Chinese containers on the counter, if they killed her, they’d need to put her somewhere that her rotting corpse wouldn’t smell and alert the neighbors.  Nope, that would have made sense.  She was in the wall in the attic.  So why didn’t anyone smell her?  Anyhow, Hardy becomes convinced that Claire, the ex-wife and his ex-lover, is in danger so they race back to her house.  She’s fine but she’s got a really stupid security detail.  She goes up to go to bed and the cop with her walks into the room, looks around for a few seconds, doesn’t look in the closet or behind the door, then goes out in the hall.  I thought he was an acolyte for a minute because nobody can be that shoddy without a reason.  However, his bad job skills get him presumably killed by Jordy, who was hiding in the attic, even though Hardy identified plans from the cult house as being the basement.  How do you get from the basement to the attic through a house filled with cops?  Oops!  Claire isn’t too bright either, she’s facing a mirror as Jordy comes in and he’s obviously not the cop she was with before, he weighs nearly twice as much, but she pays no attention.  Jordy takes her prisoner and threatens to kill her, but Ryan talks him down, then shoots him in the shoulder.  He then goes to talk to Carroll, with a full load of guards so he doesn’t break anything else, and tells him that Jordy is still alive.  This apparently worries Carroll somewhat.  Parker takes a book of Poe to Carroll’s cell and it’s clear she’s part of his posse.  Oh brother.  At the end, Rick, another acolyte, dressed in a Poe mask, apparently douses a random man at a hot dog stand with gasoline and lights him on fire.  Life’s a bitch for that guy.  Honestly, I’m trying to figure out how they’re going to justify all of the cult followers that Carroll has, so far we’ve seen at least 6-7 of them who are willing to do anything he  wants including stab themselves in the eye with a knife.  When did he have time to set all of this up?  He couldn’t have set it up in prison, even though he had tons of people coming to see him, prison communications are monitored.  I hope they try to make sense of it all.  I know that I sound like I’m being negative but really, I liked this episode more than the first, I’m just picking a lot of nits that I think are obvious, that either the writers are blind to, or they have something more in mind than we’ve seen.  Either way, I hope it improves as time goes on, I know it’s hard to get a show off the ground without breaking some proverbial eggs. 

Mentalist #5×13 – “The Red Barn” – A 25-year old murder case seems to be connected to the string of Red John murders when Jane discovers a signature happy face painted on an old red barn where the murders took place.  Still fanatically obsessed over Red John, Jane has taken to locking himself in the loft, making lists of everyone he has shaken hands with in the past 15 years.  The case is also connected to the Visualize cult, which has been a thorn in the side of the CBI for a while now.  Jane finally has some new information and a lot of new questions.  Is Red John a member of Visualize?  Was this his first murder?  Can Jane actually remember the names of thousands of people he’s shaken hands with over the years?  Yeah, I don’t buy that last one either.  However, for the first time in a while, the Red John case is somewhat interesting again.  For a long time, it’s just been super-villain, always ahead of everyone, with a band of loyal-to-the-death followers carrying out Red John’s bidding, playing with Jane’s mind.  It’s been a while since they’ve had anything really new happen.  That said though, the Red John case has garnered national attention, it’s unlikely that nobody in 25 years would have noticed the giant smiling face on the barn and reported it to police, I think it would have been better had it been hidden in some way.  Still, it makes me care, slightly, about the case again, even though we all know that it won’t be solved until the last episode of the series and they have to keep doing something to string the audience along.

MurdochMysteriesThumbs UpMurdoch Mysteries #6×01 – “Murdoch Air” – I’ve never mentioned this series before, it’s a Canadian show about a detective in the 1890s, trying to solve mysteries before the advent of many modern forms of detection.  That doesn’t stop him, he’s always  developing the forerunners of modern police methods, from fingerprinting to blood evidence.  While it doesn’t get absurd, there’s somewhat of a steampunk feel to the series, just because he has a new device or a new method he’s working on.  He’s not the only one, the show’s female medical examiner is always coming up with new tests and procedures to perform on the corpses to catch the killer more effectively.  The show isn’t exactly serious either, a lot of the comedy relief falls to a young policeman who seemingly idolizes Murdoch named Constable George Crabtree, who wants to be a mystery writer and always casts cases in terms of fanciful mystery plots.  In this episode, a mysterious flying craft crashes in the middle of the city, carrying a pig and killing a man in the process and Crabtree immediately jumps to the conclusion that it’s made by pig-shaped aliens from outer space.  It takes quite a while to dissuade him from his initial conclusion.  It turns out that this mysterious flying craft is an entry into a million-dollar contest to the man who can make the first successful, remotely-piloted airplane, but someone is trying to sabotage or steal the entrants.  Luckily, Orville and Wilbur Wright are cleared of the crime and the Canadian government is very interested to confiscate the most likely winner for use in the war effort, if someone hadn’t stolen it first!  But who else could have done so but the Americans, who ship the airplane across the border by train, kidnapping the designer as well, since they can’t figure out how to make it turn.  Murdoch catches up with them, installs the ailerons on the stolen plane and the two of them fly back to Canada, making them the first men to ever pilot an airplane.  Of course, once they cross the border, the Canadian government is there to take the plane and the creator, not wanting to be responsible for building a weapon, pushes the plane over Niagara Falls.  It is a fun show if you can take the setting, although like I said, it’s all a bit tongue in cheek.  The actors are fantastic and even though I think they spend some time struggling how to get 1890s realities, including things like racism and sexism, on the screen with modern sensibilities, I think they do a decent job there maintaining a passable historical realism.  Take a look, it really is quite a good show.

Primeval: New World #1×09 – “Breakthrough” –  After a number of weeks away, Primeval returns in the wake of the disaster the episode before.  Angelika is gone (good riddance, couldn’t stand her), Mac is still freaked out, having found himself frozen in the basement and Evan has lost all confidence in his mission.  A skateboarder takes a video of a triceratops and posts it online, sending Evan and Dylan off to capture it, leaving Toby to try and mitigate the damage online.  She needs help and calls Mac, who helps convince the media that the whole thing was a hoax in exchange for Toby’s aid figuring out what it all means.  Evan and Dylan find that the triceratops is hiding on the estate of Evan’s arch-nemesis Howard Kanan, who blames Evan for his failures and is frankly more than a little crazy.  However, they pull together and create the timer that Evan has been trying to make for a while, now they can predict how long the anomalies will stay open.  It turns out that the triceratops is completely peaceful, which causes Dylan to get pissed when Leeds and his men show up and start shooting tranquilizers at it.  She manages to get his team picking flowers to feed the dinosaur, realizing that getting it back to the anomaly is going to be difficult, it’s much easier to let it walk on it’s own.  Evan and Howard locate the anomaly and, with only a few seconds to spare, Dylan sends the dinosaur home, just before Howard grabs the detector and timer and jumps through the anomaly and disappears.  Back in the original series, there was a character named Helen, the ex-wife of the lead character, who had discovered the anomalies and how to predict them and had worked the entire show to destroy mankind by unleashing dinosaurs and futuristic monsters on the world.  Howard is likely going to fulfill that sort of role here, someone who is crazy and depressed and probably wouldn’t mind seeing the world pay for mistreating him.  At least this gives us some kind of villain which this show has so desperately needed.  We also sort of got to see Leeds in action but he’s only in the show sporadically, I don’t really know how to feel about him.  We know he’s supposed to be working for some secret government think tank, we know he’s not being on the level with our crew, but he hasn’t done much all that underhanded yet, except stealing a baby dinosaur for some unknown purpose.  Do we have  two villains?  Is Leeds mean to mislead us?  Or is Howard the red herring here?  I guess I’ll have to keep watching to see!

Best of the Week:  I’m really, really torn this week, there are two shows that deserve credit.  Both Continuum and Murdoch Mysteries were extremely enjoyable.  While I don’t know what to expect with upcoming Continuum episodes, I do know that Murdoch is consistently fun, but I really can’t gauge based on an overall impression of the series.  Aw heck, it’s my blog, I’m giving it to both of them this week!

Worst of the Week:  Bones has been weak most of the season, with one excellent exception, but throw Daisy the retarded fucktoy into the mix and it scores especially low.  I had hoped that after the breakup, she’d be moving on to bigger and better things, like cleaning toilets in the commissary, but no, they have to keep bringing her back.  Knock it off!

Other stuff I watched this week:  Top Gear #19×01, The Black Cat (1934), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), McBain (Rifftrax)

Crazy Enviro-whackos and their Cars

Tesla CarsWe all know the silly Hollywood liberals who drive around in their special little Prius’ and act superior to everyone else.  However, there’s an even harder-core group that doesn’t want a gasoline engine at all, but still recognizes that they have to have a vehicle for transportation.  There’s a particular subset that I’ve run into who are strongly pushing the wholly electric vehicles, in particular, those made by California-based company Tesla.

At the moment, Tesla offers two models, a 4-door coupe, the Model S, which has a rage of 160 miles and starts at about $57,400 before tax credit.  Their high-end model, the Tesla Roadster has a range of 245 miles, a top speed of 125mph and starts at $109,000.  These are the stripped down base models, with extras your Roadster can easily surpass $130,000.

You’ve got to think, wow, for that amount of money, you’re really going to get something special, right?  Well… no.  Tesla cars just aren’t particularly good compared to gas-powered vehicles in the same class and price range.  In fact, you can get superior performance out of a vehicle that costs $10,000-$30,000 less, depending on model.

There were a couple of people talking about how amazing the Tesla Roadster was, that even at $109,000, it could go 125mph and make 0-60 in 3.7 seconds.  How outstanding!  Well sure, unless you look at the cars you could buy for less than $109,000 that manage similar or better numbers.  For about the cost of a Tesla Roadster, you could buy a Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 with a top speed of 205mph and can manage 0-60 in 3.4 seconds.  There are several high-end Mercedes Benz models in that range as well that perform as well or better than the Tesla.  Or you could just go with a Nissan GT-R R35, which does 193mph, makes 0-60 in 2.8 seconds and costs less than $80k.  There’s a huge list of cars that do much better than the Tesla.

But what about the Model S?  Most people don’t need a sportscar, the Model S was designed to  be a luxury coupe, surely it’s a good buy at almost $60,000, right?  Well, no.  Just skimming new luxury car prices online, I found a lot of cars that are much better and much cheaper than the Model S.  How about:

BMW 3 Series starting at $40,400.
Audi A5 starting at $43,600.
Audi Q7 starting at $46,250
Mercedes Benz SLK starting at $42,500.
Mercedes Benz C-Class starting at $44,370.
Mercedes Benz E-class starting at $49,800.
Infinity G37 Coupe starting at $40,900.
Cadillac CTS Coupe starting at $40,615.

People have complained how sparse the interior of Tesla vehicles are, that certainly doesn’t apply to the cars I’ve listed.

So what’s really behind this electric car madness?  It isn’t the quality of the vehicle, the efficiency of the vehicle or the performance of the vehicle, it’s a means to feel good about yourself as you drive around town in your over-priced prick-mobile.  Sure, you’re not burning gasoline when you’re driving around in your limited-range electric car, but you still have to charge it and where do you think the power comes from?  Oil and coal-burning plants!  Studies have shown that electric and hybrid vehicles require a lot more energy to produce than gas-powered vehicles.  It is true that if you drive your vehicle for an extended period of time, eventually, somewhere around 160,000 miles, the hybrid vehicle gas savings do win out over the gas vehicle costs, but seriously, how many people today drive their car that far?  The production of the batteries results in a huge release of greenhouse gasses, such as sulfur oxide.  We’re looking at 22 pounds of gasses for every hybrid on the market, higher for pure electrics, compared to 2.2 pounds for a gas-powered vehicle.  Further, the use of rare earth elements like lithium, essential for magnets used in hybrid engines, are almost exclusively mined in China and they are cheap, owing to the fact that China largely ignores environmental safeguards in their mining process.  In one case alone, in the Bayan Obo region of China, miners stripped the topsoil and separated out the lithium with acids which got into the ground water and obliterated nearby agricultural lands.  If China were required to follow accepted safe practices, the cost of lithium and thus the cost of hybrid and electric cars would increase dramatically.  Your $60k Tesla might cost you $100k.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of alternate fuels and if we can do it and protect the environment, that’s great.  However, the current wave of electric and hybrid vehicles just aren’t doing it.  In order to produce a new vehicle type that replaces the gas-powered car, you need to make something that is as good or better than the current cars on the market.  Electrics and hybrids simply are not.  There are four points where any alternative energy vehicle needs to be able to compete with what’s currently on the market:

  1. Performance
  2. Cost
  3. Range
  4. Ease of refueling

As you can see, electric vehicles especially fail at all four.  They do not perform as well as similarly priced gas vehicles, they cost far more than similarly equipped gas-powered vehicles, their range is woefully inadequate and recharging the batteries takes far, far, far longer than simply pulling into a gas station.  When traveling outside of town, especially on a long road trip, an electric vehicle becomes wholly untenable.  When you can go a maximum of 250 miles before recharging, what do you do when you’re heading across country?  Tesla test-drove their car from Los Angeles to Las Vegas non-stop, which stretched the vehicle to it’s limits.  Okay, you did that.  How do you come back?  Let’s say you’re staying at one of the hotels on the Las Vegas strip.  Do you think the hotel is going to let you run a long extension cord out to your car?  So I ran over to Tesla’s site to see what a typical recharge under realistic conditions would be.  To charge the battery for a 250 mile return trip, in your hotel parking lot, on a 110V outlet, it would take you… get this… over 54 hours to charge your battery.  What’s better, 54 hours without being able to move your car, or 5 minutes at a gas station?

So why do automakers produce these things?  Two reasons.  First off, because there is a decent portion of the auto-buying public that only cares about image.  They want to feel good about themselves without really caring if they’re helping the environment.  Secondly, because government regulations require a certain percentage of their fleet high a specific mileage standard.  Hybrids can hit that number because they use their electric engine a certain percentage of the time.  Electric cars have no requirements.  They make a certain number of models that get high mileage so they can make all the vehicles that people actually want that fall below the standards.  You know, the trucks and SUVs.

I’d love to see someone come up with a new vehicle technology that can actually compete with what we already have on the roads.  Then, and only then, will I say the day of the gas-powered vehicle is coming to an end.  However, that’s just not the case today and it doesn’t look like it will be any time soon.  Isn’t it about time we stop looking down our noses at people who aren’t driving these over-priced, under-powered, under-equipped monstrosities and accept that they are, in every conceivable metric, inferior to what we already have?

Spot the Robot

GE has some new really cool commercials out but this one really caught my eye, it features some of the best known robots in reality, TV and movie history, with a couple of notable exceptions that were likely too expensive to license.  Can you name them all?

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7DNYocXvR0′]