All posts by rick

About rick

I run this little shop 'o horrors, located in beautiful Portland, OR. Feel free to drop a line.

The holding pattern

Well, today was the due date. I haven’t talked about it much, but N and I are expecting a little girl here anytime. She’s been a trooper, we went out to a Christmas party last night, walked to NePo42 for a tasty breakfast.  She got gorgeous fluffy pancakes with apple (real apples hunks…bigger than chunks) and I got the biscuits and gravy and a bloody mary.  Augie got pet but no food.

The baby holding pattern is a weird stage in life.  I mean, it could happen at any time.  But it might not happen for days or even weeks.  In the meantime, you go about your business, but as Michael Lewis suggests in Home Game, it’s a good goal for the father to not show up to the birth drunk.  So, I’m trying to limit it to a friendly buzz.

So we’re trying get things together around the house, I’ve been playing a lot of video games, and we’re just hanging out.  Not a bad way to go, I suppose.

New toy review: Flip Mino HD

I recently received my new Flip camera.  I ordered online and got the custom design.  Sorta half-assed that, but that’s okay.  The first thing I noticed about it after picking it up is that it is lighter than I’d expect.  As in it feels somewhat plastic.  I immediately plugged it into my computer to charge it and play with it.  The charge happened pretty quickly, so the playing did as well.

The second thing you notice about the Mino HD is that it doesn’t have a lot of buttons.  There’s a big red one in the middle.  Must be important.  There’s right and left arrows, a plus and minus, a trash can, and a play button, none of which are tactile.  On the right is a flush button for power, and on the left is a slider that unlocks the USB.  This Flip has a place for an (mini) HDMI cable (that I don’t have) and tripod mount on the bottom.

Cleverly, the unit is entirely self-contained, with the exception of the soft sack that contains it.  Even the software comes onboard and is compatible with Mac and PC.  The movies play in Linux with mplayer, but then I have to forgo editing power, so I’ll overtax my poor old mac laptop.

The image stabilization was a key factor in my selection of this model.  I’m not looking to take Blair Witch baby movies (baby = reason I got this thing).  And I’m happy with the stabilization. It does a pretty good job and making my non-surgeon hands feel steady.

I am not happy with the non-tactile buttons.  Their placement is awkward for me, in that I hit them when I don’t want to and can’t hit them when I do.  Running the entire set down each side with a selector for right-or-left-handed operation might be an interesting way to handle it.

The screen is fine, it shows you what you’re filming, and since you can’t control anything but zoom and what you’re pointing at from where, it doesn’t matter except for framing and sanity check.  We’re not filming the next great Galifinakis film here, it’s a Flip so I can film my daughter (upcoming) and dog and send them to family and a few friends who care.

I’ve had the Flip crash on a few occasions.  Lockup, lockdown, both ways to Sunday.  One time I had to jam a paper clip into the tri hole.  That let it do a hard reset, which didn’t appear to do anything more than a plain reset (data was still there) except it worked again.  It’s a simple device and I haven’t used it that much, so it’s feeling fairly unstable so far.

The software is fine.  It seems like it might have the beginnings of some social characteristics, but I think it’ll be a pretty nice way to send stuff to the aforementioned family and friends.

Overall, I’m going to give the Flip Mino HD a C+/B-.  In some ways it’s great, but in too many ways it’s just not awesome enough.

New toy review: Amazon Kindle 3

I’m a book lover. By nature. I find flipping pages, browsing aisles, and even falling asleep on a book, to be comforting. But I’ve been eyeballing the Kindle (and the Nook and the eReader) since it came out. With the price dropping to under $150 (sans 3g), it was suddenly accessible. I started to think about it, but never quite pulled the trigger. Which was fortunate, as the lady got me one for my birthday. I was stoked and surprised.

It was smaller than I expected, and light. But it felt nice. I was enamored with the Kindle from the beginning. In some ways, the Kindle (and its ilk, perhaps) is the most amazing advance to happen to readers since Twilight. I mean the printing press. It holds a lot of books in a tiny package.

For one thing, the Kindle is awesome for travel. Instead of 4 pounds of books, I can load a few into the Kindle, along with some magazine subscriptions. And it still weighs like 5 ounces.

The screen is nice to read on. e-Ink is pretty cool…it’s a lot like reading a book. The batteries last forever. Really, the reading experience is fairly booklike.

It’s possible to jailbreak the Kindle. While Amazon is has released the KDK, it’s only available to established development firms. And one dude created KIF, Kindle Interactive Fiction, which lets people play Zork, Enchanter, and other Infocom games, in addition to tons from the IF Archive. I’m very tempted…

Unfortunately, the Kindle keyboard is barely adequate. The letters were rubbing off the within a day of ownership. The buttons have strange tactile response. I’m not too fond of the design either, having the D-pad between buttons above and below.

I’m not thrilled about the location of the paging buttons either. I’d like something on the back, maybe a movable grip of sorts. It’d be a nice accessory. I’d also like the forward/back to be be programmable…I’d like symmetry between the two, as there are books where I go forward and back a fair amount.

The Kindle store is great. IF you know exactly what you want. Otherwise it is terrible. It’s miserable to browse. I downloaded a few of the classics for free, now it thinks I don’t read anything written after 1907. I do have an Amazon account it could pull from. But it doesn’t appear to.

One of the things that I love about books is bookstores. Browsing them, recommendations, groupings, the smell, the lighting, the surprises. So far, I haven’t had any of those from the Kindle store. And that’s a huge disappointment.

Airplanes don’t understand the Kindle yet. They made me turn it off. The Kindle works the same off as on. It draws power when you press the buttons. Otherwise, it’s about like a watch. So you’re stuck reading SkyMall for the first and last 10-20 minutes of your flight.

I can’t share with the Kindle very well. Apparently, I can share, but only for like two weeks, and only so many times. I don’t like limitations like that. I like to send my books into the wild, especially the ones that I like. We have book exchanges, and this doesn’t make that easy.

I feel like a traitor when I walk into an independent bookstore. I love Powell’s and I love the other Indy booksellers and I will continue to support them.

But I was at a conference a couple weeks ago and a speaker (@eugenelee of Socialtext) called out a good book that I’d read, so when he recommended one that I hadn’t read, I purchased it in a minute from the Kindle store in the conference.

I’ve enjoyed the highlighting and notes features. There’s a very slight social nature to it, in that you can see what others have highlighted. I’d like to see this expanded. Maybe connect with people with similar interests, build reading and discussion groups, whatever. There’s a lot of power available there.

So, I’ve been pretty rough on the Kindle here. But really, I love it. Overall, I’m giving it a B. There’s plenty of room for improvement. But I like it, it’s a pleasing device, and I will continue to use it. It is nice to read on, and feels a lot like reading a book. I do like having a dedicated device for reading.

Instant Replay in Soccer

After the US’s disappointing (yet thrilling) tie against Slovenia, you can be sure that there will be a clamor for instant replay in soccer. On the surface, it seems like a great idea. Matches will end with the true winner victorious, honor will be restored to the game.

This is a terrible idea. There is a purity about soccer. 23 men on the pitch, and only a few rules on how to play the game. All you need is a ball and some friends to play.

It’s true, there are a lot of bad calls. Sometimes the referee is biased, sometimes, he’s bad, and sometimes he gets emotional. But bad calls are a part of the game. You can’t interrupt the fluidity to stick your face into a replay booth every time someone is unhappy with a call. Because the review would overturn the call too often.

In a soccer game there are 22 players on the pitch, and they are subject to the rule of one man: the referee. If the referee decides that the game should last for 112 minutes and kicking with your left foot is a foul, that’s how the game will be played. People may not be happy with it, and the ref will likely not be invited back, but that is the game that was played.

GQ’s best brews

Lisa the beer goddess has called my attention to an article in which GQ calls out the 50 best beers. These things are such a matter of opinion and experience it doesn’t make sense to argue much, but I think they hit a lot of good ones.

I’ve previously mentioned the Duchesse as a favorite. I’m also a fan of Southern Tier who didn’t make the list. Que sera.

SxSWi was a good time

and I learned a lot. And met some nice people.

There were a lot of major themes. I was happy to see the internet future includes thoughts on how all this stuff will work inside business too. As a corporate lacky, this is valuable stuff for me, and for a long time it has seemed neglected. The main focus here was around corporate culture and the roles of communities and community managers. Interesting conversations with Saul Colt and Mallory Messina. A particular surprise was the huge value I got from a brief chat with Capt. Broshear or the USAF. Challenging concepts to translate from military to business, especially in regards to openness!

Search is one of my favorite topics, and I saw a few talks on the subject. Peter Morley, author of Ambient Findability, spoke on Search Patterns. Pretty interesting stuff.

And then there is the whole where am I where are you do I care wtf do I do with that? set of presentations. Geolocation is huge and going to get much huger. Great stuff from Adam Duvander who happens to be geolocated right down the street from me, as well as Skyhook and SimpleGeo. Truly, these people get it. It was great to see, hear, and spin on this stuff.

It was great to connect with the local Portland crew. There are some good folks out there. I liked the Macallan samples and the other free stuff too!

Thanks Texas!

SxSW – what’s a beerdrinker to do?

N and I are heading down to Austin shortly to catch the SxSW interactive conference and spend some time with her sister who moved there from somewhere I didn’t want to visit about 6 months ago. So I think I can find my way around a conference. But what about the city? Any tips…beer, BBQ, texmex, or whatnot. Cheers.

PS. Just saw the Tron Legacy preview and it looks pretty awesome.

How not to get shot by the police

okay, police violence sucks. It’s a drag that unarmed people get shot. Lately, I’ve been putting together some tips I’ve picked from my years of experience not getting shot at by the police in an effort to help people avoid the short barrel of the law.

First, you can take a preemptive strike and keep the police away in general. Try to avoid situations in which housemates and loved ones feel the need to call the police in regards to you. Sometimes it’s easiest to just go to bed and apologize in the morning.

Now, it might happen that you can’t avoid the police. Like you were speeding or made a bad lane change. In that case, it’s easy to avoid getting shot at. Stay in the car. In the seat that you have been in the whole time. Keep your hands on the steering wheel. Listen to the instructions. They’ve been trained to make them simple. Things like “step out of the car” and “don’t reach for the glovebox” are good ones to act on. Slowly (we will return to this).

A really good way that I’ve learned to not get shot is to not hold a gun. You may even be able to make it through life (the long version) without owning a gun. They’re rentable, and in many places they are not actually requisite for safety. However, I appreciate your preparedness for survival after the fall. I think that it is completely possible to not get shot by the police and still own a gun. All you need to do is follow one simple rule: only get the gun out if you intend to use it. Mardi Gras parties and community theater do not count as legitimate uses.

Keep in mind that once you’ve been tagged as “having a gun” you’re going to have a tough time shaking that rep. So leave it in the shoebox away from the kids. Guns are scary to a lot of people when they pop-up in unusual situations like “watching Jeopardy”.

So, let’s say you haven’t been able to avoid the police paying you a visit. Whether it’s your house or a bank robbery, the same principles apply. First, when you’re caught you’re caught. At this point, the cops are not on your doorstep to make a judgment. They’re there to diffuse a situation. Don’t try to sweet talk out of it, and yelling isn’t going to help. Be easy to work with. Move slowly. Steady, following instructions. If they say get down, they don’t mean dance. Keep your hands visible. To the police. Avoid sudden movements like running, reaching for things, turning. And if you have a weapon, let them know with words.

You need to keep in mind that the police really don’t know what you’re thinking. When their guns are drawn, it’s because they think they may need to use them to protect themselves or innocent bystanders. At that time, it’s your job to not give them a reason.

Tomorrow’s a new day. You can sort it out then.

I’m not copaphile. They’d better have a damn good reason for pulling that trigger. I’m not happy to see cruisers on the street in general. But if someone’s incapable of following these simple steps and a tragedy occurs, it’s pretty tough for me to point a finger.

up again

2010 hit like an angry bull in a brillo tornado. Well, not that bad, but it’s been pretty freakin’ nonstop. Work’s been crazy. Picked up some tech reading on the side. Been finishing the basement. A few ski trips. Daily-ish gym trips, yoga, and cycling. Lots of brewing. Sorry I haven’t been sharing. I’ve been somewhat holed up in many ways.

Anyways, I apologize. It’s not you, it’s me. But I hope to be visiting more often again. Remember the good times we’ve had?

Barrel Projects

Over the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some outstanding homebrewers on some barrel projects. Basically, we get 10 or so people to each brew a batch(es) of a particular beer, then we get together to siphon it into a bourbon barrel. The beer then ages over a month to many months, changing in character and gaining oak and bourbon flavors.

So far I’ve reaped the benefits of a baltic porter and an imperial IPA. The porter was outstanding, creamy and rich. The IPA was good. It came out with a deep citrus bite that opened to a summery floral taste.

I got to same the Oud Bruin last night, it’s been aging for 8 months or so, and has begun souring nicely. Basically, each contributor brewed a strong brown ale of their choice with little regard for consistency. When we transferred to the barrel, wild yeast and bacteria were added with the intention of souring the beer. Last night it was smooth and delicious at about halfway. It has a bizarre white layer of rot floating on top of it. This is by design for this beer. The barrel we used had already turned, souring beers that were not intended for that.

Last night we filled a barrel with an imperial alt, it’ll probably be pulled in a month or two after picking up the oak from a freshly charred barrel.

Currently, I’m looking for about 5 gallons to go into a dubbel barrel very soon. If you are interested, drop me a line via email or in the comments, and I’ll send you a recipe. cheers!

Happy New Year!

It’s a new year and I have a lot of resolutions on my mind, and I’m working through what I want to really focus on. But two really stick in my mind as relevant and important. The first is to continue on the path that I set out on mid-year last year, cultivating relationships and habits that really help me move forward. The second is to make and drink more of my own beer, and specialty beers, and to spend less time drinking commodity beers, even from the great microbreweries.

These are the adventures that I will be sharing over the course of this new year in this space, I hope that you will join me!

cheers,
rick

Visiting Portland Guide: Crawl #1

Jeff at Beervana poses a question: what five beers are a connoisseur’s must-haves visiting Portland. I might have to tackle that, but really, Jeff is really on top of that in his post. I suggested a different route, a road trip around Mt. Hood. But I also threw in a crawl that I think is really worth sharing with your Portland visitors.

Begin at Rontom’s. If it’s nice out, enjoy the patio. If not, squeeze in and grab a pint. Next, move on to B-side, for a quick pint. Then, The Farm for dinner if you’re hungry. Eat light, because Noble Rot has great snacks too. Work off the meal with a light stroll up to Union Jack’s. You’ll need a few bucks for cover to this strip club. Then head up to Doug Fir and Voodoo Donuts to see how the hipper half live. Maybe there’ll be a great show downstairs. Finally, cruise up to Sandy Hut where they’ll be happy to pour you something potent while you wait for a cab.

madman brewing

wow…current inventory in the basement: 10 gallons imperial alt (carboys), 10 gallons dubbel (carboys), 5 gallons IPA (carboy), brown, IPA, porter (cornies). The 10-gallon batches are destined to go into barrels for aging.

Brewing for the impatient: The process

The process of turning raw ingredients into delicious beer is an extremely complicated one. It involves chemistry, biology, physics, and magic, plus a potentially infinite budget for copper, stainless, and rubber whizbangs. I have only scratched the surface of the possibilities. That is by design.

Alchemy thanks to Princeton.  I owe a beer.

So, completely neglecting the science involved, and getting to the sequence of events that need to take place to make beer, here is the brewing process in a nutshell.

  1. Extract sugars from grains, producing wort.
  2. Boil wort, adding ingredients at appropriate times
  3. cool wort and transfer to fermenter
  4. add (pitch) yeast
  5. let yeast work magic
  6. transfer beer to delivery vessel

That’s it. Extract, boil, cool, wait, drink. You can say “Every boy can wear dresses” to help you remember. In upcoming articles, I’ll go into some details around what happens in these phases, and how to git’er done.

Brewing for the Impatient: your mash tun

I cannot believe how long it took me to build my mash tun. In then end I think I was a bit intimidated, partly because I didn’t really understand what a mash tun was. Whenever I set down to research it, I’d end up on some long-winded analysis of manifold efficiency and sparge mechanics. What I’ve since learned is that a mash tun is a container that keeps water and grain at a stable temperature. That’s it.

To build an effective mash tun, you need to consider only a few simple things:

  1. Stable temperature
  2. extract water from mash tun (aka spigot/valve)
  3. filter grain from water
  4. capacity

Don’t get me wrong, you can derive path lengths, surface to volume, gravity and pump feeds, and whatever else you feel like. Later. But if you want to git’er done today, that’s the meat of it.

Here’s a look at the mash tun I built. You can probably do it simpler, since I managed to lose the spigot fittings. In fact, a conversation with Michel Brown inspired much of this, and his suggestion was to take a simple rectangular ice chest and fix a piece of steel wool in front of the spigot as a filter. That’s not what I did, but it sounds like a solidly impatient way to go.

I started with a typical 10-gallon orange round igloo-style cooler. I removed the spigot and lost the pieces after two moves.

Here’s a photo of the pieces I used:

From Brewing

The parts are all 1/2″. The tubing is a piece of braided stainless steel 40″ washer tubing with the rubber piece removed. I used a hacksaw to cut the ends off and then pushed the braided steel over the rubber hose (rather than pulling) while holding the hose with needle nose pliers. Note that many of the washing machine hoses are actually a polymer, and I’m not entirely sure if it matters a bunch. They look almost identical, though the polymers appeared to have two thicker threads per braid whereas steel had four.

And here’s how they fit together:

From Brewing

The washer indicates where the cooler wall goes. The parts are all 1/2″. I used two o-rings per side and compressed the heck out of them to get a good seal.

From Brewing

The final pieces screwed into the T-joint and I collared the braid onto them.

When everything is assembled, test it. Fill it with water and let it sit for 45 mniutes. Then do it again with hot (170 deg F) water. Close it up and let it sit. There should be no leakage.

PS. Why no equipment list? Invariably something is unavailable or hard to find, and that always mucks up the works for me. But you can find detailed instructions here or here.

Specialty beer prices

Like Jeff, I recently followed a thread at the OBC about the price of beer. It was surprisingly heated, considering that nobody was forcing people to drink specialty beers, and these are people who spend a lot of time making beers of their own and promoting the craft. Jeff’s article is very thoughtful and reasonable (as usual) , and we both draw similar conclusions.

But I wanted to toss in a few more pieces. Beer is experiencing an evolution. Craft brewing is growing beyond the classics. New styles are popping up. Brewers are experimenting. And frankly, beer is getting better.

To produce specialty beers, there are often unique processes involved. These can increase expense in several ways. First, the process itself can be expensive. Equipment of the quality and magnitude required by a brewery can cost a lot, education to apply the techniques can be costly. Second, the experiments leading to the process can be expensive. Third, the time involved is expensive. Additional steps take time. With specialty beers, that can be a lot of time. Barrel aging requires that the beer stay in a location for an extended period of time. This not only takes up space with stock not rotating, but can be a financial burden by extending beyond net-30 by definition.

Then there is the risk. Brewing is a combination of art and science, of chemistry, biology, and physics. In those realms, things get complicated fast as more variables are introduced. Putting beer into a barrel greatly increases the risk of spoilage. Roasting/smoking/whatever grains can introduce off flavors. If a batch goes bad, that can be extremely costly to a brewery. This risk needs to be accounted for in the cost of the beers unless you’d see the producer of your favorites disappear suddenly after a batch goes wrong.

So those are some of the more tangibles contributors to higher cost. Jeff makes an interesting observation regarding scarcity as well. By pricing these beers higher, it makes it possible for a greater number of consumers to enjoy the products, rather than a smaller number of entities rapidly depleting the market. Seems like a supply and demand curve for people who like beer.

In addition, there is the perception of beer. The far more established wine market is a good one to consider. The economics tends to work itself out. Cheap wines are typically mass produced and lack character. There are occasional gems, but those typically climb the scale or are a bit more lucky catches. There are plateaus as you move up the price scale, to inexpensive wines, moderate, expensive, and so on, with each level improving in quality. Typically you’ll find diminishing returns as you climb up in price, so the goal is to find the right wine for you at the time. Now, the same can be applied to beer. The mountain doesn’t climb as high, but the plateaus are there. Keystone, Natural Light, and others form the foundation, supporting Budweiser, Coors, Miller, Corona, Heineken, Fosters, and many others sit here at the sweet spot of the American pallet. On top of that we go to the Bridgeport IPAs, Hefeweizen, Mirror Ponds, Terminal Gravity, and other distributed microbrews. Some of these breweries make craft beers as well, and those being to fill the next tiers, along with Rogue, Dogfish Head, Stone, and many others.

The great thing about the larger microbreweries pushing up the plateaus is that it really opens the door for smaller breweries to do the same. At those price points, breweries like Upright Brewing and Captured by Porches can release their specialty runs without needing to compete at the 6-pack level. So even if Abyss is overpriced, it is a great thing for beer in general. Buy a bottle and share it with some friends. Or just drink it yourself.

Brewing for the Impatient

I’ve been thinking long and hard about writing a series on homebrewing. By no means am I a great homebrewer…in fact I am only beginning to dabble in brewing all-grain beers. However, after surveying the various writings on the internets about the subject, I have found that most have one flaw in common: they go too deep.

To make good (often very good) beer, it doesn’t take a deep understanding of flocculation curves or the dynamics of viscous fluids. It takes a cursory understanding of a number of interrelated phenomena, the ability to execute on simple instructions, some gear, and a lot of water.

This series will not prepare you to enter competitions. It will not even scratch on the esoteric knowledge that is possessed by a number of brewers I admire. It will show you some places where you can cut corners.

If you read this, and it makes your brewing better (or worse) please, let me know. Also, many areas have clubs where homebrewers gather to share their experiences and learn or bitch about stuff. The people are typically friendly (often in a curmudgeonly way), and are happy to help.

cheers
rick

The Dems are blowing it

Okay, I’m pretty frustrated with the more liberal party right now. Tuning in, there are two major themes right now. Health care and Fort Hood. These are both important issues, but I am not liking what I’m hearing.

First, Fort Hood was a tragedy, plain and simple. But the theme that I’m hearing on the (left) radio is almost a defence of of Hasan for the pressures he was under. Laying the onus on the military, that they didn’t listen enough. It’s a military, not a cruise ship. I do not, and cannot know the true motivations of the shooter, whether he snapped, if it was terrorism, or what. But what he did was wrong, extremely wrong, and he is the responsible party in the end. This was premeditated. And it was a tragedy. My heart goes to all those affected.

Second, health care. Now that things are happening (for better or worse) people are bitching about one particular issue. Abortion. And that it may or may not be covered by the health care plan. All I can say is that this is not the time or the place to make a Roe v Wade stand, or whatever bill is up your craw. Abortion as covered in the health plan must defer to other laws as to its treatment. That’s right. Leave it the heck out of the health care bill, at most indicating that it will be covered as a health issue as prescribed by the law. Then if there are laws that block what you see is right, tackle those. But quit screwing up our freaking health care bill, it’s complicated enough already.

So those points bring me to my overarching problem with the dems. They just can’t seem to get their act together. Really. Let’s find some alignment. It isn’t perfect, you won’t please everyone. One of your jobs isn’t just to represent the people (or too often the money), it is to turn it around and influence the people with what is right. You need to make the hard decisions and sell them back to your constituents. So get it together, get a keel on your ship, and let’s get something done before half of you get fired next year.

2009 retrospective – loss and renewal

It’s been an amazing year. In some ways great, but there were some painful times. It seems that there’s a cycle where every now and then I need to go through some changes. Change is painful, and this was no exception. I didn’t always handle it well, and at points I handled it very badly. I’m not sure that I was built with the emotional fortitude to maintain the stoic coolness I’d need to manage the changes. Que sera.

In many ways I’ve completely realigned my worldview. Soccer no longer has a starring role. With that shift, my relationships both internal and external have changed dramatically. It wasn’t easy, I put a lot of my life into the game, the people, it was a passion, and still is, albeit sidelined. I no longer have the conduit for my emotional, social, and physical energies that I have known for so long. Soccer was my culture, and its people were my people. But as I had to pull myself away, things changed.

At the same time, work was changing. I felt betrayed by my job. Not for any good reason, but because of uncertainty. The changes built on top of each other. Energies otherwise spent spun on impending change that I had no control over. I felt that I was training people to commoditize my job. The world was falling apart, and mine was metamorphosing.

And change is painful. A full-blown depression, what was in my head I felt in my body. It was pretty weird, and tough to shake. And it didn’t feel good. It took a lot of work, facing my demons, sorting out what I wanted, rediscovering myself.

But slowly I emerged from the fog. It was the clarity of a clear day, morning sun lighting the mist in beams through crisp air, the bright haze bringing out the depth of the forest. Renewed purpose, a rediscovery of joy. I think I’m in a better place. But why is it so hard to get here? My friend Cory, a brilliant personality theorist had forewarned me that something like this would happen. There’d be painful changes and I would have difficult discoveries.

I wish that I hadn’t alienated some people who were important to me in the process, but eventually I’ll discover deeper meaning. I don’t think I’m through it yet, but I’m grateful for the change, I guess the pain is part of the learning.

What’s the Matter with V?

I was pretty excited about V. It was bringing back what in my mind was the original miniseries, and a nice bit of sci-fi. But this time with a budget and awesome effects and some hindsight on making a great series. Plus, I wrapped BSG and 4400 up pretty recently and need a new sci-fi serial fix.

I watched the pilot last night, and was a bit disappointed. 4400 was great, and there are some strong ties to that show here, between Joel Gretcsh and Scott Peters they really raised the bar. And after one episode, I just am not hooked. I will give it another go, but I’m not chomping at the bit for more yet.

I’ve heard people criticize and/or laud V for its ‘harsh commentary on Obamamania.’ It definitely made unveiled references to the president and current political situations. Brave. But they came out looking like something from a Sophomore’s script. Just silly. A commentary on universal health care and hope. We all know what the visitors are. They’re also presented as terrorists. I have to “hope” that the Obama references were limited to their uninspiring pilot, that their intention is to borrow from many modern charismatic leaders for the evolution of the V plot.

I suppose that my advice for the V writers is if you want to go political, start by modeling ideologies and create parallels. People will get it, and they’ll point it out for the ones who don’t…or at least the message boards will start lighting up. Get too specific and your point will be watered down, and at some point you’ll have to sacrifice your principles in favor of the fiction, or vice-versa. Symolism and metaphor are powerful tools. Billboards are too, but I’d prefer to see them on the highway (or not at all).

I was not upset by the rate at which the visitors were revealed as sinister. It wasn’t going to surprise anyone, so why put that sort of effort into a surprise? So they needed to spend some time on character development. Unfortunately they wasted too much on demonstrating which stereotype to model each character on. Most annoying was the whiny-teen you’re never around because you’re saving the world archetype of the son. Of course he’s going to be a V ambassador (or was it Hope?). Chad Decker looks to be the Faustian reporter who will sell-out his principles and the human race. I can only hope that he has a fraction of the complexity of Gaius Baltar, but for now it looks like he’s going to be the visitor’s reluctant lapdog, accepting more and more power, until he grows a pair and starts to help the resistance on the sly.

The product placement in V was pretty robust. It felt like there was almost as much as in 24. iPhones and cars and more. Lots of stuff for us to buy. Maybe it’s a visitor plot.

A two-hour pilot would’ve been a wise move. If you’re creating an epic, it helps to build empathy and plot. But if it’s a teen drama don’t worry about it.

I will watch the next episode, and probably the rest until the break. And then I’ll decide if V will continue to visit my living room. It wasn’t terrible, but so far I just don’t care, and my TV time is valuable! One positive is that V inadvertently introduced me to FastForward, which is excellent so far…sort of cop show meets memento with a bit of sci-fi thrown in.