Archives » September, 2006

September 25, 2006

The Amazing Race 10×02: Can Horses Smell Fear?

The Amazing Race is back! Season 10 started last week, and so far it seems to be avoiding the “even number” curse that I wrote about earlier. Of course, it’s hard to tell from these early episodes how the rest of the season is going to run. I still remember Season 6, where it started out with a lot of awesome teams and a few sucky ones, and we the audience were forced to sit back and take it as all the awesome teams got picked off one after another, leaving us with a progressively larger percentage of suckitude. So I’ve learned not to judge the season until it’s almost over, or at least not to get my hopes up too soon about how good it’s going to be. Because you never know when the wife-pushing is going to come into play, and that kind of ruins the party for everybody.

But this new season has a lot going for it, mainly because there are suprisingly few people who suck, so there’s less of a chance of us getting screwed over. At least I hope so. It could be that the sucky people just haven’t revealed themselves yet. And with the elimination of Vipul and Arti at the end of the first show, you can see that we’re already starting to lose some of the good ones (and cute…give me Arti over the “beauty” “queens” any day). So I’m optimistic, but I’m also ready to start saying, “Oh, see?” at any time.

So, having disclaimed the hell out of it, I’m ready to say that I’m having a lot of fun watching the show. Last night’s episode, the second one, was one of the most hilarious that I’ve seen in a long time. The Amazing Race has always had two comedy stalwarts, old geese that they can count on to lay golden eggs every time. Those two are brokedown cars and ornery animals, and for this second leg of the race they decided to combine the two into one action-packed show. And it did not disappoint.

First we had the Russian military jeeps, which go a long way in showing what the Russians thought of their soldiers. These jeeps had bad tires, jacks that didn’t work, they got stuck in the mud, they wouldn’t start, and needed weird little cranks to get going. I think every single team had some kind of car trouble, though none quite as bad as David and Mary, who got their jeep buried so deep it probably had to be airlifted out.

And then there were the animals. The parade of ornery beasts started with the horses, who you usually don’t think of as having a nasty streak. But Chinese horses must be a little more mischievous. One of them decided it would be fun to have a game of “drag the beauty queen”, and came seriously close to winning the gold medal in that category.

Then another one managed to clothesline Kimberly on a tree branch and knock her flat on her ass. It was a scene straight out of a cartoon, and it was so hilarious that we had to rewind it and watch it again. Tex Avery I think was reincarnated as a horse, because that there was some pure slapstick. How pissed do you think the cameraman was that there was a tree trunk blocking the shot?

But the horses weren’t even the end of it. They were just the warm-up act, the appetizer to the main course. The real stars of the show last night were the beasts known as the “hynik”. This is a word that I am certain Phil just made up on the spot, but it’s basically a fancy name for a Mongolian Yak. And these yaks must have been specially trained to give tourists a hard time, because they refused to cooperate almost as much as the camels from seasons past.

Not only were they just stubborn and insisted on zigging when everyone wanted them to zag, one of them also decided to break out in a 100-yard dash in the middle of the task. Twice. I had no idea yaks could run that fast, but I guess there must be something in that Mongolian water because that hynik knew how to book it. The first time it did it, it was funny. The second time was even more so, and if it had gone for three there would have been some serious comedy happening. Things are funnier in threes, after all. But it wasn’t to be. Peter and Sarah gave up on the hynik and pulled a rare double Detour switch, going back to the yurt-folding task they had already ditched once. I think the rule to be learned here: never trust an ox. Just ask Colin.

So in the end, it came down to a fire archery contest. But really it came down to something far more simple than that, driving and navigation. The cheerleaders, Kellie and Jamie, took a very wrong turn somewhere and didn’t even arrive at the final task until after everyone else was already checked in at the pit stop. They still gave it their best shot though, slinging arrows until well after dark. And even though all the other teams were able to get one lucky shot sooner or later, the girls never did. So, already knowing they were last, they just gave up and marched to the mat.

Overall it was a really promising episode, and the elimination didn’t leave me disappointed. The cheerleaders weren’t bad, exactly, but there were a lot of other teams I would have been sorry to lose. Kellie and Jamie were just kind of there, and if it wasn’t for their constant game of patty-cake in the back of taxis, I don’t think I’d remember them at all.

Other links:
Miss Alli’s recaplet
TV Guide review
TV Squad review
Download the episode with BitTorrent

September 21, 2006

RSS and Time Zones

If you’re in charge of generating RSS feeds, make sure you get the time zone information right. I just sent this note to Weblogs Inc.:

I’m having a technical issue with your RSS feeds. Maybe someone else has already brought this up to you.

In your RSS feeds, you’re including the time each item was published, and you’re using the Eastern time zone. So each post has something like this:


That was published at 6:08pm Eastern time. But after the time you have this: +00:00. That makes the computer reading the feed (mine) think it was published at 6:08pm Greenwich time. My feed reader displays the published time as 11:08am Pacific time, instead of 3:08pm Pacific time, like it should. So the item gets buried 4 hours down in my news river.

Is it possible at all to change your RSS feeds so they read something like this:


That includes the proper time zone information for Eastern Daylight Time (-04:00) so my feed reader doesn’t get screwed up.

This is happening on the TV Squad feed, but a quick look around shows the same problem on some other Weblogs Inc. sites.

Time zones can be tricky, and feed readers are usually smart enough to translate from one zone to another. But publishers need to make sure the time zone information is right in the first place, or else it all gets screwed up.

If you’re using a folder-based RSS reader, you probably don’t even notice things like this. But I’m using Omea Reader in “newspaper” mode, where all the feeds are combined into one big river of news, sorted by date. Brand new items from feeds with this problem don’t show up at the top, they show up four hours in the past, which is a pain in the ass for me because then I have to scroll backwards to try to find them

So if you’re publishing RSS, make sure you get the time zones right!

September 20, 2006

Mineral King

If you’re a true Disney Geek, you’ve heard of the Mineral King Ski Resort that Walt Disney wanted to build in the California Sierra backcountry. It was going to be a huge, first class resort, rivaling any at Tahoe or Colorado, and it was also going to be the home to an animatronic stage show that later became the Country Bear Jamboree.

Well, Walt Disney died, and the Sierra Club fought against the project, so it never got built. A decade later the Mineral King Valley was annexed into Sequoia National Park, and that was the final nail in the plans. Today the area is remote, at the end of a winding mountain road, and out of all the people who have heard of Mineral King probably only the smallest percentage have actually been up there to visit it. I sure haven’t.

But storyteller-extraordinaire Jim Hill has. And yesterday, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Disney’s original Mineral King press conference, he posted an entire article about his visit, full of pictures of the road, the ranger station the conference was held at, and the valley where the resort was going to be built.

Photo by Nancy Stadler

If you have any interest in Disney history, you’ve got to check out his article. He promises that sometime soon he’ll have more details on what the resort itself would have been like had it been built, and his stories of “the Disney that never was” are always entertaining.

September 17, 2006

Amazing Race 10 BitTorrent Files

Once again, The Amazing Race is on the air. And once again, I’ll be posting BitTorrent links to each of the episodes.

As always, check out Miss Alli’s awesome recaps at Television Without Pity. And I’ve started writing recaps myself of each episode over at I’ll include a link to each one next to the episode. But if you missed an episode, or just want to download them for your collection, this is the right place. Bookmark this page, and come back each week!

Episode 1, “Real Fast! Quack, Quack!”, aired 2006-09-17

Episode 2, “Can Horses Smell Fear?”, aired 2006-09-24 (recap)

Episode 3, “Oh, Wow! It’s Like One of Those Things You See on TV!”, aired 2006-10-01 (recap)

Episode 4, “I Know Phil, Little Ol Gorgeous Thing!”, aired 2006-10-08 (recap)

Episode 5, “I Covered His Mouth, Oh My Gosh!”, aired 2006-10-15 (recap)

Episode 6, “Maybe Steven Segal Will See Me and Want Me To Be In One Of His Movies”, aired 2006-10-22 (recap)

Episode 7, “I Wonder if This Is Going to Make My Fingers Pickle”, aired 2006-10-29 (recap)

Episode 8, “He Can’t Swim, But He Can Eat Cow Lips”, aired 2006-11-05 (recap)

Episode 9, “Being Polite Sucks Sometimes”, aired 2006-11-12 (recap)

Episode 10, “Lookin’ Like A Blue-Haired Lady On A Sunday Drive”, aired 2006-11-19 (recap)

Episode 11, “We Won’t Just Die, Like Roaches”, aired 2006-11-26 (recap)

Episode 12, “Dude, I’m Such A Hot Giant Chick Right Now”, aired 2006-12-03 (recap)

Episode 13, “Say Your Deepest Prayers Ever”, aired 2006-12-10 (recap)

The world is waiting…go!

September 16, 2006

Ormsby House Summer

I used to do a monthly update to the Ormsby House Renovation Gallery. But now it’s been reduced to quarterly, because there just isn’t enough work going on each month.

So that means the Summer Update is now available online. There’s just one page this time, with eight pictures. Go check it out.

September 15, 2006

Survivor 13×01

It’s always so exciting when Survivor starts up. Especially the first episode of the fall season, when the show’s been off the air for four months and all you’ve been watching is Big Brother. Of course I know that watching the show gets less and less exciting as time goes on, and by the last few weeks the obligation to watch every week is like a noose around your neck, and you stop caring so much about who’s going to win, and start wishing one of them would get eaten by a shark just so you’d have something exciting to talk about. And also because many Survivor contestants do, in fact, deserve to be eaten by a shark. But we’re not at that point yet. We’re still at the first episode, the honeymoon period, so I still have the capacity to enjoy it.

And of course this season has the added dimension of The Gimmick, as so many seasons do. This year they’ve brought us Survivor: Race Wars, where the teams are separated by race. This gimmick led us first to cringing, then to head-shaking, and then to shrugging it off, because all it really proves is that they’ve run out of real ideas and are starting to do things because they’re “shocking” rather than having a reason. And they were probably hoping to get a boost in the ratings because of all the controversy, but that seems to have backfired on them.

Jeff Probst calls it a “social experiment”, which I don’t think is quite what he meant to say. If it was really a social experiment then they’d be asking some questions that I don’t really think they want to ask, like Who Fights More When They Get In A Group: Blacks or Whites? And Who Can Drink Contaminated Water Without Getting A Bowel Obstruction? Which, I think the Asians have already lost that one. Probably the most intriguing social experiment that came out of this whole thing was the one that regrettably happened off-camera. How did these contestants react when they were first told about The Gimmick? Did they get angry? Were they offended? Did they laugh it off? That’s the only real social experiment here, showing how people react when they’re singled out and separated because of their race. And it’s not shown on camera. When the show starts, the tribes have aready been assigned. So there’s an opportunity wasted. Plus, how long do you think this gimmick is going to last before they shuffle up the tribes? Two episodes? Three? Last season they were so proud of their “Old Women” vs “Young Men” dynamic, but then they wiped it all away just a few minutes into the second episode. So, I’m not counting on this “Race Wars” to last long.

Besides, the only racism I saw during this show was the editors’ insistence on showing so much of white girls Parvati and Candice, when Cecilia is clearly the hottest woman on the island. I mean, come on. Can’t the Latinas get any love?

Other thoughts:
* It’s pretty funny when the African-American team comes out and says, “Yes, black people do swim. Yes, black people do know how to get on a boat and paddle.” Then they immediately proceed to lose a challenge that involves what? Swimming and paddling. It’s ironic stuff like that that you can’t make up, and that the editors are so great at highlighting.
* I didn’t figure out the pronounciation of “Cao Boi” until I heard it out loud. Somehow I don’t think he was born with that name.
* Poor Brad. Which do you think hurt more, his “bad wind”, or Cao Boi’s cure? The migraine did go away, though. Probably because an artery in his skull ruptured, relieving the pressure.

* When I saw Jonathan the Chicken Man, he sure looked familiar. Like he reminded me of some actor. It turns out that he doesn’t remind me of a actor, he is an actor. Which I would have found out if I read his bio at CBS. TV Squad remembers him from Rude Awakening, but I know him as tabloid reporter Nick on The Naked Truth. Was that really on 11 years ago?

* Should be a fun season. Remind me I said that in December when I’m catatonic and can’t wait for the final episode.

Other links:
Trevor’s review at RFF
Miss Alli’s recap
TV Guide review
Zap2It review
Watch the episode on InnerTube
Download the episode with BitTorrent


There were many good things that happened during the 1970s. This is not one of them.

This is the inimitable Thor on the Mike Douglas show.

September 13, 2006

Then and Now Book

I just wanted to throw this out there and get a little feedback. I’m working on a book based on my Northern Nevada Then and Now articles. Each “chapter” is really just two pages, a Then photo and a Now photo, each with historical background and maybe a few smaller pictures. I’d like to get up to 60 or 70 chapters before I publish the book, so at the rate I’m working at it should be done sometime before the end of the decade.

Here’s a PDF file with three chapters that are more or less finished. I want to hear what you think, what criticisms you have, and whether or not you’d buy it. Might as well start evaluating my market now, you know?

PDF (5.7MB)

Be brutal. If anything’s screwed up about my idea, I want to fix it now. Of course, it would be nice to get some compliments too!

September 12, 2006


September 11, 2006

Don’t Crash; It’s Just a Cloud

The Head Lemur details the perils of trying to take pictures while you’re driving, like accidentally taking shots during a turn and shooting the camera’s own reflection. But when you end up with picture like this, it makes it all worth while.

You also should check out the hell he’s having to go through to extract data off an old disk array. It involves SCSI cables, a Packard Bell computer (with a Pentium I), and Novell Netware. Can’t say I envy him. I’m happy to be at a company where they give me the budget to buy Core 2 Duo processors by the pair.