Archives » January, 2007

January 28, 2007

Planes and Trains

Over at Around Carson in the last week, I put up more aerial pictures of downtown Carson City:


I also wrote an article about the three V&T locomotives that California is holding captive at the Railroad Museum in Sacramento:

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Go check them out!

January 25, 2007

The Apprentice LA Episode 3: You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit

My latest recap of The Apprentice is now up at

James takes one of the tours with the specific mission of finding out what the tourists are dissatisfied with, so they can try to make the experience better. Smart cookie, that one. And what does James learn on the tour? It’s hot, the people are thirsty, and the tour operator is some kind of out-of-work comic who’s just glad he has a captive audience. The tourists seriously look like they’re ready to bolt at the next red light when this guy starts talking about his ruptured spleen. It’s embarrassing for the whole city, but it’s also true to life. You go to LA thinking you’re going to see movie stars, and all you end up seeing is this guy. Everywhere you go. Imagine a 24-hour American Idol audition, and that’s what Hollywood is like.

Go read it all.

Episode links:
Jacob’s recap
TV Guide review
Download the episode with BitTorrent

January 18, 2007

Amazing Race Book Review: My Ox Is Broken

So, Amazing Race viewers, we’ve entered the dark time of the year. That bleak stretch between December and February when there are no new episodes of our favorite show. The new season doesn’t start until February 18, an entire month away. So what can we do during this time? You can watch reruns on GSN, or you can go out and buy the two seasons that have been released on DVD. You can download and watch The Amazing Race Asia, the international version of the show that’s currently airing in Singapore. You can even do the Race yourself at home with the board game and DVD board game.

Or if you’re ready for a refreshing change, you can pick up the new book “My Ox Is Broken!”: Detours, Roadblocks, Fast Forwards and Other Great Moments from TV’s The Amazing Race, by Adam-Troy Castro ($17.95 list). I was sent a review copy of this book by the publisher a few weeks ago, and after reading through it I can honestly say this book deserves a prominent place on the bookshelf of any devoted Amazing Race fan.

My Ox Is Broken! is nothing less than an in-depth guide to the first nine seasons of The Amazing Race. It covers every episode, every elimination, every Roadblock and Detour. The author has obviously done his homework, spending countless hours watching and re-watching past seasons of the Race to catalog everything that happened, so he can bring it to you in encyclopedic detail. Over the course of its 458 pages, the book takes us through the history of the Race, season by season.

Every season of the Race gets its own chapter. The author starts by introducing us to the “Dramatis Personae”, the racers from the season. And one thing that set me off at first was that he gives each team a nickname. Some of the nicknames are ones that the racers gave themselves, and that were used on the show. Bill and Joe from the first season are “Team Guido”, of course. Ken and Gerard from Race 3 are “Team Oh, Brother”, and Linda and Karen from Race 5 are the Bowling Moms. This is all as it should be. But then he starts getting creative with the nicknames, like calling BJ and Tyler the “Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers”, and Meredith and Gretchen “Team Energizer Bunny”. Because they keep going and going, you see? And for some of the teams, it seems like he just got bored and used the first thing that popped into his mind. Like calling Charla and Mirna “Team Habibi”. Or “The Enthusiastic Tourists” for Chip and Kim. I mean, I can see where he got into the idea of giving each team a nickname and sticking with that name throughout the whole book, but it’s almost like once he started he kind of got shackled into it. He was probably cursing himself each time he had to type “The Constant Snipers” in place of the much more succinct “Tara and Wil”.

But once you get used to these nicknames he’s made up, you hardly even notice them. Although you do end up flipping the pages back and forth sometimes, asking “Who was ’Team Strategic’ again?” But once he’s introduced the teams for each season, he leads us right into an episode-by-episode breakdown. He recaps each episode; not the entire thing, of course, because he’d need to have published a 25-volume set for that. But he hits all the major events of each leg, all the Roadblocks, Detours, and Fast Forwards, and ends up with a list of what order the teams arrived in and who was eliminated. He even marks down the time they all arrived, so you can look back and see who got a big lead or who had a close finish. And he notes how much money the teams get at the start of each leg, so you can keep track at home. In all, he devotes about 25-30 pages to each season, ending with a breakdown of the final three teams and the winner.

Now, if you’re counting, that only adds up to about 250 pages. If that’s all there was to the book, it would be a handy reference guide, but it wouldn’t be worth much beyond that. Luckily, those episode recaps only take up about half of the book, and the rest of it is what makes “My Ox Is Broken!” a real keeper. In between the episode guides the author has sprinkled fun little chapters like “The Most Jaw-Dropping Errors Ever Made By Racers” and “The Most Endearing Racer Moments.” He brings us a list of moments that we see again and again, like the chaotic marketplaces, the crowded trains in India, and Phil pointing at the horizon. He spends some time giving a psychological evaluation of Flo’s behavior during the Race. He waxes on for ten pages about Colin’s run-in with the police in Tanzania. And he crowns one Racer as the best in the history of the show. I won’t spoil who it is, except to say that it’s not Boston Rob.

And then, to round out the book, and to make it more than just the ramblings of some guy sitting on his couch watching a lot of TV, he also includes interviews with several of the Racers. He interviews Bill and Joe, the famed Team Guido. He interviews Jonathan from Race 6, who would very much like you to know he is not a wife beater. He interviews Brennan, one half of the first-ever winning team. He interviews one of the Pizza Brothers, both of the Clowns, and the entire Gaghan family. He even got the Gaghan kids, Billy and Carissa, to write the foreword to the book. All of these interviews bring us into the world of the Race, and what it’s like to actually be out there for five weeks straight. They give us behind-the-scenes tidbits, and fill us in on things that happened that didn’t make the final cut.

He then caps off the whole book with an alphabetical list of every city and place in the world the Race has visited. That list goes on and on, and it takes up thirteen pages. It really makes you appreciate how sore Phil’s feet must be.

So when you add it all up, you’re left with a book that really captures the spirit of the race, really lets you relive the best moments, and really makes you want the next season the hurry up and start. And I think that if you love the Race, you’re going to love this book too. I know I do.

Title: “My Ox Is Broken!”: Detours, Roadblocks, Fast Forwards and Other Great Moments from TV’s The Amazing Race
Author: Adam-Troy Castro
Publisher: BenBella Books
List Price: $17.95

Playing Windows Media in Firefox on Vista

I’ve been running Vista full-time for about two months now, and I’ve really gotten into it. There are some compatibility problems, like printer drivers, that aren’t working well, but overall I like it, more than I liked Windows XP.

There was one bug, though, and that was that Firefox wasn’t picking up on the Windows Media plugin. So any websites that had embedded Windows Media videos (which are going away now that flash video is becoming popular) wouldn’t show up. There would just be a big blank box telling you to install the plugin, but the only way I knew of to install the Windows Media plugin is to install Windows Media Player, and the latest version is already installed on Vista. So I was kind of stuck, knowing there had to be a way to do it.

As I’ve learned, Google can be your friend in these situations. I found the answer on this site, and what you have to do is basically copy the WMP plugin files from XP over to your Vista installation. The files are npdrmv2.dll, npdsplay.dll, and npwmsdrm.dll, and on an XP machine they’re located in C:\Program Files\Windows Media Player. Vista doesn’t have them, though, so Firefox isn’t able to pick up on them. You have to grab them from an XP machine (or download them from the website I linked to) and copy them to C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\plugins on your Vista machine. After that, Firefox will see the plugins and everything will work fine.

Sounds like a Vista compatibility issue with Firefox, and hopefully a future update will fix it so you don’t have to jump through all these hoops.

January 16, 2007

The Apprentice LA Episode 2: Trump’s Gay Panic

My latest recap of The Apprentice is now up at

Somebody at Mark Burnett Productions must really hate Donald Trump. Okay, my thesis is actually that everyone at Mark Burnett Productions hates Donald Trump, and this entire show is a years-long practical joke on the man. But specifically, the folks in the casting department have noticed that any mention of homosexuality on the show sends Trump into some weird kind of gay panic, and they’ve started milking it for all its worth. I think they realized this right about the fourth season, when Clay came out in the Boardroom, and Donald Trump, god bless his twisted little heart, said “That’s why they have menus in restaurants, you know? I like steak, somebody else likes spaghetti.” And ever since then, the casting department has been consistently trying to blow his mind just to see how badly he loses it, kind of like a psychological experiment. Not that any gay person is ever going to win this show – the closest we came was last season with Sean, who was an admitted “metrosexual”, and even for that Trump needed a binder full of diagrams and an after-school special starring Christopher Lowell to make sense of it.

Go read it all.

Episode links:
Jacob’s recaplet
TV Guide review
Download the episode with BitTorrent

January 11, 2007

People Who Claim Not To Watch TV

Today on TVSquad: Things I Hate about TV: People who claim not to watch it.

Somewhere along the line, watching television became cultural shorthand for being a stupid. Thus, for wannabe intellectuals, not watching television is the best way to prove to everyone that you’re intelligent. Saying, “I don’t own a TV” implies a life of Shakespeare and smoking jackets.

Except, here’s the thing: Shakespeare was the television of his time (insofar as it was wildly popular and easily accessible by the masses). Seriously. His theater was on the wrong side of town, next to bear baiting pits (a sport that I fully expect Fox to revive before the end of this decade). The intellectuals of the day looked down on it as something vulgar and common. Shakespeare was filled with unnecessary sexual innuendo and broad, bawdy comedy — I mean, it really was Two and a Half Men of Verona.

So, if they can enjoy Shakespeare so much, why is it that “intellectuals” can’t enjoy popular culture? Because they’re being pretentious.

A thousand million “Amen”s to this article. I’ve known people like this, who don’t own a TV, or who only have a small set somewhere in a back bedroom, and who look down on us whenever we talk about TV shows. And I used to get riled up, but now my standard response is to just ignore them and to feel superior to them because of all the stuff I know they’re missing.

Our house has five TVs, four of them with DVD players attached. Our son has been watching TV since he was one, and most of those extra TVs are so he can watch what he wants without us having to switch off our programs. We just bought a van with a DVD player in the back, and we have a portable DVD that we take into restaurants. We’ve been criticized of using the “Plug In Drug” on our child, and one lady we were out to dinner with actually picked up the DVD player and turned it around so the kids couldn’t see it. So, not only pretentious, but rude too.

And the thing is, the kid doesn’t even watch the TV when it’s on. He’ll ask for a movie, or for a TV show that we’ve burned to DVD for him, and five minutes into it he’s wandered off to play with his trains. So it’s not like the TV is taking over his life. We got him his own computer too. But everyone knows that having a computer just leads to writing (god forbid), and writing on the computer leads to him becoming a blogger. I can’t imagine a worse fate for him.

And here’s the funny thing. We’ll be watching TV, and he’ll actually interrupt our show to ask us to read him a book. So I think he’s going to turn out just fine.

January 10, 2007

The Apprentice LA: Season Premiere

Now that The Apprentice has started airing, I’ll be writing recaps of the episodes for Reality Fan Forum, just like I did for The Amazing Race. The first one is online now. And although I had vowed that these recaps wouldn’t be as long or as in-depth as the ones I do for TAR, this first one ended up pretty wordy anyway. Oh well.

Anyway, I want to start out by talking about The Hair. I know, talking about Donald Trump’s hair is so 2004. But Donald himself so 2004, so it’s appropriate, right? Anyway, I just want to get this out of the way up front. I know all the jokes about Trump back then were about his hair, and how it looks like a bad rug. But you know what? I think it’s real. I think it’s 100% his own, and I think that the fact that it’s real is far funnier than thinking it’s a piece, because if it’s real that means that in the whole nest of sycophants, kissups and brownnosers that is the Trump Organization, there isn’t one person brave enough to peep up and say, “Hey, Don, your hair looks like ass.” And it also means that, at some point in the past, Donald Trump walked into his stylist’s salon, pulled out a copy of National Geographic, pointed to a picture of a Golden-bellied Mangabey, and said, “Like that.” And the stylist said okay! So The Hair is kind of emblematic of the whole hot mess that is Donald Trump’s life and existence, and I for one am glad it’s there, because The Donald without The Hair just wouldn’t be The Donald, right?

Go read it all.

Episode links:
Jacob’s recap
TV Squad review
TV Guide review
Download the episode with BitTorrent

January 2, 2007

Placeblogger Launches

Placeblogger has finally launched. A few months late, but I know what that can be like. I wrote about it before; it’s a directory of sites that cover a certain town or community. Around Carson is actually listed on there, although it’s not part of the list of top ten placeblogs. I can’t understand why, especially considering that their list of recent entries includes all the Viagra spam that’s been making it to the homepage the last couple of days. And the fact that I pretty much took the last two weeks off for the holidays, even though I really didn’t plan for it to happen that way.

In all they have 8 placeblogs listed for Nevada, including Reno and its Discontents, Nevada Politics, an aggregator run by the Nevada Appeal, and Nevada Blogs, an aggregator run by Dane Carlson.

Lisa Williams’ description of what placeblogging is really makes me want to get motivated and make Around Carson better:

Placeblogs, however, are about something broader than news alone. They’re about the lived experience of a place. That experience may be news, or it may simply be about that part of our lives that isn’t news but creates the texture of our daily lives: our commute, where we eat, conversations with our neighbors, the irritations and delights of living in a particular place among particular people. However, when news happens in a community, placeblogs often cover those events in unique and nontraditional ways, and provide a community watercooler to discuss those events.