I Should Never Touch Technology

Remember a month or two ago when all the news broadcasts and websites were telling us some hackers were accessing private data via our wireless routers? They told us to NO-TIVO-269x300reboot our routers immediately or disaster would ensue. Failure to do so would result in thieves stealing our passwords and banking information, making the contents of our fridges go bad, and reprogramming our brains to believe trees are invisible and bees are a beverage.

Rebooting the router wasn’t hard, so I did that without technical disaster. But my son is a professional tech writer and expert, and he messaged me to ask which router I had. I told him, and I could almost see the message window recoil in horror. I was still using the router he’d installed for us several years ago, and (apparently) that model was especially vulnerable to hacking shenanigans.

Fortunately for me, as a result of his job, he literally has drawers full of phones and routers and tablets and all manner of tech gizmos. He informed me he was sending me a better, newer, more secure router immediately, which he did.

A couple of weeks later, he messaged to ask if I’d installed the new router. I had not. Why? Because I knew, deep in my slightly Luddite bones, that I’d manage to fuck it up. He’d sent me the link to the app I needed to set it up quickly and easily…but I knew better.

Now, about ten days after his “you really need to install that” message, I decided I’d better do it, because not much stings more than weary disapproval from a guy whose diapers you changed for two years.

The first obstacle was the massive Gordian knot of cords and cables behind the TV stand in the living room, where the main cable box, modem, and router live. Once I identified which plug went to the modem, I disconnected it. The plug is still under the TV stand, though, because I couldn’t untangle the wire from the rest of the mess without pulling every device, including the TV, off the stand, and I am not in the mood to deal with that shit today.

I plugged in the new router and opened the app on my phone, held it over the router, and that part actually went pretty well. I reset my signal extender in the kitchen, and internet was restored to my laptop. Victory!

I was about to pay for my hubris.

The TV in the living room was fine. But we only use that when we have company that might want to sit on a slightly less dog-fur-infested couch. I spend 99% of my waking hours in the family room, working with the TV on, and later binge-watching streaming video and knitting. And that TV couldn’t find the TiVo box. Neither could the TV in Tom’s lair, where he spends a good portion of his evenings and weekends.

Rackenfrazzle.

I did all the usual stuff. I unplugged and re-plugged. I turned off and on. I went to TiVo Central and tried everything I could in the settings. I reestablished the internet connection…but it still wouldn’t go to TV mode, which is really its only job.

I knew it. I just knew it. Now I was going to have to call Suddenlink, something that tends to make me a stabby, frustrated, vengeful bucket of rage. I went through the automated fixes first, but resetting the modem didn’t do anything, so I repeated “representative” at every prompt until I got a human. As it turns out, a highly unhelpful human.

She seriously had no idea what to do. There was a lot of “Um…yeah…” and “Well…” and “I don’t know…” going on. Without offering even one semi-helpful solution, she said, “Yeah, the TiVo is pretty sensitive. There’s really not anything I can do from here. They like the technicians to do that manually.”

I wondered why they’d “upgraded” us to TiVo from the older but much less shitty cable boxes. I wondered why they’d choose a type of service that was so touchy that simply installing a new router would require a technician visit. I wondered how long it would be before a technician could be dispatched.

I suggested she might like to transfer me to someone (with a brain…bonus points to me for not saying that part out loud) who might have some idea of how to resolve this without a technician coming out. No, that wouldn’t help. So, she scheduled a technician for tomorrow between 4-6 p.m.

Fine. I could watch in the living room today, I guessed. My internet is working, so…yay.

I hung up and started thinking. I used my brain, which is 100% not trained in Suddenlink Technical Support, but is not stupid. And my brain said, “Well, yeah, the TV in the living room, which is connected directly to the main TiVo box (not the two TiVo minis that control the TVs in the family room and Tom’s lair), does work fine. But that main unit is, what, like the brain of the whole set-up, right?” I agreed with my not-stupid brain. “So,” it continued, “even though that TV works, wouldn’t it make sense to maybe unplug and reset the main unit and see what happens?”

That seemed super smart to me, and probably something someone who is paid actual money by the people who installed this equipment to resolve such issues should have suggested.

So, I shuffled back to the living room, unplugged the main TiVo box, plugged it back in, and returned to my natural habitat on the couch in the family room and turned on that TV.

And…it worked perfectly.

I hit redial on my phone and canceled tomorrow’s technician appointment roughly three minutes after I’d made it.

I feel like I should get a job at Suddenlink Tech Support, but I’m pretty sure they’d have to delete at least half my IQ points. If their IQ-deleting system is able to connect to the network, of course.

I lost over an hour from my day, but at least the evening binge-watching shall go on unimpeded.

Binge-Watching The X-Files

I recently started watching The X-Files for the first time. When it premiered almost 25 years ago, I didn’t watch much TV. But now, working at home and having access to c52a782d86e841116a324a1032dcfa74streaming video, binge-watching is one of my favorite things. Since I watch nearly every paranormal/supernatural show I can find, finally watching The X-Files was bound to happen.

Let me be clear about one thing. I do like the show. I’m into season 7 now, so obviously I enjoy it. I’m less clear about why it has achieved legendary status and a reboot. (I’m looking forward to the reboot seasons, though! Another week or so and I should be there.)

Since it premiered in 1993, I expected it to feel dated, and it does, a little. The cars, technology, wardrobe, even the on-screen graphics show it’s not a recent production. I was surprised to find the feel of the show felt dated even for 1993. Then I decided that’s what they were going for. Sort of a noir atmosphere, or a somber Twilight Zone tone. Fine. I can live with that.

But there are still some things that nag at me as I’m watching.

  • Scully’s wardrobe. I know it’s 1993 business professional stuff, but were the suits really so boxy then? And collars up to the jaw? Because I’ve seen nuns and Amish grandmothers looking more stylish. I assume Gillian Anderson has a figure under there, but you rarely catch even the faintest hint. I’m not saying dress her up like she’s on The Bachelorettee, but c’mon.
  • Lack of facial expressions. I’ll probably catch hell for this, but I don’t think Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny are spectacular actors. They’re not bad. They’re just not…great. The lack of facial expressions is almost amusing. It’s like all their emotions are on a dimmer switch set to low. Even when they raise their voices, their faces barely move. It’s almost like a ventriloquist dummy. The mouth moves, and the eyes go back and forth, and that’s it. Sometimes it even looks like they’re trying to speak while moving their mouths as little as possible. Duchovny has at most three expressions. Neutral/brooding, alarmed or excited (which are the same) with slightly widened eyes and open mouth, and worried/angry/furious which involves a somewhat furrowed brow.

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  • Where’s the humor? I get it, it’s a serious show. But even the most serious, dark shows usually break it up now and then, or have the wacky best friend, nosy neighbor, quirky co-worker, running jokes…something to lighten the tone once in a while. As I’m getting to later seasons, it has improved. There are a few episodes where they break from the weighty story arc, like the time the shapeshifter guy locked Mulder in the basement and put the moves on Scully, or the one where they went to Texas and discovered vampires, and they were each recounting the case from their perspective to Skinner. Mostly, though, it’s dark, dark, dark and kind of oppressive. Oh, The Lone Gunmen? They’re awesome.

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  • Zero chemistry. Maybe it’s coming, or maybe it’s just never going to happen, but most shows which feature male and female leads usually bring them together eventually. Booth and Bones, for example. They didn’t get together until the start of season 7, but even before then, they had a lot of chemistry. I know, it’s not necessary for them to get together; it doesn’t change the point of the show. But, hey, maybe then they’d show some emotion. Not betting on it, though.
  • Are there aliens or not? At this point, I guess there are. There’s that fetus they’re passing around like a dead baby football and using to try to breed hybrids. But it could well turn out to be something else. First, it’s “the government is covering up the existence of aliens.” Then, “the government is pretending to cover up the existence of aliens so people will think that’s what they’re up to and not notice they’re really conducting human experiments.” Now I think it’s “all of the above, but there are actually aliens involved in the experiments.” Maybe. That could change in the next episode.

One thing I really enjoy is watching the list of guest stars after the opening theme. So many actors who have become favorites in other shows appeared on The X-Files back in the day. Mark Sheppard, Laurie Holden, Luke Wilson, Bruce Campbell, Willie Garson, Peter Boyle, Seth Green, Bryan Cranston, Donal Logue, Kurtwood Smith, James Pickens Jr., just to name a few.

So, what do you think? Are you a fan of The X-Files? What do I need to know, or what am I just not seeing clearly? I like it a lot. I’ll keep watching. But I don’t see me getting an “I Want To Believe” tattoo any time soon.

Paying For Saturday

I did a whole lot of nothing yesterday, other than wash our bedding and knit. Today has been much busier. Morning house chores, got a batch of dog treats in the dehydrator (Super easy two-ingredient “recipe” HERE), wrangled work email, figured out how to use my new scanner and scanned and emailed some photos, and I have a huge pot of pasta sauce simmering so I can assemble a couple of pans of lasagna to take to a family gathering out of town tomorrow.

Now, while the sauce simmers, I can finally knit! I am still working on my super-long rainbow scarf, but started a new one yesterday that is still small enough to take with me tomorrow. So far…

It’s a feather and fan scarf (pattern HERE), using Premiere Serenity yarn by Deborah Norville, in the “sea” colorway. I love this yarn. I made a window treatment with it several years ago, found a ball of it in my stash over the winter, and ordered a bunch more. I’m also using my brand new Knit Picks Caspian wood straight needles, and I love them. The surface has just the right texture for a 2 weight yarn, not as slippery as metal, but more grip than regular bamboo.

There’s a marathon of Season 8 of The Walking Dead, and I’ll alternate between that and a re-watch of an old favorite, Eureka, while I knit. Tonight is the season finale of TWD, as well as the premiere of the new season of Fear the Walking Dead. I can’t wait! I host a live chat on Facebook, and it’s sure to be a ton of fun tonight.

It’s raining off and on, with storms expected later, so it’s a good day for cooking, knitting, and TV. Even rainy, though, it’s a huge step up from our old home in Minnesota, which we fled 4 1/2 years ago. They got over a foot of snow yesterday! Nope, I don’t miss that even a little.

The Dreaded Spoilers

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We’ve all had it happen. A new movie comes out, and some ass-crumpet posts a pivotal detail on social media before you have a chance to see it. A TV series airs in another country or time zone before it airs in yours, and though you promised to stay off Facebook, you pop in for “just a minute” and discover a favorite character is dead.

Wails, anguish, threats of swift and blinding retribution.

But there’s another kind of spoiler, one some viewers actually seek out. Let’s skip movies for now, since I rarely watch movies, though I did watch Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri yesterday. (Spoiler alert: There are billboards. Three of them. Outside Ebbing, Missouri.)

Television episodes are provided to select reviewers before the episode airs, and some of them work with fandom sites to reveal key information before it is broadcast. They can’t just post them anywhere, though, or the network will quickly figure out who it is, and their early-review days are over.

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One such group is The Spoiling Dead Fans, though they got a lot of heat from AMC, and now the spoilers are shared in a closed group, TSDF Army. Around Wednesday or Thursday before the Sunday US premiere of an episode, a Q&A covering key story developments appears, and lots of people read them.

I do.

The Spoiling Dead Fans has over 450,000 likes on Facebook. The closed TSDF Army group has over 40,000 members.

Why would anyone want to know what happens before an episode? For me, it’s a combination of anxiety and immediate gratification. I admit, I do sometimes skip the spoilers for a huge episode like a season premiere or finale, but I usually read the spoilers for The Walking Dead. I’m a highly anxious person, and I’ll get so worked up with the anticipation and tension that I can’t enjoy the program itself. I’m also very Veruca Salt, and “I want it now.” No waiting. I want to know, so just tell me, already. If I know, I can mentally prepare myself for anything disturbing, or pay closer attention as the revelation of something exciting approaches.

There have been exceptions. I didn’t read about the season finale as we awaited who would Negan bash in the head…and regretted it. I’d heard rumors of a possible cliffhanger, but refused to believe they’d do that to fans. And they did. And I was furious. There’s nothing worse for an immediate-gratification person than having to wait six months for an answer. I still hate Scott Gimple. So. Much.

There have also been a few times even TSDF Army declined to post a spoiler. Most notably was when Chandler Riggs himself contacted them and asked them not to reveal Carl’s impending death. Because he asked politely and respectfully, and was humble and mature about it, they agreed.

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Right now, their source has decided not to provide spoilers for the upcoming final two episodes of the current season. This is his or her prerogative, and we don’t have any right to complain. We’re not entitled to spoilers. There are rumors out there, but very little of it can be confirmed. So I’m going into tonight’s episode with not much concrete information. I kind of hate it, but I understand.

How do you feel about spoilers, either the right-after-it-airs kind, or the pre-broadcast ones? And after a movie or episode is out there, how long is the appropriate time to refrain from posting spoilers on social media? I mean, it’s not realistic to keep your thoughts and opinions to yourself for months, just because someone is waiting for a movie to hit Amazon, or because someone is a season behind in binge-watching The Walking Dead. I think a week, maybe two, is fair. If seeing the movie or series isn’t your priority, you have to accept the risk.

As for tonight, I very strongly suspect one particular death. I have some good hunches about a few other developments. But I’m going in with a lot less information than I typically have, and there’s only one thing I can say about that…

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Doctor Who Universe

A couple of months ago, I started watching Doctor Who for the first time. Just the modern seasons, not the originals. I’ve now finished all ten current seasons, and I have to say I like it…but I don’t love it. I’m not a crazed fan, and if they said there wouldn’t be any more seasons, I wouldn’t be heartbroken. I liked it enough to watch all ten seasons, though.

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My favorite Doctor is definitely 11, Matt Smith, and my favorite companion is Amy. I liked Rose, despite her awful makeup that seemed to run off her face every time she cried, which was a lot, and never took to Martha Jones much. Then Amy came along, and I really loved her story arc.

When the 12th Doctor came along, I tried to like Peter Capaldi, but he was more dour and less quirky than #11, and I never fully connected with him. I thought I’d like Bill a lot, but ultimately she was mostly just okay.

My favorite episode overall was the one with Amy and van Gogh. It was poignant and thought-provoking and definitely hit all the feels. There’s even a knitting pattern for a scarf like Amy wore, and I’m probably going to make it.

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I suppose I’m looking forward a bit to the introduction of the first female Doctor in season 11, but not with “watch the calendar” enthusiasm.

Then I moved on to Torchwood. I’d say I like it about the same as Doctor Who. I know a lot of viewers are enthralled by John Barrowman, but he doesn’t do it for me. He’s not a very good actor, and I know he’s supposed to be the dashing hero, but he looks like a cookie cutter right out of central casting, or a cartoon of the handsome Captain Jack Harkness brought to life.

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There’s not a particular character or relationship that resonates with me, and I’m not sure why. I know Owen was supposed to be the good-looking rascal, but I seriously hoped he was going to be killed off at the end of season 1. He annoys me.

The relationship between Gwen and Rhys seems forced and isn’t enhancing the storyline. Ianto is potentially interesting, but feels two-dimensional. He does have some of the best deadpan one-liners, though. Tosh is okay, too, but not terribly compelling.

But I’m only a few episodes into season 2, so maybe that will all develop more.

Who are your favorites and least favorites on Doctor Who and Torchwood? Are there aspects I’m missing? I did enjoy seeing James Marsters in his guest role on Torchwood. I also liked the Eugene Jones episode, so I’m hoping there are even better episodes ahead.

The Return of Dead Sundays

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I love The Walking Dead.

Yeah, I said it.

If you spend any time on social media, you see people post they stopped watching after (insert heartbreaking death here) or because (pick a generalized complaint about plot or character development).

The zombie apocalypse was a favorite genre for me even before TWD. I’ve been an avid reader of Joshua Guess, Kate L. Mary, Chris Philbrook, and Samie Sands, to name a few, and I even wrote two zombie books myself.

We’re coming up on the second half of season 8 on February 25, and you’d better believe I’ll be watching. I’ll be hosting a live chat on my private Facebook group, Lori’s Dead Talk, and if you want to join us, send me a Facebook message so I can add you.

Have there been episodes or story arcs that have been “meh?” Sure. This will happen in any long-running show. I adore Supernatural, but there have been times I’ve been less engaged. But I ride it out, and sooner or later, it comes back around to the core of the show I love.

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Season 8B promises to be crushing. We have the death-in-progress to see through, and this is one of those “I stopped watching after…” points for some fans. Not for me, really, as this has never been one of my favorite characters. It also deviates wildly from the comics, which devoted comic fans sometimes have issues with.

But who’d want to watch if every episode followed the comics faithfully? No surprises there. There are characters alive in 8B who died long ago in the graphic novels, some died early on in the show but are still alive in the comics. And we have characters, including fan-favorite Daryl Dixon, who don’t even exist in the comic world. Keeps things interesting.

I enjoy the progression from simply trying to avoid death-by-walker for one more day to building societies and battling the real menace…other people. It’s realistic. When the apocalypse arrives, this is how it will play out. Walkers are unspeakably dangerous, but they don’t plan or strategize, they don’t have hidden agendas, they aren’t capable of betrayal, they don’t want more power. They’re mindless eating machines, and once you know how things work and learn how to survive in that reality, you have a much better shot against them than any one human who wants what you have or bears a deadly grudge.

People are the real monsters, and let’s face it…the show would’ve become tedious long ago if all anyone ever did was run from walkers or bash them in the head.

There are characters I love. There are characters I hate. There are characters I love to hate or hate to love. And having met many of the cast members at Walker Stalker Atlanta, I universally love the actors who portray the characters in the TWD universe. Seriously, I did not have one negative experience the entire three-day weekend.

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I’m counting down the hours to 9:00 p.m. next Sunday, to watching the tide shift and trying to anticipate how events will impact those who remain. I can’t wait to live chat with my TWD-fan friends, letting the snark fly, sharing the anguish and the victories, and someone can always fill in the blanks for me if I miss a detail.

Do you watch? Do you watch live or on DVR…or wait for it to hit Netflix? Have you ever been to a viewing party? A convention? Have any good memorabilia?

I’ll be there! Or, more accurately, here, on my couch, with my trusty machete under the end table within easy reach. Because you can never be too careful.

Whovian-In-Training

Series-1-970x545Several years ago, I tried to watch Doctor Who when it was on Netflix. I got about halfway through season 1 before losing interest. Since then, I’ve perfected my binge-watching skills, and I’m giving it another try.

I know the origin of the show goes back to 1963, but it appears the “modern era” episodes begin with the 9th Doctor, portrayed by Christopher Eccleston, in 2005, so that’s where I’m starting. (Plus, that’s what’s available on Amazon Prime.)

I’m not going into this blind. I have plenty of friends who are Whovians, and you can’t be part of social media without being exposed to a lot of elements of Doctor Who. I know about Daleks and Timelords, I know what the Tardis is, and that the Doctor regenerates. I know he travels through time and space, though he does appear to have a fondness for modern-day London.

As I’m writing this, I’m up to Episode 8 in that first season. I like it. I want to love it. 1900b675760e6cc1b802e8e0cff96cd1_400x400Maybe that will come.

I wonder if it’s like Supernatural. I often try to talk skeptics into watching this, but always have to warn them it doesn’t have a really strong start. The first season and into season 2 is more of an “urban legend of the week” show than the deep, complex world it becomes, with rich lore and wonderfully developed characters and complicated relationships.

My plan is to watch at least two full seasons. By then, if I’m not hooked, I’ll know it’s not happening. On the face of it, this show should be perfect for me. I eschew “real world” dramas. I like anything paranormal, supernatural, urban fantasy, or sci-fi/fantasy in nature. I also love things that have a lot of quirky humor, and Doctor Who definitely has that. There is a wildly devoted fandom of Whovians, conventions, merchandise…so there has to be something amazing there, if I can discover it.

I know there are things awaiting me that I’ve heard discussed for years now. Weeping angels. Christmas specials. Each new incarnation of the Doctor, including the upcoming 13th incarnation, which for the first time is a woman.

Help me out. Are you a Whovian? Why or why not? If you are, when did you start watching, and what keeps you devoted to this long-running series? Who is your favorite Doctor?

I really hope this works and I enter the ranks of the Whovians. If it does, I have a good 10+ seasons to watch, and there’s little I enjoy more than a good TV-binge. Then I’ll get all the inside jokes and can look with pity upon the unfortunates who have not yet discovered the wonder of the Doctor.

Whovians seem to be a lot like Trekkies in their absolute devotion and encyclopedic knowledge of their beloved shows–but more eccentric and unconventional. Anyone who knows me can tell you this should be a perfect fit for me.