Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Google chic

I remember when GMail came out. All the cool kids wanted it, at least if you define "cool" as "envied by other people who think three computers is too few." I avoided it for a while because I didn't think I needed to prove my coolness, but then it became freely available to anyone who wanted to sign up and I thought accepting someone's invitation to the service would help me get in her pants. Anyway, now that I have a smartphone too, I want gmail on it. Not just the mobile web page, now that I know they have a client program. The whole enchilada.

Google Labs doesn't support smartphones. However, it's a Java applet, which means it should be able to run on anything with a Java virtual machine. Problem #1: I didn't have a JVM. Google recommends one from IBM. Check out WebSphere Everyplace Micro Environment. I had a bit of a false start installing it - look for another zipped file in the directory structure it puts on your disk. That's where the actual runtime version lives.

Next, I had to download a copy of gmail mobile. Unfortunately, it's supposed to be something you download via mobile phone, and Google automagically recognizes your phone model and gives you the appropriate version of the app. Since the Explorer version I have doesn't play nice with Google, it wouldn't give it to me. I managed to find a link to within Google's file structure on the 'net. I don't feel like re-finding it for the purposes of blogging, so it's left as an exercise to the reader.

Once I got that, it was no big deal to install and run it within the JVM's launcher program. However, I'm not really interested in having to open File Explorer and find the JVM "emulator" program to launch gmail every time. I found syntax for having the JVM launch directly into the Java program, but I can't figure out how to apply it - like make a shortcut or something. Seriously.

New phone (and it rocks)

So I finally did manage to get the phone from Verizon. It was over the weekend, but I let myself be kidnapped for a while and have only just returned to Internet access on a device with a 14" diagonal (if you think it's small, use a cellular for a while.)

How does this thing rock? Let me count the ways...

Gmail access from wherever I am. Right now via Explorer, but I'm working on that. In fact, Google access in general. Nice.

If I'm using a headset to talk on the phone, I can navigate around the other features. So I can mess with my schedule while on the phone. Sweet.

Java virtual machine. I've got one installed on the phone now, and it totally works. In fact, the phone is more of a very small computing platform that happens to be able to work as a phone.

Synchs with Outlook. That's nothing new, but scheduling and contacts were the killer apps for my Palm, so this phone needed to be able to do them for me to get it.

It's little. Slightly taller and wider than my old phone, but a lot slimmer, and a lot shorter and narrower than my Palm. Also, no exposed touch screen requiring of a hard case.

So yeah, I'm having fun with it. It's at least somewhat susceptible to hacking, too, so I've got the potential to do all sorts of crazy stuff with it. And I should be able to set it up to act as a cellular modem for my computer as well.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My time is valuable... My lunch is priceless.

Those who have been following my cell phone travails already know that I was supposed to be able to walk into a Verizon store today and get a heavily discounted PN-820. Not only did I fail to get a phone, I wasted most of my lunch hour on the effort. It was one thing when I was just spending an hour at a time on the phone with the retards at customer service. (I don't think they're retards, I think it's that the system doesn't allow them to make decisions or use their judgment or initiative.) So when I got back, I asked my coworkers about their cellular providers. AT&T was popular as being good service, both cellular and customer, so they're my front-runner right now.

I just got off the phone with customer service. I failed to get back in touch with last night's representative, even with her name and extension number. No big surprise there, I suppose. Anyway, the latest representative reordered the phone for me. My credit card's showing a hold of the appropriate amount for this order, so hopefully it went through. I'll be checking my statement again soon, of course, but hopefully this means that when I come home next week from a couple days out of town, there will be a new phone waiting for me.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Verizon may want my money

One of the things that showed up in my e-mail today was my Verizon bill. Which reminded me to call them about that phone that I ordered three weeks ago. It was 9:28 when I got off the phone, just now, and I dialed customer service at 8:26. After much switching of departments, I've learned that two orders were in the system, which had the effect of freaking it out, and the problem was sent to some department that doesn't answer phones or read their e-mail to sort out. The customer service rep I got transferred to after the first customer service rep transferred me to equipment and equipment transferred me to sales had two options. Either she could send another e-mail to that secret department, which I picture as an alcoholic living in Siberia with a large, antique (that being a polite word for dilapidated) desk covered in unread printouts of the e-mails assigned to him to address and printed from the one computer for the office, or I could go to a Verizon store, that will magically know that I'm being given a couple of discounts on this phone, and buy one in person.

E-mailing this mystery man clearly doesn't work. So I'm going to try going to the store tomorrow and see if I do any better with that option. Think happy "new phone" thoughts. Everyone who's had to hear me say "what?" or "talk really loud" repeatedly will be pleased if this works, I think.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Blow Up Everything!

My brother and I went to Live Free or Die Hard this afternoon. It's a throwback to the unselfconscious action epics of the eighties, similar to the first two "Die Hard" movies but with a little bit of vintage Schwarzenegger added to the mix. Bruce Willis reprises his roll as the detective John McClane, a man whose two talents are being in the wrong place at the wrong time and surviving impossible situation after impossible situation. While he does have shoes throughout this movie, by the end he's satisfyingly bloodied and the collateral damage is in the billions.

The main theme of the movie is vehicles colliding with other vehicles and exploding. We're also treated to some impressive ground/air chases, more explosions, rampant use of C4, and some French mercenaries who must have been left in the DC area by Cirque du Soleil. The bad guys raise the bar again, with bigger goals than in the previous movies. McClane, however, is the same anti-hero whose bad luck puts him alone in the position to save the day. He shouts, punches, bumbles, and somehow survives his way through over two hours of impossible situations and finally defeats the bad guy in a way only he can.

While stylistically, the movie is a throwback, the action sequences, vehicular and otherwise, show definite influences from Asian cinema and the "Transporter" movies. The chases bring balletic action to vehicles of several types and sizes, and the camera work is awesome. The camera itself darts around the action like a bird surfing the pressure wave in front of a car. Since this is a contemporary movie, I'm sure there's some CG. But it's not recognizable as such. There's also no obvious wire work, and while Zach had some quibbles with one of the sequences at the end, I didn't find that anything in the movie really forced me out of the suspension of disbelief.

The first Die Hard made some effort to appeal to a mature audience. The next two acknowledged the franchise as a guy movie, and this one has the same purity. It's full of "high five" moments. There's minimal character development, relationships are simple, bad guys get killed, and stuff blows up. A lot.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Not sick

I decided about three weeks ago that since I'm paying lots of money for health insurance and may have a latex allergy that I should start seeing a doctor again. It'd been about seven years since I had a regular one - I had my pediatrician through high school, then went to college and used the campus clinic, and haven't seen a medical professional since graduation. I went in and got the usual blood screening, and referrals to an allergist, who I'm seeing in about two weeks, and the radiologist because the doctor wanted a chest X-ray and seemed curious about my knees.

Anyway, I forgot all about the whole thing and was riding bikes in Connecticut with a friend when I got a call from the doctor's office that he wanted to see me about something on my blood test. So I scheduled an appointment and started examining my lifestyle.

That followup appointment was last week, immediately following a midnight-9am work call. It was like a bad dream. I was sitting in his waiting room, drinking a really big cup of coffee to try to stay awake, when he called me in. The coffee was finished at this point, so as soon as I sat down in his office, I was half asleep.

"You have hepatatis!"

"No more drinking!"

If life were a cartoon, I'd have jumped through the dropped ceiling in that little room in that odd little office building with the directory in Chinese with English in smaller letters below the characters that most people in that neighborhood prefer. Life's not a cartoon, but it certainly shocked me awake. So I had more blood drawn and got a referral to see the radiologist again for a liver ultrasound, and he sent me home. I scheduled the radiologist appointment and took a nap before that night's work, midnight-7am.

I was a bit distracted that night, as you might imagine. The ultrasound thing was a new experience for me, but I didn't learn any more about whether or not I was sick or to what degree. I scheduled today's office visit, and spent the following week continuing to examine my lifestyle and being generally nervous. The conclusion I came to was that if I had Hepatitis B, it would kinda suck but odds are that I'd get over it, and if it was C, then life would be totally unfair because I don't use intravenous drugs, see prostitutes, or have unprotected sex.

All of which brings me to today. Negative for Hep. C., no Hep. B., and the enzyme levels that prompted the diagnosis are back to normal. I have to see the doctor again in a month and I can't start drinking again, but all that really means is that when my friends are inebriated I'll be sober enough to find them utterly boring and I'll go home earlier, sleep more, and generally have a healthier lifestyle. I was starting to cut down my alcohol intake anyway.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

New show: Leni

So I'm working on a show in the NYC Fringe Festival this year. It's called Leni, about the filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. For those who don't know, she's the filmmaker behind Triumph of the Will, one of the strongest pieces of propaganda ever made for the Nazi party. She maintained throughout her later life that she didn't know about the atrocities the party was committing until she was told during her interrogations starting in 1945, and that she had no special relationship with Hitler. A look at the timing of her work and the progress of the Nazi party suggests that she had to be an incredibly stupid and credulous individual not to have some idea about what was happening by the time she released Triumph.

This tension makes her a very controversial figure. In the play, she examines the tension between her claims and the evidence of history. Given the subject matter, I had a moment of doubt about whether or not to continue the project, but it doesn't try to force an answer and it doesn't pull its punches. I think it's actually really good, so everyone should come.

The play is produced by Collaborative Play. Their web site has the details.