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Exit ArchiveArchive for July, 2005
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Nothing like a pair of gravestones to spice up the board. Right? RIGHT?

Why did this one strike me as comical?

There are so many posts to comment on and things to respond to, but I am, for some reason, choosing to use my precious free time to talk about something else instead. You see, Microsoft has just introduced its version of Google Maps, called Virtual Earth.

Can you guess where this is going? Well, as if the headline didn’t give it away or anything.

Once again, Microsoft has taken something done very well by someone else and made it worse. From the functionality to the interface, Virtual Earth is a ham-fisted tragedy while Google Maps is a useful, good-looking tool. I was going to provide links as examples to bolster the following points, but Virtual Earth can’t even do links correctly. A search for my old apartment in Boston got stuck in the link cache, even through the wildly different searches that followed. Then my local Pavilions store got stuck there. So forget the links. You’ll have to experiment yourself.

The only thing so far for which I would credit Virtual Earth is its sometimes high-res satellite images. I can zoom in very close to my apartment building, almost to where I can see my satellite dish (I know it’s there, but I can’t quite make it out!). But this level of zoom is spotty, and… Well, why not simply provide some details for your comparison pleasure?


Virtual Earth: Much of the satellite images for big cities are black and white. Some are very old.

Google Maps: Lots of color! More modernity! Groovy!


Virtual Earth: Streets and highways with names. Oh, and directional arrows (one way, etc.).

Google Maps: Streets and highways with more complete directional arrows and accurate on and off ramps!


Virtual Earth: Two different input boxes, one for What (businesses, points of interest, etc.) and one for Where (specific addresses).

Google Maps: One input box for any search you want to conduct.


Virtual Earth: Simply drag your cursor in the map to move it arou… OOPS! Oh, but don’t go off the page or into the annoying results overlay boxes or… Well, now your cursor’s stuck in move mode. Bummer, huh?

Google Maps: Simply drag you cursor in the map to move it around. Even go off the page if you want. The map will move no matter what.


Virtual Earth: The zoom slider is sticky. Drag your cursor over it and the slider drags whether you want it to or not. Sometimes. But the slider doesn’t work very well, so maybe you’ll be lucky and the sticky won’t stick.

Google Maps: The zoom slider slides when you click and drag it.


Virtual Earth: Handy (read: annoying) overlay boxes that store your past searches (a box per search) and another that is your “scratch pad.” These boxes pop up over the map itself, obstructing a good portion of it. Oh, and see the convenient X icon you can use to close each box? X stands for “good luck,” since there’s no guarantee clicking the X will, in fact, close the box.

Google Maps: Google search results are kept apart from the map. No need to close them to get them out of the way.


Virtual Earth: As you zoom in on the map, your list of search results is changed to reflect only what’s within the zoomed area. So if you’re looking for marker #7, good luck. It has probably changed to #3 or #4 or #1 or has vanished altogether.

Google Maps: The search results stay put so you can always get to them.


Virtual Earth: Double-click on a map marker to re-center the map to… uh, to… okay, to select the text in the marker. Oh, no, I was right. To center it. Maybe. Unless it selects the marker text. Huh. Good luck.

Google Maps: Double-click a map marker to re-center the map to that marker. For sure. Without fail.


Virtual Earth: Freeway and road icons, text overlays, markers, marker info boxes, and everything else designed by Pete Pixel of ASCII Pixel Graffix House.

Google Maps: Freeway and road icons, text overlays, markers, marker info boxes, and everything else designed by a designer.


Virtual Earth: Type “pavilions los angeles” into the What box (not the Where box) and get a useful “No results found.” Oh, but if I zoom out, it did find some results. Oh.

Google Maps: Type “pavilions los angeles” into the one input box and get a list of results with a map of the area you specified.


Virtual Earth: Type “dorothy and bundy 90049” and get, er, Los Angeles.

Google Maps: Type “dorothy and bundy 90049” and get a marker at the intersection of W. Dorothy St. and S. Bundy Dr. (Though Google does not know the significance of this block of Brentwood, extra credit to anyone who does.)


Virtual Earth: Type “11838 darlington ave 90049 to 3800 w alameda ave 91505” and get, er, Burbank. Hmm. To get driving directions, Virtual Earth tells you how: 1) Display the pop-up for a location by pointing to the pushpin for the listing you want. 2) Click Drive To or Drive From. MSN Maps & Directions opens in a new browser window with the location you chose already specified as either the beginning or the end point of the route. 3) Type or paste an address for the opposite end of the route. 4) Click Get Directions. Why, that’s EASY!

Google Maps: Type “11838 darlington ave 90049 to 3800 w alameda ave 91505” and get accurate driving directions and a map. Double-click the departure or arrival markers on the map to get a small local map pop-up. Map route includes which on and off ramps to take, even.


Virtual Earth: More info on more parts of the world. But don’t try to zoom in too much. You’ll only get so far. Oh, and type “piccadilly circus, london, uk” in either search box and get a “no results found” error.

Google Maps: Set up specifically for the U.S., Canada, the UK, and Japan. Yet while there are no name labels for other parts of the world, go ahead and zoom in. You can get great images of Baghdad or Brussels! Type “piccadilly circus, london, uk” and get a marker at Piccadilly Circus, London, UK.


Virtual Earth: But it’s only in beta. It’s bound to suck.

Google Maps: But it’s only in beta and has been amazing from day one.

The use of the C word is alive and well here at The Wren Forum. And for good reason. Today, I am tired and grumpy and bitter.

The night of the verbal altercation with California Bitch, I slept very well. She was quiet. There was no noise.

And he lived happily ever after.

But not really.

Last night, at 2:15, I was woken up yet again by California Bitch’s voice. In my groggy state, I became aware that she was telling her side of the story to a friend, who was in her room with her. Something about not just tapping on her window, but banging on her window. Wailing on her window? Anyway, she sounded so pissed off, she could have passed for a urinal.

“If he does that again, I’m gonna shoot his fucking head off.”

I was wide awake now. She repeated the threat, with more vehemence.

“I’ll shoot his head off.”

A mutter from her friend sounded like tacit approval that such an action was within the boundaries of decorum.

I wonder, if I had banged on her window again the previous night, would she have met me on Goshen not with a broom, but a Smith & Wesson?

“Then he walked off and called me a bitch.”

That I did. But it was unfair for her to skew the story thus, so I got out of bed and went to my window and loudly proffered:

“After you called me a dick!”

I couldn’t exactly hear what was being said then, but it was vitriolic. She was a banshee. I climbed back into bed, hoping it would all go away.


Then she was quiet.

I couldn’t sleep. I was so fatigued, so drained, but I could not sleep. I wondered if this is the kind of thing for which one calls the police. I have no idea. I don’t know how the police work. I have no manual.

Was I just threatened even though it was indirectly, as part of a story to someone else? Did she in truth know I was gay? Did she call me a faggot just because that what childish people use as an insult? If she did know and called me that, after saying she wanted to shoot my head off, are we talking hate crime potential?

My upstairs neighbor stirred. I can hear it every time he moves around.

I imagine she would shoot my head off whether I was a faggot or not.

I sat up in bad three times. Each time, I was making a move to make a move. Call the manager of California Bitch’s building? The number was on the sign out front. Call the police? I’m sure the non-emergency number is in the yellow pages. But each time, I lay back down. I had no idea what to do. I just wanted to fall asleep.

I got into work after 9:30 today. That’s very late for me. The first thing I did was call the company that leases the building in which my tormentor resides. I had jotted down the number this morning.

I tried to tell the story without it being too long. I prepared the woman at the management company for details that might be offered up by California Bitch in her defense. I did mention I was indirectly threatened with being shot in the head, but I did not mention the faggot part. I can save that one for later.

As it stands, 11838 Goshen Ave. apartment #1 is getting a 3-day notice. Make changes or get kicked out. If anything else happens, I am to call the police.

I know I should feel good about this, but I have a feeling this is not over yet. I know people say things when they’re angry, like “I’ll kill him!” and such. But her threat was so specific, so seething, and so said more than once, I don’t know. I’m not expecting to get shot in the head, but I still feel uncomfortable. Even in the worst of situations, my behavior was not worthy of such violent posturing.

My god, what will happen tonight?

I am so tired, though a good tired, since rehearsals for Antigone are going well. But I can not respond to John right now! I promise to do so tomorrow.

Now, I am dreading going to sleep (see last night’s post). What wonders await me in the California Bitch Fantasmagoria?

Well, I guess it’s my day for doing the writing. Steve must be performing. As Steve so often does. 🙂

First rant: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. What a needless movie. A movie with no charm, no heart. One that was made for the most crass of reasons: It is a sure-fire money-maker. It belittles the memory of both the original movie and of the book, I don’t care how faithful they say they are being to Dahl. There’s no emotional center to this movie. Johnny Depp is a caricature, not a character. There’s no sparkle, no wit, nothing except a desire to be “scary” and “edgy,” which comes off as alternately desperate and aloof. It’s depressing.

Second rant: I’ve got a co-worker who does nothing except bad-mouth the boss all day. This goes beyond the typical, to-be-expected complaining about “management.” She has literally said, “(Our boss) does not know what she’s doing. Her management skills are terrible. She is not the person who should be leading this group.” Am I expected to have a response to that? If so, what should it be?

Third (and final, for the evening) rant: I’m going back to L.A. for a second interview tomorrow. I’ve a feeling they’ll make an offer. I genuinely do not know what to do. I miss L.A. terribly. I think this job could be interesting. Then again, I’ve just gotten a hefty raise, a promotion and the support of my aforementioned boss, who I like very much. I work with a great group of people (except one), I’m intrigued to see what happens once we move to the Presidio. What do I do? Jeff and I have had long discussions, but I’m no closer to an answer. I suppose it’s just best to wait and see.

I’m reminded of the song in Les Miserables: “Tomorrow we’ll discover what our God in heaven has in store.”

I fear I shall not sleep particularly well tonight.

Permalink Comments Off on Friend of a PulitzerComments Off on Friend of a Pulitzer By

Wow. I am floored. While I was wrapped up in the chaos of the theatrical release, it turns out a friend of mine who I trained with as a newspaper copy editor in 1987 won a Pulitzer Prize!

For coverage of McGreevey’s resignation, no less.

Don’t remember McGreevey? Want to read J.P.’s work? Here you go!

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Fear and evil take many forms.

Especially in Japan.


More warnings from Japan for your pleasure and amusement.

Sometime within the last 6 months, a very noisy woman moved into the apartment building across from my bedroom window. Our buildings are maybe 10 feet apart at most, and so every time this woman comes home drunk, or is on the telephone with her friends, or in her bedroom with her buddies, or watching hours of loud TV, or anything at all, I hear it. She’s loud. What I call one of those California Bitches. Her medium-husky voice carries like an air horn through a mausoleum. And worse, she often will put on horrible music very late at night—2:00 or 3:00am late—and, when really comfortable in her self-centered microcosm of incivility, sing very poorly to same.

This is nothing like Gargling Man, who used to live somewhere in that same building and would, every morning in the shower, gargle and hack up more loudly than Mexican construction workers shout at one another across the din of hammering and power tools. No, this is worse, because it’s unscheduled, unpredictable, and often long-lasting. This dame will wake me up at any time, without warning.

With such a varied repertoire and timetable, I have begun to go to sleep at night dreading hearing her. Without fail, the algorithm that computes my degree of fatigue and requirement for sleep against her vociferations comes out in her favor, and I am left tired and grumpy and bitter. I have begun sleeping with my windows closed, trying to circulate air through my apartment via alternate open windows and ceiling fans. The earplugs I used to retain solely for loud concerts or snoring friends I now keep by my bed at all times, wearing them as a last resort since they are uncomfortable and give me such a feeling of unease that, even in my sleep, I will yank them out and find them stuck to the side of my face in the morning.

Last night, I tried something new: a CD I bought from The Nature Company over a decade ago. It features the soothing sounds of a mountain stream and cheeping birds. I played it on a loop all night, loud enough to drown out the more subtle of the city noises. Though loud woman made no appearance, I slept terribly, my subconscious waking me every so often with the worry that the CD was loud enough to perturb the guy who has a bedroom above me.

Tonight, I decided to try the CD again. But California Bitch came home at 11:45 and on went her TV. The dulcet melodies of the burbling alpine waters were rudely punctuated with that hollow TV echo, where some annoying announcer was spitting out a high-energy upchuck, an interlude between emotionless music and a cheering studio audience.

I got out of bed, got dressed, put on my glasses, grabbed my broom from the kitchen cupboard, slipped on the flip-flops I bought in Kauai, and headed out. This was the fourth time I’d actually done something to communicate to this woman that her volume was not okay. The first was during a private concert of country music she was giving for a male friend. His laughter and chatter added to the noise of her terrible crooning, and the CD to which she yodeled was just a tad too loud for 3:30 in the morning. All I had to do to break up that event was shout up at her window. Though neither of them looked out to see who was shouting, the music and the singing stopped, and the guy had the propriety to apologize. “Sorry, dude.”

Tonight was to be the third time I actually took a tool with me to the intervention. California Bitch’s window is very high once I’m standing right under it, so the broom comes in handy to bang on the glass. I have always figured that banging was a bit less disturbing to the other neighbors than shouting out repeatedly and hoping to get a response.

At 12:10, I rapped on the window with the bristle end of the broom. Twice before, this violent smiting scared the living daylights out of whoever was in that room at the time, and the window was closed. This time, nothing happened. I walked around to the front of the apartment building, hoping maybe this time I could determine in which unit the harpy made her nest. But I could not be sure. I did not want to dial a number on the entrance intercom and wake some innocent neighbor.

Back at the window, I re-gathered my courage and took to brooming her panes again. This time, she reacted violently, like a bug that had been stabbed with a pin.

“Stop fuckin’ pounding on my window!”

This was exactly the kind of reaction I was dreading. No matter how annoying or disrespectful the behavior of the rude, the guy lurking outside the window with a broom is always going to be the one doing wrong. Besides, I tend to not handle such confrontations well. As you will see.

“If you turn down your TV or close your window, I won’t have to.”

The window blinds went up. This was the first time I could see her, or at least the top of her. I saw nothing below her eyes and her frosted, hairsprayed, barwhore bangs.

“Do not hit my window again!”

“Turn down the TV or close the window and I won’t.”

“Go ahead. Hit my window one more time!”

“Are you drunk again?”

Sigh. I simply get caught up in the emotion of it all.

“No, I am not drunk. I just got home from work. If you hit that window again…”

“Just turn it down or close your window.”

She stormed away, her thick-slatted blinds falling.

“You fucking dick.”

I grabbed my broom and made for home.


Shit. I had stooped. Yet again when confronting a neighbor, I had stooped. How to cover?

“Hoo hoo ha ha hwaa!”

Now I was a lurker and a laughing lunatic, and I suddenly felt she was gonna come out and meet me on the sidewalk on Goshen Ave. with mace, or a bat, or maybe a broom of her own.

I silently closed the door of my place when I got back in. I was now keenly aware that my upstairs neighbors, who were awake, had heard all this and would know I had made the scene. I felt stupid and angry all at once.

I’m the kind of person who tries not to use my electric toothbrush after 10:00. Yet this cunt, with her unapologetic extroversion and inability to practice the niceties that are sometimes required when living in an urban society, is never going to be wrong. To her, she has every right to be as loud as she wants. It’s my problem if I’m bothered by her big mouth. It’s me who should close my windows since I am disturbed by her booming, late-night get-togethers. And while my mind whirls with options for teaching her a lesson or exacting succulent revenge, neither of these are effective unless the target is cognizant of her errors and, on some level, wise to the annoyance she causes.

No, the world is all about her, and if I don’t like it, well, then, that’s simply too fucking bad, isn’t it?

So here I am, over an hour later, typing this all out, my only recourse for solace and mollification. Now I have a choice: go back into my room, close the windows, turn on my mountain stream, stuff in the earplugs, and hope for the best, or sleep on the couch and let that unorthodox arrangement be my berceuse. Either way, tomorrow will find me tired and grumpy and bitter. Thanks, neighbor!

[NOTE: There is more to this story… —Ed.]

Permalink Comments Off on The Moth StoryComments Off on The Moth Story By

This is fun: My friend Catherine (a.k.a.: Princess Sugar Britches) was interviewed for part of a story about The Moth. What is The Moth? Storytelling. Simple, huh?

Here’s the audio file (sadly, requires Real Player), and if you want to know more, visit The Moth’s website.

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And this is a ride at an amusement park in the Asakusa area of Tokyo. We didn’t go inside. If you look closely, though, you’ll see that there are indeed people in those houses.

It might make a good concept for California Adventure. Call it, “California’s Sky-High Housing”!

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This is the girl at Tokyo DisneySea whose job was to wave at people when they went by on their horses.

You have to wonder, is she concerned about job stability? Career advancement?

Can you imagine some 23-year-old college grad doing this job in the U.S.? They’d probably be stoned, talking on the cell phone and wondering if their hourly rate will be enough to get them a new piercing.

Some random thoughts upon return from Japan:

* When did the U.S. standards of service slip so badly? Japan is a country where everyone says, “Good morning,” rushes to provide you whatever service you might need (within reason, I suppose), and considers customers the most important people who ever lived. We went to Tokyo DisneySea, which was spotless in the way Disneyland, California, used to be spotless, and they even have a person whose only job is to wave at you as you go ’round-and-’round on the carousel.

* Tokyo is an awfully ugly city. And yet, there’s a mysterious beauty to it. How is this paradox possible?

* If Japan is a country where electronics are manufactured, why are they more expensive there than in the U.S.?

* It can be pretty wonderful to be unable to read signs, know where you are or how to get back; getting lost is kind of cool.

* Japan has the most technologically amazing things in the world, yet the soaring Park Hyatt Hotel doesn’t have central air-conditioning. (Literally, each room or area of the hotel is cooled separately.)

* Press junkets are tough. When no one around you speaks English, and you can barely make yourself understood to say, “We need to move (name)’s interview,” they’re damned near impossible.

* I work with some pretty awesome people.

* Tokyo DisneySea blew me away the first time; the second, there didn’t seem to be all that much to do.

* It might very well be true that you have genuinely not lived life to the fullest until you have seen a psychedelic, Japanese transvestite musical. It’s worth the few thousand bucks to travel to Tokyo.

* Damn, the Japanese understand service! (Did I mention that the guys who sweep the streets wear TIES?!)

When is too much luxury too much? Could it be when you have a bathtub that can be programmed to fill itself with your pre-set water level, temperature, “essence” level, and mood light setting via cell phone, land line, PDA, or the Internet? No, surely it’s when the tub can contact tech support on its own when it senses something wrong. When the Kevlar-clad, night-goggled tub repair men crash your door down in response to an LED mood light malfunction emergency, just hope you’re not… WAIT FOR IT… in the tub.

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I do not read The Onion enough! Here is a brilliant story skewering Bush with a wit we would not be able to recognize.

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There’s a short review of a Longhorn prerelease that makes me realize the next version of Windows is going to be… well, just as ugly and poorly designed as it ever has been.

In case you don’t know (and want to), Longhorn is the code name for the next major upgrade of Windows. Already years late, the upgrade was supposed to be a huge technological change, kind of like going from Mac OS 8 to Mac OS X. However, as they’ve been getting more and more behind on the project, they have been dropping features and improvements like a camel drops people who don’t know how to ride camels.

Hell, the difference between the underlying technology of Mac OS 10.3 and 10.4 was amazing, and probably more impressive than anything Microsoft has been able to do with Longhorn. I say that knowing, however, that I do not know the details for Longhorn like I do for the Mac OS.

Finally, it’s good to see that Microsoft has still failed to hire designers for its interface. The pics in the review show that Windows is still ugly. BUTT UGLY. And not just ugly, but poorly designed and implemented.

I almost feel sorry for Microsoft. It’s like watching a big, lumbering mob boss who has the power and the fear on his side, but really is a village idiot in disguise.

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I had to post this Wired article. It’s chilling. But just as chilling are the comments. You’ll se what I mean when you read the story.

This is a difficult issue. You ache for the people who were killed and have to ask, “Why did we not find this guy sooner?” But is it really what you want, for the government to scan the Internet looking for evil? How many false alarms will also ruin people’s lives?

In the past, it was simple to ignore the demons society creates. Today, in this age, with the demons out in the open, we do not know how to handle it. So we resort to blame and anger and revenge. We can’t turn our heads when what we want to ignore is flashing around the world on any screen with an Internet connection.

If that’s all much too heavy for all y’all, here’s Darren’s post of an Onion article that is, as usual, right on the money and very funny.

Once again, Sam comes through. Look at this fun fireworks link. You can get those suckers goin’ at quite a pace! Now I need to put them together with the Electric Light Parade song… Magic!