Many TV Series Finales

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You can’t blame COVID-19 for the end of lots of TV series this spring. The decisions were made ages ago and the finales have been in progress for a while. So it really just is coincidence that so many TV shows that I watch regularly have now ended their runs. I’m not going to describe any plot in detail and in a few cases, I’ll be intentionally vague to not give things away but if you are worried about spoilers for a particular show, it’s probably wise to skip over that series’ summary below.

The first to sign off was a show that I never really intended to care about, The Good Place. My wife thought it sounded good and suggested we watch. It was clear in the first episode that it was a different kind of show and I realized soon into it that it was going to be a good “different” sort of like how Pushing Daises was a good “different” (also a show that my wife had encouraged me to watch). But as the first season went on, it became clear that The Good Place was a supremely well-written show and had more going for it than the gimmick of showing a possible view of the afterlife. Exceptionally clever and witty, the show was both engaging to watch and laugh out loud funny. There were only 4 seasons and some of them were somewhat short but the creators realized they had gotten to where they needed to be and had said what they wanted to say. The finale was more satisfying than I usually find finales to be. It didn’t tie everything up or answer all of the questions – in fact I’m not sure it really answered any. But the final scene with people just sort of leaving was really sort of zen-like calming.

The next to sign off was Schitt’s Creek. For my wife and I this was sort of the opposite from The Good Place. Early on the characters were difficult to have in your house – that was sort of the point where they were unpleasant people brought to a pleasant place and they didn’t fit in. This one was my choice and I watched on my own for a season or two until my wife was gradually drawn in as the characters became less cartoonishly annoying. You began to care about them and see them with more depth. My wife is more discerning in her TV choices so when she started getting sucked in, it was a sign that the show was maturing well. It didn’t hurt that the cast was so strong too. Favorites for my wife and I were Jocelyn, the mayor’s wife, Stevie, the hotel worker/owner, Ted, Alexis’s boyfriend, and Patrick, David’s partner. There were also awesome side characters like Ronnie, Twyla, Bob, and Ray. And the main cast was awesome too including Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara who were the main reasons I started watching in the first place. The show was on for 6 seasons which seemed about right. Even though the show’s writing was really just hitting its stride and the show was reaching its widest audience, I think the story had pretty much run its course. From the first episode, the question was whether the Rose family would return to wealth and glory or would they realize they were better off in Schitt’s Creek. As the characters developed and you understood how they were evolving, you could see how either possible result might work. And in the finale, when you realize that the family doesn’t end up going together to the same place, it’s actually good that the adult children have finally become adults and are going off on their own adventures. That finale was one of the most satisfying finales I’ve seen in a while – as a regular viewer, it was nice to get a sense of where the characters were headed and feel like you got some closure on the open questions without needing to see glimpses of their future.

After 11 seasons, Modern Family ended its run. From the get-go, the show was genius. In a lot of ways it was standard sitcom fare with multiple story arcs in each show. But the stories were very clever and frequently worked together to tell a single point. And the way the stories wove together was often a work of art. After a few years and lots of Emmys, the show did lose some thrill for me and for others. I think I watched all of the episodes through the years though I may have missed some. I don’t know that the show changed or the writing diminished so much as sometimes it felt like the characters were becoming a bit too cartoonish in an attempt to not repeat what had been done before. And Mrs. Katharsys got a little tired of how mean the couples ended up becoming towards each other. But whenever I saw it waiting on the DVR to watch and thought about just deleting, I’d begin watching and was drawn right back in by the great writing. As the final season was wrapping up, there were some obvious plot manipulations to help drive the characters to where they needed to be at the finale. But it was worth it so that the finale had the ability to settle the story and the characters. The show ended with a satisfying finale that gave you enough about what the future held for the characters but also didn’t blow up anything to make you feel cheated by what had happened before. It’s a bit easier with a show like Modern Family with a focus on family than for a drama, but still, Modern Family managed to stick the landing and left me satisfied with how it all wrapped up.

Will & Grace ended it’s run for the second time. It ran for 8 seasons initially and then returned for 3 more starting in 2017. From what I remember of the original run, it was very clever and very funny. And from what I remember of the initial finale, it was not very satisfying – it sort of blew up where the characters had gotten to and didn’t leave you feeling like you knew what had happened. I was skeptical when the show restarted in 2017 but it immediately proved itself worthy of the restart. Plenty of pointed commentary on the current politics of the day made the show feel relevant and the writing was still as sharp as ever which made it enjoyable to watch. However it had lost some of its mojo by the third restarted season so for it to call it quits seemed like the right choice. It spent less time on current events and how the characters fit in the new world and more on the two lead characters expecting children (separately). I get that the show wanted to undo the prior finale disaster and I get that they wanted to give both Will & Grace something more in their lives than their various failed romantic relationships. But I’m not sure that I ever really bought into either of the self-absorbed characters being able to be a parent. And while the final storylines for Jack (buying a gay bar and being happily married) and Karen (accidentally successfully leading a minor league team to a championship) seemed satisfying and the writing was still clever, the way Will & Grace ended up buying a house together for the future children didn’t really make sense to me. The finale felt like a regular episode right up until the last few minutes when it felt rushed.

Lastly, the 2010 reboot of Hawaii Five-O ended it’s 10 year run. I’ve had a real love/hate relationship with this incarnation of Hawaii Five-O. I love the Hawaii set drama but I hate the routine “world-is-ending” scripts. I loved the diverse characters the show created but found some plots to be mindnumbingly stupid with holes you could fit a volcano through. I liked the new characters they created to replace the originals who didn’t return due to contract disputes but I thought they handled the departure of the original characters poorly and the introduction of new ones well in some cases (Junior) and poorly in others (Tani). They tackled some important topics well including substance abuse, military service veterans, importance of ohana (both that you are born with and that you choose), women’s equality, domestic abuse, etc. but they also waded into useless areas like the challenge of opening a restaurant. They had a deep stable of recurring characters that were fun to see pop up and that you felt like you got to know as much as the main characters but sometimes you ended up wondering what became of the recurring characters. I liked the technology they used on the show but sometimes it got a little over-the-top in terms of what could be accomplished with the tech and the show fetishized weapons too much – it isn’t uncommon and many of the characters were formerly military, but a bit less Michael Bay and more police detective show would have been better. As for how the show ended, returning to the original season’s question of what happened to Steve’s father was a decent premise but considering what Steve had been through during the run of the show (and previously), it seemed a bit out of character for him to decided he’d had enough. And I always thought one of the weakest characters to have been on the show was Catherine – points for creating a military wiz who happens to be a woman but points deducted for casting the wrong person in that role (the actress who was brought in the last season as Quinn Liu would have made a way better Catherine, for example) – so including her in Steve’s future made the ending even less satisfying for me. (Some of the characters may pop up in the reboot of Magnum PI and it will be good to seem them there but that show has some serious issues too.)

Republicans vs. Facts

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The recent Congressional hearing with Sundar Pichai provided some useful insight into how many Republican congressional members’ brains work – or don’t work as the case may be. 

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Updating MythTV Channel Lineup

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Updating the MythTV channel lineup shouldn’t need to be so confusing but based on some misinformation on the Internet, I wasted a lot of time heading down wrong paths.  The upshot is mythfilldatabase does do the right thing but it may not be clear initially.  And if you don’t care about channel numbers at all, and you have only one source, then just run “mythfilldatabase –do-channel-updates” and you are done.  If you do care about channel numbers (which can be useful when watching live TV switching between sports programs on neighboring channels, for example) or you have more than one source, read on.

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Migrating Windows XP To SSD

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One of my family members is still using Windows XP on an older computer and they got a “no boot device found” error.  Apparently the hard drive had finally given up.  But the computer does what they need it to do and they don’t want to buy a new one and of course, there’s stuff on the hard drive that they didn’t want to lose.  Here’s what I did to get the system disk switched to an SSD and get them back to where they were before the hard drive failure.

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It started with somebody saying they didn’t get my e-mail message.  Weird, but the Internet isn’t perfect.  Resent; problem solved.

But then it started happening more often.  It was still only to one client of mine, though, so I passed it off as some weird incompatibility between their servers and my servers.  It was annoying and something I intended to look into but it was easy enough to check via IM and confirm e-mail receipt when I didn’t hear back with an e-mail reply right away.  And I was starting to be able to track that it really was only messages I would send, not ones I was expecting to receive.

Then in late October, the problem got bad enough that I was not receiving about 1 in every 5 e-mail messages sent.  At least, that’s as far as I know because over the course of a couple of days I was told that how many messages needed to be resent.  And confirmed that the sender wasn’t getting any notification of any problem.  So on October 22 2015 I sent in a request to my ISP, Arvixe, to have them look into it.  In the past, they had been pretty responsive to such things.  Not so this time.

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Fixing MythTV tables

| by Ken | in Admin, Technology No Comments »

You just never know when MythTV is going to do something goofy. It is the best option I’m aware of but it isn’t without it’s quirks. Periodically something goes haywire and this time, I ended up with screwed up database tables, apparently.

Fortunately, this isn’t an entirely uncommon issue. I found some info at pantz.org. There’s a process to run to fix tables. But you have to ask yourself, if the system knows that tables are crashed and has a script to fix them, why do I need to be involved to tell it to fix them?

Hello From The New Home

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I started with Yahoo hosting long ago – 12 years ago, I think.  And every year since I’ve thought about switching hosting providers when I get the annual notice of renewal.  Last year I started the effort by signing up with a new hosting vendor with a temporary domain as a placeholder and planned to transition over the summer.  It didn’t happen.  So this year when I got the notification of renewal from Yahoo, I realized a whole year had gone by without switching and I wanted to get it done before I got billed.  So I started the transfer process… and it turned out it takes a long time for it to get through.  The first time it failed because my domain registration was still private.  The second time it worked but even that wasn’t speedy.  All told, it took about 2 weeks for the transfer to go through.  I thought it would take about 2 hours.  That was not fast enough to beat the billing charge so I am going to need to see about having that reversed or maybe I can “return” the unused portion?

Now here in the new home at Arvixe, things are already looking better.  Web site response is speedy and tech support is easy to contact and helpful.  And as you can see, the blog has transferred from the old location to new, seemingly intact.

Also, I should note, I had a problem with Yahoo’s e-mail services during the summer when some messages were being delayed for as long as a day or more.  But if the sender resent the missing message, it could get right through.  So I started using my temporary domain’s e-mail account and messages there got right through.  Also, that is an IMAP server which beats Yahoo’s silly POP server.  So e-mail is going to be easier to deal with now too.

Now, it’s back to business as usual.  And hopefully, with this new hosting provider, business will be usual and I probably won’t even think about them – which is the way it should be with a hosting provider.

Samsung 204B Repair

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My main desk has two monitors.  The monitor that is centered on my desk is hooked in through a KVM to my laptop dock and my Hacintosh.  The other monitor sits off to the side and is hooked in through a second KVM to my Linux server and to my Win XP server.  So while the laptop/Hac monitor is my primary, I got the same monitor for my servers to share.  I figured that way I’d have maximum flexibility and I really liked the monitor.  Both are Samsung 204B monitors.  They are 20″ diagonal with 4:3 aspect ratio and both are running at 1600×1200.  I’ve had the primary since 2006 and the secondary, probably early 2007.

Three years ago, the primary gave out.  It wouldn’t stay “on” – the backlight kept shutting off.  Fortunately, it was under warranty and Samsung was great about the repair.  12 days after reporting the problem, a replacement was waiting at my local UPS Store – I walked in with the broken one and walked out with the replacement.  I thought that was it.

But then only a little more than a year later, that replacement monitor had the same problem.  I was worried this time since I was out of warranty and since the serial number had changed with the replacement.  Fortunately, Samsung was able to figure it all out and give me warranty work on the warranty replacement.  The downside was that I had to wait 3 weeks for the monitor to be sent away, repaired, and then returned.

Now the secondary monitor is exhibiting the same symptoms.  I suppose it makes sense that the secondary one took a lot longer to have a problem since much of its existence is in energy saver mode.  But of course I’m long out of warranty.  So I started thinking that maybe I’d get a new monitor for my primary and shift the primary to the secondary.  Unfortunately, to get a monitor 1200 pixels in height, I’d need to go with a 1920×1600 monitor for close to $400.  And considering I got the originals for $300 each and that was 5 years ago, it’d really hurt to spend that kind of money today.  Especially since I’m still happy with the monitors.

I did a little poking around on Google late last night and discovered a number of other people with the same issue with the same model monitor and other similar models.  The problem turns out to be with some capacitors on the inverter board.  And even better, the caps can just be replaced by anyone with soldering capabilities!

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Blog Fixed and Updated

| by Ken | in Admin 1 Comment »

I had some freaky problem with writing a blog entry in the last week and the whole blog subsequently went poof. I checked the MySQL database and the content was still there but obviously there was a problem with the data that was causing blog issues. I’d been meaning to update the blog to the latest WordPress version (it was at 2.6) so I decided I’d fix the data issue and upgrade the version at the same time.

Interestingly, the new version of WordPress (3.0.1) didn’t help with the broken data. The blog still showed no posts. I tried an export/import cycle and proved that there were three posts that got lost during the process, apparently indicating that at least the first of the three was bad. I ended up running myisamchk on the database which fixed everything. It even fixed the internal comment page that had been broken for probably more than a year (making it difficult for me to know comments were coming in).

I also took the opportunity to implement a new theme. I never liked the original but the WordPress themes at the time weren’t very good. I still didn’t find one that was just right, but I found one that was close and adapted it to suit my needs. And if you are reading this entry on the blog right now, you are looking at the result of my work. Nice, huh? Let me know what you think.

Theater: Rock Of Ages

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If, like me, you heard about Rock Of Ages and thought that it might be the bottom of the pop-music-to-musical-theater evolutionary barrel that has Mama Mia at the top and Movin’ Out somewhere in the middle. Having enjoyed the era of 80s rock music personally, Rock Of Ages seemed like it would be just a blatant attempt to cash in on the same nostalgia that brings people to see veteran rockers on their 401(k) tours. And while I was right about my cynical assumption, there was also more to the show.

The story has a lot of self-deprecating humor in it – the show isn’t afraid to make fun of the music even though it is that music that holds the show together. The result of this clever feat is that you are smiling enjoying the music and laughing at the absurdity of the show at the same time. There’s also a lot of comedy in the show – amped-up caricatures that provide plenty of fodder for jokes (Lonny and Stacee) but some straight comedy too. And on top of all that, there’s also some fourth-wall breaking bits like when Lonny holds up the CD soundtrack to the show and talks about it to another character.

The cast had some real standouts in it too. I can’t imagine the role of Stacee Jaxx being performed by anyone other than MiG Ayesa and likewise, I can’t see how Ayesa could do anything to top his role as Jaxx – definitely made for each other. Constantine Maroulis, playing the male lead of Drew, has the perfect voice and the right measure of timidity and likability that the part needs. Also, Nick Cordero as Dennis seemed to be having so much fun in the role, it was hard to not just have fun along with him.

I left the theater smiling a big stupid grin. Truth is, though, that is the kind of high you get from seeing a comedy show – feels kind of hollow afterward. So I wouldn’t say it was as good as Mama Mia, but the show was definitely better than Movin Out.

Rating: 8 (out of 10)

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