Netflix Binge – Columbo

I have written before on my love of classic TV, including a Detective series from the early 1970’s, Columbo.

Once again, I am back, re-watching the series, and I am again struck by the production quality, and the stories.

Yeah, like many of the genre, the stories are predictable, but the theatrical presentation is outstanding, and the character Columbo, is the perfect vehicle for Peter Falk to shine. Quirky at his finest, and completely at home in his role as the unkempt homicide detective, Peter Falk remains charming in his portrayal, and the type of character is reprised often (including his outstanding performance in “The In-Laws“, a movie I highly recommend.

Furthermore, unlike many detective stories, the viewer knows up front who the villain is, and we get to watch the process of elimination that Columbo follows, ultimately finding out that it was an early clue (that we all caught), that causes the culprit to dissemble and be caught in the act.

One more point, the shows work out to about 70 minutes, so they were broadcast in a 90 minute time slot, giving ample time for story and character development. This really helps the enjoyment of the story, as there isn’t a feeling of being rushed in the telling of the story.

There is the trademark green, “stinky” cigar that Columbo is always puffing on, as well as the “Oh, one more thing…” the beginning of a question that cuts to the bone, and begins to unravel the composure of the guilty party…

Ah, how I love Netflix, and binge watching. My classic TV addiction is fed once again.

Oh, and pick up a copy of The In-laws, it is a very very funny movie…


1993, December, actually a little before, I had the inside tip, and an FTP site to get this new game, “Doom”. I remember downloading it at 16kbps dial up. and installing the shareware “beta” on my computer, a 486DX33.

Original Doom artworkI was captivated. A DOS game, it caused me to upgrade my ram and build a faster machine. But it was awesome. While it was not the first FPS (the first I played was Wolfenstein 3D), it was ground breaking.

As soon as I could buy the full version, my money left my wallet, and I could hardly wait for the full version.

It wasn’t really 3D, the graphics were rather primitive, but it was addictive.

I had a DWANGO account, so I could play dial up multiplayer (this was before the real internet existed for this) and lost a lot of time.

I bought the sequels, and the 2007 remake, and of course the Quake series. Continue reading →


Last weekend I finished the 12 seasons of NCIS that are available on Netflix. Not quite a binge watching, but a pretty addicting stretch of TV.

While this isn’t a surprise, I often watch old TV shows and series on Netflix, I usually get to a point where I give up. Either the story line becomes tired and stale, or I get bored, and move on. Rockford Files and Columbo are two examples where I fade away after 5 or 6 seasons.

However, NCIS was different. There are several reasons why I stuck with it (and will likely pick up the 13th season when it hits Netflix.)

The Writing

Continue reading →

My affair with racing games

Coming of age at the dawn of the video game revolution, I pumped a lot of quarters into the machines. I loved many of them, but the one that really captured my attention was Pole Position.

Pole0000Prior to that I had played the “Night Driver” game on the Atari 2600 (I remember playing at a friend’s house) but it was primitive. Pole position, with its steering wheel and the perception of real driving was captivating.

From there it gets fuzzy, but I remember playing racing games in monochrome on an IBM PC clone, and a variety of driving games on dos based systems throughout the 1990’s.

In 2006 or so, I splurged on an Xbox 360, and the first game I bought was Project Gotham Racing. An arcade style game, it had impressive graphics, and incredible game play. I probably put 400 or more hours on it. There was a follow-on version, that I also voraciously played.

Then I lost interest. It was too arcade-y, and got less enthralling. The Xbox was used solely for playing Golf with Barbara.

Introducing Forza

Forzamotorsport2coverForza 2 was introduced. It took the realism to a new level. The car models were scary accurate. And instead of exotic and high end sports cars, it had a wide selection of common cars too.

Add the ability to customize the cars, to improve the performance, and I was again hooked. I spent more hours playing, building my garage. Adding things as mundane as a Mini, and a highly modified Volkswagen Corrado.

Forza 5, and my new Xbox One, is my new passion. It is a refinement of the game, with even more realism. The career mode leads you through a development path to hone your skills, and to become more proficient.

A new twist is the “drivatar”. Instead of just using simple AI drivers against you, the avatars are based on real drivers, that are about at your skill level. So they drive off track, and ram you (and each other too), so it is more like racing multiplayer live. It does make the game more fun.

Of course, Forza 5 is now a year and a half old, and the newer version is available. I will buy that one day, but for now, I am greatly enjoying discovering the Forza 5 career mode.

Ok, now I need to get back to the game…

Toys – XBox One

With the move, I made a singular splurge. While I have cut way back on video gaming, I do have a humongous soft spot for racing games.

Pole0000From the first time I played the Pole Position arcade game back around 1983. I was hooked.

My favorite game on my XBox 360 was the Forza series, and when the premier launch game for the XBox One was to be Forza 5, I knew I was doomed.

I held out for over a year, but with the move, and a new TV, and of course the demo of Forza 5 in the local Best Buy, I was hooked.

So, I cashed in the rewards coupons from Best Buy, and the 10% off any one item coupon (thanks to the change of address form) and Best Buy matching the Amazon price of the Halo Master Chief bundle, and I was out the door with taxes for $212. Not bad.

Plugged it in, added my XBox Live account information, and I am good to go.

A few weeks before I bought it, Amazon had one of their flash sales, and Forza 5 was only $20, so I nabbed it.

Of course, I am starting at 0, and working my way up through my career, but it is enjoyable escapism. I will post later about Forza, but it is impressive.

California Dreaming – Automotive Edition

Living in San Jose, you see more than your fair share of Tesla’s on the road. Smug people driving their zero emission vehicles. (although, truth be told, I see probably four Nissan Leafs for each Tesla I see, there are a LOT of Leafs here) Heck, on one message board, someone talked about how they had run a special power line (high current, separate billing from their home) to their garage to charge it for a mere $4,500 and another $1,800 for the charger unit itself.

corvetteDriving next to one of these on the freeway at about 5mph (heavy traffic) I daydreamed about buying a Tesla, stripping out the batteries and all the electronic junk, and mating the chassis to a late 1960’s or early 1970’s Corvette drive train. 454 cubic inches, 4 speed manual transaxle, a 10 second quarter miler.

corvette_drivetrainImagine driving up next to a Tesla snob, blipping the throttle, then leaving them in a cloud of tire smoke. True bliss.

Yes, one day we will all drive electric vehicles, we will also have better intercity train service, and the idea of a fire-breathing muscle car will be a distant memory.

#400 – Better Make it Count

I was looking at my dashboard, and realized that the next post would be #400. Wow, 400 times I have had an idea to share and jotted it down.

What to write about? Well, there are plenty of things to discuss.

  • Today (May 28) is my wedding anniversary. 14 years ago today, I married the love of my life, and have been happy ever since (just don’t tell her, she thinks she ruined my life…) Going out for Italian food tonight.
  • This morning, I heard that a friend’s wife lost her battle with cancer. Cancer is crap. I can’t fathom how he feels, but I would do anything to help him. Sad is far to weak of an emotion to describe how hard this hit me reading it when I woke up.
  • Last weekend, that dickhead loser at UCSB decided to kill a bunch of women because he kept getting rejected. It is hard to think a a more meaningless reason for a rampage, so I won’t even try. I know that nothing will be done to reduce the future likelihood of another tragedy like this, but I can hope that some common sense breaks out. I am not holding my breath.

But mostly I think I will mention how great it is to have an outlet for trivialities, where I can be as serious or banal as I desire.

… and people actually read it. (I never quit being amazed by this)

Grocery Shopping Theatre – The beer selection

The local Fry’s Foods is a smorgasbord of people watching. A few days ago, I was in the mood for beer, so I maundered in the alcohol aisle. In front of the cooler with the microbrews and imports was a gentleman (and that is a loose interpretation) who was idling in front of the good US micros.  I watched him hem and haw for a few minutes.

One of my favorites, not as good now that it is owned by a major though
One of my favorites, not as good now that it is owned by a major though

I could almost see him thinking out loud: “I have $12, I can get a six pack of really good micro brew.  Or, I could get a 12 pack of a reasonable import.  What shall I buy?”

Of course after wavering and standing in front of where I wanted to look for a few minutes, he walked over and bought a 30 pack of Miller Lite.  Obviously quantity won out over quality.

I hope I am never that person.

Pleasant Memories: Necco Wafers

The memories flood back in when I see these
The memories flood back in when I see these

My grandfather on my mother’s side passed when I was pretty young. I don’r remember when, but I do remember fishing trips, and an annual weekend in Yosemite to play in the snow.

Driving the big Ford pickup truck, with a camper on it, we would head out. And there was always an adequate supply of Necco wafers in the cab. We would probably go through 2 rolls each way. All us kids would jockey to sit in the front, and partake in the ritual.

A couple weeks ago, I was at the airport, and I spied a display of Necco wafers. I had to buy a roll for good ol’ times sake.

Good memories. (ok candy)