Movie Badger

It's been six months since I've looked at LiveJournal

I haven't looked at LiveJournal in six months. It's weird, since it used to be such a big part of my life. I've met all sorts of friends, and my wife, through LJ. I still think it's a much better platform than Facebook, but I no longer seem to have the interesting friends list that makes it work. Plus having a job where I have to do work at work keeps me from posting anything long.

Anyway, did I miss anything worth knowing? Any marriages, divorces, births, deaths, monkeys, bears, explosions, or pants?
Movie Badger

TV Reviews: Million Dollar Money Drop and Onion Sports Dome

There are a couple new TV shows that I quite enjoy, and recommend all of ye watch.

Million Dollar Money Drop

I'll watch any knowledge-based game show at least once. And I especially like shows where the questions are too difficult for someone to reasonably know them, so instead they have to use logical reasoning to narrow down the choices and strategies to hedge their risks. Million Dollar Money Drop perfectly fits this description.

Pairs of contestants (usually married couples) start off with a million dollars of cash to bet. (The money is in stacks of 1000 $20s, which are approximately six inches thick.) They are asked multiple choice questions where each answer is represented by a table. They have to physically move the piles of money onto the tables in a limited amount of time. They can split their money up, but they have to leave at least one table empty. (In early rounds there are four tables/answers and in later rounds there are three.)

Once time runs out, trap doors open up beneath all the wrong answers, and the cash literally falls away. Then they use the money that was on the correct answer for the next round. They only have a limited amount of time to discuss the answers and place the cash, and often contestants panic as time runs short. Since they have to leave one table empty, they could theoretically lose everything on any question. Contestants often split up the money among multiple answers if they don't know which one is right. That guarantees that they'll lose a big chunk of their money, but makes it less likely that they'll lose all of it. This makes the strategy a lot more interesting because risk management becomes key to the game.

If they make it the 7th and last question with some money left, they have to risk it all on one final question. (With two potential answers.)

The questions are so difficult that in the approximately ten episodes I've seen, only two pairs of contestants have won anything. And they only won $20,000 and $40,000 respectively, which means their 50 stacks of cash had dwindled to one and two stacks. All the other contestants lost everything.

I have two quibbles with the show: The first is that they insist on editing so that each pair of contestants is one entire hour-long episode. (If they make it to at least the fifth question.) This means that they often have a lot of padding, so you should DVR it and fast-forward through the crap. It's also a huge spoiler. If there's 20 minutes left in the episode, you know they contestants aren't going to lose on that question. It would be much better if they just didn't try to match contestants to episodes. Most other game shows of variable length will pause the game and have the contestant come back next episode, or introduce a new contestant in the middle of an episode. I don't get why MDMD doesn't do the same thing.

The other quibble is that it's a bit disappointing for most contestants to walk away with absolutely nothing. I think it would be reasonable to give those who make it to the final question 10% of their total if they get it wrong.

But still, I highly recommend this show to game show fans.

As a side note, E and I have started calling it Million Dollar Monkey Drop. We've debated over whether that would be "Answer this question or we'll drop this adorable monkey off a cliff," or "Answer this question or we'll drop this angry monkey on your head." Feel free to make your own suggestions.

The Onion Sports Dome

This is a spoof of Sportscenter and sports in general from The Onion. It's hard for me to figure out how to describe it. But I'll just say it's hilarious. Judging by the first episode, I'd say it's the funniest show currently on TV. And that's true even if you don't care about sports.

Of course it's always possible there could be a huge drop in quality from the first episode, but I hope that won't be the case.

Anyway, you should absolutely go watch this. I guarantee you'll laugh, or I'll give you your money back. (Offer only valid for those who spend $0 or less.)
Movie Badger

Android Phone Battery Help

A few weeks ago, I downloaded updates for a bunch of the apps on my Android phone. Since then, my battery life has gone to hell. The phone lasts like 1/3 to 1/2 as long as it used to. Can anyone suggest how I can figure out/fix the problem? Is there some sort of "What's eating my battery" app?
Movie Badger

Home Internet

I've asked this before, but hopefully I'll get more answers this time: Verizon DSL and Time Warner cable internet are both terrible. AT&T, AT&T uVerse, and Verizon FIOS aren't available in my area. What are some other better options for my home internet?
Movie Badger

Net Neutrality

Can someone who understands it and isn't a frothing ideologue explain net neutrality to me? What is it, and why do some people think it's good and some people think it's bad? Note that if you're going to argue that the people who disagree with you only do so because they're stupid poopy-heads, I'd prefer to hear from someone who actually understands the issue.
Celebrity Jeopardy

The Propaganda Show

It's amazing how few people recognize that the Daily Show is just as much propaganda as Glenn Beck.

Sure, John Stewart is funnier. But both shows have the same point: To evoke an emotional response in order to make you stop thinking. To make you forget that people who disagree with you are real life humans with thoughts and reasons for believing the things they do. And to convince you that the only reason someone could possibly be on the other side is because they're stupid, cartoonishly evil, or both.

And before you point out that Jon Stewart occasionally criticizes Democrats, I'll remind you that it's generally for not being liberal enough. Glenn Beck often criticizes Republicans for not being conservative enough. So what's the difference?

There is one difference: Beck is at least honest about his biases. While Stewart pretends to be non-partisan and above politics while pushing his partisan political agenda.

Anyway, this is a reminder that, whichever side you're on, watching propaganda can only decrease your understanding of an issue.
Movie Badger

What's the Best Piece of Advice You've Ever Taken?

Here's a question for you: What's the best advice you've taken? Let me define "best" to mean:

1. It's advice that you followed, and it had a significant positive impact on your life.

2. It's not something you would have figured out on your own in time to implement it.

Also, please stick to advice that is at least somewhat general rather than entirely specific to you. If someone told you, "Hey, you should go out with [the person who would later become your spouse]," that might have been good advice, but it's not very interesting for other people to read.

For me, the best advice was to take an Accounting class in college. I don't even remember who told me to do this. But when I was putting together my slack-off schedule for the second semester of my senior year, I dimly recalled someone suggesting it and figured it might be useful. Ten years later, being the top Econ student at Georgetown and getting straight As in every Econ class as well as every class in my Computer Science minor has earned me precisely $0. But I've made a lucrative career out of the one Introduction to Accounting class I took on a lark because of that advice someone gave me.
Movie Badger

Conservative and Liberal favorite TV shows

I found this article highly interesting. Particularly this chart:

A couple patterns that I noticed:

1. Republican shows tend to be the highest rated shows, while Democrat shows tend to be critical darlings.

2. All of the Democrat shows that I'm familiar with are about narcissists. That's not a bad thing. Narcissists can easily be compelling or hilarious, which makes for good TV. I think 30 Rock, Dexter, and Friday Night Lights are excellent. But it's an interesting pattern. The only narcissist shows I notice on the Republican side are Glenn Beck, Desperate Housewives, and The Bachelor. (There are several shows I'm not familiar enough with to know if they're about narcissists: Brothers & Sisters, Community, Law & Order SVU, Parks & Recreation, and Breaking Bad on the Democrat side, and Modern Family, The Mentalist, NCIS, and Lie to Me on the Republican side. Those of you who watch those shows can weigh in.)

3. Republican like competition-based reality shows, such as Amazing Race, American Idol, Survivor, Dancing With the Stars, and The Bachelor. On the other hand, for some reason Democrats like Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami.

4. Republican like multi-camera sit-coms and Democrats like single camera sit-coms.

5. I regularly watch four Republican shows (Amazing Race, Big Bang Theory, Survivor, and How I Met Your Mother.) I regularly watch one Democrat show (30 Rock.) But I also have previously enjoyed or plan to watch 4.5 more Democrat shows (Dexter, Community, Friday Night Lights, Breaking Bad, and possibly Mad Men.)

Anyone else notice interesting patterns in this?
Movie Badger

Politics and Thinking Things Through

I frequently see political wonk types make an argument along the lines of "the political party or faction I dislike will make a strategically stupid move, and it will be disastrous for their side and great for my side."

This kind of argument is always ridiculous, because it's based on the premise that people who disagree with you are morons who intentionally want to lose.

They can see why it would be disastrous as well as you can. So either they won't do it, or one of you is wrong about how disastrous it will be. And you have no basis for assuming that you're correct and they're wrong.

People always act in whatever way they perceive to be in their best interest. If your theory denies this, either by assuming people will intentionally act against their interests for no reason, or by failing to explain why their perception of what's in their interest is mistaken, then your theory is wrong.

A couple common examples of this phenomenon are:

1. Republicans who assume that Hillary Clinton will mount a primary challenge against President Obama, which will split the Democrats and hand the Republicans an easy electoral victory.

2. Democrats who assume Republicans will nominate Sarah Palin for President in 2012, which will hand Obama an easy electoral victory.

If you believe either of these things will happen, why do you think the people on the other side can't see what's obvious to you? If your answer is that all the people who disagree with you are too dumb to think things through, then it's really you who is failing to think things through.

Also, please don't respond to this by pointing out past political moves that seem dumb in hindsight, such as the Republicans nominating Christine O'Donnell for the Delaware Senate race. If the Republicans had known how gaffe-prone she was and the kooky stuff that would come out about her, they would have picked someone who had a better chance to win. But it's not stupid to lack access to a time machine. The Republican primary voters in Delaware made the decision that they believed would best promote their interests based on the information they had at the time. They ultimately turned out to be wrong, but they weren't *trying* to be wrong.