Tribal Skull

Joyous Beltaine

Hail to the May, Bright Lady all arrayed
in hawthorn, lilies and spectacular storms.
This is your season, Young Queen,
All the light of the lengthening days are Beltaine’s fires,
Where You open Summer’s door. 

Bring the season’s heart, Bright Lady,
And the invincible Green Magic with it.
FM&S

Day One With The MacBook Pro

This is, quite simply, the most beautiful computer I’ve ever seen. I know that that sounds silly, pretentious and obsequious, but, it’s also true. This thing is exquisite.

The Dell 1405 (The Personal Machine Dedicated To The Holy Temple Of Employment) looks positively dowdy sitting beside the Apple MacBook Pro, like a 1940’s rotary phone beside a Razr cell phone. One can tell the objects are related from the obvious relationship of their keyboards, but…

And the display is beautiful, too. I come from a family that’s been associated with television R&D, and production technologies for more than 50 years. I’ve seen all sorts of visuals on all sorts of displays, and this one is impressive. The rated resolution isn’t as good as the highest rated resolution on the afflicted XPS M1710, but, the picture is quite obviously better than that was. I can see that if one were a matte-screen aficionado, the display on the MacBook Pro might not appeal, but being quite taken with gloss screens, I am exceedingly taken with this one. Extremely crisp and detailed, vibrant and wonderfully saturated, and yet the separation in color gradients – not to mention the smoothness of the graduation itself – is superb. For instance, I never realized that the background of my Live Journal theme went from blue to a faintly olive-tinged gray. (I know – it’s sad. Go right ahead and snicker. I don’t mind a bit.) I’m considering switching to the “Much Better” graphics card to see what that looks like, considering how I’m admiring the efforts of the on-board graphics card, but I’m having a very hard time of it right now, trying not to drool on the keyboard of the Mac with admiration, and I’m sure that will put me right over the edge. The display on the MacBook Pro makes me want to have gorgeous sites bookmarked for no other reason than so I may pop into the Bookmarks and riffle through them in Cover Flow. (Yes, I’ve had this thing up and running for under 40 minutes and I’m already acquainted with Cover Flow. It is a very silly sounding idea, at least to this Windows aficionado - rummaging through little pictures of files as if I were perusing the card catalog of some library in possession of a fancy color laser printer and a library assistant with too much time on her hands (and what librarian would spend all that money on a fancy color laser printer when there are so many books out there and so little funding?) - but it turns out to be an intensely satisfying way to look through files, graphics files especially.)

Speaking of the MacBook Pro’s keyboard… not only is it lovely, visually – it’s lit, dear Gods, the keyboard is lit – and it types very nicely indeed. The touch is light and responsive. The travel is excellent. The surfaces of the keys have that perfect, plentifully typed-upon, polished smoothness with just the slightest silky tooth, right out of the box, and yet, the position markers on the F and J are still definite but not distracting. Nor do the keys have an excessive amount of “clickiness” or typing noise to them, not even with a sturdy amount of fingernail protruding past my fingertips. Typing fast on this sweetheart is both easy and pleasant.

It’s also surprisingly quiet, functionally, at least as quiet as my Asus netbook with the solid-state hard drive. And, blessedly, the operating system doesn’t seem to own all those sound effects that have insured the first thing I do to a new Windows computer is mute the sound. I already know what the Windows machine is doing, thank you. I’m the one who’s making it to whatever it’s doing - I don’t need stupid sound effects to point it out for me, thank you no. The Mac didn’t even have to congratulate itself with symphonic sound effects upon starting.

Oh, such an infatuation I have going.
Wiccan Army 13th Airborne

Computers - A Hate/Love Relationship

Back in early December, my XPS M1710 decided to throw a video driver error.

As they say, that’s where the ‘fun’ began.

The screen flickered, and Vista Ultimate delivered a little message bubble to inform me there had been a video driver error, and the system had recovered. I raised an eyebrow, and went on with what I was doing, which wasn’t much of anything. (I was checking on the shipping status of various Yule and Christmas presents as I recall.) Certainly nothing to make an NVidia GeForce Go 7950 card with 512 M of RAM weep, whether in terror or exhaustion.

Then the screen went black.

I raised both eyebrows and took my hands off the keyboard.

The screen returned – browser window over the Aurora wallpaper, and the same little message bubble with it. (I have to give Vista that: Microsoft certainly delivered the best, straight-out-of-the-box wallpapers with it of any version of Windows I’ve seen, and I’ve seen them all back to Windows 2.0.) But, before I could drop my hoisted eyebrows, the screen went black again.

And stayed that way.

Power on. All idiot lights showing nominal activity. Just no picture.

Being strong in the ways of the Force, or, at least of Windows, I did a Ctrl-Alt-Delete, then paused an instant, and pressed the S key.

Hum. Chug. Blink. Descending whir.

The XPS shut itself down as if the OS was still there and running – I just hadn’t been able to see it.

Not pleasant, but, as they say, a good sign.

So, I booted the XPS again. Comes the Windows logo on a screen… covered with vertical rows of tiny, neon-green dots and bars like some low-rent special effect indicating “This Is Alien Data” on an Earthling’s computer.

Say what?

Booting continued. The little circulating circular Windows Vista “I’m busy – just wait, I’m the computer and I know better” cursor appeared and disappeared. The arrow cursor never bothered to appear at all. The boot finished with the black screen of this-is-not-working.

Feh.

I shut it down again, and booted into Safe Mode.

Little green dots and bars again, but…

Voilà. Eagle, this is Houston. We have a working copy of Windows with video. More or Less. Mostly less at that point, but still.

Kindergarten sized everything (and why do Kindergarteners get the huge pictures and letters and all that when their eyesight is probably statistically better than adults’, anyway?), but definitely a functional copy of Windows Vista despite that.

Since it was then about 2:00 am, I shut the thing down again, and went to bed.

The XPS is my personal Play (as in, Not Work) computer, so I didn’t make an all out assault on the issue. But, over the weeks I’ve installed beaucoup des drivers nouvelles through safe mode. None of them helped. I’ve uninstalled the original driver and installed beaucoup des drivers nouvelles encore. De rien. There were various Dell update drivers. There were NVidia beta drivers. There were third party drivers. Toute de rien. The little neon-green dots and bars are eternal, apparently, but the actual video is not. It was Safe Mode, or no visuals pour moi.

I began to have serious suspicions that the video card itself was in the process of laying out cash to purchase the agricultural complex.

At long last, in January, I decided to actually give up and go back to a restore point – which happens to be the procedure that Windows itself suggests applying first. I suppose it says something about my attitude toward Windows that I immediately searched the Web for info relating to errors on the XPS’s NVidia card before I did what Microsoft recommends, and I can’t deny what it says. But, nothing else had worked, and Windows had installed updates the day (night?) that the situation began, I so I thought I might as well give the received wisdom of Mr. Gates a go.

So I did.

And I say unto you, gentle readers, if your NVidia GeForce Go 7950 delivers driver error messages unto you, do not do as I did. Don’t restore Vista Ultimate, for going back to a restore point only made things worse – quite thoroughly worse.

I couldn’t even boot into Safe Mode – or, at least I couldn’t boot into Safe Mode and have the screen work right - as in deliver an actual visible Windows desktop - when I did. The blackness of the screen was relieved only by a VGA arrow cursor, which moved, but gave no other indication that anything resembling Windows functionality lay hidden in the stygian darkness around it. (In other words, I know where the Start button ought to be in both Safe Mode and in Windows For The Non-Kindergarten Crowd, and clicking it did nothing, even though the audio ought to have delivered a click sound. Nor did Ctrl-Alt-Delete and then S shut the XPS down anymore.)

Holy crap.

This was So Very Not Good.

So, brows high, I tried to determine just how broken the XPS actually was. Rebooting and pushing F keys, I could hit the BIOS and the boot menu, so there was apparently still something present in the way of an operating system, even if that something didn’t add up to a working copy of Vista Ultimate any more.

So… I had some thinking to do.

Once I turned off its habit of notifying me seemingly every time that I’ve updated anything on the entire system that ever required a confirmation, I’ve liked Vista as an operating system, at least as well as I’ve like any version of Windows. It didn’t freeze often, and it wasn’t so unlike XP Pro that I couldn’t figure out what to do with it, whenever I needed to do something. So I was cool with the functional aspects of Vista.

But… the native Cisco VPN client my employer requires me to use would never have anything to do with my copy of Vista. No way, no how. Period. It didn’t like the XPS and it wouldn’t interact with it. I even took a beta on the web version of the client because of Vista. That didn’t work out because the Web client was apparently an outstandingly personality prone, and buggy, piece of software, but, it still left me unable to connect to work from the XPS-as-a-Vista machine. The XPS had become a Play machine by force at that point, which was not necessarily good, because it boasted processor, memory, and drive capacity out the wazoo, having been conceived and constructed as a go-to-hell gaming machine, and sometimes I have literally gigs of data to crunch for work, and the Work personal computer doesn’t always take that lightly. There were occasions when I missed the XPS’s power desperately.

So… I decided to try downgrading it from Vista Ultimate to XP Pro. (I do not stand for options from the Kiddie Menu of Microsoft’s operating systems. It always gets me in trouble. Which is why I formatted the XPS and installed Vista Ultimate instead of something cheaper back in 2008. Bad move, obviously, as time has told.)

I purchased a full copy of XP Pro. I downloaded more drivers than I ever realized the XPS had. I downloaded and studied instructions for performing the downgrade, and for the installation sequence of the drivers afterward. I created boot disks for XP, in floppy and CD. I rearranged the boot sequence in the BIOS. Since I couldn’t see anything in the way of Windows functionality on the XPS screen, and it wouldn’t drive an external monitor either, I couldn’t back it up. So, I thought I was ready, and, in February, I proceeded to do the deed.

I connected the external floppy to the XPS, and put the XP Pro installation disk in the XPS’s CD/DVD drive, and I booted the thing.

Humming. Chugging. Finally, the Blue Background Screens of the Netherworld of DOS which underlies the Reality of Windows opened, and I was in. (The little lines of white that appeared in the verbiage thereon, indicating ‘whatever passes for your operating system is not simpatico with your video adapter’ did not hearten me, but, I was in, and it was responsive, so…) I should have chosen R for repair installation, and sent the thing on its way, at that point, but... I didn’t have a repair option. I could install Windows XP. Or quit.

I boggled.

With only those two options in evidence, my computer was trying to tell me that it had essentially lost its whole operating system beyond DOS. Somehow, in unsuccessfully trying to go back to the pre-problem restore point, I had succeeded in lobotomizing Vista Ultimate. Not only that, I did it by doing as His Holiness Gates Commanded, too.

Dear Gods. I never guessed the thing was that confounded fragile. (Confoundedness I knew of long since. Fragility I hadn’t imagined. Dear Gods.)

So… I installed Windows XP Pro, with all the prompts as if the computer did not own an operating system other than DOS.

That made it easy – format the fripping hard drive and install (during which the XPS acquired Necronomicon as its name - why yes, it was deliberately Freudian).  The idea of replacing an operating system so simply, and for such a ridiculously minor reason as constituted by following the Holy Word Of Microsoft's Suggested Procedures, nauseates me, however.

I’ve been working in Windows – as one of those users that IT hates, even before I joined IT, because I learned to do all sorts of useful, evil, tricks with every version of Windows I had at work on my home machines and usually demanded access to do them at work, too, and the security policy groups be damned – for years. I know how to do most things with and to Windows, and I thought I knew how to avoid breaking Windows, too.

But, I’ve never had Vista at work. Our CIO took one look at it and refused to be assimilated. So, I’ve never had the chance to play with it all day, day in day out. I guess it’s a good thing I haven’t had it, or I’d have broken company property long since.

Still, I have that nauseated feeling, and the XPS is still doing the alien-data-display thing when it boots. The picture is there and the Setting menu is responsive now, so I was able to crank the resolution to a tolerable, if distorted 1600 x 1400. My 1900 x 1200 resolution was not available, however. Nor can I install any driver for the NVidia Geforce GO 7950. None. I have quite the collection of them at this point, and every one of them causes the XPS to go back to the Black Screen Of This Is Not Working when installed. I have to run it with the Windows XP Pro default VGA adapter, or I don’t get a picture. Therefore, I believe the NVidia Geforce GO 7950 card itself is going the way of all flesh. The machine has also developed a quirky tendency to scroll in a slow, jerky way, which might or might not be the video card, and, while I’ve installed my VPN client and other client software for work, the app that goes with the other client now works in extended slow motion. Considering that I’m a Super User Admin on that app, this makes me very, very nervous just to see it happening, and long before we ever get to what the dickens is going on.

All this is making a MacBookPro, with those high reliability and customer satisfaction ratings, look especially enticing just now, especially since I can get another copy of XP Pro, and make the MacBookPro into a dual boot machine for those work-related, unavoidably Windows moments.

And to add to the fun, the data that I formatted on the newly revived XPS-as-an-XP machine didn’t format correctly. It looks good, but it won’t load, and I have no idea how that works, since the user who declares it isn’t formatted properly and won’t load does not share a first language with me, but does share a character-by-character examination of the file that declares it to be perfectly formatted. It just won’t load. (I’m not allowed to touch the system into which the data will not load, either - I have a current boss who will have my ears if I do and a deceased boss who will return from the grave to use my guts for baseball-glove-lacings if I so much as continue to think about the possibility.) And the Dedicated-To-The-Temple-Of-Employment personal machine is beginning to show ominous signs of interest in the ownership of an agricultural complex too.

Argh.

And so it was, that the day before the Ides of March, I parted from credit as cash and ordered a MacBook Pro from the Apple store, XP Pro, Parallels 5, Norton Anti-Virus (my preferred Eset seems to be overkill for as little time as the computer will likely spend booted into, or using, Windows), iWork 09, and Photoshop Elements 8 for Mac from Amazon.
Tribal Skull

And the package is on its way....

Quite literally.

My first manual commercial invoice, too.

It should be there on Monday.

(And I have to say, Pete, wherever you are, our commercial invoices, home-made in Crystal, are much spiffier looking than what FedEx offers in its offices!)
Tribal Skull

In which a friendship foolishly neglected is gratefully resumed

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to renew my long friendship with H. P. Lovecraft.

We will now pause to accommodate the panicked exodus of those poor unfortunates who dreamed of a different sunken city than darkly impossible R’lyeh…

…the thunder of stampeding footfalls fades across the sea-swept rocks that lie black and carven at the roots of the Mountains of Madness, and a few squealing stragglers are neatly tipped into the icy swells by strangely gelatinous and barely visible pseudopodia groping up from the lightless depths…

It’s been a revelation how much I missed H.P. Lovecraft, his vocabulary and the utter surety with which he plays it, like the infinite instrument it is, his erudition that tucks itself into odd nooks and crannies to shine like an old mine cut diamond dropped on the age-heaved flags of a decaying family crypt just waiting for the unwary and happily ignorant (run and pick it up, intruder, you’ll never escape its influence again this side of madness – that’s the curse of knowledge, after all) and his cynical vision wherein humanity's position as the pinnacle of some god's creation topples into the abyss along with any notion of that god's puissance itself.

I freely admit that Edgar Allen Poe it was who first hinted to me that everything I saw was but a fancy, a scrim whispered in pastels over the strength of the under-painting, the grey and black bones of the work that lie beneath, ignored in what’s likely the first article in mankind’s collective unconscious pact with its own self-image. But even then, I couldn’t get past those damnably precious rhymes – if one cannot rhyme with overwhelming power on the juggernaut course of one’s theme, if the rhymes twist and prettify and prostitute the image for no other reason than to exist as rhymes, then they disgust me and I want them gone from my sight. Annabel Lee is not for me. /end intentional punning

H.P. – Howard Phillips – showed me all the full extent of the mystery, the land where the dragons sing in the autumn woods and the wind blasts invisible silver, sharp as shattered obsidian, through shadowed hills beneath heavy, running clouds. He showed me my native land, where the ancient trees drowse in the sultry summer air, deep in narrow valleys so steep their heads look like oddly rumpled patches in the long grass seen from atop those boundary hills as a thunderstorm blasts through, and one may make one’s way for miles swiftly and all unseen along those valley floors, if the trees and shadows are willing, or not at all if they’re averse, and, indeed, one may never come up onto the hilltop again if they're averse enough. Lovecraft showed me the night under great blooming stars in the cold depths of infinity, and gave me to realize it was all right to be awed by the sight and the thought that I looked on both wonder and terror. The world is itself: it has no requirement to conform to my comfort, or preferences, or even my presence. And I had no requirement to conform to the preferences of such puny creatures as the majority of mankind, either. H.P. would always be there, liking what I liked, regardless of how much others disliked that same sense of the void in which visible creation hardly qualifies as a mote.

H.P. never disappointed me with some species of cutesy triteness. When he wasn’t great, and he very often was great, he never sank to sentimentalizing the truly horrible in his work, like some conventionalized-but-unable-see-it Victorian-Gothic-Fanboy, either. There’s never a need to pick off a layer of sugar-glacee to get at the dark fruits in Lovecraft. Nor is there any need to boil down a piece to find any flavor in it. Howard, you may have been a cranky, opinionated pessimist over-endowed with financial difficulties, family issues, apparent racism and personal pedantry, but I do so love you for your gifts: that vocabulary and the educated and discerning ear for language that always went with it, the sure sense of plot and pace and character that dumped all these poor, believable persons into seemingly normal worlds, worlds that bud and then slowly bloom into intense strangeness if not utter madness, and always that strangely erudite acquaintance with every shadowed byway scholarship has to offer.

I’ve come to realize, too, that H.P. Lovecraft was and is a shaping force in my perception of how speculative fiction, science fiction, fantasy and horror all ought to work and be. Real life isn’t thus, and I cannot escape into a world where stupidity breeds success, either. Thanks to Lovecraft, my tolerance for the cute, the trite, the conventionalized and the sentimentalized in genre fiction, whether written, or televised in whatever format, is so vanishingly small as to be functionally invisible. It narrows my choices, yes, but it also keeps me from hurling expensive publications and even more expensive electronica across inoffensive rooms, too. From Lovecraft I learned that same lesson about genre fiction that Honda now uses as a safety slogan: Stupid Hurts. I will forever be grateful for my abiding inability to warm to any character whose stupidity must be offset by their creator’s endless intervention and boundless indulgence simply to get the character through the piece intact. Make that character The Hero of the piece, and I will throw the thing. I suppose that means I don’t tolerate stupid, or, indeed, ignorant in the creator any better than their creation, either. So be it. Real life isn’t thus, and I cannot escape into a world where stupidity breeds success, either.

If this has meant that it becomes more and more like an impossibility for me to watch the Sci Fi channel – pardon me, SyFy (What is that meant to be? The Syphilis channel for the spelling-impaired?) – it’s also meant that I’ve discovered the peculiar pleasures of knowing more, and knowing it more thoroughly, than the people who make History Channel programs on Egypt, the Celts, the Vikings, the Templars, and every occult subject past which the History Channel ever deigns to waltz. My family may be quite a bit better educated on the formulation of Japanese incense, the Enuma Elish, flint knapping, 19th century ship riveting techniques, and the spheres of influence and modes of worship of a wide array of deities whom their careers in the American school system have taught them to believe were both pagan and inherently nasty than they might ever have intended to be, but no knowledge is ever a waste, either. I've even discovered the sensation of knowing more, at least in terms of alternate interpretations, about alternate history than some of the alternate historians. All Has Read, indeed. And falling into a good book, well researched, beautifully written, multi-layered, deft, subtle, and smart will always be an even greater pleasure since you insured I knew that sweetness and light are usually hollow folderol, and always boring as hell. If the spun sugar doesn't create a cutting edge when it breaks, what use is it?

Thank you, Howard Phillips Lovecraft.

Thank you.
Tribal Skull

Asus won't let me sudo apt-get update - I feel rejected

I really like my tiny little Linux netbook.  It’s light, and, with its multi-threading processor, it’s surprisingly quick and capable.  (Yes, the ol’ Pentium 4 on the desk at work is less impressive as a computer than my dinky Asus netbook.  Yes, pointing and laughing is definitely permitted.)  With its solid state hard drive, it’s also quiet and robust.  It’s my second electronic device to suffer an unplanned baptism with iced tea – the Dell Axim didn’t survive the experience, but the Asus is none the worse for wear.  (I was, but the Asus dried out and never looked back.)

Linux is an interesting experience for me.  I’ve been a Windows user for ages, back to the days when installing software was a little like solving differential equations – there are/were various accepted methods: LaPlace transforms, summation, separation of variables, black magic…  Installing Linux software is like that LaPlace transforms, summation, separation of variables, Cornu spirals, Fresnel lenses, transmogrification, black magic…  It’s an incredible blast from the past, typing all these dear little bits of exotic gibberish – they aren’t even the same bits of exotic gibberish (aka: DOS) that one learned back in the days before Windows insisted on Plug and Play – it’s a whole new language! and, having typed dear little bits of gibberish, then waiting for the cute little Linux machine to do something… interesting.  Trouble is, no matter how much I sudo apt-get update in my terminal window, the Asus repository and/or its servers are not having any of it.  W errors.  E errors.  (Those are errors? Oh, my… who knew… Ooh, boy.)  Apparently I can’t stat the main repository for my model of netbook.  (So why can’t I stat the main repository, then?  It’s not the speed of my internet connection – which is often a limiting factor in getting downloads for Windows (“Estimated time remaining: 39 years”) on anything other than a T1 line.  And it’s an honest to Chinese Asus product – pearl white and everything.  Doesn’t the repository server know its own or something?) 

And I want to stat that repository.  As a Windows aficionado, I have this horrible anxiety at the idea of an un-updated computer.  Bad things happen to un-updated, un-serviced-packed computers that roam the net, and this little thing is a netbook, in name and function, after all.  Plus, it seems to be that I cannot install any interesting apps (always given that I can figure out where to get the things, that is) without at least upgrading my copy of Python.  Most notably, the version I currently have will not support the e-book reader and library manager after which I lust. 

Yes, the Asus repository servers are thwarting my bibliophilia, and that simply cannot be tolerated! 

Then again – what am I going to do about it?  I have the Linux installation package for Firefox 3.Whatever, which I also want to install, and, quite frankly, right now I haven’t the skills to take it from an installation package to an installed ap.  I want Firefox 3.Whatever, too – the upgrade to version 2 (the Asus netbook ships with 1.Whatever /insert shocked ‘Eeeek!!!’ about here) made the little thing so much better at one of its primary tasks that I really want to get 3.Whatever and attain the speed and stability I enjoy with version 3.Whatever for Windows. 

The first thing I did was get a book about using the eee PC.  It makes me laugh – it’s so much like Windows How To books, I suspect that the only reason Microsoft hasn’t sued is because their lawyers haven’t gotten their wind back from laughing, too – because it’s all dependent on getting one simple operation to work, then the next that depends on the first, then the next that depends on the second, etc., until the task/upgrade/installation is finished.  And, just like Windows, if that first simple task can’t be accomplished the whole thing collapses like the Tower of Babel.  In the case of modern Windows software, that first task is usually putting the CD in the drive and launching the setup.exe.  In the case of Xandros Linux, it seems to be opening a terminal window and successfully running sudo apt-get update.  If your drive won’t read the CD, you’re at the headwaters of the creek without the propulsion device for your manually operated water craft.  If you can’t sudo apt-get update, apparently you’re not going canoeing either.

If only I could sudo apt-get update…  Tomorrow we (the netbook and I) try it again from a wired connection to the router.  Here I come again, Asus servers.  Give up and let me stat now - you've no idea how persistent a little cuss I am!  (Or how much I want to use your netbook as an e-book reader.)

Tribal Skull

Maternal Impulses WTF Moment

In the last couple days, I've acted on a totally maternal impulse, and now I'm totally weirded out by myself.

Maternal impulses are alien to me. I rarely have them, and my life tends to massacre the very few that manage to occur. At work, I have to 'mother' the various user communities on systems I admin: it's the behavior that management expects from an administrator – hand holding, head patting, feather smoothing, mess fixing, and doing their tasks for them any time and every time – care, feeding, proper raising, training, and fetching, with infinite remedial iterations wherein none of the users can be expected to retain what they're told: it's just my job to tell them again and again and then do the work for them anyway. I must always show unconditional love, even for the people who wait 11 months to tell me they left the lid off the PU-36 Explosive Space Modulator and the whole place might be just an itty bitty tiny little teensy bit lethally radioactive by now.  (Oh, please - I'm kidding.  At least about the lethally radioactive part.  Not kidding about the waiting 11 months to mention misbehavior that might cause vice presidents to explode.)

When one associates one's own maternal impulses with overwhelming frustration, huge recurring piles of other people's crap, and the knowledge that one is being used, and patronized for it, and yet one will be in deep trouble if one tries to get the users to stop using the admin – maternal impulses become something to be ruthlessly suppressed and rigorously avoided. They just make the job worse – larger, dirtier uglier and vastly more difficult.

And yet... I went and did this, for no other reason than I found out about something that sounded to me as if a certain someone really deserved a kindness. 

WTF?

Tribal Skull

Competence Porn!

Competence Porn!

box-in-the-box.livejournal.com/291071.html

Much praise for the original post, and the ensuing discussion!

***********************

I think I've come to actively require competence in my entertainment, especially my genre entertainment. 

Hell, who do I think I'm kidding?  I positively require it, or I'm gone from there.

Yes, smart people make stupid decisions and do stupid things, no arguments from me with that phenomenon.  But I will argue that when the smarts and competence that characters (or writers) show occur via other characters telling the audience that so and so is so smart :) or worse, the press releases have to tell us the character(s) is/are so smart/competent/good at what they do, but the character(s) never show(s) any sign of being more than flatly average, then the work of entertainment is ruined for me.  (Well, ruined as anything more than a source of snark and snicker, which is a totally different form of entertainment.)