Sunday, May 30, 2010

Welcome to summer

Highs have been consistently hitting the low-to-mid 90s for the past two weeks. Kirby's last days of school was Thursday. Memorial Day is tomorrow.

Thus, I am forced to accept the fact that summer has begun. (The "summer doesn't begin until the Solstice" myth has already been debunked on this blog.)

I, of course, never exactly welcome the oppression that is the Houston summer, and this year that was especially the case due to the unseasonably cold weather that lingered well into February and even March and made the spring relatively short.

I'm not excited about the beginning of hurricane season, either. Prognosticators expect that it will be a busy one. Then there's the complicating factor of that oil spill.

Nothing to do now except stay indoors as much as possible and otherwise make the most of it. Kirby and I are accompanying my parents to New Orleans for a few days next weekend, and at some point I'm sure I'll make my way up to Denver to visit my brother for a few days.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Where I get a time machine, go back about 20 years, and kick my own stupid teenage ass

So the cute Mexican girl I met in South Padre Island when I was 16, but broke up with later because she "wasn't worthy" or whatever?

Just found her on Facebook.

She is absolutely gorgeous.

And did I mention that she's a lawyer?

Yeah, I kind of screwed up on that one, didn't I?

Monday, May 24, 2010

My thoughts on the LOST finale

Okay, after having watched it and thought about it for the past 24 hours, I've come to a conclusion: I was somewhat underwhelmed by last night's 2.5-hour series finale of LOST.

Not horribly disappointed, mind you; I think in many respects it made a lot of sense. But I came way a bit unsatisfied.

To be sure, I didn't expect every question to be answered or every detail to be resolved. I know that no ending is going to satisfy every fan of the show. And I know there are a lot of folks who absolutely loved the way it all ended. "I cannot help but give this episode a major WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!" LOST Addicts blogger Mike V. gushes. "I think what we saw last night was the best ending a superfan could ask for,"'s Jessica Derschowitz opines. I can't say I feel the same way, however, and there are indeed a variety of opinions about the show's finale.

To be technical, the show actually had two endings - the ending of the "original" island timeline, and the ending of the "sideways" timeline that has now been revealed as a sort of "purgatory" where the show's characters all went to "let go" and reunite with one another after they died. The island timeline's ending mirrored the show's beginning, with Jack lying in a bamboo forest, only this time, instead of opening his eyes, he closes them as he dies. The sideways timeline ends with the main characters reunited with their loved ones sitting in a church, as Jack's father opens the doors and lets "the light" in so that these characters can move on to heaven or nirvana or wherever.

And on the surface both endings seem sensible and complete. Jack killed the Man In Black / Smoke Monster and saved the island. Before he dies he sees the Ajira airliner carrying his friends home. He dies with satisfaction, knowing that he accomplished what he was brought to the island to do. Island plot resolved.

And then, after Jack dies, he goes to purgatory, where he is eventually reunited with Kate and his father. The other main characters are, likewise, reunited with one another, and, having worked out their mortal issues, are "Shepherded" into the next plane of existence. Character plots resolved. Considering the show's religious undertones - the struggle between good and evil, the failure and redemption of humankind, the clash between faith and science - this seems like an appropriate ending.

But I still can't help but feel like something's missing. For a show as complex as LOST, the ending seemed a bit simplistic and left a lot of storylines hanging. Fans of the show who have been so emotionally involved in these characters over the past six seasons probably deserved something more, especially with regard to the surviving characters in the island timeline. I would have liked to have seen something - even if they were a series of short vignettes - that, however vaguely, wrapped these storylines up.

Maybe Hurley and Ben go back to re-inhabit Dharmaville. Maybe Rose and Bernard and anybody else who is left on the island join them. Maybe they help Desmond get back on that sailboat and return home to Penny. Maybe Frank lands the Ajira plane safely, and they concoct another story to the press and authorities to explain their disappearance. Maybe Claire finally gets to meet Aaron, and Sawyer sees his daughter Clementine, and Kate and her mother resolve their issues, and Richard gets to live life as a mortal for the first time in 150 years, and Miles does whatever he does. The creators of this show developed a lot of time developing these characters over the past six seasons, so don't viewers deserve at least some closure?

It's fine and well to say, as the show's creators seem to be doing, "don't worry about what happens to the surviving characters, because everybody's together and happy in the afterlife," but it still seems like a something of a cop-out. I mean, couldn't you theoretically end EVERY show with that kind of ending? As a commenter on an online discussion forum described it: "Take your favorite book. Rip out the last chapter. Replace it with one page that reads: And they lived happily ever after. The end."

And speaking of the "sideways" ending: we know that Ben is not among those in the church because he had decided to spend more time in purgatory doing penance. Daniel and Charlotte are not there because Desmond told Eloise Hawking he wouldn't take them. We know that the ghost of Michael is stuck on the island, and that Ana Lucia (according to Hurley) isn't ready to leave purgatory yet. But what about, say, Richard and Isabella? What about Michael's son Walt? And why, if Sayid's true love for the past six years was Nadia, was he paired up with Sharon, a long-forgotten character who was killed off early in the show?

I realize I'm beginning to sound like an obsessed LOSTgeek and that's not my intent. As I said before, I didn't expect every question to be answered and, to be fair to the show's creators, the DVD set that comes out later this summer is supposedly going to contain some extra footage that might answer some of these questions.

It's just that I don't watch a lot of television. LOST and The Sopranos are really the only two series that I've followed religiously over recent years because, for whatever reason, I found them interesting enough, fascinating enough and stimulating enough to invest time in following them. And even though I didn't hate either of them, both endings left me with a "is that really IT?" kind of feeling.

I was just expecting something more, I guess.

UPDATE: the folks at have a four-and-a-half-minute list of unanswered questions from the show:

RIP Jose Lima

Like many other Houstonians, I was shocked and saddened to learn about the sudden death of former Astros pitcher Jose Lima this past weekend.

There's no way any Houston sports fan can remember the Astros of the late 1990s - the excitement of three straight NL Central titles or of Bagwell and Biggio playing in their prime - and not remember Jose Lima. His flamboyant personality, not to mention his strong pitching during the 1998 and 1999 seasons, made him a fan favorite and gave rise to the notion of "Lima Time." He loved Astros fans as much as they loved him and never tired of interacting with them and signing autographs. He was known for his animated antics in the dugout - I'll never forget the time I saw him wearing a backwards, inside-out cap and repeatedly slamming a bat into some outfield wall padding in an effort to rally the team on a day he wasn't pitching - and for his humorous interactions with the press in the clubhouse. And then there was him singing in a Casa Olé commercial.

Jose Lima joined the Astros in 1997 and, in spite of being upstaged by the late-season acquisition of Randy Johnson, had a good 1998 season with a 16-8 record and an ERA of 3.70. 1999 was his best year, as he notched 21-10 record, a 3.58 ERA and an All-Star appearance. However, as the Astros moved from the pitcher-friendly confines of the Astrodome to the hitter's paradise of what is now Minute Maid Park in 2000, Lima struggled. He went 7-16 with an ERA of 6.65 that season and was traded the following year, ending the phenomenon of Lima Time in Houston.

His fortunes on the mound waxed and waned in the following seasons as he bounced around between major league teams and their minor league affiliates. The last time I remember watching him was during the 2004 postseason, when he pitched a five-hit shutout for the Los Angeles Dodgers in their NL Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals: the Dodgers' only victory of that series and their first postseason victory since the 1988 World Series. More recently, Lima had relegated himself to international and independent league baseball. With his baseball career coming to an end, he had reportedly been planning on a singing career. Unfortunately, that never came to pass. "Lima Time," however, will live in Astros lore forever.

Jose Lima apparently died of a massive heart attack. He was only 37. Kind of sobering, considering that I'll be 37 in a few months.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Continental and United to merge

Even though I knew this was coming, I still feel like I want to puke:
United and Continental confirmed this morning that the airlines would merge, a combination that will create the world's biggest airline. In a press release, the carriers say the all-stock deal – worth about $3 billion – will bring the airlines together in a "merger of equals."

The Associated Press writes "the new airline would jump past Delta Air Lines in size and have flights reaching from Shanghai to South America. That should lure more business travelers, who pay higher fares. The United name will live on, although the planes will have the Continental colors and logo." The sides hope to finalize the deal before the end of the year.

I was really hoping that the hometown airline would avoid doing this. Aside from the fact that I'm not thrilled about an airline as crappy as United tainting Continental's corporate DNA, the fact that Houston is losing a corporate headquarters, a lot of jobs and probably a lot of flights is going to suck. In that regard, my feelings are well-described by Chronicle cartoonist Nick Anderson.

I realize that it's all about business, and the airline industry is a business that continues to struggle. As the Chronicle's Loren Steffy explains:

Continental's approach has long believed that happy customers and happy employees will generate happy profits. So it continued amenities such as in-flight coach meals long after other carriers abandoned them. But the carrier still hasn't been consistently profitable, and it certainly hasn't benefited shareholders.

Continental's shares closed Friday at the same level they were trading at in 2006, and the carrier has reported losses in three of the past five years.

What's more, it faces a consolidating market. Delta's 2008 acquisition of Northwest gives it a larger global network, making it more formidable in competing for lucrative corporate travel contracts. If Continental walked away from the United deal, and United merged with someone else, Continental could have found it even more difficult to compete for these high-paying customers.

Indeed, as a stand-alone carrier Continental would have found itself in a tough position, so I understand why it decided that it needed to merge with another carrier. I just wish it wouldn't have been United.


Giving nature a helping hand

I mentioned last month that, due to extreme winter weather conditions in Mexico as well as here in the southern United States, monarch butterflies might be a rare sight this year.

Kirby and I are doing our part to help the monarch butterfly population recover by raising and releasing monarchs. Here's Kirby with four of the recently-emerged insects, right before we let them go last weekend: