January 5th, 2007

Tom Lehrer is Smug

When Come Back, Bring

  1. New working Charlie Card. Mine came down with the dreaded NOT ENOUGH VALUE Farty Disease. I don't understand what's wrong, as people have been reporting dead cards at all around the same time, but we all didn't seem to get our cards at the same time. This may indicate that some of the cards have a specific lifespan, but I got mine a week before January 1, plumtreeblossom got hers a few days ago, and I don't know when Charlie on the MTA got his card, but we're just three of many who are experiencing the same problem. That's all I'm going to say about that because my blood pressure is high enough as it is.

    Also, if it hadn't been confirmed already, the 2-for-1 Sunday rides are no more (scroll down to read the "Operations Training Bulletin 06-03"; Charlie has helpfully bolded the important parts for you.) I can understand the reasons behind eliminating free outbound aboveground service on the Green Line, as that might help with the revenue, but the two-fers on Sunday couldn't have been making that much of an impact on their bottom line. Well, either that or they just couldn't teach the card readers what day is Sunday, and considering their current technological woes, I bet it's all a matter of implementation over being a big bunch of meanies.

  2. Foaming Pipe Snake. I realize I have many choices when it comes to drain unclogging solutions, but I always opt to go with the most obscene name possible. Take that, Liquid Plum'r!

  3. Ice cream sandwiches. I haven't had an ice cream sandwich in ages. Clearly this needs to be fixed.
Tom Lehrer is Smug

Are you 'avin a laugh? Is he 'avin a laugh?!

Hooray, BBC America's about to start showing the second series of Spaced next week! I'd stopped watching after they started programming nothin' but DIY shows and Footballers Wives back to back, but god damn I'd take time out of my busy schedule for one of my most favorite situation comedies ever ("Tim, I'm not going to buy you porn. You can get it from railway sidings like everybody else." "I can't, I'm an adult. I'm supposed to leave it there.")

Apparently Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's next series will be "La Triviata," about pub quiz teams. This kind of thing, however niche, could easily be adapted to a US bar trivia crowd, I'm sure, but we'll have to wait and see. The next movie from the Shaun of the Dead team is Hot Fuzz, I think I've already mentioned it looks great (the trailer is a spot-on parody of cop action movies, just a little too spot-on) and we're looking at an April release date in the US.

All this ought to make up for the admittedly well-done but ultimately disappointing second (and final) series of Ricky Gervais' Extras. Don't get me wrong, the "When The Whistle Blows" show-within-a-show was a terrific parody of every dumb, crass and puerile sitcom you've ever had to endure, but the show really strayed too far from its Season One roots -- a show about two hopeless professional film extras in search of their big break. When Ricky's character gets his big break, hooray, it's a nice payoff, but the second season deals with that break and it just wasn't the same. However, the irreverent celebrity cameos were still funny so there's that going for it.
Typewriter Guy

the nooz for yooz

Authority to roll out new system by mid-summer
January 5, 2007

BOSTON (ATC) - Charlie may still be stuck on the MTA, but his card will soon disappear from your wallet. The MBTA's automated fare collection system has "not performed as well as expected and will be replaced," MBTA Chairman Dan Graubaskas said at a press conference today. The new plan, expected to be implemented system-wide by the summer of 2007, will do away with the RFID-embedded "smart cards" and instead introduce a fare collection system dubbed "CharlieDisc" by the transit authority.

"With the new CharlieDisc, T customers will enjoy a new world of fare freedom that they never thought existed," Graubaskas said. "Instead of keeping track of a cumbersome card prone to frequent breakdowns, they will ride the T using a brand-new form of payment."

According to Graubaskas, the CharlieDisc is the first fare collection system in the country to utilize the new "Value Disc" technology, which has been in development for several years. In an innovative twist on the traditional pass system, each metallic CharlieDisc, roughly three-quarters of an inch in diameter, represents the fare equivalent of one subway ride. Customers will be able to purchase these discs individually or in groups from machines placed in each MBTA station and then exchange that disc for access to the train platforms. To add value, customers simply purchase more discs.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo demonstrated the collection procedure with one of the new CharlieDisc gates, designed by the German firm Messingzeichen GmbH. "First you pop the latch on the Disc Collection box, open the lid, place your CharlieDisc in the circular depression here, then close the lid and pull the Disc Validator lever. Once you hear eleven bells, you can then open the fare gate by turning the crank on the other side of the unit." Pesaturo added that purchasing the CharlieDiscs is an equally simple process.

For testing purposes, the T has already implemented the new CharlieDiscs at some of the more heavily-trafficked subway stations, including Airport, Government Center, Downtown Crossing, and Bowdoin. At these stations, the CharlieDiscs will be the only payment method offered, and only these participating stations will accept the CharlieDiscs as payment.

Already some consumers are expressing doubt that this change is an improvement. Holly Hill, a homemaker from Hull, described her experiences with the new CharlieDiscs at the Airport station.

"You've got to have an individual disc thing for each ride you take," Hill said. "They say we can buy as many as we like, but they're clunky and heavy and jingle in your pocket. "

Bert Alberts of Somerville also expressed his frustration at the CharlieDisc's monthly pass option.

"I tried purchasing the new monthly pass," Alberts said, "And the machine gave me like 60 of these things. I was surprised when they started dropping into the little hopper. I felt like I was in Foxwoods. Am I supposed to carry all these around?"

Joe Pesaturo acknowledges that the transition from cards to discs could potentially pose problems.

"We realize this new system may confuse people at the start," Pesaturo said. "This happens with every new technological advancement, from the printing press to the Roomba. The important point to take away here is that one CharlieDisc equals one ride. And when you put the CharlieDisc in the gate, you don't get it back."

It is not known at this time what will happen to the CharlieDiscs once they are accepted by the fare gates. Graubaskas explained the Disc Validation process involves bending the disc in half and then flattening it altogether. The T is exploring several disposal options, including depositing the used discs in the Charles River, surreptitiously dumping them somewhere west of I-495, or melting them down into souvenir lobster magnets to be sold at Quincy Market. Graubaskas said the revenue generated by the magnet sales would help the T's bottom line but it would not be enough to cancel the anticipated $2.50 fare increase, which will go into effect once the CharlieDiscs are implemented system-wide.

"We're committed to ensuring our riders have a safe, easy, fast ride," Graubaskas concluded. "We know everybody will be loath to give up their personal CharlieCards, but we are planning on offering five shiny new CharlieDiscs for every card turned in to our Card Collection Center, regardless of how much value is left on your card. That way everybody will begin the new system on a level playing field."

As expected, MBTA critics immediately leapt to the Internet to express their consternation. "I admit the disc exchange program will help ease the transition process," commented long-time quibbler RedRider74 on his Park Street Under blog. "But really, when you get right down to it, it's just another token gesture."
Spatch - Porter Square


This here's footage of something that truly freaked me out as a kid. I only saw the CBS News report, but it was totally disturbing. Some good old-fashioned nightmare fuel. However, it's disturbing and somewhat kinda cool at the same time, because it was the time a video pirate took over two Chicago television signals and broadcast a very bizarre Max Headroom parody.
Later that night around 11:15pm during a broadcast of the Doctor Who episode Horror of Fang Rock on WTTW, the signal was hijacked by the same person. It was the same video that was broadcast during the WGN hijack, but this time there was audio.

The person in the Max Headroom mask interrupted the broadcast, saying "He's a freaky nerd" before laughing and stating "This guy's better than Chuck Swirsky!". The person continued to utter strange phrases including a Coke advertising slogan (Max Headroom was a Coke spokesperson at the time), humming the theme song to Clutch Cargo (pausing midway to say "I stole CBS"), before finally undressing below the waist and was spanked by an unknown woman with a flyswatter before the masked person cut off his transmission. It was over in about 90 seconds. The pirate was never caught.

WTTW, which maintains its transmitter atop the Sears Tower, found that its engineers were unable to stop the hijacker because at the time there were no engineers on duty at the Sears Tower. Also, the station's master control center was unable to contact its transmitting equipment remotely to switch the STL (Studio To Transmitter Link), unlike their counterparts at WGN-TV, who were able to thwart the intruder by switching their John Hancock Center transmitter STL remotely within seconds.
There's footage on YouTube, natch, of the actual video (warning: it's really creepy) and of the CBS News report that I saw.

But to be fair, the point where they go back in to Doctor Who is pretty darn funny. "Looks like a massive shock; he died instantly."

Much less mindflaying is the classic HBO "Captain Midnight" takeover, which features a test pattern and a friendly greeting from the good Captain himself. (Unlike Max Headroom and his dom, Captain Midnight was caught, fined $5000 by the FCC, and served a year's probation.)