Missed Opportunities in Star Trek

Star Trek fans Joe Latrell (L), in a Star Trek...
Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

FOREWARNING: SPOILERS.  IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN STAR TREK, STOP READING NOW.

While I’ve been on a trip for the day job this week in downtown Dallas, TX, some of us found time to check out of the action and head over to catch Star Trek a second time.  It’s purely logical that a few NASA geeks want to check it out again, yes?

We found an awesome theatre in downtown Dallas somewhere on Inwood St., I do believe.  What was so awesome about it is that all of the seating were mega-comfy couches and love seats.  We all tossed ourselves into a lounge seat and soaked up the movie for the second time.

This time around I was able to confirm some feelings that I walked away with when I saw the movie first.  While I absolutely love J.J. Abrams‘ work and I absolutely adore what he’s done for the Star Trek franchise, there were a few directorial errors that I felt were pretty glaring.  I hope he’s able to correct them in a director’s edition on DVD.  Just in case he happens to read this blog and care about my opinion (because it’s right), I’ll share it here with you.

  • There could have had some very crowd pleasing moments at the end.  Kirk’s vengeance against Nero could have been exploited to rousing applause.  Why wasn’t it?  Don’t want to show Kirk as a monster?  You could have gotten away with this due to the character’s maturity level, I believe.
  • Movie is far too short.  There should have been some exposition to explain the back story of a few subplots, but I feel like it was sacrificed either for A) pacing or B) to keep Kirk painted in a certain light.  For instance – I’ve heard that Kirk’s hack on the Kobeyashi Maru succeeded because he was seducing the green-skinned chick, who worked on the simulation.  That should have been left in.  Again, perhaps it wasn’t because it may show Kirk objectifying women… and again, due to the character’s age, I think that would have been acceptable and realistic.
  • Overall, the Kobeyashi Maru scene was disappointing.  It would have been much more interesting if Kirk had played the simulation better and acted his part even though he knew the final result.  Having the computers flicker was also a pretty sad call.  I believe viewers could have figured out what happened if the previous explanatory scene regarding the hack had been left in.

Let’s remember folks – Kirk was a kid in this film.  Everyone knows that Kirk’s “I don’t like to lose” mantra always comes first, which is partly why we liked him.  Let’s also remember that he objectified every single female alien in the Federation even when he was older, so why couldn’t we have dealt with that in this new version?

Overall, great film – but at least you know what my version would have looked like too 🙂

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A Mind Blowing Gift

Words cannot express the birthday present I was given today.

I have a dual trip to California coming up in June – first to CalConnect to represent NASA on the standards body board there in Redwood Shores, then WWDC 2009.  I combined both trips into one, which left me with an empty weekend.

My wife chose to fill it.

I suppose to she was tipped off by my exploration into the idea of driving out to Las Vegas for the weekend.  After I investigated it, it just didn’t seem like a very good idea.  The drive from Redwood Shores is about 4.5 hours and I would have had little time to play there in Vegas.  My primary objective was to see more Cirque du Soleil shows in their native habitat.

So, she must’ve gotten the idea from there.

She rallied the family together and consequently put together a package for me to fly out of SFO over to Vegas and spend the weekend in Hotel New York New York.  Not only that, but she hooked me up with tickets to “O” and “Ka” already.  She also contacted a friend of mine to see about landing a ticket to “Mystere.”  Absolutely incredible.

Oh yeah… and if you look up pictures for Hotel New York New York, it has a gigantic rollercoaster.  Anyone who knows me well will know what I plan on doing with that on that fine Saturday morning 🙂

I cannot thank you enough, taitai… nor my family… for a wonderful present to look forward to in June!

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Dish Network Customer Service: A poor first impression

SuperDISH 121 mounted on a roof.
Image via Wikipedia

One of the fortunes I’ve had this year was to finally obtain a “real” TV set to replace the small dinky tube I’ve had since I moved out of my house.  In case you’re wondering, that’s about 19 years ago.

I had promised myself that once I obtained a home theater-type of setup, I was going to load it up with plenty of HD services.  When analyzing the bills, I realized that I was paying some fairly outrageous fees for Internet, cable and phone.  I could consolidate all of those services into Knology (added bonus: drop Comcast, which is not pro-consumer) for less than half of the monthly price.  I could then take those savings and get Chinese televsion for my family.

My wife has been here 7 years and has been quite tolerant of the lack of Chinese television.  As a matter of fact, the move is more to expose our half-Chinese children to the world of Mandarin rather than for her own enjoyment.  She really, really wanted to get ahold of YOYO-TV in particular.

Unfortunately, Dish Network is the only available option to obtain this channel.

I started off by calling the 1-888 number advertised on their website.  I wanted to add some HD channels to the package as well since, frankly, I’m a hair disappointed in the amount of HD offerings from Knology.  I wanted Sci-Fi Channel and Cartoon Network in HD and for some unknown reason, Knology does not offer them.  Dish Network, however, does.  I decided to go for the all-HD silver package and the Taiwanese mega-pack to obtain the YOYO-TV channel.

I called the number and was greeted by a very helpful young man named Alan.  Alan understood exactly what I was after.  He priced out a fabulous package, made sure the installation was completely free and signed me up.  He scheduled the appointment for 8am – noon on the following Tuesday.

Great, thought I.  I’ll just telecommute from work that day and it’ll all go well.

Tuesday comes and my wife runs the kids to school.  I stay home and join the regular telecons and whatnot (sometimes what I refer to as a job).  Noon comes and goes.  By 12:30pm, I’m pretty sure they’re not going to show up.

So I call the 1-888 number once again to get an idea of what might have happened.  I was flabbergasted at the answer.

They had cancelled the appointment.  Not only did they cancel the appointment, no one bothered to call me and inform me of the cancellation.  It gets better.  They rescheduled the appointment for the following Thursday from 8am – noon.  I presume they just assumed an adult would be available anytime they pleased, since they can apparently reschedule the appointment without notice.

I asked why the appointment was cancelled – especially since the day before they had called to confirm the appointment and verify someone would be there in the house.  I was told that this confirmation system was not tied in to the dispatching system at all – they had no idea if the appointment would be held or not.  Unfortunately, my appointment was not held because they did not have the required international dish in stock.

I was furious.  It usually takes a lot to get my blood pressure boiling this hot, but the incompetence was not only so appalling, they seemed to be incredibly indifferent about it.  I kicked into instant pushback mode.  “I work in the service industry too,” I growled, “and if I had given this type of service to my customer I would be fired.”

“I understand your disappointment sir but there’s nothing I can do.  We have no way to determine if they have the part.  We can only schedule the appointment.”

“So you’re telling me that I have to reschedule the appointment, take off of work to be home to meet you and you guys may or may not show up?”

“If the required parts are in stock the appointment will be kept.”

I was seething at this point.  There was absolutely no way in hell this could be true.  “You’re telling me that I have absolutely no recourse whatsoever except to just sit here and wait to see if you have the part?”  At this point, I decided to make it sound far worse than it really was.  I wanted her to think that I had devoted vacation hours to this appointment and lost.  “I have to take off work again and you may not show up?  Are you kidding me?

She wasn’t kidding.  Really.  She wasn’t.  Apparently, there is absolutely no way between appointment scheduling, inventory and dispatch for them to predict if they will be able to keep the appointment.  Due to their process, they cannot tell you if they will keep the appointment, confirmed or otherwise, until the day of the appointment.

This must be pure insanity.  I could not believe it.

After pushing back and arguing on this further, I finally gave in and made them reschedule the appointment for the following Sunday from 8am – noon.  I also asked for the manager so I could at least get a free month out of this.  I was assured that I would get a free month of service for the “inconvenience.”

Fast forward to Sunday.

At least this time they called.

That’s right.  At 8:30am they called and said that again, they didn’t have the required dish in stock and would not be showing up today.  It was my wife who took the call and the bad news.  She tried to reschedule the appointment and they refused!  She told them that since I was the one that ordered the service, only I could call back and reschedule the appointment.  Again, it was a crap shoot as to whether or not they would have the part – but I still had to reschedule.

While writing all of this, I wish I was making this up.

At this point I made another check with DirectTV to find out if I could get YOYO-TV from them.  Sadly, no.  I must just bend over and take this Dish Network abuse.

Anyway, so I call back in on Monday and get a very helpful rep who hears this entire story.  She apologizes profusely and decides to call dispatch herself and find out when they will have the dish.  Amazing.  Why didn’t the others bother to do this?  Dispatch confirms that “for sure” they will have the dish by Friday, so I went ahead with rescheduling the appointment.

So we’re 48 hours away from that.  We’ll see what happens.

My first impression of Dish Network?  Very unimpressed.  No wonder they hired a talentless comedian to try to pep up their commercials.  They obviously want to cheer you up before they put you through this ridiculous customer service racket.  Their process is so horribly broken that I wonder what I’m in for if I actually do get the service.

I guess we’ll see.  From what I see at dishnetworksucks.com I’m not in for a good time.

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