Friday, February 27, 2009

Tocantins is Portuguese for "Alia is screwed"


Bag's DVR "malfunctioned" last night, so Bag, Moon, and I-- being the fanatics we are-- decided to stay up til midnight when the show came On Demand to watch. After a rousing game of Trivial Pursuit and a few drinks, it was time. Overall I found it to be a very interesting and highly entertaining episode. Jerry was unfortunately booted due to sickness, which was a shame, but watching the tribe dynamic while making the decision was fascinating. I think Coach is without a doubt the most useless person on the Timbira tribe. But he does a really great job of acting like he's the most important, and unfortunately the other tribemates at this point are too dumb to see through the act. I don't think his stay in Brazil will last much longer though, since he'll undoubtedly stick his foot in his mouth soon and everyone will finally see through the charade.

I do hope he'll stick around longer though. I think one of the greatest strengths of my team is that none of them are stuck with Coach. So they keep winning. If the tribes get switched up soon though I might be in trouble!

Here are the current standings of the pool:

1. Pickett - 15 points
- JT (5)
- Taj (5)
- Sandy (5)

2. Bag - 9 points
- Stephen (5)
- Joe (5)
Debra (-1)

3. Alia - 5 points
- Spencer (5)
- Erinn (0)
- Coach (0)

3. Doug - 5 points
- [Jerry (0)]
- Tyson (0)
- Sydney (5)

3. Moon - 5 points
- Brendan (5)
- [Candace (0)]
- Sierra (0)

I personally am happy that Doug's strong team took a hit, although I'm sad about how it happened. I think Jerry had a lot of potential and it's always a bummer when a strong player has to leave because they get sick. He could've been a real producer. But it means that the rest of us have a better chance to win, so that's good! On the plus side, Jerry wasn't in any strong alliance that could have crippled any of Doug's other picks, so I feel like his other 2 team members are still very capable of racking up a lot of points.

Moon was looking to go scoreless again as his team is goose-egging every challenge at this point. But plucky Brendan came through in the end to get him 5 points by finding the hidden immunity idol. This pulled him into a tie for 3rd place. I still think Brendan will go far, but with his other picks failing to produce, I'm just not sure that he will be enough for the Moon win.

Bag and I have similar teams at this point and I think we're both doing very well. From previews for next week it looks like Stephen and Taj will become strong forces in this game soon, which means that JT will probably be brought in as well. I think our fates are in each others' hands at this point.

And Alia... poor, poor Alia. Her team is not only failing to produce big points right now, but they're also trying to cannibalize each other. Erinn just dodged getting voted out this episode by Coach, but I think either she or Coach will be next to go the next time their tribe loses. Spencer has been laying low at this point, but from what I can tell his performances during challenges seem to be only average. If he can get himself into a strong alliance he could go far, but I haven't seen that happen yet, and he could end up being a scapegoat vote-off if he somehow messes up a challenge in the future. I doubt he'll get voted out before Sandy, but once she's gone he could be next.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Survivor Pool Season 18 - Spoilers!

This season we survivor poolists mixed up the rules quite a bit:
- We tried to add a couple of extra players, but after they failed to come to our first 2 Survivor events they were unanimously voted off the tribe.
- We also added a scoring system. So now it's not just whoever picks the winner wins, you have to accumulate the most points by the end of the season to win. The person who picks the winner should still be heavily favored, but it is no longer a guarantee.
- Finally, we made our picks after just one episode, which is the earliest we've ever done the drawing. This means we picked our players based on their own qualities/strengths, and not because of the alliances they were in. Since alliances tend to break down anyways, I think that this made the basis for our picks a lot stronger. (Except for those people who didn't get much air time in the first episode.)

Here's how you can score:

- Survivor winner earns 50 points, and will receive an additional 25 points if they sweep the votes
- 2nd place finisher earns 30 points
- 3rd place earns 20 points
- Everyone who makes the jury earns 10 points
- Your pick is on the tribe that wins a team reward challenge = 1 pt
- Your pick is on the tribe that wins a team immunity challenge = 2 pts
- Your pick wins an individual reward challenge = 2 pts
- Your pick is invited to share in a reward challenge = 1 pt
- Your pick wins individual immunity challenge = 5 pts
- Your pick finds the hidden immunity idol = 5 pts
- Your pick successfully plays their hidden immunity idol at tribal council = 5 pts
- Your pick plays a fake immunity idol = -3 pts
- Your pick sits out a challenge = -1 pt

And here's who everyone picked:
(I've also included the points we've earned after our first episode with the pool)

Alia (2 pts total):
- Spencer (2)
- Erinn (0)
- Coach (0)

Bag (3 pts total):
- Stephen (2)
- Joe (2)
- Debra (-1)

Doug (2 pts total):
- Jerry (0)
- Tyson (0)
- Sydney (2)

Pickett (6 pts total):
- JT (2)
- Taj (2)
- Sandy (2)

Moon (0 pts total):
- Brendan (0)
- Candace (0)
- Sierra (0)

Finally, here's the order of whose picks I think are strongest:

1. Doug - The reigning champ did well for himself in his draws. Overall Doug has very strong players. I think these people will not only get far, but they'll win quite a few challenges, and therefore points, while doing it. They've all shown themselves to be strong in physical competitions, and also smart by laying low around camp. Technically Sydney is Doug's "dreg" (the last-round pick) but there is nothing dreggish about her. The fact that she didn't get much airtime in the first episode allowed her to fly under the radar so Doug could get this gem late in the game.

2. Pickett - JT and Taj are both strong, and I think both of them will get far. Though Taj's value dropped when she revealed that she's married to former NFL star Eddie George. She seems like a canny player, but revealing that she's filthy rich was a bad move and will make it hard for her to win jury votes if she makes it to the finals. Sandy, aka Skeletor, is strong enough and weird enough to last longer in the competition than the first episode indicated, hopefully racking up points along the way. I think she has no chance to win, but she'll be a good dreg for me for the few episodes she'll be in.

3. Moon - At first glance Moon's picks look weak, but upon further analysis I put him in a close third behind myself. In the first episode we watched after the draws ended Cassandra got voted out. Overall she was very smart and strong and I think should have lasted much longer. The importance of Candace going out first cannot be underemphasized, since she now has the potential to win Moon absolutely zero points. Sierra barely survived the vote, which could be huge. It looks like she's about enter an alliance with his third pick, Brendan. And Brendan right now is probably the front-runner to win the whole thing. If Sierra moves quickly to solidify that alliance then she could go far. If that falls through though I think she'll be next to go. Brendan should go far, but if Moon's other two picks give him no points it will be hard for him to win.

4. Bag - Stephen found himself in a good alliance with JT by the end of the 2nd episode, and he seems like a smart guy who will get far. I think Joe will do pretty well too, but that Debra will be a drain. I don't really know a lot about these players now, but I think they have the potential to do alright. I predict that 2 of them will make the jury.

5. Alia - Unfortunately Alia was unable to make her own picks, so Bag did it for her. This team is not as strong as the one I think she would have put together. (She also volunteered to take the dregs, which I think would've ended up being Debra, Sandy, and Coach. It'll be interesting to see at the end of the season if the dreg-team would've done better for her.) Spencer, the youngest Survivor ever, I think was overvalued when he was picked first. I think there are smarter and more athletic people in the game, and I think that Spencer is softer than he initially came across. I'm guessing that the elements will beat him sooner than the politics and he'll end up going out in the middle of the pack. Erinn was a decent pick, but she was closest to Candace, who was voted out last night. Now she is alliance-less and will need to work quickly to get in with the power-players. Coach, or as Alia likes to call him, Cooch, has the kind of personality that will get him voted off fast. He'll go even faster when people realize that he's not even a physical player. Overall I think this guy has absolutely nothing going for him except for the false image of being strong. Once that's seen through he'll be gone.

In the end though, only time will tell. I think this will be a really fun season to watch, if only because of the intensity of the pool!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

That's Mister Pickett to you!

My name is confusing, especially through email to strangers. They get an email from "Michal", and if they're not reading closely they tend to assume it says Michael. If they are reading closely, they still may not know whether I am a male or a female since Michal is a pretty unusual name. I understand that. I have mostly come to grips with that. I get emails addressed to Michael and Mr. Pickett all the time and I usually refrain from commenting.

I appreciate the smarter folks who just repeat my name, Michal, as their greeting in the email. That's a good move, and I recommend it to everyone. It's a good play not to assume things, especially when assuming gender because if you're wrong, it's a big misstep. (Same goes for assuming a woman is pregnant.) What I HAVEN'T gotten before, I just got for the first time today: "Hi Mike!" IMO that's taking things at least 3 steps too far. 1. You didn't read my name correctly, 2. You assumed I was a guy, and 3. Even if I had signed my name Michael, why on earth do you think I go by Mike? Shouldn't you have assumed that I prefer to go by the name I gave you, "Michael"?

Bad play my gender-neutral friend. Bad play.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


So Ben read my book, which I think was really exciting for both of us. The review that he gave it was better than I'd expected, and slightly less than my wildest dreams come true. Most importantly, he gave an honest opinion, for which I can never be grateful enough. The final analysis was that the book was entertaining and enjoyable, and has the potential to be published, but only after a serious overhaul.

Basically, besides a few sticky sections that need to be changed (most of which I already knew, but was just too exhausted to redo) the biggest problem with my book is that it doesn't fit into a specific category, and therefore doesn't appeal to a specific audience. It's funny to think about that sort of thing. When I first got the idea for my story I never really thought about who would read it. I just wanted to get it down on paper. Now that I've written it though, I want people to actually read it, which means making adjustments to appeal to a specific audience.

The book as it is now is lying somewhere between Young Adult and Adult fantasy (but also sort of sci-fi). The characters' ages are pretty much wrong for both categories (main characters should be aged approximately the same as the audience-- it makes the reader more sympathetic), and while I started writing it as a Young Adult book, it quickly turned into something I was writing more for grown-ups. I had to make a decision. If I opted for Young Adult, the changes I'd need to make would be simpler. A few of the more violent/risquee scenes would need to be cut and replaced with something a little more PG-13. But the overall depth and length of the book (already at 321 pages) would pretty much stay the same.

If I chose door #2 and went for Adult fantasy, then the book would need to be expanded, go more in-depth, bring out a lot more details. The characters need to be aged-up, which meant that a lot of the major storyline would need a serious overhaul. The length of the book by the end would probably end up somewhere around the 450 page mark minimum, maybe even more.

I sat at the crossroads for a few days, trying to decide. It felt like Young Adult was kind of like driving through Kansas. It's a straight shot through, maybe a little boring, but you know you'll get there in the end, barring falling asleep at the wheel. Appealing to the Adult audience is more like driving up Pike's Peak. The road is rougher, you have to really focus on what you're doing, and-- considering there's no guard rail-- there's a chance you may not even get to the top. But the ride is a hell of a lot more entertaining, and if you do get to the top, the view makes the whole ordeal well worth it.

In the end I probably didn't need to take that long to decide. I'd known all along I'd go for the adult audience.

The thing is that I already know all the depth and detail that needs to be put in. I've been living every day in this world for over 3 years now. I just never bothered to write the details down. Now I have the opportunity.

I started my re-write/overhaul a couple of days ago, and I've never been more excited to write. With every detail that I add I know that I'm bringing out the world I created for others to share in. And as far as the storyline/character changes... honestly, a lot of the stuff I'm dropping was crap anyways. The way the story is headed now not only makes more sense as far as the story goes, it makes more sense for the characters. I feel like I'm finally cutting through the crap and getting to the core of who these people really are. I know I won't regret this decision. Even if I don't get published, I'll know that at least I did the story justice.

So I guess this post is a little bittersweet- for those of you who thought you'd be getting to read my book sometime soon, unfortunately I'm going to be stringing you along a little more. But when you do get the chance, it'll be a more satisfying experience.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Teh perfect homepage

I use iGoogle as my homepage both at work and at home. There are a ton of features which I love, and after a long search, I think I’ve finally perfected it. I highly recommend creating your own!
The features I have on my iGoogle page are: Gmail and quotes of the day (these are the two features I use/enjoy the most). I also have movie ratings and times, headlines, links to and Wikipedia, weather updates, and Google translate which is like Babelfish, only on my homepage.

But the feature which I have been working on for months and finally “perfected” was the theme of my homepage. The theme is the background imagery and the colors of the link on the homepage. I was using their default theme for a while, which basically just changed colors over the course of the day. It was nice but pretty tame. Then I switched to “theme of the day” which would give me a new theme each day. That was cool, but there were too many lame themes that would show up. Things like “Faith Hill theme” which was just different pictures of Faith Hill, or “Gucci theme” which was just pictures of skinny women were of no interest to me. But it opened my eyes at least to the variety of themes available. So I did a search and found “WWF theme” which is brought to us by the world wildlife foundation. Sounds cool, but honestly they really didn’t have a lot of wildlife pictures that I liked. But today I found the “Sierra Club theme.” Brilliant! The pictures are amazing and they switch out for new ones every few hours! I could stare at my home page all day now J.

What homepages do you have and can you beat mine? (I know that cute animals are impossible to beat, but maybe you can at least come close.)

Monday, February 02, 2009

Best sports weekend ever?

This weekend there was the Australian Open final with an epic match of Nadal v. Federer, hands-down the best active men's tennis players. Also showing an excellent Superbowl (my 2nd favorite, I still thought the Giants/Patriots was more exciting), a UFC fight which included a championship match, and a Duke basketball game. Granted it wasn't against a very good team (Virginia) which is why it falls so low on the list.

Excluding the Olympics, I think it's hard to find a more exciting weekend for sports-lovers. Personally I think this weekend was created just for me. The only thing missing was a curling match and darts tourney.

Pickett Recommends...

Deadwood (Insert phallic joke here. That’s what she said.)

We’ve been watching HBO’s Deadwood fairly obsessively for the past few weeks. It’s one of the best TV series I’ve seen in a long time, and one of the most unique as well. It’s got a lot of action and a really interesting plotline set in “the realistic West.” Deadwood’s the kind of show that, even though you can’t smell the people on it, you KNOW that they reek. The streets are full of human and animal waste, and people regularly get dangerously ill from things that we don’t even consider major sicknesses anymore. The show completely de-glorifies the idea of the West and the frontier. And true to form, Deadwood messes with the idea of who is a hero and who is a villain and what traits embody each, something that HBO is famous for.

There are all reasons the show is great. What makes me love it though is its incredibly unique style of dialogue. These characters don’t just fire conversations back and forth at each other. Instead many of the characters tend to have several large soliloquies in each episode where they wax on metaphorically about their circumstances in a way I find reminiscent of Shakespeare. It’s a strange paradox that South Dakota in the 1870s would go so well with a Shakespearean style.
I have to admit that it takes some getting used to. You don’t hear this sort of dialogue anywhere else these days. The first episode I didn’t have a clue as to what was going on because I couldn’t follow what they were saying. But once you get into the rhythm of the show, it’s a joy to watch.

The only downside to this series is that it is only 3 seasons long. Like so many great shows (e.g. Firefly, Rome, Arrested Development) the audiences don’t find out about it until it’s too late. And when you can’t stop watching it three seasons goes pretty fast (we’ve already finished 2).

My favorite characters: Al Swearengen and E.B. Farnum
My favorite trivia: Over the whole series the word F**k and it’s derivatives is said 2,980 times, which means on average they say the F word over 80 times per episode.