Posted at 11:57:00 PM. |
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Friday, April 28
Yes, the Dancing Was Good
I also rented "Napoleon Dynamite." I've heard many people (including the guy behind the counter at Blockbuster) rave about it. I think I missed something. I didn't *not* enjoy it, or exhibit any form of dislike, but I didn't find it particularly compelling. I think I was expecting "quirky with a direction" (like "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" or "Donnie Darko"), whereas this film was more of a "quirky just to be quirky" story.
How many of you watched through the end credits and saw the second ending with the horse? ;)
Posted at 11:43:00 PM. |
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Warning: Discussions of time travel paradox and cinematic criticism (plus spoilers) follow. Take your aspirin now.
I rented "A Sound of Thunder" from Blockbuster last night, on the off chance that despite the fact I don't recall it being in theaters it might not veer totally into the realm of schlock. Even such a downturn would not be noteworthy, were the film not based on a fabulous short story of the same name by Ray Bradbury, but such prestige predisposes me to being protective of my literary travels.
In any case, the film was . . . my first inclination was "not good," but perhaps "tangled in its own coils if incompetency" would be more descriptive. In its defense, adapting a short story of only a few pages into a full-length movie is not the easiest of challenges. The short story tells the tale of a near-future company that provides the unique service of escorting wealthy men back in time to hunt dinosaurs. Due to unfortunate circumstances, one hunter steps on a butterfly, thereby altering the course of evolution from that point forward, and the men return to a future different than the one they left. The ending is bleak, conveying the message that mankind may be undone by its own hand.
The studio, apparently, felt that ending was *too* bleak, so an entirely new ending involving the heroic quest to fix the past was added, changing the theme of the story from "mankind may be undone by its own hand" to "mankind will always triumph through determination, ingenuity and technology." The faults to the film are so numerous I feel compelled to resort to bullet points. The horror.
The writers' grasp of temporal mechanics is awful. Even acknowledging that time travel is theoretically highly improbably at this point and therefore more in the realm of fiction than science, it's still unlikely that a change in the past would cause a series of changes every 24 hours in the present, with each new wave changing something (first the climate, then plants, then insects, etc.). It's a convenient way to give the characters time to figure out the problem and a deadline by which to solve it, but it's a ridiculous concept.
The "new dominant predator" in the present is a baboon with scales. The writers apparently were unable to visualize a new kingdom or phylum and instead combined two others, without explaining whether the reptiles evolved mammalian traits or the (not yet existing at the time of the butterfly incident) primates evolved and then somehow developed traits that mimicked reptiles.
A first attempt to travel back and fix the event fails because the time machine can't cross the time ripples from that point. So they spend time devising a way to "jump over" the time ripples, instead of doing the logical thing and just going back in time a couple of days and telling themselves not to go on the trip in the first place.
The ending creates a grandfather paradox. The main character warns himself not to cause the incident, which means that the entire movie never happened and the main character could not have come back in time to warn himself.
The hunters repeatedly travel back to the same point in time and kill the same dinosaur with each new client, yet never meet themselves. *Until* the main character needs to go back in time and warn himself, and then for the first time the characters see themselves. (In the story they travel to different times and places and avoid this problem.)
Despite the fact that in the new timeline humans never evolved, all of their buildings remain. I dunno.
I recommend saving your money and checking out the book from the library instead.
Posted at 11:17:00 PM. |
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Flickr has a number of groups that operate in a "Survivor"-like method, allowing a maximum of 20 photos and forcing anyone who adds a picture to delete another. At the moment, my angel statue photo has "stayed alive" for a little over 3 weeks through 19 cullings and is currently the "oldest" survivor in the "Cemetery" group. Which really isn't a huge accomplishment in the grand scheme of things, but I doubt it will last much longer (the oldest tend go because people feel they've "had their day"), so I thought I'd note it here.
I had a Windows update waiting for me when I got home tonight. After a debacle involving the automatic installation of SP2, I turned off the "automatic download and installation" function (instead Windows notifies me if there's a new update and asks me if I want to install it), which gives me a chance to look at what I'm installing. Tonight I laughed. It's a software update to verify I'm using a legal copy of Windows, but it's asking my permission to install it. If I *was* using an illegal copy, what would be my incentive to install it? I'm amused that its purpose is to "enable you to verify that your copy" is genuine. I suppose there are people who think they've purchased legal copies but haven't, but in most cases what Microsoft means is "it will enable *us* to verify your copy is genuine."
The main story on the front page of the World-Herald today was of relatively low importance in the grand scheme of things (certainly far below even the local events, such as the divisive school restructuring that has made the papers as far as away as Europe and that consumed most of the opinions page). For some reason, the tense relationship between a Kansas farmer and the followers of a transcendental meditation guru that have purchased the land next to him to construct into a retreat warranted three-quarters of the front page. What I found most ironic about the piece, though, was not the farmer's notion that he "hasn't been this scared since WWII" (give me a break) or the letter to the town newspaper by nine local ministers that informed everyone that transcendental meditation is "incompatible with Christianity" (debatable, and even if true, so what?), but rather the half-sentence sidenote that the "TMers" took an interest in the farmer's "skills in 'witching' wells." Which for those of you not up on superstitious nonsense is another word for "dowsing," the supposed ability of some people to sense water or metals under the ground by feeling "psychic vibrations," despite the fact that repeated scientific studies on hundreds of "dowsers" who claim 90% accuracy or better have failed to produce results any better than random chance. I guess superstition is okay if it's local.
Posted at 11:09:00 PM. |
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Monday, April 24
The Biggest Contact Lens Ever
I heard an interview on NPR's "All Things Considered" today with a scientist seriously proposing that to arrest global warming we build a 2,000-square-mile (?!) glass "shield" in a synchronous orbit between the Earth and the Sun that would act like a pair of sunglasses for the planet, diffusing about 2% of the sunlight. I'm not sure if NPR is completely science illiterate or if they just felt sorry for the guy, but come on . . . Let's see, we're talking years of continuous launches (unless we perfect a space elevator or some other orbital delivery system sometime in the next decade) of just glass (or sand) and the construction of an absolutely enormous single object hundreds of thousands of miles from Earth, all completed in a time frame useful to us. And I'm certain it would never get hit by meteors or even micrometeors traveling at high speed, or be pushed around by gravitational forces or the solar wind. I have a better idea. Let's just stop global warming from happening in the first place . . .
I have the odd image stuck in my head of a B-movie plot involving the construction of such a "shield," with an early sequence where it's discovered that the scientist who designed it is actually an evil mastermind and secretly made it a giant magnifying glass instead, with suitably maniacal laughter as he threatens to burn up cities like ant hills unless his demands are met. Enter daring space team determined to blow up the lens before it's too late. Maybe starring Kate Beckinsale as the rebellious shuttle pilot who disobeys direct orders but is still "our last hope." In theaters, July 2009.
Posted at 11:04:00 PM. |
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Sunday, April 23
New photos in the Photostream. Photos of my newly painted door to come soon (as soon as I take them, anyway).
I'm being amused by the fact that I tagged one of my Earth Day photos with the word "thong," and in less than a day it has become my most-viewed picture, jumping ahead of 450 other photos (including the previous #1, which is in twelve different photo groups while the new one is in none). I guess that means I should start tagging *all* of my photos with it . . .
Posted at 11:40:00 PM. |
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Saturday, April 22
I took some photos at the Earth Day event today. I'll probably talk more about it later, but for now you can enjoy the pictures.
Posted at 11:10:00 PM. |
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Friday, April 21
Found on launch.com last night:
A "fans version" of Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" video (apparently the results of a contest). It's amusing. Trust me. I need to learn how to dance like the guy on the rooftop in the green pants (I think I could do it if I had a teacher and some practice).
Concert attendance aside, I'm not what one would call a Nickelback fan (I have no animosity toward them and they're far preferable to, say, any of those guys with cowboy hats Linde prefers, but I'm not going to buy the t-shirts and join the special club to get the bobbleheads). But this video is just incredible. Not so much the music, but the concept (I imagine I would have liked it if it had been used by other artists as well). Spoilers: The concept of the ability to literally see how much time people have left to live floating above their heads is fascinating, and the fact that the origin and specifics of it are not explained only adds to the mystery as we follow along from the point of view of a very confused person who could very well be us.
My mood of late has been pendular, swinging in slow, rhythmic arcs from one spectrum to another. I'm not fond of change, and although the new job is going fine, the shifting in sleep patterns and surroundings has left me somewhat disconnected. I imagine it will correct itself eventually, after the end of the entropic cascade.
I'm off work in that sliver of twilight between day and night now, soon to be in full sunlight as the days lengthen. Although on the surface a good thing, I'm finding that now that I share free time with the teeming masses I'm dismayed by the lack of people I actually know. My pre-existing abhorence toward establishments of alcoholic exuberance (and smoke) precludes me from such locales; I've spent a couple of evenings reading in bookstores, which I've heard is a substitute, but all I've accomplished thus far is 300 pages in Maureen Dowd's books. I'm therefore taking friends applications. Pass out the flyers to your friends.
I've spent a couple of evenings wandering around downtown (see the photostream) and another writing a letter to my grandmother. Another trying to convince myself I need to spend part of my tax return on a 30GB iPod. Tonight I amused myself by waiting in line at Wal-Green's for 15 minutes to pay for two picture hooks while the woman in front of me argued with the checker and her manager that the KY jelly that made up a third of her purchase (the other two-thirds being condoms and a bottle of Dr Pepper - there's a recipe for a fun night) was on clearance, complete with a price check over the loudspeaker; I got the impression she was not particularly shy. Then I spent $20 on new Dresden Dolls and Imogen Heap albums (yet another swinging pendulum, from punk-cabaret to electronic-techno).
Final thought of the night: I think I need this shirt. Opinions?
As promised, Easter photos. I was the hero, with an X-Files DVD for Lane and a set of used plastic bunnies from eBay to augment the dwindling supply I bought for Nick 3 years ago (he got 12 originally; I added another 63). The twins and Nick were tickled.
I also put up the video of the twins. The quality is a little low, a result of Canon's insistence on using a file format not supported by Premiere and not the inherent quality of the original video (which is very good). Enjoy.
Posted at 11:16:00 PM. |
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Tuesday, April 18
The editors at the World-Herald dropped the ball yesterday in on the editorial page. They felt it a "significant fact" that opponents ought to "concede" that, despite the military's official "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" program that leads to the discharge of hundreds of qualified personnel a year, the military, "for all the charges of unfairness being hurled at it, is allowing an increasing number of openly gay service members to remain on the job." I'm left wondering if the World-Herald would feel it was a significant fact worth conceding if a company suddenly adopted an official policy against employing minorities, Catholics or Republicans and then, using the World-Herald's numbers, fired only 84 of the 120 employees who met that criteria (and allowed the other 36 to remain employed after challenging it with the human resources department). I'm inclined to think the people who think the policy is wrong are going to continue thinking it's wrong if even one person a year is discharged under it.
Posted at 11:11:00 AM. |
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Sunday, April 16
Cris and I caught up on Saturday while doing a photowalk downtown (where he took pictures of architecture and angles and I took pictures of people). I asked him to stop by the Firm so I could snap a picture of the "facelift" in process (a crew is cleaning the outside of the building, revealing the original red color). It was a fun trip, although overshadowed somewhat by a greyish overcast and a tremendous amount of wind (I tried leaning against a light pole to keep my picture steady, only to find the light pole was swaying . . .). I didn't put all of my photos into one folder (they're divided between the "People Watching" and "Downtown" folders), but you can see them all in my Photostream.
Later in the evening we had the most intense downpour I've seen in years (I'm not used to having zero visibility in rain). I found that my garage roof doesn't quite stand up to that much water at once (mostly because I never put the roof coating on like my dad told me too - oops). Now I'm going to have to mow my lawn. :P
I have pictures of the twins and Lane from Easter, but they're still on the camera.
Posted at 11:24:00 PM. |
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Friday, April 14
The Simple Things Are Always the Best
I made some new toys for the twins and took some pictures of them yesterday as the sun shone through them. Enjoy.
I had dinner at China Buffet last weekend (if you were there, I was the guy at the table by himself having sesame chicken and reading a book on string theory), and I snuck two fortune cookies, both of which amused me.
"Accept the next proposition that comes your way."
"You are a source of fun to all of your friends."
Posted at 11:23:00 PM. |
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Wednesday, April 12
Increasing the Level of Difficulty
From the Public Pulse today:
A submission critical of illegal immigrants, not in the vein of normal opposition but because such immigrants "haven't paid their dues," so to speak. Because, according to the writer, illegal immigrants haven't "had to cross oceans to get here" or "go through the same struggles as every other wave of immigrants," they don't belong here. There's a curious naivete in such a view; early immigrants faced no laws about citizenship and even after the founding of the U.S. one was considered a citizen after five years of residency (provided one was white). True, many immigrants faced great difficulties, but many simply packed up a home somewhere else, got on a ship and unpacked in a new home here (the ancestor who brought my surname over, as I understand it, was a sailor who just happened to like it here and stayed rather than sailing back to Scotland). I would imagine the struggle to cross a border, find employment and assimilate into a new nation would be at least as difficult as sailing from one English-speaking country to another.
The line that really stuck out for me, though, was his comment that illegal immigrants aren't coming here "legally as our ancestors did." Ignoring that fact that the ancestors of some American citizens *did* come here illegally, that definition of "legal" is very flimsy. I doubt the Native Americans who were here before the first waves of Europeans, had they the organizational structure and foresight to do so, would have used the same definition the writer is using. There *were* people here before the European immigrations, after all.
A colorful character advertising a tax preparation service. The costume is explained by the name of the company, but I found the symbolism of Uncle Sam reminding you to turn in your money rather amusing.
Omaha played host to one of the many rallies held around the country today. It was obviously planned well-enough to take place in dozens of cities, but the Omaha police apparently didn't get the memo. I couldn't take pictures while trying to navigate through the bottleneck caused by police barricades funneling traffic from two one-way streets (a two-lane and a four-lane) into the same two-lane street (what the hell?) without a traffic cop to direct. I sat through nine red lights, then had to brake for a van that ran the red light from the other direction because he felt like he'd waited long enough. Charming. Amazingly, I was only 8 minutes late.
I took a couple of photos from a vacant office on my floor just to see what had inspired the traffic congestion and influx of pedestrians. I haven't researched the issue around which the rally centered well enough to have an opinion on it, so I'll just post the pictures and call it good.
I've been playing with my polarizing filter when taking pictures out in the sunlight (a more frequent occurrence with my new hours). Although I'm not happy with my camera's apathetic shrug toward the filter (the filter has to be rotated by hand in order to line it up with the direction of light and the viewfinder on my camera is only slight less worthless than the LCD screen in bright sunlight), I have managed to align it somewhere in the general vicinity now and then. Since this is the first camera I've owned that accepts add-on lenses, I've never had to learn what a polarizing filter is, but I have to admit they're pretty cool. As an experiment, I took two photos at the cemetery under the same conditions, with and without the filter, and put them together so I could see how much different the filter makes. It's noticeable.
I put up the photos from the Prospect Hills Cemetery. I wasn't really happy with any of them. I went too late in the day and the sun was either too high or shining from the backside of the monuments, which hurt the detail and color levels. But I haven't figured out how to move the sun around the sky yet (it's going to be a feature in Earth v2.4, I think).
I like cemeteries for their beauty, but I always feel like an outsider in them (and not just because I'm still alive). Although on an intellectual level I can understand why most people feel the need to bury and mark their loved ones, I don't empathize with those reasons, and to be honest I've always found the idea of trying to arrest the process of decomposition with chemicals and waterproof boxes buried in the ground to be somewhat morbid. I also think people put up headstones and monuments with some vague, unexplored idea of "preserving the memory" or "immortalizing" the loved one, so walking through a cemetery as old as Prospect Hills and seeing all the crumbling, sinking and most definitely impermanent monuments highlights the futility (granted people don't expect their monuments to last *forever*, but I'm sure there's some intention of "a long time" behind the idea).
Rereading the above, it sounds a little more critical than I'd intended. I'm not trying to lecture people on what to do about their "final resting places" (although I like to plant seeds of thought). But just for the record, as for me, I want a party (with a celebration of what was hopefully a life well-lived) instead of a funeral, all of my useful organs donated and no final resting place (I'd rather donate the money I would have spent on a headstone and plot to a charity that can use it more than I will). Those who survive me can remember me from my works and from their memories (maybe this blog will still be around . . .). :)
Posted at 11:50:00 PM. |
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Saturday, April 8
Snapshots of Life
I spent a couple of hours taking pictures today, first at the Prospect Hills Cemetery (I'll post those later because they didn't turn out as well as I would have liked) and then in downtown Omaha (the Gene Leahy Mall and the Old Market). Most of the photos from the second group were "people watching" photos. I picked a good afternoon/evening for it, since in addition to the normal prospects there were also people in finery milling about (at first I thought it was a wedding, then a prom, then I realized it was both). I picked the best 10 or so from the 60 I took. I have another 70 shots from the cemetery to go through yet, so those will come later. Let me know what you think.
Posted at 11:56:00 PM. |
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Friday, April 7
Science Geek Corner
New from the esoteric realms of cosmic exploration:
Two supermassive black holes preparing to merge (within a relatively short several-million-year timeframe), which will create an even larger supermassive black hole capable of swallowing the mass of "billions of stars."
An instance of a white dwarf star exploding within the atmosphere of a red giant star.
Posted at 11:22:00 AM. |
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Wednesday, April 5
The Wonders of Dual-Booting
Spotted at Penny Arcade today: Apple is officially sanctioning dual-booting Mac OSX and Windows XP on the same Intel-based Mac computers. You need to supply your own copy of Windows XP, but once it's installed you're given the choice between the operating systems at startup. I haven't read reviews yet, but this would seem largely to solve the "I really like Macs but not all games have Mac versions" problem. All Internet/productivity/daily routine work would be done in the more stable and less vulnerable OSX environment, and old software/games and games with only a PC version would just require a reboot. Apple is careful to point out that running Windows on an iMac is just like running Windows on a PC as far as stability and Internet security are concerned (which means the same virus and spyware threats).
Attention, Lane. One more reason to get an iMac for your next computer. ;)
I don't really have anything of import to post at the moment. I just thought it would be fun to post something at the "chronological oddity point" I read about earlier today. Although not calibrated to the second, the date of this post, if written out in the correct form, appears as 01/02/03/04/05/06 (first hour, second minute, third second - I fudged that one, fourth month, fifth day, sixth year - allowing that 2006 is abbreviated '06).
I spotted this in a parking lot on Sunday. I cursed myself for leaving my camera at home, then realized I had my old camera in my trunk (because I was too lazy to make two trips up from my garage; who says being lazy doesn't pay now and then?).
I made this photo from two separate photos taken a few seconds apart. I'm not sure if it's even possible to make a camera focus on two objects of such vastly differing distances, but even if it is I have no idea how to do it, so I took one of each focal length and then merged them in Photoshop to give you an idea of how it looked to me. I really should have used a tripod for the church, but it really wasn't the best neighborhood, especially at midnight, and I didn't want to hang around longer than necessary.
I made an 8x10 of this photo for Joan over the weekend (since she liked it so much) that turned out very well. I'm considering having some of my favorite pictures made into 8x10s (or larger) and "rotate" them into a frame or two (at work or at home). The expensive part is finding frames I like . . .
Were the gentleman alive today, I would be polite to a fault as I openly praised his intelligence and foresight, even as I scrawled angst-filled verses of pure contempt within the margins of his dread pamphlet. As he has long ago passed, however, I feel free to release my bile upon the world, where mayhap it will settle upon his grave like ash and disturb his slumber.
This perhaps is something of an exaggeration, inflamed by the arrival of daylight savings time, which Mr. Willet invented and promoted. A scant week had passed since I abruptly shifted my schedule by three hours before I had to add yet another hour to it. My body is protesting, although I dare not whine in person around compatriots who include a mother of 10-month-old twins who averages 5-1/2 hours of sleep a night.
Last week I suggested to Lisa that daylight savings time would be fabulous if we followed the mantra "Spring Back, Fall Back" (rather than the less-friendly real-life version) and enjoyed an extra hour of sleep twice a year. Lisa skeptically pointed out that it would only be a few years before we were getting up at 4 a.m., until I dazzled her with my plan to stop the Earth's rotation for an hour to compensate. There is beauty in elegant solutions.