I saw Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow in theaters years ago, and again about 20 minutes ago. Ugh. I wanted to like this movie, but did not, at all. I should have liked this film. I was looking forward to it when it came out. I love retrofuture, I love the old serials, I love old time radio, I love rigid airships, I love robots. But this movie was unbelievable in a way it didn't need to be, and to such a degree that I couldn't willingly suspend my disbelief.
My primary complaint is that the entire film felt like it was shot with actors in front of a green screen. There just seemed to be this palpable disconnect between the acting and the scene. Some of that might have been the difficulty of doing that sort of acting. It may also have been the director's guidance, trying to mimic the bad/wooden/limited acting of the old serials. One example that stuck out for me, early in the movie when Polly is on the street running and the robots are marching, towering over her. She's running as though she's running for the elevator in the lobby of Macy's. There is no hint of real terror, no hint at the earth shaking vibrations which must be occurring as the gigantic robots take each step, no great attempt to avoid the path of the robots (hugging the outside of the street, no she runs in the narrow six feet between the two columns of robots). Scenes like that (and there were many) ruined the believability for me.
All of the other common complaints I have seen others voice on places like IMDB I agree with, the story and characters did seem to lack a richness/depth.
It was a visually stunning movie, with all of the retro and retrofuture elements I particularly love, and I wish I could have loved it, or even liked it. I still marvel at some of the stills, though, and for me, that'll have to be what the movie was, a collection of beautiful still pictures, with a story hinted at but not yet properly told.
Bought a "fixie" today. A fixie is a fixed gear bicycle, also known as a track bike. It's got one gear, and often (though not always), no freewheel or brakes.
I bought a KHS Flight 100. Only thing I've done so far is to replace the non-freewheeling hub with a coaster brake hub. I did this to preserve the clean lines of the bike (saves adding front/rear caliper brakes), while also saving my knees. As fun as "skip stopping" and "skid stopping" are, those non-freewheeling hubs are brutal on the knees, and I really want to keep mine healthy!
Okay, I hate to admit to any awareness of popular culture and celebrity crap, but I can't help but feel a little surprised by people's surprise at Tiger Woods adulterous ways.
I think any reasonable person would expect Tiger Woods to cheat on his wife. To expect any different is, I think, naive. John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton's quote, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." applies.
I believe in being faithful. I believe in love. But when money and fame are involved, neither is likely. It happens sometimes, and by god those faithful, loving souls are to be admired and revered, for they are truly rare. Money and power will make a person believe they deserve all sorts of things, make them believe they can get away with all sorts of things, so it's little wonder that they would succumb to baser instincts when approached every hour of every day by very willing females.
And while as a rule I feel great sympathy for any partner who has been cheated upon, my sympathy in this case is limited. I believe Elin's expectations (if they existed) that Tiger would be faithful were unfounded. And while I allow her that naivety, the luxury she has secured by this marriage, however it may turn out, more than compensates for the pain she now suffers. Elin and her kids are set for life, an extremely rich life, where she can pursue every dream and idle curiosity. The rest of the world faces much more uncertain futures, lives of financial struggle and the attendant worries of home buying, their childrens' education, their own retirements, etc. Elin has none of those worries, and I find it difficult, therefore, to feel strong sympathy for her. I certainly would not wish this upon her, but I see this as the cost she acknowledged and accepted when she entered into this marriage, and signed both marriage license and prenup.
This is my theory about the different way in which animals and humans deal with chronic pain. I've long observed that animals appear to handle chronic pain far better than humans.
My dog Osita has arthritis so bad that her elbows are unbendable, totally fused. Her vet said of her condition, "In my entire 34 year career I've never seen worse arthritis." She was only 5 years old at the time. And yet Osita betrays no sign of the tremendous pain her nerves must be signaling. She always appears happy and leaps to her feet at the opportunity for walk or play. If she goes on a very long walk she'll start limping quite badly towards the end, but she'll still perk up and wag her tail if you say a kind word. And I've seen this sort of thing commonly in animals, they truly seem able to handle pain in a way that we humans typically can't. It seems unlikely to me that evolution would have made our brains vastly different in their handling of pain, so if that doesn't explain the difference, what could? The biggest related difference I can see is that we humans can do something about the pain we feel, and we know it. We therefore have an expectation that we can reduce or eliminate our pain (even in those situations where we can't), and as a result, we refuse to accept our pain. And by refusing to accept it, we perpetuate it. We perpetuate our brain's perception that the pain signals being received are important and not to be muted (to the degree they otherwise could be and likely are in animals).
I think the same thing happens with emotional pain. Because we know we have the power to influence the circumstances which may lead to or away from emotional pain, we find it very difficult (often impossible) to accept emotional pain we feel, and instead we perpetuate it (such as in the perpetual search for whys from a world which may never provide an adequate because). Clearly there are reasonable whys, and some available becauses. Some people probably use their whys wisely, but not me; and I am sure that prolongs some agonies.
A letter from comrade Zaitsev to a lady:
You stayed the weekend, we had our pleasant few days. I walked you to the train, where you hugged me a little too tightly and for a little too long. I was happy, delighted by the sudden strength of the feeling behind it, until you looked up and revealed that in it was goodbye. You did not feel strong romantic feelings for me. I was doubtful, too; we are different. But I was enjoying you, and those little romantic feelings I was having, and I'm sad that you weren't, quite enough. I didn't expect anything of an us; I was still exploring you in pleasant minutes, not plotting hours. It was enough. I wish you had shared your grave uncertainties sooner, before our final night, before our final hours, before my touch and words and I became all silently unwelcome. What a shame.
Alas, I wish you well.
Poet Taras Zaitsev, various works over various years
Translation by Quinxy von Besiex, 2009
My dad was in town and wanted to go to Yosemite, so we made the trip.
I already had a Yosemite camping trip with friends planned for the following weekend, and here are those pictures.
I can think of a few situations in which reality doesn't behave as I'd expect, as though hidden (or poorly understood) laws of the universe are at work. And I wish we better understood those laws, because I feel they are important, and would help us better control our future.
Why do Macs get a (nearly) free ride when it comes to viruses and malware, to the point that almost no Mac user bothers with anti-virus/anti-malware programs?
I know enough about the Mac (historic and current) operating system to know that there's no magic involved. The operating system was for some time more secure than its Windows counterpart, but never astonishingly so. There was nothing so special about the Mac OS that would explain its seeming imperviousness. There have been viruses/malware for Macs, don't misunderstand, but not to the degree that most users were much bothered or motivated to install antivirus software. The ubiquity of the Windows platform is usually cited as the primary explanation; those seeking to cause mischief would target the OS with the largest user base, and those seeking to cause mischief are far more likely to have Windows available as their development platform. And this makes sense, to a point. Clearly the majority of virus/malware activity would be expected to target Windows because of these reasons, but why so shockingly few devastatingly targeting the Mac? Malicious people are marvelously good at finding vulnerable targets, and it can't have escaped notice that the Mac platform has been in many ways largely unguarded. My only conclusion can be that there must be something else going on, some other something restraining malicious people from targeting Macs to a greater degree. My best guess, my only real theory, is that the developers who use the Mac enough to know how to create exploits for it, have a certain respect and fondness for the platform, which their equivalent miscreants using Windows don't have for Windows, and thus the potential Mac exploiters with their warm feelings find themselves naturally restrained under a "Don't sh*t where you eat." policy. No idea if that explains it, but that's my guess.
Why have there been no terrorist attacks on US soil since 9/11?
It seems inconceivable to me that there have been no foreign terrorist attacks on US soil since 9/11. And the only things that come close are the arguable domestic terrorist events of the DC sniper and Ft. Hood. Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. appear to be awash with explosives for IEDs, machine guns, RPGs, etc. Various news agencies have reported for years that our ports are almost completely insecure: less than 1% of shipments from overseas are inspected by customs and anyone with a few thousand dollars can get into the country via our Southern border, just by paying a "cayote". We've been told that thousands of foreign terrorists made their way to Iraq to commit various atrocities and commit suicide in the process, and yet not a single one has packed his toothbrush and an IED and made his way across the seas and caused mayhem here? And it they could leave the IED at home and just come and do any manner of horribly improvised thing. But they haven't. And it just seems inconceivable to me that no one has tried anything. And surely if they had tried, we'd have heard about it, because we have heard about several truly unremarkable and speculative plots by people who seemed only slightly likely and slightly capable of doing anything. So it makes me think something else is going on here. My best guess/theory combines the idea that terror networks are not nearly as (and probably never were as) sophisticated/organized/funded as people have speculated and, more importantly, these terrorists are looking to "vent" their anger, and as long as they feel like they are doing some blood letting somewhere, they are disorganized enough to not escalate. Perhaps they get their jihadist "fix" killing soldiers and civilians in Iraq, and as long as they can look themselves in the mirror and say they blew up an infidel that week, they don't feel compelled to try and spread their terror.
I haven't dressed up in costumes much in my life. And if I'm going to do a thing, I like to do it big. So, this year I decided to make my own costume, anticipating going to West Hollywood's insane 500,000 person strong Halloween Parade. I decided to make a fully playable, original ROM version of my favorite coin-op arcade game, Taito's "Elevator Action" from 1983.
I built it using a tablet pc running XP, the MAME emulator, original Elevator Action ROM, real arcade controls, Ultimarc I-PAC controller interface, inner wireframe truss (that I made), and a universal laptop battery delivering 3.5 hours of mobile fun! Also, not necessarily visible in the photos, but a very nice touch, the marquee sign does in fact light up!
Here are the assembly photos:
And photos from the event:
Thanks go to Michelle for helping motivate me to create a costume, a huge thanks to my buddy Matt, without his help and more importantly his encouragement I wouldn't have gotten it done in time (if at all)! And thanks to Andy at Ultimarc for the last-minute fast shipping, and for producing the controller board without which I'd have no clue how to build this thing.
I had a big Halloween potluck and costume contest at my place, for my friends in my Vegetarian Dining Club, Dating English Style, and Realities Singles. Had about 50 people. Costumes were encouraged, but not required. The best costume was worn by Fred, and he won the grand prize, an As Seen On TV Snuggy (tm).
I'm sitting at my local cafe and this normal-looking guy with a laptop bag comes up, asks if anyone is sitting at the table next to me. He sits down, sets up his computer, connects his iPhone up to it, and within 3 minutes he falls fast asleep. His phone slips from his hand and crashes to the ground. He rouses just enough to mutter something about how weird it is that he's suddenly so tired, to joke how somebody might have slipped something into his coffee. His speech, perfect just minutes ago, is now slightly slurred. He asks me what time it is, and says something about his computer clock being wrong, saying that it's 1959, and worrying maybe it's a virus. Over the next 30 minutes he falls asleep a dozen times, asks me for the time another four or five times (each time resetting his computer's time), and all the while his speech is getting progressively more slurred. I'm no doctor, but given that I'm in Venice, it seemed natural to assume his impairment was chemical, not a medical crisis. The most fascinating thing to me was to watch him wrestle with this "clock" issue. He would wake up from his 20 second micronap, re-remember he was trying to fix the clock, ask me what time it was, change the clock, then fumble with trying to install some app, and then eventually drift off again. And when he woke, he'd repeat the process again. I became curious, since he kept drawing me into his situation by asking me for the time, and making virus/etc. comments. At one point, after he complained that the clock now said it was 2005, I watch him move his mouse from the clock setting applet up to the Mac OSX menu bar where the time is shown, "Oct 25 20 05". Eureka! His drug addled brain was mistaking military time for a year! About this time I also see him sneaking some pills out of a prescription bottle and into his mouth. Perhaps it was a little evil of me, but I elected not to volunteer the solution to his clock problem. Perhaps I was acting as karma's agent, perhaps I was perpetuating comedy, perhaps I was trying to save him the embarassment of me pointing out such a basic thing, or perhaps I allow myself less generous moments.
On the plus side, just that morning I (arguably) saved a man's life. I was waiting to cross the street and a gentleman came up to wait as well, and something seemed a little odd about him, perhaps he just seemed a little too earnest to cross the street, and I briefly imagined having to grab him and pull him back from the path of an oncoming vehicle. Less than a minute later he took a few steps into stepped into the street without looking, just as a city bus was making great haste down the street, trying to beat the light. I yelled, "Watch out!" and he jumped back just in time. Perhaps he would have realized on his own at the last minute. Perhaps the bus driver would have seen him in time and swerved enough to avoid him. But I don't think I'm unhumble when I suggest there is at least a 20% chance I saved his life yesterday. So perhaps I was allowed an ungenerous moment last night as my reward.