Archive for May, 2003

New Blog Feature

May 31, 2003

Thanks to Haloscan‘s recent reinstatement of registrations, I’ve added the ability to comment on all blog entries. If you’ve got a blog hosted by Blogger, you’ve got to use their free service. It’s excellent!

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PowerPC in the Sky with Feathers

May 30, 2003

Today’s As the Apple Turns scene features the PowerPC 970 CPU in a pile of feathers. I sure hope IBM‘s got something better than this for promoting the chip; Intel had some bunnies and the Blue Man Group—I don’t think some feathers is going to cut it.

Review: Bruce Almighty

May 30, 2003

Jim Carrey’s latest movie, Bruce Almighty, suffers from trying too hard. The first few times Carrey qua God uses his powers, it’s pretty funny. After the two dozenth situation, it gets overdone. “Okay, okay, Mr. Screenwriter, we get it—Jim Carrey is God and he is omnipotent.” I didn’t expect too much from the movie and it wasn’t a disappointment.

There were some absolutely hilarious parts in the movie. The scene where Bruce manipulates his anchor nemesis on camera had me laughing harder than I have since the scene in Greedy where Michael J. Fox whaled on Phil Hartman. I was having trouble breathing and tearing up. It’s been a long time since that’s happened. The other funny scene (that stands out at least) is when Bruce loses it live on TV when he’s informed that Evan got the job he so coveted.

Overall, the movie was a bit hamfisted. Selfishness bad. Bruce selfish. Bruce bad. Bruce discover he bad. Bruce be unselfish. Unselfishness good. Bruce good. The only problem with that equation is that a) it’s completely trite at this stage in America’s philosophical development (it might have been interesting during the Depression…wait, didn’t Frank Capra do his movies in the Depression era? I think Carrey et al might be pilfering Capra. ;-)) and b) it suffers from an utterly conventional view of selfishness, where it’s shaft or be shafted. As Ayn Rand and others have shown, selfishness doesn’t have to be that way. I myself prefer a view of selfishness closer to Aristotle’s eudaimonia where you live your life with your own life as the standard by which you judge actions and choices and is the basis for the definition of virtues and values. Bruce is unselfish by this standard because he consistently pursues a self-destructive path.

On the other hand, the movie did deal somewhat with the issue of free will. In the movie’s conception, God cannot alter or influence humanity’s free will. Bend the laws of physics? No problem. Make someone fall in love with someone else? Whoa, no way! It’s a little hard to swallow and I think, in the end, that it is more of a plot device than a well-thought out opinion.

Overall, it’s good for some laughs. If you’ve caught the hype, see it at a matinee showing. Otherwise, wait for video release.

Great comment on AOL-Microsoft deal

May 30, 2003

Arnold Kling has a great comment in his blog, The Bottom Line. The irony is smile-inducing and is the natural result of our twisted, asinine anti-trust laws.

Wow! Awesome workplace.

May 30, 2003

The Salt Lake Tribune published today a tour of Pixar. “We have fun here at work and hopefully the fun will rub off into our work.” Amen to that, sister! It sounds like a really great place to work.

A Different World

May 29, 2003

Imagine how different the computer world would be if feature karma were practiced (from Twelve71).

Interesting Slashdot discussion

May 29, 2003

The title is “Is the Seeking of Lost Skills/Arts a Hacking Analog?” and the discussion is fascinating. The article suggests that the temperament that furthers programming is the same that has an interest in so-called lost arts, which are really just doing things the old way and really getting your hands dirty. I’ve found myself more than once desiring to delve into lithography and pre-computing printery. I’m also fascinated by gardening and the control available there. I find them all quite analogous to programming. Unfortunately, I don’t have time for printing or gardening (plus, I’m not a big fan of gardening in 115 heat here in Phoenix).

One underdone art/science that I’m diving into more is cooking. I’m a big fan of Alton Brown‘s Good Eats cooking show and I love his book. I’ve just picked up a couple of meta-cooking books from the library recommended by Alton Brown and am currently reading On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee.

New Addition

May 28, 2003

I just added a page to hold some lists. The current lists available deal with recent movies I’ve seen, books I’ve read, and books I’m reading. Eventually, I’ll add funny lists but I doubt that it’ll be as impressive as McSweeney’s or David Letterman’s but I’ll do what I can.

[NOTE: I’m sure that I’ve forgotten some books and movies, but I make no pretense at it being accurate historically.]

Review: Portland, Oregon

May 26, 2003

Last week, I was in Portland, Oregon for some training. I commented a couple of times on the training itself, but I never collected my thoughts on my experiences outside of the training.

As mentioned earlier, we wanted to go to the Japanese gardens and rose garden in Portland. Well, we went and took a boatload of pictures. I’d say that I’d post them, but I know myself way too well and I know that I probably won’t for a long time (if at all).

The Japanese garden was simply amazing! It was 5 1/2 acres divided up into five separate areas. My two favorite areas were the strolling pond and natural gardens. The strolling pond garden features a beautiful Upper Pond that offers tranquility with stones leading directly to the water’s edge. The Lower Pond is crossed via the Zig Zag Bridge that takes one out into the water mere inches off the surface. The natural garden, on the other hand, is a meandering path through several different gardens, all exemplifying the crafted nature of a Japanese garden.

The rose garden was disappointing because we came probably two or three weeks too early. There were buds aplenty, but few blooms. In my mind’s eye, I can imagine what it must look like. I just wish there was some way I could go back in early June; I bought some post cards that show the gardens in full bloom, so I guess that’ll have to do.

Aside from that, the only place I saw outside of my hotel room and a few restaurants (none particularly noteworthy) was Powell’s, the world-famous bookstore. It occupies an entire city block and is made up a bunch of confusingly laid-out rooms on a number of levels. The books are a mixture of new and used tomes, but the prices don’t reflect the usual discounts associated with used books. I bought some good books nonetheless and spent $100 (about $200 less than I could have, mind you). I didn’t get a chance to visit the technical book store two blocks away, but that’s probably a good thing.

Overall, Portland was an interesting city but suffered woefully from poor, narrow highways combined with slow-ass drivers. The lights are timed so that you can’t actually make two in sequence. The downtown surrounding Powell’s has relatively few stoplights, opting instead for stop signs. I liked that a lot. I didn’t interact with a lot of Portlanders but they didn’t strike me as unfriendly or slow (James Duncan Davidson found them really friendly).

Review: Run Silent, Run Deep

May 26, 2003

I finally saw Run Silent, Run Deep—thanks TiVO—the last in my submarine flick click. I guess I still have to watch K-19: The Widowmaker for completeness’s sake, but that can wait.

RSRD is a story about a submarine commander relieved of his command after losing his submarine. He’s given a desk job and goes stir crazy, a normal condition for those used to the cramped quarters of a sub. An opportunity for another command arises and the captain, played by Clark Gable, seizes the chance to insert himself at its helm. Unfortunately, the XO had assumed that he would take charge of the sub and shows his resentment over the situation at every turn.

It gradually comes out that the captain plans to use the submarine and its crew to avenge his old boat by taking it right back to the straits where the previous one was sunk. He wants to attack the destroyer that he thinks sunk his ship. The still-XO, played by Burt Lancaster, catches on to his scheme and fears that the same end will befall his boat. After fomenting some discord among a crew embittered by a pitched battle that nearly sinks them, Lancaster deposes Gable and states his intention of returning to Pearl Harbor.

Events prove that Gable wasn’t as unstable as Lancaster et al considered and he returns to fight the destroyer. Sinking it, he encounters the true menace of the straits: a Japanese submarine. The story unfolds as one would expect and the opposing submarine is sunk with the captain’s help.

The special effects were probably advanced for its time but pale miserably in comparison to any more modern submarine movie. However, if the dive sequences and scale models were accurate to World War II realities, then it makes the achievements of the WWII submariners even more amazing because of the primitive nature of their tools. I think that that is the best part of the movie, the unintended realism of its cheesy effects.

In some ways, RSRD is formulaic and follows a predictable pattern. However, this was one of the first movies to examine life under the sea. Crimson Tide and The Caine Mutiny tread ground that it broke. The imminence of death and underwater entombment makes every move, every action of paramount importance. You get the sense that usurping the captain’s authority is not undertaken lightly, for it too might have incalculable consequences.

This is definitely a movie to watch at least once. I don’t think I’ll be buying it, but I will watch it whenever it comes on television and I will definitely think about it when I watch its descendants.