Rubber Band Ball Geology

October 7, 2008

Say you are a bored programmer in 1998 and you make a rubber band ball.  But not just any rubber band ball.  You make one that is solid to the core, no cheating with a super ball, or cork.
Then you forget about it for 10 years.  Then you find it.  It is weathered, the outside dried and cracked.  Rubber bands flake away until you reach a solid mass of discolored and melted bands.
If you were to cut open the ball it would not fall apart.  In fact it would look like the core of a commercial ball.  The center still spongy, but compressed molded together.  It is like geology in action.  I am just upset if didn’t find a diamond, or better yet oil!  I could have at a solution for our engery crisis.  Just create a ton of rubber band balls and wait 10 years for a few drops of oil.  Just like ANWR.


Fringe is a SciFi mashup

September 17, 2008

I enjoyed the pilot for Fringe but did see room for improvement.  I hoped the doctor would tone down the crazy, the over the topness of the tech of Massive Dynamic would be pushed to the background, and we would get to see the main characters get filled out some.  But after watching the second episode I am very disappointment.  Fringe is about 2 or 3 episodes from losing its TIVO slot.

Lets start with the the dreadful dialog.  Most of the start of the episode was bloated with characters giving lengthly exposition that ruined the tone of the show and crippled the ability to create personalities for its characters.  In the beginning I assumed it was that they wanted to make sure that people who didn’t see the pilot wouldn’t be lost on what the pattern was, and who was on the team, but it didn’t stop after the first segment.  Was this episode written by out of work radio serial writers?  It is not like on Mad Men dialog is:

Don Draper

“Well honey, I am off to work.  At the Sterling Cooper Ad agency.  Where I am creative director.”

Betty Draper

“Ok.  I am going to go ride my horse as I search for a life outside my suburban prison and see if I can create a self outside your shadow.  Please don’t violate my trust again by having another affair.”

Also there seems to be no suspense in the mysteries on this show.  I can’t quiet put my finger on exactly what it is, so I guess it must be a combination of factors.  First, the show is directed like an episode of Bones.  It sets no mood at all.  There is no difference from a scene meant to be funny and one meant to be suspenseful.  Also, answers seem to come too easily to them.  Just google some old doctor’s name that Walter remembers, look through some files, Bob’s you uncle and we are done.  And finally the show hasn’t learned the lessons of shows like X-Files (which is odd since it is a direct descendant of it), Lost, and Heroes.  Keep it mysterious, don’t show the audience too much.  Let us learn with the main characters.  Let us feel their frustration and enjoy their discovery.  When we see the others, bad guys, puppet masters of the universe or whatever, keep it short and have them talk in generalities.  And when they do reveal something the main characters don’t know, let it be something important that the audience can be desperate for the good guys to know.  Hitchcock once said about suspense that if you just had a bomb go off that is a surprise, but instead you show the bomb the detectives are looking for and the audience knows it will go off, but don’t have it go off.  All that time they are searching and the bomb isn’t going off is killing the audience.  That is suspense.  There is no ominous bomb yet in Fringe.  I don’t have any feeling of real stakes.

But I do know that the writers of the show have seen a lot of SciFi before since episode two seemed like a mashup of some old favorites.  Some examples (I probably could have found more but couldn’t bring myself to rewatch it):

  • Olivia’s having baby dream sequence = Aliens
  • Guy needs to kill X people every Y years to harvest organs to survive = X-Files classic “Squeeze”
  • Make a defibrillator out of live electrical wires = MI:III (another JJ Abrams joint)
  • The Pattern sounds a lot like every plot point ever from Alias

A final word about the science in the show.  The basis of all scifi is to create a universe in which the characters live and set the rules for it.  Once set, and you get the audience to buy into the universe you have to stick to the rules you created.  This is what makes it seem real to the audience, from magic in Lord of the Rings, to the Force, to space travel in Star Trek.  This show sets down the rules as they talk in the lab and then violates it one scene later.  Tonight we are supposed to buy into that you can see the last image in the octave nerve from a dieing person because of the drug injected, etc.  Later we see an image of the bridge the girl looked at a good 15-30 minutes before she died.  Really?

Some other random thoughts:

  • More dull exposition in what the Massive Dynamics does speech.   Talk about giving too much information.
  • The “Pattern” sounds cheesy every time they say it.  The more serious the tone, the worse it sounds.
  • The 3D text in the location transitions got old at record speed
  • Pacey is still Pacey not matter how many times I hear he has a 190 IQ.  And they mention it almost every time they talk about him.  And that drop in that he has a mysterious, hush hush, medical background didn’t make me care at all.
  • Why is the cow still there? Comic relief?  I thought JJ Abrams was in charge of this, not Joss Whedon.

3M Wrist Rest Unboxing

March 6, 2008

This weekend I ordered a new keyboard wrist rest from Amazon.  I prefer the 3M gel style and ordered it with standard shipping.  The box I got at work a few days later was larger then the box my friend’s new MacBook from Amazon was shipped in.  So in the tradition of all those Apple product unboxing posts here is the 3M Wrist Rest Unboxing.  Take particular notice to the size difference between the box its contents.

Thank you TimeWarner

March 6, 2008

Thank you Time Warner for deciding to upgrade my cable boxe’s firmware at 9:30pm on a Tuesday. It is not like many people watch TV at that time. It took the cable box about 15-20 minutes for the flash and reboot to occur. If this happened on a Sunday night during The Wire I think I would go postal.

I can’t tell what the firmware change did, and cable companies are loath publish these details.  I do know it didn’t make Video on Demand any faster.  Starting HBO on demand still takes 30 seconds to a minute.

May the Postman never ring again

November 28, 2006

As many of my friends now, I don’t like to check the mail.  Too much junk and not enough value.  Also I live in a house where you have to get the mail at that shared mail lock-box on the corner.  Conveniently since college I have had roommates.  When I first moved out in college I had a job in the afternoon and my roommate didn’t, so he always checked the mail.  I got used to not bothering with it when he was away because I could care less if the junk mail or bills sat in the mailbox for an extra day or two.  Time passed and soon I realized I hadn’t check the mail in over a year.  Then it became a thing, how long can I go.  Well the last time I checked the mail was June 1997 so the answer is coming up on 10 years.  I pay all my bills on-line and have a roommate to check the mail for my Newsweek subscription.  But I won’t have a roommate forever, so I will have to check the mail one day.  I thought my options where:

  1. Move into a house in an old nieghborhood that has at the door mail delivery.
  2. Hire a low cost resource to check the mail for me. (You know what I mean.)
  3. Get married and have the wife check the mail.
  4. Go Kramer and refuse to get any mail.

Since 1 through 3 are very unlikely and 4 is unrealistic I have always thought that the fateful day would come where I could make the death march to a mailbox to see if I got new super-saver coupons.  But then today I saw my possible salvation:  Remote Control Mail.

MBA: The solution to the quarter life crisis

November 7, 2006

Are you around 30ish and don’t know where your life is going? Is your career not what you thought it would be? Not married with kids yet and you just got back from your high school reunion? Everyone there had kids and loved their spouses and you felt like an outcast all over again. You feel like you need a change, something to jump start your life, but you really don’t have any good ideas of what to do. Start your own company? Nah, sounds too hard and you haven’t had a good idea since you made a bong out of a Taco Cabana cup in 1997. Find a partner and settle down, start a family? Who would want to be with a looser like you. Look for a new job? But you hate interviewing. The real solution, got get an MBA. It won’t really solve any of your problems, but it will feel like you are doing something with your life for about 2 years. An MBA program has structure, and you will meet a lot of new people for the first time since you went to college. Also, you will feel smarter with that post graduate degree. You know you are just delaying the problem, but won’t it be easier to handle life with a better paying job?

Well, that seems to be the solution a lot of my friends a thinking about. In the last 2 weeks 4 separate friends pushing 30 have talked to me about going to get their MBAs. All have good reasons, but the biggest is “What the hell am I doing? Everyday at work is the same crap and I am not going anywhere. Hey, college was fun. Screw it, I am going back.”

Hey, I am not immune, I have thought of it too. But I am even too lazy to take the GRE and apply to schools. What we are all looking for of course is real fulfillment. When we look around others seem to be finding it in their families. Some are finding it in their jobs, but we don’t. Some of the best advice I got when I was young was from my father’s friend, “Don’t confuse your life with your career.” But when you are spending 10 hours a day at work it can be a hard thing to find meaning outside of the office. I like what I do, but I know I need to spend more time on stuff outside work. My parents advice would be “get a hobby, get a girlfriend”. Good advice, get off our asses and go do something. You don’t need to change the world to be happy and all that.

Angst is a bitch, and really annoying coming from yuppies like my friends and I.

Play Ball

October 20, 2006

So I just flipped to the NLCS Game 7 on Fox (schedule time 7pm-10pm CST).  I was expecting to see either the game or the announcers giving the quick game intro.  Instead we get the Fox studio crew for 10 minutes and counting.  Giving out stats and story lines that anyone who even knows who is in the game has already heard about.  I asked me roommate when the game was really going to start.  He guessed that maybe it was a rain delay, but no it is just a hype delay.   Why hype up the game, I have already tuned in to watch it.  I have already bought in and set the Office to Tivo.

hype delay:  The time between the scheduled start of a sporting contest and the actual start of play that is filled with endless promotion for the game the viewer has already tuned in to watch.