September 30, 2005
Stupid President Bush Pardons
It seems that President Bush, in his infinite wisdom, has pardoned a number of people who simply don't deserve to be pardoned. Was it discovered that these people were in fact not guilty of federal crimes? Doesn't appear so. That's what appeals are for anyway. I want to say something about this but I'd probably get carted away by the FBI for mouthing off. Tim Pepper's perspective.
I watched Lilja 4-ever because I've been going on a foreign film spree lately and the description was very intriguing. The movie was not what I was expecting though. It's a very dramatic film, very well executed from the perspective and emotional viewpoint of the 16-years-old protagonist, Lilja. It's also a very disgusting film because of its subject matter. And pretty depressing as a result. I don't want to reveal what the film is really about, because not knowing helps the film impress itself upon you as things are revealed. Still, this is a powerful film with excellent acting that will let you glimpse into something you probably did not want to know about.
September 29, 2005
JFS + Unicode/Extended-ASCII
So, my Linux box recently suffered some physical failure. An unfortunate side-effect of my current operating environment is that my JFS filesystem was no longer letting me access any files that contained unicode or extended-ASCII characters. The files were there, but could not be stat'ed. Luckily, I got an excellent reply from Dave Kleikamp at IBM on what went wrong and how to fix it. I include his reply here for posterity.
I've been using JFS for my home directories, and recently had a hardware failure. Everything is back up now, but JFS seems to have trashed any file that contained Unicode or extended ASCII characters (e.g. ö or 刀) in the filename. I can see these files exist via an ls, but any attempt to stat or delete them fails.
Unfortunately, not only am I left with a bunch of lost data, but I cannot clean-up the dead files that are lying around anymore. fsck.jfs doesn't help.
Are you running on a different kernel, or did the mount options in /etc/fstab change?
The quick answer is to mount with the option iocharset=utf8. This should make any file accessible.
The long answer is that the default character mapping behavior has changed between the 2.4 and 2.6 kernels, and that the default 2.4 behavior was dependent upon the setting of CONFIG_NLS_DEFAULT when the kernel is built.
For historic reasons, jfs stores the pathnames in 16-bit unicode. Since there is no reliable way for the kernel to know what character set the pathname truly are in, jfs now (in 2.6) stores every character as a 16-bit value with the high-order byte zeroed. (This is equivalent to iso8859-1.) This works well when the files have been consistently created this way. If a pathname exists that has a non-zero high-order byte, the default character conversion doesn't deal with it right. (You should see some syslog messages suggesting mounting with iocharset=utf8.)
So if files had been created on a 2.4 kernel, where CONFIG_NLS_DEFAULT was something other than iso8859-1, or if files were created when the partition was mounted with the iocharset flag, you may encounter the problems you describe. The problem can also be seen between 2.4 kernels when the iocharset differs.
American Splendor is a comic book I've looked at, but never wanted to pick up. The artwork wasn't very appealing to me and the stories weren't that interesting to me. But I did just watch the movie based on the comics. It's kind of a strange movie, based around life of the author, Harvey Pekar. Harvey is closely involved in the movie, but his character, and the characters of those in his life, are acted out by professional actors. It seems almost mocking. While the movie was interesting, I didn't think it was great. Mostly, it confirms my impression of the comics.
September 27, 2005
Agile Software Development with Scrum
My team at Netflix uses a development process that would smack of rebellion at some corporations. The process is called Scrum and I just finished reading the introductory book one of my teammates gave me when I got here: Agile Software Development with Scrum.
I found there is a lot about the Scrum process that I can identify with, and I think that makes it very easy for me to believe that Scrum is an excellent approach towards software development. I do think anyone who is concerned with or has a professional interest in software development processes should look into Scrum. There are several books available on the subject. The challenge is to get management acceptance of this process, as it will get rid of unnecessary people, and many corporations are top-heavy.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
A few days ago I watched the 1956 movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Today, I watched the 1978 remake. I have to admit I liked the original version better, despite the campy B-movie flavor. Probably in some ways the B-movie flavor makes the film more enjoyable. It probably didn't help that there were so many dark scenes which my LCD projector just doesn't handle so well. Really makes a case for getting a CRT projector.
September 26, 2005
So I did a search of my entries and it doesn't appear that I have any entry about Gloomcookie, the other series by Serena Valentino. I will say that Gloomcookie is much better than Nightmares & Fairytales, unless you like lighter fare. The story and world of Gloomcookie is excellent in my opinion, and the pacing of the prose reads like poetry. I've read the first three trade paperback volumes, and am looking forward to the fourth volume which will be released on Halloween, of course.
Improved Cancer Detection
Saw a report today about the use of nanowire constructs that are able to detect and identify miniscule amounts of cancer markers. This should allow simple blood tests to very determine precise types of cancer in patients at a much earlier point in time. This is a significant advance in medical technology.
Slippery Slope of Monitoring
There's news going around of LimeWire making changes to their system to prevent the distribution of copyright materials in light of recent U.S. court rulings. The recent court ruling stated "We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties." Unfortunately, if LimeWire attempts to comply, it will set a very undesirable precedent.
Essentially, what LimeWire's system will start to do is monitor communications between third-parties to look for activity which is considered illegal. This monitoring will be constant, and if its algorithms and database suspect a party is engaging in illegal activity, the system will prevent the activity from taking place. You may be thinking, "where's the harm in that?" It's a little like video cameras in stores to make sure people don't shoplift, right?
The problem is, this is more akin to having software monitor all of your phone/email communications or financial transactions or library usage to see if you are doing anything the government doesn't think you should be doing. The difference is, all of those intelligence systems have been government programs, subject to public and congressional oversight. (Although you can argue whether or not the government seems to care about that.) This would be the first time a private company will start policing the third-party use of its system for criminal activity. And private companies are under no similar obligation to behave. This is why the FBI performs wire-taps, and not Verizon.
Capturing the Friedmans
I had never heard about this story, but I am sure it must have been big news when I was a child. Capturing the Friedmans is a documentary that came out in the last few years about a child molestation case during the late 1980's against a father, Arnold, and son, Jesse, from a middle-class Jewish family living in Long Island. I think that this documentary has an even greater impact on someone who has never heard of the case, and so can enter it without any prejudices. But what I'm not sure of, is whether or not you can actually come away from this with any sort of real answers.
This documentary is probably the only one I've seen that doesn't have any sort of real conclusion. In the end, I don't have any idea of what is true, what was false, and what is just convenient interpretation. At times, it seems like a defensive work, while at other times, it feels like things have completely changed direction. It is also contains a great deal of candid video and audio detail taken by David Friedman over the course of the ordeal.
I think the only thing you can take from this documentary is that the entire Friedmans family really is just as normal, and more honest with themselves and others, than any other family. It is truly hard to paint any of them as monsters or indecent or mean or bad, despite the overwhelming indications towards "sexually deviant" acts by the father at some point in his life. Part of the reason it is hard to view Arnold or Jesse as bad people is because of all the candid material and the extremely conflicting views presented by people whose true knowledge of events is questionable. You can't really believe that anyone is telling the truth, including the lawyers, police, victimized children, or the Friedmans.
September 25, 2005
Nightmares & Fairy Tales Vol. 2
A while back I finished reading the second volume of Nightmares & Fairytales. This volume is more of the same found in the first volume, of a darker take on common fairy-tales. I didn't enjoy this one as much as the first volume, but it is still pretty good. And I do like Fsc's artwork.
Shannon's Eleventh Birthday Party
Shannon had her birthday party this Saturday, and it was lots of fun. When I got there, two of her friends were already there eating lunch. But they had to leave soon afterwards. I don't remember their names, but I've seen them before. Tiffany was also there at some point but then left. Then Winnie and Vincent showed up. Vincent went on a non-stop chomping spree, and was kind of as bothersome as always. :-\ Later, Johanna showed up. Diane was supposed to show up but never did. I got Shannon a Naruto poster and the Uzumaki: Kishimoto Masashi Illustration Book.
We were kind of waiting for David and Arthur to show up, Diane to show up, and also Tiffany to come back. But Diane was unreachable by phone, and Tiffany never came back. David and Arthur were late, so we ended up going to Gomes Park where they showed up later to meet us. We played Lava Monster, basketball, cops & robbers (i.e. Manhunt or Jailbreak), and kickball. I also gave piggy-back rides to and did wheelbarrows with a few of them, but Vincent still weighs too much for me.
Johanna talks a lot but she's lots of fun because she's so silly and likes to goof around. Winnie got really bored for a while, but once we started running around outside she wasn't bored anymore. Vincent kept doing kind of stupid things like not running away from the cops, and passing the kickball to nowhere. Arthur and David are just Arthur and David.
Super Size Me
Super Size Me is a documentary about one pretty healthy guy deciding to find out what would happen to his body if he ate McDonald's, and only McDonald's, for thirty days. Three meals a day, and the only thing he can eat must be something he can purchase from McDonald's. This is a very popular documentary because it is a human experiment that produces dramatic results. The short summary is that the subject, Morgan Spurlock, quickly enters an unhealthy state, and just as quickly a life-threatening state.
There are several great things about this documentary. The first is the subject: fast food and America's growing obesity problem. This is something that became very hot in the last few years, and resulted in a lawsuit against McDonald's for supposedly producing extremely unhealthy food, marketed to the public and young children with a tendency towards unhealthy consumption.
The second is that this is a real human experiment. This isn't a bunch of people talking about scientific research or theorizing about cause and effect. Morgan tries it out for himself, and keeps track of what's happening to his body by bringing doctors and nutritionists into play. Of course, a lot of content is provided by "experts" and other important people involved in this scene, as any documentary has.
But probably the greatest part of the documentary is that it isn't boring. It is completely non-boring at all times. It's funny, wacky, entertaining, informative, engaging, and all of this at the same time throughout the film. This is partly due to great editing and post-production, but also due to the comedic view Morgan has about this whole topic.
Linux Server Hardware Failue
On Friday, I noticed during work that my server was no longer available for remote access. When I got home that night, I discovered it was powered off. I was able to coax it back to life via some power-on sequence magic, but it died again shortly thereafter. So I decided this is finally the time when I need to upgrade my hardware. I went to Fry's Electronics to buy a new processor, RAM, motherboard, and power supply. I found out later that the motherboard doesn't support 3V AGP cards, so I ended up having to buy a new video card too.
Unfortunately, it seems Linux is not too happy with my new setup. I purchased an Athlon 64 processor, and a motherboard using the NVIDIA nForce3 chipset. I seem to have two problems. First, GRUB will no longer load off my hard disk. I can only bring my system up by booting it from the SuSE DVD. Second, at times it seems the system enters some sort of slow period. Commands that should execute quickly become delayed. And it doesn't appear to be hard disk related.
September 23, 2005
Daughter from Danang
I watched Daughter From Danang, a documentary about the reunion between a Vietnamese mother and her daughter, Hiep, she gave up for adoption in the United States at the age of seven. This is a pretty good documentary for a person to watch once, although I think people will find it somewhat boring unless they have a personal connection with the Vietnam War or with something like adoption.
I found it interesting to watch this after seeing Full Metal Jacket because it portrays the war there much more realistically from a different viewpoint. I also found it interesting to discover just how willing the U.S. government and social workers were to take children away from their mothers, and then pass them onto the American people as orphans. I can understand the ethnocentric view that leaving to live in America can lead to a much richer life. And that is true to a very large extent. But that doesn't make it something those people should be proud of or willing to do so easily.
That is, unfortunately, the main gist of the documentary. Both Hiep and her mother believed that blood-ties are what makes a family. They met with expectations and assumptions based on memories twenty-two years old. And their reunion was originally quite happy, although you can tell very easily that Hiep does not have as strong a connection. Both of them were looking for their own reflection of reality. But blood has nothing to do with family, and that is what both of them discovered. Neither of them feels very good about coming to that realization, but they also cannot change who they are.
It doesn't help that these are two people who live in completely different cultures, with I would say no exposure to other cultures of any type. Each of them is accustomed to their own lifestyle, living environment, social norms, and personal beliefs. Hiep cannot accept or begin to comprehend the difference for her own part. She clearly does not belong there, and cannot cope with the different world. Her mother realizes what is happening but it is very difficult for her to accept this; in this way, she is wise to say her daughter is naive.
Once Hiep goes back to the U.S., she goes back into her comfort-zone and does what comes easiest. She really isn't Hiep anymore. Hiedi is her real name.
September 22, 2005
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
The 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers was a B-movie filmed in three weeks. And while the acting is not great (Kevin McCarthy does a decent job of going crazy), it's a good film because of the plot. The music is very much B-movie music, but that just enhances the mood and genre. I do wish the DVD widescreen had been real widescreen, and not 4:3 letterbox.
If you do watch the DVD, don't bother to watch the interview with Kevin McCarthy. The interviewer is an idiot. If you do want to watch it, fast-forward whenever the interviewer is talking and just listen to what Kevin says. It's pretty short and full of fluff anyway.
September 21, 2005
Full Metal Jacket
I watched Full Metal Jacket tonight, the movie by Stanley Kubrick about becoming a soldier and the Vietnam War. It's has a very strong anti-war message, which is of course not unexpected coming from Kubrick. But it also has a very strong tongue-in-cheek criticism of military indoctrination and how things were thought of during that time period. It's a very good film and everyone should see it at least once. Unlike other war films that try to have a lot of depth and meaning, Full Metal Jacket achieves that without becoming too emotional or boring.
September 20, 2005
I got blown-in insulation for my house today. I hired a company called Universal Insulation, off the recommendation of Dave Duggins over at Central California Insulation. If you look earlier, you'll see that Dave helped me out when I was building my home theater panel trap. But CC Insulation only does commercial buildings, so Dave recommended I contact Jim at Universal Insulation.
The guy who came out to take a look and give me a quote, Kevin Byler, was very nice and courteous. He even took off his shoes before coming in the house without me asking. The main guy of the three-person team who did the insulation today also took off his shoes once he saw I preferred them to not walk on the carpet, and they ran tarps inside to keep the floor clean. They did a good job and I'm looking forward to much more comfortable summers and winters.
One of the free DVDs at the Netflix office was 11:14. It was a screener disc, but apparently this movie came out in 2003. There are some comparisons to Memento, but that's not really a good comparison. What the movie is, is an approximately 30-minute window around the time of 11:14 told from the varying perspectives of the people involved. As the story unravels, you begin to see how all of the people are connected and seemingly unrelated events are all part of a larger whole.
This isn't an amazing movie, but it's a pretty wacky comedy. Just about all of the characters are complete idiots, and get what's coming to them. So you can't feel bad for them so much as be amused by the craziness that's happening in a single night. I think it's a good film to watch if you're looking for something slightly off-the-wall and entertaining. I wonder if the time choice, 11:14, is in homage to Chris Carter.
SamBakZa.net has released a follow-up to There She Is, the sequel is named Cake Dance. Check out the site. This one isn't as catchy as the first, but still fun.
September 18, 2005
Piedras Verdes is a Mexican film about an 18-year-old girl who has a fight with her adopted mother and runs away. She ends up entering the life and world of a drug dealer (although that is glossed over) and when that goes sour, she starts trying to find her biological father. I had some expectations for this film based on the award nominations on the back of the promotional sleeve, but I'm afraid it was a disappointment.
The protagonist, played by Vanessa Bauche, starts out as a brat, goes through the whole movie as a brat, and ends up as a brat. The acting performances aren't that great, and there is no character growth at all. A lot of the plot doesn't make any sense either. This is partially because it's supposed to be more artsy and contain dream-like connections that don't make sense. But it doesn't work because everything else is so grounded. I had no idea how things were happening, why they were happening, and there were many pointless video sequences.
The copy I have is also a promotional screener made available to Netflix employees by Lions Gate Films. I guess they don't really care so much about the quality of the screeners. It was 4:3 letterbox, instead of widescreen. The picture quality was not that great, with extremely visible artifacts at times. The film transfer wasn't done right either, as a projection burn clearly showed up. The movie also switched to black and white with a copyright statement on top, to prevent copying. That's understandable, but also annoying.
Heather Nova - Oyster
Heather Nova is an artist I've been wanting to pick up for a long time. I finally got around to purchasing one of her earlier albums, Oyster. I'm not particularly aware of when I first learned about Heather Nova, but I've also liked her on ATB's album Two Worlds.
The amazing thing about Oyster is that not only does Heather have amazing song-writing and vocal skills, which come through great on this album, but that there is so much rich music accompaniment. Heather has a very ethereal voice, which becomes even more awe-inspiring when she reaches for the high notes. The music is hard rock at times, almost bordering on metal, but also sometimes more ambient in its style. Unlike many other albums, the instrumentals here are a direct reflection on the contrasting moods and emotions that show up within a single song.
The production on this album was also very good. Although it's obvious it was mixed a little hot, there are a lot of subtle nuances going on which can be very hard to miss completely. I think with a better processor and better speakers, more of that would come out. I really liked being able to localize minute background audio, and being able to hear the moist break in her lips when she opened her mouth.
I'd been told that Dr. Strangelove was a really good, funny movie. But I didn't laugh once while watching it. There are some scenes that juxtapose and criticize the military and nuclear armament. And I think those are interesting and courageous themes to present. Especially during the 1960's. But past the political commentary, I didn't find much in the film to capture my interest.
September 17, 2005
Katrina Donation Raffles
A few AV companies are holding Katrina donation raffles. So instead of donating directly to a charity and taking a tax deduction, you can enter a raffle to win something (raffles involving non-charity organizations are considered gambling and as such are not tax deductible) but still have 100% of your donation sent to the organizations like the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, or Save the Children. Here are some links: Rotel RMB-1075, Epiphany Audio 12-12, pro gear + cash, Talisman SE. These are all legitimate. Be wary of scam sites claiming to accept donations or holding raffles.
To Sir, With Love
A few people came over tonight to watch To Sir, With Love. Alla and George showed up pretty late; Jeannie showed up on time but had to take a break to drive Leslie to the airport. It took her longer than she had thought to come back because there was traffic at SJO. Scott showed up around 10pm and Ellen cancelled. We had Chinese food from Golden House Chinese.
We talked a little bit about how things are going at IBM. Apparently Scott ended up in charge of my code after leaving, although Kavita had been the person I transitioned it to. And there were a few defects like NullPointerExceptions and a class cast exception. At least nothing major unless he didn't want to tell me my code sucks.
The movie started off kind of slow, and sort of boring. But it got better about half-way through once Sidney Poitier figured out how to react to the students. Then things got interesting, and followed a course similar to Dangerous Minds, a more recent film built around the same theme.
Alla fell asleep during the movie. Which doesn't surprise me since I'm sure she found it pretty boring and was a little tired. Scott kept making fun of Jeannie during the movie. Afterwards, Scott told us some stories about funny but stupid/cruel things he's done in the past. You'll have to ask him about that.
800 Pound Gorilla Has No Coordination
I ran across an article today that I think is very important and very interesting. The information presented within is very close to my sentiments towards IBM but the company in question is instead Microsoft. This article was published in reaction to some of the information that has been revealed in the recent Kai-Fu Lee case involving Google. I think everyone should take a look at this to understand how things can get bad at a large company.
September 16, 2005
Nintendo Revolution Controller
Looks like Nintendo has given a sneak preview of the new Revolution controller which is pretty interesting. Check out the review, but the short is that it looks like a remote control (with the ability to finally remotely power your console on and off) with less buttons but it is motion aware.
I watched Mean Girls and it was decent. It's sort of the typical type of movie for its genre, so I'm a little surprised parents thought it was so shocking. It had some pretty funny parts in it though, which isn't surprising since it was produced by Lorne Michaels and correspondingly featured many cast members from SNL. Nothing out of the ordinary in this movie, but worth watching.
September 15, 2005
I just watched Chungking Express. It was pretty good, but I liked the second story much better than the first. The first story was kind of weird without any real closure. And it moved a little slowly. But the second story, starring Tony Leung and Faye Wong (yes, the singer) was really interesting and funny because of how silly and carefree Faye was living in her own little world.
The disconnect between the two stories was clean at first, but then started to blur. And I started wondering if I the two stories were actually supposed to be the same person. It could have been, with that person a few years later. But didn't really seem to be. I know now that the two stories were supposed to be similar but not the same people or with any chronological sequence.
September 12, 2005
Nuclear Proliferation Returns
The Times Online is reporting that a revised nuclear operations doctrine would allow for pre-emptive nuclear strikes against terrorists. What does this mean? It means if this goes through, Bush could have ordered nuclear strikes against Iraq. And in the future, those countries which the government decides is evil. Or countries that are suspected of helping evil.
This is very, very bad for a number of reasons. One reason is that we have entered a more "enlightened" age where most of humanity has recognized the dangers inherent to stockpiling of nuclear weapons. Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) fall under this same category of single weapons with devestating non-military casualties. One would hope that similar WMD non-proliferation agreements would arise in the near future. The complication with that is it can be much easier to produce a WMD than a nuclear warhead. But I would not say it is much easier to purchase a WMD than a nuclear warhead.
Another reason this is bad is because the U.S. government has taken a very liberal approach to who or what it labels as terrorists. There's a general attitude of label everything and everyone we don't like as terrorists. Why? Because the government has passed laws that allow the executive branch to ignore Constitutional rights and the Geneva Convention for terrorists. Laws like this proposed modification to the doctrine. I think it is highly hypocritical for a nation to decide its natural and inalienable rights only apply to humans it decides it would like them to apply.
Abre Los Ojos
Yesterday I watched Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) which was the film later remade as Vanilla Sky. And now I can see why there was so much controversy over the production of Vanilla Sky. It was almost an exact duplicate. The only thing that changed were the actors and the locale. So then, what is the point to remaking it with Tom Cruise, instead of simply publicizing the original? Regardless, they're both good films, but since they're basically the same film, you couldn't say one is good and the other isn't.
The original, Abre Los Ojos, does have more heart to it though. It feels more like César has actually lost something of his soul, rather than David who just feels like he is losing his mind. If I had to choose which to watch between the two, I would recommend Abre Los Ojos if subtitles and listening to Spanish dialogue isn't an issue for you. Otherwise, that may distract from your ability to pay attention to what is going on. In which case, Vanilla Sky is a better choice for you.
Vanilla Sky was better produced, and does feel more realistic, in some sense. But I think the acting by Eduardo Noriega is slightly better, and Abre Los Ojos has more emotional depth.
September 9, 2005
I must have decided not to write an entry for Hero the first time I saw it. I originally purchased a legitimate import. But it was a piece of crap. Single-layer, horrible compression, and the producers decided to display their logo in the corner every few minutes. I have no idea how a company can remain profitable with some bad quality products. Anyway, watching a U.S. distribution of Hero was very nice. With higher quality production, this movie can really show its stuff.
There are many aspects of Hero that are simply very good. The story is excellent, although I have no idea if it is actually based on historical records or a fabrication based around the time period. The extras indicate that the story took two years to put together. The precision and depth does show. The music is also very good, and I think this is one of the few films that I think have an amazing score. And it includes performances by Kodo, a personal favorite, and Itzhak Perlman.
Of course, the actors themselves are also very good. And a great cast was put together to portray the characters. I've become a fan of Zhang Ziyi because of how well she can portray emotions and lose herself to the character. I already own Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers. I plan to pick up 2046 soon.
Probably the thing for which this movie will be most remembered by people are visual sequences. An enormous amount of detail was put into creating amazing visuals for every single shot of the film. The mood is carried through the color and music, and there is a distinctive tone portrayed in every shot. If you bother to watch the behind the scenes extra, you'll discover just how far they went to achieve this.
September 7, 2005
Sex and Lucia
I watched Sex and Lucia last night. It was a lot better than I expected, and also not what I was expecting at all. The portrayal of sex and love is raw and uninhibited. In some ways, because of that, it is more pure and innocent than what you will find in other films. This is not a movie that confuses the romance of love with the truths of love. It is filled with lust, love, torture, betrayal, trust, and loss.
I found the film to be totally engrossing. Like the story Lorenzo is writing, it grabs you, and won't let go. These are people who you will come to care for, because of their flaws and their strengths. There are thin threads that bind the characters together. Threads built on chance encounters and shared secrets and sex. They are built on intimacy. And these threads are extremely strong.
What I think I found most compelling was that throughout the film, you will come to understand each of the characters. Understand what is driving them, and what they are searching for. And that it will always feel right. There is never a time when you will feel betrayed by their actions, feelings, or how they change. Instead, their essence is shared, and it is a honest one.
Apparently an 11-year-old girl is having her photo going around the Internet with messages asking for lessened Chinese hostility towards Japan. I don't really know how this started, or if it is even with this girl's permission, and maybe it is a hoax. Very strange how this happened. Anyway, here's a little more info about what is going.
September 6, 2005
Spencer, one of the people on my team at Netflix, hosted a Labor Day barbecue at his house today. I went with Alla after we chaperoned her youth group's fund-raising car wash. Christian showed up with his wife, second daughter, and son. Marc showed up with one of his friends from LA. Michael came but his wife was out of town visiting family. And Samir came with his wife. We basically hung out talking and had some good food.
September 5, 2005
Hanging Out With Jeannie
Today was a hanging-out-with-Jeannie day. We went to see The Skeleton Key and we both thought it would be one of those jumpy scary movies. But I'm kind of glad it wasn't because although it was kind of freaky scary in the beginning, it turned into a puzzle type of thriller later on and so didn't leave me feeling as scared afterwards. It's actually a pretty interesting movie because there's a lot of unique stuff going on that has to do with New Orleans and the history there. And it isn't too predictable. There is a plot twist or two which I doubt most people would be able to predict. Unfortunately, I think everything shot in this movie is now buried under water.
Afterwards, Jeannie found some running sneakers she needed to buy, at like the third or fourth store we looked at. She's pretty picky about her running shoes because she runs so much and is going to be in a relay race sometime in the next month or two. She doesn't like Nike sneakers and only likes Adidas. She was looking for a particular sneaker model, but instead found one that is similar.
Then we went up to a Greek Festival at a church way up near San Mateo. It was pretty cool just to sit around, people watch, talk about things, and eat some Greek food. The food was pretty good. I didn't get to try all the stuff I would have liked to. Too expensive. But it was kind of like a fund raiser for the church. I made a joke about the traditional folk dance they were doing. You'd have to ask Jeannie if you want to know what it was.
Black Angus + Airplane
Yesterday, I visited Shannon and Yvonne. Yvonne is trying to beat the classics reading record set by one of her classmates also named Shannon, and so is going to try and read 1000 pages a week. To do this, we tried to find classics that would be really big and also pretty cheap. The library closes at 5pm on Saturdays, so we went to Half Price Books and found a huge book of Lewis Carroll stories, and two of Ayn Rand's books: The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
Afterwards, we went to Black Angus for dinner because they had a coupon. Shannon ended up eating way too much because she ate too much bread and potato stuff, and so I told her she had to eat some chicken and a shrimp before she could have dessert. But the chicken was a buffalo wing and so she kept drinking her iced tea at the tiniest taste of the spicy stuff. So she peeled off the skin, but it took her like ten minutes to do that. She wouldn't eat the prime rib because she thought it was yucky or something. I ordered mine medium rare which had more blood left in it than I thought it would.
Later, we watched Airplane, one of the movies I got Yvonne for her birthday. I hadn't seen it in a long time and it was really funny to watch again.
September 2, 2005
I watched the original Russian movie adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's novel Solaris. Solyaris follows the book very faithfully, and is filled with all of the thought goodies that the book throws around. Unfortunately, it's kind of a really boring movie because of how the director, Tarkovsky, made the film.
I actually ended up fast-forwarding through a good chunk of the movie. It's almost three hours long, and I think I shortened it by about half an hour with my fast forwarding. There are simply too many meaningless shots and sequences. The conversations can be interesting, but there is way too much time spent on just following someone walk around or even just looking at something when nothing is happening. Too boring.
Also, the background music, when there was some, could get quite grating on the ears. Totally dischordant at times when there wasn't any dischord going on in the film. The audio mixing wasn't so great either, with voice being way too loud sometimes, and other noises being too quiet in comparison.
As for the acting, only Hari, played by Natalya Bondarchuk, seemed to actually have any talent. And I did think she was pretty good. But the rest of the characters seemed to lack any depth of personality and emotion.
Apparently, scientists at a US biomedical facility have finally achieved regeneration in mammals. Some genetically modified lab mice have had damaged organs and amputated parts grown back, from conditions that would have normally led to death. The scientists are optimistic that this capability can someday in the near future be transferred to humans once the proper genes are identified. Another interesting aspect is that injecting regnerative cells from one host into a non-modified host allows the second host to gain regeneration capabilities for several months. This has huge potential for medical and research purposes. It also smacks of Umbrella, Inc.