October 31, 2006
TC Sounds is having a sale on some of their drivers for a limited time, and since I'm trying to replace my 16-46PC+ subwoofers with something that will go lower, faster, and cleaner, I picked up some 15" TC-2000 drivers.
As part of my cost analysis, I calculated the cost per liter of displacement for various TC Sounds and SoundSplinter drivers. Here's my breakdown (hopefully the math is correct):
Surface Area: ------------- 15" = 1140.09182796937 cm2 18" = 1641.73223227589 cm2
https:// TrackBack Pings
So I checked the source for Movable Type and the MT::Util module's is_valid_url function seems to be okay with URLs that begin with https://. So I should be able to accept pings from sites that are running under SSL. If anyone pings me and it turns out this isn't the case, please let me know. I'm rarely pinged anyway.
I'm On Hacking Netflix
So anyone who delves into Netflix has probably heard about Hacking Netflix. It's not affiliated with the company though; it's run by an individual whom I don't know anything about. My previous reply to Netflix Fan is now featured on Hacking Netflix, although no one seems to care enough to post any comments. :P
I find it a bit amusing that Becky first wrote a blog post about blogging, and then I wrote a blog post about her writing a blog post about blogging, and now Hacking Netflix has a blog post about my blog post about her writing a blog post about blogging. And now I'm writing a blog post about a blog post about my blog post about her writing a blog post about blogging.
I stopped by Netflix Fan again today, and noticed Becky put up really big disclaimers saying none of the links she listed are corporate blogs. Maybe I made her feel a little guilty or something since I kept mentioning that in my reply post, but I didn't mean to. I think anyone would be extremely hard pressed to consider my blog as anything other than a personal site.
Hm. It seems that the TypePad developers don't think URL's should begin with https:// either. So no TrackBack ping for Hacking Netflix either. I should probably check my own ping URL regexp.
October 30, 2006
Maburaho is one of those silly romantic comedy anime series where a bunch of girls chase after a boy for some reason or another and hilarity and silliness ensues. I do think Maburaho delivers pretty well in that regard, and I really liked the characters. There are some really great plot devices, but I didn't find it as consistently funny as some other series'. Still, I think if you go for this kind of series, Maburaho is probably exactly what you're looking for.
A Spanish Skeleton
This weekend I spent a lot of time with Shannon. She came over with her mom on Saturday because they needed back the mattress. They don't sleep over anymore because they're all so busy with school and things like that. And they have a guest visiting now so they needed the mattress. We played some more of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures and Shannon ate some of the food I cooked even though it has tomatoes.
I took Shannon back home and then slept over that night because we worked on making her a skeleton for her Spanish class today. They do this every year for Día de los Muertos, although Shannon didn't pay attention and didn't know what it was for. We ended up cutting out the basic shapes from styrofoam and sticking them together with the metal wire from inside of twisties.
The rest of the day both Shannon and Yvonne did a lot of studying and homework. I helped Shannon study her Spanish and also a little with her English. But for some reason I was very tired so I took a nap. I think maybe because it was so cold.
October 29, 2006
Gundress has the name Masamune Shirow attached, and that somewhat attracted me to this film because I really like his work. But that public relations gimmick is about all this movie has going for it. It's a very simple and unoriginal action movie with some basic characters and a bit of excitement. There's really nothing special about this movie.
There are a couple things to note regarding the linked review. Nudity while navigating the mind or cyberspace is signature Shirow because it represents the inner view of oneself. A person's own view of himself or herself doesn't really have anything to do with external trappings like clothes. The nudity is symbolic. And the reason the male representation does not have any genitalia is because it is illegal to depict those things in Japan (or at least it was—I'm not entirely sure of the current law). Alissa didn't have any genitalia depicted either.
October 28, 2006
I had some people over last night to watch Silent Hill, the movie adaptation of the first game of the series. It's close to Halloween, and so Wendy said a scary movie might be a good choice. Silent Hill isn't a gory or slasher movie. It's a creepy movie. And I thought it did a very good job of being creepy, although the acting and dialogue wasn't wonderful and the plot seemed a little rushed near the climax. But everyone agreed it was creepy.
Wendy's husband, Brian, also came. As did Alla and Christian and Tintin whom I hadn't seen in a long time. Alla had some trouble understanding what was going on, I think because the movie progressed somewhat like the game would in revealing clues over time and making it so things were confusing and disorienting. This does heighten the creepiness in my opinion. But she didn't like it because it wasn't realistic to her.
October 25, 2006
A Netflix Blog?
Gary showed me today a post on Netflix Fan asking Why no corporate blog for Netflix? and, as it happens, including a link to my Work & Research blog category. I'm not particularly surprised, as I've received a few emails at my work address from Netflix customers asking various questions. The poster at Netflix Fan, Becky, asks if there is a company policy regarding our blogs.
Well, for starters, this is my personal blog, where I happen to have a work category. So anything I post on here is not something said on behalf of Netflix. My blog also includes posts from when I worked at IBM and also lots of entries concerning research I conducted while attending UNC Chapel Hill. If I worked for company XYZ, you'd also see posts on there that are my personal statements and opinions (e.g. I had fun at the company celebration) and don't in any way represent the company in an official capacity.
With that in mind....
When you ask about official policy, I don't think it's any secret that Netflix is a company that heavily trusts its employees.
At IBM, there were corporate policies that I didn't like because I felt they had a negative impact on the culture. I won't go into details because I don't know if those policies are considered secret or not, although I don't think they are. Other people I talked to about those policies found them perfectly reasonable, especially given the large size of the company where you don't know everyone else and where there are a fair number of contractors moving in and out.
In comparison, Netflix is a small company. A few hundred employees, and each of us can pretty much recognize by sight the other people that work at headquarters (maybe not by name). It's a company that emphasizes personal judgement and mutual trust. You are trusted to exercise good judgement in what you do. So I can have this blog, and it's my responsibility not to reveal secrets or information that might be harmful to the company (assuming it is ethical to withhold that information), and to make it clear that this is my personal opinion and not a company statement.
What I think is really important is that I can trust everyone else at Netflix. I'm not worrying about leaving my iPod out on my desk while I attend meetings, or that someone might try to get ahead at my expense. And it's equally important that this trust extends between all employees, from the CEO to the code monkey (me).
On a technical note, it appears the trackback server used by Netflix Fan doesn't support pings from sites that begin with https:// instead of http://. I couldn't find any contact info for Becky, and didn't want to sign up for an account, and their comment system didn't like my Google account even though it claims to support it. So maybe someone who reads this can let them know all those things aren't working. :P
October 23, 2006
A View to a Kill
I watched A View to a Kill, Roger Moore's last James Bond film, just now, and I'm starting to think overall it's not worth going through the entire Bond catalog. The past few James Bond movies I've watched I've rated only three stars on Netflix, and I can't really think of any that I enjoyed as much as Goldeneye. What I did really like about this film though, was Christopher Walken. He's a great villian in this film.
October 22, 2006
I gave Killer Bunnies to Shannon for her birthday, and got to play it with her and Yvonne this weekend. It turns out to be a very fun game, as recommended by the owner of the Legends store at Oakridge. The rules are a little bit complicated, which made Shannon give up on reading them, but once you understand them the gameplay is very simple and relatively fast moving. What's great is that strategy, planning, and competition are strong elements while not being overwhelmingly complex. And it's just plain fun. It would be even more fun with more players.
One drawback is that winning is to some extent luck. You can do a great job of dominating the game by killing off the other players bunnies efficiently and quickly, but if you don't happen to end up with the correct carrot, you can still lose. So even though you are the better player, you aren't guaranteed to win despite winning everything along the way. I suspect this was done to make things a little less annoying for younger children where poor players might just give up completely. It also makes it so the game can continue even though one player has gathered a plurality of the carrots.
Another issue is that you can keep buying expansion packs to get stranger cards and more wacky behavior. I do think they took a less money-grubbing approach than other collectable card games, since you just buy specific expansion packs in a certain order that provide specific cards. And that certainly allows the game to stay fresh for longer. But there are a lot of expansion packs and you probably do want to get them all.
After we played Killer Bunnies, we watched The Chronicles of Narnia. Shannon and Yvonne both remembered the books much better than I do, and were able to point out some minor inconsistencies that seemed to have crept in as a way to meet the film's time limits and make things a little simplier to absorb. I think they both liked it, and Yvonne did agree the women in the film weren't exactly the greatest. Mei-Ling kept getting scared for no real good reason. She said the music was very erie and that was making her get scared, even though the rest of us didn't feel that way.
Before I left, I helped Yvonne with her chemistry homework. I hope she understands better the shells and energy levels and concepts about atomic geometry a little better now. But mostly she just tries to find the answer and write it down without thinking much about why that's the right answer. We found the Atomic orbital entry on Wikipedia quite useful. Especially for visualizing the orbital shapes.
October 21, 2006
Children of Dune
In preparation for watching the Sci-Fi channel's adaptation of it, I read Children of Dune, which is really the culmination of the plot started in Dune: Messiah. Children of Dune follows the next generation of Atredies as they maneuver through plotting and events as momentous as those described in the first book of the series, and as they reach their destiny. Although I think the focus is much more on Leto II and not his sister Ghanima.
Everything you liked in the first book is here in the third as well. There's political intrigue and betrayal, as well as mystery as to where things can be driven by the Atredies family. Explorations go into the mysteries of prescience and the risk of Abomination. The path which Paul chose to discard are not rejected by his son Leto II, perhaps because Leto does not have love to temper his decisions. In any event, the story continues to unfold and remains very interesting and the ideas presented very thought provoking.
October 16, 2006
Chinjeolhan Geumjassi, which for some reason seems to have two English web sites (1, 2), is the final installment in director Chan-wook Park's Vengeance Trilogy. The second in the series is Oldboy, but I haven't seen the first one yet. That's okay, because it's not necessary to view these in order. The thing about Lady Vengeance is that it really hits you in the gut with a powerful fist of raw, primal emotion.
This film deals with kidnapping, which can automatically invoke extreme feelings in just about all directions, if well done. And Park doesn't hold anything back. Lady Vengeance is "The Witch", a woman who can appear kind-hearted and full of love while at the same time so cold and calculating against people who have wronged her. She is sent to prison at the age of 19 for kidnapping and smothering a 5-year-old boy to death. When she is released thirteen years later and offered a tofu cake by a priest, she tips the cake onto the ground. This sets the mood of the entire film.
I found myself gripped by the characters, which are portrayed by outstanding actors, the story, which is intelligent and complex, and the emotions which are so basic you cannot avoid a vicarious experience. As with Oldboy, be prepared for anything, because everything is going to be put before you.
Donnie Darko is a cult classic that happens to include an amazing cast set in an amazing premise. This is not a film that reveals the truth. It's a film that posits and explores the potential in humankind's experience of life. At times it's thrilling. Other times scary. It's definitely thought-provoking, and completely captivating. It's very hard to explain, but the most important requirement when watching this film is to try and believe.
There are lots of ways to look at the content of this film. This is one of those movies that if it was a book, you'd find English teachers trying to get you to come up with interpretations and explanations and themes, all of which could be right but are probably more a reflection of the viewer than the author.
I think the best thing about this film is that you have to figure out for yourself, along with Donnie, exactly what must happen. There are people who contribute to the solution, but unravelling the situation is a rewarding puzzle both for the audience and for Donnie as his character comes to a realization.
October 15, 2006
Voices of a Distant Star
Hoshi no Koe was an amazingly good short film. It's only 25 minutes but it's exciting, emotional, and poignant all at the same time. There have been some comparisons to The Forever War but they're really very different. In Hoshi no Koe, two friends are separated by the limitations of light speed. One has no connection with normalcy except through the SMS line, and the other is tethered by that line.
Human lives are short. It used to take weeks to send a letter by mail. And as the film alludes, your world can be measured in how far you can send a message to someone else. Today, you can easily send a message to someone anywhere else on Earth and it will arrive in less than a second. But once there are people away from Earth, the time to send a message will become measured in light seconds. In this particular case, the messages are taking much longer than that.
As a soldier on a battleship, traversing through the stars, you leave behind everything that is Earth. You also leave behind the people who represent humanity. And sending a message will take a very long time. Years may pass between replies. But that is your link to everything else.
For someone on Earth, to receive those messages, is like hearing from a ghost, but at the same time is someone whom you know to be real and familiar. That person is not gone, but by the time you've received the message, what was said is long past. And the world continued around you, as this message travelled through time to reach you in the future. And so you're trapped by your past. But it's not a trap you can simply escape from because doing so means abandoning something precious.
The worst part about it all is that there's always the chance someone you saw yesterday really died years ago.
October 14, 2006
Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight
Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight is considered an anime sequel to Record of Lodoss War, but it is actually a more lengthly adaptation of the original manga. As a result, if you watch both of the series, the first disc of the sequel won't seem to make sense given the events of the first. But if you only watch the sequel, you won't understand everything that took place in the first have of the first series. Basically, you're stuck.
As with what I wrote about the first series, I wasn't too impressed with this series. On the first disc I saw a number of production flaws. The remaining three discs cover the longer second story arc revolving around the knight in training Spark, rather than free knight Parn. There's some decent character development here but no real depth to anything. Visuals are okay for the time, music could have been better, but the rest of the execution is amateur. The basic plot is still there, it's just not used very well.
October 10, 2006
Since I didn't bring anything interesting on the airplane (I wasn't sure what they would try to confiscate or make me check into my luggage) I bought a copy of Wired Magazine and Anansi Boys to read on the flight back. Anansi Boys is the first Neil Gaiman novel I've read. The story is extremely good and extremely well written. But I don't think it's my type of book. So I'm not sure I'll read his other novels.
What Anansi Boys is, is a fully developed folk tale like you might have read as a child or read about if you studied other cultures, mixed with a little bit of a modern thriller to give it an extra bite. It's the kind of story that you might find about the animals of the zodiac or why there is a sun and moon or why the fox can never be friends with the hare. That sort of story, at its basic roots. And Neil Gaiman pulls it of perfectly.
I got back yesterday from Jamie and Keelan's wedding which they held at The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America's Pennsylvania Headquarters (that's a long name) this past Saturday. I had a good time catching up with them, and also Karen Cheung who died for three years. Ilya and his wife, and also Kai from Wolfe House showed up. On Sunday, I had brunch with them and their relatives before flying back to San Jose.
The hotel I stayed in, a Travelodge on Race Street near the convention center, was cheaper and closer than some of the other hotels but I suspect a little more run down. The floor didn't seem very clean, although the bathroom was very well taken care of. The front desk employees were very helpful and friendly though.
The Travelodge was close enough to the Colonial Dames building, so I walked there and back. But wearing the stupid dress shoes I ended up peeling off the skin on the back of my left foot from all the walking.
While there, I found out that Karen Kapur's boyfriend Sebastian got her interested in Magic: The Gathering and she likes it. He wants us to get together to play sometime. But Karen has a craving for Bridge, and wants to play that more, although there isn't a fourth person to play.
I made fun of Karen Cheung for dying for so long, and also found it very amusing that she and her boyfriend Steve put so much into the advice for the newlyweds contest. I think they spent like 30 minutes putting their thing together, but they did win. They won a box of chocolates. :P There was also a trivia game, and those of us who were in Deutsch Hall had some additional knowledge that helped. But then we'd also lost touch with Jamie and Keelan more recently so we didn't get some of the other answers. I did somehow remember that Keelan's first dinner for Jamie was Spaghetti though.
At the table I sat at, there was also a girl sitting next to me named Carolyn, I think, who I ended up talking to a bit because she also likes Star Trek. It was fun talking to her about things from the show. Her favorite series is Voyager though, which I didn't like as much. The stories weren't great, in my opinion, and I thought Captain Janeway was stiff and somewhat lacking in personality. Her character always seemed forced. And Tuvok was a black Vulcan (don't be politically correct to the extent that you break genetics!) and also played by someone who played a hijacker in an episode of The Next Generation. Carolyn did tell me that Neelix played a Ferengi in one of the other series. I didn't know that before.
I was very tired the whole time I was in Philadelphia though. I had trouble trying to go to sleep early on Thursday night, and I can't sleep on airplanes, and I also had trouble sleeping in the hotels. I wasn't able to get a good night's sleep until I finally got home.
The Devil Wears Prada
On my flight over to Philadelphia, the movie shown was The Devil Wears Prada, which I actually first heard about from a blog posting The Devil Wears
Prada Theater Uniforms. It's a movie that delivers pretty much exactly what you would expect, although there seems to be a tiny argument saying the fashion industry is important because of its impact on everyday life (so does the candy industry--that doesn't mean candy is actually so very important).
Meryl Streep is of course excellent in her role, which can be both cruel and heart-wrenching at the same time. But I was surprised by how well Anne Hathaway performed in this more grown up role, even if she wasn't amazing. The only thing I felt a little unfulfilling was the ease with which everything worked out for her in the end. It was too simple, too under-developed, and her boyfriend didn't ask any questions.
October 2, 2006
Dune Messiah is the second book in the series by Frank Herbert, but it's sort of a transition book. It's a little shorter than the novels that come before and after it, and has less meat to it. Rather it sort of bridges the empire built by Paul Atreides with that which will be governed by his children. So it's a good book, but not as interesting or thought provoking as the first or third.