Monday, December 15, 2008


I'd never heard of this movie. I was surprised to see Liam Neeson in it. He plays a retired CIA operative whose daughter gets kidnapped while she's in France. He goes to Paris to find her and get her back home.

It's a very suspenseful action movie. My wife and I were both intensely involved all the way through. What happens when some bad people abduct the daughter of a very serious ex-spy? Turns out it's exactly what you would think might happen.

This movie reminded me of several others, most closely Man on Fire. which means it's not that original. But unoriginality is forgivable if the movie is good. If you enjoyed these types of movies, you'll really like this one.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Speed Racer (2008)

I had really low expectations when I started watching this movie, and I was pleasantly surprised. It was campy, and fun. It made me smile in several places. The special effects were very cool.

What I found most impressive was the compositing and editing of the different scenes. They used this device a few times that I really enjoyed. to cut from one scene to another, they would "wipe" a talking head across the screen. It had the effect of keeping the action nonstop while transitioning to a different point of view.

Not the best movie in the world; but it was still enjoyable.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Letters from Iwo Jima

I enjoyed this movie more than Flags of Our Fathers. It just had more action, drama, and likable characters. It was a real touching movie done really well. It's subtitled in English; but I recommend it even if that's not your thing.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Quantum of Solace

I think the Bond people watched the Bourne trilogy, and said, "we can do that better". And they did.

In this new movie, James Bond is much more brutal than any of the others. It's much more like watching Bourne or Transporter, except, I think Daniel Craig does it better.

This movie had the shaky camera; but it was much less annoying than any of the Bourne films. Some of the action sequences left me wondering how they got the shot -- like in the first part of the film when Bond and the double agent go through the window onto the scaffolding. Even with the quick cuts and shaky camera, the action was very entertaining to watch.

Bond uses not a single remarkable gadget in this movie, or at least, nothing you haven't seen before on 24 or Alias. I think this is a symptom of where we are as a society. We are no longer impressed by tiny cameras or laser watches.

I was impressed by the computer interface at MI6. It reminded me of the UI in Minority Report, and except it was far more practical. I could see this becoming a reality someday.

The plot ... let's say that the plot didn't get in the way.

There was a sub plot about Bond getting revenge on someone for killing Vesper. I figured out that this was a continuation of the plot from Casino Royale. This movie starts very soon after that one ended, and I wish I had watched it before watching this one; because I had no idea who she was or why she died.

Bonds beats, shoots, and stabs his way through the film. There are vehicle chases (including a plane chase), and a romp through an exploding apartment complex. The film is thrilling and fun to watch. I recommend seeing it while it's in the theater.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bee Movie

I didn't like it. The acting was horrible. The plot is stupid. And it wasn't funny at all.

It's bad communist propaganda.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tropic Thunder

A team of actors are working on a big budget vietnam war film.  The film is in trouble and things are made worse when the actor's egos collide.  Then things go horribly wrong.

Robert Downey Jr was the highlight of the film.  He cracked me up a lot.  He plays an Australian actor playing a black character to large comedic effect.  

There was mild violence and some bad language.  I would recommend this rental.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Big Green Egg

I got a Big Green Egg this weekend, and I have to say, it performs as advertised. I cooked several things in it, and every one of them turned out perfect. The only thing I haven't tried yet is slow cooking (roasting or smoking.)

After I cooked a few things in it, I noticed that it is very much like those firebrick pizza ovens you see in restaurants. It gets really hot, and the heat surrounds the food evenly on all sides. I like to bake my own bread, and it's hard to get a good loaf in my electric oven because it doesn't get hot enough and the elements form hot spots. It occurred to me that I could make a good loaf in the BGE.

And here it is:

I have a baking stone on top of the plate setter on top of the grill. Those pans are full of water to generate steam. I brought the grill up to 600 degrees, and I sprayed the stone before putting the dough on to cool it. I let it bake at that temp for 10 minutes, and then I brought it down to 400 degrees for another 20 minutes to finish it up.

The result is a loaf with a crunchy crust and a soft spongy inside:

Before I smoke a turkey in it for thanksgiving, I'm going to do a "trial run". Let me know if you're interested in coming over for to sample the first.


It's a brain-dead action flick. I do not recommend that you think about the plot, the physics, choices characters make, or anything else. Just marvel at the special effects and outrageous action.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Free Night of Theater

I scored some tickets from, and took the wife to see the play, Sweeney Todd, at the Pocket Sandwich Theater. I'm not much of a theater goer, and I picked this play because I heard the show was a good time.

And it was.

The theater is located in the corner of an L-shaped shopping strip next to a comic book store. It takes up the entire elbow of the L. It seats about 140 people at dining tables and bars in a crescent shape around the stage. They have booths around the back wall (which I don't recommend because you have to look to one side the whole show.)

They serve dinner starting an hour and a half before the show. The food is modestly priced. It's simple fare that is hard to get wrong. My wife had chicken gumbo which she liked a lot, and I had a reuben which was ok.

A few minutes before the show, they distribute popcorn to everyone in the audience. Then someone comes on (an MC?) to encourage you to throw popcorn at the actors, sing a long to the songs, and shout boos and hurrays at the appropriate times. Then they start the play.

The popcorn throwing was a negative to me. I couldn't help feel like the actors were being humiliated and disrespected. But the younger people really seemed to enjoy it; and the actors at least pretended to have fun with it. So, maybe I'm off base.

I'm not a theater buff, so don't weigh my opinion heavily if this matters to you. I thought the acting was decent on the whole. This play was meant to be funny and entertaining, and the characters over-acted in such ways that really fed the humor. The production was low budget but very entertaining. The cast was definitely having fun doing what they do, and they transmitted this enthusiasm to the audience very well.

The whole thing is a cheap date. It's about $60-$70 on a weekend for a couple. On Thursdays, it's $10 cheaper. It's a good date too; because there is plenty of time to talk and get to know the person during dinner and the two intermissions. It's also family friendly - no curse words and only vaguely lewd innuendo.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Ruins

It looks like  yet another dumb-americans-in-a-foreign-country gore fest; but it's not.  The movie is gory; but I wouldn't put it in the same category as Wolf Creek or Hostel.  It's more survival horror.

The antogonist is surprisingly scary.  It made for a really suspenseful movie.  

Not a whole lot of negative things to say.  Check it out if you like a good horror story with more than a couple of twists.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

My Enormous Chair

I went to Fry's this weekend and purchased an enormous chair. It has microfiber suede cover over a comfortable, space foam, over-size cushion. It's made for large people; so it's sturdy. The reclining function only goes back half as far as a normal chair. Anyone who's over six feet tall can appreciate that.

I researched it a little before purchasing it, and I found that there are a whole lot of chairs designed for big people. I don't know why I never thought of this. All this time spent in uncomfortable normal sized chairs...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

HTC Dream/Tmobile G1/Android Google Phone

I was excited about T-Mobile's G1 phone, and I honestly thought I'd be one of the first to own one. There's a lot to like about it and little to dislike. However, there is one serious deal-breaker for me.

I use google for a lot of things. It's my primary search engine, my primary email app, and my only calendar app. Having a phone that gives me immediate access to all this information is very appealing. Portable broad band internet is very appealing. Because I'm a geek, an open computing platform where anyone can create applications is great.

From what I've seen, the phone looks easy to use, and already has quite a few useful applications. The google maps compass driven street view has a lot of exciting potential. Check out this youtube video to see what I'm talking about.

I like the G1 hardware too. It has a fast processor, and I can't live without a qwerty keyboard on a device like this. It has built-in wifi and bluetooth. And the whole thing is very thin.

However, there is no audio jack. And there is no stereo bluetooth support. You can't use the phone as a 3G modem (no accessing the internet from the laptop via the phone.) Right now, there is no video support beyond playing youtube videos. The screen resolution (480x320) could be better (like 800x480).

Most of those things can be corrected some point in the future with the right software.

The real deal breaker is the mandatory $25/month internet add-on to your voice plan. They will not sell you the phone without the data service. I just don't think it's worth the extra monthly outlay.

So, I think I'll keep waiting for the right phone, and right now, it looks like it won't be a google phone.

The X Files: I Want to Believe

It's for me hard to remember the TV Series or even the last movie. I want to compare this latest movie with either of those. All I can say is that this movie is good, and it stands alone fairly well. I'm sure there are some in-jokes and inside references that I missed; but honestly, it didn't rely too much on that. This movie was like a 90 minute episode from the first couple of seasons.

The acting and special effects were both done well, and the story was intriguing. The movie kept my attention the whole way through.

If you like the X-Files or horror/scifi, rent this movie, and I think you'll be pleased.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Microsoft Wireless Optical Mouse 5000

I purchased this mouse over the weekend, and I've had a few days to get use to it. I like it a lot.

It's high resolution, so the cursor movement is smooth and precise. It's a little larger than a normal mouse. That's good for my large mitts; but it could be better. It is a good shape that fits into my palm, and my pointing finger and middle finger rest comfortably on the left and right mouse buttons.

The mouse wheel has variable friction. This took a little getting used to. When you move the wheel slowly, it feels like it's filled with grease. When you move the wheel quickly, it feels fast like oil. this is good because the drivers that come with the mouse enable accelerated scrolling. That means that the faster you move the wheel the faster it scrolls. Move the mouse slow, and the document slowly scrolls; but zip the wheel, and you'll instantly reach the bottom of the web page. I wish all mouse wheels behaved this way.

The wheel also has tilt. I don't find myself using this much. I'm thinking of remapping the tilt to some other function - like back and forward in the web browser.

The mouse has fourth and fifth buttons above the thumb. By default, one is programmed to go backward within the browser, and the other activates a magnify function. The magnify function is useless for me, and I'll reprogram it to do something else when I think of something good for it to do.

I recommend it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Virtual Box - Open Source Virtual Machine

A friend turned me on to Virtual Box. It's an easy to use virtual machine application that allows you to run all sorts of guest operating systems on all sorts of host operating systems. I use it to run Ubuntu Linux within Windows XP. You could use it to run WinXP on OS X, if you wanted.

I had been using VMWare. I think virtual box is much faster, and it offers a lot more configuration options. And it's a smaller install.

It's free, so give it a try.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

TV Shows Fall of 08

True Blood - HBO
Recent TV shows about vampires (Moonlight, Blood Ties, Forever Knight) have been cheesey. I expected more of the same and was pleasantly disappointed. Not only is it a good vampire show, it is probably the best of the new shows. The acting is very good. The plot is a little slow at first; but if you watch the whole first episode, you'll be hooked for the season. I'm sure.

Sons of Anarchy - FX
Ron Pearlman stars in this crime drama about a motorcycle gang in Florida. It's basically The Sopranos on Harleys. RP is a great actor; but he's weird looking. Whenever I see him in something, I keep thinking of Vincent, Hellboy, or One. Unless it's very good, this can be very distracting. I was distracted a lot in Sons of Anarchy. If you love crime dramas the way I love sci-fi, watch this. Otherwise, give it a pass.

Fringe - Fox
It feels like Alias with a science fiction twist. The pilot had me entertained. The story was good, and the acting was above par for television. This is definitely one I will be watching.

Sarah Conner Chronicles - Fox
This show is returning for a second season. I love sci-fi, and I like the terminator movies a lot. The first season mostly satisfied. The new season started out a little rough for me. The acting is not great in this series, and the story lines are hokey. If it weren't for the killer robots, I wouldn't be watching at all. I may not continue to watch this season.

Californication - Showtime
I rented the first season from netflix. I watched the whole thing, and found it to be smartly written and entertaining. I've seen the first two episodes of the 2nd season, and I'm unimpressed. I am not going to continue watching; but I may rent the dvds later.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pool Fun at the Berry's

Our friends threw a pool party, and my baby daughter went for a swim.
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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Don't Mess With the Zohan

I don't know what they were thinking.  This movie was horrible.  It is filled with unfunny racial stereotypes and stupid special effects, and it has a retarded plot.

Don't waste your money.  Unless you're an israeli or palistinian  new yorker - the apparent target audience.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What to do after taking hundreds of photos

Digital cameras are fantastic. You can freely take hundreds of photos without worrying about how much it's going to cost to develop. The one negative is that you have to manage the photos afterwards.

The first thing I do is arrange the files in folders by date and location ( or any relevant info):
  • 20080530 Bratislava
  • 20080531 Vienna - Natural History Museum
  • 20080531 Vienna - Old Town
I put the date in the folder name with the format "YYYYMMDD" so that they naturally sort chronologically. This is how I remember things, so it makes it easy for me to find.

Next, I use Picasa, iPhoto, or similar program to scroll through large thumbnails of the pictures, and tag (label or keyword) the ones that are good (or give them stars). If I have time, I will add more relevant tags to the picture - like who is in it or whether it's a landscape shot.

Then I filter the thumbnails by the "good" tag, and I tag the ones I want to share with "share". The ones I want to print, I tag with "print".

If your software doesn't come with tagging, you can accomplish the same thing using sub folders. just copy the pictures to the "good" or "share" subfolder.

Then I filter the list by the "share" tag and copy these to a separate folder. I make copies because I want to preserve the originals in case I make a mistake later. I edit these for contrast and color. Then I crop them to get the composition I like or remove that pesky power line. Then I give them meaningful names.

The last step is to upload them to a shared album in picasa, flickr, or whatever service. I'm in a transitional state right now in regards to photo service. I'm currently trying out picasa.

I back up my photo directory to DVD; but I'm considering using a pay service like smugmug or picasa for photo archival.

Friday, August 29, 2008

House Wide Low Voltage Power

I'm thinking of installing low voltage wiring throughout my house. I'd like to use a pair of "dark" wires in my cat 5e cable; but I'm not sure how safe that would be. Right now, I'm thinking of buying a 5.5v high amp power supply and installing it into the closet. Then I'd run wires through the attic. Eventually, I could wire the whole house from that box to power all sorts of things. I'd like to get rid of the power bricks and put USB ports in my outlet plates. Almost all my gadgets are usb chargeable.

There are several projects I'd like to build for home automation. 5v would cover my gadget charging needs and most of my sensor projects; but it's not enough for everything.

It's troubling to me that not all devices run or charge on a DC standard voltage. I'm not sure what to do about it.