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Showing posts from April, 2008

Rant: Miley Cyrus

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Won't someone PLEASE think of the children?!

The hue and cry surrounding Miley Cyrus's recent photos in Vanity Fair disgusts me. NOT the photos themselves. Certainly not the photographer, Annie Leibovitz, whose work stands on its own.

We should be ashamed.

We're a country addicted to drugs, gossip, and pornography. We're so in debt, we're destitute, yet we spend like there's no tomorrow. We care little except for how other people PERCEIVE us. Substance matters not.

Given that, the Helen Lovejoy-esque reaction to this photograph is disgusting. More skin is on display on your average beach outfit than this girl showed in this (to my eye) tasteful photograph.

Given the Disney spin-machine and handlers involved, I have no idea if Cyrus fits her squeaky-clean image. But for goodness' sake, put the torches and pitchforks down, people!! What's there to apologize for here? This country that devoured infamous Rolling Stone spread from Britney Spears 10 years…

Wednesday Randomness

* From the "not worth reviewing" file: Beowulf was awful. How do you take a blood-soaked elegiac epic and turn it into, essentially, The Devil and Tom Walker. Plus, the CGI was good, but not quite there.

* A cold snap has hit, with frosty mornings and cool, windy days.

* I've *got* to stop staying up late to watch bad movies on DVD. A netflix queue reordering is...er...in order.

* Everyone's doing well. Whitney's recovered from her stomach virus last week. Maria's managed to no maim herself lately, and seems ready to break-out running any day now (with injuries to follow, no doubt). Joey's school year is winding down, and he's enjoying baseball on his very good coach-pitch team, the Reds. ("Communism was a red herring")

* Finally sorted-out Joey's latest seizure-inducing Wii game Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity At its heart, it's a racing game, and I LOVE racing games. Still, it's annoying as heck, and very short. We played t…

Review: Elizabeth: The Golden Age

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Link

In lieu of going skating with Joey and Whitney yesterday, I put Maria down for a nap and watched Cate Blanchett reprise her role as Good Queen Bess in Elizabeth: The Golden Age. As the story opens, it's 1585, and Elizabeth has been on the throne 27 years. Still, intrigues surround her throne, as the Catholic Spain seeks to remove "the bastard whore" from the throne and put Mary Stuart ("Queen of Scots") in her place, or so it seems.

For all it's star power (Blanchett, Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh, Geoffrey Rush as Sir Francis Walsingham, and so on), this film is static and distant. It's The Lion in Winter without the irony. Where the first Elizabeth was a gripping tale of a girl becoming queen, in this episode, we see the queen fully realized, and the action revolving around her. Sure, there's plenty of pithy dialog, great costumes, and history galore, but the central human story isn't there. This is the story of a country (personif…

Harebrained idea of the day: "Preloved" efficiency dealerships

There's a market out there for old, efficient cars. And somebody is going to figure-out how to fill it.

Let's face it, cars used to be more efficient: The Honda CRX HF from 1990 was rated at 50mpg, and was a simple, dead-reliable transportation appliance. Cars also used to be less expensive and less complicated.

Here's the secret--new cars can't be made like cars from 20 years ago. Regulations won't allow it. Today, you must have airbags, side impact beams, stability control, etc.

For years, the enthusiast market has been finding these gems (like my E30) and holding on to them for a half-million miles or so. The vast majority of folks aren't enthusiasts; they just need.cheaper, reliable, more efficient cars. Seems like somebody could fill that need.

I see several tiers to this:

- At the dealership level, you could pay top-dollar for good used examples, scouring the online resources available targeting efficient vehicles--Older Civics, Volkswagen TDIs, MB Die…

Tremendous Weekend...

There's something awesome about going to a real city, staying in a great old hotel and eating at a darn good restaurant

Bella really outdid herself this weekend...first class stuff all the way from the room and its appointments, through the champagne and fruit tray. I particularly enjoyed the Art Deco throughout the great old building, which served as a model for the Empire State Building (same architectural firm).

Through it all, I enjoyed my darling's company...that was the best part.

Review: 21

21 was great, if you like ill-paced movies with recycled plotlines.

After enjoying other such pictures about genius kids (Real Genius) and breaking the bank at Las Vegas casinos (Ocean's 11), I hoped for a tight, enjoyable romp, with a good "nerd + hot chick" love story and lots of nerd-rific references--sort of like War Games in Vegas.

Yeah, not so much.

The elevator pitch is dynamite: MIT students act as a team to count cards at Vegas blackjack tables, facing opposition from the latest technology (biometric scanners) and old-school Vegas security men, as well as internal turmoil. Somewhere between there and adapting the bestselling fact-cum-fiction book Bringing Down the House, this movie becomes a mess of recycled ideas and predictability. By the end, I was rooting for security guards to nab the lot of them. They're just annoying people we're given no reason to care about.

Some highlights:

Classroom discussion of The Monty Hall problem
Scene-stealing nerd-rific …

She's BAA-AAACK....

"We need to talk."

The four words no man likes to hear - I don't care how old you are, how married, how single, or how many cumulative man-woman experiences you've had - those words bring a chill to a man's soul.


Yes, in the Soap Opera that is Dr. Bud, one word suffices: Nadine

Birthday wishes

My wife just turned her permanent age: 29. That's a good number. It think she'll stay there awhile.

It's been a big year for her, and it's been gratifying to be her husband and watch her grow. This year she saw Maria through infancy, and planned + executed our first family vacation. She dealt with her first summer without Joey, and Maria's burn and recovery. She dealt all the issues I had this past year--changing jobs, frustrations, dependency, Mom's cancer. I was horrid through most of that. She supported me, and kicked my butt when necessary.

She survived becoming the prototypical Soccer Mom (complete with minivan), and her frustrations with "Womankind". Somewhere in all that, she found empathy and understanding, and began to process her anger and frustration. This year, we found an honesty and a vulnerability together that's made all the difference.

She is a tremendous friend, moral compass, cook, organizer, travel agent, and the love of …

Anatomy of Software Applications

This is kinda "duh" stuff, but here goes: What does all professional software have in common? What attributes do all non-trivial programs share?

When you're in school and you write assignment programs, often, they're command-line, single-execution processes. These toy programs exist as drivers for some concept you're trying to grasp--string operations, numercal calculations, or Object-Oriented programming. An example might be: "Read a file that contains a maze and print out the steps to find the exit as coordinates."

That's not real world, however. What makes a real-world application?

I came up with 6 Characteristic areas :


Type/Mode
Algorithms/Business Logic
Communications
Logging/Debugging
Persistence/Migration
Metadata


Type
What kind of app is it? Some examples would be: Command-line, GUI, Service/Daemon, Web App. For instance, Gmail is a web app used for reading mail online. Grep is a command-line app for filtering textual input against a pattern.…

Randomness...

My face looks like a roadmap to Hell.

--Anonymous

* * *

Things are all quiet at work these days--everyone's preparing for the onrush of Windows 7 (whatever it shall be called...VII, maybe?), and trying to progress to...uh...wherever we're going. Printers to make, toner & ink to sell...same old, same old.

Review: Vanishing Point (1971)

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How is it that I've lived 29 years (21 of those a gearhead) and not seen Vanishing Point?



This film is hard to pin down. It's like:

Easy Rider, in a car
Smokey and the Bandit, but no midget and it's not funny
Cannonball run...no Dom DeLouise, and it's not funny.
Apocalypse now/Heart of Darkness but no jungle
Homer's Odyssey but no boat


More precisely, this film has the same overall theme as "Cool Hand Luke"--an ordinary man comes back from war (in the case, Vietnam), knocks around awhile and gets into trouble, and pays the price. As the audience, we're supposed to identify with the main character, and see how "the man" and "the squares" are hell-bent on destroying the utopian hippie vision of freedom and love.

Our "Luke" here is named Kowalski, a speed-freak (in both senses) decorated Vietnam vet who gets kicked out of the police force in the late 60's for ratting on his lecherous partner. After that, he kicks around racin…

Autocross: It's a good day when...

You win your first event in 2 years

In the cold, in the rain, the Beamer was awesome. I set the tires at 35psi front and 40psi rear, and let 'er tailslide around the 4 on-course sweepers.

This was CKR's first points event of the year, and it was an inspired and safe course design, using the small dump-truck training pad to the utmost. Braindump of me out there:


First gear, rev to 4k...sidestep the clutch. Okay, wheelhop, wheelhop...HOOK! Pick-up your slalom cone, now BANG second. Both hands on the wheel. Floor it into the braking zone for the first left hand sweeper. Brake, okay now crank your neck left to pick-up the second cone on the slalom. WOOOO...feel that rear come around.

Slalom. Smooth right, smooth left, GAAAAAS!!! Brake...feel the ABS. Crank your neck all the way right to pick-up the exit. Feel the front end bite, now feed on the power....WOOOOOO...feel that rear coming again, hang it, hang it...floorboard that gas baby, YEAH!

'K...brake, lefthand sweeper…

In lust...

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Mmmmm...

15x7. Correct offset (+25mm). Correct hubcentric diameter (57.1 mm)



Shine-y.

White car w/black rims...SHINE-Y!

Synchronization, Windows style (overview)

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Professor Djikstra--Mister Syncronization!

So, I've been doing some heavy work with multithreading on windows lately, and I must say I'm impressed. Win32 went whole-hog for the multithreaded model, and has great Kernel support for some very useful primitives:

If you want to work within your process exclusively, you have Critical Sections, which give are ways to ensure only one thread is executing in a code block at any one time. Nice, but nothing too exciting.

It gets more interesting when you start discussing the Kernel Objects: Mutexes, Semaphores, and Events. As these are Kernel objects, you can use them for synchronization between processes. Coming from the java world, this isn't something I'm used to--Java has built-in support for threading, but up to Java 5, had only Monitors and synchronized blocks. After that, we got Mutexes, Atomic* classes, Semaphores, etc, but still constrained to only one process/Virtual Machine.

A plain-old Kernel Event is a darn useful t…

Lexington Legends Opening Day

Brrrrrrrrring

"This is Harold"

"Hey, Honey! Listen, where would you and Joey like to sit at the Legends Opening Day Game tonight?"

Blink. Blink.

"WHaaa...?"

"I'm getting you guys tickets to the game. Where would you like sit?"

* * *

Yes, I have the best wife in the world. Don't know how she knew, but it was great.

The team this year is so-so. Well, so-so...so far. The starting pitcher made it into the 5th inning, but the middle relief guy (Koons) got tagged early and often, including a classic "throw it to first but brain some guy in the stands" error that lead to a score 1 play later. Fielding was uneven, with two more errors leading to scores or extra bases.

The atmosphere was great: Around 7000 attended, and extra touches abounded, like free hot dogs for kids, Big L parachuting in to start the game, and plenty of contests.

Joey enjoyed it much more this year than last. Having actually played baseball, he was attentive through …

Mini-review: Flags of our Fathers

Watched Clint Eastwood's Flags of our Fathers, and don't quite know what to make of it. Told as a series of flashbacks about the American assault on Iwo Jima, the film follows the novelist son of one of the flagraisers on Mt. Surabaci from this famous picture taken in 1945.

The film is a fine piece of work, and the acting in it is tremendous--Ryan Phillippe shines--but I didn't like it at first. It's not the deep immersion of Saving Private Ryan. Where Ryan was a gritty, sweeping story about a platoon amid the massive invasion of Normandy, Flags feels very small, almost claustrophobic. We're rarely in fire-fights; mostly, we see the fearful anticipation or the horrific aftermath. A few days after watching it, I realized: The hardest part of surviving WWII was living with what you'd seen and done.

That's why this film is so powerful...it's a study in PTSD. It shows us how our country elevates, lauds, and then discards its heroes. Half the men in t…

On Asbestos, GCAT, Dates, and Pasta...

Lots of randomness from an awesome weekend:


Saturday was the Georgetown College Academic Team (GCAT) tournament at my Alma Mater. I served as scorer in the Division I room, alongside my old pal Joe Guillory and the delightful freshman, R. (Did I see R. making eyes at Joe? Perhaps!) Georgetown's dominance and capability stunned me--this was a team of depth and quiet competence, obviously playing a level above their competition. They're going to Nationals (College Bowl?) and I expect they'll do well.

Saturday night was the first date I've had with my wife since we got married. The whole thing was a bit of a debacle--we've not dated in so long I've lost the knack of suggesting we do something together, planning said something, and executing on that plan. Yeah, that's right--I left most of the planning to the last minute. Still, we got to leave Maria with some church friends, go to Bella Notte in Lex, and have a wonderful dinner. After that, we went to L…

Carmry spring spruce up

a.k.a. Nothing like brake fluid that's so old it's green....

Installed the new Brembo rotors and Akebono ceramic pads from the Tire Rack yesterday on our 2000 Camry, and for once I did it right.

- I jacked the car up one night.
- I disassembled everything another night
- I did the install, brake bleed, tire rotation, and power steering belt adjustment yesterday.

Nice having zero pressure to get the Daily Driver back on the road before morning. I took my time, read through the Haynes procedure 3 or 4 times, and did each piece meticulously. I regreased the pins the caliper slides on, and made sure I put plenty of Moly-Lube on everything as it went back together.

The rotors themselves look awesome. I didn't realize how thin and grooved the OEM rotors were until I compared them to the Brembos.

Only thing remaining is the bed-in procedure. We're in the middle of a monsoon, so it was no-go last night. Should have a break tomorrow evening where I can get the pads and rotors to m…

Diagnosis: Rotavirus

Well, we got the final diagnosis of Maria's 9 days of diarrhea today: Rotavirus. She's been one sick girl, admitted to the ER twice for fluids.

She seems to be over the worst of it; no diarrhea today, she's just really sleepy and wanting fluids but not much solid.

Took the day off work so I could do a few jobs around the house and finish the brake job on the Camry. Got a sweet set of Brembo rotors and Ceramic pads, and things are going famously so far--everything disassembled without any WD40 or torch application :D

Supposed to get 2 straight days of rain here in KY, so it's a good time to do some spring cleaning.

Me

I'm cross-wired.

I intuitively perceive what must happen in a situation, yet I delude myself into carrying-on as if I didn't know.

I'm optimistic about people (despite all advice), yet am unsurprised when the worst comes out in them.

The only thing I can reconcile about it is the two sides of my personality, one of which is recent. I grew up a pessimist; selfish, I kept account of people's sins. On the average, people seemed pretty crappy--ruled by their emotions, rationalizing bad choices, hurting others for their own gain. What's there to be optimistic about? Society was one big, entropic system that'd eventually devolve into chaos.

But then I got saved. And I learned about Christianity, and its message of hope, redemption, and grace. "Grace" is something (by definition) undeserved, and it breaks the cycle of hurt, violence, and oppression. So, I turned-in my "BS" meter and just wanted to help people.

:-) So, that's the conflict with…

April Fools' -- Google style.

Google's now doing '411'

Link to their research blog

1-800-GOOG-411

Just tried it and it's pretty slick, and free. :-)