Strawberry Fields Forever - Nothing is real

Saturday, July 31, 2004

I love Lucas, I love him not...

George Lucas REALLY doesn't make it easy on the fans of Star Wars.

On one hand, he gives Episode 3 a quite decent title and what information I have about the film make it look like it might be quite good.

On the other hand, he CONTINUES to mess with his masterworks! It's 99.9% certain that he's continuing to mess with the original trilogy for the dvds that come out in September. I've heard reports of little things like fixing light saber effects. I'm actually fine with that. They are among the few flaws I have problems with in the original version of his trilogy. But why on earth is he replacing Sebastian Shaw's version of Anakin's ghost standing by Yoda and Obi-Wan?? At least he hasn't yet replaced Alec Guinness with Ewan McGregor! And yes, this is 99.9% certain that this is on the dvds that are to be released. Other minor changes are in store such as a view of a celebration of Naboo with Gungans added to the celebration sequence which doesn't really bother me. But even with those, we still have the initial special edition changes which generally stunk. Generally the integration of new cgi with the older footage has looked quite amateurish (to my eyes). Look at the horrible Han Solo taking with Jabba sequence from the special edition of A New Hope. Compare that to Jabba in Return of the Jedi. One of those two is more convincing, and it isn't the cgi creation. Of course, I am a bit biased against CGI. Very rarely has cgi looked very good to my eyes when trying to simulate "real" environments and integrate with "real" footage. Jurassic Park still looks horrible to my eyes (though I don't care much for the story either).

I really don't understand the reason for any of this. In my (not so) humble opinion, the original trilogy's special effects have held up VERY VERY well with time. I watch them and I'm convinced of the reality of the situation. The only film I think has held up better was the brilliant work for 2001: A Space Odyssey (thankfully Kubrick can't go back and do a special edition of that). Minor things like fixing visible errors in visual effects shots and remixing the sound for 5+.1 is great. Digitally cleaning up every frame is also great. I really enjoyed the work that was done for the Indiana Jones trilogy dvds. Small changes were made, but they did not effect the story at all. George, why can't you treat your masterwork with the same respect that you treated the Indiana Jones trilogy? Why do you make me go through all the work of transferring the original trilogy off of widescreen laserdiscs so I can own a dvd copy of the proper trilogy? (yes, I own the laserdiscs, and so it's a legal digital backup)

Still, I do have to grant that Revenge of the Sith is a good name for Episode 3...

To quote the Gipper, "not bad, not bad at all"

I actually had the chance to catch Kerry's acceptance speech on CSPAN after my final. I don't believe the speech will stand along side the greatest of all political speeches of all time, but it was quite good. I already liked Kerry before the convention. True, during most of the primary season I had joined the Dean movement. (I also still really like Dean) However, prior to Dean being a so-called viable candidate I had gravitated most to Kerry. His politics are mostly a good match for mine, and he seemed like a decent enough guy. His performance lately has far exceeded my expectations for one with similar politics to mine who happens to be a decent enough guy.

I'm not going to go through this speech line by line. As Jon Stewart so brilliantly put it at the end of the Daily Show on Friday. You should watch Kerry's speech, and Bush's speech and then turn off the TV. Form your own opinions. That said, I must voice my opinion that moments like that remind me exactly why I hold Jon Stewart and his show in such high regard. Anyways, for anyone who missed the speech of any others, just go to and watch the speeches.

On other fronts, my final is over, as is potentially my career in Math. In the end, I remembered enough Calculus to get by, but I didn't know the material for the actual class all that well. In the end, I'll probably earn a C, which I suppose is good enough, but I need to do a lot better if I want to seriously have a shot at a Doctorate in Computer Science. Still, I have time to recover from this. Lots of little projects to work on now, and jury duty next week (my first experience with it).

I also really want to find a way to be involved this cycle. I'm even tempted to violate my promise to myself and take a semester off of school to work for Kerry or the DNC or something. I really want my nation back and I HATE standing on the side lines. If anyone knows of any potential tech or data analysis or mapping or web jobs along these lines please hit me up. Of course, given I'm basically the only reader here, this call is pretty much in vain.

Anyways, onward to November. Go Kerry, go!

Thursday, July 29, 2004

More musings and yes a funny link!

First of all, the good stuff - I found this link on a dailykos diary that I have since lost, but here's Will Ferrell convincing me that one way or another, I'm really going to try to see Anchorman. This is a donation requesting ad, but man is it well done: Will Ferrell again as George W Bush BTW: This is legitimately funny, this is Will Ferrell doing his Bush impersonation which is always brilliant. This isn't like that annoying jibjab (or whatever site it was) flash animation.

Second of all, I got the midterm back.. I did horribly, but I was expecting even worse. The teacher was VERY generous in partial credit. (no, I'm DEFINITELY not complaining)

Third of all, the Daily Show was back mostly in form tonight. Very very glad to see this. When they are on, they are in my opinion, the best televised news coverage in the U.S. Which isn't to say that they are a good source. It is to say that the others are HORRIBLE. (though to be fair, you could argue for PBS and CSPAN)

Fourth of all, the Treo 600 is the coolest gizmo invented yet. I picked it up several months ago, and I'm still finding new applications for it. In my latest discoveries, I got movies on it via a secure digital card, and today I figured out how to get Air America Radio streamed onto it via its cell service from a ShoutCast site in Key West Florida! Now I can drive through LA and be able to listen to Liberal talk radio if I so choose. Though, unless they've improved a good deal since their inaugural 2 weeks (which is when LA actually had a station), I may not bother tuning in often except for maybe Al Franken's show. It's still very cool to know I can listen to internet radio while driving thanks to something smaller than an ipod that can also play music perfectly and movies, and take photos, and give me a wireless net connection to my laptop, and can run Java apps I write, and can edit documents, and can play nintendo games (though I do not have this installed since I know I would play them 24/7), and is also a very good phone with good reception and battery life, and can almost make me forget that I don't have a life. Gizmos rule!

Now to continue cramming and trying to find Edwards' speech...

(fixed the URL for Will Ferrell's "advertisement")

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Me flunk English, that's unpossible!

Yeesh, man, I really need to learn to read over my posts before I post them. So many grammatical and spelling errors. Given I'm a Computer Science major, it isn't too surprising... except that my undergrad degree is in Political Science, and unlike former Vice Presidents of the U.S.A, you usually need to know how to spell and write correctly. I did graduate with that major, didn't I?

Now to fix some of the most obvious errors, and then get back to Calculus and Statistics & Probability...

Why do I even bother to tune into Fox??

Sometimes out of masochism I will tune into conservative talk radio. It's amusing, it's ridiculous, but at least it has the "integrity" of not claiming to be journalism. That means it generally doesn't tick me off too badly. Fox News is different. Even though their claim of "fair and balanced" is ridiculous, they still try to pass themselves off as a form of journalism. After speaking over speeches and skipping over the national anthem, et al for the first night of the DNC convention, they gave some time to speeches the 2nd night. I watched Brit Hume and company talk after Mrs. Kerry's speech. Now unfortunately, so far, that's the only speech I've seen complete (I missed Clinton and Obama) so maybe every other one was so much better that it deserved derision, but I have trouble believing Fox was being entirely "fair and balanced" in their "analysis". Mrs. Kerry put forward a somewhat unusual, but still very heart-felt explanation of how glorious our freedoms are. Pretty good for a political speech. What did the group speak of? Well, they claimed she was strange, made incessant references to "shove it", argued that she was a campaign liability, asked why she didn't stare adoringly towards her husband in speeches, knocked feminism, and put forward theories that this was an attempt to "humanize" Mrs. Kerry. Give me a break! Arguably the speech was not what the convention people were billing it as in that there was not too much biographical information about Senator (hopefully soon to be President) Kerry, but it was still a decent speech that fleshed out a nice view of our nation as hopeful, brave and just. Maybe it was just that this didn't fit into the storyline of "liberals hate America." Though oddly enough Republicans were begging her to run for the Senate in Pennsylvania when her first husband died.. Still, this bashing is what passes for "journalism, fair and balanced"?? They make Scarborough, a conservative former house member from the panhandle of Florida, look like a real journalist in comparison! (somewhat like how Bush has made Reagan look good in comparison with how poorly Bush has done in office)

And yes, I know I'm not exactly the most unbiased person in the world, but this is going beyond even self-parody.

On another note, a sadder note, the Daily Show came back from their hiatus, and offered a convention view... that wasn't up to their par. I don't mean to say they were unfairly critical or anything, but man, it just wasn't very insightful or.. you know, funny. Please guys, I KNOW you can do better. And heaven knows there's great targets for humor at the convention!

(more edits for spelling and grammar.. luckily I'm basically talking to myself here)


It's odd. I've been either going to school or teaching school basically for over 20 years now. In all that time I don't believe I have ever really cheated or intentionally plagiarised. I never gave it too much thought as I always found it less stressful to just do the best I could on my own and not bother with the bother of cheating. In fact, when I saw my own students cheat in the computer science classes I taught, it really annoyed me (to put it mildly). I hated having to suspect them, and was always wondering why they would do such a thing.

With a fixed car (it was a dead battery), I was able to make up that midterm yesterday. I knew I would be hammered on calculus, so I brought my old calculus book (the last calculus class was in 1998!), and tried to review. When I sat down in the prof's office to take the midterm, I found to my horror that I couldn't remember what the anti-derivative of e^x (or rather e^-x) was. Turns out many problems depended on that formula, and I was stuck.... or in theory I was stuck. I had with me one of those uber-fancy TI calculators... I knew that many of them have integrating functions built in. For the first time I can remember, I was REALLY tempted to try to feed up e^-x and ask it to integrate it. I toyed with the idea (with time I should have spent working on the exam of course) for too long for my comfort. In the end, I did not. First of all, I'm not entirely sure my calculator had that function. Second of all, I certainly don't recall off hand how to find it. Third of all, to try to figure it out would have eaten up time I didn't have to spare. Fourth of all, I was taking the exam with the prof only feet from me... I might have gotten away with it, but it was risky. I ended up just writing out what I could for those problems and writing a comment of I just don't remember how to integrate e^-x (yes, I know how to now) and I can hope I can recover a handful of points. That test was AWFUL, and I even ran out of time. I can't even begin to remember the last time I ran out of time on any test.

What is the point? Well, cheating is a lot more seductive than I ever gave it credit for. I held the line (laziness once again reigned surpreme), but I can somewhat appreciate why I caught so many student lamely trying to copy assignments off of each other . Of course the real point is I'm in the middle of a massive review of calc and the statistics & probability course I'm now for my final tomorrow. I will NOT be caught in such a bad situation tomorrow! That's the real answer... it's just a little less seductive.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

What the world needs most: another blog entry on F 9/11!

Yeah, I saw the film. Yeah, it's really "controversial". Yeah, as with most "controversial" items, the controversy is overblown.

I really like Roger & Me, and to a lesser extent I liked Bowling for Columbine. Both have issues that make them hard to see as a straight documentary, but in the end both are entertaining and both raise questions. F 9/11... is somewhat in that same mold, but less so. Even a few weeks after seeing it, I remain quite frustrated with it. It had too many issues with bias to fit neatly inside the category of documentary for me; it did not go far enough to really hit the level of propaganda (he actually pulls some punches in the film!); it does not do a good enough job of presenting and debunking alternate viewpoints to be considered well formed piece of op-ed by me; and most seriously, it isn't as funny as his previous films! Of course, I came into this knowing most of the "shocking" facts involved so it did not have the same impact with me that it could with others.
I can't help but think with some changes, and maybe a little bit longer running time for more trademark satire, and a little bit of trying to explain the neo-con theories (which history is in the process of debunking as much as any other ism can be) that it might have been great. What's left is good, but unfortunately, not great.

As for the issues brought up by the Moore detractors, well, there really isn't much in here that can be assailed except for some questions of how he edited it together and insinuations. Fair enough, but this guy has never exactly claimed to be an unbiased observer of the American condition. Of course, many of the arguments against Moore are flat out wrong. Claiming he said that we deserved 9/11 when in fact he said that the victims did not. (the article that quote comes from is the one cited by those claiming he said we deserved it) The facts in the film are pretty much all correct. The rest is a matter of opinion.

Despite my reservations, I am very glad he was able to weave in a very very pro-America and especially pro-soldier message in the later part of the film which helps solidify that anti-war != anti-American or anti-soldier. For the record, I was on the fence in 2003... Even though I didn't like Bush, I wanted to believe so badly that he would do things properly even though it was clear that the arguments for the war were questionable to say the least and I had little rational reason to believe that they would do a decent job beyond the actual invasion. I was not exactly anti-war, and even today, I'm not anti or pro anything uniformly.

So in conclusion, good but not great. (grrr!) Next film on the docket is Anchorman (if not in the theaters then on dvd) then the Incredibles (Pixar!) and then The Life Aquatic (Wes Anderson directing Bill Murray again!).

Also saw Shrek 2, which the Republican pundits were recommending people see instead of F 9/11, and yikes, what a bland film! This is now one of the highest grossing films of all time!?!? This grossed more than Nemo!?!? Yeesh!

Anyways, back to Calculus and other stuff I should be working on.

(edited this to fix some bad grammar.. though not all of it, and fix a typo or too)

Monday, July 26, 2004

Musings and cars and errata

First of all, to continue the last post (which I seriously messed up the comments for... I haven't gotten the hang of comments yet) the more I hear the finished Smile, the more I like it. I REALLY can't wait for the official release in September! As a note: Brian Wilson's last release (released last month) was pretty good, but not great. Much of it is culled from earlier recordings rerecorded (maybe 4-5 new songs written for the album) and as a rule, I like the earlier versions of the songs. The songs rerecorded seem subdued compared to the original versions (example: Soul Searching and the title track Gettin' In Over My Head both have more "edge" in the original mid-90s recordings). Still, it's Brian Wilson, and it's him sounding much more like himself than he has in ages. Imagination, his previous solo album of original work had the Brian Wilson vocal sound finally restored, but had very very generic adult-pop/musak instrumentation that held back most of the songs. This album has real instruments, and at moments sounds like it's an actual Rock and Roll album... just not as often as one would hope. (and if those links do not work, I'm not surprised, the new AMG is not 100% there)

Second of all, I found out a way to avoid a midterm.. have one's car entirely fail on them on the way to school. In the process I also found out that driving on the 405 freeway is no more difficult when the engine is dead than under normal circumstances (certainly you go no faster with a working engine). Most likely it was a dead battery that caused my car to die 20 minutes after being jumped by the AAA, but it did lead to the 2nd time in my life I was on the 405 freeway noticing that the accelerator pedal was not working. (the first was at 5am driving home from Berkeley when my sleeping cousin accidentally shifted the car into neutral) In case you are wondering, no one was hurt, so maybe having my car die is a way to improve my so-called driving skills... Also, I will have to take the midterm tomorrow, so after this I have 3 semesters of Calculus I need to relearn along with all of the statistics & probability from this class I need to know... Though this is STILL easier than teaching. (yay for retirement!)

Third of all, I wasn't able to catch the actual speeches, but so far so good from what I can tell. We're growing some discipline. Now to program my computer to record the others nights worth, because this actually seems watchable. (and to find a CSPAN repeat of the speeches from today... would like to see Carter, Gore & Clinton completely and not the 5-second sound bites) Hopefully Kerry can live up to the build up. Now when will the Daily Show have new shows????

Now back to studying, doing paperwork, updating my resume, and working on my current project: fix my server (backing up all the data in the process) then getting a new 250 gig hard drive (#5) and putting together a nice 1 terabyte RAID-5 array for my closet server. Yay for Linux!

So in conclusion: Linux and retirement == good. Dead battery on the 405 == driving on the 405. DNC convention == suspiciously good. Smile > Brian Wilson's newer material. C > Java > C++ > Scheme >= coding by resoldering the circuit paths.