December 31, 2005
No More Ads
With the dawn of the new year, I've ended my experiment with Google Adsense. I never expected to earn any revenue with it. I was curious to see how it worked, how well the ads meshed with my content, and if there would be any click-through at all. The ads were frequently about food, no surprise there, and occasionally about television and other topics. But no anime ads, no Asian movie ads, not really any videogame ads either. As I wrote about all of these things, albeit less than food or family lately, I'm a little disappointed that they never made the cut.
Oh, and in the several months that I had this experiment running, there were exactly four click-throughs. Very amusing.
So to you few friends, family and regular readers who patiently put up with my little geek game, thanks for your patience. The slightly less cluttered Terebi2 is back.
Can't remember now whether this was Thursday or Friday, but I went to see Syriana. This is one seriously bleak movie. It is entirely credible behavior by a series of bad actors chasing wealth and power. Fascinating and depressing all at once.
As if that wasn't enough, I'm going to try to see Munich before work starts again on Tuesday.
December 30, 2005
Wednesday saw Jean, Renee and I attending The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I thought this was an excellent adaptation of the book, and that it captured the spirit of the characters and story quite well. The temptation to get all saccharine must have been overwhelming, but in truth the sentimentality was limited to the areas where it was actually called for.
Tilda Swinton is fast becoming one of my favorite character actresses. She was in Constantine, as the archangel Gabriel, and here plays the White Witch with a great sense of detachment, contempt and suppressed fury. The voices of the various animal characters were appropriate, and James McAvoy, as Mr. Tumnus, was almost exactly right. His character was the one I was most worried about, as there would surely be a temptation to turn him into the fluttery children's book stereotype that pops up so often in fantasy movies. Here he gave, in just a few brush strokes, a performance that evoked a living person, with flaws, that I could actually believe in.
When Renee was five and six (and still Kelly) we read all the Narnia books together (me doing most of the reading) and they are etched in my memory. Now there is a movie of the first book, and I'm quite comfortable with their stewardship. Let's have another!
About the time I was watching King Kong, Jean was taking delivery of a new clothes washer. We'd been without one since Thursday or Friday, when the agitator on our twelve year old washer gave up for good. Christmas Eve morning, I drove over to the mall, found the parking lot nearly empty, but Sears staffed with many helpful clerks. In less than half an hour, I'd ordered our washer, to be delivered that coming Tuesday. The date was set, but not the time. I figured they'd be done before I left for Kong.
However, Monday came, and I sent an email to Tom, Alan and Dan confirming that I'd be there for the movie. Mere minutes later, we got an automated message that the washer would be delivered between 6:15 and 8:15 pm Tuesday night. I was reluctant to cancel my movie date, especially after such a late confirmation, so Jean agreed to handle it herself. Thanks, Jean!
So now we've worked through the backload of laundry, we've got clean sheets again, and my dwindling closet of clean clothes never got down to the really old, ugly stuff that doesn't fit any more. Yay!
December 29, 2005
Scanning over the last several posts I've spotted a pattern. Odd posts are about vacation cooking, even posts about why I haven't played my videogames yet. Either I'm suffering from seizures of deja vu, or I really have very little to say. So with that in mind...
The Producers. I can give no better review for this movie than the linked one by Roger Ebert. I've been a fan of the original Mel Brooks movie for decades, watching edited reruns on television every few years. Seeing this rendition now makes me want to purchase the DVD and see the original in all it's unedited glory. When I first heard that The Producers was being adapted as a musical, I was both excited and sad, because I knew I'd never get to see the stage version, but loved musicals and hoped they would create a movie version.
And they did, with the original Broadway stars, Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane (reprising the roles of Leopold Bloom and Max Bialystock created by Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel). I knew I was going to see this, by hook or by crook. Monday, the day after Christmas, having taken the day off, I drove to Bridgeport Village, only to get trapped in a parking lot traffic jam. Finally finding parking, I walked to the theater, and there were massive lines. It became apparent that I wouldn't be able to get into the theater in time for the show, so I gave up. I thought about going in anyway to see a showing of Munich, which started later, but it is a longer movie, and Jean would probably have wondered what happened to me, so I just went home.
I tried again on Tuesday. I went to the 11:05am showing, and Bridgeport Village was only sparsely populated. The parking garage was nearly empty, and the theater was populated only by helpful staff. Happy day! I settled in and watched the film, a silly grin on my face at least half of the time. I'll grant you I am a special case, but if you like Mel Brooks and musicals, then you will almost certainly enjoy The Producers.
I'd decided that the holiday crush I saw on Monday was over. But emerging from the theater, I saw a crowd that was maybe two-thirds as large as the post-Christmas logjam. Once again, cars filled the avenue leading to the parking garage, and though the crowd in front of the box office was maybe half the size it was on Monday, it was still surprising large for a weekday lunch hour. I guess more people take off the week between Christmas and New Year's Day than I had thought. With that in mind, I shot off an email to my friends, whom I was meeting that evening to see...
King Kong: The 1933 version that started it all runs an hour and forty-five minutes. It is a silly romp with a jerky stop-motion animated monster that at the time was state of the art, supplied by Willis O'Brien (who tutored Ray Harryhausen). The story divides naturally into three parts. The first establishes the human players and briefly sketches their reasons for going on their fateful journey. The second part reveals Kong on the fantastical Skull Island, and the third part returns to New York for a fateful finish.
This modern remake by Peter Jackson is architected along the same general lines. Only now it takes three hours to get there. Does Jackson really need three hours to tell this tale 'better' than the 1933 original? Sadly, the answer is no. I enjoyed the film, and to judge by Alan's vigorous rant during the credit roll, it held a bit more pleasure for me than him. But looking at this film with an editor's eye, I'd have to say that an hour and 45 minutes, or at most two hours, would have been quite enough.
The action scenes were very exciting, until they clearly decided that more is better. James asked Alan if he enjoyed Kong more or less than National Treasure, a clunker we all saw which was filled with egregious ten minute chase scenes (more than one) that had me waving my hands in a 'get on with it' gesture. Alan said he enjoyed them about equally, which is to say, not much.
I'd say that the aspect I enjoyed most was how Jackson attempted to turn the relationship between Ann Darrow and Kong into a mutual one (much like the 1976 version with Jessica Lange). Instead of being a sacrifice inexplicably given a prolonged reprieve, Darrow (played by Naomi Watts) becomes a willing accomplice after a series of incidents on the island. I'm tempted to call this the most extreme example of Stockholm Syndrome ever depicted, but of course Jackson is striving for more than this, and Watts generally succeeds in elevating her interactions with the imaginary beast.
Overall, I'm not ready to join the critics who give this version top marks. It's too long, too heavy-handed and just too wearying. But I'm glad I saw it, especially with a gang of like-minded friends.
This post has run on for quite a bit, so I think I'll be taking a break. I'll post about my family viewing of the Narnia flick separately...
How I Spent My Winter Vacation
While I have certainly managed to go see a few movies (about which I'll talk in a separate post), and I did have some fun cooking (already mentioned), I don't seem to have managed to fire up my new games once yet. Why?
Well, I've already mentioned that I'm studying Flex and Bison. Just as a matter of scale, the Bison manual is 142 pages long. Somewhat more challenging is What Every Computer Scientist Should Know About Floating Point Arithmetic (1991), a 93 page treatise on machine representation of real numbers. What exactly I am reading it for I won't go into, suffice to say there are unnamed individuals who think that real numbers should be representable exactly in the computer, I mean, what's the big deal, right?
The other distraction is of course family. I've been enjoying time with Jean and Renee, doing the Christmas thing, going to a movie together, playing games (chess and mancala, not video), and just generally hanging out.
Since I elected to use my recreational time to see those movies (and hope to squeeze a couple more in before returning to work), those games will have to wait!
December 26, 2005
Pie, Pie, Pie!
Yesterday was Chicken Pot Pie, and my filling runneth(-ed) over, so today I made a huge shephard's pie with the remainder. Topped with cheese and breadcrumbs. I've yet to eat any, but I can't imagine it tasting much worse than the original. Renee made noises like she wanted some, which is why I made it, but came the time, she turned her nose up at it. Sniff.
But that was really because we were capping the holiday weekend with a pizza pie. Half ham&olive, half 'Hawaiin'. Yummy.
If that's not enough pies for you, I spent the last of my holiday energy making a sweet potato pie (recipe courtesy of America's Test Kitchen). Sort of reminiscent of pumpkin pie, but there is no mistaking the presence of sweet potato here. The recipe calls for placing a layer of dark brown sugar on the crust before pouring in the filling, and it makes for a nice sweet note under all the tuberiferous goodness. I'll have no problem eating up this one.
December 25, 2005
To Play, or Not to Play
I've 'officially' had two new videogames and an old favorite video in my hands since this morning. But did I play them? Nah. I spent the bulk of the day cooking, reading Flex documentation and writing sample Flex specs to test my understanding. When I wasn't doing that, I was herding Renee, trying to keep her from melting into a puddle training virtual dogs to go on the virtual paper. This is not to say that I didn't play at all. The cooking was mostly fun. I need to make Kelly do more of my pot washing, that's all.
Whither Magna Carta? Perhaps tomorrow?
Chicken Pot Pie, Slowly Escaping Kitchen
My holiday dish had a few quirks. For one, my notion of what constitutes a medium onion or a medium carrot is apparently a good deal larger than that of the cooks at America's Test Kitchen. In addition to this pie, there's a whole casserole full of the filling that went into it. For another, you may have noticed that the crust seems to be listing to one side. I followed the directions for sizing and shaping, but my alignment left a bit to be desired, and it was still a little overlarge.
But it tasted damn good! Tomorrow, I'll take a stab at making that Sweet Potato Pie I was going on about.
If you have a hankering for more holiday photos, head on over to my Flickr gallery.
We got up this morning and emptied our stockings. I'm not going to do a laundry list of every little thing; suffice to say that there were many cute trinkets, and I got a bundle of cash. I really wasn't expecting that, as I had asked for (and received) a food processor this Christmas. Still, Jean surprises me, and leaves me feeling guilty as well. I got her some presents, but didn't go that extra mile this year. Must think of something...
Anyway, this year is somewhat non-routine. Jean is working as a nurse, and she's pulled shifts over the holiday. She worked yesterday, and Renee and I used the time to finish wrapping presents, among all the grocering and other chores. I did the prep work for a dish I'm making today, chicken pot pie. I'll let you know how it turns out.
Jean has another shift today. She's leaving for work in an hour. So we decided to save the sub-tree presents for when she returns this evening. I'll probably spend the day cooking, studying Flex and Bison for a work project, and playing Magna Carta, my stocking stuffer to myself...
I'll hold off on posting pictures until the tree gifts have been shredded. Later!
December 19, 2005
I'm too lazy to set up a proper backdrop, but you should be able to figure out the general color scheme of this present from Valeska to Renee, hand crafted with skill and loving care. Thanks, Valeska!
December 18, 2005
Ugh. Make it stop.
On the positive side, the NOVA Christmas party was fun. We finished the second season of Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, and it was fully as satisfying as I had hoped. Major Motoko Kusanagi became a lot more human in the final episode. I remember after the first season wondering if they'd be able to sustain the complex, challenging narrative in a second, prolonged story arc, but they did it somehow. Now I'm wondering if they'll be able to do it again. I don't know if they plan to try a third season, but after the emotional trauma inflicted on Major Kusanagi, and the loss (again) of the Tachikoma, I'm once again wondering if it would be a good idea to continue. But they've got a good track record, so I'll watch once again if they do.
Bob, our programmer, chose also to show two episodes of Noein, a series that I've become somewhat taken by (I'm up to episode four). I hope it catches on enough that he's tempted to show more episodes. Elliot, the club pariah, thought it was boring, so that's a good sign.
Then there were the presents. I'd assured all my friends that due to my penury I'd be skipping the present exchange this year, and to please feel free to leave me out of it. No such luck. Or my own good fortune, anyway. Tom got me Aeon Flux - The Complete Animated Collection. Apparently he'd been listening when I'd told Chris and Valeska at the last meeting that the live action version (visible in this trailer) out recently was tone-deaf and wooden in it's attempts to mimic the original. Thanks Tom!
Alan got me a game, Trapt, which I'll give due attention on the holiday week. The mechanic of the game is that you must build traps and lure your enemies into them. I look forward to mixing it up with this and Magna Carta on Christmas morn. Thanks Alan!
John brought a passel of DVDs and gave everyone a chance to choose their own. I grabbed a copy of The Incredibles, as I'd not gotten around to buying it. Thanks, John.
Bo and Lisa were handing out home made baked goodies, and I got a sizable pile of cookies. Thanks guys.
Finally, Chris and Valeska gave me a present for Renee. Valeska did all the work, really. She's a very generous and skilled crafts woman. She tells me she's been knitting and crocheting since at least Renee's age. So she, never having met Renee, only seeing my photos of her, hand knit a doll. A very nice doll, very cute. I'll try to get a picture up soon. Thanks very much, Chris and Valeska.
Oh, and Tom, in case you see Valeska before the next meeting I'm at, you can tell her that Renee loved it, and began crocheting it a vest this very morning. She's nicknamed the doll Git-san.
So happy holidays to all, even you cantankerous sorts who assault folk for not saying "Merry Xmas"!
December 16, 2005
No, not my recent posting record...
December 11, 2005
'Tis the Season
Yes, once again it's time for Renee's Sunday School Christmas Play. As pictured in the banner, Renee portrayed an ordinary girl trying to remember what's really special about Christmas (hence the ribbon on her finger, barely visible in this picture). Of course, what's really special about Christmas is that it's about two months after Halloween.
Jean had to pull a nursing shift today, so she was unable to attend. So I took a few photos for her, and you can find the stream at Flickr, starting about here, if you really care. Introvert that I am, I was more comfortable skulking around with my camera than joining in the festivities. Example, at one point the pastor invited everyone in the congregation to stand up and mill about hugging each other, "sharing the peace and joy." Shiver!
December 09, 2005
Stocks and Math
I just finished A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market. John Allen Paulos makes his living popularizing math, but I found this book rather uneven. While I found the middle chapters generally interesting, the beginning was muddled to the point of seeming nonsense at times, and the latter chapters really didn't tell me anything that wasn't already obvious (actually, I knew most of what was in the book, but some chapters were pretty good at illustrating concepts at an intuitive level).
On the whole, I don't think I'll bother with any of his other books.