Geek Smithology

July 13, 2010

WTF Amazon?

Filed under: Written Word by Nathan @ 4:41 pm

Okay, so I’m looking to get Bill Clegg’s memoir “Portrait of the Addict as a Young Man?”

Now I head over to my fine friends at Amazon to grab a copy for my Kindle, only to be told that this ebook is currently not available for purchase in Canada. Uh…okay, that’s disappointing, but I guess these things happen. Just for the hell of it I went and checked out iBooks only to find that I was able to purchase said book, despite being in Canada.

So…WTF Amazon?

June 7, 2010

Life with the iPad

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 4:10 pm

So, I went ahead and got an iPad. Call me an Apple fanboy if you want, because, well, I am. Predictably, I am typing this post on the iPad (using a wireless bluetooth keyboard and the WordPress app, which has a nice iPad version.)

First impressions? Well, unlike a lot of people who aren’t all that impressed, based on the completely impossible-to-be-objective-about first couple hours, I am pretty amazed by the device (for what it’s worth I have a 64GB 3G model – go big or go home) I have never been so sad to see a commute end as I was today.

So…why iPad?

Well, for me it comes down to the fact that my computing comes in four major categories:

1) Gaming
2) Programming
3) Recording
4) Other stuff

Now, I have a big rig in the basement for #1. While I have a Wii, it’s not very good at the games I like to play (Dragon Age, Fallout 3, Mass Effect, Diablo, Civ, etc.) And because HD seems kinda lo-res compared to what my GeForce 290GTX can pump out, it’s unlikely I’ll go console any time soon. At any rate, special purpose, special computer. Now, needs 2 and 3 are a bit different – my wife’s laptop handles those admirably (my laptop was doing well, but it’s kinda dying right now).

Which leaves 4, which is mostly the web, but includes other things like writing and video (not editing, but watching.) Now, I’m not a fan of grabbing the lappy every time I want to do something (to be fair, I have a 17″ MacBook Pro which is not very fun to lug around. We recently grabbed a 13″ MBP for my wife, and it is a really outstanding machine, so something to keep in mind.)

So, because I love gadgets, I decided to get an iPad and see how much of my category 4 computing happens here as opposed to anywhere else. As far as first impressions go, it’s really fast – makes the iPhone 3G look like a slug (will let you know how it compares to iPhone 4 when I inevitably pick on up next month). The construction is what you’d expect from Apple – it’s sturdy to hold and beautiful to look at. Looking at the web or comics or Plants vs. Zombies is stunning – it’s really amazing to look at.

One of the things that struck me right away is just how perfect the screen size is – For things that annoyed the hell out of me on the iPhone (to the point that I don’t do them unless I have to) like browsing the web or looking at email now seem just right. For something like games I might want a bigger screen, and for some games I might want a smaller screen, but I think the form factor is pretty much perfect. We’ll see if that becomes frustrating over time, but as is, it’s hard to think of how you could make it better.

The web is really quick (even over 3G is pretty nice) and all of the little things like scrolling and what not have really impressive response. Anyway, that’s enough for now – maybe having an iPad will result in a huge resurgence of posting to my blog (that sentence will be really funny in November when I haven’t updated since today…

Anyways, on with the grand experiment. If nothing else, new toys are always awesome.

March 7, 2010

Live Blogging the Oscars 2010

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 7:03 pm

Well, I’ve been away from my blog so long that someone hacked it and I couldn’t log in. Luckily I fixed it. I never did my picks this year because I didn’t see very many movies this last year, so I’m just gonna wing it as I go. Also, I’m working on some budgeting spreadsheets so I might be late here and there.

First off, Hugh Jackman’s introduction was far better last year. I love Alec Baldwin, I like Steve Martin, but so far not good enough.


Best Supporting Actor
Christoph Waltz. This was pretty obvious, he was a genius.


Best Animated Film
Again, so obvious. Pixar made a movie this year, so they win again.


Best Original Song
I’m gonna pick the song Marion is singing…

I’m wrong – never bet against Crazy Heart I guess. Or should I say never bet against a man named T-Bone.


Best Writing
Robert Downey Jr. is wearing the most ridiculous bowtie I think I’ve ever seen…I love it. But this is really flat.

I think Inglorious Basterds should win – it’s Quentin’s year. At least it should be…But could The Hurt Locker as well.

Bah, the locker of hurt…2 for 4. Crap.


Makeup

I never pick short films because I never see any of them.

Ben Stiller dresses in Avatar suit, which at least hides a ridiculous beard…best makeup. I’m going with Star Trek.

So..3 for 5. I really wish we didn’t have to listen to these people give acceptance speeches….


Best Supporting Actress

Up in the Air should win, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Precious wins. Maybe I saw it too late, but I find Precious overrated (don’t get me wrong, it’s a good movie, but not super amazing). Yeah, Precious wins…I refuse to write the entire title because it’s pretty ridiculous.

3 for 6.


Best supporting actress…This one is easy. Mo’nique. But I think that’s the easy way out. That said, not the best crop of nominees here. Of course it was Mo’nique. Enjoy it girl – this is the role you were meant to play, and there are no more oscars in your future. Oh, and thanking the academy for making it about the performance instead of the politics is a joke – the politics all pointed to Mo’nique wining this award.

4 for 7


Avatar is nominated, doesn’t that mean it will win? I’d like to see Nine win. Although the Academy loves period pieces.

Yeah, Avatar wins. Talk about overrated. yawn.

but building a cushion at 5 for 8.


Costumes

Best costumes? Young Victoria of course. Of course. It’s a period piece. Thrid Oscar for a woman who looks…uh…pretentious. 6 for 9.


Sound Editing…time to find out if Avatar is the 800 pound gorilla of the Oscars or if the Hurt Locker makes a dent. I’m gonna go with Hurt Locker, because the sound was edited.

Big time.

And it’s The Hurt Locker yay!!! 7 for 10!

Let’s go with same for the other Sound Award…

And it’s The Hurt Locker again, 8 for 11. This really is a far superior movie to Avatar.


Visual Effects

Avatar wins for Visual Effects, which was probably the most secure lock this year.


Best Documentary

This has to be the Cove, although Food Inc. is far more sobering and important, in my opinion.

The Cove wins, showing that people care more about harming cute animals than food animals and people…


Editing

C’mon, editing has to be Hurt Locker…and it is. Booyeah. I’m getting psyched – I hope Bigelow gets Best Director if not Best Picture.

11 for 14.


Best Actor

C’mon, it’s gotta be Jeff Bridges. He was robbed not getting it for Lebowski…

Yaaaaayyyy! It’s getting a little dusty in the room…


Best Actress

Well, everyone says it’s Sandra Bullock’s year and I wasn’t offended by her or that movie, so let’s go with that.

And Sandra Bullock wins. After all those Miss Congeniality movies, something better had to happen. This is good – Sean Penn looks like he’s on a different planet.


Best Director

Please don’t be James Cameron, please don’t be James Cameron, please don’t be James Cameron…

And it’s Kathryn Bigelow – a great win for a great movie, not to mention the first female director to win Best Director. Outstanding.


Best Picture

HURT LOCKER!!!! Listen haters, Avatar is an amazing technical accomplishment, and a spectacle like few others, but the Hollywood foreign press is on crack – it is not the best picture of the year. Neither is this (I think Inglorious Basterds and Up in the Air were better) but I’m really quite pleased.


December 29, 2009

Hockey Liveblog

Filed under: Sports by Nathan @ 8:27 pm

Just out with thw wife watching the Hitmen (Calgary) play the Pats (Regina)[1]. We’re between the second and third period and the Hitmen are ahead 3-2. As a former Reginian Who attended dozens of Pats games as a kid I do feel some residual loyalties (even if none of these players were born the last time I regularly went to WHL games). Maybe it’ll be a tie.

[1] When meeting people outside of Canada saying you’re from Regina is almost always greeted with an incredulous grin and an amused “you’re from where?!?” (think about it)

Update: Calgary wins 4-3

July 1, 2009

New from the Pragmatic Programmers

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 7:08 am

Wow, it’s the 10th anniversary of the Pragmatic programmers, and part of going forward, they have teamed up with the inimitable Michael Swaine (you likely enjoyed his Swaine’s Flames column in addition to all the fine articles he wrote for the late, great Dr. Dobb’s journal) to put together a free online magazine called PragPub.

In addition to a great looking PDF, you can get it in mobi (kindle) and epub (Stanza on the iPhone – I can attest it works and looks great) formats for those commutes. If you’re a fan of Dave, Andy, Michael, or even just programming in general, you owe it to yourself to go check out the first 37 page issue right now…

April 26, 2009

Revenge of the Nerds 2009

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 10:05 pm

For those of you who don’t know, the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo was held this weekend, and the family decided to check it out. It was as expected – super crowded, super crazy, and a lot of fun. I got to meet and talk for a few minutes with Terry Moore who might be my absolute favorite comic writer/artist today (with the possible exception of Larry Marder, although his output is low these days. I also got him to sign my copy of the First SiP Book. Also got to see Darwyn Cooke and Sergio Arogones, and had Ron Marz and Mike Choi sign the first Witchblade graphic novel.

Also hung out with the soup nazi:
the soup nazi
And Darth Maul:
Darth Maul

(Pictures are a little iffy ’cause our camera died and my wife is not comfortable with my iPhone!) Whether I go again will depend entirely on the guest list, but all in all a neat few hours

March 16, 2009

Gardening; not architecture – Oblique Strategies with Brian Eno & Peter Schmidt

Filed under: Craft of Dev by Nathan @ 10:01 pm

Everybody blocks.  Writer’s block.  Programmer’s block.  Lego block.  As with so many things, one of the things that differentiates the great from the average is how we break through.  I’m always on the lookout for new ideas and came across the idea of oblique strategies, an idea from producer Brian Eno & Peter Schmidt.[1]  The basic idea is a deck of cards, each with a pithy (or cryptic) saying on it that helps you reframe your thoughts, like the the one in the title of this post:

Gardening; not architecture.

What does that mean?  We all have our own interpretation, and while our left brained developer minds might not like it, every one of those interpretations is correct.

It has been said that the best metaphors often come from bisociational discord.  In fact, assuming we can bring it together, the further apart the two sides of our conceptual model, the more epic our epiphany when it comes together.

And if it doesn’t?  Who cares!  Pick another card and go again…

Not building a wall, but making a brick.

[1] There are various web resources for using Oblique Strategies: I use the iPhone application myself.

March 9, 2009

Random Thoughts: Duplicity (the movie)

Filed under: Sight by Nathan @ 10:03 pm

duplicity I’ve been critical of what I like to call the “Julia Roberts and Richard Gere desperately trying to duplicate the success of Pretty Woman” genre of film (cf. Runaway Bride). For many years, I’ve considered Clive Owen to be quite the bad ass. Think about it: Sin City, Children of Men, Shoot ‘em Up. But now that Richard Gere has seemingly finally passed beyond “distinguished” into “just plain old” he’s been replaced, but Clive say it ain’t so:

You’ll never be James Bond at this rate, my friend.

February 28, 2009

It’s ALIIIIIVE!!1!

Filed under: Announce,Craft of Dev,Ruby by Nathan @ 11:34 pm

chess Shortly after I left Service Intelligence all those years ago, a small panel convened at a Tim Horton’s to discuss the future. Well, actually, it was me, The Ront and Foo and since we seemed to like working together we figured we’d write a game of some kind. After not a whole lot of thought we figured we’d go ahead and write a chess game in Java. We didn’t really get anywhere with that, though. Then it happened.

I remember it like it was yesterday. But really, it was right after No Fluff Just Stuff 2005. My eyes were opened and it was decided right then and there that the chess game would written in Ruby. Sure it’s not the most “performant” language for chess calculations, but I wanted to learn Ruby and it’s always better to have a real project to work toward.

We decided to call it “pawnzilla”, for all the reasons you can imagine someone might want to call a chess engine pawnzilla. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster – we went through a horrible OO implementation, transition to 64-bit love and bitboards, and a fairly recent switch from sourceforge to GitHub, but after three and a half years (maybe a couple person months total effort – it’s tough to get time to work on this stuff!) I finally realized a dream, and played a game against my own chess engine.

It was pretty anticlimactic. All of the time so far has been spent working on a complete rules engine (this turns out to be quite a difficult proposition!), so the AI is pretty stupid. So stupid that the game lasted only 7 moves. But still, after all this time, it was great to watch pawnzilla make moves and actually “understand” that the game was over.

I think that we’ve implemented some pretty cool ideas in pawnzilla (including our domain specific approach to testing) and now that there is finally something to see, I hope to start blogging about some of those ideas. The next big goal is to develop the AI into something that doesn’t suck and hook it up to the free internet chess server so that it can get rated. So far it’s been a hell of a ride, and even though it took so long, it’s nice to get to such a significant milestone in my own labour of love.

If you’d like to see it, pawnzilla is licensed under the Apache 2.0 license and you can check it out over on github. And if anyone out there wants to play with a pure-ruby chess engine (should be a lot of fun just to work on different AI strategies now that the rules engine is in place) drop me a line and I’ll be happy to talk about it.

So cheers to pawnzilla.

February 22, 2009

Live Blogging the Oscars 2009

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 6:31 pm

6:29 The show is about to begin. I fell down the stairs yesterday and my tailbone is in bad shape, so I’ve spent most of the day off of my feet, which means I caught most of the red carpet rigamarole. I can’t say I missed it. Ooh, ooh! Here comes Hugh!

6:38 Okay, so far Hugh rules. “Robert Downey Jr. is an American playing an Australian playing an African American. Nominated. I’m an Australian who played on Australian in a movie called Australia. Hosting.” This is the best introduction of all time. Standing O? Damn straight.

6:42 and so endeth the first montage. At least it’s relevant, but still too long. Do we really need five past winners? And I’m sorry, the speeches are too long. On one hand, I like that they’re recognizing the nominees, but this is too much.

6:47 And the winner is… Penelope Cruz. Yeah, I’m on record saying I thought Marisa Tomei should win, but I can’t begrudge Penelope this win, she was a good part in a good movie. But I really don’t like the twenty year introductions. Nathan goes 1 for 1.

6:57 I like they way they did the introduction of the Best Original Screenplay , if that is indicative of the new “style” this could work out really well. And the winner is..Milk. I probably should have guessed that, but I really think In Bruges was the better script. 1 for 2.

As for adapted screenplay, the winner is Slumdog Millionaire. This was a pretty easy pick and I’m sitting at 2 for 3.

7:07 Is there anybody anywhere surprised that Wall-E is the best animated feature? In a rare move, all three nominees were excellent, but the Pixar film was heads and tails above the rest. I easily go to 3 for 4.

7:17 The Art Direction oscar is presented to the folks behind The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Silly me for thinking that it would be the latest costume drama featuring a certain Keira Knightly and I drop to to 60 percent and 3 for 5. Will Ben Button sweep the design awards or will the costume drama win? And the oscar goes to The Duchess. Ah, there’s the Knightly movie award. I feel vindicated for no reason whatsoever, but take my place at 4 for 6. Another easy call as the Makeup Oscar goes to “the movie where Brad Pitt looks all old”. Smith is looking good at 5 for 7.

7:35 Damn, Ben Stiller is hilarious, and Natalie Portman looks better than she can act. My theory that just picking Slumdog Millionaire for every category in which it was nominated will probably bear a lot of fruit as the night goes on. 6 for 8 as I say hello to 75 percent, the best I’ve been since 100% after one award.

8:12 Heath Ledger wins best supporting actor. Once again I want to stress that he was the best actor in that group, and this is not a sympathy win by any means. Very emotional, but well done. 7 for 9.

8:15 I was starting to second guess myself and thinking that Trouble the Water would win the best documentary, but I am pleased to see Man on Wire win. Such acrobatics. And you gotta love Bill Maher. 8 for 10 – what’s up?

8:27 “The movie where Brad Pitt looks old” wins another Oscar, this time for the heavyweight category Visual Effects. Make a good looking dude look old and you too can win Oscars. 9 for 11. But I think I’m going to go downhill quickly with Sound Editing and Mixing. I went with Wall-E, which should win, but won’t.

Nope. Sound editing goes to Dark Knight. I guess they had to award it something. Bah, I fall to 9 for 12. As for sound mixing, Will Smith gives the award to…Slumdog Millionaire, of course, Whatever, no-one really cares about sound…9 for 13.

After my craziness for Wall-E subsided I went back to the “if it’s Slumdog pick it, and here they win for Editing. Not much of a surprise, 10 for 14.

8:54 Slumdog wins again, this time for score. I don’t think it was the best, but it’s a Slumdog night and it continues. I go 11 for 15 and I’ve already hit my total from last year. That’s just crazy talk.

9:00 Okay, while this medley of the nominated songs is pretty annoying, it’s far better than having separate performances throughout the night as we’ve seen in the past. Slumdog has two songs nominated so the trick is to pick which one. And the winner….Jai Ho. It was a bit of a slam dunk — when in doubt, go for the dance number. Hello 12 for 16. I don’t know how I can possibly beat such a performance.

9:20 Danny Boyle wins an unsurprising Best Directing statue for Slumdog Millionaire, and received it “in the manner of Tigger”, which certainly entertained my wife. 13 for 17.

9:32 Oooh, I’m on fire. Kate Winslet wins for The Reader – watching Marion Cotillard do her little speech was almost better than Kate’s. This is really good to see her win after six nominations. 14 for 18.

9:43 “You commie, homo loving sons of guns”. Sean Penn wins another Oscar for his brilliant performance as Harvey Milk. I’m disappointed for Mickey Rourke who likely won’t be here ever again, but the bottom line is Nat X goes 15 for 19.

9:52 And after three and a half (not as torturous as other years) long, long hours, Stephen Spielberg awards the best picture to Slumdog Millionaire. Is anyone surprised by this? If you are, you’re a fool. It’s hard to believe that this movie was almost a straight to DVD release, but thanks to the magic of Toronto and its film festival, it found a distributor and found love. Even if you don’t like the movie (and if you don’t, you’re a fool) you have to like the story. Nice to see so many people from the cast make it to Hollywood for the show.

I absolutely destroy last year’s result of 11/19 by going 16/20. I’m not making any kind of prediction for next year.

And there it is, another year, another Oscar telecast. I think Hugh Jackman should be given a lifetime contract to host the Oscars – he was truly excellent.

February 19, 2009

If I picked the Oscars…again

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 11:17 pm

As with last year, I’ve decided to throw out who would win the oscars if the Academy decided that maybe they should ditch the whole voting process and get some guy from Calgary to pick the winners. I will list both who I think the academy will pick (Who Will Win), and who I would pick if I had an actual ballot (Who Should Win.) I’ll be keeping score during the oscars to see how well I did.

Supporting Actor
Who Will Win: Heath Ledger (Dark Knight)
Who Should Win: Heath Ledger (Dark Knight)

The Dark Knight wasn’t a very good movie, but Heath Ledger was great in it. He took the Joker out of the clownish imp of Caesar Romero and Jack Nicholson and turned him into the insane monster he really is. Some will say he wouldn’t have won if he was still alive, but that’s an unnecessary excuse – it’s the best performance of the nominees.

Supporting Actress
Who Will Win: Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Who Should Win: Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler)

The academy loves supporting actresses who are different See Mira Sorvino for Might Aphrodite and the bizarre win by Tomei for My Cousin Vinny. And Penelope Cruz is quite the character. But I think that this year Marisa deserves the award, and not just because she was naked, but finally real.

Lead Actor
Who Will Win: Sean Penn (Milk)
Who Should Win: Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

I have a feeling I’m picking the wrong role for who should win, but the academy loves Sean Penn, and with the Democrats in charge, maybe they’ll put up with this politics. But thank goodness for Darren Aronofsky who wouldn’t make this movie without Rourke (hard to believe that Nicholas Cage was once attached to this role.) Forget all of the art imitates life drama, this is where MIckey proved once and for all that he is a true actor. Remember Diner?

Lead Actress
Who Will Win: Kate Winslet (The Reader)
Who Should Win: Kate Winslet (The Reader)

It’s finally Winslet’s year. So many nominations (5) and so few wins (0). This nomination makes her the youngest actor in history to have received six nominations, and she will ride the tidal wave of her dual Golden Globes to Oscar gold. She plays a character who is detestable in every way that matters, but you can’t look away.

Best Director
Who Will Win: Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)
Who Should Win: Gus Van Sant (Milk)

Make no mistake – Slumdog Millionaire is a great film with the unmistakable stamp of Danny Boyle all over it, but it’s riding a wave of over-hype that was only fed by the Golden Globes. The true directing achievement of the year is Van Sant, who evokes old timey San Francisco while creating a truly interesting film even though we come in knowing the result.

Best Picture
Who Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Who Should Win: Milk

Again, the nominations are wrong this year. For Benjamin Button and Frost/Nixon to be nominated in the year that Wall-E and The Wrestler were released just shows that the Academy is, in a lot of ways, out of touch.[1] There are no masterpieces on this list, unlike There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men last year. Once again, while I’m a big fan of Slumdog, it doesn’t have the direction or performances of Milk. While Sean Penn seems so over the top in the movie, you need to seek out video of the real-life Harvey Milk, and you’ll see how dead-on his portrayal is.

And there it is, folks. I’m hoping to live blog during the show again and seeing how I measure up. For everyone playing at home, here are my full picks. Once again, I’ve omitted best foreign film and the shorts, because I saw none of them.

Please feel free to comment or email me with your own choices (see here for a full list of nominees) and we’ll compare our prognostication abilities.


Category Prediction
Lead Actor Sean Penn (Milk)
Supporting Actor Heath Ledger (Dark Knight)
Lead Actress Kate Winslet (The Reader)
Supporting Actress Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Animated Film Wall-E
Art Direction The Duchess
Cinematography Slumdog Millionaire
Costume Design The Duchess
Director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)
Documentary Man on Wire
Film Editing Slumdog Millionaire
Makeup The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Original Score Slumdog Millionaire
Best Picture Slumdog Millionaire
Sound Editing Wall-E
Sound Mixing Wall-E
Visual Effects The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Adapted Screenplay Slumdog Millionaire
Original Screenplay In Bruges

[1] To the fanboys complaining about The Dark Knight getting “snubbed” in the best picture category, not only is it not the best picture of the year, but in retrospect, it’s not even that good.

February 17, 2009

Microsoft just doesn’t get it.

Filed under: Industry by Nathan @ 10:05 pm

You know, we like to put Microsoft down all the time. We all remember the hilarious “If Microsoft designed the iPod box” video[1], and those excellent points about how the Zune marketing discusses how many gigabytes it can hold, while the iPod lets you know how many songs it will hold. Hell, even I occasionally wonder what they are smoking. But, let’s face it, Microsoft really makes it too damn easy.

There are seven (that’s right, 7) different versions of Windows 7. Insert your own joke.

[1] Yes, I am perfectly aware that the parody originated within Microsoft. I chalk it up to frustrated designers and the old maxim “It’s funny because it’s true.”

February 9, 2009

Review – Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Filed under: Sight by Nathan @ 9:44 pm

We’ve all felt like Randy from Scream: watching hapless horror movie victims take every wrong turn so they cross paths with the killer for the next death set-piece. But who ever thinks about that killer? What about all the planning and training that goes into the perfect spree? If post-modern horror movies took the step of becoming self-aware, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon goes even further and takes us into the life of an up-and-coming slasher as he prepares for his big night.

btm-leslie-vernon-photo

The story is told through the eyes of a documentary crew led by Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals[1]). Unlike the hardcore verite style of Man Bites Dog, another documentary that follows a killer, this movie follows a more comedic tack as Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) works through all of his moves, as if it were a chess match. He talks us through picking out his “survivor girl”, planting bizarre clues (when leaving a fake newspaper article behind tying himself to survivor girl, he marvels at his own wit in remembering to alter the microfiche), and working out the remote location to ensure maximum carnage, all in an attempt to follow in the footsteps of “Jay”[2], “Fred”[3], and “Mike”[4].

As the events unfold, we meet Leslie’s mentor, Eugene a retired slasher who talks about tricks of the trade as he and his girl Jamie help the killer with his plans. When Leslie’s old psychiatrist, Doc Haloran (Robert Englund), comes to town, Leslie now “has an Ahab!” However, the film takes a turn to the dark side as it slowly dawns on Taylor that Leslie isn’t fooling and that he fully intends to go through with his plan. How it all goes down and how he handles it is a twist I wouldn’t dream of revealing, but after a second viewing, the movie earns it.

The two main performances are really strong – Baesel plays the hopeful killer with an “aw shucks” quality that will make audiences start to like him despite his plans. Goethals does a great job playing a cynical documentarian playing for laughs who slowly realizes that this is no joke. Robert Englund, so famous for playing the child killer in the striped sweater, is put into the trench coat of Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) from Halloween in an inspired bit of casting. Finally, Scott Wilson as the retired killer-cum-mentor Eugene steals most of the scenes he’s in.

Just as the characters from Clerks mused about the thousands of innocent contractors who must’ve been blown up in Return of the Jedi when the second Death Star was destroyed, Behind the Mask takes a look at some familiar cliches from a different angle and manages to be pretty darn entertaining.

four star

[1] Yes, that Angela Goethals, of famed 1993 sitcom Phenom and who uttered one of Home Alone’s most annoying lines of dialog…”Listen, Kevin, what are you so worried about? You know Mom’s gonna pack your stuff anyway. You’re what the French call “les incompetents.”
[2] for the horror impaired…Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th (Kane Hodder who portrayed Jason makes a cameo)
[3] Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street
[4] Michael Myers from the Halloween movies.

February 4, 2009

Birth of Vader

Filed under: Sight by Nathan @ 12:59 pm

Like so many geeks who grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy (and I mean people who were actually born when Star Wars came out, not these punk kids who are five years younger than Return of the Jedi) I was, shall we say, disappointed with episodes one two and three.

It is my contention that Episode I was a complete waste of time, and that Episode II (a well-written and acted Episode II, of course) should have been the first, entitled The Clone Wars. And rather than just a few anticlimactic minutes of a single movie, Episode III would have focussed on the Vader’s destruction of the Jedi, call it Revenge of the Sith (because that’s actually a fine name). This means that the famous duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan (which was actually pretty good, all things considered) would’ve ended my Episode II, Rise of the Emperor. However, rather than a pathetic “NOOOOOOOOO!”, I would’ve ended it something like this…

1
INT. SOPHISTICATED OPERATING ROOM - NIGHT
1
Screen is black, and there are muffled sounds of robotic surgery: DRILLS, SAWS, WELDERS.  A strobe effect replaces the black with a series of images from the surgery.
1
First, a robotic arm being roughly welded to what remains of a ruined arm.  SCREAMS.
1
A harness lifting the torso on VADER’s black legs.  SCREAMS, sparks, a saw enters the screen.
1
The chest device is locked into place, a HISS and steam as it is sealed.
1
Fade from black to a close-up of the face mask.  As it is lowered onto ANAKIN’s face amid steam and fire, the camera pans back, so that more and more of ANAKIN’s body comes into scene as the mask descends, but we never see his face again.  The mask locks into place with the same sound used in EMPIRE.
1
Fade to black.  No sound for several seconds.
1
The silence is broken by the unmistakable sound of VADER’s BREATHING as his life support systems start operating.  After three or four breaths, the Imperial march comes up low at a slow, funereal tempo.
1
ROLL CREDITS.

February 1, 2009

This is your project on Git…

Filed under: Craft of Dev,Ruby by Nathan @ 3:36 pm

There’s been a lot of noise ’bout distributed source control the last year or two, especially with regard to Linus’ other baby, Git. Even I’ve bit – moving pawnzilla from sourceforge to GitHub last year, with serious thought to going with gitsvn in my professional life.

Stuart over at Relevence even went so far as to say that If you run a significant open source project that is not on a distributed SCM, it is a clear warning sign that you are a dinosaur.

He points to a pretty brilliant data visualization of commits to the rails project over the years. Take a look around April 2008, when they moved to Git. Make sure to watch the HD version fullscreen, it’s truly something to behold.

As always, our friends the pragmatic programmers have a book about Git to get you started on the road to enlightenment. (Or distributed SCM, as if they aren’t the same thing…)

January 21, 2009

English Lessons (…2 in a series) – A Mute Point?

Filed under: Pedantry by Nathan @ 11:06 pm

As a software developer, you occasionally hear a conversation like the following:

“You know, this resume looks good, but she doesn’t have a degree”
“Yeah…but seven years of experience”
“True, I suppose it’s a mute point”

Well, not really. First off, mute as an adjective means “characterized by the absence of sound; quiet.” So while you could say that with so much experience, the point that someone should have a degree becomes silent, or no longer necessary.

However, there is an even better word. The word that is supposed to be used, which is “moot”. The definition of “moot” as an adjective is “subject to debate, dispute, or uncertainty, and typically not admitting of a final decision”.

So replace mute with moot in the conversation above and you’ll see that someone is saying that while education always matters, when a person has a lot of experience, the relative merit of education in the interviewing decision is lessened.

But not silent.

January 17, 2009

OCD, RPG, OMG! (And other TLAs…)

Filed under: Games by Nathan @ 7:07 pm

I loved Fallout.
I loved Fallout 2 even more.
And so far I’ve really loved playing Fallout 3 (yay Steam!) but my love of the previous games has tripped me up. I was developing my favorite type of character, a man who can destroy anybody with a hail of small arms fire, generally going by the name Doc Holliday, I developed my character the wrong way.
Based on my previous experience, I was putting some stats towards Perception, only to find that I should have been putting those stats into Agility in the new game. Well, shit. I begged off the game for a bit, only to find out (thanks to some direction from Foo), that you can edit your stats through the console if you’re playing on the PC.
So for anyone else who needs to change their stats, I just did the following:

1
modpca agility 2
1
modpca perception -2

(Hey, I don’t wanna cheat, I just want to do things the way I thought I was doing them all along!)

This is a pretty comprehensive list of console commands for anyone else who may be looking.

January 13, 2009

Rock Band 2 DLC for the Wii is Here!

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 7:16 pm

I’m not going to comment on Rock Band 2 right now (Or it’s relationship to Guitar Hero: World Tour in the rock star simulation firmament) even though I have a lot to say, but I just want to say that as of right now (as opposed to not earlier today), the DLC is finally working on the Wii.

This is a huge deal that really makes the game. I was seriously considering getting another console just to have the ability to download songs, but thankfully the second generation of each game has given us downloadable content on the Wii. Not the best selection yet, but I downloaded a few songs and it’s only going to grow. Where the hell is China Cat Sunflower?

At least China Cat will be available one day. Why they don’t have Friend of the Devil or Dark Star is beyond me…

January 9, 2009

Not yet, my friends…

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 7:43 pm

Heard a remark that this was the last year that people could wear stupid 200X glasses (you know, like this:

novelty glasses However, you can easily see that 2010 glasses would work out just fine. And if you’re willing to go all pirate and see out of one eye[1][2][3] you can comfortably wear hideous novelty specs at lowbrow New Year fiestas until 2111. Of course, that will be year that you can pretend it’s a visor and that you’re a bad ass knight. Or maybe your great-grandkids can pretend to be Sir Ass of Bad, ’cause even if I could live to 136, I’m reasonably certain I will not want to.

Unless either HG Wells or Ponce de Leon were correct, then it could be interesting. For different reasons, one more paradoxical than the other, yet each delicious in their own way. Like cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes. With peanut butter icing. From Crave. With an Americano from Bumpys. Yeah, I gotta run…

[1] Thought the first: if those pirates could duel with only one eye (and the resulting depth perception issues), they must be excellent duellists.
[2] Thought the second: if those pirates are such excellent duellists, why did they lose the eye in the first place?
[3] Thought the third: it is said that footnotes 1 and 2 have the ability to keep me up at nights.

January 5, 2009

Holy Five-peat, Caped Crusader!

Filed under: Sports by Nathan @ 8:19 pm

Let me congratulate Team Canada on a hard-fought tournament to claim a fifth World Junior championship in a row – this one on Canadian soil, led by a great performance by the best forward of the tournament, John Tavares.

I’m not sure if you are aware, gentle reader, but our opponents in the gold medal final (Sweden, again) did a little trash talking before the game, about Canada wasn’t to be feared and how we were totally beatable because are goalie wasn’t “that good”. They also said that we’d fall apart if they scored a couple of quick goals.

And well, that might be true, but we’ll never know, because Canada went up 3-0 and despite being outshot, ended up winning 5-1. I’ve got nothing against the Swedes in principal, but there’s a piece of me that loves seeing trash talking mooks lose almost as much as the piece that loves watching my country win. Add to that the gold and bronze Canada took in the Under-17 tournament and our future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades.[1]

This is Canada’s record-destroying 15th title – you need to add the next four teams together to get that total (okay, Russia has 11 if you add the 8 that the Soviet Union won to the that Russia has won, but I don’t). Can’t wait until 2012, when the world Juniors finally come to Calgary (and in Regina and Saskatoon next year for my prairie peeps.)

[1] It’s been 20 years, folks, it’s time to proudly (and without irony) reference Timbuk-3 again! Yeah right, who am I kidding…

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