Geek Smithology

August 30, 2005

Rant – Sin City & High Expectations

Filed under: Sight by Nathan @ 9:49 pm

Of the few things I miss about my old job, the weekly Tuesday trip to Future Shop and/or Best Buy is in the top 5. So when I found myself in the local geek box on a tip from Eskimo Bill that I could procure Far Cry on the cheap, I took the occasion to browse. Needless to say (well, unless you think I have no talent for picking post titles), I saw Sin City on the shelf. I picked it up, unseen by me, because it seemed like my kind of movie. Two hours of graphic novel noir later I have to say that gosh darn it, it is my kind of movie. I loved every minute of it.

Yet there was this unexplainable feeling of…je ne sais quoi. Was it Disappointment? Why such a preponderance of despondence over a film I just so recently purported to appreciate, even love? Expectations, dear readers; I was set up. “The comic thing was too much.” “I can’t believe the violence.” “Oh. My. God. That was so fucked up.” This is but a sampling of what I heard. So I was expecting something like Waking Life meets Kill Bill meets Mullholland Drive. That such a movie would be impossible barely registered. I needed to see Sin City.

Was the comic book inspiration intrusive, existing solely because the director was drooling over his digital camera and editing equipment? Sorry, you’re thinking about Sky Captain. This is result of the crystal clear conviction of somebody that knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish and then did it, even though he had to resign from the director’s guild to do it. You call that vision. When was the last time you watched a movie without a single wasted shot (and you can’t say Citizen Kane)? I’m waiting…

It is violent. Somebody rips off somebody else’s testicles with his bare hand. A dog snacks on his dismembered but still living owner. A dirty cop dies when he gets a pistol barrel in the forehead. Add a cornucopia of shootings, stabbings, and decapitations and this ain’t Disney. But it’s stylized and iconic, not graphic — Casino was more disturbing.

Is it a kick in the nuts uber experience? No. While I’ve enjoyed hundreds of movies over the last decade, I can only think of a couple that left me sitting there in the theatre thinking “I’m never going to see anything like that again.” Saving Private Ryan was one. Reservoir Dogs was another.

Maybe I should stop listening to people talk about movies I haven’t seen, or find folks with a frame of reference more closely aligned with my own. If you saw National Treasure but not Million Dollar Baby, we don’t have much to talk about. If you liked Daredevil, but not Hulk, we’re on different planets. And if you can tell the difference Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 2, then you’re the Ront, and beyond hope. Before I get any comments saying I’m a film snob, let me take this chance to admit two things:

  • I liked Mortal Kombat. And I’m not being ironic.
  • I’m the guy that saw Spiceworld[1]. Four times.

Do me a favour everyone. If you see The Libertine before I do, only tell me what you thought if you weren’t shocked. Deal?

My name is Nathan Smith, and I am the cynicalman.

[1] It had one thing going for it right away – any movie with an Elvis Costello cameo can’t possibly be evil. I also thought some of the Spice Girls were hot (I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to fill in the blanks.) So sue me.

August 27, 2005

MP3otW – My Favorite Things by John Coltrane

Filed under: MP3 of the Week by Nathan @ 11:23 pm

John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things: a landmark for Coltrane and a landmark for jazz. Few have heard of it [1]. Fewer still have heard it. Is it because a lot of people don’t get jazz? I used to not get jazz. Then I realised there was nothing to get, and now I get jazz.

I think a lot of people are intimidated by jazz fans, because they make wine connoisseurs look like Bud swilling wresting fans in comparison. But you know what? You can drink a bottle of wine and like it without knowing where it came from, or how old it is, or which grape is dominant [2]. So with that in mind, set aside 15 minutes in your busy day, turn this up, sit back, and just listen. Notice how you can marvel at the solos without caring about how Coltrane was recently influenced by Miles Davis’ experiments in modality. Notice how you can feel a tight rhythm section without knowing that influential jazz pianist McCoy Tyner is on keys, or that this was Steve Davis, not Jimmy Garrison, on bass. Note how you can feel the swing without caring that Coltrane put this in 6/8 time (instead of 3/4) and used 10 bars for the verse (instead of 8.)

Doobie doo wah, folks, doobie doo wah.

[1] And if you’ve heard of it, it’s probably because it inspired Robbie Krieger and Ray Manzarek to lay down that extended musical musing in Light My Fire.

[2] Before I get any hate mail, let me express that learning all this stuff about wine or jazz, or anything else you care to appreciate does significantly increase your enjoyment. I’m merely stating that this shouldn’t be a barrier to entry – it should never be a crime to just like something without a litany of justifications for it (if that were true, nobody could say they like Mulholland Drive.)

August 22, 2005

The Cuz comes to Town

Filed under: Personal by Nathan @ 10:22 pm

Yeah, this is already a week old, but sometimes I’m lazy. My cousin, who I hadn’t seen in about a year (since his bro tied the knot. One cousin was the groom, another cousin was the best man, and my brother was the minister. It was surreal.) Anyway, we’ve been friends since, I don’t know, the dawn of time or something like that – I dimly recall trying to start a band called Hungarian Priest but our hit song You’re Gonna Do Time just didn’t resonate with the kids. He’s a fellow Deadhead and gave me a pretty kick ass bootleg from May 1973. As for my part, I grilled up a metric ton of burgers and provided some brewskies.

To prove I have absolutely no vanity, I’m posting this picture that my wife took. If I look like I haven’t slept or showered and seem a little hungover, well, you do the math.

August 20, 2005

MP3otW – Vampire Beats by Mae Shi

Filed under: MP3 of the Week by Nathan @ 6:30 pm

I was thinking about what I should bring out for the MP3 this week and it suddenly dawned on me that I’ve been far too easy on you guys the last couple of weeks, throwing out some nice easy listening; nothing challenging at all. So this one’s a bit of a challenge. The Mae Shi is the kind of band that forms when a bunch of people can’t sing or write a sweet melody, but desperately need to make music. The are the kind of band that will put out an album with 32 tracks in 42 minutes and call it Terrorbird. They are the kind of band that will have 2 songs called Terror Bird, and 5 songs called Repetition on that album.

I’m not saying I dare you to like this (those songs are coming later) but I will say that you need to listen to at at least 5 times before passing judgement. Just to frame your reference, listening to this song 5 times is not much longer than listening to Hey Jude just once.

Without further ado, I present…Vampire Beats. You know you love it!

Perfect Day

Filed under: Personal by Nathan @ 6:03 pm

Yeah, I know the Lou Reed song is about heroin (you’re going to reap what you sow…), but the post is about feeling normal for a little while. Doesn’t happen to me very often, but I’m getting a little better at it over time as I slowly transition from managing a dev team in charge of a scary expanse of legacy to being on a consulting team to enhance a much smaller bit o’ legacy. After doing a bit of design in the morning, the wife and I packed the boys into their massive stroller and walked down the “ice cream park” (so named since they have some playground equipment that looks like an ice cream stand. Gabriel will sell you a virtual chocolate chip ice cream cone for the low, low price of 6 fins. Luckily the 30 clams are also virtual.) In no particular order, here’s what we did:

  • I pushed Gabriel on the swing, even completing the vaunted “underduck” – something he was convinced could only be done by his grandparents. Heh.
  • We played some beach ball soccer.
  • Marie found a frog. Xander was suitably fascinated.
  • Much climbing and sliding, followed by going home and setting up the sprinkler.

After this I fed the boys (Xander somehow put away a peanut butter sandwich, 6 strawberries, and most of my bowl of cereal. That’s crazy talk) and then we all had a nap. All in all, it was a really good afternoon, and has me starting to think about what we should do when I take holidays next (probably in the Fall.) Marie always wants to go to her mom’s place in Regina, but I both hate Regina and agree with Eskimo Bill.

Who knows what will happen; it was just nice to feel mundane (in the absolute best sense of the word) for a few hours.

Eskimo Bill Says… (3 in a series)

Filed under: Eskimo Bill by Nathan @ 5:59 pm

…Driving to visit family isn’t a vacation.

August 19, 2005

He is Spartacus

Filed under: Friends by Nathan @ 8:00 pm

Spartacus (a.k.a Sheldon) has gone off and started himself a blog. You probably think I’m going to link to it, and I won’t disappoint, but just to be a little different, I’m gonna put it in a footnote[1]. Le Fuchs was on my team during my SI days – kind of a part time employee, part time partner in crime. It took me forever to type his email address, because on the way to “fuchss” I kept typing “fuck” — that my muscle memory works like that is a mystery best left unsolved. When we weren’t waxing poetic on the elegance of well written perl, we were debauching ourselves by lapping the sauce like a couple o’ camels two months past the last oasis.

It’s crazy what you learn about people when they start blogs. I mean, I never in a quintillion years (I’d have gotten it in sextillion years, tho’) would have guessed that he was into pearl diving, but there it is, right in his blog. And when I read about masturbatory assistance pillows, it dredged up some awful memories about mousepads with boobies. You can’t make this stuff up, folks. At least we’ve got Fronto’s next birthday present lined up (unless Van Halen puts out a new CD or something.)

[1] The Blog: f00. The domain, fuchietown, reminds shelfoo of a Pseudo Echo song. If he had any taste, it would remind him of a Lipps Inc. song [2]
[2] I am suddenly reminded of that line in High Fidelity when Rob says “how can it be bullshit to state a preference?”[3]
[3] I don’t know how, but it can be.

August 18, 2005

Static Inner Classes and Interfaces – Who Cares?

Filed under: Craft of Dev by Nathan @ 10:37 pm

Ryan Nelsestuen has a post where he wonders if static inner classes (or interfaces) ever make sense. I stuck that in the Cuisinart with the fact that I was looking for something to write about and the result is this post.

I will dispense with any background on static inner classes and assume that you know what I’m talking about (or if you don’t, go here and come back when you’re ready.) But first, I want to address another quote from the post (in reference to using static inner classes):

The main disadvantage is that the syntax for usage looks a little weird since it seems to be pretty uncommon (which I guess is another disadvantage – uncommon code constructs often should be avoided simply because they are uncommon and implicitly harder to maintain).

No, no, no, no, no, no, NO! (I kinda sang a little tune as I typed that, and it was pretty phat. Without the tune, I guess it just seems superfluous, but I’m leaving it – think Under Pressure by Queen and you’ll be close enough.) The reason is that “uncommon” is a more overloaded term than


– it all depends on context. For example, how many times have you seen this:

int returnValue = 0;
if (V_SUCCESS.equalsIgnoreCase(testVariable)) {
    returnValue = F_SUCCESS;
} else {
    returnValue = F_FAILURE;
return returnValue;

instead of the much more sensible

return V_SUCCESS.equalsIgnoreCase(testVariable) ? F_SUCCESS : F_FAILURE;

Why do you think that is? It’s because people don’t understand the ?: operator. Does that mean we shouldn’t use something expressly designed for conditional assignments (as opposed to conditional branches)? No, it means that programmers should understand their language.

Mini rant complete.

One good use for a static inner interface is for structures that make sense only in the context of the closing class and potentially any classes that extend it. The J2SE API has a good example with the Map.Entry interface. It’s tightly coupled to its enclosing Map implementation — to the point where using a Map.Entry wouldn’t make sense anywhere else. There are a couple reasons this makes sense.

First, it’s more object oriented to have a collection of entry objects than some other data structure (if you say “parallel arrays would work” then go back to your cave to do some pointer arithmetic: leave us Java folk alone.)

Second, it’s nicer (and more object oriented, again) when you need to iterate over both keys AND values in a map. If you don’t buy that, it’s potentially more efficient.)[1]

To look at an example, this:

for (Iterator i = aMap.entrySet().iterator(); i.hasNext();) {
    Map.Entry entry = (Map.Entry);
    Object key = entry.getKey();
    Object value = entry.getValue();

is cleaner (and more idiomatic, if that matters to you, and it should) than this:

for (Iterator i = aMap.keySet().iterator(); {
    Object key =;
    Object value = aMap.get(key);

It’s particularly handy in contexts where the second snippet would cause some sick code (like a chunk o’ JSP using the JSTL.)

The chief advantage here is keeping a clean and secure object model. By clean, I mean you have your couplee as close to the coupler as it can get in Java; no need to clutter your packages with classes that are only useful in the context of another class. By secure, I mean that if you had a method in map like

put(Map.Entry entry)

you’d have to all the work around defensive copying and worrying about whether or not it was a user-implementation that could potentially be malicious. By having an interface that only you can instantiate and then control access to, you eliminate that headache.

If the chief disadvantage is that static inner interfaces are hard to understand, then buy your maintenance dev an SJCP study guide. Bottom Line: use them when it makes sense.

[1] If you don’t buy that, think about Perl. Hashes are so central to Mr. Wall’s While Ride that its OO model uses them for classes, and it has a separate keyword (each) for key/value iterations.

August 15, 2005

Review – Wedding Crashers

Filed under: Sight by Nathan @ 10:59 pm

John Beckwith (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy Grey (Vince Vaughn) are bosom buddies who delight in attending weddings uninvited so they can ride the wave of sentiment to bed a bevy of buxom beauties (leading to a montage where the director can feel it’s artistic to throw in some nekkid boobies.) They meet their match when they crash the wedding for the daughter of a prominent politico (Christopher Walken), falling in love with her sisters Claire (Rachel McAdams) and Gloria (Isla Fisher.) There are revelations, there are break-ups, there are make-ups; it all ends in a situation so contrived and unimaginative that it’s hard to imagine these actors reading the last 10 minutes of the screenplay and still agreeing to appear.

Is it a crime to expect a comedy to be funny?

If so, take me to the pillory for my flogging, because I’m guilty. A really good comedy should have you tittering and chortling all the way through. At the very least, I expect at least one laugh-out-loud moment from any comedy; it owes me that much. In the end, I didn’t find much funny about this movie that I didn’t find funny about the trailer. We’re talking snooze-fest. Cricket party. Silence. So I made a list to try and figure out why I didn’t really like this one…

  • Is it because they completely waste Owen Wilson [1]? Maybe.
  • Is it because this is yet another movie that thinks it’s funny to star Ellen Albertini Dow and have her swear/rap/carry a gun? Well, that sure doesn’t help.
  • Is it because Will Farrell has yet another cameo where he is both tasteless and unfunny? Getting warmer.
  • Is it because while it surfs the wave of over-the-top, the film ends up drowning in an unstoppable tidal wave of cliches and tacky sentimental pap? We have a winner.

Here’s the thing: if you know, for a fact, that you’re taking the audience on a collision course to a happy ending, then either get the teen actors of the day (or Diane Lane and some random guy) and make your schmaltzy dramedy, or do something interesting. You certainly don’t take this cast and waste it on a love story that makes Dirty Dancing look like Casablanca.

two star

[1] If you don’t believe me, go watch Zoolander or The Royal Tenenbaums first, then we’ll talk.

August 13, 2005

MP3otW – China Cat Sunflower by the Grateful Dead

Filed under: MP3 of the Week by Nathan @ 10:33 am

With the anniversary of Jerry’s death, it was preordained that our MP3 this week would be a Grateful Dead tune. The question then became “which one?” After much soul searching and debate (or a quick look at my CD collection, whichever seems more interesting) I’ve decided on the Europe ’72 version of China Cat Sunflower because it it fulfills the criteria I was looking for:

  • It’s live. Everyone knows that the best Dead is live Dead.
  • It gives you a taste of the groove these guys could build…
  • …but doesn’t go on for a half an hour.
  • Jerry’s singing.
  • It’s a kick ass track.

August 9, 2005

Jerry Garcia – In Memorium

Filed under: Sound by Nathan @ 8:30 pm

Going home, going home
by the waterside I will rest my bones
Listen to the river sing sweet songs
to rock my soul

While the blogosphere takes a little time out of its day to mark the 10 year anniversary of the now infamous Netscape IPO (a whole raft of “where-are-they-now?” stories out of that busted bubble), I’d like to celebrate the memory of Jerry Garcia, who died on the same day. Contrary to popular belief, his last words were not “Netscape opened at what?”

While everybody seems to have their “where were you when you heard about JFK?” moment, I have a “where were you when Jerry died” moment. I was newly 21, in love, still idealistic enough to think that teaching English would be a noble profession and still young enough to sincerly believe there was enough time to become a rock star.

As was my custom @ the time, on the way to play a piano in one of the chapels on campus, I stopped by the student union to pick up a Dr. Pepper, because the pop was cheaper there (I guess ’cause they were trying to stick it to the man. Or something) As I approached the machine, I saw a stack of the campus rag and there it was: Jerry Garcia: 1942-1995.

All you unrepentant deadheads out there, remember to take a minute and reflect. Not on what we lost, but the legacy that remains.

August 7, 2005

The Shuffle Game (2 in a series)

Filed under: Sound by Nathan @ 10:20 pm

Okay, I have to give last week to Chris[1], but I got some killer tracks this week. I’m not gonna go out on a limb and say I got a god shuffle, but it was a good time.

  1. Teardrop – Massive Attack – Mezzanine
  2. Before You Accuse Me – Eric Clapton – Unplugged
  3. Gz Up, Hoes Down – Snoop Dogg – Doggystyle
  4. Halloween – Dead Kennedys – Plastic Surgery Disasters
  5. Bebot – Black Eyed Peas – Monkey Business
  6. All Blues – Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
  7. Out of Control – Chemical Brothers – Surrender
  8. On Vacation – The Robot Ate Me – On Vacation
  9. For the Glasty – djBC – Glassbreaks
  10. Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division – Substance
  11. Toast – Tori Amos – The Beekeeper
  12. The Real Thing – Gwen Stefani – Love Angel Music Baby
  13. Listening Wind – Talking Heads – Remain in Light

This is pretty fun – send in your lists, folks.

[1] As a matter of fact, I spent $30 directly as a result of that list. While that’s partially the point, I partially want to call him a bastard. But I won’t.

August 6, 2005

MP3otW – Straight Outta Compton by Nina Gordon

Filed under: MP3 of the Week by Nathan @ 11:27 pm

You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge

So began the title track NWA’s second album, Straight Outta Compton; arguably the seminal gangsta rap work. Like so many other retired taboos, it doesn’t seem that offensive to today’s audience, but back in 1989 this was some hardcore shit. It was one of the few musical moments that really knocked me on my ass, and I remember listening to that tape over and over.

But times have changed, my friends.

Ice Cube, who bragged he had a crime record like Charles Manson, yelled out Fuck tha Police and wrote one of the most venomous, hate filled diatribes ever recorded (No Vaseline — so spiteful I actually feel dirty just listening) is now “the-guy-who-was-XXX-after-Vin-Deisel” and filming family friendly fare like Are We There Yet?.

Luckily we’ve got folks like Nina Gordon (of Veruca Salt. Go check out American Thighs — it’s a good time) to keep it real. She lays down a phat acoustic cover of the first verse of Straight Outta Compton that I just know you’ll love. I think my favourite part is that she doesn’t change the lyrics to make it from her point of view (unlike Tiffany, who thought I Saw (Him) Standing There was a good idea) and hearing her melodically croon ’cause Ice Cube is crazy as fuck just makes me smile.

Really interested in hearing what people who haven’t heard the NWA version think.

Avs fans can breathe a little easier

Filed under: Sports by Nathan @ 4:24 pm

Milan Hejduk has signed a five year contract and Alex Tanguay has signed a one-year qualifying offer. Now that Forsberg is in Philly, I can start cracking jokes about the last time he actually played a full season.

August 4, 2005

Happy Birthday to Me

Filed under: Personal by Nathan @ 9:46 pm

So give me a stage
Where this bull here could rage
And though I could fight
I’d much rather recite
That’s entertainment

So today is my birthday. I turned the big three-one. 3-1. XXX-I.

As it turns out, it’s a lot like turning 30, but without all the existential angst. Age creeps up on you, I don’t feel any older than I did when I was 30, but feel a hell of a lot older than I did when I was 20. There were a few things I wanted to do before I was 30, and I made it on all counts, even if a couple of them were by mere months. For some reason, I didn’t set forth any goals to achieve before I turned 31 — that’s either a failure or a triumph, depending on how you look at it.

Still, goals or not, it was a very good year. We bought our first house, and I quit the job I needed to quit before I got bitter and cynical (well, before I got more bitter and cynical.) Made some friends, made some enemies, and drank a ton.

Here’s to year 32.

August 3, 2005

Pun (not) intended

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 10:12 pm

My name is Nathan Smith, and I am the cynicalman.

As I read snippets of a magazine article during the occasional lull in the mechanical bull ride that is my morning bus trip, I came upon the dreaded (by me, at least) words pun not intended. I don’t get it; there is only one instance where a pun is not intended, and that’s when the punner didn’t know it was there.

For example, your girlfriend calls you to tell you she knows you’re cheating on her just as you sit down with your deli sandwich and your friend says “That’s quite a pickle.” Pun not intended.

On the other side of the hill, you’ve got some goof writing articles for “Gardening Today”, cheerfully typing pap like “today, we’re going to dig into planting potatoes (pun not intended.)” Pun definitely intended. You can almost hear the self-congratulatory tee-hee as he proofreads his jeu sur des mots. Here’s the thing: if the pun isn’t intended, then use different words. Next time how about “today we’re going to explore the beautiful world of the potato garden” or something equally insipid. Praise to anyone who could make that exciting.

There is a worse crime. One so horrible that those who perpetrate it should forever be forced to watch nothing but House of the Dead and read nothing but Garfield for a whole year. The dreaded pun intended.

These authors are so damn clever that there is no way that I will possibly pick up on their genius without the signpost. And upon reaching it, I should dutifully reread the sentence. Maybe two or three times, just so I can fully absorb the wit. Assuming I have the perspicacity to comprehend such unparalleled lexical antics, I should chortle (perhaps even guffaw) before daring to continue. The incidence of this seems far higher in technical magazines. You can draw your own conclusions there.

On another note, I’m thinking about renaming the blog — Geek Smithology (pun not intended) has a nice ring to it…

Forsberg’s a Flyer???

Filed under: Sports by Nathan @ 8:18 pm

Oh…my…god. I thought there was hope when Foote was out of the picture. And with Vancouver signing Naslund and Calgary signing Iginla, it just seemed natural. Now he’s going back to the Flyers? At least he’s not going to Vancouver.

Somehow I just can’t find it in me to get excited about the Avs signing Pierre Turgeon right now. I’m still stoked about Sakic and Blake. But off goes Foote, and now Forsberg? They better find ways to keep Hejduk and Tanguay. I’m too distraught to comment any further.

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