March 25, 2006

V For Video Rental

Filed under: analog — mhoye @ 1:35 am

I was told I was going to see “V For Vendetta”. The posters, the ticket, the schedule in the newspaper and indeed the opening sequence and end credits indicated that the theater I was seated in was in fact the one showing “V For Vendetta”. There must have been some mistake, possibly a reel swapped accidentally with another movie, because the movie I ended up watching didn’t look a lot like Vendetta. It looked like “The Phantom Of The Politics As Spectacle”.

If you want to see a reasonably faithful rendition of a truly great comic up there on the big screen, you will have to keep on walking. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to sit in on a clinic of what “hollywoodizing” something means, your money could not be better spent.

Vendetta is striking in its comprehensive treatment of the subject.

A love interest? Wedge it in there. Slo-mo fight scenes? Ladle them on. Soaring violins? Keep’em coming. Need a superhero, pails of blood, you name it? Just back that truck up to the lot and start pouring.

There is some great acting in this movie. There is also a script that needs to be carried with tongs to be burned to ashes and never discussed again. There is an editor who needs to be caned.

Whoever’s responsible for that hack job cannot be allowed to touch film ever again. There should, as a matter of law, be a man of reasonable intelligence stationed in every editing studio in California, and every time a filmmaker decides to club their audience over the head with something, this guy gets to clout that filmmaker with an aluminum bat.

I understand that the actual V For Vendetta author, Alan Moore, actually sued to have his name taken out of the credits. Really, it’s not hard to see why; the movie is only related to his story in the most superficial, cosmetic sense.

March 22, 2006

Universal Connector

Filed under: digital — mhoye @ 11:04 am

I bought a new widget a little while ago. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best bluetooth headset I’ve tried so far. “Tried so far” has a price axis to it, you understand, whose metric consists mostly of “not willing to pay more than X for a widget that’s more about nerd-fun than real need”. I haven’t tried any of the $200 models, and this one set me back about $60. And so far, this thing is pretty good.


It’s so close to meeting my exact criteria for this device that I am physically pained that it didn’t quite make that last step.

It doesn’t, you see, charge over USB. There’s a cute little power adapter that plugs into a wall and ends two feet away in a cute little entirely-custom, never-seen-anywhere-else plug, which you slot into the headset in its own custom, never-seen-anywhere-else socket. It takes five volts and half an amp.

Please, dear people who make little low-power widgets, I beg of you, let me charge your widgets via USB. Sell me your device without your power adapter, and instead with a tiny little cable, perhaps as little as a foot long, that has standard USB-cable bits at either end. Make them as dumb as you possibly can, so I don’t need to do any more work, like installing a driver, and just suck up the voltage. If you really need a to put a transformer in the box, an off-the-shelf wall-voltage-to-usb thing would be fine. I would be shocked if this wasn’t cheaper for you than including a custom-built power brick and mobile users, especially your hard core have-gun-will-travel types who want to travel light at all costs, will love you for it always. And though I’m hardly a member of that frequent-flyer elite, even I’ve had days where turning laptop juice into widget power was, or would have been, pure gold.

I’ll even forgive you if you need a custom cable, say because you want one end to work on your widget and the other to be USB or Firewire or whatever; I won’t love you any less, I just need you to stop filling my bag with an assortment of transformers when I could just carry a few ounces of short cable. Still, standard USB ends are really the best, because they’re ubiquitous – cables you can’t buy off the shelf everywhere are cables you can’t easily replace if something wears out or goes missing, something that only seems to happen when it matters the most.

The power adapter for my cellphone is in Toronto right now; I’m going to have to find a store that sells my precise brand of two-year-old phone (a T610 that naturally has entirely custom, this-line-of-phones-only connectors), hope they’ve still got the right one in stock (Sony-Ericsson has obsoleted that plug style a while back), and probably spend more than the actual phone is worth just to replace its power cable.

That’s my gadget-related wish for today. Make my life a little less cluttered and a little simpler. Make my travel bag lighter. I’ll give you money. Thanks!

March 18, 2006

A Drinking Problem

Filed under: analog — mhoye @ 2:44 pm

Last night, after being awake for 40 hours at a stretch or so, I was lying in bed just beat and I couldn’t get to sleep at all. I was at that point where it hurt my eyes to look at things or change direction, and even though I wasn’t muscle-tired my connective tissues were sending in urgent reports of some extremely distressing news. My joints are irate at the best of times, and I think my shoulder was actually blinking red.

And I was just too wired up to sleep.

So obviously, I did what any responsible adult citizen would do in my situation; I decided to self-medicate with alcohol.

That’s not my drinking problem.

Investigating the alcohol-on premises situation, I discovered that my liquor shelf was very nearly bare. We’ve never really restocked since Christmas; we’ll grab a bottle of wine if we’re having guests over, but I haven’t even been restocking beer unless we’re going to be cooking with it too. We have, on my shelf:

  • A half a bottle of Soho lychee liqueur,
  • A little single-dose bottle of something called “Dubonnet”, described as a “wine-based apertif” and of unknown origin, and
  • Another single-dose bottle of “Sourz”, a green-hued “sour apple beverage” that looks like the sort of thing that frosh week teaches girls to avoid.

… and that’s it.

That’s my drinking problem.

I want you to imagine me standing in the kitchen on shaky legs, staring at this bleak situation through forty-hours-open eyes. All the liquor stores are closed by now, I’m thinking, and there’s just no way I’m going to wade through amateur night and pay amateur night’s hyperinflated prices just so that I can get a decent night’s sleep. “It’s this, or nothing”, I’m thinking.


March 17, 2006

Reading Material

Filed under: analog — mhoye @ 3:50 pm

As you might imagine, having recently called somebody a pussy for only wanting to crash a comet into Mars and not an entire Saturnian moon, I’ve been back at the science fiction and fantasy lately. I thought I should bring you up to speed, and if you’re seated comfortably I’ll do just that.

  • “Feersum Endjinn” is the first Iain Banks book that I’ve read that was merely good. It’s an OK read, made somewhat difficult by the main character Bascule, hu toks lyk dis d ntir tym. It might even be enough to put somebody off Banks completely if it was their first exposure to his work. It’s not The Algebrist or Use Of Weapons, to be sure.
  • “The Runes of the Earth”, by Stephen R. Donaldson. If you haven’t read the Thomas Covenant series, this book won’t have anything for you. If you have, it might have… just a little too much. The story is strangely timely, but the density of fact and motion in it this novel threatens to swamp the narrative, something I don’t remember from the earlier novels in the series. Still, I’ve got to say, I liked it. But if you haven’t read (and, you know, enjoyed) the first six novels in the series, don’t bother; you’ll be missing too much.
  • “Spin”, by Robert Charles Wilson, is a shockingly good book. It is right up there with Altered Carbon, A Fire Upon The Deep and Eon on my list of mind-blowingly-awesome science fiction. I’m not going to tell you anything else about it, not even the central conceit, because I couldn’t do it justice in a few sentences; it is a beautiful, monstrous premise, followed through brilliantly. If you buy one book on my advice this month, it should be this one.

I’ve got “The Years Of Rice And Salt”, the first Prince Of Nothing book and Iain Banks’ “Inversions” on my side table right now. Nevertheless, if anything’s jumped out at you lately I’d like to know about it.

March 10, 2006

Rain Making

Filed under: lunacy — mhoye @ 3:52 pm

The Cassini probe has found water on one of Saturn’s moons.

Mars, apparently, has been a water planet sometime in the distant past, but is now barren. There might be water there still, hidden, but life on the surface doesn’t look, for the moment, sustainable.

There’s only one thing to be done, here.

Mars is close, as far as these things go; less than 60,000,000 miles from your living room on a good day. Saturn is way, way too far away for a convenient commute at 1,200,000,000 kilometers. But people shop in the suburbs all the time. And the trick, like it is for any trip to Costco, is to go for the one big purchase. Get everything you need all at once, ship it back and put it in storage until you’re going to need it. Enceladus is a piddling 500 kilometers wide, less than a twelfth the diameter of Mars. And even though Mars is only about a tenth the mass of the Earth, Enceladus is far less than that. So Mars should be able to take the hit without so much as an orbital wobble. And besides, it’s the seventh furthest moon from Saturn, and nowhere near the largest. Saturn won’t miss it; it’ll have thirty moons and its rings left, that greedy bastard.

Even if it’s a bare one-quarter ice, that’s still more thatn 15,000,000 cubic kilometers of frozen water that won’t stay frozen – the heat of reentry and the dust storm from the impact is certainly going to bring the temperature of the surface up from the somewhat unpleasant -80 to 0 up a a few degrees, and fifteen or twenty above is not only liveable, but comfortable. That fifteen million cubic kilometers is a fraction of the Earths’s home amount, but this is just a start. And, don’t forget, there are other icy moons out there.

We don’t need that water yet, but we will; we don’t need that real-estate yet, but by God, we’re going to someday. It’s going to take a lot of effort, but it’ll be worth it. We’re making a long-term investment in the future of the human race, a future of cheap real estate and very fine red-sand beaches. The question is when, not if, we’re going to need that space.

March 6, 2006

An Unexpected Observation

Filed under: analog — mhoye @ 10:38 pm

In the morning I look, I have just now been informed, like a baby eagle.

In my defence, if that’s the word, she does see me before I get to my coffee.

March 1, 2006

A Brief Note On Popular Culture

Filed under: analog — mhoye @ 7:56 pm

Dear mediocre artists of the present-

Please stop recording covers of inoffensive but commercially popular music by the mediocre artists of the past. Your cooperation in this matter is much appreciated.


Good Taste, and
Artistic Integrity

UPDATE: Dear mediocre moviemakers of the present…

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