Thursday, January 10, 2013

My Thoughts on the 2012 Oscar Noms

Best Picture:


  • "Amour", "Life of Pi", "Lincoln", "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Zero Dark Thirty: Haven't seen these and will probably only see "Zero Dark Thirty" before the Oscar telecast
  • "Argo": Excellent movie
  • "Django Unchained": Good, fun Tarantino flick, but a bit uneven with too many loose ends
  • "Les Misérables": Yeah, the direction sucked and it was relentlessly depressing, but any movie that makes me "feel" as much as this movie made me "feel" (almost sobbing) deserves the accolades it gets
  • "Silver Linings Playbook": Best of the bunch, in my opinion.

Acting Nominations:

  • Best Guy: Of the nominees, I only saw Bradley Cooper and Hugh Jackman, but I put BC over HJ.
  • Best Girl: OTN, I only saw Jennifer Lawrence and she was phenomenal, as always
  • Sup' Guy: I missed The Master when it was in theaters, so I hope it comes back before the Oscar telecast, 'cause I love PTA and PSH. Arkin was great, DeNiro was better than lately, but Waltz was perfect (again).
  • Sup' Girl: Only saw Anne Hathaway and Jackie Weaver and, while JW was great, AH was devastatingly good.

Directing:

In this category, I only saw Silver Linings Playbook, but I loved the movie and I, for the most part, love David O. Russell films. Actually, I can quantify that statement that I love DOR films from alternating decades;  I loved his movies from the 1990s and now I love his movies from the 2010s, but I Heart Huckabees left me flat (the 2000s).

Cinematography:

I love Roger Deakins and SkyFall may be the best Bond film I've ever seen. (I never saw the Connery ones; I know, I'm a bad person.)

Screenplays:

  • Argo and SLP are both excellent, but if I have to give it to Argo under the "truth is stranger than fiction" heading
  • Django Unchained: I really enjoyed the movie and I really enjoy QT dialog, but as a whole, not worth the nomination.
  • Moonrise Kingdom was the single most enjoyable, wonderful movie I saw all year long and ranks up there next to Fantastic Mr. Fox as my favorite Wes Anderson films. I love this movie and I hope it wins Best Screenplay. It's a shame that it wasn't nominated for Best Picture.


Friday, October 26, 2012

If you believe in god, you probably don't want to read this


I would like to make it perfectly clear that I am an atheist. There is no god, no heaven and no hell. When I die, I will be gone. I won't be in the skies watching over you, I won't be with my departed friends, family or pets and I won't be in a "better place". I'll just be gone. Sure, my friends and family will still remember me, so the memory of me will live on, but that's all that will go on. (That and my Facebook and Twitter posts, apparently.)

I have a friend that just died who also happened to be an atheist. Most of his close friends knew he was an atheist and he surely never made any secret about it. He even spelled out instructions, in the event of his death, that any services NOT be held in a church and that they be strictly non-religious. (This is the same thing I want for myself, by the way).

The reason I am writing this post is because I am incredibly frustrated by people who write about my atheist friend and use terms or phrases that I can paraphrase as, "he was blessed", "he had faith in god" or "he's surely in heaven now", because it's all such bullshit. He is none of these things. I miss the guy and I would prefer that he were still alive, but if he were still alive, he too would be pissed by these comments.

As a decent person who has attended funerals of family and friends that were religious, I would never dream of saying things to the gathered such as, "too bad he's worm food now" or "wow, I'm sure glad I still exist, unlike so-and-so", because that would make me look like an ass-hat. When I'm at a Christian funeral and someone says, "well, he's in heaven now", I just smile and say nothing. I don't say anything antagonistic because that would just be rude. Unfortunately, too many religious people have no such common sense.

Oh, and in the distant future (hopefully very distant), when I'm dead and they have a memorial service for me, if anyone says, "well he's in heaven now", I want all my friends to slap that person in the face for disrespecting my memory. If you are my friend, I expect this.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I hope Qwikster Survives

I have friends that think the Netflix/Quikster split has sounded the death knell for discs, but I don't believe DVD or Blu-Ray is going away any time soon. When Netflix decided to add a fee for streaming, the decision was easy: I canceled streaming and am now paying a dollar less per month than I was before. I'm on the two-DVD per month, with Blu-Ray, plan and that's all I need.

These are the reasons why I prefer DVD/Blu-Ray

  • I have a 56" HDTV, a Blu-Ray player and a nice sound system with DTS decoding. At best, HD streaming video looks about the same as a DVD, but can't come close to Blu-Ray picture quality. Streaming audio is much worse than DVD and is nothing compared to Blu-Ray; streaming audio is usually two channels, while even DVD is 5.1 in most cases.
  • DVDs and Blu-Rays don't pause or stop if there is a network problem, something that happens quite often with streaming.
  • The selection. I've watched thousands of movies, which means that I have a hard enough time finding something good to watch on DVD or Blu-Ray, and the selection of streaming video doesn't even come close to the selection I can get on DVD or Blu-Ray.
  • Subtitles/Closed-Captioning. Unless it's a foreign movie, in which case you have no choice, I've never seen an option for closed-captioning or subtitles with streaming. When I have to turn down the sound because the wife is sleeping or if the accents of the actors are difficult to understand, I rely heavily on the subtitles and captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing that are almost standard on DVD or Blu-Ray.
  • Extras. Even ignoring BD-Live, which is pretty much a joke, I like to watch deleted scenes, making-of features, alternate endings and all those other "extra features" that you find on DVDs and Blu-Rays. You don't get any of that with streaming video.
So, for me, the choice to go with physical disks over streaming is an easy one. I get better quality video, audio, selection, and extras than with streaming.

But, beyond all the reasons above that work for me, there are several reasons why DVD/Blu-Ray is not going to die any time soon:
  • There is a large percentage of the population that either does not have the high-speed internet required or has it but has no idea how to or any inclination to hook their internet up to their TV. For those people, they're either going to watch regular TV or they're going to rent, borrow or buy a DVD.
  • Sadly, people (and, less sad, kids) watch movies in their cars and, for most people, the only way to do that is to pop a DVD in the car DVD player. Most people do not have streaming movies in their car.
  • DVDs and Blu-Rays are still impulse buys and many stores still stock them near their cashiers because people still like to own a movie that they can hold in their hand.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

I vote

I voted today.

I'm registered Green, but I voted mostly for the Democratic candidates out of fear that Republicans would win.

I voted for Prop 19 even though I've never smoked marijuana in my life, because I think the "war on drugs" has done more harm than good.

I voted to raise my own taxes to help fund schools, even though I will never have any children and will, therefore, never directly benefit from those schools.

I'm heartened by the early returns that show some of the tea party candidates lost, but I'm very disappointed that so many Americans have forgotten that it was the Republicans during the Bush years that caused our current depression and have seen fit to put the Republicans back in charge of the House, even though their "change" is just "business as usual".

I'm saddened that so many people believe the lies of corporations and their lobbyists. (And, although I was thinking about the propositions on the ballot when I first typed this, I realize it also applies to Fox News and their own lobbying masquerading as news.)

I am an atheist, so I have a healthy fear of all religious groups, but I have to admit that Christians in America scare me more than any other religious group.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My first 24 hours (or so) on Droid X

I got my Droid X yesterday and, although I started researching the implications of a move from BlackBerry to Android over a week ago, I've figured out a lot in the last 24 hours and I want to share with everybody what I've done.

My old setup:

  • I used Outlook 2007 for all my work mail, contacts, calendar and notes.
  • My work email uses generic web hosting (BlueHost.com, no Exchange server involved) and I accessed it via IMAP using Outlook on my laptop and using the built-in email client on my BlackBerry
  • I used BlackBerry Desktop Manager 6.0 to sync Outlook contacts and calendar to my BlackBerry Storm
My new setup is a little more complicated....

Calendar: I’m using Google Calendar Sync to keep my Outlook 2007 and Google Calendars in sync and then I use the standard Calendar app on the Droid X, which reads the Google Calendar. As an additional precaution, I publish my Outlook calendar to iCal Exchange (it’s a free WebDAV server) and I’ve also subscribed to that calendar in Google Calendar.

Email: I don’t try to sync my email. Instead, I kept my work email where it was and I use Outlook on my laptop and the K-9 Mail app on my phone. I also set up GMAIL to pull in my email from my web host using POP3 (but keeping a copy on the server) as a backup option. I’m using K-9 since it has better IMAP support than the native email client on the Droid X (technically, I could use either).

Contacts: I've not found a sync option that works yet. I exported my contacts from Outlook (don’t pay attention to the Google instructions: you’ll want to use the "Comma Separated Values (DOS)" option, not the "Windows" option to get all the contact fields) and then I imported them into GMAIL using their standard import function. The Droid contact list syncs with GMAIL, so any future contact changes will need to be manually synced between Outlook and Gmail until I find an application that I know works (there are no free ones that do this reliably, as far as I can tell).

Tasks: I was rarely using this in Outlook, so I won’t use it any longer.

Notes: I exported my Outlook notes to a CSV file and then I imported them into ResophNotes, a fee Windows application. ResophNotes syncs with SimpleNote, a free, secure web application and there are several Android apps that sync with SimpleNote. I (almost) randomly chose AndroNoter and it seems to work fine.

The biggest hiccup in this process was when the Google Calendar Sync application got stuck synchronizing for many hours and I had to kill it, uninstall it and then re-install it. It seems to be working OK now, but I will probably exit it before I hibernate my computer and try to remember to turn it back on when I wake my computer back up.

On a non-office note, I've also tried out a few different apps...

For Twitter, I first added my Twitter account to "My Accounts" on my Droid X, but I don't really understand what that does and I wanted a real Twitter client. (I used ÜberTwitter on my BlackBerry and it was awesome, but they don't have an Android version.) I tried out "Twitter for Android" and Tweetcaster, before settling on Touiteur, which seems to work pretty well.

For Facebook, I'm using the official Facebook app and it's better than the BlackBerry version.

The other notable apps I've installed through the Market are:
  • Yelp
  • Battery Widget
  • FlickrFree for Android
  • IMDb Movies & TV
  • Google Translate
  • Google Earth
  • Poynt
  • WorldMate (yay! although, it's not yet as cool as the BlackBerry version)
  • Barcode Scanner (love it)
  • Google Sky Map
  • Pandora Radio
I've played with some of the above very little, so I'm not yet prepared to review them.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Droid

I've suffered with the first generation BlackBerry Storm since last year, so it wasn't that hard of a decision for me to leave BB behind and switch to Android. I ordered the Droid X last week, and though it's been on backorder, I received notification that it shipped today and I should have it in my hands by Wednesday. It'll be a vast improvement over my old phone, but I am dismayed at the lack of a utility to keep my new phone in sync with Outlook. If my company used Exchange or Google Apps, this wouldn't be an issue, but we don't use either.

My research has led me to one conclusion. I must stop using Outlook and move everything (mail, contacts, calendar and notes) to Google. I've been an Outlook user since before it was Outlook (when it was the mail client that came with Windows 95) and I have almost 1300 contacts, over 1700 appointments on my calendar and over 4GB of mail in PST files (although about half of that is offline copies of my IMAP mail), so choosing to abandon Outlook was not an easy decision, but I don't see any other good solution. Android phones were designed to work with Google and Google and MS do not like to play together.

Of course, I don't have this all worked out yet. Since there is no "Google Notes", I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my Outlook notes yet. And since half of my archived mail is in PST files, I'll have to figure out how I'll get those archives into gmail. I'll probably be happier in the long run, but it all looks pretty daunting to me right now.

If anyone has any suggestions, please comment here and let me know.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Gracie Church: 1998-2010


Today, Kara and I said goodbye to our beloved Gracie. Gracie was a great, loving dog, who loved and protected her family. She enjoyed long walks and barking at the UPS guy, but most of all, she loved to swim. As a matter of fact, the only time she would ever play fetch was in the water at dog beach.

Gracie was adopted by Kara from the Escondido Humane Society (as was her younger adopted brother, Buster) and it was love at first paw for Kara and Gracie. I met Gracie a few months later when Kara and I started dating and Gracie turned me from someone who didn't like dogs into someone who loves dogs.

Although Gracie suffered from separation anxiety (and left a trail of destruction, in some cases, when she was left alone), she handled separation from Kara and me much better after "we" adopted Buster. And when I say we, I mean all of us, as Gracie also adopted Buster, always keeping a watchful eye on him at the park, scolding him if he got out of line, and grooming him whenever he would sit still long enough to take it.

Gracie loved people and got along with most other dogs. She was a protector of her "pack", though, so she was suspicious of any dog or person that she felt was acting "inappropriately", which included being a little too rowdy with Buster. She would bark or snap at other dogs when this happened, but mostly, they were warnings to "keep your distance". With suspicious people (and the UPS guy), she would bark, but never bite.

Gracie had mostly good health over her lifetime, but she had started suffering from arthritis over the last year or so. Her health, however, really started going downhill in the last month of her life, when she stopped eating almost completely. After a few weeks and a few visits to the vet, we discovered that she had cancerous tumors in her liver, lymph nodes and on her back. For the last few weeks until she died, we just tried our best to make her comfortable. Probably her happiest time during this tragic period was when we took her for one last visit to the beach. Even though it was an impromptu visit and we hadn't brought her throw toy for water fetch, she still headed straight into the ocean for a short swim.

Gracie is gone, but she will never be forgotten. And, her family will miss her terribly.

Gracie, we love you.