Watched the first 2 episodes of Carrier, Life Aboard the Aircraft Carrier USS Nimitz last night. Its a reality-show style documentary about life at see on a carrier for six months in 2005. Its interesting because it shows the lives of a a core group of people drawn from all over the ship’s crew, rather than just the much more visible pilots that couldn’t do anything without the other 5000 people on board. Showing on PBS this week in HD, and episodes are available online too.

U23D – Even better than the real thing!

We saw U23D last night at the Imax and it was great! I love 3d movies, and since I saw one like 10 years ago, I don’t know why all movies aren’t 3d yet, but I digress. They made great use of the “one” additional dimension, at times Bono or the Edge are all up in your proverbial “grille” with the crowd unfurling behind them.
Between the great visual effects, which at time moved the stage’s background visuals into the foreground, and the great sound system of the Imax, this was a fun experience. So if you like U2 at all, check out to find it near you.

The Ten

Kristi and I saw “The Ten” on Saturday night at the Boston Independent Film Festival – the premise of the movie is to create a sketch touching on each of the ten commandments. Each sketch is really funny with cameos from many actors. The sketches are often quite different,
but like great Improv, they make callbacks to include characters and ideas from previous scenes. Great closing scene with the whole cast, great movie overall.

Check it out.

Arcade Fire

There was a good article about The Arcade Fire in last Sunday’s New York Times magazine. It made me sign up for a trial eMusic account to get their old and new album (though I later realized I had acquired “Funeral” some time ago). It turns out its actually quite good. I wonder what kind of sales bump a band would get from being profiled in the times these days?

I hadn’t used eMusic before – I went there to get some DRM-free mp3s before I knew there was a free trial option. I don’t know what to think of their subscription model – pay $10 a month to get 30 mp3 downloads, which works out to just 33 cents, but I don’t think I would want to commit to another subscription somewhere.

Speaking of subscriptions, some months I weigh the value of subscribing to the Times – its about $22/mo for just the Sunday issue. No wonder no one takes a paper anymore! There’s something lost in reading on the internet though – harder to lay in bed and read with a significant other and not as portable for reading on the go. I guess its worth it for now – until someone comes up with a fantastic e-Reader.

I think the publisher of the Times said in an interview recently that he wouldn’t be surprised if they stopped printing at all within 5 years. That’s a bit alarming to me from a historical point of view – one can go to the library and look at Times articles from the civil war etc – surely the format issues involved in making digital copies of a paper available to readers 150 years from now are nontrivial compared to keeping paper dry and in the dark.

Beautiful Evidence

Kristi gave me Edward Tufte’s latest book for Christmas, Beautiful Evidence. It was quite good as usual, but probably not as good as the previous three, which were all excellent. A lot of examples are repeats from previous book, like the excellent infographic describing Napoleon’s march on Moscow- it would have been nice to see some new artifacts.

The ending of the book is strange; there are several pages of Tufte’s outdoor scupltures, apropos of nothing and without introduction. I guess you can do that when you are your own publisher!

Wii At Last

I finally got my hands on a Nintento Wii! While I haven’t been trying nearly as hard as many, Ive had a couple of frustrating close calls until now. I was in New York city so on the way to my hotel I stopped in to Toys R Us in Time’s Square, and there they were! They were being handed out at the register one by one, so I got to wait in a long long line without knowing if there would be any left when I got to the front. I lucked out and there was (only 10ish at that point, if I’d been much later I would have missed out). Apparently they sold about 200 in an hour or so that day. There were about 20 ps3s there, but there didn’t seem to be any takers; there were a few sitting there still hours later when I stopped in to look for an extra nunchuk attachment.

Wii Sports is really fun.

Tivo DRM Broken. Hurray!

I salute Jeremy Drake for providing a platform-independent mechanism to decode Tivo video files. What I like most about the code he released is that it’s not a crack per se, as it still requires the Tivo’s password (as did the windows-only tivo software). You don’t let people have what they want (and should have been given) long enough, they’re going to take it.
The cat’s been out of the bag for a while anyways, it was just more difficult and required windows and direct show dump to get files decode so they could be (lawfully) played on the mac.

I love tivo, but they’ve been teasing the mac community with unfulfilled promises of tivo to go support for at least a year now. I’ve never understood their reasoning for this; of course the windows user base is bigger, but I’d guess the percentage of tivo owners who use macs are higher than the general population mac percentage. Mac users seem more willing (and perhaps able?) to pay a bit more for a better user experience. Now that cable companies are releasing cable boxes with DVR capability, I would think Tivo would want to cater more to this community of people with higher expectations, not less.

While I’m talking Tivo, I can’t see how the company is going to be around for many more years. Cable companies DVRs aren’t as good as Tivo’s, but there’s a lot of people who’ve never used a Tivo and don’t know what their missing. Then there’s this whole Tivo Series 3 debacle; $800 for an HD DVR that doesn’t let users do anything more than a cable company DVR – there’s no tivo to go for example. Why would someone who’s just dropped a couple of grand on an HD set up not be willing to get the cable company’s box for no money up front and less money per month?

Then again, people have been predicting the death of Tivo for years, so who knows what will happen?

Books: Rails for Java Developers

I’ve been reading the beta copies of Rails for Java developers and really enjoying them so far. The book starts off moving through the ruby language feature by feature and comparing them to the features of Java, which is a great way to apply what you know to learning something new. Things continue in this manner through comparisons of ruby’s ActiveRecord to Hibernate, rails’ ActionController to struts, and so on. All the while the authors strike the right balance between fun asides and getting to the point (some books can try way too hard to be entertaining and fall flat).

I haven’t actually written a Ruby on Rails application before or since reading the book, so I can’t comment on the completeness of the material, but I can actually read Ruby now and write some short scripts so that’s a start. This is more than I can say about some of the online materials I’ve read about ruby.

If you’re familiar with java and would like to learn more about Ruby and Rails definately pick up a copy of this book. You might even learn a thing or two about java in the process.

Credit where credit is due: i originally found out about this book due to this blog post (which said a lot of what i just said..)

Movies: The Departed

I saw The Departed last weekend. It was very good overall and had surprising twists and turns at the end. For me I was so used to seeing Martin Sheen as President Bartlett that I kept thinking that its a good thing the president was able to keep himself busy fighting crime in Boston now that he’s out of office.

One nit about the movie: the movie has two characters talking on the phone (to each other) on the T, but there’s no cell phone reception on the red line between Park Street and South Station.


I recently finished reading JPod by Douglas Coupland. It was a pretty strange book. The only other Coupland book I’ve read is Microserfs, but that was probably most of a decade ago so I can’t remember if that was nearly as weird. While the plot is ok, the ending is pretty weak.

The presentation is interesting (strange): there are pages containing the first million digits of Pi with one mistake to find, pages full of numbers where one zero has been substituted with an O, random words in huge fonts on pages that serve to divide it into chapters of sorts. These artsy things waste so much paper that the book is an astonishingly fast read given its heft.

The strangest part of the book is the level of narcissm on Coupland’s part. (Perhaps since this is on my blog I can’t really talk). At the beginning Coupland appears to grind an axe by having his characters declare that Melrose Place was a ripoff of his book Generation X and that the ripoff was so blatant as to be “actionable”. After that the characters refer to him occasionally, but that’s just leading up to Coupland appearing as character at least nine different times. The ending even revolves around him. I’ve seen authors give themselves cameos in books before (Cussler in particular I remember happening to be yachting around when his characters needed help), but this was pretty over the top.