Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cumberbatch's Imitation Game

Dr Desert Flower and I went and saw The Imitation Game last night at our favorite local theater, and it was a really good movie.  I'd wanted to see the film after reading several cryptography books and novels where Alan Turing is often a central character, if not repeatedly mentioned as the father of modern computer science.  I was not disappointed.

38 year old Benedict Cumerbatch played Alan Turing extremely well, with a range of emotion and affect, delivery and neurosis, fully embracing the quirky genius.  I will be quite surprised if Cumberbatch does not win Golden Globe awards and Oscar nominations.  Whenever Cumberbatch spoke in a very low voice, slowly, recollections of Smaug inevitably entered my linguistics centric mind, but luckily the scenes were so fluid and changed so often, that the tone was never Smaug-like for more than a few seconds.  I still think Ricardo Montalban played a much better Khan than Cumberbatch did in the recent Star Trek incarnation.

Director Morten Tyldum did a wonderful job of weaving the school boy, post-Cambridge, adult, and post-WWII Turings into a beautiful mosaic that held the audience's attention.  Though we saw it on a Tuesday night, the theater was actually packed, surprisingly.

I would have liked to have seen More focus placed upon Turing and what his team did after breaking the Enigma code in 1943, and how they selected and parsed out information to MI6 so that statistically, the Nazis would not notice that the code had been broken… but the film glossed over that part and had it covered it more, there might have been a Nolan-esque 3 hour movie.

If you've not seen it, it's worth going to the theater (and not waiting for Netflix or Amazon) to see.  I think you'll like it as well (and if you don't, or you didn't like Alan Turing's work, his personality, his scientific work, or the person he was…  then, well…  you probably can't be my friend).

Saturday, December 20, 2014

dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip

Thanks to my friend Ron for reminding me about this hilarious video:

When my friend Rick shared this link years ago, I did not realize (at that time) that the beard shown here is the same style & length as my son's…  kids now-a-days.  = )

Link here:  if the embed doesn't work for you.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Merry Christmas Eywa - From the Tree of Souls

If you've ever seen the James Cameron movie Avatar, you're familiar with the willow like "Tree of Souls" (known as Vitraya Ramunong) .  Back at Thanksgiving, after I painstakingly decorated our Ficus tree (thank you Anne Morse for identifying it as a Ficus!) with strands of lights, Dr. Desert Flower, drink in hand, exclaimed "it's the tree of life, from that purple people movie!".  (how sweet!)

I think James Cameron did a better job on "The Tree of Souls" than I did…  but, my work will suffice for Southern Orange County, since no one is paying admission or benefiting from secondary DVD or on-demand sales.  

My neighbor across the street, who has lived here for over 20 years told me (last year) "that tree has never looked so good!", and when we moved in, it was drooping down so low that one could not walk down the side walk without having to duck to get below the pendulous branches.  Well 10 green dumpsters later, and lots of Naprosin, I've tamed the ficus to its current state & geometric configuration. It is pleasant to look down from my home office window and see it, and the street beyond, instead of an unruly batch of dark green leaves taking over the street before our home.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hobbit 3 - The Battle Of Five Writers

This morning I wasted $7 and 2 hours of my life enduring the bastardization of a film loosely based around the Tolkien mythos, entitled The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  Eh, it really wasn't a battle of five armies.  And if you've read the book - as most Americans over 30 have - then you won't recognize most of the plot from the movie since it really doesn't have hardly anything to do with the book.  (and Jackson makes it actually 8 armies…  but I don't want to get into minutia) 

Peter Jackson did a great job in the Lord of the Ring Trilogy, sticking as close as he could to the 3 epic novels in 3 epic movies.  In the Hobbit movies, he drew out what could have been done in about 3 hours into 3 separate, painfully embellished films.  This last (thank goodness!) installment could have been wrapped up in about 30 minutes.  Instead, Jackson, and his fellow conspirators Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyen, and the increasingly annoying Guillermo del toro eviscerated J.R.R. Tolkien's beautiful little book, The Hobbit, and turned it in a misplaced love story, a personal blood feud, a father-son-angst conflict, and a mockery of the original Tolkien novel.  

To understand & appreciate how completely divergent The Battle of Five Armies was from the original Tolkien work, all one has to do is to look at the original Tolkien / Jackson ring trilogy epics, and then do a (1-X) calculation, proportionally.   So if in your perspective, Jackson got 98% right on the ring trilogy movies, in this final installment, he gets 2% right (1 - 0.98) = 0.02.  If he got 75% right in your perspective originally, then he's gotten perhaps 25% right on this last movie (1 - 0.75) = 0.25.  

There was no love story, between elves and dwarves or between anyone else, except for Smaug and his gold, in The Hobbit.  Yes, Tolkien wrote dwarves as greedy, and Thorin's grandfather as driven mad by the wealth, but Jackson and his cabal of co-conspirators created ridiculous plot devices that were not needed. 

The physics of a drawn bow, to propel an arrow through the air, are NOT purely the elasticity of the bow string, but the tension in that string and the elastic bending of the bow (as seen clearly in a simple long bow, or multiplied in a compound bow).  So when Bard (the Animated version was So Much Better!) uses his son's shoulder as the bow, that's a cute "father & son moment", but that arrow wouldn't have flown more than a few feet, much less several hundred feet, through the leathery hide of an ancient red dragon, through heart muscle, and killing one of the most vicious and formidable creatures ever to be characterized on the written page (think about it…  what other creature of mass destruction, pure evil & super intelligence have you ever read as much about in a beloved novel, and even cheered for (as I did, in the previous film, and this travesty as well)?  Jackson and his writers needed to spend less time launching water balloons with surgical tubing sling shots, and more time in Physics 101 class.

I half expected to see Paul Atreides (from Dune), riding along with the Northern Orc army - what's a matter Peter, were Wargs too hard to animate?  Or perhaps too deadly when matched against several hundred Iron Hills dwarves (who brought with them, no cavalry, but later, ram sheep conveniently appear)?  So many inane sub-plots and tangents…  I mean… it was great to see Radagast again… but the entire scene in which he appears… was not in the book.  Great to see Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith) as Elrond again… but in The Hobbit he never leaves Rivendell.  

There's so many things incongruent with Jackson's ham-fisted, market-driven re-writes of The Hobbit that it would take dozens and dozens of pages to describe, in even the briefest detail, and frankly, I don't have that kind of time to waste.  I am just delighted that Jackson cannot rape another Tolkien film, since the Tolkien family has not signed over rights to "The Silmarillion", and I hope in my lifetime, they never will.  

In The Battle of the Five Writers, J.R.R. Tolkien is soundly defeated.  Marketers rejoice, globally, and those who have never read the book will likely remain ignorant - reading takes time, and everyone lives connected to their digital devices, with the attention span of an impatient & unrealistic corporate board, expecting immediate results, gratification, satisfaction… which just leads to stagnation and disappointment, long term.  Much better to have video games, and plastic play toys, and to try and inspire fabricated dreams of interspecies romance, than to make a movie based solidly on the original work.  Pathetic & sad.

I was considering titling this "The Desolation of Smug", or "Jackson-itis" (the disease where you get infected with so much hubris, that you band together with other writer-directors [like del toro] who also show the same symptoms, and then you create an abomination, a bastardization, a remarkably ugly and painful vehicle that movie-goers have to endure while they were expecting 'this won't be so bad…  will it?'), but when I saw Jackson had teamed up with 3 other writers, the Battle of Five Writers sounded much better.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Stellar Interstellar

Dr Desert Flower and I went to go see Interstellar last night at a local movie theater - us, and 7 or 8 other people scattered throughout had the entire theater of 300 or so seats to ourselves.  I'd intentionally not read up on the movie as I wanted to be surprised and enjoy the story telling.  Wow.  It was really a riveting tale, that Christopher Nolan told quite well.

If you've not seen Interstellar, stop reading now, and go see it soon, or just skip this posting.  If you have seen it, please help me to understand:

1) why did the worm hole appear near Saturn 43 years before Dr Brand mentioned it to Cooper?  What caused it to "spontaneously form"?  And why near Saturn?

2) if the Ranger ship that Cooper was piloting was getting torn apart after it was sucked into the black hole, and he ejected, why didn't he get torn apart also?  Space suits and human skin are not as resilient as aluminum and titanium, when being pelted with things that can tear holes in space craft skin.  Cooper would have been shredded.

3) who was sitting behind Cooper in the disintegrating Ranger saying "Eject" to him, 3 times, before he ejected?  His elementary school aged daughter?  Or was it his subconscious talking to him? (or was it "love" …  ugh)

4) why didn't anyone try to get oxygen (and nutrients) from algae?  Wheat, gone - ok, believable since a global wheat blight is not that far away with various rusts and fungi that are currently attacking homogenized corporate wheat (yea!!!  less gluten!!!).  Okra, gone, who cares?  Those in the Southeast US, ok…   Corn, going..  well..  maybe, but DDF says that would take much longer, genetically, since humans have spliced so many genes into corn over the last century that it is rather hardy today.  How about Sorghum (grown all around Phoenix)?  Soybeans (grown ubiquitously in the Midwest) that are used in everything?  Rice (grown throughout Asia, and in water, not in the dust)?

5) who would have ever designed Any ventilation route from the cabin air to Ranger's engines, to would have enabled Cooper to "spark" the Ranger's flooded engines using cabin air and cabin oxygen?  It sounds great to tell T.A.R.S. to reroute the air to do that…  but..  no one would have ever designed in a 3 way vale that could have channeled cabin oxygen into the propulsion circuit, since the possibilities of back pressure causing the propulsion system to back feed into the cabin and incinerate the crew would dictate (safety first) that these two systems remain separate.

But these 5 plot holes aside…  the physics, and theory behind Interstellar was quite sound, and DDF and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  Nolan takes the audience for an exciting 3 hour ride.  Warning: go in with an empty bladder; you're going to be sitting still for 3 hours.

Apparently, if Matt Damon is not a main character (Interstellar, The Departed) he's often a royal asshole (DDF would say "seriously flawed character", but I would rather not dress it up in flowery language) whose despicable acts have audience members cheering when he finally meets his demise.  I know I cheered when Damon's character tried to manually over-ride the airlock safeties that T.A.R.S. had locked.

I almost named this posting "T.A.R.S. Best Supporting Actor" as the T.A.R.S ex-military robot in Interstellar was hilarious, exceptionally well written, and intrinsically useful.  By far, the best "robot buddy" to have, and this is in spite of his "twix candy" appearance near the beginning of the 3 hour movie.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Something About Peter

I was watching the Steelers / Bengals game this morning, when I noticed the Bengal's defensive coordinator, Peter Guenther on camera…  and I thought to myself "I've seen him somewhere before…  where was it?"  Then I remembered.  There was a Harry Potter movie on HBO earlier this week, and it was another graveyard scene (I've never watched a whole Harry Potter movie, but whenever I do, they're either playing quidditch or in a dark grave yard resurrecting / battling Voldemort.

So I googled "Potter Villan who lost hand while resurrecting Voldemort" and Peter Pettigrew (aka Wormtail) immediately appeared on my screen.  I think there's a strong resemblance.  Something about Peter?   I don't know.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Of Course My Blood's Still Good

Yeah, I obviously had an un-donatable arm that prevented any possibility of providing life-giving whole blood to needful recipients.  Tuesday's Laguna Hills draconian, paranoid, hysterical staff were completely wrong.

Luckily, the American Red Cross's blood mobile's Ryan (blood drive coordinator), Michelle (phlebotomist) and Rita (supervisor) were reasonable health professionals.  Reasonable, rational, practical, friendly, personable people.  My faith in humanity is somewhat restored.

Thank you SEI Local 721 for providing me the opportunity to donate my blood, and being so nice about it.  I will continue to seek out blood mobiles, and non-Laguna Hills Donation Center drives, every 56 days.

It should not be this hard to help others.  Hopefully, in the future, it won't be.

I will be going to a local food bank non-profit on Friday morning to help provide technical consulting & maintenance assistance to their under-staffed and under-funded crew. That'll help round out a positive week.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Triple Red Crossed, Laguna Hills CA

For the last 30 years, I've been donating blood.  I remember my first Highland High School blood drive, in the big circular gymnasium, and the first time I laid on a lounge chair and got a needle stuck in my arm to have my blood drawn.  I a teenager, and joked around with the phlebotomist that my friend Todd and I would carry cinder blocks and push start his manual transmission Dodge Omni after we ran a 5K race later that day.  They understood we were kidding, and we enjoyed our snacks afterwards, no one passing out.

Red Cross in Indiana.  Carolina-George Blood bank in South Carolina.  United Blood Services in Arizona.  I've never, in more than 7 gallons, been refused as a donor.  I feel it is part of my civic duty as an eligible donor to give, and to give as often as possible.  Many of my friends and relatives with medical conditions or who take certain medications cannot donate blood, so I always try to donate when I can.   I've got easy to find veins, my organically non-GMO fed beef & organic spinach nutrient rich blood always has enough iron, and it's a great way to keep track of my blood pressure & pulse in a 30 year longitudinal study, since they write it on the back of the card after each donation.
Taken by iPhone 5S, in my car, at 2pm 2Dec2014
So today, I go in to give my double red (ALYX they call it, at the Red Cross) donation…  but let me back up…

Back in July (of 2014), I go in to donate blood, at the same Laguna Hills Red Cross donation center (22971 Mill Creek Dr, Laguna Hills, CA 92653 ) and an untrained, over-reactive, histrionic, overly conservative phlebotomist screener tells me I 'have a rash' on my arms, I won't be able to donate.  I tell her I just cut the grass earlier that day, it's a normal skin color for me, and she doubles down on her rejection.   I tell her "look, I've donated for 7 gallons over 30 years, I am fine."  "It's about patient safety" she retorts.  "Get the director" I instruct her.  The director looks at my arms…   they're fine…   and I am allowed to donate (it was a Saturday morning)…  but paranoid phlebotomist got so flustered that she has screwed up the paper work so I can only donate a single unit, not a double unit.  Fine, just take my damn blood, please.  Now I'll have to come back in 56 days instead of 112 days; thank you for the inconvenience as  try to help you.

I then set up an appointment to give in San Clemente to avoid they histrionics of the Laguna Hills site.  At the last minute, the San Clemente blood drive is cancelled…  and they call me to ask me if I can please donate in Laguna Hills.  I tell them of the hassles I had there, and the Red Cross assures me it won't happen again.  I stupidly and gullibly trusted the Red Cross phone solicitor who gets commissions and incentive pay based upon how many appointments they make, not upon how many lies they tell or promises they break.  My 2nd attempt in Laguna Hills at the end of September 2014, where I am scheduled for a double red appointment, have a confirmation email that tells me I have a double red appointment, and I scheduled it on a week day afternoon to avoid being out-of-energy-and-drained-all-weekend after a double red appointment, turns out to be double booked!  Some other guy waltzed in, just before me, without an appointment, and they put him in the only ALYX double red machine they had.  "Can you come back in 3 hours? That's the next open appointment…" they asked me.  I told them my appointment was Now, and no, 3 hours from now I'll be eating dinner and getting ready to go to bed.  Let's make it a single, Again, due to Laguna Hills Red Cross's incompetence and disorganization. Fine.

60 some days later, I make an appointment online with the Red Cross, to donate double red, this afternoon.  "Are you sure it is not double booked?" I ask them on the phone. "Yes, we'll even have the center call you to make sure their machine is available ahead of time."  "Great".   I Was called an hour in advance, told them I would be there on time.  Arrived 10 minutes early (as I am prone to do), signed in, read my donor packet, and began the pre-screening with a new, poorly trained, overly reactionary phlebotomist.  "You've got a rash on your arm".  "No, that's normal, there's no rash" (see the above picture). "I DO have lots of track marks, from the Seven Gallons Of Blood I've been donating, here…….  here…  here…. " (as I point to all the track marks on the insides of my elbows that Red Cross, Carolina-Georgia, and United Blood Centers have left on my skin). "We have a protocol to follow" she tells me.  "Yes, and humans are allowed to operate within protocols and apply rational, sound judgement in situations.  Please get your director."  The young phlebotomist lumbers off and leaves me in the room, unattended for 5 or 6 minutes.  A 2nd phlebotomist comes in, a little bit older lady in her 30s who speaks English with a heavy Spanish accent.  "You ready?"  I tell her… "I am ready, but, the first phlebotomist thinks I have a rash, so she's gone to get the Director" and I show the 2nd phlebotomist my arms.  "You are fine, no rash where we take out the blood, just little red farder away. Is fine." she tells me with a smile.   "Thank you, please tell your director that."  I tell her, returning her smile.

The director comes in, a Dr Susan B, who has a look on her face like 'dealing with a donor is the LAST thing she wanted' to do today.  She looks at my inner elbows for 1 second, and says "do you have allergies?".  "Yes, to my cat" I tell her.  "You have a rash, you can't donate today."  I tell her, does she really realize what a mistake she is making, to turn down a loyal 7 gallon donor, who has no reason to be rejected, other than her very reactionary & poorly trained first phlebotomist's fears, even when a 2nd phlebotomist said I was fine?  And she blandly replies "we can't take the risk."  Well…  you've not only lost this loyal donor, but I spent 45 minutes with the National Red Cross on the phone, where "Kyle" a very patient Red Cross customer service manager at the national call center wrote up an incident report on the Laguna Hills facility.  I've then spent another 30 minutes composing this blog post.  And it really is a shame, since so many truly needful people require blood donations to stay alive.  I want to help those people.  But poor training and total paranoia on the phlebotomist's and the disgruntled director's parts are preventing that from happening.  If I had something physically wrong or my safety as a patient was being compromised, OK, refuse my donation…   but I am fine.  Dr Desert Flower even looked at the pic I sent to her via text, and confirmed I am fine.  It's sad that bureaucrats afraid of California law suits who guide poorly trained phlebotomists can't see that as well.

I've already made another donation appointment, 10 miles further away, later this week, at a small company blood drive.  I will still try my best to donate my nutrient rich, low cholesterol, healthy blood so that needful patients can benefit from it, despite the Red Cross's bureaucracy trying to prevent them from ever getting it.  I hope I get a rational, well trained phlebotomist this time.