Sunday, January 25, 2009

the oracle says it all (rated 3 stars)

Revolutionary Road is the story of a couple’s rocky relationship, set in the fifties. These two people would like to think they’re special, but by their actions they make themselves ordinary.

My main problem with this movie is that it’s too obvious. You can see the train wreck coming a mile away. And just to make sure that you get the point, an oracular crazy guy pops up twice to scream the truth in their (and our) faces. You want to say to the couple, “Listen to the crazy guy! He’s telling it like it is!” But they don’t.

Despite that, it’s an absorbing story, worth watching. One that makes you think “whew, good thing I missed out on the fifties!”.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tank seventy-one

Total miles: 25758. Trip miles: 232.0. Gallons: 6.987. Price per gallon: $1.799.

Screen mileage: 34.6 mpg. Tank mileage: 33.2 mpg.

Worst mileage ever! All local commutes. Lots of freezing weather and snow; there were several days when I had to let the engine run while waiting for the windows to defrost.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


obama t-shirt
Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

I haven't been feeling optimistic about the future lately, but today, I felt like doing cartwheels all day long.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A review of "The Miracle Strain"

by Michael Cordy

The Miracle Strain, by Michael Cordy, is a pretty silly work of fiction involving a conflict between a weird Christian cult and a doctor developing gene therapies. Hm, the premise doesn’t sound impossibly bad, but once you start reading, you realize that you could drive a tank through the plot holes. The writing style does not redeem the book (think Dan Brown or David Baldacci), and the characters are the barely fleshed out stock figures that you generally find in thrillers.

This was a fast read, and comparable to something you might find written by Dan Brown, but with a miserable plot. Somewhere between Brown’s really bad Digital Fortress (which had below average writing) and the much better The Da Vinci Code.

I don’t think I could be convinced to read anything by Cordy again. It was just too much nonsense.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

hoppin' john

hoppin' john
Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

This is the buddhamouse variant of hoppin' john:

1) Fry two slices of bacon from the pig raised by your sister's neighbors.
2) Remove the bacon from the pan, pouring off most of the grease but leaving just a little for the next step.
3) Add one chopped onion and a chili pepper to the pan, and fry till onion is translucent.
4) Open a can of black-eyed peas, drain, and throw them in with the onions.
5) Cook until beans are heated through, then crumble most of bacon into the mix.
5) Meantime, rinse organic collard greens and steam them till tender (about 30 minutes). Crumble the rest of the bacon into the greens when done.
6) Try not to think about the apocryphal etymology while you eat it.

This isn't exactly hoppin' john because I left out the rice. I'm planning to make some buttermilk biscuits to go with the leftovers, tomorrow.

And you're supposed to eat hoppin' john on New Year's Day, so this is belated hoppin' john.

rinse at the car wash

at the car wash
Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

I went to get my car washed today... I was unprepared (and delighted) to actually go through it in my car. I haven't been to one of those types of car washes in a long time. If I'd known, I would have brought my camera. Luckily, I had my cell phone with me.

By the time I got the phone turned on, I was already at the rinse cycle, so that was what was going on here, outside the windshield. Next time I will try to be better prepared. I really wanted a shot of the mitter curtains flying around.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A story about "My French Coach"

by Ubisoft

I’ve been using My French Coach for just over a week. In that time, I’ve progressed from “Pre-Schooler” to “Third Grader”.

Overall, I’m still enjoying this and I do believe that I’m learning. However, I have a few complaints about things that begin to stand out after using it for a while.

1) When displaying French nouns, we are not given the gender (le or la). This is important, and I cannot understand why it was left out. I hope they will start including it in future lessons, but I doubt it.

2) It is too easy to progress to the next level; just a few exposures to a new word in a few games and they claim that you have mastered it and can move on. However, I do not feel like I have actually mastered the words in each lesson unless I’ve already seen them before. I’m wondering how helpful this learning tool will be once/if I get to lessons where I don’t know most of the words already… that has just started to happen.

3) So far, the lessons and games are weak in teaching grammar and sentence construction. I want to know more than just a few nouns and verbs, I want to construct sentences.

Up to the current level, I feel like this is a good motivational tool to keep me studying French. It’s like a very entertaining and interactive set of flash cards. I’d never find it interesting to sit down and study a set of flash cards day after day, but "My French Coach" is effectively helping me to do that. I am curious about how the game works as you advance.

A review of "Seven Pounds [Theatrical Release]"

I don’t want to say much about Seven Pounds; saying just about anything will be a spoiler. The movie is hugely emotional. There’s not a very complicated plot, although the way the story develops, it does keep you guessing for a little while. The story, which is completely believable to me, is something you would more likely find in an indie film. It’s hard to believe that mainstream America will turn this movie into a blockbuster.

I am surprised at the many negative reviews. At Vanity Fair, the reviewer criticized Will Smith for “how highly [he] may regard himself”. WTF? I saw another review that called the movie self-important. I have no idea what these reviewers are talking about; I think it reveals more about the reviewer than about the film.

The movie was a little too long but other than that, it’s definitely worth watching. I laid down six bucks to see it and I got more than my money’s worth!

A review of "The Dark River (Vintage)"

by John Twelve Hawks

The Dark River is book two in a trilogy by John Twelve Hawks. I’m continuing to enjoy the series. It has suspense, and imaginative turns which I didn’t see coming. We get action in foreign cities, glimpses into covert societies and communities, mysticism, chases, sword fights to the death, and so on. The characters are better fleshed out than in most action/suspense books, although I’d prefer even more depth.

This second book is slightly disappointing compared to the first book in the series, although it only has a few flaws.

First, at a few points, it tries to provide a synopsis or reminder of what occurred in the first book, The Traveler. When I came to those admittedly short parts, I just found them an annoying distraction, a drag on the pace of the story.

Second, this book spent too much time exploring the world of free running, which, in my view, did not really advance the plot. In contrast, I felt that the exploration of an off-the-grid community in the first book made more sense and fit more logically into the book’s ethos.

I have a problem with the story’s MacGuffin, which I ignored in the first book and which became harder to ignore in the second. We keep coming round to the idea that a large nefarious organization is going to “control” everyone by taking away our privacy. There are cameras everywhere, your every action is being tracked, and it is asserted without explanation that this is a terrible thing.

I agree that it’s bad when your landlord plants a camera in your bathroom. But if there are cameras out on the street, how will this impact your actions? There are people out on the street all over the place, ooh, watching you already. A camera is just another eye, and probably an unmonitored one as well. What exactly are we afraid of here?

The novel does very little to explain this. At one point, we see a couple of malicious characters using cameras to track a woman, following her down the street, with the hope that she’ll enter a dressing room in the lingerie section of a department store, where (somehow) they’ll have access to the security cameras there. OK, sleazy behavior like this is a risk when cameras are planted everywhere, and it should be a criminal offense to plant cameras in dressing rooms, anyway (it’s not). Is this behavior a threat to civilization? No.

To enjoy the novel, you just have to let the motivation slide. Our heroes are fighting a big bad organization, with lots of murder on both sides, to protect you from Peeping Toms (admittedly, I am exaggerating here). That’s the big problem but if you can ignore it, then the book is a lot of fun. There’s another MacGuffin involving a quantum computer which struck me as a lot more interesting than the “big brother is invading your privacy” bogeyman, but it didn’t get so much attention in the second book. In any case, I am looking forward to the third book.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

trail in Lincoln, MA

trail in Lincoln, MA
Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

This is the view this morning, after yesterday's snow. It looks like there were more cross-country skiers out than hikers. I walked around for about 10 minutes. It was too cold and windy (14 °F [-10 °C] not counting the wind chill) and I forgot my sunglasses and felt like I was going snowblind!