I Am Legend



I liked this movie in some ways, but in others it just didn’t quite do it for me. The overall storyline was good for me. It did what any good movie does. It made me sympathize with the protagonist, it made me contemplate living in that reality, it made me think. It also was scary when appropriate and wasn’t too lame.

The problem I had was that the infected humans didn’t look real enough to take seriously. In scenes where they swarmed, or were in the dark, it looked good. Or at least unnoticeable. In the ending scene however, the graphics kept me from being able to believe the story.

There are two different endings on the DVD. The original ending, which is more of a crowd-pleaser, and the alternate ending, which was more of a contemplative ending which caused me to think and rehash the contents of the movie. I must admit that psychologically, I preferred the alternate ending, and all of its implications. It was much harder to take seriously though because there was more screen time with the infected humans, and it just didn’t look realistic.

Over-all, it was a really good film, and pretty well done. I was thoroughly entertained.

Portal


For those of you who aren’t familiar with the game, Portal is a puzzle/first person shooter where your only weapon is a gun which can make portals on surfaces through which you can travel. The game-play is pretty straight forward and simple, which is one of the things that appeals to me in a game. I don’t like convoluted controls. Throughout the entire game, there is much humor in various fashions ranging from the GlaDos computer and her whimsical lines to the hidden writing on the wall about the cake and the lovable companion cube. There is a lot of detail that one should appreciate when playing the game.

The concept is fresh. Instead of using a gun with bullets or lasers as in most games, your only means of surviving is finding creative uses for the portal gun. It keeps you thinking and trying. The puzzles are challenging, but at the same time not overwhelming. I felt like it was the perfect balance.

The game did have two shortcomings as far as I’m concerned though; it wasn’t long enough, and it isn’t available on the mac (and probably never will be. Bummer) I passed it in a day. I think just over a couple hours. At any rate, it kept me riveted throughout and had a delightful surprise at the end.

Firefox


I have always had a battle between Firefox and Safari. Ask anyone who knows me. About every month I switch from one to the other. I love the usability, look, and interface of Safari. It’s clean, uncluttered, and simple. It appeals to my Apple-lover side too. Firefox though is much faster, and seemingly more multi-threaded. Often in Safari, I find myself unable to use other tabs because one page is loading (and taking its sweet time) rendering the entire browser unusable. I never have this problem with Firefox. It is so stable and so fast, but I do find the interface to be somewhat cluttered and lacking in niceties. I decided to compile a list of the tweaks that I find make Firefox usable.

    About:Config tweaks

  • browser.urlbar.autoFill;True
    This allows for the address bar to auto-complete, enabling the user to press enter for a given URL without having to type the whole thing, or down-arrow in order to select the URL guess.

  • extensions.checkCompatibility;false
    This setting allows the user to utilize add-ons which may not be compatible with the currently installed copy of firefox.

  • browser.tabs.closeButtons;3
    This places a single close button for your tabs at the right. I’m not sure if I like it better than having close buttons on each tab, but I do like knowing where to find it each time I’m looking for it.
    Add-ons

  • Adblock Plus
    Most people are already aware of this add-on. It blocks advertisements on websites. I hate visiting a website and having the whole thing cluttered with ads.

  • Flashblock
    Similar to adblock, Flashblock replaces flash elements with a play button. This gets rid of annoying auto playing music and flash elements that can be so annoying.

  • Stop-or-Reload
    This is just a simple UI tweak which makes the stop and reload buttons function as in Safari where the buttons are combined, thus if the page is loading, a stop button is displayed, and if it is loaded, then the reload button is displayed. It makes for a less cluttered UI, and I just like it.

  • Fission
    Fission merges the progress bar with the address bar, like Safari. This is once again an aesthetic tweak. I don’t like having the progress bar at the bottom of the window where my attention is usually not. In the address bar, it is more prominent and in my opinion less cluttered. PS: I like putting this picture as the background of the progress bar.

Wait… Didn’t I see this movie before?


I was watching Galaxy Quest at work the other day, and I asked myself, “Wait a minute, haven’t I seen this movie before?” The next day I was watching ¡Three Amigos!, (again at work), and made the connection that somehow the very same plot traversed space and time to create two seemingly different movies as far as location and period, but both stuck to essentially the same storyline and motivation of characters.

Don’t believe me? Look at this. So, here is the basic plot:

  • Out of work actors are in need of a job or gigs
  • A helpless society finds recordings of their shows
  • The society calls for the actors mistaking them for real heroes
  • The actors mistake the invitation for help for a gig
  • The actors realize that they are in a real situation, and not a show
  • The actors suffer an initial defeat against the antagonist
  • The actors toughen up, and combat
  • Tactics are used from their prior shows/movies
  • The actors and helpless society pull together and win
  • Everyone is happy! The actors become better people

Anyways, I thought this was interesting. I must confess that I like both of these movies a lot, and this connection doesn’t effect that at all. It was just something interesting to be noted…

Instant Gratification


Each day our world is more and more enamored with the thought of having something for nothing, and fast! The marketing that we and even more so our children grow up with is meant to convince their audience that they need a product, and even that they can’t live without it! This could affect the rising generation, if we aren’t careful, by rendering them more self centered and self serving in their actions because of the need they feel to have their every whim gratified.

All technologies are showing this need for instant gratification. Tivos allow TV to be made around our schedule, and not the other way around. Internet makes listening to that music you want possible without even so much as driving to the local music store. Email allows a letter to travel around the world in a few seconds. Facebook lets people know what others are doing without even talking to them.

Throughout the ages, this is what drove technological advancement; the desire to sell products to more people. This wasn’t really possible back in the days of artisans and craftsman. Every product was one of a kind, and only the nobles could afford such luxury. As the industrial revolution occurred, and mass production of products began to be commonplace, prices were able to drop to a point that most if not all could partake. There is nothing wrong with this, or anything wrong with wanting to buy products that make our lives easier or just for fun. But I think it is getting to a point where people let it consume them, and it becomes a lust that is ever-present in their thoughts. They want the newest car, the newest computer, the biggest house, etc. People don’t want to wait to enjoy these things, and are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to get it now, such as going into debt.

Even the food industry shows the signs of a people who don’t want to wait. Fast food has made the ritual of eating less about the experience, and more about the getting the food you want so fast that you don’t have to leave your car, and with as little human interaction as possible. I personally hate drive-throughs. I would much rather any day actually see a person face to face and talk to them.

I wish we as a society could enjoy the wait. I wish we would slow down our lives a little and enjoy each other instead of trying to one-up each other at all costs. Life is too short as it is. I don’t want to be too concerned with gratifying all of my material desires that I let life pass me by. It’s hard though. I must admit that I too have succumbed to the desire for instant gratification. I find that I often covet the newest and greatest technologies that I just can’t afford. But maybe that’s just human nature. Who knows?

Multi Touch


Everyday I read something on a blog, like Engadget, about multi-touch. People are so excited about it as if it’s going to be the wave of the future. I don’t doubt that in a few years computers will all ship with a multi-touch capable displays, however, I don’t believe that it will revolutionize the way we create user input…

For myself, I’m not too keen on the idea of raising my arms at eye level in order to do simple tasks. My main computer is a desktop computer. I think that the mouse is a more effective, or at least in this case, the more efficient method of user input. I think a tablet PC is probably the more effective device for multi-touch implementation.

Another concern I have is the cleanliness factor. I spas-out when people touch my display. I don’t like smudges and fingerprints, so, why am I going to want to touch my display multiple times at a time every day? It means I’m going to have to clean my display with windex every time I use my computer. (I’m a little obsessive compulsive…) This really isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but it would bother me to some degree.

In all those demos, they have at least one example with the pictures that you can resize with 2 fingers. Every time I see that part of the demo, my enthusiasm for multi-touch goes down because that just doesn’t seem to be a productive way to organize, or even show off photos, but it rather just a fancy way of showing off the capabilities of multi-touch. As stated before, I’m OCD and want my photos nicely aligned to a grid with some sort of hierarchical organization. This isn’t a problem with multi-touch by any means, it’s just for me an ineffective way of convincing me that multi-touch will revolutionize the way I use my computer.

I do have to admit, multi-touch looks really cool, and I love seeing those demos. They make me excited and make me want to try it out. I just don’t see it becoming the main method for user input (at least on desktop computers), but more as a fun novelty. On the iPhone and iPod touch though and similar devices, I find multi-touch to be a perfectly logical and efficient way to interface. Just my thoughts.

Indiana Jones IV



Ok. I have to admit, I have always LOVED the Indiana Jones Movies! This movie was not exactly what I was anticipating at all. Regardless, I thought it was very entertaining, and I will of course add it to my video collection.

The negative:
The thing that disenchanted me throughout the film was the believability factor. To contrast, Raiders of the Lost Ark had some unbelievable scenes dealing with the mystical powers associated with the ark of the covenant. These scenes, although not representative of the reality we experience, represents the power we grew up learning about in Sunday school, and is thus familiar in one way or another and adds a layer of believability to the film. In the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the crux of the story revolves around aliens and perhaps a parallel universe. For me, it was seemingly more far fetched than previous films, of course many could say that the thuggee rituals and powers of religious artifacts from the original trilogy are just as outlandish. It’s just a matter of opinion. There were also some scenes where I was distracted by some obvious CGI work that took me out of the story. The monkeys looked fake, the sword fight looked fake, the warehouse looked fake, and no-one could survive a landing like that in a refrigerator, let alone an atomic blast. I’m being very nit-picky here, but these were the things that made the movie not perfect for me.

The positive:
Despite what I just said about the story, I really liked it. I liked the way the aliens were portrayed, and I like the postulations of alien intelligence giving knowledge to ancient people. It wasn’t too predictable, and the story wasn’t all revealed at the beginning. As for the action, it kept me excited, and there were lots of good fight scenes. Harrison Ford pulled off his character again after all these years, which I was originally worried about.

So, when all is said and done, I thought it was a great movie, and very entertaining. The story kept me enthralled, and the characters were all interesting and well played.

Opinions


Opinions have such a powerful influence upon our actions and thoughts towards any subject we can possibly conceive. What is amazing is how quickly a person can form an opinion without any real knowledge on the subject. This may not seem significant, however that quickly-formed opinion can alter the decisions of that individual which can have a long term affect. The more I’ve thought about opinions, the more I’ve wanted to resist these quickly-formed opinions, and try to have an open mind until more knowledge is gained concerning the subject.

People seem to inherently want to know “what is truth.” When events occur that we do not understand immediately, or that we did not foresee, we ask “of what is this an instance?” Such a question is harmless, and may even spark research into the events causality. However, humans generally are cognitive misers and seek the path of least resistance. We want answers, and we want them now. Increasingly we expect answers at the click of a button, or at the search of Google. If we don’t get it, we make it up on Wikipedia. When answers are not clear, it is my belief that we gravitate to something or anything that has even the prospect of explaining the event’s purpose or causality. It’s as if humans love to be right, hate to be wrong, but just absolutely cannot stand being without an opinion. It’s as if we must belong to a school of thought, regardless of what it is, to avoid the dismal abyss that is neutral-ground. This insistence to claim what is right, even if we are wrong does not exist only at the individual level. In fact, it very-well may be a socially constructed phenomenon. Regardless of its origin, opinion-setting is commonplace. An example of opinion setting is found in contemporary American politics. Candidates can be Red, or they can be Blue, but shame on you if you are Purple. A candidate (or any “true” party member for that matter) must be committed to an ideology. Never mind what that is, just make sure you are committed. Because America will NOT accept the middle-ground. It’s a classic, “you’re either with us, or against us.” This example is not perfect, because good does come from a competitive election process, and my beef with opinions is not at all in advocacy of unaffiliated ignorance. To the contrary, I believe that opinions SHOULD be made, but not the way that they most commonly are made, and not with the binding and unyielding insistence that most of us ascribe to our opinions.

Many factors determine the opinions that a person makes. Social situations such as family, religion, income level, neighborhood, and education have great impact on what or how an individual thinks. As a person is raised, the thoughts and opinions of the parents expressed in everyday life are thrown upon a child who is very impressionable. Children, being so trusting, are quick to adopt the ideals thoughts and opinions of their parents. Granted that not in every case this is true, but in many nurturing homes the apple does not fall far from the tree.

The real problem is that no opinions are right or wrong once you go outside of the scope of the person whose opinion it is. An opinion can be proven through experimentation or trial and error to become a fact, or truth. This of course depends on the type of opinion. In such cases, it might be better to classify them as hypotheses rather than opinions. In any case, at such a point, it ceases to be an opinion and become a fact.

People with their opinions are so quick to berate those with whom their opinions clash. I find that some people defend their own opinions (even those quickly-formed without any real research) to the point of ridiculing and mocking others. Why are some people prone to do that? Are they searching for self-validation in the destroying of other’s self-confidence? Perhaps they are trying to convince themselves of their surety by taking such an aggressive stance. In any case, it is rude and prevents the possible growth that can be gained by listening to other’s opinions in order to understand why they think or believe a certain way. In some cases a truly opened mind may be changed by such an action. I find myself very interested in understanding what people think and I feel that I have grown and understand people better in general. It’s very interesting and enlightening. It’s interesting to see the correlations in opinions on different subjects between people of different races or religions. It’s like a sociological experiment.

I suppose that my point in writing this is to show the value that I find in trying to understand people rather than to convince everyone that I am right about everything. Of course, that’s just my opinion…

Blame


It seems to me that humans don’t like to take responsibility for their actions. The main reason that I can see for this is that people don’t want to suffer any negative repercussions or punishments from not successfully accomplishing a task given to them. We are so afraid of looking bad to our peers and superiors, or even subordinates, that we tend to look for others to place the blame on, whether rightfully or not.

When a person is able to admit that he has made a mistake, I have to respect him because that shows that honesty and integrity have been made more important than one’s selfish inner desire to find a scape goat. The ability to accept one’s consequences rather than scurry to find a way out of a mistake should be more admired in our society. It is something I find more and more rare. Every day it seems that some corporate big-shot is trying to cover a paper-trail so he doesn’t get indicted…

I recently read an article about the impact of doctors saying, “I’m sorry” to patients. By being upfront with the patients, and admitting guilt as it were by apologizing patients were less likely to prosecute, less malpractice suits were filed, and more money was saved rather than spent in legal battles. I was thinking about it, and thought back to my previous thoughts on taking responsibility for one’s actions and/or mistakes.

I was discussing this topic with my friend Joe Johnson who pointed out that Adam, when asked what he had done blamed the woman who had given it to him. Eve, when asked what she had done, blamed the wily serpent. When it came to the serpent, he said, in effect, that everyone else was doing it, so therefore it was ok. The inability to accept responsibility seems to be universal, and to have existed since the dawn of time.

In any event, I think the most admired people in our society haven’t been the ones pointing fingers, but the ones who have accepted responsibility for their actions, and who have endeavored to learn from their mistakes and become better people.

KOHL’S Customer Service


I must say, a tip of the hat to Kohl’s customer service is deserved. Last september I purchased 2 pairs of jeans from Kohl’s. Both were Lee jeans of similar style, but differing color. 8 months later, I was dismayed to find that one pair had grown a large hole whilst the other appeared to look new. I don’t do a lot of strenuous labor, and was therefore surprised to find such wear on a product. I decided to take it to Kohl’s and see if there was anything they could do. I was quite pleasantly surprised to find that both representatives I talked to were more than happy to allow me to exchange the pants out with new ones at no charge. I must say that I was not expecting such service.Although I was really expecting to shell out more money for a new pair of pants, this is the type of service we should expect. They have succeeded in acquiring a repeat customer. Thanks!