Monday, April 28, 2008

Haha haha haha what?

I just finished Flyboys. I would have thought a WW I period piece about fighter pilots had real potential. Perhaps it does...

I think I'm usually pretty generous to movies, and don't even notice many of the things that others gripe about. I noticed them in Flyboys. Let's start with the utterly inhuman portrayal of the Germans. Surely, after Downfall we can stand for all of our enemies to have more than 1 dimension. Not a single German word is translated and the 'honorable' German seems more random than deliberately noble. The SWAT-esque ransacking of a French house seems unlikely to impractical.

Move past the 'Real World' rainbow of American stereotypes that make up the protagonists. Forgive the magical learning of English by the female love interest. Pay no attention to the 'one of these guys is a spy' plot that unspools and wraps up, tensionless, in the space of 15 minutes. Feel relieved when the 'hero' American is supposed to get court martialed, and instead gets a medal. Accept the fact that the EXACT wound that kills 'gruff, experienced, but heart of gold' American pilot is not only survived by 'hero' American, but he is able to do aerobatic maneuvers, and shoot 'super-evil' German guy with a pistol at range while flying, and survive.

Whenever characters need to be interacting in the background, or chattering, or filling dead air, they laugh. They always laugh. Everyone in the movie is constantly laughing, but no one ever tells a joke. This 2:30 epic movie was done so cheaply that they couldn't even pay a guy to throw in chatter about the latest cinemas, or whores, or whatever.*

Of course, this happens in other shows as well. The episode of The Tudors I'm listening to right now, for instance. But it usually doesn't rise to my level of notice.

* In all fairness, it's not as bad as the soundtrack of On the Beach.
1. Waltzing Matilda Overture
2. Waltzing Matilda piano only
3. Waltzing Matilda sung by drunk guys
4. Waltzing Matilda flute only
5. Waltzing Matilda variations

One saving grace of OTB is that they seem to realize how annoying it is when the captain yells at the drunks singing WM.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Hardy Heron

One of the things I love about running Ubuntu is that every 6 months I get a 'new' operating system. This time, it's the upgrade to Ubuntu 8.04, codenamed Hardy Heron.

I've done this once before (7.04->7.10) and the experience is the same - on the day of the release, you click the upgrade button, hang around while it downloads all the new files, and then reset to a new system.

Here's the thing - everything still works after the reset, and you get a couple of new features. Of course, this is considerably better than Windows.

Being a partial Linux fanboy, I trolled around for sites talking about the upgrade (there were several about new features as they were announced) and came across this piece on the Linux Format site. Other than it's blahblah writing style, I paused when I read: an LTS (Long Term Service - pe) release... [Hardy Heron] will be supported for three years... to give corporate users the reassurance that they are getting something stable. However, having said that, the release cycle for this version was the normal six month cycle, so there's been no surface change to the work rate that has gone into the Hardy Heron ... To be honest, when the delay to Dapper was announced, it communicated that Ubuntu and Canonical were committed to delivering a quality release. Looking at it this way, Hardy feels like just another notch on the bed head of Ubuntu, which is a shame.
Are they saying that because the release was delivered on time, that means It wasn't significant? When a game company, or a filmmaker delays a release date, it usually means something's going wrong.* As a student, when I ask for an extension, the product is usually far from my best work. Would the author feel better if he knew the product wasn't available 'til 9 AM central time, a full 15 hours into the Grenwich mean time day? Also, see what I mean about the writing? Doughy, doughy, doughy (I admit this isn't often my best work, but I hope I'm not that bad)

Of course, that sentiment contrasts with:
The development of Ubuntu has not let up since 6.06 (the last LTS -pe) got out the door, with some impressive releases that have lead up to this point in time.
So they have been working on this LTS for more than six months... right? From my perspective, it seems like what makes an LTS and LTS isn't the work that's put into it before release, but whether it is Supported over the Long Term.

The Linux Format article also included a discussion of some theoretical interest
With the 6.06 release, Kubuntu (Ubuntu + the KDE environment**) was classed under the LTS banner; however, with the advent of 8.04, this is not the case due to the... recent release of KDE 4. ...KDE 4 was [considered] too new to be... stab[le]... for a[n] LTS release, [and it would be ] difficult to... support... KDE 3.5 over the next three years. This is... understandable, but...inconsistent as Ubuntu 8.04 ships with Firefox 3 Beta 5... with which we've had minor stability issues.

I invite you to read the tortured original. My opinion? Apples and Oranges. Firefox may be the most used program on my computer (and probably most others) but it is just a program. KDE is an environment, several programs that run in that environment, and the toolkit used to add programs to that environment. Instability there has much wider ramifications. A downgrade to Firefox 2.x*** is easy. A downgrade to KDE 3.5 may be impossible.

This also has something to do with the fact that Ubuntu releases occur 'like clockwork' not only 6 months after one another, but also 1 month after the most recent GNOME release. Since Ubuntu is coordinated with GNOME, that means it's not coordinated to KDE.

Presumably, the customer also matters. I'll probably upgrade to Ubuntu 8.10 in October. A smaller number of critical users and servers will be the ones still using Hardy Heron in 2013. It makes sense to get them all on the same platform to decrease duplication.

Also, screw KDE. I did a test install on my laptop, and it ran slightly faster than Windows Vista. Even my tower stalled a bit. If Ubuntu is going to be the desktop Linux, it should, you know, run on computers people actually use.****

*: I'll make no mention of Windows since, as far as I can remember, no version has ever been released on time

**: KDE = K desktop environment**2, as opposed to the Gnome environment that comes standard with Ubuntu.

**2: Environment = does not translate into Windows world, but do you know how all windows, buttons, menus, icons, text fields etc. in Windows look the same? And how all the windows, buttons, menus, icons, text fields, etc. on a Mac look the same between programs, but always different from Windows? That look and feel is the 'environment.' Also part of that environment is a standard set of programs akin to Notepad, Windows Media Player, Paint, Calculator, Internet Explorer.

***: Firefox 2.x is probably the least stable program on my computer, a comment I have heard from other Ubuntu users.

****: Part of the age-old battle in the linux community. The desktop people have traditionally lost because most of the people paid to work on linux are using servers and other high-end machines.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Disambiguation page

Hopefully you're not too focused on Aliza Shvarts. The Yale art student who claims to have repeatedly artificially inseminated herself and induced miscarriage and is using the resultant blood / products of conception in an art installation.*

via Andrew Sullivan, I see this quote:

It creates an ambiguity that isolates the locus of ontology to an act of readership. An intentional ambiguity pervades both the act and the objects I produced in relation to it. The performance exists only as I chose to represent it. For me, the most poignant aspect of this representation — the part most meaningful in terms of its political agenda (and, incidentally, the aspect that has not been discussed thus far) — is the impossibility of accurately identifying the resulting blood. Because the miscarriages coincide with the expected date of menstruation (the 28th day of my cycle), it remains ambiguous whether the there was ever a fertilized ovum or not. The reality of the pregnancy, both for myself and for the audience, is a matter of reading.

First, I can think of several ways of accurately identifying the resulting blood, including whether or not there was a fertilized ovum, and whether Shvarts used 'abortifacient herbs.' Shvarts obviously isn't up on her PCR or mass spec.*** Furthermore, the ambiguity on my part exists because something has been artificially concealed from me, but it is not ambiguous to Shvarts. Therefore it is inappropriate to say "it remains ambiguous." IT is not ambiguous. IT is determined. Apparently, Shvarts did not determine whether she had conceived prior to inducing abortion, so that fact is ambiguous. But the cat and mouse over whether this is a prank, a Sokol affair against science, that's definitive.

*: Not related to the point of this post, but my opinion is:
1. Yuck
2. Moral revulsion, possibly tied to my aesthetic revulsion - if an human conceptus has one iota of rights derived from being human then it deserves not to be created for the sole purpose of being aborted for art.
3. Scientific skepticism - what is the success rate for DIY artificial insemination? What is the success rate for 'abortifacient herbs'? What are said herbs?
4. Puzzlement - Why use DIY artificial insemination instead of ordinary sex? Various explanations have been offered, usually based on the romantic preferences of Shvarts or her 'fabricators'** I speculate there is some sort of feminist message a la "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a needle-less syringe." But considering the 'message' which as far as my untrained mind can discern is about the arbitrary control of society over the body of its female members, I would think cruising for roofies would be more meaningful, though perhaps less reliable.
5. Side note that this is exactly what pro-choicers don't need.

**: WTF?

***: Polymerase chain reaction to genotype the blood. Conceptus-containing blood would include 'DNA fingerprints' that are not present in the... artist. Mass spec would identify foreign compounds in the blood. If it were me, I'd spring for sequencing the albumin gene, on the probability that it's actually chicken or cow blood.

I was wrong, sort of.

The final polls had it 43% Obama, 49% Clinton. Of the 8 percent undecided, I figured all 8% would go to Obama. So 2% went to Obama and 6% went to Clinton - a neoclassical Bradley.

CNN has it at - Clinton 55%, Obama 45%

Since 10% is the magic over/under, get out/stay in number, it's worth going into further...

Clinton: 1,258,245 to Obama: 1,042,297... type type type... calc calc calc.... 9.4%

I'm so pithy.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pennsylvania prediction

I got a bad feeling in my stomach today. Not the rumble of too much 'better-living-through-chemistry' Kosher for Passover coffe cake, no. Barack Obama is going to lose Pennsylvania. Badly.

The voters of Pennsylvania aren't plugged into my narrative. They're going to vote for the candidate they think is best prepared. I can't decide whether to congratulate them for focusing so closely on what matters to them, or damn them for conducting their election in a vacuum, which is exactly the same thing.

RCP has Barack with 43% vs. Clinton's 49%. Consider the lesson of New Hampshire, where undecideds broke almost entirely for Clinton, giving her those extra 8000 votes. Consider Texas, where voters that made up their minds in the last 24 hours overwhelmingly went for Hillary. Those 8 percent of faux fence sitters will swing to Clinton.

Barack loses by 14.

See you in August.

Several birds

I see that John McCain opposes a bill to improve educational benefits for troops because it might hurt retention rates. I also have an idea that would increase retention rates. And I have an idea that would decrease American troop casualties. And I have an idea that would save more than 10 times what McCain would save by cutting the $51 billion of earmarks he has identified.

By strange coincidence, they are all the same idea.