I've uploaded some shots from our May 2006 vacation to the Big Island of Hawaii.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Thursday, April 20, 2006
I get a lot of spam. I'm on a lot of mailing lists. My email address is very public. I can't change it because its my primary way of getting work.
Over time, you get to see the spammers try new tricks. More and less text. Misspellings. Ads that look like text but are a big image.
The latest trick of the spammers is to put much extra text into the mail message. The goal is that the message payload (you know, "penis enlargement", "viagara" or "business proposition") are invisible to spam filters, since there's so much more distracting text to get in the way of the bayesian analysis. It's a kind of weak steganography.
For a while, the spammers were using just random free association, but today I've started receiving a whole lot of spam that contains excerpts from Cryptonomicon. How did this choose that particular book?
A few movie reviews
While Suzy was in Florida, I decided to catch up on a few movies. In addition to a few decent Samurai flicks, I finally checked out Jet Li's Unleashed. If you are a Jet Li or martial arts fan, check this one out. The action sequences were brutal and energetic, and the editting allowed you to actually see what was going on ... nice long takes that rely on Jet Li's incredible abilities. Jet Li's character, Danny, fights completely differently than Jet Li in other films ... less aristry, more craziness, and startling speed. It also had the biggest fight in the tightest space I've ever seen. Sure the movie had weak points ... the plot was outrageous, it had the ultimate action movie cliche (the fight-to-the-death gladiator gambling club) and was really two movies shoehorned together (the middle half of the movie, where Danny is "adopted" by a family and comes out of his shell). Still a fun watch.
Another top flight martial arts movie is Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior. This movie's star, Tony Jaa,combines Jackie Chan's acrobatics with the speed and power of Jet Li, and is a credible enough actor for the non-fighting scenes. Definately up and coming. This was a low budget film shot and editted with a lot of nerve.
A follow up for Tony Jaa, Tom yum goong, has a small number of great action sequences, but misses the mark. It is tricky pushing the level of excitement without passing that point that undermines the suspension of disbelief. Long, long, long takes are great, but it is nice to have story to link them together.
Meanwhile, at the local martial arts film revival, I was able to catch The New One Armed Swordsman and Legendary Weapons of China, two films featured in the documentary Chop Socky. Alas, they looked much better as highlights than as full movies; tedious, silly, poorly scripted, badly editted. Especially in Legendary Weapons, the skills of the performers were completely undermined by every other aspect of the movie.
Finally, I rented Requiem for a Dream, which was very well shot, well acted, well scripted, well editted. Just plain powerful. It's a big cautionary tale about drugs destroying several people's lives, but was put together with a real nervey edge to it.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
I've finally gotten around to uploading a huge backlog of photos over the last four to five months. I'm only part of the way in. I'm using flickr, and only uploading medium resolution shots (though I may upgrade to "pro" and start uploading the full size images).
Flickr organizes photos into "sets" and uses a very nifty Flash movie to display each set as a slideshow. Click on a photo to interrupt the show and see some details.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Long time ... no blog
Been a while since I've posted on this blog; things have been oh so very busy in Howard-land. First, some quick movie reviews:
V for Vendetta: Well, of course it falls apart in the last reel, and of course they weren't true to the book, and parts are just silly, and V isn't crazy enough, and ... it was still good. Natalie Portman is honest to god good in this movie (in fact, she's been good in the few non-Star Warts things I've seen her in).
Inside Man: Spike Lee manages to make a straight forward bank heist movie into something quite unexpected. Yes, there's the expected resentment of Powerful White (Wo)Men but Spike keeps it tense and interesting. Strangely, "flash forwards" to the aftermath of the heist manage to not unravel the tension. Also, the movie's title turns out to be dead accurate, and not in the way you'd think.
Other news ... I'm speaking at this year's JavaOne conference again, but from there Suzie and I will be travelling on to Hawaii's Big Island for two weeks. It's actually our first non-work, non-family vacation since our honeymoon (outside of a week in Portland a year ago that kicked off our move).
We'll be in Boston for my cousin's Bat Mitzvah; arriving on April 27th and returning to Portland on the 1st. Catch everyone then!
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Calvin and Hobbes vs. Robotman
Many years ago, I was staying at a friends house and had insomnia. I picked up a thick Calvin and Hobbes book and read the introduction, and it mentioned how Bill Watterson's syndicate tried to get him to use Robotman as a recurring character in Calvin and Hobbes.
This has nagged me for years! Did I really read it, or was it some kind of jumbled psuedo-memory caused by the insomnia? I mean, really, Robotman as part of C&H? I've skimmed the introduction of every C&H book I own or stumble across in a store, and have never found that quote again.
For some reason, this popped into my head yesterday and I did a bit of searching around the web; look what I found at http://bob.bigw.org/ch/interview.html:
Watterson: I think United really looks for the marketing more than some of the other syndicates, and they saw Hobbes as having marketing potential, so I don't think that was it. I was later offered the chance to incorporate Robotman into my strip. There they had envisioned a character as a product--toy lines, television show, everything--and they wanted a strip written around the character. They thought that maybe I could stick it in my strip, working with Calvin's imagination or something. They didn't really care too how much I did it, just so long as the character remained intact and would be a very major character...And I turned them down. It really went against my idea of what a comic strip should be. I'm not interested in slamming United Features here. Keep in mind that at the time, it was the only syndicate that had expressed any interest in my work. I remain grateful for their early attention. But there's a professional issue here. They told me that if I was to insert Robotman into my strip, they would reconsider it, and because the licensing was already in production, my strip would stand a better chance of being accepted. Not knowing if Calvin and Hobbes would ever go anywhere, it was difficult to turn down another chance at syndication. But I really recoiled at the idea of drawing somebody else's character. It's cartooning by committee, and I have a moral problem with that. It's not art then.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
The Edge World Question Center asks "What's your most dangerous idea?" to dozens of top minds. The answers are fascinating. Go read.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Getting set up in Portland
So ... today's my birthday and (news flash), we're living in Portland. Thing are coming together here; we picked up our car last night from the car transporter. We just bought a very nice console (a kind of wide, low, bookcase) from 10,000 villages. It's made of a variety of woods, all very eco-friendly. The wood was reclaimed from buildings and from other furniture ... that's the reuse in Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Not that we got it to be super-PC-green ... it was available locally, it was the right price, and it's a stunning piece.
With that in place, I was able to get the wood tapestry up on the wall, and all the electronics are now hooked up. Let's see: cable modem, cable box, CD player, DVD player, XBox, TV, Receiver and wireless access point. Outside of a mass of cables stuffed under the furniture, it came together awesome. If we can just get the other 95% of the apartment as well put together, we'll be on to something.
Outside of that one, key corner, the apartment as a whole is still "decorated in early american cardboard" as Suzy keeps quoting me. The building is very nice, and there's a manageable amount of street noise. Most of the people we've met in the elevator have been in a situation much like ours ... relocating from other parts of the state or country to start fresh in Portland.
The neighborhood continues to rock; an excellent video store, more and more galleries. We haven't even checked out the many record stores or otherwise even scratched the surface of what's going on within spitting distance.
OK ... so back to my birthday. After all the craziness and confusion over the last month (or months), including two business trips since moving into the apartment less than two weeks ago ... well, it was pleasant to just take it a bit easy last night and catch up on unseen re-runs of Battlestar Galactica. Today has been pretty mellow, just more unpacking, a nice lunch, and a bunch of last minute chores. It sounds boring but for me its all good.
Starting next week is work, work, work. I need to send invoices to my current clients and start working on acquiring new ones. I have to really start producing for my Tucson client. And the unpacking must continue.
We think Suzy will have surgery to fix her finger next month, probably early in the month. We're looking forward to her healing up so that we can go skiing together (as together as we ever ski, but still). It's wierd being in Portland and knowing just about nobody, but people are friendly, and there's so much going on. There's even a lot of Java people using Tapestry here. I think a lot of good things are going to happen here.