October 30, 2003
24 Season Premiere
24's new season started Tuesday and was immediately back to its usual hyperfast and hypertense action. All the main characters are back and Kim (who I have never disliked nearly as much as most people seem to) is now working for CTU. Both Jack and Palmer are healthwise a mess even at the start of the show which isn't a good sign given what they are likely to be through in the next 23 hours. Most likely this will lead to even more implausible than usual superheroics but somehow with this show I never seem to mind that much.
West Wing last night
Well, I have only really like one episode yet this season and last night's was the worst yet. In Sorkin's The West Wing, although the main characters would disagree at times, they always did it with full respect for each other. In last night's episdode, their are a ton of arguments and in almost none of them is this mutual respect apparent. I think the show is trying to up the 'heat' level but although every show needs some level of action, this isn't what this show has been about (or why it has been so great).
October 29, 2003
Link to old Guy Steele talk
I was mentioning this talk to a friend a week or so ago and realized I should post it here. I heard this talk (link is to a PostScript document) by Guy Steele (famous for Common Lisp, work on Emacs, Java, etc...) in February, 2000 but it was initially given in 1998. I immensely recommend it, particularly, but not exclusively, to programmers. Given by Steele, it is probably the best talk I have ever heard. The written version isn't quite as much fun but is still amazingly good.
October 27, 2003
Played a bunch of games Saturday at Doug's and then C&C's, finishing the night off winning a small No-Limit Hold'em Poker tournament which was nice since I really don't think I am that good at this.
Also played Crokinole, Zendo, Alhambra, two really close games of Tichu and three games of Blokus, all excellent games. I decided to definitely go ahead and buy Blokus which has very cool bits as well as being an excellent game. I am still unsure whether to bother buying Alhambra given I already have it's predecssor, Stimmt So!
October 23, 2003
Amazon: Full Text Search of 120,000 scanned books
Amazon introduced a very cool feature today. They have scanned and OCR'd 120,000 books and made the full text available as part of their standard search. If something is found, it also links to the scan of the book it is from for context and all. Super cool and on my couple of tests it worked perfectly including letting me update the attribution for one of my Collected Quotations. There is a Wired article about this as well. Apparently they will keep adding to their database. This could turn out to be a seminal moment in moving the web even more towards its promised land of nearly Universal Research Tool.
Thanks BoingBoing and others for the pointer.
October 20, 2003
Movie: Intolerable Cruelty
This is the new Coen brothers film starring George Clooney and Catherine Zeta Jones. I love almost all of the Coen brothers movies and this one is no exception, being probably the most mainstream funny one yet. Clooney in particular is amazingly funny of speech and facial and other physical expressions. The movie also has a ton of very funny and interesting minor characters like the Baron, Wheezy Joe, Rexroth and the producer played by Geoffrey Rush. Absolutely hillarious all the way through. ****1/2
October 17, 2003
Movie: Owning Mahowny
This is a quite interesting and good movie starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman which it seems to me should be required watching for anyone with (or suspected of having) a serious gambling problem. Hoffman plays a bank manager with a massive gambling addiction who is behind on his debts and so starts robbing his bank to hopefully make enough to get him out of debt. Not surprisingly, he keeps spiraling even worse into debt and even when he wins big, he can't stop himself from continuing to play until he loses it all again. At the end of the movie, he is asked how he rates the thrill of gambling on a scale of 1-100 and answers 100. His greatest thrill outside of gambling (and this includes his nice and loving girlfriend) he only rates a 20. Recommended. ****
Red Sox lose in Game 7
Well, first of all congratulations and thanks to the Red Sox for an overall great season but this sucks!.
Going into this game, the Red Sox wanted 7 good innings out of Pedro and a lead going into the 8th with Timlin and Williamson to pitch the 8th and 9th as they've been doing and Embree available for a particular batter or as necessary. They get this but send Pedro back on the mound in the 8th. This is an unclear call but I think quite reasonable. However, Grady Little should plan to pull Pedro the moment he gives up a hit in my opinion. Instead, Pedro gets an out and then Jeter gets a double. Grady goes out and talks to Pedro who convinces him to let him stay in. I think he should switch now but if he is convinced Pedro is up for it and wants to give him one more chance, that is ok with me. However, after Williams gets a hit, it is a 100% clear call in my opinion that Grady must take Pedro out, particularly as he can go to Embree for the 2nd out on Matsui and then Timlin for the final out. I think not doing so is an absolutely wrong decision. Instead he sticks with Pedro for two more doubles before going to Embree and Timlin who do a great job although Timlin does give up a dangerous walk. However, the damage is done and it is now Rivera time and the Red Sox end up losing. In addition, I think that Grady made a major error in not bringing in Williamson in the 10th. He clearly planned to wait to get a lead but this is not good strategy. The problem is that what may happen is the Yankess score a run in a given inning and the Red Sox would have scored a run in the next inning (after Rivera was out). However, they never get a chance to do so so the Yankees win rather than the game being again tied which it would have been in this hypotetical if you could have pushed the Yankee run off an inning. The Sox must use Williamson for as long as he can go to counter Rivera and hopefully get to the shaky Yankees remaining pitchers (Contreras, Weaver, White). Once Williamson has done what he can, then is the time to go to Wakefield, who is an excellent pitcher but is really too random for situations like this unless you have no choice. I think Grady Little unfortunately must go.
October 16, 2003
Kinvara Trivia #?7
Went to the Kinvara last night again with Greg added to our team who was a huge addition. We scored 118, which was by far our best ever, and won with a wire-to-wire win over another strong team. We actually could have gotten even more if we had gone with a couple of other of Greg's guesses. I was the first one to get a Music question, too, which was a first (it was a guess and a Beatles question which is one of the few bands I know pretty well). Usually I am useless on the Music questions. I also got the first big bonus question and Greg got the final bonus question (which I also would have gotten on an educated guess I think after some thought but he actually knew it 100%).
Sox force Game 7
Well, the Red Sox won which is great but I feel surprisingly badly that the Cubs lost, particularly for the poor interfering fan who seriously may have to move away from Chicago. No Armageddon Series. Go Sox tonight.
October 14, 2003
Sox and Yankees even after 4
I didn't watch too much of the game Saturday with the bench-clearing brawls and all but watched all of yesterday's game after the rainout Sunday. Wakefield again pitched really well and the Sox managed to even the series. They still pretty much have a must-win for tonight's game with Lowe against Wells at Fenway. I also expect the Cubs will close out their series today. Sox/Cubs World Series!!!
October 10, 2003
Movies: Flirting with Disaster
Had this in my Queue for some reason and it does have a ton of very funny people in it but overall it is only average. Ben Stiller is his usual pretty annoying character that he plays in everything - which was hillarious the first time and with the right script in There's Something About Mary but has definitely got tiresome to me. For example, I couldn't stand Meet the Parents. The rest of the cast is generally very funny but the plot and script are ridiculous. Some very funny moments in a not very good movie. **1/2
Finally got this on NetFlix. I don't like musicals but reasonably like the actors in this and it had done so well I figured I should see it. Unfortunately, I really didn't enjoy it at all. Didn't like the characters, songs or atmosphere. *1/2
New WPT Season - Bicycle
The World Poker Tour started last week but I missed it for some reason (maybe there was a time conflict on my TiVo) which is too bad as apparently Gus Hansen won and I find him to be the most interesting player to watch I have seen. The one this week was at the Bicycle in LA and had two players, including one who was probably the favorite, knocked out in the first few hands on close hands. Later, there were a bunch of major saves on the River for people including Mark Seif's Aces being broken at the River with the other player (Hon) all in. A brilliantly played hand by Mark where everything went just as he wanted until the river card and there were several of these situations. The winner, Chris, I didn't think really played particularly well - just surviving with his big stack till the end and then switching gears and playing aggressively but not really that well I thought. Nor could I see why Hon was just limping. Not the most interesting episdoe at all and what good play there was was often not rewarded by the cards.
October 09, 2003
Lord of Castle Black by Steven Brust
I don't know why I write here about so many more of the movies I watch than books I read.
Anyway, this book is part of the 'Paarfi' time period in the Vlad Taltos universe. Brust writing as 'Paarfi' I am sure would get pretty annoying to many but I am pretty successful at finding the amusement lasts just long enough to avoid the annoyance. I love the world and the characters and almost everything else Brust has written, both in and out of the Dragaera universe. Brust also has a rarely updated blog and is also a poker player. This is quoted from his blog:
Chapter 1. How to slowplay until you're beat and then check
Chapter 2. Drawing dead and getting there.
Chapter 3. How to bluff the nuts into the guy who has them.
Chapter 4. How to prevent bad beats by always going in with
the worst hand.
Chapter 5. How to put your opponent on a hand you can beat
so you can call.
Chapter 6. Chasing with overcards and other loss leaders.
Chapter 7: Bad call justifications:
A) I was in the blind, so I was already half in.
B) They were suited
C) My good hands are getting beat, so I have to play this
D) In a game like this, you can't win playing just the
Television Without Pity
I missed last week's Survivor as my TiVo seems to have some difficulty with the name of the show this year and is having trouble finding it on the schedule even though I have a Season Pass. Not sure quite what the deal is but I may have to do a timed recording or manually add each week's episode. Anyway, I found a site which has a really long and detailed summary of episodes at Television Without Pity. The write-up for last week's episode is here. It is very long but also very funny and they apparently do many other shows too.
Neal Stephenson Talk
Neal Stephenson, author of the amazing Snow Crash and many other really good books was at the Harvard Coop last night to talk about his newest book, Quicksilver. His talk was only 45 minutes and I didn't stay around to wait through the long signing line but it was still well worth going to. He almost immediately went to Q&A with no reading and just a very quick introductory comment but he was absolutely wonderful about handling the Q&A. Even to some not very interesting questions, he managed to give very interesting answers that were absolutely on topic to the question. The most interesting answer he gave was over why he had chosen to switch to writing with a fountain pen rather than using a computer with this book. He feels that he produces a much better first draft by having a slower output method. Because he can't physically write so fast, sentences are forced to wait longer in his mind to be written and, while they are there, they are mentally edited to be better rather than just being blasted out on a keyboard. He also finds crossing stuff out on the page to be a bit easier than editing it on the computer. Finally, he does his own typing and, in the process, does another level of editing. The end result is that once he has a draft in the computer, although it will have taken longer, it will be a much more advanced draft and save him a lot of editing time later. He also finds that stuff typed in immediately achieves an unjustified status of permanence which makes it harder for him to edit so making the quality of this higher to start is very helpful. He is therefore intentionally introducing an inefficient method at one stage to increase the efficiency overall which I find fascinating (and very believable). Stephenson also recommended Matt Ruff's newest book which is nice as Matt is not nearly as well known an author and is writing excellent stuff.
TV: West Wing new season
Well, the episode last night (the third of the season) I thought was much better than the prior two with some excellent dialogue scenes and beautiful visuals at the end of the July 4 fireworks. I think the show is heading downhill but perhaps not completely off the tracks as I was worried.
Wakefield wins over Mussina
Red Sox win game one vs the Yankess where the Yankess had a favorable pitching matchup but Wakefield and the bullpen pitched great and Boston's big bats finally came to life together. This game is not just a win but a great sign for the rest of the series but we'll see. Tonight's pitching matchup is pretty even and I expect a close game.
Oh, also, I have to admit I laughed like hell at the commentators comments at "Objective" Ed's expense after he explained how he had seen the whole Walker home-run/foul ball thing and was certain it was a foul and then they showed that his view had been blocked by the pole and, anyway, he had been looking in the completely wrong direction. The whole thing was hillarious.
Btw, all this baseball talk is a really new thing for me. This year is the most I have ever gotten into baseball, which is, after all a game about which a friend once said "Baseball is the only major sport where even the players on the field are bored." This comment refers to the outfielders who do almost nothing, not all the reserves or 8 of 18 active players sitting around waiting to bat. I have found, though, that with TiVo slightly-delayed sports and having games on in the background while I'm on my computer makes Red Sox games quite enjoyable.
October 07, 2003
Ashcroft = Torquemada
Walter Cronkite writes an excellent anti-Ashcroft (and Bush) article opposing the excesses of the Patriot Act and others.
Red Sox Win!
Celebration in Boston as the Red Sox pull it off and come back from an 0-2 deficit on the road in a 5 game series for the second time ever (and the only team ever to do it before was the Red Sox in 1999). The game started out as an amazing pitcher's duel where it looked like they could both go all the way and the 1 run Pedro gave up looked like it could be the ball game. However, they both ended up faltering, Zito in particular giving up 2 home runs in the 6th including a 3 run shot to Manny who finally had a huge hit at a vital time. Many of the Red Sox did not play well at the plate this series but the big hitters managed to do just enough at just the right times to pull it out. The Red Sox seemed content with the 4-1 lead and did almost nothing offensively the rest of the game. I felt Grady Little pulled Pedro at just the right moment and Embree and Timlin did a nice job. However, Williamson who has pitched well lately but I don't find reliable came in with no control and almost blew it in the 9th before Lowe came in and pitched great and saved it. Go Sox. I am starting to believe, Pete.
October 05, 2003
Red Sox and Women's World Cup
Great weekend of sports. The Red Sox somehow managed to even up the series against Oakland and it will be Pedro against Zito in Game 5 in Oakland. Neither team has yet found any serious amount of offense but the breaks that went for Oakland went for Boston in Game 3 particularly the 3 Oakland errors in 1 inning and running screwup by Byrnes, each making a run difference, just enough to keep the score tied and let Boston make it to extra inning's and Trot's walk off homer. The second game (Game 4 of the series) was more straightforward. I thought Little kept Burkett in for one batter too many but Wakefield ended up also giving up a hit to the first batter he faced and they got behind but Ortiz's first hit of the series came at a vital moment to give the Sox the lead and the winning run. We'll see how game 5 goes tomorrow night.
On the Women's World Cup, I just finished watching the US-Germany semifinal game which was an excellent game, by far the best played game on both sides I have seen this year which Germany ended up winning, including Meinert (who plays for the local Boston Breakers) scoring a nice goal and making some nice passes at the end as the US was desperately pushing forward. It is too bad for the US but I was also really glad for Germany and have high hopes that they will win the final.
October 02, 2003
Red Sox Playoff Game
Well, the Red Sox game was painful last night as the Sox lost in game 1 of their series with Oakland in 12 innings after giving up the lead in the bottom of the Ninth with 2 outs. The bullpen actually didn't do a terrible job but they also don't inspire almost any confidence. Walker had a wonderful game wasted. The thing that really disgusted me was the incredible number of walks given up (something like 1 per inning on average).
Was glad to see the US women win in the quarters of the Soccer World Cup over Norway in a well played game. Norway really never managed almost any serious attacks. Sweden also played a very good game as they beat Brazil.
Trip Report: Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Finally finding a few minutes to write a quick report. I learned of this festival from my friends David and Melissa who, particularly David, have been going for many years and really enjoying it. The festival is in Ashland, Oregon (near the California border) and runs for 8 months of the year putting on 11 plays (about half of them Shakespeare) in 3 theatres.
We decided to combine the trip with a visit to Portland and K. and to visit my Unlce and his family near San Francisco. We thus flew to Portland and rented a car there on Saturday. On Sunday, we drove around the area and visited the beautiful Heirloom Rose Garden (with a very friendly resident cat) and store and then a wonderful crafts/art gallery at lunch (one of the nicest galleries I have ever been to). After lunch, we went into town and went to Powell's, one of the largest bookstores in the world.
On Monday, we all drove down the coast in two cars, stopping to see sights and for lunch and galleries on the way, arriving in Ashland in the evening and getting a nice dinner at a pub there, nearby the theatres. Tuesday our plays started and we would see two plays a day for three days. The plays on Tuesday were Ibsen's very heavy Hedda Gabler and Noel Coward's very light comedy Present Laughter. Both were excellent in their very different ways. On Wednesday, we went to Lorca in a Green Dress as the matinee, a new play on the life of the Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca. The play was quite well done but the subject was not one I was familiar with or really to my taste so I enjoyed this one the least of all the performances we saw. The evening show was our first Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream and our first at the outdoor Elizabethan theatre. Outdoors in the wonderful Ashland weather and setting made for a wonderful stage for this play and I probably enjoyed it the most of all the performances, despite only basic effects which can be sometimes extravagant for this play. Finally, on Thursday we say Romeo and Juliet (in an interesting modern dress version) and finished off with Richard II (which I had never read or seen). The acting and productions were uniformly excellent and I really enjoyed all of the plays except for Lorca.
On Friday, we had a big breakfast and started to head down towards the San Francisco area to visit my Uncle and his family. Unfortunately, it turned out that I had caught a horrible stomach flu (which I thought was food poisoning from breakfast) and ended up getting sick in the car and making a total mess. We were forced to stop and find a motel where I continued to be horribly sick for 6 hours and had a hard night. I felt well enough in the morning, though, to continue down to the beach house where we had a nice time with my Uncle, Aunt, Cousin and her two very fun and cute young children (the younger of whom I had not met) at the wonderfully situated house and on the beach. Unfortunately, our time was very short and we had to leave after dinner to get back to the San Francisco airport and a hotel nearby (but a pain to find) to be ready for our 6AM flight.
I woke up at just after 3AM to find my mom, though, had caught my stomach flu and was in the middle of the worst of it. We decided I would go ahead and fly back anyway, extending her hotel stay, returning the car and switching her flight back a day as I left. I thus raced to get up and get all this done and make my flight. My flights were easy although baggage in Boston and traffic for the cab were really slow. I ended up not eating any real meals after Friday morning (which I completely threw up) till Monday lunch.