May 28, 2004
Link: Harbin Snow and Ice Festival
Check out these absolutely gorgeous pictures of the Harbin Snow and Ice Festival in China.
Link found via BoingBoing.
May 26, 2004
Battleground election states analysis
Quite an interesting piece based on a Wall Street Journal article on the current status of the battleground states for the November election.
The number of battleground states seems to vary between around 16 and 18 depending on one's count but this election will very likely come down to like 10% of voters in one-third of the states. For either Kerry or Bush to win, they must win this vote. If surprising things happen there could be a landslide for either of them and thus win by a large margin but these 3.3% of the people (10% of 33%) would still be the effective deciding factor - the other shifting voters would just be icing on the victory
Please everyone in Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin get out and vote for Kerry. Even if you don't like him, he's got to be better than Bush.
May 25, 2004
It was amazing last night now close 3 of the 5 games I played were. I lost by one point at San Juan and 1 point also (based on the very last action of the whole game by the 3rd place player [an obviously good move for him, the kingmaker effect was just a side-effect]) at Princes of Florence and won on a tiebreaker at Ticket to Ride as I scored far less than all the other players on the board but far more in tickets, the first time I have really played a ticket strategy. Also played and won at Attika and Tutanchamun, both of which I quite like.
May 21, 2004
Gus wins again on the cruise episode! He really is a fun player to watch (although I'd be scared out of my mind playing against him). He had to get really lucky on the A9s vs T9s hand but having done so, he rode the luck (and the fact that Hoyt seemed to be affected by that loss and not able to get back to his game). I felt sorry for the poor online players who all made quite reasonable decisions but got blasted out one after another in short order.
May 20, 2004
Movies: Bubble Boy
This is one of two 'bad' but funny movies which my brother recommended to me a while ago (the first one I saw and commented on a few months ago). It stars Jake Gyllenhaal who does a pretty amazing job as the naive teenager who has lived in a bubble room at home all his life, but now in love with the girl next door. The movie is sweet, endearing and very funny. Many things are incredibly predicable but I didn't find that to lessen their charm that much. It almost seemed like all the 'surprise' things were very much intended to be guessed in advance so I felt more in on a joke than ahead of the movie. ***1/2
Sherlock Holmes meets Cthulhu by Neil Gaiman
All of the Hugo nominated (Science Fiction awards voted on by readers) short fiction is now online, last but not least being the really enjoyable A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman which is an alternative history story of Sherlock Holmes in a Cthulhu world.
May 17, 2004
Movies: The Fog of War
I was very impressed with this film. It really is incredible how many bad decisions were made (or came a hairs breadth from being made [invasion of Cuba]) based on wrong information at the highest level of the most powerful government on the planet. Apparently the people in charge were shocked years later to learn what was really going on on the other side of the issue (mindset of North Vietnamese; presence of warheads and willingness to use them of Castro even if his country became a parking lot if the US invaded). Scary and powerful ****.
I found the historical WWII and Ford motor company McNamara history to also be quite interesting in terms of the statistical approaches brought to bear on things and on the amount that personalities (LeMay in particular) influenced major decisions.
Finally took out my kayak on Saturday for the first time this season, despite missing a kayaking event in the morning. As usual, I really enjoyed being out on the water but the hassles of getting the boat to and from the river are very discouraging. I did end up paddling much farther than I ever had before, up to the park and volleyball area on Soldier's Field Road from my put-in at magazine beach (probably about 1.5 miles each way).
May 14, 2004
Movies: Super Size Me
Went to see this with people from work last night (we refrained from the suggestion of eating at the McDonalds directly across the street before the movie) and really enjoyed it. The school lunch segments in particular seemed very powerful and I really hope this might encourage some districts to change their meal offerings for the better. ****
May 13, 2004
Movies: In America
I really enjoyed this although I can't go nearly so far as Roeper who gave it 1st place on this Top Ten list last year. Kill Bill V1 at least I certainly enjoyed more. The little girls here are unbelievably cute and likable ****.
WPT - Aruba
Wow, what a run of cards for Lindgren! Sure, they don't show all the hands but he had AA (a 1 in 221 chance) three times and AKo three more times. I think he was outplayed by both Anthony and Daniel but with cards and luck like he had (his major sets were never broken I believe while he wins the tournament breaking Daniels AKs with his Q2s!), he could barely lose the tournament if he tried. He is a good player but this was just incredible luck. If he hadn't let himself be bluffed out time and again in the early going when he also had the best cards, he would have won hours earlier. Daniel in particular played an incredible game, almost always making the right decision, which was absolutely amazing given his lack of experience playing live (not online) games.
May 10, 2004
Survivor: All-Stars Finale
Well, the Rob and Amber show is finally over. They played a strong game but most of these others don't come close to deserving the 'All-Stars' title as they made outrageously stupid moves one after another. I was glad for the 'Give Rupert a million dollars twist' and hope it succeeds. Perhaps I'll even go to the trouble to vote for him as I find him by far the most likeable, honest and loyal of the contestants. He was not a good player of course but he gave CBS a lot of really good TV, particularly in the Pearl Islands. The only other person I liked at all this season was the loner Richard Hatch, who knew he was screwed by the 'screw the winners' attitude but still played a strong game and managed to survive a while by leading his team to a good number of challenge victories.
Movies: Maya Lin: A Strong, Clear Vision
I got this from Netflix and it turned out I had seen it before but that was ok as I still really enjoyed it. Her pieces really appeal to me, particularly her uses of water and stone and minimalist geometric forms. Her experience with the Vietnam Memorial was also quite interesting to watch, particularly as she was so young in so many ways. ****
May 07, 2004
Links: McSweeny's Open Letters
Discovered these very funny Open Letters to People or Entities who are unlikely to Respond at McSweeny's. I haven't read nearly them all but this one to Google is particularly funny. Thanks, Kevin.
May 05, 2004
Games last night
Games last night were fun but what was odd is that every game I played in was a complete blowout as I won hugely at Alhambra, winning by like 40 while the others were within a few points of each other. Then Greg won by 10 (a similar percentage margin) at San Juan with an immediate Prefacture and then an almost optimal building order after that. Finally, new player Bart won by a big margin at Ticket to Ride as Mark and Greg got totally ruined (their overall scores were both near 0 - Greg was actually negative!) by negative play by each other and me and I just didn't do enough to get enough points to have a chance to win unless all three of the others missed tickets.