July 29, 2004

DNC Area

Wandered down with a colleague to the Fleet Center area. The so called 'free speech zone' is almost worst than it appears in the photos I had seen. It is an absolute travesty of a pen/ghetto and rightly almost none of the protesters are entering it. Whoever's idea this thing was should be fired - absolutely sickening. We also, as I had expected we would, ran into my friend Common Terry who was protesting and had a very amusing sign which read on one side "Bush raped Iraq and didn't pull out." and on the other side the punchline "Kerry will try a different position." He had apparently over the course of the day run into Kerry twice while out on his bike as Kerry was along the river. While we were there he got interviewed once although it was a no-name press group that sounded from their questions like they were pro-lifers mainly but Terry handled it very well.

Also, on a completely different note sad to learn that Warren Buffett's wife Susie died as I have come to really like and admire Buffett so am sad for him although they have been separated (and with other people but still married in an interesting relationship that has worked for them) for a very long time.

Posted by aarondf at 05:32 PM | Events | Comments (0)

Movies: Japanese Story

I can't think of a single other movie I've seen which takes as sharp a left turn as this one does, and not just at the end. There is admittedly in retrospect some real foreshadowing but I am terrible at picking up on that kind of foreshadowing and missed it completely (and had also forgotten that E&R in their review mentioned a twist). Anyway, the whole movie is quite interesting with the primary theme of culture clash between an Australian woman and Japanese man ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 11:51 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

July 28, 2004

Links: Sometimes a Tie Isn't Really a Tie

Very interesting article by Charlie Cook of the Cook Report indicating that despite the very even poll numbers in the swing states, Cook thinks that in reality Kerry has a fair lead and is very likely to win unless something drastic happens to aid Bush. I don't know if he's right but his reasoning (and supporting poll numbers) does seem quite sound. Of course, this also makes me more worried about what the Bushies may try to engineer or at least be massively looking to take advantage of.

Posted by aarondf at 04:11 PM | Links | Comments (0)

Links: Clinton book review

Interesting long article reviewing Clinton's book by Garry Wills. '"What a waste! What a waste!"''. (via Electrolite)

Posted by aarondf at 04:05 PM | Links | Comments (0)

July 26, 2004

Books: A Personal History

Finally finished a week or so ago A Personal History, the autobiography of Katharine Graham, past publisher (and daughter and wife of prior publishers) of The Washington Post. The book was quite interesting although a bit of a slog. The early part about her young years was pretty incredible in the number of incredibly famous people she met and hung out with as she dropped in on Einstein in Germany and met tons of other enormously famous people, and this is when she was a teenager and really just having a very wealthy father. Whether all of this is due to it being a smaller world 70 years ago or just the connections of the rich or a combination I'm not sure. Anyway, an interesting book and I am recently reading much more nonfiction (or things like Stephenson's heavily historically based fiction) than I have commonly read in the past which I think is good but which generally goes MUCH slower.

Posted by aarondf at 04:18 PM | Books | Comments (0)

Movies: Miracle and Dentists

Watched Miracle, the story of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team, and the odd The Secret Lives of Dentists over the weekend.

Miracle was excellent, particularly Kurt Russell's portrayal of Herb Brooks. Assuming the movie is accurate, Brooks' effectiveness in dodging the committees and bureacracy and doing everything his way (which of course turned out great) is pretty incredible. The cinematography of the on ice scenes was also beautifully (and accurately to the real events) done ****.

Dentists I really didn't get and did nothing for me. Admittedly, this may just be me but I didn't like it at all and could barely get through it **.

In fact, during Dentists I kept stopping the movie to go back and watch the Red Sox game (once TiVo had accumulated enough video to watch an innings worth at TiVo speed). I am not sure if these interruptions hurt the movie or helped in that without them I might simply have given up on it, something I almost never do.

Posted by aarondf at 04:06 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

July 23, 2004

Jennings Continues!

Congratulations to the amazing Ken Jennings on Jeopardy! Tonight was the final episode of the season and his 38th consecutive win and what a win it was! Between the two main rounds (that is Regular and Double Jeopardy ignoring the Daily Double effects), there is a possible $54000 available. Jennings (WITH help from the Daily Doubles of course including a $10K answer in an Oscars category) ended the Double Jeopardy round with $51400 and that only because he missed his last question dropping him from $53000. If he hadn't done this, he would have broken the all-time single game record of $52000 (which he has carefully tied 3 times in the past due to Final Jeopardy - a very nice homage to the past champions I thought) without even needing Final Jeopardy. Seeing a good category of Shakespeare, he bet $23600 and blew this record away with a final total of $75000. The question was to name 2 of the Shakespeare plays in which a Ghost appears onstage. All the players got Hamlet but only Jennings in addition named one of Richard III (his choice), Julius Caesar or Macbeth (which is the second one I thought of immediately). Wow!!!!

Surprisingly, despite every game having been a blowout, I have really been enjoying every episode as Jennings plays with great grace and aplomb in addition to his incredible skill and knowledge. Only once have I thought he made a regrettable comment at the expense of his opponents. At all other times, he has been a wonderful winner.

I'll be watching again when they're back on in 6 weeks and may even watch some repeats. Jennings has definitely been successful in bringing me back to Jeopardy which I haven't watched at all regularly since 18 years ago in high school.

Posted by aarondf at 06:46 PM | Television | Comments (0)

Movies: Starsky and Hutch

I am not sure I ever saw a full episode of the TV series but the movie was quite amusing. Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear in particular was hillarious and in many ways stole the show. The iguana scene in his office was definitely the funniest point of the movie for me. ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 11:20 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

Tichu last night

Played a couple of games of Tichu last night at Matt's and the second one was pretty crazy and painful. After winning the first game (different players), the second game ended up being Nate and I against Kim and Pete. Unfortunately, lots of crazy things happened and decisions which might have been a normally good choice kept going wrong for us. Early on I stopped Pete's Grand but probably should have overcalled it and didn't and then soon after I conservatively didn't call a Tichu I would probably make. I also stopped a Tichu of Kim's when I noticed a straight flush bomb in my hand halfway through the hand and after, without paying attention, playing a Queen that was luckily not the Red one I needed for the bomb. I can't remember how long its been since I had a bomb and didn't notice it but I guess I was very tired and out of it last night.

Shortly thereafter was a crazy hand where Kim called Tichu and Nate overcalled her and yet I had TWO chances to go out first with nothing either of them could do about it. Unfortunately, I decided to hope Nate was right to overcall and passed up both my chances to give him a shot and the end result was that Kim made HER Tichu. The key problem point on this hand was when Kim led a 9 card straight (leaving her with 2 cards) and Nate was playing next and agonized for forever before playing a 9 card straight which included a bomb in it (which Nate hadn't noticed - Doh!) and the Phoenix. This was extremely painful as I could have beaten the straight with ease (it was in fact a perfect lead into my hand) and that Kim didn't have a pair anyway so Nate could have just passed and probably gone out when she led a single even if I didn't beat the straight.

A couple of hands later Kim called Grand and I went into the pass with 4666999QQQKKKA (FOUR Triples) and decided to pass 49A with the idea that I'd be more likely to get passed a 6 to me and that with the Queens and Kings the height of the other Trips wasn't that imporant. Amazingly, though, Kim and Pete had Full Houses of 8s over AND 7s over respectively and I would have ended up stopping the Grand if I had just kept the 9 and passed the 6. I also made a questionable decision to with KKK3 play a King and then Kim immediately after led TTT and I couldn't beat it.

Finally, on the last hand of the game I called a risky Grand but then ended up with enough that I should be able to make it. Pete then even led a perfect-length for me 7 card straight right into me. However, he turned out to have a pat hand of AA Full House (incl. the Phoenix) for his remaining cards and there was nothing I could do about him going out when I led a a second single. Worst of all, Kim then turned out to have a bomb and to go out 2nd to end the game with a blast. Very painful game but also shows whats so good about Tichu - many, many interesting non-obvious decisions even after over 500 games lifetime.

Posted by aarondf at 11:16 AM | Games | Comments (0)

July 19, 2004

Movies: The Barbarian Invasions

This was extremely effective at pulling at the emotions and had me really crying at one point. Some of the issues the movie addresses are pretty interesting too ****.

Also saw the fair Mona Lisa Smile *** and good The Dreamers ***1/2. The latter would have been better if I knew more about clasic movies and French politics I'm sure.

Posted by aarondf at 02:56 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

July 15, 2004

Links: The Incredible Hulk's blog

The Hulk's blog is hillarious. Thanks BoingBoing for the pointer (which they took from Kottke).

Posted by aarondf at 01:15 PM | Links | Comments (0)

July 13, 2004

Jeopardy! WOW!

I finally got around to watching Ken Jennings on Jeopardy last night, who is now on a 29-day winning streak and up to almost $1Million and WOW! is he good!!!. He came one question away from running the entire first half of the Jeopardy round. His buzzer timing is absolutely incredible and he knows so much that he can afford to buzz in on a ton of questions and figure he can pull out the answer by the time he has to give it. I have never seen anywhere close to such a dominating performance. At one point he was at like $25K and both his opponents were at negative scores. Without a fix in by the show's question writers, it will take an incredibly good opponent and incredibly lucky category selection for them to beat him. For now, I think his continuing to win remains really good for the show as it brings back people like me to watch but at some point it will of course get old but maybe not till 50 or so.

Posted by aarondf at 11:31 AM | Television | Comments (0)

July 06, 2004

Kayaking the Fireworks

As I had planned to do from the moment I bought my kayak (and was sorry I couldn't do last year when my kayak took too long to arrive after I special ordered it to get my choice of color), I took my kayak out so that I could watch the fireworks on the 4th from right near the launching barge on the Charles. Years ago, I went out in a canoe with an MIT group to do this and found it to be an amazing spot to view the fireworks from, gorgeous, not crowded, with fireworks also reflecting off the water! I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get as close due to 9/11 but, atlhough there was more security, I didn't find it to interfere at all and didn't notice the security boats ever hassling people where I was. Absolutely beautiful. I may try to arrange a group to do this next year. Where I was I couldn't hear the Pops music but I didn't care much about that and probably could have gone somewhere that I could hear it if I wanted.

Paddling back was a bit choppy due to the wind and the motor boat wakes and I was a bit worried but my kayak did fine and I got no water at all over the top of the boat, let alone into the cockpit. I unfortunately still can't seem to figure out how to reliably strap the kayak onto the 2 wheeled cart I have to take it down to the river. I can get it to work but it slips about and makes me nervous, particularly crossing Memorial Drive.

Posted by aarondf at 05:22 PM | Events | Comments (0)

Movies of Late (Before Sunset and Spidey2)

Saw the absolutely wonderful Before Sunset over the long weekend which was a sequel (nine years later in both real time and in the movie) to the also wonderful Before Sunrise. It again stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy and the entire movie is a wonderful, wide-ranging but particularly about relationships, conversation between the two of them. The writing and performances are of the absolutely highest quality and the movie is also emotionally extremely powerful *****. I also really must buy and watch again Before Sunrise but watching it in advance (or ever before the new one) I don't think is necessary.

Earlier saw Spider-Man 2 which is a really excellent super-hero movie which really makes no wrong moves. However, it pales in comparison to Before Sunset due to having no emotional resonance. The stupid issue (but completely faithful to the comic book) of Spidey having absolutely no money I also find a bit annoying. Take up a collection or something. A few more bucks and he could probably do a lot more to help. Anyway, this is just a quibble and absolutely faithful ****.

Also saw the ok comedy Stuck on You (**1/2) and fair My Family (**1/2) from Netflix.

Posted by aarondf at 05:12 PM | Movies | Comments (0)