Mike Beversluis

Saturday, September 30, 2006

[LMS] Half Nelson

Half Nelson, by Ryan Fleck (USA 2006)

I do not have many things to say about this movie, but I jot down two lines all the same because I am not watching many movies and I need to keep up my training in writing about cinema.
This movie tells about an american teacher whose life is slowly disgregating. He is a drug (I believe crack) user. Roughly speaking the reason why is life is losing its thread is that society around him is breaking up and offers many reasons for desperation (the story is set in one of the degraded areas of Brooklyn).

Our guy is a good teacher, able to capture the interest of his students; the twist in the plot comes when a student sees him while under the influence of drug - and the story becomes interesting because the trust that the girl had in him is not destroyed by this event. This choice of maintaining the trust does not seem too wrong from a practical point of view (he is willing to spend his own energies in her favour), but beyond the practical side of the situation there is a need and desire of companionship by both persons, that is fulfilled.

Among the things I liked there is a keen and, in my opinion, meaningful contrast between the work of the protagonist in the classroom, when he is lucid and effective, and the various moments of human relationship, when often people remain vague and communication does not work. The humour which is in the movie is not bad, as well. And, in the end, this is a movie whose themes and insight are open to understanding only to those who know something out of their direct experience about the situations that are dealt with: so what I wrote, I think, leaves out much of the meaning of this work.


Friday, September 29, 2006

Tom cruise is not short!

Katie Holmes: Six foot twenty and killing for fun. [from here, via Allah]


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My blog's VAT is 0

Hall of Douchebags #807.


Design is expensive, Copying isn't 2

Paper Airplane Coffee Table

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From here.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

George Will and Milhouse

Whoops, That's the other way around. My bad


Thursday, September 21, 2006

New Working Theory

Pimento olives are like the filling of an oreo cookie. If you want to, you can throw out the drink and just eat the olives.

Now, here's my recipie for a Vodka Martini:

1. Take a Martini glass and fill it 3/4th full of a decent vodka. Ignore the marketing and go for something that will treat you kindly the next day*. My suggestion is Ketel One.

2. Add a good splash of dry vermouth. Nominally 1/5th vermouth vs 4/5th vodka, but adjust according to your taste. However, enough with the super-dry macho bullshit. You are not Frank Sinatra. You do not have pieces of men like me in your stool. Get over it.

3. Put in a tumbler with ice. Ikea may sell cheap furniture, but they really excell at cheap but good glassware. I bought a Boston Shaker from them for $3. A Boston Shaker is the kind where a glass cup fits into a slightly larger metal cup. This seems more useful than the shakers that have a little lid (henceforth, asymmetric shakers. Aka, imperfect shaker furniture. Hands to Work, Hearts to God, but now we're extinct because we didn't believe in procreation. Aka, Japan, Korea, and Italy, whose birthrates hover around 1. Because, honestly, children are an imposition on your Martini drinking. Although, do they drink Martinis in Japan?)

4. Shake 10-20 times, depending on how large the ice cubes are (less shaking for smaller cubes because of their larger surface are per weight). The point is to chill the drink and melt a little water into it. Without this step, you might as well do straight vodka shots. Apparently you can mess gin up by shaking it, in which case you should stir. I don't care for gin, even with juice, so whatever.

5. Strain back into your glass and add an odd number of pimento olives. Also, jump over the basepath when you walk back to the dugout. I like mine dirty. To strain with a Boston Shaker, you cant the glass slightly, forming a thin gap which you can pour the drink, but not the slightly diminished ice cubes.

6. Imbibe. It has been said that you can only form a perfect Martini in a glass that has already been used, but I think this is mainly an excuse to make more than one drink. If you space things out properly and maintain, two should be fine for an evening. This is less about getting drunk, and more about not going through a bottle of vodka a day. Cause that adds up.

*Yes, I am old, because when I was younger this didn't really matter that much. Now it does and I have grey hair. But I don't care about the hair, and perhaps even relish it as a sign of distinguished adulthood. Also I weigh less now than than I did when I was 20. Seems like a fair trade.

Autumn Haiku

Shinshu no
Susuki ni hashiru
Nami no Kage

(Kato Shuson: 1943)

Late in autumn,
wind blows through zebra grasses,
like the shade of waves.

Yep. Also, pumpkin pie is great.

Reader Ride of Yesterday

This Hudson Hornet was yesterday's Autoblog Reader Ride of the Day. (Is it me, or does the speedo go from 0-11 mph?)

It was 51 degrees this morning

Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold,
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

That may be, but as I drove to work this morning I was thinking, heated seats are awesome.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Apparently this is not a joke

Big is the new small.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Love thy Neighbor

Snopes has the story.

Ed Faubert is a man of understatement

[Java Man, by Nick Redding; Fast Company]

Meet Ed Faubert, coffee cupper:

A cupper grades coffee the way a wine-taster grades wine, in an exercise in carefully calculated subjectivity. The semantics are as finely parsed as they are difficult to define, with some 240 commercial classifications of coffee. NYBOT cuppers look--and smell and taste--for "defects" ranging from "fermented" to "earthy" to "potato" (yes, certain beans from Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda can actually taste like a raw Idaho baker). There is no perfect coffee, Faubert says. He is after a coffee that is simply "sound" enough to be traded on the futures market, meaning it will have no "substantial" bad characteristics. In those 2006 Guatemalan arabicas, for example, Faubert might detect, mixed in among those that are "clean," "acidic," and "bright" (all good characteristics associated with Guatemalan, Colombian, and Mexican arabicas), a cup or two that taste "dirty," "flat," or "musty."

Being a cheapskate, I like coffee because it offers all of the taste and snobishness of wine at $0.20 a cup. And that's for the really expensive stuff. And here's the side quote which prompeted my post:

(The Vietnamese "strategy," Faubert explains, was to dump 16 million bags of low-quality robusta into a world market with only 1.2% annual growth, promptly crushing the world's robusta price: "They haven't entirely figured out capitalism yet," he says.)

Um, I guess not.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Design is expensive, copying isn't

Chiocciola shower: $13k doesn't get you a lot of change. Unless, you know, you're paying yourself... Currently, I owe myself $123,120, and I'm like, "Mike, I'll break both your knees unless you pay me back tommorrow." And I'm like, "How can I earn any money to pay you back if you break my knees? Just give me some more time!"



How to Win Friends and Influence People vs the Manhattan Restaurant Biz:

[Hospitality. Sweet. by Linda Tischler, Fast Company.com]

In a city where the competition for culinary primacy is practically a blood sport, Danny Meyer's restaurants invariably come out on top. In Zagat's survey of New York's "most popular" restaurants, Meyer has 4 of the top 20. But as proud as he is of his chefs' skill with a risotto, or their sublime touch with yellowfin tuna, Meyer says it's not the food that keeps guests coming back. It's because the staff at his restaurants are so, well, nice. "The power of hospitality," he says, "has been the single greatest contributor to whatever success my restaurants and business have had."

A slim, soft-spoken man who clearly revels in working the tables in his restaurants, Meyer has spent more than 20 years mastering what it takes to deliver a first-class customer experience. The principles he has embraced (and which he spells out in his new book, Setting the Table: The Power of Hospitality in Restaurants, Business, and Life, HarperCollins, 2006) are as applicable to airlines, dry cleaners, and cable operators as they are to restaurateurs. The trick, Meyer says, is to hire "hospitalitarians."

The idea is vital: Surround yourself with people whose emotional quotient is as high as, or higher than, their IQ.

I once took an emotional IQ test and was insulted that it gave back a number that was about half of my "intellectual" IQ. The more I learn, though, the more accurate that test seems. That aside, "hospitalitarians" is a horrible name.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

SNL Old-school

Old, dumb, and funny:

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Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Here's the Wikipedia article which most mentions buffalo. Also, it discusses what the hell that means.


Fusion Sushi

It turns out, it's not hydrogen nuclei bonding to form Helium + Energy + Fatty Tuna. Rather, it's this: "Tonight we’re eating sushi with a southern flare. Our sushi was make with blanched collard greens (instead of seaweed paper), sushi rice, slowly-smothered chicken thighs, and oven-roasted okra. The sushi was served on a bed of spicy onion gravy...." [via Slashfood]

LIfe of a Salesman

The Worst Job I ever Had. Definately better than anything Arthur Miller ever wrote.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Shakespeare Searched

Shakespeare Searched. FYI, "Britanny Spears" gives no results.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

500kV Switch Opening

As promised: 500kV Switch* Opening.
*Three switches open, but only one arcs. I'm not sure why the others don't, but I suspect not knowing means I just retroactively failed Sophomore physics lab.
It occured to me that only one arced because only one was live to begin with, but c'mon, that's pretty boring.


Send it back!

Don't trash broken stuff:

Your stuff breaks, wears out, loses pieces, or just disappoints you quite often. What do you do with the pair of glasses you sat on or the electric toothbrush that died a month after its warranty's up? Most likely you throw it away.

Now, you could lie to warranty departments about the way your stuff was damaged. ("Did I drop my phone? Of course not! Craziest thing... I opened it and the screen just started dripping water."). But, barring that method, there is a completely honest way to still get something for your damaged stuff: send it back.

AI's around the corner?

Experimental AI Powers Robot Army [David Hambling, Wired News]:

Perhaps the most impressive -- and spookiest -- aspect of the project is the swarming behavior of the robots. In computer simulations, they acted together to tackle obstacles and grouped together into defensive formations where needed, Thaler said. They also worked out how to deal with defenders, and spontaneously devised the most efficient strategy for mapping their environment, he added.

"This approach has less chance of getting stuck than any other" when dealing with unpredictable obstacles, according to Lloyd Reshard, a senior electronics engineer at AFRL.

Thaler declined to describe his results in detail, but said his system has produced unspecified "humanlike capabilities."

"I can relate the results of virtual-reality simulations, where swarms of Creativity Machine-based robots have deliberatively sacrificed one of their kind to distract a human guard, enabling the remainder to infiltrate a mock facility," he said.

Owen Holland, a researcher at the University of Essex who is building an “ultraswarm” of miniature Bluetooth-connected helicopters, said neural networks can be very effective for dealing with changing circumstances: "If you rip a leg off, they'll work out what's happened, and re-evolve a different gait that works."

Um, great?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Veritas Airlines

The Economist grows a sense of humor:

GOOD morning, ladies and gentlemen. We are delighted to welcome you aboard Veritas Airways, the airline that tells it like it is. Please ensure that your seat belt is fastened, your seat back is upright and your tray-table is stowed. At Veritas Airways, your safety is our first priority. Actually, that is not quite true: if it were, our seats would be rear-facing, like those in military aircraft, since they are safer in the event of an emergency landing. But then hardly anybody would buy our tickets and we would go bust. More

If this follows the NY Times/GM protocol, we should hear a response from the FAA about something called Veritas Magazine...

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Pocket Elbert Hubbard

From Quote of the Day:

"Never explain--your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway."

"An ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness."

"Editor: a person employed by a newspaper, whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see that the chaff is printed."

"Life is just one damned thing after another."

"Many a man's reputation would not know his character if they met on the street."

"A pessimist is a man who has been compelled to live with an optimist."

"The woman who cannot tell a lie in defense of her husband is unworthy of the name of wife."

"Death: To stop sinning suddenly."

"Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped."

"Men are punished by their sins, not for them."

"If you can't answer a man's argument, all is not lost; you can still call him vile names."

"God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas, but for scars."

Elbert Hubbard was an old-school Arts and Crafts hippy who ran a magazine called The Philistine. L. Ron Hubbard's dad got the last name by adoption into some branch of Elbert Hubbard's family. Elbert's life seems to have followed the liberal youth to conservative elder arc (e.g., P. J. O'Rourke, Dennis Miller, David Horowitz, Christopher Hitchens, etc.):

Hubbard's second wife, Alice Moore Hubbard, was a graduate of the New Thought-oriented Emerson College of Oratory in Boston and a noted suffragist, and the Roycroft Shops became a site for meetings and conventions of radicals, freethinkers, reformers and suffragists. Hubbard became a popular lecturer, and his homespun philosophy evolved from a loose William Morris-inspired socialism to an ardent defense of free enterprise and American know-how. Hubbard was much mocked in the press for "selling out."

Even back in the day, if you got too mainstream you were a sell-out. Meet the new boss indeed. The good thing about selling out is that it indicates that a lot of something is being sold. In his dottage, he became famous for writing the God and Country inspirational essay A Message To Garcia, which I had never heard of before, much like wearing onions in your belt, which was the fashion at the time.

Oddly, his Wikipedia biography is fixated on the topic of a husband and wife dying together:

In 1912, the famed passenger liner the Titanic was sunk after hitting an iceberg. Hubbard subsequently wrote of the disaster, singling out the story of the wife of Isador Straus, who as a woman was supposed to be placed on a lifeboat in precedence to the men. She refused to board the boat: "Not I -- I will not leave my husband. All these years we've traveled together, and shall we part now? No, our fate is one."

Hubbard then added his own stirring commentary: "Mr. and Mrs. Straus, I envy you that legacy of love and loyalty left to your children and grandchildren. The calm courage that was yours all your long and useful career was your possession in death. You knew how to do three great things -- you knew how to live, how to love and how to die.

"One thing is sure, there are just two respectable ways to die. One is of old age, and the other is by accident. All disease is indecent. Suicide is atrocious. But to pass out as did Mr. and Mrs. Isador Straus is glorious. Few have such a privilege. Happy lovers, both. In life they were never separated and in death they are not divided."

Coincidentally, he and the Mrs. were afforded exactly this privilege when when the Lusitania was torpedoed out from underneath them three years later.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Somewhat the story of my life

From the New Yorker.


The US Government Does Good Things

Contrary to our national cynicism, the US Government does a lot of things well, like provide this excellent free manual on how to teach [pdf, 2.6 Mb]. Right in line with our national cyncism, it comes from the FAA and not the Department of Education. [via Cool Tools]


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ha Ha

Zach Braff’s 10 Easy Tips for Writing Films About Twenty-Somethings.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Secret TV

Oddly enough, we were discussing secret role-over lab tables today, and up pop's a secret TV armour on Gizmodo. ($7k is spendy, but the idea is free.)


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Piling On

Making the pie higher, so to speak: The History and Geopolitical Importance of Pie.

Someone needs to break into Paul Haggis's Computer

Last week I watched 10 episodes of EZ Streets, which was a 1996 cop/mafia show that, as it turns out, was cancelled after 10 episodes. That sucks. That really sucks. The show just ends right in the middle of

See? Pretty damn annoying. It's bad to have an itch you can't scratch.

So, I found a Paul Haggis website - the show's chief writer and producer - and they discuss the fate of the star-crossed show:
EZ Streets was an intricately devised tale of police corruption and Irish mob members in a fictional city located near the Canadian border, although it was shot in Los Angeles, Detroit and Chicago. Police detective Cameron Quinn (Ken Olin) had to work his way through layer after layer of corruption to ascertain the truth about his murdered partner, while on the opposite end of the spectrum, criminal Jimmy Murthra (Joe Pantonliano) controlled his neighborhood through violence and death. Danny Rooney (Jason Gedrick) was a young man who took the fall for Murthra and was out of jail, trying to go straight, but teetering precariously on the murky line between good and evil.

EZ was a complex series in which each episode contained several plots, many of which would be resolved within that hour, but some which would continue as a common thread throughout the series. Music played an integral part of the series, and Haggis frequently chose haunting Celtic scores by artists such as Loreena McKennitt.

The show was pitched to CBS, "very badly," admits Haggis. Despite the fact that it was a very dark, Mob-oriented show, CBS Entertainment head Les Moonves bought the pilot three days later. The show was received as a critical success, and earned a small and loyal fan following, but the Nielsen numbers were never good enough. Cancellation came after the sporadic airing of just 10 episodes. Fans often wonder what became of Quinn and the other characters, and Haggis has resolved that issue, but it is not for public distribution. He won't tell a soul, humorously quipping that "it's just my perverse nature" not to divulge the end of the series.

Thanks. Thanks a lot.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Coffee Talk

First off, I think fresh-roasted beans are going to make an appearance. Our new IT guy roasts his own beans at home, and he recommends Sweet Maria's. To coin a phrase, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

So, I was watching TV last week and Gale Banks was on showing off his twin-turbo crate engine. Which is cool enough, but he said his new goal is to develop a diesel that will have the same power as a gas engine by running at 7000 rpm. Diesel's have always had great torque (rotational force) but they run slower than gasoline engines; Since power equals force per unit time, this means that for a given torque output, a faster running engine will make more power - up until the point where its torque begins to drop off. Usually this is because of friction, but I suspect in the case of diesels that the lower speed of explosion limits the piston speed. The piston will run ahead of the combustion, which will cause the force to drop off.

So I'm curious how he'll make a diesel run at 7000 rpm. My first idea was a diesel Wankel engine, but reading up on Wikipedia suggests that because of the shape and motion of the rotor, Mazda already had problems with the rotor outrunning the combustion. This would probably be exacerbated in a diesel.

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The Thin Line Between Self-Depreciation and Self-Parody

There's been some talk in the blogs I read about how "spite" motivates rich people's purchases [e.g.]. I think the motives you give to the rich depend a lot on whether you consider yourself rich, which most people don't. If you live in America, though, geographically and historically, you are very rich. Comparatively speaking, I look like Bill Gates to the rest of the world. Therefore, every purchase I make above a subsitence level is extravagant. Most likely, given this format, this analysis extends to you.

Now, I believe that the world economy is not zero-sum. Even further, I believe that scarcities which matter (food, water, shelter, and to a limited extent, health and education) are not caused by resource limitations, but by market inefficiencies. For example, people don't starve because of a lack of food, but because evil governments starve their people. Hypothetically speaking, I don't believe there will ever be a famine free world because I believe people are evil, and so I don't believe that Utopia is possible. That aside, I believe that the existence of wealthy isn't the problem, and therefore, that wealth redistribution isn't going to solve the problems of scarcity. Admittedly, this belief is self-serving, but that doesn't mean it isn't right.
*PS by moi.
random word for this blog item, since I've decided to keep track of them: vqciu

Saturday, September 02, 2006

And the winner for best sci-fi show of all time is...

Frawd Der.

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I asked a friend how to invest money

And she told me: Blood, sweat and years, but mostly years. That's the magic of compound interest. If you're interested in long term financial security, you'll collect it and not pay it. For instance, by investing in Index Funds. Specifically, tax-sheltered, no-load index funds, e.g., Vanguard's S&P 500 (N.B.: If they're no-load, it doesn't matter which company - which index to chose is up to you, but ultimately it comes down to the average divident rate). Here's the story, and here's the back-story. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go find a monocle and top-hat and make myself a martini.

Everytime I blog

I wonder about those little word-verification pictures. Is there a secret message? No, but I still think about it. Here's a snip of the last few I entered:

ctiwj ryksx usxvld bohdgnl vqbwksor yecgnijgc kqmoj xmguf yropfend qiytfohn ukndzj ttrof gijjs...

Rorschach away!



Inspired by Iowahawk's Friday Video Freakbeat, I'd like to point you to The Fleshtones performing Shadowline:

And just for kicks, here's NIL8's Heatmiser.

And then, appropos of nothing, I think that an upright bass is always a good sign for a rock band. It's the anti-tamboreen.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

A4 Papercut

More here.

Cartoon Skeletons

Well, you have your pick: Look at the drawn versions or the bone versions. Or, you know, don't.