Monday, December 31, 2007

Movie Review: Some Like it Hot (1959)

Recently, Alison and I watched another one of my favorite old movies, Some Like it Hot, which stars Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe. I must admit that I the film wasn't as good as I remember it. Here're my thoughts.

What I liked:
  • The cast did a good job. I especially enjoyed Jack Lemmon's performance, as usual.
  • Some of the gags are quite funny.
  • The score really added to the film.
What I disliked:
  • Some of the dialog is stilted and awkward.
  • Several plot points strain the viewer's credulity.
Overall, I give it 7.0 out of 10. It's an entertaining but flawed film.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy Michaelmas, Everyone!

This year's Michaelmas has, so far, gone much better than last year's. Being deathly ill has a way of ruining one's birthday.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

It's a Festivus Miracle!

Today is Festivus. Since this holiday is intended to be a less commercial alternative to Christmas, I endorse it. Thus, I would like to wish a happy Festivus to one and all.

TV Trends

I've noticed a few trends in trends in television over the last decade or so. I'd like to point some of them and ask you, gentle reader, to mention any you've observed that I've failed to include.

Short introduction sequence. Over the last fe years, TV series have clearly move to shorter into sequences. Extreme examples of this include Lost, Heroes, and Pushing Daisies, where the intro is just a single (animated) title card accompanied by one or a few notes of music. This shortening allows more time to be devoted to the actual story, or since these series often have ongoing story arcs, a "previously on..." sequence.

Single-camera shooting. The traditional style of shooting TV series, particularly comedies, involves a set with no "fourth wall" and relies on three cameras to provide coverage. This approach makes the viewer---this viewer, at least---very aware that he is watching fictional events unfold before him. In recent years, television production has been moving more and more to filming in sets with removable walls and a single camera, relying on multiple takes to provide coverage. This approach is more time-consuming, and thus expensive, but results in a more immersive experience for the viewer.

No canned laughter or studio audience. The above-mentioned single-camera shooting prevents filming in front of a live audience that can be prompted to laugh at appropriate points, thus encouraging the viewer to laugh along. Canned laughter can still be used, but often isn't. In my opinion, this absence of prompted or recorded laughter yields a more immersive experience.

Numerous characters and many plot storylines. As Everything Bad is Good for You points out, the number of main characters and plot threads has increased dramatically in the last thirty years, resulting in much more challenging and interesting television.

Ongoing story arcs. More and more TV series are moving away from an episodic format, where the status quo is reinstated at the end of each episode. Instead, these shows are evolving toward a more serial format, where storylines evolve over multipel episodes or even series, and the viewer must remember or be reminded of previous events in the series. Like the increasing complicated casts and plots, these ongoing story arcs result in more challenging and interesting entertainment.

Reality programming. Certainly reality TV is big trend of the noughties. Networks love it because they don't have to pay many writers or actors, and the ratings are often quite strong. Viewers seem to love it, too, but I can't agree.

TV Reivew: The Big Bang Theory

Recently, a few people I know have recommended The Big Bang Theory, a situation comedy about the lives of a pair of physicists and their scientist friends. Since Alison and I are scientists, and most of our friends are, as well, we checked out the episode that aired last Monday. In my opinion, the series differs very little from the traditional, 3-camera sitcom; the major points of distinction are the language, attire, and occupations of the main and supporting characters. There were a few amusing gags in the ep I saw, but the show seems to be quite ordinary and mediocre on the whole. Additionally, the viewer is encouraged to laugh at, rather than with the characters, which I disliked. The series is recorded in front of a live audience, but it sounds very much as if it has a laugh track. Regardless of whether the laughter is "genuine" or canned, I find it very distracting.

Overall, I give it 5.5 out of 10. Don't bother, even if you are a science geek.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy Solstice

The winter solstice occurs today. Since the solstice is a measurable astronomical event and is not based on the inaccurately measured birth of some cult leader, I endorse it as a holiday. Thus, I'd like to wish a happy solstice to one and all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dust Off Your Pointy Ears and Big Feet

John Scalzi has just alerted me to New Line Cinema's press release stating that they have settled their differences with Peter Jackson and that New Line and Jackson will produce not one but two films based on The Hobbit. If you listen carefully, you can hear the collective squee of a hundred million fanfolk.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

No Bootsraps Were Involved

I've posted before about some of the CrossFit workouts that I hate.* (Incidentally, the Filthy Fifty is also on that list.) There are a few, just a few, WODs that I don't mind so much. At the top of that list is anything that is both bodyweight-only and all upper-body.

Allow me to explain: I'm 5 feet, 5 inches tall and typically weigh 138 to139 pounds, which puts me firmly in the "small" size range. Since one's weight goes roughly as the cube of one's height, while one's strength goes roughly as the square, smaller folk usually do better at bodyweight exercises.** Meanwhile, anyone who's seen me in real life can tell that roughly 100 pounds of that weight is between my navel and my chin. On other words, much of my weight and strength lie in my upper body. These two factors combine to make me happy when the WOD turns out to be mostly pull-ups, dips, or muscle-ups.

Yesterday's WOD was 7 sets of 1-rep maximum of weighted pull-ups. Granted, this workout is not bodyweight-only, but I still benefit from my particular build. For example, yesterday, after swapping the gym and the bedroom, I set a new personal record of 112.5 pounds. I'm quite pleased with that result.

I also enjoy doing 30 Muscle-Ups for Time when that WOD comes around. The first time I attempted this workout, it took me 16 minutes, 29 seconds. Though careful strategizing and slightly improved fitness, I've been able to crank the time down to 4:16. I believe I might be able to push the time to about 3 minutes. After that, progress will be hard-won.

I should point out that I'm not posting these results to brag, just to report on which CrossFit workouts I do best. I'm certain there are plenty of people out there can outperform me on these WODs. If you aren't one of them, it's probably because you aren't a short little guy with a big upper torso.

* I only hate them because they clearly hate me so much.
** This is the reason that you always see claims that the ant*** can lift 20 times her own weight, or whatever. It's not because ants are engineered particularly well; it's just because they are small.
*** As if there's only a single species of ant, and only one caste in that species.

Room Repurposing

Those of you who've visited Team Grondul World Headquarters are aware that we've repurposed many of the rooms in our apartment. In particular, our visitors often seem surprised to see that we turned what was intended to be the guest bedroom into our gym. That's where we keep and use the power rack, adjustable bench, pulley machine, various bars, 'bells both dumb and kettle, the plate tree, my weight vest, and my recently acquired sledge hammer, along with other fitness miscellany. As you can imagine, that little room is quite densely packed. Meanwhile, our bedroom is the one room in the place that has a lot of extra space. A few weeks ago, Alison came up with the idea of interchanging the contents of these rooms. That's right: it was Alison who came up with this plan.

So, yesterday, we made the swap. The exchange was a bit more work than we expected, but I believe the effort was worthwhile. Yesterday's warmup and WOD felt much more comfortable than previous iterations, and we still have ample maneuvering room in the the newly relocated bedroom.

Here's a table itemizing how we're utilizing the space in our apartment:

Intended UseOur Use
master bedroomgym
guest bedroommaster bedroom
dining roomOffice, hobby shop, and server room
breakfast nook*Bike shop and kennel
living roomliving room, dining room, and guest bedroom

So, in summary, only the kicthen and bathroom are fulfilling the intended use.

* For some reason, the floorplans at our complex call this area a ranch room. Neither of us had ever heard of that before.

Friday, December 14, 2007

So Crazy It's Insane

The latest travisty of language to chap my hide is the overuse and dilution of the words "crazy" and "insane." These two words have been used so frequently that the intended exaggeration has evaporated. I now frequently hear and see them used to mean simply "unnecessary" or "excessive."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sharon at Christmas

Here's yet another Darmok-style metaphor that we use around Team Grondul World Headquarters. This one was inspired by an incident from my mother-in-law's childhood.
Sharon at Christmas, metaphor. Any person who has ruined a surprise for herself.
This metaphor applies not just presents and winter holidays. It also applies, for instance, to spoilers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It Hurts Us

I came across this photo-shopped image today:

What I find more interesting than the picture itself is that the image is literally painful to look at. It actually hurts me, somewhere about4 cm behind the bridge of my nose, when I focus on the woman's face. (As I write this, I am pointedly avoiding glancing up at the photo. I believe this phenomenon says a great deal about how the human brain is either hardwired or trained. I don't feel repulsed when looking at spiders with 4 or 6 eyes, but this 4-eyed, 2-mouthed woman falls squarely into my uncanny valley.*

* By the way, I expect and hope that any extraterrestrials I ever have the opportunity to meet land firmly on the far side of said divide.

"Inconclusive" is a 4-Letter Word

Many readers know that I have a lot of difficult sleeping. I just can't seem to clear my mind and let go of my problems. I recently went to see a neurologist specializing in sleep disorders about the problem. He ordered some bloodwork, which came back normal. He also ordered an overnight sleep study. As Swandiver knows, sleep studies are terrible, miserable experiences. Sadly, the study produced the worst possible result: inconclusive. That means I have to go back for another overnight study followed by a daytime napping study. Ugh.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's the Penultimate Epicenter of Ignorance

Nick, gun-jumper that he is, spoiled this post in his comment on my inaugural language rant. Indeed his comment was more amusing and succinct than anything I could write, but I'm going ahead and posting it anyway. So there.

I can't count the number of times I've heard or read someone---frequently someone in the media, who should have received some kind of education in the language arts----use "epicenter" to mean simply "center," rather than "the point on the surface directly above the center." Frequently, the word is misused in this way when discussion something other than the physical center or centroid. That distiction doesn't justify the error, however.

I've also heard or seen "penultimate" used to mean simply "ultimate," rather than "next to last," innumerable times.

I can only guess that the speaker or writer feels that a word like "center" or "ultimate" simply isn't as formal or fancy as they'd like. Perhaps, but it is correct.

A Record Year

The interweb has been burdened with Industrial-Strength Science since November 2005. In 2006,the first full calendar year of this blog's existence, Team Grondul published 330 posts. This year puts the previous one to shame, at least in terms of quantity. As of this entry, Alison and I have put up 349 entries in 2007. This prolific output results from a period at the beginning of the year when I was posting lots and lots of links. We don't have to do that now, since I've added the "Tales of Interest" section to the right-hand column. Since about the middle of the year, we've been posting less frequently, but I've been making an effort to post a higher percentage of entries with original content. I plan to continue that trend in the upcoming calendar year.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Going Nucular

For the second in my series of language rants, I've chosen an easy one: the mispronunciation of the word "nuclear" as "nucular." This pronunciation is perhaps most famously used by President Bush, but is also employed but such other luminaries as Homer Simpson. In fact, "nucular" is apparently listed in some dictionaries as a common, pronounciation, though not one that is considered correct by all. This pronunciation makes me feel like going "nuclular," though some linguists would tell me to calm down.

The point is, unless you want to sound like an ignorant bumpkin to many people, don't say "nucular." Just don't.

Litterally a Million Times Worse Than Eating Babies

I find myself frequently irritated by misuses of words or other errors of language. I plan to share a few of them here of this blog. It is my fervent hope that you will be just as annoyed as I.

Perhaps the most common of these errors is the use of the word "literally" followed (or preceded) by an exaggeration. Here are a couple of examples:
The running back literally flew down the field.

I tell you that refrigerator we moved must have weighed a million pounds, literally.
This error makes my blood boil.* Unless the running back stopped in mid-play to board an aircraft and the fridge was loaded with neutronium, these statements just aren't true. If you use "literally" in your sentence, the rest of that sentence must be your best estimate of the actual facts under discussion.

* Note how I didn't preface my hyperbole with "literally." See, it's not that difficult.

Metropolis Now

It appears that a German producer is planning a remake of the silent 1927 landmark science-fiction film Metropolis. I'm not sure what to think about that.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


In other CRX news, the other day, I happened to pull into my apartment's parking lot---my flat's car park*---at a very palendromic mileage. Check it out:

If you can't read the odometer in that photo, here's a TGXCU (Team Grondul Extreme Close-Up):

Fun,** eh?

* We at Industrial-Strength Science strive to make our Commonwealth-ian visitors feel at home.
** Sadly, it's just not as interesting if you express it as 232460.7 km.

How-To: Fix Bunching, Moving Floor Mats

My floor mats have been driving me crazy! Perhaps a little explanation is in order. The driver's floor mat in my old-enough-to-drive-itself 1991 Honda CRX has always bunched up and moved around. Maybe my clutch-depressing technique is unusual. Maybe my tiny feet and stumpy legs are the problem. Whatevs. The point is, this issue has plagued me for all of the 11 years I've owned the vehicle. I was recently inspired the fix the problem by a post of the CRX Community forum. Here's how you, too, can have smooth, stationary floor mats.

Cut apart an old wire hanger. (Joan Crawford and my own mommie dearest would be proud.) Then straighten the 2 "shoulder" pieces as much as possible:

Next, bend them to an angle approximately matching the footwell of your car, probably about 45 degrees:

Place the mat over the edge of a coach or what have you to approximate the correct curvature and use duct tape to fasten the ends of the wires to the mat. It's important to get the bend in the correct location.

Add more duct tape to keep the hanger parts in place:

You may not have copious amount of adhesive hook-and-loop (Velcro) closures in your home liek I do---Take that!---but you can buy a box of a meter or so for a few bucks. Cut the hook side into 2 to 4 strips, whatever works best for the geometry of your mat, then stick them firmly to the underside of the mat. Be aware that you may have some kind of rubber mat built into your car's floor carpeting. You need to ensure that the Velcro will land on your carpet and not that built-in mat.

Take the mat out to the car, position it carefully over the spot where you want it, and press it down into the carpet. You may need to press on the curved area to put the correct bend into the wires.

I've had this hacked---ahem, customized---floor mat in my Rex for 2 weeks, and it hasn't bunched, moved, squirmed, or otherwise irritated me. I consider this little project a success.

Gratuitous Photography

If you enjoy seeing pictures of cute canines, this is the post for you. If not...well, then you suck.

Here're a few shots of Newton before his most recent grooming.

Apparently, being a dog is very tiring.

Yep, still tired.

Mmmm...remnants of Thanksgiving turkey...

Here he is after being groomed. I hasten to point out that we don't dress our critter up like some kind of fashion doll; his attire is functional. It's been cold both inside and out lately, and, since he's been so thoroughly shorn, it seemed advisable to put on his sweatshirt.

Nyom nyom nyom.

See, I know how to stay.

So, do I get a treat now or what?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Dope Grooves...

Gosh, you know what I really love? That fantastic music they play on the Weather Channel during "local on the 8's". When I'm home, I just turn the TV to the Weather Channel and I pump up the volume during that part. Man, it's awesome...., NOT!

And yet, apparently, someone out there does enjoy it almost exactly that much because now our friends at the Weather Channel are selling a CD of the music featured during their local forecast segments. Um...who ordered that? People are weird...