Posts tagged ‘movies’

This is too awesome for words

Man, would I like to know how that works. Its balancing algorithm is incredible!

Moving Pictures

Some of my readers have said they want me to post more videos I find. So here’s a Lego production line that makes cars. The button-pushing at the beginning selects what colors to use for each of the pieces. I’m very impressed with whoever made this; it’s quite a feat. Side note: how hard do you think it would be to make a von Neumann machine out of Legos? Easier or harder than making it out of custom parts?

…and just for the hell of it, here are some kittens having fun with an empty Coke box:

Movie review: A Prairie Home Companion

While I’m still thinking about movie reviews, I saw A Prairie Home Companion (the movie) the other day. I give it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars, no spoiler warning →

Scrabble n’ such

Whee! Remember over the summer when I was so excited that I got my first 7-letter word? Well, in the past couple weeks, I have played two more games, and gotten two more words! Sara and I were playing, and Kenny and Rami were watching (I have no idea what they were doing in my room, but it was cool to hang out with them anyway). The 2nd turn of the game (that’s right – the second turn!), I built off of Sara’s “HONEY” to get a triple-word score:


That netted me a good 80 points. Weirdly enough, we tied at the end — 275 each. This was a bit humbling, because this was the first time I’d gotten a 7-letter word on her, and it was also the first time I didn’t beat her. hm… I guess part of it was that I didn’t get any of the high-scoring letters (she got the Q, Z, X, and J), but part of it was that I definitely didn’t box her in enough. She managed to put the X on a triple word, and put QUIZ on a double word. All in all, though, ’twas a good game.

Then, tonight, Robert, Kenny, Rachel and I played Scrabble. I had had a slight lead all evening, and then, just as we ran out of letters to draw, I pulled the perfect ending move. Earlier that game, I had placed BADE just above the bottom center triple word score, so that no one could possibly get it (JADED was right above it). However, I then managed to play BULLPEN like this:


Landing the B on a triple word score and ending the game in one fell swoop! 92 points that turn. We played that everyone else got one extra turn to try to get rid of letters, so Robert got rid of his Z, and Kenny even managed to run out of letters as well (though he only had 3 or 4 letters in his hand). My final score – 215. Kenny came in 2nd with 124, so I’m feeling pretty good about the game.

Alex stopped in to visit, which was nice. She seems to be doing well, and is certainly visiting much more this year than last. The two of us, Mac, Elisa, Kenny, and Amanda watched The Professional, which we all missed at FNMG this evening. It was… interesting. Certainly a very violent movie, but at the same time, it was rather emotional. I’m not sure I’d recommend it. And there were some really creepy parts, as when Natalie Portman (who was about 12 when this movie was made) tells Jean Reno (who is in his 30’s) that she loves him. Not a daughter-father love, but a have-sex-and-get-married love. ew… At the same time, I’d be interested in finding out what other directors have watched this, because some of the same sort of imagery shows up in things like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (hit-man raises a child, takes the child to kill people, yet makes sure the child doesn’t swear, smoke, or be rude), the new Ocean’s Eleven (the SWAT scenes), and in Road To Perdition (I won’t say anything about this, because I don’t want to give away the end to either movie). One thing I didn’t know before this evening that the director (who also played the bad guy) also directed the Fifth Element (where he again played the bad guy) and Nikita (don’t recall if he played the bad guy or not). So… yeah. Interesting movie, all in all.

Yesterday, I finally got DMA turned back on for my hard drive (I’m using ReiserFS for my main partition). Huzzah! I can now watch more episodes of Bullshit (Amanda, thanks for giving me new episodes), and my music doesn’t sound as crappy any more! At this point, my computer is pretty much back to where I left off, except for the 2nd monitor, which I can’t get to work for the life of me. It does just fine at 640×480 resolution, but that’s less than 1/4 of the resolution I should be getting (I know it works at 1024×760 at 60Hz). Damn it! Well, I’ll get it eventually.

In the meantime, it’s now a touch past 3:00 in the morning, so I’m going to bed.

My first 0.49 of a Master Point! Whee!

Well, I recently discovered that there is a bridge club near my home, so on Monday I decided to stop in and play a bit. I was paired up with a guy named Jim. Though we had fewer than 5 minutes to get our conventions straight, we seemed to pretty much understand each other’s bidding and playing styles. After a very rocky start (on one contract, I went down 4… doubled… vulnerable. -1100 points – ouch!), we played really well, and finished off the evening in 2nd place out of 7 partnerships. Pretty good for C stratification, eh? For those who don’t know, the A stratification is for good players, B is for OK players, and C is for bad/new/unregistered players like me and Jim. And we finished 2nd overall, not just in our stratification. The only pair to beat us were two guys named John and Cecil, who are absolutely amazing players. For those of you who have been to Bridge Etc. in Pomona, they are like Vick and Hans, but without the sour attitudes. Because we did so well, we were each awarded 0.49 of a Black Master Point! The different colors denote where you got the point – black is for club play, while gold is for regional and national tournaments, etc. Technically I didn’t get any points because I am not a registered member of the American Contract Bridge League, but I’m going to count it as my first Master Point nonetheless. Jim and I had such a great time that we agreed to meet again the next night to play in the North American Open Pairs qualifying event (same place, but it’s a dollar more, there are more people, and you can get Red Master Points).

Well, I show up the next night ready to work out precisely which conventions we will be using. Much to my chagrin, I am told that Jim can’t make it. Instead, I was partnered up with a man whose name I will not mention, just in case anyone reading this chances to stop in at the Twin Cities Bridge Center. He was 70-ish, and just at that age where he thinks that anyone under 30 can’t possibly know beans about anything. We use all of his conventions, including some really weird, cumbersome things (for example, intermediate jump overcalls. Strong jump overcalls are intuitive, and weak ones are statistically better. Intermediate ones have all the drawbacks of both strong and weak, but with none of the advantages). As you might have guessed, our bidding was way off, and our communication during play was not much better. My partner made several huge mistakes, and even revoked (miscarded) a trump that cost us 2 tricks and gave us the lowest score on that board (he claimed it was my fault because I didn’t ask him if he really was void in trump when he played out of suit). However, every time I made a small mistake that he caught, he was certain to point it out, and explain why his way was better (even if his way wasn’t better and I had just been unlucky). To be fair, I had my share of mistakes, and gave us bottom on several boards, but my errors were nowhere near as serious as his. It should be no surprise, then, that we took last place. There were only 3 pairs with lower percentages in the entire tournament. Argh. I can’t wait to get back to Mudd where there are bridge players who use reasonable bidding conventions and familiar styles of play (if you do a takeout double, and I pass after an overcall, do not try another takeout double expecting a response from me!). Thanks for letting me vent.

Wow. School. The summer has just flown by, though much of that is probably because it was only a month long for me. I’d like to relax more, but at the same time, it’ll be nice to be back at school, out of my parents’ house, and seeing friends again. And I’m pretty excited about my schedule this coming semester.

On Sunday, I went down to St. Olaf to visit Michael, one of my two best friends. He’s doing pretty well, and it was good to see him. Seeing St. Olaf also helped me appreciate Mudd that much more (not that you can’t have a great time at Olaf; it’s just not for me, and Mudd is a near-perfect fit). The dorms fit more people into smaller rooms, have no lounges, no air conditioning, and are mostly separated by class (frosh/sophomore/etc, not lower/middle/etc). While this last point might seem a bit odd, I really appreciated getting wisdom/homework help from the upperclassmen as a frosh, and hope to pass this along to other classes. Michael is also a CS major, and says that his school focuses on the programming aspect of it. While this is more fun in my opinion, I appreciate Mudd’s focus on the theory behind CS because it lends itself to more problems and achieves deeper insights (not to mention better jobs, hopefully). Also, Michael has several courses in his schedule that he is taking simply to fulfill distributions, and has a couple that he is actually dreading. While I am not gung-ho about all of my classes, I am at least content to be in each of them. All in all, it was a good reminder that I am sooo happy to go to Mudd.

We also saw the Manchurian Candidate on Sunday. It was an OK movie – I’m not sure I’d call it good. The story wasn’t bad, the acting was great, and there were several points where I found myself holding my breath on the edge of my seat. However, the cinematography was different, in a pretty bad way. Many of the shots of conversations are from the point of view of one of the people in the conversation – just a close-up of the other guy talking. While this was unusual, it came off as rather… amateur. There were also scenes where the camera just kind of drifted around. One guy would have a lot of lines to say, and he’d start off on the left side of the screen. Then the camera would drift until he was at the right side of the screen, and then it drifted back so he was on the left. It was really weird. This is also the first professionally-made movie where I have noticed when two different takes of a scene were spliced together. But overall, there was still something that rubbed me the wrong way about the movie. Perhaps it was that the bad guys seemed so lifelike (I can argue pretty easily that the same thing is happening now, but to a much, much lesser extent). Perhaps it was that there wasn’t any closure with regards to the main character. Perhaps it was that the background of what happened to set all of this in motion was never really explained (like, what was up with that creepy woman with the tattoos on her face holding the brain in her hands?). I’d recommend seeing this eventually, but you might wait to rent it instead of seeing it in theaters. Now I’ll have to see the original Manchurian Candidate. I’ve heard it has little to do with this version, but is simply wonderful.

Lets see… before I go, I should mention something about the Olympics and something about politics. Trying to kill two birds with one stone, the International Olympic Committee has made rules that no one can have merchandise made by a sponsor’s competitor (I first found out about this from Slashdot). This means that if spectators are caught with a can of Pepsi, it will be confiscated. If you are caught wearing a Puma T-shirt, you will have to turn it inside-out, or you won’t be allowed to watch the games. This is a smart move for Coke, but I’m surprised that a non-profit group like the IOC agreed to this. It just goes to show how much of the world is run by huge, money-grubbing corporations. I’m trying to learn as much as I can about the world, and I fear it is making me more jaded and cynical about things. Luckily I can soon go back into the bubble of happiness that is Mudd, and live in bliss for another few months.

Well, that’s about it for tonight. Thanks for reading, and sorry I can’t keep the length of these down.