Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sy Fy

We watched Dark City last night, which is a relatively old movie - certainly before high definition and GPS. If you don't know the story, basically everyone wakes up at midnight with new memories. While parts of the movie were disjointed (how did the main character know where the automat was?) and unbelievable (Jennifer Connelly makes the worst club singer), there were some really cool concepts to this movie.

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The whole reason we were watching it was because I keep referencing it to my husband - "You know like how they erase your previous memories, sort of like in Dark City," and he had yet see it.

The cool concepts of this movie were about how your can't really remember certain things, like how many times you blinked today for example. The quote from the movie was, "How do you get to Shell Beach?" and no one remembers, or "When was the last time you remember doing anything during the day?" It's quite spooky if you think about it, especially if that happens in real life to you.

I started mapping out all the movies I've seen that involve either mind experiments, implanted memories, time travel, or other futuristic science fiction.  Here's my list so far:

Mind Experiments:
Dark City

Implanted Memories:
Blade Runner

Time Travel:
12 Monkeys
The Butterfly Effect
Groundhog Day
Back to the Future

Shutter Island
Beautiful Mind
Vanilla Sky
Event Horizon
The Cell
Fight Club
The Shining - although there is the ghost element

Being John Malcovich

Of course, this list is by no means complete. What I like about the science fiction piece of movies is that we get to isolate and explore an interesting concept about people. With Dark City, we find out that people are more than a compilation of memories, even though the main character still clings to Shell Beach - or the memory of Shell Beach enough to recreate it with his mind.

What isn't said with this movie is that memories that we visit are really of places we went to, or what someone said or did. It's rarely what we did or said. In other words, if I woke up with a knife in hand and a body in the next room, I wouldn't go out for a killing spree. I might want to go to Virginia Beach, or Greenville, as these places have a "feeling" for me over a specific setting.

Anyway, I thought I'd make that point... The producer probably had to cut out that nuance because of budget constraints and the actors getting fed up with the director.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Updating - Not

I'll probably get more time next week to update. Right now I've got a take home test and a project update that's due next week.
Some cool things coming up though:
Gardening - get ready for seeds!
Cakes, pies, and other desserts that should be ranked (and eaten).
Hair. I don't know exactly what should be in here, but I'm kind of obsessed with all things hair related.
Getting far in your career (or not).

Also, I'm open to suggestions.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Crap is a "Sometimes" Food

Who doesn't like the occassional fast food run, or depend on the gas station snack while on the road? I am a sucker for novelty food, and was delighted to find this at the local Best Buy in TWO flavors:

According to the top right of the package, these snacks have vitamins and neurotransmitters, just what a gamer needs to power through another few hours of high performance virtual fantasy.
Seriously? Who eats this stuff? (have they ever tried a real peanut butter sandwich)?

I'll admit that I enjoyed the Schmacker from Sheetz - a sausage wrapped in a pancake dripping in syrup. I also really liked these chips made by Herr:
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And these flavors of Doritos:
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All of them are quite tasty during the first three bites, and then I'm done.

Over the past 6 years (yes, it's taken me that long), I've gone from eating ice cream every night to junk food (e.g. crackers, butter, apple pie drowned in half in half) once or twice a week. After reading the labels, I don't want to eat something that contains hydrolized or sugar derivative ingredients. It's so hard to avoid these ingredients too! Pepperidge Farms sourdough bread contains high fructose corn syrup!

The point is that I have to read the nutrition information because they sneak strange ingredients into innocent products like bread and barbecue sauce. If left up to taste, I would choose the food that tastes the best, which isn't the most healthy. I wish the bad stuff would just show up in these novelty foods.

Coincidentally, the cats enjoy eating the food that gives them severe skin allergies. Good thing I don't let them eat that silly food.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Face but no name

Lately I've been infatuated with what my honeymoon will be like in May. We are going to Scotland, and have only a few lingering memories of visiting in high school. I remember standing on the top of a cobblestoned hill and looking at the full moon as it slid behind a clock tower.

The moment only lasted a few seconds, and I headed into a warm, loud pub at the top of the street. Funny that I can't remember anything about the pub, but the clock tower had a lasting effect. And that's my fantasy of what Scotland is like until I get there.

I remember other things of course, like having the best ice cream of my life in a little town called Gretna, and the high density of sheep (it's possible I had dairy from sheep milk), but the parts I can't remember my imagination gladly fills in for me. Have you ever imagined what a place sounded like? When there aren't bagpipes, Scotland would sound like a muted Cranberries or Fiona Apple song.

Photo credit: Nogoodboyo on
The whole idea of creating somewhere (or a reality) in your mind definitely spills into video games. The recent ones that have come out can definitely be immersive. Mass Effect's club Afterlife actually has a "club feel" even though it's set on an alien planet in the distant future.* How do they do that?

Forza 3 developers attended to every detail, even down to the reflection of the trees on the hood of the roof. Probably something most of us would consciously miss, but it's one thing that makes the game more simulation and less "gamey."

Maple Valley
I think the less your imagination has to work, the more engrossing an experience can be.  My mind finds daydreaming to be somewhat easy, so fantasy can be as engaging as reality (sometimes more so). I'll give you a full update on the imagined Scotland versus the real thing.

*If Afterlife or the club in Vin Diesel's TripleX really existed, I'd be there in a heartbeat.
**I also just found out that the song used for Afterlife was also used in Need For Speed in 1999. Ha!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Best of Today, Right Now, in February

Everyone is doing a "best of" type of blog, which is great, because it usually invalidates crappy advertising.  I'm realizing that advertising means far less today than it ever did with the supplement of the internet and the increase of general knowledge about how the world works. Yes, there are still biases, some we don't even realize, and yeah, that SuperBowl commercial with the Darth Vader kid was cute. But does it make us want to buy a Volvo?

So here is the best of from my perspective:
Best games (i.e. the ones I'm playing right now):

Console: Call of Duty Black Ops multiplayer - they just released new maps for more playing. I would tie this game with Halo multiplayer, except my friends are not playing Halo right now.
Call of Duty: Black Ops

iPhone: Tie between Dungeon Raid and Oregon Trail
Dungeon Raid has the addictiveness of Bejeweled plus a little bit of bad guy action like PuzzleQuest (which I didn't like). Bonus that my fiancĂ©e got it for me for Valentine's on sale!!
Oregon Trail is very similar to the version you played in the 6th grade computer lab class, plus it has a great interface. I'm not sure why the narrator's chin looks like a butt though. That's new.

Best podcast:
It takes me approximately 45 minutes to get to work, so I enjoy a good audio show 2-3 times a week. Adam Carolla, hands down, is my favorite show. There are other shows out there that I like, such as Larry Miller and Big O and Dukes, but Adam hits home with his philosophy-slash-humor bit. If you are new to the show, I recommend the one from last week where he features Kevin Smith, the creator of Clerks.

Best drink:
This is also a tie, and one will win depending on time of day:
Donut House coffee is my new favorite coffee in the morning. I'm not sure how to describe a good coffee. I certainly know bad coffee, as I work in the Navy (meaning that people's standards of coffee really define lower bounds of what is drinkable). I can say that sometimes Starbucks seems to burn the beans that go into the coffee, and anything freeze dried transforms into swill. Good coffee? Donut House. Or maybe Dunkin Donut's Turbo Coffee.
If you like tea, then Stash's Super Irish Black tea is mighty strong and does the job. If you like tea for taste, then Yogi Detox Tea will do the trick, plus it helped me lose a couple pounds from evening to morning.
The Dogfather Beer is entirely delicious, although the main flavor is coffee so do the math.
If you're a wine person, then Trapiche from Argentina (2008) for ~$10. I like dry drinks, so if you want sweet, then Peach Fuzz from Burnley Vineyards is like liquid candy wine.

Best online service: - I don't know a week where I don't buy something from this website, whether it's cat food, Splenda, dish-washing liquid, or paper towels. We got the Prime Service because we needed to buy our textbooks for school with 2-day shipping, but the $80/year is totally worth the amount of stuff as we buy on this site This is more economic than getting a Costco or BJ's membership because the product is delivered to our doorstep. Then the reviews are available, which are what support or invalidate the advertising of a product.

There are probably other online services that are great, but this has been my go-to for several years.

Best timewaster: and GoogleReader. I don't have a lot of time to waste, but these are the sites I go to most often.

I hope you liked the "Best Of." I'll see you next time!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mad Men - An Identity Crisis

I've been watching Mad Men for the last 3 seasons... People have mentioned in blogs that they don't like any of the characters - everyone is a horrible person. But I believe the characters are true to life. People mess up in life, and sometimes it takes a long time to uncover the mistakes and have a chance to redeem themselves.

I'm watching the episode where Don Draper explains to his wife how he's actually Dick Whitman versus Don Draper. He still lies about people "mistaking" him for Don versus Dick. As in, he still is lying about how he became Don (he switched dog tags).

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People hold onto their identity so tightly sometimes that it becomes "real" to them.  They decide to make one event in their lives a defining moment of who they really are. It helps them look at the world in a particular perspective...

Because we live in a world where our biggest problem is something like picking a particular orange juice, or scheduling a car wash, or choosing a fast food place for dinner, we need justification for our choices.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), we have way more choices than what was available in the '60s. What is your justification? Do you need one?


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

3 Blind, Deaf, Body-less Mice, See How They Hide

We are so lucky in that our cats like the cheapest entertainment. They have spent time chasing, chewing, and storing:
Spinach leaves
Used Q-tips
Crumbled up Post-Its

You get the idea. On occasion, we buy them fake mice toys, and dole them out based on number of accessible fake mice vestiges in the house. "Vestige" loosely meaning anything from a toy shard to the mouse fully accessorized with ears and a tail. See figure 1 below:

Circle of Life: Photo by me
Starting from the top, we have a new mouse from the 12 pack I bought. If you go clockwise, you can see that the mice lose their bits until nothing but a mouse head shell remains. 

I imagine that the cats are running a torture squad or mafia when we're at work, as sometimes we'll find mice appendages in our bags or in the litter box. They would certainly have the time and the means.

Other mice have made their way in places that can only be described as "savings accounts," as one might find several carcasses in the same area. Uncovering the stash causes our cats to express several simultaneous emotions, such as, "Oh boy!" and "Oh no, 'other kitty' will get them first!" 

Or maybe Mr. Mouse had a deal to settle, and it's about to get real...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

So you could write to the internet?

We came across this video today, which is a 1994 news clip on defining what the internet is:

What does the "@" symbol mean? Seriously? I like how it wasn't even the proper @, but actually an "a" with a circle around it. Since it's part of everyone's email, I don't think I've ever confused it with something else. 

On the other hand, I'm not sure if I could properly define the internet to someone who's never used it. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Don't Hate Your Baby

I just read this article from Dear Prudence. Let me just say that I really love advice columns because sometimes the advice is spot on, and it makes me feel a little better knowing that someone has come to the same conclusions as me without me interacting with them in any way. I like that the letter writers propose their stand with mild to extreme vagueness, so you really could argue either way on their topic (...most of the time). In other words, one could really think deeply on a given situation for 5-20 minutes without the messiness of actually solving anything. My favorite columns have always been Amy Alkon, Dear Prudence, and Carolyn Hax, although I'm sure there are others out there that are equally good. I would have really enjoyed Love Line had I known about it when it was on, but Adam Carolla's current iTunes podcast provides a worthy surrogate.

Anyway, the article was about holding babies, and the reader expressed her uneasiness for holding her friend's new baby when asked. Personally, it has taken me all the way up until this year to be remotely comfortable holding a baby, so I empathize with the letter writer. Prudence takes a stand and says that she could either pretend to be sick (outright lying), telling the truth (which could backfire), or just holding the thing (and enjoying "no better smell" than a baby's neck).

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I'll just say that my track record of holding and handling small things or important things is about a D+. I obliged my high school friend's request to hold her baby rabbit, which broke its foot after it jumped out of my arms. I've also broken someone's calculator, a baby bird's wing, and have dropped a cat that didn't land on its feet (in each case, everything turned out ok). I would 1000 times worse if it was someone's kid.

The other issue is I think that new parents (and sometimes people who acquire new shiny, expensive things), want to impress me with their child (or thing). My fear is that they are judging me judging them in this big judgy circle, while I'm trying to enjoy what they are showing me.* It's entirely inorganic.

Ideally, I would prefer to be the one with such interest that I ASK for a ride in your new car, or hold your baby, or use your expensive equipment. Then I would be so enthralled with the _______, I wouldn't be aware of anyone's approval. Instead, I'm being hyperviliglent because I'm thinking about that baby rabbit, and my expression of "don't hurt this thing" can easily be misconstrued to "she doesn't like my baby."

I just wish that people realize that there are people who like babies, and those who don't, just like there are those who like tea, and those who like coffee. It's just a preference, and believe me, your baby is totally adorable.

*This doesn't apply to parents who are in danger, like fighting wolves for example. Instincts to pick up a baby and run to safety kick in immediately, regardless of past experiences.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Judger of Coffee

I don't want to brag or anything, but I used to be a barista before that title was popular. I called myself a "delicatessen" on my resume, which would include food and fancy beverages. In reality, I manned the hotdog station every weekend and prepared approximately 400 electric pink hotdogs every week (1 for myself). These things were not made with people in mind. My stomach probably has enough pink dye in it to turn my organs an interesting shade for several decades.

Yummy! I ate one of these every week for 3 years.
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Everyone had these crap types of jobs... the ones where you have to watch the employee DVD on how to do something like stock shelves correctly or make a cappuccino.  I still remember from the awful 90s instructional that enforced "espresso" is not lamely spelled with an "x," and the perfect milk steam is between 152 and 160 degrees. If you've seen this vid, you should win a prize for watching the whole thing, because those factoids are roughly 83 minutes apart (meaning you took this as seriously as I did).

Anyway, somewhere along the way a nice lady told me that I made the perfect cappuccino, and proceeded to describe it as a philosophical haiku. Just kidding, she just said it was the best one she ever had, which was substantial to a 16 year old making $5.15 an hour before taxes, and coming home every night smelling like hotdog. It occurred to me that drinking the best drink, eating the best meal, and driving the best car was something that I'd like to do one day. With my hotdog smelling paycheck, I began my "coffee perfection quest."

Today my favorite beverage is an americano, with a requisite proper amount of espresso, water, and cream to make it perfect.  If you've never had one, it's two espresso shots and hot water to fill the cup. You add as much cream to it as you would a cup of coffee, and this drink was guaranteed to be much fresher than what was sitting in the decaf carafe.  I had one of the best americano's ever tonight, and I should have told the person who made it (who is probably making $6 an hour before taxes at the University coffee shop).  At $2.55, it's a steal. I won't say classes were any shorter, but it was the best handmade drink I've had in 2011.