Archive for May, 2010

Best Finale Ever

As various TV shows come to various lackluster conclusions, I post this clip from the end of the eighth season of Scrubs as an example of just how well it can be done. I cried when I first saw this, and even watching it again now brings back all the warmth of the characters and makes me feel all squishy and emotional. This is a hundred times as moving/inspiring as the flatulently supernatural Lost finale, even though it’s just a self-consciously schmaltzy future montage.

(the real shame is after such beautiful closure they resurrected a half-assed version of the show in an apocryphal Season 9)

Another worthy example is the final episode of M*A*S*H, Goodbye, Farewell and Amen, which also made me cry. Basically, if you can’t make your audience cry at the end of a journey lasting more than a hundred episodes, you’re doing it wrong.

Yet another screen

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Down on the left there you can see my brandspankingnew iPad, in picture frame mode and sitting upright on a little wire stand that I made out of a coat-hanger. I was supposed to go to the doctor today for a nasty flu I can’t seem to shake, but something compelled me to make a dash for an Apple store instead. I went for the base (cheapest) model – WiFi 16GB – because I doubt that I’ll be using it much outside the house.

First impressions:

  • It’s heavy for something you’re meant to read books on… I knew it wasn’t going to be super light but still half expected it to have the heft of those fake plastic pads that Star Trek cast members used to toss across desks.
  •  Screen quality is ok but not amazing, pixels are more visible than on iPhone (as would be expected with a larger dot pitch)
  • When syncing apps to it I really want a check-box that says “exclude iPhone apps” because they look really dumb for the most part, especially when using the 2x pixel doubling. A surprising number of apps are still not built for iPad.
  • It acts like it has GPS, even though I think this is only available on the 3G model? Maybe my wireless router just knows where it is…
  • If it had a camera I think it would be pretty cool for video conferencing (but I guess you would have to hold it out in front of you otherwise the other party would be staring up your nose)
  • It seems fast/responsive enough, but not as much as reviews had been saying. Since I have been using an iPhone 3GS maybe the difference is not so great.
  • Apple UI design is starting to get a little weird in the Calendar and Contacts apps… with faux leather buttons and page edges (and even torn shreds of paper in the day planner)
  • The aspect of the screen feels almost square compared to all the widescreen displays everything has now.
  • A couple of apps are conspicuously absent for no obvious reason, namely Calculator and VoiceNotes
  • The picture frame mode which can be activated when the device is locked is a nice touch, but has no settings for duration per picture.
  • Apps like AirVideo and Wikipanion really come into their own on this size screen.
  • It makes the iPhone feel really small again
  • If it had a high resolution color e-ink display (capable of video) and stylus input I would be happy to pay triple for it.

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An old netbook makes a great improvised iPad stand.

DarWIN

Dana Carvey is “DARWIN”

I want to be able to draw like this…

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by Josh Cooley (story artist at Pixar)

Yep, still awkward

While waiting for a friend today in a food court a very beautiful girl sat down at my table, a minute after I had been clearly checking her out as she had walked by to get some sushi (we made eye contact a few times). I had no idea what to say so I just smiled politely then basically ignored her until my friend turned up and dragged me away (at least that is how I could choose to remember it– in reality he rescued me from a very awkward silence).

Facebook is not the Internet

kool-aid-man1.jpgI want to write a wonderfully eloquent rant against this gigantic walled garden that just about everyone is using these days, but really don’t have it in me, because I don’t have a coherent set of arguments– really it’s a gut thing. I just hate Facebook. I want it to wither and die!

I’ve been blogging for more than 7 years, and for all of that time anyone who wants to see what I’m up to can stop by this site or subscribe to my RSS feed. Without asking me. Without bugging me. Same goes for Twitter. You want to know what’s on my mind that might to too trivial for me to even blog about? Then follow me. No need to ask, no need for me to give permission. Simple.

But Facebook? Blah! Friend requests. Application requests. Stupid pointless Farmville and Mafia Wars updates from friends whose boredom has to cross into my field of view, and I have to opt out of receiving this shit.

I killed my first Facebook account permanently last year, but recently created a new one because I didn’t want to be out of the loop when friends announced stuff exclusively on Facebook.

I understand that this is one of the strengths of Facebook, that you can maintain contact with friends. That’s why it took off, like some kind of MySpace for people who hadn’t suffered terrible head trauma.

But now I want to kill my profile all over again.

Facebook is becoming more evil all the time, because they don’t exist to help you connect with friends; they exist to extract data and relationship information from you, in order to leverage it to become bigger and better at marketing. They want to keep you on the site, modulating content and discussion and feeding you astonishingly insulting personalized advertising. Like a cult once you’re on Facebook you will only be talking to other facebook members, even though many of the features that Facebook offers duplicate functionality available on the outside. Your wall is a bit like a twitter or RSS feed– except it can only be seen by other Facebook users. If you like using the Facebook interface but want to keep track of what someone on the outside is up to, tough shit. You get a messaging system which is like email from 1995 and again you can only use it to talk to other Facebook users. You have dumb time-wasting apps to kill time within the Facebook site, rather than wandering off to kill time in more random and useful ways outside the walls.

And now when you do leave the site, Facebook wants to come with you! It is now appearing in little widgets on other popular sites, in the form of cancerous little oblongs wanting to know what you like, because God knows your opinion matters to these people since they need to know how to better sell you shit. As far as Facebook is concerned the world is just one giant focus group.

So now I’m already sounding like a curmudgeon, and I haven’t even mentioned the whole privacy issue which is what’s got people really unhappy, but others are certainly talking about it and I think everyone can agree that it grows harder to understand and keep track of what they are doing with your data all the time.

Blar blar blar so I did rant a bit after all…down with Facebook!

Happy Fun Time Palette Cleanser

Apropos of nothing :)

What’s wrong with Australian film?

That’s a rhetorical question of course, the rhetorical answer to which is EVERYTHING.

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I saw I Love You Too tonight, on the grounds that I was bored (and that it’s an Australian attempt at the romcom genre which makes it slightly novel). In a way I guess it was useful, because it sure cured my boredom– Instead making me very angry! Luckily the cinema was almost empty, or more people might have noticed me flipping off the screen every ten minutes.

Brendan Cowell plays an emotionally stunted man-boy whose Aussie drawl is so laconic he could be a stroke victim. He is the hero of the film, and I guess we’re supposed to relate to him somehow. He actually looks like a homeless guy for much of the duration. Peter Helliar (who also wrote the film) plays his boorish yobbo-with-a-heart-of-gold best mate, and is at his hilarious best when sexually harassing women in clubs.

Yvonne Strahovski (of Chuck fame) is the super hot chick who of course will end up with Cowell’s character, and she dons a poncy fake British accent so we can tell that she’s sophisticated and desirable– because you apparently can’t be these things if you’re from this country, as evidenced by the fact that even the waiters in the super fancy restaurant sound like they could be working at a chip shop and ducking out for a durry. We’re all equal in this country, cobber! I half expected to see a Barry Mackenzie cameo– at least that would have been meta-funny.

The sad thing is Strahovski is Australian, and can speak perfectly well, but I guess the filmmakers worried that this would just confuse the audience, who might gawp at her as they would a chimpanzee with a monocle and a dry martini. Also, since she is the girl, and this is a film about a guy, she gets zero character development because she is already perfect. *gag*

Peter Dinklage and Megan Gale play the only other non-lazyunderachievingidiots in the film, and wouldn’t you know it they’re both foreign too! His character is an articulate American with a poet’s soul (to his credit he’s the only able to squeeze any life out of this mediocre script) and hers is an Italian supermodel…. with a heart of gold.

I realize that it is ridiculous for me to damn the whole of the Australian film industry based on this one film what I just saw… but damn it all anyway because there was something so cloyingly familiar about the lazy stereotyping in this film, the half-assed script and barely one-dimensional secondary characters… and the attempt to marry traditional Australian larrikinism with the freshly imported Apatow slob story just made me want to scream.

It’s not that I’m against some level of caricature in film– the last good Australian film I saw was Kenny, in which the broadest of the broad characters were drawn in a way that was both utterly comical and endearing, and utterly Australian. They had depth, and heart, and you actually wanted things to work out well for them. Whereas at the end of ILYT I found myself thinking that maybe it would be better if all the characters just went their separate ways.

Ok ok… so I love You Too may not be truly representative of Australian filmmaking– but I do think it’s representative of everything that’s wrong with Australian filmmaking.

Shenanigans! on Microvision

A few years back there was a lot of excitement about the invention of the pico-projector, basically a hand held video projector that uses either a laser or LED as its light source, having the advantage of being very power efficient and able to project sharply onto any surface at any distance. Weirdly, even though such a device would have been at the top of my geeky wish list 20 years ago, I have yet to really try one out probably because about a thousand other tech advances have happened in the intervening period leaving me with a little bit of technological ennui.

So anyway, I finally decided to have a look what’s available out there, and the very first site I hit was for Microvision’s SHOWWX laser pico projector. Awesome I thought, that looks really cool HANG ON A MINUTE…

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Figure 1. (detail from website screenshot)

Can you see what’s wrong with this picture? Read more…

People who design banking websites are still morons

Yes it’s time for a pointless rant about First World Problems…

Well we’ve had online banking for quite a while now, and yet some banks still haven’t got that maybe they should make an effort to provide a system that isn’t broken. In doing international transfers between my Bank of New Zealand and Commonwealth Bank of Australia accounts (via intermediary Currency Online) I have noticed the following things:

  • Although BNZ lets me set up a list of payees, it appears that the reference information for all transactions with that payee can only be set once, on creation, and that’s utterly useless because reference information will often need to be changed on a per transaction basis. So if your biller requires you to add an invoice number to each transaction then tough shit.
  • So in this case every payment made to the intermediary must be done as a one off payment, meaning I have to enter all payee details from scratch, thus wasting my time and increasing my risk of making an error
  • And when I do enter my payment details, the section on the form for the account number is broken into four separate boxes, which is oh so handy except of course that I can’t just copy and paste the goddamn account number in one step now  (eg 02-0800-0429489-000) and instead have to enter each part independently… again increasing the risk of error.
  • The Payee name field only accepts 20 characters. Twenty. What sort of fucking idiot thinks that 20 characters is sufficient for a name field? In my case the payees full name is “Currency Online Limited”, not exactly the biggest mouthful in the world.
  • Most disturbingly, once the transaction has been processed, BNZ gives me a summary but offers me NO TRANSACTION OR RECEIPT NUMBER, which is so just fantastic if something goes wrong and I need to follow it up later.

So most of the grief is on the BNZ side of things.

Currency Online has a very clean website and seems to work exactly as promised, with far better deals than a bank will ever give you on an international transfer. So far I recommend using it over the “let’s fill in a massive form so I can wire you some money through the old-timey telegraph” method that banks like to employ.

On the CBA side, the main gripe I have with their implementation of online banking is that if I try to copy and paste my account summary information I don’t just get the figures, but all the content from the annoying little Javascript popup menus coming with it… which is really unprofessional.

Offline I HATE the CBA’s new customer service policy, which seems to be “Never ever leave the customer in peace”. There was a message left on my phone today asking me to please call them on a certain number, so dutifully I called and navigated the service staff until I found out what the issue was: they wanted to sell me life insurance. The fucking gall of it! They have my email, if they want to spam me they can use that, but to ask me to call them back like it was something important? I wish I didn’t feel so sorry for staff who have to do that shit, because I’d really like to scream at them instead of just saying nothanksbye.

Drivey as Pacifier

Rocket used to like Drivey, and it turns out Ada finds it quite mesmerizing as well. Maybe I should repackage it as HypnoDrivey.

Side note: the iPhone has very crappy low light video.