Monday, May 22, 2017

Jack Reacher in the Movies, An open letter to Tom Cruise

An open letter to Tom Cruise:


The first Jack Reacher movie was really good.  We were introduced to the character of Jack Reacher, the ultimate stoic man.  Excellent action movie, awesome fight scenes.

The second movie had a good cast.  The original novel was a lot of fun.  The problem is, it is way too early in the process of adapting the books to movies to do this one.  The ultimate stoic macho guy Jack Reacher can't handle a teenaged girl!  Hilarious!  Except ... we've only met him once before.  It's way too early to tear him down like this for comedy's sake.  You really should have done another one that showed Reacher interacting with his environment and being his awesome male self in a strange environment (somewhere in America!). ;) . Those sorts of stories are, of course, the real point to Reacher's appeal.

Just a thought guys.  Loved all the books, loved the first movie despite Mr. Cruise's much different physique.  He carried it all well.  Hoping another movie will be more in the real Jack Reacher vein.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Alesis Crimson Mesh Kit Mini-Review

For those of you into drums, I’m very impressed by the Alesis Crimson Mesh Kit.  I bought one for my wife at Guitar Center recently, and it was around $800.  

It looks nice from the get-go; red “shells”, black mesh “heads”, and heavy-duty chromed hardware.   Unlike previous electronic kits I’ve used, it seems much less like a toy and much more like a real kit.

The mesh heads feel sooo much better than the hard pads on our earlier Alesis DM-5.  They feel slightly loose, or maybe a little “gooey”, but not bad; you can certainly do a roll on them comfortably.  

One of the really cool things about them is that most of the pads have more than one sensor.  You seem to have 4 “drums”, a snare and 3 toms, but each of them can play a different sound on the rim.  When emulating acoustic drums the rim sounds are samples of actual rims, but when using the crazier kits, like the 808 or latin kits, each rim can be a completely different sound, so the kit is actually much more flexible than you’d realize.  Beyond that, sounds can be mixed on a single pad and playable at different impact levels, so you can actually get 3 sounds from one head!  And the dynamic range feels pretty natural to me.

To sum up, this kit is suitably priced and feels much more “professional” than other inexpensive electronic kits.  I thinks it’s easily comparable to Roland kits costing twice as much.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

An Open Letter to David Ayer about "Suicide Squad"

David Ayers, I loved Suicide Squad.  Loved, loved, loved it, oh my yes I loved that movie!  Best one of all time, better than Iron Man 1, better than the Avengers, better than Winter Soldier, better than Deadpool (though that's a close one) and you didn't even have an R rating to play to.

But I understand you are feeling unsure about the movie.

The first thing that hit me about it was the perfectly placed, in your face song selections.  Good music selection can make a movie so much more emotionally involving.  I know I'm reacting to the movie, though, not just the music, because if I go listen to those songs by themselves, without the visuals, they are so much less than I thought they would be.  A song might be pretty good on it's own, but when perfectly placed, the visuals and the music are a synergy and far more than either one alone.  And Suicide Squad does this almost perfectly, all the way through.  "Heathens" on the end credits.  K7 and Harley's elevator ride; hilarious!  "The House of the Rising Sun" as we enter Belle Reve.  Awesome!

The filming was wonderful.  The colors, the lights!  All intensely beautiful from the oily rainbow colors on the opening "R" right down to the psychedelic end credits.  Can't imagine better.  Oh my.

The actors!  You can't go wrong with Will Smith and Margot Robbie, but lord, Viola Davis and Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman and Ike Barinholtz!  And they all got useful parts.  They all work together flawlessly, but the most interesting part to me was that characters that weren't front and center still had strong personalities, like the female guard in Belle Reve, pulling some shade on Captain Boomerang.  It's all wonderful.

The editing!  Down to the bone, man!  So perfect it blew my mind!

So, what was the problem?  Bad reviews?  I'll give you my review, I saw it 8 times in the theater, then bought the blu-ray, and talked it up to my friends like crazy.  But most of them "don't like comic book movies".  Neither do movie critics.

But we loved it.  And we paid soooo much money to show how impressed we were.  Frankly, man, I think that should be enough.  We PAID you.   We don't do that for crap.  Keep going, and take us to new heights, and we will PAY you!  Best we can do man.  Sorry if it's not enough.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Project Fi, not for me

I really wanted to use Project Fi.  I'll just admit it: I wanted it to work because it's Google and it's different!  And it is both those things, but that was not quite enough reason to stay with it.

I signed up for Fi about a month ago, and bought a nicely cheap Nexus 5x when they were selling them for $200 with sign up.  I think that promotion is over now; however, I got to keep the phone when I cancelled, and I do like the phone a lot.

The real issue is that I'm not doing a lot of international travel right now, and I have the world's cheapest (as far as I know) plan for (non-family) big-data users, T-Mobile's $30/mo "Walmart" plan*, which only provides 100 minutes of talk but 5 GB of data over LTE/4G (after which you are capped at 3G speeds).  T-Mobile's LTE coverage in the Bay area is fine for me, and I hardly ever need to talk to anyone when WiFi isn't available.   It turns out I use most of that 5 GB every month, which would have given me a monthly bill over twice as high using Fi.

If I was doing a lot of international travel, I might change my mind.  I used T-Mobile's Simple plan when I last went to New Zealand ($70/mo) and it more or less worked in most places, but the data rate cap was sooo slow.  I would have been better off buying a local SIM (and pointing my Google Voice number at it!).  Project Fi uses a 256kbps data rate cap internationally which, although also pretty slow, would have been a big step up!

Generally, I was a little disappointed that Fi seemed to use Sprint a lot more than I expected; given that my T-Mobile coverage is generally good I was expecting to use that more than I did.  And Fi's vaunted high-quality WiFi coverage didn't seem to add much to my experience.

Still, it was kind of cool, and I got a cheap 5x out of the experience.  And if my wife starts dragging me to international destinations in the future, I'll give some thought to trying it again.

* The "Walmart" plan is available at Walmart or online at T-Mobile, but nowhere else.

Thursday, April 21, 2016


I have to admit, I've been kind of pissed for a while about RedHat going with systemd as a replacement for init.  I spent a lot of time becoming fluent with init, and all of that is now defunct on the platform I work with the most.

I've spent some time with systemd now, though, and I have changed my mind.  systemd has some really strong advantages over init:

1. The files are so much simpler!  systemd has the most obvious init functions, like stop, restart, status built-in, so you don't have to come up with shell scripts to do them; you only really have to tell systemd where your binary is and what it should be called.  100+ lines of BASH or SH code can be distilled down to about 7 lines of systemd.

2. It's much safer.  Once again, the files are not scripts, they are simply metadata.  It would be difficult to make systemd do something weird and unsafe.

3. init is still supported, mostly.  Not a bad feature!

So, check me off as a reasonably happy systemd user.

Monday, April 18, 2016

More astrophotography ...

Here's a picture I took of Jupiter with the Samyang 800mm lens.  It is about 100% cropped.  You can see a little color and (just barely) you can see a couple of dark bands running almost vertically.

Very difficult to photograph with the Samyang, but it's still a lot of fun to try!

And here's a pic of Saturn; note the space between the rings and the planet!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Astrophotography with Sony a6000

I'm dipping into doing some astrophotography with my Sony a6000, the replacement for the Sony NEX-7 mirrorless.  It works pretty well; my location isn't great (SF Bay Area), but my camera is, arguably, as good as it gets for an APS-C camera (and it's much less expensive than similar DSLR cameras).  It has very good high ISO performance.

I also bought, kind of on a whim, a Samyang 800 mm lens (plus 2X "barlowe" lens, ~$200 for both!).  The lens is very simple, there are no electronics, so focus is a bit of a challenge with it, and it's not exactly a high-quality lens.  But it works.

Here's an example; a shot of the moon, 2X "barlowe" lens (so 1600 mm equivalent), NO cropping, ISO 3200 and slight contrast enhancement.

The Sony has the option to zoom in while framing and focusing the shot, and as long as your camera is very stationary, it works pretty well.  I've got a fairly heavy-duty tripod, but I wish it was even heavier; the camera still shakes quite a bit while I'm focusing.  I've assigned the electronic zoom to one of the buttons on the camera, and it's very easy to fire it while I'm setting up for the shot.

I always use shutter-priority mode.

I am looking forward to trying it on Jupiter and Saturn.  In a couple of weeks I will try this at Yosemite.  Stay tuned.