Archive for April 2007

 
 

Ruby (and Rails) Link Dump

In case you’ve been wondering what computer language I’ve been learning this year, this link dump should provide a clue or two:

Ruby Articles:

Ruby Blogs:

Ruby Tumblelogs:

Tools of the Trade

Recently I’ve been focused on doing my best to be productive. Sad isn’t it? I find with the limited hours in the day that I have to work on my various projects and what not, that in order to ensure that I’m able to get everything done, reviewing the processes and tools I use is a healthy exercise to do from time to time. Below is a list of links to the myriad of online tools that enable me to get crap done and a little background on how I use them.

  • Google Calendar – Everyone knows about the Google apps: Gmail, Reader etc. But the one that has been the most meaningful for me as been the Calendar. Not only am I able to manage my life in the calendar, but I’m able to pull in the data from my family and close friends. I cannot tell you how many “Hey are you busy Saturday?” phone calls have been saved through this simple data linking. Although it is dependent on the calendars of those people being updated and maintained, but if everyone in your world embraces the Calendar, it can be a super powerful tool.
  • Ta Da List – The folks over at 37Signals have been on to something for some time now. Clean, elegant and simple web apps that allow you to do a task and do it well. The simplicity of Ta Da List is almost poetic. The application is basically just a to-do list, or task list. You can create multiple lists and within each list you can add specific line items. This is great for capturing those nagging items that I remember I need to do and puts it somewhere where I can find it at work, home or anywhere I can get to a computer. They support RSS feeds of your lists, as well as the ability to e-mail the lists to yourself, but honestly, I don’t use those bits of functionality. Just the lists.
  • Moleskine Notebook – I know it’s a bit of an eye-roller to be a hipster and carry around one of these little notebooks, but I swear, it’s been a life-saver. The fact is that while I spent alot of time in front of a computer, it seems the times where the best ideas come to me or when I remember something important, I’m not near a computer. So when I’m on the train or subway, or at a show, or driving or what not, having this smal notebook and a pen with me has allowed me to capture those little bits, which often are the most important. The Hipster PDA is a great alternative if you can’t find or don’t want to buy a Moleskine

It all boils down to being able to see or capture the small bits of data that are crucial to completing whatever it is that I have to do. It could be work related (like “I need to write those functional requirements…”) or personal (“I need to buy more iced tea…”). When you think about the amount of data that passes through your brain on an average day, it can be staggering. I spent several years in on over-worked haze where it seemed like everything slipped through cracks. I’ve found that these 3 things have had a monumental effect in improving my productivity on a day to day basis.

Are there any simple tools that I’m not aware of or not using? There’s a web app called Stikkit, that I saw the product launch for at the Web 2.0 Summit last year, that is aimed at this idea of simple productivity improvements, but I haven’t been able to figure the damn thing out. It’s probably because I haven’t put that much time into it, but if an application is supposed to be simple, should I really have to put a lot of time into learning it?

“Diggers” and the Movie Release Model

diggers1.jpgLast night, I went to the Landmark Sunshine Cinema in SoHo in New York City to see the movie Diggers. It’s a “coming of age” movie set out east, on the south shore of Long Island in 1976 and tells the story of a group of friends who are clam diggers and how they’re dealing with the commodization of their trade, their relationships and generally finding happiness. It was written by Ken Marino, who you may remember as a member of The State, one of my all-time favorite comedy groups. Since I’ve only known Marino from comedy, I assumed this would be a funny movie, and it was. But It was more of a serious drama with funny moments.

The cast is out and out fantastic. Paul Rudd, Maura Tierney, Sarah Paulson, Josh Hamilton (a very underrated actor in my opinion), Ron Eldard, Lauren Ambrose and Ken Marino as well round out the main characters and deliver a fantastic performance. I’m a native Long Islander, so I was excited and skeptical to see a story set in places I was very familiar with. At first, I cringed slightly at the accents the actors had adopted, but then I realized it wasn’t so much that the accents were bad, rather I wasn’t used to hearing these particular actors I have seen in many other roles speaking like my friends and family. Once I got over that, I realized they were all speaking as if they had grown up on Long Island. Very impressive acting.

I really enjoyed this movie, the story was compelling and you were able to connect with the individual characters in a meaningful way, so that when they hurt, you felt it and when they smiled you smiled as well. For a period piece with more drama than humor, I have to say I’m quite impressed by Marino’s script and the performances within. If this is playing by you I strong recommend it. Grade: B+

Now, separate from the content of the movie, I’d like to take a moment and look at the release model. Produced by HDNet Films, this movie was released worldwide in theaters this past Friday, April 27th, 2007. It also premiered last night on HDNet, Mark Cuban’s High Definition only channel, and it will be released on DVD on May 1st. One might think that, based on the old way of releasing movies, that this would indicate a bad movie. Straight to cable and DVD. Right? But that’s not the case here. Here we have an example, similar to Bubble by Steven Soderbergh, of the new way to release movies. Simultaneous release in theaters, cable and on DVD. By doing this, the thought is that it will eliminate the exclusivity of the theater only release and cut down on piracy. It also allows you, the viewer, to choose when and where you’d want to see the movie. I for one, love it. I think it’s genius. Will it affect theater business? Absolutely, but like any old business model, that needs to change. It makes no sense to have to wait to get a movie on DVD or via download until months after it runs out of theaters. Many people, like parents with small children etc, just cannot make it out to the theater. Where some people really enjoy the cinema and will always go to the theater when they can.

It all comes down to choice. The movie studios, and the MPAA (and the RIAA to boot) do not want to allow you to choose when and where and how you absorb your media. Whereas as technology evolves and the audience becomes more comfortable with new methods of watching content, their desire for choice will increase and then somethings gotta give. I hope this new method of release is used for a large release movie and then we could really see the affect of it on the bottom line, but until then, efforts like Diggers and Bubble continue to give me hope.

O.A.R. at MSG promo vid

Quote of the Day

inessential.com: Weblog: Comments for ‘Thoughts about large Cocoa projects’

(Remember, every time you touch the mouse, God kills a kitten. Use the keyboard if you have a heart.)

When I see people cut-and-paste something by highlighting it with their mouse and right-clicking, I want to scream.

Required Reading of the Day: Douglas Adams

Darker Matter – Exclusive Interview with Douglas Adams from 1979

Almost 28 years ago, a young (27) and still overdrawn Douglas Adams was poised on the brink of fame. The first radio series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy had been released (“Escaped,” was more the word, according to Douglas) and largely ignored in a late night slot on BBC Radio 4. It had then been repeated at a less perverse time, gathering listeners and momentum as the six episodes unfolded. But the books, the second radio series, the TV show and the long, long-delayed movie version were still to come. Douglas Adams had done a handful of short interview pieces, most of which had just pinched his jokes and ignored his opinions. But when freelance reporter Ian Shircore got the chance to spend several hours with him under cover of an unlikely feature for Penthouse magazine, Adams found himself with half a day to ruminate, pontificate and smoke too many cigarettes in the cluttered office where he was earning a crust as script editor for the Tom Baker-era Dr Who. Apart from the few column inches Penthouse was able to accommodate, these tapes, from 1979, have lain unpublished ever since.

And, you guessed it – you can now read the entire article on-line.

V&S – Ron Style

Hello world! I have to say it’s quite an honor and pleasure to be guest blogging here on Various & Sundry – much thanks to the talented Augie DeBlieck Jr. for the lovely intro and for asking me in the first place. Hopefully he won’t have much to worry about while enjoy his honeymoon.

So I thought I’d start things out with a quick short intro to me, which you can find here. Interesting, aren’t I? I also thought I’d mention some of the things I plan to blog about this week, and ask you, the Various & Sundry nation, what would you want to read about?

  • I have been listening to a ton of music recently, so I thought I’d do some record reviews
  • I’m a huge TV watcher, so I was planning on writing a few thoughts on some of the shows I watch. Perhaps I’ll even live blog one? 24, Lost or the Gilmore Girls perhaps?
  • Like Augie, I’m a big tech nerd too. I’m currently in love with my AppleTV and hacking my way through learning WordPress and things like that. I also have some thoughts on the whole web industry thing as well.
  • Food is a big topic for me too as I love to eat – perhaps some restaurant suggestions or recipes?

So what would you like to see while Augie’s gone? You all have to help me out as I attempt to double Augie’s page views in a single week. :)

Going to the Chapel. . .

And I’m getting married. Today. This afternoon.

Normal posting will resume someday. In the meantime, I’ve preprogrammed a lot of stuff for you for the next week and a half. New content is still coming, so I expect you all to keep posting!

Also, we have a Guest Blogger! The first guest blogger in the history of Various and Sundry will be keeping you entertained with his musings over the next week. Everyone please welcome Ron Richards, from iFanboy.com. He and I have chatted a lot in recent times, and he has some non-comics interests that should fit in well around here. I’m sure he’ll have an introductory post up sometime soon.

Please play nicely with the new kid on the block. Thanks, gang!

Three short links

  • Some scientists poured plaster into an anthill. Take a look at the first picture on this page for the results. Pretty cool.
  • Nutrasweet won’t give you brain cancer, after all. Or, at least, it won’t until the next survey comes out.
  • And cell phones didn’t kill the honeybees.
  • Update: OK, so I completely misread the aspartame story.  It does claim to prove the cancer link. But here’s the response to the study from the FDA disputing it.  Furthermore, the FDA asked for complete details on the study, but the Italian agency that did the original study hasn’t forked them over.  So much for the scientific process including the ability to replicate studies.  Yet the FDA has already identified shortcomings in the survey, even based on the incomplete data.  So drink up!

AI6 – Round of 6 – Results

Well, wasn’t that a nifty piece of anti-climax? The producers didn’t feel it would be right to kick anyone off from a charity show last night. I don’t necessarily blame them for that, but putting poor Jordin through the ringer like that was especially cruel and heartless. I’m all for the games and misdirection Idol pulls with the results every week, but this one just seemed mean.

Those 70 million votes from this week will be carried over to next week. We’ll have four more hours of voting next week and two people will get tossed then. (Phil and Lakisha.) I’ll let others do the statistical analysis of how many fewer votes will come in next week, and how that will be unfair to the person who had a bad week this week but a great week next week and — oh, my head hurts. I’ll just roll with the punches, and not overanalyze them for a change.

I managed to watch the entire show in about a half hour last night. I fast-forwarded through all the pitches, video packages, and most of the celebrity performances. Also, anything with Ben Stiller.  Oddly enough, I was entranced by Jack Black and the Simpsons.  Bart got a Dunkleman joke in!  WHOO-HOO! Yes, Ryan, “House” has an accent. If you have ever seen the magnificence that is BLACKADDER, you’d have known that 15-20 years ago. =)

Kelly Clarkson was magnificent. The Quincy Jones song was painfully bad. The show ran over time, so I didn’t get to hear Bono’s song at the end. I couldn’t record long, because then I’d miss LOST.

Ellen was a horrible hostess. Ryan was funny at the top of the show when he blew his reading from the teleprompter, but he owned up to it and made it right.

I just want my normal IDOL back. . .

AI6 – Round of 6 – Performances

American Idol logoIt’s “Inspiration” week, in which we all get the warm and fuzzies by talking about how we’re all going to Do The Right Thing and help all the little people. Plus, you get four hours of voting to ensure 50,000,000 votes so that News Corp will donate a full five million to the charity.

Bono has signed up to be a mentor. I wish Sanjaya were still around. Imagine him in Bono’s shades, singing a U2 song? Ah, bliss.

Chris Richardson started off the night with Eric Clapton’s “Change the World.” He’s straight up boy band material. He’s not even latter-day Justin Timberlake. He’s a boy band guy. While I thought he finally added something of himself into the song in the last third, the first 2/3rds felt flat and karaoke for me.

The judges loved him, though. Simon said that “the competition starts properly tonight.” Ouch, he really hated Sanjaya. . .

Melinda Doolittle sang “There Will Come A Day,” a Faith Hill song. As usual, she nailed it. She’s the best overall singer this show has ever seen and likely ever will see. Is she marketable, though? Is she proper IDOL material? Somehow, I don’t think so. But she’s fun to watch every week.

Blake Lewis did the song we all had to know was coming on a show like this, “Imagine.” I loathe the song, but that’s just me. I thought he started off strong. I liked the sound of his voice. I liked the restraint. But the problem came about halfway through it, when you realized it wasn’t going anywhere and it just started to sound repetitive (like the song, itself) and boring. I think he did enough with it to make it interesting, overall, but it should have been better. And the judges agreed with me.

He should have broken the beatboxing out. It might have made the song tolerable again. heh heh

LaKisha Jones continued her path to hari kari with Fantasia’s “I Believe.” Is she nuts? She just did Carrie Underwood’s post-Idol hit single last week, and she follows that up with Fantasia’s Idol song? Maybe we all misjudged her, because right now she just looks like an Idol fangirl who got lucky enough to make the stage. She’s completely lost herself.

I don’t even like Fantasia that much, but you could see how much she put into the song that LaKisha couldn’t. Fantasia was a mad woman on the stage when she sang the song. She put energy into it. LaKisha tried putting the emotion into it, but wound up looking stiff. It was not a good week for her, again.

Phil Stacey is sticking with this country thing he’s got going and did Garth Brooks’ “The Change.” While he might have been a little shouty in one or two spots, it was a respectable vocal and a nice performance for him. Nothing earth-shattering, but solid. I still think he’ll be in the bottom three, though I don’t know for sure that he’s going out this week just yet.

Jordin Sparks closed out the show with a tour de force, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Randy called it one of the best Idol performances ever. It was really good and it gave me goosebumps, but I’m not entirely sold on placing it that high in the pantheon just yet. I need to rewatch it, but it was amazing.

That girl can sing, and she embodies what I think most people feel the American Idol should be — younger, greener, and talented. I don’t think people want to vote for wedding band singers and professional backup singers. They want young kids rising up from humble beginnings. They want likable characters with big smiles. And Jordin has all of that in spades.

And I think if Jordin goes on to win this thing, this will definitely be seen as an “Idol Moment.”

My order, from best to worst: Jordin and Melinda are far and away in the lead. Phil and Blake are next up. Chris is nearing the rear, and LaKisha is dead last though I thought her vocal was better than Chris’. But if she sings “A Moment Like This” next week, I will laugh.

Bottom three this week: I think Jordin and Melinda are the only two are are bulletproof, which leaves me with four contestants to choose from, and that’s a real toss-up.

Phil, LaKisha, and Chris. Blake will just miss the bottom three, and only because too many people think “Imagine” is a good song.

Who goes home? Phil. Yeah, I’m sticking with last week’s prediction after all this. I’m a wuss.

Roger Ebert Update

Politically, we don’t agree.  But on more movies than not, we do.  And Roger Ebert is a brave man with a great attitude:

Ebert: We spend too much time hiding illness :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Metro & Tri-State

What happened was, cancer of the salivary gland spread to my right lower jaw. A segment of the mandible was removed. Two operations to replace the missing segment were unsuccessful, both leading to unanticipated bleeding. A tracheostomy was necessary so, for the time being, I cannot speak. I make do with written notes and a lot of hand waving and eye-rolling. The doctors now plan an approach that does not involve the risk of unplanned bleeding. If all goes well, my speech will be restored. So when I turn up in Urbana, I will be wearing a gauze bandage around my neck, and my mouth will be seen to droop. So it goes.

And, he says, he doesn’t care about the paparazzi.  He just want to see the movies.  But it’s obvious he won’t be returning to TV anytime soon. . .

24 Season Six – Midnight to 1:00 a.m.

Jack BauerJack makes plans.

Nobody listens to Jack.

Bad things happen.

When will they learn?

Oh, and the political power plays get personal.

If I could have made that into a haiku, I’d get beaucoup hits. . .

Discuss.

(Sorry this is so short this week.  Read this week’s edition of Pipeline for details on why.)

Monday Link Dump

A Sunday Link Dump

  • Finally, a simple graphical guide to how that whole “first cousin once-removed” thing works!
  • The best life lesson you can learn: You suck.
  • The High Def DVD Wish List. Wow, it feels like 1998 all over again. This is mostly the same list of wants we all had for the standard DVD format back then. (It’s written by Peter Bracke, best known for his days on DVDFile.com, which is currently running an annoying full-screen pop-up flash ad. UGH.)
  • An amazing interview with Luc Besson. In it, he discusses a possible upcoming sci-fi trilogy, how THE 5TH ELEMENT was a trilogy compressed into one movie, and his upcoming work on movies like HITMAN and TRANSPORTER 3.