Monday, January 30, 2012

Pushing your limits

I watched the Australian Open Men's Final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal and it was everything a final should be: A test of will, a test of skill, a test of focus and a test of human limits. In the end the match took almost six hours and each second was hard-fought (outside of change of ends).

No, they are not bowing to the head of Kia Motors

Having seen the match that Nadal played against Tomas Berdych leading to the match with Federer, I would have said that he was the man to beat in this tournament. I don't think I've seen anyone hit the ball that hard, that consistently and that much on the line. Nadal has finally learned how to hit a ball (that isn't looped) ... but I digress.

In comparison to Nadal's run, I think Djokovic had it a bit easier with less pressure leading to the final - it could have made the difference. When it comes to 5+ hours of running and pounding shots into the corners, having that little extra in the tank might have made the difference when it came to the final set - Nadal had finally run out of steam.

The final set was a sea of breaks and break-backs, with Djokovic getting the final break from a 30-15 scoreline. Serving for the match, he had pressure on his serve with a 30-40 break-point, but was able to fight back to win the next three points. Djokovic was the champion although both deserved the prize.

The most humorous / telling moment was the point where both players had to wait for the sea of back-patting antics to sponsors to conclude while their legs spasmed uncontrollably. I must admit I found it funny, but couldn't help admiring them. Considering just a few short minutes earlier they were running full-steam and looking close-to unstoppable, it was amazing to see the pain they were in. It is a testament to all those that saw it that this is a moment you should appreciate - they didn't save anything for the swim back and neither should we.

As an aside, the Women's was apparently between two screeching harpies - I don't know who won, but the only thing I'm sure of is that Women's tennis lost. As always, humour is the best medicine for something that irks ... or a shotgun. Also, I created a facebook page - feel free to lend your support here

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ignoring the obvious

I would like to think I go through life anticipating the issues I might have rather than just reacting to them when they choose to arise ... and this would probably be the only area where my views would correlate with America's pre-emptive attacks on 'Terrorist-harbouring countries', but I digress.

If I notice I'm getting fat, I eat less. If I notice my expenses are becoming overbearing, I spend less. If I realise that superannuation/pension/social security is a farce and will never support me in my old age, I turn to other methods to (attempt to) assure I have a reasonable future ahead of me.

This article mirrors one of the perspectives I hold true. To say the contents of this article should be obvious to anyone who can think would be an understatement. That is why I find it amusing when this doctrine is not employed by governments and countries where they apparently hire 'smart people'. You don't get out of debt by spending more money to get you out of debt with money you don't have ... or am I wrong?

The only way you get out of debt is by spending less money on things you can live without. Spending a trillion dollars a year on defense might seem like a nice idea, but if your debt is over 14 trillion - and climbing - you would think there would be a few cuts to budgetary spending, rather than increases. Maybe I'm not seeing 'the big picture' or maybe I just don't understand the ramifications that would result from cutting costs, but to me it would seem obvious.

I think I might understand the reason why: I've managed to look behind the curtain to the wizard pulling the strings.

It seems the economic model we use requires enormous amounts of debt to maintain:

This is funny and scary and required watching for everyone.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Luddites unite

I've finally arrived, dragging my heels and decrying my hatred for change. Yes, I have Window 7 and it is great*
*Your experiences may vary depending on whether you've followed the necessary steps listed below:

  1. Remove Aero. Yes, I said it.
    Who wants indeterminant active windows of a translucent nature when you can have clearly-defined windows that don't sap CPU and memory just for the sake of some 'bling'? Yes aero is 'sexy' but it is useless.

    Which one is active? ... hmmm let me see.

  2. Replace the mindf*** that is the default start menu.
    I'm not sure on what planet they thought that searching for each program you wish to run was a good idea.

    Sure, it remembers the last most-recent programs you ran but it doesn't maintain the order so it's pot luck each time you click on start. I recommend using classic shell - it's free and very powerful and, if you're still feeling masochistic, you can instantly revert to the old menu just by holding down shift.

    I pity tha fool who prefers the left-hand side 

    As an added bonus, I'm able to have a separate restart/hibernate/shut down as the good lord dictates.

  3. Remembering where the icons are placed on your desktop should be out of the box, shouldn't it? Shouldn't it? Well, it isn't, so there is an app for that (thank you apple). So next time your screen decides to futz and bugger your icon locations, turn to this to avoid irritation. You are welcome.

  4. Being able to delete a folder that is somehow locked by another process should be your god-given right, shouldn't it? Well it isn't but there is a fix for that.

  5. Are those favourites / libraries links annoying you and taking up unnecessary space in windows explorer?
    Well, there is a hack for that.

    Not quite sure how they ever thought that was a good idea...

  6. Is the task bar hiding all your active processes under one icon while you manically try to determine which of the mini windows is actually the process you want to open?
    Well, there's a fix for that. Actually, it's just a tweak, thank goodness. Microsoft had a bit of foresight this time and decided not to hard-code it in. Right-click on start bar, select properties and then select 'never combine' next to task bar buttons and the horrors abate once more.

    ...the horror

    After all that you have something you can actually use, well, I can use. Maybe I'm just dragging my knuckles into the next decade of this millennia, but I think these changes make windows useful once more. It makes using windows intuitive and productive which I'm not sure I can say about the default version.

    At least with Windows 7 they fixed the control panel - it is so streamlined that it becomes second nature. It's brilliant not having to traverse multiple disconnected and ambiguously-named pages to change a single setting. It's brilliant automatically knowing where the setting is without having to use google. Yes. Well done Microsoft.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Putting on a spit-shine

Knowing when to put down your brush is one of the hardest thing to determine. When another brush stroke will detract rather than add is hard to distinguish - there is such a thing as too refined. Take Van Gogh; do you think if he revised each bluntly-applied stroke, would the final painting look as good? It would lose the impressionistic aspect that makes his work so appealing - it would look like any other painting. However, knowing that you still need to revise your work is just as hard. At what point do you define something as done?

Is it at the point that you no longer find something to criticize or is it when the rest of the world thinks it's fine even if you don't? I'm not sure. All I know is that when I revise my work it is better. Maybe at some point any change or addition will no longer be an improvement but I have yet to reach that point. I think if I am not careful I could get into an infinite loop. I hate unnecessary iterations in my code so it seems logical that I should have a predefined limit on the number of iterations I can take when revising and tweaking.

That's it. That will fix the situation I find myself in.

Now all I need to define is what my limit actually is. I can't simply define a number - a limit needs to be defined relative to context; relative to the complexity and subjectivity. Grammer Grammar and spelling should be easy to limit. Revising punctuation: trickier. Story arcs? Pacing? Plot holes? Dialogue? Character development? Factual accuracy?

...this will probably take a few revisions before I can define a steadfast set of rules.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fertile grounds

I have what could only be called a fertile imagination or maybe that is a fertile sub-conscious?

I had an interesting dream that would best be left to die an unnatural death as my conscious overrides the insanity of it all. Despite my better judgement, I will recount it - maybe there is something worth reading within this miasmic discourse.

Well, here goes:
      I dreamt that I was hanging out with Tom Waits at his modest home in the middle of nowhere.  Sort of a country town with each plot taking up about a sixth of an acre. Metal fencing segregated each plot and seemed to be relatively quiet, although how I could determine that while I was inside is anyone's guess. For whatever reason I decide to go outside and trudge the neighbourhood.  It is at this point that I notice people coming out / appearing on the dirt roads that surround the house.  I try to act naturally as I decide to do a circuit rather than turn around showing fear.  The people turn out to be Puerto Rican gang-bangers with tattoos and aggressive hairstyles. They sort of remind me of the gangs from GTA San Andreas, but they're more real.  They see some fresh meat (me) and confront me as I rationalise that somehow Tom Waits is one of their compadre's and therefore if I somehow express that I'm Tom's friend they'll let me go. I can't speak Spanish so I resort to singing, growling and gesturing in a style as close to Tom's as possible.  This does not work and I run.  Suddenly I'm in a resort-style mansion talking to a Columbian crime boss who orders a hit on me by one of his guards.  I escape by weaving between the pillars as bullets are fired at me. Once outside I'm on a beach where I spot a chip being placed inside a head inside a metal briefcase. I run over and hide behind an upturned rowboat while all of the people around me are shot. I then pick up the briefcase and escape in a dune buggy while using the case as a shield.

    I apologise to all those who chose to read this.

    I can only guess that it somehow relates to the fact that I recently listened to 'God's Away on Business' by Tom Waits and have been thinking about the 3D technology of engines employed in games such as Half-Life 2. I am ashamed to admit this, but I also watched CSI Miami recently.

    I'm not sure whether this is my brain's attempt to rationalise these notions into one cohesive thought, but it gives some reasoning to my dream. I find when I'm close to the end of my sleep it usually ends up like a computer game.

    Whatever the case, it is fun to have dreams like this.  This is far better than running in quick sand while a monster moves closer or presenting to your class while naked. You can have your nakedness and I'll have my shootouts.

    Sunday, January 8, 2012

    Interrogation for your benefit

    Ah the rigmaroles of the US work visa application process.

    All those convoluted and intrusive questions required just to have the privilege of being subjected to the TSA screenings upon your arrival into the land of opportunity. I cannot help but feel that it takes on a sort of sado-masochistic process wherein, by the end of it all, you look forward to your next punishment.

    I can't believe bears like these exist ...
    Please sir, give me another. <twhack> Another, please! <twhack> ... and so on.

    Prior to being allowed 'the privilege' of being interrogated/questioned/lynched about my visa application, I needed to fill out a 30+ page application form covering everything from my mother's mother's first name to what countries I have travelled in the previous five years to what drugs or prostitution I partake in. To say it was thorough would be an understatement.

    I'm not sure who is being benefited by this increased level of 'security' and I am pretty sure most of it is not warranted. Outside of big brother wanting to know every minutia of your existence I can't see the benefit. Where has the 'innocent until proven guilty' mantra disappeared to? We are all treated like terrorists until we either are proven to be a 'low-level threat' or are motivated by their exhaustive intrusions to rebel. I can almost empathise with those people from Guantanamo. No human should be subjected to this. All, of what could only be called crap, for a country that should be grateful for any injection of earnings or assistance to productivity in its plight to fix its ailing economy. I'm not sure whether it's arrogance or just a general distrust of anything that isn't American. All I know is I don't feel welcome.

    Now that I have an *official* work visa, there should be no reason to be pulled up by the TSA now, should there? No, would be the logical answer but the TSA is anything but logical.

    Having an official visa embedded in your passport with your ugly mug displayed and being able to verify your legitimacy in their system is not enough, apparently; you also need to show your original Visa application as well - ah the wonders of progress. 

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012

    Review: Bucky Larson

    After a mini hiatus over Christmas, I am back (with a vengeance).

    Bucky Larson.  A much maligned and misunderstood protagonist from the 'venerable' creative loins of Adam Sandler's troupe. With a 2.3/10 rating on IMDB, it is with much chagrin that I begrudgingly admit that I enjoyed it.

    Yes, I said it - I enjoyed this film.

    It certainly isn't going to win awards for writing, acting, credibility or cinematography, but in the end it works ... at least in my mind. It follows the pursuits of Bucky who discovers his parents were porn stars and embarks on a journey to follow in their footsteps.

    There are a number of situations which take on a David Lynch-like diversion into humour; like when Bucky with his two fake teeth gets into a smiling competition with a toothless granny.  You can't help but be fascinated and horrified at the same time. The story is both crass and also sweet, which seems like a strange combination.  Bucky has a child-like belief in his abilities while following a very adult pursuit in the porn industry. I guess those contradictions make things interesting and quite cringe-worthy at times.

    I won't ruin any punchlines other than to say the monkey noises will haunt you.

    ...those monkey noises.