Thursday, July 31, 2008

Define Worth

Who says the economy is in the crapper?

This website is worth

What is your website worth?

Apparently, I could get $91 for talking to myself! What a country!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Song That Should Not Be

Metallica gets together for a new album. Reaction: mild interest at best.

They announce they are replacing Bob Rock. Reaction: somewhat optimistic.

They announce the name of the album is Death Magnetic. Reaction: meh.

They announce the track list includes a song called "The Unforgiven III". 

Reaction: Oh well. It was nice while it lasted. Back to Master Of Puppets.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Y2000000000000000000K Problem

Via Peeve Farm, an unexpected consequence of runaway inflation in Zimbabwe:

One major commercial bank said its automated teller machines are not configured to dispense multi-zero withdrawals and freeze in what it called a "data overflow error." Software writers are busy writing programs to try to overcome the problem.

Urgent electronic transfers in trillions also take several days as electronic accounting systems grapple with transactions in 12 zeros.

I did this kind of work (Y2K and other data format conversions) in a prior life, but these were comparatively isolated systems, generally internal to a company. When you start adding in all of the interactions involved in international banking, this kind of thing can get pretty hairy pretty fast. Also, a lot of our fixes involved packing more data into the same amount of space (be it database, report or screen real-estate). Here, the numbers are just getting bigger and bigger - I wonder if it won't be the practice at some point to just start dropping the rightmost zeros. I mean, I'm sure that already happens out in the marketplace, but banks usually have to be a bit more precise than that. So for a lot of reasons, I don't envy the folks working on this one.

And frankly...I was kind of surprised to hear that there were ATMs in use in Zimbabwe.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Last One, We Promise

Via Ace Of Spades:

The Emergency Gasoline Assistance Act (H.R. 6561) would create a program to provide $5 billion to states as a one-time grant with the money designated to provide assistance to families of modest means to purchase gasoline.

Right. A one-time welfare grant. That requires the creation of fifty sets of state infrastructure to manage. It'll only be used this one time.


And as we all know, providing a government subsidy causes prices to drop. Right, Medicare? Right, ethanol?

Maybe they should just pass out debit cards tied directly into my bank account.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

DVD Spending Tab XIV

And another Chan disk from eBay...

Eagle Shadow Fist / Snake And Crane Arts Of Shaolin : $4.27 for both

This is mainly for Snake And Crane Arts, a starring role for Jackie just before he hit the big time with Snake In The Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master, but generally considered one of the better films during this more developmental phase of Jackie's career.

Eagle Shadow Fist
is just an early supporting role for Jackie in an otherwise anonymous film. I haven't seen it, so I don't know if he has any real impact (so to speak) in the movie or not.

Yearly total: 8 movies, $23.73 spent

Sunday, July 20, 2008

DVD Spending Tab XIII

Another early Jackie Chan film from eBay:

To Kill With Intrigue / True Game Of Death : $5.30 for both

To Kill With Intrigue is apparently another one of those "Jackie-Chan-as-Bruce-Lee" type movies, made in the days before he was able to break out his more comedic style. True Game Of Death is essentially filler; another Bruceploitation film without the benefit of even early Jackie Chan. 

Yearly total: 6 movies, $19.46 spent, with another couple of early Chan DVDs about to pop up on eBay....

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The What Court?

From Hot Air, the World Court has something to say to Texas:

Held: “The United States of America shall take all measures necessary to ensure that Messrs. José Ernesto Medellín Rojas, César Roberto Fierro Reyna, Rubén Ramírez Cárdenas, Humberto Leal García, and Roberto Moreno Ramos are not executed pending judgment on the Request for interpretation submitted by the United Mexican States, unless and until these five Mexican nationals receive review and reconsideration consistent with paragraphs 138 to 141 of the Court’s Judgment delivered on 31 March 2004 in the case concerning Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. United States of America)…”

Oh. Really?


We'll take that under advisement, "World Court". If that even is, in fact, your real name.

"Light 'em up....."

Quit Following Me!


The Fort Worth Star Telegram reported earlier this week Dallas was interested in trading for [Chris] Simms, who is currently unhappy in Tampa.

Just when I thought I had heard the last of this loser....

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Movie Review: The Forbidden Kingdom

Well, that was a relief. Given the recent string of lousy Jackie Chan American movies (Around The World In 80 Days, The Medallion, The Tuxedo) and some passable but not outstanding Chinese movies (Rob-B-Hood, The Myth, New Police Story), I was hopeful to see a better effort here when teamed with Jet Li. And I certainly wasn't disappointed. This isn't going to be at the top of the list of all-time great Jackie Chan or Jet Li movies, but it's a solid martial arts period piece suitable for foreign audiences with some background in the genre.

The basic summary is: The Last Action Hero meets The Karate Kid. A teenage martial-arts-film fanatic take hold of a magical staff and finds himself transported to imperial China and the lead of his own martial arts saga. It's populated with the appropriate trappings - the drunken wanderer, the mystic monk, evil warlords and witches. There's training montages, students acting before they are ready, flying warriors - nothing we haven't seen before. But it's all done pretty well, and plotted well-enough to keep the pace moving right along. And thankfully, they didn't include too many instances of the hero having to explain some anachronistic reference to the others.

Jackie's drunken master role here is, of course, an old familiar one. Newer though is his role as trainer instead of trainee - for a change, he gets to deal out the punishment to his pupil instead of taking it. And I have to admit - I didn't recognize Jackie as the old shopkeeper at the beginning of the movie. Jet Li has also played the more stoic monk role a number of times, but more surprising was his turn as the Monkey King. He doesn't seem to get many chances to act playful in his movies, as he is usually in either the quiet teacher/monk or controlled anger mode. But really, I don't have any complaints about the acting, here.

Action-wise, it's a lot of wire-work wuxia-style here, with people flying around, whipping each other with flowing robes and hair. If that's not your bag, you won't like much of the fighting. It's not always my favorite, but it's what I should expect from Jackie now that he's getting up in years. Again, it's all well-done stuff, and the long-awaited battle between Jackie and Jet doesn't disappoint; nor does Jackie's early fight scene in the tavern. And I'm glad that the hero here only ended up as just about competent, rather than becoming a martial-arts superman overnight. He does save the day at the end, but really more due to the efforts of the Monkey King than his own super skills.

So, all in all, a good effort here, and a worthy entry in both Jackie's and Jet's filmographies. Four stars.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Movie Review: Rocky Balboa

Rambo was certainly a nice return to form for Stallone, so I was expecting good things from Rocky Balboa, his similarly-scoped wrap-up to his other iconic character (sorry, I don't think Marion Cobretti will be getting a similar updating). I'm not a huge fan of the Rocky series - I've seen the first two a couple of times, the third and fourth probably once each and never bothered with the fifth. So I don't know how different this one was from the others in terms of the ratio of melodrama to action. But I was rather surprised to see a heavy slant over to the drama side of the fence - we don't really get much boxing action until the last 20-30 minutes of the film.

Before then, we get Stallone catching up with Balboa after several years of retirement, and several years of being alone after the death of his wife Adrian. Stallone gives us a Rocky seemingly comfortable in his place in the world on the surface - running a restaurant, telling old war stories, handing out autographs, and dispensing somewhat punch-drunk advice and one-liners. But it becomes apparent that he's actually trapped a bit in the past, unable to get beyond his memories of Adrian and his former boxing career. We also get peeks at some of the people around him - the ever-irascible Paulie, newly laid-off from the meat-packing plant; his son Robert, unable to get himself out of the shadow of his famous father; Marie, a former kid from his neighborhood now grown up, who Rocky takes under his wing as a kind of Adrian surrogate; and Mason Dixon, the current champion who is unloved by the fans and looking for something to shake up the boxing world.

And while all of this is pretty well done (especially from a writer and actor not known since the first Rocky film for having any kind of drama chops), it does have a couple of shortcomings. First, there's a lot of little sub-plots here. It's as if Stallone has had so many ideas and things to explore that he had to put them all in the film. As a result, none of them get any real depth - they're all handled competently, but not much more than that. Again, you don't go to a Rocky film expecting to get more than that, but it feels like it could've really knocked it out of the park with a little more focus. The other thing is related - this part does go on for a bit too long for my taste.

But eventually we do get to the ring, as Dixon's handlers take advantage of a perceived snub of Dixon by ESPN when they decide that Rocky in his prime would defeat Dixon in his. So they set up an "exhibition" between Balboa and Dixon, and Rocky agrees to it as a way to shake up his life a little bit. We don't get a big training montage here, but Stallone does hit all of the expected beats - punching slabs of beef, downing raw eggs, jogging up the museum steps.

And then it's into the ring. I'm not a big fight fan, but one thing you can say for the Rocky films - they make boxing more exciting to watch than the real thing. Stallone was even careful to add in a good realistic excuse for how Rocky was able to keep up with Dixon (beyond the "eye of the tiger", of course). The one flaw here is that the first part of the fight is shown exclusively from the point-of-view of the pay-per-view cameras with Jim Lampley commenting. I didn't really come to see a pay-per-view fight, I want to see a movie. Fortunately, Stallone soon switches over to a more stylistic mode, with slow-mo, black-and-white scenes, etc. that make the fight scenes more interesting to watch.

In the end, I was pleasantly surprised by Rocky Balboa, even more so than Rambo. I'm not sure where Stallone will be going next, but this little mini-revival he's been on has really been impressive. Four stars.

DVD Spending Tab XII

Decided to fill in a few gaps in my early Jackie Chan collection off of cheapo EBay discs. First up:

The Young Master / New Fist Of Fury - $4.76 for both, including shipping and tax

Yearly total: 4 movies, $14.16

Mostly purchased for The Young Master, which is actually pretty good movie. New Fist Of Fury, a failed attempt to make Chan into the next snarling Bruce Lee, is pretty much a waste of bits. But I'm just too anal about collecting stuff like this - if I start, I need to get all of them!


You know, sometimes it seems liberals just can't leave anything alone. There are a few buzzwords guaranteed to send them over the edge into irrationality.

One of the best ones is "Fox News". Anything remotely related always brings out the best in them, starting with "Faux News" and eventually moving into the Nazi comparisons. Protein Wisdom is highlighting one particular nasty variant of this behavior, the glee with which those on the left celebrate the deaths of those they don't agree with.

This weekend, the target is Tony Snow, former Fox News anchor and White House spokesman who just lost a several-year battle with colon cancer. The old adage is: if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything.

Guess they didn't get the memo over at Daily Kos.

But now I've seen that there is no target too small for the righteous soldiers of the left. I don't have an iPhone or iPod Touch - it's a little more phone than I need right now - but I am interested in the tech side of things, and of course I'd like to see Apple continue to prosper. So I was browsing around the new iPhone App Store to see what kinds of things were available. That's when I stumbled upon this app:

FOX News UReport

FOX News wants YOU to report the news. The uReport Application for iPhone allows you to do just that. You can easily take or select pictures of news happening around you and send them directly to FOX News Channel from your iPhone. If we determine your submission is newsworthy, your photo could appear online or even on air!

Admittedly not much of an app. I don't know anything about the iPhone SDK, but I'd imagine with the appropriate APIs this app probably didn't take more than about ten minutes to write up. I don't watch much Fox News, so I don't know if they have show segment dedicated to this kind of user content (although I'd be reluctant to have my TV show dependent on cell phone photos). But hey, at least it's a little visibility.

Of course, in the minds of some, it's a little too much visibility. Already, the review section for the app has been spammed with ad hominem reviews from folks that clearly aren't reviewing the app. A sample:

This is not news, it is neo-conservative propaganda, lies, sexism, racism, homophobia.

This applications does not work as advertising, instead shows me propaganda.

FOX newz [sic] is great entertainment news. These quasi journalist [sic] work hard to keep a straight face when they go out to report the same thing they reported the day before.

Ah, well - never pass up another opportunity to speak Truth To Power! Or something.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Giant Sucking Sound

Funny how some morons seem to never fade away:

Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield, who is white, said it seemed that central collections "has become a black hole" because paperwork reportedly has become lost in the office.

Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is black, interrupted him with a loud "Excuse me!" He then corrected his colleague, saying the office has become a "white hole."

Well, somebody in that conversation was some kind of hole.

I remember John Wiley Price from my days in Dallas back in the 80's; he along with fellow morons Diane Ragsdale and Al Lipscombe were the Big D equivalents of Al Sharpton - black "leaders" [sic] who saw racism at every turn and who fought it with the sort of rapier intellect Price exhibits above. I had no idea he was still blathering on. Austin certainly has its share of morons in public office, but I think it still tends to be better on the whole than the disasters that have rolled through Dallas City Hall over the years.

This of course is another fine example of words meaning whatever you want, as in niggardly and alien

Noted by JammieWearingFool via Ace.

It Takes A Village To Specify A Child

So the Europeans have finally decided to do something about their terrible racism problem.

Among toddlers.

This isn't that surprising; the EU is quickly becoming the centre for feel-good bureaucratic nonsense such as this. I'm surprised they only managed to come up with 366 pages worth of definition of what it means to be a racist three-year old.

I'm expecting San Francisco to do better. They need to write at least 450 pages of specifications for the perfect multicultural child. That is, if there are any children left in San Francisco to which it can be applied.

Austin, of course, being the jealous type, will put together a committee to come up with its own version, but I doubt they'll even manage 100 pages.

Exit Question: Does this mean the end for Mr. Yuk?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Movie Review: Flesh For Frankenstein

To know life, Otto, you have to fuck death - in the gall bladder.

Well, that quote just about sums up Flesh For Frankenstein (aka Andy Warhol's Frankenstein). It's one part softcore Europorn, one part period gothic, one part poorly-made 3-D gorefest and zero parts interesting. Starring a bunch of no-names and Udo Kier (but I repeat myself), the movie basically is three scenes repeated over and over:
  1. Baron Frankenstein hovers over his nude creations and belts out an overwrought monologue to his assistant about how he will rule the world with his perfect race.
  2. His wife (also his sister, of course) gets it on with the hired help, usually with her children watching from the shadows.
  3. Someone gets killed in a way that causes fake guts to fly towards the camera, giving the 3-D audience something to look at.
Rinse and repeat. Oh, and the rinsing is probably a good idea, since this film is coated with that griminess that seems to cover a lot of these late 60's-early 70's horror films - not the good type of griminess, either.

Look, it's just a typical low-budget 70's erotic horror film, with nothing much to recommend and several reasons to avoid. One star.