Wednesday: 29.December.2004

Sideways

Saw Sideways last night. The storyline didn't quite grab me:

>>> two old friends setting off on a wine-tasting road trip .. only to veer dizzily SIDEWAYS into a wry, comedic exploration of the crazy vicissitudes of love and friendship.

.. but the reviews were strong. In fact, few films rated higher. Sideways falls into the Roadtrip genre, like Thelma & Louise. I really wanted to see Meet the Folkers, but Sideways has been out for a while, and I didn't want to miss it before it went away (especially since reviews were so high).

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The film's most salient point is that you really feel like you're hanging out with these people (4 of them). Somehow, it was shot in a way that draws you in. Great casting. The people cast for each role were perfect. I can't imagine any other actors playing their parts.

Not a very polished film, cinemagraphic-wise. Has a rustic feel to it. Almost like it was shot with a cheap, handheld camera. Its strength is in the dialogue, and the way it draws you in. It takes you away to California wine country with characters that are easy to like. And who doesn't like to take a roadtrip?

Being a rainy Tuesday night, I thought we'd be the only ones at the theater, but it was packed. In fact, the line wrapped around and continued down the road. We waited in line so long that we ended up missing the previews (which I love). Then we had to sit way up front, much closer than I prefer. And the air conditioning was cranked up so high that it felt like a meat locker in there.

The film makes you think and feel. Lots of hard belly-laughs and some incredibly sad moments. The only place it's still playing locally is the University theater. Rated R. Not a flick for kids. But mature audiences should enjoy it. I certainly did.

Sunday: 26.December.2004

Hard Drive Problems for Christmas

Hope ya'll had a merry Christmas. I came home Xmas eve to find the normally-invincible Rad Rig locked up (that never happens). Restarted fine. Christmas morning, it took several tries to get 'er up and running (not a good sign).

Today, the system wouldn't boot at all (ugh, you know that horrible feeling). Kept getting the dreaded Blue Screen of Death, with error > DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL specifically mentioning IdeChnDr.sys. This is one of the drivers that's part of the Intel Application Accelerator for the IDE controllers (both Primary & Secondary).

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On the IDE bus(es), I have 3 hard drives: one Primary-Master, a Secondary-Master and a Secondary-Slave. Only was Primary-Master was giving me trouble. It even disappeared from the BIOS. But it is also my newest drive (a Western Digital). And actively cooled. So, it shouldn't be the first to die. Shouldn't.

Heck, I even still have one of those old IBM Deskstars (Deathstar) installed, the drive that forced IBM to sell their Disk division to Hitachi following a class action lawsuit.

So today I went to the local CompUSA (CompUseless), and picked up a Seagate 7200.7. Installed it, but the system would not see the new drive either. Now I'm getting concerned, cuz I'm thinking maybe the IDE controller is krapping out on me, which means > new motherboard.

But before I replace the mobo, I disconnected and reconnected all the cables. I talk real pretty to the computer ("Who loves you, baby?"), blow kisses at it, and say a quick prayer of desperation ("Oh, please, God. Please let this work.") Lo and behold, it now sees the drive, which I quickly partition, before he changes his mind.

Then I got curious and put the old drive back in, and the old drive shows up fine, too. So, who knows what happened. Maybe the Primary IDE cable came loose during the move. Doesn't seem to be a problem with the drive itself, because I had the same problem with a brand-new drive.

I doubt it's a problem with the IdeChnDr.sys driver file, because only was Primary-Master was affected, and this driver is also used for the drives on the Secondary channel. I really don't know what happened. When in doubt, blame the cats. Or maybe there's a ghost in the box.

Got a bunch of emails today from folks saying they used the Rad Rig as a model to build their own beasts for the first time. Some are still waiting for a few parts to arrive.

Monday: 20.December.2004

The Aviator

Saw The Aviator last night, a biopic, similar to Ray, about the life of Howard Hughes, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It's been getting rave reviews. Actually, I liked Ray a little better, maybe because I had such high expectations going into see The Aviator, and low expectations for Ray. Both movies, coincidently, begin and end with their mothers.

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Definitely worth seeing. Long movie: 2 hours, 46 minutes. Hit the restroom on the way in. Saw it at the Big Newport. The place was packed (7PM screening). I like seeing movies in crowded theaters. It makes the viewing experience more of an event. On the way out, I overheard one lady telling another "He [Leonardo] deserves an Oscar; he was in every scene."

There are a handful of directors whose every film I see. At the top of this list is Scorsese. I enjoy everything he does. For The Aviator, he paraded one star after another across the silver screen. Lots of recognizable talent. It was weird, for example, seeing Alan Alda, who normally plays Mr. Nice Guys, portraying a loathsome corrupt politician.

I've always enjoyed biographies. People are fascinating creatures. You never know what they'll do next. The first books I ever checked out from the local public library, after I first learned to read, were all biographies (beginning with Babe Ruth & General George Custer). Of course, Howard Hughes represents one of our species more fascinating and troubled characters.

If there is a weakness to this flick, it's that Leo might simply be too young to play Howard Hughes, who we remember as a much older man. Leo excels in roles that venture into the dark side of human experience, which is probably why he got the part. And he did a great job, especially when it came to those darker scenes. But there were times when his youth made it difficult for me to 100% engage in the story, despite the make-up.

I liked the way they injected flashes of real photos and footage of Howard Hughes. And I liked how the movie took you back in time. Trailer posted here. PG-13.

Saturday: 18.December.2004

Painting

Painting today. There's something therapeutic about choosing a color and painting a room with a fresh coat. We picked baby-blue for the master bedroom. Actually, I think the official name is ocean blue. Seems appropriate since we're so close to the ocean. All we need now is a painting of Crystal Cove to hang on the wall there.

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Thought one coat would do it, but it needed another. Had to motor back to Home Depot for a second gallon.

I have some experience painting. My dad owned apartment buildings when I was a kid. I used to help him remodel on his days off. I can still hear my ol' man saying, "It would be nice if you got more paint on the walls than on the floor." =) [I used to employ the heavy sling-it method.]

Painting is all about preparation. After you tape everything up, and trim the borders, the rest is cake. I'm a terror with that roller. It came out really nice, especially after the second coat dried. Didn't get a drop on the floor, either. Pops would be proud. The living room is next. How does mint-green sound? Or maybe sage?

Friday: 17.December.2004

Google Print

The boys at Google have undertaken a massive project (called Google Print) to scan the books from five libraries (Harvard, Stanford, University of Michigan, Oxford & the New York Public Library) and put them on the Internet.

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Google, which is already the world's most popular search engine, will be the only engine hosting these books, extending their competitive edge even further. The ambitious project will take 6-10 years to complete, and involve some 15 million books at a cost of US$10 to $20 each. You do the math. It's going to co$t a fortune.

Google supposedly has a proprietary technology to get the job done. The libraries want Google to ensure them their method of scanning won't damage their rare books. I have done a little OCR scanning myself (using Omnipage, which many consider the best). It was a tedious, imperfect process. Not every word converts correctly. I had to proof-read and manually fix the mistakes.

No matter how you look at it, this (book)marks the beginning of a new era in the access to knowledge and information. Instead of having to go to the library, Google is bringing the library to you. And unlike the physical library, the virtual one never closes. What an age in which we live.

Thursday: 16.December.2004

The Big House

Speaking of enjoying events here in the OC (see previous entry: dated 13.December), friends asked me to mention their vacation rental, known simply as The Big House. I lived there myself for a kouple of years, so I kan vouch for how sweet it is. The view is nothing short of spectakular. Terraced gardens. All on a private road.

I'm trying to konvince them to konvert one of the (6) bedrooms into a gaming room [we kan kall it The Rad Room], where we would kram a bunch of awesome gaming komputers, such as those featured at Alienware or GamePC, all networked to a Rad gaming server .. for some blazingly-fast (and highly-addictive) LAN play.

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After a hard day of surfing at the beach, then kids kould then unwind by gaming to their hearts' kontent .. into the wee morning hours. A button on the wall would be used in emergencies to "send more pizza". Of kourse, I would have to konduct extensive testing on such a system, to ensure it's safe and konforms to OSHA regulations. =)

Anyway, if you're interested in spending a week or two at the big house, lokated here in lovely Laguna Beach (or LaBeana Gooch, as we like to kall it) mention RADIFIED or let me know. I'm sure I kould talk to Maria and get you a di$kount.

Thursday: 09.December.2004

Moving to North Laguna

When I mentioned "heading north" (04.December), I meant "north", as in North Laguna, as in moving there .. from South Laguna, that is. In other words, we moved ~3 miles north, up Pacific Coast Highway, closer to Newport Beach and Crystal Cove, and the Big Newport ("biggest screen in the West"). Waliing distance from Shaw's Cove and Heisler Park.

I've moved twenty-something times since I was 18 years old. It makes my head hurt to count them all up (Florida, Maine, Pennsylvania, New York, Hawaii, Connecticut, Washington state, Illinois, Guam, Idaho, California, etc). Heck, I remember walking around a shopping mall one time, and forgetting what state I was in (Pennsylvania). People look at you mighty weird when you ask them, "Excused me, can you tell me what state this is?"

Anyway, this new place is nice .. altho not as nice as the last place. Lots of cool plants here. Giant plants. Has a jungle feel to it. My new neighbors are yoga instructors, shrinks, and writing teachers at UCI. Haven't met the rest yet. Buddy & Fran have been on the prowl, checking out the new neighborhood, peeking in windows. Lots of other cats live around here. Good rodent control.

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Got the computer set up. Had to reseat the SCSI card. It must've came loose during the move. Also got a new cable modem. Cox (my internet service provider) sent me a Motorola SURFboard (model SB5120). They actually have an image of a surfboard on the box. Seems to be working okay.

I also got one of those big, new, honkin' digital cable boxes. And they gave me a free-trial of everything for 3 months: HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, etc. I usually don't like foreign films, cuz you spent most of the picture reading subtitles, but I've been impressed with the foreign film channel (285). The films shown there have a wonderful artistic look.

I'm pretty sore & whupped. Moving suks. Have bruises I don't remember getting. My hands are a mess, with cuts, nicks, a little swollen. Been eating Advil like candy. Feel like I could sleep for a week. It always takes much longer to pack than you think. I was up until 3AM three nights in a row. You know you're tired when a double-cappuccino does nothing. Need a shave before I scare somebody. An old lady at the local 7-11 said, "Take my money, just don't hurt me." =)

Gandhi is my new idol. When he died, all he owned was a pair of reading glasses, a robe, a pair of sandals and a rice bowl. That would've made moving a lot easier. I could've called a cab instead of U-Haul. Our capitalistic society breeds the accumulation of possessions. And the things we own, end up owning us. It's hard to resist the influence of the Marketing Machine.

The Dog still has me beat: he has moved nearly 40 times since he was 18. I know migrant farms workers who have more stable living conditions than that. The Dog was just here the other day, on a biz-trip from the East Coast (NYC). Here in SoCal, anytime you see dolphins it's a special day. Anytime you see whales , it's a magical day. And anytime you see the dogbrother, well, those days are the best of all.

Happy birthday to Sidney (the Captain), who turns 78 this week. What's his secret, you ask? A little sip of scotch everyday. (Sidney prefers Glenmorangie.) That and two strips of bacon for breakfast.

Wednesday: 01.December.2004

Blog = Year's Top Word

Merriam-Webster, the folks who make the world's #1 dictionary, says the word "blog" is this year's top word. It was the most-requested word from its online dictionary. Here is the definition they give:

blog noun [short for Weblog ] (1999) : a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer.

That's a pretty good definition. I've been "blogging" for a while now, since back before I knew there was a word for it. In May of last year, I installed software specifically designed for this purpose. Most agree that MovableType is the best blogging software out there, although it can be tricky to install. My MovableType blog is posted here: Ye Olde Rad Blog.

I use it primarily for longer entries (such as this one) ...

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... so I can wax verbose without filling up the home page.

For the home page, I use Macromedia Dreamweaver, since RADIFIED contains more than just a blog. But for pure blogging pleasure, MovableType is easier, cooler & more powerful. It also allows the reader to comment (and tell me I'm full of krap).

I think the reason blogs have become so popular is that they offer honesty. People who blog usually don't have an editor or a sponsor influencing what they write. The content you read in a blog can be wrong, but you can usually feel safe that what you're reading is the author's true feelings.

I mean, if I think something suks, I say it suks. If I like something, I say that too. People who write blogs usually speak candidly and bluntly. I omit profanity, and try to limit my comments to things for which I have personal experience. When spewing my opinion, I try to make it clear it is only that: my opinion.

There are many rules for blogging. I break most of them. My only guide is to provide original content, some original thought .. and to write clearly. That's the least I can do for the reader. The response has been good, but I get my fair share of criticism.

More references on the word blog topping the list are posted here (news.com), and here (stuff), and here (reuters), and here (CNN).