Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Aug 1, 4am. Sleepless

It’s 4:12 in the morning and I can’t sleep. I’m supposed to leave for work in less than four hours. I can’t sleep and I’m not sure why.

I’ve had a persistent sadness sticking with me for the last few days that I can’t seem to shake. This isn’t much of a surprise. It’s almost always been that I don’t shake these things, I just have to let them run their course.

Part of what has kept me up is having the song “Impossible Germany” by Wilco stuck in my head. It’s a wonderful, mellow, rainy-day song that’s kind of sad and pensive but still has an amazing guitar solo. I think the song is so sticky right now because of this sadness.

A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to see the fact that someone that I’ve cared deeply about cultivates the absolute worst aspects of my personality. Ten years ago I hung out with Julie and the Unhappy Club to feel a little less alone. I didn’t realize it at the time but if I had stopped imposing the belief on myself that I was alone I wouldn’t have needed the Unhappy Club. I had plenty of friends at arm’s reach and could have had as many as I wanted. I guess the self-isolation was a natural product of the depression I wasn’t dealing with. In that situation, clumping with like minded people is a survival instinct. I’m trying to figure out why things that happened ten years ago are bothering me so much. The best answer I can come up with is that it that the cognitive dissonance in overturning ten year old beliefs is pretty massive. It all makes me feel very stupid and small.

I spent a lot of effort as a teenager desensitizing myself to trivialities. Part of the depression is that even trivial things become huge and overwhelming if the timing is off. One thing I took away from reading some Zen writings as a teenager is that little things are little and ultimately the meanings and values of everything are only in your head. The clothes dryer chews a hole in your shirt: it’s just a piece of clothing and not worth getting upset over. Sadly, this way of thinking has gotten twisted around for me. For example, cleaning out the cat’s litter box is no big deal… not something to make a fuss about. However, for me the part that seems insignificant is the importance of doing it, not the labor. I have a hard time with simple things that don’t mean a great deal in the larger scheme of things. I need to find a way to get my priorities under control.

Hopefully David Allen is right and having captured these somewhat random thoughts in a trusted system will purge them from my mind. I have my own thoughts as to why this kind of thing works from reading GTD but that’s another topic.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Correspondent Inference Theory and Terrorism

Correspondent Inference Theory and Terrorism

Bruce Schneier has a wonderful article on a paper about the discrepancies between terrorists’ objectives and what the objectives are perceived to be and how that ultimately makes terrorism ineffective.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Transformers Was Awesome

You heard me: awesome. There are some mixed reviews floating around about the live action Transformers movie. My best guess as to why anyone would not like Transformers is that they went in expecting to see the cartoon with better animation. I can see this generating disappointment. However, looking back at other cartoons I enjoyed as a kid the trend that I’ve observed is that they aren’t nearly as good as I remember.


At any rate, I’ll start with the visual effects. There’s not really much to say about them because they were so clean you didn’t realize they were visual effects.

The story was definitely better than any of the episodes of the cartoon or the original animated movie. It was the black and white, good and evil kind of story that you might expect. I think I would have been annoyed if they tried to make it more complicated. They did add to the original setting in making the government frightened of and hostile toward these unknown entities. Hooray for common sense.


The characters were good. Although each character wasn’t exactly the same as in the show, I felt the characters were true in spirit. I also feel that the characters would have to be updated a bit to be accepted by people twenty years after they original show. Optimus Prime is a goodie two-shoes. Starscream is punk. Megatron is not a pistol. And yes, cry yourself to sleep fanboys, Bumblebee is a spunky Camaro. I could have done without the Camaro commercial and I felt the Autobots were a little too goofy in one scene were Sam is searching for a precious item. Given that these are my only complaints about the movie, I think it was done quite well.


I felt the overall presentation was very good. It was an updated story that took all of the best elements of the original show, gave nods to many of the good ones, and left behind most of the bad ones. Several times you hear an updated version of the original, famous transforming sound but you don’t hear it with every transformation. You get hints that Megatron and Starscream have a history of domestic violence but they manage to keep it together for the duration of the movie. In short, you’re given better flavors of the original series without attempts to show you the whole thing.

There is a significant computer/networking element in the movie. I give them credit for really trying to explain the computing issues in the movie. Overall, they did about as good as anyone can. To make the important facets of computer/network security clear to the audience you’d have to put them through a Survey of Computer Science course or something similar. They do a decent job of presenting the spirit of things. If you’re a computer geek, bite your tongue and be thankful that no one says they can “just see the code” or something similarly nonsensical.


I suspect that the cause of some people’s dislike for the new movie is how it deviates from the original show and possibly later shows and comics. I only watched the original show and the animated movie (and bought and played with the toys) so to some degree I don’t know what I’m missing. As I mentioned earlier, I suspect that if I went back and watched some episodes of the original show I would be disappointed. It’s also possible that if I watched the later shows and read the comics I’d see a depth of character and story that I’d feel the movie corrupts or contradicts. If that’s the case, I’d have to say “Oh well”. This isn’t a movie for Transformers historians, it’s a movie for the masses. If anything, I’m pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t really watered down. If you’re expecting to see the show, or the comics, or some amalgam thereof, you’ll probably be disappointed. If you just want to see an entertaining movie with good action, excellent effects, and a good story, pony up you $235 for the movie ticket.

Family Stickers

Some things that are fairly popular here in San Diego are what I think of as Family Roster Stickers. You may have seen them before on the rear window of a minivan. They’re usually white stickers of stick people that represent the family that normally rides in the vehicle.

Usually there’s a tall male and female for the mother and father, smaller males and/or females for the children, and sometimes there are pets and “props” like soccer balls to represent interests.

Is it just me, or is it a little scary that people put these things on their cars? Consider the following scenario. A man approaches a little girl at the playground who’s out of sight of her parents. He says to the little girl, “You’re Christy, right?” She replies that she is. The man continues, “I’m a friend of Travis, I mean, your dad, and he asked me to pick you up and take you home. Your brother Danny is already home from soccer practice. Alice will probably have dinner ready by the time you get there and she won’t want you to let it get cold.”

It’s not really that big of a stretch to see this happening. Of course, for it to work several things need to have failed. First, Christy should know never to talk to strangers, whoever they claim to be. Secondly, Christy shouldn’t be out of sight when away from home or neighbors. Thirdly is that the opportunity needs to have presented itself at all. These things aren’t really that far-fetched.

Having said all this, I don’t want to sound like all the other alarmists who say that every person you don’t know is waiting to kidnap your children. I do think that broadcasting this kind of information about your family is a bad idea. You wouldn’t go around telling people where you live and what times you’re not at home.

What might be a good idea would be to get these kinds of stickers on your car but with fake names. Her parents can tell Christy to ask anyone claiming to know her mother or father what their names are. If the person provides the name on the stickers, something is obviously up. This won’t stop people who actually know Christy and her family but it will thwart some people. It’s no substitute for teaching your child about strangers and keeping an eye on her when at the park and such.

One could also get some of these and just put something fun like The Ass Family. I’d kind of like to have a set for Cthulhu and family.