Saturday, December 30, 2006

Stuff on HD

I just ran into a couple of articles related to High Definition and thought I'd package them here in this main topic. The first is kind of old, but still very useful: a comparison of LCD and Plasma television sets. I felt it was important because of certain manufacturers (namely, Panasonic) claiming the superiority of Plasma since their profit margin is higher on Plasmas. Of course I have a bias towards DLP and LCD, but that page actually has an unbiased comparison of LCD and Plasma, and it's very much worth the read (and probably a bookmark). I also ran into a similarly helpful article explaining the difference between 1080i (interlaced) and 1080p (progressive). Basically, it's just about how many lines on the screen are updated with each refresh cycle, half or all. In all likelihood, you can't ostensibly tell the difference between 1080i and 1080p, but some people are really anal about image quality. Personally though, I'd just go for the best and get a 1080p LCD set. If only I actually had money! Anyway, just thought those two articles would be helpful.

YouTube is hosting a big New Year's Eve bash on Sunday night replete with YouTube celebrities, music videos, and even concert footage. I don't know that any other online site has done something quite like this, but I'd definitely be checking it out if I didn't have a real party to help run. Speaking of online video, a site called VideoJug has sprung up with video how-tos including how to tie a tie and make a Mojito. It's a pretty neat site, definitely worth wasting some time at. If you've ever accidentally clicked on sketchy content while at work, you'll love the idea of a NSFW rel tag that is gaining support among geeks. No clue what the odds are of this actually getting implemented, but I think it'd be as good an idea as nofollow was. Lastly, if you like checking out oddball gadgets, this is a cool list of high-tech Japanese gadgets you can't buy.

Not much more in movies today than a couple of teasers. The first teaser is for Hairspray, and it's just a listing of cast members (though the cast is pretty good and includes Christopher Walken and John Travolta). The teaser for Hannibal Rising at Amazon (I know, weird place to premiere a teaser trailer) is much better. I don't know why everyone is so pessimistic about this movie, I think it sounds rather interesting. Lastly, here's a new, albeit less exciting, poster for Grind House:

Cliick to enlarge

I started this post on Friday, so here's Friday's Feast:

How do you usually celebrate on New Year's Eve?

With lots of booze and dancing. It's been with family every year since I'm still under 21, but this is the last year I'll be underage! So I'm hoping for something more exciting next year.

Name one thing unexpected that happened to you in 2006.

How about totaling my car =P

Where was your favorite place that you visited in 2006?

I guess Austin doesn't count, huh? Probably Dallas, but it's not like I've traveled much at all this past year.

Main Course
What resolution is your top priority for 2007?

Just becoming more outgoing and confident, really. Everything else will just fall in place. I mean I feel pretty good already, but more confidence and caring less about what other people think couldn't hurt.

Using just three words, describe 2006.

Unexpected, weird, different.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Most Innovative

PC World has put up its standard list of the 20 most innovative inventions of the year, and I decided to talk about that here rather than the Microsoft scandal again since I don't want to be redundant. They put Office 2007 at the very top, which is no doubt quite provocative. Apparently, the ribbon and the live preview features really are that stunning. Is it really more innovative than the dual core processor though? I guess the dual core idea has been around for a while, but it's still a pretty big jump in the processor industry. However, the Wii should totally be ahead of Parallels, especially since virtualization is not a new concept. Some of their other selections, including that 750 GB hard drive, the Sony Reader, and Farecast, where spot-on. Some though were kind of strange, I thought. What innovation goes into a Blu-ray disc burner? Or the T-Mobile Dash? I definitely disagree with the rankings, in that sense, but if you ignore the order then it is a pretty good list. Personally, I would've put the Wii at the top with Office 2007 right behind it because the Wii was a totally new kind of concept and very ballsy whereas Office was just a clever upgrade to existing software. You can't have innovation without the kind of guts that Nintendo had.

So back to Microsoft. Joel Spolsky believes firmly that their little gift (see yesterday's post) is bribery, and he poses a convincing case. No matter what, the gift recipients will feel an obligation to return the favor, and it's really Microsoft trying to buy good will and publicity (though it hasn't worked all that well). I didn't know that Consumer Reports actually buys everything it reviews. In a slight backpeddling move, Microsoft has been telling the chosen bloggers to either return the laptops when they're done or to give it away. Why didn't they say this all along? Though I guess it wouldn't have made much of a difference, because people still would've jumped on their back; such is the consequence of being a giant. Gizmodo put up a pictorial of the hottest female bloggers, but the best ones by far (as far as quality of their content, not looks) are Amanda Congdon and Karina Stenquist (of MoBuzz), which is why I've finally added them to my links on the right sidebar. Is it just me, or does Karina look like she's 17? The funniest one is Wendy Chen though because of Girls Out Loud. If you've ever wanted to prank text message your friends, you'll love this. I really want to use AnonTxt, but I'll probably wait til classes start again. Lastly, stop going to and start using Ninjawords for all your definition needs. If you use YubNub, ninj is the command and it's quite handy.

As usual, movie news is in a bit of a post-holiday slump. We have a trailer for I Think I Love My Wife, the upcoming Chris Rock flick, and I like the premise of the movie. However, Chris Rock movies have historically sucked and blown (except for, of course, Dogma), so I'm not too optimistic about a solid execution here. We have a couple more posters for Smokin Aces and they look pretty neat, but not as neat the other ones did. Lastly, we also have a few more pictures from Bandidas, and Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek look so hot together that I could not pass up the opportunity to post this picture of them from the new shots:

Now for the 3x Thursday meme:

1. So, what did you think of 2006? Was it a good year? How so/not?
I don't know. It was good and bad in so many ways. I didn't quite do the things I wanted to do this year, and I did break my beautiful GPA, but at least I had a fun internship and finally joined a social club (TLD) where I've begun to open up more. Plus, I did get my A in Automata theory, and my brother did get married.

2. What was the best thing that happened in 2006? What was the worst?
Definitely my brother's wedding. What an awesome weekend! My only regret was spending probably a little too much time around my cousins (apparently, people thought I had a girlfriend because of this), but oh well. We all had fun! The worst thing was definitely my near-death car accident.

3. What is your forecast for 2007? Got anything big planned?
Hopefully a nice, stable girlfriend. A weird thing to forecast for a 20 year-old guy, right? But I don't like playing the game, it's just irritating. I'd like to find a fun girl who loves dancing and can help take my mind off of school work. I think by the end of the Spring semester I'll be even more outgoing and hopefully brimming with confidence as I get more involved with TLD. I really should've joined a social organization sooner than my Junior year. Also, I'm hoping for a really fun internship, and bright opportunities for full time.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Bribes From Microsoft?

This story is so interesting that it'd be strange for me to not take some time to talk about it. Microsoft, in cooperation with AMD and Acer, has been sending brand new Ferrari laptops loaded with Vista to some of the most influential tech bloggers around. What is a Ferrari laptop? It started out as a gimmick from Acer to make their high-end laptops sexy, and it has become a rather credited line of laptops known for amazing power/performance as well as being adorned with the Ferrari laptop. These machines are far from cheap, and since Microsoft doesn't make hardware it has gotten everyone ancy to call it bribery. I personally don't see it as bribery any more than if a magazine were to receive a new machine for a review. They did partner with Acer and AMD for this whole thing after all, so it's not like they went out and bought the machines out of the blue. AMD and Acer stand to gain just as much as Microsoft, though the timing suggests that it's merely a ploy to get people to give Vista a good review. I'm actually on Microsoft's side this time though, especially since these bloggers can easily send back the gifts right now or when they're done trying them out. I'll cede that it may be a bit misleading to try out Vista on such ridiculously fast machines, but any good, serious, tech blogger knows to try it out on a variety of machines, and will not fall victim to such subjective reporting. I think everyone just likes to vilify Microsoft, and now that they're trying something new everyone is jumping on their backs. It's not like they haven't been doing this already, but with just the regular press. So people should just chill out.

Just as many reporters like to hate on Microsoft as like to laud Apple, so here's one of I'm sure many articles around highlighting Apple's strengths over the year. There's a pretty nice, concise, article over here spelling out the landscape for an iPod phone as well as what Apple's options are. Personally, I think that they'll be partnering with one or more carriers since we already heard that they were talking to Verizon, but you never know. Speaking of music, I just found this site called SeeqPod that will play songs for you for free from your browser as well as point you to related videos on YouTube and Google Video. Great for when you're on the go, or if you want to check out music videos online (since they never come on TV anymore). Lastly, here is a great rebuke of Blu-ray and why it's not such a great technology. Some of the comments are stupid and harsh, especially since he's talking about why he personally would never get Blu-ray. But anyway, it's a great read, and his points are very much valid.

We have word from Christophe Gans that there will be a sequel to the Silent Hill movie, he just doesn't know when. Apparently, in terms of box office grosses it was the third highest of the year, so they consider it a good enough to success to warrant another. I still haven't seen the first one, but I really do intend on renting it since I've heard mixed things. It looks like we may see also see a sequel to an 80s classic: Real Genius. Apparently, Val Kilmer would come back, I just don't know if a sequel really makes sense here, especially like 20 years later. Lastly, a random Russian site has picked up a plethora of high-res shots from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and they look absolutely gorgeous. I really am looking forward to seeing this movie, and I'm glad that the last trailer we saw gave us a better idea of the tone of the movie.

Click to enlarge

Now for a Wednesday Mind Hump:

All you have to do is tell us what you got for Christmas!
I already told you guys about half my gifts on Monday: the shoes and the slow cooker. I also got some cash from my Aunt and a really cool Old Navy pullover from my Uncle's family. I don't know what the fabric is (the label doesn't say), but it's really soft and kind of cream colored. Plus, it fits me! Half my winter wear is just slightly big.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

High Def or Online?

I hope you all had a great Christmas! Funny coincidence that my 600th post ended up coinciding with Christmas day, but it wasn't planned at all. I definitely had fun though, and now to start my 601st post. Mark Cuban made a post about HDTV and how broadcast networks are missing the high-def bandwagon, and I think he makes a great point, for once. I think it's only a matter of time before HD sets are as affordable as big-screen CRTs were just a few years ago and everyone will be buying one. I think people definitely care about quality in something as big as a television set because it's the one thing you can turn to when you're tired after a long day and want to just veg out. HD sets are already selling like hot cakes, and those sales aren't poised to slow down any time soon. What's questionable though is whether it'll really clobber Internet TV. The thing about Internet TV is that it's on demand and it's easy to share. People love talking about television (we are social beings), and so it's much easier to send someone a URL rather than trying to recount what they saw. Hence, the way user-generated videos on YouTube have spread like wildfire. I'm not nearly as confident in ISPs increasing bandwidth as more and more people purchasing HD sets, so I'll cede that content online will be lower quality, but that shouldn't suggest that it's not a great market for advertisers. With a company like Google or Yahoo acting as the middle man, I think it could become huge. And that, my friends, is what Mark Cuban fails to realize. Still, he had some great points.

Speaking of online video, Wired has a list of some of the best videos of the year, and they actually have a pretty good list. The best, by far, is the evolution of dancing one. That one is a must-see. Also on this video thread here, I found a neat little Flash animation explaining how widescreen really does give you more picture than full screen. So remember, never buy a movie in full screen format. You may or may not remember how a while ago there was a big controversy among geeks about using encryption to counter traffic shaping from ISPs so people with such horrible ISPs can still use BitTorrent. Well, TorrentFreak made a pretty great post about why encryption really isn't as bad as Bram Cohen (inventor of this whole protocol) would have you believe. I haven't seen such a good list of argument on this topic before, so I just had to share it. I personally use uTorrent myself, which is encryption enabled. Paint .NET has come out with a beta of v3.0 with tabs, and it's definitely a nice upgrade. I use Paint .NET more than any other photo editor because it's clean, fast, simple, and free, and it's really the best in photo editing freeware. The new filters are especially fun. Lastly, this list is a nice aggregation of the best programmer quotes/quips around. The best one is really #5; it's so true.

There was some rather sad news over the weekend: James Brown passed away yesterday morning, likely from pneumonia, but the details are currently undisclosed. He's the first really huge music icon to die in quite a while, and though he hasn't made a new album in a good while, there's no doubt that he'll be missed. Capone at AICN saw Children of Men and has reinforced what we were all hoping for: it's an incredible movie. These Latin American directors are really taking over Hollywood with the top films of the year! The teaser trailer for Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (which I wasn't even aware was the title) is now at Apple Trailers, and it's pretty amazing. I can't believe I'm saying that this movie actually interests me, but I am. And not just because Jessica Alba is in it, though that is as good a reason as any. Lastly, check out this poster for Catch and Release featuring Kevin Smith in a speaking role. Of course, it also has the very talented Jennifer Garner, but Kevin Smith just never talks in movies, so I'm really curious to see this.

Click to enlarge

Now for the Tuesday Twosome:

1. Top two Favorite Movies.
Kill Bill and The Matrix

2. Top two Favorite Actors.
Al Pacino and Robin Williams

3. Top two Favorite Actresses.
Uma Thurman and Kristen Bell

4. Top two Favorite TV Shows.
24 and Seinfeld

5. Top two Favorite TV Musicians.
Chris Martin (Coldplay) and Tom Morello (Audioslave)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

A very Merry Christmas to all of you! I wasn't going to make a post this morning, but my brother and sister-in-law came for gift exchange, and I'm so excited by what they got me that I had to share. The first thing was a slow cooker, which is cool for making chili and cheese and all that stuff. What was really really awesome though, were these:

NEW SHOES, BABY!!! I'm not quite that girly about shoes, but I always said that when I get a full-time job I'll afford some dress shoes that don't suck and are leather and all that stuff. And these are just what I wanted! These will definitely look good when I wear them to Copa, because even the bottom of the shoes are nice:

You know you're becoming old when you get excited about shoes =P Oh well, screw it, it has been a very exciting Christmas morning for me. I'm going to try to get a few things done real quick before we head over to my uncle's place. Have an awesome day, everyone!

P.S. This is my 600th post! W00t! W00t!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Console War Continues

I went to CompUSA today to get this Bluetooth headset that was free (Motorola H300), and so far so good. It's great to finally have a wireless headset! Anyway, the point is that on the way in I saw a big sign in front of the front door saying "We have the PS3," which I remarked to my dad had to be total crap because no one has PS3. Lo and behold, to the left is a picture taken by someone in an entirely different state at their local Wal-mart, and a similar story is taking place across the nation. What's going on? No one wants a freaking PS3 anymore! People literally have them sitting in their closets because they thought they could sell them off on eBay but the demand is lower than the supply now, which is low enough as it is. I guess it could be that people who want a PS3 just don't know that it's in stores, but it's the busiest time of year right now. If they're not selling like hot cakes now, when will they? In the mean time, the Wii has taken the lead in surveys and the Xbox 360 lagging far behind in second. What's really funny is that people are actually trading in their PS3s for Wiis! I still remember back when the PS3 was first unveiled how optimistic I was, compared with this E3 where it looked like junk, and now it's failing miserably. I'm inclined to believe that it can be saved, but it's going to take one Hell of a miracle (i.e. a really incredible killer app).

Mark Zuckerberg is officially a total moron. Leaked documents suggest that he wasn't even willing to sell Facebook to Yahoo for $1.6 billion, which is probably enough money to buy a small country. What does he think he has here? I don't see the site lasting for forever because he keeps alienating his users, and it's starting to become too big for its own good. People are starting to write it off as too mainstream. Anyway, I would've just sold and started another, better company with the cash. Have you wondered why the iPods are always the same price? I knew that Apple had some sort of deal where retailers had to follow their set prices, but I didn't know that it was really just minimum advertised price (MAP), as this article points out. Still, I have a feeling that Apple is threatening these retailers that they'll stop selling them their stuff if they don't follow their pricing. Is free advertising money really enough to sway them into creating a flat market for Apple products? If you like fun things in flash, you'll love this digital toy. It's just an intensely interactive drag-and-drop thing. Go ahead, try it out! It's just so cool. Anyway, also neat is this fake name generator. Apparently, it used to cost money before but is now free. Lastly, I have one more nifty thing for you: an optical illusion. It's not a joke, it really is an optical illusion. If you don't believe it, try going through it backwards.

The trailer for Black Sheep is up, and it's mildly amusing but I didn't actually laugh in it. It's a very similar kind of parody on horror movies as Shaun of the Dead, so if you appreciate that kind of humor you'll probably enjoy this one as well. Here's a crazy rumor for you: Keanu Reeves may be playing the lead role in the forthcoming Speed Racer movie, which shouldn't be too big of a shock since it is coming from the Wachowski Brothers. It sounds like a fairly reliable rumor though, so don't toss it to the wayside too quickly. Wizard has revealed some interesting tidbits from the comic book movies that are in production right now, and what I found most interesting is that Eva Mendes has actually been trying to increase her bust line for her role in Ghost Rider because her character in the comics is drawn rather busty. She looks pretty hot as it is, but far be it from me to discourage her from trying to naturally grow larger breasts. Anyway, speaking of hotness, Alicia Keys looks pretty smoking in this shot from Smokin' Aces, and you can find other new pictures over here.

I'm going to go for the Saturday Six meme today:

1. How many Christmas Cards did you receive from people you hadn't sent cards to, after the "mailing deadline?" Did you send a card anyway?
My parents do all the card mailing, so no idea =)

2. At this point, do you weigh more or less than you did on January 1, 2006? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Hopefully more. I've been trying to gain weight, obviously in muscle not fat, and I think it worked. But I don't think I got a whole lot bigger.

3. When the clock strikes Midnight on New Year's, will you be at home, at a party, or somewhere else?
I'll be at home and at a party since the party is at my place! My brother is cranky and reluctant on the dancing, so I'm going to have to really blaze it up with the musical selection.

4. Take the quiz: What's your holiday stress level?
Your Holiday Stress Level Is Low

You take it easy over the holidays, and you only take on what you can handle.
You know the holidays are about celebrating and fun - not standing in line at the mall!

5. Have you ever been the designated driver at a party or outing with your friends?
I drove my friends home after a Halloween party, but I don't think any of them were close to drunk, we just didn't want to go in two cars to the same place.

6. Have you ever taken the keys and driven home a friend that you felt was too drunk to drive? If not, do you think you would attempt to if that situation ever arose?
Nope, but I definitely would. My friends have generally been pretty sensible about not driving when they're under the influence.

Don't expect another post from me until Tuesday. I don't imagine much happening tomorrow, hence my post being tonight, and I'll be going to mass and probably will spend the night with my cousins. On Christmas day itself, I'd be crazy to sit here and blog! Hope you all have fun, and Merry Christmas to everyone!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Best and Worst

There was very little news today that was interesting. I thought I'd just take a few moments to talk about this list of the best and worst of 2006 from DV Guru, which is generally a pretty fun site. It's always fun at the end of a year to look back on it and pick apart how things went in retrospect, especially on the scale of the tech industry. I agree with their best move vote going Apple for the switch to Intel, because I honestly think it'll bring them a decent amount of business and make things easier on developers in the long run. I don't think that Xbox 360 was the best move into the living room though. I don't see people getting all that excited about it. I see many more people saying how cool the Wii looks. I hear girls saying this to me, too; not just guys. Anyway, I'm not going to generate more crap to talk about here, the article speaks for itself. I'll probably have my own reflections of the year closer to the end of it.

Again, not much else to talk about. A number of ISPs have taken it upon themselves to traffic shape around torrents, which I find ridiculous since you're paying for the bandwidth and should use it how you see fit. Torrents really do have many legal applications. Anyway, there's a good list over here, you should check it out and avoid those providers for your Internet if at all possible. If you can surf the web from your television, then you should check out SofaTube, which aims to bring YouTube and Revver content to your living room in a nicer format. I think it's kind of a funny idea, but if it works then more power to them. If you're a girl, you may appreciate this article about digitally planning your..err..fertility. When I read the title, I knew I just had to plug it. Lastly, check out this funny prank. He covered his co-worker's office in tinfoil:

I have a couple more trailers for you today. The first is for The Kingdom, which feature Jaimie Foxx trying to track down a bomber in some Middle Eastern country. The trailer actually looks neat, and the movie even features Jennifer Garner, so I hope it turns out well. There's also a really cool trailer for Black Snake Moan, which has Christina Ricci and Samuel L Jackson. It'll make you remember why we all love Sam Jackson so much. The site for Grind House has gone live, and I personally like the design of it. Keep in mind that movie sites are typically Flash-based, so it's not that all sites should be Flash-based, but it does work well for promoting movies. We have a new, more lively poster for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I like it better than the last one we got because it depicts more what we see in the trailer as the tone of the movie. Lastly, we have our first image of the Silver Surfer. Nothing spectacular, mind you, but still kind of neat.

Now for Friday's Feast:

What is one of your Christmas traditions?

To go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, which is usually a beautiful service.

Who is the easiest person on your list to buy presents for?

I don't have one of those =P I guess my brother, but he's still hard to shop for.

What is your favorite Christmas scent?

Probably heaters. I just like the smell of heat in the winter, my brain has come to associate it with a childhood zeal for the holidays.

Main Course
If you could give a fellow blogger a Christmas gift, who would it be and what would you give them?

I'd probably give Jennyfer a better report card =P She worked so hard only to drop down her GPA. Oh cruel cruel grades, they'll be the death of us all!

What's something on your Christmas wish list this year that you need (not just want)?

An iPod Shuffle. I think (and kind of hope) that no one will get it for me. I'd rather everyone get me clothes, but I'll have to get one if no one else does so I can work out without being bored out of my mind.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Looking Back on Suprnova

I really only looked through the past couple of days for missed news items, and decided that the only thing worth more than a couple of sentences was this article commemorating the second anniversary of Suprnova shutting down. Suprnova was really a big deal, I think. It was the first site that brought together lots of torrents in a massive repository for the public at large. I feel that it really brought torrents to the forefront as the next generation of P2P. What's also interesting looking back on it is that nothing has changed despite it being shut down. It ushered in torrents in a big way, and that can't be undone. Shutting down Suprnova didn't really dampen the spirit of the community, which is good and bad. It's bad that so much copyrighted content is still being pirated, but its good that companies are starting to see the benefits of BitTorrent. They interviewed the creator also, and it sounds like the whole experience was stressful. I wonder what possessed him to do it in the first place! He had to know how risky it was, but I guess he felt that being Slovenia would greatly reduce the risk. I think it's ironic that he wants to study acting in America considering all the piracy he facilitated. Anyway, not a bad read if you have a few minutes.

Apparently, I missed a fairly big controversy in my absence. Remember how I reported a rumor that the iPhone would be coming out on Monday? Well, it ended up being a Linksys VoIP phone, and there was a big backlash against Gizmodo for misleading everyone into believing it was from Apple. Brian Lam responded to it, and it appears that Linksys always owned the rights to the name iPhone. He was basically between a rock and a hard place, and people were definitely too hard on him about it. Above you can see what it would've possibly looked like had it really come from Apple. I do have some Apple news for you though: iTunes is responsible for 90% of all digital video sales. That's pretty impressive consider that it came after some of its main competitors. Oh, and Apple put up a nice Get a Mac ad finally; you can see it here (it's called 'Goodwill'). Hopefully, that'll be the last of that series of ads? If you miss old versions of software, you'll love this site. It just hosts versions of software from before they got butchered. Very cool concept! Lastly, I just have tips for you guys. One is a list of some of the lesser known features of Gmail and how to use them, including the + aliasing and controlling highlighting and such. The other thing is a breakdown of the useless background processes that run in Windows that you might want to squash. Very enlightening, and can probably result in major savings in system resources.

Click to enlarge

That's one of 8 new lobby cards from Death Proof, which is Quentin Tarantino's half of Grind House. What's much more thrilling though is the new trailer that Yahoo Movies has. Not only is the presentation of the trailer awesome but so is the content. I have to see this one at midnight on the night of April 5, I think. They also managed to get the first trailer for Transformers. I was very pleasantly surprised by it, and my hopes are much higher for this movie. Granted, the little dialog we heard was pretty bad, but the visuals were amazing. The trailers do not end there though. The indie film King of California, featuring Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood, has a trailer up at its official site, and I think it looks pretty interesting. I hope they publicize it more though. I thought it was more impressive than the new teaser trailer for Ocean's 13. We don't know much about the movie other than the cast, so I'm not going to pass judgement yet. I did like the trailer for Shooter though (feat. Mark Wahlberg), which looks like it could be good action movie except that the trailer gives away like 80% of the plot. Watch it at your own risk. It reminds me a lot of is role in the Bourne movies though. Not much else to share. A couple of cool Spider-man 3 pictures from Premiere Magazine were scanned and put online. Nothing very revealing, but still neat. We also have some creative new posters for Smoking Aces, which I'm still really looking forward to seeing.

Now for the 3x Thursday meme:

1. Do you believe there's such a thing as a chemical imbalance? Do you think that treating these problems with drugs is a good thing? Why/why not?
Yes, and I do. Isn't there medical evidence of chemical imbalances? Our bodies are so delicate on the inside that it doesn't surprise me, and I don't know how to correct it without medication.

2. What about drugs for brain-related stuff like depression? Do you think one should be able to get over it themselves, or do you think sometimes we all need a little help, and sometimes we need meds for awhile?
I think that's a case-by-case decision. You can't say that everyone who's depressed should just deal with it, because some people's situations are different and they may kill themselves without a help from some meds. I don't think we all need drugs though to feel good! That's a crazy statement.

3. Who do you turn to when you have emotional [crises]? Why?
It depends. Often to my two favorite girls, who know who they are already, because they come from two different, yet similar, viewpoints, so it's always a good source of advice. Plus, there's my sister-in-law. I should turn to my brother more, but he's so busy that it's hard to talk to him about serious stuff when I need to but don't feel like it's necessarily urgent.

Bonus Question: Are you ready to deal with Xmas? Will you be happy or sad when the holidays are over?
Yeah, and I'll of course be sad because then I have to go back to school! The Spring semester will be better, but it's still a lot of stress. I'll admit that I miss dancing with cute girls twice a week though!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My Trip to Cerner

Why did I miss my post yesterday? The answer is quite simple: I was in Kansas City, Missouri. So now I know you what you must be wondering: why would I want to be in such a podunk town? I really didn't, especially the day of the flight, but I'm glad I went in the end. I went to see a little company called Cerner, who I'd already interviewed with and they wanted me to fly out there to get a feel for what they do exactly.

So what do they do? If I'm dedicating this many words to it, you know it has to be interesting. And it is. Did you know that ordering a hamburger is more high-tech than if you go to a normal, old-fashioned hospital? How sad is that? So we can develop $600 gaming consoles and $60 video games, but we have ridiculously horrible health care? That's a shame. Enough people die every day from preventable defects in the health care system to fill a Boeing 747. That's also crazy.

So, Cerner has rolled along to fix things up. Imagine a world where there is no health insurance bureaucracy to deal with. You walk in the door, there is no wait but rather you go straight to see the doctor at your appointment time followed by a visit to the pharmacist next door who already has your prescription ready. Oh, and guess what? There is no co-pay or any of that junk, you swipe a card and your company covers the costs. This is the kind of reality that Cerner wants to make happen. But it's a much larger vision than that. Doesn't it suck that your health records are at some hospital on paper, and for you to get them you have to go there personally or have them faxed to you or some other archaic methodology? What if you instead kept all this information online, in a very secure database, and granted hospitals access to this information as needed, which they could then append to? That alone would save lives since they know past conditions from the get-go as well as allergies to things that could be in drugs they may have prescribed to you otherwise.

But oh wait, no no, that's not even the whole picture. Shouldn't everything from the time you walk through the door to when you're all better be integrated? Why is it that paper has to be pushed to percolate information, like maybe a dosage or medication change? Couldn't that be disastrous if it wasn't propagated fast enough? And what happened to hospitals being about people? It seems that nowadays all they care about are your wallets. Shouldn't technology be in place to generate bills rather than nurses writing down crap on paper rather than trying to figure out what they need to do to help you get out of there and back home quicker? I know, a lot of rhetorical questions, but Cerner has solutions for all of these problems. They've opened many paperless, completely digital hospitals, and I don't doubt that they save lots of lives every day. They are my heroes.

They also give back to the community, and have a free service to help kids with juvenile diabetes track their information. They are the definition of what I'd call a company that is not evil. They pretty much make their money off of money wasted in the health care industry, and turn those savings in cash into savings in human life. Maybe this doesn't touch you at all, but it really impacted me. I don't know that any other company will ever be able to make such a good impression on me. Not to say that I'm taking their offer or anything, but I have a much harder decision in front of me than I had thought. I spent this post talking about them because I hope that they might restore your faith in the world as they have restored mine. Any I think it's important to know about them because of these changes their inducing.

Now for some pictures! We started out with a presentation at the Cinemark VIP Room, which was very classy, and then went to dinner at The Brio:

I wish I took some pictures of the food itself, but it was damn good. Our appetizers were ravioli, salad, and these large crispy things (not chips though) with guacamole and spinach dip. our main course was really good salmon, chicken breast, penne pasta with mushrooms, and freaking awesome lasagna. I don't know the dishes' actual names, but they made me happy in my mouth. Desert was a giant creme brou le (no idea how to spell that, sorry) and tira misu. Oh, and it was all family-style. We were free to walk around afterwards in the Plaza, which is where we were and walking distance from the hotel. Not a whole lot to see out there, the trees were pretty bare from the cold (it was like 40 degrees colder out there than in Houston):

There you can see two fellow Longhorns, Daniel and Colin. Sorry about the blurriness, but using flash in that kind of lighting kind of sucks. See:

Yep, that's me right there, though supposedly Daniel was trying to get the lights in the background (all the buildings had lights on them, but they weren't anything special). The stop lights had pedestrian walk signals with timers on them:

Oh, and we saw a limo with horns on the front of it to make us homesick:

We had a tour in the morning, but it was really rainy all day. I decided to get a shot of the hotel from the bus:

Because of the rain, taking pictures from the bus of the few things to see was hard. We stopped at Union station (one of the largest passenger train stations in the nation), but there was very little to see there:

And finally, we reached Cerner Global Headquarters, at the Vision Center (where they take clients, so you know it's gotta be fancy):

This is what the foyer area looks like (can you spot the binary code?):

A closer look at the stack of poinsettias:

And inside that tower is a double helix (DNA):

Lots of symbolism regarding their bridge between medicine and technology. Here's a shot of the room where we spent most of the day. Not only were the chairs leather, but we had leather pads in front of us, I guess for writing on. It's a big C not only for Cerner, but to make everyone equal (no head of the table, as such).

Then we went to lunch, and their cafeteria was sweet. Imagine a dorm cafeteria, except that the food doesn't suck, they cook it right in front of you, and each area has food from a different country.

Sorry I couldn't get a picture of the eating area, but it was very cool and modern as well, and they even had booth tables! Next was the tour, here's one of the cooler rooms we passed by:

They even had a little theater with a big screen for showing clients testimonials from a reference hospital and then for a video conference with the people there to see why they chose Cerner and such.

Again, I didn't use flash (I thought it would be rude since she was talking), so excuse the blurriness. We checked out the cube farm, but I thought it would be awkward to take pictures of that. They were standard cubes, but they faced each other so as to be quite open to one another, which I liked (though it was quite quiet when we were there). We saw the gym, and they had a cool cow there:

Yes, the eyes do light up. That's about it, though I snapped a picture of a new friend of ours from Arizona State University, and I thought it was one of the few pics I took that came out well so I'll share (I hope she doesn't mind):

Then, I just flew back home. The sunset was cool from the plane, thought I got a better shot a little before sunset:

And that concludes this very lengthy post. I promise to return tomorrow with a standard post!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction

I was really planning on having a full post tonight, but the day escaped me. Just to give you a quick recap of my weekend: went straight to my brother's place on Saturday where we had a little gathering that night, then I chilled out at his place yesterday until I came back to my house for a farewell party for my Uncle and Aunt (returning to India), and then today my brother came by again in the evening after I spent the afternoon with my friend watching Stranger Than Fiction and doing some more Christmas shopping. I started working on the post, but now I'm just really too tired to finish it since I have to fly out to Kansas City, MO tomorrow for interviews (which means no post again til Wednesday night, sorry)..

So now for the meat of my post: how was the movie? When I first saw the previews for this movie, I couldn't imagine the plot of a movie where a guy's life is being narrated by a British woman and he was trying to figure things out, but when the reviews were positive I figured that I had to give it a shot. It turns out that the heart of the story is that he learns some disturbing news about how the story is going to end as it is foreshadowed by the narrator and so the story unfolds as him trying to discover the details of his fate and shake up his mundane life. I don't know what makes this movie a good Sunday afternoon movie (I know, I watched it on a Monday), but it is. I have to start up with what I liked least about the movie: the pacing. It was the one flaw of the movie that really stood out to me. I knew it wouldn't be a knee-slapping comedy because it was meant to be a dramedy, with a focus on the drama. However, some scenes took longer than I think they could've to add to the effect of those scenes. I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong with that style of film making, but it makes me not want to see this movie again for a long while.

Now on to the good stuff: Will Ferrell finally took a role seriously! It's a miracle! I guess if you've seen enough of him on SNL you'll be a loyalist and say that he totally can't cut it being this serious character, but I think he did really well with it. His character was very sobering, and he definitely conveyed that within the first 10 minutes of the movie. I don't think I need to tell you that Maggie Gyllenhaal was amazing, but I'll say it anyway: she was Ana Pascal! Not only does she have the look of this unmistakably cute yet independent kind of girl, but she pretty much did everything the way I'd picture her character having done them. I know, that sounds weird, but just trust me: she really pulled it off. Queen Latifah wasn't anything special, but I definitely liked Dustin Hoffman as the sage professor, and Emma Thompson was a very good fit for the writer in the story.

The more I think about this movie the more I can't make up my mind about it. It's so hard to put feelings about it in words, but it's definitely positive. It sounds like the story is really trite and unoriginal, but it ended up really pulling me in. I enjoyed where the story took us, despite how predictable some parts were, and the way the ending came about was masterful. More than anything though: I think the movie just felt real. There are some movies like Kill Bill that are so fantastical that you don't imagine it in the realm of a real story, whereas the characters in Stranger Than Fiction and their interactions just seem so real. It took me a while to come up with this, but I decided on an A- for this one. I definitely didn't think it was a B movie, but I don't think it was fun enough to give an A+. It's a great watch though, just go in expecting to see a drama and you'll end up enjoying it.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Goodbye Forever, Fall 2006!

(I know it's a long post, but I have to make up for the past five days. Also, prepare for a paragraph of introspection, sorry)

As of about 10:30 AM this morning, my fall semester was over. I was in such a state of shock that I was almost numb. My Physics final went very well, my Automata Theory final mindraped me (as it did for the other 17 people who decided to take it early), and this morning's Probability final was almost as easy as I expected (though I still had to study for it, mind you). I don't think I could be much happier that this semester is over, to be honest. All my classes were either boring, useless, or extremely difficult (or multiple ones in some cases). This was my first semester at UT where academically I did not feel very stimulated. I think my brain got some good critical thinking skills out of Automata, no doubt, and I do enjoy a good challenge, but I'm sorry: writing proofs is not fun to me. I'm really thrilled to be taking Object Oriented Programming with the awesomeness known as Professor Downing and Programming Languages, as well, this Spring. I've been waiting for both courses for some time now. And guess what? No more science or labs again EVER! That's the best news, really. Actually, I take that back. You know what the best news is? This was also the first semester I felt Elton the person really grow. Does that make sense? I've felt out of place for the longest time, like even despite meeting people I was still just a number and still sticking to high school friends. With TLD though, I just totally brought a new dimension to my life and my personality, and I'm grateful for that (I should be thanking Jose for getting me into salsa and pushing me to dance with girls even when I sucked). I've actually been meeting interesting new girls (and cool guys), and having lots of fun with them, and not just doing some service activity or putting together an event: but dancing and laughing and the like. I recommend dancing to any of you stuck in a rut in your life! It should've been a hint when I hated frat parties but loved dancing with my cousins at New Year's. I think that now I can really bring myself to new levels as a dancer in the Spring because I have a solid background now (probably even do Texas Revue), and make more time for dating instead of doing retarded Physics labs. Yep, I'm happy, and optimistic. Now I just have to not total my car tomorrow.

There's no doubt that I missed a lot of news, but I'll just aim for the highlights of the last few days. I haven't seen any major tech media outlets report this, but Google Maps has gone through an upgrade. If you try it out now, you'll notice that the left side has changed to where locations are draggable (so you can reverse directions) and you can add multiple waypoints to your route as well as collapse the directions between each pair. It took them long enough! I'm afraid it slows down the app a bit though. Microsoft redesigned its public site to make it more Web 2.0-like, but I'm not really thrilled with it. Yeah, the old design was getting a bit dated, but I think this one is a little too heavy and tries too hard to mimic Windows Explorer. I really hate to laud Apple so much, I really do, but I like their new holiday ad. Something about it just clicks with me, and it's much much better than those Get a Mac ads. More interesting: Gizmodo claims that they're 100% positive that the iPhone will be announced "on Monday," but he doesn't specify which Monday. Presumably, he means December 18, so I guess we'll know soon enough (oh, and he doesn't even say how he knows, so he could be lying just the same, but Gizmodo generally is reputable). There was some chatter of the iTV remote looking like this, but I just wanted to state that I think it's a complete sham. Jobs is going to want it to look like the iMac and MacBook remotes, not something much bigger and black (as opposed to the iTV being white). And apparently I missed an alarming Forrester report that iTunes sales were losing momentum, but Apple has, in an out-of-character move, come out to flat-out deny those claims. I'm sure we'll see the hard numbers at MacWorld, but I can't imagine that report making any sense in the first place. I usually don't like to entertain Mark Cuban's whimsical posts, but I thought I'd give him credit for making a creative one a few days ago suggesting how Google can break iTunes. Ready? Give away the music and make money off just the ads. I think Ruckus already does something like this, albeit only for students, and I just can't see that model working. I'm no business major, but I can't imagine record labels being pleased with that idea. At the best, they'd suggest less portability for the music, which isn't good for anyone. Not even Bill Gates likes DRM and he's an avid opponent of piracy himself! Lastly, take a few minutes and read Joel Spolsky's brilliant post on elegance. It's so awesome because it's just so true.

I'm going to start off with some trailers. The recently redesigned Yahoo Movies site has the first real trailer for Live Free or Die Hard (again, I think this title is stupid), which is little more than cool special effects and action sequences. Still, it does the trick, and piqued my interest, except that Bruce Willis is really getting too old for these kinds of movies. Meanwhile, Moviefone has the new Shrek the Third trailer, which starts out meh and ends up being pretty funny. I still don't know if I'm sold on this movie being good, but at least they're trying hard with it and not just relying on the franchise to make them money. We finally have a tidbit of news on The Dark Knight: the Batman suit will be a little more fabricky and sleek while the Joker suit will be less cartooney than it is in the comics to reflect the darker tone of the movie. I'm really excited to see what he comes up with, though I'm sure it'll disappoint the hardcore Batman geeks since it's different. Jackie Chan was hurt on the set of Rush Hour 3, just part of many problems for the film including cast/crew members getting sick and the film going overbudget. They must've Ratner a lot of money for this one, so how could he possibly go over? Tobey Maguire is claiming that he's not likely to do another Spider-man movie unless the plot is really something special, and Kirsten Dunst has echoed his sentiments. A part of me is sad, but a part of me is happy that at least they won't overdo the series and cheapen it. Plus, a lot of people weren't satisfied with Maguire (I had no problem with him, personally). I could've posted the new Hostel 2 poster, but it's so gross that I decided to show some restraint. Instead, here's one of a few new pictures from Grind House:

Now for Friday's Feast:

What was your very first job with a paycheck?

Being a teaching assistant at the Museum of Natural Science in Houston for these summer camps they had for kids ages 6-12. It was quite an interesting, minimum wage earning experience, but I'm glad I did that rather than some retail job (i.e. Best Buy, MacDonalds, etc) because I had some fun there and it was something really unique to be a part of my career.

Did you ever lose something really important to you?

I lost my Captain Planet action figure when I was like 8, and that was hard on me. He even had a string you would hold to make him fly! I'm still not over the loss.

What is the best Christmas present you ever received?

I really couldn't tell you. I guess the PS2 I got a few years ago, or maybe the iPod Shuffle I got last Christmas, which I've probably gotten more worth out of (despite it breaking last week).

Main Course
Tell about a favorite "hang out" place for you and your friends when you were in high school.

There was a spot in the foyer of the school where we would "hang out" and have lunch. We didn't really go out and do exciting stuff a whole lot; just go to the movies or play pool pretty much. And I wonder why it took this long for me to figure out how much I enjoy dancing! =P

Name something that always brings a smile to your face.

The TLD Semi-Formal on Sunday night =) Aside from that I always smile when I think of my fumbles and successes when trying new moves with girls on the dance floor, there was something else I wouldn't feel comfortable talking about here. It is smile-worthy though, for sure.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Four Day Weekend

I just had a Microsoft phone interview and I thought I did pretty well so I felt that I deserved a break from studying. Yes, I know, I said I wouldn't apply there, but I didn't! They e-mailed me, so I figured it couldn't hurt to take an interview. Anyway, I miss my fun weekend so here are some pictures from it:

I don't actually remember why we weren't looking at my camera, but it could've been that Jennyfer was taking the picture. Anyway, that was from our NSC exec dinner on Friday.

There's everyone who came except me (guess who's behind the camera).

After helping Tina prepare for the ACM Holiday After-Party I went to the official party where we did a white elephant gift exchange. My Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles boxed set was a real hit (stolen 3 times), and I ended up with Old School. My friend Juan got a boxing rabbi and a boxing nun, and here's the rabbi in action against Jack.

The after party was great fun, and I think I did pretty good as DJ. There were definitely a couple of haters, but I think people dug my mix of music, and we did some salsa lessons too! Towards the end, these guys wanted to do that thing, but I don't know what they were trying to do.

After the party, Hunter and Matt wanted to dance with the host.

Since Saturday was graduation day the Tower was lit up Orange with 06 on it, but my full tower shots weren't all that great. That was taken on my way out of the TLD winter show, which was awesome, but I didn't really take any noteworthy shots that wouldn't be stalkerish to post here.

I stopped off at the ACM LAN Party for a bit where the Wii was in full blast. Red Steel was very hard to play, but Wii Sports was tons of fun. I went to Bethany's afterwards to play Pop 5 and watch Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Pop 5 was a lot of fun, but it definitely needs more than 4 players, because our game lasted forever. Still, the pop culture nature of the cards made the game really fun, and I loved the whole element of the other team ranking the activities you can do. My only gripe as such was that the notepads that it came with have like 10 sheets on them. What's up with that, Cranium?! Oh, and a disproportionate number of the songs we ran into were from the late 70s and early 80s, which were great eras, but I should've seen more from the 90s.

TLD Semi-Formal was on Sunday night and it was awesome! That's Joy (Francisco's friend), Anika, Francisco, and myself. Francisco totally copied me on the shirt.

The 3 TLD CS majors: Adam, myself, and Juan. Too bad Juan had to leave early, it's always edumucating to watch him dance.

The party definitely got real hot! Naturally, I didn't get pictures of myself in such compromising poses ;)

NSC Banquet was on Monday night! I sat next to Katie, and Bethany decided to squeeze in the picture, but I love how it came out.

I liked the way this one came out also! Stephanie, myself, Bethany, and Henro!

I wish the person taking this picture stood closer so we could've gotten some light, but since I have no other pictures with Bethany and Jennyfer I have to just live with it!

And that was my exciting weekend. Of course, now I have an exciting Physics test to go back to preparing for, so consider yourself lucky if you see another post from me before Friday night.