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Rants of S
16th-Nov-2014 07:41 pm - Movie: Interstellar
Synopsis: No.

This movie has high ratings across the board from critics and moviegoers alike, on multiple movie review sites. However, I had a very hard time tracking down an actual reason for these ratings before going to see it. It all seemed a bit wishy-washy apart from the ranting over the accuracy of the space effects.

Which are good, don't get me wrong, but they'd be better employed in a space documentary. The wormhole in particular was rendered rather nicely, and the movie starts out looking like hard SF, or at least -ish. Although I don't think that much thought was given to the backstory - if farms are 99% automated and run via giant robot tractors and harvesters, why do billions of people suddenly have to become farmers?

Unfortunately, the hard science approach rapidly gets tossed out the window: the bollixed physics surrounding the time distortion on the first planet they visit are just bloody stupid. As are the ridiculous waves, and anything to do with the black hole horizon. Which can all be technically handwaved when we find out that it was possibly all built by future space-humans reaching back through time, but even so, dedicated scientist characters should have picked up that something was very wrong.

Thus bringing us to the point at which the main character falls through the event horizon and encounters an artificial method of communicating back through time - at which point the entire narrative collapses and any hint of dramatic tension vanishes completely, because there's time travel controlled by a future super-civilisation of humans who built this whole thing to make sure the main character succeeds. Not that the musical score realises this, because it's still trying to bellow your ears off every three seconds with HUGE DRAMATIC CHORDS.

Even the amusingly sarcastic robots - who are at least realistic enough not to have a character arc or emotions or talk amongst themselves vocally - are clunky in design compared to what a true bush robot could have been - although that's again handwaved as them being older designs from back when there was more government budget. I would have liked to see a more modern version, though, if only in the bright, clean, futuristic aftermath. At least they didn't follow robot character clichés and try to take over the mission, or take over the ship, or take over the world, or suddenly turn evil for no reason whatsoever.

Small mercies. But they're not enough to compensate for the token female scientist on the mission (the one who also doubles as the Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter) suddenly deciding that Love must be a higher-dimensional force of physics because she misses her boyfriend. Even the other characters are visibly trying to find a response which isn't "Did you just turn into a Hollywood cliché female stereotype?"

All in all, this movie is more facepalm than feature. Nice visuals here and there, yes, and they do actually remember that space is silent, but the characterisation swerves all over the road, the plot goes nowhere interesting, and it telegraphs its punches well in advance. Miss.
19th-Sep-2014 06:41 pm - Hugs? Hugs.
29th-Apr-2014 05:59 pm(no subject)
By now, everyone has seen the Screen Junkies' take on Frozen. I thought it might be interesting to extend one of their parody snippets:

Do you want some exposition?
Some information through a song?
Fast-forward through our years so fast
From first to last
And you can sing along!

We used to be much smaller
And happy too
Together, we'd never cry...

Do you want some exposition?
It explains our new position

(Now we're sad, Anna!)

And here's why...

Do you want some exposition?
Well here's a character display
I am vivacious and a extrovert
I cannot be inert
I have to run and play!

(Hang in there, folks.)

My sister's ruled by terror
Of her magic frost
She's hiding her life away...
(tick tock tick tock)

(Viewers? Please...)

Thank you for watching
We're nearly at the final scene
You said "Short intro," and I'm trying to
This is no lie, but truth
We can begin

So now you have the story
We'll start the film
And if you forget anew -

...Do you want some exposition?
Just recently solved a WiFi issue and thought I should throw the solution out there for anyone having the same problem.

The problem: A D-Link DIR-655 WAP (hardware version A3) was continually disconnecting (or failing to allow to connect for several hours) a PC which used an Asus USB Wireless Network device. The relevant log entry on the wireless point was as follows:

Wireless system with MAC address {MACaddress here} disconnected for reason: Received Deauthentication

Other computers were having no problem with connecting to the wireless network, so I initially assumed the problem was with the PC or the USB hardware. Multiple months of research, troubleshooting and testing commenced, for little result.

Eventually, I tracked the problem to the router's firmware. Updating it to v1.37NA using this link solved the issue. No disconnections, and establishing the initial link became nearly instantaneous.

I mention it here mostly because the "Received Deauthentication" error appears to have plagued D-Link routers for quite a few years, given the number of pages on the internet which talked about it and tried assorted resolutions (usually unsuccessfully).
9th-Feb-2014 02:40 pm - Review: Robocop
Reading internet reviews of this movie before going to see it, I noted that they tended to fall into two categories. The more vitriolic ones were written by people who had seen the original, and had often been around when it originally came out. Then there were those written by people who hadn't seen the original and were reviewing the new movie on its own merits, and those reviews tended to have less bile but weren't overall very impressed.

After seeing the movie, I can say that they're both right.

Robocop-2014, taken apart from its status as a reboot, doesn't particularly stand out amongst recent releases. It very obviously borrows from movies such as Iron Man, plays quite a number of clichés dead straight, and is disappointingly sloppy about the aspects it chooses to emphasize.

As a reboot, there are a number of aspects which are updated, but they feel misassembled. The entire film feels more like an episode of a TV show than a blockbuster production.

Overall, there are some really great elements to the movie. The update of OCP's motivation for creating Robocop in the first place. The Chinese testing facility. Michael Keaton as a more modern, jeans-wearing, Jobs-type CEO - who isn't just a Steve clone, but is a standard corporate psychopath who wears that image deliberately, and wrings every drop of positive PR out of things like his prosthetics division.

However, there are so many Chekov's guns which are left on the wall. The guitar-player scene where strong emotion is linked to prosthetic malfunction. The whole dopamine issue. Half the movie being about Murphy being able to be overridden by his own combat software. Murphy's partner - is he supposed to contribute to the plot, or not? Murphy having a suicidal breakdown when confronted with how much of his original body remains (and it's a lot less than what the car bomb left him with), but then never mentioning anything about it again. The retention of one human hand - and we see that it's not his entire arm, it's just a floating hand. Why? It never becomes important, although there are many scenes where it could have been.

Then there are all the aspects of the original movie which are referenced, but nerfed hard. The original's guns are now (largely) tasers. Detroit looks like any other 21st-century US city, not the beaten-down urban wasteland presented in the 80s. The original Robocop's helmet, which required a power drill to remove the bolts sticking into his brain, is now a faceplate which can be flipped up and down at will, negating the original's point of the face-concealing, vision-altering visor being designed to be a permanent fixture - when it does come off in the original, what's underneath is not pretty or good PR. Sure, the new design makes sense from the perspective of the new hyper-PR-sensitive OCP, but the original message of loss-of-freedom is gone.

Or the confusing aspects. Robocop's bike is the only one of its kind we see - but there's no indication it was specifically built for him instead of for general motorcycle-cop duties. Sure, it's kept in its own little micro-garage instead of a police general garage, but is it a Robo-Bike or just a Detroit Police vehicle, maybe with heavier shock absorbers? If it was built for Robocop, wouldn't it make sense for it to be able to be remote-controlled, or have tasers of its own which could aim and shoot on the move, or have built-in knockout gas and/or smoke dispensers, or something?

Or the just plain dumb aspects. Robocop is a prototype, one-of-a-kind, still being tested and checked, and yet someone thinks it's a great idea to upload the entire city police database into his head ten minutes before his first public press conference, not knowing anything about what that might do. There's never even any indication that the corrupt CEO or anyone else particularly pushed for this, so it's not a case of executive meddling. It's just poor plotting.

Overall, it's a movie which could have been done a lot better, both as a standalone and as a reboot. As it stands, it's just messy.
2nd-Feb-2014 11:54 pm - Late revision
A multi-day internet outage got me going back to some earlier work, trying to wring a mammalian mode out of the multi-mode toy design I've had floating around for a while.

Basic underlying shape:

This one actually came together last, as it took some time to find a set of joint positions which would allow the tip of the tail to lie neatly against the slope of the upper back. I've also tweaked the position of the dual guns slung under the chest, pointing them more up and backwards like exhaust pipes, and slid the neck and upper back area forward. Interestingly, the entire upper surface here (head plus the upper 'spine' running along the back) can slide forward and back a little bit, so the design could be fiddled with a little in that respect. No tail, but sabertooths didn't tend to have very long tails from what I recall.

One thing I like about this version is that there's nearly no color from other modes on it - only the purple stripes on the sides of the upper back from the jet mode's rear bridge.


Here you can see some of the tail options I played with. The tail is really too thick for a feline, though - it puts me more in mind of a scorpion or squirrel.

Overall, it's not the worst big-cat mode I've seen robot toys turn into (although I might have to reach back to the original Sky Lynx to make that comparison). The feet are painfully wrong, though, looking more like baboon hands than cat paws. (The joints are in all the wrong places to easily fix this, too.) The legs are kind of spindly, and the head is very small. The front shoulders are probably too far apart, and the rear legs are missing an upper segment for true catlike articulation.

This is, theoretically, the last altmode for this design, and the second-last actual mode. As a result, I'm starting to run into problems with only having a limited amount of space to put joints into, and this mode is kind of weak as a result. People know what proportions cats are supposed to have, and this mode falls down an awful lot in that department.

Fun fact - right up until this redesign, the tail seen here was being used as the rear legs - pretty unsuccessfully, I might add. I mostly changed it so I could have four similar-looking feet, and because with the older design, it fell into the problem that a lot of simpler animal altmodes did in the Beast Wars line, which was making the four animal legs into the four robot limbs by having the transformation effectively be "Stand robot up. Swap heads." I always considered those to be lazy engineering, unless there was also a significant amount of changes to the limb shapes, lengths, and torso connection points.

Some transformation notes - the head flips out from the jet bridge in a very similar manner to Quickswitch's. However, in order to make better use of space, this design does not have a separate robot head - the cat head actually turns into the robot head in a slightly more complex version of how Snapdragon's head is a dinosaur head or robot head from different angles. However, my version will have a little bit of actual transformation involved, as transforming heads are sorely under-represented in commercial toys, with the possible sole exception of Perfect Effect's 'Warden'. Even the original Cerebros didn't exactly have a terribly interesting transformation.
25th-Sep-2013 12:27 pm - Nom.
There are few things as satisfying as eating an entire kilo of roast beef.

It's not just the rare opportunity to be a glutton for a meal, it's that the aftermath of eating a huge chunk of roast feels like I'm zeroing out a bunch of minor chemical deficiencies on top of loading up on protein. I'll spend a couple of days feeling like I've had a tune-up and everything is running smoothly.

Maybe I just spend most of my life slightly under-beefed...
6th-Jun-2013 05:29 pm - Erk.

Ug. Feels like my brain's been grilled over a low heat for the past couple of months. Just want to sleep.

On the plus side, figured out something which could be a light at the end of the tunnel. On the minus side, it really needs a contact in the recruiting industry (current or former) to make it work, and I have the networking skills of a rock. Fiddlesticks.

Also, figured out how to automatically clean a surface out from under anything it's holding up, without needing to move the items. Kinda nifty. The design is slightly overkill for merely cleaning, but it'd be pretty cool to be able to press a button and have every surface in a house clean itself (including walls, ceilings, floors, and built-in storage) with extreme prejudice on a schedule. The only real problem is that it wouldn't (currently) extend to soft surfaces, furniture, appliances etc. On the plus side, it could clean things like kitchen and bathroom surfaces even if items were stacked on them, without needing to move said items.

Well, to an extent. There are issues with curved surfaces and where two surfaces meet convexly. I figure it'd be best employed for floors, walls, ceilings, and things like countertops, shelving, and storage areas. Even if most non-wall vertical surfaces weren't covered, it'd still be a huge advantage to be able to have the wall behind the fridge (and the floor under it) clean itself once a week. Not to mention that the self-cleaning areas would also effectively repair themselves. Fresh paint, no cracks or gouges, that kinda thing. Cobwebs might take a few cycles to get rid of, though.
10th-Apr-2013 02:22 pm - Bait and switch
Moving house is always fun. Particularly when getting hold of packing boxes. Moving companies charge for them if they're not going to be returned. There's a place advertising itself as the Box Shop which has "Boxes from $1!" all over its website, by which they mean "There's a beat-up box sitting out the front of the store exposed to the weather which is $1; everything else isn't priced on the website but when you turn up you find out it's $5 to $30 a pop."
Summary: Meh.

GI Joe: Retaliation
Plenty of stuff going boom, but it's more for the franchise fans, if only to see things like HISS tanks on the big screen. Missable.

Oz the Great and Powerful
Stuffed to the gills with homages and references to the most well-known of the Wizard of Oz movies, it's something of a love letter to the 1939 production. The plot is standard, the villains chew the scenery, and it all works out in the end. Great for movie buffs who want to see both films back to back.

The Croods
Slickly animated, but sadly not much more than standard kiddie CGI product so prevalent these days. Leave your brain in a bucket by the door.

A Good Day to Die Hard
The bad guys are nuts, the good guys toss quips and one-liners, and everything explodes. Twice. Popcorn fodder.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Oh so very, very silly. Tries for the light-hearted silliness of Van Helsing, but falls short. Funniest scenes are anything involving the arsenal of clockpunk weaponry the titular duo cart around.
30th-Dec-2012 12:13 am - Fun, fun, fun
It seems a lightning strike from a recent storm took out the hardware I was using to manage the internet connection here. I built a new one, but that decided to spontaneously explode and die soon afterward. So I've spent today building a new system from scratch. New hardware, new operating system, new configurations... except that the new software is linked to a different service on the net due to a buyout three years ago, meaning that I also have to update my DNS settings or my mail won't work, and my domain hoster's web interface chokes on the somewhat nonstandard configurations I use.

All this means that I have to get them to update it manually for me by speaking technobabble at them until they glaze over, and then hopefully my email and other systems will be back up and running.

It is rather irritating, though. But at least I can see the internet, even if I can't receive email.
25th-Dec-2012 09:30 am - Busy day
Summary: Guardians is missable, Ralph is watchable.

Rise of the Guardians is honestly not great. There's nothing inherently wrong with it, it's just that the characters aren't very relatable, the story is predictable, and the whole thing feels like it's been written to sell McDonalds tie-in toys rather than actually be an interesting story. It's painting-by-numbers, and it didn't help that it failed the public transport test (if a movie is advertised on or in a public transport vehicle or stop, it is probably going to be crap).

Wreck-It Ralph, on the other hand, is more down-to-earth. I should note that the multiple onscreen appearances of a huge number of game characters from various franchises are about 95% hi-and-bye cameos, so don't go in expecting to see Sonic and Mario team up with Q*Bert and Pac-Man. The main characters are all new. The movie is actually rather sweet, and that's not just because one of the video game worlds in it is called Sugar Rush. The audio team deserves special mention - the sound effects and in-game sound tracks are distilled nostalgia and stupendously catchy respectively. The video game worlds are flawlessly designed, too - they could be spun off into actual arcade games and no-one would blink an eye. It did seem very designed for home-theatre replay - there are crowd scenes with cameos which shout out for frame-by-frame analysis, there isn't a lot of super-duper-detail that really matters, and the scenes which play out from the in-universe games practically beg for a high-def gaming screen as their natural environment.

(Grumble for the cinema I went to, though - they were still playing ads, ads, and more ads 25 minutes past the advertised start time. No wonder people are downloading movies in preference to travelling somewhere to pay forty bucks for the cheap seats and have nearly half an hour of their time wasted.)
16th-Dec-2012 07:54 pm - Anger
I've been around long enough to know what pushes my buttons. And one of them is when I've spent years collecting information about an aspect of my life, only to mention one tiny fragment of it in passing to someone, and they come back to me the next day determined to control my life despite knowing jack-all about the situation.

Without going into specifics, family member who did this recently, I'm sorry that the random person you decided to chat about my life with once knew a person who had a bad experience. This does not mean that you get to dictate a lifestyle change to me when neither you nor your chat-buddy knows the first detail of the information I've been collecting, analysing, and adjusting to. I am aware it's an issue, I have a schedule for getting it taken care of, I do not intend to let it interfere with either my life or anyone else's, and given that there is actually currently no permanent fix available for it, you can't do a damn thing anyway.

So how about we leave this to the people who have the data (me), the people who have done the research (again, me), and the people who already have an action plan in place to mitigate the problem as much as possible while a permanent solution is being worked on (oh, wait, that's me again)?

Honestly, it's like letting slip you've been confined to a wheelchair for the last five years, and them coming back with "Oh, I decided to discuss your life with some random guy down the pub, and he said you should just try walking, so I'm going to berate you every day into going for a jog."

So I guess now I'm never going to be able to relax around anyone in my family ever again, even for a moment, or ever talk to them about anything that concerns me. Thank you so very fucking much, family member.

(Oh, and reading back over this, I realise it's very widely interpretable. However, to address things which might spring to mind after reading it, no it's not about drugs, no it's not about sexual orientation, no it's not about any person in my life or personal relationship, and no it's not lupus.)
Update: worked out how to retain the clean corner-based double-joints while allowing them to extend into elbow and knee joints with more central axes. This will also allow slide- or flip-panels to origamiform the external parts of the joints without affecting the functionality. Basically, it allows those joints to look like nearly anything, then completely vanish into nothingness when they're not needed. They'll need to be fairly tight in plastic to hold poses and the weight of the rest of the toy, but nothing impossible.

I like this. It means that the arms and legs won't look so much like bricks joined by gate-hinges on the edges.
30th-Nov-2012 12:23 am - Movies: Skyfall
"I'm told the PM was particularly proud of England's IT infrastructure, apparently defended by an ageing go-getter, a genius, and a man from Scotland."

Yes, the computerese in Skyfall is abysmal, but it's thankfully over very quickly, and the movie can concentrate on its other themes - namely, being an unexpectedly well-written method of writing some of the very early Bond elements back into the series, referencing the early works in many ways, and exploring the themes of age, experience, and relevance in a world which seems to have moved on.

Yes, it gets clunky in parts, and not just the magic computers and the kind of national IT security procedures which would feature on the worst of amateur hour. Semi-integrated classic Bond elements appear in places like unwanted lumps in custard, with no real reason for them to be included. (The not-really-sex-scenes and the villain's one-scene-only prosthetic spring to mind.)

Even so, there's a really strong metaphor built up in the film between the character of Bond and the franchise itself. They rely on experience but comfortable old tactics, they're vulnerable to up-and-comers, and they regain their strength by returning to their roots.

It's just a pity Q looks so much like Maurice Moss.
25th-Nov-2012 08:26 pm - Random thoughts
Assume you've been given a whole bunch of property. Say, four to six square blocks in suburbia, complete with previously-occupied buildings. You may include a small skyscraper in this, if it suits.

Now assume it's in Detroit, or another area hit by massive property and population crash. Your surroundings probably consist of creeping urban blight, squatters in abandoned houses, and infrequent law enforcement presence. You do, however, have city services - gas, water, electricity, phone, internet. The city center is perhaps no more than ten miles away. You also have a budget in the ballpark of fifty to a hundred million dollars a year.

How do you go about turning the area around these blocks into something capable of growing into a place people would want to work and live? Do you institute urban renewal programs? Try and find the remaining locals good jobs? Donate to schools, medical centers, community groups, food banks? What initiatives would be the best to start with, and then to go on with?

Anyone seen first-hand an area be renewed nearly single-handedly by one person or one group? How did they do it?
10th-Nov-2012 06:16 pm - Review: Frankenweenie
Despite its somewhat juvenile-sounding name, this movie is a love affair with classic horror cinema. Take a horror buff along, and they'll be handed treat after treat, with references not so much sprinkled in as delivered by the truckload, completely under the radar of the theoretical younger target audience.
28th-Sep-2012 02:31 am - Huh.
Apparently Perth has urban foxes. At least one, anyway.
19th-Sep-2012 11:59 pm - Happy birthday :)
The week has been long, the month has been longer, but there's always a brighter future around the corner.

1st-Aug-2012 10:51 pm - Random headlessness
Probably a strange and stray thought, but a cyborg body might work better with a holographic head instead of a physical one, assuming it's not going to be 100% humanoid to start with.

Really, a neck is a huge weak point. Better to move the brain into the torso and use fibre-optics to link the senses, thus bypassing the original speed-of-reaction reason for the brain being so close to the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth in the first place.

I only suggest a holographic head for social reasons. It wouldn't be functionally needed, but it'd be useful to be able to project a human face and expressions. A lot of nonverbal communication passes through the face, and fictional robots with human-looking faces are generally presented as more approachable, social, and likely to be 'good guys' than those with increasingly mechanical visages.

In addition, a projected head would have the advantages that it couldn't be damaged/wounded, couldn't get caught on things, wouldn't be limited in its appearance or expression, and could switch from looking like a real head (of any appearance) to a stylised design of a head, to nonhuman heads, to cartoon characters, to non-noggin things like educational diagrams, emoticons, spotlights, flashing alarms etc. It would also need no moving parts to maintain and repair, and would likewise do away with the need for neck muscles, armatures, and flexible nerve bundles.

For more mundane, day-to-day advantages, a projected head would never need cleaning, and would always look exactly as desired - its hair, teeth, skin, makeup etc would always look as perfect as any other CGI movie character, and could be instantly updated to a new 'look' in a fraction of a second.

(One problem: you'd probably need to reattach a physical head if you were planning on getting smoochy with anyone. And hugs tend to work better if there's a head to snuggle. Still, you could leave that safely at home and use the projected head during the workday in order to cut down on wear and tear.)

Right, brain-wander time is over. Back to whatever you were doing. :)
9th-May-2012 07:25 pm - Little kids' show.
Friendship and pastel colours and cute animals and what the hell?

18th-Feb-2012 03:19 am - Things that annoy me this week
Restaurant/eatery websites, or any commercial premises website for that matter, which doesn't have any information on what time it closes other than "late".

What's late? 10pm? Midnight? 2am? Later? If I'm looking for somewhere to grab a snack at 9:45 at night, is it worth me getting in the car and driving twenty minutes to get to the place? What if I'm working all night and getting peckish around 4am? Is the place open or not?

It's not hard to put exact opening and closing times up on a website - that's kind of what they're FOR. If a business doesn't know how late it's going to be open on a given night, why not say something like "Open til midnight, possibly later depending on business"?

It'd also be nice to have a standard format for opening hours, as well, so that searches by Google and the Yellow Pages and whatnot could tell you if any of the places you'd searched for were currently open, and also the next time they were due to open/close.
15th-Feb-2012 01:17 am - Movie: Chronicle
A victim of its own success. The special effects are (mostly) so well done and so integrated into the environment that they completely lack drama, when they're supposed to be the focus of the movie.

The rest of the movie is just... boring. Daytime television stuff. Blah blah teenage kid has a hard life, pushed around by drunk father and school bullies, lashes out uncontrollably and gets killed. I've never been a fan of the found-footage format, and this film does nothing to make me change my mind on that front.

Honestly, it made me think I was watching a ninety-minute TV series intro. It's perfectly set up at the end for the last character we see to begin Walking the Earth as a Knight Errant.

Might make a better TV show than a movie, actually. Wandering telekinetic, always trying to find the secret of the glowing blue rock thing that the authorities may or may not have taken off to an Area 51 lab, doing good along the way.
10th-Feb-2012 04:58 pm - G1 Sixshot animation model motes
Just going over his brief appearance in G1S4 - his armoured carrier mode appears to have six wheels, with a rear double axle (the actual toy only had four wheels). It'd actually fit his personality and function better, as well as reinforcing the "six" theme. He also looks like his fists are extended (and white) - at least, the projecting smaller white blocks at the sides of the front of the vehicle are in the right place for the fists on the toy.

The Japanese model for his carrier mode (Headmasters: Ultra Magnus Dies!) is a lot more integrated and slicker. The knee kibble (front of the jet mode) is much more minimised and partially covers up the wrists, and there is a bonnet/hood, although there are still conspicuously sunken areas on the front of the vehicle (air intakes?).

Greatshot (Victory: Crisis! Ambush in the Desert!) assumes a mode which is much closer to the toy, including the sunken hood and vehicle front, large jetnose kibble, obvious wings, and prominent wheels and radar dish. It's not bad - the large wide wheels do make it look like a desert vehicle.
A love letter to early cinema. Wonderful reconstructions and homages to famous clips from the dawn of movie-making. Beautiful story of life and revival. Completely ruined for me by Sacha Baron Cohen as Inspector Gustav, who is an absolute dead ringer - appearance, voice, and very nearly accent - for 'Allo 'Allo's Officer Crabtree.

The Secret World of Arrietty
Superb animation, as only to be expected from Studio Ghibli. Suffers from an attempt to translate a quintessentially Western premise into a Japanese setting, though. It's like trying to set My Neighbor Totoro in London, or having leprechauns in Brazil.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Tom Cruise climbs the outside of a tower while the rest of the cast try to make a movie.
Lots of material for fans of the series - check all the backgrounds for many many references. Unfortunately, suffers from being a little TOO accurate in the transition from comic panel to motion picture, in that many of the sequences look very much like they are just getting from panel A to panel B to panel C and so on. Also, the hyper-realistic skin and hair textures clash a bit with the compromise between Hergé's iconic caricatures and the movie's more muted, lifelike proportions. An interesting effort, nonetheless.

The Muppets
Disappointing. It comes across as if a Muppet movie was attempted by people who'd had a wide selection of Muppet movie and TV gags, characters, and motifs handed to them, but who didn't really get the Muppets and what made them so hilariously entertaining. The result is a by-the-checkboxes Frankensteinian assembly of the corpses of once-funny gags and shreds of previous plots. It could have been so much better.

Underworld: Awakening
Gunplay, occasional wire-fu, CGI werewolves, and leather corsets over vinyl catsuits. Leave your brain in a bucket at the door.

Happy Feet 2
Suffers from sequelitis. Not terrible, by any means, but the shine's worn off.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
It's not subtext if it's text... possibly the slashiest big-budget film to hit theatres in months, if not years. Fairly amusing at points, although I would have thought they would have saved the climax for a third film. Could have used a fraction more focus on Holmes' deductive abilities - the first movie was quite good with that.
27th-Jan-2012 03:58 pm - Bliss
Found an unused pedestal fan when moving chairs around. Sitting next to my den chair, and with occasional mild self-dousing with whatever water comes to hand, it's absolutely perfect for moving the air in this oven around just enough so I'm no longer in danger of actually melting.

I should totally get hold of a spray bottle / plant mister from somewhere.
19th-Jan-2012 08:54 am - Solved the workplace issue.
Fired the boss.
16th-Jan-2012 06:19 pm - *SNARL*
5th-Jan-2012 04:19 pm - Catch 22
Nothing quite like using the Christmas break - the only time I have when I'm not going to be working 11- and 12-hour days - to try and contact a whole bunch of people who might be able to transition me to better opportunities.

After hearing "No, they're not in until next week - come back after the Christmas break" for the zillionth time, I have to start wondering exactly who some of these places think they're catering to. Apparently not people who work during standard business hours.

(Note to self: if ever running one of these places, have it open Thursday through Monday 5am-9pm and open on public holidays.)
A nicely realised version of the first act of the online Agatha Heterodyne stories. The colouration in particular is very craftily done - it makes more sense if you're familiar with Agatha's later adventures and self-discovery. There are even panels where the saturation and hue change from one side to the other... and there's a reason for that, although it's not immediately obvious from the story.

(Only two editing problems I found with it on a quick readthrough: the "as is" on the back cover should be "as if", and there's a dialogue balloon missing from the bottom-right of the page where Tock tears the roof off the laboratory.)

Going back over the story after all this time since it first appeared on the web, the changes in art style over the years are obvious, although not extreme. There are also nicely defining character moments, such as Gil's response to being ambushed by the contents of the storage cupboard - his instinctive reaction is to save the goldfish.
30th-Dec-2011 07:48 pm - See?
10th-Dec-2011 03:33 pm - Elegance
This might be about four years late to the party, but I've been thinking about why the Bayformer aesthetic bugs me a bit, and I think it comes down to elegance.

The CGI models are constructed of thousands and thousands of parts. This allows them to be both super-accurate vehicles and extremely articulated robots. But it's a sledgehammer approach. The appeal of the transformation process, to me... the artistry, if you will, is in using the minimum number of parts to get from A to B. Anyone can turn twenty thousand feet of chain into a sculpture of anything they want, but it's a lot harder to pull off when you only have six or seven pieces.

That's where the skill, experience, and creativity come in. It's a careful balance between minimising the number of pieces (for production cost reasons if nothing else) and still being able to make the final results actually work as vehicle, robot, and toy which can survive fairly rough handling by kids.

Show me an Optimus Prime in thirty thousand components and I'll shrug. Show me one in thirty, each piece carefully shaped, positioned, and painted to enhance the overall effect, and I'll be impressed.


I do like the physical simplicity and modularity. If a placement unit is damaged or destroyed, it can be retrieved and another one can take its place immediately. I'd like to see some ability to grip securely onto a building surface, though, in order to wield force-feedback tools like automatic spanners and nailguns, or to allow more precise placement of heavy items. The advantage is that the number of unit resources assigned to a particular part placement can be altered on the fly as conditions change: stronger winds would result in more copters and surface grippers being used per part. This would slow down the rate of construction, but not stop it entirely until conditions became too harsh for the placement units to continue.

And of course, with infrared lasers bathing the worksite, the assembly copters could work 24/7.
In Time: Forgettable. I had to go look up its name again just to write this. The premise has been around in SF for decades, and it gets a pretty lackluster outing here. If there's one message to take away, it's this: Don't waste your time.

Arthur Christmas: I was completely surprised that this was actually really good. The cliches are there, but they don't overwhelm the movie, and there are some genuine tearjerker moments, as well as some great chuckles. Everything wraps up without surprises, but it does so in a remarkably sweet way without descending into being saccharine. I like that Steve and the S-1, though they play the roles of obstacle and harsh reminder of progress, don't get the karmic endings one might expect - and yet it still seems right and proper.

Puss in Boots: Just pure fun. Señor Puss confronts his past, saves the village, and attracts the attention of a very, very good thief. There are some absolute groaner visual puns for the sharp-eyed, and a couple of implied ones in the script that are just as terrible. Puss's characteristic moves from the Shrek films are there, but they don't overwhelm the action, and the ginger hero gets his day in the sun.

This makes me feel all giggly. As soon as we get better fine control of magnetic fields, ideally making them directionally projectable, and room-temperature superconductors are available at every warehouse, this technology will come into its own in a massive way.
19th-Nov-2011 01:38 pm - Amusing
Wandering through the CBD on a Saturday can be hilarious when I realise I'm the only person visible wearing a tie.

Apparently I only wear them when no-one else does...
12th-Nov-2011 03:51 pm - Reflections
Doing a bit of self-analysis today, I figured that one of the things that pisses me off like no other is the assumption that my time and effort (or any other attribute) is worthless, and therefore other people can, without consultation, assign as much of it as they like to whatever they like whenever they like, either explicitly or implicitly.

Things I'm under contract for, like whatever falls under job duties in the workplace, don't get this reaction, because I was there when the contract was offered and it was my decision to sign up and be paid X amount to do jobs of Y type under Z circumstances.

I'm also less likely to be triggered if someone asks me if I can do something, with no expectation that I will automatically say yes. That way, the decision is mine to make.

Anyone who knows me well, though, knows that I don't like being shanghaied into things, I don't like being micromanaged, I don't like people assuming that I will go somewhere or do something just because it would be convenient for them, and the fastest way to get me to refuse to do something is to tell me I'm going to do it. Unless I was going to anyway, I will simply not do it - or even choose to make it worse - purely to make the point that I am not a free resource, I am not anyone's servant of the moment, and that even if I've agreed to do thing A for a person, that does not automatically grant the person the right to have me do B, C, and Q.

It can be a real shock to people who may have thought I was a doormat simply because most of the time I'm relatively easy-going and don't have a problem adding minor things to my to-do list (as a once-off, anyway) when they don't conflict with anything else on there. Especially confusing is when I'll do something once on their request, but not a second or third time, because while I'm fine with helping someone over a bump, I'm not about to take on board an ongoing resource drain.

(A timescaled version applies to changes in my life. I might be willing to tolerate a situation for a week, or a month, or half a year. But sooner or later, I'm going to put my foot down and say no, this is not acceptable as a permanent solution.)

I'll do it particularly with jobs. The first week or month in a new job is spent noting all the things that are not acceptable. I'll try and gently change or modify them over the next few months, and/or investigate ways they can be altered with the minimum of disruption and ruffled feathers. But eventually, I'm going to be telling people flat out "Either this changes (and here's some ways it could happen), or I walk." If I honestly cannot see any way to satisfactorily and permanently address a problem, and nobody is willing to offer useful suggestions, I'll simply say my goodbyes.

Life is too short to put yourself through hell every day.

Example: the upcoming work Christmas party. It's being organised (in part) by a co-worker who sits fairly close to me. He's decided it's his job to get everyone to come, and that the way to get me to do this is to (a) several times a day, tell me I'm coming, and (b) try and entice me with lists of all the things that he personally is going to find awesome about it - none of which I have the slightest interest in.

I am not a party person. I am not a drinking person. I am not a socialise-with-people-I-work-with person. I do not appreciate loud music unless I'm playing it. I have no breeze to shoot, no fat to chew, and no up to catch. I know that other people have their own tastes, and that's fine, they can do their thing.

Just don't expect me to tag along.
2nd-Nov-2011 01:43 am - The new ones don't squeak.
It was Tuesday when my shoes exploded.

Some arcane combination of flex, cheap materials, and being worn eighty hours a week came together in ways only ancient cobbler gurus might truly comprehend, and I was left standing in two small puddles of dissociated shoe parts on the sidewalk outside the drycleaners'.

It was not, I reflected, the kind of situation most people find themselves in.

Oh, sure, other people generally have more in the way of strange anecdotes, most of which seem to involve alcohol in one way or several. They talk about the weird and wild things which happened to them during their schooldays, and all I can do is look blank and think that I must have been perpetually just around the corner from bizarre shenanigans my entire student life. But then again, I have a talent for not being in the kind of places such stories start.

I don't do parties. I don't go to concerts. Pubs and bars hold no attraction for me. Likewise sporting events, to an almost oblivious degree - it honestly did not occur to me Tuesday morning that the reason traffic was so light was that a whole lot of people were skipping work for the entire day because of a flipping three minute horse race on the other side of the country. It's just not a mindset I can get into easily.

So when things happen to me which belong somewhere out on the far foothills of the probability curve, they're not usually of the "ha ha, and then I woke up wearing nothing but a traffic cone, how we laughed" genre, but more along the lines of "how is that even possible?"

Gremlins, perhaps. One of these days I'm going to zig instead of zag and find out I've accidentally walked into Narnia, or been deemed Second Under-Duke of Dimension X, and will be mildly irritated.
30th-Oct-2011 09:43 pm - Review: Danny Phantom
Mainlined the entire show archive, fifty-plus episodes. It has similar elements to The Incredibles, Kim Possible, and of course The Fairly Oddparents, as well as the requisite smattering of pop culture references.

I actually really liked it. Despite it having a fairly predictable core plot dynamic, it does well in not only developing quite a few of the side characters, but in slowly allowing the protagonist to actually develop both experientially and emotionally along the way. The Big Finale show did seem a little cobbled-together, though.

About the only issue was that it seemed the writers could never really decide how much limelight and character to give the sidekicks. Every so often there would be a "Oh yeah, we should really show them as being pretty competent and not just there to be cheerleaders" episode, and then they'd be back to being background filler. I did, however, like the way the characters of the senior Fentons were honed over the series. They did stay true to their first-episode depictions, but become very much larger-than-life once the character interactions jelled.

Overall - not bad!
Managed to design, configure, test, and implement a cross-WAN multi-backup, caching, and cross-site mirror and data transfer setup for the current employer.

Good points: Got to spend time tweaking setups instead of the scuttier end of scutwork. Users across the state will (once this goes live) be able to have actual site servers with file storage they can use, and it will back up properly to the central hub. They'll also get a local mirror of the read-only bits of the corporate tree.

Bad points: Wouldn't have been at all necessary if said employer wasn't such a tight-fisted Scrooge that I had to build the entire thing out of rsync, cygwin, and batch files instead of putting in a turnkey solution. Design took five minutes in my head, implementation was more like five days (on and off) trying to figure out cryptic error messages, and it's still the digital equivalent of spit and baling wire.

Worse: There is honestly very little for me to do at the moment other than grinding through boring projects which are constantly being stalled through lack of money, resources, or the fact that the infrastructure is a complete joke. The office is an overheating thoroughfare with a radio constantly playing in the background, in a beaten-up industrial area at the end of an hour-plus commute, shared with one guy who apparently can't think about anything but sex and another guy who is quite possibly the most casually racist person it's ever been my misfortune to work with. The company itself is run in a horribly crippled way by people for whom IT is an expensive, scary, magic black box that doesn't work.

The kicker: Even if the employees were paid well, the office wasn't a noisy, ramshackle mess, the management gave two shits about the company, the staff were diligent and hard-working (and not assholes), and it was a five-minute commute, their contribution to the economy is flippin' doorknobs. There is never going to be a career path here, and I can't even remotely pretend that anyone at this place is ever going to even stand in the same room as someone who's achieving something worthwhile - or even interesting.
17th-Oct-2011 12:04 am - Movie: Real Steel
Not one of the highlights on Hugh Jackman's CV.

Story: In an attempt to produce the male equivalent of the chick flick, Touchstone attempts to cram a by-the-numbers boxing movie, giant CGI robots beating the hell out of each other, and a father-son reconciliation/rediscovery into the same two hours. The result is as blandly predictable as a McDonalds menu, and about as appetising. Hugh Jackman appears to have prepared for the role by falling into a #2 shearing machine, then being dragged around a paddock and lightly slapped with a fish.

Despite the failed attempt to pump the movie full of testosterone until it drips, it is most assuredly also not something to take a date to. Jackson might get a shirtless scene, some cardboard flirting, and a vaguely romantic kiss with the barely-onscreen female lead, but the movie is more about large crowds chanting for two humanoid bits of CGI to smash each other into scrap in occasional slow-mo. Unless your sweetie loves playing Rock'em Sock'em Robots, give this one a miss and try... well, anything else.
16th-Oct-2011 06:32 pm - Dangit.
While replacing a busted tail-light on the car - the globe was fine, but something had smashed the covering - it was brought to my attention that the brakelight on the other tail cluster doesn't work. Power to the cluster is fine, as the indicator works, and the bulb is fine - I swapped it out with a working one to test it; no go - which means something is stuffed with the wiring somewhere. None of the exposed wires seemed kinked, abraded, loose, or detached, so whatever it is, it's buried more deeply. Damn and blast.

On the plus side, hooray for modular cars with easy-swap parts. A couple of relatively easy-access bolts and a keyed electric plug, and the new cluster was in and being tested in only a few minutes. Not bad for someone who's never delved deeper into car maintenance than changing a tyre.
6th-Oct-2011 08:23 pm - Design notes - universal connector
An ironic time to break my accumulating posting silence, given that Steve Jobs just lost his battle with cancer and the internet will be full of nothing but. Even if some people did half expect him to start glowing midway through a Stevenote and turn into David Tennant.

Still, today was the day I figured out how to take a spring and some discs and some slices of magnet and some ball bearings and make a connector of thin flat surfaces (surface-to-surface) with the following properties:

- does not need power;
- is small and very flat;
- is recessed into the plane, so flat things can sit right up next to it and not get dented or pushed away;
- is slightly magnetic, so that thin metal plates pressed up against it would most likely stay there, and would be able to rotate using the connector disc as a rotation point;
- when placed up against an identical connector disc recessed into another flat plate AT ANY ROTATION ANGLE, it will automatically rotate, lock and grip both magnetically and (to a degree) physically, so that while the two plates can rotate around their common joint, prising them apart would require a certain degree of force;
- when used in pairs, the plates will stick to each other and be largely immovable; and
- will separate with a strong enough pull (a sharp tug with a finger, for a smaller model).

Overly complex for a simple connector, you might imagine. But the main hassle was the ability to connect at any angle to a copy of itself and lock, while never (in the unconnected mode) protruding above its recess at all.

That's tricky to do, with symmetrical connectors. Almost every kind of connector out there has one or both halves sticking partway out of the thing it's connecting. The few that don't usually require power or manual intervention in order to go from a "tucked away" state to a "ready to lock" state. The remaining ones are often magnetic, and they're either magnetically asymmetric (traditional), or have to be aligned at a particular angle (rotationally symmetric magnetic patterns). Even when these are mounted on free-spinning discs, there's no physical lock - a slippery enough magnet will still slide right off. With my design, the plates (and, indeed, the connector surfaces themselves) could be coated in teflon and detergent, and they would still lock together.

Hmm, come to think of it, I could replace the spring entirely with a sheet of metal foil, the under-disc with a coat of Teflon, and reduce the whole apparatus to about two millimetres thick, for a small enough connector.

Sketching it out, it looks rather amusingly like a shirt button. Although not actually usable as one, as the holes in it are fake.

Hmm, I could replace the bearings with a rotational scallop pattern in Teflon and ride it on the magnetic fields to reduce wear...
25th-Sep-2011 09:56 pm - Productive weekend
Got the lawns mowed, the shrubs cut back from the walkways, the garden beds weedsprayed, old clothes thrown out, quite a lot of sleep, a lot of washing done, shaved off the beard and got a much shorter haircut, cleared some floorspace, cleaned the ensuite, and re-read Seanan McGuire's Sparrow Hill Road series.

I'm feeling a bit more balanced, too. It helps that we're into the summer side of the equinox, and that combined with the trimmed vegetation front and back give a brighter, smarter aspect to the house. My own personal season may be winter, but the Australian flavour of summer is baked into my very being. Despite the occasional rainburst, we're approaching the time when I'll be able to look up at that domed sapphire furnace and feel it burn me down to the bones, charring away everything but the most simple, cleanest core of pure self.
15th-Sep-2011 01:52 am - Over-explanation
Is it just me, or are editorial cartoons instantly 90% less funny when anything in them is labelled?

It just seems like a failure on the part of the artist. "I can't be bothered thinking of a metaphor that cuts to the heart of the issue, so I'll slap some generic characters and props together and put name tags on them."
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