Sunday, 18 December 2005

Mark Cuban posts a weblog entry today about his thoughts around what appears to be a lazy reporter for the New York Times (and by lazy I don't mean "doing nothing," but instead "not doing enough") and the content of a column by the Times that Cuban was interviewed for via email last week.

(You can read the actual email responses Cuban sent to the Times' reporter's questions on his blog, by that way. Amazing how things have shifted in terms of information availability over the years. Also, Cuban follows up with another blog entry asking "who has higher ... standards, your typical fulltime blogger, or the NY Times ? Who puts more effort into researching their articles? Who conveys more depth?")

Not like it's a shock or anything that the New York Times would research and publish content with an apparently predetermined end-goal in mind, and it is a column, after all, so opinion's completely within the realm of reason. And Cuban's known for opinions and ideas that writers don't always take at face value. But it's interesting to see what was asked, what answers were provided, and what was published.

Also of interest are Cuban's thoughts about the future of HDTV in the home and the much-higher-def projection they're starting to install in theaters. Personally, I like where he's going with this stuff, and as a former projectionist for a small chain of theaters way back when, I can tell you that I am happy there are a least a couple theater owners out there focused (no pun intended) on the quality of the experience and making it easier to bring quality filmwork to lots of people quickly. It's painful these days to go to theaters where the projection lenses are shoddy or even just not properly aligned and focused, and where the light box and shutter mechanisms simply suck. I've arrived at a point where if a theater doesn't have most or all of the following characteristics, I just don't want to go anymore:

  • The proper lens for the screen, meaning uniform brightness and sharp focus across the entire field, whether it's film or digital projection images being shown
  • Clean sound and acoustics that doesn't self-cancel or distort
  • Seats that you sit in and instantly wish you had at home (these are rare but they do exist, and I can almost predict by ownership when there will be good chairs)
  • Food selection that isn't cardboard and chalk derivative - and a bonus if the theater uses peanut oil (yes, be sure to prominently display the use of peanuts for safety) to cook the popcorn
  • A theater hall that doesn't smell like someone hosed it down with a mix of sweat and vomit juice between shows (remove the seats and bleach the place twice a year, seriously)

Anyhow, Cuban makes some interesting and valid points in his weblog entry. Again, it's encouraging to see someone focused on quality (as opposed to strict cost/return) as primary business drivers. That's smart. No point in good margins of no one wants to buy the product, and one thing that HDTV at home does do is raise the bar on the expectations of the theater experience - we'll always expect it to be one or two quality and experience notches better than anything at home. The Times article refers to and quotes leadership of Regal Entertainment Group, which is a company that doesn't tend to meet my wishes outlined above.

Someone has to lead and push the limits. Cuban tends to do this. Good for him. Good for us. And Randall Stross of the New York Times, well he probably just needs to get out more. Maybe a movie?

[via memeorandum]

Add/Read: Comments [0]
Random Stuff
Sunday, 18 December 2005 11:51:02 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Saturday, 17 December 2005

Scott Adams says he recently quit caffeine. It wasn't exactly pleasant for him. Sounds like it still isn't.

I can relate. Except that I have not quit.

I drink coffee like it was, well, water. Like it's going out of style. It's easy to do - there's tons of free coffee everywhere I go. Which means work and home. And church sometimes. Free coffee everywhere.

Coffee is The Devil. So I am not sure why it's at church.

If I don't get my requisite dose of caffeine in the morning, I (seriously) can't see straight. Like as in my vision is blurry and my head hurts. That can't be good.

I stopped smoking a couple years or so ago. I've quit other things before, many years ago. But caffeine, well man oh man... Painful.

For the record, cigarettes was the hardest from a withdrawl perspective. Freakin' BRUTAL. It still is from time to time. I tell people I *stopped* smoking. I don't say I "quit." Nothing is guaranteed, nothing is forever. For today I am stopped, and it's better that way.

I guess I've learned that much fairly well. Heh.

But, back to coffee - It's the one vice I have left remaining in my life, really. I know I shouldn't drink as much as I do, but it just won't let me go. I've tried it - Ringing ears, blurry vision, massive headaches, general lethargy, an *inability* to sleep (seriously), and on top of that no more coffee, which I actually like (and I never actually liked smoking that much).

Argh. Decaf doesn't really appeal to me. All the decaf I've ever had tastes like crapola.

Any ideas?

Add/Read: Comments [8]
Personal Stories | Random Stuff | Things that Suck
Saturday, 17 December 2005 23:01:32 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

I had a thought tonight. It's not a new one, not even all that original. Some might call it fleeting or warped. I think I've mentioned it here before, maybe over a year ago. Whatever, doesn't matter really. A thing over on Digg earlier today reminded me of it.

What, exactly, is "it" you ask? I'm getting to that. To "it," I mean. Whatever.

Let's face it, there is one question that any knowledge-centric computer system should know the answer to by now. So, with this hypothesis in mind, and with the belief that being proven wrong would be a strong indicator of certain impending doom, or something very similar, I set out to put a number of the esteemed AI-ish computer systems to That Ultimate Test.

And here are the results...

Encarta® Instant Answers - which I reviewed here last month - passes the test:

[18:00] what is the answer to the question the life, the universe and everything?
[18:00] Encarta® Instant Answers: Forty-two.

Nice. I like having Encarta Instant Answers in my IM list. Even more so now.

For fun, I also posted the question to Yahoo! Answers (beta), which is a service that gets answers from real people. The results come in email. Not exactly instant gratification, but what the heck. I wonder if I'll get flamed, since that's one of the more particularly unique aspects of human interaction, dontcha know.

Oh, wait! That was fast! Look what just arrived in my inbox, no less than one minute after my posted question - wow!

Good news! Someone has answered your question on Yahoo! Answers:

What is the answer to the great question of life, the universe and everything?

Here's the answer that bfeldman23 gave:

Cool. Not even a flame. Heh. Other answers received while writing this post included:

  • Alcohol  (ed: this was actually the first answer received, and it arrived at the same time as the answer above - this might mean something)
  • John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life."  (ed: nice - I like that one)
  •  7  (ed: someone's an optimist eh?)
  •  The question is why, the answer is why not!  (ed: heheheh...)
  •  sex  (ed: well, yeah, duh...)

Side-bar: I started thinking about flames and insults, and since this was distracting me terribly I decided to go back to Encarta Instant Answers to see if I could get the computer on the other end upset...

[18:32] screw you
[18:32] Encarta® Instant Answers: That's an insult, if I'm not mistaken. Why would you say such a thing?

Hahahah... Nice. But you know I had to keep trying...

[18:38] a**hole    (note: I edited the actual word I typed for this family blog post)
[18:38] Encarta® Instant Answers:
That's a fairly serious insult.
[18:39] Encarta® Instant Answers:
[18:39] Encarta® Instant Answers:
Yes, whatever.
uh huh
[18:39] Encarta® Instant Answers:
[18:39] Encarta® Instant Answers:
Hmm? What?
[18:39] Encarta® Instant Answers:
[18:39] Encarta® Instant Answers:
[18:39] Encarta® Instant Answers:
K, no prob.
[18:39] Encarta® Instant Answers:
[18:39] Encarta® Instant Answers: I don't know. OK, should we get back to the kind of questions I was designed to answer? You can type "?" at any time to see a list of questions you can ask me.

[18:51] WTF?
[18:51] Encarta® Instant Answers:
What up?
[18:51] Encarta® Instant Answers:
Here is the definition for nothing: not anything.
[18:51] uhh
[18:51] Encarta® Instant Answers:
Everything OK over there?
[18:51] Encarta® Instant Answers:
OK, whatever. Why don't you ask me something that's actually in Encarta? You can type "?" to see a list of questions you can ask me.
[18:51] Encarta® Instant Answers:
Ugh? What's wrong?
[18:51] Encarta® Instant Answers:
Me? Really?
[18:51] Encarta® Instant Answers:
Are you sure? Maybe not me.
I'm sure.
[18:52] Encarta® Instant Answers: OK, whatever. OK, should we get back to the kind of questions I was...

Hahahah, I love messing with non-sentient beings. They can't get pissed off and punch you in the face. Yet. Cool.

Anyhow... I had a point around here somewhere...

Next comes Google Calculator, a quite useful tool built into Google's search engine. As expected, fast. clean and to-the-point:

  the answer to life the universe and everything = 42
    More about calculator

And of course there's MSN Search (which, for the record, is pulling it's data from Encarta, just like the Instant Answers, above). MSN Search does just as well, and is able to accept slightly more variations on the searched phrase than Google and still return the answer:

Web Results

    Page 1 of 564,343 results containing the answer to life the universe and everything (0.10 seconds)

Answer:  answer = 42

Finally, here's Amazon's A9 search engine conglomeration thing, which returns a lot of search results, and if you check the reference box there, it show Wikipedia's typically flashy, pithy and detailed answer (only part of which is below):


The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything
The Ultimate Answer

The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is a concept taken from Douglas Adams' science fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In the story, the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is sought from the supercomputer Deep Thought. The answer given by Deep Thought leads the protagonists on a quest to discover the question which provides this answer.

Very cool.

To sum it all up, while it's not quite on par with a handheld Hitchhiker's Guide yet, there's at least a glimmer of hope. And that's nice to know.

So, for now, it appears to be safe to follow this sage advice: Don't Panic.

Add/Read: Comments [2]
Random Stuff
Saturday, 17 December 2005 17:12:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Friday, 16 December 2005

I suppose there's a chance I'm the last person in the world to watch The Polar Express. I rented it tonight, I suppose due to a subconscious need to find a little holiday something or another.

If you haven't seen this movie, you're really missing out.

I can remember (vaguely) being the kid on this movie. Each of them, actually. I think that's why it's such a great story and film. And what a great message.

If you've not seen it, or if you know someone who doesn't believe anymore, rent the DVD, settle in for the night, and get a little bit of your life back. I think you'll be glad you did. This has to be one of the better movie experiences in some time. I can't believe I missed it til now.

And if you're lucky enough to be near an IMAX theater, you might be able to go see it there - in 3D, which Roger Ebert says is an incredible experience. Here in Portland, it's 2D at the OMSI OmniMax theater, but it's on the big dome screen.

Add/Read: Comments [0]
Movies | Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Friday, 16 December 2005 21:51:32 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Thursday, 15 December 2005

Such the conundrum. In my kitchen pantry I have four cans of Wolf Brand Chili. They taunt me. I stare at them every now and then an ponder the many Wolf Brand possibilities. I do this because they have been in my pantry now for, oh, a few years. I think seriously about opening one, scraping it out over a bed of Fritos, running some cheese on top and radiating it all in the Microwave. Health food at its best.

I'd actually do it, too, if I wasn't afraid I'd freakin' die. I mean, just how long is canned chili good for, anyway?

I mean, the answer must be either "a finite period of time" (undoubtedly substantially less than four years) or else it must be something along the lines of "forever." Like as in "put canned chili in your Y2K and terrorist attack supply caches."

So, in my quest for knowledge I did the most obvious thing your average 38-year-old guy would be expected to do when confronted with obscure kitchen-related trivia of such potential impact as to rise to the level of life-and-death.

I called my mom.

Her advice? "If it's not swollen or split open and as long as it doesn't hiss when you open it, it's probably fine." Hmmm... Probably?

I told her "Yeah, well I probably still won't open it."

Not that I don't believe my mom. It's just that, well, maybe I don't believe her. It's just not like her to be so non-committal. "Probably fine." Heh. Right. She's probably taking out an insurance policy on me right now. Nah, she'd never do that.

Okay, well... Time for some search engine research action, then. After Googling for a half hour and (uncharacteristically) coming up with practically nothing you'd consider useful (more proof that I'm basically just completely random), I decided to take a chance and just open the stupid thing, listen for the hissing, smell it, eyeball it, and nuke the living hell out of it before allowing it to reach my mouth.

What the hell, ya only live once. And I'm hungry.

So, if I don't ever post here again, I'm probably dead from botulism or some other nasty crap. Wish me luck.

UPDATE: Opening can... Hiissssssss... Woahhhh... Never mind, I'm not touching that stuff. Heh. I'll just go hungry.

Add/Read: Comments [5]
Random Stuff
Thursday, 15 December 2005 18:52:42 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Sunday, 11 December 2005

I'm supposed to be on my way to Portland by now, to meet up with the youth group for a evening thing, Christmas shopping and stuff.

Supposed to be. Just one minor problem.

My truck's sitting out there in the driveway, with my laptop, camera, phone, and everything else I might possibly need tucked inside. The engine is all warmed up, the heated seats are turned on.

And the doors are all locked.

And the extra key? Yeah, let's not even go there.

To solve this problem, after failing miserably at the Magic Wire Coat Hanger Method, I brought out the smallest Yellow Pages book in the United States and looked for a local locksmith.

I'm starting to see why there are times when it's easier to live in or near the city. My first call was to a guy who, it turns out, is over in the state of Washington. Another call or two went unanswered. My next call was to a guy three-quarters of the way to the city, and he said he'd be heading my way. That's about 30 minutes away.

Days like this make me happy I have that Hemi V8 under the hood, what with the truck sitting there in the driveway at fast idle for the past hour and all.

But hey, with the PC laptop locked up in the car, at least I can be glad to have this Mac sitting on my desk in the corner over here. And I can be glad I have time to apply the gazillion software patches and updates I apparently missed since I last used it who-knows-how-long-ago.

I just hope there's enough gas left by the time they guy gets it unlocked to get me to the closest gas station.

Okay, I'm done. How's your weekend?

Add/Read: Comments [4]
Personal Stories | Random Stuff | Things that Suck
Sunday, 11 December 2005 14:21:24 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback