Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014

teenage_mutant_ninja_turtles_ver14_xxlg-720x1013OK so Rotten Tomatoes gives it a grilling but its a fun movie and pretty well done.  I’d be lying if I say its worth full price or 3D, but cor a matinee, which is all I and my son go to, its…well…fun.    It gets the tone right, neither too campy or too serious and the characters are, uh, well what can you say about a near seven foot, bipedal rat and turtles? The characters have to have lay it on thick personalities that was the way they always have been.  The TNMT’s are fun loving reasonably serious young guys.  The bad guys are villains with goons what can you add?  Megan Fox’s character is central, and she held the movie together.   Her O’Neal is not a shrinking violet, victim or Mz KickAss, for the plot she had to be a bit pig headed and very naive, but she was well cast and played it well.

We’d certainly go and see a sequel if it’s done as well and doesn’t have much competition.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy, go and see it!

hr_Guardians_of_the_Galaxy_film posterSo Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun movie.  If you want a fun afternoon or night out, go a see it, you’ll laugh and be amazed.  I love Groot and Rocket Raccoon the two CGI characters shown  in their own movie poster below.

There are many who are over the top about this movie, I think because it could have been awful and isn’t.  There is something about the movie that makes me hold back from saying Fantastic, but it is very, very good. There may be other things playing in, but  the pace was too frenetic the cutting too staccato for me to fully enjoy.   Also a lot of characters seemed to intimate some link to a deeper story that we didn’t get to see. An introductory movie set in a deep universe like Marvel’s may be prone to this and my ‘author’s bump’ maybe too sensitive to these things but these ‘issues’ kept me from getting as deeply engrossed as I did in Edge of Tomorrow and some of the other Marvel films.

But its a fun movie, go and root for Groot, Rocket and their pets.

 

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Lucy the Movie

Lucy_(2014_film)_posterLucy is a disappointing movie. That is not to say it is awful, but I could not argue with someone who said that it was awful.  For me the movie started out very well and was watchable throughout but it left me feeling like I had seen a Hollywood Horror, not the child of the Luc Besson, director of the movie The Fifth Element.   The movie feels like it was cut short.  Started out on a path like, if a bit less out there than, TFE but then got chopped short.  It as if the script was written around a very tight plot but instead of spending time fleshing out the story and the characters it was decided to just get something out the door as cheaply and quickly as possible.  I suppose that Johansson or others were not available for the time Besson needed to do a TFE like work.   Whatever it was this is a very disappointing movie, mainly because it had great potential.

The details:  the violence is what some called ‘over the top’ but unfortunately it’s what I call pseudo realistic; Lucy starts out as a believable type…and ends equally believable but without an audience leading transition ; while the Lucy UberHuman [LUH]is believable I think a more relate-able version was possible ; the LUH’s abilities are fantastical, over the top, a creepier, more understated version was  possible ; the plot is ultra simple and while the plot holes are there they don’t derail the movie ; [SPOILER ALERT] the bad guys are workmanlike if a bit too Bond-Goon-Squadish, but I really really wanted to evil surgeon from the early scenes to get terminated with prejudice ; the end is utterly anticlimactic the ‘happy’ ending wasn’t cheery and had no punch, the LUH metastasizes to another plane leaving behind the USB key fob to the universe, the confused boy toy police guy gets a text message from the beyond and the world goes on…meh.

Details of the details:

LUH’s creation: The crap about the utilization of the human brain was good as a way of thinking about human capacity but its scientific bunk, which spoiled the movie a bit for me.  The drug was TFE Beeson over the top (as was its introduction) but its derivation and supposed affect were not very convincing.  I’d have bought a material that increases intelligence by accelerating and reorganizing the brain, but requires constant new fill-ups or the user becomes a vegetable, it’s the first of a new family of bio-nanotech human enhancement drugs the Chinese mob has stolen, one vial of the stuff could infect hundreds or thousands, who would all become vegetables if they cannot get the fix… a trope matrix that could have been much more scary.

Violence:  I think that LUH had to use violence she had no time to explain.  The emotionless LUH had no compunction about using it which was funny the first time but troubling with no context.  Also the violence was too risk free, humans react to violence, modern training makes us hesitate but there are many among us who would react almost instinctively.  LUH did to some extent explain herself to the surgeon but the hole here was their reaction to her and the lack of a police response in the time it took to take out the bag etc…A couple of soliloquies or appologetic explanations to victims (even dead ones) would have helped and could even have been funny….

Emotionless: Emotions are chemical and triggered by autonomous systems, LUH could suppress them…believable.  But I lost any real human interest in the whole story when I knew she was essentially a machine with a hard stop use by date.  The appearance of the hurting, frightened, grieving old Lucy would not have been hard or out of place, her goodbye to her mother was only part of what should have been a thread through to the end.

LUH powers: Telekinesis, really? Mental control of electronics plays into my idea for LUH abilities but its just magical crap with the trope used.  With ability to control her physiology, and ultra fast processing she could have senses and reactions and strength way beyond the norm, and would have needed to eat like a horse (that was consistent in a way) she might be able to exude skin oils or pheromones with powerful effects, could heal herself fast, maybe even read minds if in contact with the target, etc, etc.  These effects and her having to think her way out of dead ends would have supported the simple story line.  The magical powers she exhibited should have been part of a movie with more complexity / depth in other areas, where those powers play are a way to keep the story moving fast….here they just truncated this already too simple movie.

Bad Guys: OK pretty good in a Bond Villain Goon Squad sort of way but still.  And what about the evil surgeon? he really needed his own poetic if gory end.

The ending:  A more effective ending would have been failure…the bad guys kill her, the bad guy’s die, maybe science guy and boy toy survive to grieve Lucy’s death.  Then maybe a hint that she did not fail but that she had made sure that the bad guys got sucked in and destroyed while the drug or whatever that created LUH will be treated like a mixture of nuclear weapon and Ebola.

 

XUBUNTU, what’s a XUBUNTU?

It’s a flavor of Linux, Ubuntu one of the big cat’s in the Linux pride these days with a little mousy desktop called xfce as the front end. It’s not exactly Windows or MAC OS but it’s a bit like both in some ways and different in others.

So why do I care? Well I have this old Thinkpad T42 I have done millions of words on (the A key is etched down into the plastic the S and D are mostly gone and the backspace is a bit finicky these days.  The Battery is long gone.  It’s run Window’s XP its whole life up till now.  But it and Office 03 ran slower and slower and slower as time progressed.  Around six months ago I got so fed up that I shut down the WiFi and stripped out all the superflous software anti virus, firewalls etc, etc.

This brought the T42 back up to being a very nice writing tool. But I had to sneaker net it and use my iPad as my web research link. This worked but I found that I was doing less writing since I have a life and getting into the frame of mind to write and keep at it can be a chore.  Any (even trivial) bump tends to make it feel less worthwhile which starts a viscous cycle.  Any one who has followed this log will have noticed my blogging has decreased over the past half year or so…this is the reason for that tapering off since the T42 is where 90% of my blogging got done (it’s where this is being written.)

I love computers but hate having to fiddle any more than I want to (ego centric I know) so have read about and wondered about converting to Linux for years.  So with a machine I love but was about to become a brick, I finally figured I would give it a hack.

Tried Ubuntu straight up but my processor is so old it is no longer compatible with the loader.  Saw some suggestions about XUBUNTU and gave it a wack.  Worked first time out of the box, even handles my beloved trackpoint mouse knob in the keyboard.

XUBUNTU loads a working computer’s tool set aboard as part of the install (this is actually part of xfce desktop) the choices come from the UBUNTU ‘app’ store.  Which also loads.   The Software Center looks a lot like the old Windows Software load/remove utility but its remote + local, tracking what is available as well as what you have loaded.  Really clean interface and the load of programs are useful full function tools.
xubuntu-logoIn fact I have only loaded a couple of other pieces of software.  One was CaligraWords to see if it was better at editing huge Word03 documents than AbiWord (it isn’t as far as I can see.) As well as a mind mapping tool, Feeplane, I want to try out for organizing some of my thoughts and ideas for my novels and posts.  But the best things so far is Variety, a live desktop picture system, it pulls photos off free sites on the Web and displays them as the background.  You can do all sorts of things, from leaving them as found to making them line drawings, but what I have found is that setting it as ‘oil’ brush stroke provides a remarkably pleasant but non-distracting background.  I contributed a bit to the jar on that one (and will be doing the same for xubuntu, AbiWord and others.)

I am not totally sold on Linux yet, but I have to admit that it has been a far simpler quicker and fun process than I had expected so far.  I hope it keep up.

National Novel Writing Month…

If you follow me and glance over ThisWoldAndOthers you will realize, I hope, that I write SciFi, not for a living but for relaxation and as an outlet. I have mentioned NaNoWriMo before but forgot to mention it this year, just in case someone passing by might be interested but not know about it. November is/was the month and I have participated in (and become a winner once more!)

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel. Here’s a little more about how it all works.

National Novel Writing Month is also a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that believes your story matters. You know how writing makes the world a more creative, vibrant place. Through NaNoWriMo—as well as our Young Writers Program, the Come Write In program, and Camp NaNoWriMo—we work hard to empower and encourage that vibrant creativity around the world. We can’t do it without writers like you.

NaNoWriMo 2012 at a Glance

341,375 participants started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.

648 volunteer Municipal Liaisons guided 586 regions on six continents.

82,554 students and educators created worlds with the Young Writers Program.

615 libraries opened their doors to novelists through the Come Write In program.

And in 2013, 44,919 Campers participated in Camp NaNoWriMo’s online writing retreat.

The novels not done even at 50k+ words its about 1/2 way, but here is the draft cover….and synopsis…20131201-100915.jpg

War of the Worlds?

It’s a Black Swan event, a disaster no one was looking for, despite decades of discussion. A killer asteroid slingshots around the sun and is heading straight for the heart of the US.

A desperate shot with an experimental space plane and obsolete nation killer bomb may save the day. Except worse turns to weird when it becomes obvious that the incoming hundred thousand tons is not an asteroid but a derelict starship.

Weird turns to near certain war when the ‘derelict’ starts spinning out landing craft, does the President destroy it, do the aliens come in peace?

The story of the men and woman who get to put the answers together and live…if they survive…with the consequences.

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Now for something somewhat different

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In a gerotor motor, the outer ring’s gear teeth remain stationary while fluid flow turns the internal rotor. This drawing is of a six-pointed gerotor assembly. To see a motor’s internal components in action, view the YouTube video, Motion Study of the Gerotor Motor at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iooA0mJzEIE.

Machine Design has always been one of the best engineering teaching magazines out there and this article on hydraulic motors is an example of why. Informative and elegant graphics, straight forward, intelligent and direct (without dumbing down) explanatory prose. OK it’s about hydraulic motors but it’s cool, neat, etc, especially in this age of the maker revolution.

iPad next?

The iPad is the premier tablet and it’s probably nearly the perfect size and weight for its form factor.  That’s not to say that within the form factor there is no room for improvement. A screen that takes up most of the face should be a near term target, as should an auxiliary screen on the back face that provides bright light reading and low power / speed interactivity for those who don’t live indoors all the time.  To support the iPad as a companion device, multi level security is a growing need.

Make the bezel the same on the iPad as minimal as possible (get rid of the push button) push the screen out to the edge, don’t change the shell size. This with continued pixel densification will put the screen on another level altogether.  Make thumb and palm detection native and intelligent enough to enable me to rest my palm on the screen and write with a stylus as if the screen were regular paper.

Put an eInk reader panel on the back to enable the display of text and graphic art, this will enable high light low power reading applications and some other limited visual bandwidth applications such as phone etc. (This will be accomplished with a smart cover but it would be cool if it were integral with the iPad.)

The radio suite & battery life along with the camera, face time, GPS, and other built in sensors are probably good enough not to call for increases in size weight, but neither should they be decremented.

The iPad is far to big a part of many people’s eLives to leave to the pitiful protection it has today.  We need multi level security, enable me to turn the iPad on as if there is no security for consuming web pages, playing games, and using certain apps.  But for other functions use face recognition, symbolic coding other than a number pad, voice recognition, retina image recognition and even finger print recognition in combination to protect various levels of data in the unit.

Enable cyber security with one or more over watch processors that is not linked to the outside world for some level of checking to make sure that the tablet has not been compromised.   A version of this ‘chip’ may be linked to a secure remote system (short-range) so businesses or organizations can disable certain functions of the iPad remotely to make sure that pictures, audio, or other data cannot be put into memory without authorization.  This Big Brother functionality is a bit daunting but at least the over watch processor is probably going to be needed.  The full BB may be an external attachment and not integral so one can shed it easily….