Photo of worker adjusting a wireless access point.

Worker adjusting the wireless access point outside my window.

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Thursday, March 31, 2005
Mac Browsers
A Mac browser roundup from Mr. Bray at Ongoing.

Monday, March 28, 2005
More Movies
Beyond Silence (1996, German). Directed by Caroline Link. It's a tear-jerker story that gives a good portrayal of deaf culture (according to the spouse who is an ASL interpreter). Nice love story too.

The Incredibles (2004). Directed by Brad Bird. My second viewing (this one with Mary). What a fun movie. A very intelligent treatment of what it might really be like to be a super hero with one of the best non-super villains around.

Not really a kids movie like Nemo, Monsters, and the Toy Stories. This one is aimed more for adults in it's treatment of the heroes and in its action which includes killing people (no blood and gore but folks obviously don't survive some of the crashes). For violence, I'd rate it at the level of the the third Star Wars film (Episode VI).

The Reckoning (2003). Directed by Paul McGuigan. A murder mystery set in 1380 during the Black Plague. Main character is a priest (Paul Bettany) on the run (he fooled around with a married woman and got caught by the husband). Priest joins a theater troupe traveling through the countryside. They visit a town where a young boy has been murdered, supposedly by a deaf woman who has been tried and will now hang. Troupe decides to write a play about the murder and and in the process of the telling the story of the murder begins to unravel as the townspeople comment on the action. Something rotten here and the priest wants to save the condemned woman.

It's entertaining with great cinematography and some excellent acting. Worth watching.

Monday, March 21, 2005
At the Cinema
Hello again. It's movie review time.

These reviews are meant to jog my brain when I try to remember what I've seen and why I liked it or didn't like it. If you hold similar opinions to my opinions you might want to check in and see what I think of a particular film before you see it. Or maybe you want to dispute my findings.

There is always the possibility of spoilers. If you haven't seen The Village, you might not want to read my review below. (See the film if you like Shyamalan but I would rate it below his other recent films.)

Atanarjuat (Fast Runner)

Set in the Eastern Arctic region of Canada at the dawn of the first millennium, this is a beautiful and moving film. Read the legend the story is based on first or you'll have a tough time figuring out what's going on. When everyone's bundled up in those beautiful parkas, it's even difficult to figure out who is who.

The film won the Camera d'Or at Cannes for Best First Feature Film. The production company is 75% owned by Inuit.

The music is great and adds a lot to the ambiance. They have strived for a level of authenticity that American productions rarely bother with. Cast is Inuit and they speak Inuit and there are subtitles. It's like a documentary on the life of ancient Inuit but with a great (and magical) story thrown in.

(Makes you wonder if an evil shaman didn't visit the Bush tribe some time in the past.)

The Village
Latest film from M. Night Shyamalan (Signs, Unbreakable, The Sixth Sense), who both wrote and directed.

As with all of his films, the TV ads and movie trailers make it look like this is going to be really scary. It's not. The premise is a village, possibly 1800s, surrounded by a wood that contains some kind of intelligent creatures ("those who we don't speak of") that let the villagers live in the village (a truce is mentioned) but won't let them leave. Something then ticks off the creatures and they start to slaughter and skin small animals and leave the bodies lying around. They also paint red (the forbidden color) on the villagers' doors.

OK. It's a little scary.

Shyamalan usually incorporates some of the supernatural (or other-worldly as in signs) but not in this one. The terror is all created by humans who have a plan which is to keep Johnny (or Lucius played by Joaquin Phoenix) and all the other villagers on the farm and out of "the towns." (There's also an allusion to some kind of conspiracy as planes are routed around the wild life refuge where the village is located and where only animals are supposed to live.)

It's a Utopian story with a twist (the creatures). It's difficult to follow who is doing what and who knows what exactly. There's a simple-minded boy (Noah played by Adrien Brody) who seems to know all the answers and he's murdered by the blind girl (Ivy, played by Bryce Dallas Howard) who they send out to get the medicine from the towns to save Lucius who was seriously wounded by Noah who was jealous that Ivy was going to marry Lucius. There is a bit of the supernatural with blind Ivy who does see light around people (auras?) and makes her way around the village as well as the sighted folk.

It's an interesting film with some good performances. I like Shymalan's work and think him one of the better filmmakers around today, especially for big-budget stuff. Plus he writes his scripts.

But for me, Unbreakable is his best with Sixth Sense a close second. (I just added Unbreakable to my Netflix queue so I can see it again so watch for some blog talk here about it.)

Included on the DVD is a short film from Shymalan's childhood days. He tries to find something to include that somehow relates to the main film. This one is an Indiana Jones take-off and I found it entertaining. Production values are very low and it looked like there was virtually no budget for special effects.

The Aviator
Much better than I thought it would be -- way better. I enjoyed the story and Cate Blanchett was delightful as Hepburn.

With all historical film epics I have to wonder how much is really the truth. This film will become the popular interpretation of Howard Hughes. Did he really have a wall of milk bottles filled with urine in a dark room where he always had a film running and was always naked?

I assume he did hold (at least unofficially), the world speed record for an airplane but did he crash it in a beet field and then go directly to visit Katherine Hepburn who patched him up? I assume he did end up in a congressional hearing but how much of the on-screen dialogue was from the actual transcript of the hearing and how much spiced up for the cinema?

Films revise history for us - almost casually - and more in the interest of the story and not for political or moral ends. This bothers me.

Mystic Masseur
A sweet story of life and perseverance set in the Trinidad Indian community. A young man of learning must return to his village after his father, a masseur, dies. He wants to write books and takes up the massage business to provide food for the table. He's not very good at it until he adds a bit of theatricality and mysticism.

His popularity grows to where he decides to run for political office. He wins, must leave the village to live in the big city, gets co-opted by the British colonial structure, loses his connection to the people, decides this isn't for him and returns to the village.

It's a well-told story with no deep currents to ponder. Om Puri plays a rascal of a father-in-law who is always trying to make a buck via the fame of his son-in-law.

The moral is that we must remain true to our roots.

I can live with that.

Sunday, March 20, 2005
Podcasting FAQ
WNYC has a clear and concise FAQ on Podcasting. Helped in my understanding.

You can also listen to the station via streaming or tune in a few shows via podcast.

via Scripting News

Saturday, March 19, 2005
Stronger Than We Think
The Nov. 8, 2004 New Yorker (p. 75) has a great piece called "Getting Over It" by Malcolm Gladwell. It's about the resiliency of us humans and how we generally are able to survive various traumas and continue on virtually undamaged.

The article points out that this view -- although proven by research -- is not widely held in the US. One example mentioned is an article on childhood sexual abuse, published in 1998, that found that the psychological health of college students abused as children was not, on average, worse than the health of students who had not been abused. The report upset a lot of people including the US Congress which voted to overwhelmingly condemn the analysis.

Read the story here.

Those Who Must Present...
Those who must present should read Eric Rescorla's Some ways not to give a bad presentation. It's short and gives you the essentials.

I would add to keep your bullet points short. And don't orphan your bullets! I hate it when I see a bullet point on the screen and the presenter never connects the talk to the bullet.

And don't shrink graphics (especially charts and graphs) down to meaningless blobs with unreadable text (and then apologize when you show it).

Once upon a time I wrote an anti-ppt manifesto for a class.

Edward Tufte doesn't like PowerPoint either.

Powerpoint humor: check out Peter Norvig's Gettysburg Address spoof.

Friday, March 18, 2005
The Early Blogs of PF Hyper
The Internet Archive has my old Web site along with my first blog. (I didn't call it a 'blog'; I called it a 'Journal.')*/

Here is a page of the journal/blog. The posts start in August of '97 and run through February of '98. Apple was not doing well at the time and I include some opinions about the situation. Various projects that I was working on at the time (Hematography, Lakewinds Cooperative web site) get mentioned.

Note the reverse chronological order, a characteristic of the blog animal.

Spelling with Flickr

My 'logo,' courtesy Spell with flickr. You type a word in the text box and get images of letters from flickr (here's my photo stream) that spell the word. Then click on individual letters to change images. Plus the source is available to plug in at your own site (like I just did). Fun! Safe! Educational!

Well maybe not educational.

I'm looking forward to showing this to Robbie (grandson #1, now 7). I think he will find it very cool. I would guess most kids would. Letters must be pretty confusing when you are first learning them and trying to decode upper case from lower case. This tool blurs that distinction and randomly tosses the letters up there. Different looks, different colors, different cases. (Maybe it is educational.)

My plan is to have Robbie enter some of his spelling words and then we will build a page that he can 'bring' to school via the Web. (I guess this is what geeky grandpas do.)

I hope the photo loads here won't slow down my blog too much. If they do, I may have to move the picture part to another page and link to it.

In the interest of fairness, Google Blogoscope (cool blog) also has a 'spell with pictures' implementation going via the Yahoo API, recently released. But I like the flickr one the best.

(Spell with flickr via the if:book blog at the Future of the Book site.)

Saturday, March 12, 2005
Minnesota Orchestra's Osmo Vänskä
I don't follow classical music to any degree although I am curious about the phenomenon of the only good composer being a dead composer. Why do Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, et al, seem to be part of a deity that does not accept new members?

Whatever the answer, in Minneapolis our current Minnesota Orchestra music director, Osmo Vänskä, did something about this by featuring work by Kalevi Aho -- his Insect Symphony (Hyönteissinfonia). Aho was born in 1949 and appears to be still alive.

The New Yorker recently profiled Vänskä (Feb. 14 & 21 2005, 254) and Finnish classical music (and a tiny bit of Minneapolis which is why I'm posting here and learning a bit about classical music).

This Insect Symphony sounds very interesting (read The New Yorker piece). I could be persuaded to buy it. (Sadly, nothing comes up at iTunes or with a quick mp3 search via Google.)

Google at the Movies
The blog world (and now you dear readers) have heard about the new google keyword search of "movie:". Type "movie: your_zipcode" in a Google search box and get back all the listings in your area.

Type "movie: name_of_move" and get times or reviews or both.

Type "movie: name_of_actor_or_actress" and get all the movies they were in.

Thank you, Google.

Hey Google! Give me a link to, ok?

(On Friday, I was searching for movie times and realized that Google was missing the Landmark listings in our area. Landmark operates at least three theaters locally and is the major art house purveyor so it's a serious omission. I emailed Landmark and Google and today Landmark is in the listings. No one has acknowledged my emails so I don't know if I was the cause of getting Landmark to Google or not. I like to think I was.)

Recent Films
Million Dollar Baby
Clint Eastwood directs and stars along with Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank. Wins four major Academy Awards including Best Picture.

I really enjoyed the film as I also enjoyed Sideways (the California wine movie). But damn, neither movie was what I would call an incredible cinematic achievement and I think Eastwood's Mystic River was a much better film, especially in terms of looking at the human condition.

Baby was a great story and well-acted and besides the major players mentioned above had some great performances by lesser-known actors and actresses. (Jay Baruchel as Danger Barch is especially notable.)

I want the average movie to be as good as Baby and great movies to be as good as Mystic River. Sideways is the quality I expect of a TV movie.

This, of course, would be in a best-of-all-possible worlds where film is somehow still considered an art and not a commodity. Really great movies are generally ignored in the market place, lacking a budget to make themselves visible among all the Spidermans and disasters.

Luckily, Mr. Eastwood is still making great films along with a handful of American directors and foreign films are gaining a foothold here. Some low-budget films are also getting more exposure but often end up compromised in some way by the big studios.

So after being Mr. Critical, I will go see Scorsese's Aviator. Yeah, I get sucked in by the dreck like everyone else. (At least this one has Cate Blanchett to look at.)

Ice Station Zebra (1968)

What a great film! Good story, told in the old way. Basically, it's all about Cold War intrigue with the Brits, Americans, and Russians mixing it up. Plus, it's got a submarine.

Patrick McGoohan (The Prisoner) plays a British spy, ostensibly a good guy but very secretive and prone to killing people who wake him.

Here's an exchange between Commander Ferraday (Rock Hudson) and McGoohan's spy character, alias "David Jones," that takes place after Ferraday discovers someone has sabotaged a torpedo hatch.
Cmdr. Ferraday: It wasn't sealing wax. It wasn't chewing gum. It was epoxy glue. And all of a sudden you know a whole damn lot about submarines.
David Jones: I know how to wreck them, and I know how to lie, steal, kidnap, counterfeit, suborn and kill. That's my job. I do it with great pride.
Ernest Borgnine plays a Russian spy who has come over to the West. Zebra is a weather station on the North Pole ice (so it's hard to locate because the ice moves). There is a horrible storm, a satellite with sensitive information (to both sides) lands near Zebra, and there is a fire at the station and communication is lost. So send Rock Hudson in a sub with Patrick and Ernest (and oh yeah Jim Brown). It's billed as a rescue mission but they really want that satellite and the data. The Russians are on their way too.

The sets for the artic scenes leave a lot to be desired. But you get used to them.

Try to find a woman in this movie. I don't think there is one.

Directed by John Sturges. has a nice review.

Short notes on other films

I Heart Huckabees. We (Mary and I) loved it but definitely not for everyone. Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin play existential private detectives. If that doesn't sound interesting, don't see the movie.
Vivian Jaffe (Tomlin character): Have you ever transcended space and time?
Albert Markovski (client): Uh, time, not space... No, I don't know what you're talking about.
The Motorcycle Diaries. Che Guevera motorcycles, walks, and boats around South America. Based on Guevara's diaries. Excellent film.

Triplets of Belleville. Animated, French, dark, very little dialogue. Plot revolves around bicycle racing and a trio of female singers. I've seen it twice (rare for me). Don't see if you have strong emotional attachments to frogs.

Napoleon Dynamite. Napoleon is in high school and searching for himself. There are some funny scenes. I wouldn't see it twice if I could help it. I did find a great review by a sixth grader online.

Thursday, March 10, 2005
Apple vs. Blog
San Francisco Chronicle has a good editorial on the case of Apple suing three bloggers to find sources for their information.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Originally uploaded by tasker.
I didn't serve in Vietnam (or the military) but I had a draft lottery number and a cousin who did serve and suffered damage to his mind. It was a very, very ugly war. (A very sad thing is that Iraq with its Abu Ghraib moments may approach that ugliness.)

'tasker' (he doesn't identify himself beyond that) is posting snapshots his father took while serving in Vietnam. He says:
My dad did two tours of duty in Vietnam. While there he took photos and sent home slides so that his wife and son could see him. We'd look at these slides nearly every night. I will hopefully get some comments for each one from my dad.
It's an intimate look at life during that war. Finding them this morning (Caterina at Flickr blog blogged one) was like stumbling on a shoebox of old photos and then realizing what a true treasure you've found.

Thanks tasker.

Sunday, March 06, 2005
Who is PF HYPER?
I realized today that it's not easy to find out who I am from these blog posts. If you click a photo, and go to my flickr photostream, you can view my profile (flickr doesn't make this easy as they are more interested in you seeing the pictures). Or google PF HYPER and you'll get to my web site. (Oh jeez, I don't even tell you who I am there! Gotta fix that.)

There is a Blogger profile but Blogger doesn't give you any easy way to find it. But the explicit link to my profile should work and is now eternally available in the right navigating column.

So the mask is off. Yes, I am that Peter Fleck (not her, scroll down) but not this Peter Fleck.

Saturday, March 05, 2005
Coltrane with Animation
Via Tim Bray's Ongoing, Michael Levy's animation of John Coltrane's Giant Step (be patient for the download, it will start playing around 100).

Friday, March 04, 2005
Music Saturday Night
Today, on being asked what I am doing Saturday night, I answer "I'm going to see a Japanese heavy metal band." Not my usual Saturday behaviour. We usually have the grandson over for the night. But he's here now (playing pickup sticks with the favorite wife, Mary).

We know Tana, the bass player in the band, Eternal Elysium. She used to live here (Minneapolis, MN). Tana played music with local bands (most recently, Pollen). One day, she visited Japan, liked the music scene, and moved there. Eventually, she landed the gig with Eternal Elysium.

Now she is bringing the band to Minneapolis. They'll be at the Uptown Bar tomorrow night (March 5).

I'm not a metal fan (not since Black Sabbath's first album which kind of dates me) but we will go and listen.

EE is considered to be in both the stoner and doom metal camps. For the scholarly, Wikipedia* has articles on both doom and stoner metal.

I've found a few mp3's of their work on the Web. You might check out Splendidly Selfish Woman. Eight minutes long with a nice variation of sounds from deep, thrashing metal to a much funkier style.

They seem a well-known band and garner a fair amount of hits from Google. There is a frequently listed incorrect URI to their Web site and I finally found the real site.

* Concerning controversy over Wikipedia's authority, I don't think I would have found out much about doom and stoner metal bands at Britannica.

No Need to Click Here - I'm just claiming my feed at Feedster

More Music
My Eternal Elysium post detoured over to the Deep Purple article at Wikipedia (they are considered metal pioneers although not a metal band) and I remembered Hush. If you like good rock, go get this. It's a steal for $.99 at iTunes.

iTunes Downloads
I know many of you have wondered why I no longer post the current free iTunes downloads. You have been polite enough not to inundate me with your emails on this matter.

I thought it a valuable service that might eventually lead to some kind of Web-based fame for a few minutes. You see, Apple didn't tell you about all the free downloads each week. They were hidden away in the various genres.

But today (and maybe yesterday and maybe even all the time I thought I was providing a valuable service), I scrolled around on the iTunes home page and there in the lower right corner is a listing of all the free stuff.

I hope you will continue to read my blog after this revelation. Obviously, I could have kept it to myself just to keep you coming back. Consider my selflessness.

Thursday, March 03, 2005
Autolink: Good or Bad or Boring?
We will all thank Google now for offering their Toolbar with the unique autolinking function. It's always fun to watch the stick puncture the hornets' nest. The entire blogosphere is buzzing around this one.

All the famous (tecky) bloggers are lining up for or against. One (Tim Bray at Ongoing) posted a very strong 'against' stating "It seems so obvious that this move is not only evil but stupid" only to update it later with:
For the moment, let’s just record that a lot of people who seem to be smart and honest think I’m wrong. More digging required.
(I truly respect that he can recant like this. The man knows how to listen.)

Check Yoz Grahame's blog for reasons why the Web won't end if Google has its way with us. This post in particular, where he responds to an email from Dave Winer (Scripting News), the great-grandfather of blogs, and resolutely against Autolink.

I don't get any choice about the Autolink because Google didn't make it available to Mac users.

My Take It sounds kind of cool to see links appear in the page content. I'm sorry, it just does. I mean outside of any philosophical and/or ethical considerations. I'll probably try it out on the PC at work.

I do understand the arguments against Autolink. Especially the one that says it's being distributed by a very authoritative source and one that we know and love. (Google is good! Google is the white knight! Say it ain't so, Google!) Maybe the honeymoon's over, folks.

But you truly have a choice in the matter.
  1. Don't install the Google Toolbar with it's unique Autolinking feature.
  2. Switch to the Mac OS where you don't have any choice about installing the Google Toolbar with it's unique Autolinking feature (will they trademark the word?).
  3. If you do install it, don't click Autolink.
Google has arguably defined the Web experience as much as Tim Berners-Lee. This new in-browser programming with Javascript/DOM/Xstuff is almost as exciting as HyperCard was in the nineties. I don't think Autolink drags Google over to the Dark Side. They remain, for me at least, a (somewhat tarnished) Jedi Knight.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005
The Anniversary
Feb. 20 was the one-year anniversary of the blog. It doesn't seem that long but it may be because there were few entries from May until September.

I am still enjoying the process of blogging. I wish I had more time to engage in discussion around the B-sphere and I wish I had more time to write. I have some good ideas about future posts so stay tuned.

Monument to Pinochet

Monument to Pinochet
Originally uploaded by Marcelo Tomas.
Marcelo Tomas's photos made the Flickr blog today. He has forty year's of images documenting Latin America.

There is both grit and beauty in the images. He has a good eye. The photos also stand as witness to many of the liberation struggles of the last half century.

Definitely worth checking out.

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