Sunday, December 28, 2008

12-28-08: Valkyrie

Last night I went with my buddy Dan to see Valkyrie, a movie starring Tom Cruise about the failed plot to kill Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944 by German officers led by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (played by Cruise).

The film has a great cast, including many great British actors including Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, and Terence Stamp (not to mention a surprisingly good Eddie Izzard). The acting was very good, and I thought the story stuck to reality quite well. I don't quite get the 61% rating on, but I can see where some of the critics have a beef with the film. It's not too short at two hours, but it does feel a bit rushed at times. Still, it keeps moving along, and I'd rather not be bored while watching a movie about a plot to kill Hitler.

The film does a good job at explaining the story. Going into the film, you'd think it gets its name from the name of the plot itself. Instead, Valkyrie is the name of a plan instituted by the Nazi party (designed by Hitler himself) to prevent a coup from taking down the government. The plotters, in this case, used that very plan against Hitler. It was actually quite ingenious, and if it weren't for one big slip-up and one unfortunate last-minute change in plans by the Nazis, I think it would have succeeded.

If you're in to historical dramas, I'd suggest you go see the film. Despite it starring Tom Cruise, it's still quite good. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give it a solid 7 (which is still good).

Saturday, December 27, 2008

12-27-08: Soccer Teams I'm Following

For about two years now I've been following soccer pretty closely. I record games to watch later, and will sometimes find myself watching even the most mundane, low-level game on TV. The reason: World Cup 2006. I was hooked, and wanted to see the star players play for their club teams. But I wasn't sure which teams to follow, or how closely.

I decided first off to pick a league to follow as the "primary league". The big club leagues in the world are The Barclay's Premier League (or English Premiership), La Liga in Spain, Serie A in Italy, Ligue 1 in France, and the German Bundesliga. I decided to stick to Europe, though the Brazilian League is quite good, but I can't find it on TV easily. Looking online and on the TV listings, it looked like the English Premiership would be the easiest to follow, though I do also pay some attention to La Liga and Serie A.

The task was then to pick a team to follow. Thanks to a great piece on Page 2 by Bill Simmons, I narrowed my choice down to three teams: Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, and Everton. Simmons picked Tottenham, but I wanted to give all three teams a fair shake. So, I watched a few matches on Fox Soccer Channel, and made my choice: Tottenham Hotspur. The decision came down to the fact that the captain of the Irish National Team, Robbie Keane, was on Spurs (though before this current season he moved to Liverpool).

Spurs (as they are known) finished fifth that season, which I joined in about halfway through. It was a very good finish for a team outside of the "big four" of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea, who all had huge payrolls. Alas, Spurs struggled at the beginning of the 2007-2008 campaign, sacked (fired) their manager Martin Jol (who had carried them to two consecutive fifth place finishes) and hired Juande Ramos. Spurs struggled their way to an 11th place finish last season, but did win the Carling Cup (English and many other European teams play in various tournaments, or cups, during the course of their regular season). Unfortunately for Ramos, Spurs struggled even more at the beginning of this season, at one point being last in the league for a couple weeks in a row. Fortunately, they've begun to climb their way back up the table (standings) and are now currently in 16th. Not good, but they are out of the dreaded "Relegation Zone", in which teams who finish in the bottom three get bumped down to the second tier English Championship league the next season. Hopefully Spurs can manage a top 10 finish this season under new manager Harry Redknapp. Juande Ramos, fired by Spurs, is back in Spain managing Real Madrid, current champions of La Liga. Tough luck, I guess.

Tottenham Hotspur is, however, not the only team I follow. I admire the play of La Liga, and do consider it slightly stronger a league than the English Premiership. For the past six months or so, I've been following FC Barcelona. This is mostly thanks to "Barca TV" on Fox Soccer Channel, which shows a bunch of FC Barcelona matches. I think Lionel Messi happens to be the best player in the world, and the games are quite entertaining.

I'm also loosely following AC Milan, but not as much as the other two. The only reason why AC Milan is because my ex-girlfriend did a project in Milan a couple years ago during college, and when I visited her for Christmas (aren't I a great guy?) she spoke about AC Milan (she'd been to a game) and thought I'd like a team jersey. I said sure, until we walked into the official team store and saw the price. No thanks, I'll just watch on TV.

Unfortunately, I'm moving in less than a week and will no longer get Fox Soccer Channel... BUT... I found a bar in New Haven called Anna Liffey's that supposedly shows all sorsts of broadcasted games on various channels every week. I even joined the Anna Liffey's Soccer Club yesterday to receive weekly updates on games they're showing. What can be better than a pint and a football match? Come on, you Spurs!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

12-24-08: Merry Christmas Eve!

Have a Merry Christmas Eve, America.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

12-23-08: "The Elevated Bikeways of Minneapolis?" and "Khoda"

Two videos: one practical/ futuristic, the other just crazy:

"Elevated Bikeways of Minneapolis? from Streetsblog

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mac vs. PC: Transformers Edition

This is really well done:

12-22-08: Hockey Monday: Top 10 Goals Scored Off Body Parts

You don't see these sorts of goals that often. They're usually pure accidents, which makes for an interesting story for the kids.

And a bonus video:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

12-21-08: FOLLOW-UP: Making My Own DVR: Why It's Not Such a Great Idea

In addition to not having to pay the cable company money every month to rent a DVR, which is now looking like the only real option if I wanted to record broadcast content straight from the cable box (other than the old-fashioned VCR), I wanted a pet project. I wanted to see if I could do it. But then I realized that it's just not worth it, which is a bit frustrating, but it's definitely better to find out sooner than later.

So, I began to think of all the free stuff I could get online. Whether it's,, or the various free sites like, there are plenty of ways to watch TV online. Most of the shows I watch are on those sites anyway, but there were a few shows on the History Channel that I like (Cities of the Underworld and The Universe), but I'm sure I can find those online (or just man up and buy them on iTunes). My major concern, though was being able to record Boston Bruins games. Then I found out, after doing very little research, that there are even ways to watch those games for free, or very cheaply, online. Who knew?!

A related topic is whether or not I want to get XM Radio. I'm moving to a new apartment in a couple weeks and was considering the move to XM. I also plan on signing up for the $9 two-movies-at-a-time Netflix plan.

XM offers "XM Everything," which is over 170 channels of pretty much everything I'd want, including baseball and hockey games, for $12.95 a month. That seems to be a pretty decent deal. I do occassionally listen to online radio, usually Pandora, but for $12.95 a month, it might just be worth switching to XM, especially if I can listen to it at home and at the office. The guy next to me uses XM at the office with great success. I might give it a try, but am not sure yet.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Making My Own DVR: Why It's Not Such a Great Idea

Yesterday I sent an e-mail out to a Google Group I belong to, which consists of various friends of mine from college. I was considering making my own DVR (instead of paying the cable company to rent one). After various "why don't you just find stuff online" responses, which were expected but not helpful, I got a great e-mail from one of the more tech savvy group members.

My question was simply thus:

I don't want to pay the greedy imperialist cable company extra $$ every month for a DVR, so I'm thinking of making my own. I've looked online and it doesn't look too tough, but I wanted to see if [you guys] had any input. Has any one tried this? If so, is it worth the $$ and effort?

Here's the best response I got, which I thought was very worthy of broadcasting out to the rest of the internets:

Its not worth the effort. Here is why:

You can buy a TV tuner for your computer. However, all you will get
are analog channels and unencrypted clear QAM digital channels. This means that the only channels you are going to get are basic analog and local HD channels (ABC, CBS, etc). You won't be able to get any HD channels like food network HD, espn HD, HBO HD or any channel that they have moved to digital. Cable companies are starting to move analog channels to digital. This allows them to add more channels but it also means that they can encrypt them. So it might get to the point where without a cable box, the only channels you can view are local channels.

The other option is to buy a PC that has cable card. Cable card
allows you to rent a card for 3 dollars a month and put it in your pc. It decrypts the channels so you get everything. This also sucks because you can't build a PC with cable card. You can only buy one and they start at around 1000 dollars. You CANT hack it either. Cable card also works with HD tivo, for now. Cable companies are starting to use something called SDV. SDV saves bandwidth over the lines by only sending channels as they are requested, instead of sending them to everyone all the time. This is great, because they can add more HD channels. It also means that cable card can't see those channels.

There is one new thing emerging. Its called the HD DVR by hauppauge.
Basically it uses the analog hole. You rent a normal cable box, and connect the Component and digital output on the back of your cable box to this box. Then it has a IR emitter that causes your box to change channels. This way you can record all channels in HD. However its pretty expensive and the software isn't that good at the moment.

Basically the cable companies suck ass and unfortunately if you want
something that will work and keep working no matter what, the best thing is to just rent a DVR. As they add more and more HD channels, more and more of them will be SDV rendering HD tivos useless.

12-20-08: Dolbycast 8-16-07: "Cinema Sound with Ioan Allen"

Right now I'm listening to a great interview on a podcast I just got into called "Dolbycast," which is put on by two long-time employees of Dolby Labs and covers all topics regarding sound, including home theatre design and various home stereo remedies. Great stuff.

This particular episode, which was released about a year and a half ago, features Ioan Allen, one of the longest serving Dolby employees since its founding in London. He discusses the history of Dolby, and how it first got into cinema sound.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Viking Festival Picture

I just saw this in "The Big Picture" on Amazing:

12-18-08: Technology Thursday: Bionic Eye

I saw something about this on TV a little while ago, but it's pretty amazing to see how quickly the technology is progressing:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

12-17-08: VACATION

Well, I'm done with work for the year. It feels pretty good overall, but I need to find stuff to do...

I do have an apartment that needs to be filled with furniture and whatnot, so that should keep me busy for the time being. Other than that, I suppose I could do some reading. There's also college football and college hockey. And movies. And TV. And other forms of entertainment. Wow, where will I find the time?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

12-16-08: Fall Semester 2008 = Over

Tonight I finished grad classes for the Fall '08 semester. And, with that, take it away Mr. Alice Cooper (please replace all instances of "summer" with "remainder of 2008 and into part of 2009"):

Monday, December 15, 2008

12-15-08: Hockey Monday; Scott Stevens Hit on Paul Kariya

I'm not sure if I'd go so far as to say I got some personal enjoyment out of this when it happened (I grew up a huge UNH hockey fan and Paul Kariya played for Maine), but I was simply amazed at whenever Scott Stevens worked his violent magic:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Human League - "Don't You Want Me"

I'm a huge fan of the 80's. My only wish is that I was alive for more of the decade...

12-14-08: "Air Jordan"

Pretty amazing athletic ability on display:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

12-13-08: The Day the Earth Stood Still

Last night I went up to Manchester, CT (about an hour's drive) with my buddy Dan to see The Day the Earth Stood Still on IMAX. I was a bit skeptical going in to the theatre because of the really shaky reviews, but was looking forward to the IMAX experience.

After walking out of the theatre, I could see where the critics were coming from. For a 92 minute film, it did a remarkable job at feeling even shorter than it was. It started off pretty well, with a lot of promise. But the climax was predictable and the build up to it was nearly nonexistent. I don't think it was necessarily an awful movie, but that might just be because I saw it in IMAX and the effects were cooler in that setting. That might be it. Otherwise, I'd have been asking for my $10 back (well, $15 for IMAX).

The male lead is Keanu Reeves, who does a decent job. Jennifer Connelly plays the female lead, and did as well as she could with the script she had. John Cleese makes a very brief appearance, and I would've hoped he could have had a bigger role. But other than those three, none of the other characters were at all compelling. They did little to no development. I guess there was a guy who was friends with Connelly's character, but that never went anywhere and was just left completely in the air.

It was, nonetheless, quite entertaining. I thought the effects were well done. But still, it wasn't anything spectacular. It didn't present anything new to the genre, and didn't really excel at any one thing. Overall, I'm a bit disappointed. I haven't seen the original, but may rent it in the near future to see just how much better it is.

Friday, December 12, 2008

12-12-08: Old Lady Titanic Joke; "Guys Night Out"

A couple goofy things today. One involves a funny encounter with the elderly; the other is just an observation from recent conversations.

I was in the post office about an hour or so ago, waiting in line to get a form to change my address. As the line began to move forward as some one went up to the counter to be helped, an old woman, probably in her mid to late 70's, stops the guy in front of me, and myself, and asks us: "Did you hear about the Titanic?"

The guy in front of me, probably in his late 20's and definitely not the type to relate to old people humor, just stares at her, then replies "No."

Old woman: "Well apparently they found a way to get it up."

I waited for the punchline as the guy in front of me just stared...

Old woman: "Yep, five tons of Viagra."

The guy in front of me didn't get it, or didn't care. The woman just smiled, looked at me laughing, and said "I don't think he gets it." She laughed and walked out. Mind you: she looked like a harmless old lady. One of the funniest things I've seen or heard in quite a while.

The other topic involves the concept of "Guys Night Out."

Tonight I'm heading up to Manchester, CT with my buddy Dan to see The Day the Earth Stood Still on IMAX. Reviews don't look good, but it'll still be neat to see it in IMAX. Dan's girlfriend, a Yale PhD candidate, has a final exam tomorrow morning and can't go. My lady friend is in Manhattan all day today visiting a friend in port with the Coast Guard. So, Dan and I are heading up. Should be fun.

But, for whatever reason, Dan at one point in the conversation said: "Yeah it'd be nice to have a guys night out."

Fast forward three or four hours. After work yesterday I met up with a group of co-workers at a nice place called V Ristorante in Shelton for happy hour. After a couple beers, two of the guys talk about maybe going into Manhattan this weekend... for a Guys Night Out. Mind you: the two guys having this conversation both are involved in very stable and seemingly long-term relationships, but neither are married.

What gives? Is it just me, or does it sound a bit odd when unmarried guys with girlfriends call hanging out with male friends "Guys Night Out"? It's a harmless term, but I am a bit puzzled.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Onion: Every monster movie you've ever seen

President To Face Down Monster Attack, Own Demons In Action-Packed Schedule

12-11-08: Technology Thursday: "While Detroit Slept"

Great column from Tom Friedman. Spooky...


Sent to you by Pat via Google Reader:


via NYT > Thomas L. Friedman by By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN on 12/9/08

Someone is already developing an alternative to Detroit's business model. I don't know if it will work, but I do know that it can be done and Detroit isn't doing it.


Things you can do from here:


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

Video: Thai Yoga Massage: Back Walk

I found this on (great site). This isn't quite how they do it in Thailand. Instead of laying on your side, they have you on your front, and they literally walk on top of your back. Having a 90 pound Thai woman walking on your back is 100 times more painful than it may seem, but it's still pretty damn good.

Thai Yoga Massage: Back Walk -- powered by

12-8-08: Hockey Monday: The Game by Ken Dryden

I have a habit of reading multiple books at once, which leads me to end up taking months and months to finish one book. Sometimes I'll go months without reading a book, then sit down and read the rest of it in a day. I don't know why.

One book that is currently in the cycle, and is nearing completion, is The Game by Ken Dryden. It's a hockey book, first and foremost. But it's not about strategy or talking about the "winning mentality" or anything like that. It's about the purity of the sport: the team and the individual. Dryden wrote the book towards the tale end of his brilliant, but marvelously short, career with the Montreal Canadiens. Dryden is widely considered the greatest goaltender in NHL history, and rightly so: the Habs won the Stanley Cup six times during his eight season career. He won a Stanley Cup the season before winning the Rookie of the Year (he came in for the playoff run as a replacement). Dryden also graduated from Cornell, and retired at the age of 31 to pursue a career in law. Pretty bright guy for some one who willingly stood in the way of 90+ mph shots.

The thing about The Game that makes it special, especially for a hockey player, is how Dryden describes his teammates and how his mind worked before, during, and after a game. He described the paranoid attention paid to routine, and how frantic a professional athlete's mind is. In the book he does a stupendous job at explaining the dedication and wonder the great players, like Guy LaFleur, had for their sport. It's simply an amazing first-person story of the team and the individual. I think I almost don't want to finish it for sake of the story. It's like saying goodbye to a friend. Great, great book.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

12-7-08: John Stewart's Autoerotic Explanation

Jon Stewart is a funny guy. I don't agree with bailing out the auto industry, but this is still a little funny:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

O.J.'s Apology

I don't know what to make of the recent O.J. case, but he seems genuinely sorry.

UPDATE: The Apartment Search Resumes

I saw the apartment in Derby this afternoon, and...


Great place. Plenty of room. Landlords seem to be great guys. Moving in at the beginning of January. I'm so pumped I don't know what to do with myself!

12-6-08: The Apartment Search Resumes

A bit of a SNAFU this week with my new apartment. My would-be roommate gave me a call Thursday morning, in a near panic, to tell me that his landlord was not going to renew his lease for 2009. I was to move in to the place in a couple weeks. Nice spot in Milford not far from downtown and the beach.

To be honest, I'm not all that upset. Sure, it's short notice, but it could have been way worse (I could have moved in and found out last minute). It's not that my would-be roommate is a bad guy; I'm just not all that surprised. He's being really cool about it; I got my first month's rent and deposit back. In cash. Picked it up at his restaurant last night. I felt like a drug dealer. But fortunately Bank of America has a great cash deposit feature in their ATMs. So damn cool to put a bunch of 20's in an ATM and see it just work. What will they think of next? I might also be getting some of the would-be roommate's furniture, which would be cool but I doubt I'll need it. He's moving back home (he's also from the area) and won't be needing it.

So I'm moving quickly to find another place to live for 2009. I'm looking at place in Derby. One bedroom, 950 square feet, decent rent. Better yet: it's not far from where my buddy Dan lives and it's only a 15 minute drive to the lady friend's place. When I mentioned the prospect of me moving to Derby instead of Milford, she was pleased. Not sure why; I'm kind of a jerk! Ha, well probably. I'd been looking at 1BR spots for a while, and have decided that would be my preference over having a roommate.

And best of all: I can get NESN! Milford, for whatever reason, doesn't get NESN despite it being in New Haven County. Derby, also in New Haven County, gets Comcast, which has NESN. Milford has Cablevision, which sucks. Definitely looking forward to being able to watch the Bruins and Sox again.

Things are looking up. Hopefully the place is as good as the Craigslist posting makes it out to be. I'll post an update after seeing it today.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

12-4-08: Technology Thursday: Planet Google

I heard an interesting podcast today featuring a guy named Randall Stross, who wrote an interesting book called Planet Google: One Company's Audacious Plan to Organize Everything We Know. It was on NPR's Fresh Air.

The thing I liked most about the interview was how Stross explained how the Google search algorithm worked. He did it in a pretty easy to understand way (at least easier than when most computer scientists try). Give it a listen:

(Fast forward to 29:28)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

12-2-08: "Hindsight is 20/20"

I was in the car yesterday and began to wonder aloud about the phrase "hindsight is 20/20".

It's an interesting phrase in that it brings in the idea that it implies that when you look back at something after the fact, it all becomes clear.

But 20/20 is just average vision, so would it be possible for some one to say "hindsight, in this particular case, is 20/15"? Or even better, 20/10?

Let's say you're a very perceptive person, and find out about something that some one else did and said "Gee, that wasn't too bright. I would've done it this way." Let's say you're way above average, perception-wise. Your hindsight wouldn't be 20/20; that's just average. I'm assuming you have a working knowledge of said incident, and aren't necessarily new to it. Otherwise, it wouldn't really be hindsight. You have to have SOME role in it.

And what if it's not quite clear what went wrong. Would hindsight then be 20/30 or worse? Aren't there varying degrees of clarity of which one's hindsight could fall into? Let's say you're talking to your friend Bob about how you and Bob probably shouldn't have done those extra shots the night before. Let's say Bob doesn't see the problem in waking up in the spoon position. Is his hindsight not 20/20 like yours?

AND... does it really have to deal with vision? Can a blind person have 20/20 hindsight? I doubt it. That's probably why you don't see many blind people make dumb decisions in the first place. It's the people with perfect vision who you have to keep a keen eye out for.

Monday, December 1, 2008

12-1-08: Hockey Monday: Sound Tiger Comeback

On Friday night I was able to go out and see the Bridgeport Sound Tigers take on the Hartford Wolf Pack in another edition of the "Battle of Connecticut." The Sound Tigers and Wolf Pack are two American Hockey League teams, both based in the Nutmeg State. There used to be a team in New Haven called The Beast, but they unfortunately folded back in 1999 after only a couple seasons in the AHL. The Sound Tigers came around for the 2001-2002 season (their best season to date, for that matter) and have done pretty well since.

The Sound Tigers have done pretty well this season. Right now they're 15-5, which is good enough for second in the East Division behind the Hershey Bears (who have played two more games than Bridgeport). Friday night's affair was against a mediocre Wolf Pack, so the rivalry didn't have quite the same energy to it. Still, it was a fun game.

Bridgeport came out skating well, getting a few good early chances. But after about five minutes, they slowly started to get pounded. Hartford scored first off a goofy goal, and continued to pound Daniel Danis, the Bridgeport goaltender, with shot after shot. In the end, Danis made 45 saves, allowing just the one goal, and was more than deserving of the game's first star. But for the longest time, Bridgeport couldn't get anything going.

After two periods the shot margin was huge. It didn't look good. But once the third period came around, the Sound Tigers hit their stride. Walter put in a nifty goal over the Wolf Pack goaltender's (Wiikman) shoulder to tie it up at 1-1. A few minutes later, Smith scored on the power play to make it 2-1. Before Smith put it in, Hartfod had committed another penalty, which allowed Sillinger (who is re-habbing from an injury and hopes to rejoin the NHL affiliate New York Islanders soon) to put in a nifty goal to make it 3-1 just 19 seconds later. Hartford was stunned, and began to get sloppy. So sloppy that with under five minutes to go, Haskins broke through on a break-away to score a pretty goal on a penalty kill. That's right: Hartford was on the power play and gave up a break-away goal.

The final score was 4-1, which was a complete shock for any one who saw the barrage of shots the Wolf Pack put on in the first two periods. Quite a game for Danis, who was immense in goal. Good win for the Sound Tigers!