Friday, May 29, 2009

Bad Guys

There was some TV show on tonight as I was flipping around about the list of sexiest men in movie history. I love lists like that and in talking through similar lists I got onto best bad guys of all time (sticking to TV and movies).

I submit the following list and ask anyone who wants to add their own as I'm sure I'm missing some really good ones:

Honorable Mentions: Khan Noonien Singh (Wrath of Khan), Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty), Evil Queen (Snow White), Baltar (Original Battlestar Galactica), Clubber Lang (Rocky III), Boba Fett (Star Wars), Predator (Predator), The Kurgan (Highlander)

10. Norman Bates: The original psycho. Scary because he is so mild mannered, until his mother shows up. But don't worry, he wouldn't hurt a fly.

9. Annie Wilkes: You hear Annie and you don't tremble in your boots, but when she's standing over your bead with a sledge hammer, you come around. Kathy Bates nailed it, although her character was allowed to use a chainsaw in the book.

8. Brad Whitewood, Sr.: This is maybe an obscure pick, but Christopher Walken played Sean Penn's evil father in the most intense movie I've ever watched. This is worth seeing for the later seens between Penn and Walken. This is Walken's finest bad guy.

7. Nagina: The entire short special of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi had a manacing air about it (Orson Wells sure can set a mood), and by the time Rikki follows Nagina down her hole, I had to get behind the couch to watch the rest. I still get the creeps when I hear her voice in my head talking about getting the boy when he gets into the bath.

6. Alex Forrest: Glenn Close wasn't known as a bad guy for the first half of her career, and probably still isn't thought of that way... but you boil one pet rabbit and look what happens. Fatal Attraction was horrendously scary and Alex Forrest is why.

5. The Terminator: He got campy in the later movies, but the first time he is blown out of the plate glass window and gets back up, you know you're in for a ride. He later delivers the same thrills as he removes his eye with a scalpel, and later when he rises up from the wreckage of a blown-up truck. As Kyle Reese sums it up, "You still don't get it, do you? He'll find her! That's what he does! It's *all* he does!"

4. The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow: The Johnny Depp movie was horrible and not even the HH could make anyone scared in that movie. But the Bing Crosby-narrated animated short film scared me no end as a kid. When Ichabod looks back over his shoulder and the flaming jack-o-lantern looks back--well it hardly gets scarier than that.

3. Hannibal Lecter: Lecter is utterly great, lovable while being as scary as a bad guy can be. He isn't higher because seeing him first as an adult, I just don't think he *can* be as scary to me as the next two. But the first scene you seem where he's standing so still in the middle of his cell--you've got to be kidding me.

T1. Darth Vader and The Wicked Witch of the West: I just could not find any way to put even a little separation between these two. Darth could strangle a man from afar, ruled the Galaxy, and commanded giant armies of Stormtroopers. The WWotW rode a fiery broomstick, ruled from the creepiest dark castle in the history of movies and commanded the flying monkeys--easily the scariest army of minions in history. And they both had great, great theme songs. Darth's one weakness as a bad guy is that he was ultimately redeemed while WWotW never was, but she also never really actually turned anyone into a toad. Darth blew up an entire planet, but WWotW stole a cute little dog from a distraught girl. WWotW creepily clawed her crystal ball while sending her monkeys out into the steel-grey sky... solidifying her extreme awfulness.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What death penalty?

From CNN: 

A U.S. soldier convicted of murdering an Iraqi family issuing a public apology on Thursday for his crimes. Steven Green, who escaped the death penalty this month, told relatives of the victims that he is "truly sorry for what I did in Iraq." Green was found guilty in U.S. District Court in Kentucky of raping a 14-year-old girl and murdering her, her parents and her 6-year-old sister in the town of Yusufiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad...

So isn't this the same thing as this U.S. District Court of Kentucky issuing the opinion that the death penalty is wrong?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Look, I like a good case statement as much as the next guy, but that is NO F-ING EXCUSE for your language not having an "else if" construct.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Forging Old Paths

If the first few sentences are impossible for you to understand, stick with it, I think it will be readable after that:

I was a software engineer in my early professional life. I did hard-core real-time programming using vanilla C in Unix for proprietary embedded systems. I primarily used vi (say the letters, it's pronounced "vee-eye". I could let you read that any way at all and it shouldn't matter to me because you are not even near me right now, but I can not let it go.) to write my code--this was before fancy development environments were developed. In vi if you want to save your document you hit the 'esc' key and type ":w". So save and close you hit 'esc' and ":wq". After ten to twelve years of this it was very, very hard to start using a mouse to do things like save documents.

I stopped programming much at all in about 2003 in favor of program management where you do everything in Windows tools. I spent perhaps two years having to delete ":wq" from the bottom of my word documents because when I was ready to close a document, that's what my fingers did. It was a muscle memory that was very hard to shake.

So for maybe the last 5 years I have done no appreciable programming and am quite over my vi training. In my new job I am programming again. For about two months I was doing some VB scripting in Excel and then in asp pages. I am using a new editor: Microsoft Visual Studio and nothing odd has been happening.

This past Friday I realized I should back up and start again in javascript (for reasons that are unimportant). So this morning I came in and wrote my first javascript program. Javascript is entirely new to me, but it uses a syntax just like C, from what I can tell. I have spent the morning trying to run scripts that fail because ":w"s are sprinkled all over the code. The muscle memory is back with a vengence--out of nowhere and it's a total regression.

It's like typing "{}" and ";" has awakened something in my brain. It's very, very cool in a freaky way. I mean it's not like you always type a semicolon before saving your file. In fact mostly you don't, because you see stuff you want to change in the middle of the line, for instance. So it's not like it's a key sequence like ";:w" that is from a long time ago and the semicolons just kick off the sequence. And further strangeness is that being a grammar nerd, I actually use semicolons when I write English (I use them appropriately, of course).

So something about addressing an editor int he C syntaxy way has made this come back from the depths of 5 years ago.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

My Fun Guy

Ethan and I went walking in the woods today. These were fabulous, dinner plate-sized fungi extending from the trunk of this tree. We also made it to a Northern League baseball game where he got *two* baseballs.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Rise of the Machines

I fear the rise of the machines, I just don't fear it like other paranoiacs fear it.  Your average nut buys a roomba and watches it make decisions about vacuuming the floor and then sees Terminator or Alien and figures someday roomba will come with a machine gun and the desire to enslave him.

But that's like worrying that your biggest threat from Ford is that someday they'll make nothing but tanks and inter-suburban warfare will claim you as its victim: it's one direction a thought experiment about cars can take you, but that conclusion is not a result of assessing the arc of greatest probability given what you know about Ford and cars.

No, the real threat from the rise of the machines is not that they will rise up and enslave us, the real threat is that some future robot's internet-connected janitorial thread is going to eat up 85% of the world's CPU capacity so it can clean an airport bathroom.

Idiocy is the world's real problem, and there's no power like a nearly omnipotent, infinitely patient idiot who is also a CPU-hog.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bienvenido al mundo real, Mexico

The problem with the real world is that proof is impossible.  The swine flu may still get us in a big way in the fall, but for now it looks like it's under control, with almost no damage.  Compared to seasonal flu it was essentially completely harmless.

But we don't know why.  Maybe it is just a toothless virus.  Maybe Mexico just spent 20 billion dollars and saved the planet from total disaster.  We'll never know.  What we do know is that Mexico spent 20 billion dollars and the flu did not spread.  If it's a random correlation the 20 billion was wasted.  If it was causal, then Mexico just took a bullet for the human race, and that's not over-stating the case.

Our response needs to be clear, and President Obama needs to say this the next time he's at a podium:

"The recent swine flu outbreak did not kill 50 million human beings.  It is entirely possible that without Mexico having gone to tremendous expenditure and inconvenience the swine flu might have done just that.  The world owes Mexico a debt of gratitude for that sacrifice, and we will repay them.  We will not repay them in dollars or pesos, we will repay them by not interpreting this episode as an over-reaction, but as an appropriate reaction to a potential threat.  We will repay them by doing the same thing the next time the outbreak is within our borders.  I call on all nations to pledge similar action."

It sends the right message to Mexico, to American citizens, to the world, to WHO, to the CDC and it sets the table for continuing to do the right thing.  To not learn this lesson is to be Jenny McCarthy who is calling for us not to vaccinate our children because we've forgotten what a nightmare smallpox is.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Oprah is about to kill people

She is.  When Jenny McCarthy gets a show edorsing the discontinuation of vaccines, her immunity will drop and people will die.  All for a scare that isn't based in any supported fact at all.  Shirly Wu hits it right on:

You reach millions of people everyday and your words and
endorsements carry an incredible amount of weight. If you say to buy a
certain book, people will buy it. If you do a segment on a certain
charity, people will contribute. And if you say that what Jenny
McCarthy is saying has merit, people will believe you.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Living in the Shadows

Everything on my computer has shadows now.  Well... either shadows or the subtle two-tone 3-d button effect, or semi-transparent window borders.

And my computer is very slow.

I'm not saying vista is definitely slow on my computer because it's constantly rendering graphic effects, but just like a company that's laying people off shouldn't be planting flowers, a computer that is running really slowly shouldn't be producing cutesy graphics effects.  It's bad form.

You can be drawing cutesy graphics all the time or you can be a slow computer, both are excusable at times, but you can't do both. 

And why doesn't Windows offer a "work installation" that does away with all of this cute crap?  I mean I just can't deal with windows drawing crap all the time.  I can see it slowing way down and laboriously laying all of these window effects.  Again, I'm not sure what's making it slow, but it being  slow gives me time to reflect on the fact that I have a computer that can barely squeeze out a reasonable search through 100 source files that spends some amount of time primping for me.  I want a check box on my control panel that says, "I don't need my computer to act like I'm dating it."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Establishment of a religion

In this bill, the House Republicans are proposing that 2010 be designated "The National Year of the Bible".

And I quote:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Is there an argument to be made that this bill is not "respecting an establishment of religion"?