MichaelRunyon.com – All Things Geek

random musings, movie reviews, all things geek

Nov 18, 2009

Movie Review: The Hurt Locker

After reading some extremely favorable reviews of The Hurt Locker in some trusted website sources, I was anxious to see it. Numerous sites rated it the best movie of the year. However, despite making an appearance at my local cinema (shocking given it’s limited release status), it dissapeared quickly. To my elation, I found it was playing at my local budget theater and went immediately.

To be succinct, the movie is excellent in most every way. The cinematography is beautiful, the actors give strong performances (especially the lead, Jeremy Renner), and the story gripping. None of the scenes feel forced, and yet, you find yourself deep in heart-pounding action scenes. The tenuous and slippery path between the actions onscreen and the overwhelming feeling that something terrible is about to happen keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Politically, the movie is pretty subtle, though some would comment that the psychological aspects of it are tired. You genuinely feel the frustration and longing for change that the soldiers are experiencing as they try to get through their rotation, without any real sense of purpose, except keeping one another alive and doing their job.

In a key scene, the lead breaks away from your typical soldier group scenes and infiltrates a small village in civilian clothes. In my opinion, this willingness to break apart the man from the machine, and show the vulnerability and emotion that drives him is what sets this movie apart from many of the others made recently about Iraq and Afghanistan. You can’t help but identify with the struggles of the soldiers to remain relevant and keep positive, despite the hostility of their environment and their general unwillingness to succumb to death at the hands of their hosts.

Overall, one of the best war movies of the decade, especially so given the light of current circumstances.

10/10

Aug 16, 2009

Movie Review – District 9

Last night I watched District 9 with my wife. I found it to be excellent, in more ways that one. However, it seems a tad unfair that I am less driven to verbosity by greatness than by failure, so I will limit my remarks to just a few comments.

I thought the execution of the storyline was great; it was a sci-fi situation, certainly, but one that was incredibly unique and one that paralleled directly conditions very present in our minds in the world today.

I thought the action was well directed and in adequate dosage to alleviate the moral pondering that we are ultimately left with. Some of it was sublimely minimal; other parts were over the top awesome.

Finally, I took great pleasure with the performances of a largely unknown cast. It gives me great pleasure when a director/producer/studio can find success based on the strength of their story and their product, rather than the drawing power of their cast. The fact that this movie succeeds so well is not due to this fact, but in spite of it, and while I risk sounding like a cynical critic, this is perhaps its strongest point, especially when viewed in contention with all of the other products of this year thus far. To perform a piece at this level, with great performances by all, and not be limited to powerplays and money making decisions by the studio/director/distributor/etc is wonderful indeed.

Aug 16, 2009

Programming Joke – Jesus Saves

Jesus and Satan have an argument as to who is the better programmer. This goes on for a few hours until they come to an agreement to hold a contest with God as the judge. They set themselves before their computers and begin. They type furiously, lines of code streaming up the screen, for several hours straight.

Seconds before the end of the competition, a bolt of lightning strikes, taking out the electricity. Moments later, the power is restored, and God announces that the contest is over. He asks Satan to show his work. Visibly upset, Satan cries and says, “I have nothing. I lost it all when the power went out.”

“Very well,” says God, “let us see if Jesus has fared any better.”

Jesus presses a key, and the screen comes to life in vivid display, the voices of an angelic choir pour forth from the speakers.

Satan is astonished. He stutters, “B-b-but how?! I lost everything, yet Jesus’ program is intact! How did he do it?”

God chuckles, “Everybody knows… Jesus saves.”

—–

From StackOverflow -  http://stackoverflow.com/questions/234075/what-is-your-best-programmer-joke

Jan 16, 2009

The Cold Complicates Things

So, it’s winter in Indiana, and cold is to be expected. Cold and snow. It happens every year. No one should be surprised. But, one thing that you learn growing up in this environment is that the cold makes ordinary things very difficult. 

Example number one: my furnace went out on Wednesday, around noon. I didn’t notice until about 2, though I was luckily at home that day. It was pretty cold outside, but not terribly cold. Probably around 15 degrees or so. The house had already gone down to 55 and was losing a degree every 15 minutes or so. After messing with the furnace controls for about an hour, I realized from the diagnostic readout that the pressure switch was stuck open. According to people online, all you have to do is remove the panel and clear the debris from the pressure switch hose from the air intake. Remembering the last time that I invoked the home warranty that I have, where my attempt to fix it caused them to claim that they could not touch it, I did nothing aside from take the panel off to get the serial number and then closed everything back up. 

After that, I started the oven at around 400 degrees and then opened it, and started a space heater in the basement. With the help of the oven, the main floor heated up to around 60. I cycled it on and off throughout the day, keeping it around 55 most of the time. After a little research, I heard that keeping the faucets running was a good way to keep the pipes from freezing. that night, we went and got another space heater, and Leah brought the one from school home, bringing our total to 3. We ran 2 in the basement, and one on the main floor, running the oven every now and then. We were able to keep it around 60 with this method. I was still afraid that the pipes would burst once we went to bed. With all the faucets slowly running, we went to bed, with a space heater and electric blanket. 

I got up around 7, after not sleeping very well, and went out of the room to check the temperature. A solid wall of cold met me at the door. It was probably nearly 70 in the room with the little space heater, and the thermostat on the main level read 48. Yikes! Pipe freeze alarms go off at 45, so I had to start running the oven again. After 2 hours of oven, it finally rose to 50. 

The furnace guy that I had called the day before was supposed to arrive between 9 and 12, and I was desperately hoping that he would arrive and fix it, because the next evening was to supposed to get very cold (and it did!). He arrived, did some quick diagnostics, pulled off the tube from the pressure switch, cleaned it, restarted it and it kicked on. I could’ve easily fixed it myself, if only I hadn’t been afraid of voiding the warranty. At any rate, it was working again, and the house began a slow rise from 51 to 64 over the next 12 hours. 

Leah and I were both home from work that day. It was Leah’s 2nd snow day that week, as Laporte had gotten quite a bit more snow than we had, and we already had about 12-15 inches. Around dinner time, after reading horror stories about ice dams on your roof causing flooding when the snow melts, I went outside with the dog for about 3 minutes, then went to the front and shoveled off as much of the roof as I could. Then, I shoveled the walk in front of our house and the neighbor’s house. I guess that I had forgotten to check just how cold it was, because after about 10-15 minutes of being outside, I realized that I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes. Remembering that this was an early sign of frostbite, I quickly went inside to warm up, and after getting on my computer, realized that the outside temperature was -10, with a windchill of -35! After a couple of hours of tingly toes, I was relived to know that they would be fine.

As we were watching TV last night, a plow truck from the city badly negiotiated a turn and hit a control box on the corner across from our house. About 10 seconds later, the light started flashing red, and I got very upset. This same thing happened about a year ago, and it took the city literally 3 months to fix. A flashing light at a semi-busy street in front of your house makes it nearly impossible to get out in the morning, and furthermore, makes it quite dangerous for drivers on that road to queue up and quickly stop. 

Now, I’m home from work again (though, with a computer and an Internet connection, I find myself still very able to produce work), because it’s -17 outside with a windchill of around -30. With cold like this, you have to be very careful. If you don’t stop and get gas and run out, you might freeze to death before the police or family comes to your aid. If you are shoveling snow or doing something outside and feel warm on the inside, you could get frostbite on your nose, ears, fingers or toes. It’s so cold, that even simple mistakes become terrible mistakes. It truly does complicate things.

Jan 11, 2009

First Big Snow

The South Bend area has received somewhere between 6-9 inches of snow in the last 2 days. I typically allow these sorts of situations to pass, but today I unwillingly trudged out to the driveway to shovel out a path for our vehicles. After nearly 1.5 hours of shoveling, I grew extremely agitated with the negative progress induced by the rapidly passing snowplows on my street. I thought it amusingly ironic that our street (which is moderately busy) is often bypassed by plows on other days, but that in the 1.5 hours that I shoveled, a plow drove past 8 times, sometimes in teams of 2. 

At any rate, my driveway is now mostly clear, and my back is very sore. I am simply not in the kind of shape to allow me to just go out and shovel 80 feet of driveway. The lack of a viable exercise program, combined with zero exercise effort at work, leaves me very much a glorified vegetable. I wil limp now upstairs to crawl in bed with a hot pad, and hope that I am able to perform normal functions in the morning, without the aid of additional heat or excessive painkillers. 

To those of you that live in other, milder climates, please take this time to praise your choices and reminisce about similar situations you may have experienced in the past. For those of you that still living in the area, I wish you a hot cup of coffee, a good shovel and a strong back. Or, at the very least, a enterprising young lad from the neighborhood looking to work for cheap. 

Jan 8, 2009

New Year’s Resolutions

Well, everyone typically has resolutions sometime around the beginning of a new year. As a sidenote, I find it interesting that in our continually more insulated society, we still find newness at the turn of the year. Sure, it marks some changes that are evident in everyday life. Writing 2009 instead of 2008 on your documents. Rolling over taxes, wages, spending to another year. But in all truth, it is just another day. Sure, it’s a day marked out clearly by heavenly events (spring, summer, fall, winter) and we continually adjust our schedules and time-sense to make it clear to us when it’s happened. But we choose to make the day different. We could go on about the day, thinking no difference about it than any other. But I digress…

My resolutions this year will be a bit different than ones in years past. For one, some of them are joined with my wife. And also, I intend to actually accomplish a few of them, rather than pie-in-the-sky ruminations. Some of them, I started the first day of the New Year. 

The holidays can be a time for reflection, among other things. Relatives that you don’t see very often come into town, and you reflect on how wonderful it was to see them, and reflect on how much you wish that it could be more often. Logical constructs appear randomly to remind you of the circumstances dictating the current situations, and defeat is accepted. You speak frankly with those whom you love, barriers of feelings and space broken down by limited time and chosen words, chosen actions. But ultimately, time passes quickly for both parties, and you are separated and left still in a state of reflection.

My goals this year are motivated by many aspects of humanity: the physical, the professional, the emotional. But I will jump straight into the goals and leave you with the details as follows.

Health

  1. Immediate and total cessation of soda drinking. My wife will be joining me on this goal. Basically, our soda consumption had reached epic levels, and reflection upon the vast amount of daily liquid calories grossed by soda consumption realized a goal of simply stopping. This cessation will leave us heavily addicted to both major properties of soda: sugar and caffeine. Being that the sugar is the major proponent for change, I will seek out caffeine elsewhere to curb that addiction. But the sugar will lapse with time.
  2. Get to a more healthy weight. I typically weigh somewhere between 220 and 225. This translates to a BMI that approaches obesity (28.2-28.9). After the holiday food rush (massive food intake coupled with entire lapsation of exercise) my weight spiked towards 230, dangerously close to obesity. To get within the parameters of a “healthy weight” as dictated by BMI, my goal weight would be 195 (BMI of 25, the very high end of healthiness). That is a 30 pound differential of my average weight. Based upon the amount of pop that I was drinking before (average of about 3 cans per day == 450 calories), if I did nothing else besides ceasing pop consumption and not replacing it with other calories (tea, coffee), I would drop 49 pounds (in a reality unaffected by descending exponential caloric need with weight loss). More realistically, with some caloric replacement by coffee and teas, (still in an unaffected virtual reality) I would still lose 36 pounds! Obviously, this reality is not entirely the case, as already stated. But with proper exercise and improvement in diet in areas other than liquids, it is most certainly possible.

Personal/Professional Skills

  1. Implement source control. Utilizing SVN or Git or other methods of source control has proven to be extremely valuable and effective for programmers the world round. I can think of many circumstances within the last year where enforced source control (checking in/out code) would’ve solved problems, especially with our larger sites/projects where multiple persons are developing. This is also a valuable skill when marketing yourself in the future, since source control is such an essential mechanism for production in a team or project environment.
  2. Further develop .NET skills (C#/VB.NET). Despite my qualms about transitioning to an entirely different paradigm, it’s prevalence in the marketplace neccesitates my at least minimum proficiency in utilizing it. I have some experience with ASP, which functions in a normal GET/POST environment like most other languages, but ASP.NET functions inside the Windows Forms control mechanism with Viewstates and other specialized controls. As I mentioned before, I am not particularly a fan of this procedure, but it seems to work for others, and I’m always interested in learning a new skill, particulary if it will be useful in the future.

Personal

  1. Keep a movie journal. I watch many, many movies. Many more than I would be readily willing to admit. I enjoy writing reviews of movies, especially those that I see at the theater (when my concentration is best focused at the task at hand). Keeping a journal of movies that I see and notes about how I felt about them will help me to better organize my overall movie intelligence and keep me interested in new or previously unseen projects.
  2. Get involved in some kind of community activism/volunteerism. Whether it’s helping with relevant skill development at the homeless shelter or volunteer programming/web work for a good cause, I think it best to start getting involved in the community if at all possible. I live in the community, and there is no reason that I shouldn’t be participating (in, at the very least, a limited sense), especially given that I could be particularly useful in some skill development. 
  3. Work harder at discovering and listening to new music. I have found myself in a serious rut as of late. I listen to trance mostly at work to concentrate, and don’t particularly care for trance in a more casual, less focused environment, so it does me little good. I started a checklist of the 1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die book on another page on this site, and I’m only about 13% of the way through that, so there is a goal. I especially need to focus on new music (or at least new to me music) to keep my current collection from growing overplayed in my experience. 
Well, that’s about it for now. I sincerely hope to make great strides towards many of these goals in the coming months. I set a challenge to any who read this page to make some goals for the year, however small or large, and put forth effort in developing yourself to attain them. Some semblance of value can be attained in the pursuit of the currently unattainable, and I intend to participate fully in my journey towards whatever value I may find in my struggles. 
Here’s to hope that this new year brings change, positive change, to you and all you hold dear. I know there are certainly major issues in our world and in our lives. And if you like things just the way they are…then I hope that you find yourself a comfortable seat for what’s going to happen.I expect big things to occur this year, possibly even some terrible things. But let’s hope for the best. 
Happy New Year!
Jan 6, 2009

Blackberry Storm after 3 Weeks

I (most generously) received a Blackberry Storm through a work plan just before Christmas. For those of you who haven’t seen the pervasive TV ads and CDMA hype, the Blackberry Storm is the first touch-screen Blackberry. What’s different about it is the haptic feedback built inherently into the device. The screen clicks as you interact with it, letting you know the difference between your selection and your actual mechanism of motion. Sweet, right? I know that I was elated to get one, and my wife was supremely jealous. But what I’ve found is that, like many first generation products, there are some flaws. Some even serious ones. 

Blackberry Storm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main selling of the phone over the iPhone and over phones is that it’s a Blackberry. There is already an army of Blackberry users out there, mostly corporate warriors, who are in the field constantly checking and sending email. A touch screen device that utilizes all of it’s beautiful 4″ screen and still allows them to use the time tested tools that RIM and the Blackberry provide make it a home run to the established crowd. 

I, however, am in with the Joes who have never used an iPhone or a Blackberry. My experience with the device thus far has been mixed, but positive. My screen is still responding to clicks from my fingers, unlike my co-worker, who has had to send for a replacement after just 2 weeks. His is a common problem, one that the community is rapidly coming up with fixes for, but still irritating for a launched product. I found the typing to be a little aggravating at times, the letters being selected from the screen a little differently than I had imagined them to be. I found the SureType keyboard ( a virtual software keyboard laid out like the original Blackberry keyboard) to be much more useful at typing anything but extremely precise names or URLs. 

Verizon’s network thus far has been pretty good. I have gotten reasonably good service in some locations that I had terrible or no service with T-Mobile, always a plus. The speed of my phone, especially in the office and around the house, is quite good as well. The same cannot always be said of the phone itself. It doesn’t automatically close programs and gets quite bogged down if you leave more than a couple of applications open, causing you to have to (somewhat laboriously) manually select and close running programs. 

Another problem with the phone that I’ve had is with the media playback. I looked up some of the codecs available for the audio and video, but even after conforming to those, had some issues playing anything but the most basic files. I had to get a special converter to wrap my videos in a 3GP wrapper (MP4 core) to get them to play right on my phone. Even the videos that the video recorder on the phone took won’t play, which is especially weird and irritating. 

On to the camera….two words: it sucks. It really does. It’s 3.2 MP, which caused excitement at first. It even has a nifty LED flash. But…it takes forever to focus, the flash is blindingly bright and off-color, it’s focus is easily disturbed by motion and light change…it just overall sucks. It is not useful for pretty much anything except taking pictures of non moving objects in well lit areas. Really. And how often does that situation present itself, when you aren’t already taking a picture of something?

Everything else has been pretty fun. the IM clients for MSN and AIM work well. The email app is a slam dunk (no surprises there). RIMs servers have been beating my POP server every 45 seconds looking for new emails and in heavy traffic, my phone beeps a lot. But that’s OK…somewhat to be expected, even. It’s pretty easy to retrieve and open attachments, view them, respond to emails, etc. It’s nice to be so connected in some ways. 

The GPS issue is somewhat troublesome. Verizon wants you to pay for and use their VZ Navigator software, which costs $7/month. They did enable GPS to work with BlackBerry Maps, but that software kinda stinks. I installed Google Maps, which works wonderfully with cell tower triangulation of your location (within 3000 meters or so), but it doesn’t offer turn by turn directions or real-time, precise GPS locations. It still works pretty well without it, but kinda annoying that Verizon disabled access to the GPS chip.

My last gripe (and not really even a gripe) is the lack of applications. There are probably 20-30 applications out there for the Storm, and quite a few of them are just re-revved apps from the past Blackberry lines. But, the product just launched and i’m certain that Verizon will try to take advantage of the App Store concept that has worked so well with the iPhone. I’m anxious to get my feet wet developing my own apps for the phone. I would love to make some apps for my homegrown budget software and maybe replicate (with much less pinache) some of the cooler apps that I’ve seen for the iPhone. 

Overall, a great phone, works well for what it’s intended for. I’ll agree in general with critics that it was rushed to market, but as long as BB keeps updating their firmware, and the apps keeping growing, I’ll be more of a convert all the time….until my phone screen stops clicking, that is.

Dec 15, 2008

Never Underestimate Stupidity

Now, I hate to go off in a uncontrolled rant about certain aspects of my job without first prefacing my comments with a bit of clarity. I love my job, and especially love my ability to sometimes take a step back and look at the big future. Our clients don’t comprise a massive data set, but we are constantly exposed to new and different circumstances, and though they can sometimes present themselves in an annoying or inconsistent manner, problem solving has always been a great joy of mine, and therefore I do find pleasure in this avenue. Now, on to my subject….

Anyone who has much background in coding user interfaces (this includes web programming, ESPECIALLY web programming) has come to the complete and total understanding that a great deal of their job in creating user interfaces in maintaining the inability of the user to make choices or perform actions that we don’t wish for them to do (or don’t want them to do at that time). In making an interface and it’s controlling component, I spent nearly 80% of my time in restricting and validating user input to ensure that only valid data makes it to the control mechanism, and onward in the guts of the program. Whether it’s ensuring that a user has put in an email address that exists in a valid domain or making certain that a credit card number follows a skeleton guideline of the major credit cards, there are many, many gaps to be plugged to ensure that the user has a smooth and error-free experience. 

Sometimes, however, a smaller project might need to get completed quickly, and cost might prohibit us from completely fleshing out the validation that is typically performed on a certain control. This is not abnormal and certainly not the end of the world. Special circumstances can be accepted for certain circumstances, especially if there is little chance that your good name as the developer can’t be tarnished from the performance of the control, or that very few people will be visiting the application in question. This, however, is a completely stupid assumption, in both cases. Whatever application you end up programming in a half-complete way will eventually find itself in high usage or high visibility, and without proper preparation, you face the end result of both of your assumptions. 

A simple app that was created a few years back for a local company selling gift cards is my case in point. A relatively simple form controls the app. You put in your billing address, the shipping address that the card will be sent to, the name on the card, and a customized message. After these details are complete, you put in your credit card information and then submit it to the server. In the interest of being agile at the outset (a decision that was I not around to make at the time) this form was unprotected in the sense of user validation. There was no client or server side validation to ensure that certain values were present (like a name/address on the card, a credit card number, an expiration year, etc). At first, with relatively little user input, this was not really a problem. If the user encountered a problem, they would see a nasty ColdFusion error and would retreat to the page previous to check their input. Great, in a very savage and basic sense. Teach the user to teach themselves and correct their mistake. 

We, however, live in an age of greater expecatations these days. So after sitting in this unprotected state for a long time and being un-examined by the application, it was time to give this little app some love. When the form was setup, I was designated as a “watcher”, meaning that I got a copy of every single output of the form. Every time someone submitted the form without an error, I got a copy. What became amazing to me over time was how many times someone could screw up the form before they got it right and got their confirmation message. A user would fill out the form with just their name and the name of the person they wanted to send a gift card to and then hit submit. And the system would let them. And then, in a minute, when a message confirming their input did not come through, they would go back and do the same over and over again. Eventually they would put in an address. A few more submits and then a credit card number. And then a gift card amount. Sometimes, I would get 13 submits from the same person before acceptable input was gathered. Often times, the sales reps at the company would just call the person or try to email them, to avoid further input on their part. 

The worst examples of this, however, were the weekly or monthly persons that would click the empty form 20 times in a short time. They would follow the website link that said “Send a Gift Card” and then just click “Send Card” at the bottom of the form over and over again, completely ignoring the 20 or so user fields to put information in. When validation was eventually put into the form, a control mechanism that prevented this was set to log this behavior just out of curiosity and it in no way stopped. Let me be clear about this….hundreds of people were going to a website that presented them with a form to put in some basic information about how to send a gift card, and then just clicked away, willing the computer to try and understand that they wished a gift card to be sent to their aunt/uncle/father/son/daughter, address, name, amount and wishes unknown. 

I break down when trying to resolve these circumstances. It’s like playing whack-a-mole on a global scale. I finally get the form so that users MUST provide input for essential fields and think that will be the end of it. But then someone puts in “Visa” where it says “Credit Card Number”. Then, you have to go back and limit the input to numbers only. Then you have to go back and limit the input to known credit card formats. Then you have to autofill the city and state from the zipcode, since users will so often put the wrong city and state on their form. And on, and on, and on. 

So, to wrap this up shortly….when you browse the Internet and fill out forms to send money to someone, or order something from a website, or to see certain data from a source….remember that many hours were put into that application to ensure that you and all of the other stupid people out there can’t blindly click around in hopes of their thoughts being transmitted to the server. And hopefully you will appreciate the effort the next time. 

There. Take the soapbox away. 

Dec 11, 2008

Family Roots

The Internet is really changing everything. People are coming together and information is spreading so rapidly, sometimes it is truly unbelievable. Runyons from all over facebook are contacting me and inviting to join groups of them. 

This summer, I was unable to go with my dad’s side of the family to a reunion in West Virginia. The reunion primarily focused on the Lester side of the family (my paternal grandmothers family). My paternal grandfather had passed away the summer previous and the trip was especially meaningful to those who were able to attend, as much of the elder family members are starting to thin out as time goes on. 

Then, randomly, I remembered at one time someone saying that my paternal great-grandmother was a McCoy (from the infamous Hatfield-McCoy feuds of the late 1800s). I decided to try and find out if this was true, and if so, how I was related to the events that happened. The McDowell Co Historical Preservation Society’s website was instrumental in finding the familial relationships of the Lesters and McCoys, along with a couple of other websites related to WV history.

My great-grandmother Rose Nell McCoy was born on Sep 9, 1907 to Wayne McCoy. Wayne McCoy was the 13th child of Selkirk McCoy. Selkirk McCoy was the firstborn of Asa McCoy, son of Samuel McCoy. Asa was the cousin of Randolph and Asa Harmon McCoy, the two brothers that started the feud with the Hatfield family. According to Wikipedia, the feud officially started when a band of ex-Confederate soldiers killed Asa Harmon McCoy, a Union soldier returning home. 

According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatfields_and_McCoys ); 

“The uncle of Devil Anse, Jim Vance, and his “Wildcats” despised Hans Hall McCoy because he had joined the Union army during the American Civil War. Harman had been discharged from the army early because of a broken leg; several nights after he returned home, he was murdered in a nearby cave.”

So, therein we come to the very start of the feud, and also a famous event in history (well, semi-famous) that we/I can trace our family tree to. My great great great great great grandfather, Asa McCoy, was the cousin of Hans Hall McCoy, who was murdered to start the feud. So, Hans Hall McCoy, the origin of the feud, would be my 1st cousin, 6 times removed (Many thanks to a relationship calculator provided by Stephen Morse).

I won’t pretend that this association makes me in any way special. I am 6 generations away from the events that happened; those involved in the circumstances probably spawned thousands of descents in the years since. My great great grandfather, the last male McCoy in my family tree, was the 13th child in his family. Randolph, who was eventually killed in the feud, married my great great great great great great aunt Sarah, and had 16 children over a span of 23 years. Amazing! Our times have changed so much since then. 16 kids in a family today would literally be national news. Following our train, even if all of the other McCoys were much less fertile, and each successive generation spawned only half as many kids, that would still be 6,000 descendants with the same relationship to Asa McCoy (and Randolph McCoy) that I share.

Again, I cannot express how impossible this would’ve been without the Internet. It would’ve taken many phone calls and probably a physical trip or two to some archive to find out how we were all related.  And yet, it took me inside of an hour to make this connection. What a wonderful tool…no matter who you are, how savvy you are, how old/young you are, the communications ability of this technology (which is only just beginning) is just staggering. Our ability to bring together and communicate today is so much greater than anything we could’ve imagined even just a few years ago.

Maybe there’s someone famous in your family’s past. With the power of the Internet, and a little determination, there is almost no limit to what can be known.�

Dec 5, 2008

Movie Review – Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Last night, Leah and I went to the dollar theater to see Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Given the highly comedic nature of the other works that I have seen the headlining actors in previous to this, I was somewhat excited about yet another great movie full of snarky dialogue and faux angst (a la Apatow). However, I found the movie to move very slowly. It’s dialogue was too weak to carry my attention through the long lapses in the story’s motion, and the gags that made you smile or laugh were squeezed so absolutely hard that by the end you were yearning for some kind of comic relief. 

The movie is a classic example of trying to ride the success of the actors, rather than the picture. The actors are well known for acting in certain kinds of movies, and producing a certain kind of product, via their delivery and genre looks. But this picture squanders all of that, trying to promote some ethereal air of romance between two characters that have never met except through music mixes. The over the top ex-girlfriend seems somewhat forced, and the prolonged longing of the male protagonist is not well displayed nor well understood by the audience. The chemistry between the two lead characters is not cute enough to evoke feelings of sympathy and not strong enough to carry a real bond. 

The scene stealers (the gay friends/band-mates and the drunk friend) do their parts, but in the end, we don’t see/know enough about them to really get a laugh, and their motives in the movie are plain, unexciting and clearly stated. We are never suspended and waiting for what is to happen next. We are only waiting for the the director and the scene to get on with it so that we can get out of our seats with somewhat a good feeling about both the actions of the characters onscreen and the actions of ourselves, for coming to the movie. But I found myself ultimately dissapointed in both regards. I found myself more bored during this film, even though I only paid $1.50 for it, then I have been at the movies in a long time. 

Overall Rating: 4.3/10

Synopsis: Though you may be intrigued by the past appearance of the characters in this movie, they are not well supported by a threadbare and poorly written script, and a meandering plot stuffed so full of stereotypes that there is little left to laugh about.

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