Review: Law Abiding Citizen

Posted by – November 2, 2009

Law Abiding Citizen Movie PosterWhen I first saw the preview for this film I immediately knew I wanted to see it.  This is not a normal occurrence for me, and I’m glad I had that instinct because I really did enjoy this film.  Well, that is until the first half was over.

The premise of the story is that a father gets rushed by two thugs in his home, who kill his wife and daughter in front of him.  The prosecutor offers a plea bargain so that one of them gets the death penalty and the other gets a maximum of five years despite the father’s pleas to send them both to trial.  The prosecutor declines as he wants to keep his conviction-rate high.

The father is understandably upset and decides to dispense his own justice and apparently uses his skills as a government black-ops “brain” to start killing all those that are guilty of dealing with murderers (all the while giving people an out, as to avoid the destruction).  For instance he’ll ask for something, and if it’s not met, he kills more people.

I’m not sure if I was supposed to be on the side of the father or not, but I really was up until about the middle of the movie.  He was trying to force people to look at the injustice of the criminal system and that something needs to be changed and he was prepared to break a few eggs to make an omelette.  I felt it was pretty justified even if extremely vengeful and murderous.

Overall I’d say to definitely watch this movie, while I did have a big problem with the ending and felt a little ripped-off by the plot direction change in the middle of the film, it was worth watching.  The acting was pretty great as I was never distracted at all by any of it and the characters seemed to be able to mingle with each other quite easily.  If for nothing else though this movie is a great film to have a discussion about, as it illustrates how screwed up the system is, and what it will take to fix it.

Now, for what I didn’t like (Really only useful to those who have seen the film):


So the problem I had with the movie starts when the father kills his cellmate in order to get into solitary confinement.  While I understand that this was required in order to get him into his cell in solitary to continue his acts of destruction I felt that it was a bit out of character and instantly made me dislike the father.

While I’m not sure whether I was supposed to identify with the father at all, I do think he was justified in wanting justice, and I don’t think it’s entirely wrong to act on your conviction to change the system.  Unfortunately not much in history has ever changed without violence and I can’t see this changing anytime soon. So overall I wanted to identify with the father, and wanted the movie to be a film about siding with the bad guy, and realizing that although it was terrorism, it was for the right reasons and partially if not fully justified.  To me it speaks volumes about how war and terrorism is NOT a black and white issue, and would have been quite good social commentary.

So once I was sort of put-off by his blatant murder of a presumably semi-innocent man (they never state what his cellmate did, for all we know it was tax evasion) I started to wonder if I was supposed to want him stopped.  While he did kill someone in cold blood that was totally not related to his plight, he was after-all still trying to change the system.

Once everything was wrapped up and they found out that the father was just tunneling out of prison, he didn’t seem like as much of a genius (except for the judge’s cell phone, that was totally unexpected and quite inventive).  This made me feel even worse about the character as I really did want to side with him even despite murdering his cellmate.  And from there they trick him into committing suicide as he knew he had to take out the officials at the meeting to get anyone to actually start to care about fixing the justice system.

So the father dies, and the lawyer goes to his daughter’s recital and the world is good again.  Except for the fact that the judicial system is still horribly broken, and despite the fact that the prosecutor won’t make deals with murderers anymore, nothing was really resolved.  I would ahve much prefered some alternate ending that would allow the system to be changed, even if it was just a weird emntion of congress discussing judicial branch reform and a massive overhaul of how the justice system works.

I don’t know, I was just really disappointed in the ending, and it seemed that the director and writer wanted to stray from the fact that terrorists have families and motives too.  They aren’t just non-descript people who just hate freedom.  Overall though, I felt that the first half of the movie helped fill that weird craving for brutal justice and revenge.  Sort of like going on a murderous rampage in Grand Theft Auto when you’re angry about something.  Then again maybe I’m just insane and ready to snap any day now.

Anybody else have any opinions on this?  I’d really like to hear them.

My Alternate Ending to Terminator Salvation

Posted by – October 31, 2009

Terminator Salvation Movie Poster

Terminator Salvation Movie Poster

It’s been quite awhile since this film came out so I decided I’d like to let people know how I would have ended it.  I know you were all dieing to know what I felt about it, so I’ll give a tiny review as well.  Keep in mind there are spoilers here, some might say I give away the ending (well duh) but I don’t think it really matters, but READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Alright so at the end of the film, we find out that John Connor’s heart is damaged and needs to replaced so Marcus decides to donate his.  Which to me was completely fucking stupid.

They opt to replace the almost indestructible robot who fights for the humans for some dude who will HOPEFULLY survive the procedure and then have a heart condition and need to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his natural life.  I really don’t get what they would be thinking if they were real, but as writers I can see that they wanted to give Marcus the chance to repay his debt to society and what-not, but it’s still a really stupid decision.

So anyway, what I would have liked to see happen was that John Connor dies (nice big dramatic moment and everyone thinks the resistance will fail especially when people lose morale when they find out their leader is dead.  So Marcus decides to take over Connor’s legacy by adopting his name, and through a few procedures (well, firmware updates) change his voice to match John’s so he can take his place as leader.

It would work quite well, Marcus is more than capable now as he had shown, and nobody actually knew what John Connor looked like to begin with and with his voice, he could continue the radio broadcasts.  It’d also add a weird twist to the movie and series because while John Connor helped in the resistance he wasn’t the Jesus they make him out to be, and it would leave Skynet still sending terminators back to kill John Connor when the real target was Marcus all along.

I thought it’d be a great ending, but what do you guys think?

As for the film itself, I’m glad they made it as it’s been wanted for quite awhile.  It was pretty much what I expected, and was somewhat mediocre but defiantly worth a watch especially if you followed the films as a kid.  It is a bit weird to see them practically toss out the whole motif of the previous films “The future cannot be changed, it can be changed, no wait it can’t, oh whatever look robots!”.  I also felt Christian Bale could have easily been replaced as I found his character recycled and bland, and really felt Marcus was the shining star of the movie and makes my ending more the better.

Rehash: Neave Strobe Optical Illusion

Posted by – October 30, 2009

This was WAAAAAY too crazy to pass-up.  I had to post about this here, as it’s probably the most crazy optical illusion I’ve seen to date.  I came across it on Phil Plait’s blog and just had to pass it on.

So without further delays, here is the Neave Strobe Illusion, be warned that if you are epileptic or sensitive to flashing lights of crazy black and white moving lines to AVOID this, as it screws up my mind pretty hardcore.

Neave Strobe

Review: Zombieland

Posted by – October 30, 2009

Zombieland Movie Poster

Zombieland Movie Poster

The wife has been wanting to see this movie for awhile and we finally got our chance.  While I was looking forward to it, this movie didn’t strike me as anything ground breaking or a must-see movie in theatres, and to be honest it really wasn’t.

That isn’t to say that the movie wasn’t entertaining, but it sort of followed a cookie cutter design and nothing really unpredictable occurs.  The most catchy thing about the movie is the humour in the fact that “Rules” appear on the screen which break the fourth wall but provide comedic relief.  This will most likely become an Internet meme though as zombies are really “in” right now.

The movie is about a fellow named Columbus (or at least nicknamed) who has made a habit of making “rules to follow” to survive the zombie invasion.  As I’ve stated these displayed the screen when they’re adhered to such as “Always check the backseat”.  He travels about America which he now deems “the United States of Zombieland” and befriends a dude, and then meets some others.

I can’t really explain much as there really isn’t much to the film, beyond the zombies there are very few characters and the film constantly broke the fourth wall for me.  While I was entertained the movie wasn’t all that spectacular, and I’d probably give this movie a “rent”.  It’s probably worth seeing, but only because of the memes it will spawn.

Sorry if this review seems a bit weak, there isn’t much I can give about the film that doesn’t give it all away.  The sum of the story could easily be fit into a paragraph.

Review: Google Reader

Posted by – October 26, 2009

Google Reader's Main Layout

Google Reader's Main Layout

This post has been sitting in my draft folder FOREVER, as I was never quite happy with the formatting or what I wrote.  I decided I’m going to push it through anyway.

I’ve been using Google products for years.  Like most people I’m attracted to the ability to save my work server-side as well as being able to export it to my own local hard drive for safe-keeping.  Most companies don’t tend to do both because their business model is to lock you into their services usually to ensure constant ad revenue.  Google instead relies on innovation and user-friendliness, which hasn’t failed them yet (at least, except maybe Orkut, which I also enjoy…alone), this includes Google Reader.

It all starts off with a pretty simple layout.  The right pane is for viewing your feeds/statistics, the left pane is for navigating your feeds and options.  The ability to use Google Gears to view your feeds offline also gives you a great option for laptop users who will be traveling without wifi access, as you don’t need to install a local news reader.

Viewing a Feed with Google Reader.

Viewing a Feed with Google Reader.

The layout for the reading the feeds is the most important feature however, and it doesn’t get much better than this.  As you can see, it looks very much like any feed reader out there, very simple, with black text on a white background, all the images are there and easy to see.  You can even collapse the navigation pane for a larger viewing window.  With all the different viewing options on how the articles will appear, I think everyone can find a view that they like which is really what customization is really about.

You can track your reading statistics through Google Reader's Trends.

You can track your reading statistics through Google Reader

Another very cool feature I probably couldn’t live without is Google Reader’s Trends.  I’ve always been one to enjoy graphs and statistics (especially when they’re about me; see Review:WhatPulse, Review:RescueTime and DD-WRT Vs Tomato).  However I do find this somewhat useful as if I find I’m reading too much junk feeds, or I haven’t read from a particular feed in many many months; I’ll prune the feeds to increase my productivity.  This doesn’t always work how I’d like however.  In order to get an article to disappear from your ‘new items’ you have to click ‘read’ even though I may just be skipping it as that particular article doesn’t have my interest (Slashdot or Metafilter are two of the big feeds I have trouble with in this regard).  I propose having an ‘ignore’ box as well, which will show up on trends showing how many you ignore, so you can also prune away if the numbers get too high.

For the most part I think Google Reader is the best feed reader out there, although I’ve seen some religious wars with Bloglines vs Google Reader.  The arguments for both sides aren’t very convincing as Google has/is taking all the good features from Bloglines, and getting rid of the bugs and problems Bloglines has (such as duplicate articles in the feed).  It’s all up to you to decide because that’s what the Internet is about; choices.

Here are a few other screenshots of different views, for those interested enough to care, but not yet enough to sign-up.

Google Reader with the navigation pane collapsed.

Google Reader with the navigation pane collapsed.

Google Reader displaying articles with the list view instead of extended.

Google Reader displaying articles with the list view instead of extended.

Safety of Information In the Cloud

Posted by – October 19, 2009

This will be me someday...

This will be me someday...

Most of us have probably heard about how T-Mobile failed pretty epically by losing all of their customer’s sidekick data (as the device has no storage of it’s own, it’s all stored in the cloud).  Luckily Microsoft has stated they have been able to recover “most, if not all” of the information.  However consider the fact that when this news broke, T-Mobile openly admitted to not having backups.

Like many Internet users I rely on Google a great deal of the time.  I use their email service, their RSS reader, their office document suite and of course their search engine.  It appears to me Google has a lot of relaly smart people in their ranks and I not only assume but can pretty confidently say I KNOW they keep backups.  How comprehensive these backups are, and how often it’s backed-up I don’t know.

So it seems I put a lot of faith in Google to keep my information safe, but then again I would have thought T-Mobile would have the same obligation.  This is why I was quite amazed upon hearing of The Data Liberation Front which is a team, well I’ll quote the website:

The Data Liberation Front is an engineering team at Google whose singular goal is to make it easier for users to move their data in and out of Google products.  We do this because we believe that you should be able to export any data that you create in (or import into) a product. We help and consult other engineering teams within Google on how to “liberate” their products.

So basically Google is working to allow YOU (the user) to keep and regulate your own backups without having to find crazy work-arounds like many other services (where their business model is to make it difficult for you to leave).

While most of their help will only help those who are technically minded (such as knowing  to use their forwarding/popmail to grab a copy of all your email as a backup) it’s definitely a step in the right direction.  While cloud computing is definitely making lives easier, it also raises the stakes for catastrophic data loss and we need to be careful to ensure a bad day at Google isn’t a bad year for us.

I’m probably going to write a few guides over the next several weeks on configuring tools and scripts to automating the backup process (as I have been backing up Gmail and other web services for years).

.999… Equals 1

Posted by – October 15, 2009

While I’ve heard this before in many places, I’ve never had the interest in actually seeking out why or infact IF this was true.  At face value it really does seem to be wrong, because .9 repeating is just every so slightly less than 1.  However I’ve now been thouroughly convinced this is not true.

This made the whole argument click for me.

This made the whole argument click for me.

This was the most convincing proof for me, is located on the left.  However I strongly urge any nerds out there to read the small blog post I’ve linked to below as he goes over the problem in several ways that might help prove it to you too.

The concept of HOW it could equal one is still mind boggling but at least now I can confidently state that it in fact DOES.

I think this might also be a neat trick to freak people out, but then again maybe I’m nerding-out thinking people would be impressed by a mathematical proof.  Or maybe I’m just hanging out with all the right people.  I’ll take the latter.

Read the full post here

The Search for Good Web Hosting or Why DreamHost Sucks

Posted by – July 27, 2009

Some Random Server Room

I need to get me one of these.

[EDIT: This is an old article.  Arvixe was bought out by EIG and now sucks.  Ugh.]

As you may or may not have noticed we’ve changed servers.  In fact my blog has even moved to  This was due to a recent failure that took place with our main server Hal.  I was able to get it back up but we still haven’t figured out why it went down.  We decided it best that we move to web hosting and keep Hal strictly for shells and wanted daemons.  Thus began my quest for a Good hosting company.

This came at a time where just a week or two ago I was looking for hosting for the company I work for.  For them we decided upon DreamHost which I thoroughly enjoyed for a week before we attempted to get an account on there for Freedom-Uplink.

So to test DreamHost out to see if it’d fit our needs, I added as a domain in their control panel but didn’t change the domain’s nameservers.  I was then able to configure pretty much everything we needed.  At this point we decided to sign-up and start using them.

So when we signed up we used a promo code I found in Google to waive the setup fee as we were going to pay monthly (in the event that we found a better solution, or ran out of funds).  Everything was going swell until I tried to add the domain to our new control panel.  It stated that the domain had already existed on the DreamHost servers under a promo’d account and thus we couldn’t use a promo if we wanted to keep our domain.

I tried troubleshooting the issue just in case by making sure the domain was not installed on my employer’s account.  I then proceeded to contact their support, this is where things went downhill.

It turns out that my employers also happened to use a promo code when they signed up to save $50 dollars or something.  And since I was able to “test” my domain and see their control panel, I was not eligible for their promo as it’s for new customers only.  I explained that we’re a non-profit (but not registered in the US) but they were unsympathetic and wanted to charge us $50 dollars which is almost our whole hosting budget for this year.

I continued to try to explain the situation about how I am a new customer which just so happened was able to try it before I buy it and now want to give them money for hopefully years to come.  I even explained that my employer would allow me to host the domain under their account if I wanted, but I’d prefer this setup which meant they get more money.  They were still uninterested.  The closest I got to anyone who understood was a rep who explained that they know that I’m not abusing the system at all, but that the policy is there and they have to be vigilant.

Needless to say I canceled my account with them and got a refund.  Am I sure glad I did too, as I found a hosting company that is several folds better than DreamHost.

Arvixe's Logo. Best. Hosting. Ever.

Arvixe’s Logo. Best. Hosting. Ever.

After searching around, and conversing (see: monologuing) in our IRC channel #Uplink, Sabrebutt made a suggestion.  He suggested using Arvixe.  I had not really heard of them except for a few mentions of it’s good pricing.  At the time I wasn’t looking for hosting so promptly forgot about them.  I revisited them though and after looking over their plans decided that it’s practically the same deal as DreamHost but they have better customer support (24/7 chat, phone or email) and much better reviews online.

So I signed-up and it’s been the best move I’ve made when it comes to web hosting.  Their customer support is extremely helpful and will pretty much bend over backwards to help with any weird requests (Freedom-Uplink is a lot more complicated than I remember it being).  I’m so impressed that I might be looking into seeing if we can get a PromoCode made so we can entice Freedom-Uplink users to sign-up.

So while it was a pain, it worked out extremely well.  And while DreamHost seemed quite awesome at first, in comparison to other hosts such as Arvixe, it has a long way to go to be anywhere near as great.

I’d also like to point out that since we recently moved, please let me know if you find broken links or anything not working like it should.  I think I fixed FeedBurner but won’t know till after this is posted.

I’ve also NOT received any payment from Arvixe or incentive in anyway to sing about their good graces.  Nor will I ever sell out like that.

Review: Knowing

Posted by – July 20, 2009

Knowing Movie Poster

Knowing Movie Poster, avoid at all costs.

There are movies that are crap, and then there are movies you regret even watching, this would be in the latter category.

The movie starts well, and is pretty darn interesting up until about 3/4 through.  It’s about a young girl Lucinda who hears voices in her head, she writes down these numbers that they told her and the numbers are put into the school’s time capsule for fifty years.

Fast-forward five decades and Nicholas Cage’s son gets a hold of her note/letter to the future.  Cage soon discovers that the numbers coincide with large scale deaths since Sept 11, 2001.  He then discovers the end of the world, and it’s date.

It’s a pretty good premise and story, which is why it angers me so that it goes downhill so quick.  However I can’t explain why without giving out spoilers, so here is the warning (although I strongly urge everyone to avoid this movie like a plague).


Alright so Cage uncovers all these clues including that the Earth will be destroyed by a giant solar flare, and finds out the coordinates they’re suppose to be at to be saved!  However his female counter-part ran off with the children as she was panicking about getting to some caves to try and avoid the carnage.

So eventually Cage gains control again and they rush to the spot to find out that only the children can go with the SPACE ALIENS.  They cry and sob for a bit, the kids go off to their new planet.  We then  watch for 15 minutes as Cage cries, drives to his parents, gives his estranged Dad a hug and then watch them (as well as the world’s inhabitants) melt.

Needless to say I was pissed.  I wasted all this time following all these clues just to have them die in the end anyway?  I’m a fan of twist endings where everyone dies (The Myst) but this wasn’t a movie where this should happen.  There was way too much emphasis on clues and finding out what’s going on to just up and die.

Consider for a moment that if in an Indiana Jones movie if you watch him go through all this trouble solving problems and finding clues just to have him shot and die in the end.  It’d be absolute garbage.

And that’s exactly what this movie was.  If you enjoyed Wicker Man, you may enjoy this movie, otherwise they might as well of spit in my face, or played a 30 second short of the film so I at least wouldn’t be so upset that this movie wasted my time.

Rehash: Recovering A Lost Wallet

Posted by – July 15, 2009

I found this article published on TimesOnline about some Psychologists who placed 240 wallets around Edinburgh with pictures of different things in them amazingly recovered nearly half of them.

Here’s the gist:

Put a baby picture in your wallet and your quite likely to get your wallet back (88 per cent of the 40 were returned [9 out of 10]).  Without a picture only (15 per cent were returned [1 out of  7]).

Why this works:

Scientists argue that it would be difficult to genetically code for feeling empathy exclusively towards your own child and much easier to code for feeling empathy towards all children. If you find a baby alone, there is a good chance it belongs to you, making it an effective evolutionary trait, said Dr Wiseman.

There are a lot of other tidbits in there since they also put pictures of dogs, old people and charity receipt slips and such in the wallets, and it explains how they were scattered to make a good test.  Definately hit it up if your interested.

I for one am going to start carrying a baby picture of myself or the wife.

Want To Keep your wallet? Carry a baby picture.