I saw Cold Mountain a few days ago, the 2.5 hour Civil War epic. Right about half way through the movie I thought that it seemed similar to The English Patient, so I wasn't too surprised when I got home to discover that the director was the same for both movies. I really liked The English Patient, but this movie was not as strong. The plot wasn't quite as interesting and mysterious, and I didn't like the characters as much. Cold Mountain seemed to drag at times, and I doubted the strength of the bond between Inman (a weary Confederate soldier played by Jude Law) and Ada Monroe (the ever-elegant Nicole Kidman), who had apparently shared less than 100 words (and a lengthy embrace, to be sure). Renée Zellweger turned in a great performance as Ruby Thewes, a rough-and-ready outdoorswoman who moves in with Ada to help her with the farm. I wouldn't be surprised to see her get an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
I saw a couple of other movies on DVD recently: High Fidelity, which I liked, although I didn't think it was all that funny. I liked the story and the "Top 5" motif that John Cusack uses throughout the film. The only parts I was really laughing about were Jack Black's back-and-forth with customers and the other employees in the record store. I had a similar problem with Cusack in Grosse Pointe Blank. The movie was fine, but I just wasn't laughing. I guess it's not my style of humor.
The other DVD I saw was The Contender, a drama from three years ago in which Joan Allen plays a vice-presidential nominee who is involved in a messy scandal and power struggle. Gary Oldman plays Allen's nemesis, a Republican congressman bent on destroying her character, with his usual great skill. There wasn't anything in this movie that we haven't seen before, but the plot was solid and it was a good look at the political machinations that go on in Washington. I did have an issue with the hare-brained scheme that comes to light at the end of the movie, which I won't reveal. it seemed totally implausible that anyone would try that.
Anyway, I gave all these three movies an 8, which for me represents an above average, but not great movie.
I have added a page to my site, Deus Ex: Invisible War Biomods Guide. Hopefully this proves useful to other players. By the sounds of things, the game is getting really bad reviews by people. I can certainly understand some of the complaints, and it's a tough legacy to live up to, but the game is still fun in its own right.
It's been ages since I took some planned time off work (somehow the week that were off after the great blackout of August didn't count, since one never knew when one was returning to work). I don't have any huge plans, just tidy up the house a bit and maybe get a couple of new pieces of furniture, and generally take it easy for what should be a pretty hectic few months at work coming up.
I added a couple of "cheat sheets" to my Rubik's Cube page (Solution #1, Solution #2). These are one-page reminders with the moves. I'm not sure why I didn't do this earlier, since they are proving to be reasonably popular. After having been up for about 12 hours, they have received around 60 page views together.
I've been playing quite a bit of Deus Ex: Invisible War. I'm definitely getting into the game more now that the graphics issues have been resolved. I'm trying to make a couple of FAQ documents about the game, but I'm still a long ways from any sort of completion. The game feels a bit "dumbed-down" from the original Deus Ex. Everything seems a bit simpler, probably because it was geared for console gamers as well as PC gamers. Also, the game has crashed on me a few times, sometimes requiring a reboot, and this is after I installed the 1.1 patch (which is critical to getting a good gaming experience with DX2). Still, I would recommend the game to others, as long as you have a reasonably powerful PC.
It's not every day that something happens that you had been waiting for, for more than five years, but tonight I saw The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. It's really awesome. Suffice it to say, I have already cast my "10" on IMDB
Unlike a number of other eagerly-anticipated sequels which I won't mention, this one totally lived up to the first two. It was simply the third part of an amazing whole. Seemingly every detail was in place and although the movie is extremely long (the longest movie I've ever seen, I believe), I wanted more. There are the now-usual light-hearted remarks from Gimli, the incredible battle scenes, and a formidable array of strange beasts.
The movie focusses on different material than the book. The first 2/3 of the movie basically follows Book 5 of the trilogy, interspersed with the end of Book 4 and the start of Book 6. The last third deals with the climax of the story, and then skips past most of Book 6. As an example, the encounter with the grotesque Shelob, which occurs in the last two chapters of The Two Towers book, probably takes place 2/3 of the way through the ROTK movie.
The decision to not include seven minutes of Saruman was widely criticized by fans of the series, and after seeing the movie I'm in agreement. It would have been more logical to at least show Saruman's fate onscreen, especially when his prominence in the first movie in particular was probably greater than his prominence in the first book. And, given that the movie is 3:28, what's another 7 minutes? The ending itself, which a number of people have disliked, was drawn out in a lengthy sequence of snippets, with a number of false endings, which did feel a little choppy to me, especially since a few years were passing between some of the sequences.
In what seems to be an off year for Hollywood movies, I think ROTK has to be the favorite for Best Picture, and probably Peter Jackson for Best Director. Given that the other movies did not get major recognition, you would have to think that they are due. The three movies together are a landmark of movie making and one has to wonder when something so grand in vision and successful will next be pulled off. My bet is we'll be waiting a long time.
I got the MOHAA: Breakthrough expansion pack Thursday night and jumped right in, playing most of the multiplayer levels. It apparently includes the same multiplayer maps as the Spearhead expansion pack. With MOHAA I never really got into the single-player campaigns (other than completing the basic Allied Assault missions on Easy level, which was indeed easy). Playing online is much more humbling and challenging. My favorite levels so far are probably Palermo, a destroyed village with a million different angles and obstructions, and Castello, a mansion that has somehow become a battleground.
I downloaded the 2.40 patch for Breakthrough, which came with a couple of new maps. One was Stückguter, a level that takes place entirely in the hold of a ship. This is definitely a level that tests your reflexes. I was having more success with the shotgun than the machine gun on this map. The other was Bizerte Fortress, a rather unremarkable Mediterranean city.
The multiplayer setup in Breakthrough is a lot nicer than plain MOHAA, allowing you to filter out servers with high pings or different parameters than those you want. There is also a Call Vote feature which allows you to change maps, boot players or change game parameters with the consensus of the other players.
Thanks to a couple of tips I found on the Internet, I managed to configure DX2 to run nicely on my machine.
It's now running very nicely, although still in 640 x 480, but with medium detail settings. It also seems okay, just on the border of being playable, in 800 x 600 with low detail. It looks really nice on 1024 x 768 with high detail, but I'm probably getting about 5 fps. Is there any way to display the number of frames per second in DX2? Leave a comment if you know.
I have a couple of gripes with the game, such as the multi-purpose ammunition (all guns use the same ammo clips) and it seems a little more simplistic than the original one, but at least now I feel that I'm going to get the full experience of the game, rather than some laggy garbage.
Saw Elf on Saturday, which had been highly recommended to me by a number of people. It was surprisingly funny for a G-rated movie. There was one particularly hilarious part where Will Ferrell, dressed in his usual Elf costume, gets his picture taken in the same style as the classic Sasquatch pose. I think about 10% of the audience got the reference, but in any case it just cracked me up since it was so out of context. I rated this movie an 8. The movie had a lot of funny moments and director Jon Favreau didn't have to resort to the usual bathroom humor (although this is not to say I never find that funny).
I played a number of rounds of MOHAA tonight, my current favorite first-person shooter, and reached a certain milestone of skill by getting accused of cheating for the first time. Despite the protestations of my poor-spelling all-capitals-writing accuser, his repeated allegations were erroneous.
Well, I went out and bought an MSI FX5200 video card to help me run Deus Ex: Invisible War. I would like to report some success with this, but the game still runs slowly for me. My computer is a P4 1.8 GHz with 512 MB RAM and this new 128 MB graphics card and DX2 is just about playable with the 640 x 480 resolution, and all of the lowest graphics settings. This is better than their "recommended" system, so I don't know what is going on here. I hope they come out with some sort of patch or configuration advice for speeding things up. I can sacrifice some graphics detail without too much bother, but chunkiness in the gameplay is not acceptable. I have read some other people complaining about this game with similar problems and better systems than mine, so it may just be the game.
The game itself does look really nice. I haven't played enough to really get into the story, but the start is promising. Your character, Alex D, is definitely a wuss at the start, but I'm sure after a few augmentations things will improve. There is a new circular HUD that is overlaid on the screen which gives you access to your toolbelt and lets you view game info, which is pretty slick. I reserve full judgment on this for a while, but I would definitely warn prospective buyers to check their system closely before getting this game.
I picked up a copy of Deus Ex: Invisible War (warning, lots of Flash) today, the long-delayed and eagerly-awaited-for sequel to Deus Ex. I loved Deus Ex, a game that totally expanded the boundaries of the first-person shooter. I'm kind of reading mixed reviews on the net about DX2 but even if it doesn't quite live up to the first game it could still be really good.
The game, which is on 2 CDs, came in a neat DVD-style plastic case with two fold-out sections. The manual is not all that long, but who reads those, anyway?
Oh no! I was installing it as I was writing this entry, and the game won't run! Apparently I don't have a video card with "Pixel Shading 1.1 or greater". I did read the system requirements on the box, but I missed the part about GeForce MX chipset not supported. Well, there's only one solution to this. I'll have to join the hordes of holiday shoppers and go video card hunting this weekend, and in the meantime content myself with more MOHAA.
Everyone in Ottawa seemed to be down on the Ottawa Senators this year, after they got off to an average start. I was not one of the doubters, but it's still nice to see them play to their ability, with their defeat of the league-best Philadelphia Flyers on Monday and Florida Panthers tonight, 4-0, for Martin Prusek's first-ever shutout.
One of the lessons that I've learned from following baseball and sabermetrics in general is the lesson of small sample sizes. Simply put, a win-loss record over 20-odd games just doesn't prove much of anything. The team won the President's Cup last year, and have made very few personnel changes. Also, the Sens have an unusually bad record in one-goal games, 0-6-0-3. It *could* be some massive defect of character, but given their .571 winning percentage in one-goal games last year, it's probably just a spell of bad luck.
Another lesson to be learned from sabermetrics is that if a particular statistic isn't repeated year after year, then it isn't a skill, but a matter of chance. A lot of times you'll hear people talking about "clutch performance", but that's usually in the eye of the beholder, and doesn't stand up to analysis. If something is really a skill, then it can be repeated year in and year out. For teams, scoring and preventing goals is most definitely a matter of skill, even more so than winning.
Let's look at the Toronto Maple Leafs for a minute. They have a most impressive 13-6-5-2 record (a 104-point pace), but their goal differential is even, 68 GF and 68 GA. The Senators are 11-8-2-3 (a 92-point pace), but have 76 GF and 55 GA. The baseball statistician Bill James noticed a relationship in baseball between runs scored (RS) and runs allowed (RA), and winning percentage, which he calls the "Pythagorean Winning Percentage" (after the vague similarity to the Pythagoream Theorem). The equation is RS2/(RS2 + RA2), and turns out to be a really good estimator for winning percentage, both in baseball and in hockey.
Just out of interest, I ran a statistical correlation on the number of points obtained last year and the goal differentials. There was a correlation of 0.983, which is ridiculously high (1 is the maximum possible correlation and 0 indicates no correlation). The slope was 1.04 and the intercept was -8.21, which is largely due to the fact that the NHL gives out a point for an overtime loss (which I wish they didn't, but that's fodder for another rant). Subtracting out the points for OTL, we get a correlation of 0.978, a slope of 0.969, and an intercept of only 2.59. In the aggregate, goals score and goals allowed allow us to predict won-loss record with great accuracy.
If we estimate the rest of the season based on this formula, and using the league average of about 1 OTL per 16 games played, we get a projection of 93 points for Toronto (33 already + 56 (.500 PWP * 56 games left + 4 (estimated OTL)) and 103 points for Ottawa (27 already + 72 (.656 PWP * 55 games left) + 4 (estimated OTL)). Quite a different picture than our original estimate of 104 points for Toronto and 92 for Ottawa.
I haven't given a justification of exactly why this formula is better than the previous record, but it's mostly due to the fact that goals relate quite directly to wins, and there are relatively a lot of goals scored to wins, so it's a more significant piece of evidence.
Of course, they still have to play the games, so we shall just have to see what happens. And whatever the numbers say, I'll still be worried if Toronto ends up facing Ottawa in the first round.
I got some new blogging software working, which is kind of neat. It's b2evolution, a GPL fork of b2. It took awhile to set up, but that was mostly porting my old posts from my previous blogging software, GreyMatter. b2evolution is cool because it has a lot of features, is being actively developed, and uses a MySQL backend. And as they say in a Dilbert cartoon, "We like databases". Not to mention it has multiple categories per post, a sophisticated template system that I understand about 1/1000 of right now, some cool access logging mechanisms and a lot more.
There are a few things left to do, such as figure out how to get it to generate a static version of the page automatically, and get it to write the RSS feed to the existing location, so as not to break backwards compatibility. Also, I'd like to figure out how to rewrite URLs so that any existing links don't break. I have left in the text files from the old blogging software for the time being.
Any ideas on this? I basically want to change
/blog/index.php?p=12&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1. I looked into mod_rewrite and it seemed like I could put something like
RewriteEngine onin my .htaccess file but no luck (I did have the slashes escaped, but b2evolution didn't seem to like that). I tried a very simple RewriteRule in an .htaccess file and that did work, so it should be possible.
RewriteRule ^/blog/archives/0+(d+).htm$ /blog/index.php?p=$0&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1
Not much else to say right now, since I should get some sleep.
|<< <||> >>|