Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New TiVo Tip

After 12 years I'm still learning things about TiVo? According to Tips and tricks, down under "De-dupe Your Now Playing List" you can create a keyword Wishlist and pushing one of the Thumbs buttons lets you mark the keyword as required, optional or excluded. As that's tip explains this can be quite useful:

"If you like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, you know what happens when the show takes a week or two hiatus: Your DVR records lots of repeats because they stop listing the guests for each night. Why? When the networks don't provide unique guide data, TiVo can't determine if the show is new or a repeat, so it records them all to play it safe. Waste space and/or manual recordings no more! Martin T., from the Web's most beloved TiVo community forum, exercised the new-and-improved TiVo WishList® feature to to get us our daily Jon Stewart, without the three extra servings. "

IMG 0548

"By default the keyword is required in your search. Press either Thumbs button once to exclude the keyword (adds a minus sign), again to make it optional (adds parentheses), and third time to make it required (removes symbols)."

You can use this thumbs tip with only one keyword assigned too. It's probably better to make this wishlist with "Daily Show with Jon Stewart" as a title keyword instead of just a keyword. Also, when making such a wishlist it's really nice to have a keyboard to enter information rather than using the remote and the letter grid. I used the TiVo iPad app for it.


I know CBS has an older demographic, but this is ridiculous...

IMG 0551

(and yes, it's real)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Oscar Recap

I watched the Oscars at a friend's house with a bunch of people. Everyone found it a bit more boring than I did and there was some snarky fun had. It's wasn't a great show but of course TiVo makes TV better.

Billy Crystal wasn't great. He did his standard opening with inserting himself into films, a monologue and then a song medley about the best pictures. It was ok and given that there are nine best picture nominees, reasonably short at about 12 minutes. Actually maybe unreasonably short. His monologue was one minute and only had one good joke, "Nothing can take the sting out of economic problems like watching millionaires present each other with golden statues." But throughout the evening too many of his jokes were about how old something was; whether a clip from When Harry Met Sally, his relatives or Christopher Plummer. It was kind of sad.

Tom Hanks had an odd bit backstage just before the show and then during he came out and talked about a seat warmer who's been doing that for 59 years before presenting an award. Crystal also spent a fair amount of time announcing who deserves credit for something we just saw, making the audience applaud everything a second time. This is what introductions and closing credits are for.

So that was about 15 minutes then in the next 15 we got four minor awards and a montage of movie clips and one of three montages of actors talking about the profession. The awards were fine, not particularly memorable but that's how cinematography, art direction, makeup and costume goes. So the first half hour wasn't great but was at least brisk.

But then it turns out, the next hour was really great. Sandra Bullock presented the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for A Separation. Asghar Farhadi's speech was the most political of the night and was a model of how to mention politics at the Oscars. "At this time many Iranians all over the world are watching us and I imagine them to be very happy. They are happy not just because of an important award or a film or a filmmaker, but because at the time in talk of war, intimidation, and aggressions exchanged between politicians, the name of their country, Iran, is spoken here, through her glorious culture. A rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics. I proudly offer this award to the people of my country. A people who respect all cultures and civilization and despise hostility and resentment. Thank you so much."

Next Christian Bale presented the first big award of the night, Best Supporting Actress. Ocatvia Spencer thanked a few people and then was overcome with emotion. It was genuine and heartfelt and made everyone smile.

Then Crystal introduced a bit about focus groups which sounded stupid but turned out to be very funny. In supposed lost footage Bob Balaban was questioning a group having just watched the Wizard of Oz. Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Jennifer Coolidge and Fred Willard were a riot deadpanning really stupid opinions (cut the rainbow song, flip the color, more monkies).

Then there were awards for Film Editing and then Sound Effects Editing. Usually boring, but Philip Stockton who won for Sound Effects Editing for Hugo said: "I just want to thank everybody who is here tonight and everybody who isn't and everybody who's ever been born or may be born or be born again or reborn. If I've forgotten anybody then you probably know who you are." That's kinda fun.

Now at the one hour mark Kermit and Miss Piggy introduced Cirque du Soleil. I feared Debbie Allen like interpretive dance number, but they had a ton of acrobats doing astounding things for five minutes. It turns out they regularly do a show in that theater so the rigging was all there. They should have saved it until later as it was the perfect way to wake everyone up. And then Billy Crystal said "Wow. I pulled a hamstring just watching that".

Robert Downey Jr and Gwyneth Paltrow faked some kind of documentary thing. It might have been a dig on James Franco tweeting while hosting last year. Downey was playing a Tony Stark-like annoying character and Paltrow was doing her Pepper Potts thing. It wasn't very good but their innate chemistry made it passible. Then Undefeated won for Best Documentary. The only doc nominee I didn't see because it doesn't come out for another few weeks. I don't get it. But P. Diddy was an executive producer so he now has an Oscar.

Then Chris Rock presented Best Animated Feature. He was the best presenter of the night and should be a model for everyone else. I wish his hosting had been this good. Here's his speech:

"I love animation because in the world of animation, you can be anything you wanna be. If you’re a fat woman, you can play a skinny princess. If you’re a short, wimpy guy, you can play a tall gladiator. If you’re a white man, you can play an Arabian prince. And if you’re a black man, you can play a donkey or a zebra. You can't play white, my God!

Now I hate when people go on TV and tell you how hard it is to do animations. 'Oh, Jay, it's such hard work. It's so hard doing animation getting into character.' No no no, UPS is hard work okay. Stripping wood is hard work. I've done some animation and here's how easy it is. It's the easiest job in the world. I go in a booth and I go 'What's the line' and the guy goes 'It's time to go to the store' and then I go 'It's time to go to the store'. 'You like that? Oh we can move on, okay'. And then I go 'What's the next line?' 'It's getting dark outside' 'It's getting dark outside' And then they give me a million dollars!"

Ben Stiller and Emma Stone presented Best Visual Effects. They did some extended banter that worked because he was unusually subdued and she was charming as always.

And then Melissa Leo presented Best Supporting Actor. Christopher Plummer gave the best speech of the night. This is how you do it. "[Looking at Oscar] You're only two years older than me, darling. Where have you been all my life? I have a confession to make. When I first emerged from my mother's womb, I was already rehearsing my Academy thank-you speech. But it was so long ago, mercifully for you I've forgotten it. But I haven't forgotten who to thank. The Academy, of course, for this extraordinary honor, and my fellow nominees: Kenneth, Nick, Jonah, dear Max. I'm so proud to be in your company. Of course, I wouldn't be here at all if it wasn't for Michael Mills and his enchanting film Beginners. And my screen partner of course, Ewan McGregor, that superb artist who I would happily share this award with if I had any decency, but I don't. All the producers at Olympus films, especially Leslie Urdang and Miranda de Pencier, and all the people at Focus for their tremendous generosity and support. And not to mention my little band of agents provocateurs: Lou Pitt and his wife Berta, Carter Cohen, Pippa Markham and Perry Zimel, who've tried so hard to keep me out of jail. My daughter Amanda, who always makes me proud. And, lastly, my long-suffering wife Elaine, who deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for coming to my rescue every day of my life. Thank you so much."

So now we're at the hour and half mark and the last hour has been how to do an awards show. Great presenting, great speeches, two big awards and a good number of minor ones that were still entertaining and two very fun performances. Now the next hour forgot how to do all that.

Crystal does some bad bit with reading minds of celebs in the audience. The only saving grace was he just grunted for Nick Nolte. Then the president of the academy came out and spoke. It was dignified but boring and all of one minute long. Crystal then said "Thank you Tom and thank you whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Mr. Excitement." Funny but it pointed out the boredom. It was made worse by him introducing are large music stand set piece rising from the stage. It took a while and seemed like something went wrong, particularly because Crystal said "This is why there's a buffet."

Penelope Cruz and Owen Wilson quickly introduced Best Score and then Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis did a pretty good extended cymbal bit to introduce Best Song. There were oddly only two nominees this year and I was happy with the decision to not sing them. As expected "Man or Muppet" won and now Bret McKenzie, half of Flight of the Conchords, has an Oscar. Crystal then blows introducing Angelina Jolie and does an old Robin Williams rewind to get it right. Jolie presents adapted screenplay and The Descendants won. Then I learned that the dean from Community is named Jim Rash and was one of the co-writers and now he has an Oscar. He also mocked Jolie's stance of having one leg prominently displayed through a thigh-high slit. Co-writer and director Alexander Payne dedicated the award to his mother who was in the audience. "After watching the show a few years ago she made me promise that if I ever won another Oscar I had to dedicate it to her just like Javier Bardem did with his mother."

Jolie then presented for original screenplay and Woody Allen won and since he never goes to the Oscars we got to skip a speech and go into another montage of actors talking about the movies. Milla Jovovich then introduced a minute clip about the technical awards given another night.

Then the cast of Bridesmaids came out to present the awards for shorts. Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph decided to emphasize the word short and do dick jokes to present Live Action Short. Really. Then Rose Byrne and Melissa McCarthy presented Doc Shorts. They had someone in the audience yell "Scorsese" (as if it wasn't said enough times in the night) and pulled minute vodka bottles out of their dresses and did a shot. Juvenile but kinda worked for me. It was annoying because they presented the award to Saving Face, and amazing doc about victims of acid attacks in Pakistan which actually has a reasonably happy ending and everyone should see. Instead of telling anyone about this or any of the other short films we get dick jokes and drinking games. Then Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper said something about animated short nominees having to live up to John Lassiter founding Pixar. They then gave the award to two film makers who worked at Pixar and struck out on their own.

Michael Douglas presented Best Director by telling a joke that I think was originally about producers. Meryl Streep then introduced a two minute clip about the Governors awards. These are big deal lifetime achievement awards that are never presented in an interesting way, so I guess it's fine that they've moved them to another ceremony. Then they the In Memoriam segment. Mostly black and white still images of people who died this year while someone sang "What a Wonderful World". it was pretty, but since most of the people were crew and not performers we had no idea what they worked on. And they left out Harry Morgan, Charles Napier, Jeff Conaway, Michael Gough and others.

So that got us to the 2:45 mark and now there are just three big awards. I like the new trend of having an actor say something about each of the nominees performance in the Best Actor and Best Actress categories. They've streamlined it by having one person do it all and it worked well. As expect Jean Dujardin won and gave a fine speech. Meryl Streep was kind of a surprise win over Viola Davis but was well deserving and gave a great speech. And Tom Cruise presented best Best Picture to The Artist. Those three awards took 25 minutes and it was time well spent.

So the opening half hour was weak. Then they had a really strong hour followed by a weak 75 minutes and a strong finish. The host and most of the writing wasn't great and they had technical issues. There was feedback much of the night with the microphones. Really there's no excuse for that. Also when cutting to commercials they often spent a little too long showing a band in the balcony or oddly showing women handing out popcorn to the audience. That's easily time recovered. Then there was everyone watching a music stand rise. And if you're going to outsource the lifetime achievement awards, skip the president of the academy not whipping everyone into a frenzy. Three times they had montages of actors talking about the first movie they saw, how hard it is to make a film, etc. Not a bad idea but it didn't really work for me. It was like a collection of weak tweets. It would have been better to have one persons tell one good longer story.

Here's an idea. Have the studios create new and really good commercials for the nominated films and show them during the broadcast. Half the films are still in theaters (and some have barely come out) and the others should be on DVD or rentable (and if they aren't, for shame). Make them more like tributes than commercials and make them more interesting than the clips shown in the Oscar broadcast, that shouldn't be difficult. Otherwise let Chris Rock host and tell him to write like he spoke this year instead of when he hosted. Or get Neil Patrick Harris to do it.

How to Fix Executive Compensation

Alex Edmans wrote in the WSJ, How to Fix Executive Compensation. "There are creative ways—yet simple and easy to implement—to tie executives' fortunes to the long-term health of their companies. Tying bosses' pay to the levels of debt at the business, for instance, will dissuade them from taking risks that might alienate creditors. Preventing executives from selling company stock until several years after it's granted will give them a powerful incentive to think long term. And updating the compensation package to reflect changing conditions in the market and the company will ensure that managers' interests are always aligned with those of the company and its shareholders."

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Presidential Purses

Time has an interesting graphicPresidential Purses showing wealth of all presidents in 2010 dollars. Though it's not necessarily during their time in office (notice Clinton). Also I wouldn't have guessed that JFK was so much wealthier than any other president (though it seems obvious when I think about it).

Teller Reveals His Secrets

Smithsonian Magazine lets Teller Reveals His Secrets:

The smaller, quieter half of the magician duo Penn & Teller writes about how magicians manipulate the human mind

(Via Pinboard (grahams))

Planes in Google Maps

Max and Leo's is a good new pizza place in Newton. Currently if you look them up in Google Maps and look at the satellite view, you see this:

Screen shot 2012 02 26 at 1 54 55 PM

At first I thought they had a balloon above their building, but no it's probably really a plane that was flying overhead when the satellite took the photo. What Airplanes Look Like to Google Map Satellite Cameras.

Clarence Thomas

I missed it, but last Wed was the six year anniversary since Justice Thomas asked a question during an oral argument.

Flashback: In 2006, Rick Santorum Wanted To Send All Pennsylvanians To College

TPM writes Flashback: In 2006, Rick Santorum Wanted To Send All Pennsylvanians To College.

"TROY, MICHIGAN — At an Americans For Prosperity-sponsored tea party rally here Saturday, Rick Santorum trumpeted his connections to the working class by attacking President Obama’s plan to make college more accessible to Americans.

‘President Obama wants everybody in America to go to college,’ Santorum said. ‘What a snob!’

The crowd laughed and applauded wildly. But the last time Santorum ran for public office — his ill-fated 2006 Senate reelection campaign — he was right there with Obama, running on his promise to make college more accessible to all Pennsylvanians."

Well I guess there's one thing I agreed with Santorum in 2006 about. Too bad the tea party is against education.


I managed to see everything nominated in 19 categories this year. Everything except the following:

Costume Design: Anonymous and W.E.
Animated Feature: A Cat in Paris, Chico & Rita, Kung Fu Panda 2 adn Puss in Boots
Foreign Film: Footnote, In Darkness, Monsieur Lazhar
Documentary Feature: Undefeated
Documentary Short: God is the Bigger Elvis

Up With Chris Hayes on Iran

Up With Chris Hayes (MSNBS weekends 8-10am) continues to be the best political show on TV. This morning's first hour covered Iran in more depth than I've seen anywhere else (while being a bit contentious and entertaining). MSNBC doesn't rerun it but I suspect most if not all of it will appear on the Up With Chris site.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Best Films of 2011

I tried to list the best films and performances in various categories. I didn't keep to a specific number but tried to pick a top tier in each category. A friend has been asking me to do this for the past couple of years and I've been remiss. There are some spoilers in here.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Help
Take Shelter
Win Win

I think that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo didn't get a best picture, director or score nomination is biggest crime in the oscars this year. I think it was very well done and liked it better than the swedish version. I only had two issues. While I thought Daniel Craig was good, I couldn't avoid thinking about James Bond and I found all the characters in the family a little confusing. The Help worked for me and I thought it was the only consideration for Best Picture through September. I liked Win Win when I saw it but didn't think it would be in consideration by the end of the year, I was wrong.

The Artist
Tree of Life
Ides of March
My Week With Marilyn
Too Big To Fail
A Separation
A Better Life

All of these were very good and worth seeing but had some flaw to me. The Artist slows down about two-thirds of the way through for far too long. Tree of Life is the most polarizing film of the year though a lot of it worked for me. Ides of March fell down on it's plot, just ending. The Marilyn parts of My Week With Marilyn were very good, the main character was a bit weak.

Being Elmo
Last Days Here
El Bulli: Cooking in Progress
How to Die in Oregon
Hell and Back Again
Saving Face

I think Being Elmo had everything and was a lot of fun. It's my overall favorite film of the year. Last Days Here I saw at IFFBoston and it's just an amazing story with a crazy ending. El Bulli makes you a fly on the wall at one of the best restaurants in the world and just sucked me in. How to Die in Oregon had an amazing lead and a strong story. Hell and Back Again is the same. Saving Face at 40 minutes is technically a short, but for such a devastating topic had a redemptive ending.

The Interruptors
Hot Coffee
Love Crimes of Kabul
Project Nim
Better This World

X-Men: First Class
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Captain America
Point Blank
Killer Elite

The middle segment of Mission Impossible was perhaps the most fun I've had in the movies since Inception. It's just perfectly put together and a lot of fun. The rest wasn't quite up to those standards and the last segment was a bit of a let down. I thought X-Men: First Class put everything together nicely though the final battle was a bit weak. Captain America also did well and benefited from being a period piece, though there was a bit too much montage. Haywire, Point Blank and Killer Elite all are much more realistic and worked very well and were just a little too confusing at times.

The Guard
Horrible Bosses
Tucker and Dale vs Evil
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

I thought it was a crappy year for comedies. The Guard is quite fun though is more of a character study than pure comedy. Horrible Bosses took a bit to setup but then I thought worked very well. Tucker and Dale had a great premise and was a great horror spoof. Harold and Kumar was much better than the second film and not as a good as the first. Still some fun moment and Neil Patrick Harris was great.

The much praised Bridesmaids had some funny moments (most of which involved Melissa McCarthy) but that's about it. I think Kristen Wigg really misunderstands what resolution means. Some of the conflict was the result of misunderstandings that were never corrected and other was situational which never actually changed.

Crazy Stupid Love had the wrong tone for the lead, I just couldn't sympathize too much. Instead, the sub plot of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone stole it. The ending did wrap things up unexpectedly and that made it a much better film, but it didn't save it.

50/50 also failed in making the lead a non-character

David Fincher for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Brad Bird for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Terrance Mallick for Tree of Life
Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist
Martin Scorsese for Hugo

I think Fincher did a great job with Dragon and Brad Bird came close to perfection for the middle third of Mission Impossible. Mallick just has to be recognized for what he did in Tree of Life, I don't know how you structure a film like that and I don't know anyone else who could do so. It didn't always work but a lot of it did for me. Michel Hazanavicius did a lot great with The Artist, just trying a black and white silent film now is impressive. He also covered a lot of different genres very well. There is a little bit of sound and at first I thought it was a cheat, but then I realized he used it to dramatic purpose when today it's just taken for granted. It just needed better pacing. Scorsese did a lot right with Hugo but people like either first or second half and not quite both. I appreciate that 3D was used well and that the train station became a real place and I loved the film history lesson. I thought the characters were a little thin.

Michael Shannon in Take Shelter
Michael Fassbender in Shame
Jean Dujardin in The Artist
Brendan Gleeson in The Guard
Paul Giamatti in Win Win
Brad Pitt in Moneyball

Shannon and Fassbender were both amazing playing characters with internal demons. Just stunning to watch. Dujardin had to do a lot of different things, action, drama, comedy, dance and do it all without speaking. He did great. Gleeson and Giamatti both really brought their characters to life and supported the whole film. Pitt was good in Moneyball and didn't depend on ticks but somehow I think still deserves to be on this list.

Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn
Bérénice Bejo in The Artist
Viola Davis in The Help
Rachel Weisz in The Whistleblower
Jessica Chastain in The Debt
Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady

I think it was a great year for leading roles for women. Rooney Mara had to transform and do some harrowing things and pulled it off completely. Michelle Williams really did channel Marilyn though maybe not Norma Jean (but I think that was deliberate in the script). Bérénice Bejo had to do everything Jean Dujardin had to do. I hated The Iron Lady and I think there was too little Margaret Thatcher and too much senile old woman, but in the scenes that were there, Streep pulled off playing one of the most known women in the world at a variety of ages. Davis, Weisz and Chastain all did great jobs in demanding roles.

Christopher Plummer in Beginners

I'm not sure how to judge this category. I don't think he had any competition. I wasn't that impressed with the other Oscar nominees. The only others that work for me are these and Plummer is far better in a much better role.

Christoph Waltz or John C. Reilly in Carnage?
Don Cheadle in The Guard?
Hoffman or Giamatti in Ideas of March?
Patton Oswalt in Young Adult?

Octavia Spencer, The Help
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids

Again, I don't know how to judge this. I think Bejo's nomination was wrong because she had a leading not supporting role. But there weren't that many other qualifying roles. Janet McTeer was good in Albert Nobbs and Elle Fanning in Super 8 had one great scene that everyone mentioned. Kate Winslet was very good in Carnage but I think it was a leading role.

The Help
Ides of March
Margin Call
Too Big to Fail
Horrible Bosses

Carnage had four great actors playing against each other the whole time. The others all had strong large casts.

The Guard
Take Shelter
Midnight in Paris
The Artist
Margin Call
A Separation

I think Midnight in Paris had the best idea, but needed some more polish to make it a great film. The characters were weak, particularly the finance and family. The historical figures were fun but one note and Owen Wilson was just Woody Allen without particularly memorable lines. The Guard had everything and Take Shelter was a great character study. The Artist told a good story with little dialog and even that done with title cards. Margin Call pulled off a lot of topical technical description and a lot of characters. A Separation was good story with a bunch of twists and interesting situations.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Help
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The Ides of March
The Descendants

I read Moneyball after seeing the film and thought they did a great job finding a narrative though I wish there was just a little more math in the film. I saw the play God of Carnage just before seeing the film and noticed a few different lines but not much. The film added an opening and closing scene with different characters and while I didn't care for the opening, the new closing scene made it. I haven't read Tinker Tailor but my understanding is that you have to figure it out the way the main character does, there isn't narration. The film does too and I think it works better in a book where you can flip back through pages than it does in a movie theater. I haven't read Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but I did see the swedish version of the film and appreciate the things they choose to highlight in the US version.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

It was loud and disturbing and intense and unforgettable and yet added to the film without overpowering it.

The Iron Lady
The Trip
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Battle Los Angeles

It's really hard putting these four film together. I laughed twice at The Trip, it just didn't work for me. The Iron Lady was an insult. Here's a great idea, let's make a bio pic about Britain's first female and one of the longest serving and most controversial prime ministers. And lets get Meryl Streep to play her! Oh and here's a great idea, lets spend 80% of the film on her Alzheimer stage. And the other 20%, lets do montages of political events and make as many of them dream sequences as possible! Let's refer to every other character by their first name only, if even that much! Let's even throw in an ironic line of her complaining about how people today care only about feelings and not actual thoughts. This film could have been about any senile woman who merely thought she was prime minister.

But really Transformers and Battle Los Angeles are in a different class of stupid.

Jessica Chastain had two small films in limited release in 2010 but then was everywhere in 2011. She was great in each of The Help, The Tree of Life, Take Shelter, and The Debt and each role was different. She's also in Coriolanus which just came out and I haven't seen yet.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Bondian yet different and disturbing and intense. Awesome. Did any other film have an interesting opening credits sequence?

The worst opening credits were for Drive.

No one runs like Tom Cruise and he did it again in Mission Impossible.

Midnight in Paris

Ides of March: I would love to see an election where one campaign was run by Philip Seymour Hoffman and one was run by Paul Giamatti.

Trollhunter: I still look at power lines differently

Stake Land: Has a brilliant tactic against a walled town involving an innovative use of vampires. As far as I know it hasn't been used before and it's just delicious.

Sean Pelletier in Last Days Here.

Both Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Pina were good documentaries that were improved with 3D. Hugo did okay with it, but I think would have been just fine in 2D.

Warrior. A better than average sports movie.


Tucker and Dale vs Evil: Tucker: Oh hidy ho officer, we've had a doozy of a day. There we were minding our own business, just doing chores around the house, when kids started killing themselves all over my property.

The Guard: Sergeant Gerry Boyle: I'm Irish. Racism is part of my culture.

The Ides of March: Stephen Meyers: You can lie, you can cheat, you can start a war, you can bankrupt the country, but you can't fuck the interns. They get you for that.

Midnight in Paris: Man Ray: A man in love with a woman from a different era. I see a photograph!
Luis Buñuel: I see a film!
Gil: I see insurmountable problem!
Salvador Dalí: I see rhinoceros!

Tree of Life: I found it daring to take a 20 minute segue after someone asks something like "What do we mean to God" (or something like "What are we in the universe?") to show the birth of the universe culminating in the evolution of life on Earth. I loved how the dinosaur brothers acted just like the human brothers. People next to me were walking out complaining that they didn't want to see a nature special but I found it mesmerizing.

Japan Earthquake: Before and After

In Focus for the one year anniversary wrote Japan Earthquake: Before and After. "In just over two weeks, Japan will be observing the one-year anniversary of the disastrous magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck its east coast in March of 2011. The destruction was unprecedented and the loss of life and property were staggering -- more than 15,800 are confirmed dead, with another 3,300 still listed as missing nearly a year later. Photographers documented the many faces of this tragedy and have now returned to give us a look at the difference a year can make, re-shooting places that were photographed during and immediately after the quake. Collected here are 20 of these pairings. They are interactive: Starting with number 2, click the images to view a fading before/after comparison."

I found it hard to remember that the flood photos are the before shots.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Conservative Chickens Come Home to Roost

Matt Taibi on the Arizona Debate: Conservative Chickens Come Home to Roost is pretty entertaining. "These people have run out of others to blame, run out of bystanders to suspect, run out of decent family people to dismiss as Godless, sex-crazed perverts. They’re turning the gun on themselves now. It might be justice, or it might just be sad. Whatever it is, it’s remarkable to watch."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Daily Show The Punanny State

This was Monday

and this was Tuesday

The Daily Show President Evil

I liked this bit from The Daily Show last night

Will the Supreme Court Reconsider Citizens-United?

Linda Greenhouse wrote Will the Supreme Court Reconsider Citizens-United? based on info about a recent Montana Supreme Court decision.

"In their separate statement, Justices Ginsburg and Breyer seemed not to buy the ‘Montana is different’ rationale, instead viewing the state court’s ruling, despite its protestations to the contrary, as simple defiance of Citizens United. ‘Lower courts are bound to follow this court’s decisions until they are withdrawn or modified,’ the two justices observed.

Their point, rather, was that the Supreme Court itself should use this case as a vehicle to reconsider Citizens United. ‘Montana’s experience and experience elsewhere,’ they said, ‘make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.’ ’ (The words they quoted are from Citizens United.) They went on to say that the appeal ‘will give the court an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates’ allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway.’"

"Nonetheless, Justices Ginsburg and Breyer are savvy players, and their statement, gratuitous as a legal matter, has to be taken as strategic. So what was the strategy? To keep the public conversation going? To encourage a broader pushback? To induce Justice Kennedy to re-examine his basic assumptions in light of what’s happened since the day in January 2010 when Citizens United burst upon the political landscape? All of the above?"

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Superluminal Neutrino Result Caused by Faulty Connection?

Superluminal Neutrino Result Caused by Faulty Connection? | Life, Unbounded, Scientific American Blog Network.

"Although still awaiting full confirmation, a breaking news report in Science (and Nature, see below) indicates that the measurement of an apparently faster-than-light travel time for muon-neutrinos generated at CERN and detected at the Gran Sasso laboratory – which hit the world headlines back in September 2011 – may have been due to a problematic physical connection between a fiber-optic cable and an electronics card in a computer.

The rumor is that when this connection was tightened and the signal timing through the cable re-evaluated it matched precisely the 60 nano-second discrepancy that had been attributed to possible superluminal neutrino speeds. Since the cable fed data from a GPS unit used in timing the neutrino passage, this would be a critical problem. It is also possible that the GPS was providing incorrect timestamp information."

Well, I'll sleep easier. :)

John Nash’s Letter to the NSA

Turing's Invisible Hand wrote, John Nash’s Letter to the NSA.

"The National Security Agency (NSA) has recently declassified an amazing letter that John Nash sent to it in 1955.  It seems that around the year 1950 Nash tried to interest some US security organs (the NSA itself was only formally formed only in 1952) in an encryption machine of his design, but they did not seem to be interested."

"He then goes on to put forward an amazingly prescient analysis anticipating computational complexity theory as well as modern cryptography. In the letter, Nash takes a step beyond Shannon’s information-theoretic formalization of cryptography (without mentioning it) and proposes that security of encryption be based on computational hardness — this is exactly the transformation to modern cryptography made two decades later by the rest of the world (at least publicly…). He then goes on to explicitly focus on the distinction between polynomial time and exponential time computation, a crucial distinction which is the basis of computational complexity theory, but made only about a decade later by the rest of the world:"

"All in all, the letter anticipates computational complexity theory by a decade and modern cryptography by two decades. Not bad for someone whose “best known work is in game theory”. It is hard not to compare this letter to Goedel’s famous 1956 letter to von Neumann also anticipating complexity theory (but not cryptography). That both Nash and Goedel passed through Princeton may imply that these ideas were somehow “in the air” there."

At 500 Episodes, How Does 'The Simpsons' Say Something New?

At 500 Episodes, How Does 'The Simpsons' Say Something New?.

"With Sunday's airing of 'At Long Last Leave' on FOX, 8:00 Eastern, the family that defined dysfunctional hits its astonishing 500th episode—a mark reached by only two other primetime scripted TV series, Gunsmoke and Lassie. Neither of which was funny. And neither of which had a tenth of the social impact."

"The Simpsons was revolutionary for being the first show on TV about TV. Ostensibly the story of a nuclear family (pun intended) living in the generic American town of Springfield, USA, The Simpsons, as media scholar Douglas Rushkoff has noted, is really a show about media itself. The first, and by far the most literate TV show to take on mass media and its discontents as a theme, Homer and company have been deconstructing pop culture for our edification and pleasure since the gang at Community were getting meta in grade school. Be it Hitchcock movies, infomercials, the superficial and sensationalistic local news, or Thomas Pynchon novels, the show is a crash course in popular culture, nearly compulsively cataloging and critiquing other media forms.

The Tom and Jerry parody Itchy and Scratchy, for instance. That show-within-a-show obsessively watched by the Simpsons kids was dazzlingly original for pointing out—usually in bloody detail—the rather uncomfortable truth that many Saturday morning cartoon shows for kids are insanely, even sadistically violent. Having that disturbing fact about mass media confirmed by mass media is not only funny, but a profound comfort to an audience."

USB stick can sequence DNA in seconds

New Scientist reports USB stick can sequence DNA in seconds.

"It may look like an ordinary USB memory stick, but a little gadget that can sequence DNA while plugged into your laptop could have far-reaching effects on medicine and genetic research.

The UK firm Oxford Nanopore built the device, called MinION, and claims it can sequence simple genomes – like those of some viruses and bacteria – in a matter of seconds. More complex genomes would take longer, but MinION could also be useful for obtaining quick results in sequencing DNA from cells in a biopsy to look for cancer, for example, or to determine the genetic identity of bone fragments at an archaeological dig."

Making It in America

Adam Davison wrote a great article in the January Atlantic, Making It in America. "In the past decade, the flow of goods emerging from U.S. factories has risen by about a third. Factory employment has fallen by roughly the same fraction. The story of Standard Motor Products, a 92-year-old, family-run manufacturer based in Queens, sheds light on both phenomena. It’s a story of hustle, ingenuity, competitive success, and promise for America’s economy. It also illuminates why the jobs crisis will be so difficult to solve."

It's one of the best articles I've read in a long long time. It works on several levels, telling the story of individual workers and their skills, the way manufacturing floors work now, how management makes decisions about hiring and where to build items and how this works at the macroeconomic level. Really great stuff.

The Quiet Health-Care Revolution

The November Atlantic had a very good article, The Quiet Health-Care Revolution "While legislators talk about ‘bending the cost curve,’ one company serving Medicare patients has discovered how to provide better care at lower cost—with wireless scales, free transportation, regular toenail trimmings, and doctors who put the patient first."

"CareMore, through its unique approach to caring for the elderly, is routinely achieving patient outcomes that other providers can only dream about: a hospitalization rate 24 percent below average; hospital stays 38 percent shorter; an amputation rate among diabetics 60 percent lower than average. Perhaps most remarkable of all, these improved outcomes have come without increased total cost. Though they may seem expensive, CareMore’s “upstream” interventions—the wireless scales, the free rides to medical appointments, etc.—save money in the long run by preventing vastly more costly “downstream” outcomes such as hospitalizations and surgeries. As a result, CareMore’s overall member costs are actually 18 percent below the industry average."

My one question, it seemed to work via Medicare Advantage which I thought was supposed to be more expensive than regular medicare payments. I'm not sure how it all connects.


James Fallows' wife's gmail account was hacked and back in November he wrote a long piece about the experience. Hacked!. It's a good read and he sums up with a few bits of advice. The first is to choose strong passwords, I won't bother quoting that here, but here are two others.

"I asked my experts how many passwords they personally used. The highest I heard was ‘about a dozen.’ The lowest was four, and the norm was five or six. They all stressed that they managed their passwords and sites in different categories. In my own case, there are five sites whose security really matters to me: my main e‑mail account, two credit-card sites, a banking account, and an investment firm. Each has its own, good password, never used anywhere else. Next are the sites I’d just as soon not have compromised: airline-mileage accounts, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, various message boards and memberships. I have two or three semi-strong passwords I use among all of them. If you hacked one of them you might hack the others, but I don’t really care. Then there is everything else, the thicket of annoying little logins we all deal with. I have one or two passwords for them too. By making it easy to deal with unimportant accounts, I can concentrate on protecting the ones that matter."

"if you use Gmail, please use Google’s new “two-step verification” system. In practice this means that to log into your account from any place other than your own computer, you have to enter an additional code, from Google, shown on your mobile phone. On your own computer, you enter a code only once every 30 days. This is not an airtight solution, but it can thwart nearly all of the remote attacks that affect Gmail thousands of times a day. Even though the hacker in Lagos has your password, if he doesn’t have your cell phone, he can’t get in. In case you’ve missed the point: if you use Gmail, use this system. Also, make sure the recovery information for your account—a backup e-mail address or cell phone where you can receive password-reset information—is current. Google uses these to verify that you are the real owner."

Do any of you gmail users use this?

Decoding Keys to a Healthy Life

The Harvard Gazette wrote Decoding keys to a healthy life

"For 74 years, one of the longest-running studies of normal adult development has been examining not disease and illness, but what may be life’s magic question: How can you live long and happy?

The answers that have emerged — and are still emerging — are surprising and obvious both. Having a difficult childhood, for example, matters a lot in early adulthood, but its effects fade as the years go by. Among those who had tough beginnings, self-starters who seek out jobs as kids do better than those who don’t. And education — specifically going to college — is more important than money or social status in determining lifetime success.

More recently, the study’s aging subjects have shown that one’s situation at age 50 has more to do with one’s health and happiness at 70 than what happened earlier in life. And surprisingly, the quality of vacations younger in life — a measure of the ability to play — is a better indicator of late-life happiness than income.

The study highlights both controllable and uncontrollable factors that affect healthy aging. While there’s not much someone can do about parents’ social class, early family stability, or ancestors’ longevity, a person certainly has a say over whether to smoke, abuse alcohol, exercise, and keep weight down. The study also highlights the importance of a healthy, stable marriage to late-life happiness and underlines the importance of having mature coping mechanisms for the adversity sure to come."

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Republicans Prevent Women From Testifying at House Contraception Hearing

Think Progress reports Democratic Women Boycott House Contraception Hearing After Republicans Prevent Women From Testifying

"Ranking committee member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) had asked Issa to include a female witness at the hearing, but the Chairman refused, arguing that ‘As the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness.’

And so Cummings, along with the Democratic women on the panel, took their request to the hearing room, demanding that Issa consider the testimony of a female college student. But the California congressman insisted that the hearing should focus on the rules’ alleged infringement on ‘religious liberty,’ not contraception coverage, and denied the request. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) walked out of the hearing in protest of his decision, citing frustration over the fact that the first panel of witnesses consisted only of male religious leaders against the rule. Holmes Norton said she will not return, calling Issa’s chairmanship an ‘autocratic regime.’"

This doesn't have to do with women? I think the underlying issue is solely about women. I doubt they're talking about health insurance covering condoms. And I assume that health insurance covers vasectomies. So we're really talking about birth control pills, which only women take. But ok, suppose it really is about religion, are there no women with opinions about religion and health insurance?

Republicans do know that women vote, right? Or do they want to repeal the 19th Amendment too?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Movie Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

After how bad Transformers 2 was, I thought I'd never watch another Transformers film, even if it did get Oscar nominations. So Transformers 3 came out, and I didn't see it. I heard it was better than part 2 and I still didn't see it. It got three Oscar nominations and by seeing it (via Netflix so Bay got no money from me) I've now seen all films nominated in 18 categories, that's all but 6 categories. Still it was bad.

I remember when Stallone's awful Cobra came out in 1986, that even the running time was designed to make the film profitable. At just under 90 minutes, theaters could fit an extra showing in an evening. Someone has to teach this to Michael Bay. There is no reason for Transformers 3 to be 154 minutes long.

And in a film about giant robots that change into vehicles, is there a reason that the main human character, is an obnoxious asshole in every scene? No wonder Sam Witwicky can't get a job. Though I guess it makes sense since every character in this film is an obnoxious asshole.

Part of the plot involves transporting a planet next to earth. It makes it halfway here. Apparently Michael Bay has never heard of gravity, because it seems to have no effect on the earth at all.

But I think most offensive part is that one of the evil robots is voiced by Leonard Nimoy and several times he quotes Spock from Star Trek II The Wraith of Khan.

After doing a great FAQ for Transformers 2, Rob Bricken did an FAQ for Transformers 3. It's a riot. Go read the whole thing or don't. This is my favorite answer:

Q: What's notable about that? [it doesn't matter what]
A: Well, two things: 1) When Shia learns of this, he frets that the Autobots have no way of leaving the planet, ignoring the fact that they took a spaceship to the moon half an hour earlier. 2) The Autobots actually get on a totally different spaceship anyways, which the government has tried to disguise by attaching it to a space shuttle, which makes it look like a space shuttle glued to the side of a giant and very obvious alien spaceship. Of course, when it takes off, a single Decepticon plane blows it up with ease.

Kellogg Buys Pringles For $2.7 Billion?

Kellogg Hoping Once It Pops, The Fun Won’t Stop - Deal Journal - WSJ "Kellogg has swooped in to scoop up Pringles from Procter & Gamble today for $2.7 billion in cash after Diamond Food’s deal cracked amid its accounting trouble."

Really? $2.7 billion? For Pringles? Apparently even a decade ago, Pringles was one of only 43 brands with a billion dollar global presence. "There were three snack foods that registered over a billion dollars in global sales (Doritos, Lay's and Pringles)."

Deutsche Bank said about the Kellogg's deal, “Based on our estimates Snacks will now represent 46% of total sales incl. Pringles, vs. the previous 40% figure. This is important as almost all cultures embrace snacks while few globally embrace cereal.“

None of this makes any sense to me.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Don't Care About iPad 3 Rumors

I wish Reeder could filter out all articles with "iPad 3" or other phrases. The iPad and Macs will ship when they ship with whatever features they have. I don't want to participate in all the speculation. Maybe it's because I have a product in each of Apple's lines that I don't care too much.

Previous studies of rumors have shown them to be remarkably wrong. Here's an example of the latest from Cult of Mac, Apple Orders 65 Million Retina Displays For iPad 3 [Report] "Apple has reportedly ordered a whopping 65 million high-resolution 264 ppi Retina Displays from Samsung and LG Display for its upcoming iPad 3...The third-generation device, which is also expected to feature a quad-core A6 processor and maybe even LTE connectivity, is expected to get its unveiling during the first week of March, with a launch in the U.S. one week later."

Now I suppose that's possible, but the device will need a lot of memory to support that screen and bumping up the screen, CPU and radio will be a big power level increase. Either Apple found a new battery tech, made it much larger, or the device gets much less battery life. I think battery life is one of the iPad's best features and it's usually under appreciated in reviews. It easily lasts all day with heavy use and all weekend with lighter use. Long enough that you don't have to think about it, which is what's magical about Apple products.

Pluto and Persephone by Bernini

Tumblr lymet1jODt1qcw00eo1 250kottke pointed to Stable Transit - Pluto and Persephone... "By far, my favorite piece of almost all Italian art by my favorite Italian artist, Bernini. And to think, this was done with marble, 400 years ago, by a man of only 23 years."

What's in a Billion?

I saw something like this on Facebook and decided to check it with Wolfram Alpha and Wikipedia. These are I believe correct as of today.

A billion seconds ago it was June 7, 1980.
A billion minutes ago was Oct 19, 110AD.
A billion hours ago was 114,155 years ago, the Pleistoncene, the middle stone age.
A billion days ago was 2.74 million years, the Pliocene, there were hominids but not Homo anything, we have found stone tools that are 2.6 million years old.
US Federal Government expenditures are $3.712 trillion/year which is $423.7 billion/hour or $1 billion in 2.36 hours.
US GDP generates $1 billion in 36 minutes.

Occupy the SEC

Occupy the SEC "Occupy the SEC has submitted a 325 page letter to the SEC, FDIC, the Federal Reserve and the OCC, to comment on the notice of proposed rulemaking for the Volcker Rule. In our comment letter, we answered 244 out of 395 questions asked by the Agencies. "

Monday, February 13, 2012

No, NYT, there’s been no expansion of government benefits, no ‘entitlement society’

Lawrence Mishel writes No, NYT, there’s been no expansion of government benefits, no ‘entitlement society’ "So, there’s no evidence to show we’re becoming an ‘entitlement society,’ just that we’re low on revenues and the economy remains depressed. The citation of the safety net going from 37 percent to 66 percent (of revenues) has nothing to do with permanently expanding program eligibility or higher benefits, but much to do with cyclical factors and revenue erosion."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Always Worth Checking Your Bills

I was about to pay my AT&T Wireless bill and I noticed it was a little high. I couldn't drill down into all the sections in the web site version of the bill but there was a "Paper Bill" link that brought up a full bill. I noticed this:

Screen shot 2012 02 10 at 3 16 39 PM

You can rest assured I have never ordered "Fun SMS Alerts" for anything. I called AT&T about it. I talked to Bonnie who I'm sorry to say had to recite all these long helpful sounding but useless sentences to me but I know it's not her fault and she was indeed helpful. She looked up those codes, 96953 which said "Entertainment" and 20176 which said it was 3 fun messages a month. I explained that doesn't really mean anything and that I didn't subscribe to these from my phone.

I checked my SMS messages and I have gotten some spam messages. I still forward them to 7726 as AT&T instructed me. I'm not sure it's done much. I also now occasionally reply "STOP" or "NO" as instructed. I've heard it's supposed to work and be legit now, but I haven't seen it have any real effect. I didn't see any sms conversations (I never delete them) that applied around Jan 22nd.

This is the first time I've been billed for such bullshit. Notice in the bill under "Content Provider" it says "Cobalt Capital Group LLC" and http://notapplicable.com/. Obviously the URL is useless. Google shows some similar named REIT and other investment companies, but then I found, this and this and I think I'm tired of tracking it down. I mentioned to Bonnie that it should be illegal for the listed Content Provider to be useless forgeries but she just skipped by that comment.

Supposedly in the next 4 hours my account will be credited for $9.99 and I have been unsubscribed from these Fun SMS Alerts.

So check your bills.

How Scalia Helped Obama Defend The Birth Control Rule

TPM explains How Scalia Helped Obama Defend The Birth Control Rule "‘One thing I think is crystal clear — there is no First Amendment violation by this law,’ Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA, told TPM. ‘The Supreme Court was very clear in a case called Employment Division v. Smith, written by none other than Antonin Scalia, that religious believers and institutions are not entitled to an exemption from generally applicable laws.’"

But there's also:

"The 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act said any law that burdens religious freedom must satisfy strict scrutiny. The Supreme Court later said it cannot apply to states (which is why the 28 states that already have the birth control rule the White House wants to take nationwide are in the clear), but held that those requirements shall apply to federal laws. First, the law may not be a “substantial burden” and can only be an “incidental burden” on religious practices; second, it must be justified by “compelling government interest”; third, it must be narrowly tailored to pursue that interest. And it’s an open question whether the birth control requirement passes that level of scrutiny, Winkler said, arguing that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is opponents’ best hope to reverse the rule through the courts. “I could see arguments go both ways,” he said."

‘Modernist Cuisine’ Adapted to Home Entertaining

Melissa Clark wrote in the New York Times last month, ‘Modernist Cuisine’ Adapted to Home Entertaining "So I issued Mr. Myhrvold a challenge. Which of his modernist dishes could I whip up for a dinner party without having to buy any new equipment or bizarre ingredients (like low-acyl gellan and sodium tripolyphosphate, which are sprinkled throughout the book’s recipes like so much salt and pepper). Mr. Myhrvold would teach me the dishes, then I would recreate them for my guinea pigs — I mean, party guests."

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Only Chart You Need To Mix A Proper Cocktail

The Only Chart You Need To Mix A Proper Cocktail "Pop Chart Lab takes you behind the scenes of creating its newest infographic, A massive chart showing 200 cocktails--including what's in them and what the proportions should be. It wasn't easy."

I'm not sure I like the end result, but the process is pretty interesting.

The Euro Crisis Infographic

The Institute of International and European Affairs created The Euro Crisis Infographic "The IIEA is pleased to announce the publication of our latest infographic. The European Union's Response to the Euro Crisis details all of the EU's main policy responses to Europe's interlinked financial, economic and sovereign debt crisis and presents some further options that are under consideration. "

I find it doesn't have a good reading path and it didn't help me understand things much. Maybe someone will have a better experience.


New iPad App Helps Clinicians Visualize Internal Body Parts

The Atlantic wrote New iPad App Helps Clinicians Visualize Internal Body Parts "The German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg has developed an augmented reality iPad app, called 'MITK pille,' that helps clinicians visualize internal body parts of patients while working on them. See for yourself in this great little video:"

If only there was some way they could find so that someone didn't have to hold it. Maybe, I don't know, a stand of some kind?

Schneier on Security: British Tourists Arrested in the U.S. for Tweeting

Schneier on Security: British Tourists Arrested in the U.S. for Tweeting "There just as to be more than this story. The DHS isn't monitoring the Tweets of random British tourists -- they just can't be."

He posted a bunch of updates, ending with, "EDITED TO ADD (1/30): New reports are saying that customs was tipped off about the two people, and their detention was not a result of data mining:"

With iPad, You No Longer Have To Learn Board Game Rules

With iPad, You No Longer Have To Learn Board Game Rules

"Ticket To Ride is a $50 board game that has sold 1.85 million copies — a huge blockbuster by board game standards. It’s a simple game, but the biggest hurdle faced by board game publishers is getting people to learn the rules.

Last year, his company released iPhone and iPad versions of Ticket To Ride. The iPad version takes care of the mechanics of the game — whose turn it is, score keeping, and following the rules.

To his surprise, the digital versions of the game drove sales of the physical board game. “People buy the board game because they know the rules,” he said. The company saw an uptick in sales after release of both the iPhone and iPad versions."

I learned Settlers of Catan only a couple of years ago, but I've been playing the iPad version a lot and this makes a lot of sense to me.

What Massage Really Does to Your Muscles

The Wall Street Journal wrote What Massage Really Does to Your Muscles "Researchers analyzed the samples from the different legs to see what was going on after the massage. They found two major changes: reduced signs of inflammation, and an increase in production of mitochondria, the cell’s energy factories...The study didn’t turn up any signs that massage flushes out lactic acid from the muscle, he says."

How Romney Would Tax Us

David Cay Johnston explains How Romney would tax us "Romney would make the Bush tax cuts permanent. But that’s only a first step. He would also raise taxes on poor families with children at home and those going to college. Romney does this by reducing benefits from the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit and by ending the American Opportunity tax credit for college education."

There are more details in the article.


Rick Santorum Tells Sick Kid Market Should Set Drug Prices

ABC reports Rick Santorum Tells Sick Kid Market Should Set Drug Prices.

"GOP contender Rick Santorum had a heated exchange with a mother and her sick young son Wednesday, arguing that drug companies were entitled to charge whatever the market demanded for life-saving therapies.

‘People have no problem paying $900 for an iPad,’ Santorum said, ‘but paying $900 for a  drug they have a problem with — it keeps you alive. Why? Because you’ve been conditioned to think health care is something you can get without having to pay for it.’

The mother said the boy was on the drug Abilify, used to treat schizophrenia, and that, on paper, its costs would exceed $1 million each year."

It's a perfect example why healthcare isn't a free market economy. It's the same reason you don't comparative shop for an emergency room after a car accident.

Chinese Lantern Festival 2012

In Focus shows the Chinese Lantern Festival 2012 "The Chinese Lantern Festival takes place on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year. As they mark the end of the Spring Festival, celebrants create colorful lanterns, set off fireworks, and hold parades. In one village, residents hurl molten metal against a wall to create an impressive display of sparks in a 300-year-old tradition. Gathered below are some vibrant images from this year's Chinese Lantern Festival. [29 photos]"

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You Will Never Kill Piracy, and Piracy Will Never Kill You

Forbes has an article, You Will Never Kill Piracy, and Piracy Will Never Kill You. "Right now, the industry is still stuck in the past, and is crawling oh-so-slowly into the future. They still believe people are going to want to buy DVDs or Blu-rays in five years, and that a movie ticket is well worth $15. Netflix is the closest thing they have to an advocate, but the studios are trying to drive them out of business as they see them as a threat, not a solution. It’s mind boggling."

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal makes another point.

Romney’s Even Bigger Problem

Romney’s Even Bigger Problem | Talking Points Memo "So let’s look at the numbers. For some time, President Obama has been running just a hair’s breadth ahead of Romney. But starting a little more than a week ago the two started separating and the current TPM Poll Average has President Obama with an almost 7 point lead over Romney, in other words a real lead."

It then shows some graphs. My view is it's still 9 months before the election so lots can happen but this is interesting. Romney's never been particularly liked so at some point he was bound to either gain a lot or lose a lot. The latter always seemed more likely but the other candidates still all seem worse.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Deep Freeze Spreads Across Europe

In Focus shows the Deep Freeze Spreads Across Europe "The frigid weather that plagued Eastern Europe much of last week spread westward over the weekend, grounding flights, snarling traffic, and causing hundreds of deaths. While the subzero temperatures and heavy snowfalls have brought hardship, residents of some areas were able to take advantage of the conditions for skating, sledding, kite surfing, and other winter pastimes. Meteorologists warn that more blizzards may be hitting the region, and state officials, shelters, and aid organizations are preparing to help even more people in need. Gathered here are images of frozen Europe from the past several days. [40 photos]"

Friday, February 03, 2012

Hypocrisy Demonstration

Normally the correspondent reports are my least favorite part of The Daily Show, but I think Aasif Mandvi nailed it last night with Florida State Representative Scott Plakon (R), particularly at about the 4 minute mark.

Movie Reviews

The Train - I stumbled on this 1964 action film from John Frankenheimer starring Burt Lancaster. I hadn't heard of it before and it's great. Apparently the last big action film made in black and white but it's great because it's real. The plot is about Germans in WWII trying to plunder French art. A German colonel (Paul Schofield) has arrange a train to bring it to Germany and the resistance (led by Lancaster) is trying to stop the train. While it's based on some reality, the resistance just used red tape and there was no train in real life. But for the film, Frankenheimer used real trains, crashed real trains and even arranged to blow up a real train depot. And Lancaster did his own stunts, sliding down ladders and running onto moving trains and falling down hills. Great stuff and some interesting overtones (how many lives is art worth?). Really liked this film.

Haywire - Steven Soderbergh saw real life MMA start Gina Carano and made an action film around her, and it's a good one. She's an agent on the run with various stars (Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas) trying to kill her. The plot is a big convoluted but it works and given the way it's told you have to concentrate a bit. But the action sequences are down to earth and very good and since she's doing her own stunts, instead of hundreds of shaky cam quick cuts, there are long steady takes. Very nice.

A Better Life - Demián Bichir got a surprise Best Actor nomination for this film I'd never heard of. It's available on DVD from Netflix and is kind of a reimagining of The Bicycle Thief. Bichir is an illegal immigrant gardener in LA with a teenage son that's being tempted by gang life. It's very well done and while Fassbender and Shannon were more deserving of the nomination, Bichir was very good.

Albert Nobbs - Glenn Close is a woman in 19th century Ireland working as a male waiter in a small hotel. She dreams of opening a shop and her fear of being found out has left her very very repressed. Close was good but she's well known enough I still always thought I was watching Glenn Close and not the character. Fortunately the other characters are strong enough and enough happens to keep it interesting. It's not a feel good movie and it didn't quite come together for me. Maybe because the situation felt contrived enough that I found it less relatable than Shame or Take Shelter.

The Iron Lady - Here's a great idea, let's make a bio pic about Britain's first female and one of the longest serving and most controversial prime ministers. And lets get Meryl Streep to play her! Oh and here's a great idea, lets spend 80% of the film on her Alzheimer stage. And the other 20%, lets do montages of political events and make as many of them dream sequences as possible! Let's refer to every other character by their first name only, if even that much! Let's even throw in an ironic line of her complaining about how people today care only about feelings and not actual thoughts. This film could have been about any senile woman who merely thought she was prime minister. I thought about walking out and figured it had to get better and it didn't. Streep was good, she always is, even given the material, but it's not worth it.

Arthur - I caught this Russell Brand remake on cable. Helen Mirren is good but Brand is just ok. He ends up not being likable enough, so it's just kind of annoying.