Wednesday, April 29, 2009

So the reviews for the final cut of Wolverine are starting to roll in

And it sure as fuck isn't pretty.  If you are a studio manager, you are going to have to be upset about reviews like this one.  They are calling it a fiasco.

For those of you stuck under a rock, obsessed with the NFL draft, the Jay Cutler drama, the NCAA Basketball Tournament, or the bad economy, there was another major story in March 2009. It turns out that world media piracy scored it's biggest kill ever.  They jacked an advanced working copy of the new Super Hero blockbuster X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  Of course, this XVID went straight to Bit Torrent, and from there to millions of kids around the world.

The work was unfinished at the time this cut was made.  None of the photo-realistic 3d visual effects (you can expect to see soon) are in the bootleg cut.  Super simple 3d previz graphics are in place.  DOS video game air planes fly across polygon grid sky, etc.  This is hysterical to the typical viewer.  You can also see the wires & cables attached to every character as he or she leaps across the warehouse, office, road, canyon, etc.  Wire removal is one of the most basic and important elements of action film effects these days.

As you may have gathered already, I did see a copy of this film.  Didn't manage to get all the way through it.  Time was pressing.  I needed to get home, and I was board.  The interest wore off rather quickly.  After the novelty of seeing a bad copy one month early wore thin, there was not much reason to watch it.  I refrained from reviewing the bootleg here, as I didn't finish it, and it is quite unfinished.

I wrote to some friends and told them the product was bad.  I did caution them that this work was unfinished, but with such hammy segues between critical plot-points, I couldn't see how this work might be fixed up.  A friend of mine inside the industry cautioned me not to draw any conclusion just yet.  He informed me that there are emergency editors in the world who are paid millions of dollars to fix-up would-be blockbusters teetering on the brink.  With some tweaking, the final cut can be dramatically improved.  He reminded me that the first cut of Star Wars is now a legendary fiasco among film students.  Everything was patched up by D-Day.

I respect this guy, so I heard him out, but I had a hard time believing that such an effort might fix this film.  With such fundamental mistakes in writing and direction, there is only so much magic an emergency editor can weave.

Anyway, the reviews of Wolverine look pretty nasty right now.  A preview was granted to a limited number of friendly critics.  According to, the number of critics there was just 17.  Right now the count is 9-8.  9 say it is good.  8 say it is bad.  Reading the 9 positive reviews will raise a lot of eyebrows.  When the review is positive, it is not very good.  When it is negative, it is pretty bad.  Based on a reading of these reviews, it would seem that there are some pissed off fanboys, and some lukewarm fanboys.

What will happen when the non-fanboys begin to review this movie?  Right now Wolverine is pulling 53% on the T-Meter, and the strength score.  I would expect that to fall right through the floor as hostile reviewers like Rex Reed begin to check in.  Expect this movie's T-Meter to finish in the 30s.

I have to say, I am most highly displeased.  I am a big fan of comic books.  This is the second bust in a row.  Worse still, this is a movie that should not have been a bust.  It could have and should have been every bit as good as Iron Man or the Incredible Hulk.  Wolverine is not like the Watchmen.  We are not talking about a vastly overrated piece of shit story here.  We're talking about one of the most favored characters in Marvel history.  They also have one of the most favored stars in Hollywood for this one.  What I see here is a missed opportunity for a terrific blockbuster.  Another one goes down the drain.

So, Dave, if you were to put a fine point on it, just what is wrong with this movie?  It is incredibly cliche.  You have a good brother.  You have an evil brother.  The two of them walk through life together, back-to-back until finally one day, the evil brother's evil becomes to terrible, and the good brother parts company with him.  Of course this means war, and the bad brother must have some revenge.  Now the good brother must kill the bad brother.

Folks, Ballywood makes 20 movies like this every single year.  I am not kidding you either.  They litterally make 20 of these movies every single year.  It is an old archetypal story.  This was just too damn similar to other basic stories I have seen.  It wore thin very fast once I identified the anchient pattern of the work.  Everything was utterly predictable.  No surprises here folks.  You knew the end from the begining.  This is why I didn't bother to finish it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A quick post about THX video certification

I was surfing channels sometime yesterday evening around 5:00pm, aimlessly shuffling from channel to channel.  I was a little burned out on the NFL draft, which I watched through the first 4 rounds in its entirety.  

Somewhere in the 300s I discovered a program {it might have been on GTV} in which an expert was attempting to explain the whys and wherefores of THX video certification.  I only caught the last 6 or so minutes of the interview, so I didn't get it all.  I was pissed.  It seemed like a good and detailed presentation.

It would seem that the interviewer took a skeptical view of THX video certification, and made the Lucas Labs rep defend the standard.  This is good and righteous.  Based on what I heard from the rep, it would seem that the interviewer had challenged him on the drab, colorless, lifelessness quality of the THX picture.

What I heard from the rep curled my blood.  Then I laughed out loud for several minutes.  What did this THX rep say?

First a slight digression.  Many, many times in the past 2 years, my father, my brother, my mother and I have engaged in conversations about how much better movies look on Blu-Ray + HDTV vis-a-vis the movie theater big screen.  The picture is far brighter, far more colorful, and much sharper than the big screen theater.  This is what we love about it.  This is why we spend money on the technology.  This is why we recommend it to everybody.

Well, it turns out that the THX governors claim we're just plain damn wrong.  You see, the HDTV should look just exactly like the movie theater, according to THX corporation.  That flat, dim, colorless, out of focus image you see in the theater is the correct image.  That is what the original authors of the film intended the movie to look like.  You shouldn't make it more colorful, brighter, sharper, deeper, more detailed, or more in focus.  Doing so makes the presentation in the home different from that of the movie theater, and that is just plain damn wrong.  Ergo, the necessary function of THX laboratories is to show HDTV vendors {like Panasonic & LG} how to dumb-down their mighty technology such that it will look just like the movie theater.

Basically I had several immediate responses:
  • Can you not see that the theater is limited by the barbaric nature of its technology?  The drab picture is a function of the obsolete analog projection technology they use.  When DLP projection is used, the picture is improved.  This is not a question of artists intent.  It is a question of primitive, outmoded, outdated technology versus fully modern tech.
  • What bizarre manner of communist thinking led to this preposterous notion that you must dumb down a superior technology to make it look like an inferior technology?
  • We human beings sure do get side-tracked with stupid ideologies, don't we?
Then the THX rep said another thing which flipped my on-bit.  The interviewer mentioned that {thus far} only LG and Panasonic have submitted units for THX Video certification, and that acceptance has not been very good for this new logo.  In rebuttal, the THX rep responded that there is an obvious need for such technology and tuning, regardless of whether firms like Samsung and Sony are willing to pay for the help and the testing.  "Even Samsung has introduced what they call Film Mode which is every similar to our THX standard presentation", he said.

Of course, I am breaking in the very latest Samsung HDTV right now.  It is the 55 inch Luxia of the 7000 series.  After just 8 days of ownership, I can't claim I know every last thing about my new HDTV just yet.  Ergo, I immediately grabbed the remote and hit the menu button.  Sure enough, there is a setting under the COLOR header which says "Film Mode".

When activated, Color->Film Mode does indeed produce a drab, colorless, lifeless, unfocused, dim picture very similar in character & quality to what I saw on the Panasonic TC-P50G10 when in THX mode.  I sat there shaking my head in disgust.  Why would you even bother to implement such rubbish?  Why would you waste time & effort trying to figure out how to make your technology look inferior?  Shocking...

Any way, this will not cause me to hate my new HDTV.  Let's remember that Film Mode is strictly optional.  You must opt-in if you want it, and it is easy to opt-out if you don't like it.  This is only one option among several, and not particularly recommended by Samsung.  I simply returned to my prior settings and my new HDTV looked as good as before.

This revelation made me recall the famous saying of Martin Luther: "What strange superstitions bewitch the minds of men?"  The THX Video philosophy is a very strange superstition indeed.

Friday, April 24, 2009

So it seems that the press is turning around on the subject of Blu-Ray

Well, well, well, it's about time.  I was just reading the New York Times, and it seems that Eric Taub is getting enthusiastic about Blu-Ray.  He found the nuts to go against the prevailing gainsayers in the media.  This is the biggest news blog yet to come out in support of Blu-Ray.

At the same time, media pundits have noted that Blu-Ray movie sales have doubled from a year ago.  Also, the industry claims it will ship 12 million new Blu-Ray players in 2009.  Somebody even noticed that Blu-Ray acceptance is well ahead of where DVD was at the same point in both of their life-cycles, despite the massive bite of the Great Recession.  Some estimates claim that sales rates will triple current numbers 2010.  Ergo 2010 should be the cross-over point where DVD becomes legacy material, like VHS, and Blu-Ray becomes the standard.

I am pleased.  This is part of a larger trend.  More and more experts and consumers are questioning what they have been told by so-called experts in regard to Blu-Ray.  They are having a hard time squaring their experiance with the twisted tales of a mis-begotten technological misfit, favorited by a small cult of fans, doomed to an early death.  Many are making noises that sound something like this:  "Jesus!  What the fuck were you bastards smoking when you reached that preposterous conclusion?"

For about 4 years now, predicting the failure of Blu-Ray has been an ultra-fashionable thing among would-be experts.  It has been functionally good, as it has placed great pressure on Sony and Samsung to cut the cost of ownership.  One might even argue that predicting the failure of Blu-Ray has been an underhanded way to insist upon price cuts.

Still, there have been persistent blithering idiots who have popped up on the net saying foolish things like "I can't tell the difference between a DVD and Blu-Ray" or worse "There is not much difference between a DVD and Blu-Ray".  In the first case, you could be vision impaired, so your statement might be accurate.  In the second case, you are absolutely and completely wrong, and it is easy to mathematically prove.  If you think there isn't much difference, you have neither seen a Blu-Ray, nor studied it.  Ah-hem...  Let me try this another way.  If you weren't suffering from sour grapes, you would be honest and say "It's great, but I just can't afford it."

For the first time, it would appear that mainstream media is beginning to test Blu-Ray seriously. Gone are the foolish claims that DVD can compete with Blu-Ray.  Those claims have finally been thrown out of court.   Now the NYT has investigated the claims of Video On Demand (VOD) firms also.  Guess whay they found?
  1. VOD firms don't offer much HD
  2. When they do, it is 720p
  3. The encoding of said 720p pretty well sucks.  Maybe its better than SD, but...
  4. We don't have enough bandwidth to get constant 720p without jerks.
  5. Or maybe they don't have enough bandwidth to serve-up constant 720p without jerks
  6. I don't like running an Ethernet cable to my TV.
  7. I don't like having a computer in my entertainment system.
  8. Blu-Ray seems to crush VOD in terms of quality.
In a nutshell, this what they are starting to say now.  It's about time they figured this out.  

I learned most of these things 2 years ago.  Nothing has been able to change my mind since.  I tried the most recent incarnation of the Apple TV recently.  While better than all VOD solutions before it, it still sucks.  Blu-Ray absolutely destroys Apple TV.  I am talking about a total-annihilation demolition.  It is the defeat the dimensions of which Apple has never experienced:  A route from which no honor can be salvaged.  I returned the unit to Fry's electronics.  It wasn't worth owning.

Allow me to make a positive case for Blu-Ray.  My family members, friends and I have come to the conclusion that a Blu-Ray image, when displayed on a high quality large screen, is so compelling we find it difficult to summon the motivation to go to the theater anymore.  The images we see on the big silver screen seem dark, drab, lifeless, colorless, undetailed and soft (meaning unfocused) in comparison to the razor sharp, detailed, colorful pictures we see at home.  The movie always looks better at home.  The movie never looks better at the theater.  There is a wide gulf too.  This is not a small or marginal victory.  We are talking about a 38-10 route.

When watching incredible Blu-Rays like Wall-e, or No Country for Old Men, or Sin City, I have frequently asked myself the following questions:
  1. How thrilled were the authors of this movie when they first saw it on Blu-Ray?  They must have been ecstatic.  To see your creation preserved and presented in such an astounding format must be extremely gratifying.
  2. How long is going to be before the movie theaters realize they are being completely outclassed by home theaters?
  3. How long is going to take before studios realizes that they should not optimize for the movie theater, but rather for the home theater?  Movies should not be shot in 24fps or on film anymore.  They should be shot at 60p on digital.  You are only in the movie theater for 3-6 weeks.  You will be on Blu-Ray [or something better] forever.  Optimize for your true distribution channel.  Forget the glamor vector.
There are plethora of other benefits to watching the movie on Blu-Ray.  You can talk about the movie if you want to.  You can eat your favorite popcorn, and you can have it your way, cheap.  You can drink any damn thing you want, and it is cheaper than the theater.  You can hit pause and go to the bathroom.  You don't have to miss parts of the film.  You can start whenever you want to start.  You can watch with the subtitles on if you are hearing impaired.  None of these things have anything to do with fundamental image and sound, but they are very nice bonuses.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

C is going the way of Assembler

So, a kid just popped up on and asked the question “Why isn’t Windows-7 written in C#?” All of the C/C++ programmers on the form blanched at the thought of it. Many others posted about project Singularity, which is a research project inside Microsoft aimed at producing a full operating system in managed code. The comments from the C/C++ guys clearly indicate that they hate the entire idea of Singularity.

The question was closed by one of the forum moderators as “Not a real question”. If he had been honest, he would have said he was shutting down a potential flame war. The question is too politically hot right now.

This is a further evidence that the C/C++ programmers are getting pretty edgy about the incursion of .NET and managed code into sacred ground reserved for them, and them only. They have already lost nearly all of their Windows application turf to .NET, and they are still smoldering about that. Like American Indians on shrinking reservations, they are under presure, and they feel it. They are feeling some real job security stress right now. Every time these questions come up, they C/C++ programmers on the site get pretty dang edgy.

Let’s face it folks: C is going the way of Assembler. It is the expressed wish of the supreme management at Microsoft and SUSE to write as much of their operating system in managed code as possible. Inteface widgets, control pannel utils, little apps, system services, you name it: If there isn't compelling reason to go C, it should be done in C#. C/C++ are increasingly seen as costly and yeilding no real substantive benefits anymore.

The Panasonic G10 series disappoints tremendously

So it is now time to tie up a couple of loose ends from past blog entries.  As you know, I blogged a week ago back about the advent of the Panasonic G10 series.  I was quite sanguine about the force of Moore's law, and how this HDTV was quite likely a further proof that Moore's law applies forcefully to HDTV technology.

Well... it is time to eat some crow.  Nobody likes to be taken in by the hype.  Nobody likes to fuck up.  Nobody likes to admit that they are wrong about anything.  However, it is time for me to eat some humble pie.

There are three important conclusions I reached after one hour with the G10 series at Magnolia:
  1. Technologically, the G10 is nothing special.  It is not even an advance over Panasonic's current line up.  The 850 series is better.  The only positive thing that can be said for it is that it is a low-cost option.  It is substantially cheaper the 800 & 850 series from Panasonic.
  2. THX mode absolutely stinks.  You will never see a dimmer, darker, flatter, more lifeless color in your entire life.  Those who ballyhoo this technology are absolutely and completely wrong.  They couldn't possibly be more wrong.  The ultimate reason I did not buy the G10 is because THX mode looks just plain terrible.  I had to take it out of THX mode and customize it quite a bit before it began to look reasonably decent.
  3. David Katzmaier and Bryan Gardiner must be smoking crack together.  That is the only logical conclusion I can reach after reading and viewing their statements about the Panasonic G10.  They both view this unit as the Pioneer Kuro replacement.  Readers will know that I am not a member of the cult of Kuro.  I regard it as a strong performer, but vastly over-rated.  With that said, the G10 is absolutely, categorically not comparable to the Kuro.  The Kuro is a lot better than the G10.  The only thing they share in common is glass and plasma

To say that I was not impressed by the G10 would be an understatement at best.  I could have saved some $1,400 by purchasing the G10 rather than the Samsung Luxia.  Believe me, I was very well aware of this fact as I made my decision... in the comfort of my computer room at home.  I had an Excel spreadsheet in front of me, mapping out all the makes, models, vendors, prices, sales taxes, shipping costs, etc.  I self-consciously pulled the trigger on a much more expensive unit.  Why?  Because I did not want to buy the G10.  The quality level was too low to be acceptable, and drastically better options were (ultimately) affordable.  

So don't be carried away with the hype.  The Cult of Kuro is going through grief, as they openly state, because their King has died.  They are casting about, looking for a successor.  This is the first fish to pop out of the lake, and it is a plasma, ergo it must be the new king.  Rubbish!  Balls! Poppycock! Blarney!

So Dave, don't you think you are being a bit unfair to these fine gentlemen of quality and merit?  They do talk about running benchmark tests.  

As I have already stated several times in this blog, such benchmarks are predicated on the faulty proposition that the BT.709 is a perfect thing.  It is not.  If BT.709 is a perfect thing, and cannot be improved upon, the road is clear:  Nail 709 or die.  Such is not the case.  BT.709 is a political standard, assembled by industry giants who wanted to manufacture HDTVs and programming at an affordable price.  There are many ways to improve upon this standard.  Ergo, nailing the BT.709 is not really that important, and may ultimately turn undesirable as technology advances.  Arguments based on nailing BT.709 can be discarded rather easily.

Monday, April 20, 2009

So did Bill Devaney tip his hand to us?

I sure hope so.

Just a quick followup to my last blog.  I just read a piece on the St. Louis Rams website which portends well in some ways.  You can see it here.  Some note worth points to ponder:

  1. The Rams have conducted personal interviews in St. Louis with 23 specific players.  I sure would like to know who those young men are.
  2. The first name mentioned would be that of my favorite guy: Eugene Monroe, Left Tackle of UVA.  Nothing against Jason Smith, but I sure hope Eugene is the guy.  I will be happy with Smith if we take him, but Eugene looks more flexible and faster to my eye.
  3. The Rams top needs are enumerated as follows: offensive tackle, wide receiver, linebacker, defensive tackle.  I concur with this list, as long as we acknowledge that the last two positions are much further down the list.
  4. Odd prospects like Jeremy Maclin and Mark Sanchez are listed as young men who spent 2 days visiting with the Rams.  I hope that is a form of military and strategic deception.  I hope we were punking the Denver Broncos when we borough Sanchez in.  Surely we can't be serious about burning our top pick on a Junior QB this year?  I am sure Sanchez would go along with the game as he would rather be the #2 pick by the Broncos than the #12 pick by the Broncos.  It means money.  I cannot fathom why Maclin would be in the list, unless we intend to do a deal with the Broncos.  He is not the #2 pick.  He is not really a top 10 pick.
  5. On the NFL network, Devaney clearly stated that Steven Jackson is our best man, and we are going build around him.  In the article I mentioned, Pat Shurmur, our new offensive coordinator, is paraphrased as advocating a "Power Up" for muscle football.  Translation:  He wants bad-ass offensive linemen to knock 'em loose in every direction.
  6. An interesting quote from Devaney in this piece goes as follows.  "There may be a point when you get down into the third round, things are kind of falling apart at that point and probably three or four picks before your turn comes up, you’ll have a group of names pulled out on the side. There may be four or five guys pulled out and we’ll talk about it one more time. We’ll say okay we haven’t taken a receiver at this point. This is the last chance to get the receiver, the next receiver we have now is not until the fifth or sixth round."
The final point is the most by far the most interesting and perhaps telling.  Devaney has a rep for being shut-mouthed, but he slips.  I hope this indicates that we are not intending to draft a receiver until the 3rd round.  I hope we can take this statement seriously, but I seriously doubt it

Let me tell you why.  If I had to project who the Rams are going to take, I would only be willing to predict 3 players right now.  This list presumes we are not doing a deal with the Broncos and we draft where we are.  These men are:
  • #2 overall Jason Smith, LOT Baylor University
  • #35 overall Brian Robiskie, WR, Ohio State University
  • #66 Eric Wood, C/G Louisville.
So why do I say these three?

  • Jason smith gets the nod over Eugene Monroe because Monroe has a small medical flag on his record.  He dinged up one of his knees last season.  No big deal, says the scouts, but enough separate #1 from #2.  Also, Smith is known for being mean on the battlefield.  He has a streak of nastiness according to Mike Mayock.  He finishes hard. These two factors add up to a the best "Power Up" candidate, from the Rams' point of view.
  • Brian Robiskie was expected to slide into the second round.  He may not.  The Giants may take him in the first.  If he falls to the second round, as originally projected, we would be stupid not to take him.  He would be the perfect continuation of our great 2nd round receiver tradition.  It should be noted that both Henry Ellard and Issac Bruce were both selected in the 2nd round, and they both wore #80.  Like these fine gentlemen, Robiskie is said to be a consume professional with all the right character traits.  He is a great replacement for Issac Bruce, but not Torry Holt.
  • Perhaps it is wishful thinking, but I am hoping Eric Wood falls to us in the 3rd round.  He has a grade worthy of a late first rounder.  Nobody but nobody has even suggested that a center will go in the first round.  Nobody but nobody has suggest a guard will go before the 3rd round.  One thing is for sure:  Centers and Guards are going no place but down in this draft, and I don't know why.  Perhaps it is because they play the least sexy and least coveted positions in the NFL.  In any case, I am wondering if the best guard/center in the draft may fall to us at the #66 position.  If so, it is a gift from God.  I think this kid is a future Pro Bowl player, deprecated because of his position.


Three reasons why my Rams suck

It may suprise some people to know this, but I am old enough to remember when the Rams played in the Los Angeles Colesium.  I've been a Ram fan for just about 30 years now, since 1979.  The 2009 seasons has not yet begun, so it is difficult to say 30 just yet.  Many people are shocked when I tell them that I am a Ram fan.  None of them doubt it is true.  Who would claim to be that, if you aren't?  I would qualify that by saying "these days".

As you know, my team has officially been the 2nd worst team in professional footbal the last two years running.  We have been #31 out of 32 teams. We are about to draft #2 overall for the second straight year.  With just 5 days left to go before the NFL Draft, I think it is a good time to run down the short list of reasons why my team sucks.  We need to bear this in mind during our draft.  Accuracy of perspective is terribly important as we invest these megar draft picks next Saturday & Sunday in New York.

#1 Reason:  Scott Linehan.

Folks, lets be perfectly honest:  Scott Linehan was an abject failure as a head coach.  He took over a team that was pretty well loaded and had recently had good quality years.  It took him just 1 years to run us into the ground completely.  I bear the man no personal malice, but then again I didn't know him.  Many of the players despised him fearcely.  Torry Holt, generally considered a good citizen and a non-diva, utterly detested the man.  There were serious confligrations with Steven Jackson and Marc Bulger.  Many thought he was a back-biting worm.  He wasn't 2 faced, he was 5 faced... or so they said of him.  Linehan never motivated anybody.  Linehan, never got the men to buy into his system.  Speaking of system, Linehan never implemented his system.  When Linehan came in, he promised to implement a 49er style, Bill Walsh style West Coast Offense.  I can only remember 1 game during his tenure when we manifested that style of offense.  Ironically, it was against the 49ers in 2006.  The game was in St. Louis.  In the final 2 minutes of the game, we were trailing by a point or two.  On 5 consecutive pass plays, we ran go routes.  Issac Bruce and Torry Holt sprinted for the end zone.  On 5 consecutive plays, Bulger checked down to Steven Jackson.  These passes hardly covered 8 yards of distance from Buldger's throwing arm to Jackson's hands.  Jackson ran for 10 or 15 yards each time.  We kicked a field goal and won the game.  I have bitter memories of Joe Montana and Roger Craig doing this to my Rams many times during the 1980s.  It was bitter revenge.  I never saw this happen again during Linehan's tenure.  This was the first and the last we saw of the West Coast offense in Ram country.

As we draft on Saturday and Sunday, we need to be mindful of the fact that the players quit on Linehan because he was regarded as incompetent and two-faced.  This means we had a bad coach, and it means we have quitters on the team.  Be mindful of this, and think about how best to repair it.  Character is a huge issue.  Spagnolo knows this, and he said it is going to be priority #1 in his tenure as coach.

#2 Reason:  Jim Hasslet

Speaking of Linehan never implementing his system, how about this?  When Linehan first came to Rams, he said we were going to run a minimum-risk, conservative, flexible, multiple-front defense.  That never happen.  We hired Jim Hasslet.  This is going to be difficult to write, because I liked Jim Haslet a lot.  I like his gambler style.  I liked his high risk defense.  I now realize that this is a form of gambling addiction, and I need a 12 step program.  The first step on the road to life recovery is to recognize that I have a problem with defensive gambling.  In retrospect, Jim Hasslet's defense was a catastrophy in St. Louis.  As Boomer Eisaison said several times last season, speaking of my Ram's getting wasted 42-0 in the first half, "DISASTER! IT'S A DISASTER!"  The Eagles, the Giants, and several others read Jim Hasslet like a book, and burned us like a holocost special.

As we draft on Saturday and Sunday, we need to be mindful of the fact that Steve Spagnolo is now our head coach.  He is not Jim Hasslet.  His defensive mindset is nothing like Jim Hasslet's mindset.  Philosophically, these are two radically different coaches.  Spagnolo is a very careful and thoughtful Chess player.  He likes to blitz, but he almost never gambles.  We can expect the defense to get a lot better without major additions or subtractions.  A simple change in philosophy will be enough to make a big difference in St. Louis.  Defense should not be a priority in this year's draft.

#3 Reason:  We have the worst offensive line in the NFL

There are many sayings about football.  It is a game of inches.  It is a game of bounces.  It's all boils down to blocking & tackling.  Nothing is more important that this saying:  The game is won and lost in the trenches.  You must control the line of scrimage.  If you win the battle at the line of scrimage, you win the game.  For two straight years now, our offensive line has utterly lost the battle at the line of scrimage.  For two straight years we have been 2-14.  Without Pace in 2007, we had the worst line in football.  With Pace in 2008, we had the worst line in football.  With him or without him, the results were similar.  This is why he got the pink slip from HQ.  

We have only two starters as I write this blog entry:  Jason Brown who will snap center, and Alex Barron who is our right tackle.  Alex Barron was declared a disapointment by the NFL Network in a recent Draft show.  Let's qualify that.  Alex Barron has not become a dominant all-pro, and a fixture at the right tackle in the NFC's Pro-Bowl roster.  For this reason, he has not become the successor to Jackie Slater we had hoped he would be.  On the other hand, he is the only man to start and play 32 out 32 games during the past 2 seasons.  There have been pretty stupid penalties all the way along the line, but he has blocked pretty well.  I would have cut Richie Icognito after the Washington game.  He would have cleaned out his locker if I had been GM.  Go back and watch the final two minutes of the game and see what I mean.  The other bumbs are rotating and failing at various positions.  Cut 'em all.

As we draft on Saturday and Sunday, we need to be mindful of the fact that our offensive line is our first, second and third priority in the 2009 draft.  We have only two solid starters now.  We have three holes.  You might argue we are in a worse state now than ever before.  If we don't get a lot better on draft day, we are in for one hell of a bad 2009 season.  You might say we have lost the battle at the line of scrimage on defense.  Let's leave that aside for the moment.  It is not as bad as some say on defense.  We must obtain two starting linemen on draft weekend.  You can do it in the draft.  You can do it by trade, but you have to do it.  I suppose Icognito is going to stay at right guard.  The team seems to like him for some reason I cannot understand.

#4 Reason:  The legacy of Georgia

I recently caught the Raider's 1980 championship film on the NFL network.  About 20 minutes into the show, I saw something that brought bitter tears to my eyes.  I wept over the ruins of Jerusalem.  The Raiders were boasting of how they were the winningest team in NFL history.  They showed a chart which indicated that there winning percentage was better than both the Cowboys and Rams, who were the two closest teams to the Raiders in winning percentage in the year 1980.  Yep, that's right, the Rams were #3 winningest team in NFL history as of the year 1980.  Don't take my word for it.  Take the Raider's word for it.  They have no love for us, and no vested interest in our team.  The Rams are also a much older football team than the Raiders and Cowboys.  We were founded in 1937.  The Raiders and Cowboys started life in the 1960s. We had been excelent over a much longer period of time than they.

The same cannot be said today.  29 years later, our winning percentage is nothing like what it was in 1980.

What happened?  It should be noted that 1980 was the first full year of the Georgia administration.  We went 11-5.  It was good.  It got real bad real soon.  There were brief moments of excellence.  We even won a Super Bowl.  Nevertheless, the legacy of Georgia is terrible, and cannot be over-stated.  She turned us into a Beer-league organization.  We had several loosing season in the 1980s.   We couldn't keep our team together in an era when most people did.  We had 9 years of horror between 1990 and 1999.  We had a brief moment in the sun, then it all fell appart.  Now we have had 5 more years of horror.  

In 28 years as owner of the Rams,  Georgia had many more loosing seasons than winning seasons.  Let's be frank and lets not mince words:  She was the joke owner of the league. Much more so then Bill Bidwell or Al Davis.  This wasn't entirely, or even primarily, because she was a woman.  It was because she was one of the bad owners.  There are tales of Georgia casting astrology charts on potential draft picks to determine who would be emotionally compadible with her, and ergo, a good player for the team.  I apologize to Skip for talking about his mother this way, but I think Skip knows his mother should not have been running an NFL franchise.

As we draft on Saturday and Sunday, we need to be mindful of the fact that astrology charts have no bearing on football merits and demerits.  We need great college football players.  We need men with a proven track record of success in college.  We don't need developmental projects.  We don't need home-town heroes to fill the stands.  Skip needs to be an owner like his Dad, not like his mom.

Draft well.  Fill holes.  Get better.  Win.  Live proud.  Restore the traditions of old.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Samsung UN-55B7000

Guess what? I sold my old Samsung HL-S6187W this week. It was tough saying goodbye to that good old friend. I was very sad as I drove it to its new home in my Toyota Tundra. This all took place on Wednesday April 15 around 8:30 PST. Nevertheless, I followed through and completed the deal.

Naturally, this begat a frantic search for its successor. In 72 hours there were many twists and turns, frustrations and angers, and a couple of shocking discoveries. I will give you the serious low down on my technological discoveries in the next blog. I have a few sharp point to pass on to you in this short blog:

1. LED LCD has now surpassed classical DLP in terms of image quality. This could never be said before. Right now, both the internet and the major HDTV vendors are ablaze with excitement over the new Samsung B7000 series LED LCD HDTVs. They should be. This unit now offers the finest picture quality of anything on the market... at least until the B8000 hits the streets in about 1 month. That is no joke. The B8000 is scheduled to arrive inside one month.

2. The bizzare co-inky-dink is that the worlds thinnest 55inch LCD also happens to be the television with the highest image quality on the market today. This has never been true before this moment. Thin HDTVs uniformly sacrificed image quality for skinny looks, until now. Somehow, Samsung cut the Gordian Knot. They somehow packed the best picture into the thinnest form factor. It should be noted that CNET already has ranked The Samsung B7000 series as the #2 most desirable HDTV behind the Pioneer Elite Kuro, which is now defunct and discontinued. I guess that makes my HDTV the defacto #1.

3. To set the whole deal on fire, the UN-55B7000, which is the 55 inch implementation, can be had for a mere $3200 at Fry's electronics this weekend. That is $600 below retail price. How about no shipping or installation charges? Just drive 1 mile and get it now? I'll play the sales tax this time.

4. Not impressive enough? How about the fact that they will toss in a $300 Samsung BD-P1600 Blu-Ray player for free? Basically, this means you can have the world's finest 55inch thin flat for approximately $2,900.00. Shocking! This size in this form factor couldn't be touched for less than $5000 just 6 months ago. The price has fallen $2100, seemingly overnight, and the quality has gotten much better. Thanx Gordon Moore! You're doing one hell of job!

Naturally this was all too much for me to resist. I made the deal today, April 18, 2008 at about 3:00pm. The deal was cinched at Fry's electronics in Woodland Hills, just 1 mile from my apartment. It is already setup and tuned up. I have been tuning it all evening with the help of my favorite channel: The NFL network. I have just about all the team jersies, I know all the team colors intimately. Ergo this is the best place to go for color, brightness, contrast and noise calibration.

LCD is a shock to the system. The character and quality of the picture is entirely different from what most people are accustomed too. Most of us grew up watching movies on Cathode Ray Tubes and on theater projectors. DLP has all of these qualities and improves upon them. This is why high-end theaters such as the Archlight use DLP projectors. This is why many of us have found DLP to be the most pleasing movie experiance over the past several years.

As a people and a generation, we not accustomed to the look of LCD. Liquid Crystal has a totally different character from the CRTs and projection systems we grew up with in the theater and at home. It looks quite different from my old and trusted friend, the DLP. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I didn't quite like it at first. It is like the difference between eatting off a clay plate and an aluminum plate. Either way you eat, but you are conditioned to expect clay. Aluminum is better and more durable, but we have been conditioned to expect clay.

If there is a problem with this television it is found in hyper-accuracy. An old friend of mine, Ryan the Sheepdog, used to listen to his music through studio reference quality Tannoy monitors. These are the sort of studio monitors Quincy Jones would be happy to use when producing an album by Stevie Wonder. The sound was astounding. He paid a small fortune for them ($8000). Ryan used to say that the problem with these speakers is that they would sound off every flaw and every blemish in the audio signal. They were hyper-accurate. They were almost too accurate.

Well folks, the Samsung UN-55B7000 is a lot like that. If you have a flawed video signal, it will look like shit on the UN-55B7000. The DLP was much more forgiving. If you have a sensational picture, it is going to look mesmerizing and astounding on the UN-55B7000. It looks much better than on the DLP. This became crystal clear in the first hour of watching the HDTV.

Let me tell you about my experiance.

The NFL network was showing a documentary called The Top 10 Power Backs when I powered-up my new HDTV for the first time. Like all such historicals, this documentary was a hoge-podge of very old and decrepid footage, as well as very recent and high quality images. The decrepit stuff looks like utter shit on the UN-55B7000. I found this very disconcerting, and I was on the verge of a serious disappointment.

Then I discovered TBN was showing the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy back-to-back in true high definition. They were on the final leg of Return of the King when I first tuned in. Frodo was about to enter the Crack of Doom. It was pretty damn amazing. This was the first moment when the disappointment began to abate, and I started to get happy.

It just so happens that the NFL network was also re-broadcasting Super Bowl XLIII at the same time. This was our most recent Super Bowl, the Steelers vs. Cardinals. Of course, no expense was spared in broadcasting and recording this even. The signal is as good as an it gets in today's world. I flipped channels back and forth and kept calibrating. It looked pretty great right away, but there were problem. I did need to adjust the 120Hz motion smoothing. The factory settings did a lot of weird things to the slow motion instant replays. I finally decided on a custom setting of 7 for blur control and 7 for jitter control. None of the factory presets worked well for me. The jitters were very disturbing at first, but they are now under control. I recommend these settings to my fellow football fans.

Finally, it came time for a Blu-ray, arguably my favorite toy. Most friends and family members would have expected me to do this first, but I really wanted to calibrate with the NFL network before moving on to the Blu-ray. What I saw was pretty shocking. This was the moment when the UN-55N7000 convinced me that it was actually better (not just more fashionable) than my old HL-S6187W. This was the moment when two-reps of the Moore's Law became blindingly apparent. When they talk about dark inky blacks, they are understating the case. When they speak of butter-smooth imagery, they are understating the case. When they speak of razor sharp super-detailed images, they are utterly falling short of reality. The sharpness and detail is beyond belief. When they speak of dazing color, they are pretty much on track.

I have been an advocate of Blu-Ray for about two years now. I used to tell people that the difference between Blu-ray and HD Satellite is equivalent to the difference between DVD and Cable. Cable looks good. DVD looks better. Likewise (I used to say) HD Satellite looks good, Blu-ray looks better. Well folks, I am going to have reformulate that statement. That just doesn't give Blu-ray enough credit. It falls short by a long shot. The difference between HD Satellite and Blu-Ray is pretty sick. It is much, much greater than the difference between Cable and DVD. Blu-Ray makes DirectTV's HD package look poor by comparison. That is no joke. Give it a try on this HDTV and see for yourself.

If you are planning to get the UN-55B7000, you better get it this weekend at Fry's. They will toss in the Blu-Ray player for free. If you have not yet been exposed to Blu-Ray, you are going to have an absolute freak-out experience. You will know why the movie lovers, particularly profession movie critics, just love Blu-ray to death. If you already bought this TV and don't have a Blu-ray, you are missing out on the finest thing your investment has to offer you.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Excited about Scala

I am excited about Scala! Those of you who know me know that I am a career-long Micorosoft Developer. First with Borland tools, second with Microsoft tools. Delphi & Paradox gave me my first real taste of professional success late in 1994, but there has been plenty of VB and C# along the way. Ergo, it will suprise many of you to know that I am excited about Scala.

For those who don't know, Scala is an OOPS/Functional hybrid language which primarily focuses on the Java VM and J2EE framework. It does run under .NET, but good luck in finding tool other than Notepad to program with.

Speaking of tools, the primary reason I have not learned Scala already was the tool experience. I am not a fan of EMACS. I piss on VI. I detest Notepad. Don't show me a plain text editor and expect me to accept that as a development environment. I am Borland guy at heart. I expect and advanced IDE, powerful tools, and a great experience. Borland JBuilder shocked the Java world, and tools like Eclipse and Netbeans followed quickly. Borland guys want killer IDEs. Visual Studio wasn't always the most advanced environment. Microsoft was forced to compete on an entirely different level by Borland.

Sadly, until just yesterday, I just couldn't get any of the plugins for Eclipse, Netbeans or even IntelliJ to work correctly with my installation of the Java SDK, and my installation of Scala. Without a good development environment, I just would not get into the language.

Wonderfully enough, this all worked out last night. I noted that there was a new edition of a Scala plugin for the Eclispe environment provided directly by the Scala team. I grit my teeth as I began to think of another major disapointment. It took some effort to get it going under Windows 7, and this effort included installing the basic JRE on top of my already installed JSE.

With that done, I only need to change the the developer "Perspective" in Eclispe to Scala, and begin work. Marvelously, everything worked. I could create a new Scala project. I could create Scala classes. I could compile. I could run. I could get correct results. I could copy code fragments from tutorials into Scala text files, compile them, and execute them. They all worked, exactly as expected.

Believe it or not, this was precisely what I could not do before last night. Copying code directly from tutorial pages into the editor would produce all manner of strange errors. Most assured me that this was a consiquence of integration problems between the development environments and the Scala compiler. That turned out to be the case, but it was little comfort when I was chomping at the bit, ready to go. It reminded me of the early days of Visual Basic 1.0, which was nasty buggy.

So why the hell do I care about Scala? I have been looking around for the next big thing for some time. I am looking for pure technical merit. I don't give a fuck about fashion trends. I rarely trust the uber geeks. It is clear to me that Ruby on Rails was advocated by Adobe web artists who clearly did not understand binary data types. It is clear to me that Erlang is being advocated by a certain species of Uber Geek that wants to exclude the mass-majority of rank & file programmers from their secrete club. When I look for the next big thing, I am looking for something with lasting and enduring power. For a number of reasons, I think Scala could be that thing.


  1. Multi-parallelism: We are coming into a new era where every machine is can execute 4 simultaneous threads on a minimum of 4 cores {laptops are stuck at 2 cores these days, but even this is changing}.  Also, Hyper-threading is making a comeback.  Four-core chips like the Intel Core i7 are hyper-threaded, meaning it can execute 8 simoltaneous threads. Apple is already shipping a PowerMac with a pair of i7 Xeon processors.  That box will execute 16 simoltaneous threads.  WOW!   Right now, everybody I know {particularly my local Visual Basic programmers} are living in a violent state of denial about the implications of these developments. They intend to go on programming in a single threaded execution mode forever... or until somebody runs them out of the industry. I guarentee you, they will get run out of the industry. We are going to have to start programming in parallel. Scala offers us Actors, which are the easiest method for doing parallel programming I have ever seen.
  2. Brevity: Scala seems to be a very terse language. It is the most terse thing I have seen since Python. Unlike Python, it does not achieve that brevity by going dynamic, omitting all type references, or type declarations. This is very good. You can write less code and get type-safety also
  3. Immutable Data: Scala is a functional language. With it comes a couple of features of functional programming with which I am completely enthralled by. The first is Immutable Data. Once assigned, a variable... er... identifier becomes immutable and cannot change again in scope... unless you explicitly declare it as mutable. Most Ruby and VB programmers would blanch at this and turn white as a sheet. These buggers often want to change the class types of variables at runtime, not just the value of the variable itself. This is dreadfully unsafe. It also increases your Cyclomatic complexity dramatically. Immutable data means safer, more predictable, more stable software. This is going to be a tough discipline for some to learn, but we have to get used to it. It is good.
  4. Monads: One of the terms Functional Programmers have added to our lingo in the past two years is the term Side-Effects. Side Effects are any changes to the state of the system which an application might perform at run time. Printing a document is a side effect. Writing changes to a database is a side effect and can create other side effects. Changing the users display is a side effect and can have other side effects. It turns out that things like network IO are the sources of most failures & errors these days. When you print, you cannot know for sure that the network is fully functional. You cannot know the printer is on. You cannot know the printer is loaded with paper. You cannot know it has ink or toner. When you make a web request, you cannot know the target website is up and running. We trust these things will work on a daily basis, but sometimes they do not. Functional programers have decided all such side effects must be locked inside a class type called a Monad. A Monad explicitly declares what sort of side effect will be created, and an entirely different level of error handling is imposed. This is a marvelous thing. I love it.
  5. Traits: Traits are basically implement interfaces. If I have a series of common methods (say Load or Save) which must be implemented in identical fashion for 4 or 5 different class prototypes, I can now tack on a trait which will contain these methods. All the code is implemented in one place. This promotes very dry coding. Also, you can type variables according to their traits, just as you can by Interface in Java or C#. This is truly a simple and brilliant idea. I wish we had it in C#.
  6. Super-Generics: For those who don't know, .NET offers us a pretty good implementation of generic collections. We can also make our own generic methods and generic classes. Java has a pretty poor implementation of Generics. In either case, both languages are out-classed by Scala. Scala brings the full-house of type-parametrization found in functional languages. This is well beyond what we are used to in .NET.
  7. Functions are objects: The great shock to all imperative programmers like myself comes when we discover that we can make a generic dictionary of functions, or generic stack of functions, and pass that data structure full of actual code-functions to another class as a parameter for the further processing of data. I am not talking about passing the results of one call to function in a data stack. I am talking about passing the function itself. The possibilities boggle the mind. I have seen some stunning things done with this feature, not the least of which is pretty slick compilers and interpreters.
There are many other things that intrigue me, not the least of which is the LIFT web framework. I am very excited about the notion of writing my first website in LIFT and deploying that WAR file to Glassfish or Tomcat. I think it should be damn interesting,

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Why thin-flat HDTVs are rubbish: Wall mounting never happens.

Sadly, the world is crazy for thin-flat screens. The world is crazy for thin flats because everyone seems to have bought into a bullshit ideology. Yep, that's right, I said the ideology surrounding thin-flat screens is absolute bullshit, Worse, the poppycock vendors who advance this theory know full-well they are advocating bullshit. They are fully self-conscious bullshit vendors. The bullshit they argue goes a little like this:

You shouldn't buy a DLP screen because:
  1. They are about 13 to 17 inches deep.
  2. We all live in cramp spaces these days. Most of us are urban apartment renters, and living space is precious in an 800sqft apartment. The lucky ones get to live in a nice townhome.
  3. If you wall mount a thin flat screen you will conserve living space, and you will have the most fashionable living-room presentation possible.

I have witnessed a number of friends and family members buy thin-flat LCDs for precisely this set of reasons, and not one of them has yet successfully mounted the unit upon the wall.

But... how can this be? Don't act shocked. My friends and family members are absolutely typical thin-flat buyers. They are statistically average. It turns out something like 87% of all people who buy thin-flats do so with the explicit intension of mounting the unit on the wall... and then they never follow through.

Why don't they follow through? When you witness family and friends go through this ordeal, the reasons become obvious.
  • If you buy an HDTV, you are going to need a surround receiver, a Cable or Satellite box, and Blu-Ray player {no, not a DVD player}. You might want an HD TIVO if your company doesn't provide you with a good DVR. All of these components have to live somewhere. The best and most natural place inside media-center furniture, which is naturally equipped with shelf space to house these items. This unit will take 20 inches of space. Try to find something thinner. If you don't buy into the media center, and if you don't rack your video components here, you are opening a nasty can of worms.
  • If you try to put your components in a closet, you are going to need a very good closet. Not everybody has one readily available in the family room. It better be air conditioned, because a good surround-receiver will generate plenty of heat. That heat builds up quickly in a confined, non-ventilated space. Heat kills electronic equipment.
  • You will need to run a 25 foot to 50 foot HDMI cable to carry the signal from your closet to your HDTV. Speaking of running that cable, most interior decorator, fashion designers don't like the notion of having a 50 foot cable running through the living room. I laugh at them. The alternative is to punch a hole in the wall and have a truly professional handyman run the HDMI cable to that hot closet that disables your remote controls. That is expensive. It is $3000 expensive. My friend Colin toyed with the idea of creating a false wall in front of his real wall in order to avoid this cost. The two costs turned out to be painfully similar. No free lunch folks.
  • Once the components are locked in the closet, good luck in using your favorite remote controls. Most of them are Infrared. Infrared waves do not penetrate doors and walls. I guess you can't change the channels, or raise your volume anymore. Nice!
  • Speaking of those poor urban apartment renters, good luck in getting the landlord to give you permission to punch holes in those rented walls and run HDMI cable to the closet. I have not seen one request granted yet. Owners don't like punching holes in the walls.
  • If you capitulate, give up on wall mounting, and put that thin-flat on a component rack, you have a shelf which is 18 to 20 inches deep anyhow. Guess what? You didn't save any precious living space at all. Worse, you could have easily accommodated that much larger DLP which costs much less than your much more expensive and much smaller LCD. Nice! I bet you feel smart now. You could have had 73inches of DLP for less than those 52inches of LCD.

Do you recall what I said about Panasonic and Moore's Law?

A couple of months ago, the 'intelligentsia' of the HDTV world were weaping and wailing and gnashing their teeth over Pioneer's declaration that they were quitting the HDTV business. The most decorated HDTV in the world (The Pioneer Kuro 151) was going to die. The reason? Massive losses due to a catastrophic fall-off in sales. It is not good to be the manufacturer of luxurious merchandise in a recession like this, or so they said. The cultic devotees of Pioneer chastised the public for being unwilling to pay for quality.

I went against the trend when I told you that Pioneer had been run out of the business by Panasonic. Panasonic punched them in the nose, took their lunch money, and made them cry uncle. I gave some cold comfort to the cult of Pioneer by telling them to wait 18 months, and everybody would be making HDTVs better than the Kuro 151. This prediction is based on Moore's law, and the certain knowledge that many vendors are making use of ATI & NVIDIA chips to do their video. ATI and NVIDIA are progressing much faster than Moore's law would predict.

Well, well, well, it didn't take very long for a great replacement to emerge after all did it? Right now the internet is abuzz with news of the new Panasonic TC-P50G10. It has specs which blow Kuro off the deck. is freaking out completely over this screen. I am certain that Pioneer's industrial spies were aware of this development months ago. The development of this HDTV probably factored into Pioneer's decision to quit the business.

The whole package is predicated on a 12th generation plasma panel. This panel makes use of a new phosphors. It implements a 600Hz cycle for subfields. We were at 240Hz just yesterday. The power consumption, always a serious draw back of the Plasma format, has been cut down considerably, although they do not say how much. The brightness of the image, always a serious drawback of plasma, has also been increased. This one is measured at 92 ft-Lamberts which is 315 Candela or 315 Lumins. This is not nearly as bright as the experts would have you believe. It is par for the course for an average LCD computer monitor. That is generally good enough, and comfortable for most, and more than Plasma has ever had before.

The whole package is THX certified. The color is supposed to be spot-on. It even gets the pulldowns and rescales correct. Wow... I guess that leaves nothing to be desired, if you like Plasma in the first place.

How about the price? Pretty fucking good. Contrary to some unfortunate false reports, this unit is scheduled to sell for just $1800 bucks. The price has not been jacked into the stratosphere. That is a very, very nice price point for the greatest plasma TV of all-time.

My verdict: 50 is just too small to be interesting. It is good for a small apartment or a bedroom. It does not fit my living room. I am going with the new Mitsubishi DLPs. My probable target is the new WD-82737. That is the one I want.

HDGuru on the new Panasonic

Engadget HD makes some mistakes

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I love Tiajuana. I am now caffeine free, and a recovering narcoleptic.

I took a trip to Tiajuana on Sunday April 5th, 2009.  The objective was to visit Mexican pharmacies.  The reason for visiting Mexican pharmacies is the complete lack of regulation thereof.  It is possible to buy any perscription drug without empediment in Mexico.  So what?  Why am I interested in that?

Well, the reason goes like this:  I have been falling asleep on the job lately.  Right around 3:00pm in the afternoon.  At this time I would experiance an almost uncontrollable power-failure.  I would shutdown and start to nod off.  Eatting nuts did not help.  Sipping from a honey bottle did not help.  Runing up and down the stairs at work did not help.  Gulping 250mg of Caffeine barely got the job done.  I would still feel energless and listless for hours.  Now whether you understand this or not, such a condition is actually career threatening to me.  We are in the midst of the worst recession since the great depression.  I am a well-paid programmer in a financial sector company.  Most meetings are organized in the morning.  Most code-smithing takes place in the afternoon.  I cannot shutdown and nod-off at 3:00pm.  This is totally unacceptible.  It is as if a starting quarterback in the NFL tore his rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder and couldn't pass in critical situations.  

I saw a doctor about perscription meds for this problem.  She wanted to refer me to her husband for gastric bipass surgery.  She would not perscribe anything.  It turns out her husband is out-of-network surgeon, specializing in Gastric Bipass, and he charges a ton of money for his services.  She functions as the schill, pushing customers to the big money-maker cosmetic surgeon.  After allowing this (and other) doctors to jack me around for several months, I finally decided to take the fucking bull by the balls and do it myself.

I had two drugs in mind as I drove to Tiajuana.  The first is Ritalin (Methylphenidate), a drug much-praised by my fellow programmers.  I really expected Methylphenidate to be the answer.  The other was a substance I had only recently heard of vis-a-vis jetlag.  The substance is known as Provigil (Modafinil).  I did not expect this to be the answer.  I was also hoping to get some Pramiracetam, but the Mexicans had no clue in the world what I was talking about.  It was almost hilarious watching a Mexican doctor rummage back and forth between pages in a 3 year old pharamacy book looking for Pramiracetam.  You won't find it there.  It is too new.

I could write at length about the trip down to Tiajuana.  It was a bit scarry.  It was very fun.  It was always interesting.  It was a little infuriating.  In the end, a good time was had by all, and basically got what I wanted.  I would love to go back soon, and I probably will.  I recommend it to one and to all.  It is a tourist trap, and it is a lot of fun.  Enjoy.  I especially liked the St. Louis Rams Poncho I bought for $32.  It is fantastic.

So now we come to the thesis point.  I have been caffeine-free for more than 68 hours now.  I haven't touched coffee.  No Red Bull.  No Stay Alert chewing gum.  No 5 Hour Energy.  No chocolate.  No Vivarine.  No NoDoz.  No Redline Xtreme.  No 14-Hour Energy by Nitro2Go.  No Pepsi.  No Coke.  No Mountain Dew.  No Penguine caffeine mints.  I have stayed away from all that stuff.  I don't need it anymore.  I am far more alert and far more awake than I have been here at work in several years.  I am very happy about this.

So what happened?

First, I was totally disapointed with Ritalin (Methylphenidate).  I took 10mg at 1:00pm yesterday, just after lunch.  I crashed and burned at 3:00pm just like before.  Methylphenidate had no effect on the 3:00pm power-failure I experiance.  That's right.  Ritalin is absolutely and completely ineffective against whatever I am fighting.  I was totally listless when I got home last night, inspite of 10mg of Ritalin.  I couldn't scrape my ass off the couch with a steam shovel.  I finally broke down and took 100mg of Modafinil at 6:30pm.  I didn't want to waste the evening in vegitative state.  It worked like magic.  I was awake and alive again in 20 minutes.

This brings us to Modafinil! What a surprise!  It is the perfect drug.  I took my first 200mg dose at approximately 7:30pm on Sunday whilst still in Tiajuana.  My buddy Jerry and his girlfriend were very tired (and a little drunk) after sampling a large 24oz Mexican beer.  They wanted me to drive us home, because I was sober guy.  I was tired at that point also.  We had been up early and walking around all day.  I popped the pill just after getting into the cab to ride back to the border.  Provil brough me back to a full state of lucid consciousness and alertness that was marvelous.  I drove all the way back without any problems at all.  I was totally focused.  Jerry and his girl slept most of the way home.

I took 100mg of Modafinil Monday morning. I was able to make it out of the appartment without caffeine to start my day for the first time in years. I was plenty sharp too.  I took another 100mg around 2:00pm expecting the 3:00pm crash to happen soon.  Guess what?  It never happened.  Monday afternoon was the first time in many months that I was fully awake and alive at 3:00pm.  I was ducedly lucid and sharp at 3:30pm.  It was as if I had never had any problem in the first place.  Caffeine withdrawel headaches began to kick in that afternoon.  The headache bothered me, but it didn't break my focus.

It has been more than 68 hours since I had my last 1mg dose of caffeine.  The caffeine headaches and withdrawel are almost completely gone.  The time is now 3:30pm on Wednesday and I am pretty well wide-awake.  I should not have eatten at Burger King during lunch, but I did.  This has made me a bit stuffed and woozy, but this is not the same as narcolepsy I used to experiance.

Which brings me to the ultimate point. I did some research into this wonderful Modafinil, and I found some very interesting things.  It turns out that Modafinil was developed as an anti-narcolepsy drug.  Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder (adyssomnia) characterized by overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep. The condition is most characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), in which a person experiences extreme tiredness and possibly falls asleep during the day at inappropriate times, such as at work or school.  This comes straight from

If you have read this blog, does this sound at all familiar?  Does that sound like yours truly?  What do you think?  The miraculous effect of this substance has left me seriously wondering if I am, infact, a 100% pure true-blue legitamite narcoleptic.  I am wondering if I should retain the services of a Narcolepsy specialist.   You can't hit the nail on the head any more accurately than this drug did.  You can't fix the problem any better than this drug did.  Since Modafinil is a proven Narcolepsy stopper, a guy like me just can't help but draw conclusions.  This conclusion is even sharper given Ritalin's abject failure to quell my problems.

I hate doctors. I hate the FDA.  I hate our fucking medical system.  I hate my insurance.  The system absolutely failed me.  The doctors should have been able to diagnose me as a narcoleptic.  I saw enough of them enough times.  I should not have had to drive to Tiajuana to get Modafinil.  I should not have had to discover I am a narcoleptic by myself.  I should not have been victemized by a gastric bipass schill with a financial agenda.  What the hell am I paying you filthy bastards for anyway?  I should pocket my money and dump you fuckers.  You have disapointed the hell out of me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

So how do we ensure that this doesn't happen again?

Right now the G20 is meeting in Europe.  The subject under discussion is global economic catastrophe.
  1. How did we get here?
  2. How do we get out?
  3. How do we ensure that this doesn't happen again?
Whilst the commies are beating down the doors at RBS headquarters in London, the leaders of the civilized world are discussing these three subjects.  Most import of these issues is #3:  How the hell do we ensure that this doesn't happen again.  The Euros are particularly sharp on this point.  They want a uniform framework of regulation--world wide--that will prevent the banking system from ever creating this kind of meltdown again.

I am going to surprise some conservatives who say "let come what may" but I favor these proposals.  We need some ground rules to ensure that these shenanigans do not occur again. 

1.  Insurance is insurance.  Credit default swaps and other future derivatives are forms of insurance.  They must be backed by ready reserves and Risk-Pools.

2.  Insurance companies are regulated by Federal Insurance authorities

3.  Standard & Poors as well as Moody's need to be prosecuted relentlessly and driven out of business.  Future dealers in this business should be forced to put their money where their mouth is.  If they rate bonds as double and triple-A they should be forced to buy these bonds at full market price, without any assistance, and carry them to full maturity.

4.  Income documentation needs to be supplied, tested and verified with the IRS and other sources, under pain of Criminal Fraud charges.  

5.  Standards for mortgage terms must be set, focusing on fixed rate loans, and drawing sharp limits on ARMs.  Adjustments of interest must be locked to the prime.  The formula would be Prime + X, where X is a simple integer.  In particular, Federal standards must limit ARM sales to those who can afford the full cost of the loan after adjustment, not just the teaser rate.

6.  10% or higher rates of interest should be defined as usury, period.  I am speaking of all forms of interest on all forms of loans.  We will effectively cap all types of interest at 9.999%.  Lenders will complain that this will restrict the supply of M3.  Not to worry.  That is the effect we wish to have.  We cannot allow the massive and unrestrained use of leverage we have seen in years past.

7.  Sharp limitations must be placed on Loan Origination for distribution.  No subprime or ARM loans should vendible in securitized form.  Mortgage institutions must bear the risk of subprime and explosive ARM loans, and carry them to full maturity.  Lenders will complain that nobody will offer ARM loans under such terms.  That is not a bad thing.

8.  We need new Anti-Trust laws.  The old framework is badly out of date.  Old law makers were concerned about what happens when there is just one or a few competitors in a market.  In a world-wide market, this is no longer an issue.  There is always another major competitor across the boarder somewhere.  The issue now is sheer size and scale, not competition.  Consider the Royal Bank of Scotland.  Hardly anything resembling a monopoly, RBS has a balance sheet twice the size of the British economy.  Say what...???  Yep, that is right, RBS has a balance sheet twice as large as the GDP of Great Britain.  It is not even close to being a monopoly.  There are plenty of other banks in London, not least of whom is HSBC.  This means just one non-monopoly company can sink the entire nation.  It also means that it is impossible for the British to bail out RBS.  How can you not view this information without a rising sense of alarm?  It is amazing how unsafe this condition sounds.  Can any corp be allowed to be larger and more powerful than the nation which hosts it?  Every country can and will become a banana republic under these terms.  We can no longer afford to have firms larger than nations, and--ergo--too big to fail.  The danger to the nation and to the people is too great.  Anti-Trust laws need to be crafted to limit absolute and relative size of firms.