12/19/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Movies

Link: http://www.apple.com/trailers/sony_pictures/mirrormask.html

Dena and I own most of the set of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, and I'm a tremendous fan of the old Henson movies Labyrinth and Dark Crystal, so we were terribly intrigued at the thought of a new movie with a Neil Gaiman story and the Henson crew producing.

So we went to see it at the Uptown, where it is currently playing at noon on weekends (it should be playing at the big theaters, dagnabbit - then again, we've seen the Uptown play movies before the big theaters pick it up as well - I think that's what happened with Triplets of Belleville.)

What a freaking treat the movie turned out to be!

It follows a girl whose parents are trying to keep their circus afloat, and she's utterly bone-tired of it. Something profound happens (I really can't spoil it here - it's interestingly done) which puts things in jeopardy. Late at night, in an interesting and somewhat horrible scene, she enters a dreamland... of sorts.

The dreamland is fantastic. It's somewhat steeped in sepia tone, and it has a strange old-time movie quality to it. I don't know quite what to compare this style or fantasy world to. The characters are great (the cast is surprisingly small - many people are listed with multiple characters), the mythology, in typical Neil Gaiman style, is interesting, self-consistent, and gives us very human motivations even in the fantastic.

My jaw dropped and I blinked intensely a number of times in the movie. It was just so... different, on top of being a really good story. Things like needing nets in various places of the library and how to fend off very human-faced, menacing cats. I mean, it works, but what the hell? :)

Fired up our imaginations for hours later, too. The twists and periodic urgency in the plot were magnificently done. Took a lot of Christmas shopping to calm me down after that.

I highly recommend it, especially if you've ever enjoyed well-written escapist movies like Time Bandits or Labyrinth. This is definitely going into my collection when it comes out on DVD.


Dealing with an insecure coworker...

12/13/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Ramblings

You know, not long ago I would have thought it utterly likely that this would have been a rant. But no.

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Weighing In On Intelligent Design On The Radio

12/13/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Religion, Science

I was reading an interesting news article summarizing the life and times of Mirecki, the professor at the center of a firestorm in Kansas where he was to teach a class talking about mythologies including Intelligent Design, had to drop the course and resign his post as head of Religious Studies after someone published some of his postings on an atheist Yahoo group, and then got beaten by two men tailing him when he stepped out of his car wondering if someone was coming to tell him he had something wrong with his car.

In the comments section is an invitation by Justin Beck of RadioProject.org to send comments re: Intelligent Design for use in a syndicated radio show. Following is the call for thoughts, reproduced without permission:

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Won Something Small

12/12/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Announcements [A]

If you keep entering contests, you're bound to win something else :)

Ritchie - I’m writing to tell you that you won yesterday’s quip contest. Congratulations! You are a funny guy.

You should be receiving a free Quip It! game and two magnetic Quip It! frames for your photos- one for you and one for a friend. Please continue to enter your quips at www.quipitgame.com and remember to send the link to your friends, co-workers and family, as well. Whoever has the most winning quips by the end of the promotion wins a trip for two to see Conan O’Brien in New York.
Again, thanks for your participation!

Team Quip It!


Dang it, though, I won it for what I thought was my weakest quip :)

UPDATE: Three days later and the game actually just arrived at the door. Holy crap :)


Finding Botanical Gardens

12/11/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Attractions, Gardening

Link: http://www.bgci.org.uk/

Just a quickie link here to a page that lets you track down most botanical gardens worldwide. I was trying to track down some botanical gardens for my parents (currently in Qatar) to visit, and was a little surprised that Qatar had no such things - at least not public ones :)

It's a pretty good database of them. They've got our Calgary Zoo ones, the Entebbe gardens in Uganda that I was surprised to read about a while ago, and numerous other ones. So if you're looking for some gardens in your travels, stop by the Botanic Gardens Conservation International site first!


What Is Computer Programming?

12/11/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Programming

While I was chatting away in World of Warcraft, while I was on one of the interminable transport rides, someone asked exactly what computer programming was all about. It was an intriguing question to try to answer in a non-trite manner.

So, before my thoughts on it disappear, I thought I might just answer the question for all.

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Coca Cola Zero

12/10/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Low-Carb

Now, regular Diet Coke is gross. It's just... gross. So when I started seeing some Splenda-based Pepsi products and the like south of the border, I got kinda excited.

Then I see Coca Cola Zero show up here, and the sweetener is... aspartame!??

I was agog. I thought they had just pulled a rename of Diet Coke. Well, recently, I decided to try a 591 mL experiment of the stuff.

You know what? It didn't totally suck. Still a little bit of that chewed chewing gum aftertaste, but nothing close to what Diet Coke has.

Aspartame is just a dipeptide - but it's unstable at high temperatures and may break down slowly at low temperatures. I'm pretty sure the usual nasty taste is from breakdown products.

Which leads me to wonder, what with Minute Maid Light and a few other non-sucky aspartame drinks, have they finally figured out how to stabilize aspartame so that it doesn't break down?


History of the Neoconservatives

12/07/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Politics

In following my typical spider-web of links when I get going on a reading spree, I came across a link to a pretty interesting article in Reason Magazine. Give it a read-see. You can skip a lot, but do not miss the Irving Kristol quotes.

I've read a lot of rants directed at the neocons, but this was one of the more interesting. It lays the foundation of neoconservative thinking as (perhaps ironically, in some cases) an intellectual aristocracy. In the words of Irving Kristol, the "godfather of neoconservatism",

Kristol adds that "Strauss was an intellectual aristocrat who thought that the truth could make some [emphasis Kristol's] minds free, but he was convinced that there was an inherent conflict between philosophic truth and political order, and that the popularization and vulgarization of these truths might import unease, turmoil and the release of popular passions hitherto held in check by tradition and religion with utterly unpredictable, but mostly negative, consequences."

Kristol agrees with this view.

The implication of all this is that the neoconservatives "know the truth", but wish a 'lesser truth' that keeps social order to keep the rest of the populace in line.

This might explain such odd little episodes as members of the current US neoconservative cabal going off to "bible camp", yet being unable to answer questions on what they supposedly studied when they came back from their little retreat. Not to mention the barely-concealed disdain for others and the seemingly limitless capacity for bending the truth, since there's already a "truth for us and a truth for you" built into the philosophy.

There are some interesting pieces in the article that point to why evolution is such a big target for these folks and their friends.

I may occasionally be cynical about peoples' smarts, but I've got nothing in that sphere compared to these guys.

A lot of what they say makes a creepy kind of sense, if you think of the population the way they do.

It's utterly antithetical to my own thoughts, though. I hope the rocks their secrets are hiding under keep getting overturned.


Electronics Kits

12/04/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Science

Ever since realizing that they have brought back those however-many-in-one electronics kits, and realizing that I totally missed out on the experience as a child, and that perhaps I could finally understand what the hell Keith is talking about when he talks about op amps and stuff like that, I've been focused on getting one of those kits.

I will wait until Christmas, but quite frankly, if I don't get one as a present, I'm going out to the stores and getting one myself :)

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I Hate Concrete Dividers

12/04/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Common Sense

Just realized something today. The only two accidents I've been in of any note, both of them involved concrete dividers.

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Wacom Graphire 4 Graphics Tablet

12/01/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Toys

Link: http://www.wacom.com/graphire/4x5.cfm

Okay, it's a piece of hardware, but in many ways, it is totally a toy. Running around Christmas shopping, it can be utterly tempting to give yourself a Christmas present. Well, I succumbed :)

I picked up a Wacom Graphire[4] Graphics Tablet. I've always been frustrated with the ever-present mouse when it comes to doodling and the like on computers. I just can't get mice to work for painting.

So what do you get?

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Honeymoon Destinations

11/29/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Travel

We didn't get a honeymoon after our wedding - being in the middle of a teaching year. We got a little getaway at the Sheraton Cavalier right after the wedding, spoiling ourselves with a giant jacuzzi bath and the like for two days. We need a real honeymoon, though. We plan to have children relatively soon, so a 'big blowout' before this event sounds absolutely fantastic.

There are so many places we could go. We could go back to Europe, we could go to the orient (Dena taught in South Korea and I went on a student exchange to China once upon a time), but what has been really drawing us is Africa.

There are two things we're looking for in addition to the regular safari experience. We are looking to see gorillas, and we're looking to see Zanzibar. One outfit that looks interesting and still affordable is Kumuka. A coworker of mine did a Europe and Egypt tour through them and really enjoyed himself. The ultimate tour that's drawing us is this one - 35 freaking days. I, uh, have a lot of holidays built up :) Might be cutting things close with travel time, though, so we may have to check out other options.

I'll have to start brushing up on my Swahili. I only remember how to say "hello" (Jambo), "thanks" (Tafadhali) and "I have eaten all your children at home" (Mekula watoto wote nyumbani).

Comment by Adam:

Go for the 35 day tour. It may be the most enjoyable $3000US you get to spend in a very long time. If you do, I'll be most envious. Hmm, maybe I'll mortgage my house again and join you... :)

Comment by Ritchie:

That's $3000 EACH, and it doesn't include airfare, but it could still be a vacation we truly owe ourselves. I think it's about $2800 for two people round trip to Nairobi as well. Could get a car instead. But we'll likely not be able to do something like this ever again.

I'm got an East Africa guide from Lonely Planet. I think I'll check out the outfits there as well, though it's hard to see how the safaris can get a lot cheaper than that based on what I've seen so far. You never know, though. I think even Kumuka is based in the UK, so they have that bit of overhead. Another interesting UK outfit is Dragoman Overland (http://www.dragoman.com/search/tripresults.php?where=G&start=10)... they're the one that has things like the half-YEAR trips.

We'll see :)



11/28/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Religion

Okay, this is going to be controversial.

I don't know what sort of disclaimer I can offer other than to say this is about me. They're my views, and even if you disagree vehemently with them, you may be able to see, at least, where they come from.

Diving in...

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Survival : Julie E Czerneda

11/21/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Books, Fiction

I'm a science fiction afficionado of sorts, but I must say, my collection is not that big. Out of the reams of books on shelves, it can take a considerable while to sort out the wheat from the chaff. Also, good fiction keeps me awake until dawn reading it, which is not always good!

I usually go with authors I have read previously, like Vernor Vinge or Robert Charles Wilson, but my favourite authors only write so fast.

So I took my birthday present gift card from Dena and spent some time looking at the summaries and flipping through pages to get a sense of author's styles. Julie E. Czerneda's "Survival" was one of the two I chose. I was very pleasantly surprised.

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Button Quails Now Call Here Home

11/21/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Announcements [A]

We added to our menagerie this weekend with a pair of button quails. We've been enamoured of these little critters for probably a couple of years. I've only ever seen them at Pisces Pet Emporium in town (they have some great store pets as well, including marmosets and goodly-sized koi, and they're a great source for different aquarium plants).

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