Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Crayola Mathematics

So in the 1970s a math riddle was proposed, could you create one set of directions that would get you to a finish point regardless of your starting location. Well 37 years later it was solved by a 64 year old Israel janitor/mathematician. Getting to the point and disregarding the too obvious Good Will Hunting reference, he employed a type of math called synchronized color theory.

When you sign up for a PHD level color theory class at MIT a pack of crayola is required (I recommend the 128 pack with the built in sharpener, the 256 is just obscene). Now getting back to this riddle and forgetting some of the complicated math behind it; imagine givng directions not in terms of left and right, north or south, or x and y but in colors. And, why not.

Indulge me in my MS Paint drawn diagram. No matter what point you start at if you follow the pattern"Red-Blue-Blue---Red-Blue-Blue---Red-Blue-Blue" you will end up at the yellow dot.

If you flip it, and always go "Blue-Red-Red" you will always end up at the green dot.

(you've definitely already tried to stump it)

Imagine a city plan where no matther where you are you know how to get to the hospital or to the liquor store. Pretty fucking awesome if you ask me. Forget the GPS and that gruff voice that barks out directions, all we needs is ROYGBIV.

Monday, March 24, 2008

I Just Wanted to Destory Something Beautiful

That must be the thought that constantly pervades Rupert Murdoch's stupid, megalomaniacal mind. (The title of the post, that is, in case you weren't following along.)

The New York Times, today, featured a piece about how the Wall Street Journal is changing, and "evolving" as one Murdoch flunkie so eloquently put it. Apparently the Journal is evolving into just another USA Today--but with slightly fewer graphs. The newspaper is trending towards much more political news, less business news, and shorter stories. And now they're going to heavily revamp...excuse me, evolve, the Marketplace section into lord knows what. I love the Marketplace section, it's full of random tidbits and 'soft' business news-fun stuff.

Murdoch is killing the Wall Street Journal. It's the Wall Street Journal, not the Main Street USA Journal or the Something Else That Gets Me Really Angry Journal. And what is Wall Street known for? Business. People read the Journal for its detailed business information, and if that's not what the Journal is doing, then they are moving far away from their core demographic.

Don't get me wrong, I don't love the fact that the Journal's editorial pages are horribly slanted right (actually I hate it), but that's not why I read it. The Journal's investigative techniques are top-notch and there is just so much damn information in each piece, I love it.

And now all that is going to change? What's next, the Money & Investments section turns into the Comics section? I'm telling you, the more I think about it, the more this paper isn't worth my 70% off student home subscription rate. ( if you're interested)

Read the whole article here: click the headline, pops into a new window
Published: March 24, 2008
The Wall Street Journal’s transition to more breaking news and shorter articles will include a makeover of its Marketplace section, editors and reporters there said.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Movies You Really Should Watch

I've recently been trying to compile a list of movies that you really should see before they get popular. A list of future cult classics, remember Donnie Darko, or The Big Lebowski. Maybe cult classic might not accurately describe it, more like movies that did poorly at the box office but are great films and usually do well with DVD releases or on premium movie channels, or whatever.

After about a week (month) or so of watching movies nobody's heard of and thinking that everyone should watch them, I had a thought: what if I just like bad movies? Maybe that's why they're not popular and never took off. Well, some/most of these movies have won awards (I know because I looked it up), so I figured maybe I don't like bad movies, maybe just artsy shit that's not meant for popular consumption. Well that could be true, but because you're reading this, I'm hoping we're on the same wavelength (even if just a little bit). Maybe they just had bad marketing campaigns. Regardless, I consider these films real gems that most people aren't even cognisant of. But should be. So without further adieu:

Underrated Movies You Should Watch: (clicking on the title opens the trailer in a new window)

Metropolis (1927) - Yes it's silent, yes it's black and white, but it's so good. I'm not sure if you'd call it a dystopian future, but it's a society where the "workers" and "thinkers" (read: proletariat vs the bourgeoisie) are completely separated which, needless to say, causes some problems. Brilliantly done, Fritz Lang is a genius. Watch it, it's one of my favorites. (Warning, kind of shitty trailer)

The Lives of Others (Die Leben des Andern)- Yet another German film, but much newer. It won an Academy Award last year for Best Foreign Film, and it's brilliant. It's the story of an East German Stasi agent who is assigned to monitor an intellectual. It's a an in depth look into human soul and doing the right thing blah blah blah. Brilliant cinematography and I totally got engrossed in the movie. So good. Also, the director's name is Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. And I mean you can't compete with that shit.

The Science of Sleep (La Science des rêves)- A French(ish) film screaming of surrealism depicting the trials and tribulations of a young man unwilling to accept the responsibilities of adulthood. There is actually no blue screening in this movie, and all the dream sequences were stop action and/or really done, which is amazing. Watch the trailer to understand what I'm talking about. Starring Charlotte Gainsbourgh and Gael Garcia Bernal this is a film you watch and just say awwww at the end. (I've already written about this one, so you really should have watched it)

Something The Lord Made - Finally, an American addition to the list. I actually just found out that this is an HBO made-for-TV movie, which would explain it's poor box office performance, but I really like it. Starring Alan Rickman (Snape in Harry Potter) and Mos Def, it tells the true story of the first heart bypass surgery. Great casting and a truly touching story. Bad trailer and poor quality. It was the best I could find. Sorry.

Pi - One of Darren Aronofsky's earliest movies (He's the guy that did Requiem for a Dream). Awesome and fascinating. After watching it 3 or 4 times, I've decided that it's about man's quest to understand his environment, and Pi is just a vehicle to help attain that goal. I actually first watched this movie in English class as an example of surrealism. Though I can't really qualify the movie as surrealistic or not, it's really worth watching.

Kind Hearts and Coronets - Another black and white film (did I mention that Pi was black & white too?), starring Alec Guinness (Obi Wan Kenobi) as 9 of the main characters. Seriously. Dark humor and dry wit at their finest, this movie is about one man's ascension to power. And so much more.

Titus - A true to form adaptation/modernization of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus (heads up: it's a tragedy). The main character, Titus, is played by Anthony Hopkins and is scarily good. The main bad guy, Emperor Saturnine, is played by Alan "I have a gigantic nose" Cummings, and is also brilliant. A story about loyalty, tradition, lust, betrayal, and a ton of bloodshed, (I swear I wrote this before looking at the trailer) the movie's both long and worth it.

The Triplets of Belleville (Les Triplettes de Belleville) - French, beautifully animated, mostly silent (but in color), beautiful film. Just watch the trailer.

I mean I'm sure I could put a lot more on if I put the thought/time/effort into it, but it's late, and I'm tired, ergo this is what you get.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Why is gasoline so cheap?

I was filling up my tank with premium from the Mobil station by my house for the very reasonable 3.79 a gallon and I couldn't help but hear the pratt next to me complain about the price of gasoline as he filled up his SL600 for a ride.

Sure crude will be $115 a barrel in the coming weeks and the nations average for gas is probably around $3.20 a gallon, but isn't that really cheap. Think about how much goes into getting that gas to you; expensive and dangerous drilling somewhere around the world, shipping it to a refining plant, and then shipping it halway across the globe again to a truck to deliver it to a location no doubt within a couple of miles of you.

After all this for a gallon of gas, the price to move you 20 or so miles in your own car for only a dollar more than the average rountrip metro ride for you dc folk, people complain regularly while gin continues to run me $80 dollars a gallon; and you really can't drive anywhere with a gallon of gin.

Fuck complaining about gasoline, complain about orange juice, Worcestershire Sauce, and extra virgin olive oil.

Gallon of Liquid - Price
Poland Spring - $1.99
Regular Gasoline - $3.29
2% Milk - $3.99
Tropicana Grovestand (extra pulp) - $5.99
Odwalla Mango Madness - $16.99
Starbucks Mocha Frappucinno - $34.83
Worcestershire Sauce - $47.34
Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil - $59.99
Bombay Saphire Gin - $79.99
Chateau Cheval Blanc 03' - $1,700.00
Clinique Repairware Anti Aging Makeup - $2,432.39
Burberry Touch for Men Cologne - $3,742.85
Krazy Glue - $4,005.51

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The End is Nigh?

The "Big Three" of educational TV--The Discovery Channel (and it's offshoots including the Science Channel, Discovery Health, et al.), The History Channel (and of course History International), and National Geographic ( Geo HD...)--always have those "what if" shows. Like what if New York City was hit by a huge hurricane, or Yellowstone National Park turned into a huge volcano (don't laugh, we're overdue for it), or I don't know, a mutated gigantic lizard went to Tokyo and stomped around for a while (laugh).

The thing is, all these 'disaster' specials always end up with humans continuing to you know, live, and do our thing. Suddenly all that's changed.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've seen two specials dealing with the effects of what would happen if humans completely vanished today. Or maybe tomorrow.

The first one, History Channel's Life After People originally aired January 21, 2008. The show's opening lines announce that it "isn't the story of how we might vanish, it is the story of what happens to the world we leave behind." I actually found the entire show on Google Video, so Click Here (pops) to watch it in full. Pretty cool. The show finds some pretty fascinating experts who talk about the power failing, household pets, buildings, bridges, and landmarks falling apart, and the last surviving signs of man--apparently the Hoover Dam is one of them.

The other. National Geographic's Aftermath: Population Zero, which originally aired like last night or something. Maybe two nights ago. Whatever. Problem #1: They talked entirely way too much about how after I disappear my dog will either die slowly trapped in my house, break out and join a vicious gang, or break out and be eaten by said vicious gang. Problem #2: No legitimizing scientist-types. The entire show was narrated by some quasi-legitimate narrator guy. How am I supposed to know what his qualifications are? Problem #3: No full length video to be easily found and linked to.

Overall, while I did watch both shows, and while they did keep my attention, I must say I liked the History Channel show much better. It dealt with the actual collapse of our infrastructure much better. We see why concrete doesn't last as long, how long it takes metal to rust to the point of collapse, etc. The Nat Geo show more focused on the types of wildlife that we were decimating and how they're doing much better now. Though I must say, I learned an interesting fact: the background noise from large sailing vessels' engines can actually interfere with whales' mating calls, even hundreds of miles away. Oops.

I just hope that both the History Channel and Nat Geo don't have some top secret information, and they're just showing us the not-so-distant future. Because, I mean, that would be, like, bad.

Stay tuned next week for a discussion about using your ordinary household cell phone as an emergency flotation device.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Pay it forward? Fuck that, stock up.

I dislike the idea of paying something forward. Because, what if something bad happens and nobody is there to help you out. Instead, I take the backwards approach: have a good deed surplus, so that way when something happens, you're prepared.

Take for example the events that occurred over the last 36 hours or so. It may be less, but I'm too lazy to subtract it out. Maybe it's closer to 25 hours. Whatever.

Last night, I got off of work at around 1:00am, and got back to Farragut West at around 1:30, give or take. Swiping out of the turnstile, I see two people staring at the fare machine, apparently trying to figure out how to add value to their Metro cards. If it was me, I wouldn't like being in the position, so I stopped, and walked them through the process. No big deal. It was late, they were trying to catch the next train out (like 2 minutes away), and I was in no particular rush. It must be my Connecticut upbringing. Anyway, I didn't even give the whole thing a second thought--that is, until tonight.

Big night tonight. I took the girlfriend out to eat in Georgetown at this Vietnamese restaurant. (Full disclosure: I had already eaten so I sat there and watched her.) Anyway, little did I know it, but I had left my Blackberry (yeah, yeah, I have one) sitting on the table at the restaurant. About half a block away, this guy--who clearly didn't work at the restaurant--came running up to us and asked, "Is this your phone?" Amazing! I hadn't even thought about it, and I would have never dreamed of looking at the restaurant.

I really do believe that good things do happen to good people (most of the time), and that good deeds repay each other.

So in conclusion, don't pay good deeds forward, rather, collect back-pay.

Oh and one more thing. How rude of me. Please welcome Jason as our newest full-time writer. That puts our numbers up to two. Jason's an overall great guy (even if you don't know him, you know him, you know?), and along with being a lot smarter than I am, he has some really cool insights and perspectives.

That's all for now, but be sure to stay tuned next week for: When Blondes Attack: An Introspective

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Postcards and Jason: An Introduction

I was recently mailing a postcard to a friend abroad and I began thinking about the logistics of intenational mailing and whose responsibility it is to see that my postcard of the Washington Monument filled with my banal message reaches london.

Is their an official transfer of ownership to the English Postal service and the USPS washes their hands of the situation? Are expatriate USPS postman roaming the streets of london ensuring that Suzy knows that Joan "wishes she was here?"

I asked my friendly neighborhood postal clerk Linda, and she said that for international mailings they exchange the letters at a point equidistant between the two countries, in this case somewhere over the Atlantic but she was not sure of the precie meridian. It was either that or that it would be 92 cents to mail my letter.


As you may notice I am not the usual author. I am Jason. I enjoy science and books with built in fabric bookmarks