Monday, August 31, 2009

Week 28 & 29 - 100in1001

Whew. It has been a rough couple of weeks due school getting into full swing. Without much upfront effort, I have been spending a lot of time getting ready for classes and making sure I stay up on grading. Everything has gone smoothly on the teaching end; just a couple of problems like not having keys--and thus being locked out of a classroom one night--to make things interesting. The worst part in teaching always is doing a new class due to all the prep work. If I get the chance to do it again I bet it'll be even better.

As far as progress on 100in1001 goes I've been maintaining exercising for the most part, though some of it has been outside activity (e.g. racquetball and tennis) rather than an actual workout like Pilates. One thing I've been wondering about is whether I should keep the "one scientific paper a week" thing going. I'm not sure I can really find that many interesting papers nor really have the time to read AND understand them. Will have to think on it a little more.

I finished The Inferno and I have to admit that I'm rather disappointed. I know that I'm going to get sacked, beaten, drawn and quartered by the literary crowd but that's how I feel about it. I went into it imagining a rich, vivid description of Hell. What I got was nowhere near that. Way too many required endnotes to understand what Dante was saying, too much stuff only relevant to his time and politics, and not that great of a tale really. I think the end notes were probably the hardest part to jump over for me because, due to the flipping back and forth every couple of lines, the narrative was very broken and I lost the flow. My problem is I wouldn't have understood a lot of it without them. Several end notes point out what an amazing thing he's done (like imagined the metamorphosis of two people into one when past writers had only morphed one person) that don't seem like that great of leaps. Dante also had a very high opinion of himself, another thing that turned me off. I understand there's a lot of interesting literary stuff going on and he pulls together a lot of stuff, but in the end those things did not make it entertaining to read.

I also watched Yankee Doodle Dandy to knock off another AFI film. Unlike The Inferno I was not disappointed here, but that's because I was dreading watching it. A musical (bad!) with lots of dancing (even worse!) about a guy whom I only know little about (ugh!). I imagine this film means a lot more to people from those times because they can relate to it more, but I just can't. I ended up giving it 2/5 stars on Netflix (1.5 on my site) simply due to the acting and the assumed relevance to the period. I wouldn't watch it again though.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Week 27 - 100in1001

I signed up for Netflix this week and got my first movie: Blade Runner (Final Cut). It happens to be #97 on the AFI list so good news there. The problem with it is that I didn't find the movie all that great. After watching I read up on the movie and it appears that on release it got very mixed reviews and was often cited for poor pacing. I completely agree with this assessment: it was portrayed as a type of action film but ends up being a slow drama. I, and the friends I watched it with, were sometimes confused as to what was going on (like why were they in that hotel where the scale was found?). I read up on the themes and arcs, which I found sensible, but I wasn't thinking about these things the entire time I was watching and I feel they could have been portrayed much better than came across. The question posed to Decker if he was ever mistaken and retired a human was good but the part I found the most impacting is when the soldier replicant gives his little speech and retires in the rain. His dialog there was great and I wish the movie had tried a little harder to make moments like these. I have a feeling that if I give it another try I will find it a much better film.

I also started on The Inferno by Dante. I am not very far in but I am having a bit of a hard time reading it. Not so much because it is hard to follow but because there are so many endnotes (they are almost literally half the book), almost one per line or two. At first I was reading them all but then I realized more than half of them were explaining themes or references that I already understood. I've started skipping some but I always have the urge to look because I feel like I will miss out on something important. The problem is flipping back to all these endnotes really ruins my immersion in the poem itself.

Other than that I've now completed weeks 1 and 2 of the 100 pushups challenge. Week 3 is where I stalled out last time--partially me, partially life getting in the way--so I'm looking forward to making further progress. I've also started playing more disc golf again and, despite a terrible round yesterday, I feel that I'm playing well and my drives are again starting to improve a bit. School starts in a week and I really need to get moving on getting stuff ready for my classes!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Oil vs Gas Prices

I am hoping this is still a work in progress, but I am going ahead and putting up the current results. I started this project basically because I (and everyone else) notice huge jumps upward in gas prices but not downward, and basically for no apparent reasons. So, this project is partly to see how closely tied to oil prices gas really is and second just as a programming exercise in Python and its graph capabilities. Overall it appears that, in terms of % change since 1997, gas pretty much follows oil at the high level. I started at 1997 because that is when the government sources I got the data from become consistent for both data sets. See the graph for more information and here are some simple statistics. Although the average upward changes are higher, they are not enough to be that significant. Similarly, the max upward changes are close to the max downward (which I call min change below) changes; oil's downward change even beats out the upward. Note that oil is in $/barrel and gas is cents/gallon.
  • Max oil change: 9.17
  • Min oil change: -11.85
  • Avg oil change up: 0.691491628615
  • Avg oil change down: 0.626773211568
  • Max gas change: 45.9
  • Min gas change: -33.3
  • Avg gas change up: 1.74642313546
  • Avg gas change down: 1.54368340944

To read more about the programming end see my KuhlTech blog and check out the code on my main site.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Week 24, 25 & 26 - 100in1001

Whew. No update in three weeks? For shame. I think my problem was two-fold: doing other stuff while finishing up at TIP and lack of overall progress. TIP, for some reason, really threw me for a loop this summer and prevented me from making significant progress on the list for a couple of months. TIP is now over though and I'm at my pseudo-temporary residence in KY until I concretely figure out what I want to do with myself. While I teach at NKU, I'm pondering the full-time job route, going back to grad school, and even doing something like the Peace Corps or UN Volunteers while I've still got nothing tying me down.

My serious workouts were intermittent while at TIP but I've gotten back into the swing of things here at home. Started back on the 100 push-up challenge and Pilates as well as doing chin-ups and some additional exercises. I just need to dig up my Yoga book (or get batteries in the Wii Fit) and I should be set.

I'm going through the rest of the stories in the Stevenson collection. The Suicide Club series was really good and now it's just a few standalones left, or at least as far as I can tell. I did have to skip one because it was written to show the narrator's accent, which made it a complete pain to read. It was so bad after about a page that I just decided to skip the story entirely, as sad as that is. I understand the author's want to portray the character but is it a good idea at the expense of annoying your reader? Stephenson did this in The Baroque Cycle for an Irish or Scottish character's dialogue and it bothered me there too, but I plowed through it because I couldn't just skip sections of the book or I'd quickly get lost.

I guess the last thing is that I really need to sign up for a Netflix account and get moving on my AFI 100 list. I think their prices have gone up a bit since I last looked at them, blah.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Animated DVD Menus Begone!

I've been watching a lot of movies recently as background noise and I've come to notice that one thing that is common to many really bugs me: long menu animations. It's bad enough that the "take me to the menu" button is frequently disabled during commercials and previews, but on top of this the menu is usually considered to start at the beginning of these animations. The viewer is left a captive audience of some lame montage before we get to what we care about (the movie). And by lame I mean only the intern who made it thinks it is worthwhile. Some of the worst offenders have been the Harry Potter movies, especially The Chamber of Secrets. On the positive side some movie makers who get it, like the Lord of the Rings Collector Editions. A simple panning of the table to the book whose pages show the DVD menus. Something so easy yet so hard for Hollywood to grasp it seems.