May 20, 2009

Wolfram Alpha - Worth a Blog Post

   I don't know if you have heard of Wolfram Alpha yet. If you haven't you no doubt will. It reminds me of Hulu, the video service. When Hulu was brand new I remember thinking that, "This thing is going to take off once people know about it." And then it did. Now they have commercials. Wolfram Alpha will probably be like that but for people that want a quick answer to any question. It's not another video service at all.
   Wolfram Alpha is a new search engine. But don't think of it like another company trying to compete with Google. They are not in that kind of search business. Basically it is an information quick return system. Type in something you want to know. For instance, I typed in Methanol. At my last job we were often calculating the molecular weight of methanol based compounds. We had to look up its molecular weight all the time. Through Google you would find a list of websites with information about methanol and then open one up to find what you need. With Wolfram you don't get a list of websites. All you get is the information. It's really simple.
   What I found to be really cool was the results it returned from the query: Life, the Universe and Everything. Try it.
   Unfortunately this product is limited in its uses. There were a lot of results that it couldn't return yet. I searched, trying to be clever, WolframHart. It didn't understand. But then again it is pre-Beta.

May 19, 2009

3 Kings

   There are at this point at least 3 people that read my blog. That's pretty good in my book. One of them is my wife Stephanie.
   So, I thought I should briefly comment on the picture at the top of my page. What you are looking at is called The Three Kings. It is just outside Goblin Valley, Utah. Goblin Valley is famous for the rock formations found there. Galaxy Quest was filmed in part in Goblin Valley. It's a pretty fun place to visit because, unlike many parks, you can actually walk around and touch the rock formations.
   I think this picture really illustrates how I feel a lot of the time. Of the 3 formations the taller one seems to be slightly apart from the other 2. I imagine that this one is standing there telling the other 2 important things. These things are so important that they are the only 2 people willing to listen.

May 18, 2009

Christian Bale - Not my hero

   This one is probably going to make girls that think Christian Bale is cute upset. If you fall into that category feel free to stop reading now.
   The last 2 weekends I went to the movies. Okay, last 3 weekends. There have been some shows I've been waiting for a while to see so I went to the theater. I paid with AMEX rewards points too so I was pretty happy to get in to some of this summer's big ones for free.
   The one thing I noticed was that Christian Bale is in all the previews this summer. It kind of makes me angry too. I'm becoming a CB hater more each year. I think he is one of the most overrated actors around. What really upsets me is that he keeps taking crucial roles that don't suit his one character dead stare guy.
   When he first landed the role as the new Batman I was okay with it. Until I learned a little about him. Oddly it was from an interview on public radio. He said to the interviewer at the time, "Choosing a guy like me from Wales to play an iconic American hero like Batman is like choosing an American to play James Bond." It wasn't until he said these words that I started not liking him. It took me a long time to really think this through, years in fact, but now I understand why that made me so angry. He understood the significance of playing Batman and yet still took the role. Clearly he should have turned it down. Clearly he understood that he should have turned it down. Yet he is the new Batman.
   As far as Batman actors go he is OK. I mean, there have been worse, but there have also been better. One big problem I have seen, and I know some people agree with this, is his Batman voice. It's really silly and quite distracting. I think he was going for a Michael Keaton "I'm Batman" thing. It just doesn't work. He is no Michael Keaton. Honestly, he is no Adam West. Though Adam West played the campy Batman (possibly giving the word "campy" a popular place in our lexicon) he had a charm that CB doesn't.
   Okay, so I am a little upset that he plays Batman. Fine. I can learn to live with it. I realized that this run of Batman movies isn't really about Batman. I mean, Heath Ledger was the star of the show last time. The time before that may have been Liam Neeson. Disagree if you like Christian Bale in both movies had the benefit of working around actors with way more talent and charisma than he owns. He looks good a lot by association.
   Then there are the old time movies. Have you seen the preview of the one with Johnny Depp? It looks pretty good, until you see the scenes where CB is playing the same character he played in The Prestige. I think the movie I am referring to is Public Enemies. From the few seconds he is on screen in the preview I can tell he is just doing the same old thing. He has the same look on his face. He seems to only be able to express harshness on his face effectively.
   Then there is the new Terminator flick. I can't believe they wanted him to play grown up John Connor. I just can't understand how someone thought, "Hey you know who would make a good John Connor? Christian Bale." How is that stony face of his going to convey the child we all grew up with? Especially now that we have an amazing characterization in Thomas Dekker? Dekker has range and expression that CB doesn't. In one look he can show disappointment and hope. Dekker in my view is John Connor.
   So, I was most likely going to see Terminator this summer. Now I don't really want to.
   So, there is my first really bad rant. I didn't get a blog to rant about stuff. I just can't help myself on this topic. It's not that I don't want to ever see CB in a movie. He is a good actor in some roles. Honestly, I just don't think he deserves to play 2 American heroes of the big screen. Who knows, maybe they'll make him the new more hardcore Superman.

May 15, 2009

Copy Editing

   I know that title is really boring. It's just what I have been doing all week. It's been my number 1 focus. For anyone who might be reading this and doesn't know, I have been writing a screenplay for the last 8 months now. Now that I am getting really close to feeling like it is complete I have to fix all the terrible errors in it that bother the average reader. In short I have to copy edit it.
   To copy edit, at least in news print, is to remove any grammatical errors, spelling errors or just confusing language that many writers are prone to using. I know that almost everyone who loves to read thinks that when they read someones words they get insight into that person, that author. The truth is that you get insight into a lot of people. Very few published works ever make it to publication without many levels of editing by various people.
   In my case there are really only a few levels. First off there is me. I write the original material, for better or for worse. Then I pass what I have onto my readers (who shall remain unnamed until publication time, upon which they will get lavish thanks from me). The readers do just that, read. In some cases they read it over and over again. Then they give feedback. I ask my readers to look for parts that don't work and parts that work really well. In the end I am telling a story about characters and I want to know how those characters are being received by a reader, despite the fact that this is a screenplay that, if published, will have the characters interpreted for the average viewer by talented actors.
   Once I have some feedback I toss things around in my head and rewrite the areas that need additions or subtractions. In one case it turned out to be about a third of what I had written that was tossed aside. After the rewrite that section felt better to me and to my readers.
   So, after repeating the process over and over I come to a nearly complete story. However complete the story is the words themselves are still occasionally jumbled and clumsy. So begins the copy editing process.
   Normally a copy editor would be employed by a publisher to help the author smooth out the rough edges. In my case I am too poor and untrusting so I do most of it myself. The problem with a writer copy editing their own material is that they tend to miss most of the errors. So, in order to do it properly they have to do it many more times that someone else would have to. You see a writer tends to know what they are reading and their brain will often fill in the gaps when there is a word misspelled.
   For example: I wrote one line that went kind of like, "He rubs his eyes." Only I really wrote, "He subs his eyes." A spell checker program can't get this. I didn't misspell anything. The grammar is close enough to correct that the grammar checker can't find the mistake either. But any human reading it could, except the writer. I already know in my subconscious what this word is supposed to be, so when I read it I don't notice the mistake. I must have read this passage 3 times before I saw the word "subs".
   The thing I am trying to illustrate here is that we often have problems self correcting. I think that is why in our early years we have parents and older brothers and sisters. They can see our errors more clearly than we can so we can then correct them, if we are willing, and become better at interacting with others.
   Of course this whole time I was talking about relating to people.
   I realized last night that even now I am really slow at picking up on stupid things I do. Sometimes I say things as an adult that are really dumb. The sad thing is that there is no correcting the words after they leave your mouth. There are 2 correcting principles I have noticed over the years though.
   The first thing I learned as a teenager. When I was young I often said really stupid and embarrassing things. So many times I thought people would never talk to me again because of things I said. Not insulting things but things that just showed my ignorance and childishness. I think at some point we all do some of this.
   The weird thing is that people don't seem to react the way I thought they would as a teenager, that they would never want to associate with me again. Most people ignore or forget those things. The only people that really remember the stupid or embarrassing things you do are your friends. They bring them up once in a while for a laugh, not really to hurt your feelings. Everyone else seems to just forget. It makes those moments livable.
   The second principle is forgiveness coupled with apology. Every once in a while we say really stupid things that hurt others unintentionally. Apology and forgiveness is something I am sure we are all familiar with. This too, makes life livable.
   Unfortunately we cannot always edit our words or actions. Luckily there are other things working in our favor that make it not as bad as it might be.