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  1. rambo

    May 19, 2007 by Saar Drimer

    Last night I happened to watch Rambo: First Blood. Of course, this is not the first time I’ve seen it, but it has been a while. The cruelty these vets suffered from the population upon their return always struck a chord with me. For the record, Rambo I is a good movie; it has what we would call today “moderate violence” and a decent message and dialog (unlike its successors). I dare say that even the acting was good. These were the times where they (Hollywood) had to produce a good script because they couldn’t distract the audience with visual effects like they do today.

    Anyway, I remembered that as a child and young teenager, I was convinced that the Vietnam War was invented by the movie industry as a ruse to produce war movies. I think I had the notion of this “fake” war because I only heard about it in the movies. Then I grew up and found out the sad truth. In Israel, they didn’t teach us about these wars; we had plenty of our own.

  2. children of men

    October 4, 2006 by Saar Drimer

    While the idea of a world without children appeals to me, I can recognize the tragedy of such a world. Children of men is a movie set in one such world (adapted, loosely I am lead to understand, from a similarly titled book by P.D. James.) This is one of those rare movies that I recommend without hesitation… “just go see it,” I say, since anything I add will detract from the experience. I have not seen the trailer before the movie, but if you do, I think it does not do the movie justice.

    Just go see it!

    Incidentally, the movie opened here in the UK a few weeks ago, but apparently will only open in the US on December 25th. So, you US folk have something to look forward to aside from seeing the awesome Bad Santa on some premium channel.

  3. quest for the muffin

    July 26, 2006 by Saar Drimer

    food machineA food vending machine, similar to the one on the right, was recently installed in the lab. It’s been giving us some trouble lately. Mostly the common failure mechanism of not supplying goods despite cash. The trouble is with the sliding door. A special—undocumented, mind you—procedure needs to be followed in order to get goods.

    1. position tray to desired item.
    2. insert cash.
    3. slide door until stuck and release (it does not open all the way; this is to indicate to the machine which item you chose so two or more doors could not be opened simultaneously.)
    4. slide door open again.
    5. get item.
    6. enjoy crappy food specially designed for graduate students with no life who need them to survive at night.

    I asked Robert Watson (who was already home) though our irc channel if the machine is “safe.” He replied that it was wholly functioning earlier today. Knowing this, I ventured to get a muffin with confidence. I came back with a muffin but still screwed out of cash. I posed the riddle to Robert:

    21:38 < rwatson> saar: so something that results in you getting screwed, yet still getting the muffin.

    21:38 < saar> rwatson: yes. and it only involves the machine, not other people ;)

    Can you guess what happened? It’s a tough one.

    I only had one gigantic 2 GBP coin and I inserted it into the machine. Following the procedure above, I also got my double chocolate muffin. Happily, I was futzing around with the sliding door to examine its spring rigidity and the option of invading another compartment ;) Little did I know that since I had a 1.2 GBP credit, the machine charged me 80p AGAIN! So, I payed for that damn, unhealthy, fatty muffin TWICE!

    Clearly a design error (NOT user.) I think I’m going on an 80p rampage a la Payback!

  4. the greatest movie EVER is nearly here!

    July 16, 2006 by Saar Drimer

    miami viceYes, I’m talking about Miami Vice! The best actors of Hollywood team up to give us a thrilling ride, full of depth and introspection. We’re going to get a rare glimpse into the lives of the people who make this world safe (it’s based on a true story, the original Miami Vice TV series.)

    Some notable quotes:

    Foxx: There’s “undercover” and then there’s “which way is up.”
    Ferrell: You think I’m in so deep, I forgot?
    Foxx: I never doubted you.


    Chief: Things get emotional, moves get messy; moves get messy and the wrong people die!

    Deep stuff! I’m SO going to see it!

    (OK, so I think I’m going to have some trouble getting someone to come see this with me, if there are any volunteers out there, let me know; we can negotiate how much I pay for your ticket ;)


    July 5, 2006 by Saar Drimer

    bidthegridA good friend, Nir, has sent me a link to a website he’s been working hard to make and promote: BidTheGrid. He launched it less than two weeks ago and it looks like people are showing interest. The idea is interesting and site is well done… but after my last poor attempt at making predictions for the success of such internet fads, I’ll end with wishing him good luck.

  6. skype things

    June 1, 2006 by Saar Drimer

    Skype’s great; no need to deliberate on that any further.

    Yet, skype developers, I have one major issue, one minor and one feature request.

    Major: once I grant other users the privilege to see my “online status,” I can not revoke it. Ever (for that UID.) I may remove them from my contacts, or even block them, but they can still see me. That bothers me. I’m not sure what’s going under the hood, but it would make me feel better if I can revoke the permission. Anyone of us can easily think up scenarios why this would be desirable.

    Minor: There is no need to show how many contacts I have as part of my profile. It is permissible to have no other info than the UID on one’s profile but this piece of (private) info always appears. Easy fix.

    Request: I’d like to assign different “online status” to different users instead of a common one for everyone. Some people, I wouldn’t mind bothering me anytime, some I’d like to be invisible forever :) This will also help with my first concern above. It can probably be done through grouping; even two groups will suffice.

    There you have it.

  7. new Broadway musical… “Putting Hardware Together”

    April 22, 2006 by Saar Drimer

    I enjoy Billy Joel’s music. There, I said it in public. I used to be too cool to admit it, but no longer. I liked Joel’s schmaltz as a teenager before I graduated to heavier stuff, so it always reminds me of those years. But seriously, I still enjoy his music today in moderate doses.

    movin' outMy parents, brother and his girlfriend were here and we went to see the “Movin’ Out” musical from Broadway that is now showing in London. There’s a band on a moving platform, a singer who’s no real match to Joel and a bunch of dancers on stage. You can see it’s a major production, but there wasn’t much substance there; some key hits were glaringly missing too. It had a loose story connecting the dance segments (Brenda and Eddy from “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” fame) with Love, war, betrayal… the usual story, portrayed though the lyrics and dance. What can I say? That just doesn’t touch me; I just can’t seem to appreciate this stuff. All I can think of is that engineers are just as talented as these dancers, but no one is buying tickets to watch them work, or clap, or give a standing ovation. I just wish. Somehow “Live FPGA verilog coding” show on Broadway wouldn’t survive more than 10 weeks :)

    Well, “Brenda” was quite pleasing to look at, so that was a plus. However, there were two soft-porn themed segments that were a little over the top to my taste. But “I’ve let it slide” while noticing that one of those segments was during “Captain Jack” with this verse cut out:

    Your sister’s gone out, she’s on a date
    And you just sit at home and masturbate
    Your phone is gonna ring soon, but you just can’t wait
    For that call, hmm

    So you stand on the corner in your new English clothes
    And you look so polished from your hair down to your toes
    Oh, but still your finger’s gonna pick your nose
    After all, hmm

    Hmmm, indeed! Mostly naked women molested on stage, and singing about masturbation and nose picking is just too much to handle. OK.

  8. scientology=hollywood

    March 19, 2006 by Saar Drimer

    It’s all over the place; the aftermath of “Trapped in the closet” South Park episode (view here.) Links to get up-to-date on this incredibly logical and attractive cult: scientology, operation clambake, evil Xenu, costs and illustrated history of scientology [PDF].

    I’ve spent a few hours reading into this bad joke (actually, a joke would be a compliment) and it occurred to me that there are a lot of similarities between its ways and hollywood.

    – Scientology (S): First 6 months free without giving you any of the details… these are only revealed piecemeal as you pay to go through the ranks. Preconditioning.
    – Hollywood (H): The trailer.

    – S: Large sums required to get in the know, only to find out it’s utter crap ($360K, to be exact.)
    – H: The movie.

    – S: The shittiest plot ever. Come on! DC-8’s with jet engines? In space?
    – H: Doesn’t need explanation.

    – S: Congregation of rich people who think that they are the best thing that ever happened to this world/universe/man-kind.
    – H: The Oscars.

    – S: Out of touch with reality.
    – H: Well, hollywood.

    Now, I ask you, is it any surprise that the feeble minded hollywood folk are buying into this? Literally, they are spending their easily earned money on this Xenu story. Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, the creator of this establishment said in 1940, “Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.” THEY STILL PAY UP!

  9. Book review: Cryptonomicon

    February 26, 2006 by Saar Drimer

    CryptonomiconCryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

    When I mentioned to a friend that I’m reading Cryptonomicon, he asked “what took you so long?” Good question; I was offered the book twice before and refused. Why? It’s too damn long. 900 page. Being a slow reader (~225wpm, I’m working on it, btw) I shy away from these long books because I know it will take me ages to finish them, if ever. This problem also makes me think very hard before committing to a book, so I basically need to know it’s good before I read it. It’s really hard for authors to get into “Saar’s book club” (unlike Oprah, I do my research…) For example, Michael Crichton has been accepted to the club long ago (but he’s on probation now because too many of his books were made into Hollywood movies and his latest ones seem to be solely written for that purpose.)

    All of this is a long winded excuse for not listening to JJ and HS and grabbing this book earlier. It called to me from the library shelves of my designated college here in Cambridge (Darwin), so in a moment of determination I checked it out. It’s fantastic. It’s been a week of low productivity and long nights trying to finish the book and I enjoyed every minute of it. I needed to get back to my “regular” schedule so today I had a reading marathon and I’m done.

    It’s been a long time since a book occupied my mind even when I was not reading it; it’s one of those books that make you want to go home early, make some tea and read for hours. I won’t give a description of the book because I can say without reservation “just read it!”

    SaarStars: 4.5/5
    (Half a point dinged for the length and the unanswered questions left open despite it!)

    P.S: Stephenson has written a prequel trilogy called “The Baroque Cycle” that takes place in the 17th and 18th centuries with the ancestors of the characters in Cryptonomicon. Each one of those is 900 pages long; I shouldn’t get near that library if I want to finish my PhD on time :)

    P.S.2: I do realize that this is not a proper review, more like an order to go read a book. But, most of you know me and my style, so based on that and other reviews, you can make up your mind.

  10. King Kong of utter boredom

    January 2, 2006 by Saar Drimer

    Since it got some decent reviews, I went and saw King Kong. I expect very little intellectual stimulation from Hollywood; However, I do anticipate some entertainment. This movie provided neither. It’s a 3 hour boring, sleepy experience in 3 acts… 1) get to secret island 2) stun and haul KK to NYC and 3) Kill KK… each phase taking about an hour. Yawn.

    I heard a guy on TV say that “King Kong is the state of the art in special effects at the end of 2005.” And here lies the problem. I first realized it while reading Maddox‘ insight on Star Wars III:

    NEWS FLASH: Episode III had no special effects.

    They’re not “special effects” anymore when they’re found in EVERY SCENE. Lucas has done the seemingly impossible: he has made something that was once so unique that people called it “special” by name, and turned it into something so ordinary that nobody raises an eyebrow during a scene where a guy is having a sword fight on the back of a giant beast.

    Fact is, there is no more “special” in “special effects.” What used to “wow” us and covered up for crap storyline and bad acting is over. King Kong is the ultimate example since the CGI is the story here, not anything else. They had 3 hours of good CGI and they stretched the story thin to accommodate it. The b-level actors didn’t help either. Hollywood is busy blaming everybody else for their losses except themselves for producing crap, but now the “special” well has dried up too.

    I’ve learned another important thing from this movie: people run as fast as giant apes and dinosaurs. The movie accurately shows, in many a scene, that this has to be true. The scientific community is taking note.