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Paul Nicholson
Nashvegas TN
Digital Marketing Manager at HealthTrust. Social media junkie, strategist, and app idea guy. Hockey fan, photographer, and father to 2 awesome boys.

(Opinions expressed here are not those of my employer. Heck, they might not even be mine.)
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Thursday, November 30, 2006

geothermal projects

Just a quick note about a new project in the projects. A public housing project in East Nashville (our 'hood) has been selected to be a pilot for a new system for using geothermal energy to assist in heating/cooling the units.

However, I wouldn't look to the article about it on the Tennessean's website as a source of helpful information though. Among my favorite quotes: "Geothermal energy generates power by using the ground as an energy source." There are so many things wrong with that statement it's hard to break it down. If someone has figured out how to turn actual dirt into electricity, please, let me invest in that company now.

First, "geothermal energy" is just the heat energy that comes from radioactive and other processes deep within the Earth's core. Basically, the Earth is a big heated blanket.

Second, "geothermal power" refers to using geothermal energy to generate power. It takes the heat out of the ground (not the ground itself) and uses it to create steam to drive turbines which generate electricity. Unless the housing authority is going to build a small but very expensive geothermal power plant in East Nashville, i doubt very seriously this is what is going down in the 'hood.

I think what they are really doing is geothermal heating. That is, using the heat in the ground to make the normal, electric-powered heating and cooling of the building and water supply more efficient. It basically involves running pipes into the ground to heat water, and use that heated water to help pre-heat air and water before going through the normal air conditioning and water heaters.

Anyway, i don't want this to degenerate into another article bashing bad reporting and fact-checking. It is meant to be a post about the cool new project itself. It really is great that they are using these new technologies to make the projects more efficient. Saving taxpayers money, and helping show the viability of these "green" resources for use by others.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

chess blunder

A friend of mine at work just pointed this out. Vladimir Kramnik, currently the number one chess player in the world, is playing the current top chess-playing computer, Deep Fritz. During the second game of the match, Kramnik apparently has made a huge mistake. He had an opportunity to "mate in one", in other words, his next move could have been checkmate. Instead, he made the wrong play and allowed the computer to battle back and win. After drawing the first game that put him down 1.5-0.5. This was so big, it has already been documented on Wikipedia as a classic blunder.

Several chess experts are calling it the "blunder of the century". As my friend put it, this is the equivalent of Michael Jordan missing an unguarded layup to win game 2 of the finals.

At the very least, i guess Kramnik won't be accused of doping if he tries to go to the upcoming Asian games. They just announced they will be testing chess players in the new chess tournament, along with all other athletes.

Monday, November 27, 2006

root root root for the home team

Tonight my wife and i were talking about the clappers that the Predators just handed out at a home game last week. We weren't at the game, but from what i understand, it was insanely loud. Painfully, annoyingly loud.

Christy made some comment about the HOP (the corporate sponsor-less "Home Of the Predators") being the loudest arena in the league. I was a little harsh and kidded her that she is new to being a sports fan and didn't know that everyone makes that claim (i'm really sorry about that sweetheart). But that got me wondering just how many places do make that claim...

Here is but a small sampling:
Delta Center (Utah Jazz) "[The MCI Center] isn't nose-bleed steep like Delta Center in Utah, which, not coincidentally, is the loudest arena in the NBA..."

Arco Arena (Sacramento Kings) "Sacramento has a league-best streak of 317 sellouts at Arco Arena, which has been the loudest arena in the league..."

HP Pavilion (San Jose Sharks) "They say San Jose is the loudest arena in the NHL..."

Bell Center (Montreal Canadeans) "...in the Bell Center where Montreal could get a great boost from the noisiest crowd in the NHL..."

The RBC (Carolina Hurricanes) "...after Ray Whitney's second goal in game two the level was measured at 134 at the RBC even with all the millions of Sabre fans in the building. Say what you want but it is the loudest arena in the NHL..."

Cleveland Coliseum (Cleveland Cavs) "Michael Jordan has said that the Cleveland Coliseum is the loudest arena in the NBA"

So...that is obviously not a scientific sampling. But gives you some idea.

I can personally vouch that while you are there, the Spurs claim that the SBC Center is the loudest. Everyone still brags that the old Hemisfair Arena was louder still (no one said that the Alamo Dome was loudest, even though it had the largest seating capacity at the time...something about a massive velvet curtain tends to damping things a bit).

Point being, for the home team, home is always best. Those few souls who are impartial and actually get to visit multiple arenas (national broadcasters, etc) tend to play along and say that wherever they are, that it is the loudest they've ever heard. Of course, Bill Walton (apparently having an extremely short memory) always thinks everything he is experiencing at that moment is the best in history: "That dunk by bench player Ian McFarlin was the most amazing I've ever seen!". At the very least, he will compare to some historic figure before: "Ryan Hollins is the best rookie center to come into the league since Patrick Ewing"

Anyway...
We've got spirit, how 'bout you?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

better late than never...

Raking half an acre of leafs sucks.

Just an FYI.

blogging

I am beginning to understand why some bloggers do the "which LOTR character am i?" blog entries. They are filler. There are days (and days in a row) where i want to post, there are things to post about, but i am just too lazy.

But here's a quick synopsis:
1) I think this is stupid.
2) I think this is frustrating, but almost funny.
3) My fantasy basketball ("Spurs") and hockey ("Predators") teams are doing nearly as well as their real-world counterparts. It helps when i stock my fantasy teams with players from my real-world favorites. I'm in second place in basketball after two weeks, and have climbed from last (8th) to 4th over the past few weeks in hockey.

Of course, i'll also throw out there that one of the reasons i've been unmotivated to post, is that i'm doing tons of other things online and on the computer right now, so after a while i just have to get up. I've been moving all of my (and my customers) websites over to a new host, and creating a new websites. More on that later...

End of line.

Friday, November 24, 2006

soundtrack to the next 2 hours

My sister just did this on her blog. Normally i steer away from these things, but this one seemed fun. So here it goes...

SOUNDTRACK TO MY LIFE:
Here's how it works:
1. Open your library (iTunes, Rhapsody, Winamp, Media Player, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, For the first 16 songs, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button Write them down.
6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool...
(note: My Rhapsody playlist has 983 songs at the moment and is 2.9 days long)
(note: If you want to see what the "stages of life" were supposed to be you can hit my sisters blog, but i just decided to make this what it really is - 16 random songs from my playlist. The correlations to "stages of life" just turned out boring anyway.)


The Sounds, Much Too Long, Dying To Say This to You
James Horner, Too Many Secrets, Sneakers (Score)
A-Ha, The Sun Always Shines on TV, Hunting High and Low
Ratatat, Cherry, Ratatat
The Golden Sounds, Up and Away, Wings or Horns
Relient K, Let It All Out, Mmhmm
Robbie Williams, Bongo Bong, Rudebox
Stevie Wonder, Higher Ground, Innervisions
The Beach Boys, Good Vibrations, Smiley Smile
The Mosquitos, Juju & Blue, Mosquitos
Telepopmusik, Breathe, Genetic World
Switchfoot, I Turn Everything Over, New Way To Be Human
Donald O'Conner, Make 'Em Laugh, Singin' In The Rain (Soundtrack)
Natasha Bedingfield, Unwritten, Unwritten
Death Cab For Cutie, Someday You Will Be Loved, Plans
Wax Poetic, Della, Nublu Sessions
Annie, No Easy Love, Anniemal

Thursday, November 23, 2006

game notes

A few random sports thoughts and notes on this Thanksgiving, the best of all American sports holidays.

1) I understand where the NBA is coming from with their new "low tolerance" policy on arguing with the refs. The referees had gotten so bad, and the players so whiny, that every single call (or no-call) was followed by 15-30 seconds of a player filling the refs ear. I can't imagine that was very much fun for the refs, and it certainly didn't enhance my enjoyment of the game. I think it also exacerbated foul trading. If a call was missed, the players would make sure to point it out, and the refs would whistle a "make-up call" within a few minutes. This of course perpetuated the problem. Then the league decided to put in a new rule that owners weren't allowed to complain to the refs from the sidelines either. The new policies, combined with what must be more scrutiny of the refs by the league, has meant less whining, and more basketball.

Here's the problem though. The refs still aren't perfect (shock!). In this great democracy of the USA, the players and fans (and owners) are used to being able to voice our grievances. It is the players right to collect $20,000 per night and complain about the injustice that is before him. Honestly, it really is. The players need a forum for bringing real issues up with the refs. There are legitimate times when a ref may not see something that another player is doing, and it needs to be pointed out ("Watch next time down, he's grabbing my jersey when I setup in the post"). Right now, the players are going to be afraid to do that.

I think the NBA needs to adopt a more NHL-like method of captaincy where one person (could be a player, could be an assistant coach, could be the ball-boy) has the right to calmly go up to the ref to talk something over. Right now this is turning into something of a dictatorship, which isn't fun for anybody, and just frustrates fans and players alike.

2) I found a cool site that does computer-based power rankings of teams in all major professional sports leagues (including NCAA football, my least favorite of the pro leagues). I like the fact that it simply uses win/loss records. No point differentials or other stats that discourage sportsmanship. Just pure numbers. It basically ranks all the teams and how they perform home vs. away, against top opponents vs. bottom, last 10 games, etc. Then uses formulas to rank everyone. I especially like it right now because it has the Predators 4th, ahead of teams with better records, and has the Spurs second only to the Jazz. I also love that they have Oregon State (6-4) and Arizona (5-5) in the top 25. I don't really care myself, but i know that's got to be driving some people nuts, and for me, the more chaos there is in college football rankings, the closer we are to a much needed playoff system.

3) While i'm on the topic of Spurs vs. Jazz...
I love that the Jazz are doing so well this year. I honestly hope they keep it up. Why? Because i hate them. I grew up hating them. Jerry Sloan and the combo of Malone, Stockton, and Hornacek were dirty and got away with murder and weren't nice and...yeah. I hated them. Everyone in San Antonio did. So i am thrilled to see them doing well again, hoping that the rivalry is brought back, even if they aren't in our divisional anymore.

4) Lastly, GooTube has made a deal with the NHL to carry games online for free. The whole game, online, free to watch. Wow. Just wow. The NBA has had games up for a bit, but they charge money for them. These are totally free. I've read different articles saying that the games are supposed to only be online and free for 24 hours and such, but right now there are 10 Predators games up and free to watch in their entirety. They also have some classic old games, like the 1989 or 1967 Stanley Cup Finals. Old School. Best of all - they ENCOURAGE users to make their own "fan clips" to be featured online. That is so cool.


I know this was a kinda whiny post for Thanksgiving, so here's what i'm thankful for: 1) A place where i can whine and think someone cares about it. 2) Spell check. Never could have used the word exacerbate without it :-)

coming soon...

For oh, the last many months i have been working on an off (mostly off) on a video for my cousin. More accurately, for my aunt. My cousin Kelly got married, and my aunt 'hired' me to come down and be the videographer. Well, unfortunately i can't say too much for my skills with the camera (or the camera itself), but i am pretty happy with what i am being able to do on the post-production side. (FYI: I use a great set of programs from Pure Motion)

Well, today i had the day off, so i decided to put together a teaser trailer for all my relatives down there to see over Thanksgiving. My goal is to have the full DVD in time for Christmas.

Without further ado...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

where is my space?

I finally caved in.
I have a MySpace page.

http://www.myspace.com/pwnicholson
I personally agree with UserFriendly: MySpace is Geocities a la 1997 - only slower. It's such a horribly designed and executed site it baffles the mind. It is really painful as a former/amateur web designer to visit anyone's "MyStupid" page. But as some friends at work recently pointed out, it is fairly ubiquitous, and great for driving traffic and for social networking.

If you want to invite me as your friend, you can.
But all the page does is point you to this blog.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

would i ever use it to talk?

This.
Phone.
Is.
Amazing.

The Nokia N93

The price range means i probably won't be getting one anytime soon. Although my T-Mobile contract is up at the end of Nov so I'll have a credit i can put toward a phone...but yeah, not $700 worth of credit. If T-mobile even offers this, which they probably won't for a few months.

Anyway, here's what makes this phone so amazing: think of everything you've ever heard about or wanted in a phone, mash them all into one, take away the QWERTY keyboard - and you have this phone, or its soon-to-be-released sibling, the N95.


Two hi-res color screens? Check.
Triband/EDGE? Check.
Bluetooth 2.0? Check.
MiniSD Slot? Check. Supports up to 2GB right now.
Digital music/video support? Check. Including most online music stores (sans iTunes)
Wifi (802.11b/g)? Check. Yes. 54MBps G wireless.
Opera bowser with Java/Flash support? Check. Hit more than the 'mobile' web.
FM Radio? Check.
Camera? Big time check. 3.2 megapixel stills, 640x480 (VGA) 30fps videos, 3X optical zoom lens...

If you think about all these features it really isn't a bad price. If I showed you a lass-than-palm sized camcorder that shot DVD-ish quality you'd easily expect to pay $250 for it, if not more. How much for a straight PDA with wifi...about $250 at least. An MP3 player that supports movies and online music stores...$175 for a 2GB version. Heck a portable FM radio would set you back $12. I'd say its a heck of a bargain with all that in mind. Oh yeah...and its a phone too.

The only thing the N93 doesn't have that i could think of would be the aforementioned QWERTY keyboard, and GPS. Well, the N95 (to be released next year) will have a bigger screen and GPS built-in. Just take away the 3X optical zoom lens. It has more of a PDA look to it too.


If they would just add the QWERTY keyboard...

Friday, November 17, 2006

introducing...

Tonight was the first performance of what could be many, by (what is now unofficially known as) the Nick Hilscher Trio.

My friends Nick and Jamie agreed to play with me for a friends birthday party Friday night. We just did a small jazz/swing combo. Lots of fun. We were all out of practice, but really did sound pretty good. We are probably going to keep playing together for fun at least, if not possibly more...

Anyone know a good jazz bass player?

The Trio

Nick Hilscher
vocals, piano

Jamie Tyson
guitar

Paul Nicholson
drums

stupid, just stupid

It never ceases to amaze me how media can quote idiots without blinking or challenging their statements, just because it makes for a good point, or better, an inflammatory remark that gets articles read and posted about on blogs (like this). To that end, I am not going to link to the article in question.

Sufficed to say, it was on CNN.com and quoted a Clarksville, TN man as saying:

"Never in the history of the country has the flag been more hated or more loved"
Huh?! First off, ever heard of a little ditty called the Civil War? I would expect a southerner especially to remember that if nothing else. I've also seen a lot of protests, but nothing on the scale of things in the 60's and 70's over Vietnam, etc. We had tens of thousands of people fleeing to Canada for goodness sake. There are parallels with today's happenings, but we are (thankfully) still a long way off from the level of animosity, distrust, and rebellion that we had back then. But this article isn't about how stupid people are and how poor our knowledge of history is.

The real point of this article is how frustrating it is to see these kinds of comments in the "news". Mark Cuban recently ranted on this kinda stuff in his blog, too. Specifically, he's frustrated over the reactions and suppositions made in a recent Business Week article that (mis?)quoted him.

I recently loaned a good book to a friend titled "The Dish: How Gossip Became News and the News Became Just Another Show". Among other things, it talks about how this is not a new phenomenon. It has been a slow creep since the 50's (probably earlier). In particular, i found it interesting that Mike Wallace got his start as a decent news guy, but then went to the dark side and made his name by being the 1950's equivalent of Geraldo (or worse). He did things for effect and to make people upset - because they would watch - not to report the news or improve society. Fascinating book. It also talks about how Michael Jackson's people allowed tabloid photographers in to take pictures of Michael in an oxygen tent so long as they promised the pictures would be slightly obscured (so as to make it appear they were without permission) and the tabloids agreed to use the word "bizarre" in the headline - those were the terms. I highly recommend skimming it if you want to become totally disillusioned with our modern media in general.

I know that no media is going to be perfect in this regard. To illustrate this point, i would recommend watching Good Night and Good Luck (a movie paid for by Mark Cuban by the way). Although it can feel like a pretty one-sided movie that starts to preach politics, it knows it is. And that's the point. It shows that a bunch of guys trying to be the even-handed 'fair' reporters can't do it. Everyone has a slant. Everyone has a bias. So even when good people try to do the right thing, you're going to end up with slant. That's why people need to watch/read/listen to all media with a discerning ear.

I just wish more media made it easier on us. Some shows or stations have a political leaning one way or the other (NPR leaning to the left for example) but at least attempt to be reasonable. Where as CNN, FOX News, and most "talk" radio hosts on both sides are more about upsetting people and being loud than about being intelligent.

I just wonder if any news outlets actually employ fact-checkers anymore. I know their marketing departments and lawyers are doing great.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

all-star actions

Just a quick note:
Everyone go vote for your favorite players (hint: they are all Nashville Predators) for the NHL All-Star game. It looks like the NHL is returning to the "East vs. West" format, as opposed to the strange but creative "North America vs. The World" format it used for a while. (I never understood...is North America not part of the world?)

The 3 Predators that are pre-defined on the ballot are Steve Sullivan (forward), Paul Kariya (forward), and Thomas Vokoun (goalie). You can also write in one other Predator of your choice. I chose Jason Arnott, though captian Kimmo Timmonen has been an all-star in the past too.

And as usual with major league sports all-star balloting...

Vote Early!
Vote Often!

the biggest (quiet) breakup in history

If i am reading this article right, Clear Channel is effectively about to be broken up by a buyout offer. Thomas H Lee Partners (who already own Univision) are buying Clear Channel for $19 billion. As part of the deal, the new parent company is going to sell off 448 of the 1,000+ radio stations that Clear Channel owns, along with all 42 TV stations, and the Clear Channel Outdoor Advertising group (billboards). What i didn't realize was that Clear Channel had already spun-off its live event company (and SFX entertainment with it) now called Live Nation.

This is big. These guys also owned a controlling stake in Ticketmaster at one point, along with a few venues and concert promoters in major markets. What this lead to was Clear Channel radio stations promoting artists, who then played at Clear Channel owned venues, advertised on Clear Channel billboards, promoted by SFX entertainment, and sold tickets through Ticketmaster. This is the most complete example of vertical integration i know of. Certainly in the entertainment industry. And apparently it has been and is being quietly broken up - voluntarily - thanks to market forces.

Amazing.



Update:
This article on Forbes.com says that Google is one of the possible buyers for the radio stations. Now that would be really interesting.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

all-star strategy

Just read an interesting article in the Sporting News about several players in the eastern conference of the NBA trying to get listed as forwards so that they have a better shot at being voted to the All-Star team.

In fairness, these players are not true centers to begin with. Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal is not a 7-foot, low post, rebounder - he's a 6-11, shot blocking, open floor player. He is officially listed as a "Forward/Center", as many players such as Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett are. But the way Indiana plays, he is clearly the closest thing to a center. It certainly isn't 6-9 who averaged 6 rebounds and 0.3 blocks per game last year. Yet O'Neal wants to be listed at forward on the All-Star ballot so that he isn't up against Shaq and Ben Wallace. He wants to go to Vegas.

By the way, I still think this is why Dikembe Mutombo left the Denver Nuggets and other teams in the west to go to the pitiful Atlanta Hawks years ago. There were no big centers in the league at the time and he was elected to several All-Star games as a center, thanks to not going up against David Robinson and Shaq at the time. Now he realizes he's old and still wants to play and Houston needs a veteran center to help teach Yao Ming how to play a phyiscal game, so he's back in the west.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

on fiduciary responsibility in politics

The NPR show Marketplace did an interesting (but brief) story last Thurs about the recent elections in the US and their impact on the stock market. I found it very interesting.

Of course there was the general up or down swing based on how "the market" felt about the way the elections went. But what was really interesting to me was the impact of the change in power on certain companies and industries stock prices. Companies that are traditionally associated with being on the 'good side' of the Republican Party (health care, military, oil, etc) all took a dive, while those associated with Democratic party agendas (alternative fuel, biotech, etc) rose on the election news.

Now, it's pretty easy to just say "that makes sense" and move on. If the Democrats follow through on campaign promises, they will probably push for lower prescription drug prices and cutting our involvement in Iraq. So it makes sense that companies that thrive on those factors would expect to take a cut in profits, and thus their stock prices take a hit.

However, think this through one step further.

It is common news to hear of a company laying off workers, making drastic changes in corporate policy, or buying out other companies, just because "The Street" wants them to. It is often not so much about what is best for the company in the long-term (or even short-term), as much as it is what those in charge think Wall Street investors want them to do. So they often do it just for the kick in stock price.

This is part of the system. CEOs and board members first and primary responsibility is not to employees, customers, or the betterment of mankind. Their primary responsibilities and duties are to the shareholders of the company. The owners. It's called their fiduciary responsibility.

If i am the head of a major corporation, i am (hopefully) not an idiot. I read the news, i know what Wall Street thinks about my company and my industry. And i am doing everything in my power to keep the stock price of my company as high as it can possibly be. In our cold blooded American "free" enterprise system, no matter what the CEOs personal beliefs or convictions, no matter who their friends or enemies are, they should be doing everything they can to impact every possible thing that could impact the price of their stock.

So, if the elections impact stock prices, why wouldn't we expect corporations to try to influence elections?

Why do people react with such disdain when a company involved in stem-cell research makes a large donation to Democrats? Why all the shock and disappointment when the pharmaceutical industry is a huge sponsor of the Republicans?

If you try to figure out how this got started, it comes down to a chicken-or-the-egg problem. Do we associate health care companies with Republicans because the health care companies decided they would try to buy off the Republicans? Or is it because their agenda matches that of the Republicans? Or was it some arbitrary association that is now reinforced by the system?

I am not so naive as to believe that the companies are trapped against their will and didn't sign up for this whole show. Their current level of involvement in the political system was and is their choice. I just think it's odd that many people act as surprised as they do when faced with political "corruption" in the form of corporations paying to help see a politician elected.

Monday, November 13, 2006

gimme

I'm too tired to think up a fun post right now. Lots of ideas of things to post on, just no motivation to write.

In the meantime, anyone who wants to know what stuff i'd like to get (for Christmas, birthday, whatever) to go along with all the other insane amounts of stuff i already have, check this, and this, and maybe even this.

Thanks in advance :-)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

do i matter?

Last night when Christy and i went to the movie, it meant not watching or listening to a Predators game for the 2nd time this year. The last time i didn't watch/listen was when we went to the opera, which i think was the last time the Preds lost in regulation.

Over the years i have grown up in a family that taught me that whether i watched a game (or attended) DID impact the result of the game. I have a cousin an aunt who are forbidden from going to Spurs games together because every time they do, the Spurs loose at home, which is rare.

However, for last night i had finally convinced myself that it really didn't matter. Even though it was the first game of the year against Detroit, i decided i could go enjoy myself at the movie, and find out who won or lost the game later.

Don't worry. I wont let it happen again.
My dad and i are going to the game tonight. In person.

Update: Predators won the game 1-0 against Colorado. Mason was amazing in goal.
Update 2: I will be watching the game on Wed night on the Center-Ice package at Batter'd-and-Fried.

the inevitable 2nd push back

For those that don't know i am a huge fan of the Half-Life series of first-person shooter games (as well as several mods). Well, bad news: the next release, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, has been pushed back again.

It was originally slated to be released for this Christmas, then pretty quickly got pushed back to Q1 2007 (Feb-ish). That wasn't too big a deal though, because when the announced that, they also announced Portal and Team Fortress 2. These games look AMAZING and most everyone, myself included, were more than willing to wait if it meant getting these games for free along with Episode 2. Well, now they've pushed it back again.

Videos to check out:
Half-life 2: Episode 2 Trailer
Portal Trailer
Team Fortress 2 Trailer



For those that don't know, Half-Life 2 itself was pushed back a year plus from its original release date, but that had a lot to do with the theft/leak of the source-code and Valve having to re-write large portions of the game.

That we know of, nothing like that has happened this time, but i sure hope they can come through on this release. I really want to play these games!

us hollywood types

Christy and i got to goto* a preview screening of The Nativity Story last night in Green Hills.

I have to say, my expectations were pretty non-existent. I hadn't seen any trailers for the movie, and hadn't seen any promo material or anything else about it. I just had heard that it was coming out soon. Christy is the entertainment writer (as well as a general editor, etc) for Lifeway.com, so she got invited (with guest) to come see the sneak preview.

My impression afterward was mixed. I'll go with the good part first, then the bad parts, then the amazing parts...

The movie itself, as a whole was ok. Nothing amazing, but pretty good. The settings, costumes, etc all seemed very authentic (not that i would know if they weren't, but the point is i believed they were). The story flow was good. They also did a good job of throwing things in that you could buy into to keep the story interesting. This is obviously important given that well over half the audience probably knows this story pretty well in advance. They took a few liberties away from how i understand things 'really' happened, but they were obviously for the sake of making it interesting, or appealing to conventional/traditional tellings of the story (3 wise men arriving the night of the birth are the most obvious example).

Two complaints i would have were the dialog in a few spots, and the music.

The dialog overall was good. The movie starts out with Zechariah in the temple mostly speaking Hebrew. After watching The Passion and other such movies, it was kind of disappointing when everyone started speaking English shortly there after. That part i could live with though, and the dialog was good for the most part. The bad part was that it didn't fit with the Biblical quotes. Everyone would be talking fairly normally - or at least how i would expect ancient Hebrew familes in small villages to talk in a movie - up until they ran into a part where the Bible actually has a verbatim quote of what so-and-so said. In those cases, they jumped right into the King James, then once the quote was done, they'd return to well-written dialog. That got pretty annoying. Luckily, most of this movie is filled-in assumptions, so that didn't happen very often.

The music was...ok most of the time, but a few times was down right bad. The movie opens with a Christmas carol (I can't recall which one) being played very epic soundtrack-ish. Then most of the movie stays out of the way. My wife, who's knowledge of church and choral music far exceeds my own says that most of the music was based on other Christmas music themes, but they were originals were obscure enough, or they were modified enough as to not be destracting. The exception to this was what was supposed to be the tension/stress-filled climax to the movie. I don't think i'm giving anything away here, but in the event that someone really doesn't want to know anything about the movie, i'll hide the text in black - just highlight below to read it....

[begin possible spoiler]
Just as Joseph and Mary are on the outskirts of Bethlehem, Mary suddenly goes into labor (which according to a comment she made earlier, means Jesus was several weeks premature). Joseph goes into the standard father-to-be panic to find her a place to actually have the savior of all mankind. Thus making the whole "there is no room in the inn" thing a practical action sequence. It was a little goofy, but the real problem was this - the music for this sequence was "The Carol of the Bells", played high-tension style with fast strings in a minor key. My wife had to shush me more than once i was laughing so hard. It turned a decent/good moment in the movie into a comedy sequence.
[end possible spoiler]

Anyway. Overall the movie was good, but here's what was awesome about it:
I cried.
3 times.

I didn't cry at Mary (she was decent, but just kinda there). Joseph was great, very well acted and written, but he didn't get me either. It was the shepherd. He was amazing. His story, as short as it was, and the way he played it, just killed me.

Anyway, that's my review. They let us go see it early, and i think the idea was that we would tell people about it. So consider yourself told.

* Those of us that learned BASIC in school growing up (for me it was 1st grade) learned that "goto" is a word. Spell check constantly reminds me that it is not, in fact, a word. But that hasn't stopped me in 20+ years of writing. To this day, i have to go back and put in a space at least 5-10 times every single day at work. Basically every time you see me say "go to" on my blog, i have had to do it there too. This one time, i thought i'd leave it in for old times sake.

Friday, November 10, 2006

perfect shave

Several of you have probably heard about my shaving reformation a few months ago. Here's the article that go me going on it. (Here's a the original with tons of MSN ads)

In Summary:
1) Use real, glycerine based shaving cream (this is my favorite)
2) Use a good brush
3) Use as simple 2-blade cartridge razor with no extras (if not a DE Safety razor). These are my personal favorites. You really don't need the extra plastic guards and extra blades.
4) Shave wet (wet face, wet blade)
5) Shave hot (hot water, hot blade, warm skin)
5) DO NOT PRESS DOWN - AT ALL - EVER. Just drag the razor over your face. I wish someone had told me this earlier. I always figured a closer shave meant pressing harder. How wrong i was...

(Oh - and all this goes for the women too. My wife uses a brush and the same kind of cream. It's the only way to fly.)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

ch-ch-ch-changes

So last night i spent way too long hacking apart this new Blogger Beta template that i am using, and added some new features, moved some stuff, etc...

Here's the "changelog" such as it is for the latest version:

1) Modified Profile
* Added picture (my wife and i in the elevator of our hotel on vacation in San Francisco)
* Added "favorites" (movies, books, etc)
2) Added Feed feature links
* Its now easy to add my blog to your Google homepage, MyYahoo, or MyMSN.
* Also have the raw Atom feed link if you want to pull it into AvantGo or any other news aggregator you want to use.
3) Share It
* Added Email This! - links to a form for sending a story to friends
* Added Digg This! - links to Digg submission form
4) Search
* Added a search function through Technorati down on the bottom of the right tool bar. Still have to make some changes to that...it may or may not stay.


For those that have never used Google or MyYahoo to customize pages and pull in blog posts, it can really be nice. Here's my current Google page, on my blogs tab (click to make larger):

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

cuban visitor?

So, i think Mark Cuban may have just visited my blog!

Just yesterday i made a post about NBA refs vs. NHL refs and talked about Mark Cuban a bit. I also linked to an article about/by Cuban.

He is a blogger himself of course. On his blog, he has a link to search blogs for "Mark Cuban". My post now comes up in that search. Apparently a few other people found me via that method as well.

Here's what makes me think it was him:

The ISP and IP address resolve to "Mark Cuban". Thats it. Nothing else. It is an IP assigned through SBC. In the interest of protecting what may be Mr Cuban's personal static IP address, I am not going to post it here - but i might be willing to talk if the offer is right ;-)

Side note: I also found it interesting that Mark recently made a post on his blog about the NHL and his one-time (and possible future) interest in buying the Penguins. He also takes time to plug his HDNet network, and he's right, hockey is a million times better in HD.

Oh and Mark, if that was youvisiting: Glad you are using Firefox, but you need to upgrade. 2.0 is out dude.

superconducting workers

Computers (and most electronic equipment) run more efficiently (faster with less energy consumed) when chilled. The colder the better. The extreme of this is "superconductivity" - when electronic resistance is actually brought to zero (it takes temps of -200º C to do this though).

So, the computers in our work area are probably working more efficiently than they ever have before. Too bad the same could not be said for the people operating the computers.

We are all having to take frequent breaks to walk around and get blood flowing. I have gone to run my mouse hand under hot water twice in an effort to stop the stinging feeling in my fingers. You'd think that packed in here like we are, we'd be complaining of it being stuffy and hot - but not so much.

We finally got a thermometer to put up near by. The temperature has started to come up a bit today, so we don't know what the low was yesterday, but it is currently 63º F on our row.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

better fines

MagooSo i just read an interesting article from the Sporting News about two NHL coaches being fined by the league for criticizing refs. A few things surprised me, especially as compared to the way certain other leagues handle this sort of thing.

First, was the size of the fines. Each coach was fined $10,000. No small sum, but much less than the NBA tends to fine its coaches or owners who criticize officials. And in these cases, it was in a more severe way than the NBA will fine people for.

One NHL coach complained to the media about the refs. Craig MacTavish, coach for the Oilers complained about ref Mick McGeough (frequently pronounced "Magoo" by fans that hate him - he's the closest thing the NHL has to Joey Crawford).

"I know he is a veteran official and at times I have found his antics humorous, but if this is the product of that, there is a problem," MacTavish said after the game. "It was a ridiculous call." He also called for McGeough to be suspended.
Dr. EvilMeanwhile, the NBA just fined Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver $25,000 for complaining to the refs directly from court-side during a game. In other words, doing what every fan around him was probably doing. This was the first fine levied under a new anti-Mark Cuban rule that David Stern and his evil minions have recently implemented. (If you haven't yet read this article about Cuban's seeing the light - you need to read it).

Here's the part of the article that really blew me away...
McGeough acknowledged he blew the call, saying, "My judgment was poor on the play."
What? Say it isn't so! In David Stern's world any league that allows its refs to admit anything but perfection should immediately fail - if not cause the implosion of the Earth itself. NBA refs don't usually even get to talk to the press, much less honestly admit their humanity.

Props to McGeough for being willing to say he screwed up.
Now i may heckle him a little less the next time he comes to town.

Monday, November 06, 2006

cramped quarters

Dell has recently announced that they are increasing the number of people employed in our Nashville office from 2000 to 3000. In order to pack in an additional 1000 worker bees, they are putting the building through "densification". (Insert joke about us being "dense" here).

As a result, we had to move. We just finished settling into our new digs. Let me tell you - deoderant and ear plug sales in the area will probably be going up. HighEd has always been a tight group, but now we're packed in to match.

Here are the pictures as proof... (click on the pic for full size)

This is the picture from last week's Halloween party. Aside from Mumbo looking cool, you can see that the row was so wide, the other half didn't even show up in the picture. You can barely see my chair on the right side of the picture.






On the other hand, we have our new row. The row literally went from about 7 feet between desks, to about 4 feet. We have to go up and down the row one at a time. Elevator rules apply...people leaving go out before people coming in can enter.

On the plus side, the number of people served by Anna's little space heater has just gone up 10 fold.

no longer concerned

Today is a sad day. Concerned an online comic-strip that takes place in the Half-Life universe (mostly in City 17) has ended. (BTW: it's final comic included a reference back to its first strip.) It ran for about a year and a half and was a very funny comic, well done, and full of inside jokes for players of the game. If you've ever played Half-Life and Half-Life 2, I highly recommend you read through it. Of course, it's probably best to start at the beginning.

I also highly recommend reading a few comic essays from the same guy. They are pretty old, but hilarious. Check out E-maul, Fired, and especially See Spot; Run.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

trailers

As i've talked about before, Christy and I often have movie parties at our house. Usually these things are scheduled to start around X:00, but people are usually late, and we never have the turnout we hope for. As a result, we usually end up starting the movies around X:30. This isn't any big problem, but sometimes it leads to awkward time periods of sitting around. Especially since the people that show up on time are frequently people we know less well, as well as the fact that these parties mix our 'friend groups' so people there don't always know each other.

As a solution to this, i have sometimes played little short movies while we wait. Just funny things that are somehow topically appropriate or whatever. However, i'm starting to run out of things to play (believe it or not). As a solution to that i have recently begun ripping and collecting movie trailers for other movies we own or might watch. It's really been a lot of fun. It's really interesting to notice the changes in the way trailers we done through the decades. I've done movies from just about every time period and genre, and its interesting to observe the differences. A lot of trailers from the 70's and 80's really don't make me want to see the movie (Back to the Future's teaser and Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark are particularly poor).

It's also funny to see how some movies are very mis-represented by their trailers (The Day The Earth Stood Still). Still others tell you nothing about the movie and assume you already know story/pitch from its fabulous run on Broadway, so of course you'll come see the movie (My Fair Lady and Harvey).

One other interesting problem i have run into though - not all movie studios elect to put the trailers on the DVDs. I'd never really noticed this before. It does make sense that if i own a movie, and don't need to be sold into seeing it. However, it seems that a simple 2 minutes of footage doesn't take that long to encode and doesn't take up much space on the disk. Disney seems particularly bad about this. None of the recent Pixar movies have them (The Incredibles, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, etc), nor does The Pirates of the Caribbean, or the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, even though they all have 2-disc sets. Its seems they'd be dying to find more content to fill the discs with. What Pixar did do is put the a teaser on each disk for the next Pixar movie. So i can get the teaser trailer for Finding Nemo off the Monsters Inc DVD, the one for Incredibles off the Finding Nemo DVD, etc. But no where can i get the true theatrical trailer for any of them. There are many other movies that have elected not to include them. The most surprising of which is The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I have 12 discs full of content about those movies. TWELVE. And none of them have a single teaser, trailer, or 'sneak peek' for the movies themselves.

So, here's the deal. I need your help. I've been able to find trailers online for a lot of the more recent movies. Quicktime's site in particular has a great selection of 1080p HD/surroundsound trailers. However, for older movies, and a few specific ones - i can't find trailers.

So here's the list. If any of you know where to find downloadable trailers for any of these movies (good quality. low-res fuzzy YouTube videos don't count) please let me know.

A Bug's Life
Back to the Future
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
Explorers
Hook
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Monsters Inc
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

And that's just the short list for now...
Thanks!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

cleanup the town

On my way in to work every morning i pass under an interstate overpass on Woodland St coming out of east Nashville. It is one of the more popular spots in Nashville for homeless people to camp out. At the top of the embankment under the overpass, there are usually 3-5 people hanging out, and they obviously live there. They have blankets, bags, cartons, etc. All their stuff. I frequently see them walking around the area, but have never once been hit up for money. Even though this is one of the more trafficked intersections in the downtown area, and there is a long stop light there, i have never been panhandled.

Last night was our first night to hit the freezing point. Its 8:00am right now, sun has been up for about 2 hours, and the temp is currently reported as 37, with a chill factor of 32.

So - to the point of all this.

There were metro crews (who looked liked they were staffed by ex-homeless or people working off community service) "cleaning" the whole place out. All the stuff from the area at the top of the embankment had been pushed down to the sidewalk on the bottom and was being loaded in to garbage trucks. The people that usually live around there were no where to be seen. I don't know if they had been carted off, or if they just left the area.

I hope they were taken to a shelter for the winter or something like that, but i have a feeling they weren't. Even if they were, they probably wont be able to stay the whole winter there. And even if they could spend the whole winter there - all their possessions in the world were just thrown away like they were yard clippings.

That just isn't cool.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

population of the world through time

This fits in the same category as the History of the Middle East post.
Cool flash maps showing interesting historical data.

These are inspiring me to take the time (lots of time) to put together a map that combines all of these and really shows stuff through history. Put when wars and different events occurred through history. Would be a huge project, but the results would be awesome.
Watch this space :-)

(use 'next' and 'back' to cycle through the slides)



For the record, this originally comes from a website for the PBS show NOVA.