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The Corny Factor 5: X-Men: First Class

The almighty facepalm

I’m going to keep this sweet and simple.  I finally watched X-Men: First Class. It reminds me of the first X-Men movie released.  It’s just a bunch of special effects aimed towards yet another PG-13 audience,has forgettable and underdeveloped characters and strays away from source material for the sake of film cliches, cinematography, appealing to demographics beyond comic readers and leaving room for other sequels and prequels.

I’ll give them credit for using the word “fuck” once.

That’s all!

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The Corny Factor 4: R-Rated Movies


REALLY? IS THIS REAL? WHY? *inhale* *exhale* *shudder* I… Feel… Sooooo…. Unclean…. I can’t believe I just watched this trailer! I know the economy is on the fritz, but this is just ridiculous. I haven’t written about corniness in a long time and I think it’s about time I start this one. Like Busta Rhymes said in “Look at Me Now”, “Let’s gooooo”!  I’m sorry for posting that.  It really hurts me more than it hurts you.

Introduction

I like watching the show Deadliest Warrior on Spike TV. However, since I live in Canada and Spike is American, half of the commercials get swapped with Canadian ones so Canadians don’t get confused when they see a fast-food chain called Checkers. There is a single, repetitive, silly and obnoxious movie trailer that plays repeatedly during commercial breaks. It’s intentionally designed this way. These type of movies are usually low-budget and appeals to an incredibly audience of 18-year-olds who are willing to spend cash to sit in a theater for a couple of hours to watch random shenanigans. These movies are sometimes referred as “teen movies” because of their young demographic.

Every commercial break as of this post advertises Bucky Larson and it makes me question who Deadliest Warrior’s target audience is. They’re trying really hard to squeeze every laugh at the lowest budget. With shows like “1000 ways to die” with it’s twisted “artistic license” makes me think of how Spike TV is trying to get more viewers. However, that’s another story entirely.

Back in the day

Of course, I remember being a much younger person and I used to watch many R-Rated movies that boasted similar mature content. Some examples include American Pie, The Girl Next Door* and Dorm Daze. Initially, they were branded as romantic comedies and the mature content wasn’t implied until this trend became more popular. I admit it; there was a time when I intentionally scoped out the R-rated movies for the sake of eye candy.

The business model

It’s all about the opening weekend and how much money can be made in that time; it’s Friday, the weekend is about to begin and most people will not be at work or school. They want to get as many people in the movie theaters as possible. In general, R-rated movies require that the audience must be at least 18 years old. Anyone younger must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Sometimes, the theater employees don’t bother to ask for ID. Unfortunately, I happen to be in the category that frequently gets asked for ID, especially for alcohol, but that’s another story. Anyways, they count their profits in the opening weekends in hopes that it surpasses their budget for the movie. This will determine if a sequel should be made for the theater, direct-to-disc or should be scrapped entirely.

After the movie has been in the theater long enough, and profits start lowering to a certain point, the movie is turned into DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital Download and anyone can buy or rent the movie. The movie now has another opportunity to make more profit. Now there are new ads for the same movie to rent or buy the movie.

What kind of “mature” content?

It can vary. For this article, content such as violence, gore and hate speech are not included here. The mature content in the R-rated romantic comedies include swearing, sexual innuendos, nudity, softcore sex scenes and crude humor.  To a younger person, this content feels rebellious and new.  There’s plenty of eye-candy and things to laugh at.

It’s profitable! They don’t care!

I know it sounds crude. With the combination of marketing, budgeting, writing, mixing cliches and pumping ads, it’s profitable. Sometimes they’ll lose more money than they put in. In general, they continue doing this because it makes money. Keeping the budget low saves costs for marketing and if the movies does not do well, the producers will not be crippled.

Conclusion

I remember when Spike TV used to show Star Trek, Oblivious and even new episodes or Ren & Stimpy. Their slogan was “The first network for men” and it seemed like they meant it! I am aware of the direction they are going with their new style and shows. If they’re making more profit this way, then good for them. I’m starting to have mixed feelings towards Deadliest Warrior; I like watching the statistics and how they explain the history and weapons. It seems like they over-simplify the stats and drag things on to make up the time. Do I really want to watch 5 people fight each other? All the really need to do is just show the two people fighting to the death and that’s it! I know they use 5-squad members, but when they’re testing leaders, it’s a waste of time. Spike made many sacrifices to get to where it is now.

The R-rated movies are a trend that probably won’t end anytime soon. It’s a profitable market and I am obviously out of the demographic. Eye candy will always grab attention and it’s just something that people take advantage of to make money. The positive side of this is that people outgrow this and will eventually move on to different genres.

* I’m aware that The Girl Next Door was rated PG-13 in Canada, which raised plenty of controversy because it was still rated R in USA.

More Corn

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Bitcoin mining? I’d rather fold

Introduction

A while ago, I’ve read some recent news related to technology and hacking.  While I was reading articles, I discovered something called bitcoins.  Essentially, it is a decentralized currency that is not tied to a specific region or country.  This currency is entirely electronic and uses P2P networking for distribution and transactions.  Bitcoins can be exchanged for other currencies (e.g. Canadian/US Dollar, Euros, etc.) and can be received by running a bitcoin program that connects to a P2P network, running CPU-intensive algorithms based on trial-and-error to ensure that bitcoins grow at a controlled and predictable rate and to prevent people from gaining bitcoins through fraud. This process is known as “bitcoin mining”.

 

Nothing personal

First of all, I have nothing against bitcoins personally. I think it’s a great concept and anyone interested in finance would enjoy understanding the concept of decentralized currency. From what I’ve read, this is actually encouraging people to think about investments, trading and tracking stocks. I’m surprised to see that people have gone as far as buy thousands of dollars worth of computers filled with powerful GPUs made specifically for bitcoin mining. Someone even got fired for going as far as to use company servers for bitcoin mining.

 

High investment, low return (at least for me)

I tried bitcoin mining on my laptop, which has a GTX 460 and i7 processor. I was able to get 33 megahashes per second. In lamen’s terms, it is a measurement for how much processing my computer is doing towards gaining bitcoins. The bitcoin client predicted that I would gain 0.0201 bitcoins per day, a small amount despite the exchange rate. Last time I checked, 1 bitcoin = ~$10 USD. Do the math to get one bitcoin and I feel it’s not worth it for me. Of course, if I had more powerful GPUs running, it would be better. This isn’t “free money” and I don’t feel like it’s better than the currency I am already using.

 

Folding@home and helping research

There are thousands of medical problems that can be solved if medical doctors and scientists could understand how proteins fold and unfold. Folding@home uses a distributed network that any computer or PlayStation 3 can connect to for running calculations that are sent back to a server. These calculations are collected to figure how to make proteins fold back into a healthy form. This research leads to the better understanding and curing of conditions such as diseases, viruses and allergies. This project is backed by the University of Stanford and has been called the largest distributed computing network in the world.

 

Folding on and off

Ironically, Folding@home is closed source, while the source behind Bitcoin is open. Whenever the oppotunity presents itself, I’ll dedicate some of my computer time for folding. For example, if I’m going to sleep or work, I’ll set my computer to start folding during that time. I don’t keep track of the folding work or join any particular teams; I just fold whatever I can to contribute something to the project.

 

Damn you, NCIX!

I remember a long time ago, NCIX had a contest that they’d give a video card to someone who was folding for their folding team. Folding teams are a friendly and competitive method of encouraging people to fold. Anyways, I have to give them my folding user name so they can match it with my NCIX account and get their approval. THEN SIX MONTHS AFTER THE CONTEST ENDED, THEY APPROVED MY NAME! When I complained about this, they told me that there was an issue with their messaging system and many people were in the same situation. I just thought I should mention this; it’s a funny story and it shows anyone reading this that I haven’t forgotten this. Other than that, NCIX is a great place for buying electronics online.

 

Conclusion

The concept behind bitcoins is very fascinating and its concepts are interesting.  I have no idea how this will evolve, with its anonymous nature, CPU/GPU-intensive requirements and perceived legal questions.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation abandoned bitcoins because of the unknown legalities behind it.  If anyone is profiting from this, I’m very impressed.  It’s just not for me.  Folding@home is much older, larger and its purpose contributes to the world. The value of folding research is priceless. I’m not willing to spend money for power-hungry hardware for bitcoins. Why not use that hardware I already have for a short time to contribute to something that could change the world for the better? Unless, someone wants to raise bitcoins for medical research… :D

 

Links
Folding@home website
We Use Coins bitcoin website

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Did you know about Simple English Wikipedia?

xkcd 547: Simple

Xkcd is one of my most favorite webcomics of all time; they are short, simple and just about anyone who uses the internet can understand the jokes. New comic strips are published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  I remember reading the article above and I was surprised that Wikipedia had a section dedicated to articles with simpler English phrases for those who may not necessarily understand technical jargon in many articles.

The Simple English site is not as popular as the main site, so many of the articles may not be complete or detailed enough.  I do refer to Wikipedia frequently and I always double check each article’s citations and determine what has been confirmed true; original research is a common issue in many articles.

So, check it out!

Links
xkcd: Simple
Simple English Wikipedia

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Another Awesome Music Video from Nobody Beats the Drum: Poisson Vert

Their music is just awesome. I’m a big fan of electronic music. I know it has a rave vibe to it, but it’s just really awesome music. I’ve seen videos of them playing live and they use so much hardware I’ve never seen before.

I wish they had more music available on 7digital though.

Check it out!

Links
Nobody Beats the Drum on YouTube

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I Can’t Wait for 3D Printing to be Cheaper

Background

I was always a fan of Bre Pettis, starting when he was making weekend project videos with cool electronics.  I even bought an Arduino and had a small taste of robotics.  I’m amazed by how cheaper technology is giving people a chance to try out new things.

Discovery of 3D Printing

I saw a video from MakerBot, a company Bre started.  I was mesmerized by it!  I stopped by a hacklab in Toronto and saw the MakerBot assembled.  Unfortunately, the machine was broken at the time but I saw some samples it created, one of them being a contained with a screw cap.  It was really cool.  It’s an awesome idea that I hope really catches on.

A 3D printer reads a 3D model and creates it by creating thin layers of plastic or other material and adding another layer until it reaches the top and the object is created.

Benefits

Imagine if someone could download a 3D model of anything and print it as may times as he or she likes without having to find it in a store or online.  It could inspire people to learn 3D modelling to create their own objects that can give to people.

It can even bring manufacturing back to the people and encourage local creations.  People can sell their 3D prints and use some of the profits for maintaining the 3D printer.

It’s still expensive and evolving

The MakerBot is about $1300 and the Cupcake CNC is about $700; they both must be assembled and it is not like building legos or a new PC.  It takes a fair amount of time from what I’ve read and does require some electronics experience such as soldering.

The cheapest commercial-grade 3D printer I’ve seen is $9000, not including additional parts for printing and cleaning the printer surface.  In addition, I would have to buy a small oven for removing wax and sanitizing the objects.  In other words, it’s not the same as buying an expensive office printer and instantly being able to use it.

Conclusion

I love 3D printing.  I think it’s a necessity in order for technology to advance forward.  At the moment, I cannot afford it and I lack the physical space to set up the hardware at the moment.  It would change the way we see manufacturing and even make it more prevalent across the world.  There’s a lot of money to put up-front for anyone who wants to get their hands on a 3D printer now.

I have no doubt that it will change the world and I’ll definitely get one once it reaches my price range and becomes more user-friendly.

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Random Absurdity

Recently, I’ve been thinking about what I want in a relationship.  What if I told you if you told me to be “honest, true, straight-to-the-point and not hold back on the answer and I’ll still respect you” about this and I’d tell you?  I’m not saying that I have any controversial to say or anything like that.

Are my intentions really questionable?  My point is, it’s not exactly a secret, is it?  I haven’t seen any statistics about this stuff and I think we could come up with some kind of answer that satisfies both sides.  I guess some would blame the media, but if I’m not alone then it’s okay to believe the things that I believe, right?  I’m not trying to rob a bank or anything like that?

I’ve been thinking about how much time I spend listening to people talk version the other way around.  I don’t mind being quiet or deadpan.  Is there honor in acting a certain way and never being remembered for what I’ve done?  I could do or say something really silly, I get laughed at and people will forget about me if a moment.  I mean, if people remember most of the crazy things I’ve done, I’d have an entirely different impression on people.

How many meetings have I been to where I have nothing to say and the topic usually has nothing to do with me?  I’ll tell you a story about it.  I actually fell asleep in a meeting and I was caught; I sat on my chair with my arms on the armrests.  I sat up as straight as I could and I slowly shut my eyes.  It was an awesome moment.  I was about to fly into Dream Land.  My boss woke me up and people chuckled at me.  The next morning, my boss spoke to me and told me that it’s important for me to stay awake and continue to make a good impression.  He gave me a story about when he was in university, he was a class with hundreds of people and the teacher woke him up and shouted “YOU! WAKE UP!”.  I mentioned that the meeting really had nothing to do with me and it was longer than its scheduled time.  He agreed that meetings are boring and said that he’d keep me out of meetings in the future.  There were some benefits.  For one thing, I had time to do more work and I was more available.

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Am I a Prodigy or an Amateur?

“It’s not the machine; it’s the man behind the machine.”
-9th Wonder

It all started when I started listening to music produced by 9th Wonder.  He is an amazingly talented artist and has created thousands of tracks.  He has a unique blend of 70′s sampling with catchy bass lines and really stands out from mainstream music; it’s a shame this kind of music is not played on mainstream radio stations.

He is obviously talented and it comes natural to him.  Anyone who listens to his beats can appreciate it, even people who don’t listen to hip-hop at all.  Needless to say, he is a prodigy when it comes to music.

It made me think, am I a prodigy in anything?  Am I skilled enough in anything that will make people recognize me based on my work alone?  Will there ever be a time thousands of people stare at my work and say “That’s awesome!  Anthony mastered this skill and I wish I could be like him someday.”

I am fascinated with computer science.  I have always been interested in computers since I first climbed onto the chair and pounded the keyboard when I was a child.  Ever since I learned BASIC programming and took my first programming classes in my final years of high school, I always liked programming.  As a result, I decided to pursue an education in Computer Science Technology after I finished high school.  My three years in college were definitely challenging and really showed me how much technology can change in a year.

I don’t deny the effect the recession has on everyone, including myself.  I believe that I need to stand up for myself; never be afraid to want more; improve myself instead of settling into any opportunity handed to me; adapt to the recession and its impact on the economy.  It’s easier said than done, of course.

To make a long story short, I have the motivation and I’d love to have more education and experience in programming.  I find myself asking the same question: Am I a prodigy or am I one of the many people who will do the job because I am required to do so and when I’m gone, someone else will take my place?

I would say that I am passionate about coding and at times, it can be tiring, boring and tedious.  There have been times when I have been asked to program something at some of my previous jobs and I have gladly accepted the challenges and created something that worked.  Doesn’t that make me passionate?

I don’t consider myself an expert; I still say I’m in the intermediate level.  I find that many of the programs I’m asked to work on involve analyzing a file or looking for something and generating a simple output file as a report.

I’d love to be a professional developer one day and I am taking steps towards this path; there is lots of studying and testing to be done.  I like programming and I will need to keep reminding myself “I want to do more” and “I can’t be afraid to upgrade my skills and education”.  I may not be that golden prodigy programmer that people may look up to; I don’t need fame to find a job that I like.

It is generally believed that 70-95% of people who are working hate their jobs.  I don’t want to be one of these people.  Why can’t I love my job and my life?  I know people who have reached a job that they enjoy and continue to make a living off of it to this day.  I don’t need to be the golden prodigy on the infinitely-high pedestal; all I really need to do is never stop learning, never be afraid to move on to something better, always be persistent, and keep things interesting and exciting.

Voting Time Again

I just received a card in the mail that states that I am eligible to vote in this year’s general election between the dates of April 23 to April 25.  I don’t consider myself a very political person and I usually have the usual debate with someone whether or not it’s worth voting.  I remember reading an article about how Rob Ford won the election and became the new mayor of Toronto, even though less than half the population of Toronto voted.

Although I support the notion that more people should vote, I completely understand the reasons why people would not vote.

“Nobody cares about the youth”

This is a common issue that I hear; sometimes, I even believe it myself.  By youth, I mention the 19 or younger demographic, the group of people in secondary school and those who are pursuing post-secondary paths such as college, university, apprenticeship or moving directly to the workforce.  Personally, I’ve never seen any ads geared towards young people; don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen political discussions on MTV.  I’ve never seen a show geared towards young people who says “We’re going to explain the political parties in Lamen’s terms and why you should vote”.

“Everything will stay the same”

This is something a friend of mine said to me a long time ago.  I practically believe it myself.  Of course, this may be a result of my ignorance from watching the news frequently and not following up with political events.  Personally, I’ve never seen an event that has effected me directly and said “I’m glad that we elected ________ so that this could happen.”

It is generally believed that senior citizens vote in record numbers and can have a large impact on the election than any other demographic.

“My vote doesn’t count”

We still use the secret ballot system so that nobody can be bribed for votes anymore.  If the elections really were rigged, what can I do about it?  I can imagine it would be difficult to prove if elections are rigged.  I think it would have to involve other politicians, statisticians and election workers to collaborate to prove such a thing.

In any case, we have to believe in the system and hope that our singular vote will be equal to the many other votes that will be counted.

“They’re all the same to me”

Even though people look down on campaigns that bash other candidates, they’re certainly the most interesting to watch.  However, they create bias and it’s easy to make certain people look like “the bad guy”; it creates more shock when these bad guys win the election.

Look at the and hatred criticism towards Michael Ignatieff.  I admit I know absolutely nothing about him and the only commercial I’ve seen was an anti-Ignatieff ad that ended with the words “he didn’t come back for you”.  People have mocked him and I have to ask myself, “What do I really know about him?” and I know that the answer is “nothing”.

I wouldn’t listen to bashing.  The only way to find some kind of truth is to speak to a representative of each party and ask them questions they are comfortable with answering, take notes and find where their objectives clash.  Unfortunately, this is a very timely process and it’s not very practical; I mean, I don’t even see myself doing this.

“I don’t understand anything”

If someone asked me, “What’s the difference between Conservatives, Liberals, NDP, Quebecois and Green Party?”, I would look them in the eye and say “I don’t know, but I’ve heard so much about _____”.

All the candidates want to look as clean and polished as they can be.  Everybody wants to pay less tax, more jobs available, more affordable cars, higher incomes, more benefits, affordable housing, less debts, more effective police, less crime etc.  When multiple parties promise these things, it’s hard to connect with these people.

I guess that’s what the challenge is: Find a candidate that I truly understand and agree with and vote for this person.

Conclusion

I know I said a lot while saying a little at the same time.  Political elections should be taken seriously and despite their promises, they’re all completely different people underneath it all.  They might not even be making the decisions themselves; they represent a party of people who have different sets of duties and the winning candidate speaks for all of them.

I do believe in voting and I will vote this year.  I’m not against anyone that does not want to vote; not voting is a vote within itself, depending on how one looks at it.

The process of voting is actually fast, providing that voters bring the proper ID and forms; every time I have voted, the election workers have always been calm, courteous and I have literally walked in, voted and walked out within a couple of minutes.  It’s definitely worth doing to anyone who wants to contribute a single vote.

In closing, voting is definitely encouraged; not wanting to vote is a decision within itself; the candidates are very different from each other despite their similar promises; never be afraid to talk to candidate representatives; for crying out loud, they call me every other week asking me whether or not I will be voting.

Links
Elections.ca

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ToMAYto/ToMAWto

It started when I made several calls with a tech support department regarding an issue I had with some hardware.  It’s a fairly complex issue and these phone calls have been spanned over a few weeks.  The wait times are always long and I make these calls in hopes that more progress will be made and any miscommunications can be corrected.

One thing I noticed is these people are more likely to misinterpret what I am saying.  It started off with “You’re breaking up.  Can you repeat that?”  I thought nothing of it and simply spoke at a more steady rate.

Another time, the person on the phone misheard my name.  I used phonetic alphabets to spell my name: “A as in Alpha, N as in November, T as in Tango…”  They replied, “Well, you were definitely in the army”, which is not true by the way.

When I called them again, the other person also had a hard time hearing me and blurted out “I don’t understand you; it might be a cultural thing.”  Again, this was an issue spelling my name.  I remember saying “S U A R E Zed”.  They replied, “What’s E-Zed?”  I paused for a moment and said “S U A R E Zee”.  Yes, the letter Z is pronounced in 2 different ways depending on the region.

I don’t know for certain where this department is and I assume it is somewhere in USA.

Out of all of the phone calls I have made in my life, I don’t think I’ve had a single department had a hard time understanding me multiple times with different people.  Don’t get me wrong; I was born and raised in Canada and English my first and only language.  Even when I speak to departments outsourced to other countries (e.g. India, England, China, etc.), I may have a hard time hearing them and I’ve never struggled like the people above have with me.

Everyone has accents, slang phrases, expressions, etc.  We all speak differently.  I was just surprised with the phone calls I’ve been making to this place.  Since we’re on the subject of speech, King of the Hill is a popular cartoon where the characters speak with different accents from other cartoons; to others, it may sound common to others and it stands out to me because I live in Canada.  Despite this, I still understand what they’re saying.

I’ve never thought of the way we speak so much until now.  I don’t know if it’s something I should keep in mind whenever I call someone who may be outside of Canada.  I’m not holding a grudge towards anyone.

Hopefully, these technical issues will be resolved soon and I’ll find a way through this communication barrier.  Wish me luck!