January 25, 2007
Topic: More thoughts about God
Last night I was thinking about how when I was growing up, the idea of talking to god seemed so implausible. After all, even if there was a god listening to all of our praying, god doesn't really answer, right?, at least not out loud, or so it seemed to me as a child. And today if someone were to tell me that god talks to them, I'd probably be extra nice to them and think to myself that maybe they are a little unscrewed. Then I was thinking about what if a random person came up to me and asked me the difference between two cans of peas. What if that person were god? How would I know? If there is a god, and I'm pretty sure there is, what would stop god from taking the shape of a random person I encounter. You meet so many random people in this world; it would be impossible for anyone to track down every person they come in contact with. So it occurred to me that perhaps it would be a good idea to treat everyone I meet as if they might be god. And then I thought, isn't that point anyways? Back when I was a kid in church thinking about the idea of talking to God, I remember hearing that Jesus said that whatever you do unto the least of humanity, you do unto to god, and aif you want to love god, you do so by loving your neighbor. Still I wonder: How do we talk to god? But considering that the explosion of the universe that is still going on, was ignited by god, so perhaps a better question is: how do we NOT talk to god?
Topic: yet another airship image
January 23, 2007
A little Airship artwork...
Topic: More Airship Schematics – Figure 2This variation of the Airship concept depicts the option of a swimming pool with transparent floor in the cross-sectional schematic drawing. This would allow passengers to have the experience of swimming and looking down on clouds or the ground. (click on image to see larger version.)
January 21, 2007
Topic: The Future of TransportationI've recently been wondering about Blimp (Air Ship) travel. I think people really aught to give a second thought to travel by Air Ship. And Why? It's true that blimps/air ships are not nearly as fast as Jets; but there are several aspects to blimp-travel that make up for that...These are reason why blimp/air ship travel should be considered as a good idea for the future of travel:
First--No airport no problem! Blimps can pretty much take off from anywhere, so they do not necesarily require an airport. Blimps can travel to any city or town.
Secondly, blimps could potentially be a lot safer than Jets—why? Because depending on how you build them, if a hole is created and lift capacity begins to decrease, a blimp will most likely slowly crash, rather than plummet from the sky.
Third, blimps could be tremendously less expensive to operate than gas guzzling jets, by letting the natural work of lighter-than-air noble gases do their work.
Fourth, Airships have traditionally been massive. Inside an airship you can provide many of the amenities found in a ocean cruise liner, depending on the size of the airship, to possible include: luxury suites, indoor running track, indoor swimming pool with transparent bottom allowing swimmers to look through the water they are swimming in to the ground or the clouds blow. With new technology and better materials available today I'm surprised no one is already building more efficient, innovative, and safer blimps.
I would suggest combining the concepts of an Air Ship (Blimp, Zeppelin, etc.) and the concept of a Thermal Airship (essentially a hot air balloon) into one ship that utilizes both noble gas and heated air for lift capacity. I've included a sketch of a smaller prototype craft in a figure below (click on image to see larger version).
For the Primary Noble Gas chamber the structure would hypothetically be internally supported by a titanium frame and would feature several sub-chambers filled with a noble gas which could be depleted and displaced by secondary sub-chambers filled with air. I would use neon, or argon, both non-flammable noble gases, as the lifting agent. To increase lifting capacity, I would attach side mounted supplemental thermal air chambers (like hot air balloons) to the sides of the noble gas filled central chamber (principle lifting agent). These auxiliary thermal air chambers would be internally supported by a titanium rods going up the center of the chamber to preserve the shape when chambers are deflated.
Topic: Another Rainy Day
It's a rainy day in the Queen City. So I figured an update in the huffmania weB-LOG is due...
Today, for lunch I called in an order to my favorite sandwich place in Charlotte for my usual--the “tuna melt on rye with no tomato”. And I was little surprised when the young woman taking my order over the phone recognized me by my order, she said, “It's John, right?”. I guess I've become something of a regular. But I ask you: When you've found the greatest sandwich in the best sandwich shop in town, why mess with that? Is that such a bad habit? Then again, isn't it strange that in a city of over 600,000 people my fondness for toasted bread covered in tuna and melted cheese would be so unique?
And when it comes to bad habits...this year, for the first time ever I think, I'm trying to make a new years resolution to eliminate a bad habit. I hesitated to mention my new years resolution for 2007 before because I have serious doubts if I can pull it off. Basically: I'm trying to cut down on my coke-a-cola intake. I'm not going cold-turkey on coke necessarily, I know from previous experience that would be a waste of effort, instead I've devised a reduction strategy that involves only purchasing coke on an as-needed basis, so no stock-piling of coke in the fridge. ...I was wondering when did my coke addiction begin? Perhaps it was back in high school when I'd quench my thirst with a cold coke after marching band practice.
January 15, 2007
Movie Review: Pi (1998)
Previously I posted about how much I enjoyed The Fountain. But then I asked myself: Did I really have the right to praise that film while I carried the knowledge that I had yet to see Aronofski's supposedly great first independent film, Pi. I had already watched Requiem For a Dream, which at least gives me a shred of some credibility. But somewhere I knew it was wrong not to already have watched Pi. And so, a few days ago I rented Pi...again. Again? Well, I had rented Pi before, and neglected to watch it, even keeping it late so I could watch it, and still I never watched it, and returned it late, and unseen. It is a bitter feeling to pay late fees for a movie you never watched, and yet I seem to do this to myself often...Having finally seen it I can honestly say that Pi is one of the smartest movies I've ever seen. It is also hilarious at times, and very suspenseful
Plot: Max Cohen is a mathematician living in NYC who is studying the concept that all things, including the stock market, adhere to mathematical patterns, which can be predicted. He believes there is a number that will ultimately be the key to predicting everything; this number is related to the golden ratio which was discovered by the Greeks--a pattern that gets infinitely smaller and infinitely larger forever. The golden ratio is physically manifested as the golden spiral, which spirals outwardly and inwardly infinitely. There are two antagonistic groups who wish to take advantage of Max's discovery. First, Kabbalic Jews believe the number Max is searching for, which is 216 characters long, is the lost original name of God, and if Max finds it, it would be a great source of spiritual power for them. Second, is a group of financial investors who wish to take advantage of Max's discovery for their own financial benefit. So, Max's ever increasing paranoia is at least justifiable. His quest to understand this pattern that explains everything begins to drive him into paranoid state. He hallucinates often on the subway. At one point he sees a brain on the stairs, and when he stabs it he hears/feels a blinding sound. This reminded me of experiments I'd read about in Psychology classes where when a doctor touched the surface of a particular area of a person's brain they would feel or hear a random sensation. Sometimes these sensations would be familiar, other times impossible to describe.
There is a constant inner monologue threw the duration of this film that was perfect for the analytical character of Max. He is constantly restating his assertions about the universe. On of my favorite lines of the inner monologue was: “It's fair to say I'm stepping out on a limb, but I am on the edge and that's where it happens.”
I've come to realize how important the sound track is in Aronofski's films. It's been several days since I watched Pi, and I still can't get that pulsing high-intensity chaotic theme out of my mind--kind of makes me want to restate my assertions about the universe.
In a sense, Pi is the geek version of a Film Noir, in several respects: 1) Max is so obsessed with finding the pattern that explains everything, he ignores the gorgeous woman living in the apartment next to him, even though her heart obviously goes out to him, 2) He's on the run from people trying to take advantage from him, who will even go to violent measures, 3) the film is shot in high-contrast black and white photography, the usual canvas of Film Noir.
By the end of the movie, the movie watcher has gone on a fascinating journey, and perhaps picked up some interesting mathematical philosophical ideas. Pi, by Daren Aranofski is a brilliant movie.
My rating: 3.141592653... Golden Spirals out of 3.15!
More about the Philosophy in Pi: The idea that everything is part of a pattern that can be predicted reminded me of a concept I studied in a Philosophy class called Determinism. A concept that was and is disturbing to me, because inherent in this concept is the lack of free will. Essentially, according to deterministic thinking, everything that happens, even the thoughts that pass threw our minds, are a product of causal-relationships (event a causes event b which causes event c and so on). So the appearance of our decision making ability is merely an illusion. And according to deterministic thinking if you had a good enough tool for analyzing causal relationships, you could predict every event in time. This is what I was reminded of by Max's desire to find a pattern that can predict everything.
If you are like me and are inclined to want to believe in free will (which would obviously make us biased), and against the notion that our thoughts are merely a product of causality, then I think the only solution is faith in god. And I don't mean faith in god in the usual sense. Because I don't need faith to believe there is a creator of the universe--it just makes sense, I think there is rational proof to assume there must be a god. What I mean by having faith in god, is having faith that the creator of the universe did so as a benevolent being out of compassion and as an opportunity for conscious beings (us) to experience life.
January 14, 2007
Movie Review: Children of Men
Warning: if you haven't seen this movie and are planning to then you probably don't want to read the rest of this review, well maybe you can just glance at it until you think you might have read too much.
What is Children of Men? It's a movie that blew my mind in some ways, but left me wanting more in others. Setting: several years in the future, in an apocalyptic nightmare version of Britain which has become the last secured society left on the planet. The national motto has become “Britain Soldiers On.” It reminded me of the film 'V for Vendetta' in the sense that Britain is the last place on the planet where civilization endures; but in both instances, it is an Orwellian-1984ish government ruled existence. The reason: Humanity has lost the ability to procreate, there is no future for humankind, which leads to massive worldwide civil unrest. Story: The movie begins with the main character, Theo, hearing the news that the youngest person on the planet has been killed, he was 18 years old. He goes about his business, stopping to get coffee on his way to work, and right after he exits the building a shocking explosion rips the building apart, and a woman walks out of the dust screaming and missing an arm just prior to the Title of the movie and the opening credits. A pretty dramatic opening to a very dramatic movie. Theo gets involved with a group of revolutionists who are associated with his ex-wife, and because of that becomes the shepherd of a young woman who is miraculously pregnant. He is trying to protect her from the revolutionists who are fanatics, as well as from the government, as well as from the general public as knowledge of her condition could considerably make her life be in more jeopardy than it is already. The film is a frighteningly realistic allegory of what life could really be like if a devastating pandemic ever wreaked havoc on mankind.
As for the good qualities of this film...
This movie is gorgeous. With respect to the cinematography, this film surpassed my expectations, it was simply amazing. The violence and the chaos was so realistic, you feel as if you are experiencing it, and it's nail-biting. Thats why this film is I think the first science fiction that is also an effective war movie. Another one of the visual astonishments of this film is it's transition from fairly high technology to war-torn fourth-world poverty, and violence.
Clive Owen is very good as Theo. He captures the emotions of tragic loss, despair, and the determined will to protect the pregnant woman so convincingly. This had to be a pretty challenging role because of the constant action, and he is in nearly every scene of the film.
The concept of the movie was meticulously thought out, which in the case of an apolyptic movie like this is something to really appreciate. And the creators obvioulsy spared no expense in producing this vivid depiction of warefare, rioting, and society crumbling.
As for the bad qualities of this film...
A lot of the dialog seemed simplified or contrived--A line that sticks out in my mind was during a scene where the main character would normally be very uncomfortable given the circumstances, his ex-wife jokes “Still like it in the Afternoon?” It's an awkward forced moment of sexual humor that was unconvincing and felt unbalanced. As for acting, some of the supporting characters were more a caricature than a character, which made the film appear more like it was trying to preach a message about about how people react when society is falling apart in a situation of hopeless desperation.
After I weigh the good verses the bad, my overall impression is that while it is not necessarily a great work of cinema it's still a very good movie, especially if just scrutinized as a science fiction. This film gets 3 out of 5
January 9, 2007
Topic: A short story
I sit down at my desk to write something. Why? Because I feel compelled to. I open a new document but my heart sinks. A white rectangle is presented on the screen. The cursor on the blank screen blinks...blink..blink..blink..blink..the rhythm of my computer...the heart beat...the soul...echoing perfectly the forward progression of time, the constant forward movement. I stare at the blank sheet of paper represented on the screen of my computer. The cursor blinks, depicting the passage of time...blink..blink. What more is there to say really? Time goes on. The sheet of paper stays blank, it dosen't exist. I get up and walk away...
Topic: Web 2.0 -- Time Magazine's Person ... er, Phenomenon of the year
This year's Times Magazine Person of the Year went to no singular individual, but to the collective group of internet users who contribute to what has been dubbed “web2.0”
“What is Web2.0?” you may be wondering; and if so, well read the article(a), but basically it's not any particular new technology, it's a new phenomenon on the Internet of community driven content -- it's the the social networking aspect of the Internet, like MySpace, Podcasting, blogging, YouTube, and some really cool new things like The Digg(b), and Revision3(c), and TWiT(d). It's a lot of what I mentioned in a posting about what I described as Alternative Media(e) on this blog. So I guess web2.0 even includes Huffmania weB-LOG. Well I'm honored Time Magazine. Last year you choose Bono; this year me (and about 300 million other people). It's flattering really.
One of the most interesting variations of web2.0, I think, are these virtual worlds that are cropping up, where you can create a virtual self, and a virtual dwelling, and virtually do anything. There are even virtual economies that exist in these virtual worlds that allow users to actually earn REAL money. Real companies are even having virtual press conferences in these virtual worlds. One of the best examples is Second Life(f), a 3-dimensional virtual landscape where you can buy virtual land, and sell your virtual wears or virtual services. In Second Life you can even get an education or get involved in non-profit work supposedly...What?! I haven't tried it out, because honestly, who has the time?? I'm too busy with the Real World to get involved with something like Second Life. I'll become more than a little creeped-out when the real wold becomes indistinguishable from these virtual worlds. Imagine a future where you can interact in a virtual world that is indistinguishable from the real world. People would stop living in the real world because in a virtual world there is no real danger. This is sounding more and more like the plot of the Matrix...Scary.
Here is a really cool poster(g) I heard about on the Net@Night(h) podcast (another fine example of web2.0). It's a map depiction of what the Internet might look like if it were a physical place. I'm already a map freak. I love maps. I think what's really cool about this is how it visually paints a picture of the huge virtual landscape that the Internet has made possible. Take a look and notice all the brands you recognize--you might be surprised.
January 8, 2007
Topic: New Years Thoughts
Can you believe it's already 2007? This decade is more than two-thirds over already and I feel like I only recently got comfortable with what to call it. I remember not long ago everyone was wondering what to call this decade; “The Two-Thousands?” we'd awkwardly ask each other, it just sounded weird. In fact, I'm actually not really sure if anyone ever really came to a determination of what to call this decade.
I'm starting to realize that as I get older the idea of knowing all the secrets to life (or at least the most important ones) is a far fetched aspiration, and I'm realizing that most people who are really successful don't really question the secrets of life, but instead take what they have and try to make the most of their experience as a human.
Topic: Recent EventsTonight I tried yet again to make brownies, and yet again I have created brownie-flavored stucco-like material that comes out of the pan in a solid block.
Here are a couple recent news stories I've found interesting...
Not too long ago I read in the news that Bono (his name is pronounced 'bon-oh' not 'bone-oh') has received an honorary knighthood. (Being that he is an Irishman, by technicality Bono can only receive an honorary knighthood, the highest award a non-British human being can achieve.) But big deal, right? This really isn't something new for the Rock star. He has already received the Legion D'Honneur from France, and was requested by the Pope to give up his sunglasses, which I think is a much cooler honor. For Bono, such a title is really arbitrary; to him actions speak louder than words, but he understands how his image can be used as a bargaining chip to do what's right for society, which is why it makes sense that Bono appreciates this award from Britain as long as in some way it can further the cause to fight poverty in Africa. I think it's interesting how great minds influence other great minds; Ghandi influences Martin Luther King Jr, who influences Bono; I guess I can't really lament the loss of U2 in the recording studio knowing that instead Bono is rallying support and getting billionaires and powerful politicians to sign-on in the fight against the extreme poverty in Africa.
Read about Bono's honorary knighthood here
UFO Report on NPR: I heard on NPR last week that 12 workers at Chicago's O'Hare airport filed reports last November of seeing a silver saucer shaped object in the sky, which after staying in a stationary position in the sky for a while took off leaving a strange hole shape in the cloud cover above. Hmmm, first of all, there must be a pretty strong union for airport workers, and secondly; that's not a very original UFO story guys. The flying saucer story is so overused. Come on, if you're going to make up a story about Aliens coming to earth, you need something more unusual (Like: they came down in a floating Christmas tree and when they landed they walked out singing carols, pretending to be nice, and then wiped out some lasers and kidnapped a guy presumably to be part of some sort of extraterrestrial orgy; that would be so much cooler). And another thing: if your job is so boring that you need to make up UFO stories to keep yourself entertained then you ought to realize that there are so many better places on Earth to check out than an airport. Honestly, if you're going to fly 100,000 light years or more across the galaxy to visit Earth, I can think of a few better places to visit; I think I'd spend most of my time in Rio de Janiero, maybe backpack across Europe in the spring. New Zealand is supposed to be beautiful this time of year.
Listen to the NPR story here
In honor of this UFO story, I'm adding a link for a YouTube video which is a hilarious parody of the cult classic They Live; a science fiction B-movie about aliens infiltrating and running out society where one man finds a magical pair of sunglasses that allows him to see the aliens and their corruption around him; but I like this version A LOT better...
WARNING: This video does contain some “racy” subject matter (i.e. Sexy girls wearing bikinis and dancing about for no apparent reason; which is why this version is so better than the original on which it's based) so if you're offended by that sort of thing then you might not want to watch this video. If not, then you might find this video very funny.
January 6, 2007
Topic: More 'Best Of's for 2006Note: 2006 was a great year in my life (it's hard to believe it's over). I made a big change and left the town I grew up in tand moved to Charlotte. I never could have imagined how great the change would turn out—there are so many great people here, I've had some great experiences. I am thankful for the opportunities I have been granted to make this move...
Best of Charlotte 2006
Best Restaurants in Charlotte
5th place - Thomas Street Tavern
4th place - Penguin
3rd place - Landmark Dinner
2nd place - The Dish
1st place - The Common Market Deli
Best Record Store in Charlotte in 2006
Manifest Records in Charlotte has one of the best selections of music and movies, new and used, that I've ever seen.
Best Movie Store in Charlotte in 2006
This category has a special place in my heart as I love movies so much
Visart Video – the truly the best video store I've ever been to. Here is an example of why Visart is so amazing. Their Christmas section contains all of my favorite Christmas movies:
Best of Everything Else 2006
The 'Best Of's pertain to several somewhat random categories. There will be a separate 'Best Of' posting for this years best movies of 2006, so be on the look out for that as well.
Best Newly Discovered Free Software of 2006:
OpenOffice is still my favorite freeware application. But this year I discovered a really amazing free graphic editing program named Paint.NET. Basically, some students at the University of Washington being mentored by some folks at Microsoft came up with this powerful application that is based on the old MS Paint application, but utilizing Microsoft's .NET framework it's extremely powerful and has advanced features like, layering images for really cool effects, and it features endless 'undo' capability, which is nice as you're learning how to use it. If you're on a budget and are looking for a nice graphics program to play around with then you should check it out.
Please take a look at my software links page for a listing of other great software I highly recommend.
Best Newly Discovered Podcasts of 2006:
Podcasting in general is all pretty new to me, and already I've latched onto some really great ones,
This American Life - http://www.thislife.org/
Ask A Ninja - http://askaninja.com/
Geekdrome, - (very sadly this has been disbanded. WHY! There was so much potential!)
TWiT (I was a really big fan of TechTV. Leo Laporte was one of the most talented people at TechTV before it unfortunately was dismantled by a corporate merger. Then I discovered TWiT and it's even better!) -
Best Newly Visited Cities of 2006:
This year was unusual for me because I had the opportunity to visit a lot of interesting cities in the US for the first time, some of which were more remarkable than others but all deserve special mention. There are certain cities and regions across the US that have their own charm and personality, almost like they have their own essence, which can create a haunting feeling.
Savannah, GA—I got a little taste of Savannah, GA this summer when I went to meet the members of a wedding party at a little beach community on Tybee island earlier this summer.
Asheville, NC – went to a film festival, was so beautiful, surrounded by mountains. Certainly the most alternatively-cool place in North Carolina
Dallas, TX—Went with my friends to Dallas, attended a Mass at the cathedral and then visited the spot where Kennedy was shot. It was very haunting to walk around the knoll, and see the X painted on the pavement where he was shot; it was kind of surreal, and I felt kind of like by just by being there I was somehow connected to that terrible event in the past. Maybe this was because it was my first time visiting the site of a real tragedy.
Fort Worth, TX—I didn't really see much of Fort Worth except to see a Rodeo which nicely summed up all my expectations of what Texas has to offer.
Athens GA—home town of The B52s and REM, I went to see Rogue Wave (unless I'm mistaken there was a flyer for RW on the way in Maggie's Bakery in the movie Stranger than Fiction)
Austin, TX—How is is that such a cool place can exist in Texas. The only way I can justify it is to think of Austin as to texas what the black dot is to the white half of a yen-yang symbol.
Charlotte, NC—Having met some amazing new friends, it's easy to call Charlotte my new home town, and my favorite new city of 2006
Best newly discovered beer of 2006:
Shinner Bock out of Texas,
Highlands Gaelic Ale Asheville, NC
Best Concert Experience of 2006:
I didn't really attend many concerts this year. But the two I did see were great. In the early summer I attended a Tom Petty concert. Trey Anistagio opened (he was the lead singer for Phish) and Stevie Nicks made a guest appearance for several songs. I drank a lot of expensive beer, and at the end of the evening as I was going to pee in the woods near where our car was I slipped and tumbled down a 30 foot slope in total darkness in the trees after the show; that in itself was kind a surreal experience.
The other concert I saw was in Athens, Georgia -- it was a band called Rogue Wave and their song 'Bird on a Wire' is really great. The venue was really cool. There were probably only about 40 people tops at the show; I'm pretty sure I saw a Rogue Wave flier stuck to the wall in Maggie Gylenhaal's bakery in the movie Stranger Than Fiction.
Best new song of 2006:
3rd place - Bird on a wire, by Rogue Wave
2nd place - Chasing Cars, by Snow Patrol
1st place - Crazy, by Gnarles Barkley
Check out my Best Movies of 2006 post. Movies get their own 'best of' entry for 2006.
January 1, 2007
Happy New Years!!!
Hey there! Happy New Years to everyone around the planet Earth! In the future when our decedents settle other planets that in all likelihood will have different orbits around their host star than the 365 day orbit of our Earth, I wonder if we will still measure time in Earth years, or will a general standardized universal calender be established? Hmmm.
Isn't it fantastic that people around the world can gather around their television set and all experience the joy of watching a gleaming ball slide down a pole?
I was thinking if I had a band, what would I name it?....here are some band name ideas I've been kicking around...
Father of the Nimrod
The Bad Haircuts
Omnipotent Nose Hairs