Month: December 2013

Movies (No letters missing)

Famous and not so famous movies. Precedence given to names instantly recognizable as movies
Letter Main Candidate Secondary Comments
A  Alien Aliens  
B  Bambi Bullitt Bambi is easier to spell
C  Casablanca   Sorry, nothing else is an option
D  Dracula Dumbo One Disney animation from the 40s is enough
E  Exorcist   Would need the article, “The”
F  Fargo Fitzcarraldo  
G  Gigi Gandhi, Goldfinger, Goodfellas Personal choice would be Goldfinger
H  Hair    
I  Ikiru    
J  Jaws    
K  Kick-ass   Hey! I liked it
L  Lolita    
M  Moonstruck M  
N  Network   Computer geeks love the fact this is not about a computer network
O  Othello   Gotta have at least one Shakespeare adaptation
P  Psycho Patton, Platoon, Pinocchio, Poltergeist  
Q  Quadrophenia    
R  Robocop Rebecca Rebecca was my first choice, but only because it was my mom’s favorite movie
S  Shrek Serpico, Silkwood, Spartacus  
T  Tootsie Traffic, Trainspotting  
U  Unforgiven    
V  Vertigo    
W  Weekend  Wolverine  
X  X-Men   Easy one!
Y  YOLO   Technically, You Only Live Once (1937)
Z  Zardoz Zoolander  

Elysium (2013)

Elysium PosterI was curious about this movie, an allegory of the current state of mankind and of health care. Not curious enough to break my long-standing ban on movie theaters, but enough to actually pay-per-view on Amazon.

My conclusion: the problems with which the movie concerns itself are real, but the movie doesn’t work. It is too slow, too long, and the plot has severe theatrical deficiencies.

Let’s start with a plot summary. It is some time in the 22nd century. Earth is an ugly, overpopulated, diseased planet. So much so that the rich moved to an orbiting station called Elysium where they can pursue a life of quiet boredom, or cocktail parties and giant mansions.

We are of course on Earth, where a young boy is in the care of a selfless nun. He meets a girl, and the two make a pact to one day go to Elysium. (I should mention that the casting of the children as precursors was spectacular, and the moment the camera switches to current time with the adults replacing the children is uncanny).

By the time we wake up with the adults, it’s 2154. The former child is now a reformed law-breaker living in the barrios of Los Angeles. He still wears an ankle monitoring device, which is simply intended as a hint to his current condition and doesn’t actually figure in the plot. Our hero has a job in a robot manufacturing factory and is constantly harassed and abused by the authorities.


Living With the Puck: StraightTalk Unimax U240C Reviewed

Results in Hilo:
Ping: 128ms
Download: 2.27 Mb/s
Upload: 0.51 Mb/s
San Diego:
Ping: 79ms
Download: 1.35 Mb/s
Upload: 0.79 Mb/s

My annual pilgrimage to Hilo used to be fueled by a Verizon 4G MiFi. But it made really no sense to have a $50 a month plan that I’d use only in emergencies and when I was on the islands. So I gave that up and have been looking for a replacement.

When I landed, I had a plan. My primary connection would be the hotel Internet, augmented by the T-Mobile connection on the Nexus 5. Android KitKat has mobile hotspot built-in, and things would have worked swell bUnimax U240Coth at the hotel and on the go.

Turns out the Internet at the hotel (the Wild Ginger Inn) is incredibly flaky. Every ten minutes or so, the connection resets and it takes a while to renegotiate. The phone turns out to be no better, as Hilo is served by the T-Mobile EDGE network and not the zippy LTE. To make things worse, when I tried to use the phone in mobile hotspot mode at the (LTE-enabled) Honolulu airport, the provisioning page refused to load.

When I drove to Walmart to buy the usual necessities you can’t take with you on the plane (like the oh-so-dangerous terrorist mouthwash, or the frighteningly terrorist toothpaste), I stopped at their Electronics department, and they had this device for sale. It promised Verizon network with Walmart prices. Nice! (They also had a 4G Verizon prepaid, but that one requires a subscription).

The economics of the device are simple. You buy the gadget for $80. Then, when you need Internet, you buy data by the GB. 1GB sets you back $15, 2 is $25, etc. You have to use up the data within a specified time limit (up to 2G in 30 days, above that in 60 days), but you can buy as much as you like – and as little. If you don’t use the thing, you just don’t buy gigabytes and you are good. Your only long-term investment is in the device.

Sadly, provisioning was a real pain. I unpacked and charged, and was surprised to find tons of manuals in the box. After all, all I needed to do was connect to the thing, tell it the PIN on the card I bought, and off I should have been able to go.


L’America: The 411 on Thanksgiving

Charlie Brown ThanksgivingWith the holiday behind us, I got my usual load of questions about Thanksgiving. What is it, why is it such a big deal, and what does it look like?

To give you an idea of what it feels like to an outsider, I’ll tell you the story of my first Thanksgiving after moving to America. There was one before that, but it was a coincidental Thanksgiving while vacationing in Hawaii, so that doesn’t really count.

My first real Thanksgiving was in Portland, OR. I had moved in June, so I was still very fresh to American culture. Thanksgiving meant little more to me that a holiday in the middle of the week, and strangely it seemed that everybody in the office had stopped working for real on Wednesday. Many would not show up on Friday, which is something I knew very well from Italy, where it is called ponte, or “bridge” (from holiday to weekend).

On the day itself, I had already heard the supermarkets were going to close early (actually, at all, since most of them are always open). I went to one and decided to get a frozen dinner. And since it was Thanksgiving, I would honor the tradition of my new home country by eating a frozen turkey dinner. They came with mashed potatoes and side of veggies (which I still pronounced “vegghies”).