Greed is Good?

I was looking at this Crooks and Liars post, and had a few thoughts on it.

First of all, greed (in the abstract) can be good. It gets people to work harder and be more creative. The problem is when that greed leads someone to short-change (or outright cheat or injure) other people. And that's where it goes to sh*t for everyone. As this post demonstrates, that happens a lot.

Second, Steve Jobs is a horrible example of what he's trying to show. One, the evidence is that Steve, despite being non-technical, is intimately involved in design at Apple, so it's actually possible that he is worth an outsized pay package. (For further example, look what he managed to create at Pixar. And then look how he managed to buy the parts of Disney that most people think ARE Disney, and he got Disney to pay for it.) Two, look at the size of Steve Jobs salary (hint: I make more in an hour than he has made in salary over the 13-14 years since he returned to Apple as CEO. After taxes). I think we can all agree that he earns that salary.

Is his point generally spot on? Yes, I believe it is.

Hmm... finally read the second point in that article. There's definitely some truth there, and I think it hints at why an awful lot of lottery winners go broke or otherwise ruin their (and their family's, usually) lives. The only point I want to make about that section is the theory about CEOs investing in their business; I think that only happens when the CEO is also the founder. I really don't think it does happen, outside of that. And probably not nearly always with founders, at least of founders whose company has grown big enough to have an IPO.


Concacaf Gold Cup final

I watched the Concacaf Gold Cup final last night; actually, it was a bit weird. We were out with friends when the game started, but I flipped on the DVR long enough to start recording when we got home. Oddly (and no doubt due to having the DVR on the right channel to begin with), when I went to watch the recording an hour later, I found that the recording included the entire game. Bonus.

It was also weird to turn on the game, and see the Tri-Colores in black. What the heck was going on with that?

Before I get to the play itself, I gotta say that the officiating was pretty terrible. Donovan got a card for a challenge that was much lighter than a number of later incidents by the Mexican players that didn't even rate a foul call. Was the US loss caused by that? No, but it certainly didn't help.

As far as the play itself, both sides played well, but the game was not nearly as close as the score would indicate. And it's amazing to me that the US held a lead (let alone a two goal one) at any point. They really didn't deserve it.

Despite what the announcers said, the US was outplayed from the start of the game. They did a good job to get the two goals they had, and both were good plays, but they didn't have the ball enough to deserve that lead. The US' first touch, a goal kick, came about two minutes in. It went straight to a Mexican player.

Really, there wasn't much positive for the US in the game. The two goals, between them, constituted about 30-45 seconds of good play, but that was almost the entirety of the good play in the first half. I think the US probably had about 20% possession in that half (when they put the stats up, do they measure that in number of passes, number of touches, or just total time (a dicey measure)?). It was ugly.

The second half, especially the second half of the second half, looked better, although one can't help but wonder whether that was because the US was playing from behind and Mexico was giving them a little bit more space.

The US defense, especially once Cherundolo got injured, just didn't have the pace to keep up with Dos Santos or Barrera, and couldn't keep track of Chicharito (it's amazing to me that he didn't manage to score).

So, it'll be interesting to see where the US team goes from here. Hopefully, this will keep them from standing pat on their lineup, especially across the back line. But I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Women's World Cup Beginnen

The Women's World Cup kicked off this morning (9am local time) in Germany. I watched half of each of the games (the second half of France/Nigeria and the first of Germany/Canada). I have to say, I was not impressed with the quality of play overall in either game.

The midfield play, in particular, was just not very good for any of the four teams. There were way too many turnovers (especially considering how many of them were just not kicked close to their target).

It has been a while since I last watched the Women's World Cup (I missed both of Germany's victories, I believe), but I don't remember that being the case when I last viewed it. Have I just gotten better at noticing that sort of thing, or has the quality of play decreased?


Looking Through the Alice-Glass

I bought Alice in Wonderland quite some time ago when Target had a very good deal. I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep it at the time, thinking that I might want to return it and get the 3D version. Well, I debated that until after the return period ended (as I said, at Target, so that took a while), and then finally put it in the player last night.

I'm not sure what I really want to say about it. It was gorgeous, no doubt. It was weird; that was to be expected. In fact, I sometimes wonder if the original was some opium-induced haze that took Dodgson from which he was induced to tell stories to Alice Liddell. Probably not, but I sometimes wonder.

In any event, this movie was a very interesting take on the books (yes, books; Through the Looking Glass was also heavily used. In fact, a slight updating of one of the original Tenniel illustrations from TtLG also figured heavily). While the imagery was highly fantastical and nonsensical, the plotline was pretty linear and logical. I feel like I should make some clever observations on the contrast, but I can't really think of anything right now. Probably it's a simple matter that the movie wouldn't make any sense if they tried to make the plot as non-linear as the scenery.

I guess about the most that I can say is that I enjoyed it a great deal, and now feel that I should go read the books (I've enjoyed the pieces of each that I've read, but have never finished either, sadly. Not even right after I bought The Annotated Alice).

Bearing a Lantern

(With apologies to Piers Anthony on the title. I just reread a chunk of his Incarnations of Immortality series, and had it on the mind. Sadly, it took a lot less than five volumes to get tired of it this time. More like one and a half.)

In any event, a friend of mine and I caught Green Lantern on Friday. It was a little weird to me, too, because I'd never read Green Lantern growing up (I almost exclusively read Marvel titles). He was a fan, though, and I was curious, so we went.

I feel like a broken record with things I've been watching lately, though. The movie felt kind of... rushed, I guess. Unless the movie is a one-shot (which would shock me), why would you have a universe-destroying threat in the first movie? Where do you go from there?

I mean, yes, the answer is obviously Sinestro, but it doesn't seem like he'd be a bigger threat than Parallax. In fact, with the hoo-hah about how antithetical Will and Fear are, one would speculate that one very strong in Will would be correspondingly weak in Fear. One would think, also, that the yellow ring would lend itself to a completely different style of fighting than a green one would. Something tells me that the only difference will be the color of the special effects (although, as noted, I haven't seen the comic book).

Anyway, getting back to the point, having this level of threat more or less necessitated bringing in the whole Green Lantern Corps, which was neat, but didn't give Hal much time to learn his powers on his own. I would have much preferred to see him learning more than being taught.

This led to two things that weakened the movie. The familiar one is that it meant that Hal needed to learn responsibility overnight. While that's a little bit more feasible than learning enlightenment that quickly, it isn't by much. The other ramification is that it didn't leave a whole lot of time for the final battle. This meant defeating the enemy in a way that seemed a bit... improbable for a planet-devouring enemy. (Ignoring, of course, how badly off the perspective was in the shots in space at the end.)

It also meant that we didn't find out how Sinestro escaped from Parallax, which could have been important. It might have explained the push for the yellow ring, which made no sense given the story that came out immediately before that.

Another thing that had to be off, though it didn't occur to me until afterwards, if Hal's predecessor was the one who trapped Parallax initially, then he had to be one of the oldest of the Lanterns. It seems like, if he was that old, then he should have been sitting in the circle of elders, not still running around as an active Lantern.

Moving on, the movie was very good, visually, although don't bother seeing it in 3D. There was no depth added, which is sad, because this could (should) have been a good movie for showcasing 3D. If I had to guess, the 3D was done entirely in post-processing, and it just didn't look the same.

As far as acting, that was mostly good. Ryan Reynolds mostly did a good job, although there were a few scenes where he was being serious, and I couldn't take him seriously. I do wonder, though, if that's on me, for only seeing characters he'd played before. Mark Strong did a fantastic job as Sinestro, and Blake Lively was also good as Carol Ferris.

Overall, I guess you get exactly what you'd expect from this. Popcorn entertainment that's busy but shallow. Is it worth seeing? I'm not sure if I'd see it, knowing what I know now. I definitely wouldn't pay extra for the 3D, though.

Update: When I first wrote this, I was trying to remember what I'd seen Ryan Reynolds in. I glanced through his filmography at the time, but nothing jumped out at me. I had another occasion to look, though, and saw that I'd seen him in Definitely, Maybe; X-Men Origins: Wolverine; and The Proposal. I liked him in both romantic comedies, and I think it was mostly the latter from which I was remembering him. I really don't remember him from Wolverine at all.


Forgot to post it yesterday; Isner v Mahut was definitely a dud. There were two tiebreakers, but Isner took it in straight sets. It's true that it was too much to hope for another epic match, but I was still hoping. Congrats to Isner for moving on. Hopefully he can wreak some havok on some seeded players.


Isner v Mahut later today...

at Wimbledon on Court 3. That is all.

Congrats to McIllroy

I'm not a big fan of golf. It's fun to play, but not much less boring than watching paint dry to watch. It's never fun to see a player collapse under pressure, and McIllroy's at the Masters was quite disappointing. So it was great to see him stomp all over the memory of that tournament and keep that from becoming recurring demons.

So congrats on the magnificent tournament, Rory.


I'm a little surprised at this...

Just ran across this article about taking a young child to Hooters... And it surprises me, because I've taken my young daughter (actually, mine is two and a half right now) to Hooters twice. Both times with a bunch of friends, which might have mattered. Both times at lunch time on a weekend, which also might. The Hooters we went to was also not centered on the bar, which almost certainly matters. (In fact, I don't think that Hooters (Fairfax, VA) has a bar.)

We did it because some friends have a tradition about going to Hooters on the same day that other friends are getting married. So, once last year and this (in this case, three days ago), we joined them. We were very surprised with how kid-friendly Hooters was. Need a high chair? Check. Kid's menu? Check. Crayons and something to color on? Check. Balloon? Check. Waitresses giving her extra attention? Check. Plastic cups? Check. The first time we went, we were shocked that we were far from the only people bringing kids there.

Really, from the perspective of bringing my daughter, it was great. I mean, Saturday was only my fourth time ever in a Hooters, and the experiences weren't so great as to persuade me to go back regularly, but we had a good time.

I do not invest in funds (except indices)...

And after this Supreme Court decision, I'm damned glad that's the case. It sure as hell won't change, with this kind of jurisprudence in place.

Great job for everyone, here.


Speaking of WImbledon...

It appears that God has a sense of humor, as he matched up Isner with Mahut in the first round. After their epic match last year (and I can't believe I didn't link that live blog last year; it's hilarious), expectations will probably be pretty high. Heck, it might be the highest profile match in the first round. I suspect this one will be a whole lot shorter. It would be cool if it wasn't, though.


Congrats, Bruins

I caught a bit of tonight's game. Since all I saw of the finals were (pieces of) Boston's last three wins, I didn't see much good from the Canucks. I am glad to see that that late hit from several games back (the 6D Canuck on one of Boston's top scorers; sadly, I forget the players' names) didn't end up being decisive.

Anyway, congratulations to the Bruins on the first title since '72. I think this means that Boston has had a title in every major sport in the last four years. That's quite a run.

It'd be nice if DC had even one title in the last four years. Heck, it'd be nice if there were one in the last fourteen. *sigh*


Wow, this is depressing

I read most of Glenn Greenwald's columns (and have been, since before he was at Salon). Unfortunately, I find most of them pretty depressing. But this latest one... ugh.

I remember reading a couple of Clancy's older books, back when I was in high school (when Clancy was still a local; at the time, we went to Church in the same town where Clancy sold insurance), and he had south americans talking about how the norteamericanos were such imperialists. At the time, it didn't make much sense to me. But now? It's hard to see how you avoid such a conclusion.

Everything seems to be an excuse for war, or at least bombing.

The Nobel committee admitted that they awarded Obama the award more aspirationally than for deeds done; he apparently never got the message. And that's sad, because his rhetoric when running was really dead-on. But his execution as president has been terrible. He hasn't just forgotten his campaign promises, but has actively worked to undermine some of them, especially as relates to foreign policy, transparency, and civil liberties. It's very disappointing.

It's hard to avoid the thought that the Yemeni push will be used as an excuse to increase attempts to murder al Awlaki (sp?) as well. As I said, damned depressing.

Movie binge

I've been on a bit of a movie bender lately. Last night, I finally watched Hot Tub Time Machine (which I recorded off Epix like six weeks ago). A couple of nights ago, I watched Wimbledon. A couple nights before that, I watched The Brothers Grimm and over the weekend I rewatched Enchanted with my daughter.

So, why did I watch HTTM, when the reviews I heard were pretty bad? Well, I do like Cusack, and the idea did sound interesting, although the reviews made it sound pretty unlikely to have lived up to that potential. Anyway, it was not a great movie, but it was pretty funny (though I think I would have liked it better without all the drug usage). There was a really funny running gag about the bellhop losing his arm; we knew he was going to at some point, but it kept teasing us about it happening and then having it not happen.

The one thing that really bothered me about the movie was how they handled Lou at the end. It was kind of funny, but it was absurdly unrealistic. Knowing that Google existed, and what Google did would not have enabled him to create Google. In fact, we have no reason to believe he would even comprehend how google works. Plus, execution matters. Studies that have looked at academic research that eventually turned into products found that turning a useful discovery into a product costs about 100x as much as making that useful discovery. So even if he really did understand Map/Reduce (which we have no reason to believe), it still would not have been a slam-dunk to reproduce. Just a pet peeve of mine.

Plus, the idea of coming home to someone with whom you've been married for twenty years, but with whom you've only spent a couple of hours? Very weird. Gets more disturbing the more you think about it.

The closing credits with Motley Lue were really funny, though.

Moving back, I was rewatching Wimbledon, which I'd seen one time before. I liked it the first time (hence, watching it again, duh :), but didn't remember too much specific about it. I liked it even more this time, even if I was more aware (I think) of how unrealistic the story was. Actually, I just remembered to look up more specifically how much so it was, and it was about as I expected. Goran Ivansevic was the only wild-card to win the tournament, and he was also at the end of his career (and a bit better of a career than Peter, topping out at second instead of eleventh overall). The characters also do not look believable as tennis pros, but that was pretty easy to overlook.

Still, I enjoyed it very greatly; I liked the interaction between Peter and Lizzie and how they danced around her dad. I also liked how they talked about the game, and the various matches. The acting was also good; Peter's family was especially funny. I guess I'd rate it overall as frothy fun.

Moving on to Enchanted, I watched that because I've recently watched most of the princess movies with my daughter, so I thought this would be an amusing addition to those. She's really too young to enjoy this one, though; I should have waited a year or three. Most of it just went straight over her head. One thing I found funny was that she was scared a couple of times, but the apartment-cleaning scene didn't bug her a bit.

As for me, I didn't like it as much as the first time I saw it. I did get some more of the references, but they were mostly not very cleverly done, so I don't think they really added much.

And the ending of the movie, with the queen turning into a dragon was really pointless (yes, I get that it was done as an homage to Sleeping Beauty). The queen already knew that Giselle wasn't the Prince's true love, and so, wouldn't be marrying him and kicking her out. So what was the point of going after her?

And do you really want to see what would happen if you had someone who's never even held a sword to throw it? Well, you certainly wouldn't want to be anywhere near where it went. I guess I was able to ignore that the first time I watched the movie, but it really bugged me this time.

I dunno; the movie had a few good scenes (the aforementioned apartment-cleaning was probably my favorite), but it just didn't really do anything for me.

Which brings us to The Brothers Grimm; one that I bought mostly because it was done by Terry Gilliam (well, I also have a lot of respect for the original brothers. They did a lot more than just collect tales). Let's just say that it was not his finest (ok, it might not even make his top ten). Part of it was that it was borderline to being a horror movie, which is not my cup of tea. And as a horror movie, I didn't even find it funny (which I frequently do with that genre, as they get so absurdly removed from reality. Only exception that I can recall: The Exorcist, but I haven't seen that many).

Anyway, they managed to cram a lot of references to the original stories into this, and the profession of the brothers was pretty funny, but that was about the limit of what I found enjoyable. Oh, they also made good use of french invaders.

But I can't really think of anything else good to say. I'm tempted to say that Ledger and Damon did pretty well despite the material they were working from, but I'm far from sure that I'd be saying that just because I generally like both of them.

Just very disappointing all the way around.

So, there you have it. Several movies, with a mix of success from them.


Social Security must be safe, now

Think Progress alerts us that many of the poorer people in this country won't be able to afford to retire until very late in life. Let us remember that most of these people (certainly the bottom quintile) will not, on average, even live long enough to retire. So if that many people won't live long enough to retire, Social Security will stay solvent for a much longer time, right?


Economy in our Lives

I do computer programming for a living. But for some reason, I recently bought several economics books. No, not like economics textbooks; all three look to apply the lessons of economics to everyday life.

The books are Predictably Irrational, The Logic of Life, and Freakanomics. I suppose I should, perhaps, add The Undercover Economist to complete the collection.

I've read a bit less than half of Irrational, but did finish Freakanomics last night. They're the sort of books that appeal to me, perhaps on an irrational basis. I love reading them for the ideas they throw out, but they're hard to read for any length of time, because I get preoccupied with those ideas and want to delve into one of the ideas without moving on to others.

Economics, to me, is a pretty weird discipline. There aren't many other fields (actually, I don't know of any) where two completely incompatible theories can both have wide acceptance. Part of that is that much of economics, when applied to things more complex than "simple" supply and demand, deals with issues that can't be studied in isolation, and for which there just isn't enough data to conclusively prove one theory to be correct.

But it does encourage a scientific approach to inquiry of all sorts, and Freakanomics shows some of the diverse issues into which that can give some insight.

I'm really not sure how useful having read the book will turn out to be, but the issues that it looked into (the KKK, drug dealers, abortion, child naming, parental influence in education, etc) were all fascinating to me. Some of them I knew a little bit about, some I didn't, but I learned quite a bit about all of them. And most of them I learned to look at a bit differently than I had before.

I'll have to write some more about this when I finish one of the other books, but this is a fantastic book, easily worthy of the plaudits I'd heard before I bought it.


Re-Settlement Plans

I was just entertained by this note, as I think Settlers is a fantastic game. In fact, having played it for over ten years, I have yet to find anyone who doesn't like it (including my wife, who generally mocks board games).

If you haven't tried it yet, give it a go. (FWIW, I prefer the base game, followed by the Knights and Cities. I don't like the Seafarers as much.)


Plumbing more depths

Now that we've talked about a frightfully shallow movie and a fantasy novel investigating the depths of the planet, let's talk about some different depths.

As I mentioned earlier, I changed FiOS plans recently, and one of the added channels is ESPN 3D. I was curious to see how that would look, but it generally doesn't have a lot of current material.

But I was thrilled to hear that the NBA Finals would be showing there, as that's certainly current material. As I think I alluded earlier, I'm not a bit NBA fan. These days, I don't watch complete games, and rarely even watch more than a couple of minutes of games. This season, I watched some of the season-opening Heat/Celtics game, and I think that was it for the regular season. I watched pieces of a few playoff games (oddly, the Heat dominated the chunks of the games I watched with them, even if they didn't really dominate that series, or even that game, outside of the piece I saw).

But, to see it in 3D? Now, that I was curious about. I still haven't watched a full game, but I saw pretty good pieces of the second and third games.

What do I think about the channel? It's kind of interesting, in a way, but because they don't have a whole lot of audience (it's more a proof-of-concept thing, I think, than something looking to generate immediate revenue) there isn't a whole lot of advertising. So the announcers need to be better, because they have more time to fill. But since they aren't the big-audience announcers, they aren't better. But since I mostly ignore them, I guess it isn't too bad.

But what I find interesting is that you can see a lot more of the arena during timeouts and such than normally. It's games that haven't been ruined by commercials (well, mostly). At least, it seems that way.

Another piece that's interesting is that there are only a few commercials. Somewhat ironically, one of them is for Sony 3D TVs where they're selling 3D. Hello, you're sending this commercial to people who already have a 3D TV, so you don't need to sell them on the concept.

Getting to the game itself, it's a bit weird. The perspective seems off, in a way, but I haven't really been able to quantify how. The players seem smaller, somehow, and the scale just seems ... off, I guess. But the depth of the whole thing is still pretty cool. I think it'll do very well if they can figure out the perspective issue (they should especially look at cameras close to the crowd; things really look wonky if someone in the crowd sticks their arm up into the frame).

I'm definitely curious to see how things look when there's a bit more material. And is there any chance of an NHL 3D channel? I'd like to see it.

Time of the Cold

Getting past that lousy excuse for a movie, over the last couple of months, I've been working my way through a fantasy series I hadn't read since high school. It's by Barbara Hambly, and the books were The Time of the Dark, The Walls of Air, and The Armies of Daylight. I recently found out there were two more books that I never read, but I think I'm going to skip them, as they're only tangentially related.

It was about a pre-technological society, where magic has some influence, where shapeless beings known as the Dark have risen up (after hiding for centuries) and are destroying human civilization.

Two people from our Earth, one a PhD history student, the other a slacker airbrush jockey, are pulled into that world and its struggles.

It was really interesting reading, particularly since it had been twenty years or so since my last perusal. I remembered from the beginning why the Dark arose, as that was one of the more interesting twists for a fantasy series. And I ended up remembering most of the major plot points, but many of them only a little bit before they occurred. Some of them I remembered what happened, but not why or when. As I said, it was an interesting experience.

I still ended up liking the series a great deal. I liked the portrayal of wizards, and Ingold is a great character (though at least a bit unrealistic; a sixty-odd year-old man is not going to be the best swordsman around, to say nothing of his inhuman endurance. And pulling his name straight out of The Silmarillion is a little odd). And the relationship between Alde and Rudy is fabulously well-handled. Really, I think that's the strongest part of the books.

That between Ingold and Gil is also well done, although taking the last step and having them become lovers seemed a bit much.

The handling of a catastrophic breakdown in society was also interesting, especially the characters who refused to admit that that was what had happened. And happily, a number of those people ended up dying because of that, which makes a lot of sense.

The biggest problems were realistic ones. It never really made sense that the Dark never came out into the light. As an intelligent race, they would seem to be able to endure at least some exposure in the light if that would allow them to kill their enemies. Their ability to steal minds also never really made much sense, nor their ignoring other forms of life. And there's the idea of how you fight something with a sword, if that something can rapidly change shape. But the biggest problem involved why they re-emerged into the world at all.

I thought the idea of having them be forced to come out because their food was failing due to the onset of an ice age was really cool. The problem, though, is that they hadn't been seen because they were deep underground. How cold does it get underground? It doesn't. Look into geothermal heating for a bit more information on it.

So they idea of climate change as plot driver kind of falls on its face. Which is unfortunate; as I said, I liked the idea quite a bit. It was certainly a good attempt to inject some realism into a fantasy novel.

But having said that, it's still a really good series, and I might read it again before too long.

Second Transformation

Man, finally got around to watching the second Michael Bay Transformers movie. Wow, that was a bad, bad movie. I grew up watching Transformers (can't remember why I was home from school that day, but I was watching an episode of the cartoon when the Challenger blew up), but I still can't find much of redeeming value in there.

It was occasionally funny, and certainly looked impressive, but was an epic fail at everything else it tried. It couldn't even do sexy. With Megan Fox. How is that possible?

The people were barely even cardboard cutouts, the attempt at showing someone in college played like a spoof (and a bad one, at that), and someone managed to get paid for writing that dialog. Wow.

All I can say is, thank goodness I got it for a good price. Well, relative to normal asking, anyway. I wish I'd paid about half what I did.



I just thought this was an interesting note about Groupon. The reason I think it's interesting is that they already turned down a $6B purchase offer from Google.

Granted, I didn't understand that non-deal on any level. It didn't seem to make much sense for Google, especially at that price, and I couldn't understand why the owners of Groupon wouldn't jump on that price.

This IPO makes that even more questionable. If they think the company is worth so much money, why aren't they looking for a bigger IPO? Are they just selling 10% or so of the company? If so, why not more?

Sorry, no answers here; I just thought the questions were interesting.

Update: Here's some more info about the IPO. Short answer: stay far away, if you were thinking of investing.