Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Oh VAIO, My VAIO…..

Last month I started having some really sneaky hardware issues on my main machine, which kept escalating and eventually I ended up consulting a friend of mine who, let's just say,  has a thing or two to do with the VAIO line.

Aside from discussing solutions to the peculiar problems at hand, naturally it also occurred to me that I may have to replace my main machine in some not too far away point in the future. So I asked him what would VAIO have for me. And then he did a double take, stammered a bit, and said something like "uhmm, well, uhh, I thought you knew… VAIO isn't there anymore, at least not the VAIO we knew". To which I nearly yelled back "well I guess I don't receive the internal memos anymore".

Argh. Thought it was a bad joke. Turned out it wasn't.

What the hell? Well, it turns out Sony has officially had it with the PC business, and has sold the VAIO line to a Japanese firm that is now developing it into a standalone brand. They're going to continue producing VAIO PCs, but well obviously they'll have nothing to do with Sony anymore and at least for the moment they'll also not be available anywhere outside of Japan. Well, *sigh*.

So that was that, and since then I've been looking into what I might what I might want to get next. This has also been the topic of discussion with friends and colleagues, and well, it looks like the absence of VAIO is leaving a real hole in the notebook market. Simply put, there's nothing out there with even so much as comparable quality. And that is the state I am in right now, no idea what to get next. I need something powerful, slim, with high quality long lasting hardware. Suggestions?

P.S.: Is it really ridiculous that I feel horrible that I can't get VAIOs anymore? =( I basically never had a notebook that wasn't VAIO!

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Out with the Facebook apps!

So that's it, I've just removed both the Facebook app and the messenger from my Android tablet. Goodbye and good riddance.

I've simply had it with the nonsense. The main FB app is a terrible battery sucker. I have plenty of memory on my device which is why I hadn't paid attention, but it also uses uplogo-dislike-facebook-psd81960[1] faaaar too much memory. Then as of the recent versions you don't really have much of a control on what you're being fed. The feed is automatically set to show you what FB believes is most important, and you have no way of changing that. If you simply want to see the recent posts you have to specifically select a feed from the menu screen. And the list goes on.

Now of course to make things even better, FB recently decided that it wasn't enough that we have to deal with one power sucker, so instead they decided to force the users to install yet another one, in order to send and receive messages. This new app is simply useless. Half the time it doesn't give me any notification for received messages, and when it does, it's likely it won't actually show the new message [it doesn't update]. And it never shows if my message has been seen.

So at any rate, today I finally got fed-up enough to remove both from my Android device. Trillian will kindly inform me of new messages, and for everything else I'll simply use my browser. Of course for me it's more complicated than most, seeing that I don't use a cellphone and Facebook / email and few other things are my way of staying in touch with the world. So let's see how long I'll last.

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Saturday, September 06, 2014
A response to the attacks on my Guardians of the Galaxy movie review

Fair warning: Not the nicest version of me has written this article.

Last week I wrote a blog post about my thoughts on the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Since then I've been receiving preposterous amounts of "feedback" regarding that post. The tone and language of some of this "feedback" in my comments section resulted in flame-wars between readers, and I ended up having to disable comments. But I'm still getting the emails and the Facebook messages and so on. So for some of you who've written me comments and messages that have been a pleasure to read, thank you. And for the rest, I feel the need to write a response.

Sorry I'm not writing back to each of you directly, I'm afraid the post here will just have to do. As it happens I actually have a life, and a really busy one at that. And perhaps due to my line of work and style of life, I'm not nearly as obsessed with fiction as some. Simply put, this whole thing is just not important enough.

First, this is my weblog, and I will write in it as I please. I'm not employed by anyone,3439859-9541807941-middl[1] I'm not paid by anyone, I'm not under any form of obligation and the only rules I follow here are those of my own values. This weblog is old as hell, and yes, I have readers. Some of them read because they like what I write, some because they hate what I write, and some somewhere in between. And sometimes they share my posts with others, so that they can like or hate it together. And sometimes my posts end up on websites with a lot of readers. I don't ask for that, I don't object to that, and I don't change what I write because of that. I'm generally not concerned about accidentally stepping on anyone's toes, due to _my_ personal_ opinions.

Having said that… putting all the attack literature I've received together, a few very interesting points stand out.

It is quite interesting how in general there's no real mention of precisely "why" I'm wrong. There's a whole bunch of "you're wrong because this is the best movie ever made", but no rational responses to anything I've written. Mind you, once again, what I wrote wasn't to say that this was a "bad" movie, it was to say that it did not, at all, meet the expectations set by the DnA [and the long line before that] comic books. It appears that some 90% of the unhappy comments I've received are from people who've never read those, or haven't paid much attention, and generally do not have any idea what I'm getting at. I did mention that if this is your fist encounter with the whole thing, you're probably fine… didn't I? [Well unless you were looking for intelligent entertainment in which case.. well… hello!]

Even more interesting are the comments from people saying that they find the books not interesting, because they're "needlessly complicated", "don't feel like comic books", "there's too much details" and so on, and that they're happy with the now more entertaining version of things. I must admit, it's taking quite a bit of my energy to not write something really obscene in response to that.

I will however say this, thank you very much, that's very 1984 of you. So how's about we abandon the needlessly complicated English dictionary and just go for Newspeak then? We don't need so many words to communicate do we? I mean after all it's not like we have any need of communicating complex concepts, do we? And while we're at it, let's take every bit of thought provoking, meaningful literature out there and simplify it to death. It doesn't matter that we're already suffocating under the tons of pointless nonsense, let's take the few remaining shreds of good substantial thought-food and convert them into mass-pleasing balderdash too, how about that eh?

Or, you could just stick to whatever pleases you, and leave what pleases me alone. Hmm? How about you enjoy your 90% and leave me to my 10%. You see, if you don't "get it", it doesn't make it "bad"…

Oh, and thanks for calling me an "Elitist", again. I'm starting to feel quite comfortable with that term. In fact I seem to get a warm tingly feeling every time a clueless ninny calls me that. So yes, I enjoy both intelligence and intellect, but even more so, wisdom. And you have no idea how happy it makes me that you don't like that about me.

Forget that it's 2014, it not possible for me to have one such discussion without somebody playing the "but you're just a girl after all, what do you know" card. Honestly that's so old I don't even feel like addressing it anymore. So I say only this: I can build you a functional robot out of the junk in your garage, and I can teach you a fine lesson in humility with a pair of long-swords. Feel free to drop by any day of the week.

Another really big load of text that didn't explain in any rational way why I'm "wrong", went in the direction of explaining why it's "bad" to be a fan of Joss Whedon. Hmm. There was the attempt to make me understand that the only reason I like Joss Whedon is that I'm a feminist, and he has a reputation for writing strong female characters. It was then explained to me how that's only a pretence, and how his female characters are actually weak and needy. 

On one hand, I am as further away from feminism as I can possibly get. On the other hand, yes I do happen to like Joss Whedon's female characters, as well as the male ones, and everything else outside or in between! Why? Because he writes characters I can actually relate to! You say his female characters are actually pathetic because… what exactly? Because they have flaws? Because they have needs? Because they make mistakes? Because they have weaknesses? As opposed to what exactly, what is it that you want to see in your female character, a glorified cyborg??? And do Whedon's male characters not have the same issues in general? Are they not humanized the same way? Are his male and female heroes not equals?

On the third hand, what does this all have to do with Guardians, pray tell? Did you really just try to convince me that I'm wrong to prefer Joss Whedon's direction by launching a "he's a fake" campaign? Dear god people… as I have said before… please, please get a life.

At the end I would like to say this. You see, speaking my mind has a history of putting me in terrible trouble of the real sort. If you think the scorn of some Hollywood fanatics, over a movie review of all things, is going to have an effect, well… that's just adorable.

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Monday, September 01, 2014
Guardians of the Galaxy, the few pluses and the far too many shortcomings…

Let me start by putting out the fires: I'm not about to say that this was a "bad" movie. How could I possibly say such a thing? It wouldn't be fair. The movie is in fact quite 18b149286ca6f2920e017bd5d2ffcbf5[1]marvellous to watch! It was quite entertaining… as a stand-alone movie, a movie that  you would watch without any regard for the decades of Guardians comic-books and story arcs. If you don't know anything about what the story was, what the point of it was, what the philosophy of it was.. If you don't know anything about what Guardians of the Galaxy was supposed to be, then you're fine. Prepare for 1.5 hours of awesome entertainment!

Visually speaking, it's a pretty movie. I really love their visualization of "Nowhere". The make-up and costumes were pretty good. Special effects are great. There's a ton of nice fight scenes and explosions. ;) If you're into that sort of thing.

But then if you're like me, if you've waited forever and a half for a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and then you go and see this… then you're in something of a trouble.

Guardians and I.. well.. let's just say we have history. ;) For the longest time it was this peculiar set of story arcs out of Marvel's never so popular cosmic side. When you mentioned it to people, the reactions ranged from "What's that? I've never heard of that!" to "Oh right it's something to do with Avengers right?". Guardians of the Galaxy was this more or less ignored concept that every once in a while got picked up by one of Marvel's bolder writers, changed in various ways, published for a while and forgotten again. That is until 2007, when by some miracle, the geniuses of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning [alias DnA] got their hands on it.

When DnA started writing Guardians, it had been a while since anyone had paid any attention to the whole thing. Stalking Adam Warlock as I generally do, I landed on the Annihilation/Annihilation Conquest series and the new DnA Guardians. And hot damn, it took my breath away.

The DnA era was the true age of glory for the Guardians! The best possible characters were put together, and their parallel development was fantastically well done! These were, to me, the best written comics that ever came out of Marvel. DnA's Guardians with the ties to Nova, Silver Surfer and many other interesting characters, concepts and species, managed to bring Marvel cosmic back to life. And with that came attention.

I'm not sure exactly what happened but it looked like all of a sudden someone in Marvel came to the conclusion that some money could be made out of this! Guardians was taken from DnA, and handed to Bendis. A pop-culture writer who was in no way compatible with the mentality behind Guardians' story lines. By the time the production of a movie was announced, it was pretty obvious that there was no hope of DnA having anything to do with it. Heck, they weren't even consulted.

When I was told that the movie is not going to be all that much related to the new Bendis Guardians, I thought perhaps there would be a chance that the producers would follow in the lines of what made DnA's Guardians such a treasure. Trailers looked exciting enough, and I figured perhaps all isn't lost.

Well, no such luck.

The biggest issue with the movie is also the first one that slapped me in the face as the movie started. And that, is over simplification of the characters. You see, the whole fun of Guardians was that the characters were complex, odd, and unpredictable. Oh, and not a single one of them was made for team work.

Gamora doesn't do nice and friendly. She's just far more of a b**ch than has been portrayed here, and no, she would NEVER work for anyone least of all Ronan, that's just not in her character. Peter Quill is well aware of his own origins and heck, the idea of getting back at his own father eventually is one of the biggest factors in him becoming who he is. And he doesn't come from a space-pirate background, he comes from a freaky science background. And since when is Drax  a retard? This is Drax the destroyer, he was made to counteract Thanos in every possible way including intellectually. He's supposed to be cunning as hell. It makes me want to sit down and cry over what they've done to him. Rocket knows he's a Racoon. Heck his full name is ROCKET RACCOON gosh darn it! Oh and he would never in a million years get emotional over some idiot calling him a rodent. And since when is Ronan the Accuser this dishonorable psychopath? Are we talking about the same Ronan here? [Please refer to the last picture below.]

And then there was Groot. Oh, this was probably one of the few truly brilliant points of the movie. =) When I want to think positively about the movie, I generally think that this movie was just about Groot. Here was something really positive. I think Groot's character has never been so well developed, explored and realized as it has been in this movie. I looooved his looks, his movements, his eyes, how he beat people up, and most of all I loved the "We are Groot" scene. So yes, one for the plus.

But I'm afraid a single well developed character doesn't make up for the intellectual slaughter of the rest of them. These brilliant thought-provoking characters have been dumbed down to the point of annihilation! And well, characters that couldn't be dumbed down were simply left out.

The movie is full of dull auxiliary characters, while the brilliant central ones are missing. The few that are still there, are suffering serious cases of lobotomy. It felt like the producers simply couldn't handle anything that wasn't totally pop-culture compatible. The lack of these characters at what is supposed to be the formation of the group, leaves huge plot gaps. Without Mantis this group of anti-social delinquents wouldn't for a million years stick together. Without the influence of Warlock and then Richard Rider [the only Nova that ever really mattered], Gamora would simple not be interested in collaborating with anyone. And if you think she'd consent to go to her death after receiving a 2 minute pep talk from someone she's known for 2 days, think again. Without Martyr [and yes I'm going to keep calling her that 'cause that's her coolest version of her by far ] there is no Moondragon. And of course there's no trace of [any] Quasar anywhere to be seen.

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Gamora, Rocket, Starlord, Warlock, Drax, Martyr

The dialogues are weak and shallow. It appears to me that the producers didn't really grasp the type of humour Guardians is supposed to have. The casting left a lot to be desired. Vin Diesel did a brilliant job with Groot. But the rest, as much as they are probably good actors, are just not what they should be for their roles. e.g.: As much as I am a fan of her previous performances, Zoe Saldana is just not right for Gamora, and Chris Pratt is totally not Peter Quill. At the risk of causing more fires, I'd say this movie should have had Joss Whedon and DnA at the helm, and a [mostly] British cast.

Now of course there are rumours going around already about more of the central characters making an appearance in the sequels. Given what I've seen so far, that actually worries me. I mean I'm sorry to say, but James Gunn directing Adam Warlock is looking rather unthinkable right now, and I wonder, who can they even cast for the role? This would require someone in the calibre of Alec Newman, Michael Sheen, or at least Sam Heughan [yes, I realise, Scottish – Welsh – Scottish.. wasn't  on purpose but it's not a surprise]. And something tells me that's not the kind of actor they would be adding to this cast. *sight*….

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Ronan, Warlock, Martyr, Starlord. The dream team, Annihilation Conquest. And yes that's Ronan there.

So yes. I can watch the latest Captain America movie and be very happy with it, and write a very positive review of it. Because Captain America never had much of a plot till now. You see, I am all for changing the story, when it's in the direction of adding depth, making a point, creating food for thought. Captain America got smarter, Avengers got smarter, heck X-Men got smarter… But unfortunately Guardians of the Galaxy has been intellectually undermined, and this is simply unacceptable.

On the sarcastically positive side, after watching the movie, I feel that the Bendis comics are not altogether that bad. At least he's paying some respect to the existing plot-lines, and he's not lobotomizing the characters completely…

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Thursday, August 07, 2014
Mary Poppins, Saving Mr. Banks, P. L. Travers and the reality of things!

It's poetic injustice really. 50 years ago Walt Disney shamelessly hijacked what can easily be considered the most important literary achievement of P. L. Travers, Mary Poppins. Now, some half a century later, Hollywood takes the story of P. L. Travers herself, twists it into something politically correct, soft and sweet and easy to sell, and feeds it to the world. How many times is P. L. Travers going to be betrayed by the entertainment industry?

Admittedly, up to very recently I had not really read the Mary Poppins books. Not that I 81d3n8Gnz5L._SL1500_[1]wouldn't have wanted to, Mary Poppins simply didn't find her way to my shelf which was  usually crowded with Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and the rest of the sci-fi universe, with a touch of Hermann Hesse and W. Somerset Maugham migrating over from my mom's shelf. Point is, I didn't really read much specifically "children's" books.

My first introduction to Mary Poppins was unsurprisingly through the movie, which I watched with googly eyes when I was about 5 or so the first time. And loved it, really really loved it. And have even watched it many more times since then.

Recently, I watched "Saving Mr. Banks", which was supposedly the story of how Walt Disney approached P. L. Travers to get the rights for the movie, and her reactions, and how the movie was eventually made. Nice movie, which at the same time felt full of plot holes for something that was supposed to be based on a true story. I had a feeling that there was more to the story than met the screen.

So I went and started the research. Did my fair share of reading on P. L. Travers, found71fBHSsGDWL._SL1500_[1] what seems to be the most accurate and detailed, and the least "interpreted" biography of her out there, titled "Mary Poppins, She Wrote" by Valerie Lawson. After finishing this book and some more articles and shorter books about her, I read the original Mary Poppins books. All 9 of them.

And now, after all the reading, I am… well… angry.

As P. L. Traverse herself had said many times before, the Mary Poppins books are not exactly children's books. They're certainly books that children can enjoy reading, but the way I see it they're somewhat comparable to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's "Little Prince". They're more philosophy books than anything else, and they're nothing like the pink and fluffy image of the Walt Disney movie.

As much as I enjoyed the Disney movie as a child, right now I wish I had never seen it, that it had never been made. From what I understand, what Disney did to Mary Poppins was the source of agony for P. L. Travers for the rest of her days, and it also manage to frustrate just about anyone who had any kind of an actual understanding of the point of the books. Now after having read the books I can understand why. Disney basically took the shell and left the soul behind.

But then, this is not really what "Saving Mr. Banks" shows, is it? The movie is unfortunately yet another bit of fluff, created to please the audience. Everything I've read, everything I've dug out, shows that unfortunately Mr. Disney was not at all the fair and decent character shown in the movie. He basically ambushed P. L. Travers into finally selling him the rights to make a movie [after years of harassing her for it], and then slowly pushed her out of the picture. Despite the fact that he originally promised her that her ideas will be respected, he eventually disregarded all of the very important points that she had made in order for the movie to stay faithful to the books.

The nice and emotional conversations between Disney and P. L. Travers in the movie are all pretty much fictional, and at the end Disney had actually no intention of having P. L. Travers present at the premiere at all. To him, she was only a nuisance. The movie shows a rigid and difficult Pamela, without making any mention of why she was the way she was. Quite unfair.

It's of course even more of a horror reading some of the articles that showed up online after the release of "Saving Mr. Banks". Clueless people writing completely misguided articles about P. L. Travers, her role in the creation of the Poppins movie, and even her personal life and her relationship with the people around her, and with her son. Following the movie, these articles picture P. L. Travers as a despiteful unloving and unloved character, who was responsible for destroying the life of her adopted son. For heaven's sakes, do your research before writing this nonsense. A bit of digging will show you that the horrendous rubbish couldn't possibly be further from the truth.

P. L. Travers was an amazing person with a wonderful mind, and what's being done to her is a crime. This should be stopped.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2014
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

So, well, yes, I did finish reading The Hunger Games trilogy. My thanks to you who forced me into it. ;) I don't however have much to say about it. Not for the lack of thoughts, mind you. But simply because I don't know what to say… I don't know how to put it into words… I guess for me it got a tad too emotional.

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As usual, the movies are good but they do not at all reach up to the books. The books tell a story that can very well happen tomorrow, in detail they depict a world that so resembles our current one. That's why it was very emotional for me to read them, because there are too many familiar elements, too much connection to reality. Thanks to all I've seen, I had far too many "oh, I know exactly how that is" moments reading the 3 books.

All I can say is that I hope we somehow manage to skip that. I don't know how likely it is though, as my own experiences living in various parts of the world have shown me too much to leave me with much optimism regarding the direction our race is currently headed to.

And you know what? The ending always looks like that….

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Monday, June 30, 2014
Sony eBook Reader PRS-T3 [Stolen and Repurchased]

In September 2006, SONY released their very first line of ebook readers, PRS-500. By October 2006, I had already got my hands on one, despite the fact that the product was at the time only available in USA [and I was living in Canada]. A few months earlier I had already come across the leaked specs for the device, and I knew I was looking at the realized version of something the need for which had been running around in my head pretty much since I started reading.

Hand held devices and tablet computers on which I could read eBooks weren't anything new, but this was something entirely different. Aside from the nice proper size, ease of use, and well, being able to carry around a whole library in my back pocket, on this device I could read for hours without tiring my eyes due to the E-Ink tech. Having come to the conclusion that in a life like mine I simply couldn't buy and carry around paperbacks, I moved to the ebook side long before that. But this was the first time I was well and truly freed of paper.

I can't begin to describe how much I enjoyed my first reader, and since then I have kept a very close eye on the development of ebook readers from different brand. I guess that part is obvious, given the number of posts on this blog on the topic. Another thing that's obvious from the posts on this blog, is that I've not up to this day found a reader that I've liked more than the Sony Reader line. [And yes well… for a time I was involved with the development… ]

I imagine by now I've made it pretty clear about the kind of dislike I have for Amazon Kindle, and the reasons. And I don't have much positive things to say [comparatively] about the other popular products out there either. But then it's not as if I've always liked how the Sony Reader has turned out.

Since PRS-500, I've basically tried every single Reader model that Sony has released [yes and I still have all of them =D], and not all of them have been so great. I loved PRS-500 since it was my first one. =) PRS-505 was very functional and very cool. PRS-700 was pretty much the love of my life. It was just beautiful, very smooth in every way, amazing performance, and it had back light. And then came PRS-T3. And every model that I haven't mentioned, it's because in some way or the other I didn't really like it.

But oh my world, PRS-T3! This is quite easily the best Sony Reader up to now, and in my opinion very much the best ebook reader currently available. And well, remember how I recently mentioned something about amazing Sony products somehow being constantly dissed by online reviews? That applies to this product too. I can't for the life of me figure out how it is that readers with terrible hardware, glitchie software and all sorts of limitations  are gaining name, while the Sony reader isn't even on the charts!! [Probably a question for marketing people.] I can't quite understand exactly how Kindle still exists, how it's still being produced and bought, when a piece of art like PRS-T3 exists.

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The device, which runs a mini version of Android OS, simply functions very very smoothly. It supports a wide range of ebook and image formats, including ones that Kindle and the rest of them don't support, and you have no limitations as to where you get the books from. The note taking functionality works very well both with finger and a stylus. It's naturally WiFi connected and there are no browsing limitations [you can go wherever you like via the browser]. The device has an optional "light cover", where a very nicely designed reading light extends from the back of the cover. [And unlike the previous version, it doesn't require a separate battery. It uses a negligible amount of the reader's own charge.]

But I guess the most important feature of all is nothing new, the E-Ink is still there, and smoother than ever. The device's display is brilliant, and you can stare at it for hours without any pressure on your eyes, or at least no more than staring at paper [hint hint to Kindle Fire users].

Oh, and to explain the part about "stolen and repurchased". Well, originally I bought the T3 about 4 months ago. But less than a month after that I was robbed in the train, and the reader was stolen from me. So I had to repurchase it… well it was rather annoying seeing that for various reasons I purchased this one from Canada and I had to have my mom buy it again over there and send it to me… But yes, the new one's been here a few weeks now and all is back to normal.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014
X-Men: Days of Future Past

I watched the movie a few weeks ago, but I didn't find the time to write anything about it and I constantly get the question of whether I've seen it and what I think of it.

So here it is: I LOVED IT! =D

Yes. you're hearing [well, reading] me right, it's an X-Men movie, and I LOVED it!

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I've not been that big of a fan of the X-Men movies [or the X-Men universe in general] in the past. As I've mentioned before, the first 2 X-Men movies were far too shallow for me to even feel entertained. Last stand had something a tad more interesting about it, and then First Class finally thoroughly entertained me. But I must say "Days of Future Past" is really the first X-Men movie that I've enjoyed, really, more than mere entertainment.

For the first time an X-Men movie had a really well constructed, very interesting plot. The movie contained some pretty great sci-fi ideas, and well you have to admit, that cast could have made even complete nonsense look good. ;)

That being said, there were of course some huge logic holes in the plot. I mean I'm pretty sure I saw Charles Xavier get blown to pieces by a very evil Phoenix. And now he seems entirely alive. Of course given the end of Last Stand, the theory is that his consciousness got transferred [somehow?!] to his twin brother's body. Hmmm. So obviously the twin brother was suffering some sort of a physical problem as a result of which he was in a coma. And now Xavier just jumps into that body? And even if I were to accept that, then why is it that he's still in a flying chair? For what reason would the brother's body would have the exact same injury????

And then of course Magneto not only got back his lost powers, but seems to be doing extra-well too. And I could go on… And yet, I prefer to think that the holes in the plot are results of previous movies having problematic plots, not this one. ;)

Oh, and on a side-note, I have to mention that I'm growing quite fond of watching a movie in either Corso or Metropole in Zurich in some obscure hour when there's nobody else, and it's pretty much like private screening. ;)

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014
My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk

A few weeks ago I finished reading Orhan Pamuk's historical murder mystery book, "My Name is Red". Honestly I had never even heard of the apparently very popular book or the Nobel laureate author until I saw the book in the hands of an acquaintance, and well, the cover of all things took my attention. =P

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The book goes deep into the culture and mentality of the society of miniaturists in the Ottoman empire, and through that, reveals many interesting facts about the general life style, religious views and beliefs in different classes of the society. But I guess what really got me reading, was that the book talks more about Persia even that it does about Turkey! Seeing that the Persian miniaturists and calligraphists of the time were considered pretty much deities of the field, there's a great deal of discussion and historical facts regarding Persia.

The books touches upon topics that I in the past couple of years I haven't read much about, and it gave me a rather nostalgic feeling. It also brought a few historical facts to my attention that I actually did not know about, despite the fact that I myself practice the Persian calligraphy and have done my fair share of reading on the topic.

And well, the story was also pretty good. =) So yes, recommended reading.

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Friday, May 09, 2014
Sony Walkman NWZ-B173F – Exoneration!

After the rather tragic [or not?] death of my old lousy MP3 player, I started looking for something "good". And by that I mean something that has nothing in any way resembling an iPod. And it's actually both very annoying and very sad that nowadays it's very hard to find a simple MP3 player that both does the job and is not somehow trying to imitate an iPod. =P

A couple of years ago I got my mom a Philips MP3 player which has turned out to be a very nice one, so that's where I started. Trouble though, was that I was looking for something very compact, and with some very specific functions, and Philips doesn't have that. And well, No, I didn't look at Sony Walkman at first. Why? Well because I wasn't hearing a lot of good things about it on one hand, and on the other hand back when I was buying my mom's player, they officially had nothing interesting.

After searching through the catalogues of some of my usual go-to brands and a few others, and not finding what I was looking for, I did eventually end up back at Sony's door. And that's when I come across  the "NWZ-B173F". To me it seemed rather perfect. Small, comfortable controls, clippable, with radio and voice recorder and the pretty nice zap-in feature and a tiny but clear screen. But then of course I looked into the reviews and once again it didn't look very good.

The reviews paint a pretty unseemly picture of the Walkman players in general, and this model very much so as well. Main target of criticism is the design of the player, and the USB cap. It's been said for instance that the cap is a loose fit, and starts to fall off after a few uses. And that the controls don't function very well. There's also been criticism on the sound quality and just about everything else.

Reading through the specs and having a closer look at the design, I decided to go with my guts and get the player anyway. And I'm so glad I did!!

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It's been a few months now since I started using the NWZ-B173F, and I'm EXTREMELY happy with it. I can't for the life of me understand where all the nonsense comes from. The cap is not loose, the controls are perfect, and the sound quality is superb. I'm a bloody audiophile after all, I would know.

Now this wouldn't be such a big deal on it's own.. but I think I'm starting to see a pattern. In the past few years, Sony has produced some brilliant hardware, all of which have somehow ended up with either unfair, or really terribly unfair reviews. What is going on here? I mean I know that they have also produced their fair share of pure nonsense, but how exactly have their line of Android tablets and ebook readers ended up so underrated? Heck, even the NEX cameras are quite underrated, for what they're capable of.

So well, yes, I am a bit of Sony fangirl I guess. And this is my attempt at exonerating the Walkman MP3 player. I'm also planning on writing about a few more pieces of Sony hardware soon enough…

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Friday, April 25, 2014
"Homeland" by Cory Doctorow

After reading Cory Doctorow's "Little Brother" last month, I decided to read the sequel named "Homeland". It turned out to be a good idea.

For the first 3/4th of the book, what I would say is pretty much the same thing I said Doctorows_Homeland[1] about the first book. In terms of the style, the sequel is even more sloppily written than the first book, if that's possible. I would have been very happy reading far less about the burning man and other horribly stretched topics throughout the book. But the good ideas are still there.

But I feel that during the last 1/4th of the book, there's a slight shift in the mood and the direction. It feels like the ideas are finally properly cooked! The characters actions become more realistic, actually everything becomes a lot more realistic. The points are clearly made and the conclusion has a nice balance to it.

All in all, I think that I like "Homeland" better than "Little Brother"!

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Friday, April 18, 2014
"Tesla: Man Out of Time" by Margaret Cheney

A few days ago I finished re-reading Margaret Cheney's "Tesla: Man Out of Time". As if I hadn't experienced enough grief reading it the first time, I had to go and do it Tesla_Man_Out_of_Time[1] again. Well what can I say, the book really is worth reading over and over and over again.

I've done my fair share of Tesla reading, biographies and research and everything I've been able to get my hands on. And I can say, this is definitely the best written, most informative, most comprehensive biography of him I've ever come across. Where other books have a general tendency of focusing mostly on certain periods or aspects of Tesla's life, this book does a fine job bringing the pieces of the puzzle together. The book paints a much more realistic picture of Tesla's life, who he was, and what he was like in his personal life.

This of course means that when you read about all that this world did to him, you're going to experience an especially sharp pain in the soul.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2014
"Intelligence" Anyone?

Can somebody explain to me the connection between J. J. Abrams and the new CBS url[1] series "Intelligence"? Is there one?

I didn't really know much about the series [and apparently neither did anyone else in my circles] until just recently when I watched a few episodes. The series is created by "Michael Seitzman", and I can't find any kind of connection to J. J. Abrams. However when I watch the series, I can't help the feeling that I'm watching a J. J. Abrams series!!

The cast, which by the way is a brilliant assembly, includes actors/actresses who have a history of appearing in Abrams / Bad Robot productions. The plot is very Abrams-ish, and well.. I don't know how else to put it but the series just has the total Abrams feeling to it! It's just way too Abrams not to be an Abrams production! =P

So… what's up with that? Anyone has any theories? =P

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Friday, March 28, 2014
"Little Brother" by Cory Doctorow

Last Sunday at "The Uncanny Book-Club" gathering, I listened to some interesting discussions regarding Cory Doctorow's "Little Brother", which made me curious enoughurl[1] to want to read the book. I loaded up the book to my Reader and was planning on having a go at it in our next reading group this coming Sunday, but I'm afraid it didn't last that long… It's already been "had". I munched through most of it during my commute from Zurich to Basel and back, for recent coder event at the Magnolia office.

As usual I'm not going to give much of the book away here, but since a couple of friends are wondering if they should read the book… Here's the super-short version of what I think.

It's worth reading. =)

Ok well… I'm not a fan of the writing style. The author doesn't seem to have much of that at all. This is something that I'm generally not all that sensitive about as I'm looking for the message, but it does matter. In this case the author didn't manage to get to me with his words, and I felt that in the literary sense the book was rather sloppily written. A young adult novel does not necessarily have to carry that load of cheese, and I would certainly have been happy reading far less about LARPing.

That being said, there's some good [and sometimes great] ideas in there. There is a message, even if it's being delivered in not the most powerful of ways. For me personally the message hits pretty close to home, given my own past experiences. These are ideas that should be spread, taught and pondered, regardless of the author's literary capabilities, regardless of the medium. The most important aspect of the book, to me, is the fact that it's advertising the culture of thinking, which is rare enough nowadays [comparatively speaking].

Dripping cheese aside, I find the character development in the book rather well done. Especially in regards to Marcus, the main character, himself. The way he had to grew up… some of what he felt… well connected to reality. Although the reality version would be far more complex, but still, I feel that the author is doing a good job showing the kind of growing up one ends up having to do under such circumstances. It's also nicely realistic, that he's quite the non-hero. It's not him taking care of it all and saving the day, he doesn't even want to be the leader, but due to his way of thinking and acting he ends up on the front row anyway. That's precisely how it usually happens, in reality, outside of Hollywood movies. 

I also find the ending quite appropriate, seeing that it's actually not much of an ending. What you see at the end feels to me like the eye of the storm, and a good place to end the story, especially since there seems to be a sequel. It appears that the story's main characters, while having a nice "day" at the time, are preparing to get into another, possibly much larger, round of conflict.

Anyway, wrote too much already… check it out for yourselves. ;) I think I'm going to read "Homeland", the sequel, next.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014
Happy Norooz 2573 [1393]

This evening at 17:57:07 Zurich time, the new Persian new year 2573 [1393] begins. I wish everyone who does and does not celebrate Norooz a lovely start of the spring, and a great year to come. Happy Norooz everyone. =)

[Thanks to my friend Michael for the image.]

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Thursday, March 13, 2014
Solothurn Fasnacht & Liestal Chienbäse 2014

The past few weeks was "that time of the year" in Switzerland again, time to say goodbye to winter and the Fasnacht celebrations. The Solothurn carnival is my favourite, so this year we went back there once again and came back home with hair full of confetti.

But admittedly even more interesting this year was the Liestal "Chienbäse". Among different cultures and in different countries I've come across fire celebrations before… but honestly I had never seen anything of this magnitude. I still have no idea about the historical roots of this thing, and I think I need to do some digging. The best way I can describe the event is by showing the pictures.

Here is the album for Solothurn Fasnacht, and here is the album for Liestal Chienbäse.

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Friday, March 07, 2014
Do Support: Rundercover + Gbanga Famiglia Rise and Fall

Yesterday evening at the Transmedia Zurich event, we were introduced to 2 very interesting new location based games: "Rundercover" and "Gbanga Famiglia Rise and Fall". Even as the so called "cell-phone boycotter", I found both pretty cool / creative. I think this genre of game generally appeals to my need for being physically active while playing… The games are both being developed here in Switzerland, and they both have crowd funding campaigns that you can check out and then hopefully support. Here:

Rundercover website / Kickstarter

Gbanga Famiglia Rise and Fall on Indiegogo

P.S.: The mandetory back-side shot courtesy of these guys.

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Friday, February 28, 2014
Fooled By Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Last week I finished reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb's "Fooled By Randomness". What I would say about it is pretty much the same as what I wrote about "The Black Swan". This is something to read for anyone who wants to know how the world works, and why we generally don't/can't do a good job in predicting what will or will not come next.

Though I think I'm still a bigger fan of "The Black Swan", I really enjoyed reading this one too.

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Friday, February 07, 2014
Roadside Picnic

Last week I finished reading "Roadside Picnic", the 1972 sci-fi novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky [as per suggestion of a friend]. For me, the book "felt" quite a bit  similar to  Huxley's "Brave New World". Dystopian society built around one major life changing element which is a source of unnatural luck for some and unfair disadvantage for many others.

I did enjoy reading the book, I really liked the central idea. But I must also say that this is generally not my cup of sci-fi. I am much more into Asimov's style of sci-fi. When I read a science-"fiction" book, I am not really looking for a window into the future of the mess we currently have, what we are already experiencing. I'd like to look further forward, perhaps to what comes after that mess.

But if "Brave New World" or "1984" are for you, then this is totally recommended.

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Thursday, February 06, 2014
Haskell Glasgow Compiler 7.8

Last Thursday evening I attended a very interesting presentation on the pretty cool new Haskell3D[1] features of the upcoming GHC 7.8. Though I've personally not yet had the chance to play with the new release, I'm very excited about it, since apparently many of the features that were discussed for a long while are now finally included. As it was mentioned in the meeting, it's not that it's not a mess anymore, it's just that it's much less of a mess. ;)

Here you can find a PDF copy of the presentation slides [sans code]. [The talk was hosted by the Zurich HaskellerZ group.]

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Friday, January 24, 2014
Castle Of Gruyères

Forgot to mention, pictures from our visit to the Castle Of Gruyères [a few weeks back] are online. The castle was quite amazing, one of the most majestic I've seen to far. But that was about all that we saw that day, due to the horrible weather!

Pictures here.

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[Last one is a panorama]

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Monday, January 13, 2014
Lenzerheide Magic Forest

One of most memorable events/places we visited this Christmas, was the Lenzerheide Magic Forest. We spent a few hours looking around the tiny town of Lenzerheide which was covered with snow, and then spent about an hour in the church as the snow was absolutely insane. Then we headed to the forest for the light shows and the market. The light shows were absolutely marvellous, and the market was quite authentic and beautiful. I'm actually looking forward to going there again next year!

Pictures here.

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Sunday, January 05, 2014
Ender's Game [The Book]

Last night [well, basically 'till morning] I finished reading Orson Scot Card's "Ender's Game", the first book of the "Ender's Saga". The series have been on my reading list for basically ever now, but somehow I never got to it. Then the movie showed up which I Ender's_game_cover_ISBN_0312932081[1] don't want to see before reading the books. [I'm a much bigger fan of books than movies and I don't want watching the movie to spoil the books!] So a week ago I finally started reading the first book, and well, looks like I pretty much devoured it.

Once I started reading "Ender's Game" I simply couldn't put it down. The book definitely is one of the best sci-fi I've ever read, as was suggested to me by several of my friends. [You were all right! =) ] Now I'm going to start with the 2nd book… I'm of course very happy that there's already 12 books in the series, and the author is writing some more…. I really do want more of this!

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Sunday, December 29, 2013
Man of Steel

Honestly I wasn't in such a hurry to see "Man of Steel". Superman movies and comics have always been mere light entertainment to me, and even though I have occasionally enjoyed watching a movie or reading a comic, I've never been a fan. Through the years I've felt a chronic lack of plot and character development in all things Superman. [Which basically sums up my relationship with 99% of DC's comics.]

So you can imagine my surprise, watching "Man of Steel" last night, and realizing in the middle of the movie that I was actually really enjoying it! Especially seeing the movie's less than great ratings and the plenty of dissatisfied reviews! [Then again I often seem to like what everyone else hates and vice versa!]

Yes, I really really liked this movie! Many important details were changed, characters were much better developed, and most importantly so much nonsense and absurdity has been eliminated! I mean surprise surprise, for once in my life a Superman movie actually makes rational sense!!!!

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For once we actually see a proper, well pictured, back story. Which actually explained why everything happened the way it all happened. I really enjoyed the beginning part of the movie where Krypton has been quite nicely illustrated, and we finally get a better idea of what "the parents" were like and what the circumstances were. Or for that matter why Zod acts the way he does. Also the earthly parents of Clark Kent have been much better developed. Supeman's own character finally has some proper development with much less cheese involved. Oh, and for once, finally, someone has decided that Lois Lane should not be the idiotic, clueless, pointless, shame to all women, constantly in need of rescuing, aka the classical character. Thank you very much for that.

It's been said the movie will have a next instalment in 2015. I do look forward to seeing that.

By the way, come to think of it, it's interesting that the latest Batman movie was also the best I've ever seen, for pretty much all the same reasons! Looks like DC might have finally figured some things out… ;)  Maybe it's time I go back and check the comic books…...

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Friday, December 27, 2013
Inferno by Dan Brown

Last week I finished reading [or more like devouring] Dan Brown's latest book, "Inferno". And well, wow! For me this book is now in a tie with "The Da Vinci Code" for Dan Brown's best. As usual he has managed to put a lot of interesting ideas and generally "food for thought" in the book. But then the plot was also amazing this time, and felt like a bit of an evolution. So, I really enjoyed it. Totally recommended.

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Ahoo "Aasemoon" Pirsoleimani, 1998-2012