Cloverfield – Wow

I finally had a chance to watch “Cloverfield” after having recorded it on my Tivo ages ago.

All I can say is… “Wow”.

The hardest thing about watching that movie was the constant movement of the camera used to simulate someone using a hand-held video camera for THE ENTIRE MOVIE. Fortunately, after watching two years worth of videos shot by my mom when she was in Morocco from cars, in souks and bouncing around the various Atlas mountains, my stomach (and middle ear) were already steeled for such videography (sorry mom!).

I *loved* the attempted character development and I really appreciated the novel approach to having us be just one more character in the movie. I also liked that there was absolutely no attempt to explain what the monster was or where it may have come from. All we had was confusion and some snatches of CNN-style coverage on a TV set now and then to offer some up to the minute scenes of what is going on.

Of course I would kill to have the battery life that the little camera in this movie had 🙂

Even though I’m not much of a film noir kind of guy and there are plenty of loose ends at the end of the film, but I really enjoyed this film from end to end.

Homeopathy: A kind of Magic

The UK does not have nearly the issue with religion as we have here. There, folks who are of such a bent tend to proclaim it in rather less strident terms than do folks here in these United States as, for some reason, their culture does not appear to be as enamored of the simple, pat answers provided by these metaphysical philosophies and so views such with a relatively critical eye.

However, nobody’s perfect. So where the UK shows rationality on the big questions concerning the “wherefores” and “whats” of existence (for which the answer is well known to be “42”, but I digress), they do seem to have a love for medical treatment that is well… something less than medical.

In “The end of homeopathy“, Ben Goldacre takes a very critical look at this supposed “Alternative Medicine” and points out the flaws in reporting and the issues in studying it that are so often either ignored by or not easily accessible to, the lay public that may be considering this option for their health needs.

Don’t get me wrong, there is enormous benefit for the placebo effect that subscribers to homeopathic medicine can gain. Our bodies are subject to countless little quirks, aches and twinges that, for the most part, will sort themselves out on their own. But if it makes folks feel better and happier, I think a treatment can be of great comfort and benefit even if it isn’t really doing anything. Medical folks have apparently been doing this for years by prescribing either tremendously under-dosed or even irrelevant remedies in cases where they felt the patient would benefit more from the attention than from any actual medication.

But the danger is always there that either practitioners or patients will take things too far and will eschew proven medical treatments in favor of these placebos when practical, active and relevant treatment is required. Even worse is when dependent folks (either through youth, retardation or old age) are taken down such paths by those responsible for them. For this reason vigilance needs to be maintained in the face of the apparent harmlessness of merely standing by when baseless claims are made to an unsuspecting public.

Captain Disillusion

A little campy but his mission is good. “Captain Disillusion” looks at YouTube videos, especially those spreading paranormal bunk, and breaks them down so you can pretty clearly see far more likely explanations for the phenomena than “ghosts”, “ghoulies” or other such nonsense.

He is well spoken and, even if he is targeting primarily a younger audience, there are MANY adults that I know who could stand to benefit greatly by reviewing these videos.

You can subscribe to Captain Disillusion on YouTube here

Here is one that I particularly enjoy:

Excessive force in protecting one’s guests and property?

Gatecrashers flee whip-wielding dad – National – This reminds me of Canada’s idiotic “Excessive Force” laws whereby, should an attacker enter your home, you somehow need to assess the weapon(s) they are using and are not permitted to use weapons to defend yourself that are too superior to theirs.

In America, and I’m sure it’s the same in Canada and Australia too, it has been shown over and over again that police have absolutely NO OBLIGATION to protect you or your family or your property. This is one reason why the occasional officer who actually does put himself at risk is quite properly issued a commendation or other award as is appropriate. No, the police force’s obligation is to report on the incident, perhaps establish a buffer zone to try to contain a situation and to be the agent to pursue criminals after they have been identified after the fact.

Not to mention the fact that the officers are seldom present when an attack is taking place.
I’m not slamming police officers here, I have the greatest amount of respect for these people who put their lives on the line every single day. But this is simply not something that they are under any obligation to do for us.

As I see it, someone who is illegally on someone else’s property, especially when they are in a home when it can reasonably be expected to be occupied, forfeits any and all rights…. to everything. Any amount of force that a homeowner feels they need to exert to secure their own and their family’s and guest’s safety or even to secure their belongings, is the right amount of force.

The ninnies who come up with legislation demanding that Joe average should have to be concerned for an intruder’s well being either live privileged lives or simply don’t grasp the fact that your average homeowner has neither the experience nor the information at their disposal to take any other action except the one that is most likely to work.
Sitting in an armchair after the fact, second guessing the homeowner’s decisions is a luxury reserved for those not so threatened… and who are still alive.

I’m so thankful for the sensible “Castle Doctrine” laws that many U.S. states are adopting and wish my friends in the UK, Canada and Australia could get their nanny states off of their backs.

Canada Day Party – 2008

I’m a wee bit behind on posting some of my pictures, I’m working towards creating more satisfying pictures in addition to my normal “party snaps”. There’s a LOT to know and I’m learning as fast as I can!!

Bicep TatIn the meantime, here are some snaps from our Canada Day party. We hosted our local Canuck expats and, with a little Canadian Beer and a LOT of Canadian Paraphernalia, spent some quality time with our friends. Click on the picture to see them.

In Las Vegas for TAM6

Ooh La LaTAM6 is “The Amazing Meeting” ‘s 6th incarnation. Since I’ve been listening to and reading about many of these folks for years I thought it would be a lot of fun to attend this year to see these folks live and interact with some like minded folks.

TAM spans Thursday through Sunday but my chief interest was with the core Friday and Saturday presentations so that’s what I signed up for. Michelle and I flew down on Wednesday so we could enjoy some time in Las Vegas doing some of the “strip” stuff together before I went off to attend the TAM presentations.
As luck would have it, my mother decided she could join us, so Mich and her could have fun together when I’m not there. For the uninitiated among you, Mich and my mom get along together famously so this is actually a *good* thing… just ask her yourself! 🙂

On Wednesday (June 18) Mich and I arrived in Las Vegas at about 3:30 pm and immediately headed out to do a bit of exploring on the strip. Wow! It’s as hot as I remember from my last trip back in 2001. Every time you go outside it’s as if you are opening an oven door. 106 degrees and 5% humidity. Oh yeah baby!

Anyway, after bopping over to Treasure Island to pick up our show tickets for that night (Mystere) we headed over to Margaritaville and enjoyed some libations and split an excellent club sandwich (I recommend it).

Mystere was superb. I’m not sure if there’s a bad seat in the house. I sat 4 rows back from the stage about 45 degrees off of center. What a spectacle that was!

This is the third, permanent venue (not in tents), Cirque de Soleil that I’ve seen and I would recommend any of them. As amazing as Mystere was, my absolute favorite so far is “O” and I would go back and see that one again any day in a heartbeat.

Just one gripe so far, I’m sure this applies to all the hotels here, but I’m staying at the Flamingo (since that’s where TAM 6 is being hosted and I wanted to be close to the action) and MAN, do they ever nickel and dime you to death for EVERYTHING! When I got to my room and tried to access the internet I found that there was a daily charge for it ($13). In checking back to see the room descriptions I see that I had interpretted “Internet Data Port” as meaning actual access rather than merely the (needed to be paid for) potential for access. I haven’t had to pay for internet access in a hotel room in years.
Also, I just came back from attempting to access the fitness center where I was surprised to find there was a $10 a day access fee. Since I had shown up with just my workout clothes room key and my iPod I was not in a position to shell out for this. I’ve *never* had to shell out for a fitness center before.

I suppose it’s truly a capitalist venture. Not everybody who uses a hotel room needs internet access and far fewer still take advantage of the fitness center, so it could be argued that it makes sense to have folks pay for exactly the amenities that they use.

Thursday had us exploring the city (visited the Stratosphere – it’s definitely past its prime). As with the last time we were here, Caesar’s Palace is always entertaining. Enjoyed lunch at “Mon Ami Gabi” one of the restaurants associated with the Paris Casino and Hotel. On the outdoor patio you can watch the fountains of the Bellagio hotel go through their gyrations, something we really love.

That evening we attended “The Blue Man Group” show and, as expected, we loved it too. We saw them when we were last in Las Vegas and they didn’t disappoint this time either. Always lively and fun! Afterwards we had dinner in the Venetian “The Grand Lux Cafe” – another recommendation from me – the food is great. And the server girls in the casino are sporting easily my favorite outfits on the strip.

James "The Amazing" RandiFriday saw me at TAM 6 so Mich and my mother went on the town. Check out my Flickr set for pictures and some brief opinions from TAM 6. I won’t go into the content because, frankly, many others have already done that and they do a better job of it than I would. I *really* enjoyed watching the recording of “The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe”, Neil deGrasse Tyson gave a great talk and, surprisingly, Alec Jason’s talk about forensics was fascinating. In truth I have to say I loved pretty much everything. The exceptions I noted in my Flickr stream.

That evening we ate at “The Eiffel Tower Restaurant”, again in the Paris Hotel. We had a great view of the Bellagio Fountains which are truly breathtaking at night.
The meal was incredibly expensive, but in Vegas you largely do get what you pay for. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a filet mignon as wonderfully tender as the one I was served. Exquisite!

That night I came down with a terrible cold and ended up missing the 2nd day of TAM 6. I was very disappointed (frankly I just slept and blew my nose all day) I REALLY wanted to hear Phil Plait’s and Michael Shermer’s talks. I understand there was a problem with the audio recordings made of TAM and that there is a chance that the DVDs may not be available for that day. I’m keeping my eyes open, I hope they are able to piece those together from audience-captured audio.
Just as bad, I missed Penn & Teller’s show that night. Mich ended up going alone as my mom had already purchased tickets to see Elton John that night.
Michelle as quite thrilled that she was seated only a couple of rows away from Adam Savage (one of the few TAM folks that she would recognize). Penn & Teller’s show was, I am told, fabulous too. 🙁 Next time!!!

Later Saturday night Mich came in after having won something like $80 on the slot machines (I was still recovering from my cold so I stayed in), but my mom came in at some crazy hour (2 am?) after hitting a jackpot and cleared $2,940 (before $900 was expropriated by “da gummint” – something puzzling to a Canadian where winnings are not taxable).

So Sunday morning started with a grand room service feast which we enjoyed before packing up to head back home.