Burn After Watching

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

I caught Burn After reading last night. I wasn’t planning to see this–I generally avoid CIA movies–but Beth wanted to see it, and George Clooney was in it so how bad could it be? Not very. In fact, it was quite good. It was exactly what most Hollywood movies aren’t: almost completely unpredictable. With one or two exceptions, I never knew where it was going next right up through the end. It was anything but formulaic, and quite amusing all the way through.
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Hancock

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

I caught Hancock at the $2 movie in Woodbridge last week. ($1.50 matinee actually.) That was about the right price. There were seeds of a couple of really interesting movies here. One you saw in previews: polishing the obnoxious superhero for modern media. The other story–well, I won’t spoil it for you.

Unfortunately there really wasn’t time to do both stories in 90 minutes or so. This story might have been better done as a TV series (Heroes?). But what really killed it in the end was a cliché that has lost all force.
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Android XML Weirdness

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Here’s something weird I noticed while fooling around with the Android SDK:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<TextView xmlns:a="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"
    a:layout_width="fill_parent" 
    a:layout_height="wrap_content" 
    a:text="Hello World"
    />

If the weirdness doesn’t strike you, look twice.
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Reviews Matter

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

So I’ve decided this time William Morrow isn’t going to send me a free copy of the latest Neal Stephenson tome, so I hop on over to Amazon to order it. It’s only $16.47, so I open up my wish list to see what else I should add to make the supersaver shipping threshold. I’m almost ready to pop down $299.99 for Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred Wireless when I notice the review:

1.0 out of 5 stars
Beware the Bluetooth, and the treacherous Tenth Dragon., August 28, 2008
Paul Tynegate (New Smyrna, FL)

I have just upgraded from Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 to 10. I am happy to report that so far, after a couple of days trial, this upgrade seems to have been well worth it in terms of increased accuracy. (BUT SEE LATER!) At the same time I was tempted into purchasing the alleged integrated Calisto Bluetooth microphone, attracted by the special price, the convenience of a wireless headset, and the promise of increased accuracy.

However, I have run into two problems, either of which makes the Calisto currently useless. In the first place, the Bluetooth insert device for the USB port cuts out after an hour or two of usage. Its function is only restored after completely rebooting the computer.

The second problem is far more serious. Once the Plantronics Calisto is activated, Dragon Naturally Speaking demands that you ” prepare this user for dictation”. You would probably be encouraged to note that the accuracy level of the new Calisto is rated very high. You are then required to read a passage from a selected text. When Dragon is satisfied with your reading, it will present you with a dialogue box telling you to wait while your user files are being adjusted for your reading. In my case my computer then simply hung up, and could not be started up again without a complete reboot. Two different Dragon phone techs attempted to solve the problem unavailingly, the second one promising I would get a call back from a top expert capable of solving the problem. No reply over the last two days, and similarly no reply yet to an email I sent them yesterday informing them of the Bluetooth insert failure.

I started dictating this review with DNS 10, but, sadly it first began reverting to a habit Id seen before with DNS 9, that is, starting up a new sentence or phase one letter too early. Finally, it gave up altogether and refused to accept any dictation from my old and otherwise commendable Plantronic DSP 400 mic.

So I can hardly recommend purchase of any of this Nuance equipment right now unless you’re willing to pay good money for what amounts to a rather unpromising Beta version. But if they had waited to get the bugs out first, they might well have something really to get excited about. Maybe wait six months, a year?

Lesson: I should have paid attention to earlier negative Amazon reviews. (I trusted Nuance on the basis of good experience with earlier versions.)

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Moth Monday: Alfalfa Looper Moth

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Today’s moth is #8914 in the Hodges Catalog, the Alfalfa Looper Moth, Autographa californica:

Grey moth on wall
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Fringe

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

I caught the premiere of Fringe last night. More plausible than Alias but not quite as plausible as Lost. I’ll probably set the DVR to record future episodes, but as long as they’re enough King of the Hill repeats to keep me occupied, I probably won’t get around to watching them until they’re automatically erased.