Dec. 30, 2002

King Diamond, Least Essential?

The Onion AV Club features their list of the Least Essential Albums of 2002 (the AV Club isn’t a parody, though I wouldn't blame you for being confused). Most of the artists I haven’t even heard of, but I recognized King Diamond.

Though it's a bit of an acquired taste, I do enjoy some Diamond from time to time. And, as his Abigail album was one of his best, I was rather looking forward to the follow-up. However, The Onion AV Club put it this way:

[…]The album includes a family tree so the easily confused can keep the characters straight, while the lyrics sheet, as always, makes it clear which guitarist is responsible for which solo at all times.

And, they say that like it’s a bad thing ;).

Dec. 28, 2002

Pittsburgh Photos

These days, I seem to be the only one around here without a digital camera (though not for a lack of trying). Anyhow, I’ve found that many Dallas-ites have little idea about what Pittsburgh looks like (not that I blame them), and I would have liked to taken some pictures while I was here visiting.

Dave Farber, CMU professor and maintainer of the interesting-people mailing list has placed some of his Christmastime photos of Pittsburgh on his website.

They’re not glamorizing Pittsburgh, and nor are there that many pictures there. But, they give a good idea of the city.

Dec. 27, 2002

Delays in Trans Fat Labeling

The FDA was all set to require trans fat labeling on food products, but the food industry is dragging its feet.

Accustomed to food-labeling regulations for other nutrients, the food industry is resigned to accepting an FDA proposal requiring them to give the actual amount of trans fat, or trans fatty acids, on the label of a food product. But an additional feature of the FDA proposal is leaving a bad taste in the industry’s mouth — a 10-word footnote on nutrition labels that would read: “Intake of trans fats should be as low as possible.” […]

Some food industry groups have even “threatened to sue over their First Amendment commercial-speech rights if the footnote becomes law”, but I don’t think that the footnote is unreasonable.

[…] [S]cientists at the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine have found [that] any consumption of trans fats increases the risk of heart disease. So, the FDA reasons, if less trans fat is better, or no daily minimum is recommended, why not have food labels say just that? Thus its proposal for the footnote on food labels. […]

Trans fat not only raises bad cholesterol, the stuff that increase the risk of clogged arteries, but also lowers good cholesterol, which actually reduces risk of clogged arteries. While there are some naturally occurring trans fats in meat and dairy products, most are created when food makers add hydrogen to vegetable oil. The process, called hydrogenation, makes the oil more solid at room temperature. […]

It makes sense to me :-/. But, due to this quibbling, a rule on trans fat labeling that was initially planned for early-2003 is now expected no earlier than summertime. In the meantime, if you’re looking to avoid trans fat — called “as bad as it gets” by some — be on the lookout for “partially hydrogenated ##” on food labels — that’s all trans fat.

Dec. 26, 2002

Star Trek: Nemesis

I watched Star Trek: Nemesis this evening and largely enjoyed it. MetaCritic gave it just a 47 (out of 100), so I was a bit concerned. But it turned out all right.

I enjoyed it more than Insurrection, though I haven’t yet decided how it compares to First Contact. Nemesis was directed by Stuart Baird and, if you look at his history explains much of the film’s feel. Baird edited Tomb Raider, Mission Impossible 2, and Lethal Weapon 2. As a friend of mine remarked, “The scene where they’re racing around in a dune buggy, that wasn’t very TNG-like.”

Still, its action sequences are some of its strongest points (and I say that as a good thing). The last third of the film was especially quite a ride. And for you visual-effects buffs, I was quite impressed with some of the particle effects in particular. (Particle effects of what? The answer is in the Spoilers section below.)

Spoilers follow. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you may not want to read further.

The ending was a bit of a waste. It was very similar to the ending of The World is Not Enough (aka Bond 19) where the hero finds himself in a bit of a jam, finds a spear-like piece of metal, and impales the bad guy. The end. No cleverness, but mostly luck. Had that piece of metal not been there, the good guy would likely have died (but, lucky for him, it was just within reach).

The visual effects were very good throughout. As with most of the recent Star Trek flicks, all the ships were pure CG. And, though lighting is one of the most difficult aspects of computer generated effects (the human eye can spot lighting mistakes easily), the lighting was excellent and matched the non-CG elements well.

Ah, on to the particle effects. As you recall, the Enterprise is rammed into the Shinzon’s ship. As it makes impact, the Enterprise splinters apart and its shards break off into space. The effects crew could have chosen to do this over-dramatically, but the disintegration was almost tastefull (if that can be said of a such an event).

(End of spoilers.)

Wil Wheaton appears (as Wesley) in a non-speaking role, but his role was originally much larger. In the editing process, his role was cut away (Wil talkes about this on his blog). There were some scenes that could have been cut (to make room for Wil), including a hokey fight that Riker has (it doens’t advance the story much). With any luck, perhaps some of Wil’s scenes will make it onto the DVD.

In all, I had a good time, though I would probably only recommend this to people who are already Trek-fans. To be sure, it was good enough to see once, though I don’t think I’ll be buying the DVD (though if Wil’s scenes make it to the DVD, perhaps I’ll borrow it from someone to watch once through).

Dec. 25, 2002

Mozilla Crashing on Exit for You?

If you’re running the nightly builds of Mozilla and it keeps crashing on exit, you’ve probably run into bug 182803 — “Mozilla crashes on exit if it connects to a SSL server” (either that or bug 156940, as both have over seven dupes).

And, I suppose your right-click context menus occasionally appear in weird places? Yeah, that’s bug 185107 — “Popup menu after right-click inside an iFrame is in wrong place”.

Dec. 23, 2002

Red Hat 8.1 Beta

I was excited to hear about the Red Hat 8.1 beta on Slashdot. Back when 8.0 came out, the fonts really impressed me, but some of that was through back-porting cutting-edge code into their current release.

With this latest version, my hope is that the anti-aliased fonts will be through stable software (and not just the latest builds from CVS). In any case, my PC-upgrade plans (which included installing Linux onto the new PC) have been put on hold due to my recent job situation (need a web developer?), so I can easily wait for this beta to mature.

Dec. 22, 2002

Slicker for KDE

In this Slashdot story covering John Dvorak’s notion that Linux is too much like Windows (yawn) was mention of Slicker, a replacement for KDE’s Kicker.

Coding hasn’t started yet, but there are several screen mockups of a proposed design. So far, I’m very much impressed, and I hope this project succeeds. (There’s also discussion of Slicker development in the Gentoo forums, so perhaps it has a chance after all.)

Dec. 21, 2002

Back to the Future DVDs

I had preordered the Back to the Future DVDs, and they arrived today. However, Julie made me aware that there was a framing problem in the original release (a second run, supposedly in February, would correct it). Sure enough, I checked DVDTalk and confirmed it:

Apparently there’s an issue with the widescreen framing for Back to The Future II & II. As with past problems Universal is making good on these discs by exchanging them. Send the 2 discs with your Name, Address, Phone, and the reason you’re returning it to: Back to the Future DVD Returns, PO Box 224468 Dallas, Texas 75260. Fixed Box sets are planned to be on store shelves by late February. ‘Props’ to the DVD Talkers who Identified the problems with the Back to the Future Box Set.

So, I’ll be sending back parts II and III out of my boxed-set for replacements.

Dec. 20, 2002

MTV Sells Out, Even More

Via ObscureStore, “new MTV policy means you'll see the same clips over and over”.

MTV plans to concentrate on a weekly list of 10 video clips, the so-called Big 10, each of which will be played more than 30 times a week — in some cases doubling the exposure that videos in heavy rotation had before. Other videos on the channel's playlist will get at least 10 plays, or “spins,” a week. […]

Not that MTV was exactly a purveyor of fine music before, but now they’re even closer to the sorry state that radio is in.