Addition by Subtraction

November 15, 2012

I love bridges, parks, and architectural lighting. They make our world a more beautiful place if done right. But of all the city planning changes I can imagine, the one I’d recommend for most of Rhode Island is removing the utility poles that litter our downtown streets. Not only are they ugly but they are a major factor in power outages during hurricanes (should still be fresh on our minds) and blizzards (coming soon). The before and after photos above are from Marblehead, Massachusetts and the difference is striking. There are over 100 million utility poles in the United States, and removing them is one use for my tax dollars for which I actually approve (and that’s a rare thing indeed).


Must See TV

November 14, 2012

Fans of The Grapes of Wrath (or my blog post about it) and anyone curious about the circumstances leading up to it should check out Ken Burns’ new documentary The Dust Bowl airing Sunday and Monday night.

Before Midlife (and beyond)

November 8, 2012

Recently I’ve watched the movie Crazy Stupid Love a few times. It’s a very good movie with an excellent cast, and it’s a romantic comedy that isn’t formulaic (there are a few). All of the characters have flaws and seem like real people, and the story has a clever twist. And it has a (not too sappy) happy ending that leaves you in a positive state when it’s over. The only real problem I have with the movie is the perpetuation of the ridiculous “soul mate” concept that is already too widespread. It’s a silly notion, especially from a mathematical perspective.

As much as I enjoy CSL, other movies do a better job of examining the concept of love in a more thoughtful way. Arranged was very interesting in that the main characters were female teachers who were both going through the arranged marriage process (one was Muslim and one was Jewish). It was almost the opposite of the soul mate idea. They each had a limited amount of control over choosing their future spouse, and both were just looking for someone they could like and then figured that love would come with time.

More relevant for most of us is Before Sunrise, which was released in 1995. In this film a couple meets on a train and are together for less than a day before parting, and don’t know if they will ever see each other again. This idea of a relationship with a time limit is intriguing because their connection and shared experience will never be sullied by a breakup. They just have this wonderful memory to cherish.

Of course, such a well-writted and acted movie prompted a sequel, Before Sunset, which didn’t come out until 2004. In that film the characters have aged that nine years and we discover the impact of that one day on their lives. It’s an excellent follow-up that also ends in a cliffhanger. Well, in 2013 nine more years will have passed and we’re going to find out what our now-middle aged couple (the actors are just slightly younger than I am) has been up since that movie ended. Like the first sequel, the same director (Richard Linklater) has written the movie with the two lead actors. It’s titled Before Midnight and will be released early next year. Here’s to hoping that the snappy dialogue and on-screen chemistry has survived the years.

The password is what?

November 4, 2012


I’m not great at making sure my online passwords are secure. I don’t change them often enough (if ever) and some of them are a bit on the weak side (no mixture of letters and numbers or too short or whatever). But compared to most people it seems I’m not too bad. ArsTechnica posted an article that listed the most common passwords, and it’s even more predictable and silly than the yearly list of popular baby names. Here’s the top 12 with my comments in parentheses:

12. trustno1 (people still remember the X-files, I guess)

11. iloveyou (awww, unless you think about people typing it to themselves)

10. baseball (it beat football and basketball easily)

9. 111111 (64 in binary?)

8. dragon (I love Game of Thrones too)

7. letmein (I’d never seen this one before but it makes sense)

6. monkey (because people like monkeys)

5. qwerty (the dvorak keyboard folks don’t use this one)

4. abc123 (do they think of the Jackson 5 song when they type it?)

3. 12345678 (they’re getting worse now)

2. 123456 (for people too lazy to type the 7 and 8)

And finally (and predictably):

1. password (yes, people really are this stupid)

Well, I’m off to change my passwords now. Oh, and I apologize in advance for the “artsy” photos with dramatic lighting and depth of field effects I’ll be posting in the future… I bought a fancy new DSLR and just can’t help myself.