2017-11-22

Review: Justice League

Justice League shows that while DC is learning from the Marvel MCU what makes a good ensemble movie, they still don't have it. Unlike Suicide Squad, which I liked, I couldn't decide if Justice League was more bad than good. It is mixed -- definitely better than the Batman vs Superman which was just bad -- but it sure isn't great. There are good touches of humor, and the use of The Flash as comic relief is well done. But over all Batman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg's brooding over their own mini arcs trip over each other and get in the way. Marvel manages to have more characters in their ensemble movies and manages to give more of them better story arcs than this DC offering.

So was it bad? No.

But was it good?....

2017-11-18

Review: Thor Ragnarok

Didn't like the villain much. A bit too much cartoony violence in the way that characters get beaten up, hit, smashed, and then brush off. And I think I'm tired of Loki. But overall it was definitely the best of the three Thor movies. Fun ride in places, as Marvell is capable of delivering.

2017-08-14

On Driver Assists: Lawns, And The Need For Those Kids To Get Off Of Them

Over the last few weeks I've been exposed to cars which are a lot newer than I usually drive. My daily driver is a 2010 Mazda 3, a car which is serviceable fun to drive and entertainingly useful in day to day use. This car had things on it which I didn't really like, but didn't seem like terribly bad ideas, like:
  • automatic headlights (which worked backwards from the way that those on my 1996 Subaru did -- the Subaru had the full headlights on all the time and turned them off when the car was turned off; the Mazda has a light sensor and turns the headlights on/off according to some threshold of darkness);
  • rain-sensing wipers (which have failed on me -- now they are just variable intermittent wipers -- replacing the computer once hasn't done anything to fix the problem)
  • speed-adjusting volume (the stereo gets louder when the car goes faster to compensate for engine/road noise)
  • electric rear hatch button (which is a stupid idea because of the way it is integrated with the remote unlock).
  • speaking of which, the remote unlock on both our key fobs is now intermittent, failing to work more than 75% the first time it is tried; replacing the batteries made it briefly better and improved the functional range of the remotes, but the first-try to lock or unlock the car fails more than 75% again.
As you've probably noticed, we've sold on the Yaris in favor of a 2014 Subaru Forester. This one has a small video screen up on the dash under the windshield. It is customizable to a certain extent, but some of the screens are not helpful at all -- for example, there's a screen that shows you which wheels are currently getting power from the adaptive all-wheel drive. Frankly if I'm ever in a situation where one of the wheels isn't getting power for some reason, I should probably be too busy to look at such a screen. Others can be made useful, but do you really need to see your fuel economy averages over the past hour of driving? After much fiddling with the device, I found a screen that shows the date, the time, the estimated range of the fuel tank, and the average fuel economy for the current trip meter.

The transmission is a CVT, which I am surprised to report doesn't annoy me; it is harder to feel the speed of the car from the engine noise, since noise is no longer a function of gear and speed; but the car goes when I want it to. The faux semi-automatic-paddle-shift mode is pointless as the lag on "gear" selects is large and there isn't a ton of engine power available.

The bluetooth system is laughably primitive. There are three ways to peer your phone with the car: one way which is temporary for the current ride only, one which is more permanent but is buried in menus across the video screens and the stereo head, and one which isn't possible on this car but is included in the manual so that you'll be pissed off that no there really is an easier way to do this but screw you anyways.

It has some stupid nanny functions -- every time the temperature crosses 3 degrees Celsius, it beeps to warn you that the roads may be becoming icy. And at the two hour mark on the road, plus (I presume) every hour after that, it beeps to advise you that taking a break might be a good idea.

Speaking of beeps, the Forester also beeps like a video game -- two beeps for unlocking, three beeps for the automatic rear hatch open/close, five beeps to tell you you've tried to lock the car with a door open -- plus one more when it actually locks.

Oh, it also has a rear-view backup camera. I always feel that such things are a crutch, and that drivers will get used to just using the cameras when backing up instead of actually looking.

In July, we were off to Calgary, and we rented a 2017 Dodge Durango GT. This living room has all manner of features, but most annoying was the giant video touch screen in the center console. This screen must be three or four times the size of the one in the Forrester and had all kinds of A/V, radio, bluetooth settings like you wouldn't believe. Eventually I figured out how to just turn it off, and turning it off became one of the first things I'd do after starting the car.

After two or three days, I discovered that the over-steering wheel speedometer was also a configurable screen and much of the same information from the giant touch screen could be displayed there instead of how fast we were going. Shortly before we had to give the car back, I'd figured out how to display speedometer, odometer, trip, trip-time (engine time since the last trip reset) and trip-fuel economy. Jenn didn't like this and preferred it when the screen just had the current speed in gigantic numerals displayed.

It has push-button start, something which caused hilarity straight away when Jenn got out of the car with the fob and I drove off, rendering myself unable to turn the car back on after temporarily parking.

Instead of a gear selector leaver, it has a knob you twist back and forth to select the gear. It also has the semi-automatic-style paddles, but the car is heavy enough that there's really no point to them.

But the "feature" which I knew would cause people problem was this "engine-stop-start" thing where it would turn the engine off when you came to a stop at an intersection, then auto-start it again when you took your foot off the brake. I know that studies show that if you are going to be stopped for more than 10 or 15 seconds it is more economical to stop the engine for that period and then restart it. The thing of it is that A) most people won't bother with doing that because it is a pain and B) the amount of fuel saved with such a measure has got to be pretty low as a percentage. Oh and it stops the air conditioning which is a problem when Calgary is enjoying a heat wave of 30-degree-plus temperatures.

How does this cause problems? Well, when you come to a stop, the engine stops, and unless you remember to put the car into park, it will start up and pull away when you take your foot off the brake. I actually did this as my last act with the car -- I was sitting in the car-return line behind someone else, and when they bailed out I decided we should too -- and the car lurched forward as I started to get out. Fortunately I caught it before it went anywhere, but this feature will almost certainly cause hilarity when it gets into the hands of absent-minded soccer moms (who seem like the sort who would want a gigantic AWD SUV). This is apparently a standard feature since 2016. My 2017 car had a button to disable this feature, but of course it defaults to "on" the next time it is turned on.

This week the Forester is back in the hands of the dealer for some warranty body work, and they've left me a 2016 Subaru Legacy Sport as a loaner. And this car has it all:
  • touchscreen info-tainment system
  • video screen dashboard with more distracting options than you know what to do with
  • lane-departure warning
  • blindspot detection (which shrieks at you like crazy when you are backing up)
  • automatic speed-adjusting cruise control
  • i-Sight collision avoidance
It also has a CVT with Subaru's faux-paddle-shifter mode, same as the Forester, although I have not tried that yet.

All that plus all the video-game beeps that the Forester has.

I was driving it back to the office after picking it up, and I said -- all these screens and I can't see what time it is. I did eventually find the clock, displayed discreetly in a blue that is totally unlike the rest of the video displays and totally away from where I'd expect to find a clock, and angular-distance-wise the furthest display from the road.

Oh, and the automatic headlights now behave like the Mazda instead of like my '96 Legacy.

So far I hate all of them:
  • the touchscreen because it is impossible to interact with while driving without looking at it; there may be steering wheel controls to manage this, but they are definitely not intuitive;
  • the video screen dash has the instantaneous fuel economy usage right up at the top, which is annoying, and a couple of the display modes don't make any sense to me;
  • lane-departure seems to be turned on all the time even if you have not explicitly turned it on, but at least it hasn't bothered me too much;
  • the blindspot detection is distracting, and as mentioned, is an irritant when the car is in reverse, complete with flashing icons on the backup camera screen;
  • the speed-adjusting cruise control is pretty neat, it will even bring the car to a stop and hold the car still for you; however you have to manually tap the accelerator when the car in front moves off, and it beeps at you if you don't;
  • so far I've had the i-Sight beep at me once because it didn't like the closing speed I had on the car in front, however I couldn't tell if the car was intervening on the brakes or not.
The thing with all of these "driver assists" is that they permit the driver to indulge in lazy driving because the car just deals with it. These almost-self-driving modes that are coming (like the Tesla Autopilot) are just going to make things even worse. But the biggest problem is that people are going to adopt lazy habits -- and then cause accidents when they get into older or lesser-equipped vehicles because they don't have good habits.

But because these things Save Lives, or Save Fuel, more and more they are going to become standard equipment. And you won't be able to avoid them. And the average driver is just going to get worse at driving.

Clearly I'm an old fart -- I amazed that driving has changes so much in the last seven years. I thought the Mazda was a high tech missile when I got it, but compared to the Legacy Sport it's virtually as antiquated as the '96 Legacy was.

If I was buying today I'd want a 4-door hatchback; if it was to be mine alone I'd want a 5-speed but family dynamics and finances dictate that this would be a shared car, so automatic or CVT it will probably be. But I'd want as few of these driver assist features as possible, and the ones I did get I'd want to turn off as much as possible.

Until fully-automatic driving is a reality, drivers need to keep aware of, and be actively engaged in, driving -- but it isn't -- and that's a subject for another time.

2017-08-02

Spiderman: Homecoming

So totally not for me it isn't funny. I'm too old to sit through teenagers making dumb decisions and acting painfully lame. Yes, I was just as lame when I was that age -- but I'm not any more. Didn't make me want another Iron Man movie, this had just the right amount of Tony Stark in it. No desire to see it again.

2017-07-01

Waiting On The Fireworks



Alex likes to watch traffic, so here he is with Icon while we wait for the fireworks to get going in Kanata.

2017-06-28

Ah, OK


Should have known that as soon as I complained some would show up. It's in the wall, so I'm leaving it be for now, but there should be more iron around here somewhere.

2017-06-26

The Latest Project Hole


What's amazing about this hole isn't the huge number of blocks coming out of it -- it's been the total lack of iron this hole has yielded so far. And by total, I mean total -- zip, zero, nada.

2017-06-11

On Our Way To Play


Inspecting a sign on the way to play with Icon in the afternoon. Alex likes to go to one of the soccer fields and throw a deflated ball for Icon to chase (because he's a service dog he isn't permitted to chase real balls, so this deflated ball is a unique toy that signals to him that it is OK to chase and play with), and Icon really likes it too. It was pretty hot, though, and Icon seemed to be laboring a bit, so I called a halt to the game early.

2017-06-10

Sign Inspector Again


Alex is volunteering to go walk the dog with me in the mornings on the weekends. I think he likes being out with the dog. I've been letting him have exclusive control of the dog with only a traffic leash, and while he's still hauling the dog around a bit, the dog doesn't seem to mind too much and it is going pretty well.

2017-06-09

Riding The Rails



Riding the Via train to Montreal for the Friday Grand Prix practice sessions. It was an early day that turned into a long day (we almost missed our train because the access bridge between the two islands was closed for an hour because of a "situation") but we made it home on time in the end. Nathan seemed to have fun and was enthusiastic about the idea of going again next year.

2017-06-08

This Time It IS A Hole

This one is a hole, rather than a cavern -- it is only 13x7 blocks, but it goes down from the upper hillside down to bedrock.



...and at the bottom, I've encased the lava formation in glass.


Again, it didn't take nearly as long to dig as I'd thought it would. Maybe I should dig a more ambitious hole next time. Or a more ambitious cavern?

2017-06-07

ubx32.dll: Success

So a long time ago, like 1998 long ago, we were running on these Windows NT 4.0 workstations that were joined to the local windows domain. Terrifically crude stuff by today's standards, sure, but it is what we had and we liked it.

One of the things you could do back then (as today) was to set a pre-password dialog box on the computer. Presumably this was for the critically useful "thou shalt not log in to this computer if thou be unauthorizedeth" messages. But this dialog is customizable. So on my co-worker's computer, I set the pre-login prompt to have a title of "ubx32.dll" and a message of "Success!" It looked just like a pseudo-error box that every other application would pop up, and "ubx32.dll" seemed like a plausibly anonymous name of a NT application dll.

So every time he pressed Ctrl-Alt-Del to log in, his computer would show him this dialog, complete with an OK button, which he'd have to clear before he could log in.

And then I forgot about it.

A year later, I happened to be at his desk, and he has a little yellow sticky on his monitor, with "ubx32.dll??" written on it. And I laughed, because I suddenly remembered about the prank. And of course I had to let him off the hook at that point.

He said that over the year it had been appearing he'd probably wasted about half a day on googling around trying to figure out what the hell was happening to his computer.

2017-06-04

Sign Inspector


Alex likes to stop and inspect the street signs that we pass -- the school crossing signs are singled out for special attention. He has Icon sit and then he peers up at them.

Today I did something different -- I let Alex hold Icon on the short leash without having my longer leash on the dog as a back-up. I took over during the poop-and-inspect phase of the walk, as well as when we passed other dogs, but other than that Alex did very well holding Icon.

2017-06-03

Icon Walking His Boy


Jenn is away this weekend, so Alex has to come with me in the morning on the dog walks. Both Icon and Alex seem to really like being out together.

2017-06-01

Domestic Life


Everyone playing in the back yard after supper.

2017-05-28

Sleepy Camper


Nathan came back from Cub camp all tired out. He couldn't even stay awake for TV.

2017-05-25

2017 ECF Game 7 Tonight


So here we are just hours away from game 7 of 2017's Eastern Conference Final, and Your Ottawa Senators are still in it. I have to admit, I was one of the doubters at the beginning of the season -- the team just didn't look fundamentally different from that team that failed to get into the playoffs last year. Nobody seriously thought that this team had it in them. And yet, here we are.

I've said on more than one occasion that I think in the current parity league, the gap between the best and the worst in the NHL is much, much smaller than it ever has been in the past, and that on any given night, any given team could beat any other given team. It means that, in the absence of a massive differential, randomness plays a much bigger role than it would have in the past.

I am by no means a hockey fan any more -- if, indeed, I ever really was a "real" hockey fan, but I'm still interested in the Senators' progress. It still bothers me to watch the team play Playoff Hockey, with the meat-grinder play and wheel-o-randomness officiating. I've actually watched more of the west's games because I have nothing invested in the outcome, so I can just watch hockey.

It will be interesting to see what this season does for the relationship between Ottawa and the Senators. The city has been abandoning the team to a certain extent. Certainly nobody expected there to be tickets going unsold for playoff games of any round. I am sure that Phoenix and the flood are factors, as is the fact that the arena is in the middle of nowhere. Jacking up the playoff ticket prices and boosting the parking pricing doesn't help either. Fundamentally though this team never looked like deep playoff team, and the Ottawa fan base isn't deep enough to sell out routine, grinder games. Ottawa likes a winner, and we are unlikely to see that in today's league of parity.

If there is a lesson to be learned from all this, it is that nobody really understands hockey. Ottawa was 50:1 at the beginning of the season to win the Stanley Cup. But they avoided injuries, played their system, got the bounces and the calls that all add up to tonight -- one single chance to beat Pittsburgh to go to the final. And the team has shown that they can win on the road and -- specifically -- that they can win in the Penguin's arena. So it is possible, even if it is, in the long run, unlikely.

I probably won't be watching tonight. But I still hope they win.

2017-05-23

The Fate Of The Furious

A finale. Part one of... oh, let's say three.

It is the fate of the furious to be poorly acted, cliche-written, and ridiculously choreographed. I am disappointed that the trailers effectively showed us all the "action porn" from the movie. Story wise, much was concealed, which is... ok, I guess. Probably the best option currently out; but I'm probably not going to remember it or want to see it again.

...oh yeah, the triple-X we saw in February was both better and more memorable, if only for the triple-X opening sequence.

2017-05-21

I Dug A Big Hole


I dug a 20x30 square hole that's about 30 blocks deep. The base of it is like 10 blocks off of the bedrock, so it is really more of a big empty cavern than a "hole" per se. Took quite a while, although not nearly as long as I thought it would. Digging like this doesn't yield enough iron to keep paying for the pick axes that you go through, you either need stone ones (which burn out really fast) or you need an iron stash previously prepared.

2017-05-20

New Hat


Alex got his own Tilly hat for his birthday. Same size and color as Daddy's, although it is a lot less beat up. Here he's rocking it on the way to Dairy Queen.

2017-05-16

Pay It Forward


Went to Toys'R'Us Kanata today, and there was (finally!) a new dump bin. Someone had gone through it and left a Treasure Hunt hanging on the display like that. Nice gesture. I left it since it isn't a car type that I am interested in.

2017-05-13

Lava Light Element


Ringing a 3x3 tunnel with a lava/glass element. Looks kinda cool, even if it was a pain to build.

Dog Progress

The dog is helping Alex with his puzzle. This is good progress on both of their ends.



2017-05-12

New Dryer Fail

New appliance time! The old one wasn't drying properly, even though it had been cleaned and the duct outside cleaned all the way through. Then it started running for only 10 minutes at a time. It is 15 years old, so we decided to buy a new one.

When it arrived, I was sent a message at work that the existing duct connector wasn't salvageable, so they wouldn't do the install -- fair enough. However, when I got home to do the installation, I turned it around and found this:


Kinda looks like it's been dropped.


Update: I called the customer service line, and a nice lady told me to complete the installation and if the dryer worked and we were willing to keep it, they'd refund us some money. So we'll run it over the weekend and see how that works.

A Teenager -- How Did That Happen?


McDonalds Ice Cream for Birthday Breakfast

Happy Birthday kiddo

2017-05-08

Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2

As derivative as you'd expect. The music was better in the first one. I also wonder if special effects are getting worse -- many of the blatantly computer-generated objects in the movie looked blatantly computer generated, like some shader or texture pass had been skipped -- for example, the Milano ploughing through the forest. Maybe my meds are wearing off but I'm not enjoying these the way I used to.

What Month Is It


It's snowing again. Maybe that's better than rain.

2017-05-05

Birthday Boy


Birthday Breakfast Cake

Ten years. Amazing that it's (only) been that long.

2017-05-04

Ouch


Zero for four, fortune cookie. That's impressive.

2017-05-02

The Ghost In The Shell (2017)

So one can't talk about The Ghost In The Shell without touching on cultural appropriation. Personally I have a hard time with that, what with being a principal member of the White Male Hegemony (but more on that another time). Actually we'll talk about the whole cultural appropriation thing another time.

For this movie, I thought for the most part it was gorgeous environment, many of the effects lovingly done. I didn't like the vocabulary -- the way they used "ghost" would be better in english as "spirit" or "soul" -- but that's probably a legacy thing from the original transations. Story wise it kind of avoided what it was trying to talk about, and it wasn't uneven in the way that North American audiences like. So I understand why it wasn't a "success". I'd like to watch it again, maybe.

2017-04-30

Rail Fan


Nathan went to visit Mr. Carter's train layout again.

2017-04-17

Hey, At Least Someone's Team Won This Weekend


The office guy's teams -- Boston and Chicago -- both lost this weekend, so I sent this picture to them as well as my favorite Habs fan.

2017-04-16

Wet Dog


It was raining when we went out walking!

2017-04-12

Socialization Is Boring


I will be taking the dog into the office periodically so that he gets jacket and socialization time. In practice it means he has to sit under my desk and be ignored by everyone.

2017-04-03

Service Dog


2017-03-27

Back On Track


He's had a rough go of it lately, and I have not been the one chosen to go with him when he succeeds; but we're back on track. For some reason Dairy Queen is in favor at the moment.

2017-03-26

Dry Humor


Nathan gets static electricity in his hair.

2017-03-25

Wonderland Collapse


The neighbour's shed out the back has collapsed at some point over the winter. The snow makes the scene look pretty, though.

2017-03-24

Back To Winter

Kicking The Fresh Snow

2017-03-18

Road Trip: Day 7

One last day in the car. Everyone slept well after we got home.


This was the most challenging drive so far -- there was thick, less-than-100m-visibility fog in the morning, and that was topped off with freezing mist and snow squalls just before lunch. Despite this, some drivers still insisted on going 90 miles an hour. The Forester handled this fairly well, letting me push perhaps faster than was absolutely wise, but helping me stay out of the way of faster traffic.


We made it home before 6PM, which made it a good day. Ceili clearly missed us, she spent the evening curled up next to me and wouldn't leave me alone overnight.

Overall the trip was mixed. The problem with travelling isn't the travelling, per se -- the kids do just fine in the car for the most part. The problem is the not-being-at-home part overnight and at the far destination. The kids are bored, confined, and don't have access to their stuff, so pester constantly for screentime or TV. They do better when we have activities, like the Aquarium and the Zoo, as long as we don't push them too hard. And then there's me. At the end of day four I just felt totally done with the trip. I did better with the travelling part, as I'm more engaged and take control of that part of the decisions and execution than I do with managing the family. But it was still a long week for me.

The Forester is a decent car -- not a rewarding car to drive in the same way that the Mazda is, but more comfortable. It absorbed the milage we threw at it with ease, without being wearing to drive. I doubt that I could drive the Mazda as far (even without family!) and be as willing to do it all again the next day. The Forester's behaviour in the mist and snow was exemplary, especially considering I didn't have any limit-testing experience with it -- it never felt like it was going to do something stupid on me, even if I didn't have the subconscious trust in the car like I do with the Mazda (the ability to let my subconscious drive the car briefly while I mentally do something else). It has the same vague-feeling on the centerline that my Legacy and both Imprezas that I've driven had. Jenn and I were thinking about whether or not this would be a suitable car for use while the family has the dog -- we have concerns about the long-term space (both kids are probably going to be big like my brother and Jenn's uncle, and the dog isn't small either) but we could probably make it work for a few years.

Next for us is back to Cambridge for the dog training. Then maybe Calgary in July, depending on how we do with the dog. I think that this trip has helped Jenn decide not to drive to Calgary, which is good (less time in the car) and bad (more expense). If we were to do a road trip I'd want it to be a road trip, where we did an activity then drove on to the next place. I think that might work better than staying put in one place.

2017-03-17

Road Trip: Day 6

Alex has been waiting for this day for two years. Today, we went to the Market Parking Garage in Roanoke Virginia.


I think the pictures tell the story.








Despite two traffic jams (including a one-hour stop on the I-77) and the 90-minute detour to Roanoke, we still managed to push back all the way to Martinsburg and ended up staying in the same place as we did on the way out. Unfortunately it was Friday night, so all the restaurants were busy, so Nathan didn't get to eat at (another) Applebees'. We ended up eating at the hotel, which turned out to be adequate.