Shoe Money Tonight

Occasional ramblings by an anesthesiologist/mother (and sometimes her husband).

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Movie Meme

Stolen from HobbitRibbitBaconbit .

Here are the rules: Pick 10 favorite movies and find their pages on the IMDB, post the keywords and make people guess the movie.

1. Gore/North Atlantic/Suspense/Policemen/Female Nudity
2. Mafia Melodrama/Shot in the Throat/Profanity/Corleone Italy/Bloody Violence
3. Bittersweet/Shakespearean Quote/Dead Woman in Uniform/Blood/Person on Fire
4. Fictional Country/Obsession/Reaching for Priceless Artifact/Man in Uniform/Decapitated Body
5. Endurance/Training Montage/Beaten to Death/Victory/Funeral
6. Broadway Musical/Asia/1860s/Androgyny/Chakri Dynasty
7. Fake Documentary/Flatulence/Folk Music/1960s/Amusement Park
8. Little Girl/Hazmat Suit/Portal/Panic/Chameleon
9. Guest/Gun/Mansion/Wrench/Beautiful Woman
10. Slapstick/Good Versus Evil/H.P. Lovecraft/Bizarre/Steampunk

Give me all your best guesses and I'll post the correct answers in a few days.

Also, as a sort of hint, all but one of this sits on the dvd shelf (and I have the other one on VHS).

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Blu-Ray Addenda

Two quick additions:

1) My mother-in-law does actually have a digital camera. She simply prefers her film camera.

2) ES1 had an excellent point regarding the issue of people paying for quality: Anyone remember Laserdisc?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD: Another Reason Why It Wasn't Betamax

With the withdrawal of Toshiba from the race, it seems that the battle between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray is finally over. During the struggle, many compared it to the battle between VHS & Betamax. The comparison, however, falls apart on a number of levels. There have been many discussions of the technical aspects. What has been lost, however, is the human element.

The short story of Betamax is that a higher quality format was defeated by a cheaper one. Why didn't that happen with Blu-Ray?

The basic answer is that the battlefield was much smaller. Far fewer people got involved in this battle. Those participating were a rather select group.

Let's look at the landscape during the Betamax era. If you didn't have a VHS or Betamax device, there was no way for you to record video content from, or play pre-recorded content on, your tv. All you could watch was what was broadcast. Pretty much everyone had a tv. Either device would give your existing setup a capability you did not have before.

Did you care about the quality? Maybe. What, however, were the chances that you actually owned a television good enough to tell the difference? Even if you could, VHS was probably "good enough." And if it's cheaper, well that's what you're going to go for.

The VHS/Betamax battle was fought on a large scale. The scale of this current battle was a lot smaller than tech-savvy people realize.

Take my in-laws, for instance. They like gadgets and toys. They have an iPod Nano. They have a Sony CRT HDTV and watch HD channels from the satellite. On the other hand, they've had their home computer for as long as ES1 & I have been together (our 4 year wedding anniversary is coming up in April and we were engaged for close to 3 years before that), and I'm fairly certain that they have yet to purchase a digital camera.

Basically, they like toys, but want them to work. On their 4x3 aspect ratio TV, for example, they zoom and chop the HD signal so that they actually use the whole screen. They lose some picture quality and some content, but they'd rather use the whole thing.

To put this battle in context, neither of them had heard of the conflict between HD-DVD & Blu-Ray.

Let's look at the landscape now:

HD-DVD or Blu-Ray is not even an issue unless you have an HD set. Roughly 10% of households out there have one. Of that 10%, approximately half are strictly watching Standard def signals, and about a quarter of those think they're watching hi-def.

So, for the overwhelming majority of people out there, this argument was a non-issue.

Now, lets look at the tech-savvy who would be involved. They all remembered the Betamax issue and didn't want to get stuck with the loser. A lot of them, therefore, stayed out of it. Hundreds of dollars for something that might be obsolete? Even the gorram cables are expensive!

This is not to mention the elephant in the room - Standard Definition DVDs. They're ubiquitous. They're cheap. They work on everything. Pretty much everything is available on them now. And, when done right, they look and sound really good.

Sure, HD looks and sounds better if you have the right equipment. But for most people, the additional quality was not going to be worth the added expense and hassle of all the equipment, especially when you add in the risk factor. Good HDTVs are still really expensive. Good audio setups are expensive. So many low-quality "surround sound" systems are sold which frigtardedly violate Dolby's 5.1 specs by having the center channel speaker be larger than the surround speakers.

A setup to truly let you appreciate hi-def picture and sound is going to run you a metric assload. Or you can just throw in a DVD on what you have and you'll get a very enjoyable experience.

In the end, this battle was waged between geeks with money. The result was that the higher-cost, higher-capacity format won.

Even now, what does this victory mean? It may mean that more companies will be making the players, and that they will drop in price until everyone can afford them.

It may also mean nothing. It's still only a niche market. And what about downloads?

AppleTV Take 2 is a great idea. It is, however, expensive when compared to Netflix or Blockbuster. It may bridge the gap from online content to your tv, but until the problems of bandwidth and storage are solved, it's also going to be a niche.

Besides, many people (myself included) prefer to own a physical copy of video media. I'll download music as much as I please. Video, however, I'd really want to have on a physical item for durability and longevity.

What we have here is a war being fought in a bubble. Most people are going to stay out of it for a long time to come. The DVD will eventually be replaced. HD-DVD has lost. It's far from clear, however, if Blu-Ray has actually won.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

About Last Night…

In honor of Uno, I re-post a link to our pictures of Molly.

We'll have more to say about it later.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I am entering into a period of mourning.

"Roy Scheider, a stage actor with a background in the classics who became one of the leading figures in the American film renaissance of the 1970s, died on Sunday afternoon in Little Rock, Ark. He was 75 and lived in Sag Harbor, N.Y."

Read more in the NY times (free registration may be required).

As many of you know, Jaws is my all-time favorite movie and sparked a lifelong love of sharks.

Please, no you're gonna need a bigger coffin jokes. Peter's still recovering from the look I gave him when he said that.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

To smile at...

As a rule, I generally don't blog about work related issues. This, however, I couldn't leave alone.

Today, one of my students, while grabbing his coat to go home, declared in a loud voice for all to hear:

"Yo, when life gives me lemons I make beef stew!"

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Eternal Adolescence

Tom Lehrer once said that he had dedicated his life to what had since become a rather successful project, namely the attempt to prolong adolescence beyond all previous limits. That was in 1959.

Since then, eternal adolescence is all around us. Adolescence is basically categorized by wanting privileges without responsibilities. In California, for example, there is an entire city that thinks you can have freedom without having the ability to defend it. Across the nation, people who bought houses they knew they couldn't afford want to be treated as victims.

But nowhere is adolescence more apparent than in young men.

Consider the biological differences between men & women. Let us think back to the early days of human existence. Imagine that you have a small village with 50 men and 50 women. The primary focus of long term survival is the production of new villagers. Men and women are both required to produce villagers.

Women can produce only 1 at a time, take 9 months plus recovery time to do so, and are vulnerable during that period - any injury to the mother is an injury to the child.

Men, however, are only biologically required for a short period of time. Their part in production can be performed multiple times each day. This part can also be performed even if they are sick or injured.

The result is that to maintain a population, it is far more important to insure the health and safety of women than men. A handful of men can repopulate the village if necessary. Any jobs that are dangerous or require time away from the village, therefore, would logically fall to men.

Fast forward a few millennia. In our society, most jobs don't call for putting your life on the line day in and day out. A handful of people now do that to protect even those who spit on them. Technology has reduced the required time for cooking and cleaning to the point where it is no longer a full-time job, thus eliminating the requirement of a full-time housekeeper.

For men, the requirements of responsibility run counter to biology. Civilization, however, is there specifically to counter biology. From table manners to hygiene, civilization reminds us that natural ≠ right.

As Kay Hymowitz points out in this brilliant article, marriage and children is the true responsibility that turns boys into men.

This quote, in particular, is telling:

"In 1970, 69 percent of 25-year-old and 85 percent of 30-year-old white men were married; in 2000, only 33 percent and 58 percent were, respectively."

After reading this article, I decided to take a close look at my own life.

I looked back in iCal to June 1, 2005 - the day I turned 26. On this day, I had been married for 14 months. I was at the end of my second year of full-time teaching. ES1 & I were living in a nice apartment while we were preparing to move into our house. We are expecting our first child this summer. Somehow, despite going through 4 majors during my undergraduate and graduate career (Mechanical Engineering -> Mathematics w/ History Minor -> History w/ Mathematics Minor -> Graduate History Study -> finally an MSEd), I ended up statistically ahead of the curve.

Looking at my friends from college and before, I find mixed results. Many are married with or without children. Some have been unlucky in love, but are still settled adults. Some, however, are still stuck in extended adolescence. No points for guessing which ones we find ourselves spending more time with nowadays.

I am one to admit that marriage alone did not make me grow up. The responsibility of a home, a dog, and now an impending child are what did it for me. Case in point: every year, when we take down the Christmas decorations which engulf our living room, we take the opportunity to selectively choose what goes back up. This year, our talking Yoda and robotic R2-D2 did not return to their spots on and below the mantel respectively. And my favorite lightsaber no longer hangs from the mantel - it sits in a drawer. When you're about to fill up your house with your kid's toys, it's time for your own toys to be put away.

I have come lately to more and more appreciate one of my favorite sitcoms - Home Improvement. As a kid, I was amused by the tools and the grunting and so on. As an adult, I appreciate that Tim Allen's character is one who finds himself as a responsible adult, but still completely unapologetic for his stereotypical man characteristics. One episode in particular, "For Whom the Belch Tolls," I found rather poignant. Tim finds himself distanced from his old college friend. He realizes that he has grown up, but his friend hasn't. At the end, his friend says he'll call first next time he shows up. They both know, however, that there won't be a next time. They have officially grown apart. I can think of many old friends that I now see very seldom if at all. It's hard to spend significant time with people, even those about whom you care deeply, when your lives have taken you in such opposite directions that you no longer have much in common.

How many of today's national discussions, political or otherwise, can be reduced to people wanting to be able to do whatever they want while someone else pays the check and picks up the pieces? People want it all, and want it all to be free. We have devoled into a nation of infants who don't believe that actions should have consequences. People want pills to lose weight. We're having trouble finding good employees because people want to be praised for having a pulse. They want the government to tell companies to charge less money. The other day I saw fat free half-and-half. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!

Eventually, there will be a correction. Adolescents will either grow up or fade away. Those of us picking up the slack will become stronger. Men will be real men. Women will be real women. Small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri will be real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. We'll shake our heads at the children, but ultimately move on. The grown-ups have better things to do.

Hat tip: Joanne Jacobs for the original article.