Archive for June, 2006

New Toy

June 20th, 2006

Lego Hour 0

(Yes, I have more money than sense).

Update: Of course, it goes without saying that my buying this implies that my wife is a very wonderful, tolerant person. Who helped me save $100 off the price, too.


Idiots to a high power

June 20th, 2006

While checking the Apple Movie Trailers site I came across a trailer for America: Freedom to Fascism. From watching the trailer, it seems to be the most prominent example yet of the tax protestor lunacies about the legality of the US income tax system. Except rather than being promoted through dodgy seminars and mimegraphed leaflets, it’s going to be on cinema screens across a country.

Needless to say, it is all completely unbalanced. Here’s a handy list of the ‘experts’ the trailer shows are in the movie:

This gaggle of tax protestors seems to have nothing new to say. Just the same old rubbish about flags with tassels, the 16th amendment, and so on. Surely there were better ways to waste money than to make a documentary about them.


Best. Watch. Ever.

June 20th, 2006

Stone Henge Watch

No more need be said. From Think Geek.


Google spreadsheets is not an Excel killer

June 8th, 2006

It seems that lots of people are all aflutter over Google Spreadsheets.

I personally doubt that it’s going to have any impact whatsoever on Excel and Office more generally.

Firstly, most people who use Excel use it fairly peripherally. Word is by far the most used of the programs in the Office suite. Most uses of Excel are going to be pretty peripheral. When these people use Excel they mainly use the ‘simple’ functions: sum, average, and so on. Will they use the Google Spreadsheets? Maybe, but I’d guess that as a lot of this is for personal financial information (budgets and the like) they may well be a bit reluctant to put it out on the web.

So who uses Excel the most? To guess (without any data) I’d say that the biggest users would be people who work with company financial data, followed by scientists and social scientists who work with quantitative data. Firstly, a lot of this information is confidential, either commerically or otherwise. They simply won’t be allowed to use something like Google Spreadsheets. Some might ignore that restriction, but most won’t. But more importantly, they use a lot of the higher end functions. Things like pivot tables, lookup functions, the statistical programs and so on (update: well, the lookup functions at least are included). While we’re still waiting to see the full feature set for the Google version, I’ll be very surprised if everything I need for spreadsheets is included.

A couple of other important question marks include spreadsheet linking. Can you link a cell in one file to another cell in a seperate file? This is a very common use for advanced Excel users, and without it Google Spreadsheets will be useless.

One final reason why most advanced users will stay away is other programs. Most data analysis programs (STATA, SAS, etc.) can read excel files. But they won’t read these Google files. While you can download them as .xls to your local drive, while add another step when you already have Excel installed?

So I don’t think anyone at Redmond is very worried today.

Now a Google Wordprocessor could be a whole other story, as there’s a lot more casual use of that program.


Movie Review: The Da Vinci Code

June 4th, 2006

For the first time in months we actually got out to see a movie last night. Given the pretty average range at the moment (Poseidon, MI: 3 and X3 were the other choices) we ended up going to The Da Vinci Code.

Overall, a pretty competent thriller with some nice moments and a few flaws.

(I should note first that I’m not addressing the problems with the source material. Can we all just accept, for the sake of this review, that I think almost all of the historical information in the movie is complete bunk?)

First, the good.

  • The actual ‘thriller’ elements of the plot kept things moving along nicely, with good use of intercutting to keep some tension in the more expository scenes. The action scenes were well done, although fairly sparse compared to the other summer blockbusters.
  • The locations in Paris and London are gorgeous and are used to full effect. The Louvre was probably somewhat underutilised, focussing too much on the awful pyramid.
  • Ian McKellan turns in a fantastic, scenery munching performance. Unlike Hanks and Tatou, who take the material far too seriously.

The average:

  • Ron Howard is always going to be Ron Howard, so you can be pretty sure about what you’re going to get. The childhood flashbacks were nice, but overused. And the direction was generally workmanlike without being inspired.
  • Paul Bettany was good in a flawed role. I’m with NOAH on this one.

The bad:

  • The music was absolutely awful. In addition to the volume being way too high (the cinemas fault, I’m sure), it was badly timed, over dramatic, repetitive and boring. Rarely have I come out of a movie where my first comment is ‘gee, the music was bad.’ I guess the composer was just having a bad week when he wrote it, as he’s done other good stuff.
  • I know I said I wouldn’t mention the source material, but it really hurt my suspension of disbelief. Especially when talking about the Council of Nicea and the Arian heresy.

Overall, worth seeing once. I certainly won’t bother buying the DVD, though.

Rating: 3/5


June 3rd, 2006

Weight: 106.4kg Breakfast: None Lunch: None Dinner: None Snacks: 9 Rice Cake Things Total: 270 kCal Exercise: ~90 mins walking