Thank you, Mr. Greene!

Mark Greene (a master of all things related to databases) was kind enough to diagnose our ailing SQL string that was preventing certain numbers from being found. Thanks, Mark!

Now This Is Just Plain Wrong

In Denver, a judge overturned a convicted murderer’s death sentence because jurors consulted Biblical passages such as “an eye for an eye” while they were sequestered during death-penalty deliberations.

For the record, Robert Harlan was convicted in 1995 for murdering Rhonda Maloney, a waitress who was driving home from work, and shooting and paralyzing good Samaritan Jaquie Creazzo who tried to come to the woman’s aid.

The full article is available at Reuters.

The Top 10 Things I Hate About Star Trek

[doug]Okay, I’m really a fairly big Star Trek fan, despite being very disappointed by the latest film, but this list on the Happy Fun Pundit site is too delicious to pass up. Somewhere down the page you’ll find my own comments.

Here’s item one from the list, to give you a sample:

Noisy doors.

You can't walk three feet in a starship without some door whooshing or screeching at you. My office building has automatic sliding doors. They're dead silent. If those doors went “wheet!” every time a person walked through them, about once a month some guy in accounting would snap and go on a shooting rampage. Sorry Scotty, the IEEE has revoked your membership until you learn to master WD-40.

We Were Soldiers Once … and Young

[book][film][doug]Seems to be a good week for finishing books. We Were Soldiers Once … and Young—Ia Drang: The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam, by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (Ret.) and Joseph L. Galloway, is the book on which the film We Were Soldiers is based.

The film, although gritty and graphic, is probably one of the finest war films ever made, and actually does a better job of integrating the stateside events and human drama with the events on the battlefield than does the book. The book, of course, is more detailed than the film, although I was surprised at the high level of accuracy the film obtained—many historically-based films tend to sacrifice accuracy for drama.

The book covers the events portrayed on screen, including a second (or perhaps continuing) battle that happened nearby shortly after the primary battle ended.

Both book and film are excellent, illustrating the importance of training, leadership, and coordination of forces that are vital to a successful campaign. The book included a criticism that was not in the film—Due to President Johnson’s failure to declare a state of emergency and extend the active-duty tours of draftees and reserve officers, any soldier who had less than 60 days to serve on his enlistment would not be deployed with the First Air Cavalry. This left them both understaffed and cost many of their best-trained men.

There were other Presidential errors as well—the North Vietnamese were allowed to retreat as needed into nearby Cambodia; US forces were forbidden to follow. Overall, though, these are mentioned more for historical background than anything else.

Due to the improved emotional story of the film, I would actually recommend seeing the film before reading the book—something I would rarely prescribe.

Sailing to Byzantium

[book][doug]Kevin Miller loaned me a copy of Sailing To Byzantium (published by ibooks, a truly excellent collection of science fiction novellas by Robert Silverberg. I would highly recommend this book, even to those who are not diehard science fiction fans. I think the only Silverberg I own is Sunrise on Mercury, but reading Byzantium makes me want to go back and re-read it. (Sadly, its buried deep in our packed-for-the-move book boxes.)

The Matrix Reloaded

[doug]Note: I have tried to keep this as spoiler-free as possible. In the first 15 minutes of the film, I wasn’t actually sure I was going to like it. Although the opening featured quite a good look at the long-mysterious city of Zion, it was mixed with a somewhat drawn-out combination of scenes of a mass dance ritual in the “Temple,” (a bit reminiscent of some parts of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red/Green/Blue Mars trilogy) intermixed with an uncomfortably erotic scene with Neo and Trinity. After that, though, things really took off.

Reloaded is significantly more complex than The Matrix. Obviously, the war against The System is not over, the machines have improved themselves somewhat, and much is revealed about how various programs operate within the system, and about the world of the Matrix in general. We are also given a much better understanding of how Morpheus and his crew fit in (or fail to fit in) against the backdrop of Zion’s culture and its military and political leaders. The origins or reasons for existence of some key charactes and “programs” are explained, but without the horribly unfitting and disappointing treatment Lucas gave to the Force with his Midichlorian explanation in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

There were a few disappointments, but not many: One of my favorite characters is not there—although his absence is explained. The background music is not as fitting (or as good) in several places, and sound effects were not quite as good as before, although I have been spoiled by viewing The Matrix in Dolby 5.1 surround at home where every bullet shell casing hitting the ground can be heard, and my son John [john inline] complains that the bass rattles stuff off his desk upstairs. To a certain extent, mostly due to the film’s larger scope and greater number of both protagonists and antagonists, the film, at times, feels to have been run by a different director.

The combat scenes (and we’ve all been jaded by knock-offs in everything from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to Shrek) were astonishingly well done, intense, and wonderfully choreographed—truly beyond anything I’ve seen on film. It was not the “same old, same old.” The depth of plot and concept far exceed the first film, and overall it requires far more thought cycles to process. Ultimately, this is an amazing film.

Coming in November, The Matrix Revolutions (and if you are patient enough to sit through the credits and music that reminds me of Erci’s cube at MediVation, you’ll be treated to a preview of what is to come).

Stinkin’ Clouds!

Last night we were all psyched up to watch the full lunar eclipse. An hour before it would have begun, the sky was relatively clear. An hour later, completely obscured. I was disappointed, but not as much as my friend Phil, who’s never seen one.