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Pocket Queue 88

  • We Are Nowhere Close to the Limits of Athletic Performance
    Recently I saw a quick video from F1 comparing pit stop from the olden days and now. Not surprisingly, changing tires and refueling the car is a lot faster now due to advances in technology and processes. It’s a lot like sports. However, this article says there’s one other factor – finding the outlier athletes.

    We find a similar story in the NBA with Shaquille O’Neal. O’Neal was the first 7-footer in the league who retained the power and agility of a much smaller man. Neither a beanpole nor a plodding hulk, he would have been an athletic 200-pounder if scaled down to 6 feet in height. When Shaq got the ball near the hoop, no man (or sometimes even two men) could stop him from dunking it. Soon after his entry into the league, basket frames had to be reinforced to prevent being destroyed by his dunks. After the Lakers won three championships in a row, the NBA was forced to change their rules drastically—allowing zone defenses—in order to reduce Shaq’s domination of the game.

  • The weird world of kidnapping insurance
    A look at the world of kidnapping insurance, where a bunch of firms work in concert to keep fees low. It’s a strange life to tell yourself that you’re going to work every day so kidnappers won’t suffer inflation

    From Shortland’s perspective, that makes sound moral sense as well as sound business sense: By controlling the ransom payouts, you minimize the profits kidnappers make from each ransom, and thus minimize the money they can pump into their next kidnapping, or whatever other scheme the criminal or terrorist group they’re part of is working on. “If you left rich western families to negotiate these ransoms by themselves, they would probably do a lot more harm, and kidnapping would be a lot nastier, and more profitable for the kidnappers,” Shortland said. “Once you’re talking about multi-million dollar ransoms, then the people who can’t afford it — they get killed, or they just rot for years and years.”

  • Building a Cathedral
    I wouldn’t have picked this article if not for the fire at Notre Dame. But it raises an interesting question as to why cathedrals take so long to build. I guess the short answer is a slow trickle of money results in slow construction, and slow construction means dramatic changes can occur

    As Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote in The Black Swan, human lifetimes and the lifetimes of human projects seem to obey an opposite set of rules. For humans, “the older we get the less likely we are to live.” But once a project exceeds its due date, its estimated time to completion expands. While humans tend towards death, late projects become immortal. “The longer you wait,” writes Taleb, “the longer you will be expected to wait.”

  • Hand dryers v paper towels: the surprisingly dirty fight for the right to dry your hands
    While the article is about paper towels and air hand dryers, the deeper issue is that even in seemingly minor and trivial industries like this, there is a lot of lobbying and potentially fake science trying to make one side win.

    These were strange conclusions, because the Leeds study’s data was quite equivocal. The scientists sampled six different parts of the restrooms they visited. Only in two of these locations – on the floors, and on the surfaces of hand dryers or towel dispensers – did washrooms with dryers show appreciably more bacteria than those with paper towels. Even then, those higher numbers were half of those typically found on our own bathroom floors at home. Unless you were planning to caress the floor, it didn’t seem to matter

  • ‘We all suffer’: why San Francisco techies hate the city they transformed
    Every time I got to the Bay area, I think, wow this is a place where I wouldn’t want to live. Here’s some more reasons why.

    “It’s just not sustainable for a couple to live here,” he said. “A million-plus for a home with $300,000 down? Then when we have kids, $30,000 a year for private school? Who can afford that even making $300,000 a year? … There’s hundreds of other places in the country with the same restaurant culture or at least on par that cost half as much.”

Las Niñas Bien

This is a Spanish film set in Mexico during the financial crisis they had in the early 80s (?). Instead of focusing on the government though, it followed a group of socialites and specifically one family who started on top, but could no longer sustain their position. What drew me to Las Niñas Bien was that it was supposed to be how the family tried to maintain appearances (social status) under this stress, but the lengths that she went too weren’t as outlandished as I would thought. Given that this movie was classified as a comedy, I thought there would be a lot of hijinks. I think it was misclassified and is more of a drama that gave me a look into how upper class Mexicans lived. Not something I can connect too, so two out of five stars.

Iceman: The Time Traveller

I watched this cantomovie because I was curious about how it would meld the old historical Chinese era with modern day HK. But apparently, the Iceman in the title referred to the first movie in the series where they “travelled” through time by being frozen solid. Luckily, the beginning of the film played a quick “Last time on Iceman” segment to get me caught up.

This movie is a snooze. The time travel mechanics didn’t make any sense, fighting wasn’t great, and used a last minute Japanese villain to be the final boss in a battle that travelled through a CGI time tunnel. I guess this should be a one star movie even though I never thought about turning it off in the middle. I guess it is “good enough” for TV.

Alita: Battle Angel

It is strange when some random comic that I read in my younger days becomes a blockbuster, especially when it is not a prominent title from an established universe. In fact, I don’t remember why I even read this series. I don’t think it’s by a prominent writer so maybe I just read it because I had access to it! Curious as to the reasons why they made a movie about this, I watched Alita.

From the beginning, I felt this was not a movie that I would enjoy. The world had an anime feel with the Utopia/normal world divide (or maybe just because I knew of its origins). And I didn’t like the coming of age story for Alita. It made it feel like I was watching a kid movie complete with a budding teen romance. Then the fighting started and it was clearly not a kid movie – the bad guys are the basis of nightmares! So, why make the beginning of the movie so juvenile? Alita also looks like a CG creation which is jarring (especially when she is being played by a real actress).

However, once the plot (fighting) started, it ended up being ok. Stylistically, the idea of the battle angel, mechs, and sword fighting is fun. So this movie claws its way back to three stars. In the credits, I was surprised with all the big names tied to this film (James Cameron et al)

Star Trek Discovery Season 2

Hmm, I didn’t realize that I was blogging about each episode of Discovery. Well that died off pretty quickly. None the less, I enjoyed the first season of Discovery as I saw it as GoT meets Star Trek (or Star Trek in the new style of TV). I was excited for Season 2 and waited to “binge” watch it.

Note 1: “Binge” as in not having to wait a week in between each episode, too old for just watching all the episodes back-to-back

Note 2: I didn’t realize that there were only 14 episodes in the season, and though that they were just doing a mid-season break. So I could have started watching earlier.

I wasn’t overly excited about Captain Pike (although he turned out quite ‘Captain’ly ), the search for Spock (didn’t they make a movie about this already) or any of the Enterprise universe (wasn’t a fan of TOS). And, after about 7 episodes in, haven’t been super impressed with the series.

I felt that the writers have chosen good themes and ideas, but the execution is just lacking. It’s like it is missing some polish and doesn’t leave you with a satisfied feeling once the episode is done. There are a lot of Star Trek type episodes (discovery of new species & etc) but the overall story arc isn’t as exciting. Hopefully it picks up in the latter half of the season!

June, 2019

June meant that the school year was finishing. All of the programs that the kids were in were done and they had their weekends back. It was a bit sad for Jovian since he is switching schools next year, but that seemed to be OK for him (I guess he’s not old enough to worry yet). June meant preparing for the summer, but since their camps had been setup several months ago, it wasn’t worrisome. One big change next month is that Katana is going to start daycare.

Summer came this month, and while the weather wasn’t too hot temperature wise, it already feels too hot. I went down to the Bay area in the middle of June and the temperature there was in the 30°Cs, but it felt nice. Not so in Toronto even when the weather was just the high 20s.

On my trip for work, I caught up on most of the movies I wanted to watch and there aren’t a lot of things that interest me on the inflight entertainment system now. I always had to go down a second time for a very short trip, but luckily that got cancelled (it would have been a long commute without any more movies to watch).

Burning – Part 2

I’ve watched the pivotal opening scene in Burning a couple of times now, the part that foreshadows and describes the entire movie; and I think I finally figured it out.

First, there is a scene about miming the act of eating a tangerine, but the important tidbit is that in order to be successful; you don’t have to believe that there is a physical tangerine, just that it tastes yummy. I think this describes the relationship that the girl has with the poor guy. She believes that she can rely on him/he is her BF (even if he doesn’t think of it like this), so it makes his later words to her even more hurtful.

Then the discussion quickly changes to little and great hunger. Little hunger is the hunger you feel when you if you haven’t eaten, but great hunger is hunger for life. I think this describes the rich guy and his quest to find meaning in his life when all the basics are taken care of.

Finally, as a bonus, the girl asks the poor guy to take care of her cat, saying a cat shouldn’t be moved from their home. I think this is meant to describe the poor guy who just isn’t able to comprehend the changes that are about to happen around him.

Even with this theory, still a great movie!

Aquaman

Well Aquaman started really slow, in the way of many other DC movies (bad plot, dialogue and corny scenarios). In the comics, Aquaman was always a cheesy hero whose powers aren’t that helpful (how many times do heroes fight on water??). So the premise didn’t have a lot of things to make it good. The fact that they portrayed Atlanteans as a futuristic civilization hidden underwater, with amazing submarine craft is just crazy. The only thing holding the film together was Jason Momoa’s stoic charisma.

Secondly, I was confused about the timeline. This movie seemingly happens after Justice League (they mention Steppenwolf), but I thought Aquaman went to Atlantis to protect the Mother Box (wasn’t Mera there too?). The movie also seemed to channel Tomb Raider a bit when they went to the desert.

Things started to get better once they entered the “final dungeon”. Seeing Aquaman in his costume, even though it is corny, was great. I just can’t get behind the idea that the Atlanteans were hidden or can stay hidden for so long even with huge armies amassing and fighting. Two out of five stars

Logan

I was looking forward to this film since it was part of the X-Men universe, even though the comic series “Logan” wasn’t that good (it was too far fetched). I remember the movie version received good reviews so it didn’t seem like they used the comic book as source material.

Logan is well deserving of its R rating (very bloody) and it is also very dark. It is one of those stories that comic books writers go to when they run out of present day stories to tell (a What-If from the future). However, this one is only 10 years down the road with a Wolverine that is incognito, with a limo, and a limp (which was what I was trying to type before autocorrect took over), as well as literally carrying around a 90-year old Professor X wherever he has to go. This is not a dystopia (society seems OK with self driving tractor trailers), but it is pretty grim for good guys. It’s not a movie where the heroes get beat up, then miraculously climb off the floor, find their cosmic second wind, and take over; in this one, they just get beat up more and more. If anything, this is a realistic comic book film.

Like most future Wolverine films, it is a character study of him and how he behaves when he’s not killing. However, unlike Days of Future Past; he’s not being a hero. He’s just a guy who wants to mind his own business but gets pulled into being a caretaker, driver, babysitter, and finally a hero.

The pacing in the film is great. Being a dark film, there isn’t really comedy. Instead the scenes of despair, dementia and death are contrasted with plain normal life. I’m not sure if the film itself is great, or if it’s because they’ve taken the characters that we know through many X-Men films and truly given them a new angle. In any case, I thought this movie deserved a four out of five star rating.

Captain Marvel

If Captain Marvel came out in any other year, it might have been considered a B-list Marvel movie. Maybe not at the level of Ant Man, but not as hyped as Guardians of the Galaxy. But because everyone knew she would play a pivotal role in Avengers: Endgame, this ended up being a must see movie.

Maybe the producers saw it that way too because I think it is a quality and balanced film. It didn’t try too hard to be funny (compared to Guardians of the Galaxy, where I remember that the “comedy” from Rocket was just annoying), and brought in the retro early 90s without beating us up about it (better than Bumblebee). It fit the times (many women in key roles) and was almost a film about the real international man of mystery, Nick Fury. There was a lot of thing going for it even if the source material wasn’t the most famous.

I liked the focus on the Kree/Skrull war. I don’t remember all the facts, but portraying the Skrulls as the good guys doesn’t seem right (why about the FF’s beef with Super Skrull?). I liked how there were cameos from Guardians of the Galaxy, although I don’t remember what those characters did in those movies anymore (the Kree, Korath). I’m also not sure that Captain Marvel had cosmic powers either? In any case, these didn’t detract from the story. Captain Marvel is a solid three out of five stars, and the Marvel version of Wonder Woman.