Blogging Through Interesting Times

I’ve lived in NYC for a while. I don’t want to go all “I’ve seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion”, but I have seen ships on fire. I’ve seen shooting – the movie variety and the regular kind, two hurricanes (one weak), an earthquake (not a strong one), a major blackout, and 9-11.

I always wanted to own a house in Breezy Point. I also always wanted to work in the Twin Towers. In hindsight, it’s probably good that I never achieved these things. On the other hand I spent 5 years working in the rebuilt WTC 7. I hope Breezy Point will be rebuilt soon too.

To the Moon, Alice

I recently visited my alma mater, Brooklyn College. Some things changed for the better, like the gorgeous new library addition, some for the worse, like the Campus Sugar Bowl restaurant replaced by Starbucks.

On the other hand, the science classrooms and offices in the old and new Ingersall building seem to have been frozen in time, down to the wall niches. You see, most floors have these glassed in niches which the various departments fill. Compsci displays books written by professors, Geology shows off a collection of minerals and fossils (a fancy one at that), Biology has a series of stands with pickled and dried specimens that I think dates to the 1940s, like something out of a Hellboy comic.

The Physics department has a very old, dusty and ironic display, seemingly not opened since the 80s:

Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr

A controversial challenge to the works of Ron Chernow and David McCullough

With Fallen Founder , Nancy Isenberg plumbs rare and obscure sources to shed new light on everyone’s favorite founding villain. The Aaron Burr whom we meet through Isenberg’s eye-opening biography is a feminist, an Enlightenment figure on par with Jefferson, a patriot, and—most importantly—a man with powerful enemies in an age of vitriolic political fighting. Revealing the gritty reality of eighteenth-century America, Fallen Founder is the authoritative restoration of a figure who ran afoul of history and a much-needed antidote to the hagiography of the revolutionary era.

Inside Facebook: Life, Work and Visions of Greatness

As an early engineer, I was on the inside during Facebook’s explosive growth. In Inside Facebook, I’ll give you the scoop on the company as it became the premiere online environment for U.S. college students, including how and by whom the products were made, how you can use them best, views on what makes social networks so valuable, and where the industry is headed. You, too, can achieve startup success and attain your greatest dream; I hope to inspire you toward fulfilling your potential.

“Love the book. It captures the ethos of the place and a substantial degree of the vision and drive which is a secret to success.”
-David Kopp, Sr. Director, Community at Yahoo!

“Inside Facebook is a compelling look inside at a fascinating moment. It’s a riveting read. Karel may be an Engineer, but after reading Inside Facebook you’ll see he’s a great storyteller. I couldn’t get myself to stop reading and wanting more.”
-Ariel McNichol, CEO of mEgo.

“I love the style. It’s made for college students, like Facebook. Karel takes you into the personalities and minds behind Facebook. A must read for young entrepreneurs, and anyone into online social networking.”
-Mohammad Naqvi, UCR, creator of Facebook Notifier at fbQuick.com

Facebook Page For Deadprogrammer.com

In a desperate bid to shore up deadprogrammer.com readership I’ve created a Facebook page. Please go and become a “fan” of it on Facebook. The idea is that once you become a fan, a message about that will appear in your friend’s news feeds. They’ll become curious and check out Deadprogrammer’s Cafe. That will result in an ego boost for me and a few fresh posts (one about the nature of time, and a series about my trip to my hometown of Odessa).

Facebook fan page is a neat and low effort passive-aggressive way of promotion. They take just a few minutes to create. On the other hand, they look pretty lonely when you only have two fans yourself, and your mother. And my mom doesn’t even have a Facebook account.

P.S. If you are friending me on Facebook, just mention that you are reading my blog or something.

Darren on the Train

Since we are on the subject of lookalikes, a couple of weeks ago I thought that I saw Darren Aronofsky on the train. It was on the BMT Brighton Line which is featured so prominently in Pi, and he got off at 7th avenue, which would make sense as well.

If I were to talk to Darren Aronofsky, I’d try to persuade him to film The Lady Who Sailed The Soul or Scanners Live in Vain. Rachel Weisz could totally be Helen America. That would have been awesome.

Do The Batusi

You know, sometimes you are better off not knowing. Earlier I lamented the horrible batmobile in the latest Batman movie. That movie was could have been a lot of things instead of the steaming pile of drek that it became.

It was supposed to be based on Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One and written by Darren Aranofsky. It would have been a low tech, real Batman, stripped of unrealistic gadgets but with a kick ass plot. Commissioner Gordon would still be a Lieutenant fighting against GCPD corruption. Bruce Wayne would actually hurt people with crude, but effective weapons like thermite.

And only now I found out what the Batmobile would have been like…

“I was never planning to direct Year One. I was more interested in
writing a screenplay with Frank Miller on Batman. My pitch was always very realistic. I wasn’t interested in fantasy, I was interested in the psychology of a real man dressing in a disguise to pay out real vengeance. The batmobile was a souped up lincoln continental with a bus engine. It was technical and rusty and extremely violent. They would have never let us have violence.”

Darren Aronofsky answers readers’ questions at moviehole.net.

Perfect combination, isn’t it?

What would have been even more interesting, is the way Aranofsky would portray Batman as a real person, frustrated and angry, probably more of a Marvin Heemeyer than the familiar cool and composed caped crusader.

To this day I can’t confirm something that I seem to remember form an IMDB page. It seem to me that I’ve seen Steve Ballmer’s name as a possible cast member in that movie. It could have been somebody’s joke but, a better person to play a Batman villain I can’t imagine. But the way the things are going, they might be bringing the Batusi back.

Sutyagin’s Moving Castle or Ruskyscraper

Slowly but steadily making my way through all of the Studio Ghibli films, I recently watched Howl’s Moving Castle. It made me remember the wooden skyscraper in Archangelsk I wrote about before.

Apparently the skyscraper is still standing, although it looks like it has deteriorated significantly. I cleaned removed the old broken links from my old article about it and got permission from Nikolai Gernet aka nixette to use one of his photos. Archangelsk has a rich history of wooden architecture and nixette has more photos here and here as well as many other interesting pictures from Archangelsk and of Sutiagin’s wooden skyscraper in particular.

It’s interesting to note that both Russia and Japan have a rich tradition of wooden architecture.

Sutiagin's Wooden SkyscraperHowl's Moving Castle

While looking for info about this, I found another gem: the conceptual design called Ruskyscraper by Eugene Staune who works for Arhitekturium architectural firm. It’s supposed to have 25 stories of 10.8ft each made primarily out of wood and glass. The articles describe it as economical, but I really doubt that– if there’s anything that I’ve learned from watching The New Yankee Workshop, wood can be very expensive. This project would probably use laminated engineered lumber, so I guess it could be doable.

The floor plan seems to be rather wasteful, but hey, this is a concept design, not something that is probably going to be built.

Empire Strikes Back

As I was channel surfing, I caught a snippet of one of the terrible new Star Wars episodes. As I could not pay any attention to the wooden acting and turgid dialogue, I noticed something interesting in the background. What is Empire State Building doing on Coruscant?

Serenity Now!

I finally went to see Serenity. Being a not-very-rabid-yet-somewhat-enthusiastic fan of Firefly, I had pretty good expectations of this movie. I was not disappointed – the movie indeed was pretty good. My gripes can be best presented in the following bullet points (if I had the time, I would have created a powerpoint deck for you):

  • No blue-handed men (“Two By Two, Hands of Blue”) or any explanation as to why their hands were blue. And mighty Google brings back hilarious, but most unsatisfying results
  • “The operative” is not bounty hunter Jubal Early, but instead what seems like a one-dimensional character based on the early notes for Jubal Early.
  • I don’t like the explanation of the nature of Reavers.
  • The soundtrack was worse than in the TV Series

Meanwhile, it seemed to me that I’ve seen Morena Baccarin, the actress who plays Inara, somewhere else. I was not mistaken – she had a bit role in a movie that I like very much, Roger Dodger. There she is, Cosmo in hand, next to the boss she has a crush on, right after talking to Roger:

I got to give her credit – so 2 out of 4 movies Morena took a part in are really good. I have half the mind to pick up the other two, to see maybe if they are good too.

By the way, I never really understood what’s so great about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It always seemed like a cheesy show with wooden acting, but then again, I never watched an entire episode or learned the backstory. I guess I’ll have to rent the first season DVDs and see if it’s any good.


Shiny stuff:

Serenity comic book prequel – a bit of filler between the TV series and the movie:

Original TV series soundtrack. It’s on pre-order still, but at least it’s happening.

“Finding Serenity : Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly” contains rants about “Firefly” from various pundits, including an inflammatory (and labeled by some as “male-chauvinistic”) article about the role of women in sci-fi by John C. Wright (as much as I like his science fiction and hate his fantasy, I have to say that he’s full of it).