Friday 29 December 2017

Cute Cat Friday 2017-12-29: Joni

Sleepy cat. Much more sensible than her human servants companions, who are rushing around attempting to get things done and visit people between Christmas and New Year.

Wednesday 27 December 2017

Cinema Year in Review: 2017

This year I saw 13 films in the cinema, a slight drop from 17 last year. Raising a toddler makes it hard to get to the theatre; but on a positive note, we took the little one to his very first film in the cinema this summer. It was Cars 3, and a good time was had by all.

Top 5 Movies

This year had an embarrassment of good movies. Four excellent superhero films (Logan, Lego Batman, Wonder Woman, Thor: Ragnarok) might have made the top five in some other year, but not this time. My top five are:

  1. Dunkirk. Another mighty achievement from Christopher Nolan.
  2. Blade Runner 2049. A worthy sequel to the original.
  3. T2: Trainspotting. Another long-delayed sequel which was worth the wait. The characters from the last film reassemble, filled with middle-aged regret and ready to settle some old scores.
  4. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Terrific fun, and surprisingly thoughtful. My review here.
  5. Paddington 2. Absolutely lovely; funny, charming and heartwarming from start to finish.
It's only after I finished this list that I realised four of the five titles are sequels. Is it a sign Hollywood is running low on fresh ideas? Some would say so; but I think there's still a healthy supply of original material, and this just happened to be a very good year for sequels.

Honourable mention

Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Seen in its 25th anniversary re-release. The 3D conversion didn't really add much, but it's still a tremendous film which occupies an important place in my heart. Some more of my thoughts on the Terminator films here.

Guilty pleasure

The critics hated it. There are some gigantic plot holes; it doesn't fully grapple with the monstrous and possibly unforgivable act committed by its protagonist; and it ends with pretty much a literal deus ex machina. But I still enjoyed Passengers very much. (My review here, with major spoilers.)

Wooden spoon

Ghost in the Shell. Not exactly a bad film, just terribly disappointing. The legendary source material and a promising set-up devolve into yet another punch-up aimed at adolescent males. Its approach to sensitive issues of race and colonisation is clumsy and oblivious at best. A few worthy moments which could have been made into something better, but it was not to be. (My review here.)

Friday 22 December 2017

Cute Cat Friday 2017-12-22: Joni

Another lazy morning on the sofa.

The Last Jedi: Review

Yesterday I finally saw The Last Jedi. It was great fun. Thoroughly recommended.

After The Force Awakens and Rogue One, we could be pretty confident the Star Wars franchise is in safe hands at Disney. This film keeps up the trend. I agree with reviews by Mark Kermode and John Scalzi; this is a good, solid, entertaining episode.

Some things I particularly liked about it (with minimal spoilers):

It's surprisingly thoughtful in its treatment of the Star Wars cosmology. Luke Skywalker and others argue about the nature of the Force and the purpose of the Jedi. It was good to finally hear in a Star Wars film a thing I've been pointing out for some time: The Jedi aren't all that great.

Friday 15 December 2017

Cute Cat Friday 2017-12-15: Joni

With the spooky blue glow of Christmas tree lights.

Without Limit

At the reliably excellent Gin and Tacos, Ed reflects on the Senate election held this week in Alabama. He says of the Republican party:

By failing to make what was a very easy play – disown Moore and claim some sort of moral high ground – they signaled that literally nothing is more important to them than maintaining power. Nothing. There is no "bridge too far."
Something very similar applies to the Brexit ultras in the British media and Parliament.

Friday 8 December 2017

Cute Cat Friday 2017-12-08: Joni

Hanging out in the back garden. For once, I made it out there in daylight to see her.

Data Security: Just Read The Instructions

Basic internet security isn't that hard, but people who should know better still contrive to foul it up.

Image: Blue Devil Hub / Creative Commons

I'm a professional software developer with some grounding in the mathematics of cryptography, but not an Internet security expert. In this context, I don't need to be. I know wretched carelessness when I see it.

Friday 1 December 2017

Cute Cat Friday 2012-12-01: Linton Lion

Majestic. Intimidating. But big cats can be cute too. It'd be great to scratch his ears, if I wasn't worried about being eaten.

I didn't catch this handsome fellow's name -- he lives at Linton Zoo near Cambridge, and was standing all of ten feet from me when this photo was taken. My son was rather scared by him, which is understandable. We humans are descended from many generations of ancestors who had good reason to be afraid of lions.

12 Years of Cambridge Nanowrimo

I've been doing Nanowrimo for a while, and feel it's a good time to share some observations. 

First of all, congratulations to all those who have just finished! No matter how many words you've written, it's more than you had in October, so well done.

For those who don't know, Nanowrimo is a worldwide event in which people attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Reaching the target is known as "winning", but it's a contest only with yourself; nobody checks on the words you've written. Your fellow Nanowrimo participants are there for solidarity and moral support.

The novel will almost certainly be largely rubbish, and that's the point. The idea is to put aside all the angst, self-doubt and perfectionism that plague us, and get on with the act of creating something. You can edit later (and it will need a lot of editing, if you want it in a fit state for publication).

I've been a part of the Cambridge Nanowrimo group since 2006, so this is my 12th season here. Next spring I'm moving to Toronto, Canada; I may remain part of the group in spirit, but in body I'm going to be elsewhere. So it seems like a good time to look back, and see if I can share any wisdom from along the way.