Thursday, November 30, 2006

Food: Shark Bites

One of my favorite fruit snacks was "Shark Bites." Truth be told, I liked them as a kid mostly because of the marketing machine behind it. I mean, come on, what 8-year old boy isn't going to go for fruit snacks shaped like carnivorous aquatic creatures? Throw in the incredible pack-in toys (the coolest of which was a baking soda-propelled toy submarine), and it's a miracle I wasn't throwing these into Mom's shopping cart at every opportunity.

Tasting them nowadays betrays how much I've aged, or perhaps how much they've changed the formula for kids' snacks. The Shark Bites available now are not very fruity, and while the colors are basically as I remember them, they are way too sweet (like most of today's fruit snacks) and have a gummy consistency totally unlike the harder, fleshier texture I remember tasting as a kid.

If I had to eat a fruit snack right now, I'd go for Fruit Roll-Ups. Garfield chewy fruit snacks will always be my all-time favorite fruit snack - too bad they stopped making them about a decade and a half ago. C'est la vie.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Miscellany: Washing dishes

My cousin Gilbert taught me to wash dishes when I was about 10 years old (a little late, I know, but what can you do?). Over the years, though, I've come up with my own style of dishwashing - to the point where I think my dishwashing outright destroys my sister and my parents.

#1 - Use hot water, the hottest you can stand. The big commercial-grade dishwashers in various kitchens use water that goes to 140 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit - hot enough to kill off trichina worms and E. coli. You won't be able to get this hot, but the heat will help clean grease off pans and will also help the dishes to dry quicker.

#2 - Your most important sense is touch. While a dish might look clean, a simple wave of the hand across the surface can reveal stuck on food or oil. This is also why I never use rubber gloves to wash dishes.

#3 - Soak/Rinse (if necessary), Scrub, Rinse. I generally use a soapy sponge, always with the scrubbing side against the dish. I work through a whole sink of dishes in this fashion, then rinse them all off with the faucet and put them in the rack. I cringe when someone uses a sinkful of water to do the final rinse - just doesn't seem "clean" to me.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tech: Grado SR-60 headphones

My favorite pair of headphones is the Grado SR-60s. Now, mind you, they aren't the best headphones I've ever heard; other cans reproduce sound with either more neutrality or with better "warmth" and openness. In terms of price, nowadays cheapo Chinese stuff can give these things a run for the money, since it's easy to lower the price when the labor is practically free.

No, the Grados are a retro throwback to the oldest principles of headphone design. The build quality, aside from the nice thick stethoscope-like cord, is pokey compared to many modern headsets. The metal pad takes about a month of solid use to really wear in, and it may never fit some heads correctly. The ear pads can be scratchy and abrasive to some.

Why pay $69 then? Sound. When you crank up the volume with these suckers on, you get a nice, open soundstage, tight bass, decent mids, and sparkly highs. Some Grado critics refer to this as the "Grattle," but if you like a certain kind of sound (think British-style bookshelf speakers), this will be right up your alley.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Tech: It's here!

The Wii is ensconced comfortably next to my downstairs TV (a crappy four-year old 20" monstrosity - it doesn't even have stereo speakers). Here's some quick impressions:

The Console - The actual unit feels heavy and solid - almost as tough as the GameCube, which is saying something, as a GameCube is sort of the AK-47 of disc-based consoles.

The Controller - The Wii Remote (AKA Wiimote) is built like a tank. Very tough. I even accidentally smacked it on our coffee table while bowling - survived with no problems.

Wii Sports - A fun little collection of sports games. It does feel like a glorified tech demo, but it's a great way to expose newbies to the Wii (wait, that didn't come out quite right... ;-) ). I dislike baseball and boxing, but golf, tennis, and bowling are fun.

Rayman Raving Rabbids - A bunch of neat minigames in the same vein as Wario Ware. Originally, Rayman was supposed to be a traditional platformer, but they changed that sometime during development. I've only played through about 6% of the game, but it's been a blast so far. The real danger is the minigames getting repetitive.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess - Again, not much actual playtime. This is basically a GC port with grafted-on Wiimote controls, but it feels fine.

Virtual Console - Quite overpriced, but I snagged a few games anyway. Bomberman 93 is fun, but not as fun as the SNES versions. Sonic the Hedgehog is good, but it's available elsewhere for much cheaper. Solomon's Key is one of those hidden NES gems - fun and fairly simple.

Tech: It's coming...

Well, my good friend eR0k (AKA "Cap'n Stabb'n," who is wanted by both domestic law enforcement and Interpol for violating pretty much every IP law no matter the cost in precious human lives) managed to snag a Wii for me, and I'll be buying it off of him in exactly 15 minutes. He was waiting in line at Best Buy along with Brian "Fornicatrix" S., who has his own share of heinous crimes against humanity. ;)

I am SO ready for this sucker to arrive.

Here are some pictures...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Movies: Dog Bite Dog

Another one of the movies my Dad brought home from China is "Dog Bite Dog," an awful concoction from Pou-Soi Cheang. Think Jet Li's "Unleashed" mixed with John Woo's "The Killer," stick in Edison Chen, the ever-popular HK teen idol, and throw in some shockingly stupid plot turns, and you've got "Dog Bite Dog."

In DBD, Edison is a feral assassin raised from childhood to be a brutal, emotionless killer. Sam Lee plays a hard-nosed police detective searching for the killer. It all goes downhill from there, with numerous plotholes and incongruous moments. My favorite? A main character gets infected with tetanus and seems doomed to die - but recovers and even gets to be nine months pregnant with seemingly no medical treatment.

While some of the action is competent, it all ends up becoming very silly and almost insulting to the viewer's intelligence.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Miscellany: A few Black Friday economics lessons

I was traipsing around Worth Avenue, a ritzy shopping district located in Palm Beach, Florida. This is the sort of opulence people expect from "Palm Beach" - aging millionaires walking impossibly-coifed dogs, Maseratis and Bentleys everywhere, and what appeared to be several full-time uniformed police officers guarding the jewelry area.

Lesson #1 - Even Worth Avenue's Saks Fifth Avenue, a place that sells shoes that cost $1000 a pair, still has after-Thanksgiving sales.

Lesson #2 - A bottle of Snapple, which I purchased so I could use the bathroom at a cafe, costs $3.20 on Worth Avenue. The bathroom, incidentally, was awful and dirty. Go figure.

Lesson #3 - The coolest stores are usually off the main avenue - I found a pretty incredible store selling military antiquities called Grande Armee. Insanely overpriced, but cool nonetheless.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

I still remember the first time I saw "Planes, Trains, & Automobiles." It was the classic scene where Steve Martin and John Candy almost die in an automobile crash, and John Candy is dressed up like the Devil - or at least, I think he was.

PT&A is one of the few Thanksgiving-themed movies that exist (ratio of Christmas stuff to Thanskgiving stuff is 10,000:1). It still holds up today, and, as my Dad says, "It's one of the only Steve Martin movies you can stand to watch more than a couple times."


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Miscellany: Three things everyone should get a chance to experience

1. Have a WWF-style wrestling introduction in a random place.

Example: You're walking into the grocery store, and suddenly one of your favorite songs to rock out to comes on through the loudspeakers, fireworks start going off in your path, and a huge LCD screen shows a video of you doing a spinebuster on some fool.

2. Make a "Dukes of Hazzard" style jump in your everyday commuter vehicle.

Example: You're stuck in traffic. Seeing a dusty, unpaved road, you go down it in hopes of finding a shortcut. A no-good corrupt small-town sheriff starts chasing you. To escape, you use a conveniently placed bale of hay to make a 50-foot jump that leaves the sheriff in the dust. Yeehaw!

3. Casually walk away from an exploding building/car/etc., not even turning to look back (see "From Dusk Til Dawn," "John Carpenter's Vampires," etc.).

Example: You exit the house of the man who killed your wife (you killed him, 80s movie style). You casually light a cigarette with a Zippo. You toss the lighter on the ground, unknowingly hitting an oily rag that connects to a big, flammable part of the house. Kaboom! And you just walk away, maybe putting on some sunglasses as you do.

School: RIP Fritz

Dear law school community,

I am saddened to inform you, that law student Frederick "Fritz" Osborne passed away at 10:00 a.m. Thursday, November 16th. Fritz was a member of the Fall 2006 entering class. He was a 2005 graduate of the University of North Florida, summa cum laude, and was valedictorian of his senior class at Englewood High School in Jacksonville.

The family is making funeral arrangements now, but we know that a private service is planned. We expect to learn more details about the family's wishes on floral or memorial remembrances later today, and we will share that information with you when we know it.

Today from 10:30 - 11:30 a.m. Dr. Wayne Griffin from the University Counseling Center will be in the Student Affairs Conference Room to lead a session for those who want to remember Fritz Osborne and respond to the sad news of his death. If we need more space we will move to another room and will post that information. Please feel free to drop in during that time. It isn't necessary to stay the entire time.

The Office of Student Affairs will be prepared to act as a resource to help you cope with this sad news. Additional assistance is available from
-- the Counseling Center in Peabody Hall - phone (352) 392-1575
-- the Student Health Care Center - Student Mental Health Service - Fletcher Drive (next to Racquet Club) - phone (352) 392-1171-
-- the Alachua County Crisis Center: (352) 264-6789, which has phone counseling 24 hours each day, 7 days a week.

Dean Inman

I remember eating my law school orientation dinner with Fritz. Our orientation groups were all mixed up to encourage us to get to know other people in our section. Fritz was sitting at our table that night. He was a normal fellow, a bit quiet, but friendly. I saw him on some occasions during the year before he got sick.

I didn't know him as well as some, but he will be missed.

Monday, November 20, 2006

News: Outbursts

First it was Mel Gibson's drunken comments about Jews. Now it's Michael Richards' tirade against two black hecklers.

Is our culture becoming so crass and impolite that people think they can spew all sorts of stuff in public and not get called on it? Is talk so cheap that any insult or profanity you throw out can be nullified the morning after with a quick press conference apology? At least Gibson could say he was drunk when he made his rant (a fact no one disputes) - "Kramer" was just being abrasive.

For the record, I'm racist, like nearly everyone else. It's only natural for me (and, of course, most other people) to prejudge others based on how they look and act. The essential thing to keep in mind, however, is that we are all based on the same blueprint; we all laugh, we all cry, we all live, and we all die.

Food: Zaxby's

"Fast casual" franchises are big nowadays, with many people struggling to find the happy medium between fast food and sit-down, full-service casual restaurants. Zaxby's splits the line better than most. While I wouldn't call the place "indescribably good" as their slogans suggest, it does serve when you need an upscale version of Chick-Fil-A to whet your appetite.

The meal shown above cost around $6 - not exactly a value, but not as expensive as a trip to Applebee's or Bennigan's (especially when you include leaving a tip for your server). The chicken was cooked right, and tasted decent when eaten alone or with the dipping sauce. The fries, coleslaw, and Texas toast were good, though unspectacular. While it took them about 10 minutes to cook the meal, it's fast enough for most and the food quality is better than your local McBurgerKing joint.

2/4 stars

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Politics: Fallout

With the Democrats back in control of Congress, they now control the leadership positions. This is all well and good, save for people like Rep. Charles Rangel. I mean, can't the Dems find anyone else to chair the House Ways and Means committee?

Rep. Rangel wants to bring back the draft, supposedly to supply the troops for future action in Iran and North Korea. His theory is, of course, that reinstating the draft means the wealthy and powerful will have to risk their own children to fight their wars.

Baloney. Of course the rich and powerful will find ways to shield their kids.

What Rangel is really doing is finding a way to spite the administration and erode what support remains for the Iraq war. While philosophically, I might agree with him that the war was not worth fighting (not that we should hang the Iraqis out to dry), I am stupefied that someone can propose something as serious as bringing back military conscription just for short-term political gain. A solid majority (~70%) of the American public is against bringing back the draft, which seems to be one of the few issues people on both sides of the aisle can agree on these days.

Once the draft comes back, it won't be easy to get rid of, you can be sure of that. Seems like nothing in Washington is ever repealed.

Tech: "Shadow of the Colossus" (PS2)

Sometimes, a video game is enjoyable despite its technical problems. "Shadow of the Colossus," from the creators of the superb PS2 adventure "Ico," very nearly falls victim to its various flaws, but the stunning gameplay conceit and wonderful presentation save this one from mediocrity. In SotC, you fight a series of huge boss battles in an effort to resurrect your fallen love. There are no enemies other than the colossi, there are no puzzles or dungeons, and there is no one else to help you except your trusty horse.

Frankly, the game has a lot of problems. The framerate, while playable, is never consistently fluid, which detracts pretty seriously from an action-adventure game. I wish the developers had reduced the polygon counts on the colossi and the landscapes - the game is noticeably choppy right from the get-go and the framerate can drop pretty severely in a fight. The controls are unnecessarily complex (for example, you must be standing completely still to mount your horse) and take some getting used to. The camera, while okay most of the time, is sometimes sketchy, especially when you're trying to use your bow and arrow on horseback.

On the bright side, the gameplay is unlike anything out there on the market. A mix of action and lateral thinking, each colossi requires a unique strategy to beat. In spite of the performance snafus, the level of detail and the art design of the game is absolutely top-notch. The sound, whether it's the rumble of a giant colossus or the great orchestral score that accompanies most of the battles, is atmospheric and superb. And while it isn't the lengthiest quest in the world (about 10 hours for completion on your first run-through), it's enjoyable enough that you would want to play it again just to show it off to your friends.

83 out of 100

Tech: Arggh, so much for that...

I checked a bunch of different stores - Wally World, Best Buy, Circuit City, Target, Toys R Us - all were sold out. I even ran into a girl from my law school section (she preordered a couple weeks ago). Strange though - the girl knew my first and last name, but I had no idea who she was.

I suppose the Wii shortage means it's time to go Black Friday shopping with my Mom, as per usual (it's really the one day of the year my Mom and I can shop with a common purpose). I can always play Final Fantasy XII in the meantime *sigh*.

In other tech-related news, here's some stuff exploding in a microwave (credit to Slashdot).

Might be light blogging ahead, so Happy Thanksgiving in advance!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Tech: A Gaming Weekend (Wii preview)

The PS3 launched yesterday and sold out in approximately thirty-four nanoseconds. Check the reseller auctions on eBay if you don't believe me - you can easily get people to pay $1300 to $1500 for the premium version. Well, I'm going a different route:

Tomorrow morning I'm hoping I can snag a Wii, even without preordering. My biggest fear is that all the greedy PS3 reseller-campers will simply repeat what they did for the Wii, raising the price to $500, which I would not pay...

...Or would I? Figuring a $250 console, two $50 controllers ($40 remote + $20 nunchuk attachment - $10 discount), and three $45 games ($50 - $5 discount on each), I'm up to about $500+ easy after tax, which seems kinda crazy. But considering this is a video game console even my sister wants to play, it just might be worth it.

Wii Sports comes with the system, and while it seems like a glorified tech demo, it should be a few hours' worth of good fun, and a great way to introduce the average consumer to the Wii.

Games I'm thinking of getting:

Madden 2007 - Seems to make good use of the Wiimote. Generally favorable impressions all around, plus I've never actually owned a Madden game, even though I like American football (especially all the strategy and athleticism involved).

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz - Again, never owned a Monkey Ball game, though I played one a couple times. The multiplayer minigames, while hit or miss, seem like they could be a lot of fun (Jeff Gerstmann: "I'm dumpin' son, I'm dumpin'!").

Rayman Raving Rabbids - This minigame compilation, from the "Beyond Good and Evil" folks, looks like a ton of fun, too. Deranged rabbits and a delightfully off-kilter sense of humor. Not many reviews up on it, yet.

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance - A solid action/brawler/RPG. Like most guys my age, I grew up with Marvel comics and cartoons, so it's fun to see Iron Man bust some villains up. I know this won't be a triple-A title like Zelda, but it'll at least be a decent enough launch game.

Trauma Center: Second Opinion - Never caught this one for the DS. Reviews are looking solid and the premise is unique enough. No multiplayer, but I'm sure it won't be too hard to get people to try something this off-the-wall.

Red Steel - The only multiplayer FPS at launch. Gamespot's review really ripped this game a new one, and I trust Greg Kasavin's opinion, so I'm pretty suspicious of the game and won't get it. It would take some fairly favorable IGN, Gamespy, and 1Up reviews to sway me.

Friday, November 17, 2006

School: Meet the Professors (Bonus)

Legal Research and Writing is only a 2 credit course, and it's taught by a bunch of different professors. My LRW teacher is Professor Jackson, who earned his J.D. at UF. He's an engaging speaker (like most lawyers in general), but I do get the sense teaching the course is kind of a side thing for him, which is understandable.

Compared with other LRW sections, we have the least busywork and assignments, and I think it's for the best. I doubt the other classes are learning anything more important, except for maybe how to be completely stressed out. We have completed lots of training in Lexis and Westlaw, as well as a rudimentary library research exercise (physical research takes a lot of time, but at least it doesn't cost $600/hour to use a law library).

This marks the end of the "Meet the Professors" series, at least for now. I'm sure the second half of the year will be plenty of fun, with new challenges and new rewards. I'll polish my outlines and study a bit during Thanksgiving, and then it's exams...tempus fugit...

Tribute: Milton Friedman

Okay, so sadly enough, many people at my law school apparently have no idea who Milton Friedman was, even though he died yesterday. Fair enough - he was a Nobel Memorial Prize-winning economist who pioneered the monetarist school of economic thought. He believed, as I do, in freedom of choice for the individual. Whether it's school vouchers, the "war" on drugs, or antitrust law, he believed government intervention usually made things worse, especially when it messed with the free market.

Some have criticized him for "helping" Pinochet in Chile, but here, they miss the forest for the trees. As a libertarian, Friedman himself did not approve of the political situation in Chile, but believed, as many do, that free markets eventually lead to free peoples (which, of course, eventually happened in Chile and might happen in China).

More than that, however, one can tell certain things about the man. Friedman was married to his wife, Rose Friedman in 1938. When he died at the age of 94, more than 75 years later, they were still happily married, with two children.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Movies: "Stranger Than Fiction"

I just saw "Stranger Than Fiction," a movie directed by Marc Forster. I've disliked Forster's previous films - the tedious "Monster's Ball" and the maudlin "Finding Neverland," even as critics laud them. This time, however, Forster is using the screenplay of newcomer Zach Helm, and the result is Will Ferrell's best movie.

Ferrell plays a metro-boulot-dodo IRS auditor who suddenly hears a narration about his life...everywhere he goes. The consequences of that are often hilarious and sometimes touching, but the movie never strays too far from the norm, unlike Kaufman's "Being John Malkovich" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," two films that this one will inevitably be compared to. The ending is especially disappointing, for reasons that would spoil the movie if revealed.

Will Ferrell keeps the slapstick antics under control, though his emotional range never quite comes into the subtle, disguised melancholy one would expect from a typical "office drone breaks out of the mold" plot. Maggie Gyllenhall isn't really acting too much here, but the role doesn't require it, so she gets a pass. Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, and Queen Latifah are good in the film but are, let's face it, playing roles that they've played before.

An entertaining, funny dramedy, but not enough meat on the bones to be a classic.


School: Meet the Professors (Part 4)

This is Professor Lidsky, my Professional Responsibility teacher. They used to have 1Ls take CivPro the first semester, but I suppose they decided to start teaching lawyer ethics from the start to sort of frame your experience at law school; I have to say, I think it's probably better this way.

She received her J.D. at the University of Texas, and is a specialist in defamation (she is still admitted to the bar in Florida and takes on the occasional defamation case). Her husband, as she tells us, is a criminal defense attorney, which provides her some inside info on lawyer ethics in terms of a lawyer's duties to a criminal defendant. Above all, she is definitely bringing a lot of knowledge to bear when she teaches.

She calls on people the least of all my professors (I don't include my Legal Research & Writing professor), and she often gets into entertaining tangents while explaining the law. She proposes plenty of hypos, most of which have no "right" answer. Some see her as flighty, but she's always nice to her students and doesn't mind answering questions, so to heck with the critics. :P

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Miscellany: The Victorinox SwissTool

While the Leatherman multitool may have been the first out of the gate, the search for something different led me to the Victorinox SwissTool. A gift from my uncle and aunt at Christmastime, the SwissTool is attractively finished, comes with a nice nylon case that snaps shut smartly, and retails for about $50-$60. That's all well and good, but how does it perform?

The first thing you notice about the SwissTool is its heft. It definitely weighs more than other comparable multitools in its class, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your point of view. It's made of stainless steel, and uses locking tabs to keep tools in place. The whole affair feels quite smooth and refined, like a Swiss watch.

Unlike most other multitools, you can access all the tools with the pliers closed, which is honestly pretty darn handy. Most times you'll only need a screwdriver or a blade anyway, so it's a major PITA to have to open up a tool, extend a blade, and close the tool again. The SwissTool neatly avoids this whole problem (recent Leatherman models have since made a knife available without opening the tool up).

The pliers work pretty well, but the wire cutter insert developed a gouge in it when I was trying to cut some speaker wire. The wire cut fine, but it was still a bit distressing. The blades and screwdrivers work great, the saw is pretty wicked (used it to cut some ABS plastic on my bike light - no problem), but the file and the miscellaneous tools are less useful.

All in all, 8/10.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

School: Meet the Professors (Part 3)

Today it's time to feature Professor Jacobs, our Criminal Law professor. She earned her J.D. from Rutgers University and worked as a defense attorney in New York. She most reminds me of one of those Zion council members from "The Matrix: Reloaded/Revolutions," usually because of her idiosyncratic hair and dress.

Again, like all of my professors, she has a sharp sense of humor, especially when it comes to people being sent to jail for white-collar crime. While I may not agree with her politics (she's an unabashed N.Y. liberal), she is quite skilled as a professor.

Professor Jacobs will lecture through cases sometimes to keep us on track, but mostly she just calls out a name from the seating chart and has someone work through a case. She has done an excellent job of pointing out the injustices of our (admittedly imperfect) criminal justice system, but I sense that she believes the system can be reformed without upsetting the entire apple cart.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Music: minibosses

There are a hojillion video game music cover bands out there, but the minibosses have got to be one of the most famous. Covering classic 8-bit era video game tunes using electric guitars and some other similarly spirited arrangements, they are still every bit the indie band, even though they have appeared on national media like NPR.

Their website has a good number of songs and videos available for download, so if you're into this sort of thing, rock on.

School: Meet the Professors (Part 2)

This is Professor Davis, who teaches my Contracts class. He graduated from Loyola for his J.D. and the University of Michigan for his LL.M. He reminds me most of Gandalf from the Peter Jackson "Lord of the Rings" films - not so much in terms of looks, but for his tendency to yell comically in the classroom to great effect.

Professor Davis uses the most traditional version of the Socratic method. Each day, we usually cover two cases and he calls someone to lead the class through each case. He uses a bingo ball roller to select his next victim.

I find Contracts to be my hardest class, since many things can be modified or nullified in the interests of fairness ("as justice allows" would be the Restatement way of saying it). It also has covered the most material - we've gone through about 800 pages of our casebook and dozens and dozens of contract principles.

Professor Davis is well-liked and popular, and he certainly knows his stuff. He has a wry humor (he uses the "average reasonable stick person" when talking of the objective standard). A recent charity auction for a dinner with him went to $200.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

TV: Tale of two shows - "Man vs. Wild" and "Survivorman"

There are two competing philosophies in most wilderness shows on Discovery/OLN/etc. One is entertainment - this is cable television, after all, and people want to see things that are interesting. The second is education - the general public expects that the things that are being told will edify them somehow, especially since the subject matter is the natural world. Both aims are worthy, and most shows feature a blend of each.

Man vs. Wild

Bear Grylls, a former SAS soldier, hosts this show featuring some of the most extreme survival techniques you can think of. Bear is in great shape (I suspect most former SAS guys are :-) ) and the things he attempts are obviously more for entertainment value than actual practicality. Not many lost hikers in the Moab desert would attempt a 30 foot chimney climb, or a swim across the Colorado. All the "surviving" is heavily scripted and a camera crew is present at all times. "Man vs. Wild" is all about showing the craziest stuff possible, and emulating many of the stunts attempted here would be suicidal.


Les Stroud is the survivor and sole camera man in "Survivorman." Each episode, he is dropped into a survival situation with minimal supplies, 50 pounds of camera equipment, and his wits. He is alone, and must film the entire show himself while surviving for 7 days. Les always gives very practical advice and generally sticks to that advice, though he does demonstrate the consequences and remedies of inappropriate survival choices.

Which one should you watch to be a survivor? Well, neither, of course - I suspect a basic first aid course or a long camping trip with an experienced guide would teach you more than a mere TV show. "Man vs. Wild" has a slick, polished feel while "Survivorman" goes more for "Blair Witch" cinéma vérité. Each is entertaining and educational for different reasons. On balance, I prefer "Survivorman," but not because anything is inherently wrong with the concept of wilderness survival as entertainment.

School: Meet the Professors (Part 1)

This is the first of a series of posts featuring all of my first-year law professors.

Up first is Professor Little, who teaches Torts. He earned his J.D. from the University of Michigan, and he was at one time the mayor-commissioner of Gainesville.

His voice and his manner remind me most of Bob Barker from "The Price is Right." Come on ... look at the photo! :-)

His method of "calling on" people is a bit different than the rest of the professors. He'll ask one person a question, and then move right down the row of seats, asking whether people agree or disagree, and why. Some classes, however, he just lectures all class period, which can get a bit boring.

Like most torts professors, he uses crazy hypotheticals sketched on the whiteboard to illustrate stuff like the wrongful death statute, proximate cause, etc.

He wrote our torts book along with Professor Lidsky (my P.R. prof, more about her later on), so he knows these cases like the back of his hand. He also gives us settlement negotiations to do outside of class to practice, which is pretty nice.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veteran's Day Movie: "Saints and Soldiers"

While the Battle of the Bulge is pretty famous, few films have portrayed the infamous "Malmedy Massacre." One of those films is "Saints and Soldiers," a fairly recent indie war movie I caught on the History Channel.

While it has some very mild religious undertones (it was made by Excel Entertainment, a Mormon media conglomerate) the movie definitely follows the basic, by-the-numbers structure of most war movies. A small, heavily-outgunned team of American soldiers is trapped behind enemy lines after the Malmedy Massacre and they must bond together and evade the enemy. The movie even ends in the typical Climactic Showdown and dramatic Last Minute Sacrifice.

The production values are quite good, especially considering the film's tiny $780,000 budget - it could definitely pass for an episode of "Band of Brothers." The story, while ultimately forgettable, is told well and the movie is never boring. You also are spared the sophomoric jingoism or nihilistic anti-war sentiment in some other, more famous war movies. The actors do a competent job and the film's overall message is hard to disagree with.


Happy Veteran's Day and thanks to all of our men and women in uniform. Good hunting, and stay safe.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Miscellany: The utility of spare change...

I like to keep some change in my wallet at all times (I use one of those cheap zip-up wallets - ugly, but effective). Aside from the ways in which they come in handy as mere currency (toll booths, pay phones, vending machines, etc.), coins can be fantastic at doing all those odd jobs that might otherwise be relegated to some poor multi-tool.

Many screws and slots are obviously designed with coins in mind, whether it's the back of your LED keychain or the windage adjustment on a rifle scope. You can practice all sorts of games and tricks - elementary sleight of hand (like the classic "French Drop"), juggling, balancing...the list goes on and on. In a pinch, you can even throw coins like mini shuriken to distract an attacker (aim for the face :P).

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Tech: [Cartman] Come on...come on! Oh, for the love of God, how much longer?! [/Cartman]

After a long wait, the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is being released.

For the Nintendo Wii.

I just hope I can get one on the 19th. It's gonna be pretty crazy, I think. Even my sister's artsy friends know about this thing. I might actually not pick up Zelda, mostly because I don't want to have it sucking up my time come finals. I'll just pick up the system and another controller, so my sister and I can have at it in epic Wii Tennis slugfests.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Food: Ovaltine

On a lighter note, I'd like to express my undying affection for Ovaltine. It first started with "A Christmas Story," when Ralphie was downing the stuff by the canload as he struggled for his Little Orphan Annie Decoder thingie. Like most impressionable youth, I lobbied at the grocery store, and the sweet orange jar was my reward...

I've heard it's made from the by-products of some nefarious industrial process that created lots of extra malt extract. w00t.

Ovaltine is supposedly the "healthy" alternative to cocoa powders and milk chocolate syrups. This is because it's enriched with vitamins. So in that respect, Ovaltine is about as healthy as Cocoa Puffs.

News: Speaker Pelosi

Well, the Democrats have taken the House of Representatives, though control over the Senate is doubtful.

As a libertarian, it's bitter-sweet news. On the one hand, I'm dismayed at where civil liberties and foreign policy is going in our country. I also welcome some government gridlock to keep those guys in D.C. from messing around too much in our lives. On the other hand, I really, really hate paying taxes, and most of the mainstream Democratic leadership makes me cringe, quite frankly.

Strangely enough, Schwarzenegger won by a landslide and Joe Lieberman got re-elected, even running as an independent.

I suppose it doesn't matter. A lot of the most egregious violations, like campaign finance reform, were bipartisan.

As many have said, liberty depends on the soap box, the press box, the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box. Let's hope it never comes to the last...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

News: Snoop Dogg and some modern idiocy

These are collapsible batons. They are telescoping rods of metal that were originally designed to replace the traditional billy club or truncheon for law enforcement officers in confined spaces (squad cars, motorcycles, etc.). They are undoubtedly capable of deadly force (just watch "Silent Hill" for a pretty cool depiction of their use), but, then again, so is a baseball bat and a kitchen knife.

Snoop Dogg is now being booked for a felony weapons charge in (where else?) California. Now, I'm not the biggest Snoop Dogg fan, and I'm not one to hold celebrities to a different standard, but man, this is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. When we have other celebs actually, you know, shoot at each other in nightclubs and crash into people with their SUVs, I just find it hard to put Snoop in prison for simply having a stupid baton. When we have Congresscritters and sheriffs "mistakenly" attempting to bring their guns onto planes and then getting off scot-free, I'm starting to think the world is getting a bit topsy-turvy.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Miscellany: Dad visits China

Here's a few of the pics from Dad's recent trip to China:

Dad at the Temple of Heaven, a very famous and elaborately constructed temple. Like many historical landmarks in China, it has been renovated and restored for the 2008 Olympics - China's big unveiling.

Dad along with his cousin and some of their old neighbors. They are standing in the remains of Dad's childhood home - first time he's been back to the house in fifty years.

Dad along with his brother and his uncle. My uncle has schizophrenia and lives in this "halfway house" in Hong Kong. It isn't glamorous or anything, but Dad says the place is fairly clean and my uncle isn't mistreated, so thank goodness for that.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Movies: "The Banquet"

My Dad came back from China recently, and he brought back an armload of Chinese DVDs. One such movie that my family watched was "The Banquet," a recently released film starring none other than the ubiquitous Zhang Ziyi. It's sort of a Chinese kung-fu Hamlet, but, there are some significant differences. For starters, everyone seems to know martial arts, which is certainly handy when trying to assassinate the son of the brother you just murdered.

The period clothing and sets are pretty sumptuous, and there is thankfully less CGI in this film than in other recent Chinese wuxia flicks. Unfortunately, while the acting is okay, the story is a little too weak in comparison to the source material (hard to improve on the Bard) and the ultimate ending feels very contrived indeed. The final nail in the coffin is the lackluster fight choreography - too many cuts mid-move make you wonder if they could get the actors to actually pull off the stuff in the movie. :P

Rating: 6 out of 10

Food: Emiliano's Cafe

Nestled in a spot in downtown Gainesville, Emiliano's Cafe offers up Latin food in the form of both entrees and the ever-popular tapas, sort of the Latin version of dim sum. I'll have to preface this review with a caveat - they were serving from a special "art festival" menu (the downtown art festival was buzzing right outside the door) and thus it seemed like they were really only competing with the gyro hawkers and the funnel cake vendors. But I digress.

The fried yuca was quite good, and it came with some Thousand Island dressing for dipping, a nice touch. The chips and salsa pretty much sucked, though at least the salsa was fresh, if tasteless. My chicken and rice was pretty uninspiring, but my Mom's ropa vieja was serviceable, if a bit cold for our tastes. Our guest's Caesar salad was good, and my sister's herb-grilled chicken was fine, but again, it was not hot enough temperature-wise.

The jury's still partially out, and next time we'll do all tapas, but for now, I give it 2/4 stars.

In an ironic note, a girl I knew from high school, Sarah B., is a server there.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Music: "Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz"

Continuing with the whole "[insert name]'s [something]" theme this week, "Piano Jazz" is one of those shows that people either love or hate.

On the one hand, Marian McPartland, the near-nonagenerian host who was born near the end of WWI, has a gravelly voice and an easy wit that makes her interviews with musical talents like Burt Bacharach, Percy Faith, and Henry Mancini seem heartfelt and genuine. The music on the show is almost always good, with performers coming from all corners of the music world - lounge pianists, megastar singers, composers.

On the flip side, not everyone wants to hear stories and anecdotes from their performers. And many people can't stand jazz of any sort. So it's definitely not everyone's cup of tea.

I've been accused of refusing to admit to liking any music at all, so I'll say it: I like jazz, and I like "Piano Jazz."

- Piano Jazz theme

Tech: RPG cliches

I'm currently playing Final Fantasy XII. It's a good game, sort of a cross between Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and FF Tactics. That said, it contains a LOT of the standard Japanese console RPG cliches:

1. The protagonist and many of the main characters are orphans.
2. There is an evil empire (it's actually named "The Archadian Empire") and you are resisting it.
3. You get captured/outsmarted by the villains a lot (I've played about 12 hours and the party has already been captured three or four times).
4. There are invariably McGuffins of great power that said evil empire is trying to possess.
5. People get kidnapped a lot.

and so on. I suppose it's nice to have a traditional framework to hang a story on, but another part of me just sees it as laziness.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Politics: Early voting time

I'm probably going over to the Supervisor of Elections office to vote today. Like many places in America, Alachua County has early voting, which means you can skip the lines and hassle of Election Day and just vote in the week before. I think one of the primary reasons for low turnout - besides a complete disinterest in the electoral process - is that people seem to think you have to show up that exact day in order to vote.

Anyway, anyone who knows my libertarian tendencies will probably be able to guess who I'm voting for. I just wish the Liberterians (or somebody) were putting up more candidates.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Miscellany: Twenty years

There are a lot of things in life that help you mark the passage of time. Unlike some of those freaky time-lapse YouTube videos of Noah Kalina and that Asian girl, the only picture of myself that I keep close by is this one.

My childhood's over, but it was a lot of fun. I did everything a kid should do - dressed up as Robin Hood for Halloween, meandered through some drainage ditches, socked some people in the jaw, etc. Looking at an old picture of yourself, you do start to wonder, though - how might things have gone differently? If you made different friends, or lived in a different place?

The worst part is I don't even look like that any more, and I don't remember ever looking like that, so it's almost like looking at someone else's kid. The most important thing to get out of the whole exercise, though, is probably that we were all children, so no matter how nasty people are to each other, they were all innocent sometime in the past.