Thursday, May 31, 2007

Movie Review: The Good Shepherd

Since I stayed home from work today, I thought I’d take the opportunity to catch a movie. I was delighted to see that The Good Shepherd was on the “movies on demand” channel, and I ordered it. I’d been eagerly anticipating this one since I first saw the commercials for it; I love any spy-related books or movies, so a movie about the early history of the Central Intelligence Agency is right up my alley.

But I had mixed feelings about it. And apparently I’m not the only one, because I went to Rotten Tomatoes, and the reviews there were pretty mixed, too. I think, for me, the good aspects where the plot/writing, and the bad aspect was the acting. It was extremely wooden; I’m tempted to point the main focus on Matt Damon, in the lead role as Edward Wilson, as being the most wooden, but I think that might just be because he had the most screen time. Most of the rest of the acting was also low key, to put it mildly. Then again, with the most screen time, Damon should have had ample opportunity to give some life to his character, and it didn’t end up with any. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Damon, usually. But, in this particular case, his character didn’t have any… well, any character.

Since many of the characters suffered the same treatment, I don’t think it was the actors’ fault, I think it was the director’s. But the result is the same: The movie ended up with a main character who had no characteristics.

But the good aspects were really good. I felt it was a very realistic portrayal of the origins of the agency. (It’s fictional, of course, they’re not claiming that they’re telling a true story. But it’s a realistic fictional story.) They told a complicated story, and told it well (aside from the acting, which I can’t get over). The movie didn’t glamourise the intelligence agency, the way that James Bond movies do, it gave a much more realistic interpretation, like John le Carré novels do. (I even saw one reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes compare this film to le Carré, although I personally think that le Carré’s works are much more interesting than The Good Shepherd.)

I should be giving this movie a clearly positive review, but because of the acting, and/or direction, I just can’t. If it had been performed just a bit differently, this could have been a brilliant movie. To sum up, I’ll steal a quote from Ella Taylor, from the L.A. Weekly:

It’s almost impossible to buy Wilson as a pioneer who helped shape one of the world’s most intricate and devious intelligence agencies, leaving us to wonder how the CIA could ever have gotten off the ground through the labors of such an utter stiff.

Sick. Again!

I was sick again, for a couple of days. Sick enough that I stayed home again. I don’t know if you’ve been following my health here—if I have any regular readers left—but I’ve been sick a lot, this year.

But the worst part wasn’t the sickness itself. It was Tuesday night, when I was the sickest, and trying to sleep: All night long, I kept having these terrible, involved dreams, about work. I’d feel nauseous, and run for the bathroom, where I’d remain for five minutes or so, and then I’d come back to bed and try to sleep, but I would just fall back into another work-related dream. It got to the point that the trips the bathroom were welcome relief from the dreams!

I wouldn’t even call the dreams nightmares, per se. They were just bizarre, disjointed little vignettes, that kept playing over and over again in my head. The fact that they didn’t make much sense made it worse, because my mind was frantically trying to sort it all out. Andrea could tell that I was tossing and turning, and suggested that I pray, to take my mind off of the dreams—good advice in any situation—but it didn’t work, because even when I would start to pray, my mind would wander, and I’d end up back asleep, having another twisted dream.

After that, I really wasn’t too upset about staying home Wednesday, and missing work. And I wasn’t even alone: Andrea stayed home with me. (In fact, she was the one who gave me whatever it was that I had, although I somehow ended up catching a worse dose of it than she did.)

Monday, May 28, 2007

25 Years

I’ve noticed that I’ve been writing a lot lately about getting old. I don’t think I am getting old, yet, but I’ve been writing about it. And here we go again.

We were watching Listed on MuchMoreMusic the other day, and they were doing the top 20 British artists of the last 25 years. (First off, that’s a sign that I’m getting old right there: I was watching MuchMoreMusic.) And the whole time I was thinking to myself, “Okay, who are they going to put in the top 10? You’ve got Led Zeppelin, my favourite band, but you’ve also got the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles, and…”

At this point, you might be noticing a problem with my math: It’s 2007, so 25 years ago was 1982. All of the bands I was thinking of were from way before 1982. But it wasn’t until they got to the top 5 bands in their list that my mathematical error even occurred to me. And I know why: When I hear that something happened “25 years ago” it seems like it was a long time ago. When I think of music that came from 25 years ago, I’m used to thinking of the 60s or 70s, not the 80s. So it threw me for a loop that they were talking about bands from the last 25 years, and they were all bands I’d been hearing as I grew up, rather than bands I heard on the oldies stations.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Summer is here. (I hope.)

On the way to pick up Andrea yesterday, after work, it was pretty hot, and I could feel the sweat running down my back. Ladies and gentlemen, it felt so good.

Oh, how I’ve missed summer…

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Beginning XML, 4th Edition

I went to the post office yesterday, to pick up a package: ten copies of Beginning XML, 4th Edition. I had thought the book was due to be released in the summer, but it’s actually out this month.

There’s no feeling in the world quite like opening up a box, and picking up an actual, physical copy of your book in your hands. To see what the fonts look like on the printed page, instead of in a Word document. To see your name and picture on the cover. (Along with the other authors, of course, who did more work on this edition than I did.)

It’s a surreal feeling. Maybe the only thing that’s more surreal is being in a bookstore, and seeing it on a shelf there. Whenever I do, it’s an odd mixture of exhilaration, and humility.

Now, of course, I have to figure out what to do with ten copies of the book. Not to mention the ten copies of the 3rd Edition, which I still have…

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Flickering Light

It’s bad enough that my eyes are getting worse with each passing day. But it gets even worse when one of the fluorescent lights near me is flickering. It’s at just the wrong spot, so that as I look at my computer screen, it’s right there in my peripheral vision.

It’s bad enough that it’s affecting my ability to read the screen. However, I had troubles reading my computer screen at home, this morning, so I don’t think that all of the blame falls on the flickering light—some falls on my declining, decrepit body.

Back to the grind

It’s the Tuesday after a long weekend, so of course I’m just dying to get back to work. (Warning: the previous sentence contained large doses of sarcasm.) Is it a bad sign when you’ve only been at work for 40 minutes, and you’ve already got a headache?

I was just looking at my blog, and realized that my last two posts mention being middle-aged. Which I fully realize I’m not—but I’m getting there.

My weekend was pretty good. I did a lot of sleeping Monday, which must mean that I’d been tired. Either that or I have mono. If I fall asleep at work today, it means I have mono. (If so, I promise to put up a “serna Health Update” to keep you all informed.)

I was thinking about it on the weekend, and I think it might be time to get back to work on one or more of my books. I should probably finish off God in the Driver’s Seat first, since it’s been on the shelf for… oh… a long time now. I don’t know how long. But a while. I’d also like to get back into the novel, which is always there in the back of my mind—even though I don’t know if it’s any good or not. I’d like to finish it off, and send it to someone who knows what they’re doing, to get an opinion on that.

And that’s it. Maybe I’ll post again later today. More likely I won’t post for a couple of days, since that’s how it’s going these days, on this blog.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I am going to die soon

No, this isn’t another blog post about whether I’m middle-aged or not. And I’m not wallowing in depression, writing poems with titles like “black is the colour of my soul”.

I just came across a post on the Pure Church blog, and wanted to say +1. I agree with his sentiments, wholeheartedly.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I may not be middle-aged, but I am getting old…

I had a deployment this weekend. (If you don’t know—or can’t remember—what a “deployment” is, see this previous post, and click the pop-up near the beginning.) It didn’t go too bad, but it was a long one; from about 12:30–6:30AM, not including prep time.

It’s now Tuesday, and I’m just starting to get back into the swing of things. It took me that long to recover from the lack of sleep. (And, probably, from the bad eating. I don’t think I had a proper supper that night, or breakfast or lunch the next day…)

But it wasn’t too long ago that this type of thing wouldn’t have phased me at all. I’m sure that within the last two years, maybe even the last year, I could have done such a deployment without being affected. Maybe I would have been a bit tired the next day, but that would be it.

The scary part, though, is that I’ll be doing it again Wednesday night (meaning Thursday morning). I hope I’m recovered, by then, or else I don’t know what will happen to me!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Wikipedia redux

I have previously written about wikis, with specific mention of Wikipedia. One of my issues was that Wikipedia articles are often written by people who are non-experts, and their edits to articles often trump efforts from actual experts.

I came across an article (via Wired) which describes that the opposite can also happen: sometimes experts create articles, but because they’re experts, the articles are so opaque that the average reader can’t understand them.

Friday, May 11, 2007

I have a new love in my life

I’ve tried the Caramel Cappuccino doughnuts at Tim Horton’s, and I love them. (I figured it was finally time to use up one of my “free doughnut” winning rims, so I used it on that.) Frankly, I love anything that has caramel in it, so it wasn’t too surprising that I liked it.

I still have one more “free doughnut” winning rim sitting on my desk, that I have to use before the end of the month, so I guess I know what I can use it on. After that, I might be forced to do something I haven’t done in a long time: Actually buy a doughnut, from Tim Horton’s.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Um… hi.

The last couple of weeks have been crazy. I’m working on three or four projects at once, so every day is booked solid with meetings. I haven’t even had time to update the serna Bible Blog very much, let alone this one. (Not to mention the Ubuntu wiki I started; I haven’t installed the latest version of Ubuntu, yet.)

But now I have an afternoon to myself, to catch up on my paperwork and even, if the mood so takes me, post a blog entry. And it will come as no surprise to anyone in the world that I have nothing to say. Luckily, I’ve never had anything to say on this blog, so we’re in familiar territory. The only difference is the frequency with which I post—the quality of the posts stays about the same.

But now that I’m here, posting to the blog, it feels kind of… awkward. It’s like I’ve grown apart from you, the gentle reader. We haven’t seen each other in a while, and we need to spend some time together, getting reacquainted.

Maybe I should talk about the weather, first, to get us past the awkward phase? It has, after all, been absolutely beautiful, here in Toronto. (If you’re reading this from somewhere other than Toronto, I hope your weather is as good as ours has been.) Summer is almost upon us.

Oh, I can talk about my health, too! I’m finally over the cold that I was whining about. It took a long time, but I finally got rid of it. (And then, yesterday, I caught a colleague sniffling—I hope I didn’t give it to her!)

Um… what else? If I actually had something to post, I would start writing it now, but I really don’t. (According to Wikipedia, small talk is “conversation for its own sake”, and “the ability to conduct small talk is a social skill”. It’s one that I’ve never developed, unfortunately.)

Perhaps I should just give up. Post this now, and then put up, I don’t know, another joke post or something. Maybe by the time you read this there will already be a joke post up. Maybe I shouldn’t even bother to post this drivel at all, so as not to waste your time, and wait until I actually have something to say, before I post again.

But, really, I don’t care enough about you to spare you the wasted time. (Did you follow that logic? Basically, I’m saying that I went ahead and posted this anyway because I like to post, and it doesn’t matter if your time gets wasted in the process or not.)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Trapped in the Drive-Thru

Since I was already looking for “All Good Things” on YouTube, I figured I’d look for “Trapped in the Drive-Thru” by Weird Al, too.


All Good Things (Come to an End)

I don’t normally like Nelly Furtado, but I’ve heard the song “All Good Things (Come to an End)” on the radio a few times, and I have to admit, I like it. It’s different. (I just wish it wasn’t Furtado singing it. If someone else had done the singing—maybe someone who could sing—the song would have been great.)

I decided to look for the video, and it turns out that I wasn’t very impressed with it either. It seems—to me—to be one of those pseudo-but-not-really deep videos.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


I did our taxes last night. It wasn’t hard—the tax software does all the work—but I did end up with a headache. Everything was easy, except for one thing:

Did you know that there are two types of T5008 form? And that when you fill in your tax return, you have to specify what kind—but that there is no discernible way to tell, just by looking at the T5008 form, what kind it is? Well… it’s true. So if I suddenly stop blogging—more than usual, I mean—you’ll know it’s because I did it wrong, and Revenue Canada threw me in jail.