Movie Review: American Sniper

American Sniper depicts war as a stark assault on modern civilization’s ideals of family. While big guns may be firing away on battlefronts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the unseen violence is back home, where elemental relationships erode and get destroyed, and life can never be what it might have been in better times. Can a man who only yesterday purposefully took the lives of others, go home and enjoy playing with his kids? Which part of it is real?

In this fictional world, everything is black and white. Evil exists and it lives out there in the wilderness, amongst the savages. Only in some passing moments does this world admit the possibility that perhaps sometimes evil might simply be the caricature of someone’s untold story of vengeance and sorrow – but those moments quickly dissolve into a blizzard of sand.

In the end, the only lesson to be learned is that war is absurd and futile, built as it may be upon honest foundations of honor, valor and justice.

Swiftkey Flow Rocks

One of the coolest innovations I have seen in recent times is Swiftkey Flow. This is a keyboard input method that is geared towards touchscreen devices, where the user enters text by sliding a finger across the letters of the word to be input. With a little help from predictive technology, this method is simple, accurate, fast and intuitive.

On a Samsung Galaxy Note 2, you can enable this on the “Samsung Keyboard” through the “Settings” menu. If you’ve also setup one-handed operations (the keyboard moves over closer to one side) you could be typing long letters or blog posts with just your thumb and your brain for hours.

Compared to other forms of input such as voice, what makes this so compelling is how easy and seamless it is to handle errors. With dictation, there are bound to be mistakes unless you continually keep looking at the screen to see what gets typed (which you wouldn’t want to be doing if you were talking). With the onscreen keyboard, it is completely intuitive to pay attention to the words you have input, and switch back to conventional typing temporarily when there are errors. It doesn’t hurt that Swiftkey normally figures out the right words to enter without the user having to try too hard, so errors are much less frequent. (This normally happens when you hesitate while spelling out the word.)

Strange Dream

A few nights ago, I had a rather strange dream. It had something to do with reservations. Reservations for something.

Anyway, reservations worked on a first-come-first-serve basis, and involved pasta. (It might be more appropriate to call it a pasta-based organism.) Here’s how it worked: you would take a single piece of pasta and wait until a couple of tentacles slid out of one end. (This would happen periodically – two tentacles/feelers would slide out and then slide back in.)  When this happened, you would quickly catch hold of the tentacles and tie them together in a knot,  which would prevent them from sliding back in. And voila! You had a reservation.

System Reboot

Welcome, year 2013 – the future was here hours ago, and you missed it….

Life is like a computer; sometimes it just needs a reboot. That is the reason why people welcome the new year with such gusto – it’s time to abandon old beliefs and anxieties, and start afresh with a clean slate. Everyone needs a reboot eventually, so this isn’t something to worry about unless the need becomes too frequent. If you find yourself beginning each day with a sense of relief that the previous one is over, then I would gently suggest that you re-install your operating system software instead. Go with Gentoo this time; it’s easier to patch.

Pointerse

The rest of this post is purely hypothetical.

I am going to invent a new language. Every sentence in this language will be composed of a sequence of numbers, and each number – or word – will be a cultural reference, a reference to a quotation, event, activity or just about anything that took place in the history of our world at some point in space and time. Each sentence in this language will carry an immense amount of information within a few, short, simple words.

Eventually, advances in technology will make knowledge ubiquitous, thereby condensing sentences into something as simple as a representation of a sequence of vectors in space-time.

I call this language “Pointerse”.

Eternal Sunshine

People complain way too much. Take the weather, for example. Now, I am always astounded by how much people have to say about the weather, but I digress (or do I?) Anyway, in Seattle, I have a heard a lot of people say that it rains all the time. I have also heard myself explain to a lot of people that this thing that people say about the weather is either blatantly untrue or completely true and wonderfully so. That’s just me adding a little variety to boring conversations.

Today, I will firmly stick to the latter stance, that a little rain never hurt anybody. After all, rain is nothing but water falling from the sky. Look at the bright side – in a few years’ time, it will be falling space-junk (like forgotten satellites) that you need to worry about. If you’re lucky, it will take a good snap of you from up above, that your friends will tag you with on Facebook once it irrevocably damages your face. And yes, I will let this sentence be, leaving it on an ambiguous note.

Do you realize that water falling from the sky is no big deal? If you are reading this and are not named Garfield, you are almost certainly not a cat. That probably means you take a shower everyday (with water), wash your clothes (with water) et cetera. So what’s there to complain about? Live with it. Get wet. Enjoy it!

In fact, maybe – just maybe – you could even use the weather to your advantage. The next time you need a shower, just wait till it starts pouring and take a walk out in the open instead!

Now this rain phenomenon starts looking interesting…let’s see if we can take its usefulness a step further. Why wash your clothes at all? When you walk out in the rain, just make sure you’re wearing your dirty laundry. Another problem solved.

What, did I hear someone say “detergent”? Stop whining – there’s enough chlorine in the atmosphere to poke holes in the ozone layer over the Arctic – that’s certainly enough to bleach your fabric. That’s close enough, you know.

And hey, now you have a good reason to argue for climate-change as well. This just keeps getting better and better. I’m sick and tired of watching doomsday movies about the Earth’s climate going berserk, where some divorced scientist dude figures things out but gets laughed at in the beginning only to be redeemed later, and everyone turns to him to fix the world, which can only be done by building a series of ladders from the Earth to the Moon through an asteroid belt, and a banal happy conclusion is thrust upon us whereby some unimportant sidekick character dies, the scientist dude gets reunited with his ex-wife, and the kids continue to exist and do and say annoying things ever after – but hey, you can’t have completely happy endings, you know?

This brings us to movies – another thing everyone seems to like to complain about. “That movie really sucked!!” Boo hoo. I for one, have found a great use for Hollywood’s bad movies, much like one can use dung as manure and stop complaining about it.

The general idea is this: you find a mediocre movie to watch online – you will find several of these for free – and then you watch some of it based on a formula: ten minutes from the beginning, and then two minute clips, skipping ahead fifteen minutes at a time until you reach the end. The ending is not important. All in all, you would have watched about twenty-minutes of this movie, and gotten an idea of the names of the characters, the plot (which is generally as obvious within the first ten minutes as a billboard studded with neon lights on 8th Avenue) and how the movie is likely to end. That brings us to the main event: reading the popular user-reviews on IMDb, which will now make sense since you know the plot and can identify the characters.

Now, it is important to choose the movie carefully. For instance, avoid the kind of movies where everything takes place in the dark; that’s just plain boring. Also, don’t select movies that have little dialog; those are bound to be based on some Pulitzer-prize-winning novel or the other, and you will always find people who rave about what is unarguably a perfectly bad movie. In fact, the best movie candidates are the ones which have both male and female characters in it (distinctly so), not one of them mumbles too much and looks ugly at the same time, and the movie has an IMDb rating between 5.0 and 6.0.

So there you have it – a perfectly wonderful forty-five minutes extracted out of a mediocre movie on some rainy day. Ah…I love this weather.

To D.

A little boy I was,
And you my big sis,
We played in the kitchen;
You gave me a kiss.

You were like the sunshine
For all that could see
With your gentle, kind heart
And witty repartee.

What choice crept upon us,
And took us oceans away?
Adding to that distance,
An inch every day?

What choice crept upon us,
That neither could see,
That made a hole in this heart
And left a memory?

You’ve gone your own way,
And there’s so much I miss;
That girl in the kitchen
That gave me a kiss.

So close to my heart,
Yet a stranger to my soul,
I will always love you,
My sweet little girl.