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Hang on, I think I just got into a Gatling gun duel…

Sintel

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Stumbled upon this wonderful little animation done completely with open source 3D software.

Be warned, it’s pretty sad.

Bug’s Brain

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Fitness Institute and Strong Lifts 5×5 Program

As I mentioned in my last two posts, I recently joined the Fitness Institute. I’ve been able to work out there twice now, and figured I’d give some thoughts on the 5×5 program and the facilities I’ve used thus far.

First up, I am very happy with the gym facilities. The two times I’ve been there (9:30pm on Thursday, and 5pm on Saturday), the facilities have been in use, but not at all crowded. I had to wait slightly for the power rack on Saturday, but not for too long and the members using it were gracious and got out of the way when they were finished their sets.

As for progress, it’s only been 2 days with 5×5 (the first day of which was rediscovering how to lift a barbell and determine my lifting weight), but I am once again, for the first time in a long time, feeling the pleasant ache of muscles as they grow. It’s been quite some time since I could feel this, especially on my chest and quads, and it’s a great feeling, which means progress is being made.

Jonah Hex

I won’t even comment on this. This film is so bad. Even looking at the cover is a waste of your time.

Area 7, Scarecrow and Hell Island


I was debating writing a full review of these three books Area 7, Scarecrow and Hell Island(two novels and one novella), and indeed I may still do so, but I figured I’d put my thoughts down here anyways. I’ve read these books a few times now and I greatly enjoy them. They’re not Yeats or Homer, but they are fun stories and some of the best action sequences ever written. I’m very happy that the author, Matthew Reilly (he who never updates his website), has settled on another “Scarecrow” story for his next novel after writing three stories following the exploits of Jack West (also very good, but I prefer the Schofield character).

If you haven’t read these, and you like thriller/action/adventure books in the vein of Clive Cussler or James Rollins, I highly recommend picking up Ice Station (the first Scarecrow novel) and Temple (a stand-alone story that seems to take place in the same universe). You will probably chew through them in a couple of days (most likely because you can’t put them down) as they are a tonne of fun.

I Want To Look Like That Guy


Saw this documentary last week and it was interesting. There was nothing I really didn’t know in it, but it was very cool to see someone commit 100% and document what is needed to get down to 4% body-fat and compete in a body-building competition. Personally, I think he went about it the wrong way and didn’t gain enough weight, but that’s the cost of trying to do what he did in such a short time frame; putting on enough muscle to get him reliably to the next weight class safely would have taken a much longer time-frame.

The filmmaker shows just how crazy it is to think that one can look like that all the time, however, I don’t think it’s impossible to maintain a six-pack with healthy habits. It just takes time, patience and discipline.

Definitely worth watching if you’re interested in looking like the guy (or girl) in the fitness/product ads.

BBC The Battle Of Britain

Excellent documentary presented by Ewan and Colin McGregor for the BBC which outlines the basics of the RAF and the battle of Britain in 1940. It doesn’t go into a lot of detail, but is a nice overview of the situation that England was faced with after Hitler controlled Paris and the mistakes made by the Axis when attacking the Isle.

Plus, you get to follow Colin as he does the training that the RAF pilots would have done from Tiger Moth to Spitfire and Hurricane fighters, and the Spitfire is still a beautiful looking plane.

Stocks

Both Rogers (RCI.B) and BP (BP) have been up and down like yo-yos this week hovering near their 52 week highs (well, a shorter time-frame for BP). I’ve set in motion the process for bringing most of my Rogers stock directly under my control and am debating selling a large chunk should it go above $40 (too many eggs in one basket) but am unsure as to where to put the funds that it delivers should that come to pass.

Thanksgiving

Other than that, not much going on. Very much looking forward to Thanksgiving weekend at the cottage. First time in the new cottage should be exciting. I hope the weather isn’t too bad.

After yesterdays post, I rang up the local gym, Fitness Institute, and spoke with a chap named Brian.

Despite the gym closing at 11pm and my current shift ending at 9:30, it still is plenty of time to get over there and do 5x5s three days a week.

When I got there, it was exactly the opposite of my experience with Goodlife earlier in the day; Brian was patient and just wanted to chat. Instead of pushing the trainers and classes on me, he asked what my goals were and worked towards a general understanding of what my knowledge level was and what I was looking for. After clearly understanding what I was after, he showed me the gym.

I was amazed.

I was there at about 9:30, as that’s the time that I plan to be working out for the most part, and the place was perfectly populated. There were enough people around so it didn’t feel like I had broken in to the building to work out and it was sparse enough that there was no waiting for the equipment.

The program that I’m on now uses primarily the squat/power rack and the bench press. In stark contrast to Goodlife’s very small free weight area and crowded, basic, SINGLE squat rack, Fitness Institute has three racks including one with a raised lifting platform and bump plates (for dropping the bar on cleans, etc). Underground parking is included as well, which is a big benefit.

Though the price was slightly more than Goodlife ($67 tax in), and yes, there was still a contract, it was much less intimidating and Brian modified the contract enough with my concerns to make me happy.

After seeing the facilities (which, incidentally also include squash courts, a pool with the higher membership levels, and numerous other amenities that most gyms charge extra for) I signed up and had the chance to do my first session with barbells in several years.

I wasn’t disappointed with myself nor the routine. There is enough challenge in this program that I feel muscles that I haven’t used in a long time, yet all the work I’ve done at home has GREATLY increased my stabilizers and my ability to lift.

Last night was just about finding the right weight to be working at, and I ended up lifting much more than I expected with the bench press, the barbell rows gave me a clear picture that this is my weakest area, and the mother of all, the squat, is pretty much exactly where I expected it to be. I would imagine it will increase quite quickly (I also think I’ll be throwing the leg press in for a while even though it is somewhat frowned upon, I think it will be helpful for regaining leg power at the beginning).

Overall, happy so far and hopefully will continue to be so as I get to know the gym.

So I was very hopeful with visiting Goodlife today for possible membership. Sadly, I didn’t have much luck.

Where the gym is advertised as 24 hours, it would seem that 24 hours does not include the weekends.

As my schedule is, odd, to say the least, my workout times would be 10pm on Sunday, Tuesday and then early to mid afternoon on Thursday or Friday. That was the deal-breaker. (I just called Fitness Institute, which is the other local gym, and they have even more limited hours).

They also only had a single “squat rack” (which wasn’t even a full rack), and I didn’t relish the idea of waiting around for 20-30 minutes for it to free up.

So it would seem that I’m stuck with looking into buying my own squat rack, bar and plates. Hopefully I can find something that I can fit in my apartment with its 7′ ceiling and limited floor space.

On the plus side, I’ll be able to work our whenever I want and the equipment will never be in use.

The down side is the amount of room it will take up and the initial cost. Just a quick check, I don’t know if there’s any way I can fit a power rack in here, and presses would have to be of the seated variety.

I’ll have to do some thinking on this. For now I’ll monitor CraigsList and SearchTempest.

I really wish I had some friends who were into lifting. Oh well.

Monsters

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Monsters is a wonderful film.

It is even more wonderful when you realize that the whole thing was made for $15,000.  This is the kind of movie that I would like to make. The script is solid with a decent injection of humour and subtle touches (I loved the army dude humming Ride of the Valkyries at the beginning).

The basic premise is that alien spore was returned to earth 6 years ago by a satellite. These spores are flourishing and have grown into giant alien animals that inhabit the southern US and Mexico. The plot is a photographer has been asked by his employer to safely return the employers daughter across the zone to the US.

The visuals in this movie are fantastic and a testament to what one can achieve with some knowledge of special effects. I would assume that the entire cast and crew was voluntary and they do a remarkably good job. The two main leads hold your attention and the various local peoples they encounter, mostly subtitled or translated by the characters are suitable.

My one caveat with this film, is not actually about the film, it’s about the method in which I got it which leads to a rant about the entire film distribution structure at present. This appeared on the usenet servers a few days ago. This film is probably one that most haven’t heard of yet. The release date listed on IMDB states September 20th in Russia (?). If the distribution companies would get their asses in gear when they acquire a film and get it out faster, there would be a much higher chance of people like me seeing it in the theater. This isn’t even a case of having a choice between paying to see it and getting it for free; there is simply no way, at present to reimburse the maker of this film for his wonderful work.

Miramax was notoriously bad at this, especially with foreign films; they’d buy the rights and just sit on the things.

Anyways.

Monsters. Great film. Inspires me further to work on my scripts.

Highly recommended.

Women and Weights

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A quick glance at various facebook updates, blogs and direct questions I receive are fairly indicative of a trend from a number of my female friends to have some misconceptions about “weight loss” and weight lifting.

I thought I’d take a moment here to try and provide some insight and examples that expand upon my brief comments in the last fitness post I did.

Weight lifting is king. This is perhaps the most important thing that I’ve learned with regards to exercise; lift as heavy as you can. 4-8 repetitions in 3 sets is a good way to start. This is true for men and women, young and old. One of the most inaccurately propagated myths is that if you lift heavy, you will become a giant monster looking like the Incredible Hulk. This isn’t going to happen. Just as the belief (which is thankfully changing) that Yoga and Pilates are for women, lifting isn’t just for guys. A quote I saw a while ago on Reddit (as best I can remember), “Lifting weights isn’t going to turn you into the hulk any more than taking spin class will make me grow breasts”. See all those guys at the gym there for hours? They’re TRYING to get huge. Do you think you’re going to stumble upon the secret to becoming a giant by accident? You’re not. TheCookieMonster is a power lifter with an amazing blog. This link will take you straight to her progress pictures. She doesn’t look like She-hulk, she looks like Supergirl. And that’s a very good thing. Yoga, spinning, Pilates, are all great supplements, but you gotta lift.

Basically what I was saying was, lifting weights will give you the best and fastest results. Additional physical activities that you do, such as cycling, rock-climbing, Yoga, fencing, jogging, rowing, are fantastic; they will assist you with cardio, twitch-muscle (depending upon the activity), endurance, and the like.

But the guys that do the Tour-de-France, they don’t spend all of their training cycling, they’re at the gym squatting. The guys playing baseball aren’t swinging the bat all day and playing catch, they’re at the gym doing bench-presses and pull-ups.

Weight lifting makes you better at the physical activity that you enjoy for recreation.

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re happy with what you’re doing and it’s working for you to the degree you want it to, then by all means, keep doing just that. But, if you want to see some more gains, consider taking up weights.

The above applies to everyone, the following is directed at my female family members and friends a little more specifically (and no, this is not directed at any one person, I’m serious when I say I’ve had a lot of inquiries about this).

YOU WILL NOT GET HUGE LIFTING HEAVY WEIGHT!

You will get harder. You will get stronger. You will feel better. You will NOT look like the Hulk.

You can’t.

Not without some serious steroidal help.

Now I’m going to put some images, videos and links up here. These are female weightlifters who look amazing BECAUSE they lift. That said, training and lifting should not be just about physical appearance, it should be about improving ones self, as well as setting goals and surpassing them.

The Cookie Monster – This is Christine. I’ve been hitting her blog (and linking to it, and mentioning it…) a lot lately because she fascinates me. She knows her shit, she lifts crazy amounts and she has a blog that is interesting, simple and very amusing to read. She is also a “real” person. She’s responded to my emails when I asked some questions and she’s GTA based. I find her to be more of an inspiration than any of the other people I’ve followed online because of these facts. I highly recommend subscribing to her blog.

The Mighty Kat – Kat is a bit more extreme than I am (and she has a home gym I would kill for). She is a fitness machine. She has some great articles, and her blog is here (though it seems to have not been updated in almost a year at this point).

Maryse Turcotte – A seriously impressive weightlifter who started in the early 90′s. I’ve included an old CBC profile of her and here is a mini-biography she wrote herself about a decade ago for Stumptuous.com.

Unknown – I’m not sure who this is, but she has an amazing squat. Check out how low she goes on that. And those Bulgarians that she does with the chains and bar are nutty.

I hope that these girls provide some motivation and show you that you don’t get gigantic when lifting heavy.

While I was gathering examples for this post, I came across this post on Stumptuous.com. It’s an interesting read to dispel a lot of the myths about women and lifting. Give it a read.

If you’re looking for a starting program, I would recommend starting with StrongLifts 5×5 (here’s a direct link to the FAQ, which I stole some of those above names from for you). It’s a simple program with big compound movements that doesn’t have you living at the gym.

Have a nice day guys. :)

Bug’s Brain

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So I’ve been thinking about taking a page from Potato’s blog and run a (hopefully) weekly roundup of thoughts and musings that I had over the past several days. Sticking with the alliteration theme, I’ll go with Bug’s Brain for now.

StarCraft II
Potato posted his thoughts recently on the game after having a few months to play it. Unless he’s completely given up on his thesis, I would deduce that the majority of the team games he’s been playing have been with me. Mostly we play 2v2 against the Very Hard AI.

I’m not a die-hard strategy game fan, but I fully admit being engrossed by StarCraft II (as I expected to be). I find the worlds that Blizzard creates to be quite inviting (I’ve spent WAY to many hours in Azeroth… with potential for a return TEMPORARY visit when Cataclysm hits) and the narrative which weaves the SC2 single player campaign is fantastic. The single-player portion of the game was fantastic with my only complaint being having to wait at least 2 more years to find out how the damn thing ends.

The multi-player I find very inconsistent; and this is not just against other humans (as I tend to shy away from those, preferring the co-op experience). When we play against the very hard AI, it is such a crap shoot as to win or lose. Potato and I are good players. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not Korean, but we’re pretty good. The trouble, for the most part, is the maps. Maps which have a single choke point against the AI, we seem to have about a 70-80% win ratio. The problem comes when we have separate bases (and when Potato ends up with Zerg… the random addict). If they attack me first, we can usually make it through the first wave or two (for some bizarre reason, I find myself to be stronger in the early game defense than Potato… which I would say is the only portion of a strategy game I have ever been better at than him) but we can’t seem to overcome it. We are getting really good at turtling (hey look, it’s not a word), but it seems with the AI if you can survive the first 10-15 minutes, you win as the AI has trouble adapting to evolving contingencies in the later game.

Potato is much MUCH better at micro than I am (how the hell did you kill 5 marines and 2 Zerglings with one Zealot?!), but gimme a bit of time and my armageddon of battle cruisers will obliterate you!

Anyways, I’m blithering on here. To sum up, StarCraft II is a hell of a lot of fun and I’m greatly enjoying the games we play.

Predators
I don’t think I posted any thoughts on Predators when I first saw it, but I’ve watched it a couple of times now and I really love it. I’m glad that Robert Rodriguez was allowed to produce this property and I am even more glad that he let Nimrod Antal take the directing reigns. Rodriguez’s hand is very evident in the film but the shots and feel are different enough to make it something new.

If you’re not familiar with the Predator mythos (seriously?) it’s pretty simple; humans are used as prey for a race of bipedal aliens who are essentially the galaxies big-game hunters. The first Predator was released in 1987 and had Arnold Schwarzenegger as the hero (“GET TO THA CHOPPA!”). The sequel had Danny Glover take over the reigns in what I consider to be a good sequel, but a terrible movie.

From there, some idiot at Fox decided to give the Alien vs Predator idea a shot and let Paul WS Anderson have a go at it.

Sigh. Big mistake. I’m not going to go off on a diatribe about how awesome a well done Alien vs Predator movie could have been (I even wrote out a treatment, I thought it was that cool an idea), but suffice to say, they REALLY screwed up both of those franchises in one go.

Predators is a sequel to the first film (and to a certain degree the second) and it is a GOOD sequel.

The only complaint I have with it, is that it doesn’t do enough in terms of story to differentiate itself from the first one. There are a few beats here and there that make it unique (Laurence Fishbourne’s character is amazing, despite being a glorified cameo), but overall, it’s a retread. It’s a good retread, but it ends exactly where you expect it to. The story doesn’t go that extra mile like it did with Predator 2 and the post-battle on the ship.

Loved:

  • seeing the original Predator creature on screen again for the first time in 23 years
  • Laurence Fishbourne’s character (actually, all the characters in this were very strong)
  • the race war between the two classes of Predators
  • the dogs
  • the music (very similar in feel to the original Predator score, and hearing Long Tall Sally over the credits at the end was just icing on the cake)

Liked:

  • the effects: the jungle and the planet in general were fantastic; though completely improbable (I think the gravitational pull from those moons/planets would pretty much tear the planet to little bitty pieces) it sure makes the sky nice to look at.
  • Seeing Machete fight aliens
  • the pacing
  • Adrian Brody’s character as an updated Dutch

Hated:

  • the abrupt, predictable ending
  • the lack of explanation as to how they got there

Overall, a great film if you’re a fan of action and sci-fi. Recommended.

Machete
I’m not going to write much about this. It’s a fun movie. It’s dumber than a box of hammers and exactly what it sets out to be, a homage to exploitation movies of the 70′s (hehe, MEXploitation). It’s over-the-top stupid, gory, sexy, blatant, and hilarious. I enjoyed it, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

New TV Season
So there were no new shows for me until this week and then everything started up at once.

  • The Event: There are no new series this year that I’m dying to see, though I did watch The Event and enjoyed it. It has potential. The actors are strong and the first episode was sufficiently WTF-ey to make me want to stick around. I didn’t like the really wonky jumping around of event sequence, but whatever. I’ll be tuning in for episode 2.
  • Criminal Minds, The Mentalist, and CSI: Meh, more of the same. It was nice to see Sarah back as a regular cast member on CSI, but what happened to David and Wendy? Criminal Minds had a FANTASTIC villain played by Tim Curry for the first episode, but other than him, it was very by-the-numbers. Patrick on The Mentalist I find to be a very interesting character, even if the rest of the show is very predictable.
  • Bones: They sure brought the gang back together quickly after they all split at the end of last season. I still enjoy the humour on this show, and David Boreanaz is amusing to watch (though Angel was better… just saying).
  • The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother: These shows make me laugh for 22 minutes straight each. I can’t ask for more than that.
  • Smallville: It’s a guilty pleasure. Though I am finding the 20-something drama to be tedious, the hidden gems that show up for comic fans are worth it. Although I’m more of a Marvel fan, the nods to the JSA, and the emergence of Darksied are nice to see.
  • Supernatural: I have nothing spectacular to report about this. It was my most-anticipated show of the new season and it didn’t disappoint. I love the Sam and Dean character dynamic and I’m sure I will thoroughly enjoy this season just as I have the others. The writing is great and the humour is fantastic.
  • Dexter: Dexter starts tonight. New show runner and writers, but I’ve heard good things so I’m looking forward to it.

The Gym
So I’ve been debating back-and-forth with myself about joining a gym again and I’ve decided I’m going to drive up to see Goodlife fitness this week. I simply can’t get enough weight for what I want to do at home with the Bowflex dumbbells and I can’t afford (nor do I have room or clearance for) a power rack and weights at home. I’m worried about getting locked into a contract, but I will protest greatly about signing anything and will insist on paying in cash (hopefully). I’m hopeful that the facilities are good and not overly crowded. TheCookieMonster’s blog (which I cannot recommend highly enough) has got me seriously rethinking my current routine and I’m going to go totally back to basics thanks to her and to many posts I’ve been reading on Reddit. I’ll let you know how it goes. It’s gonna be squats, dead-lifts, presses, cleans (hopefully), bench-presses, and pull-ups for the next few months.

School/Job
Once again, debating working towards some sort of degree part-time. Depends on what can be achieved through online courses and prior learning assessments. We shall see.

That’s all for now folks. I hope you had a good weekend. I did. :)

360 No-Scope

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Poor FreddyW.

This has been floating around since at least last week, but it still makes me laugh each time I see it. Thought it was worthy of a mention.

“BRAAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUGHM!!!”

Yesterday found me helping my cousin repair her computer for several hours and in the course of the repairs there were a number of applications that, though second nature to me, were not installed or used on her computer.

This got me to thinking about what basic applications I use, why I use them, how they make my life (or at least my online life) better or more efficient.

I figured if I was going to talk about these on this blog, I should start at the beginning. And the number one application that I use above all else (well, I guess not counting Windows itself) is GMail.

So what is GMail? Gmail is an email service.

“But I already have email” you say.

You probably do (I doubt you’d be reading this blog if you didn’t). There are a few reasons why I highly recommend using GMail over other email services.

Firstly, if you are using an application like Outlook or Thunderbird or Mac Mail (these are called POP clients) you have a few limitations; you can’t (easily) access your email remotely, and if your computer implodes on you, you lose everything contained therein. This means all downloaded emails, contacts, calendar, etc.

Secondly, I find GMail to be much more stable than services like Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail. GMail (at first glance) isn’t as “pretty” as those two other email services, but it more than makes up for it in functionality, integration and innovation. Though all three services I mentioned here are advertisement driven, I find the ads on GMail to be MUCH less intrusive (what the hell is with that panel on the right hand side of Yahoo! Mail eating up 1/5th of my screen space?) and I barely notice them.

Thirdly, GMail has done away with the folder system and replaced with with a label infrastructure. Though this can be quite jarring at first, it is immensely more efficient as an organizing method. If you are used to a folder based system, you will perhaps have a folder for, let’s say, Johnny. You get an email from Johnny and you move it from your inbox to the folder bearing his name. This works very well. Then you get an email from Johnny that is also sent to Mary. Do you put it in Johnny’s folder or Mary’s folder? With labels, you tag the email with a label for both “Johnny” and a label for “Mary” and then simple archive the message (this gets it out of your inbox). Then when you click on the label on the left for Johnny (where you would find your folders) you will see all messages tagged with “Johnny”. If you click on the label for Mary, you will see all messages tagged with “Mary”.

This is a very efficient way of organizing well… anything. You can think about it thus: imagine all of your mail is in a warehouse. It’s not organized at all; just a big pile of mail. You have a bunch of people that are VERY good at sorting through that mail; they have remembered where every single piece of mail is. By clicking on a label that says “Johnny” you are telling this team of people to go get you all the mail in the warehouse that has to do with “Johnny”.

Google themselves to a very good job of explaining labels here http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=118708.

My final reason for starting with GMail is that it gives you a Google Account. This gives you access to all kinds of other amazing things that Google comes up with. Off the top of my head, Google Talk, Google Phone (and Voice if you happen to live in the US), Calendar, Google Docs (on online Office suite of tools), Reader (which I will talk about in a later post), Picasa, and a tonne of amazing things from the lab.

If you already have email, no sweat, GMail can access outside accounts (I use it to access my @rogers.com, @yahoo.com, @netbug.net email accounts) and import your contacts, calendar, etc from those locations.

There are many more reasons why GMail is a good place to get started with cleaning up your online life, and I would recommend starting there.