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Monthly Archives: January 2008

behold, I have new glasses (plus bonus spaceman)

a terrifying glimpse of futures to come?, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

I picked up these frames on my trip to New York last month, but didn’t get around to getting my eyes tested and my new prescription filled until now. I was actually a bit disturbed to see myself in the mirror with them the first few times, since they’re so different from my old frames — like when you get a really different new hair cut and suddenly feel totally self-conscious, but nobody else even really notices. But now I like them.

Not so sure how the space man fits in, but for some reason it makes me crack up every time I look at this picture.

status update (still alive, working, reading Spider-Man comics)

spiderman.jpgI haven’t been updating this here blog much lately, and the reason is as lame as can be — I don’t have a computer at home. One of the less glamorous aspects of my otherwise totally sexy Yaletown start-up job is that, if I want to work on OS X instead of Linux (which I very, very much do want), I have to supply my own computer. And so Coconino, my ageing-but-beloved 12″ G4 PowerBook, stays semi-permanently in the office.

However, that just gives me more time to get caught up on my geek reading. Reading like The Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus, 1088 pages of sheer 1960s Spider-Man awesomeness in a volume the size and weight of a cinderblock. My own Marvel comics reading was mostly confined to the late 1980s, as the comics industry was beginning to be slowly ground to death between the Scylla of an overheated speculator market and the Charybdis of an incredibly convoluted continuity. We’re talking plot-twists, rewriting, retconning, editorial fiat, and the steady metronome of character death and resurrection. Though on the plus side, chronicling the Marvel continuity makes for some hilariously deadpan wikipedia articles:

Despite the obvious obstacles, Octavius was for a time on good terms with Peter Parker’s Aunt May, whom he first met in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (1964) when he abducted her and Peter’s then-girlfriend Betty Brant to attract Spider-Man’s attention. In fact, in later years May Parker and Otto Octavius were briefly engaged to be married. Their wedding was interrupted by Hammerhead.

During the Clone Saga, Doctor Octopus saved Spider-Man from certain death due to a poison injected by the Vulture. During the healing process he discovered the identity of Spider-Man and then allowed himself to be taken in by police, expecting to be saved by his accomplice/lover Stunner. But Stunner was knocked out and Doc Ock was murdered by the insane Peter Parker clone named Kaine. Octavius’ student Carolyn Trainer took over as “Doctor Octopus” until the original was resurrected by a branch of the mystical ninja cult known as the Hand. Upon his resurrection, it was revealed that he had no knowledge of Spider-Man’s identity. The reason was that the memories he gained came from a computer chip provided by Carolyn Trainer with his recorded memories; that recent memory had not been recorded at the time of his death.

Oops, spoiler alert!

In reading the original 1960s Spider-Man, it’s hard not to be impressed with how fresh and imaginative those early issues were. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were clearly firing on all cylinders and every issue is practically bursting with a kind of inmates-taking-over-the-asylum enthusiasm and cockiness. It’s like they woke up one morning, decided they were going to reinvent superhero comics overnight, and then did just that, one guilt-ridden teenaged nerd/crimefighter at a time.

(I’ve also been slowly working my way through the more recent Y: The Last Man, which is an altogether different kind of comic-book goodness…)

Eric-approved films of 2007

Now, I don’t go to see a huge number of movies in the theater, but it seems to me that 2007 was a really, really good year for movies. Now that I’ve seen There Will Be Blood, I can finally compile my own personal list of my favourite movies of 2007. Yes, I pretty much have gripped life by the balls.

My five favourite films of 2007, in order:

  1. No Country for Old Men. The deepest, most complex and terrifying film of the Coen brothers’ career.
  2. Juno. The warmest, funniest movie I saw in 2007.
  3. Zodiac. Kind of the anti-serial-killer-movie movie. I love it for its obsessive approach to obsession.
  4. Once. Enough to make even a lonely cynic like me believe in love.
  5. Rescue Dawn. Genre film that also manages to be a challenging dissection of Herzog’s favourite themes.

And five other films I liked a lot: There Will Be Blood, Knocked Up, Hot Fuzz, Into the Wild, Death Proof.

2007, you are old news

2008.jpg2007 was a pretty good year for me. I began the year by travelling to Southeast Asia, something I’ve always wanted to do, and ended it with a trip to New York, which I’ve done before, but it was still awesome. I successfully completed my PhD proposal, which means my thesis outline has been accepted and now all I have to do it the research and writing. And now I’m on leave to work for a start-up, which — if I can hold off on the gadget-buying for a while — will give me the financial wherewithal to not have to work immediately when I do finish my thesis.

In 2007, I wrote or co-wrote five papers, and had two accepted. I won the Student Research Competition at SIGGRAPH, and have a big-ass plaque to prove it. With a few lapses, I’ve run or gone to the gym 3 or 4 times a week for most of 2007, which is a pretty huge accomplishment for a lazy lard-ass like myself, and is probably why 2007 passed without any of my usual extended periods of sullen moodiness and insomnia.

I know what you’re saying. Eric, you say, you’re awesome, and I envy you and/or want to date you. Clearly, there’s nothing you need to improve. Plus, New Year’s resolutions are way too hokey for someone as original and creative as you.

To which I can only say: thanks, anonymous reader! But don’t worry — these aren’t really “resolutions”. More like projects. project 1: I am my own guinea pig

I’m currently about 20 pounds overweight. I’ve made my peace with probably always having a couple of extra pounds. Especially because when I was at my thinnest (in 1999, when I got somewhere below 140 lbs), it kind of sucked. I was cold and hungry all the time, and I could feel the bones in my ass when I sat down. But especially after the past month of vacationing and holiday eating and drinking, I’m probably a bit heavier than I should be. My project isn’t exactly weight loss — if I go to the gym regularly and eat properly and feel fine without losing weight, I won’t be upset. The project is to actually record and take measurements, including a regular gym schedule and weigh-ins.

To make things interesting, on or around the first of every month, I’ll be posting my results here. At the same time, I’ll be making one lifestyle change each month — like giving up alcohol, or switching from the gym to running — and reporting on what happens. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while now. Being my own guinea pig appeals to my scientific mindset. project 2: I play the guitar

Now that I’ve switched from the student lifestyle to the start-up one, I have substantially less free time, so picking up a new hobby right now isn’t really an option. I mean, I have important DVDs to watch, yo. However, I do think I have time to make a bit of forward progress on the guitar. I picked up the guitar about four years ago, learned the basics from my roommates in a few months, and then basically haven’t advanced any further since then. My goal is to pick out some songs and and techniques each month and learn them. My goals are modest for the next few months — if I could learn ten songs and master barre chords, I’d be ecstatic. But come summer, I expect to have a bit more free time as I go back to being a PhD student, so I might even start taking lessons at that time.