iTunes Movies Now in 4K

under $8

Back in the day I used to have a shelf full of VHS tapes. This shelf contained two copies of the original Star Wars Trilogy because… Star Wars. When widescreen VHS became a thing, I switched to it. When DVD came around, I had to buy Star Wars again. I ended up with a small room lined with VHS tapes on one side and DVDs on the other. Digital video came about at about the same time as Blu-ray. I skipped Blu-ray. I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally bought a Blu-ray disc even though I had a Blu-ray player. At the time it was a pretty easy decision because I did not have a TV that could tell the difference.

For me, digital video held the promise that I would not have to buy Star Wars again. Well, maybe just one more time. In the movie “Men in Black” we see Tommy Lee Jones holding up a tiny silver disc that will “replace CDs” in a couple years. His character resigns “I guess I’ll have to but The White Album again”. That’s the way I feel about Star Wars. But I was drawing a line in the sand, this far.. no further. Fortunately for me, I delayed that purchase just a little bit.

There are competing marketplaces for digital movies. You have Ultraviolet, Amazon, and iTunes. I avoided Ultraviolet instinctually. Some DVDs bought early on came with a code for the same movie on Ultraviolet that I gave away sometimes to strangers on Twitter just to avoid making my digital library more complex. It was a bit harder to avoid Amazon as they have some content that is not available elsewhere. I put my stock in iTunes. This means that I am using an Apple TV instead of a ChromeCast or Roku. And I’m betting that the company, Apple, is not going out of business any time soon. So far that bet has paid off.

Disney puts an interesting wrinkle in this. They have a notion that if I buy one of their movies on one platform, I can play it on their streaming platform. They also let me collect worthless Disney points but that is another story. This is an interesting twist because it switches the platform loyalty to a studio loyalty with no change in behavior from the customer. Now that Disney owns The Force, it should mean that my movies would even out live Apple.

When the first digital movies came out they were available in glorious 480 lines of resolution, also known as SD. This meant that a 2 hour movie would take up about 500MB of hard disk space. At the time I had AT&T DSL so the prospect of downloading a movie was not a realtime process. Typically I would buy or rent the movie the day before I wanted to watch it to let it download overnight.

When HD came available, the video improved to DVD quality which means 720 lines of resolution — not quite double. Some other definitions redefined that to 1080 lines of resolution. This is when you would buy a TV that would be labeled 1080p or 1080i to tell you if the the TV was fast enough to redraw every line everytime it redrew the screen or if it skipped to redraw every other line. Later we would see the refresh rate be advertised. When you watch a movie you are typically seeing 24 frames per second. TV is typically 30 frames per second. When you increase that rate like Peter Jackson did with his Hobbit movies you fall into a hyper real uncanny valley. All this is to say that the studios are throwing more and more data on the screen with every frame and they expect to be able to cash in on these differences. Apple started selling SD and HD versions of movies. For a buck or two difference you could get the HD version. If you are interested in future proofing your collection, it’s worth the difference for any movie that is visually compelling. So you can go cheap on that documentary or if the source was not created with enough resolution like King Kong (1933).

So now Apple is going to be selling 4K versions of movies. They have managed to strong arm the studios except, surprisingly, Disney into not charging more for 4K version (win!). Even better, they are going to automatically upgrade any historical HD purchases to 4K if the version exists (win!). So I don’t have to buy Star Wars again — wait, scratch that. What about Disney? We’ll need to keep an eye on that. So far movies like Wonder Woman have already been advertised as being available in 4K.

Let’s get to the advice part for Apple. I know they are not reading this but what the hay. Having all these versions is way too complicated. When you add in bundles into the mix it get’s really screwed up. Let’s say for example you bought Mission Impossible in SD. Then Apple comes out with an incredibly priced bundle that includes all 5 MI movies in HD. Now you own MI-1 in both SD and HD formats. They have the same cover artwork and hopefully appear next to each other on your list of movies. Embarrassing. Even though both purchase decisions made sense at the time. Apple needs to implement what they have already done on the music side with “complete my album” that allows you to get a discounted price based on the current value of what you already own. So if the bundle for 5 movies is $40 we can say that each movie in the bundle is worth $8 even though you paid $20 back when it was new. So the complete my bundle price should be $32. Even better deal.

Secondly, Apple needs to offer an upgrade price to let me go from SD to HD. For some movies, I would have preferred the HD movie if it were available at the time. Now I’m willing to pay the delta to upgrade to the better video experience.

Thirdly, there needs to be some unification of titles in the store. Currently a movie that I have already bought shows up as something that can be bought again. For example, Thor. I think at some point the move was re-published. The version that I bought is no longer available. This means that I can no longer re-download the movie via iTunes thought it is still available in the TV app and Apple TV. Nicht gut. If IMDB can do it, so can Apple. This will probably mean that they have to go to bat again for the consumer. This gets a bit more complicated when you get to various cuts of a movie. If I buy Lord of the Ring and then the extended version comes out, oops. Back to the incremental pricing idea. How about offering an upgrade price that let’s you upgrade to the Peter Jackson extended cut? And come on, the latest Godzilla movie is in the store twice: dubbed and subtitled. Those should not be two different titles, come on.

Fourthly, there should be a bidding system to let customers price a move. Today when a movie first comes out we see it at the $19.99 level. Over time we see that price float down. Just like I can pre-order a movie, how about letting me pre-order at a specific price? So If I know the movie is going to be $7.99 in December, I will bid for that now. Of course it is in Apple best interest to get me to buy now.

Or buy into a bundle when the third movie is not out yet. Yes, I’m talking about John Wick 3, OK? This is kind of a back door complete-my-bundle option. I’m sure the licensing for that would be near impossible. It’s not like a TV show where there’s a guarantee that the episodes will be made.

For now, I’m looking forward to seeing some 4K content. I’m taking a wait and see approach to Disney. Thanks to Apple for not gouging on the 4K upgrade.

John Wick
John Wick

Life

On the 99¢ rack in iTunes this week we have the March 2017 movie called Life. When I saw the trailers this spring I just knew it would be bad. Rotten Tomatoes™ amazingly gave it a 67% fresh rating. That gave me a little hope that they might be some redeeming quality to this Alien rip off. When I saw it in the rental bargain bin, I decided to give it a try. Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds lead a cast of 6 astronauts on board the International Space Station. The plot revolves around the first return sample from the surface of Mars. With a little bit of gloucose and a jolt of electricity, they wake the facehugger up. They then name it Calvin. Calvin then spends the rest of the movie killing off the cast, I mean crew.

The director, Daniel Espinosa, had worked with Reynolds before on Safe House. I have not see that one nor Child 44. This film seems like quite a departure from those films. It suffers from the Hollywood tripe of having things go terribly wrong on the space station right from the beginning of the film that have nothing to do with the alien. Despite this and the laws of physics, the crew manages to catch the returning capsule and bring the sample on board. Somehow in the melee, the only antenna pointing at earth is broken. Apparently no one thinks to fire up the short wave or even check a radio in one of the lifeboats. After moving past that necessary plot device, we have a pivot moment in the story where a character breaks quarantine. One of the crew has self identified as the quarantine officer. That is her only job apparently. Spoiler alert — she fails.

There are a couple interesting ideas in the movie. One of the astronauts played by Ariyon Bakare is a paraplegic biologist. We are introduced to this fact with a causal reference to his atrophied legs. In the weightlessness of space, his lack of leg function should be less of a handicap. The story still has him performing physical therapy presumably for the circulation. Another interesting thing happens when one of the crew has a coolant leak inside her EVA suit and ends up drowning. Yeah. That’s pretty horrifying. It’s like this whole suffocation thing is just not scary enough — let’s fill the helmet with fluid to really mess with her.

The xenomorph moves and behaves like a squid. Early on we see the creature able to change its shape with hair-thin tendrils. We learn that every cell in its body is both muscle and brain. But once it gets to the size of a 2 kilo octopus it looses that ability and generalized design. We are supposed to believe that this create destroyed Mars and survived millenia as a single cell but we get no hint at its reproductive life cycle. We see it consume a rat entirely but when it comes to eating Ryan Reynolds, it seems to settle of his intestines before seeking other prey. If it’s motivation is food then it should stop and consume all that is consumable before seeking out new prey.

So in summary this is a pretty bad film. The trailers give away what little plot there is. We get some time with each character before they are killed trying to make you connect with them. If you find this movie for less than a buck, enjoy.

Fragility

The floodwaters in Houston have not finished rising 250 miles south. The ramifications are starting to be felt across the country in the form of higher gas prices at the pump. Here in Texas we have been enjoying gas prices that hover within 30¢ of the $2 mark. Every once in a while they dip below that mark. With the tragedy of Harvey, the flow of refined gas has been interrupted. The interruptions are caused by a disruption of the flow of crude oil coming in via ports and pipes. Motiva, Exxon Mobil and Valero have shut down refining activities as the storm moves north east. That represents 20 percent of the nation’s refining capacity.  That’s 3.9 million barrels per day. This is why we have reserves. The September futures market is up 6¢. This creates an economic incentive for other refineries to step up their production to make up the difference to bring us back into equilibrium. 

How does all of that map to our experience at the pump? Many busy gas stations rely on daily or more frequent deliveries of gas. The size of their underground storage tanks are optimized to satisfy customer demand while staving of ecological disaster. With a real interuption in that flow of fuel on the market, these companies are looking to buy gas at whatever the price. Gas stations have to choice between buying gas at exorbitante rates or stop selling altogether. A business should not be ablieged to sell gas at a loss. 

This apparent interruption in the flow of fuel causes people to panic. When you hear that they ar running out of gas, the unfortunate response is to go fill up your tank. That’s what we had starting yesterday and today. A run on the gas pumps causes them to actually run out of gas. This is exacerbated by the holiday weekend. By mid day we were seeing station report they were out of unleaded. You are OK if you need diesel or are willing to use E15 gas. Reports are coming in about $5 and $9 gas. By this evening the gas trucks rerouted from around the country are starting to arrive. The panic should be over by the weekend. 

When I was driving home this evening it struck me how fragile our society is. We have a run on the gas pumps and it starts looking like the precredit scroll from a zombie movie. People just need to calm down and it will be OK. The folks in Houston are the ones who really need our help. 

References: Motiva, Exxon Mobil, Valero, Total cease operations
By Jordan Blum Updated 3:54 pm, Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Follow the Geeks

In 2015 I made a trip up to Pentaluma, California to visit the brick TWiT House. The proprietor of this establishment was featured in a chapter of the book, Follow the Geeks by Lyndsey Gilpin and Jason Hiner. I just finished reading this book and enjoyed the stories about people that I have listened to as guests of the TWiT network. If you are a fan of this network then I can recommend the book. Most of the stories were about people I knew from TWiT network. The star of the book is the profile of the amazing Maya Penn. Anyone interested in diversity and women in STEM should read her chapter 10 profile.

Visiting the TWiT brick house was a treat. You get a front row seat to a live production studio. I got to see the recording of MacBreak Weekly and Security Now shows. Leo Laporte took some time between shows for a meet and greet with a photo op.

 

iPhone Call Blocking & Identification

Apple has added a new category of application to its AppStore that allows the user to block incoming calls. The first one of these that I tried was called Nomorobo, as in “no more robodialers”. It worked pretty well. They have an existing online web site where you can pay for a subscription or you could pay for the subscription right in the app. I let my subscription lapse because of a general Internet service subscription fatigue and not for any fault in the product. After a few months I stumbled onto a new crop of these apps that didn’t charge a monthly fee. I know they are not free. They must be mining the caller ID data and find value there. Since I rarely use my phone, it seems like a fair trade. I downloaded a couple new trials, Hiya and Mr. Number. So far I’ve only tried Hiya. Now AT&T has a new app they call Call Protect that features the Hiya logo but does not appear in the Settings app.

Using these apps is really simple. You download one from the App Store. Then navigate to “iPhone Call Blocking & Identification” setting under “Phone”. Turn on the apps that you want to allow to see all your incoming calls. Yahoo! and LinkedIn (Microsoft) are also listed but no way I’m letting them have any more access to my personal data. If AT&T and Hiya are in bed together I figure they already have my call history.

When the phone rings, the app is supposed to look it up in their database to see if it is spam. With Nomorobo, the spam call would just be rejected and go straight to voicemail. With Hiya, the phone still rings but with a message like “Scam or Fraud” or “Telemarketer” along with a little warning icon. Not all the messages are bad. I received a call from my Alumni Association’s call center. The ones that are really nasty are now spoofing the caller ID to match first 6 digits of your phone number. This is supposed to trick you into thinking the call is from a neighbor. In these cases Nomorobo wisely does not block them but displays a warning that the caller ID might be forged.

Of the two that I have tried, Nomorobo’s solution is more elegant because the phone never rings. There is the potential of a false positive but hopefully that caller will leave a message. I don’t think I had a true false positives. My Alumni Association call center originally queried as Telemarketing which is accurate. The more specific label was updated later. This is a community fed system so early reports could have been unnecessarily harsh. I’m glad to see come curation corrected the assessment.

I plan to stay with Hiya and recommend it to those who want this service but may be a bit subscription sensitive at this time. Hiya also has a lookup function. Inside the application is an Identify button. You can type in a number or use the contents of your clipboard. It will give you reverse lookup with name and city, along with community reports of spamming, if any.

The ultimate solution is to change the phone system such that individual subscribers cannot forge caller ID. Seems like a pretty basic principal. If you’re going to call me, you had better properly identify yourself. This would require some reworking of the phone network which was never designed to be secure. My assumption is that this will never get legally mandated because politicians are such big spammers. I’m hoping that apps like these put a small dent in the universe.

Negatives Will Not Be Returned

I was at the drugstore getting some prints from my recent trip. Next to the register was the usual envelope for getting C-41 film developed. The envelope said that they would include a free CD with processing but that the negatives would not be returned. What kind of a bargain is that? The last time I got 35mm film processed there was lint on the scanned images. Fortunately I had the negatives to go back to when I needed additional prints.

Let this serve as a warning for anyone still getting 35mm film developed if you care about the quality of your reprints. 

Eclipse

2017 Eclipse Rendered with Moon

On August 21st, 2017 I was lucky enough to get to witness the total eclipse. I dragged a couple buddies, Lee & Jeff, on at 1500 mile road trip that landed us in Hopkinsville, Kentucky for the event. Scott of Scott’s Astro Page had picked out the location at a church that was renting their parking lot for $20 per person. The weather cooperated and we had a clear view of the sky.

In preparation for the trip I bought a solar filter for my zoom lens from B&H Photo – a respected camera sales company. This filter consists mainly of a piece of film in a cardboard foldable cylinder. I also bought a sheet of solar film to be cut out for other cameras. Lee was able to cut this film out into small disks to protect my video camera and binoculars. The filter came in earlier in the month. I tested it out in the back yard by taking pictures of the sun. I was able to get a clear shot showing details like sunspots. I tried a few tripods but failed to find one that was easy to use to track the movement of the sun. I settled on one that would let me lock in the frame just above my target and it would settle down a few degrees. The problem was that the center of gravity for the camera was too far forward.

Early Sunday morning we piled in the car and drove to Memphis. When we finally got there, it was time for a little tourist action. This included barbecue and visits to Graceland, Bass Pro Shop Pyramid, and The Withers Collection Museum and Gallery.

Our original plans included a trip to NASA in Huntsville. About a week before the eclipse, Scott advised us that the weather forecast made Kansas a much better option. We scrapped our plans and targeted Hiawatha, Kansas. As the week went on, it was clear that Kansas City would be under thunderstorms come Monday. We pivoted back to Tennessee and eventually west of Nashville in Kentucky. With all this change of plans came a change to hotel reservations. At some point with all the cancellations and rebooking, my credit card decided that something was foul and started declining my transactions. This caused our Sunday night hotel reservation to get cancelled. I got this notification via email on the road that morning. I tried to rebook the same motel but it was now sold out. I did manage to find another hotel just up the road in Jackson, Tennessee for the luxurious price of $38 per night. Once we got there we found that they may have over charged for the facilities. You know its a quality establishment when they have South Park blaring in the lobby. After some obligatory snafu with the reservations we were set for the night.

The next morning we hit the road due north. Traffic was light although we would not know what normal Monday traffic in Kentucky would be anyway. We started seeing road-side vendors selling t-shirts. Even Chick-fil-A was getting into the act with their own “Solr Eclipz” shirt. We made it to All Nations Church about 11am with plenty of time to setup and get ready.

Scott had been there since the night before. He had his telescopes already celestially oriented. He also had a big solar scope that became a favorite attraction. As I expected, tracking the sun with my tripod was proving to be a hassle until I had the bright idea to use the mount point on the camera body instead of on the lens. Normally this is a bad idea because the lens weighs twice what the camera does, if not more. But with the lens pointing almost straight up, the center of gravity was now over the tripod and it became much easier to position the camera to track the sun.

This was my first total eclipse. Back in 1991 there was a partial eclipse. I remember being in the back yard of my rental house with my Canon EOS 10s and a 300mm zoom lens. To protect my investment, I used a black Glad trash bag. The setup worked pretty well. It was hard to focus without looking through the view finder. I used a piece of paper to project through the lens to do my focusing. I mistakenly choose infinity as the focal point. I now know that to be wrong. I would have to wait for my 35mm film to get processed before I could see the results.

For this trip, I was a little more prepared. Scott set up a video camera to record the scene at ground level. His video shows the shadow coming from the west and contrails of jets flying overhead. I brought my drone and did a couple of circuits of the the field and then set it up to hover over us looking down. The idea was to get the view from the sun. It did not turn out as well as I’d hoped. I also shot some video of the eclipse itself but since the filter was taped on, it was not of any use once the totality started. I fortunately remembered to remove the filter from my camera to catch the totality. I was not sure what settings to use. I set the aperture at F8 and spun the shutter speed dial up an down to get a range of exposures. I trusted the autofocus to do better than my own eyes and it worked out well.

After the totality the parking lot started to empty like half time of a one-sided football game. We stuck around for a little bit but then packed up to hit the road. We ended up having to avoid Memphis altogether because of the traffic and construction would have added two ours to our trip. Siri routed us to Missouri to become the fifth state on our tour.

What about next time? Now that I had a chance to reflect on the trip, the one thing I would do different is to be at a location with scenery, preferably at higher latitude. The video from the northwest part of the eclipse route show the event juxtaposed with terrain where our view was almost directly overhead.

Video of Eclipse from Drone.

Video looking west during eclipse.

iPod Incompatible with Subaru

I’m not a fan of radio whether it be commercial radio on its endless loop of commercial and same 20 songs, or satellite radio that harasses owners of new cars to subscribe. In the car, I prefer to listen to my own music, podcasts or audio books. For the last 20 years the best way to do that has been an iPod plugged directly into my car. Initially it was my iPod Mini which served me well and even survived being hacked and upgraded. That iPod was replaced by an iPod Nano. When the iPod Touch it the market I thought it would be the perfect melding of iPod and Wi-Fi updated content. Unfortunately the iPod Touch was not designed to handle heat. Left in the car the display would go black with a heat warning. The sent me back to the iPod Nano.

The key advantage of a hard wired iPod over say BlueTooth connected device is that it would immediately start playing with the engine start. If I were listening to spoken word content, it would pick up right were I left off. The iPod Nano never complained about the heat. And since it was not my phone, I did not need to plug it in or remember to unplug it when I got to my destination.

Along comes CarPlay. Finally a car audio experience close to what I want. I say close because there are two major issues with the current implementation from my point of view. The first issue is the lack of Waze navigation support. Whether that is caused by Apple or Google, I don’t care. I just know that It’s the best GPS app on the market and I want to be able to use it in my car with CarPlay. The second issue is the delay between startup of the car and when the iPhone gets connected. I understand why the 10 minutes of silence has become such a popular song on iTunes. Anything to not to have to listen to babble of the radio while CarPlay connects. Personally I tune to a blank spot in the dial as I would prefer to hear static than radio. I look forward to when my XM trial ends so that I can use that for dead air. I made the mistake of not opting out when I bought my new car. Now they’ve got me. I’m being targeted with email and mail to get me to sign up for pay radio.

While I’m happy with my car and AirPlay, I wanted to use my old iPod Nano for an upcoming road trip. I pulled it out of storage and charged it up. I plugged it into my car and it immediately caused the iPod to reboot. When the screen came back the iPod was in recovery mode. I brought it back in the house and plugged it into iTunes to be restored factory fresh. I repeated the experiment with the same results. A quick google found that I was not alone. My fancy infotainment system does not work with iPod Nano (6th Generation). I am curious about the 7th generation with the Lightning connector. Maybe it will work.

King Arthur

My understanding of King Arthur lore comes from watching Excalibur on cable in the 80’s, First Knight on video in the 90’s, and reading Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. No, I haven’t seen Disney’s canonic work. When I saw the trailer for this new movie I could not get a feel for what kind of movie it would be. When I saw the director was Guy Ritchie, my interest waned even further. I still have not forgiven him for what he’s done to Sherlock Holmes. But when Warner Brothers sends you free tickets, it’s probably worth standing in line for an hour.

The movie starts with Eric Bana as Uther Pendragon. The story telling and filming style were fast-paced and really never let you catch up until the second act. Only then do we go back through flashbacks and explain what happened in the first act. By the third act we are caught up and complete our hero’s sword’s origin story.

The movie features a very diverse, mostly male cast including Tom Wu and Djimon Hounsou. Mostly it’s a who’s who of English cinema, so of course Jude Law is there. Like all Guy Ritchie movies we need our hero’s genesis to include instruction from an kung fu master. The visuals are impressive starting with the massive Oliphaunt in the first act. I kept looking for Legolas. The color palette of the movie was much darker that I would have liked. At one point our hero is fighting rats and bats but it was hard to see them like someone used an Instagram vignette filter on the whole movie. The movie was not all dark and dingy. There are some interesting aerial shots of Londinium and some gorgeous location shots in Wales and Scotland. None of that look did not match the clean look of their advertising posters. Based on those posters I was more expecting a Kenneth Branagh movie penned by Shakespeare.

Here are a few similar movie posters. I could have included Elizabeth I and I’m sure there are more.

I kept waiting for Merlin to appear. He’s in the credits and the characters talk about him, but I never saw him. I was expecting that “the mage” character that stays with us would reveal herself to be Merlin in disguise. Astrid Bergès-Frisbey is actually credited as Guinevere which really diverts from the little legend that I know. Even then we did not see much spark of romance between her and future husband.

Based on the advertising I would have skipped this film. I’m glad I got to see it. I’m not the target audience. I have yet to stay awake through all 99 hours of Lord of the Rings films. I would recommend it to anyone who likes dungeons, dragons, swordplay and large fighting armies. I may catch it again on Netflix as it may improve on a second watching.

The Great Wall

Sometime last fall I saw the first trailer for a new movie from Legendary and Universal Studios coming out called “The Great Wall”. The premise was simple: the Chinese build the Great Wall to defend against some kind of attacking Kaijū (怪獣) attacking from the north. What we know from history is wrong and has been kept secret all these years. Somehow Matt Damon is there. I’m interested. I love it when story tellers mix history with fantastical and plausible explanations. That’s Hollywood plausible, mind you.This is the same studio pair that is bringing us Godzilla, Kong, and Pacific Rim. I was imagining they could mix this into a prequel to one of those universes. But then the trailer tipped its hand and showed the monster. I was not a single strange beast, but a horde of swarming creatures. My interest waned.
Despite that lukewarm anticipation I went to go see it having done no additional research no read any reviews. What I got was a beautiful view of northwestern China with a good story and good characters. Matt Damon’s character makes some references to events in Europe so we know we are in the end of the 11th century. With him is a Spaniard played by Pedro Pascal. Both are seeking mysterious black powder. The two are captured. Instead of being killed, they agree to save the princess — I mean general — and defeat the monsters.

The fight of the monsters is inventive. It’s a mix of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Attack on Titan”. Language plays a big part of the story. The main female lead speaks English while all the other characters speak Chinese. When our two westerners find out that their English is understood, they switch to Spanish for a private conversation. At other times we see the subtitles do not match the translation given to our characters. They also play with 11th century cultural differences when it comes to bathing.

As I mentioned, the main monster is not a single beast but a swarm of beasts. The creature design was interesting with a large beak and the eyes moved to their shoulders. Shooting one in the eye is fatal so it’s a good thing that our hero has the skills of Robin Hood with a bow. The exponential growth of the swarm was a problem for me. When I saw Max Brooks with writing credit it reaffirmed my revulsion to the “World War Z” style swarming behavior. Even though the CGI was done better than the zombies in 2013, it still created an impossible situation that required a single miraculous solution. And then the movie ended. This is something that Max Brooks does well in his stories to give us a mash-up of things we have seen before in a different way.

I would have liked to see more interpersonal story with the characters. They teased a back story of adventures of our heroes. There’s another scene reminiscent of “The Last Emperor” that made fun of the dynastic leader. The sound track is by Ramin Djawadi who also did “Pacific Rim” score. Here he’s replaces the guitar with drums and a choir of vocals to make a really good soundtrack.

The movie does feature beautiful desert and mountain scenery shot with 3-D in mind. The wall itself is a character. The soldier character costumes are colorful. You can quickly identify archers and other groups by their uniform colors. The weapons are interesting and they use a style of fighting that you can imagine being developed over hundreds of years of fighting these monsters. I did wonder why in all the years no one thought to attack the monsters in their lair. Maybe that is another story and not really a plot hole.

In the end what you have is a pretty good mash-up of things you have seen before told from what is primarily a Chinese movie with a western protagonist point of view. I expect it to be a flop at the box office. Our huge IMAX theater was packed with just a dozen people. Good thing they had reserved seating. I saw it in 3-D. The movie takes advantage of the 3-D to give you a sense of place at all times. I give the movie credit for its visuals, story and pacing. They took a risk but I don’t think U.S. audiences will respond. If you are a fan of Kaiju films (or swarming fast zombies), check it out in 3-D. Otherwise, look for it on Netflix.

T-Shirt Archive

Hexley DarwinOS Mascot

It occurred to me that I have a lot of old t-shirts. Most are not fit to wear anymore. I thought I would create a photographic archive of these old t-shirts. This will be a long project. I plan to just add the pictures to this posting and display them in random order.

No. These t-shirts are not for sale. I will try to note the date and copyright of all artwork when available.

Creative Commons Surprise

Back in the early 90’s I wrote a few programs and released them to the nascent Internet via services like CompuServe and Usenet. I was not looking to make money for them. I “copyrighted” them and made them available for free. A few years later, I found some of these programs on a CD-ROM of shareware that someone was selling. They were clearly violating my copyright — right? I could probably have taken them to court but what would my damages be since I was giving the software away for free? They could just claim as some did that they did not charge for the software but for the service of making the CD. Not worth the fight. It still felt like a betrayal.

When I post pictures and video on the Internet, I recognize that it could end up getting stolen. Copyright law is quite a mess so I am a proponent of Creative Commons (CC). The basic idea of CC from my point of view is that I can share my creation and other people can use it so long as they give me credit. There’s nothing in CC that says they have to notify me that they have used my work. Most everything I post to YouTube is under the license “Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)” or the CC BY license.

All that being said, I was surprised to find –thanks to Google– my name associated with the National Science Foundation on August 24, 2016 in an article called Flood forecasting gets major upgrade by Aaron Dubrow.

There’s my picture at the head of the article. Below the image is a link for attribution information.

There’s my name — properly attributed. The only problem is that I could not remember where I had posted said picture. I looked in my journal and found the Tweet where I published the picture — in 2010. It had been raining — a lot. I found myself unable to get home as all the roads were flooded. I joked that I now lived on an island. This was not the first time this had happened. We had several 100-year floods that decade.

So the Twitter post led me back to YouTube where I had posted a video under CC. The article author in 2016 had found my video, grabbed a single frame, and used it in his article. Remember — this is the purpose of Creative Commons. Actually the purpose was to allow derivative works. A single frame is arguably derivative. Since the attribution does not reference where it came from, it did not help my YouTube traffic hits. I would a preferred it if the attribution would have linked back to the source video but that is not a requirement of CC.

When I look at my video, I can see that a Russian YouTuber included my video entirely in Russian Video Spam. Either they or YouTube recognized this use and added the attribution. I can only assume that this is some attempt to post spam on YouTube to generate traffic to get advertising money.