Monthly Archives: January 2013

Rock of Ages (2012)

Rock of Ages is a musical, comedy, drama, with a convoluted story of a rock club called the Bourbon in the 80’s, and the club owner’s struggle to keep it open. Of course it’s also the story of an aging rock star. And the story of two young idealists wanting to make it big in Hollywood. The story is weak and seen from multiple viewpoints, in fact more than what I’ve already mentioned.

But this isn’t to say this is a bad movie, in fact it’s an exceptional movie. It’s has interesting characters, it’s fast paced, has some of the best music from the 80’s, lots’ of noticeable movie and TV celebrities, is visually appealing and very entertaining.

The worse things about this movie would be Zeta-Jones singing a Pat Benatar classic. The politest thing I could say is her rendition was pedestrian and sad. She is no where good enough to do Pat Benatar justice. The other oddity was Tom Cruise’s performance. He plays an aging rock star, and it would appear his goal was to come across as a dazed and confused dog. He staggers around with his eyes half shut and head cocked to the side. Cruise makes obvious effort to stick his stomach out as far as he can all the time, apparently that is what stoned rock stars do all day.

I was very surprised to see the producer was Adam Shankman, well known for being a judge on the “So You Think You Can Dance” TV series. Considering his involvement with the Step-Up movie trilogy that I’ve panned, Rock of Ages is of far higher quality. It’s nice to see I personally don’t have to “only” associate his name with crappy bubble gum productions. It seems unclear on IMDb who the actual director is, I think maybe Shankman is taking credit for that, though there is a very long list of assistant directors.

This will be most enjoyed by people who spent their prime in the 80’s, as the music is the true star of this movie.



BlackBerry Playbook Blowout Sale!

BestBuy Canada really wants to dump their stock of the loser BlackBerry Playbook. They are blowing them out at $80. What’s sadder than that is it now shows as sold out. Which means people ran out to buy this thing.

When I classify this as a loser, it’s because I own one and have since the first time it went on sale early last year, cause no one wanted it and sales were in the dumpster from the beginning.

The Playbook OS is great in general. The hardware sucks completely; it’s slow, has horrible battery life, it’s heavy, it’s too thick, apps are lacking, and the power button is nearly impossible to press without pressing it with a sharp stick hard enough to expect to damage the button.

RIM takes years to update a product if they ever do, so there was never a improved or faster version of the Playbook, and I’ll be shocked if there ever will be.

The best thing that could happen to the Playbook OS would be is a company like Samsung or Asus got their hands on it after ROM goes out of business. I’ll look forward to that version of the Playbook.


Polysorbate 60 Allergy Warning

For the past few months I was dealing with what I thought was a new allergy to milk products, commonly known as being Lactose Intolerant. It’s my understanding that people with this stomach and bowel issue can have symptoms ranging from mild stomach upset to severe diarrhea. And by severe diarrhea, I mean where all the contents of your stomach and bowel seem to change to a watery substance and it pours out of you within minutes of having a reaction. In my case it was the latter. For me there is no feeling of my stomach turning inside-out like when you have the flu, but simply a noticeable and extreme stomach gurgling, and a need to find a toilet. Followed by intense dehydration, and shock that your body actually had that much water inside it to void. When it’s over you feel like you were a sponge that was wrung out.

In my case this allergy seemed inconsistent. As I didn’t have a reaction to every dairy product I drank or ate. But to be safe I switched to the more expensive diary replacements for milk and cream, stopped eating cheese, and was even watching the ingredients in everything I ate for dairy ingredients. After a few weeks of this my general health seemed no better or worse, yet I still had one or two episodes of stomach problems.

Since my dairy replacements didn’t seem to solve the problem, I jumped off the dairy wagon and went back to milk, cream and cheese as normal. I then had two more these allergy attacks within a week and a half. After careful thought, I narrowed it down to one of my dairy replacements, fake whip cream, generic Cool Whip. One reaction was to fake whip on store bought pie, and the other to fake whip on homemade cake.

Examining the ingredients of the Safeway no-name Cool Whip, one ingredient stood out from all the rest, something called Polysorbate 60. So I did a quick search online to see what this was, and was amazed at the list of hits from complaints and comments about similar situations and warnings.

So what is Polysorbate 60? Apparently is an emulsifier. As I understand it, to bind together oil and water based substances in food products.

I next went through my kitchen and read the ingredients on every single food product I own. In my kitchen I found this chemical in all forms of pickles and in sweet relish. And I instantly realized that pickles had been giving me an upset stomach, but till then I had assumed it was simply a lower tolerance to vinegar. And the last time I had relish was at the lake this past summer, and I had stomach problems after eating a hamburger with this relish on it.

I also had a reaction after an ice cream on a stick treat one day. At the time I had no idea to link it to Polysorbate 60. But I recently went to to the grocery store and read the ingredients of numerous processed ice cream desserts (including the one in question) and found that it like many others contained Polysorbate 60. To date, I have not seen it listed on a frozen yogurt package, so extra points for the frozen yogurt industry.

Between my consistent extreme reactions to fake whip within minutes, and online reports of other people with the same type of reaction to Polysorbate 60, and the careful review of all the other ingredients in the fake whip that seem to be in other foods I eat with no reaction, and my reaction to pickles and relish, I think it’s safe to diagnose that I personally have an extreme allergy to Polysorbate 60.

So if you find you have similar inconsistent stomach problems to processed dairy products or store bought pickles, you might want to check the ingredient list for Polysorbate 60, and make sure you black list it from your life.

FYI, there is a sister chemical used in food production called Polysorbate 80. I have no personal experience with this one, but since it is apparently similar in chemical composition and use, I would avoid it as well.

Safeway brand frozen whipped dessert topping ingredients.

Bulk chemical image from Google search.

Arduino Wi-Fi Access Alternative

For a while now, I’ve been trying to decide what wireless shield I wanted to standardize on my Arduino projects that required WiFi capability. I’ve been using the standard official wired Ethernet shield. Reading reviews and specs on the many and various wireless shields was a confusing mess or mixed reviews, different libraries and limited information. Not to mention too many variations to pick from. Then to add to the mix the Arduino founders released an official wireless shield which looked very impressive in it’s specs and capabilities, but it also might be the most expensive wireless shield of the lot.

I also noticed that some wireless shields appeared to lack some protocols I needed to use. Or at least they weren’t documented so I’d have to do my own usage trial and error, and possibly purchase more than one wireless shield before I found one I was satisfied with.

Even aside from the price issues and my difficulty picking a specific wireless shield, the thing that I found the most annoying was that it appeared I would have to rewrite the communication code and then re-test, after all the work I had already done on my project. I would have to write, test, and maintain, two sets of code for every project I wanted to create that was both wired and wireless.

I then saw an Arduino project post where someone used a tiny wireless router as a shield option. Not considering size constraints, I thought this was a fantastic alternative! One project code base, no extra testing other than plugging it in and it works or it doesn’t, and one time minimal setup of a nano router.

So I did my research, picked a tiny and easily available router, which turned out to be on sale at the time of my purchase for $22 with free shipping via My selection was the Edimax BR-6258n 150 Mbps Wireless Broadband Nano Router .

You simply set this (or any similar mini router) up in infrastructure mode or bridge mode, plug it in and you are done. The same setup could be used on any wired Ethernet device you wanted to make wireless. With the Edimax router, they use the infrastructure mode to accomplish what I am describing. I’ve noticed with some other mini routers, they use the terminology of selecting bridge mode. With Edimax, bridge mode is used when implementing a bridge between two routers. I’ve posted a link to an instructional PDF below.

Edimax WiFi Router as a Wireless Bridge:

The Edimax BR-6258n is very small, was easy to set up, and worked on the first try. It can be powered by a USB cable, or the included USB wall charger that is roughly the same size as the device itself, with prongs that fold flat into the case for storage or travel.

Price wise you’ll likely end up paying about the same for a wired shield and a nano router as you would a decent wireless shield. Size wise a nano router will be taking up a little more room in your project housing or be external. The big advantage I see is that your project can instantly be either wired or wireless, and with the same code base and IP settings.


Edimax BR-6258N Router
Shown in actual use on an Arduino project,
powered by Arduino’s USB port.

Live Messenger is Dead! Long Live Skype!

This week Microsoft started sending out email announcements to Live Messenger members, informing them that Messenger will be discontinued on March 15th, and everyone must migrate to the latest version of Skype for IM services.

This is exciting news. As I think Messenger has become one of Microsoft’s crappiest products ever. For about a year now I have rarely used Messenger, as the user experience has gotten progressively worse with every single update they have released. It’s a typical Microsoft resource hog, slow, awkward to use, and complicated to find features.

The early stages of Messenger were good. And it had various names over the years; Windows Messenger, MSN Messenger, Live Messenger, Essentials Messenger, and perhaps even Hotmail Messenger in the beginning. In the early days of Messenger, it quickly took focus from Yahoo and ICQ, and became the prominent chat utility with anyone I knew and chatted with. If you liked to chat online, even if you preferred Yahoo Messenger, you still had to have Windows Messenger to be compatible with everyone.

Then it went from being a native app to being a .Net app, and that’s where it all started to change, slowed down, bloated, too many added “features” we didn’t need or want, and then finally it tried to look like you were using a browser, and even had to open your browser in the last versions to edit profiles and make certain account changes. Usability went completely into the toilet. No longer was chatting online a good time.

And now you can migrate your chat contacts to Skype, and do all your Messenger IM from that app. And the interesting thing is that the look and feel of chatting in Skype is almost like the early days of the Windows Messenger. Simple, straight forward, limited and easy to use. It’s absolutely a step back in time, and I love it! But it is limited, as in they have not added even basic IM features yet. In version, the most notable absence is blocking and unblocking of contacts. Either you are online with all of them or you are not. If you look in Tools > Options > Privacy, you will see the initial signs of adding these features, but not yet fully implemented. I would assume that they will be by the time they kill off the horrid Essentials Messenger.

But even with the lack of some basis features, Skype IM for Microsoft contacts is a very refreshing change, and it’s totally unlike anything Microsoft would normally do. Seeing Microsoft make a change like this and seemingly starting over again with IM is excellent!


Step Up Revolution (2012)

The latest in the ongoing, if not endless, series of Step Up dance movies. This time the poor, young, and supposedly self-trained dancers specialize in “mob” scenes. And dabble in political unrest and borderline vandalism to save the world.

I think I’ve had the fortune (if not misfortune) of seeing all the Step Up movies so far. I would say this is the most unbelievable of them all. They are all romantic dance movies. All with struggling dancers trying to make it. All with reasonably believable dance scene situations. This one is not the case, it’s far more fantasy, as there is no way (other than perhaps the first mob scene) that any group of dancers could pull off mob scene situations portrayed without police or security showing up and arresting or at least chasing them off before they are done. The other Step Pup’s were at least semi believable movie dance dramas that told a possible story. So we spent most of the movie saying things like, “How would there not be security there?” and “That simply would never happen!”

Most of the dance scenes (not all) are entertaining. All but one mob scene is complete fantasy. And they seemed to try way to hard to work non-actor dancers into the cast from the well known dance TV show, which just felt lame, forced and annoying.

On the bright side, the male lead likes to take his shirt off a lot. And that’s okay, as it brings this movie’s score up by 1 maybe even 2 points than it would deserve otherwise.



Werewolf The Beast Among Us (2012)

Simply another forgettable werewolf movie. Bad script, okay special effects, boring story-line, and a few cute guys.

It’s a confusing and strange tale. Nothing memorable to retell, and it’s has a bizarre mix of accents and nationalities. It seems to take place in the old west, but has a distinct eastern European feel to it, so I’m not even sure what part of the world it takes place in, as our “hero” is an American cowboy…I think.

If you are a fan and love werewolf movies, it’s an okay (yet confusing) watch. But don’t put it on the top of your list of movies to see.



Vamps (2012)

Vamps is a ridiculously bad low-budget movie. I suppose it was intended to be a silly spoof on vampire films. It’s veritably a who’s-who of comedy stars, which makes it all the more sad to watch, and see such respected comedians embarrass them self being associated with this mess. Even the special effects are painfully bad, as in circa 1970.

I can only imagine that they were able to collect as many celebrities as they did, in an attempt to create a unique classic like Oceans Eleven or Clue, where the shear talent makes a lame movie enjoyable. But it’s a complete and horrible flop and is only sad and painful to watch.

There is absolutely nothing redeeming in this piece of junk, and should be avoided.



Without a Paddle (2004)

A campy buddy comedy, that takes three old friends on a treasure hunting camping trip in memory of their dead friend. Throw in comments of the classic movie Deliverance, deep south half-wits, D.B.Cooper, and a Burt Reynolds cameo, and you have the general picture of what’s in store.

A slightly higher level of comedy than most teenage/college movies, and thankfully not always the traditional fart, poop and puke scenes and jokes. It’s campy, silly and relaxing fun. It’s a timeless comedy, so long as you are old enough to know and appreciate who D.B.Cooper and Burt Reynolds are.



Apples’s Hate for Android

Hey Apple, why be such a hater?

I’ve been writing some custom WebDAV/CardDAV code for a project I’m working on, and wanted to test it against some CardDAV servers, other than the SabreDAV server I use myself and use for testing. Google’s new CardDAV service works fine, and seems to follow industry standards. This is a new service for Google since they are killing off the Microsoft Exchange service at the end of this month, most likely just to spite Microsoft. But that’s another story.

When I tested my CardDAV code against Apple’s iCloud CardDAV service, I’ve been having nothing but problems. As is typical with Apple, it’s difficult to find info on their standards and protocols, since everything Apple is generally a walled garden. They don’t play well with others.

On my Windows 7 desktop, I can easily log into iCloud with FireFox 17.0.1. But if I use FireFox on my Android tablet, I get a message that says, “Screw you Android, no love for you here!”. Oh wait, it was more like “This browser does not support iCloud.” I get the same results with Android Chrome and the original Android browser.

So why would that have to be the case? My top of the line Android tablet is fast, supports things like Flash and scripting, I can’t think of a single technical reason why it couldn’t work if it can run on a Windows browser. iCloud is not complaining about Javascript or the version of browser, or giving any technical reason, like say a broken Flash icon on an iPad browser for example.

The iCloud service isn’t even a completely “free” service, it’s optionally a paid service, so why not be willing to take money from Android customers like me? Could it be that Apple has lots of cash in the bank, and can afford to do petty things like hate Android users and try to force them to buy iPads instead? Kind of like Google has lots of money in the bank so they can afford to cancel Microsoft services if they feel like it for no good reason.

I guess if Apple owned and operated a public transit system, Android users would be forced to sit in the back of the bus as well.


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