2012-12-31

.45 with Milla Jovovich

.45 (watch trailer) has a definite feel of an indie movie. Milla played her role very well, and I think all the other actors did too. The problem with the movie though: too much talking and character-building for a whole lot of nothing in the end.

The film fizzled out with a semi-surprise ending that was not really much of a surprise if you stayed awake and paid attention, but that's not its main problem. I can usually live with a disappointing ending if the rest of the movie was good.

The problem with .45 is that it features a whole lot of women with agency and brains, yet for some reason requires the old and tired "woman uses womanly viles to get what she wants" formula, and worse, frames that as empowerment.

Milla plays a battered woman who is too scared to leave her abusive boyfriend Big Al, and too weak to break the unhealthy dependence that feeds the broken relationship. When the abuse has her fearing for her life, she resorts to having lots and lots of hot sex (after all, it's Milla) with people she tries to manipulate into killing Big Al -- all behind his back, knowing full well that his jealousy may get her battered again, or possibly killed.

And that somehow is "empowerment" -- not offing him herself, not running off alone, not even the most boring option of pressing battery charges and putting him away for that. No, it's using "lips, hips, tits, all woman" that gets her "strong" and puts her "in charge."

Quite disappointing indeed.

2012-12-27

About Facebook

I am a social media professional, and I don't use Facebook.

I maintain an account so that I can manage my employer's page, and occasionally like or comment on my friends posts. Since August 2012, I have not posted any original content on Facebook, and deleted most of the photos that had been uploaded since I joined in early 2009.

This morning I logged on to discover that Facebook included my account in the limited rollout of their new paid messaging program. What this means for me is that my existing privacy setting have been "retired." Starting today, I can no longer choose who can send me messages. Anyone can now message me, instead of just my friends. Attached is a screenshot I took this morning, edited for privacy.

Transcript: "New: The old "Who can send you Facebook messages" setting is being retired. Now anyone can message you, but you choose how messages are filtered.
Right now, you mostly see stuff from friends in your inbox. To review your filtering options, click Other > Edit Preferences.
Button: Okay, I Understand"

Now, I am a private person, but by nature of my work, I interact with hundreds, even thousands of people, many of them online. I like to separate my personal life and friendships from my professional relationships and work contacts. Since everybody and their brother uses Facebook, I have instituted a simple policy: unless you are an actual friend of mine (i.e. someone I am not paid to interact with, but rather someone whose company I seek out voluntarily), I will not connect with you on Facebook. Also, if you are not a direct connection of mine, you were until today unable to message me, text me, or otherwise bug me on Facebook. You could not even find me there unless you had a common connection.

Not anymore. Now if you are a recruiter, reporter, or some other party interested in getting your message to me, you can ignore all the official channels and simply pay a buck to drop me a message in my personal Facebook inbox. And it will place it there, because otherwise it could not charge you that dollar.

Behold the new "filter" choices, which really aren't:

Transcript: "Basic Filtering · Recommended
Mostly see messages from friends or people you may know.
Strict Filtering
Mostly see messages from friends. Messages from people you want to hear from may go to your Other folder.

Note that neither option is deterministic because of the weasel word "mostly," and how they recommend the laxer filtering setting.

Anyways, this only means that I will be further reducing my exposure to Facebook, and that if you want to message me, you better drop me an email. Because if you know me, you probably know one of my email addresses.

2012-12-26

Iron cheffing it

So while we're settling into the new home, there are some challenges of infrastructural nature. Case in point: cooking without a cooktop.

Our kitchen is mostly there, but the cooktop has not been installed yet, pending installation of the backsplash tile. However, all is not lost, as we have purchased a spiff convection steam oven for our kitchen; and so for the past seven days, I have been finding new and creative ways to cook things in it. I prepared chicken, fish, pork, even quinoa and brown & wild rice in there. Steam totally rules.

This evening, we've turned it up to eleven.

J. was working from home, and I drove into the office. On the way home, I called him, so that he could get a protein of his choice from the freezer to thaw while I drove. We have beef, pork, and chicken in the freezer, so you can imagine that I was surprised to find some ground beef happily thawing in a baggie on the counter.

What do you do with it in the oven? Meatloaf? Meatballs? Meh!

To the Googles!

I happened to have three summer squashes, yams, regular potatoes, onions, and chard waiting to be cooked. So I typed in "ground meat oven chard squash" into the googly search, and soon saw a recipe for acorn squash filled with white beans or some such. While I had neither, I was suddenly overcome with inspiration to stuff the summer squash with ground meat and finely chopped onions and chard. As a side dish, I baked some finely cubed taters, yams, and chard, with a dash of olive oil.

Here's what came out of the oven 40 minutes later:

The top rack has the side dish of baked potatoes, yams, and chard, and the bottom rack has the stuffed summer squash. The top dish went in 15 minutes earlier than the bottom and cooked for 40 mins. The bottom dish only cooked for the last 25 minutes.

It is rare that I surprise myself with good food, seeing how I am the cook and all. This was one of the nice surprises. I did not have very high hopes for the dinner, considering that I basically scrounged up what veggies I had and minced them, then mixed with either each other or the meat based on a recipe that I have not even read beyond what search results showed.

This was very good, if I say so myself. Total prep time was maybe 70 minutes, the last 25 being just me waiting for the food to bake. So I guess 45 minutes of work, and 25 minutes of enjoying a local Pinot Noir. Not bad for an iron chef-like challenge.

Wildlife in the mountains

Unsurprisingly, the hills are alive with all kinds of critters. So I have been photographing the ones that stay put long enough for me to get out the phone and snap a picture. That's why there are more shots of reptiles, snails, and trees than birds or mammals.

The salamanders we've been rescuing from the pool seem to not mind a bath in ozonated water and crawl away when set on a pile of wet leaves.

Over the past weeks, we've seen (and heard!) a pack of coyotes, many deer, a hawk in the middle of swooping for something on the ground, and countless birds. I will keep adding to the album.

If you'd rather see it in larger size, here's a link to the Picasa album.

2012-12-25

Settling in at our Mountain Lair

Our driveway on the moving day
It's been exactly a week since we moved into the new house. Some areas are more done than others, but all in all, the house is operational.
The kitchen is as good as complete, only missing a dishwasher, cooktop, and the ventilation hood. And the backsplash tile on the wall. With a little luck, all of this will be done in the coming week.
Roomba robot has been working overtime, picking up construction dust, making the floors barefoot-compatible.
My race car Wasabi has moved in with us, in the garage. As it happens, she's the first of our cars to actually stay in the garage here, because most of it is still being used as workshop space by the contractors. She's small enough to only need a little room, and I don't care if she gets a bit dusty.
We've been diligently unpacking our household every day, and are at the point where no more unpacking can be done until more progress is made with the house, such as the master closet being complete, so we can put our clothes in there.
Regardless of the little inconveniences, we're already feeling quite at home in the new house. We've returned the keys to the rental on Sunday, and never looked back.
Size aside, the biggest change from the old place has been the privacy and the quiet. While in our suburban home in San Jose, we never experienced silence, even at night. Dogs barking, children crying, people setting off fireworks in the street at night all year round. Look out the window, and you'd be peering into your neighbors' bedroom. Here in the mountains, there's only trees and hills to see looking out the windows on three sides of the house. Front windows overlook the road, and we can see the driveway and the gate of the house across the street. And more hills and trees.
The air here is incredible. I don't think my sinuses have been ever this clear in San Jose, what with its traffic and industrial dust and smoke.
And the best part of all this is, that we don't have to miss the perks of civilization. We've got blazing-fast internet service (50+ mbps down and almost 20 up), UPS and mail trucks are making its way up our hill during the week, garbage pickup truck comes right by our gate, and they even pick up recycling and yard trimmings for free.
We've driven to the famous Summit Store, which is only five or so miles away, on the other side of Highway 17. That's a nice store, I tell you. Kind of like a nicer, friendlier, family-owned version of Whole Foods. About as pricy, too, but open seven days each week and has all kinds of esoteric foods and spices. A whole shelf rack dedicated to vinegars and oils. Oh, and if you ever stand in the aisle with a bewildered expression for more than 30 seconds (as I am wont to do), a very friendly employee will swoop down in a "no pressure, just checking on ya" kind of way and actually help. Not bad for what basically is an evolved general store on the side of a mountain.
Oh, and we have lemons, apples, plums (?), grapes, persimmons, and who knows what other fruit growing on the property. All of the trees need love, and I will be consulting a professional soon about restoring them to good health. It is too early to say what else we'll do with three acres of awesomeness that came with the house, but we've been thinking about more fruit trees or maybe some grape vines.
Maybe I will learn to make wine.











2012-12-14

More blogging, less preaching

I use social media for a living. And most days, also as a hobby. But there are more and more days on which I don't really want to touch social media after my day at work. Not because I am all socialed-out, but because a growing number of the folks I am connected with use social media to shove their political agenda down everyone else's throats.

Day after day, all I hear is: "See? Told you so! My way is the right way!"

I had screen shots of some of the examples of such posts that I saw today, but I decided not to use them to respect people's privacy, and not to single out some of my acquaintances and friends when most everyone I know engages in this behaviour.

What bothers me is that I don't see dialogue, I don't see even an attempt at reconciliation, or even empathy.

It does not matter whether I agree or disagree with the statement. I am tired of the social media campaigning and the dramatic language that's evoking the extreme emotions of fear, hate, and disgust.

I have quit Facebook in August. I only maintain an account there so I can manage my company's presence.

I only use Twitter professionally, and to share links to my blog posts.

As of right now, I am also on the verge of quitting Plus.

Yes, I know the world won't notice, and the social-sphere won't even bat an eyelash, much less miss me. This is not meant as a "cry for help."

But this is my blog, and a place I like to share my thoughts, and this is what I am doing.

When I first scaled up my personal use of social media in 2009, the blog saw fewer updates, as I created most of my new content elsewhere. I think it's time to go back to my roots, and reverse that trend.