MOVIE / BOOK REVIEW – ‘Ender’s Game’

MOVIE / BOOK REVIEW – ‘Ender’s Game’

The book is great and the movie was good. If somehow you have not read the book then the movie will be very good. Both are worth the time to read and to see.

MOVIE (2013): This movie is Scifi at its best. This is a fast moving film — it must be fast since it compresses four years of a character’s very busy lifetime into 90 minutes. The main character, Ender Wiggin, complains of needing more sleep (often in the book, and he is just tired in the film).

Backdrop: The world was invaded 50 years prior. This was the ‘First Invasion’. Bizarrely, for some unexplained reason we won. A single hit on a mother ship caused the invasion to unexpectedly stop. Literally the invasion stopped and it is a ‘state secret’ as to why. Joe Average doesn’t seem to have thought about asking why.

Post-war, We realize that the technology of future war takes more imagination and flexibility than an adult mind can muster — so we started recruiting children to become military officers and battle staff cadets at age 10 (age 6 in the book). These are the brightest kids on the planet, kids that can play games. Ender comes from a family of three such brilliant kids; his two older sibling wash out of military training, and the world now depends on him. His sister had too much empathy to be a warrior and his older brother was too quick to anger and had a sadistic streak — both are undesirable qualities in a commander that is expected to prosecute the war to end the war for all time and to save our specie.

Ender is both cynical and skeptical about everything. Ender’s adult trainers work to focus his abilities by isolating him from developing relationships with the other young trainees; his purpose is to be a ‘savior warrior’, not a child with military training. Constantly Ender is put into situations that bring out his survival instincts and tests his will to live. Ender is pared with five other brilliant child warriors; Ender becomes commander in the war games and they become his squadron commanders. There is only one problem: the adults may be misleading them.

>>> SHOULD YOU SEE THIS MOVIE: Yes! It is loud, colorful, and full of realistic technology that the movie’s producers make seem completely real. No cheesiness in this movie. The movie also provides a strong essence of truth: those damned kids on their XBoxes and Sony Playstations may well solve many of the world’s problems if we can connect them to real problemsolving. If you read the book then you will notice many missing subplots and storyline. Get over it. You will like this movie.

BOOK (1985): The book is a fast read despite the number of pages in it. It was written for a teen audience but adults love it. It remains on the ‘recommended reading list’ in many high schools AND within the U.S. military. Do not let the simpleness of the book’s prose fool you. There are many important concepts within its pages — which explains its popularity on military recommended reading lists.

You can commonly find this book on Amazon or on Google as an eBook for $4.

>>> The book differs from the movie in a number of ways. Written in 1985, the book still sees the world in terms of American and Soviet spheres of influence. Russia’s Warsaw Pact has overrun much of Europe and is referred to as the Second Warsaw Pact. World powers cooperate because they must — the external threat is greater … but should the external threat disappear then war between the great powers will resume, and it does by the book’s end. Archaic views now but reality then. All of this is absent in the movie and there is no allusion to any of it.

What is truly amazing is that the author was able to see and to portray a world with embedded technology everywhere and in everything. His view on war in the future is on the brilliant level of Arthur C. Clarke or Isaac Asimov. Just one example, tablet computing, interactive computer surfaces and artificial intelligence role-playing games figure prominently throughout the story. So does the existence of a worldwide internet that serves up multimedia. There are also bloggers which exert strong influence over public opinion. The ‘nets’ have supplanted the role of media in its influence.

Ender is a third child. The world has restricted families to only two children. While unwritten, it is implied that genetic selection is being practiced to produce unique children for the future of fighting war. Ender understands that his birth owes its existence for the purpose of becoming a battle staff officer.

At the tender age of 6, Ender is selected to go to military school where he trains to become a military battle staff officer. His older brother and sister were washouts — but they play prominent roles within the subplot by using the worldwide internet to become foreign and domestic policy bloggers. Their goal is create a logical reality which prepares the world for change, and which prepares the world to turn to  them for answers. This will be a challenge as Peter the cruel older brother is just 12, and Valentine the older sister is just 10. Yet they pull it off. Peter and Valentine’s subplot role are not covered at all in the movie … although both make cameo appearances. Within the book Peter has an important role within world affairs by the book’s end and the movie ignores his existence other than showing him as a cruel big brother early on.

Much of the book focuses on the many trials and tribulations of Ender within the military battle school. The movie glosses over this time period and covers it all in perhaps just 10-15 minutes — yet his experiences in the school are some of the best parts of the book. The movie picks up with Peter going to Battle Command school. Within the movie there is a close parallel to the book, although the book lavishly spends time on character development and the movie focuses on developing Ender’s character and just barely.

Read the book. See the movie. You will be pleased.

 

MOVIE REVIEW – Gravity

MOVIE REVIEW – Gravity

Different. 3-D strongly recommended. Story plot: Astronaut shuttle crew working on repair of deep space imaging system. Unexpected bad stuff happens. Real bad. Only three actors in the movie + maybe 2 or 3 others for about 10 seconds. George Clooney plays George Clooney. Does great job. Sandra Bullock plays nervous, upset doctor with great legs and ability to open doors on foreign space stations. The only other actor with a speaking part dies early on. … Mission: survive … OK, so does not sound like a great movie so far. … This is an INCREDIBLE movie. Really. … You need to see to understand. Stuff happens and time flies. Movie over before you know it. … MORE popcorn, please.

TECH / Who needs a camera when you can add a highpowered lens to your phone?!

Smartphone Attachable Lens-Style Camera | Learn More

You can buy a nice digital camera for under $200, or less. You could however spend $249 and add a highpower lens to your cellphone.

Sony phone camera attachment

This sounds a bit silly until you consider that the first choice of many folks with cameras is to use their cellphone/smartphone to take photos.

Sony’s Smartphone Attachable Lens-Style Camera is kinda cool because it uses your big smartphone screen as your photo viewer and it uses your phone’s ability to connect so that you can share your photos and video in realtime.

Hope for Medical Breakthroughs via Video Gaming!

There is great hope for a number of scientific and medical breakthroughs via a skill learned from many hours on Sony Playstation, Microsoft XBox, and such: collaborative exploration, information sharing and collaborative attack, aka problem solving.

GE’s Focus Forward website highlights advances in technology. It recently highlighted an amazing advance using a game called ‘Fold It‘:

    Biologists spent ten years trying to map the structure of the elusive Mason Pfizer Monkey Virus, a problem that could unlock the cure for AIDS. The Contenders solved it in three weeks. Using the online puzzle game Fold It, scientists are enlisting video gamers to solve real- world problems.

Many thanks go to my friend Connie Moser for sharing this video with me. Collaboration does not require a game, just friends with a mutual interest … who know about games and such.

Movie Review – Pacific Rim (2013)

Pacific Rim

When you go to see this movie be sure to get the big bag of popcorn. That usually gets you a free refill. This is a 1 and 1/2 bag of popcorn movie.

Pacific Rim is very, very good — a modern update on the Godzilla theme but with an Independence Day plot.

It is worth seeing probably two or three times.

Some folks may want to compare Pacific Rim with the Transformers movies. There are indeed some similarities but I know plenty of folks that dislike Transformers and really, really like this movie. I like them both but believe that with time that Pacific Rim will become a classic.

WINDOWS 8 – How I spent Saturday morning – some quick reviews of new Win 8 machines

Spent this morning at the Microsoft and Sony Style stores in Tysons Corner, Virginia trying out the new Windows 8 machines. Nice.

Windows 8 is definitely a new experience. Confusing but mostly good. I believe that it will do good things for Microsoft.

Certainly Windows 8 creates many new opportunities to reimagine the PC.

>>> The big winner with Windows 8 is Lenovo, the Chinese PC maker that bought out IBM’s PC division back in 2006. Lenovo has some very innovative and interesting desktop and laptop/tablet combinations. It seems as if Lenovo is trying to capture all of the different computer categories at once. It certainly took on the competition and every one of their 7 new PC computers is a WOW.

— The Lenovo IdeaCenter A520 is just pure beauty if you are looking for a new touchscreen desktop and don’t mind paying $1499 for what is really an amazing machine … although many laptops provide all the power and pizzazz that you need for only half of that. Note: The Lenovo website says ‘coming in December’ but the Microsoft store has them now for you to play with and to buy.

— The other Lenovo winners include the 13″ Yoga — the Yoga also offers higher resolution than available on most Microsoft notebooks — and the 13″ Twist. One literally bends over backwards to work in various configurations ($999 at Best Buy) or the Twist which has its touch screen twist around and fold flat to make a Windows 8 tablet ($899 at Staples … BUT $799 at Staples online). The Twist offers only normal 1366 resolution.

Sony has a whole slew of new machines as well — competitively priced (which is new for Sony). The Sony Windows 8 laptop/tablet is called the Slider … while unique and nice it was something that I couldn’t get comfortable with. Instead of trackpad it has a …. it has a … something like a g-spot mouse. (Not a good word for it). The Sony has a shiny spot stuck in the middle of the keyboard, kinda like the IdeaPad has its red mouse stick, but this is shiny and as you glide your finger over it the computer responds. It works … but just in real life it would be nice to have more to work with. =^) … Additionally, when stored flat the screen always faces out just like a tablet … so you need to be very careful when tossing it into your backpack.

The other Sony VAIO S Series 13 Custom Laptop models are traditional clamshell style and come in very, very brushed alumnium metallic designs … although metallic comes in many different pastel shades. (Literally pastels … alumnium pastels).

Dell XPS 12
Dell XPS 12

The Dell XP 12 Ultrabook is a tad expensive but it works hard for the money and can convert to a really nice Windows 8 tablet in just seconds through a unique flipscreen … you’ve got to see it to understand it. The screen seems like it would be flimsy but it is plenty sturdy. This is a sexy machine that unfortunately sucks at battery life … just 4.5 hours per session. … But sometimes looking good is more important than lasting the whole night so … check it out at on Dell’s website.

Samsung Series 7 Slate
Samsung Series 7 Slate

MISSING IN ACTION with an all new Windows 8 convertible thinkgamajig is Samsung. Have come to love Samsung machines.

While the other manufacturers were saving their ideas for Windows 8, Samsung was out there in fal of 2011 with an incredible laptop/tablet combo that borrowed heavily from the ASUS Transformer Prime school of design. … The Samsung Series 7 Slate runs Windows 7 Professional and is available via Amazon.com  … this model remains among my Top 3 choices for new, interesting and useful.

The Samsung website appears to show that the Series 7 Slate remains its primary offering in this category and that Windows 8 is offered as an upgrade. … !!! Amazon.com is offering this machine at $300 off … probably because it is no longer considered the latest and greatest … BUT I think that it is a deal … see the Samsung website for more info.

… and after all of that play I went and got myself a McDonald’s coffee because it is only $1/cup for any size.

BTW – the Microsoft store at Tysons Corner was jam packed with folks looking at the new Windows 8 stuff. I didn’t discuss the new Microsoft tablet because I am waiting for the PRO model to come out.  The big hoopla currently is about the Windows 8 RT version … while it does offer an onboard version of Office for RT, the RT version of Windows 8 does not run legacy Windows software. I am just too invested in Microsoft products to abandon them.

2012.10.15 Captain’s Log — Just wandered into a cloud, several of them

Web Clouds — Am moving many of my websites completely to the cloud … which is scary for me because I’m an Adobe Coldfusion/Microsoft guru and I’m migrating to PHP/Apache.

Rackspace.com was recommended to me as being incredibly cloud-smart and ‘fanatical’ about customer service.

The Rackspace.com website has more info that I was able to understand … and I admit to not fully grasping the ‘order this if you want this’ information provided … not even after reading and reading and reading … so I contacted customer service online at 7pm hoping to get a call back tomorrow.

OMG! They are fanatics and real people are involved too. I immediately got a call from one of the friendliest customer service ‘advisors’ ever … and I’ve been in technology a loooooooooooong time now. She couldn’t quite answer all of my questions so she connected with someone else … the second service representative spent almost 30 minutes with me and sent several emails explaining their suggestions.

I’m still not sure what all I agreed to but I grabbed my American Debt Express card and now I’m the proud owner of two cloud servers with a thingamajiggy to manage load balancing. (Will be trading in two Cold Fusion servers — am a balanced budget kind of guy).

Rackspace.com — you may not quite understand what you bought but you’ll feel confident that someone else does.

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By the way, if you need Cold Fusion servers I recommend Enterhost.com — I have four dedicated servers with them. They may not be fanatical but they are efficient, good value and always there 24/7 if you need them. Have been a customer since January 4th, 2006. These folks will work with you and I have always felt confident that they are doing right by me.

Aren’t the robots so cute?! … and intelligent?! … but not as cute as the Bond Girls!

Am very much into tracking technology trends such as UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), RPVs (Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicles) and UASs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems).

The University of Pennsylvania has now coming up with semi-intelligent robotic aerial vehicles that can cooperatively (via smart programming) coordinate their efforts in achieving tasks.

In the video below, University of Pennsylvania Robotic Quadrotors perform the James Bond Theme.

 

I do realize that not everyone wants to listen to music created by whirling rotating robotic thingamajigs so am including a more human version of the James Bond Theme for your listening pleasure.

The theme remains robotic music in this video as well. Do you spy the robots?

What? The Bond Girls aren’t robotic?

Sure they are. Just think of them as Stepford Wives with electric violins.