Sunday, January 20, 2008


Last night a group of grad students went to see Juno at the local theater. We were the last people in line to get tickets! It's been a long time since I've been to a sold out show. We weren't expecting as many people there to watch it since it's been showing for weeks, but I suppose if only the independent theater is showing it then there haven't been that many showings since it came out (they only have 1 larger theater, and 2 really small theaters).

The movie was fabulous, and you should all see it (the trailer is here). It is a comedy/drama about a 16 year old girl that has sex one time with her "best friend" and then gets pregnant. She then struggles with what that means and what to do, finding a family to adopt the child. Both Juno and her baby's father are also struggling to understand how they feel about each other. Juno's parents were refreshingly understanding about her pregnancy, even though they were still upset with her.

The music and style of the movie was perfect, as it continued to reiterate the fact that she is still a child "trying to cope with things way beyond [her] maturity level" (as said by Juno). I think a lot of teenagers need reminding of that fact, even though Juno is well aware of it. She was quite juvenile, but no more so than many people that age. There were stereotypes galore, all of which were hilarious. Juno gave many great lines, as did many of the other characters as well.

Although the movie was very funny, there were also touching parts. I think I lost a few tears on a few different occasions (although some were due to uncontrollable laughter). It was a glorious combination of the two genres though, and easily lived up to my (already high) expectations. The acting overall was great as well, and I was especially pleased to see Allison Janney (from West Wing!) playing the role of Juno's stepmother.

Now that I've rambled on, I encourage you to watch this movie! It's entertaining, thought provoking, and filled with witty lines as well as plain old humor. Very much worth the time! One of my favorite movies from the past year.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Tatebanko paper diorama

One of the presents Tim gave me for Christmas was a pair of Tatebanko sets. These are paper dioramas inspired by the Japanese art of the same name, apparently popular from the 17th to 20th centuries. The company that makes them can be found here, although he apparently ordered them from a store in Brooklyn, NY.

It's hard to tell in the picture, but there are many layers from the front to the back, giving a 3D effect. They are fun to put together, even though some of the cutting can be slightly tedious. In the packet you receive multiple sheets of paper (poster board strength) that have shapes drawn on them. You cut on specific lines to create the different pieces for your picture. Each piece is numbered, and can then be glued to the matching number on the base. There are side pieces, a back, and a top that all need to be glued on as well. We assembled the first one together, with the result in the above picture. It was a fun craft, and since there are many pieces that need to be cut apart, folded, and glued it was a great one to do as a team. Hopefully we will do the other one soon as well.

This is definitely a craft that anyone with a little patience can enjoy (but a great deal is not require). You only provide your own scissors and school glue. A steady hand is also useful, although my hand was shaking as I glued pieces together and it still turned out fine. The final product is approximately 7" x 5" x 3.5".

Monday, January 07, 2008

Six Degrees - an application

Okay, so I was really stuck on this whole "six degrees of separation" thing, so I figured I'd do some googling. I've heard of the idea many times over the years, thought it was interesting, and left it at that. Well, I've still left it at that but I've found an actually interesting Facebook application related to it.

The application is called "Six Degrees" and actually DOES something, unlike the Facebook group I mentioned earlier this afternoon (can you tell I'm getting a lot of work done right now?).

In this application you can see how many degrees of separation you have from the application creator via your Facebook friends. You can also search for other people on Facebook and find how many degrees of separation you have, but of course if you search for your friends you will only have 1 degree of separation. This is an interesting concept, and I'd be very interested to see how exactly he did this algorithmically since I can see a few different options.

Once again I'm not sure I agree with the premise that it tests the six degrees of separation though. I agree that it finds your degree of separation from the creator via your Facebook friends (assuming the algorithm works right), but I don't see how that is a true test of the six degrees of separation theory. One problem I have is that many people have "friends" on Facebook that they've never met in real life, have barely communicated with, and/or just added randomly. I don't think that really counts as a degree of separation, since it's akin to just using a person passing you on the sidewalk. Thus you could be shown to be closer than you actually are, giving an erroneously low count. On the other side, many people's friends and family are not on Facebook or are not yet linked to them via Facebook, so an incorrectly high degree of separation may be found instead.

I just really don't think any result from this experiment can be trusted scientifically, although it is definitely an interesting idea to try out. It's at least fun for the person who created the application, since it's main purpose is to see what the average degree of separation is between him and each individual Facebook user. I think I might actually try this one out.

Let's build a snowman!

New Year's Day was a day of snow. It snowed all morning and into the afternoon, but graciously stopped around the time we went outside to play. I don't think we've found time to just go out and play in snow since I moved here, except for walking to the pond.

In the spirit of having a foot of snow, we decided to make a snowman. It had been a long time for both of us, so first we had to discuss how to make big balls of snow. Apparently rolling it works very well.

The entire time I could not get the snowman song from Cannibal, the Musical out of my head! I just kept thinking "let's build a snowman, we can make him our best friend, we can name him Tom or we can name him George!" And of course the lines: "we can make him tall or we can make him not so tall, SNOWMAN!" If you haven't seen this movie, I urge you to watch it. It's very funny, although a little gory at places.

In the end we had a surfer snowman with a pet turtle. Totally rad man. Yesterday he met his demise, but he was a good snowman while he lived. Maybe putting him under the tree wasn't the best idea.

Now, THAT's the life!

I love January. It's one of the few times during the year where there are little to no pesky undergrads running around and driving like idiots. Also, I can drive through campus without having to stop at every cross walk. I also don't have to wait at a stop light when it's green due to people jaywalking because that whole 2 minutes they'd have to wait for a "walk" signal is just too long.

I don't hate undergrads in general (it really wasn't that long ago that I was one of them), but the undergrads at my current university do tend to drive me a bit batty on a regular basis. I suspect that they are drunk most of the time, if my current neighbors are any indication.

So January is great as I said; classes don't start again until the beginning of February, so the campus is relatively empty and I don't have any set times to go into school. Since I do all of my work on my own laptop (or by ssh-ing into a lab) it doesn't matter where I work. So what have I done so far? Well, I went into school 2 days last week but have otherwise worked on the couch in my pajamas. I have actually gone over to my advisor's house for 2 meetings, but that is much better than sitting in my windowless lab with dubious temperature controls. Surprisingly, I have been more productive this way. I plan to continue this trend as long as it works, even into the semester, as I only have 1 class and my advisor will be out of town in general. That means I only have 2 hours/week + 1 meeting that requires me to be at school!

Of course, I also just bought a PS2 so that I could finally play Kingdom Hearts, so I have one more temptation at home besides my still unfinished cross-stitch. So far I have gotten at least a solid 5 hours of work done each day (including the weekend), which realistically equates to over 8 hours of work in the lab (come on, you know you get distracted at work as well). Since this was all paper writing, I think that's pretty good. I'll start doing more hours/day for the rest of the break, but it was a nice way to start off the month that is supposed to be ultra productive.

Too bad this is the last Jan-term; next year they are starting classes in the middle of January! At least that will make the summer longer...

How many degrees again?

Happy New Year!

So to start the new year off a week late, I just couldn't resist commenting about a Facebook group many of my friends have been joining as of late. It's name is "6 degrees of separation" and was started by a man who recently published a thriller novel.

The group claims to be testing the idea of "6 degrees of separation" by seeing if everyone on Facebook can be added to the group. It asks its users to invite ALL of their Facebook friends to join the group, claiming that the experiment will not work otherwise.

I was personally struck upon reading the group description that this "experiment" (self titled "the most ambitious facebook experiment ever") will not work no matter whether or not its users invite all of their friends, even if every person receiving an invite joins the group. The main flaw I find is that there is absolutely no way to test how many degrees of separation were traversed between the group creator and any individual group member. All that is really being tested is how many people can be added to the group, akin to the groups with titles such as "If 1,000,000 people join this group, I will do XYZ."

What I suspect is that the actual reason behind this group is part of a great marketing ploy. I have also noticed that most of the group news and updates are about the group creator's book and his recent interviews about it. Although I do not know the truth behind the creation of this group, I would not be surprised if the group creator or his publicist thought it would be a great way to dupe people into joining a group geared toward promoting his new book. If so, it's quite clever. If not, it's sad to see that he actually thinks he's testing the six degrees of separation theory at all.

It's funny to note that there are currently 3,710,939 members, although sad to see that some of my friends are among them.