Thursday, May 24, 2007

disjointed thoughts about the Lost season 3 finale

My overall experience with the Lost season 3 finale was strangely metamorphic. While I was watching, I was entranced. Saying or thinking "wha?!" got so repetitive that by the end I was numb to it. "Ben knows they're going to the tower!...oh, he's only taking Alex along with him." "Charlie's been captured!...oh, Desmond came in to save him." "Sayid's dead!...oh, it was faked." "Sawyer and Juliet are going to ambush the Others without weapons!...oh, Hurley just drove a VW van in." "Whoa, according to the flashback Jack and Kate met before the plan crash!...this flashback takes place in the future when they're off the island!!!" Okay, that last one doesn't fit the pattern.

Oddly enough, maybe the biggest surprise for me was that Naomi was not sent by Penelope Widmore. From the previous episode, Desmond's premonition of Claire getting into a helicopter had already tipped me to the "one or more of them will be rescued" reveal. Ditto for Charlie's bucket-kick, of course. And regardless of what else would happen, I think pretty much everybody had assumed Locke would survive (but recovering so much in so short a timespan was literally incredible). The "who does Naomi work for?" question is the next Big Question for me. That, and "when will another woman show up with an English accent?" because it excites me to an unwholesome degree.

Then again, Lost needs more mysteries like web browsers and email clients need more security holes. The next time Walt appears out of nowhere, someone needs to put a leash on him or hang a bell around his neck, before demanding some answers. Remember back to first season, when Locke said "Walt, do you want to know a secret?" (immediately prior to the shot cutting away) and when Locke appeared to take a special interest in spending time with Walt, teaching him certain skills like throwing knives into trees? Did you notice Ben saying the word "temple" in this episode? Have you noticed Richard closely interacting with Ben, both in Ben's flashback story and in the present? A fixed timeline for the remaining episodes is a good thing, because the important Secrets can be systematically exposed rather than kept hidden to protect the show's lifeblood.

People may complain, or even stop watching, because the events on screen aren't perfectly clear. Those people shouldn't be watching Lost because they don't appreciate it for what it is. You know how life is often mysterious, its answers are often ambiguous, and each step forward leads to new challenges? Lost is sorta like that, if you hadn't noticed. Patience and contentment with not having absolute knowledge are two essential skills. As I keep repeating, fictional shows can be escapist in some ways but in other ways all too relevant to be comfortable.

Enough of that thinking stuff. How about those beat-downs? Jack letting loose on Ben (I couldn't help comparing it to when Jack was advocating restraint in interrogating "Henry Gale" in season two), exploding tents, someone getting hit with a van, etc. The action quota almost shamed 24. Two people deserve to be singled out. As Sayid was sitting down, arms bound, he destroyed someone using his legs. Close to Bauer-worthy, if not there - I can't recall if Bauer has performed that move or something similar.

Then there's Mikhail, who has been remarkably visible in the later part of the season. The guy's so nuts, even Ben couldn't help muttering "don't shoot us" as he approached Mikhail's place. The eyepatch seemed to be a bit much at first, but I think he since proved that he's the eyepatch type. Convincing him to shoot his comrades is a pretty easy task, isn't it? I wouldn't want to share bunks with him. One would think the wound he sustained in this episode would stop him, but there he was at the end, using a grenade to flood the underwater station. If Ben is Lost's king of creepy, Mikhail was Lost's king of berserk. It's unfortunate he killed Greta, played by Lana Parrilla, who I wanted to see much more of. Lana was in season four of 24, by the way, as a CTU desk person who didn't last the entire time.

I'm aware not all episodes can be season finales and openers. But nevertheless, here's hoping the story arcs of season four progress with more rapidity and steadiness than those of season three. Also, here's hoping Jack won't have to act through a beard again for a long time.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Consider this post to have the second function of a "pulse post", a post that proves the blog isn't dead yet. I could trot out numerous unconvincing excuses for my neglect, but I think I have the ultimate one: I haven't had anything sufficiently interesting, both to me to motivate the writing and, I daresay, to readers to motivate the reading.

Moving along...this ten question checklist for distinguishing a DSL from an API made me chuckle repeatedly. Is "DSL" a byword I missed? Hey, if Rails proponents can post "Hi, I'm Ruby on Rails" clips (spoofing the way Java development was done a few years ago), I think this is fair game.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

with our combined strength we can end this destructive conflict

I haven't written a .Net-related entry for months, simply because I haven't had anything noteworthy to write. The last time I even opened up a F# code file was about as long ago. (But the "Active Patterns" are interesting.)

The DLR seems like a fascinating idea, though: a common runtime/implementation abstraction layer for dynamically-typed languages, similar to the CLR and JVM for statically-typed languages. Hmm, sounds familiar...oh, Parrot. Microsoft does seem to end up creating doppelgangers for everything, doesn't it? A monoculture just has to stay competitive, y'know.

Kidding aside, according to the linked blog post by Jim Hugunin (who has Jython and IronPython cred), the code is under a "BSD-style" license. I'm not great at legalese, so I can't comment on what the specific license precisely allows/enforces. If Microsoft keeps paying talented folks to produce good shtuff that doesn't lead to vendor lock-in, I find it hard to complain. Conflict is overrated. Yet the lack of specifications and fully-functional alternative implementations for important .Net pieces, like ASP.Net, gives me the willies.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

stating the obvious about digg and HD-DVD encryption

Here's the reply from Digg to all of the users who protested the removal of stories containing the HD-DVD encryption key.

Maybe I'm out of touch with the majority on this topic, but I hope the following points are obvious or at least clearly need refuting:
  • The law is on the side of those who requested the removal of the key. Even if this specific situation is merely iffy in legal terms, the best course is to not flirt with it. Not liking a law doesn't give one the right to break it or find creative loopholes. (On the other hand, laws that really are unjust may demand such drastic action in service to a just cause.) Changing the system from within, instead of acting outside it altogether, is one of the characteristics of a responsible citizen.
  • Digg isn't obligated to let anything onto the site. Digg isn't an arm of the government, which means it can suppress speech as much it wants. Moreover, Digg can demand that users agree to its terms. Digg is not a public forum.
  • Censorship is one of those curious entities that change shape when each person considers it. Someone who complains about censorship is likely complaining about the suppression of speech he or she likes, and someone who doesn't complain about censorship is likely not complaining about the suppression of speech he or she dislikes. I don't know that this observation implies anything, but I thought I should mention censorship's relativity.
  • It's ridiculous to argue that since it's futile to keep an easily-copied secret absolutely hidden once it's revealed, then the secret can and should be published and shared wherever and whenever. "Oh, some toxic gas has escaped. Might as well turn on a fan!" In general, I admit to being confused when people assert that (digital) information, whether that information encodes works of art or engineering, should never have an enforced, associated price. If the work encoded by the information had a cost of production, and the producer intends to earn a profit (arguing that people who produce information should never earn a profit is a separate issue), doesn't it make economic sense to reflect that value in the price? Now, when the same producer charges me twice for the same work, merely so I can obtain a different digital encoding of the work...I don't agree with that.