Movie Review: War of the Worlds

Tonight Corbin spent the night with Oma & Opa, so Jenn and I had a date night. It was quite the date night we had hoped for because we couldn't get reservations at Mitchel's for dinner, and the movie started at either 7:30 or 10:30, so our options were reduced. We went straight for the 7:30 showing and made popcorn and frozen coke our dinner.

Before I get into the movie, what is going on at the theaters these days? $9.00 for tickets?!?! Fortunately for us, we had a free pass we received as a Christmas gift, and it proved to be a good investment as tickets were $8.25 at the time it was purchased. Then inside we had a 10 minute wait to get our large popcorn and large frozen coke ($10.50). The popcorn was stale and full of those tiny pulverized pieces from the bottom of the popper. When we find our seats, we greated with a rolling set of commercials for coke, diet coke, television shows, and reminders to turn off our cell phones. When the lights dim we get our standard 15 minute roll of previews. Normally I don't mind these, as they are usually previews for movies coming out next year, but in this case they were for movies currently in theaters (Stealth, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Are we entertainment consumers such mindless sheep that we don't notice what a bad deal we're getting at the theaters? For the same $30 the two of us spent, we could have rented several movies at $4 each (or bought one for around $20), popped up a couple of bags of $0.50 popcorn, and enjoyed the movie in front of our state of the art widescreen television and dolby digital 5.1 surround sound system. And at home, we have the freedom to pause, rewind, take a bathroom break, or anything else we want.

But I digress. We caught a showing of War of the Worlds after discussing what we should see. Evidently, Hollywood is running short on writers because there seem to be a lot of remakes, sequels, and adaptations in the theaters now. Several folks had told us they liked War of the Worlds, so we settled on that one. Neither of us was all that impressed. The movie had excellent effects, and the mood of the film was tense throughout. Unfortunately, the atmosphere was all it really had going for it. I already knew the story, so I went in knowing the plot line and the ending, but I still hoped that this would be an interesting retelling. I didn't get what I was hoping for. The plot of the movie is outlined in the 5 minutes of intro and outro speech by Morgan Freeman (who never appears in the film). The rest is a cookie cutter sci-fi / action film that really could have been used in any movie. It was almost like Spielberg and company were doing a technical demonstration, and not really making a movie. The ending of the film is what really clinched it as a disappointment. It's almost like they said, okay, we've made our demo, let's wrap this up and go home.

Needless to say, we aren't recommending this to anyone.

Taking Notes

When I was in high school and college, I was a judicious note taker. I made a sort of an art out of it. I had multi-colored pens, and each color had a particular meaning to me. I would jot down just about everything the instructor would mention, as well as any notes on the board or important tips from slides. The result was spiral bound goodness, brimming with colorful pages of knowledge.

Now that I've been in "the real world" for a while, I've noticed that my note taking is not just less colorful, but almost useless. In most meetings I attend, I rarely jot anything down. I have the pad and paper there mostly to show respect to whomever called the meeting (rather than offend them by being honest and showing that I have no intention of taking notes). It isn't that the discussion isn't always noteworthy, it's just that there are so few new thoughts that come up in a meeting that I can remember them without notes. The notes I do take are mostly for show, again, just to humor the speaker. In nearly all cases I end up with a couple of scraps of paper that I'll NEVER reference again.

And here is where the real trouble comes... I'm a pack rat. I HATE to throw things away. And to throw away notes, well, let's not even discuss it. After all, if it was worth jotting down (referring back to school days), then it MUST be important. Unfortunately, now I have these worthless notes littering my desk that I don't want to throw away. In my mind I'm thinking, "Well what if so-and-so asks if I recall a previous discussion". That never happens.

The only notes that I really do care to take and keep are the ones with contact information, calendar appointments, and task lists. These usually end up scattered across a variety of the bad notes, and are in no way organized. If I'm sitting at my desk, I'm pretty good about entering them into Outlook, but otherwise they end up scattered across lots of scraps of paper. I'm considering getting a PDA to better organize these, but I'm afraid that I'll just be pissing away $400 on a toy I use for three weeks, and then forget.

Has anyone else noticed this futility in note taking in the real world? Do you actually use the notes you take now? If you have a PDA, is it useful?

Restaurant Recommendations

I've found myself in the position of recommending lunch and dinner spots, and thought I would pass them along here.


If you are looking for a quick lunch, but something more than McDonald's, I would recommend any of these:


QDoba is great mexican restaurant, and their burritos are unbelievable. They pack so much into the things that the poor tortilla shell can hardly hold it all. It is setup much like a Subway, in that you choose what you want on your burrito, taco salad, or other entree and they make it right in front of you. I usually go for the veggie burrito (yeah, yeah, occassionally this meat-a-tarian eats some veggies), and their nachos are really good as well.

Roly Poly

This is a place that I've only starting visiting recently, but I'm a big fan. They have your standard hot and cold sandwich fair, but rather than serving it as a sandwich, it is rolled in a pita type bread wrap. Their wraps are great, and I'm a big fan of the chicken caesar.

McAllister's Deli

This is a hot spot in Fishers, and VERY busy during the lunch hour. They do a brisk service though, and you should be able to get your lunch fairly quickly. The outdoor patio is nice on hot days. The deli sandwiches are good, as well as the soups and potatos. I usually go for some type of corned beef meal (Reuben or New Yorker) and a cup of potato soup. The drinks they serve come in enormous cups that won't fit in any cup holder. The sweet tea is very good.

Jimmy John's

Another sub shop, but for some reason this one stands above the cold meat sub crowd. I don't know what it is: the bread, the sauce, the meat.... their sandwiches just taste better than Subway's. I'm partial to the Billy Club on french bread (hold the tomatos).


Depending on whether you are looking for a very nice, but pricey meal, or just something quick, you can probably find something you will like in this list (I certainly did).

El Camino Real

This is your typical strip mall Mexican restaurant, but the food is very tasty. The service is very, very fast, and the atmosphere is very laid back. The prices are great for a family too. We can usually get in and out for less than $20. I'm pretty predictable here, as I almost always order the special dinner #4.

Nancy's Pizza

If you live in or around Fishers, you have to try a Nancy's Pizza at least once in your life. These are monster sized Chicago style pizzas. The closest thing to compare to them is Uno's, but these are even bigger (and arguably better). The pizzas have a very deep dish crust, almost two inches deep if you are lucky. This is truly a pie pizza, filled with sauce, toppings, and cheese. To call them toppings is kind of a misnomer, as they usually end up pretty well buried in the heaping layer of cheese. This certainly isn't the pizza for the lactose intolerant. One to two pizzas is more than a meal for most, so be cautious when you order. It may seem like you need more, but you will definitely have leftovers.

The Rathskellar

If you are looking for a little bit more upscale meal, the Rathskellar is a very nice German restaurant. We've been there a couple of times, and it has always been fun. The food is great, with the variety of schnitzel's coming on plates bigger than your head. After dinner, there is a beer garden outside that hosts local bands. It is great for an evening out.


If you are looking to feed a large group, Maggiano's is the place to go. Maggiano's is a family style Italian restaurant in front of the Keystone at the Crossing Mall. If you order family style, you get all you an eat of two salad choices, two appetizers, two anti-pastas, two entrees, and two desserts. The amount of food on the table is awesome, not to mention how great everything tastes! It is usually a good idea to call ahead and make reservations, especially for a large party.

The Cheesecake Factory

I always debate recommending this one. The food is spectacular, but the big drawback is the wait. The Cheesecake Factory is in the Keystone mall, and regardless of when you go in you are usually in store for at least a one hour wait to get a table. It was so painful that Jenn and I stopped going, and we LOVE The Cheesecake Factory. If you are on the fence, a good compromise is to hop in the dessert line and get an order of cheesecake to go. They have a wide selection of cheesecakes (go figure) as well as other desserts, and they are ALL very good. If you have the extra time, the food is wonderful, and I absolutely love the spicy cashew chicken.

So if you are in the Indy / Fishes area, and need some good eats, go ahead and try some of these.


I learned how to program in a UNIX environment. In a UNIX environment, almost everything is done from the command line (or can be). Sure, there was a GUI that you could click around on, but if you really wanted to get something done, your just wrote a script for it and fired it off on the command line. One of the tools that was really useful was the "grep" command. This command would take a search string as an argument, and then search through all of the files in the directories you specified for that string. It was very useful when debugging code, because you could quickly determine all of the code files that touched a particular class or header file.

Sadly, grep was missing from my list of command line utilities when I moved over to developing on a Windows platform. In fact, the command line was pretty well shunned. Instead, Visual development was the word of the day. I still missed my friendly grep command though. Sometime last fall, I discovered the FINDSTR command in windows. On the command line, the FINDSTR command works much like grep in that it will search for a given string in the subdirectories you specify. It's much handier (to me anyway) than the graphical search tool because I don't have to worry that it isn't skipping files it doesn't recognize as text files. If you want to use it, here is the info:

Searches for strings in files.

FINDSTR [/B] [/E] [/L] [/R] [/S] [/I] [/X] [/V] [/N] [/M] [/O] [/P] [/F:file]
[/C:string] [/G:file] [/D:dir list] [/A:color attributes] [/OFF[LINE]]
strings [[drive:][path]filename[ ...]]

/B Matches pattern if at the beginning of a line.
/E Matches pattern if at the end of a line.
/L Uses search strings literally.
/R Uses search strings as regular expressions.
/S Searches for matching files in the current directory and all
/I Specifies that the search is not to be case-sensitive.
/X Prints lines that match exactly.
/V Prints only lines that do not contain a match.
/N Prints the line number before each line that matches.
/M Prints only the filename if a file contains a match.
/O Prints character offset before each matching line.
/P Skip files with non-printable characters.
/OFF[LINE] Do not skip files with offline attribute set.
/A:attr Specifies color attribute with two hex digits. See "color /?"
/F:file Reads file list from the specified file(/ stands for console).
/C:string Uses specified string as a literal search string.
/G:file Gets search strings from the specified file(/ stands for console).
/D:dir Search a semicolon delimited list of directories
strings Text to be searched for.
Specifies a file or files to search.

Use spaces to separate multiple search strings unless the argument is prefixed
with /C. For example, 'FINDSTR "hello there" x.y' searches for "hello" or
"there" in file x.y. 'FINDSTR /C:"hello there" x.y' searches for
"hello there" in file x.y.

Regular expression quick reference:
. Wildcard: any character
* Repeat: zero or more occurances of previous character or class
^ Line position: beginning of line
$ Line position: end of line
[class] Character class: any one character in set
[^class] Inverse class: any one character not in set
[x-y] Range: any characters within the specified range
\x Escape: literal use of metacharacter x
\ xyz\> Word position: end of word

For full information on FINDSTR regular expressions refer to the online Command

A Warning to Meth Dealers and Makers

To all meth dealers and makers out this, consider this your fair warning. You are now on my shitlist. Why? Because you have created yet another irritation when I go shopping for groceries. Today I needed to make a quick trip to the grocery store. I needed some basic stuff: bread, milk, and some sinus medication because my head is giving me fits. Milk and bread, no problem. Sinus medication? You'd think I was asking for black market arms. I was in the pharmacy section when I see the big sign: All products containing pseudophedrine are now behind the service counter. You know, the place they keep the cigarettes and the rest of the weapons of mass destruction. So I head over to the counter and sure enough, behind lock and key the attendant has a stash of allergy meds. They aren't on display mind you, so you have to carefully describe what you are looking for, and after two or three guesses, you actually get the product. But wait, you can't just walk off yet. Next, you need to present your driver's license, which is dutifully logged in a "He might be a meth dealer so note this down" log book. The time, date, type of med, number of grams of pseudophedrine, and your driver's license ID are all logged. Finally you have to sign your name that, yes, you were in fact snot nosed and feeling drippy that day.

So thanks a lot assholes. I have no problem with your ignorant urge to kill yourself either through the production or use of said illicit material. But when you start messing with my trip to get groceries, I get pissed.

Hot Topic: Hot Coffee

As an avid gamer, there has been hot topic in the news that I've been paying attention to lately. Grand Theft Auto is a series of games by Rockstar Games that has the player ravaging a town as a gangster, stealing cars, murdering, robbing, and creating general mayhem. The game has always been one of the first weapons politicians use in argueing for enforced rating systems and censoring of content. I've been playing it GTA III lately, and it is pretty violent. At the same time, it is incredibly fun to just terrorize throughout the town. It's all pretend, and it's great stress relief.

At the same time, there is an age where stuff like this just isn't appropriate. I'm not going to draw the line in the sand and say when you are can handle it, but suffice to say that there is a level of maturity necessary to understand that what you do in the game is absolutely not acceptable in real life. I can see how someone who was fairly impressionable could play the game and get the impression that it is cool to act like the main character in the game. And for that reason, I can understand a call to rate games according to content. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is an industry created panel to do just that. But their ratings don't really have much teeth, much like the movie rating system. Sure, they have a children's rating, everyone rating, 10+, teen, mature, and adults only, but the application of those ratings is fairly subjective, and hardly anyone takes notice.

The reason that this game is in the news is that, when the latest GTA game was released, it was given a Mature rating for graphic violence, sexual references, and adult situations. A mature rating means that the game should only be played by those 17 and over. In reality, I've never met a game store clerk who ever enforced that. Be that as it may, a intrepid game "modder" (someone who adds or modifies the content of a game), found that he could apply a particular patch to Grand Theft Auto : San Andreas and unlock a new set of missions. These missions, called the "Hot Coffee" missions, require the player to visit several girls around town and engage in a sex mini-game. Rocking the joystick in rhythm earns points until the character finishes, and he earns some cash. Well, this is enough to put the game into the Adults Only category, and it has touched off a firestorm of political rhetoric of the game ratings system.

I've seen a video fo the offending content from the game. Let's put this into perspective. First, the content is not at accessible without some effort on the part of the player. They must download a patch from the internet and install it if they run the PC version of the game. If they have a console version (Playstation 2 or XBox), they must then transfer it using a special piece of equipment. Then, once the patch is loaded, the player visits a house and starts the mini-game. If you've never seen this game, the character models aren't ultra-realistic. They are essentially boxes with wallpaper to make them look like people. In the mini-game, the female character is nude, and the male character remains fully clothed. The male character is not anatomically correct, so it is sort of like watching a tame episode of Sex and the City. The characters do their thing, and a minute later, you are back out the door, looking for your next mission. This type of activity has been in the series before, too. For instance, in the copy of GTA 3 I'm playing now, you can pick up a hooker and drive off to a secluded area. The car starts rocking, and your health starts going up while your cash funds get depleted. That made it by the ESRB with a Mature rating.

So what now? Should players and parents send back their copies for a sanitized version? Honestly, if you were letting your kid play before, and this is the straw that broke the camel's back, you seriously need to reevaluate the situation. Still, I see the point that some are making: the game was given an inappropriate rating because the producers effectively hid content from the ratings panel. It is an easy enough thing to do as a programmer. Rather than rip out all of the bad code, just comment out the ability to get to it.

This leads into other questions though. Should game ratings be enforced by retailers? What are the appropriate ratings and guidelines? Should game makers be help accountable for content created (or made available) by modders? I think this will be a tricky question for me in the coming years as Corbin grows up and wants to play games like this. Should I let him? When is he old / mature enough? Can I give him a go / no go decision based on a game rating alone? In our situation, I'll probably know as much about video games as Corbin, but what about other folks who don't share my penchant for games? And this brings on another level of questions too. Should games be rated under the same or different guidelines from movies? What about television? I know there are nights when you turn into the 6 o'clock news and see some pretty violent stuff. And daytime television content can be a lot worse than R rated films. Then again, I think an R rated film like Schindler's list is important for Corbin to watch.

Well, I've ranted on long enough (and managed to avoid taking a side, or even make a point for that matter). Have you even heard of this issue? What are your thoughts?

Almost.... There.....

I'm so close to having my MBA complete that I can taste it! I spent a goodly portion of today working through the marketing strategy and financial plan sections of my applied management project paper. I've taken ample breaks in between fits at the keyboard. I'm so close to being done. I sent this draft to the professor for review, and if everything is okay I just need to tack on an executive summary and I'm all set to graduate. I'll be so glad when this is finished. I've learned a lot through this MBA program, but I am soooo ready not to have to worry about homework on the weekend anymore. Two more weeks, just two more weeks.

Pace of Technology

I was browsing the web today when I saw something that made me stop in wonder at the marvelous pace of modern technology. I was checking my Google GMail account when I noticed the usage information at the bottom of the screen. It said that I was currently using 120MB (5%) of my 2393MB of storage. That's right, over 2 GIGABYTEs of storage. And it's just for e-mail!! The computer I took to college had 1 GB of storage. The old Mac IIsi has a paltry 60MB of storage, and that runs the entire computer as well as all of the applications on it. It truly is amazing how much our computer technology changes every year.

Quality Control at the Kleenex Factory

I have a bit of a bone to pick with the folks over at the Kleenex factory. It seems their quality control group hasn't been keeping up to standards. More and more often (nearly on every box now) I come across a section of tissues that have been inserted upside down in the box. Why is this a problem? When the tissues are inserted upside down, they don't continuously feed. Not only that, but there isn't an edge to grab when you dive in the box to get one. Normally, something like this wouldn't really bother me. After all, you just have to reach in and grab the next tissue. Sometimes this happens anyway when the "cocked and loaded" tissue falls back into the box. However, when you are feeling that sneeze coming on, and you realize that the next tissue isn't chambered and ready to go, you can be in quite a pickle. You can either let your hand be the snot recepticle, and cleanup once you manage to get the next tissue out of the box, or you can try to beat the box and spray everything on your desk when the box wins.

So Kleenex people (and Puffs, Scotts, and all other facial tissue manufacturers) heed this call to increase your package quality! It's a minor irritant that can be quite frustrating to us allergy afflicted, sinus suffering, nose drippers

Game of the Moment: Grand Theft Auto III

Getting a video game console towards the end of it's lifetime is great because it means you can go back and play all of the great games for the system for cheap. There are a lot of great games out there for the XBox, and many of them are bargain priced around $20 since they have been released for over a year. Last week, I picked up the GTA Double Pack for the XBox. It contains both Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto : Vice City. I haven't cracked the seal on Vice City yet, but I can say that I'm fully addicted to GTA III. I'm a sucker for adventure games that allow you to wander aimlessly and make up your own quests, and that also provide structured missions and give you collectible goals. I LOVE that kind of game. That's why I'm such a big fan of the Zelda and Metroid series of games. GTA fits that mold perfectly.

The first time I played any Grand Theft Auto game was my junior year of college. A buddy fo mine let me borrow a copy of his version of the original Grand Theft Auto. It wasn't the stunning 3D game on the XBox. Instead, it had top down, sprite based graphics that would scale over your position based on you speed. It was a really fun game, and it had the same theme. You steal cars and do odd jobs for the various gangs around town in an effort to build up a stockpile of cash. Then there was an add-on that moved the playing field to London. I never played GTA 2, so i can't tell you much about that one.

GTA III rocks! I've been really depriving myself of sleep so I can stay up and complete one more mission. And it is so much fun to just grab a fast car and tear around town like a maniac. If you have an XBox, PS2, or a PC, and you like playing adventure games, I would definitely recommend picking up GTA III. If you have an XBox, get the double-pack. Otherwise you can probably find it for your system in a bargain bin for less than $20.

Jade Mason