Sunday, October 30

Film: Ra.One Click for more info

The only thing surprising about Ra.One is how precisely it fulfils what you would expect from a Bollywood superhero movie. It has a thin and nonsensical plot, horrendous acting (with a special award going to the annoying brat and his haircut) and awful special effects. Oh and the 3D gave me a headache (which to be fair has nothing to do with Bollywood superheroes).

Nevertheless I have to admit that for some bizarre reason I kinda fell for the charm of this movie. In fact I kinda enjoyed it. And yes, that song was pretty cool too.

I can only assume I'm going to be alone in this conclusion - maybe I was just having a good day - and I find it my duty to not recommend any of you to go watch this.

Saturday, October 22

Trust Us With Your Life

Another week and another BBC filming. This time the show was a new one named "Trust Us With Your Life", billed as a kind of spiritual follow on from the classic "Whose Line Is It Anyway?". So improv was the main course today, brought to us by all the names we're used to including Colin Mochrie, Wayne Brady and less visibly but probably most important the genius that is Dan Patterson (who I just realised was present at Mock The Week too).

The premise was simple - we have two celebrities telling us various tales from their lives. Each scene they paint is then given the improv treatment in the typical Whose Line minigame manner. In theory it's a pretty sound idea, but in practise it was a little forced as we discovered that the stories were (understandably) more cherry picked than random, which kind of defeated the point of improvisation.

Still, I have to say I enjoyed this filming a lot and laughed more genuinely than I would have at another comedy show. The comedians were smart and funny, and I even begun to like the two Osborne kids who were the celebrities in the hot seat tonight. The usual downsides that come with a filming like this - the interruptions, the pick ups, etc - were particularly painful to sit through though. Interestingly, the show is bring filmed here but for an exclusively American audience, and that affected the style and sensitivity of the humour - it wasn't as brash and edgy as that found in Mock The Week. And while we're comparing the two, I have to say that I now appreciate Dara all the much more.

So yes, I think it's a thumbs up from me. The show is still filming and will bring more guests in the coming days, from David Hasselhoff to Ricky Gervais (which could in theory be incredible to watch), and I may even go as far as catching the show on that television thing.

Friday, October 21

Food: Big Moe's Diner Click for more info

I could save myself a lot of words by just pointing you to my Tinseltown review, but it's true: Bog Moe's is just a clone of the previously unique pace annoying young Muslims go to eat.

So it's the same adequate food, the same adequate service and the same value for money (that is, none). But hey, options are always good things and I can't knock a place for being unoriginal. On balance I might even say I preferred it here.

Friday, October 14

Food: Fish! Click for more info

Swanky and clean, Fish! is a nice place in which to eat. The food was above average - I stuck to the good ol' cod and chips with mushy peas, and if I had to be harsh then I would say that the chips were a little overcooked.

Service and atmosphere were all great and my friend and I did walk away feeling happy with the pleasant dinner we had. All this came at a cost though; at £20 quid a head it was very expensive for what it was - enough for me to steer clear of the place in future.

Wednesday, October 12

Software G Forces and Ease At Work

One of the good things about working in a big flashy corporate are the facilities that are made available to employees. For example today we had Kent Beck come in and give a talk for the most part of the morning.

It was a good talk. Beck himself is a brilliant speaker if a little sheepish, but the manner in which that he embraces this side of him in itself gives him an air of confidence. Indeed a major theme in his work is to accept people as people and not assume that just because the work of programmers is largely mathematical that programmers themselves are - as well as accepting that we as an industry have social issues that need to be acknowledged and worked on.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself here. The first part of the talk was titled "Software G Forces: A talk discussing the dramatic changes to the development as the deployment cycle shrinks", and literally listed what to expect if we attempted to shrink our own release cycles from months to minutes. Beck assumed that we had all already bought into the idea that instant release cycles was the aim and in that sense it was more of a observational than conceptual talk.

Although the talk was very good and did what it aimed to do, I think most of the audience were stuck in stage zero and were not of the position that shorter cycles was always a good thing. As such the questions and feedback was less about what was said and more to do with why we wanted to in the first place. For sure, Beck's ideas require a philosophy change or paradigm shift to work and reap benefits and simply "working faster" wasn't the point.

In other words this talk was probably came a little too early for some of us. Still I found it quite beneficial to know the material effects of moving to a faster release cycle, and I was uplifted when he explained how Amazon manage to release thousands of times a day. It was liberating in the same way as when you realise you don't necessarily need static typing or OOO any more, a kind of vindication of a feeling you may already have had, or a meta-awareness of the software development industry.

The second part of the talk, "Ease At Work: The importance of maintaining an accurate self-image" was pure psychology and in my view didn't have much to do with software but more general work ethic - but perhaps in a way us in technology may understand. Ideas like self-awareness and communication were correct and materially rewarding as well as learnable behaviours, and that the only thing holding us back were the lack of traction, laziness and habit. I already try to implement many of the things he mentioned in my everyday life, but it was refreshing to hear it in the context of IT let alone work.

I'm going to put my hands up here - before today I had no idea who Kent Beck was. That's more an indication of my own disinterest in my chosen career rather than his celebrity status, and having studied XP in university I certainly know of his ideas and work. So yes, it was a privilege to have him address us this morning. I was expecting a fully technical talk but instead found something quite human, commonsensical and practically useful. For sure, I still think Computing is a technical field and can never be seen as a social industry and that a lot of modern effort to make it so is a bit shoehornish. But what I realised today is that there is room for some soft skills in my work and that it's quite worth the time to achieve some of those.

Tuesday, October 11

Britain's Got Bhangra Click for more info

Despite being terribly cynical about all the desiploitation going on in the past decade, I must admit that I was a little gutted after having missed Britain's Got Bhangra last year. Even if I don't dig the scene I do love brown music, and in recent times Bhangra in particular, so I think I would have liked a musical based on that part of the culture. So when I heard that it was being brought back this year, I made a point of going.

It was pretty much what was expected. There was music and dance and it was fun I guess. The acting was okay, with the plot being the real star of the show. Otherwise I found the whole thing a little flat and amateurish, both planned (it was all quite silly) and unplanned (sets falling apart and the like).

I'm told that last year's production was much more, both in terms of depth and quality, so it seems at least in theory this should have been great. But for this day in the Hackney Empire I can't quite say it was that amazing an experience.

Friday, October 7

Book: The Duke and I, Julia Quinn Click for more info

Initially, the biggest issue I had with this book was the cover. Bright and pink, with a picture of a lady putting gloves on, it was obvious what genre I was reading on my daily commute to work. And yes, I did get a few looks. But all my misgivings and embarrassment went away after I got my first smile from a passing girl. Result.

But this is a book review, not "ways to pull on the tube" (coming soon). It would be easy to assume that, as a guy, I would be gearing up to trash any kind of chicklit and had decided to hate this book before I even turned the first page. I think I can be objective with these things (although many would argue that's not the point of literature), and I'm also open-minded enough to give a recommended book of any genre a try. That doesn't mean I would like it though, and Twilight is still embarrassingly crap.

So then, The Duke & I. The title alone should fill you in about most of the book: set in 19th century England, about an aristocratic community and in particular a woman and a Duke. Heck, if you've seen any Bollywood in the past decade then you could probably guess even more about the plot and the pace of the story.

I have to admit I was gushing over the first few chapters of the book. It, or rather the characters, were funny and sassy and I totally fancied the main character in Daphne. It was way more intelligent than some of the other books I've read of this type and unlike other female authors who think they're funny, Julia actually is.

Alas, just like its Bollywood analogy, the book does seem to suffer from a post-interval crash. All the magic that made it so great at the start gets replaced by angst, heaving bosoms and various kinds of metaphorical (and not so metaphorical) explosions; and even I was made quite uncomfortable by what I can only call pornography (and I thought I had been desensitised by American Psycho). It's a shame because it made the whole thing a little trashy and cheap, but not just because of the rude bits; the chapter endings (which are a bit of a personal bugbear of mine I admit), were a little too leading for my liking.

But as a book it was better than most; at the very least Quinn should be applauded for being literate - I'm looking at you Myers. Actually on that topic and as a side commentary I do think it's as much evidence as Twilight was of how confused and hypocritical women are - apparently reformed rakes make the best husbands. Please.

So yes, I can't quite recommend it unless you're specifically looking for something like this. If you know what you'll be getting yourself in for then you'll probably enjoy the banter and fun, but if you want something a little more sensible and mature and less shallow then you're better off going for something like this or this.

Thursday, October 6

Shak's Choice: Nazanin Boniadi Click for more info

It's a bit of a special edition today. You see the magnificent Nazanin isn't technically my choice; heck I don't even watch How I Met Your Mother, the show in which she was spotted. But after a (girl) friend suggested I marry Nazanin I thought it prudent to look her up and, yes, it turns out that she's actually quite the knockout.

Notable tidbits include how she's Iranian, that she's won awards for her work in cancer research and how much of an activist she is. So no, not just a pretty face then.

Tuesday, October 4

Mock The Week Click for more info

The Mock The Week screening a few of us went to was pretty much as expected. It wasn't a full three hours of stand-up comedy, and we saw a lot of the technical "behind the scenes" work that goes into creating a 30 minute show. That said, there wasn't as much dead time as I thought.

It was funny throughout, but that just proved that there can be too much of a good thing - we were mentally and physically exhausted after laughing so much. It's actually quite weird; even though I was laughing I did actually become bored of doing so. Before tonight, I assumed those things were mutually exclusive.

Dara was amazing and seemed to be the only one who succeeded with his improvising. The others were good too, but seemed a bit well prepared. I guess part of the genius is making it all look so natural on the show itself.

It was long but it was fun. I don't think I could do it again any time soon though. If you wanted to see the end result, feel free to hit the see more link above.

Monday, October 3

Abstruse Goose Click for more info

One of my more irritating habits is to constantly remind someone complaining about anything that they're the ones who choose to feel how they do. This isn't just from a causal perspective ("you hate your job? Well you're the one who wanted to work, and you can quit now if you wanted to.") but even further in a self-awareness or CBT kind of sense. Cue today's Abstruse Goose:

At first glance this might look like the complete opposite to what I advise, but it's not really. Accepting that life is what it is is a fundamental step to being happy.

Sunday, October 2

Film: Crazy, Stupid, Love. Click for more info

CSL is so well built and balanced that you could almost forget that it is essentially a romantic comedy about a couple going through a bit of a marital crisis. Steve Carell and Julianne Moore are the guys in question, with Carell doing such a good job as the guy struggling with his wife's decision to divorce that you can't help but admire his genius.

The rest of the film is hung on this premise, with Ryan Gosling playing the part of the womanising bar hop, Emma Stone the sensible girl learning to jump blind a little more, and an ancillary cast (Bobo and Tomei) propping up the rest of it.

The film itself feels a little long, and yet I can't see how they could have done it any different. Unquestionably feel good but with a reality-bites undertone, I thought CSL was brilliant and so I can't help but recommend it.