Saturday, June 21, 2008

Real Genius (Review)

This is another movie that purists might not call “science fiction,” but since, as with Transformers, it’s listed under that genre in the Internet Movie Database, I’m counting it for the 42 Challenge. My two sons, one of whom had already seen this, put it in the Netflix queue, and it didn’t take long for me to know why. Highly intelligent young men; lasers; pranks, hijinks and MIT-style hacks—what was there not to like?

In terms of plot, a university professor is using his undergraduate geniuses (one of whom is played by a much younger Val Kilmer) to do the work on a laser project that a secret arm of the government is funding for use in a weapons system. The students don’t know what the research will be used for, but when, with the help of a former student who dropped out in his own unique way, they find out, they fight back in the way they know best, by re-engineering the system to … well, it’s a quite worthy hack.

According to my atomic physicist son, much of the laser research presented in this movie is dead on. In other words, what sounds like jargon really does mean something if you speak that language. The premise of the laser as used in the weapons system stretches things, but I was assured that much of the rest was valid.

Was this movie deeply thought-provoking? No. Was it fun? Heck, yes! I've already told my nuclear physicist husband (who arrives home from a workshop late tonight) that he's watching this with me tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What I Might Do this Summer

Debi tagged me with the meme that Becky tagged her with, that of listing goals for the upcoming summer. The number of goals does not seem to be specified, but both Debi and Becky listed four. A list-maker at heart (this year, my daily list is written on the back of the previous day’s entry from the Zen Page-a-Day calendar), I may not be able to keep it to four, but I’ll try.

Goals for the Summer (and possibly beyond):

(1) Knock some more items off “The 50.” (I really need to blog on this topic at length one day, or maybe even set up a blog with each entry devoted to a different item.) The basic idea is that on my 49th birthday, as I was entering my 50th year, I made a list of 50 things to try to do in that year. Said year got extended into a two-year celebration centered around my 50th birthday, and then extended again. After some swapping of items on the list for things I did on my recent trip to New Mexico (another blog post I need to write), I have 13 items left to do. I figure I should probably try to finish by my 55th birthday because at some point after that I’ll want to start on a list of 60 things to do to commemorate my 60th year.

(2) Get out the tabletop loom I got at the Y’Art Sale last year and figure out how to set it up and use it. The one-morning-a-year Y’Art Sale is sponsored by our local Second Street Gallery as a fundraiser and features all manner of artsy and craftsy supplies, samples, whatever. I couldn’t justify the floor loom they had because unless we were to totally clean out the upstairs of our garage I have no place to put it, but I did get the tabletop loom. One of my elementary classrooms had a floor loom, and I used to love using it until the day the teacher banned me from it. See, we could start weaving after we’d finished our work, and since I was always the first one to finish, I always got the loom first. After a while of this, I got banned in the interest of fairness even though I was not the one who said that you could go weave when you were done with your work. I didn't make the rules; I just took advantage of them. And no, this was not the start of my disillusionment with the public education system (another blog post I should write!) but it certainly didn’t help.

(3) Try to learn the four or five skill forms I still need to learn for a black belt in Myo Sim kendo. Black belt tests are held once a year, usually in late summer, so learning them this summer would make for a good start to a year (one year minimum; it could easily be more) of intense practice to get all the various forms to the appropriate level of speed, intensity, and accuracy. Let’s see. I still need to be taught three ways to take a sword away from someone who is attacking me (in case the eight I ‘ve already been taught aren’t enough) and one (out of six) tea party, a two-person form involving an attack from close quarters. Tea parties are a bit humbling because they’re typically done with metal-bladed swords, making the possibility of doing harm to one’s partner or self very real. They also involve some pretty rough leg switches, as in going from kneeling on the left knee with the right leg out in front of you, bent at the knee, to the exact opposite position, kneeling on the right knee with the left leg out in front of you, a switch to be done as fast as possible, without lifting one’s head any higher than absolutely necessary. Oh, yeah, you’re also drawing and swinging that metal-bladed sword at another person as you do this. In other words, the more practice, the better. I also need to work more on some partner exercises, which are two-person forms you create with a partner.

(4) Finally, in the interest of harmony at home and my own sanity, I should probably include the continuation of my ongoing battle with the clutter and disarray of living with three adult or nearly so males who don’t really care where things get put down or what gets left where. Part of the battle is modeling good behavior to them without at the same time enabling their tendency to avoid cleaning up after themselves and letting me do it. Having recently gotten a new refrigerator and a new, slightly larger dining room table, I’m currently concentrating my efforts on the kitchen and dining room. I may not make it past those this summer, but just getting those two rooms done would be a good start.

See—I managed to stop at four! I could add all sorts of things like lose a few pounds, but those are better suited to New Year’s resolutions than summer goals. Besides, if I manage to accomplish even part of the above, I’ll probably lose a little weight in the process.

In the interest of sharing the fun, I’d love to see if Rich’s and Annie’s summer goals bear any resemblance to Debi’s. I’d hate to think of the family all pulling in different directions. And it might be interesting to see what Debi's friend Kara has planned now that she's back from her trip.