Posted in movies, web at 11:35 pm by danvk

picture-1.pngI wrote a few weeks ago about enjoying The Fog of War, the 2003 Academy Award winner for best documentary. The list of winners over the last sixty years has some fine-looking films on it. Clicking around Wikipedia, I’d quickly assembled a list of five movies I wanted to see:

I hit up my usual movie source, but it only had the first two. I watched The Wind That Shakes the Barley last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. It brought me back into the Irish history kick I was on after visiting the Emerald Isle last winter. The Deer Hunter is on the way.

For the others, though, the internet has failed me. The free internet, that is. There’s still Netflix. They have all but the last movie on my list. Craig, Nick and I had a good experience with them two summers ago, so I’m tempted to give them a try. I’d most likely go with the $15/month plan, which gets me two DVDs at a time and unlimited monthly rentals. It also gets me their Instant Viewing service, which lets me download movies. Or would, if only I didn’t have a Mac. This is almost annoying enough to make me avoid Netflix entirely. To watch movies online, you need to be running Windows, Windows Media Player, and you can only watch them inside a special Netflix application. Lame.

Netflix has a two week free trial, so I may give that a shot. Any Netflix subscribers out there? What do you think?


Beal’s Conjecture

Posted in math, programming at 9:47 pm by danvk

(I noticed today that Rice has finally taken down my owlnet page. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be giving some of the interesting pages from that site a new home here on danvk.org. First up is Beal’s Conjecture…)

I’ve put a link to last summer’s work on Beal’s Conjecture over on the right-hand side of the site. A quick overview:

Beal’s conjecture states that, if (x,y,z) are co-prime and m,n,r ≥ 3, then xm + yn ≠ zr. Sound familiar? It should. It’s a generalization of Fermat’s Last Theorem.

What makes Beal’s conjecture especially exciting is that Andrew Beal, a Texas billionaire, has put a $100,000 prize on the proof or disproof of the problem. If it’s false (and most generalizations of FLT have been), then a computer search may have a chance of coming up with the counterexample. Peter Norvig did an initial hunt but came up empty. I extended his results, and also came up empty. Now that I have access to lots of machines, I’d like to extend the search a bit further.

The old article I wrote is still valid, though it contains a misstatement that’s made all the more embarrassing by being in ALL CAPS. I’ll be lazy and leave it as one of those pesky “exercises to the reader” to figure out how I goofed.


How’d I miss this!?

Posted in tennis at 8:35 pm by danvk

ten_a_federer_195.jpgApparently there’s a big gaping hole in my RSS subscriptions. Roger Federer beats Rafael Nadal on clay and it takes me three whole days to notice?

This is kind of a big deal. Nadal hadn’t lost on clay in over two years, the past 81 matches. Federer was 0-5 against Nadal on clay before this match. And that’s a record that mattered, since the biggest clay-court tournament, the French Open, is coming up in four days. If Federer can win the French, he’ll have pulled off tennis’s greatest feat, a Grand Slam, something no man has done since Rod Laver in 1969.

The French is definitely the most exciting Grand Slam tournament these days, since it’s the only one that Fed isn’t expected to win in a rout. I woke up at 5 AM to watch the final last year, and it was phenomenal. Nadal was up two sets to one and a break, and it seemed as though it might just end there. But Fed kicked it up a notch, won some absurd points to force a tie-break, and for a moment, it looked like he just might pull it off. But all to no avail. Nadal took him out 7-4 in the tiebreak.

You’ve got to give Nadal some serious credit. He’s the only reason that Federer hasn’t won eight slams in a row, and 12 of the last 13. That’s some kind of pressure, but he’s never withered under it in the past. Mark your calendar, the French Open starts on Sunday, and the men’s final is on Sunday, June 10. I’ll be tremendously disappointed if it’s not a rematch of last year’s.

Car or Bike?

Posted in personal at 12:59 pm by danvk

Bike to work yesterday during rush hour: 14 minutes
Drive to work today during rush hour: 12 minutes

In fairness, though, the car time outside of rush hour is probably closer to six minutes.


Pan’s Labyrinth

Posted in movies, reviews at 8:29 pm by danvk


(no spoilers, I promise!)

I thoroughly enjoyed Pan’s Labyrinth this weekend. It’s set in Spain in 1944, at an outpost where a few rebels are holding out against Franco’s regime. The stories of the Rebel’s fight and the fantastical world of Ofelia’s imagination run in parallel throughout the movie.

The rebel story is brutally violent. The last time I remember covering my eyes at a movie was American History X, many years ago. Pan’s Labyrinth made me do it at least three times. The violence wasn’t gratuitous, though. We all became completely desensitized to guns and seeing people being shot long ago. This violence will still make you feel something.

Ofelia’s story is the one that makes this film particularly fascinating. It’s not violent so much as occasionally gross and cringe-inducing. In the innocence vs. experience contrast that the film sets up, she’s clearly the innocent one. But she’s exceptionally brave and loyal in her own peculiar ways, just like the rebels.

I will say no more plot-wise to avoid spoiling, but a few observations:

  • The sound was just phenomenal. The Captain’s gloves and the Fairies’ wings are recurring themes.
  • The wiki page points to Borges as an influence. I picked up the Narnia parallels, but I have to admit, I totally missed this one. It’s there, though — the “Labyrinth” is right there in the title. It makes me wonder if there are other, more subtle Borges influences I also missed.
  • The Labyrinth was very cool. It reminded me of some of the ancient art I saw in Ireland. There were about 30,000 years between the advent of art and the dawn of recorded history. That’s a huge expanse of time, and god only knows what stories are hidden in there.

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