Archive for October, 2010

StresSyzygy

Have you ever had a week where everything went according to plan? When things just seemed to go right? When the planets appeared to align in order to make life just a little easier? I’ve just had the opposite of that.

Let’s rewind for a second to Wednesday evening. After a long day at work, I was ready to sit back and relax. And I did just that, to a point. With little warning or preface, my computer was flooded with programs trying to access the internet. Windows were popping up all over my screen telling me that my computer was inadequately protected. The real kicker? These windows were the attack. I find it frustrating how trojans, malware and viruses will disguise themselves as diagnostic software and try to get you to install them on your system. It’s like they’re saying, “Don’t blame us! You’re the one who let us in.” At any rate, I recognized that this was a program I did not install on my system. After a bit, my computer shut down and I tried to start it back up. Nothing.

Here’s where the panic attack set in. I realize after years of being somewhat dependent on my computer to provide me with information and my link to the outside world that I’ve become somewhat addicted to it. We all have. When that connection to the world was severed, I was mortified. Not necessarily because of the link that was lost, but because of the information that was stored on my computer that I had no back-up for. Fortunately, I was not completely out of options. Luckily, I had somewhat recently purchased both my iPod touch and a wireless router. With these, I could get online and inform others of my peril and ask for assistance. Another stroke of fortune was my cousin who lives in town and had an Ubuntu boot disc.

All fortune aside, there was a span of time where I was completely powerless to change the situation, and it really got to me. I realize that I do like to have things under control, and this loss of control bothered me. But see, this was only stage one. It’s now Thursday and I come home from work and get my mail. What do I find there? I find that I have received a letter returning my check and renewal card for my car’s liscense tags. The only explanation I was given was a check mark next to one item on a long list of issues. Apparently I couldn’t renew my tags because they had been suspended by the state. Fan-freakin’-tastic. I needed to fix this problem and quickly, because if my tags were not updated by the end of the month, I could inadvertently be in more trouble. But again, I was powerless. I received the letter late in the day and could not fix it until the next day. So now my stress had built from a non-functioning computer to a non-functioning computer and a possible issue with my car. Still, in hindsight there was some fortune to the incident, not that this decreased my panic attack by any measure.

The fortunate aspects of the suspended tags were that 1. The letter gave me an address and a phone number to call and 2. Friday was my day off. I got up on Friday morning and set out to the address to figure out why my tags had been suspended. When I arrived at the address, it became evident that my problem was with the Alabama Department of Revenue. Not an encouraging development. So, I go inside and I hand the employee the letter about the suspended tag. She pulls up my account and says, “Yup, that account’s suspended. Tell me: what’s your apartment number?” As it just so happened they had tried to send a letter to me requesting some proof of insurance on my vehicle. Since they had everything right with the exception of the omission of the apartment number, I did not get this letter. Here’s the kicker: the letter was sent out in March. That means that for about 7 months I had been driving around with suspended tags. Great.

Luckily, the fix for the suspension was to call my insurance and get them to fax a form that said I had insurance. After doing this twice (the first time didn’t cover the date in question), I had fixed part of the problem. I also made sure that the Department of Revenue had my new apartment number so that this wouldn’t happen again. Now I had to get the new tags. There were two ways I could do this: 1. Re-mail in the check and the renewal card and hope that I would get the sticker in time or 2. Go downtown to the courthouse and get it that day. Since the end of the month was quickly approaching, I decided to be direct and take door number 2. It was in this part of the process that I had a positive syzygy. Having gone through the rigmarole at the courthouse to initially get my license plates, I knew what I needed to do. I was fortunate that 1. The parking garage I went to had an open spot on the ground floor 2. The line for the tag renewal was moderate and quick-moving 3. I had everything I needed to rectify the situation and 4. I was done so quickly that I only owed $0.25 at the parking garage. As I put the little “11” sticker on my license plate, I thought back over the last day and how a little 1 inch square sticker could put me through so much stress and trouble.

Now I was back to stress level 1: the computer. While I was out that morning getting my tag issue fixed, I went window shopping for new computers. I have been meaning to upgrade my computer since I’ve been in salaried employ for a while now, but I figured, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Well, now it needed to be fixed. I’ve been upgrading my computer for years, so I hope to be able to use some parts from it to immediately make whatever new computer I choose better than the standard issue. Also, since I only need a CPU, that will cut down on costs, but not by much. Still, I was not about to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on a new computer just quite yet. This was merely a fact-finding mission, but I can see the need for a new computer in the near future.

Back at my apartment, my cousin came over and I was able to get my computer to successfully boot up again with his Ubuntu boot disc. Now it was time to start nursing it back to health. After a few reboots, I was finally able to get Windows running again and I started performing the diagnostic tasks I needed to do to get rid of this problem. I think the most frustrating aspect of what ended up being a trojan virus was that I didn’t know what caused it. I wasn’t using my computer any differently than I had been, so the attack was an anathema to me. Now I’ve got the trojan taken care of, and my computer is back to normal. Well, almost normal. It seems that throughout this whole ordeal, my 1TB external hard drive has been erased and is no longer recognized by my system. I’m somewhat glad that the erasure didn’t happen on my other drives, since the external hard drive was merely a backup, but I’m sure that there were probably some important files on it that are now lost.

I think that if either issue had happened separately, I would have been able to handle it better, but since both happened so close to each other, and so close to the stress of moving to a new apartment, that it really unraveled me for a moment. Perhaps the most accurate parallel to what I was feeling would be taken from the first episode of LOST. There is a scene where Jack is describing an error he made in surgery where the solution he had was to let all the panic rush in and consume him. But only for 5 seconds. After that, he buckled down and managed to fix everything. I can now say I’ve had my 5 seconds.

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MoviExamination

As many of you may remember, I am a statistics nut. More specifically, I am interested in statistics of collections that I own. Recall for a moment my post on my music catalog. It can come to no surprise from the data presented there that I am a fan of movies. I mean, for someone who has motion picture scores comprising 50% of his 500+ CD collection, it stands to reason that he would have an equally large movie collection. I have been keeping track of the films I own along with other DVDs of TV shows and anime for almost a year now. Recently, however, I have expanded some of the data that was included in the spreadsheet and have found some interesting information about my collection.

 

Decade Distribution

 

The one difference between my DVD collection when compared with my CD collection is that I have listened to everything in my CD collection. When video rental stores like Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video were going out of business, I managed to expand my DVD collection from the meager selection of a college student to a library of many hundreds of films. Now I am merely waiting for Blockbuster to follow suit so that I can take advantage of extremely inexpensive DVDs. However, one interesting quirk I have found about myself is that I have certain impulse levels. When I find a movie that’s $2 to own, I will buy it so that I can watch it, instead of taking the rental route. As such, there are about 20 movies that I own but have not yet seen. I am remedying this situation and hope to have a completely watched collection by the end of the year.

Of course, part of the reason that I own so many movies is that I have a goal in mind. During my Junior year in college, I became interested in the American Film Institute’s (AFI) “100 movies, 100 years” list. I figured that I had already seen about 1/3 of the list, and had enjoyed the films that I had seen; therefore, the rest of the list must be equally as good. As I watched, AFI came out with an updated list that included movies from the 10 years since the first list appeared. Consequently, by the time I was done with the first list, I was extremely close to finishing the second. By the end of my Senior year, I had watched the entirety of both top 100 lists. I had found a lot of movies that I really enjoyed. I had also gained an understanding of many movie references that were made in TV shows like “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy”.

Now that I have a job with an adequate income, I felt that I owe it to myself to own these 100+ films and started to expand my collection to include them. For the most recent top 100 list, there was a list of 400 nominees that was used to narrow down the tens of thousands of films that have been made since the beginning of cinema. As of this post, I have seen 54% of that list. That list may be my final movie watching accomplishment, but for the time being, I have set my sights on a much more attainable goal: Best Picture Oscar winners. There was a lot of crossover between the Oscar list and the top 100 lists, so I had already seen more than half of the Best Pictures by the start of this year. Now that I am 10 films away from reaching the goal of having seen all the Best Pictures, I have found even more films that are worthy of my collection and have added them accordingly.

The one unfortunate conundrum that I have run into after obtaining so many DVDs is the issue of Blu-Rays. As of a few months ago, I have purchased a PS3 and have been using it as a Blu-Ray / DVD player. I had tired of using my computer for my DVD watching and was looking to advance my movie watching experience. I agree that if you have the right equipment, Blu-Rays are definitely worth the investment due to their superior picture sharpness and audio quality. However, the selection of Blu-Rays that you can actually purchase is somewhat lacking at this point in time. What is even more unfortunate is that a lot of the Blu-Rays that are affordable and I would want to buy are of movies that I already own on DVD. Right now the only reason that I could see to buy a Blu-Ray of an already owned DVD is if that DVD happened to be a Full Screen version, to which I would like to upgrade to Widescreen. Who knows, maybe I might be generous and donate the DVDs to those who would want them so that I can upgrade.

But enough of my rambling, lets get on to the statistics!

Total Movies: 395
Total Time: 46,874 minutes / 781.23 hours / 32.55 days / 4.65 weeks

Stats . . .
Averages: Year = 1987 / Running Time = 119.3 minutes
Mode: Year = 2006 / Running Time = 110 minutes
Median: Year = 1997 / Running Time = 116 minutes
Minimum: Year = 1927 / Running Time = 27 minutes [Thumb Wars]
Maximum: Year = 2010 / Running Time = 251 minutes [Lawrence of Arabia]

Percentages . . .
Blu-Rays: 5.31%
Animated: 6%
Color: 85% / Black & White: 15%
Best Picture Winners: 17% [66 of possible 82]
AFI List 1: 20.5% [81 of possible 100]
AFI List 2: 20.3% [80 of possible 100]
AFI 400 Nominees: 39% [154 of possible 400]

Some interesting findings from this sample set:

  • The distribution of Running Times was a normal distribution, which I had kind of figured that it would be. However, I did learn that each studio puts the Running Time in a different spot on the case, which makes this data often very difficult to find.
  • Also of note is the distribution of the ratings. I’m curious if the reason that films become acclaimed is due to their content. I base this on the observation that many films that win awards tend to be a lot grittier than movies that were made purely for entertainment’s sake. However, we must also consider that the films which are “Not Rated” could very well fill in some of the gaps, due to their being produced early in the 20th century when most of the films that are being produced today would probably be rated NC-17 or above by their standards.
  • One also wonders if supply and demand are the contributing factors to the distribution of decades in which these films were made. Movies are sometimes like books in that they will no longer be “in print” and require back-ordering in order to acquire them. This has made the task of purchasing some of the films from the 1920’s and 1930’s quite the ordeal. And yet, the distribution could be due to the fact that I really got into watching movies in the 2000’s; and as such, felt that many of those were worthy of my ownership.

Keep in mind that these statistics are only for the movies that I own, and not the TV shows and anime that I have on DVD and Blu-Ray. These categories would skew the results of the analysis by increasing Running Time and heavily weighting the production years to the 2000’s (or at least more so than is already shown). Never-the-less, with these categories added, my total DVD collection would be near 500 . . . which is what my CD collection used to be at long ago (it’s larger now).