Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Rule of Two

I’ve made something of an interesting discovery about myself and how I make friends. It’s not a universal law, and I almost never consciously think about it, but there is a sort of rule that determines who I make friends with. I shall give it a catchy, yet generic name like: "The Rule of Two.”

The Rule of Two: I have to have at least two things in common with a person before I’m comfortable talking to or becoming friends with them.

[If you are a Ten, you've got one down already. If you don't know what the heck a Ten is, you should, and you can find out by listening to this show.)]

The two commonalities can be almost anything, but most often there is a shared recurring event (like we work at the same place, or go to the same church, or are in the same class), and a shared interest (we both like cycling, or we both like the same music, or we both like 30 Rock). Sometimes there are two shared recurring events (we work together, and we are in the same class). Two shared interests can be a little more iffy; automatic time spent together at a recurring event makes friendship a lot easier. I’ve just noticed this more and more recently. Until I find two commonalities, I am not usually excited to talk to other people. But usually, once the Rule of Two is satisfied, I’m really excited about my new friend.

It’s strange. In a new place, I make friends really slowly and I don’t know if it’s because other people don’t have the Rule of Two, or if they’re just better at finding commonalities than I am. Of course, once the Rule of Two is met, I often quickly find many, many more commonalities with the person. Thus, I’m sure that there are lots of people who satisfy the rule for me but I don’t know it yet, because I somehow can’t seem to talk to them until the rule has already been met.

This explains why I most enjoy meeting new people when I’m in a group of 5-10 people and a few of them are already friends of mine. Then there is no pressure on me to talk, but I can often quickly pick up commonalities from my friends’ conversations with the people I don’t yet know. Put me one-on-one with someone new, or in a group of people I don’t know, and I’m hopeless.

Leave it to an engineer to discover quantitative laws about the way he makes friends. Geez.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Who needs a movie?

I went to see two movies in the last two days. I had quite a list piling up, mostly Oscar nominees / winners, so I needed to get a couple out of the way. Here are my thoughts on each of them:

The Wrestler
Three stars (out of five). In case you don't know, it's a (fictional) story about Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke), a pro wrestler from the '80s who is now having a mid-life crisis of sorts. He’s getting older, his body can't really handle the beatings anymore, his fame and fans have faded away, and he's lonely. It's a pretty grim movie, but Mickey Rourke does an outstanding job, and you really get a deep understanding of his character and what drives him. Marisa Tomei isn't bad either. Also, can anyone name a movie where Evan Rachel Wood plays a lovable character? I can't think of any.

Note: The violence is pretty intense at times, and there are quite a few scenes that take place in a strip club, so there are lots of mostly naked women dancing and walking around. I suppose that could either be an incentive or a discouragement.

Four stars (out of five). It's a movie about, well, doubt. It takes place around a catholic school, and stars Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman plays a priest and Streep plays a nun, the principal of the school, who is suspicious of the priest's character. Most of the movie was just above average, but there are two or three scenes that just knock it out of the park in terms of writing and acting. It's worth sitting through the whole thing just for those few minutes. The symbolism is a bit heavy-handed at times, which I found annoying. I’m not big on symbolism.

I saw "Doubt" at “The Rio” theater in downtown Overland Park. (Yes, the sprawling suburb of Overland Park has a small, but quite charming downtown.)

First of all, I must admit that I cannot resist anything art deco. But even aside from that, the Rio is adorable. It had one screen, a lobby about the size of my bedroom, and two employees when I was there. I showed up about ten minutes late, but the movie hadn't started yet. Cool. So I went out to get some popcorn, and the guy comes out from behind the ticket counter and announces to everyone in the lobby, "I'm going to go start the movie now, okay?" "Okay." So he goes upstairs and fires up the projector. It was just so quaint, I loved it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Entire Blog, Vaporized (or Condensed)

Wordle is a nifty tool I saw used over on the NPR All Songs Considered Blog. Feed it some text, and it makes "word clouds" with the words scaled according to their frequency of use. They can be quite pretty, and also interesting to analyze. Here's what my blog looks like:

(Note: This excludes common English words, meaning "I" doesn't show up. It would be enormous.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Look Around You

Props to my brother Will for introducing me to this wonderful series of educational modules. You really need to watch at least this one, it's like no educational video you've ever seen. Unthinkable scientific insights abound.

If you want to see the rest of the series, put on your thinking cap, take out your textbook, copybook, and a #2 pencil, and head here. "Iron" is probably the next best one after "Water".

Sunday, February 8, 2009

No, really. It's really good. I promise.

Battlestar Galactica: perhaps one of the nerdiest titles ever imagined for a television show. I probably shouldn't have led with it, because most people reflexively stopped reading the moment they saw it: "Oh geez. Another sci-fi show. Haven't there been enough of those yet?" I used to think that exact same thing. Whenever I overheard someone mention it, I would silently label them a geek. I harassed one of my best friends for an entire semester for watching it.

Then she made me sit down and watch the first episode. I was hooked. It's nothing like any other sci-fi show you've seen. Okay, well, there are spaceships. And robots. And goofy made-up technological terms. But the spaceship crews don't wear spandex, and the insides of the spaceships more closely resemble the insides of today's navy ships than they do a lounge designed by Apple. Watch the show for two minutes, and you'll instantly notice how much more gritty and realistic it looks than most other sci-fi stuff. That was what I first noticed when I started watching. A lot of the sci-fi cheeziness that makes most people cringe just wasn't there.

So that's why you shouldn't be scared of "BATTLESTAR GALACTICA," but why should you watch it? Why do I love it so much? I can't really say. Yeah, I know. Unsatisfying answer. I guess generally I just love the characters. They're fascinating. You just have to try it, though. But realize that it's very serialized: lots and lots and lots of character and plot development over many episodes, so any one episode doesn't stand up too well on its own. I know that doesn't really make you want to run and rent it right now, but please do it anyway. It's really entertaining. Even if you don't have time to get into it, you'll realize that it's not nearly as nerdy as it sounds.

Here's a little taste. It won't make a whole lot of sense, but it's a good sample of the look and feel of the show.