Thursday, January 25, 2007

NCR Invents Time Travel

NCR earnings up 16 percent after restructuring
The global restructuring of its manufacturing resources and market adoption of enhanced payment systems in ATM technology are among the reasons that NCR Corp. today announced a 5 percent increase in 2005 fourth quarter earnings and expects to generate 2 percent to 3 percent year-over-year growth in 2007.

Amazing how that "global restructuring of its manufacturing resources", which NCR only just announced on Jan. 11, and which hasn't actually, physically happened yet, managed to increase revenues in the 4th quarter of last year.

I should perhaps mention here that there doesn't seem to be anything in NCR's actual earnings statement or press release that attributes this past increase to the upcoming restructuring; that appears to be entirely the fantasy of the Dayton Daily News staff writer who wrote the news story.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Big Pile of Movies

Recently viewed:

Pan's Labyrinth - I'm put into a peculiar position with regard to this film. It's a good movie, but I'm forced to say I was disappointed by it, because I had read several reviews which had led me to expect it to be spectacularly wonderful, so I was disappointed when it was merely good. When someone says something like, "For several minutes after seeing the movie, the only thing I could think of to say was, “Wow!”", I'm looking for something on the level of 12 Monkeys, Amélie, or A Very Long Engagement. Pan's Labyrinth is not on that level. Yet, it is a good movie, and it was worth seeing.

Dreamgirls - Pretty impressive. I've occasionally been in movies before where the audience applauded at the end. I think this may have been the first movie I've ever been in where a performance brought about an ovation in the middle of the film. I'm speaking, of course, of Jennifer Hudson's big number, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going". What I found impressive about that, specifically, is that it would have been very easy for Hudson to let the song do all the emoting in the scene for her, but she doesn't: She acts, through the song, and she's playing simultaneous anger, betrayal, heartbreak... Yeah: She earned that Golden Globe. Eddie Murphy is also amazing, and boy, they sure didn't shy away from Beyonce's character being "loosely based on" Diana Ross, did they? There are some really recognizable hairdos and outfits in there.

Eragon - Enh. This felt like it was written by a 17-year-old D&D geek. Oh, right, it actually was... A particular favorite moment of mine was when the Good Guys are all waiting in their fortress for the Bad Guys to come and get them, and they basically just sit there waiting while the Bad Guys break through the stone wall surrounding the Good Guys' fortress. Um, guys? Why aren't you up on top of that wall, throwing rocks down on the Bad Guys who are breaking through it? You've been taking strategy and tactics lessons from those RPG nerds who played the "Siege of Minas Tirith" at Gen Con years ago, who immediately marched the entire vastly outnumbered Gondorian army outside the walls of the city and into the fields to meet the enemy (who promptly slaughtered them), haven't you? By the way, if you value your sanity, don't read that IMDB discussion thread, "Paolini or Tolkien?", wherein fans "debate" which one is the better writer.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room - Pretty good, despite its obvious anti-corporate, anti-capitalist bias. Early on, the narrator poses a question that goes something like, "Was this just a few unprincipled men? Or was it the dark side of the American Dream?" Well, personally, my answer is the former. I am sick and tired of people pointing to things done by individuals and blaming the entire capitalist economic structure. This wasn't a failure of "capitalism", it was that guy. Theft and fraud are not inherent to capitalist economy - they're aberrations, and these people would have found some unscrupulous way to make themselves rich at others' expense under any economic system, and I would argue that under any system other than capitalism, they would have had a much easier time of it, and would probably never have been caught. Still, the anti-corporate bias of this documentary was not quite as bad as I feared/expected, and it isn't hard to look past if you already know at least a little bit about California's energy "deregulation" and the crisis it caused.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

That Ain't Half Ominous, Is It?

As you may know, the company I worked for recently announced some pretty significant layoffs, though ones which do not affect me directly. This also came shortly after the company split off a major division into a separate company.

Given this context, can you blame me for being a bit concerned about the fact that my boss just sent out a meeting notice for next Wednesday, to everyone who works for him, with the vague subject heading of "Department Meeting", and a completely blank message body?

(I have since been assured that, at least, this is not anything dramatically bad. No mass firings or the like. Still, in the current environment, he couldn't have produce any more of a feeling of looming dread if he had left black cards with our names printed in white on each of our desks...).

Friday, January 05, 2007

Big Pile of Christmas (Part Three)

This year's highlights:

  • A bunch of pants, some shirts, and a couple of pairs of shoes. Don't scoff, I did really need them.

  • Heroscape, plus a couple of expansion sets - a really cool-looking boardgame, with the added advantage that it should work well as a 2-player game, so Brenda & I can play it without having to find any other people willing to play a "children's game". It seems to be sort of a strategy-game equivalent of the old simplified-RPG-type game Heroquest (and I think it's by the same designer). I actually got two copies of the basic game set, and I was sorely tempted to keep them both, but ended up giving one to my nephew. Perhaps I'll ask for another copy next year... The primary online community for the game offers home-brewed scenarios that require up to five copies of the basic set.

  • Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy for the PS2 - Very nice. I had the first one, and it was plenty o' fun, even being based on the crappy prequels. Therefore, being essentially the same game but based on the Good Ones, I would logically expect this one to be even better.

  • Only One Place of Redress - a book about how African-Americans have been harmed by government labor regulations (including minimum wage laws) through the years.

  • A copy of the V for Vendetta DVD, complete with a Guy Fawkes mask. Now I know what I'm wearing for Halloween this year.
  • Thursday, January 04, 2007

    Overheard on Penn's Radio Show

    Sexual-Political Identity
    Republicans: Don't put anything up your ass.
    Democrats: You can put things in your ass, but it must be approved, regulated, and taxed by a federal agency.
    Libertarians: Put anything you want up your ass, just don't call me to take it out when it gets stuck.