On the ninth Date of Christmas, my true love saw with me: “Frozen II”

Two movies in two nights in the Twelve Dates of Christmas project! And we’re going to see Frozen’s 11, which I assume is a heist movie where they break into a cold-storage warehouse and steal some fish sticks.

Frozen Poster

Wait, let me read that again. OK. Apparently it’s actually “Frozen II”.

capsule review

You’re asking the wrong guy. I dozed off for the first 30 minutes. Woke to notice there was some sort of burning Pokemon character and somebody was singing about the unknown woods. Went out to lobby to get coffee. Checked phone. Got engrossed in Twitter. Did not return for rest of movie. I hear it was good though.

On the eighth Date of Christmas, my true love saw with me: “A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood”

Time for the latest instalment of the amazing Christmas 2018 gift in which Cathy promises to go to one movie a month with me, and we are almost caught up now with 8 movies in 11 months, so December is going to be busy.

what did we see

Movie poster
Yesterday the Mrs. and I went to see the highly-anticipated biopic, a profile of an Esquire journalist named Tom Junod and a look behind the scenes at the magazine business.

who was it about

Tom Junod, known as Lloyd Vogel in the film and played by Matthew Rhys, is a crusading journalist struggling with personal demons. Here, by the way, is the actual Esquire article from November 1998 that we see him writing in the film.

who was it supposedly about

wait, what?

this is actually about beloved children’s TV host Fred “Mr.” Rogers? Played by the equally beloved Tom “Tom” Hanks?

You could have fooled me. It’s a lot more about a guy writing a magazine article and his personal struggles than it is about somebody that absolutely everyone likes (and that could be either Mr. Rogers or Mr. Hanks.)

where’d you see it

Cineplex Queensway VIP. The VIP concept, or at least the reserved-seat concept, is the best thing movie theatres have done in years. I love knowing that I’ll have a good seat. I also love knowing that you can look at the published start time of the movie, 7:45, and realize that means “This is when you should leave home.”

what time did you actually leave home

6:45. I am married to someone who really really likes getting there early. Just in case. Wouldn’t want to miss any commercials.

how many times did you doze off

One, I think. (The chairs were really comfortable)

did you get food delivered to your seat?

Yes. Fish and chips and a Stella. Not bad.

get to the point, did you like it or not?

I am going to say something mildly controversial here which is likely to provoke much scorn: I generally love Tom Hanks and have enjoyed everything he’s ever done. (That is not the scorn-provoking sentence. Here comes the scorn-provoker.)

I really expected differently but … I didn’t particularly like this movie.

It’s beautifully made, and Tom Hanks is believable in his role but this is

the

slowest

paced

movie

I

have

seen

in

a

while.

It is ostensibly about Mr. Rogers but is really more about Mr. Junod coming to grips with himself.

Tom Hanks will probably win awards for this portrayal; Fred Rogers is obviously a wonderful person and the film is beautifully shot (particularly the use of kid-scale city models) but you don’t really learn much about him here. What’s his background? Was he actually a navy sharpshooter? (answer: no, and that briefly is mentioned.) How’d he get started doing this show? What’s it like doing a children’s TV show? And where was the cameo by Ernie “Mr. Dressup” Coombs, who was once Fred’s assistant?

what’s up next?

We’ve seen lots of biopics during this film quest. Judy Garland. Elton John. Neil Armstrong. Laurel and Hardy. Don Shirley. I think I’m ready for a little more action. Cathy, howsabout we go see Ford v. Ferrari ?

Should you move down to a better seat?

It’s a question that theatre goers and sports fans have asked themselves for years. There’s a better seat over there. Why don’t we move down to it? What’s the harm.

We saw this happen several times at Saturday’s Argos/Redblacks game. For once we had pretty good seats, in the sixth row near the center of the field behind the Ottawa bench, and admittedly there were quite a few empty seats in the area (which is a problem that’s very hard to solve, apparently, but I am going to keep going to Argo games until this works!)

And quite a few people snuck down to our section – and a BMO staff person was politely shooing them away. Many were, I think, parents of the large dance group that was performing at halftime – and the staffer asked them to come back when halftime started when a lot of people leave anyway, just not right now while the game’s still on – but some were just fans wanting a better view than the one they’d paid for. I don’t envy the BMO staffer having to be the heavy, but they have a job to do.

So should you move down?

No.

Well, let me modify that. You could try, but if someone calls you out on it, you should move back to your original seat.

It seems tempting, doesn’t it. What’s the harm if I sit in that unoccupied seat?

This is strong language, but you are cheating and stealing from the team if you do that.

Try this the next time you’re on an airplane. Can I sit in that empty business class seat? We’re all flying to the same place. It’s going to take the same amount of fuel whether I sit in the back or not. Forget the fancy meal, I just want to sit here. Can I? I suspect they’d say “no.”

People often wonder why a team with lots of empty seats doesn’t give away a billion free tickets either. Both things have the same answer: It cheapens the product. If people know they can pay $20 for a cheap seat and move to a $90 expensive seat later, why would they buy an expensive seat? Or why wouldn’t they just wait for a free ticket? You’re sending the message that the experience is only worth $20 or less.

It’s bad for business, IMHO, and we all want our team to succeed, we need all the seats filled with paying customers.

Randy Cohen, the former New York Times Ethicist columnist, wrote about this years ago. I like Randy – former Letterman writer – and I bought his books, but I think he’s wrong. (He was also wrong about whether you should recline your seat on the airplane, but I think I straightened him out on that one.)

Seeing the unusual sights of New Mexico

Business took me to Albuquerque this week and I made great use of one of my favourite apps – Roadside America.

Roadside America screenshot

This app shows you various strange and unusual tourist attractions near where you are right now, and it has been great fun using it in my travels and seeking out an interesting spot.

(Once while in Bangor, Maine, the app directed me to Stephen King’s house, which looks exactly like you’d think Stephen King’s house would look. Another time it directed me to a piece of the Berlin Wall just steps away from where I was in Hawaii.)

So I gave it a shot here in New Mexico today and I am very pleased to give this brief report on four different sites it recommended.

One of the recommended sites you’ll see on that list was a place that sells blue candy which was actually used as a prop representing Crystal Meth in Breaking Bad… I’m sure that might cause a few questions from the TSA or Canada Customs so I decided to skip that one.

The Birthplace of Microsoft

Microsoft

Microsoft got its start in Albuquerque in 1975 in this very unassuming strip mall, and there’s a historic plaque on site. What ever happened to that company? You don’t hear much about them any more.

Walter and Skyler White’s House

Breaking Bad house

Fans of Breaking Bad will surely recognize this house.

The current owners have put a fence around it since the show was filmed, removed pizza from the roof, and there’s a sign saying “Take your picture from across the street. Do Not Disturb Us.” I did, I hope I didn’t.

The Singing Road

Amazing. A stretch of historic Route 66 / Highway 333 with grooves cut in the pavement so that your tires play an excerpt from America the Beautiful as you drive over. Apparently this was built by National Geographic, of all people, in 2014 but the signs pointing it out seem to have been removed, and the sound was pretty quiet and I only heard a few bars, which makes me wonder if the thing is wearing out and needs to be refreshed.

It’s still wonderful though and you can hear a fragment of the tune at about 0:35 in this video I took, and before you jump all over me, no, I wasn’t holding my phone while I was driving.

More places should have this. I want highways entering Ontario to play Ontari-ari-ari-o.

another version of America The Beautiful

I love the Singing Road version, and I’m torn about whether it is now my favourite setting of that wonderful song. It is hard to top this one:

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Truth or Consequences, NM

I’ve always wanted to visit here! The town of Hot Springs, New Mexico, was persuaded by Ralph Edwards, host of the radio (and later TV) show Truth or Consequences, to change its name and in return, the show broadcast an episode from there. And Ralph Edwards even returned to the town’s annual Fiesta every May for 50 years.

We used to watch the TV show with Bob Barker. (If you never saw it, the general schtick was that you would be asked some dumb riddle, and if you didn’t tell the Truth (which you never did), you’d have to pay the Consequences (undertake some stunt.)

I imagine not many other towns tried this; at the very least I haven’t been to Deal Or No Deal, Manitoba or The $100,000 Pyramid, Pennsylvania but maybe they’re out there.

You should totally get the app. What will it steer you to on your next trip?

On the seventh Date of Christmas, my true love saw with me: Judy

We’ve got some catching up to do on this amazing Christmas 2018 gift where Cathy promises to see one movie every month with me with “no whining.” So on Saturday, off we went to see the Judy Garland biopic Judy, starring a very convincing Renée Zellwegger.

JudyPoster

So here’s a brief review.

A) Renee Zelwegger is VERY convincing and I’m sure she’ll get nominated for whatever the awards are.

B) I am not convinced that the onstage band is actually playing the arrangement we’re hearing. This is a risk when you have violins and trombones on stage. We can tell by the way their arms are moving whether they’re faking.

C) Here’s a crazy idea. How about a movie about a famous musician who did NOT have a difficult and depressing life? After learning about Freddy Mercury and Elton John and Don Shirley during this journey, I’m ready for a great story about a musician who had a happy childhood, worked hard and became a success without alienating everybody or turning to drugs.

Hmm. Maybe we need an Anne Murray movie next.

bonus live theatre – The Band’s Visit

The following day we went to the Ed Mirvish Theatre to see the Tony Award winning musical The Band’s Visit. I had offered to Cathy that – given the price of the tickets – maybe this could count for the July/August/September movies that she still owes me, but she graciously declined, meaning we still have some movie catching up to do.

I loved this musical.
I loved the original film, and this production included Sasson Gabay reprising his role as the leader of the Alexandria Police Ceremonial Orchestra who wind up in the wrong small town in Egypt.

It’s the story of a talented group of musicians who think they are bringing culture to a sophisticated place, only to discover they are among a group of dullards in an exceedingly boring backwater town. No, wait, that was the last time Argonotes visited Hamilton.

Anyway.
It was a great musical on a small scale, that I enjoyed much more than many of the huge productions we’ve seen lately.

And since we were in row 4, I had a pretty good opportunity to decide if the on-stage musicians were actually playing.

I’m suspicious about one clarinetist, but everybody else was playing, even the trumpet player although he barely new enough of a scale to play the opening part of My Funny Valentine, and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that he’d taken trumpet lessons just for this show.

I’m excited about seeing The Music Man on Broadway starring Hugh Jackman in 2020! THEY better be playing, although it will be very hard to top this 2000 Broadway production where the entire cast learned enough trombone to make for a spectacular encore:

Stupid interview puzzles

My high school friend Gary pointed out an interesting article — Elon Musk asks this tricky interview question that most people can’t answer — about Elon Musk and his hiring techniques at SpaceX, which got me wondering about this popular idea of challenging job applicants to solve the interviewer’s favourite puzzle.

Briefly, Musk asks people this question when hiring –

the puzzle

“You’re standing on the surface of the Earth. You walk one mile south, one mile west and one mile north. You end up exactly where you started. Where are you?”

and in the article above they even have a video where they ask people in the street this question.

one answer

One answer, and by far the most common one, is The north pole. If you’re at the north pole and you walk a mile south, and a mile west, and a mile north, then you’re back at the North Pole.

another answer

Pole

Musk then asks, Where else could it be? and apparently sits back and waits for you to come up with another possibility, namely at a point near the South Pole. If you are just a wee bit north of the south pole, then you can hike one mile west in a perfect one-mile-circumference circle around the pole and be back where you started. Any point one mile north of this circle would be another answer.

The article says –

Once the applicant arrives at this answer, Musk then asks, “Where else could it be?” A second answer to the puzzle is near the South Pole, where the Earth has a one mile circumference. You’ll walk one mile south to reach this circle, trace that mile-long circle’s path, and return one mile north to your starting point. Fewer engineers give this answer, according to Vance.

Like this helpful not-to-scale diagram I just whipped up.

If you want to get all mathie here, a path of circumference 1 mile would have a radius of 1/(2π) miles, so starting at a point of 1 + 1/(2π) miles north of the pole would be an acceptable answer to this puzzle.

Of course that’s not just one point. ANY point on the circle 1 + 1/(2π) ~= 1.16 miles north of the south pole is an answer.


the discussion

“Fewer engineers give this answer”, the article says, and it continues to say…

Luckily for his applicants, Musk doesn’t place much emphasis on whether applicants give the right answer, explains the author. Instead, he uses their response to analyze how they process information and approach problem solving.

Given SpaceX’s mission, to send humans to Mars, employees must be able to reason their way through problems and find novel solutions.

here’s what bugs me

You know what, Elon, there are even more answers to this puzzle. What if, in walking west, you went twice around the south pole, along a circle of circumference 1/2 mile, with radius 1/(4π)? So now any point 1 + 1/(4π) ~= 1.08 miles north of the south pole is ALSO a legitimate answer.

Or if you went three times around the south pole, circumference 1/3 mile, radius 1/(6π) ? Any point 1 + 1/(6π) miles north of the south pole is ANOTHER answer. And so on.

So there are even more answers than Elon Musk, in his wisdom, is looking for.

what are we measuring here?

I suspect that interviewers, including Elon Musk, think that a puzzle like this is measuring the applicant’s problem solving ability.

I think it’s actually measuring whether the applicant has heard of this puzzle and its answers before. There are widely publicized lists of trick interview questions and answers like this, where the goal is to come up with the clever answer the interviewer wants.

Here’s a book full of interview puzzles that I enjoyed –

How Would You Move Mount Fuji?: Microsoft’s Cult of the Puzzle — How the World’s Smartest Companies Select the Most Creative Thinkers

back in my day

It would not surprise you to know that I was on the Math Team in high school.

Once a month or so, every high school in the city would send a five person team to my school, London Central, and we’d do problems in the cafeteria and declare a winner.

Central did pretty well when I was on the team.

I thought I might carry this secret to my grave, but I’ll spill the beans here: one reason we did well was because the organizer of the contests was a teacher at our school, and he happened to go to the school library to consult books of puzzles to come up with the questions for the contest.

all of which I had previously read. multiple times. I loved those puzzle books. No wonder Central usually won these contests.

It wasn’t a Triple Reverse. Not even a “double reverse.” Maybe a 1.5

Here at blog.hayman.net, we are not afraid to discuss the big issues, the topics that matter, the truly important questions that unite us all.

Be that as it may, today we’ll do some football nitpicking.

The Argos played Montreal in a very entertaining “home” game in Moncton last weekend and although the outcome wasn’t quite what we wanted, there were some great plays.

Including this one.

Which everybody – TSN commentator Rod Black, even the CFL’s official account – wants to call a triple reverse.

Let’s watch it again, shall we? Here’s the official call. See our additional video analysis below.

OK. I am no football expert, but I’m pretty good at counting (and I have the math degree to prove it.)

A reverse is where you hand the ball to one player A who runs one way, and then he hands it to player B, who’s running the opposite, or reverse way.

In a double reverse, player B hands it to someone else – maybe A, maybe a third player, but let’s call them C – who is running the opposite way, which is now the original way.

Still with me? A double reverse has TWO reverses in it, right?

A triple reverse is incredibly rare. C would have to hand the ball off to D, who is running the opposite opposite opposite way. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one. (If you find a video of one, let me know.)

So what’s going on in this play from Moncton?
* The quarterback, Vernon Adams Jr, hands off the ball to #24, Jeremiah Johnson
* Johnson runs to the sideline, hands the ball to #9, Jake Wieneke.
* Wieneke heads the other way, back towards the quarterback. This is a reverse.
* Wieneke pitches the ball back to the quarterback. This is not quite a reverse, the quarterback isn’t moving the opposite way
* The quarterback throws it down the field and … well the rest isn’t important.

And yet, TSN’s Rod Black called it a Triple Reverse and the CFL has even bragged about it. Just because there’s three guys handling the ball doesn’t make it a triple reverse.

Here, then, is our investigative report.

followup: my thanks to Anthony Reimer who kindly pointed out, post investigation, and beyond the point where I felt like editing the video any more, that the best terminology for this is probably a reverse, followed by a flea flicker.

#SongsInCode

#songsInCode

This was a really silly meme circulating on Twitter exactly 10 years ago. The idea is to write song lyrics in pseudocode. I seem to have been a little obsessed with it.

Let’s hope you can still decode some of these. (And for the record I was not the only person getting a little carried away with this topic.)

And of course I decided I had a typo on one, and had to correct it later –

On selling football

Selling Football

(Some thoughts condensed from a series of tweets you might have already read.)

Last night Nick and I greatly enjoyed seeing the Argos beat Winnipeg for their first win of the season. It was a very entertaining game where the Argos overcame a 20-0 deficit to win 28-27.
Nick and Me pregame

As usual the process of logging in to Ticketmaster to download and print my tickets was a pain – yeah, I know, I should use the app, I really do know a thing or two about apps, but I also like having paper tickets. (I like paper boarding passes at the airport too.)

It was a great night in the CFL. Saskatchewan beat Hamilton in the late game – The two home teams win exciting games in the last minute, and their big rivals both lose too. Wish it could be like this every game day.

Also as usual everybody is wringing their hands about the number of empty seats at the game. Here are some thoughts I jotted down.

Most articles you read about a football game focus on the football details, the minutia of passing percentages. The Xs and Os, as they say.

But IMHO, that kind of talk won’t get enough people out of their living rooms to come to the stadium.

Here are Reasons to come to Toronto Argos games:

  • great facility
  • beautiful weather
  • cheap tickets
  • $5 beer
  • $3 hotdogs
  • great dance team
  • fine band
  • free CNE admission (at the next game, anyway)
  • the best fans

Oh and

  • WINNING FOOTBALL

Why don’t we hear more about the game-day experience, the NON-football parts? I wish more media would write about the actual fan experience. What’s it like going to the game? What did you do, what did you see, what was the music like, what was fun or hilarious or strange or amazing in victory or soul-crushing in defeat?

There are certainly lots of reports of the Xs and Os of the game, of which team ran what play and why, about specific minutiae on the field. That’s great, keep those coming – but non-football-experts would read that and think, “I’ll never understand this, why should I go?”

PinballI think it would help to see reports from the casual fan perspective too. Hey, Pinball gave a great pep talk before the game. Pluses and minuses of the halftime show. How did that guy get the trivia contest right? It was cool watching them frantically set up the TD cannon.

Who are all these dancers? What is the deal with the marching band? They’re all 14 year olds from Burlington? Cool. What’s it like sitting with the craziest of crazies in the end zone? Can you actually get a $5 beer?

Report on the whole game day event, not just the game play.

The kid who held up the sign that he was beating cancer, so the Argos should beat the Bombers, and got a standing ovation. The air force pilot honoured during a break. Former cheerleaders back for a reunion. I want to read about all this too, not just pass completion stats.

While we’re at it, if we want more people to come to the games, then instead of just saying “Only in the CFL” when something like this happens – how about explaining what the heck is going on to potential new fans and why it makes the CFL game special?

If you can’t tell, I love the CFL and the Toronto Argos, I want the league to thrive so some day I can bring my grandkids to the game. It’s a great game day experience, a great outing win or lose, even for non experts. But I’m worried when I see so many empty seats, league-wide.

Here’s our view of the game winning last minute touchdown. I wish more people could experience how much fun the whole environment is, before, during and after the game, from the fan’s perspective. But you’ll never know that, reading about the game afterwards.

My point, and somewhere in here I do have one, is that just selling people on the merits of the football itself isn’t going to do it. There aren’t enough football experts to fill any CFL building. Gotta sell the whole game day experience and atmosphere to get folks to leave home. I know everybody at MLSE is trying hard to do this. I’d love to see reporting on the game day atmosphere once in a while too.

On the sixth Date of Christmas, my true love – and a few others – saw with me: Rocketman

Happy Father’s Day to me! My three sons were persuaded that if we all went to see Rocketman, that that would be a great Father’s Day gift, so off we went to the aptly-domain-named Film.Ca cinemas, and the on-again off-again 12 Dates of Christmas gift was on again.

460x0w

I think it was the first time we’d had that combination of the lads and me and Cathy all out to the movies in quite a while.

do i have any amusing anecdotes about the actual theatre going experience this time?

no.

Well, on the way there, Nick announced he would be singing along to the chorus in Crocodile Rock – you know, the part that goes La, la-la-la-la-la
La-la-la-la-laa, La-la-la-la-la….

so I made sure I wasn’t sitting right next to him.

did I like the movie?

Well, the first part, sure. The big Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting production number had me leaning over to Cathy to whisper something along the lines of “I’m quite enjoying this so far.”

But the movie took a pretty dark turn. Admittedly, I am a casual Elton John fan but not up on his whole family story, and his family story could be described as: dark. Sad. Unfortunate. Elton, I’m sorry, I didn’t know. I’m glad that things seem to be better for you now. Especially after you married your Canadian husband!

what about the guy?

Taron Egerton, who I knew nothing about, was great, there wasn’t a single moment when I didn’t believe I was actually watching Elton John. He’s a very convincing singer.

did elton john really take a cab from Madison Square Garden directly to what appears to be a rehab center in the UK?

I dunno. Go check Wikipedia, maybe it says something there.

did they do that song about candles in the wind?

No

did they do that frequent hollywood bit where the end of the movie shows a variety of self-congratulatory scenes showing something in the movie and a similar real-life shot to prove that they got it right?

of course.

how many of these movies you’ve seen with Cathy have been about rocket men?

Hmm. About a third. This one, and this one too.

is there another Elton John biography film that you like, preferably one that’s nice and short albeit running in reverse chronological order?

Funny you should ask. This commercial from John Lewis is pretty great. And not nearly as sad.