John C. Kirk (johnckirk) wrote,
John C. Kirk
johnckirk

The last couple of exams have gone ok. I'm pretty sure I passed the Random Algorithms exam (I'm guessing that I scored about 60%), which is good enough. Basically, since I'm going for a Distinction, there are two aspects - I need to pass every exam (>=50%), and average >=70%. I knew that this paper would be my weakest, so I'm happy to just pass it, and rely on others to pull up my average. Then the Text Searching and Processing went better - I think I may have scraped 70% there, if I'm lucky.

I now have a couple of weeks until my last paper (Parallel Algorithms), which is on 3 June. That gives me plenty of time to prepare, so I want to be nudging 100% in that one. Meanwhile, a development on the PhD front. I had an email through from one of the lecturers at Imperial, who deals with NLP (Natural Language Processing) there. To quote: "You might appreciate that there are applicants here that look like they can walk on water, so the purpose of this message is partly for me to see what I can do to give you a chance." That's very kind of him, and I'm grateful for the opportunity. So, I've emailed him back with some more details, and I'll go round to speak to him after my exams are over. This is all good news (certainly an improvement over being rejected out of hand!), but it does mean that I need to revise all my NLP notes, as well as the Parallel stuff. So, that ratchets the pressure up a bit.

Anyway, after three consecutive days of exams, I decided to have a Night Off. I went round to Gosh! for the latest batch of comics, then came home to watch Buffy/Angel, and went off to the cinema to watch "Matrix Reloaded", which was all fun. In brief, I liked the film - I thought it was decent, and a fun way to spend a couple of hours. However, it could have been better - I was much more interested in the plot developments than the action scenes, which often seemed gratuitous. I can understand why they'd be there, from a marketing point of view, although personally I wasn't hugely impressed by the trailer (Neo running horizontally round a pole and kicking people just reminded me of Xena), so I watched the film on the basis that I'd liked the last one.

With the action scenes, I think the key issue is purpose - what are the characters trying to achieve? In the case of the big dogpile, I was wondering why Neo didn't just fly off about five minutes earlier, after he'd finished speaking to the Oracle. Was he just bored/showing off? I'm not quite clear on what happens to random people when an agent takes over their avatar - do they die/go into a coma/get their avatar blipped to somewhere else? And similarly, what happens if the agent then dies? We certainly haven't seen any evidence that it's going to be beneficial for the people who were "hijacked", so it looks like the only effect of Neo's fight would be to make things worse. Similarly, he seemed to be remarkably cavalier about his high speed flying near the end of the film - what happened to the people in those cars that got spun up in the air? Coming back to the issue of motivation, I wasn't sure why the dreadlock twins were wasting time fighting Morpheus in the car park, since their assignment was to retrieve the keymaker, and they could phase past any time they wanted to. (I could understand him trying to delay them, but not why they'd humour him.)

It also seems to be a bit vague about how closely people are tied to the normal rules of reality (aside from Neo). I understand the whole "suspension of disbelief" thing, and I'm willing to do that, but I do need to know what the ground rules are. For instance, if they said "Being shot in the Matrix isn't a problem, because your real body is intact", that's fine. Or if they said "Being shot in the Matrix is a problem, because your mind believes you've been injured", that's also fine. But they need to pick one. It wasn't actually the shooting I was confused about, but other aspects. For instance, even if Trinity had dodged the bullets, would she still have gone splat when she hit the ground? Or how about when Neo scooped her up at high speed - would that have snapped her spine? I was similarly a bit dubious about the motorbike jumping off the top of the truck (especially when they didn't unchain it first!) - it seems like you'd need a lot of acceleration in a short space of time, particularly since you'll be slowing down as soon as you're airborne, whereas the truck won't... Again, I have no problem with the idea of a "magic" bike that can fly etc., but they seemed to be suggesting that this bike was bound by the normal rules of the environment. On the other hand, I didn't have a problem with them zipping through oncoming traffic - that looked plausible, if you're a good enough rider (which I'm not!).

Having a clifffhanger is a bit of a cheat, but at least it's not too long until the next film.

On the positive side, I really liked the idea of Neo's predecessors, and the vampire/werewolf guards who were left over from a previous version of the Matrix. And the backdoor concept was quite nifty. I also liked the idea of sentient programs being able to "retire" once they were replaced by an upgrade. It reminded me of a scene from "Voyager", where the Doctor was fantasising about the hero's welcome he'd recieve, if/when the ship ever returned to the Alpha Quadrant, but Seven of Nine just said "It's more likely that they'd simply overwrite your program with the latest version."

Also, I was reminded of the novel "Fallen Angels", where the astronauts (who have reflexes conditioned to freefall) get into trouble on Earth, when they neglect to allow for gravity. It struck me that Neo could actually be a liability in the "waking world", since he's used to having God-like powers. Mind you, based on events near the end of the film, I do wonder whether they're going for the standard "13th Floor" twist, i.e. he's still inside the Matrix (or at least a Matrix).

On a random note, I assume that Trinity is supposed to look really sexy in her leather outfit, but I really don't see the appeal - she just looked really gaunt to me. But I guess tastes vary...

Right, bedtime now, then back to studying in the morning.
Tags: books, exams, films, postgrad
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