Tuesday, October 31, 2006

This is Halloween

Ongoing notes as the night goes on:
I've set up my decorations. Short, wide candles in a sort of candleabra over the door. I don't know that they've been lit since last year. I had to spend some time recovering wicks. One found something besides wick to burn. It burned fast and wax ran everywhere. There's a nice trail of red and some splatter. My audio track is playing. I adjusted the volume so the background hiss matched nicely with the ambient traffic noise. You won't notice it until the muttering and whatnot kicks in. I put the LED bulb from the bathroom under the steps for a nice bluish glow. Alas, with all the lights from the Howard University building across the street it isn't as effective as it should be. A hollow owl that looks just like the ones Grammie used to have is lit up next to the door. The weather is in the 70's so Gandolf is planted up in a tree to talk to people who come close. She'll probably scare people more than anything.

(sigh) Way too much light. A little time with a slingshot would help a lot.

Well, shoot. Possibly the last nice evening until April and I wanna sit inside so trick-or-treaters have to approach the house. I decided to sit outside and read until the first kids come by then go inside.
Wait, what's that? Ah, the sweet screams of people freaked out by parrots.

Stupid candles. The wicks are burying themselves again.
Seven visitors so far. They've cleverly disguised themselves as black kids. Popular costume this year.

10 kids. 1 adult. 1 costume. A toddler in a fuzzy animal outfit. A bear or a bunny.

12 kids. 2 adults. 3 costumes. Couldn't tell what these two were, but masks were involved.

Two ninja turtle and a princess with their parents.
6 high school students. Gandolf really liked one of the girls.
Two more kids dressed like blacks.

Maybe next year I'll go back to last year's audio track. It got a better reaction from people. A few people have noticed my audio, but no real reaction. Then again, I've been getting a pretty old crowd.
The only candle that hasn't eaten it's own wick is the one that dumped most of it's wax early in the evening.

OH! That was beautiful! Some guy was power walking down the sidewalk when The Voice in my recording said "Weep for me". He stopped dead and stared at the house. Then after a couple of seconds moved on.

Gandolf has been sitting up in the tree for hours. I offered to bring her in and she refused. She wants me with her, but she's not willing to give up her branch.

Ok, nobody has come by in an hour. Time to pack it in.

People in DC don't have the usual hangups about being too old to trick-or-treat but they do have those hangups about wearing costumes. Kids don't trick-or-treat at all.

Valentine's Eve

I've been looking at new holidays for Dougintologists to celebrate. Some time back I decided that Valentine's Day needed an Eve. All Saint's Day has an Eve that we call Halloween or All Hallows Eve. I just feel that Valentine's Day needed it's own eve. But while All Saint's Day is the holy day and Halloween is the costume day Valentine's Day is both holy and dedicated to dressing up. So, after letting my unconscious mull it over for a few month's I've started to figure out how to celebrate Valentine's Eve.

Valentine's Eve will be celebrated by women by NOT wearing make-up and by men by NOT shaving. Halloween is about dressing yourself in a manner you couldn't get away with any other day of the year and I want Valentine's Eve to be the same way. It gives the added benefit of making your significant other more understanding of what you go through every day to make yourself attractive and should appreciate you all the more on Valentine's Day. Granted, no makeup vs not shaving is a rather lopsided concession but I'll leave it to you to decide who loses out.
Another benefit of this holiday is that it gives men a 24 hour reminder that they're supposed to have planned something planned for the next day. Now they just need a similar holiday before their anniversary and wife's birthday.

My only problem now is that Valentine's Eve is a lame name for a holiday. I mean, it'll do. Having the word "Valentine" in it is part of the reminder for men. But I'd like to give it another name. Something that is less Christmas Eve to Christmas and more Halloween to All Saints Day. Any suggestions?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Movie review: Running With Scissors

I went to see "Running With Scissors" because someone told me how much he liked the book. It's a good movie, it is. Just not really my thing.
The main character's Dad left, his Mom's crazy, and he was given up for adoption by his Mom's shrink who is himself nuts. He turns out to be gay and starts dating someone 20 years older than him who hears voices. He attempts suicide just to get out of class. One of shrink's daughters thinks inanimate objects talk to her.

It's a comedy.

Life sucks for the kid, but the ways that the crazy people are crazy is entertaining.
It's a good movie, but too chick-flick for me. I won't get it on DVD.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Movie Review: Tideland

If this weren't a Terry Gilliam movie I wouldn't have gone to see it. Before the movie there's a short clip of Terry explaining how to watch the movie. He'd given the talk to a few audiences in film festivals and sneak previews and it became such an essential part of understanding the movie that they added it to the general distribution.
The message is that you have to watch the movie from the perspective of a little girl. All the stuff that we would see as twisted and just plain wrong are explained away if you can just understand that this is how the little girl thinks things are.

The story follows a little girl whose parents are both druggies. She prepares the needles and helps her dad shoot up, or as he calls it "go on vacation". Her mom seems to hsve her own mental problems as she hugs her daughter too tight, telling her over and over how much she loves her, and then smacking her around when the girl tries to take one of Mom's candy bars.
Mom chokes, on a cigarette I think, and dies. The girl stops Dad from setting fire to the building to cover things up, and they both flee to the old farmhouse where Dad grew up.
Here she meets a man with serious mental handycaps so he acts her age and his sister who dresses in an all black bee protection suit. When her father dies the girl just thinks he's on a long vacation until the woman in the bee suit, who has been pining for the man for all these years, has him stuffed. Taxidermy I say.
I'm not even getting into the inappropriate boyfriend/girlfriend relationships that form.

I'm leaving out a lot, but the point is that the girl thinks it's all normal either because people say it is or because she doesn't understand how age differences affect the boyfriend and girlfriend relationships she sees in movies and storybooks.

I won't get this on DVD. I wouldn't really want to see it again. I'm glad I saw it, but anything that needs this much justification to appreciate isn't worth a second viewing.

Friday, October 27, 2006

In the city?

I should really carry my camera around with me more often.

As I was cruising home last night I saw a deer grazing. I was passing through a cloverleaf where 16th street meets some significant highway or other. Standing in one of the loops was a 6 point deer quietly grazing. Cars zipping around it didn't bother it one bit. It did think my Segway was strange. After staring at each other for about a minute the deer decided it didn't like me in it's world, strolled across the road, and disappeared into the woods. I would have liked to see the expression on the face of the person in the car that had to stop for it.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

more tiny food

Some time ago the Colonel and I were discussing how pineapples grow. I admit I was laboring under some false impressions. Did you know that pineapples don't sneak into your room and steal your breath?

Anyway, she found someone selling pineapple plants with green fruit and bought one for me and one for her family. I tried growing one for three years. The plant got to be pretty big, but no fruit.

So I watered it and let it be for a few weeks. The fruit didn't seem to get any bigger. Then it changed colors and started to fall over. So I got a knife and harvested it. After showing it around the office for a good laugh I took it home.

I just put the apple there for scale.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Seeing Ear Theatre

You're still here? Uh... here, listen to this. Last episode of Seeing Ear Theatre.

Episode 8: The Alpha and Omega of David Wells
Featuring Peter Gallagher

Description from the site:
A man in search of the Truth undergoes a past-life regression that takes him further than anyone has ever gone before.

"People with no tact, noting my sometimes intemperate nature, have tended to tell me, 'Y'know, you REALLY should have a past-life regression sometime to see where all this anger is coming from.' Which finally (after smiting them, that is) got me to thinking about what I would do in a story with this device...if there was a way to go FORWARD just as well as BACKWARD through various incarnations. When I figured that one out, The Alpha and Omega of David Wells kind of wrote itself." – J. Michael Straczynski


Monday, October 23, 2006

new bathroom

Because so many people asked... ok, nobody asked, but I know you were interested... well, she was... that one, in the red... well you looked interested. Ok, that was a yawn, but it's my blog and I'm posting it.


The button on top of the toilet tank is the flushing mechanism. That little stainless steel can between the toilet and sink is where I keep my toilet paper. Never having to change a roll appeals to my primitive male instincts.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Movie Review:The Prestige

When I went to see "The Illusionist" I thought I was going to go see this movie. Turned out they were both good movies.
"The Prestige" is like a feature length "Spy vs. Spy" but with magicians instead of spies. The whole movie is about events twisting, twisting, and then twisting again. Some of them you'll figure out. Others you won't.
Christian Bale (Batman) and Hugh Jackman (Wolverine) play a couple of magicians. They started their careers as audience "plants" for a magician played by Ricky Jay (advisor for The Illusionist). Something happens to turn them against each other. As they each start to develop their own careers as magicians they'll each show up to sabotage the other. Then they start to steal the other's tricks. Then things start to get nasty.
The story skips back and forth in time. If you couldn't keep up with "Pulp Fiction" then stay well clear of this. But most of the movie is flashbacks from where Bale is in prison for the drowning of Jackman.

A great movie that I will definately get on DVD.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Another trip to the City of Dreams

Episode 7: Samuel Beckett, Your Ride Is Here
Featuring John Turturro and Bill Irwin

Description from the site:

Surrealism. Existentialism. Minimalism. Stream of Consciousness. Spaceships. What, you expected something ordinary in the City of Dreams?

"When you experiment in audio, you can do only so many things with tricks. At some point you have to dive into the form of the narrative itself. So I wanted to try something that played with stream of consciousness, surrealism, minimalism and existentialism, but without losing some SF touchstones. Hence, this week's episode. One long and very weird conversation. And no tricks." – J. Michael Straczynski


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Seeing Ear Theatre

In a dank, dark corner of the Sci-Fi Channel's website lurks a long forgotten directory. In the early days of the channel they played with radio shows. But they never got the hits they wanted. So they stopped development. The pages remained but little by little it became isolated from the main page. For awhile you could still find your way there if you knew where to look. But today nothing remains connecting this to the main page. You have to have memorized the URL. http://scifi.com/set

One of the series they tried was City of Dreams by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski. Nine were planned. Six were made. You can still find the complete archive of the Seeing Ear Theatre at http://scifi.com/set but you need Real Audio to listen to it. A lot of people don't like that program. So here are links to MP3s that someone made of City of Dreams. Get them quick. I can't guarantee how long the links will be good.

Episode 1: The Damned Are Playing at Godzilla's Tonight
Featuring Steve Buscemi

The dark, ominous tale of the bigoted owner of a small nightclub in the City of Dreams who faces a new sound, and a band that just won't quit...on either side of the grave.

"For our first story, I wanted something with teeth, something that took one of the more common supernatural tropes and used it in a way that dealt with contemporary themes. It has kind of a Lovecraftian feel, starting at the end, then finding out how we got here, and why. Where else can you get all that *and* a commentary on the state of the music industry?" – J. Michael Straczynski


Episode 2: Rolling Thunder
Featuring Andre Braugher

A father offers to give up anything to regain his lost child...and a certain Someone takes him up on it.

"We all make mistakes. Big ones, small ones, mistakes that change our lives forever. There's our life before IT, and after IT, whatever your IT happens to be. This is the story of an IT: the loss of a child's life, and what one person will endure in an attempt to correct that mistake. I wanted to ask one simple question: what is one person's life really worth?" – J. Michael Straczynski


Episode 3: The Friends of Jackie Clay
Featuring Merwin Goldsmith

Jackie Clay is the caretaker of a small cemetery in the City of Dreams who speaks to the dead and, when a crisis occurs, learns that he has friends he never knew he had.

"Having done two strong, serious, intense stories, I kinda wanted to write something a bit lighter, more redemptive, with a touch of humor. A guy who works at a cemetery and talks to the residents brings in response a logical question: do they talk back, and if so, what do they say? It's a story about friends, polite behavior, and the anger of the dead." – J. Michael Straczynski


Episode 4: The Tolling of the Hour
Featuring Campbell Scott

The clock shows no mercy. Neither does the board of directors or the CEO, who demands more than life can give, and finds himself on the business end of the clock he worships.

"We have become a society answerable to the tick of the clock, the Board of Directors, the CEO...with your average corporate employee daily crushed under the wheels of downsizing, working harder for less money so the stockholders get a ten percent per share boost. I felt there needed to be a cautionary tale about the inevitable result of grinding down people's souls, because sooner or later, the universe downsizes those who downsize unto others." – J. Michael Straczynski


Episode 5: Night Calls
Featuring Tim Curry

Something unusual is waiting for you in the intersection of a conversation between god and a man asked to build a *second* ark...what it will carry, and where it all goes, is not what you may be expecting.

"I told Brian that I wanted to divide CITY into three parts: 1-4 being fairly straightforward stories, and 5-8 being more experimental stories that play with the form of radio drama. Get everybody lulled into a false sense of security, and then start pulling the rug out. This is the first of the experimental episodes. Be sure to listen carefully, because not everything here is what it seems." – J. Michael Straczynski


Episode 6: MCSD 00121J
Featuring Campbell Scott

From: Manasee County
Sheriff's Department
Manasee County, New Jersey

The original audiotape of which this (enclosed) tape is a copy was found near the site of the Clarefield community residence 23 August 2000 by Sgt. Emile Jackson and the original copy was forwarded to the MCSD forensics lab for analysis. A second copy has been forwarded to the FBI Crime Lab in Roanoake VA for more detailed audio study.

In light of the recent tragic events of Clarefield, we appreciate any assistance your office and listeners can provide in establishing any of the identities of the persons recorded on this tape. Needless to say any information emerging from this investigation will be held in the strictest confidence. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions.


Captain J. J. Durham
Manasee County Sheriff's Department


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

DC Green Festival

I went to the Green Festival last weekend. It was pretty epic. The booths seemed well organized, too. The environmental financial organizations were all clumped together, the foods were clumped together, the coffee sellers were clumped, the charities were clumped, the merchants were clumped. If you knew what you wanted you could just go to that area.
There were a bunch of speakers that I skipped because they said the recordings would be on the website. I'm still looking.

I'm just going to write up a few of the booths that caught my attention.
A full list of exhibitors can be found at http://www.greenfestivals.org/component/option,com_docman/task,cat_view/gid,53/Itemid,105/.

Filament Free
There's a real market among environmental websites for a decent designer and developers. Most of http://filamentfree.org is under construction. That's ok, because I just want to send you to http://filamentfree.org/betterbulb_products.html.

ECO supply
Turned out that I had just been to their site the day before. No eCommerce, but they deliver to DC every week or two. I'll be getting my plyboo from them to close up my walls.

Full Circle Industries
Their products are made with "paper" that is made from 100% sugarcane fibers-Bagasse. This material is an agricultural by-product from sugar mills. Their factory uses these materials to make disposable paper products. Their bowls are oven safe and can be reused or composted.

Mr. Ellie Pooh
Somehow I missed their booth. I just picked their card up off the ground and it made me laugh.
From their website "Since an elephant’s diet is all vegetarian, the waste produced is basically raw cellulose. Thoroughly cleaned and processed, the cellulose is converted into a uniquely beautiful textured product, marketed as “Ellie Pooh Paper”. This acid free, linen-like papyrus-type paper can be formed into art and construction projects, notebooks, cards and assorted gift items where the only limitation is ones imagination."

Recycle Place
Sell them your used printer cartridges instead of returning them to the printer.

Greenline Paper Company
Sells a variety of environmentally friendly office, school, and food service supplies.

Green Earth Office Supply
WARNING: See my earlier comment about bad website design.
Sells a variety of environmentally friendly office, school, and food service supplies.

Kwytza Kraft
Products made from recycled chopsticks. I wouldn't buy anything, but I'd start saving my chopstick so I could make my own.

Eco Strip
I got to see their product in action. They had windows that looked like they were pulled off an old barn and stripped them. They put an infrared heater over the area to be stripped. The head causes the resins in the wood to rise to the surface so that the paint practically wipes away.

Healthy living TV and radio. Starring some woman who stares at all her interviewees like they're saying the most interesting, important, and serious thing in the world. Four hours and that woman didn't appear to have moved an inch or changed her interested scowl in the least.

EcoVision Partners
Environmentally friendly printers.

Standard Solar
DC area solar panel installers.

Their site has a calculator to determine your carbon footprint.
They'll offset your carbon emissions for $5.50 per ton.

Community Forklift
The retail arm of a deconstruction company. They tear down houses and preserve the outlet, vent covers, siding, cabinets, etc. and resell them. They work with Habitat for Humanity a lot.

Naturally Creative
All natural craft products. Lots of yarn.

Environmentally friendly cafe and home improvement store.

Cafe Campesino
Fair trade coffee merchant.

My Organic Market
A DC area organic market. This one uses 100% wind power.

Sort of like the Solar Decathlon but with low energy use products.
The next show is 24-25 April 2007 on the National Mall.

New Society Publishers
Too many nifty books to really give them a fair shake. Browse their book list.

The Wilderness Society
They have job openings.

Fuel Cell Store
I can't get to the website right now, but they sell a bunch of fuel cell educational toys. Good for classroom use or toys for child and cubicle.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

test, test

I installed a phone jack downstairs on Sunday. I had to do a belly crawl under the house to do it, but it works.
So now that I have internet access downstairs I've connected my computer to my TV. That's right. I have a 44" monitor.

From the Dougintology aquisition department

I recently picked these up in a yard sale. No, I don't really have room for them, but I couldn't pass them up.

Monday, October 16, 2006


The US Census Bureau estimates that tomorrow morning (Oct 17) just before 8:00 the population of the United States will reach 300 million.

This is up from 100 million in 1915 and 200 million in 1967.

NO! You were supposed to be DEAD!

"7th Heaven" is still on TV! A new season! They were cancelling it! They made a huge deal of it. There was a countdown to a final episode. Not a season finale, but the series finale. But it's BACK!

If you haven't seen an episode consider yourself lucky. I've only seen a few and it's awful. It has THE worst dialog, THE worst acting, and when it comes to the wholesome, heartwarming message they try to teach the exact opposite of a good message.

One episode in particular had the youngest daughter supposed to write and read a report about George Washington along with everyone else in class. 20-some-odd kids each reading nearly identical reports. So their daughter digs a bit more and goes beyond the legend of George Washington into who he really was. She gets the dirt on him. And she gets in trouble for it. Her parents get called in and told what she did. Then she's in trouble with them, too.
That was the message of that episode. Don't think, don't investigate, don't look beyond the surface, don't question the teacher. It's your job to be exactly like everyone else.

The other episodes don't stand out as clearly, but it was more of the same. I was pretty happy when it was being cancelled.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Game review: Destroy All Humans!

I just finished playing "Destroy All Humans!"
You're a member of a warlike alien race. Uncontrolled radiation from your weapons have caused your genitals to shrivel up. For centuries your people have survived and made yourself effectively immortal through cloning. But the genes are degrading and the species faces extinction. Luckily, some of your race, returning from an ancient conquest, took shore leave on Earth and bred with the proto-humans. Some of the alien DNA can still be found in the human genome. We're here to harvest the gene fragments from the human brainstem and rebuild our chromosomes.

You can disguise yourself as a human but it saps your concentration to keep up the illusion. To recharge your concentration you scan people around you and read their thoughts. The thoughts are hilarious, particularly if you know much of anything about the 1950's. One of my favorites was "They say Jimmy Hoffa is buried under here. Wait, he's not dead yet. Forget I said anything."

You start with some telekinetic powers you can you use pick people up. As the game progresses you can buy upgrades so that by the end of the game you can toss tanks around.

You get an anal probe gun. A full blast given to average people or police causes them to run around grabbing their butts until their brains pop out. You then collect the brains. They run between 10 and 100 depending on the person.
All around are hidden probes that served as an advance team. They're worth 75 DNA each.

You also get a lighting gun, a ion bomb, and a disintegrator. Oh, then there's your flying saucer which starts with a death ray and gains a sonic cannon and a quantum disruptor.

One of the final levels is called "Attack of the 50 Foot President" where a 50 ft tall robot controlled by the brain of the President (who you killed in a previous level).

As s bonus, the game comes with the movie "Teenagers From Outer Space."

I got through the game in a week. For the $20 I spent on it I think it's pretty good. A co-worker borrowed it before I played it. It took him several weeks with the cheat codes on. He was totally hooked, too.

Anyway, I highly recommend this game.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

More Segway

After further diagnostics it would appear that my Segway was suffering from low tire pressure. If one tire gets low you notice it right away. When both get low at the same time strange things start to happen. The gyroscopes can handle you tipping back and forth, but if you take a corner too fast when the tires are low it tips to the side and confuses the circuitry. It also lowers the milage. On the plus side, you don't feel the bumps as much.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Book Review: End of an Era

Robert J Sawyer. He's my man. He's one of the few science fiction authors writing today who actually make sure their science checks out. But he sticks mostly to 10 years from now instead of several hundred. So far I haven't read one of his books that made me think "boy, was he off his game there."

In "End of an Era" two palentologists climb into a time machine and go back to see what killed the dinosaurs. There's a bit of uncertainty in the mechanism so they go back knowing they could a few thousand years too early or too late. They find an Earth with two moons, roughly one-third of modern gravity, and with many of the dinosaurs being occupied by an intelligent blue sludge from Mars. Simce Mars is dead in our time they have to make a decision about whether or not the martians should be brought forward in time to prevent their extinction.
Meanwhile, in an alternate timeline the time machine project never was. The main character finds strange entries in his diary written by him 65 million years ago and starts to investigate.

Spoilers can be found in the comments.

He does a wonderful job of explaining the different theories about what killed the dinosaurs and what's wrong with the asteroid theory. He does a Jurassic Park quality job of talking about the dinosaurs. Except for the time machine and martians he plays it straight and has done the research to keep it accurate.

I highly recommend this and anything by Robert J. Sawyer.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Book review: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

About the time I moved to DC I Gregory Maguire's book "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West". Now it's a popular Broadway musical. It's a good book, too. You recognize all the characters immediately and see a long, rich story, which Dorothy is dropped in the middle of and acts as a Deus Ex Machina to solve much of Oz's problems.

Gregory Maguire put out another book with the same idea of telling another classic from the villain's point of view. This time he tackles Cinderella. Since Oz had so much source material to pull from than Cinderella this book isn't as familiar or engaging until near the end.

The story starts with a mother and her two daughters arriving in Holland after fleeing England from accusations of witchcraft. But their relatives in Holland are dead. The mother gets a job cleaning house for a painter, eventually moving up to housekeeper for a wealthy businessman. When the wealthy businessman's wife dies she marries him.
The businessman's beautiful daughter is spoiled and has never had to do any work other than look pretty. Her new stepmother and stepsisters actually makes her do menial labor like stirring pots, waving flys away from food, and other chores. By her perspective this is hard labor and she hates it.
The fairy godmother is reduced to a tale she tells the stepmother after the stepdaughters help her get to the ball to meet the prince.

It's not a bad book, but if I were to recommend one of this authors works it wouldn't be this one.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Potato trial results


I started growing potatoes in a barrel.

They sprouted and took root.

The guys who worked on my house dumped my potato barrel. A tragic loss. The only remaining potato was the one I dropped on the surface next to one of my prickly pears. That's the same one shown in the second link.

That potato continued to grow and that icky brown spot continued to spread. The potato itself rotted away, but the rest survived. The three sprouts grew to be quite long and jumped out of the pot. But it was always kind of sickly. We had a drought going on, I wasn't there to water it, and it had been shoved under a tree so it wasn't getting as much light as it might have liked. They finally gave up and died about a week back. I pulled them up and threw them in the empty potato barrel to start next years growing muck. I looked back at the pot I just yanked them out of and saw something peeking through the soil. I dug around a bit and found this.

My potato crop. Sad it may be, but the concept has been proven and I will try again next year.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


My poor Segway is sick. It didn't want to come home Friday. I wrote it off to the rain then. Today it came home but running slow and shaking. It'd been doing some shaking on the way home for the last month or so but I tried to dismiss it. After all, it got me TO work just fine.
If it can last until Thanksgiving I may be able to drop it off for a checkup somewhere between here and Wichita. I'm thinking either Gaithersburg or St. Louis. The guys here in DC are either crooks or have technical skills on part with any random 8 year old I might pull of the street.

I'd be willing to blow the money to get a brand new one if I hadn't just bought this wall.

Monday, October 09, 2006


I'm going to finally answer a question posted several weeks ago in the comments. What kind of camera do I use?

It's Panasonic's Lumix DMC-FZ30. It was chosen over some other pretty spiffy cameras because it will take SD Cards as did my last camera, my Palm Pilot, my memory stick, and Mom's laptop.
I can lock the shutter open for up to a minute as seen in "Fun With Cameras" and "More Fun With Cameras"
It seems to tweek the colors just a bit as seen when looking at the truck, grass, sky, and house in "Death of a Solar Panel".
The zoom is pretty awesome as seen in "Rubbish".

I didn't need the flash for any of the shots at the book release at work today. This disturbed the people at the party.

And finally, this is a picture I took during the Cherry Blossom Festival. The wind was blowing pretty hard that day and all the petals rippled nicely on the surface of the Tidal Basin. Click on the photo to see how big this picture really is.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

An idiotic hypothosis

I think I mentioned recently that I visited the zoo not too long ago. While reading the signs a poorly informed idea came to me. But first the background.

Reptiles lie in the sun to warm up. Since their body temperature relies on the outside temperature they need to do that to get moving. I'm told that the whole being smooshed by passing cars thing is not part of natures plan and the reptiles that sun themselves on highways will, through natural selection, stop doing that in another few thousand years.

Many species of mammals behave similarly. The furry ones don't tan well and they can control their own temperature so those reasons are ruled out. According to the signs, they do this to kill parasites, bugs, and fungi that would like to live in their fur. These small beings can't handle the sun's UV rays as well as the larger creatures do.

The Naked Mole Rats have no fur. This is because they spend all their lives underground and can't bake away the parasite like the furry mammals must do. They also have life expectancies several times that of the mole rats that do have fur. Just how much longer is still being determined, but so far it's decades. Is this because they don't have the parasites and whatnot that the furry molerats have? Dunno.

So here's how my thinking goes. As the primates that eventually developed into us became more intelligent and started using and building better and better shelters, shelters out of the sun, we became more prone to parasites and the like that would normally have tanned to death. The proto-humans who had less hair also had less parasites et.al and lived longer and had more offspring. Over time they became the thinly haired beings we are today.

One could push this idea a bit further to try to explain why people from sunny areas like the Middle East have more and courser hair than people who developed in the cloudy areas such as the northern European climate.
One could, but it would probably be a bad idea.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Sunday October 8 and 15 PBS will be showing the BBC's recent version of Casanova during Masterpiece Theatre. That's 9:00 on local station WETA. Yeah, the WETA that you see at the end of lots of PBS shows.

Why do you want to watch? Well, if you caught the premier of the second season of the new Doctor Who Friday night or if you saw the latest Harry Potter (playing Barty Crouch Jr.) movie you'll recognize the title character. Casanova is said to be the role that landed him his part on Doctor Who.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Game Review: Hitman: Blood Money

I just finished playing "Hitman: Blood Money" on the rookie setting.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Hitman series of games, you play a man known as 47. He's one of a series of assassin clones that went rogue. You tried going straight in an earlier game but, as they say, they kept dragging you back in.
You work for something called Agency. They give you your missions. You're given a set number of goals and it's up to you to decide how best to solve them. You can come in with guns blazing and making sure that nobody walks out alive unless it's part of the mission. You can slip in with one of several disguises, kill only the targets, and leave undetected. You can shoot them, poison them, blow them up, run them down, push them from balconies, whatever. Any extra kills you need to get disguizes can be stuffed in a dumpster or deep freeze so they won't clue in security. The freedom the game provides is one of the best I've seen.

In this game there's another group killing Agency's agents. By the end there's only you and Diana, your contact, left alive and Diana is on the run. As the SWAT team is closing in on your location Diana comes and poisons you with a hypodermic needle to the neck as you've done to so many other people. It looks like she sold you out.

Gandolf bought it. She yelled "BITCH!" at the TV. Hey, she didn't learn the word from me. Wait, maybe she did. I guess I have been known to yell that at the TV when somebody does something sneaky to me that I don't like. Hmmm.

But at the funeral Diana comes up to your body, gives you a couple of guns and another injection. As the credits roll you start to wake up. Diana did the same thing to you that you did to a CIA agent you were trying to smuggle out of imprisonment in an alcohol rehab center and could only sneak out "dead". Wiggling the controls speeds up your recovery. You sit up and start shooting people. They're all heavily armed and all members of the group whose been killing people at Agency. All but a reporter and you have to kill him, too.

Great game, but the whole series is. Too bad there will probably never be a Thief 4. It's the only series I liked more than Hitman.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Movie reviews: Renaissance and Open Season

This is one of the few futuristic movies that don't paint a goverment controlled Orwellian nightmare. It's a detective story where a cop is trying to find a kidnapped researcher for that era's megacorp. Who took her? Why? And what dramatic plot of the evil megacorp will be thwarted?
Take the high contrast black and white art of Sin City and then make it a cartoon like A Scanner Darkly and you have Renaissance. It's all done in black and white - no grays. There is the occasional off black or off white, but it's always a reflection or computer display or something and it's just barely off black or white.
The art was the most interesting part of the movie. The story wasn't bad, but not something I'd be terribly interested in seeing again... you know, unless I had a date who wanted to see it.

Open Season
Another computer generated animation. It's a lot like Shrek in that you have a big character who just wants his home back and his irritating sidekick. The sidekick even gets called a donkey in one scene. Then there's all the wildlife who want to move into his home, too. But there's not all the singing and dancing and topical references of Shrek so I'd have to say this was better. This is one of the better non-Pixar computer generated animations that I've seen.
What you've seen in the trailers, the part where the wildlife rebels and fights back against the hunters doesn't happen until late in the movie. Leading up to that there's plenty of story and character development.
Good movie but I won't be getting it on DVD.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Book fair

Yesterday was the annual Library of Congress (and Laura Bush) Book Fair on the National Mall. There was a smaller group of familiar authors there this time than the last few years. I mostly went to see Spider Robinson. He's a sci-fi writer and author of the Callahan's Bar* stories. His wife, Jeannie, was there, too since they've put out three books together. She's a dancer and helped him write books about dancers in space.

He also recently released a book that was started with Robert Heinlein. Heinlein wrote the outline decades ago and it recently surfaced after his wife died. At some writer's panel at a sci-fi convention someone suggest that Spider finish it. A few weeks later he had the outline and turned it out. I'll write the review when I finish reading it.

Then I stood in line for him to sign one of the Callahan books. I figure that's what introduced me to that author so that's what I wanted signed. We talked briefly. He's great. He and his wife are basically still hippies.

Before Spider was the guy who wrote the book "Thank You For Smoking" which recently became a great movie. Instead of pimping his book or the movie he just performed a brilliant 30 minute routine about the trouble naming books.

All the speakers were video taped and should eventually be on the C-Span 2 website.

*Callahan's isn't sci-fi. It's just a great bar full of funny people. Ideal books for pun lovers.