Thursday, March 29, 2007


In a measuring cup I've placed two of the potatoes from last year's crop. One had already started to sprout and that's the one I'm focusing on here.

Day 2 - Most of the growth was in the root.

Day 4 - You can see the shoot has grown a bit, but only because there's a picture.

Day 6 - Now it's starting to show off.

Today is the beginning of day 8. The shoot has grown even more in the last day and a half. The other potato has started to put off root but not where I expected. The one in the pictures I'll probably put in dirt in another week.

Book Review: There Was an Old Woman

This is the third Nursery Crime novel. I haven't read the other two. I expected mother goose characters, but that's another series of mysteries. This is a real world based story with inspiration from the rhyme "There was an old woman who lived in a shoe." This kinda takes all the fun out of figuring out who dunnit. It tells you right in the title of the book. Might as well write a book called 'The Butler Did It".

A young woman goes off for another year of college at an all girls college. The third girl has just disappeared in 7 years or so and everyone is all worked up. I'm rather wondering why since most places would offer up fatted calves for sacrifice to get numbers that low. Anyway, the girl goes off to college against her mother's wishes.
Our main character and her roommate both knew the missing girl and start a group to hunt her down. In their search they keep getting themselves in danger.

I should mention that there's a second killer besides the old woman in the shoe, but I'm not saying who.

It's a decent book if you're into mysteries. I'm not but I read the whole thing so it can't be too bad. Anyone want it? Not really the sort of book that fits in my collection.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Book Review: Un Lon Dun

I just finished reading "Un Lon Dun" by China Mieville. China has won several awards for his adult science-fiction-fantasy works. But I'd never heard of him until My Krodie took me to his book reading a few weeks back. I picked up this, his latest, and one of his older books that sounded interesting. I've read a few chapters in the other one and all of this one. China's usual work is much tougher to read. It's adult fiction and you should be prepared to work a bit for his usual stuff. However, this being designed for young adults he wrote accordingly. This book is on par with one of the later Harry Potter books for reading level and subject matter. It's a darker Alice in Wonderland. My Krodie's daughter got scared at the reading.

China Miéville speaking at Politics and Prose.
My Krodie photographer.

It starts like your typical fantasy book. The magical fairy tale land is in danger and only the chosen one can save it. However, our heroes get sent back home early in the story and the chosen one loses all memory of the magical fairy tale land. Her friend, however, finds out something that the people in UnLondon need to know and has to go back. The prophecy is wrong and they still have to stop the threat, but now they're completely off script.

Great book.

p.s. I feel I should mention that the book includes a lot of sketches done by the author that help you picture what some of the strange creatures and objects look like. I'm stealing this for my book.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Movie Review: The Last Mimzy

"The Last Mimzy" is "E.T." retold but with a message.
Two kids find an artifact in the ocean that turns out to be filled with, among other things, a stuffed bunny. The bunny talks to the sister while a piece of electric glass seems to be rewiring the brother to make him smarter. They hide the goods from the adults since adults never understand. People start to notice a change in the kids. Then the government shows up and really screws things up. There's an escape, they take the alien goodies into the wilderness, and send the bunny back home.

Since most storylines have been done before what's important is how they're told. One version of "Lord of the Rings" is an abomination before the gods while another version is praised by everyone but those who can't watch 3 hour movies. Same story, different storyteller. Similarly, this movie is not only similar to "E.T" but the storytelling is on that same level - if a little less scary.

It was a great movie and you should see it, but I don't know if I need to see it again enough to buy it.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Movie Review: TMNT

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - comic book turned cartoon turned movie. It's been 14 years since the last movie and we were well rid of them. But having been given a rest there was time to come up with a decent script.

Like Superman Returns (Superman V or Superman III depending on if you acknowledge Reeve's last two stinkers) this movie acknowledges much of the time that has passed. Their default nemesis, The Shredder, is still dead. His Foot Clan struggles along without a leader or direction. The turtle's are similarly leaderless with Leonardo off in the wilds of South America for training and protecting the villagers from militants. The other turtles are working tech support, kids parties, or off on their own one man vigilante squad.
Enter Patrick Stewart. Yeah, that's right. Suddenly the kiddie movie has some clout.
Captain Picard is a 3,000 year old military commander whose strangely Asian looking armor was on the verge of conquering South America and then the world until his plan to bring a transdimensional army into this world backfired. He was made immortal, his generals turned to stone, and thirteen demons scattered into the world.
Now the stars are about to align just so again to reopen the dimensional rift. Stewart has become the head of an economic instead of military empire. He recruits the Foot Clan and reanimates four of his generals to round up the demons so he can banish them from this world and lift the curse of immortality from himself.

Also involved are April O'Neill, former reporter now artifact hunter, and her beau Casey, human vigilante.

It's really a good story that can probably be appreciated more by us 30-something kids who watched the cartoon than our own offspring. Then again, there was someone my own age behind me whose kid was explaining the backstory to him.
Seriously, I was impressed with how good a job they did on this movie. I'll probably get it on DVD and I'm not a huge Ninja Turtle fan.

Friday, March 23, 2007


When I went to get the mortar from HomeDespot I also picked up a couple of blackberry plantings. One I just stuck in one of my huge pots. The other I'm going to wait a few more weeks and plant in the ground along a fence.

My potato barrel (Instructions) has been left open to air out a bit. The potato crop from last summer has started to sprout so I put it in water to allow it to grow a bit more before they go in the barrel.

Last year's crop

Last year's seed potato.

I also got a package of watermelon seeds that require much less space than typical. I churned up some soil and planted them. Two groups in the ground and one in a pot. I may have to replant later.
This is the first year I've used the ground for gardening. I much prefer pots. I think I'm going to need to do a run to the hardware store for more pots.

Another pot is prepared for green beans, but I'm going to wait another month on those.

My prickly pear is doing well. Last summer's experiments in prickly pear cooking went poorly so I'm cutting back the crop to just the one plant and breaking off some of the growth that seems to want to drop off. This is a very hardy variety that looks good all winter long. If you want some just let me know. Otherwise I leave them on the cement to bake.
More on that at

I also started tearing up more grass to allow the succulents in my front yard to spread. When I finally setup a green roof I'll be wanting to use this succulent ground cover as clippings. By then I should have enough to let it cover the roof in one summer and keep the yard looking decent. The hen and chicks I got from Grandma's yard get to go on the roof, too.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Game Review: Rayman-Raving Rabbits

Rayman has had several other games that I've never played. I kept looking at this one on the shelves and taking note, but passing it by. But it got good comments by some of the online cartoons that I read. I trust these guys more than people who get paid to review games.

I'm guessing that the mini-games inside the Rayman games must have been the most popular features. All this is is a bunch of mini games. There are a bunch of two button Dance Dance Revolution type games. A couple of the repeat the pattern games much like Simon when I was a kid. Lots of games where you're locked on a path and have to shoot as you go through. There's racing games and milking games and whack-a-mole games and all sorts of stuff. It's like they took all the online games you got sick of after 3 plays and put them in a single package so that when you get bored with one they give you another. This game is about packaging. Packaging and the ability to press buttons really fast.

There are a lot worse games that I could have bought, and have in the past. If you're looking for something to buy for your kids that isn't bloody or violent this is a good one. It's for when your kids move past the Lego Star Wars games.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Two and a half months later...

Dad is a farmer. Ok, he's a pipe fitter who farms on the side. But during the cold months he needs something else to do so he makes stained glass windows.
For Christmas of 2005 I asked him to make some house numbers for me. He made this lovely window but since I was still using airplanes for transport he had to mail it to me. Even so, it showed up cracked. Then some stupidity on my part left it where a gust of wind could knock it down and do additional breakings.
So for Christmas of 2006 he made me a replacement for the main body of the window. I'd driven back to Kansas so I had a vehicle to move it back with. Yesterday was warm enough AND I was thinking about it so I scraped the old numbers off the glass and put Dad's numbers up in it's place. You can see it below.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Bill Plympton

National Geographic Live had animator Bill Plympton showing off his environmental work last night. Tickets were $18 but My Krodie's wife got us discounted tickets for $5. Good thing, too. It wasn't an $18 show by any stretch of the imagination. It was good, but not $18 good.

You've seen Bill Plympton's work before even if you don't know the name. Here's one of his more popular clips. Fragments were shown on MTV for years in anti-smoking campaigns.

25 Ways to Quit Smoking

Help justify people posting illegal copies of his cartoons online by purchasing his overpriced stuff at

Monday, March 19, 2007

DC Environmental Film Fest

Thursday marked the beginning of the DC Environmental Film Fest.

Saturday night I went to the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop to see the 1939 production of "Stanley and Livingstone" as in "Doctor Livingstone, I presume." It's the story of how newspaper reporter Henry Stanley went searching Africa for David Livingstone, long thought either dead or lost. Dr. Livingstone had settled in a village and was working as doctor, missionary, and explorer/cartographer. After spending some time there Stanley went back to tell his story and submit Livingstone's maps of the previously unexplored areas. At first nobody believed Stanley until Livingstone died and his last letter mentioned Stanley. I'm told that the end of the movie, where Stanley goes back to continue Livingstone's work, never happened.

Sunday I went to the National Museum of Natural History to see some of the best films from some film fest out west. Only the first three interested me.
"A Life Among Whales" was basically the biography of some marine biologist who is best known for his work with whales. It was also a history of whaling and the impact of whaling on the food chain.
"The Queen of Trees" is a documentary about the African fig tree and all of the life that depends on that tree. It focuses primarily on an itty bitty wasp that fertilizes the tree but it also talks about the parasites that feed on the wasps, the birds that live in the tree, the monkeys and deer that feed on the fruit, the insects that drink the syrup, the bees that feed on what the other insect spill, the butterflys that drink the fermented fruit juice, the fish, the crocodiles, giraffes, elephants, etc. etc. etc.
Then there was "The Craftsman (Mujaan)" about people in Mongolia and one guy in particular who is building a house using only a saw, a drill, and an axe. It starts with him buying the axe in exchange for a sheep. He cuts down trees and builds a cart. He uses the cart to haul materials to where he builds the house. Then he breaks down the house, loads it on the cart, and takes it to the guy who commissioned it. It's cool, but I don't see how they can stay even remotely warm in that house.

Tonight I'm going to watch cartoons at the National Geographic.

Check out the listings to see what else is showing in the next week.

Friday, March 16, 2007

May 7th

I'm just copying off of other bloggers here. If you go to Wikipedia and enter a date it lists all the significant things that happen on that day in history. Most people use their birthday.

Here's mine.


* 558 - In Constantinople, the dome of the Hagia Sophia collapses. Justinian I immediately orders the dome rebuilt.
* 1274 - In France, the Second Council of Lyons opens to regulate the election of the Pope.
* 1429 - Joan of Arc ends the Siege of Orléans, pulling an arrow from her own shoulder and returning wounded to lead the final charge. The victory marks a turning point in the Hundred Years' War.
* 1697 - Stockholm's royal castle (dating back to medieval times) is destroyed in a huge fire (in the 18th century, it is replaced with the current Royal Palace).
* 1763 - Indian Wars: Pontiac's Rebellion begins - Chief Pontiac begins the "Conspiracy of Pontiac" by attacking British forces at Fort Detroit.
* 1824 - World premiere of Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in Vienna, Austria. Work was conducted by Michael Umlauf, under the deaf composer's supervision.
* 1832 - Greece is recognised independent by the Treaty of London. Otto of Wittelsbach, Prince of Bavaria is chosen King.
* 1836 - The settlement of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico is elevated to the royal status of villa by the government of Spain.
* 1840 - The Great Natchez Tornado strikes Natchez, Mississippi, killing 317 people. It is the second deadliest tornado in U.S. history.
* 1847 - In Philadelphia, the American Medical Association (AMA) is founded.
* 1864 - American Civil War: The Army of the Potomac, under General Ulysses S. Grant, breaks off from the Battle of the Wilderness and moves southwards.
* 1895 - In Saint Petersburg, Russian scientist Alexander Stepanovich Popov demonstrates to the Russian Physical and Chemical Society his invention - the first in the world radio receiver. In the former Soviet Union this day is celebrated as Day of Radio.
* 1915 - World War I: a German submarine U-20 sinks the RMS Lusitania, killing 1,198 people, including 128 Americans. Public reaction to the sinking turned many formerly pro-Germans in the United States of America against the German Empire.
* 1920 - Kiev Offensive (1920): Polish troops led by Józef Piłsudski and Edward Rydz-Śmigły and assisted by a symbolic Ukrainian force captured Kiev only to be driven out by the Red Army counter-offensive a month later.
* 1920 - Treaty of Moscow (1920): Soviet Russia recognizes independence of the Democratic Republic of Georgia only to invade the country six months later.
* 1927 - Angelos Sikelianos organizes the first Delphic Festival in Delphi to celebrate the ancient Greek Delphic ideal.
* 1937 - Spanish Civil War: The German Condor Legion, equipped with Heinkel He 51 biplanes, arrive in Spain to assist Franco's forces.
* 1945 - World War II: General Alfred Jodl signs unconditional surrender terms at Reims, France, ending Germany's participation in the war. The document will take effect the next day.
* 1946 - Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering (later renamed Sony) is founded with about 20 employees.
* 1947 - Kraft Television Theater debuts, running for the next 11 years.
* 1948 - The Council of Europe is founded during the Hague Congress.
* 1952 - The concept for the integrated circuit, the basis for all modern computers, is first published by Geoffrey W.A. Dummer.
* 1954 - Indochina War: The Battle of Dien Bien Phu ends in a French defeat (the battle began on March 13).
* 1960 - Cold War: U-2 Crisis - Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev announces that his nation is holding American U-2 pilot Gary Powers.
* 1964 - Pacific Air Lines Flight 773, a Fairchild F-27 airliner, crashes near San Ramon, California, killing all 44 aboard; the FBI later reports that a cockpit recorder tape indicates that the pilot and co-pilot had been shot by a suicidal passenger.
* 1974 - West German Chancellor Willy Brandt resigns.
* 1992 - Michigan ratifies a 203-year-old proposed amendment to the United States Constitution making the 27th Amendment law. This amendment bars the U.S. Congress from giving itself a mid-term pay raise.
* 1992 - Space Shuttle Endeavour is launched on its maiden voyage (STS-49).
* 1992 - Three employees at a McDonald's Restaurant in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada, are brutally murdered and a fourth permanently disabled after a botched robbery. It is the first fast-food murder in Canada.
* 1998 - Mercedes-Benz buys Chrysler for US$40 billion and forms DaimlerChrysler in the largest industrial merger in history.
* 1999 - Pope John Paul II travels to Romania becoming the first pope that had visited a predominantly Eastern Orthodox country since the Great Schism in 1054.
* 1999 - A jury finds The Jenny Jones Show and Warner Bros. liable in the shooting death of Scott Amedure, after the show purposely deceived Jonathan Schmitz to appear on a secret same-sex crush episode. Schmitz later killed Amedure and the jury awarded Amedure's family US$25 million.
* 1999 - Kosovo War: In Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, three Chinese embassy workers are killed and 20 wounded when a NATO aircraft mistakenly bombs the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.
* 1999 - In Guinea-Bissau, President João Bernardo Vieira is ousted in a military coup.
* 2002 - A China Southern Airlines MD-82 plunges into the Yellow Sea, killing 112 people.
* 2005 - Former Lebanese Prime Minister, General Michel Aoun returns to Lebanon after 15 years in exile.
* 2006 - Rolling Stone magazine publishes its 1000th issue.
* 2006 - Arsenal play their last game at Highbury Stadium.


* 1328 - Louis VI the Roman, Duke of Bavaria (d. 1365)
* 1530 - Louis I de Bourbon, Prince de Condé, French Huguenot general (d. 1569)
* 1643 - Stephanus Van Cortlandt, American politician (d. 1700)
* 1700 - Gerard van Swieten, Dutch-born physician (d. 1772)
* 1724 - Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser, Austrian general (d. 1797)
* 1740 - Nikolai Arkharov, Russian general (d. 1814)
* 1748 - Olympe de Gouges, playwright and feminist revolutionary (d. 1793)
* 1763 - Józef Antoni Poniatowski, Polish prince (d. 1813)
* 1774 - William Bainbridge, American Commodore
* 1812 - Robert Browning, English poet (d. 1889)
* 1833 - Johannes Brahms, German composer (d. 1897)
* 1840 - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Russian composer (d. 1893)
* 1847 - Archibald Primrose, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1929)
* 1857 - William A. MacCorkle, American politician (d. 1930)
* 1861 - Rabindranath Tagore, Indian writer, Nobel laureate (d. 1941)
* 1867 - Władysław Reymont, Polish writer, Nobel laureate (d. 1925)
* 1882 - Willem Elsschot, Flemish writer (d. 1960)
* 1885 - George 'Gabby' Hayes, American actor (d. 1969)
* 1891 - Harry McShane, Scottish socialist (d. 1988)
* 1892 - Archibald MacLeish, American Librarian of Congress (d. 1982)
* 1892 - Josip Broz Tito, President of Yugoslavia (d. 1980)
* 1896 - Pavel Sergeevich Alexandrov, Russian mathematician (d. 1982)
* 1901 - Gary Cooper, American actor (d. 1961)
* 1909 - Edwin H. Land, American inventor (d. 1991)
* 1911 - Ishiro Honda, Japanese film director (d. 1993)
* 1916 - Huw Wheldon, British broadcaster (d. 1986)
* 1919 - Eva Peron, Argentinian first lady (d. 1952)
* 1922 - Darren McGavin, American actor (d. 2006)
* 1923 - Anne Baxter, American actress (d. 1985)
* 1924 - Albert Band, American film director (d. 2002)
* 1927 - Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, German screenwriter
* 1929 - Babe Parilli, American football player
* 1930 - Totie Fields, American comedienne (d. 1978)
* 1931 - Teresa Brewer, American singer
* 1933 - Johnny Unitas, American football player (d. 2002)
* 1933 - Nexhmije Pagarusha, Albanian singer
* 1935 - Isobel Warren, Canadian author
* 1939 - Sidney Altman, Canadian molecular biologist, Nobel laureate
* 1939 - Ruud Lubbers, Prime Minister of the Netherlands
* 1939 - Jimmy Ruffin, American singer
* 1939 - Ruggero Deodato, Italian film director, actor and screen writer
* 1940 - Angela Carter, English novelist and journalist (d. 1992)
* 1943 - Harvey Andrews, English singer and songwriter
* 1945 - Christy Moore, Irish Folk Artist
* 1946 - Thelma Houston, American singer
* 1946 - Bill Kreutzmann, American drummer (Grateful Dead)
* 1950 - Randall 'Tex' Cobb, American boxer and actor
* 1950 - Tim Russert, American television host
* 1954 - Philippe Geluck, Belgian cartoonist
* 1954 - Amy Heckerling, American director
* 1955 - Ben Poquette, American basketball player
* 1955 - Tim Richmond, American race car driver.
* 1955 - Kevin Reed, American theologian
* 1956 - Jan Peter Balkenende, Prime Minister of the Netherlands
* 1956 - Anne Dudley, British composer
* 1956 - Jean Lapierre, Canadian politician and television host
* 1957 - Ray Fernandez, wrestler (d. 2004)
* 1961 - Phil Campbell, British musician (Motörhead)
* 1965 - Owen Hart, Canadian professional wrestler (d. 1999)
* 1968 - Traci Lords, American actress
* 1969 - Eagle Eye Cherry, Swedish musician
* 1973 - Kristian Lundin, Swedish songwriter
* 1973 - Paolo Savoldelli, Italian cyclist
* 1974 - Breckin Meyer, American actor
* 1974 - Ian Pearce, English footballer
* 1975 - Jason Tunks, Canadian Olympic discus thrower
* 1975 - Nicole Sheridan, American porn star
* 1975 - Zee, American hip hop artist
* 1978 - Brian Clevinger, American author
* 1979 - Katie Douglas, American basketball player
* 1980 - Johan Kenkhuis, Dutch swimmer
* 1984 - Alex Smith, American football player
* 1987 - Asami Konno, Japanese singer (Morning Musume)
* 1987 - Dennis Mak, Chinese singer (Sun Boy'z)


* 973 - Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor (b. 912)
* 1092 - Remigius de Fécamp, first bishop of Lincoln (b. unknown)
* 1427 - Thomas la Warr, 5th Baron De La Warr, English churchman
* 1523 - Franz von Sickingen, German soldier (b. 1481)
* 1539 - Guru Nanak Dev, Pakistani founder of Sikhism (b. 1469)
* 1539 - Ottaviano Petrucci, Italian printer (b. 1466)
* 1615 - Sanada Yukimura, Japanese samurai (b. 1567)
* 1617 - David Fabricius, German astronomer (b. 1564)
* 1667 - Johann Jakob Froberger, German composer (b. 1616)
* 1682 - Tsar Feodor III of Russia (b. 1661)
* 1718 - Mary of Modena, wife of James II of England (b. 1658)
* 1793 - Pietro Nardini, Italian composer (b. 1722)
* 1800 - Niccola Piccinni, Italian composer (b. 1728)
* 1805 - William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (b. 1737)
* 1825 - Antonio Salieri, Italian composer (b. 1750)
* 1840 - Caspar David Friedrich, German painter (b. 1774)
* 1868 - Henry Peter Brougham, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain (b. 1778)
* 1896 - H. H. Holmes, American serial killer (b. 1861)
* 1922 - Max Wagenknecht, German composer (b. 1857)
* 1925 - William Hesketh Lever, First Viscount Leverhulme (b. 1851)
* 1940 - George Lansbury, Labour Party Leader (b. 1859)
* 1941 - Sir James George Frazer, Scottish anthropologist (b. 1854)
* 1942 - Felix Weingartner, Yugoslavian conductor (b. 1863)
* 1951 - Warner Baxter, American actor (b. 1889)
* 1998 - Allan McLeod Cormack, South African physicist, Nobel laureate (b. 1924)
* 1998 - Eddie Rabbitt, American musician (b. 1941)
* 2000 - Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., American actor (b. 1909)
* 2002 - Seattle Slew, American Race-Horse (b. 1974)
* 2004 - Waldemar Milewicz, Polish reporter (b. 1956)
* 2005 - Tristan Egolf, American writer (b. 1971)
* 2005 - Otilino Tenorio, Ecuadorian football (soccer) player (b. 1980)
* 2006 - Richard Carleton, Australian news reporter (b.1943)
* 2006 - Lillian Gertrud Asplund, RMS Titanic survivor (b. 1907)
* 2006 - Joan C. Edwards, American philanthropist (b. 1918)
* 2006 - Machiko Soga, Japanese actress, singer, and tokusatsu legend (b. 1943)

Holidays and observances

* Russia - Radio Day (commemorating the work of Alexander Popov)
* Bulgaria - Radio and Television Day (see above)
* USA - National Masturbation Day (Declared by Good Vibrations (sex toy business)) Now in its 11th year - [1][2][3][4][5] commonly celebrated with Masturbate-a-thons

Liturgcal feasts

* Acacius of Byzantium
* Saint Domitian of Huy, the apostle of the Meuse valley
* Saint Flavia Domitilla
* Blessed Gisela (d. 1060)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

archaologists find brick

I missed Pi day yesterday (3.14) but I didn't miss the Ides of March. Remember, kids, togas are great places to hide knives.

This is the wall in my computer room as of Tuesday night. I've started to expand into the chimney. The weather is warm enough to toss the debris out the second story door.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Movie Review: The Namesake

This is not a movie I would normally have gone to. There's no space ships, no explosions, no schemes or twists, none of what I usually go see a movie for. But there WERE free tickets and a girl whose schedule I'd been trying to get on.

"The Namesake" is based on the book by the same name. Yeah, I hadn't heard of the book either.
I got a different impression of the movie from the trailer than what was shown. From the trailer I expected the movie to start with a late teen, American born Indian (dot, not feather) who was moody and sullen, hated India and his name and wanted to change his name. Then the father would start some long flashback scene telling about why he gave his son that name. There'd be a Lifetime Channel moment and the son would embrace his name and say to hell with what the Americans thought.

What really happened was similar to that. The movie starts in 1974ish as the father is riding on a train and reading Nicholai Gogol. The train crashes and he moves to America and two years later he marries and Indian woman that his family hooked him up with. Yeah, it really moves about that fast. They have a kid and name him Gogol when the hospital tells them they can't take the kid home without a name. In India they might take years to give him a real name.
The kid starts school at the age of 4 and decides he prefers the name Gogol to the one that his family tried to change it to. But when going off to college he decides he needs a less weird name and changes it to Nicholai. He meets some Barbie doll and spends all his time with her and her family ignoring his own. This continues until his father dies and he starts to reconnect with his Indian heritage. We assume he's broken up with Barbie since she never appears again and he marries some Indian girl. Eventually the Indian girl cheats on him and they divorce. Thus endeth the movie.
They do explain why the father named his son Gogol. The son knew that Gogol was his dad's favorite author but when his father elaborates it still comes off as "I was reading that author when I was the sole survivor of a train wreck." I have to assume that in the book it makes more sense. Probably using the train wreck as a rebirth moment. It probably would have made more sense if he'd named the son after the guy on the train who kept telling him to travel and see the world.

It helps if you see the movie with a bunch of Indians (dot) like we did. Their reactions help punctuate a few scenes since they'll get cultural humor that might slip past American audiences.

It was nice to see Kal Penn in a serious movie role instead of "Van Wilder" or "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" level of films.

Good movie, but I'm not getting it on DVD. It's just not my thing.

p.s. While looking up the spelling of "Nicholai" I found that I have one of Nicholai Gogol's books on my to-read shelf. Some day I'll get around to reading "Dead Souls". With a title like that how could I not pick it up?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

I've made enough progress on the office wall that I decided to use the nice weather on Sunday to go get some mortar. I was expecting a bag of Type S mortar to weigh 50 lbs or so. Turns out it weighs 80. If it were only 50lbs my cart might have survived. Yes, that's right. I took my puny wire grocery/laundry cart to go pick up mortar. If it had worked then I'd have no worries about how to go get the rest. As it is...

I set the bag in the cart and the bottom saged a bit. No problem. I might have to push it back into shape later, but so far it looks good. I push the cart to the checkout, pay, and head out across the parking lot toward the subway station.
By the time I reached the subway the bulge had continued to grow, the axle had bent, and the wheel on the right was leaning at an angle. Still, if I can make it home I can spend some time with a vice and plyers to put it all back. The next trip I'll be sure to put down some boards on the bottom to help distribute the weight. No worries.
As I transferred from one train to the next the wobble from the wonky wheel became pronounced. The cart wanted to wander back and forth. Wires are starting to pop loose from the back of the cart.
The elevator for the U street Metro is near 13th street while I normally exit near 10th street. It would add 3 blocks to my trip, but I'd really prefer to use the elevator. And I was already close to that end of the station so either way it's a couple of blocks that I'd rather not have to deal with. So up the elevators.
At this point the cart is looking really bad. It's leaning off to the right so that I'm trying to hold up that end of the basket with one hand while the other is on the handle moving it along.
As I walked along I can hear the plastic in the leaning wheel starting to crack. I slow down a bit and that seems to help. Still, I'm out pacing about half the pedestrians. What is so damn hard about putting one foot in front of another that I seem to be only one of maybe a dozen people in this city who can do it?
So, the African American Civil War Memorial, turn, cross street, past the chinese place, across the alley, CRACK! Two and a half blocks from home the wheel gives out completely. I break it off and see how far I can get on one wheel. The answer is three inches.
BUT! The front legs are still intact! So we continue up the street with a lean and a twist, a lean and a twist, a lean and a twist, a lean and a twist. Step by step we move up the sidewalk. Wires are dropping from the basket every few feet. And old woman watches as I diligently struggle on toward home. We talk for a bit and she shuffles on ahead. I continue this for another half block before giving up.
I take the lightweight stuff and hope that the rest is too heavy to steal before I get back. Leaving the two legged mass of twisted metal behind I head home for backup. I pass the old woman and give her an update.
Back home, I drop off the lightweight stuff, grab the Segway, and head back out. The old woman cheers as I tear off in my high speed electric dolly. A man on a bike is watching to see if I came back or if the mortar was his for the taking. I heft the bag out of the twisted metal sculpture that once was a grocery cart and set it in a foot hole on the Segway. I climb on and rest one knee on the bag. I resemble a pirate with a cement leg. I creep on home and unload.

I also got some blueberry plant cuttings. I think. Could be blackberry. I'm pretty sure I decided against the grapes. In a couple of weeks, when the frost risk has finally ended I plan to plant them along the fence between me and one of my neighbors.

Coming soon: "Mortar Follys" and "Gardening in a Postage Stamp".

Monday, March 12, 2007

Movie Review: The Host

"The Host" seems to give the "Shawn of the Dead" treatment to Japanese monster movies. It's just not as funny as "Shawn ..." was.

The movie opens in a US Army morgue in South Korea in 2000. The American doctor has his Korean assistant dump out several hundreds of bottles of formaldehyde (can you believe I spelled that right on the first try?) because the bottles were dusty. The assistant objects since the drain goes into the river, the chemicals are toxic, and there are regulations on the disposal of them, but his boss makes it an order.
Two years later some fishermen see something strange swimming in the river. It's still small enough to fit in a coffeecup.
Then in 2006 we meet a family that owns a food kiosk along the river. Grandpa owns it, his idiot son helps run it, his other son went to college but can't get a job, his daughter is a competitive archer, and his granddaughter (daughter of the idiot son) is still in school. A strange blob is hanging under a bridge and everyone is gathering around to watch it. It drops from the bridge and people stand around and throw things in the water for it to eat. Next thing you know this giant fish/lizard/mutant thing is running around eating people. Finally it takes the granddaughter and swims off. Everyone thinks she's dead until she calls them on her POS cellphone. The rest of the movie is spent from the perspective of the family as they try to track down and save the granddaughter while evading the military.

The humor is dark and often only the knowledge that this is a horror/comedy makes it funny.
The creature looks fantastic. Only when set on fire do the effects look like rubbish. Besides being a giant mutant creature it has several deformities that make it a proper toxic waste mutant instead of just a healthy undiscovered creature. One of it's eyes is surrounded with blisters and seems to have cataracts. It has what appear to be giant fish half embedded head first in it's torso at random places.

It is subtitled except when talking to Americans. That doesn't bother me, but I know some people hate that.

"The Host" is a great movie and I'll almost certainly get it on DVD.

Friday, March 09, 2007


My Krodie and I went to a book signing for Kim Stanley Robinson's latest book tuesday night. "Sixty Days and Counting" is the third and final book in his global warming trilogy. I said what the book is before (here) so I'll just write about the talk.
He does a decent Q&A session, but the reading itself wasn't anything thrilling. He's just not someone who should do his own audio book. Neil Gaiman is great. Gaiman's last novel is better when he reads it than when reading to yourself. But Kim just doesn't have it.
Sadly enough he refers to this trilogy as his comedy. Clearly he's using a definition of the word "comedy" that I wasn't previously familiar with.

I am looking forward to fighting my way through this book. And you do have to fight the book in much the same way you have to fight the "Lord of the Rings" books. All of his books shift from interesting to drudgery until the last 100 pages or so. Which sections are interesting and which are drudgery vary with the person. He's very thorough with his subject. He's pretty much killed Mars terraforming books for several decades with his Mars Trilogy. There's just nothing else to write about. But those books really drug until the last 100 pages or so.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Movie Review: The Number 23

I planned to post a picture of my wall excavation after one day, but the memory card seems to be having issues. So instead you get a movie review.

4 8 15 16 23 42
If you've been watching Lost you know these numbers may come to mean something in another three and half seasons. 23 can be explained in about two hours.

This movie exploits what's known at the 23 Enigma.
From Wikipedia: As a number with which to associate things, 23 has several helpful properties. It is a prime number, and therefore more likely to be associated with coincidences because events associated with composite numbers would be divided by a factor to arrive at it or some other prime. In addition, it enjoys the boon of having the two lowest primes as digits; 2 and 3 are small and therefore can be included in complex calculations that arrive at numbers only remotely related, which can then become coincidental with significant events. Two and three are also the most frequent factors (excluding 1) of a given range of whole numbers. 23 less the numeric base is 13, which has many phobias attached to it.

The movie quotes several occurances of the number 23, some of which take quite a bit of math and a leap of imagination to get to. The more obvious include the Earth's tilt at 23.5 degrees (the .5 being 2+3), 23 chromosomes from each human parent, 23 something somethings in Euclid's geometry. There's also a ton of dates and numerology.

The story is that Jim Carrey gets a book where the main character is remarkably similar to him and is haunted by the number 23. It slowly drives him to murder and suicide. As the book progresses Jim Carrey's obsession with the number 23 grows, too. He reads the clues in the book to find the body of some girl murdered when she was 23 and the man in jail for her murder who Carrey thinks wrote the book.
The story is a quest for the author of the book and the secret of the number before the number drives him to madness and murder.

It's not a great movie, it's not a bad movie. The manner they use to get to some of those numbers is more interesting than the movie itself.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Movie Review: The Last King of Scotland

When I first heard about this I had no idea what it was about. Then I saw a review and wondered what Idi Amin had to do with Scotland. I was king of interested because I know so little about Idi Amin, but it was nominated for an Academy Award so that was a turn off. Only the lamest movies win even if a good on actually gets nominated. But I heard enough good reviews that I thought maybe the Academy might have made a mistake. Turns out it's a little from both piles.

This is the story of Idi Amin's personal doctor. A young man from Scotland goes to Uganda to be a village doctor and have a bit of adventure. Amin is taking over as he rides the bus to his village. He goes to see Amin on Amin's tour of Uganda as new President and skipping a few bits of ths story becomes Amin's doctor. He's mostly blind to what's going on in the country. Sure there's a few quirks to Amin but he's not that bad. But eventually he learns about people disappearing and mass slaughters and decides he wants out. There's more to the story, but that's what I wanted to know before going to see it.
Much like "Good Night and Good Luck" shouldn't be viewed as a lesson in McCarthyism this shouldn't be viewed as a lesson in Amin's rule.

Good movie but I don't need to see it again.
You know, I say that a lot. And it IS a good movie. Forest Whitaker does a great job conveying paranoia and a bi-polar personality. I want to know more about Idi Amin. I just want to see it again less than some other movies I say it about.

Monday, March 05, 2007


I started throwing myself at home repairs a bit sooner than I thought I would. I've been keeping the upstairs pretty cold and try not to go up there. But now there's someone who may want to come over eventually. So I came home from work, grabbed the pry bar that Dad gave me for Christmas, and attacked the wall in what used to be my geek room.

Here's the report after one hour.
Starting from the inside of the wall and working out there's brick, a layer of cement, plaster, paint, paint, paint, paint, plaster, and paint. Everything above the cement comes off with some ease. The cement turns to powder with just a bit of encouragement.
I've cleared away about half of what's covering the cement. I planned to provide a picture but the battery is dead in my camera.
A few clumps came out where someone pushed putty between the bricks.
Getting the bricks clean should be no problem.

After two and a half hours.
Dust everywhere and in everything. I came down to let the dust settle from the air as much as anything. Great sections of wall cover just seem to drop off while others hang on for dear life. Still, most of that wall is clear. I can start in on the actual cement covering.
I brought the radio up after that first hour. Think I'll see about bringing home the VCR from the office tomorrow. For now I want to bring the antenna up so I can work during "Prison Break" and "Heroes".
Gandolf stopped chewing her feathers while I worked now that we're back down here she's chewing again. She's bored and doesn't know how to care for her feathers.

After five and a half hours.
It starts getting cold when you're not vigorously chipping away painted plaster. Cement removal is more like archaeology. Slowly removing soft stone a bit at a time. It helps to dig trenches. Cut the huge wall of cement into smaller islands. How well those come away from the wall varies wildly, but it's better than taking it away as dust. I've got a few square feet cleared. If I'd planned this better that wall could look like an artistic version of some blasted Middle East house.
They apparently mixed hair with the cement back then to help it hold together. Probably horse, but could be human. But no hair is a match for my pry bar.

The next morning.

Light exhibit at the Hirshorn Museum

There was a really lousy writeup about this exhibit in the Smithsonian Magazine. But the picture was of this one piece that I saw in the basement of the Wichita art museum a long time ago.
Some of the pieces are old stuff repositioned, but there's some new stuff, too.
Early on there's a wheelbarrow made of flourescent lights.
There's a spotlight pointed at a slowly rotating prism ring that is worth a couple of minutes.
Then there's a dark room that's pretty lame.
There's an old piece that is a circle painted in a circular gradient so that the edges are the same color of the shadows it casts on the wall behind it. It's hard to tell when it ends and the wall begins. One of the first bits that I saw the first time I went there and one of my favorites.
Right after the one I first saw in Wichita was a film which can only be described as every 70's abstract special effects show set to something that is almost but not quite the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. It's the sort of thing they would show when the Enterprise went through a nebula, a baby was being born, someone got drawn into a black hole or alien monolith orbiting Saturn.
There's a room of videos of elephants walking around.
There's a sculpture of boards that are white from three visible angles, but brightly colored on the side facing the window so it casts colored light on the white surfaces.
Up on the thrid floor there's a half hour video of a really long... wossit. You know, when puching the bell wakes the dog that scares the cat that makes the mouse run on it's wheel to turn the gnereator to make the light come on to toast the bread that... you know what I'm talking about. Well it's half an hour long... with a few edits.
In the basement there's a couple of short films both based on nightmares the artist had.
There's some other stuff, but I really should have written this the day I went because I can't remember them now.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Cirrhosis, god of hangovers

I woke up this morning with no evidence remaining of last night's ill-advised drinking. I know why, too. Praise be to Cirrhosis, the god of hangovers. Oh, you wouldn't have heard of him before. He appears in a book that I'm almost done with.
For those of you who have been following the development of this book I did finally write those last 10 pages that have been hanging over me for the last year. I'll be doing a final review this weekend before I start looking for an agent.

Cirrhosis, god of hangovers

Most of the major polytheistic faiths have at least licentatious diety. That is to say a god of wine or other alcoholic beverages. And it’s commonly assumed that this god really knows how to party. This is wrong in all meaningful respects.
The so-called god of wine is, in fact, a god of hangovers named Cirrhosis. In much the same way Jesus took the sins of the world onto himself Cirrhosis takes the hangovers of the world onto himself. This makes him easily the most miserable god in recorded history. For every time that a mortal goes on a drinking binge and comes through bright eyed and clear the next morning the hangover god wakes up with his mouth feeling not unlike the floor of an army barber and his head like a blacksmith’s hammer.
An important question I’m sure many of you are asking is how anyone could mistake a god of hangovers for a god of wine. This is actually quite simple to explain. The remedy for a hangover is a bit of the dog that bit you. So the cure for someone who takes on the hangovers of several million people a night is large quantities of alcohol. He eases into the early afternoon with a few vodka martinis for breakfast and by happy hour he’s sampled most of the 1945 Napa Valley wine season.
Not being gifted with Promethius’ mythical organs, all this drinking leaves the hangover god with some health problems. Most notable of these ailments is the way he pulls his enlarged liver behind him in a wagon.
Understandably, holidays such as Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day leave him feeling somewhat suicidal. While it is possible for a god to die Cirrhosis has far too many unwitting followers for this to happen. Cirrhosis holds the record for most number of temples built in his honor. Generally constructed entirely of porcelain, these temples each stand only about two feet tall with an oval water basin for making offerings while the worshiper kneels before this alter.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Kassy's Happy Hour

It's not really fair to call it Kassy's Happy Hour. She was one of four hosts. She's the only one I happen to read so I'm naming it for her. It's not one of the standard DC Blogger Happy Hours. Someone else puts those together. Anyway, I went. The last one I tried to go to ... well look in my archives.
Never had a Corona before tonight. I would have had something else, but when I finally found an opening in the bar it was too loud to talk and among the empty boxes near me was a Corona box. That and Bud Light. Since Bud Light tastes like proper beer passed through a horse three times I made the universal hand sign for one and then pointed at the Corona box. I wound up having four. This was three more than I intended since I was a pint short of blood. I'd been to the Red Cross mere hours before.

The bar was packed. I moved slowly into the main bar area and soon found someone who I'd never seen before. To make this clear, I'd never seen any of them before. But there was one particular person I'd never seen before. Miss KassyK. She's listed along the side if you care to see her blog. I got the afore mentioned Corona and found a place out of the flow of traffic. I tried talking to a few people with little to no success. Finally, part way through my second bottle I ran into a woman I'll just call Candy Sandwiches. I'm pretty sure that's her digital name. Lovely woman. Nice eyes, lovely smile, and she barely knew anyone there so she was willing to talk to me. We actually spent most of the evening chatting. I mean, with some repeats and some holes in understanding because it was so bloody loud.

In the morning I'll see if any of the contact information she gave me still makes any sense. I'll also reread this so see if this blog entry makes any sense.

I did get to meet Kassy properly at one point. Somewhere in my third bottle I headed for the restroom and met her going the other way. I introduced myself so I wouldn't be just that strange guy standing next to the juke box. At some point she asked me for my real name. Damned if I know why. I'm sure it made some sort of sense at the time.

Anyway, bedtime.

Solar Decathlon update

This is an update for the 17 August 2006 post Solar Decathlon

The Solar Decathlon is a competition between universities all over the world to build the best solar powered house. The houses are brought to Washington, DC and setup on the National Mall for nine days. They're opened for tours every day except Wednesday when they're sealed for judging.

It looks like the schools are just starting to get into the construction phase.

The University of Maryland has started a webcam so you can watch them work.
Right now it's just 6 pillars in a lot.

Santa Clara University has an initial drawing of their house.

It's the standard mobile home shape with solar panels on the roof. And I'll bet you a Coke those wooden slats can slide over the glass doors.

Team Montreal has a video that I haven't seen yet.

Some university in Spain has a nice frame for the house.

Dunno what's inside yet. I'll have to take the Virtual Tour when I get home.
Having the solar panels separated from the roof like they do allows air to flow behind them and keep them cool and more efficient.

The University of Cincinnati has a drawing.

For the New York Institute of Technology has several pictures that are best viewed by going to

The Univerity of Texas at Austin has a nice Flash presentation.