Monday, August 31, 2009

Lord of the Ringing

Yummy and I went to a concert Saturday night. I'd bought the tickets something like five months back so I was happy that I'd even remembered that it was going on.

The concert was a live orchestra performing the soundtrack to "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" while the movie played on a big screen that hung over the stage. The only problem was that it was so easy to forget the orchestra was there. You'd get caught up in the movie and periodically notice that the music track was turned up a bit too loud.

I was fascinated by one piece of equipment that the conductor had. It was computer screen that had a flashing white dot in the middle. I wanted it to be counting off the beat, but the flashing wasn't regular enough. From time to time you'd see lines wipe across his screen. There'd be a red line or two followed by a green line. When the green line made it to the right side of the screen the conductor would start a new song.

The choir was in the back whispering in the bog of the dead, singing strange languages, and I think that they were stomping when the Orcs were running with Merry and Pippin. There were two soloists that sat at the edge of the stage for most of the show. One woman with a serious tan going on and a neckline that ran down to her belt. The other was a little kid who looked to be about ten years old.

I chose wisely in picking the area with the seats instead of a spot on the lawn. It rained before the concert, probably during, and was flashing lightning the whole time.

This show is one of the reasons I think that movie theaters will never die. The audience experience is too much a part of the show. Everyone was excited and cheered both the movie and the orchestra.

The show was all around awesome. If this show comes to your area you'll want to go. If you're in the New York area they have "The Fellowship of the Ring" with orchestra performing at Radio City Music Hall in late November. "The Return of the King" should be starting a tour next year.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday links: August 28

How to be the office tech. Seriously, this is all there is to it. [link]

Legos rock it 8-bit style.

I almost want to see this loon win his election just so everything he wants can be broken and destroyed over the knee of reality and the Constitution.
Just in case you can't make out what he's saying among the praising of Jesus, this is Glenn Moon running for Livonia, Michigan city council on the issues of abortion, littering, and paying city employees a salary of $1 per year plus the love of Jesus Christ.

A teenager explains how Christian lying to students turned him to actually want to learn the facts and straight into being an atheist. [link]

Penn & Teller cut a woman in half.

The shadow of Jupiter's moon passing over another of it's moons. [link]

Iron Man to play Lestat in a re-try at Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. [link]

Speaking of vampires... this is the trailer for the movie "Let the Right One In".

The best way to deal with right wing loonies.

Land speculation fail. [link]

More reasonable talk about vaccines. [link]

Games: Cisco Systems has a bunch of games on their site. You need to become a member, but it's free. I haven't played them all. There's a binary game and some network building games, and one game that I can't figure out what to do at all. [link]

An interview with David (Dr Who) Tennant and Russell T. (Dr Who resurrecter) Davies.

Clippy goes down. [link]

Disney gone bad. [link]

Low cost, but high labor construction. Or, how to build a house for $3,000. [link 1 link]

An officer in the US Army writes about his experiences of Fundamentalist Christianity being forced on him. [link]

New names for groups of things. [link]

Why is Spiderman poor. [link]

That bit about America being founded on Christian principles? Bullshit. [link]

The full run of the web cartoon Starship Regulars. Starring Michael (Worf) Dorn as Captain.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Road trip!

Like I was saying yesterday, Yummy and I went to visit an old roommate up in Ithica, NY. He's going to Cornell. He just got his PhD in BioNeural Programming or words to that effect. He has crashed on my couch several times and was returning the favor.

Most of the area is shale. Shale erodes fairly easily. So the area is lousy with ravines and waterfalls. There's a path from Mark's neighborhood to the campus that runs along a stream with several levels of small falls. You just don't want to go in winter when everything is icy.
The river shown above is home to some impressively large crawdads.
This is Taughannock Falls not too far north of town. You may be able to make out a tiny bridge down below that allows people to walk to the foot of the falls. The falls are a bit higher than Niagara Falls.
We went swimming here. It's on the edge of town. There's an abandoned factory at the top of that cliff that used to use the river for power. Their dam provides a nice straight fall at the top. It's followed by several levels of natural, jagged, and shallow slate formations. The sun warms the slate and the water runs over the slate so we had a ... warm wouldn't be the right term ... a not very cold pool to swim in.
If you look at a map of New York state it looks like something with really big talons drug them across the state. They call these the finger lakes. If you start driving up the shore of one of these lakes you'll hit one winery after another. At these wineries you pony up $2 and you can sample some of their wines. We hit two wineries and a hard cidery (sp!). At one we got to choose 5 from a list of 8, the next we tried all 7 ciders, the third lets you pick all you want from among 16, and for an extra dollar you can try something from the blueberry wine list. Since we knew what we were getting we got 8 different bottles to bring home. One just to serve poured over vanilla ice cream. We might order some of the stuff that goes with fudge down the line.
I also took the opportunity to teach Yummy about how to mess with the depth of field on your camera. After a few tries she got what you see below.

All pictures can be enlarged by click on them.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Graphic novel review: The Order of the Stick - Start of Darkness

Last weekend I took a 3 day weekend so that Yummy and I could take a trip. An old college roommate has been going to Cornell in Ithica, NY. He and some friends have crashed at my place in DC a couple of times so it was time for a little payback. But more about Ithica when I get around to uploading my pictures.

While there we went into a comic book store. When traveling you want to hit the local comic book and video game stores. It's amazing the difference in selection you can get in different areas. This comic book store was remarkably well stocked in bound collections of online comics. The sort of stuff that's usually available through someone's website or from a comic convention, but not at your local Borders. I debated a bit whether to get some. Typically the cartoonist gets more money when you buy direct than when you buy through a store. However, I also wanted to support the shop owner who took a chance in selling what's available for free online. And since he probably had to buy from the cartoonist there was likely healthy profits all around.

Last night I finished reading the first of my purchases, "The Order of the Stick: Start of Darkness".

"The Order of the Stick" is a stick figure based comic that typically updates a few times per week. Inspired by Dungeons and Dragons type paper and dice games, this comic takes place inside the game. The characters even concern themselves with multiclassing and HP from time to time.

More importantly, the comic is engaging. It pulls off the long term saga while still remaining funny on a per-strip basis.

Don't let the stick figures throw you. It's another example of how the art isn't important to the story. Pixar films would still be good if animated like South Park and this would be good as sticks or with a team of classically trained artists.

You can read the strip online by visiting You'll want to start at the beginning.

What I picked up was the second prequel - The Order of the Stick collection negative one. It's not available for free online. You have to enjoy the comic enough to want to pay for the extra material. And I do! It tells the back story of the villains of our story going back 130ish years ago and up to the present.

It's got comedy, drama, evil schemes, piles of goblin corpses, and semi-noble creatures turning to the dark side against their own best intentions.

I recommend this book, but only after you've spent some time in the online archives. Or, you can go to the website store at for a version you can stuff in a bag.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


A machine comes out that can make any food programmed into it. It's very Star Trek food replicator-ish. Unfortunately, it takes up most of your kitchen. You have to get rid of your oven and refrigerator and dishwasher just to make space. In short, you can't do your own cooking. Do you buy one?

The food isn't quite right. It tastes similar to normal food, but it's a bit flat. It tastes like colors in a photo left in the sun look. Does this change anything?

Monday, August 24, 2009


Several decades ago your country sent several rockets to the moon and then stopped. Since then you haven't sent people beyond low earth orbit.

You have just become President. You discover that aliens made a deal with one of your predecessors. In short, they keep feeding technology to you at a rate to make it seem that your people could be developing it on your own. In exchange they get to mine the asteroids, the gases around your gas giants, the various moons, etc.

Do you push for a return to space or do you continue the current policy?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Links: Aug 21

Hubble looks at "empty" space for 10 days.

How squids change colors.

CreatureCast Episode 1 from Casey Dunn on Vimeo.

Prison inventions. [link]
a.k.a. Top 7 ways I'mm'a fuck you up

Origins of names of days of week. [link]

The most awesome wine you can't buy. [link]

Sorry, Texas, but you have to burn now. You really have it coming after this. [link]

Dr. Who cakes better than my Dalek. [link]

The teeniest laser. [link]

I want so much for this to be a spoof, but I don't think it is. A girl video taped a religious conversation between two friends - one indian and one "regular". The "regular" ones can't understand the concept of India, let alone other religions.

Remember what I wrote recently about loving to hear about celebrity fanboys? Here's an example. The woman from Heroes who ran super fast reads the Bad Astronomy science blog. She was at Comic-con with the Bad Astronomer, who watches Heroes, and they spent a couple minutes together.

Australian anti-vaccine people finally crack. [link]

Aw, look. Baby smoke rings.

Bill in the Bahamas making it illegal to rape your wife meets resistance. WHY IS THIS EVEN A QUESTION!?! [link]

Check the password on these nuclear weapons. [link]

Elephant gets a prosthetic leg. [link]

Michelle Bachmann continues her campaign to drive away her supporters. [link]

Long exposure of a helicopter landing. [link]

I'm loving these bricks. Might wanna use them when/if I redo the front of my house. [link]

Flowing pitch experiment at 80 years and counting. [link]

Self-winding clock. Only needs the temperature to vary by a degree a day. [link]

Coin flipping machines made in the quest to make one that gets consistent results. [link]

Legends of Jack Daniels. [link]

How various types of steak got their names. [link]

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fall TV Season

The fall TV season has already started. Who knew? You can see the premier schedule at

I'm just posting my favorites

September 10
Supernatural (The CW), 9:00 PM/ET [link]

September 17
Fringe (Fox), 9:00 PM/ET [link]

September 21
Heroes (NBC), 8:00 PM/ET [link]

September 23
Eastwick (ABC), 10:00 PM/ET [link]
A "Witches of Eastwick" based series. I'll give it a look.

September 24
Flash Forward (ABC), 8:00 PM/ET [link]
The Mentalist (CBS), 10:00 PM/ET
I saw 3 episodes of The Mentalist online last season before they switched to TV only broadcast. I hope they change their mind. It's good, but not good enough to schedule around.

September 25
Smallville (The CW), 8:00 PM/ET [link]
Dollhouse (Fox), 9:00 PM/ET [link]

September 27
The Simpsons (Fox), 8:00 PM/ET [link]
The Cleveland Show (Fox), 8:30 PM/ET [link]
Family Guy (Fox), 9:00 PM/ET [link]
American Dad (Fox), 9:30 PM/ET [link]
Seth Macfarlane owns Fox Sunday

October 2
Stargate Universe (SyFy), 9:00 PM/ET [link]

November 3
V (ABC), 8:00 PM/ET
I'll give it a shot.

See a trend?

p.s. Eureka is already back up. [link]

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Space culture OF TOMORROW

When Isaac Asimov wrote about space travel he'd send out the best and the smartest. His universe is full of lightly colonized planets with some of the best educated humans and tons of robots1. Most of Earth's brightest have been lost to the stars while the poor, the uneducated, and miserable are stuck on the home world. That leaves a planet crowded with the people most likely to have more kids while those least likely to have a bunch of kids are out on empty planets. Earth has few robots because the humans need the work. Despite having more people, the people on Earth are pretty much stuck since the brain drain has allowed all the people who could develop advanced weapons and fighters to live elsewhere.
OK, that was a bit more than needed for my original point. The so-called best and brightest are on the ships. Space travel is expensive so they want the best trained to get the most for their money.

Heinlein was in the Navy until some lung condition forced him out. He views starships more like Navy vessels. They're crewed largely with people you're more likely to find in a bar than in a lab. Crude, loud mouthed, and handy with a wrench. The planets have people who are indentured servants. People you're likely to see working the fields or the mines on modern Earth. Hopefully when you've finished your contract you have enough money left to pay your way home or else you have to sign on for another contract.

Gene Roddenbury's universe (Star Trek and Next Generation) was more like Asimov's not because only the smartest got to move away but because he made everyone the smartest. The education system worked, the government was benign, and they'd achieved the perfect balance of capitalism and socialism to see that everyone had the chance to be something great.

I'm not sure what my point is other than to notice that difference between these different visions of the future.

What's your vision?

1Discounting the Foundation series.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Movie Review: District 9

"Alive in Joburg".

This video was the inspiration for the movie "District 9". The actor who plays the caucasian helicopter sniper in this short was the main character in the movie version.

The movie "District 9" starts much like this short film. It's a documentary format about the Wigus Incident. In 1982 an alien craft coasted to a stop over Johannesburg, South Africa. After sitting there doing nothing for 3 months we boarded it and found about a million sick aliens living in filth. They were transported to a slum below their ship. Now it's 2010. The slum is now a compound in which the aliens are held. We can't make their ship work. We can't make their weapons work. The locals live in fear of these creatures.

Wikus Van De Merwe is a happy but not bright looking man who has been given the job of moving the aliens to a new compound. The documentary follows his promotion, what we know about the aliens, and the serving of eviction notices to the slum dwellers. Along the way they find illegal weapons, illegal technology, and even illegal children.

Wikus also finds something that will ruin his life and make him wanted by every government, weapons corp, and gangster in South Africa and everywhere else as well. The only thing he can do is turn to the aliens for help.

By the end of the movie you come to seriously dislike your own species.

Slowly, the movie integrates more and more footage that isn't part of the documentary until the movie is almost all action/sci-fi. You walk out of the movie talking and thinking. Partially, you're wondering about a lot that came before and will come after the movie. You're also thinking about the underlying message about racism and apartheid, some of which you got from the short film above.

I will be getting this on DVD. I highly recommend this movie to pretty much anyone.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Book Review: Marsbound

Awhile back My Krodie introduced me to Joe Haldeman's "The Forever War" [my review]. I didn't know Haldeman's name before. Not long after I looked at a couple of new books that were sitting in my unread books pile. Both were books that had caught my attention in book stores at least three times so I bought them. Both were by Joe Haldeman and I hadn't noticed.

I'm really liking Haldeman's stuff. He's a sci-fi writer who has respect for, and tries to use reality based science in his work. When he departs from the solid science he admits it.

So I just finished reading "Marsbound". It breaks into three parts.

In the first part we follow a 19 year old woman as she and her family go to Mars. It tells of their selection, their trip to and then up the space elevator anchored near the Galapagos Islands, the voyage to Mars, life on Mars, and what a horrible bitch the colony director is.

In the second part the main character discovers another species living on Mars. They're not native to Mars. They don't know anything about their own technology. They have a disease that can be transmitted to young humans for some reason. (The author acknowledges that this should be impossible.)

In the third part a space station has been thrown together so that Earth humans and the Mars humans and aliens can interact without breaking quarantine. Don't want that disease getting loose on Earth after all. Here we find out about the alien's past, make contact with another alien species, and get good and shaken up in the last few chapters. I'd like to be more specific, but don't want to give away spoilers.

OK, one spoiler. I will say that I enjoyed the author starting making the director out to be a horrible person early on, making it look like he was going to turn her into a more human character with rationale behind her horribleness only to end up saying that was just the more central characters trying to assume that she had good reasons behind her nastiness. In the end she's just a Stalin wannabe.

I recommend the book for science fiction fans. If this isn't the kind of book you like then you won't like this book.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Links: August 14

Cars that I would drive. [link]

How to mess with a cicada's head.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson talks about the asteroid Apophis. The satellite will pass Earth in 2029 within the orbit of our communication satellite. You'll also see why he's one of the most famous modern astronomers. You know around 2029 someone will make a disaster film called "Apophis".

In about 3 billion years the Milky Way galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy will collide. An outside observer with a billion year life span would see something like this happen.

You may have heard about PZ Myers' (and some 200+ friends) visit to the Creation Museum. This is the museum that claims science backs up a literal translation of the Bible. Instead of posting about his trip I'm going to post John Scalzi's much more entertaining report of his visit two years ago. [link]

Republican myths about the pending health care bill. [link]

Just odd.

Physical interface for a hologram. [link]

A name your favorite quote thread. [link]

Follow up on the alien rock on Mars. [link]

This guy seemed not to like the G.I. Joe movie. [link]

Laurel and Hardy dance to The Gap Band.

Dating advice for atheists. (2 videos) [link]

Trailer for the latest movie from Terry Gilliam and, oddly enough, Heath Ledger.

AMC to make a TV series from the Walking Dead comic book. Issue one can be read here.

Spiderman musical canceled. Read how much they put into it here.

Game: Silent Conversation. A side scrolling game where the platforms are made from the text of a story. You need to at least play "The Nameless City" by H.P. Lovecraft. [link]

Corrupted coloring book art. [link]

Game: A crossword puzzle without clues. [link]

A Styrofoam planet spotted in a backward orbit. [link]

Sidewalk Economy: Free market in Baltimore. [link]

Mind control fungus. [link]
I think I saw this movie.

Picture from the meteor shower. [link]

Living bridges of India. [link]

Old pictures made from hundreds of soldiers. [link]

Kevin Smith recalls his days visiting strip clubs. [link]

Finally, a way to connect your iPod directly to the bones of your ear. [link]
...and help deaf people hear or something. Beats that Bluetooth earpiece all to hell.

You remember moving sidewalks in sci-fi stories? Here's why we don't have them. We tried them, but... [link]

You don't remember? Here. They made a radio broadcast of "The Roads Must Roll" for X-Minus One in 1954. [link]

Trailer for the movie "Legion." [link]
I may have to leave Yummy at home. This movie will freak her out.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Deep in the bowels of the house

Awhile back I mentioned I was doing work under the house. [link] I've been applying an insulating paint that I won't get into again here.

The nice thing about the underside of the house is that it's cool down there. A good place to be on a hot summer day. I'd been thinking about going under the house Monday, but I thought a nap seemed a better idea. A nap followed by a good night's sleep. So Tuesday I got myself psyched up and went under with a small bathroom trash can half filled with paint and a 3" wide brush. I still had the light run down there so all I had to do was crawl from the back of the house to the front of the house. About ten feet in you can switch from your belly to your hands and knees.

I spent just under two hours generously applying multi-ceramic paint to the underside of the living room floor. The house is about 13 feet wide and I covered the space between the first three floor joists. So, what, the first 4 feet or so?

I came back out with several artifacts left by previous residents. By that I mean rusty metal cups and ceramic pitchers and the like. I left behind several artifacts left by previous construction crews. By that I mean beer bottles.

I was also covered in dirt. I mean seriously disgusting. I could sell these pants for $150 in a popular clothing store.

I plan on going down once a week until it's done. I need it done before it gets cold and I've been slacking off.

The next day I came home expecting to be met at the door by a wave of cold air. Did I mention that after 3 years I've turned the AC on again? Yummy was planning some major housework but you don't really want to do that at the house's natural 82° and humid summer temperature.

My point is that I didn't get that wave of cold air. The house was 82° and the fans were blowing like mad. Out back the AC unit was off.

Ok, the odds are that I hit something down there. I try the trick that sometimes works. Shut it down for half an hour or so to give it a chance to rest. No dice. It wanted me back under the house. See, there's some rather thin wires that run from the general climate control center in the house out to the cooling unit outside. Something was likely wrong in there.

I couldn't find the flashlight so I grabbed my replica Sonic Screwdriver, a knife, and some electrical tape. Only about a foot under the house I found the problem. An electrical situation that would make most real electricians wanna slap the bejeezus out of whoever wired it up. These are thin wires twisted together, capped, and electrical tape applied 6 inches from the exposed wire. The wire had broken. So, Sonic Screwdriver gripped firmly in mouth, I removed the cap, stripped some wire, twisted the wires, and covered them in a copious amount of electrical tape. Now I'm the guy who needs to be slapped. There's no real danger, but the wire really needs to be contained in some protective metal tube so I can't kick it and rats can't eat it.

Next time my brother, the electrician, is unemployed I'll bring him out and get him to crawl in the muck.

P.S. My fix worked. The AC is on.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

We can rebuild it. We have the pastries.

The Muffin Man gave me some advice for my next attempt at confectionery construction.

Cup cakes are very hard to work with. It is much easier to work with a horizontal sheetcake or to stack small (6") rounds. Using a Panettone pan (~4" round and 3" tall) would also work. Also, using a straight up box cake is too soft and fluffy try pound cake (from scratch) or using less water to hydrate the box cake makes a more sturdy stackable cake.

Black and gray is nearly impossible try talking to your local bakers to see if they have black cocoa. It can be more pure black than many colors otherwise just keep adding colors little by little to correct the tint (if purple add green, if brown add blue) or ask if they have a true black. You can keep using canned frosting but you often need to add more powdered sugar. Or make your own 7 minute icing or royal icing both are easier and more sturdy to use than canned. Anytime you use a pourable base coat it is easier to apply to a stand up statue. Don't make buttercream unless you have a pastry bag.

If you don't have the book "The Joy of Cooking" you should buy it. Great resource for everything food, especially the most updated. They retested the formulas in 2007.

You did great for a first try especially. "Late" baking isn't rocket science but of course physics actually works more directly in rocket science. Baking is all about the bubbles.

Hope you had fun and baking is always good you can eat the wrecks.

p.s. If colors don't work try very finely ground Oreo cookies (just the cookie) but they may have stopped using black cocoa it is very very expensive.

Absolute last resort for gray - in ages past before the FDA clamped down there was "carbon black". It is just what it sounds like but the makers wouldn't say where they got the carbon (probably coal) and it was outlawed. You can make it at home, all you need is very clean wood (tooth picks) or paper add a little fire bingo carbon black. A little goes along way. If you add so much you can taste, you added too much.

The Muffin Man developed cookies for Mrs. Fields, biscotti for Nonni's, Sara Lee's line of white bread tasting wheat bread, and is currently a product developer at Starbucks. The man knows of what he speaks.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Meteor shower

If you want to be up at some horrid hours you might want to find a place to watch the very dark sky tomorrow (Wednesday) morning between midnight and 5 a.m. That's the best time to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower. Tuesday night and Wednesday night are also supposed to be worthwhile. Just be sure to find somewhere far from the city lights.

The Saddest Dalek

Dalek cupcakes are an amazingly difficult confection to make. A quick Google image search [link] shows lots of really lame attempts. I now have a better understanding of why.

The subject came up recently and Yummy liked the idea. So, I decided to try to make a couple for our 11th month anniversary.

My plan was to make cupcakes, lop the top off one and flip the remainder over, trim the edges off another so at no point was it wider than the base, cement them together with frosting, frost it all gray, cut graham crackers into small rectangles to place around the base, frost them some other color, attach candy bumps to the graham
crackers, more candy bumps on the top, and a Pocky type candy for the eye stalk.

The cake we made is very spongy, but it cut rather well with a good sharp knife. When compared with a Dalek it was pretty squat. I cut the edges off a third cupcake, lopped off the curved top, and made that the middle section. The proportions were about right.

The black frosting dye turned out to be really deep purple. When mixed with white frosting we got a very purply color. While frosting the cupcakes the tower kept slowly leaning in one direction. It was gonna fall over soon. A stick of Pocky-like substance was jammed through the top to act as a spine. Anything that stuck up got cut off and frosted over.

If I did it again I'd frost them all separately and then stack them.

The frosting wasn't very friendly either. I needed something firmer or something. It wasn't fond of sticking to the cupcake but liked the spatula I was using. The Dalek had little sugary tendrils whipping about.

At this point I was happy with the proportions, but that's about it. We'd started late and it was getting later. I skipped the graham crackers and attached the candy eyes we picked up at a cake supply store directly to the bottom cupcake. One third of a stick of Pocky-like substance got stuck in his face for an eye stalk. Something narrower would be better. Something a mini-marshmallow could be stuck on. It got no weapon or suction cup arm.

It looked better than many I've seen, but still sucked. I learned a lot that could be used in later attempts.

As awful as it looked it still would have passed for a monster in the
original Dr Who.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Clinton picks up two asian chicks1

This would have been better has I posted it last week when I wrote it. Someone sait to me.

I find it odd that a former president went to Korea to negotiate the release of U.S. citizens... On what authority? He's not a government official anymore. Granted, they were released and that's great, and the talks supposedly went well, but... I don't know... It would be like me going out and representing my company on matters that I had no authority to speak on. Though... I don't know... I'm confused and don't know how I feel about that.

My response:
It's all diplomacy. The United States has no diplomatic ties with North Korea. North Korea...let me back up.

Back during the Clinton administration we, North Korea, Japan, China, South Korea, and... Russia? all worked out a deal. It's a bit blurry in my memory now, but I know North Korea was to abandon their nuclear program, I think America was providing fuel for their power plants, and the other countries were providing funding for all this. Something along those lines. Some will say that Bush broke this treaty so the nuclear program got restarted. In fact the other nations broke it first. We and N. Korea were the last ones out.

And, you probably heard that Carter visited N. Korea for some negotiations in the early 90's and Clinton was supposed to make another visit late in his term in office but that fell apart for some reason that eludes me.

So, now North Korea wants to strike a similar deal to what they had back then. They'll give up the nukes and the reactors if we'll come back to the negotiating table. We, and everyone else, say we'll talk if they lose the nukes. The Chairman of North Korea does want to talk and reestablish relations before handing the country over to his son. So he grabs a couple of reporters that work for a media outlet founded by former VP Gore. Gore was working to get his people released. The US government can't send anyone in to talk. But, we can get someone with clout, someone the Chairman has worked with and likes, to go over.

Sweden has diplomatic ties with North Korea. We can, and have, gone through them for unofficial contact between our countries. That's how Bill Clinton went in this time.

The reporters have been accused of crimes. They can't just drop the charges. However, Clinton can ask for amnesty which means guilty, but forgiven.

And Bill also passes along a message of thanks from Obama.

A lot of negotiations work along similar lines. How many times has Jimmy Carter gone out to negotiate without the government's OK? The leaders of the countries, and even their Secretary of States, don't do the negotiations themselves. Some lower level diplomats work out the early stuff and the higher ups talk, fine tune, and attend the signing ceremony.
You can see my favorite example at

By setting this aside I had the time to realize something else. You know how people say that we're always fighting the last war? This means that each war is different, but the equipment and thinking used is best used in the previous war. You don't typically hear about the mounted cavalry in World War II. It's all about the tanks even though there were very few of them. We kept trying to fight in Iraq with planes despite their nigh uselessness against urban terrorists.

In North Korea we have Kim Jong-il who is trying to pretend that the Bush years never happened. Quite frankly, so is everyone else. Jong-il is going a bit further than the rest of us by trying to get a deal like he had before by talking to the people he had before.

Similarly, Bush spent his administration trying to pretend that the Clinton years never happened. He denied the terrorist right up until we got attacked and then fought the terrorists like he was trying to win in Vietnam. He behaved internationally like it was still the middle of the Cold War.

No real point to this last bit. Just an observation.

1Headline stolen from Fark.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Friday Links: August 7

Man goes on vengeful rampage with 30 ton custom bulldozer. [link]
This'd make a good movie.

Remember, this CGI movie was done using 1980's technology. [link]

How to swing your arms on a diet. [link]

20 designs for vertical farms. [link]

Create your own scanner for your iPhone. [link]

A widget to monitor asteroids in our neighborhood. [link]

How to cook like your grandmother. [link]
In the case of mine you take your standard recipe and add and extra 5-10 minutes on the stove.

The Memory Palace. It's a podcast by a NPR reporter with an interest in historical anecdotes. I recommend Secret Kitty and The Brothers Booth if nothing else. [link]

I steal this as the official Sidewalk Economic Indicator. The hotness of your waitress is a sign of the health of the economy. [link]

10 facts about the penny. [link]

Some fool tried putting a fake ATM at a hacker convention. It lasted about naught point three seconds. [link]

Microsoft is slipping. [link]

Concept art for a Steampunk Mickey video game. [link]

Explanation of a rather entertaining binary star system. [link]

$8,000 make your own satellite kit. (price includes launch). [link]
Now I just need an excuse to have a satellite.

Rover finds alien1 on Mars. [link]

I've been rather short on video this week. Certainly compared to last week, anyway.
Here's a 1 hour panel from Comic Con about science for good and evil in science fiction shows. The panel has writers and tech advisers from "Eureka", "Battlestar Galactica", and "Fringe".

Game: Lock 'n' Roll. Poker with dice. [link]

What's the purpose of punishment. Or, How to Prosecute the Loons? [link]

Proof that Biblical literalists still have some sense.

A rather dry video about some global warming denier getting owned.

An essay from an abortion provider. [link]

Kent Hovind's "Dinosaur Adventure Land" can be seized in part to pay his tax debts. Kent build the place to "prove" that dinosaurs and humans lived together. He's currently in prison for tax evasion. [link]

Game: Defense Fleet - move ships around to defend the planet. [link]

Game: Gobtron - Help the booger being eat the villagers before they kill it. [link]

Successful vulture breeding in captivity. [link]

Journalist to go to Mongolia in search of Shaihulud (a.k.a. acid-spitting Mongolian death worm). [link]

Robot with mad reflexes.

Obama received 30 death threats per day, but the Secret Service is starving. [link]

And finally, Orly Taitz, the leader of the "Birthers" (people who think Obama was born in Kenya) loses all credibility on MSNBC. [link]


Thursday, August 06, 2009

Sidewalk Economy

I picked up this beauty on the way home Tuesday. Yep, just sitting there by the sidewalk leaning on a tree. The guy who put it out was standing in his doorway. We both waved and exchanged big smiles. It's rare, but nice, when you get to see the person who takes what you've put out or that you get to thank the person who put something out.

It's a short table with legs that collapse so the whole thing folds flat. It was painted green, but it's worn off along the corners. We'll probably take it camping in September and then, if she doesn't want to keep it, Yummy can use it as an artifact in the Guerrilla Gardening scheme she's planning.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


I hate the cleaning woman.

It's not the cleaning woman herself so much as that damn cart she drags around with her. Meant to collect trash, that barrel carries around the sound of the Apocalypse. When the Vogon constructor fleet finally comes I'll have no idea because I just assumed that the cleaning woman coming. It drowns out my audio books. It drowns out conversation. It drowns out the heavy machinery operating outside my window. All work comes to a stop until she has passed.

I hate the cleaning woman.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


I like to think I'm not your usual celebrity worshiping media consumer. In the times when I had cable I'd deprogram "E!" from my TV. TMZ and shows like that don't even get paused on. The magazines in the checkout aisle get ignored (unless the cover chick is particularly hot). I sat next to a woman on an airplane who was reading one of those celebrity mags. Finally, about an hour into the flight I had to ask who the woman on the cover was and why I should be interesting in her love life. Turns out she was on some reality show that I hadn't heard of.

My point is that I don't want to know about their life outside their media persona. I don't need to know that Tom Cruise is a jackass in real life. I'd rather not know about Mel Gibson's beliefs about the role of a woman in the house. I don't wanna know that Orson Scott Card (author of Ender's Game) is homophobic. This stuff can only serve to diminish their movies when the person and the character start to blur together. It was nice to meet Danny Glover but I regret finding out that he's a major prima donna.

I do have certain people that I get keyed up about. When I got my picture taken with Larry Niven and got him to sign my copy of "Ringworld" I was giddy. I was delighted that I got to sit and talk with Gerry Trudeau (creator of Doonesbury) for 15 minutes or so. I got Neil Gaiman to sign some stuff but don't need to know who he's dating.

This is all who I used to think I was. Most of it still applies. But I realized the other day that I do like to hear about the fanboy tendencies of some celebrities.

At one comic/sci-fi convention Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) walked by Larry Niven's table. They both got excited and shouted out "YOU'RE WIL/LARRY!" and asked each other for an autograph.

When Gene Wilder made an appearance on "Will & Grace" Eric McCormack (Will) had a minor fanboy freakout which Gene was happy to feed.

Stephen Fry says he was nervous about meeting Peter Cushing (who lives in Whitstable).

And I keep hearing stories about David Tennant (Dr Who #10) or Russell Davies (the man who brought Dr Who back to TV) seeing fan art and absolutely loving it. Not just a patronizing "wow, that's great, well done. Get lost." but taking it around to show other people involved in the show and get it autographed.

Dick Van Dyke took up 3D computer modeling as a hobby and has gotten good enough to have some of his stuff used on TV and in a movie.

I was watching a video of sci-fi author Joe Haldeman teaching a class about writing science fiction. In the audience I saw sci-fi writer Robert J. Sawyer taking notes.

This realization made me rethink my views on those shows and magazines. Oh, I'm still not gonna watch them or read them. Good lord, no. But I begin to understand their appeal. I had thought the appeal was in tearing down heroes. Smear their name, ruin their careers, and drag them down. Now I'm thinking it's more about finding something in common with them. We see our own flaws reflected in someone who we'd held up as a model. We have marriage troubles, but so do the rich and famous. We like to drink too much or have prejudices we don't admit to, but so does that model. For me it's seeing that the people that I get excited about also have things they get excited about. Often the same things that I get excited about.

I know that people do like to tear down heroes and live vicariously through these more glamorous people. Give me a couple minutes to try to think better of people.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Monday morning

I had several things this weekend that I wanted to write about. Now it's Monday morning, my mind is asking me why I'm not in bed, and I can't remember any of them. So, lets start free associating and see what I come up with.

Yummy finished painting the library for me. She's a much more experienced painter. She likes to paint with a roller while I find they have only two modes - drippy and empty. I spent a good long while with a foam brush applying the paint. I get no brush strokes and great control. On the other hand it takes awhile. The paint liked to go on very thin and required many layers to appear even. But it dried fast and had no fumes. You can ask the giant purple spider that's removing my appendix.

Later this week I'll be pushing my new desk up against said wall and hanging up the various pictures that Yummy has gotten me. Then my non-portable computer gets moved up on the desk, the cabinet that the computer is now on gets emptied and placed in the Sidewalk Marketplace.

Up in the library is a lamp that I finally started recovering. I found it on the sidewalk with holes burned in the lampshade. They were those flame shaped bulbs that run so incredibly hot. I'm pretty sure it was placed too close to the wall so the lampshade was pressed against the bulbs. The new lampshade probably isn't fireproof, but some compact fluorescent bulbs should work nicely. I was planning to put it back out on the Sidewalk Market, but with the cabinets gone I may decide to keep it.

Maybe not.

The Dog Days Sidewalk Sale was this past weekend. We went to the Studio Theatre's garage sale and picked up this owl candle holder. I already have one that I picked up because it looks just like ones my grandparents had. There was lots of other great stuff but we held back due to limitations in my budgets of money and space.

We also went in several old furniture stores that I'd been trying to take Yummy in for awhile. One is an old house with a long hallway that connects room after room dressed up to look like residences. The other is a building, a basement, an alley, and another building packed with furniture piled as high as safe (and then a bit) with narrow passages, lots of stuff that's completely unreachable, and the smell of your great grandmother's basement. I got some books that I've not seen in other used book stores. Yummy got a happy brain. We both got dehydrated.

I've introduced Yummy to Babylon 5. I'd been putting it off since I'd already gotten her hooked on Doctor Who and semi-hooked on Heroes (and Coupling and Spaced and Rough Science and...). By the end of episode 2 she was planning to dress me like Londo for Halloween.

Was any of that related to what I wanted to write? I dunno. Let's pick this up again tomorrow.