Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Links: April 30

Dilbert has a new "License Me" button. It's kinda brilliant. [link]

Game: Puzzles with triangular pieces. It adds a certain something to it. [link]

Personally, I don't like using the stock market to judge the economy. That's just how investors are investing. It can move independently of how many homeless people there are or what the job market is like.
Still, if you use the market as a judge then this article makes it clear whose can take credit for what. [link]

Picture: The economic impact of marijuana legalization on California. [link]

Universal boxes. [link]

Dilbert cartoons about the missing 4G iPhone will be published on June 18. Here they are now. [link]

Thomas Jefferson didn't believe in meteorites. [link]

Bishop steps down for his own sexual abuse of children. Kinda takes something out of the gesture that he waited until someone called him on it. [link]

Oh, that's nice. Not all priests are child molesters. In Africa they can go after grown women. [link]

A history of child rape in the Catholic Church. (hint: they used to frown on it)

Launching ships sideways.

Dry ice bomb.

Antique lead to be used in neutrino detector. [link]

No contradictions in the Bible.

Cuddling with a seal.

Why we needed the Health Care Bill passed: #8,000,072 - Insurance provider WellPoint was targeting women with breast cancer to drop their coverage. [link]

Short biography of Smokey Bear. [link]

I linked to an article previously about a school that cancelled their prom rather than allow a lesbian student to attend. Now Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church are coming to protest her graduation. I hope the rest of the community realizes what wonderful company they keep. [link]

Another Mississippi high school cuts a lesbian student from the yearbook completely. [link]

Dog refused entry to a restaurant, not for being a dog, but for being thought gay. [link]

This is Spinal Tape. [link]

Sony ends floppy disk production. [link]
Currently Sony has 70% of the market. Makes you wonder what the people who have the other 30% do for money.

Peter Cushing used to play with toy soldiers.

British Pathe - PETER CUSHING
- Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

I have to wonder if he ever got the action figures of himself as Grand Moff Tarkin.

You can read "Little Wars" at Project Gutenberg. [link]

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Book Review: Cartoon History of the Modern World - Part 2

I'm a big fan of cartoonist Larry Gonick. As a kid I'd flip through Grandpa's science magazines and find Gonick illustrating some point or other in a humorous manner. When I picked up "Cartoon History of the Universe" back in 9th grade I didn't recognize the name, but the art was clearly from the same guy. Ever since then I've picked up everything I can with his name on it. "Cartoon Guide to Physics" ...Statistics" ...Computers" ...Sex" ...the Environment" ...History of the United States" - I got 'em all. Still missing the guides to Chemistry and Genetics, though.

I mention this because I just finished reading "The Cartoon History of the Modern World - part 2". Despite the "part 2" this is actually the fifth book in a series that includes three "Cartoon History of the Universe" books and two "Cartoon History of the Modern World" books.

This book covers everything from the French Revolution up until the publication date. You'll learn a lot from the book. It fills in a lot of area that our history classes didn't seem to cover. It talks about how the French Revolution led to Napoleon taking power and talks about some significant battles that I hear about from British television but are largely ignored here. It spends time talking about goings on in China that just don't make it in western history books.

The only real issue I have with the book is the end. The 80's until now are blasted through pretty quick and focus primarily on the United States and it's international dealings. He then apologizes for largely ignoring South America in this book and everyone else there at the end.

These books are educational and entertaining. I'd recommend giving these books to school children or grandparents. I brought them into the office where the doctors would hide them inside medical texts so they could read them at work. One of my high school history teachers copied pages out of my "Cartoon History of the United States" book for use in class. I've read my older stuff several times. I'll be rereading the history series again before long.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Tonight on PBS Great Performances presents "Hamlet" as performed by David Tennant (Doctor Who #10) and Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard).

Check local listings for the time.

If you miss it, the DVD should be out Tuesday.

I know in the stage performances Tennant was using a real skull for Yorick [link]. I hope that he'll still be using it in tonight's show.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Video game as art

Last week, comment boards all over the internet were ablaze with the debate about whether video game are or could ever be considered art. The debate was triggered when Roger Ebert recently restated his view that they can't be art in an article [link]. I think the point ultimately being debated is the definition of art.

I'm going to start by taking the stand that video games aren't art. Video games can, however, be the art gallery. A twenty years or so back people would want to frame the concept art. Beautifully drawn pictures depicted what the game producers thought the characters and landscape looked like. They were then reduced to pixelated sprites or angular polygons. Now the actual graphics can be good enough that we want them as wallpapers or posters. Football games can be almost mistaken for actual televised games by the casual observer. We buy figurines based on characters from the games to decorate our cubicles and book shelves. The soundtracks can often have broader appeal than the games themselves. These elements can be considered art, but does that make the game art? For the moment I'm saying that just makes the game the art gallery.

An art museum can itself be art, but for the moment assume that we're at the space next door to Carl's Barber Shop or at the local music store that also sells posters. Those places probably wouldn't be considered art.

Is it the appeal to the viewer that makes it art? We go to a theater to watch movies; some we'd call art and some we'd call mindless entertainment. We go to museums to look at paintings. We go to an arena to watch a concert. We don't gather by the hundreds to watch someone play video games.

That's not right either. When someone wires up the lights of a dorm so they can play Tetris using the face of the building as the screen people do turn up by the hundreds to watch a game of Tetris. Does that make the game art or just that particular installment?

Also, we don't need to gather to enjoy games. We buy them and take them home. It's the interaction that makes the experience. Large group still enjoy it, but individually or in small groups. Hmmm.... I think I just defined masturbation as art.

We also gather to watch golf and basketball and other sports. I'm not ready to call any of them art.

Lets consider art as a man made creation designed to elicit an emotional response. Video games definitely do that, but I'm gonna rule out frustration and aggravation from this debate. Most games get that any time a level is tough to clear.

One of my favorite series of games is the Thief series. (Thief 4 is in production! WOOO!) It creates suspense, anxiety, and fear. Not through making it dark and then shooting everything that moves as in Doom 3. Thief gives you a world to explore. You have to figure out how to solve the problems and sneak around to solve them. Some versions of Alien vs Predator and the Silent Hill games also manage to induce these emotions as much by having things not happen as having things come at you.

Do we have games that create other emotions? Some people got really attached to their digital pets and grieved when they died.

Shadow of the Colossus is a very different kind of game play that some consider art. The ending being devastating when you realize what you've done.

In a similar vein, most games today are telling a story. Centipede never really drew you in. Hitman, Thief, Final Fantasy anything, Grand Theft Auto, Shadow of the Colossus, the last couple of Evil Dead/Army of Darkness games, and loads more I'm not getting to all have a storyline you might expect to see in a movie or a book. If these latter two can be considered art forms then why not the games?

If a red circle on a canvas can be considered art then why can't games be thought of the same way? Granted, the circle was drawn to demonstrate that the artist was capable of drawing a perfect circle freehand. But does the fact that an artist made it automatically make it art? If so does that mean he's making art when he makes a sandwich? If the only emotion it elicits is "you're charging HOW much for that?" is it art?

Ebert is right that we can't compare Thief or Shadow of the Colossus to the Sistine Chapel or the Mona Lisa. Nor can we compare either of those to "2001: A Space Odyssey" or "Citizen Cane". There's just no basis for comparison.

Ebert is a film guy. He doesn't get into video games. So he's not really going to be able to "get" video games as an art. Understandable. I think that most movies that film critic fall all over themselves about are utter crap. "Blade Runner" and "2001" are great masterpieces of film making, but they're also great cures for insomnia. Most Academy Award winners I wouldn't even credit with being great works of film making. "Star Wars" lost to "Annie Hall" for best film, but how many times have you seen each of those two films?

Douglas Adams once wrote something about how when he came up with an idea he had to determine whether that story was a book, a radio show, a TV show, or computer game. They're all means of telling a story. In my mind that makes them all art.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Movie Review: The Losers

In 2010 a crack commando unit was framed by the CIA for a crime they didn't commit. These men escaped certain death to the Bolivian underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem - if no one else can help - and if you can find them - maybe you can hire: The Losers.

That sums up the movie right there. You know how often you'll have a movie season that has several movies with the same theme? "Antz" and "A Bug's Life" came out close together, "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact" came out in the same summer, things like that. This summer we have "The Losers" and "The A-Team" coming out at roughly the same time. Both are movies about a group of highly skilled military personnel who get setup to take the fall. Both are filled with wise cracking action heroes. I think "The Losers" is probably more funny than the "A-Team" will be.

Besides getting revenge on the guy who tried to kill them, The Losers have to stop him from releasing some new form of bomb that can wipe out islands without radiation or other pollution. His bad idea being to stir up some terrorist threat so that the civilized world will end the terrorists once and for all.

I'm glad I saw it and I do recommend it. I probably won't get it on DVD.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday links: April 23

Scott Adams talks about assembling space heaters. [link]

Bishop blames those "God killers" the Jews for all that child rape by the priests. [link}

Michael Specter discusses the importance of science and the danger of science denial.

I've been monitoring an effort to re-record Star Wars in lots of different ways in 15 second chunks. Different people pick a section, record it, and send it in. They're almost done. Here's the trailer.

Star Wars Uncut "The Escape" from Casey Pugh on Vimeo.

What do musicians earn online? [link]

"Ethics" based pharmacy fails. [link]

Make a printable magazine from your Flicker account. [link]

Japan's version of Moaning Myrtle. [link]

Regular readers know I watch all my TV online. Me and, apparently, 800,000 other people. [link]

Members of the Oklahoma state legislature are encouraging the formation of militias. [link]

Best of the cat videos.

The British Chiropractic Association has ended their lawsuit against Simon Singh. [link]
Apparently it was drawing attention to the fact that they're full of crap and trying to stifle honest analysis of their claims. [link]

You may have heard that the President recently passed a law allowing same sex partners equal hospital visitation rights as family. [link] Cases like this are why the law needed to be passed. [link]

Age breakdown of the actors who have played Dr Who. [link]
I would have placed the first two as much older.

An Iranian leader is claiming that immodest dress by women is responsible for earthquakes. On Monday, April 26, you women should wear skimpy clothes and try to start an earthquake. [link]

A fourth state has passed a law making nonconsensual implanting of chips in people illegal. The rationale being that they're the Mark of the Beast mentioned in Revelations. The Georgia legislature passed this law despite the fact that the witnesses they heard testimony from are clearly mentally ill. [link]

The second verses of famous nursery rhymes. [link]

George Washington owes a hefty library fine. [link]
note: another article give different, much larger, numbers. [link]

Proposal to corral floating plastic into a new island. [link]

Why can't they slap this body on a Prius frame? [link]

Pig shit can be used as a replacement for oil in making highways. [link]

Trumpet made from hose.
EMBED-Guy Makes Do It Yourself Trumpet - Watch more free videos

Legend of cow tunnels under New York City. [link]

The first solar cell. [link]

Comic creating advice from the creator of Zippy the Pinhead. [link]

Unexploded ordinance in a soldier's head. [link]

Game: Talesworth Adventure - guide the knight through the maze by placing bait and barricades. [link]

MST3K treatment of the Ace Combat 6 intro.

Jules Verne hidden in a painting. [link]

Satellite surfs Venus' atmosphere. [link]

Picture: colorful picture of the sun. [link]

The Amazing Randi's talk at TED.

This article is longer than it needs to be, but it starts out interesting. A champion cyclist goes insane when he rides. [link]

Interview with Ray Harryhausen. [link]
Yes, he's still alive!

The first motorcycle is up for auction. [link]

Pictures of wooden churches. No, actually, there's some good stuff. [link]

Video of the demolition of a Texas football stadium. [link]
It's got a rhythm and you can dance to it.

Why did it take 300 years to give the Giant Tortoise a Latin name?

Hamster wheel.

I need one of these for my kitchen. [link]

A guy who does some voice over work for GEICO called up FreedomWorks, the neoconservative group that organizes the Tea Parties, and asked some questions. He wanted a call back so he left his number. They published his phone number and a recording of his message. They harassed him and GEICO. Despite what Tea Party supporters may claim, the Tea Baggers are an unstable and dangerous lot. GEICO dumped the guy because they were afraid of the Tea Baggers. And with good reason if this is how they respond to a message left on an answering machine. [link]
There are some sane Tea Baggers with legit complaints. Before taking back their country they need to take back their Tea Party.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


sick and don't feel like coming up with a post idea

And happy Earth Day.

(are you happy now, Earth? Turn off the pollen!)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Guerrilla Gardeners

Yummy and friends were planting stuff over the weekend.

I had a cold so I didn't go. I made that shirt for her, however.

Monday, April 19, 2010


This is my 1,000th post.


What? You've got archives. Go read those.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Links: April 16

What the hell, man? Why didn't this post this morning?

Atheist woman joins evangelical church for two years and writes a book about it. This is an interview with her. [link]

New paper suggests that our universe may have formed inside an Einstein-Rosen Bridge (i.e. wormhole) leading from a black hole in another, larger, universe. [link]

Virginia governor declares "Treason in Defense of Slavery" month at the request of white supremacists. [link]

Congressmember suggests Guam will tip over.
Yeah, he's a democrat. Yeah, he needs to go away.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, is an asshole. There are years and years of crap coming out of his mouth to back this up. Most recently he's said that the child molesting priests aren't pedophiles because the kids had hit puberty (not true in all cases). Now he's said that they aren't pedophile because having sex with children is "what gays do" (many of the victims were female). [link]

6 historical myths. [link]
The Irish myth I hadn't heard before.

Mensa members picked their 50 favorite sites. [link]

Old microphone magic device: The Crumpeter. [link]

picture: Underachiever AT-ATs. [link]

More Stormtroopers on their day off. [link]

Perv bubbles.

Uploaded by onemoreprod. - Independent web videos.

New element created. [link]

Wadda ya mean I can't plant this tree in my yard? So what if my whole lot is measured in hundredths of an acre. [link]

Game: Bad Birds - It's a new Lemmings game. [link]

Game: Tiny Castle - navigate the castle to get to the princess and a funny ending. [link]

Bees that do The Wave.

This short film is in development as a full length movie.

How to be rid of an evil tooth fairy.

Evil Toofairy - Vancouver Film School (VFS) from Vancouver Film School on Vimeo.

20 idiotic uses for awesome fictional technology. [link]

Picture: Earthquake shaking dust off a mountain range. [link]

NPR fingers anti-vaccine people for measles outbreaks. [link]

I don't want my new car to have a sticker that says "Warning: For optimal use of this vehicle do not shave your genitals while driving." [link]

Remember me asking what you'd tell God? This is a good answer.

Creatures made of maps. [link]

"Of all the people in human history who ever reached the age of 65, half are alive now." [link]

The Cat With Hands.

A great talk about the danger of science denial. [link]
"You're entitled to your own opinions. You're not entitled to your own facts."

Failed doomsday prophet sets new date for the rapture. [link]

Neil DeGrasse Tyson on the value of the space program.

Have you seen the "What are you doing here?" montage from Dr Who?

Here's the "We've got company" montage.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Good-bye old couch

Back in 1999 I was moving to Kansas City to get my first "real" job. "Real". You know. Post-college, with absolutely NO moving of hay bales required. "Real".

Anyhoo, the couches I had acquired in college had passed to others. The family couch that was older than me (and sheltered me from countless Daleks) and the foam futon that had been through an untold number of previous owners both stayed with the ex-girlfriend since she was moving in to the house that I was moving out of. I needed a new one.

Grandma had this nice plaid couch with a floral pattern sewn into it. That and a very sturdy coffee table. She let me have both and they came with me to Kansas City. Then they came with me to DC. Then to another part of DC.

When I had my back wall replaced everything I owned had to fit in my bedroom. It took me a year to get access to my bed again. For that year I slept on this couch. After sleeping on the office floor for a month that was the most comfortable couch ever.

So it's had a good life. But now there are mice who have spent time in there. No nest, just droppings and areas that might have been chewed or might have aged poorly due to something hard and pointy underneath the fabric.
Birds have pooped on the couch. I cleaned and cleaned, but it never all quite comes out.
Two of the legs like to come off if you pick it up or shift your weight too much.

It's time to retire it.

Having no access to a field I was unable to perform the usual furniture retirement ceremony. That involves getting together with some friends, cutting open the furniture, stuffing it full of old homework and a few fireworks, and setting it on fire. Additional fireworks may be lit off the flames.

Tuesday night I put the couch on the sidewalk. DC's bulk pickup was to come for it. When I got home after work Wednesday the couch was missing.

Farewell, little couch. I hope the seagulls at the dump enjoy you.

note: Yes, I am aware that I've given a more heartfelt sendoff to my sofa than I have in most obituaries to people I know.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Music to Segway to

Edit: I forgot to add "On Top of Old Smokey".

While riding my Segway to work and back I get songs in my head. Normal songs. Songs I don't mind having stuck in there. Not the stuff that my mind twists and deforms in self defense. Well, not usually. There were a few days of Ed Gruberman [link] performing the theme to "Star Trek: The Next Generation" acapella.

I think the rhythm of the Segway on the sidewalk triggers certain songs. There's a completely different set of songs that I get while walking and another for when driving.

Anyway, here's my head's Segway playlist.

1) From the TV show "Red Dwarf" the tune played between scenes as the camera shows an exterior of the ship. (0:06-0:24)

2) The theme to Superman.

3) From "Dune" (the David Lynch version) the "I'M RIDING A SANDWORM, MOTHERFUCKERS!" song.
edit: video changed. Jump to 1:49 for the bit that gets stuck in my head.

4) "You Can Call Me Al" by Paul Simon

5) "Popcorn (Hot Butter)"

6) "Volare"

7) "Happy Happy Joy Joy"
Happy Happy Joy Joy
Uploaded by empiempi. - Watch more comedy videos and sitcoms.

8) Theme to "New Adventures of Lois and Clark"Mmmmmm... Teri Hatcher's slide shot.

Bonus: "Popcorn (Hot Butter)" on Tesla Coils.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Book Review: Inferno

36 A.D. - Jesus dies, goes to Hell for three days to free the good people who are there because they were born before baptism, and returns.

~1300 A.D. - Dante Alighieri writes about his journey through the nine levels of Hell.

In 1976 sci-fi authors Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle wrote "Inferno".

2009 Niven and Pournelle release a sequel to "Inferno" called "Escape from Hell".

I finished reading "Inferno" the other day. It's supposed to be a sequel to Dante's famous book and leans on it heavily as a map to the underworld. But 700 years later a lot has changed. There are new sins to worry about, and new punishments. And Dante's route was just one of many possible options.

Allen Carpentier is a science fiction writer. At a science fiction convention he's partying with some fans. He get rip roaring drunk in an attempt to impress them and falls out a window when Asimov comes in. He wakes up in a spartan room that we later find out is the inside of a bottle. After crying out to God to free him, a man named Benito breaks the bottle.

Carpentier believes that he was frozen and has been revived in some distant future. He won't believe that he's in Hell. Instead he tries to build a rational explanation about everything he sees. This must be a theme park, he thinks, based on Dante's famous works.

Benito is very familiar with the layout of Hell having made the trip from top to bottom six or seven times. He offers to be Carpentier's guide. Together they make the trip to what, according to Dante and Benito, is the only way out - the center of the bottom. This isn't to say that Carpentier doesn't try other ways.

If you're familiar with Dante's "Inferno" you'll see a lot of familiar territory. But with time people have found new ways to commit old sins and their punishments have changed accordingly. It appears that the forest of suicides has been clear cut to fuel factories. Early in the next book we soon see that there are still forests. Hell's a big place. There's plenty of room for both.

They try to get several people to come with them in their escape, but few are willing to make the attempt. The deeper you go, the worse things get. Better to stay where the suffering is familiar, they think.

As they get nearer the bottom of the pit Carpentier grudgingly accepts that this is indeed Hell. He makes sure Benito, who has been escorting people out without leaving himself, finally leaves. Then he goes back to take up the task that Benito had assigned himself.

Satan sees Carpentier and Benito leaving. He doesn't try to stop them, but asks "What will you tell God when you see him? Will you tell Him that He could learn morality from Vlad the Impaler?"

I highly recommend this book. I only got through level 6 in Dante's work before having to return that book. This is a nice companion piece. It's credited with a revival of interest in Dante's original back in the late 70's.

I've started reading the 2009 sequel. It looks like Carpentier has been trying to lead people out since 1976 with very little luck. We find him sitting at the base of a tree in the forest of suicides. The tree turns out to be Sylvia Plath.

In the comments tell me what you'd tell God when you see him.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Movie Review: Hot Tub Time Machine

The plot for this movie seems like a sitcom episode. I very clearly remember seeing the same story in an episode of "Family Guy". For one reason or another someone, or group of someones, goes back to an earlier point in their lives. They get to either make corrections or try to avoid changing things and causing the universe to collapse.

In this variation of the "classic" plot, four guys (three guys and a nerd) find their lives in a bad place so they go off to a ski lodge they used to frequent. One guy has just been left by his latest girlfriend and has a career he hates. Another gave up his band and dream for a woman who he just found out is cheating on him. The third may or may not have been attempting suicide, but his life kinda sucks. And the nerd is living in a basement with his computer.

When they get to town the lodge is decaying around them and the town is mostly closed. Still, they stay in their old room and try to enjoy themselves. After awhile the hot tub comes on. There's much drinking and yelling and having a good time. They wake up in the hot tub, get changed, and go skiing. It soon becomes apparent that it's 1986 again.

Then Chevy Chase shows up. The time machine is broken and he's there to fix it. The question about him is whether he's their mysterious time guide, dropping hints about the proper way to get home, or if he's just the repairman and is just talking.

Besides the individual stories, there's a central theme underlying the whole movie. These three guys used to be the best of friends, but they've drifted apart. This movie is also about the three of them (and the nerd) reconnecting. Much of the humor comes from their conflicts between fixing something that went wrong this weekend and not doing anything to change the future, including preventing the nerd from being born.

This isn't gonna end up as a movie classic, but it was a good movie and well worth seeing. I probably won't buy it, but I might put it in my NetFlix queue for Yummy to see.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Friday Links: April 9

It's magic!

Worst celebrity licensing products ever. [link]

Old news by now, but the new average fuel efficiency standards for 2016 will finally meet my minimum standards: 35MPG. [link]

In the comments, tell me what you think is happening in this picture. [link]

Nature by numbers.

Nature by Numbers from Cristóbal Vila on Vimeo.

I've mentioned Simon Singh in previous Friday Links. He's the Brit who wrote in an article that the claims made by the British Chiropractic Association were nonsense. He's right, of course, but British law says that when they sued for libel Singh has to prove his case. He's now won the right to appeal. [link]

Here's his original article. [link]

Life of a Gobstopper. [link]

Homeless sign usefulness experiment. [link]

Most common passwords. [link]

You know the traveling Bodies exhibition? The one where the guy has turned all these people into plastic? Now he's got an animal show. [link]

Man with advanced Parkinsons can barely walk, but can still ride a bike. [link]

Superhero Indian tapestries. [link]
...except for the ones that aren't

Easter performance may "scare children away from religion". [link]

Time travel chart from popular science fiction. [link]

Tarryl Clark has the easiest campaign ever. Easier than running against the party of George Bush. She's running again Michele Bachmann - Professional nutter. [Clark's site [Bachmann's positions]

If you haven't seen "Will It Blend?" before you can start with the blending of an iPad.

Once Catholic the church considers you Catholic until you leave or are excommunicated. But getting your name off the books isn't easy, as this guy has discovered. [link]

They put the "fun" in funeral. [link]

The adaptation of "The Hogfather" was lacking something. The adaptation of "The Colour of Magic" was better than the book. I'm very excited to see this adaptation of Terry Pratchett's "Going Postal".


It makes me laugh.

Koch Industries is a significant employer where I grew up. They're also a bigger funder of climate change denial than Exxon. [link]

Cybernetic retina research. [link]

Trachea grown from stem cells is transplanted into child. [link]

Sarah Palin leave Alaska with largest debt burden in the US. [link]
Funny, Bush did something very similar to Texas. And Sarah did the same thing to Wasilla before becoming Governor.

Most Windows (and Office and Internet Explorer) flaw fixed by removing admin rights. [link]

Tim McVeigh wannabes and proud of it.

Non-linear audio editing app for the iPhone. [link]

I recently mentioned a school that cancelled prom because a lesbian student wanted to bring a date. Now the school had the prom with her, her girlfriend, and a few students with learning difficulties. The rest went to a parent organized prom. [link]
The bigoted students even started a Facebook group called "Constance quit yer cryin" to insult her.

Now Canada has a Catholic child rapist scandal. Seems the church protected the children by sending the pedophiles off to work with the natives (i.e. eskimoes). With no money, power, or police to protect them the priests could do anything and did. [link]
Interesting tidbit: in A.D. 305 the Catholic Church permanently excommunicated pedophiles.
In 2005 George Bush gave Pope Palpatine immunity from prosecution in sex-abuse cases in America.

Picture: another landslide on Mars. [link]

Picture: The ISS passing in front of the Moon. [link]

Even the Klan hates Fred Phelps. [link]

Change your font and save money. [link]

Praise Jesus, Gary Busey says send me money.

Steampunk home. [link]

Misbehaving shadow.

Street legal Viper (from Battlestar Galactica). [link]

Easter themed projects. [link]

A list of surplus electronics stores around the world. [link]

Yummy is getting into guerilla gardening. Here's an idea for a planter, or at least a plant transporter, from a tackle box. [link]

Sony is going to remove a feature from PS3s. It doesn't really matter to me, but Sony? You'll sell more systems if people can hack them into something else than you would by fighting them. Instead of making it harder you should tell them more about how it works to make it easier to modify. [link]

Lyre bird imitating construction at zoo.

Prequel to Red Dwarf - Dawn of Cat's people.

Don't Stand Next To The Sun. [link]

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Christopher Moore

Many years ago some friends of mine recommended a book called "Lamb". It's the story of Jesus's childhood pal, a guy named Biff, and it filled the gap in Jesus's life between birth and age 30. I didn't read it despite repeated recommendations.

Then a year or two back I was coming home from a visit to Kansas when I realized that I'd sent all my reading material off in my checked luggage. I needed a book. And the book "Fool" by Christopher Moore [my review] was there in hardcover. I grabbed it and got through most of it by the time I reached DC. I needed to find more of Moore.

Then I picked up "A Dirty Job" [my review] and consumed it. Then I tried to hold back since I have a whole book case just for the stuff I've bought but haven't read.

Yummy was already familiar with Christopher Moore. She has a whole bunch of his books. While spending a weekend at her place I finally started reading "Lamb". It is made of awesome. I can't believe I haven't written a review for it. I write reviews for everything whether you give a damn or not. I sent a copy to my mom, the preacher. I don't send her many books since she has nearly no time to read, but I felt she needed to read this book. It turns Jesus's life into a comedy without making fun of the man or his life. Moore did a ton of research and it shows.

So when I found out he was coming to Politics and Prose last night I made sure to tell everyone. Ok, everyone except you guys. Yummy was there, My Krodie was there, my boss and her family, who haven't read any of his stuff, was there. You should have been there. He didn't read from the book. He figures we can do that or we have already done that. Instead he stands up and does a routine that has the audience rolling. Next time he's in town I will definitely be there. Several people there had been at his semi-local speaking engagement from the night before.

I forgot my camera, but My Krodie was kind enough to let me steal some of his pictures.

p.s. His new book, Bite Me, is the 3rd book in his vampire series. I'll read them eventually. Here's chapters 1 & 2. [link]

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Sabre tooth Jesus

You may have noticed, it was Easter recently. I refrained from my usual historical analysis of the holiday. I made no "zombie messiah" comments. I didn't get into any of the issues related to a diety that had to sacrifice himself to himself to protect his creation from himself.

I was reading something Jesus related that used the word "wholly" very close to his name. It's a very strange word by itself. You say something is a "wholly owned subsidiary" and the word makes sense. Put it by itself and you just look at it weird.

That's probably why I read it as "woolly" instead of "wholly". As in "woolly mammoth". Suddenly, I'm thinking of Sabre Toothed Jesus. Hair all over, loincloth, unibrow, and two big honking tusks.

From The Sermon on the Rock.

Me Jees. Jees, güd. Bone club, güd. Only for food kill. No club people.

Only with a bit more of a lisp due to his massive dental problem

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Famous or not

Recently, Yummy and I were out doing a tour of the National Mall with a small paper creature that came in my mail [link]. While at the Korean War Memorial Yummy saw someone that she thought looked familiar. I took a few pictures.

The question for you is if this person... really Gloria Ruben [IMDB] from the show "E.R."

Monday, April 05, 2010

Movie Review: RELEASE THE KRAKEN! ... er, Clash of the Titans

I was very disappointed in the new "Clash of the Titans" movie. There wasn't a Titan in it anywhere. There were some gods who had wiped out the Titans to rule Olympus. There was a Kraken who the gods used to wipe out the Titans. But no actual Titans. At least in the original movie they called the Kraken the last of the Titans. So, really, it was "Attack of the Titan".

We saw the 3D version. We didn't mean to. We'd have preferred the 2D version, but we would have had to twiddle our thumbs for an hour first. I should tell you, in the new wave of 3D movies there's only been one 3D live action movie - Avatar. When Pixar or someone like that puts out a 3D digital animation it's fairly easy. They've got a 3D model of everything. They just need to made sure the render farm is set to 3D when they hit the button to finalize things. In live action movies you need to use a special camera. So far only "Avatar" has used it. The rest are broken into several flat layers and those layers are given depth relative to each other. So you have a bunch of 2D cutouts coming at you.

The same is true of "Clash of the Titans". In fact, there's a lot of the movie where you don't need your 3D glasses at all. There's so little dimension that it's not worth bothering. In the rest, the glasses are there to prevent the headache you'd get when the background seems to lose registration.

Enough complaining. Really, it was a good movie. There are points where it seems fast paced/disjointed enough that it would have benefited from having 10-15 minutes put back in. That's complaining, isn't it?

The story was similar to the original, but you felt that the characters had better reasons for why they were doing what they were doing. They're challenging the gods instead of just being played with by the gods. Instead of just one guy going at it alone it's a small military expedition led by the one important guy.

In this movie, a fisherman finds a baby in a floating coffin and raises it. While the grown up kid and his family are fishing, some locals decide to topple a giant statue of Zeus. The locals are attacked by a god with the boat catching some of the spillover from the battle. The kid is rescued and brought to the king. The queen taunts the gods and brings the wrath of Hades on them. He demands the princess Andromeda be sacrificed in 10 days. He also tells the kid that he's the son of Zeus. With his family killed by a god, the kid declares war on the gods and vows to kill the Kraken when it comes to eat the princess.

The special effects were pretty good. I think they would have looked better in 2D.

Dunno if I'll get it on DVD. It's worth seeing, though.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Friday Links: April 2

I'm opening with some gloating. Scott Roeder, the loon who murdered abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in a Wichita, Kansas church, was sentenced the other day. The 52 year old man gets 50 years in prison before the subject of parole can be considered. [link]
I grew up there and saw what anti-choice (clearly not pro-life) activists did to the man. His health and welfare have been at risk for decades, but he kept working. Operation Rescue and people like Scott Roeder disrupted life in Wichita frequently. One summer they shut down a good chunk of the city every day.
Enjoy your time in prison, Scott. If you're right about there being a god and Hell then prison should just ease you in to what's coming.

March 18 marked the 100th anniversary of the first Frankenstein movie. And here it is.

A former Republican voter explains why he's left the GOP and what they'd have to do, or stop doing, to get him back. Complete with links to stories about the crap they've done. [link]

Priest Off Clergy Repellant.

Large Hadron Collider doubles it's own, and the world, record for energetic collisions. Includes a video of a tour taken by the Bad Astronomer and others. [link]

Cat table. [link]

Dark Side of the Moon performed as an 8-bit video game song.
Download the album. [link]

Superman comic sells for $1.5 mil. [link]

Bank robber gets away on his bike. [link]

Martian rover's odometer hit 20KM. That's half a marathon in only 7 years. It finds some new strangeness there. [link]

"Battlefield Earth" author apologizes. [link]

Picture of actual TeaBaggers. The people who make the rest of the world think Americans, particularly Republicans, are insane. [link]

Philosophy puns lifted from a mens bathroom stall. [link]

Bill Murray mixing drinks in some bar.

How a fish almost destroyed a childhood. [link]

First, some background. Long, long ago, a company called SCO sued IBM (and others, I think) because they claimed that part of IBM's version of Linux was taken from UNIX, which SCO claims to own. Truth be told, it certainly appeared that Microsoft was paying SCO to sue and try to harm Linux. Microsoft was losing part of the server market to the many versions of Linux which are free and are more stable than Windows (when properly installed). Microsoft was also facing federal anti-trust lawsuits. SCO's claims were a joke and everyone knew it.
Now another lawsuit has been settled. Novell has managed to prove to a jury that they never sold UNIX to SCO in the first place. [link]

Hen house that rocks. [link]

Republican Senators refusing to work past 2:00. [link]

Part of the health care bill extended funding for current abstinence only sex ed programs. [link]
This is disappointing. These programs are well proven to do the opposite of what is intended.

Michael Bay was right about something. Fake 3D movies are crap. [link]

Reddit scary story thread. [link]

Utah: this is what the GOP and the Tea Baggers want of all of America. [link]

Steampunk wheelchair. [link]

Hypothetical Coke bottle design. [link]

Turning paper back into wood. I've seen other ways of doing something similar, but not one that works this well. [link]

75 movie remakes in the works. [link]
86 movie sequels in development. [link]

Historical TARDIS control rooms. [link]
It's being changed for the season starting in two weeks.

May I suggest opening that in a sealed, airtight vault. [link]

Butterfly attack.

Children's choir singing "Still Alive" from the end credits of the video game "Portal".

The original "Still Alive".

ThinkGeek is awesome and they do great April Fools products [archive]. Their EZ-bake oven that fits in an empty CD-ROM bay [link] SHOULD exist. Last year they had a Tauntaun Sleeping Bag that so many people wanted that they contacted Lucas Arts and got the rights [link].
This year they have a Dharma Initiative Alarm Clock [link] (watch the video), Programmable Tattoo System [link] (we can do it. I've seen the technology), 2001 Monolith Action Figure [link], iPad Arcade Cabinet [link]

Vaccine links:
A pediatrician writes about the original study and his fight to comfort parents. [link]
A bachelor of science student shreds claims made by the Australian Vaccination Network. [link]
Article about a 2008 measles outbreak caused by unvaccinated children traveling. [link]
The dissection of the "vaccines aren't what ended the outbreak" nonsense. [link]

Seattle courts authorize the use of torture for traffic violations. [link]

Man with racist sign claims he's not a racist. Nor are the people screaming "nigger" and spitting on Democrats. [link]

Guide the knight through so he can't save the princess. [link]

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Car shopping

Come September my office is moving to a new place about an hour's drive north of the current place. Maybe October. November at the latest. This means:

• my beloved Segway will have to be retired.
• I have to research and buy a car.
• I have to become extra cheap so that I'll be able to pay for most of the car, if not the whole thing, right up front.
• I'll need to finally suck it up and get a mobile phone.
• I'll need to find out what phone works best with my hypothetical car.

Early on I narrowed my car options to a Toyota Prius and Smart ForTwo. Then I went out and did research to see how other cars stacked up. In the end I was back down to the Prius and the ForTwo.

If I could get a European ForTwo instead of the American model I'd get that without hesitating. But when they Americanized the design to took a 20% hit in the mileage department. On the other hand, I can afford it easily and I get lots of parking options that other people don't get.

The Prius will serve a wider range of needs than the ForTwo and has better gas mileage. Plus, if you get the right one there's a bad ass radar system that brings the car just short of autonomous.

I considered some kind of two wheeled motorcycle-type device so I could fit it up the alley and store it in my back yard. Yummy opposes that idea. I'm not fond of the idea of driving an hour in the rain, either.

So, I've picked a well equipped Prius. I find some local dealerships, pick one with the least annoying commercials, and e-mail them.

"I'm interested in the 2010 Prius V. I need to know what the expected lead time is for ordering a Prius with the Advanced Technology Package. E-mail preferred."

He responds with a list of used Priuses on their lot and their prices. And "Since I would like to assist you personally, please give me a call and we can set a time to meet here at the dealership."

I respond with "No, I don't plan on coming in quite yet. My office will be moving in September and I'll need to buy a car." I repeat exactly what I want. "If you can just tell me how long it takes to get a car to my specs delivered from the factory I'd appreciate it."

His response did at least talk about the exact car I want, what it comes with, what it costs, performance, etc. When can I come by? Call me!

My third e-mail said thank you, but I can find all this information online. What I'm asking you is how long will it take to get the exact car I want? I told him about all the people I know who've bought a Prius and how not a one of them was able to get what they wanted right away. They either had to place an order and wait anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 month or they could walk away with a car they didn't really want but was ready now. I'm the kind who waits. Demand has dropped, wait times are shorter, can I expect a wait or have things changed enough that they will they actually have the car I want on the lot?

He wrote back "We have 3 Prius Vs being delivered on March 25." followed by his phone number.

Does that look like a response to what I asked? Even a little? I tried to be understanding. I considered seriously whether my original requests were unclear. They don't seem to be unclear to anyone else. The sale was his. Easiest sale ever. All he had to do was answer one question. I gave the schmuck 3 chances to answer it and he failed to make an attempt.

I didn't write back.

I got an e-mail a few days later. It was automated Toyota spam from the salesman's address. I wrote back a letter telling him that he had lost the easiest sale ever because he refused to answer a simple question.

A few days later I got another automated Toyota spam. I wrote a very polite letter to the head of the dealership explaining what I've explained in this e-mail. He said he was sorry and I should call him.


I restarted the process with a somewhat more remote dealership. I told them what I want, when I want it, and asked the question with a note that I prefer e-mail.

He called me.

He did answer the question. The answer is two and a half weeks in times of no demand. He said he'd call back in June.
"No. I won't be shopping in June. I'll call you."
"I'll give you a call in July."
"No. I won't be shopping in July. I'll call you."
"I'll call you in July."
"If you must be in touch, use e-mail."

I'm not fond of this dealership, either. But, really, is there any such thing as a car salesman who isn't pushy and unwilling to listen to customers? If I continue working my way out from DC, dealership by dealership, would I eventually find one that actually wants my business enough not to screw around with trying to sell me a car?