Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Links: May 28

I love Cassini. It launched when I was in college and I signed up for a mailing list where I'd get e-mails once a week or so detailing every system check, software update, course correction, etc. I had to get off the list when I left college because I was losing my e-mail address. Was never able to find out where to go to sign up again. Of course, it's all moot now as Cassini has been orbiting Saturn for quite awhile and sending back fantastic pictures of Saturn and it's moons. Here's some new ones. [link]

Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes (Troi and Riker from Star Trek: The Next Generation) having a nice chat.

You've seen me link to lots of articles about the great vaccination controversy and the fucker whose work has caused thousands of kids to contract a disease that was nearly extinct not long ago and has killed several in the last few years. Andrew Wakefield has now had his name struck from the medical register in England. Too bad he's working in the US now. [link]

Glenn Beck has lost half of his viewers. [HA Ha!]

The Pentagon was built on a government operated hemp farm. [link]


Old news by now, but scientists have reprogrammed some bacteria with a completely artificial DNA strand. Yeah, it's feeding and dividing and everything. [linka]

Burning rivers amuse me. [link]

Before George Bush/After George Bush. [link]

10 women inventors. More interesting than it sounds. [link]

Comet hits the sun. [link]

Pluto's orbit is in a different plane than the bodies thought to have formed from the dust that became the Solar System. This system has at least two planets at radically different orbits from that system's plane. [link]

HA! [link]

Darwin: The Motion Picture (spoof).

Welcome to Huffelpuff. We're sorry.

New Mark Twain book coming out. [link]

3D optical illusion.

Programming for a bacteria has been changed. The next question is "why". Here one of the researchers talks about the problems and what good this technology will do us some day.

New from Aardman Entertainment.

Shark tea infuser. [link]

I'm a Marvel... and I'm a DC - 100th episode. THE MUSICAL! Seriously, if you haven't seen the other Marvel/DC stuff you need to.

Game: Star Relic - remarkably easy space conquest game. [link]

What questions did Lost fail to answer? [link]
I think the person who did this missed a few episodes.

Latest version of the robot dog.

Bullets through gelatin are always awesome.

Help identify and label lunar craters from recent satellite images. [link]

Older video that came up lately. It's how 3 graphic designers did what took Spielberg thousands of extras.

Me and the birdies are rocking out to this. It's supposed to make any song a swing song. [link]

Well crafted projection on buildings. [link]

Game: Sprocket Rocket - invent attachments for your ship to let you navigate this maze to collect the gears. [link]

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Paving stones (cont.)

A short while ago I showed you my first attempt at making a paving stone [link]. Here's my 11th.

Brick dust proved to suck as far as coloring the blocks. Instead you want some concrete dye. There is powdered dye and liquid dye. They come in red, terra cotta, buff, and black. If you want to get into other colors you need to use stain. The difference is that dye is added to the concrete mix while stain is added afterward.

Don't add the dye to the concrete. Add the dye to the water that you're using to make the concrete. It mixes more evenly this way.
You can see here that my coloring isn't even. I'm not too stressed about it since I don't want the blocks looking too uniform. If I were using this as flooring instead of blocks it would look kinda cool once polished and acid stained.

The color will fade as it dries more thoroughly.

You'll also notice that the concrete is pretty rough. I'm using some good strong Quikrete. It has stones already added. My initial batch was pretty smooth because I'd been using leftover concrete from repointing my library wall. That had no stones. It could also be why my first block broke. But I think it had more to do with improper drying.

When you smooth out the lumpy concrete you want to use your trowel (seen right by the bucket of dyed water) to jiggle the surface a bit. This will cause the rocks to settle and allow for a smoother surface. I think I used too much water in the last batch. It causes some strange color changes on the surface. It also makes it a bit shiny at first. That will come away as the blocks are walked on.

I did that last night. This morning I took the bricks away from the block.

Initially I'd been wrapping the bricks in plastic so they'd come away from the dried concrete easily. That left plastic looking marks on the sides of the blocks. You can see something similar on poured concrete walls. Where plywood was used in the mold the wall has a wood grain pattern.

Then I rubbed candles on the bricks and put them in the oven so the wax would melt in and penetrate thoroughly. Not bad, but still not a winner. What worked really brilliantly was PAM. Yeah, the non-stick cooking spray. Makes pans release muffins and concrete release bricks.

Tonight the block gets put outside to bake in the sun. After 2-3 days I'll move it out in the yard.

9 down, 7 to go.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Can't think of anything to write at the moment. So instead you get a picture.This tree is located on the family farm in Kansas. It grew up through some power lines so the county came out and shaped it for us.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dougintology Department of Acquisitions

I had a birthday a few weeks back. Yummy got me something pretty impressive.

That's an Amazon Kindle 2. It's displaying a picture from "Care of the Combat Amputee", one of the books I worked on at my job.

I've also loaded it up with some short stories I've downloaded over the last year or two and never read, some stuff from and a couple of MP3s.

I drag it around with me so I'll have some basic sort of internet connection anywhere I go. Last weekend I was reading a real book in a coffee shop and there were a couple of references in the book that I wanted to check. One was whether some character was supposed to be the Virginia Tech shooter. The other was a parrot in New Zealand that likes to land on the backs of sheep and peck out their liver or kidney.

I'm not a fan of Amazon's business practices and won't give them my own money, but I think I can forgive Yummy giving them hers to get me something awesome.

Thank you, Yummy. I love it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Movie Review: Robin Hood

The trailers for this movie didn't move me. They told you very little about the movie.

OK, it's called "Robin Hood". It and a few dozen other movies. Funny, the clips chosen for this movie could be any medieval movie. There's not anything particularly Robin Hoodish about what I'm seeing.

It stars Russell Crowe. Good for him. He's a good actor.

Does it tell me anything else? No.

Were it just me, I probably would have skipped it. But between Yummy and I we made up a whole person worth of interest and went to see it. And I'm glad we did.

First of all, this isn't a Robin Hood movie. It takes place before the events of most Robin Hood movies. It's a prequel.

Second of all, this isn't a Robin Hood movie. Characters necessary for the resolution of the usual Robin Hood storyline die off early. Including Robin of Locksley.

All that said, this was a good movie. I liked it a lot. You just have to be aware that this movie is Robin Hood about as much as the recent "Alice in Wonderland" movie was Alice in Wonderland.

Probably won't buy it, but I do recommend it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Links: May 21

How to sterilize water on the cheap if you're living in a shit hole. [link]

Funny. That's pretty much the same way that they clean water on the ISS and Space Shuttles. [link]

And you can use something similar when [camping], [cleaning your toothbrush], or [staying in some skeevy hotel].

Great barbecue. [link]

Voyager 2 has started speaking in tongues. [link]

A few years back Voyager 1 started feeling turbulence as it reached the beginning of the heliopause. [link]

If Gays Don't Want To Be Discriminated Against, They Should Stay In the Closet. [link]
A week without a Republican saying something horrible and bigoted is like... impossible.

One effort to take care of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is to spread this substance that will solidify the oil.

The ISS in 3D. Treat it like a Magic Eye picture. link

I mentioned last week that the Maine Republican Party platform has been replaced by something you'd expect to hear from Glenn Beck. It turns out that while making this decision a caucus held in a middle school vandalized the classroom they were in. [link] [another link]

You may recall back in 2002 15 girls in Saudi Arabia burned to death because they weren't allowed to leave the burning building without their burkas. I hadn't heard the bit about how firefighters weren't allowed to enter the building and rescue them. But after only 8 years the Saudis passed a law making it legal for firefighters may rescue people from burning buildings that may have women not in full dress inside. [link]

A nun has been excommunicated because she approved of an abortion in the hospital she is an administrator for. The fetus was dead either way. The woman carrying it could only be saved if they surrendered the fetus. [link]

Geez. How about some good news?
Well, the Episcopal church just ordained the first openly lesbian Bishop. [link]

Omega-3 may prevent bone loss while in space. [link]

Lewis Black lists the many, many ways that Glenn Beck finds Hitler comparisons.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Back in Black - Glenn Beck's Nazi Tourette's
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

The New York Public Library is suffering from a huge budget cut. Improv Everywhere is helping draw attention to that by doing some Ghostbuster cosplay there. This was the library they used in the movie after all. No human being would stack books like this.

Sloth orphans.

Meet the sloths from Amphibian Avenger on Vimeo.

Game: Robot Wants Puppy - you played Robot Wants Kitty. Find out what he wanted the kitty for. [link]

Posted without comment.

Creepy [link]

Don't try this at home.

Other uses for coffee filters. [link]


Midwest hail hits a swimming pool.

Evangelical Pastors hate their jobs. [link]

How many licks does it take to get to the middle of a Tootsie Pop? [link]

He is Iron Man's sidekick War Machine. [link]

Plant a tree. Plant a huge mamma-jamma of a tree. [link]

Terry Gilliam is trying to make Don Quixote again. [link]
He tried this before and it was a disaster. The documentary "Lost in La Mancha" tells the story of how everything went wrong. You should rent it.

A cartoon about the father of the vaccine controversy. [link]

Quit Facebook Day. [link]

Republican Congressmember resigns after having an affair. The shocking part? He had his affair with a woman. [link]
Must have secretly been a Democrat.

You may have heard that Texas has tried to sabotage science and history textbooks across the country by changing their curriculum to leave out such radical theories as the existence of Thomas Jefferson, among other things. California is fighting back by setting their curriculum to refuse to accept any books that adhere to what Texas' standards call for. [link]

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Borden books

Because I try to find something to post every day AND because other people seem to be excited by this stuff, I'm gonna tell you about some acknowledgements that we've received.

I work for the Borden Institute. It's a small department within the Army that publishes medical textbooks and the occasional history book.

Last May was the 100th anniversary of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. We spent a year and change gathering pictures from their history and put together a pictorial history. That book, "Walter Reed Army Medical Center Centennial: A Pictorial History, 1909-2009", has been listed in "Notable Government Documents for 2009". The rest of the list is available here.

Also, in The Washington Book Publishers' 2010 Book Design & Effectiveness Competition our book "Care of the Combat Amputee" received the First Place award in the Technical Text category for Small to Medium Nonprofit organizations.

Apparently I don't have the right mindset for this kind of thing. While everyone else is jumping around and congratulating each other I'm thinking "Fuck. Are they gonna make me go to some stupid ceremony?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Movie Review: The Quiet Earth

Thanks to NetFlix I've finally been watching some movies I've heard about for years but never seen. Most recently that means "The Quiet Earth".

So this Bruno guy wakes up one day. He brushes his teeth, takes a shower, gives us more full frontal nudity that I care for in a guy. (male nudity > zero = bad) He gets in his car and finds the streets largely empty. No people. Not even bodies. A few wrecked cars. A highway line painter that draws a line right into a tree. There's nobody at the office. He's all alone.

He paints signs telling anyone who sees it where to find him. He goes to the radio station and makes an automated broadcast that does the same thing. He moves into a much nicer house, plays pool with himself, collects TVs, fills the yard with cardboard cutouts of celebrities so he can give speeches to them.

Eventually, he meets a woman. She moves in and he hits on her with zero success. They search for other people and find one, a large black man who is a wee bit on the homicidal side and still thinks whitey is out to get him.

Bruno thinks that an experiment that he helped setup may be responsible for whatever happened. They don't really know if everyone else slipped into another dimension, whether the three of them slipped into another dimension, whether they're dead, whether everyone disintegrated, or just what happened. But this global energy net experiment that would have allowed planes to fly anywhere without fuel may be responsible.

The sun is acting weird. Bruno thinks it's related to the experiment and that it's a sign that whatever happened before might happen again.

We find out that these three seemed to survive because they were either dead or damn close at the time that things went wonky.

In the end Bruno has to blow up a research station to make the energy net collapse so the other two can live their lives.

Since this movie came out they've gotten a lot better at showing empty cities and making them creepy. This movie treated it like a joke. It was too wacky and silly to be unsettling.

I'm glad I saw this movie. It's come up too often as a recommendation. I wouldn't buy it. I didn't even rip a copy to keep. But I'd recommend putting it on your NetFlix queue or a cheap rental somewhere else.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Yard work

Yummy and I did a lot of work in my front yard this weekend. It's not done but it's very different.

I can't find good before pictures right now, but I'll show you some pictures from a few years back.
This bench was being tossed by someone who lived in the same apartment building as me. I saved it and put it on the apartment building's front porch. It moved with me.
The stones beneath it were payment for helping someone else haul off their leftover stones. Apparently you can only buy them by the half ton and he didn't need that much.

The grass doesn't really reflect what my yard looked like a few weeks ago, or even last summer. I'd been replacing it with a ground covering succulent that I grew from a tiny sprig that I pinched from someone's yard.

In both pictures you can see the edge of the tree/bush that had to be taken out. I spent a couple of days not just cutting off branches, but then trimming the branches off of the branches so they'd make a much smaller pile. Neighbor kids were happy to take the splitting trunk out just so long as they got to try their hand at working a hand saw. I borrowed a shovel from Yummy's dad to dig up the remainder of the trunk and the main hunk of roots. I wound up having to buy him a much nicer shovel. Fiberglass shovel handles? Really?

This, very roughly, is what we had in mind. Something like this had been in my head for awhile but I was always working on something inside the house.

You can see the green and yellow ground cover I mentioned. The bench has been moved way back. I didn't put bricks behind it like I did in the diagram. My orange tree grown from seed it between the bench and the wall for the moment.
The new tree is a forest pansy redbud [link].

This rather awkward angle shows a good deal of the yard. I'm standing on the front steps. The bench is below me.
The row of bricks, which used to make a path from the walkway to the strange concrete slab in front of my house, are now marking off where the sunflowers have been planted. Don't wanna step on them as we continue to work on the yard.
In front of the bricks are some of the concrete blocks I've been making. I'm estimating that I'll need nine more.
I tried to cover up the rather bare soil by placing the big pots over it. The red lilies were given to us by a neighbor who had too many. The black pot has some watermelon seeds in it. There's wintergreen mint in the pot by the tree. The pot next to the bench has spearmint and some herbs that Yummy had in a window pot last year.
It's hard to see in these pictures, but a decorative bamboo plant has popped up in the yard where my diagram called for a small garden. It's that bit of green between the lily in the black pot and the black stone on the ground. We're keeping that.

When planting the tree we used some potting soil that was being stored in a trash bin by the house. Below the potting soil was some super nasty stuff that smelled a lot like shit. Not sure what it is, but the tree should love it. We did our best to mix it with dirt and then bury it in mulch so we wouldn't have to smell it.

The yard should fill in over the next month. Also, as more blocks are made, that will help.

Not pictured:
The fence along the walkway has English Ivy growing on it. We've been using pipe cleaners to direct it more upward so that it'll fill in the fence.
The fence by where the bricks end has honeysuckle growing all over it.
Chili peppers have been planted in the white window pots on the sidewalk that you can see in one of the old pictures.
We've got some beans that I'll try to get the neighbor kids to plant.

Monday, May 17, 2010


The moral of the story is
don't fuck with the Hawk-man
'cause the Hawk-man
ain't down with eye-for-an-eye bullshit
Fuck that, you take an eye
And I'll take your mother fucking head

- All My Shootings be Drivebys by MC Hawking

I already told you that a neighborhood cat killed Bixby, Yummy's little bird. Either a stray cat colony expanded into our area or a cat moved in and had kittens to start a new colony, the point is there's suddenly a lot more cats.

The cats aren't all bad. Having one colony helps prevent other stray cats from invading the area. They keep the mouse and rat population down. But they also spray stuff and fight.

So, Yummy did some research and found that the Humane Society has a free Spay and Neuter Clinic once a month. So Yummy borrowed a couple of live traps from them and brought a raccoon trap that her dad has. We set them up behind my house Saturday night with some tuna as bait. Sure enough, it wasn't long before a clatter of metal told us that we had something.

Yummy called it Charlie.

Sunday we took Charlie to the Spay and Neuter Clinic Sunday morning. A few hours later we picked up a heavily stoned cat. Awake, but moving very little. It stayed in the cage on the back deck overnight. The picture above was taken less than a minute before Yummy released it.

So there's one less cat spraying the neighborhood. One less cat fathering kittens. One less cat picking fights in the middle of the night. And Yummy is one cat closer to getting payback for what they did to her baby birdy.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Links: May 14

Gandolf has seen Star Wars, but prefers classic Battlestar Galactica.

Eyjafjalajökull is sstill erupting. Gas pockets in the magma reach the surface and explode sending visible shockwaves through the smoke.

Most rocking sniper ever. [link]

Doctor Who fan story done with action figures. [link]

How to build a one stage anaerobic digester. [link]

How do we know how old the universe is. [link]

Short article about why your parents and kids have such bad taste. [link]

10 reasons to leave Facebook and a link to where you actually shut it down instead of suspending it. [link]

Hispanic (or tan) and spending time in Arizona? You need a white person mask! [link]

This interview of the author of the book "Last Call" makes me want to read it. It's the story of Prohibition. The article alone is very interesting and educational. Read it, if not the book. [link]

Guy frees injured whale with a crossbow. [link]

I'm surprised George Takei ever lived this down.

Why dogs bite their owners.

Game: Gem Grab - arrange blocks so you can drag the gem out. [link]

Steampunk lightswitch plates. [link]

Pascal's Wager.

Cats of the Navy. [link]

The Maine Republican party recently met to establish their official platform. It's changed a bit since last time. It now calls for the elimination of the Department of Education and the Federal Reserve, demands an investigation of "collusion between government and industry in the global warming myth," suggests the adoption of "Austrian Economics," declares that "'Freedom of Religion' does not mean 'freedom from religion'" (which I guess makes atheism illegal), insists that "healthcare is not a right," calls for the abrogation of the "UN Treaty on Rights of the Child" and the "Law Of The Sea Treaty" and declares that we must resist "efforts to create a one world government." [more]

Game: Cursed Treasure: Don't Touch My Gems - a tower game [link]

1/3 of people who think Obama isn't an American approve of the job he's doing. [link]

1910 article about how the world is about to end. [link]

Wearable headcrab papercraft. [link]

Runaway star! [link]
Some day it's gonna be a rogue black hole.

Bonobo chimps shake their heads to say "no". [link]
includes a short video.

Richard Dawkins: If science worked like religion.

Old spoon prank.

Dalek hot pad. [link]

Pictures of the new Conan. It's Ronon from Stargate: Atlantis. [link]

Download Portal for free for the next 10 days. [link]

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Guerrilla Gardening photos

Pictures from the Guerrilla Gardening event last Sunday.





Fabric? Perhaps from a seat?

Police tape? That can't be good.

The goods.

Planting the charges used to crack open the ground.

Look at this old land mine. It should be fine as long as nobody steps on it.

Ok, just as long as nobody ELSE steps on it.

Our ever present companions.

Sign made from found materials.

The garden was drawing attention even before we could pull away.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Paving stones

I'm in the process of redoing the front yard. I want to give it an area that is covered in paving stones like we saw in one area of the game "Myst 3 - Exile". It involves a bunch hexagonal stones that are a bit red.

I'm gonna tell you about my failed attempts first. Later you can see the stuff that works.

Probably the most important thing is that the concrete doesn't stick to things you don't want them to stick to. Which is really pretty much everything. I kept it from sticking to my card table by covering the table with plastic.

I then put down a brick and marked it's edge on the plastic. Measuring off 60° I put down another brick and marked it's edge. I did this until I got a hexagon.
The bricks were wrapped in more of the plastic and placed back in the hexagon.

This is what I had to mix concrete in. It doesn't hold a lot. It takes 4-5 refills to be able to fill the mold I made from the blocks. For the batch that will make up the very top I poured in a brick that I had pulverized.

I didn't want just sidewalk gray for the blocks. I wanted them reddish. So I took some old bricks from the yard and from under the house and smashed them. They were smashed with a hammer and then ground to a powder in a mortar and pestle. What you see above is brick powder being added to the mix. I ended up dumping a whole brick worth of powder in there.

After it was all poured I had this. See? Not gray.

When the concrete dried the plastic covered bricks came away fairly easily. I moved the block to a shelf from some bookcase that I wasn't using and took it outside to bake in the sun.
You can see the color difference between the concrete with no brick vs the concrete that has it.
You can also see the strange texture that the plastic left on the sides of the block. Not a problem for the blocks in the middle. Less cool for the ones on the outside.

After baking in the sun for a couple of days the block was tested. It held up nicely. I had to do this test because the very first block seemed hard but wasn't left to bake in the sun and broke in three pieces when weight was put on it.

At this point there are several things I wanted to work on. I didn't like the texture of the sides. I needed to find another way to prevent the concrete from sticking to the bricks... er, the mould. Brick powder wasn't as useful a dye as I'd hoped. And my hand hurt from working the mortar and pestle.

You'll find out what I did once I take more pictures.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Guerilla Gardening

Yummy has started a Guerrilla Gardening group in DC. Their website is

I made shirts for the two of us. I intend to talk about how I did that one of these days.

Sunday they had their second event. It was a an intersection that's trying not to be shifty and shady. Nice apartment buildings sit on opposite corners and scary places on the other two corners. We were working on one of the scary places.

It was, once upon a time, a car repair shop. It's close now and their lot is largely fenced off. At the corner the fence goes diagonally so there's some space that looked bad but was workable. The ground was hard enough that we had to just scrape the surface first to get the grass out. Then we started going down. Bit by bit, little by little, we softened things up enough to dig some more. Bricks and chunks of asphalt came up all over the place. So did old seat covers, throttles, wires, spark plug caps, some bits of metal that probably lined a windshield, and some police crime scene tape. With time it became clear that the area we were hacking up used to be a driveway. Once you got to the side of the driveway the soil was much softer.

Over the course of three and a half hours we got the tiny lot dug up and replanted.

I'll post more pictures later, but you can see Yummy's pictures here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Movie Review: Iron Man 2

Yummy and I went to see Iron Man 2 Friday night.

Because I'm a crotchety old man I'm gonna start by bitching about it. There were a a large number of scenes that were filmed just for the trailer. Iron Man does jump out the back of a cargo jet to get to a convention, but he isn't up there flirting with Pepper Potts before he jumps.

The scene where he's firing a laser around his lab is there, but for the trailer they sewed a few scenes together to make it seem like something else is happening.

And the primary villain's motivation seems lacking. Whiplash is getting revenge on Tony for something that happened 40 years ago between Whiplash's father and Tony's father. It may have made more sense when the Soviets were still our enemies.

But other than that it's an awesome movie. The banter is great, we see signs of Stark's alcohol problem, he reconnects a bit with his dead father, War Machine sees action, Nick Fury has some prolonged experiences, Stan Lee is called Larry King, and a lot more.

You do want to see this movie. You DO want to sit through the credits.

I will be getting this on DVD. There's no question about that.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Friday Links: May 7

Happy Iron Man 2 Day!
Oh, and happy birthday to me, too.

Make a small forge for your home.

NASA balloon crashing.

A lovely little song about the Pope that would go well in a South Park episode. You've been warned.

A collection of 1 minute science videos for kids. [part 1] [part 2]

After a 9 year struggle the Cape Cod offshore wind farm is going ahead. [link]
I think the death of Ted Kennedy went a long way towards removing the opposition.

This is what I want to see in all book stores. Something that can take out of print books and get you copies of them in a matter of minutes. [link]

This video is a commercial for It's a site that collects instructions on how to fix things. I'll be spending time looking around this site.

Hubble Telescope is 20 years old. This 16 minute video covers the history and the accomplishments of this telescope.
Time how long it takes you to recognize the voice of the narrator.

This is child abuse.

This subject came up in conversation the other day. So you get to share in the experience of watching a Lego based Rubix Cube solver.

Sweet self balancing robot.

"Dude, you're doing a lot of videos this week."
"Very true. Lets see what else I've got."

Picture: Earth as seen from Mars. [link]

Picture: New solar observatory satellite gets a great picture of our sun going boom. [link]

Slow motion of the rockets of Apollo 11 launching. It has a narrator explaining what you're seeing.

Apollo 11 Saturn V Launch (HD) Camera E-8 from Mark Gray on Vimeo.

Yep, more videos. This just makes me laugh.

Terminator mic stand. [link]

They want to ignite a star. On Earth. Just some minor heebie jeebies. [link]
Fission energy and space elevators: 10-20 years after we stop laughing.

Make your dog's (or fluffy kitty's) hair into clothing. [link]

Fox News says Mr Rogers was an evil man.

Terry Pratchett talks about Doctor Who. [link]
I have to agree. Doctor Who isn't sci-fi anymore than Ray Bradbury's Martian stuff was sci-fi. Bradbury is the first to admit that his "sci-fi" stuff is really fantasy set in space.

Doonesbury mentioned Andersonville death camp in conjunction with the Civil War a few days ago.I wasn't familiar with Andersonville so I looked it up. Turns out the Confederates had concentration camps. [link]

The Russians have some experience in dealing with massive underwater oil leaks. They nuke them. [link]

The history of the British Police Box with emphasis on it's relevance to the design of different types of TARDIS [link].

This sounds like a challenging game. Deal 6 cards from a deck missing jokers and face cards. Figure out what math symbols are requires to make the first 5 equal the sixth. [link]

The Vatican is launching investigations into American nuns. No, the nuns haven't been raping children or anything. They're suspected feminists. [link]
If you haven't run screaming from the Catholic Church yet why the fuck not?

You remember those climate scientists whose e-mails were hacked and leaked? They've been cleared of any wrong doing by both a scientific panel and a political panel. They could be more organized, but that's about it. Certainly nothing wrong with their results. [the official report] [analysis by the Bad Astronomer]

This is how the Supreme Court should write. [link]

Color survey results. If nothing else you should jump to the end. [link]


Cartoon: Superman and bugs. [link]

Obama admits America has 5,113 nuclear weapons. This is down from the peak of 31,255. [link]

Homemade Pop Tart recipe. [link]

Thursday, May 06, 2010


I'm sure you're well aware of what Marvel is up to in the way of movies these days. While DC can't get their act together for a Superman movie but once every few decades, let alone the much desired Superman/Batman movie, Marvel is working up to "The Avengers". They're shooting for a May 2012 release. And they've got Joss Whedon directing.

What's special about this movie isn't so much the movie itself but what they're having to do in order to get to this movie. The Avengers is a team of superheroes. No, not like the Fantastic Four. More like The Justice League. Each hero has their own origins, back story, city to secure, and title or series of titles. You can't just jump into this movie. You need to have all the other stories first.

If you sat through the credits for "Iron Man" you saw Samuel L Jackson show up as Nick Fury for about 5 seconds. After "The Incredible Hulk" Tony Stark (Iron Man) shows up to talk to General Ross. Then, after a struggle, they got Samuel L Jackson to sign a contract for twelve (12) movies as Nick Fury. Nick is a major player. You don't want to have to change Nicks midstream. Coming in 2011 we have Captain America played by the dude who was The Human Torch in the Fantastic Four crap fests. And they just released pictures of Thor from the 2011 "Thor" movie.

That would be the guy who played George Kirk, father of James T. Kirk, playing the part of Thor.

I mentioned that there was some excitement about Joss Whedon directing "The Avengers". Well we've got Kenneth Branagh directing "Thor". Yeah, that's right. The director of "Hamlet", "Frankenstein", "Henry V", "Much Ado About Nothing", and "In the Bleak Midwinter (a.k.a. A Midwinter's Tale)" is directing a comic book movie. Lend a bit of respectability that Whedon, challenger to George Lucas's title, doesn't quite bring.

I tell you all that because I just found out today (yesterday now) that Brian Blessed will not be playing Odin. He was, but now he's not. The job has gone to Sir Anthony Hopkins. I respect Hopkins. I like Hopkins. The man is a great actor. But, honestly, I don't really see him as the father of Thor and leader of the Norse gods. In my mind, Hopkins brings King Hrothgar from "Beowolf" to the role. A king, sure, but not really a god. I'm sure he'll do a great job. I'm no casting director. If I were casting "The A-Team" I wouldn't have said "You know who could fill in for George Peppard? Liam Neeson." But the trailers for "The A-Team" look awesome. Liam is the most convincing of all the characters. I wouldn't have thought it, but, looking at Liam's career on IMDB it does make sense.

It's just... Brian Blessed had the job. Once I heard he was playing Odin I had to see that movie. Kenneth Branagh? That's great! But, it didn't matter if it was directed by Uwe Boll, I HAD to see that movie. It was too perfect. It was like when I first heard that Patrick Stewart was cast as Professor X. There was nobody else. The fit was perfect. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark? They're the same guy. Joss Whedon was writing and directing Wonder Woman. That's all you had to say. It's a success already. Honestly, taking Whedon off that project was what killed that movie. Clearly the producers weren't taking this seriously.

I don't recall where I first saw Blessed. Probably Doctor Who. I know that I was a fan of his even as a kid. He kind of has the same appeal that Andre the Giant had, but with acting skills.

When Brian Blessed laughs you have to laugh. You have to. But you don't want to be close to him when he laughs. There's power there. Like standing in front of a herd of nervous cattle. Every time the herd twitches or shifts you think your life is about to end. That's how I imagine it is standing next to Brian Blessed when he laughs.

If you look back at his career you see just an insane amount of Shakespeare. Sci-fi too. Dr Who, Space 1999, Blakes 7, Flash Gordon. Plus Black Adder, I Clavdivs, and the voice for more video games and cartoons than you can shake a stick at. He's a great actor.

I want to see him cast as Santa Claus. He's already got the beard and a fantastic laugh. But I'm not seeing him as the standard Santa. He's not fat and jolly and grandfatherly. He's big. He's jolly. He laughs a lot. But he's only grandfatherly if your grandfather was a lumberjack. He's Santa the fallen Frost Giant. He's a Santa that doesn't need magical reindeer. They fly because he damn well told them to. He's Santa Claus, the hard drinking, hard working, hard laughing, and he delivers all the gifts in one night because he bloody well said it was gonna happen that way.

I at least want to see his camera call. I want to see him auditioning for the role of Odin.

Here's Brian performing Snooker commentary.

And here he is on "Have I Got News For You".

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Ruben Tube

I can't believe that a Rubens Tube isn't a cliched part of any dance club. They're just so awesome. I know if I had a club I'd have several.

I suppose I should explain what they are. Take a pipe, cap on end with a speaker, pump propane in the other end, position it horizontally, poke holes along the top, and set fire to the top. As the speaker plays it compresses the propane in a pattern consistent with a sound wave. The flames coming out the top get taller and shorter depending on the pressure of the gas in the tube. That is to say that the gas jets get taller and shorter depending on the particular tone being played.

This is the video that first introduced me to the concept.

Rubens Tube playing "Still Alive".

Mythbusters play with one. [link]

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Tale of Bixby

I have an African Grey Parrot named Gandolf. Gandolf is smart and funny, but not what you'd call friendly. To her affection means she's willing to sit on your shoulder or your knee. That or it means you have something she wants to eat. Once in a while she'll lean on my chest and let me hold her, but only if she's had a bad day. You know, chased by hawks or something like that. A bad day.

Yummy didn't like birds. They flap around your head, bob their heads in creepy ways, and want to peck out your eyes. Even so, she came to like Gandolf after a little while. She wouldn't, however, believe me when I said that birds can be very cuddly and affectionate. So we went to a pet store and visited the birdies in the back room. Canaries and parakeets don't want much to do with people. Cockatiels depend on the particular bird. The conures are the cuddliest. They come over to the side of the cage and ask you to scratch their heads. Often they have lots of pin feathers1 that need crunched up.

There was a brightly colored sun conure named Sandra Day O'Conure and a few fairly young green cheeked conures. The green cheeks were all in separate cages but tried to swarm Yummy. One was a floppy bird that seemed like it was still learning to walk. Turned out that it had some deformity in it's foot. Another wanted to be close to Yummy, but didn't like hands so she couldn't touch it. The third let her reach through the bars and rub it all over. They bonded.

A couple of weeks later I went back to see if that third bird was still there. Yummy's birthday was coming up and I decided to get her one. And if her dad wouldn't let her take it home it'd just have to stay at my place and keep Gandolf company. Oh, shucks.

That was almost a year ago. We renamed the conure Bixby after Bill Bixby who played The Incredible Hulk on TV. Bixby was a little green monster. The name won out over my suggestion of Thracknar the Destroyer.

Bixby and Yummy bonded pretty quickly. Bixby was excited to see her when she came over and she had to bribe Bix with crackers so Yummy could get out the door without Bixby looking sad. Bixby would eat Yummy's food, drink her drinks, hide in her hair, and fall asleep in her hand.

Last Thursday I came home, it was a nice day, so I took Gandolf and Bixby outside to sit in their bush like they love to do. Bixby would climb all over the bush trimming away leaves and flowers and small branches. She'd cut tunnels through the branches leaving expressways so she could move all over the bush at lightning speed.

I sat down on the bench in front of the bush and read. There was a flurry of activity behind me and I looked back. I expected Bixby to have tried to get too close to Gandolf, as she liked to do, and Gandolf struck at her. I saw Gandolf hanging upside down from a branch and helped her up. I searched the bush for Bixby. Since Bixby blends so well and is so small she usually takes some hunting to find.

As I searched the bush a neighbor came up and asked "What color was Yummy's bird?" He and another neighbor had seen a strange cat running up the sidewalk and into the alley carrying a small green bird. Gandolf had been upside down because she'd taken a swing at the cat.

I searched the alley. I climbed fences and searched yards in the alley. I searched under cars along the street, yards along the street, a nearby alley where a cat colony is known to live. Nothing. I had to call Yummy. Devastated is not the word for how she felt. While I went back out to continue the search Yummy was freaking out her co-workers with her sobbing. For the next four days Yummy was inconsolable. Even with sleeping pills she couldn't sleep. I started to wonder if she would need to be sedated.

She was able to run an arts and crafts booth at a community event she'd helped organize. Gandolf and I were there to keep her company. But she's so exhausted from the lack of sleep and emotional pounding that she can't really feel anymore. But she is recovering.

Bixby cleaning my teeth.

Bixby wanting out of my helmet.

Bixby enjoying camp chili.

Bixby with a chip.

Gandolf and Bixby, just chillin'.

Bixby among the morning glories.

Bixby eating the morning glories.

More pictures are available at Yummy's site. [link]

The fate that awaits the stray cats.

1Feathers grow in a hard sheath that sometimes needs help breaking up to let the feather out. Those are pin feathers.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Movie Review: Kick Ass

Or as I've seen it written in theaters: Kick A, Kick A**, Kick Tushie. But I think that last one was making fun of theaters that use the first two.

"Kick Ass" isn't the movie you thought you were going to see. OK, part if it is. It blends several different subgenres of the superhero story.

The first, and most obvious, is the child superhero. Some comic book reading kid wants to be a super hero, or at least a costumed hero. Sporting only a colorful outfit and good intentions he hits the rooftops looking for crime to stop. Realizing that he can't leap between rooftops he takes to roaming the streets looking for lesser crimes. Cats to save, pickpockets to foil, maybe some muggers to scare away - that kind of thing. He soon finds out why nobody else does this. Turns out that this is a good way to get your teeth kicked in. He also has his high school friends and the inevitable girl whose heart he wants to win. This is largely light hearted, even in the serious moments.

Having set that tone they move into the second type. They shock you with a level of violence that out gores many of the really violent action hero movies. It has a serious origin story and a war on the mob. People die horribly.

It reminded me a lot of one of the more recent Batgirls. She was raised with no language skills by an assassin. This made her the ultimate killing machine. This movie has someone like that, too.

Another story is told over the course of a movie. One about a teen who has never had a friend. All he knows is his dad's business (i.e. the mob) and comic books. He makes his first friend and immediately has to betray him. By the end of the movie he's also lost his family and every single employee in the family business. This leaves him with comic books, his family fortune, and a passing familiarity with the world of crime.

Do not take your young children to this movie. It's rated R for a very good reason.

But you do want to see this movie and you want to see it in theaters. You can enjoy it at home, but the audience reaction is a valuable addition to this movie. There are several moments where the audience sits there, mouth agape, stunned by the scene they just watched.

I will be getting this movie on DVD.