Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Links: October 29

Working version of the gun from the movie "Aliens". 

Looks like there may be a whole lot of water in the Moon. [link]

Nifty pot pie. [link]

Can you spot the bug in "Fallout New Vegas"? Look close. 

50 tips from pilots. [link]

New York candidate for governor from the "Rent Is Too Damn High Party". [link]

End grain floors. [link]
How not to make grain floors. [link]

My man My Krodie is pictured in this comic strip. Dark haired guy in the last panel. [link]

Newly discovered galaxy is the furthest away that we know of. [link]

Potassium Chlorate and a gummy bear. Instead of embedding the video I'm giving you the link so you can read about what's happening, too. [link]

The first planets outside our star system (exoplanets) were discovered when I was in college. It was discovered by watching a star get dimmer and brighter over a rather short time. It meant that there was an eclipse. The planet passed between the star and the telescope and blocked some of the light. Using this technique astronomers started finding loads of planets. These planets tend to be gas giants very close to the star. Close meaning orbiting closer than Mercury does to our own star. And giant meaning that they dwarf Jupiter. We find them easiest because they're big enough to cause a significant dip in the light and being so close their orbits take a matter of days or weeks instead of years. These links talk about a couple of interesting recent discoveries. [NN Ser] [Upsilon Andromedae b]

Elect the Willfully Ignorant to Congress. 

Extended version of the Christine O'Donnell/Chris Coons debate I posted last week. She honestly seems to think that people are laughing at how stupid she makes her opponent look rather than how stupid she is.

I missed it. Last Sunday was the Earth's birthday. Well, according to Creationist mythology it is. Oct 23 was the anniversary of the beginning of creation. The next day the Earth was created. Yesterday God called it good. [link]

Some artistic pumpkin carving. [link]

I'm not a fan of Amazon.com, but I thank them for feeding my free e-book collection. [link]

Someone built a working Banana Jr. [link]
Wadda ya mean you don't know what a Banana Jr is!?! [link]

The science fiction B-movie in three and a half minutes. 

You're finally getting over that phobia of bacteria you got from that dental film in 1st grade? I need to fix that. Read and be afraid. [link]
Warning: very long

I made a submission to Totally Looks Like recently. A page was created, but it hasn't appeared on their page. So it's exclusive to you people, I guess. [link]

Sears' Halloween site. [link]

Shakespeare plays to be performed in their original accent. Interestingly, they're performing it in a part of the country with an accent that most TV and radio personalities try to emulate. Kansas.
Samples of the plays available at the link. [link]

I'm short some Doctor Who fan service.
The first time the term Time Lord was used, the first time The Master appeared, the first time we saw Gallifrey were all in the last episode of the second doctor. You can watch this episode and most others at the link. [link]

While his wife was in surgery because of a congenital deformity in their fetus, some guy goes out to yell at the know nothing scum that accosted them on the way in to the women's clinic.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Movie review: Paranormal Activity 2

Let me take a moment to try to explain my taste in horror movies.

Freddie, Jason, Michael Myers... hacks and losers. All of them. "Alien vs. Predator 2" I classify with the "Nightmare on Elm Street", "Friday the 13th", and "Halloween" movies. They're about not terribly frightening characters chasing down teenagers in the woods. Or variations on that theme. There's very little suspense. The scary parts tend to be cats jumping out of closets. Or, in more recent movies, close ups of painful things happening. Things that aren't really scary, but make you cringe in sympathetic pain.

I like a movie that can give you suspense. Something that makes you anxious. "The Ring" was good, even if I did need to have the end explained to me. "The Others" was great. It got suspense, mystery, fear, and without using a drop of blood of fake blood.

And I loved the movie "Paranormal Activity". It had me sitting up, paying attention, looking for something to happen. And then stuff happened. A lot of the stuff that happened wasn't seen by anyone in the movie. It wasn't happening to get a reaction from the characters. It was happening to creep out the audience. It got the audience engaged and creeped out. It had suspense and things that made the audience jump. It started small and built up as the movie went on. And just in case you get it on DVD, you want the theatrical ending, not the alternate one.

Does that give you some idea what I'm looking for?

I'm writing this after coming back from seeing "Paranormal Activity 2". Before you see it, you really need to see the first one. Otherwise you'll be totally lost at the end.

"Paranormal Activity 2" is the real life story of a family with a one year old child.

That might be a bit unfair. Eventually it was about more than that.

It was disappointing. In the first one they made you look for some of the spooky stuff. In this one there was a lot of nothing happening. When something did happen you kind of got whomped on the head with it. And the house was full of people so there was always somebody to react to it. You never really got to be creeped out, never time for the spooky to sink in because there was always someone freaking out about it. It was rarely subtle.

Let me start again. "Paranormal Activity 2" is both a sequel and a prequel to "Paranormal Activity". It starts with a happy couple bringing home their new baby boy and going a bit overboard with their home video camera. About a year later they come home and the house is trashed. They install security cameras that look like motion detectors all over the house. Then nothing happens. Night after night nothing happens. We click through the security cameras each night and they show a still and quiet house. During the day people talk about stuff. The nanny is superstitious. The sister is one of the main characters from the original movie. The baby looks at stuff that isn't there. This goes on for way too long.

Eventually pots start falling off of hooks. Crash! Bang! Blah. But I will grant them the scene where all the kitchen cupboard slam open at once while the mom is in the kitchen. That got everyone to jump. That's as opposed to the scene where the sleeping baby was slowly pulled across the crib and up the side. That got laughs.

The scene where the mom had her feet yanked out from under her, she was drug down the stairs, and into the basement just doesn't compare to the scene in the first one where the wife had her feet yanked out from under her, she was pulled down the hall, and it tried to drag her into the attic. Partially because the first one spent a good deal of time getting the audience worked up. Plus, she was yanked a lot faster in the first one. In the second it was kinda slow and she fought it. When the female lead in the first movie acted weird it was just us and the unblinking camera that saw it. When the female lead in the second movie acted weird it was the daughter and her wildly swinging video camera that saw it and freaked out about it. And freaked out about it and freaked out about it and freaked out about it.

It's just... well... they needed to start us over again. Fewer surveillance cameras with longer shots. Make us look for the spooky. Start small. The pool skimmer in this movie I liked. Not spooky, but subtle. More with the upset dog, but only the dog and the baby noticing. I liked how this tied into the original movie near the end. But the demon played with the family in the original more than he did in this one.

I'm not really recommending this movie. Sorry. Go watch the original in a dark room again.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sod off Wednesday: October 27

From time to time you'll see me showing off some work of my cousin The Muffin Man. You can see one of his recipes being shown off here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cylon-o-lantern

I'm a bit of a procrastinator. A bit more than a year ago I bought this nifty little kit for Yummy and I to put together ... together. It's called the Larson Scanner. Available here for $13. It's named for Glen A. Larson, the producer for both Knight Rider and Battlestar Galactica. What these two shows have in common is artificial intelligences with a string of lights that light up in a back and forth kind of pattern. That's what this kit does.

The plan was that we'd put it together and shove it in a pumpkin last Halloween. We finally got it assembled Saturday night. I did most of the soldering, but I did make Yummy solder in one LED over her objections. And last night I stuck it in a pumpkin.
The assembled Larson Scanner and the tools of the trade.
You like my work surface? It's my coffee table, if you want to get specific. Yummy got it from someone cutting down trees along side the road several months back.


The power switch is on the battery case. A button at the tip of my thumb speeds it up and slows it down. 
I did add a last minute change. The kit came with an extra resistor and LED. I got some of my own wire and wired the extra light in parallel with the Larson circuit. Then I let it dangle behind the mouthpiece so the mouth has a solid glow.

This one is much better than mine. Also doesn't seem to use the same kit.
It's not fancy, but you can get simple LEDs in your own Halloween decorations with a coin battery and any LED. By coin battery I mean any of the flat round batteries you'd use in a watch. LEDs from the store have two long pins coming off of them. Just wedge the coin between them and you have a simple light. Tape may be necessary to keep the coin in place and the circuit closed. This is good for a bright light in your jack-o-lantern or a glowing ghost or something. A little electrical tape around the sides and you have a pair of eyes from the shadows that don't actually light up the shadows. 

Don't use a straight 9 volt battery. That'll burn out many LEDs in the blink of an eye. If you do use a 9 volt instead of a coin battery you'll need to shove a resistor between the two. 

A hack for the Larson Scanner came out the other day. It's a way to extend it as long as you'd like. [link]


Monday, October 25, 2010

Movie review: RED

The NPR movie reviewer can go suck an egg. He didn't have enough bad things to say about "RED". Actually, there's very few good movies he likes. He's like The Academy (or whatever we're supposed to call the people who pick the Academy Awards) in that he loves the weak sauce that may be well acted and directed, but aren't terribly interesting or entertaining. Strangely enough, he kept cracking up when talking about "Idiocracy". That's what made me see that movie.

...but "RED". That's what I was talking about. The descriptions talked about a group of retired CIA wetworks agents who come out of retirement because they're bored. That's not true. Sure, they are bored, but that's not why they become active. They become active because someone is trying to kill them.

Bruce Willis has his military discipline and too much time on his hands. His house is neat and spotless. He gets up at exactly 6:00 a.m. without the alarm clock going off. All he really has in his life is this woman (Mary-Louise Parker) who is in charge of making sure he gets his pension checks. Then some guys come to shoot up Willis's house and he goes on the run. First stop is to pick up Parker because he knows they'll try to use her to get at him.

From there you start to get the impression that this is another "Mr and Mrs Smith" or "Killers" or "Knight and Day". I don't feel like it is. I felt like those were all trying to be "True Lies" and fell short. I think "RED" was better than most of these. The NPR guy was complaining about how meh the acting was and how weak the action was. I think the acting did a good job of conveying that these were more mature agents. They're well past the "I'm James Bond!" stage. While they enjoy the work they're not a bunch of kids anymore. They're kinda dry and so is much of the humor. There's plenty of shooting and great blowing stuff up scenes. They also know when to hold their fire.

Plus, the cast of characters beats the movies listed above. They're all about him and her and keeping secrets and they're an awesome duo. In "RED" Willis collects some of his fellow retired CIA agents (Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Brian Cox, and Helen Mirren) who might also have an interest in the case. This turns the movie into what the "Mission: Impossible" series SHOULD have been. The TV show was before my time. If you're making a movie you don't kill off most of the team in the first reel. You save that for something like the 4th or 5th movie when you want a sequel without paying the whole cast.

I do recommend this movie. I haven't decided yet if I'll get it on DVD, but I am glad that I saw it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Links: October 22

The Angry Astronomer tries to clarify the Big Bang. [link]

"The Courtier's Reply". After the Emperor got his new clothes and some kid said he was naked the news pundits jumped in. [link]

BenoƮt Mandelbrot died of pancreatic cancer recently. I guess whenever they removed the tumor there were an infinite amount of smaller ones... or something. See, because he's the guy who created Mandelbrot Sets. You know, fractals. Those posters you see on the wall of mathematicians and stoners alike. Look, I'm just here to post his brief biography [link] and this music video about him.

Not terribly pious Catholic rapper. Gandolf laughed.

Image: The map of the first artificial genome. [link]

Fifteen year old kid gets a quack "medicine" banned. [link]

infographic: How high is Earth's atmosphere? [link]

If I ever adapt one of the barns as a living space I'll have to get some of this sea mine furniture. [link]

This is very old news by now, but this old two hour Nova episode gives a good presentation of what evidence was presented in the Dover intelligent design case from a few years back. [link]

Why have I not heard about this place? They're gonna fire up a star on Earth. Their goal is to make more energy than they use. [link]

image: instructions from hell. [link]

Notes for an unpublished Dr Seuss book. [link]

Measure the speed of light with a microwave. And some marshmallows. [link]

Privacy fail. [link]

The seasons in Kansas. [link]

Coffee powered batteries. [link]
I'm thinking I might use one of those to power one of these that stopped running on water.

According to this article, you don't want anything transplanted from me. You'd probably end up allergic to yourself. [link]

Image: How to tell what actually works. [link]

Images: great images through a microscope. [link]

Russia is hosting a conference to help save the tiger. Go Russia. [link]

Interview with R. Crumb. I'm reading his illustrated Book of Genesis. Didn't know he also came up with "Keep on Truckin'". [link]

Another theory about what led to the Iraq War. [link]

I've heard of the Alfred Dreyfus trial, but knew nothing about it. It was remarkably influential. [link]

Willow based architecture. [link]

What house needs this many lights? [link]

Please, oh, please don't let Christine O'Donnell get elected for ANYTHING. This article and video covers her face planting on the separation of church and state in the Constitution. [link]
Lets see that again from another angle. [link]

100 mpg? I'd drive this car. [link]

"English Heritage" claims exclusive rights to images of Stonehenge. One photo library asks what right they have to claim that. [link]

Cat and mouse play Mortal Combat. 

Spinning bullet on the ice. 

I'd totally tell my kids this story. 

Google has self driving cars. [link]

Someone backs up my argument that America was settled not just to escape religious prosecution but to allow settlers to practice their own. [link]

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Birdies eating plants

Oliver Queen: We won't let him drink our mojitos so he goes for the next best thing.
Gandolf the Gray: Eating the pansies the Guerilla Gardeners were planting. The pansies were later stolen

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Movie review: Devil

When this movie opened I was too poor for movies. Then there were illnesses. Then it'd been out for awhile and we hadn't seen it and did we really want to see it? Yummy did, but she figured it'd be too scary. I started to go several times, but always found something I'd rather do. Like sit on the couch.

Finally, I did see this movie. It's exactly what I expected it to be. I even guessed which of the people in the elevator was the devil from the trailers.

That said, it's not a bad movie. We've come to expect certain things from M. Night Shamalamadingdong. Namely a movie with a twist at the end. But ever since "Sixth Sense" he's been going down hill. Even the movies that have a good twist have a weak movie surrounding them. So this was a step back up. Decent movie with a predictable twist. Is it really a twist if you see it coming?

Here's the premise. Five people are in a stuck elevator. One of them is the devil.

You know how this plays out. Strange things happen. When the power flickers people get hurt or killed. The last survivor has to face down some ultimate evil.

Basically, what we have here is a good English manor mystery. You know, where a bunch of people have been invited to an English manor for dinner. Someone dies, the phone lines are cut, they can't leave, and they have to figure out who the killer is before he kills again.

I'm not recommending that you run out and see this movie. It's not bad. It's just not anything to get worked up about. I was planning to NetFlix it, myself. I mean, right up until I didn't.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Movie review: Let Me In

I saw "Let Me In" the other day. It's a remake of the Swedish movie "Let the Right One In" based on the book of the same name.

I saw "Let the Right One In" several months back. I didn't, however, write a review of it. Probably because it was a NetFlix rental and I tend not to review those. I'm going to say that I prefer the new American version.

I don't want to say that it's because it was subtitled. I tend to turn on closed captioning at home. Reading subtitles isn't a problem for me. But I'm gonna admit that some of the nuance might be lost that way. Or maybe the acting in the American version was just better. Certainly less subtle. Or, again, maybe it seems that way because in the Swedish version the words were disconnected from the behavior due to the subtitles.

The American version has better special effects. The vampire moves faster and more jerky. The makeup is creepier. There's more gore. In this case it adds more than just flash. I'd show Yummy the Swedish version, but not the American version. The special effects add just that much of a different tone that she'd be scared of the American version.

What's the movie about? That depends on your perspective.

It could be a coming of age story about a twelve year old boy dealing with bullies, divorce, and his first love. Only his first love is with a vampire girl who is his own age.

It could be the story of how a vampire trades her old and worn out Renfield for a new one. How she takes an outcast loser with some budding psychotic tendencies, hones his ability to do violence, and makes him feel wanted enough to follow her anywhere.

I do recommend this movie. Either movie. They're quality films on several levels. But will I get it on DVD? Probably not. Not right away. Someday, maybe, when I want to show it to someone. But I probably wouldn't watch it over and over.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Links: October 15

.ck is the Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for the Cook Islands.
So, businesses in the Cook Islands have websites that end in .co.ck.

Another "scale of things" site. [link]

Horrible doll creatures. [link]

Damn that's pricey. [link]

Dr Who fan service of the week. They'll be filming in America. [link]
And Matt Smith gets a Lego made of him. [link]

Kick ass cars that never were. [link]

This should give you an idea of how old Queen Elizabeth really is. [link]

Violin built in prison camp. [link]

Cars from TV shows and movies. [link]

"Zork" for your e-reader. [link]

Marcel the Shell

MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON from Dean Fleischer-Camp on Vimeo.


Facebook's iPhone app publishes your phonebook. [link]
Like I don't have enough reasons to avoid Facebook.

Could an all powerful being prove it's all powerful? [link]

Places in Spain to avoid if you suffer from vertigo. [link]

Cheap pearls. [link]

Interview with an autistic Presidential appointee. [link]

20 year old frozen embryo was still viable and results in live birth. [link]

Kevin Bacon be damned. How many degrees away from Hitler is any Wikipedia article? [link]

More pictures from the making of Star Wars movies. [link]

What a Superman/Doomsday movie might look like. Stick around past the credits.

Stephen Fry on language.

Frederick Pohl has a short quiz and the answers. [link]

Does this fix real cavities AND the holes that the dentist drilled into my teeth before saying I had cavities? [link]

The last two Harry Potter movies will not be in 3D. This makes my top 10 list of reasons to believe in some sort of benevolent diety. [link]

An hour long episode of Radio Lab called "Oops". It's a great episode. [link]

Picture: A Soyuz rocket launch pad just after takeoff - the flames of the rocket still in frame. [link]

Tales of fathers imprisoning, killing or crippling their daughter for not obeying his religious demands. [link]

A girl was hospitalized and her mother killed by the girl's brother and father for daring to oppose an arranged marriage. [link]
And their last name is Butt.

Party to cook as much as possible from one firing of an oven. [link]

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What exactly are you doing at home?

I keep getting asked what I do now that I work at home. OK, most of those are from my employers asking for status reports. Still, some wonder how the working from home works.

I'm supposed to be working from 7:00 until 3:30 with a half hour for lunch in there somewhere. I set my alarm for 6:30 and sit down in front of my computer around 9:00.

Realizing I've started late I set my quitting time at 5:30.

I start by checking my e-mail and pondering what I should blog about. I don't always do that blog thing right away. You may have noticed.

I grab a DVD from the library and stick it in a computer. I reduce the display so it's about 1/16 of the screen and let it play as background noise.

What comes next depends on what needs doing.

I've turned out eight chapters for a book we're nicknaming "Dustoff". That's not the actual title since someone else already wrote that book. Our book is about the history of aeromedical evacuation. I'll let you know when you can get the PDF from our site.

I adapted the cover for the Pediatric Medicine book for use by the printers. They have to turn the documents I sent into metal stamps and color selections for stamping and painting the covers of our textbooks.

There's also a lot of unpacking to do. I've drug home several boxes of floppies, Zip disks, slides and glossies to process. I've cleared about 200 floppies and a few dozen Zip disks. On the disks I have to determine the value of the files, recover useful files, and toss them into a heap for disposal. I could use ideas for what to do with the disks. Eventually I'll hook up the slide scanner and scan them in. I may need to grab something from my computer museum to create a replica of the Graphic Database I developed at work. This way I can add the pictures here, export them, and import them to the DB at work.
I also had to sort through my paperwork and try to file it somewhere accessible but invisible.
This is mostly for when I run out of other stuff to do.

Lots of little things, too. Send files to this guy, ask questions of that guy. So far no tech support.

The biggest problem? Without all the usual office crap going on I'm more productive. I'm working my 8 hours instead of being in the office for my 8 hours. I run out of things to do way too fast.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book review: Small Favor

Anyone remember a show called "The Dresden Files"? It only lasted one season but it got me and a whole bunch of other people hooked on the books that inspired the show. On the subway I would often see three or four other people reading something from the series. Some of the books have also being converted to graphic novels. I don't know if I should use the word "popular", but those who like the books like them a lot.

So, I just finished reading "Small Favor". They stopped numbering the books at some point so I read this one out of order. It explains why I was a bit confused at first. It would help if you've read previous books in the series, but not completely required.

Wizard and private detective Harry Dresden is training his apprentice, Molly, at the Carpenter's house. They've sort of adopted Molly. She's being bombarded with snowballs and trying to keep up a magical shield when they get attacked by creatures called Gruffs. As in three billy goats gruff. Having defeated them Harry gets summoned by the police to investigate a building fire. He finds out that a local mafia kingpin and player in the magical realms was snatched from his panic room in the basement of this building. He's contacted by the queen of one of the major kingdoms of faeries to find the missing kingpin. Then attacked by more gruffs.

...and on like that. It takes awhile for the book to settle down and tell us what the fuck is going on. Turns out the Denarians are back. Remember the 30 pieces of silver used to pay off Judas for turning in Jesus? They're inhabited by demons. Those in possession of one of these coins has access to great powers. Actually, much more often the demon is in possession of the person. Sometimes the person has the will to keep control. They could be trying to recruit the head of a powerful mafia family into their ranks. Or he could be a step on to something they want even more.

The books in this series are about magical private detectives. Not in the same way as the Nightside books. These tend to be more light hearted. And Jim Butcher knows how to turn a phrase better than Simon R. Green. But both are series I recommend to people who enjoy some fantasy writing.

I recommend looking at the Wikipedia page for the series so you don't get out of order too much.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

3D printers

Have you seen 3D printers in action? They're still a bit pricey. The high end versions start around $20,000. The low end you can land for $750 or so. Some think that in 10 years they'll be as common in the home as printers were 20 years ago.

I've gotten to play with a few. The first one I saw was in college. That would lay down a sheet of paper, a laser would cut it according to the pattern, and the space that was to be removed later was cut into squares. After a few hours you had a stack of paper and you could just knock away whatever didn't belong.

The Colonel gave me something when she was cleaning her office. It was given to her by Z Corporation at some convention. Yummy recognized the name so it may even have been the convention that she puts together every year. The sample was two rings with ball bearings between them. It spins pretty freely. And it was printed like that.



Why would the Colonel be interested? Oh, there's the fun question. One of the biggest uses for 3D printed objects is for medicine. In this picture you can see people at Walter Reed Army Medical Center shaping a plate to go on some guy's skull. Before the scalpel touches his body they scan his head, figure out what has to be done, and design a plate to fill the hole they'll have to cut in his skull. They also have a bin filled with models of femurs, tiny skulls, spines, hips, and something of a circulatory system. They also printed the room numbers outside the door.

On the table you can see a printed skull with something red in it. A tumor? Blood vessels? There's part of a spine in front of it. More skulls are on top of the book case.

On the lighter side - what? You don't think there could be a goofy side to 3D printing?

On the lighter side, there's the CandyFab. It's a bit different than most, but you can print things out of sugar.



What I'm looking at now is the new MakerBot 3D printer No, it's not the one you might have seen before. This is newer. However, the video below shows their first model.

This is a clip from the second episode of "Bad Universe". Here the host visits MakerBot Industries and they demonstrate how the machine makes it's own parts.

See, I need to spend more time with the brick press on the farm. I'm going to model all the parts and print them on one of these to make sure I have it right. And then I think I'll release the plans for anybody to get at. The initial part, the part that I'm working on now, is missing some key measurements. I was drawing it out for either a 3rd party 3D modeler or a metal shop to make when I saw that I had left something out. Something I can't fix until Christmas. I hope to measure most of it then.

The next question, one I hadn't thought enough about, is how big are these printers? Can I rejigger the open source MakerBot to print significantly larger objects? It can make most of the parts, but the legs will be tricky. Even the pivot arms, nothing more than a bar with some dents in it, could be a problem because it's too long?

But what of the initial comment I made? The one about these things being as common in 10 years as printers were 20 years ago. I'd say closer to printers 25 or 30 years ago. Or maybe I'm over estimating how common computers (and thus printers) were 20 years ago.

The question is why would they be so common in 10 years? You don't feel the need for one now. What's gonna change?

There's lots of little things around the house that need fixing. I could pop out to get a replacement part for the foot on my couch or I could download the design from their website and print me a new one. The litter box scoop cracked. Print a new one. The case to my iPod cracked. A replacement is about 15 minutes away. If you're someone who is handy with a soldering iron you can make much niftier cases for your gizmo than a metal, or even wood, box. Get model planes without the embarrassment of being seen at the hobby shop. Last night I wanted to make a little thing that would cover the base of a wire where the insulation has come away and the wires are exposed. Just think what the hamster cage would look like if you left the kids alone with that for a few hours.

"Ok," you say. "That sound nifty, but is that really gonna be worth $1,500?" I'm assuming that the price would come down. The MakerBot is a reasonably priced competitor for Z Corporation's stuff. Maybe not at medical implant quality, but for your home stuff. Plus the technology would improve. The one at Walter Reed can do 2 colors at least. Get it to print with conductive material and you can print your own circuit boards.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Friday Links: October 8

DUDE! When I said POST I didn't mean POST and then vanish! Now get out there "Friday Links" or ELSE!

Buncha free audio books. [link]

This guy is building a computer inside MineCraft. Watch this tour of his Arithmetic Logic Unit.


Watch the launch of this camera on a weather balloon and it's return to Earth. [link]

TV deity Stephen J. Cannell died last week. [link]

Frederick Pohl recently got a Hugo. During their congratulations the people at Encyclopedia Britannica mention that he also wrote their entry on Tiberius. [link]

I didn't know starlings could talk.

You may have heard about the guys who won a Nobel Prize for creating graphine. It's a sheet of carbon, graphite, one molecule thick. So far it's not used for much, but has great potential in thin, flexible electronics. And, I think I could make repairs with a pencil. Maybe not.
It can also be spun insanely fast. [link]

Awesome e-mail exchange at The Chive. [link]

In a recent review of an Ayn Rand book John Scalzi said the world that she created was absurd and that the authors fans wouldn't think so highly of her thinking if the world were the same, but run by intelligent yogurt. With that idea stuck in his head he couldn't work until he wrote a story about a world run by intelligent yogurt. Enjoy. [link]

Hungover owls. [link]

Glacier National Park still melting despite insistence by global warming deniers that things aren't getting warmer. [link]

You don't pay city taxes, you get no city protection from fires. [link]

I think I linked to an older story about this once. It's a floating wind turbine. [link]

Floating foam bazooka. [link]

Put down the gun. You have 10 seconds to comply. [link]

You just have to believe in yourself. This is why I'd rather that politicians have little to no faith. Belief isn't enough.

Michael Behe is something of a name in Creationist circles. He's released a few book, testified in a few cases, and argues completely discredited arguments about irreducible complexity. Well, now his son has come out as an atheist. Here's where people have been asking him questions. [link]

Science Friday needs your help. [link]

A company says they can now mass produce spider silk. [link]

European Space Organization (I'm guessing) has released their top 100 space photos. [link]

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Slow movie rant

I want to rant about great movies for a moment. I know of several people who will take offense at these comments. Hopefully I can make clear what I really mean so that doesn't happen.

Why are so many great movies absolute crap? At the moment I'm thinking of three great works of cinematography: Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Solaris. I can see the value in all three of these movies. From a film making standpoint they're great. From a sitting in the audience standpoint they're kinda crap.

I take the greatest offense at "2001: A Space Odyssey". Having seen and been bored silly by that movie I avoided anything written by Arthur C Clarke for at least a decade longer than I should have1. I blamed him for the quiet, slow moving, dullness of the movie instead of crediting him for the quality science in the movie. In college I watched it on fast forward once because my roommate had to return it to the rental place. It was still slow and dull. Particularly the action packed rescue scene out in the vast empty darkness of space.


I would recommend the book very highly, however. Especially if you've seen the movie. They make things so much clearer. The five minutes of sunrises at the beginning of the movie were supposed to represent the dawn of mankind. It's symbolism. Actually, the first 3 or 4 were symbolism. The next 35 were a tragic waste of film. And the special effects spectacular at the end? The one that I fell asleep during 3 times when we showed the movie in the college theater? The one that appears to be a depiction of an acid trip at several times the speed of sound? That was supposed to be Dave being given an automated tour of the civilization of the people who made the monolith. Only, by then their own society had moved on to a higher plane. You didn't see the junkyards filled with decaying ships left over from when they had uploaded their minds into computers so they could wander the universe at will? No? That must have been because you thought you were being beaten to death with Christmas lights.

"Blade Runner" falls into the same category. I liked that video a week or two back showing how they made the opening sequence. The story really is good. It's well written. Rutger Hauer just doesn't get many great lines like that. But... well... I used to use it to help me fall asleep. Those nights when I just couldn't nod off I'd drag a blanket out to the couch, pop in "Blade Runner" and be out in mere minutes.

OOH!! Remember that feature on TVs that would keep the sound level? It's mostly to keep car commercials from blasting you when you were just watching a nice quiet black and white film. They used to be huge. My TV does still have that feature, but you have to dig for it. I watched a movie like that and it reminded me of "Blade Runner" in that, quiet or loud, everything was the same volume. No excitement. It's like listening to your favorite Beatles album with only one speaker playing.

And "Solaris". Wow. That was... yeah.
I caught a showing of the original Soviet version at an art museum several years back. It ran something like three hours, but could have fit in a one hour slot with room left for commercials. The story had promise. This research base turns out to be on a planet that is actually a giant intelligent brain reaching out to make contact but causing hallucinations and driving people mad instead. How can that be dull?

A few years back George Clooney was in an American remake of "Solaris". I hoped that the Americans would flash it up a bit. I hoped that the involvement of George Clooney was a sign that they were going for more of a Hollywood blockbuster thing. No dice. They weren't making an American adaptation of the book. They were making an English language version of the Soviet movie.

I'm not denying that these movies were great works of cinema. I encourage people to see them. Especially those who might want to work a video camera some day. And I'm not saying all films need to be action packed thrill fests. I watch a lot of movie that others would dislike for being slow. These three just get under my skin for being highly acclaimed snooze fests.




1 I think it was "The Nine Billion Names of God" that convinced me to give Clarke another shot.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Sod off Wednesdays

This isn't gonna work.

For the moment lets assume that I was a shitty poster lately because I was sick. The four years before that are gonna need another excuse. It's 4:30 on Wednesday and I'm just now putting finger to keyboard. Why? Because I had to be at the office for a staff meeting and to attempt in-processing. I just got home. So, that was, what? Eleven hours since I left the house for work? Geez. That's a bad sign.

Anyway, for the next 6 months at least I'm gonna need a new Wednesday plan. I could work ahead a bit. Have something ready ahead of time. I used to be good at that. Nah. I like this other plan better.

Sod Off Wednesdays.

You come looking for a new post on Wednesdays? Well sod off. You're not getting it.

Yeah. Lets see how that works.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

New tire

I just got back from the Toyota dealership. Again.

A little while back I found a hole in the side of my tire. If it's vandalism then it was stabbed by a thin blade rather than slashed. I called the dealership, told them what was wrong and what I had. I set up an appointment, took time off work, went in, and they told me they don't carry that kind of tire.

Right. The tire that came on the car that I bought from them. They don't have those. Couldn't have told me that to start with. No, gotta go waste my time to find that out. That was more than two weeks ago.

Not having access to my car was an annoyance. There were several occasions that it would have been handy. I had to use it a couple of times even with the temporary tire to move stuff home from the office. Tomorrow is to be my first visit to the Ft Dietrick offices. Kinda need the car for that. Kinda the entire point of having the car.

Yesterday I called the dealer and asked them what the story was with my damn tire. Some doofus answered the phone. He took my information and said he'd have someone useful call me. He didn't.

I called again this morning. I went on hold several times before someone useful picked up. I had to explain the story each time since they couldn't tell each other why I was being passed off.

Finally, "Oh, yes. Mr. Wise. Your tire came in yesterday. I was gonna call you today."

I call bullshit.

But it's all sorted now. That's why this post was so late.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Oooooh... pretty

Yummy and Oliver Queen gaze into the light.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Friday Links: October 1

Great trailer for the DC Universe Online MMORPG. Really. This is awesome.

And the director's commentary. [link]

A robot taught itself to use a bow and arrow. [link]

Found: 1 Dalek. Describe it to Exeter PD to have it returned. [link]

New MakerBot 3D printer. No, it's not the one you might have seen before. This is newer. [link]
I need to spend more time with the brick press on the farm. I'm going to model all the parts and print them on one of these to make sure I have it right. And then I think I'll release the plans for anybody to get at. The part that I'm working on now is missing some key measurements.

Game: Robot Wants Ice Cream - final game in the Robot Wants series. [link]

"I Dream in Retro" A video for those of us who grew up with Nintendos and Segas. [link]

Look at the background on this site. Continue watching it as you scroll clear to the bottom of the page. [link]

Well separated pitcher of drinks. 


You know how every side of a policy debate says the Founding Fathers were on their side? They're all wrong. [link]

"Beating Tetris" silent animation. [link]

World War I will end Sunday. [link]

Someone else doesn't get the game "MineCraft" game either. So he's built something extremely impressive. 

Confused dog. 

I'm not a fan of Bluegrass music, but I can make exceptions. 

Not gonna buy this game, but I look forward to seeing clips from it on YouTube. [link]

People who have been killed by their own inventions/discoveries. [link]

I've seen this architectural blunder happen over and over again. STOP MAKING CONCAVE REFLECTIVE WALLS ON HUGE BUILDINGS!!! [link] [also a link]

Some months back I posted characters from Team Fortress 2 dancing. Here's the final video. 

Reprocessed version of the big ass storm on Jupiter. [link]

The Pew Research Forum did a study and found out that I'm right. Atheists know more about religion and the Bible than Christians. [link]

Internet rules for those making six figures and up. [link]

Only one of the 37 Republicans competing for Senate seats in this election support doing something about climate change. [link]

The problem with living in a black and white world. 

A nun who is about to be canonised was excommunicated in her own lifetime. Why? She pointed out child raping priests. This was back in 1871. [link]

Titanium bone simulator. [link]

Japan makes these kinds of suits to help carry their elderly. We make them so we can load up our soldiers better. This one still requires you stay within range of the electrical cord.



Yet another planet found in the Gliese 581 star system. This one is in the Goldilocks zone and could potentially be habitable. [link]

You know that schmuck who made it look like ACORN supports prostitution and who tried bugging a Senator's office? Now he's tried to make it look like a CNN reporter tried to seduce him for information. [her take] [another article including a news video]

I'm not a football fan. First I heard of Pat Tillman was when he left football to go to Afghanistan. It was a shame when he died, but I didn't read the articles, read the books, or watch the movie about him. But I like this interview with his brother.

An article about how atheists deal with life threatening illnesses. [link]

A reporter talking about his choice to stop fighting the cancer. [link]