Tuesday, April 30, 2013
It wasn't what I was expecting. I was expecting Tom Cruise in "Dune". Instead we got something not entirely original, but something that mixed elements of several good sci-fi movies in a new way. The problem is that there's a twist to the story that I don't want to give away.
Earth was attacked. The war is over. Earth is supposedly abandoned, but there are still resources to be harvested. Tom Cruise and his attractive female partner operate a station that controls the security drones that protect the water harvesting equipment for their sector. Even though the war is over there's something attacking the harvesters. And if you've seen the trailers you know there's still some humans on the planet. Aaaand I'll stop there. I will tell you that Tom Cruise doesn't raise an army of cave dwelling humans in a campaign to overthrow those mining the water for the rest of the Solar System.
I liked the movie and am glad that I saw it. But for some reason I'm not planning on getting it on DVD. Once was enough. Still, if you tend to see sci-fi films you'll want to see this one.
Monday, April 29, 2013
We did a park cleanup this weekend. We were actually one of 3 or 4 teams in the park. One was painting the outside of the rec center building, one was mulching a bunch of young trees, and we were clearing vines and underbrush and a few trees from an overgrown tree line.
Alas, the pollen count was around 2500 or so. That's about double what's considered extremely high. So I'm there on 5 different meds. And pulling up honey suckle involved lots of strenuous leg work. So after about 4 hours my legs were shaking and some of the meds were wearing off. I was miserable. It was like the worst flu I'd ever had.
The tree removal crew showed up about an hour before my body gave up and 2 hours after they were expected. It turned out that most of what we'd been doing they had gear for. Had they gone first we could have just trimmed vines off the trees and hunted multifloral rose stems.
Sunday all we got done was scraping paint from marble window sills. Anything harder was out of the question.
Friday, April 26, 2013
One of the world's smallest cycling tracks. [link]
A TED video about growing organs and tissues. One done with a printer. [link]
Juggling as a team sport.
An FTP site of games Microsoft has made available for free. [link]
The best part of the Iron Man 3 promotional tour in France.
Cat in a shark costume on a Roomba and his animal friends.
Boston gets the heroes it needs, not the heroes it wants.
Pop culture stained glass. [link]
An RPG in Excel. [link]
Sam Beckett (not the time traveler) regularly drove Andre the Giant to school. [link]
Land slide in a huge open pit copper mine. [link]
How to pack a suit. [link]
Don't let the Bushs, Cheneys, Rumsfelds, and other war mongers from driving the reaction to the Boston bombing. [link]
Water bridge pictures. [link]
Resize this page (with sound turned down if you're at work). [link]
A more refined version of the package-in-the-mail video from a previous week. [link]
How dogs think. [link]
A couple serving probation for the 2009 death of their toddler after using prayer instead of medicine has lost another child. [link]
14 year old fast food hamburger hasn't aged or decayed. [link]
Boston terrorists apparently motivated by the same thing that motivates anti-American terrorists overseas. [link]
I'm really not sure what's happening here, but it amuses me. [link]
Strange behaviors by the Boston terrorists. [link]
SpaceX tests their VTL tech.
Tennis volley practice.
Hard core jump rope.
John Belushi SNL audition tape.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
I understand these things are expensive. Baltimore is a poor city and they don't want to spend money on dumpsters that will sit around 364 days of the year. But if they're going to be having a single clean up day then they need to rent more for that day. If they don't want to do that then they need to have ten smaller clean up days.
Each neighborhood is supposed to have four free dumpsters over the course of the year. I think they're intended for neighborhood festivals. But since Westport hasn't learned the lessons of Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout I think we'll be making use of all of them.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
I'll be calling extension offices in Maryland and DC for soil testing kits. But it looks like Maryland mostly tests for soil condition, not toxins. At least not lead. I'll have to find out about cadmium, arsenic, mercury, zinc, nickel, selenium, PCBs, etc. DC includes a heavy metal test. Probably because the whole "state" is urban.
The term for these plants is "hyperaccumulator". They suck up metals and store them in the stems, shoots, and leaves. Then you can harvest the plant for safe disposal.
Alpine pennycress (Thlaspi caerulescens or Noccaea caerulescens) thrives on zinc and cadmium. Also takes up chromium, copper, molybdenum, lead, zinc, nickel. It soaks up 7-8% of it's dry weight in metals.
Barley (salt tolerant varieties) extract salt.
Canna neutralizes pesticides, solvents, explosives, industrial chemicals, and other xenobiotic substances.
Chinese brake ferns gobbles arsenic. Other ferns are good at other metals.
Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) likes lead, but is very invasive and can cause blisters with it's sap.
Hemp should be good. And I can use the ATF to clear the lot for me!
Iberis intermedia soaks up 7-8% of it's dry weight in metals.
Indian Mustard (Brassica juncea) likes lead, manganese, selenium, zinc, cadmium, cesium.
Kidney vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) soaks up 7-8% of it's dry weight in metals.
Poplar trees like lead. They also break down toxic organic chemicals.
Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) likes lead.
Sugar beets will extract salt.
Sunflowers soak up arsenic, cesium-137, strontium-90, chromium, copper, manganese, lead, zinc, nickel, cadmium, uranium, and many organic chemicals.
Wheat takes up lead.
Willows are good at surviving in polluted soil, and gather cadmium, zinc, and copper.
Yellow lupine modified with the bacteria Burkholderia cepacia likes toluene and will break it down within the plant. Other plants will pull out toluene, but let it out into the air.
A pigweed called Amaranthus retroflexus was up to 40 times more effective than others tested in removing radiocesium. So, in ONLY 15 years the soil is clean. GAH!
Adding an organic acid called citrate to soil increases how much uranium that area plants gobble up. God help me if I even have to consider this.
Compost is good for neutralizing some stuff and diluting the concentration of other stuff. If your problem is minor this may just do the trick.
And after writing all that I found these tables. Pick your toxin and it'll name you a plant. [table 1] [link] [link]
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Monday, April 22, 2013
Saturday's neighborhood cleanup was kinda nuts, but not as nuts as it could have been.
Recap: Baltimore does a clean up day once a year just after taxes are due. The idea being that people are using their refunds for new stuff and will dump their old stuff in an alley. Each neighborhood gets one dumpster for anybody to throw things in. The Westport neighborhood is full of trashinto from people dumping. We wanted to get a lot of the trash out. Yummy contacted the people who run the incinerator up the street and they offered up two more dumpsters, personnel, and heavy machinery to do cleanup.
The crew from the incinerator got out here around 8:00. A small front loader started excavating the yard up the alley and loading all the trash in a much bigger front loader that took the junk off to burn. The yard was behind an empty house and is a popular dump site. Before they came, the yard had 2-3 evictions worth of crap in it. Then they moved on to two other yards in another alley. At some point their smaller loader went along in the gutter on the main drag through the neighborhood and scooped up all the litter. We saw them shoveling out some of the worse gutters, too.
The city, on the other hand, completely failed to show up. The dumpster they were supposed to bring never appeared. And it was needed. The first dumpster in our area filled right up. I was creeping around on top looking for holes that we could fill with our bags of garbage.
We'd been collecting bags. A yard across the alley had a lot of litter that we'd bagged. Took about 4 bags to clear. A couple more came from sweeping the alley a couple of weeks ago. On the work day we raked litter from both sides of a neighboring street, cleaned out some storm drains, under the stairs from a doctor's office, drug in some dumped chairs from under the tracks, and did another yard in our alley as well as a bit from few other yards. By then we were over garbage pickup. Five hours was our limit. Then we tossed some old furniture from our place in the dumpster across the highway.
Sunday we went and scoped out next weekend's project. A park in one of the less needy neighborhoods. We'll be leading a project to clear limbs and underbrush to keep drug users from hanging out in a group of trees. Chainsaws, poison ivy, thorns... good times.
We also got a clothesline in our yard, replaced the back fence with a trellis that we painted blue, ran the hops from my old place up the back of this house, repointed part of the demoed room, and did more demolition of the bathroom. I only stopped from doing more repointing because mortar was getting in a cut and was really starting to hurt. I really hope it's not representative of how much I can hope to repoint in a weekend or I'm in for a couple months of this.
Friday, April 19, 2013
Chex recipes. [link]
A gallery of front yard libraries. [link]
The difference between LCD, LED, plasma, and OLED TVs. [link]
Russell Brand remembers Maggie Thatcher. [link]
The IRS doesn't think they need to talk to a judge before reading your e-mail. [link]
Patton Oswalt filibustering for Parks and Recreation. This is his uncut improv talk about the next Disney Star Wars/Marvel movie.
Nerd cakes. [link]
There’s this unspoken law in britain that you’re not to phone anyone while doctor who’s on... [link]
Animated version of the Doctor Hoo graphic. [link]
Gandolf and The Master have a new TV series.
Airplane systems hijacked by phone. [link]
Soviet Mars-3 lander may have been found by amateur astronomers. [link]
States can legalize things that the feds ban. [link]
Interactive music video. [link]
The Sun Hive - natural bee keeping. [link]
Hey Jude in a minor chord.
Scale of disbelief. [link]
A Star Wars episode VII spoof.
The report on detainee treatment. [link]
Short version: The US tortured people.
Quadrotors practicing for their own circus.
No, I don't need to answer your question.
Texas is the worst state. [link]
Anti-drug ads really do encourage drug use. [link]
Lots of webcams at once. [link]
What kind of camera do you need? [link]
As a medical publisher, I am very annoyed.
40 clever things carved from wood. [link]
Cats rule the internet, but dogs rule print. [link]
A nice presentation of the first moon landing. [link]
Stanford students develop a surface that can actually cool the house in the sunlight. [link]
Thursday, April 18, 2013
A long time ago there was a thing that happened. We never find out what that thing was. Only that it was about 500 years ago. A figure named Muncil wrote a book of rules to organize society. And ever since then they've been following his rules absolutely. Manufacturing spoons was forbidden for some reason and now they're extremely rare. Even suggesting how people might stand in line differently is frowned on. After school they used to give their kids a glass of milk and a smack until someone suggested that might be a typo.
Before the something that happened the world was very advanced. They managed to genetically engineer absolutely everything so that it would grow barcodes. Highways feed off debris and repair themselves. Motors would spin forever. These relics remain even 500 years later. But the most advanced car is a Model T and each town has only a few. That's because every so often there's a rollback. More tech is banned, books destroyed, and knowledge lost.
The strangest thing about the world is how it's all organized around color. People can only see in certain shades, and not everyone sees in the same shades or to the same degree. Our main character has the ability to see some red. Others see blue or yellow to varying degrees. Their last names are based on the colors a family sees. Many people see only shades of grey. The colors you see help determine your position in the caste system. And being shown certain colors makes your body respond in different ways. Most people get high from certain shades of green. Other colors may make you heal faster or ovulate sooner.
The story starts with a boy and his father seeing the town before being sent off to an outer community. Dad's a swatchman (doctor) being sent to replace the old doctor. The son is being sent off for humility training after daring to suggest better ways to line up. Before they go, someone keels over in a paint shop. When he doesn't respond properly to treatment they figure out that he's not the color the pin on his lapel suggests. And a girl they saw in the shop shows up again in the town they're sent to with no apparent means of getting from one place to the other that fast. Pretty much the entire town seems to be corrupt. And there's a naked man covered in mud that everyone pretends they can't see who is living in the upper floor of their house.
Yummy and I both picked up this audio book individually from each other. Mostly because we like the author. This book is a departure from his usual body of work, but I liked it anyway... eventually. I look forward to the prequel to this coming out some time in 2015 or so.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Not much progress was made on the Baltimore house last weekend. As you saw from yesterday's post, there was a great accomplishment, but not much progress.
Friday we got the drier moved to the basement. Yummy brought a dolly (sp?) from work. But when we went down the second step there was a bang, things got away from me, and I caught the drier by it's power cord before it got too far. Mind you, I didn't tell Yummy that until she was holding up the other end. Not on purpose. It just didn't come up. It turned out that the handle on this dolly extended and there was a missing support pin to keep it from coming out.
Saturday we took the washing machine outside and down the basement steps out back. I forget that using a dolly to move thing changes their dimensions. If we'd carried the washer with moving straps we would have been fine. The dolly tilts the load and makes it harder to take narrow corners. We had to wiggle the washer around a short passage and move the dolly over the washer and... well, the important thing is that it's done. Then we ran it and found out that our three legged utility sink had a U trap full of sand. Thanks contractors.
And Yummy stood up too soon coming out of the basement. She cracked her head and was woozy for the rest of the day.
Instead of slinging mortar like we planned, we worked outside. I weed whacked the yard, Yummy cleared leaf debris and cat poop out of the window well. Then we started cleaning the alley. Yummy had really thick plastic gloves for cleaning the yard of an abandoned house while I went along raking and sweeping the alley.
Next weekend is a neighborhood clean up that we're helping to organize. The city is providing us with a WHOLE DUMPSTER for the neighborhood. I may have mentioned our meeting at the incinerator a few weeks ago. They're providing extra dumpsters, moving equipment, and personnel to help clean the neighborhood. So we were getting a start on our alley. After cleaning the alley we met with one of the other organizers. Then we walked the major alleys in our neighborhood to find the popular dump sites to attack with front loaders. Yeah, a couple of white folks walking the alleys of Baltimore with a notepad and pencil. We probably shouldn't have survived that.
Lots done. Little of it on the house.
Sunday was frustrating. Two weekend from now we're running one part of another neighborhood cleanup. We were supposed to meet someone to see the site. But we got stuck in a 5K mosey for the Ronald McDonald House for 45 minutes. After cancelling that we tried to get something out of Yummy's storage locker, but it's too full to get anything specific out. On the way to a coworker's to drop off work Yummy's cousin called. She was passing through the state and wanted to have lunch. So that was nice. Lowes didn't have a radiator bleed key. And the hardware store we thought probably would have one was closed on Sunday. Still, needle nosed pliers did the trick of opening the bleed valves. That night I finally found the spigot for draining the radiator system and where the radiator and clean water systems connect so I can eventually refill the system. After draining everything I got two problem radiators unhooked and drained a bit more. I saved some of the water in a jar so I could play with the iron shavings suspended in the water. The smaller radiator got moved to the first floor on it's way to the basement. The larger will stay right where it is and go back on when we're done with the room.
Ok, maybe we did do a lot. Just not much that we'd planned to do.
Monday, April 15, 2013
With the weather warming up we determined we don't need the heating system anymore. It was a struggle to figure out what we were doing, but we did it and disconnected two radiators from my new house. One goes back once work has been done behind it. The other will likely be replaced with something that fits better.
Friday, April 12, 2013
The only YouTube commercial I've ever watched clear through.
Astronauts being silly. [link]
Episode 1 of Doctor Puppet.
Being goth isn’t about the clothes or the music it’s about ravaging the Balkan Peninsula and Anatolia as far as Cyprus, then sacking Athens, Byzantium, and Sparta. - [source]
Creepy Watson returns.
The original. [link]
An ultimate superweapon for D&D. [link]
Sci-fi author Iain M. Banks has months to live. [link]
This conspiracy theory poll has surprisingly low numbers. [link]
Play-Doh 3D printer. [link]
An April Fools joke collection. [link]
Spread this prank idea. [link]
Supposedly how JK Rowling originally intended to end Harry Potter as written by someone she told it to. [link]
Running of the bulls coming to the US. [link]
Walking Dead and Toy Story are the same story! [link]
Stainless Steel Sharpie. [link]
Potato chip making gifs. [link]
Video made by a package going through the postal system. [link]
Midcentury modern homes want to kill your children. [link]
Museum showing rat kings. [link]
Someone else who put a GPS on their cat. [link]
The building of a Jaws scene in a bottle. [link]
Kansas is trying to ban state funds for sustainable development. [link]
How baseballs are made.
Guy tried to get around building laws by hiding his castle behind hay for 4 years. [link]
See through brains. [link]
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Set oven to 400°F.
Take three potatoes. Peeling optional.
Cut them up into french fry shapes about 1/4-1/2 inch thick.
Rinse in cold water to get rid of excess starch water.
Put in bowl with a lid.
Add 3 tablespoons of oil and two tablespoons of salt.
Put on a cookie sheet as close to one layer thick as you can. Some overlapping is allowed.
Cook for 20-25 minutes. Flipping the fries halfway through is optional. I think it helps, but you may lose some product.
Add shredded cheese and some pepperoni slices. Put back in oven for 2-3 minutes.
NO, TAKE FROM THE OVEN and THEN EAT! moron
Our first batch had a fourth tablespoon of oil and we poured it out of the pan when it didn't look like the fries were baking. I think it was probably fine, though.
This recipe makes for a decent appetizer, but we had to make another for supper. We didn't quite finish the second. Yummy repeated this with some store bought fries the next day.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
"Rubber" is a movie about a car tire that comes to life and goes on a killing spree. Also, this movie is filmed before a live studio audience in real time. So there's a group of people watching all this out in the middle of the desert for days. There's a lot of "why did that happen?" moments. The answer is "no reason".
The movie is a comedy, but it's one of those comedies that's funnier when you're with a group of your friends. By yourself it's just a really strange and somewhat amusing movie. With the right group of friends, and possibly a bit of weed, this would be quite the movie.
It's available for Netflix streaming.
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
The day before his DC signing Brad had done a signing in New York where they handed out decoder rings and set the Guinness Book World Record for “Most Secret Decoder Rings Worn in One Place.” He said that was the peak of his tour and that everything from now on would be kind of a let down.
10 years ago someone on a submarine wrote to him to say they didn't have a large library, but that Brad's book had gotten him through some hard times, and "thanks". Brad turned around and asked some of his publishers to donate 10,000 books each to the USO. This got him involved with the USO doing book tours in Kuwait and whatnot. Well, two months before the talk he's on a Middle East tour with a bunch of other thriller writers. Someone thanks him for donating the books. Brad decides to look up the original author to tell him what came of his letter and pass on all the thanks. It turned out to be a bad time for the soldier. His mother had just died. They started talking and had a cry together. After Brad told that story the guy from the sub stood up from four seats to my left. Brad revised which stop this tour was the best.
Brad Meltzer writes thriller novels and comic book/graphic novels. I'm not a huge thriller novel reader. But I've read some of his graphic novels. But this book was inspired by a visit to the National Medical History Museum formerly at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. My friend My Krodie used to be Chief Archivist there and invited Brad to the museum. They have casts of Lincoln's face and hands, the bullet that killed him, bloody shirt cuffs from the doctor that worked on him, and pieces of the bodies of several other presidential assassins. One is a tattoo that they have every reason to believe came from the guy who killed Garfield. (I'm not checking notes so I'm hoping I got that right). The tattoo is of a red diamond. Brad remembered that John Wilkes Booth got to Lincoln by showing a card. We don't know what was on that card that got the guard to move. But Brad started putting together a plot to kill Presidents that's hidden in playing cards based on the design from 500 years ago and links together all four Presidential assassinations with a fifth one in this book. In the book they reach that museum in chapter 69. It was a nice touch that the story took place while Walter Reed was closed and the museum was being packed up to move.
So, the book!
As I said before, this isn't really my genre. This goes on the shelf with some big names in thrillers such as "Rainbow Six" by Tom Clancy and "The DaVinci Code" by Dan Brown instead of in the sci-fi wing of the house. "The Fifth Assassin" is closer to "The DaVinci Code". I liked "The Fifth Assassin" a bit more because they're not only having to work out cryptic clues left by ancient order, but they were having to solve a current mystery instead of just being chased by bad guys. The reading is easy and the chapters are short. I'm finding the short chapter thing to be common in thrillers. It gives a sense of action, speed, and urgency. Also good for having lots of stopping points if you read in bed. It didn't really inspire me to rush out and buy Brad Meltzer's other books. But I wouldn't be opposed to adding some to my audio book collection.
This book is part of a series. There are references to things that happened in previous books, but in this case the book stands alone beautifully. No real background necessary.
If you're a fan of thrillers I definitely recommend this book. Way more than than the Bones books. If you liked "The DaVinci Code" you'll probably like "The Fifth Assassin".
Friday, April 05, 2013
No Friday Links this week because I've been operating from my phone internet all week. Instead, try this.
Get a muffin tin.
Put a whole raw egg in each hole.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Put the muffin tin in for 30 minutes.
Put the cooked eggs in cold water.
See how much easier that was than boiling them?
Wednesday, April 03, 2013
Tuesday, April 02, 2013
Really, moving to the new house is a good plan even without the financial concerns.
The new house is bigger. By how much I'm not sure.
There's a basement. See: bigger. It's unfinished and the ceiling is low enough I probably won't finish it. But I'll have a place for my tools and a shop.
Gandolf likes it more. This house is more open and she gets to travel more. There's more activity, but we hope that won't last as walls are put back together.
The heating system works better. The DC house's ducts are rubbish. Heated and cooled air barely seeps out the vents. The new house has radiator heat, but no air conditioning.
The yard is out back. In DC there's a postage stamp yard out front and a rain barrel out back. Here they can be in the same place. Alas, the yard is big enough I'll have to mow.
Large front porch. There is still a large front porch to chill on. It'll fit a couple of pieces of patio furniture and a BBQ grill so long as it's all chained down.
We also get to rethink the renovation. Before we were thinking in terms of renters. Now we're thinking like residents.
We still want the lead paint gone, but the urgency has passed.
The old doors in the basement can be rehung instead of buying new ones. Same with the old door knobs.
I don't have to remove/replace the claw foot tub so renters don't ruin it.
Kitchen renovation can be put off. The fridge is a bit worn, but good. The oven is pretty good, but the metal is rusted through in a few places. And the cabinets are acceptable if they had to be. Yummy had a kitchen design that would cost $2000, but that was for renters. The new plans involve removing a wall, an induction range top, and reworking the bathroom upstairs while the plumbing is exposed.
We can expose the wood floors instead of putting in new carpet.
We're sticking with my original insulation plan. I'd love to do the whole house, but some things don't work. One room will already get the wall built out and insulation put in. And we'll do the roof as much as we can. But that leaves a lot of space with only brick and plaster keeping out the cold.
I can put off getting conduit on the basement wires.
I can install good lights instead of cheap lights.
I can improve the neighborhood as residents instead of as land owners. We'd wanted to encourage a better class of people (folks with jobs) to move in, but weren't going to move here ourselves. Now I will.
I'll miss the subway and having places I can walk to, but with time we should have new places to walk to. And there's light rail here if we just can figure it out.