Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday Links: November 29

J.P. Morgan tried to have a Q and A session online. They had to cancel it. [link]

Lee Harvey Oswald's pallbearers were all volunteers from the media because nobody else showed. [link]

Long but interesting article about a fight with a major "revenge porn" host. [link]

Carving a turkey with an elephant rifle.

Man dies on TV while the audience laughs. [link]

Making happier cities. [link]

What is the "nuclear option" for filibusters? [link]

Tips for poster design. [link]

How to identify artists from their paintings. [link]

Envisioning a post-antibiotic era. [link]

90 companies are responsible for 66% of all greenhouse gas emissions. [link]

When Hanukkah will cross with other holidays. [link]

Abandoned websites that still work. [link]

New British Airways billboard.

The fight to wipe out polio (and a few other successes and failures). [link]

A problem with an Xbox One stream.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Movie Review: All is Lost

I recently watched the nearly-silent movie titled "All is Lost". Robert Redford plays a sailor whose ship is damaged by a drifting shipping container. The boat's taking on water, his electronics are shot, but little by little things get better... right up until the point where they get much, much worse.

"All is Lost" pulls you into the movie and makes you feel the whole thing. Even without explosions and car chases the movie keeps you in suspense almost the whole time. Even when things are going well and you start to feel hopeful and start to relax you still know there's more to come. Robert Redford silently goes about the business of trying to save his ship and supplies and his silence is what helps draw you in. You have to pay attention to what he's doing since he won't tell you. Even if he grumbled or talked to himself it would break the tension and make the audience smile. It also serves to show you how bad off he really is when he finally does break and scream out his frustrations.

I highly recommend this movie. I'll get it on DVD and probably give a few away, too.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary post

Whether you're a fan or not, you've heard about the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who. It first aired on 23 November 1963. It replayed a week later since the first showing had poor viewership due to the assassination of JFK dominating the news. Even so, it had immediate popularity.

It was originally designed as a kids show. This tells me that England either treats its kids differently than we do in the US or that they do a better job of recognizing that different age levels like different entertainment.

There's been a lot to celebrate the 50th Anniversary. To the left you see a metal I got for a virtual 5K for charity. No shutting down city streets and screwing up traffic. Just run your own race.

A couple of months back they had a second Doctor Who Proms. Yeah, apparently they use that word differently than we do.

A few days ago the BBC had a special episode to commemorate the anniversary. Alas, Christopher Eccleston decided to opt out, but Matt Smith and David Tennant made the show along with a lost Doctor mentioned first at the end of last season and an extreme closeup with the next Doctor on the schedule as well as a surprise Doctor. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart passed away, but an actress playing his daughter and current head of UNIT also figures prominently.

If you go back to the first episode when the show came back in 2005 you see The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) in Rose Tyler's living room look at himself in the mirror and evaluate his features. This tells us that his regeneration was so new he hadn't seen a mirror, yet. Not since the end of last weekend's special. Over the next few episodes we learn that all the Time Lords, The Doctor's people, are dead. They were killed in The Time War. And The Doctor killed them. It was something that ate at him and gave darkness to his character. But we'd assumed that it was he or The Doctor (Paul McGann) from the 1996 Fox movie that fought in the war. With the recent short "The Night of The Doctor" we saw the death of that Doctor and the creation of The War Doctor (John Hurt).

This special is about The War Doctor and his decision to wipe out his own people if it would take out all of the Daleks as well. He had to know what would become of him and what he would think about himself and what he'd done. And maybe, given 400 years, if he could come up with another way of doing things.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Another stupid Superman post

It's a good thing Superman doesn't exist. He'd be constantly getting shot at. If people know that a particular individual is completely invulnerable they're going to want to test it themselves. At first it'll just be nutjobs fearing alien invasion, the usual guys who assassinate good people, and people trying to impress Jodie Foster. Then random people who want to see it for themselves or who think it'll be funny will start shooting him. Before long it'll be a game. People will be finding new and creative ways to shoot Superman and post the video to YouTube. Eventually, the fad will die off, but there will always be people who shoot Superman for fun and sport. Superman will have to spend as much effort watching for incoming bullets to catch so they don't ricochet into bystanders as he does actually fighting crime.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Links: November 22

The story of the Simon's Cat creator.

Breaking Bad alternate ending from the DVD special features. [link]

MI6 hacked AlQaida's website and swapped bomb making instruction with a cupcake recipe. [link]

I never played the game Glitch, but it's creators have gone belly up and make the game public domain. You can get art and code and whatnot for yourself. [link]

Blockbuster's tombstone. [link]

Texts from Star Trek: TNG. [link]

The idea that half the brain is for logic and the other for creativity is complete and total crap. That said, enjoy this quiz about which side you use most. [link]

Competitive? Laughing? [link]

You've seen the gif, now see the commercial. Jean Claude Van Damme doing the splits between semis.

Sarah Palin as asshole of the day. [link]
Are you kidding? Only of the day? She needs her own parking spot since she's there so much.

Short news quiz. [link]
I didn't know who the blonde woman with the pale skin is. I nailed everything else. 

How to open a can without tools. [link]

In Iraq video games are about the only safe hobby. [link]

An article about self-driving cars. [link]

Speaking of self driving cars, if you haven't seen it yet, you should watch "The Great Robot Race" from Nova. [link]

A musical instrument designed by Leonardo DaVinci is played for the first time. [link]

Magpie and puppy playing.

Social media may make for worse writing, but better writers. [link]

The dispute between the Cheney sisters over gay rights. [link]

So that's what the Canadian army is for!

Well we aaaaaall shiiiiine oooon... given a long enough exposure. [link]

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Jury duty report

Never mind. I got excused from jury duty.

It's a relief. Last time I did this I was led over to another building for the jury selection and never had to return to the original courthouse. This time we stayed inside the main courthouse in a much cozier courtroom. The problem was getting into that courthouse. It's much like going through airport security, but the line is out in the cold November air instead of a warm, sheltered, airport terminal. I don't want to stand in near freezing temperatures every morning for 20 minutes. But the light shining off the ice crystals in the air over our heads was kinda pretty.

We gathered to go to the courtroom near the escalators. While waiting, some bits of plastic came flying off the bottom of one of them. When we looked closer we saw that one of the stairs had caught on the metal platform instead of sliding under it. It jammed up the escalator, but good. It was pretty impressive.

The case I would have been on was just standard criminal stuff. Some guy was allegedly selling PCP.

They now have ATMs in the courthouse where you can get your daily pay and proof of service immediately. A significant chunk of the nation's supply of one dollar bills must be in stock to keep those machines fed.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

irregular schedule

I have to report for jury duty tomorrow. Last time I spent 6 weeks there. So I'm going to use it to justify irregular postings for a little while.

Monday, November 18, 2013


The doctor's creed is to do no harm.
The government's creed is to do no work.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Links: November 15

Before you watch the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who episode "The Day of the Doctor" you need to see this short "The Night of the Doctor".

I'm "Invasion of the Disco Death Bots". What's your monster movie? [link]

The whitest jobs in America. [link]

A Kickstarter for a 3 string guitar for kids and beginners. [link]

Fact about gender based pay inequity. [link]

Google barges are boring. [link]

A different way to police. [link]

Interview with the Hyperbole and a Half girl. [link]

Fairy armadillos. [link]

Game: Zombies Inc. - eat everyone in the world [link]

Nested brick games. [link]

Thursday, November 14, 2013


I saw a jellyfish in the wild last weekend. Not a great picture, unfortunately.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Home repair update

It's been awhile since I've told you how my house is coming. I believe the last thing I told you was that I hung my ceiling fan by myself.

I got the radiators hooked backed up and the system refilled with water. Considering that I'd not dealt with radiator systems before I'm pretty happy.

I finished putting up the drywall on the bedroom walls and ceiling with special care to go around the radiator pipes, outlets, and light fixtures. Then I went on to do the walls and ceiling in the hallway. Because I raised the ceiling I had to put some boards on the ceiling to give the upper part of the wall something to brace against. I failed to put leveling boards on the ceiling so there's some warping to the hall ceiling.

Back in the bedroom I put a window shelf under each window. It gave me a reason to use the tiny nail gun that came with my air compressor. The big issue there was cutting the boards so they were flush against the window and stuck out from the wall the same distance clear across. That was tricky because warping in the wall meant that the distance from the window to the face of the wall is different on the left side of the window than on the right. Then more drywall above and to the sides of the window.

Then I got a local unemployed guy named Cliff to come do the mudding. I gave it a shot myself and realized quickly that I shouldn't be touching it. I'm better than I was, but that's still a long way from good. But, I'm realizing that there's a reason Cliff is unemployed. He's not real good at showing up when he says he will. Nor, for that matter, showing up at all. Luckily he's cheap.

He's gotten the three layers of mud and the sanding done on the drywall, but he's also doing some patch work on the plaster over the brick and filling in those spaces between the drywall and the brick wall. If he shows up three more times he'll be done. The trick is getting him to show.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Movie Review: Thor - The Dark World

When watching Thor 2 I couldn't help but compare it to the Star Wars prequels. It's a beautifully costumed and landscaped science fiction movie with elements of magic and completely failing to convince us that Natalie Portman and the lead character have more than a casual friendship. They're not in love. They're just not. Not in the first movie, not in this one. I'm not sure what it would take to convince me, but they didn't do it. 
The movie even has the three major settings that Lucas likes to use in his movies. 

Similarly, the passing of one of the secondary characters doesn't elicit any more emotional response than the passing of Pepper Potts in Iron Man 3 did. But I was pretty sure Pepper was coming back. That death didn't seem to motivate people the way that the death of Agent Phil Coulson did in The Avengers. 

Loki and Thor, on the other hand, do a decent job of being brothers. Loki is his usual hard to read self. He's betraying someone, but the question is "who?". At one point I'm fairly sure he even betrayed himself. I didn't really understand what I was seeing there until I sat down to write this and put some thought into it. 

It's nice to see Rene Russo getting a battle scene. 

The prologue gets repeated during the movie. That's a bit distracting. It works better as part of the movie, but there's some scenes early on that don't make much sense if you don't have the prologue explaining who they are. So what's preferable? The action sequence at the beginning telling the story or the people gathered around a table telling the story more naturally? 

We do get to see more of Thor's friends, but not as much as I felt they deserved. Thor has his own Avengers in Asgard and they get cheated. It's like watching Tom Cruise in Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible Starring Tom Cruise. Wasn't there supposed to be other people in this movie? Sif does make it look like she has some interest in Thor and he shows regret that he's not able to return her feelings. The guy who played his swashbuckling friend whose name eludes me needs a good 1920's style Three Musketeers movie of his own. 

I didn't recognize Christopher Eccleston as the lead villain at all. 

You're going to see Thor 2 largely to see Thor and Loki. They're the stars and they're the actors who make the movie. 

If you're looking for movie suggestions, I'd say see Ender's Game before you see Thor 2. In the Marvel Studios series Thor 2 is "also there". But, at this point, criticizing the Marvel movies is like criticizing a Pixar movie. The worst of the lot is still better than so many other movies out there. Meanwhile, making the best Fantastic Four movie still gets you the death penalty in some more repressive countries. 

If you see it, be sure to sit all the way through the credits. There are two scenes before the lights come back on.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Friday Links: November 8

Thomas Kinkade paintings fixed to make them good. [link] [link]

JPL's pumpkin carving contest.

Clark Kent exists in the Marvel Universe. [link]

The status of fusion energy. [link]

1896 bike path map. [link]

Kitten rental. [link]

Creepy cartoon. [link]

25 flu vaccine myths debunked. [link]

Removal of a poster shell. [link]

Texas denies former Speaker of the House a voter ID card. [link]

Interactive sea level rise map. [link]

National Geographic's much nicer maps of the same flooding. [link]

Taurid meteor showers this weekend! [link]

When a fax machine calls a voice transcription service. [link]

Water curtains over tunnels tell drivers to stop.

Town comes back from a flood after 25 years. [link]

Before there were trees there were gigantic mushrooms. [link]

Screw the article, I just like how this web page functions. [link]

Playtex made the Apollo space suits and there's a movie about it coming soon. [link]

20 popular songs that were covers. [link]

Woman falls in fountain because she's texting and then sues the mall. [link]

The Encyclopedia of American Loons. [link]

Even the NFL has a jocks vs nerds mentality. [link]

Is this a picture of something big or tiny? [link]

The western black rhino is now extinct. [>link]

The story of a fake hitman. [link]

Two planes full of sky divers crash. Check out the video. [link]

Listen to songs with certain mics dropped out. [link]

Popular Mechanics 110 best DIY tips. [link]
I remember seeing #63 on MacGyver!

Russians doing dirt mover acrobatics.

Hillary Clinton on access to abortion.

Obamacare winners and losers. [link]

Notes from the guy who invented the calendar. [link]

How romance ruined marriage. [link]

Applebees and Papa Johns are taking a beating for their Obamacare opposition. [link]

How to make monster teeth.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Speaking as a government employee who has to take way too many classes online and fill out lots of forms online, all on government and military systems, I have to wonder why anyone is surprised that doesn't work worth shit. It works every bit as well as the rest of the online systems, which is to say, not at all.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Movie review: Ender's Game

I read the book Ender's Game more than 15 years ago. It immediately joined my top 25 most recommended books. The next few books are very skippable. I recommend giving copies to your middle school aged kids, particularly if the kids are smart. Gifted kids really relate to Ender and he can help them accept their brains more readily. It's also on the recommended reading lists for command staff in all branches of the military for the creative tactical thinking used by Ender.

Making the movie was a pain in the butt. The main enemy in the book is Ender's brother who spends most of the book on a different planet. And almost the whole cast is young children. They didn't think they could find enough children who were decent actors. Orson Scott Card tried using elements from "Ender's Shadow" which tells the same story through the eyes of another character. And after years of trying they finally managed to pull it off.

There are some issues. Some are memory issues since it's been so long since I read it. Most are due to time constraints. I don't remember Earth schools being as militant as they're presented in the movie. Mostly I would like to have seen more time in the battle arena. They don't really show how the battles work or get into the tactics that Ender came up with to make his team great. So when his team does finally fight you don't really understand how much things have been stacked against him and how much the commanders are cheating to screw things up for Ender. But the battle they showed did cover some of the features of book battles that I liked as well as mirroring the battle tactics that would be used at the end of the simulations.

I also want to talk about the science in the movie. They seemed to make an effort to avoid magical tech whenever possible. For the most part I believe that the world they presented could be real in 50 years if the political will was there to create it. The instantaneous communications system between star system is theoretically possible using quantum entanglement. With a few exceptions the space station's variably gravity was doable. It seemed to be based heavily on the ships and stations in "2001: A Space Odyssey". Only the big weapon at the end seems of questionable tech.

I liked this movie and recommend it, but I recommend reading the book, too. Any order you like is fine. Just take in both.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Seasonal candy

Stage three Halloween candy is now on sale. This has me wondering about something. If I leave two month old Halloween candy out for Santa am I insulting him by leaving old candy for him or is it a treat because he's finally getting different candy than he's used to? Santa spent centuries eating pork pies, then milk and cookies, and now, apparently, Christmas candy. But does he get Halloween candy? Or Easter candy? How about a bagel and lox? And would he appreciate it if he got it? Or do his Santa powers come from Christmas foods?

Monday, November 04, 2013

Halloween decorations

One of my earliest Halloween memories was of going next door in costume and seeing a dummy on a lawn chair with a knife in it's chest. Of course, I wasn't completely sure it was a dummy. The father of that house did creep me out so there was a very loud voice in my head saying that he'd killed someone. That's Halloween. Something scary and big candy bars. That's what you'll remember for years to come. And I try to bring that to kids on Halloween.

This year I had some workshop space so I got to work on some good decorations.

A year or two back I saw this trick for how to make decent fake intestines. Put down plastic, spray some ribbons of foam insulation like you use to seal around doors and windows, and pink spray paint.

Intestines. Or raspberry sorbet. One of the two.
Then I took the plastic from under the intestines and wrapped it around my plastic skull. A zip tie bound it to make a neck. Then a heat gun pulled the plastic tight over the skull. A few holes poked in the plastic and then hit with heat made the "flesh" look more rotten.

Pretty in pink.
Pull the plastic that hung off the skull through a shirt depicting the horrors of the 90s and cut if off at the waist. Then wad up some plastic a bit longer than sleeves. Twist the plastic more in some places than other to change the thickness of the plastic and form more realistic arm shapes within the sleeves. Any extra should be left untwisted inside the shirt to help visually connect the arm to the torso. The intestines get shoved up the bottom of the shirt.

Want some candy, little girl?
The Book Thing got picked over to give me books for children to pick over for All Hallows Read.
31 books. I threw a couple of unwanted comic books on later.
And I had candy to make sure they didn't come back and egg the house of the doof who was giving out books.

Hooligan insurance.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Friday Links: November 1

Game: Volt Connect 2 - similar to the game Goo. Put out creatures to connect the circuit. [link]

Game: The Word Alone - make words and push them around the board to shove off all the letters except A L O N E. [link]

Baby stick figure costume.

Sarah Palin doesn't know what Easter is. [link]

What it's like to be eaten by a hippo. [link]

The woman who has been protesting outside the White House for 30+ years. [link]

A man with two penises and an arm coming from his crotch. [link]

Book publishers stand strong against Texas state school board. [link]

Porcupines make yummy noises.

A Stargate woosh costume. [link]

Wolverine as a Disney princess. [link]

Marching band doing movie themes and formations.

Sugar doesn't make you hyper. [link]
John Williams is effectively immortal thanks to marching bands.

I need this in my house. [link]

Posted just for Batman's parents. [link]

How many countries are there?

Free art books. [link]

Monitor an unsupported 1800 mile Antarctic journey. [link]

CCTV footage of the Westgate Mall terrorists.

Oldest known creature with a face. [link]

What doctors wouldn't do. [link]

Cooperation between police and social media. [link]

Car commercial using illusions.

Clever resume. [link]

Fines for texting and driving across the country. [link]

When allies spy on allies. [link]

Everyone can be a math person. [link]

Why poor people buy pricey stuff. [link]

Modern copyright and possibly another extension. [link]

Google may be building a floating server farm. [link]
Perfect for a takeover by The PirateBay.

How to travel in time.

Reddit asks former racists why they changed their minds. [link]

Fastest archer on Earth. [link]

What guns is AlQaeda using? [link]
Some as old as 1915.

20 songs you didn't know were remakes. [link]