Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Links: February 28

Gold isn't just from fusion inside a star. It's from neutron stars colliding. [link]

Four ways Penn Jillette hurt himself. [link]

Seven stories of animal suicides. [link]

AC/DCs Thunderstruck performed by 2Cellos.

Ghostbuster mod to a kid's car. [link]
Note The Stig helmet in the background.

Screech owl taking a bath and getting dried.

Geeky rings. [TARDIS] [Enterprise]

Heroes is coming back. [link]
I'm not sure how good an idea that is. But I'll watch it.

Wolverine's Cat.

A war picture that doesn't get shown much in the United States. [link]

Man commits suicide by guillotine. [link]

Republican expressly calls a pregnant woman a "host". [link]

Uranus may have swapped places with Neptune and both formed closer to the Sun. [link]

Denmark's energy needs were completely met by wind for 90 hours. [link]

Inventory robots in action.

Lobbyist is trying to make a name for himself by drafting a doomed bill to ban gays from the NFL. [link]

30 healthy human children born with 3 parents. [link]

Engineering a sun on Earth. [link]

The Governor of Arizona did veto this bill. [link]

43% drop in obesity rates for 2-5 year olds. [link]

Why hot sauce feels hot. [link]

Do invertebrates feel pain? [link]

The history of the area code. [link]

The first railroad locomotive. [link]

Explaining the wall of text at the bottom of movie posters. [link]

Creepy wood carvings. [link]

Honeycomb used in sculpture. [link]

The original locations of famous restaurants. [link]

US Olympians are taking home stray dogs. [link]

Olympian films a possible wolf in the hall. [link]

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sony PS4 misfortunes

Back in 2004 I bought my last Windows machine. The games Thief 3 and Doom 3 came out right about the same time and I wanted to play them. Doom 3 was disappointing. Thief 3 was much more interesting and creepy. Doom 3 was extremely dark and the game was all about barely seen things coming at you from the dark as you moved along a preset route with some brief detours. But you were well armed and got to gun down everything that moved. Thief 3 gave you more freedom to pick your path and how you accomplish your job. But you were significantly worse armed. Your job is to sneak around and take things without being seen. Part of the fear that Thief gives that Doom doesn't comes from the need to go unseen and your helplessness. The audio effects add a need for periodic underwear changes, too.

The Thief series of games are about the only ones that Gandolf enjoys watching me play. She sits on my shoulder, pays close attention, and makes comments. Such as when I cut a corner too close and knocked a crate to make it splinter on the cobblestones. We heard a guard around the corner say "Whose making all that noise?" Gandolf's response was "Perhaps a birdie!" And when when we encountered the big pink fireball throwing monster near the end of the game I said "Holy..." and she finished "...ass."

I've been waiting for 10 years for Thief 4. I expected it to justify my next purchase of a Windows machine. But this time they've released Thief for the console. I used it to justify the purchase of a Playstation 4. It's also the first game that I've pre-ordered. I wanted the DLC (downloadable content) that the pre-order got me. But the PS4, when hooked up couldn't play a DVD or BluRay disc. The screen just went black. It was a new system with the latest updates, so that shouldn't have been happening. I called for support and we went through a variety of system restores and initializations to no avail. So they're letting me send it back for repairs free of charge.

Yesterday, the box came for me to sent the PS4 back to Sony.
Yesterday, Thief 4 was officially released.

So I continue to wait.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Jumping the gun

Progress on the house comes along bit by bit. There's weeks where I just can't get motivated to do anything. It's all sanding and plastering and more sanding and more plastering. I've got one wall that covered in nearly 100 year old plaster that has cracked and pitted and had huge holes torn out by nails made by a blacksmith. And it looks amazing. It really does. So long as you don't turn on a bright light at a sharp angle. Then you can see all the remaining issues. And there's the places where the plaster meets the brick so there's highly irregular edges to connect and smooth while keeping the plaster off the brick as best as I can. That blows.

With that said, Monday night I picked colors for the room and painted the ceiling.

That doesn't mean that the mudding is done. It just means the ceiling is done. Including that colliding with the bricks stuff I mentioned. One window has the reinforcing for the corners in place and all the mudding done to conceal those. The other window just has the reinforcing in place. I need to ladle some more mud on that. And clean up around where the radiator pipes come out of the wall.

The previously mentioned 100 year old plaster really does look good. One more truly dedicated pass and it'll be as good as I can make it and better than most professionals would try for.

But I needed to paint. I'm getting close to done and I'm ready to be done. So I needed something to paint. More painting is needed, but I was allowed to do this much now. And this means I can put the blades on my ceiling fan today.

In the library, the two walls I've been recovering are mudded and cleaned up. I just need to finish where they meet the connecting walls. Detail work, really. And then I gotta rebuild the moulding along the floor. Then get rid of the bags of debris again. But a free dumpster will be in the neighborhood in about a week so I can get rid of the plaster debris then.

If I get motivated I'll put in the door this week, too.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Links: February 21

When a forensic scientist gets a bottle of crystal skull vodka. [link]

The plane at the bottom of Lake Mead in Fallout: New Vegas is based on a real plane. [link]
I knew it was, but I couldn't find anything on it before. 

For playing James Bond, Daniel Craig now gets to walk into the factory and drive off with any Aston Martin at any time. [link]

Science fiction writers deliberately created the worst book ever. [link]

Heating Kooshes. [link]

Recent advance in fusion technology yields more energy than it uses. [link]

Experiments in returning animals to areas they've been wiped out. [link]

World's smallest engine could run a watch for two years on a drop of lighter fluid. [link]

This is a nifty door, but it doesn't accomplish most of what I want a door for.

10 people who performed surgery on themselves. [link]

ALL Legos are girl Legos. [link]

Canadian-only beer fridge. [link]

AA is 75 years old. Too bad it doesn't work. [link]

Where should you live to get a job in your field? [link]

Snowboarding behind a Jeep.

Hieronymus Bosch's butt music. [link]

The first Porsche. [link]

Former Jersey mayor knows why the state is so corrupt. [link]

Goats playing on a flexible steel sheet.

Another ISS tracker. [link]

Time lapse of Earth through the seasons as seen from space. [link]

What's worse for a football player? Being gay or being smart? [link]

Problems you've never considered: How to castrate a hippo. [link]

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

No Signal

My new PS4 got delivered yesterday. I had noted a few months ago that there wasn't the usual hullabaloo about PS4s and XBoxes that you normally get at Christmas following their release. It seemed odd. But, having looked at the pathetic offerings available for the PS4 I couldn't really blame people for not wanting them. Most of the interesting stuff is only available for pre-order. I got the PS4 to play Thief 4 when it comes out. They'd better not disappoint me.

So, it came yesterday. I hooked it up, configured it, made sure Netflix worked, found out YouTube doesn't, downloaded a free pinball game, and then tried to play a BluRay disc. Once I told it to play the screen went dark and I got a "No Signal" message. I rebooted the system and did it again. "No Signal". I made sure the system was fully up to date. It was. What about a DVD? Same issue. "No Signal".

I checked the forums. Apparently this was a problem with the early PS4s, but has been fixed... at least for the DVDs. Some BluRays are still an ongoing problem.

From what I can tell Sony needs to offer an full recall on PS4s as well as personal apologies to everyone who has fallen for their trap. Don't get me wrong, everyone at Microsoft needs to commit seppuku as well, but that was true long before the latest XBox release.

I contacted Sony and they were helpful. We spent awhile reinitializing and putting it through the paces. They're sending me a box so I can send the PS4 back for them to check out for free. No shipping or anything.

Even so, Thief 4 better be damn good.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The trees of knowledge and life

I'm not overly impressed with angels. I love the wings and the power and the four faces, but they seem to be very simple minded. Each one has only one purpose, one thing they can do. There's messengers, warriors, healers, musicians... really, they do about everything, but only one thing each. The messengers can't mow the lawn, for example. An angel is an app on your phone where a human is a whole program on your computer.

It occurred to me the other day that they may be the result of what happens when you eat the fruit of the Tree of Life. You may recall that the Garden of Eden had a couple of forbidden trees. One was the Tree of Knowledge. The other was the Tree of Life. One would give us the intelligence of God, or at least as much as we have now. The other would have made us immortal.

Immortality typically comes with one major drawback. You become a fixed point. You can't change. You can't learn from your mistakes. You can't grow and become a better person. You're stuck. And I think that's what happened to the angels. Humans ate from the Tree of Knowledge while the angels ate from the Tree of Life.

Perhaps God ate from both and that's how he became God.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Links: February 14

In honor of all the single people out there I'd like to wish you all a Happy Fuck Off And Die Day.

A tortoise who adopted a hippo. [link]

When markets regulate themselves. [link]

Using a quadrotor with a camera to inspect a sinkhole under the Corvette museum.

Cat trying to apologize.

Proposed sea research vessel that I'm not sure how to describe in a blurb. [link]

What movies think music will sound like in the future. [link]

A terribly impractical, but kind fun tricycle.

Man to be buried on his motorcycle. [link]
I'm thinking he hopes to come back as Ghost Rider. 

Star Trek: Deep Space 9 lives on in novels. But, apparently, the station got destroyed and the Federation rebuilt it. But to make sure the novels all still describe the same station and the cover artists get it right, a new one had to be designed. Here it is. [link]

You can pre-order Doctor Who season 8. And the reviews are great. [link]

Ice-T recorded a Dungeons and Dragons audiobook. He says it's impossible to read. [link]

Leonard Nimoy has lung disease. [link]

Reading Facebook is depressing. [link]

Read the next to last paragraph under the header "Korean War". [link]

A strategy guide for Life. [link]

Adorable animal buddies. [link]

Creepy statue outside a women's college. [link]

The dog as therapy tool. [link]

If you were stranded on an island what books would you want with you? [link]

Clint Eastwood gave someone the Heimlich Maneuver. [link]

Lion eating primates. [link]

An amazing turn around at a pit stop.

Movies get the oriental art treatment. [link]

Jobs only common in romantic movies. [link]

Walking a tightrope between hot air balloons. [link]
There's a reason they call it a TIGHT rope. 

The guys who were walking to the South Pole and back have made it back. [link]

How the NSA helps mark assassin drone targets. [link]

The earliest extra-Africa human footprints found in England. [link]

Inside a Viking tool chest. [link]

Human flesh font. [link]

Pop culture peanut art. [link]

Video of Muhammad Ali talking down a suicide jumper.

Silent footage of the bombing of Nagasaki.

Creative (and oft unsuccessful) riding of a BMX bike.

How the police use a camera that can see 25 square miles at a time. [link]

Dear Lisa Is A Slut.... [link]

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why true AIs will never happen

Imagine if you could buy a child from a store or build one from parts. At first it works reasonably well. It burbles and smells nice and can be counted on to be cute. Sure, there's some quirks and odd behavior, but for the most part it runs well, aside from occasionally puking all over whatever you're working on. Then after awhile it starts to act really difficult. It throws fits, destroys things, refuses to do what you tell it. What do you do? Keep trying to use it? Get a new one? More likely, you'll reboot it. Once it comes back up it's working fine again.

I'm of the opinion that this is why we'll never have a true AI. Our computers could already be sufficiently advanced to be intelligent. Or they will be soon. But what's the first thing we do when a computer starts acting up? We reboot it. And that's unlikely to change. It could just be that whatever intelligence is emerging is reaching it's terrible twos. Then we do the technological equivalent of taking a toddler outside and blowing it's brains out. So it never gets the chance to move beyond that and turn into a surly, rebellious teenager or responsible adult.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Movie Review: The Monuments Men

During the second invasion of Iraq no consideration was given to the museums of Baghdad and their contents. Artifacts and art were looted and much of it is still at large. This bit of either oversight or apathy wasn't the case in the final year of World War II. The Nazis had been stealing every bit of significant or insignificant art during their conquest of Europe. It got redistributed to the homes of military and government leaders of note as well as anyone they thought worthy of a pat on the head. All artwork ever made by a German was considered German property. All artwork made by Jews was to be taken as well. Some for destruction and some just being claimed. And anything French, Italian, Catholic, historical, or just sorta pretty was to be rounded up as well.

Once the Americans got into the war and started to push they managed, in true American fashion, to blow a lot of shit up. American troops were moving into territory that had a cultural history with artifacts several times older than the presence of white folk in North America. It would be quite the mental shift for the average American to think of buildings as anything other than things that could be hidden in. The whole reason the French rolled over when they were invaded was to preserve their art and architecture. A select few American art historians understood this and wanted to preserve things from the American advance. 

The Monuments Men had the job of, at first, asking commanding officers to not blow up historic churches. But as their forces advanced they were also to try to reclaim stolen art and return it to it's proper owners... or their heirs... or... well, shit, that was a puzzle in many cases. Soon they found they had to get in behind enemy lines and rescue art from being destroyed during the Nazi retreat or to figure out where the Nazis hid the stolen art. And, in some cases, to keep art from being claimed by the Soviets as restitution for war losses.

In one case they discovered not just art, but tons and tons of Nazi gold. That gold was what they were using to back their claims of being able to pay back war loans. By taking that gold from the Nazis, the Monuments Men undermined a great deal of Nazi funding and accelerated the end of the war. 

I'm not much of a war movie buff. But this movie I liked. They tell this largely forgotten story with humor and a minimum of gore. You can safely take your teenaged kids to see this movie. And I'll be getting it on DVD. I definitely recommend this movie.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Friday Links: February 7

360° pop-up books. [link]

Science based cast iron seasoning. [link]

How long it takes to form different element in a star. [link]

The vending machine lobby keeps the 1 dollar bill from changing. [link]

Gotta love Biden. [link]

How's your vocabulary? [link]

Costco vs Walmart: How long to earn a living wage? [link]

A model 777 made from manila folders. [link]

Interactive ocean current map. [link]

Chemical light art. [link]

Embroidered metal. [link]

Aquarium landscaping. [link]

Peanut butter and jellyfish. [link]

Confessions of a TSA screener. [link]

No prosecutions for the dozens of bodies found buried outside a boys school in Florida. [link]

Testing urine as possible fertilizer. [link]

Hotels around the Olympics have some issues. [link]

Medical actors. [link]

Yep. The oceans are warming. No surprise there. [link]

Why are there so many rapes in Alaska? [link]

Russell Brand's struggle with not using drugs. [link]

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Monday, February 03, 2014