Friday, June 29, 2007

Bumpersticker 1

The basic principles of Dougintology include a variety of bumperstickers. This is the one of several short essays in which I plan to flesh out the meaning behind them.

Make abortion unnecessary, not illegal.

Nobody likes abortions. You don't pick up the newspaper and say "Look, Bob! There's a 2 for 1 sale at AbortionHut today! Gosh, I haven't had an abortion in forever. Let's call Harold and Janice and see if they want to come with us." It's an unpleasant and embarrassing medical procedure in the best of circumstances and it's a dangerous and life threatening one at worst. And that's leaving out whatever thorny ethical dilemma that arises from the question of whether the fetus is alive and if it is do it's rights trump those of the host.

If at all possible most people would prefer to be able to choose when they get pregnant or avoid it entirely. But American society, or at least the people who hold sway over the schools and law makers, have this thing about anything having to do with sex. "Sex is bad" they say. "Nudity is bad" they tell us. They work around the clock to make sure that they can leave their kids alone for a few minutes and the kids won't have the opportunity to see or hear anything they couldn't see or hear under their strict, watchful eye.

This includes controlling what is taught in schools. They'd rather their kids never hear the word condom lest they be tempted to try one. Any sex education program must be "abstinence only". Teachers are to spend the entire semester not teaching anything about birth control pills, condoms, foams, jellies, IUDs, diaphrams, etc. or the ways that oils, antibiotics, and the like can cause them to fail. The entire semester has to be spent on "sex.... er, DON'T HAVE IT" and possibly some of the basic reproductive anatomy.

When these kids finally start having sex, whether at age 14 or age 24, they have no idea how not to get pregnant or avoid STDs. What they think they know they got from the locker room.
"You can't get pregnant the first time."
"You can't get pregnant if you douche with toothpaste."
"You can't get pregnant if you don't orgasm."
"You can't get pregnant if I pull out."
"Condoms fail 60% of the time."

Most abortion clinics have a file of people who stood outside protesting and then had to bring their "innocent little girl" in because she believed she couldn't get pregnant if she peed immediately afterward and the parents believed their daughter wouldn't want to have sex until she'd been married for five or ten years.

The fact of the matter is that abstinence only programs do the exact opposite of what they're expected to do. Study after study has shown that teen pregnancy and STDs are more prevalent among teens who took those programs.

Let's get out of the schools. There are lots of programs for advising people about pregnancies. How to get pregnant, what to do if you are pregnant, stuff like that. They all claim to be unbiased groups trying to help inform people. The only one that I've found that lives up to that claim is Planned Parenthood. The others I've dealt with have just been Christian organizations in disguise.

They tell some of the worst lies, too. The worst rattled off a long list of all the diseases you could get from having an abortion. Nearly all were diseases that were more common in completed pregnancies than aborted ones. The remaining diseases were nonexistent conditions such as lycanthropy. That's right. They said if you get an abortion you can become a werewolf.

Then you get out into society at large. There was an effort to pass a law in Canada that would have made it illegal for a woman to have a tubal ligation (e.g. get sterilized) unless she'd already had at least one child. Canada. These are the liberal ones. You really don't want to know the sort of laws that are circulated in the states.

It's tough for a man to get sterilized even after he's had a few kids. I spent a couple of days calling around to find someone who'd perform a vasectomy. I was working through Planned Parenthood to find these people, too. Most of the offices I called just gave me someone else's phone number. Several of those numbers were disconnected. But I finally found someone who could do it. He was good, too. A few pokes and tugs, but that's all I felt. Sure, there was soreness after, but that passes after a few weeks. Not even a scar now.

I was lucky. I was a man. If you're woman things get much harder. Most doctors refuse to do it unless you've had several kids already. They give different reasons. Some say you'll change your mind. Some say it's against their religion. Some say you'll come back and sue even after you sign all the waivers. Some require you to go to a psychologist and come back with a note declaring you sane. But while I could find someone after a few days of phone calls most women I've talked to have had to spend three to nine months of personal visits to one doctor after another before finding one who was willing to do it. They say the female doctors were even more patronizing than the male doctors.

I had to pay out of pocket, too. The insurance company said I'd have to change my insurance and then wait another 6 months. It was cheaper just to get it done. Tubals are more expensive, though. Some damn fool put all their reproductive organs way up inside where they're hard to reach. I could have gotten insurance to cover it eventually if I needed it. Many insurance companies won't pay for a tubal. If you're trying to get pregnant they'll throw tens of thousands of dollars, but if you want a way not to get pregnant, either temporary or permanent, they'll offer you their middle finger and charge you for it.

Then there's stuff like the Morning After Pill and RU-486. Both had FDA approval delayed for years for political reasons. The FDA denies this, but that doesn't change that people were selected to head this agency based in part on their stand on whether they should be approved or not. The Morning After Pill was recently approved, but Wal-mart refuses to stock it (or RU-486) (except where required by state law) and individual pharmacists are given the choice about whether to fill the prescriptions or not. This means that in some pharmacies whether you can get it or not depends on who's working when you go in.

So far I've talked about how many schools won't tell you how not to get pregnant and the difficulty getting sterilized or birth control. What else? Oh, right, legislation, and fiscal ability. You know what? I'm gonna leave legislation alone. That's more about making abortions illegal than making them unnecessary.

Of the various reasons that people give for having an abortion is their fiscal situation. The stories include "I can't afford the 5 kids I have", "I'm working two full time jobs just to live in my parent's basement", and one that I see frequently "I'm living out of a shopping cart, sleep on a grate, and am pregnant." There's others, but you get the basic idea. The modern American economy is often not suited to being able to afford a kid or even the health care to carry it to term. If you're reading this you're probably not one of them. You probably have trouble relating to these people and don't really want to admit that they exist. After all, you can afford a computer and an internet connection.

Still, our legislators fight any effort to increase the minimum wage and have to be sued to spend what little money is already legally mandated for child health care. The days of "a rising tide floats all boats" is over and has been for several decades now.

You may see a conflict here between my desire to see potential parents able to afford those kids and the position you'll hear me take later about the government subsidies for kids. I think that the subsidies for taking care of children and the elderly should be made equal. The issue comes from me thinking that the subsidy for the second kid should be half that for the first and nothing for the third.

While I think people should have fewer kids and should be encouraged to care for their infirm parents when possible I think everyone should be able to make a living wage. Increasing minimum wage isn't just for people who have kids, it's for all the people who would like to be able to afford both food and shelter.

So now that's I've rambled on for screens and screens what is it that I'm suggesting? First, all public school students should get a complete sex ed program instead of just the word "don't". They may still choose to listen to their religious leaders and not use any, but whatever consequences will be because of their informed decision instead of blind ignorance.
Second, outlaw deliberate misinformation campaigns. This could also be read as "shut down Fox News", but that's another campaign altogether. What I mean is that any group posing as a family planning clinic that tells lies just to get people to do things their way should get heavily fined. Alas, certain religious views such as "Your zygote has a soul" can't be fined under this plan since there's no proof either way.
Third, support the most needy in society so that having that child won't mean giving up eating. This includes increasing the minimum wage and altering the welfare program so that going to work is more profitable than staying on welfare. This may mean an affordable daycare program so that they don't spend more on daycare than they make at work.
Fourth, provide low cost birth control. Many states have been slashing their funding for birth control because of their own dislike of condoms instead of any consideration for what impact that decision has on the poor in their state. Really, the cost of a box of condoms is nothing compared to the cost of covering the birthing and care of the baby. If the mother can't afford a condom what makes you think she can afford to pay the hospital bill.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tech review: Palm Wi-fi Card

I got a wi-fi card for my Palm Pilot (Tungsten T5) awhile back. I've finally gotten enough use out of it to give it a decent review.

The card gets hot and drains the battery at an incredible rate.

Almost nobody makes websites for compact devices. The browser home page is a list of websites that will display well. It can render other websites but you have to do a lot of scrolling.

The antenna is either small and weak or the signals are. I've found a few really strong signals, but you have to be pretty close to the transmitters. Mostly I'm just complaining about the lame signals in places where there's supposed to be free wi-fi. Places like Dupont Circle.
Also, I've seen a few places where the Palm finds a computer with wi-fi instead of a hub. It connects like it thinks I should have internet access but I can't get anywhere. This happened behind the Air and Space Museum and in that round restaurant in Union Station.

There's a separate application for Google Maps. It works fairly well but seems to be intended for a Palm Trio (the phone).

GMail accessed through your Palm is not marked as read. It'll still say it's unread when you get to your computer.

It works. It does. If you're someone who travels a lot you can use this to get your e-mail in lieu of a whole laptop. For me it's little more than a toy that I can't used 95% of the time.

They run $100 from Palm and most retailers. However, if you know how to shop, like I do, you can knock off $35.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Book Review: Hell To Pay

I thought Simon R. Green had wrapped up the Nightside series. Turns out he'd just wrapped up one story arc. With "Hell To Pay" he starts another arc.

The Nightside is a realm of perpetual night that is out of reach of Heaven and Hell. Demons, minor gods, immortals of all sort, and creatures from other planets live here and not exactly peacefully either.

John Taylor is a private eye with a gift. He can find things. He can find almost anything. But when he uses his power he makes himself visible to people who have been trying to kill him his whole life. People he's never met worship him.

John Taylor was born in the Nightside. His mother vanished right after he was born. His dad never talks about her. Dad was never quite right after she left. It wasn't just having his wife walk out. It was because he found out what she really was.

In the first book Taylor returns to the Nightside after five years to save a girl who went where she shouldn't. It reads like a pulp detective novel.
As the books progress Taylor uncovers clues about who his mother was and what his father did. As the series progresses he slowly spends less time on cases, more investigating his mother, and then trying to save the Nightside from what he's found. Meanwhile, he faces repeated attacks from assassins from the distant future and confronts a variety of horrible being of untold power.

One of my favorite things in the early books is a heavily armed fortress full of people who have been abducted by aliens. They've banded together to protect each other when the aliens return for them. Cameras everywhere, even the toilets, and a large enough arsenal to conquer most countries.

The first story arc covers six books.
1) Something from the Nightside
2) Agents of Light and Darkness
3) Nightingale's Lament
4) Hex and the City
5) Paths Not Taken
6) Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth

The second story arc begins with "Hell To Pay". With most of the Nightside in ruins and the old power brokers dead it's a time for rebuilding. Gods who couldn't compete with the old gods are trying to setup shop. An immortal business man whose plans for control were foiled by the old guard now has nothing to stand in his way. That is until his granddaughter goes missing. He hires the most powerful detective in the Nightside to find her no matter what.
This book doesn't have the pulp feel of the early books, but John Taylor is back doing detective work. I suggest starting at the beginning of the series, but this is the next best place to start.

I love this series. It manages to stay fresh and innovative better than the Dresden Files.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I don't get why people display a crucifix. I'm not the first to discuss this by a long shot. You've probably heard other people mention this. But wasn't Jesus put to death on a crucifix? Being the Lord and Savior and human incarnation of God he's probably not vulnerable to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome). Even so, he can't be thrilled to see a cross. Then to make statues of him actually hanging on the crucifix... that's gotta be kinda threatening. Especially when he realizes that it's been 2,000 years and we're still carrying a grudge. No wonder he hasn't come back.

You want to scare off pirates? Hang the bodies of pirates you've captured in the harbor for the pirates to see.
You want to scare off messiahs? Hang the body of the last messiah up for messiah wanna-bes to see.

A crucifix is a sort of scarejesus. Like how one might stuff clothing with straw and stick it in the field to keep away crows.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Book Review: A World Out of Time

This is one of Larry Niven's older books. Back when he was still good. I love the guy, but his latest stuff is getting weak. "A World Out of Time" follows a formula similar to "Ringworld". If you like "Ringworld" you should like this book, too.

Our hero was dying of cancer back in the 1970's so he had himself frozen until a cure could be found. Of course, freezing yourself causes crystals to form in your cells and cause massive amounts of damage. Even after they had a cure for cancer they still didn't have a cure for tissue damage in frozen people. Eventually they became able to transfer one person's mind into another. But the world was overpopulated and didn't have room for extra people.
Finally, the world government decides to start seeding remote planets in a terraforming effort. Our hero's mind is dumped into the body of a criminal. He's tested for the proper personality traits, trained to work the ship, and fired off into space. He'd get back to Earth another 300 years later Earth time, but will have only aged a couple of decades due to the relativistic effects of near light speeds.
Our hero doesn't like this plan. He takes the ship and heads for the galactic core. But the personality of the person who trained him is transmitted into the ship's computer. Together they see the galactic core and return to Earth millions of years later as a very old man.
The sun is redder, Mercury is scarred, Venus's atmosphere is thinner, Mars looks like something hit it, Earth is orbiting Jupiter, one of Jupiter's moons is missing, and Uranus is in a really wild orbit.

Here's where it gets Ringworld-like. They explore the new Earth trying to figure out how the Solar System was rearranged, why Earth is so hot that only Antarctica is habitable, how civilization changed and fell, and search for immortality.

I really liked this book.

Coloring contest results

You people suck. No entries. I know two people were working on something, but they never made it in.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Summer Solstice and my Segway

Today is June 22nd -The Summer Solstice. The longest day of the year and the shortest night. It's when we the get most direct rays of the sun.
What I want to know is why the winter just keeps getting colder after the Winter Solstice and the weather keep getting hotter after the Summer Solstice. They have the least sunlight and most sunlight respectively. This should be as hot as it gets.

This isn't as big of a deal, holiday wise, as the Winter Solstice or Spring Equinox. Those are celebrations of the cold ending. I'm guessing this one is noted but ignored because they're too busy dealing with the crops to attend a big blowout.

This also marks six months since I got my new Segway i2. It's done just over 1,000 miles with no problems.
I am a bit irked to find that there's no valve stem. You're supposed to replace the wheel instead of reinflate the tire.
It's more stable than the early models. Instead of turning by twisting the handles the whole steering column leans left and right. I thought this would make me feel less secure while riding. You know, by losing that something solid to hold on to. It doesn't feel less secure.
The reason it's more stable is because it calculates left and right leans relative to the center of gravity instead of relative to the Segway platform. So if you're driving along a hill and you lean right to keep yourself vertical the Segway doesn't turn right unless you lean right or left compared to what feels right. Similarly, when you hit a rock or a hole the Segway compensates beautifully. The older models were easy to lose control of when that happened.
And the charging cable is a simple computer cord. If you lose one or want an extra for the office they're cheap and easy to find. Not like if you lose the charger for ... well, anything else.

I do nine miles a day on my Segway. It's my commuter vehicle. Many people think they're too expensive and they're right for most uses. Most people see it at a toy. Something to run out to the store or out to dinner on. It's too expensive for that unless you have a lot of money. But it's not a bad price if you're actually planning to use it. Commuters are good, warehouses, some factories, inside the Pentagon, or if you just have some joint problems and it hurts to walk.
They're good for twenty-four miles per charge. That should get me across DC and back easily. If you live inside the Beltway and work in DC you could probably use one if you have the sidewalks and bike paths to get away with it. No worrying about parking. You can either chain it up like a bike or bring it into your office like I do.
For winter weather I have a snowmobile helmet. The standard Segway doesn't handle snow very well. The x2 has big knobby tires for offroading. I'd love to hear how it handles the snow.

If you want to take a test drive there's a Segway dealer in town (Capitol Segway) that gives tours of DC. Or you can ask nicely and I'll let you try mine. I think Capitol Segway uses the older models for the tours. However, I recommend you buy yours from someone else. I went to these guys to repair my old one and they ripped me off. I told them exactly what was wrong and they fixed all the little things I could have done faster and cheaper myself but didn't fix the actual problem. They wound up mailing it back to HQ for the repairs.
The people at HQ are great. Barbara knows her stuff and knew exactly what my problem was after I told her the symptoms and results of my diagnostics. The guys at Capitol Segway had no idea even after explaining it five times and then telling them what was broken.

I got mine from a dealer in Kansas City. They and a few other dealers have websites you can order from. The Segway HQ doesn't sell them directly, but you can order some parts from them.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Book Series Review: The Dresden Files

I haven't been posting as many book reviews as I might have because I've been ripping through the Dresden Files series. They're not brilliant, but they're good.

A friend of mine worked on the Yellow Pages for some smallish community. If you looked up Super Heroes it said "See: Wayne, Bruce". No, really.
Pick up the Chicago Yellow Pages and look up "wizards". That's where you'll find Harry Dresden. He doesn't do shows or kids parties or give lessons. He's not the only wizard. He's just the only one listed. He gets a lot of private detective type work. Find this, find that. He mostly pays is bills doing consulting work for the Special Investigations division of the Chicago PD.
SI is to the Chicago PD what the X-Files was to the FBI. They get the stuff too weird for the rest of the department and if you're sent there it's because you're not very popular but they can't fire you yet. Typically once you file a report or two about stuff that can't happen they have reason to fire you.
Harry is aided by a fairy in a skull who has many lifetimes of magical knowledge and gets paid in romance novels.

As the series starts Harry isn't popular. Many people think he's scamming the cops. Most of the rest of the wizards want to kill him because he used black magic to kill his teacher in self defense. If it wasn't self defense they would have killed him instantly.
As the series progresses we see him go up against a couple of different kinds of vampires, a variety of werewolves, the mafia, fairy queens, zombies, demons, ghouls, and skirt the edges of a war between the wizards and the red vampires (Buffy style) which he helped start. He meets his half brother, loses a girlfriend, matches wits his Fairy (note the big "F") godmother.

The first several books are numbered. Then the numbering stops. It really shouldn't stop since they still need to be read in order.

1) Storm Front
2) Fool Moon
3) Grave Peril
4) Summer Knight
5) Death Masks
6) Blood Rites
7) Dead Beat
8) Proven Guilty
9) White Night

See also Simon Green's Nightside series for a much darker variation of this theme.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How old are you?

I've seen this question a lot in the last few months. I was assuming that this meant everyone was seeing it. But apparently not. I asked a couple of neighbor kids this question when they said I was too old to watch cartoons. When I mentioned that to someone else it turned out he hadn't heard or thought about it either.

Here's the idea. Say your body didn't appear any older between ages 18 and 80. You get smacked in the head and forget how old you are. How old would you act? Some people act 80 years old when they're 5. Others act like a six year old their whole life.

How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My grave

A few miles from where I grew up there's a large chemical plant near a cemetery. I always thought it'd be a great place to start a zombie movie. I wanted to get some photos to try to convince my amature film maker friends to shoot a scene there. But when I went to get pictures there weren't and good shots. The trees had grown to block the view of the chemical plant from the old part of the cemetery. You could only see the chemical plant from the newer parts. That's no good because all the good headstones and monuments are in the old part. People don't put those up anymore. They put up these short, lame, cheap-ass, grave markers.

The best two pictures of that cemetary.

I understand why. The deceased are deceased. They're beyond caring what grave marker they have or how nice the coffin is. The rest of the world doesn't care what kind of coffin the deceased has. Nobody except the people who have to move the body when the cemetery is being converted to condos. Even then they just want something that's still strong enough to lift without falling apart. This really has nothing to do with my original point does it? Hmm, no. Not so much.

The point is that we owe it, not to the dead but to future generations, to buy nice grave stones. We need to make our cemeteries into graveyards. What's the difference? Mood mostly.
Cemeteries are modern, clean, and full of little blocks of cement nearly flush with the ground. It's a place to go put flowers and maybe feel sad if you really feel like it. It could be mistaken for a golf course. It's mere body storage.
Graveyards are places where the dead live. Carved blocks of rock and weather stained statues sticking out of the ground at various heights. It's jagged, it feels old, it's unsettling. Here the dead demand to be remembered.

I'm going to be cremated. Stuff me in a cardboard box, turn up the gas, and let me burn. Take the remains and mix them in with cement. Add water. Stir. Pour the concrete mix into a mold. Maybe a cast of my body. Maybe a cast of some statue I'll make at a later date. Maybe a tower with a spot to put candles to creep people out a night. Put that monument out in the cemetery to add some character. Plus, when it comes time to build condos I'm easy to move.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Movie Review: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Fantastic Four 2 was better than Fantastic Four 1. If you've seen the first FF then this goes without saying. The first movie was cast at least partially based on what actress was popular. The acting was awful and even if you knew nothing about the comics you just didn't buy those actors in the role.
Some people complained that most of the movie was the team squabbling with each other while the bad guy stood aside plotting and transforming. It wasn't until the end of the movie that we got to the whole "The man who has been jealous of me and hated me for years... I never would have guessed you'd turn out to be evil!"

This time the actors were more convincing and the story was better. It's a bit silly and there's great stretches between action scenes, but that's the Fantastic Four for you. When there's four heroes they have to talk more than Superman or Batman alone need to.

The Silver Surfer was pretty much true to comic form. He's the harbinger for Galactus, the planet eater. He became the harbinger in exchange for Galactus sparing his home world and his girlfriend. He has nigh godlike powers granted to him by Galactus.
However, in the comics his power is but a tiny fraction of that of Galactus and nowhere nearly enough to prove a threat to Galactus himself. Also, in the comics, Galactus is a giant person in a silly suit, not a cloud.
And, in the comic, the world was only saved because a being who lives on the moon and watches the Earth gave the Fantastic Four a gizmo that would destroy the universe. They told Galactus to leave or they'd destroy everything. Not really a good way to end the movie.

I enjoyed the movie, but I'm not feeling the need to see it again.

Friday, June 15, 2007

coloring contest

We're working on a poster for our upcoming book about Biological Warfare. (We're against it.) One of the ideas the boss likes is to put a giant virus in the background. Something like this.

This particular example was something the boss found on a website. By the time it reaches poster size the pixels are the size of sugar cubes.

There's an ample supply of electron micrographs at the CDC's Public Health Image Library site. They, however, are mostly in black and white. We taking a pro-colors position. I've taken one particular picture from chapter 25 and tried colorizing it.

Before (click for full sized image)


I'm giving you a chance to color and see if you can dress up this picture. Or, really, any of the B&W CDC electron micrographs you can get your hands on. We prefer the CDC because we can get the picture free.

Send your version of the pictures to "d o u g . d a t a @ g m a i l . c o m" (remove the spaces). In a week I'll post some favorites or else spread nasty rumors about your ancestors.
This image was reprinted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Image Library Web site. Photograph by Cynthia Goldsmith and provided by Dr Terrence Tumpey. Available at:

Thursday, June 14, 2007

No repairs, please.

There was some excitement at work yesterday. A repairman was fixing an air conditioner in someone's ceiling up the hall from my office. He did something to a pipe and suddenly there was water. Lots and lots of water. It ruined his carpet and poured out into the hall. It ran down the hall, into other offices, into the phone closet, down the stairs, threatened the computer lab, and rained in the offices of people one floor down.
Alas, budget cuts meant that they'd fired all the experienced handymen and hired contractors. Contractors who didn't know where the shutoff valves were. When they found the valves they discovered the valves didn't work. They started checking the tunnels up the street for a master cutoff for the neighborhood.
By this time we have a guy with a mop trying to slow the rising tide. A guy found a broom and was sweeping water out onto the patio. I tried removing the lip that keeps rainwater from running into the building when it rains, but there were no visible screws to remove. So what kept the water out also kept the water in.
Cleaning staff showed up from all over base with extra blankets to block off our offices. A carpet shampooer arrived and was used to start sucking up the water from the tile since the wet dry vac was taking forever to arrive. When the wet dry vac did show up it was the largest one I'd ever seen.
I don't know how they finally got the water shut off while keeping the bathrooms operating, but they did.

There was an incident.

Things got wet.

Then people showed up and they got wet, too.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Me and Larry

I met an elderly woman who said she had an autographed copy of Asimov's "I, Robot". I was very jealous. But I now have an autographed copy of "Ringworld". It's pretty awesome now, but when I'm 70 I'll get people who are my age now to drool.

Me and Larry Niven

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Another project

A couple of years ago they refurbished the windows in the building I work. Being a "historical" building they couldn't replace them with new windows that make an effort to keep the heat on one side and the cold on the other. No, they shipped them all to Chicago where the paint was stripped, bad wood replaced, and new paint put on.
When they put the windows back in they put a wooden block in the groove to keep us from opening the windows wide enough to crawl but still wide enough so that the people standing on the lawn who actually escaped the fire can hear you curse their name as you burn to death.
I felt that these windows needed screens.

It's the green thing. No, not the tree. In front of the tree. Not the window either. It's jammed in the open window.

The screens someone bought don't expand to fill the whole thing. Bumblebees and horseflies and wasps still get through. So I went to the craft shop and got some... well, I don't know what it's called. I suppose you might use it for mounting photos on. It's more rigid than poster board but still flexible. It's thin enough to fit in the gap between the window and the window sill. A co-worker went to the hardware store to get a roll of screen.
I cut the board to fit in the window and around the handles. Then emptied out the middle and glued the screen to the back. Clear packaging tape goes around the sides to protect the edges from getting damaged by constantly being shoved in and removed from the window. It also provides a bit of waterproofing. The top still wants to bow away from the window. The planned means of attachment was discarded for reasons of material shortage. So I put more packaging tape along the top so that we could use regular tape to hold it in place without tearing up the board by constantly adding and removing tape.

Anyway, I'm happy with it. We can open our windows without the risk of bugs. Now I just need to get the raccoons out of the ceiling.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Movie Review: Day Watch

"Day Watch" is the second of a trilogy of Russian movies. The first was "Night Watch".

"Night Watch" or "Nochnoi Dozor". Is described as a Russian vampire flick, but that's selling it short. It's like making a movie about me and saying it's a film about a guy with a goatee.
Long ago a virgin (innocent) was cursed. Everywhere she went things died. Family, friends, strangers, puppies, everything. Before she died her curse brought forth The Others. There are Light Others and Dark Others. Hundreds of years ago they made a truce. The Night Watch are the Light Others who enforce certain behavior in the Dark Others and the Day Watch are the opposite.
12 years ago one of the central characters went to one of the Dark Others to get his wife back. His wife had left him for someone else and the Dark Other told him his wife was pregnant with this other guy's child. She was going to get the woman back and abort the fetus, but this was against the truce and the Light Ones stopped her. But during the struggle the guy who lost his wife discovered he was one of the Others, too.
Now it's 12 years later. A Dark Other has taken a bride and called some kid for her to eat. The kid is rescued, the Dark Other accidently killed, and the vampire bride got away. While hunting down the kid to protect him the Day Watch found a woman with a vortex over her head. She is the prophecied return of the cursed woman who will bring about the apocalypse.
The kid turns out to be the son of the guy from the beginning of the movie. The guy whose girlfriend left him. The son is a very powerful Other that is prophesied to break the truce and win the war. What happened to him twelve years ago was manipulated by the Dark Others to make the kid join their side.

"Day Watch" summarizes all of that in English before getting into the movie and switching back to Russian.
The boy is a Day Watch vampire and is running around killing people. The woman with the vortex is another powerful Other being trained by the boy's father for the Night Watch. If she and the boy ever meet it'll bring about the end of the world. The leader of the Day Watch is convinced that his forces can win in a battle so he's trying to get the truce broken by the Night Watch. He frames the boy's father for a few murders of Day Watch people and demands that he be turned over for execution. Knowing it's a setup, the Night Watch hides him.
The boy's father has evidence that his son has been doing unlicensed murders and has been hiding evidence. He's also falling for vortex girl, who he's been training. But there's no dating of trainees. So the movie has this forbidden love story element heaped upon the love of the father and son on opposite sides of a war and the two people trying to fight for his affection.
Enter "The Chalk of Fate". It's a piece of chalk that can change history, but only your history. Not as big of a story point as I expected, but it's key to the deus ex machina that undoes both movies. I don't know how the third movie is supposed to work.

There should be an award for subtitles just so these movies can win. If you get the DVD for the first movie you can have almost any language and any subtitles you want. Flip the disk and you can get the original theatrical version with the cool subtitles.
The subtitles behave differently for a monologue or a conversation. When someone knocks on the door the words pulse. When talking about something that gets thrown across the room the words go with it. If the audio is from a TV the subtitles appear on the TV. If the audio is from a radio with static the words flicker. They wipe away as people or things pass in front of them. In the first movie when the hungry vampire woman talks her words start white, then turn red, then drift away like drops of blood in the water.

I got the first on DVD and I'll get the second. It's an action movie, not horror.

Friday, June 08, 2007

DVD Review: A Bit of Fry and Laurie

I finished watching seasons 1 & 2 of "A Bit of Fry and Laurie" last night. It's a late 80's sketch comedy show starring only Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.
Season 1 was pretty good. Very Monty Pythonish.
Season 2 was pretty much a lame rehash of season 1. However, the DVD for season 2 had something worth watching. It's the "Cambridge Footlights Revue" from 1982.

"The Cambridge Footlights" is an acting troupe at an unnamed major British university. Many huge names in British theatre got their start their. Kind of like how "Second City" is a start for many American comics.
In 1981-82 they had Stephen Fry (Black Adder, V for Vendetta) , Hugh Laurie (Black Adder, House), Tony Slattery (Whose Line Is it Anyway), Emma Thompson (tons of stuff), and two people I've never heard of. A collection of some of their best work is shown in "Cambridge Footlights Revue". Most of it is also available on YouTube.

I believe I posted "The Letter" a couple weeks ago.


Shakespeare Master Class

Shoot Somebody Famous



Really Quite Pale

A Better England Through Racism

If You Can't Smoke It, Kick It To Death

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Movie Review: The Seventh Seal

Most. Overrated. Movie. Ever!

I've been seeing spoofs of this movie my whole life. I've heard great things about this movie. Then they showed it at AFI Theatre Saturday night and I realized I'd been had.
I suppose if I'd looked up a crib sheet to explain all the symbolism I'd like it more. Most people I overheard leaving were trying to figure out what much of it meant and were coming up with some stuff that even they didn't like.

Short version: A man wakes on a rocky beach where he's washed up after his ship crashed on the way back from the Crusades. Death comes for the man so the man challenges Death to a game of chess. As they start playing we cut to a roving band of performers. Eventually the crusader and his servant meet up with the performers and they begin to travel together. Every so often Death shows up so he and the crusader can talk philosophy and chess. The crusader wins the game and makes it home to his wife. Then Death comes for them all.
There was one scene that was kind of dark that could have been the famous scene where two people are speaking, one in profile and one straight on. But I get the impression that most of the spoofs I've seen were spoofs of spoofs instead of spoofs on this movie.

Did not like.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I am the tech faerie

I am the tech faerie. I emerge from my remote computer hive to flit about the office bringing joy and wonder to my fellow office drones.

"Doug, I'm researching this term and can't find anything."
"Try looking for this word."
"Wow! You're amazing, Tech Man!"

"Doug, I'm almost done designing this image but there's a dark spot I can't get rid of."
"Let me try."
(60 seconds later)
"The spot is gone! Thanks, Tech Man!"

"Doug, my e-mail doesn't work."
"Hmmm. Let me try my Power Glare!"
"Look! Six unread messages. Good job, Tech Man!"

"My work here is done. Now I must away to my computer lair."

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Movie Review: Farce of the Penguins

National Geographic and others have been filming penguins for decades. In "Farce of the Penguins" Bob Saget makes a spoof of "March of the Penguins" by piecing together decades of stock footage and lots of voice overs.

It's not worth paying for, but if you have NetFlicks or something it's moronic fun.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Movie Review: Severence

There's a newish genre of movies. I call them "horror/comedies". They take a genre of horror and make it a comedy.
It's newish because they've had films like this before but they're just becoming popular. Recently we've had "Shaun of the Dead" and "Slither". Historically we've had things like "Airplane" and "Evil Dead 2/Army of Darkness". Evil Dead 1 doesn't count because it wasn't supposed to be funny. The upcoming remake IS supposed to be funny.
"Severence" is just the latest in this genre.

You've never heard of this movie before. I can almost guarantee this. I saw a trailer several months back, but it was online and the only advertising for this movie I've seen.
"Severence" is often described as what you'd get if you sent the cast of "The Office" on a team building exercise. That's not a bad description, really.
A group of people from a weapons development company go out into the Balkans for a team building weekend. On the bus ride out they setup the cast. There's the office hottie (Laura Harris from Dead Like Me), the stoner, the dweeby but over prepared boy scout, the guy who always challenges the boss, the token black, the mousy girl, the pointy haired boss (Tim McInnerny of Black Adder) and some other people that I forget now.
As they near the cabin they find a tree blocking the road. Instead of making an effort to move it they suggest to the bus driver that he take this suspiciously convenient side road. He refuses and leaves them all to hike. The boss insists that all maps have a 1 inch equals 1 mile scale and starts off. Instead of hopping the log they take the side road, ignoring the downed fence that indicates that their company owns the land and they really shouldn't be there. They find a beaten up old cabin that the manager insists is the luxury cabin they were looking for. They turn on the generator, get the water up, find some old company files written in Russian, and settle in.
Next thing you know someone is killing them off one at a time.

I know I'm not really selling this as a comedy. The comedy is alternatively much like "The Office" where it's office funny but not gonna give huge laughs and then very, very, oh so very dark. With some slapstick thrown in.
Such as the guy who gets his leg caught in a bear trap... five times.
Such as the guy who falls against a tree to tend to his wounded leg. Then the crude grappling hook made by some girls trying to escape from a pit lands next to him. Then gets drug back in the hole. Several times.
The guys who whips out the rocket launcher and ... no, I can't give that one away.
I can't explain it.

I've seen too many of these movies despite disliking the "take a short cut/get lost/locals eat you" genre. People keep giving them to me to watch. I can't turn down free!
This one I liked. This one I'll get on DVD.
If you don't like horror you might want to skip this. The violence has not been toned down just because it's a comedy.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Movie Review: Man of the Year

This movie got some pretty bad reviews. It was a movie that could go either way and went the wrong one. It wasn't as bad as the reviewers said, but it wasn't what it could have been.

Here's the basics. Robin Williams has his own political comedy show. Someone suggests he run for president so he does. He wins, too. He probably would have won legitimately in a nationwide election, but he only wins in the 14 states he's on the ballot in because of a glitch in the electronic voting machines. Someone in the company that makes the machines points this out and in return the boss pumps her full of drugs and fires her. She tells Robin, the company smears her and tries to kill her, Robin falls for her, he breaks the story to the public, the election is held again, but he doesn't run.

This could have been another "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" meets "The Daily Show" but instead they never make it past the campaign.

Just don't bother.