Monday, December 31, 2007

Movie Review: Aliens vs Predator: Requiem

As one reviewer said, this movie wasn't made to attract new fans.

"Aliens vs Predator" (the first word has an "s") picked up right where "Alien vs Predator" left off - with an alien bursting out of the chest of a dead predator. The creature quickly trashes the ship and it crashes in the mountains of Colorado. A bunch of facehuggers in jars escape and start some fresh chaos with a few hunters and homeless people living in the sewers. A distress signal was sent before the ship crashed and a lone predator comes to deal with the mess.

I liked the first movie enough to get it on DVD. This movie, however, I won't. Not unless the third one is really good. See, the first movie worked really hard to tie in with the other Alien and Predator movies.
The expedition was sponsored and attended by Charles Bishop Weyland of Weyland Industries. He was played by Lance Henriksen who played the role of Bishop the android in the first Alien movie. The droid and the missions in the Alien movies were under the control of Weyland-Yutani. We now know that Bishop was modeled after the company founder.
A history was established for the existence of Aliens and Predators on Earth. The Predators behaved according to what has been established as their hunter's code of honor. The Aliens stuck to their known life cycle.
At the end an alien pops out of the chest of the deceased predator. This alien's physiology has adapted to reflect that of the host.

The second movie picks up exactly where the first movie ends. The predator-alien hybrid trashes the inside of the ship and it crashes in Colorado. The rest of the movie plays out like a teen slasher flick. The Alien and Predator movies all had adult cast trying to face down an alien threat. The first AvP movie did the same thing. This movie had a few adults but the focus was on the teens getting chased down. More Freddy vs Jason than Alien vs Predator.
The only nod to it's roots was when the military handed over a predator's energy weapon to Ms. Yutani at the very end.
The alien life cycle is disrupted for the sake of the story. Normally you need a queen to lay pods which release facehuggers which plant an alien in the chest of a host which bursts out and goes around killing. In this one a normal alien impregnates a pregnant woman who then explodes in lots of little aliens.
The predators are supposed to self destruct when they know they've lost so the aliens don't destroy everything. It's hard to tell if one of the predators was trying to self destruct or send a distress signal early in the movie. But a single alien shows up and neglects to blast the area from space. Instead he comes down in person. I'm thinking that he finds the challenge of fighting the predator/alien hybrid too tempting to turn down.

Aaaanyway. I hope they do better on the third one.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Solstice

I'll be gone the week of Christmas. Merry Whatever.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thief 3

I'm going through old e-mails and weeding things out. I wrote this after playing a level of one of my favorite computer games ever.

Fiddle dee dum,
Fiddle dee dee,
The old gray lady is after me.
-Children's nursery rhyme

I had a chat with the Hammerite inspector. He's been investigating an ancient murderer commonly known only by nursery rhymes and bedtime stories. Most people don't even believe in her. Until last night I was someone who you'd count among the non-believers. Watching someone bring statues to life and send them in search of your head tends to do wonders for ones faith.

So now I find myself standing staring up at the abandoned orphanage and sanitarium. Very Chas Addams meets Frank Lloyd Wright. The inspector grew up here. It was here where he saw her kill his best friend. It's no surprise he's terrified to come back here. I'm just standing in the front yard and my nipples are telling me that they'd prefer to wait here for me.

The front door is very well boarded up. Someone cleared an old growth forest to keep these doors closed. Its curious. All the boards are on the outside of the door. Whoever did this was more concerned with keeping someone in than keeping people out.

With the doors sealed, the windows barred, and the walls unclimbable, I'm only seeing one possible entrance. No, this isn't a trap, not at all. They just don't like salesmen. At least that's what I try telling myself.

I open the cellar door and start down.

For an abandoned building it's very noisy in here. Like a strong wind through the trees. You almost want to believe there's something trying to whisper to you.

Pretty much everything is made of stone. Don't want those dangerous orphans breaking out. The floor is covered with crud. A fungus or mildew or some such filth coats the walls. I take a deep breath, drop into a crouch, and proceed. Slow and silent is the order of the day. Why? I don't want to be detected by ... whatever.

Down the hall I find a room. Remarkable to find these two old candlesticks sitting in a place otherwise empty. They must have left in a hurry. I take the candlesticks. In the distance a baby starts to cry. On my shoulder a parrot growls. I consider putting the candlesticks back.

I continue to creep. I go downstairs. There's about a foot of water on the floor. Old generators, shelves full of bottles, ... a cage. The wind carries the sound of someone screaming, of mad laughter. I start back upstairs clinging to the shadows. I ask myself again what I'm hiding from. If there really is something here do you think it ... she? ... doesn't know you're here? I continue to creep through the shadows for much the same reason you turn down the car radio when looking for an address. Because.

I continue to search the building room by room. I collect loot. I see nobody. There are noises, but I'm pretty sure whatever is making them doesn't fit any of the usual definitions of alive.

In the Lobby there two staircases. Metal. Noisy. They curve around nothing and disappear behind a wall. I start up the stair on the left. More noises. I stop. The noises don't. A rhythmic sound. Footsteps? A child playing jump rope? The staccato bang bang of a firing squad? Whatever, it's not me. I continue.

Creep, creep, creep. Another stair. It's a spiral staircase wrapping around a stone column. Blind corners. I fucking hate blind corners. Behind me the bird grips the back of the chair. She's peering over my shoulder at the screen ... hissing.

I start up the spiral stair. Step by step I take that stair. Something is very, very wrong. I can feel it. I don't want to know what's ahead. I keep moving.

The bird paces back and forth along the back of the chair. She peers around my neck on the right, then the left, then back again. The stair seems to have been going up forever when ...


This isn't the memory of some sound being carried on the wind.
This is loud.
This is happening.
This is coming from right around this turn.

I force myself to press that button. A few more steps. The stair ends
in a very solid wood door.


I can't tell if the door is shaking or if it's my imagination.


Is there somewhere else in the building I could be looking right now?
What weapons do I have handy? Maybe I should come back when it isn't
10:30 at night.


I mean, really, it is past my bedtime.


I press F10. Quick save.


I take a step. Then another. The bird stops and watches.


I open the door.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

a preschool mystery

Some nonsense that I wrote some time ago.

It was raining that Tuesday morning in May and the playground was closed. Worms were crawling on the sidewalk, puddles were begging to be jumped in, and here I was, trapped in a classroom with the four walls slowly closing in on me. A dark mood had settled over the room. Somber games of checkers, a few quiet puzzles, even the umbrella sword fight seemed forced. Nerves were on edge and the locals were getting twitchy. Maybe it was that our underwear was still riding up from splashing in the gutters this morning, maybe it was the knowledge that the end of school was so close we could kick it in the shin, or maybe, just maybe, it was the waiting, the uncertainty, the knowledge that at any moment...

The window panes rattled with the shock of the blast. I don't know what was worse, the thunderclap or the screams of little Betsy Widderschmidt. It didn't take much to make Betsy scream. Girls like her made me wonder why guys put so much value on large chests. To me it just meant more screaming power.

When the screaming didn't stop I looked up from last Thursday's comics page to see what was the matter. There lie Jimbo Smith, in the ruins of a Lincoln Log cabin, with a suction dart stuck to his head. Someone in this classroom had shot him and it was my job to find out who.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The day after tomorrow

I've been saying I'd be able to tear up the carpet and put down the new flooring the day after tomorrow for the last week. I think I've finally been able to upgrade it to tomorrow.

It's been a little while so I'm going to repeat the back story.

There's been a leak in my roof for a long time. It only really shows when it's been raining pretty heavy or when it's been raining for a long time. The odd thing was that it would drip on the first floor ceiling instead of the second floor.
According to city records my house was built in 1890, which due to some old muddle in the paper work means 1870-1890. Back then they used lime based mortar which the rain has slowly been dissolving over the last 117 years. So if I try to anchor stuff in the wall, such as a hammock, it just rips right out. So I thought that a channel had been cut so that rain water would run down between the bricks.
The back wall was in particularly bad shape due to a series of idiotic repairmen. This led to me having to have the whole back wall replaced. While they did that I had to move all my stuff from the back rooms into my bedroom. Since one particular room was empty I started work there.
I've taken all the cement off the wall and routed out all the old mortar. It was softer than it should have been almost everywhere. In many places it felt like drilling through Rice Krispies(tm). In some places I went so deep that the whole brick came out. I then repointed the bricks with fresh mortar.

Now you're up to speed.

The last of the mortar was supposed to be pushed last Friday. Then I'd clean the bricks, cut the loose bits of ceiling down, remove the extra screws from the joists, and dust the beams. Then the next day I'd tear up the carpet and put down the flooring.
But I ran out of mortar. I cleaned the bricks Friday with a bunch of sandpaper flaps attached to my drill. The bricks all became a lot brighter even if I didn't get all the mortar I slopped about cleaned off.
Saturday I ran out and got another 80lb bag of mortar. I only needed 10lbs or so, but they don't sell that. So I'm open to ideas about what to do with the rest. I finished mortaring that night.
I think I killed Sunday by playing Pikmin and making another Home Depot run for glue.
Last night I took down all the screws, cut away enough ceiling so that some prudent use of moulding should cover the mess, dusted, shoveled out the room, and moved out everything I reasonably could and still get out of the room again. The plan was to come home tonight and rip up the carpet.
But then I looked at the old ceiling joists. I like them... mostly. They're dark brown with age and whatever they were treated with. They look old. But those same idiot construction people who screwed up the back wall also splattered stuff on these beams leaving light spots. Plus there's some light stripes in some places where the old wooden slats were once attached. Some discoloration is fine and can add to the place. This doesn't. I took the drill sander to it. The wood gets lighter but still looks good. The spots fade but still remain. So I have to paint. Hunter Green I think. It should go well with brick.
But the little voice in my head screams. It wants to put the flooring down. I tell it that I paid good money for that flooring and I don't want it dripped on. It says that we can put down a curtain or a tarp or newspaper. I say there's already carpet there. It really, really wants to put down flooring. I'm telling it we can still get this down before leaving for Dougmas. So now it's sulking and wanting me to rant about how the floor is ALWAYS two days away.

There will still be work to do, but I will get that floor down before I leave Saturday.

Still to come:a.k.a. the 2ish year plan
Flooring for the newly discovered storage space and a hatch in the bedroom
Sleeping in a bed again
Ripping down the kitchen ceiling
Putting up lighting and translucent ceiling in the kitchen
Modular Plyboo wall covering
Deck out back
Deck on roof
Hammock on roof

Monday, December 17, 2007

Movie Review: I am Legend

"I Am Legend" is an awesome movie that I will be getting on DVD.

The overall premise is that scientists altered measles to attack cancer instead of people. It mutated and killed 90% of the population, turned 9% into "dark seekers", and left 1% alone. They're not vampires, they're not zombies but they share characteristics of both.
Will Smith is some brilliant military virologist who had immunity and continues working on a cure after everyone in the world is dead.

There was a lot of little stuff they showed that I found interesting and some stuff that they'd normally use as product placement that they didn't show close enough to really identify.
For example, at the beginning of the movie when he's hunting deer from a car I was flashing on some Native American riding a horse to hunt deer. Suddenly I really wanted that car to be a Mustang. Someone else who knows cars better than I said it was.

Then when he moved to running so did the camera.

In Times Square you saw the usual posters - Avenue Q, The Producers, Wicked, etc. - but there was also a poster for a Batman/Superman movie. I really hope 2010 brings us that movie.

The dog gave a great performance.

Will Smith has to trap dark seekers to do human trials of his vaccines on. When he catches one the leader of the dark seekers stands in the door glaring at Will. The lead seeker clearly wanted to charge down the hero when he trapped the female seeker. I'm taking it that she meant something to him. I'm also taking it that the lead seeker was extra motivated to kill the man who took his woman. Thus the relentless attack on his house was as motivated by revenge as food.

The seekers clearly had a leader, they had domesticated seeker dogs, one was opening holes in the roof to allow others in instead of moving on to kill. Clearly there was more to them than your standard zombie.

For as much as I focus on the creatures and the cure that's only part of the movie. There's Will's memories of his family still tormenting him. There's his own guilt for allowing humanity to die off. There's the isolation and the madness that has been building but really comes out as the movie progresses. There's the way that nature is taking back New York. There's the fixed routine that he goes through every day in a world where everyone is gone. And there's his search for survivors that he doesn't really believe are out there.

They pack a lot into this movie and do it well.

All in all it was a very Rod Serling movie.

Friday, December 14, 2007


This stuff is called milo. It's one of the more obscure crops since people don't eat it. Well, they can, but if you do it probably means you're living somewhere without much else to eat. The stuff Dad grows, that's him in the combine in the background, typically ends up being feed for chickens, cows, pigs, and other farm animals. It can be fermented into alcohol. I've only seen that done accidentally when rain collected in a barrel of the stuff. The squirrels were tipsy for a few days following.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Waste of time

There's a Health and Wellness center on base. Apparently on Wednesdays there's free massages, acupressure, and acupuncture. So me and a few of the ladies around the office went there. We sat in a circle and got needles put in our ears.

Then we waited.

And we waited.

And we waited.

One of my co-workers got her needles removed.
Someone who arrived after us got moved to a massage table.
The co-worker got moved to an acupressure table.

And we waited.

Finally we flagged someone down and got the needles removed.

Turned out we weren't in a line for the tables like we thought. We had to be a bit pushier.

The needles didn't do anything for any of us. The co-worker said the acupressure was pretty lame, too.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Now that Dad has retired he's doing some stuff around the farm that I've wanted to do for awhile. When I went home for Thanksgiving he had cleaned up the old corn husker from Grandma's farm. He'd also grown some indian corn to run through it.

Just drop the ears of corn down the trough on top and turn the crank. The kernels drop out the bottom and the empty cob comes out that hole in the front.

See? Corn off the cob.

note: be sure to let the corn dry before running it through the corn husker or you'll have creamed corn dropping out the bottom.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Movie Review: Enchanted

I had to get motivated to go see this movie. It could have been really sappy. But I remember how my old boss viewed the Princess Bride even though he's never seen it. Still, I went out to get supper as much as to see the movie.

The movie starts in a knockoff of an old Disney cartoon. Classic art styling for the characters and background. Think "Bambi", "Snow White", and "Cinderella". We meet the handsome prince, his wicked stepmother who rules in his place, her servant, and the beautiful maiden who calls the animals with her song. If the prince and the maiden ever meet they'll fall in love and the wicked stepmother will lose her throne. Of course, they meet and plan to wed the next day. The stepmother dresses as an old crone and shoves the beautiful maiden down a well that leads to real world New York.

In New York the princess doesn't know how to function and finally ends up beating on the door of a castle on a billboard. There she's helped by a jaded, single father. Despite his wishes she crashes on his sofa, makes her own dress the next morning, summons the creatures of New York to help clean, gets him in hot water with his girlfriend, and follows him to work.

The prince follows and begins searching New York for the princess. The wicked stepmother's henchman follows to try to poison the princess. A chipmunk follows and loses the power of speech. The princess breaks into song in the park, as do some musicians, sewer workers, and half of New York.

Naturally the jaded father learns that there really is such a thing as love and the princess learns that love involves more getting to know each other than just a chance meeting in the woods.

See? Sappy. What I'm leaving out are the details that make this something that an adult can enjoy as well as a princess obsessed 4 year old. Just make sure you have some insulin handy.

I won't get it on DVD, but I'm glad I went to see it.

Friday, December 07, 2007


Our department had it's 20th anniversary party yesterday. That's why there was no post. And I'm busy at the moment so instead of the pictures of the farm that I intended to post you get a doodle I made while waiting for web tracking logs to upload.

That's right. I doodle in Illustrator.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Movie Review: The Mist

I'm not a huge Stephen King fan, but I've always loved his short story/novella "The Mist". I've read it twice. Every time a movie called "The Fog" comes out I think they finally got around to adapting the story and every time I'm wrong. That said, it's been a long time since I read it and the end of the story is rather obscured in my mind.

From what I can recall the movie is a pretty true adaptation. The unnecessary sex scene was cut. There's a few things that happened that brought back bits of the story. I'm not sure if the very, very end was right or not but I liked it.

Here's the premise. A lake shore community has a bad storm. While people are in the grocery store stocking up on supplies a thick fog rolls in. There's something in the fog. Lots and lots of somethings of various species who were beautifully rendered or crafted. Really, I'm not sure if they were puppets or digital creations. Probably both.
So the movie becomes the story of a people under siege. Some have compared it to the episode of the Twilight Zone called "The Martians Have Come to Maple Street". The local churchie is stuck in the store and starts preaching Revelations and the anger of the Old Testament God. The freaked out people follow her and things go poorly. You begin to understand why tossing these people to the lions wasn't such a bad idea. But her boogity-boogity story gains strength as the group faces one type of monster after another.

Near the end of the movie our leading characters make a run for the car and drive as far as the gas will take them. This gives us the opportunity to see what has been happening outside their grocery store fortress.

The director makes sure not to screw up the suspenseful parts by trying to put a soundtrack where it should be quiet. He also directed the other good Stephen King movies "The Green Mile" and "The Shawshank Redemption". His next work is a remake of "Fahrenheit 451" which should be pretty good.

I'd like to see it again, but I'm not sure if I'll get it on DVD.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Movie Review: Beowulf

It's been so long since I've read the story of Beowulf that I keep wanting to confuse it with Gilgamesh. They're both epic historical tales that I read at about the same time.

What I remember about Beowulf is that there was a great Norse drinking hall and kingdom that had fallen into misery and suffering because of attacks from a creature called Grendel. Many heroes had come to save them and all had died. Then Beowulf comes, fights Grendel in the nude and wins, then has to go kill Grendel's mother. Not terribly creative. Sounds like standard warriors boasting around the mead cooler.

This covers the first half of the movie. A few minor changes and then the story becomes much grander, longer, and more interesting.

One of the main things to note about this movie is that it's completely digital. People are hard to make digitally. They look fake. You may remember "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" tried really hard but fell short. "The Polar Express" tried but also came up short. If you saw "The Animatrix" you may remember one short film called "Final Flight of the Osiris" where the digital people were fabulous. The fight scene at the beginning was particularly good. Well, "Beowulf" was on par with "Final Flight of the Osiris" for realism. I think we're only about a decade from George Lucas making digital Luke, Leia, and Han and making new Star Wars movies.

Lots of nudity. Beowulf always has something in the way while fighting in the nude. Grendel's mom is based on Angelina Jolie with the naughty bits minimized so that you'd get a similar look if she were in a bikini. I've no idea how much they tweeked her body. I'm also assuming that the king's ass was not really based on Sir Anthony Hopkins' ass.

And action, action, action. Beowulf fighting sea monsters, Beowulf fighting Grendel, Beowulf fighting a dragon, but with a respectable story holding it all together.

I'll probably get this on DVD. I expect this will be the movie that HD-DVD/BluRay owners must have just like "The Matrix" was the movie DVD owners had to have.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Dougmas Jar

It's December. That means that Dougmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, please put a penny in an old man's hat. If you haven't got a penny a ha' penny will do. If you haven't got a ha' penny then I'm not terribly surprised. I don't think the American mint ever made such niggling small change.

The point I wanted to make was that it's well past time you put out your Dougmas jar. From December 1 through December 31 all good Dougintologists have a jar set by where you empty your pockets. Each evening when you empty your pockets you're supposed to dump your change into this jar. Then, on New Year's Day, you count up the change and send a check for that amount to your favorite charity.

Why? Why should you put your change in a jar at home? Because fuck the Salvation Army. That's why.

The Salvation Army is one of the most universally recognized charities. They provide food and shelter for the homeless whether due to poverty or disaster. Seems like a good cause, right? Alas, they are also a religious organization. Their giving is based on whether or not you believe what they believe or are at least willing to sit through their services. It's not out of the kindness of their hearts that they're helping people. It's just a tool to try to manipulate the most vulnerable into their beliefs.

And then there's their stand on gay rights. They do hire gays, but only because they're legally required not to discriminate in their hiring practices. They've spent several years spending your donations to lobby the Bush administration to give them a waiver on having to not discriminate. They've spent donation money to fight equal rights for homosexuals laws in Scotland. They refuse to provide aid to poor gays. They refuse to provide equal benefits to gay employees.

The Church of Dougintology frowns on any kind of discrimination and use of carrot or stick to manipulate people into sharing your beliefs. It encourages everyone to find their own beliefs even if that belief is no belief.

Doug's preferred charities include:
• Solar Electric Light Fund (
• Trees for the Future (

For our patron saint, Douglas Adams, I include:
• Dian Fossey Gorilla Foundation (
• Save the Rhino (