Thursday, January 31, 2008

Book review: Murder at the ABA

Isaac Asimov was one of the most prolific authors ever. Besides having much of his sci-fi I've got several of his kids books, his Guide to the Bible (really excellent), and his joke book. I almost picked up his Guide to Shakespeare the other day. I used one of his medical texts to disprove the idea that men have fewer ribs than women - as taught by my high school science teacher. See most medical texts don't even mention it because it's stupid.

Now I'm slowly fleshing out a murder mystery of my own. The subjects are isolated so I'm reading other mysteries that take place in a limited area. Books like "Murder on the Orient Express" and movies like "Clue". I'm not planning it as a comedy, but most everything I write is a farce on some level.

In collecting research material I found "Murder at the ABA" by Asimov. Asimov isn't known for his mysteries. Ok, there's those short stories with all those old guys in the lounge of their club but that doesn't count. This book helps show why he's not known for his mysteries. It's not bad. But it's not something you just can't make yourself put down.

The central character is so-so author Darius Just. Just is attending the ABA (American Booksellers Association) convention to help his publisher convince major bookstores to carry his stuff. Also there is much more successful author, former protégé of Just, and murder victim Giles Devore. Asimov and several other real world characters who you might see in a mid-70's ABA conference are also there.

We're given a list of people who Devore has pissed off in recent months and then Devore is found dead in his room. Just blames himself for Devore's death thinking that if he'd just remembered to pick up a package that Devore asked him to get then none of this would have happened. So over the next two days Just works on proving not only that Devore was murdered but who dunnit.

Just and Asimov bump into each other several times in the book. Just is trying to solve a murder and Asimov is contracted to work on a book called "Murder at the ABA". Eventually they end up working together on the book I'm talking about. In several areas they end up squabbling via footnotes. By including himself in the book Asimov gets to poke fun at himself.

But unless you're an Asimov junky there's no real reason to read this book. I may crack it open again to take a few notes but other than that it'll just get shoved in the Asimov wing of my library.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Book review: Schlock Mercenary: The Tub of Happiness

I've been bad about reviewing some of the cartoon books I collect. Heh. I'll have to post a picture of the comic wing of my library sometime soon.

Howard Taylor was an engineer at Novell. He needed a hobby to help blow off some steam. So he started cartooning. He'd draw around the kitchen table and kill several hours a night. The cartoons went up on a website. Fast forward a few years and he quit his job at Novell to do the cartoon full time. The first book, "Schlock Mercenary: Under New Management", was released a little more than a year ago. I ordered one for me and two for gifts. The problem with this book was that it jumped into the cartoon several years in. It's book three in the eventual series. It contains a couple of story lines but there's missing background. I have to assume he started there because that's where he became happy with his art.

"Schlock Mercenary: The Blackness Between" is the second book released and the fourth in the series.

"Schlock Mercenary: The Tub of Happiness" is the third book, starts before the first strip and runs through several story lines.

The comic is the ongoing tale of a company of missionaries. It successfully pulls off the daily joke format and the long running storyline format. Being an engineer, Taylor does his best to keep the science accurate, or at least consistently wrong. When dealing with the more obscure sciences or feels the need to explain why he's doing it wrong or the history between certain species and corporations the author puts a blurb under the cartoon. All blurbs are contained within the books along with a few extras and some fan art.

If you're not sold on the book yet feel free to have a free look. Schlock Mercenary is a daily strip appearing at The archives are complete and you can read the whole run before deciding whether you want to help support his career choice by shopping at

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Movie Review: Rambo (2008)

When I first heard Stallone was working on another Rambo movie I was skeptical. Not as skeptical as I was about a new Rocky movie, but still skeptical. And while I can't remember the early Rambo movies well enough to make a comparison, I did like this movie.

John Rambo is getting up there in years. Duh, right? He's been living out his years in Thailand in relative peace. He runs a boat up and down the river and captures snakes for selling to snake fighting pits. A group of Christian Missionaries ask him to take them up river to the war zone in Burma (Myanmar). They plan to offer medicine to villagers in exchange for being allowed to force their religion on them. Rambo rejects the superior-to-thou "leader" so a more sincere pretty face asks him. Naturally, Rambo agrees to ferry them in but with ample warnings.
They're attacked by river pirates. Rambo offers to pay them off but they want everything plus the girl. So he kills them all. And Mr. Leader criticizes Rambo for saving the from a short life of non-stop rape.

They get to the village and the leader says they'll walk back. They get to the village which is promptly raided by the people claiming to be the Army. Anyone who isn't gunned down is locked in small bamboo cages.

A few weeks later the head of the church comes to Rambo and asks him to ferry a team of mercenaries to where he dropped off the missionaries. Rambo and his bow and arrow come along on the mission despite the wishes of the mercs.

That's pretty much it for plot. Most everything after that is sneaking, shooting, and explosions. Lots of flying body remains. Giant holes appearing in things.

It's pretty good for a last grab at money from an old franchise. It could have been awful. It wasn't.

I won't get it on DVD. I don't have any other Rambos on video either.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Scientific philosophy

On of my co-workers' kids asked her if windows cast shadows. I concluded that thick enough glass blocks all light so windows must block a tiny bit of light so yes it does cast a shadow.

This let to another question I've pondered from time to time. Is the area under a magnifying glass that isn't the focal point a shadow? The ring that holds the lens does block light so it casts a shadow. But the area between that shadow and the focal point just has the light bent away from it... the light isn't really blocked, just redirected.

Here's what I mean.

What do you think? Is that area in shadow or not?

Friday, January 25, 2008


When did Ebay stop being an auction site? I remember the early days when you'd go there, see something you like, and wait for days so you could undercut some poor slob at the last second. But the last few years the "Bid" buttons have been overwhelmed by "Buy Now" buttons. Now I don't even see many "Bid" buttons.

I went looking for a Panasonic EP-3203 massage chair and the only option was "Buy Now". Now, I'll grant you, the price they're asking is half of MSRP but what about that "shop victoriously" crap on their new commercials. This isn't an auction. It's become just another store.

Don't bother looking. It's gone now. No, I didn't buy it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Home supplies

I did some shopping late last week. Then some more material for the house came in Monday. Repairs are back in full swing.

I've been mudding some dinks in the sheetrock and covering some big holes. Experience has shown me to be very bad at this. But after considering all the other options I realized there really are no other options worth considering. I've had the opportunity to watch some professionals so I'm hoping this will go better than previous efforts. So far so good. The first coat was horribly cracked since I had to fill large holes and the plaster contracted as it dried. The second coat is looking pretty good but not perfect. I think after a third pass I'll be able to resort to a wet sponge and sandpaper.

The delivery was a hatch with a fold down ladder and some platforms for making a walk area in attics. I have no kitchen left. It's all cardboard.

The hatch promises to be harder to install than I thought. I hoped to be able to fit it between ceiling joists. I was a fool. I'm gonna have to order some lumber and really do some damage up there before I can put this in. Being resigned to that means I am have more options in where I install this thing.

To open up some room in my living room I emptied one of the boxes of attic panels and pushed them through the gap into the area I'll call an attic from now on. Then I followed them through. Even my scrawny self barely fit. These are designed for use in places where there's consistently 16" (center to center) between ceiling joists instead of just 16" average between joists. Why do I keep forgetting that this place was built by primitive knuckle draggers? I can still make them work, but I'll need to take a Dremel or something to cut a few tabs off the bottom.

And I still have flooring so I'm still putting down more of that.

Mostly I'm finding excuses to spend time upstairs since it's so bloody cold down stairs.

That post was written Monday. Since then I moved two more boxes flooring panels up into the attic. I crawled up there yesterday with a hand saw, a clip on light, a tape measure, and a parrot. A "Foundation" book was playing in the library while I worked.

Gandolf was very uncertain about being up there. It's kinda dark and cramped and dusty. I hoped to drag the wet/dry vac up there to deal with the dust but it wouldn't fit through the gap. Gandolf got spooked as I shuffled around flooring. She started to fly around which kicked up dust which spooked her more. She went through the gap into the library. After a bit she came back and sat on the ladder. Every so often she'd hoot and I'd hoot back. She just wanted to know that I was still there.

The hand saw was the one I was using with the miter box to cut the bamboo flooring. I was using it to cut off some of the tabs on the bottom of the attic panels. Not all. Just enough so they all fit. I didn't screw them into place yet. I still intend to get the vacuum up there and clean up the dust. If there's gonna be dust up there it's gonna be MY dust. With all this cardboard lying around maybe I can put some of it under the panels to make it easier to vacuum in the future. Maybe not.

Getting up and down is great fun. I climb up and work my torso through the gap. Then I bring my legs up above the ceiling joists in the library. Then I'm flat enough that I can pull myself through while sliding along the panels. Getting down is just the reverse. Legs go first and get above the ceiling joists. Once I'm mostly out then I can start looking for the ladder.

The tape measure was to get some real world measurements of the space between the joists. My proper construction numbers mesh up close enough to the real world numbers that the boards I planned for will still work. In both cases I left an inch or two more than I need so I can cut them to the proper fit. I'll have to cut them close and then whittle them to the proper form.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Movie review: The Orphanage

This is an independent film from Spain so readers in Wichita and places like that who don't have an independent movie theater probably won't get to see it.

I didn't see any trailers for this. I'm not sure what got me to go see it. I'm glad I did. Again, it's more of a rental than something to own.

"The Orphanage" is a horror movie. For much of it the scariest thing you see it the opening credits. But there are a few points where even I jumped. That's not easy either. It doesn't have the suspense value of "The Others" but it pulls off most of it's scares without blood. Really, it's the ending that made it for me. A good twist instead of the lame twist many get.

The movie starts with a little girl playing with the other kids at an orphanage. She's getting adopted later that day. Thirty years later she buys the place and moves in with her husband and adopted son with the intent to reopen it. At the masquerade themed open house she's attacked by a kid with a bag over it's head. When she gets back up her son is missing.

Months pass. She hears sounds and holds seances. She finds that there was a deformed orphan there thirty years ago who wore a bag over his head. After she left some of her friends led him to a cave on the beach and stole his bag. He drown in that cave rather than show his face. The five friends vanished.

I can't tell you more than that. I can. I won't.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Movie review: Cloverfield

Lets start off with the warnings.
If you got sick watching "The Blair Witch Project" then you don't want to see this movie. If you're particularly susceptible to motion sickness or migraines then don't see this movie. That said, playing "Quake 2" on the slightly off TV in my parents' basement made me sick after 20 minutes or so. I didn't get ill during this movie.

The point of this movie is to show a Godzilla-type film from the perspective of the people living in the city. To do this they needed a plot device that not only explained why someone was running a video camera the whole time but why they were stupid enough to stay in the city instead of fleeing with everyone else.

The movie opens with footage making it clear that the film is property of the Pentagon. It shows a young man and woman enjoying the morning after discovering their long term mutual attraction. The time stamp jumps ahead a month to when the young man is preparing to move to Japan for a new job. The old memory card is being recorded over to document his going away party. The camera is passed off to one of those guys who is perpetually stoned by nature. Shortly we find that something happened to the couple and there are hard feelings. Then the action starts.

There's booms, shaking, and a power failure. The power comes back on. Everyone runs to the roof. Something big explodes and everyone scatters as pieces hit the roof. They run down to the street where the head of the Statue of Liberty flies in and rolls down the street. If you look closely you can just see a tentacle waving way up the street.

So our heroes get joined up in the mob heading out of town. Bad things. The young lady calls and says she's stuck. The young man must save the day. So four characters head back into town. We see TV's showing news footage, we travel through the abandoned subway, we get apprehended by the military, we climb through some ruins, etc.

We don't ever really get a clear shot of the creature. Much like the original "Alien" movie the fear factor is enhanced by not giving anyone a clear view of the creature.

The real mystery isn't what the creature is or where it came from, but where did they find a handheld video camera that works in widescreen?

Again, I enjoyed it and recommend seeing it, but I don't see a place for it in my video collection.

Friday, January 18, 2008

I'm going to hell

I posted this Wednesday but it got listed a year ago.

I'm still burning through stuff I wrote a couple of years ago.

Jerusalem lie in ruins.

Barely an hour had passed since the twenty story Battle Jesus had marched out of the Mediterranean Sea and onto the beaches south of TelAviv. Absentmindedly flicking jets of the Israeli army out of the air, Jesus quickly strode across the short distance to Jerusalem.

At the city limits the gargantuan son of man pulled the 150 foot crucifix from his back and, in the manner of someone hacking their way through an African jungle, began swinging. With each blow of the mighty cross another city block fell.

But even Battle Jesus wasn't ready for him when he finally reached the Temple Mount. The Profit Muhammad, clad entirely in shining armor, his hair and beard pulled back into a braid running down his back, placed a size 243 sandal on top of the golden dome of the mosque. "This temple is mine! You shall not desecrate it!"

Jesus responded not with words but a volley of cross mounted missiles. Muhammad lept in front of the mosque to protect it from the missiles. Even as the last of them exploded Jesus was on him. Together they rolled through the city crushing homes and offices, apartments and kosher delis alike. First one had the advantage, then the other, and back, over and over across the city.

Just south of Hebrew University Muhammad managed to shove a massive thumb through the hole in Jesus's right hand. Roaring in pain he lept away from the Muslim Prophet. But his scream was cut short as 100 feet of sword was inserted just below his ribcage. Jesus staggered. Looking at Muhammad a smile spread across his face. Throwing back his head Jesus uttered the call to prayer. Reflex took over. Muhammad turned toward Mecca and bowed in prayer. Jesus used this opening to bring the cross down on his opponent's head.

Jesus drew the sword from his chest. Struck by a sudden coughing fit he found his mouth filled with his strangely alcoholic blood. He spat once upon the body of Muhammad before limping off towards the Temple Mount.

Behind him Muhammad struggled to pull himself to his feet. He was the first to see the newest player in their conflict.

Coming up fast over the horizon was the one thing that terrified Muhammad and Jesus alike. A woman. A liberated, scantly clad, woman with six arms and twice as much attitude. And from the way she was holding her trident she clearly intended to finish this once and for all.

The Dougmas Jar

I've been meaning to say how my Dougmas Jar went this year. I generated $16.50 in change in the month of December. It got inflated a bit because I bought stamps and got several of those dollar coins.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Expired Copyright Theatre

One of my pending projects is what I want to call "Expired Copyright Theatre". If I had actually become a teacher I probably would have done this with students in conjunction with the English or drama teacher. The idea is to take material whose copyright has expired and make audio books out of them. I was going to do some Brothers Grimm stuff to test the equipment and then get into more serious stuff. I wanted to start with "Allan Quatermain" and if I liked it work through the series. But when I went out to to download the text I found that someone had already recorded that one. This led me to They're already doing this sort of thing. I'm gonna listen to it so I can see if the reader was any good. If not then I'll still do it but with voices and sound effects.

Why Allan Quatermain? Have you seen "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"? I love that movie. I've read every book and story referenced in the movie except Allan Quatermain. I knew the reference, but I hadn't read them. I figure I'll start through the series and see if they're any good.

The Gutenberg Project is an effort to make old texts where the copyright has expired available for anyone to download. I've dropped several of their books on my Palm Pilot over the years. They've got a few audio books, but last time I looked even most of those were computers reading them. Which is part of why I wanted to do this.

Librivox is an effort to make those same texts available for listening. The big difference between Librivox and my proposed Expired Copyright Theatre is the copyright on the audio. I want to use the Creative Commons license. Specifically, we use the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 license. Briefly, this means that the entire world has permission to distribute the podcast for free, provided they give credit for it, don’t try to make money off of it, and don’t change it in any way1. Librivox on the other hand has all recordings donated into the public domain.

Anyway, watch this space. If I do start recording I'll start a separate blog and post the links there as half hour shows.

1Credit: Pseudopod

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Roland in Afghanistan

The contextual search for the Doonesbury archives is being worked on so they've pulled it for the time being. Still, as per yesterday's post, here's the strips for 28 July 1980-2 Aug 1980

Monday, January 14, 2008

Movie Review: Charlie Wilson's War

At first this movie had no appeal for me. Just another movie about some political blah-dee-blah. Then I heard a review on NPR and I realized that it's a comedy. Sorta.

Charlie Wilson was a fairly worthless politician. He voted on other people's stuff and sat on a couple of key committee. He was a womanizer and a scoundrel and worked mostly to get reelected. But one day he saw Dan Rather on TV in a turban and wanted to know why. It's because the Soviets were in control of Afghanistan but the people were revolting. This led Wilson to push Congress to better fund the resistance and to get Egypt, Israel, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia to work together to provide funds, arms, and training. The movie ends with the Soviets pulling out and Wilson being laughed at and ignored when he tried to build a few schools and do just a bit to rebuild the country.

Elementary history shows that with us ignoring them once the Soviets were gone that they fell to the Taliban. Osama Bin Laden was among the people that we trained and armed.

I was hoping to get some of the old Doonesbury cartoons from when Roland did a Dan Rather bit but I'm having some trouble getting into the searchable archives. Maybe in the next day or three.

The movie has some great banter which really turns the movie from the standard bickering politicians to a dry comedy.

I won't get it on DVD but I did enjoy seeing it. It was pretty much exactly what I expected from the NPR report.

Friday, January 11, 2008

a couple of events of note

I felt that I should mention that Tuesday was the 100th birthday of actor William Hartnell. Of course, he died in 1975 and was unavailable for comment on the event. William Hartnell was best known in the United States for being the first actor to play the role of The Doctor in the show Doctor Who. He held the role from 1963 to 1966.

Also, Sir Edmund Hillary just died at the age of 88. In 1953 he became the first person to climb Mount Everest creating a new growth industry for the Sherpas of Nepal. He followed this with a 1958 jaunt to the South Pole in modified tractors - the first successful vehicle-borne trip to the bottom of the world - and a 1975 jetboat expedition to the source of the Ganges.

Much of his time, however, was dedicated to bettering the lot of the Sherpa people. His Himalaya Trust raised about US$250k annually which was invested in schools, hospitals, bridges, pipelines and even an airfield, many of which Hillary helped personally to build. [source: The Register]

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Book review: Beyond the Blue Event Horizon

This is the second book in Fredrick Pohl's "Gateway" series.

In this universe mankind has discovered an alien artifact full of ships that they can't figure out how to steer. People volunteer for missions where they ride the ships out and back. They have no idea how long they'll be gone or if they'll survive. But if they find something of value they'll get a reward and a percentage of any money generated from that tech.

Robin Broadhead is one of the richest people ever and the principle owner of the Gateway Corporation. He discovered some terribly profitable tech on a mission. Alas, his wife and the rest of the team didn't return with him. His wife is still stuck inside the event horizon of a black hole. He remarried but still wants to save her or at least apologize for leaving her.

Another alien artifact has been discovered in the Solar System's Oort Cloud (an area about a light year out from the sun that all comets are thought to originate from). A family is sent out in a slow moving Earth ship to investigate. After many years they get there to find that it's a ship for mining comet material to make food for the aliens. There's a teenage boy on board whose mother came there in a Gateway ship and gave birth but never returned. Plus there's some primitive creatures living in one section that seem to kidnap and torture people.

This book follows both stories. It's on par with the first and sixth books in the series but you might want to read "Gateway" first.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Book review: Saturn

Ben Bova is one of those authors who is well respected by other science fiction authors. Part of why I hear his name a lot is because he used to be the editor for the sci-fi magazine "Analog". He helped a lot of big names get started. So when I saw one of his books on sale at the Friends of the Arlington Library Book Sale I grabbed it.

"Saturn" takes place after some major disasters happened on Earth. Religious organizations have taken over almost all governments and imposed a rather oppressive form of order on them. One of the reasons enough people were willing to accept them as the government was that they'd changed their views on birth control and abortion. It was the population problem that caused most of the problems the fundamentalists were trying to solve.

Anyway a space station capable of supporting 100,000 people is loaded up with 10,000 people and sent off towards Saturn on a scientific expedition to study the moons, rings, and whatever else they can find. The people chosen for the mission tend to be free thinkers and independently minded folks who don't fit in with the current administrations. Some are in scientific exile and some are in prison. There's scientists, farmers, engineers, shopkeepers, doctors, barbers, bureaucrats, and all sorts needed for a society.

The real purpose of the expedition is to study what will happen to a group of people sent off on their own. Will they form a new government or keep the rules and leaders assigned on Earth? What kind of society will develop? How will people behave?

Slipped into a few key places are representatives of the religious organizations ruling Earth. Their job is to make sure these people can't escape God's holy rule. They're to take power and keep everyone under their type of control.

And so the story goes. There's some unexpected scientific discoveries late in the book about why Saturn's rings are so full and bright while Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune have such puny rings. But most of the book focuses on the political manipulations aboard the station.

This story was OK but not great. The writing has convinced me to pick up a few other of Bova's work.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A very loose definition of the word "done"

I've "finished" the room I've been working on forever. I've been meaning to post these pictures for a week now.

The floor is natural color bamboo. There's no glue or nails holding it down. The tongue and groove technique along with strategic staggering of the boards means it's pretty solid. Plus the underflooring is uneven enough that nails and glue wouldn't be useful.
That duct is just dropped in place. It came out of the ceiling and fit nicely in that slot. Eventually I'll get a round duct to run up into the ceiling. That's the other reason I've not fastened the floor too securely. Once the duct is in place I'll fasten everything better.

I wanted to leave the ceiling joists their natural color but something was splattered on one of them that would have required sanding them all down. So dark green was used instead. It goes well with brick.
The far wall still needs some work. I'm trying to decide what to do. I'm awful with mud. I may rip it out and put up some bead board or something. Then cover that with a TV and a painting from Chris Cummings.

Moulding will eventually go in to cover the rough edges. I've been looking for shelving to put off camera to the right (second pic) since it's unfinished wall right now. Of all the places I've looked only one had premade stuff close to what I want and that's Ikea. The other two places that might work make it custom and charge a fortune. I'll probably use the Ikea stuff. Seems strange to me since I was basically trying to keep from putting my cheap college furniture in this room.

But most of the rest of the work, in this room, will wait until warmer weather.

Monday, January 07, 2008


Well, that was a nightmare.

You may recall that after driving home for Thanksgiving I didn't really have any desire to do it again too soon. So I booked a flight. Of course, that close to Christmas most seats were gone. I got what I could and ended up booking first class on the way out and everyone else class on the way back. It was more than I wanted to spend, but it turned out good.

On the way to Chicago I had the expected big chair, large arm rests, and leg room. Drinks were served before liftoff. Still, the seat itself was the same miserable thing everyone else gets.

In Chicago I found out that all the flights to Wichita had been cancelled. A look at the weather map showed a big nasty blob just passing Wichita. Clearly the airport would open later, but Chicago was already so backed up that they were still dropping small airports, not planning more departures.

I got in line at customer service and was about 25 people back. A big sign over their heads was encouraging people to use the machines. I'd lose my place, but I might make progress. So I talked to the machine. No more flights to Wichita, but I was automatically booked on a flight the next day. Being pushy I got it to tell me about a flight to Denver since Denver planned to still do Wichita flights later. So I asked the machine to get me booked on standby for both flights. But when the tickets printed they said I was booked for flights through Denver on the next day. I got back in line and was about 60 people back.

Nice people in line. We were all comrades in adversity. Cellphones were being passed around and everyone was sharing stories. One chap was going from Mexico to Fargo. He'd been in the airport system for 36 hours and was on his 3rd visit to Chicago.

Eventually I noticed that half of my ticket said standby while the other half said confirmed. So I got some lunch, went to my terminal, sat, and ate. I learned that the standby list is based not on first come-first served but on who paid the most and who has the most frequent flier miles. Since I was shanghaied into first class I was bumped up the list. The flight to Denver had 17 seats for 42 people. I made the list.

Similar story in Denver. More people than seats, but I still made the list.

I got to Wichita and waited with the crowd for an hour and a half. Everyone was rushing in now that the runways were clear. The baggage carousel was overloaded and kept shutting down once the baggage carts were dug out of the snow. My flight's luggage was split between two carousels so I had to watch both. Turned out it wasn't on either.

I check in with United. They say my bag is on a plane from Denver to Wichita that would land around 12:15am. This is another two hours. My brother and I go hunting food instead.

2:00pm the next day I call in and I'm told my bag in on a flight from Chicago at 10:30 that night.

The next day the system is down. But when I go to the airport to check they say (eventually) that my bag is out being delivered. Sure enough, when I got back to my parents' place there it is.

On the way back there was icy fog in Wichita so planes could take off but not land well. Our plane came in late so we took off late. In Atlanta a fast walk through the airport got me to my gate just as they were closing up the doors. Apparently Delta likes to close up early.

But I made it and got my bird picked up from the bird kennel before they closed for the night.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Caucus review: Iowa

There's been no avoiding news about how things went in Iowa last night. Much of it wasn't terribly clear. Reports about how Hillary came in second to Edwards make it sound like Edwards won when the actual breakdown was Obama first, then Edwards, then Clinton. And Huckabee for the GOP with Wossname the Mormon in second.

First, why Huckabee? What the fuck is wrong with you people? Most of his appeal seems to be based on the fact that he's playing the religious card like mad. Jaysus this and Gawd that. You know who else is a "good" religious man? George Bush. Yeah, that's right. You nutters wanted to put a devout Christian in the White House despite all the warnings from the Founding Fathers. And now you know what happens. Christian Jihad. The American Crusade. A President who could and should be next in the International Criminal Court in the seat Saddam and Milošević so recently left. Torture, suspended rights, suspended Constitution, loyalty oaths, First Amendment zones, nuclear treaty violations, on and on and on. This is what a devout Christian does in power. No, not just sometimes. Every time. EVERY! SINGLE! FUCKING! TIME! You didn't want to believe so you had to try it. Fine you did. Now even our allies hate us, our credibility is shot, we've encouraged terrorism around the world and spawned a new generation of suicide bombers, and we're gonna be stuck with troops in Iraq for at least a decade. Are you happy? This is your fault. I knew he'd send troops into Iraq the first time I heard him talk. But you're still not convinced. No, despite the weight of history backing me up you still want another Bible thumper in the White House. "Four more wars! Four more wars!" Well fuck you all.

Oh! I almost forgot. This doesn't get mentioned enough. The man released a convicted multiple rapist from prison because one of his victims was a Clinton. No other reason. Apparently raping a Clinton is enough to forgive all the other rapes. The man eventually went back to prison for several more rapes and a murder in Missouri. He eventually died there. But think about that when you ask yourself who you want making decisions for the country.

The Mormon, I don't remember his name and it doesn't matter. The Democrats could probably run the reanimated corpse of Joseph Stalin and still beat the Republicans after 8 years of Mad King George. I actually kind of like the Mormon. See, the smear ads I've seen run against him show him to be exactly the sort of person we should have as president. He's had to flip his position on almost every issue just to run. I think he'd do well. Better than many of the Democrats.

And Giuliani running so far below everyone else. That's kinda funny. I used to like him before Sept 11. He was one of those Republicans in name only types. Now he's all for Bush's War. But what really killed him was that he didn't campaign in Iowa. He went straight to the February states figuring he'd make it big then. What he's not thinking about is the fact that long before then we'll see who can win and who can't. With numbers like 2% early on he's gonna be viewed as someone who can't win and even the people who like him won't vote for him. I mean the man came after Ron Paul. Ron Paul is insane. Even Alan Keyes seems sane in comparison. Drop out Rudy. It's over.

I'm finding the Democratic results to be kinda funny. Ever since Bill left office the GOP and their media voices have been screaming about President Hillary. She and they treated her like she was the candidate before the campaign started. And she fell behind the guy who already lost one election and has been running third among Dems by a good chunk for a long time. She'll probably do better in New Hampshire but I still like the presumed Queen fairing so poorly.

I like Edwards. He's a fairly good guy. I like his health insurance and health care reform plan. The only thing I have against him is that it'd be nice if a black, a woman, or a Mormon was president and I think this is the only election for the next few decades that this would happen. Why? Because after The War (Crimes) President anyone the Dems run will win. Still, I'd vote for him over the other two.

Obama is charming but there's nothing to him. He's been careful not to vote on controversial issues so he can't be attacked.

Hillary supported Bush's War even though all the evidence showed that he was lying to us. Her old health care plan was a good one but this one is awful. Plus Baby Bush made me a bit squeemish about voting for people related to other powerful politicians.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Movie Review: National Treasure: Book of Secrets

"National Treasure: Book of Secrets" is on par with the original "National Treasure" movie. The first was written as an American response to the book "The DaVinci Code". "National Treasure" was actually much better than the "DaVinci Code" movie. This movie holds up nicely to the original. Better yet, you don't have to have seen the original to enjoy this one. Really, outside of being aware that there was a previous one you don't need to know anything about it.

In this movie an ancestor of our hero (Nick Cage) is accused of planning the assassination of Lincoln instead of foiling a plan by the Confederates to find a missing treasure as was previously thought. Cage goes on a mission to find the truth and clear his ancestor's name. It's not as heavy on the "the clue is hidden in George Washington's hair in the dollar bill" as the first, but there's still lots of hunting for clues on monuments and cracking codes. This includes a raid on the Queen's office in Buckingham Palace, sneaking about in the Oval Office, kidnapping the President, nabbing the President's secret book, and searching for the Lost City of Gold in the Dakotas.

There's a lot of nonsense in some areas, but in other areas they seem to have really worked to get details right. There's no lake on Mt Rushmore, but the insides of the Library of Congress look right.

I can't see getting it on DVD but it was fun to watch.

A little side note. In a movie about finding messages hidden in strange places I saw one of my own. The President has Cage look on page 47 of the President's Secret Book.

There was a paper written in 1964 at Pomona College that claimed that 47 is the most common random number (or all numbers are equal to 47 depending on the source). It's been a long running joke there. If you know where to look the number 47 appears in some form in most episodes of Star Trek, as well as lots of movies, video games, music, and some of my passwords.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Movie Review: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

I'm just going to forward you on to the review written by KassyK.

I hate musicals. No, there's just not enough letters in "hate" to describe the loathing I have for musicals. Most musicals are a bunch of songs tied together by a weak plot. Or they're stories that have songs shoehorned into them. Like that awful one we had to watch about the writing of the Constitution. But almost all just start bringing you into the story and then ruin it by breaking into song and dance routines.

Sure, there's a few I've liked. Fiddler on the Roof grew on me. I saw one production of Guys and Dolls that I liked. South Park was my favorite by far. The Producers was better the first time, before the music. But the movie version of Sweeney Todd I liked. I may even get it on DVD. Maybe it was the lack of dance routines. Maybe it was the fact that it furthered the story line. Maybe the comically macabre nature of the movie that helped me get past it.

It's the story of a barber who was sent to prison on false charges because a judge wanted his wife. Fifteen years later he's escaped and returns to London to get his wife back, or, failing that, vengeance. He winds up a mass murderer whose victims get ground up for meat in the meat pie shop below the barber's shop.

Go read KassyK's review. She gives a great review while I just go on about how much I hate musicals.