Tuesday, December 29, 2009


In Kansas. Very cold.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Only bad Christians celebrate Christmas

After settling in the New World the Pilgrims did not celebrate Christmas. They knew that it was a pagan holiday. The Christmas Tree was specifically forbidden in the Bible.

2 This is what the LORD says:
"Do not learn the ways of the nations
or be terrified by signs in the sky,
though the nations are terrified by them.

3 For the customs of the peoples are worthless;
they cut a tree out of the forest,
and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.

4 They adorn it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so it will not totter.

5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch,
their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
they can do no harm
nor can they do any good."

-- Jeremiah 10:2-5

Friday Links: Christmas Day

Yet another scale of the universe video.

Terry Pratchett on religion.

Earth with rings.
Further analysis of the concept by the Bad Astronomer. [link]

Bacteria driven gears. [link]

Light reflecting off methane lake on Titan. [link]

Patrick Stewart to be knighted. Also has a silly mustache. [link]

Mad tape measure skills.
and [link]

Stargate Studios shows how little they use sets and onsite footage.

They're making a Marmaduke movie. [teaser]

The Pope thinks he can restrict the use of his image. What? Does he think he's Muslim or something? [link]

Naturally I have to blaspheme.
From Dougintology

Lost book of Stanislaw Lem found. It's a Stalin satire that he hid to avoid getting executed. [link]

Favorite cookie recipes from Gourmet magazine's history. [link]

Slow but interesting video about how this guy put a GPS logger on his cat. [link]

Kindle DRM cracked. [link]

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mass movie review

The road trip to Kansas and back was postponed for a week because of the knee deep snow that hit DC. Not to say we didn't try. But, apparently, DC and Maryland decided that they were gonna hold off on any respectable snow moving activity until the snow was over. And, in our defense, webcams of the highways looked a lot clearer than they were when we got to those points.

So I'm working from home on my laptop while my main computer plays Hulu movies at me. Some were worth watching while others were worth putting a price on the director's head.

Dawn of the Dead: Saw it in theaters and forgot. It was worse the second time around.

Master of the World: Based on the Jules Verne novel. It stars a young Charles Bronson in a role where he isn't packing guns of some manner. While the story isn't bad you'd be better off with an audio adaptation.

From Beyond: Are H.P. Lovecraft stories inherently unfilmable or are only bad filmmakers attracted to projects based on his work? It stars Jeffrey Combs who played three major aliens on various Star Trek series. He was a recurring Andorian on Enterprise, Weyoun and Brunt on Deep Space 9, and some minor role on Voyager. He's done some voice work for some DC comics based cartoons. And he's done lots and lots of low budget horror.
In this movie Combs was assisting a scientist who had created something that would stimulate the parietal gland and activate a 6th sense. It works, but then the creatures in the Beyond can see you, too. They ate the head of the scientist in charge and Combs was tossed in an insane asylum. Of course there's an insane asylum. It's H.P. Bloody Lovecraft!
The bulk of the movie is Combs, his new therapist, and her muscle going back and firing the machine back up so weirdness can happen.
I recommend for a bad movie night.

The second day I went for better stuff. Stuff that's been recommended forever but never seen.

Chaplin: In this movie Iron Man plays Charlie Chaplin who is being poked by the editor for his autobiography into filling in some gaps. It really is brilliant. Can't recommend it enough.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: I'm a Doonesbury fan. I got to talk to Trudeau a couple of years back. He signed a collection that's my age and we spent about 15 minutes talking since he had nowhere else to be. The character Duke is based on Hunter S Thompson. While I've always loved Duke's drug trips - particularly when his head opens, bats fly out, and he shoots at them - but watching the opening sequence of this movie makes those strips that much funnier. If nothing else you want to watch the first 15 minutes or so of this movie. They're hilarious.
My question is whether Depp did a great job of acting like Thompson OR do I just think Thompson talks that way because that's how Depp performed him?
The movie is about Thompson and his lawyer spending about a week tripping on various drugs in Las Vegas while covering a motorcycle race and then a police convention about drug use.

And, a bit off topic, the whole run of Stargate: SG1 is on Hulu until May 15.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Graphic novel review: The Girls

I finished reading the graphic novel series "The Girls".

In a small town in Pennsylvania a young man is having a bad day. Crap job, no girlfriend or likely prospects, he gets drunk one night and tells most of the town what he really thinks of them. Naturally, they kick the crap out of him. On the drive home he finds a naked knockout in the middle of the road. She's mute and wounded. He takes her home, patches her up, feeds her, and gives her clothes and a bed. In the middle of the night she comes and jumps his bones. So far so good. Sounds more like a letter to Penthouse than a comic book.

But the next morning there are giant eggs in the house. Giant eggs are never a good thing. Out of the eggs comes several more naked women identical to the first. They get out of the house, run into the woods, and start attacking people. Women people. The men are spared their mute wrath.

In the corn field they discover a giant sperm. When messed with it whips around it's tail and cuts people apart. They try to flee the town but find that there's a sphere surrounding the area with the sperm at the middle. The force field runs through the bridge that leads south from town. The bridge everyone parked on. With the bridge cut through the cars are too much weight and the severed bridge collapses.

They whole up in someone's house for several days. Men won't let the women out because the naked girls want to kill the women. The women won't let the men out because they don't want the men knocking up the girls and creating more eggs.

You learn quickly not to like many of the people in town.
The main character's ex-girlfriend is jealous. She thinks that despite the fact that she moved out of their house 6 months ago and hasn't talked to him since that he should remain faithful to her. After all, they're just taking a break.
The house that they're all hiding in is owned by a horrible nagging Korean woman and the former GI that she used to get her off the streets of her home country. He dies in his chair while she nags at him. You'd feel bad for him if he weren't so worthless.
Another guy in town has a similar problem. Horrible shrew of a woman with hair that looks like a mushroom married to a guy who just rolls over whenever she yells. And she always yells. She's taken control of the women in town and locks the guys in a shed. Her husband, and several others, took the opportunity to run just before the others were locked up. Seeing a guy nagged to death was too much. He didn't want to end up like that guy so he ran.
The running was started when a guy slaps his pregnant wife. Ok, it's started when mushroom head shoots him in the face after he slaps his wife. But, being pregnant with a boy, she's the only one they trust to let out of their new compound safely.
There's an overweight black woman who is overly sensitive and extra hostile to make up for it. Her husband spends all his time trying to reassure her.
The main character's best friend has sex with one of the naked women because he's trying to prove that sex isn't the reason the women lay eggs. Of course, he's wrong. He's a bit slow.
The town sheriff insists he's still in charge and that everyone do what he say no matter how stupid it is.
All around, there's not too many people you feel bad seeing get killed.
Not even the kids who run out to play with the naked girls because they think it's all a game.

Oh, the giant sperm? The girls feed dead bodies to it so it becomes bigger and bigger.

Anyway, you can probably pick up the four volume set at your area comic book store. Not really saying you should. But you can.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Exerpts from old conversations - part 4

Only one quote since it's kinda long.

ME: You are in a cubicle. You see a computer, a chair, and some paperwork.
Around you is a large cubicle farm. There is one exit to the west.
Suddenly a large Doug jumps out and licks your nose.
What do you do?

GC: Scenario: cubicle, computer, chair, paperwork, large nose-licking Doug. What do I do? I lick him back.

ME: The Doug grows confused and sits on the floor. Your manager is coming.
There is an exit to the west.
What do you do?

GC: I am sensing that I need to take the exit to the west... Perhaps drag the Doug along with me?

ME: You are in the corridor.
You are carrying a confused Doug. It is heavy.
Keanu Reeves runs into your cubicle and hides.
Your manager tells the Doug that he's supposed to be in a meeting. The Doug leaves.
Your inventory is empty.
Exits lead north and south. To the east is your cubicle. To the west is Keanu's cubicle.

Good thing I just got called to a meeting. I had no idea where I was going with this.

GC: I'm not sure either, but eventually I'm sure I'd end up on the ledge outside of the window, holding a cell phone while an unknown voice tells me to what to do.

ME: I was thinking more of having that whole scene go on in the background while sending you off to get the person who drank the last of the coffee and didn't make any more. That's what the Matrix was really all about. You laying the smack down on some idiot co-worker. The camera angles just didn't work out properly.

GC: I LOVE laying the smackdown. I'm very good at it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

Happy Winter Solstice!
It occurred at 6:47 a.m east coast time.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday links: December 18

Article about feal cat colonies. [link]

Asimov essay discussing degrees of wrongness. [link]

40 worst movies of the decade. No surprise about what movie got first place. [link]

When you use an automatic translator the message often gets garbled. Then even more so when you translate it back. Do it enough times and eventually it stops getting worse. This site finds that stable, but very strange, translation. [link]

Free serialized audio books. [link]
See also Librivox for audio of books that have entered the public domain. [link]

Lurker Tlaloc wishes militant Christians Happy Holidays. [link]

Octopus running with a coconut. [link]
Octopus loves his Mr Potato Head. [link]

Musical machines.

Two kinda creepy examples of stop motion animation. [link]

Crystal zoetrope (with video). [link]

The Bad Astronomer's top 10 astronomy pictures of 2009. [link]

Artificial Christmas trees must be used for 20 years to balance their production of CO2 relative to real trees. [link]

Song: Forgettable Side Dish. [link]

I forget who I was telling about this picture the other day, so you all get to see it. Probably for the second time. It's a Vietnam era X-ray of a guy with a grenade stuck in his eye. [link]

Tor, a significant publishing house, has started a podcast. To start it off they have author and famed blogger John Scalzi reading his short story "After the Coup". It takes place in Scalzi's "Old Man's War" universe. [link]

Non-secular charities. [link]

The origin story. [link]

Ok, a bit of religious music.

The Man From Earth - a movie about a caveman who is immortal telling his story to his fellow college professors before moving on.
Part 1 [link]
Part 2 [link]

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cul De Sac

Yummy has this comic hanging in her cubicle. It's what introduced her to the comic strip Cul De Sac and is one of her favorites.

The second Cul De Sac collection has come out. It's available at most bookstores. I'd recommend both "Cul de Sac" and "Children at Play"

I want to thank the cartoonist Richard Thompson for signing copies of his latest book for me and Yummy. Thanks also to My Krodie for facilitating this.

For Yummy I got him to sign the page with her favorite comic on it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Amazon has the Kindle.
Barnes and Noble has the Nook.
Borders sells the Sony Reader.
Before that there were Palm Pilots, Blackberries, and just straight up e-book readers.

I'm not gonna be getting any of these.

I like the technology involved in the newer stuff. The Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader have those spiffy digital ink screens. Little spots that a short burst of power can toggle between black and white and then stay there. Unlike my Palm Pilot you can read them in bright daylight. Plus they only use power when turning the page.

I considered getting a Kindle just for the technology. I despise Amazon's habit of patenting stuff they have nothing to do with and then suing companies that have been using that technology or interface for years. Even the founder of Amazon, Steve Bezos, admits that it's a vile business practice and should be illegal. But, he'll keep doing it until it is illegal.
Anyway, I refuse to do business with Amazon unless absolutely necessary.

Besides, I like the Nook better. It has better features and external data ports. I'd be better able to add and remove data. As the technology develops I'd be better able to bring my old books with me. And you're supposed to be able to loan out books.

I like the idea of being able to have my whole library with me wherever I go.
I like the idea of being able to mark up the books so I can go back to certain points without actually marking up books or having to spend forever searching for said book.
I like the idea of being able to search the text of all my books easily.
I'm not worried about file obsolescence. Someone will write an app to convert formats.

So what's the problem? Why don't I have one already?


I love used book stores. I love how they smell. I love the narrow aisles and rickety walkways. Most of all I love the old books. Books from last month. Books from 50 years ago. They might cost me a quarter or a couple bucks. Cheap, right? They have the same advantage that video stores have over NetFlix. They have the benefit of letting you browse. Just scan the shelf for stuff that might jump right out at you. That's how you find unfamiliar authors or titles that aren't making best seller lists but are still worth a look. And I can't just sell my old files to a used bookstore.

Same thing with a library. I can't check out electronic books from a library. I can't give old .doc files to a library.

I can still see getting a Nook for new books or a Kindle for an ad-hock Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (free internet access anywhere and Wikipedia browsing). Textbooks and programming manuals would be valuable, too. I'd load it up with stuff from Project Gutenberg [link], too.

I may have just talked myself in to a Nook.


But I can't picture replacing my library. There's too many books that I've gotten from Dad's collection, Grandpa's collection, Great Grandmother's library, and the like. Stuff that no book store will ever have because it's so uniquely theirs. Similarly, my rather impressive book collection wouldn't get passed on and consumed by others after I no longer need it.

Basically, they've managed to compensate for the complaint that people can flop on the couch with newspapers and books but not computers. Now they have to compensate for the fact that new books are so much more expensive than used and electronic files are so much harder to scan for unfamiliar authors than bookshelves.

p.s. - I don't think that a digital library would be able to penetrate L-space. Or, at least, if it does you won't be able to walk it.

Even big collections of ordinary books distort space and time, as can readily be proved by anyone who has been around a really old-fashioned second-hand bookshop, one of those that has more staircases than storeys and those rows of shelves that end in little doors that are surely too small for a full sized human to enter.

The relevant equation is Knowledge = Power = Energy = Matter = Mass; a good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read. Mass distorts space into polyfractal L-space, in which Everywhere is also Everywhere Else.

All libraries are connected in L-space by the bookwormholes created by the strong space-time distortions found in any large collection of books. Only a very few librarians learn the secret, and there are inflexible rules about making use of the fact - because it amounts to time travel.

The three rules of the Librarians of Time and Space are: (1) Silence; (2) Books must be returned no later than the last date shown, and (3) the nature of causality must not be interfered with.

— from the Discworld Companion

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cold floor

You'll recall that I spend quite a bit of time under my house painting this insulating paint on the underside of my living room and kitchen floor. Now that the weather has turned cold I can report on my results.

At first I thought I got nothing worthwhile. The floor is still cold. However, there was an area under the house that I couldn't safely access due to poor wiring. That area remains unpainted. And if I walk barefoot over that area of the house the floor becomes noticeably colder. So the paint has an effect.

Plus, I didn't apply the paint quite as thick as I might like. I want a credit card thickness and it's closer to... well, paint. I could stand to make it thicker.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Movie review: The Princess and the Frog

I am not a Disney fan. Don't get me wrong, their art is beautiful. If you want to make your name as a cartoonist you get a job there. Then you go somewhere that doesn't treat you like a slave.

My main gripe about Disney is a relatively recent one. That slave complaint has been there since the beginning. No, in recent decades they've forgotten one of the main points that Walt Disney cared about. You have to have a good story. A good story forgives almost all else. Doctor Who ran for 36 years with a special effects and makeup budget that appeared to be less than they spent on tea, but they had a great show because of great writers. On the other hand, the Transformers movies have a huge special effects budget but so little concern with story that they actually started filming the second movie with no script at all.

In recent decades Disney forgot how to make a good movie. On the rare occasion they did something worthwhile they then started making a series of bad sequels. The executives just didn't understand why they weren't doing better. Then came Pixar. Pixar was a fairly small digital animation company. Steve Jobs (yes, Apple Computers' Steve Jobs) saw promise there, bought up a bunch of the company, and gave it a big cash infusion. "Toy Story" was great, but they didn't have the resources to distribute it. Disney, on the other hand, did. So a five movie contract was struck where Disney got exclusive distribution rights. Sequels didn't count in the five movie but Disney owned the rights to those characters and stories. Kind of a crap deal for Pixar.

"Toy Story" was a hit. So was their next movie and the next movie and anything they touched, really. They were making money like Disney hadn't seen for a long time. Dreamworks got into digital animation and was having similar success but not quite on Pixar's level or consistency. Disney shut down their hand animation department completely. They thought it was the animation style that drew viewers, not the story.

Pixar was making noises about how they wanted better treatment from Disney or they'd find another partner after the contract was over. Pixar got better treatment and higher billing but Disney wasn't happy about it.

Disney wanted "Toy Story 3" to be made. Pixar looked at several scripts and rejected them. They only do good movies. No sequels just for the sake of sequels. So Disney started their own digital animation department. They were gonna dump Pixar and make their own movies. They started with "Chicken Little" which was a complete disaster. "Toy Story 3" was under development without Pixar's help. But after the flop that was "Chicken Little" Disney had to rethink things. People weren't watching their traditional animation. People weren't watching their digital animation. But people were still flocking to Pixar movies. WHY!?!

So Disney makes Pixar an offer. "We'll give you a shitload of money and you take over our animation." Steve Jobs became the largest single Disney stockholder. Pixar became Disney's animation department. Right away, John Lasseter, head of Pixar/Disney animation, kills "Toy Story 3" and reopens the hand painted animation department. As you probably have seen, there is a good "Toy Story 3" script at long last.

At long last we get to "The Princess and the Frog". There's some question about whether this is a Disney or a Pixar production. Technically, there is no longer a Pixar. Sure, they get credit for "Toy Story 3", but that's just marketing. Still, if you know what you're looking at it's clear that "The Princess and the Frog" is more about Pixar than Disney. For one thing John Lasseter is the Executive Producer. For another thing, without checking IMDB, name any of the voice actors for this movie. Disney and Dreamworks posters often show the names of the actors bigger than the title of the movie. Pixar preferred not talking about them at all. For Lasseter/Pixar the important thing is the story. For another thing, the main characters in this movie are black (except when they're green). That's a pretty huge departure for Disney.

And probably the single biggest indication that Disney wasn't really involved with "The Princess and the Frog"...

...the mother is still alive at the end of the movie!

The story of the Frog Prince was chosen for adaption because Lasseter was looking for something that looks back to the beginning of Disney animation. They started with fairy tales and that's what they're restarting with.

This movie is the story of a young black woman in New Orleans who is trying to fulfill her father's dream of owning his own restaurant. Her whole life is spent working towards that goal. Every dime goes toward the down payment.

But, a voodoo conman is trying to use a visiting prince to con some heiress out of the family's money. The prince has been turned into a frog. But while the kiss of a princess will turn the frog back into a prince the kiss of a regular woman will turn her into a frog.

The movie is spent with the two frogs trying to get back to New Orleans to get changed back to normal and stop the marriage of the false prince to the heiress.

I liked it. I haven't really liked a Disney movie since Aladdin. But I liked this movie.

Buy it on DVD? Eeeeeehhh... probably not. But I should probably say that if "Toy Story" were being released today instead of pioneering the digital animation genre I probably wouldn't have bought it either.

I might get Yummy a copy, however.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday links: December 11

Batman's Google results.

Commodity trading and bad code design don't mix. [link]

Christmas tree rental services. After Christmas your tree gets planted. [link]

Cassini's picture of Saturn's moon Enceladus venting. [link]

Neutraface: The music video.

Prohibition Era bowling alley found. [link]

The Dawn probe has entered the asteroid belt. It still has awhile to go before it reaches it's first point of interest, the asteroid Vesta.

A small New Zealand company sends a rocket into "space". Flock of sheep startled. Video available at link. [link]

Creatures getting eaten. [link]

Body armor for dogs. [link]

Four decades of New York destruction on film set to music.

Top 20 guitar riffs as picked by guitarists. [link]

Steve Wozniak: How I Invented the Personal Computer.

Astronaut drops a feather and a hammer on the moon.

Olympic torch pictures. Shows how they move the flame across oceans. [link]

Pictures of actors reproducing some of their more famous scenes. (translated from Russian. [link]

Petition to prevent condos from being built on New Jersey's only and high yielding fossil site. [link]

Onion cover: Three Eminent Biologists And A Child Actor Weigh In On Evolution. [link]

Donkey Kong bookshelves. [link]

VSS Enterprise prepares to launch. No, that's not a typo. [link]
Pictures. [link]

Mom refuses to feed her children. "God will provide." [link]
Does it count if Doug provides by throwing her sorry ass in prison and gives her kids to someone else?

(1) I really want God to be real.
(2) If you wish for something really hard, it’ll come true.
(3) Therefore, God exists.
More. [link]

An honest explanation of the content of the hacked climate change e-mails and the alleged cover up of bad data.

Time lapse video of starfish and big honkin' worms eating a seal. [link]

Hokey Pokey composer dies at age 104. [link]

Hobo nickel makers and collectors. [link]
What a horrible thing to do to money. Particularly old money.

Someday soon I will get and make this. [link]

If you liked "Japanese Spiderman" you'll love "Superman: The Musical."

How to make a möbius Bagel. [link]

Time for the annual link to the scary Santa site. [link]

15 failed predictions. [link]

Awesome e-mail conversation. [link]

An article that should be in Psychiatry Today or Scientific American instead of The Onion. [link]

North Carolina trying to enforce illegal law banning atheists from holding political office. [link]

Trailer for the "Kids in the Hall" new series. They say they didn't break up, they just stopped doing anything together.

Steampunk house. [link]

A home owners association banned a 90 year old Medal of Honor winner from putting up a flag pole. After pretty much the whole world objected they backed down. [link]
The Medal of Honor was actually for taking out several machine gun nests single handedly. Dunno where this crap about tanks came from.

Science cookies. [link]

Saturn's south pole has a storm shaped like a hexagon and has had it at least since the 70's. Here's an animation of it taken by Cassini. [link]

Is it me or are these lists of links getting way too long?

Game: Infectionator - a chain reaction game. Release the zombie virus and beat all the levels in less than 60 seconds. [link]

Game: Continuity - a sliding puzzle game where the sliding pieces are parts of the level you're navigating. [link]

Thursday, December 10, 2009

a thought

As you wrap gifts this season I want you to take a moment and ponder one thing:

Why is double stick tape clear?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Book Review: End of an Era

Déjà vu: The feeling that all this has happened before.
Déjà news: The feeling that this world event has happened before.
Déjà muse: The feeling you've written this story before.
Déjà boobs: The feeling you've motorboated these knockers before.
Déjà ... Dammit! What's the word for when you feel like you've read this book before?

I just finished rereading "End of an Era" by Robert J Sawyer. It wasn't my plan to re-read it. I just didn't recall reading it before. I thought it had been stuck on my "Read Fiction" shelf instead of my "To Read" shelf by mistake.

As I started reading it the book became familiar. I knew this stuff. I'd read this book before. But, what happened next? I couldn't recall. Maybe I read part of it and stopped for some reason. I kept reading. Nope, still familiar. Still don't know what happens next.

I read the whole book like that. I remembered reading all that before, but couldn't tell you what happened next.

It was a good book. Not one that I'd recommend as an introduction to this author, but still a good read.

A time machine has been invented. It does have the flaw that the amount of power it requires is inversely proportional to how far back you go. Going back an hour would take most of the power of the universe. Going back to visit the dinosaurs would take considerably less. At a set point the machine will be pulled back to the present.

These two guys are sent back to study the dinosaurs and hopefully figure out how they all died. They used to be friends until the wife of the main character left him for the other guy. The first thing they notice is that there's less gravity 65 million year ago. The next thing they notice is this group of dinosaurs that surrounds them, knocks them down, and coughs blue ooze on them. The ooze is a viral life form that is intelligent in large groups. It seeps into their brains, learns English, and oozes back out to get back in it's dinosaur.

Jumping ahead... the virus life form is from Mars. They use the dinosaurs as transport. They're at war with a species on the 5th planet from the sun. No, not Jupiter. The one between Mars and Jupiter. Finding that Mars in our time is dead, the 5th planet is an asteroid belt, and that they're extinct the virus creature wants to use the time machine to leap past their extinction.

The virus creatures put up satellites around Earth to make the gravity more like Mars. This, plus some genetic engineering, has allowed the large dinosaurs we keep finding fossils of to evolve. The virus creatures ride the dinosaurs for transport. They've engineered them to be weapons in their war against the people of planet 5.

See, they think like viruses, too. They move in, multiply, and spread out. Conquest is part of their basic biology. If they get back to our time they'll try to take over humanity. They hate anyone they can't conquer.

In the end the viruses try to invade the time ship by battering it with dinosaurs. Just as all looks lost our heroes manage to shut down the gravitational satellites. The dinosaurs bones break under all that extra weight. Those who survive that struggle to breathe. Many others starve to death while pinned to the ground. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are constant for at least the next several hours before the uninfected human duo are yanked back to their present.

It's a good book. Good enough that I read it twice. Apparently not good enough that it stuck the first time. I'd suggest "Calculating God" as a better introduction to Robert J. Sawyer.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Dougintology Hymnal

I think it's time that the Church of Dougintology has a hymnal. Here's some of the ideas I have so far.

What the world needs now
Is Doug, Sweet Doug.
It's the only thing
That there's just too little of.

Put a Little Doug in Your Heart

People of the world
Join hands
Start a Doug Train
A Doug Train

All You Need is Doug

You Give Doug a Bad Name

Might as well face it,
You're addicted to Doug

I want a new Doug
One without doubt
One that won't talk too much
Or let crime break out

Doug Bless America


What's Doug Got to do With It?

That's the Power of Doug

Monday, December 07, 2009


When learning my multiplication tables the teachers tended to focus on 1x1 through 10x10. The textbooks liked to go up to 12x12. That always baffled me. It just seemed like a rather random number. Luckily, I was never tested on those extra numbers.

Sometime in the last few years I learned about some ancient cultures that counted not on their fingers, but on the bones in their fingers. So, using your thumb as a place holder you can count to 12 on one hand. If you use the other hand to count how many times you've counted the bones on your first hand then you can count clear to 144 on your fingers.

This makes clearer why we have values such as a gross (144 of something). Counting like that also shows why we have 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour (counting to 12 five times). There's 12 hours in the AM and the PM because that's what each hand would count.

Using this line of thinking we can quickly work out multiples of 3 on individual fingers, 4s on rows coming up from the hand, 5s by regular counting, 6s if you hold your hand like Vulcans.

And why do I still concern myself with counting on my fingers? I never bothered to learn my multiplication tables. Most I have down pat. But, there's a hole. 6x7, 6x8, 7x7, 7x8, and 8x8 just never stuck in my head. Everything else I could figure fast enough that I never needed to learn them.

Plus, I did a stint where I taught math. This stuff would have been helpful back then.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Friday Links: December 4

Microsoft likely to pay Fox News to remove it's content from Google. [link]
Really? They think this would somehow hurt Google? By removing one of the most biased new sources on the planet?

A garden done with gravitational lines to make the tree look like a gravitational well. [link]
I'd like to do something like this with tile some day.

Various wines from the bottom of the ocean. [link]

Great shots from the Hubble. [link]

Scale model webpage of the solar system. If printed it would probably run about a mile long. [link]

Pancake art. [link]

Lego Matrix
From: http://legomatrix.com


The Plaintiff in this case is a friend of someone I went to college with.

Coke to start making paintless cans. [link]

This is why you change your oil. [link]

In the War on Christmas it's good to know what stores are willing to go out of their way to feed Christian feelings of self importance. Here's a list of how stores score. [link]

Game: R.I.F.T - you're a robot navigating dangerous rooms to retrieve cake for your boss, The Blob. [link]

Stupid quote list from a used bookstore owner. [link]

Dr. Who coins to be released. [link]

Game: Tripeaks Reserve - reminds me of a version of solitaire I used to play. [link]

Wooden mirror...kinda. [link]

On top of the lies in Sarah Palin's book, the whole bus tour is a lie. Oh, there's a bus, but she's flying in a private jet. [link]

Ten reasons I'll never be a Republican. [link]
Yes, no matter what your personal views are, this is what the Republican party is and has been for the last 20 years. If you, too, are disgusted by the attitudes on the list maybe you aren't really a Republican.

Minimum wage machine. [link]

CIA magic tricks. [link]

Anatomy of a Black Hole animation. [link]

Geek forms of measurement. [link]

Best books of the Naughties. I've read 1, listened to 2, saw the movie version of a 4th. [link]

Here's a good excuse for dodging family holidays. They're bad for your health. [link]

Awesome door. [link]

There'd be more, but my home internet connection went down so you only get to see what I can reach behind the firewall at work.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Dougmas Jar 2009

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 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.

I had been putting off this post for a few days because I was trying to pretty up my jar a bit. But, the best laid plans of mice and men... well, I'm led to understand that they don't work out. That's a guess as people tend not to use the rest of this cliché. Not surprising really. Mice aren't really known for plans at all, let alone well laid plans. And clearly this line of thought went about as well as the plans of a mouse might.

Dougintology has a short list of preferred charities.
• Solar Electric Light Fund (http://self.org)
• Trees for the Future (http://treesftf.org/)

SELF is an organization that provides loans to people in remote areas so they can buy solar equipment. The loan is paid back over several years by using what they normally would have spent on generator fuel for three years. It helps to improve their education, their productivity, their health, and many other aspects of their lives.

Trees for the Future plants trees in areas where there's enough rain to support life, but poor soil management has made it a desert. This includes areas bordering the Sahara desert and clear cut rain forest. The trees break up the soil so native plants can take root, the leaves are edible, and eventually the tree can be used as fuel. It helps make an area better able to support the population rather than helping feed a population in an area that can't support them.

We also have a Do-Not-Give list.
The Dougmas Jar was started because the Salvation Army tends to use their money to further their own religious bigotry. So they make the Do-Not-Give list.
The Christian Children's Fund makes the list because they refused money raised by Dungeons and Dragons fans in memory of Gary Gygax. Apparently hungry children are picky about the kind of people whose money feeds them.
And this year we're adding Catholic Charities to the list. The Salvation Army may hate the fact that they're required to obey equal opportunity employment laws, but they still feel the moral obligation to provide aid to the poor. Catholic Charities have no such compunctions. Their cultural biases override Biblical instructions.

For our patron saint, Douglas Adams, I include:
• Dian Fossey Gorilla Foundation (http://www.dianfossey.org/home/)
• Save the Rhino (http://www.savetherhino.org/)

You may also want to consider...
Operation Foxhole creates care packages for soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. There are religious groups that create care packages but they're mostly religious DVDs and books. Operation Foxhole is run by soldiers. Their care packages include things that deployed soldiers actually want. Things like fresh socks, Skittles, and whatnot. They accept donations of money, goods, or letters. You can use the link above to find out more.

The Fisher House Foundation creates Ronald McDonald style housing for wounded soldiers. While the soldier is in the hospital his family gets to stay in the Fisher Houses for free. But I think there may be some arrangement about who does the cooking in the house. They were happy to have the money that the Christian Children's Fund didn't want.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Red marks: A Bruce Story

I came in to work one day and started printing out a bunch of chapters for a meeting later in the day. I find it's faster to print 1 copy and use the printer manager to tell the printer to reprint that job 4 times instead of telling it to print 5 times up front. I have the bulk feeder removed because it just causes jams. So the tray empties and needs refilled a few times.

Bruce opens up a ream of paper only to see that there's red marks on almost every sheet of paper he touches. He's getting upset because he thinks we got a batch of flawed paper. Like a whole bunch came off the press with ink on it and they all came to us. I look at the paper for a few seconds. Then I grab Bruce's hand and flip it over. He'd cut his thumb and was bleeding on all the paper.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Movie review: The Road

December 1. The beginning of Dougmas. You'd think I'd have something ready. Go read yesterday's tirade again.

I just got back from watching "The Road". I'm feeling rather disturbed. Oh, don't think for a minute that it was the movie that disturbed me. The movie does a good job of making "Mad Max" look like an optimistic view of the future. It's very bleak and monochromatic. Viggo Wass'is'oozit looks very bad naked. I mean, if Aragorn looks that lousy naked then what hope do the rest of us guys have?

"The Road" is a post-apocalypse type movie. What type of apocalypse is never stated. You can kind of deduce, however. There's no hordes of brain eating undead so zombie apocalypse is kind of out. There's no five story tripods so I'm eliminating alien attack, too. The sky is a pretty uniform gray and everything is covered in ash. There is no talk of radiation, but things started with flashes of light followed by lesser booms. A couple of mentions of earthquakes and a scene with lots of falling trees makes one think that the planet became more seismically active and that volcanoes all over the world are erupting.

All the animals are dead. As are the plants. No hope for finding crops or planting them. Yet Viggo and Charlize have a kid. Very good. Well planned. Gold star. Shmucks.

After Charlize does her Captain Oates impression ("I am just going outside and may be some time.") Viggo is left with a rather whiny kid. Seriously, he was born and raised after the end of the world; I expect a bit more from him. The duo heads south. South toward the ocean. Not really sure what part of the United States they're living in.

But that's what the bulk of the movie is. The two of them walking through endless wasteland and ash to throw the one ring into Mount Do... er, in the hopes of finding warmer and more hospitable climates nearer the equator. From time to time they run into people who want to kill and eat them. On occasion they find someone who just wants to take their stuff and leave them for dead.

At the end Viggo dies and leaves the kid on his own. Luckily, the kid is picked up by the people who have been following them and driving his dad into pushing on, threatening people, and leaving behind food, shelter, and safety.

I give the movie a lot of crap, but it wasn't bad. I liked most of it. I wasn't feeling the tearful farewell scene near the end at all. Ok, there was a bit when the kid went back to say good bye to his dead father. Certainly more than when he was saying goodbye to his dying father.

Really, it was just bleak. Bleak, bleak, and more bleak. Bleak tension. Bleak desolation. Bleak farewells. Bleak hope. Bleak overcritical audience. Bleak arrow in the leg. Bleak everything.

The disturbing bit was in a 1975 collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov. The second story was kinda preachy, and Asimov apologizes for that and then explains what he was thinking when he wrote it back in 1950. Asimov's personal story was one of those rare moments that drives home Cold War thinking to a post-Vietnam/post-Watergate whippersnapper like myself.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Catholic Charities suck

It's the beginning of the Dougmas season. It's also the season when people feel obliged to give money to strangers. Cause, you know, poor people only get hungry in December.

Anyway, don't give money to Catholic Charities. They're jackasses.

Long time readers know of my contempt for The Salvation Army. They don't give aid to homeless gay people who are often homeless because their overly Christian parents threw them out of the house. And much of the money given to them is used to lobby various governments in an attempt to make them exempt from fairness in employment laws that require them to ignore sexual orientation in their hiring policies. And much of their giving requires that the recipient attend their services first.

Well, recently Catholic Charities have been threatening the DC city government. DC is looking to pass a law that says if a charity takes taxpayer money then they have to obey anti-discrimination laws with regards to sexual orientation. Catholic Charities says that if that's the case they'll just have to take their services and leave. Screw that love and charity to fellow man stuff. Piss on hate the sin and love the sinner. They feel they have every right to hate whoever they damn well feel like. If they're forced to stop acting like bigots then they're gonna stop all that charity crap.

So, the Salvation Army hates these anti-discrimination laws but still feels it has an obligation to provide it's services. Catholic Charities feels no such moral drive. If they don't get to be bigots then they don't want to help anyone.

[The Washington Post link]

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Links: November 27

Coasters for typographic sorts. [link]

Very short story blog. [link]

Iraqi military is trying to replace bomb sniffing dogs that do work with a bomb detecting dowsing rod that doesn't. [link]

Mutant animal farm. link

Collages made from record albums. [link]

History and construction of LEDs.

Atari games to play online. [link]

Theocons: the hard right wing Christians who continue to think George Bush is Jesus, Pat Robertson is God, Sarah Palin is God's mother, and that the world was created in 6 24-hour periods roughly 10,000 years after the domestication of the dog. They had been encouraged to pray for the election and subsequent death of John McCain. Now they're not only praying for the death of Barack Obama they have merchandise. Just do a quick news search for "Pray for Obama: Psalm 109:8".

Fun with leaves. [link]

WWII POW knitting project. [link]

Just in time for Christmas, order a personalized New York City subway sign. [link]

Love this hat. [link]

Scrollbar clock. [link]

The first 15 minutes of Julia Sweeney's "Letting Go of God" routine. Glad to see she still has some kind of career.

Galileo's finger found. [link]

Tapestry made from spider silk. [link]

There's a charity called Child's Play that provides video games for children in the hospital. For the last few years they've had a game-a-thon where they play Desert Bus for hours on end. The first hour costs $1.00. Each following hour costs 7% more than the hour before. They play as long as the donations hold out.
Desert Bus is a game created for Penn and Teller many years ago but never formally released. In it you drive a bus from Tucson to Las Vegas in real time. For that you get 1 point. Then you drive it back.
The whole thing was shown on a webcam so you could watch the game or the gamers. They sing, they hold auctions, they have geek celebrities call in for interviews. The Wil Wheaton interview was pretty good. At one point someone did crash the bus.
This year's "Desert Bus for Hope" ended on Thanksgiving evening. They played for 5 days and 16 hours for a total of $132,392.94.

18 most obvious lies from Sarah Palin's new book. [link]

Baby coelacanths found. [link]

The Mars rover named Spirit has been having issues. Sure, it's outlived it's 3 month mission by 5 years, but it's been dragging one wheel for quite some time and now it's stuck in the sand. [link]

An idea and it's enemies. It helps if you read Portuguese but you should still get the jokes even if you don't. It describes Yummy's job pretty well. [link]

Samples from a company that integrates bare tree limbs in the architecture. [link]

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Something occurred to me the other day. Assume for a moment that there are ghosts.

There is an afterlife, but it's the same place as regular life. Use your own ideas about how much of the population gets an afterlife and your own ideas about where you go. Just leave right here as an option. After all these millennia of existence as a species and there's gonna be a healthy population of ghosts here.

Now, I'm thinking that if I were to pick a place to haunt I'm gonna pick somewhere that would be interesting despite my inability to touch things. I can still read, but I can't even turn pages or turn on a TV on my own. But, in a movie theater I'd get to keep seeing movies. At a stadium I'd get to see sporting events. I hate sports, but beats going up and down stairs at 3 AM for fun.

So why don't ghosts haunt those places? They're always doing basements and attics and abandoned farm houses, and whatnot. Why?

We're accepting, for the moment, that the world is filled with ghosts. Obviously, we can't see these ghosts. This would mean that we're likely walking through them all the time. I'm thinking that kinda hurts. Why? Because it feeds my hypothesis. As much as a movie theater would rock you'd have a lot of people to dodge. It would make sense that ghosts would want to avoid crowded places. Places where someone isn't likely to walk through you if your attention is elsewhere.

Thus, they gather in unfinished basements, attics, and run down houses. They hang out in churches at night and graveyards and abandoned houses. If they have a property they like they're likely to want fight for it when people try to move in. Thus bleeding walls and whatnot.

Do a ghost a favor. Open up a book in the basement. Periodically go down and turn the page. I'm sure they'll appreciate it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


For games I have a PC, but for doing any real work I have a Mac. Often I need to use an em-dash (a.k.a. m-dash, amp;mdash; ). It's a super-long hyphen that's supposed to be as wide as a letter m. Editors use it for reasons I don't quite comprehend.

On a Mac an em-dash is easy, you hit Option-Shift-Hyphen. I say it's easy. Mostly it's considered easy because it's well known. Macs are what you use if you want to do graphics or page layout work so it's easy to find out how to make special symbols on a Mac. But, what if you're trying to do the same thing on a Windows platform? Until today I'd wondered but been glad I didn't have to deal with it. Recently, the Colonel asked one of the editors how to make an em-dash. The editor didn't know. She'd abandoned her PC years ago for a machine that worked. So the Colonel came to me. I said "I don't know, but give me 5 minutes."

There are two answers in Word.
1) If your auto-correct is properly configured you can hit Space-Hyphen-Hyphen-Space and it will get converted for you.
2) You can also hold Ctrl and Alt then press the Minus Sign on the number pad.

Outside of Word:
3) Hold down Alt and type 0151.

4) —
5) —
6) —

Monday, November 23, 2009

Book Review: A Fall of Moondust

Somehow, I skipped reviewing this book. Odd. I told everyone else about it.

One of the fears of the moon landing was the lunar dust. It's been created partially by the surface alternating between extreme heat and extreme cold so it expands and contracts a lot, eventually breaking into a powder; and debris from dead stars and dying comets settling on it. The existence of the dust was known, but they didn't know how deep it was. Turns out it's not very deep. It is, however, highly charged and very sticky. It'll be second only to the radiation as an environmental hazard when we go back.

This book was written in 1961 so we didn't know what we were getting into.

The moon has been colonized... sort of. Lots of research stations, communities associated with the research stations, hotels, and tourists. One of the things that a tourist can do is ride "Selene". "Selene" is a sort of seagoing vessel. While the dust is only millimeters deep over most of the moon there is a sea where it has gathered yards deep. If you throw a rock into it there's a small splash and the rock sinks, but the ripple die down quickly. Any disturbance settles quickly.

One night, a mere day or two from dawn, the moon shows that it's core isn't completely dead. A bubble of gas that's been building for a million years gets released under the sea. It comes up around "Selene" and the ship sinks. From an outside perspective it just vanished.

Naturally, they go looking for the missing ship when it fails to report in. A trace of a heat signature remains where it passed. Another couple of hours and the sun would have erased it. They sink a pole and hit the ship. Knowing where it is and how deep it's buried they have to figure out how to dig out a ship from dirt that flows like water.

The story switches back and forth between the rescue crews on the surface and the people stuck inside as they first fight off boredom and then fight for their lives.

This book would make for a great movie. Really. It's a pretty good book, too.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday links: Nov 20

German deer still act like the Berlin Wall is up. [link]

The story of Dock Ellis pitching a no-hitter while on LSD in 1970.

Pay attention.

People made from pantyhose. [link]

A magnetic sail. It's an alternative to a solar sail that also provides some protection from radiation. Watch the video. [link]

A quantum computer than can be programmed has been invented. [link]

ISS passing in front of the moon. [link]

Cookie sheet fail. [link]

A remake of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face".

Zombie Opera. [link]

Nifty clock. [link]

Shirt designing with bleach. [link]

Analysis of changes in music industry profits over the last 5 years with emphasis on the impact of file sharing. [link]

Alternate history of the Beatles, or What if the Beatles had Done SNL. [link]

Part 1 of 5 of an animated Dr. Who.

Sound guy for DC Podiums got hired to run the sound for a Christian gay bashing rally. He then donated his proceeds to giving the counter-protesters microphone time during the protest. [link]

Another pretty slick clock. [link]

Greek priest beat with tire iron for looking too Muslim. [link]

Game: Drop 3 - Tetris with non-squared shapes. [link]

Kevlar wallpaper. [link]

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Learn to change your tires

On the way home from work Monday I passed a guy who was changing a flat on his car. I see this every few months and always stop to ask if they need help. Normally the answer is "no". This time he needed help.

He'd gotten the spare from the trunk, removed the hubcap, got the jack in place, and the lug nut wrench in place. I'll give him props for that. However, while he knew the basic idea behind changing a tire, he'd never had to do it before. He couldn't break the lug nuts free and had the car jacked up enough that the wheel spun fairly freely. I helped him get the tire off, jacked the car back up, and then ran into some issues I was unfamiliar with.

What I'm saying is that if you haven't removed a tire from your car and put it back on then you really should do that. Ideally in a garage or driveway, but you could also do it on the street. Do I really need to remind you to do this on the curb side of the car? I did one on the traffic side of a car once. I had two people waving off traffic so I wouldn't get hit.

First, you need to know how your jack works. Some use a screw and a crank while some are hydraulic. Do you put it under the axle or along the frame of the car? If you do it along the frame is there a specific point you need to use so it doesn't tear out a chunk of fiberglass?

Does the hubcap pop off or are there plastic lug nuts that need to come off first?

Is there one wrench for all the lug nuts or does one require a special key (i.e. wacky shaped wrench).

It helps if you leave the tire touching the ground when breaking the lug nuts loose. Otherwise it wants to spin. Whoever put them on probably had a pneumatic wrench and put those babies on pretty tight. You may be able to do what we did and give the wrench a good kick to get it to turn. I've seen others that I can stand on and it'll hold my weight. You may find that you'll need a length of pipe that will fit over the wrench and extend it by a foot or two. This will give you more leverage and should almost always work. You'll then want to keep the pipe in your trunk.

Now you can finish jacking up the car.

The tire may come away easily. If not there's probably rust or dirt or some crud holding it in place. Try sitting on the ground and kicking the front or back of the wheel with your heel.

Before putting the tire back on you'll need to make sure you know which side faces out. One side probably has lettering on the side of the rubber. More telling but often overlooked is the valve stem. That should always be facing out to make it easier to reinflate the tire.

The problem I encountered was a pin placed between two of the wheel bolts. There was a matching small hole in the metal of the tire. I didn't see it at first and had a terrible time trying to get the wheel on. It wasn't until my 4th attempt that I saw it.

When putting the lug nuts back on there is a recommended pattern. You want to start at the top bolt and work in a star pattern. This ensures that the wheel goes on evenly. What I mean is that you'll want to get the top nut threaded, skip the next bolt and thread the nut on the third bolt instead. Then skip the fourth to do the fifth, the first to do the second, and the third to do the fourth. Continue around the wheel like this when tightening, too. If the wheel doesn't go on evenly it can catch on the threads or jam up in other interesting ways.

Make sure you crank those lug nuts down tight. Get them as close to how you found them as possible. If this means giving the wrench a couple of good stomps then so be it.

As long as you're worrying about this sort of thing there is one other point that needs your attention. Make sure your spare tire is aired up. The guy I helped had some air, but he was gonna need to make to the nearest gas station to top it off. It was pretty soft.

That's the heart of the issue. I didn't really get to go into the specifics of your car and tires. There's lots of little nuances to your car that you don't want to have to figure out for the first time in an emergency. If you haven't already, go out and do this before the weather gets much colder. If you already know how to change the tire then make sure your significant other and/or kids know how to do this as well.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Movie Review: 2012

John Cusack is the most important man in the world.

I'll get back to that statement in a minute.

You know how you have to buy a new calendar every year? Sure, they all have 365 days (except for those that don't) but the dates don't always fall on the same day of the week. However, if you leave an old calendar in the basement long enough it becomes useful again. Ten seconds of research says every 28 years. That follows my mental math, but I'm still not promising that's right. But, in theory, we could have a big ass calendar that runs 28 years and never needs replacing.

The Mayan Long Calendar takes a bit longer to loop. About 5,125 years.

Their calendar works a bit like this.
1 day = 1 day
20 days = 1 uinal
360 days = 18 uinal = 1 tun
7200 days = 360 uinals = 20 tuns = 1 katun
144,000 days = 7200 uinals = 400 tuns = 20 katuns = 1 baktun
1,872,000 days = 93,600 uinals = 5200 tuns = 260 katuns = 13 baktuns = 1 Great Cycle

And, just as the world doesn't end every 28 years, it doesn't end every 5,125 years. It seems absurd to think that it would, doesn't it? However, this is the strongest argument there is supporting the idea that the world will end on December 21, 2012.

The planets will be nowhere close to lining up. There's no rogue planet heading for Earth. Even the Bible based doomsday predictions are landing on that date because we've passed all the other dates that loons think the Bible says the world will end and we're still here.

Still, it makes for a good disaster movie.

The science in this movie is crap. It should be assumed to be ALL crap unless someone says otherwise. Neutrino detectors really are built in old mines at least a mile underground. There really is a super caldera under Yellowstone National Park. No tsunami would be big enough to swamp the Himalayas. Neutrinos won't become microwaves and bake the core of the planet. The ash from Yellowstone exploding won't clear for years, let alone provide clear skies 27 days later.

You've all seen the trailers for this movie by now. A city breaks and falls apart as a discordant descending tone plays over and over again. That's somewhere in southern California and you've seen almost that entire scene. Luckily, there are other scenes in the movie that are worth watching. Yellowstone National Park bulges and spews and explodes. Hawaii burns. DC gets swamped. Las Vegas gets enveloped in a cloud of ashen death. Planes crash on Chinese glaciers.

And through all of this John Cusack survives. The most important thing to know is that you should never, ever, get even a single step behind John Cusack. Where he steps the ground immediately falls away or explodes. Even the vehicles he rides in fall away behind where he sits. Whole continents shift to make sure they're where he needs to land. Buildings fall slower so he can get out, through, or pass under him. Stay with him and you'll live, just so long as you're not slower than he is.

Let me pause for a moment. I just saw that Roland Emmerich, the guy who wrote, directed, and produced "2012" is also working on adapting Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy for a movie. Insert an appropriate squeal of delight here. If you have some crystal in the house it should break.

Where was I? Oh, right. The movie didn't suck. In fact I recommend seeing it. I recommend seeing it on a huge screen. I'd even see it again on an Imax screen or something. But, if I got it on DVD it'd just be so I could go through the disaster scenes in slow motion.

Yummy was a bit traumatized. Not like she would be if she saw "Paranormal Activity" or "Legion" but shaken a bit grumpy. We react a bit differently to cinematic horrors. Guess which one I am.

Anyway, it's a good story, well told, with great special effects.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Movie Review: Men Who Stare At Goats

I have my doubts about the dates used in this movie.

"Men Who Stare At Goats" is a partially true story. Which parts are never made clear. It's the story of a reporter who, having lost his wife to a one armed man, goes to Iraq to cover the war. Unable to get access to good stories he hooks up with a guy who claims to be a military contractor who is getting jobs in Iraq. Turns out he was really part of a government program to train people with extraordinary mental abilities. He claims that their various members could find missing people, influence the minds of others, and kill just by staring at someone. He's in Iraq undercover so he can find somebody important.

The movie keeps switching back and forth between the reporter telling his story in Iraq and the "contractor" telling his story about his training.

I've heard about American and Soviet programs into psychic abilities. Who started them is unclear. Once one was going, or rumored to be going, they both needed one in order to prevent a Psychic Gap. Typically, these are associated with the '60s. However, the movie places these programs in the 80's. I can believe Reagan would approve of these kinds of programs, but it's still difficult to think of these kinds of activities in that era.

This movie is a comedy. No, that's not right. But it is funny.

I liked it, but I haven't yet decided if I want it on DVD. Yummy does so I might get it just for her.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Movie review: The Box

I've been sitting on this review because I wanted to read the original short story, "Button Button", first first. Alas, I couldn't find it online or on some Torrent site.

I went out a week ago Sunday night to see "The Box". Had I check the review a bit closer I might have realized it wasn't a big budget porn flick. Instead it's a feature length version of a story by Richard Matheson. Matheson's work is familiar to those of you who watch the original Twilight Zone. He wrote a lot of those stories. He also wrote the story that became "The Omega Man", "Last Man on Earth", and "I Am Legend". This particular story was used in the 1980's version of "The Twilight Zone".

The basic story that all adaptations have built from involves a box with a button.
A man shows up at a family's doorstep with an offer - push the button and receive a large sum of money. We've all seen that banner ad. But, if you push the button "someone you don't know" will die. You have 24 hours to decide and then he'll be back for the box. When the man comes back for the button he says that it will be reset and given to another family. "Someone you don't know." The implication being that by pressing the button you've just killed the last person who pressed the button and that the next person who presses it will kill you.

It's a nice story well suited for half hour "Twilight Zone" or "X Minus One" type shows. Rather than try to drag that story to triple what it deserves the movie expands on that idea. The husband starts to investigate the man with the box. Strange people start following him and his wife. We learn about how the man came by the box, a bit about who he's working for (still left open to interpretation), and the vast organization that's working all this.

They did a good job on the movie. It's much better than the 1983 "Twilight Zone" version. In the old version you're rather glad that the wife is gonna die.

I liked it and would recommend it, but I doubt I'll be getting it on DVD. However, I may buy the book of short stories that has the original.

Reposted from Friday Links a few weeks back. It's the old Twilight Zone episode.
Part 1

Part 2

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday links: November 13

People who claim that Obama hasn't accomplished anything tend to forget the guy holding the chair before him was a really bad president. Engaging in diplomacy is a major change for us. Not scrapping any new treaties and trying to establish new ones to replace what Bush broke is a huge change. But what they want is not so much to see him doing what every other president from Washington to Clinton did. They want to know what new stuff he's passed. Here's your answer. [link]

Primitive data storage. [link]

Spectacular forklift fail.

Great pictures of Mars. [link]

Coyote hit by car and carried 600 miles gets away uninjured. [link]

Buy our mobile homes. or don't.

Nifty embroidery. [link]

On the 7th of November there was a debate about the question "Is the Catholic church a force for good in the world?" I will admit that the sides were a bit lopsided. On one side you have Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry. On the other, Archbishop John Onaiyekan and Ann Widdencombe MP. The Archbishop and the MP get thoroughly spanked. However, the Archbishop makes a good point at the end. The point of the debate wasn't "does the Catholic Church do more good than ill?" It was are they a force for good? And the Catholic Church does do some good in the world. On the balance, however, the world would be much better off without them. The debate is in five 10-minute clips. [link]

Seven big ass meteorites. [link]

Persian Army that vanished in the desert 2525 years ago found. Ask if war is over. [link]

This isn't really a lost Beatles album, but it's still a good listen. Download for free. [link]

In the not to distant past the Planetary Society tried to launch a solar sail. What with outdated American security issues they couldn't use one of our rockets and had to turn to the Russians. Well, their rocket had a stage that didn't disengage properly. The rocket failed to reach orbit and crashed. Now the Planetary Society has three more solar sails to send up. The first to launch by the end of 2010. [link]

I believe that a space elevator will be the necessary technology to move mankind into space for anything other than a stunt. NASA has been holding a competition to develop cable climbers and power transfer technology. At the following link you can read a short article and watch a video of LaserMotive's climber winning $900,000 by climbing a 1 km rope attached to a helicopter. [link]

This Monday just passed was Carl Sagan Day. He would have been 75. Celebrate by going to Hulu.com and watching "Cosmos". [link]

Why did the HAL9000 sing "Daisy" as it died? [link]

Prison inmates come to guard's aid. [link]

Old Simpsons clips from The Tracy Ullman Show. [link]

Free Electron Micrograph offer. What do you need scanned? They'll do it for free. Details - [link]

I might have to make this. And then get business cards to put in it. [link]


Game: Wake Up The Box. The box is asleep. Wake it up. [link]

Terminator arm technology here and implemented. [link]

Making the pictorial Websters Dictionary.

Pictorial Webster's: Inspiration to Completion from John Carrera on Vimeo.

And finally, there's a new Dr Who episode airing in England on Sunday. As Yummy's bird, Bixby, would say "SQUEEEEEEE!"