Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Links: 27 Feb

Uwe Boll directed something that doesn't suck.

Christopher Moore is appearing at "Politics and Prose" tonight. [link]

Pick the name for the next node on the International Space Station. [link]

Stained glass 1d20. [link]

The Navy can't hit an unmanned vehicle.

What "Carmina Burana" sounds like.

A lippy 4-year old girl acts as her father's art director. [link]

When I finally make it to New York I'm going here. [link]

Republicans: "But we don't WANNA be responsible!"

Baby born with 12 fingers and toes. [link]
Typically this results in a pretty retarded child. I'd really like this kid to be OK and pass on his extra fingers.

The writer's guide to Animaniacs. [link]

Garfield minus Garfield [link]

Coke can plasma engine. [link]

Game: Sky Invasion [link]

I've been rather busy this week otherwise this would just keep going.

Movie Review: Frost/Nixon

The third and final movie of the night was "Frost/Nixon". Of all the nominated movies this was the only one I considered seeing before.

Shortly after leaving office Nixon agreed to be interviewed by a British talk show host. He was popular enough to have shows in England, Australia, and America at one point. He thought he could really stick it to Nixon, sell the interviews, and make a bunch of money. He got a team of researchers, went pitching the interviews, and invested a bunch of his own money. As the interviews got started Frost realized he was in over his head. Politicians are a different beast than celebrities. Nixon destroyed him during the first two interviews. The third was easy because it talked about what Nixon was good at.

I felt the whole movie pivoted on one point. Nixon gives Frost a call. He's been drinking. He doesn't recall the call later. But it provides insight into Nixon. He reveals why he feels a certain kinship with Frost. They weren't born rich. They fought their way to the top and were looked down on by their born-wealthy peers even when they reached the top. Nixon wanted them both to stick it to the snobs, but one of them had to go down.

You also realize that for Nixon politics is all about the struggle. He was in it for the fight and the debates. What he wanted from Frost was a real dual. Explaining himself was beside the point. Nixon wanted to fight and Frost hadn't been giving it to him. I felt that he was goading Frost into really fighting. And he got it. Frost finally did his own research and really prepared. He got his team into records he previously hadn't thought important. For the 4th and final interview, the Watergate interview, he was ready. And he got Nixon to admit things he wouldn't otherwise have said. The "If the President does it, it's not illegal." Was reminescent of arguments made by the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld administration about torture.

Yummy found the movie disturbing because it showed a Nixon who honestly believed he was doing the right thing.

Awesome performance by the guy playing Nixon. My boss doesn't see the resemblance. I do have to wonder if there's a difference between how he's viewed by someone who lived through that as compared to someone my age who knows Nixon mostly via Nixon impersonators.

I liked this movie, I'd recommend it if you're trying to explain Nixon and Watergate to some kids, but I don't see a spot for it in my collection.

You can find the actual Frost and Nixon inverviews on DVD if you're interested and know where to look.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Movie Review: Slumdog Millionaire

"Slumdog Millionaire" was the actual winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture. I had heard of this movie, but never saw a trailer or a review or heard anyone talk about it. Aside from a short description on IMDB I was walking in blind.

"Slumdog Millionaire" is a movie about a guy in India who goes on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" gets to the last question, is suspected of cheating, and is arrested. The movie jumps between the prison, the show, and various parts of the contestant's life as he explains how he knew the answers to the questions.

In the first flash back they grab the viewer by having a little kid have to jump in a pool of shit to get his favorite actor's autograph. Most of the rest of the movie involves him and his brother losing their parents, meeting a girl, becoming beggars for a con-man, getting separated from the girl, spending years trying to find her again, and then trying to get her out of the hands of one gangster or another.

One of the big questions that this movie poses to the viewer is whether or not it's actually a Bollywood movie or just made to look that way.

I will not get it on DVD, but it's worth a rental.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Movie Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Of all the movies in this year's Academy Awards I think "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" has the most staying power. It's the one that people will still recognize years from now.

This movie is the life story of a man named Benjamin Button. He was born as a really old infant, grew up in a wheelchair, advanced to crutches, then a cane, became self-mobile, grew his hair back, and generally got younger and younger. Late in life he started to shrink and slowly became a senile little kid, forgot how to walk, and finally died as a baby. The story is mostly told as a woman reading an old diary/photo album to her mother. The mother is on her death bed in a New Orleans hospital as Hurricane Katrina advances on them.

Not sure what to say about it. Ben took a job on a fishing boat as an old man and worked there for years as he kept getting younger. He supported the WWII war effort on that boat. He tried to see a good portion of the world. He met his real father. He had a few romances. He and the old woman in the hospital spent several years together in their respective middle ages.

Again, I will not be buying this movie on DVD.

What? If these were my kind of movies I would have seen them when they came out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Movie Review: The Reader

"The Reader" is about an allegedly 15 year old boy having a fling with a 30-something or older woman. He reads to her a lot. You manage to figure out pretty quick that she can't read. For the first 30-45 minutes of the movie you're wondering if this is really just soft core porn made to promote your local library. Then they break up and he goes to law school. While there he gets to go witness the trial of a Nazi guard. Wadda ya know the woman he used to date is the leading defendant. The other guards set her up to take the fall. She could prove that she wasn't the ring leader by admitting she can't write but decides to spend life in prison instead. Years later the male lead, now a lawyer with a family, starts recording books and sending them to her in prison. She gets a book from the library and vandalizes it while learning to read. She starts to write to him, but he won't write back. But the prison guards get in touch with him because someone needs to take care of her now that she's getting out. He reluctantly agrees to help her, but won't take care of her. The woman, realizing that this one person who she thought could forgive her can't get past her Nazi background despite his feelings for her, hangs herself.

Yummy kept trying to figure out what the message was behind "The Reader".
I could see where the male lead didn't get in the lake with his friends until he broke up with the Nazi chick. So there may have been a symbolic "other fish in the sea" type thing.
There was a possible comparison between prison and concentration camps. You don't learn anything in either place. The former guard was now the prisoner.
Maybe that writing in books is better than burning them.
Kate Winslet has really dark nipples.
I dunno.

I suspected that this movie would win the Academy Award for best movie because it was the lamest of the lot. Oh, sorry, I should say it was a long and sad life story that involved Nazis and illiteracy.

I'm glad I saw it but wouldn't get it on DVD.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Movie Review: Milk

The Academy Awards were last night. The day before that Yummy and I spent the day in a theatre in Alexandria watching all of the movies nominated for Best Picture. It started at 10:30 in the morning and let out about a quarter til' midnight. For $30/person you get an all day pass to come and go as you like and a bottomless bag of popcorn.

I'd heard of the movie "Milk" but had no idea what it was about. I'd seen no trailers and read no reviews. How was this movie any better than "The Dark Knight" or "Iron Man"?

"Milk" is named for Harvey Milk, a gay activist in 1970's California. Sean Penn, best known for punching paparazzi back when he was dating Madonna, plays the title role. He spends the movie narrating his life and motivations just in case he get assassinated. Naturally, he does.

Harvey Milk ran for a position of power in San Francisco and worked to organize the gay community. He got them to boycott anti-gay businesses and support pro- or neutral businesses. He showed that they were a significant customer block. He worked to defeat laws that were put into place to protect the civil right of local gays. He got closeted gays to come out of the closet so that people would know that they already knew gay people and that they're human beings, too.

In the end, it wasn't an anti-gay rights activist that killed him. It was another local politician who was so far in the closet that he commuted to work from Narnia. It appeared to me that this politician's greatest fear was that he'd be made to look stupid.

This was a good movie, but I wouldn't get this on DVD. It's worth a rental, however.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Links: Feb 20

How to secure your data.

Movie trailer parody.

I first heard this on Dr. Demento. I had to look it up the other day so Yummy would know what I'm talking about when I occasionally start spouting lines. Listen to the MP3 version. [link]

"Escape From City 17" episode 1

Coke Babies.

Virtual Apple. It's a site that runs emulators of old Apple ][ games. Probably the best known is "Oregon Trail". [link]

A ranking officer in the Army claims that they have EMP grenades but admits he hasn't seen them. Possibly a loon. Probably a loon. From an engineering perspective, I hope he isn't. On the other hand, it's technology so ripe for abuse I kind of hope it's impossible. [link]

The Daily Show's best clips about evolution. [link]

If you're in the DC area and knit then you can help make helmet liners for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq by participating in a group knitting project at the National Museum of Health and Medicine on the campus of Walter Reed Army Hospital on Feb 28. Information and the pattern are available at the link. [link]

A collection of free short sci-fi stories. [link]

The proper way to respond to a creationist's debate request. [link]

How to grow your own fresh air.

One of my favorite online games. Picross 2 [link]

Thursday, February 19, 2009

2008 Academy Award Nominated Animated Shorts

Yummy and I went to see the Academy Award Nominated Animated Shorts this weekend. They showed the 5 nominees and 5 honorable mentions. I'd seen 6 of the 10 already.



Lavatory - Lovestory

This Way Up (trailer only)

La Maison En Petits Cubes (my money for the winner because the Academy likes the sad stuff)

honorable mentions
Hot Dog (trailer)

Varmints (bootleg clip)

Gopher Broke

John and Karen [link]


Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Several weeks ago I turned over a lot of my videos for donation to Goodwill. They were drug downstairs and piled up. Having so many blocks on the floor I was forced to stack them into something.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Movie Review: Pink Panther 2

Movie critics are dreadful and moronic lot. They like to slam good movies and praise stuff that nobody wants to see. On a rare occasion they'll praise something that's actually watchable but it's rare for the watchable set and the critically acclaimed set to overlap.

"Pink Panther 2" is not in that overlapping area. Professional movie critics have all seen the original movies, loved some, hated others, and then fused the whole mass into something to compare the new Steve Martin movies to1. You can't do that. Partially because the first one was a nearly serious detective movie with a little clumsiness mixed in, the next couple played to the slapstick a lot more, and the last one was basically a clips episode. The new movies play to the slapstick but aren't as serious about it as the classic movie were. The critics hated it, but Yummy and I loved it.

That said, this movie did include a few elements of the classic movies that I thought the first missed. Most notable of these was the kung-fu battle that destroys a bunch of furniture.

In this latest movie Steve Martin returns as the comically clumsy Inspector Clouseau. A thief has been stealing prominent items from all over Europe and leaving a card behind. A team of detectives from these various countries has been put together to find the thief with Clouseau as the leader. They start their investigation at the site of the theft of the Pink Panther diamond by contaminating the crime scene and various detectives trying to out romance or out detect Clouseau. The investigation takes them to a variety of sites with each involving the other detectives detecting and Clouseau looking the fool. Naturally, in the end he solves the case and makes the rest look foolish.

It was nice to see Steve Martin doing the kinds of roles that made him famous (i.e. not another damn drama). It was nice to see Lily Tomlin again. I hadn't seen her in forever. Looking over IMDB it looks like I was just watching the wrong stuff.

I do recommend this movie. I recommend taking your kids. I will be getting this on DVD.


1I admit, I've done the same with the "Transformers" movies. But, dammit, that is not Optimus Prime, that is not Megatron, and they all look more like walking bags of broken glass than what I used to watch on Saturday mornings and kept in my toybox!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Links: Feb 13

First of all, Happy Valenteen. I did shower. I didn't shave.

A picture of the International Space Station passing in front of the moon. [link]

Italy has it's own Terri Schiavo type case as the Prime Minister tries to put the Pope's wishes above the wishes of the family, the Italian Constitution, and the coma victim. The Prime Minister's reasoning being that she is "in the condition to have babies". At least Bush never tried THAT excuse. [link]

Pope Palpatine repeats that Evolution is true and Creation/Intelligent Design is nonsense. [link]

Coming soon: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - an adaptation of the Jane Austen novel. [link]

An essay about Amish technology. I've only read snippets so far, but I like what I've read. [link]

"Oregon Trail" for the Apple ][ (and other Apple programs online). [link]

"Heroes" is back on. I added it to my list of online shows. [link]

The company that makes Muzak has filed for bankruptcy. The economic elevator may be set for an express trip to the basement, but at least we don't have to listen to Muzak while we go. [link]

As much as I dig on Christian Fundamentalists they still aren't as backwards as Muslim Fundamentalists. At least in this century. A Saudi woman got a year in prison and 100 lashes as punishment for getting raped. [link]

I didn't see the first Transformers movie and I probably won't see the second. You can get some idea why by looking at this. [link]

High voltage electric wires cause fluorescent bulbs to glow.[link]
I want to build a chicken wire sculpture around one (or several), wait until some super cold day, and turn the sprinklers on the chicken wire. Then take the frozen lump and place it under some high tension lines.

Torchwood season 3 trailer.

Science comedian Brian Malow.

I'll be trying this trick soon. [link]

And finally, you probably heard about the two satellites colliding. I won't get into that. But one of the satellites was an Iridium satellite. They're super shiny satellites that can be seen in the middle of the day if you know where to look. You can enter your location at and it'll tell you what satellites are viewable in your area and when and where to look.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Repost: Valenteen

Valenteen. It's the day before Valentine's Day. You know, like Halloween comes before All Saints Day (a.k.a. All Hallows, a.k.a. Hallowmas). Only instead of dressing up you're supposed to completely fail to dress up.

Here's how to celebrate. On February 13th you skip all the usual morning preparation stuff. Guys shouldn't shave, apply cologne, or use anything other than a hairbrush on their hair. Women should skip their makeup and perfume, only use a hairbrush on their hair, and wear comfortable clothes to work.

Obviously if there's a dress code you have to stick to that. So sweat pants are probably out of the question. But still you should feel free to leave the high heels at home. Forget the tight and/or revealing clothes for one day.

Because the next day is Valentine's Day. It's all about romance and candy and candles and dressing up for your significant other... and huge profits for the candy, card, flower, and lingerie companies. Every day we dress up a bit. For Valentine's Day we dress up a LOT. If for just one day, Valenteen, we fail to dress up and show our partners our real selves it'll make the work we do on Valentine's Day that much more impressive and hopefully make our partners appreciate the work we do every other day a little bit more.

Because Valentine's Day is the day for all the people who have someone to really rub it in the noses of the single people of the world. As if we don't have to put up with enough of that crap the rest of the time. Valentine's Day is the day they really do it up and yell "neener neener neener" at the single people of the world.

You don't think so? Send those flowers to her home instead of her office and see how much they mean when all the coworkers DON'T get to see them.

Valenteen is the holiday for single people and for those who found someone only after a long hard struggle to show their solidarity with the singles of the world.

Because men are clueless dorks who have seen so many Valentine's Day signs, displays, and decorations since January 2nd that they've become numb. After all that they're still gonna screw up the big day. If you come out without makeup, your hair pulled back, a sports bra, and frumpy clothes he might realize he has 24 hours left and actually be able to pull something off.

The Digital Toaster Project: Computer components

So, how, you may ask, do I plan to cram an entire computer inside a toaster? Computers generally involve a large metal box. I do it by using very small parts.

Let me point you at Running down the right side you can see lots of small computers other people have made. I'm particularly fond of the ones made from a guitar or an ammunition case. Converting old game systems is also rather popular.

Here are the more significant pieces I've gathered.The CD is there just for scale.

On the left is the mini-itx motherboard with big honking processor. It's not top of the line, but Yummy isn't gonna be playing the latest processor eating games on this system. On the far right is the hard drive. 320GB if you can believe it. In the middle is a slot loading CD/DVD drive. I used slot loading instead of a tray is because I really want the CD to be fed in like toast. Between the CD drive and the motherboard is a red 4" CCFL light. There are two of them which should make the slots glow when the computer is on.

There are other supplementary bits that I plan to make when the computer is done. I'll provide more information when I finish them. I plan to gut a USB memory stick and encase it in a lipstick tube. Also, an external hard drive housed in a book.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Digital Toaster Project: The Footings

I wanted to get into the computer components here, but I have some pictures I need to take first. Instead you get more goo news.

So I've got this toaster...

...that I've stripped down to the shell. This will be the case for the new computer.

The motherboard is small but we're not building a gaming rig. It will fit on the bottom of the toaster with the jacks sticking out the back. But I can't just screw it to that metal base. It'd short out and fry components and set fire to things and generally be bad. So I want a sheet of the aforementioned goo separating them.

I poured a bunch of acetone into my jar, broke up some packing that came with a computer monitor and started feeding it into the jar. It took a LOT.

Once I had my ooze I positioned a sheet of cardboard where the motherboard would go in the toaster. Then I put in the screws to punch holes in the cardboard marking their location. Then I put the motherboard on top of the cardboard and drove nails through where those screws would go. This led to a piece of cardboard that looks like this.

Instead of decanting off the excess acetone I just ladled up big forkfuls of ooze onto a cookie sheet. Then I used the fork to flatten it out and spread it. Remember, the ooze doesn't pour like you'd want it to.

I ended up with this.

I placed the cardboard over the ooze with the nails and screws marking where I need to make holes later. I left it on top of the stove under the vent hood overnight. The result was unexpected.

I figure that either
a) air got caught in the ooze when being forked out and I missed it. Looking at these pictures I don't think this is the case.
2) it's a gas stove and the pilot lights gently warmed the pan causing the acetone to turn to gas inside the skin that automatically forms around it.
iii) there was air still stuck in it from when I stuffed the Styrofoam in.

Writing this up now I see that the obvious answer is 2. The pictures helps with this conclusion. Don't get me wrong. There was still air in the ooze. It rises out very, very slowly. But I'm not buying that excuse.

See, I took the hardened ooze apart and reintroduced the pieces to acetone. It still melts, but very, very, very slowly. Overnight shows progress but doesn't finish the job. The final product has none of the air bubbles of the straight from Styrofoam batch. This time I did decant off the acetone. When I poured (pour is a poor word for what happened) it back on the cookie sheet and left it on the stove it did the exact same thing. Bubbles in the mix.

So I'm whipping up a fresh batch of ooze today. I'm going to put some of the remaining plaster in a casserole dish and use the cardboard to mark holes in the plaster and hopefully get some nails in those places. Then I'll put the ooze on the hardened plaster. This should allow the plaster to absorb some of the acetone from the bottom and keep the stove from heating the acetone. After several days of hardening I hope to be able to pull out the nails and have something useful.

I know I should be concerned about the fumes, but like I said before...As fast as the ooze forms a skin you really don't get much in the way of purple monsters coming out of the walls. I always knew the parrot was working with the Tzar to badger badger badger badger ham.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Digital Toaster Project: experimentation

At this point I'm still experimenting with materials to use in Yummy's computer.

I bought some non-stick spray to coat the clay figures with and then completely forgot to use it until after I had covered the bits of clay with plaster.

This made it difficult to get the plaster out of the casserole dish later. In fact, the plaster broke down the middle along three of the clay piece. Luckily the break was clean and I could just press the two halves together.

I emptied out a jar of marshmallow fluff that should have been disposed of years ago. I did this because I needed a glass instead of plastic jar to contain the acetone and most things I get from the store have switched to plastic jars. Spaghetti sauce and marshmallow fluff being the only exceptions that I can think of but I'm sure I'm missing something.

Being an experiment, at this early stage I needed to be able to quantify the amount of Styrofoam that could be contained in a set volume of acetone. Since my liquid measuring cup is the final surviving remains of a Sesame Street cooking set I had as a kid and is made of plastic I couldn't use it to measure the acetone. Instead I measured out a cup of water and poured it in the jar. I marked the water level on the jar, decided that was more than I wanted to use, and repeated with half a cup of water. Again, I poured out the water but this time I filled the jar to the half cup mark with acetone.

I should mention that I did all of this near the kitchen stove with the hood fan running so the fumes from the acetone wouldn't build up too much.

Fluid is easy to quantify. Styrofoam is less so. I didn't want to wind up using measurements like "the top piece of packing foam for a 19 inch Dell LCD Monitor". So I decided to use pieces of loose packing peanuts.

I dropped the first peanut in and it sizzled as it melted. It melted pretty fast, too. A snowball on hot coals kind of fast. What remained was as wispy and insubstantial as cobwebs. As the peanuts were white so were the webs.

I kept adding peanuts and kept a tally. Around 20 peanuts I started adding them 5 at a time. Every 5 decapeanuts (1 decapeanut = 10 peanuts) I'd stir the webbing with a screwdriver. This caused the webbing to form into an ooze.

Eventually, I ran low on white peanuts and had to switch to green. I felt that keeping a consistent unit of measure was more important than sticking with a color. The green peanuts left green webbing.

At 3.75 hectopeanuts (375 peanuts) I was sick of this shit. It was getting late and I had work in the morning. The acetone was still a long way from being saturated.

I poked at the goo that the webbing was forming into. It was like runny gum or cheese on really hot pizza.

The ooze didn't want to pour worth anything. I wound up scooping up globs and pressing them into the moulds. For a mould of any real size you'd want to really apply pressure to get it into place.

The leftovers I scooped from the jar and dropped in my hand to try to
roll into a ball. At first it behaved like dough that needs more
flour. It stuck to my hands in a couple dozen places. I rolled it
anyway. Soon it divided into stuff that wanted to stick to my hands
and stuff that wanted to stick to the ball. The stuff on my hands soon
dried, flaked, and fell off.

The remaining acetone in the jar appears to be about 1/3 of a cup. I'd estimate that 1/2 a cup of acetone would hold 1 kilopeanut.

The ball required constant attention to remain a ball. The acetone evaporated from the surface making it pliable but tough. When squeezed the surface would rupture and the gooey core would come out. I'd roll it back into a ball making the goo the outside and the outside the inside. Air got caught between the folds so that when the leathery outside was inside and soaked up enough acetone to get soft there were air bubbles in there. If the ball was left on a counter for more than a few seconds it would start to flatten. The bottom would also get gooey again and stick to whatever it was resting on. Eventually I waited for a tough exterior, ran a tree ornament wire through it, and
hung it up so I could go to sleep. It sagged and became kind of teardrop shaped except for the folds that ran down from the wire. Think what the skin would look like if you hung a fat kid from his belly button ring.

I rather expected it to stretch out more overnight. Instead it remained in much the same shape the next morning as I'd left it. Tougher, yes; stiffer, yes. There was still a soft core but by squeezing it you could tell it was smaller. I stuffed it in my coat pocket without any fear of it adhering to the fabric.

I poked at the stuff in the moulds before going to work. It's still squooshy but much less so than the night before. Since it's enclosed on all sides but the top I don't think it's setting up as quickly as the leftover ball. I could be wrong. I also stuck wires in the back of the stuff in the moulds so that I'd have something to grab to pull them out.

Everything still smells slightly of acetone, but evaporation really slows once the skin has formed. Naturally, the thinner the piece the faster it hardens. So a couple of pieces could come out by the next second morning. All could come out by the third.

The final product.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Digital Toaster Project: plans

This post was written last December. The project is ongoing but I'm going to be posting my notes over the next several days along with pictures taken along the way.

I am to be making for the girlfriend a new computer.

Woah, how screwed up was that sentence?

I have a very shiny chrome-looking toaster that I haven't used in years. Mostly when I'm sick and need something to scratch that itch in the back of my mouth. I will be turning that into a computer.

I picture a toaster with the CD/DVD drive loading through a slot in the top, a laptop hard drive, a mini-itx motherboard, external power supply, and red lights that make the slots glow red when the computer is on.

One of the things I rarely see discussed among those who make computers are things like what the motherboard is attached to. Seriously. I wanna know.
In my case I plan to make fasteners so I can attach the motherboard to the metal tabs that will be vacated when the regular hardware is removed. These tabs have to be custom made. I'm thinking that I can saturate a quantity of acetone (a.k.a. nail polish remover, paint thinner) with Styrofoam. Styrofoam dissolves in acetone. Once the acetone is saturated, that is no more Styrofoam will dissolve, I should be able to pour the liquid into a mold and leave it to set up.

I spent an hour and change forming the clay.

I had considered picking up some proper clay forming tools while in the craft shop. I didn't and I regret that. I accepted some crudeness in the forms since this is just a test case and the final product is only of minimal importance. Part of my problem was that I needed to work with pieces that were already stuck to the bottom of the casserole dish. I used an 8"x8" casserole dish because I'm going to be burying these pieces in plaster and needed a confined area. I needed to form the clay in place so there wouldn't be lips for the plaster to get under the piece.

My non-stick spray appears to have been tossed recently. Possibly by me. I know it was rather old. I'll want to get some more to spray the pan and the clay with before adding the plaster.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Friday links: Feb 6

Game: Chain of Fire - set people on fire and then watch them run around setting other people on fire. [link]

Thrown shoe monument built in Iraq. [link]

I want one of these. [link]

A selection of awesome coffee cups. [link]

Quiz: Do you have Biblical morals? [link]

Nerd merit badge. [link]

Awesome snow globes. [link]

Iraqi women had 80 women raped so they'd volunteer to be suicide bombers. [link]

Nerd ranking system. [link]

Game: Super Stacker 2 - 40 levels of stacking stuff on other stuff. [link]

Etch-A-Sketch master. [link]

David Attenborough on The Tree of Life

I think they got the wrong guy.

A kid tripping after his visit to the dentist.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Big laptop is watching

My laptop eats my brother's laptop.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

So, how's life?

"So, Ibid..." you ask. "How's your week?"

I answer

"That's too bad."

"Still, it's better than last week."

"Why what happened last week?"


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Book review: The Immortals

I just finished reading "The Immortals" by James Gunn. It's a 1962 book consisting of 4 short stories published in science fiction magazines between 1955 and 1960. Each of the stories are related.

In the first we follow a doctor who has given a blood transfusion to an elderly and wealthy dying patient. That particular unit of blood had been donated by a man named Cartwright who was unaware that he's immortal. The old man spends a week going from nearly dead to being 30 years old again. Once he figures out what happened he launches a search for the donor in the hopes of being able to pump him for his blood forever. But the doctor finds him first and warns him to hide.

The second story talks about a special organization dedicated to finding the secret to immortality and funded by a cabal of millionares. They find one of the heir of the original Cartwright. One guy tries to play each side off the other but only succeeds in getting them both captured. Luckily for them the original Cartwright has been working as a janitor in the organization for decades so he'd be in a position to know and free any of his children who were captured.

The third story takes place in a world where the quest for health care has almost completely consumed the economy. The cities lie in ruin as toxic fogs ebb and flow. To either live high in a tower or out in the suburbs. Medics training to be doctors travel in ambulances built like tanks to deter bandits. Still, one medic gets kidnapped and brought before an old man who is also a powerful mob boss type when he goes to treat an old blind man whose coverage has expired. Naturally they - the medic, the old man, and a young lady with him - manage to escape. The old blind man used to be a doctor and teaches the medic the difference between a doctor and a healer.

The fourth story continues in this same world. It's been about 200 years since the first Cartwright has been discovered. Several Cartwrights have been captured. The countryside is filled with people who will try to capture you and sell your body for it's organs. A doctor is given the task of taking a message to the Governor now that the communication lines have been cut. He's also to escort a blind man, the governor's daughter, and one other to the mansion. The three he's escorting don't much like the doctor but he's fastened to the governor's daughter so they can't get separated by much without pain. They escape several traps and attacks only to find that the Governor is about 200 years old and has swollen up like Jabba the Bloated Tick. The girl is his daughter but she's also a Cartwright and the governor wants to breed with her and use her blood to keep him young and healthy. So naturally, they have to kill him.

It was a decent book. I'd like to see other books that unfold in a series of short stories like this.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Building Museum

Yummy and I finally got to hit the National Building Museum Saturday. We've been trying this for weeks but usually by the time we roll out of bed and get some breakfast it's late enough that the museums would be near closing by the time we got there.

The Green Communities exhibit that you keep seeing signs for all over town will continue to run until October 2009. The whole exhibit is about ways to improve a community to make it greener. It talks about unsightly and toxic areas of cities and how some places are working to clean them.
They had some neat technologies in the exhibit, but for some reason I wasn't thrilled with the exhibit itself. Probably because I've seen most of what they were talking about before. On either end of the room there are two projectors aimed so that the images from the two overlap with only a slight seam. The projectors are placed above the screen and out a few inches so that your body doesn't create a shadow. I'm thinking there was some serious keystone adjustments. Anyway, there was a grid of laser going over the projection surface so it would see which ones broke when you touched the screen and respond.
There's also a series of projectors in the hall outside the exhibit. They're like those things you may have seen at your local mall. You know, where different games are projected on the ground and kids run around in the light kicking projected balls and the like. This had 3-4 projectors making a road. You'd stand on a bus, car, or bike at the beginning of the street, and walk it along the road and read messages about the amount of pollution you're not making by using those methods.

We also saw the Detour traveling exhibit. It talks about some tourist routes that have been established in Norway. There are models of the different scenic areas and a video showing you what they look like in practice. The video is shown in a round chamber that has eight visors allowing you to peek inside. This restricts the viewership to only eight people at a time. With a movie running about 15 minutes there can get to be a good sized and semi-grumpy crowd behind you. Luckily the Building Museum isn't terribly popular.

There's also an exhibit showing highlights from their cityscape collection. You see different kinds of bricks and terracotta molding and how they've been used to decorate the outsides of various grand buildings. There are some tiny little bricks that you can use to build walls. Educational cards talk about how to build different kinds of bond. Bond is what they call the different styles of brick layout. [link]

The gift shop is pretty good if you have money you're willing to spend. It's the sort of place you want to go when you're clean out of gift ideas.

I'm not sure what was happening, but one corner of the main floor was littered with little kids playing with different kinds of blocks. One kid was making a rather impressive looking tower when it started to topple and another kid came charging through it. Another 5 seconds and the future engineer's father would have had a picture of the building from the balcony.

I would recommend the Building Museum to people who are in DC for a second or third visit. Even for the locals a yearly visit wouldn't be amiss. They rotate out exhibits more frequently than some of the bigger and better known places. And the building itself is something to behold.