Thursday, April 30, 2009

My stuff on CSI

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, a book that I worked on, Medical Aspects of Biological Warfare (left), is going to appear in an episode of the original "CSI - CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

There is some debate about whether tonight's episode is the one in question. But from what we can gather tonight's episode is about an outbreak of some disease. It seems promising.

So watch CBS tonight at 9:00 (8 Central and Mountain) or go out to later and watch the episode "The Gone Dead Train."

In other news, something from Yummy's blog was quoted in the Washington Post's "Express" newspaper this morning.

When someone walked past my office coughing, I felt my lungs constrict. What had been slight paranoia blossomed into [all-out] crazy fear.
[Yummy] has admittedly, fallen for all the warnings surrounding swine flu, and is disinfecting herself dozens of times per day.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Build your own library

Shelves I made. Behind them is
tool storage.

I've been putting my library back in some kind of order. Over the years I've tried this a number of times. I used to wonder why libraries organized by author. I didn't know the names of the authors of most of my books. I organized by title almost exclusively. I mean, if I wanted to read "Foundation" I went to the F section and got it.

This has changed.

First of all, it's changed because I know a lot more of my author names. Anything I see from Robert J Sawyer or John Scalzi gets bought. Any Isaac Asimov titles that I find that I don't own get bought even if it's just to fill the gaps.

Second of all, my library is huge now. The reference section breaks down into religion, science, technology, programming, medical, and general. Star Trek, Dr. Who, and other TV related shows that I have more than 3 of get their own area. Graphic novels and cartoon books (i.e. Dilbert, Zits, Foxtrot, etc) get their own bookcase. There's a section for autographed books. Most of one bookcase gets filled with stuff that I haven't read yet.

According to Delicious Library [link] I have 868 books. This doesn't include what I just got at the Friends of the Arlington Library Book Sale last weekend. Nor does it include the books that I found I have duplicates of and are giving to Yummy for her niece's yard sale.

The shelf above is mostly full with strictly entertainment books running from Douglas Adams to some author with a Z early in his last name. I may have to split off a section just of ghost stories (maybe they should go in the religion section) and another of classic literature.

I'm convinced I had a point to get to when I started this. Positive. Huh.

Well, the nice thing about this time of the year is that instead of just looking like an absent minded techie I can blame the fact that I've been breathing equal parts oxygen and tree sperm.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ibid's Poetry Corner

Today I do battle with my arch nemesis Paul N. and his dreaded tiny yellow specks of doom. So while my sinuses crawl off to die you get some old poetry of mine.

Roses are green,
Violets are orange,
Don't take the brown pills,
The spiders are inside my eyes.

Yankee Doodle went to town
Riding on a pony
Stuck a feather in his cap
And got his legs broken by someone he owed a lot of money to.

And now you know why I'm a programmer instead of a poet.

Monday, April 27, 2009

TV Review: Red Dwarf - Back to Earth

I have a remarkable knack for picking up books that are connected to TV shows in England without knowing there even is a TV show in England. About a decade back I picked up a book called "Red Dwarf". It caught my eye, I read the summary, it looked brilliant, and it was.

Then I found out about the show. The original series ran from 1988 until 1995. Clearly, they planned a 9th season that was never produced. Season 8 ended with Red Dwarf in flames and the crew fleeing through a dimensional port hole to somewhere unknown.

Then, I heard about a three part "Red Dwarf" special airing in England on Easter. It was called "Back to Earth". I finally watched it last Thursday.

If you're planning to watch it you might want to stop reading now. Oh, yes, there will be spoilers.

What me and the "Red Dwarf" fan base were expecting was that they'd sort out the cliff hanger, get the crew back to Earth, and generally give the show closure. That isn't what happened.

Let me step back for a bit. Dave Lister got super drunk on his birthday and found himself on Mars. In an attempt to get back he signs on with the mining ship Red Dwarf heading for Earth. Turns out that the ship is heading for Earth by way of Pluto. Rather than make the trip Lister gets himself arrested by smuggling a cat on board. He releases the cat in the ducts so the people won't kill it. He gets put into a stasis pod where time is frozen for all inside. Shortly thereafter a problem with the engine's reactor puts out a wave of radiation that instantly kills everyone in the habitat section of the ship. The ship hits the gas and tears out of the galaxy at full acceleration to prevent contamination of the Solar System. Three million years later the radiation has died down enough that the ship can finally release Lister from stasis.

Rimmer was Lister's immediate supervisor in the vending machine division of the ship and his roommate. They hated each other. The ship decides that Lister needs company so it brings back Rimmer as a hologram.

Cat (cats don't have names) is a humanoid feline descendant of the cat that Lister released into the ducts. It had found it's way deep in the belly of the ship where the radiation existed, but was pretty heavily shielded by a few hundred decks. Turns out the original cat was pregnant. It had kittens that interbred, mutated, evolved, figured out how to work a can opener, became intelligent, developed religion, fought holy wars, and left the ship in search of their respective gods who were both based on Lister. They left behind a retard and a cripple who had Cat. Cat worries primarily about his clothes, hair, and general appearance. He was the only thing left alive on the ship when Lister woke up.

Kryten is a service droid found on a crashed space ship. Red Dwarf's new crew found a distress signal and responded hoping to find and save the three young ladies that were on that ship. Turns out that they'd all died a couple million years ago and that Kryten had continued cooking, cleaning, and refusing to acknowledge their deaths since that would mean he no longer had duties and what's a service droid with nothing to clean?

To avoid the cliffhanger problem and that of missing cast who couldn't come back, the special picks up two seasons after the show was canceled. Lister's alive again/dead again girlfriend Kristine Kochanski is dead again. Holly, the ship's computer never appears or speaks. The discovery of a dimension hopping squid in the ship's water tanks causes the computer to generate the hologram of another, more useful, dead crew member who can figure out how to use a tentacle from the squid to create a rift that will get the crew back to Earth.

The Earth they reach is modern Earth where they find out about a show called Red Dwarf that documents their adventures. In fact, the crew aren't real. They're created by the guy who made the show. And he's gonna kill them off in the final episode "Red Dwarf: Back to Earth". To preserve their own existence they must find the creator and beg for their life. He refuses and tells them about their own death in a reproduction of a scene from "Blade Runner." Instead, they kill him and use his typewriter to manipulate events.

Soon, they begin to realize that they're not really back on Earth. The squid's natural defenses induce a coma in which someone gets a world that makes them happy.

They had a bigger budget than they had back in the early 90's. The writing was every bit as good as it used to be. Something about the performance, at least in the first episode, was lacking, however. Maybe they just needed to get back in their groove.

I'm afraid I can't recommend buying the DVD. However, you have to go get the books "Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers" and "Better than Life". The first one retells the story of season one with all the stuff that didn't translate to TV or fit in a half hour episode. I think they're better than the show.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Links: April 24

Book review of drivel reprinted from a religious blog. [link]

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince trailer. [link]

Deleted scene from Dogma.

Movies under development:
A Dr. Horrible movie being considered by the Wheadons. [link]
Frankenstein's monster as a private eye? [link]

How school text books are selected. [link]

Felt anatomy. [link]

Some stories by Cyril Kornbluth.
The Only Thing We Learn [link]
The Mindworm [link]
I haven't read them yet, but an author/editor I respect says they're good.

Game: Oozing Forever [link]

Freaky balloon creatures. [link]

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Old Movie Review: Terminator

Coming to theaters soon is a movie we've been waiting to see for 25 years. No, not Star Wars: Episode 7 - Revenge of the Sarlacc. I'm referring to "Terminator 4" or "Terminator Salvation".

This weekend Yummy and I sat down to watch the original "Terminator". She'd never seen any of them and it had been far too many years since I'd seen the original. It's... uh... very 1984. Very, very 1984, in fact.

"Terminator" launched the careers of James Cameron and contributed significantly to Arnold Schwarzenegger's career. Since James Cameron was pretty much an unknown he had to make "Terminator" on a budget. In fact, it's only one step up from a B-Movie. But if you have a good story then you don't need high dollar effects.

Sarah Connor is a waitress and a wanted woman. Killer cyborgs from the future are here to kill her. Sometime down the road NORAD builds a defense system called Skynet. When the war comes the computer decides that all humans are the enemy, not just those on the other side, so it nukes everyone and takes over. For years mankind, led by John Connor, has fought the robots that Skynet makes in automated factories. The robots are losing so they send a flesh covered cyborg back in time to kill Sarah Connor before she gives birth to John. The humans send Kyle Reese to protect her.

There's lots of running and shooting and killing. From time to time we get some back story to explain the who and whys. We also get a lot of 1984. Seriously. A lot. There are a couple of great shots of a spastic stop-motion steel Terminator coming down the hall. Arnold's prosthetic face used when showing significant facial damage was pretty comical.

It's the end that really makes this movie into something other than another Freddy or Jason style flick or another defending against the robot uprising story. In the end we find that Sarah Connor is pregnant with John. Kyle is the father but he's dead. So the movie tells of a predestination paradox. The robots were losing to John Connor so they sent back a robot to kill Sarah so the humans sent back a defender who knocked up Sarah so she'd have the kid that would fight the robots causing them to send a robot back in time... and on and on. The trailers didn't sell this movie. People walking out of the theater with their minds blown and telling their friends sold the movie

Nine years later James Cameron has make Aliens and The Abyss. He's a name. He's able to pull down a budget for "Terminator 2". T2 is bigger and grander and arguably better than the first. It secured "Terminator" as a movie to stick around instead of just falling in the dustbin of movie history.

T2 was followed up in 2003 with "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" where the movie ends with the start of the war. The story has shifted a bit. Now it's just a plain old super AI uprising.

Season 2 of "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" just ended. It's really a lot better than I ever expected it to be.

On May 21 we get to see what we've been wanting to see for 25 years. We get to see the actual war with the machines.

I'm still not getting it on DVD, but I'm glad I saw it again. Except Yummy is now going to make me watch "High School Musical".

This cartoon is from one of the books in The Bunny Suicides series.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Creationist Meteorologists

Minnesota: Where talking about the weather is a competitive sport.

Yesterday the Twin Cities Creation Science Association had a meeting to discuss "God's Design in Weather".

From the announcment:

Weather is more talked about than any other topic. God has arranged the weather system on the earth. There are patterns to this weather. How does a tornado form? What causes hurricanes? Why aren't raindrops larger? Science is about finding patterns and then predicting what will happen. The study of weather allows us to think God's thoughts after him.

When I read about this it reminded me of some things I read awhile back. I did a bit of research to check my facts and then posted a comment on the blog I saw the mocking notice on.

Short version:
With the popularity of Ben Franklin's lightning rod protecting homes all over New England and throughout Europe the church started to kick up a fuss. Lightning was assumed to be how God manifests his wrath. Many religious leaders kick up a fuss about how the lightning rod was thwarting God's wrath.
Franklin's response was two-fold. I regret that I must paraphrase since I can't find the original quote. He wondered aloud what kind of god could have his will foiled by a small piece of metal. He also asked if lightning is god's wrath made manifest then why are churches the most common target.

Longer version:
In 1752 Ben Franklin is credited with performing his kite experiment. Some historians refute this as there is no evidence that Ben performed the experiment himself but simply suggested the experiment at a symposium for others to perform. At first there was little said about this theft of power from "Prince of the Power of the Air". Compromise was attempted with preachers moved by hail storms to proclaim the storm as His wrath being demonstrated. They quoted that men "know not whence the wind cometh," then turning around and saying it came "out of His secret places." So, I guess the wind is God farting.

Churches in Germany continued to refuse lightning rods for 30 years after their release. In this time 400 church towers were struck and 120 bell ringers were killed. The churches continued to send bell ringers up the towers in storms to drive away the storm. With the death toll of bell ringers so high this practice was banned in many place. Some advocated firing cannons instead of ringing bells, but this didn't gain much ground.

In several European nations the churches managed to stir up enough hatred of the lightning rods that mobs would go out to tear them down. One chemist took down his own lightning rod to prevent a riot outside his home. A lawsuit about lightning rods ran from 1780-1784. The results gave M. de St. Omer the right to have a lightning rod on top of his house despite the religious objections of his neighbors. This victory established the fame of the lawyer in the case, young Robespierre.

Even with the churches losing ground to the plain fact that Franklin's strip of metal did what exorcisms, holy water, processions, the Agnus Dei, and the ringing of church bells, the rack, and the burning of witches had failed to do they still spoke out against it. A 1755 earthquake in Massachusetts was blamed on Boston for it's record breaking number of lightning rods.

What did the most to convert the faithful was the destruction of the Church of San Nazaro, at Brescia. The Republic of Venice had stored in the vaults of this church over two hundred thousand pounds of powder. In 1767 the spire was struck, the powder ignited, and one sixth of the city destroyed, and over three thousand lives were lost.

While the bulk of my essay has focused on religious prejudice against the lightning rod I do want to touch on a more modern meteorological instance. This is an older map showing the paths of three (at the time) recent hurricane paths through Florida and how various counties voted in the 2000 election. It was drawn up in response to Televangelist claims that the hurricanes were God's wrath on the sinful state.

Similar claims were made after Katrina hit New Orleans. However, the oh so sinful Bourbon Street remained flood free and reopened fairly quickly. They suffered more from the economic downturn than the actual storm.

But I think we can safely assume that Twin Cities Creation Science Association isn't going to reach the conclusion that God has no effect on weather or that God has a hate on for conservatives.

"If, as they say, God spanked this town
For being much too frisky,
Why did He burn His churches down
And save Hotaling's Whiskey?"

Poem on 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, in which
the city's largest whiskey distillery was left unscathed

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stephen Hawking

Just before going home yesterday I got some bad news. Stephen Hawking is in the hospital.

He's been suffering from a chest infection for several weeks that has caused him to cancel some appearances. He's apparently doing well and they expect to release him soon, but after being rushed in they wanted to keep an eye on him.

Hawking is 67 years old. He's suffered from Lou Gehrig's Disease since he was 21. Last year he resigned from his post as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University. He continues teaching classes and acts as Emeritus Lucasian Professor of Mathematics.

Please, get well, Steve. I'm not ready to post your obituary quite yet.

Monday, April 20, 2009

DVD Review: Dead Like Me - Life After Death

I regret that I didn't get into the TV series "Dead Like Me" until after it was canceled. Even so, after downloading several episodes I went ahead and bought seasons 1 and 2 on DVD. HEAR THAT RIAA/MPAA?!! PIRACY ENCOURAGES SALES!!!

The central character of the series, Georgia Lass, is a college dropout living with her parents. Her mother forces her to take a job as a temp. On the way back from lunch on her first of work Georgia is killed when she gets hit by a falling toilet seat from the Russian satellite MIR.

The next thing she knows she is a grim reaper. Every morning Inigo Montoya gives her a Post-it note (or several) with an address, a time, first initial, and last name. She must be at that place at that time, figure out who the pending victim is, and touch them to remove their soul before the fatal moment.

The TV series also covered how her parents and little sister coped with her death, Georgia having to find and hold a job, and life in general for the group.

The show was reaped after season 2.

Five years after the show was canceled it has been brought back in a DVD movie. Hey, if Futurama, Stargate: Atlantis, and Stargate: SG1 can all do this then why not? It was popular enough, reruns still play, and DVD sales are up.

As our show begins we find that their hangout, Der Waffle House, has burned and Rube (Inigo Montoya) has moved on to the next world. The new boss (Desmond from Lost) is a financial big wig who has rebuilt his fortune since his relatively recent death. He changes how everything runs, gives out cellphones instead of Post-its, lets them live in his mansion, and gives them an open tab at a 4 star restaurant.

Desmond's careless attitude toward life (er, death) is infectious. Georgia remains the least corrupt of all the reapers but even she starts to do some stupid stuff. While it all seems great at first, their rule breaking does begin to come back on them.

Not all of the actors were able to come back for this, but most did. Some have aged enough that they're hard to tell if the actors were changed or not.

If you liked the show then you'll like this movie. If you bought the DVDs then you'll at least want to rent this. Even if you haven't seen the series this movie manages to give you enough back story that you won't be lost. It's still worth renting or borrowing even if you don't know what came before.

But don't think of this as a movie. This is an extension of the TV show. It feels like a two hour version of the TV series. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. Just know you're not tuning in for cinematographic brilliance.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday links: April 17

Demonstration of a gecko style climbing apparatus.

The conceptsearch also "animusic" videos

The application

AMC has made a lot of B-movies available for free. [link]

Cuttlefish eats an octopus

This robot only walks forward. But, there was a sign on it asking people for help to get to it's destination. People helped it navigate New York City. [link]

Two part radio clip of a chat between the host of the religious radio show and devout Athiest Christopher Hitchens. The host tries to play the "What if..." game that many religious types use to try to convince someone that they already believe in their god. Hitchens screws up their script. [link]

Standup comedy about "how does gay marriage effect you at all?"

We need more female Jedi.

Dunno if this guy's stuff works, but it looks awesome. Vacuum Tube based electronics. Click "Audio" to get to the cool stuff. [link]

Romeo and Juliet Taliban style. [link]

I might have to knock out the ceiling so I can get one of these bookshelves. [link]

9 minute poem about a thinking man having dinner with a believer in the supernatural and alternative medicine.

Using a rocket sled to slam into a car, ramming into a one-inch thick piece of plate metal behind it. 3 vids. [link]

George Bush denied permission for the press to take pictures of returning war dead. Some government pictures were eventually released but only after a lawsuit based on the Freedom of Information Act. Obama reversed that. Here are the first pictures taken by civilian personnel of war dead returning to America. Yes, there was this level of pomp even when the cameras weren't on.[link]

Web based synthesizer. Top to bottom is high to low tones. They're played left to right. [link]

Hackers talk about how they manipulated a Time online poll. [link]

A sign for your time machine. [link]
My only question is where to get Tungsten and how will I know that's what it is when I find it.

MacGyver theme using Star Wars footage. [link]

Ground squirrel detonation techniques. [link]

Atheist gets himself debaptised. [link]

I think the Christian extremists are trying to start something.

Egg dying tips. [link]

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stuck in my head update

Last September I posted a list of songs that get stuck in my head and warped. In self defense my brain will attempt to free itself by changing the song. Either altering the words or replacing the singer.

I have expanded on this list.

1) "Proud Mary" as it would sound if sung by Bobby Pickett (Monster Mash).
Think "I was working in the lab late one night" and then transition straight into "I left a good job in the city. Working for the man every night and day."

2) Steven Wright singing "I Just Want To Celebrate"

3) Tiny Tim singing "Let's Get It On"

4) Frank Sinatra singing Marilyn Manson's "Beautiful People" or "Dope Show".

5) Gwar performing "Girl From Ipanema".

6) "This is the Song That Never Ends" as performed by T.F. Gumby, D.P. Gumby, L.R. Gumby, and Professor R.J. Gumby in six part harmony.

7) A chorus of Daleks singing assorted Christmas carols. "Silent Night" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" to be specific.

8) Miss Piggy singing "Please Don't Let Me be Misunderstood".
"I'm just a ham whose intentions are good..."

9) "The Song That Never Ends" as performed by Snoop Dog.

10) Sean Connery's cover of "Voodoo" by Godsmack.
"Aye'm nawt the hwan whose so faar away..."

10.1) Richard Nixon singing "Voodoo".

11) W.C Fields version of "Yellow Submarine"

12) Richard Nixon singing "I Kissed a Girl (and I liked it)".

13) Kermit the Frog singing "Don't Fear the Reaper".

14) Henry Kissinger singing "Happy Feet" (as made famous by Kermit the Frog).

15) "Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's Head" with Maurice LaMarche doing the spoken word part. (in character as The Brain, of course.) Or, for a more sinister remix, use Christopher Walken.

16) 100 chanting monks singing Marilyn Manson.

17) A rat hitting itself with a board while singing Copacabana. (thanks to "Dilbert" creator Scott Adams)

18) Celine Dion doing Flight of the Bumblebee acapella.

19) MC Hawking's cover of Tom Lehrer's "The Elements".

20) Electric Mayhem (the Muppets band) performing "Tequila". Mostly just for that bit at the very end where Animal would open his eyes really wide and yell "TA! KEY! LA!"

21) "Stuck in the Middle With You" performed by Johnny Cash
In Cash's voice think "Well I don't know why I came here tonight. I got a feeling that something ain't right."

22) Someone else suggested "Turn the Page" performed by Johnny Cash and it got stuck, too.

23) "She's Got a Ticket to Ride" by the Beatles as performed by Richard Nixon (or a Nixon impersonator).

24) "Love Me Do" by the Beatles as used in a jingle for Mt. Dew.

25) Karaoke version of "Venus" by Bananarama as performed by a Richard Nixon impersonator.
You've really gotta get the jowls flapping for the chorus.

26) "Beep Beep (Little Nash Rambler)" as sung in two part harmony by Bing Crosby (or a Crosby impersonator) and Porky Pig.
They also tried performing "Ebony and Ivory" but after the first verse Crosby says "Well, fuck this noise. I'm going outside for a smoke. Somebody get my agent on the phone".

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The library

Long time readers are familiar with my ongoing home repair projects.

Some time back I tore all the cement and plaster off the wall of what I then called my geek room.1 Then I removed all the bad mortar from between the exposed bricks and refilled them. I tore down the ceiling and painted the ceiling joists dark green. I tore up the carpet and replaced it with bamboo flooring. But I couldn't finish because I needed to have someone run ventilation ducts through the floor. Before this past Winter I had the furnace and hot water tank replaced and new duct work put in. Now I'm moving on to the next step.

Monday night was spent moving all the books from what I'm now calling my library. That's roughly 700 books.
Last night I moved out a few last things and started to scrub the floor. I swept, dusted, vacuumed between the bamboo slats, and scrubbed out little black marks that appeared everywhere.

After spending two nights on it I still haven't made progress putting the floor together. This involves making sure to reposition the slats that may have crept apart by a bit and assembling (with a bit of rawking adhesive) the last foot of floor.
Then I have to wipe the floor down again and seal it so never again can dust and grime fill the spaces between the slats

This is followed by putting moulding around the edges to cover where the edge of the floor doesn't meet the wall perfectly. Then we paint the non-brick walls.

In fact... there's a brick wall made of various shades of brick red, the ceiling joists are forest green, the floor is bamboo colored, what color should I paint the wall?

1It was called this because it housed all my computers (both in active use and archives) and spare parts.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's a D&D reference

Can you suffocate someone with a phoenix down pillow?

Monday, April 13, 2009

A thought

Why doesn't Pachelbel's Canon have a better percussion section?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Links: April 10

The worst homemade Star Wars costumes. [link]

Mars Rover footage played to the song Good Old Girls. The song was meant to be about Battlestar Galactica, but it still fits. [link]

An explanation of open and closed mindedness.

Why we love Pixar. [link]
Because looking at movies with marketing in mind gives us such beloved characters as Jar Jar Binks.

Islam has flat earthers, too.

Strange chess sets. [link]

Where are they now? 25 computer products that refuse to die. [link]

Ultra-orthodox newspaper edits photo of new Israeli cabinet to remove women. [link]

Satellite photo of the North Korean launch. [link]

Audible makes the audio version of "Metatropolis" available for free for a short time. It's just over 9 hours long. Several authors worked together to develop stories about a post-collapse world. Link goes to the editor's announcement. [link]

Robert Heinlein's Colorado home for sale. Only $650,000. [link]

I wish they'd bring back the original Mr Potato Head. (potato not included) [link]

Video of a guy whose cat likes to ride his head. [link]

I've got a story brewing in my head about a murder mystery that takes place on the first public test of a space elevator. As part of the ceremony there are people who are going to leap from the car somewhere around 60 to 100 miles up and parachute back to Earth. The suit shown at this link is designed for something along those lines. [link]

NEW RED DWARF EPISODES!!! Airing Easter Day.
Between this and the Dr Who special I should have a good deal to download Monday.

Disney reuses a lot of old stuff. [link]

Effing Hail - It's a game I'm not sure if I like or not. Seems promising. [link]

GM and Segway collaborating on new urban vehicle. [link]

I haven't seen the video yet, but this certainly seems cool. [link]

Unofficial medals? This dog got totally gypped! He got blown into mist. [link]

Years ago Scott Adams took suggestions from readers of his blog and designed Dilbert's Ultimate House. It was a sweet house but the site is gone now. Scott Adams has developed a house that he's actually building based in part on that old house.
What he dropped: [link]
What he kept: [link]

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Visits with Gandolf

This is an older conversation I had with my parrot.

Gandolf: What's this?
Ibid: "The Hulk".
G: What?
I: Well, it's the deleted scenes. I've already seen the movie.
G: [looks at me]
I: You wanna see the movie first?
G: It's bad.
I: Sorry. This is really "Incredible Hulk". The bad one was just "The Hulk".
G: Again.

So I started the movie from the beginning.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Ibid at the dawn of time

It occurred to me the other day that I have a better idea how to make penicillin from scratch than I do how to make soap. If I ever get tossed back before the rise of human civilization I'll be filthy but disease free.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Wacom pendulum

I think I pointed to someone doing something similar in Friday links several weeks back. Yesterday I tried it.It's what you get when you hook a Wacom pen to a string and let it swing over the tablet like a pendulum.

A Wacom tablet [link] is a mouse substitute often used by graphics people. You have stylus that you hold like a pen or brush and draw on the tablet like you're really drawing.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus

Yummy and friends took me to the circus this weekend. I hadn't been for a very long time.

Lets get the research out of the way first. Turn back the clock to the 1890s. Barnum and Bailey had their circus, the Ringling Brothers was building theirs, and there were ten other circuses that also were big enough to tour by train. P.T. "There's a sucker born every minute" Barnum died in 1891. In 1905 that Bailey chap sold a 50% share of the circus to the [Ringling Brothers]. After his death in 1906 his widow sold them the rest. The two circuses toured separately until 1919 when the war and the flu caused shortages in supplies, manpower, and diminished rail service. It wasn't until then that the two joined together to form one massive traveling circus. Both circuses had a respected and well established name so neither one was considered one that could be lost. So, unlike all the other circuses that the [Ringlings] were purchasing, Barnum and Bailey got to keep it's name. Thus the massive name we know now.

We also started wondering about the tour schedule for the circus. 50 states (some rather large) and 52 weekends of the year. Even if small neighboring states have to share a circus and large states get extra they're hard pressed to get everywhere in a year. Turns out there are multiple tours like I suspected. There's a blue tour, a gold tour, and a new red tour.

We went to see the blue tour called "Over the Top". Most of the performances are tied together by a storyline about a power struggle between the ring master and the head clown. They keep stealing the ringmaster's top hat from either other and flexing the might of their own circus performer followers.

I haven't been to enough circuses to be able to judge the relative merits of this one. They've gotten rid of the three ring format in favor of either a central act or a whole floor full of chaos. This does allow them to black out parts of the floor so props can be added or removed almost unnoticed while the performance continues in another part. Losing the three rings may be part of why they now have three touring troupes.

Anyway, I had a good time. I think the show is worth the $20 that somebody or other paid for it.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Friday links: April 3

The ABC's of Skepticism. A poem by Phil Plait (The Bad Astronomer) [link]

How train tracks get cleared of snow.

An old college roommate has been studying AIs and is nearing his PhD. He didn't work on this, but his department has released this software for the G1 and iPhone. It studies your music listening habits and then selects music based on your tastes. It's supposed to reflect changes in your tastes over the course of the day. [link]

Dry erase wallpaper. I may need to resurface my desk. [link]

Machines that almost fall down.
Machines that Almost Fall Over from Michael Kontopoulos on Vimeo.

A President who thinks fast.

Sane Christian berates the Fundies for making Christianity look like wackaloons.

Male actors get affectionate in a sports bar for ABC News. How do the patrons respond? Remarkably well.

Wait! I thought you said RETINAL probe! [link]

My new desktop wallpaper. The ISS over a crescent Earth. [link]

What does a trillion dollars look like? [link]

Buy a James Bond style car complete with gadgets. [link]

Cat meets fly

New Dr Who trailerThis episode airs on Easter

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Movie Review: Knowing

"Knowing" is that movie about Nicholas Cage finding a 50 year old list of numbers that predicts the date, location, and body count for every disaster between then and now.

Really, it's not that good at predicting disasters. That date I went on back in college didn't make the list. Maybe the body count wasn't high enough.

This movie had some of the worst acting I've seen outside of something directed by George Lucas. I expected the credits to roll and we'd see

John Koestler ... An oak plank
Caleb Koestler ... A cedar plank
Diana Wayland ... The larch

The best performance was done by someone who never even spoke.

Despite the wooden acting the movie was really pretty disturbing. Did you see Iron Man? Remember that scene at the beginning where Tony Stark's Humvee gets attacked? That was pretty damn realistic and really left you momentarily unsettled. There are several scenes like that in this movie only much longer.

At one point you see a forest ablaze and looking like one of the best movie scenes of hell you've ever seen. Then a flaming moose comes charging out followed by lots of other animals.

There's a scene where a subway train goes off the rails at full speed tearing up another train and splattering a bunch of people.

And then the world ends in a fire that sweeps over the whole planet in a blast. You get good aerial shots of cities, buildings, and people blasted away.

I don't think I'd need to see it again, but I was glad I saw it. But I warn people who are disturbed by apocalyptic scenes or take religious gloom and doom literature too seriously not to see it.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Movie Review: Monsters vs. Aliens

Looking at the trailers before this movie it looks like "Monsters vs Aliens" is kicking off a long and bountiful animated film season.

A lot of these animated films try to tell a touching story with some meaning behind it. Pixar tries to put this in everything they put out. Dreamworks has it's faults but they try to tell a story with meaning and succeed to some degree.

"Monsters vs. Aliens" kind of slaps up some depth as an afterthought. But you know what? It doesn't need depth. It was a damn funny movie. A woman gets hit by an asteroid just before her wedding. During the wedding she grows to about 50 ft tall and is hauled off by a military that is remarkably well equipped to bring down and imprison a 50 ft woman.

You don't get a real feeling of connection to her family. They're just window dressing. But until the end of the movie nobody watching really cares.

She's imprisoned with a mad scientist turned cockroach, an intelligent jello, the creature from the black lagoon, and a beetle that's even bigger than the 50 ft woman.

Soon they're summoned to fight a robot from outer space that came to retrieve the mineral that the 50 ft woman absorbed. Once they defeat the robot it's alien master comes to deal with matters personally. He, too must be dispatched before he kills or enslaves the whole human race.

There are some messages about not leaving friends behind, be true to yourself, don't marry a shmuck, don't judge someone by their looks, etc. but it looks like someone read the script and put on Post-Its that said "add positive message" and someone else added the positive message about as deep as the Post-It note.

This movie reminded me of the Sunday night cartoons on Fox. I mean The Simpsons and whatnot. There's a central idea or three and the rest of the story was added on to move the main characters to that point. It just so happens that the writers were able to make that trip funny as well.

Will I get it on DVD? Tough call. I'd like to see it again, but I'm not sure I'd see it again and again. It's never gonna be called a great movie, but it's funny enough that it may deserve a place anyway.