Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Links: July 31

Sand artist in Russia. Looks like some kind of "Ruskies Got Talent" type show.

If you're gonna have a wedding rehearsal there better be something to rehearse.

10 Reasons I Know the Moon Landings Were Faked. [link]

Secretary of Energy telling the press why people should paint their roofs white. When I had my roof redone they painted it with a reflective silver stuff. It seems to work great.

Stem cells used to help restore site in partially blind patients.

Taxidermy nightmares. [link]

Where Do Piranhas Get Their Morality. An argument for the existence of right and wrong not needing a divine lawmaker.

Doctor's 1905 notes on the study of a head in the moments following decapitation. [link]

"Tron 2" teaser. [link]
Please don't suck.

Crows can identify us, but we can't identify them. A report and game can be found here. [link]

Sweet business card. [link]

How to make a knife handle from an antler. [link]

Alice in Wonderland trailer. [link]

Dear Cecil's most useless answer. [link]

Response to Fox News lies about Amsterdam.

Congressional Republicans - extremist loons or simply hostages of extremist loons?

A new Simon's Cat cartoon.

Great pictures of lightning from The Big Picture. [link]

Ghostbusters trailer circa 1954.

Free books online. Expired copyright stuff. [Bartleby] [Project Gutenberg]

Giant bubble made with dry ice. THE SUSPENSE!!!

How crafty do you feel? Think you could add a USB port to a laptop battery? [link]
I may have to try this.

How to deal with the schedules of programmers and other makers. As opposed to managers, I mean. [link]

It's a teenie house! [link

A recipe for crunch frog. [link]

Why the hell would I want a crunchy frog?

Transparent aluminum. [link]
This isn't the first time transparent aluminum has been made. You can also get it by compressing it with the kind of pressure commonly only found in the heart of stars.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tree type confirmed

In May of 2008 I took a train down to Orlando, Florida to watch a Space Shuttle launch. [vacation slides] The next day I went to a place not far from there called The Enchanted Forest. It's a little nature preserve and hiking trail area. There I saw ant lions in the wild (as opposed to in the barn), an armadillo, and an orange tree that had wandered off from the orchard and got lost. The orange tree had lost an orange. And while it's illegal to take things from the nature preserve I still took the orange.

Back in DC, I opened up the orange and fished out the seeds. Lots of things came up in that pot. Most were recognizable but one thing wasn't so I didn't kill it. It wasn't necessarily the orange seed. I see lots of things come up that I don't recognize.

I moved the plant to a larger pot still not knowing for sure what it is.

Yesterday I noticed three thorns coming off of the trunk. A quick internet search indicates that store bought hybrids don't have thorns, but trees grown from seeds gathered from a hybrid often do have thorns. At long last I have some solid evidence that it's actually an orange tree.

There's also a root coming out the bottom of the pot. Time for another transplant. It's currently only about a foot tall.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Book Review: A Dirty Job

I've started going through the Christopher Moore books. I just finished reading "A Dirty Job".

The book is about Charlie Asher - beta male. The author really harps on about him being a beta male. Charlie's wife just had their first kid. Since Charlie wouldn't stop worrying and fretting they sent him home. Once in the car he decided his wife needed her favorite CD. When he brought it back up he found Death all dressed in green and hanging out in the wife's room. The wife was dead and Charlie wasn't supposed to be able to see Death. Since he could see death Charlie became a Death.

They didn't tell him this right away. Oh no. First he took his daughter home, had the funeral, noticed some names in his scheduler, went back to work in his thrift store, and killed some people. Finally, a book that explains his duties as one of the legion of Deaths gets delivered to the store. The goth girl on staff nabs it and reads it hoping that she's the one who became death.

As a Death it's your job to collect souls. See, not everyone is born with one. When you die or are near death your soul transfers into an object that's important to you. Deaths can tell which ones those are because they glow red. Charlie, like most Deaths, runs a used item store. It can be a thrift store, a pawn shop, a used book or music store... something like that. You put the glowing object on the "one only" shelf and wait for someone to come along. The right person will buy the object meant for them and the soul transfers into that body.

So when a name appears in his scheduler Charlie has only a set amount of time to recover that soul. If they don't then very bad things can happen. In this case a trio of Celtic warrior ... not gods, not witches... supernatural beings ... they eat the soul to become stronger so they can rise up and take over the world. Naturally, that's what they try to do over the course of the book.

Oh, and his daughter can kill people and pets by pointing at them and saying "KITTY!"

Take the Incarnations of Immortality book "On a Pale Horse" and have it written by Discworld author Terry Pratchett and you have this book. I've had lots of Christopher Moore books recommended to me over the years and I'm just now getting around to reading him. Now I'm passing the recommendation on to you.

Movie Review: The Hurt Locker

This was another movie that I'd heard nothing about. I was going through movie listings, saw an unfamiliar title, looked up the trailer and was hooked.

"The Hurt Locker" is the story of a bomb tech in Iraq. A platoon in Baghdad is reaching the end of it's deployment when their bomb tech dies. This new guy comes in and takes charge. Only, the thing about this guy is that he views himself like Tom Cruise in "Top Gun" (or anything else he's done, really). He's not a team player. He's a rogue. He's a fucking jackass is what he is. He's in it for the adrenaline rush. The thrill of almost dying and then not. It's a game of wits between him and the bomb maker.

The movie follows this guy and his platoon as he defuses several bombs and they watch the area for snipers or guys with mobile phones. The bomb tech's risks and unwillingness to give up put the lives of the others at risk.

As the movie goes on you start to see how he's cracked. His mind is falling apart bit by bit.

The trailer that you want to see is at link.

I liked the movie, but I don't feel the need to see it again. I won't get it on DVD.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Movie Review: Moon

The movie "Moon" has been horribly under promoted. It's sort of an independent film instead of a big budget mainstream film, but even so, it deserved something other than a sprinkling of posters.

Until recently the only thing I knew about it was what I saw in this poster. This tells us what exactly? It doesn't really even make you interested enough to Google it. But the only movie critic I trust, author John Scalzi, recommended the movie. So, I went.

You can see the trailer at link.

Earth has discovered a clean, nigh limitless power source using 3He for nuclear fusion. On the far side of the Moon is a mining station that provides Earth with 3He. It is staffed with one person - Zaphod BeeblebroxSam Bell. This station has four automated mining machines that look like huge harvesting combines. They merrily chew up the surface of the moon and spit what it doesn't like out the back. Sam Bell's three year contract has him going out when one is full, driving the rover inside the combine, get the canister of 3He, take it back to the station, and when he has a full load he launches it back to Earth.

Sam spends his free time building models, exercising, and watching the occasional broadcast from Earth. The lunar communication satellite appears to have broken so he can't chat with Earth in a timely manner. Everything has to bounce off of the Jupiter relay satellite. So you can imagine the delay. Mostly he talks to himself or to the station's AI, a large camera/monitor/cup holder combo that serves as a physical entity to talk in the direction of and to perform some tasks around base.

One day, near the end of his contract, Sam starts to see a woman where, clearly, none should be. In the station, out on the surface, etc. One time it causes him to stop paying attention and he crashes his rover into the back of one of the combines.

This is where the story really starts to get interesting.

Sam wakes up in the station's hospital. He undergoes a battery of physical and psychological tests. He sees the station's robot speaking to the board of directors on Earth in real time. The robot won't let him go outside to check on the damaged mining equipment. Finally he convinces the robot to let him go outside for other reasons. But a space suit is missing. So is one of the three rovers. He finds the missing rover still lodged in the back of the malfunctioning miner. He finds the missing suit inside the rover. He finds himself inside the suit [insert dramatic sound] STILL ALIVE!

This movie has shades of "2001: A Space Odyssey." The start white sets, the non-stop, back to back complete lack of action sequences, the monotone computer voice, and movie rich in story, but short in excitement. I went in expecting something very 2001-like, but the story turned out very different.

I highly recommend it to fans of quality sci-fi and who realize that "Armageddon" was an exciting movie, but otherwise complete dreck.

I'll most likely be getting this movie on DVD.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Booster rocket video

This is the video that was supposed to be on Friday Links under "Camera on the booster rockets from a Space Shuttle record their launch and fall back to Earth."

Oh, wait, there's some other guy

Late in the work day I realized that I've been approaching the Blackberry thing all wrong. See, I'm not Frodo Baggins, the phone is not the One Ring, and it's not my job to take it to Mt. Doom. See, there's this other person out there who is missing a phone. This person is trying to figure out how to get his missing phone back. How would said person do this? By calling it, of course. So my job is just to leave the thing on and charged.

Sure enough, on the way home I got a call from Mt Doom who gave me his address so I could take it over and drop it in his mail box.

Mobile phone identification

I found someone's Blackberry in the street on the way to work this morning. It has a full charge but no information about the owner. I can't return it to him because I don't know his name or how to get in touch with him.

Just a friendly reminder. Be sure yours lets people find you again.

Friday links: July 24

Lunar satellite takes pictures of the moon landing sites. [link]

12 horrible things that have happened to guys' Junior Patrick. [link]

Some Klan members can blend into the public. Not these guys. [link]

Thanks to Malaise Inc. for this blog about the horrors on CraigsList. [link]

You may have heard that Futurama is coming back. The bad news is that Fox is trying to recast the voices. [link]

David Tennant (Dr Who) and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) are both on the list of likely candidates for the role of Bilbo Baggins in the movie "The Hobbit". Final announcement coming at Comic-Con next week. [link]

Remote control plane flown through a 3 kilometer tunnel.

Camera on the booster rockets from a Space Shuttle record their launch and fall back to Earth.

How to help ensure your wallet gets returned. [link]

Matchstick oil rig. [link]

Jimmy Carter on why the culture of misogynism made him leave the Southern Baptist church. [link]
Sorry, Jimmy, denouncing Bible based sexism by quoting the Bible isn't a good way to convince anyone of anything.

A contest to write your own creation myth. [link]

An evolution quiz that completely fails to understand evolution. [link]

Death Trilogy Commissioner. Keep up on the latest batch of 3 famous people to die. [link]

A 911 operator that needs lessons in how to help people.

Another good thing about having a decent human being in the White House is that I can disagree with Pat Buchanan again. While Bush and Cheney were running things Pat Buchanan was a moderate. I found myself agreeing with many things he said and it disturbed me. Now he's a frothing loon again and all is right with the world.
Here Obama addresses the NAACP and then Buchanan argues that only white men should be on the Supreme Court. [link]

An oldie but a goodie. Buzz Aldrin punches out a conspiracy theorist.

If you're one of the Moon Hoax believers you need to read this. [link]

The High Line in New York is now open. It's a park built on old elevated railroad tracks. [link]

Here's who's coming to the 2009 Library of Congress Book Fest. [link]

Microscope attachment for a mobile phone camera. [link]

Forearm keyboard. [link]

Russian multiplication method. [link]

Ink diffusion calendar. [link]

Another car we'll never see.

Season 1 of "Spaced" is on Hulu. [link]
I've got it on DVD. If you liked "Shawn of the Dead" you should watch this.

Sidewalk Economy
People are trying to relearn lost skills. Ten skills you should have. [link]

Check these sites for examples of what others are doing, to get ideas, and lessons on how to do it yourself. [] [] []

Quick lessons in hand sewing. [link]

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gisele Bündchen

I wish to set the women of the world straight on something.

Gisele Bündchen is not the ideal woman.

The men of the world are barely aware of the existence of this woman.

Do not pretend that when you try to have a body like hers or wear clothing like hers or do your makeup like hers that you do so to impress men. You do so to impress other women.

In fact, I find that most of women's fashion is dedicated to that purpose. Men aren't going to notice what kind of shoes that you're wearing. In fact, that you're even wearing shoes is just assumed. We care even less about the purse you're carrying. You get these not for us, but for your fellow females. Men notice where the fabric is missing, not the color, texture, or designer of the stuff that remains.

It starts in high school, or earlier for some. High school's backward social structure encourages bullies in men and catty bitches in women. For many this becomes so ingrained that it continues well after graduation.

But the point of this argument is Gisele. I do not dispute that she is the most well paid model. I simply dispute her importance to men. Look at where she appears. "Victoria's Secret" and "Elle" and "Vogue" and "Cosmo" and magazines like that. These are not magazines that enjoy a male demographic. These are magazines that are there to make women feel bad so they'll buy more stuff. To do this they need waifish models that set women to thinking that is what men want.

I'll grant you, she has appeared in Sports Illustrated. She appeared at the wife of a football player, not as a model.
I will grant that she did appear in FHM as a model. One exception I found to the women's magazine rule.

She has appeared in magazines such as Newsweek, Forbes, and Time. Not as a model. No, they talk about her as a financial force and as a businesswoman. Her success is more because of the business acumen of her and her agent than anything having to with her looks or body. They were interested in her figures, not her figure.

Besides the magazines she does runway modeling. A profession dominated by gaunt women wearing clothing that nobody would dare wear off of that stage. Again, not something that men pay attention to.

Nor do men pay attention to the perfume ads, purse ads, shoe ads, or any other designer anything ads that Wikipedia says she's appeared in.

I first heard about this woman by reading some woman's blog where she talked about trying to achieve that body. Until then she wasn't even on my radar. The only time I ever think about her is when I see her name on some woman's blog or if my girlfriend mentions her. I asked some friends for testimonials I could use here and most, both gay and straight, still hadn't heard of her.

They said:

I had never heard of her before now so I did a Google Image search, visited her website, and read her Wikipedia entry. Her website is annoyingly clunky.

I can't believe she's the highest paid model in the world as she looks wholly unremarkable to me

I'm gay...never heard of her.

The first time I ever heard of her was during an episode of Ugly Betty (I'm not exactly their key demographic).

I'm not gay, I've never heard of her.

The point I want to drive home is that women need to stop looking at her as some kind of ideal. At the very least, they need to be aware that men aren't comparing them to her.1 We go "Who?" and then rush off to do a Google image search that makes us say "Really? Her?"

I will grant you that there are commenters on YouTube and like sites that would call Gisele a fat ass. These are sweaty, fat, cruel, basement dwelling losers, who would be rejected by the women in those stories about having to widen doors and remove walls when the ambulance comes to take them away. They represent a tiny fraction of men and a large fraction of internet trolls who need to criticize others

Don't think that I'm commenting on the body type of her or anyone else. I can't emphasize that enough. OK, I am making one comment. Comments about her ending the Heroin Chic look among models are WAY out of line. That aside, I'm not advocating any look or body type. I'm not favoring one type over another. As one person said in response to my plea for testimonials...

I've met very few women who are fully comfortable and confident about their appearance, even ones that I think are knockouts.

Every guy has their own feelings about what's attractive and what isn't. Gisele Bündchen is a marketing tool to make women feel unattractive. She's Cosmo magazine with a pulse. Leave those magazines in the grocery aisle where they belong and we'll all be a lot happier.

1Nor are they comparing you to Kate Moss.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stolen girlfriend

For the 4th of July weekend Yummy took me to meet her cousin and family. Their oldest kid is three years old and change. He's also Yummy's godson.

Yummy used to go down there at least once a month. But since we've been dating she's gone down a little less. By a little less I mean that I think she's been down twice since we started dating. In fact, I think I may have over counted. So, once if you include that weekend.

I kinda feel like I stole Yummy from them. So while we were down there we borrowed ten of her godson's books. Then I put Yummy in front of a microphone and made her read them out loud.

Having recorded a few things myself, I knew the best thing to do was to get clear of the room. Listeners make the reader nervous. If you listen to the original recording you can hear her gain confidence as she goes along. She starts with several minutes of giggling and rereading the title of the first book a few times. When she starts reading there's that tone in her voice. You know, when you're speaking but don't want to be heard. But after a few books she gets comfortable and start using more emphasis and some voices.

Last night I flopped on the couch and cleaned up the recording. I cut all the places where she stumbled and started again. I cut the sounds of pages flipping. When possible I cut the rhythmic sound of what I assumed was her nervous foot. Then I got a brief chime and put that in for each page turn.

I have to record introductions for each book tonight, but other than that I'm done. Now Aunt Yummy can read books to her godson any time he wants.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Book Review: WWW:Wake

I'm a Robert J. Sawyer fan. If I see something he wrote on the shelf at the bookstore I grab it. Recently he released the first book in a new trilogy about the internet becoming intelligent.

In "WWW: Wake" he explores the various senses and perception through several parallel stories.
In one a chimp/bonobo hybrid participates in a video conference with another type of primate. Soon after he starts painting pictures of people instead of abstract art. Presumably seeing sign language in 2D instead of 3D showed him that things that he's only experienced in 3D can be represented in a flat medium. Also, the zoo that he's borrowed from wants it back so the painting chimp can be used to make them money. But since it's a hybrid and they want to keep the primate genetic lines pure they'll want to castrate him.

In another story the internet has developed as many connections as we have neurons. It starts developing a simple awareness. Part of it gets cut off when China goes behind a firewall. Cracks in the firewall let it glimpse the intelligence on the other side and teach it that there is self and there is others. But it can't see or hear or experience anything. Internet data is gibberish. It exists much like Helen Keller before meeting the Miracle Worker.

The main story is about a blind girl who participates in an experiment to give her sight. The part of her brain that is supposed to see is fine. There's a problem with the data coming from the eye. So a chip has been created that is supposed to connect to her optic nerve and feed the data from the eye to an external device that corrects it and feeds it back. At first it doesn't work, but during a software update she starts seeing lines. We soon figure out that she's seeing the internet. Circles are websites and line are active connections. With time and adjustments to the hardware she can eventually see lightning and then more.

Her device feeds data from her experimental visual equipment back to a server in Japan for analysis. The internet becomes interested in this continual link and checks it out. Suddenly, it can see. At first only a reflection of itself since she can only see the internet and then the rest of the girl's world. As the girl uses internet software to learn to read with letters instead of braille the internet learns what binary patterns make up what letters and learns to read. Then it starts to communicate with her.

There's also some hacker in China that got busted. I expect to hear more from him in the next book.

Robert J. Sawyer tends to do near term sci-fi. Stuff that takes place in the modern world plus an extra bit of technology. Then he explores not just the central characters but the overall impact on society. There's nothing of his I wouldn't recommend.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Movie Review: Harry Potter and Page 596

We went to see the new Harry Potter movie this weekend. I'm not gonna worry about spoilers too much. You've either read the books and know what's supposed to happen or you're not likely to see the movie anyway.

All the movies seem rushed. All of 'em. I mean, they ARE rushed. You have one book after another with each one getting longer and longer that need to be crushed down to 90-150 minutes. One page of script is assumed to equal one minute of screen time. In this case it means smashing 704 pages into 153 pages. It's not even fair to compare the page sizes. In a book you get by with a "said Harry" while a script has the speaker's name centered in all caps, a blank line, and then their dialog, then another blank line before getting to the next speaker. And rather healthy margins, too. Gotta have room for notes.

Short stories adapt to screen best. Longer short stories I mean. 30 pages or so adapts to a 90 minute film beautifully.

Right, so, rushed film. And fewer scenes that can readily hit the cutting room floor. The whole thing just felt awkward.

The climax of the story, the recovery of the Horcrux felt largely disconnected from the rest of the movie. There really was no buildup to it. Dumbledore just shows up late in the movie and asks Harry for a big favor. Several minutes could have been spent illustrating the agony and torment that Dumbledore felt while drinking the Horcrux liquid but it came off more like something that was happening in the background. However, the creatures in the water were pretty freaky and Dumbledore got to have a great Gandolf the Grey moment when he destroys them all.

The other climax, in which Dumbledore dies, was altered rather significantly from the book. They did spend much of the movie building up to this moment. But instead of being paralyzed behind a door Harry is just hiding under the floor. Snape even comes and tells him to be quiet before going up to kill Albus. Then, this pissed me off, instead of having to fight their way back out of the castle, the Death Eaters all get out on the lawn and walk out unimpaired.

There's a little bit after that, but the movie ends VERY abruptly. There's no funeral at all.

And, have you heard? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is gonna be split into two movies. Of all the books that needed breaking up Deathly Hallows is NOT the one that needed it. They could have lost half the book and not missed much. Split Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Split Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Not Deathly Hallows.

I will not be getting this movie on DVD. I haven't gotten any of the Harry Potter books on DVD. I have the audio books which tell a much better story.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Links: July 17

Air New Zealand has a new way to get you to watch the flight instructions.

Game: Phage Wars 2 - You control a Bacteriophage (like a virus, but for bacteria) in it's quest to wipe out other Phages and evolve into a superior Phage. You have the option of adding skills as you go along. Or, it is possible to win without adapting your Phage.[link]

A Serenity Rose cartoon. [link]

Superhero movie news:
Ryan Reynolds will not be playing Deadpool in a Wolverine spinoff movie. He will, however, be playing Green Lantern. [link]
There is not, currently, a Superman movie in the works. [link]

A goose gets a prosthetic leg. [link]

A list of things Sarah Palin has lied about since anyone actually heard of her. [link]

Ways to observe a forest from above. [link]

How to make a cooling ascot. [link]

Star Trek beaded curtains. [link]

It's a commercial done in origami.

A bunch of old commercials from the early Muppets. [link]

From the makers of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies...

Carnivorous robots. [link]

Sweet nutcracker [link]

Short comic about Charles Babbage. [link]

Do yourself a favor and search YouTube for "Inappropriate Soundtracks".

Paperclips on a maglev train.

Mosh Pit of the Sugar Plum Fairies.

A reporter talks about how he found God and then, through his religious column, lost it again. [link]

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sidewalk Economy


Yesterday Yummy found herself talking about what I call the Sidewalk Economy and then left it to me to expound upon. So expound I shall.

Sidewalk Economics
I should begin this explanation by admitting to being a cheap bastard. I grew up on a farm. OK, so, not so much ON a farm as near two. Both sets of Grandparents had farms that survived The Great Depression and Dust Bowl. This instilled in them certain habits that were passed to my parents as they worked the farm and that they passed to me. I.E. cheap bastardness.

The heart of The Sidewalk Economy is the sidewalk. It may count in the space that you paid for when buying your place and the city may require you to do the snow clearing, but it's really commonly accessible public space. Sure, disagree all you like, but there's a reason that you put your recycling and garbage out there. Court decisions about people rummaging around in your trash will rule for you if the trash is in your yard and for them if it's on the sidewalk.

I'm drifting a bit. I was saying that The Sidewalk Economy is based on the sidewalk. If you see something on the sidewalk with no moving truck or people indicating it's spoken for then it's yours. Similarly, you can put stuff that you no longer want but isn't trash out on the sidewalk for others to take.

Some years back I passed a guy who had grocery bags full of books. The deal was that you could take a bag for free but you had to take everything that was in the bag. I think the bag had three books that I might read. The rest were put in a cardboard box and placed outside the apartment building by the bus stop. When I came home the box was empty. About a year later I was reading outside and someone at the bus stop asked me if I was the person who put them out there and thanked me for the books.

Someone else in the building was throwing out a bench. You know, the sort of wood and metal thing people put in their yards. Look, don't ask me why he kept one in his apartment. The point here is that he let me have it and I put it on the porch in front of the apartment. I and several others made good use of it until I moved and took it with me. It now resides in my front yard.

Another neighbor redid her kitchen and put her old cabinets out on the sidewalk. I put them in my kitchen with some plywood on the top and a tablecloth. I got more storage space and counter space. When the neighbor found out where they went she was delighted.

Yummy complains about me eyeballing piles of stuff on the sidewalk, but she's gotten an old wood Coke bottle crate, a cordless drill, and another Eiffel Tower for her collection this way. Of course, I also had to get her comfortable using a drill. She did some work on a shelf we made for her office and put drainage holes in my trash can.

I had a planter made of a tire that sat up the street for a week.

I've also got a couple of bookshelves and a steamer trunk.

I routed a discarded but working window air conditioner to a local family whose own window AC had putzed out.

And, of course, when I seriously clean house there are always piles of books, VHS tapes, unwanted electronics, and whatnot that end up outside with "Free" written on the sidewalk in chalk.

With the conversion to digital TV transmissions the last week or two has had countless televisions discarded and collected all over the city. Yummy and I have seen a couple of them heading up the street by my place. Both by the same guy. I'd really like to know what he's doing with them.

These are examples of easy sidewalk commerce. Much of the stuff being thrown out is mostly good but damaged or broken but easily fixable. This is where some simple craft skills can come in handy. Typically, it's nothing too elaborate. A dab of glue, clever use of spray paint, some Febreze, and it's all good. If you have to use anything more elaborate than a Dremel tool it you might want to give it a pass.

A neighbor threw out a collapsible wood drying rack that had a broken dowel. I punched holes in business cards and placed them where they'd keep glue from gumming up where the dowel turned in the legs, glued it back together with some wood glue, and put it back out. She reclaimed it and continues to use it.

I've got an Ikea lamp that had been placed too close to a wall so the bulbs touched and burned through the paper lampshade. I picked up some decorative paper at a local craft store and swear I'm gonna get around to putting the paper back on any day. I actually lost the metal ring that goes on the bottom of the shade. Luckily, I found where someone else had thrown out a lampshade that has a metal ring that fits perfectly.

I've salvaged a computer or three from the sidewalk over the years. I got a couple of them working and gave them to kids in the neighborhood along with old software that I've been collecting over the years.

That's nothing compared to this homeless guy named Eli that I've run into a couple of times. Sharp guy. Looks like Jerry Garcia. I'm guessing he's homeless by choice. His shopping cart is full of computer parts he's collected from sidewalks. He works with some local non-profits. He does some web design work for them. In return they give him money and a power supply. There he figures out what parts are good and which are bad and pulls them together to make new, working computers. Not sure what he does with them then.

A lot of stuff you see on the sidewalk isn't stuff you particularly want. However, it often has components that you might want.

I've got some brass knobs and fittings that I've gathered off TV cabinets and whatnot.

I keep having to prevent myself from picking up VCRs. Not because I want a VCR. No, VCRs are rich sources of parts. A good Christmas gift for a kid is a VCR and a set of screwdrivers. They get to figure out how the VCR works and strip it for it's motors and gears and the like. I've seen some makers who turn the display into a small sound amplifier. Another left it mostly intact so they could use the timer to activate the motors at specified times to build an automatic cat feeder. Search for ideas for old VCRs.

An old TV or computer monitor with a cathode ray tube can be adapted as a high energy power supply for ion lifters and cheap Tesla Coils.

Non-sidewalk Sidewalk Economy
There are other areas where the ideal holds up but the sidewalk goes away.

In the city, where there's lots of foot traffic, the sidewalk is great. As you get out in the suburbs and countryside leaving stuff for strangers is likely to get you written up for dumping. For you, there's CraigsList. That's probably how I'll pass on the cabinets now that we're looking at getting rid of them.

College is fertile ground for the Sidewalk Economy. You have people moving in and out twice a year or more. People graduating and no longer needing rather dorm specific merchandise.

A couch older than me came to college with me when I got my own place. My ex-gf was moving in after I left that place so she got it. It went with her after college and was kept when she got married. It's moved on now, but I'm not sure where.

A futon came through my place that has had more owners than I've had jobs.

Family is also good. Grandma gave me the couch and coffee table I have now. She buys a new car every other or every third year. Her old car goes to Mom who either lets Grandma trade in her old one or passes it on to me or my brother and trades in our old vehicle. Grandma is hoping that Yummy will be able to haul off this massive desk that Yummy covets when we next go to Kansas. There's a dresser in the Bunk House at Grammie's farm that Yummy adores and wants to put in my bedroom. Actually, she wants it for herself, but her father is getting sick of her furniture hording.

Note: Furniture from family is great. Furniture from friends is good. Furniture on the sidewalk deserves intense suspicion. That's how you get fleas, bedbugs, and a house that smells like mildew.

Ah, the Bunk House. I haven't said much about the farm influence I alluded to earlier. It has made me more inclined to use something and fix it until all hope is lost. Bits and pieces of things get stuffed behind workshops and in barns in the hope of using it some day. That bit of metal can be welded to this plow when something breaks. In fact, it's often preferred to buy used from a farmer instead of new from a dealer because the repairs made by the farmer make it stronger and better than the original design. Above the Bunk House is a stack of dusty and worn campaign posters that were used by Grandpa's... uncle, maybe? El Cid, I know you're reading. Who was Lesley Wise? Anyway, I got one of the better looking posters framed by a coworker taking a framing class and it hangs in my office. In the dark and dusty corners of the farm there have been old crank telephones, oil lanterns, a scythe, a brick press used by Great Grandmother, a generator dating before rural electrification, a horse drawn corn wagon or two, a corn sheller (de-kernaler), and a ton of other stuff. Some of which has been passed on to collectors. Some of which I've restored for my own collection. The point being that we store stuff away for decades instead of throwing them out. Even with the Grandma car trade there are other vehicles that we've kept using for 20 years before selling to people who want the well cared for parts.

I think of the Sidewalk Economy as filling a niche in the economy. It's like how in nature you'll see creatures evolve to take advantage of any food source. People drop chicken, parrots drop fruit, lions leave meat, and other creatures move in to eat what other have dropped. Then other creatures move in to eat what that one has dropped. People like me pick up goods that others have dropped and leave other stuff out for still more to use.

Five years ago The Sidewalk Economy would have been laughable to most people. You throw stuff out and buy it new. But the regular economy has taken some hits recently. It's time to conserve your funds a bit. Try your hand at plumbing and oil changes. Classes on how to knit or do woodwork are filling up. People are trying to relearn old skills. I think this is a wonderful thing and hope you'll participate.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


By now most people can get behind the idea that discriminating based on skin color makes you a jerk.

A healthy majority of people agrees that discrimination based on sexual preference is a dick thing to do. Alas, most of those people deny that what they're doing is discrimination, but that's for another post.

Discrimination based on religion is a pretty dick thing to do, too. Of course, if they start trying to push their religion around the workplace then it becomes discriminating against a jackass.

Discrimination based on gender makes one an asshole as well. But some would argue that it's religious discrimination to forbid gender discrimination.

With all this in mind, is it OK to discriminate based on laugh? How about accent or manner of speech?

I ask mostly because of this person across the hall from me. Her and several other people I've come across over the years.

This woman has a laugh like a goose being drowned. Clear up and down the hall you know when she has found something funny because of the very loud HA HONK HONK HONK HONK sound with some gargling sounds thrown in.

When she speaks... well, try saying "OH NO YOU DI'NT" without moving your head back and forth on your shoulders. Now say pretty much anything while moving your hand back and forth in a Z shape while snapping. You know the tone of voice used with those actions. In fact, when you hear those tones you come to assume that those actions are being made. This woman sounds like she has the hand thing going all day long and the neck thing most of the time, too.

I have a strong dislike for this person. It's not because she's a woman. My bosses are, and have been, women, there's women up and down the hall that I get along with fine, heck, I'm even dating a woman. It's not because she's black. I work on an Army base and live in Washington, DC. I'd hate most of the population here if that were the case. I just hate the way she speaks and the way she laughs. No matter what kind of day I'm having, the moment she laughs I wanna punch her in the neck.

I respond to voices that way.

Someone brought a package in for a co-worker one time. When I passed it off he asked me if the guy who dropped it off was black. I blinked and said that I didn't notice. He did sound like he was from Georgia, though.

I credit certain accents with more brains than other accents. Know that bias I try to fight it, but I know I'm not alone. Many people associate a southern accent with a shortage of brains but there are variations that cancel that out and even sound a bit sexy. There's a southern belle saying "Ah do de'clare." and then there's a southern redneck saying "Aye doode claire". It's tough to spell but I think you get what I'm saying.

Then there's the educated British accent and there's the cockney accent. Typically even those with the cockney accent are better educated than a randomly selected American.

Oddly, I don't think more or less of people with Hispanic accents. I just have to work a little extra hard to make out what they're saying. Same thing with most SE Asian accents.

But if someone came to me for an interview that talked like the woman across the hall I'd be shredding her resume the moment she was out of sight.

So, what do you think? Speech pattern discrimination. Jerk thing to do or completely reasonable? Or both?

The Color of Magic (day 2)

If you managed to find a copy of "The Color of Magic" you're a better hunter-gatherer than I.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Colour of Magic (and Light Fantastic)

Sunday night Yummy and I finished watching the two part mini-series "The Color of Magic". Monday I saw that Tuesday (today) I can finally get my hands on a legal copy.

"The Color of Magic" and "The Light Fantastic" are the first two books in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. There are 37 books in the series including adult, young adult, early-teens, and new reader books. More are underway.

Truth be told, these two were the weakest books in the series.1 Pratchett was still figuring out his world and figuring out how to write. However, the problem was with the writing, not the story. The guy who adapted it did a great job and brought Pratchett around to muck about with it. Really, it says in the opening credits "Mucked about with by Terry Pratchett". It works much better than the previous live action Discworld adaptation, "Hogfather", in which the only real way to know what's going on is to have already read the book.

The Discworld is a flat, circular world carried on the back of four massive elephant that stand on the back of an even more massive turtle. Most books focus on the city of Ankh-Morpork in one regard or another.

"The Color of Magic" starts in Ankh-Morpork with the single most inept wizard, or "Wizzard" as his hat says, Rincewind being expelled from Unseen University after 40 years of not learning a single spell. Rincewind is played by David Jason, the gentleman who once did the voice of Danger Mouse and Count Duckula.

Rincewind soon encounters a tourist known as Two Flower. Two Flower comes from the Counterweight Continent on the other side of the disk. It's made of a great deal of gold so as to act as a better counter to the main continent's weight. Flashing around that much gold means that Rincewind just tries to get his share and vanish before the crowds slaughter Two Flower and take his gold. Two Flower is played by Sean Austin, recently back from his trip to Mordor and back.

The head or Ankh-Morpork is the Patrician, played by Jeremy Irons. You don't see nearly enough of him in this movie, or in the books either, but you see enough to like him. He puts it to Rincewind that he needs to be the guide for Two Flower ...or else.

There's a parallel story of a wizard, Tim Curry, killing his way to become head of Unseen University. I'd call Unseen University a Hogwarts spoof if not for the fact that Unseen University came first. Monty Python fans will appreciate that this movie has a wizard called Tim. Curry wants to be in charge so he can get at a magical book called "The Octavo" and gain ultimate power. This book contains the 8 magical spells that created the Discworld. Only, one of the spells has lept off the page and lodged itself in Rincewind's head decades ago to prevent this very thing from happening.

Of course, in this particular instance, the Discworld turtle is swimming into a star and all 8 spells need to be together to save the Disc. And the 8th spell is out seeing the sights far from the other seven.

I will be picking up a legal copy of the DVD tonight. I suggest you do the same.

Keep an eye out for "Going Postal" [IMDB link] to be shown in the UK later this year.

1I'd suggest jumping to the 4th book, "Mort", if you're interested in getting into the series.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Book Review: Death from the Skies

You'll often see stuff from Phil Plait in the Friday Links collections. Phil is an astronomer who used to work on the the Hubble Telescope. He's the blogger behind the Bad Astronomy site. He's the goto guy if you're holding a discussion about Moon landing related conspiracy theories. Late last year he also released a book called "Death from the Skies: These Are the Ways the World Will End".

This is a topic that interests Yummy. She gets creeped out by images of peopleless cities but is fascinated by stories of extermination events. So when Phil's book came out I wanted to get her a copy. But Phil offered signed copies early on through the James Randi Educational Foundation [] and I wanted to get her one of those. But I had ordering issues. They insisted on certain credit card information but had no field for enter this vital info. Before I could get it working they were all cleaned out. Same with the second batch he signed. But I wanted a signed copy. I tried to get friends to take a book to a talk he was giving at an observatory in New York to no avail. He was actually in DC to give a talk at a conference. While the conference was free you had to RSVP well in advance of when I knew he'd be here. I did get him to send me an autographed sticker to slap in the book. So Yummy finally got her autographed book last Friday on our 10 month anniversary.

Let me tell you about the book. Each chapter covers a different way that all life on Earth, and in some cases the whole Earth, could be wiped out. They start with a narrative that presents the disaster as it might be seen in a movie. Then he switches gears and tells the hard science in a way that is easy to read and easier to understand. Oh, sure, when he gets to black holes all sense and reason goes out the window, but I did finally understand why so many shows present them with a swirling ring of dust coming in along the equatorial plane and jets of matter spewing out at the poles.

As a blogger on an astronomy site he's had plenty of opportunity over the years to present this same data in different formats and receive questions from commentors. He knows what you're not going to understand and addresses it accordingly.1 Some things, like the behavior of superdense globs of neutrinos, cause him to explain the same idea over and over in multiple chapters so that it's fresh in your mind. He doesn't just reference the technical term and tell you to look back at chapter 2.

He talks about asteroid strikes both past and future (alas, when 99942 Apophis passes within the Moon's orbit in 2029 we North Americans will be turned away from the close pass). He talks about rogue planets and stars, talks about different ways that a star will die and what they'd do to our atmosphere if it happened close to us, meandering black holes, alien invasion as he predicts it would happen, passing through nebulas, and ways to move the planet or an asteroid if necessary.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a strong enough reader to make it though a Harry Potter book.
If you pick up your copy at the James Randi Education Foundation it will be cheaper than in the stores and the JREF will get some money from the sale. [link]


1I should say that he knows what you don't understand if you're a reasonable but only modestly educated person. Young Earth Creationists are beyond his understanding.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday links: July 10

Great looking trailer for a pending Star Wars game. [link]

More images from the ISS. My favorite is 12. [link]

HP Lovecraft Tracts [link]

A proposed Star Trek themed restaurant run by a Picard and a Sisco lookalike. [link]

Richard Feynman talks about the real reason trains stay on the tracks.

A video about a guy who draws on beach sand.

Demo of a game where your phone makes a 2D image 3D for the playing environment. Just watch it.

Conservative Democrats try to make sure that abortions aren't covered as part of the new health insurance program. [link]
Be sure to vote against the names at the bottom. Of the names on that list I recognize most are stretching pretty hard to be called Democrats.

A game show where 10 Atheists are hassled by leaders from 4 different faiths. The winner is the one who accepts one of the faiths. The prize is a trip to the religious capitol of your choice. [link]
What do I win if I convert one of the religious leaders?

Lynx families in Colorado are reproducing. Click to see pics of Lynx kittens. [link]

Congratulations on surviving the zombie apocalypse.

WGMX 4 - Zombocalypse from Rob Moffett (VDA) on Vimeo.

Dramatic wipeouts at the Tour De France. And remember, dogs love bike races. A friendly reminder from the Skin Transplant Institute.

Game: Starcom - fly around. Arm your self. Kill stuff. link

Kirsten Dunst reads Carl Sagan. [link]

Richard Dawkins' "Purpose of Purpose" talk.

7 manmade freaks of physics. [link]

The story that takes 1000 years to read. [link]

Footage of a volcano eruption as seen from the ISS.

Muppets do Sousa acapella.

WWIII propaganda posters. [link]

Yet another example of why we separate Church and State.

Ultimate disaster movie trailer.

Wanted: Witch. Pays £50,000 plus lodging [link]

I tried to catch up. Now it's late and you have a healthy lump of links.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Enough with the freak already

Can we stop talking about Michael Jackson already? I've tried to be tolerant. I've tried to be forgiving. When I was a kid the man was a great musician and performer. But when was the last time he was anything but a weirdo?1 The last album of any note came out when I was in high school.2

The first time I remember hearing his name was in gym class back in grade school. A couple of kids drug me into their debate about whether Michael Jackson or Culture Club was better. In retrospect it seems funny that there was even a debate.

Getting back to my original point, I don't care what drugs Jackson was into, who his doctor was, where CPR was performed, who was called first, or how Jon Benet Ramsey was involved. I am mildly curious why Al Sharpton thinks he's someone who should be eulogizing Mike but I don't want to hear the speech. I have less than no desire to attend the funeral let alone watch it on TV. I certainly don't want to watch news stories about people who won tickets to his funeral (or whatever the tickets were for).

Just a week before the man was a pariah. He was that freak who sleeps in an oxygen tent, whose skin pigment has turned against him, who sleeps with little boys and dangles his own kids off of balconies. His death has not changed any of that.

Now, you can call me a hypocrite if you like. I've mourned for famous people in my life. I felt the loss of Douglas Adams and Jim Henson. I got choked up writing about Arthur C Clarke. And I am sorry that Michael Jackson died. Just, please, stop with the non-stop coverage. Let us just sit at home with an old copy of "Bad" and a 20 year old tape player and remember him without all the crap.

1answer: when he released Invincible in 2001. Yeah, not exactly a big winner was it?
2Dangerous (1991)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Movie Review: Steam Boy

I watched "Steam Boy" [back in April 2006]. It's supposedly anime by one of Japan's biggest names in that field. Having seen it I kind of doubt that it's real anime.

First of all, the characters didn't look like they were inspired by black velvet paintings of mexican kids. I could excuse that by saying that the characters were English and American instead of Japanese so their eyes are smaller. It's best if you don't think about that statement too much.

Second, the story made complete sense. No animals were slowly turning into a mass of worms. No strange ending that makes it appear that the hero was trying to destroy the world. Nothing that really makes the viewer say "what the fuck was that?"

Third, none of the kids were throwing decks of cards at people.

Fourth, the animation has advanced beyond 3 frames per second. This doesn't really count because they've apparently had this full speed animation technology for 4 or 5 years now and have started using it in many of their cartoons.

Fifth, the english translation meshed up with the mouth movements reasonably well.

So having established that Steam Boy isn't anime I can safely recommend it.

Monday, July 06, 2009

I declare success!

This was probably the most complicated bit of computer repair that I've attempted. My replacement laptop was delivered yesterday. It fired up and worked fine. So, obviously, the thing to do was reduce it to it's component parts and put it back together again.

I believe I said before that in order to get it to work in the office it needs to have the same MAC Address/Ethernet ID as my old laptop. Otherwise the network port shuts down. All I needed to move was the Ethernet Card, but that's built into the motherboard so the whole motherboard had to go.

That involved finding all 20 screws holding the bottom on and wiggling the case off, removing 3 more screws and a cable to get the DVD drive out, disconnecting another 10 teeny cables, pulling another dozen screws from the motherboard, shimmying that out, figuring out what saint needed praying to in order to get the new one in place, making sure the cables that go on top are on top and those that go on bottom are on bottom, figuring out which of those tiny ports that are almost indistinguishable from chips they all go to, making sure all the motherboard screws are back and in the right places, case back on, hunt down and get all those back in the right places, reseat the RAM, the DVD drive went back in long ago, batteries in, turn it on, turn it off, reseat the RAM again so things don't beep at me, close it up, and fire it up once more.

All in all much fewer scraped knuckles than with a big computer, but a lot more teeny fiddly bits than a big computer, too. Everything has to fit just so.

Now I have to make sure that it still works in the office.

Today: I hooked it up at work and it hopped right online. I'm posting this from my laptop in my office.

Now I need to put my fully populated hard drive in here.


Excerpts from old conversations with friends:

It's well known that the Black Plague was spread primarily through children. Gypsies would kidnap them and take infected children from town to town where they'd suck on the local rats infecting them so they weren't safe to eat. Of course, the superstitious locals made the problem worse by killing off the child's natural predator, the Dingo, who they thought were agents of communist nations trying to put flourine in the water supply.

How does one clean French Toast? I know Aaron sandblasts his, but I prefer 20 minutes in an autoclave.

he: What is it about searching for "single layer dvd+r" on Amazon that returns The Ultimate Guide to Cunnilingus: How to Go Down on a Woman and Give Her Exquisite Pleasure (Ultimate Everything!!!) (Paperback)
me: Oooh, subtle. You know your girlfriend is a true geek when she alters all your computer and internet settings so that random websites gives you hints about your performance. What's your spam look like these days?

I've already got the bodies of about a dozen children stuffed under the neighbor's house. I'm already practicing my lines for when they find the bodies and the police lead him away. Which do you like better? "He always seemed like such a nice, normal man." or "He had some pretty extreme religious views. It really not a surprise that he started pulling an Abraham on the area children."?

Following a tale of strange computer behavior:
he: The front application is useful to know, but it's more helpful to know if the acid had worn off or if it was still in effect.
me: I don't have to take that from any plaid lemming. I'll shave my name in your liver with my mind.
he: My liver gave up after this weekend, it actually pulled itself out of my body and got out of the vehicle, and started walking down the road. No amount of pleading or reasoning would work to get it to come to its senses.
me: "Naw, baby. I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. You know I only drink cause I love you. Come on back. I love ya, baby. FINE BITCH! I didn't need ya anyway. By this time next week you'll be living down by the docks helping sailors pass their piss tests for a dollar. Ain't nobody else gonna want ya! Aw, that ain't me talkin'. It's the beer. Now why don't you come back and fix me a martini. You know how I like it. Ain't nobody mix drinks like you."

MZ: Around 0900 boredom sets in and him and his co-workers begin sending badly formatted pictures back and forth of various fictional animals created by adding cigarettes to existing animals (such as the Tyrannismokus-Rex, or the Evergreen Smokealope).
JC: Duck-Billed Pipeapus. Kosmokomodo Dragon. Eleblunt.
me: Puffin.
JC: Aargh! I hate you.

Their manuals suck, the techies blow, the hardware is a tornado hitting the sewage lake of an industrial swine farm.

I'm not saying I'm well hung, but I lost a leg in Iraq and nobody noticed.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Mentoes dropper

Tomorrow is the 4th of July. Rather than risk your fingers with explosives you can cause much safer dramatic reactions by dropping Mentoses into Diet Coke. You're probably familiar with the videos. Three Mentoses dropped simultaneously into a 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke causes all the carbonation to be released as close to simultaneously as makes no nevermind.

The problem I've had with this in the past is getting all three through the narrow hole in one quick shot. What I've done this year is take a sheet of paper and tear it in thirds parallel to the short edge. The first piece gets wrapped around the mouth of an empty 2-liter bottle to make a cylinder. Glue the edges so that the diameter of the cylinder maintains it's diameter. Use something sharp to cut holes on opposite ends about an inch above where the top of the 2-liter bottle would sit. You'll want to be able to fit a match through both holes.

Alas, this is too wide for our needs so a second must be made. Take a second third of the paper and wrap it around the Mentos tube. This is a bit snug so let out just a bit of slack. Glue that cylinder some glue to hold it's diameter as well.

Drop this cylinder inside the first one. It should be wide enough that it won't fit in the mouth of the 2-liter bottle and that Mentoses fall through without getting wedged against the sides. Using a pen or pencil reach through the holes of the original cylinder to mark points on the new one. Take it out and cut holes at those points. Drop the second cylinder back in the first. Jam a match through all four holes. You should be able to stick 3 Mentoses in the inner tube and get stopped by the match.

When it comes time you want to put this assembly on the top of an opened 2-liter of Diet Coke. When you yank the match you'll want to jump clear in a hurry. Things are gonna get foamy.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


You won't be getting a Friday Links tomorrow. See, last Thursday I was home sick and my laptop died. The screen went black and it was done. It will chime when I start it but won't boot beyond that.

The case needed replacing already. It had taken a good smack or two and the back liked to open up when I'd close it. A couple of days before I had finally ordered what I thought was a replacement case. Then the computer died and I was hoping that just moving it to a new body would do the trick.

What happened was that when I tried to order the case online I couldn't check out. You probably know I work on a military base. This means my address isn't short.

My name
Base name
Department name
Building number, room number
Street address
City, State, Zip Code

You find creative ways to make all that fit in the address forms of websites. Apple was unusually restrictive. I couldn't make it fit. So I called Apple and ordered that way. The person on that end also had a restricted form. But she assured me that the name of the base and department were unnecessary. She assured me that FedEx would still get it here.

FedEx is like six different but cooperating shipping companies. My package, had it borne the name of the base or the department, would have gone to one of these FedExes. It would have gone to the FedEx that brings me lots of other stuff. Not having that information meant they assumed it was a home delivery and gave it to a different FedEx. This FedEx doesn't like security gates. This FedEx has, in the past, hit that security gate three times and returned my package to the sender rather than call me. This FedEx also doesn't work on Mondays.

So they try to deliver once and give up. I see what's going on and call them and explain the situation. They say call back because it's Monday and that particular FedEx division is closed. I call back Tuesday. They say they can add the company name and move it to a FedEx that does it's job but that will slow things by a week or so. Or they can hold the package and I can come pick it up. I opt for that second one. Then the whole office packs up and we go to check out where we think we'll move to.

When I return I check the tracking info. The package has been delivered and was signed for by the person who had been driving during our road trip. Noooooo, that's a lie.

Being severely chastised got them to put up with base security. Instead of bringing the package to the person whose name and address is on it they claim they took it to the guy at the main desk. Since he wasn't there they took it to people across the hall from me and had them sign for it but put the name of the guy at our main desk instead of the name of the person who signed.

So I get the package, open it up, and it's the wrong thing.

Instead of a replacement case it's a clear plastic shell that goes around a case.

I go looking at cases again. I should have known better. I find replacement cases at a non-Apple source and see that to replace all five parts of the case will run just short of $1,000.

So I go out to and look at what they have as far as laptops. They have a 17" refurbished MacBook Pro laptop for $1,600. I can either move my hard drive over and call it good OR I can get creative. See, I use my laptop at work a lot. I bought it so I could telecommute from Florida fourteen months ago. It handled most of the files for one of our books. But the network ports at work are now restricted to one MAC Address/Ethernet ID. Not only that, but for reasons related to a whole different long story, we can't get new Macs on the network. So a new laptop wouldn't work at work. What I need is to be able to keep the Ethernet card and thus my MAC Address. The Ethernet card on the laptop is built into the motherboard. So I need to keep the motherboard.

You probably see what I mean by "creative". For $1,600 I'm buying a full laptop which will be stripped for parts. I'll move the insides of my computer to the new case. I'll keep the new DVD burner since mine has been acting flakey. I could have bought all that and the price would have been close to what this whole new laptop cost. Plus I have extra RAM and a second hard drive.

I get home after ordering the new laptop and have a message waiting for me from SmallDog. They tried to confirm my shipping address with my credit card company and couldn't. Well, of course not! Why in the world would my credit card company have my work address? In fact, that's pretty much what the person at the credit card company said when I called them. But they made a note in the comments section of my account. I called SmallDog back and told them to check again.

Hopefully, it comes in next week and I can get online and next Friday I can have a respectable set of links for you.

update: Dingus at the credit card company changed my billing address to my shipping address rather than adding a shipping address. In theory it's fixed now.

update 2: The credit card company saw that my address had been changed twice in three days and a large order to the strange address and denied the order. In theory, it's fixed now.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Flash Forward

If you type in "Sawyer" in the search box at the top of this window you'll see a whole bunch of reviews I've written of the books of Robert J. Sawyer. Well, ABC has ordered 13 episodes of a series based on his book "Flash Forward".

In the book an experiment in particle collision at CERN causes the whole planet to have the experiences from 21 years in the future for 2 minutes instead of the ones they should be having now. The book lays out what happens next. Is it a set future or a possible one? One man is looking for the person who is to kill him. An engaged couple loses her child and they're deciding whether to call off the wedding knowing that they not together in 21 years. Another couple contemplates abortion knowing what their child will become. I read Asimov, Clarke, and Niven for their great technological ideas. Their ability to delve into previously untouched areas. Sawyer can't really do the science, but his ideas, his ability to work out subjects that others haven't really touched, is fabulous.

The series is a bit different. They see only 6 months instead of 21 years. Here, look at the trailer. It's split in two. Sorry.