Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Favorite links from the archives

As I go through my old e-mails I find links that are always good.

You want to listen to this story about the toad licking dog. [link]

Scary stories with expired copyrights. [link]

What accent do you have? [link]

101 Dumbest Moments in Business. [link]

Pedal powered scenic track at an amusement park. [link]

Just before Nixon's resignation speech.

Asimo takes a fall. [link]

Honey as an antibiotic ointment. [link]

Theia: name of the planet that is alleged to have smacked into the still forming Earth and knocking loose Luna (the Moon). [link]

How to get awesome milage from your car (if you don't mind a bit of heavy risk). [link]

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Movie review: Code 46

A few weeks back I saw a list of under appreciated sci-fi movies. Most of the list was stuff that I'd seen, but "Code 46" was new to me. So I put it on the list of stuff for Yummy and I to rent.

Rent or steal.

Either way.

We stopped at the video store Saturday and was stunned to find that they had it. Naturally, we grabbed it and I flashed the clerk some cleavage while Yummy made a break for it while he was busy vomiting.

I'd never heard of "Code 46" because it was made and released in England. And it was kinda lame.

In the not too distant future we've lost the natural shielding from the sun. During the day you want to spend most of your time indoors or in a vehicle with shielded windows. The big cities are sealed off. To get in you have to have "cover" - an ID that lets you in. To travel you need to have "cover" for where you're going and where you are. "Cover" refers not just to cover from the sun, but the protection provided by the vaguely Orwellian police force, a place in the work force, medical care, etc. There are cities outside "cover" but they're pretty much deserts. Plenty of people and jobs, but not much in the way of plants, food, transport, protection from the criminal element, health care, etc. It's a much harder life.

Code 46 refers to a law where people with 100%-25% identical DNA aren't allowed to reproduce. This means not just with siblings and cousins, but with clones of yourself.

Tim Robbins is an investigator hired to find the source of faked cover passes. He takes an empathy virus to help him read people better and starts interrogations among the people he knows have access to the printer that he know the fakes came from. He deliberately fingers the wrong person and excuses the law breaker. He and the girl who made the fakes have dinner and go back to her place. Soon he's gone back to his family.

Shortly thereafter three people turn up dead who traveled using fake IDs that the girl made. Tim must return and complete the investigation. But she's in an asylum of sorts after she was found with a Code 46 violation.

She was pregnant.

With his kid.

They aborted the fetus and wiped her memory of the pregnancy and who got her pregnant. He turns up, claims she's a witness and takes her away to help her get her memories back.

Turns out that his mom and hers were clones of the same person. Genetically, they're half-siblings.

They run off together to lands without cover. They're tracked down. His memories of the whole thing are wiped and he returns to his family. She is cast out but left with her memories so they'll torment her.

I said the movie was lame, but I kinda like the story. I wanted the areas under cover to be more technologically advanced than they appeared. Oh, sure, they have some neat new toys, but I wanted a bit more. The chase scenes could be enhanced. Explain what cover means a bit more and what it means to be outside the cover.

It's alright, but you can skip it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Exerpts from old conversations - part 2

While cleaning out my inbox I found lots of old conversations with bits worth keeping. Here's the second batch of several.

In reference to a conversation about her couch-shredding dog.
JC: There are other mammals that don't usually eat couches that you could try. Gerbils, platypuses...
She: Oh, I like guinea pigs, but I've got too many critters already.
JC: Like what?
She: Oh, a fish, a turtle, the dog.
JC: Wow, you're... pretty much working on the whole food chain there.
She: (laughs) I guess I am
JC: Yeah, all you need now is some plankton and a Korean Deli and you'll have it completed.

JC: Acceptance is the first step.
ME: Heavy drinking is the second.

I think the   on my keyboard is broken.

She'd have trouble finding South Carolina on a map of South Carolina.

Discussing high school fight songs: We had "We're gonna get you after school,..." but it didn't have much of a tune to it.

Discussing the band at someone's upcoming wedding:
ME: I think you should get a didgerydoo, an accordion, bagpipes, and a harmonica to perform at your wedding. They'll call themselves the Wind Triangle Federation or WTF for short. My first request is "Flight of the Bumblebee".
JC: If you manage to get a digeridoo, accordion and bagpipe band to play at your wedding, I'll pick up the tab. Hell, I think we might all kick in for it. The flocks of horny, confused geese descending on your wedding reception would be worth the price alone.

JC - Headline from today: "Iraq Kurdish leader snubs Rice over Turkey raid"
ME - Ah, Thanksgiving dinner at the White House.

ME - [JC], I'm gonna take the train into KC a few days before [RJ]'s wedding and we're gonna build his car decoration in your garage. Is there a rebar supplier in your neighborhood?
RJ - Oh dear. Sounds like we'll be driving the '95 Accord to/from the wedding, huh?
ME - Excellent. We were gonna need the make and model to build the mold from.
JC - [AN], You mentioned you wanted 10 gallons of bull semen. Is goat semen OK? There's a few farms out near Gardner that might be able to supply.
WS - Don't forget the wiring schematics for the car.

Cobain's best work was his "Unfinished Symphony for Clarinet and Shotgun".

Headline: "Bush Calls for Direct and Rapid Stimulus"
JC: Why yes, yes it does.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday links: Sept 25

How to manage geeks (and in my experience editors as well. In fact, I think most people.) [link]

How bodies are disposed of in Tibet. Kinda nasty. Really. [link]

An Irish ad supporting gay marriage. Whose permission does anyone need to get married?

Article from one of Bush's speech writers. [link]

Peasant Quest - I just introduced Yummy to Trogdor. So I also had to show her "Peasant Quest", the Trogdor game based on classic Sierra adventures like Kings Quest and whatnot. [link]

Lego wall sealant. [link]

The Japanese are coming for us all. [link]

A kinda awesome table. [link]

In the 60's an experiment was done where kids were left alone with a marshmallow. If they kept it for 15 minutes they'd get another. Later in life the ones who held out did better in general than those who didn't.
An article about it. [link]
A video of a reproduction of it.

Chemistry lab blew up. Here's the story. [link]

Selections from the steampunk musical "The Clockwork Quartet". [link]

Terrorist fart joke. [link]

10 easy science questions and how you stack up against most people. Of course, I scored a perfect 100%. [link]

I succumb to a meme. [link]

I've seen this guy's camper bike before, but I hadn't seen what he'd done with the inside. [link]

When you die you can be made into pencils. This way your spouse can keep licking and nibbling you forever. [link]

This video is a test of a rocket designed to be able to launch, hover, move about, land vertically, and then be reused again shortly thereafter. This means that Armadillo Aerospace has passed the first level of the competition to design a new lunar lander for NASA. [link]

The Metronomicon - a collection of nightmare scenes from the Russian subway system. And Yummy won't believe me when I talk about the tunnel dragons in the DC subway. [link]

The history of science fiction getting it right. [link]

Rowan Atkinson recreates his driving from a car roof scene in real life. [link]

Read the text scroll.

We all float down here - people living in the Las Vegas flood tunnels. [link]

From time to time I see something awesome in science fiction that soon gets leapfrogged in the real world. In this case we seem to be bypassing Geordi's VISOR from Star Trek and getting something closer to G'Kar's replacement eye from late in Babylon 5. [link]

Carl Sagan's latest song. [link]

And finally, I've been avoiding videos refuting various religions for awhile, but this video does a good job of explaining why atheists deny what people of any faith see as perfectly reasonable arguments.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Don't do that! - A Bruce story

I forget what he was working on. A picture? A layout? Anyway, it was on the computer. I was summoned to help him with this problem he was having. A simple "I'm trying to do X but can't quite do it." So I ask him to show me what he's doing. He spends several minutes (at least 5) going through a series of steps necessary to do what he needs. Then he does something he shouldn't and ruins what he's been doing. It's just too much for "undo" to fix.

"OK, I see what the problem is. That thing you're doing at the end? Don't."

Obviously, I was a bit clearer than this. What he needed to do involved a menu item at the top of the screen. I remember what he was actually doing involved the keyboard.

So, he runs through the routine again. The whole routine. The thing that fucks up. He does that, too.

"Alright, Bruce, you saw what happened. You did that thing I said messed things up. You've done it six times before I came over. Don't do that. You need to do Y instead."

I prefer to make him do it. If I do it he doesn't learn. If he does the driving then he shouldn't need me next time. So he does the work while I watch.

He does it all again. Repeat another eight times.

I make him go through one. step. at. a. time. with me giving instructions at each step. When we get to the part that goes bad I tell him what he should be doing. He does the other thing, instead.

I've been there for nigh an hour, watching him ruin his file over and over again in an identical way each time. I even took over, showed him what he should be doing, and gave it back to him so he could do it. He still does it wrong.

One last time we go through from the beginning. We reach the last step and I see his right hand leave the mouse and begin to travel across the keyboard to the disaster button. It's like it's going in slow motion. What also happened in slow motion was me throwing myself in front of him and snatching the keyboard away.

"STOP! For the love of god, Bruce! Stop doing that! You know you're not supposed to do that."


"Then why do you keep doing it? That's what has screwed up your picture every time. That's what has stolen the last hour from our lives. JUST DON'T!
"Now, I'm keeping the keyboard. Put your hand BACK on the mouse. Go right where I'm pointing. NO! That's not where I'm pointing. Anything that isn't right where I'm pointing is wrong. Go. Here."

He did. He clicked on the menu I was pointing at. He went to the option that I named. He clicked. It worked. I gave him his keyboard back and we saved.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Movie review: 9

A few years back an unknown digital artist by the name of Shane Acker made this short film.

Tim Burton saw it and thought it had promise. He offered to back Shane for a full length movie. That movie came out in theaters a few weeks back. I saw it with Yummy this weekend.

The full length movie has much the same story as the short but expanded. The main character, 9, wakes up to find a world where everyone is dead except for the machines. There's not many of them left either. 9 meets some of the others who promptly start getting killed off by a machine that eats their souls. He must convince them to stop hiding and lead an attack on the machines before they're wiped out completely.

Naturally, there's more to it than that. I just don't want to give too much away.

You get to find out where these creatures came from and what happened to the world to get it to this point.

The machines are steampunk-like creations. They're what you'd get if you tried to create modern civilization using World War I era technology.

I will definitely be getting this on DVD when it comes out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Analemmas: how they differ around the world and star system

Today is the fall equinox.

Some of you will recall the Analemma that I made a little while back. I put a sticker on the window and spent a year marking the location of the shadow at the same time every sunny day for a year.

Someone else went into greater detail about why it's a figure 8, how it changes depending on time of day and geographic location, and how it would appear on other planets. [link]

Monday, September 21, 2009

Book Review: Oryx and Crake

I first heard about the book "Oryx and Crake" on NPR some years back. They brought the author, Margaret Atwood, on and they talked about the book. It caught my interest enough that I wrote the name of the book on a Post-it and stuck it to my monitor. There it stayed for several years before I threw it away. Then I went to the Friends of the Arlington Library Book Sale and found a hard bound copy for $4. I grabbed it.

It wasn't what I was expecting at all.

The book takes place in two time frames.
The main time frame is after the fall of civilization and follows a guy who calls himself Snowman. Snowman calls a tree near the shore his home. He wears only a sheet and wishes for a hat. He is visited frequently by a new breed of human whose tribe lives nearby. He tries to survive in a world where everything is gone except for specially engineered people and animals. He also goes scavenging in a nearby city.

The second time frame is all Snowman's flashbacks. He remembers growing up as a little boy named Jimmy. Back then he lived in a compound that was run by the company his parents worked for. The compound was a high security walled city run by a company that engineered new lifeforms. They had to guard against diseases that other companies in other compounds tried to use to kill off the stock of competitors. They also had the best schools and the best food.

Outside of the compounds is the pleeblands. Their schools aren't nearly as good, nor is their lifestyle. Still, they work and live and get by well enough to be able to afford the medications and age defying treatments developed in the compounds.

Jimmy knew Crake as a kid. Jimmy was fairly average, but Crake was a sort of genius. They were friends. Eventually they met Oryx. They both loved her.

Crake designed the new humans that live near Snowman. He eliminated body hair, imposed mating cycles, gave them insect repellant body odor, and tried to create his vision of perfect humans. Then a disease wiped out almost the entire human population.

There's no real plot to speak of. You're just exploring this new world with Snowman as he tells you his life story and how this world came to be.

I wouldn't put this in my top 10 books, but it really is a good read.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Links: Sept 18

A rather pathetic offering this week. Blame the judicial system.

1961 interview with Shel Silverstein. [link]

Coach takes the football team to be Baptized. Some people really need to be fired over this. [link]

10 best and worst companies for customer service. [link]

My house is too small for a wood burning stove... or is it? [link]

Aw! Look at the adorable calamari! [link]

British government apologizes to Alan Turing. They also explain why they needed to apologize to him. [link]

Turtle prosthetics. [link]

Fence jumping robot. [link]

Student kills burglar with samurai sword. [link]

Snake grows a leg. [link]

Tongue eating parasite. [link]

Even George Bush thinks Sarah Palin isn't worth spitting on. [link]

Papercraft iPod dock. [link]

Photos from an amateur high altitude balloon. [link]

Archeologists discover an ancient city from the 1950's. [link]

Serious weirdness from Craigslist. [link]

What's wrong with Walmart? I hate Walmart, with good reason, but this article has stuff even I didn't know about. [link]

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Solar Decathlon: Early results

I decided to walk home from the courthouse yesterday. It's only about 2 miles. Right next to the courthouse is the National Building Museum. In front of the National Building Museum [link] is a strange looking structure that looks like a mobile home from the year 2350. Virginia Tech is building their entry for the Solar Decathlon on the lawn. I hung out there for about an hour and got the grand tour.

You can check out their design at

Unlike most solar houses I've seen in the past, they've done away with the solar heating tubes. On a fixed site they'd use a geothermal system for heating or cooling. Since they're not on a fixed site they've made a cooling tower. The system they have set up will use that, in part, to heat the water as well. I gather that the tower won't work so well in the winter while the geothermal system would.

If you look at the house on their site you'll see these metal screens with holes in them. Currently those are lying on the grass. They will be hung in front of large motorized polycarbonite walls filled with the highly insulating material, Aerogel. The holes in the metal shade screen aren't so much holes as disks that are punched out except for two points. They'll be pushed so they pivot on those points to form a pattern.

These screens are two of several mobile screen layers that can be controlled by an artificial intelligence. They have a weather station outside and several dozen sensors in the house. The AI will use the data from all these points to determine when to open and close the curtains, windows, insulated screens, and adjust the internal lighting. These can be overridden by controls on your iPhone.

They've done to their whole ceiling what I want to do to my kitchen eventually. It's a tightly pulled, translucent white sheet with lighting on the other side so the whole ceiling glows. [link]

The kitchen window is shielded from the low sun when the insulating screens are open. When the sun is high or the screens are closed you flip a switch and the glass slowly turns a dark blue.

The kitchen and living room are at one end, the bathroom is right in the middle with hallways on either side, and the bedroom is at the other end. The bedroom wall that's shared with the bathroom consists of two sliding bookcases. They slide out to act as doors/privacy screens. When pushed aside you can see the TV embedded in the wall behind them.

The kitchen counter comes out revealing the sink and stove underneath. The counter can be pushed aside for use, can go over the kitchen table or over the sofa, or be wheeled out on the deck.

The solar panels move, but only need to once a month.

I can't properly describe the lighting around the bed. Check out the video down below around 6:22.

They have taken a risk in that they're not storing their energy in battery or hydrogen form. In fact they're not storing it at all. Even during the competition they'll be feeding their power into the grid and then feeding off the grid at night.

The students can't sleep in the house when it's on the National Mall next month, but there's no such restriction at it's current location. In fact, the Building Museum people encourage that so that it won't be at risk from thieves and vandals. They don't even have to lock up. They close the screens and there ain't nobody getting in.

There were several people from Siemens there when I came by. They were clearly amazed at what these people had done with their technology.

Go check out the video on their site to see mockups of what I saw.

You can see more about their theory and design in this video.Joseph Wheeler was the guy who showed me around.

The Solar Decathlon is October 9-18 on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jury duty

It's kinda like a game show. A computer draws names at random. These people show up at a selected destination and wait in a big room. From the people in this room a group are selected to sit in another room with less comfortable seats. These people are interviewed one at a time over the course of several hours.

Then comes the big moment. Everyone gathers at the uncomfortable chairs at a set time. They sit for another hour and watch as groups of people in expensive suits huddle around tables and deliberate over how everyone answered their questions. The tension slowly builds as the time passes. From time to time the groups of suits stand and address the host. Everyone looks up and scoots forward. Then the suits sit back down and everyone relaxes.

Finally, the host steps up to the microphone. One by one he calls out numbers. If your number matches you step out of the crowd and get a comfy swivel chair with arms. The sad part is that the people who get the comfy chair are the losers of this game. They've been selected for JURY DUTY!!!

I lost at jury duty yesterday. I lost big. It's a malpractice case. The judge expects it to take fifteen days. This means at least three weeks, probably four, possibly five.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Airport - A Bruce story

Three years back I had the back of my house replaced. This is not a story about that.

For the first week that I was cast out of my house I took a vacation to visit my parents in Kansas. This is not a story about that.

For the remainder of the time that I was without house I was going to live in my office. This is a related story.

Bruce had agreed that he would pick me up at the airport and help me smuggle my luggage onto base. Yeah, that's as in Army Base. I mean, what guard is gonna let some guy with a suitcase through the gate?

I'd also left my key with him so that he could get my bird into my office and feed it while I was gone. I will freely admit that I gave him the wrong key. That's my bad. So Gandolf's cage was set up in the main office instead of mine. So, props to Bruce for smuggling the cage onto base. Annoyance for him losing fully half the bolts.

Bruce didn't show up to meet me at the airport as promised. Instead we had a conversation like this:
ME: Bruce! It's Ibid. You at the airport?
HE: Yeah!
ME: I'm down at luggage claim, where are you?
HE: I'm on the highway.
ME: Oh. So not actually at the airport.
HE: I'm going to see a movie.
ME: Did you say you're going to see a movie?
HE: Yeah.
ME: You said you were gonna pick me up at the airport.
HE: I'm going to see a movie.

So I took the subway from the airport to the nearest Metro stop. I dragged my suitcase to the front gate at about 10:30 at night. The story I told the guard was that some coworker was supposed to pick me up at the airport but decided to go see a movie instead and had left my house keys in the office. He let me in. It was another half mile to my office building.

I checked the building over until I found a door that was locked but hadn't latched. I navigated a maze of stairs, elevators, and locked and unlocked doors to get to my office. Since I still had the key to my specific office I got in.

I called him the next day (Saturday) and asked him to bring me my keys. He says they're sitting on the bird's cage. That would be the bird cage two rooms over. The room I want the keys to get in to. He said he'll be in Monday.

I had 7 cookies left, 3 packages of instant oatmeal (microwave is inaccessable), and the better part of a box of Mt Dew. I already ate a package of Skittles, three packages of Twix, and several cookies. Bruce says he left the bird with lots of food, but his definition of lots is in question. I didn't dare leave the building to go get more food because the doors may well lock behind me so I'd be without shelter. The tap water is barely potable so we keep bottled water in the fridge. I couldn't get there, either.

HE: You should be grateful!
ME: Grateful? Grateful that I almost got to know what it's like to sleep in a gutter!?
HE: Fine! No more favors!
ME: That's for sure! If you call failing to be where you said you would and forcing someone to choose between food and shelter a favor the please don't do anyone any favors!

Monday, September 14, 2009


Pretend for a moment that you find out that all the global warming stuff is not just true and the 100 year predictions are closer to 5 year predictions but there's nothing you can do. Anything that could have been done needed to be done before Reagan took office and we've just been coasting along all this time with all our actions having zero impact on what is going to happen. How do you live your life differently?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday links: Sept. 11

First, yesterday was the one year anniversary of when Yummy and I met.

Now, what you came here for.

Build a Faraday generator to replace the batteries on your remote control. [link]

Neil Gaiman's bookshelves. [link]

Al Franken talks health care reform to both sides of the debate. This is what you get when you don't have disruptive GOP plants. You have to listen carefully to hear over background noise.

Al Franken, comedian, Senator, cartographer.

Why the intelligent designer makes such crap designs.

New orbital photos show how close the Apollo 14 astronauts got to Cone Crater before being forced to turn back. 30 meters. Click on the orbital image to blow it up and look close. You can see a dark, wiggling line that shows their footsteps. [link]

A closeup of a letter in an old "Leave it to Beaver" episode. [link]

I love/am horrified by this idea. [link]

If this steel Velcro stuff can support so much weight how do you take it apart? [link]

Technology of THE FUTURE! No. Come on. Say it right. "THE FUTURE!" [link]

Music for monkeys. [link]

The artistry of corridors in science fiction TV and movies. [link]

Just for the weirdness of it.

Now you know who to blame. Blame Drew's Cancer. [link]

A report about profits made from the bailout of the banks. [link]

Obama's diplomacy and war having a greater effect on terrorists than Bush's "fuck you" and more war. [link]

How to drill a square hole. [link]

Game: Equanimity - Tetris with balance. [link]

The future of our star system. [link]

Shaping pears into Buddha. [link]

Purebred dogs being bred to death. [link]

Lots and lots of steampunk adaptations of movie. [link]

Nature videos with narration. [link]

A 92 year old who was in Hitler's suicide bunker talks about what he saw. [link]

The story of a blind phone hacker. THE blind phone hacker. [link]

Modern children review The Beatles. [link]

Game: The Wizard's Notebook - 11 levels long. Type words that become what's needed to solve the puzzle. [link]

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Exerpts from old conversations - part 1

While cleaning out my inbox I found lots of old conversations with bits worth keeping. Here's the first batch of several.

From a friend checking after moving to the deep south.
"Southern Bells? Only describes their shape, I think."

Her lawyers say no no, but her eyes say yes yes!

Their printers are good, the scanners are iffy, the scanner/printers were smashed together and the drivers written by 100 monkeys given a week to work.

JC: I saw the Pixies for the first time at Camden's infamous punk club City Gardens. I was 13 (so 1988), and I'd just started my regular habit of telling my parents I was going to play D&D over at a friend's house, then grabbing a bus to a rock show with friends -

ME wrote -
10 years from now:
JC: Hi, honey. How was game night?
LC: Ok. My Paladin made level 23 and I got the +3 Sword of Holding from the Caverns of Cannibal Lilliputians.
JC: Paladins can't use Swords of Holding. Where were you really?
LC: No, we were using 5th Gen rules.
JC: No self respecting Dungeon Master would ever use 5th Gen rules. You were out with that boy with the piercings weren't you?
LC: Daaaaad. That's not a piercing, that's his cellphone.
JC: That's a cellphone? It's huge.

JC: I would expect nothing less.

RM: [I'm] stewing about the idiot co-worker who thought wrapping a Rubik’s cube in duct tape wouldn’t ruin it...
*sigh* What the hell am I supposed to do with 17 white squares?
JC: Osmond Family Reunion?

For the humbler origins section of my campaign for President:
I was born a poor black woman in a log cabin that I helped my father build. Alas, my father died in childbirth. The next morning, when the immigration agents came for my mother I slipped out the window and hid in the woods until they were gone. I was adopted by a flock of baby harp seals who raised me in the Arizona rain forest. I learned to read by studying the hieroglyphics in the old neanderthal cliff dwellings
where we lived. My family took turns clubbing each other and selling off each others skin to pay my way through college.

All over Army and Air Force bases you see signs telling soldiers not to shake a baby. This came from telling non-military employees about the posters.
JC: Shaken... Baby... Syndrome? It's a syndrome? No it's not - it's assholes who assault an infant. Or, are they calling neck strains and such from unsupported heads SBS? That's just weird.
ME: It's the brain and neck damage caused by shaking a baby who wakes up every half hour all night long screaming it's lungs out for no good reason other than it feels like it and I really don't need this shit right now because I just spent the last 2 years dodging bullets and explosives come to think of it you're probably not even my kid that cheating bitch and for the love a god would you just shut up you screeching howling little monster WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU...

What do I look for in a woman? A chest that disturbs the Earth's orbit and a mind that can calculate by how much.

In a meeting:
Boss: I just got off the phone with the World Health Organization.
ME: Wait. The who?
Boss: The World Health... shut-up, [Ibid].

Response to a rumor that a Harry Potter game for the Wii would have the player shout the names of spells while waving a "wand".
"Assio Firebolt!"
" Shutting down."
"NO! Fuck! Cancel!"
"Launching Photoshop!"
"You're a Wii! Where did you get Photoshop?"
"Mailing kiddie porn to Mom."

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Calendar: A Bruce Story

So Bruce calls me over because he's having trouble printing his calendar. The boss wanted him to make her a calendar.

First he's trying to print the calendar using the techniques he used to print the brochure on the old (and now scrapped) printer. No. That doesn't work now and your old setup failed on every other printer except for our POS.

I try it the correct way but the printer flashes a few times and then denies you ever tried to print. We used to get that if there was a Postscript failure, but I haven't seen that trick in years. Still, I'm having to assume there's a flaw in the file.

A calendar is a simple thing. Boxes, numbers, a bit of text. Not hard. He could have developed it in InDesign (layout software). Instead he developed it in Photoshop (photo editing software). Illustrator (drawing software) I could understand. Photoshop is probably the hardest environment to develop something like a calendar in.

And instead of developing 12 months on 12 files he put them on 6 files each with two months. Then he puts it in InDesign in a 2 page spread and puts the picture across both pages. That was wrong and met with disaster even when he was doing it with the brochure. He had to put each file in twice and crop off what he didn't want. But he doesn't remember the many, many complete and total failure each time he tries.

I'm telling him that he has to start over and rebuild in InDesign. I'm making sketches so he can just built one and modify it a few times. Then our resident bureaucratic savant comes over and tells me that what Bruce is doing isn't what the boss wants anyway. Bruce is trying to build a book style calendar that folds in the middle and shows two months at a time. What the boss specifically asked for is something that can fit this three month display with hooks that everyone in the office has. It's designed to show three separate pages in a column. Bruce's calendar wouldn't work at all. And, yes, she had spelled it out for him

So in the end Bruce can just print what he has and take a paper cutter and hole punch to it.

I really hate working with him.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Over Labor Day weekend Yummy and her friends (and their friends) took me camping with them in Catoctin Mountain Park. It's about half way across Maryland and just south of the Pennsylvania border. This would be the same park that houses Camp David. Obama is said to have been spending the weekend there, but I didn't see half of the President related air traffic that I see around DC.

Their definition of camping and mine differed a bit. I've grown accustomed to digging a latrine, chopping and lashing together a toilet, sterilizing water, etc. I feel I was able to adapt well to their pro-bathroom and well water philosophy.

I introduced a few things to their camping repertoire, too.

Yummy planned chili for our first night. It was her recipe, her ingredients, and my stew pot. Luckily it's easy to get guys to take over the cooking so long as there's that danger element involved (i.e. fire). It turned out really well. I would take it over the stuff from Ben's Chili Bowl any day. What was even better was that it could have doubled as sloppy joe filling.

We brought along two pie irons [link]. They're two concave metal squares with long handles coming off of them. You butter the concave side, put in bread, add pie filling (or whatever), close it up and jam it in the fire until it's charred and you have to do another one. After 4 or 5 you should figure out how long to leave it in.

One of the other camper supplemented my pie irons with a doodad from Pampered Chef that allowed us to do much the same thing, but the slices of bread were crimped together and the crusts removed before it was put in the pie iron. That, combined with practice over the fire, did a great job making pies.

We brought along a cast iron griddle, too. It was flat on one side and grooved on the other. So we could make pancakes, eggs, bacon, etc. on one side, and flip it over to make steak.

Yes, I seasoned it before we left. Just slathered it in Crisco and left it in the oven at 300°F for an hour. Keep away from soap, clean by wiping it down.

We also brought along a camp percolator. It says it makes 9 cups, but in reality it was 5 half cups. The first use involved everyone sitting around the fire wondering if we needed to lower the grill, build the fire, sacrifice that screaming child a few sites over, or just wait. We built up the fire (when guys are involved that's always the answer) until it started boiling over. It worked great, but we should have gotten a larger pot.

I introduced them to hobo dinners, too. This is where you lay out some aluminum foil, make a hamburger patty and put it on the foil, add carrots, potatoes, onions, whatever you want around the patty, close the foil so ash can't get in and juice can't get out, then toss it in the hot coals of your fire. Burying it coals is optional. After 15-20 minutes you dig it out with a shovel, open it up, and eat. I've hear about similar tricks used to cook on a car engine during road trips.

Alas, not everything we tried was a success. I tried to make ice cream in coffee cans. You put the ingredients in a small coffee can, put on the lid, duct tape it down, put it in the larger can, fill the gap with ice and salt, duct tape that lid on, and roll it around for 30 minutes. I got frost to form on the outside of the can, but inside we only got sweet, frothy milk. I'll have to work on this and try it again next year.

Oh, and the birdies got to come, too. Gandolf was willing, if not eager, to share Bixby's cage for the car ride and stay in there at night. Like a fool, I left the carefully packed bird food at home. Bixby is willing to eat everything and anything. She felt obliged to notch every piece of bread for grilled cheese. Gandolf is more picky. We had to go shopping to get her crackers, Skittles, a seed log, egg noodles, and a bag of bird food. She ate the crackers, the Skittles, the egg noodles, and any chips that were offered to her. She was hungry enough that she tried to steal a bagel from the camp 3 year old on the last morning. Two and a half crackers fixed that.

Yummy came with a new two person tent and an air mattress that fills the tent perfectly. The mattress has an electric pump that had it up and useful in no time. I definitely prefer it to blowing up the mattress myself, but it does seem like a bit of a cheat.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Friday Links: Sept 4

Sci-fi author Frederick Pohl finally gets his high school diploma at the age of 89. [link]

Weird Al and Danny Osmond doing an early version of the "White and Nerdy" video.

The latest text from Richard Dawkins. He talks about the torture of teaching high school science class when even the most basic facts are constantly challenged. [link]

Make a camera lens from an old DVD lens. [link]

New Jersey attempting to take an adopted girl from her family because they're atheists. [link]

Lots of free targets. [link]

Just to piss off the Catholics among you.

The one and only Twitter feed I bother with. [link]

Tossable Army droids. [link]

Air Force needs video game players. [link]

The complete H.P. Lovecraft. [link]

The head of the GOP spreading lies on Fox. Specifically, that the VA is encouraging vets to just die already. [link]

Sculptures on the head of a pin. [begin]
Hulk SMASH puny pin! [link]
Alice, maybe you should lay off the drink. [link]

I saw this in the Hirshhorn Museum some time back. It's the Khaaaan! clip from "Wrath of Khan" with tiny bits played back and forth so the whole thing lasts 15 minutes and you can study every twitch of Shatner's face as he says it. [link]

Yankees suck.

The Legos must flow. [link]

The ISS as seen from Earth. [link]

Aluminum + rust + fire = data security

Disney bought Marvel. A few years back I'd be happy because it meant they had a big movie maker helping them like DC has Warner Brothers. But Marvel has been setting up something that promises to be great. Disney can't even do cartoons without some outside company (Pixar) taking over. Please don't screw up Marvel more than it already is.
In the meantime, check out these visions of projects to come. [link]

Another Star Wars deleted scene - Luke's first try with his lightsaber.

For 12 years this guy has been working on an ASCII version of Star Wars. I check in from time to time. He's up to "Aren't you a little short for a Stormtrooper?" [link]

Game: Fig. 8 - ride an architectural drawing of a bike around an architectural city without hitting anything. [link]

Odd new musical instrument.

Cars made from beer cans. [link]

Picture taken of a molecule using an atomic force microscope. [link]

So, Disney bought Marvel. How will this affect the movies? [link]

A couple of you should get jazzed that someone is remaking the game M.U.L.E. [link]

Game: Canabalt - jump over stuff. Run as far as you can. [link]

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A conversation at work

This was a few years back.

I got called over to B's space to help him figure out how to make an "é" (that's an e with an accent in case this doesn't translate). So we switched to Word so he wouldn't screw up what he was working on in InDesign (layout software). We did that. Then he started in on the special characters menu.

"Ok, B, you need to go into InDesign."
I don't even know what he started doing.
" need to go into InDesign."
"...In. Design..."
He goes to the Finder.
" need to go into need to go into InDesign..."
He goes into Word.
" need to go into need to go into need to go into need to go into InDesign..."
He goes into Photoshop.
" need to go into need to go into need to go into need to go into InDesign..."
"I went into InDesign".
"No, Bruce, I've been watching. You went into Photoshop. You need to go into InDesign."
He goes into Word again.
" need to go into need to go into need to go into need to go into InDesign..."
The woman who he's been working with starts laughing.
He finally makes it into InDesign.
"Ok. Now you need to go into the "Type" menu."
He starts studying the "Edit" menu intently. I finally start getting annoyed.
"B! The type menu! Right there!"

I'm sure I'm the asshole here.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

I don't get subjugation

I don't get Muslims. Granted, I don't get most religions but this one is extra odd. They subjugate the women but make them cover themselves from head to toe. Who's idiotic idea was this?1 Dammit, if I was gonna do some subjugating I'd be giving the women something more revealing. The local grocery store would look like Daytona Beach during Spring Break or a rave instead of a photo negative of a Klan rally. Bikini's and/or washcloths and dental floss would be the order of the day. If you've got it, flaunt it.2 And if you don't got it then go be a Muslim. At least with my plan you won't need to buy all new berkas if you put on 30 lbs.

1Most Christian religions have similar restrictive clothing selections. I just picked the most restrictive I could find.

2The author wishes to note that he does not, in fact, got it.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Visits with Gandolf

I'm going through my Gmail and weeding out old messages. Along the way I find things worth saving. Like these old lines from Gandolf (my parrot).

Written 15 September 2005 -

Last night Gandolf started using a new word. "RADIO!"
I was getting ready to go upstairs and put out my hand for Gandolf to climb on so she could come with me. She refused and clearly wanted to stay in her cage. As I was leaving the room she yelled "RADIO!" So I turned on the radio.

This morning before I left she reminded me "Food", "Water", and "RADIO!"

Written 6 March 2007 -

I got season two of Justice League on DVD.
In the previous episode Green Lantern and Hawkgirl finally admitted they had feelings for each other. In this episode a fleet of ships from Hawkgirl's home planet of Thanagar showed up announcing that she's a spy sent to see if our defenses could stand up to the mortal enemies of the Thanagarians.

GL: So you've been a spy all this time? Why didn't you tell me?
HG: I was on a military mission. I'd sworn an oath. You're a military man. I thought you'd understand.
GL: What else aren't you telling me?
HG: Well...
The leader of the Thanagarian fleet flies in and kisses her.

Gandolf: Ooooh. That's hard.

Written 4 August 2007 -

Monday morning I was getting ready for work and NPR was playing on the radio. They played a clip of this really high strung guy. He was speaking in a rather high pitch, barely controlled rage, monotone. His every syllable was slightly separated and enunciated.

"Con-gress needs to re-qui-re pow-er com-pan-ies to use fif-teen per-cent re-knew-a-ble en-er-gy by ..."

Gandolf jumps in with


It took me a minute to catch my breath I was laughing so hard.