Monday, November 30, 2009

Catholic Charities suck

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

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

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

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

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

[The Washington Post link]

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Links: November 27

Coasters for typographic sorts. [link]

Very short story blog. [link]

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

Mutant animal farm. link

Collages made from record albums. [link]

History and construction of LEDs.

Atari games to play online. [link]

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

Fun with leaves. [link]

WWII POW knitting project. [link]

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

Love this hat. [link]

Scrollbar clock. [link]

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

Galileo's finger found. [link]

Tapestry made from spider silk. [link]

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

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

Baby coelacanths found. [link]

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


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

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

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

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

4) —
5) —
6) —

Monday, November 23, 2009

Book Review: A Fall of Moondust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday links: Nov 20

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

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

Pay attention.

People made from pantyhose. [link]

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

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

ISS passing in front of the moon. [link]

Cookie sheet fail. [link]

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

Zombie Opera. [link]

Nifty clock. [link]

Shirt designing with bleach. [link]

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

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

Part 1 of 5 of an animated Dr. Who.

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

Another pretty slick clock. [link]

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

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

Kevlar wallpaper. [link]

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Learn to change your tires

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now you can finish jacking up the car.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Movie Review: 2012

John Cusack is the most important man in the world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still, it makes for a good disaster movie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Movie Review: Men Who Stare At Goats

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 16, 2009

Movie review: The Box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 2

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday links: November 13

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

Primitive data storage. [link]

Spectacular forklift fail.

Great pictures of Mars. [link]

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

Buy our mobile homes. or don't.

Nifty embroidery. [link]

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

Seven big ass meteorites. [link]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Terminator arm technology here and implemented. [link]

Making the pictorial Websters Dictionary.

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

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

Thursday, November 12, 2009

road trip season

We've got a couple of holidays coming up that require visiting your family. To that end I present to you a couple of sites that might help you. Ok, they help me since I tend to go on road trips that cover significant portions of a continent. has a page that allows you to tell where you're starting, where you're going, and what the weather will be like along the way. [link]

Alas, Weatherbonk's site gives you the optimal route according to Google Maps. You might want to take an alternate route. has a site that lets you specify points along the way. But it wants to know when you plan to get there. [link]

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another way Obama makes the world a better place

Written last Friday:

I should specify that Obama makes it a better place than when George Bush was holding the Presidential golf clubs. That goes without saying. But I'm just talking about one specific thing.

I started work here in October of 2001. Whenever George came to visit you knew he was coming. You could tell because each gate had two blocks worth of traffic coming out of it from all the people trying to get through security to get to work. There's always security, but on Presidential visiting days it became a problem. You knew he was here from the sound of all the helicopters criss-crossing the grounds. You knew he was here from the line of cars waiting for permission to leave. Being on base was such a pain in the ass that they wouldn't even schedule patients that day. Before long people started scheduling their days off so they wouldn't have to come to base if George was gonna be around.

Today a couple of people mentioned that Barack was coming.

The response was always, "Really? Are you sure? I got on base with no problem."

I walked over to the museum and saw no signs of stern men with black SUVs. But apparently he was here even then. Yet there were no helicopters filling the sky. I'm told it's a bit different inside the hospital itself. It's shut down for his visit. The rest of us would never know.

I'm told from people who have been here longer than I that it was the same way under Clinton. He comes, he goes, and if you didn't already know he was there then you probably never would.

In fact, there was more evidence of him off base than there was on base. As I rode down 16th street there was no traffic on the road. Police were stationed at every intersection blocking traffic and making it easy for Obama to make the straight shot back to the White House. This is standard. I went a dozen blocks before one cop finally decided that a guy on a Segway was a security risk and routed me over a block.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Another multiplication trick

This isn't so much a trick as it is an aid to getting all your numbers to line up when multiplying large numbers. I mean there's all that jazz about adding extra zeroes and making sure your handwriting is good enough so everything is in the proper columns. You get students who do all the math right, but get the wrong answer due to alignment (I'm lawful chaotic) issues.

Say you have two rather large numbers to multiply together. For this example I'm gonna use 8,675,309 and 31,009. This trick doesn't really change what you have to do to get the answer. It just formats it different and makes it easier to line everything up. It requires you knowing more math than the Russian Peasants did.

First you need to draw a grid like this. One of the two numbers runs across the top and the other down the side.

What you're going to eventually do is multiply all the numbers and write them in the grids where those two numbers cross. Tens go on the upper left and the ones in the lower right.

Lets get the easy stuff out of the way first. Zero times anything is still zero. Fill in all the rows and columns where there's a zero.

Anything times one is easy, too.

Fill in the rest.
Starting in the upper left where the row is 3 and the column is 8. 3 x 8 = 24. Two in the upper left, four in the lower right. You get the idea.

Now add up all the numbers in each diagonal... um... thingy. Slice? I've highlighted them to make it more obvious. Don't forget to carry the tens place to the next number.

That's a doozy of a number.
You can check it by Googling "8675309 * 31009 =".

Friday, November 06, 2009

Friday Links: Nov 6

Hey Jude flow chart. [link]

New pictures from the moon show the Apollo 17 landing site and the flag they planted. [link]

Size comparison of small objects from a coffee bean to a carbon atom. [link]

Alcohol and brain drink. [link]

Not terribly long ago the results of a 20+ year experiment were announced. In this experiment E. coli bacteria were sealed in a low sugar but high citrus environment. Three mutations occurred that first allowed the bacteria to metabolize the citrus and then enhance that ability. This was another proof of the ability of life forms to have useful mutations that aid in their ability to survive and thrive. However, some religious deniers of evolution with no particular scientific understand, equipment, or skills made demands that he turn over not only his full notes, but samples from the cultures collected every few hundred generations. I followed the exchange of letters at the time and just finished rereading them. It is a long read, so I just point you to a final jab that Lenski makes at the end of his final letter. [link]

An article about successful cartoonists that got their start in the University of Maryland newspaper. I mention it because it says that Frank Cho, one of my all time favorite cartoonists, is working with Sony to make an animated TV series out of his comic strip "Liberty Meadows". WOO! [link]

This, right here, is why you ban prayer in school. Sure, you can opt out, but they're gonna come get you.

Joss Whedon offers $10,000 for the badly abused Terminator franchise. [link]

Fruit bats give blow jobs. [link]

Game: Exploit - puzzle game where you figure out how to trip a series of triggers in the right order. [link]

Very odd short film called "Between". [link]

The story of one Scientology official who wanted out. [link]

Game: Picma - A Nonogram puzzle game. [link]

Game: Power Pinball - a pinball game. [link]

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Zombies vs Mummies

I often find myself thinking about mythical creatures and asking questions about them. One of my favorites is the question of what qualifications Charon, the ferryman on the River Styx, needed to get his job.

The other day I started thinking about zombies and mummies and wondering what the difference is.

If a mummy rises and starts to walk due to an infestation of the living dead is it considered a mummy or a zombie?

Are zombies just mummies without the bandages? Conversely, are mummies really zombies with a better tailor?

Could a mummy rise with the zombies if it's brain has already been yanked out through it's nose? Or are they less vulnerable because their brain is sealed in a jar in a tomb or museum somewhere? I mean, zombies can be handled by a simple shotgun to the head. If the brain is in a tomb would you need to find out who the mummy is, where his tomb is, get to Egypt, and smash the jar?

Is the difference between a mummy and a zombie just the goals it has - eating brains vs. fulfilling an ancient curse?

Great, now I'm starting to wonder if vampires - proper ones, none of this glitter crap - are a variant on the zombie condition.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Your photos suck - a rant

I just realized I failed to post this morning.

I make medical textbooks. By this I mean that people give me pictures and text and I make it into something that looks like a book.

Once upon a time people would give me actual photos, or at least slides. I'd scan in said pictures and put them in the book. Then everyone and their autistic gerbil got digital cameras. Not high quality cameras. Oh, no. No, these cameras fit in your pocket or come included as part of your telephone. They then send me these pictures and want to use them to illustrate some point or other. But you know what? This is a professional medical textbook. We win awards for our books. These are to be used not just for doctors in the U.S. Army, but often foreign militarys want to reprint or translate our books. That picture from your little POS camera doesn't look good in print. On screen, sure, but not in print. Five inches wide at screen resolutions looks like it was built from Legos when printed on paper.

Then there's those people whose cameras take large enough pictures, but save them as low quality jpegs before e-mailing them to us. They're trying to make the files smaller, I understand, but the compression artifacts made sure that your landscape now looks like it was drawn with crayons and the picture of that fasciotomy you performed in Iraq is hard to distinguish from an ad for a burger and fries. This could be someone gutted in Vietnam, a botched hangnail next door, or anything, really. We can't use this.

And what really sets me off? What happened today? Someone got pictures taken of them in some desert-like war zone which were printed off on an inkjet printer so the photo is now a collection of colorful, horizontal stripes. Not a nice photo printer. An inkjet. They then scanned these colorful stripes and sent them to me for publishing. Most are half the size I can use even if they were good. At least they were saved as high quality jpegs. They're replacing a couple of other pictures with identical origins which were saved as low quality.

What I can do with pictures scanned from magazines, newspapers, or other printouts is blur them. Apply a 1 pixel Gaussian blur over the image and those dots, moire patterns, and stripes meld into a photo that looks much better, but is slightly out of focus.

See this camera? MY camera? I blew several hundred dollars on it so I can run around the area and take pictures just for use in these books. When I can I'll reshoot what your camera screwed up. But I can't pop out to Iraq. People get irate if you ask them if you can cut them open so you can see their intestine scar. I can't send better lighting or a tripod back in time so to compensate for what appears to be an advanced case of Parkinsons.

I guess what I'm saying is "STOP FUCKING UP YOUR PICTURES!" If you want something that fits in your pocket then get something that uses film. I can work with film.

And the next one of you who embeds your images in Word or Powerpoint and then sends me the .doc or .ppt file gets punched in the neck.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Solar Decathlon: TV

Meanwhile, back at the Solar Decathlon...

A couple of the houses had mobile entertainment centers. They're wheeled containers with a single plug coming out so the system may be pushed around at will and plugged in wherever. Inside there's wiring for however many DVD players, video game systems, and whatever speakers you feel appropriate.

This one allows the TV to sink into the cabinet so it may also be used as a table.

Almost every house had a Murphy Bed. In this case the entertainment system hides the Murphy Bed.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Russian Peasant Multiplication

This is a math trick learned from "The Last Theorem". It's called Russian Peasant Multiplication because it was commonly used by Russian peasants who didn't have a great math background. Instead they did this trick.

Take two numbers. Make them reasonably sized, two or three digits. Longer will work, but we're just using this as an example. I'm gonna use 42 and ... uh ... 421.

42 x 421 = ???

Now, take the number on the left and double it. The number on the right should be cut in half. If the new number on the right isn't an integer (i.e. if it ends in point 5 [.5]) then drop everything to the right of the decimal.

42 x 421 = ???
84 x 210.5 = ???
84 x 210.5 = ???
84 x 210 = ???

Everything clear so far? Too bad, we're pushing on. Repeat what you did above until the number on the right equals 1.

42 x 421 = ???
84 x 210 = ???
186 x 105 = ???
372 x 52 = ???
744 x 26 = ???
1488 x 13 = ???
2976 x 6 = ???
5952 x 3 = ???
11904 x 1 = ???

Now, cross out every line where the number on the right is an even number.

42 x 421 = ???
84 x 210 = ???
168 x 105 = ???
336 x 52 = ???
672 x 26 = ???
1344 x 13 = ???
2688 x 6 = ???
5376 x 3 = ???
10752 x 1 = ???

Now, add all the remaining numbers on the left.

42 + 168 + 1344 + 5376 + 10752 = 17,682

Punch the original equation into a calculator and see what you get?