Monday, December 27, 2010

Sod off week

I'm in Kansas this week. You can sod off for the whole thing.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday Links: December 24

The history of drills. How did people drill holes before metal? [link]

A cure for AIDS? At least for one guy. [link]

Mold covered scale models of homes. I thought they were gingerbread houses at first. They're not. [link]

More of these signs are needed. [link]

Part 1 of a 5 part talk about the health hazards, or lack thereof, from cell phones. 

You're more likely to be shot by a gun taken from you than use it for protection. Apparently this is true for thieves as well. [link]

Japanese multiplication trick. 

Egyptian multiplication.

One of the RadioLab hosts has a column called "Krulwich Wonders", and he recently got a letter from Neil Armstrong who had read it and could answer some of the questions posted. [link]

32 ways to send a geek into a tantrum. [link]

The makers of the TV show "Fringe" knows how to deal with being rescheduled to the Death Night. 

Daniel Radcliffe actually knows the oldest trick in the book. 

I before E especially after C. 

Kitty plays Duck Hunt.
My cat once searched the ground for Mario after he fell down a hole.

11 strange questions from the D&D advice column. [link]

A dog shaped vacuum cleaner that was, alas, never made. [link]

Bag monsters!

This week's Dr Who fan service is just the reminder that America will be getting the Christmas Special at the same time as England. Check BBC America for the time. Hopefully the hotel will have that channel.

Ok, fine, here's a picture of Steven Moffat with the leads from his two big shows, Doctor Who and Sherlock. I'm hoping to get "Sherlock" on DVD for Christmas" [link]

The bill providing free health care for police and firefighters who got illnesses from responding to the September 11th disaster has finally passed. Those who normally pose with the rescue crews and claim to support them spent month blocking the bill. Only a recent publicity push made opposing the bill too embarrassing.  It cleared the Senate by unanimous voice vote. The House wasn't so easy. 59 Republicans and 1 Democrat opposed the bill. 168 others skipped the vote completely. The link takes you to see the breakdown of who voted how and who chickened out. [link]

John Scalzi interviews the Christmas Bunny [link] and the Nativity Innkeeper [link]

I almost missed that Don't Ask, Don't Tell will be signed into oblivion next week. [link]

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Shapes and Colors: the third Cul De Sac collection

Recently the new Cul De Sac collection came out. The cartoonist behind Cul De Sac Richard Thompson was out as soon as it was released signing books. I was in the middle of it. 
Me and a fan.
(My Krodie photographer)
Richard has one of the fastest growing syndicated comics today. With newspapers shrinking and dropping and dead cartoonists continuing their strips well into the afterlife it's no small feat to get into one newspaper, let alone enough to make a living at it and even be recognized. He's also the mind (and hand and other fiddly bits) behind the weekly comic "Richard's Poor Almanac".

He signed books for me and for several gifts. And he personalized each one with a sketch. He takes his time, too. I felt a little bad that he was spending so much time and effort on each book. But it is appreciated.

Richard and I talked for a bit. He remembered signing Yummy's stuff before. Partially because My Krodie, mutual friend and Richard's driver for these events, brought him the books to sign and partially because we had him sign the page with the strip that got Yummy hooked on Cul De Sac in the first place. Not a request he gets a lot.

Also, ALSO!, he reads my blog. OK, sure, not all the time. Not every day. But My Krodie has forwarded enough of my stuff that Richard knew the name. He was mostly familiar with Friday Links.

You can read Cul De Sac at and possibly in your local paper. You can read this week's Richard's Poor Almanac here. You can read Richard Thompson's blog at And you can pick up "Shapes and Colors" along with his first two collections at your local bookstore.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Radio Lab: Symmetry

I don't go in to the office this week so you don't have to Sod Off. Don't get comfy, though.

Several weeks back in Friday Links I left a link to a show called "Radio Lab". It was the episode "Oops" and from my lofty view high on Mt. Internet it seemed to get spread pretty far. Mostly because it was funny.

Well, shortly after posting that link I got tickets for Yummy and I to a touring stage performance of "Radio Lab". The tour is really pretty small. So far just New York, the show's home, and Washington, D.C., my home. But the turn out has been pretty good so far so they may do a California show at some point. Maybe. Don't quote me.

The show was called "Symmetry". I don't think it was being recorded for broadcast. It's the same show they did in New York. And it was all about ham. No, it was about symmetry. Of course it was. Ham is just easier to spell.

They talked about conjoined twins, they talked about how lack of symmetry resulted in the universe having more matter than antimatter, they talked about flipping molecules to get different properties, and on and on like they do.

Even the stage was symmetrical.
In the main lobby there was a mirror that we were supposed to check out during intermission. The mirror was facing out toward the street and we were walking up from the side. So you can imagine that seeing myself walking up to the mirror from the side was a bit strange. I'd seen these before, but it had been awhile. It's really two mirrors placed at 90.000° angles so that when you looked at the mirror straight on you saw how your look to others instead of how you look to yourselves.

Because we seemed like such awesome folks (and I got the tickets via a generous donation to WAMU) we got to hang out after the show for a reception. It was a bit awkward at first, but soon it settled into what I'm accustomed to at receptions. That's where the guests have a group of people gathered around and I stand on the outside and listen.

I was lucky enough to get to talk with hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich. I got a picture with one but the other got called away and I missed him.

Me and Jad. I call him "Jad".
I mentioned to Jad that Splenda is one of those molecules that is flipped. A special fermenting of sugar and it looks like sugar molecules, but backwards. So it tastes like sugar but the body doesn't know how to handle it. He didn't know that. Yummy says I got my goofy face on when I got to tell him something he didn't know. I mean, just listen to the show. They seem to know everything. 

It was interesting to watch the show because Jad seems to be the sound producer. He has his MacBook open in front of him and he spends the show cueing up different clips and sounds as needed. I'd love to see what his screen looks like. Robert says he's amazed watching Jad work because he always seems to have any and every sound right there whenever they need it. 

And I don't want to short their musician ZoĆ« Keating. She's a cellist that I see they've used on the show other times. She was there with her baby. Yummy was introduced to the baby before it was handed to her so that Zoe could sign the CD Yummy bought. 

You can listen to RadioLab as a podcast at I think most of the people who were at the reception know the show primarily through that medium. Feel free to donate, too. They were a victim of some cost cutting at the National Science Foundation. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice

Merry Winter Solstice to all and to all "CLOSE THE DOOR! IT'S COLD!"

Monday, December 20, 2010

Movie review: Tron: Legacy

You remember how you came out of "Avatar" all oohs and ahhs and all around impressed? Then you came to realize that it's really a very old storyline excellently performed? "Tron: Legacy" is the same way. I loved it at the time. I'll probably get it on DVD. But the story isn't much more than "guy searches for his father, guy reunites with father, guy loses father" with a layer of "get into world and get out of world." If it had been about a guy going to find his father trapped inside the Soviet Union for the last 20 years it wouldn't have been as interesting.

That said, while I was in there I was thinking that "Tron: Legacy" would be for 3D TVs what "The Matrix" was for DVD players. That is, it's the movie that motivated people to make the jump to the new technology. But it's probably no more that kind of movie than "Avatar" was. I just happened to like "Tron: Legacy" better than "Avatar"

There's a definite body swapping theme to the movies that are on a grand enough scale to be considered worthy of technology jumping.

It starts and ends in a "Wizard of Oz"-like manner. It starts out 2D while in the real world, but changes to 3D once the jump has been made to the other world.

The soundtrack strongly resembles "Inception" in that it's heavily laden with "BWOOOOOOOOM! BWOOOOOOOOM!" sounds.

There are a few scenes that seemed to exist only to pay homage to the original movie. The light bike scene, while impressive, served mostly to connect "Tron: Legacy" with "Tron". Same with the disc games. Each game ended with some sort of story advancing plot point but were really there to give a reason to call the movie Tron. That said, those scenes were well done. They're visually impressive and exciting.

What's the movie about? After the events of "Tron" Flynn took control of the company Encom. After all, it had been built with software stolen from Flynn. He had a life split between the company, his son, and rebuilding the world inside the computer, The Grid, with the help of his friend Tron and a program that was a replica of Flynn called Clu. Then one day Flynn went in to The Grid and didn't come out. His son was head of Encom and an orphan to be raised by his grandparents.

Jump ahead 20 years. The kid, Sam, has a setup I rather liked down on the docks. He's still majority stockholder in Encom, but chooses not to participate in the workings of the company. He's more interested in playing pranks on them.

Then a page comes from Flynn's old office. Sam goes to investigate. When messing with Flynn's old computer (props to the writers for using actual UNIX commands) Sam gets pulled into The Grid. Sam is immediately captured, meets Clu, who now runs The Grid, and is sent to the games to die in a very "Gladiator" type way.

Naturally, Sam performs well and is helped to escape. He's taken to see his father but immediately returns to The Grid to try to break them all out.

One of the major themes in the movie is Flynn as a godlike entity. The level of religious parallels between him and Clu is debatable. It depends on what stories you've heard about "The Fall" and the actual relationship between God and Satan. Flynn manages to influence a room just by being in it. He manipulates code that resembles DNA. There's one scene where Sam is talking to a girl and in the background behind them Flynn is sitting with his legs crossed with the light beam giving him a halo and aura.

Clu is Flynn without the human element, without the ability to change. He takes the philosophy of the creator and becomes a destroyer. Similarly, he takes Sam's values of open software and data wanting to be free and plans to apply it to the world in such a way to destroy it.

I'm glad I saw this movie. I'm glad I saw it in 3D. Dunno when I'll find another movie worthy of it. I'll probably get it on DVD.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Links: December 17

Recently there was a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair on the subject of whether or not religion is a detrimental force in the world. Tony Blair pretty much got his ass handed to him.
It's in nine parts. This link takes you to part two since it skips all the blathering introductions and skips straight to the debate. [link]

A follow up on a previous article. Remember the girl who was being picked on for having a Star Wars thermos? The cast of "The Clone Wars" as well as a good part of the world stand behind her. [link]

It just takes 1 jackass to screw things up:
One person objects to Santa dressed as a cowboy. [link]
One person objects to Santa on a flagpole. [link]

A buffalo that likes to ride in cars. [link]

Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe cheat sheet. [link]

Trailer for a TV series based on Douglas Adams' "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency".

For the three people who haven't seen it, this is the video of the Metrodome ceiling collapsing. [link]

Trailer for the Thor movie. [link]

Videos of a Sawstop Tablesaw are always awesome.

Teletubby humor. [link]

Bungee sledding. Don't try this. Ever.

A good reason to switch from my built in Prius GPS system to my old stick on TomTom. [link]

New Simon's Cat cartoon.

Girl Genius perfumes and colognes for sale. [link]

You don't know Girl Genius!?! GO! READ! NOW! [link]

Science fiction books for kids. [link]

Hamster in a wok.

Pictures of Marvel characters as dinosaurs. [link]

Stop motion animation with quarters.

After James Van Allen discovered the Van Allen belt he tried to destroy it by detonating a hydrogen bomb in space. This article includes a video of the sky when the bomb went off. [link]

Drawing with a typewriter. [link]

A Lego version of the Antikythera device.

We didn't get this kind of snow, but we got a start.

Read any good books lately?

Voyager 1 is now getting more wind from the galactic core than our own sun. [link]

Cartoon explaining climate change science and it's opposition. [link]

My sympathies to Richard Dawkins on the death of his father. [link]

A resident in a nursing home had a pastor who once interviewed Einstein. He gave a copy to a science major who works in the home. Here's the article that pastor wrote about the interview. [link]

IBM computer to challenge Jeopardy's two greatest winners. [link]

Space bubbles. [link]

Binary star systems: DESTROYER OF WORLDS!

2010 in film.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book Review: Death Troopers

I'm not big into the Star Wars books. I used to be big into the Star Trek books. From what I've read in each series I have to come down on the side of Star Trek books. Probably because Peter David writes for Star Trek but has only one one Star Wars story and it was in comic book form.

Sorry. Got off track a bit there.

I first heard about the book "Death Troopers" in the comic strip "Unshelved".

Normally I'd avoid books like this. If you told me there was a Star Wars zombie book I'd laugh and forget about it. "World War Z" aside, I tend to avoid zombies in book form. I like mine in movies and video games. There's another Star Wars zombie book coming out by the same author and it interests me not at all. But "Death Troopers" interested me.

The comic strip spells it out rather well. Shortly before the movie "Star Wars" (a.k.a "A New Hope", "Episode IV") an imperial prison barge is taking rebels, aliens, criminals, and other undesirables to a prison moon. The engines fail a week from their destination. They're not on any major traffic lane. They're not near any planets. But there is a Star Destroyer nearby. A Star Destroyer that doesn't respond to hails and scans show only 10 life signs. Maybe they can help!

Before I go on, have you heard of Quorum sensing? It usually refers to bacteria and how their behavior changes when the population density reaches a certain level. Certain bioluminiscent bacteria only start to glow when their numbers get high enough. Some behave like the disease in this book in that they don't become dangerous until they exist in sufficient quantities to overwhelm the immune system.

As you read the part where people from the prison ship start to explore the obviously abandoned Star Destroyer you'll want to picture in your mind what they're seeing. The description of these ten tiny people walking inside of the huge empty hangar bay is a bit creepy.

By the time they got back to the prison barge an hour later some of them have already developed a nasty cough. Instead of a bite the plague spreads through the air. It seems that not even biohazard suits can stop it. But somehow it can't get into solitary confinement where Han Solo and Chewbacca are being held.

The infection uses quorum sensing in it's attacks. You don't know you're infected until it's too late. Once you've started coughing it's already strong enough to take down your immune system. Soon you die. How you die depends on your race. Less than 1% of people have a natural immunity.

But that's just the first phase. Once minute the survivors are stepping over the dead all over the ship. The next minute the corridors are clear. A little while later the dead come at you in a group from the shadows. If you get bitten you're infected enough that your natural immunity is no longer up to snuff.

The disease is smarter than your normal zombie plague. It learns. It learns, slowly, how to open doors, climb ladders, use blasters, turn on tractor beams, and near the end of the book they're even learning how to fly small ships.

This was a pretty quick read and pretty engaging. I would recommend it to any Star Wars or zombie fans.

Since I started talking about Star Wars and Star Trek books, I also recommend "Tales From the Mos Eisley Cantina". A variety of authors wrote short stories about each and every creature seen in the Mos Eisley Cantina from the original Star Wars movie. And from the Star Trek line of books, anything by Peter David is good. I kept a small library in my locker in high school for my friends to borrow. Once I picked all the best to bring in I realized all but one of them was by him.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sod Off Wednesday: December 15

Many of you will be on the road at this point next week. Check the weather along the route before you go. [link]

Now sod off, I'm busy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Book review: Fluke

If you're already a Christoper Moore fan you should be warned that "Fluke" isn't what you're used to getting from him.

I started with "Fool" when I accidentally left the book I intended for reading on the plane in my suitcase instead of my backpack. I followed it with "Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal" which I can't believe I never reviewed. Both books start with well established stories that the author messes with. They're both hilarious. "A Dirty Job" didn't require the heavy background research that Moore put into "Fool" and "Lamb" but was hilarious nonetheless. That's what I've come to expect from Moore. I expect his books to be funny.

"Fluke" starts out feeling like the author decided to explore his interest in marine biology and wrote a book so it'd all be a tax write off. It's well written. It has a few chuckles. But not the level of humor I expected when I bought it. Even later in the book, when the story takes a turn for the weird, I just didn't find funny.

That isn't to say that it's not a good book. It is a good book. It's thoroughly researched, well written, and very enjoyable. It's just not what one has come to expect from this author.

In part one you have a pair of whale researchers operating out of Hawaii. Their research huts are leased to them cheaply from a strange old woman who claims the whales talk to her. She insists the whales want a pastrami sandwich. They have a sexy intern and a white Rastafarian stoner from New Jersey. One of them sees a whale with spots on it's tale that spell "BITE ME". Their lab gets ransacked and much of their data destroyed but no solid leads on who did it. This section ends with one of the researchers getting eaten by the "BITE ME" whale.

I have to be a bit cagey about what happens in parts two and three. I want to sell it without ruining the story.

The guy who got eaten doesn't die. The whale isn't your standard whale. It's an organic ship made to look like a whale. And it's been hunting the researcher. He's been trying to figure out what the whale song means. Those driving the whales want to make sure that nobody every figures out what the songs mean.

It's a good book. Really. He probably did write off his time visiting whale researchers as a tax break, but it seems that he went with the intent of writing the book instead of going on vacation first and writing about it second. And it paid off with a book that is educational as well as entertaining. But, like most episodes of Doctor Who, you have to know how to separate what is fact from what was made up for the sake of the story.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Movie review: Capricorn 1

Sorry this is so late. What good is a scheduler if it doesn't obey the schedule?

This was supposed to be a review of the 1978 movie "Capricorn 1", but when I went to look for a trailer I found the whole thing instead.

This is a movie about how a mission to Mars got screwed up so they had to fake it. That and the desperate cover-up of the faking.

When the faking begins you sort of get behind it. Sure, it's not what anyone wanted, but you can understand why certain things had to be done. A bit of sleaze, but you can still grudgingly get behind it. Then things just get worse and worse until you find yourself in a very post-Nixon type movie. There's a plot and the people behind the government, the ones with the black helicopters, are out to get everyone.

I'd like to see this movie remade. Early on is well done, but I think Ron Howard has a talent for bringing out the emotion behind the space program. Once the space stuff is over the movie might have to go to someone else. Someone better able to do chase scenes and conspiracy movies. The dialog makes me smile. If we start with the original dialog and get it polished it might work even better. The camera work says 70's even if you couldn't tell the era from the rest of the movie.

The worst part is the end. The last 90 seconds or so of the movie qualify for some of the worst in the history of movies. Really, it's bad enough that it almost ruins an otherwise decent movie.

Even so, I enjoyed the movie and recommend it to anyone.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Links: December 10

I'm not gonna do a special post denouncing the Salvation Army this year. I'll let this video do the job.

And this article about how The Salvation Army refuses to distribute donated toys related to Twilight, Harry Potter, and other "black magic" sources". Guns are still fine. [link]

Doctor Who fan service of the week. The unused opening to Craig Ferguson's Doctor Who episode.

I think all puppies hate those things.

It's a safe bet that this guy's name does not reflect his personality... says the guy with the last name "Wise". [link]

Duckies blowing in the wind.

The Louisiana School Board is looking to lose an election. Wanting to inject creationism into science classes they've used some advisory boards to review the science text. The advisory board accepted it so now the School Board is bringing in more biased advisers. I think the School Board needs a reminder. Kansas tried this and every single member who supported teaching creationism didn't make it past the primaries in the next election.  [link]

Google has opened their ebook store. Kindles are only supported because PDFs are available. [link]

Cartoon. [link]

A bill just got passed that will require TV stations to keep commercials at the same volume as the show they interrupt. [link]

Republicans block bill to feed poor school children. [link]

Steam powered record player.
How to make your own. [link]

Chocolate syrup and whipped cream delivered straight to your door. Or crashed into it. Either way. [link]

Dogs dressed as Star Wars characters. [link]

Pictures: Sulfur mine by an active volcano. [link]

Chemistry teacher vs 3 year old. [link]

Sick about hearing about the new Tron movie yet? Me, too. But this is still a great animation. [link]

"The Ship of Foolishness" - a 3 part story by Frederick Pohl about a cruise he was on to see the last of the moon missions take off. It was supposed to be a floating sci-fi convention, but they forgot to book any non-celebrity passengers. If nothing else, skip to part 3 and read his description of Apollo 17 taking off. [part 1] [part 2] [part 3]

An easter egg. Look at the rating. You do have to have seen the movie. [link]

We're not cashing your damn rocks! [link]

Furniture that amuses me. [link]

You know you want to visit this guy's apartment. [link]

How to tell if that house is a meth lab. [link]

The Unibomber's property is for sale. Cabin not included. [link]

Semi-secret unmanned space plane lands after 225 days in space. [link]

Guy gets a dirt mover for a pall bearer. [link]

Pictures from the LA Times archives. More interesting than it sounds. [link]

Woah! Rupert Murdock used to be pro-truth? An article by the WikiLeaks founder. [link]

Video of someone trying a hot sauce made from the hottest chili in the world. Action starts at 3:10.

This is the chili in question. [link]

Robot fishie!

Reminds me of this.
See, cause those fish are robots. Only it doesn't ... say so ... in... never mind.

Microsoft is trying to secretly fund an organization to get Google in legal trouble. [link]

Setting fires inside a balloon.

We used to use this to start fires in Scouts. A 9 volt sets it off nicely.

The Soviets planned to nuke China. [link]

This bird rocks. The song, less so.

Another kid that died of religious based medical neglect. [link]

Atheists were 1 of 100 groups in a Christmas parade. They played "Jingle Bells". Citizens are outraged. How can they teach their kids about loving and respecting other people if other people insist in being around? [link]

The president of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church protested an invocation at the Hawaii State Senate. It was peaceful and brief. For that he was roughed up, thrown out, required a trip to the hospital, was arrested and prosecuted. People with cameras were also accosted. The judge quickly determined that Kahle was not guilty and that the prayer was unconstitutional. [article with video from the Senate prayer]

The results of an investigation into sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in Germany have been released. 13,200 available files implicated 159 priests, 15 deacons, 96 religion teachers and six pastoral employees. Only 26 priests were convicted. [link]

Art targeted by Hitler for destruction has been uncovered. If not for Hitler it probably would have all been forgotten by now. Instead it's immortalized. [link]

"...people of faith have no monopoly of virtue and that the wellbeing and prosperity of the nation depend on the contribution of individuals and groups of all faiths and none." - Queen Elizabeth [link]

Creationist insists that people once did live for hundreds of years but the flood made the world radioactive so we all die early now. [link]

Good reasons to use Comic Sans. [link]

Time lapse footage of the whole sky by some telescopes in Chile. You want to watch them full screen and high resolution.

Free Hubble Christmas cards. Just print them yourself. [link]

Remember a quote but not the movie it's from? Search for it here. [link]

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Movie review: The Warriors Way

Yeah, last weekend was a heavy movie weekend for us, why do you ask?

Another good name for this movie would have been "Cowboys and Ninja and Carnies".

The most powerful samurai/ninja/whatever in the world has exterminated everyone in a rival clan except for a baby. Refusing to kill it, he takes the baby to America and settles in a cliche old west ghost town but with people living in it. Soon he finds he must now protect the town from an army of outlaws. But during the big battle with the outlaws the members of his own clan show up to kill him and the baby.

This really was a pretty good movie. It's not "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" or any of the movies that wanted to be that movie. This is very American. It lightly spoofs those kinds of movies while not turning it into a comedy. It gives the same treatment to the American old west bandit movie. Together they come together in a movie that climaxes kinda like that Star Trek: Voyager episode where the Klingons attacked the Nazis.

The technology is ahead of it's time. Pretty sure there weren't any gatling guns back then. Nor was there rifling in gun barrels. I don't think there were bullet shaped bullet either. But it's close.

It's a fun movie and I recommend going to see it. Will I get it on DVD? Not sure. It's a close decision.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Sod Off Wednesday: December 8

Sod off, I'm workin' from home.
Guess which one I am

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Movie review: Harry Potter 7 - part 1

After all these years the Harry Potter movie saga is drawing to a close. Six lengthy books and six extremely abbreviated movies. And of all the books, the one they decide to split in two is the one with the least going on. I'd swear they spent half the book hanging around in the woods doing absolutely jack shit.

That said, part 1 also turns out to be the best movie so far. They convey what was happening in the woods better than the audio book did. They told what the deathly hallows are better than the book or audio book did.

The movie starts with them trying to make the audience as depressed as possible. Harry's family is moving out, Hermione is wiping the memory of herself from her parents' memories, we get a list of the dead so far. We've come a long way from the happy, silly, magical and wonderful first story.

Then they back off a bit and let us have some laugh. Everybody gathers at Harry's for a bit of levity and happy reunions before going off to face death eaters and the killing off of a few more characters. Yes, Headwig still gets hurt, but they don't explore whether or not he got killed or dwell on his passing.

Being a more visual medium, the movie manages to pull a lot from war movies. The camp in the woods draws from WWI movies nicely. You see death eaters flying through the sky in formation like jet fighters. The Ministry of Magic draws nicely from "1984". Our heroes look like something out of an Anne Frank movie.

If you've been following the movies thus far, this is the one you want to see. I thought it was split into two movies to drag it out a bit longer and avoid letting this money train end. Instead it was to finally do a movie more worthy of the books that they're trying to adapt.

I won't be getting it on DVD. I have them all on audio book, which tells the story better. But it was a good movie and I'll be going to see the next one.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Movie review: Tangled

We successfully watched "Tangled" this weekend. Pixar's name isn't associated with this movie. Well, their brain trust gets a mention in the end credits, but that's it. Nonetheless, this is a Pixar movie just by being made by the same people who made up Pixar who now head Disney animation. And with "Tangled" they're continuing what they started with "The Princess and the Frog" by making movies styled after what made Disney the animation leader. They're adapting fairy tales. And frankly, I've long wondered why they never went after Rapunzel before now.

Rapunzel is a princess with magical hair. If you sing the hair a certain song it'll heal wounds and reverse the signs of aging. But if you cut the hair it'll lose it's power. So a mean old woman kidnaps the princess and hides her in a tower. And every year on her birthday the people of the kingdom release hundreds of lanterns into the air hoping to bring her back home.

Then a dashing thief comes and get blackmailed in to helping the princess get to the lanterns so she can see them up close.

There are no talking appliances, but the animals are intelligent. The princess has a chameleon as her only friend. The thief is being pursued by a horse who continues the hunt while the guard have long since been lost. 

It bothers me a bit that the king and queen didn't need any proof that Rapunzel was their daughter. Why didn't anyone else show up with a kid and say "look, we found your daughter. It's a lantern day miracle!"

On the other hand, it does explain how the old woman got up in the tower with Rapunzel in the first place.

This is supposedly Disney's last Princess movie. They may mean it, but only time will tell if it sticks. It's almost certainly their last one for awhile.

"Tangled" also serves as Disney's 50th animated movie. Their first was "Snow White" back in 1938.

I liked this movie a lot more than I expected. Sure, it's a musical, but I got past that pretty quick. Only the first one or two annoyed me. The movie turned out to be pretty funny. The horse character is a riot. The old woman isn't a witch, but a resourceful and crafty woman who has access to a magical object.

I highly recommend this movie. I'll probably get it on DVD.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Friday Links: December 3

Woman claims the sun for her own. Expect to get a bill. [link]
The Bad Astronomer explains why her claim is crap. [link]

You wanna check out what this store has on their shelves. [link]

Some film clips that have been TRONized. You can skip straight down to 1 and 2. [link]

Table manners as taught by Indiana Jones.

About a month back the EPOXI spacecraft buzzed the comet Hartley 2 and got some nice pictures. These are some of the pics of snowballs being knocked off the comet. [link]
EPOXI? Really? Can I call the next probe DUKTAYP?

Another planet found. A planet FROM ANOTHER GALAXY! but currently in ours [link]

Scott Adams talking about shopping with women. [link]

A wind like this would almost get my box kite in the air. [link]

One man's story of his TSA experience. [link]

Great story about the weaponized computer virus that crippled Iran's nuclear program. [link]

Ghostbusters 3 rumors have been going around for a few years. They've picked up in the last year or so with Bill Murray saying they'd have to kill him off early and pretty much everyone else from the original movies saying they're in. Then word comes that shooting begins in May 2011 and the release is set for Christmas 2012. And Bill shows up wearing this.

Someone playing the worlds oldest sheet music. Or in this case, clay tablet music.

The most expensive bottle of wine in the world.

The creepy girl from "The Ring" is kind of a cutie now. [link]

Pedal powered drawing machine. [link]

A starter castle. [link]

I'm digging these doctored photos. [link]

Huge Hot Wheels  highway.

Watch any episode of any Star Trek online. [link]

A garden shaped like the Milky Way. [link]

How asshole companies play Google for better rankings. [link]

Guy slows time by driving with a high speed camera out the window. [link]

Airport security cartoons dating back to 1938. [link]

Black Friday madness videos. If nothing else you want to watch the video at the end. [link]

Cookie Monster's SNL audition video.

Balloon animal chandalier. [link]

How to make Google translator do beatbox. Click listen. [link 1] [link 2] [a whole threat]

"TSA pat down promotes the Gay Agenda" says dumbass. [link]

Great library desk. [link]

Father loses custody of his kids because he's agnostic.

Another pedophile priest. This time he tried to have his accuser killed. [link]

Story: November gets an attitude. [link]

NASA discovers bacteria that uses arsenic. [link] [link 2]

Photo: Giant sky lamprey eating a lake in Montana. [link]

Super high detail picture of the sun. [link]

Global warming causes duststorms in Alaska. [link]

How the Star Trek  movie should have ended.

Referee fired for posting this picture. [link]

And finally, this video was pulled from a Smithsonian art museum after Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, objected to it. The video is about the pain of AIDS victims in Mexico, and references the Catholicism of that country by showing a crucifix with ants crawling on it.
I don't think much of the video, but I'm doing my part to make sure more people see it now that Bill has thrown a fit than if it just sat in the National Portrait Gallery.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Homemade scratchboard

It's December and the beginning of the Dougmas season. With that comes the Dougmas gifts. While I've picked out the gifts for parents and siblings I don't yet have anything for the grandparents. Their living conditions aren't great for things and stuff. Assisted living and nursing homes and whatnot. You understand. So I'm trying for something small. Something made instead of bought.

One nice thing about not knowing what you're doing is that you try a lot of stuff that probably shouldn't work. In this case someone who knew what they were doing would probably say what I tried didn't work. But I'm kinda happy with it.

I remember a mention of this technique in some old art class. And I saw some old examples when I was wandering the back corners of some Smithsonian museum years ago. Starting with what limited knowledge I could glean from a card hanging under an artifact in a museum, I decided to try it.

The internet calls it "scratchboard". You start with a hard white surface, turn it black, and then scrape away the black. In my ignorance and general cheapness I took some of the white bathroom tile that some handymen left in my house and spray painted it black. Krylon flat black to be specific. Then I took something hard and sharp and started scratching away the paint. My hard sharp object of choice was the pointy end of a compass from an old geometry class.

What I ended up with about 25 minutes later was this.
Captain America is looking a bit sketchy

This is my test piece. You can see in the upper right hand corner where I made my first couple of scratches. The design was simple enough and I'd be able to test the theory and the feel of the material before trying something more ambitious.

Trying to draw a nice controlled line wasn't easy. The paint tears and pulls a bit. Not like latex paint. Good lord no. But worse than I was hoping for. A light touch often ends up with the paint not coming away. Quick strokes were a lot better. Nice thin lines. But not always. But these issues also could have something to do with the thickness of the spray paint. I wasn't exactly graceful in my painting.

In the areas I was trying to make pure white I got the speckled effect you see. I kinda like it. It looks sketched.

The lines around the edge of the shield started out more like what I originally wanted. They were the quick lines. But once the lines started overlapping the paint started to tear again.

I have five more painted tiles, most of a box upstairs, and any of them can be stripped and repainted. I think I can afford to screw up a few more.

P.S. - One more before bed.
It's a combine... sorta.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Sod Off Wednesday: December 1

This is a slightly edited re-run. If you don't like it you can sod off. 

I made reference yesterday to my cousin The Muffin Man. He's a baker.
This is different from Der_Muffinmann who you'll see in the Followers down the right side of the page. He's The Muffin Man's brother and works for Fleischmann's Yeast.
So, yeah, family holiday dinners have some rockin' bread products. 

The Muffin Man used to make new kinds of biscotti for Nonni's (the biscotti supplier for Starbucks).
He made wheat bread with the color, texture, flavor, and nutrition of white bread for Sara-Lee.
Now he works for Starbucks directly. He made their Oatmeal and Apple Bran muffins. He's been moved from sweets and muffins to sandwiches, cold case stuff (yoghurt, fruit cups, cheese plates, etc.) and all of the warm food (English Muffin sandwiches), Piadini (folded pizza/calzone type breakfast), and the like.

As of Thanksgiving they've reintroduced one of his products. It's Grandma's Turkey Sandwich.

It's basically Thanksgiving leftovers between pieces of bread. Not just the turkey, but stuffing and cranberry sauce as well. It's really good. And it does taste like Great Grandmother's leftovers. Particularly the cranberry sauce.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chipped Chocolate Pie

My contribution to Thanksgiving dinner was a pie. Not just any pie. I wanted to make the pie that Grammie was known for. I think it may even date back to Great Grandmother. I asked my cousin, The Muffin Man, and while he didn't have the exact recipe right at hand he found something damn close. And since it's damn close instead of the actual recipe I have no qualms about passing it on to you.

It's called a Chipped Chocolate Pie. This is different from a chocolate chip pie in that two of the words are switched. Also, you're supposed to shave your own chocolate instead of using a bag of chips.

You're gonna need:
16 graham crackers, crushed
1/3 cup butter
30 large marshmallows
1 cup heavy whipping cream - Whipped
1/4 cup hot milk
1/2 (1 ounce) square semisweet chocolate, grated

The crust
I haven't made a graham cracker crust before, but I wanted to try my hand at it rather than just buy one at the store. Set aside 2 tablespoons of smashed cracker to put on the top of the pie later. Mix the rest in with the melted 1/3 cup of butter. At first you'll have some really buttery crumbs and lots of not at all buttery crumbs, but just keep stirring and it'll even out. The butter serves to help make the cracker crumbs sculptable. Then line the pie pan with the buttery crumbs. They don't pack well. Not by hand. My brother says I should have used a second pie pan to pack the crust better. Even if you don't it'll be fine. Mostly you're just wanting something to make sure the pie filling comes away from the pan.

The filling
You do have a double boiler, right? Yeah, me either. Just put one pan inside a bigger pan and fill the space between with water. You'll be fine.
Inside the smaller pan you need to put the 30 marshmallows and the milk. This should leave you enough marshmallows in the bag to snack on or pay off nosy family members. Keep an eye on this so it doesn't go horribly wrong, but you can go work on the next parts while this is happening. Just come back to stir every little bit.
I had the problem that I didn't wait long enough. I thought it was melted, but still had small bits of unmelted marshmallow in there. It doesn't really affect the flavor, but your final pie will have lumps of white in it.

Use a cheese grater to grate the chocolate. Here, use one of mine. Somehow, I have four of them now.
Be sure to grate it all. Expect to leave some knuckle in there.

If you can, let the whipping cream get well chilled. Mine sat in the fridge overnight and seemed to be alright. Some say the colder you get it the better it will whip. I don't have a blender or a whisk so I used a fork. Then I just went to town on the whipping cream. I don't know how long I whipped exactly, but about as long as it took to melt the marshmallows. It wasn't a great whipping job, but it was foamy enough for my tastes.

You're supposed to let the marshmallows cool for a little while. Another mistake was not letting the molten marshmallows cool enough. I just dumped the chocolate shavings and whipped cream into the white goop right after it came out of the boiler. The instructions said fold it in. That's another word for stir, right? Anyway, I'm used to seeing this pie with black speckles from the chocolate shavings remaining more or less intact. That's not what I got. They melted in the hot marshmallows and turned the very white pie brown. Flavorwise, that's not a problem. It's just not how I expect it to look.

Pour all that in the pie pan.
Sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs you set aside on top of the filling.
Throw that mess into the fridge for a few hours. Preferably overnight.

Since my crust wasn't well made the edges fell apart during transport and left the top of the pie with a lot more than the 2 tablespoons of graham cracker crumbs. In fact, it was almost completely crumb encrusted. Not a problem, just not how it's supposed to look.

The pie was a success. It always is. At the family gatherings we have to cut it thin to make sure as many people as possible get some. Yummy's family gathering wasn't as big and nobody knew about the pie yet so I think I had the biggest piece of this stuff I've ever had. It was damn good. Everyone loved it. Many of those who decided against a piece were fed bites from their spouse's piece. I'm calling that a success.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Movie review: The Next Three Days

We went to see "Tangled" this weekend. But with the Thanksgiving holiday crowd the lines were too long for a simple 15 minutes early to be enough. Luckily they had another movie that interested us.

Did you ever see the show "Prison Break"? Season 1 I mean. The good season. Before they were made to stretch the show into seasons beyond the original plan and storyline. "The Next Three Days" isn't that show. I got the feeling that with a different director, or even a different editor, the movie could have come a lot closer to the show.

Russell Crowe's wife is accused of murdering her boss and is sent to prison. After a few years they've exhausted the appeals process. Crowe starts planning a prison break. He spends months working on it. Learns the ins and out and whens, whys, and wherefores. Then his wife gets notice that she's being moved. Crowe has three days to pull off his plan.

You walk away from the movie with the feeling that it was well written. But then some themes and symbolism that were part of the original script got cut in rewrites. Certain bits that could have been more suspenseful and tense lost something in the way the film was put together. Watching the plan unfold could have made one a bit giddy and think Crowe's character was brilliant. But they just didn't quite shine like they should have.

That isn't to say the movie doesn't have some of those moments. Crowe tries out some of his ideas and they fail. Those scenes are tense. You want to slap Crowe and tell him to stop looking so nervous and guilty. And some scenes come back to something he was working on earlier that you forgot about. You make the link and you think "oh. nice." but not "OH! BRILLIANT!" Some parts of the plan come to light in the execution that the audience was never privy to in the planning process. They get a good "heh. Well done."

For the most part this is a movie that you enjoy most in the sitting back with a cigar and a brandy and some friends and going "mmm, ho ho, yes, well done that. Very clever."

Back to my original "Prison Break" comparison. The TV show the final bit of preparation, the crime, and the being thrown in jail. You watched the execution of the plan. In "The Next Three Days" you see everything else. The breakout is a very small part of the movie. It goes quickly from preparation to fleeing the cops.

I enjoyed the movie. But I won't be getting it on DVD. I recommend matinee prices.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Links: November 26

I'm starting with some huge news. The Vatican is trying to downplay it, but it is still huge. Pope Palpatine approved the use of condoms where the practice of sexuality is a danger to another. Specifically for male prostitutes. [link 1] [link 2]

It's still not allowed for birth control. But it is an admission that condoms do prevent disease. Earlier he'd stated that condoms fail to prevent pregnancy or the spread of disease in the majority of cases and actually encourage the spread of disease.
Pope John Paul and I disagreed on a lot of issues of faith, but overall I had some respect for the guy. Pope Palpatine was telling lies about condoms when he made those statement. There's lots of stuff that isn't true, but the Bible says it is. I don't count those as lies from religious folks. He knowingly was saying stuff that wasn't true to encourage people to behave as the Vatican wants them to instead of using the traditional "God says" method. If people are doing something from ignorance or lies instead of faith it doesn't make them good Catholics.
So I'm really glad that the Pope made this statement. It serves as an admission that condoms do prevent disease. The next step is permitting abortions when a woman's health is at risk or permitting condoms to prevent pregnancies that would put a woman's health at risk.

I missed the Desert Bus charity game this year. For those of you not familiar with it, they play a minigame created for an unreleased Penn and Teller game. In it you drive a bus from Tucson to Las Vegas in real time at a top speed of 45 mph and the bus drifts to the side. The game can't be paused. It takes 8 hours to complete the trip and get 1 point. Then you drive back.
Here's what the game looks like.

You pay them to play the game. Hour 1 costs $1.00. Each following hour costs 7% more than the hour before. This year they played for 5 days and 21 hours. They raised $195,130.
This money will go to Child's Play Charity who will spend it buying game systems and games for the children's wards of hospitals.
They have a live stream of the game and of the players. During the show they have an auction (whose profits don't contribute to the time) and "celebrity" callers. Most are related to video games in some way. [Desert Bus link] [Child's Play Charity link]

Will It Blend: Daleks.

TARDIS socks and how to make your own. [link]

FedEx destroyed 65 Million year old eggs. [link]

Trailer for "Cowboys & Aliens". [link]

Who's a fiscal conservative again? [link]

Money origami. [link]

Colorful satellite photos of Earth. [link]

Dogs don't understand moving. [link]

Christians in Brazil ban USB devices as mark of the devil. [link]

Weak article, but Marilyn Monroe's stuffing recipe might be good. [link]

Time to upgrade my Segway.

"Hate Mail" with Richard Dawkins.

A video that comes to my attention every few years. "The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello"

The story of a 1st grade girl bullied for her thermos. [link]

Alphabet pop-up book.

This squirrel bobs his head like Yummy's bird when he wants something. Flys about as well as her bird, too. [link]

Online movie: The Most Dangerous Man in America. It's the story of Daniel Ellsworth and the leaking of the Pentagon Papers. [link]

An article about mill boats. Water powered mills that were on boats so they could move to where the flow of water was best, not just what's near the shore. [link]

If this blog were a country it would have 156 citizens. 1 in every 11,111,111 users visit me. Find out more or test your own site. [link]

Harry Potter cast members trying their American accent. [link]

Sarah Palin's real record on Alaskan bears. [link]

5 now great scientists who were thought morons in their own time. [link]

The oldest known rock and roll song. [link]

What it's like to have sex with someone with Asperger's. [link]

Guy pays $15,000 to play his MMORPG on a massive screen. Mostly just to have a great gaming story to tell. [link]

There's gonna be a new "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" movie. Of course it's a bad idea. You read the article for the reactions from Joss Wheadon and David Boreanaz. [link]

Covers for Tintin in HP Lovecraft books. [link]

Tomasz Opasinski's take on some movie posters. [link]

Wouldn't it be hard to sleep with this thing in your bedroom? [link]

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sod off Wednesday (and Thursday)

I find your last of posts disturbing.