Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Links: July 30

"It makes no sense, these people shouldn't be in the same room never mind the same team. To me, that's the definition of family." - Joss Whedon on The Avengers movie which he's writing and directing. [link]

Costumes from comic-con day 1. [link]
I'm partial to Dr Jones Sr.

Here is how the Comic-conians greeted the Phelps bigots. [link]

Nice culture comparison between the Phelps family and Comic-conians.

Apple donated MacPaint and QuickDraw source code to the Computer History Museum. [link]

Great Bill Murray interview. [link]

Very short story about a mathematician facing the zombie horde. [link]

Fecal transplants may be the next big diet plan. [link]

iPhone program that lets you record measurements. [link]
I'd use the fuck out of this program.

Dog gets communion. One person gets mad and ruins it for everyone else. [link]

Game: Some Bomb - use bombs that blast diagonal or straight lines to destroy the living thingies. [link]

One of Conan's writers talks about the job and the end thereof. [link]
Conan should have kept the job and NBC had Leno host the perpetually rumored American version of "Top Gear".

I love Oregon. Yes, it's pretty, but I like their laws. It was the first (and I think still only) state to legalize doctor assisted suicides. It is also a crime to refuse medical treatment for your children for religious (or any other) reasons. That's what happened here. [link]
warning: unsettling photo

King Tut's ride is coming to New York. [link]

Lego tattoos. [link]

How to run a commercial on Fox News for $100. [link]

A report on female genital mutilation in England. [link]
warning: disturbing.

Apollo astronaut "life insurance". [link]

Wow. A commercial this scummy and dishonest and the GOP PAC is actually owning up and taking credit for it. Not even hiding behind some "Citizens this", "United that", or "Christian something else".
It’s not a 13 story Mosque, it’s a cultural center called the “Cordoba House“. That’s kind of an obscure reference. Cordoba, Spain, during the early middle ages was one of those rare places that Islam, Christianity and Judaism existed side by side without too much friction (as near as historians can tell). Understanding that makes it’s purpose pretty clear.
It’s not at Ground Zero, or looking down on Ground Zero as some have suggested. It’s three or four blocks north of the site.

The trailer for Phil Plait's new show.

Horror ceramic figures. [link]
I think the first one is most disturbing. Just kinda "Oh, ma'am, do you realize you've pulled out your intestines?" "Oh, dear, not again."

Your daily dose of the sureal.

Great protest signs. [link]

Effects of LSD on artistic ability. [link]

Priest drowns baby during baptism. [link]

Several metric fuckloads of gators. [link]
Me? I don't think I would have pushed on even with a sturdy tinfoil boat.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Power outage at work

A couple of weeks ago I got to work to find that we were without power. So everyone went home. I got to make use of the new patio before the day got hot.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Review: Schlock Mercenary - Resident Mad Scientist

I may have gushed about Schlock Mercenary here before. [link]
Really? Only with one previous book? Then I've done it a disservice.

"Schlock Mercenary - Resident Mad Scientist" [order here] is the sixth Schlock Mercenary collection. It's also not a bad place to start reading.

"Schlock Mercenary" is a daily web comic that reads like a graphic novel. Howard Taylor, the author and artist, manages to successfully pull off the gag-a-day format people look for in a comic strip AND tell well crafted stories. While reading this bound collection I found myself drawn into the stories. It was driven home how much I was getting into the stories when I had to stop and laugh every four panels or so.

It's the 31st century. Mankind has spanned the galaxy. So have hundreds of other species. We all need heavy air support from time to time. A personal goon squad impresses others, but it's expensive to keep up. For these and a million other reasons, there is value in renting a military. That's what this comic is about - a company of mercenaries.

While reading this book I handed Yummy book 1. If you're not already a reader you might not want to start there.

Here's the first strip.

Here's today's strip.

In the ten years that this strip has been running his art has matured just a bit. That's why he released book three first and then went back to release books one and two. The early stuff is still good, but just not drawn well.

If you want to sample the goods before investing in a book Howard suggests that you start here. Go back to the beginning of the series later.

In this book, "Resident Mad Scientist", our heroes are off to try to end a war. One person is key. He wants his throne back and he knows all the cells. Our heroes need to extract him and find out what he knows. But, one thing leads to another, there's a galaxy consuming explosion, time travel, double and triple crosses, and a trans galactic war that's been going on since before we fell out of the trees. The bonus story has shrooms and killer lawn gnomes.

Buy it now. [order here]

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Book Review: The Magicians

There's this book that all these different people keep recommending to me. It's called "The Magicians". The problem was that whenever I'd go looking for it the bookstore would be sold out. Then I saw that the author, Lev Grossman, was gonna be in DC. Where the author is there simply MUST be books. The problem was that I wasn't gonna be in town. Luckily, Yummy would be. She didn't get vacation time so she wasn't going back to Kansas with me. So SHE went to the book signing for me.

Turns out that Lev Grossman is the identical twin of another author I like - Austin Grossman. Austin wrote "Soon I Will Be Invincible". Both brothers have sequels in the making.

Start with Harry Potter. Now lets pretend that Hagrid didn't show up until Harry was a senior in high school and looking to go to Stanford or Harvard or somewhere like that. Then, in an attempt to catch a piece of paper that's blowing in the wind, he's led down an alley that takes you somewhere other than the other end of the alley. Entrance exams for a school of magic are about to start and Quintin, the central character, gets to take it.

Now, take the Harry Potter books and eliminate Voldemort. You have a guy taking some seriously hard classes. That's one of the strange things about "The Magicians". There is no villain other than life. There's the occasional monster. There are other students. There's really hard exams and classes. And then he graduates. That's the first half of the book.

After graduation Quintin has to go out in the world. What do you do if you're a magician? You don't have any need for money. You can conjure whatever money or resources you need. Housing can be obtained similarly. As can clothing and most anything you want. What do you do with your life? Some magicians are good at answering that. Others, not so much. Most, not so much. With no direction Quintin's life starts to come apart.

Then something else happens. Quintin always thought that life would become satisfying once he was out of high school. Or if he could become a magician. Or get the girl. Would this something new will finally fill that hole and make life enjoyable?

"The Magicians" is a good book and an engaging read. It's not Harry Potter, but if you enjoyed those books you'll enjoy this.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Movie Review: Get Him to the Greek

I thought Russell Brand was some British rock star. The only times I saw him were on YouTube posts of some news game shows that he's a panelist on. He's funny-ish, not really my kind of funny, but not overly informed. I figured he was a rock star not good enough to get air play in America. He puts off that vibe.

Turns out he's only a movie rock star. He played Aldous Snow, lead singer for Infant Sorrow, in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall". Other than that he's been largely a host for things. Some Big Brother related shows, some MTV stuff, and is now getting into movies.

Did you see "Dumb and Dumber"? Kinda funny, but mostly you feel embarrassed for the people on screen? You know what I'm talking about. That's how the first 30-45 minutes of "Get Him to the Greek" are like. The crap that ... I should tell you the story, shouldn't I?

Jonah Hill works for some music company. During some brainstorming session he suggests that they get Aldous Snow, faded rock star, to re-do his legendary concert at The Greek theater for the 10th anniversary of said concert. Next thing he knows the concert is a go. He's been given the task of escorting Snow from England to New York for the Today Show and then to LA for the concert. Unfortunately, Snow can't be herded. He makes life hell for Jonah.

So, as I was saying, the crap that Aldous puts Jonah through made me think that Aldous was doing it on purpose just to see what Jonah would do. But no, Aldous was just being Aldous. He's into drugs, alcohol, late night parties, and women.

The first 30-45 minutes is embarrassing and amusing. Then a deeper story starts to manifest. Aldous is missing a connection in his life. He misses his ex-wife. He'd like a relationship with his dad. And the stuff Jonah goes through stops being embarrassing and becomes just funny.

Unfortunately, the scene that Yummy really wanted to see wasn't in the movie at all. If you've seen the trailers you've seen the clip of Aldous driving a tiny electric car through the halls of a mansion while telling some woman "I'm a motorist!" That wasn't in the movie.

This movie has a future on the shelf at frat houses and college dorms. While it was funny I don't feel the need to have it on DVD.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Links: July 23

First they said that desecrating a communion wafer was a greater sin than genocide. Now the Vatican says that attempted ordination of female preachers is akin to the mass child rape of their own preachers. [link]

Mark Twain would have make a great blogger. [link]

Airplane plant disguise. [link]

Great practical joke. [link]

Penn an Teller interview. [link]

The Little Mermaid is a crap role model.

Underwater sculpture. [link]

Dick Cheney no longer has a pulse. [link]

100 ft glow stick and instructions to make your own.

Love this motorcycle. [link]

WalMart codes explained. [link]

Former Doctor Who, Sylvester McCoy rumored to play Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit movie. [link]


Sometimes it's OK to be a dick. [link]

A very Christian message to newborns.

Demonstration of a new physics engine. [link]

Fred Phelps and family are gonna be in the same neighborhood at the upcoming Comic-Con. They've scheduled a short protest outside the convention. There's a bit of excitement as the geeks of the world figure out how to respond. Here's one suggestion. [link]

Managers of the world, read this. Imitate this. Stop being complete tards. [link]

Comic book prequel to Inception for free download or online viewing. [link]

There's an ATM in Antarctica. This is an interview with the Wells Fargo ATM guy to talk about it. [link]

Game: Zombies Took My Daughter! - Zombies have taken over. You're separated from your daughter. Collect clues to narrow down the search. Kill anyone who gets in your way. [link]

Bad Astronomer Phil Plait has a new column. His first article is why we don't have to worry about Predators kidnapping us. [link]

Make your own beeswax wood polish. [link]

Pug sings Batman theme.

Arguing with an ibex.

We've gotten good at rendering most everything but people. What about sound? [link]

China has their own oil disaster. [link]

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What a delightful woman

I'm sorry about that title. Did it drip any sarcasm on you? Just the shoes? Yeah, that'll clean up easily.

I may have mentioned a time or twelve that I drive a Segway to work. Where I work is Walter Reed Army Medical Center. When I was coming to work a few days ago there was this woman I had to get past. There's room on the sidewalk so that's no problem. I slowed down and passed her just faster than a walk. She started talking about Segways using words such as "disgusting" and "despicable". She talked low enough that I could have ignored her if I wanted to, but loud enough that she knew I heard.

I considered rolling my eyes and moving on. But, you know what? Fuck that bitch. I stopped, turned around, and started in on her.

"How far did you have to walk this morning? Cause I came four and a half miles. I'll be doing that on the way home, too. Would you rather I drove? Should I clog the streets, the air, and the parking lot for a nine mile commute? You should be glad that you decided to decided to be nasty to me. Do you know where you are? Do you know what this place is? It's a military hospital. These grounds are filled with people who left their limbs in the desert. There's two more of these used by the physical therapy people. Just walk around here during the day and you can expect to see at least one, usually more, amputee driving these around base. Boy, wouldn't that make you feel all superior? Insulting people who have pain walking further than the bathroom. You just watch who you decide to mouth off to."

I passed her again this morning. There were enough people on the sidewalk that I rolled out into the street to tangle with traffic instead. She shot me a blistering look but at least this time she kept her mouth shut.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Star Wars in Concert

Late last summer Yummy and I went to see "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" with the score performed live. When I saw that "Star Wars in Concert" was coming to town I thought it would be something similar. I figured we were looking at six years of Star Wars movies with orchestral accompaniment. That's not what we got.

Instead, we saw selected pieces from all six movies performed with scenes and dialog from the movies mixed in. A large screen stood behind the orchestra showing clips mixed with the feed from a camera that hovered over the band. Anthony Daniels, better known as the guy inside C-3PO, gave a breakdown of the story between songs. What was on screen would have gone well on PBS.

I have a lingering idea of the sort of clothes that should be worn to events with orchestras. They're something you get spiffed up for. OK, not like opera clothes, but certainly not sweat pants. We went slightly dressed up. Office wear. Not like what was considered church clothes when I was a kid, but better than what I'd wear to the movies. The rest of the audience was wearing their Star Wars gear. Obvious in retrospect. Too bad I don't have any.

Some were in full Jedi garb. Some were making do with their Harry Potter capes. T-shirt with Star Wars themes were common. Yummy's favorite said "You don't need to look at my chest. These aren't the breasts you're looking for. Move along." I'm kinda proud of Yummy for getting it. We saw several other who needed it explained to them. One older woman had it explained several times and still didn't get the reference even though she knew the scene.

If the concert passes through your area I recommend going to see it. If nothing else it's a good way to introduce your kids to the symphony.

Their website is Be warned. There's sound. Turn down your speakers at work.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Movie Review: The Sorcerer's Apprentice

"Pirates of the Caribbean" was such a huge success that Disney made sequels. To be fair, Disney makes sequels of stuff that was bad, too. It's all they really know. "Pirates 4" is filming, you know. But, besides sequels they tried adapting some of their other properties to film. But, "Pirates" was nothing like the amusement park ride. They had to gut and rebuild the ride to match. Some might realize that it was the movie, not the ride, that was the success. But not Disney. Instead they went on to make "The Haunted Mansion". It's a ride, "Pirates" was a ride, it has to work. Besides, it stars the guy who did the voice of Donkey in "Shrek". I would have thought someone would get fired over that. Someone probably did, but not the person making decisions. He was still around to say, "Now let's make The Sorcerer's Apprentice a whole movie." He lucked out. It wasn't another "Pirates", but it sure as hell wasn't "Mansion".

There is scene that pays homage to that one Mickey Mouse cartoon that could be called entertaining. And if you sit through the credits you'll see a wee bit more. The rest of the movie is it's own thing. There's lots of action and magic. The story is mostly good. There's a place or three where I got the impression that someone else stepped in to fiddle with the script. "We don't like that bit. What if, instead, he..." sort of thing.

The movie opens long ago. Merlin has three apprentices. There's a falling out. One is given the task of finding Merlin's replacement. 1300 years later he does. It's some kid. Ten years later that kid is a college age physics nerd with a great lab space. He has to accept who he is, learn magic, save the world from the horde of zombie magicians, and get the girl in less than a week.

I recommend this movie. The really little kid (two-ish?) two seats over from me handled it well. But I still wouldn't recommend it for someone that young. I probably won't get it on DVD. But it is a fun movie.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Movie Review: Inception

Did you see "The Matrix"? Did it confuse you? No, just the first movie. Forget "Reloaded" and "Revolutions". They're not worth mentioning. Just the first movie. Did you follow it OK? If you got lost or confused then you want to skip "Inception".

Personally, I loved it. What you got from the trailers is that this is a movie about a guy with this technology that allows him to enter the dreams of someone else and steal stuff. I was expecting something like "Sneakers" meets "The Cell". Some corporate or political espionage movie. And, it sort of is. Just not to the degree I expected.

Mostly this technology is used to go in to someone's head and steal their secrets. But if you're good, really good, you can plant an idea in someone's head. That's called inception.

Leonardo DiCaprio's character is this really great memory thief. Well, he and his team. Leo used to be married. But, well... See, when you die in your dream you wake up. But if you don't wake up for some reason you end up in void. In limbo. Since time moves faster in dream space you can find yourself there for a crazy long time. It's thought that if you spend too many years there you'll go mad or wake up a vegetable.

Leo spent some time in limbo with his wife. Fifty years to be exact. She's dead now, but her memory haunts him. So while he's in someone else's head his wife is in there, too. She's a bit mad. And violent.

There. I don't think I've given away too much. There's still a lot to the movie that I haven't touched on.

If you go with others you'll want to do movie first and then dinner. This movie is one that you'll think about and want to discuss afterward.

I'll get this on DVD. In part I'll get it on DVD so I can turn on the captioning so I know what they're saying. A lot of the dialog is garbled because of the soundtrack or sound effects.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Links: July 16

Yes, you can haz cheezeburger.

Some interesting tidbits about UPS. [link]

Old NPR report about a car alarm that sounds like birds. [link]

A story of escaping slaves written by the slaves. She dressed as a white man, he as her slave. [link]
The book. [link]

Big mamma jamma of a farmers market. [link]

What if the Earth stopped rotating? Check these computer models to see. [link]

Good thing he's not selling these. I'd probably get one much like it for my soon to be long commute. [link]

I'm digging some of these homemade home improvments. [link]

Creepy dolls. [link]

Short story: The Egg - You've just died. Before you reincarnate you get a chat with God. Turns out that you're everyone who ever lived. [link]

How to tell if someone is drowning, [link]

Carved eggshells. [link]
Holy crap that looks hard.

Another reason to hate Bob Jones University. This is their text on electricity. [link]
Primitive screwheads.

Tea Partier quotes put in the mouth of Jesus. [link]

I love cloud chambers.

Flash of the iPad. [link]
Frash! AhAAAaaaa! Defendel of the univelse.

100 class sci-fi movie you can see for free online. [link]

I'm trying to get some sand plums from the grove at the farm growing here in DC. Eventually I hope to do something like this. [link]

Publisher "Night Shade" was being sneaky and got busted. Find out more and the response from SFWA. [link]

Mr Mojoceratops Risin'. [link]

The scarf making clock. [link]

Sensible Christian tells one of the Phelps family of hatemongers what's what. [link]

Team Fortress 2 characters dance. [link]


Don't mess with the Jedi cat.

How many nuclear weapon tests have the United States conducted? What about the Soviets? The answer will shock the hell out of you. [link]
Watch the video.

Listen to songs backwards. [link]

Personal vertical farm. [link]

Game: Castle Wars 2 - pick cards to build your castle or destroy your opponent's castle. [link]
I spent way too long on this game.

Fatwa placed on cartoonist behind "Draw Mohammed Day". [link]

How not to store liquid nitrogen tanks. [link]

Firefly/Serenity done as an 80's show. [link]

Fruit MRIs. [link]

A list of movies filmed in 3D and those faked into 2D. [link]

Glass models of microbes. [link]

Cooking with old recipes. [link]

WWII was completely unbelievable plot-wise. [link]

Fighting Christian Supremacists in the military. [link]

Game: Inferno - put out the fires before... I'm not sure what. [link]

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Movie Review: Predators

You wake up to a loud noise and a falling sensation. Are you falling out of bed? No. Something much, much higher. You look around to see if there's a whale or bowl of petunias falling with you. You start slapping what would normally be the parachute release button, but it doesn't work. You're starting to think the last thing that will go through your mind will be your shoes when the parachute deploys on it's own. Despite all your years of jump experience you make a very rough landing in a very strange jungle. Having cut yourself free you start to look around. This isn't a familiar jungle and you've seen a lot. You see another guy in a parachute land nearby. You go to investigate. You don't know him, or he you. So you pull guns on each other. You're both well armed. The last thing you remember before waking up is being in battle somewhere. Two separate battles. You're threatening each other when a third person lands between you. His parachute didn't open. Soon the two of your find six more survivors. You better learn to work together. You're being hunted by Predators.

Predators have a complex social make up. They are a hunter/warrior species. When their young come of age they must face a worthy adversary. Having run out of worthy prey on their home planet they must find it elsewhere. They have a sense of honor. They have personal cloaking devices that they can use in a hunt, but turn off during a fight. Exceptions to this rule are made.

In the movie "Predator" (1987) a young Predator was dropped in a Central American jungle to kill a squad of American commandos. In "Predator 2" one was dropped in a major city to fight gangs and a cop it decided was worthy. We got a look inside it's ship during that movie and saw it's trophy case. Skulls from a variety of creatures that it had killed. Including an Alien (think Sigourney Weaver). It was meant as an homage, but launched a series of comics, video games, and, eventually, a couple of movies. In "Alien vs Predator" (a better movie than is generally thought) some young Predators return to their ancient Earth outpost for fighting a passel of Aliens. "Alien vs Predator 2" might as well have had Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers, too. It was crap.

"Predators" is supposed to be another sequel to "Predator". Kinda like how "Superman Returns" was a sequel to "Superman 2" instead of "Superman 4". But, honestly, if you were the sort of person who likes this sort of movie you'd probably know most of this already. The movie is about eight of the most deadly fighters Earth has to offer being dropped in a game preserve on another planet. Heck, it seems that the whole planet is the game preserve. They're not the first and they're not the last humans to be dropped here. It gets gory in a few places, but they generally keep it brief. No shots of people getting hurt just to get an audience reaction. Lots of action. I went by myself since this isn't really Yummy's kind of movie. You just have to determine if it's yours.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Video game review: Assassin's Creed

Can you say "late to the game"? I knew you could.

Yeah, I just recently started playing "Assassin's Creed". It came out in November of 2007. There's a sequel or two out. But I got it for $25 instead of the $60 or so when it was released. That tends to be how I do games. The monthly fees of "World of Warcraft" and "Everquest" are right out.

The first plot involves a guy who has been kidnapped. His ancestor was an assassin during the time of the Crusades who stole something. I haven't finished the game yet so I don't know for sure, but I'm betting it's the Ark of the Covenant. Some company has a machine that reads your genetic memories. So while you can't remember your past lives the machine can. They're trying to find whatever you stole so they can use it to take over and establish their ideal civilization around it.

The second plot involves the assassin ancestor. He has little regard for the values of his order of assassins. You screw things up for him early on and he's stripped of rank and weapons. You get them back as the game moves on. You go from city to city picking pockets, interrogating people, and gathering information about some local ne'er-do-well that you're to kill. As the game progresses you begin to wonder if maybe it's the head of your order that's the real problem.

The game play makes it look like they were going for a meeting of "Grand Theft Auto" and "Thief". The graphics are gorgeous. Really. And they work to show off those graphics. You get grand, sweeping vista and views that look a lot like what soldiers coming back from Iraq have to show us, only, you know, without the helicopters. You have whole cities to navigate instead of being locked on a certain path.

Watch me nail the landing

Here's the problem. In "Grand Theft Auto" there's a lesser game where you keep an eye out for walls with graffiti on them. You then run over and paint your own tag over it. There's 100 of these over the whole environment and you're trying to get them all. But you do this among all the other missions you're doing. In "Assassin's Creed" there are flags all over the different cities you're going to. There are people being attacked by police that you need to save. There are towers to climb. Collecting all the flags, climbing all the towers, and saving the people are optional objectives, but they make up the bulk of the game. If I just stuck to the required objectives the game would be over pretty damn fast. Climbing the towers and hunting for flags seems like it's there just to force you to look at the whole city that they spent so much time drawing. That and padding the game so it takes weeks instead of hours.

If something changes between now and the end of the game I'll let you know. But, for the moment I'm glad I didn't pay the whole $60.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

At the zoo

The Smithsonian's zoo has an agave plant that recently started blooming. The age of this plant is unknown, but they bloom somewhere between 10 and 25 years of age. It blooms once and then dies. The blooms can last quite awhile. I'm using a definition of "quote awhile" that includes a nice moderate temperature like that seen in Arizona, not the blazing heat of Washington, DC. The blooms were good and dead when we got there. The rest of the plant will still put off runners and pups to reproduce before we can call it properly dead.The Agave would be that tall sucker

The nectar from these plants is thin and sweet. It's added to drinks as sweetener, fermented for tequila, and is what we model the juice in hummingbird feeders after.

See? Dead.

We got some lemonade and got a bit on our hands. Yummy found a Prevost's Squirrel who was happy to help us get it off our hands.

Here's his indoor friend.

This King Vulture hadn't finished it's lunch. It had beheaded and gutted a bunny and left it on the cage floor for later.

We lucked upon the porcupine feeding. They love their bananas.


Dragonfly. (Maidenfly not shown)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Movie Review: something something something

The hell are you people doing here?
What time is it?
Well. Shit.
I... uh... I saw a movie this weekend. There was a guy. And he did this thing.
Hold on.
It was a cartoon. One of them animated thingies. Those tend to be 3D. We didn't want that, so we saw the 2D version.
OH! Right!

So we went to see "Despicable Me" this weekend. It was a great movie.

I said we went to the 2D version. I'm already sick of the whole 3D movie thing. I'm ready for this fad to go away. It's bad enough that tickets cost $11 a pop here. Don't charge $4 more for extra dimensions I'm not gonna use. However, this movie does have a couple of scenes specifically designed for 3D viewing. In particular, a first person perspective on a roller coaster. And during the closing credits the minions are trying to see who can reach the furthest out from the screen.

This was another movie that lived up to it's trailers pretty well. Gru is a super villain. No, he doesn't have any powers, but he has gadgets. Well, no, he's not a genius inventor either. He's got a mad scientist for that. Or he steals the gadget. Not a billionaire. He has to get loans from the bank to finance his schemes. He does provide his own schemes. And he's evil. He's famous for being evil. He's the evilest. At least until someone else stole a pyramid. Now it's on. Gru plans to steal the moon to show he's still number one.

As part of the scheme he needs these three little orphan girls. This being a movie, they have to break through his hard exterior and kinda screw things up.

Things to watch for: Early on there's a Wilhelm Scream. Vector's designs seem to borrow heavily from the designs of Bespin. You know, Bespin. Cloud City from "Empire Strikes Back". Where Lando lives and Han Solo got frozen in Carbonite. Right. That place. Vector's ships and buildings look like they were built by the same guy.

Then there's the minions. They're strange little creatures that are small and cute and yellow and talk mostly nonsense. You can be sure there will be a "Despicable Me" video game and that after the second game in the series the minions will get their own game. Possibly something like "Raving Rabbits", possibly something like "Pikmin" or "Lemmings". We need a new "Lemmings" game.

Anyway, it's a great movie. You'll probably like it more than "Shrek". I think Pixar would be proud of it. I will be getting it on DVD.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Friday Links: July 9

It's a spy ring. [link]

Wood doesn't burn. It breaks down into gasses that do burn. You can run cars off these gasses. [link] [more]

You may have seen this teaser a few years back.

Turns out they got most of the money. This trailer is a lot newer.

More about "Iron Sky". [link]

How put sculptures in sealed rooms. [link]

Do pets dream? [link]

Confirmed: Item in this picture is a planet. [link]

Picture (and more): The Planck orbiting observatory released the results of their whole sky survey. [link]

Do You Miss George Bush? [link]

Musical kludge.

Worf has issues.

'I am Beautiful' by Joshua & Nathan Flynn from Joshua Flynn on Vimeo.

Twilight ruins things for the rest of us. Neil Gaiman cuts a vampire character from his next book due to Twilight and Twilight wanna-bes. [link]

Nice quarter million dollar bomber. Almost as nice as this eight million dollar drone. [link]

My family has a barn that needs replacing. We're looking for things to make with the old wood so everyone in the family will have a memento of it. I'm liking this idea. [link]

Gotta love Simon Pegg.

Seed bomb dispensers. [link]

Before "The Empire Strikes Back" you could call a number to hear one of the cast do a promo. Someone preserved the recordings. [link]

Game: Ricochet Kills 2 - Kill a whole bunch of Reservoir Dogs looking guys by bouncing your bullets off walls. [link]

Party on, Wayne.
Party on, Garth. [link]

Top Gear gets one of the staff to drive somewhere stupid. [link]

Human lung on a microchip.

Carell and Colbert debate religion.

The Dutch have a pirate hunting sub. [link]

Curry can prevent gas in sheep. [link]
Funny, it has the opposite effect on me.

Stop action animation with paint.

BIG BANG BIG BOOM - the new wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Mo' Better Paving Stones

Previously... [Paving stones part 1] [Paving stones part 2]

I've made a bunch of stones since then.
This one was made for a plant to grow through the middle.

Here's how many I've made so far. The eye bolt in the top one is so I can chain down the table and chairs to make them harder to steal.

Saturday, Yummy and I dug up the front yard to make sure it was level and that the stones wouldn't be resting on top of the soil. We filled two trash barrels with dirt. We then placed the stones and filled in between them. Sounds easy if you say it fast.

After sand was added and the ground leveled we started applying blocks. Then we'd stand on them to see how they felt. Most needed something. They were wobbly or not level or something. We'd spend some time pushing dirt and sand around until it felt good and solid. Some areas had to be made bigger. That dirt got tossed on top of the blocks and swept between them.

A couple of days later we got chairs.

I do need to make more blocks. Three at least, probably five. But we pushed ahead because things had reached the point where I couldn't make a decent estimate of how many were needed until these were in place.

On the right you can see a stone that has some leafs on it. They were pressed in, the mortar allowed to dry a bit, and then removed. It looks better than the camera shows.
To the left of my foot is a block with my hand print.
Behind that you can see a block with a series of dents. While the concrete was still wet I flicked my trowel at it. There was enough gook on the trowel that it flung off and gave the block impact crators.
The eye loop is on the block my foot is on. I just screwed it in while the mortar was fresh.

I'm not done yet, but I'm very happy with how things have turned out.

P.S. - Anyone in the DC area who wants some dirt should let me know. I can set you up.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Karate Kid: Supplemental

Will Smith's mother got scared of one little fight and sent him to live with his aunt and uncle in Bel-Aire.

Will Smith's son got moved to a country with a repressive government, got the shit beaten out of him repeatedly, and started hanging out with creepy, older men.

Light show

For the 4th of July explodathon Yummy and I went up on my roof. From there we have a clear view of DC's main fireworks show. Trees and buildings block everything else, but of that display we have a great view.

Of course, people were exploding stuff on our street, too. We had some rather large debris falling around us. This got the occasional "Woo?" from Gandolf. This is different than the "WOOO!" we'd get when there was a particularly good explosion.

After the main show we stayed up there to sober up and listen to DC celebrate. Someone decided it would be a good time to turn on their spotlight. You know, those four beamed displays that spin around so all the beams keep meeting in the middle? One of them. With all the smoke in the air the spotlight was particularly visible.

Despite being in the middle of DC, despite the smoke, despite the flashes and explosions, and despite the spotlights, we managed to spot seven (7) satellites passing pretty much right overhead. Saturn and Mars were as visible as could be expected, but between 10:00 and 11:00 (ish. We had no watches, only the church bells.) we saw Iridium-25, a few Cosmos rocket bodies, and several others that I can only make educated guesses about.

The Iridium satellites are noteworthy because you can see them during the day. They're so shiny that, if you're standing in a certain area, you get a spotlight for a few seconds. I saw one during the day several years back when I just happened to look over the top of a barn at the right time. This one was similar luck. We saw a dot moving through the sky that got bright enough to shame even the stars, stayed that bright for a couple of seconds, and then faded back to a spark.

Motorola launched them to provide a satellite phone service. When that venture failed they were preparing to deorbit the whole lot when the Navy stepped in to buy them. Now they're used largely for this...
(Stolen from

If you want to satellite spotting, or have seen something you'd like to confirm, check with Tell it where you are and it'll try to tell you where to look and when.

Anyway, for as few stars as we see even on a clear night in DC it was astounding that we saw so many satellites. You other city dwellers should try your luck.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Movie Review: The Karate Kid

I wasn't enthused about seeing "The Karate Kid". See, I'm an old man who saw the original. I liked it when I was little. Later; not so much. This version didn't look bad. Probably better than the original. But the interest just wasn't there.

I did like the lessons that even the trailers conveyed. And the target audience. The original had a middle class white kid getting in fights with other white kids. It was 1984, why not? This one starts with a black kid and his single mother leaving Detroit chasing a job. Right there you get a lesson. Fuck Detroit! That and if you're willing to work and willing to go where the jobs are you can get and keep a job.

The next lesson is for parents. Your kids aren't going to tell you what's going on at school. You may not remember, but you are the enemy. So are the teachers. So are the bullies. Nothing good seems likely to come out of your parents talking to your teachers; or to the bully's parents. They may not be able to explain what they think will happen, but it can't be good. I'll tell you what they think will happen. The bully will get yelled at, possibly punished, and take revenge on the kid.

Lesson 3: Not all creepy old men who live alone are serial child rapists. The kids who spend time at my place are off the street and get a better education than they do at DC schools. The kid in this movie learns Kung-Fu. Even so, you want to get to know the creepy guy your kid hangs out with.

By setting the movie in China it casts the villain not as white bullies, but as Chinese bullies. By giving the main character a Chinese girlfriend and teacher and allowing him to see the city and some of the country it takes the "Chinese" out of "Chinese bullies". The viewer gets some of the culture and learn about the people instead of viewing them as a collective enemy.

Still, seeing a field of small children learning to fight in unison is a bit creepy. Since war doesn't involve that kind of fighting it's just drilling uniformity and ability to take orders.

I'm remembering how kids behaved after seeing the first movie. They'd slap their hands together and rub them really fast and put them on someone as if it were some healing trick. If you take a kid to see this movie be sure to explain to them that they should not set their hands or their friends bellies on fire.

The best lesson would be the one that's not on screen. Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith were producers on this movie. Rather than thinking their kid was cast because they're producers I'd say they were producers because their kid was in the movie. Sure, they got to be acting coaches for their kid, but they also got to make sure Jaden Smith's education didn't suffer and that he didn't become a "child actor". He's not gonna end up the way Danny Bonaduce or Britney Spears or suffer what Drew Barrymore had to recover from. That's good parenting. Sure, it's easier to do that when you're millionaires. IMDB shows Will taking a break of a few years from his own acting career. You and I couldn't do that. But, it shows his priorities and how he's making sure his kid doesn't get screwed up.

I won't be getting this on DVD, but it's a damn good movie, well written, well thought out, and well performed.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Friday Links: July 2

Significant efficiency upgrade achieved in death rays. [link]

Website for a fictional museum of aircraft from various sci-fi shows. [link]
I wish this place were real.

Last week we saw a crab-thing crawl out of it's shell. Here's a proper explanation of what happened. [link]

How a 4 year old plays Grand Theft Auto. [link]

Difference between an iMac in 2000 and an iPhone in 2010. [link]

Some results from the Venus Express. [link]
I wanna send another lander to Venus. This time with cookie dough so we can watch the dough cook.

Perennial crops. [link]
I see the thinking, but I'm not sure it's a good idea. We have to rotate the crops to keep the soil healthy. The same crop year after year ruins the soil for that crop.

The Institute for Creation Research (people who try to make Creationism look scientific and legit) used to be located in California where, due to some knotholes in the law, it could give out Masters Degrees. They moved to Texas where the culture was more accepting of their nonsense. But they're finding the legal system is less accepting of bad science. They can no longer offer Masters Degrees. Of course, they're fighting it.
Here's a bit from the court's ruling. [link]

Game: Tower of Doom - equip your lone tower to fight off your enemies. [link]

A few years back Scott Adams asked his readers for advice about what should go in Dilbert's new house. And a beauty of a house was designed from that. The house Adams made for himself is a bit different, but it is done and is lived in. He talked about what features they added that he thinks really work. [link]

The Dunning-Kruger Effect has had a lot of press the last few weeks. It basically says that people who are bad at something tend not to know that they're bad at it. Here's a good article about it. [link]

Place the oil spill on a map of your neighborhood. [link]

I think I'd vote for this guy. [link]

A potentially interesting documentary. [link]

A restored 1889 Edison electric car.

If something pokes out of the human body it gets infected. Antlers don't get infected. There's been some research into why that is in the hopes of making prosthetic limbs that fasten to you instead of clipping on. This cat with prosthetic legs is the first example I've seen of that being applied. [link]

Interview with a sewage diver. [link]

Short, sad, but good comic book story. [link]

Game: 60 Seconds to Save the Queen - Race through a crumbling castle to save the queen. You'll lose the first time, but you can then replay different screens to better your time. [link]

Short game: Easy Joe - click the right things to clear the way for the bunny. [link]

At-At Afternoon.

AT-AT day afternoon from Patrick Boivin on Vimeo.

A better mousetrap. [link]

BatPorn trailer.

Five true war stories. [link]

Needlepoint animation. [link]

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Goodbye Woot

I've been a fan of for a very long time. But yesterday I got the news that they've been bought out by Amazon. They've gone out of their way to assure people that they're not changing their business model or being changed by Amazon in any way. This is beside the point. The real point is that I hate Amazon.

One of Amazon's major business practices is patenting stuff they didn't invent. The best known of these is their patent on 1-Click ordering. They didn't come up with it. They weren't the first to use it, but they got the patent and started suing other companies that were using it first.

They've also patented customer reviews. And social networking systems. That's right they patented Facebook.

That's just a quick sampling, of course. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, says this behavior is completely immoral and unethical and should be illegal, however, since it's not illegal he's gonna keep doing it.

So I don't do business with Amazon. I use gift cards from Amazon, but only so they don't get to keep the whole thing. I make sure to spend it on companies that sell through Amazon instead of spending on Amazon stuff. And now I can no longer buy from the site that has given me my TV, stereo, coffee pot, several Sony E-readers, wireless routers, Roombas, webcams, mosquito catchers, cheap MP3 players, and a bunch of other stuff.

Goodbye, Woot. It's been nice doing business with you.
Fuck you, Amazon. Fuck you very much