Tuesday, August 31, 2010


My efforts at growing food have been rather hit or miss. I had big, beautiful tomato plants one year that yielded exactly no tomatoes. There were the potatoes that were comparable in size to bottle caps. Even had ears of corn that had few enough kernels that they could be counted on your finger. Right now the yard is consumed by a plant that we're not 100% sure what it is. We think we planted it.

But the peppers were a success! I had to keep moving them inside and out. They tried to die from the heat several times. The leaves hung much like wet tissue paper but came back with the introduction of water and being brought inside. After finding a fairly shady spot out front they managed to survive fairly happily. They even produced what the package said they would. Those pepper things in the picture above. There's at least three more still growing.

They taste much like green bell peppers. A little less flavor, a little more kick. That's about it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Car sticker

I now have a car. A car that is nearly identical to probably 10% of the cars in DC. Too much? 5%? A heck of a lot of cars in this area look like mine. I pass several parked on the way to work. One or two just on my block. I wanted the red Prius, but they had gray and were ready to cut a deal.

I had a point. What was it?

OH! I need to do something to my car so that I know that it's mine. At least until I've learned it's curves well enough to find it on my own. You've seen those stickers on the back of some cars on the highway. The stick figure mommy and daddy and son and daughter and baby and doggie. No? Look here.

I drew my own. We're looking into finding someone to print and cut them for us.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Links: August 27

Last week I posted a video for a song called "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury" and asked what Ray thought of it. He loved it. Here he is watching the video. Ray Bradbury is 90 years old and still writing. I think his glasses may be about as old.

Major General loses his command because he was requiring those he commanded to attend Christian concerts. [link] [link 2]

RIAA and NAB want to require FM radios in most portable electronics. [link]

Japanese company invents machine that turns plastic back into oil. Japanese with English subtitles.

Darth Vader teaches Tai Chi.

Star Wars Tai Chi from John Leo on Vimeo.

Albert Einstein looks suspiciously like Marilyn Monroe. [link]

Color photos of Russia from before color photos. [link]

Stargate fan music video: PX-75309

AMC is turning the comic series "The Walking Dead" into a series.
You can read issue 1 for free. [link]
Here's a trailer.

The rumors were true. Neil Gaiman is writing an episode for Doctor Who. It goes for table reading Monday. But there were some cuts that were painful for Gaiman to make. Here's one. [link]

Seadragons. Who knew.

A fire tornado. I saw one of these. A farmer was burning his field. I was about a mile out. It was easily 100ft high. Probably more.

Another spiffy picture from Cassini. Try to figure out what's going on BEFORE you read the text. [link]

Philly must be a bit hard up for cash. [link]
She made $50? How can I get in on that kind of big money?

Footage from a camera attached to one of the booster tanks on the Space Shuttle. It takes a few minutes.

Corpses used to test new Orion space capsules. [link]

How to turn a pool into a major source of food and clean water. [link]

J Biebz's song "U Smile" played at 1/8 speed. Very etheric. [link]

The moon is shrinking? Definitely shifting. [link]


A story about the rediscovery of absinthe. [link]

Electron microscope scans of bugs. [link]

Fox condemns the New York mosque and those behind it. What they don't mention is that the major funder is also the second largest stockholder of Fox News. That's why they never mention the name of the person funding the mosque or show his picture. [link]

Photos with exposure times measured in months. [link]

Bird Olympics. [link]

NSFW ads! - This video is of a woman in England putting a cat in the trash. She's been identified and her identity has been spread. What she did isn't illegal, but people are reacting badly enough that she's under police protection. [link]

My grandmother (Grammie) used to have a good sized patch of poppies in her yard. Orange ones. Very pretty. I think they reseeded themselves year after year. But I did wonder about the legality of them. This article talks about poppies and the legality or unenforced illegality of them. It's quite long. [link]

Teaching orangutans to swing. [link]

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Game Review: Civilization: Revolution

I can't think of anything else to post today, so you get to hear about a video game.

I've been hearing about the game "Civilization" for years. Never played it. I watched someone play for a little while. I didn't get it. You can't come in and watch part. But the people who rave about it tend to like the same games I do so I picked up the most recent game in the Civilization series.

First off, this game will eat your life. It's not one of those games that you spend days or weeks on. There's not levels that make good stopping points. Think of it more like the longest board game ever played. You don't play it once and you're done. You play the game over and over again.

You play as the leader of one of several different people - Arabs, Americans, Japanese, Inca, Bits, Germans, etc. You pick one of five levels of difficulty. You're given one group of settlers that you use to start a town.

With this town you start building. Soldiers at first. Then more settlers. The town grows. You use the settlers to make more towns. You connect them with roads. You start making buildings that improve the science, gold, culture, population growth, production, or resource gathering ability.

Starting from that you have one of four ways to win.
Technology - Develop enough technology to get you to Alpha Centari first.
Culture - Get 20 great persons or cities to willingly convert and you can build the United Nations.
Economic - Get 20,000 gold and build the World Bank.
Military - Kick ass and chew bubblegum.

As I was saying about the board game similarities before, you can play a whole game in a few hours. OK, several hours. A bunch of them. And through it all you keep thinking you'll just do this one last turn. One more round. I just need to take that city and then I'll turn it off. Next thing you know it's late at night and you should have been heading for bed an hour ago.

I'm gonna be playing this for awhile.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Community Forklift

I'd heard of these people before. At a Co-op America shindig at a convention center in DC. Basically, if you're having major work done on your house you call these people in first. While the contractor will rip stuff out and throw it away, Community Forklift takes a bit more time and tries to preserve what you're taking out. Then they resell the decent quality stuff.

The warehouse has some sweet stuff. Need a new door? Or, at least a used door for some project? They have plenty. Some for free. Ok, so doors aren't generally considered sweet. Nor are the racks of windows terribly sweet. Some of the ovens are. They've got newish stuff as well as things that your great grandparents may have once used. And one that probably used to be used in a restaurant. There's plenty of moulding and lumber. A sizable collection of radiators. Lighting, power tools new and old, nails and screws of all kinds, light switches and face plates... And their antiques section is pretty awesome. I may do some Christmas shopping there. There's old air return grates, carriage lanterns, wind veins, door knockers, old signs, old lights, and a ton of great stuff. Outside there's kitchen and bathroom sinks, toilets, bathtubs, and stone counter tops.

Then there's the really strange stuff.
A neon light from the front of some Lions Club/Grainger building. It doesn't hang flat on the wall. It sticks out with the sign on both sides. It's yours for $2,400.

Yummy's pictures of a great old TV/Radio.

My picture of the same TV/Radio.

You might be wondering why you'd donate stuff from your house to these people. They're slower than construction people and sell stuff that you don't get a cut of. They're not doing this for profit. Most of the staff are volunteers. They do have to pay for warehouse space. They do it because it's an environmental issue. What's more environmentally friendly: building a new "green" house or moving into an old one? The answer is the old one because you don't have to use all the resources to make all those new materials. Similarly, why have new moulding made when someone else already has tossed some that's in perfectly good shape.

Find out more at http://www.communityforklift.com/.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Careful, that's hot

I want to take a moment to ponder on welding and how much it's improved in recent years. This sounds like a dull subject at first, but bear with me.

Dad has a welder. It's of the stick variety. With this you have a welding rod that you stick in something that is basically a glorified alligator clip. You make sure the object you're welding is grounded. When the stick gets close to the object an arc jumps from the stick to the metal, the stick melts, and two bits of metal you were pointing the stick at are now one. This is the theory anyway.

The arc is so bright that it'll damage your eyes if you watch someone weld. You may not notice it at the time, but in a few hours you'll regret it. So you have to wear a mask. These masks are dark enough that you can stare straight at the sun while wearing them. Yes, I've used them to watch an eclipse and look at sunspots. It should be no surprise then that when you wear the mask indoors you tend to run in to things. Being completely blind makes welding at challenge as well. You have to put up your mask, memorize the scene, nod just enough to make the mask fall in front of your face, and use the mental image of the scene to strike an arc. Once the arc has formed you have enough light to see with and can get some work done. As the stick melts you have to keep adjusting your proximity to what you're working on.

All that that I just said? Yummy didn't have to do any of that. A couple of weekends ago we went to a welding class. Well, it was welding and stuff, really. We went mostly for the welding. Yummy wanted to learn and I thought my skills were getting a bit rusty. We also got to play with a plasma cutter, a horizontal bandsaw, a drill press, and a few different kinds of grinders.

They did have an arc welder, but we didn't try it out. It's just too much of a pain. We used a MIG welder instead. MIG stands for Muttermutter Inert Gas. It's a type of automatic wire feed welder. A thin wire feeds out of the welding gun. CO2, the inert gas in question, flows out around the wire so your weld doesn't react with oxygen to sputter and cough and screw up your weld. Since the wire feeds itself you can pretty much get comfortable and stay a constant distance from the object to weld.

They also had the automatic helmets. I love these things. Dad has one now, but hasn't always. You can see through the mask right up to the moment you strike your arc. It detects the welding light and goes dark. But the arc is bright enough that you can still see.

Anyway. There are pictures.
DC GlassWorks [link] is located just outside Washington, DC in a nice little warehouse district. This group of guys has a shop and they teach classes and sell shop time to students in order to afford it. This isn't their day job.
Most of their classes are different kinds of glass work. But in the hottest part of the summer they have a different kind of class. Something that isn't quite as hot and miserable to work with. Welding and aluminum casting and nice cool activities like that.

Yummy and I. More Yummy than me.

Here I examine a weld that doesn't suck.

We had to come up with project ideas. Yummy wanted to do an Eiffel Tower, but the second day was warmer and muggier and we were getting snippy. So she decided on a simpler project. So I went ahead and made one for her. Not what she had in mind at all, but nifty anyway. It was cut out of the metal using the plasma cutter.

Our main project. It's a perch for birdies and it's lawn art. It has the house numbers, a place that holds a bowl for food or water, a couple of perches, a spiral birdie staircase, and two clamps to hold branches just as soon as we find some.

Yummy grinds.

Yummy welds on the spiral staircase.

Scrap metal from cutting out the house numbers.

Keep looking up

Kids today may call me a liar, but once upon a time there were cartoons shown on TV after school. As soon as the cartoons were over I could switch over to PBS and watch Doctor Who and some other shows. Since PBS didn't show commercials they had to fill time between the end of a show and the start of the next show at the socially acceptable times at the beginning or halfway through the hour. To fill that time they'd sometimes show this short astronomy show called Star Hustler with a theme that annoyed the crap out of me for some reason. This show starred Jack Horkheimer. The program was distributed for free to 200 stations nationwide as well as the Armed Forces Network.

I mention this because Jack recently passed away. He died of respiratory problems at the age of 72. He'd been working at the Miami Planetarium for 45 years as volunteer and then executive director. How's that for a promotion?

I know some of you saw his show when you were kids and would want to know.

Here's one of his last shows.

These shows will continue to run into September. The museum is still trying to figure out how or if the show will continue.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Nuke it from space!

Previously on Dougintology: [link]

This is an artist's rendering of what just happened to my bank account. In the distance you can see the decimal point being blasted from orbit. We're this far back because it's the closest safe vantage point.

What happened? I finally bought the car I mentioned at the beginning of April. A Prius V with the Advanced Technology Package. (That last bit should be pronounced with some reverb.)

We're moving out of our offices in mid-September. Or late September. Probably. I figured I'd have to order the car or that they'd say they have the car and then it would be missing features when I got there and would have to yell at them and find another dealer. But no. Five minutes after I sent the e-mail I got a phone call. MSRP is $34,010. I offered $30,000. They took $30,982-ish. Another $600 for fees and the like. And, by the way, when can I get it off the lot?

I was a bit stunned. I expect to have a bit more time. A week or two. But, yeah, we can pick it up Sunday. That was Wednesday. That meant I had to get the insurance that afternoon, get a cashier's check the next day. Make sure that both the insurance company and the car company were swapping paperwork on Friday. Sunday we spent 90 minute doing paperwork and I drove it home.

This thing has a ton of bells and whistles. Not all that I expected, but no big whoop. I didn't really need the solar powered fan that circulates the air inside the car when it's been left to bake in the sun. Still, I had to use the manual. I'm a failure as a geek.

Mind you, had I not checked the manual I'd still be wondering how to change the accent of the GPS person. My old GPS, the one that suctions to windows, has several languages, genders, and accents. I liked the female British accent.

Anyway, bells and whistles.

The car has a USB port. I can hook up my MP3 player. OR! Or I can just load up a memory stick and let the car handle the files.

Sure, sure, GPS. But I can use voice controls to select my destination. Also pick my music. It works better than other voice recognition programs I've seen.

"Computer. Open Photoshop."
"Shutting down."
"NO! Computer! Cancel! Computer! Play CD."
"E-mailing porn to your mother."

I think it works better because it only allows a limited number of words at set times. When the computer knows you must have said one of those five words it figures out what you said better than when you could have said one of hundreds of words.

It'll vary the cruise control depending on the flow of traffic. I just have to tell it how big of a gap I want between me and the guy in front of me.

It will assist with the parallel parking, but apparently won't do it for me.

A camera will watch the road for the lines. If it can see them and I'm drifting too much it will subtly try to correct. I can overpower it easily. If I drift too too much it'll tell me I should stop texting.

The lock is a pad on the outside of the car that you kinda have to know is there.

There is no longer a hole in the dash to shove the key fob into.

The battery cooling system vents into the car. Why the hell does it vent into my car?

No mobile phone yet. I figure I'll get some model of Android in the next few month. I can comment on the compatibility then.

Oh, because everyone asks, it's light gray with a dark interior. I probably would have picked red, but they had this and wanted rid of it. For $3,000 off I can be flexible about the color.

Basically, what I have is a toy. Not just one toy. It's a toy box. A dozen little features that I get to explore and play with.

And it's paid off. I own that car outright. I can still lose my house, but the bank can't take my car.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Links: August 20

Bad week for links. Then again, it's been getting long and out of control.

Catholic TV advocates allowing only moral and educated people to vote. I agree. However, I tend not to think of people who believe in a 6,000 year old world as educated or people that hide and protect pedophiles as moral.

I'm not quite this big of a Ray Bradbury fan. NSFW lyrics. I wanna know if Ray has seen this yet and what he thinks.

Awesome boat. [link]

Han shot first. Or Greedo. Then Han. Then Greedo some more.

More quitting via dry erase board. [link]

Long, long ago on a server far, far away the movie Star Wars was cut into bits and distributed across the world. People took these clips and refilmed them their own way. Now those clips have finally come together. Have a look. [link]

Interesting mathematical problem. [link]

Cul-De-Sac cartoonist Richard Thompson writes about drawing backgrounds. [link]

Another reason Wil Wheaton is awesome. [link]

23 minute video about one the few remaining holographers. [link]

E=MC2 is a liberal plot? Really? [link]

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Your Laugh

Your Laugh - an ode to the woman who works across the hall (and a deeper understanding why I don't write poetry)

Your laugh is a thing of legend
Your laugh turns people to stone
Your laugh drives sailors from the rocks
Your laugh sank a thousand ships

Your laugh makes the day a bit brighter
Your laugh knocks birds from the sky
Your laugh ionizes the smog
Your laugh makes clouds shatter into wisps

Your laugh helps animal control
Your laugh sterilizes dogs
Your laugh kills the mood for rabbits
Your laugh removes cat piss

Your laugh fills the hall, peels the paint, cracks the pipes.
Your laugh curdles milk, poisons grain, dulls my knife.
Your laugh corrupts files, degausses screens, crashed my Mac.
Your laugh breaks kidney stones, cures cataracts, causes strokes.

For the love of god, woman, shut the fuck up already.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Audio book reviews: Accidental Time Machine and Atrocity Archives

Yummy has a long commute. Sure, we've all heard about people who live three hours away and make the commute three times a week. People who commute an hour aren't uncommon at all. But, just because lots of people do it doesn't mean it's not an idiotic commute.

I'm getting off my point. Take two.

Yummy has a log commute. A what kind of commute? Is she a lumberjack? No.

Trying again.

Yummy has a long commute. About an hour one way. To help with this commute she hits the library and runs through a lot of audio books. Some of the books appeal to me so I have a listen, too. Here's the story of a couple.

The Accidental Time Machine
I already read this book. See? Some books are better when read. Some books are better when listened to. Some are much worse when listened to. You can debate whether it's because of the person doing the reading or how the text flows or some whateverness about it. I thought "The Accidental Time Machine" was better when listened to.

You can read my original review [link], but the short version is that some guy finds a device that's broken in some 4th dimension so each push of the button moves it forward at exponential increments.

The Atrocity Archives
In a world... Hold on. You can't hear the voice I'm doing right now can you? Yeah? Ok, pushing on then.

In a world much like our own the supernatural is real. More to the point H.P. Lovecraft wrote educational pamphlets without changing a word of what he wrote in our world. Magic, necromancy, speakable horrors, and computers are all real and all work together.

Our hero is... was... a math nerd. He thought he was working on an equation that created some spiffy special effects. In truth he was close to summoning something that would likely have eaten the world. So "The Laundry", top secret organization created to prevent shit like that, came and shut him down. He could join up or they could do something to him to make sure that his math and computer skills were pretty much useless. So the book starts with him as a computer geek in The Laundry.

Soon his requests to become a field agent, part time at least, pay off. He's torn between late night stakeouts in the rain and the bureaucracy, between fighting universe eaters in other dimensions and making sure he fills out his DD-421 before taking a few days to do the stuff that human resources isn't cleared do know about. (i.e. fighting universe eaters in other dimensions).

It's actually two stories, neither of which are quite long enough to be accepted as a book these days. In the first our hero fails is checking out someone who is making a mistake like the one he once made. Her research would lead her to horrible creature land. When things go pear shaped he breaks protocol and saves her. This leads to a series of events that lead to fighting a universe eater in another dimension.

There's also some people with glowing worms in their eyes. He kills one. Don't worry, the deceased still makes it to work later. There's an investigation. The bureaucracy that goes along with all the monster killing is one of the things that makes the book fun.

In the second story there's a network of cameras that can be uploaded with some software that makes the camera act like a Gorgon or a Basilisk. The cameras turn people to stone. But someone has hacked it in what turns out to be an attempt to take over The Laundry.

My favorite part was the research into how Gorgon vision works. The double slit experiment results in patterns of stone and semi-stone in the subject medium.

I recommend both audio books. But don't just rip them, put the MP3s on your iPod, and return the disks to the library so other people can check it out and enjoy it sooner. Nope, nope, nope. That's illegal and stuff. Why? Oh... uh... look, I'm out of paper.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Movie Review: Hamlet

I intended to wait until I watched the last hour of the DVD, but my other prepared posts need pictures. So.... um, here.

I am a fan boy.

When I heard that Doctor Who and Captain Picard were performing Hamlet together I considered getting tickets to England. I had to see this. I'm not the only one. I heard Stewart say that he thought this would be the most viewed version of Hamlet ever.

David Tennant was performing with a real skull [link] that was left to the Royal Shakespeare Company with the hope that it be used in a play. Some previous Hamlets would rehearse with it, but nobody ever performed with it. Not until Doctor Who took it up.

Sir Patrick Stewart expressed an interest to Tennant in making an appearance in an episode of Doctor Who. Word is that it's gonna happen. Not sure when.

My raves for this version of Hamlet have nothing to do with other roles played by these actors. I've seen more than my share of Hamlet. I've read the book, seen the play a few times, and watched it performed by Mel Gibson (1990) and Kenneth Branagh (1996). But never have I seen it performed half as clearly as with Tennant as Hamlet and Stewart as uncle and ghost.

In this version the dialog is understandable. They don't rattle through the text as fast as can be uttered. No pretentious attempts at Ren Fest accents. They speak. They pause. They emote. They emphasize the right words. The dialog doesn't seem 400+ years out of date. OK, so maybe 80 years or so out of date. Still, not bad for Shakespeare.

For this production they've modernized it... sort of. The dialog is the same. The setting is still a castle in Denmark. The attire is modern. They'd fit in at any meeting of the UN except for the swords they carry. The castle has surveillance cameras which are used for some shots. My favorite bit is where Hamlet's managed to get a room to himself. He's shooed off Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (or is it Guildenstern and Rosencrantz?). He looks around, pulls down a surveillance camera, smashes it on the ground, and says "NOW I am alone."

Credit also to Oliver Ford Davies for his Polonius. You've seen him play the Governor of Naboo in the Star Wars prequils. He makes Polonius into an old man prone to absentminded babbling that often made me chuckle.

Really, though. If you haven't seen this version of Hamlet yet you need to find 3 hours or so and go to Great Performances and watch it there. [link]

It's also available on DVD, which is how I've got it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs The World

If it's Monday it must be movie review time.

One of things that puzzled me about this movie is how to describe it. How to describe what type of people would like it. "Scott Pilgrim vs The World" is a fantastic movie. I got my first laugh before the production company's logo faded from the screen. I loved this movie. My grandmothers would not. How do I explain why?

I read comic books. I go to super hero movies. I play video games and have since the dawn of video games. My grandmothers haven't. That's a large part of the difference.

You know how in Scrubs there are these cut-away scenes where we see what's happening in JD's head? Or those shows where a guy gets rejected and they show a scene where the girl shoves her hand in his chest, rips out his heart, and stomps it? "Scott Pilgrim vs The World" is like a two hour version of one of those cut scenes. Very little is realistic. It's all filmed like an exposition of how different events unfold in the heads of the main characters. It illustrates the emotional and psychological impact instead of what really happened.

At least that's one way to interpret it. Viewed that way it has the potential to be the core of a great paper for a psychology class.

Another way is to start with the '60s era Batman TV show. They showed the "BAM" and "POW" during fights. "Scott Pilgrim..." shows most forms of onomatopoeia as text on the screen.

It relies heavily on video game references. When an opponent gets defeated points rise from it's body. They often explode into coins when the die.

Scenes are changed quite suddenly and a bit jarringly, but done for comedic effect.

Still, I've said nothing about the plot.

Scott Pilgrim is 22. He's in a band. He has almost nothing to his name. He's broken a lot of hearts for such a dork. He's dating an asian Catholic high school student who is too shy to hold his hand. A major band competition is taking place in his area that could lead to a recording deal.

One day he sees a girl he saw in a dream. He completely fails to start up a conversation with her. But persistence pays off. He gets a date. He also gets an e-mail that he completely ignores. What it tells him is that the girl has seven evil exes. Scott will have to defeat all seven of the exes. And they all have superpowers. But so does Scott. And the girlfriend. Which is why I wonder if this is all supposed to be a reflection of how his mind interprets events. This interpretation is heavily influenced by all the comics and computer games in his life.

Through the course of Scott fighting the exes and learning about the girl's past Scott slowly starts to realize that he's left a wake of emotional destruction behind him as well.

I laughed. A lot. Out loud. There's no doubt whether or not I'll get this movie on DVD. Of course I will.

update: I forgot to mention that it was directed and co-written by Edgar Wright who also did "Shawn of the Dead". That should give you some idea what to expect and if you're the kind of person who will like this movie.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Links: August 13

Ancient tales of giant squids. [link]

Teaser for "The Avengers". Gets you psyched despite the fact that the script is still in development.

Space Invader couch. [link]

A series of questions that are designed to build a logic trap to make one believe in the possibility of a god. I got 3 hits, but all 3 required them to change an earlier question. [link]

Republican candidate for Governor Dan Maes says that programs to encourage bicycle use are part of a UN conspiracy to take over this country. [link]

Big cats and catnip.

Live webcast recursion.

Interesting article about a man's battle with Argentine ants. [link]

Oldest species on Earth. [link]
I used to have some. Grow your own. [link]

AT&T's disaster recovery method. [link]

Sarah Palin could have cost us $400,000,000 to $2,000,000,000 for a pipeline that can't legally be built. [link]

Pics of a Namibia ghost town. [link]

What ever happened to the set for Hobbiton? [link]

This shower with the color change tile is kinda neat, but black tile bathrooms look awful. [link]

Weird Al and Hanson doing a Blues Brothers impression. [link]

Christopher Hitchens and I have our differences. I love to hear him debate creationists. He shreds them mercilessly. But he was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq. He finally came to understand that it was a mistake based entirely on lies, but it took him years. Now he's got cancer. In this interview he talks about the cancer, his reactions and those of the public. He makes a point that he's not critical of those praying for him. And at the end he says that if there's a deathbed conversion it's only because his mind is completely addled. Any rumors about a conversion will be completely false.

Another interview here.

And for those praying for his death, "Go fuck yourself." [link]

A long article about stupid delaying tactics in the Senate. It talks about the aftermath of the health care bill, how daily time is spent, and the change in relationships between members of the same party over the years. [link]
Note I didn't say Congress. The House, apparently, isn't nearly as bad.

Picture: The Saturn moon of Enceladus spewing ice and creating some of the planetary rings. [link]

Great DieHard battery commercial and the making thereof. [link]

Worst. Management. Evar. [link]

This guy got his stolen bike back. This is the story of the sting operation. [link]

There are 129,864,880 books in the world... according to Google Books. [link]

This city in Texas wants them all. [link]

Demo of Sharpie's new erasable pen. [link]

Newt Gingrich learns the hard way, if you're gonna be a dick about gay marriage you should turn off comments. [link]

Any Rubix Cube can be solved in 20 moves. [link]

Last years 53,216 Austrians left the Catholic Church. So far this year 57,000 have quit. Alas, it's because priests are child rapists, not because the citizens have come to their senses. [link]

The Brits, on the other hand, are leaving the church because they're seen the light. [link]

Full size, poster quality scan of a geologic map of the moon. [link]

Doctor 11 gets the Simpsons treatment. [link]

Teaser posters. [link]

Game: Number Lines - the old balls on a track game with a math twist. The balls have numbers. Fire a numbered ball that makes the two balls total 10. [link]

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hit counter

My old hit counter stopped working some time back. I didn't care too terribly much. I made some minor effort to fix it, but I wasn't that interested. But, when I posted my homemade paving stones I was telling everyone and wanted to know what my hits would be like. I tried changing templates again. That didn't help. So I got a new free hit counter.

http://my.statcounter.com doesn't give me the hourly breakdown I had with the old service. It gives me data for the whole day. But it gives me lots of other info.

First of all, I'm getting about 24 hits per day. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but about that. This is up from 8 when my old counter died.

Aside from the main page, my most popular pages are
  • my review of Clash of the Titans

  • my instructions on how to make your own CD lens cleaner [link]

  • my experience working with Tiger Foam [link]

  • a page with now defunct Seeing Ear Theater links

  • my praise for Steven Moffat [link]

  • more experiences with Tiger Foam [link]

  • quotes from my parrot [link]

  • how I used Doctor Who as history and science lessons [link]

  • my explanation of the Sidewalk Economy [link]

and lots of hits to my most recent posts. Probably someone getting links to my new stuff through an RSS feed or something.

Most people come straight to my main page. The next highest is Google. Google US, Google UK, Google Italy, Google Australia, Google India, Google California, Google South Africa, Google Germany, Google China, Google Sweden, Google Qatar, and a couple of hits from Bing and Yahoo.

Most search terms are pretty straight forward. I know exactly how they got where they were going. There's a few really odd ones. Stuff like "3d incest comics site:blogspot.com", "www.pakistni comiadi darma mujaan ie mujaan", and "Mary Fairchild".

75% of visitors spend less than 5 seconds here. Kinda dampens that 24 visitors per day number. 90% of visitor have been here before. So that helps.

Can you tell I was really digging for something to post today?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Paper clip buckyball

I recently saw where someone made a ball out of binder clips. [link] My mind locked onto it and refused to let me do anything else until I made one, too. I tried using massive clips, but I didn't have as many as I thought. The pile was big, but I needed 24 more. So I started over with small clips. You can see what I made below.

Mine isn't as colorful as the original.

To make your own you need 60 clips.
Point one grip out and leave the other against the clip.
Join them in 12 groups of 5. The grip pointing away from the clips should be used. You may want to use twist ties or something to prevent the cluster of 5 from slipping around. Makes it easier to follow what's going on if, like me, you have no color clips.
Take the grip that remains against the body of the clip and join it to 3 other clusters of 5.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My workplace is odd

"Hey, look! Someone forgot their leg."

- said by yours truly upon seeing a prosthetic limb lying on the lawn at the military hospital I work at. It's owner turned out to be sitting in his car nearby the leg.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Bugs Bunny at the Symphony

One of the big things I love about living in DC is that stuff comes here. I compare this to Wichita (motto: A good place to be FROM) which was a large and bustling city compared to where I grew up. DC gets movies that will never show in Wichita. DC gets lots of authors on their book tours. DC has lots of free museums and events.

Another thing that DC gets that will never be coming to Wichita or even Kansas City is "Bugs Bunny at the Symphony". Those of you in the mid-west, if you really want to see this concert, should plan on making a trip to Indianapolis in November.

Do you remember your first exposure to Wagner? To "Marriage of Figaro"? "Blue Danube"? Most of you first heard this stuff in cartoons that were made when your own parents were kids. It played behind Bugs Bunny or Tom and Jerry or something like that. I saw this stuff on Saturday mornings or after school. But where are the kids of today gonna see this stuff? In college you could see this stuff at 2:30 in the morning as filler on the Cartoon Network (motto: who needs cartoons?). If you haven't bought them on DVD you're just out of luck.

This show consists of a series of cartoons that have heavy orchestral accompaniment being shown on a large screen with an orchestra, in our case the National Symphony Orchestra, playing below it. You get the big hits like "What's Opera Doc" (a.k.a. Kill Da Wabbit!), and "Rabbit of Seville" as well as a few other pieces. In one a young Daffy Duck helps protect a family of goslings as music plays behind them. Tom and Jerry performed a bit where Jerry tries to foul up Tom's conducting. Scooby Doo and The Flintstones did a couple of bits where clips were shown while other bits of classical music played. In a few cartoons they apparently couldn't separate the score from the rest of the audio so the orchestra sat quietly while the cartoon played.

Now, let me make this perfectly clear. This is still a concert. I understand that you want to bring your kids. There is, however, a point at which your kid hasn't yet learned to shut the fuck up. He can talk just fine, but doesn't yet get the concept that cartoons aren't real. If your kid wants to keep asking "IS HE DEAD?" when dynamite blows up in the Coyote's face he shouldn't be at this show. There are plenty of people in Nebraska who would love to have your seats.

This goes for you, too, mom and dad. Do not tell your kid you're proud of them in the middle of the show. Particularly when all you have to be proud of is the fact that your kid has yet to kick anyone in the head.

This doesn't appear to be a traveling road show. If you want this to play in your area you need to contact your local symphony and make a request.

You can find the performance schedule at http://www.bugsbunnyatthesymphony.net/.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Friday Links: August 6

Game - The Dreamerz: Solve puzzles to get the parts to fix the dream machine. [link]

Mystery man keeps showing up in the background of British news shows. [link]

Nifty idea for DIY light fixtures. [link]

Stargate: SG1 theme for metal heads.

Ryan Reynolds is a bit freaked, but handles his new Green Lantern fanboys well. [link]

In the upcoming 10th and final season of Smallville Clark FINALLY gets the damn suit. [link]

I can now get my TomTom GPS to use voices from Star Wars. Check out their "Making Of" videos. [link]

Interview with the guy who beat the government to decoding the human genome and, more recently, reprogrammed some bacteria. [link]

Transcript of dialog between computer peripherals. Potentially NSFW ads. [link]

Robotic Ent. (or something) [link]

The first several pages of the "kids" book "All My Friends Are Dead." [link]

An article about a Republican Congressman who lost his primary to a Tea Party candidate and his experience with the Tea Partiers. [link]
The Bush Administration spent 8 years shooting the GOP in the foot over and over again. The Tea Party is the infection setting in.

This is how science is done. This article talks about an experiment by the Templeton Foundation, a group that pays scientists gobs of money to say that science and religion may be compatible. The experiment was to show that praying for the sick does help. This article talks about the experiment and how it wouldn't be acceptable in middle school science classes. There's no controls. No double blind or even single blind trials used. Just bad science. This kind of analysis is done by someone, usually lots of someones, anytime some research results are announced. It's there to help honest scientists who miss something, it's there to gut con artists, and it's there to make sure we get things right. [link]

There was a polio outbreak in one of those places we lump together as "formerly Soviet". It's been put down. How? Rapid deployment of vaccines. [link]

Sky diving, armor plated, dogs with X-Ray vision! [link]

Google figured out that they don't know what to do with Wave either. [link]

Fun with bad disk drives.

A working engine we don't quite completely understand. [link]

Remember Biosphere II? It's not looking so hot. [link]
Think they'd sell it to me?

Just listen to the bit about the railroads. You have my permission to skip the rest.

Nightingale floors. Good for keeping assassins away or keeping the kids from sneaking out after you go to bed. [link]

And, finally, the proposition that made it so gays couldn't marry in California (a.k.a. Prop 8) has been ruled unconstitutional. Here's selected experts from the judge's ruling. [link]

Thursday, August 05, 2010


The sunflowers finally started blooming. They never got nearly as tall as expected, but I didn't exactly take good care of them.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

How God found Ibid

My parents were Methodist. So that's where I went to church as a kid. Nearly every Sunday they'd drag me in for Sunday School and Church. That's where our story begins.

As a little kid I believed in Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and God. And I was taught in Sunday School that God wrote the Bible. Personally. So I had this impression of a big seventy-something guy, probably six foot six or so, barrel chest, white beard, long white hair pulled back in a pony tail, white, and a really nice suit. He had an office, probably in Washington, D.C. He's immortal. And he hand delivered the original manuscript of The Bible, in English, to the printers.

Keep in mind that at that point in life my concept of the insides of the human body reduced us to giant Ziploc bags of blood. Maybe with bones, too. Not sure when I learned about them. The point is that my understanding of the world was not just limited, but comically distorted.

I remember hating church. Getting up early on a weekend, having to wear uncomfortable clothes that had to be taken care of, sitting quietly through an hour long lecture, and the pointless ceremonies. Granted, it could have been worse. I could have been Catholic. Methodist pointless ceremonies got nothing on Catholic pointless ceremonies. This miserable waste of a Sunday morning is what started turning me against church. Talk all you want, preacher-man, I'm gonna draw on this donation envelope and ignore you. Gonna reject whatever you say, too. Why? Because this is BORING!

To be fair, I did get to a point where I tried paying attention. I thought maybe church would be a good place to learn something about the contents of the Bible without having to read it. Not so much, no. Whole swaths of the Bible never get touched. They only seemed to tell the same handful of stories over and over. Most of the time they weren't even teaching from The Bible.

Eventually, I decided to read the damn thing myself. I was, what?, eight? Yeah, give or take a bit. I started in Genesis and started reading. Good stuff. Creation, the mud people, Eve cheating on her diet, Noah, Moses, and then the begats. Things really slow down for awhile when The Bible starts covering the family tree. I got bored. I went to Mom and asked if there were any good mythology stories outside of Genesis and Revelation. Yes, I used the word "mythology". Mom was a bit flustered. I didn't understand why at the time. But even then I realized there was no difference between what I was reading in The Bible and what I knew of Greek and Roman mythology.

I still had to go to Sunday School. As we got on into middle and high school, classes became mostly hanging out with the occasional lesson. Mostly what I got out of these lessons was that God is kind of a dick. Don't sit at the head of the table, leave that chair for God because he's more important than you. Don't make fun of bald people because God will sic bears on you. Don't blatantly rip off the story of Pandora's Box or God will kick you out of the Garden of Eden.

I forget how old I was, but as some point I was made to go to Confirmation Classes. They weren't the multi-year ordeal that some other religions (rhymes with Datholic) make of confirmation. It was a few months of weekly classes. I felt about as enthusiastic about Confirmation Classes as I was about church. Here the preacher taught us what Methodists believe. For me, each class was an exercise in eye rolling techniques. "Hell no, I'm not taking any notes. There's no test, we're not being graded, and you're talking out of your ass." I think I was the only one in class who didn't re-join the church. Grammie had to be told I wasn't joining. They were doing a graduation/joining ceremony during church. All the names of the people joining were called out during church and they went to the front. Grammie likely would have stood up and announced that they forgot my name. How fun would that have been to explain before the congregation?

Once I was well into high school I still had to go to Sunday School with the family, but if I stayed in the classroom and read or listened to the radio nobody protested.

Notice, if you will, that this story doesn't involve the deaths of a family member or pet. I'm not someone who believes but is angry at God. There's no story of comparing religious claims and scientific claims. I don't refuse to worship an asshole god. I'm not confused by which of the religions is right. I'm not rejecting a church because of the behavior of it's leaders or it's members. I'm not rejecting the Bible because of it's long history of politically motivated alterations. I just don't believe. Why should I? There's no reason to believe in Yahweh but not Zeus. The Bible stories aren't any more or less believable than a collection of Egyptian myths.

In short, there's no reason that I SHOULD believe. The burden of proof is on the believers. So far their best argument is "what if you're wrong? You'll go to hell" and that doesn't hold water for more than a moment or three.

This isn't to say I haven't tried believing. There was a super hot Christian that I was not-dating in college. I managed to blindly accept the beliefs for a couple of weeks. But my mind simply couldn't accept the nonsense. THAT was because of a conflict of scientific and religious claims. One claim had to be rejected because one claim required belief and the other claim required only accepting the world we see around us. Finally I decided you can't spell "belief" without "lie".

Still later came the rejection of the church because of the actions and speech of the church leaders. I was never impressed with the televangelists. Mostly they just seemed like crooks. Then hypocritical crooks. Now they're hypocritical crooks preaching hate.

But all that is supplemental to the initial "this is nonsense" that I grew up with.

I also attended a few Mormon open services in college. You can't attend their regular services without being a member, but they do have special events for the curious. Mostly I was curious about the contents of this blonde's sweater. What they covered there was rather lacking compared to what I learned from a Mormon friend in high school just before he went on his mission. When he got back I met him at the airport. I was able to rattle back at him most of what he told me before he left. Turns out there was a lot they're not supposed to tell you the first time out. I still have the copy of the Book of Mormon that he gave me. It's in the religious reference wing of my library.

I do still have a fascination with religion. Most atheists do. Your average atheist knows more about The Bible, the church, and their history than does the average Christian. We just don't understand how you can believe. We say we understand how some people need the church to give you a sense of community or a purpose in life. We say we understand that some people need to believe there is something after life in order to deal with death. Or that some people need a crutch to help them get over an addiction. But, in truth, we don't get it. Odds are that the more research we do the less we get it. Believers haven't gotten there through reason. Very few will get out via reason. Atheists will never get there by thinking about it.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


Monday, August 02, 2010

Movie Review: Dinner for Schmucks

Last week I talked about "Get Him to the Greek" and compared it to "Dumb and Dumber" and how they both had that element where the humor came from being embarrassed for the character. I feel kinda bad because I feel I have to use that same comparison again for "Dinner for Schmucks". Remarkably, however, it's not during the dinner that I was feeling embarrassed. But, I'll get back to that bit.

The main character in "Dinner..." is a financial analyst looking for a promotion. He pushes a proposal in a meeting and they decide to consider him for an open position. But first, he must come to a dinner they're having. Once a year they get together at the bosses' place and bring some idiot with a remarkable skill. It's "The Gong Show" or "America's Got Talent" but the person with the most idiotic skill and personality wins instead of getting humiliated.

He's considering saying to the boss that he can't come to the dinner when the perfect candidate walks in front of his car to collect a dead mouse from the street. After collecting the idiot from the bumper of his car, the analyst invites him to dinner.

The idiot shows up at the analyst's house that night thinking the dinner is then. He then proceeds to plant stupid ideas and do things that can only cause misunderstandings of a catastrophic nature. It's this scene, from when he gets to the analyst's apartment until they leave a restaurant the next day that you can't help but cover your face. Really, pretty much everything involving this ex-fling who is in these scenes.

Before that and after that it's just funny. Steve Carell does a great job of being a funny idiot without embarrassing the audience. That's not a skill I've ever seen in Jim Carrey or Will Farrell.

I'm not getting this on DVD. Nor am I recommending it to everyone. But I do want to say that I laughed. Some movies I find funny, but I can go the whole movie without laughing. This movie I laughed at. Make of that what you will.