Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Links: April 29

Little Thor

Tornado footage at Lambert Airport.

A prophetic 1989 speech by Bill Watterson. [link]

A guy passed away with a comic book collection worth over $1,000,000. [link]
Hopefully my retirement fund doesn't involve relying on my comic book collection.

The last typewriter factor in the world closes. [link]

Radiation experiments on seeds. [link]

Biggest boarding pass ever. [link]

Sirs Patrick Stewart and Terry Pratchett come out in favor of assisted suicide. [link]

A fake trailer for a Batman movie that explores the psychosis of Bruce Wayne.

Great Dr Who ratings in the US are still 1/5 of a ratings slump in England. [link]

500 year old body found in near mint condition is going on tour. [link]

Interactive plush Portal turret created. [link]

Declassified experimental aircraft. [link]

Goodbye sparkplugs. [link]

The downside of having a fully automated store is that you have to tell it when the store it supposed to be closed or this happens. [link]

How to make bread that looks like pandas. [link]

What is comedy?

What is comedy: The article [link]

Along those lines, I recommend the book "Road to Mars" by Eric Idle. The robot character is looking for a cure for humor and is used to channel Idle's analysis of humor.

Infographics about health care in America. (or Why Your Stitches Cost $1,500) [link]

An interesting article about flogging vs prison. Would you rather have 5 years in prison or 10 lashes? [link]

Roger Ebert, after 107 tries, has won the New Yorker cartoon caption contest. [link]

A camper that can be pulled by grannie's motorized scooter. [link]

Some rather impressive columns. [link]

18 layers of Chinese hell. [link]

I've seen some of this person's work before. Their liquid lights are pretty neat. [link]

I might have to get this book. [link]

Well, yeah. This needs to be explained? [link]

Short excerpt from a film about an elderly female judo instructor.

A bit more about Google's self driving cars. [link]

Puppy cam. [link]

Non-bullshit fables. [link]

Make your phone ring so you can find it. [link]

Game: Vampire Physics - drop the vampires to turn everyone into vampires. [link]

More about the passing of Elisabeth Sladen
David Tennant

Russell T Davies[link]

Tom Baker [link]

More quotes from friends and coworkers. [link]

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Movie Review: Limitless

I finally saw "Limitless" a couple of nights ago. It wasn't quite what I expected. I expected a power struggle between Bradley Cooper, the brilliant drug taker, and Robert DeNero, the guy who provides the drugs. But that's not what happened. Not until a lot later in the movie that you'd expect. Like a LOT.

Imagine if there was a drug that actually made you like it feels it makes you. If you feel strong it's because you are strong. If you feel brilliant it's because you are brilliant. But then the drug wears off. Once in awhile, no problem. Taken daily...

So that's what this movie is. On one level it's about a guy who has found the fountain of fucking brilliance. On another, it's a movie about drug addiction. Other users turn out to be dead or in the hospital. Withdrawl effects turn out to be blackouts, headaches, sweating, a pronounced limp, and death.

Like the trailer shows, he finishes a book he's been working on for years in days. He figures out the stock market and turns thousands into millions in a week. He has women falling all over him. But then there's the loan shark. Even after paying him back the guy finds out about the pills and starts trading the pills for not skinning Cooper and suffocating him with his own flesh. And there's someone with a knife following him everywhere.

There's only one thing that keeps me from recommending this movie for your kids as an anti-drug movie. There's a happy ending. You just have to be sure to talk to your kids about all the dead or strung out people in the movie.

But I enjoyed the movie. I like films about people being brilliant. The "The Thomas Crown Affair" remake was better than the original. "Limitless" isn't like either but is still pretty good. That said, I don't plan on getting it on DVD.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Spock is supposed to be half human/half Vulcan. This is supposed to give him an emotional side that he tries to suppress. But Vulcans aren't being of pure logic. Their emotions are actually quite strong and kinda violent. They split from Romulans because of the philosophical difference over whether or not to control these emotions. So being half human should actually tone down his strong emotions, wouldn't it? Spock should be the most hard rocking stone cold logical mind of all the Vulcans.

Or should I be looking at the poor role model his human mother was while growing up?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book Review: The Coming of the Quantum Cats

Last night I finished reading "The Coming of the Quantum Cats" by Frederick Pohl. Before I get into the book I want you to look at the cover. What do you see? Really, just take a moment. What's going on in that picture?

I ask because Yummy saw the cover and immediately knew what kind of weirdness was going on. Those four people climbing the stairs are all the same guy, but from alternate timelines. One of the more revealing book covers that I've seen.

Some books require a certain level of commitment to read. It doesn't get interesting for a couple of chapters, but until that point you have to make yourself read. This book doesn't do that. This book had my attention two sentences in when a guy driving a car in 1986 almost got into an accident while talking on his mobile phone.

The rest of the chapter sets up a world that you think you understand and then gives the world little kicks to make the reader sit up and pay attention.

Like I said, the book starts with someone's phone ringing, him almost getting in a car wreck, and getting a ticket. The guy is sort of a life insurance salesman. He talks about his job, his wife, his life, how he wants to go to the pool with his wife that night because after a certain time the lifeguard stops paying attention and lets people go topless. Really, he sets up a pretty normal world. Normal except for the unusually high influence that wealthy arabs have on society and it's laws. You get your first jolt that night at the pool when they decide it's safe and HE starts to unzip his top. The fact that the pool is almost immediately stormed by the FBI and our main character is arrested is a bit anti-climactic compared to the swimsuit revelation.

The FBI, led by a woman whose thumbs were cut off years ago for shoplifting, beats our central character for awhile trying to make him admit that it was him seen at a research lab recently. His face, his fingerprints, but not his suit. In fact, a bunch of witnesses place him in New York with his wife at the time he was seen at the lab in Chicago.

After a couple of chapters we leave that guy alone until half way through the book. Instead we pay attention the that same guy as a Senator in a much less Muslim America. He's having an affair with a famous classical violin player who bears a remarkable resemblance to the woman beating him in another time line. He's called to New Mexico where they've arrested someone who appears to be the Senator. The New Mexico facility is where they've been doing research into peeking into alternate realities. But few think it'll go anywhere.

After proving that the Senator is really the Senator they talk to the stranger. He says some cryptic things and then vanishes. Soon some alarms sound and everyone rushes out to see what's going on. That's when a version of the Senator dressed in fatigues arrests the Senator.

Remember "Back to the Future" when they were explaining alternate timelines? If you go back and change something then the timeline splits. In the case of this book they're operating under the theory that any time any event could go two ways both things actually happened, but in different timelines. Someone decides to wear a red shirt instead of a blue shirt? Two time lines. Anytime a uranium isotope splits there's a timeline where it happened seconds later instead.

The version of the guy who was arrested but vanished is from a timeline where they got the technology to move between timelines to work. He was forced by the people in another timeline to give them the technology. They're invading the Senator's timeline so they can go to Moscow with a nuke and shove it back through to their own timeline to eliminate their greatest threat.

In one world Kennedy is still alive, but was never president. In one world Reagan is president, but it's Nancy instead of Ronald.

Each chapter is separated by a couple of paragraphs about random strangeness happening as the barriers between timelines breaks down. Eventually all four worlds, and many other neighboring worlds, have to deal with things passing back and forth between worlds on their own just to equalize the mass that they've been moving between worlds.

The book is ripe for a sequel, but none was ever published. Too bad, too. I'd read it.

I liked the book. It was an interesting and engaging read. See if you can find yourself a copy.

Monday, April 25, 2011


I was allergic to a lot of stuff back in Kansas. For years I'd go in to get shots for my allergies. Once a week, twice a week, three times a week, then the doctor gave up because the drugs weren't doing anything anymore. I don't recall them ever helping, but it was a long time ago.

When I went off to college I was lucky enough to find an area where my allergy problems were minimal. After college I found I had some allergy issues in Kansas City, but still nothing like on the farm. Washington, DC isn't as bad as the farm, but I have to take a lot more drugs than I did in Kansas City or Pittsburg, KS.

Typically I take double the recommended dosage of an antihistamine and a decongestant. With Claritin I kept upping the dosage. At around six times the recommended dosage, taken twice a day, I finally started to notice it doing something. Any meds that end in -D (Claritin-D, Tavist-D, etc-D) kill my allergies but act as anti-Viagra and eliminate my ability to sleep. No, I'm not amped up, I just can't sleep.

This time of the year is the worst for my allergies. Everything is pollinating and every horizontal surface in the city is covered with a fine layer of yellow. I'm taking three times the antihistamine dose and taking the decongestant at double dosage every four hours like the instructions say. I also have some children's liquid allergy meds that I take hits off of for instant relief from time to time.

And I'm exhausted. I always hear people complain about how Benedryl knocks them out. It doesn't bother me much. Not normally. I dunno if it's the extra drugs or the allergies or what, but I'm exhausted.

I'm gonna stare at this wall for awhile now.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Links: April 22

Game: I Have 1 Day. A game for all you fans of old Sierra games. [link]

Baby pygmy goats having fun

From the maker of the mini cannon [link] comes the mini crossbow.

Best pedometer on the market is a kids toy. [link]

Arizona's state legislature passed a bill that would make presidential candidates prove they're United States citizens before they'd get on the state ballot. [link]
The governor vetoed it. [link]

Another of the ThinkGeek April Fools products becomes a reality.

Dayton boots' new ads have an attitude. [link]

A new type of solar panel based on physics we once thought were impossible. [link]

Video about using magnets to influence the brain, even shut off speech. [link]

CIA reveals their old secret for invisible ink. [link]

Old Soviet photo airbrushing. [link]

Fun with paperclips. [link]

Science Friday video about how bikes balance. [link]

How they treat food to make it look more photogenic. [link]

Mystery characters showing up in comic books. [link]

Superorganism eating the Titanic. [link]

Unofficial Dr Who merchandise. [link]

Stargate Studios shows off.

Pictures of shipwrecks. [link]

Which of these complaints to the FCC are about Glenn Beck and which are about Jon Stewart? I got 7/10. [link]

Single best argument for getting an iPad that I've seen. [link]

Thursday, April 21, 2011

RIP: Sarah Jane Smith

I don't remember the first time I watched Dr Who, but I know I spent many hours as a kid hiding behind the couch. My Doctor was Tom Baker and my Companion was Sarah Jane Smith played by Elisabeth Sladen. One of my favorite episodes of the new Dr Who was when the new Doctor ran into her. I've just started getting her new show "The Sarah Jane Adventures" via NetFlix.

Cancer took her away Tuesday. She was 63. I'll miss her.

Used without permission from

The universe has to move forward. Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it's a world or a relationship. Everything has it's time and everything ends.
- Sarah Jane Smith in "School Reunion"

Reactions from her friends and coworkers. [link]

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sod Off Wednesday: April 20

Sod off. Just sod off.

Why? Because I said so. That's why.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hops - before

I've decided to grow hops. I suppose this lumps me in with all the other home brewing sorts, except I don't know if I'll actually brew anything. Who am I kidding, of course I will.

I got hops rhizomes (a clump of root that puts off new plants) for me and my brother. Being a beginner I got the Cascade variety which, in geek terms, is the "hello, world" of brewing. Dunno what you're doing? Use Cascade.
I sent my brother two rhizomes. One was Cascade and the other was Centennial. They're actually very similar. Both are rather citrusy and will go well with wheat as the feed stock. I thought that hops was what we were feeding the yeast, but I was wrong. The hops are there for the flavor. It's wheat that gets turned into the alcohol part.

I'm planting mine in a bucket in my front yard. The bucket is there because the hops will take over the yard otherwise. It's like mint or bamboo in that regard. I'll run a wire up the front of my house for the hops to climb.
My brother planted his in pots indoors and recently transplanted them to either side of his flag pole back in Kansas. He has a cord of some kind going up at angles from the hops to the top of the pole.

His poked through the ground a couple of weeks ago. He was a bit concerned because they looked like hemp. Turns out hemp and hops are related. They're the only two members of their family.

Mine was content to stay in the ground and I was starting to worry. But I got home Monday, looked in the pot, and I finally have something peeking up.

Dark green sprout on dark soil taken with a camera phone. Great photo you have, Ibid. 

This is the before picture for what will likely be a multi-year experiment. Hops grows best in the northern US and Canada. But looking at the conditions it likes I don't see why Kansas or DC won't work. We have the summers and winters it likes. Sure, there's a spell of a month or two mid-summer when it doesn't rain, but as long as we keep them watered they'll be fine. Right?

I'm expecting 6ft of growth this year. Next year it should reach 12ft and start producing the bit that we actually use in the beer. You'll be presented with my results along with my brother's as a comparison of how they do in the respective climates. And as a way to fill blog space. Sometimes it's hard to come up with things to write.

Monday, April 18, 2011

yard pics

The development of the kale in my yard over the course of a few weeks.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Links: April 15

Good news, kids. Taxes aren't due until Monday.

Invisible (i.e. scotch) tape defeats frosted glass.

How they filmed the rotating hallway scene in "Inception".

8 movies directed by people you'd never expect. [link]

Peeling an orange with paint.

These five videos were made for commercials showing their interest in preserving five different areas.

Picture: Dear Diet Coke. [link]

Game: Pigs Can Fly. Manipulate a series of things individually so when they work together the pig can get to the flying potion. [link]

Game: Sneak Thief 3 - a point and click game. [link]

Game: Clockwork Monster - It doesn't work like a normal game. Things don't act like you'd expect. Nor should you. You're likely to accuse it of cheating. The walkthrough is almost certainly a must. [link]

Working camera made (mostly) of Legos. [link]

A great speech opposing the end of civil unions in Iowa. 3 minutes.

A video about how hard it is to derail a train in WWII. [link]

Fighting an anaconda underwater.

New skyscraper planned in Saudi Arabia. Planned to be 5280ft tall, it's much bigger than the planned reconstruction of the Tower of Babel in Kentucky. [link]

Took me a minute to figure out what was happening with this camera. [link]

In video games a pirate trap is a way to get software thieves to give themselves away. This could be the most effective one ever. [link]

Tuesday was the 50th anniversary of the first manned orbit of the Earth by Yuri Gagarin. To commemorate the event the film "First Orbit" was released. It combines a recording of Yuri's transmission with film taken from the ISS at the same place above the Earth at the same time of day and some news broadcasts talking about the event. You can watch or download the film for free. [link]

Every one dies... in video games.

Game: Big Evil Robots - you're a kid with a slingshot. They're giant robots with a weak spot. Hit the weak spot. [link]

The inventor of the digital camera shows off his first camera and how they stored the image back in 1975. 3 minutes [link]

Inflatable crowds for movie sets. [link]

Arizona passes racist, sexist abortion ban. [link]

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Restauraunt review: Ben's Next Door

There are places around DC that you may have heard of or seen pictures of, but you don't really know about. Places that when you see them for the first time you already know, but don't know how or why. Ben's Chili Bowl is one of those places.

Back when U st was a center of the black musical scene it wasn't uncommon to see Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, or Redd Foxx eating there. Duke Ellington actually grew up just a few blocks from there. As the music left and civil rights movement increased you could find Martin Luther King Jr and Bill Cosby eating there. During the riots after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ben's got permission to stay open after curfew to provide food and shelter for the various aid workers. Bill Cosby held a press conference there to celebrate The Cosby Show. Obama ate there just days before his inauguration.

The place is almost always packed. Go on a weeknight and you can probably get a table or a stool, but you'll have to wait in line to order before sitting down. Weekends it's standing room only just to order.

That said, I'm not too fond of their chili. It always seems a bit burnt to me and always gives me a stomach ache. But I'm told I need to try their milk shakes.

Recently they've expanded. They have opened a nice sit down restaurant next door called "Ben's Next Door". The front half of the restaurant is a crowded bar area with some small tables along the wall. Once you get past that there's larger tables and you can get away from the bar atmosphere a bit. Seafood is very prominent on the menu, but there's plenty of other stuff for those of use who just don't like seafood. The atmosphere is nicer than at the Chili Bowl. You're not gonna want to wear your sweat pants or paint splattered anything. One might call it snooty compared to the Chili Bowl's diner atmosphere.

But, at last, I can get a good hamburger in my neighborhood. Sure, The Saloon sells burgers, but, unlike the rest of their food, it just doesn't meet my standards. And I like their mulled wine.

Come visit as a tourist and you kind of need to visit Ben's Chili Bowl. Going to eat with your lobbyist friend, go to Ben's Next Door.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

useful QR code tidbit

That collection of black and white boxes is known as a QR code. If you have phone that can run apps you can probably download a free QR code reader from whatever store you have. They contain data. Usually URLs, but they can also have text or phone numbers or whatever.

About a year and a half ago Bruce screwed up our brochures so badly that it was determined that we needed to develop a style sheet that spells out colors, fonts, spacing, and the like to make sure that there's something we can point at and say "THIS! RIGHT HERE! For the 19th time DO THIS!" I wanted to start putting QR codes on the brochure that would take the person to our website or to the specific website for the book mentioned on that page. But at that point they were still fairly new to the United States. Big in Japan, but less so here. Plus nobody in our office had a smart phone to demonstrate how it worked or figure the optimal size for the graphic. But I was still ready to show up at the meeting to discuss the brochure style with a strong case for the codes.

Then I called up for jury duty and vanished for six weeks. Without me in the meeting to defend the idea it was shelved.

One benefit of having my Droid is that I can now demonstrate how the codes work. I did this a couple of months ago at a staff meeting and the Colonel got very excited. She agreed that we should start putting them on our posters and on stand up displays at conventions and whatnot. Then she went to some convention where several of the vendors also had them. She came back super excited about them. We're gonna put them everywhere now. She's been collecting places that she's seen them used in ads, fliers, and business cards.

Then came questions about size. How big do they have to be? How small is too small? We ran some tests a few weeks ago to find out.

On something that the user will have right in front of them, like a business card or brochure, you can get as small as 1" x 1". Smaller than that and the camera on your phone will likely have trouble getting a sharp picture.

If the person has to stand further away you obviously have to make it bigger. Tests in the office indicate that you need to make the box about 1 inch in width for every foot away from the poster the camera will be. So 6 feet needs 6 inches. To be honest, that's like an upper limit. The camera was struggling at that limit. So 2 inches was good for 1.5 feet, 4" for 3.5', 6" for 5.5', etc.

Since writing this post a few weeks back we've used the codes on a table at a pediatric medicine conference. I helped several people install software on their phones so they could read them. We'll have to put something on the bottom of the signs that say something to the effect of "We recommend 'QR Reader' for iPhone users and 'Barcode Scanner' for Android users."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Book Review: The Engines of God

I was up late last night finishing "The Engines of God" by Jack McDevitt. This is very different from "The God Engines" by John Scalzi which is also a good book.

You may have heard that Borders has been having financial issues. I looted one of their places a little while back and discovered Jack McDevitt's books. They pretty consistently had descriptions of the stories that sounded interesting. One of the recurring characters is Priscilla Hutchins and the first of the books she appears in is this one. I have several books on my to-be-read shelf that are third in the series and I'm still looking for the first two before I read what I have. I was happy to be able to start with the first one in this series.

The book reads like two books back to back. The first book tells about a planet that once housed a now extinct civilization. A team of archaeologists is trying to explore a city that has slid into the ocean while a team of terraformers is trying to get them off so they can blast the planet and start making it more comfortable for humans. This annoys me because the planet, while a bit cold, has liquid water, plant and animal life, and an active biosphere. If you're so desperate for housing for the overcrowded Earthlings then move them in here, don't blast and wait 50 years.

But that's beside the point. The first half of the book talks about the rush to get anything of value out of the ruins and off the planet. They're rushed and held up by the terraformers who "accidentally" drop an ice asteroid into the ocean a few hundred kilometers from the site and cause as tsunami. Then a power grab between a couple of the terraformers causes all the planted nukes to go off and really screw things up.

What they were looking for was evidence of a race they call The Monument Makers. An ancient race that built giant artificial cities on moons and huge orbiting cubes. The strange thing is that these monuments and areas of a couple of inhabited alien planets show signs of collapsing civilization and burn marks at about the same times. They have samples of the alien languages, but they're trying to get more samples from the ruins on the planet that's about to be terraformed.

Having retrieved a bunch of stuff from the terraformed planet they make some discoveries that lead the team to a star system that may house the Monument Makers. Once there they promptly crash into a huge round thing only millimeters thick and have their ship disabled. They spend awhile trying to make life support last long enough for rescue. Once rescued they check out the big round thing and a habitable planet in the system that has it's own ruins. And some rather nasty surprises.

From there they're able to form a hypothesis about what caused the scorch marks and civilization falls they keep seeing. This leads them to another star system where they find out just what the Monument Makers were trying to do.

The book is kind of like a mystery. I found myself coming up with my own hypotheses about what the monuments were for. I was wrong, but so was everyone in the book.

Each of the two major story arcs in the book start kind of slow and are hard to get into, but after a chapter or two it really starts to move and the book goes from hard to pick up to hard to put down.

I'm looking forward to reading the next book.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Movie Review: HANNA

We saw "HANNA" this weekend. I probably don't need to capitalize Hanna, but that's how I've always seen it.

Erik (Eric Bana) is a rogue CIA operative living near the Arctic Circle with a girl named Hanna (a very bleached Saoirse Ronan). Oh, it's not like that. Erik had recruited her mother for a project to breed super fast and strong warriors. When they closed the project and eliminated the test subjects Erik took Hanna and the mother and ran. The mother didn't make it. They've been living in a remote wilderness while he trained the girl to fight and hide and defend herself. Fighting, killing, skinning, languages, the girl learns it all. All but music, electricity, how to deal with people.

But Hanna is grown up now. It's time to go back out in the world. But first they have to take out the parts of the CIA that would want her either unwillingly recruited or dead. So they let the CIA catch her and throw her in a cell. She then has to escape and try to make it from wherever the prison is to meet up with Erik.

So the movie nicely blends action sequences with a Hit-Girl type (but with some hesitance to kill) with her discovery of modern culture and technology.

You may also want to see it for the camera work. They had lots of fun using a variety of camera angles and movements that show a certain creativity. This wasn't just "point the camera at the action and roll" movie. They worked on making it visually interesting.

I'm not sure if I'll get it on DVD, but Yummy almost certainly will.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Friday Links: April 8

I wear a Stetson now. Stetsons are cool. [link]

Green Lantern footage.

BBC has ordered three more episodes of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.

An article about who really wrote the books of the Bible. Really, it's more of a teaser for the book the guy is selling. Still a good article. [link]

EX-TREEEEEEEME dog grooming. [link]

"Do Not Touch the Frog" - Entertaining speaker at the World Science Festival talks about their search for poisonous frogs. [link]

Creepy doll for sale. [link]

Old man sails the Atlantic on a raft. [link]

Genuine angry bird. [link]

Commodore 64 - it's back. Preordering available. [link]
I'm tearing up just a bit.

This motivational poster says everything that needs to be said. [link]

The Claw of Archimedes - a brief description of a device used to defend coastal cities from a Roman siege. [link]

Interesting use of a small space. I've seen some of this in the tiny places allowed for Solar Decathlons. Watch the video to understand how it works. [link]

A longish story about the youngest arms dealers ever and their fall. [link]

Lex Luthor stole 40 cakes. And now it's canon. [link]

Why cats aren't doctors. [link]

It's been awhile since I've had a good vaccination link. Mostly because I've been neglecting my usual blog roll for several weeks. But because of people not vaccinating their kids we've recently had:
Whooping cough outbreak in Virginia [link]
Measles outbreak in Minnesota [link]
One (so far) case of measles in Texas [link]

A map of Earth's gravity. [link]

Slightly old news. An amendment declaring the reality of climate change was voted down along party lines. Same with another amendment saying that it's human caused. These followed a bill that would overturn scientific findings that pollution is harmful to the planet and people. This video is of snarky comments by a Representative Markey about that bill.

Old but always entertaining.

Another child rapist priest. Not sometime between the 50's and 90's either. [link]

I'm not a regular watcher, but this was a good episode of The Athiest Experience. The atheist hosts have a long talk with creationist Ray Comfort. And I want to give Ray lots of credit for having a largely honest conversation. So many of these talks have the evangelist yelling and talking crap. He still comes away without an honest understanding of the words "evidence" or "preconception", but it's a good talk and goes a long way toward understanding his thinking on many issues.

If you work for the TSA you can fire a coworker by complaining about their religion. [link]

Definitions of a bunch of proverbs. [link]

Breeding Muppets to make Angry Birds. [link]

A museum is picking up shop classes where the schools have dropped them. [link]

More of the malaria stopping web trees mentioned last week. [link]

A good guide on how to be creative. [link]

Trailer for the new cartoon from Stan Lee and Arnold Schwarzenegger "The Governator". [link]

You're making beans wrong (and other cooking videos). [link]
HOURS?! I think frozen pizza takes too long.

Worst jobs in history chart. [link]

8 sci-fi technologies that we've outpaced. [link]
They're missing the point on the treadmill. The spinning was for artificial gravity. It's why I'm still pissed that the ISS isn't round.

WETA is a digital, makeup, and prop effects company. But they also made a double amputee into a functional mermaid. [link]

I love Richard Branson. He's a billionaire who knows how to have fun with his money. He's got his own music label, airline, SPACE PORT!!!, is one of the great adventurers of our day, keeps getting himself cameos in movies, and now he's had a one person sub built that's capable of exploring the Mariana Trench. We've been to the moon more times than we've sent people to the bottom of the Mariana Trench and it's been just about as long since we've done so. [link]

A video about some new image recognition and tracking software.

A high school with an atheist club that isn't under constant attack. [link]

Bald Eagle cam. And Yummy laughed at me for wanting to set up a dove cam for the ones building a nest by her fire escape. [link]

April fools from across the internet.
Dog furniture from Ikea.

Motion sensitive Gmail. [link]

Harry Potter inspired TV show. Why is "The Governator" being made and not this?

ThinkGeek's always awesome April Fools site. [link]

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Book Rereview: Rollback

I recently listened to "Rollback" by Robert J Sawyer. I read it about four years back and only liked it. Listening to it I really loved it. That's how it is with books. Some are better listened to and some are better read.

Many people think that some day, possibly some day very soon, we'll have the technology to allow us to live extremely long lives, if not forever. Many stories address how only the rich will have it and the poor and middle class will riot. Few stories talk about the people who get the early treatments. Imagine if for only $6-10 billion you could go from being physically 80 years old to physically 25. How would your kids react to their parents being younger than they are? How about your friends? How would it feel to bury your younger siblings? Could you remain faithful to your spouse?

Forty years ago a message came to Earth from Sigma Draconis. We responded. The woman who successfully translated the main body of the message is now a very old woman. We just got another response.

A billionaire who has already had a rollback assumes that the aliens are extremely long lived. He thinks of the exchange of messages as personal communications instead of communications between species. He wants the woman who did the original translation to be around for the next message and the one after that. He wants to buy her a rollback. She agrees, but only if her husband, the main character, gets rolled back, too.

He becomes young, regrows his hair, and it more fit than he was when he was really 25. She... doesn't. An experimental cancer treatment 50 years or so ago seems to have done something to prevent the treatment from taking hold. She's still 80-something.

The story deals with the wife working on translating the new message, but the bulk of the story is the story of a man who had come to terms with his mortality and was enjoying his few remaining years who suddenly has to deal with his whole life in front of him. A life without the love of his life, who he can barely touch now. A life where his own kids are unsettled by him, where his friends who can contribute more to the world are begging for even a few more years, where he's hated for not dying in turn, where he can't work because the technology has passed him by.

Really, see if your local library has this in their audio section. It's a good listen even if you're not normally a sci-fi fan.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Game Review: Bioshock 2

I'm kinda cheap when it comes to my video games. I pick up damn near everything used. $50 is too much for most games. $20 is more my speed.

My point is that this review is WAY late. But if you haven't played it, it's new to you.

BioShock 2 Launch Trailer - Watch more Game Trailers

I picked up the original Bioshock awhile back and loved it. It had great architecture well drawn, a good storyline that unfolded over the whole game, and it was not only fun to play but fun to watch. Yummy would come over on weekends, we'd order pizza, and she'd insist that I'd play Bioshock.

Bioshock 2 reviews weren't good. By the end of the first game you'd become a cybernetic monstrosity called a Big Daddy who protected the little girls they'd been experimenting on. But he had his vision obscured and was harder to move than the human. But he was tough. Hearing that we'd spend the whole second game as a Big Daddy was disappointing. And we'd hear the story was rubbish. But when I found it for $10-15 I figured what the heck.

Really, it was over criticized. Sure, you're a Big Daddy, but you've lost the points I was really complaining about from being a Big Daddy in the first game. It's something on the order of 10 years since the first game. Somehow the highly leaky underwater city hasn't flooded yet. The Ayn Rand philosophies that brought down the people who founded the city (and you killed in the first game) have been replaced with the worship of a Stalinist. Sure, she preaches a wonderful benefits for all society, but really she's getting them to worship her... or else. She's gonna turn her own daughter into some brilliant, benevolent creature with no sense of self. Something that can run the society for the good of all and none for itself. But here's the thing. I'm playing the daughter's father. And I'm coming to get her back.

The game runs on something of a track. You're not terribly open in how to proceed, but you get to choose how you handle the threats. And from time to time you get to make a choice. It doesn't affect things at the time, but it has the potential for some significant changes later on in the game. The game judges what kind of person you are.

There were a few things I got sick of. Every Little Sister you save has the potential to get you a bunch of the chemical to earn you new powers. You have to protect her as she harvests two corpses. But that gets old fast. I started skipping it.

It was as fun to play as the original game, but not as creepy as the original. It was also as fun to watch. Yummy still insisted that I play it for her.

And I plan to pick up the next Bioshock game. It doesn't take place in the same undersea failed utopia. It looks more steampunk and sky based with no real connection to the previous two games.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Movie Review: The Source Code

I really dislike the name of this movie. The trailers intrigued me, but the title is rubbish.

As you can see from the trailer, there's a program called "The Source Code". Source code is what you write to make a program, not the name of the program. Not unless it's a compiler or something. I suppose you could get existential and say that in this case The Source Code refers to how the program lets you examine the source code of the universe or of the people on the train or something. Nah, even that's pretty weak.

So Jake Gyllenhaal wakes up in a body that isn't his on a train heading into Chicago. Eight minutes later the train blows up. He wakes up again in a harness inside a capsule. The last thing he remembers before the train is being with his unit in Afghanistan. On a computer screen is a woman being rather rude to him. But she does tell him that she's sending him back on to the train and that he needs to find the bomb.

At this point he still thinks this is some military training simulation. He treats people like they're simulations. But he finds the bomb. And it blows up.

Things are revealed over the course of the movie. Some of it is what's happened on the train. Some of it is about Program: Source Code.

See, the train was the first of what is expected to be a series of terrorist attacks. Jake has to find out who blew up the train before they sets off more bombs downtown. The program can send him into ghost images of the last eight minutes of the lives of dead people. Or maybe it's time travel. Jake and the scientists have differing opinions on that subject.

I know, the trailer told you as much. That makes an interesting movie in and of itself, but there's more that the trailer doesn't cover and neither will I. But I will tell you that it's the kind of movie that you want to see it with friends so you can talk about it afterward.

I will not get this on DVD, but I am glad that I saw it.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Friday Links: April 1

Metal seagulls.

Dr Who season 6 prequel clip.

101 Pringles flavors and I just want my store to carry Original. [link]

Music video that fascinates me.

Some scam artist who is an artist gets busted for selling other people's works as his own. [link]

Trees full of webbing could cut the incidence of malaria significantly. [link]

Peanuts cartoons are rather depressing with the last panel removed. [link]

Math genius child has a question. [link]

Live police radio put to ambient music. [link]
Is it just me or is rap getting lazier?

Walmart is dicks to women. [link]

Employee morale sucks. [link]

Superglue... not creator so much as person who first viewed it as glue... well, he died. [link]

Archaeologists in Texas find evidence of people predating earliest established residents. [link]

Once again I missed Earth Hour. At least in previous years I heard about it beforehand. [link]

The presidential traveling top secret tent. [link]

Charlie Chaplin was once kidnapped and held for ransom. It had less impact than they'd hoped because he was already dead at the time. [link]

Trials for creatures. [link]
Did I post that already? I'd swear I did, but can't find it.

This apartment with a slide is nice... [link]

...but I prefer the one in the pirate bedroom. [link]

The Messenger probe has reached Mercury and is sending back pics. [link]

Judge lodges his boot in the ass of the Wisconsin Governor and his fellow GOP asshats. The ban on collective bargaining is illegal. [link]
What? Me biased?

Image: Dr Who vs Dr Doom. [link]

New Smithsonian ads. [link]

Marvel is building up to an Avengers movie. DC now thinks they can do the same. A tip for the executives: quit. Not the project, your jobs. Quit. Or turn it over to someone and leave that person alone. Because you guys are bad at making superhero movies, particularly Superman or Wonder Woman movies. [link]

Major problem at the light saber factory.

Cool-Looking Accident In Steel Factory - Watch more Funny Videos

I am unfamiliar with the meme, but I'd play the game.

I like this car. All except for what happens if I rear end someone. [link]

A doctor that ran his practice with a laptop, an internet connection, and a car. [link]

A free music site I need to explore more. [link]

picture: Wanted - Koolaid Man [link]
Yeah, done, but still amusing.

Free CAD software. [link]
I used to develop CAD and CNC curriculum for middle and high school so this may only have interest to me.

Functional artificial leaves. [link]

Farmville gets a visit by The Doctor. [link]

He also showed up in Fallout. [link]

Oooh, not a single Belgian Catholic Church didn't have pedophile priests. [link]

Not that it sits solely on Catholics. [link]
That's right, by being raped the boys have brought shame on the community, not the rapist.

The US Army sabotaged an atheist concert scheduled for tomorrow after supporting and helping to pay for an evangelical christian concert. [link]

And I close with a quote about the disaster in Japan -
"Either God can do nothing to stop catastrophes like this, or he doesn’t care to, or he doesn’t exist. God is either impotent, evil, or imaginary. Take your pick, and choose wisely.
"The only sense to make of tragedies like this is that terrible things can happen to perfectly innocent people. This understanding inspires compassion.
"Religious faith, on the other hand, erodes compassion. Thoughts like, “this might be all part of God’s plan,” or “there are no accidents in life,” or “everyone on some level gets what he or she deserves” – these ideas are not only stupid, they are extraordinarily callous. They are nothing more than a childish refusal to connect with the suffering of other human beings. It is time to grow up and let our hearts break at moments like this.
—Sam Harris