Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Links: September 30

Dachsund cat!

Muppet concert posters. [link]

More costumes from DragonCon. Lots that I hadn't seen before.

The pending "Batman: Arkham City" game has a song from the band "Raveonettes". You can hear their contribution here. [link]
Even if I don't play the game I'll want to have a look at the soundtrack.

60's style theme to "Dexter".

I don't care much about the show "Community", but one of the writers shows how he develops plot circles to help him write the story. [link]

A decent Freddy Mercury impression.

What you think you look like in a club compared to what you really look like. [link]

Draw a stick man. Then watch closely. [link]

"There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there - good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory... Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea - God Bless! Keep a Big Hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along."

71% of the debt was created by Republican administrations. [link]

Converting viewed images back into pictures.

Watermelon carved into flowers.

Puppy howl.

Another Republican debate, another reason to think they're all horrible people. The politicians AND the voters. [link]

What's the bar density in your area? [link]

Some grocery stores are starting to eliminate self-checkout lanes because they go slower. [link]
From what I've seen, the overwhelming majority of the problems come from the fact that the lanes stop when someone buys beer or cough medicine. Then we have to wait for 5 minutes for someone to tell the machine it's OK, move along. Home Depot at least has a person there to help with the 4 self-checkout lanes. They make sure problems are solved and traffic keeps moving. Giant, Safeway, other... please take note of Home Depot.

Older news by now, but this is what the Foo Fighters did when the horrible people at Westboro Baptist church showed up to protest their concert. [link]

Apparently it's easy to turn a crocodile orange. Just mess with the pH of it's water. [link]

It's official. DC really does have the worst traffic problems. Probably from all these newbie politicians always turning hard to the right. [link]

This woman is very fit. [link]

A brief history of the founding fathers of the United States and their attitudes towards vaccines. Skip to paragraph 9 if you want to get past the "Michele Bachman is Lying" part of the article. [link]

More Bachmann nuttyness - she claims Hezbollah is setting up camps and missiles in Cuba. [link]

Dolphins have learned to blow bubble rings.

Pole dancer show down. [link]

How to build a vertical garden of succulents. [link]

This isn't really a 3D printer so much as a CNC milling machine made of Legos. Still, check it out. [link]

"The Smurfs" top foreign box office returns for the 7th week in a row. Wow. It's been a long time since I've had good cause to say "I'm proud to be an American". [link]

Guy has tossed 4,800 messages in a bottle into the ocean and gotten 3,100 responses. [link]

Trash bag weather balloon-style camera launch. [link]

Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that's how it always starts. Then later there's running and screaming. [link]

What has been seen can never be unseen: the classic art edition. [link]

They call it the Liberal Decalogue. I call it the Thinking Man's Ten Commandments. After all, I've met a few religious and/or conservative people who follow the same rules. [link]

An article about Anonymous: internet heroes and villains. [link]
They're focusing mostly on the hacktivist portion of the group. They don't mention how they unveiled the woman who shoved the cat in the trash can, uncovered pedophiles, and sent help to people attempting suicide.

As long as we're on the subject, check out this cartoon about a hacker known as BoingThump. [link]

Check your cookies. Facebook may be tracking you. [link]

How school paper works. [link]

AIDS lowers your cholesterol. Or something. [link]

The Littest Doctor (Who). [link]

I haven't played it yet, but this article talks about a game that uses people to process data from the Kepler spacecraft. So far they've found 2 planets. [link]

Sesame Street to put in more scientific content. [link]

A pack of kids reproduce the fountain at the Bellagio with water guns. It's for a pool commercial, but it's still entertaining.

In Soviet Russia cake eats you. [link]

Star Trek: TNG crew as cartoon characters. [link]

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Solar Decathlon 2011

This coming weekend wraps up the 2011 Solar Decathlon. If you're in the DC area come check it out.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Decathlon, 20 colleges from around the world have all built small homes that run on solar power. They're judged on Architecture, Market Appeal, Engineering, Communications, Affordability, Comfort Zone, Hot Water, Appliances, Home Entertainment, and Energy Balance. Plus visitors get to vote on their favorite.

All pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Clicking on the names will take you to their part of the DOE Decathlon site. They have short videos there that talk about the house. They call them a walkthrough, but more often than not they talk about the house and their philosophy without giving you the expected tour.

Ohio's house. I can't remember what I wanted to say about it.

New York's house is designed to be broken down into pieces that will fit in a freight elevator and be reassembled on the top of the taller buildings you'd find in New York. They have taken into account the high winds you'd get up there. But this only cleared for buildings 4-5 stories tall. For the REALLY tall buildings they'd have to tweek it a bit more and get approval from ... from ... from whoever approves these kinds of things.

The California team got a lot of traffic. Mostly from people who wanted to know what the hell they were thinking. This blanket can pack down to a remarkably small box and be installed by 2 people in a day. It's easy to repair. It doesn't take damage easily, but more easily than you'd like. And, yes, bugs and mice will almost certainly move in.
It's not completely a bad idea. Just not for a house. I can see it being used on construction sites for the trailers they set up as an office. Those things are hard to control the climate in. This would help a lot and wouldn't be a permanent solution.

I love these houses with the V shaped roofs. They hide solar panels well and make capturing rain water easier. In this case they're running the water through a wetland simulation to clear out pollutants before you use the water for your garden or whatever. This particular roof also has a green roof that you can just barely see.
Maryland's house is in the lead as I write this.

I liked China's house partially because it's much like some of my own recent sketches for a house. It's made up of several shipping containers that radiate out from a central hub. Each of the 3 arms is two containers wide. You can see them better if you enlarge the picture.

Canada's turtle house is designed so that some of the panels will be angled most efficiently over part of the day. As the sun passes through the sky they'll all work, but one will always work better so you're not getting the bulk of your power only at noon.

Tennessee I believe.

Florida's house has an interesting form of storm shutters. You see them used as house shades in this picture. The side closest to the house comes down and the outer edge pulls in. With that done you have enclosed the house in metal shutters that protect you from hurricane damage.

New Jersey's house is made from poured concrete. It was shipped to DC in 20-something pieces. While nobody has actually done the math, it's suspected that this house weighs more than every other house in the Decathlon put

New Zealand's house is meant to be sort of a vacation house, if I understand them right.


Belgium built a highly customizable house. From the outside it's a cube. Inside it's like something you might expect from Ikea. You buy the parts and assemble the floor plan however you like it. Pictures next week should clarify what that means.

Virginia's house will be moved to the Deanwood area of DC as a Habitat for Humanity house. Deanwood is a poor and rough neighborhood. An odd little reading nook will become a staircase that leads to a second level that will be put in place on the chosen site.

I don't have much to say about Middlebury's house. It has high ceilings so the heat can rise out a vent at the top and draw in cooler air. As you'll see next week, it has a nice garden in the kitchen window.

Purdue tried to build a house that looks like an actual house. They're also the only house that has walls of standard thickness. Just plain old 2x4s in the walls. Which means that the insulation they use I could use in my house. I always get frustrated when I find that the only way to get the kind of insulation used in Decathlon houses I'd have to double or triple the thickness of the walls.
This is also the first house I've seen in all 5 Decathlons to have a garage. Some would have a car port, but never a garage.

Appalachian State has a number of interesting features. The big wooden shelter uses solar cells that generate electricity on both the top and bottom so it gets power from light that reflects back up. To the left you can see a detached office or, as Yummy would want, a nap house. There's also an outdoor shower and sink which I fully intend to show you next week. On the house you see a brown area with a grey thing to the left. There's a window behind the grey thing. It slides back and forth depending on how much sun you want in the house. The brown area and the covering for the detached office are bark. They say the bark actually holds up for decades. You can read more about it at

Massachusetts, I'm so sorry. I don't have a good picture of the full house. This picture shows the front of the house and how they did the solar panels. They're showing how you can set up a solar array around an existing house and still make it somewhat attractive. If you pull out you can see how the wood is in the same size and shape of the house, but offset by a few feet. It shades the roof from the sun and keep the rain off of you while you try to get in the house.

I'm still missing some houses.
There's a second Florida house that uses a lot of corrugated metal on the inside.
I'm not sure Hawaii managed to make the trip. The house shown on their page isn't familiar at all.

Blue boxes like this littered the site. Instead of needing batteries or hydrogen crackers and fuel cells like they've used in previous years they set up a micro-grid. The houses were set up like neighborhoods and each neighborhood fed into one of these boxes. The boxes were all connected with each other and into the city power grid. As they fed excess electricity into the grid the electrical meters turned backwards. So the houses all functioned more like they would if you made similar changes to your own place

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book Review: Macroscope

Remember back in school when you had to give speeches in front of the class? There'd be times when you'd get a good topic and could come up with a speech you were proud of, or at least not ashamed of. Then, when you think you're almost done writing the damn thing you found you just couldn't write a conclusion that didn't make you sound like a complete moron. You'd said all you wanted to and really just wanted to let it end there. But to anyone watching it'd be like you stopped talking mid-thought. If you couldn't work it out you'd say "...uh, and that's my speech about potato farming in the heart of Africa."

That's kind of how I felt about "Macroscope" by Piers Anthony. The book has a weak ending, but most of the rest I quite liked.

In the not too terribly distant future, a satellite orbits the Earth with a special kind of telescope. It can see just about anywhere in the Milky Way galaxy. It can watch a TV on planets thousands of light years away, read a note sealed in an envelope and shoved inside a safe, or explore inside the planet's crust for mineral deposits. And as awesome and dangerous as a telescope like that might be that's just the beginning of what it can do. Humans weren't the first species to develop it. All across the galaxy other species have been using their versions of the same thing for many hundreds of thousands of years. Not just to peer at other planets, but to broadcast signals of their own. Some signals were for entertainment purposes, but a lot of them were educational. How to manipulate gravity. How to move organic matter at high acceleration. How to terraform planets. Coming from hundreds of different planets and civilizations.

At some point some race decided, for reasons that become clear, to cripple the transmissions. Make it so anyone of sufficient intelligence to view and understand the signals would have their minds destroyed.

And that's where our story begins. The research team can use the macroscope as a telescope, but anyone who has used it to view the signal has had their brains turned to mush. One of the project leaders brings in a guy he used to know. They were both in a program that took children and tried to make geniuses of them. The new guy is the only person who knows how to find the program's greatest success. A person whose brains would allow him to work around the mind destroying signal.

But before they could accomplish anything an influential politician comes to the station and insists he see the signal. It killed him. Now the UN is coming to claim the macroscope is a weapon and that the scientists have been spying on people and nations on Earth. They'll loudly and publicly destroy it before quietly and privately putting it back together for their own use.

Now our heroes have to take the macroscope and a rocket and flee the Earth. Using the one person who can safely use the macroscope they have to use it to ensure their safety, find the source of the signal, and shut it down if they can.

The end of the book has this battle of wits between a brilliant but immature mind, a more mature but only moderately intelligent mind. They must duel in rooms based on the zodiac.

The book is rather long. It has some ideas I haven't seen in stories before and rather intrigued me. I'd like to see this book rewritten. Maybe with a more satisfactory ending.

Monday, September 26, 2011

D. Landreth Seed Company

I found out the other day that The Landreth Seed Company, the oldest seed company in the United States, could be looking at the end of their days. They've had a few lean years and need to sell 1 million catalogs by the end of September. Or, I presume, sell a bunch of other stuff as well.

You can read more about the company and it's financial problems here. Or go shop at to help them out.

I've ordered a catalog and a few packets of seeds. Some stuff I wanted was sold out. If they're still in business in March I'll try hitting them up for some seed potatoes. I also wrote them a letter with some friendly suggestions of ways to draw traffic to the site. Most of my suggestions were to turn them into a gardening site with gardening tips, ways for customers to show off their own gardens, and a store in there somewhere so people can buy what they need to reproduce what others have done with their gardens.

Why should you care about heirloom vegetables? Well, much of what they sell is unique. Remember seeing old films where people are throwing rotten tomatoes at the stage? Those tomatoes weren't rotten. They were a variety of tomato with delicate skin that would splat nicely. Unfortunately, being so fragile meant they don't ship worth a damn. You can't expect them to be picked, put in a basket, shipped, and put in the store without them being ruined. So farmers didn't grow them. It wasn't long at all before you couldn't even get them for your own garden. Today they're presumed extinct.

OK, sad, but not a disaster. They just failed to pass Darwin's test.

Most of what you get at the store has been bred and engineered. Carrots turned from purple and red to orange. Tomatoes got thicker and stronger so they can ship and cut easier. They also lose much of their flavor and nutritional value.

And much of the engineered seeds you get in the stores have been designed so that what you grow will be the last of it's line. If you plant the seeds from what you grow you'll get nothing back. If not this generation then the next generation won't grow. So you have to keep going back to the company to buy more. With heirloom vegetables you can save the seeds and grow more of the same thing next year and the year after that.

So, give them a hand. Buy some seeds or a catalog. Give them a chance to make the changes necessary to survive the 21st century.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Links: September 23

One of the new planets that Kepler found is in a binary star system. These are rare because the complex gravitational interactions of the two are thought to make planet formation difficult. NASA scientists want to rename Kepler-16b "Tatooine" since Luke Skywalker's home world is also in a binary star system. [link]

In other NASA news, you might want to duck. We're not telling you when or where you need to duck, just that you probably should. [link]

Good thing that soon health insurance companies will have codes to specify injuries caused by spacecrafts. [link]

And if you get injured by a falling spacecraft they should soon be able to freeze you until they find a cure for Fallingspacecraftitis. [link]
Anyone know how I can get into the human trials? No, really.

Daleks chasing a turtle. Ex-Turtle-ate!

I don't know what to say about this game. But I love that you can punch people until they catch fire.

A group of people lift a burning car off of a guy.

Game/test: Arrange the colors in order and see how close you get. Low scores are better. I got a 4 with my weak point being in the mid cyan-ish area. [link]

The biggest employers in the world. [link]

Jedi Kittens Strike Back.

Half Life intro remade in Minecraft.

Vodka pie. [link]

How to anger an archaeologist: show him The History Channel. [link]
Pretty much the same way geeks look at The SyFy Channel.

Amish traditions, including why they don't grow mustaches. [link]

Game: Brother - solve the puzzles to free the eskimo's brothers. [link]

Cartoon history of the English language part 1 of 10.

Little girl digs up a 160 million year old fossil with her toy shovel. [link]

Simon Pegg's letter to a guy who sent him a ridiculous amount of stuff to sign. [link]

Ads from oversized objects. [link]

A letter from Marge Simpson to Barbara Bush. [link]

Game: The Secret of Grisly Manor - Wander the house and solve the puzzles to find your missing Grandpa. [link]

Game: Soul Tax - After being dead for several years the grim reaper finally comes to collect you, but now you have a tax to pay. You must possess and kill a bunch of people to pay the tax.  [link]

The US now has the 25th fastest internet speed in the world. [link]

In other internet news, Comcast is now offering $9.99/month internet for poor families. Too bad they needed a push to convince them to do it. [link]

Vandalized signs. [link]

Facts about the Witness Protection Program. [link]

Life inside an warehouse. [link]

Why Google won't be fixing Rick Santorum's Santorum problem. [link]

History and future of some corporate logos. [link]

Instant popcorn maker.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sod Off Wednesday: September 21

I'm officially sick.
The cold can sod off.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Last weekend there was an internet convention in town. "Intervention" they called it. Short for Internet Convention I'm guessing.

I don't go to a lot of geek conventions. About 11 years ago I went to a sci-fi convention because my boss was buddies with the guy who owned the convention organizing company and got me free tickets. I got to have dinner with an astronaut, shake hands with Kenny Baker (R2-D2), spend time with Delenn from Babylon 5 (better known now as the crazy French woman from Lost), and have a great time. I also snuck into the Small Press Expo once on the last day just to get Frank Cho's (Liberty Meadows - Now at Marvel Comics) and Scott Kurtz's (PVP) autographs.

Much like at Small Press Expo, I was going mostly to get some favorite internet celebrities to sign some stuff. At the top of the list was Pete Abrams, creator of Sluggy Freelance. Pete's comic has been running something short of forever. OK, 14 years. Short of forever, but still in the very early days of the internet. Unfortunately, Pete had pneumonia and was a bit drugged up. He'd mentioned he was sick so I did the creepy thing and brought him a bottle of DayQuil. It was still sealed and all, but still... creepy. He debated for a bit and then turned it down. He had other stuff and probably wouldn't use it. I'd been nursing a very slight cold last week that exploded into a big cold yesterday so I'm using it instead. Yummy and I did get to hang out and talk about crappy printers and Doctor Who and trying to mix the humor that got me reading Sluggy in the first place with the longer and more serious stories he's gotten into in recent years.

Then we went and hit Jennie Breeden's booth. She writes The Devil's Panties and had just finished up a talk that we'd sat through. One of the things Jennie is known for is her kilt blowing events. Lots of guys come to these geek gatherings wearing kilts. Long story short (too late) she brought an electric leaf blower that's so weak the company can't actually call it a leaf blower and uses it to blow up kilts Marilyn-Monroe-over-an-air-vent style. Laurel K Hamilton was there and insisted that the convention organizers get Jennie a room the next year. So now there's an official event at each DragonCon where kilts are blown and pictures are taken in front of a crowd of screaming women. She has a poster covered with small pictures of guys in blown kilts. So Jennie, Yummy, and one of the kilt wearers poured over the poster together.

And Jennie liked my shirt. I can't find a picture of it now, but it's the one I made for Yummy's guerilla gardening group. It's black with a gorilla on it where I put a stencil on and misted the shirt with bleach.
It was a tossup between wearing that, my Gallifrey University shirt, or my PVP "I spent my reward on ale and whores" shirt. The PVP shirt doesn't get worn in public a lot because I hadn't realized when I got it how much the viewer needs to know the context of the shirt. I used my bleached shirt because I made it and was gonna be hanging around artists. That and these kinds of conventions are the only place you can where whatever you want without feeling weird.

Next on my checklist was Bill Holbrook. Bill is a comic strip machine. He has three (3) different strips that he updates daily. He was there mostly for Kevin and Kell which is his online only strip, but I made sure to grab some Safe Havens and On The Fastrack.

We picked up some crafts, too. I got something that clips onto my glasses and gives me special lenses that can swing down so you can peer through them. Another guy was selling big Nuka Cola bottle caps for hanging on the wall. They're from the "Fallout" series of games. I got one of those and yummy got a painting of Gir from "Invader Zim" riding a pig.

In other parts of the convention we found a room set up just for people to come play video games. They even had a Commodore 64 set up. Another room was for board games. One wall was lined with games you could check out and play. If you liked it then there were shelves on another wall where you could buy them. And staff was there to teach you how to play the games. How awesome is that job?

Another room was set up to show a couple of movies during the convention. When the movies weren't playing they had some of the more popular videos from the internet showing. People walking by would hear a bit from one video or another and stop to peer through the door. Yummy and 3-4 others got snagged by Charlie the Unicorn.

All in all, we had a good time and the convention was totally affordable. I'll give it a serious look next year, too.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Book Review: How To Live Safely In a Science Fictional Universe

"Oh. I wish you'd told me you were going to buy this book."

That's what a friend told me when she saw me reading this book. That and, "I think the title is what gets people to buy it".

She's not wrong. I was plundering a Borders, saw the title, read the description, still had no idea what the book was about, and said "oh, what the hell, it's on sale."

Think back to the early days of television or radio. Back when you could still play with the medium a bit because there weren't yet unspoken rules and regulations about what you could and couldn't do. You could experiment and do things that were simultaneously strange and brilliant. Film students still get to do that to a degree. And while reading this book that seems to be what author Charles Yu was doing. The book seems experimental in it's appearance and flow and... itself.

Charles Yu is the author and main character. He lives in a time machine with a retconned dog. He sort of left the machine with the transmission in low so it won't go very fast. He'll live his life in a matter of weeks in there.

The machine runs on vocabulary... sort of. Time travel tends to need specialized vocabulary.
"Have you killed your grandfather yet?"
"I'll be having done it a week from next yesterday."
But what if instead of a machine all you needed to do was use and believe the proper terminology? Think about last year in now terminology instead of then terminology and you leave the here and now for the then and there.

And what would you do with a time machine? Kill Hitler? Tell Abe Lincoln to duck? Most people would just try to go back and fix that one really humiliating time. You know the one. Everyone has a moment they want to redo. But time machines don't really work like that. Charles' job is to fix machines that have broken or seized up from people trying to do just that.

One day, when he went to get his transmission fixed Charles saw something horrible. He saw himself step out of a time machine. Rule one when that happens? Run. Nothing good ever happens. Charles didn't run. Instead he shot himself.

This leads to him reading a book that writes itself as he reads it and you're reading right then. And a grand tour of the complete failure of his father to build the first time machine.

It's not a bad book. Just kinda heavy on the "huh?" Once you get past the strange science the book is a story about his father's  failure and disappointment.

What makes the book worth reading is "you don't that in a book too often" moments. Other than seeing the results of the experiment there's not a lot to sell this book on.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Links: September 16

The US Government used to believe in the Yeti and drew some some rules for hunting it. [link]

Pictures and film from the set of "The Avengers". No spoilers but costume design. [link]

Power system for robotic robots. [link]

The biggest of all of Rick Perry's lies about Social Security. [link]

A slew of steampunked creatures. [link]

Mario in a box. How it works shown at the end. [link]

Results of a survey about how much people believe that climate scientists believe in global climate change. [link]

My commute to work is just like this!

The best science fiction books according to Reddit. [link]

You've see a few hundred Doctor Who references since the show returned in 2005 but never seen the show. Here's a trailer for the show since then.

A guy with a cybernetic eye (that records, not lets him see) investigates different kinds of prosthetics and compares them to a character in a new game. [link]

Fact checking the recent GOP presidential candidate debate. [link]
Face it guys and gals. Not a one of you stands a chance.

The Senate finally passed a patent reform bill of dubious value. [link]

The dog who won the award for longest ears. [link]

Google Maps is listing places as permanently closed. We've seen a lot of places listed that way in Baltimore. [link]

People prone to seizures probably shouldn't watch this fast paced morphing between paintings of people. [link]

Welcome back to school. Profanity is allowed in class, but only words from this list. [link]

In the future jobs suck. [link]

Entries for Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2011 with commentary. [link]

Harvest this weed by riding nude horseback riding. [link]

Antique radio dials. [link]

Santa Cruz PD is using a program that predicts home breakins and car thefts and assigns police appropriately. Gonna be hard to prove it's effectiveness if their presence causes crimes not to happen. [link]

Fall 2011 TV season start schedule. Looks like most of the shows I'm interested in will be on Hulu... exclusively. [link]

Remixes of the Nokia ringtone. [link]

The origin of said ringtone.

50 new planets found and confirmed. At least one found not to exist as previously thought. [link]

Food in history. [link]

A comparison of "Planet of the Apes" to "The Help" shows, once again, that you need sci-fi to do really hard hitting social commentary that people will listen to. [link]

Thursday, September 15, 2011

(Audio) Book Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

From the guy who brought you "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" comes "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter".

I haven't read P&P&Z because I'm not a Jane Austin fan, but I like the idea of it more than the other classics with monsters books that followed it. P&P&Z was the original story modified. The later books kept the tone and characters of the original but changed the stories. "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" seems to me to be more like P&P&Z in that he tried to keep true to Lincoln's life while giving him a life long grudge against vampires.

The author claims that he was given a stack of journals that Abe Lincoln kept separate from his regular diary. These books were reserved for his notes about hunting vampires. The author was asked to read them and write a Lincoln biography based on the contents.

I'm no Lincoln historian. I have the broad strokes of his life, but that's about it. I can't tell for sure how much of the story is fact and how much is fiction. A few bits I had to look up. One example is Lincoln talking to General McClellan who, in the beginning of the war, even managed to screw up victories. Abe asked "If you are not using the army, might I borrow it?".

Much of the early part of the book seems to be more about his parents than about Abe. They moved around a good deal because Abe's father apparently didn't understand the laws about land ownership. They'd settle on some land, farm it for awhile, then get booted off when the real property owner found out they were there. When they finally got some land in Illinois Abe's father took out a loan to get a horse, plow, and seed. But a bad season meant he couldn't pay it back right away. But the guy he borrowed the money from turned out to be a vampire. As punishment for defaulting on the loan he poisoned Abe's mother with just enough vampire blood to kill her, but not enough to turn her. Once Abe knew what happened that vampire became his first kill.

While hunting his second vampire Abe's life was saved by a third. This third trained him and started sending him the names and locations of vampires that really deserved to die. Abe's life goes on much the way I suspect that it really did. Him traveling the country taking a variety of odd jobs that allowed him pass near the homes of various vampires, introducing him to the horrors of slavery, and seeing how closely the two were related.

The Civil War, it turned out, wasn't just a war to end slavery. It was also a war between extra evil vampires that wanted to enslave all humans and use them like cattle and the moderately evil vampires who just wanted to exist. But it was a war that the humans had to win themselves.

One of the few battles that it mentions took place here in Washington, DC. I've written about that particular battle for the Walter Reed history book we put out. Confederate solders had set up camp on what later became Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The exact site later became a school and then a research building with a small nuclear reactor in it. Union soldiers were at Ft Stevens not even a mile south. You have to remember that during the Civil War battles were fought in such a way that, if there was enough notice, people could come out in their Sunday finest with picnic lunch and watch the battle. At Gettysburg there was even a huge camera on a horse drawn wagon that was being hauled all over the battlefield. But at the Battle of Fort Stevens Lincoln came up to the fort to watch and became the first and only standing President to come under enemy fire.

It's not an exciting book, but it was interesting listening to how the author incorporated this story into Abe's life. And it's a good story even if you don't know who Abe Lincoln was. Although, I'll admit, if you don't know who Jefferson Davis was his brief appearance seems a bit out of place.

I'd recommend this book to most people. Adults will see what they learned in school brought to life and made more interesting and better explained. Kids, having heard this, will absorb what they learn in school better because it ties into a story. Even cutting out the parts about vampires, people of all ages will wonder how much of the story is true and how much is made up. Whether that interest will lead them to reading a proper Lincoln biography is another question.

The audio version is reasonably priced and well read.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sod Off Wednesday: September 14

I was in the store the other day and saw a whole aisle of stage one Halloween candy. I've seen a few more since then.
click the picture to enlarge
All the grocery and convenience stores can sod off. They're not getting their candy back, though.

Cartoon used without the express permission of Be sure to check it out and buy some books.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pizza place for sale

I'm intending this mostly for my more bakery minded cousins, but some of you might be interested as well. In the town of Caldwell, KS there's a fairly popular restaurant called "Steve's Pizza". The owner is looking to retire.

"Steve's Pizza" sits at the corner of the two major streets through town. The location is good enough they put the big Caldwell arch right out outside the front door. Just looking at these pictures you can see that they made enough to be able to keep the place up fairly nicely. And previous visits have shown me that this wasn't just clean up done for the festival.

Caldwell is a bit isolated. You might be hesitant to try to move somewhere so remote and try to run a business. The remoteness is something of a benefit. Since people can't just pop out to Wichita or Tulsa easily several businesses you wouldn't expect in a town so small had to appear. The hospital is one of the most telling examples. There's also a family clinic just up the street from it. There's a couple of lumber stores, a flower store, welding, sign printing, a Radio Shack, a Napa Auto Parts, a couple of other restaurants, a small airport, and on like that.

The school is pretty good for it's size. I heard someone say that the school's whole population is only around 100. They have a secondary school, but I'm not sure where their primary is. So, yeah, small, but well equipped. Their gym was better than where I went to school and my school was considered to be pretty well off. Mind you, I didn't see much besides the gym. But considering the condition it was in, the bells and whistles, and the fact that the acoustics were good enough for a band to play without horrible echos and distortions was pretty good.

And I didn't see a great deal of For Sale signs around town. Which tells me that they weren't hit by the housing crisis like everyone else was. You can get a place in town where you can get around town on foot, bike, or Segway, or you can get a place in the surrounding countryside with a bit of acreage and drive in.

Alright, I may have thought about this a bit much. But I've got some friends who have been talking about getting our whole gang from college and taking over some small town somewhere. If only we could find a business that people of our skills could run from the middle of nowhere and turn a profit.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Caldwell trip

Beside the cattle drive, the weekend spent in Caldwell, KS has a number of other events going on.

This arch was completed a week before the celebration
and was dedicated as part of the events. 

From a distance this was more convincing. He hung Saturday and Monday
but was removed before the storm Sunday.
This "Opera House" is a replacement for another more fitting of the name
that burned down a long time ago.

It doesn't hold a lot of people so just before leaving I finally elbowed
my way through the door far enough to get this picture.

Caldwall got to take part in the cattle drives for Oklahoma's anniversary
a few years back and Kansas's anniversary this year because it's 2 miles
from the state line and on the Chisholm Trail.
The trail goes north by the town I went to school in and then across the
street from the family farm. At least thats where markers stood. In places
the trail was a mile wide.

All through town these signs can be found. Each one tells about a
historical building or event. Most events, like this, involved gunplay.

click any picture to enlarge it

These metal cutouts are permanent installations on many of the roofs
along the main street. For the festival more were placed on the ground
to shoot back.

This was the group I drug down with me. Yummy smiling on the left,
Jerri on the right, her two girls in the middle. It was about 104°F at the time.

The previous picture was where we were waiting for this quick draw
demonstration. One person hits a button, between 2 and 5 seconds later
the light in the middle of that black rectangle comes on and a timer starts.
The timer stops and the light goes out when the metal gets shot.

This old bank is now a photo studio. It's allegedly haunted by someone
who hung himself in the safe.
A brothel used to be on the second floor of this building.
No idea if the brothel and bank were in business at the same time. 

The drug store has a nice display of old bottles in their window. 

Meanwhile, on the trail, there was a bit of excitement when the cattle flushed out a covey of quail which caused a bit of a stampede. The cattle got over it quickly.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Friday Links: September 9

After our travels, Yummy is proposing that airlines charge for carry-on luggage instead of checked luggage. Everyone would get on and off the plane a lot faster if we didn't spend so much time shoving bags over our heads and then digging them back out.
This article and interactive picture talks about another proposal. [link]

A series of minute long videos about who has the worst job, moms or people with jobs. [link]

I thought I'd posted this, but apparently not. It's an article talking about how a person's use of pronouns can help judge how honest they're being and other odd discoveries. [link]

"Escape From City 17 - part 2" a Half-Life 2 fan film. It's expanded significantly from part 1.

There's a Deadman TV series in the works. It's just a guess, but I'm guessing it'll fall under the roaming do-gooder model. You know, where each episode the lead character is in a different place helping people. Think A-Team, Incredible Hulk, Quantum Leap, and the like. I can't picture how else a Deadman series would work. [link]

An amusing video about copyright.

A little advice to the new president of ABC about creating characters.

A trailer for a show that Fox cancelled before it aired.

You've seen the state art on the sides of U-hauls. Here's the whole set. [link]

"Ninja" patrolling the streets of the British town of Teovil. [link]

Not sure what to say about this. It's worth 30 seconds of attention though. [link]

A history of marketing by, and challenges to, DeBeers. Later in the article it talks about the price difference between buying and selling a diamond. I'm surprised they don't mention the manufactured diamond market. Any diamonds I eventually buy will come from some lab. [link]

15 age appropriate movies to introduce your kids to sci-fi. [link]
Space Jam? Really?

For every 50 art websites I let pass I find one I have to share. This one is full of paintings of an over the hill superhero. [link]

Icky medical pictures. [link]
My favorite of the ones I see on the main page. [link]

Former Playboy and Baywatch model training to climb Mount Ararat in search of Noah's Ark. [link]
Donna, Ararat is a mountain range, not a single mountain. It's in a part of the world lousy with religious folk. Religious folk and wars. If it managed to survive 5000+ years of rot and crushing glaciers it would probably have been either found or blown up by now. But, I applaud you for taking up a hobby like mountain climbing instead of standing around here being pretty.

5 major marketing disasters. [link]

How do you know that what you see as red is what others see as red? Could you really be seeing what they call pink, purple, or orange? Here's how someone tested how people see color.

The conclusions the narrator makes don't seem correct to me.

Paint by number stuff at the 2011 Bumbershoot Festival. [link]

10 strange things sent to space. [link]

30 years of change in types of music sales. [link]

Movies made from pictures taken by Hubble over the course of years. They sometimes look as if the picture is just being slid along, but look close and you can see these clouds of colored dust moving over time. [link]

Short, amusing Kurt Vonnegut talk on the shape of stories.

Hobo nickels - nickels carved from buffalo nickels during the great depression. [link]

Draw a chart and search for something whose search popularity matches it most closely. [link]

Pencil drawings that look like blurry vintage photos. Freaky. [link]

Fox doctored video of James Hoffa speech to make it look like he was advocating violence. [link]

6 bits of nonsense psychology. [link]

Nanoscopic motor. [link]

Reactions to playing the game "Amnesia: The Dark Decent". I may have to play this game now.

Voice actors you didn't know you knew. [link]

Some friends in Kansas recommended some online cooking videos to me. This was not on their list.
Henry's Anytime Chili for One.

Confessions of a former GOP operative.
"...the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult,..."

Thursday, September 08, 2011

cattle drive

Note: there are two videos in this post. They may take some time to appear.

The major point of my hiatus was to see the start of the cattle drive leaving from Caldwell, KS. Like so many small towns, there's a festival of some sort near the end of summer beginning of fall. Caldwell was also celebrating it's 140th anniversary and, being only 2 miles from the Oklahoma border and located along the Chisholm Trail, got to take part of a cattle drive that was in celebration of Kansas's 150th anniversary.

These two stayed in town for awhile. Caldwell and.... something.
They participated in a similar even in Oklahoma in 2007 and
were named after the cities that event started and ended in.

The drive started with the chuck wagons.
We'd already had several meals prepared by them earlier in the weekend. 

If you want to get picky, there were cops leading the chuck wagons.
And there were dance hall girls before them.
There were four wagons. The first two shook the earth as they passed. So I switched to video in the hopes of giving you a sense of what it was like.

Then came the horses and longhorns.

A wall of horses keeps the cattle from getting spooked and running ahead.

Then come cattle. With huge friggin' horns.
Guys on horses rode on either side of the line of cattle acting as a mobile
cattle chute and protecting all of us morons lining the street and the cars
parked behind us.

This one decided I was interesting.
Immediately following this picture it turned and got right in my face.
From the reaction it got I was the least freaked out about this. 

The rest of the cattle.

If you're interested in checking it out, this cattle drive will continue north across the state for three weeks. More information and photos from the drive is available at
You can catch up with up them in Kingman, Ellinwood, or at then end of the line at Ellsworth. Or read the blog from the trail.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

A bad picture

This isn't a good picture of the cat I'm about to tell you about, but it's what I can provide right now.
This cat showed up last Thursday. New people had moved into the basement next door with a screaming baby. This cat showed up in the walkway between houses with a bunch of furniture that it was very attached to. It spent it's time lounging around on the back of the sofa and let people pet it. It wouldn't leave the walkway. It had food dishes nearby. It was clearly owned by the people who had the furniture.
Tonight (Tuesday) we returned from our travels to find the cat still on the back of the now waterlogged sofa. It was still very friendly, but now won't put down it's front left foot and has a matted yucky spot on it's back right leg.
Yummy knocked on the door of the people in the basement and asked if it was their cat. The woman who opened the door seemed a bit slow. Nothing genetic or developmental. It seemed more cultural and lack-of-a-proper-education-al. She said Yep. It was hers and it was a house cat until their (hers and her live in boyfriend's) 18 month old tried to pet it too aggressively and the cat scratched it.
From the way the kid was screaming I would never have guessed it was 18 months old. 6 months I could buy. 18 and that kind of sound means there's some neglect going on.
Sure, the "baby" comes first. I get that. So you teach the kid to be nice to animals. Not unload the animal. Yummy finds loads of animals in similar situations on Craigslist all the time and wants to smack every one of their owners.
The woman said that they wanted to take the cat to the local shelter, but they were charging $25 for them to leave the cat. Her grandma was going to come take the cat to the shelter near her place where they'd take the cat for free.

Yummy asked if we could take the cat in and get it cleaned up. You know, since it was injured, likely in a fight with another cat. So now we have a cat that is going to go to a shelter. Black cats don't adopt out well, this one has injuries I can't find or diagnose so the shelter will view it as broken, and we have reason to believe the shelter they're gonna take it to is a kill shelter. Giving it back is a death sentence.

It's a very sweet and friendly cat. It got upset when we took it out of the alley, but didn't lash out. I poured water over it but it only crawled out of the bathtub instead of taking a swipe at me. It let me wash the leg with a wet cloth, trim away matted hair, and poke and prod the injured areas without a complaint. And it needs a home before Saturday when Yummy's normal cat comes back home.

If you know anyone in the DC/Baltimore area please ask them if they're willing to take a wonderful 2 year old cat or if they'd ask their friends if they'd take it.

I appreciate any help you can provide in finding it a home.

Interested parties should comment on this blog entry or e-mail green_canary at hotmail dot com.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Friday Links: September 1

Skipping town for a few days, but I know what you come here for. LINKS!

A modified DeLorean seen in Argentina.

Why are Finland's schools doing so well?
Some teachers I had I could totally stay with for several years. Others would have caused a psychological break.

Like, for example, the teachers who suspended a 1st grader for having long hair. [link]

The Virginia earthquake: never forget. [link]

Guitar lessons from James Taylor. [link]

Game: Linx - connect blocks of the same color while not blocking line from other colors of blocks. [link]

Bat-huh? [link]

"HochDIch ghatlh" or maybe "Doghjey". Screw it. Klingon Monopoly. [link]

Samsung says their iPod knockoff is totally legal because the design for both products was previously used in "2001: A Space Odyssey". [link]

Lawn mowing dog.

Game: Adverputt - a different kind of minigolf. [link]

Self driving tractors! [link]

All around the coffee cup the cockatiel chases... something. [link]

Documentation of some guy talking in his sleep and saying some strange stuff. [link]

To be seen only if you've seen last week's Doctor Who. [link]

Doctor Who version of "Operation". [link]

Axe wielding love bird!

Laser pointer chasing cockatoo.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan should read this. [link]

The best pool table. [link]

The results of the question "Is there one image that makes you laugh every time?" [link]

How to make hidey holes in your house. [PDF]

A lengthy report on the Dominionist sect of Christianity. [link]
Doesn't matter how you spell it, Taliban is Taliban.