Monday, October 31, 2011

Movie Trailer: Anonymous

"Among Shakespeare scholars, the idea [that his plays were written by another person] has roughly the same currency as the faked moon landing does among astronauts." source
Oh, I don't particularly give a damn if the story is true or not. It's the legend of a person that is important today, not what they actually did. Thomas Jefferson was a great writer and statesman. Is it important that he owned slaves, farmed pot, and had an affair with one of his slave servants? King Arthur is almost certainly a myth, but the example we get from the stories about him serve as a good inspiration about "proper" behavior. What is Shakespeare today other than a name attached to a collection of plays? Does it matter if they were really written by Christopher Marlowe, Sir Francis Bacon, or Earl Edward de Vere?

The movie is pretty good. Don't go looking for a good action movie. This is a tale of intrigue. After discovering some underhanded dealings in the royal court, Earl Edward de Vere figures that arms or simply trying to reveal the plot would be ineffective. He approaches the problem with the philosophy that the pen is mightier than the sword and writes a new play that tells of the plot disguised as a comedic fantasy. But, being an Earl, writing plays would be an embarrassment to his house and family. He passes the play off to a good, but modestly known playwright with the intent that the playwright put his own name on this and all of the Earl's plays. But the playwright has qualms about this. He wants to be known for his own work, not the Earl's. So, when the crowd cries for the anonymous author, and nobody else steps up, the actor Will Shakespeare steps out and takes a bow.

At this point the movie is already two flashbacks deep. And it keeps going. The movie jumps between three major time periods with lesser flashback of months instead of years or centuries being put in here and there. This takes for a movie that is already filled with more characters and plotting than most people can follow without a flow chart and makes it even harder to follow.

People already familiar with Shakespeare's plays will enjoy the film and seeing how events in the Earl's life went on to become elements in his plays. The least of which being the relationship between the Earl and his plays as another Romeo and Juliet type story. People not familiar with the plays may also enjoy the movie, but they will be missing something.

I'm not sure I'll get it on DVD. I would, however, like to see it again just to set a few plot points straight in my own head.

I do recommend this movie, but only to people who are in to this kind of movie. That's kind of a stupid statement, but I'm not sure how else to put it. Fans of the Transformers movies aren't likely to want to see "Anonymous". People who frequent independent theaters, on the other hand, should enjoy the movie a lot.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Links: October 28

The only joke about a German baby.

Daylight Savings Time explanation.

I'm thinking of using this for Halloween treats. The house is dark, but on the front gate is a stack of cards and sign that says "take one". Printed on that card is the sign on this website. [link]

"Iron Sky" is coming. They have a comic book prequel to the movie. Issue one is free. For two and three you must pay. [link]

Texis Skeksis scare prank.

A big honking Hot Wheels track.

I had no idea that the housing crisis extended to hermit crabs. These guys are using 3D printers to help fix that. [link]

There's this physicist. He thinks everyone else, including other physicists, are idiots. He's become very popular in the climate change denial circles. Denial groups have thrown money at him, the GOP invited him to testify before Congress. He finally announced his results. Turns out those other physicists weren't all that wrong after all. [link]

There's a game I haven't played in which cowboys die. Here's every way a cowboy can die played back to back. [link]

These pictures are made by building a scene in a fish tank and then flooding it. Lights and stuff are involved too. [link]

7 urban legends that are true. [link]

150 years ago the first transcontinental telegraph cable was completed. [link]

Alcoholic drinks for parents. I post it mostly for the "Emergency Mimosa". It made me laugh. [link]

Look at this series of creative photos. Now imagine them all shown in series in a video. Kinda reminds you of the video from "The Ring", huh? [link]

Richard Branson on how Virgin Airlines got started. [link]

I can't believe I didn't post this before. Virgin Galactic dedicated their completed spaceport! [link]

Once upon a time, back when Clinton was President, back when the debt was being paid down, there was a realistic belief that the United States might get rid of the national debt. Not the deficit. The whole fucking debt. This 4 minute report from NPR money talks about a report written way back then and what would happen if there were no more treasury bonds. [link]

DARPA is looking for space craft capable of scavenging from dead spacecraft already in orbit. Great idea, but seriously, even garbage collecting spacecraft are considered comically difficult to make. And you really want something that can take safely approach, take apart, and reuse dead spacecraft? [link]

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Book Review: The Infinitive of Go

This book makes me feel old. It looks like it should be in my Dad's book collection. The one in the basement that's full of books from the 60's where all the pages have gone yellow and have a certain style to the cover art. You know the collection. I'll grant you that 1980 was awhile back now. And that I'm now the age that Dad would have been when I was going through his books looking for something to read. But that's still no reason for my books to go and start pointing out how old I am. That's just rude.

It's also a great argument for going back to hemp for paper production. Go back 100 years and a bit and paper was made of linen and hemp and stuff like that. With wood pulp came acid and it's the acid that yellows the pages and makes our books fall apart. There are 400 year old books in museums that are in better condition than my copy of "The Infinitive of Go" simply because they were printed on hemp. Same thing with The Constitution and Declaration of Independence. They're printed on hemp paper.

Yes, I am one of those damn hippies who wants hemp legalized. More the non-THC containing, industrial hemp than the "duuude. You ever look at your fingers? I mean REALLY look at your fingers?" variety. But I probably wouldn't turn down a hit if I were on chemotherapy.

Oh. Right. I was supposed to talk about a book.

We're all familiar with transporters. We've all seen Star Trek. When you start thinking about them in terms of real world use some problems pop up. Does it take you apart, move you elsewhere, and rebuild you? Does it make a copy of you and destroy the original? Does it bend space and drop you out somewhere else? None of these methods are high on the "We can totally do that" scale.

In this book a couple of researchers found a way to make it work by sending a person through a quantum mess in rho space. (Jump to next paragraph to skip the shaky science) When working with quantum anything you have to understand that the idea is that there are an infinite number of universes and that we can draw on similar devices in those other universes. In the double slit experiment interference patterns are thought by some to be created by photons fired through a couple of slits in a sheet and interfering with by the same photon in alternate universes. Quantum computing is supposed to be powerful because instead of just being one computer in one universe there are identical computers built in other universes and each of the computers attacks a problem in a different way so one of them gets the correct answer and feeds it back to you. (warning: explanations are over simplified to the point of not being 100% correct) And in this story they're getting around some of the more difficult problems in moving a person from transporter to transporter with a quantum fixit.

Well, the way things worked out, what you were doing was sending things and people to other transporters in other dimensions. So long as the transporters are fairly close to each other the differences are fairly minor. All tests indicate that the person who went in is the same person who came out. Sometimes the people were a bit disoriented, but they got past it. But when a spy with an important package was sent through the first intercontinental test something went wrong. He hadn't been given a phrase to listen for on the other side, but he still demanded one. Failing to get it, he incinerated the package and shot himself.

Well, the pressure is on the inventors to figure out why this happened. It wasn't until the inventor went through the same way the spy did that he figured it out. When his rather cold co-inventor jumped his bones that night he realized that he wasn't in Kansas anymore.

The transporters were shut down completely. While trying to figure out how to fix this little problem another problem pops up. Someone working on a space station was crushed and needs immediate medical aid. Reentry would kill him. The only way he'd survive is to be transported down. What came out the other end was even more different than what came out when beamed across the ocean.

I'm not overly familiar with the work of John Brunner. I think I've heard the name, but I can't tell you where. This book isn't going on my top 100 books, but it was a quick and enjoyable read. I never hesitated to pick it back up, but kept putting off when I'd have to put it down. If you're a sci-fi junky like me then you'll want to grab a copy if you see one in your local used book store. If you're not a sci-fi junky then hand the book off to your semi-nerdy mid-teens nephew.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sod Off Wednesday: October 26

An empty Borders telling to sod off.

Busted PC

This is to acknowledge that it is Tuesday and I forgot to come up with a post.

It's tech support day in Casa Ibid.

My laptop died and I had to get a replacement. I had to open my old one and get the drive out so I could get the data off. And there's a zillion things to reinstall.

A co-worker's hard drive died. It worked until it warms up and then shuts off. I gutted it to get at the actual drive and finally got all the data off. Now I'm trying to figure out how to get her data back to her.

Another co-worker's sister's computer died. Data recovery isn't important, but it didn't come with restore disks and the company doesn't provide them for this particular computer. It's at least 5 years old. Probably older. I'm probably gonna have to install ChromeOS or Ubuntu. Switching to that shouldn't be any harder for her to switch to as it would be to switch to the MacOS.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Movie Review: The Three Musketeers

It's my understanding that "The Three Musketeers" had a poor showing their opening weekend. A pity that. It's rather a good movie. Well. Good. There's varying definitions of what makes a movie "good". But this movie is fun. It's enjoyable. It's got very little to do with the classic book of the same name. Sure, there's at least 4 characters using the same name as characters in the book. But the rest is only loosely connected.

Did you see "Sherlock Holmes" with Robert Downey Jr? Inspired by Holmes, sure, but done with a bit more flash than the character in the books. Most everyone enjoyed it more than the Holmes we see on PBS.
How about "Pirates of the Caribbean"? Nearly no connection to the Disney ride that it's based on and certainly unlike actual pirates. But we're 4 movies in and counting.
"League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"? OK, a lot of people didn't like that movie. It was a different story than in the comic version with a few changes in character and sporting a bit of technology that wouldn't be quite correct for the era. But I liked it.

I bring up these movies because "The Three Musketeers" got the same treatment as those movies. Take a classic story and give it a bit of flash. The musketeers are more like Special Forces than mere king's guards. D'Artagnan picks fights with pretty much everyone he sees. Milla Jovovich gives one of her more enjoyable performance since "The Fifth Element". And Orlando Bloom, well, it's not a character you've seen him do before and you can't help but laugh.

You haven't seen a movie review from me in months. First there was garbage. Then there was stuff that looked alright if I was going to a movie, but nothing driving me to see it. This is the first movie in awhile that looked interesting, if a bit insulting to it's source material. And comparisons to "Pirates of the Caribbean" are apt.

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

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Links: October 21

My laptop died Thursday night and I just noticed that my stupid phone posted this several spots down. Sorry about that.

The tale of a little girl who asked Christopher Hitchens for a reading list. [link]

Samsung is currently defending itself from a lawsuit that claims they ripped off the iPad design from Apple. You may have heard of their response that they stole the design from "2001: A Space Odyssey". Well, in court the other day the Samsung lawyers were asked to identify which data pad was which from 10 ft away and couldn't. [link]

An interview with Steve Wozniak, the other half of Apple in the early days. "I think Steve ... died happy."[link]

Extreme closeups of animal eyeballs. [link]

A Keaton Music Typewriter available on Etsy. [link]

An analysis of gender in restroom signs. [link]

North Korea is finally gonna finish this big triangular tower of theirs. Too bad I blew it up in a video game a couple of years ago. [link]

Saturday Night Live transcripts. [link]

A short film using garbled English.

The Walken Dead

Dora the Explorer and the sniper.

David Lynch's hair compared to paintings. [link]

Side car that rule. [link]

"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer"
If you've seen any of the movies leading up to "The Avengers" you've seen Agent Coulson. He's a guy in a suit. He's there to see to it that rules are followed and papers are filed. People forget that "Agent" means "Agent of SHIELD". This video shows how even the SHIELD paper pushers handle robbers at a gas station in the middle of the night. [link]

The moon is made of titanium cheese. [link]

Darth Maul - turns out he survived being cut in half and falling down a bottomless death shaft. He'll be returning in the Clone Wars series. Well, half of him will according to these toys. [link]

River Song's story from her point of view. If you've been watching Dr Who the last 3 seasons you know why this video is needed.

Game: Georganism - control these blobs with different skills to navigate a maze. [link]

Mark Hamill is best known as Luke Skywalker. But his best role so far has been the voice of Joker in almost every Batman game or cartoon since 1992. Here he is at the NY Comic Con saying the famous Heath Ledger line.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Show tunes

I was in a discussion recently about what makes a song a show tune. I want to open the subject up for discussion.

Songs from "Fiddler on the Roof", "Oklahoma", or "Sweeney Todd" are totally show tunes. They're shows with a copious amount of singing and dancing, but not so much that they become operas.

"Doctor Faust", "The Rape of Lucretia", or "Madam Butterfly" are all singing all the time. So they're opera.

But what of that episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" where there was all the singing and dancing? The episode called "Buffy: The Musical"? Not familiar with it? Watch this.

Honestly, there's a good case for calling it a show tune. It was written to sound like a show tune. The only reasons to say it isn't is because it's a TV show instead of a stage show and was kind of written as a joke episode.

Now, what about "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut"?

It's a musical. My only hesitation is because it's also a cartoon and a comedy. Can "Uncle Fucker" really be in the same category as "Sunset Boulevard"?

It's easy to put all of these in the same category if you want to. Let us move then into shakier territory. Theme songs.
"Charmed" and "Smallville" and loads of others have theme songs that are shortened versions of much longer songs. "Cheers" has a theme song that has an extended version. But they're theme songs. Someone sings them for the show. But they're not performed as part of the show. They don't have the same feel as songs from musicals tend to have.

What about movie soundtracks? Is the theme to "Star Wars" a show tune? How about recurring music during the movie? Like the "Imperial March"? Maybe the "Cantina Theme" qualifies better than the other two. Or do show tunes need lyrics to qualify?

How about the "Klingon Battle Theme" from pretty much every Star Trek anything.
This is the full song, but there's that chorus that gets inserted into every song when Klingons are around.

Let's take this a different direction. What about existing songs that get used in movies?
"My Sharona" gets used in movies all the time. So does "My Generation". If I buy their CD and one of their songs gets used in a movie does it become a show tune? If it does, what happens when the song is used in a commercial? Is the answer different if I bought the movie's CD instead of the band's CD?

Now the real toughie. "Mamma Mia". The discography of Abba made into a musical performed on stage and on screen. Do the songs used in "Mamma Mia" qualify as show tunes?

I look forward to your answers.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sod Off Wednesday: October 19

Gandolf at a recent street fair telling me to sod off.

More enthusiasm than skill

Yummy got herself attached to a group called Rebuilding America. Awhile back they contacted her for help with some gardening around Baltimore. She has that DC Guerilla Gardening group. She should know what she's doing. She made friends with one of the higher ups in the Baltimore part of the group and we got roped into another project last weekend.

Rebuilding America is a nationwide group that helps fix up homes for those without the resources to do it themselves. And some gardening in areas that need it.

We went to a women's shelter in Baltimore. It's a place that gives homeless women and their kids a place to live until they can get their feet under them again. We were originally asked to help with some landscaping, but someone else hired professional landscapers. So we got in on another part of the house. Yummy and I painted a small room on the second floor and did it right. Electrical faceplates were removed, edges were taped off, any drips or paint in inappropriate areas were cleaned up, and paint slop done by previous painters was scraped off as best as we could. We wanted to apply some plaster to damage in the walls, but that was beyond the scope of this project.

While Yummy did the final touches I went to install new doorknobs on rooms where the locks were bad or keys were lost. We intended to go release the dove when we were done with these tasks. Instead we got a good look at the work of others. This work couldn't stand. We stayed to fix what they screwed up.

One room had a single blotchy coat up with nothing at the edges. Another had two coats, but they painted all electrical outlets, light switches, a stainless steel [looking] towel rack, the floorboards, a not inconsiderable amount of the sink, and the part of the ceiling within a foot of the walls. People who stayed had to use white paint to cover up the parts of the ceilings in several rooms that had gotten hit. In several of the rooms that was a considerable part of the ceiling.

The doors had more issues than needing new knobs and locks. Some had clearly been forced open a few times. One needed super long screws to reach where the wood wasn't broken away. Another screw was acting as a block to prevent the strike plate from being screwed in to deep.
In another room the area around the knob was busted and splintering. The old lock was actually bent and a pain to remove. I installed the new knob just so it'd be handy whenever the fix was put in place.

After doing that I tackled the room where they'd painted everything. Someone had new faceplates so I was able to use those. The switch still needed scraping. So did the towel rack. So did the sink. The sink needed not only scraping away of paint but all kinds of filth.

New window shades had been made. But the guy at Lowes claimed they needed to be half an inch shorter than they measured. So almost none of the new shades fit their windows.

As the day got late I realized the power was off in about 1/3 of the floor we were working on. The breaker was kind of nice. Sure, the switch barely moved when the circuit was blown. Breakers are like that. But next to the switch was a red marker indicating that it had blown. I need me one of those.

We were supposed to be out by 4:00. We ended up staying until 6:00 just because we couldn't bring ourselves to stop fixing damage caused by others in the group who had left around 1 or 2 o'clock.

Yummy wants to adopt a room. One room. In that room we'd pay for paint, plaster, broken light fixtures, doors and door frames, and even new sheets for the beds.

If I were doing it again I'd want to bring sandpaper to remove where the wooden dressers and bed frames had been drawn on with markers.

Check for Rebuilding Together groups in your area. They need people with enthusiasm, but they also need people with skills. They can't use people below the age of 14, but projects like these are good for teaching your older kids how to do stuff like paint and replace doorknobs. Just make sure they have someone who knows how to do that stuff with them. Otherwise you get a mess with no lessons learned.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How to rescue a window smacked bird

Yummy rescued a bird the other day. Friday one of her coworkers gave her a call and said there was an injured bird in the parking lot. It had probably hit a window, they thought the wing might be broken, and it was flopping around in a pool of rainwater trying to keep it's head up. Yummy rushed out, grabbed the bird, and brought it inside. The coworker was, of course, "wait. You mean it's OK to touch it?"

Yummy then called me and asked what to do. I've rescued a number of wild birds over the years. Some that had smacked into windows and some that had left the nest too early and weren't quite up for serious flying yet. When you're in the field trying to kick the mud from a farm implement and a bird lands on your shoulder you just kind of go with it.

The bird, a dove, was awake, holding it's wing strange, and breathing really heavy. How much of that was the injury and how much was the fact that the big scary people had brought it inside is open to speculation. I told her to put the bird in a box and put a towel over the box. This should give the bird a comfortable place to be and at the same time give it a better sense of security since it couldn't see the people.

Yummy wanted to take it to a shelter, but her time was already in heavy demand Friday night. She brought it home and we moved the dove into a cat carrier. The carrier was lined with the jacket of a coworker who wasn't at work to object. A dowel rod was put in so the dove would have something to wrap it's feet around. Then seed an a water dish was added. Then we put a sheet over the cat carrier to prevent drafts and to prevent Yummy's cat from obsessing about the dove.

Having already had most of the day to rest the dove's wings were looking better, but one was still a bit stiff. Definitely not broken. And the dove was a big fan of sleep. By Saturday morning it was better still. The plan was to take it back to the office parking lot where we found it just in case there was a mate that it needed to find again. We had a home for homeless and battered women that we were supposed to fix up, but we could cut out early and take the bird to the office. There's a whole big story about why we weren't able to do that, but we'll get into that later.

Instead we let the dove loose in the bathroom with some seed and water. Just so it would have a bit more space. We weren't sure if it was eating and hoped that having a bit more open space with seed on the ground would get it to eat more. You know, much the way in the wild it would pick at the ground for seed and bread crumbs.

Sunday, before a Guerilla Gardening event, we took the dove back to the parking lot and let it out. It dipped for a bit then flew through some branches and landed on a branch. Yummy wasn't satisfied yet. It flew 8 ft or so, but hadn't really taken off. And earlier, when she asked me how we knew if it was OK, I answered that if we let it go and can't catch it again then it's fine.

So we got a branch and poked the dove. It didn't like it, but it didn't fly off. ... Bad sign.
I climbed the tree. The dove watched me. ... Not good.
I touched the dove. I grabbed the dove. It was pissed about that, but when I relaxed my grip it climbed on my finger. ... Looks like it's coming home.
I handed the dove to Yummy where it promptly broke loose and flew off across the parking lot, through a tree, and was gone. ... SUCCESS! That's all we wanted from it.

Many people would tell you not to rescue wild creatures. Even soft and mellow doves. But if you intend to do so anyway then this can act as a guide. I've done similar things with robins and blue jays before. If they survived the impact with the window then it's likely that the bird just needs some time to recover. If you can give it a safe place without it injuring you then you can do that. Just wash your hands after handling the bird to make sure you don't transfer any crud the bird might have to your other pets. And thick gloves are your friends just in case the bird decides it isn't your friend.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Links: October 14

Princess Bride cast reunion. 6 minutes long. [link]
When a friend has a kid turn 10 years old I have to give the kid a copy of the book version. If you haven't read it, you should.

"The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 2012" "The Avengers" trailer.

This is great, but I think I'm gonna stick with my 8-Track player.

Judge confirms that you can copy DVDs you've purchased for your own use or for backups. Doubly true for schools. [link]

Some test footage for Alice in Wonderland was better than the official voice over recording. Here's the actors doing test footage and their dialog synced with the movie.

There's a famous picture about students trying to get into school on the first day of an integrated school. A black girl is being called names by a hateful white girl. Here's the picture and the story. [link]

As a kid I was never in a position to watch Voltron. I saw the toys, but didn't really know what they went to. As far as I knew they were a GoBot knockoff without the resources to get their own cartoon. Clearly they joined to form a bigger robot. And the design looked Japanese. Decades later I've still never seen an episode. But I know just enough to appreciate this video about the last of the Voltron drivers in a hopeless situation. I'm not a fan, but going with the style shown here I'd totally watch a whole movie.

Turns out that transmissions from predator drones aren't encrypted. You or I could tap into the feeds. So could, and do, insurgents. [link]

World's oldest car. [link]

Apollo 11 astronauts had to go through customs when they came back to Earth. [link]

The Thing: The Musical.

This article talks about how it's not big corporations (Occupy [insert here] view) or big government (Tea Party view) that's fucking things up. It's when the two work together. You know, like when church and state work together. Nothing good ever comes of that. [link]

How to escape the police in a high speed chase with a long comment from a former patrol officer why you can't. [link]

Neil Gaiman interviewing Sir Terry Pratchett. I haven't read it yet. That title is enough. [link]

Biggest virus ever discovered outside of a sci-fi series. [link]

The Mars Rover Opportunity - it's 3 year quest to seek out new lives and new civilizations.

Awhile back I posted about some of the alternate skins available for the upcoming Batman: Arkham City game. Now there's another. A Sinestro skin. [link]

A jacuzzi party suspended from a bridge and accessible only to abseilers. [link]

Kitten having a nightmare.

The return of Simon's Cat.

Homemade versions of props from Fallout games. [link]

DC comics got an exclusive deal with Amazon to put 100 graphic novels on the Kindle. Barnes and Noble asked for similar consideration for the Nook and was refused. So those titles are no longer available in B&N stores. [link]
Really, DC? Don't be a dick.

Have you read "The Magicians"? They're gonna adapt it into a TV series. I've read the book. I like the book. I suppose it could be inspiration for a world depicted in a series, but not a series of itself. [link]
Eh, it's Fox. The show will be cancelled after the first 6 episodes, none of which will be shown in order.

Prototype exoskeletons for quadriplegics seem to be working... on monkeys. But it's stil progress! [link]

Grammar troll vs WoW gamer. [link]

Video for Weird Al's "Polka Face".

An essay by a mother lamenting the lack of inspiring modern science fiction for children. Her kids have to read the same stuff she read. [link]

The Steve Jobs memorial section:
A guy from Gizmodo talks about his experiences with Steve Jobs... including the lost iPhone incident. [link]

Some tributes: [link]

The Onion. [link]

The New Yorker. [link]

The people of the internet. [link]

I was really hoping for a picture of the Banana Jr from Berkeley Breathed. No such luck. [link]

PvP [link]

Hijinks Ensue [link]

Something of that Ilk [link]

Doghouse Diaries. [link]

Ubersoft [link]

Capes & Babes [link]

XKCD [link]

Buni [link]

Virtual Shackles [link]

Abstruse Goose [link]

Dork Tower [link]

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Scene: It's late. I'm packing up my laptop and shutting off lights.

Gandolf: Bedtime.
Me: Bedtime.
Gandolf: Bedtime.
Me: Bedtime.
Gandolf: Bedtime.
Me: Yep. Bedtime.
Gandolf: Bedtime.
Me: Bed. Time.
Gandolf: Bedtime.
Me: Bed, as you say, time.
Gandolf: Bedtime.
Me: Bedtime! Brought to you by Colgate!
Gandolf: Bedtime.
Me: Once upon a time there was a mighty people known as the Bed. This is their story. The story of Bed Time.
Gandolf: Bedtime.
Me: You know what time it is?
Gandolf: Bedtime.
Me: Goodnight.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Long time no post

So, a three day weekend due to a holiday that only Americans care about (and only because of the long weekend) became a 4 day weekend when Yummy came back home as I was packing to go home. A minor illness over the weekend left us so tired that she forgot her computer so she came back for it and never went back to work. So I worked from her place. Then the next day I had a staff meeting so you get your normal Sod Off day.

But I do have a picture of some pennants we made for a baby shower Yummy is holding for a friend of hers. They're old children's books cut up. They're hanging from string here, but will be threaded on ribbon soon.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Friday Links: October 7

First thing's first. Steve Jobs, we're gonna miss your influence.
People can argue about how much of the technology you worked with was innovative and how much was lifted from other sources. You didn't invent the mouse or graphic interfaces, but you're the one who brought them to the public. You got computers into the schools. You gave graphic designers their best production tool. Between Apple, NeXT, and Pixar, you encouraged creativity, innovation, quality, and just plain getting the job done. One can argue about some specific business practices, but the truth of the matter is that you wanted to make products that people wanted and that were genuinely better than anyone else's. In these later years you may not have done the programming and development that you did in the early year, but you drove those who did to do their best.
Here's hoping that stepping down from Apple left it in a position to continue the way you'd want more than it did after they kicked you out.

Fermilab's Tevatron is being closed down. Some would claim it's the last super collider in America and this, combined with our now inactive manned space program, is another symbol of our decline. However, science is an international effort and we do participate in the CERN collider. There are some smaller atom smashers in the US, but none on the multi-mile scale of Tevatron. Mostly small things for making medication, not research. And we'll be able to launch people into space again in a few years. [link]

Poor doggie. Padfoot from Harry Potter and another British TV dog are up for adoption. Together only. [link]

You have a dumb name. Proof... [link]

Rick Perry according to lip readers.

An old employee manual from Disney. [link]

One guy's story about an intelligent chat with Jehovah's Witnesses. [link]

I think I need some of these at my place for Halloween decorations. [link]

Speaking of... Here's how to take a skeleton and make it look like a corpse. [link]

From what I've seen of what people are looking for in housing in DC, you could stick a few of these in your back yard and rent them out. Put an outhouse and outdoor shower in the yard and it's luxury housing. [link]
Come to think of it, I could see living in something like that while fixing up a burned out husk in Baltimore or Detroit. Lord knows it's hard to afford a place to live while trying to pay off and fix up a new place.

A potential answer to New York's High Line Park. Low Line Park. [link]

Carved up tires. Ornately carved up. [link]

An explanation of how the German Enigma Machine worked. [link]

"Left to his own devices he couldn’t build a toaster. He could just about make a sandwich and that was it."
Mostly Harmless, Douglas Adams, 1992
Yes, but exactly how hard it is to make a toaster? These videos are showing this guy's quest to find out. He's not quite there yet. [link]

A short Doctor Who episode written by 11 year olds.

Mass storage in 1980 vs today. [link]

SpaceX has plans to get people to Mars. Plans to beat China there. Great. I approve. I'm a fan of private space ventures. But please just get people to the ISS first. Plans are nice, but actual spacecraft are better. [link]

Ooh, brilliant! Right? [link]
Perhaps not. [link]

Portal soundtracks 2 and 3 are available! [link]

A new Twilight Zone movie is coming. Possibly from Michael Bay. [link]

You've seen the video of the seagull stealing crisps. Now check out this pizza stealing bear. [link]

I dig some of this guy's art. [link]
Note to other artists with websites: Most of the time I don't know or care who you are. If I have to go beyond the first page to see something worth looking at then I'm gonna leave.

Jameco explains how the yellow stripe on the football field works. [link]
Also, how to rig up a bluetooth connection from computer to stereo. [link]

Picture: Russell Crowe as Jor-El. [link]

Cassette tapes may be coming back. [link]
Honestly, I know like three people who can still play them. Not including the museum guy who had a doo-dad to convert cassettes to MP3s.

Huge shark sanctuary created. [link]
The sanctuary is huge, not the sharks.

Leonard Nimoy has retired from doing sci-fi conventions. [link]

Man who paints banks on fire questioned by police. [link]

Koch Industries is known for being one of the biggest backers of the Tea Party and supporters of continuing manmade global climate change. They're also trading illegally with Iran, stealing oil, and fudging pretty much every number about anything. [link]

The earthscraper. Like a skyscraper, but going down. [link]

This guy went around the world making balloon hats for people. These are his pictures and a good talk about what he did. 2 minutes and change. [link]

Sarah Palin officially not a presidential candidate, just an attention whore. [link]

The most effective charities in the world. [link]

This 24 year old video shows that Apple's predictions about development of some technology was only about a month off. [link]

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Solar Decathlon: part 4

And then we get to the leftovers. Stuff from the Solar Decathlon that I didn't want shoved in one of the other broad categories I made up.

I've been considering doing something similar to this to my living room wall. I was gonna cut spaces between the studs and turn them into little alcoves for holding books or knickknacks or whatever.
The example shown here has the iPad they used to control the house. It can also be disconnected and carried around so you have control from anywhere. Anywhere in the world. At least anywhere with internet access.

I just thought it interesting that instead of using some fancy bamboo or special pressboard they just took 3 sheets of plywood and smooshed them together.

Some interesting barn wood entertainment system.

There's water running under there. And river rocks. And at night it lights up.

A rug made from tight cords of newspaper bound with string. I like the idea, but the question everyone asks is how well it'll hold up over time. What if I spill something on it? These are questions I can't answer. If anyone makes one be sure to let me know.

This couch and the little table overlapping it were made by people at the school. The couch doesn't look comfy, but it could be great. And with that low back it should be easy to move in to pretty much any apartment. Obviously the strange little tables were designed to fit over the couch. It lets you have food and drink without worrying about spilling every time you stand up or sit down.

This wall is much like I intend to do to my kitchen ceiling. There are color changing lights mounted in the ceiling behind the plastic. The plastic cuts easily and screws into place. When the bulb burns out they say you can easily unscrew the plastic and change the bulb.
Mine will me a bit more opaque. I'll probably paint the studs white so they won't be as obvious. And I'll have ropes of LEDs attached to the ceiling so the light will be diffuse enough that you can't tell where the lights are.

This is the house that had the detached office. It's to the left. What you see here is an outdoor sink with a few utensils hanging on the right side. That shiny thing you see on the ceiling of the doorway isn't a light. It's a shower. The knob is on the right of the lady in purple.

This is the Washington Monument. On the day I took the picture they were just getting started on the inspection for earthquake damage. The day after this picture they pulled out two chunks of marble the size of dictionaries.

This shows the inside of the walls of that particular house. Most of the houses over the years have had something like this going on. My house will never get the level of insulation you see in these places because my walls aren't thick enough to get that much insulation in. More than that you can see here that the studs are staggered. Have a look at the pictures at this site. They show how in insulated buildings the studs become a significant source of heat loss. By making the wall thicker and staggering the studs you eliminate them as gaps in the insulation.
This particular house made the walls 3 studs thick with the middle space being straight insulation. Some others made theirs only 2 studs thick. That was still sufficient to eliminate the gaps caused by studs and get plenty of insulation in there.

This piece of furniture for the children's room was made by students at the school. A lot of the furniture was. I just thought this one was kinda slick.

It's a table. Concrete filled with rebar and a strip of wood down the middle.

This shelf is hung from rollers so it can slide over to act as a door.

These next three pictures are inside of the house with all the padding on the outside. The inside is set up like stadium seating. No, really. At the bottom level is a projection screen that rolls down so you can watch movies.
Up by the windows is a bed. Right by them and down a step is the washer and drier.

The speakers are standing on the next step down. To their left is the bathroom. Below them - below each of the levels - is storage.
The house had lots of those strange green seats. They stack together in such a way to fit in an alcove on the lower level and could be hauled out so everyone has a seat.

You might want to enlarge this picture. Even then you probably won't see what's going on really well.
Most houses had showers with removable floors. Typically this was so they could get at the drain and unclog it. In this one house removing the floor of the shower revealed a bathtub.

What I don't have picture of is their Xbox sensor. It's positioned to cover most of the house. If you wave at the sensor and then point at what you want done it'll do it. Lights come on and off, the screen rolls down, stuff like that.

These last two picture are of the inside of the highly modular cubical house from Belgium. The house is designed in such a way that they send it to you in a few crates and you put it together however you like. In this case there's a kitchen, living room, and dining room on the lower level, up above are a couple of bedrooms and a bathroom. Lights are attached to the cross beams.
It also looks better in pictures than in person.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Sod Off Wednesday: October 5

When you pick up an old book, cover faded, pages yellowed, something that looks like the books on your dad's shelf in the basement, and realize that it was printed in 1980, a decade you still remember reasonably well, and that makes it 31 years old... well, those printers can sod off. It's their shitty paper. I'm not old. Look at all this hair! And none of it gray. Those hairs in my beard don't count.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Solar Decathlon: part 3

I know, I know, I'm late. Sorry.

Lets talk plants for a bit.

This school's deck had a hole in it. Through it they grew sunflowers and... something that looks a bit like corn. And probably needs a lot of water to keep that many plants growing that close together. I don't have much to say about it, but Yummy thought it pretty neat.

This house had a number of interesting features. The green roof is always interesting. It has some interesting climbing plants, too.

I like the climbing plants, but how do you keep them under control? Your typical climbing plant will run up onto the roof and around the sides of the trellis. In this case they'd run around on the decorative slats off to the side.

This next display was to show how to make your own green roof. You need to start with a fairly flat roof. If you need a safety harness or really good shoes to walk on the roof then green roofs aren't for you. If you have a roof with a shallow angle, like the roof shown above, then you're good to go.
First you need something to keep the roots from destroying your roof. The mat acts as a root barrier. I'm not really sure why. Seems like it'd be great for taking root in.
Above that you'll need a moisture barrier. If the water gets under it then it's likely to grow something funky and/or eat away at the roof.
Then there's some gravelly soil. Then pea gravel. Then some proper dirt. Then plants.
The plants you want are almost always succulents. Have you ever hung out on top of the roof in summer? It can get right toasty up there. Grasses are likely to dry out and catch fire. You use them more on underground homes with a lot more soil over your head.

click to enlarge and read the signs

a green roof at ground level

The DC Guerilla Gardeners will be knitting bags like these later this month.

Their kitchen was placed to get a good deal of sunlight. They used that to grow a garden in the window. The idea is great, but then you need some way to control the gnats and fruit flies you're likely to get.

This is actually an air purification system. There's no glass in there. It's just a wall of plants. Air is drawn in through there, the plants filter out the various weird gasses the things in your home tend to put out, and the air is pumped back in through the vents.

We're back to the house with the green roof at the beginning of this post. This is another part of their artificial water shed that I can't get into too much detail about due to my ignorance. Grey water from the shower, laundry, kitchen sink, etc. goes through a faux swamp. The water stays below a pebbly surface that keeps mosquitoes from growing in it, but below that is some dirt and vegetation and bacteria. They were showing off part of it, but I didn't get a good picture. What it was supposed to do is serve to break down any harmful chemicals before releasing the water into the landscape. You can get more details here. The water, at some point, runs through this channel under the house. It has water lilies and could totally have goldfish if you wanted.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Solar Decathlon: part 2

What I go to the Solar Decathlon for is the toys. After 5 decathlons you can imagine that I'm running low on things that stand out and really impress me.

Two of the houses were showing off their dehumidifiers. The one below is filled with white plastic shells that you could sort of describe as ping pong ball skeletons. They aren't important, though. They're just surface area. The desiccant is a lithium chloride salt liquid that pours over the plastic. It draws the moisture from the air and then is pumped to another location where it's heated to release the water it captured from the air. The heat is provided by solar water heaters on the roof which goes on to be used in showers and whatnot.

lithium chloride salt dehumidifier
Another school was using liquid calcium chloride salts. However, theirs was still using a system that the school using the lithium chloride tried and rejected. The calcium chloride was just running down the window. The added surface area of the balls improved efficiency of the dehumidifier.

Thermal mass has always been popular for climate control systems. They soak up heat during the day that they release at night and take the cool from the night and release it during the day. Stone is great for that. Water does a good job, too. That's why coastal areas have more moderate temperatures than mid-continent areas that suffer from extreme temperatures on both ends of human tolerance.

This all concrete house has LOTS of thermal mass.
rotating chambers filled with phase change materials
If you want to get fancier you can invest in some phase change materials. These vertical thingies are filled with one. I forget whether they were using palm oil or paraffin wax. One school was using one and another was using the other. But there's several kinds. Usually fat or oil based. They tend to change from solid to liquid close to room temperature. This enhances their ability to carry their temperature over longer periods.

I just like the door in this utility closet. The door came from a New York City subway car. Behind it is a well insulated water tank.

I thought I got a picture of this, but apparently not. One house had cylindrical solar arrays. I'd seen some diagrams online proposing the idea awhile back, but didn't know they were in production. Instead of having a flat surface that is only at it's ideal angle relative to the sun for part of the day these tubes are at their optimal angle all the time. You can see some and read more here.

Tomorrow we look at the plants.