Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Links: March 30

Lets get the important business out of the way first.

I've heard about this guy figuring out what kind of music monkeys like. Now he claims to have written music designed for cats and dogs. [link]

Fox News blamed for this woman's death. [link]
Which brings up an interesting question. How can you tell the difference between the onset of dementia and believing what Fox News says?

Interview with a safecracker. [link]

Plasma speaker - it's a speaker that makes noise via an electric arc. [link]

Ruin - A great short film about someone trying to find out how the world ended. Run it full screen. Trust me.

Get your own backyard Hobbit hole. [link]

Super Best Friends Forever!

The good news: Genndy Tartakovsky, the guy who made Cartoon Network worth a damn when I was in college, is working on a new movie called "Hotel Transylvania".
The bad news: Adam Sandler will be the voice of Dracula. [link]

If you're making a movie called "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" what do you expect to see in the main characters? Teenagers maybe? Ones that know ninjutsu? Certainly some sort of deformed turtle creature. Michael Bay disagrees. He sees no reason that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles should be mutants or turtles. He intends to make them aliens. [link]
He is telling everyone to calm down, but he hasn't gone back on his plans to screw up yet another cartoon from my youth.

Speaking of Transformers, he plans to reboot the series with the 4th movie. I can't blame him. The movies so far are awful. But he's the one who screwed them up. The movie police need to take it away from him almost as much as they need to confiscate Star Wars from George Lucas.[link]

Meanwhile, the decision to reboot "The Munsters" TV series don't seem quite so horrible now that they've cast Eddie Izzard as Grandpa Munster. [link]

TSA decides to let senior citizens keep their shoes on in a few select airports. [link]

An animation showing the path of debris from the Japanese tsunami as it drifts across the ocean. [link] [details]

When both Congress and Facebook think you're scum you may want to reexamine some life choices. [link]

Don't think Facebook is becoming a good guy. They're trying to trademark the word "book". [link]

Someone applied the idea behind "Garfield Without Garfield" to an old Garfield cartoon.

The head of Hufflepuff greeting new students.

Hollywood lawyers are trying to sue a pub called "The Hobbit". The pub has sported that name for 20 years. Sir Ian "Gandolf" McKellen is throwing his support in with Stephen Fry in favor of the pub. [link]

I can only name 17 of these movies. [link]

I knew Tim Burton was working on a "Dark Shadows" movie. I wasn't expecting anything particularly good about it. I certainly wasn't expecting a comedy.

Turn down the volume first. Now watch this. Wait for it. Waaaaait for it!

Print pieces to connect your toys together. [link]

Minecraft scientific/graphing calculator.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Taken at one of the lots we were checking out last weekend.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sod Off Wednesday: March 28

The GOP can sod off.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Food desert

A food desert is any area where it's difficult to get healthy food. In the case of Baltimore it's being defined as "an area where the distance to a supermarket is more than 1/4 mile, the median household income is at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level, over 40% of households have no vehicle available, and the average Healthy Food Availability Index score for supermarkets, convenience and corner stores is low". That last bit means the stores where the most nutritious thing they sell are the lotto tickets.

This definition includes most of Baltimore.
Red means Cheeto Casseroles for supper. (source)
A local newspaper is having a contest to come up with proposals to do something about this. They've already got a program where you can order your food and it'll be brought to your local library where you can pick it up. And while that did a bit, it doesn't really help if they're closing libraries.

So Yummy has a plan. She's working on a proposal to enhance Baltimore's edible plants. This means finding what already exists and building it up a bit, and finding open areas that can have edible stuff introduced.

For the proposal we picked a small neighborhood (i.e. one we could easily walk) and plan to virtually develop it. Sunday we went out and walked her chosen neighborhood. We had maps printed out and we'd already found some promising lots from satellite shots. As we walked we located unused sidewalk cutouts, small empty lots, visited our bigger lots, and wrote down the stuff we saw that could be eaten. We also took pictures of things to try to identify later. The season is early still so some stuff was just now blooming. This did make identification tricky. But dandelions are out, as are wild onions, skunk cabbage, and some stuff that may or may not be clover. It's not yellow sorrel which is what most people call clover.

One of the large lots had a bunch of people in it. We'd been thinking an orchard would go there, but they're clearly using it. Baltimore is full of empty lots. Some are cared for, others less so, some are buildings that look to be a stiff wind from becoming an empty lot. Very few are being used. But this one lot was full of people just visiting. Around the edge were scattered old chairs for people to sit on. They even had a permanent horseshoe pit in place. We talked to them and found that they had plans to paint the wall of a building next to the lot and show movies on it as well as getting some playground equipment.

Across the alley was a heavily overgrown rubbish pit. This lot I like. Once we pick out the bottles and clear the thorny plants it looks like it would be a fantastic place for raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry bushes. And, while we're at it, maybe a grill and table.

Other things we're looking for and looking to plant:
(your idea here)

And we'll need signs indicating what they are and how to prepare them.

Here's the neighborhood.
Blue marks the neighborhood, green, the open spaces, red is something we had marked on our map and skipped. Most of the blue and green markers are sidewalk cutouts. I need to finish placing those, but the map starts fighting me and putting them in the wrong places. The blue marker near the bottom is where someone has a rooster and some fancy pigeons.

View foraging in a larger map

Monday, March 26, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

Watching the trailers before this movie, I started getting nervous. The trailers are often tuned to the expected audience for the movie. You won't see a trailer for "Doug's First Movie" before any "Saw" movies or "Final Destination" before anything with that blonde who used to be on "Gray's Anatomy". They started with a trailer for "The Host" which is based on one of Stephanie Meyer's non-Twilight books. The second trailer was for "Snow White and the Hunstman" which I hadn't realized stars Bella from the Twilight movies. I knew "The Hunger Games" books were popular among teens, but I thought it was more like Harry Potter books which generally popular. I was reassured when the third trailer turned out to be for "The Avengers". Then something else that made zero impact on us. Finally, there was a trailer for part 2 of the final Twilight movie. As the movie started, I just kept reminding myself that they were expecting people who would want to see "The Avengers" and crossed my fingers.

It turned out that I had very little to worry about. "The Hunger Games" has the general appeal that I expected it to have.

If you're unfamiliar with the books, and can't tell from the title, "The Hunger Games" is about a contest in which a bunch of teenagers are forced to compete with each other. Some decades after a failed revolution, two teens from each of the twelve districts are selected each year to go into an arena that looks like wilderness and fight to the death. Twenty four people enter, one person leaves. The winner gets to survive (and their district gets double the food, but the movie failed to mention that).

The movie does a decent job of explaining things, but often you need to take a line from this scene and a line from that scene to piece it together. One guy has his name in the drawing 42 times, but why he has all these entries doesn't become clear until our heroine is saying goodbye to her sister.

I enjoyed this movie. It was a good idea well executed. There were good performances all around. I look forward to seeing the next two movies in the series and will probably borrow Yummy's copy of the book.

P.S.: I started reading the book last night. There are things the book explains better, but other things are presented better in the movie. The wording in the book is clearly aimed at pre/early teens. Some relationships are presented as platonic for the younger audience of the book and romantic to enhance the drama for the movie. The movie had to have good writers who thought about the story, not just transcribing the book. The book has very little dialog. The writers for the movie had a lot of work to do. The look of the city and the people was something the writers and directors had to dream up. You may want to do both the book and the movie. If you have kids aged 10 or so these would be good for getting them to think about the differences between the two and why they were changed.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Links: March 23

I don't know how long they'd been putting cameras on the outside of the Space Shuttles. I saw the first video of a launch as seen by a booster looking down several years ago and it was amazing. The ones that followed never quite struck me the way that first one did, but there have been some good ones. This one shows the boosters from launch to splashdown. The camera cuts between boosters and it shows approximate height and speed.

Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up?

These guys are trying to use Kickstarter to fund a sequel based on a game that was popular when I was young. They want to get money from people outside the United States for this project so they made this video. Doesn't matter if you don't want to fund it, you DO want to watch it.

1949 guide to what you can't do on TV. [link]

Bits from a comic that accurately depicts "A Princess of Mars" with all the nudity that comes with it. [link]

Howard Taylor of Schlock Mercenary talking about how to write satisfactory sub-plots. [link]

10 minutes of silent, home footage from Los Alamos in 1943. Kinda interesting. Some work being done, a sweet cabless tank, physicists hanging out and relaxing, the occasional appearance by Robert Oppenheimer. Most of which would bore me silly if it were Dad and his friends instead of the people who built the bomb. [link]

Musical instruments shown from the inside. [link]
The inside of a cello would make a great design for a music hall.

A great tent. [link]

A demon encyclopedia. [link]
This interests me because of an Encyclopedia of Hell that I bought that I found incredibly interesting and useful.

Lost jewelry of Hollywood (recently rediscovered). [link]
I'm loving Lucille Ball's necklace.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson talking about how the rise of religion means the downfall of science throughout history.

10 hours of Darth Vader breathing. Allegedly. I didn't listen to the whole thing.

A woman writing about her and her husband's experience with Texas's new state mandated rape mandatory sonogram law. [link]
Lets hope that the Supreme Court smacks this law down sooner rather than later.

Parahawking: Trained vultures land on your gloved arm while you're paragliding.

Another bit of marketing for the movie Promethius. [link]

From the tl;dr department: What do the controls in an airplane cockpit do? [link]

Punk rock lives on in some of the most oppressive places on Earth. [link]

Enlarged pictures of pixels on various handheld devices. [link]

Lego ads. [link]

Will Ferrell's best work tends to be in commercials. These videos are some of his Old Milwaukee work. Watch the first one - the Super Bowl one. [link]

Art of Video Games exhibit here in DC. [link]

Volcanic map of Io. [link]

We've heard lots about Catholic priests molesting little boys. Some Dutch orphanage started castrating boys for reporting them. [link]

A deaf guy signed to Obama "I'm proud of you." Obama immediately signed back "Thank you." [link]

McMurdo Station (Antarctica) usually has an ice pier for unloading supplies. The warm winter rendered it unusable. This is a time lapse video of the construction of another causeway. [link]

Game: Minicraft - I spent more time playing this than it deserved. [link]

Thursday, March 22, 2012

If that's how you're gonna be.

Nobody commented on yesterday's post so you get nothing today.

(translation: I got nothin'.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

As I nodded nearly napping...

I used to do a lot of writing. I still develop outlines for stuff in my head, but once upon a time I actually wrote them out. What you'll see below are some half developed ideas that may still get turned into something someday if I start writing again.

This first line came to me as I was nodding off one night.

"Ok, so, my dad, he's like, this, I dunno, demigod of pain, or something, which makes him Sooooo hard to live with. I mean, really, you should see some of the freak women he brings home from the bar some nights."

With that idea in mind, I started to play with it.

So now I've got this image of the demigod of pain, first thing in the morning, staggering down stairs. He's big, muscular, horns, goatee, needs a shave, bed wing, stained robe hanging open to his gut, hasn't even bothered opening his eyes yet. His two daughters are sitting at the kitchen table having breakfast. The older is in high school, the younger is probably in 4th grade.
"Good morning, Daddy!" says the younger daughter cheerfully.
The demon doesn't look up. Shuffling past the table toward the coffee machine he says " Fear my wrath, sweet heart. "

Around the coffee maker.
"Morning, Nirrti."
"Morning, Frank. How'r the kids?"
"Oh, you know. Sarah's nine and Eile's gonna be the death of me. Yours?"
"Well, Yahweh wouldn't stop crying during 'Buffy' last night so I ate him."
"Gotta do that while they're young or they never learn."
"Plus, when they get bigger you end up with leftovers."
"True 'nough. So, got any plans for this weekend?"
"Not really. It's sort of a toss up. Either rain firey atomic death on some major metropolis oooor maybe take a nap."
"... rain firey atomic death?"
"Yeah. Or a nap. Naps are good, too."
"Huh. Yeah. You know, I brought this turkey sandwich for lunch but now ... why don't you eat it?"

One side of a phone conversation heard while nodding off.
A lightly British adult male accent says:
"I'm Professor ??????'s assistant."
A pause while an unheard voice says something about not knowing that professor.
"No, he's not a teacher here anymore. He died several years back."
A pause while the unheard voice asks why the first voice is still there.
"Ah, well, Professor ?????? had tenure so they can't get rid of me."

Also heard.
"Is that a load bearing midget?"
I tried to develop a story around it or put it into other stories I was writing, but it never took.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Science Friday

I got to attend a live broadcast of NPR's Talk of the Nation: Science Friday the other day. It was broadcast from an auditorium at the National Geographic Museum.

Typically the NPR folk record in a nice sound proofed booth where the host can see the sound engineers through a huge window. And, typically, the sound people at National Geographic are in a booth well removed from the stage. For this event they had to do things different. Two tables for four were situated in a wide V shape that faced the middle of the stage. Ira, the host, was at one table, the guests would be at another table, and far enough behind the guests to be unobtrusive, but still on the stage where Ira could see them, was a table of sound engineers. They did all the usual stuff you'd come to expect from radio sitcoms: counting down on fingers, waving arms in circles, and generally gesturing at Ira to feed him queues and let him know how much time remained. That, plus a box in the middle of the stage that faced Ira. I'm assuming that was some sort of countdown clock.

The first program [listen here] took most of the first hour and was spent discussing whether or not America has a shortage of scientists and what's being done to keep kids interested in science. You don't generally hear from the crowd that says "meh, America has plenty of scientists". And the middle school teacher they included is really good, but really abnormal.

Here's the video of said teacher in a vomit comet that's referenced in the show.

The rest of the hour was spent with their "Video of the Week". You may have seen it already. It's the video of a Lego Space Shuttle attached to a weather balloon. [video here]

Hour two started with co-Nobel Prize winner Adam Reiss talking about his research into Dark Energy and Dark Matter. Dark Energy being what makes the galaxies accelerate away from each other and which didn't take effect until relatively recently, in cosmic terms. [listen here]

Then, being at some National Geographic offices, they brought in someone who, two days later, would be leaving to lead a National Geographic sponsored climb of Mt. Everest. He was live on stage while two of his traveling companions addressed us as the seeming voices of God. One was from the Mayo Clinic and will be monitoring physiological changes of the team and seeing what lasting effect, if any stay with climbers. We know red blood cell counts rise, but what else?
The other was from Montana State University who will be taking some super high quality GPS equipment up to measure the exact height of the mountain and getting rock samples to see what Everest is made of other than limestone. India continues to push up into the rest of Asia at the breakneck speed of... well, about the speed that your fingernails grow, so the height of Everest needs to be refigured on occasion. And newer, more accurate instruments, mean we can get greater accuracy than we could before. Also, getting up is such an ordeal and you spend so little time at the top of Everest that there's not a lot of rock samples taken from up there. [listen here]

Check out the program. You may notice that, for the first hour at least, the audience is hesitant to make any noise or applaud or anything. I mean, it's live radio. We don't want to screw up a program. We don't know when it's live or not.

NPR! Hey! There's another live program in New York this coming Friday. Could you get the man an "On Air" light?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sears: you need help

I saw this morning that Sears is closing some more stores. So I'm finally getting around to reposting this letter I wrote them awhile back.

I understand Sears is having some problems. I mean having to close more and more stores. This is a shame. Sears is far and away my choice of places to shop for clothing. You don't try to sell me jeans with holes and stains and charge me triple or more. I can get a tee shirt that isn't covered in some garish "urban" pattern or so thin that it doesn't actually keep me warm. For that I thank you. And I've been known to come in and wander around just to look at the home appliances and hardware. But one the occasions I've actually tried to go shopping for things other than clothes I've been frustrated.

When I shop I start with the internet. I want to do research online, show up in a store, confirm that it's really something I want with my eyes, slap down some money, and walk out with my product.

When I'd go shopping as a kid, back before the internet, we'd come into a store look over what they have, and buy the one we liked best. Now I have an idea of what I want and look for someone who has it. For example, in my upcoming kitchen remodel I'll need a new oven and stove. Instead of coming in to see what you have I'll be looking for an induction range top and somewhere that I can come touch it before laying down my money. That's probably not Sears, Lowes, HomeDepot, or BestBuy. I've checked all of them before and didn't see them. I'll look again before buying just because you have actual, physical stores, but have little hope that we'll get to do business.

Another example:
I was looking for the card game "Gloom" yesterday. Google listed several vendors including along with Newegg, eBay, Powells, and several other sites. I got excited. I could just pop in and pick it up next time I was out and about. Oops, no, it's sold by World at Play Games. It's "In Stock", but does that mean in stock in the store or on the website? Because I don't want to order it. And I'll be very annoyed if I show up in the store and don't find it.

See, your website lists a lot of stuff that you don't actually have. Sometimes, but not always, the site makes it clear that it's a web-only product. More often I have to notice that is actually selling for some other company. They're using your site, but not your stores. If the product is actually available in brick and mortar stores I'm not told what stores that would be. I have to show up and take my chances. More often than not I have to get some sales person to get online and tell me if that object is available in any Sears in the area. They tell me they can order it for me, but honestly, if I wanted to order it I would have already. I'm there because I want to walk out with it.

I bought an Arduino circuit board recently. I bought it from MicroCenter because, from what I could tell from an internet search, they were the only brick and mortar store in the United States that sold them. They're a small chain so I felt lucky that I had one that was not only near me, but was metro accessible. Their store was a bit run down, but I found them selling stuff online, found their store, went there and bought exactly what I wanted. For this, and a bunch of other nifty stuff I saw while there, they're one of my new favorite stores. Sears can still do that. Not with Arduinos, but for what you do sell.

On your website I have entered my zip code and it remembers my location. You need to take that one step further. You need to tell me what products are available at "my store". Bonus points if it can point me at other locations in my area that do have the product if my store doesn't. Because, to me, your website should be a peek into your inventory.

Others shop in different ways. Look into how they shop. You may even want to consider letting website users choose between online shopping, checking local inventory, and self-educating browsing. Of course, my Dad is still gonna come in and look for a new drill in person.

OK, I thought I was done, but I'm not. I've had many good experiences with Sears and don't want to see it go under.
Have a look at Everyday there are several new projects posted there. Some that are impressive to look at and some that readers could make at home if they were so inclined. They also have a store. A store that sells many of the things that people will need if they want to tackle the projects they see on the blog. Those people then turn around and show off their projects which help advertise what's for sale in the store. Sears could do something similar. Engage your customers. Give them project ideas. Let them show off theirs. Give handymen a place to show off their shops and what they've built in those shops. Don't just show well put together sunrooms, help amateur home decorators who can't pull off that look figure out what would look good in their place. If people are remodeling their kitchen or garage give them an app that lets them model their kitchen and see how things will fit. This fridge may be great, but it's too wide. Suggest something similar but narrower. Or would different cabinets allow them to keep the fridge they like. They don't have the money now so this project is gonna happen over 3 years and be done in stages. Let them mark what they want so they'll remember. You'll be able to let them know about a sale on that oven. Or if you're about to stop carrying that particular oven let them know they need to hurry in or pick a new one.
Don't be just a store. Be part of a community. I won't come to the site looking for sales, but I will come look at a particularly awesome shed/nap house/detached office. Then I'll send my girlfriend to have a look at it, too.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Links: March 16

Bad week for worthwhile links.

For the amateur audiophiles:
A Science Friday talk from a few weeks back about the difference between records and CDs. They explain why records were generally better early on, but CDs are better now. They also talk about MP3s, the differences between different quality rips, and what gets cut. [link]

A more technical article about encoding rate of audio files (MP3, OGG, ACC, etc.). It helps, but don't ask me to explain it. [link]

The GOP can't help themselves. They know what Limbaugh is saying, and they're supporting, is poison to the party. They just can't stop. [link]

A Martian dust devil as seen by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. [link]

Nanoscale 3D printer. [link]

In a housing market this bad even a 14 year old with a stash can buy a house. [link]

Short story: ILU-486 - a story set in an America where birth control and abortions are illegal. [link]

Encyclopaedia Britannica is going to stop making print editions. [link]
I've got one of my Great Grandmother's encyclopedias from between WWI and WWII. I've got one of Grammie's from the 80's. I need to consider getting a copy of the last Britannica.

A woman with a really great bionic arm. [link]

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Movie Review: Synecdoche, New York

What did that trailer tell you about the movie? It's an independent film, sure. A film about a guy directing a huge play, right. It's going for being a touching movie about life and whatnot. It really doesn't sell the movie. It doesn't mention the main thing about the movie. From watching this I have less than zero desire to watch this movie. So why did I watch it?

Go back into the archives a week or two and you'll find links to the second half of "Everything is a Remix". It mentions that two movies came out around the same time about someone who does a play that creates his own life. It sounded like an interesting idea so we put it on my Netflix queue. It became one of the most confusing movies I've ever seen.

For a good long chunk of the movie we watch Phillip Seymore Hoffman's life. He's directing a play, he's married, has a kid, is going to therapy, has issues with the plumbing, the woman at the ticket counter keeps hitting on him, etc. It may make for drab moving watching, but it's life. His wife goes on vacation to Germany with the kid and they don't come back. When he wins an award for his plays he decides to use the money to fund a huge piece. He gets a massive warehouse and starts reproducing his life in a model of the city. He hires actors to play himself, his wife, kid, neighbors, random people on the sidewalk, etc. Each day they get notes about what's supposed to happen to them that day. Eventually, they, too, need a warehouse so they can start work on a play about making a play about the main character's life. By the end of the movie it's 6 levels deep.

Just from that you can come up with all kinds of idea about what the movie is really "about". You can debate the symbolism for hours. Let me tell you about the weirdness.

In reality prime there's still life going on.
The ticket lady turned assistant buys a house. That house is on fire while she's looking at it. She buys it and it continues to burn for the rest of her life. She dies 40 years later of smoke inhalation.
The main character marries the woman who plays his wife in the play, they have a kid and give it the same name as the kid who went to Germany. So it's often hard to tell when they're talking to each other and when she's playing the ex-wife and talking to the guy who plays him.
At some point we see military in the streets. Riot police and tanks kind of stuff. At the end of the movie we hear a huge battle outside with gunfire and stuff. When Hoffman goes out in to the streets of Warehouse 1 everyone is gone or dead. No explanation.
When Hoffman gets a call about his dad dying he tells someone all about the phone call. Apparently he died of a sudden case of long struggle with cancer. Nobody saw it coming. His final words were a long touching monologue.
While his wife went on to become a famous artist who continues to live with more an more people, his daughter is raised by a woman who covers her (the daughter) with tattoos. He finally finds her years later working as a nude dancer. They meet again at her death bed where she wants to know why he left them for his gay lover (never happened) and wants an apology. When she dies a tattoo of a rose loses a petal.
Main character has strange random ailments come and go.

There was other stuff, but it's five days later and I can't remember them. But the end of the movie was like the end of "Lost". "Seriously? You're not even gonna try to explain that? SERIOUSLY!?! fuckers."

Don't watch this movie. Seriously. If you're looking to kill two hours you're better off doing an exploration of your nose or memorizing the back of a cereal box. When you're done you'll have much less of a "...the fuck just happened?" feeling.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sod Off Wednesday: March 14

Sod Off Wednesday can sod off. Unless I come up with something better. But it can probably sod off.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Movie Review: Coriolanus

Everyone knows Shakespeare's big titles - Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth - but there's a few titles you just never hear of. Things like "A Lover's Complaint", "Troilus and Cressida", "Cymbeline", and "Coriolanus". Oh, I'm sure I'd heard of them before. But they're such minor works that they never stuck in my mind. More's the pity when it comes to the latter.

Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in this, believe it or not, Shakespearean action movie. Caius Marcius Coriolanus was a great military leader with little regard for the common people of Rome. After returning home he was nominated as a consul. He did not want the job, but was pressured into campaigning for it. The people he sneered at before don't take to this new face he's put on. For some reason, the alternative to being consul is death. They compromise with banishment. He leaves to join the armies of his greatest enemy and fight against Rome, leading them in a series of successful battles.

Of course, this is all done in a modern setting. Reports from the front come in along satellite vid-phones. Fidelis TV reports on the fighting. Swords and spears are replaced with guns and tanks. There's no shortage of action sequences, most of which I'm not seeing in the original play [here].

All in all, I found this adaptation to be well done. And by well done I mean that I could tell what the fuck was going on. Oh, sure, there's a couple of monologues late in the movie that left me befuddled. After an hour and a half of parsing Shakespeare my mind couldn't handle the wall of words, the monologue, that some characters spilled forth. But for the most part there was action and reaction shots to break up the dialog so my mental buffer could clear.

I'm glad that I saw it. It really was a good movie. It would go well on my shelf next to the production of "Hamlet" with Patrick Stewart and David Tennant. I'll likely buy a copy, eventually.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Movie Review: John Carter (of Mars dammit)

Down in the basement, through the folding doors, and to the left, back in the shadows, made creepier for how little it was visited, was Dad's book collection. In a worn box that appears to have survived numerous moves was a pile of yellowed, brittle books. One the spines of these book were the words "Edgar Rice Burroughs" and a number. This was his Tarzan and Mars collection of books. I didn't read these books for a long time. I meant to, but they were fragile and I had other things to read.

In the Tarzan book Burroughs was able to write great adventure fantasies about a part of the world of which little was known. But he was still restricted by what little we did know. So he found another, even more mysterious world, for his next series - Mars. Remember now, that the serial that would eventually became the first book, was published in 1912. Mars was still, in their minds, a distant red dot. The best telescopes of the time led them to believe it was a planet without clouds or seas and was crisscrossed with canals to best use whatever water remained. A dry, dying planet.

I did read the first three books in the series (available at Project Gutenberg - Proper order here) but that was so long ago that much of what I read is now forgotten or confused with other stories. So I can't tell you how much the movie holds true to the first book "A Princess of Mars". But I can tell you that the movie is awesome.

The studio fucked up with those trailers. They completely failed to provide a compelling reason to to see this movie. They cut much of the action sequences in favor of the subdued scenes looking at glowing lights, graceful flying ships, and sweeping panoramas. They neglected to mention the source material assuming, I suppose, that everyone knows who John Carter is.

John Carter is a veteran of the American Civil War. He fought for the South, lost, and headed for the western territories to seek his fortune. There the Army tries to forcibly recruit him for their ongoing conflict with the natives. For reasons you'll need to see the movie to find out, he finds himself in a strange new place that he eventually finds out is Barsoom - known better to us as Mars. There he finds himself unwillingly drawn into a civil war and a side conflict with the natives. But Carter has an advantage over the giants and advanced technologies he finds there. The lesser gravity of Mars means he can leap great distances and has seemingly greater strength.

Watching this movie you'll see elements borrowed from some of the great sci-fi, fantasy, and super hero movies, novels, and comics. This is only fair since they borrowed from Burroughs work in the first place.

This is not science fiction. The movie benefits from 100 years of extra knowledge about Mars that the source material didn't have and wouldn't have wanted. The story is straight up fantasy.

I will be getting this on DVD and will be looking for audio versions of the books so I can finish what I started a couple of decades ago.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Friday Links: March 9

A 60 year history of newspapers' advertising based income. [link]

Pedal powered bus. [link]

Whimsically written police reports. [link]

Poor Wall Street Bankers having to deal with cut incomes while still being in the 1%. They might have do something drastic like take one of their three kids out of private school. Boo hoo. [link]

A new kind of 3D computer monitor. Your hands reach behind the screen and manipulate objects. [link]

A supposedly effective 3 minute workout that's done once a week. [link]

The Alcubierre warp drive has one serious drawback. [link]

Chocolate Wasted Cake recipe. [link]

NBC orders an independent program based on the Inspector Spacetime gag in an episode of "Community" to shut down. [link]

The rest of us beg Lifetime to cancel a series based on Bristol Palin. [link]

What J.R.R. Tolkien thought of "Lord of the Rings". [link]

Scenes from recent video games done in Lego stop motion animation.

Reading all the privacy policies you come across in a year would take 76 work days. [link]

Kepler has discovered more than 2,000 potential planets. Now there's a new way to look for planets that may be used in the next version. [link]

Meth kingpin was also a huge comic book nerd. [link]

Trailer for the upcoming Dirk Gently BBC series.

Peter Weyland giving a talk at TED 2023. [link]
It's a teaser for the movie "Promethius" which is a prequel to "Alien".

Indiana Jones gets rejected for tenure. [link]

New trailer for "The Avengers". [link]

For the first time ever, someone has filmed the formation of a brine icicle (brinicle). [link]

Two significant areas of anti-matter research that seem likely to yield significant results. [link]

The story of two Italian guys who listened in on the Soviet and American space programs with whatever they could cobble together. [link]

Jon Stewart talking about Super Tuesday. Or, rather, the coverage of Super Tuesday. [link]

A bizarre slow moving avalanche.

Fox News in 2008 - The President doesn't control the price of gas.
Fox News in 2012 - The President is solely responsible for the price of gas.

A kid's introduction to broadcast television. [link]

First ever video of a Lord Howe Island Stick Insect hatching. [link]

50 most hated movies. Not 50 worst. 50 most hated. [link]

DARPA's robot cheetah could outrun you if it didn't have an extension cord. [link]

Check out this scar pattern on a guy who was near a lightning strike. [link]

6 things rich people need to stop saying. [link]

How to extract your own DNA. [link]

Thursday, March 08, 2012

My house is falling apart

Long, long ago, a few months before I started this blog, a kitchen cabinet fell off the wall. The installers had made no attempt to hit a stud when hanging it and the way they installed the window had introduced a channel to get water between the gypsum board and bricks. So when the gypsum board got wet the screws ripped out of the wall.

About a month ago we noticed that the cabinet on the end of the set over the kitchen counter was sagging. I removed the screws and took it down. It was coming out of the gypsum board, too, but had the cabinet next to it to hold on to.

Wednesday morning, at around what-the-fuck-time-is-is o'clock, the cabinet that the previous one had been holding on to collapsed. It didn't come out of the wall. It came apart.

So today I'm emptying out my kitchen in preparation for a complete overhaul. I've known this day was coming. But now it's forced my hand.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Sod Off Wednesday: Super Tuesday

Yesterday was Super Tuesday. There are more primaries on that day than any other day in the election cycle. That includes Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia. I haven't seen the results yet, but it's safe to say that somebody needs to be told to sod off.

Since only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are on the ballot in Virginia I'm sure several candidates are telling Virginia to sod off.

This Saturday is the primaries for Kansas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. I applaud those places for holding a primary on a weekend so that more people may actually show up. But what does that say about Kansas that it's lumped in with Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands? Is Kansas that lame that it gets lumped in with things that aren't even states or does it require that low level of status to be clear headed enough to realize that people aren't gonna show up to vote during a weekday?

Does anyone else have a Virgin Island? Is there a Canadian Virgin Island? A Lithuanian Virgin Island? Are we talking virgin like the cute girl up the street when I was in middle school or that 45 year old greasy guy with the neck beard who out curses the 13 year old boys in Modern Warfare 3?

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

To market to market

To market to market to buy a fat pig
Home again home again jiggity jig
To market to market to buy a fat hog
Home again home again jiggity jog

To daycare to daycare where we forgot our kid
Home again home again jiggity jig
To daycare to daycare where we dropped off our sprog
Home again home again jiggity jog

What? I couldn't think of anything else to write.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Tips for those starting collage

Congratulations on getting through high school. I know, you may feel like all you did was put up with 12 years of having to show up and be bored. But about 1/3rd of all Americans drop out before they get this far. So you're doing better than you might think.

If you're off to college now there's a few tips you might need.

1) Most four year programs include three semesters of general education requirements. You're told they're necessary to make you a more rounded person. They're really there because your professors find that a ridiculous number of your classmates don't remember their high school classes. They passed the classes, but didn't learn much other than how to spit back data and pass a class.
These classes can be, and often are, used to let you slack off for the first year and a half of college. To give you time to figure out what you want to use your college years for. To change your major a time or two if you like. But if you already know what you want to major in then these general education requirements can be used to make college easier. Start with classes needed for your major and drop in one or two general education classes. This way you have a few easier classes mixed in with the harder classes. I mean, if you take all the general ed classes up front then later semesters are all the harder classes necessary for your major. If you mix them together the general ed classes give you some cushion so you can focus more on the hard classes.

2) A lot of people going off to college have no idea how to do their own laundry. Their parents have always washed their clothes for them. What's to know? Throw the dirty clothes in, add detergent, push the button, try to remember to come back in an hour to move the laundry to the drier. So long as you read the instructions on the detergent bottles guys are likely to be all set. Ladies, your clothes seem to have a self destruct feature. Be sure to read that little white label sewn into the seam and sort your clothes. Guys, should do that, too, but if you don't have a full load of jeans or shirts they're forgiving enough to allow you to mix them together. Once you're dealing with the sort of shirts that deserve a tie you want to get more picky.
Where I've seen most people stumble is with the drier. The drier has something called a lint filter. As bits of fuzz come off your clothes they want to blow out the vent in the side of the building. A filter is there to catch the lint and just let the hot air out. Otherwise the lint builds up in the hose leading outside and becomes a fire hazard. If the lint filter gets filled there's nowhere for the hot, wet air to go. Instead, the clothes stay wet. Find that lint filter and clean it. You may still need to run the drier twice to get your clothes dry, but twice is better than the six times you'll need if you don't clean that filter.

3) Legal or not, you're likely going to want to start drinking and drinking heavily. There's very little I could say to discourage this, so I'm just going to leave you with a warning. Alcohol numbs the brain. Beyond being buzzed, beyond being tipsy, beyond being drunk, there's a point where the alcohol numbs the brain stem to the point where it stops working. Without the brain stem you stop breathing and die. So drink, by all means. But don't be stupid about it.

3.1) Hangovers have two elements that make them miserable. One is dehydration. The other is withdrawal symptoms.
Dehydration can be helped by drinking water with your beers and more the next day.
The withdrawal symptoms are caused because your body got somewhat addicted and wants more. Some will advocate a bit of the hair of the dog that bit you (i.e. drink more alcohol). Another solution is orange juice or some other citrus drink. Some the alcohol has likely gotten into your fatty tissues. Citrus will help flush it back out. It may not get rid of the hangover, but it should take the edge off. Similarly, drinks with orange juice in them will help keep the alcohol out of the fat and in the blood stream prolonging the effect of the alcohol so you don't have to drink as much.

3.2) If you're drinking something other than beer, pay attention to what you're drinking and how it's made. You want to know what the different drinks are and how to make them.
It doesn't matter what field you're studying to work in, there are good times and there are bad. The economy goes up and the economy goes down. Jobs get exported and sometimes imported again. But there's always a demand for alcohol. Often the worse things are the more bartenders are needed. I swear the top two careers in Washington, DC are lawyers and bartenders.
So learn to mix drinks. That way you'll have a second option if you ever get laid off or downsized or rightsized or whatever the CEOs are calling it these days. Among the suit and tie crowd, knowing how to mix drinks from the boss's liquor cabinet may even help convince them to keep you.

4) Get involved with some campus organization. I know, you don't have the time. You have classes and homework and drinking to do. But, honestly, your most useful skills won't be gained in class. Doctors, lawyers, these people need to learn things. Most of the rest of you just need the degrees. Get in with the activities council or student government or Young Whatevers of America or something. The skills you develop with these groups will serve you better than what you learn in class.
I want to put special emphasis on the Student Activities Council or whatever your school calls them. They're the ones that spend entertainment budget on movies, talks, bands, casino nights, and whatnot. I learned some interesting things in classes, by almost all of my marketable skills came from planning and advertising events. And your chances of meeting famous people go way up.
I know, I
I never figured out what the Student Government did other than run campaigns for Student Government.

5) Go to class. Seriously, if you're gonna blow that kind of money on college the least you can do is show up. You'll be amazed at how much of your grade is just showing up. If you're in college they figure it's because you're there to learn something. While there are exceptions, the books are nearly worthless. What you need to learn is said in class. Pay attention and take notes. In many cases you'll never look at your notes, but they help you pay attention and get that stuff stuck in your head. There's less homework, but more of the homework you're given has to be done at home.

6) That big project needs to be started when it's assigned. Sure, you have six weeks. You might only need a week. If so make sure it's the first week and not the last.

7) Get some slippers. Or flip flops. Anything so you don't have to go out in the hall barefoot. First week of class, that carpet looks great, doesn't it? Very soon, and seemingly overnight, it's gonna change color. It's gonna change to something darker and unhealthy looking. Depending on how paranoid you are, you might want to wear those flip flops right into the shower. Look at the other people sharing a floor with you. Would you want your feet touching what their feet have touched?

8) Don't wash anything in the water fountain. There's always gonna be that one asshole who eats Ramen, washes his bowl in the water fountain, and leaves the noodles sitting there. It's disgusting and makes the water fountain pretty much off limits for everyone else. If you do in-dorm cooking use the bathroom sinks to wash the dishes. Oh, believe me, after you try the dining hall food you're gonna want to find other places to eat.

8.1) Keep Tums or some other upset stomach treatment handy. You may need to start thinking of them as after dinner mints.

9) If your roommate dies you won't get an automatic A. That's just a myth.

10) Naps are your friends. Classes don't last all day. You get breaks between classes. If it's not too far, go back to your room and get a nap. You were probably up late last night and classes started earlier than you would have liked. Set your alarm and get a nap.

10.1) Weekends are for catching up on your sleep. If you get out of bed before noon you have failed. Be a sleep camel. Store it up so you have it during the week.

11) Someone is likely going to write on that dry erase board on your door with a magic marker. Write over their marks with a dry erase pen and quickly wipe it off. That should get the magic marker off.

12) While you may not want to pile your classes too close together, you'll want to see about taking lots of Tuesday-Thursday classes or Monday-Wednesday instead of M-W-F. Or take your M-W-F classes in the morning. The less you have to do on Friday the longer your weekend. A heavily loaded Tu-Th schedule can allow you a part time job the rest of the week.

13) If you need to get a job, look at jobs at local hotels. See if you can work the night shift at the check-in counter. If gives you plenty of time to get your reading and other homework done.

Readers, what can you add?

Friday, March 02, 2012

Friday Links: March 2

You've probably read articles about places like this before, but I want you to read this Reddit bit. It's some people whose parents placed them in Christian reeducation camps talking about what happened inside. [link]

"Alien" as told by the cat. [link]

Old bras can be used to help prevent sex trafficking. [link]

I haven't checked them out yet, but here are 5 free games for you to print out. [link]

Spray on super antennas. Has potential as a new power source, too. [link]

Remember the "Everything is a Remix" films? Here's part 3 and part 4.
Just because the credits are rolling doesn't mean you should stop watching.

Part 1 of how to make a log coffee table with a chain saw.

part 2

I got caught up on my "Memory Palace" episodes. For not having heard any for a year and change there was remarkably little to catch up on. Here's a favorite about a crazy cat lady during the Civil War. [link]

Burial clothes for those who want mushrooms to feast on their remains. [link]
A fine idea, just don't expect me to put you on my pizza.

As expected, the faster than light neutrinos aren't really moving faster than light. [link]
How do you tell the difference between a faster than light neutrino and a tachyon? I'm thinking they're the same thing. Once the neutrino is moving faster than light it should be going backwards in time and be a tachyon. But since we only go forward in time wouldn't a tachyon look like a neutrino?

If a Tesla's battery is completely discharged it won't charge again. [link]
I saw a Tesla driving next to me in Baltimore last Monday. It's a nice looking car in person.

Anne Frank has been baptized as Mormon... again. [link]
Here's the thing, if the Mormon faith isn't true what does it matter what book they put your name in? It's shitty that they're doing it, but do you really think them putting someone's name in a different database is gonna get that person's soul moved from your heaven to one of the Mormon ones?

Sasha Baron Cohen was banned from the Oscars "Unless they’re assured that nothing entertaining is going to happen on the Red Carpet..." [link]
"Nothing entertaining." Boy, that's the Oscars all over.

Democrats in Georgia are responding to an anti-abortion bill with an vasectomy ban bill. [link]
At first I thought the vasectomy ban bill was legit. Many have tried to ban vasectomies in the past. One in Canada, had it passed, would have required people to have at least one kid before they could get snipped.

You can't be forced to decrypt your hard drive so law enforcement can check for the possibility of illicit material. If they KNOW there's something illegal, that's another matter. [link]

Squids can fly, not just glide. [link]

"If you've done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide." Wrong. This woman has been stalked by hundreds of police via the drivers license database. [link]

Recent improvements in oral controls for computers and wheelchairs. [link]

Art by walking in the snow. [link]

World in a tiny, tiny bottle. [link]

This report about a collapsing Republican brand, while factual, seems to be a case of Democrats shouting in an echo chamber. It's the sort of thing fed to people working on a Democrat's campaign staff and ignored everywhere else. Give me something like this with a 20 year outlook and I'll be much happier. [link]

This picture fascinates me. I have some theories about how it was done, what's your theory? [link]

Accuracy of weather forecasts by different agencies. [link]

Ships can leave con-trails, too. Here's a picture of the skies during a great day for condensation. [link]

Apparently Mitt Romney remembers things from the day he was conceived. Possibly even before. [link]

DAMN! I really wanted this article in the "Journal of Apocryphal Chemistry" to be real. It's on how to make Sudafed from crystal meth. [link]
It answered a question I posed several months ago. "N-methylamphetamine itself is a powerful
decongestant." I still wanna know! Is it?

Here, play with this. [link]

Bike chain sculpture. [link]

The song that inspired the Theme to Futurama.

Japanese company plans to have a space elevator in operation by 2050. I really hope they (or someone) pulls it off. [link]

More pics of Bill Murray as FDR. [link]

Game: The Old Tree - somewhat creepy game where you click things to allow the tentacled creature to move on. [link]

Tata Motors is releasing a car based on compressed gas technologies. However, it appears that it's frame won't meet American safety standards. [link]

Mary Poppins is a Time Lord. [link]

Dog trying to get a stolen baguette into it's kennel.

The man who designed the modern pinball machined recently died at the age of 100. [link]

Woah that was loud!

Two minutes from Pixar's "Brave".

See Disney? Force a sequel (Cars 2) and you get weak sauce. Let Pixar do what Pixar does and they'll make you a lot of money. NOW LEAVE THEM ALONE!

Another episode of Grand Theft Auto 4 with the friction on vehicles set to zero.

Fashions of the 20th century as seen from 1893. [link]

Apple Computers is now worth more than Poland. What else is it worth more than? [link]

Common mistakes made in the kitchen. [link]

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Magical Mystery Tour

It occurs to me that the magical mystery tour is very suspicious. As cheery as the song about it may be, it announces right up front that the Magical Mystery Tour is coming to take you away. See that? Open and honest intent to abduct people. It's a serial kidnapper. You can't trust it. You certainly can't leave your kids alone with it.