Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Links: December 20

You've heard of Absolute Zero. There's also Absolute Hot. It's 255,021,300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000° F. [link]

I've been pillaging this site for old radio shows to listen to in the car. [link]

Most tragic headline ever. [link]
I know, it's not really the most tragic. 

This picture is from an experiment where they take out all the cells of a heart, leave the connective tissues, then repopulate it with cells from the organ recipient. The idea is to prevent tissue rejection. [link]

Buy their water bottles! [link]

Evidence that Mars likely once had an oxygen rich environment. [link]

An unsettling cartoon. [link]

Batman versions of Christmas movies.

Rethought MST3K. [link]

I wanna see this world developed into a book or movie. [link]

The universe could be collapsing. [link]

A high quality Sherlock and Doctor Who crossover fan film.

Where all these damn squirrels came from. [link]

This guy thinks we should be eating more nuts. [link]

Following the bit about where shirts come from, here's where they go after we're done. [link]

AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon are pushing legislation that allows them to kill landlines entirely. [link]

Metallica has now done a concert on all 7 continents. [link]

What the new female GM CEO is up to with the company. [link]

I've got a lot more links to sort through, but I'm stopping there, this week.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Santa Park

I have a vision for a short cartoon. In my head it looks rather South Parkish.


Picture this, the Army sets up a Santa display in an Afghani town, which one isn't important. The display has a big throne on a platform covered with fake snow, a Christmas tree and a couple of giant candy canes as a backdrop, and a couple of conspicuous soldiers, maybe Secret Service, with machine guns standing guard on each side. Santa walks out from behind the backdrop laughing and holding his belly. He moves to sit down and bellows "HELLOoooo, CHILL... ...dren." hesitating noticibly when he finally looks at the crowd.

Flash to the crowd. There's about a thousand, three foot tall, kids all glaring at Santa. I can't decide if I should make them all turban wearing and with long beards or add in a decent mix of three foot tall black shrouds with eyes that would be little girls. None of them are moving or making a sound. It would be a bit like when Buzz Lightyear first saw the field of green, three eyed aliens, in the claw machine.

Flash back to Santa swallowing hard, glancing over at a stern looking man in dark sunglasses, dark suit, and an ear piece who nods at Santa.

Santa grins a big toothy grin.

Santa sits.

Patting his lap, Santa calls up the first little kid. The kid gets lifted into place and Santa asks "What's your name little boy?"

A closeup of the child. The child blinks.

The beard opens up and stream of "Mujabalasalafaladalasimsalabim!" pours out causing Santa to jump.

"My, that's a mouthful. And what would you like for Christmas?"

Screaming "To crush the American imperialist running dogs, to drive the godless infidels from my home and Allah's chosen land, and a pony." At which point the child's mouth opens covering most of his face so we can see his tonuge wiggle as he lets out "ALALALALALALALALALALALALAL..."

Cut to the crowd where all the little boys have their heads opened up and are yelling similarly and firing uzi's into the air. If I include girls in the crowd their eye will be whipping back and forth nervously.

Flash to the man in black who puts his hand to his ear and says "Mr. President, Operation 'Christianize Afghanistan' is not, repeat, is NOT, going strictly according to plan."


Mind you, I wrote this in the early years of the invasion of Afghanistan when Bush was in office. I can totally see him trying to convert a nation by introducing Santa and Christmas.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday Links: December 13

Bee deaths are being blamed on the pesticide ingredient neonicotinoids. It's the only theory I'm hearing these days so I guess they've finally settled on just one thing. Here's a list of pesticides that use neonicotinoids. [link]

Oldest globe in the world. [link]

Good guy Satanists show jack ass Christians the error of their ways. [link]

Toddler that kicks ass at basketball. [link]

20 things the rich do every day. [link]
Written by someone who doesn't understand what "poor" means.

20 things the poor do every day. [link]
Written by someone who does.

The last VW Type 2 Microbuses are being built. [link]

The Fallout 4 website was a hoax. But Fallout 4 IS under development. They're looking for voice actors. [link]

The US sold off the last of its GM stock this week. They took a loss on the stock, but came out ahead economically. [link]

Tell this site what Lego sets you have and it'll tell you what else you can build. [link]

Lost Egyptian city found underwater. [link]

Radiolab Live. It's two hours and I haven't watched it, but I'm sure it's worth it. I'll watch it soon.

Another option for using your Dougmas Jars. GiveDirectly to a family in Kenya and Uganda. [link]

Depressing holidays. [link]

Massive Finnish nuclear waste disposal site. [link]

This year marked the smallest increase in medical costs in more than a decade. But hospital costs are still exorbitant. [link]

Could you pass a citizenship test? [link]

The Blues Brothers mall chase scene done with Legos.

And then check out their channel.

Video of the Moon orbiting the Earth.

If different wavelengths of light are affected differently by fluctuations in space/time then the Big Bang may not have happened. [link]
What do you mean IF?! I've been operating under that assumption for decades!

The viability of sex as exercise. [link]

Why is it harder to come out as an atheist politician than as a gay one? [link]

Brooke Shields got her old car back. [link]

10 frame animated photos. [link]

Cats really are ignoring you. [link]

Stolen cobalt-60 recovered. [link]

20,000 people applied for 400 Ikea jobs. Spain has an unemployment problem. [link]

There's a bit more than just the sounds of fingers on a table.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Why I missed class

Back in college I was in an electronics class putting together a circuit on a breadboard. In front of me was a multimeter/oscilloscope that started making a horrible noise. I gave it a whack and it shut up. A few minutes later it started again. So I whacked it again. This repeated a few more times until I realized that it wasn't the multimeter, but an alarm clock. I was actually in bed and it was time to get up and go to class. But I was purple and spherical. I knew this. I had been purple and spherical my whole life. In fact, I was a giant grape. I realized something then. Fruit doesn't have to go to class. Because it's fruit. So I turned off my alarm, rolled over, and went back to sleep.

Now, imagine later that afternoon as I walked into my second class of the day with the teacher whose class I missed. I went over and explained to her why I missed class and the test that morning. She looked at me for a long time and said "I wish I was a giant grape." I got to make up the test.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Both Christmas trees, both Christmas trees

I made another Christmas "Tree". It's actually a bunch of silver christmas ornaments hung from fishing wire in rings to form a cone. The strings are attached to a window screen attached to the ceiling. I should have done two more rings, but I didn't.

Next year I'll use foam core draw rings, and staple the strings to the foam.

It's based on this design. [link]

Monday, December 09, 2013

Quantum Santa

The question of how Santa Claus manages to visit every home in the world in a single night has long baffled children of all ages. To answer the question we must look to the other conditions of his visit. Specifically the idea that you must go to bed before Santa will come.

Santa's visit goes unseen year after year. Searches for his Arctic toy factory have similarly been unfruitful. Not because it's not there, but because it can't be seen. You see, Santa exists in a quantum state.

Subatomic particles exist not as a point but as a probability cloud. Observation of the particle causes the probability waveform to collapse and it's position to be set. Working along similar lines, come the early morning of December 25 Santa exists in millions if not billions of homes simultaneously. If he were seen his waveform would collapse and he'd exist in only one house. Obviously he'd never meet his schedule if that happened regularly. He must exist in all those places to get the job done. Children must be in bed and asleep so they won't risk seeing Santa before he can manifest in their house.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Friday Links: December 6

Han Solo's blaster going up for auction. [link]

Modern vintage movie art. [link]

A chem lab Christmas. [link]

Mangafication of "classic" movies. [link]

Video of an avalanche hitting a warehouse. [link]

The degradation of quality of a copy of a copy of a copy holds through YouTube just as it did on a VCR.

Eagle steals camera.

High school demonstration of Einstein's gravitational space warping model.

Weak password for nuclear silos.

How to be a feminist according to stock photography. [link]

A recent history of US/Iraq relations and what's in the nuclear deal. [link]

RIP Scott Adams' father. Scott wants everyone who denied his father a peaceful death to die horribly and slowly. [link]

I'm unsure how this works, but it's impressive log splitting.

Animals WERE harmed during the making of these movies. [link]

Efforts to get a chimp legally recognized as a person. [link]

8 basic life saving skill everyone should know. [link]
Really? "You appear to be having a heart attack. Have some aspirin!"

Planet Money makes a T-shirt and shows you the whole process from growing to delivery. [link]

A quick summary of what's possible and happening with 3D printing.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Obligatory Dougmas post

It's the Dougmas season again. I'm greedy so I'm claiming the whole month. The ultimate expression of the spirit of Dougmas is to say fuck you to the Salvation Army with a Dougmas Jar.

Take a jar and place it where you set your keys when you get home. When you empty out your pockets put all the change in the jar. Mind you, these days you might have to make some extra effort to use cash in December just so you'll have the change. At the end of the month you take that money and give it to your favorite charity that isn't the Salvation Army. 

The Salvation Army is pissed that they can't discriminate in their hiring practices, but they do still put the care of (and proselytizing to) the needy above their own bigotry. But, where legal, they do turn away homosexuals for aid and refuse to hire them. A good deal of the money given to them is spent in lobbying efforts to make them exempt from these laws both here and internationally. More money is spent on bibles and other material used to try to convert those who need their help. This year their leadership even admitted that their official stand on homosexuals is that they should all die. Seriously, it's in their handbook.

Some of our preferred charities are
* Solar Electric Light Fund (
* Trees for the Future (
* Wayne Foundation (
* Dian Fossey Gorilla Foundation (
* Save the Rhino (

I also encourage you to plant a Douglas Fir. Considering that the ground is likely frozen and hard to dig it is acceptable to wait until May 25, Towel Day, to plant your tree. The world needs all the trees it can get.

But above all, try to find the time to spend with family and close friends this month. It doesn't have to be near the solstice or New Year or any other date, but you're more likely to be able to get days off around then.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Faux Christmas tree, faux Christmas tree

I just set up Grandma's Aluminum Christmas tree. It's older than I am by about a decade. The lighting is from color change LED strips I got from Ikea. They replace a lamp with a motorized spinning color wheel that came with the tree and I've never seen. And since my library is under renovation I threw up a spare section of wall panel behind the tree to hide my shame.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Holiday shit list

Now that we're into the Dougmas season I should give you this years list of businesses and charities that don't deserve our money.

Hobby Lobby doesn't sell stuff for Hanukkah, because fuck Jewish people. [link 1] [link 2]

The Salvation Army steps it up this year by stating that their policy is that gays should be put to death. [link]

Chick Fil A still thinks gays are horrible and shouldn't marry.

The Christian Children's Fund refused $17,000 raised in memory of Gary Gygax (in 2008). They didn't want money donated by Dungeons and Dragons players or that was raised by selling D&D merchandise. The poor children that might be fed or provided with clean drinking water were better off hungry than fed with dirty gamer money.

I still don't know if they followed through, but Christian Charities threatened to stop providing aid in Washington, DC if they were forced to obey local anti-discrimination laws. They did stop providing support to spouses of employees when DC legalized gay marriage. They also gave all foster care duties to another organization so they'd never have to adopt out children to gay couples.

And I'm still pissed at for being patent trolls. They patented 1-click ordering back in the mid-90s despite the fact they didn't invent it and were one of several websites using it and then started attacking the other sites. It wasn't long ago they also patented social networking sites. But, I won't get on your case if you cut them some slack. The other ones, I'm going to give you a disappointed look if they see your money.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday Links: November 29

J.P. Morgan tried to have a Q and A session online. They had to cancel it. [link]

Lee Harvey Oswald's pallbearers were all volunteers from the media because nobody else showed. [link]

Long but interesting article about a fight with a major "revenge porn" host. [link]

Carving a turkey with an elephant rifle.

Man dies on TV while the audience laughs. [link]

Making happier cities. [link]

What is the "nuclear option" for filibusters? [link]

Tips for poster design. [link]

How to identify artists from their paintings. [link]

Envisioning a post-antibiotic era. [link]

90 companies are responsible for 66% of all greenhouse gas emissions. [link]

When Hanukkah will cross with other holidays. [link]

Abandoned websites that still work. [link]

New British Airways billboard.

The fight to wipe out polio (and a few other successes and failures). [link]

A problem with an Xbox One stream.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Movie Review: All is Lost

I recently watched the nearly-silent movie titled "All is Lost". Robert Redford plays a sailor whose ship is damaged by a drifting shipping container. The boat's taking on water, his electronics are shot, but little by little things get better... right up until the point where they get much, much worse.

"All is Lost" pulls you into the movie and makes you feel the whole thing. Even without explosions and car chases the movie keeps you in suspense almost the whole time. Even when things are going well and you start to feel hopeful and start to relax you still know there's more to come. Robert Redford silently goes about the business of trying to save his ship and supplies and his silence is what helps draw you in. You have to pay attention to what he's doing since he won't tell you. Even if he grumbled or talked to himself it would break the tension and make the audience smile. It also serves to show you how bad off he really is when he finally does break and scream out his frustrations.

I highly recommend this movie. I'll get it on DVD and probably give a few away, too.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary post

Whether you're a fan or not, you've heard about the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who. It first aired on 23 November 1963. It replayed a week later since the first showing had poor viewership due to the assassination of JFK dominating the news. Even so, it had immediate popularity.

It was originally designed as a kids show. This tells me that England either treats its kids differently than we do in the US or that they do a better job of recognizing that different age levels like different entertainment.

There's been a lot to celebrate the 50th Anniversary. To the left you see a metal I got for a virtual 5K for charity. No shutting down city streets and screwing up traffic. Just run your own race.

A couple of months back they had a second Doctor Who Proms. Yeah, apparently they use that word differently than we do.

A few days ago the BBC had a special episode to commemorate the anniversary. Alas, Christopher Eccleston decided to opt out, but Matt Smith and David Tennant made the show along with a lost Doctor mentioned first at the end of last season and an extreme closeup with the next Doctor on the schedule as well as a surprise Doctor. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart passed away, but an actress playing his daughter and current head of UNIT also figures prominently.

If you go back to the first episode when the show came back in 2005 you see The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) in Rose Tyler's living room look at himself in the mirror and evaluate his features. This tells us that his regeneration was so new he hadn't seen a mirror, yet. Not since the end of last weekend's special. Over the next few episodes we learn that all the Time Lords, The Doctor's people, are dead. They were killed in The Time War. And The Doctor killed them. It was something that ate at him and gave darkness to his character. But we'd assumed that it was he or The Doctor (Paul McGann) from the 1996 Fox movie that fought in the war. With the recent short "The Night of The Doctor" we saw the death of that Doctor and the creation of The War Doctor (John Hurt).

This special is about The War Doctor and his decision to wipe out his own people if it would take out all of the Daleks as well. He had to know what would become of him and what he would think about himself and what he'd done. And maybe, given 400 years, if he could come up with another way of doing things.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Another stupid Superman post

It's a good thing Superman doesn't exist. He'd be constantly getting shot at. If people know that a particular individual is completely invulnerable they're going to want to test it themselves. At first it'll just be nutjobs fearing alien invasion, the usual guys who assassinate good people, and people trying to impress Jodie Foster. Then random people who want to see it for themselves or who think it'll be funny will start shooting him. Before long it'll be a game. People will be finding new and creative ways to shoot Superman and post the video to YouTube. Eventually, the fad will die off, but there will always be people who shoot Superman for fun and sport. Superman will have to spend as much effort watching for incoming bullets to catch so they don't ricochet into bystanders as he does actually fighting crime.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Links: November 22

The story of the Simon's Cat creator.

Breaking Bad alternate ending from the DVD special features. [link]

MI6 hacked AlQaida's website and swapped bomb making instruction with a cupcake recipe. [link]

I never played the game Glitch, but it's creators have gone belly up and make the game public domain. You can get art and code and whatnot for yourself. [link]

Blockbuster's tombstone. [link]

Texts from Star Trek: TNG. [link]

The idea that half the brain is for logic and the other for creativity is complete and total crap. That said, enjoy this quiz about which side you use most. [link]

Competitive? Laughing? [link]

You've seen the gif, now see the commercial. Jean Claude Van Damme doing the splits between semis.

Sarah Palin as asshole of the day. [link]
Are you kidding? Only of the day? She needs her own parking spot since she's there so much.

Short news quiz. [link]
I didn't know who the blonde woman with the pale skin is. I nailed everything else. 

How to open a can without tools. [link]

In Iraq video games are about the only safe hobby. [link]

An article about self-driving cars. [link]

Speaking of self driving cars, if you haven't seen it yet, you should watch "The Great Robot Race" from Nova. [link]

A musical instrument designed by Leonardo DaVinci is played for the first time. [link]

Magpie and puppy playing.

Social media may make for worse writing, but better writers. [link]

The dispute between the Cheney sisters over gay rights. [link]

So that's what the Canadian army is for!

Well we aaaaaall shiiiiine oooon... given a long enough exposure. [link]

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Jury duty report

Never mind. I got excused from jury duty.

It's a relief. Last time I did this I was led over to another building for the jury selection and never had to return to the original courthouse. This time we stayed inside the main courthouse in a much cozier courtroom. The problem was getting into that courthouse. It's much like going through airport security, but the line is out in the cold November air instead of a warm, sheltered, airport terminal. I don't want to stand in near freezing temperatures every morning for 20 minutes. But the light shining off the ice crystals in the air over our heads was kinda pretty.

We gathered to go to the courtroom near the escalators. While waiting, some bits of plastic came flying off the bottom of one of them. When we looked closer we saw that one of the stairs had caught on the metal platform instead of sliding under it. It jammed up the escalator, but good. It was pretty impressive.

The case I would have been on was just standard criminal stuff. Some guy was allegedly selling PCP.

They now have ATMs in the courthouse where you can get your daily pay and proof of service immediately. A significant chunk of the nation's supply of one dollar bills must be in stock to keep those machines fed.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

irregular schedule

I have to report for jury duty tomorrow. Last time I spent 6 weeks there. So I'm going to use it to justify irregular postings for a little while.

Monday, November 18, 2013


The doctor's creed is to do no harm.
The government's creed is to do no work.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Links: November 15

Before you watch the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who episode "The Day of the Doctor" you need to see this short "The Night of the Doctor".

I'm "Invasion of the Disco Death Bots". What's your monster movie? [link]

The whitest jobs in America. [link]

A Kickstarter for a 3 string guitar for kids and beginners. [link]

Fact about gender based pay inequity. [link]

Google barges are boring. [link]

A different way to police. [link]

Interview with the Hyperbole and a Half girl. [link]

Fairy armadillos. [link]

Game: Zombies Inc. - eat everyone in the world [link]

Nested brick games. [link]

Thursday, November 14, 2013


I saw a jellyfish in the wild last weekend. Not a great picture, unfortunately.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Home repair update

It's been awhile since I've told you how my house is coming. I believe the last thing I told you was that I hung my ceiling fan by myself.

I got the radiators hooked backed up and the system refilled with water. Considering that I'd not dealt with radiator systems before I'm pretty happy.

I finished putting up the drywall on the bedroom walls and ceiling with special care to go around the radiator pipes, outlets, and light fixtures. Then I went on to do the walls and ceiling in the hallway. Because I raised the ceiling I had to put some boards on the ceiling to give the upper part of the wall something to brace against. I failed to put leveling boards on the ceiling so there's some warping to the hall ceiling.

Back in the bedroom I put a window shelf under each window. It gave me a reason to use the tiny nail gun that came with my air compressor. The big issue there was cutting the boards so they were flush against the window and stuck out from the wall the same distance clear across. That was tricky because warping in the wall meant that the distance from the window to the face of the wall is different on the left side of the window than on the right. Then more drywall above and to the sides of the window.

Then I got a local unemployed guy named Cliff to come do the mudding. I gave it a shot myself and realized quickly that I shouldn't be touching it. I'm better than I was, but that's still a long way from good. But, I'm realizing that there's a reason Cliff is unemployed. He's not real good at showing up when he says he will. Nor, for that matter, showing up at all. Luckily he's cheap.

He's gotten the three layers of mud and the sanding done on the drywall, but he's also doing some patch work on the plaster over the brick and filling in those spaces between the drywall and the brick wall. If he shows up three more times he'll be done. The trick is getting him to show.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Movie Review: Thor - The Dark World

When watching Thor 2 I couldn't help but compare it to the Star Wars prequels. It's a beautifully costumed and landscaped science fiction movie with elements of magic and completely failing to convince us that Natalie Portman and the lead character have more than a casual friendship. They're not in love. They're just not. Not in the first movie, not in this one. I'm not sure what it would take to convince me, but they didn't do it. 
The movie even has the three major settings that Lucas likes to use in his movies. 

Similarly, the passing of one of the secondary characters doesn't elicit any more emotional response than the passing of Pepper Potts in Iron Man 3 did. But I was pretty sure Pepper was coming back. That death didn't seem to motivate people the way that the death of Agent Phil Coulson did in The Avengers. 

Loki and Thor, on the other hand, do a decent job of being brothers. Loki is his usual hard to read self. He's betraying someone, but the question is "who?". At one point I'm fairly sure he even betrayed himself. I didn't really understand what I was seeing there until I sat down to write this and put some thought into it. 

It's nice to see Rene Russo getting a battle scene. 

The prologue gets repeated during the movie. That's a bit distracting. It works better as part of the movie, but there's some scenes early on that don't make much sense if you don't have the prologue explaining who they are. So what's preferable? The action sequence at the beginning telling the story or the people gathered around a table telling the story more naturally? 

We do get to see more of Thor's friends, but not as much as I felt they deserved. Thor has his own Avengers in Asgard and they get cheated. It's like watching Tom Cruise in Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible Starring Tom Cruise. Wasn't there supposed to be other people in this movie? Sif does make it look like she has some interest in Thor and he shows regret that he's not able to return her feelings. The guy who played his swashbuckling friend whose name eludes me needs a good 1920's style Three Musketeers movie of his own. 

I didn't recognize Christopher Eccleston as the lead villain at all. 

You're going to see Thor 2 largely to see Thor and Loki. They're the stars and they're the actors who make the movie. 

If you're looking for movie suggestions, I'd say see Ender's Game before you see Thor 2. In the Marvel Studios series Thor 2 is "also there". But, at this point, criticizing the Marvel movies is like criticizing a Pixar movie. The worst of the lot is still better than so many other movies out there. Meanwhile, making the best Fantastic Four movie still gets you the death penalty in some more repressive countries. 

If you see it, be sure to sit all the way through the credits. There are two scenes before the lights come back on.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Friday Links: November 8

Thomas Kinkade paintings fixed to make them good. [link] [link]

JPL's pumpkin carving contest.

Clark Kent exists in the Marvel Universe. [link]

The status of fusion energy. [link]

1896 bike path map. [link]

Kitten rental. [link]

Creepy cartoon. [link]

25 flu vaccine myths debunked. [link]

Removal of a poster shell. [link]

Texas denies former Speaker of the House a voter ID card. [link]

Interactive sea level rise map. [link]

National Geographic's much nicer maps of the same flooding. [link]

Taurid meteor showers this weekend! [link]

When a fax machine calls a voice transcription service. [link]

Water curtains over tunnels tell drivers to stop.

Town comes back from a flood after 25 years. [link]

Before there were trees there were gigantic mushrooms. [link]

Screw the article, I just like how this web page functions. [link]

Playtex made the Apollo space suits and there's a movie about it coming soon. [link]

20 popular songs that were covers. [link]

Woman falls in fountain because she's texting and then sues the mall. [link]

The Encyclopedia of American Loons. [link]

Even the NFL has a jocks vs nerds mentality. [link]

Is this a picture of something big or tiny? [link]

The western black rhino is now extinct. [>link]

The story of a fake hitman. [link]

Two planes full of sky divers crash. Check out the video. [link]

Listen to songs with certain mics dropped out. [link]

Popular Mechanics 110 best DIY tips. [link]
I remember seeing #63 on MacGyver!

Russians doing dirt mover acrobatics.

Hillary Clinton on access to abortion.

Obamacare winners and losers. [link]

Notes from the guy who invented the calendar. [link]

How romance ruined marriage. [link]

Applebees and Papa Johns are taking a beating for their Obamacare opposition. [link]

How to make monster teeth.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Speaking as a government employee who has to take way too many classes online and fill out lots of forms online, all on government and military systems, I have to wonder why anyone is surprised that doesn't work worth shit. It works every bit as well as the rest of the online systems, which is to say, not at all.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Movie review: Ender's Game

I read the book Ender's Game more than 15 years ago. It immediately joined my top 25 most recommended books. The next few books are very skippable. I recommend giving copies to your middle school aged kids, particularly if the kids are smart. Gifted kids really relate to Ender and he can help them accept their brains more readily. It's also on the recommended reading lists for command staff in all branches of the military for the creative tactical thinking used by Ender.

Making the movie was a pain in the butt. The main enemy in the book is Ender's brother who spends most of the book on a different planet. And almost the whole cast is young children. They didn't think they could find enough children who were decent actors. Orson Scott Card tried using elements from "Ender's Shadow" which tells the same story through the eyes of another character. And after years of trying they finally managed to pull it off.

There are some issues. Some are memory issues since it's been so long since I read it. Most are due to time constraints. I don't remember Earth schools being as militant as they're presented in the movie. Mostly I would like to have seen more time in the battle arena. They don't really show how the battles work or get into the tactics that Ender came up with to make his team great. So when his team does finally fight you don't really understand how much things have been stacked against him and how much the commanders are cheating to screw things up for Ender. But the battle they showed did cover some of the features of book battles that I liked as well as mirroring the battle tactics that would be used at the end of the simulations.

I also want to talk about the science in the movie. They seemed to make an effort to avoid magical tech whenever possible. For the most part I believe that the world they presented could be real in 50 years if the political will was there to create it. The instantaneous communications system between star system is theoretically possible using quantum entanglement. With a few exceptions the space station's variably gravity was doable. It seemed to be based heavily on the ships and stations in "2001: A Space Odyssey". Only the big weapon at the end seems of questionable tech.

I liked this movie and recommend it, but I recommend reading the book, too. Any order you like is fine. Just take in both.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Seasonal candy

Stage three Halloween candy is now on sale. This has me wondering about something. If I leave two month old Halloween candy out for Santa am I insulting him by leaving old candy for him or is it a treat because he's finally getting different candy than he's used to? Santa spent centuries eating pork pies, then milk and cookies, and now, apparently, Christmas candy. But does he get Halloween candy? Or Easter candy? How about a bagel and lox? And would he appreciate it if he got it? Or do his Santa powers come from Christmas foods?

Monday, November 04, 2013

Halloween decorations

One of my earliest Halloween memories was of going next door in costume and seeing a dummy on a lawn chair with a knife in it's chest. Of course, I wasn't completely sure it was a dummy. The father of that house did creep me out so there was a very loud voice in my head saying that he'd killed someone. That's Halloween. Something scary and big candy bars. That's what you'll remember for years to come. And I try to bring that to kids on Halloween.

This year I had some workshop space so I got to work on some good decorations.

A year or two back I saw this trick for how to make decent fake intestines. Put down plastic, spray some ribbons of foam insulation like you use to seal around doors and windows, and pink spray paint.

Intestines. Or raspberry sorbet. One of the two.
Then I took the plastic from under the intestines and wrapped it around my plastic skull. A zip tie bound it to make a neck. Then a heat gun pulled the plastic tight over the skull. A few holes poked in the plastic and then hit with heat made the "flesh" look more rotten.

Pretty in pink.
Pull the plastic that hung off the skull through a shirt depicting the horrors of the 90s and cut if off at the waist. Then wad up some plastic a bit longer than sleeves. Twist the plastic more in some places than other to change the thickness of the plastic and form more realistic arm shapes within the sleeves. Any extra should be left untwisted inside the shirt to help visually connect the arm to the torso. The intestines get shoved up the bottom of the shirt.

Want some candy, little girl?
The Book Thing got picked over to give me books for children to pick over for All Hallows Read.
31 books. I threw a couple of unwanted comic books on later.
And I had candy to make sure they didn't come back and egg the house of the doof who was giving out books.

Hooligan insurance.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Friday Links: November 1

Game: Volt Connect 2 - similar to the game Goo. Put out creatures to connect the circuit. [link]

Game: The Word Alone - make words and push them around the board to shove off all the letters except A L O N E. [link]

Baby stick figure costume.

Sarah Palin doesn't know what Easter is. [link]

What it's like to be eaten by a hippo. [link]

The woman who has been protesting outside the White House for 30+ years. [link]

A man with two penises and an arm coming from his crotch. [link]

Book publishers stand strong against Texas state school board. [link]

Porcupines make yummy noises.

A Stargate woosh costume. [link]

Wolverine as a Disney princess. [link]

Marching band doing movie themes and formations.

Sugar doesn't make you hyper. [link]
John Williams is effectively immortal thanks to marching bands.

I need this in my house. [link]

Posted just for Batman's parents. [link]

How many countries are there?

Free art books. [link]

Monitor an unsupported 1800 mile Antarctic journey. [link]

CCTV footage of the Westgate Mall terrorists.

Oldest known creature with a face. [link]

What doctors wouldn't do. [link]

Cooperation between police and social media. [link]

Car commercial using illusions.

Clever resume. [link]

Fines for texting and driving across the country. [link]

When allies spy on allies. [link]

Everyone can be a math person. [link]

Why poor people buy pricey stuff. [link]

Modern copyright and possibly another extension. [link]

Google may be building a floating server farm. [link]
Perfect for a takeover by The PirateBay.

How to travel in time.

Reddit asks former racists why they changed their minds. [link]

Fastest archer on Earth. [link]

What guns is AlQaeda using? [link]
Some as old as 1915.

20 songs you didn't know were remakes. [link]

Thursday, October 31, 2013

I'm useful!

Back in October of 2007 I wrote a post on gravitational lensing. While Googling myself the other day I found where someone had borrowed art that I drew for that post for their Powerpoint presentation on the same topic.

Here's the picture I drew
If you're really curious, you can look at the presentation here.

Ooh, look. I've also been referenced in a forum discussion on the subject.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Website workaround

I was sent an article from the New York Times only to find out that my free articles for the month had run out. I had heard about using Google Translator to get around firewalls (I'll be trying it at work today [Nope, the IT guys at this base are smarter than that]) so I figured it might work for this article. Sure enough, I could read the article without paying.

Here's how you do it. Go to Google Translator, feed the URL into the translation box, and hit "Translate". There you have the French (or whatever) version of the website. Now click View: Original and you have the normal version of the site.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

RIP Marcia Wallace

Marcia Wallace passed away Friday. Her's isn't a name most people would recognize, but her voice is. She played the voice of Edna Krabappel (Bart's teacher), the crazy cat lady, and other voices on The Simpsons. I also remember seeing her on The Bob Newhart Show (different from the show Newhart) as a kid. They plan to retire the character just like they did to Troy McClure after Phil Hartman died.

Depending on who you talk to, Marcia either died from complications due to pneumonia or complications due to returning breast cancer. Supposedly she was able to tell the show's producers that she had health issues. I'm hoping they gave her a chance to say goodbye.

Monday, October 28, 2013


I accidentally duplicated last Thursday's post. I must be more tired than I thought. Check back Tuesday.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Links: October 25

Pope says ideological Christians are a serious illness within the church. [link]
True, but we didn't think you knew, Popey. 

Jeeves and Weasley - Rupert Grint and Stephen Fry's unaired pilot.

Complete footage of Felix Baumgartner's Stratos jump.

Thorium reactor technology.

Game: Back to the Cuthboy 2 - You're stuck in ancient Athens and need to foil a plot to take over Athens and get your time machine back. [link]

6ft otters! [link]

Tea Party negotiations.

Wind up doggie.

Flying cardboard.

A Witch Hazel sculpture. Complete with hair pins on the ground. [link]

Your Toyota may have a spider problem. [link]

Batmobiles that never were. I like the van. [link]

Doctor Who coins. [link 1] [link 2]

The inventor of FM radio was driven to suicide by competitors. [link]

Austin professor to spend year living in a dumpster. [article] [blog]

Classic music insults. [link]

House stenographer cracks and charges the dais. [link]

The Army needs new uniforms... again. [link]

Texas finds a way to get rid of married women voters. [link]

Most popular girls names state-by-state by year for the last 6 decades. [link]

Automated quality coffee machine. [link]

The bystander effect goes away when there's a camera. [link]

Understand the Tea Party and the modern GOP as a whole. [link]
short version: They want the 70's back.

Street apes of Jakarta. [link]

Lincoln's favorite infographic. [link]

How dangerous are food colorings? [link]

Sentence traps. [link]
‘I’m not saying she deserved to be raped, but,’ and other ways to never start a sentence

The story of the girl that slimy lawyer in the previous article was talking about. [link]

Cities with the most air pollution in the world. [link]

Why I Left Medicine. [link]

How to fix math class. [link]

Creepy costumes. [link]

Painting chrome lettering lesson.

Run this off to the side while you do something else. It's kinda interesting to watch, but long and slow. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cat dwelling

Last night I made a dwelling for my local stray cats. The barrel was a rain barrel I made for the DC house. Since I'd cut a hole in the lid to let water in I wasn't going to be able to use it as a roof. So I flipped the barrel, made the hole bigger, and fit it over the bottom of the barrel to give the roof a bit of overhang and keep rain from coming in.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Halloween preparations.

Some intestines I've made for Halloween. Insulation foam like you use to seal windows and spray paint.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Lady Leatherneck

My bedroom is nearing completion. As I work on the last few bits I've started looking to see what's under the second sheet of linoleum. What I found is newspaper from 1945. Here's the front page. I think this needs framed.

Gandolf quote

Saturday night Gandolf asked me "What's your fuckin' problem?"

Perhaps I shouldn't be watching The Sopranos with her.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Links: October 18

A land mine detecting plant. [link]

Concrete arrows across America. [link]

Raven comes looking for help to get rid of porcupine quills. [link]

A brief history of mayo. [link]

The internet is proving to be a source of doubt for some Mormons. [link]

Drinking in Antarctica. [link]

Kirk Douglas, Kirk Douglas, and Kirk Douglas in a short animation.

Bungee jumping prank.

Rotating your tires in Saudi Arabia.

Weird Al's "Albuquerque" using clips from Breaking Bad.

Rules of the internet. [link]

Earth and Moon from Saturn. [link]

The vitamin myth OR The most right and wrong person in recent history. [link]

Demolishing Detroit. [link]

What stars different songs have reached. [link]

Moisture vaporator billboard. [link]

Koch brothers realize their own strategy is bad for their business. [link]

Game: Tiny Hack (best guess) - An absurdly low resolution adventure game. [link]

Retweeting peoples real world Obamacare experience. [link] [selections]

Renderings of the average man's figure by nationality. [link]

Best way to die in space. [link]

20 funny business names. [link]

The scientific consensus on GMO foods. [link]

Where woman are happy and secure pick-up artists don't work. [link]

This doesn't really explain the Higgs Boson, either. But it tries. [link]

Fusion that releases more energy than it takes in has finally been achieved. [link]

Isn't it a bit early for Best of 2013 articles? [link]

13 things wrong with Congress. [link]

Footage of a Grasshopper rocket test taken by a Hexacopter camera.

Banksy had an art sale but nobody knew it was him and not a knockoff.

I can never make clay act like this. [link]

Hard sci-fi stories. [link]

Deer with basketball in antlers. [link]

Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner have supper on TV trays every night and watch a movie. [link]

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pear tree - year 1

I planted a pear tree yesterday and put Gandolf in it. I'm hoping to make this picture an annual event to show how much it grows with Gandolf for scale.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Asimov world

One of the things that struck me about the universe that Isaac Asimov created was the economics of the different worlds. Colonized planets often had a dozen robots for every human being and the humans all lived like millionaires. Earth, on the other hand, had only a few robots and the people had to bust their butts. But this was by design. Earth had too many people. They couldn't figure out how to switch to an economy where people didn't have to work. To keep the jobs they outlawed most robots.

More and more this seems like a problem that we'll have to address soon. A properly built car factory can be run with only three people. Some already do. Those three people only needing to shut things down if the robots screw up. This story is common as manufacturing starts coming back to the United States. Few jobs come back with them.

It's conceivable that even fast food joints could go mostly automated. The people taking the orders don't have to be literate. The screens show pictures instead of words. There's no reason we can't work those ourselves. And the kitchens can be largely automated. You just need someone to be there if the computers go wrong and to refill the machines. Wendy's could become a large vending machine. Heck, once cars become self driving fast food could become like ice cream trucks. Just cruising the neighborhoods by themselves looking for someone who wants a mass produced hamburger.

Henry Ford made sure that his workers got paid enough that they could afford the cars they made. If the factories are automated and the fast food joints are automated and the driving is automated and paper pushing is automated we're quickly running short on people who can afford these or many other services. We end up with a bunch of people who need assistance to afford food, shelter, and health care. I mean more than we do already.

This article talks about how a load of jobs people thought were safe may soon be automated. If you open the PDF you'll want to scroll to the end to see the list of at-risk careers. I've had a bunch of similar articles in the last year that have either been lost or went in Friday Links. I'd been wanting to put them in a post like this.

How do we move from an economy based on work and paying for services to one based on very little need for work? Essentially a Star Trek economy? How do we get there without large scale rioting? We have a hard enough time providing health insurance for everyone.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Return of Jack-Jack

You know about my neighborhood stray cats. Shortly before I moved in two of the cats vanished. Ink and Crackerjack vanished at the same time. Ink was a bully to the other cats, kept starting fights, and isn't really missed. Crackerjack (a.k.a. Jack-Jack), on the other hand, was one of the sweetest cats ever met. The first time Jack-Jack and Yummy met, the cat climbed up on her shoulders and lie down. Jack-Jack soon came to prefer me. He'd sleep in the chairs on my front porch when I wasn't around, would pass a dozen occupied front porches to climb up on my lap, and would sometimes climb in an open window and hang out. Then he vanished.

Last night I was working on my future bedroom and saw some eyes out on the porch roof. I opened the window and the cat didn't run off. With some encouragement it came over for head rubs. It was Jack-Jack with a new flea collar. I climbed out on the roof and Jack climbed up on my lap after a few minutes. That got rid of any doubts of who it was. 

He came inside for a bit and then left. Later he came back in, hurried down the stairs, through the kitchen, tried to go out the closed kitchen window, then stood by the door until I let him out. He stood on the back step rails and watched the other cats. Then slowly started rediscovering his old turf. 

Sorry for the selfies. But it's hard to take a picture of a cat on your shoulders without making them selfies.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Republicans stop Democrat override

If the Senate bill to fund the government were to come up for a vote in the House it would pass. No question. There's enough Republican defectors to end this mess immediately. But Boehner won't let it come up for a vote. Democrats had been working on a way to override him and force a vote. There was some bureaucratic muddle to get it done, but they finally got there. And this is what happened.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Links: October 11

Obamacare rollout goes well in Kentucky. [link]

Halloween evilness.

Movies ruined by adding a word to the title. [link]

BREAKING BAD SPOILER: Albuquerque newspaper runs Walter White obit. [link]
Highlight black box to reveal subject.

Bird calls rendered with digital particle effects. [link]

"Ow, fuck!" - last words of Roald Dahl that screwed up his planned statement. [link]

A brief history of government shut downs. [link]
Geez, no wonder Carter was voted out of office. 6 shutdowns! Reagan had 8, but short ones.

Aw, we in the northern hemisphere don't get to see Comet ISON until December. [link]

A short comic based on an HP Lovecraft story. [link]

Zoos and water parks can be used to give MRI to those too obese for normal scanners. [link]

Tsundoku: the Japanese word for books bought but unread. [link]

Having destroyed their natural predators, jellyfish are spreading and becoming a serious problem. So we're having to build robot predators. [link]

Silk Road and how the FBI took it down. [link]

The biased media and it's role in the shutdown. [link]
Which is why you should use the BBC and NPR for honest reporting.

Prehistoric spork mouthed elephant. [link]

A brief history of drinking on the job. [link]

Dogs trained to go into MRI machines are more human than previously thought. [link]

The realities of lacking health insurance for the sick, the hospital, and those insured. [link]

Extinct tree brought back. [link]

Put a head on this thing so you know which way is the front!

Cultural tips from an amateur observer. [link]

Half marathon runner misses her exit and takes 10th in a full marathon. [link]


Digital dead drops. [link]

The starving process and how long you can go on your body fat. [link]

Free birth control cuts abortions and teen pregnancy by 75-80%. [link]

Living the dream. [link]

Disney's new touchy feely generator. [link]

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Barilla boycott

This is a couple of weeks old, but I'm posting it anyway.

The CEO of the Barilla pasta company, Guido Barilla, recently said in an interview
“I would never do an advert with a homosexual family…if the gays don’t like it they can go an eat another brand.
“For us the concept of the sacred family remains one of the fundamental values of the company.
“Everyone has the right to do what they want without disturbing those around them
“I have no respect for adoption by gay families because this concerns a person who is not able to choose,"
Yeah, it stirred up a shit storm and he apologized... sorta.
“I’m sorry if my comments on La Zanzara (radio show where he made the comments) have created misunderstanding or polemic, or if I’ve offended anyone. In the interview I only wanted to underline the central role of the woman in the family,"
No, Guido, try again.
"I apologize if my words have offended some people."
He also said the usual line of crap about respecting everybody and ended with
"Barilla in its advertising has always chosen to represent the family because this is the symbol of hospitality and love for everyone."
Which basically means, "I haven't changed my mind or learned anything but please forget what I said."

You've probably seen Barilla on shelves in the United States. I don't know if I've ever seen their ads. They also own Voiello (Italy), Filiz (Turkey), Misko (Greece?), Vesta (Mexico), Yemina (Mexico), Wasa (Sweden), Pavesi (Italy), Mulino Bianco (Italy), and Harrys (France) products. I've been looking for a list of restaurants that use Barilla, having read that it's a lot, but can't find anything other than Pastamania (Malaysia, India, Middle East, Singapore). I was hoping to write to them and suggest a change of pasta. In the United States it looks like we can just boycott the Barilla label.

Of course, if you take the other position, then this just tells you what your new favorite pasta company is. Much like how you flocked to Chick-Fil-A when they came out against gay marriage or how I bought extra cookies when I found out how much conservatives hate what the Girl Scouts teach.

Guido, if you really want to fix this you need a speech that features the phrase "I was wrong" prominently.

Monday, October 07, 2013

It's every department for themselves

For me, at least, the furlough is over. The government shutdown carries on, but for 90% of the DoD we're back in business.


Friday, October 04, 2013

Friday Links: October 4

Once upon a time everyone in New York moved on the same day. [link]

A collection of short sci-fi films worth watching. [link] [more]

Absurd stock photography. [link]

Body control commercial.

1% of the world's wood is used by Ikea. [link]

Pictures of an eagle attacking a deer. [link]

The case for college. [link]
Just remember to get a degree worth something.

A woman trying to make 300 unique sandwiches. [link]

A crossbow inspired by Discworld novels. [link]

Technical analysis of the reaction to new freedom restrictions. [link]

Begging for Bitcoins. [link]

Strange object in orbit in 2002. [link]

The time the US almost nuked North Carolina. [link]

Sugar's big con job. [link]

ONLY 1 in 10 children are child laborers worldwide. [link]
I'm thinking part of the reason for Africa's numbers is because of their huge AIDS orphan issue.

Dear JJ Abrams, This is what Star Wars is.

Water drumming.

Fun with a spinning monitor. [link]

Earthquake created a new island. Recently. [link]

Emmy losers party. [link]

25 most powerful websites in internet history. [link]
You won't expect these answers.

An honest Obamacare explanation.

The IPCC climate report conclusions. [link]

A short history of Ctrl-Alt-Del. [link]

Hanging sheets of art. [link]

Nifty wall. [link]

Aaron Paul on The Price is Right.

A bionic leg with mental controls.

Drink chocolate milk shakes after a work out. [link]
OK, twist my arm.

The true cost of not vaccinating. [link]

Animal spies. [link]

Cthulhu sofa. Perfect for ... frat houses? [link]

Moses Supposes (his toes are roses) all Japanesed up. [link]

Real life Monopoly settings. [link]

Peter Hollens sings "Want You Gone" (Portal 2 theme).

Baby squirrel adopted by cat.