Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday Links: January 31

Time lapse video of a cruise ship being expanded. [link]

If you haven't seen it on one of the dozens of other sites that showed it... rocking tauntauns. [link]

A petition to get rid of the NFL tax exemption. [link]

I'd hang this poster in my house. [link]

Ship of rats nearing England. [link]

Contempt of cop. [link]

Hacking OKCupid or Online Dating Like a Mathematician. [link]

The creator of Candy Crush is a dick. [link]

The argument for naps. [link]

Or, you can think you got better sleep. [link]

Supermarket tips and tricks. link

The complete list the previous list was pulled from. [link]

Monsanto tries it's hand at organic engineering. [link]

This is posted just for Yummy. [link]

Most and least godless cities. [link]

The war over Christians and whether or not to have beards. [link]

Decline of the bookworm. [link]

Class mobility map. [link]

Lessons learned from bar fight litigation. [link]

Technology isn't driving people apart. [link]

Stories about these "camps" parents send their kids to fascinate me. [link]

Video of memories being formed. [link]

Counterfit extra virgin olive oil. [link]

A sampling of Google's robotics purchases. [link]

Antarctica's more temperate history. [link]

America's first cat cafe. [link]

Medieval doodles. [link]

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Carrot reborn

Growing a carrot plant from a carrot I decided not to eat.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


A hot pad I finished crocheting last night.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Der Muffinmann teaches about dough consistency

Another video with Der Muffinmann.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Links: January 24

Doctor Who expansion pack for Cards Against Humanity. [link]

Pink camouflage? [link]

Ghostbusters behind the scenes pics. [link]

Google contacts monitor glucose levels for diabetics. [link]

50 years of smoking in two charts. [link]

Grindcore loving goat has died. [link]

The best pizza box in the world. [link]

Bill Murray does an IAmA. [link]

What makes a good toilet. [link]

Geek blocks. [link]

Readings from Voyager 1's magnetometer turned into a symphony. [link]

Supernova visible with small telescopes. [link]

10 famous Japanese ghost stories that aren't completely fucked up. [link]

10 recent times the world almost ended. [link]

Skateboard riding cat.

A new study about why birds fly in V formations and how they fly.

I've also been reading the archives of this comic. [link]
I recommend it.

The Doctor Who 50th anniversary special won the Guinness Book of World Records record for biggest simulcast ever. [link]
I suspect a Vogon constructor fleet will be needed to break the record. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cat inna barrel

I posted awhile back about making a trash barrel into a cat shelter. "Cat house" has other connotations. Now you have proof that it's being used. And judging from the picture quality, it's inhabited by Bigfoot.

Der Muffinmann teaches about yeast

One of the readers/commenters on this blog is my cousin and a baker. A little while back he did some videos on key ingredients in baking. And I'm stealing them. This one is about yeast. Der Muffinmann is the one on the right.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Cleveland information request

I'm going to Cleveland in mid-February. Anyone know where I should eat or what I should do while there?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday Links: January 17

Game: Ernesto - a quick dungeon crawl. [link]

British bank gets slap on wrist for laundering drug money. [link]

What it was like growing up unvaccinated. [link]

A plan to build a wall of trees across the Sahara. [link]

Tank slippers. [link]

Homemade flying TARDIS.

Star Trek trailer using the blooper reel.

Hard core cat furniture. [link]

Lake Michigan has balls of ice. [link]

Harold the Ghoul miniature from the Fallout games. [link]

Companies cut calories from their food. [link]
Shouldn't they be marked "lite" or something? Let people who want fewer calories pick them? Not everyone wants less calories.

When it comes to marijuana, we need better educated journalists. [link]

Old ads that would piss modern women off. [link]

Little girl meets her fathers twin for the first time. [link]

Using rap videos to investigate local gang activity. [link]

Fractal teddy bear. [link]

When is painting copying not painting copying? [link]
I call bullshit.

Americans are more likely to own a VCR than a video game console. [link]

You've heard of plans to grow racks of beef without a cow. How about growing whole chickens with no brain? [link]

Match the "apology" to the scandal. [link]

This White House video explains the recent polar vortex and it's relationship to global climate change.

Vin Diesel got paid for his cameo in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift with the rights to the Riddick franchise. [link]

Game: Bunny Charm - gun down all the fingers and hands trying to touch you. Level up by holding the flags for awhile. [link]
I may have posted this game before. I know I've played it before. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Home repairs - library edition

I continue to wait on a mud man for my bedroom and hallway. I'm about ready to put an ad on Craigslist or speak in a loud voice about my need for a mud man while at HomeDepot and see who responds.

Since that has been holding things up upstairs, I used this weekend to bust out some stuff in my future library. The Christmas trees came down first thing. That opened up a lot of space. I put away boxes of stuff that has been moved from DC but never given a proper home. Actually, I did that all over my house. Gandolf's perch got moved to the basement. Recycling went in one box, styrofoam in a bag, trash in another bag, and it all went in the car to take to the dump. Carpet was ripped out, linoleum samples framed and the rest ripped up, and all of it off to the dump.

linoleum samples - oldest on the right, newest on the left
With the room pretty well emptied out, I started trying to scrape wallpaper off the wall my bookshelves will be built along. The paint layer screwed up the ability of the wallpaper remover fluid to knock the wallpaper loose. The extra effort it took to get through that caused me to start putting holes in the elderly plaster. So I gave up, covered the door with a tarp and hung plastic on the back side of the wall to keep plaster from falling into the basement. Then took down the plaster as carefully and in as big chunks as possible to keep the mess small. The lath came down next and ended up on the massive lath pile in the basement.

Inside the wall were some wires that I put in several months ago. But there was also one that answered some questions. Before, a wire came out of the wall inside the old ceiling, ran along, went up into my future bedroom to an outlet that didn't work, came back down, ran over to a bad splice, and back into the wall. I'd already removed the outlet in the bedroom, leaving two dangling wires in the library. Both wires caused the tic counter (voltage tester pen) to light up at a low level so I was understandably hesitant to mess with them. But now I could see that the wire wasn't hooked up to anything at all. So I yanked it out. The other wire I took tin snips to so the rest would hide up in the ceiling.

Then I used most of my remaining drywall to close the wall back up. Not being 100% satisfied I then tore down and rebuilt the wall right next to it. Most of it, anyway. I got frustrated with having bags of plaster and lath to keep moving around and stopped. I think I'll have to get a dumping permit to get rid of my plaster since I can't take it to the normal dump.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Book review: The Human Division

You know what a John Scalzi fan I am. I grab everything he writes. So I was pretty excited when I found something new in the S section of the book store. Last week I finished reading "The Human Division", the latest book in the Old Man's War series.

The interesting thing about this book is that it was written both as a book and a collection of short stories. Any story in the book can be read on its own. Taken together, they tell a larger story.

If you haven't read anything else in the series let me give you a quick "Previously On..."

In "Old Man's War" we find two basic groups of humans. One remains on Earth until they're 70, at which point they're offered specially engineered young versions of their bodies when they turn 80 if they agree to serve for 10 years in the Colonial Defense Forces. The other is the Colonial Defense Forces, who protect the Earth and all it's colonies from the thousands of alien races who want all the same planets for colonization.

The second boo,k "The Ghost Brigades", doesn't really factor into "The Human Division" much.

The third and forth books, "The Last Colony" and "Zoe's Tale", both tell the same story from different points of view. The hero from "Old Man's War" and the heroine from "The Ghost Bridages" end up as the leaders of a new colony. Many of the alien races have finally joined together to form a federation of planets called the Conclave that the CDF refuses the join. But the Conclave won't allow further colonization by non-member worlds. This new colony is supposed to be hiding from the Conclave. When it's attacked by a massive fleet of ships representing all the worlds of the Conclave the whole fleet is blown up and fractures the still new alliance between the Conclave world. John Sagan, hero of book one and leader of the colony, figures out the CDFs plan, joins the colony to Conclave, and takes a fleet to Earth to tell the people of Earth all the stuff that the CDF has been keeping secret for a few hundred years.

In this fifth book, "The Human Division", Earth has broken away from the CDF. This cuts off their supply of soldiers and the overwhelming majority of their colonists. So Earth is in talks with both the Conclave and the CDF to see if they want to join either. The stories mostly focus on one third tier CDF diplomatic team, their unusual tactics, and their discovery of a mysterious third party who has been sabotaging talks, assassinating diplomats, and stealing ships from both the CDF and the Conclave.

If you've been reading the previous books in the series you'll want to get this book. Even if you haven't, this book can stand on it's own pretty well. You'll be missing some background, but the book mostly tells you what you need to know. I recommend the whole series.

At the end of the book you also get the story "After the Coup" which takes place between books 4 and 5 and you can read here. Most characters from this story continue to be main characters through "The Human Division".

Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday Links: January 10

Cardiac muscle tissue grown from a patient's own cells. [link]

A brief history of Christmas Cards. [link]

The Cheshire Cat predates Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. [link]

Gates McFadden plays with herself... er, her action figure. [link]

A unique breed of mosquito has evolved in the London Underground. [link]

What's in a candle flame?

Mormon bishop disguises himself as a homeless man to test his congregation. [link]
Old news, I know, but I'm closing tabs. 

Satanists pushing to get a monument outside the Oklahoma statehouse. [link]

The better you know your numbers when you start school the better at math you'll be in high school. [link]

Full size R2-D2 cake. [link]

Dolly Parton is giving away books. [link]

Wedding rice doesn't hurt birds after all. [link]

More support for the idea that the universe is a hologram. And it may exist on the event horizon of a black hole in another universe. [link]

The universe may collapse some day. It may be doing so now. [link]

Make poor children work for their free lunches. [link]

Isaac Asimov's predictions for 2014 were more wrong than right. [link]

Harsh review for Airport Simulator 2014. [link]

Pics from a time travel store. [link]

Thursday, January 09, 2014

How cold is it?

It's so cold that the water wasn't working in my house because the DC city water pipes froze.

In related news, I got my old bathroom and office/library totally empty. And then brought my comics down from the attic to move later.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

All grain brewing

I still haven't told you much about my beer making activities. Over Christmas week my brother and I tried to level up. We tried our hands at all grain brewing.

If you're new to brewing or are interested in trying it, then you'll want to steer clear of Mr Beer or the kits you can get from Bed Bath and Beyond. I've not tried either, but I've heard bad things about Mr Beer and I got a good chuckle looking at the kits from Bed Bath and Beyond. They're cheap for a reason.

First, you want to be sure there's a place where you can store a bucket at 68°-72°F for a couple of weeks. And you'll need some storage space for all the supplies. That'd be two 5-gallon buckets and a 5-gallon glass jar. And that's for making ales. If you want to make a lager you need a place to keep them around 52°F for 12 weeks (or so). That means a whole extra refrigerator.

Then find your local brew supply store and look into Brewers Best. One kit will get you set up with all the right equipment. Then there's shelves of smaller boxes that are just pre-selected ingredients.

I did three batches just using their kits. When I started adding seasonings to their kits I said I'd leveled up. Last summer as I was leaving Kansas I stopped to visit some friends who were doing their first attempt at all grain brewing. I figured helping with that got me to level up, again. So I asked for a grain grinder for Christmas so I could start earning XP as I worked my way up to Level 4 Brewmaster. For comparison. The guys at Flying Dog are probably operating at level 100. Budweiser's guys are probably operating at level 50 or so.

In the kits you'll get a couple of 5-lb tubs of Liquid Malt Extract. Malt is the stuff that the yeast eats and turns into sugar. In all grain brewing you're making your own malt. Some instructions talk about making the grain sprout and then throwing it in a kiln, but apparently that's just for certain types of beer. For our purposes we took some of the red wheat that my brother grows and some pilsner that he got from his brew supply store. So we ran 7 lbs of the red wheat through the grinder. That was WORK! I mean, you know it's time to cut the wheat when you chew the grains and it's like noshing on pebbles. The grinder feels the same way. Grinding red wheat is like trying to crush large pieces of sand. About ever pound or so my bother and I had to switch places or at least readjust. Once that was done we dropped in 3 lbs of pilsner grains. It breezed right through. Compared to the wheat, it was like grinding tofu.

The next step was to use the burner from Dad's turkey frier to heat 3 gallons of water to 169°F and put the water in a water jug. It's one of those big round suckers like you see Gatorade being dumped out of over a coach's head. Only it has been modified into something called a mashtun. It has a false bottom so that the liquid can get out, but the grains can't. So the water goes in, the grains are slowly stirred in, a lid put on, and the whole thing left for an hour. With the grain added the water drops to around 152°F. You can keep it hotter or cooler depending on whether you like your beer maltier or drier.

After an hour you start the water draining into another container. It's just a trickle coming out. And get another 3 gallons heating up to 170° or so. Once the initial water has drained you need to refill the tub with the grains until there's an inch or so of water covering the grains. Add it slowly. Maybe run it through a colander so the water doesn't drill a hole in the grain. See, what you're trying to do is wash out all the sugars and other things yeast likes to eat.

We ended up with about 5.25 gallons of water. More would have been better so we could cook it down for stronger beer. Because from this point on it would be just like making beer from the kit. We took what we had and put it back on the burner. Our original gravity was enough that we should have a weak beer when we were done. We figured it'd boil down below 5 gallons by the time we were done.

It was an odd shade of green. Even before the hops were added. We're assuming that's normal.

It was a long process and I had to leave the follow up to my brother. He should be bottling the beers tomorrow. Two weeks after that he can give some to the dog and see if it dies. If not, we have product.

I brought home 10 lbs or so. I'll be repeating the process here in Baltimore once I empty enough bottles to have somewhere to put the beer.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Friday Links: January 3

What Does the Christmas Display Say?

Back to the Future theme, acoustic guitar version.

You won't be able to float tomorrow or ever. [link]

"It's a Wonderful Life" was considered communist propaganda. [link]

Official: Sherlock Holmes is in the public domain. [link]

50 Years of Doctor Who illustrated like the "Take On Me" music video.

A much expanded version of the Max Headroom television hack. [link]

I wish this MechWarrior were real. [link]

A patent on walking through walls? [link]

There’s a bacterium on a diatom on an amphipod on a frog on a bump on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea. [link]

A moveable model of weather patterns. [link]

Google buys more robots. [link]

Chocolate milk may be a good sports drink. [link]

Freshwater reserves found under continental shelves. [link]

Pretty damn good Elvis sound-alike on a French Canadian radio station.

Court says NSA phone data collection unconstitutional.

There's a tiny sculpture on the Moon. [link]

Goats on a dam. [link]

The 24 school shootings you didn't hear about. [link]
Did we not hear about them because it was generally agreed that talking about them encourages more shootings.

An article about the author's inability to recognize faces. [link]

Violent criminals just never left their terrible twos. [link]

One of Edward Snowden's NSA coworkers talks about working with him. [link]

Most amazing science pics and films of 2013. [link]

Best media corrections of 2013. [link]

Great golf shot.

"The Life of Plants" has been thoroughly debunked. [link]
Aw, I remember reading about some of the findings back in middle school.

Man emerges from bunker 14 years after Y2K. [link]

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Slacking off

Hello. I'm back. Went on a bit of holiday walkabout. You'll notice that I didn't say AFK or anything before going. This is in line with other lapses you may have noticed lately. Days I've just skipped. When I started this blog I made a decision to update 7 days a week. Otherwise, I'd end up with a blog I never updated, just like 90%+ of all blog. Eventually, I cut back to 5 days a week. I'm losing interest, kids. My time keeps getting routed elsewhere and the blog just gets "oh, shit, I needed to do that" kinds of attention and the poor writing that goes with it. So, I'm cutting back even further. You'll still get Friday Links, but everything else is a maybe. I'll post stuff about the house, random thoughts, stories, movie and book reviews, but when I feel like writing them.

Honestly, if I were you, I'd check in on Fridays and see what I wrote that week.