Monday, June 30, 2014

Granite Flats

It's hard these days to find a good show that few have heard of. Netflix and Hulu and general internetiness mean we get to watch shows from Canada, England, and the last 40 plus years of the United States as well as find out about loads more that we might like. But there's a network out there that makes at least some of it's own quality original programming and keeps it to themselves. Brigham Young University TV is such a station. Being a college station you'd expect them to be mostly some PBS affiliate. Being a religious college you might expect it to be hyper religious. But, as near as I can tell, they're just trying to create mostly original programming. A quick scan of their listings shows a lot of marathons and reruns, but that seems unavoidable for a station their size.

Cartoonist Howard Taylor of Schlock Mercenary was invited to a screening of the season 2 pilot of Granite Flats and told his readers about it. It took me a few weeks to find the time to get through all of seasons 1 and 2, but I'm glad that I did.

Granite Flats is a series about a town of the same name located in Cold War era Colorado. The story follows several different groups within the town. The sheriff with a good heart, three kids playing investigators, a group of scientists doing secret mind control experiments for the government, a father with PTSD whose bully of a son has to be taken from him and cared for by a local nurse, and a KGB agent walking among them. Season two introduces Cary Elwes as a creepy CIA agent trying to take control of the secret project and Christopher Lloyd as a Shakespeare loving English teacher.

In season 1 a mysterious object passes over the area trailing a stream of strange metallic debris. The sheriff starts investigating damaged windows and bird baths, the kids start following the path of the strange light, and shadowy figures in dark cars are seen around the city. Then there's a huge explosion at the military base that starts casting suspicion everywhere.

It's actually a really good show. It's well written, well acted, and high production quality.

You can watch the whole series at It's only 17 episodes long, so far, but I'll be looking forward to season 3.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Links: June 27

A bad week for links.

Game: Tentacle Wars - fight other infections to dominate the level. [link]
Important tip, extend a tentacle and then cut it to send reinforcements in a hurry.

The effect of altering ingredients on cookies. [link]

Interview with a guinea pig. [link]

A device that might trick your body to think you're cooler or warmer than you are. [link]

First 3D printed presidential bust. [link]

Using a snow storm to see how air flows around wind turbines. [link]

First known photo of someone giving the camera the finger. [link]

Helen Mirren plays Queen Elizabeth II to fill a dying child's wish of having tea with the Queen. [link]

The Sahara used to have 3 rivers that may have provided a green trail for early man to migrate out of Africa and to the Middle East. [link]

An ex-con talks about problems with Orange is the New Black. [link]

Not actually a bumblebee rescuing a friend. [link]

Man has heart attack while running a race and finishes. [link]

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Drill bit comparison

When I finally got to start assembling my ambitious shelving I needed some drill bits that could drill a large hole. I'd bought a single 7/8" version of the blue drill bits below and lost it. So I got a replace 7/8" and a 15/16". Almost all Home Depot had of this kind of drill bit were the blue ones.

Notice the tips of the drill bits. The silver ones have a pointy tip while the blue ones have a screw tip. I don't care that the company calls it a drill tip. It's a screw. And when used it screws itself into the wood until the flat of the bit hits the wood and then stops dead. I hoped it was just the weaker battery powered hand drill that was the issue. Brought the drill press up and put the bit in there. Exact same results. It screws in and stops. Which was a problem because the drill press doesn't have a reverse button. I had to unplug it and manually unscrew the bit. But not until after it pulled the spindle loose. I did get a different bit to drill a hole in the middle of my intended hole. Then the screw tip bit worked great. That little flare at the edges of the flat face really does help prevent splintering as it exits.

So I returned the blue bits that were still in their packaging and got a whole set of the silver dagger tip bits. They chewed right through the boards. It did jam a couple of times, but I just backed off and came in slower. Nowhere near the problems of the drill tips.

I was using them on plyboo which is a fairly hard wood. Results on other kinds of wood may differ.

I'm calling them screw tip bits.

I'm calling them dagger tip bits.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Movie review: Edge of Tomorrow

A popular theme in science fiction is the day that repeats until some goal is accomplished. The most well known example is "Groundhog Day" where Bill Murray has to keep reliving Groundhog Day until he can get Andie MacDowell to fall in love with him. Fans of Stargate: SG1 will remember the brilliant season 4 episode "Window of Opportunity". Taye Diggs had a series called Day Break where he had to solve who was setting him up for a major crime. It's also been seen in Star Trek: TNG, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Eureka, Farscape, Fringe, Haven, Lois and Clark... oh, fuck it. Here, look it up yourself [link].

Edge of Tomorrow is a military sci-fi take on this idea. I'd compare it most to the Stargate episode. Not because of the military sci-fi aspect, but because it's funny. Both the movie and the Stargate episode make me laugh out loud.

There's a high speed montage at the beginning that gets the audience up to speed. Short version: Aliens came; Europe is lost. There's a big counter attack planned and they want Tom Cruise and a camera crew on the front lines to built something that will safe the asses of the commanders if the public turns on them later. Tom refuses to go and wakes up on a bag of luggage with his rank stripped away and deploying as a grunt instead of as a PR planner. As they reach shore they're attacked. The aliens knew they were coming. He's dropped in with no training on how to work the equipment, no combat experience, and a life of expectancy of less that it's taken you to read this far. But something happens in combat that resets his day, but only if he dies. He eventually finds someone who knows what's going on, can train him, and goes on to save the world. Along the way there's a series of humorous montages of him dying in funny and/or painful ways.

I think I will get this one on DVD. It's an old plot device, but well done and funny.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Movie Review: Maleficent

Shortly before moving to DC a girl suggested that I read "Wicked". It wasn't a book I normally would have picked up, because I'm from Kansas and years of overexposure mean that I think Dorothy should die in a fire. But I read it and liked it. I rather like the idea behind the books that the success of Wicked spawned even if I didn't like enough of the actual books to keep up on the series. So I was intrigued to see that Disney was giving the retelling treatment to their own Maleficent.

I was expecting a twisting of the Disney's Sleeping Beauty story (as opposed to everyone else's Sleeping Beauty story). Neil Gaiman's "Snow Glass Apples" figured prominently in my mind [part 1] [part 2]. Then, as I heard descriptions of the movie, I thought they were rewriting Shrek with Angelina Jolie playing the part of the tall, slim, and beautiful swamp troll. I can assure you, that's not what happens. Rather than twisting the story horribly they seem to have tried to tell the same story from a new viewpoint and include much that went on off camera.

I'll admit that it's been a long time since I've seen the original movie and I remember it less than perfectly, but there were scenes that felt disconnected from the rest of the movie. And I think that it was because they were reproducing scene and dialog lifted directly from the original movie. This required the camera to move differently than in the rest of the movie and the characters to be a bit more dramatic. I'd be interested in seeing the scenes played next to each other.

There were other things that had to be twisted. Maleficent doesn't turn into a dragon herself, but turns her lackey into a dragon. A few other tidbits like that. Nothing really altering the story.

I'm not likely to get it on DVD, but I'm glad that I saw the movie. I'd happily watch it again.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ambitious shelving

This is my new bookshelf.

Almost. It needs a bit more work. I stopped here last night because the top shelf that you see needs to have an inch shaved off the right side since the wall is uneven. Then the pipe will go through the holes correctly. There will be one more shelf above that.

The bottom three shelves are 14" deep 128" long. The rest are 7" x 96". I had to extend the lower three to make them work the way I wanted. I used a good strong glue on the ends and a reinforcing rod hidden underneath.

Once they're assembled I'll still need to sand the ends of the boards to get rid of the burn marks from the saw. The pipes need to be painted black. And I'll need to touch up the walls where I've scarred them up assembling the shelves. And, of course, screw everything down.

Notice the weird bit of pipe out of the support to the right of the laptop. That's going to be a reading light before I'm done.

Before putting the shelves up, I put the pipes together to triple check that they'd fit. I brought Gandolf in to see my work. She hadn't seen the room since before the mudding was finished. Her reaction was pure surprise. It was a whole new room. She looked at the pipes standing on top of the assembled 14" shelves and asked hopefully, "perches?" I'll have to get her somewhere to hang out in this room, but I don't dare leave her in here. The books would prove too much temptation to chew on.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Links: June 20

Star Trek shaking scenes stabilized. [link

And, if you're one of the two people who haven't seen this warp drive design in the last decade or so, here's NASA trying to test if it's even possible. [link]


Saturo Iwata (Nintendo’s CEO) vs Reggie Fils (Nintendo’s COO)

Jazz version of the Game of Thrones theme.

Proper jazz with lots of brass.

By the end of this clip you'll be able to understand digital gibberish. [link]
That description is misleading.

WWI aerial warfare photos. [link]

Tesla releases it's patents into the wild. [link]

14 year old kids hack Canadian ATMs. [link]

The woman who invented Iraq. [link]

More about what I said the other day about ISIS and organized crime tactics. [link]

Who was the worst person in history before Hitler? [link]

The Illuminati were pretty good guys. [link]

Pictures from the new California Dust Bowl. [link]

Poor bald aminals. [link]

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I can't even...

I hate the heat. I hate it so much. I can't even... I can't even tell you.

So, it's Friday night and I'm done with my paying work. I usually take this time to try to get some early work done on the house. Let me set the scene for you. The future library is full of crap. Along the front wall is scrap metal I've been wanting to send off with some scrap metal dealer. On top of that is some wood covered in lead paint with big ass nails sticking out. Long pieces of plyboo lean against this pile of crap. Across the middle of the room is a large plank of plyboo that I've been using as a level surface to piece together other plyboo into a shelf. Cans of paint and water and large batteries and anything heavy sits on top to help keep it flat. This blocks most of the entryway to the room. And other odds and ends like a coat rack and ladders and pipe litter the floor.

It's warm and still inside despite several days of rain and fans trying to blow the cool air into the house. Within 10 minutes of getting off the couch I am dripping sweat on everything. Sweat is supposed to be there to evaporate and cool us off, but it's failing that completely. It makes my clothes stick to me. The heat makes working my muscles require more energy and focus for the simplest task. And while some people think I have an unshakable temper, all that goes away when I'm hot. Since it's harder to move I'm more likely to make mistakes which causes the temper to explode.

I step over the boards to open the window and cool things off. As I'm stepping back I can't get my leg high enough and hit the paint can. It tips and dumps paint all over the floor. Obscenities fly. I grab a dust pan and start scooping the paint back into the can. Paint is everywhere. Most of it is on parts of the floor that still need scraping, but there's much that is in areas that are supposed to be cleaned. And it's getting between boards, which will never clean out. My best hope for much of it is that there's so much dust and debris that it'll clean off easily without excessively difficulty once dry. And where's the lid? Where's the LID?! WHERE'S THE [obscenities edited for length] PAINT CAN LID!!!!?! It's gone. Not really sure how that's even possible. It's not a large room. The boards are off the ground high enough that I could see the lid under there if it were there. It's just gone. Well, I'll use the lid off this other can that I refilled with water. It doesn't fit? HOW CAN IT NOT FIT?! It's the SAME paint from the SAME brand bought on the SAME &*$#@%^ DAY! Fine, I'll just let the paint dry out and throw the whole gallon away. I'm literally dripping sweat onto the paint from my eyes and nose and eyebrows and I'm trying not to start shrieking in rage and ... I'm getting the fan. Take off the paint covered shoes so I don't track paint across the filthy carpet. Get the fan and the extension cord which will try to knock over everything in the living room as I move it and somehow even knock over things upstairs which should be impossible since the cord doesn't even go up there. Why then? Because it's HOT and this shit happens when it's HOT! The extension cord isn't even this big of a problem in the living room when it's cooler. So I set up the fan and point it directly at me. Feels good, man. Until it falls over for no damn reason. Set it up. Back to the paint. New rag, wipe, toss, repeat every 5-10 seconds. This plastic caught some of the paint. Let's cut it off and throw it away. NO FAN! You can't tip over. I haven't even done it, yet! At least let me do something to cause you to fall over even though it shouldn't. Cut away the plastic. Try to pick it up without dumping paint on the ground or on the plyboo. No paint! If you go on the plyboo I will end you and all civilization! Do NOT EVEN THINK I AM KIDDING! Wow, I made paint move with the force of my rage. I am the Kwisatz Haderach. Maybe that's where he got his power. He was so fucking pissed to be trapped on a hot shit hole of a world like Dune. Paint in bag. Set fan back up. Wash hands a second time. Set fan back up. Mop up paint. Take tension straps off board. Set fan back up. Yes, there are feet on the fan. It's just trying to blow air that's extra dense because it's full of water. Let me put the fan in the window. But first, let's try to untangle the extension cord. Let's drag the wiring out in the rain where it's cooler and do it there. Bad idea, you say? IT'S COOLER! IDON'TCAREIFIDIE! Spend 10-15 minutes in the rain untwisting extension cord. Put fan in window pointed at me. Flip the shelf and sand away the excess glue. Stand before the fan. Should the sand paper get so hot after only six strokes that I need to set it down? I moved 6 inches to the right, gotta get back in front of the fan. That doesn't seem right. The board looks less than ideal, but the glue is gone and I can clean up the edge later. Be sure to stand in front of the fan. Let's get this debris in the car so I can take it to the dump in the morning. Hello to you too, strange drunk man. Nope, I'm not moving, just getting ready to go to the dump. Actually, do you know a scrap metal scavenger? Across the street? That's his truck? Ok, all my scrap metal goes in this pickup and nail filled lumber in my car. Trash bag covered in drying paint can come out in the morning. I get in my car and turn the AC as low as it will go. Literally five seconds later my breath manifests itself before my face. I love my car and it's AC. I sit there and reprogram the address book in my GPS while I bathe in the direct blasts of the air conditioner. My skin starts to crack and pull from the drying sweat. I finally get out of the car and the windows all fog up instantly. One more large piece of metal to put in the pickup. He thanks me and I thank him. New route is now open to the fan. I take it out of the window and lock up. I take a cold shower. Cold being a generous term.

It's not even that hot inside or out. I just can't cool down. I run very hot. My metabolism is high. But I can cool down if it's dry enough for sweat to evaporate. I need moving air. I designed my bedroom so I have a ceiling fan pointing right at me at night. I shouldn't need the AC in that room most of the time so long as the fan is running.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Anti-war folks

My spam account gets lots of e-mails from activist groups every day. Some want money, some provide news links, and some have petitions to sign. Over the last few days I've been getting petitions not to invade Iraq.

In the days after September 11 I went to some protests. I supported those who didn't want to invade Iraq. I mean every bit of evidence linking Iraq to AlQaeda was debunked as soon as it was created. Anyone paying attention could instantly discredit at least 60% of what Colon Powell said before the UN Security Council. Most of the rest might take a couple of hours. Anything else needed security clearance, but was easily questioned.

But those protesters and I were on opposite sides on the invasion of Afghanistan. Which was weird, because it wasn't long before that many of those people were supporting invading Afghanistan for women's rights causes. They were anti-war for any reason. It was wrong always and in all cases. While I saw that they were housing the real terrorists and that Saddam Hussein could be one of our greatest allies.

Syria is a tough call. Nasty evil brutal dictator on one hand and Muslim extremist terrorists on the other. If we could be sure the people who started the revolution were in control at the end it'd be great. But they've been pushed out by monsters.

More recently I've been watching the Russian invasion of The Ukraine. I don't want to invade and fight their war for them, but I do want to be asking "How can we help? Arms? Troops?"

Iraq is now being taken over by ISIS. While it may sound like a cartoon spy agency, ISIS is a terrorist group that makes AlQaeda look like moderate Muslims. Saddam would have been able to keep them out. He was brutal, but effective. Most of all he wasn't religious. Considering what he was fighting he had to be brutal. And we took him out and softened up the country for any future invaders. We tried to train them and hand control back to them, but clearly they're not ready for prime time, yet.

This is our fault. Remember how Afghanistan becoming a terrorist haven was because we walked away after helping them throw out the Soviets? Same thing here. We WILL have to take care of this eventually. Whether we do it when they're in Baghdad or not is the only real decision here. Believe me, I'm not thrilled about it. At least if we go in now we're working with the Iraq military instead of against the ISIS run Iraq military. We can send in supplemental forces instead of a whole damn army.

This is being branded a religious civil war. This is an invasion. They may not have a home country, but like every other conflict in the region, one side is manned with religious extremists coming in from outside the country. Some have been in country for a long time and infiltrated the cities to soften them up. That doesn't make them Iraqis. If this were internal it would have shown in the polls before now. It's a regional conflict acting as an internal struggle. These people are pulling arms, money, troops, and support from organized crime activities inside and outside of Iraq. Protection rackets and drugs and whatever else. We should at least be providing similar resources for Iraqis. And due to the corruption, we may need to provide people to keep the resources in the right hands. Maybe those smart guns that shop owners in the US are being threatened about if they dare sell them.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Links: June 13

Logic gates illustrated with weights and pulleys. [link]

Cat give passing cyclist a high 4. [link]

This is how you play Dance Dance Revolution. [link]

The first manmade object in space was actually a manhole cover. [link]

Computer passes Turing test. [link]
Or doesn't. [link]

Bill Watterson returns... briefly. [link]

Synthahol invented! [link]

Damascus steel included carbon nanotubules. [link]

Hippos like licking crocodiles.

How anti-vaccine believers are causing the return of Polio in places it had been eradicated. [link]

Arc lighting towers from the 1800s are still in use in Austin, Texas. [link]

Eating ice is a diet plan. [link]

Detroit agate. [link]

Gun control laws of the wild, wild west. [link]

Combine Harvester. I might have to play this at my brother's eventual wedding.

You Are My Sunshine in a minor key.

A history of maps of the internet. [link]

Why are there so few conservative comedians? [link]
Because polluting rivers, starting wars, stealing the life savings of senior citizens, and gay bashing isn't funny. 

A dimetrodon (the dinosaur toy with a fin on it's back) is not a dinosaur.

Google admits that Google Plus was a bad idea. [link]

Salads without leaves. [link]

Chiquita is blocking a bill that would allow people to sue companies that fund terrorism. 3 guesses why. [link]

Sweden to experiment with 6 hour work day with 8 hour pay. [link]

Impressive hail storm damage. [link]

Pig the dog. [link]

Comments on a first viewing of Star Wars. [link]

Chimp playing a memory game.

Building an Inception hallway style room on the cheap. [link]
Gives you some idea how much practice they needed to walk in the hallway in the movie.

Atlas has to change to reflect new polar caps. [link]

The vanishing islands of Kiribati. [link]

Friday, June 06, 2014

Friday Links: June 6


Winnie the Pooh and Darkwing Duck reading lines from Star Wars. [link]

It took me entirely too long to get around to watching this. The Five(ish) Doctors. Several of the original series Doctors plot a way to get involved with the 50th Anniversary Special and pull in a load of cameos along the way. [link]

Randall Munroe, creator of XKCD, talking about his What If page at TED. [link]

Everything wrong with "Gravity" with guest star Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Female named hurricanes kill more people than male named hurricanes because people don't respect the female hurricanes as much. [link]
Note: Hurricanes have only been named after men since 1979. I thought it was more recently than that. Hurricanes have had names since 1889.

This kid is going to kill a lot of people some day.

So... does she like him or not? [link]

More Stargate films! It's a reboot. [link]

“I need to put a sign here that says `white people only.” [link]

Monday, June 02, 2014

Library progress

I do a crap job with before and after pictures. Otherwise I could show you what I'm dealing with in this library I'm working on.

Let me lay out the room for you.
There's the front wall with two big windows.
Turn to your left and there's the side wall. It's plaster over brick.
Left again, and there's the main wall. Future home of bookshelves. On the other side are stairs.
Left once more and there's a big archway with the front door on the other side.

The front wall is a mess. I'm doing almost nothing with it because I eventually want it framed out and insulated.

Once I got under the wood panelling and wallpaper of the side wall I found that, for some reason, the plaster was popping away from the wall about chest high. And near the front wall was a big crack that let you see into the neighbor's house once the wallpaper was taken away. I knocked away the loose stuff and started packing the holes with drywall mud as well as giving the rest of the wall a skim just to fill tiny cracks and pits. This all helped, but the wall was still ... textured? It bowed and flexed and rippled. I took time to even it some, but there's only so much one can do. Finally, last night, I painted the wall. Mostly. There's a radiator near the bottom of the crack. I couldn't get all the wallpaper off or paint, completely. Once I find my edger I should be able to do more. I got some undrilled, featureless doors that I plan to put wallpaper on and hang on that wall to give it some character and cover up some of the other character.

The main wall I tore out completely and put up new drywall. It will have the bookshelves soon. Half inch black gas pipe supports with plyboo shelving. Three levels 14 inches deep and six more 7 inch deep shelves the rest of the way to the ceiling. The bottom three run all 11 ft across the room while the rest are 8 ft and alternate which wall they're touching. This leaves space to display larger things as well as making sure I don't have to extend the boards.

The arched wall I tried to punk out on, but in the end I still tore it down and put up new drywall. It's just a wall, but I should be able to hang some pictures on it.

I mention all this because I got to paint the room last night. I wanted to put up shelves several weeks ago, but I couldn't quite do it. Just a bit more to do, which turns into one-more-thing and then another-thing and then... well, you know how it works. I have 6 inch baseboards which I hope to install no later than next weekend. Hopefully, tonight or tomorrow. With them in place I can start putting up shelves, which gets my books out of the basement, and much of the rest of the house starts falling into place from there.