Sunday, December 31, 2006

What is Mia Made Of?

So, the upcoming Wonder Woman film is getting a lot of coverage, Astonishing X-Men has gotten its fair share, and the Buffy: Season 8 comic certainly isn't flying under the radar. Shoot, even Runaways is getting press. Have you been wondering what's going on with Joss Whedon's other project, Goners? The answer is not much, but you can get all the latest information here.

Fly, My Pretties!

Tetrapod zoologist Darren Naish has just put up a couple of interesting posts about golden eagles killing much larger land animals, wolves in particular. Neat, eh?

What Makes Us Human?

I've just watched a couple of episodes of a series called What Makes us Human? on the Science Channel. It's a fascinating look at what distinguishes humans from our nearest relatives, and I encourage you to check it out.

Ready, Fight!

As I mentioned last time, Newton and Marley get along very well. Here's a short video of them play-fighting. Please note how well Marley restrains himself.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Mr. Marley I Presume

Team Grondul recently traveled to Atlanta to spend a couple of winter holidays with my family. The trip gave my parents their first opportunity to meet their "granddoggy," and it offered Newton his first chance to meet his "cousin" Marley. The two pups got along famously. The 55-pound Marley played very gently with the 10-pound Newton, and I think Newton now wants to be a boxer when he grows up.

Here are some photos of the two of them together and a couple of Newton in Marley's bed, which is comically oversized:

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Festivus for the Rest of Us

It appears, from this article, that Festivus is starting to take off.

Festivus, it turns out, was not invented in 1997 by the Seinfeld writing staff. In fact, it was created way back in 1966 by the father of a future screenwriter on the series. All the features of the holiday other than the Festivus pole---the feats of strength, the airing of grievances---were part of his family's annual tradition. Now, the holiday is starting to grow in popularity, due principally to its anti-commercial message---no gifts are exchanged at Festivus, and little decoration is needed---and sales of Festivus poles are climbing.

Perhaps Festivus will replace the Winter Solstice as my second favorite winter holiday. (Michaelmas will remain my favorite, of course.)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Prisoner Returns, For Real This Time

It appears that AMC will be airing a remake of The Prisoner starting in January 2008. Groovy.

Torchwood Returns

It looks like a second series of Torchwood has been commissioned. It will hit the air late in 2007.

Doctor Hero Trek

Two pieces of Heroes casting have surfaced recently. Stop reading now if you'd like to avoid minor spoilers.
  • First, Christopher Eccleston, who played the ninth Doctor in the re-imagined Doctor Who, will appear in the series as Claude, a man with the power of invisibility.
  • Second, George Takei, who played Sulu in Star Trek, will appear in the series as Hiro Nakamura's father.
Neat, eh?

Monday, December 18, 2006

It's Not How You Feel; It's How You Look.

Although Alison is the one who frequents a web site called The Superficial, I'm perhaps more interested in appearances than she is. Here's a breakdown of my various superficial interests, with some fun links:
  • Heraldry. Yeah, yeah, I admit it's pretty dorky, but I think representing something as complex as an individual or family identity with a two-dimensional image that can easily be describe in plain text is rather fascinating. Additionally, I've always thought the sometimes silly mythological animals used in heraldry were fun.*
  • Flags. Vexillology is much like heraldry, but with nations in place of individuals, so it's no sureprise that I'm interested in it. I'm certainly no vexillologist, but I can sometimes tell a lot about a country just by looking at its flag, and I think that's cool.
  • Logos and Wordmarks. Logos are, of course, modern-day coats of arms, representing corporate entities, sports teams, bands or even individuals**. Plus, logos are not constrained by all the heraldic rules, so they can be extremely creative. Males in the readership may be horrified to hear this, but I'm not much of a sports fan. In fact---gasp!---I'm often more interested in a team's logo or uniform than their performance. If you are at all like me, you may want to check out the Society for Sports Uniform Research for the latest news on logo, uni, and color changes.
  • Sports uniforms. See above entry, then go to SSUR and Uni Watch.
  • Names. Even though Alison and I aren't planning on naming an children any time soon,*** I find personal names quite fascinating. The most interesting online resource I've found in this category is the NameVoyager, which uses Social Security data to plot the frequency (in children per million) of a name as a function of time, since the 1880s. If you enter a partial name, it will plot all names starting with that string. Neat, eh? For maximum fun, enter "Willow" or "Xander" and look for the spike after Buffy the Vampire Slayer hit the airwaves. Hah! Nerds, you gotta love them.
So there you go. If you are interested in these topics, too, just click on "superficialities" under "Subject Tags" to the right, and you'll see all our bloggin' in this category.

* Perhaps that's related to my passing interest in cryptozoology.
** And I'm not just talking about superheroes like the Batman or eccentrics like Prince Rogers Nelson here.
*** I repeat, for our parents, we are not planning children in the immediate future.

Newton Aloysius Grondul

Our pup's full name is Newton Aloysius* Grondul, but he has acquired several nicknames during his time with us. Here's a list of all the ones I can think of at the moment:
  • Little Guy. This is the name we use most often with him. We use it more often, probably, than Newton.
  • Fuzzface. We came up with this one because, well, his face is fuzzy.
  • Fuzzbutt. This name's a slightly naughtier version of the previous one. Plus, it's assonant.
  • Muzzlepuff. See this definition, and all will be revealed.
  • Tiny Thunder. This is the sound he makes running down the hall after stealing a sock. This is also the name he'll use if he ever becomes a professional wrestler.
  • Señor Puppers. Alison yoinked this name from Cute Overload, and I can't blame her. I mean, this little guy is really cute, and he looks not unlike Newton.
  • Mutton Chops. I came up with this name after we had him groomed for the first time. His new 'do made him look more than a bit like General Ambrose Burnside.

* We chose this middle name because it seemed like it would be fun to yell in a fit of righteous anger.

How the Grinch Didn't Steal Christmas

Yesterday afternoon, Alison and I hosted our second annual party-to-watch-winter-holiday-movies. Our plan was to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Nightmare before Christmas, but we somehow never got around to it. Instead, we all just chatted and ate. I think a good time was had by most, possibly all, so I'll call it a success. I should point out that Newton, having been recently groomed and showing off his new "sit" and "down" skills, was the hit of the party.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Chocolate Meets Peanut Butter

I've been using this metaphor for years. I guess that makes me a corporate shill, since the wording comes straight from an advertising campaign:
two great tastes that taste together, metaphor. Any case of synergy, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
A couple of years ago, Nick exposed me to wording more like this, which is what I mostly use now:
chocolate meets peanut butter, metaphor. Any case of two great tastes that taste together.

Drive, Gorramit!

Nathan Fillion has been cast in Tim Minear's upcoming series Drive. Fillion, for those of you who don't know, and are thus just uncool, played Captain Malcolm Reynolds on Firefly and in Serenity and played Caleb in the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Minear, meanwhile, wrote, executive produced, and directed episodes of Angel, Firefly, and Wonderfalls. If you've ever read this blog, you can guess that I think this is a case of chocolate meeting peanut butter.

For the record, here's the 'Pedia's description of the Drive:
The series is set across the backdrop of an illegal road race with the central focus being on the competitors and eventually on the puppet masters behind the race. Regarding the tone of the show, Minear has described it thusly: "A secret, illegal, underground road race can be anything from Cannonball Run to The Game to North by Northwest to Magnolia-on-wheels. Ours is all those things."
I'm skeptical about the setup, but I 'm optimistic that the pairing of Fillion and Minear will be well worth watching. The show was picked up by Fox*, as a mid-season replacement, based on a pilot episode, which featured Ivan Sergei in the role Fillion has been cast to play. It's not clear to me whether (a) the relevant scenes in the pilot will be re-shot before it's broadcast, (b) the entire pilot will be re-shot before it's shown, or (c) the pilot will not be broadcast at all.

Look for Drive to hit the small screen in March or April.

* The single word "Fox" has me worried, given the tendency of the company to cancel good shows before they can find their audiences.** Still, I'm hopeful that Fox will give the series a fair shake.

** See, for example, the aforementioned Firefly and Wonderfalls.

Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius

Brian is an evil genius. Seriously evil. He has that in common with Lisa.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I'm unreasonably pleased...

...that we have taught Newton to sit and lie down. It is so cute! He puts his little butt down sooo emphatically. It's like he wants there to be an audible "plop!" so we'll be sure to give him that treat.

I'm so excited! I feel a little sillly since I know this is something that almost every dog owner teaches their dog, but I have never done it before. Muffy was NEVER trained...in fact, she did an amazing job of training us. I vowed that I would not do the same thing with Newton, but I wasn't sure if I could actually do this stuff. It really gives me hope that he caught on so quickly. Our first puppy class with dogs is this weekend and I can't wait! Yay!

1 Down, 1 to Go

Well, tonight I took the final exam in my Java class. Now I just need to give a talk on production of polarization-entangled photon pairs by four-wave mixing in optical fiber---a subject I know very little about---and I'll be done with both my classes. Remind me, why did I want to go back to school?

Approval vs. Time

Brian just pointed out this plot of George Bush's approval rating as a function of time. Note that you can zoom in to 2004-2006 if you like. Interesting.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Alien Big Cats

Here's another cryptozoological post from Darren Naish. In this one, Naish discusses the evidence that alien big cats (ABCs) are loose in the UK. Neat!

"Sasquatch" is Fun to Say

Apparently, Tetrapod Zoology is my new favorite blog. I just mentioned it a couple of weeks ago, and here I am bringing it up again. This time, I'd like to point you to this article, where the author summarizes the evidence for and against the existence of sasquatch in a pretty even-handed way. Check it out.

Ep and Sode

Here are a couple of neologisms---abbreviations, really---which originated with the same word, but have quite different meanings. I can't take credit for inventing either of them, but I enjoy using them quite a bit.
ep, noun. An episode in a television or film series.

sode, noun. A brief but traumatic medical or psychological event.
Example: Jaye had a sode on the pilot ep of Wonderfalls.

The Heroes Get Lost

You may recall that, the second time I mentioned Heroes on the blog, I described it as Lost meets Rising Stars. The plot of the show is much like that of Rising Stars: a more realistic take on the superhero genre. The style and feel of the show, however, is more like Lost, or Lost before I grew tired of it. Anyway, the reason I bring all this up is that Tom just sent me a link to this article comparing and contrasting Heroes and Lost. I particularly enjoyed the part where the author pits the corresponding elements of the shows against each other to determine which is, in his opinion, the better show. I encourage you to read it.

I also encourage you to check out Heroes if you haven't already. New episodes, starting with Episode 12, will re-begin airing on January 22, Monday nights on NBC. Now, you may feel that, if you haven't seen the first 11 eps, you'll be lost, and that's partially true. But you can watch all the previous episodes on the official site. The site also has short online comic books that add extra background and detail to the story presented on the screen. So, get watching, then get reading.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Talk about a deal-breaker!

Well, folks, here is a deal-breaker from my perspective.

Michael is a bed-destroyer. That's right....one night of sleeping in a bed and he can totally destroy it. Somehow in his sleep, he manages to untuck the sheet from the foot of the bed, take his pillowcases most of the way off his pillows, kick the comforter completely off the bed, and sometimes he even manages to pull one corner of the fitted sheet off. What does he DO all night? I lie there and sleep, so my covers are mostly in the same place when I'm done. It's like he's working out even at night. Crazy boy...this might be a deal-breaker.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Lessons Newton Taught Us: Productivity

More wisdom we've never acquired without Newton:
It's very difficult to get any work done with an attention-craving, sock-loving puppy in the house.

Mad Props

It appears that a blogger in the UK has been reading Industrial-Strength Science. Nosdivad* is a "student at Birmingham reading** Computer Science," a self-described nerd, a gamer, a fan of neologisms, and clearly in need of a haircut. If you look halfway done this post, you'll see that he describes our blog as "a really nice read from two folks in Maryland who talk about technology, life, tv, music, their dog, and various random stuff that everyone likes to read." Cool, eh? Anyway, his own blog, Surreality, also covers a random assortment of topics. One recent post includes the latest trailer for the uncreatively named Spider-Man 3, which has some good footage of Venom and Sandman, but also gives too much of the story away. I encourage you to check out the blog and the trailer.

* I can only assume his surname is Davidson.
** I love Britishisms.

Industrial-Strength Science, Version 2

Sharp-eyed readers will notice that the blog has undergone some changes over the weekend. Of particular note are the tags or labels. Each post carries a number* of tags which indicate (some of) the topics or subjects discussed in that entry. You can click on the tag to see all the posts on that topic. What's more, all the tags on our blog are listed at right, so you can access any topic we cover right from whatever page you are reading. Neat, eh?

These tags also provide a means of comparing the prevalence of the various subjects. For example, from the list at right, we can see that the most frequent topic on the blog---and this is no surprise to me---is "movies and TV." The second and third most frequent are "science," with 52 posts, and " science fiction," with 49.

* In truth a few posts carry no tags, but, to paraphrase Lindsey Naegle, zero's a number.

Friday, December 08, 2006

PS Wii

Here's your un-asked-for gaming-console update. It's pretty much all about Wii today.
  • It looks like the little Nintendo Wii is soundly beating the Sony PlayStation 3 in terms of console sales, even though the PS3 went on sale a bit earlier. A lot of that is due to the much lower price of the Wii, and a lot is due to production problems with the PS3, but it also seems that the novel user interface is doing just what Nintendo planned, bringing new demographics to the game-console market.
  • Speaking of broadening the game-console demographics, here's a tongue-in-cheek (I hope) editorial about that phenomenon.
  • Lastly, here's a very positive review for the latest Zelda title, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, as played on the Wii.

The Whedon Update

So I'm sure the Whedonites in the readership are wondering what's up with Joss' various projects. Here're are a couple of relevant links.
  • First, Whedon just talked to TV Guide, mostly about the upcoming Buffy: Season 8 comic series, which will be cannon in the Buffyverse and answer Dawn's "What are we gonna do now?" Other topics discussed: Firefly/Serenity---nothing happening---Wonder Woman---rewriting now, no casting yet---and Battlestar Galactica---apparently Whedon's favorite show.
  • Apparently, something is happening with Seren-ifly, just not what you might think: Multiverse is announcing today that they've signed a deal with Fox to bring a massively multiplayer online role-playing game based on the Firefly universe to market. Look for the game in 2008. As far as I can tell, Whedon's not involved, so I'm a little skeptical.
  • In other Seren-ifly-in-other-media news, it looks like there's going to be another Serenity comic limited series. It will be called Serenity: Better Days, and it should be out next year.
Speaking of Buffy, Firefly, and Battlestar Galactica, you may be interested to know that the first Battlestar episode written by Jane Espenson airs tonight on the Sci Fi Channel.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Lessons Newton Taught Us: Puppies vs. Redemption

Another nugget o' wisdom we learned from our pup:
Puppies are haaarrd. Harder even than redemption.

Andrew Seeking Redemption

While my perfectly cromulent metaphors are generally inspired by Star Trek, this one was inspired by Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
Andrew seeking redemption, metaphor. Any person working hard to achieve a laudable goal, but also whining about the difficulty of the task.

Monday, December 04, 2006

You Say Play-Doh. I Say Play Dough.

Do you have kids, or are you a kid at heart? Do you embrace the do-it-yourself spirit? Then you might be interested in making your own play dough. We've done this, without the cream of tartar, and it worked quite well. This strikes me as a fun parent-child project; the parent and child spend quality time together, the kid gets fun dough at the end, and the child learns the satisfaction of DIY.

Game Review: Bookworm Adventures

I'm now completely addicted to Bookworm Adventures. Thanks a lot, Tycho. As Tycho said, it's bassically a Scrabble RPG, and I find it quite entertaining. It's quite satisfying to suddenly pull a long word containing several colored tiles out of what had been a hopeless set of characters only a moment before. Last night, Alison and I were playing together---the game does not support multiple players, as far as I know, but that didn't stop Team Grondul from putting our heads together to vanquish mythological creatures with spelling---and we were each Brian with the overhead projector on several occasions. Overall, I give it 8.0 out of 10.

Poor Little Guy

We had Newton neutered on Friday. (Thus, we are considering renaming him "Neuton".) The procedure itself went reasonably well, but Newton had a bad reaction to the anesthesia; Friday night, he would periodically rouse himself and groggily make his way to the litter box to make a diarrheal deposit. There was also vomiting, I'm sad to say. I was really impressed, though, given his apparent grogginess and probable nausea, that all the defecating and regurgitating occurred in the box and on the kitchen floor, respectively.

On Saturday morning, he got his mouth caught on the cone collar when trying to escape from it, resulting in a cut on his lip. We took the collar off him, and he was pretty good about not chewing at his incision. I think the laser cutting was helpful there.

So, as you can tell, he had a pretty rough 24 hours. The good news is that the effects of the anesthetic seemed to wear off by Saturday, and the cut was minor. Our main challenge at that point was keeping him from being too active and popping his sutures. As a result of all this caretaking, Alison and I didn't get much sleep over the weekend. It was not the most restful weekend we've ever had.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Lord of All 5 Babylon Rings

Have you ever noticed significant similarities between the Lord of the Rings and Babylon 5? Well, I have, and now I've found a good discussion of these parallels on the 'Pedia. This article, in fact, includes not only all the similarities I noticed, but also several more. I encourage you to read it.

Wolf or Woof?

After watching Nova's Dogs and More Dogs, I found this very informative blog entry. The author presents some compelling evidence that dogs are not descended directly from wolves, as is commonly claimed, but rather from a now-extinct species of pariah-like wild dogs. Check it out.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Worst. Superhero. Ever.

Here's a fun article on the author's picks for worst superhero names ever. As a fan of Batman, I especially enjoy his rant on Robin. And here's the author's equally fun preceding article about bottum-rung superheroes and movies that could---but shouldn't---be made about them. Enjoy.

Kansas Outlaws Practice of Evolution

At least, according to The Onion. Hah!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Tesla Roadster

I think I've found the car for me.

Let's Name the Cat "Ghloughgheigh"

Caulfield has a point.

Furoshiki

The Japan's Ministry of the Environment has published a guide to wrapping gifts in reusable cloth, rather than paper, to cut down on waste. I think this is a spectacular system and we should adopt it. Check it out.

Even More Newton

Several of you have asked for more photos of our pup, so here they are.

Alison and Newton are both wiped out after a long day of playing together.

We thought Newton didn't like balls until we discovered these miniature tennis balls, which actually fit in his mouth.

Here's another photo of the little guy with one of these wee balls.

Newton loves to have his stomach rubbed.

Newton has decided that the bed is for him, and we should sleep in the crate.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Game Review: Apples to Apples, Fluxx, Pit, and Set

Here, in rapid-fire format, are reviews of some card games that Alison and I have been playing recently:
  • Apples to Apples. This game involves subjective mapping of nouns, both common and proper, to adjectives. It's not a terribly "thinky" game, but it is fun. Overall, I give it 7.5 out of 10.
  • Fluxx, version 3.1. In this game, the rules, including the win condition, change very quickly. It's like an extra-complicated Uno. I give it 8.0 out of 10.
  • Pit. In this game, players attempt to corner the market on some commodity, which involves lots and lots of yelling. This game is the least thinky listed here, but it's gobs of fun. Do not play this game with Alison. In the 7 hands the 7 of us played on Thanksgiving, she won 4. I give it 7.5 out of 10.
  • Set. Since I call this one "the game that makes me feel stupid," you won't be surprised to hear that this game is the most mentally taxing one listed here. The goal is to pick out sets of cards that match in ways too complicated to describe here. It's tough to do under time pressure, at least for me. I give it 7.0 out of 10.

Movie Review: Stranger than Fiction

Yesterday, Alison and I saw Stranger than Fiction with Samara and Andy. I don't normally like Will Ferrell or his films, but found this film to be fairly clever and enjoyable. Overall, I give it 7.5 out of 10.

The 2nd Annual Very Team Grondul Thanksgiving

Alison and I hosted the Second Annual Very Team Grondul Thanksgiving---our first as a married couple---this year. I was most thankful for all the groovy-cool folks who attended.

In addition to the traditional feast, we played card games called Pit, Fluxx, and Apples to Apples. I found all of them to be quite entertaining and recommend them heartily.

Lessons Newton Taught Us: Simulteneity

Here's another piece of doggy wisdom:
Puppies are a never-ending source of amusement and frustration, often at the same time.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Spool Up the FTL Drives

Battlestar Galactica is jumping to Sundays at 10:00 PM as of January 21, 2007.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Mirthquake

I cribbed this word from Tycho Brahe, who arrived at it independently of others:
mirthquake, noun. Laughter accompanied by shaking or violent motion.

Geographile

I made this word up for my last post:
geographile, noun. A person interested in geography.

Worldmapper

Geographiles in the readership may want to check out Worldmapper, "a collection of world maps, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest," such as income, natural resources, or toy imports. Click on "Map Categories" to see what kind of maps are available. On each map's page, you can open a PDF file with additional information. I find the site both interesting and educatonal.

Wee!

It looks like Nintendo's Wii, or at least its novel user interface, is winning friends. Jonathan Gabriel certainly seems to like it. Here's a neat article from Wired on how controller technology has driven game development.

In other game-console news, it appears that one can run Linux on Sony's Playstation 3. Hunh.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Happy Birthday, Dear Blog

Yep, Industrial-Strength Science, which only rarely has anything to do with science, had its first anniversary on the ninth of this month. Any nostalgiaholics in the readership can relive the wonder of the first post here. Alison and I would like to thank all of you for reading.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Blogin' the Bible

David Plotz, a self-described non-observant Jew and contributor to the online magazine Slate, has decided to find out what is actually in the bible by---get this---reading it. I find his commentary rather interesting. Check it out.

smart Fortwo

Some of you may be aware of DaimlerChrysler's smart brand of tiny, tiny cars. Well, the first smart model, the 2008 Fortwo, is scheduled to arrive in the US next year. The Fortwo has seating for two---hence the name---is more than 3 feet shorter than a new Mini, weighs 1700 pounds, gets up to 67 miles per gallon (with the diesel powerplant), and is allegedly as safe as a Mercedes C-class sedan. I'm hoping the Fortwo will sell well in the States, though I'm skeptical that it will, so that I can purchase the Brabus-tuned smart Roadster Coupé in a couple of years, if that model is still being made.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

But What About Ping?

What could be cooler/geekier than playing Pong on an oscilloscope?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It Was the Dawn of the Third Age of Mankind

Yes, Babylon 5 fans, it's official: Yesterday, Warner Brothers announced that production has begun on the first in a hoped-for series of direct-to-DVD "movies" set in the B5 universe. The series will be called Bablyon 5: The Lost Tales, and it is to be "an anthology series...using our characters almost like a repertory group," according to B5 creater/writer/director/uber-god J. Michael Straczynski. (Fans will be relieved to know that original cast members will be used.) It appears that each entry in the series will actually consist of two or three independent stories. This first entry, called Voices in the Dark, will contain two stories and be directed by JMS himself. Look for it to be relased in the second quarter of 2007.

And so it begins.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Does 1 Tortilla Equal 2 Slices of Bread?

Ah, the questions that mankind has pondered since time began:
  • If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
  • What is the sound of one hand clapping?
  • Is genetics or environment the stronger factor in determining a person's character?
  • Does mankind truly have free will?
  • How many roads must a man walk down before they call him a man?
  • Is a burrito a sandwich?
Thanks to Brian (and thus Rafa) for pointing this out.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Once Upon a Time

Last weekend we had some friends over to play games and we were pleasantly surprised that one of them brought a new game with him. Well, I suppose it isn't actually new, but it was new to us! It's called Once Upon a Time. Basically, it is a deck of cards and on each card is printed a snippet of a story. It might be a character, location, or plot point. Each player gets some of these cards as well as two endings. The goal of the game is to tell a story using your cards that somehow leads to one of the endings you have in your hand. Of course, while you are telling your story, one of your fellow players can steal the story from you and continue it using the cards in their hand. I really enjoyed it! It was different than any other game I have played, and it forced me to exercise that creativity muscle that, sadly, goes unused most of the time what with me being a scientist and all. So, if you are looking for a different holiday gift for someone this year, I highly recommend it. Thanks to Ken for introducing us to it!

Make if a Footlong, Hon

You know you're in Maryland when the sandwich artist at your local Subway restaurant offers you salt, pepper, oregano, or Old Bay seasoning for your sub.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Wanna Trade Clinton for Obama?

Politically minded members of the readership---you know who you are---may be interested to know that the fantasy sports phenomenon has now expanded to the US Congress. That's right, FantasyCongress.org is now online. So go forth and play politics.

Google Strikes Again

I know I'm coming late to the party, but Google Earth is way cool. Download it and see for yourself. Be sure to enable 3D buildings, then check out a built-up area such as Manhattan.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Costumes Aplenty

If you didn't get enough Halloween at Halloween, you might want to check out the winners of MAKE's costume/decoration contests.

The Firefly Cast Gets Lost

Today, I have two bits of news about Firefly/Serenity cast members appearing on Lost or something like it. That's right: two.
  • First up, Cap'n Tightpants himself, Nathon Fillion was on Lost last night. Lost lost me about a year ago, so I didn't tune in last night, but I'm sure Fillion did a fine job.
  • Second, it appears that Jewel Staite, the lovable Kaylee of Sereni-fly and the evil Heidi of Wonderfalls, will be headlining---!---a film called The Tribe in 2007. Don't believe me? Check out the trailer here. The storyline looks like a subset of Lost's so I can't say I'm excited about seeing it, but it certainly seems like good news, career-wise, for Staite.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

More Newton Pics

Feel free to skip these if you are already sick and tired of us blabbing on and on about how cute our dog is. However, if you are one of the people who has been asking us for more pics of Newton, here you go!

Newton is very, very cute when he is upside down. This is one of my favorite photos of him playing with Michael. Note the tiny paw pads and the very pink ears. Awww....


Newton, like all puppies, mostly enjoys chewing on things that are NOT his toys. Such as shirt tags, for example:


Newton can't stand being in his pen while we're doing stuff. Here he is looking SO pathetic while in "doggy jail". I find it particulary pathetic when he sticks his nose through the bars like so:


Newton is not a shy puppy. He just lets it all hang out. Also note in this photo that puppies make you very tired. They get up quite early, unlike Michaels which, as a species, tend to sleep late.


He likes sleeping on his back. It's a bit odd!


His new favorite spot is under the couch. I guess it's cozy, especially when we put his new blanket under there for him to snuggle with.


Well, there you go! I hope you enjoyed the latest Newton installment. :)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Cancer, You Just Made a New Enemy

I'd like everyone to know that Alison was awarded a pre-doctoral training grant yesterday. This development not only means that will her tuition be paid for, but also that she'll receive a modest stipend for her grad-school work. The benefits of the grant are not only financial; it will look good on her already-impressive resume. So let's all congratulate Alison on her good work.

By the way, this is what I look like when I'm very proud.

The Fix is In

Regular readers know that I've been pondering acquiring a fixed-gear* road bike or single-speed mountain bike for a few years. Well, 2 weeks ago, I bought a fixie**.

It's a 2007 Cannondale Capo in the clear-coated raw-aluminum finish. Yes, I know it's much cooler to convert some random old road bike to fixed-gear operation or at least repurpose an antique track bike, but I couldn't resist the Capo at this price point. For 720 dollars--I get a bit of a discount at my shop---I got a frame and fork that would cost around 800 bucks if bought separately, plus all the rest of the components. Admittedly, as you can see from the spec sheet, the components range from junk (the hubs and bottom bracket) to mediocre (the bar, stem, and seatpost), but the bike was still a good deal. Besides, I can always upgrade the components later.

Actually, I've already removed the rear brake calipers and lever as well as replaced the saddle, post, pedals, brake-cable housing, and even the grip tape. I'm Brian with the overhead projector when it comes to the silver tape; I think it looks very sharp. Perhaps I'll do the same with the Seven.

So far, I'm enjoying the challenge of the fixed-gear and the intimate connection with the drivetrain.*** I'm still working on descending, however; I've only tackled moderate downhills. I'll try some steeper descents in the next few rides.

A word about gearing: I'm running a 48/17 gear, which, with 700x23c tires, works out to 74.26 gear inches. Chris recommended that gearing to me, based on his own experience riding in the same areas I ride. So far, that's working out pretty well, but I reserve the right to change it later.

Anyway, here are some photos of my new rig:



* A fixed-gear bicycle is a (nearly always) single-speed bike that does not coast.

** I should point out that, as the spec sheet indicates, the Capo comes with a freewheel, making it a single-speed rather than a fixie. However, I put a fixed cog and lock-ring on the other side of the flip-flop hub before hitting the road with it. After a week of riding, I found that I never felt the need to switch to the coast-able mode, so I took the freewheel off.

*** Plus, I get to use the word "fixie" all the time now. Don't you agree that "fixie" is great fun to say? Fixie, fixie, fixie. Fixie.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

RC Tank Combat

It turns out that there is a group of people, most of whom seem to be in Maryland, who design and scratch-build large-scale (1/6th scale or at least 36-inch hull length) radio-controlled tanks fitted with paint-ball makers. Then they stage organized battles on fields or in the woods. I must say that, since I discovered this hobby, I've been quite excited about the idea of building one of these contraptions and mildly interested in actually participating in a battle. So, I attended the latest battle last weekend. The participants were rather friendly, and the atmosphere was light-hearted and fun. Now I'm fascinated with designing a tank that can outperform the most advanced of them. We'll see if that happens before I lose interest and move on to my next hobby/obsession.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The 2nd Annual Pumpkin-Carving Extravaganza

Alison and I hosted the Second Annual Pumpkin-Carving Extravaganza last Saturday. Actually, I should say that Newton, Alison, and I hosted the party, since I think the majority of our guests attended principally to meet the new pup. We all I had a good time, I think, and Newton was a big hit. Thus, the event was a success. I expect that we'll host another squash-mutilating get-together next October.

Lessons Newton Taught Us: Daylight Saving

Here's another bit o' wisdom Newton's imparted to us:
Dogs, like Hawai'i, do not observe daylight saving time. If you are planning to get an extra hour of sleep on the night we "fall back", forget it.

Lessons Newton Taught Us: Chew Toys

Since acquiring our pup, Alison and I have tried to teach him various things. Things like what his name is---done---to pee in his litter box---mostly there---and not to nip your hands when he gets excited---still working on it. In exchange, we've learned a few things from Newton. Here's the first lesson Newton taught us:
No matter how many chew toys you buy your dog, he will always prefer to chew on something else, preferably something delicate or expensive.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Music Review: The Open Door by Evanescence

It took me a few listens to warm up to Evanescence's newest album, The Open Door, but now I'm enjoying it quite a bit. In particular, I find tracks 2 and 5 ("Call Me When You're Sober" and "Cloud Nine" to be quite entertaining, but tracks 10 and 12 ("The Only One" and "All That I'm Living For" are my favorites. Overall, it's not as consistently enjoyable as Anywhere But Home, but still quite good, so I'll give it 8.0 out of 10.

By the way, Alison's enjoying this CD, but she was disappointed that it didn't contain a studio version of her perhaps-favorite song from Anywhere But Home, "Breathe No More". Meanwhile I'd still like to hear studio versions of "Farther Away" and the band's cover of Korn's "Thoughtless".

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Newton Live!

One of Newton's favorite activities is chasing his tail. Here is a very cute video of him engaged in his favorite activity:



Also, of all the toys we have bought him, his favorite thing to play with is a used water bottle:



Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Fiaster and Disasco

For the first few years Alison and I would use this word with each other:
fiaster, noun. Something that's more than a fiasco, but not quite a disaster.
Then, one day, Lisa pointed out that if you swapped the order, you got something a little funnier:
disasco, noun. 1. Something that's more than a fiasco, but not quite a disaster. 2. A Latin dance performed by a poorly coordinated person.
Not surprisingly, I use "disasco" exclusively now.

Six Words Only? Take That, Haiku!

Read nanostories. Comment in six words.

Monday, October 23, 2006

White & Nerdy

Lisa sent just sent me this hilarious Weird Al video of what is now my new theme song. I really should be coding some Java, but I think I'll watch this a few more times. Seriously, the project needs to be done by Wednesday.

(By the way, keep an eye out for Seth Green and Donny Osmond in the video.)

Telly Tidbits

My last post reminded me that I've been meaning to give you, dear reader, an update on my latest TV watching. I'm sure you've been just dying to know what I've been tuning into lately. Well, here you go:
  • Battlestar Galactica, Season 3. Battlestar continues to be not only the best sci-fi on television, but also the best series on TV. If you aren't watching it, start here.
  • Heroes, Season 1. This show is a more realistic take on the superhero genre that's so popular these days, but with a heavy dose of mystery mixed in. It feels like Lost meets Rising Stars.
  • My Name is Earl, Season 2. This series is 75% Wonderfalls---sniff---and 25% Raising Arizona, so it's qute amusing. The Randy character really pushes the show to the next level.
  • The Dog Whisperer, all seasons. Since before the arrival of our new critter, Alison and I have been boning up on our dog training by watching new episodes and reruns. Cesar Millan, the whisperer from the title, has an uncanny ability to establish dominance immediately, with very subtle body language. Impressive.
  • Dirty Jobs, all seasons. Mike Rowe finds out, first hand, what some people have to do to make civilization possible for the rest of us.
Additionally, here are some shows that I'm looking forward to seeing in the near future.
  • Torchwood, Season 1. The anagramic Doctor Who spinoff debuted in the UK on Sunday, to mostly positive reviews. The setup is somewhere between The X-Files and Men In Black.
  • Doctor Who, Second Christmas Special and Season 3. The second season was better than the first, which was quite enjoyable. I like that trend.
  • The Lost Room, mini-series. This show looks pretty intriguing. It could be clever, or it could be stupid.
  • Psych, Season 2. Alison and both enjoyed the first, short season of this fake-psychic detective comedy, and we are looking forward to the next.
You know, from looking at this list, I've decided that the NBC Universal family of networks, which includes Sci Fi, USA, and, of course, NBC, must be my favorite.

Colonial Public Radio

Shuaib pointed out this NPR story about how Battlestar Galactica has attracted critical praise and an audience outside the conventional boundaries of science fiction. Maybe this story will persuade whatever part of the NPR demographic isn't at least watching the show to check it out.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Giving Hope to Nerds Everywhere

Last Saturday, as promised, Todd married the lovely and intelligent Laura, thus giving hope to nerds across the land. My congratulations go out to the groom; the bride has my condolences. ;-)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Africa Strikes Again

It looks like a second person in Africa has finally happened upon our blog.

Jack-O'-Lanterns on Parade

The Second Annual Team Grondul Pumpkin-Carving Extravaganza is drawing closer, so here are some ideas for making something other than the same old jack-o'-lantern. These ideas all come courtesy of MAKE and the "softer side" of MAKE, CRAFT:
  • If you're a danger to yourself and others when wielding a knife, perhaps you should consider simply decorating the outside of your pumpkin, like Bert and Ernie here.
  • If pumpkins are just too messy for you---though personally, I think the mess is half the fun---then you might want to buy a rubber foam pumpkin. Since these often come already "carved"---by which I mean "molded"---I'll expect you to do something creative with yours. Perhaps you can make a porch-light cover out of it, like this one.
  • Plastic is another option for the real-pumpkins-are-too-messy crowd. That's fine, but, again, I'll expect you to do something clever. Here, for example, is a solar-powered plastic JOL.
  • If you're more of the needle-and-tread type of person, you could crochet your jack-o'-lantern. If your design come out well, you can submit it to this contest at Monster Crochet.
  • And finally, if you just want to carve up a really kickin' JOL, then you should check out Extreme Pumpkins. (I know I mentioned this site before, but no pumpkin-carving roundup would be complete without it.)

Shelfari

Well, in my daily attempt to not start work before 10am, I found this cool website. Apparently, it is quite new according to their blog, having just launched last week. Still, the idea is pretty neat. As they describe it on their home page:

The problem with our large bookshelves is that they are buried in our home where only a subset of people can see what we have read. Now with Shelfari you can show off that book collection to your friends and the world!

Huh! Kind of a cool idea! So, I joined today (it's free). I am in the process of building my shelf and have already run into something I think could be changed, but they have "feedback" links on each page, so I told them my thought. I wonder if they will implement it? Anyway, I suggest you check it out. Happy reading!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Monday, October 16, 2006

I Hope We Aren't Cancelled

It appears that our ratings are slipping. I guess I need to start wearing my T-shirt more often.

I Think They Should Call it Michaelium

The most massive element yet, element 118, has was created earlier this month in Russia by a Russian-American collaboration.

Once Over Easy

I discovered this weekend that Alison likes the yolks in her fried eggs runny. Eww. I seriously think this could be a deal-breaker.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Mr. Skellington, I Presume?

I need this.

Better...Stronger...Faster

Here's a rather strange piece of sci-fi news. Apparently David Eick, the co-executive producer of my much-loved Battlestar Galactica, is planning to re-imagine another sci-fi series from the seventies: The Bionic Woman. That's right, the Lindsay Wagner-led spinoff of The Six Million Dollar Man. What? Hunh?

Bad Plot! Bad!

Nick sent me a good link about bad graphs.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Newton

We've finally settled on a name for our little critter: Newton. He's officially named for the famous scientist and mathematician, but if you'd like to think of him as being named for the fig-filled cookie, I guess that's OK, too. Of course, just because we've decided on the little guy's name, that doesn't mean he knows what it is. We'll be working on that in the near future.

Anyway, here are some more photos of the pup. Alison's still in her pajamas in these pics, so don't think less of her fashion sense. But do be sure to notice her stumpy little toes.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

No-Name the Puppy!

Hello everyone! Well, we finally did it. We got ourselves a puppy! He is a little 12-week old Bichon Frise. We are very excited...and very tired. We still have not decided on a name for the little guy, but we are committed to figuring that out by tonight. Anyway, here is a first look at the little cutie. Sadly this first pic was taken on the way home when we stopped to let him get some air after he got carsick. :( As you can see, though, he did get better soon after we got home. Enjoy!



Saturday, October 07, 2006

Happy Birthday, Dear Mickey

Today is my mother's birthday, so happy birthday, Mom!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Muffy Story #3: Opposable Thumbs?

Muffy is, as I have said before, a very smart dog. Here is one example of her uncanny canine intellect.

When Muffy was a puppy she was very, very tiny. This made us very, very lax about keeping things out of her reach. However, one day we came home to find that she had learned to jump up onto the coffee table where my mom kept a little dish of Hershey's Kisses. Of course, we were horrified since chocolate is poisonous to dogs. Once we got over being horrified, though, we were frankly amazed. I imagine that when most dogs get into individually-wrapped chocolates they eat as much foil as they do chocolate. Not Muffy. She had perfectly unwrapped her prizes, as if she had opposable thumbs! There were perfect squares of foil all over the floor. They were barely even torn! She even managed to leave the little Hershey's Kiss flags behind.

Well, no more of that! We put the chocolates on the sofa table which was much taller...way too tall for Muffy to jump up on. Except Muffy learned that if she jumped up on the sofa and then climbed up the arm and across the back of the sofa, she could easily hop onto the sofa table and knock the chocolate onto the floor and have a feast. At least, that's what we assume she did since we came home to, you guessed it, perfectly unwrapped and totally eaten Hershey's Kisses.

Now my mom keeps the candy dish on top of the antique icebox which is about four feet high and sits by itself in the corner. Muffy has not figured that one out yet, thank goodness, and it has been eleven years now, so we feel pretty comfortable keeping the candy dish up there. I'm not convinced, however, that Muffy has not been plotting this whole time. I half expect that we will come home one day to a rope ladder made out of her dog bed lining, an empty candy dish, and very neatly unwrapped candy wrappers all over the floor.

Websites I Enjoy

I just thought I would put these few websites out there that I have been enjoying lately.
  1. If you secretly enjoy the celebrity rags at the checkout stand, but feel bad spending money on them, then check out The Superficial. This site serves up lots of good old fashioned turn-your-brain-to-mush celebrity gossip/pictures with plenty of snarky captions. Keep in mind that said captions sometimes contain content not appropriate for work. I especially don't recommend reading the comments left by the people who frequent the site. They are stupid, boring, and often profane.
  2. This site is for those of us who particularly enjoy those shows or magazines where they do the best and worst dressed lists, but who really can't stand the insipid commentators or, again, don't want to spend money on the magazines. Plenty of pics of absurdly dressed celebrities with very funny, well-written comments. I also enjoy that they don't just bash people who are dressed poorly, but they also recognize people who look really good.
  3. This site is for people who enjoy cute pictures. Yep, that seems to be its sole purpose. Enjoy!
So, there are three more ways for you to waste your workday. I have also posted them under my recommendations. Now go forth and surf!

Rice University to Add 2 New Colleges

Somehow I missed it, but my undergraduate alma mater, Rice University, has announced some major expansion plans. The school intends to increase the size of the undergraduate student body by 30 %. I'm not sure I agree with that move; I think perhaps Rice should stay the small---some would say "elite"---university it's been for so long. Anyway, to accommodate all these new students, the school will be adding two new residential colleges. That's right: a tenth and an eleventh. What's more, these two colleges are slated to be occupied by Autumn of 2009. It appears that the new colleges, along with their joint kitchen/servery, will be squeezed into the north side of campus, next to Jones. The tenth college will be named McMurtry, after a couple who began dating as Rice undergrads and who have recently donated 32 M$ to the University. That's 32,000,000 dollars. (I think it's safe to assume the McMurtrys are doing pretty well for themselves.)

A bit of Rice history: In the late 1990s, the University planned to add two new residential colleges to its set of eight. After the most recent recession began, the money dried up, so the plans were scaled back; only the ninth college was built. I guess the cash must be flowing more freely now, but I wonder how long it will last, or if the eleventh college will be constructed anytime soon.

I know two occasional readers of this blog are Rice alumni. I'd like to hear their opinions on this news.

Extreme Pumpkins

Those of you who will be honored with an invitation to our annual pumpkin-carving party---pretty much all the Marylanders reading this---should peruse this site. Alison and I will be expecting greater-than-average creativity this year.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Software Review: Google SketchUp

OK, this post isn't a full-blown review; I've only used Google's SketchUp 3-D drawing program for an hour or so, working my way through the tutorials and generally playing around. Still, I found it to be very powerful and easy to use. Also, Google hosts a "warehouse" where users can exchange their drawings. I encourage you to check it out.

Cube Me!

Here's another fun-yet-geeky costume from MAKE: a Rubik's Cube.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Kick

I learned this use of "kick" from a especially amusing episode of The Tick:
kick, verb. To act as a sidekick.
Example: Arthur kicks for the Tick, just as Sancho Panza kicks for Don Quixote.

TV Review: Doctor Who, New Series, Season 2

(This review contains no significant spoilers.)

The Sci Fi Channel will begin showing the second season* (series, to speakers of Commonwealth English) of Doctor Who tonight. Thus, I think now is a good time to update my earlier review of the first season of the new series. So, here it is:

First, I should point out that the good Doctor has regenerated yet again. His tenth incarnation is played by David Tennant. I must say that, though I enjoyed Christopher Eccleston's portrayal, I like Tennant's a lot more; the tenth Doctor is just more fun. Meanwhile, Rose Tyler, as adequately portrayed by Billie Piper, continues to kick for the Doctor; no complaints there.

The writing continues to be solid. If anything, the plots are better this year. I particularly enjoyed these episodes:
  • "Tooth and Claw"
  • "The Girl in the Fireplace"
  • "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit" (2-parter)
  • "Love & Monsters"
Under no circumstances should you watch "Fear Her." It's just dumb.

The only downside to S2 as compared to S1 is the lack of the time-traveling pansexual con man, Captain Jack Harkness, played by John Barrowman. Fortunately, we'll get to see more of him in the X-Files-esque Doctor Who spin-off (and anagram), Torchwood, as well as in multiple episodes of the third season of Who.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out that this series is a family/kid show. As such, it can be more than a little silly. That fact must be kept in mind to enjoy DW.

Overall, I think the show improved a bit in its sophomore season, but I'm still going to give it 7.5 out of 10. As I said in my last review, if I were under 14 or had children that age, I'd give it 8.5.

* Technically, the first episode of the new Who that Sci Fi is showing tonight is not part of Season 2. SFC is showing the Christmas Special, which aired between S1 and S2, at 8:00 EST. At 9:30, they'll show the first ep of S2.

All Hallows Eve

Halloween is coming up, as I'm sure you have noticed. Thus, you may be searhing around for a costume idea. Well, if you are into superheros (or cuddly flying mammals), you might enjoy these entries from the MAKE Blog:
Check 'em out, bub.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Frightening News About Global Warming

This New Scientist article describes some scientists' fears that we are within one degree Celsius of a threshold beyond which enormous climate change will occur. Please look it over.

Readers interested in this topic might also care to bone up on the much less famous phenomenon of global dimming.

Oh, and while you're at it, you might want to look up the phrase "Tragedy of the Commons."

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Aww, How Cute---Achoo!

People with cat allergies, like me and, especially, Alison, will be glad to hear that an American biotechnology company is now offering hypoallergenic kittens. Additionally, those who worry about genetically modifying organisms will be glad to hear that these cats were created through good old-fashioned artificial selection.

Death and Taxes

Todd recently sent me links to the latest version of the "Death and Taxes" chart, which is a visual breakdown of the US federal budget. Here's the chart as one big .JPG image, and here it is as a zoomable JavaScript-y thing. I find it to be quite fascinating and encourage you, gentle reader, to check it out.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

It's a Nice Day For a White Wedding

Regular readers will recall that Alison and I were married about a month and a half ago. (Yesterday was our sixth weekaversary---awww.) Our photographer just delivered to us a CD containing all 702 photos she took. Here is a very small subset of them:

'Cause Your Friends Don't Zorb And If They Don't Zorb Well They're No Friends of Mine

I've just discovered my next sport. Forget about cycling, krav, or weight training; I'm taking up zorbing, brought to us by the good people in New Zealand. Apparently, it's all the rage in some circles. Even the Beeb has noticed it. Want to get in on all the zorbing fun? Check out zorb.com.

Man, those kiwis are some nutty folks.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sailing to the North Pole

Environmental scientists have recently reported significant shrinking of the Arctic Polar ice cap. The ice has shrunk so much that a navigable channel opened up between northern Europe and the Pole itself. And people don't believe in global warming.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ahoy me hearties!

Arr...it's come to me attention that today be International Talk Like a Pirate Day. I wouldn't want me blog-readin' mateys to miss out on all the festivities. So, click on yonder link to learn yer pirate speak and have yerself a fine day! Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.....yarr.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I, for One, Welcome Our New Robot Overlords

You might enjoy this interesting article about one researcher's work on software that generate "new ideas on the basis of existing ones." It's pretty cool.