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.


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


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


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


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.


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, 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.