Friday, June 29, 2007

Conservapedia: Just as Biased as it Sounds

Lisa recently brought the Conservapedia to my attention. This Wikipedia article describes it pretty thoroughly: It's a wiki-based encyclopedia designed to counter the perceived liberal, anti-Christian, anti-American bias of Wikipedia. I sampled a few articles, and its own conservative, pro-Christian, anti-foreigner bias is far stronger than anything I've ever seen in Wikipedia. Just check out the Breaking News section of the main page for a sampling.

Angel Moonlights in New Amsterdam

Here's more evidence that the American TV networks are struggling to come up with new ideas. Two networks are debuting new series that sound, at least in premise, a lot like Angel:
  • From CBS comes Moonlight, which "follows a private investigator...whose bride...turned him into a vampire on the couple's wedding night 60 years prior as he struggles in the present day with his love for a mortal woman...and his dealings with other vampires in the city." The similarities between this show and Angel may be due, in part, to the presence of David Greenwalt, who collaborated on the Whedon series, as showrunner.
  • Meanwhile, Fox will be broadcasting New Amsterdam, which follows a character named John Amsterdam---get it?---who, in 1642 New Amsterdam---get it?---is made immortal by a Native American and is now a homicide detective in the city now known as New York.*
* Why they changed it I can't say. People just liked it better that way.

iPhone

Check out this article in which The Onion points out some of the less widely known features of the new iPhone. Hmm...perhaps this explains the large price tag?

(American) Life on Mars

As if we haven't already noticed,* more evidence** has arrived indicating that the American television industry is running out of (new) ideas. ABC is producing the pilot episode of an American remake of the successful British sci-fi detective series Life on Mars. The British series looks quite interesting, but I don't see why US networks feel the need to remake British series*** rather than simply airing the orignal versions; I guess they must believe that Americans cannot cope with international accents.

What's next, an American Doctor Who? If you have any doubt that such a series would suck, you should know that the sub-par Who telefim, sometimes called Enemy Within, was a joint production of the Beeb and Universal Television.

* How many backstabbing reality shows are there on the box these days anyway?
** I hope to put up even more evidence later today.
*** See also the American remake of Coupling.

Google Maps Drag and Drop: Where Have You Been All My Life?

Here's an online-mapping feature I've been wanting for sometime: Google Maps' new drag-and-drop capability. If you don't like the route the program spits out for you, you can drag part of the route to a new spot, and Maps will automatically adjust your route to include that point and change the directions accordingly. Not only is this feature cool, but it is also extremely helpful for situations like these:
  • You'd like to drive along the coast to make your trip more scenic.
  • You want to avoid an area because you know the traffic will be bad there.
  • You'd like to stop somewhere in particular on the way.
  • You need to avoid a highway or road area because you are riding your bike. (This scenario is the most important to me.)
Neat, eh?

Murph

Good lord!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Upside Down is the Only Way to Chew, Man!

Newton, like all dogs, likes to chew on stuff, and he particularly enjoys his rawhide bones. However, he does something that I think is a bit odd. He rolls over on his back while chewing like so:

This is wierd, right? I swear I have never seen a dog do this before. And Newton seems to do it when he's REALLY into a bone. It's like it's better if he chews it upside down. Silly dog!

Hooray for Vacay!

Hello everyone! Lots has been going on around here with me lately. The most important news, of course, is that I finished my oral exams. WOO HOO!! I am now ABD (all but dissertation). Ha! As if that were some mean feat...all that's left is the measly little dissertation. No biggie, right? Still, I feel like I have finished the preliminaries and can now get started on the cool part, y'know?

After I finished up, I did a little bit of traveling to celebrate. First, I visited some family in Florida, which was fun. I managed to go to the beach twice and not get horribly sunburned. I only peeled a teeny bit on the tops of my shoulders. This is a major accomplishment for me. The beach and I don't exactly get along famously. Anyway, after my trip to Florida I returned here for a few days, only to turn around and leave for Vermont shortly thereafter. I went up there to visit my old roommates from Atlanta, one of whom (Melinda) now lives in Burlington. The other roommate, Leah, and I drove from MD to VT, which was not a bad drive, really, except for a couple of things. First of all, it cost us approximately $20 in tolls each way. CRAZY. Also, Google maps is great at finding you the shortest route and, don't get me wrong, the directions were completely accurate. However, we ended up on some very, very tiny country roads, none of which were marked clearly or, um, at all, around the New York/VT border right at dusk. That was...challenging. Also, there were farm smells and at least one skunk. We affectionately named the area "New Vermork" since we were not terribly clear on which state we were in, exactly. New Vermork is not easy to navigate, so I don't recommend going if you can avoid it.

Vermont is REALLY pretty. I was kind of surprised by how rural it is! I suppose that's ignorant of me, but I was expecting Burlington to be a fairly big city. On the contrary, although it is the largest city in VT, it is not that big. The downtown was super cute and quaint with pretty little shops. We spent one day strolling around down there poking around. It was really nice. We also pretty much ate our way through the state. We toured the Cabot creamery where we got free samples of cheese, the Ben and Jerry's factory where we got free samples of ice cream, the Lake Champlain Chocolates factory where we got free samples of chocolate, and the Cold Hollow Cider Mill where we got, you guessed it, free samples of cider. I have no idea why people in VT don't weigh 500 lbs apiece. If I lived there, I guarantee you that someday someone would be prying the wall off my house to lift me out with a forklift while Richard Simmons cheered me on. It would be BAD.

Anyway, I'm back now, having successfully navigated New Vermork not once, but twice, and having eaten way more than my fair share of Vermont's dairy products. I was a very silly girl and did not take my camera with me, but when Leah and Melinda send me their photos, I will post a few for your viewing pleasure.

Turkish Get-Ups Get Me Down

I did this workout last night. (My warm-up was different, though.) This is the first time I've really done Turkish get-ups,* and let me tell you: they are challenging. It's the moment of inertia that does you in. The entire load is held at arm's length overhead, and most of it is also suspended way out on the ends of the bar; the combination is a real challenge for all the stabilizing muscles in your shoulder. I also noticed this morning that your upper abdominals get a bit of a workout from the bottom part of this exercise.

For the record, I used pretty pansy weights, since I wasn't sure how much the TGUs would beat me up.
  • Dumbbell hang clean and press: 53 pounds.
  • Turkish get-up: 45 pounds (an unloaded Olympic bar).
  • Weighted pullup: 35 pounds.

* Search for the slide show here.

Doctor Who: Buffier by the Moment

Speaking of things Joss, here's a review of the most recent episode of Doctor Who in which the author discusses how the new incarnation of the show was inspired in part by Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Whedon's other works.

Serenity Breaks Atmo

It appears that the DVDs of Firefly and Serenity recently carried to the International Space Station aboard Atlantis are being well received.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Primary And General Election Polling Results

The 'Pedia has some informative articles summarizing the opinion-poll results related to the Democratic presidential primary, Republican presidential primary, and presidential election. Here're my summaries of the summaries:
  • Democratic primary: Clinton has lead from the get-go. Obama consistently finishes second, about 15 points behind. Gore does surprisingly well, given that he hasn't campaigned or even entered the race.
  • Republican primary: Giuliano usually leads, but Thompson occasionally sneaks ahead.
  • Presidential election: In two-way contests, Clinton usually beats all the Republicans, though Giuliani sometimes bests her. Interestingly, Gore also usually beats the Republicans, though he is also sometimes beaten by Giuliani. Obama, meanwhile, consistently looses to Giuliani.
Fascinating.

Incidentally, I think it'd be hilarious if Clinton is nominated and selects Gore as her running-mate. All the Dems who never scraped the "Clinton-Gore '92" and "'96" stickers off their bumpers will be glad for their procrastination.

i pwn j00, f00!

I've started writing sh shell scripts at work. How cool am I? I guess I should brush up on my Leet.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Movie Review: The Man in the Iron Mask (1939)

(This review contains no significant spoilers.)

This weekend, I saw the The Man in the Iron Mask, the first movie-with-sound adaption (made in 1939) of the third part of Alexandre Dumas' novel, The Vicomte de Bragelonne, which was in turn inspired by a real-life person kept in a velvet mask in various prisons during the reign of Louis XIV.

I find the story quite interesting. In particular, the notion of being trapped in an iron mask is quite creepy and compelling. However, the plot holds no surprises; I always more-or-less knew what was going to happen, even though I've never read the book or seen other film adaptations. In addition, the characters are all completely one-dimensional and never change during the course of the story.

Overall, I give it 5.5 out of 10.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Newtonian Body Language

Alison and I are pretty consistent about making Newton perform a behavior before we give him a treat or new toy. Most often, we use the "sit" or "down" commands, because these produce submissive postures, but he also knows "stay" here until a say otherwise, "wait" to eat the treat I just gave you until I say you can, "turn" in a circle, "which one" of my hands has a treat in it, and "gimme five." We've also tried to make Newton sit when he meets new people, rather than jumping up at them, which he'd much rather do. The result of this consistency is that, if Newton sees us preparing one of the more complicated treats, or hears us going into the drawer where we keep his treats and toys, he'll run over, sit firmly on the floor, and look up at us with barely contained excitement. It seems clear that he's saying, "Plea-plea-please give me that treat. I-I-I'm sitting nicely. See? See how nicely?" Similarly, when he's sitting on our balcony, and people walk by, since he can't run over and jump on them, he plants his buttocks on the floor and squirms. He's clearly saying, "I-I-I'm sitting. Like I'm supposed to. S-s-see? Please come play with me." I must admit that I find this behavior to be terribly cute.

Ouroboros

Do you think there's much point in this link?

Ah, the Bachelor Lifestyle 5: Good Thing I was a Single Child

Alison has gone out of town again, this time for a bit of a reunion with her two roommates from Atlanta. Even though the girls have awarded me the honorary title of Fourth Roommate, I remained behind to look after Newton and, more importantly, avoid using up my vacation days. Fortunately, Newton's become a bit easier to single-parent these last few months.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Other Problem with Internet Discussions

Nick has posted about one key problem with internet discussions. Meanwhile I've always contended that the most off-putting aspect of discussions on the innernets is the incredible scarcity of correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization, all combined with into coherent sentences. A somewhat less annoying but still rampant issue on the interwebs is unrestrained squee. For example, I just read this on a forum:
God that episode was just *so* good. I mean it was like taking something really good and smearing a whole heap of goodness all over it then cooking it for 50 minutes on gas mark[ed] "good" till it was good.
Sigh.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Birth Order

Speaking of intelligence, or the lack of it, a new Norwegian study has expanded on previous ones showing first-born children score higher on IQ tests than their siblings. This new study found that second-borns whose older siblings died in infancy, and who were thus raised as the first-born child, also outscored their younger siblings. The study's authors explain these findings, as previous authors have, by siting the greater resources, particularly parental attention, available to single and effectively-first-born children.

* Or the lack of it

Not Exactly Criminal Masterminds

Apparently, my mother's would-be carjacker is not alone in his incompetence.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Google Reader News of Interest

I agree with Brian that Google Reader is pretty slick. In fact, I've become something of a Google enthusiast recently. In addition to using the Reader to aggregate my feeds, I switched to Gmail on Nick's recommendation, use Google Notebook to store my GTD lists, and pull it all together with iGoogle.

Anyway, I've copied Brian and added a feed of my Reader shared items, called "News of Interest," to the sidebar on the right. It should be a great time-saver for me, since something like 75% of this blog is links. (I'm working on putting up more original content, really.) Now, instead of describing a link, I can just add it to the feed, from the convenience of Google Reader. Come to think of it, it should be a great time-saver for you, since you won't have to read all my blathering before getting to good stuff: the stuff written by someone else.

Friday, June 15, 2007

MAKE Yourself a Single-Speed

Regular readers know I'm enamored of single-speed and fixed-gear bicycles. Now you can join the one-gear movement. MAKE magazine's weekend project for this week is converting a bicycle to single-speed operation. You can check out the podcast here or the comic-book pdf-cast here.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Ideas Engine Needs a Tuneup

Those members of the readership who work in science, particularly if you work in the defense or biosciences industries, may be interested in this article about how the Pentagon's funding agencies are becoming dangerously risk-averse, if such a phrase isn't oxymoronic.

Canyonero! Yah!

The guys at Jalopnik recently posted a video of the original Canyonero adverts from The Simpsons. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Noughties

I only discovered this notation yesterday; it seems that my love of Commonwealthisms and loyal viewing of Doctor Who did not suffice to bring this language to my attention earlier.
the noughties, proper noun. The first decade of the twenty-first century.
According to the 'Pedia, this is the standard notation in the English-speaking world, except in North America, where it hasn't caught on, "largely because few Canadians or Americans even recognize the use of naught or nought to mean zero."

Oh, and let's not forget the adjective form:
noughties, adjective. From, of, or related to the first decade of the twenty-first century.
Once I discovered this word, I simply had to promulgate its use among my enormous and devoted fan base...I mean, six regular readers. So, consider yourself encouraged to adopt this notation.

Antiversary

I yoinked this perfectly cromulent word from a friend:
antiversary, noun. The anniversary of the day a marriage or other relationship began, but occurring after the relationship has ended.
For example, if Jack and Diane are married on January 1, 1983, and are divorced in 1998, then January 1, 1999 is their first antiversary.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Gratuitous Photography

While I'm on the subject of Newton, here are a few unsolicited photos of the little guy:

We Should Have Named Him Spot

When we first brought Newton home, his skin was easily visible through his fine, white fur, and it was a uniform, bright pink. A couple of months ago, we noticed what looked like a large, faint bruise on his belly. But than, rather than fading away, the discoloration darkened. And then it invited some friends over. So now, Newton's abdomen looks like this:


You may not be able to tell from this photo, but his stomach is covered in large, dark, irregular freckles. The spots extend forward up his chest, under the thicker fur there, as far as his armpits. They also extend as far aft as the rear edges of his thighs . Apparently this sudden appearance of melanin is not unusual in dogs reaching adulthood. Hmm. Who knew?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Merlin

As a fan of nonlinear storytelling, I must say I really enjoyed this rather philosophical xkcd comic. (This one's pretty good, too.)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Movie Review: Lady in the Water

(This review contains no significant spoilers.)

Alison and I rented Lady in the Water on the same trip to the store on which we rented Slither. Lady was written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, based on a bedtime story that he made up for his children.* Shyamalan also plays a role in the film, a role quite a bit larger than his usual cameo. Since the film is fundamentally mysterious in nature, I won't say much about the plot. I will say that movie chronicles ordinary people becoming caught up in an extraordinary story.

Although Lady in the Water suffered from mixed, mostly negative reviews, I quite enjoyed it. The plot moves at Shyamalan's customary languid pace, but I found it quite compelling. Additionally, the film has an underlying message of hope, which I enjoyed.

Overall, I give it 7.5 out of 10. It's flawed, but it contains some very memorable elements.

* An illustrated children's book, written by Shyamalan, was launched the same day that the film premiered.

Movie Review: Slither

(This review contains no significant spoilers.)

A few weeks ago, Alison I watched Slither, or, more "properly" SLiTHER. I should point out that this movie is a horror comedy, and it received very positive reviews from the press, but did poorly at the box office, perhaps because horry comedy is a hard genre to market. Anyway, Alison had seen it before, and she recommended to me as a good film for people who aren't really into the whole horror thing, like me. Plus, I always enjoy Nathan Fillion's work, so I said, "Let's do it."

Slither has a more-or-less standard sci-fi/horror plot, but the characters and the dialog make it more than worth watching. The violence is graphic, but mostly somewhat cartoonish and unrealistic, making the film more enjoyable for non-horror-fans such as me. Fillion did a good job, as expected, but I must say that the mayor character, played by that guy who also played the sheriff in The Train Job episode of Firefly, steals the film.

Overall, I give it 7.0 out of 10. It's not great movie-making, but it's good, and quite entertaining.

Just So Pupping

It's been a while since we posted any photos of Newton, and I fear we may be edging toward violation of the Weblog Content Act of 1999. So, here a some pictures to keep us legal for a bit longer.

This shot shows Newton doing yoga. You should really see his downward-facing dog.

Here's Newton lounging on the coach at Alison's feet.

This photo is effectively the COXCU of the previous one. Note that his fur is getting quite long now; it's more than a little mushed in this shot. (Would it be too geeky a reference if I said he looks like a canine version of General Martok? If so, I apologize; I've been watching a lot of DS9 lately.)

Behemoth XXIX

As you may recall, gentle reader, I've been fascinated with single-speed and fixed-gear bicycles for some time. That's why I acquired the a Cannondale Capo late last year. Well, a few weeks ago, I finally broke down and bought a single-speed mountain bike, specifically a Raleigh XXIX.

My new ride is not just single-speed; it's also rigid-specific, meaning the frame is not designed to compensate for the increased axle-to-crown distance associated with a suspension fork. Lest you think I'm some kind of Luddite, I hasten to point out that this bike rides on the so-called "29-inch" wheels. The rims on these wheels are 622 mm in diameter, the same as most road-bike rims and 63 mm more than the traditional "26-inch" wheels on most mountain bikes. There's grass-roots movement among some members of the MTB community to move to this standard, since "29er" wheels roll over obstacles more easily and maintain speed better. The trade-offs are heavier wheels, lower acceleration, and more challenging fit for shorter riders. (I hope to post more on this topic later, but I'm not sure if I'll ever get around to it, so read this article if you are interested.)

The XXIX, which is named for its wheel size, was quite a bargain: it carries decent-though-not-spectacular components, handles quite well, and only cost me 675 dollars. That's the least I've paid for a bike, without correcting for inflation, since I bought my first "adult" a Trek 930 way back in 1992. Why was it so inexpensive, you ask? Two reasons: it's made out of steel and it was built in Taiwan. This is only my second bike made out of 4130; that first Trek was also chro-moly. It's also the first "grown-up" bicycle I've owned that wasn't built in the US. I bought the thing, even though I over-worry about corrosion of steel alloys and prefer to buy US-made bikes, because this particular vehicle allows me to inexpensively evaluate my interest in three MTB subcultures: single-speeding, 29ers, and rigid mountain-biking. You might think it's unscientific to simultaneously vary three parameters, but I'm sure followers of design of experiments would approve.

For the record, buying yet another bicycle wasn't entirely selfish. I've now reconfigured my geared, hardtail mountain bike for Alison to use. She's already taken it out a couple of times, and I think she's starting to enjoy off-road riding.

Enough with the chit-chat. Here're a couple of photos of the beast, which I have decided to name the Behemoth, because of its enormous wheels and 26-pound (!) weight:


If you can't tell from the above photos how gargantuan the wheels and tires are---try looking at the length of the headtube or the height of the rear tire relative to the seatpost clamp--here's a photo comparing our two mountain bikes:


See what I mean?

Brilliant

I must say that Doctor Who is really firing on all cylinders now. Why, you ask?
  • David Tennant's tenth Doctor has become my favorite incarnation of the character.
  • The latest companion, Martha Jones, is much more interesting than her predecessor, Rose Tyler. Additionally, Martha's relationship to the Doctor---unrequited crush---is much more compelling to me than Rose's.
  • The new series in general, and Episodes 8 and 9 of Season 3 (Human Nature and The Family of Blood) in particular, have explored the Doctor's character in ways unimaginable in the original run of the show.
  • Episode 10 of Season 3, Blink, examines the intricacies of time-travel more thoroughly than the Doctor Who ever has. Additionally, I greatly enjoyed the "Doctor-light" nature of the episode, in which, much like Season 2's Love & Monsters, the show follows a character through a story that only infrequently intersects the Doctor's.
I'm quite excited about the upcoming episodes. If the speculation proves founded, things could get interesting. And by "interesting," I mean "Oh god, oh god, we're all gonna die."

Friday, June 08, 2007

GTD and Google

I've recently been inspired by some of Brian's posts, and have dived into the Getting Things Done personal-productivity protocol. I hope to report on my experiences soon. Or at least eventually.

But Who will Play You in Our Movie?

I'm sure you've often thought to yourself, "Self, when Hollywood finally gets around to making Team Grondul: The Motion Picture, who will play Alison and Michael?"

Well, Alison has long thought that she'd like Reese Witherspoon to play her, not because the two bear any particular resemblance to each other, but because Witherspoon is cute and spunky. I guess I can't argue with that reasoning or conclusion. Plus, Witherspoon can act. See?

Meanwhile, a couple of years ago, Duff pointed out that I bear a strong resemblance, to musician, spoken-word artist, author, TV host, and actor, Henry Rollins. Duff was quite right. I mean, check this guy out. He looks just like I do on my driver's license, which is to say just like me, but irritated.

So, those of you who might also appear as a supporting character in TG:TMP, whom would you choose to play you in that epic, sure-to-be-award-winning dramedy, which, we can only hope, will be directed by Joss Whedon?

By the way, the sequel shall be called Grondulspawn: The Scions of Grondul.

Ah, the Bachelor Lifestyle 4: Man Stuff

My bride, Alison, has gone out of town for a week to visit family. So, Newton and I are bachelors for the next few days. We plan to do some man stuff together. You know, working on cars, watching sports on TV, objectifying women, and so on. Maybe, if we have time, we'll keep someone down.

What Unit has Dimensions of Force Times Irony?

Those of you who embrace arcane units of measure---for example, if your "car gets forty rods to the hogshead, and that's the way [you] likes it"---might be interested to know that, at Newton's last checkup, he weighed exactly one stone (st). Meanwhile, those of you who are science geeks are aware that the SI unit of force is the newton (N). Doing a little math reveals that the standard conversion between these units is
1 st = 62.232873164 N .
But now, members of Team Grondul, by contrast, have a simpler, alternative conversion available:
1 st = 1 N .

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

It's a Triceratops! Run!

Darren Naish pointed me to this interesting essay proposing that Triceratops and its relatives may have been not simply herbivorous but omnivorous. Oh, and covered in bristly hairs.

Blog News

Lots of news from the blogosphere lately:
  • Nick has returned from his European vacation.
  • Brian has updated the layout of his blog.
  • I've been busy with some other projects lately---I may post more about that later---so I haven't been posting with my usual frequency. I hope to get back to my old rate in a week or so.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Idiocy on Two Wheels

Today I had a very scary experience on the freeway.

I was driving home in the next-to-rightmost lane and I needed to get over to exit. So, I passed a white van that was in the lane I needed to get into and, when I had put 3-4 car lengths between me and him, I put on my blinker, checked my blind spot, and started to get over. Suddenly, as I was halfway into the new lane, in my mirrors, I noticed a green blur coming up behind me and passing me on my right...in the lane I was getting into. Somehow I realized said green blur was a dude on a crotch rocket. I quickly swerved back into my original lane and watched as he passed me on the right, only to dart in front of me and over two lanes to the left, between another car and a semi truck. He was going AT LEAST 85 mph because he passed me like I was standing still and I was going 65 mph.

I seriously almost killed this guy....or he almost killed himself with my car. Whatever. I was all adrenaliney and I just drove along for 20 seconds or so before I could collect myself and change lanes. As I put on my signal the second time, the white van flashed his lights at me to let me know I could get over. I interpreted that as both of us being totally freaked out by the experience and, therefore, a little anal and overvigilant about lane changing safety!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Battlestar Galactica to Conclude Next Season

According to the creators and executive producers of Battlestar Galactica, Ronald Moore and David Eick, the series will come to an end at the conclusion of the upcoming 22-episode Season 4. A special 2-hour Battlestar movie entitled Razor will be broadcast in November and the final season will begin airing in 2008.

In other BSG news, it looks like the Caprica spin-off has been tabled for now.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Newton vs. Dubya


I think Newon won!

I bought this toy for Newton on a whim at this specialty dog store in Fell's Point a few weeks ago. It is HILARIOUS. We get neverending entertainment out of watching Newton carry our president around by his cowboy boots and chew on his head. You wil frequently hear us saying things like, "Oh, that looks uncomfortable for Dubya...good boy!" The toy has all kinds of funny things on it, like a sign taped to the doll's back saying, "If found, return to the white house", and a book in the back pocket that reads, "English as a second language." Hee!