Saturday, December 31, 2005

You Know...

I received a number of DVDs for Christmas and Michaelmas (Thanks, Mom and Dad.), and I've also been borrowing some (Thanks, Tim.). As a result, I've watched many hours of TV-on-DVD recently. Here is just a sampling of what I've learned from the experience:
  • You know you've been watching too much Arrested Development when you find yourself humming Europe's 1986 single, "The Final Countdown". (Yes, this has actually happened to me.)
  • You know you've been watching too much Buffy when your girlfriend---I mean, fiancée---points out that your own dialog has become Whedonesque. (This one's happened, too.)
  • You know you've been watching too much Firefly when you exclaim "Gorrammit!" after being frustrated or angered. (This one's purely hypothetical. Yeah, hypothetical; that's it.)
  • You know you've been watching too much Red Dwarf when you suddenly realize that all your friends are entirely human, and you find that boringly disappointing. (Yep.)
  • You know you've been going to krav too frequently when you catch yourself thinking you can solve any problem by beating the snot out of somebody. OK, this isn't DVD-related. Unless...maybe it was all that Buffy. (Oh, and this one happens all the time.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Reviews Aplenty

I don't anticipate having the time to do full-length reviews for all of the products I've just recently first used or been reminded of. So, here are my conclusions in rapid-fire format.

Music on CD/DVD:

  • Anywhere but Home. This volume includes both CD and DVD recordings of an Evanescence concert in Paris. And no, Nick, they aren't a Christian band. 9.0 out of 10.

TV on DVD:

  • Arrested Development, entire series. This show is extremely original and creative, not to mention hilarious. I sometimes find it difficult to watch, though, since almost all the characters are jerks or fools or both. It probably has been or will be prematurely canceled by Fox. I give it 8.5 out of 10.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, entire series. This Joss-Whedon-created fantasy series has hilarious dialog and fascinating characters. Unfortunately, the supernatural elements are handled inconsistently, and there are significant plot holes. If you can pony up the dough for all 7 seasons, do it. 9.0 out of 10.
  • Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffon: The Untold Story. Enh. It's not as good as the first 3 seasons. 7.0 out of 10.
  • Firefly, entire series. This sci-fi/western/asian dramedy has more of that unique Whedonesque dialog and characterization, and it is one of my favorite series of all time. The premise is a bit silly, but I'm willing to overlook that. Guess what; it was prematurely cancelled by Fox. Go buy it. 9.5 out of 10.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion, series only. The show starts out as a more-or-less generic mecha anime; then it tries (and fails) to become philosophical. 5.0 out of 10.
  • Red Dwarf, entire series. No one does sci-fi comedy like the Brits. 8.0 out of 10.
  • Wonderfalls, entire series. This hilarious mild-fantasy dramedy was prematurely cancelled by Fox. (Are you noticing a pattern?) You should own this show. 8.5 out of 10.

Movies and Movies on DVD

  • Serenity. This is the film adaptation/sequel of/to Firefly, so of course I love it. Buy this one, too. 9.0 out of 10.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This film is a pretty faithful adaptation (as far as I can remember) of the C. S. Lewis novel, which was written as a Christian allegory. The realization of the animals on the screen was superb. 7.5 out of 10.

Toys, Hobbies, and Exercise Equipment

  • Seven Cycles Axiom. Seven offers very custom 3/2.5 titanium bicycle frames for prices not much higher than mid-line Litespeeds. In absolute terms, Sevens are pricey, but you get what you pay for. 9.0 out of 10.
  • Traxxas Revo. This nitromethane- and methanol-powered R/C monster truck has a very innovative and highly tunable suspension system. The model is mostly easy to wrench on, and many hop-up parts are available. Unfortunately, the differentials are prone to leaking and hard to get to. It's only available in RTR form, not as a kit. 8.0 out of 10.

Well, that's all for now. But never fear, gentle reader, I'm sure I'll have more unasked-for opinions soon.

Blog: The Revenge

Regular readers of this blog, if any exist---Helloooooo, anybody out there?----may have noticed we haven't posted any new entries in quite some time. Well, between Alison's finals and her trip to Naperville, and my trips to Atlanta (which you might expect) and Pensicola (which you might not), blah blah blah, excuse excuse, et cetera. But now I'm back in town. That's right, back. In town. And my tiny little pinhead is stuffed full of blogfodder™. So, gentle reader, expect the blog to be jumping in the next week or two. Stay tuned.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute a legal contract. Any failure to deliver new entries entitles you to exactly bupkis.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Michael is an Idea Stealer

I navigated my way over to the blog today to post a "Yay!" post for the anti-ID ruling and look who stole my idea! Hmph!

Anyway, "Yay!". There, I said it.

Thank goodness people won't have to buy these for their kids now!

Take that, Creationists!

This story is all over the net (and even the non-net media) today, so I won't rehash all the details. Suffice it to say that the judge in the Dover intelligent design/creationism case has ruled that teaching ID in public schools is unconstitutional.

Monday, December 19, 2005

How the Grinch Stole the Nightmare Before Christmas

Alison and I also hosted a winter-holiday-movie-watching party this weekend. In attendance were Nick-and-Amy and Lisa-and-Greg. They are a lot of fun. I feel bad for them that they had to spend their evening with me. At least they got Alison out of the deal.

We watched the original, animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Tim Burton's first stop-motion feature, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Here are few things I noticed for the first time that night:

  • The Grinch's dog, Max, totally steals the show.
  • Cindy Lou Who seems to represent the larval stage of the Who. I mean, she has no legs; somehow she just hovers from place to place.
  • The Grinch's plan really isn't that nefarious. Lisa came up with a much more sadistic (and effective!) plan that revolved around cutting all the Who's hands off. I've said it before: she's an evil genius.
  • Chuck Jones' hand is quite obvious in HTGSC; the sight gags would all be at home in a Warner Brothers cartoon from the 1940s or 1950s.
  • Christmas Town in TNBC is clearly a visual quotation of Whoville.
  • It appears that Jack Skellington and I wear the same size suit jacket: 20 extra extra extra extra long.
  • The vampires who live in Halloween Town don't seem to be very sensitive to sunlight. They do carry those swanky parasols, though.
  • Greg does a creepily accurate impression of the elderly pedophilic newspaper subscriber from Family Guy.

By the way, it seems like almost all my friends are couples now, and most of them are married. (See the hyphenated guest list above.) I'm not sure how to feel about that. Should I feel old? I think I should feel old. And stuffy. Any minute now, I expect to become more politically conservative, start wearing my pants around my armpits, become unable to operate electronics, and begin going to bed around 7:00.


In less life-altering news, Brian Who Blogs at Breakfast recently posted an amusing entry on cookie-stealing. Bon appétit.

One Ring to Rule Them All

I'm confident that everyone who reads this blog already knows our latest news, but I feel that, for completeness, I should post it here as well: As of Friday, the 16th, Alison and I are engaged. So, for all the girly girls out there, here are some poorly lit photos of the hardware:

For all those who've asked since I posted the photos, yep, that's a ruby, and it's princess-cut. Oh, and the setting is platinum.

For the extra-girly girls in the audience, here's an entirely inaccurate recounting of the sincere and meaningful sentiment that accompanied the hardware at the time of its deployment:

Alison, do you accept this token of longstanding affection, and, by doing so, agree to enter into a socially and legally recognized state of cohabitation, optionally resulting in the production of offspring?

So, of course she answered in the affirmative. Who wouldn't, after being walloped with that much purple prose?

Lastly, I should mention that I am thankful to Lisa, Tom, and Shuaib for serving as sounding boards while I worked out my evil plan. I'd also like to thank Nick for his extremely amusing reaction to Alison's unveiling of the ring. It's like he just isn't programmed to see jewelry. Or maybe there's an SEP field that only affects him.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

My Greatest Fear

Speaking of Penny Arcade, I really enjoyed Monday's strip, partly because it addresses one of my major worries. I very concerned that, by the time I'm my mother's age, I'll be unable to understand or even operate the then-current technology. I'm already falling behind: I very seldom IM, text, or download MP3s; I don't own a DVR; and I've never podcasted anything. Furthermore, although I'm running Linux on my home computer, I still can't get it to talk to my printer. Right now, I'm just non-tech-savvy, but soon, I'll be a full-on Luddite.

By the way, "savvy" is great fun to read, don't you think?.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


I'm just posting to say that the Browncoats out there might enjoy this now-classic Penny Arcade comic strip. (I should point out, for the wee Browncoats, that the strip does contain Penny Arcade's typical profanity and violence.)

TV Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Like I said in a post or two ago, I've recently completed watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer in its entirety, so it's time for a review. I originally began watching this series for 2 reasons:
  • Nick recommended it to me. Nick has also suggested other series I've enjoyed, including Wonderfalls , Arrested Development, and, possibly my favorite science-fiction series of all time, Firefly. (By the way, the big-screen adaptation/sequel, Serenity, comes out on DVD December 20. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.)
  • It was created, executive produced, frequently written, and frequently directed by Joss
  • Whedon. Whedon was also responsible for the aforementioned Firefly and Serenity.
I must say that the show met my expectations. The first season is a little rough, but the series really takes in the second season and remains solid through the early part of Season 6. On the whole, Buffy is one of the best series I've seen, regardless of genre:
  • There are significant inconstancies, plot holes, and plain-silly plots.
  • Some periods of the show are better than others.
  • The characters are both well developed and dynamic.
  • The Whedonesque dialog alone makes the series worth watching.
Overall, Buffy is not on the same level as Firefly, but it's still very good. I give it 8.5 out of 10.

'Pedia vs. 'Paedia

Nature has just posted the first peer-review-based comparison of the science coverage of the Wikipedia and the Encyclopaedia Britannica. (I thought that last link was entertainingly ironic. How 'bout you?) Nature had experts in various fields examine 42 articles in each encyclopedia for errors. (The reason they chose 42 articles is, of course, obvious.) The numbers of inaccuracies in the two texts were similar: about 4 per article in the 'Pedia and about 3 per article in the Britannica. For more info on which articles were compared and how the two reference texts came out, check out the Nature study.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Mikies, Buffy Ed

Last weekend, Alison and I did remarkably little other than watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so we managed to finish off Season 7 late Sunday night. Having seen the entire series, I feel reedy to pronounce judgment on the characters. So, here are the Michael Awards for Excellence in Whatever He Darn Well Feels Like, Buffy Edition. (Note: this list contains spoilers.)

Update: I've added a few more categories because, well, I feel like it.

  • Favorite vampire: Spike.
  • Scariest vampire: Angelus.
  • Scariest creatures: Bunnies.
  • Favorite big bad: the Mayor.
  • Least favorite big bad: the Geek Trio.
  • Favorite principal: Quark...I mean Snyder.
  • Least favorite Scooby Gang member: Cordelia.
  • Favorite couple, heterosexual: Willow and Oz.
  • Favorite couple, homosexual: Willow and Tara.
  • Couple that made the least sense: Xander and Cordelia. (Lots of competition here.)
  • Best-introduced character: Dawn.
  • Most touching death: Joyce.
  • Actor with the best singing voice: Amber Benson. (Honorable mention to Anthony Stewart Head.*)
  • Actor who does the best job of playing multiple characters: Allyson Hannigan.
  • Funniest character, early seasons: Xander.
  • Funniest character, late seasons: Willow.
  • Funniest character, normalized to word count: Oz.
  • Most attractive character: Vampire Willow.

And, the moment you've all been waiting for...

  • Favorite character: Willow

I'd like to read your comments on this topic.

* Perhaps that should be "honourable" in his case.

Thar She Blows!

Cetologists have long struggled to understand the function of the narwhal's tusk. (Narwhals are artic toothed whales that grow to body lengths of about 5 m. Most males and some females have an unusual tusk that grows from the left side of the upper jaw, has a clockwise-helical shape, and reaches lengths up to 3 m.) The mystery has finally been solved---and by a dentist. Martin Nweeia, a practicing dentist and a lecturer at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, has found that the tusk is densely innervated and is used to detect temperature, pressure, salinity, and other parameters, in both water and air. Nweeia also has one of the most fun-to-read names I've ever encountered. I mean, it starts with "Nw" and then ends with 4 consecutive vowels. Hunh?

Check out the Live Science article for more crazy narwhal facts and the NPR story for the pronunciation of Nweeia's name.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Who is the Geekiest of them All?

Do you fancy yourself the coolest coder, PC gamer, or screenwriter in the land? Then Das Keyboard has your name all over it. But only metaphorically. You see, Das Keyboard's keys are completely unlabeled, so you can really impress your friends and coworkers while you type. Of course, once they begin receieving indecipherable e-mails from you, your coolness factor may dip a bit. But seriously, Wired's tester greatly improved his touch-typing when using this keyboard, especially when entering the special characters. (He'd have to.) So, if you're a masochist, Das Keyboard is the text-entry device for you. If, on the other hand, you are a sadist, then it makes a great gift.

Oh, and Das Keyboard has another neato feature, the key-return springs do not all have the same spring constant. The springs are have 5 different weights corresponding to the strength of the finger used to type. Nifty, eh?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Did Knot! Did Too!

I'm sure you've always been fascinated by knots and knot theory. Quit looking at me that way; I'm certain you have. Certain, get me? Well, if you can't tell a clove hitch from a sheepshank, but have always wanted to learn how to tie knots, I Will Knot! is the site for you. It has short videos demonstrating the tying of various knots. So go forth and knotify.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

And You Thought Trekkies Were Bad

A few days ago, NPR ran a story on Sherlockians in general and a Boston group of them in particular. Sherlockians, not surprisingly, are fans of the Sherlock Holmes stories. What is surprising is just how fanatical some Sherlockians are. For example, they like to play a game---"The Great Game"---in which they treat Holmes and Watson as real, historical people (Conan Doyle was just their "literary agent".) and try to determine exactly what town, train station, street, or what have you the duo visited in a particular story. One Sherlockian boldly claimed "at least we're not Trekkies" (or something to that effect.) Sure, Trekkies can be pretty bad, as the movie of the same name shows. But, I submit, Sherlockians would hold their own in a geek-on-geek cage match with the Trek fans.

She Blinded Me with Science

Good news, everyone! Alison's analysis of menopause and all-cause mortality (which was published in AJE) was covered by the mainstream press a few days ago. Reutors has an article on the study, and Carmen is quoted therein. So, check it out.

Monday, December 05, 2005

"Lemur" is Just a Fun Word to Read

Those of you interested in cryptozoology may be excited to hear that New Scientist is reporting the possible discovery of a new species of mammal in the forests of Borneo. It looks to be a marten, civet, or lemur.

For the record, though, I'm still voting against Sasquatch.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Battlefield Earth

I just noticed that Alison and I somehow wrote consecutive entries with titles that are also the names of John Travolta movies. (Well, except for that question mark. What's a little punctuation between friends?) Weird, eh? I thought I would extend that coincidental trend by mentioning that I recently read the 'Pedia's article on Scientology, the religion founded by science-fiction author L. Ron Hubbard. Man alive, this stuff is crazy! The Xeenu Incident, in particular, is completely ridiculous. Hubbard must have been on some serious dope when he came up with this insanity. More to the point, his followers must have been on some extreme, heavy-duty super-dope when they believed it. I mean, it's not even good science fiction, let alone a reasonable basis for a belief system! It's no wonder most of the details are not reveled to the rank-and-file Scientologists; they only learn about this clap-trap after an extensive and expensive series of courses.

You may ask, "What's Travolta got to do with all this?" Well, he is a Scientologist, as are a number of Hollywood freaks...I mean stars. (Tom Cruise is another well-known example.) Travolta headlined and produced the universally panned Battlefield Earth because of his affinity for Hubbard, who authored book (of the same name) on which the film is based.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Remember that movie Face/Off with John Travolta and Nicholas Cage? Well, they have actually perforned the first face transplant in France (although I imagine the methods are probably very different from those in the movie!). I think this is pretty amazing scientifically, but apparently there are some ethical concerns over the patient's ability to give informed consent. It's a pretty interesting dilemma. Anyway, just thought I'd share.

Oh, and P.S.: Pulp sucks, Michael! If you ate cookies you would probably dip them in your milk and get it all crummy! (Crumby? How do you spell that in this sense?) Blech!