Friday, September 29, 2006


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

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!'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.

I Robot, You Robot, We all Robot for iRobot.

Today, two pieces of news about iRobot's famous and profitable line of disk-shaped home-cleaning robots hit the interweb. That's right, two:
  • First up: Some clever guy has hacked his Bluetooth cellular phone to enable him to control his Roomba with his cell phone. Neat, eh? I'd like to point out to Alison, who won't let me disassemble the Roomba we are planning to acquire, that this project doesn't require taking the robot apart; it's done using a Bluetooth interface that plugs into an existing serial port on the Roomba.
  • Next: My favorite magazine is reporting that iRobot will be producing a new robot called the Dirt Dog. The D'Dog, as I'm inclined to call it, is to the shop vac what the Roomba is to the regular vacuum cleaner. Now, if I just had a real workshop, I'd be all over this.

Running + T'ai Chi = ?

Runners in the audience may be interested in this NPR article on a running technique intended to reduce injuries.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Back to School

No, this post isn't about that insipid Rodney Dangerfield movie. Instead, it's about how 24 years of schooling and a Ph.D. apparently aren't sufficient for me. You see, I'm taking a couple of classes offered by the university that runs the lab where I work. One is an introduction to programming using Java, and the other is a course on quantum information processing. After attending the first meeting of each class, I suspect that I'm in for quite a lot of work this fall. Perhaps I'll get back to you about that.

Maybe I Should Take Up Drinking

This research may explain why I'm not as intelligent as I'd like.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

What Hath Been Wrought

Tubeless mountain-bike tires became available several years ago. And there was much rejoicing, for lo! tubeless tires suffer much less from pinch flats, allowing the rider to run considerably lower pressure, thus enjoying a smoother ride and gaining traction. Further, tubeless tires deflate more slowly when punctured, so the villagers frolicked in the street. But then, the daughter of the gatekeeper pointed out that tubeless tires are heavy and sometimes lose pressure overnight. And so the people reduced their frolicking somewhat.

But alas, road-bikers had not even the choice. To go tubed or not to go tubed; that was not a question. For you see, the great pressure contained within a road tire could not be contained with the magicks known to the village shamen.

But now, at last, roadies have cause to rejoice as well. For behold, the mighty wizard, Hutchinson, hath wrought tubeless road tires! And, though only a few tubeless-compatible road wheels can be found in the village market, roadies will soon reap the benefits of tubelessness, and without so great a weight penalty. And so, all the villagers will celebrate: the great and the small, the mountain-bikers and the roadies, the awkward teenager and the old woman who sells things you can't quite identify. And they will live happily in peace for many years hereafter.

Extreme Makeover: Star Trek Edition

It seems that Star Trek will be taking a page out of the book of the other great Star Blank franchise; Paramount announced that the original series will receive an extensive makeover, in honor of its 40th anniversary, when it returns to broadcast syndication later this month. Among the changes are new, digital effects, new music, and a remastered opening voice-over. (Here are two images of the digital version of the Enterprise.) So, how do all the sci-fi geeks in the readership feel about Trek doing a Lucas?

Now, What Was I Going to Blog About Again?

Here's a very cool little article about a "breakthrough" in the understanding of long-term memory. I don't think selective memory-erasure is around the corner, but maybe it's already here, and I've just forgotten.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Movie Review: Little Miss Sunshine

(This review contains no spoilers.)

Alison, Lisa, and I saw Little Miss Sunshine on Labor Day. Lisa was seeing it for the fourth time! It was frequently vulgar, often inappropriate, and completely hilarious. You should see it.

Overall, I give it 8.5 out of 10.

Bedtime Reading

Since Alison and I moved in together, I've noted a rather disconcerting pattern in our daily routines. You see, after we go to bed, I read while Alison reads or solves a crossword, sudoko, or whatever her puzzle-of-the-moment is. That's not the problem; in fact, it's one of my favorite parts of the day. The difficulty is that she is invariable done---and ready to go to sleep---before I'm more than a few paragraphs into the Make article I'm reading. This issue arises partly because she reads at an amazing rate and rips through sudoku like nobody's business, and it arises partly because, in defiance of all widely acknowledged gender stereotypes, she is done getting ready, in bed, and reading before I'm halfway through with whatever apparently overly long bedtime-preparation protocol I follow.

Alison has offered to sleep with the light on while I finish my reading---indeed she has sneakily pretended to read while going to sleep---but I always feel that, since she awakens me when she gets out of bed, I need start sleeping when she does. So, the upshot of all this I'm not getting my bedtime reading done, and I'm not sure what to do about it. After all, my Servo isn't going to read itself. I think this could be a deal-breaker.