Monday, December 31, 2007

Movie Review: Some Like it Hot (1959)

Recently, Alison and I watched another one of my favorite old movies, Some Like it Hot, which stars Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe. I must admit that I the film wasn't as good as I remember it. Here're my thoughts.

What I liked:
  • The cast did a good job. I especially enjoyed Jack Lemmon's performance, as usual.
  • Some of the gags are quite funny.
  • The score really added to the film.
What I disliked:
  • Some of the dialog is stilted and awkward.
  • Several plot points strain the viewer's credulity.
Overall, I give it 7.0 out of 10. It's an entertaining but flawed film.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy Michaelmas, Everyone!

This year's Michaelmas has, so far, gone much better than last year's. Being deathly ill has a way of ruining one's birthday.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

It's a Festivus Miracle!

Today is Festivus. Since this holiday is intended to be a less commercial alternative to Christmas, I endorse it. Thus, I would like to wish a happy Festivus to one and all.

TV Trends

I've noticed a few trends in trends in television over the last decade or so. I'd like to point some of them and ask you, gentle reader, to mention any you've observed that I've failed to include.

Short introduction sequence. Over the last fe years, TV series have clearly move to shorter into sequences. Extreme examples of this include Lost, Heroes, and Pushing Daisies, where the intro is just a single (animated) title card accompanied by one or a few notes of music. This shortening allows more time to be devoted to the actual story, or since these series often have ongoing story arcs, a "previously on..." sequence.

Single-camera shooting. The traditional style of shooting TV series, particularly comedies, involves a set with no "fourth wall" and relies on three cameras to provide coverage. This approach makes the viewer---this viewer, at least---very aware that he is watching fictional events unfold before him. In recent years, television production has been moving more and more to filming in sets with removable walls and a single camera, relying on multiple takes to provide coverage. This approach is more time-consuming, and thus expensive, but results in a more immersive experience for the viewer.

No canned laughter or studio audience. The above-mentioned single-camera shooting prevents filming in front of a live audience that can be prompted to laugh at appropriate points, thus encouraging the viewer to laugh along. Canned laughter can still be used, but often isn't. In my opinion, this absence of prompted or recorded laughter yields a more immersive experience.

Numerous characters and many plot storylines. As Everything Bad is Good for You points out, the number of main characters and plot threads has increased dramatically in the last thirty years, resulting in much more challenging and interesting television.

Ongoing story arcs. More and more TV series are moving away from an episodic format, where the status quo is reinstated at the end of each episode. Instead, these shows are evolving toward a more serial format, where storylines evolve over multipel episodes or even series, and the viewer must remember or be reminded of previous events in the series. Like the increasing complicated casts and plots, these ongoing story arcs result in more challenging and interesting entertainment.

Reality programming. Certainly reality TV is big trend of the noughties. Networks love it because they don't have to pay many writers or actors, and the ratings are often quite strong. Viewers seem to love it, too, but I can't agree.

TV Reivew: The Big Bang Theory

Recently, a few people I know have recommended The Big Bang Theory, a situation comedy about the lives of a pair of physicists and their scientist friends. Since Alison and I are scientists, and most of our friends are, as well, we checked out the episode that aired last Monday. In my opinion, the series differs very little from the traditional, 3-camera sitcom; the major points of distinction are the language, attire, and occupations of the main and supporting characters. There were a few amusing gags in the ep I saw, but the show seems to be quite ordinary and mediocre on the whole. Additionally, the viewer is encouraged to laugh at, rather than with the characters, which I disliked. The series is recorded in front of a live audience, but it sounds very much as if it has a laugh track. Regardless of whether the laughter is "genuine" or canned, I find it very distracting.

Overall, I give it 5.5 out of 10. Don't bother, even if you are a science geek.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy Solstice

The winter solstice occurs today. Since the solstice is a measurable astronomical event and is not based on the inaccurately measured birth of some cult leader, I endorse it as a holiday. Thus, I'd like to wish a happy solstice to one and all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dust Off Your Pointy Ears and Big Feet

John Scalzi has just alerted me to New Line Cinema's press release stating that they have settled their differences with Peter Jackson and that New Line and Jackson will produce not one but two films based on The Hobbit. If you listen carefully, you can hear the collective squee of a hundred million fanfolk.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

No Bootsraps Were Involved

I've posted before about some of the CrossFit workouts that I hate.* (Incidentally, the Filthy Fifty is also on that list.) There are a few, just a few, WODs that I don't mind so much. At the top of that list is anything that is both bodyweight-only and all upper-body.

Allow me to explain: I'm 5 feet, 5 inches tall and typically weigh 138 to139 pounds, which puts me firmly in the "small" size range. Since one's weight goes roughly as the cube of one's height, while one's strength goes roughly as the square, smaller folk usually do better at bodyweight exercises.** Meanwhile, anyone who's seen me in real life can tell that roughly 100 pounds of that weight is between my navel and my chin. On other words, much of my weight and strength lie in my upper body. These two factors combine to make me happy when the WOD turns out to be mostly pull-ups, dips, or muscle-ups.

Yesterday's WOD was 7 sets of 1-rep maximum of weighted pull-ups. Granted, this workout is not bodyweight-only, but I still benefit from my particular build. For example, yesterday, after swapping the gym and the bedroom, I set a new personal record of 112.5 pounds. I'm quite pleased with that result.

I also enjoy doing 30 Muscle-Ups for Time when that WOD comes around. The first time I attempted this workout, it took me 16 minutes, 29 seconds. Though careful strategizing and slightly improved fitness, I've been able to crank the time down to 4:16. I believe I might be able to push the time to about 3 minutes. After that, progress will be hard-won.

I should point out that I'm not posting these results to brag, just to report on which CrossFit workouts I do best. I'm certain there are plenty of people out there can outperform me on these WODs. If you aren't one of them, it's probably because you aren't a short little guy with a big upper torso.

* I only hate them because they clearly hate me so much.
** This is the reason that you always see claims that the ant*** can lift 20 times her own weight, or whatever. It's not because ants are engineered particularly well; it's just because they are small.
*** As if there's only a single species of ant, and only one caste in that species.

Room Repurposing

Those of you who've visited Team Grondul World Headquarters are aware that we've repurposed many of the rooms in our apartment. In particular, our visitors often seem surprised to see that we turned what was intended to be the guest bedroom into our gym. That's where we keep and use the power rack, adjustable bench, pulley machine, various bars, 'bells both dumb and kettle, the plate tree, my weight vest, and my recently acquired sledge hammer, along with other fitness miscellany. As you can imagine, that little room is quite densely packed. Meanwhile, our bedroom is the one room in the place that has a lot of extra space. A few weeks ago, Alison came up with the idea of interchanging the contents of these rooms. That's right: it was Alison who came up with this plan.

So, yesterday, we made the swap. The exchange was a bit more work than we expected, but I believe the effort was worthwhile. Yesterday's warmup and WOD felt much more comfortable than previous iterations, and we still have ample maneuvering room in the the newly relocated bedroom.

Here's a table itemizing how we're utilizing the space in our apartment:

Intended UseOur Use
master bedroomgym
guest bedroommaster bedroom
dining roomOffice, hobby shop, and server room
breakfast nook*Bike shop and kennel
living roomliving room, dining room, and guest bedroom

So, in summary, only the kicthen and bathroom are fulfilling the intended use.

* For some reason, the floorplans at our complex call this area a ranch room. Neither of us had ever heard of that before.

Friday, December 14, 2007

So Crazy It's Insane

The latest travisty of language to chap my hide is the overuse and dilution of the words "crazy" and "insane." These two words have been used so frequently that the intended exaggeration has evaporated. I now frequently hear and see them used to mean simply "unnecessary" or "excessive."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sharon at Christmas

Here's yet another Darmok-style metaphor that we use around Team Grondul World Headquarters. This one was inspired by an incident from my mother-in-law's childhood.
Sharon at Christmas, metaphor. Any person who has ruined a surprise for herself.
This metaphor applies not just presents and winter holidays. It also applies, for instance, to spoilers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It Hurts Us

I came across this photo-shopped image today:

What I find more interesting than the picture itself is that the image is literally painful to look at. It actually hurts me, somewhere about4 cm behind the bridge of my nose, when I focus on the woman's face. (As I write this, I am pointedly avoiding glancing up at the photo. I believe this phenomenon says a great deal about how the human brain is either hardwired or trained. I don't feel repulsed when looking at spiders with 4 or 6 eyes, but this 4-eyed, 2-mouthed woman falls squarely into my uncanny valley.*

* By the way, I expect and hope that any extraterrestrials I ever have the opportunity to meet land firmly on the far side of said divide.

"Inconclusive" is a 4-Letter Word

Many readers know that I have a lot of difficult sleeping. I just can't seem to clear my mind and let go of my problems. I recently went to see a neurologist specializing in sleep disorders about the problem. He ordered some bloodwork, which came back normal. He also ordered an overnight sleep study. As Swandiver knows, sleep studies are terrible, miserable experiences. Sadly, the study produced the worst possible result: inconclusive. That means I have to go back for another overnight study followed by a daytime napping study. Ugh.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's the Penultimate Epicenter of Ignorance

Nick, gun-jumper that he is, spoiled this post in his comment on my inaugural language rant. Indeed his comment was more amusing and succinct than anything I could write, but I'm going ahead and posting it anyway. So there.

I can't count the number of times I've heard or read someone---frequently someone in the media, who should have received some kind of education in the language arts----use "epicenter" to mean simply "center," rather than "the point on the surface directly above the center." Frequently, the word is misused in this way when discussion something other than the physical center or centroid. That distiction doesn't justify the error, however.

I've also heard or seen "penultimate" used to mean simply "ultimate," rather than "next to last," innumerable times.

I can only guess that the speaker or writer feels that a word like "center" or "ultimate" simply isn't as formal or fancy as they'd like. Perhaps, but it is correct.

A Record Year

The interweb has been burdened with Industrial-Strength Science since November 2005. In 2006,the first full calendar year of this blog's existence, Team Grondul published 330 posts. This year puts the previous one to shame, at least in terms of quantity. As of this entry, Alison and I have put up 349 entries in 2007. This prolific output results from a period at the beginning of the year when I was posting lots and lots of links. We don't have to do that now, since I've added the "Tales of Interest" section to the right-hand column. Since about the middle of the year, we've been posting less frequently, but I've been making an effort to post a higher percentage of entries with original content. I plan to continue that trend in the upcoming calendar year.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Going Nucular

For the second in my series of language rants, I've chosen an easy one: the mispronunciation of the word "nuclear" as "nucular." This pronunciation is perhaps most famously used by President Bush, but is also employed but such other luminaries as Homer Simpson. In fact, "nucular" is apparently listed in some dictionaries as a common, pronounciation, though not one that is considered correct by all. This pronunciation makes me feel like going "nuclular," though some linguists would tell me to calm down.

The point is, unless you want to sound like an ignorant bumpkin to many people, don't say "nucular." Just don't.

Litterally a Million Times Worse Than Eating Babies

I find myself frequently irritated by misuses of words or other errors of language. I plan to share a few of them here of this blog. It is my fervent hope that you will be just as annoyed as I.

Perhaps the most common of these errors is the use of the word "literally" followed (or preceded) by an exaggeration. Here are a couple of examples:
The running back literally flew down the field.

I tell you that refrigerator we moved must have weighed a million pounds, literally.
This error makes my blood boil.* Unless the running back stopped in mid-play to board an aircraft and the fridge was loaded with neutronium, these statements just aren't true. If you use "literally" in your sentence, the rest of that sentence must be your best estimate of the actual facts under discussion.

* Note how I didn't preface my hyperbole with "literally." See, it's not that difficult.

Metropolis Now

It appears that a German producer is planning a remake of the silent 1927 landmark science-fiction film Metropolis. I'm not sure what to think about that.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


In other CRX news, the other day, I happened to pull into my apartment's parking lot---my flat's car park*---at a very palendromic mileage. Check it out:

If you can't read the odometer in that photo, here's a TGXCU (Team Grondul Extreme Close-Up):

Fun,** eh?

* We at Industrial-Strength Science strive to make our Commonwealth-ian visitors feel at home.
** Sadly, it's just not as interesting if you express it as 232460.7 km.

How-To: Fix Bunching, Moving Floor Mats

My floor mats have been driving me crazy! Perhaps a little explanation is in order. The driver's floor mat in my old-enough-to-drive-itself 1991 Honda CRX has always bunched up and moved around. Maybe my clutch-depressing technique is unusual. Maybe my tiny feet and stumpy legs are the problem. Whatevs. The point is, this issue has plagued me for all of the 11 years I've owned the vehicle. I was recently inspired the fix the problem by a post of the CRX Community forum. Here's how you, too, can have smooth, stationary floor mats.

Cut apart an old wire hanger. (Joan Crawford and my own mommie dearest would be proud.) Then straighten the 2 "shoulder" pieces as much as possible:

Next, bend them to an angle approximately matching the footwell of your car, probably about 45 degrees:

Place the mat over the edge of a coach or what have you to approximate the correct curvature and use duct tape to fasten the ends of the wires to the mat. It's important to get the bend in the correct location.

Add more duct tape to keep the hanger parts in place:

You may not have copious amount of adhesive hook-and-loop (Velcro) closures in your home liek I do---Take that!---but you can buy a box of a meter or so for a few bucks. Cut the hook side into 2 to 4 strips, whatever works best for the geometry of your mat, then stick them firmly to the underside of the mat. Be aware that you may have some kind of rubber mat built into your car's floor carpeting. You need to ensure that the Velcro will land on your carpet and not that built-in mat.

Take the mat out to the car, position it carefully over the spot where you want it, and press it down into the carpet. You may need to press on the curved area to put the correct bend into the wires.

I've had this hacked---ahem, customized---floor mat in my Rex for 2 weeks, and it hasn't bunched, moved, squirmed, or otherwise irritated me. I consider this little project a success.

Gratuitous Photography

If you enjoy seeing pictures of cute canines, this is the post for you. If not...well, then you suck.

Here're a few shots of Newton before his most recent grooming.

Apparently, being a dog is very tiring.

Yep, still tired.

Mmmm...remnants of Thanksgiving turkey...

Here he is after being groomed. I hasten to point out that we don't dress our critter up like some kind of fashion doll; his attire is functional. It's been cold both inside and out lately, and, since he's been so thoroughly shorn, it seemed advisable to put on his sweatshirt.

Nyom nyom nyom.

See, I know how to stay.

So, do I get a treat now or what?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Dope Grooves...

Gosh, you know what I really love? That fantastic music they play on the Weather Channel during "local on the 8's". When I'm home, I just turn the TV to the Weather Channel and I pump up the volume during that part. Man, it's awesome...., NOT!

And yet, apparently, someone out there does enjoy it almost exactly that much because now our friends at the Weather Channel are selling a CD of the music featured during their local forecast segments. Um...who ordered that? People are weird...

Friday, November 30, 2007

A New Gift-giving Occasion!

I was poking around on this gift ideas site for Christmas ideas for my extended family. It's kind of a cool put in the category of recipient (man, woman, teen, family, etc) and the gift-giving occasion (Christmas, birthday, graduation, etc) and it comes up with some pretty nifty ideas. However, there is a gift-giving occasion that I was not aware of - "Breakup/Divorce". I never really thought that the end of a marriage was a gift-giving occasion, but OK. You know I had to click on it. So, here are the gifts that, apparently, are appropriate to give a newly single person. I knew I had to post when I saw this idea, the third on the list.

What are these people smoking?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

OK, NOW I am ready.... get into the Christmas spirit! I get annoyed every year that the Christmas season seems to keep starting earlier and earlier. I kid you not, I went to the store to find some Halloween decorations for our party this year, and they were GONE, replaced by Christmas stuff. This was a FULL WEEK before Halloween! Insanity.

Anyway, now that Thanksgiving is over and the leftovers are becoming less and less appealing, I am ready to start thinking about Christmas. Michael and I drug out our decorations this year and put up our little 5 foot artificial tree. I know, I know...sacrilege, right? However, I am an allergy sufferer and I have vivid mucous-tinged childhood memories of the one year my family got a real tree. It was bad. Michael, however, loves plants and we both fell in love with this tiny little potted spruce tree at Lowe's. So...we decided that Newton needed his own tree this year. Also, please note our non-traditional (but super cute!) stockings.

I think he likes it, don't you?

And here he is, posing in his lovely hand-knit (by me!) Christmas sweater. I hope Muffy doesn't read the blog or else she'll ruin her Christmas surprise...guess who else is getting one? ;) Oh, incidentally, we just got him groomed and we have a whole lot less dog that we thought we did this morning. He's a skinny little thing!

Well, I hope that gets you in the holiday-season mood! I'm off to go eat some more leftovers.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Alison and I hosted the third annual Very Team Grondul Thanksgiving today. We'd like to thank everyone who attended for brightening our holiday. And for helping to fill our stomachs with yummy food.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Good Help is Hard to Find

A Lowe's recently opened not far from us. Alison and I were quite happy to see that, since Home Depot never seems to have what we want, and the salsefolk never seem to know anything.

I went to the Lowe's this morning and asked where I could find steel pipe. I was pointed to the plumbing department, even though steel is not the ideal material for use in the wet. Here's a summary of the actual conversation I had with the salsedude in plumbing:
Me, politely: "Do you have any steel pipe?"
Salseguy, confused: "You mean like copper?"
Me, a little irritated: "No, steel."
Salesguy, even more confused: "You mean like cast iron?"
Me, more than a little irritated: "No, steel."
Salesguy: "You mean like rebar?"
Me, almost more amused than irritated: "No, pipe."
Eventually, we determined that there was no steel pipe in the plumbing department. I was directed to building supplies at the far end of the store. When I got there, the salesdude seemed to understand the concept of steel pipe, but he didn't believe there was any in his part of the store. I poked around but came up empty handed. Finally, I gave up.

It appears that our dreams of a hardware store stocked with what I want and staffed by people who know where to find it are dashed. Dashed, I say. Ugh!

Nerf Maverick Revolver Cylinder and Limiter Mods: The Belles of the Ball

I occasionally poke around on the SiteMeter page for Industrial-Strength Science. It gives me a heady, Big-Brother-like sense that I know way more about what people are doing on the internet than I really should. I find the By Referrals page (under Recent Visitors) to be the most interesting. It shows on what page a visitor clicks to be directed to The Official Blog of Team Grondul. There are many referrals from our friends' blogs, like, briBreakfast Blogger, Diving into the Wreck, and, recently, Atomic Nerds. Additionally, there a numerous visits resulting from Google searches for assorted, seemingly random phrases. None of that surprises me.

What does surprise me is that, for the past few months, the single largest source of hits are searches for phrases like "nerf maverick mod." Apparently, a lot of people are interested in modifying their brightly colored and huge-but-harmless revolvers to reload more quickly and shoot slightly further. Who knew?

Fiesty Fawn

I've decided to listen to my own advise. After I encouraged everyone to run out and install the latest version of Ubuntu Linux, version 7.10 (Gusty Gibbon), on their computers, it occurred to me that I should try Ubuntu out on my schmancy laptop. I didn't install 7.10, though. After trying out the live CD, I discovered the Gusty didn't seem to support all the hardware on my quite new machine. So, I chose to give the Ubuntu community some time to develop that support, and I installed version 7.04 (Fiesty Fawn) in a dual-boot setup with Windows XP.

Fiesty supports all my hardware. In fact, it automatically detected and installed another mouse I happened to plug into the machine, while XP complains. Fiesty also boots noticeably faster. Ubuntu's Synaptic Package Manager also makes it easy to find and install new software; it's a lot easier than doing the same thing in Windows, actually.

What about usability, you ask? For most of what I do with this machine---web surf and edit documents---Ubuntu works well, with one significant caveat. The caveat comes from the interweb end. As you know, a significant amount of the video content on the intertubes is in Windows Media or QuickTime formats, and those are not natively supported by Linux. There are allegedly workarounds out there, but I haven't put in the effort to make them work, and find the situation quite annoying. Other than that issue, Fiesty is quite satisfactory. The rest of the web appears as it should, and, the document editor seems to work pretty well. It claims to read and write Microsoft Office formats, like .DOC and .PPT, but, to be honest with you, I haven't tried opening the same files with both MS and OO.o yet. I'll have to do that later.

One feature of Linux that I wasn't expecting: I can read image and other files from my Windows partition. Neat.

Anyhoo, I encourage you to give Fiesty or Gusty a try. Just be sure to test it out with the live CD before installing onto the hard drive.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I've Swept in and Solved Eveyone's Problems

Alison and I are in Atlanta visiting my family and our friends. Since we got here two days ago we've repaired the following:
  • My dad's wireless network.
  • My dad's clock.
  • My mother's new flat-panel TV.
  • My mother's kitchen dimmer switch.
I can't help but feel that I've swept into town and solved everyone's problems. The experience has given me a heady but likely inaccurate confidence in my own technical problem-solving abilities. I'll probably try to fix someone's car before the weekend is out. That won't go well.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Curse You, Linda!

Linda is now my nemesis. And Murph. Linda a Murph are my nemeses.


My good friend Swandiver has turned me on to the Hungry Girl website. It's awesome! It is basically a well put-together site about dieting and food. I know that sounds not-so-thrilling, but basically it is a guide to finding healthier alternatives to your favorite foods either at the grocery store or at restaurants.

Much of the stuff on there is common sense for anyone who has any nutritional sense/dieting experience, but it has introduced me to some products I wasn't aware of. For example, check out this post on pizza. I love the Amy's Organics frozen spinach pizza, but I have a hard time limiting my portion to a reasonable size when I make a whole one. That post introduced me to the pocket sandwich version, which uses the same filling and crust recipe, but is packaged into a much more reasonable single-serve size. Thanks, Hungry Girl!

Also, there are some recipes on the site that offer slimmed-down alternatives to restaurant food or traditional high-calorie foods. For example, for lunch today I had her version of Taco Bell's Crunchwrap Supreme. It was very good! It was so good, I ate two of them and it was still fewer points (I follow Weight Watchers) than had I eaten the real thing.

Speaking of Weight Watchers, it seems that is Hungry Girl's nutrition plan of choice, too. Accordingly, she posts the points value for all of the foods on her website in addition to the traditional nutrition information.

So, girls (and's ostensibly for women, but there is nothing specifically feminine about the content of the site...of course, the look of the site is quite girly, but I'm sure you manly men can get over that), I highly recommend you go check it out!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


This evening, I watched a fascinating episode of Nova on my local PBS station. The ep was a 2-hour summary of the Dover intelligent-design/creationism case. I encourage you to watch it online.

Nothing Fails Like Prayer

My former overlord, Masta, just brought this piece of news to my attention. Sonny Perdue, the Governor of Georgia, where I lived two states ago and which is currently in a drought, is holding a service at the Capitol building to pray for rain. That's right, not only is he clearly endorsing religion, but he is also using state funds to pay for this shindig. Plus, he seems to expect it to actually work. Holy flurking schnit.

I'm sure George Bush is quite proud.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Economic Consequences

Brian posted a link to this interesting and educational article on the economic ramifications of the Bush presidency. I suggest you check it out.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Movie Review: The Apartment (1960)

Last night, Alison and I finally got around to watching The Apartment, which have been suggesting she see since early in our relationship. I hadn't seen this movie in some years---since before I met my bride, in fact--- so I was able to watch it with almost-fresh eyes.

What I liked:
  • The script contains a nice combination of dramatic events and comedic dialog.
  • The principal actors---Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLain, and Fred MacMurray---all do good jobs. Lemmon is the standout. He's funny, as always, but also successfully sells the drama.
  • The story is quite compelling, and it provides a disturbing insight into a particular subculture.

What I didn't like:
  • The plot develops a little slowly at times. The film could probably be trimmed from 125 minutes down to 115.
I can see why this film won 5 Oscars, including best picture. Overall, I give it 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

More Than You Really Want To Know: Inline Speed Skates

I did a bit of inline speed skating in 2001 and 2002, when I lived in Atlanta, with the local skate club. (This is the club that puts on the famous Athens-to-Atlanta (A2A) road skate.) I grew re-excited about skating in 2004 and 2005, when I lived just outside Washington, DC, so I took to skating with a couple of clubs in that area. I'm sure you can see where this is going. Yes, the skating bug has struck again, despite the fact that weather is about to turn too cold for skating.

In speed skating, the boots---the parts of the skates that looks like shoes---are low-cut, reaching just above the ankle. This height gives good ankle mobility, but it also means that the fit must be nearly perfect to allow the skater to control each skate without developing painful and slow-healing blisters. Because the fit is so important, most boots are heat moldable; the epoxy that holds together the carbon or glass fibers that make up the stiff parts of the boots is thermoplatstic. The boots can be warmed in an oven or with a heat gun until they are pliable, then reshaped using some combination of the foot, the hands, and boot stretchers. The molding process can be repeated as needed. All this carbon fiber and heat moldability makes the boots are the most expensive part of a pair of skates. The frames are the next most costly. The bearings and wheels tend to be about equal, though the wheels need to be replaced more frequently.

Anyway, I've never been completely happy with the way my boots fit, and there are limits to what can be done with heat molding. My Verducci V-Tek boots have forefoot areas that are too narrow for my feet and ankle cuffs that are too loose; no amount of heat molding can fix that.

Once again, you can see where this is going. I bought new boots: Bont Apaches. The Apaches, which are the mid-level boots in Bont's line-up have wide, square toeboxes and, since I can therefore wear a smaller size, tighter ankle cuffs. Additionally, they have small pads, one on each side of the Achilles tendon, that really lock the heal in place, preventing heal lift. They already fit much better than the Verduccis, and I haven't really heat molded them yet.

The thing is, inline-skate technology has come quite some distance since I bought my last boots in 2002, so I broke down and bought an entirely new boot/frame/wheel/bearing package:

Perhaps I should explain. This will take a little time, so please feel free to skip the rest of this post---except perhaps for the photos---and come back later, when Alison has put something up.

Here is a partial list of the parameters that determine how a skate feels and performs.
  • Wheel size. Larger wheels have lower rolling resistance. This effect makes a noticeable difference on smooth surfaces, and an even larger one on rough roads. Unfortunately larger wheels have higher moments of inertia and are thus harder to accelerate. Additionally, larger wheels inevitably increase the height of the foot above the ground.
  • Heel height. The height of the foot above the ground is usually measured to the bottom of the skater's heel. Lower heights provide more stability and require much less ankle strength. Greater heights effectively make the skater's leg longer, which can be advantageous for leverage, but, as we'll see, modern skates put the heal higher than is optimal for most skaters, so a lower height is usually desirable.
  • Wheelbase. This parameter is measured from the front axle to the rear axle and is determined by the wheel diameters and the sizes of the inter-wheel gaps. Longer wheelbases provide more stability at speed and a larger platform to push against. Shorter wheelbases are more maneuverable, but maneuverability isn't usually an issue in speed skating.
  • Overall length. The length is also determined by wheel and gap size. Longer skates can be difficult handle, especially in crossover turns.
Way back in the early days of inline speed skating, the boots where adapted from those used in ice speed skating: they had two mounting points spaced 165 mm apart. Thus, the frames also have 165-mm spacing. The standard setup was 5 wheels 76 mm in diameter with gaps of about 1 mm. With this wheel size, it was possible to more-or-less emulate the height of an ice speed skate. By the time I joined the scene in 2001-ish, the standard setup had moved from 5x76 to 5x80. My first speed skates had a heel height of about 105 mm, which seemed adequate.

Soon thereafter, people were moving to 5x84. These skates rolled better, but the height and overall length were starting to be issues for some smaller or less burly-ankled skaters.

About this same time, skaters began experimenting with 100-mm wheels designed for kick scooters. 5 wheels of this size would be way too much skate, so 4 wheels was required. With the mounting bolts spaced 165 mm apart, the front bolt was right over the second wheel, so to keep the height semi-reasonable, that wheel was made to be 80 or 84 mm. (The rear mounting bolt is usually 12 mm higher than the front.) Because there were only 4 wheels, the gaps were quite a bit larger than those of 5-wheel skates, which meant that obstacles could "fall" in between the wheels, increasing resistance on rough surfaces. These 100-80-100-100 and 100-84-100-100 setups met with enough success that lighter, speed-skate-specific 100-mm wheels reached the market.

Soon, in about 2004, 90-mm wheels became available, and various combinations like 4x90, 100-90-100-100, and even 5x90 showed up. The 5x90 skates, meanwhile, where only ever used by the biggest, strongest skaters; they were simply way to long and heavy for anyone else. My second pair of frames where 4x90, and they had uneven spacing to move the center wheel out from under the from mounting bolt. With my boots mounted on them, the heel height was 110 mm, only 5 mm higher than my old setup with a 10-mm increase in wheel size.

Around the same time, boots and frames with 195-mm bolt spacings arrived. On some wheel combinations, like 4x90 and 4x100, this spacing moved the front bolt away from directly over the second wheel, which reduced the heel height considerably. (I didn't want to buy new boots at the time, which is why I went with the irregularly spaced 4x90). With these frames, 4x100 setups became more common.

You can guess what happened next, I'll wager: 110-mm wheels hit the market.* 4x110 setups began to crop up. Eddy Matzger won A2A on a 100-100-110-110 setup that year. (I know because I was visiting Alison in Atlanta that weekend, so we skated in Piedmont Park that Sunday morning and hung around to see the finish.)

So, by 2004, almost every possible combination of wheels up to 110 mm was in use. It was mayhem. Mayhem, I tell you.

By 2005 or 2006, things had shaken out a bit. Many smaller skaters were running 4x90. Medium-sized skaters were on 4x100. Some bigger skaters were using 100-100-110-110. The biggest skaters were on 4x100. As you can guess, the heel heights on these skates were pretty substantial. People just tried to cope with it.

In 2005, Bont introduced their 3-point mounting system. This system was designed for frames with 4 wheels 90 mm and above. The system added a third mounting point between the inner wheels and pushed the other 2 mounting points out to 202 or 216 mm, depending on boot size. This move not let the boot drop down---drape down, really---over the wheels, it also reduced the amount of material and thus weight---required to give the boot the required stiffness. One other, smaller advantage to this scheme was that it moved the pitch (the difference in height between the front and rear mounts) off of the frame and into the boot: the frame's three mounting points are all at the same height, so the boot can be designed with any amount of heel lift. Incidentally, I should mention that Bont calls their 3-point frame the Space Frame or S-Frame.

I was sold on the 3-point concept the first time I saw it, but the rather significant downsides associated with it where (a) I'd have to pony up the dough for boots and frames and (b) my choices of boots and frames would be limited to a single brand.**

Recently, 2 years later, when I decided to get back into skating, I came to the conclusion that, since I've gotten 6 and 5 years out of my previous boots, I could go ahead and get a complete 3-point package. The Apache is the middle-of-the-range boot, as I said, but the Apache package comes with the range-topping S-Frame, the one made from magnesium alloy.*** The frame I have is has a 12.5-inch wheelbase. (Yes, I know I'm mixing units here, but wheelbases are usually Imperial for some reason.) The package also comes with some grippy-but-heavy Hyper Stripe 100-mm wheels.

Here's a photo comparing my schmancy new 4x100 setup next to my older 4x90 and 5x80 skates. This photo gives some idea of the difference in wheels size between these skates. The pic also shows the difference between the new 3-point mounting system and the traditional 2-point, 165-mm mounting. (Well, it doesn't show the contrast too clearly. I need to take a better photograph.) Sharp-eyed cyclists will notice that all 3 boots use Sidi Ultra SL buckles. Hey, why re-invent the wheel?

To better illustrate the contrast between these wheels sizes, here's a photo of wheels with diameters of 80, 90, and 100 mm. I must say, those 100s seemed huge when I first put them on. Especially since my feat are only 242 mm long.

Speaking of those ginormous wheels, they are a bit of a, footfull? The heel height is about 116 mm, 6 mm higher than my last setup with 10-mm larger wheels. I think my ankles will eventually be able to cope with that height, but it will take some time and practice. My double-push technique---good slow-motion sequence halfway through this video---has never been great, and I'm going to have to work to make it as strong on 100s as on 90s. Let's just hope I can adapt before I start skating with the club in Baltimore next Spring.

I think 100 mm is as far as I can really go. I don't think I'm large or strong enough to push 4x110, and even if I where, the minimum wheelbase is 13.2 inches, and the minimum overall length is 403 mm, both of which are very long for a guy who wears 29x28 or 29-30 pants. I might try 4x104, since it appears that I can fit Hyper's 104-mm wheels on my current boot/frame combo; there's at least 2 mm between wheel and boot and 4 mm between wheels. I suspect I will return to 100 mm, though. I won't rule out trying 110 mm if I ever feel comfortable with 100 mm, but I'd have to spring for a 110-mm-specific frame to do it, so it won't happen soon.

Meanwhile, some skaters are already talking about 3x120 or 3x125 as the next step. Perhaps the 165-mm spacing will return, triumphant. Who knows?

Wow, that was a much longer post than I originally intended. I do tend to run off at the fingers, don't I?

* Actually Hyper makes at least one model of 104-mm wheel, but they are the only brand to offer one, as far as I know.

** Bont has offered to license the 3-point system to other manufactures, so others could make compatible boots or frames, but I don't think any of those products have reached the market yet.

*** The vast majority of speed-skate frames are made from aluminum (or aluminium, if you prefer) alloy.

Caught on, Flash Memory

Yesterday's CrossFit workout of the day, was 7 sets of 1-rep-max back squats. There's some difference of opinion in the lifting community as to what depth of squat is desirable. Some prescribe a 90-degree bend in the knees. Some suggest that the femurs should be parallel to the ground. (This is slightly deeper, since the shins lean forward.) Olympic weightlifters and some others descend until their thighs hit their calves. (We did quite a bit of this last kind of squat at our seminar.)

No matter how far down you decide you should go, it's very easy, when laboring under a heavily loaded barbell, to believe you've gone quite a bit lower than you in fact have. So, during yesterday's WOD, I had the bright idea to video our squats using my digital camera. This recording would let us calibrate perceived squat depth with true depth. I found the vids quite helpful, and I believe Alison did, too. I recommend you try it sometime, assuming squats are part of your lifestyle.

I won't burden you by posting our recordings, but I will tell you that I put up a personal record back squat of 265 pounds,* and Alison hit a new PR of 155. Yay us.

* My body weight yesterday morning was 139.0 pounds.

Can You Spot the Spot?

Here's an amusing action shot of our critter that was recently taken by Alison. In the pic, Newton has somehow gotten the hole punched out of a piece of paper stuck to the the exact center of his nose. He's also doing a pretty good two-legged balance.

Please note Alison's collection of Giant Microbes on the tiny chair behind him.

It's Hard Out There for a Puppy

Apparently, it's very tiring to be a dog.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Curse You, Joss Whedon!

Thanks to Nick and Amy's ongoing generosity with their DVD collection, Alison and I finished watching the entirety of Angel tonight. Sigh.

Umami Mo Arimasu Yo

Think sweet, salty, sour, and bitter are the only flavors you can taste? Think again. There's also umami. "Umami" is the name given to the flavor of glutamate, the sodium salt of which is the flavor-enhancing seasoning monosodium glutamate or MSG.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Zombie Dog...Mwahahaha!

Check it out:

Newton has always done this. He will sometimes sleep with his eyes open and one or both of them will roll down to the whites. It has always creeped me out when he does this. It's one of the very few things he does that is not particularly cute. But it is appropriate for the week of Halloween! Scary...

Post Office Showdown

I developed this habit not long after I began studying krav maga. It certainly changes one's perspective.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

No Heroes: Origins

It looks like Heroes: Origins is being shelved, for this season anyway. Stupid writers' strike.

Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku Move into a Dollhouse

I couldn't let this article go by without comment. It seems that Joss Whedon has gotten a 7-episode deal for a new series about people whose identities can be overwritten and even erased. He's tapped Faith herself, Eliza Dushku to star in it. The bad news? The deal is with 20th Century F*x, so we can expect the series to be canceled by the time all 7 eps are broadcast. Despite the near-certain premature end, there's already a flurry of fan activity at Whedonesque.

By the way, Whedonites might also be interested in the short mention of Goners at the end of the first article. Apparently that project isn't likely to move ahead.

Update: Tim Minear, the man responsible for the Minear Effect, is involved in this project. That seals the deal; the show will be canceled.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How-To: Nitro-to-Brushless Conversion: Part 6

Part 5 can be found here.

OK, this post isn't so much a how-to as an update on a previous how-to, but I feel that keeping the title consistent is important.

I've been quite happy with the performance of my brushless-powered Losi 8IGHT, but I couldn't resist tweaking it a bit. Below is a list of some of the changes I've made since my last post, several of which were predicted therein. Most of these changes are clearly visible in the photos that follow the list.
  • I successfully tamed the motor braking. The car still stops quickly, but it's more controllable, and now I don't feel like I'm going to damage the motor every time I slow down. I really would have liked to use the disk brakes that came with the kit, but there just wasn't room for the servo required to operate them.
  • I've replaced the batteries and speed-control's Dean's connectors with 5.5-mm bullet connectors. The bullets will have lower resistance at high currents. This higher conductance is important, since I expect to draw close to 200 amps for short periods.
  • I added a second temperature sensor, this one is thermal-epoxied directly to the motor. Now I can monitor the temps of both the motor controller and the motor. I've found that both temperatures mostly stay below 130 degrees F, which makes me feel confident that I'm damaging neither component.
  • I've replaced the single battery tray with 2 smaller ones, which allows me to hold 2 6300-mAh 2-series LiPo batteries. I've soldered the batts together in series, giving me a 4-series LiPo with 26% more capacity than my single 5000-mAh batt. This change should not only give me longer runtimes, but also higher currents and thus more power. Additionally, the new setup creates an almost perfect left-right weight balance. As a bonus, the new battery configuration also fills previously unused space on the left side of the car, making it look a little more efficiently laid out..
  • I've mounted some Pro-Line Moab tires on orange Kyosho 10-spoke wheels, which are visible in the first pic. The tread on these tires has a good multi-purpose pattern, useful for on- and off-road driving. Additionally, these tires have transverse ribs on the inside, which helps prevent them from ballooning at high wheel speeds. Not only will these ribs keep more tire in contact with the ground, but they will also keep the tires glued to the rims. The wheels, by the way, are probably my favorite 1/8th buggy wheels; they are both well made and attractive.
  • Speaking of tires, I also found some GRP Rally tires, which I mounted on orange Kyosho 5-slot dish wheels. These wheels and tires are visible in the second pic. In addition to being made of a surprisingly sticky compound, these tires have an extremely low profile, which not only keeps them from ballooning, but also reduces side-wall flex during corning. They don't absorb jump-landing impact as well as higher-profile tires, but that seems like a good trade-off, given that they are intended for on-road use. The major downfall of the tires is their outside diameter; they not only look too small on the vehicle, they also necessitate a significant gearing change. I'd really prefer tires with the same profile mounted on wheels about 10 mm larger in diameter. The wheels, meanwhile, aren't as attractive as the 10-spokers, in my opinion, but they do give the car a somewhat futuristic look, which I find pleasing. I think they certainly look better than the stock dish wheels. (These wheels actually look quite a lot like the wheels that come stock on the Honda Civic Hybrid, which, being a hybrid, is meant to look all future-y.)
  • Gearing is, of course, determined by terrain, but I've been running mostly 15/39 on the road and 14/39 or 13/39 off. It's much easier to change the pinion gear (mounted on the motor shaft) than the spur gear (mounted on the center differential and holding the viscous silicone fluid therein at bay).
  • Since my electrified car is heavier than the stock nitro version, especially with the larger batts, I've stiffened the suspension, cranking up the front and rear spring rate by 14% and 19%, respectively. I also increased the damping concomitantly. The suspension is now set to something much closer to the truggy version of my buggy.
  • I've replaced the stock plastic steering knuckles (axle carriers), servo-saver arm, and servo arm, with their hard-anodized aluminum counterparts. This change should rigidify the entire steering system, resulting in better steering in high-speed situations with only a slight weight penalty. Several other hard-ano aluminum parts are available for the 8IGHT, but I'm not convinced that they offer improved performance or that, if they do, said improvement justifies the additional weight and cost. Incidentally, only the servo arm is visible in the first photo.
  • I've also purchased a Pro-Line Crowd Pleazer 2.0 body, which I've painted almost identically to its stock counterpart. I don't think I like the CP2 as well as I do the stock body. I'll put up a pic later and let you be the judge.
  • I haven't had a chance to measure the top speed of the vehicle to see if the larger battery and taller gearing had an effect. Certainly the car seems fast enough, and the acceleration is more than sufficient for my purposes.

It Hurts to Express Nonchalance...

This past weekend, Michael and I attended an Olympic weightlifting seminar. The Olympic lifts, for those who are as unfamiliar with the sport as I was a few months ago, are the snatch, the clean, and the jerk. Usually, people do the clean and the jerk together and jerk from the front, unlike the video I just posted, but you get the idea.

Crossfit, which you have all heard about from me and Michael on this blog, incorporates the Olympic lifts into the workouts. Now, I feel like you can read a few articles on the web, buy a pair of running shoes, and take up running on your own without significant risk of injury. However, if I am going to be expected to lift 100 lbs or more over my head, I think I want someone who knows what they're doing to give me some instruction. Heck, even bailing out of a lift (meaning stopping in the middle and putting the bar down if you realize you're not going to be able to complete the lift) takes some skill if you don't want to drop the bar on your head or your lower back in the process. By the way, for a nice demonstration of doing this poorly, watch the "jerk" video until close to the end. Not that I'm ripping on Nicole (the girl in the video). She is a very impressive athlete, but I learned this weekend that almost decapitating yourself with the bar is, surprisingly, NOT the correct way to bail out of a lift. Huh.

The seminar was a day and a half was amazing to me the number of things there are to think about and the level of detailed instruction it takes to just pick something up off the floor and hold it over your head! It was definitely helpful for me and I learned a lot. Of course, I'm incredibly sore now. Although we were not using heavy weights, we did LOTS of reps and we practiced the receiving position (which is basically a reeeeally deep squat) many, many times. So, my legs are quite tired and so are my shoulders. So, if I feel blase about something in the next few days, do not expect me to shrug. It's just not gonna happen, people.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Jacks are Back

Alison and I had the Third Annual Team Grondul BYOP Pumpkin-Carving Party about a week ago. I believe everyone had a good time. I did, certainly. Here is a photo with most but not all of the jack-o-lanterns the affair produced.

Now if We Could Just Get Him to Howl Again

A neighbor, who owns two cuddly and snorty pugs, recently made Newton a snazzy seasonal bandanna. Observe how sharp he looks in it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Push Those Daisies!

ABC has ordered 9 more episodes of Pushing Daises, which is, in my opinion, the most entertaining new show this season. This move brings the total number of eps ordered to 22, a full season's worth. Yay!


I made this one up last night, and I must say it's perfectly cromulent:
otherwhere, adverb. In another place, elsewhere.

Lessons Newton Taught Us: Warm and Stinky

Here's another priceless nugget o' wisdom we never would have known without our pup:
Dogs are, apparently, both warm and stinky on the inside.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fire, Schmire

I'm no Potterian,* but I really enjoyed this John Scalzi post on the big news of the weekend.

* Or whatever fans of the Harry Potter books and movies call themselves. Potterites? Potters? Potties? Pots?

Book Review: Goblin Hero

(This review contains no significant spoilers.)

After zooming through Goblin Quest, I picked up Jim C. Hines' sequel, Goblin Hero. The story follows Jig, the reluctant "hero" of the first novel as he finds himself on yet another adventure, just trying to keep himself (and his pet spider) alive. Like the first book, this one is a light-hearted, lopsided twist on the traditional fairy tale. Unlike the previous novel, however, this one is not told entirely from Jig's perspective; almost half is seen through the eyes of Veka, would-be goblin sorceress. I believe that change added a little depth to the story.

Overall, I give this book 7.0 out of 10, the same rating I gave its predecessor.

Incidentally, if you enjoy(ed) Goblin Quest and Goblin Hero, you may be interested to know that the next book in the series, Goblin War, is due out in March. You can see its cover here.

Book Review: Goblin Quest

(This review contains no significant spoilers.)

I recently completed Jim C. Hines' novel Goblin Quest, which was brought to my attention by John Scalzi. The story follows a goblin named Jig as he is sucked into quest with two humans, a dwarf and an elf. Jig is a runt among goblins and his vision is terrible. The only things that have kept him alive in the rather harsh goblin society are his inherent cowardice and the fact that he is smarter than the average bear...I mean goblin. The book is is a light-hearted, humorous "fractured" fairytale. I really enjoyed that the protagonist of the story is far from the traditional brave, competent hero. He's just this guy, you know?

Overall I give this book 7.0 out of 10. It's not great literature, but it is a fun, fast read.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Yay! Ugh!

Today's CrossFit WOD was haaarrd, right up there with redemption and puppies. It wasn't challenging so much because of the inherent difficulty of the workout---though there was plenty of that---but because I was so very unmotivated. I was tired, sore from yesterday's WOD, and oddly sleepy---I kept yawning during the workout.

In contrast, yesterday's workout, CrossFit Total, went pretty well. I was quite pleased with my results: a new CFT personal record of 690 pounds, including a squat PR of 255 and a deadlift PR of 300. A little arithmetic will reveal that my shoulder press was 135, which was actually down 2 pound from my PR. Still, I like to think the total isn't bad for a some one weighing 140.0 the morning of the workout. Lastly, I should point out that Alison had PRs on all 3 lifts yesterday. I'm quite proud of her.

Gusty Gibbon Drops

Ubuntu 7.10 (Gusty Gibbon) was released on Thursday. Wired has a review of it here. They find it to be very easy to install, configure, and run. I'm building a web server around 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) at home, and I've been quite pleased with it. If you are looking for an inexpensive and easy-to-use alternative to Windows or Mac OS, I encourage you to check out this latest version.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Claire Bear, Indeed

As you are probably aware, Claire Bennett on Heroes has the power of spontaneous regeneration, making her much like Wolverine, but without the claws or the adamantium-infused skeleton. I've often thought that, although other powers are more flashy or fun, hers is the best one to have, especially if you live the rather dangerous lifestyle of Heroes cast member or X-man. Not only would you be almost indestructible, but you would also reap other, less immediate benefits. First, your power would counter-act your aging, allowing you to live for over a century while maintaining a youthful appearance and fitness level, just like Wolverine. Second, you'd be immune to overtraining; you would recover from workouts very quickly, allowing you to exercise very intensely and frequently, thus reaching unparalleled levels of fitness. Cool, eh?

By the way, when I pointed out this second hidden benefit to my bride, she said, "You're a big nerd. You know that." Yes. In other news, the sky is blue, down is the direction in which gravity pulls, and pain is considered, by the majority of 18- to 34-year-old males, to hurt.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

How is She Still Alive?

I've just learned that my lovely and intelligent bride is entirely incapable of flipping a coin. She had to do it repeatedly today as part of her TA gig, and it apparently went rather poorly. She gave me a demonstration of her "technique" this evening, and she nearly had to administer oxygen to me after the laughing fit that ensued. Please, the next time you see her, ask her to repeat the demonstration for you. Just be sure that you aren't eating at the time. I only hope the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration doesn't see her attempting this "feat," or they'll surely revoke her license to drive.

Apparently, in the same class, she needed to open a Venetian blind to let some light in. When she pulled the cord, the entire blind came right off the wall. Maybe she should lay off the CrossFit for a bit.

She told me, "I'm sure [my adviser] thought I was a spaz, but I really wasn't doing it on purpose." When I explained to her that a klutz wouldn't do it purposefully either, she replied, "So Elizabeth correctly thought I was a spaz." Yes, correctly.

I realize that I'm not the most athletic person in the world, but for crying out loud! I think this could be a deal-breaker.

How to Meat People and Be Loved

I think I've just found Nick's Halloween costume.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Touch Them with Your Own Noodly Appendage

Those members of the readership who both (a) are pastafarians---at least Brian---and (b) enjoy Halloween---probably all seven of you---may be interested in this article showing you how to make your own Flying Spaghetti Monster costume.

The Fun Police

Whedonites in the readership may be aware that sing-along screenings of the Buffy musical episode Once More, with Feeling are held in theaters across the country. Well, were held. F*x has ordered a termination of the events, stating that they exceeded the series' licensing agreements.

Alison summed up the situation quite succinctly: "F*x is evil. They're like the fun police!"

Melinda in the Shower

Here's another metaphor brought to you by Alison's former flatmate:
Melinda in the shower, metaphor. Any person who gets so caught up in thinking about other things while performing a mindless task, especially one related to hygiene, that she takes an extremely long time to complete said task.

Monday, October 15, 2007


I've certainly dropped the ball with respect to Halloween-hacking posts this year. Still, regular readers will know that Make's blog is the place to go to find inspiration for costumes, props, and even food. Food? That's right; check out these fleshworms. Mmmm...fleshworms.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mickey

Yesterday was my mother's birthday. So, happy birthday, Mom!

Effect an Effect

I've been trying to post a higher percentage of original content, rather than simple links-with-comments, but I can't pass up linking to the latest xkcd comic. As a budding grammar Nazi, I find that this comic effects great amusement.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Warners Exec is Sexist Moron

I just came across an article describing how Warner Bros president of production Jeff Robinov has stated that the studio will no longer produce films with women in leading roles. Apparently, he doesn't even want to see a script with a leading female character. This move seems to have been motivated by the poor performance of a few of WB's recent women-led pictures; the studio's underperforming male-led films are evidently not judged solely on the gender of the main character.

What brand of craziness is this?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Takezo Kensei: Sword Saint

Fans of heroes in the readership---that's pretty much all of you---might be interested in this mockumentary of the legend of Takezo Kensei, which is brought to you by the Yamagato Fellowship.

Monday, October 01, 2007 crust....gaaaahhhhgghh...... *drool*

Oh. My. God. I love you Alton! Love!

Ahem. Perhaps I should start at the beginning.

Michael and I often make homemade pizza, but we have always used store-bought crust that we just topped ourselves. Don't get me wrong, up until a few hours ago, I thought it was really, really tasty. A few days ago we were watching Good Eats on the Food network and Alton Brown, the chef who hosts the show, did a show on pizza crust. Hmm...intriguing. I have tried to make homemade crust from a recipe that my sister gave me a few times, but it has always turned out not so good. Toward the end of the episode, Alton said that he often eats the crust without any toppings...just brushed with olive oil with a little salt and pepper on top. Michael and I looked at each other and said, "Man that sounds good!" So, we decided to make this recipe. It's a bit involved as many of Alton Brown's recipes tend to be, but it is SO WORTH IT. Michael and I took his suggestion and just brushed the crusts with olive oil before baking and put some pepper on top. We also roasted a head of garlic and spread that on after it was done. The recipe makes two crusts and we polished it all off in about 10 minutes. It was AWESOME!! The recipe is available on the internet here. Just a few notes:

  1. I could not find instant yeast as his recipe calls for. In case you have the same issue, I used regular (not rapid rise) yeast that comes in the packet instead and it turned out, as mentioned before, REALLY WELL. I used one packet. On the back it gave instructions for using the yeast when the recipe calls for it to be added in with the flour and not dissolved in water first, so we followed those, actually measuring the temperature of the water we added, and it worked out fine.
  2. My crust was not pretty. At one point I was worried because it was only vaguely round and was not very evenly stretched. It totally didn't matter. I'll probably practice making it look nicer in the future, but don't get discouraged if it seems like kind of a mess. It will still taste amazing.
  3. This recipe is not just requires a little planning ahead because of the 24 hour rise in the middle.
So, I heartily encourage you to try this out. I want more already!

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

If you've read Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials books or are excited about seeing the upcoming film adaptation of the first novel, then you may be interested in a couple of daemon-related links:
  • Yahoo Movies has a five-minute behind-the-scenes video that not only discusses how the daemons were brought to life for the new film, but also includes the best footage so far of the daemons themselves.
  • If you've wondered what form your daemon would take, then surf over to the official movie site, choose your language, click "DAEMONS," and press "MEET YOUR DAEMON" to take a daemon-diagnostic test. Apparently, my daemon would be a jackal, while Alison's would be a tiger. (Curses!) What about yours?
By the way, I'm a third of the way through The Amber Spyglass now, so I should soon be ready to discuss the trilogy with those of you in the readership who recommended the books to us.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Unsolicited Opinions: Post 326

Well, we are now a few weeks into the cascade of fall TV premiers,* and I thought I'd share my opinions with you. Not because you asked, of course; I'm just very opinionated.

So far:
  • Chuck. I checked out this lead-in to Heroes on Nick's recommendation, and I enjoyed it. The premise is rather silly but fun, and, importantly, the title character is quite charming and well portrayed. Plus, it's always nice to see Adam Baldwin (Jayne Cobb from Firefly) getting work. Some of the plot points were unrealistic, however. I'll tune in tomorrow and decide then whether to stick around for more.
  • Heroes. The premiere of the sophomore season of this show didn't disappoint, and I'm excited to see more tomorrow night. I found out today that even my mom likes it. Interestingly, her favorite and least favorite characters are the same as mine. Weird. Anyway, last season, it was a toss-up as to whether this series or Battlestar was the best show on TV, at least in my opinion. I'm expecting good things.
  • Bionic woman. This show is yet another '70s remake brought to you by one of the minds behind Battlestar Galactica. I wasn't completely happy with the show. Not surprisingly, some of the science was a bit too much to believe, but I'm willing to let that go. What really irritated me, though, was how the security procedures were portrayed. For example, the characters frequently discuss classified material over the phone with uncleared individuals. What is that? Additionally, I was really unhappy with the recasting of the deaf, punkish kid sister as a hearing, all-American girl. I felt that replacement made her quite a bit less interesting. I did find the lead actress quite likable, though her character is rather inconsistent. Speaking of actresses, I really enjoyed seeing Katee Sackoff (Starbuck on the aforementioned Battlestar) as the prototype bionic chick; she did a good job of being creepy and intimidating. As long as the writers don't make her the best pilot, sharpshooter, poker-player, and smoker in the show, as they did on Battlestar, I'll be happy with her recurring role. Lastly, I should mention that the reimagined Bionic Woman is much darker than the original, much like David Eick's other remake, and it really works for the show. I'll tune in Wednesday to decide if I'll make it regular viewing.
  • My Name is Earl. The third-season premiere of My Name is Earl indicates that the amusement level provided by this show isn't falling. As long as we get a good dose of Randy and a dollop of Darnell in every episode, I'll be happy.
Upcoming (definitely):
  • Pushing Daisies. I've already posted about my extreme affinity for this show after seeing it's pilot, so I won't say much here. But if you like off-beat, dark comedy, then for the love all that is pure, holy, and good,** watch this show Wednesday night. If you don't like it, I'll give you your money back.
  • Battlestar Galactica. OK, so Season 4---the final season--of Battlestar doesn't premier until early next year. But the semi-prequel telefilm Razor will be broadcast in November, ao I'm going to include the series in this post. Battlestar has been good for all the way from the pilot mini-series through the end of Season 3. Granted, I wasn't as happy with the main plotlines in the second half of Season 3, but I'm still stoked to see the Pegasus-centered TV movie and the final season.
Upcoming (maybe)
  • Aliens in America. No, this show isn't about the type of aliens I'm usually interested in, but I might DVR it tomorrow and check it out after Heroes is over.
  • Reaper. On the one hand, this could be simply a rip-off of Dead Like Me. On the other, I've heard good things about it, and I might check it out. Technically, this show isn't upcoming, since it premiered last Tuesday, but I haven't seen it, so I placed it in this category.
So there you have my take on this new season so far. Your feedback is, as always, appreciated.

* And it's not a moment too soon. Now that Monk's and Psych's seasons are over, there's some free space in my tube-watching schedule.
** I've stolen this phrase from Alison by the way.