Thursday, May 31, 2007

Microsoft Surface

I hesitate to say this about a Microsoft product, but the new Surface Computing product is very innovative. Or at least it seems so to me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

News from Toddrick

It appears that Todd has returned to his old ways. In addition, he's posted a touching tribute to a canine companion.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

What Do You Call Spam That Comes Through USPS?

I recently realized that Alison and I receive unsolicited mail, at various frequencies, from seven different schools. Alison gets mail from these:
Meanwhile, I get mail from these:
So, apparently education (and employment) has a cost beyond the financial one, and it's called junk mail.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

He's the Puppingest

Regular readers know Newton's full name but may not realize that he also has a title. You see, I've pronounced him the Puppingest Puppy that Ever Pupped a Pup. The trouble is, I'm not entirely sure what it means. It does seem to capture his personality and our affection for him, though.

Form Blazing Sword!

Justin Marks, the screenwriter penning the potential He-Man movie I just posted about, is also writing a big-screen adaptation of Voltron. I feel terrible expressing an informed opinion about this project, but I hope the Lion Voltron/GoLion is the incarnation chosen.

I Have The Power!

It appears that plans are afoot to produce a new film based on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. I only have one question: Who ordered that?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My Made-Up WOD

As I've said, I'm really enjoying the challenge and variability of my CrossFit workouts. Sometimes, however I don't want to do the Workout of the Day (WOD) published by, Primal Fitness, or American Parkour, usually because of my nagging injury or the sport I expect to do the following day. On those occasions, I make up my own WOD. My made-up workouts typically go moderately well, but I never seem to push myself as hard as I would on a prescribed workout. Today, however, I was quite pleased with the workout I designed and performed. So, for your edification, here it is.
For minimum elapsed time, perform 4 rounds of the following:
  • 20 push-ups
  • 20 sit-ups
  • Carry 100-pound heavy bag up 3 flights of stairs (basement to third floor)
  • 20 push-ups
  • 20 sit-ups
  • Carry heavy bag back down stairs
Man! The sit-ups and especially the push-ups felt like rest. Incidentally, my Nike Free cross-trainers came in quite handy; they let me feel when I stepped off of the last stair in the flight, which was covered with ribbed anti-slip treads, and onto the landing, which was not. This was convenient, since I couldn't see directly in front of me, due to opacity of the bag.

For the record, this WOD took me 23 minutes, 18 seconds.

Update: When I told Jesse about this workout, he described it as "BADASS!" (The capitalization is his.) That description makes me feel rather proud of my workout.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Smithsonian Sacrifices Science

A form associate director of the the Smithsonian Institution claims that the Smithsonian modified an exhibit on climate change in the arctic, reducing the reported level of confidence among scientists that humans are responsible, eliminating scientist's conclusions, and generally minimizing the issue. The changes were made, allegedly, in order not to anger Congress or the President's administration. This kind of thing makes me really angry.

Niven Near

I've just learned that sci-fi author Larry Niven will be visiting my lab* on Friday. He's apparently in town for the Baltimore Science Fiction Society's convention and I guess he must be looking for information about emerging technology. Seems like a smart move on his part. I'll have to see if I can wrangle a meeting; maybe I can get the inside line on the oft-rumored Ringworld movie.

* He'll be on my campus, but not in my actually laboratory.

Rant: Large Vehicles in Compact-Only Spaces

You know what really grinds my gears? People who park large vehicles in parking spaces marked "compact car only." At the lab where I work, the lot I use nearly fills up during big meetings. During those times, I can sometimes park my car in a compact-only space. I believe that if any vehicle is allowed to use tsuch a parking spot, my 2-seat, 2000-ish-pound Honda CRX is. If all the compact spaces are taken by smallish cars, I figure it's my own fault for arriving at work so late, and I park a in a distant spot without complaint. The other day, I arrived at the lab to find a Ford Explorer in my favorite compact-only space. Yes, a 4-door, mid-sized SUV shoved onto---not into---a space clearly labeled "compact car only." I'm guessing that the driver either is fully aware that his truck is far from small and is simply a selfish jerk---this is the more likely scenario, in my opinion---or his other vehicle is something like a Hummer H2, so, to him, the Explorer is compact.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Even Bionicer

Remember when I posted that Battlestar Galactica co-exec David Eick was working on a new "re-imagining" of The Bionic Woman? Well, the show was presented recently at the upfronts and will air this autumn on NBC at 9:00 Eastern on Wednesdays. Based on the scenes that have appeared on YouTube and this detailed article on the pilot---please be aware that this link contains at least one major spoiler for the pilot ep---it appears that this isn't your father's Bionic Woman. Or even the one you may remember from your childhood. It looks to be darker, more realistic, and more complex, bearing much the same relationship to its progenitor that Battlestar does to its.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Movie Review: Jesus Camp

Some time ago, Lisa came by for a visit, and she brought Jesus Camp on DVD. Jesus Camp is a documentary about evangelical Christians raising their children to be the "army of God." This is possibly the scariest movie I've ever seen. The film is peppered with speaking in tongues, prophesies, and prayers for bowling help, all done by ~10-year-old kids.

Overall, I give it 8.0 out of 10, and I encourage anyone interested in freedom of religion to see it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Now that Hybrid is Fit! But Does it Fit?

Today I read this TreeHugger article about the cheap Honda hybrid sports car I mentioned yesterday. Said article directed me to another on the same site about the potential Fit Hybrid. This article's source's source claims that there will indeed be a hybrid Fit in the 2008 model year, and that the drivetrain will be based on the Civic Hybrid's. Furthermore, it appears that the price premium for the hybrid version won't be too onerous.

You are most likely aware, gentle reader, that I'm quite attracted to small, sporty cars. (If not, click on the "cars" subject to the right, and you will quickly get the picture.) You may even know that I've never owned a car with more than two truly usable seats. However, it's quite likely that, when I purchase my next automobile, I will bow to practicality and select one with four seats and ample cargo space. If nothing else, it should make hauling some subset of our bikes around easier.* Based on some research in Consumer Reports, my preference for small cars, and the low-low price, the Fit has found its way to the top of my practical-car wish-list. Today's news makes the Fit Hybrid number one with a bullet.

*For the record, I've had two people, two bikes, and two days worth of luggage in the CRX. I've also had four people and no bikes or luggage in it. It holds a surprising amount of stuff.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

You Get 12 MPG Less Than You Thought

The EPA will soon begin testing the fuel efficiency of vehicles using a new and, supposedly, more realistic protocol. The upshot of this change is that most cars will be rated less efficient than they have been, but hybrid vehicles will suffer the most. Keep in mind that driving style has a huge impact on one's mileage. Shuiab, for example, makes a game of eking out every last meter from each cubic centimeter of fuel; he often gets over 50 miles/gallon.

An Improper Axis of Rotation

Nick has joined the Dark Side. That's right: he's started a weblog. So, if you don't get enough geeky self-expression and unasked-for pet photos from Industrial-Strength Science, you should surf on over to An Improper Axis of Rotation.

The sad part is, now the source of about 10% of my blogfodder has been sucked away to it's own blog.

Honda's Entry-Level Hybrid Sports Car

Jalopnik is reporting that Automotive News is reporting that Honda will be introducing an entry-level hybrid sports car in 2009. The new automobile will, apparently, be based on the company's Remix concept car. The Remix featured 2 seats, 4 cylinders, 6 manually selected gear ratios, big brakes, and a pretty substantial cargo bay, but we'll have to wait to see which of these features make it to the production model, if indeed there is one. In any event, this vehicle, if it happens, sounds more like a hybrid CRX than a new Insight. I'm quite intrigued.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Scion of Grondul

After my post announcing my intended label for any child or children Alison and I have, Michael F. proposed this more catchy alternative:
the Scion of Grondul, noun phrase. Any individual Grondulspawn.
I think his proposal has a more formal tone, and I expect that it will be reserved it for more...significant occasions: state dinners and such:
  • "Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to present the Scion of Grondul."
  • "You will cower before all the Scions of Grondul."
  • "Dear god, it's the Scion of Grondul!"
You get the idea.

Movie Review: Spider-Man 3

(This review contains minor spoilers for the film in question, but that's okay, because you don't really need to see it, anyway.)

Alison and I saw the uncreatively named Spider-Man 3 with some friends this weekend. Let's just say I was disappointed with it.

On second thought, let's not. I mean, what kind of review would that be? First let me talk about what I did like about the film:
  • The action sequences look quite good, thanks mostly to expensive* visual effects.
  • It was really cool to see Spidey in the black suit and to see the full-blown Venom. The aforementioned visual effects really brought the symbiote to life.
  • Sandman looked good, too.

You might notice that list contains nothing about the story or the characters. Now, here's a much longer and more important list of what I didn't like:
  • There are way too many storylines in this film: not only are Peter and Mary Jane are having relationship problems, but also there is a true round-robin of all the super-folks in this movie: everyone fights everyone else.** As a result, no single plotline is fully fleshed out.
  • Several minor and even major plot points hinge on something that just doesn't make sense. For example, someone's butler chooses the end of this film to reveal a secret he should have spilled at the end of the first movie, two full movies earlier. Also, near the middle of the film, it's made clear that Sandman, who is made of---wait for it---sand, reacts poorly to getting wet, but later, we see him crying. Not only is that inconsistent, but, did I mention that he's made of sand? Another example: When presented with a sample of the symbiote, Peter's physics professor says something like, "I'm not a biochemist; I can't help you with this," immediately before launching into discussion of the material's biochemical properties.
  • Apparently, when a good guy turns bad, his hair gets darker and he starts wearing eye-liner. This isn't the only film where I've seen this shorthand, but I find it really annoying every time.
  • Kirsten Dunst. The woman continues to look like she's either stupid or asleep. Or both.
  • Dancing. There are several instances of ridiculous dancing in this film. And there's pointing as well. Way too much pointing.
  • There are others, but I'm too annoyed to list them for you right now.

In summary, if you're looking for a good superhero movie, this isn't it. (See my Superman Returns review for alternatives.) Overall, I give it 4.0 out of 10.

* This film reportedly cost 270,000,000 dollars to make.
** That's six combinations.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

TV Review: Torchwood, Season 1, Episode 1

(This review contains no significant spoilers.)

A few days ago, I finally got around to seeing the premier episode of Torchwood. The series is a spin-off of the new Doctor Who, focusing the Torchwood Institute, which was created by Queen Victoria, after a run-in with the Doctor, in order to protect the Earth from extraterrestrials and extraterrestrial technology. The main protagonist is a recurring character from Who: pansexual man-from-the-future Captain Jack Harkness. So, the show is something of a cross between Doctor Who and The X-Files.

Importantly, Torchwood airs late in the evening, presumably after all the kiddies have gone to bed. The show therefore contains a lot of profanity, sexuality, and violence that would never be seen in its parent series. I believe this is a good thing, not so much because swearing, sex, and violence are entertaining in themselves, but because it serves to distinguish Torchwood from Doctor Who. The contrasts between to two series is heightened by the music, as well as other small choices in the series' production. The overall feel of the show is quite different from (or different to, as the Brits would say) the parent. However, the hand of Russel T. Davies can still be felt, leading to some similarities between the shows. Most notable is the prominence of homosexual themes. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The first ep, Everything Changes, focused mostly on introducing the Torchwood Institute and is written mostly from the perspective of an outsider. There wasn't as much Torchwood-investigates-a-mystery as there likely will be in the other episodes. As a result, it's difficult to say whether the somewhat more adult nature of the show means that the "science" in this series will be more believable than in Doctor Who; I rather doubt it will.

All-in-all, I enjoyed the show, especially the way it differintates itself from Doctor Who, and I plan to watch future episodes. Overall, I give it 7.0 out of 10.

* RTD is the creator/executive producer/writer of Torchwood and the executive producer/writer of the new Who. He is also famous for his work on Queer as Folk.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Speaking of our President, here's a short Wikipedia entry on Bush's mispronunciations, malapropisms, and misorderings. For more information, you'll need to follow the links in the article.


It looks like there may be a new Browncoat on the Cortex.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Many thanks to Brian who posted this on his blog. I love it! Maybe we'll have to permanently include the sidebar version on our page.

The Purse Museum

So, every time I go to the mall, I have to visit the purse museum. A museum? At the mall? Dedicated to, what, the history of purses? Um, no, not exactly. That's just what I call the Coach store...because I just go visit the pretty things in there. It's not like I can actually BUY anything there...and it's all displayed so nicely with pretty lighting and such. See?

It kinda does look like a museum, doesn't it? Isn't that a clever name for the store? It sums up the niceness of it AND pokes fun at myself for my frugal spending habits. Haha! Clever! Catchy! I have to change it!

Why? Because I have the world's most awesome husband who, for my 30th birthday (can you believe I'm 30? me neither) bought me a COACH PURSE. Not just any Coach purse, but the one I have been stalking for, like, 3 years. This one:

I love it. Thank you, Michael!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Make Room on the Schedule

Speaking of F*x canceling series, here's the gag that opened the first new episode of Family Guy after it was uncanceled by the network:
PETER: Everybody I've got bad news. We've been canceled.

LOIS: Oh no Peter! How could they do that?

PETER: Well unfortunately Lois, there's just no more room on the schedule. We just gotta accept the fact that Fox has to make room for terrific shows like Dark Angel, Titus, Undeclared, Action, That 80's Show, Wonderfalls, Fast Lane, Andy Richter Controls The Universe, Skin, Girl's Club, Cracking Up, The Pitts, Firefly, Get Real, Freaky Links, Wanda At Large, Costello, The Lone Gunmen, A Minute with Stan Hooper, Normal Ohio, Pasadena, Harsh Realm, Keen Eddy, The Street, American Embassy, Cedric The Entertainer, The Tick, Louie, and Greg The Bunny....

LOIS: Is there no hope?

PETER: Well I suppose if ALL those shows go down the tubes we might have a shot.

July 4 Sounds Like a Good Day for a Drive

F*x is now planning to air the final 2 episodes of Drive, back-to-back, on Wednesday, July 4. It seems a little pointless to do so, since they've already canned the show, and since the next 2 eps won't likely wrap up any stroylines. But, there you go.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Our Death

Now that the weather is nicer, we have decided to do some hiking again. I really enjoy it...possibly because it is one of the few sports where I can go just as fast as Michael. Also, pretty nature, blah, blah. Plus, we can take Newton with us!

So, yesterday we set off on a hike which, according to directions I found on the Gunpowder Falls State Park website, would be 5.3 miles long. That seemed ambitious, but not too long. We figured we might have to carry the puppy, but it wouldn't be too bad.

Well, the directions turned out to be kind of crappy...either that or we are crappy at reading directions. Whatever. The point is that we probably ended up hiking more like 8 miles. Interestingly, the dog was totally fine. He seemed to be having fun the whole time, whereas Michael and I got kind of whiny somewhere during the last 45 minutes or so. We even tried to carry him, but he would struggle and want to get down almost immediately. Anyway, we slept like rocks last night and I am still pretty tired and my legs are sore. Still, it was a good workout and, y'know, nature, etc.

Bottom line: I highly recommend hiking (see above, nature, etc.), hoever I DO NOT recommend getting your hike directions from any website run by the Maryland state park people.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


The other day, I did a bunch of deadlifts as part of my workout. The next day, I commuted to work and back on my fixie, and I discovered that riding a fixed-gear or single-speed bicycle up a steep hill is essentially a long series of 1-legged squats. Grunt, ugh, ooph!

Vroom, Vroooom, Vroooooom!

As I've mentioned before, I'm a fan of small, minimalist sports cars, such as the open-top Lotus Elise and its hard-top sibling, the Exige. Thus, it should be no surprise that I enjoyed this in-car video of an all-Elise race. The driver somehow fits the car through openings barely big enough for a motorcycle. Oh, and, as the folks at Jalopnik predicted, now I really want one.

Plus, If I Pulled Off All Your Legs, You Would Look Like Snowmen

I keep telling Alison that I want to get an ant farm, and she keeps telling me that, if they get out, it'll be my job to terminate them all. Anyway, here's an Instructable on hacking together you own, luxury* ant farm.

* Note the swanky curtains.

Graphical Multiplication

My former roommate and overlord, Masta, pointed me to this video illustrating how multidigit numbers can be multiplied graphically. I find the technique quite interesting. I'm still looking into Vedic multiplication mentioned in the title. Perhaps I'll talk more about that later.

Once More, With Feeling

Last night, Alison and I rewatched two episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; we saw Once More, With Feeling* and Tabula Rasa. The experience reminded me that I really love this series. If you haven't seen it, you need to. I'll even let you borrow our DVDs.

* This is the musical episode, and yes, it's much cooler than that description would indicate. I'm listening to the soundtrack as I write this.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw

The Craft blog pointed me to a web page that graphically illustrates what happens when softies attack. Please be advised that the brutal violence captured on this page may not be suitable for small children.

DIY Wallets

It turns out that the do-it-yourself wallet I posted yesterday was not an isolated hack. Instructables is holding a make-your-own-wallet contest. So, check out all the submissions, then vote for your favorite. Better yet, submit your own design to the contest.

I really like this one made from Tyvek, though I also enjoy the irony---if that's what it is---of the wallet made from money.