Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lisa Bonet Ate No Basil

I consider myself an avid student of language and grammar as well as a fan of "Weird" Al Yankovic, so it's no surprise that I heartily enjoyed this video of his entirely palindromic song, "Bob." Enjoy.

Update: Here's some more Weird Al fun. I haven't seen this one before.

How-To: Resurrect a Dead Trimmer

I own a small beard/sideburn/other trimmer that I get quite a bit of use out of. I don't use it to cut my hair evey 3 or 4 weeks; I have another one for that. Instead, I use it to make my sideburns the desired length and angle, to trim the hair around my ears---which lets me go another week between haircuts---and to trim the hair around the back of my neck after a haircut.* The particular model I own has several different-sized detachable cutting heads, which fact makes it extra useful.

Anyway, the thing started acting up on me not too long ago; it just wouldn't hold a charge. I suspected that the batteries were at fault, especially since consumer electronics containing rechargeable batteries often use low-quality batteries, and said batteries often loose their capacity after comparatively few charge cycles.

Not wanting to lay out the cash for a new trimmer when I could probably fix mine, I pried open the case, revealing guts of the device:

As you can see, it uses standard AA-sized cells. If I'd been more careful with my camera, photo below would show that the particular batteries in this model have a nominal capacity of 600-mA-hr.** That stated capacity isn't great, and I can assure you that the batteries were doing much worse than that in practice. I happened to have 12 rechargable double-As in the house at the time, all of which were rated with higher capacities. I wanted to reserve 2 sets of 4 for my RC transmitter, which left me with twice as many as I needed to fix this problem. Groovy.

There was just one very minor wrinkle. Despite the blurriness of the pic, you can see that the two AAs were permanently wired in series by a thin metal---steel?---strip. I duplicated this arrangement with my new cells using a short length of fine-gauge wire:

I inserted the new double-As into the trimmer, snapped the case closed, and charged it up. Guess what? No luck. Crap. And here I thought I was being soooo smart.

I realized, after cracking open the case and tracing the trimmer's wires more carefully, that I had put the batteries in wrong orientation, left-to-right. I repositioned them, reclosed the case, and recharged the batteries. It worked this time. Ta-daaa!

So, the take-home message is this: Don't let The Man keep you down by buying new consumer products when they stop functioning; reach for your tools instead.

* Actually, I usually get Alison to do that last part. Ah, the joys of marriage.
** Or mAh, if you prefer.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Keanu Barada Nikto

It appears that Keanu Reeves will star in a remake of the classic science-fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still. Given Reeves' apparent air-headedness and very limited acting range---he seems to only be able to play himself, more-or-less*---I can't help but think that a better title for the remake would be the same that of one of my favorite episodes of Futurama: The Day the Earth Stood Stupid. I also can't help but ask, who ordered that?

* I hasten to point out that Reeves is perfect for roles like Ted "Theodore" Logan and Thomas "Neo" Anderson,** where his character is meant to be confused and ignorant of the situation. In roles like these, all this is required is that Reeves look puzzled and give the canine head tilt.
** But only in the first Matrix film.

What Price Privacy?

A few months ago, my officemate---Let's call him "Bob"---was out for about four weeks* for "treatment of a medical condition." Now, those of you who've met Bob know he's a very laconic individual; most of the time, he works away quietly on his computer, and I hardly know he's there. Thus, you won't be surprised to learn that "treatment of a medical condition" was the only explanation---or even acknowledgment---of his absence I received. Now Bob's been gone for an additional four weeks,* with no indication of when he will return. I've certainly enjoyed having my own office---though it's not that different from sharing one with him**---but I don't think I want to have it at the cost of some serious illness to a nice, if shy, engineer.

* He was supposed to be out for three weeks.
** See previous comment on Bob's taciturnity.

That's Dr. Michael to You

When I finished grad school, and people started addressing me as "Dr. Surname", I must admit I found it new and exciting. After a short time, however, I began to expect it. Now I feel ever so slightly insulted when someone calls me "Mr.", even if it's in a context in which the title is irrelevant. I realize that's more than a little conceited, but there it is. I'm a bad person.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Two great tastes....etc...

As you all know, Michael is into RC cars. Also, Michael and I are into our dog, Newton. I suppose it was only a matter of time before Michael combined these two interests into one fun activity. Check it out:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tiny Autos

By now, regular readers will know that I love small cars. So, it will come as no surprise to them that I really enjoyed this collection of tee-tiny automobiles.

The New Robot in Town

iRobot's Roomba robot vacuum cleaner has been redesigned, and the new model looks to be just as hackable as the first.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Green Cars

I've recently been thinking about replacing my 16-year-old CRX, perhaps sometime in 2008. For various reasons, I will probably be purchasing my first car with more than2 usable seats,* most likely a Honda Fit, though it's hard for me to resist something tiny and sporty, like the Mazda MX-5 (Miata).** I recently came upon some interesting but short articles concerning fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas production:
  • Here's an article about how a hybrid-powered car can still suck (gas), while an efficiently designed conventionally powered vehicle can be both more efficient and less polluting. Granted, the examples are large hybrid SUVs and the Fit, but the point stands.
  • Meanwhile, here is an explanation of what exactly "partial-zero-emissions vehicle" means.
  • This is a follow-up on potentially upcoming changes to the EPA's window stickers.
  • The last article compares the labels used in the US and the UK.

* For the record, I've owned the following automobiles:
It occurred to me as I wrote the above list, that I've never owned a car that wasn't a (possibly metallic) shade of gray.

**Clearly, I have no plans to purchase my first non-Japanese car.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Veronica Mars isn't Just Nick's Hero

I know at least two members of the readership will be interested to know that Veronica Mars star Kristen Bell will be appearing in a multi-episode arc of Heroes' upcoming second season.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Tired, Bored, and Antsy = Bread!

Do you ever have those days when you are bored and antsy, but nothing you can think of to do sounds good? I'm tired, so I don't want to work out. It's rainy and gray out, so I don't want to go for a walk. I don't feel like reading, nothing good is on TV, I'm between knitting projects, etc, etc, etc. And yet I'm not really in the mood to just veg out. What to do?

Well, I decided to bake something. Recently I have discovered our local Great Harvest Bread Company location. Oh, it is SO GOOD. They make their bread fresh every day, so if you go in early in the day it is still warm. They always have samples out and they let you try a big piece of whatever bread you are interested in. On Thursdays, our location has this bread called Breakfast Blast. It's wheat bread with dates and cinnamon chips in it and it is my new favorite thing. I bought some this week, but it was gone by yesterday morning (Yes, we did eat an entire loaf of bread in 2 days. No, we do not have a problem. We can stop anytime.) I was craving some, but the store is closed on Sunday and they only have that kind of bread on Thursdays anyway. So, I decided to see if I could make some on my own. I poked around in my cookbooks and found a recipe for this wheat quick bread that had raisins in it. I figured if I used chopped dates instead of the raisins and added some cinnamon, we might be in business. Sure enough, it came out really well! It's very similar to the Breakfast Blast bread, but a bit less sweet since I used ground cinnamon rather than cinnamon chips. That's fine by me since it made it more Michael-friendly anyway! I also substituted soymilk that I soured with vinegar (click the link and look toward the bottom in the section entitled "replacing buttermilk" for more info) for the buttermilk to make it Michael friendly as well. Enjoy!

Alison's Breakfast Blast-esque Bread


1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon (I might try adding more next time)
1 beaten egg
1 cup buttermilk
3 tblsp honey
1 cup chopped dates
1 beaten egg white


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking sheet; set aside. In a large bowl combine whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda. Make a well in center of dry mixture; set aside.
  2. In a small mixing bowl combine the egg, buttermilk, and honey. Add egg mixture all at once to dry mixture. Stir until just moistened. Stir in dates.
  3. Turn dough out onto prepared baking sheet; pat with wet fingers into an 8-inch round (dough will be wet). Brush with egg white.
  4. Bake in a 350 degree oven about 25 minutes or until golden brown and a wooden toothpick comes out clean. If necessary, cover with foil for last 5 minutes of baking to prevent overbrowning. Serve warm.

Friday, August 17, 2007

All 7 Fans

I hate to post two consectuive links to the same comic strip, but man, it's like xkcd is channeling me lately. Plus, it's just funny.

Hey, wanna see something gross?

Sure you do. You know that even though the rational part of your brain knows you should say "no" when someone says that, you are always compelled to look anyway. Admit it.

So, I think our apartment may come equipped with the most poorly-designed clothes drier EVER. In the history of mankind. A clothes line strung up outside is a more impressive feat of engineering than this piece of crap. Now I know many of you who live in apartments are saying, "Wow! You have a washer and drier in your apartment! That's awesome!!" True. It is awesome. Dealing with my crappy drier is way better than shlepping my laundry to the basement or to the laundromat and feeding quarters into machines because at least I can do it in my PJs. So, I readily admit before I begin my story that I am being petty and, possibly, ungrateful and there are, I agree, probably starving children in Ethiopia who would LOVE to have my drier. Whatever. I'm still going to rant.

Lately our clothes have been taking progressively longer and longer to dry. The maintenance guy at our apartment says the drier is not broken. It's heating up and everything and we do clean the lint trap after every use, so nobody can fathom what the problem is. Here, let me show you. Here is a picture of our drier.

Seems simple, right? Nope! It turns out that our lint trap is easy to slip. A fair amount of the lint is wily enough to get through into the door and even up into the little grate! Steps 2 an 3 are supposed to be lint-free, but, alas, our lint trap is asleep on the job. And you can't remove that grate in step 3 at all. So, apparently, you have to get out something long and skinny and, oh, maybe some eyebrow tweezers and pull out that sneaky lint. Evil, non-team-player, oh I'm better than the others so I can skip step 1 lint. Then, it also turns out that the door to the drier is entirely hollow. Lots of lint also stays in the door having a lint rave. So, you have to use one of those little Swiffer dusting thingies and stick it down in there and get SOME of the hard-partying door lint, but in order to get MOST of the door lint you have to do some minor surgery on the drier like so:

Yes, I tore apart the lint trap and then stuck my hand way down into the door. After all that, here is what I came up with:

Soggy, impacted lint...and lots of hair. Is it all mine? Doubtful. I don't think this drier was exactly pristine when we moved in.

So, can anyone explain to me why one would design a drier that would basically allow, oh, 99% of the lint to get through the lint trap and force people to practically go spelunking to get it out once their clothes started to come out all warm and steamy? I mean, this thing is maybe useful if you're running a Japanese restaurant and you need to get those little hand towels ready for your customers, but if it is actually intended to make clothes dry I contend that it is a piece of crap.

Anyway, I may never eat with my bare hands again, but my clothes will be dry, thank you very much!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

xkcd Disease

I'm ashamed to admit that I suffer from the same problem as xkcd's protagonist. (Be sure hover over the comic to read the long caption.)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today, Alison I were wed.

I'm very happy with how our marriage is going, and I'd do it again today.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

They Should Have Called it "Fake Blood"

I've recently put up a couple of posts on upcoming movies or TV series about modern-day vampires. We'll HBO just added to the trend, having picked up a series called True Blood. The interesting wrinkle with this show is that the vampires "are able to co-exist with humans by drinking a Japanese-manufactured synthetic blood."

Trekkers Trek to Heroes

By now, we all know that George Takei, Sulu on Star Trek, had a recurring role on Heroes in the second half of its first season. Now more Trek alumni will be joining this series in Season 2:
  • Nichelle Nichols, Uhura on TOS, will have a recurring role, appearing in 5 or 6 episodes.
  • Dominic Keating,* Reed on Enterprise,** will appear in several eps.
* He also appeared in that ep of Buffy, where she looses her powers.
** An actor, character, and series that I feel pretty meh about.

And I'll Form the Head!

Thanks to the craptacular-but-successful Transformers adaptation, New Regency is moving forward with the Voltron film I mentioned a few months ago, with an eye towards making it a franchise. If Transformers is their inspiration I'm going to have to vote against this film being made.

Friday, August 10, 2007

It's Quiet. Yeah, Too Quiet.

I must apologize, gentle reader, for the lack of new content over the last week. I've been preoccupied with working on my various hobby projects and reading The Golden Compass/Northern Lights, so I haven't devoted adequate attention to the blog. I hope to put some new material up over the next few days, however. If nothing else, Alison should finish her latest knitting project soon, and I'm sure she'll post some photos when she does.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Star Trek XI: The Life of Spock

(This post contains a major but well-known spoiler for Star Trek: Generations.)

I've mentioned that Heroes' Sylar, Zachary Quinto, has been cast to play a young Spock in the upcoming Star Trek film, which is creatively named Star Trek. What I haven't mentioned is that Leonard Nimoy is also in the film, playing an older Spock. Meanwhile, there's been a bit of hubbub surrounding James Kirk's nonappearance in the eleventh Trek film. This particular move makes sense to me:
  • Kirk gets trapped in the nexus sometime after Trek VI and then dies in the seventh film, so he's effectively unavailable for any other stories.
  • William Shatner has aged poorly and swollen considerably since his last appearance.
Anyway, two facts about this film's casting have got me thinking:
  • Young Spock seems to have been the first character cast.
  • Old Spock* has, according to Nimoy, "more than one scene in the film."
As a big fan o' Spock, I can't help but speculate that Spock, not Kirk, is the central character in the plot and that the story is told from Spock's perspective. I'd really enjoy seeing a story following one of Young Spock's first missions** after graduating from the Academy (perhaps struggling with being the only Vulcan in a Starfleet run by those illogical and prejudiced humans while going where no man has gone before) which somehow relates to and affects what Old Spock is doing in the TNG/DS9/VOY era (perhaps trying to reunify the Vulcans and the Romulans). Regular readers know I really enjoy nonlinear storytelling, so if the old-Spock and young-Spock threads could be interleaved in some interesting way, without resorting to time travel, so that the meaning and ramifications of each Spock's actions aren't clear until the end, I'd be quite pleased.

Do any trekkies/trekkers in the readership have thoughts or opinions on this topic?

* I'm sure Nimoy would prefer to be called "Classic Spock."
** Let's not forget the time he spent under the command of Christopher Pike.

Seven Cycles

No, this post isn't about the manufacturer of my fanciest bicycle. Instead, its purpose is to inform you, gentle reader, that the number of bicycles housed at Team Grondul World Headquarters has passed from the merely unreasonable (6) to the entirely ridiculous (7). No, I haven't purchased yet another bike. Rather, I offered to give Amy's bicycle a tune-up, so its spending a few days at our place. Thus, this ridiculous state of affairs is only temporary. If you listen closely, you can hear Alison saying, "phew."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


So I thought I'd take a page out of Nick's book, um, I mean, blog, and post one of our favorite recipes! I actually found this recipe on the Epicurious website. I really like that site for getting recipe ideas, but I almost universally have to reduce the amount of oil the recipe calls for. I swear, those people have stock in cooking oil...or maybe it's owned by a heart surgeon. Either way....

Sun-Dried Tomato Burgers


  • 1 lb ground meat (beef, bison, ostrich, or turkey)
  • 1/2 cup chopped, drained sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 1 Tblsp oil from sun-dried tomatoes
  • 3 Tblsp finely chopped onion
  • 1 Tblsp dried basil
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste


Mix meat, tomatoes, reserved oil, chopped onion, basil, cumin, salt and pepper. Form into patties and refrigerate or cook immediately.

We have made these burgers with all kinds of meat and they always turn out well. I think it works particularly well with bison, though. Because bison is so lean, it's often difficult to cook well and can end up tasting like shoe leather. However, because you add some oil to these burgers, they work really well with bison meat.

You can find the original recipe here. As you can see, I reduced the recipe by a lot (3 lbs of meat?? Please!!), reduced the oil by about half, and I don't make the balsamic-glazed onions the original recipe calls for. I have tried them and, while they are quite tasty, I think they overwhelm the taste of the burger. These are plenty tasty all on their own!

Bon apetit!!

Another Good Made-Up WOD

I "made up" another good workout of the day today. I use the quotation marks because I built this WOD out of elements from yesterday's and today's WODs. Here it is.
Perform the following for minimum time:
  • 400-m run
  • 30 L pullups
  • 30 ring dips
  • 400-m run
  • 30 strict pullups
  • 30 pushups
  • 400-m run
  • 30 kipping pullups
  • 30 handstand pushups, supported
I found this workout quite challenging. For the record, it took me 25 minutes, 6 seconds. By the way, Alison performed a similar workout and took a few seconds less time to do it.