Monday, June 30, 2008

Scrabble Letter Therapy

You are a special tile.

(Z must have had to miss this session for some reason)

(via PhotoBasement)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Great Egret on the Shellpot Creek

This morning I spotted a Great Egret, Ardea alba (which I have always called a White Heron) dining on the fish in the creek right behind my house.

I was lucky enough to grab the camera and get some long distance shits from the second story windows, moving from room to room as it moved up the creek. Although they are still from too far away these are my best pictures ever of the white heron that I have gotten (better than these). Here are the closeups using the camera zoom and cropped to show the heron.

There is a Great White Heron species in Florida that is merely a white morph of the Great Blue Heron. The bird above is not a Great White Heron because it doesn't have yellow legs it has black legs like the Great Egret (White Heron). We have seen Blue Herons on the creek earlier this year.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Prius base 10 numbering system arbitrary milestone 2222

Yesterday's odometer was an embarressing riches of 2's One of my favorite numbers, as 22, and a number not as lonely as one. I missed 2000 on the way to the airport and I'd rather not take and post a picture demonstrating my inattentive driving.

I am somewhere between 45 and 50 mpg but there have been so few fillups that I don't always recall the last number. I guess that is good in and of itself. So far I am very satisfied with my car. I even used the useless on-board navigation system once or twice. My favorite features are hands free voice activated dialing through bluetooth to my phone and the simple pleasure of plugging in my iPod through the AUX port to the stereo.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Peregrine falcons in Wilmington

I went to a birdwatching session on the roof of the Colonial parking garage in Wilmington yesterday to learn about the peregrine falcons that live on the Brandywine building downtown. I did not know that these birds lived in the city until I got the invitation to the event. Apparently they think the tall buildings with their ledges are cliffs which is their natural habitat. Score one for an animal that has actually benefited from a new environment created by man.

The mostly eat other birds. The ones we saw were born earlier this year and though they are immature they are flying and hunting. The News Journal tells the story and also has a short video. They caught me peering through the telescope.

Mr. Pibb vs. Dr. Pepper

I know Mr. Pibb doesn't have the education of Dr. Pepper but he does seem to have similar taste.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hypermilers not really relevant to the gas price discussion are they?

I think FARK has the right comment about hypermilers.
"Q: What do you get when you cross a self-absorbed, petty asshat and skyrocketing gas prices? A: The Hypermiler"
Now I know that I bought a Prius and I want to get good gas mileage with it but these hypermilers sound a little impressed with themselves. I too get aggravated when the light turns red since I have to stop and start again which uses gas, but I also like to live and so I follow the rules of the road and speed limits and I use my brakes if I have to stop. All activities which the hypermilers seem to shun because it uses up gas. From the USAToday article here are some other hazardous ways to save gas a la the hypermiler:
pumping up tire pressure far beyond car and tire makers' recommendations...

Turning the engine off while coasting can, in some cars, leave the driver without power steering or brakes and allow the possibility that the steering wheel will lock up. Drivers can endanger themselves and others if they go too slow for the pace of traffic.

How about that urge to "draft" trucks — follow close behind for less wind resistance — on the interstate? "There's another term for that. We call it tailgating,"

There is "ridge riding," which is driving the car off center in a lane to keep its tires out of the tracks worn into pavement from years of traffic.
Leave it to the press to hype this fringe group and extol the virtues of hyperbole instead of giving useful advice on getting good gas mileage, which is better phrased as using less gas. Is it better to take a few crazies from 50 to an unachievable 100mpg or to take the rest (most) of us from 20 to 25 mpg? Here is some math from a FARKer (yes some of them do math)
The gain from 20 mpg to 25 mpg is equal to the gain from 50 mpg to 100 mpg.

10000 miles...

@ 20 mpg = 500 gallons
@ 25 mpg = 400 gallons (savings of 100)

@ 50 mpg = 200 gallons
@ 100 mpg = 100 gallons (savings of 100)
Is it better to achieve 88mpg on a 29 mile commute or to find a job closer to home or convince your boss to let you telecommute?

(also pointed out by GasBuddy at

Monday, June 23, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Movie review - it's not good - warning spoilers

This vitriolic review is filled with spoilers. Just a warning if you wanted to see the movie first. Also a warning that you might regret going to see the movie first. I was so annoyed that it has taken me this long to collect my thoughts to spew out like poison upon this (virtual) page.

I should have walked out when I saw the George Lucas writing credit at the beginning of the film.

Hasn't the lost city built for alien gods trope been done to death? When they started trucking out the Nazca lines and then the shot of the alien pictoglyphs in the temple that echoed the Mayan "astronaut" (Pacal the Great) just stretched credibility.

Nazca lines

A Mayan "Astronaut"

I didn't see Erich Von Daniken as a consultant on the movie but he might as well have been. Is anyone else insulted every time one of these movies or books claims that farming and writing and civilization and city building and webkinz were all taught to us by aliens. Did we accomplish nothing ourselves?

The movie was missing a credible young love interest for Indy. They didn't even try to hook up Shia LaBeouf (Mudd) with a girl in the movie. I contend that LaBeouf's character was the love interest for Indy. Shia finds Indy and needs Indy's help, Shia is the newbie young person, he is overly concerned about his appearance and combs his hair all the time. He even squealed appropriately in the dusty caves and digs, when the required rat or bug (scorpions this time) jump on him. Later he transforms into a sword wielding maniac, but he starts the movie as the girl. One possibility for romantic interest in the film might have been Cate Blanchett. Unfortunately, she plays Natasha from Bullwinkle and is definitely not used as anybody's love interest, but as another sword wielding maniac.

Other parts of the movie seemed to be someone's graduate cinema project. There was a recurrent them of backlighting characters and filming them through screens or sheets so that there heads were centered in the shadow of their heads produced by the back lighting. I counted at least four instances, some of Indy, one of the alien skull. I missed the point of why the director kept doing this.

Poor Harrison Ford looked old. I want to believe that the makeup artists made him look old because he looked too horrible for it to be a mistake. He needs to fire someone, perhaps his agent or makeup artist. A purposeful shot of Indy's desk with pictures of his father and Marcus drove home the point that all his friends and relatives were dead as well. I am guessing that they couldn't afford Sean Connery for a cameo, but emphasized the death of Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott, who did actually pass away before this movie was made). The only connection with his past was Marion, who also looked old. They wanted to hit us over the head with passing the generational torch, I can show you the bruises on my (crystal) skull. Was anyone surprised that Mudd (Shia) turned out to be his son?

Previous instalments in this series featured exotic locations with local color, remember Petra in the Last Crusade? This movies was filmed in Connecticut, California, New Mexico and Hawaii. They didn't even bother going to South America with the cast.

Surviving an atomic blast and later the whole crew going over not one, not two, but three huge waterfalls also strained credibility. The jungles scenes start with them requiring a buzz saw tipped jungle cutting vehicle to get through and then end with a chase on parallel roads through the previously impassable jungle. Please insult my intelligence filmmakers.

The "necessary" buzz saw tank just before it is destroyed

Double wide roads (we don't need no grass cutting)

How often do you think that the warriors pop put of the Mayan stone decorations to stop looters?

Warriors upset they are in a bad movie.

Once they kill everybody do they have to recreate the designs? Do they live in their the whole time or do they take shifts. Are they real people or are they undead and only come alive when they must kill intruders?

A Mayan scary skull hidey-hole about to belch forth a warrior.
Please replace when finished. Remember - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

This begs the question for any tomb raider trope/Indiana Jones movie. When the ancients built these grave traps I am sure it took many years, maybe decades. Did they build one and then trigger it to test it, so the heavy rocks move and the sand spills out and the water pours in and they see it works - and then they build another one for the real deal? In the movie you can clearly see others that made it as far as Indy and Son by their corpses and skeletons littering the area. I suppose the system resets after a period of inactivity.

In conclusion, I guess I had to see the movie. It was the long awaiting next installment in a relatively proud line of great movies. I just wish that they hadn't insulted my intelligence so much and that I wasn't such a sucker that had to go see it. Don;t worry, when it comes out on cable I will probably watch it over and over again screaming insults at the television, as I am wont to do with these movies.

(There are 'Crystal Skull apologists out there, Howard didn't think it was so bad, but points to the Editing Room's abridged Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull script which covers all the high points in humorous fashion (low points?).

(Lego Indiana Jones in wheelchair from rong_yiren at flickr)
(many pics and clips from Screenrush)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Large mushrooms dot the landscape

Spotted this giant mushroom on a walk today. The dollar serves to provide scale. Although it seems large enough to house them, we did not spot any pixies, brownies, sprites or caterpillars with hookas. Perhaps we need to foolishly eat one to see that. Since most are poisonous and one should never pick mushrooms to eat unless you are absolutely sure I would more likely meet these creatures in heaven after the mushroom kills me.

We did not touch it and left it be. Anyone who can identify it for me gets bragging rights.

Friday, June 20, 2008

American Film Institutes Top Ten Genre Films lists are flawed

The American Film Institute has released their Top Ten Genre Films lists. My interest focuses on the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Animation lists of course.

Top 10 Science-Fiction Films

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  2. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
  3. E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
  4. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  5. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
  6. Blade Runner (1982)
  7. Alien (1979)
  8. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
  10. Back to the Future (1985)

Top 10 Animated Films

  1. Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs (1937)
  2. Pinocchio (1940)
  3. Bambi (1942)
  4. The Lion King (1994)
  5. Fantasia (1940)
  6. Toy Story (1995)
  7. Beauty and The Beast (1991)
  8. Shrek (2001)
  9. Cinderella (1950)
  10. Finding Nemo (2003)
Top 10 Fantasy Films
  1. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  2. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
  3. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
  4. King Kong (1933)
  5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
  6. Field of Dreams (1989)
  7. Harvey (1950)
  8. Groundhog Day (1993)
  9. The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
  10. Big (1988)

The Little Mermaid belongs in the animation section instead of Beauty and the Beast. In my opinion, that is the movie that restarted Disney's traditional animation franchise. Without its success you would not have Beauty and the Beast, or The Lion King on the list.

I think Groundhog Day is a terrific and still under appreciated film. The rest of the fantasy list is quirky, to say the least.

Where is The Matrix? It had revolutionary effects and spawned a huge discussion (one from me, two from me) of philosophy and science both within the genre and without.

The problem with the lists is does one include the movie that started the genre (Snow White) or technique (Toy Story) or the movies that restarted or reinvigorated the genre (The Little Mermaid) or technique (Shrek) or the best example of the form (Incredibles)? What about films that revolutionized a form or technique (Like The Voyages of Sinbad or Jason and the Argonauts)? Where do you put Who Framed Roger Rabbit?


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

They really mean the airport hotel

Staying at a hotel close to the airport in LA. They weren't kidding when they said it was near the hotel. This is the view of LAX from the window of my room. Don't worry I can't hear them, just see them. I wish I brought my better camera instead of the crappy Treo.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Huge spider

My wife (Little Miss Muffet) took this picture of a very large spider. Unfortunately the crappy Treo camera phone doesn't do closeups very well. On the other hand the fuzziness of the image lessens the immediacy of the image for any arachnophobes viewing it.

That is a rather large spider. Anybody know what kind it is?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Surviving the vacuum of space.

From the website:
Congrats! You could survive for 1 minute 17 seconds !

In the first 30 seconds any fluid on the surface of your body would begin to boil due to lack of ambient pressure, this includes the saliva on your tongue and the moisture in your eyes. Your eardrums would most likely burst due to the pressure in your body trying to equalize with the vacuum outside. Unlike what some science fiction films have suggested, your body would not explode.

After the first 15 seconds you would lose consciousness. If you held your breath you could potentially stay alive longer but you risk pulmonary trauma. If you didn't hold your breath you'd pass out sooner, but your lungs might have a better chance of avoiding permanent damage.

The pressure in your veins would rise until your heart no longer had the capacity to pump blood, at which point you'd die.


Mental note, avoid the vacuum of space. Who could ever forget the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey when Dave Bowman has to jump across space without a space helmet in vacuum from the pod to the airlock because that darn HAL wouldn't let him in. Always remember your equipment!

(Image and the details on surviving the vacuum of space without a space suit discussed by experts at aerospaceweb)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Scripps Spelling Bee words I will try to use in everyday speech

I only caught the end of the Spelling Bee last week or so, I must not watch enough ABC shows to be warned that it is coming because I miss most of it every year. There were several words I want to continue using in regular conversation.

In Round 13

hyphaeresis - omission of sound, syllable or letter from word. "The word o'er in the middle of a word is an example of hyphaeresis." Now I have a fancier name than contraction for when the church hymn omit syllables such as in o'er and heav'n. I sing both syllables anyway. By the way, contraction is a shortening of a word, syllable, or word group by omission of internal letters, is it the same thing?

Kulturkampf - culture wars, or culture struggle. Wikipedia says it refers to German policies in relation to secularity and the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, enacted from 1871 to 1878 by the Chancellor of the German Empire, Otto von Bismarck. I think I will use it out of its original context for any culture struggle. German words always sound great in English usage.

In Round 14

Introuvable - impossible to find. Such as the definitions for some of these words. French words always sound great in English usage as well.

(needless to say, Blogger spellcheck is not familiar with these words)
(Dr. Bill Long watched the whole thing and has commentary, essays and definitions for many of the words here I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Who should leave Hell's Kitchen?

Do you know who should leave Hell's Kitchen? Gordon Ramsay, that's who. He is a detriment to the kitchen, to getting food out and to getting the diners served. He yells at the contestants and has finally shown even more awful judgement by keeping Jen and getting rid of Bobby.

Gordon Ramsay, leave Hell's Kitchen.

TVsquad doesn't think Ramsay should pick anybody to win this year either. The commenters feel that no one has enough talent this season. I have to agree.

(By the way, Top Chef is a better more believable show with actual talented chefs that already have restaurants, and thus know what they are doing.)

(links above to good coverage by TVsquad)

I hope the alcoholic flashdancer that lived in my house before me got help.

I am cleaning the vents in my new (not quite 2 years to me, 30+ to it) house. It is not a normal situation, the vents are in the floor, but the house doesn't have a basement (it would be filled with the creek) so a slab was poured over concrete tubes which became the vents. Holes lined with metal in the vents and the slab became the holes for the registers. This is apparently a common practice for houses on a slab, but the builder must make sure that the ground is compacted well so it doesn't settle away from the slab and take the vents with it. That's what happened. So, in order to have the air blow into the room and not under the slab I am finally putting in mini vents to breach the gap, but I must clean out the stones from under the slab that fell into the vents first.

You are thinking that I might die from all of the dust and dirt in the vents, but I contend that the dirt wasn't moving until I tried to clean it, and now I got most of it out. It is the same story for the dust that collects in regular vents as well. However, the rocks in the vents weren't the most surprising thing down there.

This picture shows a bottle of something lying in the vent. It is a half pint of Windsor Canadian whiskey!

The bottle was suspiciously just far enough into the vent that you wouldn't see it by looking down into the vent but could easily reach it by sticking your hand in there. This is classically some poor alcoholic's stash that they wanted to keep secret from the other people living in the house.

All that stuff is out of the vent now. Another thing to always remember is that builders (not the conscientious ones) throw stuff away in whatever hole there is on a construction site. I think that is where those styrofoam coffee cups came from.

That pink thing in the next vent is apparently a leg warmer and the yardstick I eventually broke trying to clean all of this stuff out of the vents.

It was closer to the vents going upstairs than the downstairs ones so I can vaguely imagine a scenario that has it falling down the vent from upstairs when the vent covers were off. Finding the leg warmer allows tentative dating of these objects to the early 80's, though we can't be sure the leg warmers and the whiskey were deposited at the same time. Thus at some point in the 80's an alcoholic flashdancer hid their stuff in the vents in this house.

Monday, June 09, 2008

A blog you can take the kids to

Apparently I have a very clean language blog.

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

From the site, there were more statistics about my score:
Around 0.5% of the pages on your website contain cussing.
This is 94% LESS than other websites who took this test.
Perhaps I get around to the stuff that might not be suitable for children conceptually rather than with bad language.

(via This Full House)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Rescued by the creek on the hottest day so far

It is supposed to get to mid 90's today with excessive heat warnings.

After using the last of the rainbarrel water to try to save some just planted perennials I thought I would dip my feet in the creek to cool off.

There is nothing like creek cooled feet to fight off the heat. You have to be sure to get them in a fast moving spot for continuous flow cooling. If I dip my head in does that mean I have a water-cooled CPU?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

X takes the square with this license plate

I am not sure whether to give this TAC-TIC license a TOE or what.

For the other possible interpretation I am not sure that it is a clever tactic to be driving a Hummer in this gas price climate. ($4 gas in a truck that gets MPG 14 city, MPG 18 highway)