Sunday, July 23, 2017

Movie Review: Baby Driver

It's an action flick.  It's a "gotta keep working to pay off The Man, but then I'm outa here" story.  It's part Reservoir Dogs.  It's part Romeo & Juliette.  There's a dual-weilding Laura Croft character.  It's part won't-that-villan-ever-die jump-scare horror flick.  It's got Blind Al from Deadpool, except here she's morphed into a deaf man.  It's got Jamie Fox playing The Joker, except here he's just called "Bats."  (Maybe that one was an unintentional sideways reference to another fictional story line.  Interesting neck tattoos though.)  And of course there's the criminal mastermind.  With all that going on, it's never boring, but it never exactly gels either.

Then there's the music, which is a whole story line and effectively a character unto itself.  Maybe the best part, even over the car chases.  It's more than the rhythm and beat here, it's the timing chain for the movie's engine.  If you know a song, it foreshadows that something's ahead – not that you'll have any idea of what it may be, because there are surprises around every corner.

For all that weird Bass-o-Matic blend of ingredients, the acting is uniformly top-notch and the car chase sequences make it worth the watch.  It pumps the excitement and pulls at the heartstrings all at once.  It does keep your attention, and was even kind of fun.  Two and a Half Stars.  Go see it on the big screen, enjoy, and then move on.

I won't buy the video when it comes out, but the soundtrack album... got to pick up a copy of that.

LawDog in Print

Long-time Texas blogger LawDog has finally put his domestic tales into one volume.  Released last Monday in Kindle and slated for print release in mid-August, it should be just the thing for the late-summer reading season.  And even though I'm sure I've read all of this over the years at his blog, I'll be downloading a copy of the e-book as soon as this is posted.

But what to do for a follow-up act?  Lawdog's African adventures, of course!  Can't wait to re-read the one about his mother ordering the python-skin purse.  Slated for e-book release on August 10th, and out in print a month later.

Speaking of late summer, is anyone else out there ready for early fall?  With the July 4th festivities fading in the rear-view mirror and two months of heat, humidity, and hurricanes ahead, it's a common sentiment.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Basics of the Standard Model

The current state of particle physics summarized in ten minutes, over at the BBC.  Yes, unfortunately you'll need flash to watch the video.

There.  If yesterday's post on paranormal radio was weird, this one's much more so – because it's real.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

About that Late-Night Paranormal Radio Stuff...

From Arthur C. Clarke's classic sci-fi novel Childhood's End, from a scene in which two alien visitors are discussing humans' spooky proclivities:
"I originally contacted him because he has one of the world's finest libraries of books on parapsychology and allied subjects.  [...]  I've now read half his library.  It has been a considerable ordeal."  "That I can well believe," said Karellen dryly.  "Have you discovered anything among all the rubbish?"
 And I have to say that, like the above-quoted character Rashaverak in Childhood's End, and despite enjoying a good ghost story at bedtime, I only occasionally hear something that is all that worthwhile on any of these shows.  Kind of fun on the weekends, but it leaves me a little short on sleep.  Still, just for the curious among you and because a regular reader asked, you might try:
  • Midnight in the Desert  Formerly available on shortwave, it's now mostly a web streaming show.  Probably my favorite, though I really couldn't tell you exactly why.  Occasionally, occasionally, they'll have on a serious scientist giving the latest on KIC 8462852 or such, makes the rest worth perusing.  The kick-off half-hour review of the day's news is usually interesting.
  • Coast to Coast AM  The original, the biggest, and now the one full of the most advertising and music filler.  And, ironically, only available locally via FM.  (Though it is kind of fun to DX it in from WOAI San Antonio TX 1200 AM when the ionosphere is right.  Then the Elder Things can pay a visit through your radio.)
  • Behind the Paranormal  A local show up in New England (H.P. Lovecraft country, so they've got their spooks down), available elsewhere as a podcast from their site.  These guys are dead serious about pandimensional visitors.
  • Beyond Reality Radio  This one's pretty bad, with a couple of dude-bros sitting around wisecracking like it's a drive-time comedy or sports talk show.  I only include it because it's on WWL New Orleans 870 AM, so at least it's easy to receive in the southeast and you can hear the weather and ionosphere crackle in the background.  Adds to the ambiance, and when it makes the signal unlistenable it appears to improve the content.
On the whole you're probably better off just picking up a copy of Childhood's End and reading that.  Also, the Netflix mini-series made of from that book last year is pretty good.  They got the aliens right, though they did flub the critical ouija board scene.  Still, if you're in the mood for a late night ghost story, now you've been pointed in the right(?) direction.

Obligatory Spooky Image

Think I'll go wash my mind out now with a dose of simple deterministic classical mechanics.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Winter Field Day Results Posted

Winter The Field-huh?  Winter Field Day!  It's a relatively new (decade-ish) event where ham radio operators take to the field in the last weekend of January and try to make a bunch of contacts, and maybe even rack up a few contest points.  For whatever points are worth; personally, I wish they could be cashed in for beer or an MTB pedal upgrade.  But I digress.  Three of us ventured forth into the arctic wilds:

Well it wasn't that arctic.  It was more like 50F, perfect for hiking the Tuxachanie Trail for a couple of miles before setting up.  But you'd definitely need a sweater and it was north of I-10, so that counts.  Anyway, we hiked a couple of miles east from the Hwy. 49 trailhead to get out of the swampy parts, set up with a Yaesu FT-857D and a W3EDP mini antenna, and operated our hearts out.  I made a grand total of seven contacts.  For you non-hams out there, this is technically non-zero, but it is a pitifully small count for a contest.  However, considering that these were scattered across two bands and two modes (voice and digital), and we were operating both in a remote location and off of non-grid power, the multipliers and bonuses totaled (ka-ching ka-ching) and I ended up tied for 51th place out of about 97 entries in my class.  But, as I already said, the points are only for bragging(?) rights and are not transferable for actual goods such as beer or mountain bike parts.  If you want to go look at the results listing or just peruse the WFD site, here's the link.

Lessons learned?  There are always things to learn from something like this.  Foremost, weight stacks up fast.  Take a 4 pound radio and an old ALICE pack, add a few more radio do-dads and a folding table, lunch, and some water, and suddenly it all tops 30 pounds.  Next up, make sure to bring a barrel connector for the VHF antenna.  Might've gotten a 2 meter contact if I had been able to hook that up.  A handful of QR zip-ties would have been nice.  The W3EDP antenna wouldn't tune 15 meters, will have to experiment with that before next year.  But the biggest question for next?  Maybe bring the FT-817ND radio instead.  Yes, operating on 5 Watts can be a bitch, but cutting the radio pack weight by 2/3rds may make it worthwhile.  Backyard experiments on this (once the weather cools down) will help make this call before WFD '18.  (And that reminds me, I need to make up a post on the new-used FT-817ND I picked up last month.  Maybe this weekend.)

Parting picture:
No snow, but I swear it was the tail-end of January.  And we were north of I-10.

And one closing thought.  When it comes to abusing those expensive high-energy density lithium batteries, don't.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A film to watch for.

"Darkest Hour," about Churchill and the first phases of WWII:
Well, the trailer looks vey good, but then they are engineered to do that.  Time will tell; so far so good.

Hard to believe this is the same actor who played Sid Vicious a brief thirty years ago.

I don't trust it.

The weather today, I just don't trust it enough to get out on the beachfront on the CX bike:

In other news, Atlas Obscura has an article up on the real dragons of Medieval Europe, a moderate-sized CME is hitting Earth right now and messing up propagation on the HF bands, and I've got Fleetwood Mac's 1973 album Penguin playing.  Sounds like a good day to do some housecleaning.