Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Um, how could they tell?

Drinkers sue Anheuser-Busch for 'watering down' beer, over at the BBC.  Oh really?  And someone noticed, or did it require a custom order to ORTEC for instrumentation sensitive enough to discern this minor difference?

OK, I'll stow the smartassery and go pour myself another Jefferson Stout.  Yes, pour myself one at home.  It now comes in a bottle.  Tastes about like it does on tap, maybe not quite as rich, but perfectly acceptable.  Good job, Lazy Mag!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why can't we get a radio station like this?

Radio Hauriki, New Zealand.  Yes, they have a streaming webcast, just click on the "Listen" link.

Scan over at the last half-dozen or so songs played just now:
Rollover DJ - Jet
Are You In? - Incubus
Daughter - Pearl Jam
Handwritten - The Gaslight Anthem
I Remember You - Skid Row
Higher Ground - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Hold On - Alabama Shakes
Look, I'm not saying this is exactly 100% my music, or that it's perfectly new and innovative, or that it's All That.  It's just that it's not yet another oldies station, it's not yet another country-pop station, it's new-ish music, and their musical programming is not selected by cabal of angry 15 year olds.  (Yeah, on that last one I'm talkin' to you 97.9 WCPR.)  And as a bonus, their web site doesn't look or load like it was designed during the Clinton administration – "Optimized for Netscape!"

Well, I can stream'em at home, but I can't take'em on the road with me.  It would be a change for the better to have a listenable station around here that I don't have to stream, wait for nightime skywave, or pull out the antenna design book to receive.

Freekin' New Zealand, they've got everything.  Hell, they've even got Hobbiton these days.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Cool tool/toy: 3Doodler

Nothing more or less than a genuine 3-D pen.  That's pretty cool.

Caution: (1) Do not use 3Doodler while drinking tequila.  Attempting to operate 3Doodler while drinking tequila may result in four-dimensional perception, objects, and/or travel.  Advanced techniques such as this should be left to skilled professionals.  (2) Do not attempt to draw tesseracts in or near fault zones with 3Doodler.  Narrow but humorous escapes may result.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Told you it wasn't me.

No, the UFOs over Apalachicola last week turned out to be something else: fire balloons.  See?  All solved now.

Bird's Nest

I couldn't quite get the full bowl shape from any camera angle, but it's there.
Sep's doing alright, and thanks to the miracle of antihistamines so am I.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Reason #872 why Zimbabwe sucks.

Police bans distributing of shortwave radios.

Imagine, not only your freedom to openly speak gone, but even the freedom to listen wiped out.  As long as this crap goes on, that country's never getting anywhere.

Easy trick for anyone in elected office: whenever a tough decision comes around, check how Zimbabwe has managed a similar situation.  Then do the opposite.

ps: a quick caution to my numerous readers in Zimbabwe.  You might want to check this historical note.  Too bad this reputable suppler is currently out of stock, but I'm sure y'all can rig up something suitable.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

At the corner of Punk and Country.

At the corner of Punk and Country, catty-corner to the Little Metal Shop of Horrors, there exists a genre known as hellbilly, with none other than Hank Williams III as its lead proponent.  You should give it a try, at least for a half-dozen freebie songs over at youtube.

What a wonderfully weird time we live in.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

About time for a new one.

It's been 13 years, and that softtail was great but my back needed true full suspension.  So... here we go.  Click any pics to embiggen.

Lots of new tech.  Two by ten drivetrain.  Here's the two:

And here's the ten:
Will this skinny-ass 10-speed (10!) chain last in real world off-road conditions?  Dunno, but I have my doubts.  Ask me in a couple of months.

Disk brakes:
That's a big step up from ceramic rim V-brakes.  Those were good in the day.  These are better.

Here're the controls.  I know, I know, what am I doing with trigger shifting?  Trying something new, that's what.  At least it's SRAM and will work for a while:

Finally and as always, Wile E. points the way and provides inspiration:

It'd better not rain this weekend.

Crap, it just hit me, more to do on the bike.  Like get those reflectors off the spokes and stick the bottle cage on.  Also need to adjust the front shock.  Didn't even notice that handy air pressure table on the left leg until I went through these pictures.

It'd better not rain this weekend.  Wait, let's check...
Doesn't look too promising, does it?  Maybe next weekend.  Plenty of fine tuning to do in the meantime.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What's going on in Maryland?

Botched SWAT raids (including dead dogs), teenagers and performance artists threatened, antiquated gun laws, politicians creating enemies lists, and now a guy with Down's syndrome strangled for not leaving his theater seat.  Why does this stuff happen on a regular and continuing basis in Maryland?

I am so glad that I turned down that interview in Maryland a few years ago, in order to stay in the relatively enlightened state of Mississippi.

Review: Django Unchained

Look, this is straightforward.  Go watch the trailer.  It's an honest trailer, it shows what the movie is generally about and shows the kind of action you can expect.  If it appeals to you, then you'll probably like the movie.  If it appalls to you, save your time and money.

It's pretty weird, light entertainment.  Because it's about such touchy subjects (slavery primarily, though there are other raw nerves a-plenty here) it has generated some controversy.  Well, people will always try to read baggage into where there is none.  If you can get past that, it's a fun watch.  Doubly so if you can manage to smuggle a flask of whiskey into the theater on a loopy Friday evening after a rough week at work.

Bottom line: 3/4 stars if the trailer appeals, 0/4 stars if the trailer appalls. Pick your poison.

Review: Iron Sky

This was the little direct-to-video that almost roared.  Almost that is, until people got their hands on it and watched.  Then the nascent roar turned into a resounding "meh."

The plot is so outlandish that the resulting movie had to be either insanely great, or just insane: a small cadre of Nazis escape to the moon in flying saucers in 1945.  Hidden on the dark side (a fitting place, given their ideology and helmet shape), they build a base, a new society, and eventually an Earth invasion fleet.  Their dastardly plans (can movie Nazis have any other kind?) are interrupted by an American moon mission circa 2017.  Interrupted yes, but also boosted decades ahead by some seemingly innocuous technology salvaged from a captured astronaut.  

With such a whacky idea, it could either be played deadpan straight or for Mel Brooks style humor.  The producers chose the latter, which is probably the better choice, but they couldn't quite pull it off.  At times it's pretty darned funny, but the bulk of the jokes fall flat.  It is jaw-dropping upon occasion, either for the spectacular bizarreness of things like a well-rendered Nazi moon base, or for yet another lame race joke.  It starts with more of the former and shifts to more of the latter as the movie progresses, and finally runs out of steam entirely by the end.

Bottom line is that it gets 1.5/4 stars.  Drinking heavily while watching with a raucous bunch of friends may boost this by as much as 1 star, but only if they're well attuned to Mel Brooks' brand of humor and aren't too offended by amateurish efforts to replicate it. 

Review: The Hunger Games

Yeah, you probably have heard all you want to hear about last spring's teenage dystopian sci-fi drama.  However I've got to say, this movie has achieved the seemingly impossible: making the book seem well-written in comparison.  It's over-compressed, rushed, and really just presents the bones of the story.  About the only things that save it are that it stuck to the original plot and that it had decent acting.

On the other hand, I'm really not the target demographic here.  If this is a kid's first exposure to the dystopian genre, said kid could do a lot worse. For them, it maybe rates as high as 3.5/4 stars – not shabby at all.  For jaded old sci-fi readers, no more than 2/4.

Now all you darned kids, go read If This Goes On–.  And get offa my lawn.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

UFOs Spotted over Apalachicola: Wasn't Me.

Before you read the article, here's a little mood music.  Got it playing?  Good, now here's the article.

Mid-Month Reminder: Feb Fourth Ward Cleaver's Up

And here's the link.  Lots of Mardi Gras stuff this time.

It was a good Mardi Gras.  Didn't do a lot this year, but a Sunday afternoon in New Orleans was fun.  On the whole though I'm looking forward to spring.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tomorrow is Blogaversary 3!

Yeah, started it in 2010.

So, does anybody actually read this thing?  Then post a note in the comments.  It'll be good to see who's reading, other than some web bots from unspecified countries.

Monday, February 11, 2013

World War Z, the movie.

Link to the trailer.
I enjoyed the book, but am dreading this movie.  The book just seems so filmable – it's all broken out into neat looking-back episodes linked by one interviewer, and it all knits back together into a larger tale of despair and triumph.  That's a pretty cool literary trick to pull off in an over-worked pop monster genre.  There's even enough material for a sequel or two.

So why turn it into a Brad Pitt vehicle?  I mean, you could take just any old zombie story, stick Pitt's face on it, and have your summer thriller right there.  This is shaping up the same way I, Robot and Starship Troopers did a few years ago: "Hey, we just acquired rights to a top-notch book.  I know, let's junk the story, keep the name, and plug in some hack writing!  For no apparent reason!!!  It'll be cool."  After all, those boring movies where they stick to the book never make any money, right Peter Jackson?  And just look at how those follow-the-book Harry Potter movies all flopped.

Prediction: it'll be an overall middlin' not-quite blockbuster, open and close in about a month, and be largely forgotten by fall.  Residual fondness for the book, plus a big name and flashy effects will make for a weekend or two of box office sales, but without the original story it won't have any legs.

Because it's the story that gives a movie legs.  They had a great tale to start with here.  By the looks of that trailer, this one hasn't been improved a bit by the production meat grinder.

Or hell, I could be wrong about all this and it'll turn out to be a great classic for the ages.  Meh, it's only a zombie book.

ps: ooooh, re-written by the same guy who screenwrote Prometheus.  This is looking really bad.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Nah, he's just a roadie.

Just a roadie, not an actual creep.
OK, sometimes it's hard to tell.

Hey Coyote

Concrete Blonde has a song for you.  And it's almost as good as this one.

We live in the 21st Century.

And certain politicians are having trouble dealing with this fact.
It's time for them to get over it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Radio is dead. Long Live Radio!

Article on the death of terrestrial (i.e., non-satellite) radio over at Fast Horse.  It's mercifully short, so read the whole thing and come back.  I'll wait.  In the meantime, let's have a musical interlude:

OK, interlude over.  It is an interesting and valid point Reinan makes, and for the radio mass market there is no easy answer beyond "our business and programming models are failing, we need to try something else."

But there are some bright spots on the dial.  There are some stations that are very focused on their local audiences or, more regionally, on their audience niches.  Here are a few examples:
WWOZ, the New Orleans jazz & heritage station.
KLEB, a funky little Cajun AM outlet.
WGSO, hyper-local New Orleans news and commentary.  Guaranteed to make you mad, occasionally.
WSM, 50KW clear channel rootsy country music to the eastern half of the U.S.
WQRZ-LP, "Katrina Radio," an odd mix of local music and oldies, and oh yes, hurricane reporting as needed.  Which is, it seems, all too often in these parts.
WOYS, "Oyster Radio," playing a Jimmy Buffett-tinged mix of salt water and beach town music to (surprise!) a seafood industry and beach town audience.

All of these are as focused as a local microbrew, and all are somewhere between chugging along OK to succeeding wildly.  The reason why is simple: they're putting out something with flavor and spice, and they're not putting out homogenized crap.  They know their audiences and build content for them.  They take chances, and take feedback.  Anything less is just laziness, and a recipe for failure.

Will they succeed in the long run?  Dunno, but they're doing better than the "yet another pop / oldies / sports talk" stations are doing.  They'll be around a while.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Really, tar's not that bad.

But only because I use tar almost daily to make backups and deliveries.  Honestly, it is a pretty cryptic line command.  Nowhere near the problems people always have with sed or awk, however.

From over at xkcd.  If you are still scratching your head, there's always Explain xkcd.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

More interesting than you might expect.

Over at PhD Comics, part of the Two Minute Dissertation series: Mystery Tubes in a Stick Bug's Guts.

Mysteries everywhere.  Makes me want to break into song.