Friday, December 31, 2010

Indiana University Conflicted About Kinsey's Collection - wonders about showcasing his stag films. (Stag Film 101 most sought after elective ever.)

College Wrestles With Kinsey's Porn Collection - Indiana University wonders about showcasing his stag films:

"Not now, damn it! Can't you see I'm doing research!"

(NEWSER) – Indiana University is about to open a new cinema to show off the school's own film holdings—unremarkable until you consider that those holdings include 14,000 pornographic movies belonging to sex researcher Alfred Kinsey. Among those are 2,000 one-reel stag films going back to the 1920s, a unique bit of film history that's thought to be the biggest collection anywhere.

How much do I miss jai-alai? (And wagering on jai-alai?)

I was at the bowling alley today mentally assigning over/unders to people as they took to the their lanes based on little more than age, whether or not they had their own ball and shoes, how puzzled they seemed by the scoring computer, and whether they seemed fidgety or focused. I was thinking it would be fun to sit in back with a buddy and offer each other bets on stuff like whether this one will roll a strike the entire game, or that one can put three marks in a row, or the five-year-old with bumpers up +50 vs. his father in lane 18. 

In other news, my bowling skills have all but evaporated after two decades or so of neglect. Forty-year-old me would need +20 vs. twelve-year-old me. 

If We're Going to Live to 100, We Need to Rethink 'Old'

If We're Going to Live to 100, We Need to Rethink 'Old' - Because if we're going to be 'old' for half our life...:
Does it make sense 'to cram all our economic activity into the first half of life? Why work our longest hours at a time when our children are young? Couldn't we take a longer view, one that would allow us to take gap years at any point, so as to take on voluntary work or go into further education?' Since we equate getting older with decline, it's no big shock that we want to believe 60 is the new 40. 'It would be more helpful to think of it as the new 60.'

The Progressive Honor Roll of 2010 | The Nation

The Progressive Honor Roll of 2010 | The Nation:
In recent years progressives have been cautious about the Constitution. But after the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision freed corporations to use their immense resources to buy elections, two groups responded with aggressive challenges to the notion that businesses should enjoy the same rights as citizens. Free Speech for People, a campaign sponsored by Public Citizen, US PIRG, Voter Action, the Center for Corporate Policy and American Independent Business Alliance, seeks to counter the Court's move with 'a constitutional amendment of our own that puts people ahead of corporations.' (Representative Donna Edwards has introduced an amendment, with backing from outgoing Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers.) Another group, Move to Amend (with support from Progressive Democrats of America, the National Lawyers Guild and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, among others), proposes a broader 'multi-year movement to amend the Constitution' that would use state legislative resolutions to force Congressional action on 'democracy amendments' or schedule a constitutional convention.
I was thinking along the lines of an amendment to guarantee privacy rights, effectively an update to the 4th that takes into account modern technology.

Link via FriendFeed's Ayşe E.

Paging Thomas Szasz: What is Mental Illness?

MIND Reviews: What is Mental Illness? : Scientific American:
When we arrive at the final chapter, “So What Is Mental Illness Anyway?” we can only conclude that the most succinct and accurate response is, “Well, it depends.” 
In the end, that is actually McNally’s main point. Understanding mental illness requires context, and when making a diagnosis, we cannot simply tick off criteria on a checklist. We need to consider the symptoms and the causes as well as our biology, genes and culture.
No answers from me. Just an abiding curiosity about the question.

Related: The Myth of Mental Illness, by Thomas Szasz
Barely related and self-referential: Moffat's Sherlock: Psychopath or Sociopath

Pundit accountability: Which predictions did I blow in 2010?

Pundit accountability: Which predictions did I blow in 2010? - By David Weigel - Slate Magazine:
Last year the economist Bryan Caplan had a dream. 'One day,' he wrote, 'people who refuse to bet on their statements will be viewed with greater contempt than those who bet and lose.' He was talking about pundit accountability, a beautiful concept that will never be adopted, because no one wants to look stupid, and that's the inevitable result of any such plan.
Accountability for prediction failure would be gravy. The meat would be accountability for lazy, inaccurate, or biased reporting. 

Throwback Thursday: AT&T VideoPhone 2500 (1992)

Throwback Thursday: AT&T VideoPhone 2500 | BGR | Boy Genius Report:

To celebrate the arrival of Skype’s mobile video chat on the iPhone 4, today’s Throwback Thursday looks back fondly on another ultimately fruitless attempt to popularize video calling: the AT&T VideoPhone 2500. AT&T had swung and missed with video calling before, but the introduction of the VideoPhone 2500 in 1992 would be the home run the company had been waiting for. Costing just $1,599.99 per phone or $1,449.99 each if you bought two or more, this puppy was going to bring video calling to the eager masses.

Gardiners of Scotland Fudge (OK, whisky fudge is a thing.)

Gardiners of Scotland Fudge

Not sure why this is caught my ear from the morning "news" show my mother-in-law is watching. I mean, I've had and made plenty of bourbon balls. Still ...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

To Open Congress, House Republicans Will Read Constitution Aloud (This should be fun.)

To Open Congress, House Republicans Will Read Constitution Aloud, Ignore the Parts They Hate | Firedoglake: "Why does the Constitution hate America?"

Are they really going to read the whole thing? Including the stuff about slaves being three-fifths of a person for purposes of apportionment and distribution of taxes? The linked post does a pretty good job pointing out several areas Republican wingnuts are probably going to choke on when they discover what's in the document they pretend to revere. I'm sure they'll have Scalia explain his work-arounds for all that troubling stuff during his lecture.

I wonder who will draw the short straw and have to read the stuff about how treaties are law, taxation, recess appointments, etc. that will inevitably be put in heavy rotation on TRMS and Countdown?

The troubling case of Phillip Wilkinson, convicted murderer on Death Row in NC.

Offenders on Death Row:

Phillip Wilkinson, NC Death Row inmate.

There are currently 159 offenders on Death Row.
I don't know how many of them are guilty of the crimes for which they were convicted. Hopefully, all of them are. There is one murderer on Death Row here in NC though that I feel comfortable saying certainly is guilty. He confessed to the crimes, they were horrific, and I'm not about to say he should go free; however, it is entirely inappropriate and an abomination of the criminal justice system that he was sentenced to death. I say this not (only) because I oppose the death penalty on principle, but because the case of Phillip Wilkinson is illustrative of how even in dealing with the guilty, the State simply can't be trusted to apply the death penalty fairly and in accordance with its own rules.

Wilkinson's court appointed lawyer at his trial made a series of mistakes, so many it's hard to believe they were simply incompetence. At the sentencing hearing witness testimony of his remorse was not heard, a crucial factor in sentencing, nor did they hear Wilkinson (an honorably discharged veteran who was an indigent) had been diagnosed with mental illness, nor were they aware the prosecution had withheld material evidence regarding his level of intoxication at the time the crimes were committed. None of these things change the fact of his guilt. All are relevant to how the death penalty sentence was determined.

Wilkinson had a competent attorney during the appeals process, but the appellate court basically said, "screw it, none of that would have made a difference," when clearly it all could, and should, have. The Supreme Court declined to hear his case. [Source: Erwin Chemerinsky, The Conservative Assault on the Constitution (Simon & Schuster, 2010)]

Three other individuals were taken off Death Row this year, according to BlueNC, for similar prosecutorial misconduct and, in one case, a jury not being aware of all the information needed to determine appropriate sentencing. I don't know why Wilkinson is still on Death Row in light of these other cases. Nor do I know how many other convicts on Death Row in NC don't belong there.

Related: North Carolina Coalition for a Moratorium (NCCM)

2010 moments of pure crazy (Part 2!) -- "Inexplicably, no prosecution ensues."

2010 moments of pure crazy (Part 2!) - This Modern World -

This Modern World via Salon
I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Too Much Crazy for Xmas. Devoured it in a sitting; keeping it out for guests to enjoy.

My brother's Toyota commercial!

Will at work:

Youngest brother displays more range in a 30 second spot than many actors in a career!
The full experience:

RIP Geraldine Hoff Doyle, inspiration for 'Rosie the Riveter'

Michigan woman who inspired 'Rosie the Riveter' dies at 86 | | The Desert Sun:

Geraldine Hoff Doyle of Lansing, Mich., the woman behind an iconic image of a bandana-clad, muscle-flexing Rosie the Riveter during World War II, has died, according to her family.

Via FriendFeed's Spidra Webster 

The 2010 (Navel-Gazing, TL:DR-bait) Cryptonaut-in-Exile Year In Review

As the clock runs down on 2010, please bear with me as I take a moment to look back on my life as a blogger this past year. 2010 is the year that will forever (in my mind) be The Year Triptych Cryptic Faded Away. During TC's death throes, I started cryptonaut-in-exile to give myself a place to land when TC finally folded. For this new blog, I decided to focus on roughly three main areas: my life as a transplanted New Englander making a home in the South, promoting secularism and progressivism, and the usual mix pop/geek culture with an emphasis on Doctor Who and Kim Stanley Robinson. Of course, atheist blogs are a dime a dozen, and I'm not exactly the second coming of Atrios, so I decided I needed to make liberal use of the "Fuquay Lens," to provide regional perspective and carve out a niche for myself. My town has a funny name. If nothing else, I figured I'd be one of the few people saying "Fuquay" a lot.

Without wanting to pander, I do want to understand which posts -- to the extent it can be measured with blogger's native tools -- have resonated, so I can continue to explore those areas of widest interest. With an eye to that, here are my most viewed posts since blogger introduced tracking sometime back in July:
  1. NC Man Curses Out, Spits On Muslim Woman In Wal-Mart
  2. Louisiana man's deer stand camera captures mysterious "human-like" figure
  3. Heath Shuler told to grab a clipboard and take a knee
  4. The Parson's Gambit
  5. Ashkirii the Mother-man?
  6. Winona Ryder tried to warn the world about drunken, anti-Semitic, homophobe Mel Gibson 15 years ago.
  7. I should have seen it coming. (Bush Plagiarism Edition)
  8. RIP Aaron Shannon, Jr.
  9. O Come All Ye Faithful And Keep Your Hands Where I Can See Them
  10. Western Harnett teacher charged with having sex with student
Number one on the list was, for several weeks after posting, far and away the most read post, almost doubling the numbers of the second most read; however, the Louisiana mystery figure has been drawing google searchers more consistently since posting and looks like it may take the top spot soon. The relative popularity of the Shuler post surprised me; I must have got caught up in the slipstream of backlash against Shuler's doomed attempt to oust Nancy Pelosi from her leadership position. A couple of the most popular were just link teases for Achewood comics. (I'm trying not to take it personally that rants I pounded the keyboard furiously over, then had to edit and rewrite (to remove excessive profanity) before submitting get blown out by "hey, look, this guy drew something funny" posts. So it goes.) Well, I'm not sure what lessons to learn from these except that most of my top ten posts were in line with my three stated areas of focus; so, I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing and see how it goes.

Trends are interesting. Here's a peek at how this site's audience has grown since tracking started. Don't mistake this for an indication of wide popularity. The numbers even at the apex are small enough that they'd be rounded off by the blogging big boys if they were to do this same exercise. While the actual numbers may be small potatoes, the trend at least tells a pretty good story.

cryptonaut-in-exile pageview trend 2010

Where do the visitors come from? My traffic started out being largely driven by google search results, with the occasional boost from stumbleupon, current, and reddit -- the NC racist guy post got big bumps from reddit and current users in particular. I used to segregate my FriendFeed and facebook activity a bit more than I do these days, but eventually decided to stop being so shy about being atheist, so I shared the blog fully with FriendFeed and started pushing the odd post to facebook. (Yes, family members, I have a foul mouth. It's not that my parents didn't raise me right, I'm just incorrigible.) Once I opened up a bit, those two sources brought a few more eyeballs to the blog, although I'm sure I alienated some old elementary school friends along the way by also not being shy about communicating how morally bankrupt and cowardly the evidence indicates you have to be to vote Republican these days. (By "these days," I mean, "since Eisenhower.")

While I've made the blog my primary outlet for public expression on the web, I'm still active on FriendFeed and slightly active on twitter. I don't actually care much for twitter, frankly, but it plays the nicest with my phone, and there are a few tweeters out there who make the experience enjoyable.

I've tried posterous, looked at tumblr, I think I've also got Amplify and possibly some other accounts languishing out there. I've stuck with blogger though, partly out of laziness, partly because it's where TC started and I haven't had a compelling reason to change. Also, as part of google, I don't anticipate it will go away anytime soon. I'm not as sold on the relative permanence of the other platforms. I'm also accustomed to blogger's UI; I can share a link, put an image in, pull a quote, make my comment, and move on, usually in just a few seconds.

I've moved away from just posting links because, as part of importing my posts from TC, I deleted scores of old posts because they were nothing but dead links. By pulling in a bit of the content though, at least there's some inkling as to what I thought was interesting and worth sharing about the link in the first place even after the link dies. You'll also notice I tend not to quote more than a paragraph or two, or in the case of webcomics, to tease a few panels or a detail from a single panel cartoon; I do that because I want to support the content creator by, hopefully, driving people to the original link, not showing the whole thing on my site. This is an issue I have with many blogs and sites like the Daily What -- which I enjoy, but guiltily because I never click through anything they link. Why bother? They've shared it all. I'm not exactly with comfortable with the fact that they are getting the eyes (and, I imagine, the ad revenue that goes along with pageviews) that should belong to the content creator. (Steps off soapbox. I'd guess I'm something like 90 percent links and quotes, 10 percent original material, so this is a bit like a remora calling leeches freeloaders.)

One goal I have going forward is to step up the production of original fiction content. I'd also like to attend the FFRF conference in 2011 to network with other secularists and visit some old friends in Madison, WI. Otherwise, it's not likely much will change around here.

Thank you for hanging with me this year. I hope to see more of you in the year to come. And, hey, leave a comment when something here ticks you off or makes you say, "frak yeah!" It makes my day. I'm not doing this professionally, it's a hobby;  the only payment I receive is in links back or comments. (Full disclosure: I am experimenting with allowing ads in my RSS feed. Haven't seen a penny yet as a result of doing that, nor do I realistically expect to; I don't think I've ever clicked on an ad myself.)  Anytime you use the sharing options at the bottom of a post, that's also much appreciated. One thing a I got a kick out of this year was seeing the young lady who was the subject of a post here after winning a local election share that post on her facebook wall along with the real media coverage.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year to you all.

Teen explains his love of Doctor Who. Don't worry, it's cool-like.

The touching story of a love of goofy TV that spans generations.

The history of punch. (A Dickens of a punch recipe included.)

A Vintage Cocktail That Packs A Punch : NPR:

Image via

Wondrich, who is also a mixologist, has paid homage to what he calls 'the monarch of mixed drinks'; his book, Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl, features 40 historical punch recipes for the ambitious drink mixer.
Any punch I'm likely to imbibe this New Year's Eve will almost certainly be of the contemporary variety, which is just fine, as it's the convivial atmosphere that results from party-goers making several trips to the punch bowl that matters.

Playboy Mansion a 'Squalid' Prison - Dog doo, stained mattresses, pocket money and a 'dead fish Sex God'

Playboy Mansion a 'Squalid' Prison - Dog doo, stained mattresses, pocket money and a 'dead fish Sex God':

'Everything in the mansion felt old and stale, and Archie the house dog would regularly relieve himself on the hallway curtains, adding a powerful whiff of urine to the general scent of decay,' she sniffs. The women have to follow rules and a curfew 'stricter than any my parents' demanded, said another Playmate. The payoff? A hoped-for spread in Playboy, pocket money from Hef, doled out weekly in his bedroom—after he picked up the dog doo on his carpet—and a roll with the 'Sex God,' who merely lay there like a 'dead fish,' recalls St. James.
I bet there's a Dateline producer with a UV light wand ready to go ...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Scientific Proof Of How To Beat Someone’s Ass At Monopoly

Scientific Proof Of How To Beat Someone’s Ass At Monopoly

Science, schmience. I know to get the orange properties. It's always been the lynchpin of my strategy.  Yet, my wife always beats me. Always.

Parents not allowed to walk son with Asperger's to class to ease his separation anxiety

Parents not allowed to walk son into Johnston school ::

'He knew he wasn't going to have to jump out of the car and face the world by himself,' Christy Dawson said. 
The process worked well for several weeks until other parents started complaining.
Alligood then told the Dawsons that the school doesn't allow parents to walk their children to class to maintain school security. Other parents didn't like the special treatment given to the Dawsons, so Alligood said Jake could no longer get a daily escort to class.
The Dawsons said Alligood asked for a note from Jake's pediatrician, but when the doctor explained that getting walked to class would help reduce Jake's anxiety, they said the principal refused to budge from the policy.
The article doesn't include any comments from the parents who complained or the principal. However, at the risk of leaping to conclusions based on one side of the story ... WTF? Are people really so cruel and insensitive?

NC town will drop flea on New Year's Eve (Way to celebrate your flea-ridden heritage, guys!)

NC town will drop flea on New Year's Eve ::

“This is a sandy area, and, consequently, fleas like sandy areas. That hill kind of picked up the name Flea Hill,” McLaurin said.
I don't think "consequently" was the the word the Mayor was looking for there, but we get it.

OK, OK, I'm just being mean. I'll stop. It's local flavor. Also interesting to note, Eastover is the only Wal-Mart in the nation that sells flea collars at the jewelry counter. [Rimshot]

What’s Your State Good At?

What’s Your State Good At? | Buy Solar Panels for Your Home – 1BOG Group Solar Power Discounts

NC is sweet potato country. Other states I have lived in are good at: general well-being (CT), energy policy and speeding tickets (MA) -- I can attest to the latter, smokin' weed (RI), and making cheese (WI, of course).

Body Under General Anesthesia Tracks Closer to Coma than Sleep: Scientific American

Body Under General Anesthesia Tracks Closer to Coma than Sleep: Scientific American:

What anesthesiologists are really doing is closer to putting patients—close to 60,000 each day in the U.S.—into a drug-induced coma. 'It's a reversible coma, but it's nevertheless a coma,' says Emery Brown, a professor of anesthesiology at Harvard Medical School and coauthor of the paper.
Also, I wouldn't read this article on learning and memory under general anesthesia before undergoing surgery. I've only been under general anesthesia once, to have a broken arm reset; I don't relish the idea of ever doing it again. Actually, just forget you ever saw this. Ignorance, in these matters, is probably bliss.

Somewhat related:

Datsun 240Z Stars in Russ Chimes’ Midnight Club Videos

Japanese Nostalgic Car – Blog | Blog Archive | Datsun 240Z Stars in Russ Chimes’ Midnight Club Videos: If you're about my age, it's a safe bet you spent some time tooling around in someone's hand-me-down  240ZX or B210 Sundowner, am I right?

I've never looked back since Nissan phased out the Datsun name.

Oklahoma man says wife's death was sex fantasy accident -

Oklahoma man says wife's death was sex fantasy accident -

The lyrics to "When We Were Young" just leapt to mind.

(CNN) -- Arthur Sedille was up-front with police: He would often put a gun to his wife's head during fantasy sex play at their Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, home. 
But Sedille said he didn't know the gun was loaded when he pressed it to his wife's head and pulled the handgun's slide back during sex on the night of December 21. 
Does the fact he's 23 and she was 50 make this more suspicious than it already was?

The Global Language Monitor | Top Phrases of 2010 (Something's missing.)

The Global Language Monitor | Top Phrases of 2010:
AUSTIN, Texas November 27, 2010 (Updated) – The Global Language Monitor has announced that Spillcam is the Top Word, Anger and Rage the Top Phrase and Chinese Leader Hu Jintao the Top Name of 2010 in its annual global survey of the English language. Spillcam was followed by Vuvuzela, the Narrative, Refudiate [of course], and Guido. Deficit, Snowmageddon [even in NC!], 3-D, Shellacking [no surprise] and Simplexity rounded out the Top 10.
I find it hard to belive some variation of "touch my junk" didn't make the list. I haven't heard that phrase used so much since ... well, let's just say we've been hearing it a lot this year.

The Best Movies of 2010 - Flickchart

The Best Movies of 2010 - Flickchart: I haven't seen them all yet, not even Inception (#1), but Scott Pilgrim just came from Netflix and I did enjoy Kick-Ass and True Grit. I'd put the latter ahead of the former, but that's just me. My 2010 Flickchart looks a little rough, needs some more ranking work ... and where did that Sherlock Holmes (2010) I certainly didn't see (and never heard of) come from? (Quick IMDB search for plot details doesn't ring any bells?  Maybe this was a SyFy movie I shut off part way through? It certainly looks like garbage. Pretty sure I didn't rank this myself, so deleting it from the list, hoping it doesn't take the 2009 version with it in database confusion ...)

Chupacabra poaching in Kentucky - Boing Boing

Chupacabra poaching in Kentucky - Boing Boing:

Clickthrough to boing-boing for video.

Mark Cothren of Nelson County, Kentucky, shot this innocent chupacabra and no-one seems to care. [NBC via Gawker]
My guess: a deer with mange. (My guess is based on next-to-nothing, but there you have it.)

Pixar Mash-Up (I have kids and we sometimes watch movies together.)

The Beauty of Pixar from Leandro Copperfield on Vimeo.

Nicely done.

Big Game Coming: UConn v. Stanford.

UConn Women Beat Pacific, Extend Division I Record Winning Streak To 90 -
Now they head to Stanford for a Thursday night showdown with their 90-game winning streak tucked under their arms.
The Big East season follows Stanford, so even with a win tomorrow, the streak figures to be dicey again soon with (not to look past 'Nova, but looking past 'Nova) Notre Dame -- a.k.a. Streak Killer U -- coming up January 8th. I have the 17th circled on my calendar ... no tickets (yet) though.

Jim Rice v. Dewey v. Chet Lemon (?!): how WAR Graphs might change your thinking about HOF credentials.

The Baseball Analysts: Jim Rice, Chet Lemon, and How I Think About Wins Above Replacement:

@PatrickSull My favorite - run Jim Rice against Chet Lemon; pick up jaw.Wed Dec 29 03:03:45 via TweetDeck

... WAR Graphs is a Fangraphs feature where you can compare up to four players by Wins Above Replacement. Once one enters their desired search, three graphs appear. One shows how the players compare in their nth best seasons. The second shows how they compare year-by-year over the course of their careers. The final one shows how they stack up by age. 
It's a neat tool, and a handy one when like-minded folks are looking to settle a quick dispute. For instance, as a Red Sox fan, a pet issue of mine has been the travesty that is Jim Rice's Hall of Fame enshrinement while Dwight Evans never amassed more than eight percent of the vote.
I've long felt Dwight Evans deserved HOF consideration, and I was vocal in my advocacy of ol' Jim Ed, but I've never considered Chet Lemon.

This tool is dangerous; could easily lose all day doing comparisons. Williams v. DiMaggio (with Mays and Ichiro thrown in for some perspective) is an argument I've had with Yankee fans through the years that it might've been helpful to have this chart handy for.

Cumulative WAR by Age (just one way to slice the numbers)

Fire reported at dog-breeding facility (This doesn't sound good at all.)

Fire reported at dog-breeding facility in Johnston County ::
SELMA, N.C. — Johnston County authorities are investigating a fire at Puppy Paradise, a dog-breeding facility in Selma.
I read "dog-breeding facility" and hear "puppy mill." Some of the recent reviews of the facility would seem to confirm my gut reaction that the tragedy predates the fire.

Compelling recommendation for the sci-fi short story stylings of Ted Chiang.

This isn't your grandfather's science fiction | MetaFilter:
Ted Chiang is perhaps the finest author in contemporary science fiction -- and the most rarefied. A technical writer by trade and a graduate of the distinguished Clarion Writers Workshop, Chiang has published only twelve short stories in the last twenty years, one dozen masterpieces of the genre whose insightful, precise, often poetic language confronts fundamental ideas -- intelligence, consciousness, the nature of God -- and thrusts them into a dazzling new light.
I've not read any myself, just noting this for future reference. "[T]he Nature of God" bit makes me skeptical, of course, but my curiosity is piqued.

Rose and a bonus Eleven at Springfield Punx

Springfield Punx: WHOsdays; Rose Tyler (and bonus Who!!)

Posting late, but Dean delivered some good ones this week. Thus concludes Tuesdays are Whosdays at Springfield Punx. I'm looking forward to a Tom Baker at some point in the future though.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ranking the Doctor Who Xmas Specials

Finally saw this year's special and can put in a best to worst list with the others:

I know the singing was to save lives, but couldn't he have found another way?

  1. "The End of Time I, II" (2009) -- Problematic, but moving. Was very hard to see Tennant go. Was even harder to sit through the nonsensical resurrection of the Master. Haven't watched it in a while? Go read a synopsis and try to convince yourself the story was any good. You might persuade yourself it was good enough, but you won't be convinced. (That this is the best of the specials, confirms what we already knew: the specials aren't actually very special. Well, maybe just special enough. It's still an oasis of Doctor Who in the long gap between new episodes.)
  2. "The Next Doctor" (2008) -- A better stand alone episode than "The End of Time," but I placed it just behind out of deference to Tennant's last go. The giant Cyberking stomping around London was ace. David Morrissey nearly stole the show as Jackson Lake, no mean feat, and in so doing, I thought, helped bring out the best in Tennant. The moment where the Doctor realizes what's going on was played with subtle brilliance. I'll always love Tom Baker, Peter Davison, and John Pertwee, the Doctors of my youth, and Matt Smith is also quite good, but Tennant is clearly the most talented actor to play the role; even though he was given a bit too much (enough to choke a horse) melodrama to sell by Davies & company, he never seemed to let it interfere with his performance. 
  3. "The Runaway Bride" (2006) -- There's a bit of a drop-off in quality here, "The Next Doctor" was much better, but Catherine Tate was like a splash of cold water to the face after the long good-bye to Rose. This one shook things up and had a manic energy I appreciate a little more in retrospect. It helps that Ms. Tate later got a season to flesh Donna out. Had she been a one-off, I might've been less kind.
  4. "A Christmas Carol" (2010) -- Just finished this and, after reading a reaction immediately before sitting down to it that was along the lines of "best Xmas special EVAR!" had high hopes, which were largely dashed. It wasn't horrible. But that's Pond and Rory's honeymoon? Remind me why I like them again? Also not fond of the casual flaunting of the rule against having the Doctor flit around the timeline once embedded; what's to stop him now from jumping forward or backward as needed to get a code he needs in a given moment? Nothing except the writers pretending going forward that he didn't do it this time. The episode had its moments (shark!) but it felt like a missed opportunity to do something ... well, clever ... with the idea of the Doctor getting to be the Ghost of Christmas Past. 
  5. "Voyage of the Damned" (2007) -- I'm putting this one ahead of "The Christmas Invasion" because I pumped up Tennant's finale, which was, as I said above, a bit of a mess actually, and am taking it out on Tennant's debut. "Voyage" didn't get reviewed very well, so I didn't expect much going in. Frankly, I watched it twice, but it didn't do much for me and I barely remember it. I thought Kylie Minogue turning into sparkle dust, or whatever happened, was unbearably silly, and I didn't think much of Ms. Minogue as a companion throughout anyways. Just meh.
  6. "The Christmas Invasion" (2005) -- Yes, Tennant's debut, so significant, but it was largely irritating that he was barely in it. And Rose's mum drove me nuts here. She actually made Rose unlikeable for an episode. I thought Eccleston was brilliant through his season and wasn't sure what to make of Tennant coming in. Had high hopes for the future, but was mostly frustrated by this one.

Monday, December 27, 2010

#Fuquay Water Tower (with birds) #2

#Fuquay Water Tower (with birds) #2 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!: #Fuquay Water Tower (with birds) #2

#Fuquay Snowmaggedon December 2010

I think I outdid even last winter's effort with this new snow wall/kiddie sled run. I have the back pain to substantiate the claim.

The missus and kiddos in the snow fort with sled at the ready.
Blogger's not taking the video upload. If you know me on facebook, you can see it there though.

(Update: this smaller video made it.)

Pinch Poke You Owe the Bear a Coke!

December 27, 2010 | Wondermark | The A.V. Club

Today's Wondermark makes me pine for the movie Yogi the Bear could have been with David Malki! in charge.

Friday, December 24, 2010

8-Year-Olds Publish Scientific Bee Study

8-Year-Olds Publish Scientific Bee Study | Wired Science |

This kid contributed an article to a peer-reviewed science journal. What did you do today?

“We discovered that bumblebees can use a combination of colour and spatial relationships in deciding which colour of flower to forage from,” the students wrote in the paper’s abstract. “We also discovered that science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before.”
How about that ... a precocious kids and bees story that doesn't involve trip to the hospital! Hooray science kids! (40 year-old blogger suddenly realizes his lack of accomplishment at an advanced age, slinks away silently ... )

We're used to seeing players hang on the front rim ... but this is ridiculous: Idaho State player's foul shot gets stuck on front rim

Idaho State player's foul shot gets stuck on front rim - The Dagger - NCAAB - Yahoo! Sports:

Clickthrough image for video.

Of all the crazy bounces we've seen in basketball in recent years, few have been more bizarre than a free throw Idaho State's Kamil Gawrzydek attempted late in the second half of Tuesday night's 71-48 loss at Utah State.

Ghost in the Machine reviews "True Grit."

West, End, Girl. - Ghost in the Machine:

Image via Ghost in the Machine

When is the remake of a movie classic actually a good idea? When the brothers Coen are at the helm. (Let's just say The Ladykillers is the exception that proves the rule.) Both laugh-out-loud funny and tinged with melancholy for the disappearing West, the brothers' impressive adaptation of True Grit feels like the unearthing of a forgotten piece of Americana, and it makes the 1968 Charles Portis serial from which both movies are based feel as quintessential an American coming-of-age story as To Kill a Mockingbird. Whether you love, hate, are indifferent or just oblivious to the John Wayne-Kim Darby-Glen Campbell version of 1969, this is one remake that's worth your time.
The Coens' True Grit didn't leap to the top of my list of favorite Coen Bros. movies, but it settled in nicely closer the top than the bottom, and that's mighty fine company. 

A Somewhat Obsessive Guide to All 36 Seasons of SNL Streaming on Netflix | Splitsider

A Somewhat Obsessive Guide to All 36 Seasons of SNL Streaming on Netflix | Splitsider:

Image via Atomic Gator

With hundreds of episodes from each season of Saturday Night Live finally available on Netflix Instant Watch, we thought we'd put together a few of the highlights to help you get your bearings. Obviously, it's an overwhelming amount of material that's available, so this guide will help point you to interesting or historic episodes, notable guest hosts, and where the appearances are of classic characters.
First "Deep Thoughts"? You can find it. First appearance of Land Shark? You can find it.

NC ALE Seizes More Than 550 Gallons Of White Lightning

ALE Seizes More Than 550 Gallons Of Moonshine |
RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement agents seized more than 550 gallons of moonshine in three separate busts.
A single tear tracks down my otherwise stoic visage. (Not as devastating as this one last year.) 

Cultural Learnings' Top 10 TV Series of 2010

My Top 10 TV Series of 2010 | Cultural Learnings:
I did a Top 15 shows as part of The A.V. Club’s Top 25 Shows of 2010 list – which is really fantastic, and features my writeups on United States of Tara and Cougar Town – earlier this month, so I technically thought about what my Top 10 was, but looking back on it I didn’t like it. Knowing that the list was going to be aggregated, I think I steered clear of series I knew didn’t have a chance, or at the very least ranked them lower than I might have otherwise, and the result was a list that wasn’t wrong so much as it was unrepresentative of a broader view of the year in television.
Sherlock didn't make the top series, but it did have a top 10 episode.

Image via Reviews from Baker St.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Festivus Traditions: The Airing of Grievances. "I've got a lot of problems with you people! And now, you're going to hear about it."

This is where, in the spirit of intolerance and ingratitude, I vent the things people have done to disappoint me this year.
  1. You were the car dealerships practicing bait and switch. Luring me into your dealership with prices you have no intention of honoring, pretending you know nothing about the promotion I'm referring to until I make you bring it up on your computer and show it to you. Then, you suddenly remember something about residuals or non-negotiable fees.
  2. You didn't vote this year or, worse, voted for a homophobic, two-faced, sub-moron bent on ruining the national economy and destroying what limited ability the government has to function as a force for justice and the protection of our civil liberties.
  3. You tail-gated me when I couldn't get in the right lane, then zipped past me once I finally could, then cut in front of me without using your turn signal, and then ... you slowed down! You drive like [expletive deleted]. It doesn't impress me that you've got an anti-Obama bumper sticker on your trunk either. No, I'm not thrilled with the execution of the "hopey-changey stuff" I was promised but your guy was still the worse option and can you please make your former VP candidate / half-Governor / caribou-slaying snowbilly grifter go away!
  4. Then there's all y'all that were awarded a Glasgow kiss this past year. 
Feels good to have gotten all that stuff off my chest. I'm ready to engage in Feats of Strength. It's a Festivus miracle!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday is WHOsday features the Ninth

Springfield Punx: The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston)

Via Springfield Punx
Back on form this week.

The Castroville Café (You'll probably never have a reason to go to Castroville but, if you do ...)

I probably shouldn't even link their webpage, it needs a little attention, but forget about that and just remember, if you ever find yourself in Castroville looking for good lunch, you could do far worse than try the Castroville Café.

I started with an excellent, peppery chicken and dumpling soup then went with the Reuben even though the table next to us got the meatloaf special and looked very good. Peach cobbler and coffee for dessert were excellent. Great atmosphere, friendly waitstaff, and the kindly eldery ladies sitting around us were amused that we were looking up the history of the town and getting some background on the Alsatian language ... Castroville is, after all, the Little Alsace of Texas.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wave Technology Lives On In Google's New Shared Spaces (Wave Salvage Yard?)

Wave Technology Lives On In Google's New Shared Spaces:

Click image to go directly to Google Shared Spaces.

Google has quietly launched a new Labs project today - Google Shared Spaces. Based on Google Wave gadgets technology, Shared Spaces is designed to be an easy way to create and share collaborative applications.

As Shared Spaces uses Wave technology, there are already 50 different gadgets available, including shared maps, scheduling tools, polls, Sudoku games, and drawing boards.

San Antonio, here I come ...

Heading out bright and early (dark and early, actually) tomorrow for a quick trip to San Antonio. Back before Festivus as long as there are no flight delays.

Nice. Looks like I won't need to pack a jacket.

Analysis of Jose Canseco tweeting his comeback attempt.

Joe Blogs: The Social Network:
When Ali came back too many times -- his terrible final bout against Trevor Berbick was fought on a dusty and dilapidated old baseball stadium with a cowbell used to chime the beginnings and ends of rounds -- there were always people rooting for him, always people willing to hope against hope. And when it ended, there were tears.

When Jose Canseco put up a video of his batting practice swing and links to it on Twitter, he gets hammered with dozens and dozens of responses from who tell him to go someplace and die.

88 and counting. UConn Women tie the UCLA Men Win Streak.

UConn Women, UCLA Men Win Streak -

UConn's Tiffany Hayes, via the Hartford Courant.

NEW YORK — Tiffany Hayes scored 26 points and Maya Moore had 22 as the No. 1 UConn women beat No. 11 Ohio State 80-50 at the Maggie Dixon Classic on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. The Huskies' 88th consecutive victory tied the UCLA men's NCAA Division I basketball record set in 1971-74.

TARDIS bookcase cupboard

TARDIS bookcase cupboard - Goodhart Maker Den of Unequity Storage Cabinet

Image via Instructables.

A little issue with the handles, but not too bad.

Ten Years Later: Linking the Flav

cryptonaut-in-exile: Link Enhanced Flavor

Flavor Flav via Riot Sound.

Ten years ago I was randomly injecting links into the lyrics of  "Cold Lampin' with Flavor," a song that was about 10 years old at the time; so, it must be time to link tickle another 10 year old PE song. Following is a bit of what I could make out from Flav in "He Got Game":
These are some serious times that we livin' in, G.
And a New World Order is about to begin.
You know what I'm sayin'?
Now the question is: are you ready for the real revolution
Which is the evolution of the mind?
If you seek, then you shall find
That we all grew from the divine.
You dig what I'm sayin'?
Now if you take heed to the words of wisdom
That are written on the walls of life
Then universally we will stand
and divided we will fall because
Love conquers all.
This is a call to all you sleepin' souls
Wake up and take control of your own [cypher?]
Be on the look for the spirit snipers
Tryin' to steal your light
You know what I'm sayin'?
Look what's inside yourself for peace.
Give thanks, live life, and release.

Hexavalent Chromium, Carcinogen in "Erin Brockovich", Found in 31 of 35 US Cities

Hexavalent Chromium, Carcinogen in Erin Brockovich, Found in 31 of 35 US Cities:

Image via Newser

(NEWSER) – Those who thought Erin Brockovich was just a decent movie might want to check their drinking water: An environmental group has found the probable carcinogen featured in the film in the tap water of 31 of 35 US cities it analyzed—the first such study of hexavalent chromium to be made public. Topping the list of offenders were Norman, Okla., Honolulu, Riverside, Calif., and Madison, Wis.
 First, a bit concerned; second, "just a decent movie."  Regardless of what you may think of Ms. Roberts, Erin Brokovich is not "just a decent movie." [#35 on my Flickchart]

The Day Comedy Won: How 30 Rock Beat Studio 60

The Day Comedy Won: How 30 Rock Beat Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip | Splitsider:

Last month, NBC picked up 30 Rock for a sixth season, which must be celebrated as a miracle when one considers what Tina Fey’s “comedy show about a comedy show” was up against during its first year.
I love Tina Fey and 30 Rock, but despite some fair points made, I still wish Sorkin had a show on TV. 

Everest's Rainbow Valley: not as nice as it sounds.

a sea of lead, a sky of slate: Abandoned on Everest:

Image via A Sea of Lead, A Sky of Slate.

Above a certain altitude, no human can ever acclimatize. Known as the Death Zone, only on 14 mountains worldwide can one step beyond the 8000 meter mark and know that no amount of training or conditioning will ever allow you to spend more than 48 hours there. The oxygen level in the Death Zone is only one third of the sea level value, which in simple terms means the body will use up its store of oxygen faster than breathing can replenish it.
Some disturbing images in the original post. Rainbow Valley gets its name from the colorful parkas of abandoned corpses.

Via Linkmachinego

Saturday, December 18, 2010

RIP Walt Dropo, Starred At UConn, 1950 AL Rookie Of Year With Red Sox

Walt Dropo Dies; Starred At UConn, 1950 AL Rookie Of Year With Red Sox -

Walt Dropo via Bob's Baseball Museum.

Walt Dropo could have played football for the Chicago Bears. He could have played professional basketball as the NBA was getting started.

But instead, he applied his massive frame and remarkable quickness to baseball, and had a rookie year with the Red Sox that few have ever approached.



OneTrueFan is not a social network in the traditional sense, in that social networks attempt to localize an experience and/or lock users into a single social graph. OneTrueFan is the anti-network, bringing to light the communities that already exist at your favorite sites, with no additional effort on your part.

Portlandia: Portland Dream of the '90s

Portlandia: Portland Dream of the '90s - Portlandia - Series - On Air -

I'm not sold on Fred Armisen, but anything to do with Carrie Brownstein is a go.

Politifact Names 'Lie of the Year' - Health care reform no 'government takeover'

Politifact Names 'Lie of the Year' - Health care reform no 'government takeover':
(NEWSER) – This year’s biggest political lie is the phrase “a government takeover of health care,” holds the nonpartisan fact-checking group Politifact. The term 'government takeover' was suggested by a GOP strategist, who called on Republican leaders to use it to refer to health care reform—and use it they did: 90 times on John Boehner’s website, for example, and 200 times on the RNC site. Politifact editors and readers both chose the phrase as the lie of the year.

Marisela Escobedo Ortiz: Gunmen Kill Mexican Mother Holding Vigil For Her Murdered Daughter

Marisela Escobedo Ortiz: Gunmen Kill Mexican Mother Protesting Daughter's Murder:
(NEWSER) – A Mexican woman who spent two years fighting to bring her daughter's killer to justice was herself shot to death on Thursday, possibly by the same man suspected of murdering the teen. The crime was caught by a security camera, which shows masked men pulling up to anti-crime crusader Marisela Escobedo Ortiz outside the governor's office in the northern city of Chihuahua, where she was holding a vigil.

Memolane (Looks slick.)

Memolane | Your time machine for the web

Via FriendFeed's Gordon Herd

Friday, December 17, 2010

Strip Club Sign Declares "No Negro's [sic] Allowed" - The Consumerist

Strip Club Sign Declares "No Negro's Allowed" - The Consumerist:

The next racist to spell an entire sign correctly will be the first.

'If I've got a problem with you it's going to be on the front of my store,' says the open-minded business owner. 'I'm going to stick to my guns because I think I have the right as a business owner to reject service to anyone. It's not all the black people there are just a few bad ones.'
O Wisconsin, Aryan strip clubs? Really? 

UNC-TV's North Carolina Now Spotlights Merge Records [HQ]

Videos Posted by UNC-TV: UNC-TV's North Carolina Now Spotlights Merge Records [HQ]:


North Carolina Now's David Huppert and videographer Pete Bell explore how a couple of college kids from the Triangle defied the odds and formed one of the most successful alternative rock bands and independent music labels in the world, Durham-based Merge Records--featuring interviews with Mac McCaughan, Laura Ballance, Wye Oak, David Menconi, Grayson Currin and WKNC DJ Kelly Reid.

Ghost in the Machine: "Venetian Grind," a review of The Tourist.

Ghost in the Machine:

Image via GitM.
Anyway, Depp's character -- Wisconsin widower and schoolteacher Frank Tupelo -- is meant to be just an average guy in over his head, unwittingly caught up in a spy drama as The Wrong Man. (Jolie's character picks him at random on a train to be a mark for the Interpol-types following her.) But Depp seemingly can't help but play Frank as all twitchy and affected. He speaks with Hunter Thompson cadences half the time and eyes his surroundings -- and his co-star, for that matter -- like it or she are going to sprout wings any moment. He can't even sip his nightcap without Jack-Sparrowing his way through it. 'Hey, look, a beverage! In my hand! I shall drink it! Ooh, it kicks!'
I'm glad our man in D.C. still finds time to see lots of movies and, more importantly, write about them.

The thought of killing an animal for its fur is abhorrent to Sarah Palin.

I doctored up the picture based on:

@GottaLaff Palin on GMA, "would never shoot an animal for its fur for fashion" . in background, a bearskin rug complete with headFri Dec 17 12:47:59 via web

Tweet found via Crooks and Liars.
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