August 31, 2006

Happenings around the ol' homestead

Health and well-being:
Thanks to everyone for the good thoughts and prayers. Things are slowly getting better. My boss was kind enough to give me the entire week off from work to take care of Liz while she recovers.

This next bit gets filed under "Me. Me. Meeee!": Two years ago I had a physical and everything was fine. A couple of weeks ago I went in for another and once again things were good. My cholesterol levels went down, which made me happy since they're near the upper limit of acceptable, but for the first time ever my doctor told me to lose weight. Up to this point, I've been getting by on good genes. My health is still excellent, but I'm middle-aged and have to start taking care of myself.

I've also been prescribed medication for my thyroid. Even as a kid in the Air Force my thyroid level was at the lower boundry of normal. Now my turtle-like metabolism has slowed to that of a rock, so I get to take this stuff for six weeks and get tested again to see if it's helping.

New Kitchen:
One nice thing about the company that we're working with on our kitchen remodel is that everything was done at our house. They would come to us rather than us having to travel to their 'showroom' whenever something needed to be taken care of. Yesterday we signed the contract after approving the finalized plans. Cabinets have been ordered, appliances paid for, and painfully large numbers have been written on checks. Demolition starts in about three weeks.

Free time?
Assuming Ernesto doesn't completely puss out and delivers some storm-like weather around here, I hope to be doing a batch of movie watching. If so, look for some movie reviews in the near future.

Blog stuff:
Derek asked if I'd ever listened to his Son of Cheese Half-Hour Power Hour, and I have to admit that I haven't. To be honest, I don't listen to any of the podcasts from my regular reads such as Wizbang!, QandO or Silent Running. The last podcast I heard was the Ken & Squip Show, and that was quite a while back. So there's your answer Derek. I'm pond scum.

I'm tired of that banner above. Look for something new as soon as I get around to it.

Posted by: Ted at 08:16 PM | category: Family matters
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August 29, 2006

Going around once more

See that "2996" over on the left? That's a link to a tribute to everyone who died on 9/11, and leads to a page where each individual was assigned to a volunteer blogger who will post a memorial to that person on the fifth anniversary of that sad day.

Every. Single. One.

The goal has been reached (thanks to everyone who's signed up), and they've started around again so if you haven't volunteered yet, you still can.

Posted by: Ted at 06:49 PM | category: Links
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Bitte. Danke.

Long-time readers know that my wife has some health issues. Life threw us a wicked curve last weekend. It's not life threatening, but we both need to be concentrating on her at the moment. If the cautious, initial diagnosis is correct, then things will be back to normal rather quickly. Otherwise, to paraphrase the Grateful Dead, "what a long, strange trip it'll be".

Good thoughts or prayers would be appreciated.

Posted by: Ted at 08:35 AM | category: Family matters
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August 28, 2006

Commodore Mookie's Catch of the Day

Classes start today, so I've been fairly busy the past two days hanging out with my friends and catching up with them. And in honor of classes, and thus work study starting, I'm brining you something that can entertain you for hours (or at least a minute): Pipe Cleaner Dancing!

Posted by: Mookie at 06:49 AM | category:
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August 26, 2006

Wanted: Founding Fathers

This is so cool.

Colony: Alchibah.

From the FAQ:

In the middle of the 21st century, a ship of dissidents seeking freedom from the oppressive world government of Earth land on a planet circling the star Alchibah. There, these colonists begin a new life, a new world, a place where the limited government is subordinate to the citizens. First they had to create that government and the documents that would constrain it. Actually, first they had to escape Earth! As in any sci-fi story, there are plenty of other problems as well...

I highly recommend reading through the FAQ before exploring the rest of the site, because this isn't simply a story to read. For the right kinds of people, with imagination and passion, you can become characters in the story and affect events. Beneath the veneer of SciFi fiction, this is actually a nicely conceived simulation of building a government from scratch. You can argue your points and sway opinions of other colonists as you all work together (or work against each other) to create a future.

Jeff Soyer, proprietor of Alphecca, is the mind behind this stunning concept. I'll be following their progress, and enjoying every step of the journey.

Posted by: Ted at 12:48 PM | category: Links
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August 25, 2006

Thanks for the memories

Jerry Rice signed a one-day contract with the San Francisco 49'ers so that he could officially retire with the team.

Twenty years, most every receiving record in the books, and the man did it with style and class.

A lot of athletes should learn that lesson.

Posted by: Ted at 05:33 AM | category: Links
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August 24, 2006


The salsa garden is going great guns. Cherry tomatoes enough for my tomato loving daughters, plus enough regular tomatoes to give away half and still have plenty. The green peppers have been disappointing, but even those have been good if not overly abundant. Jalepenos? Muy bueno!!!

Last weekend (two weekends ago?) I spent a little quality time in the kitchen and made a gallon and a half of salsa. A good sized container full for my neighbor, who's been helping me with a couple of household projects, and another for daughter Robyn that she took with her back to school. That left more than we could use, although we tried, including a breakfast of heavenly veggie salsa omelets.

Tonight I picked a large tomato and a couple of nice jalepenos and made guacamole. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Posted by: Ted at 08:55 PM | category: Square Pegs
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August 22, 2006

I shoulda mentioned

Links to the Silent Universe and Second Shift podcasts are now on my sidebar.

Posted by: Ted at 05:13 AM | category: Links
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August 20, 2006

Commodore Mookie's Catch of the Day

I always find that the hardest thing about making a web page is finding/making/picking a back ground that will satisfy several criteria. The criteria include (A) that it not suck, (B) that is is fairly unobtrusive and not eye watering ugly, and (C) that to take into account the variety of monitor display settings it should either tile well or have a solid back ground color [note, these are just my personal rules of thumbs). This nifty little website allows you to make tile-able back grounds quickly and easily... and I like to play with it even if I don't need a new background.

I also have an appreciation for well done drawings and paintings that have a bit of humor in them of some sort. I don't usually go for the more traditional "Art" stuff. This website has some interesting pictures that defiantly make me giggle and is worth checking out. Hm... I wonder if my roommate would like them... we need to decorate our dorm room...

Posted by: Mookie at 11:22 AM | category: Links
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Launch Report - 8/19

I had a very nice day launching rockets, in a screwed up, cruddy sort of way.

The weather was beautiful for our regular monthly club launch out at Great Meadow. The wind was occasionally gusty, but it was almost 180 degrees from the normal direction, meaning that it was blowing down the long direction of the field.

Today I was accompanied by my future son-in-law (it's official as of this week), since we men-folk were kicked out of the house whilst the ladies did wedding-dress things.

We slept in and got to the field a bit after 10am - nice crowd already - and almost immediately I was asked to pull a shift as launch control (countdown and button pusher guy). That's always fun and I love helping out, but doing a two-hour shift of this when we were only going to be there about 3 or 4 hours kinda bit rocks.

Next month the Internats (World Rocket Championships) are being held at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Russia, which is their version of Cape Canaveral. Getting in some last minute practice were several members of the team, launching helicopter, streamer and parachute duration models, and making lots of RC rocket glider flights.

After my shift as LCO (not the full two hours - thanks Bart!), I went and prepped my original Level 1 certification rocket, an upscale of the Centuri Groove Tube. Because of the wind, I really stepped down on the size of the chute. After safety check we headed out to the high-power pads.

1. Groove Tube Upscale - H128W-M - Great boost, slightly weathercocking into the wind. Chute just after apogee and then a long walk to recover.

The guys who launched just before me wound up going in the same direction, as both our rockets were over the treeline at the edge of the field. Henry wound up jumping a barb-wire fence and recovered the Groove Tube, and the other guy found his rocket hanging over some high-voltage wires. Bad news, that. Hopefully the power company was able to send someone out right away and get it down. They try to get to them quickly so they don't cause line damage.

At some point in the flight, my Groove Tube kicked the motor casing. Normally, when the ejection charge fires the pressure ejects the chute, but occasionally the motor will be spit out the back instead because it wasn't secure enough. In this case, the chute came out just fine, but it looks like the motor was kicked backwards enough to bend and twist the brass retention clip, and at some point
during descent the motor dropped free without our seeing it.

The rocket is fine, but I'm mildly annoyed because I have one last motor reload kit that will only fit that casing, and I'm not going to buy a new casing for one more flight. Either I'll borrow one or give the reload to someone to use.

After Henry and I spent a while searching for the lost motor casing (hoping for a lucky break because finding it falls within the realm of 'needle in a haystack'), it was time to go. So I made a grand total of one flight all day.

On the plus side, I got to visit with several good friends and helped a couple of kids make their first-ever rocket flights. I also did a blog-meet of sorts with Dick Stafford of Rocket Dungeon fame (check out his launch report here, he was way more successful than I). He always has something wacky and interesting to fly and I had a great time shooting the breeze with him.

So, bottom line on the day: rocket launch = good. Even when things don't go so great.

Posted by: Ted at 08:21 AM | category: Rocketry
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August 19, 2006

Commodore Mookie's Catch of the Day

I've always had permission to Post on Rocket Jones, but Dad just gave me the official word "Go"; so of course the spelling and grammar quality of this site just went down the crapper, but thatÂ’s no matter.

Almost every day I send Dad links to random sites I find online via a firefox extension called StumbleUpon, yet dad rarely has time/remembers to link to them, so now I'll do it. The best description of StumbleUpon came from this site where they say "[StumbleUpon] is a software implementation of Attention Deficit Disorder" and how true it is. I do actually waste hours upon hours each day (when I have internet) stumbling around to amuse myself.

So the first weird link of the day will be an optical illusion thatÂ’s really quite freaky, but entertaining. And then there is a website that shows you how to harvest stools. Finally, here's a place with some T-shirts called Cute Dead Things... I really want the Skull one, it so cute! and dead!

Posted by: Mookie at 06:54 PM | category: Links
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August 17, 2006

When you outlaw midgets with guns, only... wait, that doesn't work.

Check out this little beauty:
click the picture for Dirty Harry size

Even better, it's fully functional.

This firearm is a scaled-down model of the much acclaimed and mystical Colt Python with all the same features as are found on the real size gun.

They advertise it as "the smallest revolver and ammunition in the world."

Thanks to Rodger for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 08:35 PM | category: Links
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A Bone Through My Nose

Not as in "decorative", as in "I was eating a piece of chicken when I read something so funny I snorted food."

Oh, how I wish I were drinking a glass of milk at the time.

No matter. Put down the fork and glass and go read this.

You've been warned.

Posted by: Ted at 07:47 PM | category: Links
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August 16, 2006

"42" has become such a cliche

It is also *not* the answer to any of the "25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe".

Thanks to Wizbang! for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 05:53 AM | category: Links
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Speaking of odds

The baseball world is agog at the Los Angeles Dodgers, who've now won seventeen of their last eighteen games. What people seem to have forgotten is their equally remarkable streak just before that, when they lost thirteen out of fourteen.

That makes them 18-14 in the last thirty-two games. Big whoop.

Posted by: Ted at 05:10 AM | category: Square Pegs
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I'd take those odds

You know that 1982 Ford Econoline van with the twelve ladders strapped to the top? Yeah, with seven guys riding inside. Doing the speed limit, while everyone else on the road passes them left and right. Yeah, that one!

Deport them.

Posted by: Ted at 05:00 AM | category: Square Pegs
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August 15, 2006

Second Shift: A Review

A really bad day was saved a couple of weeks ago when an email appeared in my box asking if I would be interested in reviewing another serial podcast. Absolutely made my day, I tell ya.

Simple minds, simple pleasures. My mom used to tell me that all the time. Sloooowly. So I'd get all the words.

Disclosure time: Beyond Tolkein (which not reading violates some kind of natural law I think) and a few other scattered offerings, I've never been a fan of the fantasy genre. I much prefer History or Science Fiction.

Which means that Second Shift has been a pleasant surprise, because even though it's Fantasy/Adventure, I am really enjoying it.

The story goes like this: Three college students find themselves in another place. Planet? Universe? Who knows.

These are *not* the three students

At first it seems that their arrival was accidental, but in later episodes there are hints that at least one of them may have been intentionally targeted.

The new place is a world where magic is pervasive. They meet the local who (might have) summoned them, and also very quickly have a run in with the bad guys. Before long, swords and sorcery and quests and adventures are experienced by the trio of friends as they search for a way back home.

I understand that the description generically describes a significant percentage of all fantasy fiction ever written, but that's all I'm going to say so as not to give away any spoilers. Ok, one spoiler: there are "Undying" wandering about. You know how I am about zombies, so major bonus points there.

These are probably not the "Undying"

While listening to the first episode I was reminded of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in "His Girl Friday", in that the dialogue comes at you in machine-gun bursts. You'll have to pay attention to these exchanges or you'll miss something.

A couple of observations about the dialogue.

First, you will hear the very occasional naughty word and the mildest of innuendo. This is a barely PG-rated story so far.

These are not the "undying" either. Not yet, anyway.

Secondly, there is quite a bit of speaking in the "local" language, and it's beautifully done. The accents (I love the accents) and pronunciations are consistant and sound real, and there's no stumbling or hesitation when the actors speak in unfamiliar syllables. The language itself is lyrical and pleasing to listen to, and sounds natural enough for me to wonder just how much of this language is already real (in the sense that there is a dictionary and humans fluent in the language of the fictional Klingon race).

A "couple" means two. Ignore my inability to count and consider this a bonus.

Thirdly, the actors voices are distinctive and you'll be able to tell who is who before you know it. Which kind of ties into the characters themselves. These characters are three dimensional, not cardboard heroes (mystery reference for you gamer geeks). They have depth and background history and realistic emotions. Their speech and exchanges with other characters sound real. Since this is an audio play, dialogue is paramount, and it is exceptional.

Like real life, the good guys aren't always good, and sometimes they're not even particularly likable. At different times, each of the three students need a whack upside with a clue-by-four to remind them that whether you like it or not, reality isn't what you feel or wish for, it is what is right in front of you. So just shut up and hide in the bushes.

Not everything revolves around the three students either. The locals have their own history and stories, and sometimes things happen just between them. Again, this adds depth and you don't feel like every character exists just to support the three travellers. In fact, I can easily imagine a storyline involving Fezmir and crew that has absolutely nothing to do with those pesky kids (no points for that one, it's too easy).

So far, the bad guys aren't as fully fleshed out, but their story keeps coming to you in bits and pieces. There's great promise there, so I remain hopeful.

On to technical matters. The sound quality is good, and there is no subscription cost. The music is only ok. Sometimes the theme music really grates on my nerves, and other times I'm like, "that's not too bad". I haven't caught myself humming it yet, although I think it's right on the edge of becoming an earworm.

Each episode gets better as far as sound effects, both in number and quality. Low point: jogging through leaves. It sounds pretty much like running for your life through leaves. Most everything else though has been good, and there are a few really outstanding sound effects that have been used.

The production schedule calls for new episodes to be released every two weeks, and they're sticking to it despite some unexpected turnover among the production crew.

Extras. Their website is pretty cool, and just chock full of those little internetty doo-dads and gimcracks that I hate so much. Despite that, you can ignore the cuteness and you'll find that it's very easy to get around. It does look and act differently in IE vs Firefox, just so you know.

There are forums to explore, and a nifty journal where you get a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes work. I thought the posts on creating the sound effects were particularly interesting.

They've got a small shop to buy podcast related stuff, so far limited to "Work, Stupid Magic" stickers and buttons. Very cool, and even better after you listen and are in on the joke. They've promised more in the near future.

As an extra little bonus, these folks posted an episode of Captain Laserbeard and his Gamma Raiders! It's... odd. And funny. I mean, who doesn't love space pirates, arggh? A snippet of this show airs as background noise in one scene of the first episode.

On my last review I had a guest with me, our zombie friend Bub. The idea proved to be popular (typical comment: "More Undead, Less Ted!"), so I decided to ask another beloved movie character to rate Second Shift.


Looks like a big "thumbs up" from here!

If you like fantasy, you'll enjoy Second Shift. If you like character driven stories, you'll enjoy Second Shift. If you like Cary Grant, you'll enjoy Second Shift. You were paying attention, right? If you are intrigued by podcasts or the golden age of radio, you'll enjoy Second Shift.

Don't be Abby Something-or-other, go give Second Shift a try.

Posted by: Ted at 04:57 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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August 14, 2006

I wanna go to Space Camp!

Space Camp isn't just for kids, you know.

Phil Reeder flew all the way across the pond to attend the Advanced Adult Space Academy Programme (heh, he spells funny).

His articles for the first six days are posted at Sven Knudsen's amazing website.

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6

Phil apologizes for not having nearly enough pictures to cover the massive number of activities and events that are scheduled for the week.

Posted by: Ted at 05:20 PM | category: Space Program
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Retro Redux

I briefly mentioned it a couple of days ago, and I'm pleased to announce that I have 8-bit nostalgia up and running.

M.U.L.E., Blue Max, Encounter, various Infocom text adventures and early Electronic Arts offerings, bringing back memories of my earliest days of home computing.

I haven't gotten the configuration exactly right, because the emulator won't read the virtual cassette drive yet, and there are a couple of early war games I hope to resurrect that were only available on tape. More tinkering to do.

If you don't see the attraction, then you have no soul. It's that simple.

Oh, and for those asking, I've been playing with two emulators: Atari800 and Atari800Win Plus. Win Plus has been easier to work with, but doesn't offer the flexibility that Atari800 does. I may very well end up using both for different situations.

Posted by: Ted at 05:27 AM | category: Links
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With the recent phenomenom of hit Broadway musicals set to pop and rock artists like Abba and Billy Joel, I'm imagining something slightly more surreal...

...something like Jeffrey Dahmer's life story, set to Loggins & Messina.

Opening scene, music comes up as "mom" and "dad" arrive home from hospital carrying their new baby:

People smile and tell me I'm the lucky one,
And we've just begun...

Later there can be a scene reminiscent of Risky Business, where a grown Jeffrey dances his way around the kitchen in his underwear, bopping to "Your Momma Don't Dance" as he restocks his fridge and freezer (if you know what I mean).

Closing scene. An ordinary house in a quiet neighborhood, lit by flashing police lights. A crowd of people stand around out front, wondering why that nice young man was arrested. And the closing music gradually rises over the people's murmering voices:

Oh, help me if you can, I've got to get,
Back to the house at Pooh Corner by one,
You'd be surprised, there's so much to be done,
Count all the bees in the hive,
Chase all the clouds from the sky...

If you use this idea, I expect "Concept by:" credit.

Posted by: Ted at 05:09 AM | category: Square Pegs
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