January 30, 2007

Second Shift - A Re-Review

I first reviewed the podcast Second Shift here. For those not inclined to click that link, Second Shift is an audio play done in the old-radio serial episode format. They've now completed their first season and during my vacation I downloaded all of the episodes (they're free) and listened to the entire story again before finishing up with the two-part grand finale. Let me tell you, it's a crackerjack ending.

Highly recommended. I can't wait for their next season.

Posted by: Ted at 06:11 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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January 28, 2007

Doktor, It's Moving... It's ALIVE!

That would be me. There has been lots going on so far this bright and shiny new year, both good and otherwise, and free time in order to crow and/or gripe about it here at Rocket Jones has been drastically reduced.

As the new routine settles in, I'll probably find more time to write. I realize that I've posted excuses for not posting twice now in January, believe me when I say that they're a good way to bump up the ol' productivity stats.

Posted by: Ted at 10:23 AM | category: Square Pegs
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January 22, 2007

College Mess Halls

You always know you're in trouble food-wise when you meet this scenario:

Day 1: Stuffed shells.
Day 2: Stuffed Shells
Day 3: Pasta Bake... And they don't even bother cutting the stuffed shells up.

Posted by: Mookie at 10:18 PM | category: Square Pegs
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January 15, 2007

Rocketry Links

Just some hits I've noticed over the last week or so...

Doug Pratt mentions an apparent shortage of Pyrodex pellets. Pyrodex is a black powder substitute used by muzzle-loader enthusiests that isn't regulated nearly as strongly as the regular stuff. We use the pellets to pre-heat the fuel grain in our hybrid rocket motors. I need some, but haven't been looking too hard (WalMart hasn't had them though, which is unusual around hunting season). Good thing we can get them through Amazon. Gotta love it.

Zoe Brain links to some cool history of the space program you might never have heard of, the UK space program.

Just because Rutan and crew won the X-Prize doesn't mean the other competitors packed it in. Check out the latest test flight video from the Blue Origins team.

JohnL has links for Blue Origins too.

What goes up must come down. EDog has video of a Russian satellite that re-entered the atmosphere and broke up over Colorado.

Rockets are cool. Check out these links and you'll see for yourself.

Posted by: Ted at 07:00 PM | category: Square Pegs
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January 14, 2007

Vacation (updated)

The wife and I are off for a week or so. Our original plan worked to perfection, we made reservations in four places geographically far apart, so that if a blizzard hit the midwest, we'd go north. If one of those innumerable killer hurricanes hit New England, then we'd head south. Nor'easter? No problem, we'd vacation inland.

Once the weekly weather was examined, we cancelled three sets of plans and are headed to Atlantic City (second choice, actually) for shopping, gambling, and lots of doing absolutely nothing. Our hotel does have high speed internet, but I really shouldn't use my laptop from the in-room hot tub, so I'm not sure how much you'll hear from me.

Catch ya later.

Update: Liz still amazes me. We checked into the hotel, got settled in and then went to a casino for a while. We had a nice dinner and then I watched (as usual, I seldom gamble) as Liz played the nickel slots and walked away with $300. She plays for fun, but it's always more fun when you win.

Posted by: Ted at 04:54 PM | category: Square Pegs
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Laugh Now, But When The Giant Intelligent Cockroaches Rule the Planet...

An excellent observation from Brian J Noggle.

Posted by: Ted at 11:44 AM | category: Square Pegs
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January 13, 2007

Bore Me Like Beckham

That popping you felt in your ears was caused by the massive collective yawn of America.

Posted by: Ted at 11:36 AM | category: Square Pegs
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My Baby Loves Me Thiiiiiis Much!

I haven't mentioned the bestest Christmas presents I got, both from my wife. She ordered a large San Jose Sharks embroidered logo from the NHL shop, and then sewed it onto the chest of a super-comfy fleece hoody (in black, of course). It looks goooooood.

And where would a fan wear his cool new hoody? Why, to the hockey game on February 21, when my beloved San Jose Sharks come to town to play the Washington Capitals, of course! We'll be in section 116, row U. Wooot!!!

Posted by: Ted at 11:31 AM | category: Square Pegs
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January 10, 2007

I. Am. A. Tur. Tul.

I hurt my back last Friday, and I've been moving at 33 1/3 in a 78 world ever since, trying to keep up. Unfortunately, life hasn't been overly cooperative, so what little free time I've had this week has been spent catching up on things that could be put off a little while, but not indefinitely.

Look for an upcoming movie review or two, and posting frequency will increase as I get back up to speed. You've been warned.

Posted by: Ted at 05:30 PM | category: Square Pegs
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January 06, 2007

Only If You Have A Sick and Twisted Sense of Humor

I love it

Thanks to Dogette for pointing this one out.

Posted by: Ted at 04:50 PM | category: Links
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They Obviously Know How To Better Spend My Money, Except That They Obviously Don't

Susie just experienced a practical demonstration of what happens when you increase the minimum wage.

In order to be able to afford the increased payroll without raising ticket prices (which negatively impacts business), the company has cut hours by instituting only one show on weeknights--theaters which had been playing movies at 5 and 8 are now only showing 7pm sets. So, a concessions clerk who worked from 4:30 to 9 on a weeknight at $5.15 an hour is now working from 6:30 to 8 for $6.85 an hour. Their day's wages have gone from $23 to $10.25. Let's say they still work 4 and a half hours on Saturday and so earn $31 for that day instead of the $23 they previously would have made. They are still making $5.00 less now than they would have without the wage increase.

And because so many of the clueless would blame the company in this case, I'd like to remind folks that the sole purpose of a business is to turn a profit. In America, we even have a special class of companies who are specifically designated non-profit. So when a company reacts to higher costs by cutting expenses, it's not evil or heartless, it's behaving correctly and responsibly, for a business!

Meanwhile, politicians who back raising the minimum wage pat themselves on the back and congratulate each other about what caring people they are, which is the biggest lie of all. Not all of them are stupid, they full well understand what will happen when you artificially increase expenses. They don't care. They don't care about the effects, they don't care about the workers they impact. They do care about being able to point to this as an example of how they're fighting back against rich corporations. Fighting for the common man. As for the people dancing in the streets over this, because they actually believe that this is a victory? Now those people are stupid.

Posted by: Ted at 09:46 AM | category: Links
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January 05, 2007

"It's all about cameras, conspiracies and alien girls from hooter planet!"

I picked up Decoys from the $5.50 discount bin at WalMart, and it turned out to be a likable little horror movie from Canada. That word - "likable" - is the first thing that came to mind after watching it, and it's as good a word as any to describe it.

First things first: the title sucks. "Decoys" bears no resemblance to anything that happens in the movie. I have no idea what it's supposed to mean.

As for plot, it's cliched from beginning to end, with a "surprise" twist you can see coming from a mile away. Despite that, it's fun and sometimes funny and it doesn't hurt that the bad guys are three great looking blondes.

But you know things can't be as they seem (or there wouldn't be a movie). The story takes place in the winter at a small college in New Brunswick, Canada. A freshman is doing his laundry when he meets two sexy blonde coeds who claim to be cousins. They outrageously flirt and tease him, and thanks to the magic of plot twists the creep later finds himself alone in their dorm room. He takes time for a personal perv moment with some of their laundry, and then has to quickly hide in the closet when the girls return.

At this point, we're all treated to the only bare breasts of the movie, just before one of the girls sprouts her tentacles, letting us all know (including peep boy in the closet) that these girls are really aliens in disguise.

Of course, none of his friends believe him. His roomie has the serious hots for one of the blondes, and this causes a strain in their friendship, especially when roomie announces plans to lose his cherry to her.

Things go from bad to worse when guys start to show up dead. Our hero tries to convince people that he knows it's alien babes doing the murders, but circumstances make everyone think he's jealous and being a dick about it. Probably because for much of the movie, he *is* a dick (well, aside from the whole unbelievable "alien tentacles babe" bit).

In the end, hero wins over the aliens, saving Earth and all that crap. More or less. No spoilers for you.

As I mentioned before, the alien women are gorgeous, as is practically every other female in the movie. It almost makes me willing to move to Canada and brave the great white north again. It was nice to watch a movie like this and not see gratuitous boobage every other scene, because it was sexier watching the girls do their thing half dressed. The hero is well built, so there's plenty for the ladies to drool over too.

The acting was mostly ok, although oddly uneven. Some major characters were one dimensional cartoons, while others had real depth and complexity. The differences could be jarring, especially in scenes where the two types appeared together.

There are story holes big enough to drive a zamboni through. Important plot points are introduced and almost instantly forgotten. Logic goes right out the window at times, and while you're at it, close the damn window! It's Canada and winter and cold!

The special effects are nicely done and very understated. There isn't a whole lot of blood and gore, so slasher fans will be disappointed. The real scares come via short shock scenes, which some folks might think are cheap tricks. They'd be right, but you're still gonna jump.

I'll admit to something a little stupid here. One scene opened showing a frozen body on a morgue table. The camera was still, the room was empty and quiet, and all you could see was the body. I sat there for a few seconds, waiting for the scare. And waited. And waited. I began to marvel at how the director could ramp up the anxiety in a scene by doing absolutely nothing. I *knew* something was going to happen, and it finally did. I noticed the "pause" icon on the screen and restarted the movie.

Sometimes I scare myself.

The tone of the film keeps changing, as if they couldn't figure out whether the movie was supposed to be serious horror or a T&A teen flick. It's more of that uneveness that interrupts the flow of the story. Towards the end, there is a really nice scene between the roomie and one of the alien babes. By "nice" I mean thought provoking and even touching, it's some of that darned character development creeping in. Unfortunately, the very next scene cuts to Rambo-Boy and his flamethrower (figuratively, at that point), and all trace of that potential storyline is scorched.

Mostly though, I keep coming back to "likable". Despite the many flaws, I enjoyed the movie. And that's what it's really all about, eh?

Posted by: Ted at 05:35 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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January 04, 2007

test (updated)


Hmmmm, weird. On some browsers (including my IE at work) the posts are all empty boxes down to halfway through the Japanese Movie Monster post. On others, everything appears to be fine.

The only change is the new banner up top, so I'll be digging through the ol' template to look for clues.

Posted by: Ted at 06:12 AM | category: Square Pegs
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January 03, 2007

Ruben's Tube

Thanks to frequent commenter Russ, this most excellent link. Science is wicked cool, if you're doing it right.

Posted by: Ted at 06:48 PM | category: Links
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Did James Brown Mention This?

He was a Godfather, not a President, but still...

Hussein had problems with Bush Iraq policy.

Thanks to Brian J. for the scoop about yet another dead president kvetching from beyond the grave.

Posted by: Ted at 06:37 PM | category: Links
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January 02, 2007

Only in America

Some TV show came on yesterday that touted the ten worst extreme ski accidents or some such. Near the top of the list was a guy who basically fell over three cliffs as he careened down the face of a mountain. It was ugly, and his unconcscious body finally slid to a stop almost a minute later and several hundred feet down from where his tumble started.

The announcer stated that the guy suffered multiple severe lacerations and had "shattered" his leg in three places. Then, in the next breath, we're informed that just eight weeks later the skier was back in competition. I guess it was a minor shatter.

Next, they have an interview with the guy. I'm paraphrasing here because it was so incredibly stupid that I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

I wasn't worried about extreme skiing again because, I mean, I'd fallen off a mountain. What are the odds that it would happen again, y'know?"

We live in a society where you can make a career of being a Darwin Award candidate.

Posted by: Ted at 08:46 AM | category: Square Pegs
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January 01, 2007

Rad Decision

Rad Decision, an online story.

A techno-thriller about a looming disaster at a nuclear power plant, written by an engineer with over twenty years of experience in the American nuclear industry.

So far, the reviews are glowing*.

*No, I'm not going to apologize for that. Neener, neener.

Posted by: Ted at 11:25 AM | category: Links
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Know Your Japanese Movie Monsters, Part 1 - Gamera

Destroy All Planets will make you go “Man! And I’m not even stoned!” which is always the hallmark of an enjoyable bad movie night.
- Sci Fi Movie Page

Everyone knows who Godzilla is, but outside of Japan and a small but devoted group of fans, not many people know who the various monsters are that populate the Japanese Monster Movie universe.

Destroy All Planets will make you go “Man! And I’m not even stoned!” which is always the hallmark of an enjoyable bad movie night.
- Sci Fi Movie Page

I can't think of a better starting point than Gamera. Friend to man, protector of the planet, he's been called Guardian of the Universe (amongst other things, keep reading).

Illustration by Mark Jones, 1996

He's easy to identify (besides being giant, I mean). Gamera is an overachieving turtle with a spiky carapace and two enormous upward pointing tusks. To get around he can draw in his arms and legs and shoot jet flames from the openings, making him spin around like a top as he flies. Physically, he mostly relies on brute force to defeat other monsters, preferring to fly around and bludgeon them. He's crafty and will use wits and guile to win his battles. Being a monster though, he's not above biting and clawing or using his dagger-like elbow spikes to punch holes in the hide of his enemies (great big, deep holes that gush oddly-colored watery blood). Gamera can also shoot fire out of his mouth, but doesn't use that weapon very often.

Young children who are central to the story are almost universal in Japanese monster movies. Fans have collectively dubbed these characters "Kenny".

One disturbing thing about Gamera is his... er, fondness for young boys. Every movie must have one or two youngsters (preferably chubby) who become the human focus of the story. Kidnap the kids and you might control Gamera for a while, but for certain you will piss him off. This trait of Gamera led one reviewer to describe him as "the Michael Jackson of Japanese movie monsters".

Gamera has appeared in at least eleven movies, doing his share of stomping Tokyo, but mostly he's the good guy. These are typical Japanese monster movies, full of crappy dubbing, goofy stories full of illogical plot twists, and cheesy special effects. If you enjoy the genre, you'll love these.

File this under "Big Surprise": In one movie the UN unilaterally surrenders the entire planet to the aliens to save the lives of two hostage boy scouts.

The Shrine of Gamera is a pretty good place to find out about all things Gamera.

Posted by: Ted at 10:58 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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