June 21, 2007

News From Iraq: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

If you aren't reading Michael Yon, you should be. He's been embedded in Iraq for quite some time now and writing about what he sees.

About the current big operation going on:

The enemy in Baqubah is as good as any in Iraq, and better than most. ThatÂ’s saying a lot. But our guys have been systematically trapping them, and have foiled some big traps set for our guys. I donÂ’t want to say much more about that, but our guys are seriously outsmarting them. Big fights are ahead and we will take serious losses probably, but al Qaeda, unless they find a way to escape, are about to be slaughtered. Nobody is dropping leaflets asking them to surrender. Our guys want to kill them, and thatÂ’s the plan.

A positive indicator on the 19th and the 20th is that most local people apparently are happy that al Qaeda is being trapped and killed. Civilians are pointing out IEDs and enemy fighters, so thatÂ’s not working so well for al Qaeda.

Unvarnished truth about civilian casualties, access to information and the daily lives of coalition troops in Iraq. From the point, not from inside the Green Zone.

Posted by: Ted at 04:46 PM | category: Military
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June 20, 2007

Rocket Content

I am now learning the art of making my own electric matches. The point being that you dip the electric match into pyrogen* to create an igniter. The igniter is slipped into the core of a pyrodex pellet which is then placed into the heart of the rocket motor. When the pyrodex pellet is ignited it simultaneously builds the pressure in the combustion chamber, preheats the fuel grain, and burns the fill hose away from the injector which allows the nitrous oxide to make its contribution to the magic of thrust-producing science.

Very. Loud. Science.

*From the Rocketflight Products website comes this description of their Magnelite Igniter pyrogen:

Once ignited the pyrogen burns for approximately one second at a temperature around 5,400 degrees Fahrenheit! Amperage requirement for successful ignition is 5 to 6 amps at 12 volts DC per igniter.

FYI: 5,400 degrees is very close to the temperature of the surface of the sun!

Science, baby!!!

Posted by: Ted at 05:38 AM | category: Rocketry
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New Reviews!

Over at Joe Horror. My contributions this week include reviews of The Curious Dr. Humpp, Waxwork and Waxwork II: Lost in Time.

Posted by: Ted at 05:03 AM | category: Links
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June 19, 2007

Pushing Up Happy Little Daisies

If you're a Bob Ross fan, you'll get the joke up above.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that You Tube has quite a few Bob Ross "Joy of Painting" episodes available, as well as plenty of wicked funny parodies of the gentle man.

Thanks to Brian J though, for pointing out this video inspired by Bob Ross, titled "Why I Don't Paint People". I love it.

Posted by: Ted at 07:18 PM | category: Links
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Sweet Dilemma

Over at The Ministry of Minor Perfidy, Bastille Day has been chosen as D-Day for a soiree involving alcohol, cigars and Axis and Allies.

Alas, like most summer weekends, that particular day offers choices for this social butterfly. The following day, July 15th is Mookie's birthday (she was born, appropriately enough, in Landstuhl, Germany), and we had tentative plans to travel south to see the musical that she is costuming this summer.

If not culture, then Bastille Day also offers my next chance (and last before mid-August) to launch rockets. Despite the lack of posting about them, I still build and fly, and am looking to try some new tweaks to my hybrid system.

And now, the opportunity to push cardboard around and determine the fate of nations via the cast of the die (note to self: check the local game-geek store for yellow dice to honor the French). It's not easy to find people to play wargames with. Correction, it's not easy to find people to play wargames with that you aren't ashamed to be seen in public with.

It's probably no accident that Buckethead lives far out in the countryside at the end of a long dirt road.

Posted by: Ted at 05:28 AM | category: Square Pegs
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June 18, 2007

Targeted Ads

I was reading that news story about the flooding going on in Fort Worth, Texas, and along the column were ads for "Nostradamus Online" and "Surplus Army Tents". Make of that what you will.

Posted by: Ted at 11:17 AM | category: Square Pegs
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Call Me Paranoid, But...

In Warning From Space, aliens came to Earth to "help" mankind. Here's what they looked like:
We responded (rightly, to my mind) by shooting at them.

Recently, I think they've decided to try again. They've developed a disguise to appear friendlier and more likable, but I'm not fooled:
When he jumped out of the box, I was so startled that I responded (rightly, to my mind) by shooting at him.

We've been wanting a bigger television anyway.

Posted by: Ted at 05:41 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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Terrorism Goes To The Movies

I don't have a "Beautiful Sarcasm" category, so this will go under "Cult Flicks" and "Links".

The title is "Terrorism Goes to the Movies" (yep, I stole it for the title above), and it was written last September. Here's a snippet about the movies Alien and the sequel Aliens:

...I have to point out that I was repelled by the socio-political message this movie sends. A team of US Colonial Marines is dispatched to a colony to kill illegal alien beings there. No one mentioned obtaining approval from the United Nations for unilaterally attacking these illegal aliens. And the diplomatic factor was absolutely non-existent, no effort whatever was made to deal reasonably with these illegal aliens, to give them a chance to stand down and cease their hostilities. At no point did the US characters ever ask, "Why do they hate us?"

While it's true an illegal alien killed every member of Ripley's original Nostromo space ship crew without any warning whatever, a stunning surprise attack that terrorized the crew during a meal, there were no follow-up efforts to negotiate any sort of peace with the freedom-fighter -- they just unilaterally decided to kill it, as was the case with a group of these alien beings in the sequel. After the first attack on the Nostromo, everyone should have simply turned the page and moved on. After all, what's passed is past, it's old news. In the sequel, there was no patience or diplomacy whatever in dealings with the illegal aliens, the crew simply attacked and attempted to kill all of them they could.

What if the illegal aliens were driven by an ancient religion that required them to kill all the members of any other species they encountered? Who were these Marines, to question that cultural ideal? The message this sends about such creatures is that the only way to stop them is to kill them, or they will always be striving to kill you. The Marines should have done some yoga instead, and asked themselves again and again, "Why do they hate us?" They at least should have sent in some inspectors -- and if that failed, they should have given the inspections more time to work. Nothing in the world will deter terrorism more effectively than giving inspectors more time.

There is so much more there, funny and oh-so-true.

Posted by: Ted at 05:23 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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June 17, 2007

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Liz and I travelled to the wilds of Maryland last night to see our local team, the Potomac Nationals, play the Frederick Keys. We met up with Nic and Victor and had a great time, although I discovered to my dismay that the P-Nats (a cringe-worthy nickname, if ever I've heard one), suck just as bad on the road as they do at home.

Afterwards, being that we were only a few miles from CharlesTown, we went there and Liz spent a few hours playing the slots. We dragged in, tired but happy (and a tad poorer), at 5am. Liz is still sleeping, and I've spent the morning enjoying Father's Day cards, talking to the girls on the phone and just generally chilling out.

Life is good.

Posted by: Ted at 11:41 AM | category: Links
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Twisted Logic

Methane is a greenhouse gas.
Greenhouse gasses are causing global warming.
Termites eat wood.
Termites fart a lot because of their diet.
Termite farts are methane.
New Orleans was overrun with termites.
Flooding New Orleans killed trillions of termites.
The government is responsible for flooding New Orleans.

Why isn't the federal government getting credit for the single greatest action in recent history to reduce the production of the greenhouse gas that causes global warming?

(inspired by this post)

Posted by: Ted at 09:40 AM | category: Square Pegs
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You Learn Something Every Day

For instance:

The vervet monkey has a vivid blue scrotum which pales when the animal falls in social rank.

But knowing that is mere trivia. The inquisitive mind wants to know why?

Follow that link and be enlightened. Heh.

Posted by: Ted at 08:31 AM | category: SciTech
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June 15, 2007

Near Perfect Shopping Experience

I love shopping at Wal-Mart. It's really quite amazing how every store has pretty much the same stuff, and the economies of scale really keep prices remarkably low. It's not the greatest quality stuff in the world, but it is reasonable quality for an excellent price, and that's why people shop there.

Their inventory and distribution systems work with an efficiency that would've made the Nazi's proud. Their employee drones are helpful and friendly in an eerie stepford wives sort of way.

I'll bet the corporate fat cats rake in the bucks, sitting in their opulent mansions in Sweden, thanking their lucky stars that the anti-globalization crowd leaves them the hell alone so they can take advantage of Sven Everyman...

Wait... Sweden?

I'm sorry, I typed "Wal-Mart", but what I meant to type was "Ikea". I've never heard of any opposition to them. I assume that they get a pass because they're European.

I love the goofy names they give everything. Bookshelves called "Turgid", comic book organizers with a name made up of letters never meant to be consecutive. If they sell a "Muuki", I'm sure it'll be something weird and wonderful like a tofu-wringer or something.

Their showrooms are masterpieces of marketing and psychology. You start at the beginning and follow the arrows on the floor, and you don't get out until you've seen every last thing on both floors. There are convenient shortcuts, and they're not hidden but they are very unobtrusive. You're not supposed to notice them, you're supposed to see every last thing on both floors.

Nothing is free, everything is reasonably priced. I bought some bookcases today and spent a buck for a hank of rope ("Tot", with a long oh, hehe) to tie the trunk lid down. The engineering of the bookcases is magnificent, as was the packaging. For the money we'll get years of use out of them.

The only problem I have with Ikea is the lack of outrage about their corporate existance. I mean, if I'm going to shop at a globe-spanning mega-corporation, I want the guilty pleasure of being reviled for excessive and notable conspicuous consumption. I demand the sly satisfaction of knowing that I'm pissing off a commie or tree-hugger just because I've entered the store. I'm being denied the opportunity to annoy organized labor!

C'mon people, where's the hate?

Posted by: Ted at 09:27 PM | category: Square Pegs
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Movie Review: Dog Soldiers

This is the third in a series of four reviews of horror movies, each more recent than the ones I usually watch and write about. You can find my reviews of The Descent and Ginger Snaps by following those links, or visit the Rocket Jones Cult Flicks category archives.

Dog Soldiers

This 2002 movie was written and directed by Neil Marshall, who followed it up with The Descent. Based on these two films, I'm really looking forward to his future work.

Dog Soldiers is another werewolf movie, but not *just* another werewolf movie. I mentioned in the Ginger Snaps review that according to legend, werewolves kill for pleasure. Now, keep that in mind but take the concept of wolves to the next logical step and you have... werewolves that hunt in packs. Chilling.

A squad of British soldiers is dropped off in a remote area of Scotland for a training exercise. As they make their way through the woods towards their objective, they come across the camp of a group of special forces troops. There's blood and carnage everywhere, but no bodies except for a single survivor, the special forces commander.

Soon enough, they're being pursued by a pack of wolf-like beasts and with the injured special forces officer in tow they make a run for it. As they cross a road, they flag down a woman driving by who gives them a lift to a local farm to get medical assistance and to call for help. At the farm, they find the family missing (or is that "they *don't* find the family because they're missing"? Eh, whatever), and are trapped inside the house when the werewolf pack tracks them down.

This isn't some wussy group of teenagers being hunted, these are trained soldiers armed to the teeth (thanks to the live ammo they collected at the special forces camp). They know how to work as a team, they know how to plan and execute tactics and support each other as they fight. The problem is, wolves may be the ultimate pack hunter, and teamwork is second-nature to them. It's an even fight.

The tension is relentless. There are moments of humor, but the humor isn't there to be funny, it is incidental to the characters and their circumstances. Soldiers bitch, and even in the most dire situations some wag will let slip some gallows humor. This film is full of small, quick smiles that might be laugh-out-loud funny if things weren't quite so desperate.

Warning: the accents get thick sometimes. A couple of times I had to rewind in order to replay a snippet that just didn't translate the first time I heard it.

There is a fair amount of gore and a few squirm-inducing moments, but mostly this is flat-out relentless terror.

Highly recommended.

Posted by: Ted at 05:52 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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If Loving This Is Wrong, I Don't Want To Be Right

Ooo! Ahhh!

Thanks to Triticale for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 05:24 AM | category: Links
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Donnie Darko Fan?

Why yes, I am. Not to the degree of obsession that some folks have...

The IMDB Donnie Darko FAQ.

Posted by: Ted at 05:15 AM | category: Links
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June 14, 2007

Comfortable, Yet Oddly Uncomfortable

I'm walking around the office today sans shoes, since they're still damp after being soaked in the deluge last night.

You were dying to know that, weren't you.

Posted by: Ted at 11:41 AM | category: Square Pegs
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Appreciative of the Chance to Revive an Old Joke

Former U.N. chief Kurt Waldheim has died. He was a long-time sufferer of what came to be known as "Waldheimer's Disease". You know, the one that makes you forget that you're a Nazi.

Posted by: Ted at 10:12 AM | category: Links
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June 13, 2007

Apparently We've All Got A Rich Uncle Somewhere

Check out this fascinating map of the USA, where each state has been renamed to a country with a similar GDP. My biggest gripe is that according to this, I was born in France.

Non! Thanks to QandO for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 10:41 AM | category: Links
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Getting It Right

In the front yard flower beds, I finally decided to go all-perennial this year.

After much perusal of the various catalogs, we decided on a variety of plants from Spring Hill Nursery. One variety is still back-ordered, which is annoying, but two others have been in the ground awhile and are doing beautifully (that last link is to the pink variety, we have the white).

In the front bed, I envisioned this nice purple lavender hedge. Unfortunately, the first batch of six arrived dead and dessicated. Spring Hill immediately shipped a second set, which arrived in slightly better condition, but still not better enough to survive.

This morning in my email inbox was a note letting me know that a credit was on the way. No fuss, no hassle, just making it right.

I'm thinking we're going to order more pincusion flowers. Their "real" name is scabiosa, but they're too pretty to be calling them that.

Disclaimer: There are a lot of negative reviews of Spring Hill out on the net. I've been through some of what a many folks complain about, but it's about what I expect when I deal with them. I'm satisfied with them, but I'm patient. It's what gardening is all about.

Posted by: Ted at 05:13 AM | category: Links
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June 12, 2007


I called in today thanks to a case of the trots. Trying to commute to work in that condition is a little too much like gambling, especially since at the end of the ride I spend another 15 minutes going through card-key checkpoints, turnstiles and cypher-lock doors before getting to my desk (and access to the bathroom).

Speaking of sick, have you heard the latest from the formerly-great state of California?

“Unbelievable” was the reaction from PetPAC today after Members of the California State Assembly voted 41-38 to outlaw the existence of mixed-breed dogs and cats in the Golden State.

Assembly Bill 1634, authored by Los Angeles Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, will allow only select purebred dogs and cats to breed. Pet owners who donÂ’t sterilize their mixed breed pets by four months of age will face a $500 fine and possible criminal penalties.

If you believe that the answer to America's problems is more government, then you are a fool.

Thanks to Random Nuclear Strikes for pointing that one out. If I wasn't ill before, I am now.

Posted by: Ted at 02:01 PM | category: Links
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