February 29, 2008

Meet Max

Head on over to Son of Cheese (just click that handy link, how easy is that?) and get all gooshy over Derek and Mrs. Derek's new baby boy.

Posted by: Ted at 06:01 AM | category: Links
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February 26, 2008

Braille Flag

This is inspiring.

Jesus Sanchez Cabral flew his flag until he could no longer see it.

A decorated veteran, he never liked to display his World War II medals. That was showing off.

But the flag was another matter. He hung it on his Hutchinson, Kan., porch every Memorial Day, every Flag Day, every Fourth of July, every holiday.

It was a tradition he kept up until glaucoma blinded him. After that, his flag flew no more. When he died 10 years ago at the age of 82, his wife said it was too bad that he couldnÂ’t see the flag in his final years.

And his son did something about that, designing an American flag for the blind. It describes the colors, the thirteen stripes and fifty stars, and also contains The Pledge of Allegiance.

Over 5,000 of these flags have been distributed to blind veterans, including many who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Next month, a bronze version will be delivered to Arlington National Cemetery for permanent display.

Posted by: Ted at 11:48 AM | category: Links
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Correctly Titled

That is, if you're a theoretical physicist.

An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything

Here's the description:

All fields of the standard model and gravity are unified as an E8 principal bundle connection. A non-compact real form of the E8 Lie algebra has G2 and F4 subalgebras which break down to strong su(3), electroweak su(2) x u(1), gravitational so(3,1), the frame-Higgs, and three generations of fermions related by triality. The interactions and dynamics of these 1-form and Grassmann valued parts of an E8 superconnection are described by the curvature and action over a four dimensional base manifold.

You can download the paper in .pdf format. If you do, feel free to come back and explain it here in the comments.

I'm betting on 42.

Posted by: Ted at 11:25 AM | category: SciTech
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February 25, 2008

Review: Indoctrinate U

Note: I got a free reviewers copy of this new documentary. Details at the end of the post.

Indoctrinate U website.

Many documentaries are biased, and that's ok as long as you recognize it and take it into consideration as you watch. Also, many "documentaries" these days are factually challenged. Michael Moore's work comes to mind. The man knows how to make a compelling feature, it's just that his personal agenda gets in the way so much that he has serious problems telling the whole truth. He picks and chooses facts to present things in a way that supports his viewpoint. A lot of people do that, but he is an extreme practitioner, although not the only prominent one. Al Gore, nuff said.

Indoctrinate U is biased as well, to the "conservative" side. It's a look at American college campuses and how liberal politics and groupthink are enforced by academia and students seeking to suppress opinions that don't match their own. And the great success they've had doing so.

Like any documentary that begins with a specific point of view, most of the footage that ends up in the final product is going to be supportive of that perspective. There were some silly moments shown where the director/interviewer and camera crew wandered several campuses, talking to faculty and staff while looking for the "Men's Study Center". These campuses each had a "Women's Study Center" and the law requires equal treatment.

There were also quite a few scenes where the staffs and faculty would stonewall or tell obvious lies to try to get them to leave. Quite often, the police would be called to escort the camera crew off campus.

But it was also clear from the number of on camera interviews (from both sides of the argument) that those colleges were the exception rather than the rule. I didn't keep count, but I'd guess that probably twenty universities were represented by the various professors in the interviews.

Topics covered affirmative action, speech codes, ROTC and military recruiting on campus, feminism, LBGT issues, diversity and more.

Like I said, I recognize the bias here, but still, I'd heard of most of the events specifically mentioned in the film. I've heard of the "affirmative action bake sales", where minorities are charged lower prices for cupcakes than whites as an illustration of the problems with racial preferences. I knew of the students threatened with expulsion because they violated someone's "right to not be offended" simply by hanging up a flier advertising an event featuring a conservative black speaker. There was so much more.

The point of this all was that college campuses, in general, no longer tolerate diversity of thought. You must think a certain way and believe certain things (or at least keep quiet if you don't). Going against the groupthink doesn't mean you disagree, it means that there is something wrong with you. Grades can suffer, harrassment and even threats may occur, often while the university looks the other way.

I have some personal experience with this, in that I've got two daughters who have directly dealt with this in college classes. I believe that it's real, but I'm biased, and I recognize that too.

Bottom line: Recommended for everyone. If you agree, it'll affirm your beliefs. If you don't, well, it's a good thing to hear someone with an opposing viewpoint once in a while.

*** The Indoctrinate U website offers you the chance to download a couple of different versions of the film. I chose the DVD version, which I would then burn to my own DVD. That was the plan anyway. (There's also a mp4 version for those who prefer it.)

A couple of tries later, I did a little research and found DownThemAll, a download manager plugin for Firefox. It's free and worked like a champ. When the download was interupted or hung up, I simply clicked the pause button for about a minute and then clicked resume, and the download would continue on its merry way. The download file is a little over 4GB, so do yourself a favor and get a download manager first thing.

Once you've got the file downloaded to your hard drive, you can burn the DVD. I used the package that came with my PC, called Nero. Once again, worked like a champ.

Through it all, I exchanged several emails with the support folks at the Indoctrinate U website, and they were quick to respond and genuinely helpful.

Good job guys!

Posted by: Ted at 11:35 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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February 24, 2008

Handy Hint

A toaster works ever so much faster if it's plugged in.

Posted by: Ted at 07:36 PM | category: Square Pegs
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February 23, 2008

It's Not You

I just haven't had the time, energy or inspiration lately to post much.

Posted by: Ted at 06:37 PM | category: Square Pegs
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February 22, 2008

You Learn Something New Every Day

In oriental art, you can tell which country a dragon figure is from by counting the number of toes. A dragon with five toes is Chinese, four toes is Korean and three is Japanese. All three countries have similar legends explaining why this is so and thus why dragons originated in their country.

Posted by: Ted at 06:06 AM | category: Square Pegs
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February 19, 2008

Sony Wins This Time

Toshiba has announced that it is abandoning it's HD-DVD format, which means that Blue-Ray has become the standard for hi def DVD. This comes as no surprise after most major movie studios adopted Blue-Ray as the release format of choice.

Posted by: Ted at 06:06 AM | category: SciTech
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February 15, 2008

Uh... Okay.

So the other night I watched The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai, a recent Japanese "pink film". Here's the plot:

Sachiko is a promiscuous tutor (or maybe she's a hooker... unclear), who stumbles into the middle of a deal involving North Korean secret agents. She gets shot in the middle of the forehead, but instead of killing her it makes her hyper-intelligent, among other things. She winds up with the cloned finger of George Bush, which the Koreans want so they can use the fingerprint to launch nuclear weapons. Sometimes she can tell the future if she sticks the President's finger into the hole in her forehead. Oh, and she is still very, very promiscuous.

Recommended? Hell if I know. I'm still trying to decide if *I* liked it.

Posted by: Ted at 08:35 PM | category: Cult Flicks
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I Blame Tex Avery

You remember those cartoons where a character lights a match in a pitch dark space, and by the flickering light you see that he's in the middle of a room full of dynamite? And he gets that "oh shit" look just before *KABLOOIE!!!*

After the smoke clears, he's standing there, charred and smoking, eyes wide open, wondering just what the hell happened.

Today at work, I lit the match.

All is well, but I was shellshocked for a couple of hours.

Posted by: Ted at 07:41 PM | category: Square Pegs
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February 14, 2008

You're Never Really Blessed Without A Smile

Elisson posted a picture, a picture of the kind I've been searching for for... well, quite some time (almost said "forever"). Tacky, kistchy, it'll make you go "Christ Almighty!" in rapturous awe and wonder.

Not very practical though, and that's where I come in. Add a splash of evil genius mixed with a mad dazzle of my photoshop skills, and... ego? No thanks, I already have one.

Click here to see the Rocket Jones version and it'll open in a new window.

Didja smile? Pray for me.

I have got to get that Cafe Press store up and running.

Posted by: Ted at 05:57 AM | category: Links
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Rice Balls and Ice

The Asia League Ice Hockey spans China, Japan and Korea.

I was surprised to see that the Beijing team is called the Sharks, and their logo looks suspiciously like the minor league logos in the Sharks system. Not a mystery, as it turns out my beloved San Jose Sharks have a development agreement with them, sending five players and three coaches to the team.

The Japanese, as usual, supply the unintentional comedy. Check out the player photos on the team pages, in particular the Seibu Prince Rabbits. Most of the players look like they're stifling giggles because someone secretly farted and the coach is mad.

Also, what's up with the team names? I mean, Prince Rabbits I've heard of (and approve of) because they're the Japanese hockey equivalent to the Yankees, but what the hell is an Ice Buck? Paper Cranes? Oh puh-leeze. And don't even start me on the Oji Paper. That's like rooting for the Oneida Silverware.

Korea fares slightly better, in that their team names are European soccer stupid. The Anyang Halla are technically named after an air conditioner, and the High1 sport the moniker of skis and sporting goods produced by their owning corporation. They also score karma points for being partially made up of demobilized soldiers.

Now, if that all sounds snotty, it is. That still doesn't mean I don't like 'em. Hockey is hockey.

Posted by: Ted at 05:23 AM | category: Balls and Ice
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February 13, 2008

Simulated Physics

Check out this simple toy that lets you play with real physics.

Thanks to Dick's Rocket Dungeon for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 05:45 PM | category: Links
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The Longest Drive

A powerful series of photographs, showing that our Canadian friends know how to pay their respects to a fallen son.

Thanks to Ghost of a Flea for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 11:37 AM | category: Links
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I'll Give You Something to Whine About

Could it be that someone in Europe is growing some balls?

Denmark's leading newspapers reprinted a drawing of the Prophet Muhammad on Wednesday, a day after three men were arrested on suspicion of plotting to kill the cartoonist whose work had spurred deadly protests in the Muslim world.

The papers said they wanted to show their firm commitment to freedom of speech after Tuesday's arrests in western Denmark.

The Jyllands-Posten newspaper, which first published 12 depictions of Muhammad on Sept. 30, 2005, reprinted Kurt Westergaard's cartoon in its Wednesday edition. Several other major dailies also reprinted the drawing, which shows Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse.

I hope so, but the newspapers backed down mighty fast the first time the controversy erupted.

Posted by: Ted at 05:38 AM | category: Links
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February 12, 2008

Solemn Reminder

Yesterday I drove home from work along the usual route, past the Iwo Jima memorial, past the Pentagon and then Arlington Cemetery. Close to the road and up a slight hill, a military funeral was in progress. The horse drawn caisson, the honor guard and the friends and family all gathered for a sad but proud ceremony, in silhouette against the cloudless afternoon sky.

I'm reminded of Bill Whittle's essay titled Honor:

...nowhere in the world do ordinary servicemen or women receive anything like this level of honor and respect and reverence, and she is right. All nations honor their generals and heroes. This nation honors privates and sergeants in indistinguishable fashion.

Walking behind the flag-draped caisson of an Army 2nd Lieutenant that day, I felt that my father was receiving the funeral of the President of the United States. And, number of people on the parade route aside, as a matter of fact, he was.

I often complain about living in this area. I'm sometimes reminded that I'm fortunate beyond words to be living here.

Posted by: Ted at 05:21 PM | category: Links
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February 11, 2008

Just Call Me Jelly, 'Cause I'm On A Roll

In the last two weeks, I've won *two* free books from sites on the internet. First up, thanks to Mapgirl's Fiscal Challenge, I won a copy of the personal finance primer Debt is Slavery. I've already read it and passed it on to my son, and hopefully he'll be able to apply it's concepts to his life. He needs it.

Author James Newman is a regular over at the Wildside Cinema forums, and last week he held a contest for a copy of one of his out-of-print books, Midnight Rain. Yours truly won that one as well, with a childhood story of the uneasy sort. I'm really looking forward to reading this one.

I'd buy lottery tickets, but why break my hot streak?

Posted by: Ted at 05:49 AM | category: Links
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February 10, 2008

Conversation This Morning

Liz and I were lying in bed, and I was telling her about Death Proof, the half of last year's movie Grindhouse directed by Tarantino and starring Kurt Russell.

Me: Kurt Russell's greatest role was Snake Pliskin.

Liz: What? No way!

Me: Name one better.

Liz: ...

Me: And you even knew who Snake Pliskin was.

Liz: What about...

Me: Don't even try Captain Ron.

I named six or seven off the top of my head, including Stuntman Mike, but none compared to Snake Pliskin.

Posted by: Ted at 11:39 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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February 08, 2008

Christmas in February

Yesterday my last Christmas present arrived in the mail. Liz had forgotten that she'd ordered Silent America for me.

Worth the wait.

Posted by: Ted at 06:03 AM | category: Links
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February 07, 2008

More of That "Culture" Stuff

Rachael and I raved so much about Synetic Theater's production of Poe's Fall of the House of Usher that one of her theater professors brought up a couple of vans full of students to see their latest show. They were kind enough to invite me to join them.

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Wordless. All music, dance and movement to tell the story, from the prologue to the final tragic ending. Abso-freakin'-lootly amazing. If you live in the DC metro area, do yourself a favor and check these people out. I think Mookie and I already have a date for May to see Carmen.

To recap:

Synetic Theater. Romeo and Juliet. Highly recommended.

Me. Two vans full of young college girls.

You. Envious because I don't even have to make this kind of stuff up.

Posted by: Ted at 11:31 PM | category: Cult Flicks
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