Monday, December 27, 2010

How to get published, from Making Light

Here's another iteration of some guidelines for how to get published; these are fairly simple ones.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Neat art blog....Gorey-style drawings, on post-its

Check this one out. I'm not being very imaginative calling this Edwin Gorey-like, as I got that from Boing Boing, but the black ink drawings do have that style, somewhat reminding me of a woodcut. I like the monsters.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Rubberhose, a defense-in-depth crypto program

Reading about the Julian Assange/Wikileaks thing, specifically Sterling's article, let me to this piece of software: Rubberhose. It's a crypto program that encrypts a whole chunk of your drive...and nestles mutliple sets of encrypted text in the same region. It also initializes the chunk by writing random bytes to it. So your real info is hidden among chunks of similar-looking noise. This mirrors an idea I had years ago...I always wondered why people didn't hide crypto in large batches of random bytes. This program does that. But it also allows you to have separate sets of data that use different keys. So, you can actually give up part of the data, and keep the rest. There's no way to tell how many different sets of data are in the encrypted chunk. It's really quite interesting.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pac-Man ghost behavior

This article explaining how pac-man's ghosts work was pretty interesting. Their complex behavior emerges from a few simple rules. I suppose my interest stems from my status as a programmer wannabe more than anything...I'm not super likely to sit down and make a Pac-Man clone, but maybe I'll try to make a working arcade-style game again one of these days.

Sterling on Assange

Here's a thoughtful exploration of Wikileaks and Assange, from the ever-insightful Bruce Sterling.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tiny dioramas photographed to life

Here's a slideshow of an artist who created detailed tiny dioramas of a dystopian world...then photographed them in way that makes them startlingly real.

"Zookrollers Winkelden Ook"

The story "Zookrollers Winkelden Ook," by Tracy Canfield, published earlier this week on Strange Horizons, does all those things I want from a sci fi takes a look at the ways technology can go wrong, and melds it with a deeply emotional and resonant character. In this case, it takes the idea of copying or uploading a personality onto a computer, and mixes it with internet culture: if someone copies you, what happens if that copy gets loose on the wild nets? Now, what if that happens to someone you love? The story didn't go where I expected; I think you'll enjoy the trip.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Two better games of tic-tac-toe

I've been interested in simple paper & pencil games for a while now. Few things are as handy with post-toddler kids as ways to entertain them in a pinch. Here, then, are two games I've found on the net that are riffs on tic-tac-toe.

Now, tic-tac-toe becomes stupid after your first four games. But these games will keep your interest a lot longer:

Abs-trac-toe is a game of occupying space. You apply some simple rules to draw a board with irregularly-shaped regions, and then you take turns marking regions. The player who ends the game with the most adjacent regions wins. That is, you count the borders where two of your regions adjoin to get your score.

Quantum tic-tac-toe was designed as a teaching game about quantum mechanics. You make two moves per turn, but you're marking the possible locations of a move. Only one of those will end up being the actual location of your move, when a measurement is made, later in the game.

Play each of these games a couple of times and you'll have them memorized...and then you'll have two new items in your kidtainment toolkit.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Law and the multiverse

Law and the Multiverse is a blog that addresses important issues of how superheroes and their powers might fit, or fail to fit, into our legal system.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Word count bookmarklet

So, if you're exactly like me, you'll find this useful. :)  Ok, so I'm currently reading tons of short stories online, and they rarely list their wordcount. When I read a story and I like it, I want to know how long it was, in words, usually so that I can be amazed at what the author did in a few words. ;)

This bookmarklet tells you the wordcount of the text you have selected. So it's a quick way to get that info. Before, I would copy the text to a file and then run a command-line wordcount command (the Cygwin version of wc) against it.

UPDATED 12/14/10: I realized after I wrote this that the real story here is not "there exists a bookmarklet for wordcount" but rather, "when you know about the existence of things like bookmarklets, you can search for them, and odds are someone has made something you can use already." Once this idea occurred to me, it was literally one minute before I had this solution in place. Thank you, Google!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tiffin food deliveries in India

I've been fascinated for a while with the Indian practice called tiffin: the delivery of home-cooked meals to schoolkids and office workers. The practice is famous for being assigned six sigma levels of quality by Forbes. The delivery service is incredibly accurate and vast numbers of meals are delivered in a FedEx-style routing where meals are biked to train stations, sorted by destination, loaded onto trains, and then delivered the rest of the way by bike again.

This article is my favorite on the topic so far.

I figure this cultural practice has to rest on a value that isn't shared here in the this case, a very high value placed on home-cooked meals. The article I cite seems to validate this idea. It's not an absolute: it's not like office workers won't eat food at nearby restaurants ever. But there's a strong contingent of people who put a lot of value on these home cooked meals, and who feel that "outside food" is unhealthy.

Now, this makes me wonder what U.S. practices could be similar: things that we do here, perhaps applying great effort to them, that seem unnecessary to other countries. Because that's my reaction to the tiffin thing: it sounds great, but I can't imagine anyone putting the effort into it here.

The only thing that springs to mind are electric clothes dryers, because I read that appliance companies have trouble selling those in Europe, where folks don't see a need for them. It would never occur to me to view a clothes dryer as optional.

But that's not too satisfying because it's not a big effort involving a huge organization. Or at least, though it takes a big org to build a dryer, it's tied right into manufacturing other appliances so it doesn't feel like its own thing.

I suppose the tongue scraper is another good example. I think of that as a Vietnamese thing, but Wikipedia says it originated in India and China. It's something mostly unknown in the U.S. and regarded as essential hygiene elsewhere.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Ghost" costume

I don't even care what this costume is supposed to represent. I just wish I had the figure for it myself. Big gun, small pieces of armor, spandex, and the retro touch of goggles. Awesome.

Daily Science Fiction

I only recently found this site, which offers new sci-fi and fantasy stories every day...looks like a lot of flash fiction. They also offer the rate of $.08/word, and they publish to web, email, and iphone. It's good to find another venue for flash fiction.

Think about eating, reduce appetite

That's one of the findings in a study described in this NPR article, "Just Thinking Harder May Help You Lose Weight" They're not saying that a new diet plan is in the offing...but that they're learning new things about how the mind and appetite interrelate. I wonder if this will play into new models of discipline. It's awful hard to think about avoiding something: try actively not thinking about snacking. Maybe substituting an imaginary meal will help.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Saki's Short Stories

I've become interested recently in the short stories of Saki, an Edwardian writer (b. 1870, d 1916) whose works strike me as alternately weird and hilarious. Call it upper-crust drawing-room stuff with a hint of fantasy.

The story Sredni Vashtar (about a boy and the ferret he loves, only not about that at all) is my favorite so far, but there are lots worth reading. A nice archive is here.

The site also serves as an example of an interesting bit of web work: most of the story texts are taken from Project Gutenberg, but the site dresses them up quite a bit. Gutenberg is like a dusty giant tomb of stacks compared to this. So if you've discovered an out-of-copyright author whom you love, there's nothing to stop you from taking texts from Gutenberg and making a nice homage site of your own. Get started, and send me the link. :)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Ms. Liberty Gets a Haircut, from Strange Horizons

I am really not getting tired of prose stories about superheroes. Here's one by Cat Rambo, from Strange Horizons, that I liked. I'm not sure why the ending works, but I think it does.

Ms. Liberty Gets a Haircut, by Cat Rambo

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Still enjoying _Machine of Death_

I've read at least ten of the stories in this anthology now. There's only one that fell short of greatness. I've read a lot of short story collections, and I usually like about half of the stories in a collection, not almost all of them. I'm impressed with this thing.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shirtless Kirk Cologne

I saw this cologne offered in a display case at my favorite Arlington, Texas comic shop, Lone Star Comics:

Monday, November 29, 2010

No Christmas cards

I gave up the Christmas card slog a few years ago and I've never been happier. Dropping something off my plate is always a good thing, but I don't think anything has cheered me so much since I realized I could quit playing soccer when I was about 12 years old.

I used to really like writing Christmas cards. I enjoyed writing something personal and (presumably) amusing in each one. But as my target list grew to more than a hundred people, it became a crazy chore. And then I found that I wouldn't finish my list. Sometimes my favorite people would never get a card. Then I had Christmas Card Guilt.

I still write cards. I write lots of cards, in fact. I'm a card-writin' kind of guy. And I even hand-make a lot of my cards. But I do them all year long. I don't do a big pile during that Special Stressful Time of Year. I don't make a big list and worry about it.

I'm so much happier.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

_Chew_ Volume 2

This graphic novel was odd. It's volume 2, so I'll assume that some of the premise was set up in vol 1. I just grabbed it at random off the library shelf. But it has some hilarious elements to it: The main character, last name "Chu", has psychic powers: he gets informational visions from whatever he eats. That struck me as only mildly weird until I realized that as a federal agent type dude, he was going to be sent to crime scenes and expected to ... taste things.

Whatever you're thinking, it's worse than that.

Meanwhile they live in a world where chicken is prohibited for some reason. And there's a plant that tastes like chicken, which gets fought over.

Really, you should check it out.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Herbie the Love Bug costume

I don't have a bunch of cool Halloween costume photos this year because we were unable to do trick-or-treating...we went to a wedding that took place on Halloween weekend, and we flew back Sunday night during the trick or treat hours.

But of course I do have cool and crafty friends. I've never seen a Herbie the Love Bug costume before, but this is now my favorite. Homemade, of course. I got these in e-mail from my friend Glen, showing his son's 2010 costume:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Scientific evidence that shrinkage is real

I'm as happy as Seinfeld's George to announce conclusive evidence that cold water causes fish.

Too bad that won't help with George's problem.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Stop blaming homeowners for the mortgage crisis

Scarier than any thriller, Matt Taibbi's account of Florida's special court for foreclosures describes a world where you can find your house taken away even if you make your payments, and find your efforts to talk to your bank or make some kind of accomodation stymied at every turn. The scary part? He's talking about the real world that we all actually live in.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Concrete misprints

So, I used to work for a company that made rapid prototyping can think of them as 3D printers. Here are some photos of mistakes from a process that takes the same idea and writes it large -- machines that extrude concrete to make buildings.

I don't know what to think about these photos. They seem to show the houses as if suspended on steel cables in midair...which seems impossible. One page I looked at seemed to imply that these were just computer visualizations of the bad results, but the original source page says that elderly people are currently living in these houses...saying that the houses were built wrong and then put to a charitable use.

Real or not, though, these grotesque abortions of the extrusion process are quite amazing to look at.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Received my copy of _Machine of Death_

I received my copy of the short story anthology Machine of Death today. I've already read the first story, "Flaming Marshmallow," which was excellent. I mentioned the anthology earlier here.

One Story, a literary magazine with precisely one story per issue

I bumped into this thing while reading about John Hodgman for yesterday's post: a literary magazine that publishes only one story per issue, puts out 18 issues a year, and tries to create a user community. It is non-profit, subscription-based, and the printed copies are sized to fit in a pocket. Sounds like a great way to put some interest back in the short story.

So many interesting choices here. They also never repeat an author. Subscribing to this for just one year sounds like it would be an adventure. It's going on my want list.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Judge John Hodgman Podcast

If you aren't already a fan of the inimitable John Hodgman, you probably just haven't put the name with the face. Now he's become a sort of Judge Wapner, only funnier, with a podcast where he addresses important issues, like whether or not machine guns are robots.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

This just in...Pope approves use of condoms

...using language full of qualifications, but still, this is a big step towards rationality from the Catholic Church.

Pope approves use of condoms in fight against Aids

Friday, November 19, 2010

Drawing of medieval British town

I found this drawing of the now-abandoned town of Sarum to be pretty evocative. Although walled cities with castles inside are common, this concentric design with a big moat around the central castle is striking. Seems to me it would feel quite odd to live in such a space.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Speed Creating

I am always interested in creativity exercises; here's a record of a month of 'speed creating' by an artist. He was trying to make something new every day. He made some weird things, and some of them are pretty interesting. I think the soccer ball that makes a smoothie was my favorite.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Let sleeping husbands lie

Sleeptalking, and the heartache it can cause. I laughed and laughed.

Chris Ryniak creature sculptures

I love the mix of whimsy and ugliness in these creatures.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Father's Day" by Jen Larsen

This story is only 400 words long, but I thought it packed quite a punch for all that. And anything with mad scientists in it gets my vote. From Strange Horizons.

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Roosts" by Zach Brockhouse, NPR winner

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be in the car to catch a live reading of this 600-word story from the Weekend All Things Considered Three Minute Fiction context. It's a knockout. Give it a look here.

The contest included required first and last sentences:

"Some people swore that the house was haunted,"

"Nothing was ever the same again after that."

They received 5,000 entries for the contest.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"The Second Conquest of Earth" by L.J. Daly

Here's a story from the Strange Horizons archives that I read recently and very much enjoyed. Courage under pressure, a unique point of view, an interesting setting.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

How to keep a cell reference in Excel from changing when you copy a formula

I like Excel, but I've never tried too hard to develop much skill with it. I don't know the lingo, I don't know the questions to ask, I don't quite know what's possible with it.

Here's something I discovered, that solved a problem of mine, and I really didn't know it was what I was looking for...absolute cell references.

Say you have a range in a formula, and you paste the formula somewhere else, but you really want the range to stay the same. Well, Excel changes all cell references by default. But if you write a reference to cell A3 as $A$3, then it will remain the same when you copy and paste.

I used that to good effect in a formula that added something from the top of the spreadsheet. I didn't want it to spread past the current row...I wanted a value that represented the total up to that row. So I started with a range of $A$1:A2, and copied it down. In the next row, that became $A1:A3, and so on: exactly the behavior I needed.

Friday, November 12, 2010

New takes on fantasy races

Recently I learned about some neat takes on fantasy standards. I love it when people reinterpret goblins, trolls, elves, dwarves, and the like.

One such take that is completely available online is the dwarves of the Dwimmermount campaign, as covered in gamemaster James Malizewsk's Grognardia blog. Here's a link to all of his posts about dwarves. In a nutshell, his dwarves are more like earth elementals than demihumans; they are all male, and they reproduce by carving sons for themselves, taking their time to do keep carving and decorating your son statue with gems, and if you keep at it long enough, he might just wake up. He might also come out a monster. It's wild and wonderful and interesting.

I've also been reading about the Paizo D&D book Classic Monsters Revisited, which takes on goblins, ogres, bugbears and others and gives them a lot of personality. You can find some of this information online; for example, here's some information about goblins. I found enough in this review of the book to make me want to get a copy. You can actually still get this book in paper or pdf format from

Thursday, November 11, 2010

If Mick Jagger responded (with great insight) to Keith Richards' autobiography

Look, I don't know much about the Rolling Stones. They were not an iconic band for me. But the writing, the insight involved in this pretend response (by a longttime rock critic) is amazing. It's become a bit of a sensation.

Here's the piece, on Slate.

Here's some explanation about the piece, by the author. Note that he wrote it using only facts he was very sure of. Very interesting.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New verb, 'griggs', from Cooks Source copyright theft story

If you haven't seen the Cooks Source copyright-infringement story, it's pretty entertaining. Some blogzors are trying to make a new verb, 'griggs', from the name of the villain of the piece. See here: Judith Griggs. Also, the always interesting Robert X. Cringely wrote an editorial about the whole episode, here.

Petty gods book is taking submissions

While I'm talking about Grognardia, I should mention that Mr. Malizewski is compiling a role-playing game sourcebook, a collection of petty gods for D&D-like settings. The descriptions of them are entertaining and anyone can contribute. The submissions are due by December 31, 2010. Go here for the open call page. Here's a sample petty god.

This thing will pay in prestige only; it's going to be a free pdf compilation.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Grognardia advises GMs to stop making sense

This post by James Malizewski of the Grognardia blog really hit home for me....bringing up how fantasy worldbuilding changes for you as you get older, and how you can have better games by not approaching the game as a vehicle for expressing the gamemaster's idea of a world -- the thing to remember here, I think, is that the only thing that a role-playing game does better than a computer game or a book is the interactive expression of the gaming group's imagination. In other words, if you're not interested in incorporating others ideas and riffing off them, you're probably better off writing a book.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Key lime pie

If it weren't for the mountain of limes you have to juice to make this, this would be a super easy pie to make. I made one last night and it was delicious.

Here's the page I used for instructions:

According to this page, the pie was originally made without heat: like ceviche, it used the acid of the lime juice to cook the pie (to denature the proteins in the eggs, that is). However, we don't do this anymore because of the need to cook the eggs to kill salmonella germs.

I was short an egg yolk...this recipe called for 4 and I only had 3. I reduced the amount of condensed milk that I used, too, but I eyeballed that, so I don't think I can easily reproduce the exact proportions.

This was easy to make and turned out great.

Friday, November 05, 2010

The laryngeal nerve as evidence of evolution

Interesting video with Richard Dawkins, showing how the Mammmalian laryngeal nerve shows evidence of evolution.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

"Origin", about a super-pregnancy

I was digging through the Strange Horizons archives and found this one. I don't think I've seen a bigger selection of fine superpowered prose than at Strange Horizons. They have a lot of stories about superpowers. Anyway, this one is great. It hits some of the same notes as the British comedy My Hero, but without being as silly. You've got a super-couple, but both partners have powers, which balances things, and there's the added fun of a supervillain character. Have at it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Random hireling generator

This is fun. Generates men-at-arms for D&D games, using a mechanic designed to simulate the experience of advertising for hirelings at a local town. Meatshields.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

An essay about The Parent Trap

If this remarkable post about the Disney movie The Parent Trap (with Haley Mills) is good example, I may be stopping by this blog a lot more often. I laughed out loud.

Kicked off Cheerleading Squad in Texas Because She Wouldn't Cheer Her Rapist's Name

A sixteen year old who accused a boy of raping her (he pled to a lesser charge) found herself kicked off the squad when she wouldn't cheer him by name (when he was out of jail during some portion of the proceedings). Ms. Magazine article; article.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tea party longing for a past that never was; problems with our future

Michael Ventura talks about the tea party and the future of the nation in a recent Austin Chronicle column.

"This is subtler than simple racism. I doubt most tea partiers are more overtly racist than most white liberals. Rather, what's at play is an innate sense of worth conferred by one's birth – a status and an identity that have been not intentionally destroyed but inevitably dissolved by circumstances impossible to reverse. The country they want back no longer exists."


"We graduate and fail to graduate hundreds of thousands of unprepared young people every year. This can only make for a population incapable of informed decisions, incapable of improving itself, and incapable of keeping up with what's going on in the rest of the world.
That is not a citizenry. That is a peasantry."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Anthology _Machine of Death_ going for Amazon best-seller status -- buy today to help

This is interesting. Machine of Death is a project spearheaded by Ryan North, author of Dinosaur Comics. I remember when this started, as a themed story contest project. The central theme is about a machine that can tell you when you're going to die.

Anyway, they're trying some interesting marketing based on the fact that you don't have to sell so very many copies in a single day to be an Amazon best seller. Check out the details here. I bought a copy; it's less than ten dollars.

Also...note that it took five years to make this book happen. I keep reading stuff like that...that if you're writing a book, you should think in terms of devoting five to eight years of your life to it. I like that kind of perspective and it's interesting to see it validated. I think knowing that kind of thing could be useful along about year 3 when one's motivation starts to flag.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Joe goes to anime expo

Super funny.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Random city map generator

I'm still in love with random map generators. I guess I fear that at any moment I might be called upon to run a game of D&D without a map.

Any code that produces an interesting map is interesting to me, though. I haven't seen a city map maker before, so this one is interesting.

Dan Clowes graphic story "Mr. Wonderful" for free online

Dan Clowes writes stories whose main characters are typically painfully awkward jerks, and there are some really painful moments in this one. But I really liked how it developed. Give it a look.

By the way, the Times does a weird thing on these comics pages. They put the LAST page of the book FIRST. So, skip that first link labeled 'Conclusion', read starting with chapter 1, through to the end (and note that though the links list 2 chapter 18s, it's really ch18 and ch19). Then after reading the last one, go back to the first link and read that one. Yes, it's worth it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Knitted skeleton

The complexity and beauty of this knitted form is worthy of note. Also, skeletons are cool. This one was pointed out to me by my lovely wife, whose yarn skeins reproduce like tribbles.

Image is from the artist's page and used to link there.

Man-meeting tips

Here's a link to a Metafilter topic that links to videos of a lady promoting her book about how to meet European men. Unintentional hilarity badonkadonk. Must be seen to be believed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Alien costumes, "They're Here"

Found this on Flickr today:

T H E R E                                                H E R E

Hellboy on USAToday

Apparently I finally crossed over to an alternate universe yesterday, one in which Hellboy gets put online as a webcomic on USAToday.

I'm so not complaining about this.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Seven Sexy Cowboy Robots" by Sandra McDonald

Kinda blown away by how warm and funny this short story turned out. Check it out.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Tanya and I saw the movie Red this weekend. Tanya had seen the trailers and we'd both wanted to see it, which was great. I liked the trailers too, even before I saw that it was based on a Warren Ellis book that I hadn't known about.

Totally recommended. 

The premise is great: retired spies suddenly find that they're being hunted down, and have to survive while trying to figure out why.

There are several wrinkes to this idea that I won't go into...I liked, though, how the trailers gave you the right impression while not giving you any plot details. The movie didn't begin the way I expected it would.

I wonder what it's like to be a writer and learn that Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, and Hellen frickin' Mirren are going to be doing a movie based on your book. That has to rock your world.

A quick look over the web suggests that the movie isn't a whole lot like the book. I'll have to see if I can get a copy of the book now. Then I'll have to try not to compare them. :)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

_Aquaman: Once and Future_ by Kurt Busiek

I'm on a little bit of a Kurt Busiek kick. I'm a big fan of Astro City and I feel like I've come late to the party there...though it means I can catch up via trade paperback volumes in the library.

This was a reboot of the whole Aquaman story, most of which I'm ignorant about (he got a water hand? What the hell do you do with a water hand?).

(This particular story doesn't contain a water hand.)

Anyway, this story was pretty good. The only quibble I'd have is that it introduces a new Aquaman who is made out to be a great deal like old Aquaman reborn, but it doesn't do much of anything to set up the new guy. I dunno how it should have gone though. It had a good plot, and the new guy's plight is pretty interesting. He's a guy who was raised in isolation because of his birth-defect-need-to-breathe-water, who gets tossed into the sea by a storm that kills his family.  I think we needed to spend some time with him in his normal life before we meet him in the crazy undersea adventure world of DC comics, where his buddy is a humanoid shark named King Shark.

Not to diss King Shark. He was my favorite character, and the cover art of him is great. I'd like to build a facsimile of the spear/sword thing he's holding.

If this whole setting appealed to me a little more, I could see following along to volume 2 to see if it fills in some more background and really grabs me.

Funny thing: I was checking this book out at the library, and the fellow checking me out said, "Aquaman? Who's that?" He said he recognized some other superheroes, but not that one. Aquaman, of course, never gets any respect, which is the reason for a reboot.

I had a similar reaction to the John Constantine: Joyride book I read recently, and perhaps this explains why not everyone is as much in love with The Ultimates as I am: The Ultimates is an Avengers reboot, and the Avengers have some heavily iconic Marvel characters. I know the Marvel history better, I've read a lot more Marvel comics, I revere them. So a reboot of those is an easy sell. The DC reboots don't have any such chords to strum.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Two photos of wee me

My dad just sent me a couple of photos from when I was very small, about three years old.
Theory here is that I'm being punished.

Dad says this was my catch. If so, that's basically more fish than I caught in the whole rest of my life.

_Mouse Guard: Fall 1152

This book was a disappointment. It had evocative art and I'd seen it around and had high hopes for it. I liked the images of mouse towns nestled in the woods.

But the story was opaque. It seemed like a lot happened between chapters and was implied rather than stated, and I didn't feel like I really got it, nor did I ever feel invested in the characters.

UPDATE 10/19/10: My thirteen-year-old son thought it was great, it turns out. He asked me to find him some more issues.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Two years in prison

One guy's report about his time in prison. Well worth a read.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My fam without me at a playground

These pics are from June 2010.

Lily, Dad, Tara

Ethan, Lily

He ain't heavy, he's my grandson

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

_Bad Luck and Trouble_ by Lee Child

I hate to describe the Jack Reacher novels as revenge fantasy books, not because it's not accurate, because it totally is, but because it sounds so sordid. These books are tons of fun and they're edge of your seat thrillers.

But what I'll remember about them now is that I gave one ... this one ... to my dad, and he said he couldn't put it down.

Seeing my dad's reading tastes and my own start to overlap a little is one of the pleasures of growing up. Back when I was reading revenge fantasies like the Demon Princes novels of Jack Vance, and my dad impounded one of them for a while because of its lurid cover, I couldn't have predicted this would happen. (It was The Palace of Love. Those are great books, by the way.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Misconceptions about publishing, by Charles Stross

Charles Stross, author of the Merchant Princes series, wrote a series of blog postings on the topic of misconceptions about publishing, and you can get to them here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nesting bowls turned on a foot-powered lathe

Spend a few minutes watching this video of a fellow making bowls on person-powered lathe. I thought it was fascinating.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

"Who in Mortal Chains" by Claire Humphrey

This story has a pretty ambiguous ending, and yet I found it satisfying. A strong woman character who operates in an unstereotypical way.

"Who in Mortal Chains" from Strange Horizons.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Constantine, _Joyride_ by Andy Diggle, and other hard-boiled wizards

So, I've started to take an interest in the John Constantine: Hellblazer series. But I still haven't read all that much of it. This book is by Andy Diggle, whom I've also started to take an interest in.

It was good. However, I see on the cover that there's a quote from Brian K. Vaughan, one of my favorite comics writers, saying it's a "Must-read." Well, it didn't feel that way to me. On reflection, though, I suppose that violent adulation of this comic would stem from the fact that it's supposed to rebuild the character of John Constantine and take him back to his roots.

Well, I didn't read the roots, so that stuff doesn't have much impact on me. Maybe I should take a look at this book later.

I have to say though the more I read about Mr. Constantine, the more I am interested in the character. He feels like a hard-boiled mage, similar to that Chicago wizard, what's his name.. oh, yes, Dresden. The Dresden Files guy. I should like the Dresden Files maybe more than I do. I read three and a half of those books, they were pretty good, but they didn't grab me as much as some other things I was reading at the time. So I'll probably take another look at Dresden sometime.

I do think the hard-boiled mage template has legs, though. I really like Glen Cook's version of it, Cold Copper Tears and so forth, with the mage private investigator Garrett. Looking these up now, I see that the series, with its three-word titles, has episodes called Angry Lead Skies and Cruel Zinc Melodies. I wonder if Mr. Cook is regretting the title pattern now. It's got to be difficult to keep coming up with new ones. I know that one consequence of that title pattern is that the title and the book aren't tightly linked, so I have trouble remembering which plot goes with which title. 

Thursday, October 07, 2010

"Swan Song", short story about sex ed

What's it like to teach sex ed to a bunch of drone students? This excellent and exceedingly short story muses on the kinds of dangerous daydreams one might have as an aging teacher facing that task with a bunch of no-account youth. It's from Monkey Bicycle, a fiction webzine.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

They've come to replace our ping pong players

Take a gander at this promotional web page and its video about the Newgy Robo Pong 2050.

Now, let's walk through this. They're not marketing it as something heavy-duty pong players might want for practice purposes, so much as they are aiming at fun-for-the-family. Somehow they think that you increase togetherness by getting a ping-pong table, and then making it possible to play solo. It's really odd. Also, they offer it as the working mother's solution to the difficulty of getting exercise.

Settlers of Catan, on the Microsoft Surface

Video of people playing Catan on Microsoft's fancy multiuser touchscreen thing. Oh, and with a celebrity from 30 Rock.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Did you know?

Did you know that if you use a glue gun while wearing sandals and watching TV, and you take your eyes off the glue gun for a minute, and the glue drips onto your foot, and the dripping glob of burning glue slides down the side of your foot causing increasing pain, and you grab the glob of glue with your fingers to get it off your foot, then you can burn both your hand and your foot in the span of a few seconds?

Guess how I know?

Books of Magick: Life During Wartime, book 1

Now this book really piqued my interest. It make me want to delve much deeper into all the John Constantine sagas. However, it should be said that this seems to be a quite different, alternate John Constantine, and what I like about this book is the stuff that's different. Basically we're looking at a world of magic where humans are under siege, and there are magical analogies for real-world horrors. For example, cluster spells...with the same danger to noncombatants.

This is the sort of thing that could be great or silly, but I liked how this was handled. It's dark and detailed and lovely.

The book sets up lots of intrigue and flips between John Constantine as a besieged leader versus the Faerie Queene and her awful minions. Props for Zatanna as a spy/terrorist, kicking butt.

Monday, October 04, 2010

There are Islamic community centers being built right here in America!

I've been lackadaisical in following the supposed furor over a religious community in New York building on a site they've already been using, that happens to be near the sight of the downed Twin Towers. So I missed this wonderful Jon Steward riff on the situation:

I love how he points out that Americans have protested mosques just because they are mosques, in a NIMBY sort of way.

Twitter activism overblown; realities of online activism

I thought this New Yorker article (link below) by Malcom Gladwell was really've probably heard that Twitter was thought to be a big deal in Iranian protests in 2009, but in fact almost everyone twittering about Iran was in the West. Gladwell talks about the difference between getting people to do difficult things -- like a protest where you could be beaten or arrested -- and getting them to donate a little money or express an opinion. He says big distributed networks are good for the later, but you need a hierarchy for commitment.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Short story "The Dungeon Master" in The New Yorker

A short story about D&D in The New Yorker. It's a pretty good story. It's not really about D&D, of course, so much as it is about angsty teenagers, but still.

Saturday, October 02, 2010


What's not to like about dwarves? Especially free dwarves. These came from a stash that my friend Chris decided to get rid of, by donating them to deserving me. This forced me to become deserving, by actually painting some of these miniatures.

UPDATED 10/3/10....

I can't believe how much angst I've built up over my Warhammer army. It's so full of...goals and issues and things I want to fix and am I willing to go play a game with strangers at the hobby shop and get trounced a few hundred times since I'm not actually very good at wargames yet.

There's a suprising amount of bullshit in my head over this stuff. I should focus on how very much I enjoy building and painting the miniatures, and how miniature figures have shown me that there's a whole branch of modeling, distinct from building cars and planes and spaceships, that I love and that I didn't know about until I tried it with the Warhammer models.

Friday, October 01, 2010


Pal Mikael, of Birding on Broadmeade, recently went to Port Aransas where he took some striking photos, including this one of a pair of Crested Caracaras. Would you believe you can take a photo like this in Texas? Photo links you to the Flickr set.

Crested Caracaras

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Junk spaceship model

I got the kids involved in building models out of junk with me one weekend. 

Here's the model I worked on myself...first a few finished shots...

Kinda reminds me of a Matrix vehicle. 

Here are some pre-paint shots...

Hot glue, plastic bits, a container from the recycling bin, and spray paint. This one turned out pretty nice after painting...but it looks much better in person than in my photos. Flash highlights all the imperfections.

What I learned from this project was that it's useful to mount your base piece (in this case, a lemon juice container) on some kind of stand to start with, and that hot glue leaves lots of spiderweb-like strands that are super annoying.

This project was quick and satisfying. It's kind of impressionistic and didn't require any planning. Now, if you wanted clean joints and precise details, then you'd have to work in a much more precise way.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chloe's banana hobby is out of control

This is not her Halloween costume, by the by. No, she wants to be a table for Halloween.
She started collecting bananas on our Germany trip. Below is her version of cannibalism.

She purchased this costume with her own money at Goodwill.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lou the clown

This is a character I've been drawing for some years now, in whiteboard form.

Chile Rellenos

Chile rellenos are something I've enjoyed but considered too complicated to make at home. But I've been  buying chiles lately, and after family friend Marie showed me how to roast them, I found myself with roasted chiles and some taco-seasoned ground beef handy. So I mixed the ground beef with grated cheese, stuffed it into the chiles, and dredged them in seasoned flour and eggwash, frying them in a small pan. I didn't try to deep fry them, just used a half inch of oil. It didn't take long, and they were delicious...and I didn't have to so much as crack a cookbook.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that my wife is a font of knowledge when it comes to cooking.
"Do I do the egg wash first or the flour?"
"Flour, egg wash, and then flour again."

Sadly, I couldn't convince my capsaicin-phobic family to try 'em, but they were delicious. I only wish I'd had some cooked chicken handy. Next time I'll try that for a filling.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Yes, Hitlercorns. Warning, swearing unicorns.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Slowly increasing the wordcount

This month I decided to go from 500 words a day to 750 words a day. So far so good. It makes me stretch just a little. Maybe I'll go to 1k/day in December.

It sort of cuts down on the odd hobby stuff. I still do crafts and whatnot, but I can only do what I can do in addition to family and writing. I'm generally happy with that choice: at the least, I'm producing art every day. Seems like wordcount alone isn't enough: I have a tendency, I think, to drag out projects without a deadline. My current project always has something else wrong with it that needs to be fixed. But more writing certainly helps.

Chinese chess

I got this Chinese chess set for a dollar at a garage sale yesterday. I found some rules here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Spiderman on Broadway

Look, I can't explain it. I just heard about it: Spiderman on Broadway.


Writing and guilt

Here's one way to get yourself to write every day:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Green Arrow _Quiver_

I don't know much about Green Arrow, but I know what I like. Rather, I'm growing to like this character the more I read about him. The renditions of him I've seen recently have a nice attitude, a  sense of humor and yet a social consciousness. This book, which is more or less about bringing back the Green Arrow of old, went more metaphysical than I expected, but now I don't know why I didn't expect that....if you're bringing back someone who's dead, well, you're going to need to go metaphysical. And the DC Universe has a deep library of supernatural characters to draw on. I don't know much about them either....I still feel like I'm learning my way around the DCU. But I'm more and more interested.

Etrigan the demon makes an appearance. Speaks in rhyme. Fun stuff.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

_Ender's Game_ graphic novels by Christopher Yost

I recently revisited Ender's Game via these graphic novels. They were a pretty good rendition of the book (at this remove; it's been years since I read the novel).
I was impressed with how quickly I became invested in the characters. I can't evaluate how that would work if I hadn't read the novels, though. I note that my 13-year-old son, while enjoying them, did not seem particularly excited about them. Hard to say, though -- he's less and less willing to SHOW excitement. :)

In any case, I thought these were well worth a read.

Stormtrooper photos from Flickr

Here are a couple of interesting stormtrooper costume photos I bumped into.

Samurai Stormtrooper

Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Read an RPG Book in Public Week Coming Again

 Read an RPG Book in Public Week is back....

  • September 26th - October 2nd
  • February 28th - March 6th
  • July 25th - 31st

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A little thought about corn syrup

I thought this summary of corn syrup and diet from Maggie Koerth-Baker (of Boing Boing) was extremely interesting. Her main points are: It's a sweetener, not the devil, and its main impact comes from its cheapness allowing producers to put it in a lot of our food. Hence we need to be reducing our sugar intake, not freaking out about corn syrup. Check it out for a cogent summary and links to more detail.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Puzzle game "Puzzgrid" based on UK game show

This thing looks pretty addictive. Figure out the links between words in the grid.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Green Arrow Year One...script by Andy Diggle

I was looking for comic book scripts online, to get an idea of how to write one, and this one caught my eye. It's a good read, and now I want to read the whole series (this is the script for issue 1 of a 6-issue series).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wedding surprise: To Life

Apparently I really really need to watch Fiddler on the Roof. This video documents a wedding reception surprise from groom to bride....and a pretty dedicated family: everyone involved met secretly and practiced for a month.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

_Murder City_ by Charles Bowden

This was the scariest book I've every read, and that's saying something after reading The Corner last year. But I called that one the saddest book I'd read.

This book makes graphic the simply vast number of people who are being murdered in Mexico in general, and in Juarez in particular. There were many striking things about what Bowden says in this book, but here are a few that stuck out for me:

  • People like to say that it's just drug cartel people killing each other, but in fact people of every description are being killed.
  • Cops are being killed. But then you learn that lots and lots of cops are compromised. Now, imagine trying to be a clean cop in that environment.
  • The US gives money to the Mexican army to fight the drug war. The Mexican army goes around shooting and beating cops. And collects drug money.
  • Really, the police and army are just another gang fighting for the drug money.
  • But people don't just get killed for drugs. There's a thriving and industrialized kidnapping business. A gang will keep maybe a dozen people in a house while they bleed their family of money. No one goes to the cops; the gangs are tightly connected to the cops, or ARE the cops. Nearly all kidnap victims are killed.
  • I kept fantasizing about "what if the US legalized drugs, ending the market for Mexican drugs." However, Mexico now has a lucrative local drug market, and lots of people who solve their problems by killing. There'll be no quick answer to this problem, though surely ending the US drug money would help.
  • Top cartel folks have state police as bodyguards
  • The folks doing the murdering don't really know who it is that is giving them orders.
  • The army has always been used to beat down the people, in Mexico. Imagine the US government today sending a few thousand army troops to pacify a US city.
  • If you deliver drugs, you make some money...but if it goes bad and you lose the drugs, you are charged retail price of the drugs,.... an impossible you suddenly owe more than you can you get killed. This is GOING to happen to you eventually.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Kickass: Late to the party

Finally got a chance to watch Kickass this weekend. Wow. This movie was a lot of fun. It was odd the way it both pointed out all the problems with costumed crimefighting and also kicked butt.

Think about what the movie would have been like if you dropped the title character out of it and focused on Big Daddy and Hitgirl. It would have been Batman and Robin but with a father-daughter angle (which is awesome) and then there's the way they don't have Batman's reluctance to kill.

But that goes hand in hand with what makes Kickass awesome. Hitgirl's ruthless killing, just mowing people down, makes her awesome and batshit crazy at the same time.

Anyway, I just finished watching the movie a few minutes ago. These are just the first thoughts out of my head. But right now this is my favorite comic-book movie of all time.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Let's play tarot

I didn't know that tarot cards were originally used for a plain old ordinary card game. Makes sense, though, doesn't it? It's a trick-taking game with the major arcana used as trump cards. Apparently the game didn't catch on in the English-speaking world, where the cards were instead mystified and used for divination. The other fun fact I learned by reading the Wikipedia article on the tarot was that tarot divination isn't that old...just since the 18th century.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Best movie finale scene ever

And the award for most creative use of a helicopter goes to...this Bollywood scene.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dangers of vanity surfing

Wikipedia may curse at you. But maybe it's just me.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Stories for the stations of the London Underground

I bumped into this web site, Minor Delays, I think it was on metafilter. The author aims to provide a short story for each station on the London Underground. The one story I looked at looked interesting, but I can't say I've spent much time on it yet. It's just that the idea sounded interesting.

Some days everything I encounter sparks a story idea. And a lot of the story ideas, even the ones I end up writing down, don't make any sense to me later. They represent fleeting interests or enthusiasms. My current conviction is that the most important thing about a story idea is that it interest you enough to get you to finish the story.

I'm much more interested in story structure now, and believe that any story idea that is to be turned into a real and satisfying story must have a lot of work done to it. But that doesn't make me any less subject to fleeting enthusiasms.

I'll throw a small amount of work at almost any idea that I like, but on the other hand I've got several stories that I've been writing and rewriting for years. And the interesting thing here is that is still get a big kick out of working on them. Some of them are probably stories that I should just abandon. I've got one that I've abandoned several times and I still come back to it...still trying to get a solid story out of it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

_The Chess Players_, movie by Satyajit Ray

I watched this movie last week. It gave an interesting view of colonial Indian conflicts with a foreground plot of two rather silly chess-obsessed noblemen. It was fun and interesting but lagged in parts, which I mostly attribute to not being used to Indian movies and then encountering it in subtitled form. There are a lot of funny moments in this film, and my ten-year-old was able to appreciate it too. There were tragedies as well, and I think the impact of those was lessened by the cultural distance. I think I'll see more Indian movies, I think they'll grow on me.

This film was recommended to me by an Indian lady I worked with long-distance. I don't know much about the progress of the British East India Company's takeover of India but I know a little more now, thanks to browsing sparked by this movie. A very interesting subject.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lily birthday photos

Here are some belated photos from Lily's birthday party...a simple affair involving cupcakes and a backyard pool.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Facebook and privacy...interview with a Facebook employee

I thought this interview with a Facebook employee was pretty interesting. It talks about how much detail Facebook stores about user viewing....and points out that of course that data, as well as all your profile information et cetera, is viewable by any Facebook developer who wants to query their database.

Meanwhile, here's a picture of my girls and a friend in silks, from Jan 2010.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Steam Birds flash game: turn based dogfight

I've rather enjoyed this free flash game. It has a nominally steampunk setting, but really it's about aerial dogfights. It's turn-based: you plot out your move, then the game animates the results of your choices. The computer controls your opponents, and all planes move at the same time.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Saves the Evening

Saw Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Monday night. It was awesome. Now I want to read the comic. Guess I'll start saving my quarters.
Picture taken from the Scott Pilgrim movie site

We got free babysitting from grandpa on short notice, so I had to pick a movie. Pilgrim's trailers looked pretty good but really gave me no idea what it was about. A skim of a review on the Austin Chronicle let me know that the plot involved Scott falling for a girl and then having to fight her seven evil exes. They had me at "seven evil exes." Also, it mentioned he was going to fight them video-game style. Let me just say that Michael Cera doing video-game-style-kung-fu is inherantly awesome.

The actors who play the exes are also awesome. Jason Schwartzman, whom I didn't remember I'd seen in Bored to Death until I looked him up, was fantastic as Gideon. Also, Brandon Routh as Todd.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How can anyone put the hate on Wikipedia when it throws me gems like 'Dark Claw'

Also, how is it that I never heard of the 'Amalgam Universe', a DC and Marvel mashup extravaganza? See, I don't see how anyone can throw any hate Wikipedia's way when it makes such a great starting point for any question.

For example, a question like "Who is Dark Claw?"

Short answer = Wolverine + Batman mashup.

Anyhoo, I find Wikipedia useful at work and at home. I'll get tossed a project at work where I suddenly need to be an expert on some widget; Wikipedia gets me started (it's usually not a physical widget; it's more like a concept, such as IMEI. Or, I'll learn that my gaming education has lacked much information about Glorantha, and here's my primer.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Dirty Dungeon adventure generation method

I'm kind of enthralled by this idea, the Dirty Dungeon, for how to generate a dungeon adventure based on  maximum input from the players. It amounts to a coordinated brainstorming session with rewards for submitting ideas. But it also gives you chance to use skills for research and history that often don't get used in a game session. And it's built around the solidly practical idea that adventurers might want to research a dungeon before they head off into it.

Picture is from yet another automatic dungeon generator, one that gives you suggested contents for the dungeon as well as a map; I liked this one a lot.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hotel room in Japan comes with big N-scale train layout

Four separate tracks to run trains simulataneously. Bring your own trains or rent them from the hotel. Some guests turn off the lights and play with the trains until dawn.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Forbidden Island board game

This game was mentioned in an episode of the webcomic PVP, so I took a look. It looks really interesting. It has a cooperation goal: everyone works together to rescue some artifacts. And the board changes during the game as various hexes sink under water (and get flipped, therefore, to reveal their opposite, sunken, side). Neat stuff. 

UPDATE... Here's the link to the PVP episode that mentions the game.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gary Kurtz on Star Wars; Putting Your Characters up a Tree

Metafilter recently linked to this entertaining article in which Gary Kurtz, producer of The Empire Strikes Back, talks about toy sales ending up becoming so important that they distorted the Star Wars franchise.

I knew there was a reason those movies went bad, but it's sad to blame it on action figures. I love action figures. The article implies that action figures became the only thing keeping Han Solo alive.

But this article also contained a neat metaphor from Billy Wilder, by way of Kurtz, about writing a story:

“I took a master class with Billy Wilder once and he said that in the first act of a story you put your character up in a tree and the second act you set the tree on fire and then in the third you get him down,” Kurtz said. “ ‘Empire’ was the tree on fire. The first movie was like a comic book, a fantasy, but ‘Empire’ felt darker and more compelling. It’s the one, for me, where everything went right. And it was my goodbye to a big part of my life.”

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Transformer Owl

This video shows an owl whose natural defensive behaviors lead it to take three different 'forms' by changing its posture and how it holds its wings. I found it both hilarious and mesmerizing.

Friday, August 13, 2010

_Ocean_ by Warren Ellis

I just finished this science fiction graphic novel by Warren Ellis, from 2009. I really enjoyed it. I bought it because it was an Ellis book, it had good-looking art, and the futuristic setting appealed to me. I stayed for the spunky main character, and the line, "you can't open a window in space."

Notable for a gun that can't wound, for flying saucers, and for murderous sarcophagi. Check it out.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Profound meditation on corporate websites from XKCD

It's so true, it's not even funny.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Some bikes come back

This fellow lives in Brooklyn, and his bike got stolen, and this is his story about how he got it right back, by orchestrating a sting against the guy who tried to resell the bike on craigslist the same day.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pimped Eldar Ride

Someone likes their miniature war vehicle more than I like my car. Great paint job here, from CoolMiniOrNot.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Inspiration and Picasso

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” - Pablo Picasso

My wife showed me the quote above, knowing it would resonate. I'd say that this was my reason for believing everyone should make some art every day. But really I just think it's fun.

Picasso rocking a snapdown hat.
Photo from

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Red Bride, short story by Samantha Anderson

I liked this first-person short story on Strange Horizons. It's less than 2000 words but it packs a lot of complexity into that length, under the guise of a bedtime story.

The night before I read this story, I saw a snippet of Kill Bill on TV and it included this image of the Bride from that movie. She probably counts as a red bride:

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Spaceship art in Austin airport

I took a photo of this art in the Austin Bergstrom airport because it looked like a spaceship. I didn't quite know what it was about, though, until I bumped into this article on the city website, which explained that yes, this really is meant to be a spaceship...but a spaceship made from photos of Austin landmarks.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Modesty survey tells Christian Women how Christian Men want them to dress

I'm having trouble getting over this modesty survey. It seems to have been done with some sense of rigor. But the whole enterprise is about telling women what to do, under the guise of providing some guidance in our complex modern world.

I think the part that scares me is I can see some women really wanting to hear the answers to this thing. You know, because they want to marry the sort of guy who would think this survey is a good idea.

To me, it has a subtext of "the women ought to dress a certain way so as not to stimulate men's uncontrollable libido," and that assumption that men can't control themselves puts the onus for self-control, and blame for the results, on women.

Image is a public domain 1912 postcard scan from Wikimedia Commons, showing a bathing machine, a device for preserving women's modesty while bathing

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Old-style tyranid warrior

Received a bunch of old figures from a friend recently. Here's the first one that I've assembled. I had to put this one together because you couldn't tell what it was going to look like from the sprue. It's an old-style tyrannid warrior figure from Warhammer 40k. This one is a little over an inch and a half tall, but has 7 parts.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Perils of Badminton

This Youtube vid looks like it's going to be an ordinary sports newsbite about Olympic badminton. But you have to stick with it to the 1:30 mark to see it get weird.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Photos from robot camp

Chloe with friend Sarah (left); they got to be in the same small group

Our friend Sean, Sarah's brother, working on a bot with a vertical conveyor that he used to pick up balls from the floor by pressing them against a wall in a game where you tried to get balls to the other team's side of the wall under a time limit

I envy the kids the chance to do robot camp...not least because they played capture the flag when they had breaks

Notice the manly choir shirt on my boy Ethan here. You can't actually read anything into it since his attire is mostly random but we're happy he does enjoy choir so much.

What, me, mad scientist? I'm going into zoology. This robo stuff is just a sideline.
Ethan and Chloe went to robot camp last week. Chloe's group focused on Lego NXT robots, while Ethan tried a new-to-us system called Vex, which has erector-set-style parts, and a brain that can control 8 to 10 motors. On Friday they had a showcase with some battlebot-style games; it was a lot of fun.

These photos are all by our friend Twila.

Chloe was ready to kill something because her robot didn't work the way she wanted when she displayed it in autonomous mode. I had to trot out a story about my own time at camp, when a program I wrote screwed up on a big screen in a big auditorium. I may have embellished a little.

Chloe came home from day one of camp and started building things with our Lego NXT set, and it was a lot of fun to see her play with programming it.