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 shrinkage....in 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 machines...you 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 it...you 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 Paizo.com.

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.