Shamelessly attracting readers with quite lovely attire

Does this drug stop hay fever?

One blogger's medical report.

Bitter Blood: Thirty Years Later

The most bizarre crime spree in American history.

Is Priness Leia a Disney Princess?

We go looking for answers!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Millvina Dean, last survivor of the Titanic, has passed away

Millvina Dean was a two month old baby when her family set out from England for America, where her father had dreams of opening a tobacco shop in Kansas. But because of a coal strike they weren't able to board the ship they had originally intended to take to the New World.

Instead, they found passage as third-class passengers aboard the R.M.S. Titanic. Little Millvina Dean would be the youngest passenger on the ship's maiden voyage.

Her father felt the impact when the great ship collided with her destiny on April 14th, 1912. Mr. Dean quickly sought to put his wife and two children on one of the lifeboats. They survived, while he remained onboard and drowned with more than fifteen hundred others.

Millvina Dean was the last living survivor of the Titanic.

Today she passed away at the age of 97.

Dude surfs the web... with a modem made in 1964!

K.C. Budd - aka "phreakmonkey" - is a guy who loves to play around with gadgets. So when he came into possession of a Livermore Data Systems "Model A" he decided to put it to good use.

So what's a Livermore Data Systems "Model A"? It's a way old-fashioned modem that was first made in 1964!

Here's the video that phreakmonkey made of himself using Wikipedia with a laptop and a 45-year old modem...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

"Weird Al" Yankovic releasing INTERNET LEAKS!

Per the man himself on his website, "Internet Leaks" isn't the name of his forthcoming new album (which Al claims he doesn't know when it's coming out). Instead...

Al will be “leaking” new tracks to the Internet over the summer, and for bookkeeping reasons we had to call them SOMETHING, so “Internet Leaks” it is! Al’s T.I. parody “Whatever You Like” retroactively becomes the first song in the collection, and there will be 4 new original songs released digitally over the next few months. The first new song (and video!) will be out on June 16, and will be available wherever mp3s are sold or stolen.
Just one more reason why I believe that "Weird Al" Yankovic is not only one of the most successful musical entertainers in modern history, but also among the most innovative. Yeah sure, selling songs over the Internet isn't a new thing, but Al is the only artist that I know of who is actively releasing new music between album releases. That's not just dedication to one's art, it's also excellent marketing!

Can't wait to see what Al has up his sleeve this time :-)

Russian media observes America embracing Marxism

You know what I find most ironic about this essay?
It must be said, that like the breaking of a great dam, the American decent into Marxism is happening with breath taking speed, against the back drop of a passive, hapless sheeple, excuse me dear reader, I meant people.


First, the population was dumbed down through a politicized and substandard education system based on pop culture, rather then the classics. Americans know more about their favorite TV dramas then the drama in DC that directly affects their lives. They care more for their "right" to choke down a McDonalds burger or a BurgerKing burger than for their constitutional rights. Then they turn around and lecture us about our rights and about our "democracy". Pride blind the foolish.

Then their faith in God was destroyed, until their churches, all tens of thousands of different "branches and denominations" were for the most part little more then Sunday circuses and their televangelists and top protestant mega preachers were more then happy to sell out their souls and flocks to be on the "winning" side of one pseudo Marxist politician or another. Their flocks may complain, but when explained that they would be on the "winning" side, their flocks were ever so quick to reject Christ in hopes for earthly power. Even our Holy Orthodox churches are scandalously liberalized in America.

The final collapse has come with the election of Barack Obama. His speed in the past three months has been truly impressive. His spending and money printing has been a record setting, not just in America's short history but in the world. If this keeps up for more then another year, and there is no sign that it will not, America at best will resemble the Wiemar Republic and at worst Zimbabwe.

These past two weeks have been the most breath taking of all. First came the announcement of a planned redesign of the American Byzantine tax system, by the very thieves who used it to bankroll their thefts, loses and swindles of hundreds of billions of dollars. These make our Russian oligarchs look little more then ordinary street thugs, in comparison. Yes, the Americans have beat our own thieves in the shear volumes. Should we congratulate them?

This is an op-ed piece from Pravda (that's the Russian word for "truth"). Anyone old enough to remember the Cold War will recollect that during the days of the Soviet Union, Pravda was the official publishing propaganda mouthpiece of the Communist Party running that country. Those of us in the U.S. used to joke back in the day about how you couldn't believe anything if it was printed in Pravda.

But my oh my, how the times have changed...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Yo-Ho-Ho, A pirates's life for me!

Tonight was the annual Morehead Memorial Hospital Foundation fundraising gig, and this year's festivities had a North Carolina beaches theme. And since the Carolina coast was once where Blackbeard and other buccaneers practiced their trade, I got asked to help give pirates their due representation. So here's me in a pirate costume. I've been practicing my "Arrrr"s for the past couple of weeks. It was enough to not run out of idiom and let me stay in character for the entire three-plus hours that I was there. 'Twasn't the only pirate: a lady named Shannon from the hospital was also there standing up for the fine tradition of female piracy. For the most part our job was to sell raffle "tickets" that came in these little pirate chests (they're in the big one that I'm guarding in the photo). The fundraiser enjoyed a large turnout and was by all measure a huge success!

Remember when Bqstqn won the Stanley Cup?

The Fox Sports site has an amusing article about the Stanley Cup, and how it has come to be rife with spelling errors and other goofs over the years. Among the typos that have become part of hockey's highest prize: "Bqstqn" (supposed to be "Boston") and how one assistant manager is forever known as the "ass man". Quite an interesting read whether you're a hockey nut, a sports fan in general or are into things like history and the art of engraving.

Is Obama Admin punishing Chrysler dealers who donated to Republicans?

Longtime readers of this blog know without me having to remind anyone: party allegiance doesn't exist in this dojo. Personally I'd rather see a country full of citizens who are beholden to no political parties at all. And I like to think that one of the end characteristics of that drastic un-affiliation is that this blog and its peculiar proprietor are equally hard on both Democrats and Republicans.

But I also believe absolutely in the right to expression, whether in speech or belonging to the party of one's choice, if one chooses to belong to one at all. I just try to do my best to encourage people to think about it before they commit to something, but that's beside the point of this post...

WorldNetDaily was the first to report that there is apparently a disturbing pattern among the Chrysler dealerships that have been targeted for closure as part of the company's bailout by the federal government. One-fourth of its dealerships will be shut down... but as WorldNetDaily discovered, 90% of those to be closed were owned by donors of "substantial sums" to Republican candidates.

I'm not going to automatically jump on the "bash Obama" bandwagon on this, 'cuz... well... 'cuz if something like this was politically motivated it seemed too brazen. Then I started hearing about how many of the dealerships scheduled for closing had been some of the most profitable to the company.

And then I discovered that one group that donated heavily to the Democratic Party was getting to keep SIX Chrysler dealerships that it owned while its local competitors who gave to GOP candidates are getting shuttered.

Could Obama's White House be so brazen?

I'm starting to now think... yeah, it could.

This not only merits some formal investigation, it demands it. Like, congressional hearings with everyone involved in this hauled before the lights and cameras. If for no other reason than to apply the scrutiny this incongruity calls for and clear the air one way or another.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

San Diego demands permit for house Bible study

I wonder how much of an issue this could become over the next few years. From the Fox News website...
Couple Ordered to Stop Holding Bible Study at Home Without Permit

Pastor David Jones and his wife Mary have been told that they cannot invite friends to their San Diego, Calif. home for a Bible study — unless they are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to San Diego County.

"On Good Friday we had an employee from San Diego County come to our house, and inform us that the Bible study that we were having was a religious assembly, and in violation of the code in the county." David Jones told FOX News.

"We told them this is not really a religious assembly — this is just a Bible study with friends. We have a meal, we pray, that was all," Jones said.

A few days later, the couple received a written warning that cited "unlawful use of land," ordering them to either "stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit," the couple's attorney Dean Broyles told San Diego news station 10News.

But the major use permit could cost the Jones' thousands of dollars just to have a few friends over.

For David and Mary Jones, it's about more than a question of money.

"The government may not prohibit the free exercise of religion," Broyles told FOX News. "I believe that our Founding Fathers would roll over in their grave if they saw that here in the year 2009, a pastor and his wife are being told that they cannot hold a simple Bible study in their own home."

"The implications are great because it’s not only us that’s involved," Mary Jones said. "There are thousands and thousands of Bible studies that are held all across the country. What we’re interested in is setting a precedent here — before it goes any further — and that we have it settled for the future."

The couple is planning to dispute the county's order this week.

If San Diego County refuses to allow the pastor and his wife to continue gathering without acquiring a permit, they will consider a lawsuit in federal court.

This almost sounds like what many Christians face in China, or how it used to be in the old Soviet Union when a church wasn't permitted to have worship services unless it was first "registered" with the state.

The reason for my earlier statement about this becoming an issue again is that the "house church" movement is growing profoundly in the United States. We're not talking about an evening during the week where Christians meet for Bible study, but believers coming together on Sundays for times of praise and fellowship when many others are congregating in more "traditional" places of worship. I've taken part in a few of these services and other than the drastically smaller number in attendance, it's not really different from a "big" church. There is music and singing, there is praying, there is an edifying message from the Word (usually more than one even, 'cuz in house worship everyone is encouraged to share with others what God is showing them as an individual).

Does it rest within the jurisdiction of any organ of state to demand that such worship - or any worship for that matter - must only be conducted in places with the "proper zoning permits"?

The South will writhe again: Perversely funny FALLOUT 3

What I would give to have a brain gifted enough to handle stuff like math and software coding (and I've tried folks, believe you me). 'Cuz then I could maybe work for a company like Bethesda Game Studios, who not only are very talented at making video games like Fallout 3, but also have a twisted sense of humor.

So I've been working my Fallout 3 character through the Capital Wasteland, 200 years after the nuclear exchange between the United States and China. Just levellin' him up more or less. Well tonight I wound up in the ruins of Arlington National Cemetery...

Out of curiosity I went looking for Arlington House, which was the pre-Civil War home of Robert E. Lee and his family. It wasn't hard to spot and I gotta give serious props to the Bethesda staff for including such a nice historical location...

Guess what? You can go inside of Arlington House in Fallout 3! There's even a queen-sized bed (presumably in the Lees' private chambers) that you can sleep in and recover from in-game injuries.

But look at what's down in the BASEMENT...

A shrine to Abraham Lincoln?!? What the heck?!

Okay, that is so way wrong. But awfully hilarious just the same :-)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009



I'll say that I liked it, even though right now I'm still trying to figure out everything that it was supposed to be about. But most films by the Coen Brothers are like that with me: a two-hour headlong crash through striking visuals, original characters and eclectic dialogue that entertains even as you're trying to suss out the meaning of it all.

And that ending! Was not prepared for that. Because that's not like any movie with Tommy Lee Jones that I've ever seen! I... ahhh... I won't spoil it for you if you haven't seen it yet. I spent the first few moments after it a bit frustrated, then realized it was because I was demanding an expectation to be fulfilled and that wasn't what this was about.

Okay, guess I'll be watching this again :-)

Cancer drug wipes out man's fingerprints

Rather bizarre story from
Cancer Drug Erases Man's Fingerprints

Traveler Was Stopped at Border Because of a Side Effect of Xeloda
By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 27, 2009 -- A 62-year-old Singapore man was temporarily denied entry into the U.S. because a cancer drug he was taking had made his fingerprints disappear, according to a letter published in the Annals of Oncology.

Eng-Huat Tan, MD, a senior consultant in the medical oncology department at Singapore's National Cancer Center, says his patient, identified as "Mr. S," had been taking the drug Xeloda since July 2005 to prevent recurrence of advanced cancer that had responded well to chemotherapy.

The cancer patient was detained by U.S. Customs officials for four hours in December 2008 because they could not detect fingerprints. The Customs officials later determined that the man was not a security threat.

Tan says people being treated with Xeloda, described as an oral chemotherapy drug, should carry a letter from their doctor that they are taking the medication if they want to travel to countries that require fingerprints for identification.

According to the letter in Annals of Oncology, other cancer patients taking the drug have reported similar side effects.

Foreign visitors have been asked to provide fingerprints at U.S. entry points for a number of years. The images are matched with millions of visa holders to detect whether the visitor has a visa under a different name; visitors' fingerprints are also compared to fingerprints of criminals, Tan says in the letter.

"Mr. S" did not know his fingerprints had disappeared, according to Tan.

Anyone else think that this drug will soon be in high demand among bank robbers and safe crackers? :-P

National sales tax? Yes. In addition to income tax? SCREW THAT!

At long last, some in Washington are saying that it's time to have a national sales tax, which is something that I've been advocating for years.

The problem is that these same people want the sales tax in addition to the pre-existing income tax.

Common around the world, including in Europe, such a tax -- called a value-added tax, or VAT -- has not been seriously considered in the United States. But advocates say few other options can generate the kind of money the nation will need to avert fiscal calamity.

At a White House conference earlier this year on the government's budget problems, a roomful of tax experts pleaded with Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner to consider a VAT. A recent flurry of books and papers on the subject is attracting genuine, if furtive, interest in Congress. And last month, after wrestling with the White House over the massive deficits projected under Obama's policies, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee declared that a VAT should be part of the debate.

"There is a growing awareness of the need for fundamental tax reform," Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said in an interview. "I think a VAT and a high-end income tax have got to be on the table."

This is fiscal insanity without any clarity of vision.

Here's what should be done: scrap the income tax completely. Doing so would boost the economy in ways that hardly anybody can possibly imagine. It would free up a massive portion of the individual and small business sectors to re-engage in private enterprise. Then have a national sales tax, which is equitable across the board and with no regard to "income brackets". And for good measure, slash corporate tax rates so that more American businesses will be enticed to bring their industries back to the United States.

If those things are done, there will be a domestic financial renaissance the likes of which has not been seen in recent memory.

But to pile new taxes upon those which are already too burdensome for most Americans is to invite inevitable disaster.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

INCREDIBLE fan-made trailer for a GREEN LANTERN movie with Nathan Fillion that you'll never see!

Some dude sliced and diced up a bunch of motion pictures, and ended up with this AWESOME trailer for a Green Lantern movie with Nathan Fillion as Hal Jordan.

Supreme Court feeding frenzy begins anew

A few weeks ago I arrived at a sobering conclusion, that no doubt better minds than my own have long ago already come to: that the United States government and the political processes associated with it have become a by-product of the lack of enlightenment on the part of collective America. The ability to self-govern was something that only a mature and more noble mind could take responsibility for, the Founders recognized. And for awhile, it worked pretty well... before Joe and Jane Six-Pack decided that voting for American Idol was of more pressing concern than having to worry about whether their elected officials deserved to be in office to begin with.

Anyhoo, President Obama has nominated Sonia Sotomayor to replace the outgoing Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court. I ain't crazy about her one bit, 'cuz she's already said that the courts are "where policy is made" and that is the absolute last thing that I ever want to hear a prospective Supreme Court justice admit. But that ain't what this post is about...

The process of nominating and confirming a new Supreme Court justice has become everything that is wrong about American politics, and I believe it affirms the notion I mentioned earlier: that it reflects how un-enlightened we have become as a people. Regardless of who is being nominated or by which president, the process of filling a vacant Supreme Court seat has become too politicized, too partisan, too emotional, too ideological, and plain ol' flat-out illogical. And why?

Because the entire concept of who it is that gets to choose who fills a Supreme Court seat has become a mad prize for the power-mad. And in the end, that is all this is about: raw, naked power and being the one to boast about having it.

Dare I or anyone ask aloud: "Are we so civilized as to carry on in this way? Are we really the enlightened people?"

Anyone wanna come back in a few weeks when we're way into the Sonia Sotomayor nomination process, and be able to say that we are?

Monday, May 25, 2009

A thought for this Memorial Day

Freedom is only always purchased at the highest of cost...

...and it's left to each and every one of us to make sure that it's never lost.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Star Trek reboot that could have been

With Star Trek still going warp speed at the box office, it's hard to grasp a time not long ago when the entire Star Trek brand had been written off by many people as a thing that had completely run its course. The previous few movies in the series had been severely lackluster and Star Trek: Enterprise failed to garner appreciable ratings on television.

Such was the state of Trek five years ago in 2004. And at the time J. Michael Straczynski (the creator of Babylon 5 and writer of the recent film The Changeling on top of many other terrific endeavors) and television producer/writer Bryce Zabel (The Crow: Stairway to Heaven, Dark Skies), recognizing the franchise's foundering, conceived of an ambitious plan to "reboot" the entire shebang. A few years later Paramount handed Trek over to J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot. We already know how much of a stellar success that has been... but what about Straczynski and Zabel's treatment?

Bryce Zabel posted the entire "Star Trek: Re-Boot the Universe" treatment on his blog a little less than three years ago. It's quite an interesting read, especially how he and Straczynski re-defined the "Prime Directive" into something much more proactive and driving as a plot element, along with the entire rationale for needing to relaunch the series to begin with.

The Brick Testament does the Apocalypse!

Brendan Powell Smith's The Brick Testament is one of my very favorite websites ever. Guess it's because I'm a student of the Bible, and also a lifelong LEGO geek. The Brick Testament is devoted to illustrating the scriptures with the classic building blocks. The wildly popular site has been around since 2001... but only now has Smith gotten around to LEGO-rendering the Book of Revelation! If you don't mind some harsh language for dramatic effect, this is definitely a must-see. I think my favorite part of it might be Smith's take on Revelation 12 and the war in Heaven.

So is it humorous? Heretical? An indication that Smith has finally gone too far? Whatever it is, his concise and rollickin'-fun technique with LEGO makes for a far more interesting and thought-provoking examination of Revelation than what the Left Behind novels turned into. For that reason alone, I'm compelled to make The Brick Testament's Book of Revelation recommended reading.

Pew poll: Independent voters are on the rise

Bad news for both of the major U.S. political parties: Pew Research Center reports that thirty-nine percent of voters now identify themselves as independent: a dramatically sharp increase. Thirty-three percent preferred to be identified as "Democrat" and twenty-two percent wished to be known as "Republican".

So yesterday morning I wrote that politics has become a dreary bore to this blogger. And I can't help but think that this poll by Pew reflects that a lot of Americans share that sentiment also. The Democrats and Republicans are each bleeding away voters... and it's not likely that either of the parties will substantially gain them back in the foreseeable future.

Oh heck, let's call it for what it really is: the Republicans and Democrats are fast becoming marginalized.

Now, I have to wonder how long will it be before the mainstream press finally starts to get a clue. Will it keep portraying the Democrat and Republican parties as "the status quo" even as both parties drive themselves to the fringe of the people's interests? Or will outfits such as Fox News, CNN and the like finally stop "playing it safe" and start doing some semblance of real journalism before getting possibly relegated to the pile of increasing irrelevance like their newspaper brethren?

Hey, it just makes small-time bloggers like me look all the more awesome. "I was unaffiliated when unaffiliated wasn't cool" :-P

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Mancow" gets waterboarded, decides it IS torture

Chicago radio host Erich "Mancow" Muller had maintained that waterboarding could not possibly be considered torture. And he set out to prove it this morning. Mancow submitted himself to the procedure, which was broadacast on his live show and recorded by a television crew.

What did Mancow say afterward?

"It is way worse than I thought it would be, and that's no joke," Mancow said, likening it to a time when he nearly drowned as a child. "It is such an odd feeling to have water poured down your nose with your head back... It was instantaneous...and I don't want to say this: absolutely torture."

"I wanted to prove it wasn't torture," Mancow said. "They cut off our heads, we put water on their face...I got voted to do this but I really thought 'I'm going to laugh this off.'"

Here's the video. Gotta give Mancow some serious props for both going through with this, and having the strength of character to admit that he had been wrong before...

"Life finds a way."

This is the nest that some birds have made in the satellite television box on the back of my house!

Nevermind all those cables and wires and other potential hazards to wildlife. I'm just astonished that they were able to open the box to begin with... and then build what otherwise looks to be a comfortable avian domicile inside of it.

While I was taking this picture a startled bird flew out. I was able to count a number of eggs within the nest. There is another built atop an outside light beneath the overhang of the roof.

I suppose that wherever there is found a niche - whether left by God or man - that nature is quite adept at filling it.

FCC can enter your home without warrant if you have a wireless router

If your home network uses a wireless router, or if you have a cordless phone or baby monitor or cellphone or anything that emits radio waves, the Federal Communications Commission has asserted it has the power to enter your property WITHOUT a warrant in order to "inspect" said equipment.
That’s the upshot of the rules the agency has followed for years to monitor licensed television and radio stations, and to crack down on pirate radio broadcasters. And the commission maintains the same policy applies to any licensed or unlicensed radio-frequency device.

“Anything using RF energy — we have the right to inspect it to make sure it is not causing interference,” says FCC spokesman David Fiske. That includes devices like Wi-Fi routers that use unlicensed spectrum, Fiske says.

The FCC claims it derives its warrantless search power from the Communications Act of 1934, though the constitutionality of the claim has gone untested in the courts. That’s largely because the FCC had little to do with average citizens for most of the last 75 years, when home transmitters were largely reserved to ham-radio operators and CB-radio aficionados. But in 2009, nearly every household in the United States has multiple devices that use radio waves and fall under the FCC’s purview, making the commission’s claimed authority ripe for a court challenge.

“It is a major stretch beyond case law to assert that authority with respect to a private home, which is at the heart of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure,” says Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer Lee Tien. “When it is a private home and when you are talking about an over-powered Wi-Fi antenna — the idea they could just go in is honestly quite bizarre.”

George Washington University professor Orin Kerr, a constitutional law expert, also questions the legalilty of the policy.

“The Supreme Court has said that the government can’t make warrantless entries into homes for administrative inspections,” Kerr said via e-mail, refering to a 1967 Supreme Court ruling that housing inspectors needed warrants to force their way into private residences. The FCC’s online FAQ doesn’t explain how the agency gets around that ruling, Kerr adds.

There's more on the story linked above, including how this crazy "right" first came to light.

And if any of our friends from the FCC are reading this, I can only say this:

You can have my Linksys router... when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers!

This is what American politics has turned into

A high-tech, glorified pissing match between the Democrats and Republicans.

Some people have written to me asking why I'm not doing much political commentary anymore. To be honest: it's become a very boring thing to me. I'd rather devote time to considering and then articulating about real ideas, not empty ideology.

And maybe also it's because I cannot help but on some level have already written of America as a lost cause, if she must be dependent upon people like Dick Cheney and Barack Obama and Rush Limbaugh and Nancy Pelosi.

These people and many more have completely forgotten what it means to serve others. They actually believe that because something so eternally vapid as their political parties have given them a measure of power, that it means that God Himself has somehow anointed them over all others.

I'm not here to cheer on any among the morally impotent. I am here to find and celebrate those who possess clarity of character and a higher vision. This blog is going to honor those who have the sense to realize that it is God and not they themselves who are at the center of the universe.

They're out there. And most of them have the unique quality of having never asked for any amount of power at all. They are the ones we should be encouraging to step up to the plate in this country, not the professional political pigs of self-parody.

Down syndrome and how it fights cancer

This is why I love the Internet so much: you get to learn stuff you otherwise might never have known. And this is why I love blogging so much: it gives me the opportunity to share stuff like this with others who also might never have known it :-)

Apparently it's been recognized for awhile among those in the field that people with Down syndrome (a genetic affliction marked by an extra chromosome) very rarely get cancer. According to an article at Science News about a newly published study in the journal Nature, it may be because of extra production of a cancer-fighting protein in people with Down...

People born with Down syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21, instead of the usual two copies — one from each parent. The third chromosome causes genetic aberrations that result in the mental retardation and telltale physical traits that define the condition.

But chromosome 21 carries 231 genes, including some that may well suppress cancer. In the new study, researchers provide evidence that the protein encoded by the RCAN1 gene reins in the rampant blood vessel growth that a tumor needs to thrive. Scientists theorized that having an extra copy of the gene would result in more protein being made and add to an anticancer effect.

Scientists have long suspected that such genetic benefits might accrue from having an extra chromosome 21. A recent study found that people with Down syndrome are only about one-tenth as likely to get a solid-tumor cancer as are people without the syndrome.

There's plenty more of this intriguing study at the link above.

Perhaps we should call it the "International Still Suit"?

Thanks to a newly-tested and approved recycling system aboard the International Space Station, its long-term crews are now able to drink water recovered from urine, sweat and breath exhalation. It's the first time that water has been acquired and imbibed in space in such a manner.
The new system takes the combined urine of the crew from the toilet, moves it to a big tank, where the water is boiled off, and the vapor collected. The rest of contaminants - the yucky brine in the urine - is thrown away, said Marybeth Edeen, the space station's national lab manager who was in charge of the system.

The water vapor is mixed with water from air condensation, then it goes through filters, much like those put on home taps, Edeen said.

When six crew members are aboard it can make about six gallons from urine in about six hours, Edeen said.

The system sounds very much like the stillsuits worn by the Fremen in the Dune series of novels.

Wonder how long it'll be before some bold entrepreneur approaches NASA about selling drops of "authentic recycled astronaut urine" :-P

Meet the Big Daddy that you'll play in BIOSHOCK 2 (and game release date?)

It's been known for a few months that in the upcoming BioShock 2 players will be stepping into the boots of the first-ever Big Daddy: the prototype of the ones that you fought in the original BioShock. The cover of the July issue of GamePro reveals the design. And the mag promises to deliver a lot more details when it hits the stands.

(By the way, according to the comments on the above-linked post that's a camera on your Big Daddy's helmet. So research is once again part of a BioShock game.)

Meanwhile, Digital Spy has some more info about BioShock 2's particular moral choices and the first time I've seen a release date given anywhere: October 30th. Just in time for Halloween :-)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"They call it spreading hope!" It's ABC's trailer for V!

This could be the breakout hit of the 2009-2010 television season. But what has me gushing with joy is the return of the blood-red "V" graffiti! And I especially love how the reboot updates the premise of the original miniseries by having resistance to the Visitors spreading viral on the Internet.

Check out ABC's first trailer for V...

If you are going to see TERMINATOR SALVATION...

Please don't.

I just got back from the midnight premiere of it. And right now I'm weighing whether or not I should take the time to write a full review of the movie.

So far as I'm concerned the Terminator story ended with Terminator 2: Judgment Day: one of the most perfect sequel movies of all time. Neither of the last two alleged installments have added anything of merit to the saga. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was pretty bad and Terminator Salvation stinks on ice. Just about everything about it is wrong, with the exception of Anton Yelchin as the young Kyle Reese and he's channeling Michael Biehn from the original The Terminator about as well as Karl Urban did DeForrest Kelley in Star Trek.

And speaking of Star Trek: if you haven't seen it yet and were planning on catching Terminator Salvation this weekend, buy a ticket for Star Trek instead. Even if it's your second or third time going to watch it.

Terminator Salvation is everything that is wrong with modern blockbusters: all about special effects to carry the story, instead of complementing the story. And a lot of it makes no sense in the context of established Terminator mythology.

Like I said, in my mind the Terminator saga was concluded with Terminator 2. I had no empathy for the characters in Terminator 3 and I care even less for them in Terminator Salvation. Absent James Cameron coming back to direct a new Terminator film, I shall never plunk down good money to see another one again.

Hell, Batman & Robin and 2008's Godzilla might have been better than Terminator Salvation, if that tells you anything...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

1 in 4 Americans are texting while driving

According to a new poll, 1 in 4 Americans are apparently text messaging while driving.

I don't agree with laws prohibiting talking into a cellphone while driving, although I do believe that's something that individual drivers should make a determination about on their own. But texting is completely different. It demands an attention that talking doesn't require.

Plainly put folks: it should be just common sense not to text while operating a vehicle. It's already caused one trolley accident in Boston, and a school bus driver is now without a job after being photographed texting while driving with a full bus of kids.

So far as I'm concerned, trying to text while driving is just as rife with risk as is driving while intoxicated. If one has to text while out and about in a vehicle, there's always the side of the road or a parking lot somewhere.

Oliver Stone wants to make a new HELTER SKELTER film

According to Geek Tyrant, Oliver Stone (director of Platoon and JFK and co-writer of Conan the Barbarian along with a lot of other movies) is in discussion with Vincent Bugliosi to film a new adaptation of Helter Skelter.

Oliver Stone. Making a movie about this guy:

Holy #*@&...

This would be the third movie to be based on the book that Bugliosi wrote about the Charles Manson murders, of which Bugliosi served as prosecuting attorney. The first was a two-part television movie in 1976 that starred Steve Railsback as Manson: a portrayal that is even now regarded as the most hypnotic and terrifying of the true crime genre. Indeed, everything about 1976's Helter Skelter still holds up surprisingly well as a film about one of the most bizarre crimes in American history. The second was a 2004 two-hour TV movie that I didn't care much for, although it did have Jeremy Davies (Daniel from Lost) as Manson.

I am going to definitely keep an eye on this one. I've read Helter Skelter at least a dozen times over the years and if Stone is faithful to the book, this could be a hella gory feast for the senses.

FALLOUT 3 getting more DLC... and it's coming to PS3 too!

What the boys (and girls) at Bethesda are doing with their nigh-unstoppable hit Fallout 3 is possibly the future of single-player video games as a successful business model: pour a lot of effort into making an outstanding game experience, and then use the initial game as a platform upon which to build and sell more content that is just as outstanding. The Operation Anchorage downloadable content alone is letting Bethesda sleep atop a pile of greenbacks.

So I hope y'all have some room on the hard drives of your PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (yes, the PS3!) 'cuz Fallout 3 is about to get a bunch more DLC.

The big news for PlayStation 3 owners is that the previously produced content is coming to their system at last, beginning with Operation Anchorage later next month. That'll be followed up by The Pitt and Broken Steel. Everyone will also soon be getting Point Lookout (featuring a swamp environment) and Mothership Zeta (marking the return of the "aliens" to the Fallout saga).

If downloading new content ain't your thing for whatever reason, Fallout 3 Game Add-on Pack #1 - containing Operation Anchorage and The Pitt - will be available for retail sale next week, and Add-on Pack #2 with Broken Steel and Point Lookout on sale in August. And if you don't own any Fallout 3 yet, a Game of the Year edition with all five add-ons will hit the street in October.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bev Perdue - AKA "WORST NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR EVER" - signs smoking ban into law

It's a scene I've watched on television damn too many times: a chief executive like a president or governor sitting behind a desk and smugly signing away another right or liberty, with a backdrop made up of the sorry-a$$ed legislative bastitches, also grinning like they've just made some legitimate contribution to the betterment of mankind, who passed the effin' law to begin with.

In today's case it was Bev Perdue - who I have already declared to be the worst Governor that North Carolina has ever had with just four months into her term - signing the state-wide smoking ban into law.

That dumb blond and the twits who stood next to her today are now patting themselves on the back for their show of force over the common people of this state. Because, let us be candid folks: the legislators in the General Assembly who passed this, by and large (and even that might be too kind) do not give representing their constituents the greatest of priorities.

Here's what one person observed in my last post about this...

The story the newspapers aren't telling you is this . . . .

A private, non-profit foundation that receives funding from such people as Ted Turner, Barbara Streisand, Bill Gates, The Times Company, Time-Warner, Media General, and the Heinz estate is hiring lobbyists in every state legislature for the purpose of doing whatever is necessary to ensure that public bans on smoking are passed.

Tactics include taking legislators out for meals, buying them vacation trips, bringing movie productions to targeted states and (when all else fails) outright bribery to gain votes for this legislation.

The end goal is to provide unchallenged legal precedent that can one day be used to outlaw the use of tobacco products, or beyond that, any product or behavior that this foundation disapproves of.

This is definitely anti-populist behavior, because this foundation seeks to "educate" legislators on the dangers of smoking (something we all know about) and the advantages of defying the ill-formed public opinion that no real harm comes from smoking.

They have a word for this . . . . it's called Oligarchy. Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls.

That commenter is most correct.

And like I said in that post last week: I do not smoke. I wouldn't encourage anyone to take up smoking. Believe you me, I have seen the deleterious effects it can have on one's health. But I would never stoop so low as to attempt to use the force of government to either compel someone to not smoke or to obligate a private business owner into prohibiting smoking on his or her premises against his or her will!

That's all that this is about, my friends. It has nothing to do with "public health" or "it's for the children" or whatever other mealy-mouthed bullcrap the politicians are claiming. It's all about flexing the might of the collective against the individual.

Just one more incremental loss of liberty, that is damned hard to get back once it's gone.

So... what to do about it?

Personally, I think that every restaurant and bar owner in the state of North Carolina that wishes to do so, should outright damn ignore Governor Dumb Blond and her contingent of Nicotine Nazis.

According to the story above...

The law, which takes effect in January, authorizes fines of up to 50 dollars for people who smoke after being asked to stop, and up to 200 dollars for managers of establishments who have twice been warned to enforce the law.
Or what? Is Guvner Bev gonna close down a business just 'cuz its owners ignore this silly law? WHERE is the power to enforce this nonsense?

This is something that the free market, not the government, should determine. It's very very simple, friends and neighbors: if a restaurant owner wants to have smoking in his establishment, he should be free to do that. Just as much as nobody has to eat in that restaurant if they don't want to on account of the smoking. If enough customers ask nicely for it to be a tobacco-free place, the owner can make that determination on his own and also be free to end smoking in his joint.

Nobody needs or even really asked for Bev Perdue and her legislative lackeys to make that determination for them.

What do I think needs to happen in this state?

A hella lotta rebellion against the General Assembly and Governor Bev Perdue.

They passed this law and she signed it. Now let's see them enforce it.

Two clips from ABC's reboot of V!

Courtesy of James Hibberd's The Live Feed. Watch Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet from Lost) gazing up at the sky along with the rest of humanity...

And then there's this clip, which I find to be much more promising/menacing...

The first clip seemed kinda... bland. Maybe it's just 'cuz I'm still a fan of old-school V (the original 1983 miniseries anyway). But the second one has sold me on this re-imagining's potential. That is a drop of distilled essence of what made the first miniseries so powerful and unbelievably scary: creeping fascism on a global scale.

ABC has already committed V to series based on its pilot. It should start running later on in the 2009-2010 season.

GPS system could start dying next year

The Global Positioning System may be months away from beginning to fail, it has been been announced. Mismanagement and a failure to maintain the fleet of satellites at the heart of the system now threatens to put both military and civilian use of GPS in tremendous jeopardy starting sometime in 2010.

Here's hoping that this can be remedied and soon. I just recently started using GPS for highway navigation (a unit from TomTom) and it has already become an essential part of my business ventures. But then you get to considering the reason why GPS was first made available for public use to begin with, and you come to realize the urgent gravity of the situation.

(Thankfully, Soviet-controlled airspace at least has been defunct for the past 18 years. But absent modern navigation that much of the world has come to depend on, and it's not hard to imagine a similar incident happening in any number of places.)

Where Black People and White People BUY FURNITURE!

This is a commercial for The Red House Furniture, located in Greensboro, North Carolina: about 30 minutes south of where I live.

What is it about this area that spawns such weird advertisements? :-P

Anyhoo, I think it's terrific! And it's already achieved more than a million views on YouTube!

This is the long-sought "Missing Link"?

Color me "meh!" ...

So what will this do to the never-ending battle between "Evolutionists" and "Creationists"? More than likely: not much. Proponents of evolution will see a proto-human in this fossil, and those siding with divine creation will insist it's merely a monkey.

That's why this particular issue has no appeal to me one way or another: for as long as anyone can remember, it's only been about which faction has more power and influence. You see it especially in many school districts where evolutionists and creationists form up gangs to take on each other, like grown adults playing "Bloods 'n Crips". Lost in the process is rigorous scrutiny and legitimate query for knowledge.

And personally, all I see in this fossil is... a varmint :-P

Click here for the rest of the story on what is being called the scientific discovery of the century.

STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE was released 10 years ago today

So very long we waited for it. And now looking back, it seems like only yesterday...

It was ten years ago today that Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace opened, the first Star Wars movie since 1983.

I saw it twice on opening day... and both times before 6 a.m.! The week before its release date I camped out overnight at the West End Cinema in Burlington, North Carolina (following a great evening of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Elon) so that I could get tickets the next day for me and a bunch my friends at the midnight premiere. And then a few days later The Good Morning Show on WFMY was asking some Star Wars trivia questions and asking people to call in with the answers. I didn't even know it was a contest at the time. The question was "What Star Wars planet has mile-high skyscrapers?" and bleary-eyed that I was just waking up, I knew it was Coruscant. So I phoned in and turned out I had just won two tickets for a 3:10 a.m. showing on opening day.

Long story short: about thirty of us saw the first showing of Star Wars Episode I at 12:01 a.m., and then I hightailed it to Elon, picked up good friend Clark and we sped off to Greensboro for his first time watching the movie, my second. A reporter from WFMY was there and he asked if we could stick around to be interviewed live for The Good Morning Show, so we did that for two segments and then headed back home.

Looking back on it, I've mixed feelings for The Phantom Menace. No doubt a lot of us now think that the movie could have been better. That our enthusiasm for it stemmed primarily from the fact that we had been starved of a new Star Wars movie for so long. But I also think that whatever shortcomings Star Wars Episode I had, were more than made up for by the subsequent two prequels. As its own film, it's not half bad, but not really half good either. Taken as the initial chapter of the Skywalker family saga that arcs throughout all six Star Wars movies however, it works pretty well.

But, that's neither here nor there. The reason for this post is to celebrate that day, ten years ago, when the fans' prayers were answered and we finally got a new Star Wars film. So Happy Birthday The Phantom Menace! :-)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bodybuilding championship canceled after competitors flee from drug testers

Over in Belgium, that country's bodybuilding championship has been canceled after drug testing officials showed up... which caused all the competitors to split the scene.
A doping official says bodybuilders just grabbed their gear and ran off when he came into the room.

"I have never seen anything like it and hope never to see anything like it again," doping official Hans Cooman said Monday.

Twenty bodybuilders were entered in the weekend competition.

Cooman says the sport has a history of doping "and this incident didn't do its reputation any good."

According to the article at, three-fourths of all the entrants at last year's event tested positive for drug use.

Study Ball: Probably the WORST educational product EVER

Any parent who puts this on their child in order to make him or her study should be chemically castrated with the harshest drugs possible. If they must rely on something like the Study Ball (shown at right) then they haven't a damn clue about what it means to be responsible parents at all!

(Yeah I know: this might just be one of those "tongue in cheek" gag products. But even so: I'd never want to hear of it being taken too seriously...)

The Study Ball is based on the old-fashioned "ball and chain" that prisoners were made to wear so as to inhibit any escape attempts. In the case of Study Ball though, it's meant to keep a child anchored in one place for a predetermined span of time: purportedly studying for exams instead of watching television, etc. Parents fasten the 21-pound Study Ball to a kid's ankle and then a digital timer counts down the "study time left", automatically locking when time expires. It can't be made to stay locked for more than four hours and it comes with a key that allows removal at any time.

What's next: turning entire kindergarten classes into chain gangs?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Quentin Campbell fights the Zombies!!!

So a few days ago en route to see Star Trek at the Wachovia IMAX in Raleigh, good friend/fellow blogger Phillip Arthur and I stopped by HyperMind in Burlington, 'cuz Phillip is a fellow geek in good standing and I thought he'd get a kick out of this place, and we had plenty of time before the 10 p.m. showing (we also hooked up with Chad Austin, who really needs to update his blog sometime 'specially since he now has only 26 days left as a free man before taking the vows). But anyway...

While we were in HyperMind, I spotted this game box and took a picture of it with my new cellphone. It's something called Zombies!!!, the "Director's Cut" version. And I've been told that it's a pretty popular tile-based strategy game. But what caught my eye was the chainsaw-wielding protagonist fighting off the undead on the front of the box.

I can't figure out if that's supposed to be Quentin Tarantino or Bruce Campbell.

Just for fun I took it around the store and showed it to some more people. The opinions were pretty evenly split: about the same number of people thought it was Bruce Campbell as thought it was Quentin Tarantino.

What do you think? If you need a better look aim your sights at the Zombies!!! entry on BoardGameGeek.

"No Fly, No Buy Act": New York congressb*tch conspires to deprive citizens of Second Amendment without due process

(I soooo wanted to put an "i" in that word, but as it's a Sunday I'm trying to restrain myself.)

Longtime readers of this blog already know that I loathe, loathe, LOATHE the Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Administration, and damn nearly everything else that George W. Bush implemented in the name of "national security" when he was President. I have never liked them for a very many reasons: that these were measures that were rushed into becoming enacted with little consideration or even seriously reading the language of the associated bills, for one thing. Because there are numerous fascist connotations surrounding it all. And because the Department of Homeland Security and everything connected with it has proven to be the most abused, corrupt and inefficient example of government bureaucracy to have come along in a VERY long time.

But most of all: because I have never doubted that the purpose of the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration has never been to protect us from "the terrists".

The real, albeit unstated goal of the DHS and the TSA, has been to "protect" the federal government from the American people.

I defy anybody to tell me that I'm a "kook" or "crazy" for saying that, in light of the bill that Carolyn McCarthy, Representative from New York's Fourth District in the U.S. House, is now sponsoring...

The "No Fly, No Buy Act", if passed and signed into law, would automatically deprive EVERYONE on the federal government's No Fly List from being able to legally purchase a firearm.

Pardon me for saying this but: What. The. Fvck...?!?

(Came perilously close that time. I'm trying hard, folks.)

In other words: If this become law, the government will be able to take away anyone's right, guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, to purchase and possess a gun (and possibly anything else deemed to be a weapon)... by merely putting that person's name on the No Fly List. There will be no due process. A person will not have to first be found guilty of committing a felony. All it will take is a single asshole practically anywhere in government and accountable to no one, entering your name onto the Transportation Security Administration's No Fly List. A thing that we as citizens have no right to easily and swiftly contest or even to know how one's name came to be on the list to begin with.

So the federal government has already been at work to unjustly deprive many of the right to travel freely. McCarthy's bill seeks to now deprive us - at the whim of any politician or bureaucrat - of the right to self-defense WITHOUT ANY DUE PROCESS!

We don't have to be worried about "the terrace over there", my friends. People like Carolyn McCarthy do far worse damage to the United States than any terrorist could possibly dream of pulling off.

And at the risk of sounding cliched: if stuff like this does not bother you, then you are not paying enough attention!

Wolfram Alpha takes search engines to a whole new level

So as you can see from the screen capture on the right, I couldn't resist having a little fun with it. But all joviality aside, Wolfram Alpha might be the hugest leap forward in search engine technology since Google debuted more than ten years ago.

Calling itself a "computational knowledge engine", Wolfram Alpha takes your query and then instead of trying to match it up with a best result, it computes an answer from a vast base of structured data. Ask it "2+2" and it will give you 4. Punch in some quadratic equations or other advanced math and Wolfram Alpha will spit out a bunch of graphs for it. Tell Wolfram Alpha "Greensboro, North Carolina" and it will give you a map of the town's location, the population, average elevation from sea level and some other relevant data. Ask for the weather in a certain place on the day that you were born and Wolfram Alpha will tell you that too. And those are just for openers: you wouldn't believe what Wolfram Alpha can do with a string of notations for nucleic acids and how it'll find 'em in the human genome, among other things.

Wolfram Alpha is open for public "testing" this weekend, before it officially launches tomorrow. Give it a whirl! This is definitely the future of Internet searching.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Last night: STAR TREK. In IMAX.

The 10 p.m. show was sold out at the Wachovia IMAX in Raleigh. Thank goodness for Fandango!

And you still have a week to catch it in its limited IMAX run. However it is that you see Star Trek (click here for my review) I'll definitely recommend watching it in a theater with others. The crowd was just as enthusiastic about Star Trek yesterday evening as they were on opening night a little over a week ago and we found ourselves catching stuff that we didn't notice the first time around.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Praise be the Allspark, we do NOT have to go through this crazy mess a second time...

Good friend of this blog Kartik Kaul has passed along the word that Steve Jablonsky's score soundtrack CD for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen will go on sale June 23rd! Also on the same day will be a "Music From..." CD for the movie. Which is all well and good but uhhh... as most people know it's the orchestral score that we are mostly interested in on this blog :-P

Here's the link to the score CD's page on where you can pre-order it. Which I've already done for mine :-)

Selective Myopia: James Dobson decries "utter evil" Congress

I still can't believe that I almost went to work for this guy...

James Dobson of Focus on the Family is telling his radio listeners that there is now "utter evil" coming out of Congress. What scares Dobson, he claims, is so-called "hate crimes" legislation: the proponents of which want tougher penalties for those convicted of criminal acts committed against others because of "sexual orientation".

Now folks, I'm against "hate crimes" legislation myself. Because in my mind there is no such thing as a "hate" crime. Does the motive honestly matter why somebody chooses to hurt another, if the end result is the same as any other circumstance? I have as much sympathy for a victim of a criminal act as I will for any other... but I'm not gonna consider one victim to be any more "special" than someone else because of alleged precipitating criteria. So as far as that goes, I will say that I have to agree with Dobson.

Where I can not agree with him however, is what is very apparently his underlying motivation for saying such a thing. Indeed, there is little doubting the motivation for much of Focus on the Family's "ministry"...

"I want to tell our listeners something has come up that is so shocking and so outrageous, we must make our friends out there aware of it," he said on his daily radio program.

"I'm going to speak very bluntly today because there's no other word for it: the utter evil that's coming out of Congress," he said. "I've been on the air 32 years and I've never seen a time quite like this.

"The radical left controls the executive branch through the president, and the Congress where the Democrats have control of both the House and the Senate," he said, adding the courts are expected to move even further to the left."

Anytime I hear phrases like "radical left" or "far right", those pop a honkin' big red flag in my head... 'cuz such words scream what this is all about. And his very tired hyperbole like "so shocking and so outrageous" isn't working in Dobson's favor either.

James Dobson is primarily interested in "his side" regaining political control of Congress and the White House.

Except James Dobson apparently fails to realize that "his side" had both for most of the past decade, and accomplished... what, exactly, in that time?

Professing Christians in America like James Dobson still believe - and very foolishly, I will add - that this country can be saved through politics.

They are so much more wrong about that, than I can possibly put into words.

These people have become blinded by might. They have placed more faith in their own understanding than they have placed in the Christ whom they claim to follow.

And as I have said before: people like James Dobson have no sincere interest at all in issues like "gay marriage" and abortion being defeated and going away. Opposition to them brings in a huge amount of money to organizations like Focus on the Family. Why else did the Republicans never make any serious attempt to pass an amendment to the Constitution protecting "traditional marriage" when they controlled Congress? Because so long as they can keep promising to oppose it, there'll always be plenty of well-meaning rubes gullible enough to keep voting for them.

This is all a game, folks. The politicians in both major parties have been playing us like pieces for too damned long. And people like James Dobson and too #@*&-ing many others don't care one whit about what is right: they just want to have a seat at "the king's table".

So if we can't put our faith in politics, what do we put our faith in, then?

Maybe... God?

And not the "God" that people like Dobson would have us believe has decreed that "Thou shalt not vote against any Republican", either.

I mean a serious and sincere turning away from what we want: rejecting any desire for worldly power, and heartfelt repenting of ever having lusted for such a thing.

If there is evil at work in the land, it is because we - all of us, including the professing "conservatives" and "Republicans" - let it happen by trusting in ourselves more than we trusted in God.

Yes, this demands that thing called "humility" which has become inordinately out of fashion among too many of those who claim to follow Christ. But that is what it is going to require.

And until I hear a call for that coming out of the mouth of James Dobson, I see no reason why any of us should consider him to be a real "Christian leader" at all.

Rheum palaestinum: The plant that waters itself

All sorts of interesting science news coming out of Israel these days. Last week there was the world's oldest patch of exposed soil. Now comes word that a variety of desert rhubarb can irrigate itself: the only plant in the world known to have such an ability.

Mash down here for the fascinating story of Rheum palaestinum: the plant that waters itself.

Brain does complex problem-solving while daydreaming

Perhaps Wally from Scott Adams' Dilbert is on to more than he realizes...

From ScienceDaily...

Brain's Problem-solving Function At Work When We Daydream

ScienceDaily (May 12, 2009) — A new University of British Columbia study finds that our brains are much more active when we daydream than previously thought.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that activity in numerous brain regions increases when our minds wander. It also finds that brain areas associated with complex problem-solving – previously thought to go dormant when we daydream – are in fact highly active during these episodes.

"Mind wandering is typically associated with negative things like laziness or inattentiveness," says lead author, Prof. Kalina Christoff, UBC Dept. of Psychology. "But this study shows our brains are very active when we daydream – much more active than when we focus on routine tasks."

For the study, subjects were placed inside an fMRI scanner, where they performed the simple routine task of pushing a button when numbers appear on a screen. The researchers tracked subjects' attentiveness moment-to-moment through brain scans, subjective reports from subjects and by tracking their performance on the task.

The findings suggest that daydreaming – which can occupy as much as one third of our waking lives – is an important cognitive state where we may unconsciously turn our attention from immediate tasks to sort through important problems in our lives...

I totally, totally agree with this assessment. If for no other reason than because I happen to believe that our minds are a wondrous creation and should be allowed to unfold and develop at their own pace just as much as we say that we encourage such a thing. There is power in play, so to speak. Look at a company like Google, which practically mandates leisure time while its employees are on the clock: not many firms that are as creative and applied as they are.

And I think the evidence speaks for itself about how this study relates to the more formative years of an individual. People like Albert Einstein didn't allow their minds to fit "the pattern". He let his mind roam and play as he saw fit, and from it came an understanding of the universe that shattered all previous paradigms.

So at the risk of being punny, what y'all think? :-)

When there's no more room in Hell, the dead shall shop the Earth!

Leave it to the federal government to re-define the old saying about "death and taxes".

THOUSANDS of the dearly departed are receiving "stimulus" checks. It's been estimated that "between 8,000 and 10,000 checks for millions of dollars" worth of publicly-financed "economic recovery" is being written out to those who are long beyond such temporal concepts as money and spending.

And some of these people, it turns out, never received a Social Security number! Meaning that to the government they weren't officially alive to begin with.

Sorta brings a whole new meaning to "the undead" when you think about it...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Jacob... and Esau? LOST Season 5 finale prologue

This one episode opening has everything that makes Lost the best show on television, and perhaps even of all time: character, dialogue, mystery, special effects that complement but never overwhelm the story... and that amazing score by Michael Giacchino.

I've watched this episode twice since it aired last night, but I've gone over this scene a dozen times again at least. I'm inclined to believe it has a lot of portent about the sixth and final season of Lost: that the story we've been watching, hasn't been the real story at all. That everything we've seen during the past five seasons has been a setup for a cosmic battle between good and evil, God and Satan.

So here it is: the opening scene of "The Incident", where we finally see the face of Jacob and learn that he is not alone on the Island...

FDA sez: Cheerios cereal a drug

Here's the letter from the Food and Drug Administration to General Mills, telling the company that it is marketing its Cheerios cereal as a drug.

The FDA's problem, it seems, is that General Mills is claiming that Cheerios reduce cholesterol too much.

Meanwhile, those damned Enzyte commercials with "Smilin' Bob" continue to broadcast claims of "male enhancement".

I wonder if this means there'll be a run on Cheerios at the grocery stores now. People do not like being told by their government that something is "bad" for them like this, when they have been enjoying it for so long.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Last LOST post-episode reaction until January 2010

I am literally hoarse from screaming during the past two hours.

Just the opening few minutes of tonight's Lost fifth season finale, "The Incident", whammed everyone hard upside the head and didn't let up.

Last week we got "Follow the Leader", which was marginally an episode focusing on Richard... even though we didn't actually find out anything new about him that we didn't already know. I enjoyed that episode but for the past week, that lack of new mythology when given the opportunity has bugged me a lot.

So what do we get to make up for it this week? How does Season 5 end?

With a Jacob-centric episode.


Jacob. The statue (a hella lot more about it than has ever been revealed before). The Black Rock. The "lists". What happened to Rose and Bernard. Vincent! How Hurley got talked into going back to the Island. The incident at the Swan station. What happened to Dr. Chang's arm (which I totally called on Twitter several minutes before we saw it)...

Won't be sleeping tonight again, like every other Lost season finale.

The two biggest questions for the next nine months: if Locke is still dead, then who the #&@* is that who went into the statue to see Jacob?

(My guess right off the cuff: that's really "the Monster" that's been imitating Locke all this time, and it was the Monster that we saw goading Jacob on the Island in the 1800s-era first scene of tonight's episode. There is some kind of enmity between Jacob and whatever the Monster really is, and the Monster has been trying to kill Jacob all this time. And now, in a master stroke of irony, Benjamin Linus himself has been manipulated into doing what the Monster has failed to do on its own thus far.)

And as Marvin the Martian once put it: "Where's the Ka-boom?! There was supposed to be an Earth-shattering Ka-boom!" LOVED how the episode ended with the total reverse of the usual Lost black card: blinding white this time, with Lost in black lettering.

Ye gods, my brain is frazzled after the past two hours!

Okay, I'm gonna have to watch that again. The scenes with Jacob alone might make this the most important Lost episode to date.

And if tomorrow is like any other Lost finale day-after, I'll likely be posting some more thoughts and observations as they hit me :-)

EDIT 11:44 p.m. EST: So... what is it that "lies in the shadow of the statue"?

Richard answered in Latin: "Ille qui nos omnes servabit".

Just hearing from multiple sources that it translates into English as "He who will save us all."


No jokin' about no smokin': North Carolina to ban lighting up in public

For the record: I don't smoke. I don't recommend anyone taking up smoking. It's a nasty habit and I've seen what it can do to one's health. It's not something I'd wish on anybody.

But I'm also of the mind that it's left to the individual whether or not he or she chooses to smoke. And that means that it should be up to business owners to decide whether or not they allow smoking in places they own like restaurants and bars.

And I also have come to believe that in the few short months since she was sworn in, that Bev Perdue has already become the worst Governor that I have ever seen North Carolina have in my lifetime. She's already "effed"-up our educational budget bigtime. Now this...

"An important and historic day for North Carolina." That's what Perdue declared today as she announced she would immediately sign a bill just passed by the state's General Assembly that will BAN smoking in ALL public places.

In all honesty, I never thought I would live to see the day that smoking in public was outlawed in, of all places, North Carolina: the biggest tobacco-producing region in the world.

And as I said before: I don't smoke, and wouldn't want anyone to take it up either. But as an infringement on individual liberty, what Governor Perdue and the General Assembly are doing is wrong.

$9 TRILLION unaccounted for by the Federal Reserve...

...and they haven't a clue where all that money went.

Watch as Inspector General Elizabeth Coleman of the Federal Reserve stumbles and stalls as she tries to 'splain how in the world did her bunch lose $9,000,000,000,000:

"The Incident": LOST Season 5 ends tonight... with a bang?!

The situation as things stand now on Lost...

- Still trapped in 1977, Jack is hellbent on following through with the now-dead Daniel's plan to change the future and make it so that Oceanic Flight 815 never crashes in 2004.

- Daniel's plan to alter history, incidentally, hinges on detonating the Jughead hydrogen bomb before the drilling at the Swan Station releases the energy in what the Swan orientation film called "the incident".

- Sawyer, Juliet and Kate are on the DHARMA Initiative submarine that has left the Island.

- Dr. Chang now knows that Miles is his son, and that Hurley and his friends are from the future.

- Meanwhile in 2007, Locke has taken charge of the Others. He has decided to lead them all on a little hike into the jungle to find Jacob: the unseen "great man" who supposedly calls all the shots for the Others.

- What Locke hasn't told anyone yet... except an obviously horrified Ben... is that he intends to kill Jacob when they finally meet him.

- And there is still the little matter of Ilana, Bram and the rest of the Ajira Flight 316 survivors who have taken Frank hostage and are presumably headed toward whatever "lies in the shadow of the statue".

The penultimate season of Lost comes down to a two-hour finale tonight at 9 p.m. on ABC. And "The Incident" threatens to be the most explosive (literally) cliffhanger episode in television history. Will Jack explode the Jughead? Will we finally get to see Jacob? What does lie in the shadow of the statue? And will we ever discover why Richard Alpert never ages a day?!

The DHARMA Initiative munchies are being prepared even now. I might try to Twitter spontaneous reaction during commercial breaks. Otherwise, expect the post-episode commentary later this evening.

BIOSHOCK 2 to include multiplayer PREQUEL game (and why I don't like the sound of it)

I'll admit that right now there's not a whole lot of information about this to yet pass final judgment. But I sure hope that 2K Games has taken some things into consideration with this move...

BioShock 2, the upcoming sequel to 2007's haunting and intellect-jarring first-person shooter, will have a multiplayer aspect: something that was absent from the original BioShock. 2K has hired Digital Extremes - a company that has worked on successful titles such as Unreal Tournament and Dark Sector - to concentrate on BioShock 2's multiplayer component. However it has become clear that what Digital Extremes will be doing is not so much a mere "complement" to BioShock 2 as it will be an entire beast of a gaming experience in its own right.

In multiplayer mode you'll have access to "weapons, plasmid and tonic unlocks, so that you'll ultimately be able to kit out your player with hundreds of combinations to compete to earn online experience points."

Sounds good so far. But wait! Here's what's popping up a huge red flag...

The mode will act as a prequel, and it is shaping up to be something of a must-play, as gamers will become test subjects for the plasmids made by Sinclair Solutions, and will have to explore the world of Rapture and see it fall into decadence and, ultimately, into ruin. The wide variety of plasmids and tonics are certain to give birth to a lot of interesting combinations...

Players will step into the shoes of Rapture citizens and learn more about the fall of Rapture as they progress through the experience...

Experience Rapture before it was reclaimed by the ocean and engage in combat over iconic environments in locations such as Kashmir Restaurant and Mercury Suites, all of which have been reworked from the ground up to deliver a fast-paced multiplayer experience.

So multiplayer BioShock 2 is going to provide our first-ever look at what Rapture was like before the cataclysmic events of New Years Eve 1958, when the underwater utopian metropolis finally succumbed to the dark side of human nature and erupted into civil war. As one who loves the lore of BioShock, I can dig that much.

But what about the BioShock fans out there who either can't get in on multiplayer for various reasons, or who simply don't care for this kind of game play?

Are they going to be cheated out of some delicious BioShock history? Will they be punished for their geography or their preference for solo play, and locked out of getting a look at pre-fall Mercury Suites and the Kashmir?

Because I'm one of those myself. I've done online multiplayer "shoot 'em ups" before and yeah they're fun for awhile, but personally I find engaging story and characters in a game like BioShock and Gears of War to be more intriguing. I'd much rather explore the worlds of those games at my own pace, instead of having to constantly worry about some 15-year old hormone machine calling himself "Lance" all the way in Minneapolis sniping me from the shadows so he can up his Xbox Live gamer score.

So are solitary players like myself going to become a segregated class in the social order of Rapture? Are 2K Games and Digital Extremes going to dictate that individuality is undesirable, that we must be collective in our game play?

Somehow I don't think Andrew Ryan would approve of that going on in his city.

And I can't believe that there are many solo-oriented BioShock fans who are going to enjoy that very much either.

I'm not going to ask for multiplayer to be stripped out of BioShock 2. For those who thrive on that sort of video gaming, I will sincerely hope that BioShock 2's will set a whole new standard for multiplaying excellence. But I am going to be anticipating that 2K Games and Digital Extremes have taken "the rest of us" into account, and will give lone players a chance to also fully explore Rapture at the height of its glory.