Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More Movie Madness

The In-Laws are in town, and while I was hard at work they went to Santa Fe with my better half (from here on in known as The Wife.) Upon arriving at the Plaza, they found that a movie was being shot. The title: Due Date! starring Robert Downey Jr.


Be honest, now- how many of you laughed at that as hard as I did?

In any case, The Wife was exceptionally excited to see that her favorite coffee shop, The Coffee Beanery, had apparently moved into town. Nah, just kidding... it was part of the set. She was pissed. Way to psyche out my wife, Robert Downey Jr.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Good Internet Monday - Finland

That's right, the entire country of Finland is today's GIM.

Why? Because starting next July, broadband internet is no longer a privilege but a right. Every citizen will have broadband access. By 2015, the speeds will be up to 100Mb.

If there's one way to improve the general education level of a populace, it's to provide them access to the world's largest database. This is a fantastic step for Finland.

Of course, we'd never get that here. That would be socialism.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Space Weather on TV

Well, kinda...

While listening to the Detroit Lions get destroyed by Green Bay and simultaneously watching the Giants get beat up on by the Saints on TV, I saw a commercial for the Air Force. The situation on this commercial is as follows: on a space station orbiting Earth, the crew has witnessed a piece of space junk ricochet off another piece and hurl straight towards *gasp* the space station itself! The team quickly makes the proper adjustments, and everyone is safe. The Air Force logo flies onto the screen with text letting you know that this isn't the future, it's NOW! Holy smokes!

I've talked about space junk before. It's a huge problem and there are many groups whose sole purpose is to track every single piece. However, if something was to suddenly change direction, it's unlikely that you'd be able to move out of the way in time AND in a safe manner. So, the commercial was a bit of an exaggeration.

The Air Force, however, has a great space weather program. They are currently working on internalizing as many numerical models as quickly as possible to create a powerful forecasting system. They have good scientists that bring cutting edge work to conferences on a consistent basis. A commercial that would have been more accurate and just as compelling could have been one about the imminent danger posed by a solar flare (or other solar event.) It would have better represented their capabilities and near-future goals.

Ugh, the Lions are terrible on defense.

Whiskey Tango Friday: Plugged In Online

Whoops- meant to post this yesterday.

On the surface, Plugged In Online appears to be a great parental resource. It reviews games, movies, music albums, etc. with a focus on how appropriate the various material is for younger audiences. "Great!" you may be thinking. "I can read up on the (movie/album/game) that my brat was wanting to (watch/buy/play) and get an idea if it's appropriate, because I am completely clueless as to what it is like." As a parent of a young girl, I know I'll find myself in this position sooner rather than later.

How could such a noble resource wind up as the featured site of WTF?

Allow me to give you an exert from the review of the movie "District 9":
"More than 130 f-words, supplemented by close to a dozen s-words. "B--tard," "p---" and the British profanity "bloody" also are heard. God's name is abused twice; Jesus' once."

That's a direct quote; I'm not editing for the sake of making this a G-rated blog.

Rather than simply report "excessive swearing", the critic crosses into a region that is nearly Freudian by not only counting each instance of the swears, but nearly spelling them out. It is as if they don't trust their audience to have the imagination to know what words might be used in an R-rated movie. Rather than a reputable movie review, it sounds like the whisperings of ten-year-olds on the playground: "I saw this movie, and they said the EFF WORD at least 100 TIMES!"

Furthermore, each review lists "Spiritual Content", "Positive Elements" and "Negative Elements". This often involves listing inconsequential parts of the movies to fill these sections. The review for Team America, Wold Police demonstrates how hilarious this can get. "Spiritual Content: When someone asks what will happen if a terrorist plot succeeds, he’s told, 'Basically, all the worst parts of the Bible.'" "Positive Elements: None."

Finally, every review ends with some obscure linking to either the Christian Bible or some fundamentalist Christian hot-topic (spoiler alert: the site is run by Focus on the Family.) District 9 is linked to the Exodus story (wut?). Horton Hears a Who is a modern parable on the ills of abortions (just as Dr. Seuss intended!). Go ahead: find your favorite movie, read the review, and be blown away.

It's nice to have a tool to clue you in to what your kid is watching- especially when you've lost touch with different media. However, that's not what this site is trying to do. It first lists, in gory detail, the issues you SHOULD have with any particular movie, book, or song, and then tries to teach you how to tie it to the Bible, whether legitimate or not. It's not a method for reviewing what your kid is watching/reading/playing, it's a tool for deciding if those items fit the worldview of Focus on the Family.

Monday, October 12, 2009

GIM: National Geographic Map of Space Missions

I'm stealing this from Bad Astronomy. National Geographic has posted a map of extra terrestrial space missions. Very cool stuff.

Some notes from yours truly:
  1. The drop off in number of missions between Mars and Jupiter and beyond speaks to the immense distance you must go to reach the gas giants. Distance is such a huge barrier in space exploration.
  2. Only nine missions to the Sun? Disappointing considering our huge gaps of knowledge in the inner workings of the solar cycle and solar flare triggers. I admit that getting closer may not yield more knowledge than distant optical measurements, but you never know until you're there. For example, Ulysses discovered the differences between solar min and max in the polar structure of the solar magnetic field by flying over the poles of the sun.
  3. One of the things that this diagram shows is the differences between how researchers make plots and how people of less expertise but more artistic talent make them. If I was to make a similar diagram, I would have plotted actual (or at least reasonable representations of) orbits, resulting in a much uglier but more accurate plot. While the picture created by the fine folks at NatGeo fails to portray a plethora of graphical facts, its power is in the simplicity and beauty of the information it does display. Sometimes it is difficult for an analytic mind to adopt a more aesthetic approach to graphics, even if it can improve the overall product.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


The Detroit Lions have activated Zack Follett to provide a spark to their special teams play. Zack was a seventh round pick this year out of Cal. He was a decorated linebacker because he played like a madman on a killing spree:

I may be a bit excited to see this kid play.

Go Lions.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It's over.

I don't watch much TV. Mostly sports and cartoons. My wife pulled me, kicking and screaming, into watching the Office three years ago, and it has been my favorite sitcom (the only one I really watch) since.

But it's over.

Tonight's wedding episode was funny and cute, but the last scene was the biggest jump-the-shark moment I've ever witnessed. The "whole cast dances down the isle HURRRRR" ending is what you put at the end of a feel-good movie to let the audience know it's time to get their coats ready.

Well, I guess I better start paying attention to 30 Rock. Or I could be productive for that 1/2 hour every Thursday...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Good Internet Monday: Is it a Good Idea to Microwave This?

For those of you wondering, the goal of GIM is to highlight areas of the web that are havens of free speech and knowledge as well as fertile grounds for new ideas.

Sometimes, though, it's just about blowing shit up real good-like:

Note: be sure to check out the high-res version on their youtube channel!

I love IIAGITMT. It's a great example of a few guys taking a silly idea as far as they can. Today, they kicked off their latest season, and it's hilarious as usual.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fall Hiking in Los Alamos

I went up to Pajarito Mountain ski area today with my family to check out the fall colors on the mountain. Check out the map for pics!

View Pajarito Mountain Hike - October 3, 2009 in a larger map

Creationists Are Liars - Willful Ignorance?

Found this half-finished post sitting around. Can't believe I didn't complete it month(s?) ago.

AronRa (a favorite youtuber of mine) was trading responses with a particularly tenacious creationist when he ran into the same wall that I (and just about everyone) have experienced before: it doesn't matter how you say it or how many times you say it, they just don't hear what you have to say.

This happens all the frickin' time: the creationist makes assertions that are just plain wrong, the "protagonist" corrects him or her as clearly as possible, then the creationist repeats the diatribe as if nothing was said in response. Acting like this as a scientist is professional suicide. If you continue to attempt to publish work while actively ignoring others' results that are in direct conflict with yours, you are being dishonest. Such behavior will cost you your job and reputation. But this same attitude is glorified by creationists!

When you say something that is not true, your ignorance may be an excuse. But when you are corrected repeatedly yet continue spreading the misinformation undaunted, you are a liar. Thus, I ask: how is willful ignorance any different than lying?