Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Before I digress (at length) into video game videos, I offer this short live-action horror flick to my fans who will hate the rest of this post.

And the rest of the last day of the video spree is dedicated to the game that has had me semi-obsessed for seven months: Mass Effect 3.

Even after seven months, it still keeps me entertained, and there are a lot of solid fan-made trailers, too.

And -- because today is Halloween, and because I love it so much -- I also give you this little spoiler of the payoff you get if you bust your ass for three games.

Of course, if you don't bust your ass, things can go horribly wrong.

And finally, you can modify the game to create a zombie apocalypse scenario in multiplayer.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Dark Knight Returns

I've actually been expecting this for years.

I wonder what took them so long.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Grim Reaper

Needed to lighten up a bit after "Happy". Best make this one a double.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Who ever thought they were funny, anyway? Studies show that kids, in particular, really don't like them.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Aw, Dang!

Poor Lance: didn't realize he wasn't actually the hero.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In Chambers

I had no idea what was going on until the very end.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Zombie Apocalypse Problems

Nena and I were watching Walking Dead last night (Season 2, Episode 2 - "Bloodletting"), and events started her on a short rant.

Spoilers follow, so don't jump if you don't want to know.

No Different from Anybody Else

Has everyone seen this deleted scene from The Avengers?

And, since there wasn't any costumery in that clip.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Get the Door

An American Werewolf in London did great nightmare sequences.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ninjas vs Vampires

Saw it. This is actually one of the best bad movies I've seen in a while.

Beats Syfy originals by a longshot, at least.

Friday, October 19, 2012


My lovely Nena suggested a far better video than what I originally had scheduled. The ultimate music video.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Another one that looks very promising.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Do You Fear Death?

I wasn't as fond of the second and third installments as the first, but Davy Jones is still a great villain.

Monday, October 15, 2012


You just know nothing good will come of this.

Perhaps a little context is in order...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mann vs Machine

Video game companies are making the best trailers these days.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Hail Seitan!

I actually want to make this, as instructed.

And because I love Firefly, and today is the 13th...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Death Lives

I might even be interested in getting this game.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dead Snow

A strange little zombie movie from a few years back.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

King of the Monsters

You can't have too many variations on "This Is Halloween".

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Franchise Warfare

This is a nice little piece of editing.

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Blight is Coming

A trailer and cutscene from Dragon Age: Origins.

I squandered quite a bit of time on this game. That's why it gets double videos.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Friday, October 05, 2012

Pets, Of Course

Now this is a real Star Trek villain.

And today is a good day for an extra video.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

This is Aperture

There are some rhyme scheme problems, but it's still fun.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Killer Beasts

I nice rundown of movies involving animals turned into monsters. Not sure I'd agree with the ranking, but it's still fun.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


The Prophecy is a surprisingly good low-budget horror/fantasy flick, and it's sequels aren't too bad either.

Monday, October 01, 2012


It's what's for dinner!

Seriously, I would actually like to try this someday.

On a different note, how did I never see this?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Firefly and Feminism: Reflection

The various articles I wrote about feminism and Firefly in response to Allecto's rants continue to be among the best hit-getters for the Saga. Consequently, I tend to reflect upon the topic when I see that new visitors have come to the blog to see one or more of those articles.

On one of these occasions, I considered one of Allecto's questions.
The women who ‘choose’ to be ‘Companions’ are shown as being intelligent, accomplished, educated, well-respected and presumably from good families. If a woman had all of these qualities and opportunities then why the **** would she ‘choose’ to be a man’s **** toy?
I wondered, why would Inara choose life as a Companion? What other opportunities would she have in Alliance society? Are they so limited that they make high-class prostitution look preferable?

That's when it occurred to me that I've never seen a woman in the Alliance in a position of authority. Not on the core worlds, at least.

Out among the "border moons," there are women like Patience who have taken charge. Patience apparently runs the entire moon, but the Alliance really doesn't care what's happening on the more remote colonies. They certainly seem to have the means to assert their authority if they so desire, but the border colonies have small populations and negligible industrialization. They don't have anything to offer the Alliance, and they would expect a lot more support if the Alliance imposed a lot of restrictions. The Alliance apparently doesn't consider them worth the trouble, choosing to ignore them until they do have something of value.

Among the highly-developed core worlds, there are plenty of wealthy, well-educated women, but I can only think of one who was an authority figure of any kind. Inara entertained a female Councilor in "War Stories," and she's the only female politician, military leader, or business leader I can think of.

We certainly see women in working roles -- there were certainly female doctors and nurses in "Ariel" -- but not so much in leadership roles.

And when you get to the Alliance aristocracy, the only role available to women seems to be "trophy wife." Maybe Inara chose life as a Companion to becoming one man's "kept woman."

I don't know how that should be interpreted in the context of whether Firefly should be considered feminist or misogynist (the Alliance does tend to be villainous most of the time), but I hadn't really noticed it before.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Halloween Celebration Prepared

Halloween-themed video posts have been queued for the entire month of October. Check daily (in October) for a dose of amusement.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bad Movie: Survival of the Dead

Nena and I watched Survival of the Dead this week. This is the latest in George Romero's Night of the Living Dead series of movies. They've always been hit-or-miss in quality, and this one is about as far from the bull's-eye as Romero's zombie films get.

This is nowhere near as bad as Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies, of course, but it's nowhere near as good as Land of the Dead, either. The acting is spottier than in most of his movies, the writing isn't nearly as tight, and there are some serious continuity problems with its predecessors. Upon reflection, maybe it's not far above ALvZ, after all.

Most offensive, perhaps, is the tendency of characters who have been dealing with zombies for an extended period of time or have applicable training or both (and who therefore have no excuse) to do incredibly stupid things that get them bitten or completely torn to bits by zombies.

Another offense that occurs with annoying frequency is the sudden appearance of zombies from nowhere. It's not like they're stealthy, and there's usually no place they could have been hiding, but they still manage to end up standing right behind someone without warning in scene after scene. A couple of still-alive guys manage to do the same thing to one of the lead characters at one point, as well... on horseback... in the open... in broad daylight.

Yet another peeve is the FX department obviously straining to find innovative new ways to destroy zombies. We don't need a new effect for every dead zombie, guys, just whacking them in the head is okay.

It has a decent premise, but the execution is sub-par, even for zombie movies. I'd say this is at least a five-beer zombie movie (the number being the number of beers needed to make it tolerable).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11, 2001

I was on my way to work and listening to the news on the radio. A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, and it was a terrible accident. Then a second plane hit the other tower, and it wasn't an accident anymore.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Spices That Heal

I saw this picture going around on Facebook recently, and it struck me as one of those "don't believe everything you hear" types of claims. Herbs and spices certainly can have health benefits, of course; many modern medicines are derived from such things. On the other hand, it should be possible to find supporting evidence for claims like these pretty easily.

A little web browsing doesn't find much supporting evidence.

Cumin: Unsurprisingly, Organic Facts supports the claim that cumin helps prevent cancer, although it doesn't cite any studies. Sources that I consider less biased, like and WebMD, don't mention cancer prevention as potential benefits.

Ginger: Studies referenced by the University of Maryland Medical Center show that ginger is more effective than a placebo at reducing nausea. It's not as effective as medications, but it also has fewer side effects.

Thyme: There doesn't seem to be any conclusive evidence for thyme helping treat coughing. Some preliminary studies suggest it may be helpful, but there's nothing solid.

Rosemary: I remember Gingko being the big herbal solution to memory problems a few years ago. It turned out to be nothing. Similarly, I don't even find mention of memory benefits being connected to rosemary on the internet. It's best recommendation is for treating hair loss.

Nutmeg: Several sites mention studies showing that nutmeg helps to reduce blood pressure, but I've yet to find one that gives a reference that says who conducted such a study, where it was done, or when it was done.

Basil: My search did not produce any support for claims that basil helps to reduce the severity or duration of colds, although it apparently does contain an assortment of vitamins and minerals.

Clove: I don't think Organic Facts is an unbiased source, but even they don't list relief of arthritis pain as a benefit of cloves.

Cinnamon: Studies have been conducted on the effects of cinnamon on blood sugar, but they have not yielded anything conclusive: some show a benefit, others don't.

Tumeric: Tumeric is apparently being studied for possible medicinal value, but there doesn't seem to be anything reliable about reducing inflammation.

Garlic: Studies on the effects of garlic on "bad" cholesterol are, so far, inconclusive.

I use every one of these herbs and spices frequently, but not for any supposed medicinal properties. Some of the claims made in the "RawForBeauty" image have some support, but even that tends to be tenuous. Enjoy herbs and spices for the enjoyment they can add to your meals, but don't get them expecting any particular health benefit unless reliable studies have been done to show that those benefits are real.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bad Movie: Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies

This movie is typical of the B-grade stuff produced by The Asylum studios and aired as Syfy Original Movies. As you might guess, it's a cheap rip-off of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Without delving too much into the details, Abe survives a zombie outbreak in his home community as a child and goes on to become President of the United States. When a secret mission to control a Confederate fort fails, and the sole survivor reports walking dead cannibals blowing the whole thing, Abe decides to personally lead a unit of Secret Service men to contain the infection.

An assortment of 19th Century personalites whom Abe never met in real life make appearances, and -- to spoil something that doesn't deserve special protection -- his conversations with them all produce sound bites that end up going into the Gettysburg Address.

The story concludes with an act of astronomical stupidity that was foreshadowed greatly.

You will be appalled by the abuse of history, predictable script, wooden acting, and cheap effects. Not recommended for sober movie watchers.

Special mention for the following:
  • Zombies sleep standing up.
  • Hopefully the background checks for the Secret Service are better today.
  • Farm implements are awesome tools for fighting zombies.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Jury Duty

I got picked for jury duty along about the beginning of August. Lucky me, I was seated on a jury the first day I was required to be present. Note that, in my county, I'm on call for two months. I check with the county clerk to see if I need to be present on any given morning; there are multiple jury panels, they tell us which panels need to report on any given day. Panels get called up for jury selection, and jurors who aren't seated can go to work or home or wherever they normally go during the day. Jury selection will typically eat up all morning, even if you don't get picked.

So I got seated on my first reporting day for a criminal trial. It was a multi-count indictment.
  1. Aggravated Burglary: Using a firearm in the commission of a felony in a residence.
  2. Aggravated Assault: Using a firearm in an assault, which is harming someone or causing someone to be in fear of imminent harm.
  3. Aggravated Domestic Assault (3 counts): Using a firearm in a domestic assault, which is an assault where the victim is a family member.
  4. Aggravated Animal Cruelty: Causing needless harm to a companion animal.
There were a couple of additional charges, but I've let this wait long enough that I don't remember every one.

Basically, a man was charged with going to the home of his ex-wife and their children and shooting his way in with the intent to at least threaten and possibly harm one or all of them. He was also accused of shooting the family dog while there. The ex-wife, daughters, and a house guest hid in the bathroom when he arrived and started shooting the door until the lock broke. They said they saw him walk by the bathroom door (which was ajar), and then heard him moving into the far part of the house. At that point, they ran out the back door to a neighbor's house.

The eldest daughter had been on the phone to 911 since he first arrived at the house and started knocking on the door, claiming to be a sherriff's deputy. No one was fooled by that, and they went into hiding before he started shooting his way in.

He apparently gave up and left the house, heading back to his car, because a deputy sheriff intercepted him on the way to the car. He was detained and then arrested. The family was told they could return to the house. While gathering things they needed to spend the night at a friend's house, they found the dog shot.

The district attorney provided ample evidence that the man had gone to the house with a gun and performed the various acts described. The defense didn't make any serious attempt to challenge that evidence. The defense case hinged primarily on whether he performed these acts "intentionally or knowingly".

The suspect had a history of substance abuse, although he had been through clean periods in his life. He had, reportedly, been clean for about nine years before going to a clinic and being prescribed anti-depressants. The medications, according to the defense, were strongly contra-indicated for someone with his medical (alcohol and drug abuse) history, and they triggered a substance abuse relapse. Consequently, they argued, he was not in control of his actions at the time of the events of the case.

The instructions that the judge gives the jury after closing arguments are ironically simple. A charge has a number of elements. If all of the elements have been shown by the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury must find the defendant guilty of that charge. If any of the elements has not been shown beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury must find the defendant innocent.

That the defendant was there and did the alleged things was never in doubt. Whether he did these things knowingly or with intent was the question.

To do these things, he had to get a rifle (which he identified to the deputies who arrested him as belonging to his "girlfriend"), load it, put it in a car (along with a box of additional ammunition), drive from another county to his ex-wife's home, park down the street, walk to the house, lie about his identity when knocking, very systematically shoot around the dead-bolt lock until it failed, and then kick the door open, enter and wander through the house looking for inhabitants, shoot the dog (which showed no evidence of hostility), leave the house, abandon the rifle in a ditch, and then head toward his car to leave.

He never actually saw his ex-wife or any other person at the house, so the defense did ask whether he could be "intending" to assault someone he never actually saw, but do you really drive to someone's house from another county with a gun "intending" not to find them at home?

No. He had a plan (if not necessarily a good one) to go to his ex-wife's house to threaten or harm her. If you put a shot of whiskey in front of him and told him not to drink it, I might excuse him for giving in to temptation, but what he did went far beyond what his addiction might compel him to do.

So a man is probably going to prison (the jury is excused before sentencing, I don't know exactly what penalty he will get), in part because of me.

Not a good day, really. A lot of things went terribly wrong for a family. I hope they recover from it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

More Like a BS Extractor

I saw one of the most absurd infomercials I've ever seen while having breakfast this morning. It was for something called the "NutriBullet", which was described as "not a blender, not a juicer, but a Superfood Nutrition Extractor".

Sadly, it was painfully obvious that this device is just a Magic Bullet being sold under a different brand name (update: and apparently with a more powerful motor). Sadder still is that some people will probably buy the hype and pay $120 for one of these things. Ordering the Magic Bullet from a TV ad is bad enough at $100. I actually have a Magic Bullet, and it's quite useful, but I think I only paid about $50 for it at an outlet store.

But the BS content of the sales pitch was astounding.
"Unlike everyday juicers and blenders, the NutriBullet completely breaks down ingredients in to their most nutricious, most absorptive state."
Atrocious spelling aside, any decent blender or food processor will do that if you use it correctly: the NutriBullet is not doing anything that special.

And the glowing testimonials about how the NutriBullet changed people's lives! Really? You didn't change your diet in any other way or start any kind of exercise program? You only added one "NutriBlast" a day to your diet and nothing else?

My eyes almost rolled out of my head.

At least it inspired me to get off my butt and write a blog entry.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Politics: Tax Policy

It looks like tax policy is shaping up to be a big issue this election year (which is rather typical, really), so I figured that I might as well address it. I’m long overdue for posting something around here, anyway.

I’m fiscally conservative in the sense that I don’t think the government has any business spending money that it doesn’t have. The US has been borrowing like crazy since the 1980’s, only running a surplus briefly during the late 90’s before going back to deficit spending after 2000. Based on that spending pattern, you can see why I don’t really consider the Republican party to be a bastion of fiscal responsibility.

I’m not particularly in favor of “soaking the rich” to fund the government. I do think everyone should be helping pay for the services we expect of the government. I think everyone should have basically the same tax rate, so there should be no need for a “millionaire surtax” or the like. If we’re going to have an income tax (and I don’t see that changing), we should have an income tax. I don’t care whether you get your income from a salary, selling widgets, collecting interest, or playing stocks; no matter where your money comes from, it should be taxed at the same rate.

On the other hand, I don’t see the sense in trying to get tax money from people who don’t have any to spare. Our current tax system recognizes that there are certain basic living expenses that should be deducted from your income before your tax is calculated.

So my idea of a fair tax is one where everyone’s income is taxed at the same rate, and everyone gets the same cost of living deduction. I don’t necessarily know what that should be, other than it should be the least amount you can reasonably expect to live on; it may even have to vary somewhat by location (although if you have more than one residence, you only get one cost-of-living deduction, for the lower of the two locations). Note that this means the effective tax rate for a low-income person will be less than the effective tax rate for a high-income person.

If you have a domestic partner (who can get “married” is another post), then you can effectively combine your two deductions, so you don’t take a big tax hit if one of you is a stay-at-home parent. I'm not sure how I feel about additional deductions for the children.

And that’s all: one tax rate for everyone, one deduction for everyone. What the rate should be and how much the deduction should be would both need to be determined based on the needs of the nation and what the people will accept; the main restriction being that the revenue should be enough to pay for all the services plus bring down the national debt. Both the rate and the deduction can be easily adjusted by Congress, if necessary.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Live Mammoth?

There's a new viral video making the rounds.

Is it a live mammoth? Is it a bear in some odd activity that makes it look that way?

How about it's a complete hoax? The fact that the focus is crappy and stays crappy is something of a giveaway. Looks to me like some footage of an elephant slapped together with some footage of a river. Unprofessionally.

There are some arguments for it being a grizzly bear with a fish hanging out of its mouth. That's not entirely out of the question, but still puts us in hoax territory, as it's surely shown out of focus on purpose.

Try harder next time, guys.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Nigerian Rental Scam?

Oh, look! Interesting material for a skepticism post!

While I can’t say that I’m surprised, this is a scam that I had not previously heard about. Some friends of mine recently bought a house. While they were doing some remodeling one day, they got a peculiar visit.

While we were working at the new house today a couple showed up asking about renting it. When we said it's not for rent they asked, "why do you have it listed on Craigslist?" We looked. It is, including a picture and accurate description of the house. The cops told us that this is a popular new scam. People are pretending to rent houses they don't own and collecting deposits.

I’m curious where the scammer got the picture of their house. Perhaps the scammers are cruising real estate listings for likely targets; those would have pictures and other information about the house for use in fake ads, and some of them – at least – won’t actually have anyone living there to warn the marks.

V sent an email to the address provided on Craigslist to see if she would get a reply from the scammer. It actually didn’t take long for this reply to come:

"we were transferred to West Africa and we will be away for 5 years or more and this is why we are actually renting out the house,so if you are interested and will take good care of our house then we will be ready to accept you as our future tenant and family friend. If you really impress me by taking good care of our house then you will be allowed to stay as long as you wish okay."

V looked up the phone number provided: it’s literally a Nigerian number. Way to boost the national stereotype, dude! In the response, the scammer also asked for a litany of personal information and a $500 deposit, so this one qualifies for both advance fee fraud and identity theft.

So, if you’re looking for rental property on Craigslist or some other open sales site, you should be a little bit wary. Certainly don’t go giving away your social security number or a big deposit to someone in a distant country who you’ve never seen (and never will).

Monday, January 23, 2012

Zoo Run Run

On Saturday, I completed a 5K run around the Nashville Zoo in a little under 38 minutes. My goal was 36, so I'm a little disappointed.

Also, running in 37-degree weather SUCKS. Why couldn't it have been up in the 50s, like it was on Friday and Sunday?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

More ZombieFit

We did the ZombieFit workout of the day for 1/16 this morning. Including warm-up, that includes:
  • Running 1/4 mile
  • 75 push-ups
  • 75 squats
  • 45 crunches
  • 45 burpees (oh, how I loathe the burpees!)
  • 30 jumping jacks
  • 300 meters of sprints (which is guesstimated at three laps around the gym)
And because we're gluttons for punishment, we also did 45 pull-ups and 10-15 meters of "kong walk".

Zoo Run for me on Saturday. Come on out! Share my pain!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Politics: Healthcare

Given what the Republican candidates have been saying about “Obamacare”, I figure now is as good a time to vent some ideas regarding how Americans, as a society, view health care and how the costs should be paid.

On one hand – we’ll call it the right hand – you have the conservative/libertarian notion that paying for health care is an “individual responsibility”. This is the “private sector” system where people with health issues (be they diseases or injuries) pay the provider (doctor, nurse, hospital, clinic, or whatever) for whatever they need to make them healthy, or at least keep them going.

On the other hand – which we’ll call the left – you have the liberal/socialist notion that health care is a right, and everyone (via taxation) pays into a national system that provides everyone with the health care services that they require.

Those are the extremes, of course. What we have now is somewhere in between, as purchasing insurance is something of a compromise between the right hand and the left hand. We’re not completely averse to a “socialized” medical system. After all, a health insurance company can only charge a “reasonable” premium if there are plenty of healthy people on the rolls paying premiums without getting many medical services. They need to have lots of people who are paying more than they cost in health expenses to cover those who are paying less than they cost, especially if they want to make a profit. That’s why insurance companies lobbied for that clause in “Obamacare” that requires everyone to buy some kind of health insurance.

But I want to consider another way of looking at healthcare. Just for a moment, let’s look at health care the way we look at police protection and fire protection.

If you look at them from the “right hand” perspective, then police protection is a service that has a cost, as is fire protection. If you call 911 to get a response to a burglary or a fire, the dispatcher will ask you how you plan to pay for the police car or fire truck that will be sent to your home. In the extreme-right scenario, they won’t come at all unless you assure them that you can and will pay them.

From the “left hand” perspective, the police department and fire department are government services, and the salaries of the officers and the costs of their equipment are paid for by everyone’s taxes. Surprisingly, that sounds an awful lot like what us capitalists already expect.

If you look at health care the same way, then doctors are government employees with salaries (good ones, I should think, given the many years of education they need), and the machines, hospitals, medicines, and so forth are government expenses paid for by taxes. Sounds terrible!

Except for the fact that no one has to pay insurance premiums or copays or doctor bills.

“But health care under a single-payer system will be inferior and rationed!”

I guess that depends on whether we’re all willing to pay enough into the system to still have top-level health care.

I expect to get lots of feedback on why both scenarios suck, but I bet that most of it will be conservative/libertarian “why socialized medicine sucks” posts. It will be interesting to see if they have objections that I haven’t considered.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Two Miles in 22 Minutes

Surprisingly, the fact that I haven't actually gone on a two mile run in over a month has not drastically reduced my time.

Monday, January 09, 2012

ZombieFit Morning

Did the ZombieFit Workout of the Day for 1/7/2012 this morning. After the warm-up (which I did slightly wrong, I only ran the 100m sprint once instead of all three times), I did the main workout at the "avancée" level: 100 push-ups, 140 air squats, 180 jumping jacks -- broken out into 20 sets.

Not feeling as worn out as I expected, even throwing in 20 crunches onto the end of each cycle for the last three. Maybe I should have done the "traceur" level routine.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Dollar Coins

This may be old news, but the issue of the Presidential dollar coins that are piling up in government warehouses just keeps bugging me, so I'm finally going to clear the air on it.

The government keeps trying over and over again to introduce dollar coins into the currency system, the reason being that the useful life of a coin is vastly longer than the useful life of a paper bill, so changing from paper dollars to coins would be a long term savings for the treasury department.

The problem is that coins are different. People don't really like changing the way they do things, so there is inevitable resistance. The Susan B. Anthony dollar didn't see widespread use, nor the Sacajawea dollar, nor the Presidential dollar coins.

And the reason that these coins aren't catching on is simple. The idiots in the government keep printing paper dollar bills. Get a clue, guys! If you want to make a switch from bills to coins, make the switch. Stop printing the bills and start taking them out of circulation. People will adapt, even if they're resistant at first.

Of course, I happen to like the things, so no one will appreciate my opinion.