Saturday, June 04, 2005

Quote of the Day - June 4, 2005

Early to rise and early to bed, makes a man healthy but socially dead.

- Animaniacs "Wheel of Morality #9"

National Academic Competition

So, some kid won $30,000 in the National Spelling Bee. That’s great and everything, I guess, but in this time of No Child Left Behind, shouldn’t we be encouraging academic competition in other areas? Yes, yes, there’s the Battle of the Brains, It’s Academic, Mathletes and other forums. But they are all on the local level. And what do you win? A trophy, perhaps, or a few hundred dollar scholarship. Perhaps my fellow VTACO-ites can enlighten me. Is there a national middle school or high school level competition (team or individual) that awards prizes even approaching that of the Nation Spelling Bee? It certainly doesn’t get the level of coverage that the spelling bee gets if it does exist. Of course, maybe that's because the spelling bee is sponsered by newspapers.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Pulp Fiction Bunnies

Angry Alien has Pulp Fiction in 30 seconds (as performed by bunnies) up today. Christiana beat me to it.

The Fourth Quadrant

More weird childhood memories. The house where I grew up was techinically a rancher with a full basement, but it was built into a steep hill that left most of the basement above ground. The basement had the family room and the garage on the side sticking out of the hill. The other side had some odds and ends like the guest bedroom, guest bathroom, laundry room, and office. It was also known as the fourth quadrant. It didn't occur to me until years later that this was an awfully odd way to refer to a portion of your house. It works, certainly. If you stood facing the house in the back and looked at it like a cartesian x-y graph, the kitchen, living room, and dining room were the first quadrant, the bedrooms were the second quandrant, the family room and garage were the third quadrant, and the fourth quadrant was, well, the fourth quadrant. But who looks at their house like a cartesian graph? A mathematician and an engineer, that's who.

Rezoning the Internet

It's official. The Internet has a red light district.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Hokey Pokey

Jim Breuer's performance of AC/DC does the hokey pokey is hi-larious. Need RealPlayer to hear it.

Geekiest... Marriage Proposal... Ever

Now this is a marriage proposal (scroll past the comic to the announcements). And check out the banner ads! Hopefully, Jamie hasn't started slacking on her Sluggy reading just 'cause it's a vacation week.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The great outdoors... a foreign world to today's kids. Achenbach ponders why.

What's that?

Hurricane Season Starts Today

So get ready. The bad stuff doesn't usually pop up until August or September, but we've already had one Pacific storm this year. Last year was downright scary. This year isn't looking much better. Some links to keep you up to date and paranoid.

Weather Underground's Tropical Weather page (pop-up warning)
Dr. Gray's Forecast for the season
A Guide to the Saffir-Simpson Scale
A good reason never to move to Florida, North Carolina, or the Gulf coast of Texas
Names for the upcoming year - so you know who's coming next.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Quote of the Day - May 31, 2005

Preventing Personality

Genetic tests may soon be available to test for autism in an embryo or fetus. In theory, this would warn parents of their child's fate soon enough to prevent the whole affair by aborting the pregnancy or, through gene therapy, eliminate the trait but save the child. The concern in the article is that people with a kind of genius that their disorder enables them to have will be eliminated before they are given the chance to achieve. My concern is that autism and other psychological disorders are merely extreme forms of certain personalities. If we try to get rid of them genetically, we risk losing more than we bargain for - not just the individuals with unique potential, but each and every one of us with personality quirks that make us who we are. This is similar to my concern that we are drugging away our personalities with psychoactive drugs that should be reserved for more extreme cases.

Autism and it's cousin, Asperger's, are of particular concern to me because it has been shown that children with autism have 2 1/2 times as many engineers in their family as other children. Not to mention, I am frighteningly close to the profile of someone with Asperger's. Difficulty with transition stood out to me. My dad has used those exact words to describe me. My children are doomed. I really should just adopt.

Stepping away from the hypochondria for a moment, will parents really get so picky as to choose their child's personality? Like cybernetic implants, I don't see genetic manipulation of the pre-born becoming widespread for medically unnecessary cases. However, parents who can afford gene therapy may well be driven to do anything they can to improve their child's chances for success. They may, in their fervor, either create a wholing uninteresting person or someone whose personality is so extreme in one direction, they may create a disorder where one did not exist before. Autism, after all, has a mirror. It's called Williams syndrome. I don't think it's as simple as giving the kid all the good genes. There is give and take. How many skills can co-exist in one person before some of them start to suffer? If you start to mess with healthy genes, even if the process is perfect with no risk of causing an out and out genetic defect, you're going to have a lot of unforseen problems. Given the current state of gene therapy, I think we have a ways to go before we need to worry about casual gene therapy. May we learn from the mistakes we are making now with pharmaceuticals before that power is unleashed on the general public.

Upcoming Movies

Too... many... movies. My wallet already hurts. This is somewhat for my own reference, since I keep forgetting which movies I want to see this year. I've also prioritized them on a scale of 1 to 5 * - one being "only if I'm tired of re-viewing other movies" and 5 being "I'll see it... then potentially see it again."

June 10 - Mr. and Mrs. Smith. * If I getting tired of seeing Sith before Batman comes out, I might see it. Otherwise, I think I'll wait 'till it comes on USA. Seeing Angelina Jolie kick Brad Pitt's butt might be fun, but Brad Pitt is only good at playing crazy people (See Twelve Monkeys and Fight Club). Anyway, looks like mostly an excuse to blow stuff up.

June 15 - Batman Begins. ***** They'd better not #$*& this up. Both the humor and the action better be dark. Bruce Wayne had better not be a dork. And the Scarecrow had better bring up some terrifying demons. I can see Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon only if he has an encounter with the Scarecrow. Ra's Al Ghul I'm afraid I'm less familiar with, but Wantanbe was impressive in Last Samurai. The batsuit is a good sign. The new batmobile is not.

June 29 - War of the Worlds. **** Tom Cruise picks good projects, then ruins them by being in them. In a related story, he is now dating Katie Holmes. (Sorry, guys). However, this has enough other things going for it that it may be redeemable. Here's hoping.

July 8 - Fantastic Four. *** I must admit, I was not going to see this movie. Jessica Alba and Michael Chiklis, who has been on both the goody-goody Commish and the nitty-gritty Shield just weren't enough of a draw for me considering I'd never heard of the guys playing Mr. Fantastic and The Human Torch. Also, it seemed like they were going for light humour more than angst. However, it turns out Mr. "I'm so bad I'm good" from Nip/Tuck is playing Dr. Doom. Aussies - the next best thing to Brits for bad guys. They don't just enjoy being evil. They savor it. I probably won't see it opening weekend, but I might get around to it during a lull in the season.

July 15 - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. **** Remember that movie about children going to a chocolate factory that traumatized you as child? Well it's about to traumatize a whole new generation of kids on a whole new level with Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka and Tim Burton directing what will undoubtedly be a strange trip. Even though Depp's grin in the previews is already freaking me out, I have to see what they've done with this. I just have to.

July 22 - The Island. ** Am I the only one reminded of an MST3K victim, Parts: The Clonus Horror, when the ads come on for this movie? Ewan McGregor (minus the Obi-Wan beard), Steve Buscemi, and Michael Clarke Duncan are in it, so I might see it. Might. But I will be tempted to construct two little 'bots to take with me and mumble under my breath "Tonight, on Biography..."

Beyond summer

Sept. 30 - Serenity. ****** Yes. That's six stars. Shut up.

Oct. 28 - Legend of Zorro. **** Antonio Banderas (say it right) and Catherine Zeta-Jones return. Perhaps I'll hide in this movie on my birthday. Thason may not be patient enough to wait until my thirtieth to get back at me for his. Oh, and Walt, I no longer have a roommate you can get a key from. So :P

Nov. 18 - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. **** I don't know how they're going to cram the fourth book into a movie, but I guess we'll see.

Dec. 9 - Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. *** Hmmm. I'll have to wait until I've seen more to know if this is worth going to. I liked the book in fourth grade, but movies have already been made out of most, if not all, of the Narnia Chronicles. Wait and see, sons of Adam. Wait and see, daughters of Eve.

Wow. That took a lot longer to put together than I thought it would. Will I have time to do my other posts tonight? We'll see.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Quote of the Day - May 29, 2005

I know that Natalie Portman is a good actress. I'm pretty sure Hayden Christensen is a good actor. They both have flashes of greatness, but boy, when the two of them are together in a room, it's like a greeting card factory.

- Christiana's review of Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith

Revenge of the Sith

Okay, I know I said I wouldn't post until Monday, but I just saw Sith. And I haven't read any spoiler reviews yet, so this is my untainted impressions. First, let me echo the no-spoiler sections of many reviews so far - it was significantly better than the first two prequels. Plenty of action, plenty of tension, and even some suspense even though you know, ultimately, what will happen.


I've changed my mind about how I'll do this. I'll introduce you folks to something called a "spoiler tag". Highlight the text to see my review. Are they gone? Okay. My suspicions were confirmed. Anakin was a spoiled, impatient little brat who wasn't getting what he wanted fast enough. Palpatine stroked his ego something fierce, promise power beyond what the Jedi could and would offer him, and topped it off with a dose of "but you would be doing it for her" and voila! Darth Vader. The Jedi, for their part, were inconsistent in their dealings with him. They feared his judgement was clouded by an attachment to Palpatine, they knew he was dissatified with his position in the Jedi ranks, yet they asked him to spy on Palpatine - arguably one of the more important tasks in the effort to end the war and return the Republic to a democracy. Palpatine asked him to spy on the Jedi, but he offered the power that the Jedi denied him.

Romance. I nearly threw up during the second scene between Anakin and Padme. The rest of the dialogue between them just left me vaguely nauseous. Thankfully, the romance was much reduced in this one. I don't entirely buy his motivation of saving her to turn to the Dark Side, but I think Palpatine's ego stroking is a strong enough motivation for Anakin on it's own. However, it does explain why Vader eventually betrays the Emperor to save his son. His family was the only thing outside himself that he truly valued.

Action. Opening battle. Rocked. Closing battles. Rocked. I didn't see nearly as many Wookies or Wookie battles as I had hoped. But Palpatine using the "seats" in the Senate chamber as weapons was very cool. Anakin's physical transformation into Darth Vader? Triple amputation and disfigurment by fire - take everything else out and this still gets the move a PG-13 rating. Not to mention - ouch. I'm surprised Obi-Wan watched as long as he did. As soon as Anakin caught fire, he should have turned and walked away.

And was it just me, or was Obi-Wan enjoying himself a bit too much in the battle scenes (other than his one-on-one with Anakin). Not that I don't mind seeing Ewan McGregor smile, but I thought Anakin was the battle-hungry one.

Oh, and by the way. Palpatine ranks right up there with the Mayor from Buffy as one of the most truly sinister villains of all time. Few would be tempted by evil or the Dark Side if it were completely blatant. Evil dresses itself up. It is polite and patient, offers security in times of uncertainty, and is subtley manipulative, twisting its victims until they can no longer recognize themselves. Bravo to Ian McDiarmid for pulling it off.

Okay, now I get to read other reviews.