Archive for February, 2009

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iLOL’d: The iRack.

February 28, 2009

Hemant Mehta over at Friendly Atheist posted this in his blog.  Unfortunately, the video had been removed, so I popped over to YouTube and found a working copy.

The iRack is an apt (if somewhat excessive) analogy for certain recent events that our darling country has gotten involved in.  Adding to the lulz are demonstrations of Apple’s recent technology, including the iMicrowave and the iVacuumCleaner.

You can watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rw2nkoGLhrE

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BeingGreen: Green Clothes.

February 27, 2009

Clothes can be both very easy and very difficult to green.  Easy to obtain – while new clothes may not be easy to get organic, pre-owned clothes are green regardless of how they were made.  Hard to keep that way – clothes are tenacious little pieces, difficult to make effectively clean without chemical-based detergents.  Without a squirt of dish soap, body oil causes clothes to smell foul after a few weeks of storage.  White clothes – at least the way we use them – do not come out white without plenty of bleach (read more about the lack of green decolorizers in Green Stain Removal).

Even commercial detergents, when made from environmentally-friendly products, are usually less effective than their toxic counterparts.  Those that aren’t can be higher-priced.  Care2 has a pretty good article on various green soaps and their pros and cons.   One exception is Arm & Hammer’s baking soda-based detergent, which we’re currently using out of frugality more than green intent.  It’s working well so far, but long-term tests are in order to determine its effects on stains, oil, and those white clothes.

Speaking of those white clothes…

Many of the things we bleach (such as towels) we do so not because we like them to look good, but for health reasons.  Wet towels and rags become quick homes for bacteria, which cause a foul stench and, I presume, unhealthy build-up in the linens.  For this reason, chlorine bleach is used to nix the bacteria.  I think it’s a fair trade-off, though I will look into alternate ways to keep our cloths safe and good-smelling.

So… head’s a bit fuzzy.  I’ve been spending too much time in the Blogosphere and it’s having an effect on my lecturing ability.  To wrap up:

  • Buying green clothes is easy: hit a thrift store.  As long as the fabric isn’t a complete environmental menace, you’ll be saving an enormous strain on resources.
  • For green cleaning of clothes, Seventh Generation and Arm & Hammer are said to be the best.
  • For stain and mildew… just bleach ’em, or start experimenting for a better solution.  I’ll get into that as soon as I have a bit more liberty – my mother runs the laundry scene, and she tends to get torqued if something turns out wrong.

Finally, remember to use the most scientifically effective method of filling your washing machine: fill machine, add soap, add clothes.  In that order.  The soap is better distributed through the water, so it cleans more evenly (and, we presume, effectively.)

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Why Dragonheart: A New Beginning Sucked

February 26, 2009

This classic rant was originally written some time ago.

Why ‘Dragonheart: A New Beginning’ Sucked

Well, it didn’t suck. Not really. But if you’re looking for something with a halfway awe-inspiring plot and original characters, look elsewhere.

The problem with ‘A New Beginning’ is simple: virtually all the characters are sad attempts to recreate the cast from the first film, with only negligible differences.

Goph/Joph/Joff/whatever the heck his name is was obviously meant to be the “Kara” character — the driving force behind the characters’ actions. Unlike Kara, however, who was actually interested in the greater good, Joph is interested in Treasure, Adventure and Glory. It makes sense in its own right; he’s lived a sheltered life and really has no idea what real knighthood is like. What stinks is that he never finds out, so he fails in the Token Knight department. And then, despite his “friendship” with Drake, once he gets what he wants he blows off everything in order to Be a Glorious Knight.

Drake – despite being a dragon and Draco’s apparent progeny – is actually the Bowen parallel. As he’s the most awesome guy around, everybody expects him to save the day, even though he’d just rather crawl into a hole and hide from humanity in general. He’s also slightly neurotic, which isn’t too annoying as he never gets too neurotic, but he also is too busy being the Town’s Dragon Defender to be properly deflated when Joff runs off.

That monk kid – what was his name now? – is, of course, the Token Monk Who Chronologues the Story. He’s obviously not as cool as the monk from the first movie (a real poet!) but manages to pull through on his own personality — a boy who tries, but just hasn’t quite got it. He also Knows When to Quit, which is more than can be said for Goff. Unfortunately, at points he does seem just a little too eager to stray off his path, but he probably just wasn’t thinking.

Osric, of all people, is the movie’s best character. He’s a villain with a talent of Making The Law Work For Him, and unlike most of the cast, Harry Van Gorkum can actually act. (It’s not always too bad, but I really expected better from Robby Benson of all people.) He also has a remarkable talent for Taking Advantage Of Naïve Upstarts, and unlike many villains has a clear motive for his villainry.

That old Asian dude is not a repeat, but rather the Token Assistant to the Token Princess-In-Disguise. Fortunately, for the most part he’s just a bodyguard and advisor, rather than an Annoyingly Sage Mentor, and his slippery ways are actually quite entertaining.

Then we have the Token Princess-In-Disguise, also the Token Female-In-Disguise Warrior Who Kicks The Men’s Butts. She, too, can be entertaining, but without fail whenever she opens her can of Whoop-Derriere, the battle degrades from vicious combat into a comedy fest.

Now, let’s see… While ‘Dragonheart’ had its share of sheer comedy, the serious points were actually serious, and the plot meant something. In ‘A New Beginning’, while the plot is apparently supposed to be serious on some level, they spend too much time focused on gags, making the movie feel like a really expensive cartoon. The plot is also far from original; it’s that stale, regurgitated Dissatisfied Young Man Who Suddenly Gets A Break And Grows An Ego The Size of Kuwait, with a villain thrown in for good measure. If you really want to watch this plot, get ‘Merlin’s Apprentice’, where character death feels like character death and not just a Lousy Excuse To Become Effectively Immortal. And if you want a comedy fantasy, get Shrek; it’s even got a dragon.

Which, in closing, isn’t to say you shouldn’t watch ‘A New Beginning’. It’s better than ‘Max Magician and the Legend of the Rings’, and a load better than ‘The Neverending Story III’. Just go into it expecting a typical sequel, and if you’ve seen enough Disney you’ll be pleasantly surprised. At least there’s no Running Away From Over-Protective Parents.

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Things that make me lose The Game

February 26, 2009

Exactly what it says on the tin.

  • The phrase “the game”.  Any time, any place.
  • The word “game”, almost any time.
  • The song “Never Gonna Give You Up” (“We know the game and we’re gonna play it”).
  • The songs “Voulez-Vous” and “Defying Gravity”, for the same reason.
  • Other songs: “Hubba Hubba Zoot Zoot”, “Dopefish Polka”.
  • Cabbage-rolling.
  • Jokes about Chuck Norris.
  • Whenever I think about something that makes me think of something else, I think of thinking of something that makes me lose the Game.  And I lose.
  • Facepalming.
  • The word “AAAAAARGH!” (G pronounced or unpronounced.)
  • Then sometimes I just lose it for no reason at all.

For more information, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Game_(mind_game)

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iApprove: Mark Vincent.

February 24, 2009

No posting yesterday.  I got busy working on my novel (rearranging the plot, mostly) and by the time I remembered I hadn’t posted it was after eleven and I was headed to bed.

So I thought I’d share with you today something absolutely amazing that I found last night while, er… working.  Yeah, working.  (Just kidding.  I was just procrastinating bedtime, seriously.)

It was late, and I was tired, so I’d hit YouTube and was watching the recently-uploaded episodes of Australia’s Got Talent. (You may recall that I am a Got Talent junkie.  Or I may not have mentioned that.)  There were some really awesome acts, some really cool acts, surprisingly few but incredibly lame acts, and a whole lot of Red Simons elevating himself to new levels of turdity.

And then there was Mark Vincent.

I was ooooooh so dubious when this kid came out.  After the Neal E. Boyd fiasco on America’s Got Talent last year, all I could think when listening to this kid talk was “great, another operapotamus, fifty bucks says he sings Nessun Dorma.  Another fifty says he does pretty well and they put him through.”

Then he started singing.

Every time I hear someone sing “Nessun Dorma”, it affects me a little differently.  Paul Potts moved me to tears.  Luciano Pavarotti scared me.  Neal E. Boyd didn’t do much of anything, though I noted that he has a beautiful voice.  Mark Vincent floored me.

I could not believe that what I was hearing – this incredibly deep, powerful, smooth voice – was coming from a fifteen-year-old.  He delivered the song like he was driving a horse team (Snowy River reference not intended), with power and passion and a look in his eyes that was not unreminiscent of Pavarotti.

Jaw, meet floor.

My initial thought was “If this kid wins, there’s something seriously wrong with these competitions.”  But listening to his performance again, I’m going to have to retract that.  If the Australian audiences had the same general reaction I did – and initial evidence suggests that they did – and Mark keeps up the high standards in subsequent performances, he is going to be one tough nut to beat.

One tiny quibble: While he sings, he looks like he’s struggling a bit to get his power level up there.  He manages to do it and it sounds incredible, but I wonder at how exhausting it is for him.

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iApprove: The Barna Group.

February 22, 2009

For some reason, it always feels awkward to make a post on a Sunday.  It’s probably because I’ve grown accustomed to Sundays consisting of long, exhausting hours commuting to and from church (and the meetings in between), followed by an afternoon of feeling too tired to do anything.  Getting something accomplished – a blog post, for example – doesn’t fit so well into that itinerary.

Anyway…

The other day, I found an interesting site: The Barna Group.  It’s a Christian site dedicated to collecting statistics about Christians.  For example, 50% of a surveyed group (and possibly all Americans) believe that Christianity is no longer a default faith for people.  88% of evangelical born-again Christians voted for John McCain.

But here’s my favorite: Christian Parents Are Not Comfortable With Media But Buy Them For Their Kids Anyway.

According to studies, a large percentage of Christians who bought things for their children such as movies, music CDs, video games, and mobile phone downloads were not comfortable (!) with the content of the things they had purchased.  (Depending on the nature of the stuff purchased, between one quarter and two-thirds had misgivings about the things they had gotten for their kids.)

What I’d like to know is, wazzup? Why do parents (Christian parents especially) buy things for their kids when they’re worried about the content?  Do they even bother to look at the games before they buy them?  Why are they giving into their kids’ demands when what they should be doing is teaching their children to avoid that kind of content?

My mother raised two teenage daughters, and not once did we ask for something with questionable content.  In fact, when I was about thirteen or fourteen, we made a group-agreed decision to get rid of our Harry Potter books on account of the pseudo-witchcraft therein.  (I do kind of regret that now, because they were awesome books and I was fully intelligent enough to realize that witchcraft was Not Cool, but the point is that we understood why she didn’t want to keep them around, and we agreed with that.)  If you’re going to raise morally-sound kids – Christian or otherwise – you have to take an active role in shaping their tastes.  Let them know what kind of entertainment is acceptable and what isn’t.

Don’t just ban stuff from your house for no reason, though; explain to them why something is bad.  They’ll probably get it and as they get older they’ll probably learn to accept and even agree with it.

One of the most undervalued parenting skills of our time is the ability to Just Say No.  We need to learn that our children do not need to have everything they want, no matter how they plead for it.  If they ask for something damaging, be it movies with inappropriate content or junk food, tell them no, tell them why, and stand firm.  Both of you will be much better off.

(And don’t save this for their older years – start refusing them things when they’re young.  This may sound barbaric, but it’s very important.  Don’t refuse them everything; just say no often enough to let them know that they won’t always get their way.)

If you’re interested in more cool statistics, bop over to http://www.barna.org/

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iLOL’d: Star Trek meets Monty Python.

February 22, 2009

An instant classic, brought to you by YouTube.  Not only is it Monty Python, but it brilliantly showcases some of the silliest footage in Star Trek history.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luVjkTEIoJc