Monday, March 31, 2008

Free today on Craigslist

Today on Craigslist Baltimore you can get the following items for free:

A llama

A life sized Richard Simmons cardboard cutout

A boat with no motor

42 frozen burritos

20 pairs of parachute pants (XL)

50 pounds of banana chips; individually wrapped (That's a lot of wrapping.)

A wooden leg.

We're debating whether you could make a totally awesome art exhibit or a totally fucked up art exhibit with said materials.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Calvaire (The Ordeal)

I just saw a preview for this film, Calvaire (The Ordeal in case you didn't read my title or have an even shorter memory than I do), and I was so horrified I watched it again. It appears to be a film about making someone wear women's clothes then torturing them and a pig. Or maybe the pig gets tortured first, I'm not sure. The words What's the worst that could happen flash onto the screen, one by one, in Halloween colors of black and oranage, and are followed by Ask the pig.

This is one that goes onto my list of entertainment choices somewhere south of oven cleaning. You can read a review from the NY Times here. I'm pretty sure the review is more entertaining than the film.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Free ingredient

Someone is giving away a "50 gallon drum of vinyl ester resin approximately three quarters full." I'm just wondering if that could substitute for one of GLaDOS' cake ingredients...

I was somewhat surprised to discover that pull and peel licorice is a real thing, but not so much surprised to see it is something I don't like; Twizzlers.


Friday, March 28, 2008

The trouble with book covers

I took Cam to the doctor yesterday for his allergy shot, which means we were sitting in the waiting room for half an hour waiting to see if he was going to turn blue and fall out. He was reading Thud, by Terry Pratchett and I was reading the above book, Staked by J. F. Lewis.

I take my glasses off when I read and hold the book about three inches from my face, so I can see the letters clearly without getting a headache. (I have scarring in my eyes from the bleeding and papilledema I had when I was first diagnosed with Intracranial Hypertension, which does funny things to my vision like make straight lines look like they have speed bumps in the middle.)

So all that means whatever cover of my book is very much on display. That's usually cool and can lead to some interesting conversation. But Cam gets his allergy shots at the pediatrician's office and there were a lot of small children waiting to be seen, including one little girl whose mother wasn't too happy with the cover of Staked.

The funniest part of the whole thing is that every other book I read this week was by Meg Cabot. I'm thinking Angry Mom would have been a lot happier with the cover to one of the Princess Diary Books...


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Whiny vampires

I've been hearing a lot about angsty vampires but I don't feel like I run into them very often, so I asked someone at Scalzi's site if they could name any names. They did and named Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and Interview With a Vampire, although they said they can't really say anything negative about Anne Rice since she started the trend.

I was surprised by these names. I was going to leave a comment over there but I didn't want to sound argumentative. I think the last time I had an argument with someone online was on Miss Snark's site when I felt someone was trying to make someone else feel bad for not writing enough.

So here are my thoughts, such as they are.

I think Louis is kind of whiny in Interview With a Vampire, but I think he got a bad deal (murdered so his "friend" can take over his estate) and since he's telling the story of his life he includes the good and the bad.

Twilight - I don't see it. The protagonist is not a vampire and I just don't remember Edward as being angsty. He's trying awfully hard not to eat Bella, who is his perfect prey with the intoxicating odor that overpowers him every time he gets near her, and that fight takes a lot out of him and makes him run away from her the first few times he encounters her, which confuses the hell out of Bella. She's having a hard time adapting to her new town and living with her dad but I thought she was less whiny than many other YA heroines I've encountered. But yanno, being a teenager is kind of an angsty time anyway, so I sort of expect a certain amount of it in YA.

Twilight seems to be one of those love or hate it series. Last year virtually everyone in my youngest son's drama club was zipping through the books and talking about nothing else but at the same time someone went to the trouble of putting together panels at two different local cons so he could complain about how the heroine was too timid for him.

I think Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake character is pretty angsty and annoying (especially the way she praises herself all the time "It was the bravest thing I've ever done") but again she's not the actual vampire. (Despite this I've enjoyed some of the series. I think the one that took place in New Mexico (?) was my favorite.) Maybe I'm being too literal here. It wouldn't be the first time.

My two favorite paranormal romance writers are Kelley Armstrong and MaryJanice Davidson, as any readers of my column could probably figure out. They're very different writers with vastly different stories and characters but I would have a hard time figuring out which one I like more.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What are you doing tomorrow?

Do you think ordinary marathons aren't tough enough? Do you like the cold? Need something to do tomorrow? Then the North Pole Marathon is for you.

Unique Attributes of the Race

  • Certified 26.2 mile marathon distance (Association of International Marathons and Distance Races)
  • Only certified marathon that is run entirely 'on' water, the frozen water of the Arctic Ocean
  • Recognised by Guinness World Records as the Northernmost Marathon on Earth
  • Participants are eligible to join the exclusive North Pole Marathon Grand Slam Club by finishing a marathon on each of the seven continents and this race on the Arctic Ocean.
What are you waiting for? Get going!


Monday, March 24, 2008

My new career

Someone on Craigslist is giving away a dental chair, circa 1968.

Here's my plan. Get the chair and set up an office. But I won't offer dental services, I'll start people down the road to freedom from dental phobias.

Afraid of the dentist? Hyperventilate as soon as you walk into the office? Faint at the sight of the chair? Then come on over to my new office where you get to relax and play video games in my comfy dentist chair.

Once you feel completely comfortable in the chair you'll get to listen to the drill, in a safe environment. Just listen, that's all, while you play Nintendogs or Big Brain Academy or some other soothing game.

Eventually you'll be able to walk into even a root canal with no worries at all.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

This is very sad

Variety writes about the death of ABBA drummer Ola Brunkert in this article. They called it a freak accident, an expression we hear too often to take seriously, but this was pretty odd. I started thinking if only his neighbors had been outside, if only he had called emergency services, even if he hadn't been able to talk they should respond to an empty line (or at least they're meant to in my county, which isn't just not his county, it's not even his country so what do I know?) or a hundred other if onlys. It's just awfully sad.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Stay - what was that?

We watched a movie called Stay yesterday that I found utterly baffling. It didn't help that I missed the first few minutes (although I hear that's good because there was a pretty nasty car accident, something I don't want to see.)

It stars Ryan Gosling and Ewan MacGregor (whose name I may not know how to spell) and was a sort of psychological thriller thing where a school shrink is trying to stop a student's planned suicide.

Except it wasn't. According to this article the whole thing is a sort of a dream, set between heaven and hell, not really designed to make sense.

I thought it was a mystery and tried to figure out the increasingly odd clues but instead I should have forgotten about logic, plot or continuity and settled down to enjoy the acting, which is quite good. Ryan Gosling is especially worth watching. This is only the second project of his I've seen but he was terrific in both of them.

Then I watched 300, which is extremely amusing, although perhaps not intentionally. The best thing about it is that it will be quite hard to have a sequel.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

The ceremonial closing of the tabs

I've been reading all kinds of stuff this week, including census records for insane asylums in the 1890's, and I've got a few things to close up.

From the New England Journal of Medicine:

Guns, Fear, the Constitution, and the Public's Health

The premed student I mentor sent that to me. Very disturbing and educational. It debunks several myths such as that laxer gun laws lead to lower crime.

Gun violence is often an unintended consequence of gun ownership. Americans have purchased millions of guns, predominantly handguns, believing that having a gun at home makes them safer. In fact, handgun purchasers substantially increase their risk of a violent death. This increase begins the moment the gun is acquired — suicide is the leading cause of death among handgun owners in the first year after purchase — and lasts for years.

The risks associated with household exposure to guns apply not only to the people who buy them; epidemiologically, there can be said to be "passive" gun owners who are analogous to passive smokers. Living in a home where there are guns increases the risk of homicide by 40 to 170% and the risk of suicide by 90 to 460%. Young people who commit suicide with a gun usually use a weapon kept at home, and among women in shelters for victims of domestic violence, two thirds of those who come from homes with guns have had those guns used against them.

Also from the same journal:

A calcified traumatic hematoma.

Check out the image, it's really interesting. The patient is having it surgically removed because he can't wear a helmet. I'm guessing he's also subject to a certain amount of teasing.

A sad article about adoption and "feeble-minded" children.

Henry Herbert Goddard, Director of the Training School for Backward and Feeble-Minded Children in Vineland, New Jersey, was the single most prominent authority on “feeble-mindedness” during the early part of the century. Best known for introducing the term “moron” into the English language, he was outspoken about his opposition to adoption and his preference for institutionalization. “Normal” children were qualified for family life, according to his view. “Feeble-minded” children were not.


Elaborate classification schemes for mental deviation were created—separating idiots from imbeciles and morons from dullards—in hopes that they would improve selection and placement techniques. Mental evaluation was considered so important to making adoption work that W.H. Slingerland, author of one of the first professional texts on family placement, issued the following warning in 1919. “To put a low grade mental defective in a family home where a normal child was expected is a social crime, once to be condoned because of ignorance, but now inexcusable in a well-ordered and progressive child-placing agency.”

And finally, let's match Terry Pratchett's one million dollar donation to Alzheimer's research. This week I saw an article saying that one in eight baby boomers has this illness. But there is little money for research, for every dollar that cancer research gets Alzheimer's gets three cents.

Let's help change that.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

In which I am more confused than ever

I switched my cable/internet package today, after much debate with the cable company, which suddenly doubled the price of my existing package. A couple of hours after I got off the phone I turned on the television and couldn't watch Comedy Central. Or HBO. Or Showtime. Or BET. Or the SciFi channel. Or On Demand.

So I call the company up and get this message that if I connect my receiver to my cable box they can send a signal which can reset the signal box. I stare blankly at my telephone receiver thinking how the hell do I do that?


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Hall of the Mountain King

Remember that Rice book where Lestat becomes a rock star? I'm just sayin'


Monday, March 17, 2008

Go Retrievers!

Check out the picture in this Baltimore Sun article about UMBC's first ever qualification for the NCAA tournament. It's hilarious.

This is an especially sweet moment given that the school isn't exactly famous for athletics. My sons's pediatrician went to premed there, the young man I mentor goes there and Cullen goes there to study Bio-Informatics. As they said at parent day, the students are IB kids, AP kids and valedictorians. It's nice to see them be smart and athletic.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Three plus one equals four

Variety says that Terry Gilliam has gone back to filming The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which he had stopped because of the untimely and extremely sad death of Heath Ledger. Heath's "realistic" part of the film was completed, and now filming has started again, with three actors finishing his part. Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law are the actors. (I worked with Colin Farrell on a film called The Farm, which was renamed to something else, where we ended up on a train alone together while he sang show tunes. Luck be a Lady Tonight is the one that comes to mind.)

From a statement from the producers:

"Since the format of the story allows for the preservation of his entire performance, at no point will Heath's work be modified or altered through the use of digital technology. Each of the parts played by Johnny, Colin and Jude is representative of the many aspects of the character that Heath was playing."
That's good news all around, or as good as can come out of a tragedy.

When Cam and I went to see Juno there was a poster for the new Batman movie in the hallway and every single person that passed by stopped and looked at the image of Heath with the giant grin of the Joker and said something in memoriam. It was touching but I wish we could have skipped the whole thing.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Delicious cake recipe

From GLaDOS, a super cake recipe.

And in other news I love Meg Cabot. I'm on book three of the Princess Diaries. If you've only seen the movie you should run to the store and get the books. They're hilarious and Mia can complain and complain without you wanting to smack her for being a whiny idiot. Love her.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Psyched out by a kitty

I was over at my sister's mother-in-law's house last night, for a super nice dinner, when her cat strolled into the room. It's a black and white model with loads of dignity. After collecting some oohs and aahs as its due it walked over to the nicest chair in the room and started sharpening its claws.

Well I hissed at it, a sort of psssp, psssp, pssp noise that I learned ages ago, which usually works because it's similar to the noise a mama kitty will make to the kitten when she's in discipline noise.

She slowly turned her head, while still ripping the chair to shreds, and gave me the coldest look ever. Meanwhile all conversation stopped and everyone looked at me. And I said, "I'm sorry, is she allowed to do that?"

She wasn't actually, but for just a moment, she fooled me.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Can't move my arms...

I woke up this morning, rolled over, reached for my glasses and cringed when pain ran through my arm. I couldn't figure out why it hurt; I hadn't had a blood draw in a couple of weeks, and then I remembered.

After neglecting my Wii for weeks, I played forty-five minutes of Wii sports yesterday and beat my personal best at knocking the heavybags down. Today I pay the price.

Today's been one of those days where whatever I try to do something else gets in the way. Sit down to format newsletters and stories are missing. Try to pick up Cullen and end up on the phone with the cable company for an hour. (They're billing me twice for the same month.)

I haven't written a single word of the Kitta book yet today and I still have about a half hour of chores to do before I can start.

Script Frenzy is moving from June to April this year. I hadn't started thinking about it yet and now it's just a couple of weeks away. I'm not sure what I would work on if I did it this year. Maybe this thing about some kids that steal a UPS truck and get a big surprise.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Most annoying audio on a website

The website for Funny Games, the remake of the German film, is horrible. The most horrible thing about it is the music. The second most horrible thing is how it doesn't go anywhere, which I hear goes double for the film itself. This is one I have no plans to see.

Did I mention I'm now writing the Smorgasbord, which runs with Quality Time at BrokerUniverse? So now I write several blurbs each week as well as my column. I'm trying to pick two films to focus on this week but may end up going with just one because I can't find two that look good.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Counting Down


Sunday, March 09, 2008

If you seek you shall find

Yet another reason to love Uncle Google - I'm reading Stephen King's Duma Key and he mentions several paintings by name. The book is about art, visual art, and before the interwebs I would usually not know what a writer meant when they talked about a specific piece. But now I can usually find some site somewhere with an image. This came in especially handy when we were reading Daniel Pinkwater's The Artsy Smartsy Club as paintings were integral to the story.

So far I've found the following art mentioned in Duma Key:

Thomas Benton Hart - The Hailstorm.

Edward Hopper - 11 a.m.

Winslow Homer - Undertow

All three are powerful paintings and looking at them adds another dimension to King's work.


Saturday, March 08, 2008

Fantasy weekend

Cullen and Cam are busy with Super Smash Bros Brawl this weekend, which leaves me up to my own devices. It's the first weekend in some time when I haven't got loads of chores to do so I'm having a fantasy weekend. As in fantasy and scifi.

I read (reread?) John "Mike" Ford's One Last Hot Time, diving into it the moment I woke up and reading straight through. Then on to Jeffrey Ford's Empire of Ice Cream, short fantasy stories.

I took a break from that to watch Torchwood, a show I only recently discovered. If I've got time I'll finish up with Stephen King's Duma Key, which of course is dark fantasy. Intermingled is writing my own fantasy book, book three in the Kitta series.

I'm somewhat confused by Torchwood, not so much by the show itself but by the bizarre choice of commercials. Why are there commercials for Christian devotional CDs? How many hardcore Christians are watching the show? And why exactly? Is it the hot gay kissing?


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Orioles fans take note

Orioles to hold tryouts for ballgirls and ballboys on Saturday, March 8

While Orioles players are in Fort Lauderdale preparing for the upcoming season, Orioles front office "scouts" will be at Camden Yards on Saturday, March 8, looking to sign a few fans that are good with a glove.

Outgoing and athletic men and women ages 18 and older who are interested in serving as ballboys and ballgirls for the Orioles during the 2008 season are invited to an open tryout at Oriole Park beginning at noon on March 8.

Candidates should dress casually, bring their own gloves, and use the Home Plate Plaza entrance to Camden Yards on the southwestern corner of the ballpark. Complimentary parking is available in Lot A.

The rest of the press release is here.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Stupid germs

Cullen is sick. Saturday he woke up with such a bad sore throat and asthma flareup that I took him straight to the doctor, who said he didn't have strep and to keep using his inhaler.

Yesterday I took him back and he has walking pneumonia. From Saturday to Tuesday - that's fast work. He's on antibiotics now and if he's not better I take back again on Saturday.

It's hard to be in college, talking all science classes, waiting to find out if you have a nasty kidney disease and have pneumonia on top of it.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

If at first you don't succeed you fail


Monday, March 03, 2008

My reaction to tonight's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

1) Aieeee!!!

2) When does season two start?


Sunday, March 02, 2008

From pasture to the plate

The Cattlemen's Beef Board and National Cattlemen's Beef Association has a page called Pasture to Plate, with some subpages. I'm looking at the one called Stages in Beef Production. It's almost cute how carefully it's written, with text like

Growth promoting hormones help cattle build more muscle – producing a leaner beef product for consumers.

See, hormones are helpers. They're so sweet!
they are fed a scientifically formulated ration

Real scientists!

When cattle arrive at packing plants, they are moved inside in a quiet and orderly manner.

Remember those videos with the forklifts? Were they quiet and orderly?

When beef leaves the packing plant, it is in the form of large sections, either primals, like the chuck, round rib and loin, or subprimals which are smaller cuts of meat such as the bottom round, top round, eye round and round tip. Some plants sell subprimals to meat processing facilities where workers skillfully break them down into individual steaks and roasts that are sent to supermarkets and restaurants.

Why is this called fabrication? Also maybe, and this is just a thought, with the subprime mortgage mess going on right now maybe the subprimals should get a new name?

The site says you can download a copy of this ever so helpful document for your own files but I don't think the link works. Mine will take you to the html page where you can decide for yourself.


Saturday, March 01, 2008

Now this is a sport

Here's something fun to try. Do a Google search on bobsled racing and nearly every top hit is about the Jamaican bobsled team.

And from there you can find this sport, where you race on a wok and protect your feet with ladles.