June 30, 2007

Horror Movie Review: Night Watch

I started this latest series of reviews with four movies in mind. Here are links for the reviews of The Descent, Ginger Snaps, and Dog Soldiers. The fourth movie I had in mind is probably the least mainstream of the group, but I'm going to hold off on that one and offer up this bonus review of a flick I watched just this week.

Night Watch (Nochnoy Dozor) (2006)

Tvarich, you must see this movie.

Set in modern day Moscow, we are witnessing the prophesied culmination of a millenium-old power struggle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.

Notice that I did not say "good" vs. "evil". This is the first film in a trilogy that has a scope reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings.

Ages ago two armies met in battle. The slaughter was terrible, and it became apparent to the two leaders that they were perfectly and evenly matched. The leaders halted the battle to prevent further useless killing and forged an uneasy truce between them.

Still living among humans today are Others, people with extraordinary powers and abilities. They never know what they are until they are called upon by circumstances to be more than human. Once they discover themselves, they must freely choose to join one side or the other. Either dark, or light.

Some of those who control the daytime are designated as Night Watch, to maintain the truce and prevent the forces of darkness from running out of control. If a vampire wishes to take a victim, the Night Watch must approve else the forces of darkness could raise an army of vampires in a short time. There are many other such checks in play that keep the two sides in delicate balance.

At some point, a supremely powerful Other will appear and will change sides, thus disrupting the balance and allowing one side to sweep the field and be finally victorious. The prophecy says that the forces of darkness will ultimately prevail.

Sounds sexy, eh? Guess what? That's all background!

The story revolves around Anton, one of the Night Watch. We see how he discovers that he's an Other, and how small events over a period of years build up to the fulfillment of the prophecy.

I'm not going to give up any more of the plot, but I will talk about the film. It's left up in the air about whether the forces of light are any less evil than the forces of night. Put another way, the film leads you to believe that neither side is necessarily better, rather, they are just different from each other. If the dark forces seem sinister, it's only because of our human perceptions. Old legends more often attribute darkness with bad.

There are a multitude of language options on the disk, including hearing it in the original Russian with English subtitles. The English dubbed version is done really well, so you don't have to feel obligated to read subtitles. I still recommend that you do though, and to be prepared to enjoy a few little surprises.

The visuals are stunning, as are most of the special effects. Some of the scenes are uncomfortably gory. I find it odd that the effect of seeing thousands of warriors being brutally cut to pieces in battle is somehow less disturbing than a scene where two individuals are using scissors as weapons. Human nature, I suppose, and that ability for large-scale rationalization may lie at the bottom of some of mankind's less shining moments.

Even for a horror movie, some of the character's actions seem unreal. More than once I was reminded that these people aren't American or Westernized. What feels natural to a Russian in a given situation may strike you as odd, but the occasional cultural dischords don't detract from the story. If anything, they add to the underlying tension.

If you're confused, the ending nicely recaps all that had gone before, as seen through the filter of understanding how each step ultimately led to the finale. Brilliantly too.

So, to sum up: Night Watch is the first movie in an epic trilogy that takes place in a darker, more sinister universe. If that concept appeals to you, then I highly recommend this movie.

Posted by Ted at 10:10 PM | Comments (1599) | TrackBack
Category: Cult Flicks

You Know You're In Trouble When the Associated Press Starts Slapping You Down

Michael Moore's new movie, Sicko, is starting to generate buzz as folks see it. Unfortunately, I don't think that this AP news story is quite what he was hoping for:

But one aspect missing from the film is the defense. Do not expect to hear anyone speak well of the care they received in the U.S. On the other hand, patients and doctors from Canada, Britain, France and Cuba marvel at their health care.

If the bias is that obvious, then even those who wish to believe are going to have trouble with it. I mean, who would've thought you'd see things like this:

Moore tells viewers there are about 50 million people in the U.S. without health insurance.

Just this past week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there are about 43.6 million uninsured people in the country. In March, the Census Bureau put the number at 44.8 million.

That's still a lot, but undercounting by millions?!?! Or how about:

Taking on the pharmaceutical industry, Moore says it spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress for a Medicare prescription drug benefit.

"Of course it was really a bill to hand over $800 billion of our tax dollars to the drug and health insurance industry," he said.

Moore is citing the projected cost for the Medicare drug benefit's first 10 years.

Last year, however, Medicare officials told The Associated Press that the projected cost of the benefit through 2015 stood at about $729 billion, a substantial drop compared with original estimates.

What's that first rule about digging a hole?

Moore also noted the some of the elderly in the drug program could end up paying more for their prescriptions than they did before. That is true. But the vast majority do save because of the tens of billions of dollars in annual government subsidies to help cover the cost of their medicine. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says people save about $1,200 a year on average by participating in the program, called Medicare Part D.

We need a bigger shovel.

At one point, Moore notes where the U.S. ranks in terms of health care around the world.

"The United States slipped to No. 37 in health care around the world, just slightly ahead of Slovenia," he said.

That ranking is based on a 2000 report from the World Health Organization that some health analysts viewed as misleading.

Yeah, riiiiiiight. Thirty-seventh.

The rest of the article notes where Moore gets it right, but also points out where he tells half-truths, hides inconvenient facts, and misleads you about the numbers in order to make his opinion seem valid.

Michael Moore is a liar. Too bad too, because I understand that he's a talented filmmaker.

Posted by Ted at 01:20 PM | Comments (39) | TrackBack
Category: Links


Seen on the 'net:

Courtesy is the KY of social intercourse

Especially important considering the number of dickheads out there.

Posted by Ted at 07:56 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

June 29, 2007

Inflatables in Space

Sounds dirty, eh?

Bigelow Aerospace has launched it's second test module into orbit atop a Russian Dnper rocket. Once in orbit, the module deployed and all indications are that it inflated normally. That makes Bigelow two for two.

Their plan is to have a commercial space station functioning in orbit by 2015, made from inflatable modules. If you click that link, you'll find all kinds of information on their prototypes and future plans, including a "fly your stuff" program where you can send stuff into orbit and see it float around on camera.

Posted by Ted at 06:12 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Space Program

Adorable Bunny Blogging (Updated)

Our rabbit Ozzie loves attention. If you put your hand in his cage he will dive under it so you can scratch behind his ears. On the floor, he'll wriggle under your feet so you can rub his back.

Yesterday was pretty funny. He was out and about, running around the room, when he settled underneath a small oscillating fan that Liz has on the floor. Every time the fan moved back and forth, it scratched him on the head, just like he likes.

Update: Mrs. Jones has posted photographic evidence that I do, indeed, live in a universe of cute.

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Category: Square Pegs

Tie Dyeing and Fabric Dyeing

While stationed in Germany with the Air Force, my best friend and I got t-shirts for volunteering to help with the Special Olympics. Soon after that, we tie-dyed the shirts. Soon after that, we wore those shirts to a unit picnic. Soon after that, we were ordered to report for urinalysis testing.

Whether you're a drug-addled hippie freak, or just don't get enough chances to pee in a cup, tie-dyed shirts rock. And now, thanks to this site, you can learn how to do fabric dyeing without the enormous amount of waste that most techniques seem to generate. Follow that link for color recipes, step-by-step methods and much, much more.

Posted by Ted at 05:54 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
Category: Links

Geeks Are Sexy, Unless They're Just Geeks

Horror stories from the world of computers: WorseThanFailure.com.

Besides the head-shakers and groaners, there are some funny stories (unless they happened to you).

"There's a way to schedule tasks?" Frank replied, surprised.

Of course there is a way. Dripping faucet drips into bucket on seesaw. When bucket is heavy enough, seesaw tips lifting lid off cheese plate. Mouse runs out of hole to eat cheese. String tied to mouse tail pulls crank that pushes pencil into CPU power switch. Computer boots and runs browser from Startup menu. When mouse is full, he runs back to his hole, where a piezoelectric switch starts an electric motor that turns a paddle wheel scooping water out of the bucket and onto the floor. Water runs into surge protector, shorting it out and shutting down the computer. Bucket returns it’s original position. Paddle wheel stops when mouse gets hungry (and loses weight). Water dries, leaving power available for the computer.

Really quite elegant.

Ask anyone in the profession and they'll tell you, Dilbert is a documentary.

Posted by Ted at 05:40 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack
Category: Links

June 28, 2007

Test Your Energy IQ

Found at Captain's Quarters.

How well do you understand the energy situation as it stands today? Harris conducted a poll among Americans, and the results were pretty dismal. Take the poll below (in the extended entry) for yourself, and then check out the answers here.

Let me know how you did in the comments. I didn't do so hot.

1. What percent of the world’s 10 biggest oil and natural gas companies are owned and operated by foreign governments?

1 25%
2 50%
3 75%
4 100%
5 Not sure

2. Where does ExxonMobil, the largest U.S. oil and natural gas company, rank in size among the world’s largest holders of oil reserves?

1 Among the top 3 oil reserve holders
2 Among 4th to 6th oil reserve holders
3 Among 7th to 10th oil reserve holders
4 Not among the top 10 largest oil reserve holders
5 Not sure

3. What percent of the world’s proven oil reserves do U.S. oil companies control?

1 0% to less than 10%
2 10% to less than 20%
3 20% to less than 30%
4 30% to less than 40%
5 Not sure

4. According to 2006 projections, what percent of global energy demand in 2030 will be met by fossil fuels, such as oil, natural gas and coal?

1 21%
2 41%
3 61%
4 81%
5 Not sure

5. What percent of U.S. domestic energy needs are currently met by imports?

1 10% to less than 25%
2 25% to less than 40%
3 40% to less than 60%
4 60% to less than 80%
5 Not sure

6. In 2006, how many cents did the U.S. oil and natural gas industry earn in profit on every dollar of gasoline sales?

1 1 to 5 cents
2 6 to 10 cents
3 11 to 15 cents
4 16 to 20 cents
5 Not sure

7. What percentage of U.S. oil companies’ stocks are owned by pension plans and retirement accounts?

1 0% to 15%
2 16% to 30%
3 31% to 45%
4 46% to 60%
5 Not sure

8. On average in 2006, what percent of your gasoline dollar went to the following factors? Please select each response only once.

1 Price of crude oil
2 Refining, distribution and service station costs
3 Federal, state, and local taxes

Write which factor above goes with which percentage below

1 56%
2 26%
3 18%

9. Current government policy restricts access to what percentage of potential offshore U.S. oil and natural gas development sites, off the coasts of the lower 48 states?

1 25%
2 45%
3 65%
4 85%
5 Not sure

10. From 2000 through 2005, U.S. oil and gas companies invested how many billions of dollars on emerging energy technologies in North America (such as biomass, wind, solar, alternative fuel vehicles, gas-to-liquids and oil shale)?

1 $1 to less than $25 billion
2 $25 to less than $50 billion
3 $50 to less than 75 billion
4 $75 to 100 billion
5 Not sure

11. According to Oil and Gas Journal, at 2006 production rates, how many years will the global “known reserves” of oil last?

1 20 years
2 40 years
3 50 years
4 60 years
5 Not Sure

12. According to 2007 data, what percentage of U.S. energy use is currently supplied by renewable sources?

1 0% to less than 10%
2 10% to less than 20%
3 20% to less than 30%
4 30% or more
5 Not sure

13. According to 2007 projections, what percentage of U.S. energy use will be supplied by renewable sources by 2030?

1 0% to less than 10%
2 10% to less than 20%
3 20% to less than 30%
4 30% or more
5 Not sure

14. What percentage of gasoline used in the U.S. would be replaced by ethanol, using current corn-based production technology, if every acre of corn was used for ethanol production exclusively?

1 0 to 10%
2 11% to 25%
3 26% to 40%
4 41% to 55%
5 Not sure

15. What percentage of cars on the road today are designed to operate using the fuel E-85 (a fuel mixture that is 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol)?

1 0% to 5%
2 6% to 10%
3 11% to 15%
4 16% to 20%
5 Not sure

16. In 2030 what percentage of the U.S. light-duty car fleet will be made up of flexible fuel vehicles able to run on E-85 (a fuel mixture that is 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol)?

1 0% to 6%
2 7% to 10%
3 11% to 15%
4 16% to 20%
5 Not sure

17. In the history of the world, the energy industry has produced about a trillion barrels of oil and developed about another trillion into proved reserves for future production. How much recoverable conventional oil does the U.S. Geological Survey estimate remains to be discovered in the future?

1 About half of the oil that has already been produced
2 Between 1 and 2 times the amount of oil that has already been produced
3 Between 3 and 4 times the amount of oil that has already been produced
4 Between 5 and 6 times the amount of oil that has already been produced
5 Not sure

18. In 2006, which of the following countries was the largest U.S. supplier of oil?

1 Saudi Arabia
2 Canada
3 Venezuela
4 China
5 Not sure

19. In 2006, what percent of oil the U.S. consumes came from the Persian Gulf countries?

1 Less than 15%
2 16 to 30%
3 31 to 45%
4 46 to 60%
5 Not sure

20. In 2006, the U.S. imported what percent of its oil?

1 20%
2 40%
3 60%
4 80%
5 Not sure

Posted by Ted at 05:44 AM | Comments (440) | TrackBack
Category: Links

June 27, 2007

This one is going on the sidebar too

Thanks to QandO for this one!


Posted by Ted at 08:30 PM | Comments (199) | TrackBack
Category: Links

Every Time We Think We've Got It Figured Out...

You remember what you learned about RNA, right? They're basically molecular dump trucks, running back and forth and collecting the building blocks needed to create proteins in the human body.

That may be a more apt description than we thought, because suddenly scientists are discovering that the "dump trucks" may be just a small percentage of the entire RNA "fleet".

Time to rethink what we thought we knew about DNA and evolution.

What is being proposed is the inheritance of characteristics acquired during an individual's lifetime, rather than as the result of chance mutations. This was first suggested by Jean Baptiste Lamarck, before Charles Darwin's idea of natural selection swept the board. However, even Darwin did not reject the idea that Lamarckian inheritance had some part to play, and it did not disappear as a serious idea until 20th-century genetic experiments failed to find evidence for it.

They're seeing hints pointing to that evidence now. This isn't an alternative to evolution, it's the idea that our bodies tweak the DNA that we pass along according to experiences that occur during our lifetime.

Thanks to Transterrestrial Musings for the pointer.

Posted by Ted at 11:45 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack
Category: Links SciTech

June 26, 2007

Darn It, Why Don't You People !

We're way overdue for a Rocket Jones bondage post.

Lovely ladies from the silver screen, mostly in shackles or cuffs.

I suppose I could add a "bondage" category. What say ye?

Posted by Ted at 11:33 AM | Comments (1)
Category: Cult Flicks

More LEGO Virtuosity

Hella cool, in a deep down in your gut kinda way.

Posted by Ted at 05:52 AM | Comments (474) | TrackBack
Category: Links

First Hockey Post of the Upcoming Season

Check out this hilarious rundown on the NHL draft.

Enjoy live blogging like this:

5:38: Playing the role of Blues GM John Davidson today, none other than Dr. Phil! That's a surprise! They take Swedish centre Lars Eller, who just downgraded from Swedish beauties to Missouri girls in the span of three seconds. You have to feel for Lars. I don't remember a porno series called "St. Louis Erotica."

Koooooooo-dooooooooze to Off Wing Opinion for the link.

Posted by Ted at 05:35 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack
Category: Balls and Ice

June 25, 2007

Views and Reviews

Over on the sidebar, I've updated my list of recently viewed flicks, and the new reviews are up at Joe Horror. This week, I give my take on Werewolf Woman.

Posted by Ted at 11:45 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack
Category: Cult Flicks

Murdering Capitalist Running Dogs, One Family At A Time

The headline says it all:

In German crash test, China's Brilliance BS6 sedan fails miserably

"Fails miserably" is the understatement of the year. The thing is a deathtrap, and after seeing the photos of the crash results, you'll realize that "deathtrap" isn't hyperbole.

Posted by Ted at 11:36 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
Category: Links

Smile For The Camera, Even If You're Wearing A Mask

Thanks to a good bud for sending me this link:

The traffic cameras in England are called Gatsos after the manufacturer. Apparently destroying the cameras has become popular sport. Here are four pages of photos showing how people fight back against government surveillance.

Posted by Ted at 05:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Category: Links

June 24, 2007

Mama Always Said I Was Good Fer Nothin'

Thanks to Michele, who's taking a brief break.
$5425.00The Cadaver Calculator - Find out how much your body is worth

Mingle2 - Online Dating

I wonder if that's calculated by the pound?

Posted by Ted at 05:55 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack
Category: Links

This Looks Like Fun

In Garrett County, Maryland, a new resort has opened that features a man-made white water rafting course. Built with boulders quarried from the mountain and concrete, there are steel plates at the bottom of the run that can redirect the current to alter the difficulty of the experience from class II to class IV. Cost is $50.00 for a two hour slot, which includes about a half hour of instruction, and four or more runs through the rapids. The water recirculates through a calm "lake" portion as you circle back to the top of the rapids. Looks like they offer kayaking classes too.

Posted by Ted at 05:46 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack
Category: Links

Return To Nature?

Like many other parts of the country, our local area has suffered from an explosion of McMansions: those bloated, overgrown houses on ridiculously small lots. Some of these huge homes are set within 10 or 20 feet of each other, and their front and back yards are as small as the ones in a regular townhouse neighborhood.

I'm not griping about the size of the homes, I'm griping about the density.

Driving past one such new development going up, we noted that each unit was four stories, with the bottom floor being a garage. They were shot through with oddly shaped windows to appear upscale and trendy, even unique if you ignored the thirty other homes in sight with the exact same floorplan. They call this one "The Villages at Rippon".

martin house.jpg

I call it "The Purple Martin House at Rippon."

Posted by Ted at 05:26 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

June 21, 2007

News From Iraq: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

If you aren't reading Michael Yon, you should be. He's been embedded in Iraq for quite some time now and writing about what he sees.

About the current big operation going on:

The enemy in Baqubah is as good as any in Iraq, and better than most. That’s saying a lot. But our guys have been systematically trapping them, and have foiled some big traps set for our guys. I don’t want to say much more about that, but our guys are seriously outsmarting them. Big fights are ahead and we will take serious losses probably, but al Qaeda, unless they find a way to escape, are about to be slaughtered. Nobody is dropping leaflets asking them to surrender. Our guys want to kill them, and that’s the plan.

A positive indicator on the 19th and the 20th is that most local people apparently are happy that al Qaeda is being trapped and killed. Civilians are pointing out IEDs and enemy fighters, so that’s not working so well for al Qaeda.

Unvarnished truth about civilian casualties, access to information and the daily lives of coalition troops in Iraq. From the point, not from inside the Green Zone.

Posted by Ted at 04:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Category: Links Military

June 20, 2007

Rocket Content

I am now learning the art of making my own electric matches. The point being that you dip the electric match into pyrogen* to create an igniter. The igniter is slipped into the core of a pyrodex pellet which is then placed into the heart of the rocket motor. When the pyrodex pellet is ignited it simultaneously builds the pressure in the combustion chamber, preheats the fuel grain, and burns the fill hose away from the injector which allows the nitrous oxide to make its contribution to the magic of thrust-producing science.

Very. Loud. Science.

*From the Rocketflight Products website comes this description of their Magnelite Igniter pyrogen:

Once ignited the pyrogen burns for approximately one second at a temperature around 5,400 degrees Fahrenheit! Amperage requirement for successful ignition is 5 to 6 amps at 12 volts DC per igniter.

FYI: 5,400 degrees is very close to the temperature of the surface of the sun!

Science, baby!!!

Posted by Ted at 05:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Category: Rocketry

New Reviews!

Over at Joe Horror. My contributions this week include reviews of The Curious Dr. Humpp, Waxwork and Waxwork II: Lost in Time.

Posted by Ted at 05:03 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Category: Cult Flicks Links

June 19, 2007

Pushing Up Happy Little Daisies

If you're a Bob Ross fan, you'll get the joke up above.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that You Tube has quite a few Bob Ross "Joy of Painting" episodes available, as well as plenty of wicked funny parodies of the gentle man.

Thanks to Brian J though, for pointing out this video inspired by Bob Ross, titled "Why I Don't Paint People". I love it.

Posted by Ted at 07:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Category: Links

Sweet Dilemma

Over at The Ministry of Minor Perfidy, Bastille Day has been chosen as D-Day for a soiree involving alcohol, cigars and Axis and Allies.

Alas, like most summer weekends, that particular day offers choices for this social butterfly. The following day, July 15th is Mookie's birthday (she was born, appropriately enough, in Landstuhl, Germany), and we had tentative plans to travel south to see the musical that she is costuming this summer.

If not culture, then Bastille Day also offers my next chance (and last before mid-August) to launch rockets. Despite the lack of posting about them, I still build and fly, and am looking to try some new tweaks to my hybrid system.

And now, the opportunity to push cardboard around and determine the fate of nations via the cast of the die (note to self: check the local game-geek store for yellow dice to honor the French). It's not easy to find people to play wargames with. Correction, it's not easy to find people to play wargames with that you aren't ashamed to be seen in public with.

It's probably no accident that Buckethead lives far out in the countryside at the end of a long dirt road.

Posted by Ted at 05:28 AM | Comments (63) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

June 18, 2007

Targeted Ads

I was reading that news story about the flooding going on in Fort Worth, Texas, and along the column were ads for "Nostradamus Online" and "Surplus Army Tents". Make of that what you will.

Posted by Ted at 11:17 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

Call Me Paranoid, But...

In Warning From Space, aliens came to Earth to "help" mankind. Here's what they looked like:
We responded (rightly, to my mind) by shooting at them.

Recently, I think they've decided to try again. They've developed a disguise to appear friendlier and more likable, but I'm not fooled:
When he jumped out of the box, I was so startled that I responded (rightly, to my mind) by shooting at him.

We've been wanting a bigger television anyway.

Posted by Ted at 05:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Category: Cult Flicks

Terrorism Goes To The Movies

I don't have a "Beautiful Sarcasm" category, so this will go under "Cult Flicks" and "Links".

The title is "Terrorism Goes to the Movies" (yep, I stole it for the title above), and it was written last September. Here's a snippet about the movies Alien and the sequel Aliens:

...I have to point out that I was repelled by the socio-political message this movie sends. A team of US Colonial Marines is dispatched to a colony to kill illegal alien beings there. No one mentioned obtaining approval from the United Nations for unilaterally attacking these illegal aliens. And the diplomatic factor was absolutely non-existent, no effort whatever was made to deal reasonably with these illegal aliens, to give them a chance to stand down and cease their hostilities. At no point did the US characters ever ask, "Why do they hate us?"

While it's true an illegal alien killed every member of Ripley's original Nostromo space ship crew without any warning whatever, a stunning surprise attack that terrorized the crew during a meal, there were no follow-up efforts to negotiate any sort of peace with the freedom-fighter -- they just unilaterally decided to kill it, as was the case with a group of these alien beings in the sequel. After the first attack on the Nostromo, everyone should have simply turned the page and moved on. After all, what's passed is past, it's old news. In the sequel, there was no patience or diplomacy whatever in dealings with the illegal aliens, the crew simply attacked and attempted to kill all of them they could.

What if the illegal aliens were driven by an ancient religion that required them to kill all the members of any other species they encountered? Who were these Marines, to question that cultural ideal? The message this sends about such creatures is that the only way to stop them is to kill them, or they will always be striving to kill you. The Marines should have done some yoga instead, and asked themselves again and again, "Why do they hate us?" They at least should have sent in some inspectors -- and if that failed, they should have given the inspections more time to work. Nothing in the world will deter terrorism more effectively than giving inspectors more time.

There is so much more there, funny and oh-so-true.

Posted by Ted at 05:23 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Category: Cult Flicks Links

June 17, 2007

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Liz and I travelled to the wilds of Maryland last night to see our local team, the Potomac Nationals, play the Frederick Keys. We met up with Nic and Victor and had a great time, although I discovered to my dismay that the P-Nats (a cringe-worthy nickname, if ever I've heard one), suck just as bad on the road as they do at home.

Afterwards, being that we were only a few miles from CharlesTown, we went there and Liz spent a few hours playing the slots. We dragged in, tired but happy (and a tad poorer), at 5am. Liz is still sleeping, and I've spent the morning enjoying Father's Day cards, talking to the girls on the phone and just generally chilling out.

Life is good.

Posted by Ted at 11:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Category: Links

Twisted Logic

Methane is a greenhouse gas.
Greenhouse gasses are causing global warming.
Termites eat wood.
Termites fart a lot because of their diet.
Termite farts are methane.
New Orleans was overrun with termites.
Flooding New Orleans killed trillions of termites.
The government is responsible for flooding New Orleans.

Why isn't the federal government getting credit for the single greatest action in recent history to reduce the production of the greenhouse gas that causes global warming?

(inspired by this post)

Posted by Ted at 09:40 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Square Pegs

You Learn Something Every Day

For instance:

The vervet monkey has a vivid blue scrotum which pales when the animal falls in social rank.

But knowing that is mere trivia. The inquisitive mind wants to know why?

Follow that link and be enlightened. Heh.

Posted by Ted at 08:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Category: Links SciTech

June 15, 2007

Near Perfect Shopping Experience

I love shopping at Wal-Mart. It's really quite amazing how every store has pretty much the same stuff, and the economies of scale really keep prices remarkably low. It's not the greatest quality stuff in the world, but it is reasonable quality for an excellent price, and that's why people shop there.

Their inventory and distribution systems work with an efficiency that would've made the Nazi's proud. Their employee drones are helpful and friendly in an eerie stepford wives sort of way.

I'll bet the corporate fat cats rake in the bucks, sitting in their opulent mansions in Sweden, thanking their lucky stars that the anti-globalization crowd leaves them the hell alone so they can take advantage of Sven Everyman...

Wait... Sweden?

I'm sorry, I typed "Wal-Mart", but what I meant to type was "Ikea". I've never heard of any opposition to them. I assume that they get a pass because they're European.

I love the goofy names they give everything. Bookshelves called "Turgid", comic book organizers with a name made up of letters never meant to be consecutive. If they sell a "Muuki", I'm sure it'll be something weird and wonderful like a tofu-wringer or something.

Their showrooms are masterpieces of marketing and psychology. You start at the beginning and follow the arrows on the floor, and you don't get out until you've seen every last thing on both floors. There are convenient shortcuts, and they're not hidden but they are very unobtrusive. You're not supposed to notice them, you're supposed to see every last thing on both floors.

Nothing is free, everything is reasonably priced. I bought some bookcases today and spent a buck for a hank of rope ("Tot", with a long oh, hehe) to tie the trunk lid down. The engineering of the bookcases is magnificent, as was the packaging. For the money we'll get years of use out of them.

The only problem I have with Ikea is the lack of outrage about their corporate existance. I mean, if I'm going to shop at a globe-spanning mega-corporation, I want the guilty pleasure of being reviled for excessive and notable conspicuous consumption. I demand the sly satisfaction of knowing that I'm pissing off a commie or tree-hugger just because I've entered the store. I'm being denied the opportunity to annoy organized labor!

C'mon people, where's the hate?

Posted by Ted at 09:27 PM | Comments (513) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

Movie Review: Dog Soldiers

This is the third in a series of four reviews of horror movies, each more recent than the ones I usually watch and write about. You can find my reviews of The Descent and Ginger Snaps by following those links, or visit the Rocket Jones Cult Flicks category archives.

Dog Soldiers

This 2002 movie was written and directed by Neil Marshall, who followed it up with The Descent. Based on these two films, I'm really looking forward to his future work.

Dog Soldiers is another werewolf movie, but not *just* another werewolf movie. I mentioned in the Ginger Snaps review that according to legend, werewolves kill for pleasure. Now, keep that in mind but take the concept of wolves to the next logical step and you have... werewolves that hunt in packs. Chilling.

A squad of British soldiers is dropped off in a remote area of Scotland for a training exercise. As they make their way through the woods towards their objective, they come across the camp of a group of special forces troops. There's blood and carnage everywhere, but no bodies except for a single survivor, the special forces commander.

Soon enough, they're being pursued by a pack of wolf-like beasts and with the injured special forces officer in tow they make a run for it. As they cross a road, they flag down a woman driving by who gives them a lift to a local farm to get medical assistance and to call for help. At the farm, they find the family missing (or is that "they *don't* find the family because they're missing"? Eh, whatever), and are trapped inside the house when the werewolf pack tracks them down.

This isn't some wussy group of teenagers being hunted, these are trained soldiers armed to the teeth (thanks to the live ammo they collected at the special forces camp). They know how to work as a team, they know how to plan and execute tactics and support each other as they fight. The problem is, wolves may be the ultimate pack hunter, and teamwork is second-nature to them. It's an even fight.

The tension is relentless. There are moments of humor, but the humor isn't there to be funny, it is incidental to the characters and their circumstances. Soldiers bitch, and even in the most dire situations some wag will let slip some gallows humor. This film is full of small, quick smiles that might be laugh-out-loud funny if things weren't quite so desperate.

Warning: the accents get thick sometimes. A couple of times I had to rewind in order to replay a snippet that just didn't translate the first time I heard it.

There is a fair amount of gore and a few squirm-inducing moments, but mostly this is flat-out relentless terror.

Highly recommended.

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Category: Cult Flicks

If Loving This Is Wrong, I Don't Want To Be Right

Ooo! Ahhh!

Thanks to Triticale for the pointer.

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Category: Links

Donnie Darko Fan?

Why yes, I am. Not to the degree of obsession that some folks have...

The IMDB Donnie Darko FAQ.

Posted by Ted at 05:15 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Category: Links

June 14, 2007

Comfortable, Yet Oddly Uncomfortable

I'm walking around the office today sans shoes, since they're still damp after being soaked in the deluge last night.

You were dying to know that, weren't you.

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Category: Square Pegs

Appreciative of the Chance to Revive an Old Joke

Former U.N. chief Kurt Waldheim has died. He was a long-time sufferer of what came to be known as "Waldheimer's Disease". You know, the one that makes you forget that you're a Nazi.

Posted by Ted at 10:12 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Category: Links

June 13, 2007

Apparently We've All Got A Rich Uncle Somewhere

Check out this fascinating map of the USA, where each state has been renamed to a country with a similar GDP. My biggest gripe is that according to this, I was born in France.

Non! Thanks to QandO for the pointer.

Posted by Ted at 10:41 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
Category: Links

Getting It Right

In the front yard flower beds, I finally decided to go all-perennial this year.

After much perusal of the various catalogs, we decided on a variety of plants from Spring Hill Nursery. One variety is still back-ordered, which is annoying, but two others have been in the ground awhile and are doing beautifully (that last link is to the pink variety, we have the white).

In the front bed, I envisioned this nice purple lavender hedge. Unfortunately, the first batch of six arrived dead and dessicated. Spring Hill immediately shipped a second set, which arrived in slightly better condition, but still not better enough to survive.

This morning in my email inbox was a note letting me know that a credit was on the way. No fuss, no hassle, just making it right.

I'm thinking we're going to order more pincusion flowers. Their "real" name is scabiosa, but they're too pretty to be calling them that.

Disclaimer: There are a lot of negative reviews of Spring Hill out on the net. I've been through some of what a many folks complain about, but it's about what I expect when I deal with them. I'm satisfied with them, but I'm patient. It's what gardening is all about.

Posted by Ted at 05:13 AM | Comments (223) | TrackBack
Category: Links

June 12, 2007


I called in today thanks to a case of the trots. Trying to commute to work in that condition is a little too much like gambling, especially since at the end of the ride I spend another 15 minutes going through card-key checkpoints, turnstiles and cypher-lock doors before getting to my desk (and access to the bathroom).

Speaking of sick, have you heard the latest from the formerly-great state of California?

“Unbelievable” was the reaction from PetPAC today after Members of the California State Assembly voted 41-38 to outlaw the existence of mixed-breed dogs and cats in the Golden State.

Assembly Bill 1634, authored by Los Angeles Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, will allow only select purebred dogs and cats to breed. Pet owners who don’t sterilize their mixed breed pets by four months of age will face a $500 fine and possible criminal penalties.

If you believe that the answer to America's problems is more government, then you are a fool.

Thanks to Random Nuclear Strikes for pointing that one out. If I wasn't ill before, I am now.

Posted by Ted at 02:01 PM | Comments (28) | TrackBack
Category: Links

June 11, 2007

You Don't Know My Damn Words

But you can, if you head over to Joe Horror and read the latest movie reviews. My contributions this week are The Ryli Morgan Collection (for you indie movie lovers), and Hot Wax: Zombies on Wheels.

Posted by Ted at 05:13 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
Category: Cult Flicks Links

June 10, 2007

Launch Report - 6/9/2007

Yesterday was our regularly scheduled rocket club launch out at Great Meadow. Besides the usual sport launching (for fun), there was a regional contest event scheduled and the sky was full of rocket gliders, helicopter recovery rockets and more.

I almost didn't go because I'd worked for most of the week on converting one of my high power rockets for hybrid-engine flight. On Friday night about 10pm I ran into "one more problem" and got frustrated. Rather than try to force things, I just decided to not take anything but small model rockets to the launch. Even then, the weather forecast called for pretty stiff winds and I'd heard that there were several cub scout packs due to attend. Not conducive to improving my mood.

What the heck, I went anyway. The winds were brisk, but not insurmountable, the hordes of cub scouts didn't materialize (or they were the smallest horde on the planet), and I had a good time.

Two other rocket-bloggers were there. Dick Stafford flew his usual assortment of unusual rockets, including his legendary "hat of death", his too-new-to-be-legendary-yet "Yamikazi" and a couple of models made completely out of folded paper. Rich (of Vertical Force Rocketry) was there with his family. Hopefully he'll make it out to the launches a little more often this year. It was good to see them again.

There were several high-power flights made, and towards the end of the afternoon a wedding was taking place up the hill at the Summer House. We all got a chuckle after one particularly roaring flight, when we could hear the wedding guests do a collective "holy shit!" Someone imagined that the Bride's mother was probably having a conniption over our activities, and I impersonated the Groom at the alter: "Whoa... huh? Oh yeah, I do."

I remembered the sunblock, stayed hydrated, flew streamers for recovery because of the wind (and still had long walks to recover most everything), and worked a couple of hours as safety check-in dude. As usual, it was big fun.

Here's what I flew:

1. Vampyre - A10-3T - Original design ringfin. Perfection.

2. YJ-113 - A10-3T - This little beastie is a downscale of the Estes Yellow Jacket, and it's about 7" tall. My Level 2 certification rocket is an upscaled version of this same rocket, about 7' tall. Like all Yellow Jackets, there is a tendency to severely over-engine the rocket and this time was no exception. I didn't have a 1/2A engine so I went for the full A and almost lost it due to extreme speed and altitude. I love this design.

3. Groove Tube - C6-5 - Centuri classic tubefin design from the 70's. Big motor, recovered on twin streamers because of the wind, but still had a long walk because of the drift. With all those tube fins, she gets her nose into the wind and acts like a glider.

4. Zen Doggie - B6-4 x3 - I haven't flown this rocket a whole lot over the years because it is sometimes marginally stable. The fins are rather small, and there is a gap between the front fins and rear fins. It looks cool, but I suspect that the gap is causing the air to be too turbulent over the rear fins to be useful, which makes the rocket squirrelly and not too safe. Couple that to the fact that it's a three-engine cluster, and there's a whole lot of weight at the back end, which is exactly where you don't want it. I've added nose-weight and tweaked the design some, and today I decided to try something different. I put a layer of masking tape between the two sets of fins, effectively turning them into one fin surface, thinking that it might solve the stability problem. Oh yeah. The flight was perfectly straight, so I'll be making this a permanent mod. Rich had a great idea about using clear plastic packing tape, so the fins still look split, but behave like a single fin.

5. Sparrow - A10-3T - This was my original "born-again rocketeer" rocket, and I fly it once a year just for old time's sake. It's a tiny Estes kit and it's battered and worn, but she made yet another flight without falling to pieces.

6. DTR-1 - B6-6 - Great flight from this original six-fin design.

7. Dynamic Carrier - B4-4 - I've done this cool Custom Rockets kit up as an alien space ship. She looks great and flies great too. Perfect recovery.

8. Saturn III - A10-3T x4 - four-engined original design, it looks Saturn-ish. All four motors lit, and at ejection it sounds like popcorn as all the ejection charges go off within a split second of each other. Great flight, long drift again.

That was it for me. No damaged rockets, no lost rockets, no sunburn. Good day.

Posted by Ted at 07:30 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack
Category: Rocketry

June 08, 2007

Movie Review: Ginger Snaps

Vampires prey upon humans because they need our blood as sustenance. Mummies animate to fulfill dire prophesies on those who ignore the warning curse. Even Godzilla and his cousins leave mankind alone until someone or something causes them to open yet another can of whoopass on poor Tokyo.

Werewolves kill for pleasure. That right there is what makes werewolves so frightening.

Ginger Snaps (2000) is a werewolf movie with an original spin on the mythos. As I tend to do, I'm going to review this movie as entertainment and not dig too deeply into symbolism and philosophical meaning and such. If you're into that sort of thing, then the reviews are out there that will tell you about how the lycanthropic conversion is a metaphore for puberty and all that crap. I'm a simple man enjoying simple pleasures.

The initial scenes highlight that the story takes place in a sort of planned suburban community, and you get the feeling that they're a little isolated and in a sense even a little inbred. I grew up in a similar environment, where the folks living there tend to know everyone else. You all see the same people, you all do the same things and the kids all play together at the same games. The entire community focuses inward on itself.

Within the community, Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald are outsiders. Closer than most sisters (not *that* inbred, you perv), they're dark, morbid, and share a mocking attitude towards the "average" world around them. In other words, they're teenagers.

The people of the community are scared, in a low-key, background kind of way because something is killing pets in a horrific manner. Dogs and cats are being ripped to shreds and the news reports air constant reminders to be wary of the ferocious wild animal that is stalking the neighborhoods at night.

Late one night Ginger and Brigitte are out, hatching some half-thought-through revenge on a hated classmate. They come across yet another pet torn limb from limb and decide to get home. Just as they start back, Ginger is attacked by... something. Something big and fast and strong. Brigitte doesn't hesitate to chase the thing as it carries Ginger into a wooded area.

They manage to escape and the beast gives chase. Ginger has been badly mauled, but the girls make it to a road with the creature in close pursuit. Just after they cross the beast jumps out after them and gets splattered by a passing van.

By the time they get home, they know something is wrong because Ginger is already starting to heal. Over the next few days and weeks, it becomes apparent that Ginger is changing, and only reluctantly do the girls admit that she may be becoming a werewolf.

Through all of this, Brigitte tries to stay supportive of her sister, even as Ginger starts to become popular with the guys because she turns into an agressive slut. Both girls are confused at the changes happening in their lives, and their conflicting emotions with and towards each other drive the plot.

In the end, that's what this story is about. Two sisters, devoted to each other and how they adjust and react as they each deal with changes in their lives.

Don't get me wrong here, because this movie has buckets of blood being splashed around. There's enough gore here for the slasher fans, and it's a special treat to see the special effects being done the old fashioned way, with makeup and actors instead of computer generated stuff. The werewolf is pretty freakin' amazing to see too.

The acting is excellent all around, especially the sisters. We've all known teens like their characters, even if they weren't our friends, and the ladies nailed their performances.

This was another small-budget horror movie filmed in Canada. After I enjoyed Decoys and now Ginger Snaps, I think I'll be watching for other similiar releases in the future.

To paraphrase one of the characters in the movie, the first werewolf was splashed like roadkill by a car, so you can throw Hollywood crap like silver bullets out the window. Don't expect the "classic" werewolf mythos, but do expect to be pleasantly surprised by this excellent movie.

Posted by Ted at 10:21 PM | Comments (551) | TrackBack
Category: Cult Flicks

I Write Like A Girl

Over at Joe Horror, I entered a contest to write a scene from a Nazisploitation movie (a sub-genre of "women in prison" movies, the best known being Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS). My entry was in short story format, and can be seen here. Warning: These movies are sick and chock full o' nudity, rape, torture, humiliation and so on. Needless to say, so is my story, although it is mostly implied. It begins:

Weakened and exhausted, Simone hangs from the ceiling, no longer caring that the heavy iron of the manicles [sic] cuts into the flesh around her wrists.

Anyway... I won!

I loved this comment after my story was posted:

I bet number four was written by a woman. It's well written, and seems to have a genuine feminine touch.

Hear that ladies? I'm in touch with my sensitive side!

Posted by Ted at 05:04 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack
Category: Cult Flicks

June 07, 2007

Screw iPhone

I want *Surface*!!!!!!!

Thanks to QandO for the pointer.

Posted by Ted at 06:51 PM | Comments (45) | TrackBack
Category: Links

Shamelessly Stolen

From Grant, over at the McCovey Chronicles:

All-Time Team of Great-Named Giants Draftees:

C - Giuseppe Chiaramonte
1B - Turtle Zaun
2B - Van Fixico
3B - James Snoots
SS - Monico Corral
OF - Sylvester Love
OF - Reuben Smiley
OF - Wynter Phoenix

P - Boof Bonser
P - Kavonski Chatman
P - Everhard Griffiths
P - Harlan Highfill
P - Skip Pitlock

Honorable Mention, Uncomfortable Question Regarding Parents' Ethnicity Division: Juan Eichelberger


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Category: Links

June 05, 2007

Oh Dear

By now, you've probably seen the official logo for the 2012 Olympics in London.


Personally, I kinda like it, although as a logo it's got just about everything wrong. Take another look at it, and tell me if you don't agree that it looks like Lisa Simpson giving a blowjob.

Follow that link for the hilarious animated version, and thanks to QandO for the pointer.

Posted by Ted at 06:28 PM | Comments (426) | TrackBack
Category: Links

Warning: Fun Ahead

Here's what I did using this Warning Label Generator:


It's going into the banner rotation.

Thanks to Brad Isaac for the pointer.

Posted by Ted at 05:28 AM | Comments (443) | TrackBack
Category: Links

June 04, 2007

Movie Review - The Descent

The Descent (2005)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am not a big fan of slasher flicks. I’d rather be scared silly than grossed out with gore.

This movie won’t scare you silly, it will scare you shitless. Much like Arachnophobia freaked out people afraid of spiders, this flick will emotionally wring out anyone who's the least bit claustrophobic. Unlike Arachnophobia though, there are no little jokes or touches of humor to lighten the moment. This movie is relentless.

The Descent is the story of a group of women who get together every year for an “extreme” vacation. After last year’s outing, Sarah’s family was killed in an auto accident. This vacation is the first time that they’re all together since before the tragedy, and the tension within the group is high. Sarah and her best friend Juno are the alpha females of the group, but each of the women are strong and independent. Holly is a newcomer to the group, an avowed adrenaline junkie and although she’s competent, she’s also rash and self-centered.

The “extreme” adventure for this gathering is caving. Juno has selected a large well-known cavern to explore and the group has individually prepared themselves for it. There is some griping about going to that particular cavern because it is so well-known and thus probably relatively tame. The first sense that all is not as it seems is when Juno considers the map and guide book for the cavern, and then decides not to bring it, tossing it back into her car. Stupid decision? Maybe.

After entering the cave system, the ladies start exploring, and here’s where the movie goes from tense to eerie to downright scary. As they move deeper into the caves, a few odd things are seen out of the corner of the eye, or odd sounds are heard. Being a cavern, sound does funny things, and the fact that all lighting is artificial and carried makes for confusing shadows and murky corners. These scenes alone convinced me that you have to be insane to be a caver. The film uses the alieness and unknown nature of cave systems to maximum effect, leaving you uncomfortable and edgy even as things are going along relatively smoothly.

As the ladies pass through one extremely tight passage, one of the girls starts to panic from the ultra-close quarters and her friend goes back inside the rock tunnel to calm her down and help her get through it. How tight? How about on your belly with your arms straight in front of you, pushing your pack along while you push yourself forward with your toes. Tight enough so that taking a deep breath isn’t possible. In that situation, you could call me “cork”.

Things go downhill fast when the cavern behind the girls starts to collapse. Everyone makes it out of that tunnel, barely, but equipment is lost in the scramble and most importantly, their way back out is blocked.

Only one thing to do, and that’s to find another exit route. Only problem is, Juno informs everyone that she didn’t bring the map along. Even worse, she admits that the map wouldn’t have helped, since they aren’t in the cave that they thought they were going to. She decided on her own that the other cavern was too tame, and led everyone to an unexplored system that she’d found.

Recap: The ladies are in an unexplored cave with their only known entrance blocked by a collapse, and nobody knows that they’re there.

These are tough ladies though. After some interpersonal conflict (to be politically correct about it, and not worse than what any group of guys would go through in the same situation), they decide that the only thing to do is to move farther in and find a different way out. Assuming that there is one. Holly, the adrenaline junkie, is seriously grooving on the whole thing, which just pisses most of the others off even more.

They finally find signs that the cave has been explored in the past, but the found equipment is so old that it’s not a comfort.

You know what the movie needs right about now? Some way to *really* crank up the scare-factor! I know! How about some… things living in the cave?!?!?! Hungry things. Smart things. Cannibal things.

According to the trivia at IMDB, the terrified reactions you see at this point are real too.

The appearance of the creatures was kept secret from the cast members until the first scene in which they encounter them was filmed. When the cast were finally filming the scene where the girls encounter the crawlers, the girls were genuinely scared and screamed the building down...

The rest of the movie is one long edge-of-your-seat mindfuck. The ladies fight back, and they don’t get stupid. They don’t let panic get the best of them, even when they get split up and things are looking bad. I won’t give details, because this is a wild roller-coaster ride and the more surprises left, the better it is. But for sure, the tension keeps building, the scares keep coming, and the intensity never lets up.

There’s plenty of blood and some gore, but since much happens in half-illuminated shadow (not half-lit, but like a flare in a large dark room, where the lighting is intense in a small area surrounded by darkness), it’s the implied things that causes the uncomfortable feelings. The use of lighting in this movie is brilliant (no pun intended).

You know what you don't see in this movie? Boobs. Gratuitous or otherwise, there's no nudity at all. I'm glad, because it would have distracted from the story. I'm sad, because the ladies are very nice to look at.

The Descent was written and directed by Neil Marshall, who's previous movie was the most excellent Dog Soldiers. Look for a Rocket Jones review of that flick coming up soon. Marshall is on a roll, and I'm looking forward to anything he does in the future.

This is one of the scariest movies I’ve seen in a long time. My usual "highly recommended" isn't enough for this flick. For horror movie fans, I'd call this a must-see.

Posted by Ted at 11:10 AM | Comments (600) | TrackBack
Category: Cult Flicks

Rocket Jones Movie Reviews

I'm still doing movie reviews over at Joe Horror*, but that doesn't mean I won't be posting some here. As much as I love old crappy B-movies, I've seen some pretty kick-ass newer flicks recently and I will be writing about them.

*This week, my review of Vampyres is up. Yep, the lesbian vampires.

Posted by Ted at 05:09 AM | Comments (116) | TrackBack
Category: Cult Flicks

Tactics Evolve

The frightening thing about this photo is the potential effectiveness. Maybe we can help support the troops by calling our congress-critters and demanding that more beer be sent to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Thanks to Jay Tea at Wizbang for the pointer.

Posted by Ted at 04:55 AM | Comments (31) | TrackBack
Category: Links

June 01, 2007

This One Is Going Into The "Tagline Archive"

Saw it today on a tech forum:

The Internet: Where men are men, women are men, and children are FBI Agents.


Posted by Ted at 08:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

Teaching History

This looks very cool: Junior Generals.

The idea is that you print out the various forces involved in major battles in history, and let the students game the results using simplified battle rules.

Posted by Ted at 11:08 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
Category: Links
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