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December 30, 2012

Croissants

So, i started at 2pm...

vegan croissants - with the flash, things always look extra golden delicious

...and 11 hours later, i had a 16-strong space armada.

vegan croissants - but this no flash photo shows all the lovely layers

Ingredients


  • 1 1/2 cups vegan butter, at room temperature* (we like Earth Balance buttery sticks)

  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast (or 1 T + 2 tsp of dry yeast)

  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water

  • 4 cups + 2 T all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1 cup non-dairy milk

  • 1/2 cup non-dairy heavy cream (we like Silk creamer)

  • For the wash: melt 1 T of butter with 1 T of cream

  • Yield: 16 5-inch croissants

*Take the butter out and leave on the counter for about 15 minutes so that it's pliable, but still solid and not oily.

Mix 2 T of flour into the softened butter (either with a bowl and spoon or with the mixer). Be careful not to mix it so much that the butter ends up whipped. Put the butter on a piece of parchment paper and shape it into a 6-inch square. Fold the parchment paper around the butter and refrigerate.

Dissolve the yeast in the water. Set aside for 10 minutes so that it becomes frothy.

Meanwhile, combine 2 cups of the flour with the salt and sugar in a mixing bowl. Heat the milk and the heavy cream to lukewarm. Add the yeast, milk, and cream to the flour mixture and stir well.

Using the hook attachment on the mixer, slowly add in the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time, making sure to scrape the bowl regularly. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, kneading until smooth (~5-8 minutes). Refrigerate the dough in a covered bowl for an hour.

Take both the square of butter out of the refrigerator and leave out for about 10 minutes. This will ensure the butter is cool, but not cold. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Using your hands, shape the dough into a 10-inch square. Center the butter on the dough, offset by 45 degrees so that the corners of the butter point to the straight sides of the dough. Fold each corner of the dough towards the center, pinching the open edges together to seal.

Re-flour the board as necessary to ensure the dough doesn't stick. Starting from the center of the square, gently roll the dough into an 8"x24" rectangle. Flip the dough over every few strokes to ensure the dough is rolled out evenly on the top and bottom layers. If the butter starts to ooze, wrap the dough and chill for 30 minutes before trying again.

Position the dough so that the 8-inch long sides are at the top and bottom of your board. Fold the bottom third up and the top third down so that the dough resembles a letter. Make sure to brush off any excess flour before each fold. Gently press the dough together so that the folds are in contact but be careful not to press so hard that the layers become one.

Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for an hour. Let it warm up for about 10 minutes before rolling it out. Place the dough on the surface so that the open ends are at the top and bottom. Roll into an 8"x24" rectangle. Fold in thirds as before. Refrigerate for an hour.

After rolling the dough out for the third time, instead of folding it into thirds, fold the top and bottom so that they meet, but don't overlap, in the middle. Now, fold the dough in half by bringing the top and bottom edges together - this is called the "book fold" because now the dough resembles a thick book. Refrigerate for an hour.

For the fourth and final turn, roll and fold into a letter again. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Divide the dough in half, putting one half back in the refrigerator. Roll the half into a 9"x21" rectangle, trying to keep the edges as square as possible. Lift the dough up from the surface to allow the edges to shrink, forming an 8"x20", 1/4-inch thick rectangle**. Using a ruler, mark 5-inch intervals along both of the long edges. With a sharp knife, line up the ruler along the markings and cut the dough into 4 5-inch wide rectangles. Now cut the rectangles in half diagonally from corner to corner, giving you 8 triangles.

Make a 1-inch notch in the center of the base of each triangle. This will help the dough bend into a crescent shape. With the base closest to you, roll the dough towards the tip, applying enough pressure so that the layers stick together without smearing. Keep the tip tucked under the dough. Bend the legs into the middle and gently press together (they're really cute like this. like little armored robot crabs). During proofing, the ends will come apart, forming a crescent. Place the rolled croissants onto parchment-lined baking sheets, allowing room for the dough to expand.

Repeat with the remaining triangles and then with the unrolled half of dough. Cover and place in a turned off oven for 1-2 hours to proof.

Remove the trays from the oven. Move the racks so that there is one on the top third and one on the bottom third. Preheat the oven to 425degF. Brush the croissants with the wash. Bake the croissants for 10 minutes, then switch the trays and bake for an additional 10 minutes. The croissants will be quite brown. Cool on a rack.

**Sticklers will want to use a ruler and trim all the edges into nice straight lines before measuring and cutting the dough for the croissants, but i say they taste just as good with rough edges. As long as you keep everything mostly straight, it works out just fine.

The folding: I didn't take any photos of this process, but it's easy enough to find photo references online with a "croissants recipe" search.


By min | December 30, 2012, 10:05 PM | Vegan Vittles | Comments (2) | Link



Apple Pie

vegan apple pie

Don't be too proud of this applelogical terror you've constructed.

Double Crust Ingredients

Update 6/2014: I've since revised my crust recipe because i felt this recipe was a bit brittle. The new version can be found here.

  • 1 1/2 cup + 1 T white flour
  • 1/2 cup + 1 T whole wheat flour
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup vegan butter, cut into cubes and kept cold (we like Earth Balance buttery sticks)
  • 1 vegan egg* (we like Ener-G Egg Replacer)
  • 1 T ice water
  • 2 T cold non-dairy milk

In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt and mix to combine. Add 6 T of the butter (half) and continue processing until well combined.
Whisk together the egg, ice water, and milk in small bowl.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and process until a dough forms. Add remaining butter and pulse in a few short bursts just until the dough forms a ball. Do not over-mix. There should be visible chunks of butter in the dough. Flatten into a disc, wrap, and refrigerate for several hours before using. The dough will keep for several days in the fridge and several weeks in the freezer.

*i use ice water to make the egg, as well.


Pie Filling Ingredients

  • 6-7 3" diameter apples (i was going to say "fist-sized", but not everybody's fist is the same size as mine)**
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 T cornstarch
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 T butter
  • Yield: 1 10-inch pie


**I often use Braeburn's because they're sweet but firm. I also used 2 Granny Smiths for a bit of tartness that wouldn't be overpowering.

Peel and slice apples into 1/2" thick chunks (i usu cut each quarter into thirds and then halve the slices).

In a smaller bowl, sift the sugar, cornstarch, and spices together. Mix well. Sift this mixture into the apples. Stir to combine.

Roll out half the dough, place in the pie dish, and trim the edges so there is about 1/4" overhang. Pour the filling into the prepared pie dish. Dot the top with the 2 T butter. Roll out the remaining half of the dough and place over the filling. Crimp the edges and cut a few slits on the top to vent the steam.

Optional: Combine 1 T milk with 1/4 tsp Ener-G egg replacer. Rub/brush onto the crust. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Chill the pie in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Bake at 375degF for 40 min with the edges covered. Bake an additional 15 min with the edges uncovered.

Leave the pie in the cooling oven. Refrigerate overnight before serving.

Note: Extra delicious served warm with 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream riding shotgun.


By min | December 30, 2012, 8:35 PM | Vegan Vittles| Link



December 29, 2012

Min interprets your favorite song lyrics

Faith No More's Chinese Arithmetic playing on the car stereo: "Your friend was young, hung and plastered"

Min: Is it Han Solo?

'Young' is relative, i guess.

By fnord12 | December 29, 2012, 2:08 PM | Music & Star Wars| Link



SuperMegaSpeed Reviews (Vacation Mode)

Keeping this as brief as possible since i'm not really here.

Journey Into Mystery #647 - Drop. Awful.

Cable and X-Force #2 - Drop. Nothing's happening.

Captain Marvel #8 - Drop. Better than the previous arc but i don't have hope for it once Monica Rambeau is gone.

Avengers Arena #2 - Keeping due to the "event" factor. Decent job with the new mostly disposable characters too. Odd that i like this more than Cable but maybe because Hopeless was forced to establish the premise in the first issue.

FF #2 - Keeping for now. Enjoying the quirk but still not sure about it.

Avengers #2 - Keeping for now. Some interesting ideas in here but really a boring read.

All New X-Men #4 - Keeping for now. Can't imagine wanting to keep reading after the first "arc", though.

Avenging Spider-Man #15.1 - Keep. I like Yost; will enjoy Doc Ock Spidey team-up.

X-Factor #249 - Contractually obligated to keep. It's fine, though.

Daredevil #21 - This is good.

Indestructible Hulk #2 - Also good (if you accept the "Banner and Stark (and Richards) are insanely super-genius intellects but never make the world any better" concept, but that's not Mark Waid's fault).

Thunderbolts #2 - This is good.

While i'm in a semi-purging mode, let's also drop Dark Avengers before i get too caught up in a 6 issue alternate universe story.


By fnord12 | December 29, 2012, 1:58 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



December 25, 2012

My Family's Version of Christmas Spirit

The day after gifts are exchanged, the phone rings and...

Adult Family Member: Did you get me ______?

Me: Yeah.

Adult Family Member: Can you return them and get me something I can use?

Me: ...

Merry Christmas!


By min | December 25, 2012, 4:38 PM | My stupid life| Link



December 21, 2012

Holiday Shutdown

Doombot or Not?  Clearly not!

For the next two weeks, min and i are on our annual staycation/hibernation/g'waydontbotherusation. Barring pictures of things that min has baked, expect no updates here and sporadic progress on the Timeline site.

Happy holidays!


By fnord12 | December 21, 2012, 3:11 PM | Comics & My stupid life| Link



December 20, 2012

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Winter Soldier #13 - I've been griping about Guice, but i thought that was a well executed fight sequence at the beginning of this issue. Not necessarily that all of the art's storyelling problems were solved. But the fight actually made sense, there was some tactics involved, and was more than just "two guys pose, one guy falls down". But then, ummm, they bring Bucky in and "hours later" he's walking free after nine hundred issues of him being a brainwashed killer? After the same thing happened to Black Widow and then she turned out to still be brainwashed? Ah well, with only one issue left and no sign of anything reaching conclusion, i guess they have to speed things along.

Iron Man #4 - Ok, we're now at the point where Gillen is definitely making fun of Land, and that's hilarious, but i don't know if i can handle instant self-satirization. And let's face it, Gillen may be making fun of Land in the script, but he's just enabling him in the plot. Two issues ago Iron Man got to fight a group of people in identical iron suits, ideal for cutting and pasting. And now Iron Man's fighting a group of identical zombie-girls, ideal for tracing from porno stills and cutting and pasting. The scene after Iron Man shot off their heads was so bad. Eraser tool! I also hope that the ending where Stark realizes that he's not been thinking about things clearly is a turning point. Between developing a surly AI and not realizing (?) that the final zombie-girl is pregnant with a demon baby, he's clearly not making good choices in this series so far.

Avengers Assemble #10 - I wanted to like this series, but DeConnick had Tony Stark incorrectly use the phrase "begs the question" so i couldn't. And that was before they thought giving Bruce Banner infected crackers after the infected water he drink gave him a tummy ache was a good idea. Who does this? Who shows up in an outpost full of dead people and starts eating stuff they find laying around? And when did Thor turn into a surly jerk throwing out "your momma" insults? And also an idiot? When someone in pain says "Hell-- Hell--", he assumes they are saying "Hela"? Not "help"? But of course, it was actually "helicarrier" because this comic obviously takes place in the Movie universe where the SHIELD helicarrier has a cage for the Hulk.

Dark Avengers #184 - From one alternate dimension to another. This one's a bit silly with Strangetown and Yancyland and whatever. It's well written and at least it features some real Marvel U characters but i really hope this series didn't survive just to become Exiles.


By fnord12 | December 20, 2012, 11:08 AM | Comics| Link



What Would the Phoenix Five Do?

What does it say about me that i'm reading an article about using technology to manipulate the environment in an attempt to slow climate change, and i compare it to what happened when Cyclops and Co. got the Phoenix Force and started remaking the world?

Carlson says geo-engineering comes with obvious international legal implications because no one country can implement its own geo-engineering plan without causing weather or climate changes in other countries. There's also the law of unintended consequences, because while many geo-engineering concepts have proved hopeful in the lab, nobody knows what will happen when actually put into practice.

Oh, pshaw. Was the Sub-Mariner worried about consequences when he buried Wakanda in a tidal wave?

So, here's my problem with Professor Carlson's idea:

As a model for his oversight body, Carlson suggests the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Like the IMF, his proposed organization would give all countries a place during discussions, but decisions would be made by a relatively small group of directors, each of which has a weighted vote that's based on their country's greenhouse gas production. That is, countries that produce more greenhouse gases will spend more money to combat global climate change, and so will have more votes.

Do you see the conflict of interest here? The countries producing the most greenhouse gases get the most votes and are expected to pay more. But it's more than likely that they would vote against any climate change controlling measures because they wouldn't want to have to foot the bill.

The climate talks in Doha failed and the Kyoto protocol failed because big nations didn't want to put restrictions on their ability to pollute freely. I think those countries who are the most vulnerable to climate change should get the most votes. So, everyone on an island, the Inuits, Greenland, and pretty much all of Africa get to decide what is done since they're the ones who get screwed first when shit starts melting and rain stops falling.


By min | December 20, 2012, 10:58 AM | Comics & Science| Link



We Should Frack That Shit

There are plumes of methane seeping out of the ocean floor. I bet it would be a totally awesome idea to frack the ocean. I mean, what could go wrong*? We can just let the ocean water fill in the spaces left by the extracted gas. All that potential fuel just being wasted like that, left to oxidize in the water. Tut tut.


*Cereally, though, i hope nobody ever decides to do this. I imagine the ocean erupting in fiery plumes of exploding gas followed by the continents collapsing into the earth's core.

By min | December 20, 2012, 10:40 AM | Science| Link



December 19, 2012

Women Deserve Pockets, Too

As you may remember, I've ranted on the inadequacy of pockets in women's clothing in a previous post. To emphasize that point, let me show you just how ridiculous the pockets are in a pair of my own pants.

it's like they were forced to add pockets so they got their revenge by making them useless

In what world would designing a front pocket that's 2 inches deep ever make any sense? I've checked fnord12's pockets. A total of zero of his pockets are stupid. I've seen him shove his giant phone, his more giant wallet, and his set of keys, complete with a full-sized Swiss Army knife, into his pockets with no problem. I can barely get a tube of chapstick into my pockets without going over capacity. God forbid i had to make room for my 2 office keys.

So, clothing designers, could you get a clue, please?


By min | December 19, 2012, 5:54 PM | My stupid life| Link



Reversing Marvel's Sliding Timescale

Judging from my RSS feed, most blogs are in end of the year shutdown mode, and i'm about to join them. But i've got something i've been hanging on to, and now's a good time.

This was a post i submitted to Nathan Adler's How Would You Fix...? site around the same time he published my fix for Mr. Fantastic's intelligence. This one didn't really fit the theme of the site (or maybe Nathan just thought it sucked) so it didn't get posted, but hey, i get to decide what gets posted here, so here it is.

(By the way, this idea of mine doesn't affect my Marvel Timeline project in any way. I don't operate under the theory that this fix is in affect, and generally speaking i don't really let real world events affect my placement in any way. It's more about relative ordering of events over there and i don't worry about the sliding timescale.)

So here we go:


Let's start with a review of the problem. Peter Parker was in high school in Amazing Fantasy #15, which came out in 1962. That would make him around 65 years old today, if he aged in real time. And unlike, say, Charlie Brown, Marvel characters do participate in a universe that isn't stuck in time. Characters do grow, evolve, and age (sometimes!).

But while Marvel characters may age, they're not aging at the same rate as their readers are. The typical comic doesn't depict a long period of time. Sometimes a comic takes place over a span of hours. Sometimes a few days. On rare occasions longer. Hell, a year's worth of Bendis comics might take place over a period of 15 minutes. But we could very conservatively estimate that the average comic depicts a week of activity. So with 12 issues a year, for the past 60 years, you're looking at about 720 weeks, or ~14 years of activity. If Peter was 15 in 1962, he's 29 now. And you can play with those numbers a bit if you think that's too old.

So that by itself isn't a problem. Marvel addresses it by using what they call a sliding timescale. Fantastic Four #1 always takes place a set number of years ago. The number has changed a few times. I think they were using 6 years back in the year 2000. I think now it's 13 years. The exact number doesn't matter. I'll assume going forward that Marvel is saying that the year 2000 is when the FF went up in their rocket (2013-13 = 2000). So everything from FF #1 to today takes place in the period from 2000 - 2013. That's a lot of stuff, but as I note above, it's not quite as bad as it seems. A year's worth of comics depicts 12 weeks worth of activity, leaving plenty of time for rest and their civilian life and stopping mundane crimes and charity events and whatever else they do that isn't worth seeing in the comics.

So, that basically works, unless you actually go back and read the old comics. Then you discover what we chronologists (that's a fancy word for "comic book nerds") call "temporal references". The Thing and the Human Torch met the Beatles in Strange Tales #130. Henry Kissinger signed a non-aggression pact with Dr. Doom in Super-Villain Team-Up #6. Obviously, if the Fantastic Four didn't launch their rocket until 2000, those events couldn't have happened. So we're supposed to gloss over things like that or replace them with more modern references. It was really the Strokes, not the Beatles. Condoleezza Rice, not Kissinger. Obviously those scenes lose a lot of their impact - the Beatles were HUGE in 1965; there is no band in 2000 that can match the wow factor of the Beatles appearing in a comic. But it's... feasible, I guess.

Much more difficult is when a "temporal" event is integral to a character's development or origin. What's so special about the Fantastic Four launching a rocket into space in 2000? In the early 60s, the United States was locked into a space race with the Soviet Union, so it made sense (sort of) for Reed Richards to rush a group of non-scientists into an experimental rocket. In order to make the launch in 2000 seem important, the origin story has been revised and revised to the point where I'm not even sure of the wheres and whys of it any more.

Similarly, many characters' origins are tied to real world events. The Black Widow was a Soviet spy. Magneto is a Holocaust survivor, an integral part of his (revised) characterization. The Punisher was psychologically scarred in Vietnam. Solutions have been offered for these problems (Black Widow? Biologically enhanced. Magneto? De-aged by a hyper-evolved mutant and the re-aged to his prime by a space alien. Punisher? It wasn't Vietnam, just an unnamed military action in Southeast Asia. Professor X? Cloned body. Nick Fury? Infinity Formula. Sharon Carter? Oh, she's Peggy Carter's niece, not her sister. Etc, etc.), but keeping track of why each of these characters is as young as they are strains credulity. We don't want to use up all of our suspension of disbelief on stuff like this; we've got radioactive spiders and gamma-irradiated monsters to believe in.

I'm not ready to get to my solution yet, though. First I want to talk about a different problem.

The Marvel Universe has always been successful for being a "world outside your window". Even with all the crazy people flying around with super-powers, New York City is still New York City and regular people act like regular people. Which is very cool. But after reading comics for a while, you start asking, "How come Reed Richards doesn't release some of this incredible technology he's created to the public?" "In a world where Tony Stark can create solar powered battle armor, why do regular people still have to worry about oil prices?" Marvel, understandably, doesn't want to go there because pretty soon they're going to be putting out straight-up science fiction and the "world outside your window" is gone for good. But maintaining the status quo just makes all of Marvel's super-scientists look like jerks.

So what's the solution? Put it together with the other problem and you find an answer.

It is now 1975 in the Marvel Universe.

That's right; we're sticking with the idea that it's only been 13 years since Fantastic Four #1 in the comics. But instead of having a sliding timescale starting from today and going backwards, we'll start at the beginning (1962, or actually late 1961) and go forward. It's only been 13 years. But the proliferation of super-science technology makes their world in 1975 as advanced as ours is in 2013. The internet! Super-computer cell phones! Hybrid cars! Satellite-controlled drone planes. All available decades earlier thanks to the efforts of Marvel's super-scientists.

Not only that, but advances in technology and communication have accelerated real world events, too. It was possible to put out the first Star Wars movie decades earlier. That caused the cultural shift in blockbuster movie making that much earlier. Advances in communication accelerate trends. Protestors organizing on the internet and/or the availability of advanced weaponry ended the Vietnam War sooner, accelerated the start and end of the first Gulf War, etc., etc. Maybe presidential term limits were decreased thanks to the democratization of the internet and other reforms. Everything that happened in real life still happened, but it happened sooner.

(The only thing I can't solve is the fact that the denizens of the Marvel Universe seem to celebrate Christmas every 12 weeks.)

Crazy? Ridiculous? Of course. But it's crazy in a way that preserves the origins and early stories of all the Marvel characters. And it has absolutely zero impact on the casual reader, who can still pick up any book and enjoy the "world outside your window", not realizing they're looking into the past. And when they finally start asking how come Dum Dum Dugan is still around, we don't have to go reaching for the Infinity Formula again.


By fnord12 | December 19, 2012, 11:16 AM | Comics | Comments (3) | Link



December 18, 2012

Litterers

Oh, good. We're now deliberately dropping our space garbage on the moon.

Engineers commanded the twin spacecraft, Ebb and Flow, to fire their engines and burn their remaining fuel. Ebb plunged first, slamming into a mountain near the moon's north pole. Its twin, Flow, followed about a half minute later and aimed for the same target.

But at least they made sure not to land them on anything "important".

By design, the final resting place was far away from the Apollo landing sites and other historical spots on the moon.

We are assholes. And when the moon ants figure out a way to invade our planet in retaliation for using their home as a dump, we are going to be so fucked.


By min | December 18, 2012, 12:09 PM | Science| Link



Airborne Ebola - Yay Evolution

Cause regular ebola wasn't scary enough. Link.

Transmission of the virus -- which causes an often fatal hemorrhagic fever in people and primates -- was thought to require direct contact with body fluids from an infected animal or person. But in the new study, published online November 15 in Scientific Reports, piglets infected with Ebola passed the virus to macaques housed in the same room even though the animals never touched.
...
The new study raises questions about whether humans can also transmit Ebola by respiratory routes, says Pierre Formenty, of the World Health Organization's Control of Epidemic Diseases Unit. That is something that will have to be investigated in future outbreaks, he says.
...
Ebola viruses related to the African strains have been found in orangutans in Indonesia, raising the possibility that other unknown Ebola-like viruses could spill over into pigs and then humans, Marsh says. "That's concerning."

I'll say it's concerning. Remember Outbreak? I remember Outbreak. I remember when they were performing an autopsy and cut the person open and their liquefied insides spilled out onto the floor. I don't want my insides to liquefy. I like my insides the way they are. Goddamned ebola.


By min | December 18, 2012, 11:50 AM | Science| Link



Cave imminent

I guess no one should be surprised.

Yglesias:

Just last week I was trying to convince people that the administration had a new spirit of resolve on the debt ceiling question. Over the past year, I've repeatedly heard from administration officials both senior and junior that their on-the-record posture of no renewed negotiations on the debt ceiling is not a bluff. They've shown charts and graphs of how damaging they think the last standoff was to the economy, and made it a centerpiece of their story about why the recovery seemed to stall out for a while in 2011. Routinized hostage-taking was, they said, genuinely dangerous to the American economy.

But then it's emerged this week that they didn't really mean it. The debt ceiling is just another issue in the mix along with tax rates and benefit formulae and tax reform commissions and all the rest. One more pawn on the chessboard.

The problems with this are twofold. One is that their analysis about the danger of the debt ceiling is correct. Another is that by backing down after having invested time and energy in convincing people that they won't back down, the administration is going to make it much harder for themselves to be credible the next time around. There are two reasonable ways to handle the debt ceiling. One is to achieve a permanent solution as part of the resolution of the fiscal cliff. The other is to completely ignore it in the resolution of the fiscal cliff, and then have the president wage and win a total victory on a separate debt ceiling battle. Delaying the debt ceiling crisis until some time in 2015 as part of a larger bargain merely institutionalizes the idea that the debt ceiling is a bargaining chip and entrenches the idea that the president will cave.

Another area of compromise is in Social Security benefits cuts. Oh, they try to make it sound like a purely technical change to "chained CPI". But what does that really mean? Krugman:

Switching from the regular CPI to the chained CPI doesn't affect benefits immediately after retirement, which are based on your past earnings.What it does mean is that after retirement your payments grow more slowly, about 0.3 percent each year. So if you retire at 65, your income at 75 would be 3 percent less under this proposal than under current law; at 85 it would be 6 percent less; there's supposedly a bump-up in benefits for people who make it that far.

This is not good; there's no good policy reason to be doing this, because the savings won't have any significant impact on the underlying budget issues. And for many older people it would hurt. Also, the symbolism of a Democratic president cutting Social Security is pretty awful.

It's possible these are just trial balloons. Previously they floated the idea of raising the eligibility age for Medicare and backed away from it when everyone screamed. Consider this to be me adding my scream to the chorus against these latest "ideas", for whatever it's worth.


By fnord12 | December 18, 2012, 11:39 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



December 17, 2012

Bryan Hitch interview

Some snark to be read between the lines.

Stylistically, if we're comparing Mark [Millar]'s writing on "Ultimates" with [Bendis]'s on "Ultron," both have very different leanings on the two very different projects. Mark likes, where possible, to show rather than tell whereas on "Ultron," Bendy was choosing a more dialogue-structured narrative, at least on the issues I drew. That can be a little trickier for an artist. If you have twelve speaking characters in the same location for 30 or 40 pages, then obviously no writer is going to consider the physical location of each one in how he or she writes the dialogue.

More.

I know min isn't a bit Hitch fan, but i've always felt it was a waste to have him toiling away in the Ultimate universe all this time.


By fnord12 | December 17, 2012, 3:37 PM | Comics| Link



December 14, 2012

No escape

I made a switch from regular to diet soda a few years ago and of course the biggest adjustment was Mountain Dew. I have very recently been trying to ween myself off soda altogether but between doing comic reviews and running Dungeons & Dragons sessions i find having heavily caffeinated beverages on hand a near necessity. But i wasn't convinced that the problems relating to diet soda were all that bad (studies showing a correlation between diet soda drinkers and overweight people probably have cause and effect reversed, and the thing about rats eating too much pudding doesn't bother me because i don't really like pudding).

But now we come back to the mysterious brominated vegetable oil. Since Mountain Dew is technically a citrus drink, they use the stuff to keep the flavoring from separating (it's in both regular and diet Dew). But:

Brominated vegetable oil contains bromine, the element found in brominated flame retardants, used in things like upholstered furniture and children's products. Research has found brominate flame retardants building up in the body and breast milk, and animal and some human studies have linked them to neurological impairment, reduced fertility, changes in thyroid hormones and puberty at an earlier age.

Limited studies of the effects of brominated vegetable oil in animals and in humans found buildups of bromine in fatty tissues. Rats that ingested large quantities of the substance in their diets developed heart lesions.

And clearly it's not absolutely necessary:

"B.V.O. is banned other places in the world, so these companies already have a replacement for it," Ms. Kavanagh said. "I don't see why they don't just make the switch." To that, companies say the switch would be too costly.

Not as costly as heart lesions! We will pay an extra dollar or whatever per carton to not drink flame retardant. And clearly it's not costly enough that it's a blocker to changing for sale in other countries.

I guess it's green tea for me. Blech.


By fnord12 | December 14, 2012, 10:45 AM | My stupid life| Link



Paul Krugman vs. Leeches

A play in one part.


By fnord12 | December 14, 2012, 10:41 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Susan Rice Withdraws

If this is just a personal decision from Rice to not want to deal with the crazy, then i totally understand. But if it's really a cave from the Dems, then it's not a good sign for the fiscal cliff and filibuster reform debates.

Filibuster reform is important here especially as it relates to cabinet appointments. I don't know when "advice and consent" turned into "requires a supermajority" but it's ridiculous to think that a president can't have the cabinet members he wants in his own administration. 41 senators shouldn't be able to block an appointment. The latest buzz is that Democrats have worked themselves down from a winning position to an unnecessary and probably worthless compromise on filibuster reform. I don't understand these people. When will they realize that while they're "negotiating", the other side is fighting?


By fnord12 | December 14, 2012, 8:25 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



December 13, 2012

Marvel Pirate says ____?

So these AR thingies. I haven't tried them yet. From what i've read about them so far, i think they are mainly like videos of assistant editors ad libbing or something. But i'm noticing them showing up in places where in the old days one might expect to see footnotes. So i'm wondering if i'm missing out. I of course am a big advocate of footnotes, and this is also kind of a lame ass version of what i had suggested in my brilliant paradigm shift post. So i probably ought to be supporting it.

But even after the effort involved in finding the right app and downloading it, i'm not sure how i feel about sitting there and waiting for my sometimes-3G phone to choke out a video while i'm in the middle of a comic. I guess i'm supposed to go back and go through the book a second time after i've read it. I don't have time for that!

But one day, i'd like to imagine that i will go through all these books again. Whether as part of my timeline project or just because i want to re-read something. And we all know about linkrot. I don't think anyone expects that these AR thingies will be active a year or so from now. So i'd rather just have the footnote, thanks.


By fnord12 | December 13, 2012, 10:49 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



SuperMegaSpeed Reviews - surprise extension

We got a special delivery today and were told we'd better read these and form an opinion right quick, because some of them are coming out again next week. So here goes. For once, i'm actually topical!

FF #1 - I've always been on the fence about Allred but either he's gotten better or i've learned what to expect or both, but i really enjoyed his crazy style here. Also, i've always liked the Future Foundation concept; i mean, it's got Gee Power, Artie, Leech, a Kid Wizard, Moleoids, and an intelligent Dragon Man! Why wouldn't i like it? Because Hickman. I haven't really liked Fraction either, but "concept + Allred" seems to be a winning formula so far. I have to say, though: i've been wondering for months (feels like years) about that lady in the Thing exo-skeleton on the cover, and this issue did not deliver on that at all.

Avengers Arena #1 - This book is cheap on many levels. The death of a character that we only have an investment in thanks to a different writer on a different title. The plot stolen outright from Battle Royale (Arcade's acknowledgement of same doesn't make it ok). The fact that half of these characters are new legacy characters that just scream canon fodder. But i thought it was done well enough so far. Min thinks it's all a virtual reality thing and everyone wakes up at the end having learned that they can't trust each other. That would be fine. It'll also be ok if the characters are really dead. What will annoy me is if they really are dead and Marvel resurrects them a year from now in another book by another writer. It's another case of "breaking the toys responsibly". But i think i'll probably stick with this. I mean, it's basically Secret Wars ("Slay your enemies..."), right?

Uncanny Cable and his Mighty X-Force NOW! #1 - One thing Hopeless did in both this and Arena was start off the book with a scene in the future and then jump back some period of time, but never make it all the way back to where we started. That's pure "writing for the trade" mentality and it's pretty annoying when reading single issues. I want to like this book. So far it's a "gathering of the team" plot but we don't know what for, and we didn't even complete the gathering before we got interrupted by Cable's vision coming true. But from the little i have to go on, i guess i'll stick with this for at least one more issue. But if the pacing stays at this level it'll probably get dropped soon enough.

I did read a Legion of Monsters trade by Hopeless not long ago and i thought it was pretty bad, but i really think a lot of that was due to the art (by Juan Doe). The writing in these books was ok. Arena at least fully set up the premise (granted, via some serious Arcade monologuing).

So i guess we'll stick with all three books...

Oh, one thing that kept tricking me. I guess i'm kinda dumb. But every new scene in FF had a little 4 symbol at the top of the page. It's not in the style of the Fantastic Four logo, in my defense. And so the first time i saw it, i flipped back to see if i missed #1-3. Der. And then in Cable, there was a narration title after the flash-forward scene. It had an X symbol and then said "Days Earlier". And i'm like, "X Days Earlier?!? What am i, supposed to guess?"


By fnord12 | December 13, 2012, 10:23 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Avengers #1 - This was sort of a middling affair. Not bad. I thought the intro was a bit pretentious. The dialogue bland. But otherwise, fine and we'll see where it goes. I don't know how the idea of recruiting other Avengers to help out when the Movie Avengers are in trouble is some great innovation, but that's the post-movie world we live in.

Journey Into Mystery #646 - There's some sort of a recurring problem that I see where a writer begins on a series and immediately dives into, like, breaking the character down into some state of disrepair, i guess with the intention of showing us how they work under distressing situations and then building them back up. But it doesn't work. Look, we probably have about six issues worth of Sif stories coming to us before this book is cancelled. And we've really only seen Sif as a background character in Thor. So how about just six issues of Sif kicking ass and us getting to know her. Doctor Octopus finds a Norn Stone so it's Sif vs. the Sinister Six, or something. Then if that sells maybe we can do a character arc where she gets depressed and decides she needs to become a bloodthirsty monster and then realizes that's not going to work out for her. I'll also say that this story didn't seem structured very well. We had a nice rescue scene in the beginning and then she goes to visit Volstagg's family and the next thing we know she's all miserable and doing these desperation things. And dialogue that has a string of rune symbols interspersed with "blah blah"? What's going on here? If Sif's not into this, why is she doing it? I almost feel like i could ask the same about Immonen.

Thunderbolts #1 - Is that really Mercy? I thought this was pretty good, but it's Dillon art coupled with a "building of the team" plot so i guess i shouldn't be too surprised that i liked it. Seems like this will be fun, although i'm a bit surprised about General Ross lack of concern about killing civilians (even mob goons have rights, that's why Punisher is a quasi-bad guy that the Avengers are currently hunting down in another book).

Iron Man #3 - I was so sure that the lady with tendrils coming out of her head on the cover was Bad Guy Lady again, but i was happy to be wrong. Other than the cut & paste heads for Pepper and Tony, and the fact that Firebrand was just literally a naked lady that Land left for the colorist to sort out, the art seemed... not as bad? I am assuming that my knowledge of Vibro is out of date and he's supposed to look like a normal guy nowadays. The story was fine, too, but we all know it's a waste of Gillen.

Punisher War Zone #2 - This was ok, but you'd almost think that the Avengers would be ok with driving the Punisher out of the US. They've got enough going on, they made an effort to catch this guy, and he fled the country. Mark that down as a temporary win. I've seen super-heroes let more legitimate villains flee the scene. But again, this was fine.

The Awesome Machine Man and maybe sometimes a little about Red She-Hulk #60 - Now that they've updated the title to reflect reality, i have to admit i'm enjoying the book a little more. But it really does look like i'm going to have to get the rest of Hickman's SHIELD run; it's clearly not going away as much as (from the first trade i read) i'd like it to. The ending of this issue is an interesting development; for those who don't know, the (valid) complaint is that when a boy-person becomes a Hulk he becomes a big muscular monster, but when a girl-person becomes a Hulk she becomes super-sexy. And i know Parker is aware of that. So now that Parker has turned Betty into a true Hulk, what are his plans? Explain an in-story reason for her eventual reversal (the real reason being that Marvel thinks their audience is entirely composed of boy-persons who don't know how to find actual porn)? Keep her that way? Doesn't seem like that would be allowed.

Avenging Spider-Man #15 - This was fun. But were they telling me that Devil Dinosaur is girl? Or was Demon Dinosaur his girlfriend? And will there really be baby DDs now?

X-Factor #247-248 - "Multiple Man fights the ghost of General Lee in Las Vegas" tells me that Peter David wants to write a Deadpool comic, and i'd be more than ok with that. #248 was good, and seems like it's building towards something. Everyone will note that this book is floating towards the bottom of my read pile (ordered from lowest to highest anticipation, so that i end on a positive note), although i think the focus on Pip has something to do with that.

All New X-Men #3 And here we are at the very bottom of the pile but i'm questioning that placement. I don't know why we're adding something about Cyclops & Magneto's powers going haywire. It seems like a distraction and Bendis can't handle distractions. Keep him focused, editors! We wanted this series to be about the 1960s X-Men reacting to the state of mutant affairs in modern times. At the very least we'd like them to actually appear in the book. But we'll see where all that goes. That's not the real problem with this issue. The problem is a standard Bendis problem, but it's really exaggerated here: That was the White Queen? HAHAHAHAHA! "I appreciate the bust-out, fellas... but I'll see you in another life." Man, the Phoenix Force really affected her, huh? I kind of picture Bendis playing with a bunch of action figures but not even changing his voice when he makes the different figures talk. Well, i liked the first two issues so hopefully this was just a blip.


By fnord12 | December 13, 2012, 5:41 PM | Comics | Comments (4) | Link



Media Bias

Joe Patrice has the rundown.


By fnord12 | December 13, 2012, 5:35 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



As promised

Krugman on the Fed action:

So, how big a deal was yesterday's Fed announcement? Philosophically, it was pretty major; in terms of substantive policy implications, not so much...

Substantively, however, there isn't that much going on here. Basically, Bernanke is promising that the Fed won't do anything stupid -- specifically, that it won't pull an ECB, and raise rates even though the economy is still depressed and underlying inflation is still low. As it was, however, few people expected the Fed to pull an ECB in any case. That's reflected in the market reaction: rates actually rose, and expected inflation, as measured by the spread between nominal and real rates, went up only slightly.

Sorry, but this move, while it speaks well of the Fed's learning process, was not a game-changer.

And in his follow-up he brings it back to fiscal policy:

This means that the Fed is projecting elevated unemployment nine full years after the Great Recession started. And, of course, the Fed has been consistently over-optimistic.

This is an awesome failure of policy -- not solely at the Fed, of course. When I wax caustic about Very Serious People, bear this in mind. Faced with an economic crisis where textbook macroeconomics told us exactly how to respond, people of influence chose instead to obsess over budget deficits and generally punt on employment; and the result has been a huge economic and human disaster.


By fnord12 | December 13, 2012, 12:08 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



I am perpetual. I keep the country clean.

We swear we're not an Illuminati organization, you guys.

In 2002-2003, the Bush administration put together Total Information Awareness program, which was to create a vast database that could be used for citizen surveillance. Outrage ensued, and the Bush administration found that not even lamely renaming the program Terrorism Information Awareness could stem it, so they withdrew the program. The outrage was helped along by the fact that the Democrats were in the opposition party at the time and a few of the good ones (Russ Feingold and Ron Wyden) introduced bills to halt the program, which helped make the protests legit (credit also to conservative pundit William Safire).

The program never really died, however; it just went underground. And now the Wall Street Journal has a good article about its use under the Obama administration.

Under the new rules issued in March, the National Counterterrorism Center, known as NCTC, can obtain almost any database the government collects that it says is "reasonably believed" to contain "terrorism information." The list could potentially include almost any government database, from financial forms submitted by people seeking federally backed mortgages to the health records of people who sought treatment at Veterans Administration hospitals.

The key point, though, is that there is no resistance this time.

The National Counterterrorism Center's ideas faced no similar public resistance. For one thing, the debate happened behind closed doors. In addition, unlike the Pentagon, the NCTC was created in 2004 specifically to use data to connect the dots in the fight against terrorism.

And what the article doesn't mention is that fact that the Democrats in congress will be silent about it this time around. Other than, say, Ron Paul, i don't imagine that Republicans will raise much of an objection, and the way they've been howling and moaning about every ginned up controversy since Obama took office, i don't think they'd have much credibility even if they did.

Our only hope now is that this thing they've created develops its own AI and turns on its masters.



By fnord12 | December 13, 2012, 10:59 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Goverment bureaucracy we won't try to get rid of

Take this with a grain of salt since one of the writers of this editorial runs a solar energy company and would surely like to see less regulation in his industry. But it does seem that the combination of sanctioned monopolies and local regulations are not helping what ought to be an obvious conversion to solar.

Solar panels have dropped in price by 80 percent in the past five years and can provide electricity at a cost that is at or below the current retail cost of grid power in 20 states, including many of the Northeast states. So why isn't there more of a push for this clean, affordable, safe and inexhaustible source of electricity?

First, the investor-owned utilities that depend on the existing system for their profits have little economic interest in promoting a technology that empowers customers to generate their own power. Second, state regulatory agencies and local governments impose burdensome permitting and siting requirements that unnecessarily raise installation costs. Today, navigating the regulatory red tape constitutes 25 percent to 30 percent of the total cost of solar installation in the United States, according to data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and, as such, represents a higher percentage of the overall cost than the solar equipment itself.

In Germany, where sensible federal rules have fast-tracked and streamlined the permit process, the costs are considerably lower. It can take as little as eight days to license and install a solar system on a house in Germany. In the United States, depending on your state, the average ranges from 120 to 180 days. More than one million Germans have installed solar panels on their roofs, enough to provide close to 50 percent of the nation's power, even though Germany averages the same amount of sunlight as Alaska. Australia also has a streamlined permitting process and has solar panels on 10 percent of its homes.

We've reached the tipping point on solar panels where the ROI is clear and in a "free market" customers would be moving in that direction. The fact that increased energy from solar has benefits beyond an individual consumer's power bill ought to mean that this is an issue you would think Republicans and Democrats alike could get behind.

Here in New Jersey, PSE&G actually started doing some good things along these lines under Governor Corzine, like putting up solar panels on all their utility poles, but Christie put a stop to it. Even so, i'd rather see something that doesn't rely on the existing grid, at least exclusively. I find it very odd that people who have solar panels on their roofs still can't get power during a power outage, because all those panels do is feed back into the grid, not directly into your home. I don't see why the panels can't be designed to feed your home directly and then you draw from the grid to make up the difference when necessary.

Min and i live in a townhouse, so the whole conversation is moot for us, but we still harbor (increasingly fleeting, as we get older) dreams of building our Earthship. I probably need to adjust my thinking, but to me it's not really solar power unless you're off the grid.


By fnord12 | December 13, 2012, 10:37 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



December 12, 2012

Keep CALM with the TV on

Kevin Drum:

I have fallen down on my duty to keep track of the CALM Act, which requires TV commercials to have the same average volume as TV programs... In theory, this means no more hucksters suddenly blasting your eardrums and waking the baby whenever Burn Notice goes to a commercial break.

As I've mentioned before, I think about this new rule the same way I think about the Do Not Call list. I don't care if it's "liberal" or "conservative." I don't care if it's hard to implement. I don't care whether or not you can justify it from first principles. I just don't care. All I want is for this to stop, and I'm perfectly willing to bring down the entire weight of the federal government to make it happen. As far as I'm concerned, this might very well be the only thing Congress did in the entire year of 2011 to improve our lives.


By fnord12 | December 12, 2012, 2:31 PM | TeeVee| Link



Good news from the Fed?

It sure seems that way to read Drum and Yglesias although both caveat their posts by saying that they'd like to see even higher inflation targets. At a minimum this might mitigate our upcoming austerity bomb (aka the erroneously named "fiscal cliff") but an even better scenario would be that this gets combined with the new stimulus program that Obama is pushing for as part of that debate.

The Fed could have done what they're doing here at any time but so far they've chosen not to. The timing sure feels like they were waiting for the election to get settled. I have to admit that if Romney had won and then the Fed did this i'd be screaming bloody murder.

I'll update this post when Krugman reacts, but i suspect he'll say "this is good but we need fiscal stimulus" which is what he's been saying all along.


By fnord12 | December 12, 2012, 1:37 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Hulk's Butt Hurts

In Hulk #426, the madder Hulk gets, the weaker Hulk gets.

Art by Liam Sharp and Robin Riggs.

We've all been there.

By fnord12 | December 12, 2012, 7:18 AM | Comics| Link



December 11, 2012

Kludgeocracy

The fact that Americans supposedly don't like big government but still want all the benefits of government means that we have a system that operates in a complicating and costly manner to achieve what ought to be straightforward goals.

Not sure if the obligatory dig at Windows was necessary but here you go. PDF:

The dictionary tells us that a kludge is "an ill-assorted collection of parts assembled to fulfill a particular purpose...a clumsy but temporarily effective solution to a particular fault or problem." The term comes out of the world of computer programming, where a kludge is an inelegant patch put in place to be backward compatible with the rest of a system. When you add up enough kludges, you get a very complicated program, one that is hard to understand and subject to crashes. In other words, Windows.

"Clumsy but temporarily effective" also describes much of American public policy. For any particular problem we have arrived at the most gerry-rigged, opaque and complicated response. From the mind-numbing complexity of the health care system (which has only gotten more complicated, if also more just, after the passage of Obamacare), our Byzantine system of funding higher education, and our bewildering federal-state system of governing everything from the welfare state to environmental regulation, America has chosen more indirect and incoherent policy mechanisms than any comparable country.


By fnord12 | December 11, 2012, 4:57 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



December 8, 2012

Rodney Needs Love gets his own book

Drawn by Mike Ploog.


Click for Goliath size slightly larger size

I don't know why they call him Goliath. He's clearly Rodney.


By fnord12 | December 8, 2012, 1:01 PM | Boooooks & Comics | Comments (1) | Link



December 7, 2012

They're Not Just Resistant to Antibiotics - It's a Source of Food

Thanks, commercial farmers, for creating these super microbes.

It's well known how bacteria exposed to antibiotics for long periods will find ways to resist the drugs--by quickly pumping them out of their cells, for instance, or modifying the compounds so they're no longer toxic.

But to Topp's knowledge, this is the first report of a soil microorganism that degrades an antibiotic both to protect itself and get nutrition.

On the other hand, this means that wastewater can be treated for antibiotics now. All the drugs people are taking, the gels full of hormones that people wash off their hands and down their drains - all that's been accumulating in our water supply because the current system wasn't designed to treat for these chemicals. And we've been drinking it, bathing in it, breathing it in. So, a microorganism that can remediate this from our water would be great. You know, as long as it didn't also develop a taste for people.


By min | December 7, 2012, 11:30 AM | Science| Link



December 6, 2012

Whoodwin?
Stinkor vs.Skunkor
Stinkor Skunkor

Stinkor of course returns after his previous battle with Patchouli soap.


By fnord12 | December 6, 2012, 3:22 PM | Whoodwin | Comments (1) | Link



Reminder: EPA should be regulating carbon emissions

I've mentioned this before but i kind of contradicted myself in earlier posts when i said that after the Fiscal "Cliff" issue is resolved, Obama is out of leverage and basically has to wait and hope that in 2014 the composition of Congress changes before he can get any new laws through.

That neglects the possibility of doing something about carbon emissions. What's the leverage? Well, in 2007, the Supreme Court decided in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency that the EPA is required to regulate carbon. Even after that ruling, the Bush EPA of course slow-peddled the implementation of that regulation, but my expectation was that on day one of Obama's 2008 administration they start doing it. Not necessarily because i think it's the best way to deal with our global warming problem, but because many people don't think it's the best way to deal with our global warming problem, so you'd have some kind of consensus to get something less punitive through Congress. Instead the Obama administration only made vague noises about potentially maybe starting something, which wasn't enough of a threat to Republicans, so they demonized the hell out of Cap & Trade (which, i probably don't have to tell you, was a Republican solution in the first place) and therefore we got nothing.

Now that Obama doesn't have re-election to worry about, i can't imagine why he wouldn't start up EPA carbon regulation immediately so that he gets another swing at bat here. The positioning here should be the same as it should be for the Fiscal Cliff: "I'm basically ok with the current law and in order for me to change it you'd better offer me something really good."


By fnord12 | December 6, 2012, 3:11 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



No new ideas, please

Back in mid-November, the Republican Study Committee put out a policy memo saying that we should relax our draconian copyright laws. That was on a Friday afternoon, and by Saturday morning the memo was retracted. Now, the author, "Rising Star" Derek Khanna has been fired. So that's what you get for going off message.

It's too bad because this is an area where there's little daylight between the two parties, and at a time where Republicans are looking to reposition them with younger voters, this is an issue where i think they could have found a lot of support. It's also one that fits with the Republicans' (purported) free market principles, since as Khanna's memo pointed out, government enforced monopolies are the antithesis of a free market.


By fnord12 | December 6, 2012, 2:53 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



With great power comes great slack

Since the Mephistoboot, i've been getting my Spider-Man fix from the newspaper strip* (where the reboot was only a Dallas-style dream) via the Comics Curmudgeon.

It takes a little adjusting, though, because the Spidey of the Newspaperverse mainly sits around shouting crankily at the television.

It's pretty awesome, really.





*And Avengers, and New Avengers, and Avenging Spider-Man


By fnord12 | December 6, 2012, 11:42 AM | Comics| Link



Decorating a Tree Using Math

Holy crap, where was this years ago when i still had a tree for Christmas?

Members of the University's Maths society, called SUMS, have put an end to bare branches, by calculating the amount of baubles, tinsel and lights needed, as well as the size of the essential star on top.

Department store Debenhams set the University the Christmas themed challenge to create the formulas for the perfectly decorated Christmas tree and it is also available below as a calculator.

If you've found your ideal Christmas tree but want to ensure you use the appropriate amount of decorations then the calculator will have the answer.

The formulas - which are being rolled out for use by Debenhams personal shoppers nationwide - are as follows:

They need to make formulas for everything. I'm so happy to see it that i almost want to go get a tree to test it out. And that's completely normal behavior! Shuts up.


By min | December 6, 2012, 11:30 AM | Science| Link



December 5, 2012

I am Iron Land!


Tony Stark, aren't you supposed to be getting back your Extremis?


Of course! Goodbye!


Bwahahahah!


Pepper, did you dye your hair?


I'm not Pepper, you fool! I'm Bad Guy Lady! Don't you see the weird tendrils coming out of my hair? It means i'm a different person!


Um, ok, i guess. So who do i have to fight?


Bwahahahaha!


Take that!


Take what?


I just punched you.


How is anyone supposed to know that?


I just said so in the dialogue. Next?


Bwahahahaha!


Oh brother.


By fnord12 | December 5, 2012, 3:35 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Astonishing X-Men #56 - One of the more annoying things about decompressed storylines is that you often wind up with an entire issue like this devoted to people standing around after all the action is over, just talking about what already happened. It's not a fun standalone read. We started reading this series to see how Northstar's wedding and relationship was being handled, and it's been fine for that (although Kyle's a little bland) but the plot has been really weak and i'm happy to have reached a jumping off point. All this nonsense about Karma's family was just not interesting.

Astonishing X-Men annual #1 - Poor Gage gets stuck writing another downtime talky one shot. I also feel like this is ground that was covered for Kyle already; if we keep dwelling on whether or not he, as a non-powered civilian, should have married Northstar, he's going to start looking really indecisive, almost unstable. As for the reprint of Northstar's "coming out" issue, all i have to say is that anyone who hates modern comics needs to look at that to realize how much things have improved. Comics from the 80s were awesome! But comics from the 90s sucked! And comics in 2000+ have been... better.

Captain Marvel #7 - Yeah, Monica Rambeau! The real Captain Marvel! Nice guest star for this series' second arc, and i thought it was written well. The art's a murky mess but i guess that works for mostly underwater scenes. So far i liked this a lot better than the first arc so maybe i'll stick around a little longer. And what's with the re-emergence of Frank Gianelli? Just a way to prove that we did our homework?

Uncanny Avengers #2 - You can't complain too much about a comic that features Honest John, the Living Propaganda. When i read Remender's Uncanny X-Force in trade form, i found myself saying "I like this, but i wouldn't have liked it in single issue format", because it was too drawn out and uneventful, but still had a lot of cool ideas and fun fights. Same here, basically, except i am getting the single issues. So i'm tryyyyyyyying to be patient.

All-New X-Men<#2 - I was definitely suffering Bendis-fatigue on the Avengers books (more on that soon) and wary of the potential for continuity errors with this series, but so far i'm enjoying this. Sure, it's slow and talky, but that doesn't make it bad. The Bendis dialogue tics are noticeable but, i'd argue, mostly under control. And the premise of seeing the young X-Men react to the good and bad of modern days is fun and working well. Paul O'Brien has noted some continuity problems already, and suggests that maybe the team really just comes from an alternate reality timeline, which i am very open to for a variety of reasons. But, can anyone tell me who the lady on the far right is on the cover?

Iron Man #2 - Ugh. Look, Gillen is doing the best he can here, but words on their own can only do so much. This is supposed to be a comic book.

Avengers #34 & New Avengers #34 - So goodbye to Bendis. I stand by my past statements that his run, flawed though it has been, is one of the best runs of Avengers. A lot of the problems people have with this run are really more about the state of the whole industry at this point: the decompression, the lack of emphasis on actual super-fights, the snark, the event-heavy focus, the disregard for continuity. And i am completely sympathetic to that, as seen in my other reviews. But at the same time, i think Bendis, while firmly in (or perhaps, spearheading) the modern style, did it well and gave us a lot of interesting ideas and concepts and plots. Sometimes not executed well. Good ideas, fun dialogue, decent adventures. Of all of Marvel's "top" writers (Aaron, Fraction, Hickman), he's the only one i can really read, and unlike, say, Millar, his characters do actually have some depth. I know this isn't working very well as a defense of Bendis! But compare to past Avengers runs: Bob Harras, Geoff Johns, Chuck Austen! Busiek's run was decent but also flawed and a little too "safe", and you have similarly flawed runs by Byrne and Simonson before getting back to the really truly good Roger Stern run. My feeling is the series has really been a mess since Stern left and Bendis is the guy that really turned it around. And i like that he gave a lot of prominence to characters like Luke Cage and Spider-Woman, and he made the inclusion of characters like Spider-Man and Wolverine believable. I always looked forward to his books. If the characters were sitting around eating and joking with each other for half the issue, i still enjoyed it; sometimes moreseo than the adventure parts. Anyway, these final arcs were clearly in "unbreaking the toys" mode; bringing back Janet and restoring Dr. Strange... i was half expecting Jack of Hearts to pop back up. The Jam pages didn't work very well in either book and even the fact that they thought it was a good idea exemplifies the problem with illustrating super-fights nowadays, but i understand the impulse. Can't wait to hear the x-fans start screaming now.

Indestructible Hulk #1 - Nice premise, nicely written. Whatever magic Waid was using on Daredevil he's bringing it here too. I like that even using the Mad Thinker as something of a throwaway villain, Waid still made him a viable threat. As for Yu's art... i don't know if it's the different colorist or just Yu evolving or what, but holy crap, i didn't hate it! No one looked like a damn zombie. Looking forward to more of this.

Daredevil #20 - And here's Waid again doing fun stuff. I guess it's kind of insensitive to call it fun when we're talking about sex-slavery and similar things but at the same time it's a storyline involving the Spot so what do you want from me? It's a good book.

Dark Avengers #183 - Well, like Astonishing X-Men this is basically a wrap-up issue but unlike that book i enjoyed it. I'm glad Parker gets to keep going but i'll miss a lot of these characters, especially Ghost and this incarnation of Mr. Hyde. Of course, it's Parker that made me like them so i'm sure the book will continue to be good. Where did we end up with the Juggernaut, though? Last issue i was happy to see him get his powers back, and then this issue they said he lost them again and then at the end he says he still has them but doesn't know for how long.


By fnord12 | December 5, 2012, 2:03 PM | Comics| Link



December 4, 2012

Marvel Sales

October.

A couple random observations:

1) I'm amazed that retailers ordered some 70,000 copies of Marvel's promo book Marvel Now: Point One. I wonder how that translated into reader sales. I can't imagine many readers deliberately paying for a book full of ads.

2) I noticed that Ultimate Spider-Man had a Point One issue. I bring this up because the whole, er, point of the Ultimate line was to provide accessible stories unburdened by continuity. I know that they lost sight of that remit almost immediately, but you'd think deciding to put out a Point One issue might have brought it home for them. Time to cancel that line, people. Feel free to send Miles Morales over to the real universe first.


By fnord12 | December 4, 2012, 12:27 PM | Comics| Link



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