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December 31, 2011

Thirty-Two Down, Fifty to Go

mushroom turnovers vegan

Well, ok, there's only 30 in the picture, but that's cause fnord12 and i each ate one before i got around to taking the photo.

By min | December 31, 2011, 8:02 PM | My stupid life | Comments (2) | Link

December 30, 2011

Flexing - Ouch

Wikipedia tells me

Flexing, also called Bone Breaking, is a style of street dance from Brooklyn, New York that is characterized by rhythmic contortionist movement combined with waving, tutting, and gliding.

I feel they should also add a squicky warning. I had to look away during some of joint twisting stuff. *shudder* But, you know, you should watch it all the way through. It's pretty kewl.

By min | December 30, 2011, 1:25 PM | Ummm... Other?| Link

Boy Loves His Zeppelin

I saw this a month or so ago and meant to post it, but kept forgetting. So now that it's prolly been seen by everybody already, i'm finally getting around to it. The video (i was unable to embed it, but clicking on the image will take you to the You Tube page) is of a little boy who rejects several songs his dad plays for him, getting more and more upset, until finally his dad asks him what he wants to listen to and the boy chooses Zeppelin.

baby Led Zeppelin Whole Lotta Love

You can tell from his expressions that he knows the song well and is anticipating certain parts.

See also: Baby who cries whenever her dad turns off Notorious B.I.G.

By min | December 30, 2011, 3:04 AM | Cute Things & Music| Link

December 29, 2011

Marvel Sales


By fnord12 | December 29, 2011, 5:17 PM | Comics| Link

December 28, 2011

Back issues added

A message for those interested in my Marvel Timeline project. I've just completed the addition of a large list of back-issues to the chronology. I started working on these back in October, and it's the amount of content added is the equivalent to me completing about year of comics. And, since these were all issues i deliberately sought out, they all have some degree of significance: first appearances, important events, or unusual storylines.

You can see the list of added issues, and the reasons i bought them, here.

Now on to 1985!

By fnord12 | December 28, 2011, 5:40 PM | Comics| Link

Girls Want Super Heroes, Too!

Damn skippy! Why can't girls get things like super hero squinkies, for example? Why's it all gotta be pink stuff?


I love when she gets so upset, she starts slapping her hands on a box in frustration. Also, that she's so tiny that the box is at the proportional height at which a table surface would be for an adult.

By min | December 28, 2011, 1:23 PM | Cute Things & Liberal Outrage| Link

December 26, 2011

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

New Mutants #35 - I really wasn't looking forward to an "evil nu-mutal band" plotline, and the "fight" this issue went about how you would expect, but throw in Shuma-Gorath-in-a-Box and i'm with you. This book is very good at the inter-personal stuff; the Nate/Dani/Blink conversation about atonement was both funny and good characterization. There definitely seems to be a fight going on between the artists about who is supposed to be drawing the faces on these characters. It seems in this issue the inker said "That #$#@ isn't going to draw faces again? Somehow that's my job? Fine, you want eyes? I'll give you eyes no one will miss."

Next someone will just glue on some googly eyes.

Sorry for the quick scans, but these are called Speed Reviews for a reason.

Avengers Academy #23 - The introduction of X-23 to the team was really good, and the Lightspeed/Striker conversation/revelations was good too. Oh, and Hybrid! I am really disappointed that Sean Chen is leaving the book, especially due to 'revised budgets'. It's one thing to trim the line, quite another to lose top talent. Or maybe they're moving Chen to a higher profile book, which would be well-deserved, but at the same time it ensures that lower tier books like this will never rise to prominence, Wolverine-clone or no Wolverine-clone.

Hulk #46 - I was so sure, when they announced that there was a giant portal to Rigellian space in the basement, that i was going to get my Recorder/Machine Man team-up, or at least get to see a few Big Heads, but no such luck. This was good, and i'm surprised and pleased that the book will actually have a lasting effect on Marvel's status quo with the introduction of this new country and leader. I like the analysis that the Red Hulk uses the reputation of the Hulk to get enemies to treat him like an unthinking monster while actually using tactics more fitting to the guy that used to be General Ross, but i don't feel like that's really borne out in the stories. They should do more with that.

Thunderbolts #167 - I seem to be in the minority about this book again, but i don't have any complaints about the time-travel romp. I was glad to see this Victorian plotline wrap up after two issues, and i don't mind a meeting with [a] Black Knight next. The writing is great, the characters are awesome, and i'm willing to go wherever Parker wants to take us.

New Avengers #19 - If you can get past the fact that it's a re-hash, the Norman Osborn stuff is good.

Avengers #20 - Same here. I enjoyed the "get the squid off Madam Hydra's head" scene. The art is a little weird and blocky, but i kind of like it. This panel looks awkward but at the same time it reminds me of Ditko's early Hulk.

Queue the very angry Ditko fans.

I was advised to read the Avengers comics in the wrong order, but looking back on this there's actually decent coordination between the two issues, with Iron Man realizing that Osborn is working with AIM after the Ultimo attack from New Avengers. I know that complimenting two books with the same writer and editor for actually fitting together in a way that makes sense is faint praise, but it's more than we've gotten in the past from some Bendis books (and i'm one of this guy's defenders!).

Some words on the ads in these issues:

  • Is that MODOK car ad supposed to be showing up twice in every issue? What's with that?
  • Nothing about the Regenesis ads makes me want to get any of the issues. The Wolverine and the X-Men ads have been especially obnoxious. I was really on the fence about getting the Gage-written Legacy book but Rogue, Gambit, and god knows who else standing around staring into the camera looking tough doesn't help me make a decision. And Wolverine's in X-Factor now too?
  • Pssst... Storm joined the team in Avengers #19, so why are they advertising it as happening in issue #21?

By fnord12 | December 26, 2011, 10:18 AM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link

December 22, 2011

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - The "Santa's a Dick" Edition

I'm sure everyone's familiar with this 1964 Rankin/Bass Christmas classic. It's been on TV every year since i can remember. And despite the singing, i always enjoyed watching it each December as a kid. A couple of years ago, i bought Rudolph as part of a DVD collection of other children's Christmas classics and watched it again for the first time in several years. It was during these later viewings that i realized something very obvious - Santa's a dick.

In point of fact, just about everyone in Christmas Town is a dick.

Well, Mrs. Donner, Rudolph's mom, is not a dick. She's just weak and ineffectual. The kind of person who willfully ignores things so that they can continue in the fantasy that everything's fine. Her reaction to Rudolph's nose?

Mrs. Donner: We'll simply have to overlook it.

But back to Santa and his uber-douchbaggery.

Rudolph's father Donner is horrified and embarrassed that his offspring would exhibit traits that deviate from the norm. What is Santa going to think! He nervously reassures Santa that his son's not a total freak and will surely grow out of it.

Instead of chuckling merrily, patting Donner on the back reassuringly, and telling him that superficial physical appearances mean nothing to Santa for he loves all children, Santa reveals appearances mean everything.

Santa Claus: Well, let's hope so, if he wants to make the sleigh team someday.

Thanks for stopping by to meet our new baby, Santa. Dick.

Having done his duty of spreading anxiety and shame to the reindeer, Santa moves on to crushing any feelings of self-worth his elves might have.

The elves are all in a tizzy to perform their newest number for Santa and Mrs. Claus. They've been practicing all year! Santa is openly impatient and makes it very obvious he's got better things to do.

Santa Claus: Well, let's get this over with. I have to go down and look over the new deer.
Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Santa let's get this over with

Slouching grumpily on his throne, Santa sullenly listens to their concert. As soon as the singing stops, he quickly makes for the door saying,

Santa Claus: Well, it needs work. I have to go.

And leaves without a backwards glance. Dick.

A few months later, Rudolph and Donner prepare for Rudolph's debut at the Reindeer Games. Donner, though fingerless, has managed to make a covering for Rudolph's nose.

Rudolph isn't too keen about having to wear it, but his father sets him straight.

Donner: There are more important things than comfort: self respect! Santa can't object to you now.

How can you possibly have any self-respect if you're born with a light up nose? How? And more importantly, we can't let Santa see that nose! Santa's approval is worth any discomfort.

Well, it's all for naught. His false nose falls off. Santa sees it and,

Santa Claus: Donner, you should be ashamed of yourself. What a pity.
Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Donner you should be ashamed of yourself

That's right, Donner. Shame on you.

Not surprisingly, Rudolph runs away and teams up briefly with Hermey, an elf who should be ashamed of himself for wanting to be a dentist. They meet one of the greatest Rankin/Bass characters of all:

Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Yukon Cornelius

Yukon Cornelius. Wahoo! (look at those dogs!)

After some time (perhaps a year?), Rudolph inexplicably decides that running away from those who mocked and hated him was wrong, and he ought to go back home.

Rudolph returns to his parents' cave only to find it empty. Santa shows up to tell him they left to look for Rudolph months ago but never came back.

Santa: I'm very worried.

Wait, they've been missing for months, but Santa's done nothing to actually find them. Just how worried is he? Well, ok, let's give him a little credit. He's actually thinking about someone other than himself for a change, right?

Santa: Christmas Eve is only two days off and, without your father, I'll never be able to get my sleigh off the ground.

Ok, mebbe not. Dick.

In the end, when Santa realizes that he needs Rudolph in order to deliver presents in the fog, he does a complete 180, lavishing Rudolph with all the approval and acceptance he's been yearning for the entire show. Suddenly, it's a "wonderful nose" and not only is Rudolph going to get a spot on Santa's sleigh team, he's going to lead it! And Santa's being totally sincere. He wouldn't lie about something like this just for his own personal gain.

So, what have we learned, boys and girls? Santa is a grumpy asshole who hates anything outside of the norm and can't be bothered with the social niceties of being polite to his employees, but if he needs something from you, he isn't above pretending to be your friend.

Oh, and Santa's a dick.

Extra Awesome Sauce

This movie was also full of strange, but wonderful things.

  1. Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Mrs. Claus  Mrs. Claus has this vaguely Eastern European accent and is dressed a bit like a governess, with her hair pulled back in a tight bun, so she's kinda threatening and not the loving matronly figure you might have come to associate with Mrs. Claus. She spends the entire movie pushing food on Santa.
    Mrs. Claus: Papa, you haven't touched a morsel. I'll have to take this suit in. Eat!

    Santa Claus: I'm busy, Mama. It's almost Christmas.

    Mrs. Claus: Whoever heard of a skinny Santa? Eat. Eat!

    Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer cowboy riding ostrichShe's obsessed with feeding him. Woman, what is your problem?

  2. Rudolph and friends end up on the Island of Misfit Toys at one point. So, all the toys introduce themselves and exclaim "Who would want a ___ that's ___?". Most of them made sense. Nobody wants a boat that sinks or a train with square wheels (how did this get passed Quality Control?). But one of the misfit toys is a cowboy riding an ostrich. Who the hell wouldn't love that toy? That toy is awesome! It's a cowboy riding an ostrich!

  3. Mrs. Donner wants to go with Donner in search of Rudolph. Well, think again, woman!
    Donner: No, This is man's work.

    I suppose we should all be grateful that he didn't tell her to "Get in the kitchen, bitch".

Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Hermey    Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer elves

Incidentally, i can't help but wonder if this whole "dentist" thing is a metaphor for "gay". I mean, Hermey's the only male elf with a lush head of blond hair and a cute, pink, rosebud mouth. The rest of the guys are bald with a line where their pie hole should be. And everybody keeps saying "dentist" with an extra dose of drama. Just saying.

By min | December 22, 2011, 9:36 PM | TeeVee | Comments (2) | Link


onomatopoeia  [on-uh-mat-uh-pee-uh, -mah-tuh-]


  1. the formation of a word, as cuckoo, meow, honk, or boom, by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent.

  2. a word so formed.

  3. the use of imitative and naturally suggestive words for rhetorical, dramatic, or poetic effect.

It's great to say, and it uses almost every vowel just for the ending. That's awesome!

By min | December 22, 2011, 12:38 PM | Good Words| Link

That must have been some pool party

Syphilis U.S. Public Health Service poster, 1949.  Found in the September 2011 issue of Scientific American.

By fnord12 | December 22, 2011, 9:48 AM | Science | Comments (1) | Link

Random Lyrics Thursday

**Warning - nekkid boobies (it might also be a little soft core pornish. mostly it's just weird)**

From mm1

The Chauffeur by Duran Duran

Out on the tar plains, the glides are moving
All looking for a new place to drive
You sit beside me, so newly charming
Sweating dewdrops glisten freshing your side

And the sun drips down bedding heavy behind
The front of your dress all shadowy lined
And the droning engine throbs in time with your beating heart

Way down the lane away, living for another day
The aphids swarm up in the drifting haze
Swim seagull in the sky towards some hollow western isle
My envied lady holds you fast in her gaze

And the sun drips down bedding heavy behind
The front of your dress all shadowy lined
And the droning engine throbs in time with your beating heart
And the sun drips down bedding heavy behind
The front of your dress all shadowy lined
And the droning engine throbs in time with your beating heart

Sing blue silver

And watching lovers part I feel you smiling
What glass splinters lie so deep in your mind?
To tear out from your eyes with a word to stiffen brooding lies
And I'll only watch you leave me further behind

And the sun drips down bedding heavy behind
The front of your dress all shadowy lined
And the droning engine throbs in time with your beating heart
And the sun drips down bedding heavy behind
The front of your dress all shadowy lined
The droning engine throbs in time with your beating heart

Sing blue silver
Sing, sing blue silver...

According to this wiki, the video's inspired by the movie The Night Porter. Unless the movie depicted scantily clad women being driven around in a city and meeting up in car parks, i don't see the connection, but i'm gonna go ahead and take their word for it.

By min | December 22, 2011, 8:12 AM | Music| Link

December 21, 2011

Brain-Eating Amoeba Update

If you thought winter would kill it, you'd be wrong.

Somehow they can slip through the microbial Fort Knox of some U.S. water treatment plants and make it into tap water (at least in Louisiana).

This is not a problem if you drink the water and they end up in your stomach, where they are digested. This is very much is a problem if you dribble them through your sinus system, where they seem to occasionally find their way brainward with the same efficacy they display in unlucky swimmers who accidentally inhale some protist-infested pond water while swimming. Once they wander into your brain, death is almost certain.

Thankfully, nobody would actually dribble water from a pot into their nostrils, so no worries.

In other gross news, if you scroll down to the bottom of the article, you'll learn that you and everybody else around you likely has about 0.14grams of poo clinging to your bottoms. Think about that next time you have friends over to sit on your couch.

By min | December 21, 2011, 7:53 PM | Science| Link

Hard Times

Seen outside the Mexican restaurant where my company held our holiday lunch.

Tequila action Spider-Man

Failed Broadway show, marriage on the reboot, no longer the top mascot now that Mickey's around... it's tough being a Spider-Man.

By fnord12 | December 21, 2011, 2:06 PM | Comics| Link

December 20, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Army

vegan peanut butter cups

With my Peanut Butter Cup Army, I shall rule the world!

By min | December 20, 2011, 10:32 PM | My stupid life| Link

Apple Streusel...Tart?

What defines a tart? Is it the type of pan you used? It's almost exactly the same ingredients as an apple pie. It's just not in a pie pan. What do i call it? I must know!

vegan apple streusel tart

By min | December 20, 2011, 10:17 PM | My stupid life | Comments (1) | Link

Amazon's Disintegrating USB Cable

If your Kindle came with an Amazon USB cable, you have prolly experienced this:

Amazon's USB Cable for Kindle

It's only about a year or two old. I suppose keeping it soaked in acid didn't help....

By min | December 20, 2011, 10:08 PM | My stupid life| Link

Now It's Making My Brain Vibrate

Remember i complained that i could feel my phone giving me cancer? Well, lately, i've had to make a few calls where i'm on hold, listening to the recording take me thru the automated menus, etc etc. Since i hate having the phone next to my face (cancer) when i use the phone for long periods of time, i usu put it on speakerphone during these calls. I've noticed something rather disturbing. Despite the phone being nowhere near my head, i can feel my brain vibrating whenever the auto menu robot talks, and there's a sort of vibrating pressure in my ears, too. It's weird and unpleasant.

Clearly, I need to be swaddled and moved here.

By min | December 20, 2011, 7:07 PM | My stupid life| Link

What's Your Christmas Tree Look Like?

Finally, someone figured out what to do with those stupid white fake trees.

Hello Kitty Christmas

Not exactly my choice of holiday decoration, but what the hey.

Now, this is pretty kewl.

Ph'nglui merry mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl christmas fhtagn

Faced with the realisation that we suddenly had room enough to put up our own Christmas tree, I was initially at a loss when considering how to decorate it. We have no ornaments and the idea of shopping for them made me drowsy. I can't remember what first brought to mind the image of a tree covered in tentacles (perhaps it's best not to ask), but as soon as I envisioned it I couldn't let go of the idea.

Using an artificial tree, blue string lights, silver garland, one plush Cthulhu (who has been silently biding his time in my home for years), approximately 50 Cthulhu Tentacles, and a little heady chanting (no one wants to upset the Great Old Ones), "A very Lovecraft Christmas" became a reality. I'm rather pleased with the results. Let's hope the Old Ones are too. I'm beginning to suspect that it writhes when I'm not looking.

I think the Cthulu plushy is adorable.

Now i want a tree of something kewl. *pout*

h/t Spored to Death

By min | December 20, 2011, 6:53 PM | Cute Things| Link

Remembering Balloon Friend

No explanation of Balloon Friend will be given.  Either you know or you don't.

No explanation of Balloon Friend will be given.  Either you know or you don't.

No explanation of Balloon Friend will be given.  Either you know or you don't.

By fnord12 | December 20, 2011, 1:19 PM | Cute Things & My stupid life | Comments (1) | Link

Semantic arguments

Regardless of whether or not you think it merits the word "end", it's a fact that Republicans voted to replace Medicare with a privatized program.

See here, here, and here.

By fnord12 | December 20, 2011, 1:10 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

December 16, 2011

Substantive debate

The debate on SOPA rages on:

The slog was briefly bogged down even further by an unintentionally ironic controversy of decorum involving a tweet sent by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) disparaging Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), reading "We are debating the Stop Online Piracy Act and Sheila Jackson has so bored me I'm killing time by surfing the Internet."

Rep. Jackson-Lee admonished King in front of the committee, asking for him to apologize and saying she had "not heard of his ability multitask before," but that his tweet was "offensive." After a 20-minute period of bickering, Jackson-Lee was persuaded by colleagues to strike her use of the word "offensive" from the record.

By fnord12 | December 16, 2011, 12:04 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Buy Louis CK

Louis CK (who is awesome, btw) filmed a show at the Beacon Theater and made it available online for $5, DRM-free.

The show went on sale at noon on Saturday, December 10th. 12 hours later, we had over 50,000 purchases and had earned $250,000, breaking even on the cost of production and website. As of Today, we've sold over 110,000 copies for a total of over $500,000. Minus some money for PayPal charges etc, I have a profit around $200,000 (after taxes $75.58). This is less than I would have been paid by a large company to simply perform the show and let them sell it to you, but they would have charged you about $20 for the video. They would have given you an encrypted and regionally restricted video of limited value, and they would have owned your private information for their own use. They would have withheld international availability indefinitely. This way, you only paid $5, you can use the video any way you want, and you can watch it in Dublin, whatever the city is in Belgium, or Dubai. I got paid nice, and I still own the video (as do you). You never have to join anything, and you never have to hear from us again.

I really hope people keep buying it a lot, so I can have shitloads of money, but at this point I think we can safely say that the experiment really worked. If anybody stole it, it wasn't many of you. Pretty much everybody bought it. And so now we all get to know that about people and stuff. I'm really glad I put this out here this way and I'll certainly do it again.

Thus proving all those SOPA proponents wrong.

Fnord12 and i bought it and watched it last night. We laughed. If you like to laugh, you should buy this video, too.

By min | December 16, 2011, 10:08 AM | Liberal Outrage & TeeVee| Link

Random Lyrics ___Day

Gold Guns Girls by Metric

All the gold and the guns in the world Couldn't get you off
All the gold and the guns and the girls Couldn't get you off
All the boys, all the choices in the world

I remember when we were gambling to win
Everybody else said better luck next time
I don't wanna bend like the bad girls bend
I just wanna be your friend
Is it ever gonna be enough?

Is it ever gonna be enough?
Is it ever gonna be enough?
Is it ever gonna be enough?

All the lace and the skin in the shop
Couldn't get you off
All the toys and the tools in the box
Couldn't get you off
All the noise, all the voices never stop

I remember when we were gambling to win
Everybody else said better luck next time
I don't wanna bend like the bad girls bend
I just wanna be your friend
While you're giving me a hard time

I remember when we were gambling to win
Everybody else said

Is it ever gonna be enough?
Is it ever gonna be enough?
Is it ever gonna be enough?

Ooh, ooh
More and more, more and more
More and more, more and more
And more and more, more and more
More and more and more and more

(Is it ever gonna be enough?)

By min | December 16, 2011, 9:32 AM | Music| Link

December 15, 2011

Good argument but it's all about who owns the congressmen

Matthew Yglesias takes on the anti-SOPA and Protect IPO argument from an economic angle:

It's no secret that high-end income inequality has increased substantially over the past several decades. That's happening for a variety of reasons. One reason, however, is that the returns to being a superstar content creator are much much higher in 2011 than they were in 1981. That's because the potential audience is much bigger. It's bigger because the world's population is larger, it's bigger because many poor countries have gotten significantly less poor, and it's bigger because the fall of Communism has expanded the practical market reach of big entertainment conglomerates. At the same time, the cost of producing digital media content has fallen thanks to improved computers and information technology. Now step back and ask yourself why we have copyright in the first place. Well, it's because policymakers think that absent government-created monopolies there won't be adequate financial incentives to go out and create new content. That's not a crazy thing to believe. But the implication is that if globalization and technology drive the the returns to content ownership up, we need less IP protection. Instead, we've consistently gotten more. Copyright terms have been extended. Copyright terms have been extended retroactively. We've added "anti-circumvention" rules. And now we're talking about SOPA and Protect IP. But why? What's the policy problem being addressed here?

Obviously the people who own copyrights would like to make more money. But should we care? Are we worried that movie stars aren't getting paid enough? They seem to get paid plenty. New albums are released. People write books. There are plenty of shows to watch on television. There's lots of great new video games and other kinds of software to use. Nor is there any reason to believe that perfect copyright enforcement is a desirable public policy goal. Perfect enforcement would imply massive deadweight loss. In the absence of serious evidence that the public is suffering from some kind of content drought, I think we have ample reason to oppose new strong IP rules even without any of these other concerns.

By "other concerns" he means things like free speech.

I do think he glosses over the effect that music piracy has had on actual artists. But i don't think passing a law that prevents people from singing along with their favorite song on YouTube helps with that, either.

By fnord12 | December 15, 2011, 2:53 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

The clean plate club

Ta-Nehisi Coates touches on a subject that's been somewhat controversial in the SuperMegaHousehold in the past.

At any rate, the Festival would have these fancy dinners in the evening where I would sit around with people who were generally worth a gazillion dollars or some such. They were all nice and everything, but subtly--in ways cash can't explain--very, very different from me. For instance, at dinner, no one finished their plate. Many of them went so far as to decline desert, or if they indulged they'd eat half and sip coffee. We are not talking about large plates, or heaping deserts.

For the first couple of nights, I looked at all these rich white people like they'd lost their mind. To my mind they were being wasteful and unappreciative. I was not out the projects but I had--like most of us--come up in a house where you are told to finish your food. By the third night, I started to feel weird. I began to believe that by finishing my dinner and plowing through dessert I was committing a faux pas. No one said any such thing to me. But I just felt like I was sticking out. The next night I came to dinner and only ate half, I nibbled at dessert. I sipped the coffee. By my final dinner, not only had I joined the culture of withholding, I actually felt full and marveled at the fact that I'd ever been any other way.

This was in the span of a week. It was about then that I started to notice that I may well have been the only overweight person in the entire town.

Culture is a set of practices which people adopt to make sense of their environment. I was raised in a house where the memory of going hungry had not faded. I never went hungry, but I was raised around people who'd grown up with that. Moreover, all of my friends and relatives were raised the same way. Everyone I knew for the formative years of my life was raised in the culture of "Finish Your plate." And given the environment our parents had come up in, it made perfect sense.

By fnord12 | December 15, 2011, 12:56 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link

Dragon Age II

I guess it's a testament to something that we played it all the way through, but:

  • It's insane how, not only did you have to keep going to the same dungeons over and over again, but even when it was a different dungeon, it was still the same dungeon.
  • Same thing with the bad guys. All the same stuff as the first game, repeat ad nauseum. The new statue monsters in the final fight were cool.
  • We ran out of interesting things to pick on the upgrade trees about half-way through the game. They should have added more passive abilities. There's only so many different types of attacks you can have that basically just translate to "you hurt somebody".
  • The equipment upgrades! Oy! Which crappy minor bonus do you want today? What's better, +14 attack or +28 health? Who knows? And the star system was no help at all. And i love finding a ring in a barrel by the docks that's just called "Ring" and it's better than the Awesome Band of Spectacularness that was dropped after the boss fight on my last quest. This is a problem in general lately. Too many magic items, each one barely incrementally better than the last, and often offering a choice that you have no idea how to make (do i want to give up my 2% magic resistance for +13 mana?). I'm not saying they should go back to the Zelda approach of "Wooden Sword", "Metal Sword", "Master Sword" and that's it, but a happy medium is needed.
  • The inability to give your companions armor that you find was just a bizarre choice. Especially when to get the official companion armor upgrades, you just had to stumble around randomly. Didn't go to every single shop in Act One? Guess you're screwed.
  • Similarly, several of the quests just had you wander around randomly hoping you'll bump into whatever you're looking for.
  • And many of the quests were just weird. You find some random item in a barrel somewhere. It tells you your Codex was updated (yeah, like i'm reading that). Then later you talk to someone because they have an icon over there head and it's Quest completed! Yay?
  • As for the main story, such as it was, or wasn't: Bleh.

I know. Gripe, gripe gripe. And it's all old news at this point; we're always behind on our games. Next up, for winter vacation: Tactical RPGs! Enchanted Arms and/or Record of Agarest War.

By fnord12 | December 15, 2011, 10:47 AM | Video Games | Comments (2) | Link

December 14, 2011

The cost of a comic book

Marvel comic book prices 1962 to 2012, adjusted for inflation.

I've been meaning to do this for a while, but i was reminded of it when i was putting up some images of covers and corner boxes on my timeline project yesterday. Above is the cost of a Marvel comic book, from 1962 to 2012, expressed in 2012 dollars.

I ignored anniversary issues and similar things when looking at prices. And when there were multiple versions, i went with the lower-cost newsstand version. All prices reflect a "regular" comic book and exclude prestige format books. The exception is for 2011 and 2012, where i went with the higher priced $3.99 books, deliberately, because the reason i'm doing this is because of all the fuss that came about when Marvel raised the price for half (roughly) of their line last year.

I used this inflation calculator to adjust for inflation, and you can click here (text file) to see the "raw" data.

I don't have any great insights, but a couple of observations (some based on the raw data):

  • From 2004 - 2010, Marvel held their cover prices constant for the longest period since 1962-1968, when comics were 12 cents.
  • Holding steady on cover prices from 1962-1968 resulted in a slight decline in inflation adjusted prices. Holding steady in 2004-2010 resulted in a major decline in inflation adjusted prices (it's worth noting that 2004-2010 includes both the housing bubble era as well as the post-bubble crash, so inflation is not consistent during that period. It's nearly non-existent from 2008-2010). It seems like an adjustment was necessary; or you could argue that the jump from $2.25 in 2003 to $2.99 in 2004 was too much at once and that downward adjustment was necessary.
  • Comics definitely have been increasing in price. You could argue that accelerates in the late 80s when direct market sales began overtaking newsstand sales and the industry became more of a niche than a mass market endeavor. You could argue cause and effect here (either comic companies should lower prices to get back into the mass market, or that's not possible and current comic book buyers should accept the fact that they have to pay more to keep the industry alive).

Anyway, i don't think this "proves" anything. The increase to $3.99 isn't as egregious as many people say it is, but it's also true that comic prices are trending upwards.

By fnord12 | December 14, 2011, 4:53 PM | Comics| Link

December 13, 2011

I Need to Upgrade My RAM

In my brain.

Do you ever walk to another room and then, when you get there, you can't remember what the hell you are there to do? That happens to me all of the time. Now i know why. It's cause of those goddamned doorways.

In one study, Radvansky and his colleagues tested the doorway effect in real rooms in their lab. Participants traversed a real-world environment, carrying physical objects and setting them down on actual tables. The objects were carried in shoeboxes to keep participants from peeking during the quizzes, but otherwise the procedure was more or less the same as in virtual reality. Sure enough, the doorway effect revealed itself: Memory was worse after passing through a doorway than after walking the same distance within a single room.
The doorway effect suggests that there's more to the remembering than just what you paid attention to, when it happened, and how hard you tried. Instead, some forms of memory seem to be optimized to keep information ready-to-hand until its shelf life expires, and then purge that information in favor of new stuff. Radvansky and colleagues call this sort of memory representation an "event model," and propose that walking through a doorway is a good time to purge your event models because whatever happened in the old room is likely to become less relevant now that you have changed venues. That thing in the box? Oh, that's from what I was doing before I got here; we can forget all about that.
Why would we have a memory system set up to forget things as soon as we finish one thing and move on to another? Because we can't keep everything ready-to-hand, and most of the time the system functions beautifully.

Sometimes it happens when all i've done is shift my visual focus from one thing on my desk to another. I think mebbe my brain is broke. Does anyone have a spare they can give me?

By min | December 13, 2011, 10:25 PM | Science| Link

December 11, 2011

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

X-Club #1 - I haven't read the issues where he was first introduced, but i've been enjoying Dr. Nemesis whenever he's popped up in random books that i'm reading, so between that and the fact that this series seemed like it was going to have a super-science focus, min and i thought we would give it a try. So far, i'm not so sure. First, i think Simon Spurrier is writing Nemesis way over-the-top, at least compared to what i've read of the character so far. While he's clearly both smart and arrogant, he's been much more down to earth in past appearances. Here, it's like Spurrier is trying to cram in as much Grant Morrison/Warren Ellis-esque dialogue as possible into his mouth. I may change my mind and decide that i actually like it, but i'm a little unsure so far. Beyond that (and doing my best to get past the fact that the friggin Danger Room is now a walking, talking character in the Marvel Universe), my main disappointment is that i've read the first issue of a five issue mini and i have no idea what the plot of the series is going to be. Sure, the X-Men are launching a "space elevator" and that's good super-science fun, but then there's the whole Atlantean mutation attack that just seems like a distraction from the main plot. Based on the opening flashback scene with the Invaders i realize that it probably is the main plot, but it's introduced haphazardly and doesn't seem to have anything to do with the space elevator that most of the issue focuses on, and there's nothing that really establishes the "X-Club" as a distinct group or why they'd be the ones that have to deal with this attack. I don't know. I'm probably rambling. We'll see where it goes, and what min thinks. And min, this is already a limited series so you're allowed to like it without fear of it getting canceled.

Villains for Hire #1 - This was better than the .1 issue. I guess we'll learn why Misty is using villains instead of heroes against Purple Man's team. And i'd like to know why the Purple Man, whose mind control powers allow him to have anything he wants just by asking for it, would bother setting up a criminal empire, but that probably won't be addressed and it's probably not Abnett and Lanning's responsibility to do so.

Avenging Spider-Man #2 - This continues to be great. Running a bit long, maybe? I'd like to see these stories kept short and with frequent new team-up guests. But this was fun and funny all the way through.

Hulk #45 - Some cool plotting in this book. I guess we're not going to have a Machine Man/Recorder meeting like i requested since the Rigellians aren't playing an active role in this story, and that's ok. I really like this version of Machine Man, but what happened to the Nextwave-inspired one from Ms. Marvel? Did we ever see his personality revert to this one? Maybe that was secretly X-52?

By the way, i liked the art in all the above stories. No real complaints.

Omac #4 - Of course, none of those artists were Keith Giffen. Enjoying this. Bio-gaters!

By fnord12 | December 11, 2011, 5:46 PM | Comics | Comments (3) | Link

Stan Lee's Sci-Fi Sexploitation

For my Marvel Timeline project, i only include entries that i own physical copies of, but i recently had occasion to download Savage Tales #1 (May 71), first appearance of the Man-Thing, so i could compare some things with his second appearance in Astonishing Tales #12-13.

Also included in that issue was a story i had been interested in for a while: "The Fury of the Femizons" by Stan Lee with art by John Romita Sr. Since i'll probably never get this issue due to the cost (Savage Tales #1 runs for $41 at mycomicshop.com, and this story was only reprinted once, in Savage Tales #3, of all places, which sells for $22), and since it takes place in the future and doesn't really belong in my chronology project anyway, i thought i would review it here.

Stan Lee imagines the 23rd century, which is ruled by "vicious voluptuaries".

No pillow fights at *this* slumber party.

Lyra, sister to the queen, wins a death-duel and is rewarded with a male slave.

Queen Vega traces her lineage directly back to the first Queen and leader of the Femizon revolution, Suzanne Vega.

Lyra professes loyalty to the three S's of the United Sister Alliance...

Also, surf music and soda pop.

...but she's secretly feeling like something's missing from her life.

When her latest male slave, Mogon, discovers her secret collection of forbidden "brain tapes", he learns the history of Lyra's world.

Such terrible atrocities will never happen again.  Instead we'll just kill each other in sword fights for fun.

Since men kept screwing things up, women have taken over and are hunting the remaining men down like beasts. The women are birthed via "sperm vials". Lyra and the Queen were birthed of the same sperm vial, and that's why they're sisters.

Lyra develops a romance with her slave, and also participates in a secret revolution to bring equal rights to men. However, her sister and the manipulative adviser Syrani become suspicious of her, and to allay suspicions she is forced to run Mogon through.

And tell the geneticists that it's time to stop using the Moondragon sperm vial so often.

The story ends with Lyra longing for the males of old.

A time when sheep were scared.

This alternate future is brought into Marvel Universe continuity with Fantastic Four #151, when we learn that Thundra, who had been around since Fantastic Four #129...

Conies are apparently small mammals referenced in the bible.

...is from this Femizon world (unlike Lyra, Thundra is 100% sold on the Femizon's Credo when she first arrives).

It's actually a surprisingly restrained story, considering that Stan Lee wrote it. And compared to Fantastic Four #151, for example, which introduces Thundra's ridiculous male counterpart, Mahkizmo, from a different, opposite alternative future.

One day John Byrne will reveal that Mahkizmo is Rogue's brother.

By fnord12 | December 11, 2011, 4:45 PM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link

December 10, 2011

How did you think it would end?

Adventures of the Lee family: Sometimes a jean jacket just isn't enough

By fnord12 | December 10, 2011, 3:55 PM | Comics| Link

December 8, 2011

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Herc #10 - They're canceling THIS? Really? Forget the fact that it starts off with street mimes with electrical outlet face-masks, goes immediately into Baba Yaga's chicken hut rampaging through Brooklyn, and then gets right to the Kingpin punching out Zeus. The important part is that we're finally past all the Event stuff and we've got a nicely paced story with great dialogue. OK, look, i'm not necessarily invested in Hercules specifically, so let's compromise. Get Pak and Van Lente on something else pronto. Something high profile that won't get canceled. Maybe next year: the Avengers, now that the internet won't have Bendis to kick around any more? And in the meantime, how about Fantastic Four?

Thunderbolts #166 - You know that expression, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all"? You ever notice how it's actually easier to do the opposite? If i were editor and you had said to me, "How about if we do a story where Mr. Hyde goes back in time and becomes Jack the Ripper?" i'd probably call you crazy and tell you to have the Thunderbolts fight Roughhouse and Bloodsport instead, but this just shows you that i'd be wrong.

By fnord12 | December 8, 2011, 11:28 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

Death Report

"Double sugar, double cream" is dead.

By fnord12 | December 8, 2011, 12:49 PM | TeeVee | Comments (1) | Link

December 7, 2011

The junk mail must go through

USPS continues to struggle (via Balloon Juice):

Today, the Postal Service announced roughly $3 billion in service cuts that will slow down the delivery of first-class mail for the first time in 40 years. Starting in April, it plans to shutter more than half of its 461 mail processing centers, stretching out the time it will take to ship everything from Netflix DVDs to magazines. One-day delivery of stamped envelopes will all but certainly become a thing of the past.

The announcement is just the latest sign of a sad and increasingly dire fact: the Postal Service is in shambles. This past fiscal year, it lost a mere $5.1 billion. In 2012, it's facing a record $14.1 billion shortfall and possible bankruptcy. In order to turn a profit, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe says the agency needs to cut $20 billion from its annual budget by 2015. That's almost a third of its yearly costs.

Although total mail volume stayed relatively steady until 2006, it has dropped an astonishing 20 percent in the past five years. More important, first-class mail, the Postal Service's biggest moneymaker, has fallen 25 percent during the past decade. That's a huge problem for its bottom line. The agency now delivers far more "standard mail" -- what most of us call junk mail -- than first-class mail. According to Businessweek, it takes three pieces of junk to equal the earnings from a single stamped first-class envelope. J. Crew catalogs and pizza menus alone won't pay the bills.

I really don't understand why they don't eliminate the standard/bulk rate and charge first class rates for the garbage that companies send to us every day. Either the increased revenue will make the Post Office solvent again, or it will reduce the amount of garbage that winds up in our recycling bins. Sure, in that second scenario the Post Office will have to cut back on their workforce but that's happening anyway and as much as i don't want anyone to lose their job i don't think it's in the interests of the country to keep people employed just to deliver junk mail.

I think they'll eventually scale back to three or four days a week for regular delivery and a new focus on package delivery. They'll have to. But we shouldn't forget that a large part of the Post Office's problems are due to this:

At the very end of that year, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA). Under PAEA, USPS was forced to "prefund its future health care benefit payments to retirees for the next 75 years in an astonishing ten-year time span" - meaning that it had to put aside billions of dollars to pay for the health benefits of employees it hasn't even hired yet, something "that no other government or private corporation is required to do."

By fnord12 | December 7, 2011, 9:13 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

December 1, 2011

Panda Palate Cleanser

By min | December 1, 2011, 5:17 PM | Cute Things| Link

Sometimes i just link to Glenn Greenwald, part 2.

This is following up on min's post below.

Just some choice quotes from Greenwald:

...the 9/11 attack happened more than a decade ago; Osama bin Laden is dead; the U.S. Government claims it has killed virtually all of Al Qaeda's leadership and the group is "operationally ineffective" in the Afghan-Pakistan region; and many commentators insisted that these developments would mean that the War on Terror would finally begin to recede. And yet here we have the Congress, on a fully bipartisan basis, acting not only to re-affirm the war but to expand it even further: by formally declaring that the entire world (including the U.S.) is a battlefield and the war will essentially go on forever.

Indeed, it seems clear that they are doing this precisely out of fear that the justifications they have long given for the War no longer exist and there is therefore a risk Americans will clamor for its end. This is Congress declaring: the War is more vibrant than ever and must be expanded further.

Every GOP Senator (except Rand Paul and Mark Kirk) voted against the Udall amendment, while just enough Democrats - 16 in total -- joined the GOP to ensure passage of Levin/McCain. That includes such progressive stalwarts as Debbie Stabenow, Sheldon Whitehouse, Jeanne Shaheen and its lead sponsor, Carl Levin.

I've described this little scam before as "Villain Rotation": "They always have a handful of Democratic Senators announce that they will be the ones to deviate this time from the ostensible party position and impede success, but the designated Villain constantly shifts, so the Party itself can claim it supports these measures while an always-changing handful of their members invariably prevent it." This has happened with countless votes that are supposed manifestations of right-wing radicalism but that pass because an always-changing roster of Democrats ensure they have the support needed.

But, with a few exceptions, the objections raised by the White House are not grounded in substantive problems with these powers, but rather in the argument that such matters are for the Executive Branch, not the Congress, to decide. In other words, the White House's objections are grounded in broad theories of Executive Power. They are not arguing: it is wrong to deny accused Terrorists a trial. Instead they insist: whether an accused Terrorist is put in military detention rather than civilian custody is for the President alone to decide.

By fnord12 | December 1, 2011, 5:15 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link

Sometimes i just link to Glenn Greenwald, part 1.


You've probably heard by now about the high school girl who tweeted something negative about Kansas Governor Brownback and then the Governor creepily complained about it, with the girl getting sent to the principal to try to force her to apologize. The Governor eventually backed away from the request, blaming overeager staff, but no staff were fired so i'm not too impressed with that. I am impressed with the girl's mom, who said:

I raised my kids to be independent, to be strong, to be free thinkers. If she wants to tweet her opinion about Governor Brownback, I say for her to go for it and I stand totally behind her.

Wow. That's great. But then there's Washington Post's Ruth Marcus (accurately described in the comments at the link above as, "the epitome of the Beltway Centrist Democrat, who sometimes serves as the "liberal" counterpoint to people like David Brooks, the conservative, on the PBS Newshour, where she sits next to him and agrees with nearly everything he says.").

Marcus says:

Emma Sullivan, you're lucky you're not my daughter. . . . If you were my daughter, you'd be writing that letter apologizing to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback for the smart-alecky, potty-mouthed tweet you wrote after meeting with him on a school field trip. . . .

Also, that smartphone? The one you posed with, proudly displaying the tweet in which you announced that Brownback "sucked" and added the lovely hashtag #heblowsalot? Turned off until you learn to use it responsibly.

Of course, Sullivan has a First Amendment right to express her views -- although not unlimited.
The Constitution does not grant teenagers the fundamental right to have a cellphone or use foul language on it. The parental role is to inculcate values of respect for authority - even those you disagree with - and the importance of civil discourse. It's not to stand up for your little darling no matter how much she mouths off.

Kansas Mom really gives you some hope that we're not falling apart as a country, but when you realize that it's nitwits like Ruth Marcus who get to write for our national newspapers and appear on the talk shows, i worry that it's not enough.

By fnord12 | December 1, 2011, 4:55 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Mebbe That's Just How They Roll in PA

Remember those foreign students Hershey tricked into working in their little sweatshop? I thought, "Hershey's a Dick!".

Today, I found out Amazon's got a literal sweatshop in Lehigh, PA. Mebbe it's just the way things are in Pennsylvania. If you run a factory, you're expected to be a douche.

During summer heat waves, Amazon arranged to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside, ready to treat any workers who dehydrated or suffered other forms of heat stress. Those who couldn't quickly cool off and return to work were sent home or taken out in stretchers and wheelchairs and transported to area hospitals. And new applicants were ready to begin work at any time.

An emergency room doctor in June called federal regulators to report an "unsafe environment" after he treated several Amazon warehouse workers for heat-related problems. The doctor's report was echoed by warehouse workers who also complained to regulators, including a security guard who reported seeing pregnant employees suffering in the heat.

That's right. They arranged for paramedics in anticipation of the inevitable heat stroke victims. It's not a war. You shouldn't have to set up a triage outside your building for your employees.

Reading further, you find out OSHA was called in, and they did a whole lot of nothing.

OSHA issued recommendations to Amazon Aug. 18 about how it could improve its heat-stress management plan and closed its inspection.

"Several conditions and practices were observed which have the potential to adversely impact on employee safety and health," OSHA's area director Jean Kulp said in a letter to Amazon.

The agency recommended that Amazon reduce temperatures and humidity in the warehouse, but did not give a target temperature. The agency also recommended that Amazon provide employees hourly breaks in a cool area, inform workers and supervisors of the actual heat index or temperature so that they can increase monitoring as it gets hotter, and provide personal fans at each work station.

OSHA does not mandate that work cease when temperatures exceed a specific degree. Instead, the agency gives employers guidelines about what they should do in specific ranges of the heat index.

So, basically, they wrote a letter and gave a bunch of suggestions to Amazon on what they ought to do to improve the situation in the warehouse, but they don't actually enforce anything. And from what I read in the article, it doesn't sound like they actually go back and check on things. They seem to rely on letters sent by the warehouse manager letting OSHA know what actions they've taken.

I understand this is what OSHA's become. They have no power. They aren't encouraged to really do anything to ensure the health and safety of workers. They're just pushing paper until they become a casualty of the "smaller government" advocates (it'll prolly be a Democrat trying to win over conservatives). I just think it's sad that they're so useless.

Stupid Amazon. Don't they know i have Christmas shopping to do? Why do they have to piss me off now? I should say "more", actually. Their Kindle DRM bullshit is annoying to say the least.

By min | December 1, 2011, 2:52 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

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