Category Archives: Random

Gallente Federation Endorses Fart Lighting

It pretty much said that the Gallente celebrate fart lighting in the launcher today.

Oh yeah, blue flames man!

Or maybe this is just a sign of my misspent youth, which occurred before we all had the internet to distract us.  Or encourage us.  I think farts get lit either way actually.

Still, “Blue Flames” brings a number of things to mind aside from flatulence ignition, including a rocket car  a Chevy engine, something half remembered about the temperature of flames, and Quafe ship SKINs.

When I think of the Gallente Federation itself, I tend to think of the color green.

Green, Steel, Rust, and the type of tacky Gold you see on Acura or Lexus emblems

But (heh, butt) if you want the Sapphire Sungazer SKINs despite this unfortunate association in the launcher, they are available now from the New Eden Store.  I’ll have to check them out, but somehow I doubt they’ll be better than the Quafe SKINs.

Five Quick Movie Reviews

Just because we have watched a series of movies via NetFlix that were all flawed in their own way.

1. Catch .44

What I assume was the pitch to make this movie:

We will take the body of Quinten Tarantino‘s work, put it in a wine press, and squeeze out all the substance that make his films worth watching, carefully collecting this super essence into a specially crafted oak barrel.  When we have extracted all of the interesting characters, quirky situations, compelling interpersonal relationships, and other such things into the barrel, we will seal the barrel tightly, place it outside, and forget it ever existed.  We will then build a shell of a movie out of the remains in the press and hope people come to see it because Bruce Willis has 10 minutes of screen time.

That made for a long and nonsensical 90 minutes.  Could not recommend unless you are stalking Malin Akerman.

2. The Rum Diary

This movie looks absolutely gorgeous in Blu-Ray.  It sets the 1960 tone very well.  Great scenery.  Beautiful cars.  And  I really like Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhardt, and Giovanni Ribisi.

I am just not sure what the hell the movie was about.  Johnny Depp’s character Kemp, an alcoholic writer (has Depp been playing the drunk card a little too much since the first Pirates of the Caribbean?), gets a job at a failing newspaper in Puerto Rico.  He drinks, experiments with drugs, makes odd friends, sticks it to the man, and goes on to do great things.

However, we get that last part about “great things” as some text before the credits.  He never really does anything great on screen, so it sort of feels like you spent two hours with Peter Parker and went to credits just as he finally donned his Spider-Man outfit.

Still, it looked absolutely gorgeous.  Recommended if that is enough for you, if you are a Hunter S. Thompson fan, or if you are stalking Johnny Depp.

3. 21 Jump Street

Keeping with the Johnny Depp theme here.  And yes, he is on screen for a few minutes.  Stalkers take note.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are the stars as, respectively, the nerd and the jock in high school who end up teamed together on the police force due to their complimentary talents.  This probably would have made more sense if I had ever watched the original TV show.  But it doesn’t have to make sense because it is clear that nobody is taking anything seriously.  It is a constant stream of “no way” sort of moments that would never occur in real life.  And yet it seems to hold together.

Recommended if you need your RDA of puerile humor in a digestible form or are stalking Jonah Hill.

4. Ides of March

Supposed political thriller with a name drawn from one of the most famous political murders of all time.  This must be great, right?  Nope.  An hour and a half of watching attractive, well dressed actors get really worked up about nothing at all.  In the end, it all boils down to two things: Politics sure is a dirty game and George Clooney getting to tell everybody what his political platform would be if he ran for president.

Recommended if you love George Clooney or his politics or both.

5. Lockout

Here is my theory on this movie.  The whole thing is an elaborate screen test to see if Guy Pearce can utter amusing tough guy quips with an American accent under a variety of circumstances… in case they need somebody to star in a remake of the Die Hard series or some such.

So he makes these quips while shooting, while smoking, while being punched, while in zero G, while part of very bad CGI, and, apparently most important of all, when confronted with nonsensical plot complications.  Because this movie makes no kind of sense at all.  If you’re not saying, “Really?” in that super skeptical tone of voice at least 10 times during this movie, you’re not paying attention.

There is a scene early in the movie where Guy Pearce is being interrogated.  Every time he makes a tough guy quip he gets punched so hard it knocks him out of his chair.  This is a perfect metaphor for the movie, with your ability to suspend disbelief playing the Guy Pearce role.  Every time you are able to let go and just run with the movie, it feels the need to punch your suspension of disbelief so hard, it falls out of its chair.

You try and watch, but the movie keeps hitting you.

*BAM* Deal with the horrible CGI in this pointless and unnecessary chase scene!

*BAM* A prison in space makes perfect sense!

*BAM* The President’s daughter would totally be allowed to visit such a space prison!

*BAM* Space prisons are totally huge and as complex as the New York subway system!

*BAM* Layers of prison security are not necessary!

*BAM* Simple controls to release all the prisoners at once make total sense!

*BAM* Sending a suspected traitor to rescue the president’s daughter is always the right move!

*BAM* We don’t need to explain where a key corporate conspiracy theory sub-plot went!

*BAM* Falling from orbit takes less than 30 seconds!

*BAM* Everybody is dumb except Guy Pearce and the president’s daughter!

And those were just the bits that I could recall a week after seeing the thing.  The movie was punching me so often, I had to conclude that it wasn’t really a movie but just a screen test, as I mentioned above.

But if you like Guy Pearce, especially when he is spouting tough guy quips, this is the screen test for you.  Otherwise, I could recommend only watching while drinking and/or pretending you are on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Rocket Fizz Comes to Town

Last summer my daughter and I went and bought some odd sodas to try out.

This summer we decided to do the same.

Then my wife came home and announced that a new shop had opened up in downtown Campbell.  Called Rocket Fizz, it is pretty much dedicated to selling candy and soda pop.

Sure that this was a sign, my daughter and I went to see what they had to offer.

We were not disappointed.  My daughter was like a kid in a… well… candy shop.

We scooped up quite a few items while we were there, some good some… not so good.

These sounded like a neat idea…

But he selection of sodas was overwhelming.  How could we pick out just a few from literally well over a hundred choices?

It turned out that Rocket Fizz bottles some of their own soda along with carrying nearly every regional brand I had ever heard of.

So we decided to try the house brand for our summer soda taste test.  So we picked six of their flavors and gave them a try.

The Soda Selection

Here are our results.

Watermelon

This soda tastes just like a watermelon Jolly Rancher candy, capturing that sweet and tangy flavor.  I suppose, being made by a chain of candy stores, that should come as no surprise.  But the flavor was uncanny in that regard.  And yet it was quite drinkable.  Unlike some of the other flavors this one was both tasty and drinkable beyond small portions.

Cinnamon

As the watermelon soda tasted like one type of candy, the cinnamon soda tasted like another.  This was the pure liquid cinnamon bear experience.  Cinnamon bears have a mild cinnamon flavor relative to Red Hots or Hot Tamales, but still contain a small burning sensation in the after taste.  A well done flavor, but I would probably have to split a bottle with somebody.

Cotton Candy

Again, an amazing recreation of a candy in liquid form.  This soda is very sweet, but manages to capture the sensation of cotton candy, right down to that fading flavor sensation you get as you ingest it.  However it is so sweet I would probably dole it out in shots.

Black Licorice

Full points for aroma.  The bouquet carries just the right scent, though it is very strong.  And the tastes, well, but this point I am repeating myself when saying that it reproduces the sensations of the candy it seeks to imitate.  Again, very strong and good in small doses, but I am not sure I could finish the bottle.  It is so rich in flavor… well, maybe I could.  But it would be in small sips.

Blue Cream

Leaving the candy flavors and going into a more traditional soda flavor lead us to some disappointment.  Part of the problem is that blue cream soda has different flavors in different regions of the US.  I have had blue cream soda that tasted like anything from raspberry to bubble gum.  Rocket Fizz seemed to try to capture their own flavor, but it was not very distinct.  All in all, not something I could recommend, though I could say that about most blue cream sodas.  The color though… it is the bluest of the blue.

Mud Pie

Mud pie is generally a collection of flavors, but the key one in the mix is chocolate.  Going for chocolate flavor in a soda is always a risky play.  I have tried exactly one chocolate soda that I have liked, and I am afraid this one did not up the count to two.  Not the worst chocolate soda I have ever gone after, and if you like chocolate soda you might like this.  There are hints of whipped cream to it even.  But I could not see myself warming up to this soda no matter how much I like chocolate.

So that was the result of our first soda sampling with our new local candy store.  We will have to go browse their selection some more to see if we can come up with another selection to try.

Summer of Soda Sampling

Early in the summer we were at BevMo and came across their section of bottled soda.  Given that we weren’t planning much else for the summer I suggested that we have a soda sampling event.

We ended up picking 10 bottled sodas, driven more by whim and attractive labels than any systematic approach.  We put them in the fridge out in the garage and, over the course of the summer, pulled them out one by one to give them a try.

I’ve ranked them here, though there was some disagreement over the ranking.  But, being the person who is putting together the post, I get the final word.

In ascending order of likelihood of us purchasing again in the future, here are the sodas.

Sodas Ranked 6 through 10

10. Black Lemonade

Distributed by the people at RealSoda.com, this drink certainly lives up to the “black” part of the name.  As you look at it in a glass, the center is an inky black, while around the edges there is a hint of color, as though it is trying to escape the darkness.

Or maybe it is trying to escape the flavor.

Not content to go to extremes for color, they also went over the top on the flavor front, with a very sour version of lemon.  No sweetening for you!

While the lemon is authentic, it was too bitter for the whole family and thus ranked last.

9. Choco Fizz Chocolate Soda

Chocolate and soda are two flavor mediums that never quite work together for me.  There was an outburst of chocolate sodas in the late 80s that you might remember if you are old enough.  But it was a pretty quick outburst, so you might have missed it even if you are the right age.

This was a reminder as to why that rise of the chocolate sodas was so brief.  There is simply something unwholesome about a carbonated chocolate drink.  It lacks creaminess.

And this soda really tasted like liquid Tootsie Roll, and we have long debated what flavor a Tootsie Roll really is, because it certainly isn’t chocolate.

This was rejected by everybody but myself after the first sip.  I gamely finished my glass, but I wasn’t going back for seconds.  My apologies to the people at Zuberfizz, but this just wasn’t our thing.

8. Jack Black’s Blue Cream Soda

Blue cream soda is the most mis-understood of the cream sodas.  Blue just isn’t a color that suggests the same flavor to everybody.  And so you get some that think raspberry is the way to go.  Others follow the snow cone tradition and go for a bubble gum flavor.

Jack Black (and I don’t know if it is that Jack Black) appears to have decided that color and carbonation were what really mattered.  It was very blue and fizzy like no other, but the flavor was ambiguous.  It was almost the opposite of the black lemonade, which a very strong, if very sour, lemon flavor.

Here there might have been some bubblegum, or some raspberry, or perhaps a touch of mint.  It was hard to distinguish.  The carbonation alone was overwhelming the flavor.

There were no strong negative reactions to this soda, but nobody wanted seconds either.

7. Jeff’s Vanilla Soda

An attempt to put a New York egg cream in a bottle.  Heresy to some, I am sure.  This being the vanilla version, you had to really like vanilla to partake.  I am, apparently the only one in the house that fits that bill.  I finished off my glass, and then had to finish off everybody elses.  None went to waste, so it ranks above the previous three, but even I wasn’t clamoring to go out and buy some more.  Information about this soda is available at Get Creamed, which certainly has a Times Square sound to it… 1980s Times Square.

6. Filbert’s Banana Soda

From Filbert’s Root Beer Company, this is banana soda.

And banana it is.  It has a very strong, deep, rich banana flavor.  Almost an banana liquor in texture.

Universally praised for its flavor, nobody could finish more than a very small glass of it.  It is too rich.  A whole 12 ounce bottle might last me a week at my maximum rate of consumption.

Still, you cannot argue with the banana flavor.  It might make a good base for a banana milkshake.

Sodas Ranked 1 through 5

5. Leninade

We have here the victory of socialist style over substance, a true metaphor for the fall of communism.

I picked this particular soda, drawn to the slogans on the bottle like a sophomore poly-sci student.  And such slogans!  The bottle says:

Join The Party

Get Hammered & Sickled

LENINADE

A taste worth standing in line for!

Drink Comrade! It is this or the gulag!

Surprisingly Satisfying Simple Soviet Soda

Misha, chill down this bottle & chill out!

Our 5-Year Plan: Drink a bottle a day for five years and become a hero of socialist flavor.

All of this on a clear bottle of a pink-ish red liquid and featuring a hammer a sickle, a bust of Lenin, and some Cyrillic lettering.

And the flavor?  Sort-of grapefruit-like in a proletarian sort of way.  Drinkable, but no worker’s paradise.

Worth it for the bottle.

4. Sprecher’s Puma Cola

This is a contentious choice.  My daughter ranked this number one, but I am writing the blog post, and for me it only makes it to number four.  (The picture shows it elsewhere in the lineup, more proof of our rankling over this issue.)

Sprecher has a  decent cola here, something not easy when going caffeine free, with a heavy cinnamon secondary flavor.  For my daughter, this was a winning combination.  For me, it was Safeway Cragmont cola from the 1980s, or two flavor revisions ago for the Safeway house brand soda.

3. Frostie Cherry Limeade Soda

I should have photographed all of the bottles full, but I only thought about it after we were well into drinking them.  This soda is a beautiful red color.  And it tastes pretty good.  The cherry and lime flavors go surprisingly well together.  This is the point on the list where hit sodas we might purchase again.

2. Kickapoo Joy Juice

Another soda living on a retro image.  Claiming to be “The Original Dogpatch Recipe” and featuring Al Capp-like artwork on the label, it is essentially a variation on Mountain Dew.  Mountain Dew is a popular brand at our house, and this is close enough to it, only in bottled form.  It tastes better than the current Mountain Dew in a can, but not quite as good as the Mountain Dew Throwback that Pepsico has been selling this year.  When Throwback is finally gone, I might go looking for another bottle of this.

1. Orange Crush

I decided we had better have a ringer in the group, a soda I know would go down well with the family.  Well, the rest of the family.  I’m not big on orange as a flavor, having a citrus allergy thing going on, but my wife and daughter were all over this.  We went back and bought a six pack of bottles and then my wife started picking up cans at the grocery store for treats.  It tastes nearly as good out of the can I am told.  So while hardly fair, this was the #1 choice.

And that was our sampling.

Next time I think we’re going to head down to the Mexican grocery store and grab some strange candy.  I have a strange fascination with those chicken flavored lollipops.

I Write Like Who?

I saw this thing over at World IV. You past in a writing sample and it spits out the name of an author that your writing style approximates in some vague way.

So I took one of my posts, the Christmas 1977 story, and fed it in the machine to see what would turn up.

I was secretly hoping for Kurt Vonnegut, mostly based on a pattern of short paragraphs.

But, alas, I was disappointed in that as with so many things in life.  I need more poorly drawn sphincters in my work I guess.  Instead, I was told…

I write like
Cory Doctorow

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Cory Doctorow? But I don’t even have a hot air balloon.

Okay, maybe that was the wrong writing sample.

So I dug through some more and decided that the Christmas 1983 story might be a good try.  Obviously I was avoiding some of my usual dreck and going for things I cared about.

Kurt Vonnegut this time?

I write like
Douglas Adams

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Douglas Adams!  Well, I could live with that.  Not that I am down on Cory, but he, Douglas Adams!

Still, this could be just some random author generator.  I need at least two similar results to feel good about this.

So I pulled out one more tale, The Adventures of Opus and Mopar Mac.  Forget dear Kurt, just match one of the previous picks.

I write like
Ian Fleming

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Ian Flemming? Flattering again, but I’m still more shaken than stirred by that result.

That’s it random author generator, I’m going to bed before you tell me any more lies.

That is Not My Beautiful Flying Car

One of the quintessential promises of “the future” is the flying car.  It is the stuff of legend, George Jetson had one, Kevin Smith made a film short about them, Blade Runner featured them, and we all want one.

And every so often an item shows up in the new announcing a Flying Car has been created.

One such article showed up on Yahoo this past week about the Terrafugia Transition.  The headline was quite clear in calling it a flying car.

But one look at it shows that it is not a flying car.  Even the manufacturer does not call it a flying car.

Terrafugia Transition in Flight

No, this is a yet another case of the press going for sensation and/or clearly not understanding what they are reporting.

What we have here is an airplane you can drive on public streets.  In the terminology of the manufacturer, a “roadable aircraft.”  There have been a number of such designs over the years, including one based on the Ford Pinto.

Pinto Readies for Take Off

The AVE Mizar flying Pinto was even the subject of a recent Air & Space article. (Photo above from here.)

And I am not down on the concept.  If you are a pilot, having a plane you can drive home and park in the garage is a significant benefit.  You could use it to commute via air without having to have multiple vehicles.  You can also bypass the cost of having to hanger the aircraft.

But this is not the flying car, so shame on the media yet again for using that term in your headlines.  I realize it is Summer, the slow news season, but still.

No, the flying car is something you or I could drive daily without requiring anything much more complicated than a drivers license.

Fortunately, NASA has been looking our for those of us futurists who long for the flying car.  They have defined some guidelines for a real flying car, or personal air vehicle, so we’ll know when we get there.  They have even funded some prize awards to stimulate research in that direction.

But today we’re still many miles away from the flying car.

The Adventures of Opus and Mopar Mac

It is a cold Friday night in February of 1982.

Potshot and I are sitting in my 74 Plymouth Duster on a side street in Cupertino near a point we refer to as “crash landing.”  Our eyes are focused on a Citizen’s Band radio mounted under the vast black metal dashboard of the Duster.

Despite the cold, the passenger side window is rolled down and Potshot is holding out the window something that, from a distance, might be mistaken for a crude ankh.

The ankh is, in fact, a wooden “T” with a copper loop attached to the top.  There is a coax cable attached to the loop that runs down the length of the wooden handle and into the car.  It is attached to the antenna connector on the back of the CB radio.

It is a crude radio direction finder that Potshot made.

Potshot is rotating the loop while we watch the signal meter on the radio in an attempt to locate “Huey.”

However, we cannot get a bearing on the elusive “Huey” (named after the cartoon duck and not the helicopter, and you’d know why if you met him) because “Mr. 350” (commonly called “Weebee”) is on the channel practicing at being annoying by keying up the microphone and rambling on and on, frequently riffing on “We be we be we be we be we be on the CB” (which is why we call him “Weebee” instead of his preferred handle) or the ubiquitous for the time “Goodbuddygoodbuddygoodbuddygoodbuddygoodbuddy” spoken rapidly and continuously until he ran out of breath.

So we weren’t doing very well.  We weren’t even sure “Huey” was still on this channel.  Maybe it was time to leave our observation and tracking point and cruise for targets.

And what are we doing out in the cold trying to track somebody’s radio emissions?

We are playing U-Boat.

U-Boat was the brainchild of our friend Bill.

I never knew if he thought it up himself or heard about it from somebody else, but he introduced the idea one day in high school.

The concept was simple.  A group of people with cars divide up into two teams and stalk each other in a pre-determined geographical area.

When you saw a member of the opposing team, you would flash your high beams at them to “sink” them for a point.

High Beams of Doom!

High Beams of Doom!

Of course, sinking neutrals was supposed to cost you, but you had to get caught.

You also had to have a CB radio in your car to communicate with your team and to eavesdrop on the other side.

Of course, to use a CB, you have to have a handle.

Huey got his because that was his nickname in any case.

Bill was Frogger, for reasons that escape me.

I got Mopar Mac because I drove a Plymouth, and the Chrysler parts division is called Mopar. (Allegedly standing for MOre Parts Are Required, reflecting upon the unreliability of Chrysler products.)

Potshot took Opus from the penguin in Bloom County, a popular comic at the time.  Somehow the penguin association stuck with him and for years afterward people who never played U-Boat or knew his handle would buy him penguin related gifts.

There was also Filbert, Binkley, Spock, Mr. 350, MCU, and Rice Burner among those who set sail in the game.

Some of the U-Boat crew in 1982

Some of the U-Boat crew in 1982

We started out with what seemed like a modest territory to cover and two teams of three cars each.

The Hunting Grounds

The Hunting Grounds

We quickly found out how difficult it can be to find three other cars, all in motion, in even what seemed to be a small area.  Subsequent games were often cut down to the area in the red square.

And still it could be difficult to spot the enemy.

Part of that was the nature of how we hunted.  Long stretches of time would go by where I was sure we were all laying in ambush, waiting for somebody else to drive by.  We would sit on side streets, wedged between other parked cars, in people’s driveways, waiting and watching regular intersections as they represented choke points.  This was gate camping in 1982.

Of course another issue was that we all cheated early and often.

We would run out of bounds and listen to radio traffic or try to get an RDF bearing on somebody. (It turned out that the crude loop antenna was formed in such a way that it focused 90 degrees off from where we assumed it would.  It was a bit more useful once we figured that out!)  Somebody once spent a good part of one game parked in a garage, broadcasting as though they were in motion.  Once in a while we’d just drive over to Jack in the Box for some food and let everybody stew.

We also had to work up codes for locations to coordinate with our team without letting the other side know where we were.  Of course, a good deal of disinformation went out over the air as well.

There were even attempts at camouflage.  I would get out of the car mid-game and unplug one of my headlights or the running lights so that  the headlight pattern that everybody had gotten to know would be a little different.

In the end, scores were rather low, even in our reduced hunting zone.  The roads just aren’t as crowded as you think they are.

For the most part we avoided irritating the neighbors.  Only once did we get entangled with the Sheriff’s department after “Mr. 350” roared past me, and the police cruiser in front of me, on the wrong side of Linda Vista in the 72 Camero with the 350 CID engine from which he took his handle.  Born with the gift of gab, he talked himself out of yet another ticket, nicely leaving the mic open on his radio so we could hear him do it.

Most nights of playing were slow.  Finding targets took patience and long stretches of time would be devoted to searching or laying in wait.  This is part of the reason we sailed with two people per vehicle most nights, the boredom.  That and the fact that not everybody who wanted to play had a car.

So the night would creep by as we hunted.  Every once in a while though, there would be a “YOUR DEAD!” cry over the radio and somebody would be sent back to base for a short duration.

There were, to my recollection, few if any disputes over who fired first.  There was no MILES gear / Laser Tag level of victory determination.  It was more a “Bang! You’re dead!” level of resolution.

We played U-Boat over the course of two years before it fully faded from our routine.  A lot of people came and played once, found it boring, and did not return.  After a while we got to a point where finding enough people became the biggest obstacle to playing and eventually we gave up trying.  There were more entertaining things to do on a Friday night.

But for a time there was a pulse of excitement when we heard somebody suggest that it might be a night for U-Boat.

[Warning: These memories are over 25 years old.  They may have shifted, settled, or mixed with unrelated events during storage.  Some of this may never have happened.  I will affirm however that Mr. 350 had a knack for getting pulled over and talking his way out of tickets and that years later I bought Potshot a 6-pack of imported beer solely because it had a penguin on the label.  I recall that the beer was branded “Zele” and that it wasn’t very good.]