But what do I know? I'm just a twice clicken brown shirt teabaggin tjroll. Right? --PatP

Not now. There are dirty, swaying men at my door. They’re looking for Brian. I need to go deal with that. --Thor

If Joss Wedon was near me, I'd of kicked his ass. --PaulC

Friday, September 23, 2011


So something interesting happened just now. I read an article about onemillionmoms.com. It's a website devoted to OneMillionMoms, a "Christian" organization that sends e-mails to big companies that support things they think are bad. For example: Ben & Jerry's new "Schweddy Balls" ice cream flavor.

So I joined their club. I signed up for their newsletter and looked at their homepage to see what they're bitching about this week. turns out, they're bitching about Dancing With the Stars. Apparently, they're upset that the show took a couple minutes to explain the fact of Chaz Bono's transgender status, and exactly what that means. There's a link at the bottom of the page to e-mail the show's advertisers and express your discontent.

So I clicked it. Here's the standard e-mail that was pre-written so I could just enter my info and click "send":

As a mom and a member of OneMillionMoms.com, I am deeply disappointed that you are supporting the inappropriate, politically correct program "Dancing with the Stars" which airs Monday and Tuesday nights on ABC at 8:00 p.m/7:00 Central.

This show is extremely descriptive in its transgender discussions and its casual approach to homosexuality when children are likely watching.

The overtly-sexualized show is offensive in how it portrays this lifestyle as glamorous and in a positive light, when in fact it is damaging to impressionable young men and women.

You have choices about what you support, just as I have choices about where to spend my hard-earned money.

As a consumer, I am asking you to stop your company's advertising support of this show. My decision to support your company depends on it.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding my concern.

I thought it was nice of them to have something all ready to go, but you know me. I can’t let somebody else write copy for me. So here's the e-mail I sent:

As a soon-to-be father and a member of the church of the flying spaghetti monster, I will be deeply disappointed if you give in to the inappropriate, hateful demands of "OneMillionMoms," in regards to their petty outrage over the recent premiere of Dancing With the Stars.

They are essentially a terrorist organization, and want to control the way America thinks and prays by forcing Christianity on all of us.

This overtly religious group is offensive in that they portray something as innocuous as the transgender culture as sinful and damaging, when in fact it is completely harmless (except to their religious powerbase).

You have choices about what you support, just as I have choices about where to spend my hard-earned money.

As a consumer, I am asking you to pay no heed to the outcries made by this ridiculous group of uber-cons, though my decision to support your company will continue to be based solely on my own perception of the quality of your goods and/or services.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding my concern.


Andrew Bowman

I thought it clever of me to use the resources of this terrorist organization in such a manner, and will continue to do so every week when they post a new "thing we've got our bras twisted about this week."

But that's not the interesting bit. The interesting bit is that I got a RESPONSE. Not from OneMillionMoms, but from Kohl's, one of the companies who's executives I supposedly e-mailed. Here's what the response said:

Dear Customer,

Thank you for contacting us!

We have received your inquiry and are assigning it to a representative. You can expect to receive a response from us within one business day.

To help track your inquiry we have generated a reference number. Your ticket code is LTK5810322542X. Please use this code in any further communication.

I don't know what "executive" OneMillionMoms thinks they're e-mailing over at Kohl’s, but I'm pretty damn sure he doesn’t work in the customer support department. I'm not sure if OneMillionMoms are idiots or a front setup by said advertisers to stem the tide of e-mails from pissed off conservatives (which would be f*$@ing brilliant, by the way). Or if said advertisers have simply dealt with this so often that they now automagically redirect executive e-mail accounts to CSRs for triage.

Now that I know for sure that they don’t screen the e-mails people send from their website, I can do all kinds of crazy-ass stuff. In addition to sending encouraging messages to the people that they’re protesting, I could send… I dunno. Porn? would that be funny? Sending porn through the Customer Support system of several big companies in the name of OneMillionMoms.com? I’d have to create a dummy e-mail of course. Hmm… Anybody got any ideas?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Things I want my children to learn from watching South Park

I love South Park. I watch it all the time. It’s one of the two things (the other is Star Trek) that I miss by not having cable. I don’t remember the circumstances, but my mom recently told me she hates South Park. I think that’s sad. Furthermore, I think it’s because she thinks it’s about the outlandish antics of four nine-year-old boys from Colorado. It is. But only insomuch as Star Trek is about the outlandish misadventures of a prickish spaceship captain and his two best friends. That is ostensibly the one-sentence plot of the show. But Star Trek is really about tolerance, equality, doing the right thing even when it’s against the rules, and turning to thievery and brigandhood whenever things don’t go your way.

So it is with South Park. It’s incredibly cliché to say, but South Park is about America. It’s about all the things that make America great, and all the things that make Americans retarded. Seriously, if you’re bored one night and want some intellectual stimulation in humorous form, load up your Netflix instant queue and watch a couple episodes of South Park. Not the first one. If you don’t like it, you don’t get it.

So when my kids are… I dunno, in third grade, I’m going to let them watch South Park. They won’t get it, but they’ll love it. When they’re older, they’ll start to understand it, the same way I’ve come to understand Star Trek and advanced math now that I’m actually old enough for them. And here’s the (short) list of things I hope they learn from it:

Jesse Jackson is NOT the emperor of black people (no matter what your dad says). There is no one individual to whom you can apologize for saying “nigger” on Wheel of Fortune to make everything okay.

Cancer is a disease. Addiction is a choice. Pity the addict all you want, but understand that he chose to be where he is. You don’t just happen to become addicted to something just by minding your own business. You become addicted to something by intentionally doing it far more often than you should. Your only disease is chronic stupidity.

Sometimes you need to risk physical injury to take a stand for what's right. When you do (or don’t do) something because someone threatened to hurt you if you don’t (or do), you’re worse than they are. They’re bad. No doubt. But you’re just enabling them and sending the message that that kind of shit will work. You give Americans a bad name and you’re the reason the rest of the White world hates us.

Watching the Food Network all day doesn't make you qualified to do anything except talk about how badly Bobby Flay needs a new haircut. It doesn’t make you a gourmet chef. It doesn’t make you a food critic. it means you know what food looks like that somebody else thinks is good (or bad).

Sometimes it's more important to live your life than to photograph it.

Putting someone else's wiener in your mouth absolutely makes you gay. Putting your wiener in someone else’s mouth makes you equally gay.

When Kyle's mom gets a bug up her ass about something, get out of the way or you'll only make things worse. Fighting her will only strengthen her resolve. Just pretend to give her what she wants to shut her up.

Jesus was a cool guy. It's his modern-day followers who are assholes.

Don't ever do anything just because "it's the way things are done." Don’t ever do something just because everybody else is doing it. If all your friends start doing crack, it’s time to find some new friends. That really sucks, but life’s a bitch sometimes.

Sometimes it's good to apologize, even if you think you didn't do anything wrong. Even if you know you’re right and the other person is wrong, sometimes it’s worth saying you’re wrong just to smooth things over (sometimes).

When a man undergoes gender transformation surgery, he doesn't become a woman. He becomes a man who looks like a woman. A man who undergoes species transformation surgery isn’t a dolphin. He’s a man who mildly resembles a dolphin. You’re born a man or you’re born a woman. If you don’t like it: tough shit.

Americans have big penis. Much bigger than Japanese penis.

Being gay isn't a choice. If you think it is, try it. What’s your favorite color? Mine’s green. I don’t want it to be green. I want it to be purple. But when I’m asked to choose the color something’s going to be, I generally want it to be green. I also like having sex with women. It doesn’t matter how much I might want to like having sex with other men: I won’t like it.

It's not okay to say "nigger" outside of academic debate. If there are no black people around, it’s probably okay. But you better make damn sure. Because Daddy’s not going to save you when you get in trouble for it.

Sexual education is a thing they do at school because most parents are woefully unqualified.

Gingers aren't real people, by reason of the lack of a soul. In the hierarchy of living things, gingers are on the somewhere between intelligent animals (gorillas, dogs, dolphins, etc) and other Human Beings. Don't mis-understand: They're Humans, just not people.

Sexism and racism are wrong in any form. It's not okay to say it's bad for a man to sexually harass a woman, but perfectly acceptable for a woman to likewise harass a man. Either it's okay or it's not (and that depends on your definition of harassment). It’s not okay that there are clubs explicitly only for black people, but if white folks have such a club, it’s (literally) a federal matter. That’s not okay. You can’t fight fire with fire, and you can’t fix racism with more racism.

English is a living language. It evolves and grows as society changes. Look up the etymology and history of "fag." Really look it up though. Don't just assume you already know what I'm talking about.

Hippies are a blight on our country even today. We must all take responsibility for ending the threat they pose to our capitalist way of life.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Remembering Star Wars Galaxies

Star Wars Galaxies box art.

Image via Wikipedia

There are two things I always remember on July 4th every year. First is my great-grandfather. We always have fireworks on the 4th for his birthday. The second thing is the fireworks at the Theed spaceport on Naboo.

On the 4th of July, every hour on the hour, we used to get together at every spaceport in the game and shoot of fireworks. It was a great event. Low-level crafters got some xp by making fireworks, and made a little money selling them. It was a great community event and I’m both sad and happy that this will be the last time it will ever happen.

I’m sad because it’s something that I used to do with all my friends and it’s over now. I’m happy because the abomination that has been called Star Wars Galaxies for the past few years since SOE wrecked the game I loved is finally getting the axe.

In the aftermath of the huge security scandal when the Playstation Network (and every other network operated by Sony Online Entertainment) was hacked and user data stolen, Sony has finally decided that SWG just isn’t worth the money to keep the game’s servers running. Right when I was about to give it a second chance. Oh well. I’m sure I’m better off not ever trusting Sony with my credit card information.

Oh well. Back to dreaming of the day when SWG emu will finally be released and I can play good ol’ Galaxies again. For free. Without the fear that anyone will break it again.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Windows Live Writer

Don’t use it. It sucks. Hard. I just wrote up a big long blog entry, then the thing just quit on me. Didn’t save my document first; just quit. Gave me a friendly little message saying “Hi! Fuck you! I quit! Okay?! Bye!” Piece of shit. This is not the first time this has happened. Don’t use Windows Live Writer. I’m just so pissed off right now I can barely spell.

Anybody know of an alternative? I need a Windows application that will publish to my blog. I need it to process html and java so I can put embedded objects (like YouTube videos) in my blog posts. It would be nice if it could put metatags on my posts as well, which Live Writer has never been able to do.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Movie Time

Kick-Ass (film)

Image via Wikipedia

So yesterday Kerry and I watched movies on Netflix all day. Two of them were The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Kick-Ass. Both pretty awesome; both featuring Nicolas Cage. I’ll start with Kick-Ass.

Part Daredevil, part Superbad. Kick-Ass is a “superhero” who doesn’t actually have any super powers. I won’t spoil the movie for you, but he’s just barely super-human. Not because of any gamma radiation or mutated animal encounter.

But before I really get into it, here’s the first thing: I don’t care what anybody tells you. This movie is NOT FOR KIDS. If you’re not old enough for high school, you’re not old enough for Kick-Ass. If you’re not old enough to buy beer, you’re not old enough to watch Kick-Ass without your mommy. This is a grown-up film for grown-up Humans. Not surprising, since the graphic novel it’s based on is similarly targeted. Mark Millar doesn’t write comic books for kids, and movies based on his work are likewise rated for big boys only. If you wouldn’t let your 9-year-old watch Wanted or 300, you shouldn’t let him watch Kick-Ass. Just because this movie is largely about an 11-year-old girl doesn’t mean 11-year-old girls should watch it.

At any rate, Kick-Ass chronicles the adventures of a high school kid who doesn’t understand why there aren’t real superheroes. Scratch that. He understands why there aren’t real superheroes. He doesn’t understand why there aren’t more people who try to be superheroes. Batman, after all, is a totally plausible story. No super powers; just insanely rich with a highly developed sense of justice. Ditto Punisher. Along for the ride are the team of eleven-year-old “Hit Girl” and ex-cop “Big Daddy.”

As with anything written by Mark Millar, the story seems to derive directly from common childhood fantasies, tempered with an adult sense of how the world really works. There’s no real Batman largely because nobody with enough money to be Batman gives a shit about the crime in New York City. Expert martial artists (who don’t have Batman money) don’t dress up in costumes and fight crime because they can make a lot more money as hollywood stunt men. Or because they’re afraid of guns. But wouldn’t the world be a more interesting place if people like that did that sort of thing? Not all of them; just one or two here and there. I mean: wouldn’t a lot of petty criminals give at least a second thought if there was a real Batman?

That seems to be the rationale behind Kick-Ass. Also like other things written by Mark Millar, people die in Kick-Ass. And they don’t get shot ambiguously just off-camera. They get stabbed, sliced in half, blowed up in a microwave and thrown off buildings. Oh yeah. And they get shot.

The one detrimental thing I would say about Kick-Ass is that it’s too much about the hero and not enough about the alter-ego. Spiderman was great because it wasn’t really about Spiderman. It was about Peter Parker. Kick-Ass is a movie about high school nerds who never get shoved in their lockers, pantsed in gym class or thrown in a dumpster by the football team. They talk about “we’re such nerds and the cool kids always pick on us.” But there’s precious little footage of anyone actually getting picked on.

Here’s an analogy: What if Harry Potter just happened to take place at Hogwart’s, and you never heard about any of the actual school things that happened at the school? Would it still be a good story? Sure. But it wouldn’t be as good. One of the large factors that made Harry Potter great was its new twist on an old story. It’s the same basic story as Ender’s Game, Horatio Hornblower, Glee or Dune (say “Star Wars” and I will kick your ass. But yes, that fits too). It’s the same old “growing up different” story in a fantastic setting.

I feel like Kick-Ass is a growing up story where nobody actually does any of the usual kinds of growing up. Don’t get me wrong: all the characters learn things, and by the end of the story they’ve all grown. But we don’t follow anybody from childhood to adulthood. Nobody graduates into a new, profound understanding of humanity; nobody has a seminal moment of “so THAT’S how the world works.” It almost feels like an introduction to the beginning of a growing up story.

I guess that’s not really a negative; just something that struck me as odd about the movie. Maybe it’s different in the book. I’ll have to read it. Without having read the book, I give Kick-Ass five stars. Once I read the book, I’m sure I’ll downgrade it to a three.

Now, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. There have been a lot of reboots and retellings as of late, and why should Uncle Walt be left out of the fun? Granted, this is the first full-length feature in the franchise, but we all know the original apprentice had big ears and a pointy, blue hat.

In contrast to Kick-Ass, this movie absolutely is for kids. I would feel totally comfortable letting a 9-year-old watch the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. They might not follow it all the way through, but there’s certainly a lack of objectionable content (it’s Disney; It’s kosher).

To sum up, the film follows the adventures of David, the apprentice of Balthazar, a former apprentice of Merlin. David is a molecular physics major who plays with tesla coils a lot. Balthazar is a very old wizard who’s spent centuries searching for the perfect apprentice.

One of the cool things about this film is how magic is portrayed similarly to the way it is in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. “A carefully placed thumb on the scales of the universe.” Magic isn’t really magic. It’s just science that most of us can’t grasp. That was kinda cool.

The effects are well-done, the acting was good (Alfred Molina is always awesome), and the plot was good as well. The dialogue was a little dry, but it was okay.

And yes, there is a mop scene with lots of water splashing all over the place. Fantasia fanatics: be placated.

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Monday, May 9, 2011


Heroes (TV series)

Image via Wikipedia

Once upon an NBC, there was some great television. It was the best rip-off of X-Men that has ever been. It was about a group of what can only be described as mutants that were supposedly the next step in Human evolution. Loved that show, almost cried the day it got cancelled.

Anyway. You all know I only blog about something that’s pissing me off. So here it is. The entire series is now available to watch instantly on Netflix. Awesome. I’m watching it right now, as a matter of fact. One hiccup. Those sons of bitches “fixed” it. Nothing major, but totally breaks my immersion in the show.

When the show was on TV, every episode started with a monologue, usually by either Sendhil Ramamurthy or Erick Avari. That was all the recap anybody ever needed. Apparently, on the DVD edition of the show, the producers decided that wasn’t enough.

So now there’s an actual recap before the monologue, in which some dude with a deep, gravelly voice (that’s getting old, by the way) begins HIS monologue with “previously on Heroes.” But it doesn’t just end there. He does a full voice-over during the whole half-minute clip show. Aggravating: especially since they do a recap DURING THE SHOW. It’s okay if you don’t remember what you just watched five minutes ago, or an hour ago, or yesterday, because they’re going to do a flashback DURING THE SHOW. That’s one of the things that made Heroes great. You could miss an episode and not worry that you’d miss some crucial event, because anything that was important enough would get into a flashback, or (and this was my favorite method) they would replay the last scene of each storyline.

But I digest. My point is this: Heroes ain’t broke and never was. It was the awesomest show on television as long as it was running. It was deep, it was followable, and it shared none of the pitfalls common to contemporary science fiction (horrible acting, brain-dead director, artless writers, overbearing producers, crap story). I’m just perturbed that the producers felt that the show didn’t stand well enough on its own and needed to be appended in the form of a voiced-over recap at the beginning of each episode. And I’m further perturbed that they didn’t get any members of the actual cast to just throw off a quick “previously, on Heroes.”

Look. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched Heroes, and maybe I’m remembering it wrong. If I am… my point still stands. This blog entry is just a few years late.

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Friday, April 29, 2011

CL4P-TP video.

Not as funny as everyone is making it out to be, but funny. And super cool. I would totally do this for a fan if I ran a video game studio. It goes to 720p, so crank it up and fullscreen it.

Here’s the full story. I was going to post a link to the story on Steam, but their website really, really blows. You’d think with the amount of money they make (about $970 million in 2010) and the number of people they pay (13) they’d have a functioning website. Oh well.

PS Turns out, the story on the Steam site is a re-blog of the one I’m linking here anyway, so you’re not missing anything.

Also on Steam this week: check out Universe Sandbox. I’m downloading the demo as we speak.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Light Painting

I’m sure I’ll be publishing this entry more than once, since I’m trying to line-up text and photos, and somehow that never translates properly between Live Writer and blogspot. So if you get six or seven alerts that I’ve published a new blog entry, relax. Have some dip.

So today in… a place that is dark and may or may not be underground, we did some light painting. What’s that? You’re not familiar with light painting? Let me explain briefly, but the photos will explain it better. A light painting is a photo (typically a long exposure; 10-30 seconds) in which you use a bright light in a dark (preferably pitch black) place to “paint.” Let me get right into the photos and you’ll understand.

To set the stage, here’s where we were shooting. Big, wide-open basements are awesome for light painting because you can usually turn all the lights off and have nothing coming in through the windows. This particular basement doesn’t have any (those ones in the back are bricked up on the outside and don’t count).019

That light was the only one in the room. This is a ten second exposure. That green squiggly business over on the right is somebody playing with a laser pointer.020

Here’s another ten-second exposure with the light on. This time, Mia and I are walking around in the room during the exposure. This was just to see if that one flourescent was way too much to make an effective light painting. Long story short: it was.








007Next: Just some fooling around with a couple little flashers that Mia brought in. The girl in the photo (I’m embarrassed that I don’t know her name yet) was just kind of whirling them around for a minute, so I took a thirty second exposure and it looks like a swarm of multi-colored fireflies.











Here’s Mia with some rings around here. She stood still while Kyle walked around her and drew rings around her with what I think was a mini Maglite with the end taken off (to expose the bulb).










Here, Mia again (she’s didn’t shoot a lot today) stood while Kyle (he likes to shine the light) stood behind her with the light and traced her with the light.












Here’s Kyle. He had his flash set to burst. he stood in the middle of the room and whirled it around a little while he fired it off. Then he walked towards his camera (off-frame to the left) while he flashed his face. I bet the shot he got is a lot more interesting that mine, but mine’s still pretty cool.








017So I set my exposure to thirty seconds and used Mia’s green laser to write the letters. Up to now we’ve just been playing around. Now the real fun begins.









Here’s me. This is another thirty second shot. I took Kyle’s hot shoe flash, held it in my hand as I walked around during the shot. I posed a few different ways and flashed myself. So it looks like there are four ghostly Andys in the shot.












This one is my favorite. We all pushed our shutters and Kyle took the laser pointer and whipped it around the whole room. I love how you can see every little detail in the walls.












This one’s just a bit different than the last on. We all stood in the room while Kyle painted the room. Then when he was done, he flashed us. I think this would have looked better if he’d painted the room without us in it, then flashed us in.






This one’s for the Potter fans. I wrote this with the Maglite with the end taken off. I forget who initially had the idea for “Ruderman’s Army,” (Ruderman is our photography professor) but I think it’s beginning to take off. Stay tuned for shenanigans involving this meme. No, I didn’t make the “S” backwards on purpose, but it’s hard to write all your letters backwards when you’re on a thirty-second timer. Even when I did this backwards (as if I was writing on a blackboard in the air, with me between the camera and the light), I still made it backwards, still not on purposeEventually, we figured it would be a better idea to shoot on “bulb.” If you don’t know, “bulb” is a setting that holds the shutter open as long as you hold down the trigger. It’s great for light painting.


Okay. This one is sort of a light painting, in that it is actually two light paintings layered up in photoshop. There’s a shot of the group of us photographers, and a second shot of the words “Ruderman’s Army” done using a small keychain light. I think it was probably me who painted the latter shot, since the “S” is once again backwards. The group shot was taken by setting the timer on the camera (so everyone had time to get into place) and using the pop-up flash. First, I opened the shot of us in PRudermans Armyhotoshop. Then I added the other shot as layer 1. I set the opacity of layer 1 to 60%, so that the background layer (the group photo) would show through. Then I made a layer mask on layer 1, and used the brush tool to paint out everything except the letters (which mostly amounted to black space, with a few random reflections in the ceiling). This worked out okay, but didn’t really give me the effect I wanted. The group photo was clear, but the letters were a bit… weak. The background layer shone through the letters too much. So I scrapped layer 1 and began it again from scratch. Next, I made a copy of the background layer and made it layer 2, placing it above layer 1. Instead of changing the opacity, I changed layer 2’s mode from “normal” to “lighten.” That tells Photoshop to evaluate every pixel on the layer and decide if it is lighter or darker than the pixel on the layer directly beneath it. If the pixel below is lighter, it shines through the upper layer. If the pixel on top is lighter, it covers up the pixel below. For this particular project, that means that not only the letters shine through, but so do the sparkles in the corners of the letters.

Monday, April 4, 2011


color_spectrumHey! Anybody wanna know the REAL difference between RGB and CMYK? I mean really want a visually obvious example to etch the distinction into you psyche for the rest of your life? If you’re really unclear on this point, and you still think this “color management” stuff is all bullshit, try this.

1. Open up InDesign (or Quark, or MSPublisher, or whatever you want to use) and design a business card in sRGB (your monitor works in sRGB, so you’re doing that automatically). Use a lot of black and dark grey. Especially use a black background and black text with an "outer glow" effect to make it readable on a background of the same color.

2. Export that design to a PDF in sRGB (if you leave the settings alone, this is probably what they will default to, since most people don’t know anything about color management).

3. Search online for a printhouse. Look for a good deal. Find someplace a little cheaper than VistaPrint (like overnightprints.com).

4. Send them the PDF you created in step 2.

5. Receive two boxes of completely unreadable business cards.

6. Remove brick from pants.

7. Write a long, bitchy e-mail to the printhouse, in which you point out that you formatted your file exactly to their specifications and are entirely displeased with the results and expect them to overnight you two new boxes printed properly. Ask them to provide you with an ICC profile for their printers so that you can send them EXACTLY what they need.

7(a). Don’t click send just yet.

8. Go and read the specifications mentioned in step 7.

9. Realize that they specify not only that they want files in CMYK, but that they specifically note that their color management system uses the GRACoL 2006 color profile, and provides a link to an article about color management and how bloody important it is. It even provides a helpful bit at the bottom about how to convert from RGB to CMYK using several popular software products.

10. Delete unsent e-mail.

11. Place your face approximately 8” above your keyboard.

12. Swiftly lower your head approximately 8.5”.

13. Repeat steps 11 and 12 until the importance of color management becomes apparent.

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Best Photo Ever

If you happen to be in my photography class, stop reading. Give this post a miss. You’re not supposed to see these yet. You know why.

So my mid-term assignment for photography is to print and matte my best photo ever. I’ve narrowed it down to seven and I need opinions. Help a guy out. Here are the nominees:





Little Bug

Little Bug


Low Devin

Gate at Sunset

Night Gate

Old Tucson Water Wheel

Water Wheel

Wing over Tucson

Wings over Tucson

These are all cropped and lightly re-touched, but which ever one I hand in will get a less subtle re-touching to make it look great (the butterfly, for example, I’m going to do what I did with it in that little how-to I posted a couple weeks ago). I just can’t decide which one to use. I started with something like 400 photos, narrowed it down to 30 pretty easily, then got it down to these 7 after much deliberation. Now I just need some help narrowing it down further. I have to hand this in next Wednesday, so the sooner I hear from you, the more useful your input will be. Thanks!

Friday, February 18, 2011

So… How do photographers…?

Kerry asked me today: “how do photographers do that thing where they make a picture black and white except for one thing, like a rose or a red balloon?” To which I replied “magic.” Which is, of course, the official party line.

Then she said “Yeah. I know. Never reveal your tricks. But srsly, how do they do it?” I thought about it for a full eight seconds before I said “Photoshop. Or Lightroom. You could probably do it in Lightroom.” Then I showed her. For the curious, here’s how you do it. I started with this photo from Tucson.


I’m going to grey everything except for the butterfly. I’m going to do it twice: once in Lightroom 3 and once in Photoshop CS5. In both cases, I started with a CR2 that I had previously cropped and color corrected using Lighroom (which has all the same tools as the Adobe Raw Converter that comes with Photoshop).

In Lightroom, you use the adjustment brush. You set the “effect” to “color” and set the “saturation” to “-100.” Then you paint the whole photo except for the part you want to be in color. You’ll have to zoom in and do some fine tuning, but the adjustment brush has an “erase” mode that will put the color back in (took me a minute to figure out that bit). That’s about it. Like everything in Lightroom, pretty simple with pretty good results. Here’s what you end up with.

flutterby grey lightroom

Pretty good, but we can do better. Let’s load up Photoshop.

Start by making a selection. It won’t be perfect, but doesn’t need to be at this point. I used the magnetic lasso, but you could just as easily use the regular lasso or the pen tool. Select the butterfly. Next, click the “edit in quick mask mode” button at the bottom of the toolbar. This works just like a layer mask, except that instead of hiding part of the layer, you’re selecting it. You use the brush tool in black and white to edit the mask. By default, the mask appears red. For this particular project, I turned mine blue by double-clicking on the quick mask mode button because red didn’t contrast well enough with the orange butterfly. So this is what a quick mask looks like:

blue mask

That’s what mine looked like when I was about half-done with it. So, make sure everything you want to be greyscale is covered with blue (or whatever color your quickmask is) and whatever you want to be in color is not. Using the brush tool (b) with black selected paints the mask, and using it with white unpaints it (hit x to switch between black and white when you have one as the background as one as the foreground). I could have that backwards. I can never remember.

Once you have your mask just the way you want it, click the quick mask button again. That will take away your mask and replace it with a selection. This next step is vital. Go to the “select” menu and click the “inverse” option. This will select the part of the image that you had masked, as opposed to the part that was unmasked.

So now you’ve got a selection of all the stuff you want to have no color. Now, go to image>adjustments>black & white. This will bring up the “black & white” dialog. If you know what you’re doing, click “auto.” Then make adjustments until you’ve got what you want. If you don’t know what you’re doing, click “auto,” then play with the sliders until you figure out what’s going on. Make sure you’ve got the “preview” box checked or you won’t see what you’re doing. Make everything as light or dark as you want it. When you’re done, click “okay.” Done. You should have something like this:

Flutterby grey photoshop

I just took the auto black and white settings (not to be confused with the default settings, which are what show up in the dialog before you hit the “auto” button) and didn’t change anything. I think this turned out a lot better than the Lightroom method, and it was easier (if more tedious) to make a perfect selection.

So, that’s how photographers do that. But remember: if anybody asks, the answer is “magic.”

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hello, Computer

As you all know (or ought to know), Majel Barret Roddenberry, the voice of the computer in every iteration of Star Trek,  died last year just before the release of the new Star Trek movie. I saw that on startrek.com's facebook page that there was a thread of “who would make a good computer voice?” I don’t feel like sifting through a thousand comments to see what people have to say, but I do think it would make for a fun discussion. So what do you all think? Who should they cast for the new voice of Star Trek?

Here are some of my thoughts.

1. Morgan Freeman. I know he’s a man, but I don’t think that should disqualify anybody. Just imagine him saying “Captain Picard is not onboard the Enterprise.”

2. Ron Howard. Watch Arrested Development, narrated by him. That’s exactly the intonation and inflection I imagine he would have as a computer.

3. Keanu Reaves. Watch The Day the Earth Stood Still. No. Don’t. It was terrible. But watch five minutes of it and listen to the way he talks. It’s beautifully robotic.

4. Portia De Rossi. A little esoteric, perhaps, but she’s got a voice similar to MBR, and I think she’d do well.

5. Mary McDonnell. President Roslin from Galactica.

6. Jewel Staite. I was gonna say Morena Baccarin, and I do think she’d be a good choice if you’re looking for a replacement for Majel. But if you’re looking for someone new, I think Jewel would make a great computer. She’s got a pleasant voice, and she might add a touch of humanization to the computer.

I know, the computer isn’t human, but the whole point of giving a computer a human voice is to make the crew more comfortable. So why not humanize it a little? MBR was a great computer, but she talked like you would expect a robot to talk. That’s not bad, I just feel like it’s not the only way to do it.

So what do you all think? Who would you cast as the voice of the computer?

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Founding Fathers

It seems everywhere in US politics today, people are bitching and moaning about “what the founding fathers intended.” Well, here it is. I’m going to break the story. I know precisely, with no ambiguity or uncertainty, what the founding fathers intended.

They intended the government to be able to change to meet the needs of the day. Essentially, they knew that the government they put together 250 years ago wouldn’t work forever. It was what they needed at the time, so it’s what they did. What they needed then is not the same as what we need now.

So let’s stop bickering about “what the founding fathers wanted.” They wanted to be free of England and to construct a political system that could evolve to fit the needs of an evolving nation. Well, that’s not what we need any more. America knows who she is now, and it’s time to move out of Uncle Sam’s place (Uncle Sam who, btw, went down to the tavern every night with Uncle Tom and got positively hammer-headed).

Exactly how old should a nation be before they have their first revolution (I don’t want to get into a debate about this, but the first one was technically a successful rebellion, not a revolution. A revolution is when you replace the government. We didn’t. We seceded from Great Britain, who’s government remains to this day)? Seriously. We’re 235 this year. Can we move out of the basement and find our own place now? It’s great that our parents laid down all these rules to make sure we would learn how to play nice with all the other kids, but I think we’re old enough to start making our own mistakes.

So please. For the love of God. Can we stop arguing about what our founders intended? Because (a) they wrote it in plain, simple English specifically to avoid mis-interpretation and (b) what they wanted was for us to have a government that would meet our needs, regardless of how the world around us changed.

Even with this great constitution, every page of which says “change this when it doesn’t make sense any more,” we still have a religious government (yay two-party system!), a political system that essentially has no left hand (srsly. When half your country thinks gays shouldn’t be allowed in the military, and the other half debates them instead of calling them retards and going on about the business of running a country, Rome only just fell three or four centuries ago), and what’s been threatening to turn into an unabashed police state for almost ten years. So maybe we do still need some guidance from somewhere. It’s just too bad that we think we’re the hottest shit in the bowl and won’t listen to what anybody else says. This whole manifest destiny thing was cool when we had a whole continent to discover, but now it’s just pathetic.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Andy’s Stovetop Mac & Cheese (with beer)

Okay. Here’s what you will need:

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter

1 lb. pasta (I use Rotini or Fusilli)

1 quart + 1 cup buttermilk (regular milk might work, but buttermilk taste much cheesier)

Two beers. I have only used lager, but other kinds might work. I would recommend against stout (ie, Guiness), unless you want beer-flavored Mac & Cheese

Cheese. Lots of cheese. Probably about a pound, but use your judgment. I like to go to Big Y and buy their “Cheese ends for mac n cheese.” I buy two and throw away half of what I buy because it’s american or swiss or something else I don’t want f*&#ing up my flavor. This time I used almost all cheddar with a handful (literally) of pecorino romano (I said “pecker”).

Salt (a few dashes)

Pepper (a (1) dash)

lots of Garlic (I used powdered, but I’m trying minced next time)

Classic Rock. And none of that “soft” crap. Bad Company, Queen, Journey, Foreigner, AC/DC or Rolling Stones are all good. Joan Jett is also okay. Tom Petty, Credence, Metallica, Neil Young, Simon & Garfunkel and Elton John are unacceptable (yes, I just put Metallica in the same category as Neil Young). The Eagles are okay, but no Desperado and no Lyin’ Eyes. This is a key ingredient.

If you don’t like classic rock, electronica is allowed. but no Erasure and no Portishead. Yes, I love Portis head as much as the next bloody-wristed, tongue-pierced teenager, but they’re no good for cooking. Frank Klepacki is good, as are Massive Attack and Bassnectar. Daft Punk is almost mandatory.

My stove is an electric stove. It goes from 1-10. I won’t explain this again later, so look back up here if you forget that “5” means middle heat.

This is a “never leave the stove” recipe. Gather everything you need beforehand, because if you leave this alone for a minute, I don’t know what will happen. Chuck Norris might show up and kick you in the face, or it might be totally okay. I stir it constantly throughout cooking. You’ve been warned.

Commence to rock. Start the music, but no singing and no dancing yet. Blast it. If you’re not afraid of the neighbors, it’s not loud enough.

I use a big soup pot, but you could probably get away with a large sauce pan or something similar. In this, melt the butter. I set my stove to 5 to melt the butter and leave it there for most of the process.

While the butter is melting, crack open a beer and begin to consume. Don’t chug. Just drink leisurely. You will likely get through two beers for this recipe.

Once the butter is melted, wait just until it starts to sizzle. Pour in about a third of the buttermilk. It’s going to separate. don’t worry about it. The buttermilk is basically going to separate into cheese curd and water. It’s okay. Stir it a lot to try to keep the butter from separating out. It will separate a little, but stir it anyway.

Begin dancing, but not heavily. Just bop to the music a bit. You’re cooking for God’s sake. don’t go nuts, you’ll spill something. No singing yet.

Once the mixture begins to boil, start stirring in the rest of the buttermilk, but keep one cup out. Once you’ve stirred in all but one cup of the buttermilk, add three to five dashes of salt, one (1!) dash of black pepper, and a few shakes (not too many) of garlic powder.

Keep stirring. It is now acceptable to begin singing to the music. Don’t hurt yourself. You’re not Brian Johnson and you’re not Freddie. You could seriously injure yourself trying to be.

Once the sauce (yes, you’re making cheese sauce) starts to boil, start stirring in the cheese a little bit at a time. The first time I made this, I used WAY too much cheese, and it broke. The cheese stayed in a glob at the bottom and it was really hard to keep it mixed together. So stir it constantly, and when the cheese starts to clump up at the bottom, add the last cup of buttermilk and that should offset it enough to in-break it.

If you haven’t finished your first beer yet, do so now.

Open your second beer and pour the first ounce or two into the sauce. Stir. Add a bunch more garlic. Sorry about being vague through all this, but I don’t keep track of how much I use. I do it to taste and smell. If you don’t like garlic, don’t add very much. If you do (like me), upend the bottle (but not literally. I just mean use a lot).

Stir that for a few minutes. You should now be both singing and dancing with your music. If the neighbors haven’t registered a noise complaint, you’ve ruined the sauce. Dump it down the drain and start over.

Once the sauce has begun to barely boil, turn the heat down to 3 1/2 (three and a half, not half of thirty-one). Stir in the raw pasta. DON’T COOK THE PASTA AHEAD OF TIME. I mean, you could, but then it won’t soak up the nice cheese sauce you’ve just made. Stir it to make sure the pastas completely covered by the sauce. Any pasta that isn’t submerged won’t cook.

It will take… a number of minutes for the pasta to cook. During this time, consume your second beer and continue to dance/sing. When the cops show up, show them this recipe, explain the situation, and offer them a beer. They won’t take it: they’re on duty. But you’re a nice guy, so offer it anyway.

When the pasta is cooked (you’ll know because the one you eat will be not crunchy any more), remove the whole mess from the heat. That means put it on a cold burner, not just turn off the heat (but turn off the heat as well).

If you’re going to eat this right now, let it sit for about ten minutes so the sauce can thicken. If you’re going to eat it in twenty minutes to an hour, heat your oven to about 300 and stick the whole pot in there until you’re ready for it. Too long in the oven will totally dry up the sauce (happened to me just now). If your going to eat it tomorrow, throw it away and start fresh tomorrow. Dumbass.

If you have leftovers, shame on you. Eat it up. But if you just can’t choke it down, stick it in the fridge. It’s just as good re-heated (not like that Kraft crap that gets al… rubbery in the microwave).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

duck song

So…. Here. Watch this.

Now watch this.

And finally, here ya go: part three. This one’s different. I promise.


So I was on tinychat with some folks from Kongregate and one thing lead to another, tits were shone, and a guy had to sing a song. So he started the Duck Song video and sang along with it. It was funny. So I thought I’d share that magnificence with you all. Enjoy the Duck songs.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Matrix?

I just finished watching The Matrix Trilogy. Wow. I forgot how badly it sucks. Lemme splain. First movie: awesome. I’ll watch it any time you want. Second movie: ditto. Adds some really interesting stuff to the story and makes it more interesting. Third movie: f*#$ing awful. Every bit as bad as Attack of the Clones, but for somewhat different reasons.

First, let’s begin with the premise of the entire series. Why does the Matrix even exist to begin with? Human beings don’t need to be awake to produce body heat and electricity, which is why the machines need us. So why not do what the Tleilaxu do to their axlotl tanks and chemically lobotomize them to keep them in a vegetative state? For that matter, why bother with human beings at all? Why not use moose? Or whales? Both bigger than humans and therefore produce more heat. Why bother with the crumbs when you can have the feast?

Okay. Setting aside the fact that the Matrix serves no purpose, let’s move on. Neo, as explained by the architect, is the inevitable result of the mathematical process that is the Matrix. That in itself necessitates that Neo is not a real person. He’s a mathematical quantity. He’s a computer program, just like Smith. Coupled with the fact that he retains his superpowers outside of the Matrix, the only logical explanation is: Matrix squared. Matrix within a Matrix.

Again setting aside the fact that the existence of the Matrix makes no sense whatsoever, let’s assume that the purpose of the Matrix is as explained: keep humanity docile. make us believe everything is as it should be. Wouldn’t it be absolutely essential to have a redundancy? Do you really suppose that a machine society would not deal with humanity under the basic principle of “shit happens”? Life is unpredictable, so you need to account for every possible eventuality, including the possibility that the humans you missed in the first place are going to mount a resistance. Or, in this case, since we didn’t miss any, that they will somehow discover what’s going on. So: let them escape. They’ll think they’ve won. Only they haven’t, because they’re still in the over-matrix.

If that’s not the case, how the hell does Neo have superpowers outside the Matrix?

Next: Neo kills Smith, and dies in the process. Exactly what motivates the machines to not destroy Zion? The fact that the made a deal?! Are you f*&%ing kidding me?! You don’t not destroy the one thing that could possibly destroy you because you made a deal with it. Well, maybe a person does, because a person understands things like honor and friendship. Computers don’t have friends. They have “others with whom they interact,” and they don’t do anything just because they said they would. That is completely and utterly ridiculous. They say what they need to say to get their adversaries to do what they want, then strike when they’re weak.

So… I dunno. I just felt the need to vent, and here’s as good a place as any.