Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Into the New Year of 2014

2013 was not a good year for me or my immediate family, so I bid it good riddance. Another year begins in mere hours here and has already begun in the East. Hopefully it will be better than this one was. Expectations for 2013 were low and frankly negative, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when it turned into a year of one bad thing after another.

2014? Haven’t a clue, yet it is not likely to be a great year. That said, it could be an improvement for me. For others, I don’t know.

My only prediction is that a lot of people in the United States are going to wake up to the fact that we’re in an economic downward spiral, not a recovery. Worldwide, things will continue to become more unstable. No foresight is required to see these things, it’s just the established pattern.

In my personal life, I hope to see some improvements since I’ve already started working on them. Zero resolutions for the new year, I’m already ahead on that. As far as looking forward to anything, the only item that pops into my mind is getting to teach about the Old Testament in Sunday school for adults. That’s going to be fun.

May the new year treat everyone well!

The Invisible Boy (1957) Review

When a true sequel to Forbidden Planet fell apart during the planning stages, MGM decided that Robby the Robot would still get a vehicle written around him for the next year. Instead of a hard science fiction story, a simpler story aimed straight at young boys was chosen. Though nowhere near the quality of the earlier film, moments of intelligence shine through this kiddie flick about a not very intelligent brat.

The Invisible Boy Title

This review is actually an extension of my Forbidden Planet one, since this movie is an extra in both the DVD and Blu-ray releases. Little did I know when I started watching this flick that I’d encounter a boy so annoying that he rivaled Kenny (aka Toshio) from the first Gamera movie! Is that considered a spoiler? If so, consider yourself nearly as spoiled as Timmie.

Yes, that’s a Timmie with an “ie”, not a “y”.

The Invisible Boy InstituteThe Invisible Boy Military Visitors

Looking every bit like a B-movie, but sporting a slightly better budget, The Invisible Boy starts off in promising fashion with a motorcade arriving at the Stoneman Institute of Mathematics. A front for an underground computer laboratory and research center, it is run by Dr. Tom Merrinoe (Richard Eyer), the main programmer for “the Computer” at its core. Holding the collective knowledge of all of humanity, it is being used for things such as checking rocket launch calculations.

Okay, that sounds underwhelming, but back in the 1950s this was amazing stuff since virtually nobody had any experience with the brilliant idiots we now tote around everywhere. To the layman, computers were a form of black magic capable of doing almost anything. Every day brought a new advancement in science, much of it on the military end.

Forget Mystery Meat, How About Mystery Spam?

Just in time for the end of the year, I found a new referral spam in my Blogger statistics. http: // semalt . com / competitors_review . php? u= (then my blog address) is obvious spam due to it having text suggesting that someone is competing with my website and checking me out.

Semalt Spam

Using a virtual machine and TOR to be anonymous, I checked out the address. It only gets me to the home page where a requirement to register first stopped me cold. Of course, it wants you to log in using your Facebook, Google Plus, or Microsoft Live accounts. Oh, nothing suspicious about that, is there?

It offers to show you what your Google rankings are, which is interesting given that you can sign up for Google’s own tools for free to do the same. As the page loaded, I noticed that it loaded counter . yadro . ru , a Russian address I only fleetingly glimpsed. Some sites report this as a malware infection while others that it is simply a tracking site like Google analytics. Still a bad guy according to most, so consider it a red flag.

The privacy policy and terms of use pages are generic giving no useful information. There was no way I’d sign up to find out what lied beneath the barebones page other than to look at the source html. In there the meta description of the content bills the site as a “Professional keyword ranking monitoring service with competitor analysis. Fee plans.”  Also found in the code was the yadro address, so that is being loaded as a hit counter.

My advice to all who get a variant of this link in their statistics is to avoid clicking on it. Semalt is most likely only there to harvest data to access your email and social accounts with the possible additional goal of selling SEO (search engine optimization) methods.


I’m seeing more hits from this spam showing up in StatCounter now and they are coming from computers in different countries with differing versions of Windows and screen resolutions.  This means a bot net of infected computers is most likely being used to push the spam rather than forged addresses.

Please do not click on the link and if you have, run an antivirus program along with something like MalwareBytes or Spybot to make sure you haven’t been infected.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Health 12-28-2013

Hopefully this is the last post on my health for the year. It was not a good Christmas. My father and I both got sick earlier with him getting the worst of it. By the time Christmas Eve rolled around, neither of us were able to go anywhere or do much of anything. It got worse on Christmas day leading to a cancellation of a trip to visit my sister and her family in Indiana.

I’m still not feeling well and suspect the rotavirus going around is behind both our ailments. Shining forth amidst the gloom is one bright ray of hope for during the entire time I’ve managed to keep doing daily weight training. While far from easy and usually the only thing of any merit done, the new regime has stayed intact.

Usually when I get ill, I have flare ups of secondary infections often of a respiratory nature. First the sinuses try to kill me then the bronchial tubes. So far, only the sinuses have made an attempt with no success in enlisting their allies next to the lung sacs as is their annual tradition around this time of year.

While premature, the possibility the big experiment with daily weight training is having unexpected benefits involving the immune system is on my mind. Two days ago, I was able to help load and unload bags of wood pellets. That did cause problems recovering, but it was amazing that I was able to at all.

One thing I don’t like about weight training is how long it takes me to stop shaking afterward. It’s been half an hour and I’m vibrating worse than I normally do. Maybe it will improve in time.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Christmas Post

It’s 9:08 PM on Christmas Eve and I’ve got nothing in the way of inspiration for this post. Christmas with the Rat Pack is playing on Media Monkey, my head feels like its filled with cotton, and I’m suffering from dizziness.

Being a devout Mormon, no eggnog is involved. Bad health is, but I’m still counting my blessings since things could be far worse.

For some reason the shepherds in the hills being told of Christ’s birth has been haunting my mind the last few days. Why would a heavenly choir appear to those relatively poor denizens near Bethlehem? The meek may be the ones to inherit the Earth, yet why them?

After spending forty odd years on the planet, it has struck me how self important the powerful and well off are. By well off, I mean anybody who doesn’t have to scrabble to just survive, which excludes most Americans of the current age. I watch people wandering around lost in their own worlds and wonder if they’d even notice such a thing happening.

Even if they did, they’d attribute it to their own importance. Bah, humbug to vanity, I say.

Sometime much later after gaming with younger friends…

Another random thought: With all the focus on gifts, shopping, and decorations, there is a worrying element of losing perspective to Christmas. So I won’t be hoping for loot for myself, that’s for kids.

My wish is that everyone who reads this post will have a merry (or happy for the Brits) Christmas filled with comfort, joy, and love. That’s what it is supposed to be about, after all. That which is material must fade to dust over time, but true friends and family can be eternal. So let us be grateful for those we care about in our lives and for those who don’t have that, I especially wish that you find caring people in the days to come.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Forbidden Planet (1956) Review

A smart, literate script that derived much of its plot form Shakespeare's The Tempest propels this film from what could of been an expensive B-movie into a true top tier movie. Featuring a flying saucer, a robot, a mad scientist, and an alien monster it sounds like kid’s dream. Oh it is that, alright, but good acting and cutting edge effects made this science fiction film a true classic. UPDATED December 2013 with a full rewrite, HD screen captures, and Blu-ray details.

Forbidden Planet Title

Younger people have frown up in an era dominated by special effect, but this wasn’t the case in the past. Once upon a time, there was no such thing as computer generated effects, or CG. Special effects were done in laborious, painstaking ways, with wires, matte paintings, and miniatures. Of late, there has been a renaissance in using the old methods, combining them with CG. But amazingly, there were genuinely well done special effects in the past (though kids today will laugh at some of them) with certain films being milestones in the art.

MGM’s Forbidden Planet is one such film, but the expensive effects were only part of the reason this bold experiment is considered one of the greatest science fiction films of all time. The introduction of Robby the Robot (who cost an astounding 100,000 1956 dollars) definitely contributed, as did Anne Francis' short dresses (an actual plot point). But the main ingredient stirred into the mix was that the director and actors took the story seriously.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Looking Back: 2013 and the Blog

After the catastrophic collapse of traffic to end 2012, it looked like a bleak year coming up for From the Sidelines. Being a small blog and because I don’t work on promoting it, pageviews are highly dependent on organic search traffic from Google, Bing, and Yahoo – mostly Google. Every tweak, alteration, and seasonal mucking about of that mighty search engines algorithms seems to affect it. UPDATED with final figures.

2013 Traffic Final

Above is a graph of the traffic for 2013 according to Google Analytics. December has taken a downturn that reminds me a little of last December. A lot of reports of weirdness from search engine watchers makes me suspect that changes are being rolled out yet again.

In the end, December leveled out to my surprise. It seems the blog rebounds after every change Google makes now. As the trend shows since the middle of the year, traffic isn’t growing and is unlikely to.

The most visited posts for 2013:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Analysis? Selling Links for Money Spam

Either I’m beginning to become a connoisseur of referral spam or I’m just bored with the usual offerings. Today brought something slightly different to my Blogger stats that piqued my interest: http: // prlog . ru / analysis / from-the-sidelines . blogspot . com . Having my blog address in the spam brings such a warm, fuzzy feeling. Wait.. no, that’s indigestion. Anyway, it was a blink and you’ll miss it hit and run.

PRLog Spam 01PRLog Spam 02

Ever curious, I fired up my copy of Ubuntu on a virtual machine and used TOR to anonymously check out the site the link came from. Don’t try this at home unless you know something about security or reformatting your hard drive. Never click on suspicious links like this, leave it to crazy people like me.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Health 12-16-2013

Eleven straight days of weight training after todays workout indicate my theory of keeping the body confused may hold water. Time will tell.

I’m very tired today, due to quite a bit of running out and about starting on Friday. A trip to and from La Crosse to see the second The Hobbit movie was followed up by a trip to a party thrown partially for me by the Taylors, older friends from church. Good food and good company made up for getting stuck trying to go up the driveway.

Between being spoiled by the Subaru and having trouble gauging my level of force on the accelerator (a byproduct of doing weights), I’m having a deuce of a time relearning how to properly drive in winter conditions.

Sunday featured more driving than usual, because I’ve been brain dead and triple booked myself for after church. Fortunately for me, things worked out and I was able to make all my stops. I held up very well by my standards, so that was encouraging.

Even though I’m not up for doing much today, it isn’t as bad as it’s been the past couple of years.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Memories of a Past Virtual Life

For those of us who have been on the Web for a long time, part of the wired existence is watching  sites take root, bloom, and then wither away. Some were casually visited sites, but there are the ones we sank way too much time and attention into. They are virtual communities, that perpetual next big thing on the Internet, serving as places to socialize, argue, befriend, defriend, and quite often reflect the social order of high schools.

I’ve been online in some form or another since 1993 with two decades of watching all this happen. Experience is a great educator and a little over thirteen years ago I got quite the education about people online (and offline) thanks to a movie news and fan site called CountingDown. Due to various soap opera experiences and a decision to embrace “real life,” I departed it permanently around 2003. I never looked back.

Which makes it strange that I’d be flashing back to that period of my life this week. I had the feeling the site was no more and sure enough, www.countingdown.com doesn’t even bring up an error message. So I did a search for information about it being shuttered and at first only came up with people asking the same question.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug In Theater Review

Better than its predecessor, the second The Hobbit movie still lacks the emotional depth and nearly flawless execution that made The Lord of the Rings trilogy a masterpiece. With that statement out of the way, I’ll go into a few particulars.

First, do not take small children to this movie. The giant spiders and the titular dragon are perfect material for childhood nightmares. Also, if you have arachnophobia, you’ll want to keep your eyes closed for one of the better action sequences in the movie.

Next up is the simple fact that The Desolation of Smaug is an action film with no real breathing room. There are a few slower scenes, where there isn’t wall to wall action, but this film is all about spectacle and 3D!!!

While I saw it in 2D, far too many shots screamed “look at me” in the gratuitous shoving of objects in your face. In fact, there is no such thing as restraint in the CG effects – it is almost Michael Bay style film making. Then there are the endless decapitations which seems to be an obsession of director Peter Jackson’s.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Monsterous Tease

The official teaser for the Godzilla remake just surfaced on YouTube and boy is it a dandy:


This has to be the most atmospheric take on the big G since the original Gojira. It looks absolutely stupendous, is filled with a sense of terrible dread, and only hints at what the monster looks like. Add in the music from astronaut Bowman's going through the Monolith to amp the tension and this might be a perfect example of how to tease a movie.

Yeah, this is my most anticipated film of 2014, bar none. Time to watch the teaser again.

Games People Play

With the year approaching its ending, I’ve found myself looking back at more than the past twelve months. For some reason, nostalgia has been hitting me harder than I’m used to.

It has been twenty years since DOOM from Id Software was released. I remember waiting for the shareware first episode to download over the glacially slow dialup connection I had through America Online.  Eager anticipation led to mild disappointment after firing up the game only to find I had to run it in a reduced box to get acceptable frame rates on my Packard Bell 486SX-25. That disappointment dissipated once actually running and gunning through the eerie atmosphere of darkened base on a moon orbiting Mars.

My first PC games were Chuck Yeager’s Air Combat, Dune, and Orel Hershiser’s Strike Zone. They weren’t graphically intensive, though Dune was one of the most lovely 256 color games every put out. Having played Castle Wolfenstein 3D, I couldn’t wait to play Id’s next game.

Red ShirtRed Shirt Dyson Sphere

Two decades later and I’m playing games that look like this. How things have changed!

Monday, December 09, 2013

Health 12-9-2013

For once, I have something positive to record. After musing over the successes I had in boosting my health fourteen years ago, I decided to recreate some of what I did then rather than what’s considered medically sound.

Step one was going back to using NADH no matter the financial drain and after taking it for eighteen months I can say it has helped with improved memory and alertness.

Step two began Friday after I remembered how I used to do weight training. Instead of doing it every other day like you are supposed to, the routine is being done daily. In fact, I just completed todays sets with some amazement that they weren’t very difficult.

Four days in a row, which equals the total number of preceding workouts this year, if I haven’t forgotten any. Close enough for government work.

Perfection in pulling it off every day is not expected due to health problems, but this is a good start. In the short term, the hope is that back and neck problems will improve. Long term will result in a host of benefits, if my body doesn’t completely rebel against the routine.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below (2011) Review

aka Journey to Agartha

A visually stunning meditation on death, love, and loneliness, this story of a girl’s journey to a mystical underworld doesn’t shy away from the harsh things encountered in life. Filled with action, magical creatures, a hint of romance, and a profound sense of loss, the movie is one of the best anime efforts to ever come out of Japan.

Children Who Chase Title

Director/writer Makoto Shinkai has made a name for himself over the past decade by creating beautifully animated tales of love lost. Some have labeled him the next Hayao Miyazaki though he hasn’t had the international success of that renowned director. In an effort to reach a wider audience, Shinkai began to ponder universal beliefs across cultures and what would appeal to the entire world. The end result is a dazzling and thoughtful movie about dealing with the deaths of loved ones.

Children Who Chase Asuna ListensChildren Who Chase Train Crossing

Set in a rural town in 1970’s Japan, Children Who Chase Lost Voices makes quite an impression right away. Not through a cheap trick of a shocking or surprising event, but through showing the quiet beauty of a girl listening to a railroad track. The play of light and shadows combines with the sounds of the countryside to create an authentic sun kissed moment that immerses the viewer into the setting.

The girl’s name is Asuna and she’s in a hurry to get somewhere. As we follow her running around, we are treated to superb animation on the way to her secret place hidden up on a hill. The sheer amount of eye candy borders on overload and repeat viewings had me finding something new every time.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Salary Comparison and Bitcoin Spam

With a sudden stop to the flood of Russian blog spam, I’d been feeling a little lonely this holiday season. But hey, Cyber Monday brought me a deal! UPDATED: Added links to articles on Bitcoin malware at end of post.

Am I Richer Spam 01

http:// www . amiricherthanyou . com / ec_recommended . php ?q=Oved&id=473535 arrived in my blog stats to assist me in feeling financially inadequate. Oh boy! Just what I wanted, more spam! Sarcasm aside, I was wondering why things had gotten so quiet lately. So firing up my trusty virtual machine and TOR, I checked out the link. Remember, don’t try this at home, kids. Never click on suspicious links or you will be sorry.

Am I Richer Spam 02

Surprise! The link took me straight to an ad for BitCoin trading. Yeah, that doesn’t look shady at all, does it? I’d have a better screenshot, but I forgot to maximize my browser and there was no quick way to get that site back – there’s a good reason for that I’ll go into later.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

To all my fellow Americans reading the blog, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

It may be a world of entertainment and mass distraction for those of us in the first world, but I’m far too aware of those who live in conditions much closer to that which the pilgrims faced in the desperate early years of the new world colonization efforts. Having food to eat, a roof over one’s head, and a warm bed are simple things that we all should be grateful for. It’s all too easy to lose perspective when trying to keep up with whatever expensive toy a neighbor or acquaintance has gotten themselves.

It is going to be a quiet Thanksgiving here at the Boonedocks, devoid of a turkey and the traditional trimmings. In fact, my father and I aren’t sure what we’re going to eat having made no preparations. Getting older and with little family living far away, the holiday simply doesn’t have the allure it once did. Substance matters and without it, the trimmings are pretty boring.

While I’m thankful for what I have, I’m even more so that I’m not going Black Friday shopping. It’s my idea of one of the nastier circles of Hell imagined by Dante.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Month That Ate My Homework

Or any other ridiculous excuse that you can imagine for not getting more done on the blog in November.

A wintery mix of weather, intestinal bug, and doing more in the real world than usual has led to my getting very little accomplished online lately. When it takes forever and a day to recover from expending energy, productivity suffers greatly. A couple of weekends ago I went on a trip up to the St. Paul area where I ended up assisting a close friend in teaching a merit badge course on computers to Boy Scouts.

Since then, I’ve been one of the walking dead and some extended trips out helping my father on some repair calls made me hungry for brains. Wait, that came out wrong. I lost my brains somewhere along the way, that’s what I meant. If you find them alongside the road, please send them to me and I might remember to repay the postage.

It depends on what shape the gray matter is in, you see.

Friday, November 15, 2013


In the past I've mentioned how much I like light weight fighter jets, so I decided it was time to show some love for something larger. In this case, North American's A-5 Vigilante series which is one of the largest carrier based planes the U.S. Navy ever had in service. Browsing through YouTube led me to a video showing the plane in its various incarnations from prototype to retirement. Be warned, excessive use of techno is the only sound on the video:

Big, beautiful and very fast, the Vigilante was a Mach 2 nuclear bomber designed in the 1950s, the era where all things seemed possible and brilliant minds flourished. Due to politics limiting the role of the Navy in strategic nuclear weapons delivery, the A3J (as it was originally designated) saw little service as the bomber it was designed to be. Politics wasn't the only reason the very advanced aircraft didn't work out in that role.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Health 11-13-2013

It’s been awhile since I updated the ongoing woes of my health problems. I only do it to document them for posterity which means I generally omit the minor issues. Lately, I’ve had to force myself to nap in order to maintain any functionality at all. The last three weeks have not been good.

The body is demanding repair time thanks to a host of minor infections of various types visiting me with sinusitis being the worst. Things had gotten so bad that scratches and minor skin breakouts were refusing to heal properly.  As much as I hate enforced rest, it is rectifying the problem.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day 2013

As much as I’m grateful for all that our armed forces have done for us throughout the history of the United States of America, I find my thoughts elsewhere on this day of recognition. Specifically, Leyte in the Philippines.

Oh there is a connection to Leyte with our armed forces, for that is where General Douglas MacArthur started the liberation of the Philippines in 1944. Fulfilling his promise to return, U.S. forces and Philippino resistance fighters fought quite a battle there. For me, Leyte is synonymous with kamikaze planes slamming into ships thanks to old footage.

Something far worse than a worn out fighter plane loaded with explosives slammed into the island of Leyte Friday. Typhoon Haiyan hit with category five winds accompanying a massive storm surge. This is a storm so huge that it covered all of the Philippines.

At least 10,000 are dead (the count will rise) and more than half a million have lost their homes. Estimates are that between 70-80% of the buildings have been destroyed in the city of Tacloban which is the location of most of the deaths.

Things are incredibly grim in the news reports with looting to survive and incredible misery due to nearly all the structures being destroyed. Watching footage and looking at photos is a heart breaking experience, but nothing compared to what the people there are dealing with. Fears of starvation have the survivors teetering toward out of control behavior.

My thoughts and prayers are with them.

Comments and Spam

It truly feels like a Monday, complete with the first significant snow of the season. In the wee hours of the morning here, a comment came into my blog that looked somewhat legitimate. After publishing it to get full access to all the html involved, I decided it was too shady to keep on the blog. Here’s the content of the post:

Social Cubix said...

Comment spamming you can only prevent by configuring your posting software appropriately. There are some technics like image code verification to verify a human is posting, against human postings with inappropriate content helps only an editor review before release. Machine posted spam may increase, if you use well known templates from popular blogging software.

12:21 AM

Thursday, November 07, 2013


After the brutal demise of the Subaru in September, we’ve been using a borrowed behemoth of a pickup truck. Not only was it not fun to drive, it was brutal on the backs of me and my father. Due to our need for a good winter vehicle with serious cargo space (that also gets reasonable mileage), the search for a replacement in the price range we targeted was looking pretty bleak. Another Subaru was completely out of the question with used prices sky high for Outbacks and Forresters.

Freestyle 01Freestyle 03

Grabbing the bull by the horns, I made sure we went out for an exploratory search of what, if anything, existed in our price range at local dealers. I had little hope of finding anything decent and planned to sacrifice longevity or capability. Our first stop ended up being our last thanks to a newly arrived used 2005 Ford Freestyle SEL at the dealership.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Strange Influx of Russian Spam, Part 3

Given how much I’ve already documented the new wave of Russian referral spam showing up on Blogger, I’m simply listing the new links as they come in. For more information on what this is all about, please see my previous posts here and here. In what may be a coincidence, vampirestats has been showing up in large numbers during the same time period. Also, I'm starting to see repeats of the same links, but they always register four times when they hit.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Strange Influx of Russian Spam, Part 2

Another day brought in another round of the odd referral spam to my Blogger statistics. Following the same pattern as the first batch, things took a turn toward the sinister once I started checking them out.  If you receive any of these in your referrals, do not click on the links!

Artcs Spam 01

http: // art-cs . ru / ?p=275 linked to a post on a Russian blog, just like all during this onslaught of faked referrals. This one does have phone numbers in one post, though I didn’t look them up. Last post was in September of 2012 and most of the posts were put up on one day.

Etiketu Spam 01

The second of this wave was http: // etiketu . ru / ?m=20120907 which links to a blog about proper etiquette and how it helps in business. Like the farming site in the first wave, this one has an about page. Unlike that one, no name is associated with it. Instead a mission statement of promoting humanism and decency is present. This will turn out to be highly ironic.

It was last posted to in October of 2012.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Strange Influx of Russian Spam

November has brought cold winds with it and a flood of Russian spam on the 3rd. The false referrals on my Blogger stats lead to a  baffling variety of blogs. Only one is an obvious attempt to sell things, which makes it very mysterious that they all came at once. Oddly, all showed up four times with the exception of the first. All use Wordpress and none have ads placed on the pages, but do have LiveInternet statistics links.

UPDATE: Continued with a theory of why these are being sent out.

Now the individual links:

Kyho Spam 01

http : / /www . kyho . ru / was the first to arrive Sunday morning. I copied the link for future investigation and headed out to church. Little did I know that it was the first of a larger group of spam arriving through early Monday.

Firing up my virtual machines for safe and compartmentalized browsing, I found out I’d be using Google translate a lot in trying to decode the mystery. This site is dedicated to hair care with repetitive posts which raises suspicions of being an automated site scraping content from legitimate blogs. There are no comments and it is a barebones blog layout. It also was last updated in November 2011!

With no ads and no immediately visible malware on the page or in the source code, it looked like another case of zombie spam.

Friday, November 01, 2013

A New Season

Hope is said to spring eternal and sometimes it feels that way in regard to seasonal entertainment, or in this case the television variety. Having cut the cord years ago, I have no cable or satellite version of a 150 channels with nothing on worth watching. Broadcast and streaming are all I need given most fare is dreck these days. So it is a bit surprising to be following  a number of live action shows and anime this fall season.

It takes a lot to get me into live action TV since after decades of watching every variation of story has been seen more than once. Even a foray into South Korean dramas didn’t last long once it became apparent they drag things out for far too long at too high an intensity.

UPDATED 20 Nov 2013 to reflect being deeper into the season. New comments are in bold.

UPDATED 10 Dec 2013 with further comments in blue.

Final Thoughts in green.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trollhunter (2010) Review

College students go out in the woods with a camera and disappear leaving only footage behind. Sound familiar? Well, this time it’s a wee bit different thanks to plenty of dry Norwegian wit and a ludicrous subject played with straight faces. Hoping for an interesting story on bear poaching, the students soon find out the object of their pursuit is hunting something different – trolls. Is the man insane or is there more than bears out in the wilds of Norway?

Trollhunter Title

The found footage craze has slowly died down in movie making much to the relief of serious cinema buffs. However, this indie gem out of Norway proves that the format isn’t completely worthless and that a good movie can be made in the style. It doesn’t hurt that a very dark sense of humor is complimented by legitimate tension building, great effects, and deadpan acting.

Trollhunter ThomasTrollhunter JohannaTrollhunter Kalle

Like all found footage movies things begin with text on screen informing us that the following content was edited from footage recorded by missing people, in this case college students working on a project in 2008.  We quickly get to know the main characters through glimpses of them setting up their gear and an early introduction for a documentary they are filming.

Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud) is the nerdy and earnest face of the production, clearly in charge even if not respected by his cameraman. Johanna (Johanna Morck) is an attractive blonde in charge of the boom mike and recording system. Her other job is trying to keep cameraman Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) from being a jerk toward Thomas.

Trollhunter HansTrollhunter Land Rover Damage

Their quarry is a suspected poacher killing bears and depositing them in random places in the countryside. Clued in by the hunting community, they eventually track down the mystery man known only as Hans. Hans (Otto Jespersen) is a gruff cipher who rebuffs the trio when they confront him at a trailer park.

Something isn’t right though, even accounting for his illegally killing bears. One look at his battered Land Rover reveals some very nasty claw marks that don’t look very ursine in origin. Then there is the horrible smell coming from his camper.

A Frightening Innovation in Malware?

It may be Halloween and a time for spooky tales from the dark recesses of the imagination, but real life has more than enough frightening things. As we are now a high technology bound society in the West, it seems some of the more alarming things involve computers. A new strain of malware has shown up that supposedly can use a computer's speakers and microphone to transmit data.

If this turns out to be a legitimate thing rather than a hoax, badBIOS is a thing of nightmares for IT and security experts. Normally I'd call this a fraud or someone having a paranoid break, but the technology has existed  in the world of espionage for decades that allowed lasers bounced off of windows to measure and detect conversation inside rooms, for instance. This would be the kind of project a government would be capable of in theory, most likely one of the big three: the United States, Russia, and China.

It's been awhile since I've seen a BIOS based attack get any press, so this caught my attention quickly. Of course simple precautions will prevent malware from getting on your system and this one is said to have come in on a USB thumb drive. However, the way this thing works is fascinating if real.

Part of me wants this to be a hoax, because this kind of PC infection would be incredibly difficult to deal with if it spread widely. Another part of me wants it to be real simply because it would be an amazing feat of computer science. But most of me is holding judgement until more evidence is brought forward.

UPDATED 6 Nov 2013:

While there is a possibility this is a real virus or trojan, the evidence isn't checking out and some are calling into question the mental stability of Dragos Ruiu. Strange behavior by him in social media is making it look like a paranoid episode, which is still bad news of a different kind. Given the fragmentation of BIOS implementations, it would be extremely difficult to pull off with limitations to attacking specific brands and models of PC's.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Halloween Scary (and Not So Scary) Movie Review List!

While I'm working on one last review that hopefully will be finished for tomorrow, here is a list of movie reviews I've done that fit the Halloween spirit. Featuring monsters, supernatural doings, or unsettling science fiction all offer something a little spooky fun:

The Black Hole
The 'Burbs
The Curse of Frankenstein
The Curse of the Werewolf 
Dracula (1931)
Dracula (1931 Spanish Version)
Forbidden Planet
Frankenstein (1931)

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris
Horror of Dracula 
The Legend of Hell House
The Mummy 
Pacific Rim 
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Spirited Away
The Watcher in the Woods

I hope everyone has a happy and safe Halloween!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pacific Rim (2013) Review

A high budget love letter from director Guillermo del Toro to Japanese science fiction cinema, this story of giant monsters and titanic robots failed to light up the domestic box office. Yet it was far from a failure becoming a massive hit worldwide. Aimed squarely at twelve year olds (including inner ones), a simple heroic story told mainly visually also targets the human heart despite being a brutal slugfest. Beautiful to behold, packed with action, and supported by a good cast it is a whole lot of fun.

Pacific Rim Title

A last minute decision was made to add this review to my Halloween lineup since it was time for a giant monster movie in the rotation. Featuring kaijus (giant monsters) fighting with mechas (giant robots) rendered with the most modern of effects, it certainly fills the bill. Also, I love this flick and wanted an excuse to do a full review of its Blu-ray release. Thanks to a large amount of extras, it turned into a Herculean endeavor.

But hey, better to go large, right? Speaking of which…

Pacific Rim Trespasser KaijuPacific Rim Horizon Brave Jaeger

Pacific Rim launches straight into a prologue packed to the gills with action and information narrated by a rueful voice looking back at the events. Set in the near future, a huge amount of exposition both verbal and visual comes at the audience at a furious rate. In summation, giant toxic monsters have emerged from a dimensional rift called the Breach in the ocean floor of the Pacific, towering robots were built in an international effort to stop them, and humanity thought they were winning.

This data overload is presented in the form of news clips, flashes of monsters called the Kaiju (Japanese for giant beasts) trashing cities, and scenes of Jaegers (German for hunter) being built. Not only does it set things up, but the montage gives glimpses of Kaiju and Kaeger designs that didn’t make the final cut. More interesting is that del Toro did not direct this portion of the prologue. Not one to use the “found footage” or pseudo documentary style, he instead assigned it to a trusted friend and was delighted with the results.

It has been awhile since I’ve seen a big budget movie dare to start in the middle of a story and while it might not be what people are now used to, I’ve always felt that it adds to the suspension of disbelief. After all, most of life is about wandering into a situation as it messily unfolds rather than being there from the beginning.

With the setup explained the movie really begins.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Not Dead, Just Pinin' for the Fjords

It was with some surprise that I realized I hadn't posted in nearly a week. Not feeling well, but not terribly ill I simply haven't had any energy.

So some tweaking around the edges on the site is all I've done, other than work on a review that will go up tomorrow after a final pass. Since the top posts widget is effectively broken thanks to it recording referral spam as hits, I've manually gone through my Google Analytics records to create a list of the most viewed reviews to replace it.

It means more work for me, but at least I'll know it's somewhat accurate.

To while away the time, watching old horror movies has been the main item on my agenda. That's been a fun nostalgia trip and exercise in comparing childhood memories to reality. So far my memories have been more accurate than expected, though I've remembered things from one movie being in another on a couple of occasions.

It is amazing what trivial things stick in our heads and my suspicion that because they are audio/visual in nature movies lodge more easily in our memories. Anyway, off to watch another!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Halloween Self Torture Time

Without anything special planned such as going to a party or some such thing, tonight I’m going to go see Plan 9 from Outer Space at the Spring Grove Cinema near by for a Halloween treat. Twelve miles is what I consider “near by.”  Now why would I pay money to watch the worst movie ever made (or so many think) after having seen the RiffTrax and normal versions of it within the past couple of years?

It’s going to be shown in 3D, that’s why.

Yes, Tor Johnson will loom larger than life out of the screen, fake Bela Legosi will jump out at slowly approach us, and flying saucers will zoom by realistically. I’m hoping for the wires to show up in three dimensions.

So it will be a welcome break from watching quality movies and taking notes on them for I will be abusing my sanity and lowering my IQ by watching Ed Wood’s gloriously awful masterpiece…

IN 3D!

Some time much later…

Well, that didn’t happen. I really need to stop planning to do things, especially things for fun. Unfortunately for me, the trip to the movie theater instead turned into a five hour detour into a nightmarish repair call of my father’s. So I’ll never see Plan 9 in 3D.

I really need to stop wanting to do things, all it does is cause me grief.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Odds and Ends October 2013

It is cold and damp as I write this post, which means winter draws ever closer. It has been a time of painful sleep that's slowed me down more than I expected, so every time I get a post up it feels like a minor victory. The weekend was a loss thanks to this.

For some reason Google has failed to fix a rather massive bug that appeared in their Blogspot code within the last month. Actually, it had appeared for some earlier, but now is getting widespread. What's the bug, you wonder?

They broke the ability to edit text widgets in the sidebars. For two weeks I've been struggling to edit the ones on the right of this post to no avail. Finally somebody came up with a workaround that I didn't want to use, but now am.So now I'm able to update what movies I've recently watched.

How Google can ignore this bug is beyond me, but so is most of their behavior in regards to support. I'm too tired to trash them at the moment.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Again With the Spam

While there hasn’t been a lot of new spam hitting this blog (been a lot of vampirestats lately), there has been one showing up under two different links and one that showed up on another blogger’s site.

Ourmeets Spam Warning

First up is the worst offender. Coming in as www . seoanalyses .com or under its real address,  ourmeets . com , this is a pornographic “dating” site. As you can see, it was blocked by OpenDNS, which I use to pre-filter anything coming into the house. Don’t click on it as it is exceedingly unsafe to visit.

kallery spam 01kallery spam 02

Next up is one that commenter Sarma listed.

kallery . net out of South Korea looks like a real site at first glance, but digging further reveals that it sends you off to other sites where art is for sale. That’s a traditional tactic of cross promoting links used to generate ad revenue or of black hat SEO to up search engine rankings. Appears relatively harmless, but I advise avoiding.

Notice the art quiz winners on the right hand sidebar of the first screenshot. What are the odds that four of them would be links promoting the site? The mind boggles!

I wonder what percentage of Web pages in the world are actually spam sites? The search engines have enough trouble keeping up with the legitimate content being put up.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) Review

Known for its revival of the old horror franchises it was odd that only one stab was made at the werewolf subgenre by Hammer Films. Starring a novice actor named Oliver Reed and loosely based on a lurid bestselling novel of the 1930’s, it was something of a gamble. Fortunately for audiences, what they got was a portrayal of the warring sides of the human psyche and what I view as the best werewolf movie ever made.

Curse of the Werewolf Title

Director Terence Fisher (Horror of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein) was unquestionably Hammer’s go to guy when it came to directing reinventions of Universal’s old monster films. Adept at handling action, moody tension, and able to get serious performances out his actors, Fisher once again was called on when it was time to bring back the werewolf to the silver screen.

Curse of the Werewolf Spain

Adapted from a novel, Werewolf in Paris, the movie takes huge liberties with the source material and all for the better. The biggest change is in setting, which is moved to late 18th Century Spain. This is made very clear by the bold lettering that was considered so stylish at the time. After seeing how that screen capture turned out, I couldn’t resist using it. In fact, it’s the only reason for it to be in the review.

Time to get more serious and write about the story. But I still am amused by the screenshot.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Nearly Normal

Despite still needing to replace the car, things have gotten close to normal now. A slew of things need doing and are slowly being stricken off the to-do list. So what does normal mean?

Well, I’m sick again, this time with an earache that slowly developed over the weekend in time to become a problem yesterday evening. My sense of balance and perception had been off, but I’d attributed it to being overly tired. No such luck.

It made driving the borrowed pickup truck interesting yesterday since I still don’t have the “feel” for driving large vehicles. As a result, I took out the mailbox while frantically backing out of the top of the driveway when confronted with a UPS van charging up its steep slope. I haven’t felt that way since being chased by a protective cow when I nearly stumbled into her calf.

Suffice it to say the back end of a full size pickup is a lot longer than I realized. Now we need a new mailbox.

Normal also means I can allow my dad to drive on his own and do repair calls solo again. The only reason I was driving on Monday was due to his eye exam for replacement glasses. Irony is that with his pupils artificially dilated, he gets to experience what I do normally in regards to light hurting the eyes.

Still haven’t gotten the headphones apart and will have to wait for my balance to return to mess with them. The way my aching left eardrum reacts to bass, there is no way I’d be able to tolerate them anyway.

Box Elder bugs are out in force, which is yet another sign summer is over. I’m hoping to get some photographs of fall colors later this week since the maples are turning yellow and orange now. My suspicion is that autumn foliage was going to be disappointing again this year, but hope springs eternal.

Not everything has been negative or mandatory the past week. Various Hammer Films DVD sets had their prices lowered on Amazon and I’ve gotten all the early horror films they made I liked, aside from one oddball. The Vulture is a rarity and one of their more absurd movies so I doubt I’ll find it. Correction: Hammer didn’t make it, which explains its lack of availability!

The best thing about this is I get to review my favorite Hammer Film for Halloween. It will be my surprise review and the next one to go up.

Another sign of normality was the coming around of General Conference again. For once I had trouble picking out favorite talks due to the exceptional quality all the way around this time. If I were forced to pick one out it would be Elder Bednar’s talk on tithing which should be mandatory for every Latter-day Saint to see. Anyone wondering how money is handled in the Church will find out it is the same model as how we are advised to run our personal finances.

Well, the ear is hurting so I’m going to wrap the post up. At least doing screen captures doesn’t require sound!

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Whisper of the Heart (1995) Review

An early attempt by Hayao Miyazaki to step back from directing led to this soulful adaptation of a manga about a stubborn middle school student trying to find a direction in life. Filled with trials of school, friendship, family, and even romance, her journey takes her to the most controversial ending in Studio Ghibli history.

Whisper of the Heart Title

Adolescence is a turbulent period in the life due to all the new and confusing situations you encounter. Most of the trouble is in dealing with others while trying to figure out just who you are. This is a tricky balancing act in even the best of circumstances.

In our current culture, that time has extended well past the teens through the twenties to encroach on the thirty something’s. But in 1995 when Whisper of the Heart was released, there was still a desire to mature at an early age though it was fading.

Whisper of the Heart ShizukuWhisper of the Heart Book Cards

Set in a Japanese city, the film greets us with a montage of urban life after the sun has faded and the lights have just flickered on providing the glow that can make night life possible. It’s that period when responsibilities have mostly ended with the promise of things possible wafting through the summer air. Ironically, the Olivia Newton-John version of the song “Country Roads” is used as a backdrop for the cityscape.

Eventually we follow a girl leaving a market and accompany her home to a small family apartment. Shizuku Tsukishima is enjoying her summer break by burying herself in books about fairy tales. But a mystery arises for the middle school student when a name on the checkout card of a book she’s reading seems vaguely familiar. Sure enough, the same name appears on all the books she’s checked out from the library: Seiji Amasawa.

Monday, September 30, 2013

And So It Goes

Life hasn't returned to normal at the Boonedocks, but it is getting closer to what passes for it. My father continues to recover and after seeing the accident scene along with hearing first hand accounts it is obvious he shouldn't have survived. Yet he's up and about, having even attempted a repair call Friday.

I'm behind on things thanks to the events, a screamingly bad back, and little things coming up. Hopefully this week will be different, however it is already looking oddball. As soon as I finish the review of Whisper of the Heart I'm working on, I'll have to move directly into the scary movie theme for Halloween. One rewrite and one new review are all I'm guaranteeing.

Meanwhile, the leaves are turning colors, the winds have cooled, and summer is over without having made much of an appearance. It has simply been a disappointing year in regards to weather and quite a few other things. Good thing that I expected it to be an off year for that has ameliorated the disappointment.

At some point I should do a couple of posts on the two sets of headphones I've recently gotten. One goal for the week is tearing apart the larger Superlux 681 cans to solder in a corrective filter made by chaining resistors and filters. Practice with spare parts will happen first, since I'm a novice at soldering.

Then there are the amazing Noontech Zoro HD portable headphones. No corrective filter needed there, they are simply superb with a neutral bias like studio monitors. I should re-cable them though. For awhile the built in condenser microphone worked with an adapter for PC usage, but then it went into constant static. While it doesn't affect the sound I hear, it makes me wonder about the long term survivability of the cord.

Anyway, I need to get some screen captures for the next review!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Spam from Google?!

Just a short report this time around on a strange referral spam that showed up briefly on my Blogger statistics. This time it was http: // dailydeal . de / gutschein-freizeit-ruhrgebiet-alpincenter-ski-tageskarte-060913

 dailydeal spam 01dailydeal spam 02

Checking out the spam in my trusty virtual machine setup revealed a professional site that held up under further scrutiny. A little research revealed Google owns the company which is a typical special offer promoting kind of place. DailyDeal was purchased by Google in 2011 and is based in Germany. Of course I’m not German, so talk about hitting the wrong target!

Now why would a false referral from a Google company show up in the first place?

This is where things get murky and necessarily go into the realm of speculation. My first thought is that the provider of the deal is trying to goose the results by paying a runner of a botnet to spam the listing. However, it is more likely a competitor to the tour outfit is engaging in negative SEO.

What is negative SEO? Search Engine Optimization is the process where a website builds up presence in Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go, Yahoo, and other search engines on the Web. Much is done by trickery in the HTML coding of a site, making sure keywords (short matches on content) are present in certain amounts.

The most tricky and dangerous optimization involves link exchanges so that it looks like the site is popular. Google has automated algorithms that periodically hunt down any behavior that looks like that. When a detection is made (real or false) an automated penalty is assessed against the webpage. This is all done by software and appealing to a human to quickly straighten out a false penalty is nearly impossible.

That means you can frame a competitor for building up paid links by purchasing said links. This is part of the “black hat” methods to boost your business on the Net by lowering the rankings in search results of your competitor. They can be dropped many pages in ranks by negative SEO.

While it is speculation, there is a higher probability that this referral link is pushed by someone other than the seller of the ski trips than something they did for themselves. However, they may have paid someone for SEO and that company may have engaged in bad practices.

So there is a mystery here that I won’t see solved. There are other possibilities including Blogger/Google getting the stats system screwed up to the point that an error caused the referral to show up.

At least this isn’t a dangerous or hostile site spreading malware.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Posting Slow Down

Since things continue to fall out from the car accident and need attention, I'll be slowing down a bit as far as posting. In the pipeline is one movie review and another referral spammer, but they get done when they get done.

I'd had grand plans for the month of October to fill it with Halloween appropriate reviews. Those plans are shelved and if I get some scary movie reviews done at all I'll be fortunate. Frankly, the original plan was unrealistic as it was and would have involved a giant gorilla theme. Maybe another time.

My father is doing well and getting more mobile, so that's going well.  Me, I need to get some rest.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Not Even Frankenstein Could Raise It Again

RIP Subaru 06RIP Subaru 04

Friday was going reasonably well until I saw a black and white police SUV come down the driveway. When you live out in the countryside, it means something is very wrong. In this case, it was the bearing of news that my father had rolled the car and seemed to be okay, but was being taken to the hospital.

It turns out he lost control just as he was calling me to let me know he was nearly home and would pick me up to visit an ill member of my church. Those plans were dashed with the need to get a ride to La Crosse ASAP. Fortunately, my neighbor Randy was home and so began a tired night at the hospital.

RIP Subaru 01RIP Subaru 02

Talking to the police officer, I’d heard that the car was airborne for at least twenty feet. Today I got a chance to see where the accident happened and can say it was at least twenty feet and quite an impact coming down. My father is extremely lucky to have survived going off the road in that location.

Back to last night, we got to the ER at Gunderson to find my father finishing up being questioned by a state trooper. Speaking to the trooper I was told that Dad’s cellphone had been destroyed in the crash, which explained the old fashioned method of being notified in person.

RIP Subaru 03RIP Subaru 05

Dad was lucid and alert, so began our entertaining the doctor and nurses involved. It might not be the wisest idea to make a doctor laugh while stitching up lacerations, but that’s what we did anyway. Two areas at the eyebrow level required some stitches and more were needed on the right hand where skin had been peeled away by a deep gouge.

At the time, I guessed the windshield had shattered since it was already weakened by the deer collision in June. Today I discovered otherwise, adding to my testimony of the ruggedness of Suburu products. Amazingly all the doors were able to be opened after the accident.

The wounds were caused by my father’s destroyed glasses and cellphone, which was torn in two by the airbag! This was a ruggedized Samsung, so the power of a deployed airbag is something fierce.

RIP Subaru 07RIP Subaru 08

Observation is required for any head injury, so my father had to stay overnight. He got the all clear this morning and we retrieved him this afternoon after salvaging the contents of the Outback. Brand new tires did not survive the event as the photos show.

An outpouring of support and aid has made this a less traumatic event than it could have been. Friends and acquaintances have helped out with me particularly grateful for people visiting my dad during his brief hospitalization. Food being brought has been most welcome as neither of us feel like doing much ambitious.

RIP Subaru 09

Looking back over the years, it is a minor miracle the Subaru survived this long. Far too many miles and collisions with deer happened, but we managed to somehow keep it going. A new round of repairs were planned, but alas we have lost the best car we ever had.

It will be impossible to replace.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Secret Spam

Everybody loves a secret, or so it is said. So it is no surprise that old marketing gimmick of using “secret” somewhere in the pitch showed up in some referral spam in Blogger stats. That means another chance to fire up a virtual machine and do some investigating. Don’t try this at home, kids.

7secretsearch spam 017secretsearch spam 02

http: // www . 7secretsearch . com / is the latest spam to hit and it promises all sorts of secrets to upping your web traffic. The big come on is a form where you can enter your website URL and find out how much it’s worth. Featuring a slick presentation it is an enticing trap, no doubt.

The wrong sized ads showing up in the right sidebar are another giveaway that this isn’t a really a professionally setup website. Poor placement of the title graphic resulted in a banner text ad overlapping it. But the best has to be more Google +1’s than Facebook likes. That is highly implausible, don’t you think?

7secretsearch spam 03

There was no way I’d put my own website in there, so I decided to click on the Amazon entry. An impressive amount of data comes up including that the site has no threats reported and is “SAFE to browse.” Looks kind of legit, until you notice they are using Bing stats only. Yeah, like Amazon isn’t indexed by Google.

That last oversized ad raised a lot of red flags so I clicked on it.


Anytime something pops on a web page that says you need your system scanned, it is time to get out of there immediately. Systweak has been know to present a download of one program that turns out to be another which grants remote access to your PC. They are bad guys who will take your money and mess your computer up.

What I find amusing is that they had this ad show up when I was using Ubuntu to browse the site. Windows errors on a Linux machine is not logical.

So there are layers of shadiness to what’s showing up at 7secretsearch. Avoid at all costs.