Thursday, May 30, 2013

Area 88 Ep. 5: An Unyielding Spirit in Lipstick

An anime original character loosely based on one from the source manga makes her debut in this action filled episode. With their top ace grounded, the mercenaries at Area 88 receive a large surprise when a fighter sweep goes wrong. Forcefully inserting herself into the all male base, a brash newcomer finds her abundant self confidence tested in the lethal skies.

Area 88 Main TitleArea 88 05 Title

The greatest strength of Area 88 lies not in its action sequences, but in its character development. A third of the way into the series and it had already introduced a good number of unique individuals, but lacked a strong female. Wanting to rectify that, the writer and director of the show decided to bring in a new pilot. It’s a well timed introduction given Shin is grounded while waiting for his new fighter.

Area 88 05 Kim in TroubleArea 88 05 Mirage F1

Before the opening credits roll, a tense situation is depicted with the commander of the base, Saki, listening to the combat chatter while watching the radar screen. One of the flights has gotten into a furball and used all their ammunition up. Kim, the young boy flying the Sea Harrier FRS.1, is in trouble and unable to shake the MiG-21 on his tail.

Post credits, things look worse as a warning of a bogey entering the area is immediately followed by a radar warning receiver going off. That indicates a fighter radar has gone into padlock mode to lock a target for a guided missile. Kim prepares to die as the missile streaks in from the unfamiliar plane.

So I’m Thinking of Building an Ark…

…Not because I want to or have been commanded to, but because the rain keeps coming. There is a large amount of water standing in the fields around the county, flash flooding between Caledonia and Hokah last night, and the promise of another round of intense storms this afternoon. It’s reminding me a little of 2007 when the floods hit.

So far there hasn’t been anything quite to that level. However, the ground is past saturated and fields in the valleys are mostly unplanted. I did see some corn planted in higher elevations around Caledonia at least. What little thought toward a garden has been negated by the cold and wet spring we are suffering from. The farmers have far more to worry about though.

The Internet service has been going in and out the last few days and I suspect water is getting into the lines or repeater boxes somewhere. That’s trivial compared to how damaged the driveway is getting. A few more storms and we’ll be able to compete with the Grand Canyon for tourists.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Last Dinosaur (1977) Review

You wouldn’t expect the studio behind Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman to put out a live action monster movie, but that’s exactly what Rankin/Bass Productions did in 1977. Supposedly aimed at older kids, this movie is a great deal more adult in its themes than expected. Ostensibly about a big game hunter getting a chance to hunt a dinosaur, the story is really about being a relic in a changing modern world.

The Last Dinosaur Title

Rankin/Bass Productions had a long running association with Japanese studios with both their animated and stop motion children’s specials being produced in the land of the rising sun. But that wasn’t the only kind of content made for the American producers. In the late 1960s, King Kong Escapes was made as a live action joint production taking advantage of the cheaper suit acting for giant monsters pioneered in Gojira.

In fact, The Last Dinosaur has a direct connection to that classic movie through the special effects studio founded by Eiji Tsuburaya, creator of the effects of the early Godzilla series and television’s Ultraman. Providing all the miniatures and dinosaurs, their work imbues the movie with the kaiju spirit.

The Last Dinosaur Airplane BimboThe Last Dinosaur Airplane

The film opens with a dark room with a home movie comprised of big game hunting footage being shown over a fireplace. Hints of shag rug complete the impression of a 1970s make out den and sure enough when the lights come on it’s there. You will not mistake the setting for another time period, that’s for sure.

A pretty brunette in a pink blouse appears to be the trophy girlfriend of the much older and wealthy owner of the residence. He paws her for a bit before handing her his photo scrapbook to peruse while he goes to check on what the guys up front are doing. A quick pullback reveals that this is a room on a plane, which is very impressive.

Then we find out it is actually a model plane from the external shot. Okay, being just a little snarky there, but sometimes the Japanese use of models to just use models doesn’t look too great and this is one of those occasions.

The credits roll while the young woman leafs through the life of our main character, Masten Thrust, Jr. That name is also a giveaway of which decade this was made in, come to think of it. Played by Richard Boone of Have Gun, Will Travel fame, Masten is a man’s man according to the clever device used to show his backstory. Every page shows a part of his life through photos and newspaper clippings. Even his personality shows via the short and humorous comments on each page.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day 2013


It is a rainy and cold day that adds a somber atmosphere to the day set aside in the United States to remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Many people confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day, but this day is for those fallen in battle. A gloom has fallen on this holiday weekend, traditionally more a time to grill outside and for families to gather from afar.

I feel an odd foreboding today and have no inspiration to write the kind of post I’d like to. Browsing through my photos, I find that ones of the county memorial exist only in my memory and not on my hard drive. Instead, this photo of the M3A3 Stuart tank from World War II on display in Houston will have to suffice.

Many have sacrificed all so that the rest of us can exercise our agency and enjoy freedom. Sadly, I think remembrance of their deeds is fading in our ever more self centered society. I’m grateful for the way they laid down their lives for a greater good and I hope more of my fellow Americans will reflect on the true meaning of the day.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Topblogstories Referral Spam

Another round of spam has hit the blog stats page and this time it is a link to a purported hookup service for the sexually desperate. Okay, it doesn’t say that, but that’s how I view it.

topblogstories . com / led me to this page:

Link to NSFW screen capture, but not pornographic image.

topblogstories . com / 18331&c=3 led to virtually the same page:

Link to NSFW screen capture, but not pornographic image.

Notice the javascript coding picks up where your IP is from. I suspect false advertising given the number of breasts promised.

As usual, do not click on the referrals! I hope your mother warned you about these kinds of girls…

…and hopefully you will warn others about these kinds of spam.

UPDATE: The first link now leads to a topless photo. It may be that they rotate them, but be warned it is now very NSFW!

UPDATE 2: Seeing another round of it with a small variance. Persistent, aren’t they?

topblogstories . com / 7293&c=6

UPDATE 3: Thanks to the efforts of commenter Edgar Bangkok there are more details on the spammers, both methods and probable location in Ukraine. He’s posted detailed analysis at his blog in two posts:

The first one shows how javascript is used on the webpage.

The second post drops shows the topblogstories spammers are now targeting Google Analytics and shows sublinks going to AdultFriendFinder and Damned Love.

If you don’t read Italian, you’ll need to use a translation service such as Google Translate to read his posts.

Slowdown in Reviews

Due to a trip to Indiana and the resulting penalty to my health, I’ve been slow in getting anything serious done for the blog. A new movie review is currently being written and notes to redo the Beowulf review to cover the Blu-ray have been taken. Somewhere in the confusion I forgot to review the fifth episode of Area 88 so that will come after the review in progress.

I’m mulling over the nightmarish task of adding the tag “kaiju” to Japanese giant monster movies, but can’t decide. It isn’t the task that is dissuading me, it is the definition. Would giant monster movies from other countries fit the category? If not, what label for them? And since so few visitors use tags is it worth the effort? Since I put up the index pages I have noticed they get used far more than tags.

Meanwhile, I have upgraded my multimedia PC in the living room to the point where it has replaced the Samsung Blu-ray player for DVD playback. The picture quality of combining a Radeon 7750 based videocard and XBMC software has produced a result that is nothing short of amazing. While not true HD, the image quality has no right to look so good.

There is probably a decent sized blog post in that project and I may write one about the settings, software, and hardware cobbled together. A few screenshots would be appropriate, but I haven’t figured out how to get any out of the Samsung player. That is most likely impossible, which is a pity. The difference is staggering especially close up and the Samsung is no slouch at scaling up DVDs.

Why am I mentioning this in a post about reviews? Out of concern that my take on DVD picture quality is going to change due to the enhancements. What I’ll be seeing will be far better looking than most people will get to view. Yeah, yeah, I can see you are weeping for me having such an awful problem.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Failure Is an Option…

…At least it is where engineering is involved. NASA has successfully tested the privately built Orion capsule with parachutes rigged to fail. While we live in a risk and failure averse society (no lose soccer matches anyone?), science requires failures to advance knowledge and nowhere is that more true than in mechanical engineering. Failures expose weaknesses so that they can be addressed so that tragedies can be avoided as much as possible.

There is a life lesson in that, I think. My failures have taught me more than my successes, so I appreciate the necessity of screwing up from time to time. Maybe not immediately, but once cooled off things can be assessed objectively.

Oddly enough, the anime Space Brothers is going through an arc involving parachute failures right now, so this article leapt out at me even more than the usual aerospace report. Lives will depend on getting this right, so it is good to see the test went very well.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Moral Apathy and the Decline of the Nation

People who know that I am a conservative would probably think I’m celebrating all the bad press the Obama administration is finally getting this week. The long delayed look at the Benghazi terrorist attack and the huge IRS scandal are actually dominating the news right now. I doubt they would if the Feds hadn’t seized Associated Press phone records in an apparent fishing expedition for whistle blowers. No, none of this is happy news or even surprising.

Instead it feels like a continuation of the slow fall of the United States into a completely corrupt government like all before it. This is the death of the dream established by the founders of the nation, so it isn’t a cause for celebration. Frankly, I only see it as a symptom of what’s going on with the American people themselves.

Monday, May 13, 2013

New Page Index for Spam Posts

Since I’ve gotten a lot of views on posts about referral spam on Blogger and not many people click on tags, a new page has been added at the top under the blog title graphic to make it easier to find those posts. Spam, Lovely Spam is the page and also includes links to posts on other scams and spamming.

These aren’t the kind of posts that one would hope would be popular on a blog, simply because it would be a better world if it wasn’t necessary to identify the garbage filling our Blogger referrals. Being a strong believer in service, I’ll continue to add info as new spam shows up.

I’d say read and enjoy, but…

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Weight Loss Referral Spam

It seems to be a week of heavy traffic in Blogger referral spam and I wish there was a diet we could go on to lose it. The latest links to a video from a chiropractor and “wellness expert” calling himself Dr. Charles from Fishers, Indiana.

current . com / 1rhh7kc is the link showing up today, but it has also been showing up in large quantities as www . filmhill . com / redirect . php?url=http:// flf-course . com?a_aid=510d2acc92117&a_bid=6f93443e for some time now.

UPDATE 1: Now it is coming as vk . com / away . php?to=http %3A%2F%2Fflf-course . com%2F%3Fa_aid%3D51893d1ad4b02&post=18068744_31

UPDATE 2: Once again the link has changed, this time to appear to be coming from LinkedIn. www . linkedin . com / redir / redirect?url=http %3A%2F%2F flf-course %2Ecom%3Fa_aid%3D517d0f042c205&urlhash=e75j

UPDATE 3: As of June 26, 2013 a new link has appeared: http:/ /t . co/ MaAptuGFVu that is of course the same video.

UPDATE 4: July has found the video making its way into referrals again, this time as blogsrating . pw/ An interesting thing happened when I loaded the site – it ran a very long load with many blogspot addresses going by in the info bar of the browser. I’m no code expert, but I wonder if it uses every hit on the site to send further referral spam hits to our blogs.

Also, it appears to be using Russian resources, surprise, surprise.

Screen capture of the Current version:

Dr Charles Spam 01

Screen capture of the Filmhill version:

Dr Charles Spam 02

Yep, it’s the same thing with only the sidebar being different.

I should also note I had to “hard” shutdown my virtual Kabuntu session to get out of the second link. Whether that has something to do with my video card drivers or the site I can’t say, but I don’t advise visiting the sites. Besides it’s just another scam to get money out of you.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Ray Harryhausen Died

The master of visual effects Ray Harryhausen was 92. I recently was talking to a high school senior who surprised me because he was trying to remember films he loved as a kid to get on Blu-ray. Those films turned out to be Jason and the Argonauts and the Sinbad movies that were Harryhausen’s babies. I’d watched Clash of the Titans a few weeks back and thought to myself that it was the perfect swan song for his stop motion effects.

The movies he made were magic to me growing up and the creatures may have moved in jerky fashion, but they all had real personalities. In the end, that was the secret to Harryhausen’s success. Somehow he imbued his creations with a feeling that they had emotions in such a way that kids of all ages could instantly connect with them. It made the movies such a delight on a Saturday afternoon.

Ray may be gone, but his spirit remains. If you loved the cave troll in Fellowship of the Ring, that was a true homage in CGI of what he did. So many directors and special effects artists were inspired by him that he’ll never really be gone from cinema.

Now he’s off in the afterlife with his best friend Ray Bradbury probably coming up with some new wild idea to play with on a galactic scale.

Health 5-7-2013

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it is the most mediocre of times.

I finished the antibiotics on Saturday, so of course a deer tick bit me last night. It didn’t wait for the 72 hour period doctors and researchers think is the minimum, it was on me for less than 24 hours guaranteed. Fortunately for me, I found it right after it bit.

My first 2.5 mile walk of the year turned out to be a lot tougher than expected yesterday. The off and on infection has taken far more out of me than realized. Now to get back to weight training – perhaps today if my morning twitch reflex test is any indication. My last blood pressure reading was 134/82 which I consider to be too high even if ill. Moving and functioning should help with that.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Stargate: Continuum (2008) Review

Stargate: SG-1 as a television series ended, but the adventures of the team continued in this direct to DVD and Blu-ray feature film. A nefarious plot by the last remaining major villain leaves the team stranded in an alternate timeline and powerless to affect events. An amazing array of familiar faces from the entire ten year run of SG-1 make this a fan’s dream, but the story and action set Continuum apart from being just an extended episode. UPDATED May 2013 with new screen captures and expanded review.

Stargate Continuum Title

Stargate: SG-1 has played with time travel nearly as much as the Star Trek franchise, usually with superior results (sorry Trekkies). Once again the creative team uses the concept, in this case to show a what if scenario of the Stargate never being used in modern times by the U.S. government. Jack O'Neil makes a return appearance early in the film, as does everyone's favorite System Lord, Ba'al. What follows is one of the darker stories told in the Stargate universe, allowing the entire cast to show off their acting chops.

Stargate Continuum SG1 PreparesStargate Continuum Vala

Director Martin Wood starts the movie off with a bit of fun: a continuous single shot traveling through SG Command. While not quite up to the level of Orson Welles’ famous take in A Touch of Evil, it is pure fan service for longtime followers of the series. Watch for cameos of fan favorite supporting characters who won’t be seen again in the flick.

Eventually the camera catches up to final incarnation of the SG-1 team made up of Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell (Ben Browder), Lt. Colonel Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping), Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks), Teal’c (Christopher Judge), and Vala (Claudia Black) as they prepare for an easy mission for a change.The last clone of the last of the Goa’uld System Lords, Ba’al, has been captured and slated for “extraction.” Okay, if you aren’t a fan of the series, the preceding sentence made absolutely no sense, right?

Friday, May 03, 2013

Nook HD to Get Google Play!

This is very good news for owners of Nook HD and Nook HD+ tablets. Barnes & Noble is not doing well and there was talk of spinning the Nook off from the main company if a buyer could be found. That would have meant being locked into their software and content store which could go under at any moment.

Instead the full Google App experience is going to come to the Nook HD:

Faster Web Browsing with Chrome: As Web browsing continues to be among the most popular tablet activities, NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ now feature the Chrome browser for fast start up and page loading and an unlimited number of tabs open at once. Customers can even sync bookmarks across any device with Chrome.

Google Search, Gmail, YouTube and Google Maps: Customers will have instant access to Google Search, Gmail, YouTube and Google Maps, now built in to NOOK HD or NOOK HD+. Sync calendars across multiple devices and check email from any account including Exchange, Yahoo! and Hotmail.

This will be rather nice since it will all work with the built in user interface, which I like but cannot use in my semi-hacked Nook HD. Apex Launcher has been installed to allow access to my non B&N apps. I’ve actually been using Google Play since early January and for the most part it has worked well. One thing that I hope is improved is compatibility checks with apps. Some don’t understand that the Nook HD is more than powerful enough to run them.

I use my Nook HD everyday and love the thing. Fast, light, and a beautiful screen in a 7” format have made it my perfect tablet for reading, research, and Sunday school teaching. Have I mentioned I love the thing?

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Defeat and Victory

If there is one thing that can be said about high technology is that when it works it is like magic and when it doesn’t it feels like a curse – or cursing. So I’ve been dealing with an ugly side effect of upgrading to the GeForce 650 TI this week. Every game I’ve thrown at it has run faster and looked prettier with two exceptions. They would be Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3.

Neither will run. The best I can get out of them is a slideshow after the intro movies. Neither can connect with EA’s servers and the moment 3D graphics are used they run about 1 frame every 2-5 seconds.

Normally I can solve such a problem on my own or by browsing gaming forums. Not this time. Every trick and tweak known has been tried including:

  • Reinstalling the games.
  • Installing Nvidia’s latest beta driver.
  • Reinstalling DirectX 9.0c.
  • Reinstalling PhysX.
  • Setting processor affinity via task manager.
  • Setting processor affinity via a utility.
  • Running windowed.
  • Running with the resolution low and all the pretty settings at lowest.
  • Glaring balefully in the direction of the games.
  • Deleting save games and imported settings from previous installments.

My suspicions lean toward bad PhysX coding in the game, but from all the complaints online about something having changed for the worst in recent months one has to wonder.

What’s really ironic is the more temperamental first Mass Effect runs beautifully. Of course it is on Steam…

I give up. It is rare to be defeated this way and it is very disappointing. Time to remove the games from my drive and gain a huge amount of space back since I have all the DLCs.

Some of the aggression I felt after that went into tearing my PC apart to install an intake fan Gateway never bothered to. It involved snipping rivets (and using a Dremel on two) to remove rails for hard drives plus unplugging just about everything that could be unplugged. Nearly three hours of fighting and fuming later the new fan is working nicely.

The air flow has always been suspect in the case and now it should be just dandy. Now to test how gaming temps go, though the cold front threatening snow make it a little harder to verify.

Nearly 2000 Movies Taken Off Netflix

Checking the news this morning revealed that Warner is removing 1794 movies from Netflix’s streaming service. It reminded me of an argument I had a few years ago with my brother-in-law about Netflix having a future via streaming. My position was that the studios would eventually shut them down by starting their own pay services.

Sure enough it has begun despite Disney’s earlier exclusive deal with Netflix. A month ago (or was it two) I was notified that Warner had started a streaming service of its own, Warner Instant Archive for $9.99 a month. I occasionally purchase made to order DVDs from them so it was not a surprise to get an email from them. The collection is all older movies – for the moment. I expect that to change over time.

BTW, a lot of content is shown as available in 1080p HD. I can’t say it is tempting enough to merit $10 a month, which works out to $120 a year. Other services such as Hulu Plus and Crunchyroll are available at cheaper rates while Sony has a free service, Crackle. Maybe the service will fall in line with them eventually, but it is hard to tell.

Roku and PC are what’s supported at the moment via Microsoft’s Silverlight technology, which was a surprise since Flash dominates the streaming industry. This is another nail in the coffin for Adobe’s fading standard as the Web transitions slowly due to Apple’s refusal to support Flash in iPads and iPhones.

Rumors have been floated that HBO might start an online only subscription service for their shows, so this is not an isolated incident. We’ll be seeing more fragmentation in services as time goes by since studio executives blame streaming for loss of revenues from DVD and Blu-rays. They want profits to go back up or go entirely to them. Hulu may not survive if it is finally sold off since the content won’t be included thanks to this kind of reasoning.

I wonder which studio will be next to launch their own service?