Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Matter of Scale

This morning I began wondering how a bacterium living on a human being would compare, in scale, to a human being living on the Earth. Before I present you with the actual comparisons, first we need some dry facts:
  • An average cell of E. coli is 2 µm long, 0.5 µm in circumference, and 0.6 µm3 in volume.[1][2]
  • An average adult human being is 1.7 m tall [3], 96 cm in circumference [4], and 0.07 m3 in volume.[5]
  • The Earth is (on average) 12,742 km in diameter; 40,075 km in circumference; and 1.08 trillion km3 in volume.[6]
And for fun:
  • The moon is (on average) 1737 km in diameter; 10,921 km in circumference; and 22 billion km3 in volume.[7]
Now for the calculations:

Monday, June 24, 2013

Television Review: Once Upon a Time…, Season 2

The first season of Once Upon a Time…[1] was intriguing because it took the LOST formula of developing characters through flashbacks and applied them to fairy tale characters before and after they were cursed into our world (and simultaneously had their memories wiped). In this season the curse has been partially lifted and the characters all remember who they are. However, there are still some fairy tales that the show hasn't tapped.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Television Review: Elementary, Season 1

I must admit, when I first read that in this incarnation of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries that Dr. Watson was going to be played by a Chinese-American woman (Lucy Liu), I was skeptical. However, I felt like they've handled that alteration of the basic storyline pretty well. Leann and I got sucked into this series pretty quickly and it was one of our favorite shows during this last fall–spring schedule (along with Arrow [1]).

Movie Review: Skyfall

I don't think I've watched any of the James Bond movies made before 1995 (Goldeneye) all the way through. So my major experience with the franchise has been with Pierce Brosnan in the role of James Bond. But he was always a little bit cheesy in the role. Casino Royale, a reboot of the franchise with Daniel Craig in the main role, was a breath of fresh air. It was edgy and made James Bond a character instead of a caricature. This is the third film to star Craig as James Bond.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Many Movie Reviews III

In this round of concatenated movie reviews I'll be discussing the chamber play-like film, Arsenic and Old Lace. After that is Ballet Shoes, a BBC production of a popular story about three plucky orphans adopted by an old fossil collector. Next is The Black Stallion, which is about a young boy and his horse. The Bourne Legacy follows, which is kind of a "side-quel" to the Bourne trilogy. After that is Dinosaur Wars, a documentary about the so-called "Bone Wars" between the paleontologists Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope (and to a lesser extend Joseph Leidy).[1][2] Then I review Flawless, a 2007 thriller about a daring diamond heist concoted by a janitor and an underappreciated female executive. This is followed by I Am Number Four, a film about a refugee alien hiding on our planet. Strangely enough, the film rights were bought a year and a half before the source material (a book by "Pittacus Lore") was even published.[3] After that is Ink, an independently-produced fantasy film that actually became commercially succesful as a result of illegal sharing on peer-to-peer networks.[4] In succession I consider the merits of the time-travel romance Kate & Leopold. Next up is The Secret of NIMH, an animated feature that I was quite fond of as a child. Then we have Skyline, a low-budget rip-off of Battlefield: Los Angeles.[5] In fact, the guys that did the special effects for Battlefield: Los Angeles were the directors of this movie. And, taking a cue from The Asylum [6], they whipped out this 'mockbuster' four months before the release of Battlefield: Los Angeles. Next up is the comic book adaptation, Thor. This is followed by my thoughts on the  steampunk western action-comedy film, Wild Wild West. Last we have The Woman in Black, ostensibly a ghost story but really just an attempt by Daniel Radcliffe to escape his Harry Potter past.[7]

Warning: There are a lot of spoilers. Rather than hide them all, I'm warning you here. Proceed at your own discretion.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Movie Review: Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus

I used to see this film (by The Asylum, who usually specialize in spitting out 'mockbusters' a few months before the blockbuster they're intended to capitalize on) hanging out in the RedBox machine. (It's been a while since I patronized RedBox, so it's possible that it's still there.) But I never got around to renting it. Then signed up for Netflix. Netflix had it, too, so I put it in my queue, but never got around to watching it. Then we got cable television. And I found it again. So, I recorded it and (hopefully you've guessed it) this time I watched it.

Fitchburg Days

Before Leann's parents came to visit and then take her and Lilli on a two-week trip to Texas [1], we took Lilli to the Fitchburg Days fair. Fitchburg is a suburb of Madison that lies to the South. We live so close to Fitchburg that we can walk to the boundary between the two cities in a matter of minutes. Strangely, according to the boundaries drawn by Google Maps we don't live in Madison or Fitchburg. Anyway, Fitchburg Days ran from May 17–19 and that Saturday we took Lilli because there was going to be a free 'animal interaction' put on by the Heartland Farms Animal Sanctuary.[2]

A Brief Return to Bachelorhood

A few weeks ago Leann's parents came up to visit and then when they left they took Leann and Lilli with them. They were in Texas for two weeks, but I had to stay in Madison for work. Here are some of the things I did while they were gone (and when I wasn't working).

Friday, June 14, 2013

Product Review: Nestlé: 和苺 (wa-ichigo) Kit-Kat

The Japanese word 苺 (ichigo) means "strawberry".[1] The package says 和苺, but 和 (wa) means "peace"/"harmony", "sum", or "Japanese".[2] A similar-looking character, 味 (aji), however, means "flavor" or "taste.[3] So I'm unsure what to think. Are they trying to say this a harmonious strawberry Kit Kat? A Japanese strawberry Kit Kat? Or did someone mess up and it's supposed to say strawberry-flavored Kit Kat? Interestingly, the first two options could refer to the fact that a specific Japanese variety of strawberry, the Tochiotome (とちおとめ) strawberry, is used. According to enthusiasts [4], the Tochiotome strawberry has a perfect harmony of sweetness and tartness. So maybe this is a Japanese harmonious strawberry-flavored Kit Kat?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Television Review: Arrow, Season 1

The CW's Arrow was written and filmed to have a gritty, urban realism like Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. In fact, there are too many parallels with Batman: when Oliver Queen (a.k.a. the Green Arrow) isn't crimefighting, he's a rich playboy; he has an underground lair; he uses technology, but not guns; it looks like he's about to pick up a young, metrosexual sidekick; his decision to become a crimefighter is informed by the death of a parent; and in the comic books he even has an Arrow-plane (yeah, they went there).

Television Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season 5

Well, thanks to Leann and Lilli going to visit family in Texas for two weeks, I'm finally caught up on Star Wars: The Clone Wars.[1] It has been announced that all the episodes for a sixth season were completed before the Star Wars franchise was sold to Disney and those will somehow be made available (possibly by being broadcast on a Disney-owned channel), but there probably won't be a seventh.[2] However, there is a hint that a new animated Star Wars series will be produced.[3] I certainly hope to see the sixth season of the current series, but I'm also willing to acknowledge that this season left things at a reasonably decent stopping point (see below). So if this season ended up being the last hurrah, I wouldn't be disappointed to see it end here.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Book Review: Ishmael

[This is a guest book review from my dad. The footnotes are mine.]

I read the book, Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn, at the suggestion of a colleague of mine who had read it. The quick-and-dirty substance of the book is the angst of a lost child of the 1960s whose desire to change the world was not realized. In a hard-to-believe scenario, he falls under the spell of a telepathic gorilla.[1] To wander further down the path of unbelievability, the monkey has been educated by a wealthy Jew who has purchased him. The Jew dies and his surviving spinster daughter continues to be the monkey’s patron until she dies, at which time he is sold to a circus. The storyline, as dictated by the gorilla, is that through the evolutionary process, from the lightning strike in the primordial ooze to present day, everything was all right until a faction of the Homo sapiens line decided to abandon the wandering tribal life (the “leavers”) to form an agrarian society. This society then proceeds to destroy the whole system in their quest for stability. The endgame of the book is that the unfulfilled, lost, 60s throwback fails again to find fulfillment in saving the world and the bad guys (the “takers” [2]) win again, only to face the specter of the telepathic monkey’s prophecy that they will self-consume as a society.[3]

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Television Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season 4

Those of you who know me know that I am a big fan of Star Wars. When this cartoon series began, I was quite excited and diligently watched each new episode as it came out.[1] But since then I've fallen behind, and since then the series has wrapped up. Apparently there is more material, but further work on the series has been cancelled following the sale of the Star Wars franchise to Disney.[2] It is unclear how that material will be made available to the public.