Wednesday, September 30, 2009 Zimbabwean Goat-Boy

From some Australian rag:
"Evil powers created half-man, half-goat creature"

The Daily Telegraph
September 28, 2009 11:30am

AN African village is reportedly shellshocked after the birth of a bizarre faun-like creature said to have the combined features of a man and a goat.

Bild reports the creature, which died just a few hours after birth in Lower Gweru, Zimbabwe, had a huge head and face which resembled a human, as well as goat legs and a tail.

Villagers said the end product was so scary even dogs were afraid to go close to it. They burned the corpse fearing it was an evil sign.

"This is indeed a miracle that has never been witnessed anywhere," elder Themba Moyo said.

The goat's owner called police after the birth.

"It’s the first time that my goat did this. I have 15 goats and it’s this goat that gave me birth to most of them. My goats often give birth to sets of twins," he said.

The Zimbabwe Guardian reports that Midlands Governor and Resident Minister Jason Machaya is adamant the creature is the result of a coupling between man and goat.

"This incident is very shocking. It is my first time to see such an evil thing. It is really embarrassing," he reportedly said.

"The head belongs to a man while the body is that of a goat. This is evident that an adult human being was responsible. Evil powers caused this person to lose self control.

"We often hear cases of human beings who commit bestiality but this is the first time for such an act to produce a product with human features."

A vet didn't have the chance to investigate the creature, but after inspecting photos, he told Bild he believed it was a child suffering from hydrocephalus, or water on the brain.

"The condition would have accounted for the abnormally large skull and for the chin, nose, ears and other body parts having shifted during development," he reportedly said.

Half-man, half-goat creatures like fauns and satyrs are popular in Greek and Roman mythology.
Why, yes, there is a picture. Are you really sure you want to see it?

Click on the image for a larger version.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 Heleecupter Heeest Bork Bork Bork

Ive been away for a week house-sitting in a home with no internet access. Never let me do that again.

The real problem with taking some time off is that the really cool stories resolve themselves before you have a chance to talk about them. From The Local, an English-language Swedish news site:
Stockholm cash depot hit by helicopter heist

23 Sep 09 07:48 CET

Robbers used a helicopter to carry out a spectacular theft at a cash depot south of Stockholm early Wednesday morning.

Several powerful explosions were heard in the early hours on Wednesday coming from the G4S security company’s facilities in Västberga, south of Stockholm. Among other things, the building houses a cash depot.

Police received a call about the incident at 5.19am.

The chief of police for the southern district in Stockholm, Ulrika Lönngren, who has her office in Västberga, reported hearing several loud explosions and a helicopter hovering above the depot.

The helicopter later left the area and headed north, said Lönngren.

“The helicopter landed on the roof. Then they entered the building by breaking some windows. Next, several explosions were heard from within the building, and then they were seen loading things into the helicopter and lifting off,” she told the TT news agency.

The entire area surrounding the G4S facility has been cordoned off and police have set up a command centre at a nearby petrol station, where a large number of officers, police dogs, and emergency vehicles have gathered.

An officer on the scene told TT that the robbers rappelled down from the helicopter as it hovered above the roof and then entered the building using sledgehammers or something similar to break through the roof.

Caltraps - spikes spread across the road to burst car tyres - had been placed near the facility in an attempt to complicate efforts by police to approach the scene.

According to the southern district police, Sweden’s National Task Force, a paramilitary tactical unit within the National Criminal Investigation Department (Rikskriminalpolisen) is involved in the investigation.

The entire operation lasted about 20 minutes, but it remains unclear if the robbers made off with anything, police spokesperson Björn Engström said.

Police helicopters located on nearby Värmdö were unable to be used in response to the robbery, prompting suspicions that they had been sabotaged.

But Engström said that the helicopters hadn’t been damaged. Rather, they found a bag marked "bomb" near the helicopters forcing officers to inspect the bags and the helicopters before attempting to take off, the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper reports.

Police have confirmed the helicopter used in the heist, a Bell 206 Jet Ranger, was stolen overnight from a helicopter hangar near Norrtälje north of Stockholm.

Later Wednesday morning the helicopter was found near Arninge about 30 kilometres north of the crime scene.

According to Lönngren, there were between 10 and 20 employees working in the cash depot at the time of the heist, many of whom were involved in counting money. They are now being interviewed by police.

The manager of the depot, Roy Gierde, told the Aftonbladet newspaper that there is a high likelihood the robbers were caught on film.

"We have cameras everywhere," he told the newspaper.

G4S is a security and cash handling company with operations in over 110 countries and 530,000 employees worldwide.

The company employs about 1,000 people in Sweden, where it handles large amounts of cash for businesses and banks.

The Stockholm-area depot holds cash for several banks and shops in and around the Swedish capital.
tl;dr version: A gang of criminals robbed a cash depository containing up to $146 million. They landed a stolen helicopter on the building and either entered through the windows or broke in through the roof. The robbers also used caltrops and fake bombs to delay police pursuit. A timeline of the robbery can be found here.

This is some serious James Bond shit. It'd be even cooler if six men hadn't already been arrested in connection to the raid, or if the Serbian police hadn't tipped off their Swedish counterparts about the robbery well in advance (even though they got the time and place wrong). Still, mega points for planning out such a ballsy heist, holding the fuzz at bay without actually endangering any of them, and including a renowned martial arts expert in the gang for no apparent reason other than the sheer badassness of it.

By the way, there's a Firefox add-on that will translate any page into Swedish Chef. God bless the intrawebs.

Saturday, September 19, 2009 Bulletproof Undies for the Win!

Yay! One step closer to my superhero suit! From CNN Money via Wired's Danger Room:
A Kevlar killer comes to market

With help from the Pentagon, a carbon nanotubes innovator takes on DuPont.
By Malika Zouhali-Worrall
September 17, 2009: 1:27 PM ET

(Fortune Small Business) -- Few entrepreneurs plan to shoot their product down. For David Lashmore, it was a necessity.

Lashmore's company, Nanocomp Technologies, is the first in the world to make sheets of carbon nanotubes -- microscopic tubes stronger than steel but lighter than plastic. The Pentagon has financed much of the Concord, N.H., firm's work; stakes include the $500 million U.S. market for body and vehicle armor, which is currently dominated by DuPont's Kevlar.

In April, Lashmore had a mechanical multicaliber gun shoot bullets at different versions of his sheet, each less than a fifth of an inch thick, at a speed of 1,400 feet per second. Four sheets were breached, but three showed no damage. Lashmore and his 35 employees were ecstatic.

"We didn't expect it to work at all," he admits.

Carbon nanotubes are not new. The superstrong molecules have excited scientists since the early 1990s. In theory, they could be used to build superlight cars or aircraft. But it proved difficult to grow nanotubes longer than 20 microns (one-fifth the width of a human hair). You could get the stuff only as a powder that was used to make tennis rackets and bicycles.

In 2003, Lashmore started experimenting with carbon nanotubes at a high-tech incubator. A year later he was making nanotubes 1,000 microns long.

That got the attention of Peter Antoinette, the former CEO of a high-tech materials company, and the pair founded Nanocomp in 2004. They developed a patent-pending system, controlled by a computer, that could produce large quantities of one-millimeter nanotubes. This was long enough to start making yarn and sheets.

More than 80% of Nanocomp's revenue, at least $10 million this year, comes from the Pentagon. "We're funding them more than we've ever funded any fiber project," says engineer Philip Cunniff at the Army's Research, Development and Engineering Center in Natick, Mass.

Army tests show the material works as well as Kevlar. The military also hopes to replace copper wiring in planes and satellites with highly conductive nanotubes, saving millions of dollars in fuel costs.

Within four years, Antoinette says, he will be producing the nanotube textile for upward of $10 per 35-gram sheet. The price of Kevlar varies wildly depending on the application, but Nanocomp will probably have to reduce costs to roughly $1 a sheet to be competitive. (DuPont makes 50,000 tons of Kevlar a year.)

Still, experts are optimistic. "They've solved a lot of problems," says Ray Baughman, director of the NanoTech Institute at the University of Texas at Dallas. "It's a relatively near-term product."

DuPont may soon have trouble shooting it down.
If you can't wait for a superhero costume that's actually bulletproof, you can always order one from here. Just don't come crying to me after the baddies pump nine's into your ass.

Friday, September 18, 2009 Deen Ditans!

There's a Teen Titans marathon on Cartoon Network right now. I never paid much attention to the show before, but it's pretty fun. However, every time their version of Robin is on the screen, I can't help but think of this disturbing image:

And then I have to look away from the screen and think of puppies or something.

Zombie Video Game Faces New Controversy

Speaking of zombies, and I always do, the video game Left 4 Dead 2 has been banned in Australia. Of particular concern was the graphic violence dished out by players on "‘the Infected‘ who are living humans infected with a rabies-like virus that causes them to act violently." Apparently, Australians have trouble discerning the living from the living dead, which is bad news for Australians.

What's odd is that L4D2 gets banned for, essentially, being a zombie video game when a similar game charged with racist imagery got a free pass.

This isn't the first bit of controversy surrounding L4D2. A bunch of angry geeks set up a boycott of the game and its developer. Apparently, they decided - months before the game was released - that it would not have enough content to justify an entire separate release and instead should have been given away as a free upgrade to everyone who purchased the original Left 4 Dead. At least, until a couple of the groups' organizers got a free trip to Seattle. (The sad thing is they probably didn't even need attention from some E3 booth babes to buy them off.)

None of this affects me. I don't mind being beaten, shot, stabbed, crushed, run over, or dropped into the abyss. But I will not play any video game in which I get eaten.

When Monkeys Attack!

We've been keeping an eye on the Zombie Menace and the Robot Threat, and left ourselves totally exposed to the Simian Peril.
Monkey pushes woman who wouldn't share off cliff

By staff writers
September 18, 2009 01:09pm

A MONKEY has pushed a woman off a cliff

The woman, 60-year-old Zhou Juchang, made the claim after winding up at the bottom of a seven-metre rockface, fracturing her hip and breaking three ribs.

Now she’s suing her travel agent, who organised her trip into China’s Chengdu Wildlife Park.

The monkey allegedly flew into a rage when the woman refused to hand over the bag of monkey food which her tour guide recommended she buy.

A spokesman for the park said the woman’s mistake was showing fear.

"If you show fear a monkey will bully you," he told London’s Metro.

Words of wisdom in that last sentence. Words of wisdom.

In other woman-in-peril news, do you want to see pictures of someone impaled through the neck by a tree branch? Fox News has you covered. They're still working on a way to blame Obama for it, though.

Thursday, September 17, 2009 What Lurks in the Blue Hill?

Probably just a sloth. From Panama's Channel 13 via Loren Coleman's Cryptomundo blog:
Hallan criatura extraña en Cerro Azul

Por : Denise Lara
Martes 15 de septiembre de 2009

El hallazgo de una extraña criatura en Cerro Azul ha despertado polémica entre la población, pues mientras algunos aseguran que puede tratarse de un ser de otro planeta, otros creen simplemente que es un animal.

Cuatro adolescentes de entre 14 y 16 años, se encontraron con él en el Chorro de Cerro Azul, el pasado sábado, mientras se divertían en el lugar.

Según relató uno de ellos, de pronto vieron que la criatura salía de una cueva ubicada detrás del chorro de agua. Al ver su apariencia y que ésta comenzó a escalar sobre las piedras hacia uno de ellos, se asustaron y comenzaron a apedrearlo y tirarle palos, logrando matarlo, luego de lo cual lo tiraron al agua y salieron huyendo.

Behold the power of Google language tools!
Strange creature found in Cerro Azul

By Denise Lara
Tuesday September 15, 2009

The discovery of a strange creature in Cerro Azul has aroused controversy among the people, for while some say it may be a being from another planet, others simply believe that is an animal.

Four teenagers aged between 14 and 16 years, met him at the Jet Blue Hill, on Saturday, while having fun in the place.

As recounted one of them, they suddenly saw the creature emerging from a cave located behind the water jet. At her appearance and it began to climb over the rocks to one of them panicked and began to thrash him and throw sticks, getting killed, after which they threw into the water and ran.

Now, I would have beat cheeks immediately upon seeing such a creature. But I would not have tried to kill it. First of all, it may have been a friendly monster, like E.T. or Gamera or the Blob after he's had a few and starts missing his ex-wife. Second, it may have been only a baby critter, and killing it would piss the hell out of its much larger and much more ferocious momma. And third but most important, you can't be certain that the creature's fatal weakness is rocks hurled by teenage boys. While your buddies are experimenting, you're missing out on valuable escape time. Hey, someone has to warn the village!

I swear I've seen my brother in the exact same position the night after a party.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 Random Notes 9/16/09

Dear Universe,

Please, please, please make it so the recently-announced Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is not actually based on the wonderful Tim Powers novel of the same name. Yes, the first movie was fun. And yes, it would be nice for Powers to get a huge check. But John Travolta and Miley Cyrus will be in it. And that's terrible.



The US release of the third series of The IT Crowd came out yesterday. You should buy it.

Of course, the art for the US release is a bit more generic than that of the UK version:

Which is completely understandable, given that the show is a hit in the UK and all but unknown here. We wouldn't want any BestMart employees stocking it in the anime section, God help us. Still, I don't think I'll pick up the US release like I originally planned. The UK disc is about the same price, and as I already have the R2 versions of the first couple of seasons, it'll keep things consistent.

And the Limited Internet in a Box Edition kicks both their asses, any way.


"John Lennon" smiling in the commercial for The Beatles Rock Band is THE CREEPIEST THING EVER.

Did you see that? Man. Creepier than Yoko nekkid.


As part of the publicity for the upcoming Zombieland (please don't suck), the official website has an article by's Chris Bucholz on How Iconic Movie Characters Would Deal with a Zombie Attack. It's funny. Not as funny as The IT Crowd, but there you go.

I really hope the movie doesn't suck.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 I'm Not a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here

Yes, it's deplorable and despicable and those responsible should be horse-whipped harumph-harumph. Still, I can't help admiring the ingenuity of it. From the Guardian:
Nine women rescued from fake Big Brother house in Turkey

Captives tricked into believing they were reality TV show contestants and filmed naked, say reports

Associated Press
Thursday 10 September 2009 13.12 BST

Turkish military police said today that they had stormed an Istanbul villa to rescue nine women held captive after being tricked into believing they were reality TV show contestants.

The women were rescued on Monday from the villa in Riva, a summer resort on the outskirts of Istanbul, according to a spokesman for the military police in the region who carried out the raid. He said the women were held captive for around two months, but refused to provide further details.

The women were led to believe they were being filmed for a Big Brother-type television programme, according to the Dogan news agency and other news reports. Instead, their naked images were sold on the internet by their captors.

The women had responded to an ad seeking contestants for a reality show which would be aired on a major Turkish television station, Dogan said. The nine captives, including a teenager, were selected from other applicants following an interview.

They were made to sign a contract which stipulated that they could have no contact with their families or the outside world, and would have to pay a fine of 50,000 Turkish lira (£20,000) if they left the show in the first two months, the agency reported.

Dogan and HaberTurk newspaper both reported that the women realised they were being duped and asked to leave the villa. According to Dogan, they were told they could not leave unless they paid the fine. Those who insisted were threatened.

There were conflicting reports as to how the raid occurred. The Dogan agency said that police stormed the villa after family members complained to police that they were being prevented from contacting the women. The women cried for help when the military police arrived at the villa, it reported.

HaberTurk said, without providing sources, that one of the women managed to contact a family member and ask for help.

There were also conflicting accounts concerning the age of the teenager. Dogan said she was 16, while HaberTurk newspaper gave her age as 15.

HaberTurk reported that the girls were models from the Mediterranean resort of Antalya and the Aegean port city of Izmir.

"We were not after the money but we thought our daughter could have the chance of becoming famous if she took part in the contest," one captive's mother is quoted as saying. "But they have duped us all."

She said the women were not abused or harassed sexually, but that they were told to fight each other, to wear bikinis and to dance by the villa's pool.

HaberTurk said police had detained four people who lived with the women at the villa at all times. They were released from custody pending the outcome of a trial. Their identities were not released and it was not known what charges were brought.

It is not unusual for Turkish courts to release suspects from custody if the charges brought do not carry long prison sentences, and the suspects are not likely to escape or tamper with evidence.

HaberTurk said the police were still looking for the gang's leader who, according to the report, sold images of the women on the internet.

Police refused to comment on the suspects or the charges.
The Daily Mail has pictures of the house. And the ladies involved. Of course.

Highlander vs. the Burglar

From today's Baltimore Sun:
John Hopkins student kills intruder with samurai sword, police say

Off-campus house was burglarized Monday; suspect recently freed from county jail

By Liz F. Kay and Brent Jones Baltimore Sun reporters

2:45 p.m. EDT, September 15, 2009

A Johns Hopkins University student armed with a samurai sword killed a man who broke into the garage of his off-campus residence early Tuesday, a Baltimore police spokesman said.

According to preliminary reports, a resident of the 300 block of E. University Parkway called police about a suspicious person, department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. An off-duty officer responded about 1:20 a.m. to the area with university security, according to Guglielmi. They heard shouts and screams from a neighboring house and found the suspected burglar suffering from a nearly severed hand and laceration to his upper body, he said.

The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene. Based on the initial investigation, the student killed the man with only one strike of the sword, according to Guglielmi. The medical examiner will make the final determination, he said.

The student told police that he heard a commotion in the house and went downstairs armed with the sword, Guglielmi said. He saw the side door to the garage had been pried open and found a man inside, who lunged at the student. There was no indication that the suspected burglar was armed, however, according to Guglielmi.

Burglars had already stolen two laptops and a Sony PlayStation from the student's home Monday, Guglielmi said.

Dennis O'Shea, a spokesman for Johns Hopkins, said all four residents of the house are undergraduate students at the university. Police had released three of the roommates by Tuesday afternoon. The student who wielded the sword remained in custody while investigators worked to corroborate his story with evidence and witness statements. Police have not released the name of the residents, but department sources identified the detained student as John Pontolillo, 20, of Wall, N.J.

The city state's attorney's office will determine whether to press charges, Guglielmi said.

Police have also not formally released the name of the suspected burglar, but a department source identified the man as Donald D. Rice, 49, of the 600 block of E. 27th St. in Baltimore. Guglielmi said the suspect had 29 prior convictions for crimes such as breaking and entering, and had been released Saturday from the Baltimore County Detention Center after he was arrested by county police in August 2008 for stealing a car in Baltimore. Rice was found guilty in December on one count of unauthorized removal of property, and he was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Michael Hughes of the 3400 block of University Place, about a block away from the scene, said he was working at his home when he heard screams shortly after 1 a.m.

"I could hear the fear in the voice, and I could tell someone was scared," said Hughes, 43, who works for Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Hughes said he called police and could hear sirens as he was on the phone. He walked over to the crime scene shortly after.

"The body was near the garage. And I watched them carry the sword out. The whole thing was surreal and totally bizarre," Hughes said.

By Tuesday afternoon, two pools of blood remained on the ground a few feet away from the door to the garage, which is not connected to the home. A door to a wooden fence surrounding the back yard was broken, allowing the scene to be viewed from the sidewalk.

The three-story house has five bedrooms and two bathrooms, according to Diego Ardila, a junior at Hopkins. Ardila said he lived in the house during the summer and was a roommate of two of the people that currently live there.

Ardila, 19, said one of the roommates owned a samurai sword and generally kept it in his room. Ardila described the student as somewhat outgoing, although they did not speak frequently.

"He kept the sword on top of his cabinet," Ardila said.

Five people lived at the house during the summer, according to Ardila, who now lives a few blocks away.

"You don't expect to hear that someone you know killed a guy with a samurai sword. From what little I know of him, he wasn't some guy going out to kill," Ardila said.

Guglielmi said it is legal to possess a sword in Baltimore, and "individuals have a right to defend their person and their property." But the police spokesman said he was not in a position to comment on whether it was appropriate to use a sword, baseball bat or other means of defense.

Rice was arrested Sept. 25, 2006, for operating a stolen vehicle. Inside the vehicle, police found a camera bag with video tapes that had been taken from a home in the 200 block of E. University Parkway, which was ransacked a month before when someone broke in through a back window, according to court records. The intruder stole luggage, a laptop computer, a video camera, two digital cameras, and the black camera bag.

Rice was charged in both incidents, and received five months in jail -- or time served -- for the theft, court records show.

On Dec. 14, 2007, police on patrol in the 400 block of E. 27th St. saw Rice, who the officers wrote looked suspicious and was fumbling with something in his jacket pocket, court records show. When an officer approached, Rice pulled a loaded Rohm .22-caliber handgun, which the officer was able to grab.

Rice was charged with several weapons charges, but prosecutors dropped the case in Circuit Court in July 2008 after one of the officers -- who was deployed overseas with the military -- could not attend a court hearing, according to the state's attorney's office.

Sunday, September 13, 2009 Things I Found Looking For Something Else #7

While looking for more information on the Hobbit House of Culver City, I chanced across this article:

Manila's Hobbit House bar: Full of little people and a big love

Ex-Peace Corps volunteer Jim Turner rescued dwarfs from the Philippine capital's harsh streets and gave them a place to call home. Now they can't imagine life without him.

By John M. Glionna
August 10, 2009

Reporting from Manila, Philippines - Every night without fail, Jim Turner is there at the far corner of the bar, chain-smoking his Marlboros and sipping ice-cold San Miguel from the bottle, watching over the Little Ones.

He considers them family, but they're not his children. They're the dwarfs and other little people the 70-year-old Iowa native has rescued from the heartless streets of this capital city to offer them friendship and honest work.

For 35 years, the former Peace Corps volunteer has operated the Hobbit House, a bar themed on J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy novels, a realm marked by all things miniature.

Under his care, hundreds of dwarfs have adopted new cultural identities. They're no longer shunned or even feared as supposed evil spirits, but have become popular characters called hobbits -- merry figures who serve drinks, crack ribald jokes and even entertain onstage.

At Turner's bar, on a dingy block of strip clubs and speak-easies in central Manila, the dwarfs draw a loyal crowd. They're entertainers who get the joke, always ready to use their small size for a few good-natured laughs.

The Hobbit House features what may be the world's smallest Elvis impersonator. There have been hobbit jugglers, comics, dancers, flame-eaters and a singer who sounded eerily like Frank Sinatra.

Many of the waiters and bartenders are the grandchildren of the dwarfs who helped Turner launch the bar. There's now even a second location, at a tourist resort in the central Philippines.

Yet critics have accused Turner of exploiting his workers. Stubbing out a Marlboro, he frowns.

"We took many from the worst slums in Manila, where they were mocked and ridiculed," he says. "Now they're no longer carnival freaks. They're respected entertainers and businesspeople."

And Turner is their godfather. Workers tell of the night when two drunken Australians began playing catch with terrified little people; Turner stepped between two ruffians nearly twice his size and threw them out of the bar.

He has provided many of his workers with loans and housing and has paid tuitions. Several years ago, he gave them something perhaps even more precious: the Hobbit House itself.

He founded a corporation, naming seven of his employees the main stockholders. Now they make the decisions and call the shots. From his perch at the bar, Turner watches over the business as a consultant and takes only enough salary to pay his bills.


The Monday rush is here and the workers at the Hobbit House are ready for action.

But sitting around a table, a few quietly voice a common concern: What would they ever do without the nurturing and guidance of Jim Turner?

Although he swears he's in perfect health, they know he drinks and smokes too much. A decade ago, when he got sick, a large group of employees went to visit him in the hospital. An exhausted Turner had to tell nurses not to admit any visitor less than 4 feet tall.

Many say it gives them comfort knowing he's there at his perch, with a green lamp by his side so he can see bills and paperwork in the darkened bar.

But they know he's getting older and more frail.

Perhaps Waiter Edward Vitto, 33, said it best: "It won't be the same place without him -- just a bunch of little people with broken hearts."

The full story - which involves Ferdinand Marcos and Marlon Brando - can be read at the LA Times website.

Saturday, September 12, 2009 Slow Recovery

I haven't posted much lately because I somehow picked up a really nasty computer virus that completely hijacked my laptop. I managed to delete the files with HijackThis and SpyBot, but apparently some vital Windows files had been corrupted and I could only successfully boot in safe mode. A Google search on removing the virus in question brought up a dozen different pages, each with the same outdated manual removal instructions and recommendation to purchase a specific removal program. I smelled a rat; I didn't want to give money to someone who may have had a hand in my predicament, so I figured my best course of action was to wipe my hard drive and reinstall XP. My only real regret is that I couldn't justify the expense of upgrading to a larger drive at this time.

Loading up all my programs and codecs and whatnot is a time-consuming pain that I am still working through. Luckily, I didn't have to worry about losing any of my documents or email, as I use SyncBack to back them up regularly. It's simple to use and amazingly versatile for freeware. You can set up multiple profiles for different file types or locations, choose to run each one manually or on an automated schedule, and back-up your files to the same disc or any external drive. It's probably the best bit of freeware Ive ever downloaded, as it's saved a crucial file for me more than once.

Starting fresh allowed me to get rid of some old, unused programs still lingering on my hard drive and try out some new ones. Such as a completely frivolous Firefox extension that automagically changes the appearance of popular sites. Thanks to Stylish, no longer am I subjected to the tyranny of a white Google page!

More practically, another script hides all the extraneous crap on Gmail. I no longer have to look at that goofy mug of the guy sitting on top of the chat box. Huzzah!

I've also been having fun with Desktop Randomizer, another bit of freeware that rotates both your desktop background and your screen saver on a set schedule. Unlike similar programs, this one lets you choose images from anywhere on your hard drive instead of a single specified folder. I ended up spending a whole day futzing around with desktops based on old paperback covers, the works of illustrators like Robert Macguire, Fred Fixler, and the legendary Robert McGinnis.

I pulled most of the McGinnis images from the Wayback Machine's archive of the now-defunct Painted Anvil. The rest of the pictures came from Greg Goebel's on-line collection and numerous other places on the web. My utter lack of artistic skill kept the designs pretty simple. McGinnis has some spectacular images with beautiful painted backgrounds that I hadn't a hope of replicating to fill out a 1280 x 800 area. Still, I think they turned out pretty neat considering the (lack of) time and effort put into them.

I doubt that anyone wants them, but I put them into a rar file and threw them up on Rapidshare. Remember, these started off as scans from old paperback book covers, and therefore will look like crap in hi-def. Still, the images are so basic that someone who actually knows what s/he's doing could turn out something cool with them.

14 Crappy Desktop Backgrounds via Rapidshare (546kb)

While scouring the intertubes for images to pilfer, I came across this:


Thursday, September 10, 2009 Pub Ninja Dishes Out Justice!

From the Daily Telegraph:
'Ninja' Les Murphy cops a serve to pub bandits

By Neil Keene
September 10, 2009 12:00AM

A GANG of sledgehammer-wielding bandits proved no match for a brave man with the poise and accuracy of a ninja . . . and an armful of plates.

Responding to a burglar alarm at his Mid-North Coast pub early last Thursday morning, Les Murphy was confronted by four masked men armed with sledgehammers and crowbars.

The gang had already smashed their way through the front door of the Riverview Tavern and was ransacking the Telegraph Point pub's poker machines.

"They started singing out: 'I'm going to f . . . ing kill ya' and one of them tried to take a swipe (at me) with the sledgehammer," Mr Murphy said yesterday.

The sledgehammer missed the 58-year-old grandfather's face by centimetres.

He then retreated to the hotel's kitchen.

"This bloke was still coming at me and I'm thinking 'What am I going to do here?'," Mr Murphy said.

"The first thing I saw was a pile of washed-up dinner plates so I just tucked six of them under my arm and started throwing them like Frisbees."

In an instant the tables were turned on the gang.

One plate smashed into one of the bandit's shoulders, another piece of flying crockery whizzed within a whisker of another robber's head.

"Those first two were pretty good shots. They (the robbers) packed it in and ran outside so I raced out, got the number plate of the getaway car and then let a couple more (plates) fly," Mr Murphy said.

Like warning shots across a ship's bow, the first two plates spun over the car's roof.

But the third was on target, flying through an open door and causing mayhem in the car as the bandits sped off. The car was later found torched and abandoned in Kempsey.

Mr Murphy said, in hindsight, he realised that he was taking a massive risk confronting the gang armed only with crockery.

"But at the time all you are thinking about is protecting your property," he said.

"I've got my wife and my daughter in a back flat in the hotel and you start to think (the bandits) could have gone around there."

Thanks to his actions, Mr Murphy not only helped thwart an armed robbery, he earned a new nickname from his mates: Ninja Murphy.

Inspector Alan Williams said police were still investigating the attempted robbery.

The Blue Rajah approves!

"Spiffing good show, old chap!"

In other crime news, a robber returns to ask his victim for a date, and a man is arrested for making love to a manure pile. And you thought you were lovelorn!

Saturday, September 5, 2009 TV Party

While I spend a lot of time in front of my tv, I never watch the major networks. It's not that I'm a snob, it's just that I have zero interest in the style of programming that seems to make up 70% of their schedules, reality television.

A rare exception was The Colony, as a Discovery Channel show about a bunch of people trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic environment seemed tailor-made for me. But the first episode was disappointing, with confessionals and all the other standard-issue reality show trappings present (including contrived inter-personal conflicts, as promised by the previews of upcoming shows). And I'm questioning the presence of a "martial arts expert" and mock raids by actors all done up in a Mad Max stylee - are the survivors expected to get physical with these guys? I mean, I would if some bozo from Central Casting was trying to take away the only snack chips I'd be seeing for the next twelve weeks. But in the first episode, at least, it doesn't appear that the survivors are really taking the whole thing seriously.

Which leads to the show's only real entertainment potential, as I second-guess most of the decisions they make. Sending your only doctor out into the wilds to look for water? Really? And while the survivors earned points for posting a guard all night, they lost them by not planning for what the guard should do if an intruder did turn up. I guess only us geeks have spent any time considering what to do in a post-holocaust situation. Well, except for militia nutters, and who wants to hang out with them?

While I'm tempted to sit through all of The Colony for the nuggets of survival tech that look to be buried therein, I'm probably better off just reading recaps somewhere like Television Without Pity.


Now, while I might have no time for reality tv, I feel the complete opposite about reality-based tv. I love MythBusters and Top Gear, and now a new show has pinged my radar. Bang Goes the Theory is a BBC program in which graphic demonstrations are used to explore and explain scientific principles. I stumbled across this clip of one of the hosts experimenting with a homemade vortex cannon:

Sadly, they did not unleash their creation on a pig carcass like the MythBusters would've.

In another episode, the team whips up a homemade defense against the US Navy's cutting-edge sonic weapon. I think I really need to start following this show.


Speaking of doing terrible things to dead animals, about the only thing Spike TV's Deadliest Warrior was good for was the graphic demonstrations of medieval weapons on flesh and bone (which admittedly were pretty neat). Otherwise, the show usually contained less than 1% of your daily recommended allowance of actual fact.

Compare and contrast with Warriors, a History Channel program in which a Henry Rollins look-alike travels the world to learn about great battles and the people that fought them. Here we get historical and cultural context as opposed to propaganda and bluster. We learn how the warriors trained, how they built and used their equipment, and why we consider them important to this day. And imparting this information are actual historians and university professors and not just fans and re-enactors.

Even the host is a huge improvement over the swaggering presenters of Deadliest Warrior. Terry Schappert is enthusiastic, modest, and generally the very opposite of what you might assume a Green Beret hosting a program about warfare would be like. He even tears up once or twice when talking about some of the sacrifices and hardships these men and women went through.

A DVD release of the program is imminent; however, for some reason the "Braveheart" episode is being left out of the collection. You can download the missing show via Rapidshare here (the password is The entire dokujunkies site is a great resource for documentary television; the English-language program listings start here.


I recently caught an episode of Robot Chicken in which the Creature from the Black Lagoon, jealous of Dracula and Frankenstein, attempts to market his own cereal. The resulting "Creature with the Black Macaroons" immediately put me in mind of my buddy Hector's claim for the existence of Mocha Mummy cereal.

I got to poking around on the internet, and Wikipedia has a pretty informative entry on the General Mills monster cereals - I can at long last confirm that my memories of seeing posters for the cereal in my preschool class are not false, as Frankenberry and Count Chocula were first distributed in 1971! I also came across this commercial on YouTube, one that I saw countless times growing up:

I did some business at General Mills HQ last year and was able to pick up some BooBerry from the company store for my cousin Mike. Otherwise, you have to wait until Halloween to find the stuff. Yummy Mummy and Fruit Brute are no longer manufactured, which might be for the best, at least in the case of Fruit Brute. I remember those lime-flavored marshmallows as being pretty nasty.

Still better than trying to eat while staring at a box of Freakies, though. The Seventies, man. The decade of WTF.


Finally, if you're a fan of 80's action flicks, you'll want to check out this promo for the UK's Channel Five. If only...

Thursday, September 3, 2009 Chupacabra Cracked

I used to read Cracked magazine on occasion back in the day, but it was never something I actively sought out. Mad was funnier, Crazy was a bit edgier, and humor magazines as a whole were more expensive and had less reread value than my precious precious comic books. Still, I acquired dozens of issues over the years; from grown-ups looking to keep me quiet during car trips, in plastic bags sandwiched between the Warren comics and UFO magazines I really wanted, and via the complicated underground network by which kids inadvertently end up with other kid's belongings.

I encounter articles on much the same way. It's never a destination for me, it's not a site I have bookmarked or that I deliberately seek out. But damn if I don't drop by there on a fairly regular basis. It helps that the many of the articles have a distinct geek bent - superheroes, monsters, SF flicks, and uh, sex - that cause them to get passed around by us nerds in much the same way we did the magazine.

I bring this up because yet another chupacabra story is making the rounds - I've even been forwarded a video link via e-mail - and I can't help but think of the wisdom found in the Cracked article, The Truth Behind 5 Real Monsters That Fooled the Internet:
And, to a one, have all turned out to be coyotes or coyote hybrids with some kind of mange. Seeing as how all "eye-witness" reports describe the creature the same way – "about the size of a coyote, but hairless" – it should come as a shock to no one that the creature was actually some kind of hairless coyote.

And I'm surely not the first to point out that the current beastie is in the possession of a freakin' taxidermist!

I've posted the CNN video that everyone's talking about below. But trust me, you're much better off rading the article and poking about the site for a while. Hell, I've wasted twenty minutes there just writing this damn post.

And if you're interested in checking out freaky animals that actually exist, the author of the Cracked article has a series on The Most Disturbing Animals on Earth at (the rest of the series can be found here). Warning: Do not follow the links if you get freaked out by ginormous bugs or fish with human faces.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 Dance Party: Tribute to Spring

Six minutes of your life you will never get back!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 Bigfoots Need Girlfriends, Too

Bigfoots? Bigfeet? Anyways, they're lonely. From the Austrian Times:
Yeti stalked me says teen girl

31. 08. 09. - 17:00

A terrified teenage student has told how a Yeti spied on her in her bikini as she took a dip in a stream on a camping trip.

Yeti-hunters have been flocking to Poland's remote Tatra mountains after reported sightings and films showing a large, hairy ape-like creature emerged last week.

Now new footage has surfaced apparently showing one of the beasts stalking Justyna Folger, 19, during a camping trip with boyfriend Tadeusz Serafinowski in the Tatra mountains.

While Justyna paddles for her boyfriend's camera, a shadowy hulk can be seen creeping through the undergrowth on the other side of the river bank.

"I wandered into the river for a dip when I realised that something was on the opposite shore," Justyna told Poland's Super Express newspaper.

"At first I thought it was a bear but it appeared to be stooping and then it raised itself on to two legs and ran off. I couldn't believe it," she added.

Now mountain rangers are on alert and hunting for the mysterious beast.

National Park Guards Commander Edward Wlazlo said: "We are investigating the matter. If there is something out there we will find it."

Yeti experts have been flocking to the mountains since Piotr Kowalski, 27, from Warsaw, filmed a Yeti-like creature emerging from a Tatra mountain path.

"I saw this huge ape-like form hiding behind the rocks. When I saw it it was like being struck by a thunderbolt," he said.

His film has been handed over for examination to the Nautilus Foundation, which deals with unexplained phenomena.

"The film clearly shows 'something' that moves on two legs and is bigger than a normal man," says Foundation President Robert Bernatowicz.

"But because the camera shakes so much it is difficult to say what it is exactly. We need to go to the site and see what traces, if any, were left."

The photo above accompanied the Austrian Times article, and there's a couple more on their website. All are stills from the earlier Polish Yeti video mentioned in the second half of the story. Two Yeti videos from the same area in less than a week must strain credulity for even the most die-hard believer. Somebody's having some fun, even if the real Bigfooties are lonely.

Both videos are available on YouTube, of course. One features a good long look at what might be a hairy wild man, the other a good long look at a cute girl in a bikini. Take your pick.