Thursday, November 30, 2006

Rookery Facelift

Yesterday, I sneezed out something that looked like the result of a smurf not looking both ways before crossing the street. Emp. Peng. and I are in the middle of our first major redecorating project, and now we know that respiratory protection when sanding paint is probably a good idea. I will post the before and after pics in another day or so. The "before" picture should explain the need for an "after" picture. That room was a classic case of decorating that looks wonderfully whimsical until you have to live in it every day.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Jones Soda Finale

The Jones Soda Novelty Flavor Tour ended tonight with Antacid, and a fitting finale it was. Perhaps I am a little weird (I'll pause and let you all stop laughing and pick yourselves up), but I don't particularly mind the flavor of Pepto-Bismol. It ranks somewhere below marshmallow fluff on the scale of ideal ice cream topping flavors, but Pepto isn't too bad. Jones Soda managed to capture the flavor perfectly.

The flavor is not what made it a perfect capper to the adventure. I have not mentioned it up to now, but calling these sodas "carbonated" is a bit of a stretch. They have enough CO2 to tickle the esophagus, but I've had more fizz in the back of the fridge. Tonight, I think we found the missing carbonation. Emp. Peng. knocked back the first hearty swig, and--well, it bore a striking resemblance to the Diet Coke and Mentos videos making the rounds. In sum: soda geyser. Now, the sofa has pea and Pepto spray on it.

Just beak my brains out now

I'm just beating my head on a glacier here. Coca-Cola has launched their holiday advertising campaign--you know, the time of year they break out the cute animated polar bears swilling cola. This year, they have made a new addition: cute, cola-swilling penguins giving the polar bears their Cokes.

For the last time: Polar bears live exclusively in the northern hemisphere. Penguins live exclusively in the southern hemisphere. On a bad day, they might get within 8,000 miles of each other's habitat. Yeah, the arctic and the antarctic are both cold. The Australian outback and the Arabian peninsula are both deserts, and advertising idiots manage to avoid the urge to mix kangaroos and Bedouins.

Now that I have that out of my craw, I should say I am all in favor of penguin advertising. I'm just saying, ditch the polar bears. Penguins are cuter. Penguins are even more versatile than comely women in bikinis when it comes to advertising. I don't recall seeing any human babes in the Tamiflu ads.

Jones Soda Taste Adventure, Part Four

I wanted to title this one "I Drank Pea," but that would not be quite accurate. I sniffed Pea flavor, then passed the bottle off to Emp. Peng. He sniffed, said "what the hell," took a swig and proceeded to do a spit take over half of the living room. Now, a mist of carbonated pea over the sectional would be enough to convince most people to skip quaffing the offending beverage themselves, but I am not most people. In the interest of giving everyone a full report on the complete novelty soda lineup for 2006, I had to taste some myself. However, I am not (always) stupid. I poured a teaspoon into the dose cup provided with the sodas and stood over the bathroom sink. I think I managed to expose my entire tongue to the beverage before spitting it out and fumbling for the bottle of Listerine, lest any of my taste buds remember that experience.

Verdict: in the bottle, it resembles watered-down split pea baby food. It does not taste half as good as it looks.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Two more Happy Feet-related thoughts

First, I forgot to mention that I loved the look of the movie, particularly the integration of animated and live-action elements. Definitely came off better than animating the humans.

Second, if fish marketers could re-brand "Patagonian Toothfish" as the more menu-friendly "Chilean Sea Bass" why are we still eating "carp"?

Happy Feet

We finally went to see Happy Feet. For a movie about a half-fledged Emperor Penguin chick at odds with the monotheistic elders of the Emperor Nation because the chick can tapdance but can't carry a tune, who then meets up with a group of macho Adelie males to go on a quest to find why the fish are depleted, and who somehow manages not to fully fledge through what appears to be at least a full year, the movie gets a lot of things right about penguins. Granted, most of it would not be new to people who have seen March of the Penguins, but at least the filmmakers took into consideration that the general public is more penguin savvy since MOTP and would notice if they took too many liberties with the penguin facts. Sure, there is that whole "Penguin elementary school" bit, but that isn't too far removed from the creches that juveniles huddle in while both parents are at sea. As with MOTP, the movie makes a little more of the strength of the pair bond than is actually there. I'm still torn about the dramatic necessity of The Great Guin, too, but it was nice to see accurate depictions of five different penguin species.

I did have a few beefs with the movie, though:
  1. Mumble should have frozen to death at least four times before Elijah Wood took over the voice acting.
  2. There were a lot more adult penguins hanging about the colony at any given time than there should have been.
  3. Elephant seals tend to fight off other males encroaching on their harem area; rather than chatting up an errant penguin, the three or four male elephant seals would have been trying to rip each others' flanks off.
  4. Given the apparent age of the chicks in the scene, no one would risk a helicopter flight just for penguin observation at that time of year.
  5. Guidelines require two-engine helicopters to keep a minimum distance of just under a mile from wildlife concentrations, and fly at an altitude of at least 3,000 feet above any wildlife concentration. That helicopter was violating just about every protocol for not disturbing the wildlife.
  6. Most of the environmental problems encountered in the course of Mumble's quest have been subject to regulation by the Antarctic treaty since 1959. An addendum dealing with fishing was added in 1980, although the toothfish (aka Chilean Sea Bass) is still imperiled by overfishing. People eat those more than penguins do.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Jones Soda Dinner Roll flavor

It's worse than the turkey, and yes I can believe it's not butter.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Sweet Potayto, potahto

Next stop on the Jones Soda Holiday 2006 tour is Sweet Potato. The verdict: better than Turkey & Gravy. We made it through the entire bottle. Reasonably adequate facsimile of a carbonated sweet potato, but needs more marshmallow and glucono delta lactone.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving--the rest is just gravy

As usual, I made the full spread for Thanksgiving, even though it is just the two of us. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with brown sugar and marshmallows, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Just to keep things interesting, this year, we topped the feast off with this.

Yup, we actually drank the Jones Soda Turkey and Gravy flavor. What's more, we can't even claim this was a gag gift and we just drank it on a lark; we bought it for ourselves fully intending to drink it. The turkey and gravy flavor is best described as starting off like a nondescript cream soda, and finishing up on a meaty note. Tastes more gravy than turkey. We got about a third of the way through the bottle before we gave up. Could be that we just don't learn but we'll be trying the remaining flavors in the 2006 Holiday Pack through the rest of the weekend. Stay tuned for reactions to dinner roll, sweet potato, pea and antacid.

Penguin video games

From Pengo for the Atari, which my sister used to enjoy losing just to see me get upset when the enemies stomped the penguin, to the current releases of Happy Feet and March of the Penguins for the current generation of consoles and handhelds, penguins have a long history in video games. Since I have been unsuccessful in securing a copy of March of the Penguins DS, I have had some time on my hands to speculate on penguin video games we would like to see.

GTA: Galapagos
An open-ended action-adventure game with Hot Squid unlockable content.

Construct a nest out of falling nesting material

Sims Rookery
Attract penguins to your rookery site and build it up to a thriving colony.

Like Halo, a first person shooter, but with an innovative down-the-tail perspective for accurate aiming

South Pole Position

Toboggan around the Antarctic research stations

The expansion pack for Nintendogs, but instead of a puppy, you start with an egg

The new version allows you to use beak and flippers to eliminate the blocks.

Krill Hunt

Shrimplike creatures replace the 8-bit waterfowl of the original Duck Hunt. Would come packaged with a beak shell for the light gun, to give a more realistic krill-hunting experience.


Think Frogger, only with more penguins and fewer semi trucks. Leopard seals replace the sewer-dwelling gators.

Find all of the killer whales in the grid without getting eaten

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

And one more...

Sunday, March of the Penguins for the Nintendo DS was released. I will likely be waiting to get it until Black Friday, when several stores are having sales of the game with plushy and book, for $19.99. Or I may go out in the morning and get it. Stay tuned, and in the morning, I will post other penguin video game opportunities.

Good Week for Penguin Entertainment

Happy Feet came out on top in the weekend box office receipts (still haven't seen it, but going to). National Geographic does a rundown on the facts and where Happy Feet takes some liberties with penguinal correctness. After I see the movie, expect my full rundown of penguin fact and fiction.

The book about a male-male penguin pair raising a chick at the Central Park Zoo, based on real-life events, caused another dust-up in a midwestern state.

A pair of penguins that survived the crash of their zoo transport truck last summer in eastern Texas have hatched a chick. As you may recall, the crash claimed four penguins, one from the accident and three roadkill.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


The power came back on at 12:41, after about an hour-long outage. The generator's normal weekly 10-minute cycle-through starts at 12:53 p.m. Thursday. Doggone generator is so reliable, it is going through with its weekly cycle regardless of the fact that a scant 12 minutes before, it had been on for an hour to cover for an actual power failure.

Duh Moment

It is a brilliantly sunny 60-degree autumn day with just a hint of a breeze—exactly the kind of day one expects not to lose electricity. So far, FirstEnergy is mum on the reasons I am running on generator power at the moment. I suspect a squirrel tried burying a winter food stash in a transformer. The other truly odd thing about this power outage is that I didn't notice for a good half hour that I was without power, and not because I didn't have anything turned on. It may be sunny, but I am a tech geek, and for very obvious reasons, solar caller ID has not caught on.

Why, you may rightly ask, did it take me upwards of half an hour to realize the power was gone? I may not always be terribly observant, but I would tend to notice something like all the gizmos in the house simultaneously turning themselves off, even if I didn't have any of the lights on. Thing was, I wasn't in the house; I was wandering the yard inspecting the new flower beds and walking off the aches from installing them yesterday.

Surely, you would think I would notice gadgets being off when I returned indoors. Not necessarily. The first big improvement we did to this house when we bought it was to install a whole-house generator. It automatically kicks on within a minute of sensing a power loss in the house, and provides enough backup electricity to power just about everything except the stove. By the time I went inside, everything that had been on when I left had powered back up, except for the computer that was in sleep mode anyway.

But generators are noisy, you say. Of course they are. Our Guardian produces a noise level comparable to a lawnmower, which is quiet, but far from silent. The neighbors claim not to notice it. Surely, I would, though, since it is right under my kitchen window. Thing is, the generator kicks on once a week for a few minutes to keep the motor in good shape for when it is needed. The power happened to go about an hour before the time the generator normally cycles through. Since this is the first week I had been home on Thursday since the time change, I assumed it was going through its normal weekly cycle. Wasn't until I realized it wasn't turning off that I suspected it was running for a reason.

UPDATE: As I typed this, the power came back. The electric company still doesn't say what the problem is, although their follow-up call to ensure that my power is back on does nicely inform me that the time is 12:41 p.m. so I can set my clocks. Ha. Most of my clocks set themselves.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Unhappy Feet.

I've gotten over the Happy Feet movie trailer that clearly shows Mumble the penguin swimming in his chick down. Understandable that someone could have failed to notify Warner Brothers that chick down is not waterproof and Mumble would freeze to death well before the middle of the production number. I've gotten over the clip showing the skuas talking to Mumble instead of doing what skuas would normally do to an isolated penguin chick. I understand that you can't have a PG movie with your cute and cuddly protagonist disemboweled.

But now...I just don't know. The supporting penguins are shilling for Roche Pharmaceutical's ad campaign for flu awareness over at In a way, that is about the most penguinally accurate cross-promotion ever. Adelie penguins, the prostitutes of the penguin world, are known for doing just about anything for nesting materials. I suppose I should not be surprised to find them pimping Tamiflu.

Election Day

It's that time of the biennium again. I just returned from voting at my local Catholic school, which seems to consider mugging voters at the entrance as a major component of their duties as hosts of the polling place. Just once, I would love to exercise my right to vote without having to pass the strategically placed eighth grade class trip bake sale and the accompanying prepubes trying to shake me down for a donation.

Since I live in Ohio, it was a given that I would be voting on a Diebold touch screen machine. Even so, it appeared to register all my votes properly, including the ones that ran counter to Diebold corporate interests. The precinct had managed to have paper verification printers appended to them. The receipt printers were an obvious afterthought, sprouting like a malignant growth from the side of the sleek machines, and they were secured using one of those locks that can be picked with a ballpoint pen. Still, I'm calling that better than nothing.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I'm Back

Owing to the recent irregularity of posting, you might not have noticed I was out of town last week. I went to my first professional conference, the World Fantasy Con (even though I am a sci-fi writer). Now, I have either a raging case of hay fever or Con Plague. My eyeballs feel like boiled eggs.