Media Mailed

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Tonight I sent off the books for those of you who emailed me your addresses. The UPT is in boxes, and the Practical RDF is in bubble envelopes. Zoë helped me pack the books, so you’ll know which ones are from me by whether they glow in the dark or not.

Just kidding — Zoë’s radiation does not rub off on inanimate objects. Not unless she were to pee on your books. I can assure you that if my cat peed on your book, I would not send it. Well, not without drying it, first.

I got a very good deal on envelopes and boxes at our local Office Depot, and the Media mailing rate is incredibly low. All total, mailing the Practical RDF books came to about 3.00 each and the UPT to about 5.00. Since I would rather not have 3.00 and 5.00 charges on Paypal (of which I believe it would take 1.25 anyway), instead I’d like you to consider donating some canned goods or money to your Humane Society. If you would prefer, you can also donate to another charity, or drop it into the tin of a really good street performer. Or you can have a good cup of coffee and a PB & J sandwich, on me.

Then, if in my journey late summer, my odyssey through the States and beyond, I come into your area and you want to buy me a beer, well, you’re on.

Speaking of the little princess, she’s happily home and has spent the last several hours exploring every last bit of the town-home, climbed into boxes, snuggled, ate, snuggled, played, and snuggled some more. She hasn’t slept once. I did a little research and found out that if we hold her close for three hours a day, the amount of radioactive exposure we’ll experience is 3 mrem/year–an increase of 1% over normal radiation doses we experience from the sun and other sources. This is supposedly equivalent to drinking one cup of coffee or one diet soda per day. We have decided to snuggle Zoë the 3 hours and do without one can of soda or a cup of joe a day.

It was a surprise to hear, though, that coffee and soda add to our radiation exposure. I wonder if Starbuck’s is managed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission? Further research shows that drinking coffee shortens our lives an average of six days. If you think that’s bad, did you know that if you eat 40 tablespoons of peanut butter, one after the other, you’ll die of aflatoxin poisoning?

All in all, I’ll take my chances with Zoë.


The Eagles have landed

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Today I finally found the eagles. I am both exhausted and exhilarated. I have photos, which I have to go through to see how many survived both the sunlight, speed, camera shake, and distance. When the five or so out of 300 have been found, I’ll post them and their story online.

In the meantime, O’Reilly has been trying out different publication business models, including a new type of book experience called Rough Cuts and publishing smaller works, online, for less money.

Rough Cuts are pre-production releases of books focused on new, and hot, technology while the book is currently going through final revision and production processing. You pay less money, download PDFs and also, hopefully, provide feedback for the final book. With this, O’Reilly hopes to get books on hot tech into the hands of the readers that much more quickly.

One of the books is Ajax Hacks, which I helped tech edit this last December. Lots of helpful tips and tricks when working with Ajax in this book. It’s this book that inspired me to dive, happily, into Ruby on Rails.

As for the short publications, yours truly wrote one of the first for O’Reilly, on none other than syndication feeds. Per Derrick Story at O’Reilly:

O’Reilly recently commissioned Shelley Powers, a specialist in technology architecture and software development, to create a comprehensive PDF document that would help webmasters manage their incoming and outgoing feeds. Shelley produced nothing short of a must-have reference for online publishers, titled “What Are Syndication Feeds.”

This eDoc, as O’Reilly has termed it, is focused primarily at those newly exposed to syndication feeds and needing to understand what they are, and how to use them. It’s not focused at developers; it is focused at end users, regardless of degree of technical experience. It also doesn’t cover any of the history or the politics, as folks newly introduced to syndication feeds don’t need to know about either of these. RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0, and Atom are all featured.

I also noticed that O’Reilly used a bird for the colophon on the eDoc. Rather timely considering my recent successful quest for eagles.

Critters Photography Places


Recovered from Wayback Machine.

Time was slipping by to catch the wintering eagles. I haven’t spotted a one on any trip, and the season will be ending in a few weeks. Today, then, I headed to the Lock & Dam 24 in Clarksville at sunrise–supposedly one of the most popular eagle fishing areas.

Clarksville is a very charming little town located directly on the Mississippi. It’s celebrating its Eagle Days this weekend, but today I was the only person looking for the birds in the viewing stand built above the locks. It was a beautiful day: sunny and clear skies and the Mississippi looked deep sapphire blue located just above the confluence of both the Ohio and Missouri. But cold! The winds were so cold and dry, and my eyes teared up so much, when I got back into the car, I had rings of salt around them–something that’s never happened before.

There were flocks of seagulls and other birds, but no eagles.

flock of pelicans, seagulls in river

I was disappointed, but the rest of the view was so nice that the trip was more than worthwhile. I love funky small town, and Clarksville is that. It’s not very big, but many of the buildings have all the gingerbread of their Victorian beginnings, and there’s plenty of places to explore.

photo of Clarksville steeple church

Still, I was after eagles, so I stopped by at the Lock & Dam 25 near Winfield, on the way home.

This Lock & Dam has a park near it, and a slough that parallels the Mississippi river, but the actual locks themselves are behind barbed wire and fairly stringent security.


I couldn’t see any eagles at first, though I did see white pelicans, the ubiquitous seagulls, and other birds. Finally, after walking around about an hour, off in the distance, I saw one eagle. One, and too far to photograph.

And cold! It was so bloody cold! As nice as it was to be by the river, I was becoming numb. I was getting ready to leave when I noticed a man standing by the bridge over the slough, camera pointed to the trees near my car. I hadn’t even noticed–the eagles were in the trees.

Bald eagle in tree

There were six adults and one juvenile. They would take off every once in while, circle about and fish, though I didn’t manage a photo of any of the birds catching a fish. Actually, I didn’t have a chance to get any really great photos of the eagles. I’m not used to bird photography, and my inexpensive 400mm doesn’t take the best of photos. Add this to the bright light of midday and fast moving birds, and an elegant blur is the most one can hope.

eagle in flight

I am inspired, though, to get better at bird photography, including buying a better 400mm lens someday–maybe even a 600mm (yeah, dream on).

I had a wonderful time taking pictures of the birds. Especially when one headed straight over me, with me frantically trying to adjust the exposure, focus, and take pictures. The following is my favorite of the eagles, even though it’s not that sharp. To me, it shows the essence of eagle. I call it, “I am the fish”.

bald eagle directly overhead

My three favorite photos from the day were not of eagles, though. I like the one I took of the VFW Hall in Clarksville. I am thinking of starting a collection of photos of VFW halls in the various places I visit, because each represents the community in some way. They are the true Americana of America. The day the VFW halls disappear is the day when our country will have lost much of its heritage.

VFW Hall

I also liked two photos I took of seagulls. One was at Clarksville, and features a boat full of fishermen in front of a flock of gulls taking off.

fishing boat in front of trees surrounded by seagulls

The second was at Winfield, and again showed a flock of gulls taking off–backed by a dark and tangled wood. If the eagle represents pride, nothing represents joy of flight more than seagulls.

gulls in flight


Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Prehistoric Planet posterI watched Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet and it took three starts before I discovered that it and Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women shared much of the same footage and I wasn’t clicking the wrong movie on the disc. Both movies are a rather amazing blend of barely related scenes added together into one not so cohesive whole.

According to Scifilm, the original movie was Planeta Burg (Planet of Storms) produced by the Leningrad Studio of Popular Science Films. It was then bought by the infamous Roger Corman, grandfather of B sci-fi flicks, and hacked as background footage to be combined with two more familiar faces: Basil Rathbone as lead scientists back on the moon, and Faith Domergue from the more acclaimed science fiction class, It Came from Beneath the Sea.

The story is about three rocket ships traveling to Venus for exploration, when one is blown up by an asteroid. This figures little in the movie and the only reason I’m assuming they added this to the story was to heighten the dangers of space exploration (and be able to add a ‘ship blowing up in space’ scene, which looks in the trailers). The other two ships decided to move on to Venus: one holding two men and a robot named John; the other carrying three men.

The ship with John crash lands and the second ship sets down to look for and rescue their comrades. The movie then segues between both groups as they encounter all sorts of Venusian wildlife, interspersed with shots of Basil on the moon, and Faith, in some form of Venusian orbiter.

What follows is classified as bad to very bad, but I found it to be rather fascinating and even a little endearing. The ‘dangerous animals’ were so funny that I stopped the movie a couple of times to go back over their scenes. However, all of these were shot against a backdrop that was both stunning and surreal–made more so by the juxtoposition between the very good and the very bad. The film deserves more respect than it has been given, if only for the stage settings and scenes of the planet.

Returning to the characters, our first exposure to John the Robot is when he’s ‘awakened’ in ship one, by an actor who can’t quite decide if he’s in a science fiction film or one of the old horror pictures. Waken, John he murmers in sepulcher tones again and again, as the camera moves in on his intense and slightly demonic stare. John wakens, and though he is shown whole when on the ship, he’s shown without his head when the crew first lands.

John the Robot without head

Robot by Microsoft

One advantage of having John headless at first is it does allow the two astronauts to be attacked by men dressed as dinosaurs who hop around like kids in a potato sack race at a picnic. I will say no more, because these creatures antics must be seen to be fully appreciated.

The other crew has a young man in it, Andre, who defies authority with brainless frequency, usually getting himself entangled in situations without any dire threat. This crew hears the haunting siren call that Andre believes to be a woman (and a beautiful woman at that), and he wants to go off searching for this damsel, but is restrained by older, wiser heads.

Andre’s actions and the others of the second crew are those that demonstrate this to be a Russian movie, rather than American. One crew member continually reacts with pessimissm to any event, and all three act as if authority is to be give lip service, and then ignored. They are minimalistic heros, and refreshing for all of the bigger than life antics of their western compatriots.

The second crew also meets most of the wild life on the planet including big but unscary dinosaurs, man eating plants, and the oddest underwater octopus you’ve ever seen. I want one as a pet.

I don’t want to give an impression that this is kiddy fare. There is suspense in this film, and a hint of danger. It doesn’t, however, come from the man eating plant, the hopping dinosaur men, or the brontosaurus.


Nor the flying pterodactyl or the octopus underwater.

Underwater octopus

No, it comes from Marsha, the single female in the show, left in the orbiting platform and who served as conduit between the command center on the moon and the men on the planet. When she’s cut off without communication with either party she’s forced to consider making a decision on her own; potentially committing, the planet commander solemnly tells the other men, the worst mistake made by any of them.

Oh no! Save us from Marsha!

Thankfully though, she connects with the lunar base before moving beyond her role of black haired buxom beauty without a brain, and the crew is spared such horror.

Which is as good a time to introduce Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, as any.

Prehistoric Women poster

In Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women the story line is exactly the same, but this time we see the women of Venus. They are primitive (but beautiful) and superstitious and they invoke the gods of their planet to send the volcano’s molten lava and rains that threaten the crew throughout both movies. There’s never any interaction between the two because the second movie’s scenes with the women were knitted into the original movie, which is itself, knitted together from Russian film and American parts.

What might surprise you when you see this film, and especially the scenes with the women, is to realize that the new bits were directed by none other than Peter Bogdanovich in what is probably his first solo directing debute (and one that I’m sure he’d like to forget). Yes, the man who did The Sopranos originally did babes on Venus.

Babes on Venus

Why the second film? Because science fiction and sex were big in Hollywood at the time, and the original movie didn’t feature any women, and adding one women (and dark haired at that) was deemed not quite enough–not to mention that she didn’t really show much skin. Besides, what better opportunity to feature blonde beauties in tight, torn pants, wearning bras made of clam shells? This must have been standard ‘women from another planet’ garb at the time, because the women resembled many of the alien women in the original Star Trek shows.

Star Trek SceneThere’s also an interesting bit at the end of the movie that differed from the original, but I wouldn’t want to spoil your fun.

You can get both movies via Internet Archive (and here) and Bittorrent (and here).

These are classic ‘bad’ science fiction, with acting that’s either wooden or overly dramatic, and special effect monsters that will make you giggle and guffaw. The quality ranges from blurry to scratchy, with either no color or bad color. However, the shows are worth watching for three reasons:

The first is that the very nature of the piecemeal effort on these movies is rather interesting to watch, with its very Russian components intermixed with the very American additions. Considering this all was done during the coldest of the Cold war, it makes for an intellectual exercise viewing the Soviet propaganda as compared to Hollywood marketing.

The second reason is the film’s monsters are wonderfully delightful. None are menacing, all are funny, and how could you resist that octopus? I would have liked to seen the original Russian film, as I have a feeling much of the ‘suspense’ (as well as other ‘monster’ scenes) was hacked out to make way for the Basil/Faith moments.

The last reason is the backdrops and some of the better directed and constructed scenes. Seriously in a movie with better (or no) monsters, not to mention acting–without the American hacks–this movie could easily win awards for the background and some of the stand alone scenes.

You could easily forgo the second movie with the addition of the ladies, but why deny yourself the treat? Go for both.


Great book give away

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

While Zoe is in the kitty hospital, I’m taking advantage of not having my typically very curious kitty getting into everything and am cleaning out my closets. I also need to make room for a bookshelf in one closet in order to, hopefully, start filling it with new works.

I had planned on bringing the rest of the complementary book author copies of my Unix Power Tools and Practical RDF books down to SxSW to give out, but that plan fell through.

So, instead, if you send me an email or leave a comment and agree to pay packaging/shipping, I’ll send you a copy of either Unix Power Tools or Practical RDF — signed, if an author chicken scratch counts for something. When they’re gone, I’ll post a note.

Now, I realize that you’re not getting your copy in a fancy house, after being fed all sorts of nifty foods, but you’re not having to pay for it, either. So, you can take the money you save by not having to buy either, and treat your significant other to pizza in a nice place. Oh what the heck: and buy yourself a beer, too.

With email and comment requests, the UPT books are all gone. Still some Practical RDF to give away.

Update Well, that’s it, all gone. If those who have snagged a copy, chicken scratch and all, could send me your address, I’ll get these out this week.