Thursday, January 31, 2013

Changes to the Blog and One Thing Not Changing

While I really liked the minimalist theme in place since the beginning of the year, the free template was not very flexible and easily broken. So now I’m trying out this Blogger provided one since it is the closest in feel to it though even more minimalist in appearance. Also, I’ve enabled the Mobile option to see if it displays a little better on smartphones and tablets. Any feedback on that particular feature would be appreciated.

After doing some digging, I found I was not alone in seeing my traffic decline starting in December. Google has made some changes that have demoted a lot of sites in their search engine and it doesn’t look like they’ll be undoing them. That means I’ll never see the traffic I once had

One massive change by Google that is actually destroying livelihoods is a revamp of the image search that now shows the full size images on a website rather than preview images. So sites that would get traffic to sell images and photos now do not because they aren’t linked to as prominently. The theory going around is that this is a result of pressure from Pinterest and Facebook in the arena of searching for pictures.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Weird Movie Origin involving He-Man, Spider-Man, and Van Damme

Movie Legends Revealed: He-Man & Spider-Man Films Became Cyborg ?

Only in Hollywood could something like this happen: a combined shoot of Masters of the Universe 2 and a Spider-Man film in the 1980s instead gave us a science fiction movie B-movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.  This little piece of trivia completely boggled my mind for I knew Cannon Films had the rights to Spider-Man for a long time, but to find out it was linked to another He-Man movie is bizarre.

Would this have resulted in cameos in each other's movie for Spidey and He-Man? The world will never know. I do know somebody needs to write a parody script ASAP!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Folland Gnat: A Lightweight Champion

While my infatuation with very lightweight fighters began with the failed F-20 Tigershark, another stole my affection once I found out about it. The Brits built a plane during the Cold War that couldn't get any smaller and actually succeed. That little bird was the Folland Gnat which served as the RAF's trainer and Red Arrows acrobatic team mount for many years. But it was the obscure Gnat F.1 fighter version that peaked my interest after finding out it saw combat with the Indian Air Force.

Tiny by jet fighter standards and even WWII prop fighter dimensions, the Gnat was a potent adversary in gun based air to air combat thanks to its high maneuverability and hard hitting 30mm cannons. It racked up a good number of kills against Pakistani F-86F Sabres which were not exactly large fighters themselves. This video shows both variants and you'll even see Gnats next to Sabres for an excellent size comparison.

Americans will probably remember the Gnat from the movie Hot Shots, a spoof of Top Gun starring Charlie Sheen. Since it is little known here in the States, I figured I'd link to the video. Folland's little fighter is a good looking plane deserving of some love, in my opinion.

One of these days I'll build the Aeroclub 1/48 vacuform kit of the fighter in my collection. If I only had a nickle for how many times I've said that about a kit...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Fractale Episode 11: Paradise

The ambitious series ends in blood, death, and an extremely emotional ending that upset more than a few viewers online. With the future of humanity on the line, will Clain be forced to watch the love of his life die? Fractale: Reiterated concludes with HD screen captures and revised text.

Fractale TitleFractale 11 Paradise

With too much of a story to fit in twelve episodes, Fractale ends up with only eleven, consequently making this powerful finale densely packed with exposition and action. It is frustrating that this series was rejected by otakus in Japan and one has to wonder what could have been if it they had embraced it. As it is, we are left with this rushed, but conclusive ending to Clain’s journey toward adulthood and the final fate of the Fractale system.

Fractale 11 Clain and NessaFractale 11 Phryne and Barrot

The final episode picks up right where the previous one left off, with a shocked Clain and Nessa being confronted by Barrot. In an effort to protect the feisty doppel, Phryne sends her through the barrier to Clain. However, the Temple’s resident scientist and lecher alters the barrier with a wave of a hand so they can hear everything. If there was ever any doubt he was a sadist at heart, that is erased by his “free lesson” to Clain about the secrets of Phryne and Fractale’s God. Amazingly, the character becomes even more despicable than before.

Health 1-28-2013

I’m tempted to leave it at that, but this was not a good weekend and I’m still feeling little better than one of the walking dead. It would be more accurate to call me the “sleeping dead” because I’m what the Brits call completely knackered and spent most of yesterday in bed. At least, I think I’m using that word correctly.
Crossword puzzles and video games have shown me to be very out of it, so the head full of cotton is not making things easy and the results show it. Three tries to spell “results,” sigh.
This is a consequence of doing too much and going out too many times while feeling very iffy this past week. And the brain just turned to mush and I can’t think of anymore to write.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) Review

In 2004, Miyazaki’s loose adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’ novel hit Japanese theaters and quickly became the third highest grossing film in Japanese history.  Filled with lessons about life and love, the film’s main story takes place against the backdrop of massive war with treachery and danger around every corner. Magic meets steampunk, but the movie is really all about heart. UPDATED with new screen captures and revised text.

Howls Moving Castle Title

There is magic to be found in Hayao Miyazaki’s animated films and Howl’s Moving Castle is no exception. If a film comes out of Studio Ghibli you are guaranteed an incredible experience filled with beauty and emotion. Well, anything other than Pom Poko, but the less said about that movie the better. Yes, I am recommending buying this even before starting the review. So what makes it an automatic buy? Read on to find out.

Howls Moving Castle WalkingHowls Moving Castle Sophie Works on a Hat

The film begins with the title structure; a steam belching monstrosity on mechanical legs lurching through the mist of an European countryside.  It is a beautiful view of an ugly thing, something that only Miyazaki could pull off. Shortly after seeing the castle ambulate into the mist to escape pursuers, the heroine of the movie is introduced.

An Odd Bit of Spam

2013 continues to be an interesting year for blog referral spam here at From the Sidelines. The latest one intrigued me a great deal due to how ridiculously long the link was:

applehut . info / 2011 / 08 / 05/ woot – deal – 16gb – hp – touchpad - %e2%80%93 – 379 – 99 – 5 – shipping . php

I’ve added a lot of spaces to disable the link from working, but did check it out in a Linux virtual machine. The site is another fake meant to lure traffic in and poses as an aggregator of smart/cellphone news. It even has an “About” page! That particular post is very out of date which was a tip off that they hadn’t really linked me. Also, I’ve never written about the HP Touchpad! Something very amusing to me is that the post itself may have been spammed in the comments.

If you are going to sucker people in for a deal, it would be smart to at least have the date on the post be within the current month and year, don’t you think? Not to mention using a product that isn’t out of production and replaced by cheaper alternatives that are vastly superior.

As far as how safe the link is to check out, I cannot say since I used Linux to visit it. There might be some Windows (or other OS) based malware there in the ads, but I wouldn’t be able to tell. I highly recommend not clicking on this or any other link from there in your referrals.

Also recommended is adding Google Analytics, Statcounter, or some other tracking service rather than relying on Blogger’s own stats. They filter this spam out a lot more effectively, though they aren’t bullet proof. In the end, your own judgment is your best defense against spam.

Neither registered this referral.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Saw Two Sundogs Today

So of course, I did not have a camera along. My hands are too shaky too take pictures using a cellphone, so you will have to accept my word on this happening. They were equidistant from the sun on either side and fairly bright. It was if a rainbow had tried to form and forgot the arch only leaving the supporting pillars on both sides. The arcs visible in photos at the Wikipedia entry on sundogs were not visible at all, which made them even more surreal looking.

It was an interesting day that was capped off by seeing this coming home from running errands and getting groceries. Due to hitting a hardware store that actually has plastic model kits and supplies for that hobby, I’ll be getting back into that pronto. Funny, I dreamed last night that I needed to put shelves up in the weight/hobby room for built models. This was an unusual occurrence, so it should help me keep to that promise.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Health 1-21-2013

Last week was not a good one with chest congestion, coughing, and sinusitis flaring up. I didn’t get half of what I wanted to achieve done, but that half that got done was worth hurting my health a bit. More driving than I’d done in a long time was part of it due to church related tasks, so I really can’t complain too much.

Suppressing coughing and sounding like death warmed over was the main problem once I got anywhere. Since the effort involved forced a lot of down time on me, I did play a lot of video games – poorly. It was time killing at its most grinding, involving dying repeatedly in order to advance along storylines.

Today is going to be a very tired one, that I can already tell. Monday’s usually are but I put out a lot more activity this weekend than I probably should have. It will be nice when the flu and other bugs going around finally fade out in this area.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dry in the Breadbasket

Forget about the fluctuating temperatures this winter because there is something more problematic going on with the weather. There is a serious lack of precipitation to alleviate the drought that has been going on since last year. Take a look at the map and you’ll see the heartland which produces most of the wheat, corn, and soy beans is not doing well.

Drought Jan 15 2013

Not a pretty picture, is it?

Locally, things aren’t great, but could be worse. The fields near creeks and rivers fared well, but those farther out varied considerably this past growing season. Even though we are near two creeks, quite a bit of the corn was underdeveloped. Farther west things were a lot worse in Minnesota.

The map tells me food prices will be going up with even more pain at the grocery store than just the inflation we have been experiencing. Lucky for me I’m attempting to downsize my body so less food isn’t a problem. But to families raising children this is a real concern.

Hopefully the weather will get more unpredictable and do something to relieve the situation. If you are interested in following the drought, check out the National Drought Mitigation Center page for it. It is regularly updated, hence the screen capture above to catch the moment.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

India's Bantam Weight Fighter: The LCA Tejas Displays

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for light weight fighter jets and so has the Indian Air Force. They are more committed to the concept than any other country with a sizable air force, but their aging MiG-21s are true antiques in the 21st Century.  For some years they have been developing an indigenous fighter to replace the Russian plane in a protracted development that makes the F-35 program look speedy by comparison.

The LCA Tejas is a small delta winged single engine multirole fighter. While still not ready for prime time and not really in service yet despite official pronouncements, it is an interesting little plane. Much propaganda about it has been put out, but it is no match even for the now elderly F-16 (40 year old design now). Talking about any fighter project tends to devolve into mindless nationalism, so my writing that may offend some -- but it is the truth.

Still it is not a bad idea for the needs for India, since the likely opponents are China and Pakistan if conflict arises. It could make for an excellent little point interceptor especially if the Mk 2 ever gets built with a more powerful engine and AESA radar. To me, it is a modern Folland Gnat F. 1 which was a dandy little fighter proven in combat by India.

The big question is will it ever go into full production? Only time will tell.

Until then, enjoy this flight display by one of the repainted prototypes. You can tell it is one by the peeling away paint on the underside showing the original gloss white scheme.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Fractale Episode 10: To the Temple

The penultimate episode of the series is filled with battle, deception, and desperation as the forces of the Lost Millennium rebels attack the Temple. But will Phryne’s attempt to broker a peace produce results or make things worse? Fractale: Reiterated continues with new HD screen captures and revised text.

Fractale TitleFractale 10 To the Temple

With the previous episode being more introspective and structured as a setup, it was guaranteed this one would be packed with action and so it is. Jumping straight into a pitched battle warns us there won’t be any of the prior humor present. In fact, this is a deadly serious episode.

Fractale 10 LM Airships AttackFractale 10 The Danan vs Temple Airship

To the Temple opens with a colossal air battle between the airships of Lost Millennium and the Temple. It is a kinetic and frenetic battle that looks spectacular. Both sides land blows and it gives a real sense of war also while being reminiscent of Studio Ghibli films. The quality of the production only falters once when a CGI stacked squadron of Temple ships attack and that was a minor thing, in my opinion. The Blu-ray/DVD release made that particular moment look a little better, but not much.

In the midst of this aerial chaos, Clain and Nessa arrive in the little airship. Threading through the flak, they manage to dock with The Danan to inform the Granites of Phryne’s running off to attempt negotiations. Cue the opening title sequence and the roller coaster ride that follows.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Animal Crackers (1930) Review

Following up their other Broadway hit turned motion picture, the Marx Brothers once again hit pay dirt at the box office with their second film. But a skimpy plot serves only to bridge one silly gag after another with plenty of songs thrown in for good measure. While not as good as their first film, there are plenty of laughs to be found.

Animal Crackers Title

After the success of The Cocoanuts transitioning from stage to screen in 1929, Paramount was eager to repeat the formula especially since Animal Crackers was already running on Broadway. Victor Heerman was brought on board to direct with the hopes he would be able to keep the wild brothers under control.

All that did was lead to another clash between Groucho and a director. What resulted was essentially a stage production put on camera with little directorial creativity. Fortunately, the Marx Brothers were more than able to carry the film despite that large handicap.

Animal Crackers NewspaperAnimal Crackers Roscoe Woos Mrs Rittenhouse

The movie begins with a display of a newspaper after the credits end. To make sure we ignorant savages understand what is being presented, close up shots of pertinent information are shown. From that we are meant to glean, the setup involves an explorer, Captain Geoffrey T. (for Edgar) Spaulding, and a famous painting arriving at a wealthy socialite’s estate. Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont) is a widow of some means. Which means Groucho will be soon hitting on her.

Since this was an early talkie, we are subjected treated to the sight of the butler singing as he instructs the staff on how to handle the guests. It goes on far too long before seguing to Roscoe Chandler (Louis Sorin) arriving with his prize painting by Beaugard. Don’t bother searching, the painter and painting are fictional. I suspect people searching for them on the Net would have amused the Marx Brothers a great deal.

Yet Another Reason Why Hollywood Is Evil

Ever see the mashup of Buffy the Vampire Slayer dealing with Edward from the Twilight movies? It just got a lot harder to see since Lionsgate has ordered the video deleted from YouTube. Read about the whole ridiculous mess at Ars Technica.

This is what happens when a system stops being truly creative and relies desperately on intellectual property to eek out every last cent they can. McIntosh is clearly within the bounds of fair use, yet he can’t get a fair ruling. The system is very broken with no signs things will get better.

In fact, I suspect it will get even more draconian.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

A More Sophisticated Referral Spammer

2013 seems to be shaping up to be a spam heavy year and one that has been around hit my blog today. ontimemarketing . biz takes you to a Wordpress blog that at first glance appears to be legitimate. But spend more than a couple of seconds looking at it and you find that the posts are all taken from other sites to give the illusion that it is serious.

Well, it is serious about one thing and that’s generating online traffic to it in hopes you will click on the wall to wall ads and deals posted there. That is how the owner of the site makes money. I highly doubt Tiger Direct and The Huffington Post are contributing posters to the site given how amateurish the layout is. It is enough to fool spiders from registering it as a fake site, however.

Please do not click to go there. While I detected no malware, I was using Linux to visit the site, so be careful if you do.

Now back to working on real content for this site!

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Remembering to Breathe

One of the stranger things about having an upper respiratory infection is that there are times when you cough so much you forget to breathe. This might sound silly to someone who hasn’t had to deal with the problem much, but it happens. When it does, I have to slow down and concentrate on the normally automatic act of breathing.

Breath control and meditation go hand in hand, so that has been a huge help in the latest bout that went from bronchitis to pre-pneumonia. Thankfully the latter stage has been too mild to bother going in to see a doctor with only a small amount of blood present in a couple of coughs. It is when it is brown that I worry. Experience teaches you a lot, especially about things you’d rather not know.

I’m still coughing, but things are much improved though my reserves of stamina are kaput. Not that I had a lot in the first place, but they got me home from visiting Indiana between the holidays. Ricola cough drops have been helpful and I better remember to take some with me to church tomorrow.

Friday, January 04, 2013

More Thoughts on the Nook HD

Since I’ll never get around to writing a full blown review, I’m going to type some more of my impressions of Barnes and Noble’s 7” Android based tablet. Video playback, book reading, and the child friendly nature of the Nook HD will be covered.

The screen is even more phenomenal than I first thought. One of the knocks on color LCD tablets is that you can’t read them in bright sunlight, unlike the E-ink based readers. To my shock, this is not true with the Nook HD. All you have to do is up the brightness to maximum and it will do just fine. I tested this by reading while being in very bright sunlight surrounded by white snow – and wearing sunglasses which make LCD reading very hard.

Now I no longer covet having a simple Kindle or Nook for bright days. This is huge because I primarily use my other tablet for reading. It being so lightweight makes reading on it a joy.

Video playback has been an interesting odyssey. Things look fantastic on the display with the difference between high and low definition sources being very noticeable. Streaming has been an interesting experience due to the closed environment of B&N.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

First Referral Spam of 2013

The new year has hardly begun and a new spammer has shown up: videoshub . needz . it. From the spelling, I can only surmise that it is a link to tawdry materials of a graphic nature. It is highly suggested you do not click on it if you find it in your Blogger stats.

Fractale Episode 9: No Way Out

A quiet and introspective episode that is heavy on character development after the nightmarish events of the previous installment. Much is revealed about Phryne and Nessa, while the drums of war beat ominously in the background.The beginning of the end for the series is in sight with one last look at some of the charm that permeated the first two episodes. Fractale: Reiterated continues with new HD screen captures and revised text.

Fractale TitleFractale 09 Title

A pause to breath before the final battle is always good to have in any story, despite what some action film producers might think. This episode is all about that breather, but the consequences for the actions taken earlier unfold for the Granites throughout. While it is a slow down in action, there is none in content.

Fractale 09 CraterFractale 09 Enri Arrives

After the explosive ending to episode 8, No Way Out opens with a door opening. This particular door belongs to the emergency shelter seen just before the big bang unleashed by Dias and happens to have Clain pushing it open. He, Phryne, and Nessa are safe but the Temple base is now a gigantic crater in the ground. The little Phryne clone was obviously killed in the explosion, for there is no sign of her. Hopefully, the perverted Barrot was atomized. From the ground, Clain waves in a joyous Enri to come get them.

Obama Does Have a Mandate…

…The Congressional Republicans gave it to him. That is just what happened in the fiscal cliff game that played out in the wee hours last night.

An interesting opposing viewpoint can be found at

I’m not even going to go into the disastrous economics involved in the deal. What interests me more is how the whole thing played out. Obama went from a moderately strong hand to a total victory that impressed, though he had all the trump cards in the first place. Fear of those trump cards was more powerful than they actually were and he didn’t even need to play them.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The Blog in 2012

It was an interesting year for From the Sidelines with unexpected solid growth in traffic ending in an abrupt collapse in visits and pageviews. A picture is worth a thousand words as they say, so take a look at this traffic cliff via Google Analytics:

2012 Traffic

While I still can’t concretely say why things went that way, the most likely explanation is that Google demoted my site after I altered the robots.txt. That was done to make Bing/Yahoo finally index everything. Despite submitting the proper sitemaps to Bing, that search engine was never able to crawl the whole archive of posts after many months of trying.

So I tried adding the relevant sitemap coding for overcoming Blogger’s limits of showing only the last 25 posts to the robots.txt. It worked like a charm and made everything visible to Bing’s spider. A week later and Google capped me at 150 impressions a day for the blog. Suffice it to say that the microscopic uptick in traffic from Bing/Yahoo failed to make up for that.

Really, does anybody use Bing?