Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Into the New Year of 2014

2013 was not a good year for me or my immediate family, so I bid it good riddance. Another year begins in mere hours here and has already begun in the East. Hopefully it will be better than this one was. Expectations for 2013 were low and frankly negative, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when it turned into a year of one bad thing after another.

2014? Haven’t a clue, yet it is not likely to be a great year. That said, it could be an improvement for me. For others, I don’t know.

My only prediction is that a lot of people in the United States are going to wake up to the fact that we’re in an economic downward spiral, not a recovery. Worldwide, things will continue to become more unstable. No foresight is required to see these things, it’s just the established pattern.

In my personal life, I hope to see some improvements since I’ve already started working on them. Zero resolutions for the new year, I’m already ahead on that. As far as looking forward to anything, the only item that pops into my mind is getting to teach about the Old Testament in Sunday school for adults. That’s going to be fun.

May the new year treat everyone well!

The Invisible Boy (1957) Review

When a true sequel to Forbidden Planet fell apart during the planning stages, MGM decided that Robby the Robot would still get a vehicle written around him for the next year. Instead of a hard science fiction story, a simpler story aimed straight at young boys was chosen. Though nowhere near the quality of the earlier film, moments of intelligence shine through this kiddie flick about a not very intelligent brat.

The Invisible Boy Title

This review is actually an extension of my Forbidden Planet one, since this movie is an extra in both the DVD and Blu-ray releases. Little did I know when I started watching this flick that I’d encounter a boy so annoying that he rivaled Kenny (aka Toshio) from the first Gamera movie! Is that considered a spoiler? If so, consider yourself nearly as spoiled as Timmie.

Yes, that’s a Timmie with an “ie”, not a “y”.

The Invisible Boy InstituteThe Invisible Boy Military Visitors

Looking every bit like a B-movie, but sporting a slightly better budget, The Invisible Boy starts off in promising fashion with a motorcade arriving at the Stoneman Institute of Mathematics. A front for an underground computer laboratory and research center, it is run by Dr. Tom Merrinoe (Richard Eyer), the main programmer for “the Computer” at its core. Holding the collective knowledge of all of humanity, it is being used for things such as checking rocket launch calculations.

Okay, that sounds underwhelming, but back in the 1950s this was amazing stuff since virtually nobody had any experience with the brilliant idiots we now tote around everywhere. To the layman, computers were a form of black magic capable of doing almost anything. Every day brought a new advancement in science, much of it on the military end.

Forget Mystery Meat, How About Mystery Spam?

Just in time for the end of the year, I found a new referral spam in my Blogger statistics. http: // semalt . com / competitors_review . php? u= (then my blog address) is obvious spam due to it having text suggesting that someone is competing with my website and checking me out.

Semalt Spam

Using a virtual machine and TOR to be anonymous, I checked out the address. It only gets me to the home page where a requirement to register first stopped me cold. Of course, it wants you to log in using your Facebook, Google Plus, or Microsoft Live accounts. Oh, nothing suspicious about that, is there?

It offers to show you what your Google rankings are, which is interesting given that you can sign up for Google’s own tools for free to do the same. As the page loaded, I noticed that it loaded counter . yadro . ru , a Russian address I only fleetingly glimpsed. Some sites report this as a malware infection while others that it is simply a tracking site like Google analytics. Still a bad guy according to most, so consider it a red flag.

The privacy policy and terms of use pages are generic giving no useful information. There was no way I’d sign up to find out what lied beneath the barebones page other than to look at the source html. In there the meta description of the content bills the site as a “Professional keyword ranking monitoring service with competitor analysis. Fee plans.”  Also found in the code was the yadro address, so that is being loaded as a hit counter.

My advice to all who get a variant of this link in their statistics is to avoid clicking on it. Semalt is most likely only there to harvest data to access your email and social accounts with the possible additional goal of selling SEO (search engine optimization) methods.


I’m seeing more hits from this spam showing up in StatCounter now and they are coming from computers in different countries with differing versions of Windows and screen resolutions.  This means a bot net of infected computers is most likely being used to push the spam rather than forged addresses.

Please do not click on the link and if you have, run an antivirus program along with something like MalwareBytes or Spybot to make sure you haven’t been infected.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Health 12-28-2013

Hopefully this is the last post on my health for the year. It was not a good Christmas. My father and I both got sick earlier with him getting the worst of it. By the time Christmas Eve rolled around, neither of us were able to go anywhere or do much of anything. It got worse on Christmas day leading to a cancellation of a trip to visit my sister and her family in Indiana.

I’m still not feeling well and suspect the rotavirus going around is behind both our ailments. Shining forth amidst the gloom is one bright ray of hope for during the entire time I’ve managed to keep doing daily weight training. While far from easy and usually the only thing of any merit done, the new regime has stayed intact.

Usually when I get ill, I have flare ups of secondary infections often of a respiratory nature. First the sinuses try to kill me then the bronchial tubes. So far, only the sinuses have made an attempt with no success in enlisting their allies next to the lung sacs as is their annual tradition around this time of year.

While premature, the possibility the big experiment with daily weight training is having unexpected benefits involving the immune system is on my mind. Two days ago, I was able to help load and unload bags of wood pellets. That did cause problems recovering, but it was amazing that I was able to at all.

One thing I don’t like about weight training is how long it takes me to stop shaking afterward. It’s been half an hour and I’m vibrating worse than I normally do. Maybe it will improve in time.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Christmas Post

It’s 9:08 PM on Christmas Eve and I’ve got nothing in the way of inspiration for this post. Christmas with the Rat Pack is playing on Media Monkey, my head feels like its filled with cotton, and I’m suffering from dizziness.

Being a devout Mormon, no eggnog is involved. Bad health is, but I’m still counting my blessings since things could be far worse.

For some reason the shepherds in the hills being told of Christ’s birth has been haunting my mind the last few days. Why would a heavenly choir appear to those relatively poor denizens near Bethlehem? The meek may be the ones to inherit the Earth, yet why them?

After spending forty odd years on the planet, it has struck me how self important the powerful and well off are. By well off, I mean anybody who doesn’t have to scrabble to just survive, which excludes most Americans of the current age. I watch people wandering around lost in their own worlds and wonder if they’d even notice such a thing happening.

Even if they did, they’d attribute it to their own importance. Bah, humbug to vanity, I say.

Sometime much later after gaming with younger friends…

Another random thought: With all the focus on gifts, shopping, and decorations, there is a worrying element of losing perspective to Christmas. So I won’t be hoping for loot for myself, that’s for kids.

My wish is that everyone who reads this post will have a merry (or happy for the Brits) Christmas filled with comfort, joy, and love. That’s what it is supposed to be about, after all. That which is material must fade to dust over time, but true friends and family can be eternal. So let us be grateful for those we care about in our lives and for those who don’t have that, I especially wish that you find caring people in the days to come.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Forbidden Planet (1956) Review

A smart, literate script that derived much of its plot form Shakespeare's The Tempest propels this film from what could of been an expensive B-movie into a true top tier movie. Featuring a flying saucer, a robot, a mad scientist, and an alien monster it sounds like kid’s dream. Oh it is that, alright, but good acting and cutting edge effects made this science fiction film a true classic. UPDATED December 2013 with a full rewrite, HD screen captures, and Blu-ray details.

Forbidden Planet Title

Younger people have frown up in an era dominated by special effect, but this wasn’t the case in the past. Once upon a time, there was no such thing as computer generated effects, or CG. Special effects were done in laborious, painstaking ways, with wires, matte paintings, and miniatures. Of late, there has been a renaissance in using the old methods, combining them with CG. But amazingly, there were genuinely well done special effects in the past (though kids today will laugh at some of them) with certain films being milestones in the art.

MGM’s Forbidden Planet is one such film, but the expensive effects were only part of the reason this bold experiment is considered one of the greatest science fiction films of all time. The introduction of Robby the Robot (who cost an astounding 100,000 1956 dollars) definitely contributed, as did Anne Francis' short dresses (an actual plot point). But the main ingredient stirred into the mix was that the director and actors took the story seriously.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Looking Back: 2013 and the Blog

After the catastrophic collapse of traffic to end 2012, it looked like a bleak year coming up for From the Sidelines. Being a small blog and because I don’t work on promoting it, pageviews are highly dependent on organic search traffic from Google, Bing, and Yahoo – mostly Google. Every tweak, alteration, and seasonal mucking about of that mighty search engines algorithms seems to affect it. UPDATED with final figures.

2013 Traffic Final

Above is a graph of the traffic for 2013 according to Google Analytics. December has taken a downturn that reminds me a little of last December. A lot of reports of weirdness from search engine watchers makes me suspect that changes are being rolled out yet again.

In the end, December leveled out to my surprise. It seems the blog rebounds after every change Google makes now. As the trend shows since the middle of the year, traffic isn’t growing and is unlikely to.

The most visited posts for 2013:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Analysis? Selling Links for Money Spam

Either I’m beginning to become a connoisseur of referral spam or I’m just bored with the usual offerings. Today brought something slightly different to my Blogger stats that piqued my interest: http: // prlog . ru / analysis / from-the-sidelines . blogspot . com . Having my blog address in the spam brings such a warm, fuzzy feeling. Wait.. no, that’s indigestion. Anyway, it was a blink and you’ll miss it hit and run.

PRLog Spam 01PRLog Spam 02

Ever curious, I fired up my copy of Ubuntu on a virtual machine and used TOR to anonymously check out the site the link came from. Don’t try this at home unless you know something about security or reformatting your hard drive. Never click on suspicious links like this, leave it to crazy people like me.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Health 12-16-2013

Eleven straight days of weight training after todays workout indicate my theory of keeping the body confused may hold water. Time will tell.

I’m very tired today, due to quite a bit of running out and about starting on Friday. A trip to and from La Crosse to see the second The Hobbit movie was followed up by a trip to a party thrown partially for me by the Taylors, older friends from church. Good food and good company made up for getting stuck trying to go up the driveway.

Between being spoiled by the Subaru and having trouble gauging my level of force on the accelerator (a byproduct of doing weights), I’m having a deuce of a time relearning how to properly drive in winter conditions.

Sunday featured more driving than usual, because I’ve been brain dead and triple booked myself for after church. Fortunately for me, things worked out and I was able to make all my stops. I held up very well by my standards, so that was encouraging.

Even though I’m not up for doing much today, it isn’t as bad as it’s been the past couple of years.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Memories of a Past Virtual Life

For those of us who have been on the Web for a long time, part of the wired existence is watching  sites take root, bloom, and then wither away. Some were casually visited sites, but there are the ones we sank way too much time and attention into. They are virtual communities, that perpetual next big thing on the Internet, serving as places to socialize, argue, befriend, defriend, and quite often reflect the social order of high schools.

I’ve been online in some form or another since 1993 with two decades of watching all this happen. Experience is a great educator and a little over thirteen years ago I got quite the education about people online (and offline) thanks to a movie news and fan site called CountingDown. Due to various soap opera experiences and a decision to embrace “real life,” I departed it permanently around 2003. I never looked back.

Which makes it strange that I’d be flashing back to that period of my life this week. I had the feeling the site was no more and sure enough, www.countingdown.com doesn’t even bring up an error message. So I did a search for information about it being shuttered and at first only came up with people asking the same question.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug In Theater Review

Better than its predecessor, the second The Hobbit movie still lacks the emotional depth and nearly flawless execution that made The Lord of the Rings trilogy a masterpiece. With that statement out of the way, I’ll go into a few particulars.

First, do not take small children to this movie. The giant spiders and the titular dragon are perfect material for childhood nightmares. Also, if you have arachnophobia, you’ll want to keep your eyes closed for one of the better action sequences in the movie.

Next up is the simple fact that The Desolation of Smaug is an action film with no real breathing room. There are a few slower scenes, where there isn’t wall to wall action, but this film is all about spectacle and 3D!!!

While I saw it in 2D, far too many shots screamed “look at me” in the gratuitous shoving of objects in your face. In fact, there is no such thing as restraint in the CG effects – it is almost Michael Bay style film making. Then there are the endless decapitations which seems to be an obsession of director Peter Jackson’s.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Monsterous Tease

The official teaser for the Godzilla remake just surfaced on YouTube and boy is it a dandy:


This has to be the most atmospheric take on the big G since the original Gojira. It looks absolutely stupendous, is filled with a sense of terrible dread, and only hints at what the monster looks like. Add in the music from astronaut Bowman's going through the Monolith to amp the tension and this might be a perfect example of how to tease a movie.

Yeah, this is my most anticipated film of 2014, bar none. Time to watch the teaser again.

Games People Play

With the year approaching its ending, I’ve found myself looking back at more than the past twelve months. For some reason, nostalgia has been hitting me harder than I’m used to.

It has been twenty years since DOOM from Id Software was released. I remember waiting for the shareware first episode to download over the glacially slow dialup connection I had through America Online.  Eager anticipation led to mild disappointment after firing up the game only to find I had to run it in a reduced box to get acceptable frame rates on my Packard Bell 486SX-25. That disappointment dissipated once actually running and gunning through the eerie atmosphere of darkened base on a moon orbiting Mars.

My first PC games were Chuck Yeager’s Air Combat, Dune, and Orel Hershiser’s Strike Zone. They weren’t graphically intensive, though Dune was one of the most lovely 256 color games every put out. Having played Castle Wolfenstein 3D, I couldn’t wait to play Id’s next game.

Red ShirtRed Shirt Dyson Sphere

Two decades later and I’m playing games that look like this. How things have changed!

Monday, December 09, 2013

Health 12-9-2013

For once, I have something positive to record. After musing over the successes I had in boosting my health fourteen years ago, I decided to recreate some of what I did then rather than what’s considered medically sound.

Step one was going back to using NADH no matter the financial drain and after taking it for eighteen months I can say it has helped with improved memory and alertness.

Step two began Friday after I remembered how I used to do weight training. Instead of doing it every other day like you are supposed to, the routine is being done daily. In fact, I just completed todays sets with some amazement that they weren’t very difficult.

Four days in a row, which equals the total number of preceding workouts this year, if I haven’t forgotten any. Close enough for government work.

Perfection in pulling it off every day is not expected due to health problems, but this is a good start. In the short term, the hope is that back and neck problems will improve. Long term will result in a host of benefits, if my body doesn’t completely rebel against the routine.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below (2011) Review

aka Journey to Agartha

A visually stunning meditation on death, love, and loneliness, this story of a girl’s journey to a mystical underworld doesn’t shy away from the harsh things encountered in life. Filled with action, magical creatures, a hint of romance, and a profound sense of loss, the movie is one of the best anime efforts to ever come out of Japan.

Children Who Chase Title

Director/writer Makoto Shinkai has made a name for himself over the past decade by creating beautifully animated tales of love lost. Some have labeled him the next Hayao Miyazaki though he hasn’t had the international success of that renowned director. In an effort to reach a wider audience, Shinkai began to ponder universal beliefs across cultures and what would appeal to the entire world. The end result is a dazzling and thoughtful movie about dealing with the deaths of loved ones.

Children Who Chase Asuna ListensChildren Who Chase Train Crossing

Set in a rural town in 1970’s Japan, Children Who Chase Lost Voices makes quite an impression right away. Not through a cheap trick of a shocking or surprising event, but through showing the quiet beauty of a girl listening to a railroad track. The play of light and shadows combines with the sounds of the countryside to create an authentic sun kissed moment that immerses the viewer into the setting.

The girl’s name is Asuna and she’s in a hurry to get somewhere. As we follow her running around, we are treated to superb animation on the way to her secret place hidden up on a hill. The sheer amount of eye candy borders on overload and repeat viewings had me finding something new every time.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Salary Comparison and Bitcoin Spam

With a sudden stop to the flood of Russian blog spam, I’d been feeling a little lonely this holiday season. But hey, Cyber Monday brought me a deal! UPDATED: Added links to articles on Bitcoin malware at end of post.

Am I Richer Spam 01

http:// www . amiricherthanyou . com / ec_recommended . php ?q=Oved&id=473535 arrived in my blog stats to assist me in feeling financially inadequate. Oh boy! Just what I wanted, more spam! Sarcasm aside, I was wondering why things had gotten so quiet lately. So firing up my trusty virtual machine and TOR, I checked out the link. Remember, don’t try this at home, kids. Never click on suspicious links or you will be sorry.

Am I Richer Spam 02

Surprise! The link took me straight to an ad for BitCoin trading. Yeah, that doesn’t look shady at all, does it? I’d have a better screenshot, but I forgot to maximize my browser and there was no quick way to get that site back – there’s a good reason for that I’ll go into later.