Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Kiss seals comics deal with Platinum Studios

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The rock group Kiss has partnered with comic-book production company Platinum Studios to create a new comic-book entertainment company called the Kiss Comics Group.

This is not the first time there have been comics featuring the members of the band, but it will be the first time that Kiss -- under the banner of Kiss Catalog Ltd., run by original members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley will produce its own comic-book-based characters.

The co-venture aims to be more than a publisher; it plans to expand the comic-book characters' images onto multimedia platforms including print, mobile, online, film, television and licensed merchandise.

First up from the KCG will be "Kiss 4K," the story of Simmons, Stanley and other band members' transformation from rock stars to world-protecting warrior spirits. "4K" will be released in March as a 3-foot comic priced at $50, with an intent to make it the largest comic book ever published. It will be followed by merchandise including apparel, video games and comic strips for cell phones.

Platinum, which has projects such as "Cowboys and Aliens" set up at Sony Pictures, is counting on Kiss' multigenerational, international fan base as well as more than 4,000 fan sites from around the globe and will launch simultaneously in the U.S., France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The band members said they will be involved in all day-to-day decisions.

"The Kiss comics that have come out were licenses; they weren't truly part of the mythology," Platinum chairman Scott Mitchell Rosenberg said. "This is all of us working together. (Simmons and Stanley) care about every panel of every comic and how an image looks on a shirt."

Monday, January 29, 2007

CBS unveils 'The Amazing Race: All-Stars' cast, show to debut Feb. 18

The Amazing Race: All-Stars, the eleventh installment of the long-running reality franchise, will premiere Sunday, February 18 at 8PM ET/PT. Seven of the series' ten previous editions will be represented in the all-stars competition, with the show's first, third, seventh, and tenth editions each landing two The Amazing Race: All-Stars teams. Absent from the competition are any teams from The Amazing Race 4, The Amazing Race 6, or the show's disastrous The Amazing Race: Family Edition eighth edition. As in previous seasons, The Amazing Race: All-Stars' winning team will receive $1,000,000.

See all 11 teams here.

101 Free Games 2007

It's not hard to find free games on the Internet -- but it's damn near impossible to sift through the terabytes of crap to find good ones. That's where the editors of Games for Windows: The Official Magazine come in: We've tracked down another 101 absolutely, positively, no-strings-attached free games that are actually worth playing, grouped them into handy categories, and put most of 'em up on FileFront.com. There's something here for everyone, from RPGs to real-time strategy to Asteroids Flash games, though we have to confess up front: There are actually more than 101 free games here. So no complaining that you're not getting your money's worth.

101 Free Games

Nimoy Hosts Trek Special

Original Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy will host Star Trek: Beyond the Final Frontier, a History Channel documentary special that will take a look at the 40-year history of the venerable SF franchise. The special airs Feb. 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT and will feature interviews with actors from the various incarnations of Trek, including Nimoy, Patrick Stewart, Kate Mulgrew and Avery Brooks.

The documentary will also include footage from the Christie's auction of Trek costumes, props, set pieces and models last October. Executive producer for The History Channel is Beth Dietrich Segarra.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


MediaCoder is a FREE universal audio/video batch transcoder distributed under GPL license, which puts together lots of excellent audio/video codecs and tools from the open source community into an all-in-one solution, capable of transcoding among different audio/video formats. With many extra features and a expandable architecture, MediaCoder is more than a GUI of a bunch of command line tools.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Bionic cat eyes may help restore sight in people

Chips replace — perhaps even repair — diseased retinas in Abyssinians

Learn how become a YouTube viral video star

NEW YORK — So you want to be a viral video star.

Now that Web sites like YouTube have created a democratized platform for celebrity, anyone who uploads a video has a chance to become a sensation. And we've seen deals follow with TV networks and record labels.

Sounds easy, right? Except that more than 70 million videos are watched on YouTube daily. In that enormous digital wilderness, most videos fall without a sound.

To reach the pinnacle of YouTube celebrity, your video must generally rank among either the most-viewed or most-subscribed lists, which each include only 100 videos, arranged daily, weekly, monthly and by all-time.

A look at how to rise up the charts:

The video

Nobody knows what will become a hit. The most popular videos ever posted on YouTube include a balding man dancing (39 million views), an impression of a computer bug (6 million) and a dog that seems to hate his left hind foot (7 million).

"It's really about finding out what you do best and putting it out there," says Ben Going, a 21-year-old Alabama waiter who as "boh3m3" is one of the best-known members of the YouTube community.

Then there's the consistent popularity of cute, young girls. YouTube's biggest star — lonelygirl15 — probably wouldn't have succeeded as a middle-aged man. In recent months, many have sought to exploit the male impulse to click on anything that has the slightest chance of showing some skin.

One of the week's most-viewed clips has a thumbnail photo of a buxom blonde and calls itself "Chicks Gone Wild!!! 2" And thus more than a million people have clicked on a video of baby chickens.

Last month, dot-com entrepreneur Mark Cuban, who frequently blogs critically on YouTube, wrote: "That's what YouTube has become. Fake porn and commercials."

One good way to make a name for yourself is to parody something that's already popular on YouTube. For example, Richard Stern — known as "Lazydork" — became well known after making a rap video titled "LonelyGirl: Lazydork is Better Than You."

Actor Jamie Kennedy's recent parody "How To Blow Up on YouTube" recommended mixing Mentos with Diet Coke, playing with cats, singing into the camera or pairing yourself with a teenage girl.

Capturing eyeballs

Once you've uploaded your video and tagged it with relevant subjects, your work has just begun. Some people may stumble on your video and maybe your friends will share it with others, but you've got to create your audience just as you created your video.

"One of the things that we always recommend is to build a YouTube channel and be an active part of the community," says Aaron Ferstman, a spokesman for YouTube. "It's really about producing creative content, contributing it, getting comments and just participating with other people."

Francis Stokes, a 34-year-old independent filmmaker, spent years at film festivals with his movie "Harold Buttleman, Daredevil Stuntman." Now his "God, Inc." series on YouTube has brought fame and industry notice in a matter of weeks.

The first episode of "God, Inc.," which presents heaven as an office, has received nearly one million views since being added in early December — but it didn't happen overnight.

"I uploaded the video thinking, 'Oh, people will find it.' And then after a while, I started getting to know YouTube and getting to know who was popular, so I sent out some e-mails and made some comments," he said.

To infuse yourself into the community, you can post video responses and comments to the videos of popular YouTubers.

Damien Estreich has become a unique presence in online video with his channel, YourTube News. His videos — sometimes hosted by a professional broadcaster — report what's happening on YouTube and profile notable contributors. But he also had to fight to become relevant.

"I just marketed my heart out on people's pages and got social networking going," says Estreich, who lives in Australia. "I got popular members doing video responses — got the name in there."

Going, however, is reluctant to lend his spotlight to those who approach him: "That's not what it's all about."

Occasionally, suspicion arises that a video has become artificially inflated by "gaming" the system — repeatedly posting comments on one's own video to make it one of the "most discussed" videos, or by using multiple user names to increase subscription numbers.

YouTube spokeswoman Jennifer Nielsen notes that to make a YouTube profile, you need to have a unique e-mail address, which would make dummy accounts time-consuming to create. For security reasons, she won't discuss YouTube's anti-gaming software that prevents repeated refreshing of pages to falsely drum up view counts.

Viral infection

Some viral videos spread of their own magical volition, but many get help. One of the best boosts is to become featured on the home page of YouTube.

A video picked by the site's home page editors is virtually guaranteed to at least break 100,000 views. The YouTube blog (www.youtube.com/blog) recently profiled one of its editors with his thought process behind choosing a week's worth of videos. He showed a taste for the cute ("The Cuppycake Song"), the unusual ("World Freehand Circle Drawing Champion") and videos that interact with others in the community.

It's possible to e-mail your video to these editors and hope it catches their fancy. Going first gained a large number of subscribers after his video appeared on the front of YouTube, and it was the key to Stokes' jump in popularity.

"I woke up the next morning and we were up to 300,000 and my e-mail inbox had 50 e-mails — people all over the world," says Stokes. "Somebody was translating it into Spanish."

Inward-looking vlogs like Estreich's YourTube News and a similar channel called UTubeUrTube can also bring attention to your video.

Estreich was one of the early YouTubers to promote a singer named Mia Rose. That got the ball rolling for the 18-year-old, who over the past month has become the most-subscribed musician ever on YouTube. Estreich is now working as one of Rose's representatives, and the young singer says she has offers from several music labels.

On YouTube, popularity breeds more popularity. Once you've made it to the most-viewed list, more and more people will click on it; growth can become exponential. The most popular YouTube clip of all-time, Judson Laipply's "Evolution of Dance," has now been seen by more than 39 million people.

Like many others at the top, Laipply has frequently been profiled by traditional media, including The Associated Press. And that media attention represents the final rung of the viral video ladder.


On the Net:





Make a Riser For Your Computer Monitors

Ergonomics are changing the way that companies are setting up their offices today. One issue that a number of very tall people face when they are seated at their desks is they have to look downward at their monitor. I can't count the number of times I've seen people use strong cardboard boxes, computer manuals and even telephone books under the base of their monitor to raise it up to eye level.

In this set of free woodworking plans, we've got a much better solution. We've built a beautiful hardwood computer monitor riser that sits under one or two monitors to raise them up over five inches! Additionally, the unit includes two very useful dovetailed drawers that are large enough to hold magazines or papers. You could even use it to raise a television a few inches higher in your living room or bedroom.

How to Build a Shed

A shed solves a lot of storage needs for outdoor tools and equipment. It is also a great place for work projects that won't clutter up the garage. A shed like the one in this article is very basic and simple to construct. If you are looking for a more stylized shed, you should go through some of the "Handyman" type magazines.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Interview with Jewel Staite

Hi Jewel and thank you so much for giving us at SGPnet the chance to have this interview with you. We are very proud about that opportunity, because we know you must be very busy at the moment. You're making a lot of German Browncoats happy with this interview.

On "Firefly" you played the mechanic Kaylee Frye of the space-ship "Serenity". Kaylee was a sweet little girl with a heart of gold. She was so innocent and adolescent, that she just needed to be protected. She was clever, friendly and always optimistic, and that's what made Kaylee so likeable.

Thank you, Jewel, for bringing Kaylee to life, for showing us her way of living in this rough and dirty universe and for co-creating one of two parts of a sweet couple that finally got its chance to get together in "Serenity". That must have been a great day for all shippers, when Kaylee and Simon kissed each other.

So, are you ready for the questions? Then let's go!

Read more here!!!

Cancelled shows given second chance with DVDs

(I bought the Wonderfalls series for my wife for one of her Christmas presents. - Marc)

We all know about the astronomical success of the "Family Guy" DVD box sets, which motivated the network that originally cancelled the Seth MacFarlane-created series (Fox) to offer the residents of Quahog, R.I., a second chance.

There were also the considerable sales of "Firefly," the Joss Whedon sci-fi/western (also cancelled by Fox) which found new life as a Universal-backed motion picture called "Serenity" (even if its total box office take didn't even cover the film's modest $40 million production budget).

While most cancelled shows don't get a second chance on television or the big screen, their eventual release on DVD offers viewers the chance to check out what they missed the first time around.

Here are some of the very best of the very cancelled, emancipated of commercials and chocked full of commentaries no one will ever listen to:

* Wonderfalls

Canadian indie film standout Caroline Davernas starred in this 2004 comedy about an MTV generation underachiever who graduated from Cornell and now works at a Niagara Falls gift shop. Jaye Tyler (Dhavernas) frequents the bar where her best friend is a waitress, lives in a trailer and is generally content with an achievement-free existence (despite being the de facto redheaded stepchild in her family).

Her entire life changes, however, when she discovers that manufactured representations of animals (like wax figures and those of the stuffed variety) can speak to her. As much as she tries to ignore them, she is all but forced to listen and repeatedly commit that most dreaded act of any self-respecting slacker: the good deed.

Ever the reluctant hero, Jaye saves relationships, reputations and even lives through the course of the 13 produced episodes on the DVDs.

The good news is that the writers knew the series was being cancelled and were able to conclude the initial story arc; the bad news is that we will never find out who exactly was talking to Jaye (or if she was actually suffering from a mental illness).

Either way, the acting in this series was absolutely superb, particularly from Tracie Thoms ("Rent," "Cold Case") as Jaye's best friend and the venerable William Sadler ("The Shawshank Redemption," "Roswell") as her caring but aloof father.

The other two were * Mission Hill and * Greg the Bunny.

Exclusive Interview with Corey Bridges

Joss Whedon's much beloved Firefly may have found a new media to keep it alive for all the Browncoats that can't get enough of the metaverse. On December 8,2006 The Multiverse Network, Inc., announced that it optioned the rights to develop an MMOG based on Firefly the television series. The game itself is in the early beginning planning stages, but I had to interview Mr. Bridges about the concept and how he would bring the beloved characters and story to the gaming world.

Firefly is such a beloved tv show, how do you plan to capture that essence in the game?

Joss Whedon created a phenomenal, unique show. The characters were amazing but so was the feel of the show--the sense of adventure, and quirky humor--and that sense of being on the frontier, where there's unknown danger just past the edge of camp. An MMO can do a good job conveying those aspects of the show. You can't play as Captain Mal Reynolds--but you might meet him in the game. And maybe you could accept a smuggling mission from Badger or, if you're kinda nuts, from Niska. Just don't fail. We'd love for cast and crew from the show to be involved in the game. We just finalized our partnership with Fox, so now we are able to reach out to cast and crew, and see if they are interested in being involved in this project.

I read that you will be providing the tools for the game to be made. Do you have a team of developers ready to work on this game?

That's right. What we're doing at Multiverse is actually building a whole network of MMOs and other virtual worlds. You'll be able to use one installed program--the Multiverse Client--to play any game that's built with our world-creation tools. So that's what Multiverse does. But in our discussions with Fox, this opportunity arose to enable a Firefly game to be made, and we couldn't pass up the opportunity to make that happen. We'll be hiring an independent team--someone who has the vision worthy of Firefly--to make the game.

So you were a Browncoat yourself?

Yep. Although I have to say, I didn't really know true Browncoat spirit until I went to a Firefly convention last weekend. It was remarkable--the convention's organizers cancelled the show at the last minute. But the Browncoats, who are used to people cancelling things things they love, said, "The hell with that--we're going to hold our convention anyway." So a replacement show sprang up from the ashes. People from all around the world--who weren't even at the convention--donated money so that the fans who were already in the hotel would have their show. Actors from the show--even though they'd been stiffed by the original convention's organizers--showed up out of the goodness of their hearts, to hang out with people, sign autographs, take pictures, and so forth. It was incredibly inspiring.

Is there any sort of time line on the game? Would you hope to show a test at next year's E3?

You'll be able to play at least a beta in 2008. That's a pretty short timeframe, compared to traditional MMO development, but the Multiverse technology platfrom saves at least a couple years in development time. We haven't decided whether we'll show anything at E3. In the meantime, look to the Firefly fan sites for news. We'll be keeping them in the loop because without the Browncoats, we wouldn't have had the inspiration to make this project happen.

Thank you Mr. Bridges for your time and for chatting with us about the verse! I look forward to reporting here what happens with the game.

Dallas Comic Con

The lovely Morena Baccarin of Firefly/Serenity and Stargate SG-1 fame joins the Dallas Comic Con Fan Day on Saturday March 17th! Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to meet Morena and give her a big Texas welcome. Browncoats, help spread the word!

Admission: FREE!!

Smulders Open To Wonder Woman

Cobie Smulders, the brunette Canadian actress who stars in CBS' How I Met Your Mother, told SCI FI Wire that she'd be open to auditioning for the title role in Joss Whedon's proposed Wonder Woman movie. She first broached the idea in the February issue of Esquire magazine, which is on sale now.

"It's funny," Smulders said in an interview at CBS' winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif., last week, "when you do like an interview for two hours, and then they take the Wonder Woman quote. ... My boyfriend ... [is] really into comic books, and ... he was the one who kind of said, 'Hey, it would be cool if you could do that.' And I don't know. Who knows? I'll go in for it if it comes up, but it's definitely not, like, in the works or anything."

Smulders said that the idea has come up before. "I think it's just the curse of having brown hair in this industry and being an actress," she said. "I think it's just a general, like, question that everyone's going to pose their clients."

Whedon, creator of TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and director of the feature film Serenity, has been hired to write and possibly direct a Wonder Woman movie, based on the DC Comics franchise.

Cheap, safe drug kills most cancers

New Scientist has received an unprecedented amount of interest in this story from readers. If you would like up-to-date information on any plans for clinical trials of DCA in patients with cancer, or would like to donate towards a fund for such trials, please visit the site set up by the University of Alberta and the Alberta Cancer Board. We will also follow events closely and will report any progress as it happens.

It sounds almost too good to be true: a cheap and simple drug that kills almost all cancers by switching off their “immortality”. The drug, dichloroacetate (DCA), has already been used for years to treat rare metabolic disorders and so is known to be relatively safe.

It also has no patent, meaning it could be manufactured for a fraction of the cost of newly developed drugs.

Evangelos Michelakis of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and his colleagues tested DCA on human cells cultured outside the body and found that it killed lung, breast and brain cancer cells, but not healthy cells. Tumours in rats deliberately infected with human cancer also shrank drastically when they were fed DCA-laced water for several weeks.

DCA attacks a unique feature of cancer cells: the fact that they make their energy throughout the main body of the cell, rather than in distinct organelles called mitochondria. This process, called glycolysis, is inefficient and uses up vast amounts of sugar.

Until now it had been assumed that cancer cells used glycolysis because their mitochondria were irreparably damaged. However, Michelakis’s experiments prove this is not the case, because DCA reawakened the mitochondria in cancer cells. The cells then withered and died (Cancer Cell, DOI: 10.1016/j.ccr.2006.10.020).

Michelakis suggests that the switch to glycolysis as an energy source occurs when cells in the middle of an abnormal but benign lump don’t get enough oxygen for their mitochondria to work properly (see diagram). In order to survive, they switch off their mitochondria and start producing energy through glycolysis.

Crucially, though, mitochondria do another job in cells: they activate apoptosis, the process by which abnormal cells self-destruct. When cells switch mitochondria off, they become “immortal”, outliving other cells in the tumour and so becoming dominant. Once reawakened by DCA, mitochondria reactivate apoptosis and order the abnormal cells to die.

“The results are intriguing because they point to a critical role that mitochondria play:

they impart a unique trait to cancer cells that can be exploited for cancer therapy,” says Dario Altieri, director of the University of Massachusetts Cancer Center in Worcester.

The phenomenon might also explain how secondary cancers form. Glycolysis generates lactic acid, which can break down the collagen matrix holding cells together. This means abnormal cells can be released and float to other parts of the body, where they seed new tumours.

DCA can cause pain, numbness and gait disturbances in some patients, but this may be a price worth paying if it turns out to

be effective against all cancers. The next step is to run clinical trials of DCA in people with cancer. These may have to be funded by charities, universities and governments: pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to pay because they can’t make money on unpatented medicines. The pay-off is that if DCA does work, it will be easy to manufacture and dirt cheap.

Paul Clarke, a cancer cell biologist at the University of Dundee in the UK, says the findings challenge the current assumption that mutations, not metabolism, spark off cancers. “The question is: which comes first?” he says.

What I've Learned: Peter O'Toole

Actor, 74, London

By Stephen Garrett

(Peter O’Toole’s work in Venus has been honored with an Oscar nomination for Actor in a Leading Role.)

Anarchic, arbitrary sexual urges -- there's not a man or woman who doesn't love and has not been disturbed by them.

I've never looked for women. When I was a teenager, perhaps. But they are looking for us, and we must learn that very quickly. They decide. We just turn up. Never mind the superficialities -- tall and handsome and all that. Just turn up. They will do the rest.

I was obsessed with losing it for four years. How did it happen? Alfresco, at night. On the steps of an old chapel -- I shan't say where. Two semiprofessional mill girls. Me and another bloke and two girls. Exultation. Wow -- it was very good!

I don't think I've changed much from my boyhood.

Six years: 1939 to 1945. It was life. One's literacy was newspapers, bombs, Germans. We didn't have a childhood. We had the war.

From both my mother and father I learned endurance. Things were pretty tough. But things could be tougher.

Listen, everybody was offered the part of Lawrence of Arabia: Marlon Brando, Greta Garbo, Groucho Marx. Everybody but me. They all turned it down for various reasons. And David Lean had banked his life on that picture. David's wife was seeing a guru at the time, and this guru had seen a film called The Day They Robbed the Bank of England, in which I played a silly English officer. And the guru told her that he had just seen the man who should play Lawrence.

The Bedouin are about five foot, so I spent two years pretending I wasn't tall. I became telescopic.

May I tell you a camel story? It was the charge at 'Aqaba -- a mile and a half, and we were in front of five hundred Arab stallions. The day of the shooting, we turned up to the kickoff. And Omar -- a gambling man, Omar -- worked out the odds of whether he would fall off. So he tied himself to the camel. And I said, I'm going to get drunk. So we both drank milk and brandy -- it was terrifying -- and a mile and a half later, horses, madness, we both finish up in the sea. And Omar was upside down with his head in the water, still tied to the camel.

After Lawrence, nothing changed. I could afford to go places and I was let into places. But nothing changed.

I love bullfighting. I love the dance, I love the courage, I love the style, I love the skill. I love everything about it.

When we were drama students, we imitated John Gielgud, we imitated Richard Burton, we imitated Michael Redgrave, we imitated Larry Olivier. It's language. For my generation, drama, the theater, plays, they are human speech as an art form. To turn up for material that exists and say, "No, I'm superior to that material" is a very strange attitude. I'd be very careful if I were you.

If you go to the West End theaters now, it's a graveyard. Lots of musicals, they're cheerful. But the plays? God almighty.

New York nearly fifty years ago was one of the most magical places ever. And one of its most endearing qualities was its playfulness. If you had a bit of scratch -- not much, but a bit -- you could do anything, go anywhere, get anything, get away with anything.

Everything you hear about the true American spirit -- the matriarchy and the femininity and the toughness -- you find in Kate Hepburn. She was funny as hell and brave and dotty. Kate! I gave my daughter her name.

Years later, in Ireland, daughter Kate, then nine or ten, said, "Daddy, there's an old Gypsy woman at the door!" We had a Gypsy nearby who would pinch our flowers. I went to the door and said, "No, thank you, we don't -- oh, hello, Kate." She had four jackets on. One belonged to Barrymore, one to Spencer Tracy, one to me, and one to Humphrey Bogart. Khaki trousers and boots -- this was her uniform.

On racetracks, green is considered unlucky. To be disobedient in a way that can't be seen, I wear green socks. I have since I was fourteen.

For Christ's sake, we all have eccentricities. We're all crippled with them, aren't we?

Richard Burton and I lived around the corner from each other in Hampstead -- before Elizabeth Taylor, before anything. He'd come to my place or I'd go to his. And then we'd carry the other home. Elizabeth wasn't keen on that. She probably thought I led him astray. I don't know. She didn't approve. That was a bone of contention between me and Richard. I said, "If you now need permission to come see me, then you go f**k yourself, you old git!"

I drink now. But not like before. Christ, who could?

We live public lives. If you want to guard your privacy, stop it.

Comedy is among the most difficult crafts. I've never known a good actor who couldn't play comedy. I know no actor who finds it easy.

My favorite smell? Cordite. After you've fired a gun.

Good parts make good actors. I take them as they come.

Tennant Talks Who Season 3

David Tennant, who plays the iconic role of the Doctor in the revived Doctor Who series, told SCI FI Wire that it was difficult shooting the final scene with fellow cast member Billie Piper, who left the show at the end of the second season. "Of course that scene meant that Billie was leaving the show (although it wasn't the final scene she shot), and that was very sad," Tennant said in an e-mail interview. "She is a great actor and had become a great friend. It's also a beautifully written scene, and even when we ran through the lines together on the makeup bus that morning, we started sniffling. In fact, in the video diaries on the DVD you can see us both have a good old weep about the whole thing."

In the recent special The Runaway Bride, which aired on Christmas Day in the United Kingdom, the Doctor did not take on a new companion, but he won't be on his own for long. Freema Agyeman will join the show in the third season on the BBC as medical student Martha Jones. "The Doctor and Martha have a very different relationship to the Doctor and Rose," Tennant said. "The Doctor doesn't really think he needs a new traveling companion at the moment, but Martha makes herself indispensable."

Tennant said that he understands what it's like to take over for a popular Doctor Who cast member; he replaced former Doctor Christopher Eccleston in the second season of the show. But he let Agyeman find her own way of dealing with the pressure. "Oh, she doesn't need any advice, and I wouldn't be pompous enough to offer it," he said. "Freema hit the ground running and has inhabited Martha Jones from day one without a hint of trepidation or nervousness. I found myself quite envious of her confidence. She is going to be brilliant."

But don't expect the Doctor to get over Rose so quickly. "As with any big relationship, it takes time for the scars to heal," Tennant said. "Perhaps the Doctor feels like he's dealt with it, but Martha might disagree." The second season of Doctor Who was released on DVD on Jan. 16. The third season will begin airing in Great Britain on the BBC this spring.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Videomaker Magazine website

Learn Video Production, Digital Video Editing, Camcorder Reviews, Videography

Videomaker's Editors have compiled this list of useful video editing and video related software downloads for you to check out.

Software Downloads

Free Sound Effects

I can use the above info with my new Pure Digital Point and Shoot Camcorder. ;-)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Pinewood Derby - How to Build a Car

The Cub Scout Pinewood Derby is probably the most popular "fun event" that a young Scout will participate. The recognition of the time spent building the car may be seen as Pack prizes for the most colorful, most inventive, fastest, most "radical" and as many other categories as one can imagine. In the Desert Pacific council, the Cub with the fastest car in the Pack is eligible to compete with all the other Cubs from the Packs at the San Diego 500 held at the Desert Pacific Scout Fair.

Every year, boys with their parent's help, build cars of every description to enter at the local Pack competition. The construction of the car is intended to be a parent and son project with the son doing the majority of the work. The parent should supply the advise and limited assistance with the more difficult tasks. Please remember above all that the Pinewood Derby is supposed to be fun for all. So get started early and take your time building and testing your car. Plan to spend at least 4 to 6 hours building the car over several days. The experienced racers may spend many times this amount of time and it shows in the appearance and racing performance.
The planning and construction of your car may be approached in many ways. This information will serve only as a guide to some while providing good first-time information and pointers for others. The experienced wood craftsman will find the teaching experience a great project for a young man while the "Klutz" may find it just a little challenging. No matter, the time spent working and learning with your son should be a lot of fun.

If you're designing a car for speed here are the important points about car design to keep in mind.

o Sleek Shape
o Maximum Weight
o Smooth, Round Wheels
o Polished Axles
o Good Lubrication
o Straight Running

On the other hand if your objective is to create a unique or personal design then think about these points.
o Model your car after something you like or adapt a theme from a Cub Scout or other recognizable object or character.
o Use color and finish as a way to get your car noticed. A bright red or yellow paint job with a high gloss finish is always an attention-getter.
o Attention to the details of car construction shows in the final product
o Design on paper before you start cutting wood

Construction Step 1 - The Plan (or What are we Doing?)
You may already have an idea as to what your car should look like when you're done but in order to take this idea to a completed form you should have a plan. Take a little time to sketch out your idea on paper. If you haven't decided what you want to do you may want to check out some possibilities. Look at the profiles provided in this guide to get some ideas. Draw your design at full scale so you can transfer the profile and shape to the wood block later. Ready-made templates or car outlines can be purchased at Scout supply outlets, the Scout Shop or Scout mail-order catalog. These will help you transfer a predefined profile to your car but are certainly not required. You may want to take a look at the templates in this web site for some ideas.

Starting with a block of wood is like a hand full of clay. What are you you going to do with it? What kind of car do want to build? Well, there are several basic types of car classifications cars that are fast, cars that are fast to build and then there are character cars. Character cars are cars that model other types of cars or objects. Remember that a highly decorative car with characters, decals and other trim will not be as aerodynamic as a "plain" car. The sleek low profile designs will tend to have less wind drag and therefore faster. The fast car is usually not a handsome car. Don't limit your design ideas but we'll talk about the plain, more aerodynamic designs and remember, you can paint car just about any way you you'd like.

Construction Step 2 - Gather Materials and Tools.
You will, of course, need the basic car kit that includes the wood block, axles, wheels and numeric decals. They cost $3.55 + applicable tax in the 2005 catalog. The kits produced since 1998 have unpredictable quality wheels in the kit and that may make it more difficult to produce a fast car every time. If you have still have an older kit it may be used as long as it is the Grand Prix series racer kit. Do not substitute the wheels and axles from non-BSA kits into your car design. This will make it illegal in most races and you can be disqualified.

You will need the following tools and additional materials:
Safety Glasses (for drilling, sanding etc.)
Coping Saw (A Powered Dremel Saw or Scroll Saw may also be used)
Small File (Mill or Fine Cut)
3/8"/10 mm Drill Bit (a Brad point bit gives you better hole positions)
Electric Drill Motor
Tracing Paper
Small Strip of Soft Cloth (like an old Tee Shirt)
80 Grit and 220 Grit Garnet Sand Paper
400 or 600 Grit Wet or Dry Paper
Metal Polish (for polishing the axle)
3/8"/10 mm Tubular Weight (Available from Scout Shop or plumber supply)
Wood Putty (or better yet - plastic auto body filler)
Sanding Sealer or wood Primer
Finish Paint (Either Spray or Brush on)
Decals and Decorations as Desired
This set of tools and materials will vary depending what you have available and the extent of work you have in mind.

Construction Step 3 - Cutting the Basic Car Shape.
Decide how you want you car to look. Again, you may want to refer to the templates in this web site. When you have a design idea it's time to transfer the profile (side of the car) and plan view (top of the car) to your block of wood. The block included in your kit is usually close to 7 inches (17.8 cm) in length but may vary a little shorter or longer. Be careful to measure the final overall dimensions of the finished car to insure that your design does not violate the racing specifications.

Using your side profile drawing and a sheet of carbon tracing paper align the drawing to the block and carefully trace the outside lines of your car so that the image is transferred to the wood. If you prefer, you may find it just as easy to copy or duplicate your lines on the wood directly. Use a hard lead pencil or ball point-point pen so that the lines are easy to see when you're cutting.

Construction Step 4 - Wheel Mount Preparation.
Its been discovered over the years that cars with a longer wheelbase can be faster than shorter wheelbase cars. With this in mind you may want to consider relocating the two axle slots in the car block toward the ends of the block. Perform this modification only if your pack or local rules permit it. The San Diego 500 rules do permit this change.

Remember to set the wheel slots back at least half the diameter of the wheel so that it doesn't extend over the end of the car body. The overall length of the car (including wheels) cannot exceed seven inches. It is very important to cut the new axle slots exactly square to the sides of the block so that the axles provide a good alignment for tracking. An alternate method is to use a drill press to make the holes but in either method make sure that the final position of the axle isn't too high so that it creates a problem for the block dragging on the track's guide strip. Use a #43 (2.3 mm) drill bit. Insert the axles in each of the slots or holes so that you know they'll fit later. Install the axles at the top of the slots so that they have plenty wood under them. Now that we have opened the wood fiber remove the axles. We'll permanently install the wheels and axles after the paint has dried.

Construction Step 5 - Drilling Holes for Weight.
Your finished wood block along with the, wheels, axles and trim will not usually weigh much over 2.5 ounces (71 grams) while the finished car is allowed to weigh in up to 5.0 ounces (141.75 grams). Don't even think about skipping weight addition if you want to be race competitive. The weight of your car overcoming friction is what will allow to you to win over other cars. You must make gravity work for you. Your car must overcome both breakaway friction and minimize air resistance and it will do this by being as heavy as allowed while presenting the smallest profile to the air-stream. That's why we wanted the low and skinny body design.

There are two basic approaches to adding weight to a derby car. The easiest is to attach pre-drilled and shaped lead or zinc weights to the outside of the car. Some of the commercial varieties are cast such that they provide a tapered shape and break-off ribs that permit convenient adjustment to overall weight after the car is assembled. It is best to attach this type of weight to the bottom of the car so the center of gravity may be kept low. If you use this type of weight on the bottom of your car insure that the weight doesn't hang down too far. It may not be obvious until race-day but the weight could drag on the track guide. This could prevent the car from moving off the the starting line. Mortise or "hog out" a void in the wood on the underside of the car and then attach the weight inside the void.

The other method for adding weight involves the installation of weight internal to the body so that there is no additional wind resistance. This may be only a small advantage but it just might make the difference of a winning inch or two at the end of the track. Most car profiles will be narrower at the nose and provide little space for adding lead internally. There is an advantage in placing the weight in the back. The front wheels perform the function of guiding or steering and the less weight on these wheels the easier the car corrects itself when it strikes the guide strip. Fewer and shorter contacts with the guide strip means a faster car.

Drilling the Car Body. Each internally weighted car will have a little different cavity placement based on the wheel/axle position and amount of wood available to accommodate the weight. The hole or cavity for the lead weight must be large enough to accommodate the weight you using. You will need fewer holes for lead than you will for other materials. Plan on drilling at least 2 or 3 holes of 3/8" ( 10 mm) (or 7/16") diameter at a depth of 1 ½" (38 mm) each. Experience has shown that holes drilled from the side or back tend to work the best. Locate and drill the holes being careful not to drill all the way through the wood. Also make sure that you are leaving enough wood around the hole to provide a margin of safety in your drilling operation.

Construction Step 6 - Adding the Weight.
There are many things that you might use to add weight to the car but you will find that lead and zinc will probably be used most often. These are the heaviest materials easily available for their volume. Lead works easily and is commonly available in a number of forms. As options you can use steel in plate, tubular forms or even common bolts. Other metals may be used but just as steel you will find them difficult to work and sometimes awkward to attach or insert.

Lead is toxic and should be handled as little as possible.
Use gloves and never put your hands in or near your mouth
after handling it. Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling lead.

Do not use mercury at all! It is toxic, difficult to handle
and should not be touched by Cubs or adults.

Weigh your car on accurate scales. Most household scales are not very accurate. If you have access to calibrated scales compare a known item weight on the calibrated scales to your home scale indication for that same item. Mark this reference for use later. Allow for scale inaccuracies by not adding to exactly the 5.0 oz. (141.75 grams) indication. It is better to be slightly light than to have to remove weight on race day. Consider also, while you may have an accurate scale your pack may not. It could be weighing items heavier than they actually are!

Weigh your car body, wheels, axles and any other parts that will be on your car all at once. This weight is usually less than 3 ounces (85 grams). Now, with your car lying with the weight holes facing up carefully add your weight until the weight is just over 4.5 ounces (128 grams). Allow enough space in the holes so that you can add filler material in the next step. If you find there isn't enough room to add weight to get to 4.5 ounces (128 grams) you will have drill an additional hole or holes. Remember, you will be adding wood filler and paint to your car later and this will a little more weight. When you are satisfied go to the next step.

Construction Step 7 - Sealing the Holes.
Once that you have got the correct amount of weight installed you are ready to seal the hole(s) in your car body. There are a number of materials that you can use to cover the weight holes in car body. If you are in a hurry and want to insure a good seal try using automobile body putty (like Bondo®). This type of filler material is a two-part mix that sets in 15 minutes. You will need only a small amount but it works very easily and may be sanded, drilled and painted. Standard wood fillers that don't use a catalyst will take longer to harden (usually overnight) and may need to be applied with several thin coats. Apply the filler so that it may be sanded down smooth to the original wood surface. You'll want to recheck you total car weight at this time.

Construction Step 8 - Sanding and Smoothing.
Sanding the wood body will eliminate any of the saw blade marks as well as any small blemishes in the wood surface. If you have access to a motorized belt-disc sander your work will be quickly done but for most of us a sheet of sandpaper and a sanding block will do just fine. Start by using a 100 or 120 grit paper and wood or rubber block on the filler and rough portions of the wood car body. Gently smooth the edges and corners of the car while using a little more pressure on the flat areas. Then switch to a 220 grit paper to smooth the sanding marks left from the initial sanding. When you have the wood smoothed switch to the 400 grit paper. It will provide an excellent surface for your final finish. DO NOT WET-SAND UNPAINTED WOOD.

Construction Step 9 - Painting and Finishing.
The bare wood surface will act much like a sponge when your paint is first applied and it will take several coats of paint to seal and finish the wood. A better approach is to apply a wood sanding sealer to the wood. This acts like a primer coat for the wood and provides a good base to apply the color finish paint.

Prepare a place to paint your car that will be out of the house while you are painting and out of the reach of younger children while your car is drying. You may either paint one side at a time waiting between coats or suspend the car on a string with a nail in the axle slot and paint all of it. Brush or spray the sanding sealer on the car with a complete coat and wait for it to thoroughly dry. You will see that the grain of the wood will raise slightly. After the paint is thoroughly dry, sand it with 400 grit wet or dry sandpaper. You will find that the finish is smoother if you use a wet-sanding process. Wet the paper and the painted car body. Lightly sand until the sanding-sealer is smooth but not through the sealer to the wood.

You are now ready for the finish color coats of paint. The best and smoothest finishes will be had with a spray paint but brush-on paint will not effect the overall speed of the car. Use fast drying enamels and avoid using different brands on top of each other. Above all don't use lacquer paint on top of enamel paint. Your paint will wrinkle and bubble. If you get a run in the paint, let it dry and sand it smooth. Re-coat it later. You can achieve a very, very smooth finish if you wet-sand between coats with 600 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper. Your car can look like it has a glasslike finish with several coats of paint and fine sanding.

If you are going to apply decals and detail work now is time to do this type of work. If you are careful, you can apply a clear coat of finish over the decals to seal them. Don't use too much clear-coat at one time or you'll wrinkle the decals.

Construction Step 10 - Wheel Work.
Next to the weight of the car the wheels are the most important element in the car. The biggest problem is that there is not a great deal that you can legally do with them. You must insure that the wheels roll smoothly, in a straight line and roll very easily. The wheels included with kits manufactured through 1998 have a better quality wheel than that of previous kits. Kits produced in the 1999 race year were very inconsistent. Even still, there are things to check and fix on each of the wheels. First, the wheels must be perfectly round. The wheels are produced in Multi-cavity molds and some molds may produce slightly out-of-round wheels which will be slower than others. To check for this put the wheel on an axle and spin it. It should turn with the outside surface at a single reference point never varying. The run-out or the wheel movement along the axle axis should also be minimal. If you suspect the wheel is out-of-round discard it and buy just the axle-wheel kit ($2.35 for 5 wheels and axles) or another car kit at your Scout supply outlet. There isn't much you can do to correct a bad wheel. The wheels are all produced from a mold set and will all vary to some degree.

Check the wheel for burrs on the running surface of the tire and hub areas. These need to be freed of any extra plastic residue or molding marks. Most Packs and council races require the racers to do minimal work on the wheel surface. This means that the outside wheel surface can be sanded or filed to make it flat across the bottom of the "tire". To perform this work you may use either a very small machine screw or nail about 3 inches long to stack all 4 wheels onto and chuck them in to a drill motor. Using a fine flat mill file, turn the drill on and at an angle to the rotating wheels, apply very light pressure to the wheel surface touching at least two wheels at a time. Insure you don't create a rounded wheel surface which may be illegal. Alternately, purchase a commercially-available wheel turning kit from the Scout supply distributor or Pinecar® source. These wheel turning mandrels are designed to hold a single wheel in a drill motor for turning. Watch for the newer wheels with these mandrels, they may not fit. Again, observe the local rules for what may be allowed.

Construction Step 11 - Axle Polishing.
The 'nail' type axles that come in the Pinewood derby kit must be used in the construction of your of your car. These axles provide no bearing surface so there is friction between the plastic wheel surface and the metal axle. Since this friction reduces speed we need to minimize the contact surface area, make the surfaces smooth and lubricate the mating surfaces. It is usually against the rules to machine the plastic wheel and these procedures usually require a lathe or other tools not typically available to a Cub Scout. That still leaves the axle open to "play with". The following suggestions are things you can do with simple hand tolls to improve the performance of the axles.

Axle Burr Removal. First, the heads of the nails used as axles in the kit will often have a mold or casting mark in two places just where the head attaches to the shaft the nail. Remove this web of metal with a file being careful not to gouge or scratch the running surface of the shaft. This will prevent the axle from grinding the plastic hub area and slowing down your car. You might be surprised to how "out of round" the shaft of the axle really is. Chuck/secure the axle in a drill press or electric hand drill secured into a stable position.

Optional step. This step can be performed before actual polishing but is designed for those creating "the ultimate" racing machines. It's not necessary for the average racer. Use a fine flat file to reduce the overall diameter of the axle. To do this, chuck the pointed end of the axle into a drill press or drill motor that has been secured with a vise or clamp. Place the file against the rotating axle and apply even pressure while moving the file slowly. Do this until the area within ½" (10 mm) of the head is smaller than the rest of the axle body. The more metal that is removed the less contact surface available to create friction. The drawback to removing too much metal is that the axle becomes weaker and will not tolerate being dropped or withstand rough handling without bending. This is often a trial and error procedure with much testing required to result in a fast turning wheel. You will want to buy extra axles to try this and use the best of the lot for your car.

First-Surface Polishing. The axle can be finished to a high luster by following the steps detailed here. First, mount the axle in drill motor chuck exposing the head and the first 3/4" of the axle. Secure the drill so that it doesn't move. Now cut a piece of 400-600 grit wet or dry sandpaper to a strip approximately ½" (10 mm) wide and 4 to 6 inches (about 100mm) in length. Wet the surface of the sand paper with water or light machine oil, start the drill and loop the sandpaper over the axle and pull the paper back and forth like a shoe polish cloth. Work the paper until the metal is smooth in the wheel running area (next to the head of the axle). This usually takes about a minute for each axle. Now, using either pumice paste or metal polish in a soft cloth (like a tee-shirt), start the drill again and press the cloth and polish compound into the axle with a slight movement back and forth. This will also take about a minute. The finished axle will be very smooth and bright in appearance

Construction Step 12 - Lubrication.
The type of lubrication is usually restricted at most races to dry lubricants but there are great advantages to using the right lubrication. By the same token there is harm in using the wrong lubricate. First, we should discuss what it's all about.

The wheel should turn on the dry axle without any undo force but the friction between the two parts will quickly act to slow it down. It's this friction that you would like to eliminate. While we can't eliminate friction completely it can certainly be reduced. An automobile uses steel roller or ball bearings to reduce friction on its wheels but our car isn't permitted to use them. We can only lubricate what we already have. A lubricant is any agent that provides a reduction of friction. While there are many types of lubricants many will either not work on lightweight parts or are not formulated to work with plastics. Petroleum products such as motor and household oil may soften the plastic wheels. The wheels could, after a time, fail to turn at all. This is not the surprise you'd like on race day. Other liquid or aerosol lubricants include spray-on Teflon, WD-40, CRC and 3 in 1 oil. Except for Teflon, these are all petroleum based products which you'll want to avoid.

The most common and successfully used lubricants are the graphite formulations and Graphite-Moly blends. They provide a very thin plating of microscopic spheres that greatly reduce rolling friction. Plain graphite is available in hardware stores and some variety stores. When installing your wheels fill the axle hole of the wheel while capping the other side. Gently push the axle through the wheel. Do this several times and spin the wheel to help distribute the graphite through the running surface. A good test of the wheel, axle and the lubrication is a spin test. While holding the wheel in the axle in a horizontal position spin the wheel with a flick of your finger. It should spin freely, then slowly coming to a stop after 20 to 30 seconds. If it didn't spin that long take a close at your wheel clearance, axle finish and lubrication. Correct the problems than test them again.

Construction Step 13 - Wheel Installation and Alignment.
The guide strip on a pinewood derby track will keep the cars on the track and prevent them from hitting each other. This strip is necessary but each time your car's wheels hit it the car slows down a little. This is where wheel installation become important. If the car runs straight it will less often hit the guide strip.

There are a number of little tricks to consider in this stage of the car building. First, while you must run all 4 wheels they all don't necessarily have to touch the track surface. If each wheel has rolling resistance don't roll all of them. Simple. Usually, the best one to elevate off the track is one of the front wheels. Second, to prevent additional rolling resistance install the axles at an angle to the body so that wheels ride the end of the axle not against the car body. Install your wheels so that there is clearance between the body and wheel and insure that the car body surface has a hard finish (No washers though) next where the wheel hub might touch the body.
Test roll the car so that you are satisfied that the car rolls in a perfect line. Put the car on a flat board or other smooth surface that has a straight line scribed for reference. Lift the board so that the car begins to roll. It should roll very close to the line. If it doesn't, then a front end alignment is required. Slightly bend the wheel axle(s) to correct the drift.

Checking Alignment. Another test using a long smooth surface is to check for tracking or wheel alignment. Draw a straight reference line on your surface and place the car on the surface with the wheels on top of that line. Now elevate the surface to the rear of the car to start the car rolling. Your car should roll along the that line is its tracking straight.

Construction Step 14 - Other Testing.
Now that you have finished construction and initial wheel alignment of your car you will want to test and re-test your car until you're sure that you have reached the best that the car can do. This will involve reviewing the last few steps in the construction phase of the car and verifying those details. Go back to any of the previous steps if you feel the car isn't right. Then you might just decide to build another car for comparison. Race the fastest.

Breakaway Friction. Using a smooth board or table, evaluate how soon the car(s) start to roll. To judge the rolling resistance and the initial breakaway friction resistance place your car(s) on the surface than slowly elevate one side until they just start rolling. The lower the angle the lower the friction and better your car.

Forward or "R" for Race. You will find that sometimes for reasons that you can't explain some cars will run faster when its running backwards. Maybe its the weight position, alignment, wheel placement or other more obscure reason but for whatever reason it is a fact that most cars will run slightly faster in one direction than in another. Please understand that while there is a slight difference it may not be enough to make a huge difference in the long run. Just the same, if there's difference you're just as well to take advantage of it. Run your car against another car and try racing it both frontwards and backwards to see which is faster. Maybe that "R" on the gear shifter is for RACE in Reverse.

Step 15 - Racing your Car.
It's too bad that you don't have a chance to race your car every day but that makes it all the more special when you do race. We'll talk about technique and technical racing tips in just a minute. First we have to remember what this is all about. Fun! Of course we have spent a considerable amount of time building this car and we expect to do well b-u-t so did a lot of other racers. At the end of all the racing there will one car declared the fastest. It may or may not be yours. It may not be your fault or something you have control. Sometimes luck may in the end help determine the winner. This is where your sportsmanship will come into play. Sometimes its hard to be a good loser but remember you are in good company and you will have done your best!

Even with the fastest car you can lose a race.
It is a fact. How can this be you ask? Well, first you should try to determine if you are playing a fair game. Does your car comply to all the rules for the contest? If it doesn't you may eliminated before the race starts.

Are all the other cars obeying the racing specifications?
For instance, you won't have a chance against a car that weights an once or two over the limit. The race committee should be uniform in checking everyone's cars.

Insist that all cars be weighed by the same scale and that no car is allowed to race heavy.
All cars should be inspected prior to the race to a set of specifications published well before the race day. Cars not in compliance must be repaired before being allowed to raced.

Is the race track fair?
A track that has a really fast lane must be raced so that each car races on all lanes so that a fast lane doesn't make a average car look like a fast car. This requires a racing scheme that gives everyone a chance to run on every lane with different opponents.

Is the racing chart fair?
There should be a race chart or elimination technique designed to make sure that each racer races at least twice before being eliminated. Single elimination races are not very good or accurate contests. The more races the better.
The following hints will help give you the best chance to win:
1. Insure that your car is tracking (steering) in a straight line before you check-in your car.
2. Insure that you have thoroughly lubricated your car before the check-in.
3. Check your wheels for freedom. Can you spin all the wheels and have them spin 20 seconds before they come to a stop?
4. Always handle your car by the body not the wheels.
5. Don't roll your car in the dirt or on concrete surfaces. It's a sure way to ruin the wheels and axles.
6. Don't run while carrying you car.. You may to drop it which may break something you cannot repair.
7. Place your car on the track with the wheels spaced so that the wheels do not touch the lane guide.
8. Take your time in placing the car on the track. Point it straight down the track.
9. If your car doesn't do very well rolling forward try racing it backwards. Cars will run faster one way than another.

With a good attitude and Scout Spirit no matter what happens you'll always be a winner in everyone's eyes.

Happy double nickel Paul

Stanley Harvey Eisen (born January 20, 1952, Manhattan, New York) aka Paul Stanley, is an American Hard rock guitarist and vocalist for the rock band KISS. He is the writer or co-writer of most of the band's highest-charting hits, including "Rock and Roll All Nite," "Hard Luck Woman," "I Was Made For Lovin' You," and "Forever."

Before joining Wicked Lester, Paul Stanley was in Rainbow (not Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow) and Uncle Joe. Through a mutual friend of Gene Simmons, Stanley joined Simmons' band Wicked Lester in the early 1970s. The band recorded an album in 1971, but as of 2005 it has never been officially released (although songs from the album appeared on KISS's 2001 box set). Due to contractual obligations, Stanley and Simmons could not fire the other members of Wicked Lester, so they quit and hired Peter Criss and Ace Frehley and later formed as KISS shortly thereafter. KISS released their self-titled debut in February 1974.

Paul's persona in KISS is "The Starchild." Wearing spandex and platform boots, Stanley's persona is that of a Don Juan-esque lover, combining effeminate elements with elements of extreme masculinity, rather than mere androgyny. Although Paul's voice is generally very soft and eloquent during normal conversation, he uses a specific "stage voice" which is like a "Rock N' Roll Preacher" unlike most leading rock frontmen, he gets the crowd to join the band in many of their classic hits and also tends to give a speech or "scripted" story for certain songs (i.e.having a sexual encounters with nurses and other women he's met on tour and how much he supports our troops overseas) much like Gene Simmons adopts an animalistic growl on stage for his Demon persona.

In his book Sex Money KISS, Gene Simmons admits that Paul was the driving force for KISS during the makeup-free 1980s, while Simmons was feeling lost without his Demon makeup and attempting to launch a film career.

Newspaper ad for Phantom of the Opera, starring Paul Stanley
In 1999 Stanley starred in a Toronto production of Phantom of the Opera, in which he played the role of The Phantom. He appeared in the musical from May 25 to August 1, and again that year from September 30 to October 31. This made him the brunt of criticism from fans of both KISS and The Phantom of the Opera. Reviews from KISS fans were generally positive, whereas reviews from Phantom fans were generally negative.

While in Toronto, Stanley was contacted by AboutFace, an organization that provides support and information to individuals with facial differences, and asked to help raise awareness for them. Although he was approached due to his role as The Phantom, Stanley was in fact born with Microtia, a congential deformity of the pinna (outer ear). He has appeared at fundraising events and in videos for the organization.

In 2001 Stanley's wife, Dallas native Pamela Bowen, filed for divorce. They have one son, Evan Shane Stanley.

Stanley badly needed hip replacement surgery but suffered through the Rock The Nation tour first, finally getting the surgery in October 2005. Complications from the surgery required a second in December of that year, and in December 2005 it has been announced that a third hip surgery will be necessary. Stanley regards the degeneration of his left hip as partly the product of thousands of shows performed since the early 1970s.

On November 19th 2005, Paul Stanley married longtime girlfriend Erin Sutton at The Ritz-Carlton, Huntington in Pasadena, California. They welcomed their first child 8lb. 6oz. Colin Michael Stanley on Wednesday, September 6, 2006.

Stanley made his debut as a painter in 2005, exhibiting and selling original works of art.

In 2006, Stanley resumed his association with Washburn Guitars and resumed using the Washburn PS2000. Previously, he has had four signature guitars made by Silvertone, and tweaked the Ibanez Iceman to his specifications, calling it the PS10.

His most recent performances with KISS were a group of shows in July 2006 both in Los Angeles and parts of Japan.

Solo career
Paul's 2006 solo album Live to Win
Stanley has recorded and performed outside of KISS very rarely. In 1989, he embarked on a brief club tour, performing only KISS songs (with one cover, Led Zeppelin's "Communication Breakdown"). His touring band included guitarist Bob Kulick and future KISS drummer Eric Singer.

Stanley wrote and recorded material for a solo album in 1987–88, which was shelved in favor of the KISS compilation, Smashes, Thrashes & Hits. While never officially released, songs such as "Don't Let Go" and "When 2 Hearts Collide" have circulated as bootleg recordings. One song from the project, "Time Traveler," was released as part of the KISS's 2001 box set.

28 years after releasing his first solo album (as part of the four simultaneously released KISS solo albums), Stanley released a second album, Live to Win, on October 24, 2006.

In October and November 2006, Stanley embarked on a theater tour in support Live to Win. His touring band was the house band from the CBS TV show, Rock Star. The band appeared on both seasons of the show - Rock Star: INXS and Rock Star: Supernova. The band was comprised of Paul Mirkovich (keyboards), Jim McGorman (guitar), Rafael Moreira (lead guitar), Nate Morton (drums), and Sasha Krivstov (bass).

He was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006.
His single, "Live To Win," made its debut in the 8th episode of South Park's 10th season, titled "Make Love, Not Warcraft".
He was asked to produce albums for Poison and Guns N' Roses, but was unable due to his time working on KISS projects.

Other birthdays of note today -
Buzz Aldrin, Martin Landau, DeForest Kelley, George Burns, Slim Whitman, Arte Johnson, and Tom Baker.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Pure Digital Camcorder

This camcorder is on sale at Target this week.

We haven't had a working camcorder for years and I have been wanting to get one to take videos of the boys but just haven't had the funds to get one. I was on the Target website earlier in the week before Christmas to order some gifts for my wife and saw this camcorder on the home page as a featured product. I started doing research on it and reading reviews and found almost all of them very positive.

So, I went to Target and bought the 512 MB (30 minutes) one. I liked it so much that later that day I went to the Best Buy website and ordered the 1 GB (60 minutes) one.

It is nice and small. It feels like quality. The view screen looks great. I have a cheap 4 MP Concord digital camera and you cannot see the image in bright sunlight or in low light. This is completely the opposite. You can easily see everything regardless of the lighting conditions.

The sound is very good except for really high pitched voices which come out a little tinny. The controls are so easy to use and very intuitive. My wife has never picked up any of my digital cameras. She was using this the second day that we had it and has picked it up several times since.

The software is included inside the camcorder. Flip out the USB arm and put it into your computer. The software allows you to easily save your movies, e-mail your movies or publish them up to Google video. Saved directly as .avi files, they look great. Converted for use for e-mail, it uses a service called Grouper, and they do get abit pixelated there. Uploaded to Google video and they look like every other video on Google that uses streaming. I highly suggest downloading a video off of Google before viewing for maximum quality.

It already comes with Duracell AA batteries. It also can easily be hooked up to any TV with RCA connections.

Since December 23rd, my family and I have already taken 1.5 GB of video. These are memories we wouldn't have had had this great inexpensive camcorder not been invented.

I'm embedding two videos. The first is the promotional video from Pure Digital. The second is from Google video where a family is trying out the camcorder and this video is what sold me on getting it. Again, I highly recommend that you go ahead and download these videos. Also, if you check out the reviews on the Pure Digital site, you'll find many more positive reviews from very reputable companies like USA Today, PC World, Wall Street Journal, etc. Or just Google 'pure digital point and shoot reviews' for more to read on it.

Go buy one of these, you won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

In post-Katrina era, French Quarter is in a funk

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — The hookers are back on Bourbon Street. So are the drug dealers, the strippers with names like Rose and Desire, the out-of-town businessmen, the college students getting blitzed on candy-colored cocktails and beer in plastic cups.

But a closer look reveals things are not back to the way they were in the French Quarter. Sixteen months after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans' liveliest, most exuberant neighborhood is in a funk.

"The money's not the same. I remember when I made $1,200 a night," said Elizabeth Johnson, a manager and dancer at a Bourbon Street strip club, frowning at another slow night. "I know girls who used to never let people touch them, and now they're resorting to prostitution."

Robert Boudreaux, a beefy hotel bellman in an olive green vest, scanned the street with folded arms and said: "Very boring."

The Quarter still has its characters — palm readers, magicians, street musicians, mimes. But the cheap fun is largely confined to the weekends these days, and seven-day-a-week stores, restaurants and clubs such as Preservation Hall are cutting back on their hours. The nonstop party is no more.

The "cams" — real-time camera footage of Bourbon Street, shown over the Internet — are dull on weekdays. Dixieland bands play to empty barrooms.

"The Quarter rats are drunk and high still, but they're less drunk," said bartender Dawn Kesslering.

In the Lower Quarter, the district's residential half, where people walk poodles and neighbors share clothes lines in galleried courtyards, old-timers do not see as much zest around them.

"It's become far more homogenous, far more middle-class than working-class," said John Dillman, who sells used books. "It will look like Boca Raton. A version of Boca Raton that has risque."

In 2004, the last full year before Katrina struck, about 10 million visitors came to New Orleans, most of them drawn by the French Quarter. In 2006, just over 5 million came.

"Every time they'd see CNN, Fox, they'd show flooded streets. Everybody thought there was nothing to come back to," said Earl Bernhardt, owner of several Bourbon Street nightspots.

In truth, the French Quarter was largely untouched by Katrina's fury. But it suffered financially anyway.

Some nightspots really are gone. O'Flaherty's, an Irish pub known for its soul-warming reels and TVs tuned to World Cup soccer, is gone. So too is the 125-year-old Maison Hospitaliere, a nursing home that began as a home for Confederate widows. Bella Luna, La Madeleine and the Old New Orleans Cookery — some of the popular eateries — fell victim to Katrina. The Little Shop of Fantasy, a Mardi Gras mask shop run by two sisters, cleared out of the Quarter and went online, like so many other Quarter businesses. And after 83 years, Hurwitz Mintz shuttered its flagship furniture shop on Royal Street.

Since Katrina, the real estate market has been in flux, and rents have gone through the roof because of the overall shortage of housing in New Orleans.

In the French Quarter, there are twice as many condos for sale, from 90 before Katrina to about 180 now. Some people are moving out; others are trying to take advantage of the housing shortage by converting attics, parlor rooms, stables and slave quarters into condos.

"I'm paying the most rent I've ever paid, and I've got the smallest place I've ever had," said Bob Clift, a portrait artist who waited in vain one recent day for customers under the live oaks on Jackson Square, outside St. Louis Cathedral.

A familiar face in the Quarter for 37 years, Clift said he is planning to leave the city after paying about $1,000 a month for an 8-by-15-foot room. "Poor people can't live here anymore," he said. "Including me."

After Katrina, waves of hurricane refugees and looters filled the French Quarter's streets. Then, soldiers in red berets and boots took Bourbon Street by storm. Then came the world's journalism corps, construction workers and prostitutes.

But now it is so quiet, many people feel afraid to walk the streets at night.

"I live by myself with my dog, so I really have to be careful," said Mikal Matton, a saleswoman at a jewelry shop. "That really bothers me."

Because of a spate of robberies, some stores and bars are locking up early. Several street shootings, a fatal stabbing and a murder-suicide in which a man murdered and cooked his girlfriend have put residents on edge.

"I'm taking gun classes now," said Mary McGinn, who works for a French Quarter real estate agency. She said a mugger knocked her down Aug. 18 outside the gate to her home, and she hit her head on a concrete step. It took 35 staples to close the gash.

"He got $60. Whoop-de-doo!" she said, gamely smiling in a neck brace.

Police blame the spike in crime on the storm.

"Some of these areas the criminals used to hang out in aren't there anymore, so they're coming down to the French Quarter," said Capt. Kevin Anderson, the Quarter's police commander.

But he insisted the Quarter is safe, largely because there are 45 more officers on patrol than before the storm. And he said crime is down from 2004 in all categories except assault.

"We're dealing primarily with a perception problem," he said. "When someone gets shot in the French Quarter, it's not just national news, it's international news."

A little bit of ice at my house this morning.

Wasn't much but more than most parts of Houston. It is pretty miserable, for us anyway.

The icicles did get longer before I left the house for work but it was raining so I didn't want to get my camcorder out in the rain. I am composing a post about my new camcorder that I absolutely love.

Oh and as always, any video on Google video looks SO MUCH better if you download it to your computer and then view it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

How to Make a Starship Enterprise Out of a Floppy Disk

Floppy disks are a thing of the past. However, that doesn't mean you have to toss them in a garbage can. Pay a tribute to another thing of the past (or, the future?)--The Starship Enterprise--and you can reminisce and recycle at the same time!

The search for an American Idol superstar begins -- again

Week 1A: Auditions
Jan. 16, 2007

The drama. The arguments. The tears. The predictions. And, oh yeah, the talent.

American Idol is back for a sixth round.

The stakes are higher than ever this season. Not only have former Idols (Kelly, Daughtry) gone on to big musical breakthroughs, there has been wild success in other mediums as well.

And before we get to this season, a few reasons we still love/hate Idol:

• Jennifer Hudson's smashing Dreamgirls performance is more proof that America can sometimes gets it really, really wrong.

• Paula Abdul's outrageous actions, er technical difficulties, are still awe-inducing.

• Taylor Hicks continues his reign as the most underwhelming Idol winner to date. If you saw him today on The Ellen DeGeneres show -- struggling to find a groove -- you have to agree. It was a painful, predictable song.

• Chris Daughtry Feb. 21 at the Meridian! Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday.

7 p.m. central. Idol time!

Read more here.

American Idol starts tonight!!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Going the Extra Mile

Last week I went to Wendy's for lunch.

I was going to go through the drive thru.

A green SUV pulled into the parking lot before me. I could see that the line of cars was backed up and that one couldn't get to the back of the line from the main driveway. I quickly made a sharp right and went behind a line of parked cars and was able to get to the back of the line.

As the line of cars moved forward, the lady in the green SUV waved at me and I motioned for her to get in line ahead of me. After all, I knew she had pulled in before me. However, I don't think she saw me pull in behind her and go around a different way.

After I had ordered, I was getting the exact change from my pockets and noticed her looking at me in her side rear view mirror. I pulled up to get my food and was handing the man my money when he told me that the lady in front of me had already paid for my food. He then told me that she had done so because I had let her go in front of me.

She was about to pull out and I lowered my window and stuck my arm out and waived at her. She waived back and we went seperate directions.

I was just doing the right thing by letting her go ahead of me but her act of generosity really made my day. Thank you again whoever you are!

Houston could see slick, icy roads tonight

The freezing rain and sleet should continue all day and night Tuesday, with highs in the low 30s and a 70 percent chance of precipitation.

If the conditions are appropriate, forecasters said Houstonians could expect up to a quarter of an inch of ice.

Six-Figure Salaries for the Rest of Us

No Med School? No Law School? No Problem

By Meg Donohue, CareerBuilder.com writer

As we each search for our personal pot of gold, many of us wonder whether the rainbow leading us to a six-figure paycheck has to be so long. We want financially rewarding jobs, but not everyone is eager to commit the time and money necessary to complete a medical or law degree. The good news is that, even though statistics have shown that more education translates to higher earnings, there are still plenty of six-figure salary jobs for those of us who have decided not to take the seven-years-and-a-stethoscope route.

The following is a list of seven lucrative fields in which the top-earning 25 percent of workers take home more than $100,000 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That percentage proves there is real potential for sizeable salaries within these fields, even if your résumé doesn't boast a lengthy list of alma maters. Though some of these positions are filled by people with graduate degrees, a bachelor's degree and a little initiative could get you well on your way to a six-figure salary.

Sales Managers
Salary of top 25 percent: $127,820*
Median salary: $87,580

What they do: Sales managers establish company or team sales goals and coordinate training programs for sales representatives. They monitor sales statistics and customer satisfaction, and make adjustments to sales strategies as needed.

How to get the job: The educational background of sales managers varies. Managers frequently work their way up the ranks of a company -- often starting as sales representatives -- and many companies have established management training programs.

Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents
Salary of top 25 percent: $123,910
Median salary: $67,130

What they do: Securities, commodities and financial services sales agents buy and sell stocks, bonds and other financial products. They may also inform clients about financial markets and counsel them regarding their financial portfolios.

How to get the job: The majority of financial sales agents have college educations, and have taken courses in business, economics and finance. Securities and commodities agents must pass state licensing examinations, and many firms require agents to complete in-house training programs.

Financial Managers
Salary of top 25 percent: $118,150
Median salary: $86,280

What they do: Financial managers' responsibilities vary, but they generally oversee the preparation of financial reports involved with accounting, investing, banking, insurance and securities. They can also develop financial strategies for their organizations.

How to get the job: Employers expect financial managers to have a bachelor's degree in finance, accounting, economics or business administration, and increasingly expect a master's degree in one of these fields as well. Depending on the company and the specific position, professional certifications such as the Chartered Financial Analyst designation may also be required.

Computer and Information Scientists, Research
Salary of top 25 percent: $113,830
Median salary: $91,230

What they do: Computer and information scientists act as theorists, designers or inventors while developing solutions to computer hardware and software problems and researching computer technology.

How to get the job: A bachelor's degree is usually a prerequisite for filling these positions, with most of the more technically complex jobs reserved for workers with graduate degrees.

Salary of top 25 percent: $112,360
Median salary: $81,640

What they do: Actuaries are often employed in the insurance industry. They assess the potential for various types of risks and design insurance policies and other financial strategies in order to reduce the potential cost of those risks.

How to get the job: In addition to a bachelor's degree, there are a series of examinations that actuaries must complete to gain full professional status.

Personal Financial Advisers
Salary of top 25 percent: $107,470
Median salary: $63,500

What they do: Personal financial advisers provide guidance to clients regarding financial decisions. Many financial advisers specialize in a particular field, such as retirement planning or risk management.

How to get the job: Most financial advisers hold a bachelor's degree in finance, economics or accounting. Certifications such as the Chartered Financial Analyst designation can strengthen an adviser's professional standing.

Public Relations Managers
Salary of top 25 percent: $106,440
Median salary: $76,450

What they do: Public relations managers supervise public relations specialists and act as a liaison between their clients -- usually individuals or companies -- and the public.

How to get the job: In addition to experience as a public relations specialist, most employers expect a public relations manager to have a bachelor's degree in public relations or journalism.


Confessions of an Idol fan
There are plenty of reasons to hate American Idol, but it still commands viewers' attention. Here's why.

American Idol should've run out of gas a few seasons ago. Most everyone thought it would. Yet it marches forward, an unstoppable marketing force, stomping all over the popular myth about TV attrition.

"It's the greatest music talent show ever," judge Randy Jackson said last week. That's very true, if only because previous music talent shows have been consistently and persistently awful.

Yes, it's easy to hate the show's sketchy aftermath: seven months of post-season awful prefab releases overseen with green diligence by music kingpin Clive Davis. I refuse to listen to the lousy-to-middling albums by Idol alumni such as Taylor Hicks, Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken and Fantasia Barrino. I do keep William Hung's Inspiration around — but only because his shrill, wheezy Hotel California is astounding in all the wrong ways.

But that's not to say I don't get American Idol. I watch — and vote — with the loyal vigor of a Packers fan. I care. I care deeply. Often I co-opt my wife's cell phone in order to place three votes from three phones for one singer.

Idol exudes a different allure for different viewers. Here are 10 reasons I watch it:

1. Healthy frustration: Premature exits (Jennifer Hudson) show what's wrong with America today. It's infuriating to see lesser talents get by on looks, charisma or appeal to teenage girls.

2. Underdogs: The show teems with glorious dorks and lovable losers enjoying their 15 minutes. During auditions, it's closer to 15 seconds.

Taylor Hicks was my favorite, starting with his audition last year. But once he showed signs of front-runnerdom, I kicked my votes to the erratic Bucky Covington. (Admittedly, the paunchy, gray-haired Hicks was still a surprise winner.)

I'm still smarting from the departure of Season 4's Round Mound of Sound, Scotty Savol.

3. Nostalgia, loathesome nostalgia: Idol's most inspired moments come not from the myriad covers of Alicia Keys' Fallin' (Idol's deadest dead horse) or that ballad by Celine Dion or Whitney Houston that you've never heard. The best moments strike that thrilling chord of unpredictable familiarity: Plastic Carrie Underwood cutting loose on Heart's Alone; Fantasia's show-stealing Summertime; Scotty Savol's She's Gone ... and Against All Odds.

4. Lousy guests/cool guests: Season 5 offered a parade of both. Few grated more than the curt, self-important David Foster (not Wallace), whose sole cool credit is working with Gordon Lightfoot. (Worst album title ever: A Touch of David Foster.)

Prince, on the other hand, was shrewdly and silently mercenary about his promotional spot. And a big thumbs up to Queen for putting the kibosh on brawny dingbat Ace's ghastly attempt to mess with a classic.

5. The judges' inflated self-importance: "There's nothing we don't know about the music business," Jackson said — which is like Capt. Joseph Hazelwood saying there's nothing he doesn't know about vodka. The three judges are responsible — to varying degrees — for some pretty dreadful, disposable pop unrelated to Idol. If they know so much, why don't they shuffle up their commentary a little? But then there'd be no Idol drinking games, Dawg. Gulp.

6. Kelly Clarkson: With the line of creative and financial credit she achieved through her award-winning, multimillion-selling second album, Clarkson could hire Paul McCartney to play bass on her upcoming third album if she wanted. Instead she picked '80s underground, post-punk legend Mike Watt. That's econo. The goofy movie with Sideshow Bob has been forgiven.

7. Paula's critiques: Once in a blue moon she puts away the softball and unleashes some chin music (the most damning phrase uttered on Idol). Six words that cut in ways Simon's recycled criticisms cannot: "How do you think you did?" The question leaves only one response, and it's not "pity."

8. The rare opportunity to hear Fallin' : Many's the audition where I find myself wondering, "Will anyone sing Fallin' tonight?"

9. It's good comedy: I love the way judge Paula Abdul claps like a seal; I love the way she breaks into tears during treacly songs or when cute-yet-talentless singers get the boot and Daniel Powter gets queued up. Not to mention Cowell's stoic commitment to his hedgehog haircut.

10. Ryan Seacrest: Seacrest is smarmy and persistently punchable, but check out the other hosts out there. A sampling includes wooden Brooke Burke (Rock Star) and kiss-up Billy Bush (Grease: You're the One That I Want). Seacrest may be a doofus, but he's a pro.