Saturday, December 31, 2011

Most anticipated splody movies of 2011: recap

At the beginning of 2011, I made a list of what I thought would be the best movies of the year. (My formula for success: equal parts good character development and explosions.) Now that 2011 is in the books, here is an analysis of how my predictions went:

1. Captain America: The First Avenger
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 79%). It wasn't perfect, but my top choice didn't disappoint. It was full of heart, especially in the opening act, and was two hours of pure fun.

2. Cowboys & Aliens
Result: EPIC FAIL (Tomatometer 44%). Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, plus John Favreau as director and a kick-ass concept - what could go wrong? Well, it could be boring for starters. What should have been on my list: Attack the Block (Tomatometer 90%). This British film didn't get much press in the U.S., but it was a well-done, smart take on the alien invasion story.

3. Thor
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 77%). I had serious doubts about this one when it was first announced, but the more I heard about it the more excited I got. And the movie topped my expectations.

4. Green Lantern
Result: EPIC FAIL (Tomatometer 27%). With a great concept supported by a big budget, this movie should have been a big hit, but the script and directing were just awful. What should have been on my list: Limitless (Rotten Tomatoes score 69%). If Green Lantern wanted to chart new ground, it needed to look no further than this sleeper, which put a fresh spin on the question of "what would happen if an ordinary guy gained a super power?"

5. X-Men: First Class
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 87%). This one made up for the past two weak X-Men movies and returned the franchise to relevance.

6. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Result: MIDDLING (Tomatometer 59%). On paper this one sounded even better than the first movie, which was an interesting and pretty good take on the classic detective. I haven't seen this one yet, but all reports point to it being only so-so. Still, it has Robert Downey, Jr., so even if it was downright horrible I would watch it just because of my man-crush.

7. Super 8
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 82%). It was a little formulaic at times, and the ending wasn't as good as the rest of the film, but J.J. Abram's homage to Steven Spielberg was well done and thoroughly entertaining.

8. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Result: MIDDLING (Tomatometer: 35%). Director Micahel Bay said that he had learned from the disastrous second Transformers movie and that this one would be better. (When will I learn to stop believing Michael Bay?) Actually, it was, but only marginally. What makes it nearly OK are the incredible special effects, which probably top anything in the series so far. Unfortunately, the story is just as infuriatingly bogged down as the second installment - and in fact is nearly the same story. It would have been a much better movie had they stuck to a simpler plot and allowed more time for character growth. But, again, Michael Bay.

9. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Result: EPIC FAIL (Tomatometer 33%). I absolutely loved the first PotC movie, but thought the next two were muddled messes. I was encouraged, then, when I heard the franchise was changing direction (no more Orlando Bloom or Keira Knightly), and even more encouraged when I heard there would be zombies or vampires or something. But no, it was still a mess. What should have been on my listThe Adventures of Tintin (Tomatometer 74%). Virtually unknown in America, Tintin is the star of a popular series of children's adventure books in the rest of the world. And his first animated adventure, directed by Steven Spielberg, has been getting great word of mouth.

10. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 83%). I've always loved the original PotA movie, even though I always felt it wasn't very feasible by science fiction standards. When Tim Burton remade it a few years ago, I lost all hope. But this prequel, with mo-cap phenom Andy Serkis in the lead roll as Caesar the chimpanzee, turned out to be very well done - and even provides some rationale behind the story of the original classic.

11. Conan the Barbarian
Result: EPIC FAIL (Rotten Tomatoes score 23%). The 1982 version of Conan the Barbarian starring Arnold Schwarzenegger is a stone-cold classic. I really love Conan and was hoping this digital-age re-make would add something, but it just fell flat. What should have been on my list: 13 Assassins (Tomatometer 95%). This Japanese-British film about samurai assassins made many critics' top-ten lists and featured some dazzling fight sequences.

12. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Result: FULL OF WIN (Tomatometer 93%). After three mostly mediocre M:I movies,  I didn't think this one would be an improvement. But the live-action debut of acclaimed animation director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille) gave me a glimmer of hope. And from what I have heard, Bird used his cartoon thrill-ride sensibilities to churn out a non-stop, balls-to-the-wall blockbuster.

So there you have it: six winners, four losers and two in-between. (58%)

Which just goes to show: you never can tell what's going to be good until you actually see it. Still, that won't stop me from speculating about the movies of 2012 in my next post...


I have to give a special shout-out to Martin Scorsese's Hugo (Tomatometer 89%). I had not heard of this film before it came out, but it got tremendous reviews and ended up on my must-see list. It isn't the splodiest movie; it doesn't have giant robots knocking down buildings, just one small clockwork man - oh, and a great story. This is a film about the magic of movie making, so if you're a film buff like me, you'll want to check it out.

Also, Battle: Los Angeles (Tomatometer 35%) was a lot better than the reviews would have you believe. The story may have been cliche in places, but it did a good job of showing what it would be like to be a soldier during an alien invasion. In fact, this was really a war movie: the aliens are barely seen, and I think it scored so low because it failed to meet some people's expectations of what an alien invasion movie should be.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Twisdom 2011

Every once in a while, I tweet something that stands on its own. Sometimes it's poetic, sometimes silly and sometimes just a little observation that has a kernel of wisdom in it. Here are some of those tweets.

I see icy seas, snow knows no end and winter winds win again

I am jut going tiptoe as fast ad I can and see what my iPhone fangs it to.

(: smiley parentheses :)

"sword" is the "s" word

butler, chef, chauffeur, secretary, personal shopper, personal trainer, life coach, counselor, nurse, financial advisor, handyman... aka dad

Quote of the day, so far: "Nope, it's just a crotch."

Yes, I would eat a bug. There is nothing on this Earth more disgusting than a chicken and I eat those all the time.

You learn something new every day. Every damn day.

Robots are always happy.

1/2 of the men I see in the restroom don't wash their hands. I want to run out after them, point and yell so everyone knows they're gross.


Whoever came up with the "tie two loops together" method of tying shoelaces, you're an idiot and you've caused a generation to do it wrong.

Horrible things. Unspeakable things. Things that haunt me, that God will never forgive me for. That's what I would do for a Klondike bar.

My Jedi powers: #1 - I can tell Parliament from Funkadelic.

Weather Channel says 0% chance of rain next Wed. & Thurs. Me: how can they be SO sure?! Wife: they just don't care about being wrong.

Star Wars figures are 1:18 scale (4"=6'). At that scale, a toy 1st Death Star would be 5-1/2 miles in diameter. The 2nd would be 31 miles.

We abandoned... Email: etiquette. Chat: decency. Blog: hope. Texting: grammar. My_: sense. FB: reality. Twitter: detail. G+: fun.

What's the emoticon to indicate that you're asking a rhetorical question?

I'm a "glass is half empty" kinda guy. Mostly because I drank it. I'm about to drink the rest and then fill it back up again.

Once you get tired of lemonade, what are you supposed to do with the rest of the lemons?

I'd rather go to work in the dark than come home in the dark. I'd much rather have the whole day ahead of me than behind me.

Sorry - I tried to change gears there and my chain fell off.

Please for the love of God stop saying ironic when you mean coincidental or serendipitous.

You can't look for beauty, you can only find it.

If you assume you just make an ass out of u. (Leave me out of it!)

How I described infinity to my boys tonight: How high is the ceiling in this room? About 10 ft. OK, now how high is the ceiling in our yard?

My kids won't eat chili, because "it's too spicy!" But they will eat "hamburger soup."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

When is Christmas on Mars?

As we enter the age of space exploration, Mars is mankind's next home. (Some of our robots already live there.) It is an alien world, but there are many ways in which it is similar to Earth. One of those is the length of the Martian day. The length of the solar day (sol) on Earth is 24 hours 0 minutes 0 seconds. On Mars, it is only 2.73% longer: 24 hours 39 minutes 22.663 seconds.

Most methods of timekeeping proposed for the Red Planet involve just using hours, minutes and seconds slightly 2.73% longer than their Earth equivalents. That makes a lot of sense and keeps the 24-hour clock we're used to. Using metric time is another option: each 1/10 of a Martian sol would be equal to about 2 hours 28 minutes on Earth; each 1/100 sol would be just under 15 Earth minutes; and each 1/1000 sol would be equal to about 1.5 Earth seconds.

Regardless of what time system people propose for Martian days, they seem to universally assume we'll use Mars' revolution around the Sun as the basis of the Martian calendar. The Martian solar year is equal to about 687 Earth days or 668.6 Martian sols. This makes sense on one hand, since Mars does experience seasons and this system will ensure that those seasons always fall at approximately the same time of year.

However, using the Martian solar year as a basis completely ignores the cultural importance of the 365-day calendar we use here on Earth. Assuming our Martian colonists want to maintain cultural ties with Earth, they will want to celebrate Christmas and other holidays at approximately the same time intervals that Earthlings do.

Here is how we get around that: we use the earth calendar, and chop off a day at the end of most months. This will make the date on Mars almost always the same (give or take a day) as on Earth. Holidays that would fall on the missing days are moved to the day prior. (For example, New Year's Eve would be celebrated on December 30 on Mars, since there would be no December 31.)

Under this system, all of the 31-day months (January, March, May, July, August, October and December) would lose one day and become 30-day months. June and November would remain at 30 days, but April and September would each lose one day, going from 30 to 29.

Earth Leap Years would not be celebrated, so February would be 28 days every year, never 29. However, April would gain back its 30th day as a "Leap Day" on even-numbered years not divisible by 30. (This would next happen on 2040, then 2070,  2100, 2130, and so on.) That should pretty much sync the calendars, although every few hundred years, the Martians may want to add an extra Leap Day (in one of the years divisible by 30) in order to stay aligned with Earth's calendar.

Here is how many days each month would have:

January: 30
February: 28
March: 30
April: 29 (30 in Leap Years)
May: 30
June: 30
July: 30
August: 30
September: 29
October: 30
November: 30
December: 30

This yields a year of 355 Martian sols (356 on Leap Years), which is equivalent to one year on Earth. The seasons will rotate through the year. For example, it's spring in the northern Martian hemisphere right now as Mars just had a Vernal Equinox on September 13, 2011. The next spring will start about a month and a half earlier on July 31, 2011. However, season migration already happens with many lunar-based Earth calendars and those cultures seem to handle it just fine. I think it's more important that the kids of Mars won't have to wait almost twice as long as Earthling kids for visits from Santa and the Easter Bunny.

So there you have it: Christmas on Mars is still on December 25, which overlaps with December 25 on Earth. Martians have a functional calendar for Mars that gives them the opportunity to carry forward their Earth heritage and celebrate whatever holidays they wish with their loved ones back home.

Yes, even Alien Robot Zombie Day!

Friday, December 16, 2011

If the mascots ruled the NHL

I stand by my previous suggestion for realigning the National Hockey League. But since I rearranged MLB, NBA and NFL teams thematically, I thought I shoudl do the same for hockey.


Pond Division: Canucks, Ducks, Islanders, Penguins, Sharks
These team names all have a water theme, fitting for a game played on a frozen pond.

Shinny Division: Avalanche, Flames, Hurricanes, Lightning, Maple Leafs
Shinny is hockey in its pristine form, played out in the open on a frozen pond. These team names represent other things you'll find out in the natural elements.

Zone Division: Blackhawks, Canadiens, Capitals, Oilers, Senators
These team names are all provincial, representing different peoples and national symbols.


Chase Division: Bruins, Coyotes, Devils, Panthers, Predators
These team names represnt things that will chase you, just like hockey players chase the puck.

Grind Division: Blue Jackets, Kings, Rangers, Sabres, Wild
Attack, attack, attack.

Wing Division: Blues, Flyers, Jets, Red Wings, Stars
Wingers are an important part of a hockey team's offense. Wings and flight also feature prominently in these teams' logos.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

If the mascots ruled the NFL

As we head into the final weeks of the season in the National Football League, I figured I would rearrange the league much as I did with the NBA and MLB.

This is completely unnecessary, since the NFL is the best organized pro sport in America. But then again, when has something being unnecessary ever stopped me before?


Gridiron Division: Browns, Jets, Packers, Steelers
The teams in this division represent American football's blue collar roots.

Roar Division: Bengals, Jaguars, Lions, Panthers
Great cats, anyone?

Rush Division: Bears, Chargers, Dolphins, Rams
These teams are named for things that charge forward with unstoppable force.

Stampede Division: Bills, Broncos, Colts, Texans


Air Division: Cardinals, Eagles, Falcons, Ravens
These teams really fly down the field.

Frontier Division: Chiefs, Cowboys, 49ers, Redskins
The wild, wild west.

Legends Division: Giants, Patriots, Saints, Titans
These teams are larger than life.

Sea Division: Buccaneers, Raiders, Seahawks, Vikings
These nautically themed teams are ready to sail to victory.

Friday, December 9, 2011

If the mascots ruled the NBA

Realigning Major League Baseball was so much fun, I thought I'd give the other professional sports leagues the same treatment. In honor of their recent labor peace, then, here is the National Basketball Association rearranged thematically.


Cager Division: Bobcats, Grizzlies, Hawks, Raptors, Timberwolves
The team names in this division are all animals one might find in a cage at the zoo. "Cager" is an old term for basketball player.

Drive Division: Bulls, Clippers, Pacers, Pistons, Rockets
This division is all about moving forward.

Phenom Division: Bucks, Heat, Hornets, Suns, Thunder
These team names are all based on natural phenomena. A very talented player is also called a "phenom."


Court Division: Cavaliers, Kings, Magic, Warriors, Wizards
These team names represent all of the things you might have found at the king's court in days of yore. Nowadawys, you'll find them on the basketball court.

Heritage Division: Celtics, Jazz, Knicks, Lakers, 76ers
This division contains teams that honor America's heritage and diversity.

Pioneer Division: Mavericks, Nets, Nuggets, Spurs, Trail Blazers
The teams in this division pay homage to America's pioneer days.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Throw away your old, outdated diagram of the Solar System

Graphic designer Emily Lakdawalla has created the best presentation slide / poster of the Solar System that I have ever seen. I tried this myself once, but mine was crude and amateurish by comparison. Emily's is the real deal. It captures in gorgeous detail diversity of planets that we now know exists in our neighborhood.

Slide-worthy images and a high-res poster version (complete with planet names) are available here for download. The poster can also be purchased in 16"x20"($18) and 23"x35" sizes.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

If the mascots ruled the Major Leagues

Major League Baseball recently decided to move the Houston Astros franchise from the National League Central division to the American League West. It's not the best move they could have made, but it does even things out a bit.

Still, Houston has always been a National League town, and in baseball, that kind of tradition is a sacred thing. The move is also unsettling, because it requires interleague play every day of the season.

Then I got to thinking: well, why not just throw all tradition out the window. And so I did just that, rearranging the leagues along thematic lines. (If this seems to fly in the face of geographic sense, just remember that Atlanta and San Francisco were in the same division for decades.)


Diamond Division: Athletics, Dodgers, Reds, Red Sox, White Sox
The team names in this division all pay tribute to the game's roots.

Pride Division: Braves, Indians, Nationals, Phillies, Yankees
This division contains teams that pay tribute to various identities.

Wheelhouse Division: Brewers, Mariners, Padres, Pirates, Rangers
This division pays homage to the working people of America. (And also pirates.)


Fly Division: Angels, Astros, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Orioles
These team names all denote things that fly, just like a well-hit baseball.

Grand Division: Giants, Mets, Rockies, Royals, Twins
These team names represent big things.

Wild Division: Cubs, Diamondbacks, Marlins, Rays, Tigers
These teams all use wild animals as their mascots.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Turdus migratorius incorrectus

Dear Red Robin:

Tonight, while I dined in your restaurant with my family, my sons received kids menus that included something called the "Scientific Name Game." I realize the kids menu at Red Robin is "light reading," but I was horrified to find the scientific name of our own species misspelled. I am a businessman, not a scientist, but I abhor sloppiness when it comes to educational materials - yes, even Red Robin menus!

The correct spelling is Homo sapiens, not Homo sapien. (The final "s" was missing.) Please take more care in the future. I am all for introducing complex subjects in a simple way, but it should be done factually. (Also, technically the second half of each scientific name should be lower case, not capitalized, but I concede that I may just be splitting hairs at this point.)

Rico Detroit

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dear Son

I think about you a lot during the day while I'm at work and on the days and evenings when we're apart. All too often when we're together, life goes so quickly and the hours and days slip by before I've gotten the chance to do and say everything I want to. Life is like that, I guess, and I'd rather it be overflowing than not full enough. But here, in this quiet moment, I wanted to take the time to tell you exactly what I want to tell you every moment of every day.

I'm proud of you. Not because of what you do, but because of who you are. I love watching you play and have fun and tell jokes and come up with interesting projects. And I love to watch you learn and see you accomplish things in school and in life. But much, much more than that , I am proud of what a good person you are - how thoughtful and generous and kind. You're not perfect! But life is not about being perfect. And I hope that you're never afraid to make a mistake - as we all do - and learn from it, laugh it off and get better and better.

You are an incredibly smart boy - probably the smartest I have ever known. It may not always show up in your school grades (although I hope you'll always try your best to get good ones!) - but you have the kind of curiosity and creativity and charisma that will take you far in life. I may be hard on you sometimes, because that's my job - to be strong and a good role model and try to teach you how to be the best person you can be. But when, like now, I have a moment to think about it, I just beam with pride. You're already pretty great. You're an inspiration to me, and I feel privileged to be your father.

I love you with all my heart, and I always will. And not just because it's my job.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Outlook tip of the week: turning off the 18-hour default alarm

Like many of you, I’ve found one of the most frustrating things about Microsoft Outlook to be the hard-coded 18-hour default reminder for all-day meetings. An 18-hour reminder for an all-day Monday appointment, for example, means getting woken up by your smart phone at 6:00 AM on Sunday morning – not how you want your week to start!

Unfortunately, while the default reminder for appointments at specific times can be set to whatever time interval you would like (10 minutes? 15 minutes? half an hour?), all-day reminders will default to 18 hours every time. Although users have complained about this for years, the feature has remained in version after version of Outlook, including the one just installed on my shiny new laptop.

Unless your co-workers are all diligent, courteous and intelligent enough to remember to manually change the setting every time they schedule an all-day appointment (hint: they’re not), you will face this dilemma again and again. Manually checking your calendar on a regular basis will help, but some appointments may still slip by. And if your smart phone isn’t fully compatible with Outlook (and it probably isn’t), turning off the reminder in Outlook may not turn it off on the devices synced to it.

Luckily, I have discovered a quick and easy fix that will disable the 18-hour alarm feature permanently, affording you a few extra minutes of sleep every morning, and preventing anyone you invite to a meeting from wanting to skin you alive. I discovered the fix quite by accident this past weekend, and I am happy to report that it is both easy to replicate and 100% guaranteed to work.

First, while this technique can be executed at any time, it is really far more satisfying if you have just been woken up at 6:00 AM after getting only three hours of sleep. Besides the fact that this will put you in the right frame of mind to finally stab a knife through the belly of the beast, you will benefit (as you will see in a moment) from the adrenaline rush of being extra, extra pissed off.

The first step is to grip the offending instrument – be it cell phone, laptop or whatever – firmly with your dominant hand. If you are right-handed, for example, hold it with your right hand. This is important, because you need both strength and finesse.

The second step is optional, but highly recommended: yell at the top of your lungs. In fact, you should seriously think about screaming words so obscene that you will later have to apologize to your kids, neighbors and the police. Trust me, it will be worth it for the added adrenaline strength.

If you are on high ground, all the better, but if not, do not stop to climb. That arrangement should be made in advance or not at all, as climbing will quickly sap your strength, especially when you are sleep-deprived.

Next, and this is an important step: open a window. If you’re already outside, don’t do this. That would be silly.

Then, chuck that f***er at the ground with every fiber of strength in your body. If you are in full possession of your mental faculties, make sure to hit something hard. But in any case, whip it! Whip it good!

Don’t stop there, though. The final step is the clincher. Go get in your car and drive over it again and again until it is no longer recognizable. (This is where some foresight comes in handy: throw it on your driveway and you’ll save yourself a lot of future gardening work and/or community service time.)

That should solve the problem. Enjoy your Sunday mornings.

iPhone photo courtesy of magerleagues

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Meet the planets: Luna

Luna is our Solar System’s innermost satellite planet, and the only natural satellite of Earth. It is often simply called “the Moon,” but I prefer “Luna,” its Latin name, to distinguish it from all other natural satellites, which are also called “moons.” There are many other names around the world for this planet, including “Selene” (Greek), “Al-Quamar” (Arabic) and “Chandra” (Sanskrit).

Luna is believed to have formed just over 4.5 billion years ago when Theia, a hypothetical Mars-sized planet, collided with the still-forming Earth. Theia is believed to have been co-orbital with Earth, creating a low-speed impact that allowed Earth to absorb Theia’s core. However, some of the planetary material was ejected, and re-solidified in Earth’s orbit as the Moon.


Luna is the 5th largest satellite planet and 14th largest planet in the Solar System overall. Luna is about a quarter of the diameter of Earth and 1/81 its mass: the largest satellite of a major planet relative to the planet it orbits. Having such a large companion, a second planet sharing its orbit, has been good for the Earth, giving it great stability over the eons and anchoring it against shifts in its orientation that could have produced radical climate change.

Luna is a Size-I planet, a little smaller than the smallest terrestrial planet (Mercury), but a little larger than the largest known dwarf planets (Eris and Pluto). Its diameter of 3,473 km (2,158 miles) is less than the width of the United States, reaching only from New York City to about Elko, Nevada. Its surface area is 37,930,000 sq km, which is about 7.4% of the Earth’s (roughly equal to the area of Africa and Australia combined). Gravity on the moon is 1/6 of that on Earth (16.7%).

Although we are used to seeing it in the sky every night, our moon is unique among all of the moons in our Solar System for many reasons. While we usually think of Luna as revolving around the Earth, both planets actually revolve around the center of gravity of the two planet system, a point located closer to Earth’s surface than to its center. More than any other moon, Luna behaves almost as an independent planet, its motion determined more by its revolution around the Sun than by its dance with the Earth. It revolves around the Earth not at the Earth’s equator, as with most moons, but near the plane of the Sun’s equator. Indeed, if the Earth were to suddenly disappear from existence, Luna would still be capable of dominating its orbit around the Sun and would easily be seen as a major planet in its own right.

Luna is affected by its larger companion in some ways, though. The most significant are the tidal forces, which have caused Luna to became “locked,” so that the same side always faces the Earth. This means that a day on the moon is equal to its revolution around the Earth, which takes about 27.3 days. However, since the Earth is also in motion around the Sun, it takes slightly longer – 29.5 days – for the same phase of the moon (for example, full moon to full moon) to be seen from Earth. (Likewise, the Earth appears to go through the same cycle every 29.5 days for those viewing from the near-side of Luna, but the phases are reversed: when Earthlings see a new moon, Lunarians see a full Earth, and vice-versa.) Its year is the same length as its companion’s (365.24 days), but Luna has almost no axial tilt, so it does not experience great seasonal variations as the Earth does. Its temperature varies from -233°C (-387°F) at night to 123°C (-253°F) during the day.

Luna’s composition resembles that of the other planets in the inner solar system. It is fully differentiated, with an iron-rich core surrounded by silicate rock. It has only the faintest of magnetospheres, not enough to provide significant protection from solar radiation. There is some evidence of water on the moon, but exactly how much is unknown. There is no liquid water or ice on the surface, where the solar radiation would cause it to rapidly dissipate. Presently, it does not appear likely that there is more than a trace amount underground, although there may yet be deposits at the poles.

Although it looks very bright to us on Earth, that is only because of its proximity, as Luna’s surface is actually quite dark, similar to coal. The darkest areas are the basaltic lava plains, called maria, which fill about a third of the near side (but only 2% of the far side). These lava fields were all formed billions of years ago, as Luna is not geologically active today. The remainder of the lunar surface is covered in lighter highlands, or terrae, which solidified from the molten magma ocean as Luna was forming. The entire surface, and especially the older terrae, is covered in impact craters made over billions of years. Because Luna is not geologically active and has almost no atmosphere, those craters have been preserved for eons.

Luna and Earth are separated by an average of only 384,399 km (238,854 miles). That’s the equivalent of circling the Earth at the equator 9.6 times. Luna is near enough that its large surface features can be discerned with the naked eye, and individual craters can be easily spotted with a telescope. By a coincidence, Luna’s relative size from Earth is almost exactly the same as the Sun’s, allowing Luna to completely eclipse the Sun when it is lined up directly between it and Earth.


Humans have been familiar with Luna from the very beginning, although its true nature was not understood until the 17th Century. The great familiarity Earthlings have with their moon often subdues their reaction to it, which should constantly be: “Oh my God! There’s a whole freaking planet in the sky!”

As humans became a spacefaring species, traveling to Luna became seen more and more as a possibility. On the evening of July 20, 1969, that dream was finally realized when U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first Earthling to set foot on another planet. His fitting first words back to Earth were: “This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Five additional manned missions were made, the last one in 1976. No human has set foot on Luna since that time.

But we will.

The moon will be our first permanent home outside of Earth. In 1969, it took astronauts three days to reach Luna, and this time will be greatly reduced in the future. And communications between Earth and Luna take only three seconds, meaning that residents of Luna could be full participants in Earth culture.

The cost of manned missions between earth and Luna will also become more reasonable, especially once space elevators and other technologies reduce the burden of escaping Earth’s gravity. This will open up the moon to science, industry and space tourism. While Luna does not have many natural resources of interest to us, it does have deposits of helium that may prove valuable. Mostly, however, Luna will be useful as a low-gravity base from which to launch further space missions.

The effects of Luna’s low-gravity environment on human beings is not yet fully understood, but will be carefully studied as the first lunar crews rotate in and out. Other obstacles will also have to be overcome, such as dealing with the extremely abrasive lunar dust, nutrient-poor soil, and the lack of atmospheric protection from solar radiation and meteors. Eventually, however, science will develop solutions to all of these problems, further opening up human exploration of the cosmos.

Although industry may make it possible to give Luna a temporary atmosphere, it will not be sustainable over the long term due to solar radiation, and making it hospitable to humans may be more trouble than it is worth. More likely, any atmosphere created will be in the interest of providing additional protection against solar radiation, while human settlement will remain restricted to air-tight artificial complexes. Traditional agriculture may be possible in domed greenhouses near the poles where sunlight is constant, but the two-week long nights will make it nearly impossible elsewhere without artificial light. For farms, factories and settlements on the near side of Luna, those lights will be visible from Earth, so that future generations will finally think of Earth and Luna as a true two-planet system.

Aliens (speculative)

Luna is populated by the Posterions, a flat, silicon-based life form about a quarter-inch deep and up to four miles in diameter. Posterions are very slow-moving, combing the lunar surface inch by inch as they feed on nutrients deposited by the solar wind. Like deer in headlights, they freeze completely when in direct sunlight. This, coupled with their rocky appearance, makes them invisible to even the strongest Earth-based telescopes.

Although they have no appendages, no tools and no industry, they are extremely intelligent. Their advanced culture is based entirely on theory: while they have no concrete music, art or science, for example, they have philosophical discussions of all of these, and very complex (and also very wrong) theories about the nature of the Universe.

Until recently, the Posterions believed their rather large moon to be lifeless, under the mistaken belief that life could not exist near anything blue. They were proven wrong in 1969, when aliens arrived on their world and promptly drive a striped and starred spike through the heart of their theoretical supreme leader. The Posterions immediately began planning war upon the invaders. They spent the next several decades conceptualizing the ultimate weapon, and then – for the first time ever – actually moved beyond theory and built the device. On October 9, 2009, they aimed it at the Earth and prepared to fire, only to be hit by a preemptive attack from the U.S. under the guise of a NASA science experiment.

The Posterions’ activities since then are unknown, but according to U.S. government officials who wish to remain anonymous, the earth’s leading scientists believe a full-scale war is inevitable...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Me singing poorly

Well, back when I posted the lyrics to my country song "Killin' Time," I promised I would record it. I have now sucked up my pride and humiliated myself to do just that. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cheque roulette

If you like a little risk, here is a fun way to add some excitement to a routine meal out. If you're at a bar or restaurant with friends or colleagues, suggest making it a little more interesting by playing "cheque roulette."

The rules are very simple: whoever gets served last pays the bill. If you're having drinks, the last one to be served his or her drink pays for that entire round. If you're having a meal, the last one served his or her entree pays the entire bill. (Oh, and no tampering with the waitress!)

Note that I didn't say it was smart; I just said it was fun if you can tolerate a little danger. (Or, of course, if you have an uncontrollable gambling problem!)

Since coming up with the idea, I've done it a few times - always with a group that could all afford to pay and at places where the bill would not be painfully high. I've gotten stuck with the bill a few times, but also gotten free lunch or drinks a few times, so it's been a wash.

Best of all, there's always been a lot of laughter involved - with the waiter/waitress both amused and bemused that his/her every action brings loud cheers and moans from the table. And really that's the whole point. There has to be something at stake to make it interesting, but even if you lower the stakes (loser gets the tip, loser has to sing a song, etc.), it's bound to add some mirth and merriment.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Entanglement chess

In the past, neighboring countries would line up their armies and engage each other in a nice, predictable conflict. Lately, though, the wars we have been fighting have been messy affairs with no clear boundaries. With that in mind, I rearranged the classic chess board to better reflect the occupation vs. insurgency nature of the warfare we have grown used to. I hereby present to you "entanglement chess":

Rule changes:
  • Castling: the king (K) may swap places with the adjacent rook (R), provided neither piece has yet been moved. This is the only castling option.
  • Pawns (P) cannot move two spaces on their first move.
  • Pawns can move horizontally or vertically, but can still only attack diagonally.
  • Pawns cannot be promoted.
Alternate game piece names:
  • B - bishops or "air support"
  • K - king or "commander"
  • N - knights or "guerrilla fighters"
  • P - pawns or "infantry"
  • Q - queen or "special forces"
  • R - rooks or "armored division"

Friday, July 29, 2011

What's the plural of "platypus"?

The word "platypus" is constructed from two Greek roots: "platys" means "flat," and "-pus" is related to "-pod" meaning "foot." The plural ending of Greek words ending in both "-pus" and "-pod" is "-podes."

However... "platypus" is NOT a Greek word, it is a modern word that was constructed in a "neo-Latin" fashion to be used n English and other languages. It is only constructed of Greek parts. So, this is where it gets messy.

For Latin words ending in "-us," we would end the plural in "-i." So a lot of people do that for "platypus" and "octopus," despite "platypi" and "octopi" not really making any sense from a historical perspective.

Those in the know about Greek like to end the plural in "-podes" ("platypodes," "octopodes") to make us feel smart - and yes, that includes me - even though it is so obscure that almost no one will understand what we are saying. We might as well be speaking Greek and we should be ashamed of ourselves. (But, whatever. That's probably not the only reason.)

Apparently, at least some people in Australia go the "sheep"/"sheep" route and don't change the word at all in the plural.

But the ACTUAL, proper way to pluralize the word - get this - is the same as for nearly all words in English: add "-es." That's right, the most accepted plural of the word is "platypuses." (Go ahead and check your dictionary and you'll see it's the first option listed.)

That being said, I propose we follow the "goose"/"geese" model and call them "platypeese" just to be different and confuse people - because language is by nature messy, and in this case I think it's still not yet quite messy enough.

Platypeese for everyone!

Photo courtesy of Thoughts to Avoid Homework To. Thanks to sephycloneno15 for the "playtpeese" recommendation.


Bonus! A handy chart showing how to pluralize octopus! (From Darrwin Eats Cake.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Alien robot zombie alphabet

Alien Bandit Cowboy Dragon Elf Fireball Ghost Hunter Insectoid Jetfighter Kung-fu Laserbeam Mutant Ninja Overlord Pirate Quake Robot Shark Tornado Underworld Vampire Wizard Xiphoid* Yeti Zombie

* xiphoid = sword-shaped

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Our first BIG asteroid: welcome to Vesta

This is Vesta - from a photo taken July 9 from a distance of about 41,000 kilometers (26,000 miles), closer than we have ever gotten to an asteroid of this size.

At approximately 1:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time this morning, the NASA Dawn space craft entered orbit around the size-M planetoid. For the next year, it will continue to orbit Vesta and reveal its secrets to us. Why did it never advance from protoplanet to a larger body? How has it been affected by the collision that removed a huge chunk at its southern pole?

Then Dawn will venture to another asteroid, the largest of them all, size-L Ceres - which has officially been named an official dwarf planet by the IAU.

Considering that the asteroids are likely future mining colonies for the human race, this is exciting. Although it is buried behind the story of the last Space Shuttle mission, this is the most important thing NASA is doing right now, and history will look back on this day as monumental.

Photo courtesy of NASA.

UPDATE: Here is the first photo from orbit of the 530 km (330 mile) diameter protoplanet:

UPDATE: Here are two more wonderful photos and a video from NASA. The first photo shows a close-up of the asteroid's southern polar region. The second is a great, full-frame detail shot. If you look to the left of the second photo, you'll see the three-crater formation that has been nicknamed the "snowman."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Steal this idea, Hollywood: Not your average nightly news...

Here is an idea I have for a weekly television program. Call it "The National News" and make it look exactly like a network nightly news show. In the beginning, actually have the anchors cover some ordinary news that happened that day. but also mix in a bunch of weird stuff, saying things like: "Authorities aren't sure what caused..." Some of it is really freaky and thought-provoking.

Over time, we get more "amateur footage," some investigative journalism and competing theories about these strange phenomena. Including some interviews with crazy scientists (one with theories about aliens, another about government conspiracies, etc.), nutty religious leaders calling it the apocalypse, etc. Also, we get some clips of the President talking - out of context, of course. Other famous people could cameo as themselves. Overall, production costs are kept kind low, because the special effects need to look grainy to be mysterious.

Then (during sweeps) we get lucky and some clear footage emerges, and we see that's it's... superheroes! Or aliens! Or, what the hell, both! And let's throw in some robots while we're at it. And a zombie plague. And somebody who brings dinosaurs back to life. And... well, you get the point. It's some very wild stuff, and it's actually happening and building in momentum, and the world is turning into a comic book right before our eyes.

Eventually, it becomes what the news would be every night if the world became that crazy. We get summaries of the amazing things happening in the world. And we get to see breaking footage as something heroic is happening. We get to know the characters that save the day as the news cameras capture them in action, and maybe even get them to sit down for an interview. But it's all told from the everyman point-of-view: how you and I would react if this shit was real.

Full disclosure: this idea borrows heavily from Kurt Busiek's Marvels (beautifully illustrated by Alex Ross), but that was a great comic book mini-series. And I think the concept would make a great TV series. Step up, Hollywood!

Images courtesy of Futurama, Alex Ross.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Making baseball more major league

Major League Baseball is considering moving either Arizona or Houston from the National League to the American League. That would give the two leagues 15 teams each and ensure interleague play every day of the season.

I agree the unbalanced divisions are unwieldy, but the proposed solution just trades today's problems for tomorrow's. I have a better idea.

Why not split into five "leagues" of six teams each. That way everything would be balanced. We could take the old (1969-1993) East-West division alignments as a starting point, with just a few tweaks, and slot in the expansion teams since then:

NY Yankees

Chicago Cubs
NY Mets
St. Louis

LA Dodgers
San Diego
San Francisco

Tampa Bay

Chicago White Sox
Kansas City
LA Angels

In this scenario, the leagues could each choose whether or not to use the Designated Hitter. (I'm guessing "yes" for the AL and WL, and "no" for the rest.) Interleague play is increased (each league plays two of the other four leagues each year on a rotating basis), but down the stretch everyone plays their own so we can have exciting pennant races. And in the playoffs, we get the five league winners (one less than today's division winners) and three wildcards (one more than today), all seeded together to increase the likelihood that the two best teams reach the finals. Plus, the shake-up would generate buzz and interest in the game, while really not messing much with traditional rivalries.

And as far as the All-Star game goes, how about fan picks vs. manager picks? That would be a great way for us to see all the fan favorites, as well as be introduced to some unheralded heroes on the big stage.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Making hockey more provincial

After a thrilling Stanley Cup finals, the NHL must now turn its attention to the next task at hand: figuring out what to do with the new Winnipeg team now that it has relocated from Atlanta. Atlanta is currently in the Southeast Division, and for those of you who don't know (and if not, shame on you!), Winnipeg is definitely not in the southeast. Several ideas have been tossed around about how to realign, but they all suffer the same fatal flaw: under the current six-division structure, at least one Eastern time zone team like Detroit or Columbus will end up playing in the Western Conference.

Actually, it is not just the misplaced Eastern teams that have it rough. The NHL is the most geographically imbalanced major sports league - with the majority of its teams concentrated in the northeast - and because of that, the rest of the league has a pretty awful travel situation. There are only four NHL teams in the Pacific time zone, four in Mountain time, six in Central (it was only five before Atlanta moved to Winnipeg), and the rest in the East.

I have looked at the problem from multiple angles, and I think I've come up with the only sensible solution. The problem is that the NHL is trying to cram 30 teams into the same two-conference structure that other leagues use. But hockey has always been different, and that's part of its charm. So the best solution is to make it even more different, even more provincial, and make the bold move to not two but four conferences.

The new conferences would allow teams to clump together more easily along natural geographic lines that would reduce travel. It would also have the benefit of intensifying rivalries, which has a history of success in hockey. Here is how I would recommend dividing the league:

New Jersey
NY Islanders
NY Rangers
Tampa Bay

St. Louis


Los Angeles
San Jose

Each team would play all of their conference rivals five or six times per season, and each of the other teams twice each. (Under the current structure, some non-conference teams are only played once, which means West Coast fans may miss the opportunity to see Sidney Crosby in person, for example.) In the playoffs, the top four teams from each conference would battle in the opening rounds, similar to how the league operated from 1981-1993. The four conference champs would be re-seeded for the semi-finals, helping to ensure that the best teams meet in the finals. (As for the All-Star game, it would return to the North America vs. World format that it flirted with a few years ago.)

If this structure were in place this year, this is how the playoffs might have gone:

(1) Washington over (4) NY Rangers
(3) Tampa Bay over (2) Philadelphia
Conference finals: Tampa Bay over Washington.

(1) Detroit over (4) Dallas
(2) Nashville over (3) Chicago
Conference finals: Detroit over Nashville

(4) Buffalo over (1) Pittsburgh
(2) Boston over (3) Montreal
Conference finals: Boston over Buffalo

(1) Vancouver over (4) Phoenix
(2) San Jose over (3) Anaheim
Conference finals: Vancouver over San Jose

(1) Vancouver over (4) Detroit
(2) Boston over (3) Tampa Bay

Boston over Vancouver

Most importantly, fans across the NHL would have seen highly relevant, geographic rivalries in the early rounds on a fairly consistent basis, helping fuel interest in both hockey-crazed and hockey-confused NHL cities alike.

It probably won't save struggling Phoenix or Nashville, but hockey-crazed Quebec City and Hamilton, Ontario beckon for them. In the meantime, this proposed realignment should make the remaining teams stronger and reduce the overall travel burden. Game on!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Super summer showdown: conclusion

Well, that all seemed like a waste of time! Marvel won, but only barely: DC was definitely within the margin of error. The two were virtually tied in heroes, Marvel held a slight advantage in anti-heroes, and DC held a slight advantage in villains.

Personally, I think DC has slightly better top heroes, and Marvel has more depth – but the truth is they’re both good. Let’s hope they keep making comic books, and more importantly comic book movies, for a long time.

Finally, just for fun, here are my votes for the top 20 heroes and villains from these universes. As you can see, DC holds the top spot in both charts, while Marvel has a slight edge in numbers. Again, pretty much a wash.

Top 20 Superheroes

1. Batman (DC)
2. Wolverine (Marvel)
3. Spider-Man (Marvel)
4. Superman (DC)
5. The Flash (DC)
6. Iron Man (Marvel)
7. Captain America (Marvel)
8. Green Lantern (DC)
9. Hulk (Marvel)
10. Wonder Woman (DC)
11. The Thing (Marvel)
12. Thor (Marvel)
13. Daredevil (Marvel)
14. Robin (DC)
15. The Human Torch (Marvel)
16. Silver Surfer (Marvel)
17. Martian Manhunter (DC)
18. Hawkeye (Marvel)
19. Green Arrow (DC)
20. Black Panther (Marvel)

Top 20 Supervillains

1. The Joker (DC)
2. Magneto (Marvel)
3. Lex Luthor (DC)
4. Doctor Doom (Marvel)
5. Darkseid (DC)
6. Galactus (Marvel)
7. Venom (Marvel)
8. Juggernaut (Marvel)
9. Ra’s al Ghul (DC)
10. Black Adam (DC)
11. The Green Goblin (Marvel)
12. Brainiac (DC)
13. Bane (DC)
14. Apocalypse (Marvel)
15. Solomon Grundy (DC)
16. Doctor Octopus (Marvel)
17. Gorilla Grodd (DC)
18. Thanos (Marvel)
19. Kingpin (Marvel)
20. The Rhino (Marvel)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Super summer showdown, round eleven: the agents of chaos

In this final round, we see a bunch of villains who, in the words of Batman’s butler Alfred, “just want to watch the world burn.” For the heroes, that makes them unpredictable and dangerous. For us, the observers, that makes them a blast.

Contest #101: The Joker (DC) vs. The Green Goblin (Marvel)

The Joker is the ultimate psychopath, a brilliant but insane villain who finds humor in others’ misfortune. He doesn’t have a single superpower – he just knows how to push all the right buttons. The Green Goblin is also insane, but has a few more gadgets up his sleeve. For him, it’s Halloween every day as he rides around on a flying scooter throwing “pumpkin bombs.” Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: The Joker. Most firepower: The Green Goblin. Most heart: The Joker. Most compelling character: The Joker. Overall winner: The Joker. He was already a pretty versatile bad guy, but Heath Ledger’s performance of him in The Dark Knight put him over the top as the best comic book villain ever.

Contest #102: Obsidian (DC) vs. Venom (Marvel)

Obsidian is the mentally unstable son of the original, World War II era Green Lantern – the one who wears red and whose weakness is wood, not the one who wears green and whose weakness is the color yellow. (Uh… just trust me on that…) He has the power to merge with his shadow and send tendrils of it out to envelop people, among other things. Venom is one of Marvel’s most interesting villains, even though it was portrayed horribly in Spiderman 3. It is an alien symbiote that merges with its host, forming a kind of black, skin-like covering. Once attached, the creature enhances its host with special powers. Oh, and turns the host evil. Classically coolest: Venom. Most badass: Venom. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: Venom. Most compelling character: Venom. Overall winner: Venom.

Contest #103: Poison Ivy (DC) vs. The Enchantress (Marvel)

Poison Ivy is a botanist supervillain who can control plants. She can also use plant toxins to hypnotize men and bend them to her will, The Enchantress is one of Thor’s Asgardian kin, who – among other things – uses magic to bend men to her will. Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: The Enchantress. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Poison Ivy. Overall winner: This is a tough one, but Poison Ivy has me in her spell.

Contest #104: The Riddler (DC) vs. Arcade (Marvel)

The Riddler is a crook who seems less interested in getting rich than in leaving elaborate but solvable riddle clues that allow Batman to ultimately thwart him. Arcade is a crook who seems to only be interested in creating elaborate, carnival-ride-like death traps for heroes to ultimately escape from. Classically coolest: The Riddler. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: The Riddler. Most compelling character: tie. Overall winner: The Riddler.

Contest #105: Black Manta (DC) vs. Mole Man (Marvel)

Black Manta is one of Aquaman’s arch-nemeses, a man with a super-powered diving suit and an irrational desire to conquer Atlantis. Mole Man is a man who fled underground from the world that he perceived had betrayed him, periodically returning with a horde of subterranean goons to try to conquer the surface and exact his vengeance. Classically coolest: Black Manta. Most badass: Black Manta. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: Mole Man. Most compelling character: tie. Overall winner: Black Manta. His ellipsoidal diving helmet is much cooler than Mole Man’s thick 3D-glasses look

Contest #106: Cyborg Superman (DC) vs. Ultron (Marvel)

Cyborg Superman is a villain who is half machine and half organic replica of Superman. (What did you think he would be?) When Doomsday (temporarily) killed Superman, Cyborg Superman claimed to be the real deal and cuased all kinds of mischief. Ultron is a bad Skynet prototype: a virtually indestructible robot originally built by Hank Pym (Ant-Man) to aid humanity, who instead decided to destroy it. Classically coolest: Ultron. Most badass: Ultron. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: Ultron. Most compelling character: tie. Overall winner: Ultron.

Contest #107: Harley Quinn (DC) vs. Crossbones (Marvel)

These are two of the better recent additions to DC and Marvel’s rogues galleries. Harley Quinn is a disciple of the Joker who dresses like a harlequin jester and uses her expertise in psychoanalysis to create chaos. Crossbones is a disciple of the Red Skull who dresses like a member of Slip Knot and uses his military expertise to create chaos. Classically coolest: Harley Quinn. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: Crossbones. Most heart: Harley Quinn. Most compelling character: Harley Quinn. Overall winner: Harley Quinn.

Contest #108: Two-Face (DC) vs. Sebastian Shaw (Marvel)

Two-Face is a former respectable district attorney who was driven mad by an accident that left him scarred on half of his face. Having turned to crime, he prefers to leave a lot to chance – flipping a coin to make crucial decisions, such as, for example, whether he’ll let someone live or die. Sebastian Shaw, portrayed by Kevin Bacon in the new X-Men: First Class movie, is a mutant who absorbs kinetic energy to increase his own strength. On the surface, he is a respectable businessman, but secretly he’s the head of the Hellfire Club, a secret organization seeking world domination. Classically coolest: Two-Face. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: Sebastian Shaw. Most heart: Two-Face. Most compelling character: Two-Face. Overall winner: Two-Face.

Contest #109: Professor Zoom (DC) vs. Speed Demon (Marvel)

An evil version of the Flash, Professor Zoom (also known as the Reverse-Flash) has been a constant thorn in his counterpart’s side. Speed Demon (also known, unfortunately, as the Whizzer) is pretty similar but less of a fixture in his universe. Classically coolest: Professor Zoom. Most badass: Professor Zoom. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Professor Zoom. Overall winner: Professor Zoom.

Contest #110: Mr. Mxyzptlk (DC) vs. Loki (Marvel)

Mr. Mxyzptlk is a magical imp from another dimension who shows up periodically just to give Superman trouble. The only way to banish this Great Gazoo prototype back to his own dimension is to make him say his own name backwards. (“Kltpzyxm,” in case you’re wondering. Simple, eh?) Loki is Thor’s adopted brother who harbors a huge chip on his shoulder against his sibling. The “God of Mischief,” a master of magic, shows up periodically just to give Thor trouble. Classically coolest: Loki. Most badass: Loki. Most firepower: Mr. Mxyzptlk. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Loki. Overall winner: Loki. He wins this contest hands down, even before Tom Hiddleston’s winning portrayal in Thor.

Round eight score: A big leap for DC, but not quite enough – DC 7, Marvel 3. Cumulative score: DC 54, Marvel 56.

Next: the thrilling conclusion!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Super summer showdown, round ten: crooks and thugs

You know, sometimes a villain doesn’t have to be a galaxy-conqueror to be fun. Sometimes, all he has to have is a bad attitude and a gimmick.

Contest #91: The Shark (DC) vs. The Rhino (Marvel)

The Shark is a mutated shark in humanoid form (which, for some reason, means his dorsal fin is on his head instead of his back) with telepathy, the ability to shoot energy bolts and a host of other powers. The Rhino is a dimwitted bruiser with a rhino suit permanently affixed to his skin, giving him enough super strength to tussle with the Hulk, plus some wicked horns on his head. Classically coolest: The Rhino. Most badass: The Rhino. Most firepower: The Shark. Most heart: The Rhino. Most compelling character: The Rhino. Overall winner: The Rhino – an underappreciated villain if there ever was one!

Contest #92: Bizarro (DC) vs. Carnage (Marvel)

Bizarro is a twisted version of Superman (actually a clone) with similar powers. Carnage is a twisted version of Spiderman (actually an alien) with even stronger powers. Classically coolest: Bizarro. Most badass: Carnage. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: Bizarro. Most compelling character: Bizarro. Overall winner: Bizarro.

Contest #93: Man-Bat (DC) vs. Vulture (Marvel)

Man-Bat is a half-man, half-bat mutation with webbed arms that let him fly. The Vulture is a bald human crook that uses a feathered super suit to fly. Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Vulture. Overall winner: Vulture.

Contest #94: Cheetah (DC) vs. Lady Deathstrike (Marvel)

In recent years, the Cheetah has gone from just being a woman in a costume to having super powers rivaling those of her arch-enemy Wonder Woman. But she’s still basically a woman in a cheetah costume. Lady Deathstrike is a mutant with powers similar to Wolverine, with long, razor sharp fingernails. Classically coolest: Cheetah. Most badass: Lady Deathstrike. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: Cheetah. Most compelling character: Cheetah. Overall winner: Cheetah. Sometimes the simple ideas are the better ones.

Contest #95: Mister Freeze (DC) vs. Electro (Marvel)

Mister Freeze is a scientist whose body was mutated by chemicals so that he can only survive at sub-zero temperatures. He wears a special suit to keep himself cold and uses a freeze gun. Electro is a master of electricity who gained his powers after being struck by lightning while working on a power line. (For you and I, that would give us the mystical power of being dead.) Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: Electro. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: Mister Freeze. Most compelling character: Mister Freeze. Overall winner: Mister Freeze.

Contest #96: Solomon Grundy (DC) vs. The Sentinels (Marvel)

Solomon Grundy is the ultimate super-zombie, who keeps coming back no matter how many times you kill him. The Sentinels are mutant hunting robots, who keep coming back no matter how many times the X-Men dismantle them. Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: Solomon Grundy. Most firepower: The Sentinels. Most heart: Solomon Grundy. Most compelling character: Solomon Grundy. Overall winner: Solomon Grundy.

Contest #97: Amazo (DC) vs. Super-Skrull (Marvel)

Amazo is a pointy-eared android who can mimic the powers of any superhero. The Super-Skrull is an alien shape shifter who can mimic the powers of any member of the Fantastic Four. Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: Amazo. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Amazo. Overall winner: Amazo.

Contest #98: Deadshot (DC) vs. Bullseye (Marvel)

Two assassins for hire that never miss. Both are skilled in a wide variety of weapons. Bullseye gets bonus points for slitting a man’s throat with a well-aimed playing card. Also, he killed Elektra in front of Daredevil. (She didn’t stay dead, of course.) Classically coolest: Bullseye. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: tie. Overall winner: Bullseye.

Contest #99: Doomsday (DC) vs. Juggernaut (Marvel)

Doomsday is a Kryptonian monster, a virtually unstoppable force that desires only to kill. He and Superman once beat each other to death. (They didn’t stay dead, of course.) The Juggernaut is a man who possesses a magic gem that makes him a truly unstoppable force. In addition to super strength and invulnerability, once in motion he cannot physically be stopped against his will. Not by anything. Classically coolest: Juggernaut. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Juggernaut. Overall winner: Juggernaut. Killing Superman is pretty impressive, but the Juggernaut is more awesome still.

Contest #100: Killer Croc (DC) vs. The Lizard (Marvel)

Killer Croc is a human villain with a mutation that has progressively turned him reptilian: starting as just scaly skin and eventually including super strength, regeneration and other abilities. The Lizard is a surgeon who developed a serum from reptiles to grow back his severed arm. The serum worked, but unfortunately turned him reptilian in the process, giving him super strength, regeneration and other abilities. Oh, and a burning hatred for humankind. Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: The Lizard. Overall winner: The Lizard.

Round eleven score: This round was even – DC 5, Marvel 5. Cumulative score: DC 47, Marvel 53.

One round to go!