Spoiler Alert

Posted March 30, 2005 at 6:20 pm | No Comments

I remember finding it very funny when Dennis got an email from Netflix suggesting that, based on his past selections, he would probably enjoy MVP 2: Most Vertical Primate. Note that not only is this a movie about a monkey who wins a skateboarding competition; it is actually a sequel to a movie about a hockey-playing monkey.

What’s kind of embarrassing is that when Dennis told me about his recommendation, the first thing I did was add the movie to my own Netflix queue. You see, like Dennis, I have a morbid fascination with really bad movies. A horrible movie is like a car accident; you know you should look away, but sometimes you can’t help but watch. And so my Netflix queue fills up with movies like Bubble Boy and Freddy Got Fingered.

Meanwhile, Jen, who shares my Netflix account, will add her own movies, which must confuse the Netflix recommendation algorithm to no end. I sometimes imagine a bewildered Netflix recommendation robot thinking, “what kind of person would rent Blade II and then follow it up with Sabrina? Perhaps I should suggest Me, Myself, and Irene, since it touches on multiple personality disorder.”

Still, occasionally I see a trailer for a film that looks so horribly bad that even I can’t stomach it. The problem is that even the worst trailers are designed to leave you intrigued, so later that day I find myself wondering about burning questions like “who wins, Freddy or Jason?” and “does Britney ever take off her top?”

Incidentally, I sat through both Freddy Vs. Jason and Crossroads (in the theater, no less), and the answers to those questions are (CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD!) “Jason” and (more predictably) “No.”

Anyway, for those movies that you can’t bring yourself to watch, but you still wonder about, The Movie Spoiler is a great resource. You can read a detailed plot description of the movie in question, and it will tell you exactly how the movie ends. Anyone can submit a spoiler to the website, so the plot descriptions are not always particularly well written, but they succeed in satisfying your curiosity for free in about five minutes, which is much better than wasting nine dollars and ninety minutes.

A while ago I went to the San Francisco International Film Festival with Ethan, who suggested that we watch a collection of short films called Motion Studies. I submitted a spoiler for Motion Studies to The Movie Spoiler website, but for some reason they didn’t post it, so I decided I would just post it here. CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD!

Continue reading Spoiler Alert…

Rhonda Gone Wild

Posted March 29, 2005 at 6:19 pm | No Comments

Admittedly, the inside-joke factor on this one is pretty high, but a few of you readers out there might appreciate a website that I recently created.

Ice Luge

Posted March 28, 2005 at 6:17 pm | 26 Comments
My quest for an ice luge was not without its pitfalls. After calling all of the major ice suppliers in the bay area, I determined that ice sculptures do not come cheaply. “We have a fixed rate on sculptures,” said the guy at the San Francisco Ice Company. “For $300, we make absolutely anything you want from a 300-pound block of ice.”This was an interesting piece of information to file away, should I ever need to order, say, a gigantic frozen phallus for a swank bachelorette party. However, it was of little use to me in planning the weekly CS Department social event, since $300 is well outside of our weekly budget.

Our Ice Luge, or S'liquor Slide, is a must for a truly great party At this point, perhaps I should explain the concept of an ice luge for those unfamiliar with frat parties (or Hollywood portrayals thereof). An ice luge is a large banked ramp of ice with a narrow channel carved through it. A measured quantity of liquid, typically liquor, is poured into a channel at the top of the luge, and a few seconds later an icy cold drink is dispensed at the bottom, directly into an awaiting open mouth. Awesome.”Maybe I could just carve my own ice luge,” I thought. “There aren’t any chainsaws in the Graphics Lab tool room, but a chisel and a heat gun might do the trick.” Unfortunately, it turned out that even that approach was too expensive — the best price I could find for a large carving block of ice was $75.

Not to be deterred, I fell upon the idea of freezing my own ice block. I explored the kitchens of various academic buildings, selected the largest freezer I could find, and measured its dimensions: 12″x24″x16″. After a quick trip to Home Depot for a plastic storage container and several lengths of PVC piping, I was ready to construct my very own ice luge.

Some back-of-the-envelope calculations determined that the 12 gallons of water would take several weeks to freeze. This was far too long, so I prepped the container by first filling it with four 20-pound bags of ice cubes. I filled the remainder with water, burying the pipes underneath to create hollow channels through the ice.

I left for the weekend anticipating returning to a beautiful ice luge. Unfortunately, my frozen creation was not welcomed by the inhabitants of the Packard Building. On Saturday I received the following email:

> Whoever put the science experiment ( the plastic box full
> of water slush and pipes) in the freezer on the second
> floor of Packard needs to identify themselves and their project
> pronto or, even better, remove it. It is  creating a heavy energy
> drain on the appliance and will be removed on Monday.

I began searching for a new home for my “science experiment,” feeling a sudden solidarity with the many “scientists” before me who had faced similarly imposing challenges. I soon discovered that if I slid the center shelf out from one of the freezers in the Gates building, it could just barely accommodate the storage container. I carted our partially-frozen ice block over to the Fujitsu Lounge kitchen and hoisted it into its new resting place, where it comfortably remained for two more days.

The bad news is that apparently the storage container didn’t fit into the freezer very well. The freezer door closed fine when I put the container in, but it must have been just large enough to keep the door from swinging shut by itself. Someone must have opened the door and then failed to notice when the door didn’t close properly. As a result, the freezer began dripping condensation on the floor, prompting someone to send an email to fixit@cs, which in turn prompted Christine or Hector to remove the ice container and dump it out back by the shipping dock. Fortunately, Christine was pretty good-natured about the whole thing, but the upshot was that the several weeks of freezer time I had invested in my homemade ice luge were for naught.
The good news, I suppose, is that when I found my poor abandoned ice block, unceremoniously dumped in the day lilies behind Gates, it was quite thoroughly frozen. It looked pretty awesome, and if I had discovered it sooner I might have been able to salvage it. As it was, it was covered in dirt, and the outer 2-4 inches of ice had already melted. But I was heartened to see that my plan had more or less worked. The PVC pipes even slid out smoothly when I pulled on them, leaving some perfect channels through the ice.
This failure left me discouraged, and for a while I gave up on the ice luge. Eventually, though, “science” soldiered on. I decided to use my own freezer for the next attempt, so that I could avoid pissing off any more building administrators. I’m finally beginning to understand why large ice blocks are so expensive.
This time the freezing process completed without incident. Unfortunately, I ran into another problem after carting the ice luge over to a party at Jessica’s place. The PVC pipes had not been properly plugged this time, and they had filled with water and frozen, causing them to stick firmly inside the block of ice.
Everyone had their own ideas about how to remove the stuck pipes, and we tried nearly every idea without success. Bob suggested pouring hot water into the end of the pipes, but we found that the empty space in the pipe was so small that it quickly filled up and the water became cold immediately. After ten minutes of pouring in hot water and tilting the block to pour the water back out again, we had made almost no progress.
Jessica suggested heating a metal coat hanger in the oven and poking it into the pipe to melt the ice. At first this seemed like a good idea, but it turned out that the coat hanger wasn’t sturdy enough to chisel through the ice, and it cooled off very quickly.
We even tried using a hair dryer and a funnel to blow hot air into the frozen pipes, but it didn’t seem to have much effect. Finally, we made a run to the grocery store for some metal barbecue skewers, which we were able to drive gradually into the icy pipes using a hammer. After about fifteen minutes of hammering, pouring in hot water, pouring out cold water, and hammering some more, we were able to make a channel through the pipes.Of course it turned out that because PVC pipes are such good insulators, pouring hot water through the middle the pipes didn’t actually do much to melt the ice around them. But by this time everything had melted enough that a few careful hammer whacks drove the pipes out at last.
The luge operated quite well at first, but it had taken so long to get it working that it was starting to melt, forming unusual holes and channels inside the ice block. After the first hour of shots, we found that when we poured liquor in at the top and it would never come out the bottom; it was being trapped in a cavity somewhere inside the block.
Undaunted, I got out the hammer and a screwdriver and carved some curvy channels along the top of the ice block. This allowed the party to continue for quite a while longer.
The ice luge rounds continued for so long, in fact, that we eventually hit upon the bright idea of administering shots mouth-to-mouth. Though perhaps not the most sanitary practice, I think it imparted a special flavor to the drinks.

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