Archive for November, 2009

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Post Thanksgiving musings

November 30, 2009

Ugh, there is nothing worse than going back to work after the Thanksgiving break.  I had a fantastic thanksgiving as always, with great food, family and friends, and nights spent in front of a fireplace in the woods of West Virginia.  No laptop, no cell phone, no e-anything.  Completely unplugged.  It felt great.  And then came monday…but that’s OK, because tonight we put up the Christmas tree!  Yay, something to look forward too!

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Charity for Malian orphans

November 24, 2009

They're not trying to save the world, they're just trying to dig a well. I like tangible goals.

I’m a little weird when it comes to charities.  I enjoy giving money to worthy causes but I don’t like giving to large, faceless organizations, and for that reason I tend to shy away from organized charity drives like the Combined Federal Campaign.  Fortunately, this year I learned that a friend of mine who I work with runs a non-profit charity for Malian orphans.  (Mali is a landlocked country in the Northwest portion of Africa – yeah, I had to look it up too)  She started the charity because she was once a Malian orphan, but with the proper support and education she has earned a commission as an officer in the United States Navy.  I don’t want to say (and nor would she) that her story is any more heroic than other peoples who have overcome significant hardships to make a better life for themselves, but the fact that she devotes a significant amount of her free time to running a charity for which she cares very deeply while still carrying all the responsibilities of a naval officer is quite special.  If you’re looking for a charity to donate to but, like me, don’t feel comfortable giving money to charities that have large overheads because you don’t really know where your money is going, take a look at these links: 

http://www.globalgiving.com/projects/build-a-home-for-orphans-in-mali/

http://www.acfacorp.org/index.php/founders-message.html

If I didn’t know the person who runs this charity I would probably not pay it any more attention than any of the thousands of other charities that are out there but given that I know the founder and how capable she is at managing large projects, I feel that this is a charity I can trust to send my money where it is needed, which in this case is a run down section of a poor country that just happens to have had the good luck to produce a highly competent and caring naval officer, one who devotes the majority of her free time to helping a part of the world that most of us have to google in order to find out where it even is!

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My geekiest post ever

November 20, 2009

Warning:  This will undoubtedly be my dorkiest post ever.  It is going to be on the engine room of the new Star Trek movie.  Still with me? OK, here we go!

It may not be as futuristic as a warp drive, but it's a hell of a lot more efficient!

I love the new star trek movie, especially how they portray the engine room.  All the other Star Trek engine rooms are very sleek and only show the warp reactor and associated equipment.  Apparently, the guys who design starships would have us believe that all systems are powered directly via the warp reactor but this really doesn’t make much sense once you think about it.  Now, I understand that the matter/antimatter reactor generates electro-plasma which is then transferred throughout the ship via the EPS system and ultimately ejected from the warp nacelles in order to generate and maintain a stable warp field (who doesn’t!) but why on earth would you rely on something as energetic and unstable as electro-plasma to run your low energy / secondary systems?  It’s like putting jet fuel into your Subaru, it’s just too much energy for the car to handle!  Take for example the doors that open and close automatically.  We have those today and they don’t require electro-plasma to operate, just good old fashion 120 volt count electricity!  So why not design your starship so that you don’t have to worry about getting your ass fried every time that door near you explodes because it’s relying on super energetic electro-plasma to run!  This is where the new engine room really earns its keep.  The new engine room shows that in addition to the warp reactor being used to power the warp drive, weapons, transporters, and other high energy equipment, it clearly relies on good old fashion steam technology to generate electricity for the secondary systems, thereby saving precious antimatter and making good use of the massive amount of latent heat generated by the reactor.  Basically, it works exactly like a nuclear reactor works today:  All those water pipes and tanks (the ones Scotty got stuck in) are part of a closed loop reactor layout.  The heat generated by the reactor is transferred via a heat exchanger to the water running through the primary feed loop which is then run through a condenser to turn the heated steam into superheated steam (steam that is heated beyond its saturation point) which is then run through a turbine which is attached to a generator to generate electricity for low energy systems.  This has the major benefit of relieving the strain on the reactor to generate all the power for the entire ship as well as reducing the amount of electro plasma running throughout the ship.  All that’s missing is the secondary cooling loop, but since all the excess energy generated by the reactor takes the form of electro-plasma, there is no need for a cooling loop, which is good news because it would be really hard to find a renewable source of cold water in space.  (I imagine they would simply run some sort of fluid through a pipe that runs along the outside of the hull, thereby releasing any residual heat into space, but those are minor details).  So there it is, one more reason to love the new Star Trek movie.  In addition to a great story, awesome acting, and an incredible soundtrack, the producers also took the time to reduce the amount of electro plasma flowing throughout the ship, thereby reducing the risk to the crew of hideously disfiguring and unbearably painful plasma burns.     

p.s. – apparenlty the engine room scenes were filmed in a brewery, so in addition to being able to travel faster than light the Enterprise doubles as a tasty micro brew!  To bodly go where no one has brewed before…

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Review of ‘The Prisoner’ part 1

November 20, 2009

I’m half way through watching AMC’s remake of ‘The Prisoner’ and to be honest, I’m not all that impressed.  I think the problem is that the producers are trying to take the original themes and expand them in size, which doesn’t really seem to be working.  It was one thing to believe that a secret village could exist where all the residents were former spies, but it’s another to believe that a village could exist where there are entire families who have always lived there.  I get that the show is trying to take the ‘big brother’ themes of the original and show that they apply not just to people who work in the government but to society as a whole, but it just seems like too big of a stretch.  I can buy the idea of a bunch of adults pretending like they’ve forgotten the outside world, but an entire society unaware of an outside world?  Not quite.  We’ll see how the rest of the series plays out but all in all, I’m just not that interested.  Oh yeah, the AMC promos for the show are really irritating too.  That never helps.

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Working late

November 17, 2009

It’s almost 7:00 and I’ve now been at work for over 11 hours.  I’m now sitting here waiting for a phone call telling me the brief is approved and I can go home.  This is why people should keep bottles of booze in their desks…

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It’s (almost) the most wonderful time of the year!

November 16, 2009

This is the worst week of the year.  It’s the last full week before the holiday season and it seems to last forever!  To make it worse (or better, depending on how you look at it) I’ve actually got some big work stuff happening this week.  But fear not, for I shall persevere by keeping in mind the images of Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas decorations!  I just have to get through this week…

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I will not be stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! (but I will be remade!)

November 12, 2009

pennyfarthing

This weekend you need to lock yourself in a room with your computer and watch every episode of The Prisoner in preparation for the remake that airs this Sunday on AMC. Trust me on this. All the episodes are available for viewing free on this website (which pisses me off since I bought the whole DVD set years ago!): http://www.amctv.com/originals/the-prisoner/

 

You will not regret devoting 17 solid hours to watching these classic episodes of one of the most original sci fi shows ever made! Belive me! (You’ll get that joke once you watch the shows.)

In case you haven’t heard, a remake of the cult classic 1960’s TV show ‘The Prisoner’ will be airing this Sunday, November 15th, on AMC.  Combined with the return of Futurama, this could be the greatest resurgence in science fiction that has ever happened in the annals of modern television.  The Prisoner was one of those shows that you never really understood what was going on, and every time you think you’ve figure it out it would throw you for a total loop.  (I’m told Lost is similar to this, so if you like Lost you should like The Prisoner)  The premise of the show was fairly simple – secret agent played by Patrick McGoohan (who recently died) mysteriously resigns from British Intelligence, wakes up in a village in a secret location, and spends the next 16 shows trying to escape the Village without revealing why he resigned in the first place.  The show was very heavily influenced by the 1960s counterculture movement and fed off cold war paranoia about loss of identity and individual freedom in the name of security.  The show’s main themes were rampant drug use, puppet governments, and resisting authority.  Part of what made the show great was just about everything was a metaphor, even the things you think should be taken literally.  For example, the location of The Village changes several times throughout the show (it starts off in the Baltic Sea, then moves off the coast of Africa, and finally ends as a suburb of London), implying that no place is immune from the occasional despotic tendency.  If you’ve never seen the show, the 17 episodes can be broken into three main parts:  The first couple episodes deal with McGoohan appearing in the Village and learning how it works while actively trying to escape, the middle episodes deal with him living and surviving in a world that he is gradually beginning to understand he can’t escape from, and the final episodes are just plain weird – they clearly started to run out of ideas and just kind of threw some stuff together.  The most frustrating thing about the show was that it never really answered any questions.  There was no big finish, no ‘big reveal,’ the show simply ended with us left to wonder what the heck we had just seen.  Oh yeah, and there was a big rubber ball that could do anything from killing a person to, well, incapacitating a person.  (Ok, so it couldn’t do all that much but what it could do it did really well!)  The Prisoner today still stands out as one of those timeless shows where each new generation can see there own particular social issues being played out.  The Prisoner is especially relevant in the post 9/11 world where fears of government wiretapping, secret prisons and trials, and all that other good stuff are major issues of the day.  The Prisoner dealt with all these points and clearly argues that, no matter how overbearing and powerful a government seems to be, the people must continually resist the government’s desire to expand in both size and power.  The perils of giving in are that once you sacrifice your individual rights in the name of security those rights cannot be reclaimed and while you may still maintain the illusion of freedom in reality you are simply…a prisoner.  (Hey, that’s the name of the show!)