Archive for the ‘Science Fiction’ Category

Jurassic World

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

jurassic world

Last weekend, Daniel (12), Aaron (7), Camilla (10) and I went to see this movie.  Despite being PG-13, Gabi and I determined that these three could see the movie, Nika (6) was too young.  Mind you, the kids harangued us all summer to see this; it was popular enough that it was still in theaters three months after the opening. Not only have the kids seen all three movies from the 1990’s, but I’ve been reading them the original novel at bedtime … and they’ve loved it.

I’m writing since this was probably the most enjoyable movie experience I ever had.  The movie was just fine, but the kids’ reactions were even better. Camilla was hiding behind a seat for parts of the movie, bobbing her head out to look every few seconds.  Aaron had a different reaction. Just as the dinosaur attacks a pair of kids in a spherical plastic golf cart, Aaron looks at me and says, “I need to go to the bathroom.”  He does this three times during the movie; I’ll have to wait until we rent it at home to find out what happened then.

The experience brought me back to Michael Crichton, one of my favorite authors. I read Pirate Latitudes for the first time (quite good, very much like playing Sid Meier’s Pirates in book form); I re-read Sphere, a book that does not do well on a second reading. Very much in the Michael Crichton vein is the new book, the Martian, by Andy Weir. Solid, well-researched, informative. I miss Crichton.


Saturday, February 28th, 2015


Leonard Nimoy died yesterday. This was not unexpected. During the past two or three years, he has appeared intermittently on some of my favorite television shows (Fringe). He was clearly not well. Further, the series actually changed to an animated format at times to accommodate Nimoy, who was able to add his voice but not his presence. 83 … he lived long … and prospered.

I’ve written here before of the deaths of some of my childhood idols. Arthur C. Clarke comes to mind. His loss, and Isaac Asimov’s before that, shook my world. When Asimov passed away, I was attending my first trade show, working as a businessman. I actually cried, thinking that I had betrayed him for not becoming a scientist (a profession that I would have done well at, but which would have left me unhappy and unfulfilled).

Nimoy undoubtedly has a hold on parts of my psyche. He was an earlier influence than either of the authors I mentioned. I first saw Nimoy playing Spock when I was perhaps three or four years old. And I am old enough to remember watching the first runs of a few of the later episodes in 1968 and 1969 (Dark Shadows was the TV show that followed Star Trek’s prime time place that year).

But it is not Nimoy that I am attached to. It is Spock. There is a part of me that is Spock, consciously or unconsciously modelling myself after the intelligent, emotionless Vulcan. God, he was great. But I am aware that Spock is a creation of Gene Roddenberry, Harlan Ellison and Jerome Bixby, among other writers. Nimoy only put flesh to other people’s creations.

As such, I am not so struck at Nimoy’s death. He was a fine actor and a good man. He filled out the role that was written for him very well and, toward the end of this life, embraced that role as part of his own personality.

That said, I will be playing at least a little of the computer game Civilization IV later today. Spock’s resonant voice still speaks to my inner child as he takes me through the discoveries of agriculture, bronze working or the building of the pyramids. I know, without a doubt, I played an extra one hundred hours or more of this game just to be able to hear his voice.

Rest in peace, Mr. Nimoy. You’ve given the world, and me, great gifts. Your influence is great. Live long and prosper, each and every one of us.








Daniel Birthday Rocket Launch

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Drone is Back!

Monday, March 14th, 2011

After a six week absence, due to extreme work conditions, the AR Drone makes a re-appearance Sunday morning at the Steussy Ranch.

The Drone is Back

Monday, January 17th, 2011

And, with health returned to the Steussy Ranch, we have also received a repaired and reconstructed AR Drone! We’re being very gingerly with it now, since it was in the hospital for a long time.

About to Launch!

Look! It flies!

AR Drone in Temecula

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Nic’s big present to the family was this UFO-like flying machine (which I had seen and flown before, see here and here). It’s a complicated, expensive and very fragile machine – but boy is it cool when it works!

Below is the feed from the camera onboard during a flight over the top of our house.

More time spent repairing than flying

UPDATE: The drone is currently dead. Parrot customer service has quickly responded with an offer to repair. Will update as news comes in.

Mad Men

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

The three best minutes of TV I have ever seen

Summertime. Gabi and I watch one or two TV shows every night throughout the year after the kids are in bed. Our favorites (24, Lost, Fringe, Survivor, CSI) are all in reruns or canceled now. Summer is the time to find a newish show, one that has been on-air for awhile which we’ve heard about but never watched. One that we can see from the beginning of the series. We discovered 24 and House this way in previous summers.

This is the summer of Mad Men, a biography of advertising men in New York, starting in March 1960 and moving forward. It can be viewed as science fiction in reverse: everyone smokes, everyone drinks too much, no car seats or seat belts in cars, no cellphones, no computers, no internet, and dozens of other things we take for granted.

But concept and setting do not make a show. Personalities do. Writing does. And this is one of the most finely written pieces of TV I have ever witnessed. And it begs my imagination to try to describe it in any cohesive way, other than to say I like it. The clip above (linked here) is so fine and elegant and moving, but I can’t tell you why, since it requires viewing the previous 12 episodes to know why, simultaneously on four or five different levels, this presentation is so hard for Donald Draper.

Part of my attachment is, no doubt, the passing of my father this year, for this is his era. In 1960 he was 36 years old, the same age as the protagonist, Donald Draper. While the show is clearly a reflection of our time, it is my father’s world being shown. Smoke. Martinis. Scotch. And more.

Nine hours before we watch the next episode.

Star Wars Holiday Special

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

It’s that time of year folks! The 31st anniversary of the Star Wars Holiday Special! This was only the second broadcast/presentation of  anything from the Star Wars universe, so it does deserve some attention. Personally, I like the commercials that pop up from the late 70’s.

The Holiday Special has received scorn from across Star Wars fandom, and it certainly is one of the worst video presentations of all time. Kinda funny that way.

XKCD on the Star Wars Holiday Special

XKCD on the Star Wars Holiday Special

Thank God for Skype

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

gabi_skypeI’ve now spent 24 hours in Indianapolis.

“You look older,” Gabi tells me. “I am older,” I reply. And she can see me.

For anyone who has not tried it, video Skype is one of the wonders of the universe. The legendary videophone, available for free, anywhere in the world – all you need is a webcam. I propped up my laptop in the overly-sumptuous lobby of the hospital where Mom is, and talked with Gabi (and Veronica) for half an hour. It was almost like being there.


Friday, October 9th, 2009

LCROSS_impact_siteI’m up this morning watching the NASA coverage of the impact. It’s clear that presenting events is NOT their core competency. I’ll keep posting images and videos here as they come available.

4:54am – Palomar Observatory reports no plume visible. It’s only about 25 miles from where I am.