Archive for July, 2005

Link: Quark VS InDesign � Quark’s Postcards from the Edge.

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Ex Machina

I don’t read as many Star Trek novels as I once did, but courtesy of the local library I just finished Ex Machina, by Christopher L. Bennett. It’s an original series novel set during the time following the events of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (ST:TMP for short). Mr. Bennett has chosen (wisely, I think) to treat the much-improved Director’s Edition of the movie as the definitive release.

In many ways the book is a direct sequel to the TOS episode For the World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky, but the author takes uses this particular timeframe to explore the changes the crew has experienced since the end of the original series, and their various reactions to the rather spectacular events of ST:TMP. He also works in an unusually subtle (at least for a Star Trek plot) subtext concerning religious fanaticism and terrorism, with obvious parallels to current events. I know, I know. That sounds like a sure-fire route to preachy and heavy-handed editorializing, but to the author’s credit it actually works surprisingly well.

The book is also packed with plenty of interesting and obscure references to other Trek episodes, as well as a number of passing retcons aimed at explaining onscreen inconsistencies and peculiarities. All of these are helpfully noted and explained in the Star Trek: Ex Machina Annotations the author provides on his web site. That’s a nice touch.

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Having a reality show fix your home for free could be very expensive:

Instead of a handicapped-friendly home that made
their life easier, they got a shoddy wreck of a house that latest
estimates say will cost $350,000 to fix, the Rosiers’ attorney, Mark
Belongia, said.

“Essentially what they did is build a movie set,” Belongia said.

remains exposed; door knobs are round, impossible for Steven to grasp;
a dryer is vented into the home rather than out of it; smoke detectors
don’t work; plywood covers basement windows; siding and plumbing was
improperly installed; the furnace has no foundation and is stuffed in a
crawl space and sod was installed directly over limestone paving,
Belongia said.

I suspect the lawyer’s got it right, and all the producers were concerned about was slapping something together that would look nice on camera — at least as long as the cameras didn’t look too closely. And in this case a financially strapped family with a handicapped child ends up with an expensive, unlivable mess instead of a home.

It sounds like financial problems were behind this decision, but anyone who turns over their home to strangers to "renovate" is just asking for trouble. The shows are run for the amusement of the audience and the shock value of the reveal, not the satisfaction of the owner. And certainly not for long-term livability.

The same goes for cars, too. If I had a classic car, even a shabby one, and someone turned it into a stupid looking ground-scraping hotrod with huge rims and day-glo paint I’d be looking for someone to run over. At least the guys on Pimp My Ride have a sense of humor.

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Trump tells it straight

I’ve never been a big fan of the whole Donald Trump mystique, I’ve never even watched The Apprentice, and I agree that he has weird hair. But if you take away all the trappings you have a very wealthy man who got that way by being very, very good at real estate and construction in one of the most difficult markets in the world, New York City.

So when Trump discovered that the UN was going to spend 1.5 billion dollars to renovate their $300 million headquarters in NY, when he built a much more lavish and far larger building for $225 million, he started asking very pointed questions. When he didn’t get good answers, he asked louder. And yesteday he testified before a Senate Committee about the subject, where he proceeded to politely rip the UN’s plans to shreds (long, but worth reading). Turns out the UN people in charge of the project know nothing about construction or renovation, have no idea how to actually proceed, and have already spent $27 million on an architect who did nothing.

This isn’t an isolated incident. It’s kind of a microcosm for the way the UN works, really. Spend lots of money on beauracratic shuffling, graft, and lavish meetings, and then shred the paperwork and ask for more funds.

I’m a big believer in letting people who are good at things do the things they’re good at. If anyone involved has an ounce of sense, they’ll turn this whole thing over to Trump and let him salvage this mess. Of course, the people who were expecting their bribes and payoffs to come out of that $1.5 billion won’t like that one little bit. Good.

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I’m going to indulge my inner fanboy and note that the Flash/Luthor-Brainiac battle in "Divided We Fall", the latest pisode of Justice League Unlimited was really, really well done. One of the best representations of the Flash’s superhuman speed that I’ve ever seen.

I was initially skeptical, but this whole 4-part story arc has been great. While each episode has obviously led into the next (with some nice cliffhangers) they’ve kept up the pace and avoided the unforgivable sin of jamming all the good stuff into the final show.

The creators have also been ingenious at adapting both mainstream DC Universe continuity and various Elseworld stories, without simply replaying the same plots in animated form. It’s nice to watch a cartoon series where the writers respect the material and don’t skimp on the presentation. I wish Marvel would get their act together and follow DC’s example.

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‘Tis a sad day. Scotty has been beamed up one last time, at the age of 85. Rest in peace, Mr. Doohan.

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Have a Merry Moon Day!

Today is the 36th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing! And with any luck at all we’ll make a return visit within my lifetime.

Boing Boing is popularizing the idea of Moon Day Parties. And Google Moon uses Google Maps tech to show where each of the Apollo missions landed.

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