Saturday, June 27, 2009

Help Spread the Word

Folks, please help me spread the word that a thinly-disguised Michael Jackson was a character in Dance for the Ivory Madonna. I think lots of people would be interested to see Michael Jackson in a science fiction novel.

The link is


-Don Sakers

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Reviewing the Star Trek Movies

Everyone is asking what we thought of the new Star Trek movie. Before answering that, you should know what we thought of the others.

First, a few words on how we review movies:

To begin with, we rate movies along two axes. One is good/bad; the other is fun/not-fun. A movie can be good and fun (The Princess Bride), good and not fun (Das Boot), bad but fun (Independence Day), or bad and not fun (Ernest Goes to Camp). In addition, we sometimes rate movies on a scale of 1 to 101 Dalmatians (the animated one, of course).

That being said, here are our opinions of the various Star Trek movies.


#1: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Very good, pretty fun

A good science fiction movie, although not necessarily good Star Trek. Maybe 85 dalmatians.


#2: The Wrath of Khan

Pretty good, very fun.

Although we still want to know where they got enough mass to form a planet in the middle of that nebula. Maybe 80-85 dalmatians.


#3: The Search for Spock

Pretty good, very fun.

Very hard to separate from Wrath of Khan - they're really 2 parts of the same movie, aren't they? Maybe 70-75 dalmatians.


#4: The Voyage Home

Bad, somewhat fun.

Time travel is not Star Trek's forte. And why did the whale tank have to be transparent? Maybe 50-55 dalmatians.


#5: The Final Frontier

Bad, not much fun.

Maybe 50-55 dalmatians.


#6: The Undscovered Country

Very bad, not much fun.

Okay, guys, which ship was doing the gas surveys? Maybe 30-35 dalmatians.


#7: Generations

Not too bad, somewhat fun.

Crashing the saucer section was fun. But time travel again...oh my. Maybe 50-60 dalmatians.


#8: First Contact

Not too good, somewhat fun.

Impossible to reconcile this version of Zefram Cochrane with the one seen in the series. And...oh dear...time travel and the Borg? Really? Maybe 60-65 dalmatians.


#9: Insurrection

Quite good, quite fun.

Good sf, good Trek, a cool planet and a plot that makes sense. Maybe as many as 80-85 dalmatians.


#10: Nemesis

Very bad, not much fun.

Proof that Star Trek can be awful without time travel or the Borg. Maybe 30-35 dalmatians, maybe fewer.


#11 Star Trek.

Not that good but really fun.

Lots of nods to fans, some really good actors. But necessary to give up trying to piece together the sloppy narrative. Head off to save Vulcan with only two real officers and a bunch of third-year cadets on the Federation Flagship? Really? Make a third-year cadet who is on probation the First Officer? Did I mention it's the Flagship? Promote that cadet to Flagship Captain, over the heads of all the existing officers? Sure, why not?

Maybe 75-80 dalmatians?

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Soured on Apple

I am well and truly pissed at Apple.

It all started on June 7 with Security Update 2009-02. I installed it on our venerable seven-year-old iMac G4 (running OSX 10.4.11). Afterwards, the iMac wouldn't start up. It froze on the blue startup screen. What's worse, it would not boot into so-called "safe mode."

I looked online and found that I was not the only person bitten by this bug. There were many suggestions, so I started trying them. Start up in single-user mode (which it did) and repair the startup disc, repair permissions, change the name of various preferences files, delete this-that-and-another file from various Libraries. No dice.

I finally learned the trick of opening the DVD drive, so was able to boot from the install disc. Fromt there, I was able to boot into OS9. But that did me no good.

One source said to boot from an external Firewire drive. So I used the install DVD to install OSX 10.4.6 on the external drive, and tried to boot from that.

No luck. Under OS9 it mounted the external drive without trouble; but it would not boot from that drive no matter what I did.

Eventually, I had no other choice but to reinstall the OS. I was reluctant to do this, because I had to do it back in February (after another botched Security Update) and the update destroyed a bunch of settings, as well as wiping out all our iTunes playlists. But there was no other choice.

So I installed OSX 10.4.6 on the iMac. And it rebooted successfully, hooray!


The wireless card is messed up. System Profiler sees the card, but the iMac insists that it is not installed. The ethernet port is messed up -- the system doesn't even admit that it has an Ethernet port, and it certainly won't go online. (Both the wireless network and the ethernet connection work fine on the laptop.)

Worse, the iMac won't mount the external drive. Nor will with external drive mount on the laptop. That drive holds all our iTunes, all our iPhotos, and a bunch of other stuff that I really don't want to lose.

Without being able to go online, I can't install any system updates. I am afraid to run anything because I don't want to have OS conflicts.

Thanks a lot, Apple. You've turned a perfectly-good computer into a wreck.

I'd been planning to buy a brand-new iMac with tax refund money...but now I am very reluctant. I've recommended Apple to many friends over the last few years...but I can't do that in any good conscience any longer. I am definitely soured on Apple.


Update 9:08 PM: Well, I can still boot into OS 9.2...and then the iMac recognizes its wireless connection. So we can get online using a ten-year-old version of Internet Explorer. Bah.

Apple still sucks big-time.

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