Babylon 5 20th Anniversary, Not the Book

A few years ago I was able to pick up the B5 20th Anniversary book at Phoenix Comicon, in 2013. The book is since then out of print, and will not be available again.

However, a multimedia edition is now available from B5Books.

Today (PST, I think) is the last day to purchase at the reduced price of $37. Tomorrow the fast response price will be the double.

If you have discovered Babylon 5 since the book went out of print, or you missed the print book for whichever reason, here is an opportunity to get the material in electronic form.

On top of that, there is some additional video material in the multimedia edition.

If you want to get it, you can go to

b5books.com and order.

Disclaimer : I am not affiliated with B5Books, but I have been a happy customer to many of their releases.

Have fun !

Marvel’s Iron Fist, Season 2

Just finished watching the 10 episodes of Iron Fist’s season 2 on Netflix.
I quite enjoyed the growth of Danny Rand, and Davos’ taking the fist, but perverting it.
Red fists in stead of Danny’s yellow fist, when it got powered.
The fact that Danny realizes that he can not (yet) control the fist, and renounces its power, and it turns interesting when they get a transfer of Davos’ power to Coleen. Her fist glows white, reflecting her balance of mind, unlike Davos’ (red) and Danny’s (yellow) glows.
Further development is when the power also goes into her Katana.

I rate this season
8/10 glowing Katanas.

50 years of “2001 – A Space Odyssey” – an incomplete review.

Yesterday I went to a 50th anniversary show of the classic “2001 – A Space Odyssey”.
I got the ticket late, on the same day, so the seat was not ideal – 4th row from the screen and to the side, so I had to turn the head to view the centre of the screen. This did not detract from the enjoyment of seeing the film on a big screen for the first time since it had its premiere in Denmark 50 years ago.
Since then I have seen it a few times on DVD, and it is a different experience.
Director Stanley Kubrick is, of course a legendary film maker, and was nominated for several Oscars.
In true Oscar comittee fashion, the only Oscar he received was for 2001. Further, in true Oscar comittee fashion regarding science fiction movies, the Oscar he was awarded was for the special effects, and not for the film per se.
Of course, the film was not entirely created by Kubrick, it was a collaboration with Arthur C. Clarke, a legendary figure in science fiction.
Having a fond memory of my 15 year old self seeing the film when it premiered I could be a bit apprehensive, does it really hold up ?
I find that it does hold up very well. Seeing those iconic images and hearing the music of this classic was very enjoyable.
The film has been said to be very slow, and in comparison with modern films it is true. Kubrick tells the story in a slow, deliberate way, giving you time to digest the beautiful imaging and the accompanying music. I very much like Kubrick’s cinematography in the film.
Occasionally the film does show its age, for example the imaging of the moon, and Jupiter and its moons could be done much better with the images available today. However, we must remember that the film was made before the moon landings and the space probes’ visits to the outer planets, so the astronomical imaging of the film must be forgiven.
The science and technology of the film is, with one notable exception, very realistic in keeping with the concept of hard science fiction. From the floating pen in weightlessness to the silence of space. In some of the space scenes there is not even any music, just eerie silence. Sometimes we hear (the astronaut’s) breath in some of the space scenes. We wre told, and I did not know, that the breath we hear is Kubrick’s own breathing.
Then there is HAL. The massive A.I. computer with excellent speech synthesis, an claiming never to make mistakes. What happens when HAL makes an apparent mistake ? It is probably up to the viewer to decide which is tha case, a mistake by the A.I. or a deliberate misdirection. I would say that this looks like a deliberate “mistake” by HAL, when “he” says that “he” cannot let the astronauts endanger the mission. Also, I see echoes of this kind of A.I. logic in the modern TV series “Person of Interest”, where the A.I. may take steps to eliminate human intervention, because “humans are prone to error”.
The exception to the strict science and technology is, of course the monolith(s), every scene with that has spiritual/religious overtones, in the imagery as well as the music (or sound effects), and it is the important link that binds all aspects of the film together, from the dawn of mankind to the “birth” of the star child.
The sparing use of dialogue is also interesting, not many films (if any) in the modern age would dare to have about 25 minutes of no dialogue in the beginning of the film *and* about 25 minutes without dialogue in the end of the film.
One aspect of going to see this film was n ot the film in and of itself, but the audience. I think that about 80% of the audience was not even born when this film premiered, but they came because of its allure as one of the great classics.
Much more could be said about this re-premiere, but now I will leave you to your own thoughts.
I enjoyed this re-watch very much, and I will say that it passed the test of time.
I rate the film 10/10 strange monoliths.

Con Report Fantasticon 2018 in Copenhagen

My Dutch friend Jarsto and I had decided to go to the Fantasticon, so we both had week end tickets, and went to register Friday evening.
The theme for this years Fantasticon was Steam Punk, and it was quite fun to see people dressing up.
It was good to meet many old scifi friends, and get to meet a few new ones.

Saturday :
I went to the con, arriving about 1230.
More chatting with other fans, and then attending two program points :
Author interview with Lavie Tidhar, who was quite interesting and amusing to listen to. I just might find some of his books to read.
The second was Edmund Schluessel who talked a bit about cosmology, and told the story of two Danish astronomers :
Tycho Brahe who made as accurate measurements of the stars and planet’s positions and movements as is possible without telescopes. Yes, he did that before the invention of telescopes. He provided a massive amont of data, but did not d9o too much with it, but Johannes Kepler could use the data to form his theory and formulas for the movements of tha planets.
Then the talk went into measring the speed of light. Old measurements made with distances on Earth yielded no measurable delay, and light speed was deemed to be infinite, or in any case, not measurable. That was about to change.
Ole Römer who did use a telescope, among others to watch the moons of Jupiter. He noticed a discrepancy in the timing of eclipses of Jupiter’s Galilean moons, and by seeing the difference in timing when Jupiter was near conjunction with the sun, and in opposition to the sun, he measured the offset in timing and arrived at the conclusion that light does indeed have a finite speed. His result, made with the instrumentation and math of 1676.
He arrived at a speed of 200 000km/sec, which is excellent, considering the instuments used, and within a margin of about 30%.
I live a few km from the remains of Römer’s old observatory, and the Kroppedal museum nearby with some of the instruments used in the observatory, and asked if he knew about it. He did not, and I offered to bring him there for a visit, if he should visit Denmark again. He liked the idea, so we exchanged contact information.
After the talk we had an interesting conversation about science fiction and science in general, so I had an excellent Saturday at the con.

Sunday :
I was arriving a bit earlier than on Saturday, and, as usual having some talks with other fans.
In the afternoon there was a recording of a podcast by two groups. The Danish “Hva’ Fan” podcast and the Swedish “Fandompodden” , making a single podcast, spoken mostly in English. I took some pictures of the recording session.
Finally there war an interview with and a reading by the Danish writer Marie Ladefoged.
I came home with 3 books from the convention, two by Marie Ladefoged (in Danish), and one by Justina Robson.
I had a fun time, and I am looking forward to going to more conventions next year.

Old Electronic devices.

After doing some computer work on low powered computers I decided to look into some older electronic equipment, like old mobile phones, tablet devices and MP3 players (iPods or other players).

Well a the old phones generally work, and can be charged, so the batteries are not quite dead. I will keep two or three for spares, and an older iPhone (32GB) can still be used as an MP3 player. The others are give-aways, as they are old and not very useful for Internet purposes.

Two of the old tablets remained on the boot screen, and I could not recover functions after a few hours. I discard them, and will probably give them to someone who wants to try getting them running. Probably a corrupted system, but I could not restore it, after a search on the Net.

Other old and very slow tablets will likely be given away, if someone wants to play with them, newer ones will probably be set up for different purposes, e.g. a picture viewer, or monitoring often visited websites.

More on the low powered netbooks and writing etc.

The last few days I tried mini install of Debian on ther small Acer A110 machines with 512MB Ram
Looks like a change has been made in file permissions after update, because a simple X with OpenBox refuses to start, server refusing connection.
So this is written on the A110DK machine with a minimal install + XFCE. Writer’s Cafe just installed and registered.
With Chrome/Gmail and this program the RAM is well used, Htop shows about half of the RAM available, and the machine seems reasonalbly responsive.
The last few days I have found some of my old phones and MP3 players to see how they respond to a charge. Most of them work, one seems to need a new battery, or the phone is all dead.

Anne McCaffrey, a Prolific Writer, also known as The Dragon Lady.

Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011) is one of the more prolific writers I know of.
I am mostly familiar with the “Dragonriders of Pern” series, and a part of the Acorna series.
At the Eurocon covention in Copenhagen, 2007, she was the main Guest of Honour, and the main reason I went to my first larger convention. At the reading she read from her story “The Ship Who Sang”, and that was a great convention experience. I still have to read more of the Brain Ship series, but there is so much to read/watch/listen to.
There is simply too much material to mention here, so I recommend visiting the Wiki page to get to know more about her work, but here are a few facts.
She was the first woman to win the Hugo award, voted by World Science Fiction Convention in 1968. This was with a novella of the Pern series, “Weyr Search”, later incorporated in the first Pern novel “Dragonflight”.
She was also the first woman to win the Nebula award in 1969, by the Science Fiction Writers of America. This was for her second Novella in the Pern series, “Dragonrider”, also later incorporated into the Dragonflight novel.
At the Eurocon she humorously told how she found having trouble handling the rocket shaped Hugo Award, because she found that it resembled a phallus symbol. Interesting how things have changed since then.

Also, at the convention she was very approachable at the table, and at the signing, where I got my hard cover copy of “The White Dragon” signed.

Anne McCaffrey CPH

Anne McCaffrey at Eurocon, Copenhagen 2007

This was Anne McCaffrey’s last convention, ever, and I consider myself lucky to have met the author of one of my favourite book series, before she passed beyond the Rim.
Later I will tell more of my own experience with her work, a bit about the Acorna series, and in more detail, about the Pern series.

 

Gmail and low powered (older netbook) computers.

This is all about getting Gmail to run on a low powered processor without the machine grinding to a halt.

I have a 1 1/2 generation netbook, the Acer Aspire One A110.

The netbook has low RAM, 512MB, and adding more is a massive task involving taking the whole thing apart. A new SSD, on the other hand is more manageable. The processor is an older Atom single core, 1.6GHz.

The original SSD is just 8GB, so I may try mounting a larger one. The machine came with a Linpus (as far as I recall (Linux)) system, and some standard apps.

I want to use this with a relatively modern Linux distribution, but the easy choice, Ubuntu or the like) simply cannot run properly on such a low powered machine.

What to do? I tried with Xubuntu, and while it is running, an update broke the screen driver, so it could only show 800×600, not the original 1024×600 screen resolution. Discarded. I became aware that the Raspberry Pi folks had made a version of their Raspbian system for Intel type processsors. This works with a relatively low demand on the 512MB, and the screen works properly in the 1024×600 resolution using about 100MB for the system with its running processes.

So far, so good.

I intend to use the machine for non-demanding stuff like writing for this blog, managing ebooks etc. Now, the system comes with a Chromium web browser, but in my experience this is a massive memory hog, so not really feasible with the low RAM.

The Thunderbird email client is also quite memory intensive, so I tried out a terminal email client, Alpine, which is fairly user friendly if you are not afraid of a text mode screen. This installed and following the manual for setting up Gmail, and at the authentication it failed. The thing kept asking for a login every time I tried to enter the password.

Google the problem. Yes, it was known. I should change the setting accept “less secure clients. This works. But (there is always a “but”) suddenly my phone kept asking to login to Google, and kept doing it. Also they keep sending mails about “upgrading security”.

Text mode browsers were tested, but not accepting Javascript the Gmail site refuses me a login.

I tried to find a text mode app that Gmail will accepts as “more secure”, but nothing found.

Update :

Here is what I do now with that machine :
Thunderbird and Chromium use about the same amount of memory, even if 2 tabs are open in Chromium. Wo when it is open there is gmail and this blog in 2 tabs. That works with a bit to spare for the writing programs.

 

Second update 13 August :

That netbook does not have the power for a writing program. Fortunately I have a newer, and with a larger screen, Acer with 4GB RAM and a quad core Atom processor. Runs the writing programs easily with a bit to spare. That will most likely end up as my computer for writing what I want.

Danish Rocket Launch

Today was a good day for the Danish rocket builders Copenhagen Suborbitals.

They launched the small rocket Nexoe (Nexø) 2 this morning Danish time from a self built sea launch platform about 35km West of the island Bornholm in the Baltic Sea. The rocket fired perfectly and burned for 33 seconds, and reached an altitude of 6.500 meters, the parachute unfolded beautifully and the rocket was recovered nicely.The launch was streamed with a somewhat interrupted stream via Youtube. The interruptions in the streaming are due to the distance, and some rising water vapour in the warm (for the time of the year) Baltic Sea, and also due to the large distance and wide bandwidth of the signals.

I followed the stream from about half an hour before launch, until the rocket was recovered and brought to the launch control ship.

The planned maximum altitude of 13000m was not reached, because the burn time for the engine was only 33 out of the planned 45 seconds, but never the less I consider today’s flight a strong success, many new systems were tested, and functioned well.

Congratulations to Copenhagen Suborbitals with the successful launch.

Redshirts

I just finished reading “Redshirts” by John Scalzi.

Redshirts is, of course, a term used by Star Trek fans, because in the original series, anyone, unknown, not in the main cast, in an episode was likely to die horribly or in a meaningless way.

Scalzi makes a nice satire over Redshirts who realize that this is a problem, and decide to do something about it.

A fun and enjoyable read, I will rate it 8/10.