Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sunday, May 10, 2009

all is as it once was

As you've probably heard, the new Star Trek movie came out this weekend, and it is getting rave reviews -- and for good reason. As a long-time Trekkie, I have been very wary about this reboot of my most beloved franchise. Fortunately, the reboot was handled well and doesn't just ignore the 40+ years of Star Trek history. Warning, there are spoilers ahead... Though if you care at all, then you've already seen the movie. And if you are not a Star Trek fan, you can probably just skip this entire post.

It's certainly clear that JJ and his production crew respect The Original Series. There are tons of references and nods to the show and movies, from sound effects (beeps and whirrs on the bridge) to actions (Kirk eating an apple during the Kobayashi Maru test, Pike ending up in a wheelchair), to uniforms (Pike's admiral's uniform was straight out of The Motion Picture). As a Trekkie, I ate this stuff up.

The actors were awesome. They've managed to find what makes each character tick, and incorporate that into their performances. Scotty, Sulu, and Chekov were good (Chekov was a bit grating, but passable), and Uhura is both blazin' and tough as nails, a nice twist from the Uhura we knew in The Original Series. I'm sort of meh on Zachary Quinto as Spock. He seemed pretty angsty for most of the movie (for good reasons), but he didn't really feel like Spock, with the exception of a few scenes. I was iffy on the whole Spock/Uhura thing at first, but I'm interested to see where they'll take it. And Carl Urban absolutely nailed his performance as McCoy. Somewhere, DeForest Kelley is smiling.

As for Chris Pine, it wasn't until the very end of the movie, when he swaggers onto the bridge after being assigned as captain of the Enterprise, that I was able to accept him as Kirk. It was subtle, a little bit of Shatner, a little bit of Pine. He looks around, slides into his chair, and goddamn it he's James Tiberius Kirk.

Having said that, I think the hardest part about this reboot being successful in the long run will the characters. One of the reasons I am such a big fan of Star Trek is that the original actors devoted a good chunk of their careers to developing and portraying their characters, and the end result is that we now forever associate them with their alter-egos.

The investment these people put into their work was huge --that's why they continued to play them for decades. That's why William Shatner IS Captain Kirk, why Leonard Nimoy IS Spock, why DeForest Kelley IS McCoy, and so on. These days it just seems much more difficult for an actor to stay the course for a whole franchise -- Harry Potter is a good example, I keep hearing rumors about castmembers wanting to leave and do other things, etc. I just can't see Chris Pine being Captain Kirk from The Undiscovered Country, or Zachary Quinto being Spock from Unification. I might be proven wrong, but it seems a stretch to think these actors will stay on for more than a couple more movies. And I don't think we'll ever see Chris Pine performing the bowling ball maneuver:

Of course, the movie was not without its flaws. Most were minor, though. For example, one thing that bothered me was the way the characters kept referring to things like "stardate 2258.49." This is NOT a stardate -- 2258 is the year. That's like saying today is stardate 2009.40. Minor, but irritating.

I'm not sold on the new Enterprise design yet. A lot of this has to do with the disparity that is the Apple iBridge and the brewery/engineering deck. Also, lens flares, WTF?

There is a scene where the Enterprise is trying to escape from being pulled into a black hole. We all know that nothing can escape a black hole, not even light. But in Star Trek, since warp 1 is the speed of light, and we've seen the Enterprise do warp 4+ in the movie, the Enterprise should have absolutely no problem hanging around a black hole, because she could just warp right out of the singularity. Which is why I cringed when we see the Enterprise straining to escape the black hole and Kirk asks, "Why aren't we at warp yet?" and Chekov replies, "we ARE at warp sir!" I'm tempted to explain this away by saying the black hole was made from the MacGuffin that is "red matter," and is therefore different than a real black hole, but whatevs.

Probably the largest plot hole I noticed was that Nero and his ship supposedly hang around for 25 years after coming back into the past too far, and they have to wait for Spock to show up. 25 years is a pretty long time to seethe and moan, and it seems somewhat unlikely that he'd spend the entire time bent on his flawed plan to steal the red matter from Spock and use it on the Federation. Why not go straight to Romulus? "OH HAI GUYS! Our star is going to go supernova in 130 years. Here are some steps we can take to slow down the process, and if it doesn't work we still have plenty of time to evacuate and move to a new planet. Also, here's a shitload of future technology I brought with me, let's use it to make Romulans the most powerful force in the galaxy!"

Perhaps the most damning thing is that in this new timeline, the events from the classic movies, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager may never happen (though in Voyager's case, this is a good thing). It may be too early to dwell upon, but it's a bit disheartening to know that, for example, Kirk will probably not meet Carol Marcus, which means they won't have a son, which means he won't be around to make Genesis work, which means no Wrath of Khan. There are tons of other side-effects from the fallout of this movie, most of which end with the destruction of Earth, the galaxy, or the universe. The Guardian of Forever is probably rolling in its proverbial grave.

Overall though, it was a great film and I've already seen it twice. I'm looking forward to new adventures with this new crew, and how they'll put new twists on old ideas. And I will buy the soundtrack just the hear the music played over the end credits.

Live long and prosper!

Saturday, May 9, 2009


That was the longest gap between posts yet -- I apologize for that. I've probably lost about 50% of my reading audience because of it, which means I've lost like two people. To tell you the truth, I've been feeling rather down lately because of this whole research/job business, and haven't felt particularly inclined to discuss it. But let's see a breakdown:
  • There is no money for a PhD after I finish my master's
  • There is no money to extended my master's thesis, so I have to finish in August
  • The ballistics tests (to be performed by the Army) that my thesis is on keep getting postponed, and are now scheduled for mid-June
In other words, I have about a month and a half between the experiment and the graduation deadline to process, interpret, and write up the results for my thesis. Plus, I need to find a job. This summer is going to be awesome.

Scrubs, as you may or may not know, has ended. It's had its ups and downs, but the series finale (I'm calling it a series finale, even though ABC isn't, because it's not Scrubs without Zach Braff or Sarah Chalke) was excellent. A perfect sendoff, and it had a great cover of a really good song by The Magnetic Fields:

Here is the cover by Peter Gabriel as it appears in the episode (WARNING! SPOILERS!):

Another song I can't stop listening to. Call me emo or whatever, but the lyrics are simple and thoughtful at the same time, just the way I like it.

And now, the greatest photo in the world:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

we're gonna need a bigger boat

So it appears that there is no funding available for me to pursue a PhD because of budget cuts at NASA-Langley (What? Didn't NASA get two billion dollars?). I had been planning to do one as soon as I finished my Master's degree, but it seems that my plans are going to have to change. So far, it looks like my options are, in order of appeal:
  1. Apply to a different school in Hampton and get a PhD from them (like VA Tech)
  2. Get a job as a civil servant at NASA-Langley
  3. Get a job as a contractor at NASA-Langley
  4. Do a PhD at NC State in Raleigh
  5. Get a job somewhere
  6. Move back with my parents
Looks like there are a couple of job openings at Langley, so options 2 and 3 might be feasible. I like being near the ocean, so staying in Hampton is appealing. Plus I don't want to have to move again. Ugh. I hate making life choices, but I hate having them limited even more.

In other news, I saw this music video on TV a while ago, and immediately thought that it wasn't a very good song. But I downloaded it anyway, and I'll be damned if didn't get stuck in my head.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

zomg yes

I know I'm a bit late on this, but Arcade Fire + Spike Jonze + Wild Things = EPIC WIN.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

i know this much is true

I haven't updated this in a couple of weeks. Time to remedy that.

A couple of weeks ago I broke down and tried the online dating scene. I have to say, the experience has been positive -- I've been a on a few dates with the first girl I met and it's been pretty pleasant. Except for one thing. I have come to realize that I am terrible at dating.

Let's back up a bit, though. In my college years, I was known as a bit of a ladies' man* (albeit a clumsy one). But that was a few years ago, and since I moved to Virginia, things have been rather slow dating-wise. I'd say I'm attentive and polite on dates, and I joke around, but goddamn am I awkward. Case in point: on the last date I went on with this girl, we went to dinner and ordered food. She said something about taking a picture, and for some reason, in a haze of date-induced nervousness and anxiety, I interpreted this as, "Let's take pictures of our food." Yes. I have no idea why I thought that, either.

So I dutifully pull out my cameraphone and proceed to take a photo of my plate, and meanwhile she takes out a camera and takes a photo of me. I didn't realize this until she showed it to me, at which point I felt like an idiot. And there is now a photo on Facebook of me taking a picture of a burrito. It probably has to be seen to be believed, so here you go:

Beyond that, however, things seem to be going swimmingly. And yes, the burrito was excellent.

* This is not true.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

i've made a huge mistake

You may have seen this making its rounds on the intarwebs. It's a graph of different majors at Wellesley College, sorted by percentage of virgins. Although it doesn't have engineering listed on it, I suspect that it would lie on the right half of the chart. Also, I call bullshit on the compsci stat. There's no way those fuckers get more action than English majors. English majors are slick operators.

It may or may not be a trivial issue to summarize a major (or perhaps non-major) event in your life, but man, reading other people's sentences is addicting. Consider yourself warned.

Yesterday at work we got the following e-mail:

"Langley Research Center's new emergency loudspeaker system, called the Giant Voice Alert System, will be tested between 3-5 p.m. Thursday afternoon, March 19. The test will include a tone sound and a recorded voice saying 'This is a test.' The system consists of nine clusters of large horn-style speakers on tall wooden poles erected around the center. "

My first thought on reading this was, the Giant Voice Alert System? Seriously? Is that really the best NASA can come up with? My second thought was, if I were the one testing it, I would totally say, "I am the great and powerful OZ. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"

I've been working on getting the second bedroom of my apartment more user-friendly. To that end, I've essentially made it into an, in my opinion, awesome man-cave. Yes, that is a box of Goldfish on my desk.

Continuing the tradition of Hollywood taking my childhood and beating it into submission with a hard drive that stores video files instead of rolls of film, one of my favorite books as a kid, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, is now being made into a movie. I'm not exactly sure whether to laugh or cry, but now I want to find that book and read it again. Also, I want some pancakes.