So, what are the best Stargate episodes?

I have a confession to make. I generically despise television series that pimp themselves out to movie fans; production studios that try to milk a few more dollars out of a franchise (I even hate the word franchise when applied to entertainment properties) as if a cherished memory is nothing more than their cash cow to be milked at whim.

It definitely explains Nemesis and Enterprise. But I digress.

I liked M*A*S*H, watched it every time it came on for the entire length of it's run. I didn't know until later that it had been a film first (no theater in the home town) and after watching the film, it did make me think "Oh, that's what they were trying for". But I think it was the dismal failure of the Planet of the Apes television series that informed my decision to stay away from any series that attempted to copy a hit film.

When Stargate SG-1 was rolled out, I took one look at the ungainly plastic snake-heads that the antagonists wore, and just gave up on the whole series (not to mention that it was on a subscriber channel on cable TV. I don't have money for pan-and-scan versions of feature films, either. Yes, I'm a film snob) and I would never have looked back.

Except...

Last year, a friend of mine was turning off her cable access so that she could save some money, and she asked me to dub the Stargate SG-1 episodes for the last half of season 10 so she could see them. She had been watching the show since it first aired on Showtime, and she was damned if she was going to miss the last few episodes. Having a lot of free time on my hands these days, I readily agreed to take an extra hour out of my day on SciFi Friday to dub the new episodes as they aired.

The first episode to air was going to be the second half of a two-parter, and SciFi ran a marathon before it that included the first half. So I set the DVR to record SG1 all day, and wandered in at some point to make sure that the recording was going off as planned...

...and I didn't leave. I watched the entire marathon, and the new episodes. Even stayed to watch Stargate Atlantis afterwards. I kept wondering, how did the show get here, and how did it get to be so good...? So I started watching the earlier episodes as they aired at other times on Sciffy; but they don't air them in any logical sequence, and I still couldn't figure out the progression. When did the show get good?

I liked Atlantis, so I picked up a copy of season 1 on DVD; just 3 seasons, that's easy enough to catch up on (and I pretty much have) but how did we get from plastic snake heads to exploring another galaxy? So I picked up some of the early seasons of SG-1, and continued to watch the hodge-podge of episodes that Sciffy chooses to air.

It was when I was explaining to my friend, as we were sitting in front of one of the re-runs, about how I had seen the episodes that started this particular story arc, and I had seen how it ended, but I had never seen the middle before; it was then that I realized that I was hooked on the show. Damn it all. From the quiet reserve of Teal'c, to the wisecracks of Jack O'Neill (two L's) and his Atlantis doppleganger John Shepard, the chapa'ai has captured my attention.



"Then, it's a teenage thing; pimples, rebellion, life-sucking." -John Shepard
So, I'm watching yet another marathon, another one touted as being "The Best of" Stargate, and I can't find it on Sciffy's site, even though they've been advertising it all week.

These were the episodes (the numbers are from the Wiki entry):
If you look at the numbers, you can get a sense of what viewing order I've seen all 10 seasons in. All of them are very good, but I don't know if I'd call them the Best. Window of Opportunity reminds me of Trouble with Tribbles, in that Tribbles is hands down the funniest (on purpose) of the classic Star Trek episodes, and it was voted the best as well. But I don't agree that Tribbles is the best Star Trek episode. I don't know if I'm even that interested in singling out one episode that would be my hands down favorite, of any series that I've ever watched.

As an example, of the episodes aired the two part Lost City would be my favorite; but even those two episodes don't stand alone as well as they do book-ended with the episodes that precede them in the story arc, and the episodes that follow them in the next season. Window of Opportunity is funny precisely because we already know the characters involved well enough to appreciate the quandary they are in. Without the context of several seasons of familiarity, a good portion of the humor is lost.

Star Trek isn't complete without Spock's Brain as well as Trouble with Tribbles. The same is true of Stargate, apparently. At least classic Trek is easier to collect.



Another post with a mysterious amount of traffic; 6589 at this count. Has to be a webcrawler program setting it off, although it has scrolled off the most viewed list lately.  This one at least makes sense, it is a post about a popular subject. Or was a popular subject not so long ago.  You couldn't get me to watch a show on syfy these days.  When they canceled Stargate Universe (Season 1 & 2 links) while keeping wrestling in the lineup, I swore off ever watching that channel again.

Today's Beef: Ever Heard of the Concept "Private Property"?

I'm walking out to check my mail today, like I do every day. Walk to the end of my driveway and open the mailbox. Drag out the collection of adverts for things I don't want, and bills for things I need; and head back towards the house. As I am returning to the house, one of the delinquent mothers for the children that attend school across the street, driving alone in an 8 seater SUV, determines that she must turn around in my driveway.

She is actually in error in this assumption, in more than one way, but I'll get to that shortly.

This is a perennial problem for those of us who have the misfortune to live across the street from a gov't school (a gov't school where my child would be a representative of a 2% minority. Not to mention the abysmal performance of the school when compared to others in the area. Consequently my son attends a different school. One I have to drive to. One with enough parking of it's own) one of the many gov't run businesses that are exempt from the more mundane architectural and site design rules. Mundane rules like providing adequate parking. Totally irrelevant requirements that private businesses of a similar nature could not build without. Requirements like traffic impact studies. After all, why would you want to study traffic impact around an area that will be covered with children due to the nature of the business? Why bother, the gov't can just slap up another school zone, inconvenience travelers and property owners alike, and pretend to be aghast at each accident that occurs because they exempted themselves from (expensive) processes that they require of any other entity building within the city. But I digress.

This delinquent mother proceeds to do very large three point turn, utilizing my driveway, even though I happened to be walking in my driveway. Realizing something that she clearly doesn't, that I'm standing on my own personal property, safe within the boundaries of my own castle, I stand my ground and slowly read my mail, all the while mouthing a few choice curses reserved for trespassers and door to door salesmen.

Clearly having not mastered the concept of property, much less the use of automatic windows, the errant mother opens her door and curses me for getting in her way. Can't I see she needs to turn around and pick up her children?

I calmly replied, in a few less words, that she should exit my property forthwith; and that not doing so would prove out her questionable personal habits and upbringing. She then challenged me, opening the door again, to say that to her face. This proved impossible, since she immediately closed the door again and proceeded to back out, in a rather cramped fashion, into the public right of way; the area she should never have left in the first place if she didn't want a confrontation with any irate property owner.

I contented myself with a simple hand gesture that could be seen as a rough equivalent of the words she had dared me to repeat, all the while wondering why she had not bothered to drive around the school, like the rest of the similarly sized vehicles did (they at least carry the appropriate number of people) She promptly picked up her one child, and vented her frustration at me as she drove off.

The person illegally parked by the fire hydrant in front of my house, who witnessed the whole thing, also expressed a dislike for me as she drove off. She should count herself lucky, I generally report vehicles that sit parked by that fire hydrant (although I usually slap a warning note on their windshield first) but was too concerned with being run over in my own driveway to notice the potential fire hazard sitting in the street.

So you pull up in my driveway and then curse me for using my own property in a manner that I see fit? What part of the concept Private Property isn't clear here?



Strangely, since that day, I've noticed a distinct lack of traffic in front of my house. Perhaps they got the hint that private property rights are vociferously defended here. Chalk one up for the property owner. Now if I could get them to quit throwing their trash in my yard, I might not mind living next to the school.

If only dealing with the tax collector was that easy.

The Cave... Again; or, God is a couchpotato geek.

I'm a Matrix fan; or more accurately let me say I was; if the current re-hash of worn-out philosophical concepts keeps resurfacing I might not be anymore. A good friend forwarded me a link to yet another philosopher, with yet another theory concerning the unknowability of the realness of life the other day, possibly because he knew of my fondness for the Matrix. There might have been another reason, but frankly I would prefer to think it was because of that.

The link was to a NY Times article, but for those of you who don't have a log-in for NYT, you might try this link instead. I find most of these hypotheses so laughable it's hard to even summon the willpower to counter them; but I think I'll try, just this once, to summon the requisite energy and present the case that is quite obvious to me.

Always, always, always those philosophers who want to convince us that we cannot control our world or even our own lives will invent some way to explain away the helplessness that we all supposedly feel when faced with cold hard truth. Invariably they will offer up some variation on The Cave (a favorite amongst SF writers) and pretend that none of us can turn around to see the world that really exists; that we cannot know reality.

In this particular instance, Mr. Bostrom offers up the Matrix-like computer simulation as his variation of shadows on the cave wall; a simulation capable of mimicking an entire world of people, clueless as to their existence in a simulation, on some yet to be invented computer system 50 years or so into our future.
[As far and predicting the future goes, I'm still waiting for my personal flying car that I was promised by the futurists back in the fifties. I'm not holding my breath, but it doesn't stop me from wanting one, though]
As usual this theory has a few holes in it. Let's shine a little light through them, eh?

To start with, the simulation would not only have to include every person, but every visible bit of matter in the sky; essentially you would have to simulate the entire universe. Why, you might ask? It's quite simple. For the simulation to be flawless, undetectable to the sim or sims residing in it, you would have to plan for every eventuality. Space based telescopes to view distant objects in the universe, for example. Or perhaps electron microscopes for examining the atom, at the other end of the spectrum. True, you could falsify the data for individual sims, but what would be the purpose of creating a sim that interacts with no one and exists only to be lied to about what is real? The satisfaction of deceiving your own creation? A serious investment of time to no real purpose. No, the purpose of running simulations (even in games like The Sims and Simcity) is to discover the results of complex interactions between sims and the effects of external stimuli; in other words, you would need to have several autonomous sims interacting in a world that would be indistinguishable from the real world, which places you squarely back at simulating the entire universe.

Yes, it might be possible some day to create such a complex simulation; but ask yourself, what purpose would it serve to simulate the entire universe? Better to program your sims not to question what lies beyond the window, or above the sky. This would save millions (probably even billions) of terabytes of data, and would radically simplify the simulation, making it potentially possible to program the simulation within a person's lifespan. This is the other end of the problem that never gets addressed when these sorts of suggestions come up; who or what programs these simulations, and how long it would take. I daresay the programming time to accurately simulate the entire universe down to the individual atoms would roughly equate to the amount of time it has taken the universe to evolve in the first place.

All of that aside, clearly we can and do question what is outside the window, above the blue sky, what matter is made up of, etc.; so we are obviously not in a simulation. And if we are in a simulation programmed by a post-human that simulates the entire universe; how is that post-human distinguishable from god?

In other words, what Mr. Bostrom has created is an overly complex way of saying "It's god's will". And it's not much of an original thought when viewed from that perspective.



Also, I think it bears pointing out that in The Cave, Plato allows one of the slaves to escape, because the allegory is an exploration of the interaction between the slave who has been free, and has a heightened understanding of what reality is, and the slaves still imprisoned in the cave. The purpose of the experiment is to explore the interaction between the different beliefs about what is real; and how easily deceived we are when it comes to the subject of belief. Even in the original allegory of the cave, no accommodation is made for the feeding and care of the slaves, or how this care takes place without the slaves becoming wise to the freedom of those who care for them; which would raise questions about the nature of the reality they were confined to. Again, curiosity and exploration would lead to questions that reveal the lie of the shadows; just as the Matrix is revealed to be nothing more than a sham to those willing to question it's reality.

An allegory should not be taken literally. Plato's cave questions the reliability of our natural senses, wondering what is hidden behind the limited visible spectrum; a question science has answered to a large extent today. The Matrix questions social interactions of the modern age, hypothesizing that there is a greater force than we realize at work behind the scenes. That the film goes on to literally find us plugged in to a simulation controlled by machines from which there is no escape is not the purpose behind the question. The purpose, in my interpretation, is for us to question what does govern our social interactions; what is the meaning of the endless wars, why is there a driving need to consume? Why should we lead meaningless, faceless lives that we do not believe in? Isn't it better to throw off the chains and face the unknown, than to stare placidly at the cave wall and accept the musings of the equally clueless slave next to you?

My answer is obviously "yes, face the unknown"; I can't speak for you, and your mileage may vary.

digg story

Three Generations of “America to the Rescue”

Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, referencing the predicament in Iraq.


THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART 
BILLIONS AND BILLIONS 
Season 12 Ep 110 08/22/07 

The best line from the clip?
"Oh billions of dollars... Is there no dispute you can't settle?"
The picture of Cheney as Secretary of Defense staring over Jon's shoulder as he discusses the wisdom of not invading Iraq during Gulf War I, using Cheney's own words at the time ("it would be a morass") also priceless.



Mea culpa review 2017. For the record, Comedy Central's handling of the transition from Jon Stewart to the current (extremely capable if simply not so widely appealing) Trevor Noah leaves a ton of things to be desired. One of the most obvious things is not being able to find the old shows featuring Jon simply for purposes of reference and historical documentation. After about an hour of searching, I discovered the title had been changed. Finally. Watch through to the next clip which is an excellent interview with an incredibly young-looking Barack Obama.


Bush's War Now

Excerpt:

Mark it down. August 29, 2007. That’s the day the Pentagon announced it was done being responsible for Mr. Bush’s waste of lives, time, and money in Iraq. Tonight, the Defense Department has essentially told the President, "Thanks for the war, George, but it’s all you from here on out, buddy." 
Daily Kos: Pentagon Gives Up; Hands War Over to Bush 

I've never been a fan of the situation over in Iraq. I've never even thought it should be called a war. Still, I always thought the military was in favor of it.

Oh, We've Got Trouble

This teaser caught my eye the other day while I was browsing over at the Daily Reckoning:

Today, reports show that foreclosures nationwide have gone up 93% when compared with July of last year. Almost every state in the country showed a significant bump in the rise of foreclosures, but California, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Georgia take the cake. 
The Daily Reckoning, Bailing Out the American Debt Business (fixed link)
The [Digg.com] article itself points to another article on Rude Awakening, which (regrettably) doesn't actually cover the factual details of the foreclosure problem either. If, however, the numbers are accurate (and I have no reason to doubt that they are) then there is a financial disaster that dwarfs everything since the Great Depression looming on the horizon.



Mea culpa review 2017. Historically there were links to Digg.com articles in most of these blog entries. Digg was an early competitor to Reddit but never as popular. It has since been sold and repurposed as a raw aggregator and a clickbait spam source. I really don't see the purpose in leaving these old bad links in the articles, so I'm pulling them out. Where possible I will reconstruct a link to the current home of the information, along with a label that actually communicates where it is the link sends you so that the next time the links break, at least a title search will be possible.

Major thanks to the Wayback Machine. Drop by and give them a contribution if you agree.

Wal-mart begins selling DRM-free MP3s

The DRM dominos continue to fall with Wal-mart joining the DRM-free for all.

Engadget, Wal-mart begins selling DRM-free MP3s

From the Reuters story on the subject (also found on Yahoo):
Wal-Mart's move into DRM-free downloads comes as major record labels debate whether dropping DRM will hurt digital music sales or encourage piracy. Copy protection software prevents unauthorized copying of a digital song bought from an online store, but it also limits where an owner can listen to it.

Apple founder and Chief Executive Steve Jobs has called on the music industry to allow online retailers like iTunes to sell songs without restrictions to give the digital music sector a boost and to give consumers what they want.

Universal, the world's largest music label, said earlier this month that it was testing the sale of songs without copy-protection software and said vendors including Google Inc., Wal-Mart and Amazon.com Inc., would participate in the DRM-free trial.

EMI has also agreed to drop DRM, but the Sony BMG Music Entertainment venture of Sony Corp and Bertelsmann AG and Warner Music Group Corp are still testing the impact of such a move on digital music sales.



Mea culpa review 2017. Seriously, old self? What the heavenly fuck were you thinking? I need something for the blog just pretend you wrote the opening line? Listen you lazy old bastard, write or don't post. That's it, end of discussion. 

PC Mag Editor Throws in the Towel on Vista

From the Article:

Maybe it was something in the water? I've been a big proponent of the new OS over the past few months, even going so far as loading it onto most of my computers and spending hours tweaking and optimizing it. So why, nine months after launch, am I so frustrated? The litany of what doesn't work and what still frustrates me stretches on endlessly. 
PC Magazine, Passing the Torch 


As someone observed in the comments section on digg, PC magazine has been bought and paid for by MicroSoft for quite some time now. For the editor to retire while publishing a scathing critisism of Vista speaks volumes.

The Dirty Dozen Credit Card Traps


Credit cards are the most lucrative segment of banking, and not just because of the interest charges. Everyone in the industry wants to sell you a credit card. Don't be fooled by the offers. We present a dirty dozen traps and tricks used by credit card peddlers to fill their pockets and empty yours. 
www.careonecredit.com
here is a summary of the dirty dozen credit card traps:
  • The 0% APR is a marketing technique to gain new customers. It is temporary and often part of a bait and switch scheme in which you apply for the 0% APR credit card and are given a card with a much higher interest rate. Even if you do receive the 0% APR, the lender's strict terms and conditions increase the likelihood of you losing the rate before the introductory term expires.
  • The default APR is the lender's highest interest rate. An increasing number of good credit customers are being charged this penalty rate, at the whim of the creditor.
  • A fixed APR is a meaningless term. Credit card providers can change the interest they charge to lend you money at any time, for any reason. The fixed APR simply gives the consumer the right to be notified if the lender changes the interest rate for reasons other than those specified in the contract terms (i.e., any reason at all). A variable APR can also be changed at any time by the provider, but in addition it varies according to a national index, such as the Wall Street Journal's survey of prime interest rates among U.S. banks.
  • Listing several APRs on credit card offers is a technique to confuse customers and prevent them from comparison shopping. It also makes it easier for a credit card provider to defend itself against lawsuits, since its advertising does not make a specific promise or claim to provide a certain interest rate.
  • Late fees are much higher than they used to be (currently around $40 or a percentage of the loan balance), and are imposed much sooner than in the past (payment must be received before close of business on the due date). Late fees are just one of a raft of financial penalties that credit card providers are using to increase their profits
  • Borrowing cash via your credit card is much more expensive than making a purchase, in terms of a higher interest rate and a cash advance fee. The cash advance loan remains on your unpaid credit card balance the longest in order to maximize the creditor's interest rate profits.
  • Credit cards that have added value for the holder have annual fees, some of which are quite expensive. For the wealthy consumer, added value can mean exclusive concierge and personal shopper services; for the consumer with damaged credit it can mean obtaining and rebuilding access to credit. For those in between, added value can mean accumulated rewards such as free airline tickets. In all cases, the consumer should evaluate the annual cost of the card in relation to its value-added reward.
  • Charity affinity cards are frequently a deceptive marketing technique, designed to appeal to the consumer's heart in hopes she will forget to use her head. Suspiciously, many charity credit cards do not disclose the amount that is donated to the charity, and when they do, the percentage is infinitesimal.
  • Two-cycle balance computation is a method of computing finance charges that is more costlyd to the consumer than the average daily balance method. Because there is no specific number (as with an APR or a fee) listed in the credit card offer disclosures, it is easy to overlook this trap, which could be an expensive mistake for those who do not pay their credit card balances in full every month.
  • Some credit card providers charge non-usage or inactivity fees. Although this is not an issue for most credit card holders, since we use our credit cards daily, it is important to be aware of in certain cases. For example, you may be trying to improve your credit score by paying off a credit card and not using it.
  • Foreign transaction fees are another invention of credit card providers to diversify and increase their profit-making activities. Purchases and cash advances from foreign countries are charged a fee that is frequently 3% of the purchase price.
  • Setting the minimum monthly credit card payment at a very low percentage of the loan balance is a practice that seems to be friendly to the consumer. It is not. Making low payments increases the cost of the loan and lengthens the time needed to pay off that loan.
I, for one, have sworn never to carry another credit card. They are worse than matches and gasoline. Best to never combine the two unless you like being burned.




Mea culpa review 2017. I wrote two sentences of this. Two sentences. Bargain with my old self be damned. This is fair warning. If you didn't write any of it, I don't see a reason to keep it on this blog. My apologies to the writer at Careone Credit for this bit of copy and paste. I know it isn't the first time, and it also isn't the last.

Historically there were links to Digg.com articles in most of these blog entries. Digg was an early competitor to Reddit but never as popular. It has since been sold and repurposed as a raw aggregator and a clickbait spam source. I really don't see the purpose in leaving these old bad links in the articles, so I'm pulling them out. Where possible I will reconstruct a link to the current home of the information, along with a label that actually communicates where it is the link sends you so that the next time the links break, at least a title search will be possible.

Major thanks to the Wayback Machine. Drop by and give them a contribution if you agree.

I haven't had a credit account since writing this. Not planning on ever having one again. If you don't have the money, don't spend the money.

Take that, Barbie!

For those toy manufacturers at Mattel, who thought that it was cute to have the talking Barbie say "Math is hard", I'd like to offer the following:

Win at Math

Danica McKellar, who is most famous for playing Winnie Cooper in the Wonder Years, has become an author, but her book isn't about acting or life in Hollywood. McKellar graduated from UCLA with a degree in mathematics and has had a theorem that she co-wrote published in academic literature. I've never met the author of Math Doesn't Suck, but I'd love to buy her a drink and talk to her about Euler, Pascal, and irrational numbers. Oh yeah, and ask what she was thinking when she decided to do Path of Destruction.

I'm actually impressed by the amount of work she's done other than Wonder Years, and she's started to get writing and producing credits. Clearly, she's a smart woman, and I hope she'll be a notable player in the industry -- and possibly also in writing more books -- for many years.


I have a weakness for smart women, what can I say?

PBS airs A Brief History of Disbelief

I'd like to extend a thank you to my local PBS station for airing A Brief History of Disbelief. I generally feel that I am drowning in religious programs, even on cable channels that should not have a religious view. This program was like a breath of fresh air. I look forward to seeing the next two episodes.





I managed to capture and watch all three episodes with the DVR. Very enlightening. I understand that there are 6 additional hours of programming. I would be interested in seeing these as well some time in the future.



h/t to the WaybackMachine
Starting with the teachings of Democritus, Epicurus and Lucretius, and traveling forward in time through the first appearance of truly atheist works in the writings of Baron d'Holbach, and the founding of the United States on Deist thought; to the spreading of disbelief (whether you call it atheism or not) in modern times, it is definitely a 'rough' history, but a thought provoking one. I recommend it to anyone who might be curious about the subject.

The Vanishing Jihad Exposés

The article contains some fine points about free speech and speaking truth to power. I don't necessarily agree with all of the sentiments in it, but finding the truth can be a laborious exercise, one made nearly impossible by roadblocks set up by those whose power is founded in shrouding the truth.
We've gotten used to one-way multiculturalism: The world accepts that you can't open an Episcopal or Congregational church in Jeddah or Riyadh, but every week the Saudis can open radical mosques and madrassahs and pro-Saudi think-tanks in London and Toronto and Dearborn, Mich., and Falls Church, Va. And their global reach extends a little further day by day, inch by inch, in the lengthening shadows, as the lights go out one by one around the world. 
Jewish World Review, The vanishing jihad exposés
The first amendment must be preserved if we are to retain our freedom.

On the Subject of Pluto

I've blogged on this subject before.

I was watching a program on
the Science Channel, Last Planet From Our Sun, which was discussing the pros and cons of why Pluto would or would not be a planet. The program opened with a rather bold series of statements from Dr. Neil Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium.

It seems that much of this hoopla over the status of Pluto is just a tempest in a teapot, and will end up amounting to nothing. Dr. Tyson, and several of his colleagues, have been agitating since 1999 (Pluto's Honor, Natural History magazine, February 1999) concerning the status of Pluto, and rightly questioning whether or not the oddities surrounding it should exclude it from being called a 'planet'.
"I hope we find plenty of objects bigger than Pluto. If they're made of ice, and they are out there beyond Neptune, they are Kuiper belt objects. Get over it."
-Dr. Neil Tyson
I've mentioned this before, the oddities surrounding Pluto have always made it not a planet in my own judgment. It wasn't until this latest mini-tempest that I even realized there were others out there who shared my opinion; people who actually work in the field of astronomy, even. The need to re-classify Pluto as a Kuiper belt object (as Ceres was classified as an asteriod when the nature of the asteriod belt was discovered) has been a known issue since the mid 1990's when dozens of objects were found orbiting out beyond Neptune. The issue came to a head with the discovery of Eris (previously referred to as Zena) in 2005, a body larger than Pluto, much farther from the sun, and well outside the plane of the ecliptic. So it was either consider all these ice bodies as 'planets', or come up with a definition of planet that excluded them. Personally I'm beginning to agree with Dr. Tyson, the word planet is misleading, and covers an over-large range of bodies in the solar system.

The long and the short of it, though, is that anyone who was blindsided by the demotion of Pluto really wasn't paying attention to astronomy news. It was only in the pipe for ten years before it happened...