My Star Trek Voyager Rewatch

https://cnet2.cbsistatic.com/img/jvcYmp7ULkZw77O0bH9fcFwj1Fo=/0x74:2250x1346/fit-in/970x0/2016/09/02/4a2f61fd-152e-42f6-af4d-d6d667edf5ea/voycastyear04.jpg

I’m not always a good Trekkie or Trekker. Whichever.

Until about 2 years ago, I hadn’t rewatched Star Trek: Deep Space 9 or Voyager since their first airings twenty-odd years ago. I’d done partial rewatches of TNG and Enterprise that petered out toward the end of the series.

Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Series (DVD ...

Of course, rewatching wasn’t always as easy as it is now. The Next Generation attempt was actually quite an investment. I’d had some old VHS tapes that we recorded during the first run of the series but those were getting old and they weren’t exactly taped in order. But then in March of 2002, CBS started releasing TNG on DVD. The seasons cost just over $100 each, and I thought, “Here we go! I’m going to enjoy these, in order from beginning to end as the Great Bird of the Galaxy intended!” Although he probably didn’t. Long story short, this was about the time I got serious about finishing my doctorate and finding a tenure-track position somewhere. Season 7 is still wrapped in cellophane.

Starbase-Wandavision

Fast forward to 2019; I finally started enjoying Deep Space 9 again. I’d made it into the fourth season and it was, shall we say, better than I remembered. But the 25th Anniversary of Voyager was approaching and my old friend Rick announced that he would be talking about Voyager season by season on his podcast Starbase 66. That itself sounded like fun! I’ll listen to those! Okay then, Voyager it is, I’ll get back to DS9 later.

And the rewatch has been interesting. I distinctly remember initially finding Voyager electrifying. I watched the first few episodes twice within a week of their airing and hunted for clues on the internet about what might be coming. That quickly turned into a kind of low-key malaise about the show. The characters seemed formulaic and a lot of the episodes felt like they might have sat on the shelf since TNG because they hadn’t quite been good enough to film. I mean, seriously, you’re trying to get home and that’s 70,000 light-years away! How do you keep running into the Kazon? You should have been out of their space after episode 3 or something. Think about the premise for crying out loud! This is Star Trek: Gilligan’s Island. The Mosquitos didn’t come back to the Island after they decided that the Honey Bees were a better band who would threaten their success. You encounter them ONCE because you’re STUCK ON THE ISLAND!

So the Voyager rewatch has been happening for a bit over a year. It’s been a lot of fun even with the show’s flaws. Once again, better than I remembered.

Mid-season 4, I decided to tweet about the episodes. I liked how those came out. I restricted myself to a maximum of 6 tweets and that kept the comments pithy; no weird tangents or references to Gilligan’s Island. I can’t believe that was kicking around in my brain somewhere.

Turns out that’s a pretty efficient way to “review” a teevee episode and that’s a good thing. Two years ago I started a post about Mad Magazine and it’s still gestating there in my drafts folder waiting to see the light of day. So that’s what you’ll find in this “Voyager Rewatch” column. Short efficient quasi-reviews as I work my way through the series. Basically the same as they appeared on Twitter before they’re so far back in the past that they’re hard to find. I hope you’ll join me and enjoy.

Stars End Episodes 3 and 4

There have been two new episodes since I shared Stars End episode 2 here. Is a podcast the last refuge of the Incompetent like the title to Episode 4 claims! Find out! Time to get caught up! Please like, review and share!

Episode 3: As foretold! Mayors! Bridles! Saddles! Oddly, no actual horses! And the ultimate answer to the ultimate cliffhanger! Also show news, we react to the trailer for the Apple TV+ series and and more Asimov trivia!

Episode 4: We talk about “The Traders,” part four of Foundation. This story first appeared, with surprisingly little fanfare in the October 1944 issue of Astounding under the title “The Wedge.”

In addition we have our second Apple Plus Minute and another edition of Asimov Trivia with a new contestant and a new quiz master!

You can find all the episodes here:

‘Ring of fire’ solar eclipse: How to watch Thursday morning

This is a reblog from mytwintiers.com, that wasn’t obvious enough. Sadly, here the sky was a uniform shade of grey so nothing to see. But there are still live feeds to check out!

Skywatchers will be treated to a “ring of fire” solar eclipse on Thursday, but their location will determine how much of it they get to see.

‘Ring of fire’ solar eclipse: How to watch Thursday morning

More Star Trek Apple Watch Faces

I’m a big Star Trek Fan and so, I enjoy having stuff that looks like it might be used in the show if the show were real life.

Over the holidays I was inspired to create a couple of Apple watch faces that make my watch look as if it runs on the “Library Computer Access/Retrieval System” (or LCARS). That’s the operating system used in all the Star Trek shows set in the 24th century from Next Generation to Lower Decks. I created two, which you can see here.

But here’s the thing: These are made using the Apple Watch’s Photo Face. These are static images that look like they have buttons, but the “buttons” aren’t functional. The only things that are active are the complications that are active from the Apple watch itself.

This isn’t ideal. So what’s the next best thing? How about a watch face that seems interactive? We can get closer. If we load a number of images to the Photo Face the Apple Watch will display a different one every time you raise your wrist and, if you want to pretend it’s actually interactive, you can tap the watch face and it will switch to another image. You can’t control which image you get next, but you can make-believe. Here’s a collection of images you can use.

This collection includes:

A home page with the UFP Logo, three astrometrics faces, two each of planetary conditions, tactical, and medical faces, one face that appears to scan for life signs and a face that looks as though a communications system is active.

So, if you want a watch face that looks like it might be used on a federation vessel, feel free to use the collections above!

To install, save all of the images above to your iPhone.

Then:

  • Select all the images you want to use from your gallery.
  • Scroll down and select “Create Watch Face.”
  • Select the “Photos” face.
  • Set the position of the time, “Bottom” for all of these, and choose the complications you want above and below the time.
  • And select “ADD.”

You should be all set. Comments and suggestions are welcome; and if you’d like a Voyager face let me know in the comments. If you use the watch face please leave a picture in the comments!

If you liked this, you might also like: Star Trek Watch Faces.

Next Time on Stars End

Stars End: A Foundation Podcast

We hope you’re enjoying our podcast so far and if you are, you’re probably as anxious to see the resolution of the cliffhanger that ended our second episode as we are! Do you think what has to be done to keep Terminus safe from Anachreon was obvious? We didn’t particularly think so despite 20-year-old Isaac’s assurances to the contrary. “The Enyclopedeaists” appeared as “Foundation” in Astounding Science Fiction for May, 1942. Here are the coming attractions from that issue.

It’s clear that John W. Campbell expected that riddle to bring people back to Astounding for the June issue. He didn’t stop there though, “Bridle and Saddle” was featured on the cover as well.

Of course, we now know “Bridle and Saddle” as “The Mayors,” the title it was given in Foundation.

We’ll also bring you up to date on what we know about the show so far and we’ll…

View original post 54 more words

Episode 2

The second episode of Stars End: A Foundation Podcast, which I do with Dan and Jon is now available. Please check it out!

Stars End: A Foundation Podcast

Our second episode, entitled “Podcast must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Episode” is posted, available wherever fine podcasts blossom or will be when Anchor gets around to up loading it for us. Of course, we are now begging the question… what will the fourth episode be called?

We start discussing the first novel, Foundation, in earnest and get all the way through the first two stories, “The Psychohistorians,” and “The Encyclopedists.” We also try our hand at doing a new segment, “Asimov Trivia.” You can join us on the link below.

View original post

Adventures in Podcasting

https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/51RpmRxyIvL._SL350_.jpg

I’m experiencing reverse deja vu. I just finished reading “The Mayors,” the third ‘chapter’ of Asimov’s Foundation and the only part of the trilogy that I’ve revisited since 8th grade or so. It was terrific, perhaps especially because I remembered so little of it; it was almost, except for a few flashes of vague recollection, like reading it fresh. But that’s not the reverse deja vu part.

The last time I read this particular story, coincidently enough, was 7 years ago on 1 May 2014. How do I know? Well, back then I was preparing to discuss the story in class and iBooks saved and dated my highlighting and my notes. As I’m reading, I’m having a lot of what I think are original thoughts, like “Oh, this reminds me of this other story…” or “I bet this is John W. Campbell’s influence right here.” Most of them though, were sitting there waiting for me. Seven-Years-Ago-Joseph had thought of it first; that guy seems pretty smart. And that’s the reverse deja vu part, having thoughts that I believed were new only to find I’d had them before.

But I’ve buried the lede here. Why am I rereading Foundation? Well, Apple TV is working on an original teevee series based on the original Foundation Trilogy and one presumes the sequels and the prequels. I’m looking forward to it and the rereading is part of gearing up for the teevee series.

And so is starting Stars End – A Foundation Podcast, which I’ve done with Dan <@MrEarlG> and Jon <@jblumenfeld100>. We’ll be talking about the books and about Asimov and the Apple TV series. It’s been a lot of fun so far and our first episode (A Podcast must not harm a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm) was released on Monday.

Please give it a listen; it’s on Anchor, and Spotify, and PocketCasts, and RadioPublic. It seems to be a long process, but soon, you’ll be able to find it wherever fine podcasts are sold. Or given away. Or however that works, I haven’t exactly figured it out yet.

You can also follow the podcast on Twitter at <@StarsEndPodcast> or you can find all our episodes and learn more about the podcast and us at the podcast’s webpage <https://starsendpodcast.wordpress.com/>.

Image Credits:

The featured image is a picture of the Galactic Center in the Public Domain and found on Wikimedia Commons. Author: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/CXC/STScI

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Center_of_the_Milky_Way_Galaxy_IV_%E2%80%93_Composite.jpg

Happy Earth Day 2021!

Good morning everyone, and Happy Earth Day! Today, for Earth Day, we’ve finally gotten a copy of “the Flag of Earth” that was designed by James W. Cadel in 1970. I’ve been wanting one of these for a while. It’s a beautiful flag with clear symbolism, showing a simple representation of the Earth, Moon and the Sun. As it is stated on the Flag of Earth Website, “The Earth and its most important celestial neighbors – the Sun and Moon – are overlaid on a backdrop of the darkness of space.”

The origins of Cadel’s flag trace back to the Apollo 11 moon landing and a movement to plant, not the American Flag on the Moon, but one that represented all of humanity. The United Nations flag was proposed as an alternative, but that, it was pointed out, does not represent all of Earth, but merely a particular organization. This was “one giant leap for Mankind” but that sentiment was marred by an ostentatious display of nationalism. Surely if politics can end at the water’s edge, then nationalism can end at the edge of the atmosphere.

The following year Cadel designed this flag, hoping it would be used on future space missions in the spirit of the message that the Apollo 11 astronauts left on the Moon, “We came in peace for all Mankind.”

NASA never warmed to that idea, but the Flag of Earth became popular in astronomical circles and was flown at observatories and SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) installations worldwide. It was lowered to half-staff to mark the passing of Carl Sagan. The North American AstroPhysical Observatory, which runs the ARGUS Array, is now entrusted with the Flag of Earth’s legacy and its website. You can find a lot more information there and you can also purchase merchandise, the proceedes of which support the Observatory’s projects including the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

One unrelated note: we had been flying the 1901 Maine flag prior to today although I did not have time to post about it at the time. It worked nicely for the holiday season and it did, in fact, fly for a part of 2020, Maine’s bicentennial year. While we were flying the 1901 flag, there was a welcome proposal to restore it as the official state flag that sadly failed. It would have been a big improvement. More on that when we continue our series on state flags.

References:

Clarke or Asimov?

It’s 2 January 2021, Isaac Asimov’s 101st birthday and in the U . S. today has become, unofficially at least, “National Science Fiction Day.” To mark the day, I present an answer I wrote for Quora in 2019. Enjoy!


Who is the better writer, Arthur C. Clarke or Isaac Asimov?

Clarke and Asimov are two of my favorite authors and I have to admit I’m a bit conflicted. Upfront I should tell you that Clarke is my all-time favorite writer but when I put something I’ve written for my students into “I Write Like” the answer I hope to get back is “Isaac Asimov.”

So I think it breaks down like this.

In my opinion, Clarke is the better Science Fiction author.

Art from the paperback edition of Rendezvous with Rama

When you’re looking for a sense of awe, Clarke delivers. You get big ideas well executed. Childhood’s End and 2001: A Space Odyssey make you believe that Humankind’s potential is truly limitless. Rendezvous with Rama (not so much the sequels) presents you with the awesome undertaking it must be to cross interstellar distances in a universe that doesn’t allow faster than light travel. It then metaphorically smacks you with our place in the cosmos; it turns out that the vessel wasn’t even aimed at Earth, it was merely using our sun to refuel. That Rama encountered humans was an accident; a cosmic coincidence and nothing more. Fountains of Paradise is one of the quintessential hard science fiction novels, carefully laying out the technological advances we’d need to make to build a space elevator and then turning that fantastic notion into a believable engineering project. In the Star Clarke convincingly puts you inside the mind of a Jesuit priest who is questioning his faith. There are lighter-weight works that are less impressive, but the best of Clarke is unassailable.

Cover art for the novelization of “Nightfall.”

Asimov, too, has written some great Science Fiction but it’s simply not as great. Asimov’s most famous work, the Foundation Trilogy is based around the idea of “psychohistory” which is like statistical inference without the limitations, feed enough data into the model and the theory can predict upcoming events with amazing accuracy. It’s a fascinating idea, but the execution is a little stiff. I, Robot, as great as it is, boils down to a series of logic puzzles using the three laws of robotics. The Robot Novels are good detective stories. The Galactic Empire novels are good space opera. The thing I was most impressed with in Asimov’s SF output was the Gods Themselves because it gave us believable aliens who were truly alien and not just the recognizable humans from imaginary planets with the literary equivalent of an interesting forehead prosthetic. The last time I read the Gods Themselves the aliens seemed a little less alien and a little less believable. Although lots of Asimov’s fiction is great, very little of it is transcendent, thus advantage Clarke.

It’s worth noting that if your metric for evaluating great science fiction is whether you’re compelled to read it under the covers with a flashlight so your mom won’t catch you staying up all night, the answer is Robert Heinlein.

Returning to the topic at hand: I think Asimov is the better writer of non-fiction.

With non-fiction, clarity is king, and both Asimov and Clarke excel at writing about highly technical subjects in straightforward understandable prose. But Clarke’s non-fiction hews closely to his science fiction. Speculations about the realities of space flight is a common topic. Clarke also wrote several books about undersea exploration after he developed an interest in scuba diving. Much of what remains is about the future of technology and the limits of speculation. All excellent but also all themes that are explored in-depth in his science fiction.

Possibly as a result of being so astonishingly prolific, Asimov’s work covers an astonishing variety of topics. Within the sciences, he wrote books on Astronomy, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Mathematics, Ecology, and probably more that don’t spring to mind. There’s also Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare, Asimov’s Guide to the Bible, Asimov’s Chronology of the World and Isaac Asimov’s Treasury of Humor to barely scratch the surface.

But the thing that gives the edge to Asimov for me is the column on “science fact” that he wrote for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. These are both delightful and informative; the column ran for 399 issues and more than 33 years.

Collections of Asimov’s essays from the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

Asimov had a way of starting an essay with an anecdote that would draw the readers in and get them interested in the topics and then lead them into the main part of the essay. Well written, substantive, and most importantly engaging, these were perfectly targeted at the audience while not compromising the subject matter with oversimplification. Advantage: Asimov.

And then there’s the Clarke-Asimov Treaty, which is spelled out in the dedication to Report on Planet Three. It reads, “In accordance with the terms of the Clarke/Asimov treaty, the second-best science writer dedicates this book to the second-best science-fiction writer.” That sums it up pretty well.


And there you have it. Happy National Science Fiction Day!

Image Credits: