The Rants, Raves, Gripes, and Prophecies of Paul R. Potts
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I love Firefly. I've watched all the episodes at least twice, and I'm looking forward to the release of the Firefly movie this fall.
Lately, though, I've been contemplating the show's structure, and its strengths and weaknesses as storytelling and science fiction. I'm not going to dissect the whole thing now, but one thing that has stuck in my mind is that in the world of Firefly, no accomodation is made at all to the reality of vast interstellar distances. The ship Serenity can travel between planets in a matter of a few days; I think the longest journey time they mention is a month. But there is never any mention of faster-than-light travel. It's as if Einstein was just wrong in that world. Actually, the ship never even seems to accelerate very hard -- the crew and passengers don't have acceleration couches -- so apparently they don't believe in Newton, either!
Now, I have to say, I love Kaylee and her approach to spaceship drive repair -- "that part doesn't do much anyway; you can just rip it out." I love the beautiful Firefly effect. I love the narrow escape from the Reavers in the pilot, where they ignite the engine in the atmosphere and create a huge reaction. I love that explosions in space are silent. I love the fact that most aspects of life in the Firefly world are very low-tech. Firefly is "about the strawberry" -- the Preacher's bribe to Kaylee. It is a human story of loss and longing on a harsh frontier where the amenities of old Earth are rare and valuable, and life is cheap.
I don't want Firefly to be Star Trek -- an unrealistic world where there is no dirt, universal socialism and abundance seems to be the order of the day (people don't even seem to use money), and there are apparently no "have-nots." Human nature seems to have irrevocably changed in the world of Star Trek -- is anyone convinced by this future? But I think it frustrates the viewer not to at least have some ready excuses available for all the various laws of physics that get left by the wayside.
On Serenity, the crew seems to have instantaneous radio communication available between planets, or while they are nearing a planet. They've got some equivalent of interstellar wi-fi. When approaching a ship or planet they can hold conversations with other people with pretty-much instantaneous response times; they don't have to wait a few minutes for the reply to come. Even the round trip from the earth to the sun would be something like 14 minutes. They don't even invoke some kind of alternate technology like "subspace."
It is as if they just compressed the universe by a factor of billions; different planets seem to be closer together than the planets of our solar system. It is 240,000 miles to the moon and takes several days to get there with Apollo technology, and even assuming drive technology we haven't invented yet, it would take a year or more to get to Mars: the distance to Mars varies from about 35 million to 260 million miles. And think of how long it has taken Pioneer just to get out to the edge of the solar system.
Maybe the magical Firefly drive can do all this: accelerate the ship far beyond lightspeed, cancel gravity and inertia, and generate cool special effects as well. That seems a little much, though.
The Serenity also has a strange habit of coming upon other ships, as they wander about in "empty space" on routes designed to avoid being detected by the Alliance. That doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Serenity can also apparently be taken into "atmo" and landed on a planet, apparently without worrying about burning up on re-entry. But yet the ship looks like it is made of materials that are available today: steel plating, prone to rust and all that. The situation with the space shuttle now shows how tricky that kind of thing is in real life. There is one funny moment (I think it is in "Shindig") where the pilot, Wash, has to struggle to correct his entry trajectory, but when I watch this I keep thinking about how the physics don't make a lot of sense. At that speed, if he made such a dramatic error in the ship's angle of approach, they would burn up or break up before anyone had time to react. (Think space shuttle Columbia.)
That said, I still enjoy the show, and hope it can be resurrected in some form. It is ultimately about human relationships, but ignoring both Einstein and Newton without even bothering to offer a hand-waving sidestep to the laws of physics just grates on me a little; it seems insulting to the viewer. There is an especially funny line in "Objects in Space" when Zoe is speaking to Wash about River:
Wash: "Psychic, though? That sounds like something out of science fiction."
Zoe: "We live in a spaceship, dear."
Yep, they live in a spaceship, but some things are just silly!On Print Heads
I've written before about my experience with my HP Business Inkjet 1100D printer. I was, for the most part, quite happy with it. However, recently the black printhead failed.
The Business Inkjet design separates the ink cartridge from the print heads. One would think that this might reduce waste and cost. The ink cartridges still cost a lot of money, though. The idea was that the print heads would last much longer than the ink cartridge - thousands and thousands of pages. According to PC World, "HP estimates that the black print head will last for 16,000 pages, and the color print heads for 24,000 pages each."
Well, that didn't happen. I haven't kept a page count, but I haven't even finished a second ream of paper, and a few 25-packs or 50-packs of photo paper. I doubt I've printed more than 2,000 pages.
Now, when an ink cartridge fails, you can still print; you'll just lose a color. Of course, if this is black, that can be a big inconvenience, but ink cartridges are usually in stock at office supply chains. However, when the print head fails, you can't print a single page: the printer just refuses to do anything. I found out the hard way that because they supposedly last such a long time, the chain stores don't carry the print heads; they are a special-order item. The salesperson at Office Max was quite surprised when I brought back my print head, and tested it out in another printer. It was kaput. And just out of warranty. And my printer was completely out of commission, while I had to wait a week for the new print head to arrive.
So, I have reservations about recommending the 1100/1200 series printers. There is the irregular print area on the back of the page versus the front when duplexing. Although color photos can look pretty stunning on expensive photo paper, printing out grayscale photographs results in pictures that look greenish.
Maybe my print head failure was just an anomaly, but the cost of replacing printheads and ink cartridges is starting to add up. Are there any decent, reliable inkjet printers that produce fast and sharp text, excellent photos, and that aren't obscenely expensive to operate? The reviews of the 1200D I've seen are not encouraging -- it seems that it is not an improvement over the 1100D model, so I probably don't want to pick one up for my mom, although that was the model I was considering. I've always been an HP fan, but is it time to consider another manufacturer?
(My 1100 can duplex, but this is a feature I've rarely used, so I would not consider it an important selling point. Ethernet, however, would be welcome, since trying to share the printer with my Airport Express has led to poor results, including a lot of photo print jobs that stalled out and failed; this does not seem to be HP's fault, though).Veronica at Nine
Our baby girl is nine months old. She is now walking pretty well, although with that hilarious arms-out, tottering side-to-size zombie gait. She says "mama" fairly clearly and makes the sign for "nurse." What she doesn't do anymore, though, is fall alseep without a fight, no matter how exhausted she is. She will only take very brief "power naps" during the day. At night, we practically have to sit on her until she gives up the struggle, and then she goes out like a light. She's also less content to sleep on her own bed, and wakes up wanting to get back in our bed.
She's got approximately four teeth at different stages. She chases down and eats ants. Her other hobbies lately are "freestyle nursing" in which she wiggles and contorts herself into all kinds of crazy positions while nursing, causing Grace no end of pain.
We've been watching the They Might Be Giants DVD of alphabet songs, "Here Comes the ABCs." We've also just gotten a baby sign language video, so we'll see how that goes. Sleep is not quite so easy to come by these days, but I can still usually get at least four or five continuous hours and another hour or so of broken sleep, which is enough to get by, so we aren't too bad off. And she's a lot of fun to play with. One of my favorite games is the "rasberry contest." I usually get tired of it first, so I guess she wins!