Friday, April 13, 2018

Classic Science Fiction Movies: The Day The Earth Stood Still

Flying Saucer + Giant Robot = GREAT

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Before Data, before R2D2, before Robbie we had Gort.

Putting this movie in context.

It is 1951. Think about 1951 for a little bit. World War II has been over for only six years. In just a few years you have seen the world going from fabric covered biplanes to a world of jet planes, rockets, and nuclear weapons. During World War II you saw cites in Europe bombed into rubble, the Nazi death camps, the rape of Nanking by the Japanese, the death toll of Iwa Jima and Okinawa, the dropping of nuclear weapons on Japan, and the living skeletons coming back from the Japanese POW camps. After World War II and you thought things were going to be great you live through the Berlin Blockade by the Soviet Union, the Reds have the bomb, the fall of China to the communists and you are in the middle of the Korean War. You have seen more death and destruction than just about any generation.  Heck if you are a kid you still have seen way too much death and destruction. People today are worried about a little global warming and these folks have seen millions die! What is so odd is they seemed to have more hope back then than we do now.

The Opening

A flying saucer lands in Washington DC and the Army surrounds it. Out of the flying saucer comes a man in a spacesuit. He pulls out a divice and an nervous soldier shoots him.

The Plot

An advanced civilization trys to make first contact with humanity. Just like Federation from Star Trek this civilization does not bother to make contact until a plant reaches a certian level of development. In this case it is the development of nuclear weapons and rockets.  The pilot of the flying sauser is named Klatu and after being shot and taken to a hospital informs the officials that he must meet with all the leaders of the Earth to give them an imporant message. He is told that is impossible. Klatu escapes the hospital and goes out to learn about humanity. He soon finds a child to be his guide.

My Thoughts

This is considered a class movie with good reason.  Today robots and aliens are common fair but in 1951 they where not common subjects of movies outside of serials like Flash Gordon aimed at kids.  It was all about being rational and honestly practical. In many ways it almost seems like a model for the Federation in the Star Trek universe but in many ways far more pragrmatic. The problem that movie address is that humans seem to be bound and determened to kill our selves with war. While Klatu's people did not want see humanity kill themselves but they really didn't see that it was their business to interfer. What they wanted even less was for us to go out into space and mucking up the galaxy. 

Just Say No!


I really was looking forward to a remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still then I read how they reimagined it. NO!!!!!! They made it a story not about war but about ecology. These aliens are going to kill us because we are trashing the planet which is just dumb!  Gee, they don't have the tech to produce power without putting too much carbon in the atmosphere. I know we could just give them the tech. Naw, let's just kill them all.  Really? While wars are often fought over resources it isn't always the case. Tech might not be a solution for war but it sure as shooting is for environmental problems and these guys have the answers but no they have to kill everyone. They could have kept the original story or reverted to the short story it was based on where the robot was the commander of the mission.  Skip the remake and see the original. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Cat Free YouTube Channels: April Wilkerson

April Wilkerson


A show about making stuff.
When I was a kid, I loved to watch PBS shows like The Woodwrights Workshop, This Old House, The New Yankee Workshop, Hometime, and the Victory Garden. Ms. Wilkerson has made a YouTube channel in that same spirit. She did not start out as a super expert but has learned a lot and is tackling some big pretty complex projects.

So what kind of stuff does she make? Everything from little projects like a bath caddy to building a massive workshop. A lot of her projects are practical and would be pretty easy to duplicate. She is not a super craftsman like Norm Abram from the New Yankee Workshop but she does a great job of showing you how she builds her projects.

Scorecard

The Rating uses G, PG, PG-13, and R while the other categories use A for the best that I know of, B for good but others might be better, C is average, D below average, and F is just terrible. 
  • Rating G This is totally family friendly.
  • Quality B+  Production quality is very good now, maybe just a notch below broadcast TV. What I really like is that she doesn't do b roll or silly intros to her videos.
  • Community A The communities on youTube Channels are often terrible. Ms. Wilkerson's channel has one of the best communities on the Internet. In fact, it is shockingly good.
  • Depth A- April does a lot of different projects of different skill levels. She is now building a metal working shop to go with her woodworking shop. She is not a master craftsman but that does not detract from her channel.
  • Entertainment Value A  It is fun, clean, interesting, and informative. Ms. Wilkerson seems like a very likable person and is really fun to watch. Ms. Wilkerson has that traditional southern friendly style that is just really pleasant. She is also good at explaining what she is doing.
  • Overall A I really like this show. If you like home improvement and woodworking shows, watch this
Where to watch it

You can find April Wilkerson at
  YouTube April Wilkerson
         Web wilkerdos.com
Instagram wilker_dos

What I think of this show

I really like it. Ms. Wilkerson is just a fun person to watch. She makes a wide variety of projects. Her current project is a huge shop and she is building it from the ground up.  She also does simple things like a bath caddy. I have no problem recommending this channel to anyone. What is there not to like?

Monday, April 2, 2018

Four Years Without a Post.

Aircraft clock

I didn't have many readers to start with but I am certain I'm down to zero now.

Sometimes life just gets ahead of us and then it seems like it's too late to start again. Shortly after my blog post on the start of World War II, I began a new job. I wanted to keep blogging. There were even a couple of posts (one by my wife) after I started the new job but there just didn't seem to be enough time to keep up with the writing I wanted to do.

Time wasn't the only issue. During the time I was away, I lost two family members in a very short time frame.  Blogging just didn't call me to while I was dealing with two deaths so close together.

Despite the passage of time, I've decided I really want to begin blogging again. No, I don't have more time. In fact, I started a new position at the end of 2016 that has given me an almost three hour round trip commute. I also returned to college after almost 30 years. I may even have less time than I did in 2014 when I stopped blogging. While I am in the middle of a time crunch, I have still felt the pull to begin blogging again. So here I am.

My plan is to start where I left off in 2014, creating posts about my favorite YouTube Channels, Podcasts, and Websites. I may even do some of my longer in-depth opinion pieces on energy policy, technology, space policy and possibly some military technology posts.  My focus will be on shorter posts. The time crunch still exists. But you never know where my interests may lead.

Stay tuned I will make my first new blog post on Tuesday with a short review of a really good YouTube Channel

Friday, March 7, 2014

Is Contract Free the Future?

(Note from David:  Today's post is a guest post from Cindy Siebert.  Cindy is the blogger/owner of Scribbles and Musings.)


Before March 2013, the standard mobile phone plan on all four major carriers consisted of a two-year contract and a subsidized mobile phone. If you wanted to move to another carrier anytime during the two-year period of your contract, you would be charged an Early Termination Fee (ETF). Those ETFs can be more than $300. The high ETFs meant that once you were in a contract, you were essentially stuck with the provider you chose, no matter how bad the service might be. Yes, you could pay full price for the phone and avoid the contract. But you would still pay the same amount for service, which made no contract a very unattractive option. The carriers really wanted you in those contracts.

Then it happened. John Legere, the CEO of T-Mobile, announced that T-Mobile would become the “uncarrier”. The first step T-Mobile took was to drop contracts. You could get a payment plan for your phone, but no tying it to your mobile service. Mobile phone users loved it and the other carriers were worried. While they might have been worried, and they all responded, none of their responses included no-contract options. Finally, almost a year later, that is starting to change.

T-Mobile is having success with it’s uncarrier plan. In the fourth quarter of 2013, T-Mobile added 800,000 new customers. The other carriers see this success and are starting to respond. AT&T is advertising a $45/month mobile plan with no contract. Sprint has just introduced the “Framily” plan which includes no contracts and no early termination fees. Finally, users have lower-cost plan options when they choose to go no contract.

Even with the carriers beginning to embrace the idea of no contracts, there is another stumbling block. The price of unsubsidized phones. Most people cannot easily afford that initial investment of $700 to get a quality smartphone. Yes, you can sell the phone in the future to help cover the cost of your next phone. The lower cost plans will also help make a difference in the future. However, that initial investment is still steep. The good news is that there is help with this on two fronts. T-Mobile, Sprint & AT&T all provide installment plans for their no-contract customers. Another option is less expensive, but not less powerful, phone options.from Google and Motorola. Both Google and Motorola have no-contract phone options for under $400. One option, the Moto G, is only $179.

No contract options have existed in Europe and Asia for years. Until recently, there weren’t any great options for going contract free in the United States. Looks like that’s finally changing. Verizon seems to be the only hold out on the no contract front (and as the larger carrier in the U.S., I don’t expect that to change soon). Even with Verizon holding out, new lower priced plans and less expensive smartphone alternatives, there has never been a better time to go contract free in the U.S. It looks like the future is finally here.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Random Thoughts: History, when did World War II start.

Actually pinning down the day World War II started is not as simple as you might think. Why not start with the one that most Americans are taught in school. 

December 7th 1941
The attack on Pearl Harbor is the event that brought the US into World War II and is the day that most people in the US pick as the start of World War II. Most Europeans find this amusing, offensive, proof of Americans ignorance of history and/or a perfect example of American arrogance.  There are actually a lot of good reason to pick this date, but if you ask most Europeans they will give you the following date.

September 1st 1939 the Invasion of Poland
For Europe, this is the beginning of World War II. It was when blood was shed, when people in Europe started to die and cities burned. The people of Europe spent just over two years fighting before the US officially joined the war. The problem with this date is that it shows as much of a Eurocentric bias, if not more than, December 7th 1941 shows a US centric viewpoint. What about this date?

September 18th 1931 the Invasion of Manchuria

After the invasion of Manchuria came the invasion of China proper in 1937. The Chinese spent years fighting the Japanese before the War in Europe started. Events from this theater of war include, for example, the rape of Nanking, the use of chemical and biological weapons by the Japanese, comfort women and other atrocities that are often overlooked by westerners.  

Other potential dates for the start of WWII.
  • October 3rd 1935 the invasion of Ethiopia by Italy. The failure of the League of Nations to stop Italy is often cited as the start of World II. 
  • March 7th 1936 the remilitarization of the Rhineland. In violation of the treaty that ended WWI Germany reoccupied the Rhineland. This was the European powers first real chance to stop Hitler. 
  • October 1st 1938 the annexing of the Sudetenland. When the Untied Kingdom and France handed the Sudetenland over to Germany the world lost the last chance to prevent the war in Europe.
When did World War II start?
I asked my wife that question, she gave me the best answer I have heard for a long time. She thought for a second and said, "That depends on where you were." Of course history hates answers like that, so I have three dates I feel that are valid.

December 7th 1941.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was the event that brought the last of the major players into the war and unified the war in Asia and the war in Europe into one globe spanning World War. It also brought the United Kingdom into the war in Asia. Before that event there was a war in Europe and a war in Asia. It is not a big stretch to say that on December 7th those two wars became one World War. In this case I say that December 7th was the end of the beginning of World War II.

September 18th 1931.
Japan invading Manchuria was the start of the war between China and Japan. That was the first military conflict between the two of the nations that fought WWII. This seems as valid of a start date as any. The invasion of Manchuria could be seen as the beginning of the beginning World War II. 

My choice for the beginning of World War II is November 11th 1918.
The end of World War I was the start of World War II. In Europe the decision to not totally defeat Germany combined with the failure to create a just peace was the reason for the rise of the Nazis. Germany did not feel that they were defeated but that they were betrayed. Combine that with the oppressive war reparations that the allies imposed on Germany and you have the perfect conditions for the rise of the Nazi party. In the Pacific, Japan was on the side of the allies and easily captured many of Germany's colonies. The ease of Japan's victories  inspired both the massive expansion of the Japanese navy and the rise of militarism in Japan during the 1920s and 1930s. The failure of the allies to truly end World War I did not just cause World War II but also was the reason that the World War II ended the way it did. The US believed that a just peace was the only way to secure a lasting peace at the end of World War I. After much discussion, and finally the threat by France and the United Kingdom to not pay the loans the US gave the allies during the war, the US agreed to allow the punishment of Germany. At the end of World War II, the US and other allies were not going to accept anything but the complete defeat of the Germany and Japan. After the war the US worked hard to rebuild Germany and Japan, as well the rest of western Europe and create a lasting peace and turn enemies into allies.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Favorite Websites: Making and using QR Codes.

You are probably not using QR codes but you should.
What is a QR code?
QR stands for Quick Response code, it was developed back in 1995 for use in the Japanese car industry. While there have been barcodes years, QR codes are actually much faster to scan and contain a great deal more data than a standard UPC barcode. QR codes also contain several different kinds of data. All you need to read a QR code is a smart phone and a QR or barcode reading app.

What can you use QR codes for?

Websites
This QR code links to the website of a Sushi and Thai restaurant that my wife and I happen to like. You can put a QR code like this on a Real Estate sign, poster, store window, flyer, business card, or even a company shirt. You can just snap a picture or scan the code and go right to a website. 
Contact Information
The QR code below actually holds a vCard that contains my name, email address,  and a fake street address and phone number. A QR code like this would be ideal on a business card, name tag at a conference or even the wall paper of your phone.

Your Twitter profile
Or in this case my twitter profile.

Here is a more compete list of what you can put in to a QR code.
  •  Website URL
  •  YouTube Video
  •  Google Maps Location
  •  Twitter
  •  Facebook
  •  LinkedIn
  •  FourSquare
  •  App Store Download
  •  iTunes Link
  •  Dropbox
  •  Plain Text
  •  Telephone Number
  •  Skype Call
  •  SMS Message
  •  Email Address
  •  Email Message
  •  Contact Details
  •  Digital Business Card
  •  Event (VCALENDAR)
  •  Wifi Login (Android Only)
  •  Paypal Buy Now Link
How to make your own QR code.
There are a number of programs or websites you can use to make your own QR codes, my favorite is the website http://www.qrstuff.com/. It is what I used to make the QR codes I used here. 

Let your imagination run wild.
Once you have created a QR code you can print it out on any printer. You can use an inkjet printer and a transfer paper like Avery T-shirt Transfers for Inkjet Printers and you can put a QR code on any piece of clothing. Of course you could also use any number of papers such as decal paper, business card stock, or stickers to put QR codes anywhere you see fit. Some ideas that I think would be really useful.

  1. A poster for a concert, play, party, or community activity with a QR code to a VCALENDAR or website. You do not have to be limited to just one QR code you could have one with a calendar entry and one with the location.
  2. Business card with your contact information.
  3. A scavenger hunt where you hide cards or magnets with location QR Codes to the next point?
  4. A card or sticker with your WiFi logon info for your guests with Android phones.
  5. Us a QR code as your wallpaper on your phone or a link to bring up a QR Code that acts as your business card. 
  6. You could even use temporary tattoo paper and an inkjet printer to make a temporary tattoo that links to your Facebook page. 
An Application I would really like to see. 
When I go out to dinner, I hate to wait to pay my check. Why do I have to wait for the server to bring the check, comeback for a check, and then bring the check back for me to sign it? Just print a QR code on the check so I can scan it with my phone and then pay for it with PayPal, Google Wallet, or Square? The server prints out the check and brings it to me, I scan the code, check the bill on my device, and I hit pay and go. Come on people let's do it people.



Saturday, February 15, 2014

Classic Science Fiction Movies: Lost Horizon

Is it Science Fiction?
Many people would say this movie is not science fiction but I think it has enough elements of science fiction to count. You have a mysterious utopian hidden society, people living for hundreds of years, and a group storing humanities knowledge so that it can rebuild civilization after it self destructs.  Sounds like science fiction to me.

The Plot.
The story centers around writer, soldier, and diplomat Robert Conway who has one last mission to complete, the evacuation of the last few westerners from a Chinese village that is about to be overrun by revolutionaries. Once that is accomplished he will return to England to become the next Foreign Minister. What he and the other westerners don't know is that they are all about kidnapped and taken to mysterious mountain community called Shangri-La. 

Once in Shangri-La, the survivors soon come to love their new community and lose all interest in going back to their own lives except Robert Conway's younger brother George who wants nothing more than to get back to his old life. Soon Robert Conway learns Shangri-La's secrets, people in Shangri-La live for hundreds of years and that Shangri-La's propose is to save all the art and literature that it can to help rebuild civilization when it collapses.   

I will leave the rest of the story for you to see for yourself.

My thoughts. 
When you think about the time period one can see why people would be pessimistic about the future. The book was written in 1933 and the movie was released in 1937. By the time the movie came out, Japan had already invaded Manchuria, Italy had invaded Ethiopia, and Hitler was in power in Germany. To Europeans, Chinese, and many people Africa it might have looked like the end of the world was around the corner. The sad truth is for millions of people it really was right around the corner but not for the planet as a whole, thank goodness. It is not hard to see the idea of a peaceful, beautiful, last bastion of learning and culture as a wonderful dream. 

In my youth I thought that Shangri-La sounded wonderful.  I wanted to go and live in Shangri-La and spend my days learning and living in a beautiful peaceful valley removed for the cares of the world. Today, I can not help but feel that it is the act of a coward. If Robert Conway is such a great diplomat and leader shouldn't he stay in the world and help save the world instead of giving up and hiding? Isn't it also a bit elitist to hide while the world self destructs only to come out after all is ashes to take over and "lead" the survivors in creating a new and better world in your image? Doesn't that sound like something a James Bond villain would do?

I really love this movie and it is a true classic. I may not think that hiding from the world in Shangri-La is a good solution for the worlds problems, but I would love to retire there. The fantasy of Shangri-La has become embedded in modern culture since the book was published in 1933 to this very day. 


The 1973 remake.
The early 1970s was one yet another period of time when people seemed to be ready to give up on humanity. The fantasy of Shangri-La must have seemed attractive enough to do a remake. Of course Hollywood had to add a twist to the remake, they made it into a musical! The cast was actually full of great actors but the movie was a disaster. It just didn't work and was a flop. You can find it on YouTube but it is chopped into 10 minute segments. I have included the movie's trailer so you can see just how awkward it is for yourself.  Tibetan monks singing 1970s Burt Baccarat songs, what could go wrong? 
I suggest you skip the remake and enjoy the 1937 version for yourself. Maybe you will want to live Shangri-La or maybe you will feel like I do that we can fix our world before it self destructs. Of course it is probably true that we all dream of our own Shangri-La, After all isn't the Federation of Star Trek in many ways a Shangri-La like place. Where there is no want, sickness, or war? Well at least until the bad guys show up and try to mess everything up.