Friday, December 29, 2017

Black Mirror - USS Callister - Recap

Spoilers ahead!

The 4th season of the Black Mirror series started in Netflix on December 29th 2017 with the episode USS Callister.

The plot evolves around a psychopathic coder (Daly, played by Jesse Plemons) in a software company creating a virtual reality game where customers can in a dreamlike state witness the events happening. The coder makes digital copies of the real workmates by using their DNA and then traps them inside the game.

They are forced to play along to pleasure the coder, who is the captain of the ship in the game. They cannot defeat the captain in any way. And if they refuse to play along they are tortured, like suffocated for a while. Another time the (copy of the) young son of one is thrown out of an airlock. The copies also cannot die. Even if they committed suicide, the coder could recreate them because he keeps their DNA in the real world. Being a 60s Star Trek (TOS) like game set in the 60s one of the characters claims there is no sex. Also showing where his genitals should be, there is nothing. They have no feelings, cannot even take a dump. Their only pleasure is a bar filled with alcohol.

When a new copy (Cole) comes into the game she decides to fight back. But first has to convince the others to do so.

The cast played their roles well, the story was compelling. In my opinion one of the best episodes since San Junipero and Node dive. Really enjoyed it and look forward for more episodes.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Plug-in Hybrid

A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, short PHEV, is a car which uses an electric motor lie a purely electric car plus some other motor, usually a combustion engine. It can recharge, like a pure electric car, from grid power. But also by the other engine or even convert some of the energy won by decelerating.

As noted in the article about electric cars you might will a worse turnover when living in an area where the electricity is created by the use of fossil fuels. But since plug-in hybrids also uses the combustion engine to recharge, you are still "greener" than with a car running on pure electric, if the efficiency of the electric car is worse than a car running on gas, and the electricity for recharging the electric car is mainly made from fossil fuels. Might help to not let the climate change become as worse as predicted without cutting carbon emissions.

Donald Trump and the moon

Donald Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1 on December 11th 2017 and wants to put a man back to the moon again. And while the NASA's budget is at a all time low. But with companies which have or develop rockets in competition. From a financial view it should be feasible. But why is Donald Trump saying this now?

We've been at the moon, we've done this. Back in the 60s it was thrilling, winning the space race against the Russians. Which actually was part of the arms race. Other Presidents usually said Mars is the next target to go, like Obama. It seems like shortly after elected president most say something like that because they know the people like space. I don't know if this Space Policy Directive 1 is binding, or like with all the other US Presidents not much will happen.

May be one reason is to play North Korea, showing off with "We don't need to focus on a possible war with you and prepare. We have all out missiles already, can kick you ass any time. We are ready and until then we have time to waste some money for fun and put a man on the moon again, let's do some space exploration".

Monday, December 18, 2017

Electric cars and climate change

Many hail electric cars to be "green". Slow down climate change by induced global warming. Save the planet by reducing carbon emissions and its footprint, and thus the greenhouse effect. But this would be too easy. It's an equation, and all depends on the variables to fill in.

To be "green" the electricity has to be from renewable sources, such as solar, wind. Also hydro-electric should count, as its turbines spin when ever water flows. May be even nuclear, as it does not produce carbon emissions. But it has other disadvantages. How to do dispose spent fuel? Or disasters like in Chernobyl and Fukushima.

So it mainly depends on where you charge your electric car. What are the means used there to produce electricity. If using fossil fuels by a coal fired plant, oil, natural gas or petroleum, or bio fuels like heavily used in Brazil, this isn't really "green". It might be "greener" though if the electric car has a higher mileage than a car with combustion engines using the same energy (efficiency).

Also take take into account is the manufacturing. As of 2017 the manufacturing of an electric car emits more carbon emissions than of a conventional car.

I say we are on the right way. But as mentioned it highly depends how the electricity is created where an owner of an electric car plugs it into the grid. If it is from (mainly) hydro, wind or other renewable, also nuclear, energies where you plug it into the grid, you do something positive at the end. If your grid's electricity derives from fossil fuels you probably not. Taking here in account the costs of an electric car you might be better of with a conventional with a low fuel consumption. At least until your grid feeds from renewables.

Technologies have to improve too, and they will. Emitting less carbon on the manufacturing. Building better batteries giving electric cars a longer range. And of course the sources of which the electricity is produced has to more and more come from renewable forms.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

California fires caused by global warming?

Is climate change responsible for the massive 2017 wildfires in California? Some point the finger at it. And although I am a believer that global warming is caused by humans and the burn of fossile fuels I don't think there is enough conclusive evedence to support this.

Wikipedia states 250 fires were burning 245,000 acres (990 km), and causing more than $9.4 billion dollars in damage in October 2017 alone. 10 of the worst wildfires occurred in the past 14 years since recording. And California is not alone. It has also been a particular bad year for British Columbia.

Contra global warming is La NiƱa, which is currently weak, causing cooling. Then strong Santa Ana winds (not caused by global warming) helping the fire. Then there is a pretty cold East Coast, bulging the Jet Stream, contributing to conditions for wildfires. This appears also to not caused by climate change.

Pros are the drought over the western USA, which is believed by many to be caused by global warming. And the delay of the onset of the usual rain in fall, worsening the drought.

I suppose only time will tell if global warming is the culprit. To see how this develops in the future. And if fires get worse, if pros or cons for global warming indicate if climate change is to blame, or non related patterns emerge supporting the one or other.

Z Nation - Mt. Weather - Recap

The guys are heading to Mt. Weather to get the thumbprint from the president. After mercying several service agent zombies, Congress zombies, they are stopped by Johnson and Johnson, two living agents, and the acting president. She explains although she is US President now they need the thumbprint from the president who was in power when the Z outbreak started. First they watch a cold war video about the 4th strike AKA Black Rainbow, which turns out to be flesh eating bacteria, on an 80s style TV with built-in VCR. This video explains why Russia would look better than the USA after a nuclear war. Then using an elevator to go down to the Z level. After finding the President who is also a zombie the acting president explains she doesn't want to stop Black Rainbow. And also successfully orders Seargent Lilley to turn against the guys.

Not want to spoil it in case you haven't seen it so I stop here. I liked this episode with some funny nods to the cold war era. And because this time they did not spend so much time showing the guys moving slowly through underground tunnels, wielding their weapons and flash lights. Even Doc complaint if it cannot be some upper level room with a window instead for a showdown.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

AIM AOL chat 1997 - 2017

Started May 20th 1997 AOL shut it down on December 15th 2017. The yellow running man had 20 years on the clock.

It was one of the first chat messenger drawing the masses due to that all AOL customers got it, wanted or not. Little later the "chat war" started with Microsoft's MSN. Around 2011 AIM rapidly started to lose popularity in part due to the rise of Google with its Gmail and built in chat (now (2017) converted into "Hangouts" I believe). Losing the sinking ship AOL announced in October 2017 to retire the chat client.

AOL seems to have no interest in chat anymore, stating on their web page something like there is not currently a replacement product available. And some annoying empty marketing phrase

We’re more excited than ever to focus on building the next generation of iconic brands and life-changing products.

without saying what.

Although I haven't used AIM for years (I might have had one chat in the past 10 years, so technically "a decade" would be wrong ;-) another internet era ends. While AOL wasn't the first to shut down their messenger, and won't be the last, it's kind of sad to see this go.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Z Nation - Return to Mercy Labs - Recap

Warren follows her dreams to find out what the Black Rainbow is all about. They go back to Mercy Labs where they encountered Dr. Teller before. Everybody has flashbacks of the happenings from the last encounter. They are trying to get their radio working by finding batteries, but also find the kid of Dr. Teller Andrew in a glass container with a bullet hole in the head. But Murphy believes he is not dead.

Meanwhile at Camp Northern Lights Citizen Z and Kaya go through old floppy disks from after 1982, to find out that Black Rainbow is a biological weapon program of mass destruction, a fourth strike weapon to kill everything left on the planet. So that the guys from Zona can "repopulate.", called RESET.

Well this episode was slow paced again. Not much happened while it was again tried to stretch it to some 45 minutes. There is a gain a lot of walking trough dark rooms, pointing flashlights and guns at things for a long part of this episode. I hoped Z Nation could go back to the pace of the first and second season, if there is a season 5.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Orville - Mad Idolatry - Recap

In this season finale Kelly accidentally makes contact to an underdeveloped society, what Ed calls "cultural contamination". In the Star Trek Enterprise episode Civilization Captain Jonathan Archer coined this term too. This is clearly a nod to The Prime Directive of Star Trek. Kelly ends up being worshipped as God, after she healed a young child with a skin regenerator.

The idea taken that time on a different planet passes faster then normal is likely taken from Star Trek. In both series an immortal observer is sent to witness some hundreds of years in development, then returns. In The Orville it was Isaac, in the Star Trek Voyager episode "Blink Of An Eye" it was the holographic Doctor. Not to steal the idea completely it is explained that the planet goes into another universe, where time progresses 700 years, while in our universe only 21 days have passed, called a "multi phasic orbit".

So when the planet reappears after 21 days they realize 700 years have passed. And that everybody worships Kelly. She tries to make it right proving that she is no God. It became apparent that it failed after they scan the planet again after 21 days, which has evolved another 700 years, comparable with our time now.

The episode starts with Ed being bored and trying to socialize with different members of the senior staff, going to get a drink. But all are busy, or play games with items where suddenly blades come out, and drinks, which seem to have been predigested. So he winds up with Kelly, hoping that her cheating was due to the pheromones of the alien male. At the end Kelly has doubts if a new relationship would be a good idea. Jeopardizing everything.

I found it a bold move by Seth MacFarlane to show religion in a bad light. Future people even call it "growing pains" and apparently got rid of it.

Interestingly there was no cliffhanger for the upcoming season. I am so used that today pretty much every show's season finale ends with a cliffhanger.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

South Park - Splatty Tomato - Recap

For the season finale this episode ties up some, but not all, lose ends. After previous episodes were more carefully about attacking Donald Trump, this hits it right in the face.

The overall plot evolves around searching for Ike after a city of his country (Toronto) has been nukes by US President Garrison, seeking revenge.

After visiting many places where Cartman and Heidi previously faced to make decisions Cartman "forced" her to make. Like Heidi tossing here smartphone to get rid of Twitter. At the end she realizes the person she has become is Cartman's fault, and breaks up the relationship, spanning for too many episodes in my opinion.

Another plot is that the President has the lowest approval ratings and roams through the town, scaring children. Thus it's decided to get rid of the President, and a man hunt is organized. While only the White family opposes it, wanting to save the President, arguing "but who cares what the Whites want?". In the end it's Ike capturing the President, wearing a Royal Canadian Mounties uniform.

The third plot evolves around PC Principal and Vice Principal Strong Woman, who can't help but want to have a relationship but keep it secret. So they go to an Italian restaurant, with Butters as distraction that other guests might not think they go on a date. Later at the hunt for Garrison a tent is found by Randy where PC Principal and Strong Woman are making out. After some rounds of vomiting by anyone who witnessed it or been told (Randy's wife pukes Randy right into the face after he told her), Garrison is toed back to town.

I give it a 4/5, the best episode after a more "meh" season for me. While still leaving topics open for the next season, like what will happen to the US-Canada relationship, the kids were playing "kick ass" 80s music, like Gloria by Laura Brannigon and a song by Richard Marx when walking through the woods. How can you not like that?!