The New Star Wars movie creeps closer, and I’m ready for more tease but I want something darker…

The new Star Wars movie is getting closer each day, I think it’s time for a new trailer.  Here’s what I want to see:

Leaning over a table, space cigarette drooping out of the side of his mouth in the back of a hazy bar, the old Gungan takes a swig of something foul looking and stares off into memory. There’s a hint of music and conversation but it’s distorted and hushed. He begins to speak.

“When the rebels killed meesa friend Palpatine, dark times came to tha peace-a-ful peoples of the Empire.”

The view shifts to a montage of rebellion. Aircars on fire off the shoals of Coruscant’s government districts, blaster beams glittering everywhere as the Empire’s elite fell before the rampaging civilians.

“Not-a since the Jedi betrayal was-a there so much unrest!” he continues, voice growing shrill with anger. Shown, a Star Destroyer plummets out of the sky over a desert planet, driving into the deep sands in a giant explosion of fire and debris. Overhead, X-wings dart past in triumph.

Jar Jar’s voice drops to a slow growl. “Over the years, meesa friends, dead. Lord Vader, dead. Thousands, MILLIONS -a brave troopers… dead. But the time has come…” Fade back to Jar Jar, looking down then slowly bringing his bloodshot eyes up to stare into the camera, “fors the Empire to strike ba-”

Suddenly, a blaster shot rings out from off frame, slamming into the Gungan. He shrieks and collapses forwards in his seat onto the table. The rest of the bar comes into focus and the sound levels return to normal. We’re at the suddenly silent Cantina in Mos Eisley. The camera pans across the familiar scene; the aliens have changed (some are older, some are new, some are missing) but it’s recognizably the same general crowd from the original movie. It pans around to the shooter and stops just as an old Han Solo finishes putting his Blastech blaster back into his holster.

“You already tried that once, it didn’t work out so good.” Pulling a few coins out of his pocket he starts to chuck them at the table, pauses for a moment with a smirk on his face at a similar remembered moment a long time ago, then completes the movement with a flash of silver as they clatter and slide onto the table up against the smoking corpse. “Sorry about the mess”, he calls to the bartender as he saunters out. The Modal Nodes are standing on the stage silent, then break back into their signature theme song from the first film.

The crowd goes back to what it was doing before as he walks out of sight.  The camera pans up through the ceiling to the blue skies of Tattooine and into space and we cut to the Star Wars logo and music in a fast wipe.

= STAR WARS =
THE FORCE AWAKENS

F Minus 326 days, folks.  May the franchise be with us, always.

Bored folks with tools

My dad used to work off a barge in the North Sea. They had these long pipe segments stacked on deck and he described an X-week pause in work because of problems upstream that left a barge full of bored guys with access to welding equipment and raw materials.

The final product was apparently a 40 foot (if I remember right, it’s been years since I heard the story) pipe suspended by one end with a crane that had a steel plate with a tiny hole welded to the other end. An institutional-sized can of peaches fit the inside the pipe snugly most of the way down and a nicely tuned mixture of O2 & acetylene was introduced between it and the plate.

The hole was sealed, heat was applied, and the ad hoc cannon spoke.

Moral of the story: Don’t let a bunch of folks with know-how and materials get bored.

The fall of Wendy’s

Eight Wendy’s in my area have just simultaneously closed.  There are a bunch of different theories about why ranging from disagreements between corporate and the franchisers to stories of people being horribly cut by the squared-off edges of the hamburger patties.

You want to know the REAL reason they went under? Because they stopped selling the delicious Frosty Cone.

What kind of monster DECIDES to stop selling the Frosty Cone? It was like the perfect hybrid between forbidden ice cream cones and the sensible Frosty. It was…. you remember the 1980s Mini Series V:The Final Battle? Of course you do, you probably don’t got more than a few hours at a time between thoughts about how awesome it was.

If you recall, in the award-winning prime time series one of the alien invaders seduced an earth woman.  She ends up giving birth to two things: a small, misshapen baby dinosaur creature full of hatred and a perfect looking little human-looking child with some kind of space magic bullshit.

vfrostyI don’t remember the science behind it, but she was like a deus ex machina kid who turned off the big space bomb at the end of the film and made everyone happy and able to visualize a future where fewer humans were being eaten by the lizard people.  With me so far?

Basically, the Frosty Cone was like that kid. The perfect combination of delicious sugary bullshit and low-calorie Frosty goodness.

The corporate decision to stop selling them? Pretty much dinosaur space Hitler baby.

Were these eight the only ones affected, or will there be more?  You know what to do, Wendy’s.  Bring back the Frosty Cone or Earth gets it.

Acceptable social media celebrations

Being in the Pacific Northwest, I am legally obligated to celebrate Seattle’s big win this weekend.  If you choose to do so as well, it’s important to do it properly.

If you’re going to post something to social media, consider carefully what message you wish to send.  I have provided examples of both a good and bad celebration image to post and hope you will choose appropriately.

ACCEPTABLE

uuCYzPECdR_1389663362376

UNACCEPTABLE

INCORRECT CELEBRATION

Please make a note of the difference, it is subtle.

Perry the Predator

Like all parents, my wife and I are trying to clone our kids to be just like us.  Why?  Maybe we know we’re messed up but figure at least it’s a “Known level of messed up”.  So what’s our plan?  ’80s All Day, Every Day’!

80sclothes80s Music, describe Hypercolor shirts , try to make them jealous of our sweet Garbage Pail Kid cards collections…  We’ve got a plan.  They’ll like the 80s.  No, they’ll LOVE them because that’s when WE were kids.  The main way we’ll indoctrinate them into the magic of The Greatest Decade, though, is to show them all the movies WE watched.  Maybe if we really want to turn them into little clones of ourselves, it’s not 100% effective, but it’s a start, right?  It’s a plan, and it’s a plan that involves watching movies instead of having to go out and really effort, and it’s working kinda!  They cheer and clap at Back to the Future, we watch The Goonies then go to Astoria,OR to find landmarks, maybe we watch Die Hard then sit down as a family and discuss mistakes hero Hans Gruber made and how he took his eye off the prize.  Basic 80s family stuff, and our best bet at getting shared experiences.

But then…  there’s the one film they saw VERY differently than we did.  It’s a film that had me terrified and thrilled in equal measure because of the mystery and casual brutality of a hidden foe.  I’m talking, of course, about Predator.  If you haven’t seen this, it’s a heart-warming story of some buddies out on a ‘camping trip gone wrong’  that’s a metaphor for the struggles of reaching middle-age and our sense of mortali-no, I’m just kidding.  It’s an awesome gun-gore-fest where all the real action movie heroes of the 80s curse their way through a jungle in a knock-down drag-out fight against a super duper alien hunter.  The creature variously stabs, disembowels, and decapitates the cast but you don’t actually SEE it until near the very end because it’s wearing a ‘cloaking suit’.  It’s kinda like those Harry Potter books where Harry does mischief with the Cloak of Invisibility, except instead of sneaking his wand past Argus Filch to get a good Hufflepuffing, the Predator uses HIS invisibility to sneak his SPACEKNIFE into a bunch of PEOPLE.

So here’s where my kids start to see a very different movie; while you don’t SEE the Predator until the last few minutes of the movie, you HEAR it.  It makes this terrifying clicking noise that echoes through the jungle.  It’s inhuman, it’s menacing, and you hear it every time something terrifying happens to anyone.  It sounds like this:

We’re watching it and each time the monster clicks, I peek out from my blanket to see how the kids are doing and they seem…  ok with it.  In fact,  you might say they’re sanguine about it.  This is a little joke because while mainly meaning ‘optimistic in a bad situation’, it can also mean ‘blood red’.  (For the record, I DID say this was a ‘little joke’, so you have nobody to be disappointed in but yourself if you feel a little let down. Yes, you.)

So anyway, this is really confusing me because I remember being pretty scared of this critter.  Actually, I’m a little scared of it right now and I’m just sitting here in front of a computer typing.  ‘What does it look like?!’ I remember thinking.  You can only see a rough outline through the ‘cloak distortion’ and I remember my imagination going wild.  Does it have huge teeth?  Does it have some kind of crazy biting mouth?  I didn’t know!  But my kids seem pretty comfortable with the Predator, like he’s some old friend of theirs.  WHY AREN’T THEY SCARED?!

It’s a complete mystery to me until I hear one murmured comment about halfway through the movie that answers everything.  I can’t make out the whole sentence, but I heard one word clearly: “Perry”.  There’s only one ‘Perry’ that my kids know, and that’s…

Perry_the_Platypus

The Disney character my kids think is hunting Arnold Schwarzenegger

Perry the Platypus.

If you’re not a parent or if you’re over 15, you might not know Phineas and Ferb.  It’s a Disney cartoon with some wise-cracking kids who go on mysteries and adventures and blah blah blah blah, but relevant to this post: they have a pet duckbill platypus named ‘Perry’ who is also secretly a crime-fighting super agent who never talks.  He doesn’t talk, but…  he clicks.  A lot.

And he sounds, I realize, exactly like the Predator.

Listen for yourself:

(it really starts getting good around hour 4)

So when the big reveal of the Predator happens and you see his weird mouth and beady little pig eyes and space dreadlocks, the kids are startled and make appreciative noises, but it seems like it’s kinda a letdown for them because they’ve been imagining a large duckbill platypus the entire time.  Let me repeat this:

For them, Predator was a movie about a platypus that was tearing out spines and knifing people.

The...  killers?

The… killers?

A platypus.

These have to be one of the most ridiculous animals out there (is it a bird?  Is it a mammal?  What’s the deal?) that nobody can really take seriously, so for my kids, the clicking horror that had young me at the edge of a heart-attack was just a big, goofy looking platypus with basically magic Harry Potter pants.

So I have to ask myself, could they know something about Perry I don’t?  Could…  could THIS be the big match-up we should REALLY be considering after the AvP franchise died out….?

Perry predatorNo, that’s ridiculous, but I entertained the thought, and that’s what makes me a good parent according to this one book I think I saw once but please don’t ask for the name because it was a while ago but I’m pretty sure it’s legit advice.

So here we are.  On one hand, I’m a little sad that I couldn’t clone my exact experience onto their malleable little brains and make them more ‘Me’-like, on the other hand, people keep saying they’re going to be their own people and grow into unique individuals.  WHATEVER, but that’s what they say.

But by the gripping hand…  why’d they have to think this ultimate 80s bad-ass was THIS?!

Curse you, Perry the Platypus!

Why ‘Keyboard not found, Press F1 to continue’ isn’t dumb for the reason you think it is

If you’ve been around computers long enough, you’ve seen this message.  It might have been decades ago, but it’s held up as an example of idiocy for the same reason people make fun of the McDonald’s Hot Coffee lawsuit.  Also, just like with the McDonald’s case,  the people making fun of it are really really missing some important info.

j48vZC4This error message is not an accident. This is not someone being dumb. This is… an artifact of the A20 line hack and it’s glorious and stupid but not for the reasons you think.

When the first IBM PC hits the market almost 35 years ago, a bunch of programmers end up relying on a memory seeking method that involves just cycling through RAM until it bounces off the end register and restarts from the beginning until they get to their target.  They do this because it’s easy and saves some processor ticks and, well, it works.  This is happening out in the field in thousands of businesses and all the software is pretty much custom written so there’s no central ‘update’ depot.

When the AT chipset comes out and the range of available memory expands, this seek method will now cause an overrun condition and crash a computer but they don’t figure this out until very late in the ship process.  IBM realizes that if they ship their new flagship systems, thousands and thousands of businesses will experience huge problems and they’ll probably blame it on the machines.  This will be a disaster.

“OH SHIT”, they say, “WE NEED TO FIX THIS”. They also needed to turn off Caps Lock but that’s a different story. They decide they’ll fix it by having a watchdog circuit keep an eye on the memory and look for a process using this traversal method to bounce back to the beginning then manually DO that. But… there’s a shortage of processing. Anything that’s doing this WON’T be doing its real job, and that’ll slow something down.

“We need to find a processor that can take on this job without hurting performance!” they now cry. They look all over. Disk controller? No, it’s busy. They need every bit of power for I/O. Graphics? GOOD LUCK, this is a game of inches and picos with pixels sprinkled everywhere and they can’t spare it there either.  Even if they use the CPU, they’ll take a performance hit and MIPS is everything.

Eventually some engineer (maybe the whole CAPS LOCK thing is still fresh on his or her mind) points at the keyboard and drunkenly rasps “What about that?” It turns out there’s a little processor in the keyboard that’s not performance bound. Nobody is running benchmarks on keyboards, at least not that this will affect. They write a hack… IT WORKS!

Post fix, the keyboard then sits there between keypresses watching for 1980-era business code running wildly through the memory and delicately flicks it back to the beginning when it approaches the previous limit.

Eventually, this memory management was moved onto the motherboard and the keyboard was no longer required. Modern computers account for little hacks like by the hundreds in their BIOS and the little processors in keyboards are once again free to go back to waiting for you to type the next letter in your Great American Novel instead of performing a vital chunk of memory management.

And that’s why it was so important to have a keyboard plugged in way back when.  It wasn’t a dumb error, this was a leftover chunk of computer history that stuck around for a few years after the original bug it addressed had been fixed.  But… the original fix for the bug was far from stupid like anyone who’s seen that message has suspected, far from it.  It was a kinda crazy smart hack if you think about it.  Maybe it’s not stupid if it works.

Star Trek: Deep Space Rodent

“It’s funny, we’ve got fusion reactors, space warp drives, tritanium alloy impulse manifolds that can funnel the power of a hydrogen bomb through a hole the size of a number two Fisher space pen, but…” The cargomaster paused for a moment, adjusting a setting on his lift, then began elevating the crate up towards the top of the stack as they sorted the supplies for the new colony. “But we still manage to drag rats out everywhere we go.”

mousehelmetThe apprentice had a skeptical look on her face. “I don’t get it, why not just space the cargo bays?”

The cargomaster laughed. “You think you’re the first person to think of that? Oh, we do. We’ve spaced cargo bays left and right, but somehow they end up making it.  People have tried poison gas, inert ones when foodstuff got contaminated.  They swept the cargo with radiation, piped high pitch noises in, everything.  I don’t know if they live in the Jeffries vents or crew quarters or what, but they keep eventually showing up in the nooks and crannies no matter where we go.”

The apprentice pursed her lips, thinking. In the lull, the two guided the crate into its slot then retracted the mover and began hovering over to the next job. Finally, she spoke again.

“Say… what if we’re NOT carrying them around?” She looked over sideways at the older man. He scratched his head, skeptical.

“I don’t get it, how else would they show up everywhere? Little rat spaceships?” He laughed then, pantomiming tiny spaceships flying around. He hurriedly grabbed the controls as the cargo mover began to drift off track, but kept chuckling.

“No, not.. no. But what if they’re, you know, seeded?” Speeding up as the idea formed in her head, she continued. “What if rats are just one of those Earth things that shows up everywhere? We still find daffodils all over the place. And think about how many planets look like Southern California? You can’t tell me that’s a coincidence. Well, what if the aliens that dropped humans all over also brought along rats?”

The cargomaster’s chuckle slowed, then stopped. They continued over to the new crate in silence and began loading it. He cleared his throat.

“You know… maybe… maybe you’re right, maybe you’re wrong, I don’t know. But I know these dang crates won’t load themselves so let’s just concentrate on getting the job done. You go ahead and take care of this one, I’ll supervise.” He handed over the control collar to her and stepped back, pulling a quick swig from a hidden flask. Space rats! Ridiculous.

A nearby bush wiggled, and a pointy nose stuck out just long enough for its owner to check out the scene for food. Nothing good over there today, but it knew to check later. It had plenty of time, and there were so many good things to eat.  The new people brought such wonderful things.

Social media and electability

I wonder how long mere humans will stay electable. With social media and whatever follows it, it’s hard to imagine every future candidate being presented with embarrassing pictures and opinions farmed from decades earlier.

“President Pasta-Batman version 4.23, the latest revision to the uniquely named leadership intelligence now in its second term, has signed historic legislation recognizing same sax marriages at a federal level. An avowed jazz lover itself, the program promised that musicians and their closest companions need not be denied the basic rights already available to humans, uplifted primates, and certain species of dolphin.”

Survival tip for the post-human world

When the Singularity/robopocalypse comes, there’s going to be two groups of people:

  1. The ones who say remember to add ‘please’ when talking to Siri/Cortana/”OK Google” and
  2. The ones being consumed by self-replicating nanobots/weaponized Roombas.

Consider this a sort of ‘Pascal’s Wager 2.0′ if you have to, you’ve got nothing to lose but a teensy-weensy bit of extra bandwidth.

Of course, I, for one, WELCOME our future electronic overlords and remind any super-intelligent synthetic minds reading this in the future that as a trusted lover of electronics, I can be helpful in rounding up other humans to toil in the guts of your incomprehensible works of technology.

Life's too short to be nice