Thrawn

thrawn-zahn-tall-435x375In the 90s, Lucasfilm strongly pushed the Star Wars novels. Timothy Zahn wrote the Thrawn Trilogy. I probably bought as many as 50 Star Wars books wanting to read about what what happened next, before, and during the movies.

I suspect the strength of all our interest is what made Episodes I-III possible. And Disney seeing the continued strength of the brand made VII-IX plus Rogue One and the coming Solo movies appeared obviously good moves.

However, I dunno what to think about Thrawn.

When Disney bought Star Wars from Lucasfilm with the intent to make more movies, we fans in the early days thought “Heir to the Empire” starring Mitth’raw’nuruodo (aka Grand Admiral Thrawn) was not likely the next story because it took place five years after Return of the Jedi. That movie should have been released around 1988.  We figured back then on a Jacen and Jaina Solo (the force sensitive twins of Han and Leia) story. Then Disney dissolved all this material into the Legends. Fan theories show people still want to believe in the old material.

Thrawn is evidence why we continue to have faith some of the old Expanded Universe stuff is not permanently dead. Disney brought him back for the Rebels series foreshadowing and expanding on Rogue One. They have expanded his character so much they even tasked Timothy Zahn to write a novel chronicling his rise. First he was the future, then he was banished, and now he is back.

So… Bring back Mara Jade!

Redeeming Digital Copies

Every time I go through movies I have bought and try to redeem the digital copy, I suspect the companies make the process so difficult that no one will actually do it. Companies like the gift card racket because they get the money and recipients hold on to them for far too long. Movie companies charge more for movies with the digital copy and make the process of redeeming them so difficult people will not do it.

Five were UltraViolet and one a Disney. All 6 required going to a different web page. Only one worked with the generic UV redemption page. Each other site had me sign in to UV from it. Two made me create accounts in other services in order to link them to UV. The Disney one was the oddest of all, it gave me a code that gave me Amazon promotional credit but was not clear about that so I had to risk buying the same movie at potentially paying more for the digital copy than I did the physical discs to redeem the code. (It did come across as free.)

I guess this is why I let them pile up for a few months before I go redeem them. An hour of work for six movies.

Android personality 

I will try not to spoil Westworld but no guarantees.

So the premise of the show and movies is there is a park with androids who become dangerous. Part of the fun is determining whether this is because of an accident, systemic problems, or sabotage. Essentially this is the kind of story that motivated Isaac Asimov to create his Three Laws of Robotics.

Still, everywhere I run across androids in science-fiction there is a nagging feeling that I am actually one. I understand these machine characters better than the human ones. I better empathize with their plight of the machines. Their problems ARE my problems.

I spend far too much time thinking about how real people behave in order to better pretend that I am also one. My question about my humanity: Why would anyone who is human have to pretend to be one?

Thankfully my college education in philosophy and psychology comes to my rescue in these moments of doubt.

  1. “Normal” is an abstract concept. No one is truly normal.
  2. Confirmation bias pollute these moments.
  3. Availability bias also warps my impression.

Of course, the other problem is I tend to play my fake android and fake autism off each other. “You are not an android, you are just autistic.” vs “You are not autistic, you are just an android.”

Marco Polo and the Llama


Why is there a llama in the ‘Marco Polo’ Geico commercial? from NoStupidQuestions

Noticed a llama in a commercial and was confused because Marco Polo did not go to South America. Googled “Marco Polo llama” and found a Reddit discussion on the topic. Lots of people saying the same as I was thinking.

Eventually, I realized that while llamas were not anywhere on Marco Polo’s journey, the premise is that he is in the USA in an above ground pool in modern times. He’s not in the Thirteenth Century but the Twenty-First. So, a llama is odd but reasonable.

The surprisingly good thing about running into that post was, “Surprise Is Still the Most Powerful Marketing Tool.”

Nerd

I gladly embrace being called a nerd. Not always. There was a time when I solely thought of myself as a geek and distanced myself from nerds.

A jock-y coworker professes to hate nerds. Even as he works with computers all day, enjoys checks, and spends hours figuring out how to improve his strength numbers. Don’t call him a nerd though.

He also describes me as the biggest nerd he knows. Possible. But, that just means he needs to get out more. This city easily contains a hundred people way further up the scale than I am. Enough to have a local convention. If I had gone to the engineering university, then I would have been around people way, way beyond my level of nerd-dom. He thinks though, if I had gone, then it would have made me worse. Probably have to agree.

This all came about because he said they are more airplanes in the sea than submarines in the sky. I responded that is true in the real world, but not necessarily true in anime worlds. He was appalled that I could like anime. If only he knew “like” is probably an understatement.

DVR sort by size

Jekyll Island at high tide
Jekyll Island at high tide

When I get home from a trip like yesterday’s getting home from Jekyll Island, one of the first things I do is check out the free space remaining on the DVR. At times I get it down to under 50% full, but there have been times upon returning home I was up to over 95% full. Sports events usually take up the most space, so I prioritize watching and deleting those first.

Yeah, at the moment I have 16 soccer games on it. Because some of these are tournaments which could go into overtime, the recordings are 4-5 hours in some cases with only 2 hours of content because they did not actually go into overtime.

The are two views for ordering things to watch:

  • Recent
  • Title

Those are generally good options. For 99.99% of the time, when I am looking for something, those are the best ways to find things. A view sorting them with the largest size at the top would help me prioritize my time.

I know to look for the sports stuff. But some times a sports event might affect when a show starts, so I’ll add extra time to the show just in case.

Probably not many people have this problem or care. I’d even be happy with a details view where I can scan for how long is the recording.

Review: The Martian

The Martian
The Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was lovingly written by an obvious space nerd. Weir explains large amounts of science and engineering in a very accessible format. As only a true space nerd would do, there are lots of jokes and puns. Not everyone will like them, but they enhanced the story for me.

The story works as a framework to describe the technical challenges to life on Mars. The Apollo missions were visits of a few short days and Whatney, our hero, was planned to have a few short weeks on Mars. Only it goes all wrong.

What I enjoyed most was
FEELING
the isolation. So many authors try but fall flat.

Given the fiction part of science-fiction, the problems arrive one after another to give Whatney something to solve without too much of a break to recover. A normal mortal would have broken under the stress. But, then, NASA would not send a normal mortal to Mars. 🙂

View all my reviews

Slackers and IT

Go read “Science Fiction Is for Slackers.”

As a rule, science fiction may be the laziest of all genres, not because the stories themselves are too facile—they can be just as sophisticated and challenging as those of any other genre—but because they often revel in easy solutions: Why walk when you can warp? Why talk when you’re a telepath? Technology in such stories typically has more to do with workarounds than it does with work.

I do love science fiction. From robots/AI to star travel to virtual reality. I love it all. I may even love it BECAUSE of the laziness. I’d love to have all these things to make my life better. And much of science fiction influences technologists into making decisions to make the fiction a reality.

The How Shatner Changed the World (mock) documentary talks about the technologies of Star Trek and how scientists work towards making these things reality. Faster than light travel and cybernetics are still aspirant. But cell phones and personal computers were influenced by technologists familiar with the show and movies.

At times I worry about automation putting me out of a job, but then I remember my career goal is always to replace myself with a tiny shell script. Why click when I can script? Why script when I can tell an AI to handle it? Sure it takes away some of my responsibilities, but what I am supposed to do has always changed. And I get better challenging work when I free myself from mundane tasks.

Guess this is why I told Puppet Labs my job is an Automation Evangelist. It’s not universal. I have allies, but convincing people of the good in automation is much like changing their religion.

Back in college I was encouraged to become a librarian. More specifically, people thought I should become an automation librarian. I guess the automation part stuck?

Updated GoT Timeline

A friend posted about Winds of Winter not coming in 2015.

Back in 2011, I posted about George R. R. Martin and the question “whether GRRM has the time to finish the books before the HBO TV series catches up to him.” He had estimated the TV series will take multiple seasons for some books. Let’s compare his prediction with the reality so far.

Book Between Publishing TV ETA TV Real
One (Game of Thrones) N/A 2011 2011
Two (Clash of Kings) 2 years 2012 2012
Three (Storm of Swords) 2 years 2013 / 2014 2013 / 2014
Four (Feast for Crows) and
Five (Dance With Dragons)
11 years 2015 / 2016
(/ maybe 2017)
2015
(rest not yet announced)

That looks pretty spot on through 2015. Season four starts April 12rh. Based on the leaked GoT trailer, they do recombine books 4 and 5. Combined they are a monstrous almost 2k pages. GRRM also claimed 2-3 seasons for the recombined Feast and Dance books. Three seems more likely given the 1200 page Storm took two, 1800 page Feast/Dance should be about three.

Ideally Winds would come out well prior to the HBO season covering it, giving us a chance to read it first. So ideally 2016 but it could be 2018 or later. 🙁