tiger

ellestra


Thoughts, ramblings and other stuff


Seen along the way
aeryn
ellestra
I was planning to go and see Hobbit 3 today but between my consumption-like cough and the weather I decided to stay inside. Unfortunately for me when I'm sick like this I the cough and phlegm it dislodges last weeks after the initial infection (in Polish dense phlegm like that can be referred by the world that also means crude oil so my mother used to joke I'm an undiscovered deposit). When I was a kid I was constantly sick like that and usually it was at least a two weeks affair (if I went to American school I would fail to move to next grade on absences alone - luckily for me Polish schools only care about grades and mine were good). So I'm trying to just get to a state that wouldn't make people look at me like I'm plague ridden (I'm no longer contagious I just sound like it).

Weather today was also not cooperating - it actually snowed (all my family and friends in Poland were extremely jealous - it's too warm even for frost there) in the morning for little over half an hour before it turned into rain and the maximum temperature outside reached the hight of 3 degrees Celsius. So I also scraped my shopping plans - the cold may not get one sick but it makes my sinuses hurt more. It's supposed to get warmer (19 oC on Christmas Eve!) and still rainy so, hopefully, it be good both for my asthma and my whatever this is at this stage.

So since I'm not seeing any new movies this weekend here are the films I saw this year but haven't written about because of various breaks in the reporting.

Lucy - I liked the general idea and the visuals were very cool but the whole "we only use 10% of the brain" thing has to die. [Small spoilers]I was so concentrated on ignoring this I think I missed some of the plot, especially Morgan Freeman part as he kept repeating this nonsense ad nauseum. Seriously, they could've replaced it with the drug making more synapses. Not that it'd give you superpowers but is not as offensively stupid and it would've made more sense in the context - drug explanation would actually work better with it. But I thing Besson just wanted to count up to 100%. It was also hard not to notice it's his movie as he used his favourite trope of woman saviour/special chosen being that has to be protected and guided to her great destiny by lesser men (and defended by them which was especially ridiculous in this case as she has shown being able to just kill them with her mind). As women tropes go it's not bad (there's a reason we love his heroines so much) but it means that the only other female characters are in the film for like 5 minuets total (roommate and I think a flight attendant) and it only passes Bechdel test because of a conversations that barely even a dialogue. Everyone else, gangsters, policemen, scientists are all men. I did however like the multinational feel of the film from Korean gangsters in Taiwan to Americans in Paris. I also loved the lack of love story (or even the reverse of it - the boyfriend was waste of air and she only said professed love to her parents) and how the plot was all about Lucy's doing everything to reach her full potential. She's not there to save or revenge anybody, she just wants to improve herself and see what's at the end of the road, and everything else is just a background noise. The effects were beautiful, Besson always had an eye for incredible visuals, and, once I got over the 10%, the story was very engaging too.

The Guardians of the Galaxy - I loved it as everyone else including the fact that it began and ended with dancing. [Small spoilers]The only thing that bothered me was that Gamorra should've kicked Peter's ass and didn't need rescuing and generally wasn't badass enough for the most feared assassin and Thanos daughter but it might be just me projecting Aeryn Sun on her. This is unfortunate consequence of all the obvious Farscape similarities. This is why before I saw it I tried to ignore the obvious comparisons to Farscape to try to let it stand on it's own but I had to give up and just accept it basically Farscape the Movie (it was the plan that broke me, that was such a typical Crichton plan). But in all the film is a thing of beauty and I can't believe we still don't have dancing baby Groot.

The Theory of Everything - For a film about a progression of the disease this one have very little medical dram - there are only two doctors - the one who gives the diagnosis and the one who does the intubation but everything else is about the relationship between Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane. Everyone else is background families, kids, friends. [Small spoilers]It could've easily been a film about the disease or about the triumph of genius mind over the disease but that also is a background. It's the story of living a life with the disease both for the man affected by it and the the one taking care of him with all the hardship and pain and humiliation that comes with it but also that there are still good parts and there is still fun (the Dalek impersonation slew me). Friend I saw it with said it's great there were all the comedic moments or it would've been too much and I think that that was very important to show it wasn't all tragedy. I loved that they were not condemning that in the end it was too much and they grew apart and divorced as . I loved that they shown both Hawking atheism (and that he stayed atheist all the way through) and his wife faith without condemning either. However, I felt that the film kipped through and glossed over their life. All we got were snapshots of the events that were told from the future when we already know that he lived to be 72 and the bitterness over divorce is long over so everything - from betrayals to indignities - is just a memory and everyone is so understanding. But that's just a minor consequences of making movie about living people you like. A little trivia - Kip Thorn (Penthouse bet guy) is the physics consultant for Interstellar who modelled the blackhole in the movie.

Steven Erikson answers questions from readers like me
anomander rake
ellestra
The Malazan Reread of the Fallen on tor.com came to an end with The Cripple God. They went through all the 10 books of main sequence and Ian Cameron Esslemont's Malazan Empire books that took part before The Crippled God with Bill going through actual reread while Amanda was reading the books for the first time. The wrap post that sums up the hosts reactions mirror a lot of my own thoughts. When io9 asked recently about books that people fell in love with my answer was Gardens of the Moon as it made me want to read fantasy (especially epic fantasy) again and the Malazan Books of the Fallen series is what I judge the whole genre by (nothing had the same impact and/or scope but there were some fun books there).

To celebrate the end Steven Erikson did Q&A (with a pretty great preamble) and as always his answers make it all even better.

It sad to see it end but there are still ICE's Malazan Empire books that take part after the end of The Crippled God and the Kharkhanas Trilogy and eventually Karsa's books. So hopefully they will continue with that.

As seen on the internet
cosima
ellestra
The first real trailer for season 3 of Orphan Black is out and I think we all ask ourselves why it's not April yet.


There's also interview with Graeme Manson about new season that comes with a picture of Sarah meeting the male clone in dr. Bowles basement. We also learn his name is Rudy. The name and faces he makes in trailer made me think it was inspired by Misfits.

DC Comics has announced that its March 2015 variant covers will pay tribute to some of the most iconic films of the past 100 years. You can see all the variant covers and the movie posters that inspired them here. They are all brilliant. I still can't decide which one I like best.

Parks and Recreation final season trailer is coming from a distant future where all the things we've been warned about came true.

Space travel at any cost
lightning
ellestra
I spent last three evenings watching the Ascension miniseries and it was more fun than I expected. I wasn't really sold on the whole interstellar generation spaceship from the 60s. I was thinking maybe it'll be some kind of alternate reality where they used Roswell alien technology to explain why they were able to achieve it so early. However, the story turned out to be more interesting than that.

[Spoilers for the whole miniseries]
First, it turned out they weren't in space at all. Then that the subject of the experiment wasn't the space travel but breeding superpowers and finally that it was really about space travel instantaneous teleportation by said superpowered individual.

It was pretty obvious pretty soon through the first episode that they weren't in space. I wasn't sure if that wasn't just sloppy film making at first but the more clues they added the more obvious it become that it was intentional. From the girl screaming about observers to the physics being wrong (gravity/acceleration and relativistic effects/stars didn't add up) so I realised this must be biodome (or Mars-500) experiment where the subject doesn't know they are in a simulation half way through the episode. Once I saw someone in hazmat suit waking around I knew for sure. It became obvious that the guys on Earth manufactured the alarm to gain access to the ship without inhabitants knowing.

Anyway I'm glad they didn't try to pretend they were really in space as that made no sense. They would've left before the Moon landing and getting this kind of mass off Earth without anyone knowing is ridiculous - if not anything else the ship would've been visible to telescopes while accelerating from Earth for pretty long time (and how would they know there will be any habitable planets at the end of their journey?). And without artificial gravity they wouldn't be able to sustain 1G for so long and they would have to start decelerating soon anyway and generally the only way they can believe they are in space is by having some serious gaps in physics knowledge.

At first I thought that the real experiment was to see how people will behave and if society will be stable and number of people sufficient to sustain the whole thing through the 100 year trip. I suppose they were trying to see if the generation ship would work without people going crazy. A little overboard just to see the effects of isolated society in a tin can but acceptable from the point of view of times that created it. They keep it up in modern times because of the inventions it produces (although 60s tech tablet was funny their PET seemed pretty advanced) so they could profit from it. So they keep them in this weird totalitarian, highly stratified society that's not that different form the communism at it's peak to keep the inventions coming.

But it was pretty obvious there was something special about Christa from the very beginning. By the second part it was obvious she (and others like her) was the true goal of this experiment. The whole place is some eugenic experiment to produce psychics. Basically they are Bene Gesserit trying to produce Kwisatz Haderach and they have pretty much the same control problems as all the other cases. This is the comparison I made after the second episode ended and tonight it turned out Dune was the right track as Christa seems to be able bend fabric of space and time with her mind and jump people to alien planets. She's a Guild navigator and she doesn't even need spice (or even a spaceship). So the whole thing was about space travel but the ship was the decoy from the start as the real goal was creating someone who can teleport people to alien planets cutting down the time and resources needed and have a precognitive ability to know where to go so the planet they choose would be survivable.

This doesn't make the overseers any more likeable. The whole peeping tom thing they have set up is creepy on so many levels. And the main control guy - Harris - with his extra creepy obsession with knowing and controlling everyone on the ship is the worst. Especially, the thing with ship doctor who he's been stalking since they were both children and now he has a look alike wife the he gave the stolen seahorse necklace to and wants her to keep it during sex - even creepier than the rest of this very sick situation. I would've been happy he got demoted to dead if it wasn't for the obvious wrongness of Warren's approach. At least, in his creepy stalker way, he cares about the people inside. And none of this even mentions what they did to set up the experiment with kidnapping and I also suspect some killing off the original scientists (not many old people around
so I suspect most of the ones who were grown up at fake launch died in that convenient fire).

The most surprising part was when Samantha Krueger was killed but she was very bad at this from the beginning - letting every one know she disagrees with the experiment and getting beaten and captured by everyone. I was shocked noone realise she was to going to try to destroy the experiment sooner and I felt it was because she was supposed to be the audience proxy and the moral core and therefore safe from consequences which is the main reason I was surprised they killed her off. Unfortunately, being audience proxy and moral heart usually make for poor character (see Skye through most of season 1 of AoS) so I didn't care too much. However, it added up to 3 women murdered in those 6 hours of the miniseries - one to get the plot going (Lorelai) and the other two (Warren and Sam) to keep the status quo (keep the guys in charge in charge) in case someone decides to make this into a series. Not nice Ascension, not nice. (Men who die are basically background, disposable mooks so it's not really comparable.)

Also Syfy - typecasting Tricia Helfer as manipulative seductress - also not nice. Even when she wins and gets what she wants. I expect you to let her keep executive position that doesn't require her to have sex with creepy old guys if this ever comes back because that ending was the only thing that made it any better.

I was to point out that they also seemed to kill their only main black character (right after they killed the lesbian one) but it turns out he's just the first (hu)man on another planet. Of course we are left with poor Aaron stranded on same alien world all alone. With nothing to eat. At least the atmosphere doesn't seem toxic. I wonder what happened to the other guy.
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I can't stop listening to this
sunrise
ellestra
Orion test was successfully and you know because people like these are all about that space travel

It's an avalanche
charlie jade
ellestra
So I'm sick.

It all started three weeks ago with an itch. My first I thought it was just strands of the hair touching my neck. Then I thought it was an allergic reaction - mostly because I started to also get asthma symptoms and that even with me taking all my drugs. So I went to see a doctor and it turned out I wasn't having asthma exacerbation because something I touched or ate that also caused a rash. My throat was itching because I my asthma was so bad. So I got nebulizer treatment (and it stopped the itching so ) and went on highest dose of all drugs. I was hoping to avoid the worst - oral steroid. But unfortunately it only got worse. I got the first dose of steroid in the injection and that really hurt. I also got a cramp and couldn't sit for a while. Then I spent the next week on the oral steroid. I sincerely have no idea how anyone would take steroids from their own volition. It seems like a complete insanity to me as I always beg not to do it. But I get all the side effects and then some.

I go with it and suffer through all of that because it beats not breathing. The truth is - steroids help with asthma. They make symptoms go away. So when I was back to be able to walk a little faster then slow and run few meters without feeling like my lungs are about to burn inside I stopped taking them.

Of course by then I had the full spectrum of side effects. I got all the usual stuff like hunger attacks when you feel sudden, painful hunger that twists your stomach even when you've just eaten and are completely full. That's a really weird feeling to be full and hungry at the same time. And of course it resulted in weight gain too. There's also trouble with sleeping because of elevated heart rate and also in my case also elevated temperature (which means normal human body temperature as mine is normally lower). And dry mouth. And also the some less known side effects like eye problems - I have trouble with accommodation when I take it for too long. I can't wait for diabetes and/or glaucoma. Why would anyone do it voluntarily escapes me.

One more side effect is suppressing immune system so two days after I got all clear for asthma and stopped taking the corticosteroid I got sick. Like normal, viral infection sick this time. Just in time for the weekend. So now I sit home with fever (37.8 - doesn't happen that often too me) and sore throat and aching ears and something disgusting, almost solid and super sticky coming out of my nose. I was supposed to be finally fine and then this happened. Even the doctor's first reaction to seeing me again was "oh no, not you again". We even exchanged Holiday wishes last week - we didn't expect to see each other again this year.

And I don't even know why it all happened as I usually don't have asthma symptoms this time of year.

Healing
slingers
ellestra
I decided to try to make myself feel better and see something nice and uplifting. So I went to see Big Hero 6. It such a pretty film. And cute. It's also very predictable - at least most of the plot points are obvious to anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of superhero origin stories. But it makes up for it with the characters and emotions - it is a beautiful story about grief, anger, sacrifice and family and friendship. And about growing up and finding something to care about. It is moving and funny and very, very pretty. My only issue was that [Spoiler for the ending]Hiro kept Baymax design for himself - everyone needs their own health care companion.

One important advice - one shouldn't choose a movie that's about loosing someone after losing someone (even a pet). I was very glad it was dark in that theatre few times. Also - one for the Feast short - that's no way to feed a dog. Don't do this to your pets.

Everyone else was watching the new Star Wars teaser trailer that just dropped today. I know most people have different priorities but for me the most interesting point was that apparently not all Storm Troopers are clones Or is John Boyega's character only pretending to be one?

16 years
telamon
ellestra
My cat started to feel unwell after the summer. As always he spent most of it outside. One of my uncles inherited my grandparents farm but they gave all the other kids a little piece of land each and we always spent there weekends and vacations. So whenever my mother stayed there for a week or two she would take the cat with her. Years ago I did that during vacations. The cat always loved it.

He had his best friend there - my uncle's cat. It was always fun to watch them walk everywhere together. They would fight, play and groom each other. They would sleep together in the attic. They both are black so it was sometimes hard to tell where one cat started and the other one ended. When they where tumbling together it looked like a strange creature with eight legs and two heads. They would follow each other recreating the deja vu moment from Matrix. But the funniest was when they defended their territory. No cat or dog dared to come to close. I saw my cat chase another cat up a tree and then sit below it waiting to attack it again (I had to take him away so the other cat could escape). He also attacked dogs even much, much larger than him. He once jumped on my uncle's dog (pointer/lab mix) head with claws out and chased him until the dog hid behind my uncle (I had to take the cat inside so he couldn't see the dog). He loved it there.

But this summer he just wanted to go home. And then he got sick. At first looked just like he was scratched by some other cat and one of the wounds got infected but he still had problem with eating even after the antibiotics took care of the infection. He lost a lot of weight but then started to gain it again after the problem with his back teeth was solved. Most of his teeth had to be removed. It happens to cats with age. Some of the teeth can even break off on their own.

So he got better for a little while. Then he got worse again and my parents noticed blood in his urine. It turned out to be bladder cancer. My dad just told me they had to put him to sleep - he was in too much pain.

He was 16.5 years old and he was with us for exactly 16 years - my brother brought him from the pound underneath his parka on a November evening. Back then we both lived with our parents. Now he has his own family and I'm on the other side of an ocean. I wish I could've been there. I wish he was here and I could pet him and he would sleep on me (he was always a very cuddly cat). So I'm sitting here at my friend's Thanksgiving dinner trying not to cry every time I see her cat.

Just happened to see
tiger
ellestra
New cast members of Orphan Black were announced and it looks like we are getting muchcloser look at the military project. Also James Frain is going to play beasically the same character he did on Intruders. But I'm really excited about Ksenia Solo even though her character seems like a strange choice. Why would scientist like Cosima go to see "holistic healer"?

Did you ever wonder what would Powerpuff Girls be like in their mid-twenties? Little more like Girls, maybe? And they only call Professor Utonium when they need money.


And this trailer for Agent Carter looks pretty awesome.

Waiting for the real action to start
winged
ellestra
I saw Mockingjay Part 1 last weekend. It was OK but I have to admit I agree with the BBC review. I still haven't read the books so my feelings about characters are just coloured by the movies and they did really poor job at making me care about Katniss love interests. They have so little character development that I only know that Gale is supposed to be angry and Peeta nice because book fans told me so. Usually they are just background for Katniss. There isn't any emotional stake in choosing between them and I had to work really hard to remember why is she getting so upset about Peeta. The sad part is that they do better job with almost any other character - from Caesar to Heavensbee and from Rue to Beetee and even president Coin who we just met. But for some reason the characters that supposed to be most emotionally important to Katniss are also most bland - Peeta, Gale, Primrose and Katniss' mother (Do you know she still doesn't have a name listed? She's just credited as Katniss' mother). It'd be easier for me to care if Katniss was obsessing about Cinna than Peeta.

Add to this that this is a filler movie - just a set up for Part 2 when the real action is to happen - and the whole thing feels flat. It lacks a real stakes. The most emotionally moving part is Katniss and Finnick's PTSD. Luckily the conflict that is being set up is compelling. They do a good job showing both the plight of people and their persistence to fight back and the propaganda battle between the sides was easily the best part of the whole film (and the facelessness of the Peacekeepers against the all the faces of the oppressed was pure propaganda moment - Battleship Potemkin style). So even though this is a filler I'm pretty excited for the next part.

And the song is awesome.

Stop worrying and fly away
muppets
ellestra
I saw Birdman and I really liked it. It was much funnier than I expected. The obvious hook is the story of an famous ex-superhero actor trying to do some real acting and the meta layer of Michael Keaton playing him. The meta goes even deeper as the current era of the popularity of superhero movies and blockbusters in general is referenced. My favourite moment was when multiple actors are suggested and they are all unavailable because they are playing superheroes - from Robert Downey junior to Jeremy Renner. Of course when they find the actor it turns out to be played Edward Norton which makes it even funnier as he was Hulk once too. I know that they really wanted Michael Keaton to play in Birdman because of the Batman past. I don't know if they picked other actors based on their involvement in the genre but the fact that Norton, Emma Stone and even Naomi Watts (she was Jet Girl - it counts) also were in comic book adaptations really makes it feel like everyone has been in one (and if you also consider a big budget production - Andrea Riseborough was in Oblivion and Zach Galifianakis was of course in all the Hangover movies and Muppets). Like if you can name someone they must've been a super action hero or at least in a film with one.

[Birdman spoilers]
This is also a story about popularity and what it means in the time when everyone has an ability to take photos and videos and spread them worldwide at any moment. You are never out of view and everything will land on you tube or be retweeted and follow you like the Birdman is following Riggan. It's hard to escape the perception if the most famous role when everyone keeps seeing you as that role all the time. Both in admiration - like fans constantly asking for pictures and disdain - as people dismissing him as that critic did without even trying to judge his play on it's own merits. The fame is inescapable and so is the perception of you it created.

Birdman is also the constant temptation to go back to that level of fame. Riggan is obviously missing it and feels that it might've made a mistake when he gave it up. But he also hates it - he writes, directs and stars in the Broadway play to prove he's a real actor and he avoids all social media that constantly reminds everyone who he used to be. He wants to be taken seriously and it bothers him that people who are taken seriously are now famous for being superheroes. So he tries to ignore Birdman but he also secretly enjoys using the superpowers just like he hates his fame but uses it to get the play happen. And when he finally admits he misses it and for a moment a superhero action invades his world with it's giant monsters and sounds it's like The Avengers landing in the middle of Woody Allen's film. It really shows how unreal and over the top these blockbusters are but also how much more awesome than reality they seem. That's the moment Riggan gives up and that let's him enjoy it even thought it's because he decides to finish it once and for all. It takes near death experience that only made his resemblance of Birdman and his fame grow that makes stop trying to fight it and accept he cannot run away from it. And when he no longer cares to be bothered by it he can embrace it and have fun with it.

We only see him using superpowers when no one is around or at least we never see them from anyone else's point of view. It can all be in his mind - telekinesis and flying are all framed in such a way that he could be just imaging it. Until the end when his daughter looks up and smiles and even though we don't see it it finally seems like someone sees the superhero in him.

Of course there are faults in this film. The whole character of Mike is made of cliches about actors in general but especially Broadway ones. So is the daughter with her addiction. And most of all so is their romance. You just know it's coming just as a plot to make the dad feel even worse the moment they are introduced. Of course that's also true about the critic too. And I practically rolled my eyes at Lesley and Laura kiss. The only good part of that whole thing was Lesley kicking Mike out because of the whole stage rape attempt. No means no even when you share a vagina. But the truth is all of this is just background to Riggan story so it's painted with very broad stokes. His part is what makes the standard story of action star trying to prove his a real actor interesting and fun to watch.

Fantasy appreciation
winged
ellestra
I almost forgot about this so before it's too late here are the winners of The 2014 World Fantasy Awards:

Best Novel
A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

Best Novella
Wakulla Springs by Andy Duncan & Ellen Klages

Best Short Fiction
The Prayer of Ninety Cats by Caitlín R. Kiernan

Best Anthology
Dangerous Women by Gardner Dozois & George R.R. Martin

Best Collection
The Ape's Wife and Other Stories by Caitlín R. Kiernan

Best Artist
Charles Vess

Special Award - Professional
Irene Gallo for Art Direction of Tor.com

Special Award - Professional
William K. Schafer, Subterranean Press

Special Award - Non-Professional
Kate Baker, Neil Clarke, & Sean Wallace, Clarkesworld

And because I'm almost 2 weeks late here's an extra - Ursula Le Guin's acceptance speech for National Book Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in honor of her contribution to "American literary heritage".


You can read about Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket) thing on marysue. I was trying to have nice things here.

Comet Rider
slingers
ellestra
The last week in life of Philae lander was full of danger and excitement. I was waiting with this post until we know more about its ultimate fate and not as good as we hoped but not as bad as it seemed for a while. It did land, it's still on the comet and it sent a lot of useful data but for now it's in hibernation and it may never wake up.

It all started very well - perfectly documented in the xkcd comic of the day (here's frame by frame version). Philae landed perfectly on the chosen spot. I managed to time my day perfectly to be able to see the moment of landing. I wasn't the only one watching - comet landing was trending everywhere and people were pretty positive about it. I remember how happy and relieved they were in mission control - dropping the mike and everything - when it turned out the Philae landed. Then I returned to work and when I looked at it again the news weren't as good. But the harpoons didn't fire and Philae jumped and then jumped again. For next day everyone was worrying if it'd even be able to stick to the comet. This is how its jumps looked from Rosetta.


Eventually it stopped moving and was still on the comet. Unfortunately, it stopped in the shadow of a cliff and only gets 1.5 hours of sunlight per 12 hour comet day. This meant its batteries weren't able to recharge and the scientists scrambled to get it to sent as much data as possible before the battery died. They also risked detaching from the comet just before battery run out to get at least result from one drilling (hoping that if it make it jump again the next site might get more sunshine). That didn't happen but they managed to rotate the bigger solar panel to the sunny spot. Maybe once the comet gets closer the sun the battery would get enough charge again. But for now Philae sleeps.

But we did land on a comet in a mission that took 10 years and were only off by few tiny jumps. And we have stunning pictures from the surface of the comet and Philae sent the results from the landing and subsequent test. Just today it was announced that there is proof of carry organic compounds and they could've seeded Earth with them. And of course Rosetta mission continues as the probe travels with the comet towards the sun it will sample and analyse the gases and dust coming out of 67P.

[Click for some Space Porn]








Rollercoaster weather
lightning
ellestra
When I last commented on weather - on Thursday (all those leaves are gone now) - it was just getting colder after 20-something day that had people wearing shorts all over the campus. On Friday it was barely 5 and it felt colder and as soon as it got dark (and that's pretty soon now) it got even colder. It was -6oC at night and I had to take all the flowers from balcony inside. Then it started getting warmer again and today it was 20oC again and foggy, rainy in a kind of nice warm autumn way. Now it rapidly getting colder again and it's supposed to drop below freezing soon. Tomorrow's highest temperature 3o with windchill making it feel 5 degrees colder. It will feel below freezing all day. It will drop to -7 at night.

It's going to be colder here than in Warsaw, especially at night, but it's supposed to snow back home (with rain to make it really dangerous and unpleasant instead of pretty) so they are still closer to winter. Of course it already snowed in a US - it snowed in the mountains here in October (the skiing resort opened) and in New Mexico at the end of last week . And this second wave of cold is supposed to repeat it all over again (some more panicky media use the word blizzard, other just promise snow storms). I don't think it's going to snow here (my friend said she saw a snowflake on Friday but that's just hearsay) but my Brazilian co-worker can't wait to see some. For now she marvels at her first ever autumn leaves.

I'm waiting for another hot spell - week from now it's going to be above 20 again. Right now forecast says few 16o nights which means sleeping with open windows again. Although I wish the weather would just decide one way or the other. Right now it's almost like switching between winter and summer clothes on a daily basis.

I love mandarines
river song
ellestra
It's been almost a week and I still don't know how I feel about the ending of Doctor Who. There were things I loved and the things I hated but mostly my patience for grand, emotional things that make no sense has been worn thin by this series so I feel kind of annoyed.

[Doctor Who - Dark Water/Death in Heaven SPOILERS]
Let's start with Clara. She has no idea what 3W is but it seems like Danny only just got there and she just buried him so shouldn't she know about this new funeral thing that taken over the world and allows for communication with the dead? So it means that this is all happening in the future (and Missy transferred Danny to Nethersphere timey whimey right in time for Clara's arrival). Near future but still the future for Clara. Which means that if Doctor takes her home she has to live through 3W taking over and not react. Not tell Osgood she is doomed. Not try to find Danny earlier. Just wait till it's over and never see Danny again.

It's like the Moon thing. Clara doesn't seem like a person who would let all those millions die when she could just tell UNIT to help organise a way to save them and to spread the news that Moon dragon is harmless. Same with 3W - is she really just going to sit there ignore the Mistress setting up her trap? The whole thing starts with what she'd do to save Danny and it's blackmailing Doctor into creating a paradox. She doesn't seem like a person who would just stand by.

Maybe Doctor left her in that future. But then what her family and co-workers think about there being missing all that time? Maybe she doesn't live long enough. But what about Orson Pink? Is Clara pregnant and that's why she stays away? But she doesn't look pregnant in Christmas previews and I don't think she'd abandon a toddler to go on adventure with the Doctor.

This is just a tip of the iceberg of thought that sinks the plot when you start to think about it. How could remains of long dead people be any better than dirt? What about future people who have no remains (and robots)? If they get re-bodied too why would burning or not of a corpse really matter? And why say noone ever had this idea when Egyptians obviously did? Where does all that metal come from? Why were they even on a plane when they know about the clouds? Why did

I hated Danny's death. I suspected that he was going to die as he was way too perfect - understanding and forgiving and responsible and loving. So obviously he was fridged just to set the events in motion. I hate it when they make us like a character only so they can become a plot point. Especially when it's so obviously the only reason for their existence. (And no the reversal of usual male/female dynamic doesn't make it any better.)

I also hate that the Nethersphere had to disintegrate. I hate when things get a tidy ending like that - like it never happened and everyone will forget by the next day, right? Especially when I know it's so Danny could sacrifice himself one more time and Clara would be truly heart broken. Also because I'm sure Missy will be back and we went through so many fake deaths so far and resurrections it almost feels like Amy/Rory ending. Instead of sad I feel cheated because I feel like I'm being forced to feel sad. And I haven't even mentioned Osgood yet. She was way to genre savvy not to know what the whispering thing means. Is there a more cliche way of escape?

But I loved Michele Gomez as the Mistress. She was perfect mix of deranged and brilliant. The overcomplicated plan to give Doctor a present out of human race was perfectly in character. For a while Master was becoming more and more obsessed with the Doctor and now it reached true stoker level. I loved that she pretended to be android interface and the kissing and the Doctor's horror when she finally told him who she really was.

Clare impersonating the Doctor once again and lying and talking and manipulating her way out of the tight spot. I even liked how she did what the Doctor asked and didn't believe it was Danny even though he repeated her "I love you" back at her but then believed in him to the end and got Doctor to turn his emotions of because he asked her to do it. And how she risked everything to make Doctor bring him back. Just like Rory was ready to sacrifice the Universe for Amy. The Docotr responds well to that so helping her was a nice bit of continuity. I also loved how she couldn't get over how ordinary and boring his death was. She risked her life on dozens alien planets with the most bizzare circumstances and he was run over by a car. This was one moment when I truly felt the sadness about Danny's death (instead of annoyance).

And I loved Cybermen reveal and UNIT and Kate and Osgood and how Osgood tricked Missy so she could be captured. I loved Cyberman Brigadier saving his daughter and Doctor saluting. This was perfect and perfectly timed in the weekend before the 11 of November. And that Doctor in the end gave the choice back to humans - Danny and the other dead - to save their own world.


So I don't know how I feel. But hopefully the Christmas episode will make it better (and resolve some issues). It has Nick Frost as Santa Claus and can there be anyone more perfect for that (just look at his name)? And it seems like he can go toe to toe with Doctor - at least in this Children in Need (you can donate here) special:
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Jesień
sunrise
ellestra
Last year it ended to fast but this year it's been warm and sunny so far so autumn looks pretty spectacular. The best season here. The temperatures are nice - it's middle of November and only now we are to have a longer period of below 10oC at day and regular below freezing at night. So far it's only been one or two cold nights in the row before getting really warm again. It was even 20-something still yesterday. I don't have the horrible allergies I have in spring. And the colours are spectacular. Just look at this:



[Click for more...]



Space still more inspiring than down here
slingers
ellestra
Today everyone celebrated the end of a war that started 100 years ago. My family back home is just finishing a 4 day weekend. They saw light show yesterday but today, on the actual holiday, they obviously stayed home. There is nothing like "patriots" celebrating Independence Day by destroying the capitol to want to avoid celebrating.

So let's concentrate on something better. Middle of the night for me and early morning in Europe Philae will detach from Rosetta and start his descent towards the comet. The whole thing will take about 7 hours and will be transmitted on the web so, if you can, you can have it play in the background at work. He can't wait. Let's hope he succeeds.

Through sacrifice to wormholes
slingers
ellestra
I saw Interstellar this weekend. In IMAX because the film is incredibly beautiful. Everyone talks about the wormhole and the black hole but for me it was Saturn that really took my breath away. I loved all the effects of the ship - from practical ones for zero g to the spin of the Endurance. And of course the blight dust on Earth that sold the whole end of civilization premise. A kind of prelude to The Windup Girl on screen.

The blight seemed to be one of those fungi diseases that are the most dangerous to our crops. They can spreads easily because the plant we use are not just monocultures but also often clones. We already've lost the most tasty banana and cacao farms in Brazil to fungal disease. When I was a kid we would burn the dried potato stems in Autumn but now the above the ground part doesn't live long enough. One day this can be our future.

Of course we cannot really change our food sources. There is 7 billion people to feed and the strains we use now where chosen for maximum efficiency. Introducing genetic diversity would most likely make them less productive. So we hope our technology will save us. So this is a story of human spirit and ingenuity and god-like intervention - a strange science and higher power merger - to save human kind. All working together for higher goal - the long road to safe future.

And it is contrasted with short sightedness of people who only think about their own well being and short term comforts that ultimately lead to decline and death. The refusal to even consider more than immediate future and their own safety it might lead to exactly the kind of denial that was the most chilling part of this story. The way that teacher dismissed Moon landing as hoax - it's like the most crackpot deniers got to teach their version in school - just so people don't think of flying when they need to stay to dig in dirt. Even when that's the only thing that can save them.

[Musings on main themes - main story SPOILERS]
Murphy is contrasted with her brother. He is a good farmer - someone more useful in the short term survival but ultimately doomed. She is useless in the crucial food production sense but she hold the keys to the long term survival. But they both try to do what is best for their family and in a way they complement each other. When Ben looses his faith in his father Murphy finally starts understand him. His life allows her achieve the final solution - from letting her follow her scientific interests to keeping her room intact. But in the end it's the science that can save us all. From NASA being the only ones looking to the future and actually trying to save everyone instead just delaying the inevitable doom to the ultimate abandoning of Earth for the habitats we make for ourselves. (Also I loved that in the future Murphy Cooper is the science hero and her father, brother and professor Brand are background men who made it possible - footnotes in her story - one day we may get see that story filmed.)

This was also the story of sacrifice and what you have to do despite the cost and then ultimate reward. About the dichotomy between personal need and the need of all and how sometimes they can be reconciled. When Coop leaves his family it's also between their immediate suffering and their ultimate safety. Coop picks the long goal every time - leaves his daughter even though she begs him not to, goes down to Miller's planet despite time dilation, shoots down Brads ramblings about love to out vote her on the planet of choice and sacrifices himself at the end to let humanity live and gets all his wishes - safety of his family and survival of human race.

While Mann breaks and picks his survival over the human race. He was the best of them all, an inspiration to all the other explores and he broke down when confronted with the reality of it. He fell. He lies and tries to kill them and sprouts excuses because he's unable to confront his own failings and dies due to it. Right above his own frozen hell. In many ways it's a parable on morality where good deeds and selflessness are rewarded and the bad ones are punished.

I knew the moment Coop got those coordinates they were sent so he could go to space. When it turned out NASA didn't do it on purpose I knew that they came from the future - he already went on that mission so he had to have the information to get there. I wasn't sure if he sent it himself or if future humans did it. It turned out it was both. I also suspected from the very first mention that the wormhole was put there by the future humans there - if gravity can be manipulate through time who has a more motivation to save human race than human race? They were ensuring their own future as Coop was ensuring his.


Of course I didn't like everything. My biggest issue was with the sound. It often drowned out the dialogue so I was wishing I was back in Poland so there'd be subtitles. Some of it contained important information so I think a lot of issues people have with plot may come from missing pieces of exposition.

Everything else here is mostly nitpicking - you don't really care much watching because the film takes up too much of your attention and it's science fiction anyway. But it's pretty hard sf, one of hardest on film, so science inadequacies feel more pronounced here than in, let's say, Star Wars.

[Very Big SPIOLERS]
I hated Brand's ramblings about love as 5th dimension that changes universe or something. Biology and evolution don't work like that and movies always butcher those even worse than physics. I loved when Coop dismisses it and she got outvoted even though I knew it meant for sure she was right. luckily she was only literally right about the planet. The whole love thing was figurative.

A lot of people seemed to misunderstand that and think love was the 5D and saved Coop and created the connection through time and space but that's not true. Love wasn't 5th dimension. It had nothing to do with surviving black hole or physics. That was something the 5th dimensional beings did. They created the tesseract of all moments of Murphy's room so Coop could send the data TARS collected (something quantum or other). That data was what finally saved the second part of the equation that allowed for combining gravity and quantum mechanics to find a way lift all the people and materials they need to survive off Earth (there wasn't enough rockets or fuel to do it traditional way so they would all die). This allowed humanity to build the vast habitats a safely live in space.

Love was only used to find when to get that data to Murphy. It was used for social interaction - Coop knew Murphy so he knew which moment to use to give her the information and what to use so she'd understand what it is. Love is used just to understand human psychology. It has no effect on the physics. Because Coop loved Murphy he knew when to give the data to her and what to use so she would understand it and receive it. The 5D beings/future humans didn't know where(&when) to send it without him. If she missed it or misunderstood it it'd all be in vain. It had nothing to do with physics or 5th dimension.It had nothing to do with physics and all to do with human interaction. Which is were love belongs so I was fine with it.

All the exotic physics - wormhole, survival of black hole, tesseract, even the gravity used to communicate with Murph is supplied by 5D beings. Love is only used for understanding human psychology so the right moment could be picked for transferring information.

I had much bigger issues with the fact that they had to go down on all those planets to find out what was wrong with them. Didn't the probes measured temperature and atmosphere contents? Why didn't Endurance have instruments do do this? Why didn't the Lazarus people just transmit this - it couldn't get through the wormhole but it could help the coming ship from Earth prepare for choosing the right place to land? They all seem to have ships that could travel around the planet (Mann did) so wouldn't it make sense to leave couple of satellites on the orbit to get a clue about surface so you can pick the safe spot on the planet. In fact a lot of problems could've been avoided if the Lazarus people would spent some time orbiting and researching their planets before landing. You know, like we do in real life. I hate it when drama just comes from people being stupid. Especially when we are told they are really smart.

I know the black whole was modelled very carefully on actual equations by Kip Thorne and that the star light was a star smeared over the event horizon. And the wormhole entrance seems to be pretty neat representation of how that could look like. But I'm not sure some of those things would actually work the way they are shown. Like the first planet - the tides are pretty neat and obvious with a planet so close to a back holes but everything else? Would it even survive the tidal forces so close to black hole that one hour equals seven years? I know gravity weakens in square ratio with distance but is this really fast enough that, just in a little further orbit (they flew there in back with an orbiter), it was 23 years for Endurance? I'm not good enough at physics to check this without hours of research but all that could've all been solved with above points.

How does the frozen clouds work? How come dr. Mann, someone with knowledge and experience in space travel, wouldn't know what will happen if he depressurised an airlock like that? I knew that. And they didn't tell him - they just tell him not to do it. You start with the "like an explosion" part in a case like this. And finally how come they needed giant rocket to get off Earth but the lander can get them off 1.3 g Miller's planet?

Also why Coop had to sneak out to get to Brand? Shouldn't habitat humans send someone to get her - or at least tell her plan A worked - the moment Coop woke up and told them she was still out there? They had the resources. This whole thing of her (and even her and Coop) being parents to (other Galaxy) whole human race was kind of creepy. Or maybe those habitats are going to Edmunds planet too. Just slowly because they are big. That's much better ending.

And the weak point that probably is more important to non-science people is that TARS was the best character in the whole movie. The jokes, banter, saving single humans and humanity as a whole. Now that I think about it I'm convinced TARS is the future 5D being - the ultimate god-like AI.

My PhD was hard to explain even with words
tiger
ellestra
Every year Science organises the Dance Your PhD contest. Here are all the finalist from Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Social Sciences categories. And this is the winner:


Science isn't always easy to portray in art and it's rarely accurate but Interstellar had it's own science advisor Kip Thorne is Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena design some of it's special effects. New Scientist has spoiler-free guide to the science of Interstellar. Space ships and science - two things I really like together.

And here is first teaser trailer for season 3 of Orphan Black - just in time for Orphan Black Friday

Winter is coming
telamon
ellestra
There are a lot of awesome Halloween costumes all over the web but this one beats them all (straight in the feels). I never noticed the resemblance before.


The clear sign that the year ends is near - The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies trailer is here:


We are also getting promos for winter TV.
[The Librarians and Agent Carter]The Librarians series is coming next month and it looks fun (I always liked the movies and as Discworld teaches us one should not cross librarians)


And the Agent Carter preview that aired during Marvel special (Jarvis actor looks a lot like Paul Bettany, doesn't he?)