Archive for August 2009

So Is It A Planet?

August 24, 2009

And Why Not???

Pluto From New Horizons

Pluto From New Horizons

From CNN on-line:

It was three years ago Monday that the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet, a decision that made jaws drop around the world.

An outcry followed, textbooks had to be rewritten, long-held beliefs were shattered, and many people felt our cosmic neighborhood just didn’t seem the same with eight — instead of nine –planets in the solar system.

Well, even though I was working on the New Horizons Mission to Pluto at the time, my jaw didn’t exactly drop. The debate had been going on for awhile. Besides. It’s just nomenclature. As it was, ever since Arthur C. Clarke pointed out that Europa was every bit as interesting as Jupiter, astronomically speaking, many of us had sort of realized early on that there was more to the Solar System than just planets, comets and asteroids.

Not that planets were downgraded, mind you. It was more like everything else was upgraded in importance. The icing on that particular cake was that astronomers began to realize that even the planets were more varied than originally supposed. There weren’t just two kinds; rocky like the Earth and gaseous-giants like Jupiter. It seems better now to recognize that Uranus and Neptune might be yet a third class – with interiors that are much different than the others, and with unique formation-histories to boot. The discovery of large ice-balls in the outer solar system, of which Pluto is  the earliest known (and probably best) example, is merely the last step in that march.

So, planet or no, Pluto is going to be a great place to visit.  Too long a commute to live there, however.

How I Got Chucked Into Submission

August 17, 2009

And Not In A Very Nice Way, Either

I’ve gone on record writing superlatives about the TV show Chuck. It’s become my favorite. If you decide to follow that link, you’ll find all of season 1 and most of season 2 available on-line. Watch the pilot and any other episode, and you’ll see. Watch the last 6 episodes of season 2 and you may come away thinking you’ve seen some of the best TV ever made. Really.

But that’s not what I’m here to tell you about today.

I’ve been a contributor (not in a small way, but by no means the largest) to the NBC boards for the show (under Community and Message Boards, you’ll find many posts written by me as Bucko27, but there are many tens of thousands of posts there. Happy hunting!). The boards have been active, and were extraordinarily active by the end of the show’s second season. They were active again in July during and after the San Diego Comic-Con, where the cast and creators made an appearance. Appearance? They brought the house down.

What happened next was – complicated.

Show creator Josh Schwartz let go a tiny tidbit of information about the direction of next season that made some fans reach for their pitch forks. He intimated that there was going to be some sort of love interest to complicate the romance brewing between the (main) characters. Well, some fans assumed “main” and others didn’t and some got very upset. The boards were full of rants and raves and predictions that this was the end of Chuck as we know it. It gets more raucus. Show writer Ali Adler creates a video and posts it on YouTube to calm down the broken hearted fans, and that seems to work.

But as you can see, her video is gone now, for “violating terms of use.”

It gets more complicated. Something called a “script side” was released, which contained show spoilers that seemed to confirm some of the biggest fears the fans had. The side itself seems to have been deliberately released by either the shows creators or by the shows owners (Warner Bros.). The boards were once again ablaze and I was one of several posting about the direction the show seemed to be taking (but in a very general and congenial way). That was enough to get me “moderated”. That is, my posts are held in limbo until a moderator reviews them to make sure they’re not in violation of the rules.  Who did this?  It was one moderator in particular.

Okay? Not really. There’s several reasons why placing me in moderation limbo was not justified, but I’m not going to argue that here. It turns out that many others were effectively banned from the boards too. The list includes, not only some personal friends (who are great writers and fans, btw), but also names like DarthRazorBack and Wendy Farrington.  The names may not mean anything to you, but Darth is no minor player, and has done more to promote the show than anybody outside of the cast, with the possible exception of Wendy.  Wendy is more responsible than anyone for the Subway campaign that was credited with saving the show from cancellation in April, and those photos are of the cast thanking her.  IOW, I’m in fine company. Oh – Here’s DarthRazorBack’s take on the matter.  He contends that the same moderator who put me in purgatory, who banned him too, also got YouTube to remove Ali Adler’s video.

And what’s happened to the boards of late is – not awesome. To be honest, some have carried on a conversation quite nicely in my absence (ahem!). But where once there had been many hundreds of posts a day, at one point this week the number of posts had dropped to a handful. Single digits.

I’m not blaming NBC for this tempest in a medium size teapot. It certainly doesn’t stop me from being a fan of the show. But I will contend that one moderator has really botched this one. Badly. I doubt that it’s a good strategy for anyone to insult the show’s biggest fans in NBC’s name.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

August 16, 2009

Besides Job Hunting, That Is…

This, my friends, is a butterfly.

Or is it a moth?

Or is it a moth?

Well, maybe not. Maybe it’s a moth. All summer long the best regional park in my area is showing, yet again, it’s regularly hatched extravaganza of wings and colors, called Flights of Fancy. It used to be called a butterfly museum, but we found out that they lied about some of those insects.
Not all butterflies are created equal. Some are orange.

Orange Butterfly

Orange Butterfly

…and some most certainly are not.

Not Orange.

Not Orange.

Some are just blurry. Quantum mechanical, I think.

A Quantum Butterfly

A Quantum Butterfly

Sorry ’bout that, chief. I’m not quite the photographer my brother and nephew are. Christie Brinkley never did return my calls, you see. Let’s try that again.

Smile!

Smile!

And with a better color.

Show off!

Show off!

They’re all hungry little dickens’.

Yummy

Yummy

And this guy wanted a lift home.

Hitching a ride

Hitching a ride

Feeding time at the butterfly zoo.

Chomp!

Chomp!

Okay – blurry, but caught in mid-flight!

Airborn!

Airborn!

Time to rest.

Take a Bow

Take a Bow

All in all, not a bad day.