Archive for April 2014

Man from Atlantis   Leave a comment

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Okay, I’ll admit it: I had a crush on this guy.  I’ll also admit to being, what, 15 at the time too.  But in my teenage head, Patrick Duffy…er…Mark Harris had it going on.  Strangely, one of my best friends in the universe, Marc Harrison (whose names strangely seemed familiar and made me wonder about where exactly was he from) didn’t think the same way.

Anyway, just look at him: angry, wet, confused.  If you saw this guy wash up on the shore, complete with gills and webbed hands/feet, and naked too, wouldn’t you think this was some kind of college frat prank?  How’d you react when this being woke up, didn’t know who he was or where he came from?  I admit, I’d be scratching my head, too.  “Sure, buddy, I know…it’s those Delta Taus again, eh?  All right, who put the ‘shroom in your booze?”

Sadly enough, it wasn’t me that found him, since he washed up on California (I think, anyway) and I lived in New Jersey, where other sorts of stuff managed to find their way on our beaches.  That honor was left to Dr. Elizabeth Merrill, who discovered him, saw real potential and made him whole again.

And BOY! could he swim!  There Mark was, in that weird swimming motion with his hands to his sides, a bit like a jackknife under water.  Since I grew up on the ocean, I tried this maneuver regularly, generally managing to get copious amounts of water up my nose (or bang into people).

Mark sure caught the attention of the US Navy and, as the United States government generally does, found a purpose for him.  They recruited him to find a lost submarine filled with important people (as if the regular crew didn’t count).  After deciding this person has to be the last remaining survivor of Atlantis (which I believed existed under my ocean, but what do I know), the Foundation for Oceanic Research thinks he’s pretty cool too.  They offer him a job and although Mark first demurs, he changes his mind and, much to the delight of Dr. Merrill, stays.

Of course, every show worth its salt needs a boo-hiss character, and MFA had Schubert.  He was a forward-thinking kind of scientist, largely misinterpreted and ill-understood.  Aren’t they all?  In his arsenal he had, of all things, giant microwaves to melt polar ice caps.  Strangely enough, if Schubert had survived long enough to be around today, he’d realize how unnecessary that instrument of evil is, since they’re melting anyway due to the effects of climate change…unless Schubert is behind this…and the giant microwaves are REALLY the culprit…

Schubert also altered genetics to create a monstrous jellyfish designed to wreak terror on the unsuspecting innocent.  That’s a common plot theme now, but in 1977 that was rather amazing.  He even devised a weapon to knock out satellites, a common occurrence as well in sci-fi.

Unwittingly foreshadowing the future, Mark meets his twin Billy in a Wild West Town, although Billy’s webbing has been removed.  A short time later, Patrick Duffy plays Bobby in that other Wild West town, Dallas.  He doesn’t have webbing in this one, but he dies and miraculously appears in the shower.  That’s pretty close to washing up on shore and saying you don’t remember who you are or where you came from.

Probably the most shocking thing about MFA is that while it aired in the UK, it beat Dr. Who in the ratings.

What a shame this show with such potential only lived for four movies and 13 episodes.  My teenage heart was crushed.  Still, I always had in the back of my mind Mark Harris would wash up on my Jersey shore, ready to launch a new adventure.

I’m still waiting…

Posted April 28, 2014 by seleneymoon in Sci-Fi TV Shows, science fiction

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Every Parent’s Nightmare   2 comments

Car Accident

As I put the finishing touches on dinner the other night, the phone rings.

It’s my daughter, hysterical.  I can’t understand anything she’s saying.  After the third attempt, she tells me she’s in an accident.

It’s every parent’s nightmare to hear those words.  Yet, some sort of calming influence overtook me.  Deep inside, there was this instinct that said, “Steady, now, it’s really going to be all right, but you must keep a clear mind.”  So I did.  I told my husband and son what happened, said to go ahead and eat, and I’d let them know what happened.

Our house, fortunately, is only a mile from the site.  I rush down there not knowing what to expect.

It’s going to be a long night.

Rain had cleared and the sun lowered in the sky, but the roads were still slick.  A curve taken too fast and a car spinning out of control.  An inexperienced driver overreacting to a potentially fatal situation.

The police hadn’t arrived yet, but a medical technician helps my daughter, the passenger, after checking both she and the driver.  She calls 911.  My daughter’s friend is able to move and gets out of the car. The technician (who happened to be driving to work and passed the scene right after it occurred), assists my daughter into the driver’s seat.  She’s in pain and extremely frightened.  A neighbor witnessed the incident and also called 911, then rushed to the scene.  He waves vehicles on as I get out, explaining who I am.  Then the police and EMT show up.  After a few questions, they put both on backboards and lift them into the ambulance.

I feel numb.  It’s like that’s someone else’s kid there.  I see this car, smashed up, and am grateful nothing worse had come of it.  To be honest, I don’t even know how I made it to the hospital.  My mind certainly wasn’t on the road.

Once at the hospital, I meet up with her friend’s parents and sister, who are both parts calm and rattled, as am I.  I took pictures of the accident and sent them via my phone to theirs.  Our kids are lifted out of the back of the ambulance.  My daughter’s friend cries.  Although he held himself together admirably at the scene, suddenly the impact of the incident overtakes him.  I can’t possibly feel angry or upset with him, only sorry that the entire thing happened.

We are fortunate to have a good hospital nearby.  Immediately both kids are checked out by a full retinue of nurses, technicians and doctors.  All sorts of tests are taken and monitors are hooked to their arms and chests.  The friend’s father and sister pop in to see how my daughter is doing.  I assure them she’s holding together rather well.  I join them and visit her friend.  He’s still upset and I make him laugh a little.  That reassures me as well.

Laying perfectly still, my daughter is in shock, going over and over in her mind the events leading up to the accident.  “We were laughing and joking, and the next thing you know we T-boned the tree,” she says, minus the tears now.  I wet a paper towel and wipe the smeared mascara from her face.  It refreshes her.  “I felt really sticky,” she said.  “That’s probably from the airbag and whatever dust and goop flew up from inside the car,” I say.  “Besides, you don’t look so much like an accident victim now,” I continued, cleaning the last bits of blackness from her cheeks.  She smiles.

The hours drag on as both kids go for CAT scans, MRIs, X-rays and a whole battery of tests.  I’m aware of the fact my daughter hasn’t eaten or drank for hours, and go to the cafeteria to check out the diminishing supply of food available at this late hour.  Water and a ham sandwich seem to be the only palatable things remaining in their stocks.  Returning to the room, she’s not allowed to eat until the tests come back clear.  Finally, at nearly 11:00 pm, they say she can have something.  My daughter is starving and wolfs down her food.

Finally, we’re released.  The doctor tells her she’s going to be okay, but really, truly stiff and sore for a few days and tells her to take it easy.  We drive home under the stars shining up in the sky.  I sigh, paying even more attention to the now-dry roads.  We pass the curve where the accident took place, and my daughter eyes warily the scene.  A boy only two years older and the star wrestler of her school, took a similar curve way too fast two weeks previously.  He died, ending a life full of promise.  Realizing her life could have ended similarly, my daughter now says with great insight, “Man, we were lucky, weren’t we?”

I reply, “Yes, you certainly were.”

Quietness fills our car as we pull into the driveway.  I help her out and up the stairs.  Everyone’s in bed, fast asleep.  I finally make it there myself, grateful this evening was over, and everyone was safe in our house.

 

Posted April 25, 2014 by seleneymoon in Personal Anecdotes

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Return of the Herdsman   Leave a comment

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Herding the heavens is a job requiring skill, dedication and longevity.  There is such a person, if you will, who’s been doing it as close to forever as imaginable.

Allow me to introduce Boötes, otherwise known as The Herdsman.  Boötes commands his starry field every spring and summer, rising in the east at sunset in April and traveling across the skies all summer long.  He sits on a dark perch, staring at his charges while smoking a pipe.  In his lap rests Arcturus (“guardian of the bear” in ancient Greek).  He pays particular attention to the Great Bear (Ursa Major) and the Little Bear (Ursa Minor, or Little Dipper), keeping a watchful eye on both.

Boötes has a lot going for him, with so much history and celestial happenings, he deserves his given name.  Ptolomy counted him among the original 48 constellations, making him one of the oldest recorded constellations on record.  Homer mentions him in The Odyssey.  it contains the fourth brightest star in the sky, Arcturus, with a magnitude of .  To open the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair, that particular star’s light shone on a photoelectric cell.  Arcturus also changes its place in the heavens more rapidly than any other of the bright stars.  1600 years ago, it was about one full moon’s width farther northeast in the sky.

Izar (also known as Pulcherrima), the star located at Boötes’ neck, is not one star but three.  The largest is a yellow 2.5 magnitude star, the secondary star is a 4.6 magnitude blue star, and the tertiary is a magnitude 12.0 star (not visible to the naked eye).  Izar is easily visible and with a telescope, all three stars can be seen moving around each other.

In addition to Izar, there are also 8 other multiple stars, including XI Bootis, a quadruple star consisting of a primary yellow star of magnetite 4.7 and a secondary orange star of magnitude 6.8, and two others

And if that weren’t enough, there are at least 6 stars that host planetary systems, all containing Jupiter-like planets.  Add to that mix one globular cluster and other star clusters, a gaggle of galaxies, as well as a huge void empty of galaxies.

Just to show you that he’s not finished with you yet, Boötes hosts several meteor showers throughout the year, beginning with the Quadrantid meteor shower that occurs around January 3-4.  The June Bootids aren’t quite as remarkable, but one never knows what might surprises might come of it.  Throughout the year there are also other minor meteor events too, but nothing to match these.

So: break out your telescope, make friends with Herdsman, and explore the universe in one easy, convenient location.

 

Posted April 21, 2014 by seleneymoon in Stars and Constellations

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Uniformly Fashionable   Leave a comment

I’d like to know this:  who comes up with the uniforms for all those space missions out there?  I mean, once we’re out and about in galaxies afar, does anyone really care whether or not our outfits match?  Or that they’re in uniform?

Take, for example, this example:

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Space: 1999 publicity shot

The color palate is beige with a touch of red and a slap of mustard, reminiscent of a hot dog bun with ketchup and mustard.

Now, compare it to this:

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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan publicity shot

This is a riff off of the above, except we’ve gotten rid of the ketchup and replaced it with relish and chafing dish pan.

Both are going for the comfort angle, because, as we all know, traveling in either a ship or moon requires it.  Take a closer look at both casts.  S:1999 pose as if they own the look; STII gaze embarrassingly off into the distance.

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And these two for women:  for whose benefit are these impossibly short hemlines?  Even sitting’s a chore in these, a constant battle between modesty v. duty.  Sure, Kirk’s going to throw down his pen and say, “Say, can you pick that up for me?” as he gives his best lecherous stare.  And the hair – if you’re fighting Klingons, who’s got the time to fuss with such an intricate do?

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This drove me nuts:  why is it open?  Does it allow for more comfort, sort of like opening the top button?  Does it show that an officer has his guard down, or up during battle and needs to breathe? How do you keep it closed, anyway?

 

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And speaking of dresses, Picard in his literal dress uniform.  Note the look of defeated resignation in his face.  I’m sure he’s thinking: Magenta?  REALLY?  This would have been much chicer in grey…

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ST: Enterprise publicity shot

Although purple wouldn’t have been my first choice, kudos for at least some consistency in the uniforms.  At least T’Pol has coverage, albeit rather snugly.  She’s shapely, so she pulls it off well.

 

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STSG: Nemesis publicity shot

Finally, I have to admit, the above is the most professional and utilitarian of all uniforms in the ST series.  Why, oh why, didn’t they just go to these in the first place?  Guess it takes many tries before you get it right.

 

 

Lunar Eclipsed   Leave a comment

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Credit: NASA

Darn.  It’s cloudy at my house.  Worse, it’s going to rain soon.  And here I was, all set and poised to watch all sorts of celestial happenings tonight, starting with the total lunar eclipse.  But no, nature has other plans, so I might as well pull the covers under my chin and succumb to Mr. Sandman’s spell.

But wait!  There’s more!

If anyone can’t see tonight’s total eclipse opportunity in the continental United States, there will be at least a partial lunar eclipse on October 8, visible from most of the continental United States and some totality will be visible on the West Coast.  Hawaii and Alaska will have totality.

Here’s something else you might not know: lunar and solar eclipses come in pairs.  Separated by two weeks, the moon and the sun do a dance wherein a lunar eclipse is followed two weeks later by a solar eclipse.  On April 29, 2014, there is a annular solar eclipse visible in the southernmost regains of the globe:  Antarctica, Australia (most of it will be visible only as partial) and regions of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.  An annular eclipse, by the way, means that the moon travels in front of the sun, but there remains a ring of sun around the edge.  It gets dim, but not totally dark.

Now, generally speaking, the shadows for a lunar eclipse are much larger than a solar eclipse.  However, occasionally one region of the globe might see both a lunar and a solar eclipse in the same two-week period.  That will occur in October of this year.  That October 8 lunar eclipse will be visible, from every continent except Africa.  It won’t be a total eclipse in many regions, but nearly the whole globe will catch some action.  On October 23, nearly all of North America, a portion of the Pacific and far eastern Asia, plus a slip of the Atlantic will catch at least a portion of the solar eclipse.  It will only be a partial solar eclipse in all areas, but again, depending upon where one is located, one may see more or less of the sun covered by the moon’s shadow.

If you are lucky enough to see the eclipse tonight, there’s other spectacles to observe.  Right around the moon, there’s bright red Mars, which you can’t miss, and off to the right is Jupiter, located in Gemini.  Spica, the brightest star in Virgo (and where the moon is located presently) is practically knocking on the moon’s door, only one or two degrees from the moon.

So if you’re blessed with clear (or partly-cloudly) skies and not doing very much at 1:20 am EDT  (or 10:20 PDT on the West Coast), go out and have yourself a look!  You won’t be sorry.

Enjoy!

Posted April 14, 2014 by seleneymoon in Eclipses

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Left in the Dust   Leave a comment

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Opportunity.  Credit: NASA

 

There’s a really hard worker out there, a senior citizen by many standards, who labors daily to investigate new discoveries and justify employment.  It’s a familiar circumstance, as anyone who’s been to McDonald’s lately and notices the grey-haired workers slinging burgers behind the counter.

Except this time, we’re talking about a enterprising, determined robot named Opportunity.

NASA’s ten-year-old scrappy little fella keeps plugging away, searching through the red dust looking for, well, new opportunities.  And like many senior citizens out there, he’s survived wretched conditions: blazing heat, frigid winters, uncertain circumstances, life out in the open without so much as a complaint.  Somehow, someway it’s continued to plug away at the only job it has ever known, and that’s reporting its findings back to the scientists who record its reports and disseminate whatever they contain in the name of research.

Those days might end a whole lot sooner than anyone thinks.  The 2015 NASA budget has been slashed, with zero funds for our Earthern expatriate.

What’s becoming of America and its intrepidness?  I mean, really?

I’m not really a political person, but when I see opportunities lost (and this isn’t a pun) such as the one on Mars, I feel a bit more of our prestige going down the toilet.  We should be proud that a robot as resilient as Opportunity still continues to operate. as we almost certainly are with Voyagers 1 and 2.  And yes, there are plenty other missions slated for Mars, including manned ones.  But why quit an Opportunity now, when there’s still so much to be gained?

Our nation once threw itself into the space race full tilt.  Those days have ebbed, but the drive to encourage and educate young scientists isn’t fostered as diligently as it once was, or should still be.  I find this ironic, since we seem to be heading into second golden age of Sci-Fi.  With all the interest in what’s going to unfold in the future, shouldn’t we take a little hunk of our past and keep it going?

Though we’re gaining ground of what sort of planet Mars truly is, it’s become a group effort among nations.  Everybody who’s industrialized seems to have their eyes set squarely on Mars, for science and the inevitable drive for profit.

Which leaves me to wonder: is America up to the challenge anymore?  Does America really care about its space legacy?  Has it lost its imagination about how far we can go?

I sure hope not.  I’m still betting Star Trek is a chronicle of the future, sent back to us here in the past, just like ST IV: The Journey Home.

Posted April 10, 2014 by seleneymoon in Space Missions, Star Trek

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That Sunday Night HBO Show   Leave a comment

Ah, once again it’s time for Game of Thrones!  Now, who out there isn’t a big fan, eh?  Oh, come on, of core you are!

Despite the casts of millions, a mind-numbing mixture of destinations, arrivals and journeys, including the slowest military march on record, I kind of manage to keep abreast of where the people are located at a particular point.

Just don’t ask me to name anybody, their kingdom/allegiance or who’s loyal to whom.

You see, to me GOT is like the ocean.  One sits on the beach and enjoys the complexities that the moving tides offer, what the water casts upon the shore, how the curls of the waves vary with each undulation and the changing colors of the sea, depending on the time of day and weather.  It’s all great to watch, and you never know what the sea’s going to toss in your direction.

I sit there on Sunday night, watching HBO at 9:00 pm (EDT) on the beach that is my couch.  The ever-shifting fortunes of the characters never quite know what’s going to bring, even though they all speculate and plot what they believe to be their destinies/goals/outcome.  Sometimes, their plans go splendidly, and other times, there’s that red herring no one expected to turn from celebratory to devastation.

I didn’t read any of the books the series is based on, “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George RR Martin.  Not that big, huge books frighten me, I’ve been a fan of loads of 500+ paged books and the authors who wrote them (James Michener is one – not sci-fi, but a wonderful storyteller all the same).  I have consulted a wiki of Ice and Fire occasionally to help keep me kind-of straight with who’s who.  That’s about as far as I’ll commit to the novels.  Truth be told, there’s so much out there to pay attention to and I only have so much time to spare.  Dedicating one’s self to both a multi-part miniseries AND an ongoing series of books strains my free time.  Although this is horrible to admit, I do have to set my priorities.  That’s not to say one day I’ll find myself on a beach reading them, I just can’t right now.

Anyway, the HBO series is too well-produced to pass up, and from what I understand, they do a fine job of translating the novels to the mini-screen.  Best of all, I only have to devote one hour a week.  Fantasy for the fast track, I’d like to admit.

Thank God there’s FINALLY something good to watch on Sunday night!

Posted April 7, 2014 by seleneymoon in Sci-Fi TV Shows

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