This posting requires a huge preface and will still end up causing all sorts of heckling of me by my friends, but yet I think I still need to post it.  No. I do not like the move "Stargate". I think that the movie as it stands alone had the best potential to be an amazing sci-fi movie, and then turned into a lame desert movie. I have long said that there is a point in the movie where you can feel the actual turning point from "hey, this is cool" into "holy crap, this sucks!"

That said, if you take what the movie might have tried to do and combine it with the ten seasons of Stargate SG-1 that followed, then you have something. Perhaps the movie should not have been about the discovery of the gate or the things on the other side of the portal it opened, but somewhere in the middle. Regardless, Stargate SG-1 (and the Atlantis spinoff) have become one of the few things I look forward to on TV these days.  And so, of course, they're cancelling it.

I've read a few of the opinions on the Slashdot thread that brought the news to my door, and I figured that I must give mine here, since I feel that my opinion is not really represented among the many I've read.  I've always found Stargate SG-1 to be a low-quality show, especially in the early seasons. The sets are all basically the same. The "big enemy" remained the same through much of the show. The budget was obviously not as high as some shows (Battlestar Galactica), even though it seemed higher to me than others (Babylon 5).  The recent few seasons have really improved and brought me in, though. My theory is that the show's producers decided to throw together the Atlantis spin-off as a whim. They figured that with the critical success of Galactica and the longevity of Stargate SG-1, they could create a new show with a bigger budget and see what happened. And to everyone's surprise, the new show worked!  And so following the "more money equals better show" logic, they wisely increased the SG-1 budget and brought in good actors to replace Richard Dean Anderson's crappy character, while simultaneously pulling in the justifiably disgusted Farscape audience. They built a story around a big enemy who is scary, not just because of its on-screen effects but because it is topical. It makes me want to watch.  Atlantis isn't a bad show. I think I may become tired of "the wraith vs. the ancients" idea too soon. I would rather explore the additional gate worlds and have new, complex stories about alliances with the people there. They could even entrench the wraith more deeply as the enemy and bump the show up a notch.  What I worry about is the quality of the shows that will supplant Stargate SG-1. Look at Eureka, for example. I thought it would be a cool show, having seen all the neat promo shots. But the thing looks like it was filmed on a cheap backlot in Canada, and the writers seem to have taken no effort to compose their stories. The second episode was about ghosts, for pity's sake. In a town full of scientific geniuses, if you have the need to reach for the supernatural in your second episode for stories, then you've got serious writing problems. And this "section five" crap is not being done well, if it should be done at all.  I don't know how to explain that Eureka simply feels bad, like The Chronicle, that crappy show about the tabloid reporters who learn that all that tabloid "fiction" is actually real.  Even Battlestar Galactica these days has be worried. They've taken a serious departure from their original premise. (Hello? "Rag tag fleet"? You're on a planet now!) I was disappointed with the revelation that (sorry if I'm spoiling) Cylons really just want to have babies like humans do. I'm unimpressed that the best idea the writers could muster for the big finish was babymaking. Yes, it's basically a soap opera, but it's sci-fi, not daytime TV.  They are picking up a few decent cancelled shows, though. I liked Jake 2.0. Call it a guilty pleasure. And Threshold never really got a chance to get off the ground. It would be neat to see new episodes of either of these, but I doubt that at this late stage they could pull it off. Enterprise, another cancelled sci-fi show, is also going to air on SciFi.  Soon, sci-fi may be relegated to novels. Or poor TV adaptations of novels. Although this upcoming special, Dragonsword, doesn't look too aweful. Of course, that's not sci-fi, it's fantasy. Ugh. The Dresden Files also doesn't seem too bad, but once again - fantasy.  Read any good sci-fi lately?

I happened upon a post that talks about what might be in store for us in the future when we reach for the phone on our belts. It's bogus.  I've seen many of these types of prognostications lately, and they're starting to annoy me. It seems like the people reporting this stuff can't tell the difference between a feature that is a futuristic accessory (powered car windows) and futuristic folly (hovercars).  Sure, I think many of the imagined ideas are neat, but I'm still even unsure of the utility of the custom-colored faceplates they sell for some phones at the mall. I guess I've always thought of my phone more as a tool than a fashion accessory. That is to say, I've never once thought, "Gee, if I must carry this, it might as well look good on me." Whereas, I have had the thought, "If they didn't waste all that space for two outer layers of plastic, they might have fit in some more useful electronics."

Sadly, I think consumers are used to just getting what they're given when it comes to electronics, and then paying whatever is asked. The company advertising will tell you that you need to change the color of your phone to match your outfit (nevermind that it stays inside the already color-coordinated case or purse), but never mentions that you could have GPS capabilities, or real email, or real web browsing.  Verizon's Chocolate phone seems to have GPS in it. This is a huge step forward for phones. Why? It's not surprising that people wouldn't know to want it, because they don't really advertise this feature when they sell phones.  GPS would allow you to know where you are on the planet using satellite positioning. It's odd because most phones should be able to tell you where you are just by your apparent distance from the cell towers, but GPS puts the capabilities into the phone rather than putting the computational muscle on the service provider's side of the connection.  With GPS in your phone, you can tell exactly where you are, and potentially figure out which direction you need to travel to get to where you want to go. It's a navigation system in your phone.  Phones have also failed to meet their potential in terms of media capabilities. Many providers offer video and audio services within their phones. The videos are of questionable quality, and the jacks on the phone make them of limited use for enjoying sound.  If a phone were to provide upgraded sound and video capabilities, it could replace those devices entirely. I'll say it another way - You would not need an iPod. You could listen to your music and watch your recorded TV/movies on your phone.  Cameras on phones are going to continue to suck because the quality of the photo is proportional to the size of the sensor that collects the light. Small phone equals small sensor. But there are some improvements that could be made.  Phones that don't record video, should. The lenses on the camera should be improved. Using some of the liquid lens technology that is currently in testing could radically improve (or simply add!) the zoom capabilities of cameraphone lenses. It might also be a good idea to include a real flash on a phone. As long as you're not continuously using it, you shouldn't have to charge your phone too frequently.  Being a lucky user of a real smartphone, I'm used to keeping all of my contact information in my phone. My Treo has enough power in it to run applications - everything from word processing, to games, to powerful graphing calculators. Service providers need to untether their phone service from the specific hardware that their phones provide. By making available a general connection to their network that can be used by any application, they can ditch their proprietary formats of video and audio and use the freely available standards.  Ringtones. We don't need ringtones. Our phones are powerful enough to play MP3s. Why on Earth would we need or want to pay 99 cents for a bleep-bloop-bleep version of some song we'd like to use as a ring? Use MP3s, for pity's sake.  There are some more advanced things I would like to see built into future phones that I think would be more practical. For instance, I wouldn't mind seeing a real USB port on my next phone. This port would not be only for syncing with my PC, but also for possibly connecting a real keyboard or display device. If there was a way to put my phone's video on a larger screen, it would allow me to use the phone as a presentation device.  I don't understand this trend of contorting the technology to be shaped in fashion. I really don't want a phone shaped like a macaroon. I can't even imagine what shape I would enjoy other than a shape that looked like a functional phone.

I was having an argument with the sales guy at the high-end TV store. Based on a discussion I had with Pat, I asked him if the TV he was trying to sell me supported HDCP. I told him I was warned against it, that I shouldn't support technology that restricts a user's rights. And that's how the argument began that led to an intersting idea about licensing.  HDCP is a technology layer on top of HDMI that institutes copy-protection on top of the high-definition digital signal that travels from the TV tuning device to the monitor. In high-definition TVs (especially good ones) the tuner is a separate device from the actual display. The cable that connects the tuner to the display is called a HDMI cable. To keep people from plugging that cable into something that could directly record the digital signal (and prevent you from, say, recording pay-per-view movies in perfect digital quality) they have invented HDCP.  The basic idea of not buying a set equipped with HDCP is to send a message to manufacturers that consumers want the flexibility afforded them by fair use. We like to record shows for later. HDCP could help prevent that. Being an early adopter, it's part of your job as an aware consumer not to buy products that encourage technologies prohibiting fair use. Otherwise, the unaware public could buy products that are more restrictive in their fair use capabilities than those we have now.  In any case, he started off with the argument that it's only fair that if a studio spends money to make a movie and pay its workers, then it should get a return on that investment. And I agree with that. But I don't think it's fair that the studio should get to prompt me for a fee every time I watch their movie, nor that I should have my ability to watch the movie at my pleasure restricted. It was all about poor licensing. And that's when I had my idea.

What if you could go to the theater and pay $30 for a movie ticket? $5 would go the the theater itself as a "screening fee". $25 would go the the studio to pay for a perpetual non-media-specific license to view the film. You'd pay for your popcorn separately and then enjoy the film.  When the movie comes out on DVD, you would not pay the typical $20 fee. Instead, you would pay about $2 - the cost of the DVD production. If the movie was available for download, you could end up paying only the delivery service charge.  When you get a DVD home, you can make copies of it. You could copy it to a blank DVD. You could rip it to DivX. All for personal use.  You would have permission to do these things because you paid the original license fee, one that allows you to view the movie.  There could be other setups, too. Perhaps you would pay the usual $10 for a theather ticket and then upgrade to a full license after you've decided that you like the film. You could also wait to purchase a full license until the DVD comes out.  All of the traditional options could run along side the new license. If you only wanted to buy a DVD and never copy it or rip it, then you pay only the regular DVD price. But you don't have a license to do anything more with the movie and media combination you have bought than play it in a DVD player.  There is a sketchy area of who manages the licenses — Who knows what movies you have the license to, and how do you verify your permissions to those movies? I'm not sure exactly how to implement this. In the end, I expect to have to weigh the value of the license features against a centralized licensing system.  Still, the studios complain that they're losing money because people are stealing (not buying their one-media-only licenses) their movies. This seems like it could be an answer.  No, I'm sure this will never happen, but I'm curious why you might think it wouldn't work, or why you wouldn't do it.

Steve is a primordial dragon-creature risen from the depths of the ocean by nuclear reactor leakage who calls his supper to him by using ESP to make them feel great.  Ken suggested I try out Steve's story, another book by Christopher Moore. This story is a bit more smooth than Fluke. You can still feel the author's familiarity with biology in his writing. I wonder if he has studied in that field. I digress.  There are many characters in the story besides Steve. Theo is the Cove's constable, who is in the pocket of the local sheriff due to his affinity to marijuana. Molly is an ex-post-apocalypse movie star who partly thinks she's Kendra of the Outland. Val is the treating local psychologist, who is having a moral dilemma over her blanket treatment of patients with pharmaceuticals. There's Catfish, a blues man who is on the run from Steve, and a biologist named Gabe (and his intelligent but overlooked dog) who is running to find out why all of his rats have suddenly run away from the water.  There are also a lot of religious folks who get eaten.  It's hard to pinpoint exactly what the story is about without giving a lot away. Basically, a woman kills herself, leading Val to replace all of the town's medication with placebos. When everyone starts to go bonkers, Steve crawls up out of the water and starts eating them. Steve's psychic powers seem to affect everyone in town, making them all a bit friskier than usual. Things happen. Man and lizard get it on. Entertainment ensues.  Nana read the first 40 or so pages of this book and decided it wasn't for her. Considering that there is a character who fantasizes about having sex with dolphins, I don't find that surprising.  As I mentioned earlier, this book is a bit more smooth than Fluke. Moore presents a good story with an even, comical tone. This one has an actual climax, where Fluke kind of just ended without really bringing things to a boil first.  I can definitely see how some of these characters might move on in other books. I wonder if there is a chronology - which book happens first.  I suppose I should pick up Practical Demonkeeping next, since that one seems most likely to become a movie, and I should love to say, "I read that book before it was a major motion picture that was nothing like the book."

For the trip over the weekend, I arranged to get the unabridged audio book of A Dirty Job, Moore's latest book, and also another Pine Cove book, The Stupidest Angel. Hopefully they will also be as enjoyable for our 10-hour (total) ride.