Thursday, August 27, 2009

Health Care. Part I, Medical Records.

It is hard for me to understand the aggressive idiocy demonstrated by the many people who have come out in general opposition to health care and insurance reform. I admit, I've been distracted this summer by needing major surgery and a diagnosis of cancer. Up until this posting, I've said more about that on my Star Trek blog than on this one.

Most states require hospitals to treat people in their very expensive emergency rooms, which means that we all pay, through our own health care, for everyone's health care. Getting the less well-to-do into clinics or doctors' offices saves everyone money. It's not like people are left bleeding in the streets now, then thrown into potter's graves, and if we have health care reform we'll have to pay for them. It's more like they are bleeding in the emergency room at $1000 a pop now, and we'll have to pay $100 for the same problem in a clinic.

Electronic medical record keeping has already been passed, and that's a blessing. Let me share my own medical record keeping problems with you to explain.

When I was in my 30s, I needed surgery for a grapefruit-sized cyst on my ovary. We didn't know what it was made of. It could be dried blood or cancer. It turned out to be the first. It gave me early menopause, barely into my 40s. Then, in December of 2007, when I was 52, I started feeling a little weird down there. I had never previously asked my gynecologist of 22 years, Dr. Jay Bauman, for an extra test. But I did then, since I was concerned about cancer. I had purposely lost 50 lbs, but it had come off too easily, and my stomach didn't go down at all. He told me to do sit-ups. I concluded my concerns were without merit, but that he was rude and I would get a new doctor. But I still wanted that test. My mother had died of cancer, and my father's mother was one of four sisters, three of whom got cancer of the reproductive system. I wanted to be tested for uterine cancer. My grandmother had had it. So I selected a doctor who made a hypochondriac woman I know happy. The new doctor put off my appointment for six months but was willing to do a biopsy when she did see me. That lead to the removal of my cancer, which was found not only in my uterus, but also in my fallopian tubes, earlier this month.

When I was preparing for the surgery, it was clear that records of my prior surgery were relevant, and I asked Dr. Bauman's office for their files. I got a photocopy of only the files in the last 12 years, which did not include the relevant surgical data, and they were in shorthand, unreadable to my new doctor. In other words, they did not comply with New York law about providing my medical records, and even if they had, I would have had to hire a secretary to read them.

If this does not make a case for standardized medical record keeping, I don't know what does. I'm sure I told Dr. Bauman of my family history of cancer when I first came to his office over 22 years ago. We were dealing with a grapefruit sized growth and he did the surgery. He clearly had purged the files. Lacking those files, he made a bad judgment, refusing me a test. That refusal may still cost me my life.

Of course, it would have been impractical for medical records to have been kept electronically in 1987. But there is no reason for this to be repeated 22 years from now, for somebody else. And, under the one part of Pres. Obama's health care package, which has already been passed, it won't be.

EDIT: It shows the sad state of medical research that a cousin of mine who recently become a doctor informed me that even though the rate of uterine cancer in my father's family (yes, she's in my mother's family) is over 50 per cent among the women of prior generations, it's a 'rare cancer' and therefore my original doctor was 'correct' to refuse to run a cancer test. Of course, that correctness may have cost me my life (TBD). It is simply nuts that the issue of whether a cancer is common or not is determined by studies in the general population and not effected by family history. I realize that genetics is not yet advanced enough to spot special markers, but come on people! Does science ever get to the point they can spell the word, "obvious."

NEXT TOPIC: Health Care Proxies, Living Wills, DNRs, and "death panels."

Friday, July 3, 2009

Statute of Liberty Reopens July 4, 2009.

I'm glad they are reopening the crown of the Statue of Liberty. I know it's likely to be a terrorist target, but going up there is great fun, and I've been sad that it's not been available.

I've been up twice. Once, when I was a small child with my parents, and once in the late 1990s, after the 100th year renovation was completed. I remember pointing at the repairs with my friends.

The skin is only about as thick as a penny. When constructed, both the artist and those who raised the money for the base compared it with the ancient Colossus of Rhodes. The poem at it's base, The Colossus, makes reference to that.

But Liberty Enlightening the World, as she is officially titled, is a more impressive work.

Colossus of Rhodes
Height: 107 feet
Time in service: 56 years
Function: Art
There is no evidence that the statute was hollow.

Statue of Liberty
Height: 111 feet, 1 inch (heal to head) She is roughly the same scale, but her raised arm and larger pedestal makes her taller
Time in service: 123 years, and counting.
Function: Originally Liberty was the first fully electrical lighthouse.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I've created a new blog for my Star Trek stuff.

Most of my other writings here are about politics, religion, and science. the occasional movie review (I'm expecting to see Harry Potter) contrasts with my ongoing interest in Star Trek.

So Here's my new blog:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The GREAT Depression

Ever think about the phrase, the "Great Depression."

A depression is an economic downturn in which the economy shrinks by 10 per cent or more. In fact, the last depression the US has had was the Great Depression. Some people still think this recession (two quarters of negitive growth in a row) could become a depression. But the Great Depression wasn't called that merely because it was a depression, but because it was bigger than most depressions, which were quite common and frequent.

After Andrew Jackson abolished the Bank of the United States (which Hamilton created to regulate the nation's economy) and prior to the creation of the Federal Reserves System, depressions were common. There was a bad one in 1832. And another in 1837. During the 1840s and 1850, firing employees during downturns was commonplace. Downturns were so common some argued that free laborers were treated worse than slaves, since the slave could at least count on his owner to protect his investment by feeding him. The Civil War kept the economy roaring in the early 1860s. In fact, the 1870s and 1880s were so bad that enough people were thrown out of work to have them close the frontier. Nobody with a good factory job would face Minnesota winters to farm hard ground. The adoption of the anti-trust laws helped, but didn't solve the problem, particularly since any law is only as effective as the willingness of the executive to enforce it.

Most of the Presidents in the early 20th Century were Republicans, who opposed regulation of business.

The Panic of 1907 lead to the creation of the Federal Reserve System, which helped. But it was only with the imposition of the serious regulatory framework of the Great Depression that we stopped seeing Depressions.

Until now.

In the late 1990s, the Republican congress and the pro market Clintons repealed the Security and Exchange Acts of 1933, 1934, 1935. And a funny thing happened a decade later. Depressions returned!

The Rightest Religious (not to be confused by the Christian Fundies of the Religious Right) hold that pure market capitalism is their G-d of choice.

So, where am I going? I'm here to say, the Europeans, whose automatic safety net will ensure they run massive deficits as people lose jobs, are at least partially right. There is a need for more regulation.

The reason the Republicans gave for the repeal of the 1930s Securities and Exchange Acts was that US banks could not compete with foreign banks without it. You see, the Europeans did not regulate their banks as strongly as we did ours.

So we should consider seriously a coordination in regulations. That should end the argument that got us into the mess, ... at least for another generation.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Judicial Activism: Common Law v. Code Law

What Is Judicial Activism? What is Judicial Restraint?

"Judicial Activism" has become a right wing code phrase for any decision they dislike. "Judicial Restraint" characterizes any decision they do like. Hence, when state law is overturned by a court to support a right wing agenda, that's never "Judicial Activism" it's just upholding the United States Constitution. The same action, when they dislike it, is "Judicial Activism."

Right now, we are looking at the oddity of having a Supreme Court nominee being raked over the coals for "Judicial Activism" for not overturning a lower court case which upholds a local administrative decision. Why would respecting the decision of local government be "Judicial Activism"? Simply because the right disliked the decision of local government. By definition, this not "Judicial Activism., it is "Judicial Restraint."

But what is the place of the courts in creating law, if any? Do the right wingers who use the phrase "Judicial Activism" have, at least, a theoretical point? Should the courts defer to local legislative and administrative bodies when they make and interpret their own laws? This is what Judge Solomayor did in the New Haven Firefighters case. Or should the courts, as the right wingers would like in this case, overturn that decision, which would be, one would think, judicial activism? That depends on whether you favor a Common Law system or a Code Law system. The United States and Canada both have both systems.

The Common Law

The Common Law system is based on the English system of law, which is the system that has developed for thousands of years in England. For centuries, the courts of England have decided cases whether or not Kings had proclaimed law and Parliaments have met. There was a time that the only reason a Parliament met was to raise taxes. The Magna Carta demanded the King raise taxes in this way, and not just by decree.

The courts determined if a pickpocket was to pick their victim's vegetables or go to jail, if shouting in a market was the right of the shouter or a disturbance of the peace. These matters were not considered important enough for the legislative body to consider. The English courts, quite literally, made the law.

When a similar case came up to a new court, if the court were aware of a similar case by a different court, it would usually follow the same rule. Rules by other trial courts were influential, but not binding. Law cases were not well organized, and much of what was known was from massive reading of the law. At times, centralized courts with the power to make overarching rules met, courts of appeal, which then and now set the rules of law from among the different ways different courts had decided the law. These rulings were binding. A lower court decision which was contrary to such a rule was, and still is, considered a wrong ruling.

As time went on, some of the rulings by local and appeals courts were effected by laws passed by the legislatures. Parliament or Congress, laws were considered amendments to the existing body of Common Law... law made by judges. When new issues came up, rules which existed under older law were looked to to create new rules. Except where a legislative law was called a principle and expressly stated it was to be construed broadly, it was construed narrowly as a band aid and amendment on the overall body of the Common Law. In projecting the new rules, the courts looked first to the laws made by their historic judicial predecessors.

In the Common Law, judges make law, legislatures amend law. The English Common Law is the basis of law in 49 of the 50 states, and in Anglophone Canada.

Code Law

In Louisiana and Quebec, there are communities founded by the French. The French had absolute monarchy until the French revolution. The courts were answerable to the crown. When the revolution came, the principles of the revolution came to be embodied in a massive Code of French law, the Napoleonic Code. Under French law, the Code and the actions of the legislature are the underlying law, and the courts look to the Code for First Principles.

The Napoleonic Code was not the first attempt to make law systematic, but it was the first successful attempt. It was drafted, not surprisingly, not by a legislature, but by judges who had experience in passing on real cases. Nevertheless, it was then adopted as the underlying law expressing a set of principles, and the rules could be amended by the legislature. Hence, the legislature was given greater diffidence than in a Common Law system.

The French System v. The English System

Right wingers, who object that legislatures are corrupt and government can do nothing, nevertheless seem to think that the collective wisdom of the ages should be overwritten by gerrymandered legislatures elected by campaigns financed by lobbyists. The principles which have developed in the English Courts had often been at odds which the desire of those who wish to keep tight controls on society. For example, the English Courts have ruled that it is not legal to shoot an unarmed intruder in your home. This law dates to the 12th or 13th century, if not earlier. In most of the Southeastern United States, this rule has been overturned by legislation. Clearly, in a slave-owning society, those which have great homes and own other people are advantaged by being able to shoot their slaves. When people are property, one cannot say their lives are more valuable than property. Similarly, there was no basis for enslaving a newborn under English law. This was an innovation adopted by Southern legislatures to create the institution of American slavery.

Having legislated these changes, time passed. In the 1850s, Southerners dominated the United States Supreme Court. In a case of going to their Southern legislative principles, they overthrew the laws of the Northern states which forbade slavery in their boarders, and applied those legislative principles to the North, overturning the Missouri Compromise and centuries of Common Law, and finding that black people had no rights white people were bound to respect. This is usually cited by the right as a matter of Judicial Activism. Dred Scott v. Sandford held that legislatures did not have the right to forbid slavery... even though the underlying law creating slavery was created by the legislatures in Southern states. I would submit this is the same brand of 'Judicial Activism' as Bush v. Gore, which likewise was based on no legal basis but only on the right wing going for the outcome they wanted without regard to principles of any type, legislative or judicial. I have never heard one word from the right wing objecting to the judicial activism of Bush v. Gore. However, now that they are trying to separate themselves from an unpopular Bush presidency, you may hear such objections in the future.

In sum, there is a basis for judges to proceed with principled caution, without regard to whether one defines such as judicial activism or judicial restraint. What one sees as one or the other is partially a function of what one believes the outcome should be, rather than just a matter of what one believes principles are. Such principles do not change with political fashion. However, the cries of the right are not based on principles of judicial restraint, just on pressing their agenda in courts, in legislatures, and in the executive branch.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Trek Website Review: Star Trek: Intrepid (Scottish).

This website is part of a collection of websites whose productions interact and address one another. Here is a chronology:

I will review the Hidden Frontier website and its offerings under a separate blog heading. However, the chronology is very welcome.
This website offers it's own set of Trek TV shows with a unique crew and cast. They are not produced or released in the order they should be watched, but the reviews, below, will guide you about what order to watch the shows in. Non-costumed Trekkies like me can be grateful for costumed Trekkies like these who feed our habit with grace and creativity.

Release 1 : Heavy Lies the Crown
(47 Minutes)

This is a great introduction to a new Trek crew set late in the TNG/Voyager Timeline/Universe. The entire cast is from the UK, and most are Scottish. It took a bit of getting used to, for those of us used to space aliens speaking California English. But then, if you can buy a Brit playing a Frenchman, and a Canadian playing a Scottsman, why not a Scottsman playing a guy who is half Romulan?

The ship is the same class/type as Voyager, but it's not on the other side of the galaxy, it's on the edge of Federation Space trying to protect a collection of colonists who don't want Starfleet there at all, and who have crazy conspiracy theories ready to accuse the Federation of multiple crimes. As an American, it occurred to me that this may have been exactly how we sounded to the Brits from the early 1600s through the 1770s. Nutty Americans, religious fanatics, exiled criminals, foreigners from all across Europe, accusing the UK of taxation without representation and plans to enslave us while we join in triangular trade which gets slaves to North America, and British troops, including aliens (Germans, not space aliens) are paid by the crown to protect the trouble-making colonials... who, oh yeah, STARTED the war (with the French in the 1760s) the colonies then didn't want to pay for... I rather liked this Trek take on it. Next, they are attacked by red swarms.. not Native Americans, red spaceships. The Scottish Trekkies may have had no such thing in mind, but it worked for me, big time. I loved this show. It has the morals of TOS, the fun of NextGen, the intrigue and complexity of DS9, ... I don't want to say too much and ruin it for you. Take the 45 minutes and WATCH IT YOURSELF. I enjoyed this webcast more than the US$140 million Star Trek Movie just released.

It ruins nothing to say that there is no 'crown' or royalty of any kind here, just leadership. The dialogue is fully English and the expressions are familiar, but not how Trek usually uses the language. The away team is on a planet which is the beautiful Scottish countryside, and is very easy on the eyes. There was a dark, undergroundish Federation group of MI-5/CIA type enforcers they call
Charybdis who act outside Federation laws who showed up for very briefly on the TV show, I think on TNG. Well, two of them are aboard this ship. They have secret orders even the acting captain isn't privy to.


The next show one should watch in this sequence is actually the one they just completed, which is the forth one they completed. They are not shooting the shows in sequence. It is only the only other show which is not a short show. This show is about 30 minutes.

Release 4 - Transitions and Lamentations

We get to know this crew better. Most Federation member worlds seem to have somebody on board this small ship. Most speak with a Scottish accent, which is easier for a non-Brit to follow than if they had mixed it up. (There are a few English folk involved but they are minor, and everyone throughout the world easily follows London English). We are again treated to both crew tensions and space battles. We already feel like we know the captain, and are starting to know his bridge crew.

The red spaceships are very uneven in size, some bigger than the Intrepid, some the size of a duck. In addition, we see the jellyfish-like flying critters who built and fly them. The Betazoid crew member can't read them because thinking is so different than that of humanoids.

Lots of space battles, too. The small red spaceships can operate in the planetary atmosphere, and the battle includes the away team which finds 2000 year old Romulan artifacts. Beautiful graphics, beautiful countryside.

The Intrepid crew is trying to ward off expansive invaders. We hear the MI5-CIA type talking about their role in a sequence of flashbacks to a meeting in a bar... with an electronic cone of silence which made me keep thinking more about Get Smart and CONTROL than James Bond and MI5 or TNG. But aside from the uncertain privacy, we soon find out even the MI5-CIA guy doesn't really know the whole story. Maybe those colonists and their conspiracy theories weren't so nutty after all.

Captain Hunter recruits the Lt. Commander who was captain of the small Federation vessel wreaked in the course of this story as his No. 1. We are warned there is going to be a contrast of command styles, with Capt. Hunter more likely to consult his crew, (think Obama) while the new No. 1 is more likely to give orders and expect them to be obeyed quickly and without question.

Release 2 : Where There's a Sea
This is actualy the THIRD video in terms of the story's chronology. 11 minutes.

Captain Hunter is none too happy to get secret orders from
Charybdis in this short story.

Orion traders are attacking Federation vessels. There's a war on crime here, and they want to take down the century old Orion Syndicate. I hope they have better luck than the Italian state.

An ending twist makes the merchant space crew who are part of the settlement even more unhappy with Star Fleet.

Release 3 : Turning Point
(7 Minutes)

This is the forth video for the story's chronology.

In the course of being questioned, the captured Orion trader claims to be responsible for the death of the wife of Lieutenant Matthew Cole.

There are references to two stories on the website scheduled for release this year (2009). One of them, the Stone Unturned, includes Jean Luc Picard, but played by a different actor. Run time will be 30 minutes. Another, Machinations, will be just 10 minutes, and apparently follows Transitions and Lamentations. Both are expected to be released this year. I will keep checking back to the website and review them here when they are released.

Further down the road, they are working on scripts for Bit Patterns, The Convictions of Demons, Unnecessary Evils and Out of the Darkness. I can hardly wait!

I hope there is some way these people can make a few bucks off of this so they can produce more. What fun they are to watch!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Angels and Demons.

First, a confession. I never read the book, and I'm not a big fan. So I'm a lot less fussy about what is likely to be at most one of three or four movies than I am about Star Trek. Damn it Jim, I'm a Trekkie, not a symbolist!

I enjoyed Angels and Demons a lot. Happily, I never saw the plot twist coming, in spite of thinking it odd that people just shot the head of the Swiss Guards without giving him a chance to drop his weapon. I thought the critics were wrong in most of what they said. For example, I heard and read that the physics was idiotic. This only showed that the critics are unfamiliar with The Standard Model, which has formed the basics of particle physics since the 1970s. The great search for the god particle is real... it' the Higgs boson. It's not "Angels and Demons" that has particle physics wrong, it's the movie critics.

That said, Angels and Demons, while head and shoulders above The DaVinci Code in it's understanding of the Roman Catholic Church, is still infested by misguided notions about the relationship between the Church and scientific truth. the Roman Catholic Church is not against science, it just thinks that fertilized eggs are people, and you shouldn't kill people. Even 400 years ago Galileo didn't really get into trouble until he published a popular pamphlet in which the guy who stated the Pope's position was called "The Idiot." The insistence by atheists that since the Church punished Galileo 400 years ago (and more for insulting the Church than for disagreeing with it), the Church opposes science is, to paraphrase Galileo, idiotic.

And before you conclude I'm blogging for the Church, I'm not even a Christian. I just don't feel the need to insult Christians without cause or basis. I don't believe a fertilized egg has a soul. The traditional time a soul enters the body, for most of the last 2000 years, was at quickening. I see no reason to change that belief. However, that disagreement does not blind me to the fact that the Church believes it is saving lives, not stopping science. In Angels and Demons, cardinals and bishops that support science are identified as 'liberal'. In fact, this is not a matter of dispute in the Church. At least those in the Church that supported truth was shown to win in this film.

In sum, Movie good, critics bad.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Does Evolution Prove Anything about G-d? Why the Creationists Do G-d a Disservice.

Math, Physics, G-d, and Evolution v. the Creationists.

Creationists would have you believe that the Rambam (Moses Maimonides, also known as Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon or the acronym the Rambam, born Cordoba, Spain March 30, 1135 died Egypt December 13, 1204.), the greatest Jewish rationalist of his time, was an idiot, and that the Book of Power by the Maharal of Prague (Judah Loew ben Bezalel (c. 1520 – 17 September 1609), also known as Yehudah ben Bezalel Levai [or Loewe, Löwe],) one of many late midevil Kabbalists, had no effect. They want you to think that a Roman Catholic monk named Joseph Mendel and an Anglican Preacher named Charles Darwin were atheists. Creationists, in other words, are either idiots or liars... or both. It disturbs me when I hear or read about Jews who are rejecting science, an action anathema to solid Jewish thought. And I think I can prove it.

Let's start with something we are all familiar with. Lotteries. We know that the numbers are picked at random, and that the chances of any particular set of numbers coming up are very, very small. One in 18 million. One in 180 million. Does that mean that it is a very rare or even unheard of event for somebody to win a lottery? To the contrary, this is an event that happens every week somewhere. How is that possible? Well, the game is set up so that there are a limited number of outcomes, and there are enough tickets sold over time that, sooner or later, somebody wins. And there are hundreds of games.

Modern Physics tells us that the universe would be very different if any of the fundamental forces were even very slightly different. Matter would have flung apart so fast that galaxies, stars, and planets would never have formed... or it would have fallen back onto itself so that, likewise, we could not have happened. Or sub-atomic particles would be unstable. Or atoms would not have formed in exactly the ratio needed to form billions of galaxies, around which there were billions of very large stars which blew up and seeded the universe with the exact mixture of heavy elements needed for life as we know it... then a new generation of stars formed with these heavy elements forming planets with carbon, oxygen, nitrogen... OR these elements would not have formed. But in fact, all that happened. Billions of galaxies, each of which holds billions of stars, around which, it now appears, there could be an average of numerous planets. Maybe four. Maybe fourteen. Maybe it depends on how you define the word planet... just ask Pluto.

The odds that we would happen on any given planet, given the randomness proposed in evolution, is very remote. But the odds that we would have happened SOMEWHERE EVENTUALLY in the universe, given its size and the huge number of chances, would make it, like SOMEBODY eventually winning the lottery, almost inevitable.

The universe is formulated in a way that we pretty much had to happen. Some think there may even be an 'us' within most of the billions of galaxies. Now, there are problems with our current theory of physics. Either we have gravity wrong, which seems to be the most likely explanation, or there appears to be plenty of dark matter and dark energy about which we know little or nothing. Clarity on what it is that is wrong with our understanding of the universe might effect this. This formulation is called the anthropic principle. Some dislike it, and have formulated unprovable mathematical theories to make an infinite number of universes, so that our very special one's existence shows nothing philosophically. But these are mathematical or philosophical theories, not scientific ones. They are atheistic numerology. Not only are they unproven... they are unprovable. There is no result of any scientific test anyone could run which could prove or disprove these theories, so they cannot be proven wrong... or right.

So, does evolution bear on the existence or nonexistence of a divine being? I would suggest that it does not. If it does, however, one must take a step back, and view not just this tiny part of creation, but all of what we can see, tens of billions of light years in every direction, hundreds of billions of galaxies with quintillions of stars and sextillions of planets. Given the limitations of physics, the Theory of Evolution suggests that our occurrence somewhere in this Universe, was like somebody, somewhere eventually winning some lottery... almost a certainty.

The Rambam told us that where science and the Bible disagree, we have misunderstood the Bible. But here, I see no disagreement. The Maharal of Prague suggested that the Bible tells us that there were creatures that no longer existed in his day, which had once existed, and that there would be creatures that existed in the future that do not yet exist, and this would demonstrate the truth of the Torah and the presence of the living G-d. Living as a contemporary of Galileo, he concluded that the story of Joshua had to be understood to show that space and time were linked, and to speak of one without the other is nonsense. He pointed out that even before the Heliocentric System, we knew that other civilizations had not recorded the suns standing still, so that it was clearly a local event. Today, we know the Greenland Effect permits the air, at rare times under special circumstances, to act as a prism, and make the sun appear to sit above the horizon for hours after it has set, but only in one location. Mendel and Darwin, Maxwell and Einstein was not atheists. We should not permit the fact that atheism has become fashionable in the scientific community to confuse us about whether science dictates that view. It does not. Nor should we let our thinking be influenced by shallow religious thinkers who insist that, if they cannot conceive of a god so grand as to create a universe the size and age science speaks of, then there can be no such G-d.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Star Trek Movie (Star Trek XI)

This is not your Grandfather's Star Trek (TOS) (Or you Grandmother's). It's not your father's Star Trek (TNG, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise). Nope. This is your Grandfather's Star Wars with Trek characters.

Doubt it? Check this out:

Any similarity with the Physics of the real universe or the Star Trek universe is purely coincidental. May the force be with you, Captain James T. Skywalker. Oh, and I guess those star ships came from the Babylon 5 set.

The best thing about the film was the casting. It was really, really good. Having a real Russian, Anton Yelchin play Pavel Chekov made that character bloom. If they had let him have a real Russian accent, though, it would have been an improvement. The actor himself, however, apparently had no problem doing the fake accent even though he is Moscow born and speaks Russian fluently. In fact, I believe he switched to real Russian at one point in the movie. Having Chris Pine, a real WASP, play Kirk didn't hurt, either. Shatner's Kirk combined midwestern bravado with the broad physical gestures of Yiddish theater, (think early silent movies), while Pine's Kirk is far more refined, and easier to believe. Nor can I say having a Brit, comic Simon Pegg, play Scotty, who is supposed to be a Brit, is a problem. Quinto and Pine are both fine actors, and they showed it here. I wonder if Quinto's pay scale may rise above the charts for future Trek's though. Sulu? John Cho? Harold and Kumar go to Vulcan...? OK, that didn't turn out to be bad, either. After all, if Kumar can work for Barack Obama, who is himself accused of being a Vulcan, (Tuvok?) why can't Harold?

I did not need Uhura to be channeling Nurse Chapel... but I could get used to that. It didn't violate the laws of Physics. It worked for me. It explained why she was the only female crew member who never got into bed with Kirk. Speaking of the laws of Physics, the cartoonish treatment of them and human physiology left Dr. McCoy with nothing to do in this movie. Karl Urban had little to work with, but did a wonderful imitation of DeForrest Kelly, the only original show cast member not cast against type. Having a green Rigelian Animal woman be a Star Fleet Student was nothing short of brilliant.

The flick was fun, but I'd have preferred it be an alternative universe, not an alternative timeline. The Superman Cannon reinvents itself about every 20 or 25 years, but it adds a new alternative earth and alternative universes (and we don't have Supes, we're on Earth Naught... Earth Prime has the Superman of the 1960s, Earth 2 the World War II Superman, Earth 3 has the 1980s Superman. At some point it will become formal that Smallville's Superman is on Earth 4. Alternative universes deal with such ongoing franchise issues as changes in the understanding of science, and actually reaching the years in which a future story is set.

This works way better for me than an alternate timeline that wipes out the entire history of the franchise, except Enterprise, which so far appears to be what they did here. Also, an alternate universe has the benefit of not being stuck with such old timeline problems like the Clone Wars of the 1990s... which didn't happen in OUR universe. Perhaps we will find out, in a future film, it didn't happen in the Chris Pine Kirk/Zachary Quinto Spock universe, either.

I'm a science fiction geek/fanatic, but I'm picky about my fantasy. Science fiction is a discussion in the form of fiction of real scientific issues, ideally looking at how it would effect human interactions and society, while good fantasy fiction looks at how people would act in fantasy situations. Star Trek has traditionally been science fiction, while Star Wars was fantasy. For an unrelated example, the idea of emergent intelligence in machines is a real issue being discussed in the Scientific community (e.g. "The Ghost in the Machine."... nonfiction). However unlikely the stories in I, Robot or Terminator may be, (or TNG's episode, "Emergence") they are science fiction. On the other hand, however amusing Buffy the Vampire Slayer may be, it's fantasy. The current TV show on Fox, Lie to Me, which uses the emerging science of microexpressions is also science fiction (no real connection between reading microexpressions and being able to tell truth from lies has yet been established).

So, understanding that I value Star Trek Television shows for their Science Fiction nature, I would have chosen more realistic fight scenes, a better explanation of the creation of black holes, (punching a time space hole into a universe which has not yet experienced it's big bang would do it, 'red matter' does not) ... The fact that Scotty went through an ordeal that should have left him physically shattered without so much as a bruise was very Star Wars (or even Roger Rabbit or Road Runner) and, for me, the most unacceptable part of the movie. It also made Dr. McCoy unnecessary. The red beast chasing Kirk and leaving him without a scratch wasn't much better. Star Trek(TOS) might have been cheaply made, and it's 'rule of parallel development' might have been a weak excuse to use old movie and TV sets, but it was never a cartoon. This Star Trek movie was a cartoon.

The Red Matter thing aside, if you tried to drill a hole into earth, the planet is molten, and the hole just wouldn't happen. Vulcan, likewise, is volcanic (DUH). What more, if a tiny black hole did suddenly appear at the center of a planet, the planet would collapse much more slowly than in the new Trek movie, and it would spin faster and faster. From the outside, the event would take many years, even many centuries, not minutes. If the black hole were big, it would happen faster, but it also would capture that nearby small planet on which Nimoy Spock and Pine Kirk were sitting. Due to the time warp factor (yes, traditionally, Trek used real science constructs) the collapse of the planet Vulcan would appear to happen much faster if you were ON the planet than if you were outside. However, even there, the event would take much longer.

And even today we would be able to forecast a star going supernova centuries in advance, there's no way a little debate in the Vulcan High Council 375 years from now could slow Spock down enough to stop him from saving Romulus. Not that putting a black hole in the middle of the star would stop it from going Supernova. Some Supernovas actually end in black holes... they CREATE black holes.

So, this is why I say that Star Trek XI is really Star Wars disguised by better character development. After all, what made Star Wars great? Beautiful special effects. Lots of fight scenes and explosions. Good guys and bad guys. No science issues, no hard human issues, no nontrivial interpersonal issues. I liked Star Trek XI a lot more than Star Wars. I wouldn't take my money back if it meant I had to erase the experience from my mind. But, as a fan of Star Trek as real Science Fiction, I was disappointed.

Just an addition, there are fan websites producing their own shows. I've seen is this: : and enjoyed it a lot. I'll be doing blogs on each website and reviewing what they have to offer. The production here is not in sequence, and watching the shows in chronological order by the story is much better than watching them in the order they were produced.
Late Next Gen/Voyager Timeline (Scottish Trekkies) :

I'm going to check these out, and review them in the future:
TOS Timeline: (Texas USA Trekkies)
TOS Timeline: (Washington, DC USA Trekkies)
TNG Timeline:
(Southern California USA Trekkies)
TOS, continued with the same crew and characters, different actors
: (Upstate New York USA Trekkies)
Post-TNG: It's a joint SeattleUSA/London, UK production:
Late Next Gen/Voyager Timeline: (Nothing completed yet, same Seattle/UK venture as above)
Late Next Gen/Voyager Timeline:: (Detroit, Mich. USA Trekkies)
Late TOS/pre TNG(Audio and Novel only):

Video reviews: I just had to add this treasure:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What makes us human? Genisis 2:19,20 and the Herp Department at the American Museum of Natural History.

What makes us human?

Genisis 2:19,20
19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

Today, biologists of ever stripe all over the world are racing to find, and name, every living creature, before we destroy them.

We know the most about the creatures with backbones. Multi-cell life has existed only since the Cambrian Explosion, 540 Million years ago. For billions of years before that, life existed as single-celled organisms. Most variety is in single celled organisms. Entirely new kingdoms are being discovered in that area, just in the last 20 years.

We used to think there were plants, animals, and single-celled life. Today, we know single-celled life can live in compressed 300 degree water and in ice, can eat chemicals deep within the earth, and can have energy cycles entirely different than those found in plants and animals. These entirely different ways of making a living divide single-celled life into different kingdoms, just as plants are one kingdom and animals another.

Two new large mammals were discovered in Southeast Asia since 1990. An antelope and a miniature rhino.

The number of species of known amphibians and reptiles in Southeast Asia has gone from eighty-something to one hundred eighty-something.

And so, Adam is still finding and naming the animals.

Related New York Times article:

Taking bets on when Rush tries to purge the Senators from Maine

It's not Alaska. It's not Montana. But given that, Maine is one of the coldest and snowiest states, ... and pretty mountainous, too. So I could never quite get over the fact that the Senator from Maine's name is Olympia Snowe. It sounds like something out of Charles Dickens, not the Newspaper.

And now she is one of the only two remaining Republicans who are members of the Senate and are not right wing fanatics.

Snow is the type of person who I identified with as a kid and why I originally registered as a Republican. But when Ronald Reagen got the nomination in 1980, I saw the handwriting on the wall, and left the party.

It will be hard for the wingnuts to throw the ladies from Maine out of the party. But right now, I'm playing bookie.

Anyone want to bet on whether they will try to purify the party of one or both of them? I'm guessing... they will. They will go after the Junior. Senator from Maine first, though. For now Olympia, with her 79 per cent approval rating, will remain untouched. Susan Collins got 61 per cent of the vote in 2008. It is possible she will be threatened in the same way Jeffreys was threatened by Republican hard liners to keep her from voting for some moderate legislation they want to oppose with a united front.

Anyone know what the right wing radio jockeys are saying about these ladies?