Oh. My. Gods.

If you’ve been tuning in for our weekly installments of Sci-Fi Cast, then you know I’ve been bummed out about the direction that Katie Sackhoff’s character on Battlestar Galactica has been taking. It seems like Ron Moore was using Starbuck as a kind of space version of Captain Ahab, obsessed with finding Earth, and only caring about what shade of burnt umber would look best on her cabin walls.

Even if last week’s episode hadn’t been a complete 180 for the hot-shot space jockey, I’d be tempted to throw all that out the window thanks to a photo shoot of Katie and her two Galactica co-stars, Tricia Helfer and Grace Park, which was recently published by Interview Magazine. Lords of Kobol, I think I’m gonna need a cold shower! You gotta hand it to Galactica’s creators, they sure know how to promote the series to the 18-25 (and 39) year old male demographic. With all the gritty, realistic scenes that Starbuck and her co-horts get thrown into every week, photos like these seem somehow surreal. I just can’t picture Starbuck riding around on a Harley in a bikini, let alone chumming it up with Six and Boomer in the California desert. But since the series is coming to an end, and we’ll probably never see the likes of these three lovely ladies together again, who am I to wonder why? So say we all!

Love Letter to Howard Dean

Straight from the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” department comes this beautiful little email from a reader over at Andrew Sullivan:

“I am Floridian, and was told from the beginning that “my state would not count.” For that reason, I stayed home … to now “count” the Fl vote would disenfranchise me even more than if Fl were not to count at all. To the DNC & Howard Dean: I played by your rules, decided that you were telling me the truth when you said Fl votes would not count so I stayed home. Now, you’re going to count it? Well, screw you.”

This person is pissed and I don’t blame them. First they’re told their vote won’t count, so they stay home. Then Hillary manages to strong-arm Dean and the DNC and we hear rumors that some sort of “compromise” will be reached. We’re talking no-win scenario here folks. I really wish the Democrats would grow a spine every now and then, especially when dealing with their own. Yet another part of this campaign that Hillary Clinton managed to frack up royally. Calgon, take me away!

How To Spot A Cylon

Just in time to help the crew of the Battlestar Galactica divine the identity of the final five cylons, comes this helpful PSA style poster from Quantum Mechanix. It reminds me a lot of the infamous Wii Safety stuff we did over at the Iconfactory a couple years back and would make a fine addition to any geek’s wall.

Some of the funnier tips include:

• Do they seem unusually strong, smart or self-assured?
• Do they say God instead of Gods?
• Do you see them hanging around secured or restricted areas?
• Do they seem to hear music that no one else can hear?
• Are they unusually adept, almost empathic, with machines?
• Does their spine glow red when they get… excited?

Be sure to also check out the über-cool retro BSG propaganda posters they’re offering. And before you ask, no, I don’t get a kickback on this stuff :-)

Ridley Scott Breeds New “Strain”

I’m pleased to report one of my favorite science fiction films of all time is the latest flick to get the Hollywood make-over treatment. Airing over two nights, beginning tonight at 9pm est on the A&E network, The Andromeda Strain, tells the tale of a particularly nasty alien microbe that threatens to wipe out all life on earth. Director Ridley Scott’s new version of the classic 1971 picture promises to be full of action, suspense and smart science and features a solid cast including Benjamin Bratt, Viola Davis & Andre Braugher.

Based on the best-selling novel by Michael Crichton, the original version of Andromeda gave audiences of the 70′s a realistic look at what just might happen if an alien microorganism fell to earth. The movie’s deliberate pacing, cold electronic soundtrack by Gil Mellé and use of multiple simultaneous shots (spoofed in Austin Powers and made famous today by FOX’s 24) builds suspense and impending dread even when viewed today. If the original Andromeda Strain had a weak point, it was surely the rushed ending which bottled things up neatly, without deliberate action from Wild Fire’s team of sequestered scientists. Somehow I doubt Scott will let his version go out with a whimper, and if he plays his cards right, this new version just might be a classic for the ages. High hopes to be sure, but coming from the director of Black Hawk Down, Blade Runner and Alien, I would expect nothing less. Should be a fun couple of nights, check it out.

UPDATE: After having watched both parts of the new version, I can see my hopes were sorely misplaced. Ridley Scott should stick to directing real films instead of producing made for TV movies cause this version couldn’t hold a candle to the original. The plot gets wrapped up in the meaningless exploits of an addict reporter whose actions ultimately don’t amount to squat. The effects were second rate and all of the great scientific detective work at Wild Fire felt rushed. Save yourself four hours of your life and don’t bother to tune in to the repeats OR purchase the DVD. Go buy the original 1971 version instead. At least Andromeda is actually creepy in that version.

List Our Pet Peeves, We Will!

I’m pleased to report that episode 008 of Sci-Fi Cast is now online and is truly one for the ages. Dave Caolo and I participate in the geek version of Fesivus and “air our grievances” with the Star Wars prequel films. We cover a wide range of important nerd-esqe topics such as GCI sets, the less than deadly Nuisance Battle Droids, poor casting decisions and how a high school biology lesson managed to suck the life out of the Star Wars universe. This one’s our longest episode yet, clocking in at 47 minutes, so if you’re looking for the Cliff Notes version of this episode, simply skip forward to the 39′ minute mark to avoid all that tedious mucking about in hyperspace. If you love Star Wars however, tune in for the whole cast, I think Dave and I do a fairly good job of putting into words what was so frustrating about ep I-III. Don’t forget to post your own prequel pet peeves (or favorite bits) in the comments over at theSciFiCast.com! Next week we return you to our regularly scheduled program of BSG. See you then!

No Sign of “Stimulus” Check Yet

It’s now May 25th, and every day I peek at my bank account online in the hopes that my fabled tax stimulus check will magically appear so I can pay for gas. Since my social security number ends in the 00-20 range, it was supposed to have been deposited electronically starting the week of May 2nd, but so far no luck. No problem I say, maybe I’m getting a physical check instead of direct deposit. Well, if that was the case, it would have been mailed out by May 16th which was over a week ago. Unless it fell between the seats of my mail carrier’s car, it hasn’t shown up in my mailbox either.

So my question is, has anyone actually received their stimulus check yet? No one I know has. Have you? I’m sure we can chalk this one up to government inefficiency, but still. They’ll probably go out 2-3 months after when Bush said they would. Typical.

UPDATE: You gotta love the Internet. Head to howispentmystimuluscheck.com and tell the story of how you spent your rebate (with photos!). Seems like paying off debt tops the list so far, so much for stimulating the ‘ol economy George!

UPDATE II: Just got a letter from the IRS yesterday (Tuesday, June 10th) saying I’ll receive our check by the 13th. Of course if I don’t get it within 6 weeks, I’m to contact them. I’ve heard that once you get this letter, the check follows soon after, so I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’ll see.

UPDATE III: Finally received our stimulus check in the mail today, June 16th, 2008. Only came one month late, so that’s not bad for the government I guess. Glad I’m not a disaster victim or something.

Sci-Fi Cast Gets New Digs

What started out as a fun idea born on Twitter has evolved into a full-fledged gig. How do I know this? The answer is easy young Padawan! Dave Caolo has been working overtime to get Sci-Fi Cast, our informal chat of all things science fiction, a new home and now it’s ready. Point your browser to www.thescificast.com and you’ll be on your way to a geek love-in not seen in these parts since the Pasadena Star Trek convention of aught ’05.

To mark the occasion, this week I had the humbling honor to edit episode 007. I always knew editing a podcast was important, but after listening to the three of us ramble for an hour and a half, and somehow getting that down to just 20 minutes, I have a new found respect for those who choose to separate the wheat from the chaff and take the editing plunge. I hope you enjoy the result as we talk about Battlestar Galactica’s seventh episode of season 4 – Guess What’s Coming to Dinner? You can head on over and bookmark thescificast.com or download episode 007 right from here:

Download or listen to Sci-Fi Cast Episode 7 (19 min) here.

Currently, the ability to subscribe to the podcast via iTunes is broken while we wait for Apple to resolve the new site’s URL. Just hang in there, it should be available soon. Since there is no BSG this week, episode 008 will be a very special “What we hate about the Star Wars prequels” episode. If Jake Lloyd, midi-clorians and Jar Jar Binks keep you up at night, this will be the episode for you!

Our Next President

Ever since the May 6th primaries, things have been firming up for Barack Obama to claim his well-earned victory against Hillary Clinton. The fight has not been without damaging blows for the junior senator from Illinois, but that’s par for the course in today’s politics. Seeing the reports of the 75,000 people who came out to hear and support him in Portland Oregon, it’s finally starting to hit home with me. I firmly believe this man will be the next President of the United States.

I know Obama’s not a perfect man, nor has he professed to be. I realize he has baggage that some people distrust as well as a racial background that others in this country can’t see their way past. But for all these problems, his message of hope stands above the fray. I believe most people are finally ready to leave the fear and threats of perpetual war behind them. They are hungry to return to the ways of liberty and justice that made this country great. Barack Obama will show this nation that a government can be compassionate towards its citizens and still be strong when dealing with its enemies. We can care for our planet while creating jobs, not destroying them. And we can work together, from both sides of the aisle for the betterment of one and all. The journey is just beginning and for once, I’m excited to be a part of it.

Ninja Warrior Returns!

This Sunday night at 8pm marks the return of my absolute favorite television show. Ninja Warrior, G4′s ultimate TV competition of determination, athletic prowess and endurance, is back! This incredible game show import from Japan has been taking the U.S. by storm and is known there as Sasuke. The show pits 100 competitors against some of the toughest obstacles you’re ever likely to see in what can only be described as a no holds barred mad dash to stay dry and finish first. What makes Ninja Warrior so great? The show manages to take a simple premise (who can finish the course the quickest) and turn it into 1/2 hour blocks of some of the most compelling human drama you’re ever likely to see.

Without giving too much away, there have been only a handful of competitors who have actually made it all the way to the end to claim the coveted title of “Ninja Warrior”. Now in its 20th season, the show features seasoned veterans, green newbies, TV personalities and even the occasional comic relief thrown in for good measure. Players race, swing, climb and dive through 4 grueling stages to try and obtain Japan’s version of “fortune and glory”. If you’ve not checked out Ninja Warrior yet, do yourself and your TiVo a favor and set a season pass for the all new ninja block starting this weekend on G4. You won’t be disappointed.

Mini Them!

A bizarre and slightly frightening report out today tells of a new breed of ant that has infiltrated five of the counties around Houston, Texas by way of a cargo ship. The little buggers (no pun intended) are small (a little bigger than fleas), travel in erratic lines and are called “crazy rasberry” ants. The good news is they eat the dreaded Texas fire ant. The bad news is they are attracted to electrical equipment and have wreaked all kinds of havoc on phone and computer systems in the Houston area.

“They have ruined pumps at sewage pumping stations, fouled computers and at least one homeowner’s gas meter, and caused fire alarms to malfunction. They have been spotted at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and close to Hobby Airport, though they haven’t caused any major problems there yet.”

If I didn’t know better, it seems as though nature is throwing yet another monkey wrench into our civilization. So far this year we’ve seen the devastating natural disasters in Myanmar and central China, the thinnest arctic sea ice ever recorded and now computer eating ants. You’d almost think the marketing folks behind M. Night Shyamalan’s latest flick, The Happening, met Mother Nature in a dark alley and made a deal for free PR. Now where’s my bug spray?

Things Younger Than John McCain

While surfing tonight, I found a great site that highlights just how old John McCain really is. If elected, he would become the oldest first term President in our nation’s history. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily, but being the leader of the free world is the most demanding, stressful job on the planet. Can a man who would take office at the age of 72 deal with the pressures, both mentally and physically, that the job would require?

This fall, the country is looking to elect someone who represents real change as we look to the future to solve important problems such as renewable energy independence, health care reform and global warming. Electing someone who is older than the state of Alaska itself is not a vote for the future, it’s a vote for the past. Here are some other things younger than John McCain (born Aug 29, 1936):

• The AARP (1958)

• McDonald’s (1940)

• The Polio Vaccine (1955)

Bugs Bunny (1938)

• Both of Barack Obama’s parents (1936 & 1942)

Dick Cheney (1941)

Many, many more…

Going Postal

Just one year after last May’s stamp hike from .39 cents to .41 cents, rates are rising yet again. On Monday the price to mail a first-class letter be .42 and that roll of stamps you bought at the Post Office just last week will need .01 cent orphans in order to get mailed. Learning about this latest rate hike has really angered me, especially considering the current anemic state of the United States Economy. With the average cost of a gallon of gas approaching $4.00 a gallon, food prices that are skyrocketing and an ever weakening dollar, the last thing we need is to spend even more money to mail our bills and send our Father’s Day cards.

Of course, you could have purchased the Post Office’s “Forever Stamps” last week instead of the traditional .41 cent fare (I’ll never buy normal stamps again), but this still seems like a perfect occasion for “smart government” to step in and wave the rate increase for the good of average citizens. I realize that the increasing cost of fuel hits the Post Office just like average Joes, but I still think they could take one for the team. The only part of this equation that gives me any comfort is that I’ve made the shift to paying almost all my bills electronically in recent months. The only businesses that still get a paper check from me are local ones where paying online just isn’t an option. Eventually physical pieces of mail will become so expensive that it just won’t be practical anymore, but until then, I guess I’ll be visiting the Post Office on Monday to pick up a sheet of .01 cent stamps. Again. Ugh.

Dodging A Mean Bullet

Last night saw some of the worst storms come through North Carolina in a long, long time. Around 8pm I first started paying attention to the weather and then around 11:15pm it got really, really bad. I live in Colfax, NC which is just north of the Piedmont Triad Farmer’s Market. We started listened to Britt Whitmire on 101.1 FM Talk after our cable TV went out shortly after 10:30pm and I have to say Britt did a great job of describing where the storm was heading and alerting people to the danger.

Shortly after 11pm the police scanner started really going crazy. The sky was almost constantly lit up from hundreds of lightening flashes, and the rain started coming in buckets. We did not see high winds where I lived, but on the scanner many vehicles all around us were being reported overturned. Lots of damage on Sandy Ridge road, officers going on foot door to door to make sure residents were okay. The section of Sandy Ridge they were talking about on the scanner was only 2 miles from us, so I knew the bad stuff was close. It wasn’t until this morning on the news we found out just how close.

The map you can click on here outlines the intersections that are closed off this morning due to multiple power lines down, trees and buildings and business that have been damaged. The authorities have set up a command post at the Farmer’s Market just to the south, but you can see from here just how close we were to where the tornado touched down. Even worse, my friend and co-worker Corey Marion lives between me and the red zone, so he was even closer to the damage.

I thank God that neither we, Corey or Talos (who also lives in my neighborhood) were in the path of this tornado. Planes (Fed Ex cargo planes, not Sesnas) at the airport were blown off the runway, 18 wheelers were overturned and some people even lost their homes. This is one storm I think the Triad will remember for a long, long time. Scary!

North Carolina’s Patience Pays Off

While watching the primary coverage last night, I was curious about the seemingly large number of delegates that were at stake here in North Carolina. As the Daily Kos reports, it turns out North Carolina received bonus pledged delegates from the DNC as a reward for playing it cool and going late in the primary process:

“To keep states spread out and not all clustered in February, the DNC offered bonus pledged delegates to those states that went late in cycle. Thus, instead of only getting 66 pledged delegates to the Democratic convention in Denver, Indiana gets to send 72. And North Carolina went from 89 delegates to 115. Those extra delegates put Indiana ahead of Tennessee and Maryland and gave it as much voting strength as Minnesota and Missouri. And North Carolina bypassed Massachusetts and New Jersey.”

So thanks to North Carolina’s willingness to wait our turn, not only did we most likely cast the deciding ballots in the race between Clinton and Obama, but our fine state will have more political leverage at the convention. Well done North Carolina, I always knew you were a class act!

NC’s Audacity to Hope

14 percentage points and over 220,000 votes later, Barack Obama has won North Carolina. I’ve never been prouder to be in this great state than I am today. Today my fellow North Carolinians stood up and voted for integrity, change and hope, and for that, I thank them. I believe Barack when he says that when he’s the Democratic nominee in the fall, he will compete in the “swing” state of North Carolina. Would the same be true if Hillary was the nominee? Doubtful.

I look forward to the possibilities of a blue NC, but for now I’ll take our moment in the sun when we all decided to speak up, make a difference and vote against entitlement and politics as usual. Thank you North Carolina. Thank you.

Twitter + Star Wars = Good Times

One of the things I love most about Twitter is the way interaction between friends and followers can take on a life of its own. Today I casually threw out a question on Twitter that turned into a genuine laugh riot. Taking a cue from one of my all-time favorite shows, Who’s Line Is It Anyway?, the question I posed was this:

Name a quote from a Star Wars movie that could apply to your significant other.

Without missing a beat, I received back dozens of responses, some of the best of which I’ve reposted here for your amusement. Thanks to everyone who took time out to play today, it was a blast!

panache: “Either I’m going to kill her or I’m beginning to like her!”

MauriceReeves: “I don’t know who you are or where you’ve come from, but from now on you’ll do as I say, okay?”

gedeon: “She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts kid.”

Moltz: “IT’S A TRAP!!!”

firecracker: “Why you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking, nerf herder!”

dmoren: “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.”

krystynheide: “I cannot teach him. The boy has no patience.”

and my personal favorites:

ag_michael: “You are required to maneuver straight down this trench and skim the surface to this point. The target area is only two meters wide.”

luomat: “No no no, this one goes THERE, THAT one goes there!”

bettnet: “Size matters not. Look at me, judge me by size, do you?”

splorp: “Get in there, you big furry oaf! I don’t care what you smell!”

North Carolina: Primed & Ready

No one would have expected when the presidential primary season started that little ol’ North Carolina would play such an important part in the selection process. Our state’s late primary has always been something of an “also ran” to the rest of the nation, but not this time. Now we’re center stage and I think I speak for North Carolinians when I say “Let’s do this thing!”

Like many of my fellow NC’ers I’m ready to get in there and vote in the Democratic primary and help elect Barack Obama as our party’s choice for President of the United States. I was speaking to my friends Anthony and Corey this past week at lunch and they both agreed with me that no matter what the outcome, they want to get the primary completed and get onto the general election. Hillary has made several calls to each of them and I could hear the impatience in their voice as we talked over lunch. As the large number of NC early voters reveals, they are not alone.

If the latest Zogby polls are to be believed, then Obama still holds at least a 9 point lead over Clinton as we start the week. Things are tighter in Indiana, but something tells me that Barack just may pull it out and finally, thankfully, put the nail in the coffin that is the Clinton campaign. But knowing Hillary and her “entitled” attitude, it would take nothing short of a miracle to get her to drop out of the race early. Something tells me if Indiana and North Carolina go the way I think they will, she’ll see a number of super delegates abandon her en masse.

I feel like North Carolina is that underused rookie sitting on the bench who turns to his manager and says with fantastic enthusiasm “Send me in coach!”. Our time at bat is almost here and for our sake, and the sake of our children, I hope we step up and hit a homer.

Life Is A Highway

If you’re wondering where I’ve been all this week, I can answer that question in just three words: Mario Kart Wii. I’m told that another big video game was released this week and that everyone and their dog is playing it, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what it is. For me there are only mini turbo-boosts, banana peels and mushroom cups. My ghosts are setting records, I’m unlocking karts and not getting the sleep I need.

If all of this makes absolutely no sense to you, then count yourself lucky you’re not caught in the vice-like, addictive grip that is Nintendo’s latest creation. But for the rest of you, you know exactly what I’m talking about and you’re in luck. I’m going to share just a few of the pearls of wisdom I’ve gleaned from my brief, but remarkable stint on the Mario Kart racing circuit:

Don’t use the wheel

– You can get much greater steering control, as well as deploy and control weapons better using the Wiimote and nunchuck controller combo.

Start regional

– Nothing is as demoralizing as starting a world-wide race and seeing 5 players pop up whose names are Japanese and who have virtual rankings somewhere in the 8000 level. Race the home front to start.

Bananas are good for you!

– Drag them behind you to block incoming shells and keep players from bumping you from behind.

Tricks, tricks, tricks

– Flick the wheel or Wiimote whenever you go over a jump and you’ll do a trick and gain a mini-boost when you land. It really helps to keep you ahead of the pack.

And if you want to put these tips to the test in a little old 1 on 1, then my Mario Kart friend code is: 0216-1192-5921, I hope to see you on the Jungle Parkway soon. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have just enough time to get in a 50cc race before I head off to work. Bye!