Monday Book Pick: The Disinherited

February 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Baen Books, Monday Book Pick, Science Fiction 

The Disinherited by Steve White
This is Steve White’s first solo novel. My first printing of this book has a 1993 copyright. It’s a straight up space opera, and fans of the classic SciFi RPG Traveller, and the closely related 2300AD game will some familiar concepts. It is also a first contact story. A group of Terrans, a mix of Americans and Russians working in the Asteroid Belt are contacted by beings from another star, with advanced technology. Both sides are more than a bit freaked out to find out they are both human. The alien humans have a problem, namely a very aggressive species of actual alien that makes up for a slightly lower tech base with a fracking lot of resources. The space faring Earth humans go to assist the other humans. They might as well, since the Earth had been poisoned by what Mr. White had correctly identified 23 years ago as the toxic ravings of the so called “social justice” movement, which has a more dangerous level of Antisemitism than it does today. Heroic stuff happens, and there is even a surprise twist at the end. Just to top this tale of adventure in deep space off, there is a mad scientist and his beautiful daughter.

Monday Book Pick Archive

Covering Tangled up in Blue

January 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Cover, Music 

I don’t know who first said this, but I agree with it.

There is no Bob Dylan song that someone else has not done better.

Given that, Tangled Up in Blue is probably my favorite Dylan song performed by Bob Dylan.

I do like this live version performed by Charlie Daniels.  Not sure if it is better, but is good.

 

Friday B-Movie Pick: Justice League: Gods and Monsters

January 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Comics, Movies, Science Fiction 

Justice League: Gods and Monsters
Yet another example of excellence from DC Comics animated movie team.  This is an alternate universe where the Justice League is made up three, and I use the term loosely, heroes.  Superman is the son of General Zod, not Jor-el, Batman is a vampire (created by Science!), and Wonder Woman is one of the New Gods.  All them have no issues what so ever in killing bad guys.  Just to set the tone for this universe a bit more firmly, Amanda Waller is President.  Ya, it’s a dark reflection of the DC Universe.  Things only get worse when the Justice League starts getting framed for killing scientists.  In the end, it’s a wake up call for the League, with some help from Lex Luthor, who seems to be crossed with Stephen Hawking in this setting.

Friday B-Movie Archive

Monday Book Pick: Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates

Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

This book covers an important piece of American history, the first foreign war fought by the United States. The Barbary nations associated with the Ottoman Empire practiced piracy and enslaved captured crews of any Nation that could not defend its merchant fleet or could not afford the “tributes” the leaders of the Barbary Coast nations demanded as the price to not have ships, cargos, and crews captured and sold. It was President Jefferson (the third President) who decided that continuing to pay foreign nations who held US citizens for ransom (while forcing them to perform hard labor as slaves), and continuing to raid US flagged merchant vessels, was bad policy. President Jefferson persuaded Congress to fund new Naval construction and personnel to take the fight to the Barbary pirate nations. This well researched book details the diplomatic front, as well as the battles fought by the US Navy and Marines.

Monday Book Pick Archive

Friday B-Movie Pick: Terminator Genisys

January 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Movies, Science Fiction 

Terminator Genisys

Starting the new year with the latest in the Terminator francise. Once again, they are moving forward with the premise of changing the timeline doesn’t always work the way you want it to. Ya, I’m going to do spoilers, so quit now if you care. This entry has some delightful (to the fan base at least) almost scence for scence sequences from the orginal. Plus it has Arnold Schwarzenegger playing a T-800 series who has been guarding Sarah Connor since a T-1000 tried to kill her as a little girl. The flesh around the machine ages, which is how they explain using a current Schwarzenegger for the aging robot.  The special effects are great and the fights are epic.  Well worth the popcorn and rental.

Friday B-Movie Archive

Sorting pictures

December 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Photography, SmartPhones & PDAs, Technology 

I’ve been backing up my iPhone photos to my Windows 10 desktop using Microsoft’s OneDrive.  The photos are on my local drive as well as the cloud.  The downside is that all the photos, movies, and screen shots are dumped into a single directory, and there are a lot of them.

I prefer to have them sorted by date into directories.  A directory for each year, with sub-directories for each month.  I could do this by hand, but that’s a pain, and I have to remember to do it on a regular basis.  Plus I’ll probably want to do the same for my wife’s iPhone photos.  So I decided to write a python script to scan the camera roll directory, and copy the files to a directory in my photo archive section.  The scrip will create directories if needed and skip files that are already in place.

That part was pretty straight forward. I used os.chdir() to get to source directory and os.listdir() to get the directory contents.  Don’t want to create month directories for directories, just files, so I used os.path.isfile() to filter out non-files, and then check the file extension.  I only want jpg, mov, png, and tiff files.  I use Camera+ most of the time, which produces tiff files instead of jpg files. The png files are screenshots.

I used os.stat() to get the create time, and found files I exported to the camera roll from Camera plus had a create time of when they were exported, not the time the photo was taken. (Once I started having Camera+ dump straight to the camera roll, I didn’t have this problem).

So, I dug a little deeper and found I could get an image created time stamp with a getImageDate() call.  Downside was this didn’t work for png, tiff, or mov files.   So I had to do some extra sorting, and wrote another function to use on just the jpg files. I called the open() function from the Image library, and extracted the exif data using the _getexif() function. This works most of the time, so when it fails I had it return a ‘?’ rather than the time stamp string.  Seeing that caused a fall back to the getImageDate() function.

This extra call to the Image library made the placement of the files more accurate.  I had the base time function return the month as a three character string and the year as a 4 characters string.  This required some basic string manipulation. Those two parameters were added to predetermined destination and passed to a function I had written for another project that checks if directory exits, and creates it if it does not.

Next was to have the program check to see if the file already existed in the correct destination directory.  If it did, don’t bother copying it again. This will make the incremental runs faster and save on unneeded file transfers.

Now I have a functional script that I can set up to automatically run once a week.  Once the files are archived off OneDrive, I can removed them there and on the iPhone is order to free up space.

Originally posted to Urbin Technology.  I put the source code for the time stamp functions there.

Friday B-Movie Pick: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

December 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Movies 

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Guy Richie shows his love for the 60’s TV series with this Cold War era movie. It’s the early 1960’s and the Cold War is running hot. The movie starts with CIA agent Napoleon Solo up against KBG agent Illya Kuryakin. Kuryakin doesn’t stop Solo from getting the daughter of a German scientist out of East Berlin, but he comes a damn closer than Solo is used to. So when they are told they have to team a few days later, there is hostility and mistrust. This is an origin story, about how the U.N.C.L.E team was formed and the enemy agents learned to work together. I enjoyed, but then as a child of the 60’s I remember seeing this show when I was very young. I saw a lot more of The Avengers and The Wild, Wild West, which are of a similar theme. Check it out, it’s a good spy story with a touch of humor.

Friday B-Movie Pick Archive

Monday Book Pick: The Martian

December 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Monday Book Pick, Science Fiction 

The Martian by Andy Weir

A fun SciFi adventure read. By adventure, I mean someone else in a huge amount of trouble, very far away from me. Quick summary, astronaut Mark Watney gets left on Mars when his team has to leave Mars in a large hurry because a really big sandstorm is about to tip over their ascent vehicle. He’s injured on the way to the ascent vehicle, knocked out with his bio monitor destroyed. So it looks like he’s dead to the rest of the team. Watney’s challenge is to survive long enough to be noticed, and then rescued. This reminded me of a Heinlein juvenile, which is a good thing. A fun and engaging read.

Monday Book Pick Archive

 

Monday Book Pick: The Desert and the Blade

November 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Monday Book Pick, Science Fiction 

The Desert and the Blade by SM Stirling
The latest in his Change series. This trilogy is the coming of age story of the Crown Princess of Montveil and her companions, which includes the young Empress of Japan. The forces of evil were defeated in North America by the late High King, but won in what used to be North Korea. Evil doesn’t want Reiko to obtain her own magic sword (Orlaith already has her father’s magic sword), which is the conflict of the novel. Of course there are battles, including one bloody huge one against hordes of eaters under the sway of an evil sorcerer. A good read, in which characters introduced in the last novel are grown, and new allies are introduced. It also sets the stage for the next giant novel in the series.

Monday Book Pick Archive

Friday B-Movie Pick: Jupiter Ascending

November 13, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Movies, Science Fiction 

Jupiter Ascending

It’s Friday the 13th, but I’m not going with the horror genre. First I’m not a big fan, and I just listed some classics in the Halloween movie list. Going with some finest kind Space Opera instead. Jupiter Ascending from the Wachowski clan, and it has what you expect. Reality isn’t what is seems, excellent special effects, and lots and lots of action. My quick take on the film, a Dune/Soylent Green cross over. I can see why it didn’t do well in the theaters. Too complex, competing members of the same Royal household, overseen by a large and uncaring bureaucracy. It would be helpful to have a score card in order to keep track of who was working for which faction, with the changes of loyalties listed. I kept track of it all, but then I’ve read Dune about a half dozen times. Plot aside, it was also a visually stunning movie, with dog fighting space fighters flying amid Chicago’s sky scrapers, massive space vessels, and lots of aliens and human hybrids. There were giant flying lizard men, elephant and mouse human cross overs, and some clockwork androids. There was even a goth Asian chick riding a hover bike. One of the main characters was a human/canine mix that literally lost his wings. If you are a huge SciFi nerd like I am, you’ll like this movie.

Friday B-Movie pick archive

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