Archive for May, 2008

May 31, 2008: 4:22 pm: Pegasus, writing

The Prometheus-class freighters were designed during the period of stable galactic trade before the great expansion. They were used extensively throughout Alliance areas as a reliable and safe method of cargo delivery.

The most famous of the Prometheus-class was the Pegasus, which was used by a group of explorers to visit uncharted regions beyond the rim in the first 10-year mission that kicked off the great expansion. The Pegasus was a third-generation Promethus-class freighter with minor improvements but the same basic structure.

Because the Prometheus-class was developed during a period of great stability, it had limited weaponry, but could survive aggression through a unique built-in ten-fold redundancy that allowed the ship to break into up to 10 pieces. This would make it hard for a single aggressor to target the ship, and even if one or two of the pieces were destroyed, the majority of the ship could survive to reunite and continue the voyage.

It was this feature that prompted the explorers to choose the Pegasus for their exploratory mission.

Very few Prometheus-class vessels still survive. The Prometheus itself has eight of its ten units preserved in the Space Freighter Museum on Terra, though most engine parts and much of the guidance systems were scavenged for other ships before the museum took possession.

The Pegasus is the only completely intact freighter of its kind, still technically in service at the Ionian shipyards, but in essence, not more than a tourist destination. Its engines power up but it is no longer considered safe to fly.

Beyond these two vessels, five of the units of the Proteus, the first official first-generation ship (Prometheus considered a prototype) exist at the Centauri Station History Museum. Three units of the Palau (a third-generation ship) are preserved at the Smithsonian on Terra. An estimated 17 single units of various freighters still exist in smaller museums, or in some cases as operating local shuttles.

Prometheus-class architecture
The freighter strung together 10 separable units in series. From outside, the ship appeared as a long 10-segment single ship. A central unit (exact position depended on the generation and could be customised) served as the main bridge and command center. Two more units, usually at either side, served as barracks. The remaining units were devoted to cargo space, though the unused space in the Bridge and Habitation Units could also carry cargo.

Each non-bridge unit had a small command center with space for Navigation, Ops, Engineering, and Tactics. These would be used to fly the units when separated from the bridge unit. Each non-habitation unit had a compressed habitation area that could unfold to a larger habitation area. Each unit also had its own engine, life support, fluids, etc. The entire freighter was equipped with light weaponry, which could be customised to be distributed equally among the units, or concentrated in the bridge unit.

The engine crystals ran in series throughout the ship. Every unit could house both a central drive crystal and a smaller supplemental crystal. They all worked in series to relay propulsion through the ship until they vented out the aft unit. A freighter’s chief engineers could choose to put central drives in each unit, but few could afford the expense. More commonly, a central drive would be placed in a cargo unit dubbed the Engine unit. The other units would carry supplemental crystals. A unit with a supplemental crystal could fly for 4 months before needing replenishment. A central crystal could carry a single unit almost indefinitely.

Along with propulsion, fluids, other fuels, exhausts, and life support ran in a series of closeable piping throughout the ship. At the junctions between the units, all pipes could be matched to the next unit or redirected back through an auxiliary system within the unit. Each unit also had emergency stores, hydroponics capability and other essential life support.

Separation protocols
To be viable as a defense mechanism, separation had to be fast and flexible. On the mechanical side, a sheet-wall system could close off propulsion and fluids and redirect them within the units contained systems in less than 10 seconds. Electromagnets forced mechanical couplings aside in under 10 seconds. Generally given the command to separate, the units could disengage from one another and fly significant distances apart in under 30 seconds.

The more difficult part of separation was the personnel aspect. All units were connected by a five-lane conveyor. The lanes closest to the deck moved slowly but each lane closer to the hull moved twice as fast as the one before it. The fifth lane moved at a breakneck speed to provide fast transport. Protocol called for all units to have personnel trained in piloting and engineering stationed within them at all times. In addition, tactical and ops officers were to be no more than two units away from assigned units. They had less than 20 seconds after an alarm to whip down the conveyor to their unit before separation.

Captains of Prometheus-class freighters could choose to separate into all 10 units or smaller amounts of multiple units, known as segments. The most common use of this function was not in defense, but for delivery efficiency. When entering a system, the captain might order the freighter broken into three segments, with each segment delivering goods to a different destination. The segments would then return to an agreed on port to reunite after all deliveries were made.

Defensive moves
The most successful use of the Prometheus-class separation feature as a defense mechanism was by the Pegasus. Even before their famous ten-year mission, the Pegasus crew was well-known as the best-trained in separation protocol. They took pride in a 15-second separation time, even for crew. This high level was necessary because of the more dangerous deliveries the Pegasus took. During its ten-year mission, the Pegasus developed this protocol to an astounding efficiency. Between crew training and engineering improvements, the Pegasus achieved 10-second separation on a few occasions.

Most Prometheus-class freighters were not this well trained and separation was usually achieved in the 40-second range. This accounted for the high level of unit loss when freighters were attacked. While this may seem disappointing, before the Prometheus-class, freighters had a 10% survival rate after pirate attack. With the Prometheus-class freighter, you could sacrifice units and still deliver the majority of the cargo, which was a vast improvement over total loss of a ship. Survival rate of pirate attack improved to 70% overall and 90% among Prometheus-class vessels.

The decline of Prometheus-class
After the great expansion, freighter companies began to favor heavily armed, faster single freighters over the Prometheus-class. The separable unit feature still survives in some freighters ability to separate into three or four pieces on short notice, but the engine and armament requirements prevent modern freighters from having the flexibility and speed of separation the Prometheus-class had.

The last Prometheus-class vessel to engage in an actual cargo run is thought to be the Pegasus delivering medical supplies to Orgon VI.

May 26, 2008: 1:49 pm: movies

I attended funeral services this weekend at the Church of the Nazarene in Los Angeles. At one point the choir sang a hymn that was a favorite of the departed, and a video played on a screen behind them. It was outtakes of a movie about Christ’s life.

I watched the person playing Jesus and thought, as I always do, about what its like for an actor to play that role. I also noticed he was, as is common, a white guy, and was off thinking about what Jesus would really have looked like when something struck me about the actor.

I turned to my wife and whispered, “Is that Desmond?” She stifled a giggle and nodded her head.

The actor playing Jesus in the video at the funeral services at the Church of the Nazarene, was the same actor who plays Desmond on Lost. I tapped the shoulder of my sister-in-law in front of me. “That’s Desmond” I whispered. She did nothing for a beat then turned around with her hand over her mouth trying not to bust out laughing.

Of course I couldn’t watch the video in the same way after that. If you don’t watch Lost you probably don’t quite get it, but Desmond is a Scottish castaway who says ‘brother’ a lot and drinks a lot of Scotch, Wine and whatever else he can lay his hands on. He also was once a monk.

So this got me thinking about what actors have taken on the charged role of Jesus. A quick trip to IMDb yields an enormous list. Counting appearances as baby Jesus, 220 actors are listed.

One oddity of combing through this list is that a full half of the credits come after 1991, with 80 of them since 2000. It seems portrayals of Jesus have been increasing in frequency over the last two decades.

Henry Ian Cusick
Aside from Desmond on Lost, Cusick has also been on 24, Casualty, and starred in Hitman and After the Rain. His shot at Jesus came in The Visual Bible: The Gospel of John.

Willem Dafoe
He was fired from Heaven’s Gate in 1979 but rose up to perform maybe one of the most famous portrayals of Jesus, in The Last Temptation of Christ.

Ralph Fiennes
He only voiced Jesus in the 2000 movie The Miracle Maker. But he also starred in Maid in Manhattan. And some other movies.

Matthew Modine
The pride of Vision Quest, now Sullivan Groff in Weeds, was not so long ago, Jesus in the film Mary.

Donald Sutherland
The original Hawkeye Pierce from the 1970 movie MASH, got the calling to play Christ one year later in the 1971 filming of Johnny Got His Gun.

Robert Elfstrom
This Emmy award winning long-time cinematographer is best known for his work on science programming. However, a few remember that in 1973, he not only Directed “Gospel Road: A Story of Jesus” but also gave himself the starring role.

John Drew Barrymore
Little Gertie from ET’s Dad has lived a mystical, some say crazy, existence. But in his years of more regular acting work, he got the role as Jesus in the 1962 Ponzio Pilato

Claude Heater
Oakland-born singer Claude Heater was ‘discovered” at a concert in Rome and cast as Jesus in the 1959 epic Ben-Hur. He had only one other film role as Tristan in the 1970 Tristan und Isolde.

Robert Wilson
Talk about typecast. The only role Wilson ever played was Jesus in four films from 1951-1954. And no, Illuminati fans, it’s not Robert Anton Wilson… or is it?

Stephen Wozniak
No, no, not that Woz, a different one. You’re thinking of the savior of home computing. This Woz has done indie films, commercials and TV appearances. Star Trek fans may remember him best as Alien Latia in an episode of Enterprise. His big crack at the son of man came on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2005.This probably prepared him to play Avraham in Color of the Cross.

Waddy Wachtel
Best known as a singer/songwriter. Warren Zevon fans know him as the guy you’ll see shooting Rye in the Rattlesnake Cafe when you’re dead and in Denver. Waddy got a turn at playing Jesus in Richard Lewis’s “The I’m Exhausted Concert” in 1988.

Will Swenson
One of the few who can claim to have played both on As The World Turns as well as Jesus in The Testaments: Of One Fold and One Shepherd.

Jesús Bonilla
As far as I can tell from IMDb, he’s the only guy named Jesus to play Jesus. It was in the 1995 Spanish film, Así en el cielo como en la tierra.

Jordan Willochko
The earliest listing of someone playing Jesus comes from the 1897 “The Horitz Passion Play. The Passion Play was from Czechoslovakia, and was presented as part of a lecture series in the US delivered by Professor Ernest Lacy.

May 23, 2008: 10:14 pm: software, Technology

Someone, I think it might have been Starman, but I rightly don’t remember, so forgive me. That wasn’t a sentence. This next one will be. Someone recently asked me to blog my experience with VMWare Fusion and Parallels.


I’m so bad at blogging. You can see that as early as my first post. Go ahead, dig into the archives here and find it. I’ll be right here experiencing the effects of time diliation. F or you it’s been a period of ten minutes or so. For me it’s been the space of hitting the space bar. But do you see? I don’t know what it is, but I have a real block against this blogging thing.

However, time, thunderstorms, and airline policy have conspired to keep me delayed here at gate 23 at good old OAK, meaning I have sunk deep into my amusement of last resort; picking out nose hairs. Which got me in BIG trouble with the wife, so now I must sink to blogging.

I shot a video on virtualization for CNET TV this week. The editor just finished it up today, so I imagine it won’t be posted until Tuesday. That will cover the majority of my experience. Then on Tuesday, Rafe Needleman is out of town so I’m on my own for The Real Deal podcast. So I figure I’ll talk virtualization there while it’s fresh in my mind. So that will cover almost the rest of it. And frankly audio is the medium I’m most comfortable with.

But here I blog until the gods of airline delays release me from my purgatory of waiting. So wile I’ll hold off on real details and explanations for the video and podcast that pay the bills, perhaps I will give an impressionistic account of my trip through virtualization, as I remember it.

Boot Camp 2.1 Freeze. Anger. Annoyance. A feeling of an era of bliss ending. Oh Windows XP on a Mac. I loved your look. I loved your speedy performance. I loved your idiosyncrasy. But your occasional need to freeze for 20 seconds played havoc with the Sword and Laser podcast as well as Buzz Out Loud prep. So you drove me into virtualization.

Start with free Parallels download. All is smooth until —- ACTIVATION. See, I had played with VMWare once in January. And had used activations with Boot Camp. So I was looking mighty peg-legged and eye-patch wearing as far as Microsoft could tell. But a little extra effort overcame.
Parallels is great!

But wait. Slight sadness. No second monitor now for Windows apps. Grr. How about VMWare? No respite there.

Surpise! VMWare Fusion Beta. Multi-monitor support.

Install it. Crazy install hell. Must make calls and pretend to have rebuilt machine. But finally activated. No way to get Parallels and VMWare to both work. They seem to overwrite each other’s activations. OH well. Live in VMWare. The beta seems a bit slower than PArallels but I lvoe the multimon support.

So why not keep moving to OS X!

Move iTunes over. No problem! Well slight problem when shooting a video and I accidentally trash my whoel library. But I restored it. So no harm done!

BUT THEN! I tried to repartition. S ee when I set up Boot Camp I expected to live in Windows. So I gave Windows a healthy 150 GB and Mac about 80 or so. With iTunes moved that 80 was getting cramped. So I plunk down the money for iPartition. Doesn’t work. Can’t move the data. Must defrag. Go into Windows Boot Camp and defrag Windows partition. Go into iDefrag and defrag Mac partition. Now partitioning works! Cross fingers and pray as partitions are resized and moved. It works!


Next morning’s VMWare boot can’t find the virtual machines file! Ack! Moving the partition munged the virtualization. Oh well. Bite nails, cry a small tear and trash the VMWare image file and rebuild. Whew! It works. Must reinstall VMWare tools but no reactivation! Crisis averted.

Now in search of the mail and calendaring replacement. Millions of programs will get my mail but almost nothign can read our exchange calendar. One program that promises to sync iCal with Exchange Calendar doesn’t work in Leopard!

Oh but Entourage you are so darn expensive. I mean, I just bought Popcorn Hour, Roku Netflix AND new headphones for my iPhone. I just can’t plunk down for Office for Mac. No way.

So I live in two worlds still. And the only real issue with that is when I click a link in an Outlook mail, it opens in Windows Firefox instead of Mac.

Also the Belkin Flip we use on CNET Live won’t recognise video from OS X for some reason. We need the flip so both me and Cooley’s laptops can be hooked up to the control room. The direct conenction without the flip works fine, which is how I was able to demonstrate VMWare on CNET Live last week. But as soon as we use th flip so both laptops can be connected, nothing.

So for CNET Live I must use Boot Camp. But good news! I figured out the Boot Camp freeze that led to all this. Apparently Input Remapper, that I use to reprogram the MacBook Pro keyboard doesn’t play nice with the keyboard manager in Boot Camp 2.1. So I disabled the keyboard manager in MSCONFIG and voila! No more freezes!

So I suppose I could go all the way back to Windows now, but I kinda like OS X. Plus I’d have to pay for MacDrive in order to see the files on my OS X partition in Windows. So I think virtualization will be the mode of choice for now. And hopefully the VMWare beta will be updated and not be so laggy as it goes along.

Scattered and incomplete as it is, there are my impressions of my experience with virtualization. Thanks for reading.

May 17, 2008: 3:17 pm: SBTV

The last of the six episodes of SBTV produced in Austin in 1997. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the rolling out of the New Toast from the National Toast Board. I highly encourage you to fast forward through the black and white Beatles sketch as soon as you get the slightest bit bored. We made the stupid decision to pad out the episode with it and it frankly bites. Otherwise enjoy!

The New Toast – SuBBrilliant Television from Tom Merritt on Vimeo.

May 14, 2008: 9:39 pm: SBTV

The fifth episode of the 1997 Austin TV show. Probably the best of the six episodes. Features a thread of skits including, a TV announcer who takes his job home with him, a woman with a sound effects speech impediment, and a commercial for the horror film BUTTERFLIES.

The Announcer Guy – SuBBrilliant Television from Tom Merritt on Vimeo.

May 10, 2008: 4:49 pm: SBTV

Episode four of SBTV sees quite an improvement in camera and lighting. I believe several of these skits were shot on High 8.

The Wicked Untitled of the West – SuBBrilliant Television from Tom Merritt on Vimeo.

May 4, 2008: 8:01 pm: SBTV

Three of six in the series of SBTV I’m reposting. PLease remember to keep in mind that this was done in 1997. Also keep in mind that we’re not all as sacreligious as we might appear int his episode. But some of us definitely were.

Revenge of the Untitled – SuBBrilliant Television from Tom Merritt on Vimeo.