AirToob Lightning
I like looking on the bright side. I relate very much to the Mediterranean extended-family, take-it-slow, money-isn't-everything outlook on life. I'm not a great cook but I like cooking, especially Mediterranean food (my recipe page is here). I'm interested in environmental issues. My main hobby is flying (on a PC simulator).

The people I admire most are those who see no end to pain, illness, grief or disability and who still retain a sense of humour, people who spend time making life better for others in any way, and people with toxic parents who have "broken the chain" in bringing up their own children.

If you like my pages you will probably also enjoy my web site - do visit! You can get a quick flavour of it here.

PS: I'm a refugee from StumbleUpon. I have copied all of my old SU reviews (the ones containing images) here, except for some not-so-good and outdated bits.



As Michelle in 'Allo, 'Allo might say, please read the following very carefully - I shall write it only once!

I'm a great believer in tags. SU restricted you to 5 tags per post (and then only for site-review posts), but here you can have as many tags per post as will fit into about 200 characters, so I have tried to take full advantage.

For example, you can select from this blog (if you want to) only posts to do with arts, science, entertainment, books, movies, music, environment and so on.

If you're feeling down (or even if you aren't), try this selection of things to enjoy in life, which is pretty much what these pages are all about.

You will find a larger selection of my favourite tags here (or click the White Rabbit below).

The main thing is: if you like something about one of my posts, try clicking the corresponding tag at the top of the post. If you keep doing this, you may find yourself navigating down some nice paths through this blog (for example, this one or this one).

Among these tags you will find the name of a Categorian or Stumbler if their work features in that post, so if you click one of those names (e.g. expressioniste or johnshaven) then you will get (hopefully) a nice selection of that particular person's work as it appears on my blog.

You can find my posts that introduce other Categorians if you click the Cat... then if you like one of the posts that you find, click that Categorian's tag on that post to see everything that I have snaffled from that person! (And you can do the same for ex-Stumblers if you click the image to the right.)

There are plenty more tags to choose from. Enjoy your visit!



WHITE RABBITS - If you're pressed for time, and you would like a quick sample of what I think are the best of these pages, or help in finding quickly what you need, then go here or click the White Rabbit!



Click the cat to chat!




OK, so you're in a hurry and missed the White Rabbit... Just to point out that there's a lot of (hopefully) good stuff hidden in the back pages that most people don't see. If you want a fast sample that jumps you in at different points, try clicking the Coyote!

Once you're there, you can follow a sequence by clicking the chevrons >> at the end of a post, or try clicking a tag you like at the top of a post.

Have fun!



Brian's miscellaneous rambles...

... with words (thoughts on Life, the Universe and Everything) - click the image to the left

... with pictures (my photos and photoblogs) - click the image to the right!




HELP!

For essential Categorian help, just click Help at the top of your screen - and don't forget to make Help your "friend", that way you can easily see when new help information has been added.

It can really, really help to know something about HTML and web pages, if you don't already.
Try here for pointers to some good stuff (even for complete beginners), and also the web design utilities that Matt lists here - and don't miss Karenak's Guide for Categorian Beginners and Borderline's Categorian Help.

When you look at someone's awesome web page and wonder "How do they do that?" then (if you know at least a little HTML) try looking at the source text ("Page Source") for that page. You can do this from the "View" menu of browsers (or Ctrl+U on Firefox or Chrome) - some later versions of browsers hide it under "Web Developer" or similar.

My own Categorian Help posts will be found here, and my Computer Help posts will be found here.



Do you want your reviews to be noticed by other users?

Do you want to find other users who share the same interests as you?

Do you want to be notified of new site reviews for topics that you like?


The Categorian Library is your key to all these things... if you need some help with it, you might find some useful stuff here (or click the image).



HERE BE TREASURE - or my archive pages, anyway:

1 (Oct 2007) | 2 (Jan 2008) | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 (Jan 2009) | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 (Jan 2010)| 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 (Jan 2011) | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 (Oct 2011) | Nov | Dec 2011 | Jan 2012 | Feb | Apr | May | Jun-Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec 2012 | Jan 2013 | Feb | Mar-May | July | Aug | Sep-Nov | Nov-Dec 2013 | Jan-Feb 2014 | Jun-Jul | Aug-Sep | Oct-Dec 2014 |

Archive pages 1 to 34, and part of 35, come from my StumbleUpon blog. Dates in brackets refer to original post dates on SU. Because I transferred the blog manually, dates in my Categorian blog prior to October 10th 2011 (unless marked as original dates) are the date of the transfer.

Archive pages present posts in increasing-date order (oldest first). This is the opposite direction to the "normal" blog pages which are in decreasing-date order (newest first). One effect of this is that the contents of a given archive page (page 5, say) always remain the same, unless you delete something, whereas the contents of a given page on the "normal" blog keep changing as you add stuff to the front.


From the page:

There's more thought-provoking stuff to read here, for example the statistics from the Federal Bureau of Prisons supporting previous findings that “the unaffiliated and the nonreligious engage in far fewer crimes.”

The question “Can we be good without God?” is one that has interested me for some time, and I am not surprised by the findings of this research. My own thoughts on the subject, FWIW, appear here on my web site.

My own answer to that question is yes, there are a number of ways, including the humanist point of view, the best-known proponent of which is probably the author Sir Terry Pratchett, who sadly died recently (see my previous post below).

From my web site:

It is a sad fact that some of the world's religions, as practised by people, have given rise (and are still giving rise) to much human misery, in spite of their otherwise good aspects. Again FWIW, my thoughts on that subject can be found here on my web site.

Hmmm... Food for thought...


A suggestion...

[Try clicking the life-improvement tag at the top of this post...]



Sir Terry Pratchett OBE
April 28th, 1948 - March 12th, 2015




The world has suffered the loss of an almost universally loved fantasy writer, humanist and campaigner for the right to die with dignity.

He was an enormously prolific author, filling the bookshelves of people all over the world with many treasured possessions. As years went by his output became seriously funny, in every sense, and was often deeply humane.

Not all of his work was fantasy - for example “Dodger”, one of his finest works, is a gripping story set in historical London. As with many of his books for younger readers, “Dodger” can be (and is) enjoyed equally by adults.

He was knighted by the Queen in 2009 for services to literature.

He will live on in so many ways (a good number of which are described here). One of these ways is through his daughter Rhianna, already an author, who (with his blessing) will take over writing the Discworld series.

Click the image of Sir Terry for a superb tributes page (thanks, Karenak), and click the quotation for many of his best quotes.



“Under the Vaulted Sky” © by Vanda Ralevska, whose other work is well worth checking out


Awesome beauty destroyed about 6,000 years ago - but we can still see it...

A new, sharper image of the iconic Pillars of Creation - structures in the Eagle Nebula that no longer exist (in this image, Hubble is looking about 7,000 years into the past) - taken with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3

Image source: this Hubble page from NASA

A different and fascinating picture emerges when the structures are seen in near-infrared:

From Astronomy Magazine:

“This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image, taken in near-infrared light, transforms the pillars into eerie, wispy silhouettes, which are seen against a background of myriad stars. The near-infrared light can penetrate much of the gas and dust, revealing stars behind the nebula as well as hidden away inside the pillars. Some of the gas and dust clouds are so dense that even the near-infrared light cannot penetrate them. New stars embedded in the tops of the pillars, however, are apparent as bright sources that are unseen in the visible image.” More...

The story of how the Pillars were destroyed is a fascinating one - see here if you are interested.


If you like this...

[Space Sounds - electromagnetic vibrations in 20-20,000Hz range, translated to audio - eerie!]
[All of my astronomy posts]


Battlestar Galactica (2003 TV miniseries followed by 2004-2009 TV series)

“Galactica and Pegasus” by Balsavor, typical of much fine fan art spun off by the series (and worth seeing full size)


High resolution (2400x1600) Viper wallpaper, showing some of the series creators' loving attention to detail


OK, so I messed up on this one. This post was going to explain why the re-imagined BSG (based on Glen A. Larson's 1978 original) is the finest [insert category] television drama ever made, and why you shouldn't miss it if you haven't already seen it, even if you're not an SF fan. In the UK it's currently available free from Netflix, Amazon Prime, blinkbox and iTunes (and no doubt similarly in other countries).

The problem is that BSG is in a quite unique drama category, and so is bound to be the best of its type. Yes, it has awesome space hardware and effects, superior IMO to those in most blockbuster movies, but those exist just to give a very realistic background to a story about politics, ethics, religions, war, love, prejudices formed and overcome, loyalty and betrayal, what it means to be a person, and much else besides. Short version: my wife liked it as much as I did.

If you've seen it, hopefully this will bring back some memories. If you haven't, it helps to know that the Cylons are a cybernetic race originally created by humans, but now evolving themselves. Many Cylons are human in appearance (and in many other ways). These exist as many copies (or instances) of a small number of Cylon “models” - the exact number is one of several unfolding mysteries in the story. Some instances don't know that they are Cylons, believing that they are human until triggered.

Models are referred to by Cylons by number, e.g. Six, but not all models, nor instances of a particular model, think or behave the same way. The development of individuality and dissension amongst the Cylons is one of the rich elements of the story.

If a Cylon instance is killed then its personality is downloaded (if important circumstances are met) to a resurrection mechanism whose details emerge only gradually in the story, and is reborn in another identical body with memories intact. An instance that survives in this way is effectively immortal.

The Cylons have their own religion (the humans have several), and at least one non-corporeal “Angel”.

And, of course, the (supposedly) human characters in the story, both military and civilian, include an unknown number of Cylons. What happens as they gradually become aware of this is one of the many fascinations of the series.

Enough confusion... I'll hand over to some of the main characters.


Edward James Olmos as Commander (later Admiral) William Adama

Like his ship, Adama is ready for retirement when the story opens. The obsolete nature of his ship's equipment, and his justifiably paranoid refusal to network its computer systems, allow his ship to survive the Cylons' first sophisticated and devastating attack on the humans' Twelve Colonies, when more modern elements of the fleet are apparently all destroyed.

The attack - whose cause is not as obvious as first appears, as with so much of BSG - leaves only about 50,000 civilians alive in the human race, who eventually embark on an epic search for a new home, the fabled Earth, pursued at every turn by the Cylons.


Mary McDonnel as Laura Roslin, the surviving Secretary of State for Education who has to take over the role of President of the Colonies

Laura turns out to be a tough cookie, deceptive appearances to the contrary, and an able leader of the diverse remnants of the human population now inhabiting a motley assortment of civilian spacecraft. She and Adama will have many run-ins and conflicts of interest, eventually developing mutual respect and a very touching relationship.


A rare peaceful interlude. In a pivotal section of the story, the Colonists are persuaded to reject Laura as president by the despicable Gaius Baltar (below), abandoning their search for Earth to settle on a planet they call “New Caprica”, supposedly hidden from the Cylons by a nearby source of stellar radiation.

Many of the military elect to join the ground colony and start families, under the indolent presidency of Baltar. Galactica and Pegasus (the other surviving Battlestar encountered later) are essentially reduced to watchkeeping (and Adama grows that moustache). Then all hell breaks loose, as the Cylons find the colony, thanks indirectly to one of Baltar's many betrayals. There follows a period of occupation and guerilla-style insurgency, suicide bombing and reprisals. Some humans join the Cylon's secret police force, Baltar is coerced into signing death warrants for civilians, and a conflict escalates which echoes many around the world in recent times, as well as the Nazi occupations of WWII.

The four episodes that open Season 3, leading to the final liberation of the human colony, would make a blockbusting movie epic in their own right.


The beautiful Canadian model and actress Tricia Helfer, who plays many different instances of the Cylon “Number Six”

“Number Six” is undoubtedly the most complex of the Cylon models. As the instance known by the Cylons as “Caprica-Six”, she is responsible for seducing the brilliant scientist Gaius Baltar, giving the Cylons access to the Caprica defence mainframe and enabling the devastating nuclear attack on the planet.


Gaius Baltar (the English actor James Callis) with “Head/Inner/Messenger Six”, a non-corporeal instance of the Cylon model who constantly guides and motivates Gaius

One of the quirks of BSG are the frequent views of Gaius and “Head Six” when other people are present. Her interactions with him are quite physical, and when we see them from other people's point of view (when she is invisible) he is doing all kinds of strange things, including apparently talking to himself, which he has to desperately cover up. Surely someone would notice? And it gets even stranger before the end...


Gina Inviere, a very different instance of “Six”, with Gaius Baltar

Gina infiltrates Pegasus and is responsible for its invasion by Cylon soldiers. She is subsequently unmasked and traumatized by severe sexual and physical abuse at the hands of Pegasus' crew, instigated by and participated in by the brutal Admiral Cain (Michelle Forbes). Baltar assists her to escape, whereupon she kills the Admiral (something that most viewers will feel is long overdue). Baltar hides her in the fleet, forming a long-unrequited relationship with her that complicates his relationship with “Head Six”. This relationship will ultimately lead to the discovery of New Caprica by the Cylons.

A full description of the “Six” model instances will be found here (with spoilers).


Katee Sackhoff as Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, considered to be Galactica's best Viper pilot

Kara is one of BSG's most deeply-developed central characters. Tough but vulnerable, she has complex relationships with other main characters. Saul Tigh (see later below), Galactica's Exec, throws her in the brig for insubordination. Commander Adama sees her as a daughter figure, and his son Lee Adama sees her as lead pilot, sparring partner and sometime lover. Kara doesn't appear to value her own life, but saves the fleet many times by extraordinary feats of flying and courage.

She has a final destiny that I have no intention of describing here...

Kara with Lee “Apollo” Adama (the English actor Jamie Bamber), who for some time is the CAG (Commander, Air Group) for Galactica

Due to tragic family history (caused inadvertently by Kara, though this isn't discovered until later), Lee and his father have a difficult relationship, one of many such interesting story-lines that thread BSG.


Kara in deep trouble, later in the story, and an illustration of how Kara's character was developed through Katee's acting ability


The American-born Canadian actress Grace Park as Sharon “Boomer” Valerii, one of the instances of the “Number Eight” Cylon model

The first Sharon that we meet is “Boomer”, a pilot who doesn't realise that she is a Cylon. Boomer has an against-regs relationship with Chief Tyrol (see later below), who initially protects her when Sharon realises that she is unwittingly performing acts of sabotage. She asks Gaius Baltar to test her for being a Cylon; Gaius does so but falsifies the result out of cowardice.

Eventually she is triggered into shooting Commander Adama, nearly fatally, and is subjected to severe interrogations by Saul Tigh and Gaius Baltar. She is subsequently shot and killed by Cally, a female colleague of Chief Tyrol. A new instance of Boomer will return later...


We meet the second Sharon (given the callsign “Athena” much later) when Karl “Helo” Agathon (the Canadian actor Tahmoh Penikett) is stranded on Caprica. Helo thinks that this is the return of Boomer who was evacuating civilians; this Sharon is a knowing part of a Cylon plot to form a relationship with him and infiltrate the human fleet. But then Helo sees another “Eight” copy and realises what is going on, by which time this Sharon has genuinely fallen in love with him, and is pregnant with his child - a child who will be of immense importance in the future.

Returning to Galactica, a really interesting sequence of events develops, as various attempts to have her executed are postponed by Sharon's decisions to support the humans against the Cylons, saving the humans on several occasions. Winning trust (including Helo's) is a long and painful process, culminating in Adama's extraordinary appointment of her to lead the rescue mission on New Caprica, as only she can defeat their systems on the ground.

“How do you really know that you can trust me?” she asks Adama before the mission. “I don't,” replies Adama. “That's what trust is.”

On her return from the successful mission, it is the pilots themselves who give her the callsign “Athena”.

Helo later becomes the conscience of Galactica, first arguing against and then thwarting an opportunity to completely wipe out the Cylons in an act of genocide. Adama, secretly relieved, declines to punish him for what is in fact a serious act of treason, and the notion that Cylons are “just machines” begins to die.


Chief Galen Tyrol, “The Chief” (the Canadian actor Aaron Douglas)

Responsible for keeping Galactica's fighters operational, and even building one as a personal project during a desperate period, The Chief was originally intended to be a minor character in BSG. However he becomes a complex and important part of the story, representing the interests of the working man, becoming part of the resistance movement on New Caprica, and at one point making a key discovery in the search for Earth.


Samual T. Anders, callsign “Longshot” (the American actor Michael Trucco)

Sam Anders' role in the BSG story is much more complex than first appears. We meet him on Caprica after the Cylons' nuclear attack, leading a resistance group that escaped the initial devastation. In planting explosives he encounters Caprica-Six, the reincarnated Boomer and (for the first time) “Three” (see later below). Inexplicably at the time, the first two turn on “Three” and allow him to escape, one of the first indications of dissention developing among the Cylons.

Anders later meets Starbuck who is on a personal mission from President Roslin (an unapproved mission which leads Adama to imprison the President and declare Martial Law). Anders and Kara form a relationship, and Kara promises to return to rescue him and the rest of the team, although it will be a long time until she can fulfil that promise.


Sam marries Kara on New Caprica, and later rescues her from a particularly unpleasant captivity after the Cylon invasion. Kara's problems and her relationship with Lee Adama make the marriage very difficult, and eventually it breaks down. But Sam's part in the BSG story is far from over...


Saul Tigh, Galactica's Exec (played by the Canadian actor Michael Hogan), after losing an eye during mistreatment by the Cylons on New Caprica


Adama welcomes Saul back to Galactica after the rescue mission on New Caprica. Saul's experiences there have made him very bitter, and for a long time he is useless, and even destructive, as a functioning officer. He was responsible for hard-line insurgency on New Caprica, and was put in the position of killing his toxic wife Ellen after she (not quite fatally) betrayed the rescue operation.

Prior to the New Caprica incident, Saul had a disastrous experience deputizing for Adama after the Commander was shot by Boomer. His relationship with Adama goes back a long way, and we discover over a period of time why Adama tolerates less than ideal behaviour in his hard-drinking Exec.


Saul Tigh with an instance of the Cylon “Three” (the New Zealand actress Lucy Lawless), towards the end of the story

This encounter follows some extraordinary developments in the lives of both of these characters (and in many other lives as well). Explaining why would be a serious spoiler...

BSG does have some flaws or weaknesses, unsurprising in an epic of 77 episodes including the opening miniseries. Some people view the end itself as one such; I found myself coughing gently when I recognized the Citroen DS, and several other European cars, parked on Caprica (the makers must have hoped that US audiences wouldn't notice). However from my point of view these are totally minor, and I am enjoying BSG just as much, if not more, on my second time through.


If you like this...

WARNING: SPOILERS

[List of BSG episodes]
[Quotations from BSG]


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