14 March 2018

Stephen Hawking 1942-2018

The legendary scientist has died aged 76.

Just surviving with Motor Neurone Disease for as long as he did was a remarkable achievement. Doing everything else and becoming a pop culture icon was as well. The combination makes him a legend. Not a perfect one of course (who is?) but he's contributed far more to humanity than most of those who went to Cambridge when he did.

Rest in Peace.

24 February 2018

'Star Trek: Discovery' season review - Part Two

Despite Yourself

Knocking it right out of the park, or rather the Prime Universe, from pretty much the get go. This is dramatic, twisty and funny ("Captain Killy") with some great scenes starting a nice arc going.

The Wolf Inside

With a lovely call back to the original Mirror Universe episode i.e. Sarek with a goatee, this story contains further great revelations, a wonderful final scene and Burnham engaging in Kirk level chess moves.

Vaulting Ambition

Having Michelle Yeoh back is lovely in an episode filled with plenty of good horror... and that last revelation makes everything make sense. Some of us saw it coming, but still, a great twist...

What's Past Is Prologue

Jason Isaacs bows out as Gabriel Lorca in dramatic style, closing the arc that started way back in the third episode in great style. He'll be missed and one hopes the next Discovery captain, if it's not Saru, will live up to his memorability.

The War Without, The War Within

This is somewhat of a 'calm before the storm' episode as the ship comes to terms with events beforehand and what their current situation now involves. Again, another great ending.

Will You Take My Hand?

Now this is a superb season finale. It could have been a bit longer - it was a bit rushed - but it's a triumphant validation of Starfleet's ordeals. You know how the story will end, but the journey there is great with Tilly in particular serving as great comic relief and Burnham fully discovering the humanity she's at time lacked.


Definitely a stronger second half; with revelations here retroactively boosting the first half by making strange things clearer. This darker take on Trek remains true to the original spirit of the show, while delivering strong characters and humour; it compliments the more comic The Orville nicely.

I look forward to seeing where this ship boldly goes next season, but please turn the lights up...


03 February 2018

In which everyone commentates on a game being played in the dark

The ongoing Trump situation is one where a lot of people are making guesses as to what they think is going to happen. There's an expression: "These who talk don't know and those who know don't talk".

We don't know what exactly is going through the mind of the key players involved: Robert Mueller, Mike Pence, Trump himself, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell. The GOP's seeming complicity in what is going on is more often than not silence. Nunes is doing his own thing with his failure of a memo, but most Republicans aren't saying anything at all.

We don't know what happens if Mueller suggests Trump gets impeached - or if he'll just indict him anyway. We don't know if Trump will fire him.

And we don't even know what happens if Trump is removed from office. It could be months before he ends up behind bars, if at all. And if Trump's supporters are rabid now...

It's a rather concerning situation, all told.

07 January 2018

Kumar Chameleon - A Star Citizen Story, Part Five: Location

There was a sudden loud bang and the front of the Tevarin’s head exploded. As it slumped to the ground, Mary got up and saw Daniel standing behind her, holding a smoking pistol in his hand.

“Well, the agreed call signal worked”, he said, “Who is this Chris Roberts guy anyway?”

“He was a brainy kid I went to school with. I don’t know what happened to him though. Said he wanted to be a Wing Commander or something…”

At that point, the door to the shop crashed open, revealing a very angry Donald Hood. He turned around and saw the dead Tevarin on the ground, then noticed Daniel’s weapon.

“What did you just do with...” he started to say, then Daniel shot him in the head. Donald’s body collapsed to the ground, twitched a couple of times and was still.

What did you do that for?!” Mary screamed, “He was completely unarmed!”

Daniel holstered his weapon and looked down at the second person he had just killed in the space of a few minutes.

“He knew that we’d stolen his client list and he’d have told everyone he could that he was blown. Including our assassin. Also, to be quite frank, the galaxy is better off without him and his garden gnomes. Now let’s get out of here”, he said, trying to sound as cold as possible and not entirely succeeding.

He started to walk out of the alley, then stopped.

“If Sunita asks at all, Donald shot first”.


As soon as she’d heard the gun shot, Sunita Kumar had taken advantage of the distraction and ran out of the shop as per the previously agreed plan. She found a public toilet and gave her mouth a through rinse out. With soap.

Her mind wasn’t entirely focussed on what was going on with the rinsing though. Having heard two gunshots in quick succession, she was naturally very concerned about Mary.

She then made her way back to Tuskegee Airman, fearing the worst. Seeing Mary in the medical bay, being treated for her injuries by Becky (who had learnt a decent amount of medical knowledge growing up on a farm; she had helped cattle give birth after all), was a massive relief.

It then became a case of working their way through the data to try and find who the likely candidates were. Having found the bullet casings on the beach gave them a clear and obvious product to look for, allowing them to eliminate the people who had, for example, only bought anti-tank missiles or items only suitable for use by spacecraft.

They soon managed to get their list down to three people who had purchased the particular type of round.

“Well...”, Mary said, “We can probably eliminate the mining corporation from the equation pretty quickly. So we’re down to some antique collector named Llewellyn and an independent concern by the name of Whoops A Daisy Trading. Fortunately, we’re got a security camera photograph of this guy stored with the records…”

She pulled up the picture, which was of a bald African man with very bushy eyebrows and two missing teeth.

“He shouldn’t be particularly hard to find… but we’ll need to locate him. Sunita, do you fancy going with me to hit up a few bars. Even if we ask around, we’ll probably draw him out even if we don’t find him usually”.


Sunita and Mary found their way into a dive known as the Smelly Shack, which didn’t look like a shack but was most definitely smelly. Custom meant that they were going to need to have a few drinks and sources in bars were very wary of people who didn’t drink alcohol.

After three strawberry beers (Sunita didn’t know this was a thing, but clearly it was), their drinking companion of choice, a Banu merchant, gave them what they needed.

“He’s called Mr. Jones. He’s staying at the Kiddie World Convention. Strange that such a big man likes the things of infants…”

“What’s the Kiddie World Convention?” Sunita asked.

“Basically, a lot of adults decide to act like children for a weekend. There’s big slides, ball pits, swings, all that. Plus, there’s a lot of drinking involved, which is even stranger…”


Mary wrote this down on a pad of paper. She didn’t want to forget the information under the effects of alcohol.

There was certainly a lot of that involved. Around drink number six, things become a bit hazy…


The following morning, Sunita woke up with a pounding headache, a dry mouth and a general desire for the sweet embrace of death.

She opened her eyes and took a look around. It was clear that she was not on her own ship, or indeed in the hotel. There was the distinct smell of spaceship around, so she figured that she was on Tuskegee Airman. Probably in one of the guest cabins.

This was confirmed when the door to the cabin opened and Becky entered, holding a tray. The tray contained a cooked breakfast, a very strong cup of coffee and a fizzing glass of something that was almost certainly intended to aid with the intoxication of last night…

She got up to a seated position and noticed a pile of dried vomit up against one wall of the cabin.
“Was that me?” she asked Becky, “If so, I’m really sorry about that…”

“It was, but you’re forgiven”, Becky said, placing the tray on the bed. Sunita started eating the meal. It tasted very good or as good as you could get when your mouth was like that.

“Did we get the required information?”

Becky shrugged slightly and handed over a notepad. The handwriting was barely legible.

“Can you read this?” she said, “I think that’s a ‘n’, but I can’t be sure…”

Sunita took a look at the paper and started to try to piece together Mary’s chicken scratch with her memory of the previous night.

“Where’s Mary?” she asked Becky.

“Sleeping it off… Apparently she used to be much more able to handle her liquor”.

Was she writing this with her weak hand?

It took a few painful minutes to piece the relevant information together.

“His name is Abraham Jones. He’s nearly 2 metres tall, African in appearance and is built like a brick… something house…”

“Well, he’ll probably not be that hard to find…”


Having dealt with her hangover as best she could, Sunita had changed into another outfit, this one to go to the Kiddie World Convention. She was wearing dark blue shorts and a green football shirt, under which was a white bikini. A pair of strappy sandals complemented the look.

 “He’s got VIP access to the Convention and will probably be found in the VIP Lounge of this. You can get in with a VIP ticket, but you have to do something first”, Becky said.

“What do I have to do?” Sunita asked.

“Well… prepare to lose your dignity…”


“Sunita Kumar, it’s karaoke time!”

Karaoke? I don’t know who invented the idea, but I’d like to go back in time and punch him in the face. 

Sunita got to her feet and walked over to the microphone, wondering what monstrosity she was going to have to sing. She looked down at the virtual screen in front of her as the music began to start.

I know this tune… it’s rather a good one…

She smiled and started to belt out the tune.

Her name was Lola, she got Ebola

With vomit in her hair and loads of real pain everywhere

She would be nauseous and be real gross-us

And while she fought the bad disease, her friends divvied up her cheese

Across the iso-ward, the stiffs were turning cold…

The diverse crowd weren’t exactly booing at this moment…

His name was Davies, he got some rabies

He’d been bitten by cavies in a pet store, said Mavis

Someone started to clap.

In the D-Ward, the Viral D-Ward…

The hottest spot north of Wisconsin…

In the D-Ward, the Viral D-Ward…

Viral infections were spreading like presents

More people started to clap.

Her name was Asia, she was contagi-a
With Marburg, measles yeah and salmonella, it’s not fair…

There were increasing cheers as she finished…

Don’t go to Maine!!!!!!!

She took a bow and smiled as the crowd went wide. The MC walked over and shook her hand.

“The ‘Maine War’ song is such a catchy tune for such an unpleasant event in our history and you really gave it a wonderful go. Can we all agree what she is?”

“VIP! VIP! VIP! VIP!” the crowd chanted.

Well, that’s one phase done.

She stepped down, collected her ticket and then decided to go play in the ball pit for a bit before making her way to the VIP area.


As Sunita clambered into the hot tub in the VIP area, a waiter came over holding a tray full of glasses of coloured liquid with umbrellas in them. She looked at them and picked the light green one. It tasted distinctly minty, more so once she had drunk it. She looked around discreetly, finding that a 2-metre high man was harder to spot than you might think, especially with some many other people around, many of them in limited attire and some of those pretty handsome…

However, she wasn’t going to have to wait for long. Soon she got a glimpse of 160kg of pure muscle heading her way, dressed in a big pair of black shorts that wouldn’t be out of place in a boxing ring.

He looked at her face and the waterproof plaster on her right shoulder, then moved over quickly to her.

His large hand moved over to her head and shoved her face into the bubbly water…

Plans for 2018

Not a huge number this year, for various reasons. However, one thing I plan to do is a few posts examining a railway timetable I own for January 1958, comparing how things have improved. Or not as the case may be.

Plus a few reviews of things, including hopefully resuming my Star Trek: The Original Series posts once Discovery has finished airing.

30 December 2017

Salve Tredecim!

"Twice upon a Time" was a highly enjoyable and emotional Christmas special for Doctor Who, a wonderful ending for the Twelfth Doctor. The 'old-fashioned attitudes' of the First Doctor were slightly over done, but this was a relatively minor issue.

Anyway, I want to talk about the new lady. While she only got two words, those were excellently picked ones, squaring the circle of the Doctor discovering that she has become female for the first time. Whittaker's got a wonderful smile and while the accent may take some getting used (especially for non-Brits), she has already won over a lot of people.

So, onwards to the era of Chris Chibnall, who I'd not actually seen a photograph of until today. Considering he can carry off a velvet jacket just fine, I think we're in good hands.

24 December 2017

Vale duodecim

Tomorrow at just before 6pm GMT, the Twelfth Doctor will regenerate, four years to the day after his 'birth' in "The Time of the Doctor".

While looking very much forward to the arrival of 13, who is of course a major change for the show, let us take a moment to give a huge round of applause to Peter Capaldi, who imbued the Doctor with such memorable spirit - and gruffness.

Those eyebrows will be missed.

23 December 2017

Christmas wishes

In a year with a lot of sound and fury with normal decorum becoming increasingly rare it seems, I have to draw comfort from something.

I draw comfort from God's son, who came down to Earth, became a manual labourer and then went around for three years preaching that there is a better way of doing things than acquiring wealth and power.

This Christmas, my call on people is to play the ball not the person. If you disagree with someone's argument, attack their reasoning and persuade them of their point of view. Don't call them stupid or traitors. Understand why they might think that way.

Otherwise words will soon turn to blows.

On that note, have a safe and non-argumentative Christmas.