Bits & Pieces 2012-08-09

Triskelion battle ring, from “The Gamesters of Triskelion”

Links and things that I’ve run across recently.

Return to Triskelion

To ordinary people with dictionaries, a triskelion is an artistic motif consisting of three interlocked spirals. Star Trek fans, however, will recognize “Triskelion” as the planet where the “Providers” (these ultra-powerful, disembodied, colored, light-up brain guys) betted on how fights would turn out between captured alien slaves from around the galaxy. (The ring in which these battles occurred was a triskelion, hence the name of the planet.) The Providers had been capturing and abusing slaves in this way since time immemorial, until they made the mistake of kidnapping James T. Kirk, who beat them at their own game. Unfortunately, as gamblers, they don’t always pay their debts, because they’ve apparently turned back on their words and are now gaming again, with a whole new generation of slaves.

“Return to Triskelion” is a fan-made sequel to the Star Trek original-series episode “The Gamesters of Triskelion.” Says @Federico_II on Twitter: “Impressive… takes this kind of production to a whole new level.”

Personally, I think that oversells it. Star Trek Phase II has released some killer fan-made episodes, which blow this thing out of the water.

My take: They put this together mostly using frames from Star Trek: The Animated Series… Which is still a feat, mind you. I haven’t seen all the ST:TAS episodes, as most of them are kinda corny, so I can’t necessarily identify where the video for the various scenes might have come from. They also obviously composited some parts from other video sources in order to achieve the effect they wanted. As I said, still a feat, mind you.

The soundtrack sounds like it’s from Star Trek (the original series). Most of it, anyhow. Some soundtrack themes came from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and one I think came from another source—not sure where.

But as I writer, what bugs me is… well… the writing. And maybe the voice acting, too. No, some of that is too funny to be boring. (Somebody, please give McCoy a drink of water and a throat lozenge.)

But the writing… Sigh. One key piece of advice I can give fanfic writers—indeed, any writers—is, for every scene, every paragraph, every line, every word, let the reader ask, “Why do I care about this?” And be sure they do. Not intellectually. But in their gut. You gotta instinctively care about it, in your gut.

Twitter Goes to Mars

And speaking of space, the final frontier…

If you missed it, you can catch the landing of Curiosity on Mars, courtesy Twitter.

Okay. That’s officially kewl.

Slow Ride to Turin

In October 2012 a team of cyclers is riding from Axminster in Devon, UK to the Slow Food Salone del Gusto festival in Turin, Italy… For those of us on the other side of the pond, that’s a bike trip of 900-something miles. This is the Slow Ride to Turin.

These cyclers ride in memory of Philippa Corbin, who killed herself in January 2011. She had lived only 27 years. They are seeking to raise awareness of depression, and to raise funds for two charities: the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust and the Human Givens Foundation.

As you may know from the pages of this very blog, the Human Givens approach—even across all those miles of ocean—played a key role in me understanding and triumphing over my own depression, and my own depressive tendencies (a story I am still telling, in fact).

So I Was Reading about How Journalist Mat Honan Got Hacked…

If you haven’t heard the story yet, Mat Honan, as a journalist, did the journalistic thing and researched and wrote about how they did it, hacked a number of his accounts and wiped out his iPhone and his Mac. Lost the last year and a half of pictures of his kid, too, which are now gone forever.

I wonder if anyone is recommending yet that the average Joe set up one of those LAN-based storage appliances for off-the-cloud backup. Part of my plan, for my own home office, is to set up a mondo storage server to use to backup all the computers and devices in the house (and for other purposes). I now have a renewed interest in that project.

(The next best thing, I guess, is an encrypted backup with a third-party provider, as long as that’s an isolated account connected to a dedicated email address. I do have backups, by the way, both in the cloud and off the cloud. I believe they are secure… But given Mat Honan’s experience and the way hackers social-engineer support people, it’s scary how vulnerable we all may be.)

Mat concludes his story with: “I bought into the Apple account system originally to buy songs at 99 cents a pop, and over the years that same ID has evolved into a single point of entry that controls my phones, tablets, computers and data-driven life. With this AppleID, someone can make thousands of dollars of purchases in an instant, or do damage at a cost that you can’t put a price on.”

I’ve actually been a little wary of this for some time. Apple wants a credit card on file to make digital purchases. Same thing with Google. It’s really convenient to not have to reenter your credit-card info every time you want to buy a 99¢ song or app, but that convenience comes at a cost— a cost for me, that is, not for Apple and Google. For Apple and Google, it makes it way more likely I will run up to my credit limit buying stuff from them, 99¢ at a time. For me, it makes it way more likely I’ll run up to my credit limit buying stuff from them, 99¢ at a time… or that someone else will on my behalf.

This is also becoming an issue with Amazon, as they sell more and more digital products. With a physical product, if someone cracks into your Amazon account and sends you something you didn’t want, you report the fraud, send it back, and all is forgiven. Even if I “accidentally” order something from Amazon (like, really), I can still turn around and send it back. But not so with digital products, if I understand correctly.

One of my daughters once accidentally hit the 2-button sequence to purchase a $10 novel on my Dad’s Kindle. ‘Twas no big deal, because it’s just $10. But Amazon’s policy is not to allow returns once you go through that 2-step sequence. In other words, yes, you actually can accidentally purchase a digital download. And she felt really sucky about it, like, in the extreme. (Several silent drops of saline were involved.) She immediately returned the Kindle, and as far as I know, she’s never touched it after that. Didn’t want anything to do with it. Good job, Amazon, eh?

So if a hacker cracks into my Amazon account and charges up 100 CDs worth of MP3 downloads to his hard drive… Do the same rules apply?

Personally, I have an extremely liberal return policy for stuff that I sell direct to readers, even for digital purchases (i.e., e-books). And it’s never been a problem… even if I were to scale up the number of purchases to the volume that Amazon, Apple, and Google have.

Today’s Quote

Life has its ups and downs. It’s very easy to be swayed by circumstances and situations; the secret to success is how you interpret and learn from them.

(Malcolm Harvey, Inside the Minds of Winners.)