My recent discussions with the ODP guys about open-sourcing the ODP backend software have led me to read up on RDF, which is the format used by ODP for exporting the ontological information and content of the directory. One thing I immediately ran into was XTM, the ISO standard for creating XML Topic Maps. These seem to me to be competing standards in that they both use XML to describe ontological information. RDF seems to be enjoying much more widespread use on the web but I’m playing catch-up in this particular area right now, so I may be missing some uses of XTM. One helpful document I’ve found is a paper by Lars Marius Garshol comparing XTM, RDF, and two RDF extensions, DAML and OIL. If anyone knows of other introductory-level documents describing the similarities and differences of XTM and RDF, I’d be curious to hear about them.
Another Christmas has come and gone. A few of us gathered at my sister Linda’s house and joined her family for Christmas day. The usual sorts of holiday activities occured – food, games, lots of talking, and helping the kiddos assemble a few toys. And we made some calls to those who couldn’t (or didn’t wish to) come.
We decided to take today and tomorrow off work as well. Today we visited a few of the antique malls on highway 80 near Forney and saw everything from an antique Russian MIG to a Jeanette Cube cup and saucer that Susan had actually been looking for. We brought the cup and saucer home with us but left the MIG – it had too many rivets.
I closed an eBay transaction today that has been pending for some time. I’ve been searching for a particular Canon FD macro lens for nearly a year. Earlier this month I finally found one in good condition and managed to nab it at the right price on eBay. Unfortunately, the seller was located in Guam which was hit by a major typhoon within hours of my winning the auction. After a few days the seller did manage to get an email through saying they had no power, no water, no public services of any kind (including mail), so no lens. This week, however, the seller made it to California and is shipping all his eBay stuff from there. So by this time next week I may finally have my new lens to play with.
Okay, it’s time to go over my list of major and minor nits with Star Trek: Nemesis (as if anyone really cares!) I don’t think there are any spoilers in here but read at your own risk if you haven’t seen the movie.
- Clones with no tone – the Nemesis of the title is supposed to be a clone of Captain Picard. The clone doesn’t look or sound anything like Picard. This one was so obvious that it was noticed by most non Star Trek folks. A lot of the reviews mention the clone problem. Susan notes that not only did the clone not sound like Picard, but also had an unexplained speech impediment. And anyone familiar with ST:TNG knows that the real Picard had hair when he was young but the clone is bald like the old Picard.
- Wheels! – The Enterprise has a new shuttle called the Argo which includes a 4-wheeled motor vehicle for driving around on away missions. That’s right, wheels. Big, rubber wheels inflated with air. Even though the Star Trek series has made a point of saying over and over that wheels were given up long ago. Even back in ST:TOS, Kirk and Spock used to see an automobile and make comments to each other like, “wheels, how quaint”. Not even a hint of an explanation was given for this glaring continuity error. Somebody should have caught this the first draft. Don’t any of these folks even watch Star Trek?
- Sickbay Setbacks – How do you analyze a blood sample on a knife when you’re on a Federation star ship? Anyone who’s watched even a handful of Star Trek episodes can tell you it’s done with a medical tricorder or any of a variety of handheld medical scanners that can relay information about the sample to ship’s computer. How do they do it on Nemesis? They use a 20th century plastic eye-dropper thing with a rubber bulb on the end to suck some blood up and then squirt a few drops into a glass petri dish, which is then stuck under something that looks like a microscope. Huh? Oh and a little later the Romulans (or, rather, the Remans) are using a hypodermic needle to take a blood sample – yep, a needle; they stick it right through the skin.
- No fasteners – Gene Roddenberry had a long standing rule that no fasteners were to be shown on the Federation sets or costumes. Maybe we don’t know what held Captain Kirk’s pants on or how his chair was attached to the deck, but it wasn’t anything from the 20th century like zippers and bolts. In a key scene in Nemesis, 20th century bolts play a part in the action when Riker and an alien are fighting on a what looks like a portion of iron fire escape inside a Jefferies tube and the bolts holding it to the wall break. All without an explanation of what an iron fire escape is doing on the Enterprise or why it should be attached to the wall with prehistoric fasteners.
- Shocking optics – In the aforementioned fight between Riker and the alien, Riker gains an advantage by pulling a fiber optic cable assembly out of the side of the Jefferies tube and jamming it against the alien, who is thrown to the floor in a shower of sparks when the broken end of the optical fibers touch him. This might make sense if a high voltage electrical cable was used, maybe even if it was one of those mythical “plasma conduits”, but a fiber optic cable is unlikely to do much more than make a dim spot of light.
- Equal and opposite action? – After the Enterprise has rammed the much larger alien starship, the two ships are adrift and locked together in a mass of wreckage. The Enterprise has no power. The alien ship orders full reverse thrust and begins tearing itself away from the Enterprise, which somehow remains motionless in space. What force is holding the Enterprise in place against the thrust exerted by the Alien ship? This is another one of those Hollywood physics problems that could have been caught by anyone with a knowledge of high school level physics. (hint, before you email me and say “inertia” answer me this: when you have squashed insects on the windshield of your car, does inertia hold them in place when you back the car up? That would be a handy way to clean the car!) One sub-nit with this scene is that exterior view of the alien ship shows what look like huge chemical reaction motors (i.e, rockets) firing; another faux pas for ships which are supposed to be equipped with some sort of FTL drive.
- Antiques from the 23rd Century – There is a scene where a nostalgic Picard is looking at curled, brown photographs of himself as a Star Fleet Cadet. The photos are taken from an ancient looking paper photo album. Yet paper photographs were long gone even in Kirk’s time, long before Picard was born. Previous episodes and movies have used 3D images, moving images, and holographic projections of the past, but never old photographs. Oh well, at least they were color photographs.
And there you have it. I’m sure there are other problems but those were the most glaring. Now I expect I’ll get a few of those, “why do you think about this stuff, it was just a movie” emails. My question has always been “how do you manage not to think about this stuff when watching a movie?”. I guess some people just have lot more practice with this not thinking thing.
With the approach of another birthday, I’ve been complaining too much about getting old, I think. My friends are beginning to feel sorry for me and have been doing all sorts of nice things. On Wednesday, a bunch of balloons showed up at the office courtesy of Erin. Interestingly, the bunch consisted of two mylar balloons and five of the older-style latex rubber balloons. Within 24 hours the rubber balloons had lost enough helium to reach neutral buoyancy and by this morning were all lying on the floor. The two mylar balloons are still flying high. Since I parked the balloons where they are visible on my webcam, this experiment in the helium permeability of materials is being carried out live on the Internet. Of course, if I’d read the balloon FAQ, I’d have known this stuff already!
Thursday, Lacey was in town and we had lunch at Sherlock’s Baker St. Pub. She also invited me to the Christmas party over at Alexander & Kienast. I put in a brief appearance and did my best to act like a regular person instead of an introverted computer geek (don’t know if I fooled anyone). I ate some cookies and listened to the very nice Jazz combo. I guess the last party I saw was the Mozilla 1.0 launch party where I was present just long enough to get my photo snapped as proof I’d been there. Hmmm… that’s two parties in the same year, I really need to slow down (especially at my age!).
Today, Erin took me out to lunch at Houston’s. Filet Mignon was followed by a birthday dessert complete with candle (thankfully no singing waiters, however).
Tonight is Susan’s turn. And then back to work for another year.
I spent a little time tonight working on our annually Christmas letter that we send to friends and family. I realized that 2002 turned out to be a fairly boring year! I’m resolving to make 2003 a bit more interesting.
We saw the Die Another Day, the new James Bond movie, last night and it was okay but a bit disappointing. It’s the same story as Diamonds are Forever and Golden Eye; an evil guy with a lot of diamonds builds a big laser satellite so he can take over the world. Major reality disconnects were Bond’s invisible car, the MI6 Holodeck, and Bond surfing a 1000 ft high tsunami wave. And what’s with the guy with the diamonds embedded in his head? Oh well, looking forward to seeing the LoTR and Star Trek movies soon.
I hope everyone had a nice Turkey day. Ours went fairly well. We ate a lot of food, visited with friends and relatives, and ate more tasty food. I also went for four entire days without doing any work. I did stop by my office once but only to check email. Speaking of email, I notice spam levels continue to rise. Our mail server blocked 32,614 spams during November – and I still ended up with 30 or so per day making it to my mailbox. I’d say the majority of the SMTP traffic on our network is now spam.
Well, it turns out that even though DMOZ/ODP provides “open content” they do it using closed software. So no luck with my offer to help them debug the RDF export problem. They had plenty of other offers to help from editors who were also hackers but all the offers of help in the world won’t do any good if they keep their source code secret. I posted links to some Free Software/Open Source propaganda in the hopes it might change a mind or two but I’m not going to hold my breath.