Ethical Gymnastics in SGU Body Snatching

I decided to re-watch both the ‘Alliances‘ and ‘HopeSGU episodes Wednesday evening.  I tend to roll my eyes during the episodes that use the Ancient communication stones.  They strike me as a ‘cop out’ for the non-SF aspects of the show (i.e. human drama, human interest, family, friends, etc.  … all circumstances and situations I can find readily enough on most any prime time series).

I realized on my re-viewing that both episodes presented the ‘flip sides’ of the ethical dilemma presented by the body swapping consequences of the Ancient communication device.

In the ‘Alliances’ episode, we ponder the questions:

When it isn’t your body, do you take risks the original owner would not, especially since you get a ‘get out of jail free card’ when you return to your own body?

And, should you discover that your original body has been lethally damaged, why not just keep the body your currently occupying?

In the ‘Hope’ episode, the alternative questions:

When your soul or consciousness returns from the ether (since your original body was murdered while you were using the Ancient communication stones leaving your spirit in cosmic limbo), what’s a body to do?  <pun intended>

Are we obligated to find a willing host, either temporary or permanent, for your essence to subsume?

I found it interesting that Col. Young was adamant that Greer be returned to his body when the cowardly visiting scientist attempted to refuse (once he found out his body on Earth had been exposed to lethal radiation levels).  And the Senator, within only a moment’s hesitation, firmly stepped up and volunteered to return and diffuse the bomb, regardless of the consequences to her life.

Yet, the very next week, Eli and Rush are fighting to keep Ginn and Amanda in Chloe’s body, each understandably selfishly wanting their recent lovers returned to them.  Chloe seemed strangely willing to allow her guests to remain and the only person to voice any protestation was Matt, the other male of this bizarre love triangle.

I half hoped the Ancient communication device would remain offline so we could get back to the mission, whichever flavor that might be (Young’s ‘Let’s Get the Heck Back to Earth’ or Rush’s ‘Damn Earth, the Universe Beckons’), but Telford reared his head before the credits rolled on ‘Hope.’

Otherworldly Choral Compositions

Last night my daughter performed with the UNT College of Music Chamber Choir in concert in Winspear Hall at the Murchison Performing Arts Center.  Thanks to live streaming provided by the recording services at the UNT College of Music, my husband and I are able to enjoy outstanding audio and adequate video of most of my daughter’s concerts.

After the Intermission, the Chamber Choir moved on to some late 20th century choral compositions that challenged both the performers and the listeners.

One of the more difficult pieces was a 1981 choral composition by Sven-David Sandström entitled Agnus Dei, a 16-part piece which created a sensation when it premiered at the international choir festival in Stockholm.  Following that performance, members of the audience rushed the stage and pulled the music from the choir members, not something you normally envision happening at a performance of sacred choral music.

Another strange piece performed immediately following Agnus Dei utilized harmonic overtone singing, a specialty of the composer, Sarah HopkinsPast Life Melodies (1991), with its 11-part composition and other-worldly harmonic overtones with roots in Mongolia and Tibet, reminded me quite strongly of a sequence from the soundtrack of 2011: A Space Odyssey.  You may remember the visually stunning sequence, but the aural atmosphere was equally astonishing.

If only I still owned a turntable, I could ask my mom for the vinyl recording, which I listened to repeatedly in my youth.  I wonder if any choirs have attempted a performance of Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite?

Crowding Chloe

After last week’s disappointing ‘Alliances‘ SGU episode, I admit to some skepticism prior to viewing last night’s ‘Hope‘ episode.  Tuesday evening ratings update:  ‘Hope’ gained 7% in viewership compared to last week’s ‘Alliances’ episode.

SGU 'Hope' aired 29 Mar 2011
SGU 'Hope' aired 29 Mar 2011

Destiny’s ‘crew’ (I hesitate to call it a crew, since no one but Rush really wants to be on board) has had no contact with Earth for days, so volunteers are manning the Ancient communication stones around the clock waiting for word about the terrorist attack and bomb threat (see last week’s ‘Alliances‘ episode referred to above).   Chloe relieves Volker, who looks ill and dizzy, so he goes to sickbay to see T.J. She takes his vitals and tells him he has high blood pressure (176 over something … can’t remember exactly what).  Volker knew he had high blood pressure, was on blood pressure medication, but also neglected to tell T.J. because he assumed there was no alternative homeopathic remedy (wrong).  Due to the long untreated hypertension, Volker’s kidneys are shutting down; T.J. breaks the news to him that the only treatment available would be a kidney transplant from a live donor.  Destiny’s sickbay apparently doesn’t include any dialysis-like equipment.

So, Volker gets a wake-up call about kidney disease (something I’m very aware of since my husband has been fighting to stay of dialysis for well over a decade).  T.J. surveys the crew for matching blood types, eventually finding two matches, one of which is Greer (no surprise there).  Without the Ancient communication device and access to Earth’s medical personnel, T.J. faces attempting a kidney transplant with a medic’s training (and some crash course reading from Destiny’s medical database).

Meanwhile, Chloe briefly nods off while connected to the communication stones and Ginn‘s consciousness manages to take control.  This turns into a bizarre love triangle (or is it quadrangle) between Ginn and Eli and Chloe (hosting Ginn) and Matt.  And as if Chloe’s brain didn’t have enough to do, Amanda makes an appearance, so suddenly Rush is really motivated to ‘save’ Amanda and Ginn.   So we went from two couples (both young adults) to three couples in about thirty seconds.  Rush’s solution, of course, remains the neural interface chair.

Chloe seemed unbelievably willing to let whoever run around with her body, very noble and self-sacrificial.  At least Matt showed some sense, standing up for her right to her own body.  Chloe does volunteer to sit in the chair.  She’s occupied by Ginn at the time, who has another choking fit (possible remnant of her murder by Simeon from last fall).  Alarmingly, as she’s gasping for air, Destiny has a power failure and mainframe reset.  Begs the question, was uploading her consciousness linking her life-signs to Destiny’s systems?  Young orders the chair turned off, over Rush’s angry protestations (since the transfer may or may not have completed).  Chloe collapses into Mat and Eli’s arms. Rush confirms two new programs in Destiny’s memory banks, one of which is active and operating somewhere on the ship.

Back in sickbay, midway through the transplant, with the mainframe off-line, T.J. nearly panics.  Amanda appears (only to T.J.) and helps her finish grafting Greer’s kidney into Volker.  As soon as the operation is completed, Amanda disappears.  We then switch to Eli in his quarters, where we hear someone knock on his door.  He sees Ginn and they talk, but can’t touch.

This episode brought several questions bubbling up in the cauldron of my mind:

Why was T.J. unaware of Volker’s hypertension?  Wouldn’t the only medical professional for these ‘shipwrecked’ people have set some kind of baseline for each person and checked periodically?

And if everyone’s on a vegetarian diet (as far as I can tell), wouldn’t they be losing weight and a lot of it?  How have Volker and Eli maintained their rotund physique on a much reduced caloric intake?  Which again leads me back to T.J. monitoring everyone for signs of malnutrition and other symptoms.

Finally, besides Matt, no one asked or discussed the ethics of downloading Ginn or Amanda into someone else’s body.  Does that ‘body’ get a say in this process?  I doubt Ginn or Amanda want to be zombies (i.e. downloaded into the recently deceased).  I equally doubt that any sane person would sacrifice themselves for a consciousness to be downloaded into them permanently.  I can see the possibility of something like the communication stones where Ginn and Amanda get a ‘day out’ or ‘walkabout’ or something to spend time with others (specifically Eli and Rush).  That’s the least morally repugnant option, provided the host is willing.  Otherwise, we’ll be creating the Goa’uld all over again.

I’ll give this episode three stars on a scale of five.  Definitely better than last week, but still just spinning the proverbially Stargate futilely.

Book Review: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The Wise Man's Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2)The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.25 to 4.75 stars

Five stars is a gift, because parts of this ‘story’ frustrated me to no end, though the novel carries a very strong four star rating for me. Yet the hidden gems I found along the winding road this tale took made me laugh, cry, rage, cry some more, laugh some more, and scratch my head in wonder.

Pros: Exceptional story telling (occasionally, sporadically), often lyrical prose, beautiful deep embedded world building beyond the mere descriptive paragraph. I loved the scenes with Master Elodin, Devi, Bast and to some degree with Denna, a character I had little sympathy for in The Name of the Wind.

Cons: When we finally leave the University (a full one-third of the way through the novel), the action and adventure is quashed in a couple of sentences, at least as it respects the actual journey east. All the chapters seem too short to me, but that might be because I tend to read epic fantasy where the length of the chapters can approach one hundred pages or more. And here we are, back at the University again when we reach the end of the second day.

I plan to re-read, in succession, both novels of the Kingkiller Chronicle, later this year. I decided not to re-read The Name of the Wind prior to reading The Wise Man’s Fear and feel now that was probably a mistake. I struggled to remember some of the characters the author referenced in passing in the second novel.

And now the waiting begins, and if history is any indicator, at least a half decade will pass before the past (Kvothe) and present (Kote) converge in the final (or is that ‘next’) Kingkiller Chronicle novel.

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Restaurant Review: Luigi’s (Leavenworth, Kansas)

A little Saturday evening local romantic dinner atmosphere.
A little Saturday evening local romantic dinner atmosphere.

Terry surprised me by taking me out last night to a new (at least new to us) local Italian restaurant.  Located in the renovated (again) old bakery at 7th and Cherokee, across for the newly updated Haymarket Square.  I remarked to Terry that my mom used to work in the bakery decades ago (not sure if it was the 50s, 60s or 70s … and she didn’t answer her phone when I called her to ask).   We found parking within half a block of the restaurant and arrived while it was still light, although overcast, around seven o’clock.  We were seated immediately, directly across from the door we just walked through.  Remember that point, as it will become more important later in the evening.

Our waitress was young (sixteen), amusing and helpful, but we failed to make note of her name (our fault, we’re usually more astute).  I ordered a glass of the house Whit Zin (attributed to the Macaroni Grill, which I thought was odd) with a glass of ice water.  Terry ordered sweetened tea and received ice water as well.

For an appetizer, we selected the sliced Italian sausage.  We both wanted side salads, but not the normal house tossed salads.  Terry and I both prefer Romaine lettuce, so the waitress assured us we could have small Ceasar salads (sans dressing) instead of the tossed side salad.  Terry ordered the baked ziti for his entre’ and I ordered spaghetti and meatballs with marinara.

Shortly after our waitress left to deliver our order to the kitchen, a different server brought us some very hot breads or rolls with traditional seasoned oil dipping sauce.  Since I had spent the afternoon making Rustic Sourdough bread and Italian Supermarket Bread, I have to admit I prefer my own bread to what was served, ironically in an old bakery.

Before we’d even finished half of one of the rolls, our waitress brought a large circular flattened bowl-like dish with the sliced Italian sausage covered in a tasty sauce.  We almost ate all of it, although we left some to take home, mindful that our entres would be large as well and I hoped to try dessert.

Since we were at the front of the restaurant, we could watch the evening darkening outside, and keenly felt the lowering temperatures each time more guests arrived for dinner through the door directly across from our table.  The draft, while refreshing on a normally warm spring day, chilled us repeatedly throughout our meal.

Our waitress next brought our entres with apologies for forgetting our salads, which she comped us.  She was apparently quite busy or one of only a couple of waitresses working the restaurant last night.

Terry eating baked ziti at Luigis
Terry eating baked ziti at Luigis

Terry’s baked ziti looked delicious, and he ate most of it, but he spent quite a bit of time looking for the ricotta cheese, one of the ingredients listed in the menu description for the dish.  He finally gave up looking for it and asked the waitress about it.  She apologized but couldn’t answer the original question.  Terry told her she didn’t need to apologize, as it wasn’t her fault.   Besides the missing ingredient, the dish was a bit bland for Terry’s taste.

My pasta entre was also bland, but I always douse most pasta dishes with crushed red pepper.  I feel justified doing this as the one true Italian I know (a co-worker of many years) does the exact same thing when we’ve shared a lunch as a group at any of the local Italian restaurants within walking distance of our offices at the Plaza Library building.  While I liked the flavor of the meatballs, Terry thought them bland.  I only ate a few bites, anticipating taking most of my entre home to enjoy with my fresh baked Italian bread on Sunday afternoon.  Besides, I wanted to try a dessert.

Our salads finally arrived and I cleared my palette grazing on Romaine lettuce and mediocre croutons.  Terry was confused by the style of house Italian dressing, which looking like a vinaigrette-y French variety.  The waitress explained it was a tomato based Italian.  I smirked at him because I always eat my salads dry, unless it’s my home-made dressing or a raspberry vinaigrette.

As she was bringing our doggy bags and clearing away our dishes, we asked for the dessert menu.  She named off a half-dozen varieties of desserts, all of them with cheese of some sort: various varieties of cheese cakes, tiramisu, cannoli and something else I can’t remember that also had cheese, probably marscapone, stuffed into it.  I sighed.  No dessert for me.  Terry ordered the strawberry cheesecake  and only took a couple of bites home with him.

We enjoyed our night out, mostly because we didn’t have to drive twenty miles, we didn’t have to fight the crowds at the Legends and we spent some money in our own home town supporting a local business.  We will be back to try some other items on their menu, and hope for either milder weather or a spot farther from the front door.

Plowed Yard Update

Back in early February, when all of northeastern Kansas was being bounded by a blizzard of ice, snow and frigid temperatures, the overeager local City maintenance personnel thought to help me with snow removal not only in my court, by in the my yard as well.  (See my previous blog post for the ‘before’ photos).

The City stopped by sometime this week and ‘repaired’ my plowed yard so here’s on the ‘after’ photos:

City Repairs Plow Damage to Moss Yard
City Repairs Plow Damage to Moss Yard

We’ll see if the grass takes root.  I don’t have a hose long enough to reach from the front of the house clear to the corner of Bambi Court and Fawn Valley so I can’t readily water it.

Since I had my ‘good’ digital camera in hand, I wandered back up to the house and took a macro photo of some of the persistent early spring flowers growing on the south side of my house:

Pretty Pink Early Spring Flowers (I have no idea what it is)
Pretty Pink Early Spring Flowers (I have no idea what it is)

Charlotte Brontë Burns Through the Cool Veil of Jane Eyre

I attended the second of four reading group discussions sponsored by the Kansas City Public Library in the Cohen Center conference room of the Plaza Branch yesterday evening.  As I noted in last month’s blog post, I’m picking up the other three books in the ‘A Taste of Victorian Literature’ during this encore performance.

Table of Contents

Brontë Background
Gothic Elements and Contemporary Criticism (p. 2)
Scandal (p. 3)
Discussion Questions (p. 4)

A Taste of Victorian Literature
A Taste of Victorian Literature

Katie Stover, head of Reader’s Services at the Library, spoke briefly on the focus of the reading group, including a tie-in for next month’s book, The Mill on the Floss by George EliotMelissa Carle, Reference Librarian and Weekend Supervisor for the Plaza Branch, assured the group that several copies awaited them upstairs should they not already have it checked out. Katie then introduced our lecturer, Andrea Broomfield, associate professor of English at JCCC.  An author in her own right, she’s currently working on new book tentatively titled Dining in the Age of Steam.  Katie had one final tidbit for anyone interested in seeing the recently released theatrical version of Jane Eyre, the movie opens at the Cinemark and Glenwood Arts on April 8th.

Charlotte Brontë (1850 chalk)
Charlotte Brontë (1850 chalk)

Andrea began her lecture by referencing a couple of handouts we received via e-mail (and hard copy if you forgot to print), including a brief biography of Charlotte Brontë and a few paragraphs about the impact of Jane Eyre after publication in 1847.

Andrea touched on just a few key points with respect to Charlotte’s childhood. Her mother died while Charlotte was still young, leaving her father with five children (one son and four daughters) to raise on his own.  As a direct result, his children had free reign over his library, not unheard for a son, but scandalous in the early Victorian Era (1820s & 1830s) to let his daughters read a gentleman’s library.  The children  especially loved the works of Byron. The Brontë children nurtured their imagination by creating the fantastic realms of Gondol (articles and poems written by Anne and Emily) and Angria (Byronic stories written by Branwell and Charlotte).  They also created their own periodical similar to Blackwood’s Magazine.

A painting of the three Brontë sisters; from left to right, Anne, Emily, and Charlotte. In the center of portrait is the shadow of Branwell Brontë, the artist, who painted himself out.
A painting of the three Brontë sisters; from left to right, Anne, Emily, and Charlotte. In the center of portrait is the shadow of Branwell Brontë, the artist, who painted himself out.

Her two sisters, Elizabeth and Maria, attended the Clergy Daughters School, but the deplorable conditions of the school caused Patrick Bronte, their father,  to withdraw Anne, Emily and Charlotte from the school.   Elizabeth and Maria contracted and died of tuberculous, exacerbated by the terrible conditions extant at the school.

While Patrick was in Manchester having cataract surgery, Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre, using the pseudonym Currer Bell, bucking the trend of the ‘normal’ three volume serial novel most common then.

The Bell Brothers (Anne wrote under the name Acton Bell and Emily wrote as Ellis Bell) had a stellar year in 1847, for in addition to Jane Eyre, both Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey were published.  Andrea admitted Charlotte Brontë to be her favorite Victorian Era author, favoring Vilette as her most mature effort.  The following couple of years left Charlotte bereft of all but her father, as first Emily and Branwell died, in 1848, followed by Anne in 1849.

Andrea’s next couple of presentation slides included modern day photographs places important in Charlotte’s life and which she used symbolically throughout Jane Eyre.  The Brontës lived in West Yorkshire in the Haworth Parsonage.

Haworth Parsonage in Yorkshire
Haworth Parsonage in Yorkshire
Wycoller Hall as the model for Ferndean Manor
Wycoller Hall as the model for Ferndean Manor
Norton Conyers as the model for Thornfield
Norton Conyers as the model for Thornfield
Pennine Way
Pennine Way
Gawthorpe Hall for the Ingram manor
Gawthorpe Hall for the Ingram manor

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Stoplight Karma

After spending an enjoyable evening discussing the Victorian Era classic Jane Eyre, I looked forward to a leisurely drive home from the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.  Fortune smiled upon the Firebird and I as we moved northward on Broadway through a dozen or so stoplights, all green, with little traffic to impede our progress.  Not surprising, since the sun had set over an hour prior and most folks were home enjoying after dinner entertainment or a walk outside on this mild early spring evening.

The interstates (I-35, I-670 and I-70) proved nearly empty, at least until I approached the Legends and the I-435 intersection in western Wyandotte County, Kansas.  I-70 narrows from three to two lanes between I-435 and the last free exit for K-7/US-73/US-40/US-24.  I slowed to second gear for the right turn acceleration lane onto northbound K-7, barely making fourth gear before stopping at the first stoplight next to Quik Trip near the Sandstone Amphitheater.

Fortune frowned another three times upon me, forcing me to stop at Parrellel, Leavenworth Road and the new stoplight halfway between Leavenworth Road and 4-H Road in Lansing.  I skirted past the final stoplight (at the aforesaid 4-H Road intersection) and zig-zagged home a couple of blocks.

New Stoplight on K7 Midway Between Lansing and Bonner Springs
New Stoplight on K7 Midway Between Lansing and Bonner Springs

Explain to me how it is that I can travel through mid-town Kansas City, Missouri on a major street with nary a single stoplight and a 35 mph speed zone, but when I get within ten minutes of home, on a four-lane highway with a 65 mph speed zone, I get stopped four times!  How does this help us (drivers) conserve gasoline and improve our MPG?

Thank goodness I’m riding in the van tomorrow!  So much less stressful to snooze in the backseat or read a book for an hour and not pay any attention whatsoever to the latest ‘improvements’ made by KDOT.

Plaza Branch Jane Eyre Lecture and Discussion

A Taste of Victorian Literature
A Taste of Victorian Literature

In less than thirty minutes, I’ll retire downstairs to the lecture and discussion of Jane Eyre sponsored by the Kansas City Public LibraryA Taste of Victorian Literature‘ reading group.   So stayed tuned for another long recap blog post similar to last month’s post entitled ‘Toasting (or Roasting) Fanny Price.’

Diary of a Crazy Cubemate

Day Two (Today, Wed 23 Mar 2011):  My ‘maddened’ cube-mate of nearly fifteen years continues her distracting tantrums.

Day One (Yesterday, Tue 22 Mar 2011): I returned from a sick day off Monday to a different cube-mate than I said farewell to last Friday.  By lunch time, I was asking the Department Administrative Assistant to find me a conference room for the rest of the afternoon so I could work in piece and not be embarrassed to answer my phone (for fear of a Turrets-like outburst coming loudly from the next cube).

Outbursts heard over the cube wall on Wednesday ‘Day Two’:

This program is going to give me a nervous breakdown.

Who uses FoxPro as a back-end database anymore?

Crap! Dammit! (followed by multiple heavy sighs)

Mid-day Update:  I was on a long conference call for about an hour or ninety minutes this morning.  The cube next to me became eerily silent.  I just got up from my desk and realized her body and laptop were missing … hence the blessed quietness.  Sadly, as I’m typing this update, she has returned so my blissful silence will soon shatter.  Thankfully, lunch beckons me to abandon my desk in a few minutes.

Mid-afternoon Update: Cube hallway conference between our boss and my cube-mate.  Not disruptive, but distracting and hard to ignore and concentrate.  Actually, the light at the end of the tunnel may be in sight, as I just heard her say she may have this project finished by the end of the day today.  Hallelujah!

Mid to Late Afternoon Update:  She’s quiet, but now she’s running her space heater (and probably wearing a throw blanket to boot).

As I was leaving, she elatedly reported completion of her frustrating project, so tomorrow should be smooth sailing (or at least less stormy than the past two days).