Hollywood Science, Cheesy Dialogue, and an Exploding Arch Underwhelm in SciFi’s “Black Hole”

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WHAT true Scifi fan doesn’t look forward to the cheese and corn amply provided by SciFi Channel’s original productions, where monsters and science collide? Where else can one find Bulgarian actors hobnobbing with Hollywood’s B-list with such regularity? Where else indeed can a bachelor electro-creature from another part of the universe slide into St. Louis, looking for a little juice and a cheap baseball ticket?

So it was, the family Gilbert found ourselves poised upon a pair of matching couches, snacks in hand, ready to feast upon last night’s SciFi Channel disaster flick, Black Hole. Set in our own midwest town, we couldn’t wait to see how downtown St. Louis might play into the promised plot of a terrestrial black hole gone bad. Disappointment doesn’t go far enough.

Mind you, it wasn’t the totally improbable notion of a voracious black hole spontaneously erupting from a lab. Nor was it the pedestrian acting or uninspiring dialogue. We can’t even complain about the special effects. (At least we didn’t see that familiar cargo plane that shows up in so many of SciFi’s offerings). No, our complaint lies in the extent of the absurdity. Continue reading

Can We Really Trust the Muffin Man?

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Muffin Man
Surveillance video from Lake Highlands High School showing muffin delivery.

May 24, 2006

MAYBE I’m just a leftover from paleo-education days, but when did it become dangerous for teachers to consume baked goods delivered by a student?

May has brought us two such floury tales, one out of Maine, and the other from Dallas, Texas. Let’s examine these stories and try to discern if there’s more in the mix.Back in early May, a woman from Showegan, Maine hatched a plot to enact revenge on a Carrabec Community School teacher for dispensing a low grade. Julie Hunt, 43, had shown her daughter and a friend how to crush up Ex-Lax pills so they could be added to a batch of cookies. Continue reading

A Quieter Christmas

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It’s early morning, and I stretch awake, my half-dreaming brain struggling to focus on the real world. Derek’s off to work, and I’ve slept in – a lovely luxury. The dogs let me sleep is my initial thought. Then I remember. Belle and Gretel are gone. And Murphy – our sole remaining dog – eyes me quietly from the edge of the bed.

The Bunker is cleaner now, and I’ll admit to using less air freshener (older dogs can stress the freshener and scented candles budget). I rarely have to double mop a floor, and the living room carpet is slowly recovering its former nap. Even our backyard grass shows improvement — Belle’s favorite mudhole is filling back in (she and Gretel loved to eat mud – the vet could never figure out why).

We’ve downsized from a four-day supply “bistro” dog feeder to a petite, green bowl that matches the kitchen decor. We filled it three days ago, and it hardly looks touched, even though we know Murphy eats – he’s a 15 pound nibbler.

Life goes on without the ‘girls’, but it’s a quiet life. I have to stop myself from calling their names at times. And Murphy rarely leaves my side. He’ll adjust. And so will Derek and I.Come Christmas morning, we’ll toast their memories with egg nog and remember all those Christmases past with puppy paws and wagging tails. Perhaps by this time next year, the Bunker will ring to the happy barks of a new set of paws.

Maybe. It’s tough to replace loved ones. Thanks, Belle and Gretel for many wonderful years and lots of canine kisses. We’ll see you one day – and we’ll all run without pain in never-ending Sonshine.

Facts of the Fiction – The Armageddon Strain Comes to Life

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WHEN I WROTE the first draft of my second novel, The Armageddon Strain, something in the back of my mind feared parts of the plot would one day come true. Welcome to “one day”.

The H5N1 avian influenza virus used as the backbone of a new hybrid monster plague in The Armageddon Strain is decimating bird populations in parts of China and Southeast Asia. Up until just a week or so ago, reports of these infections have shown a remarkable resistance to the virus among chickens – in other words, the chickens became infected but survived the virus only to be slaughtered by humans in the culling process that remains one of the best ways to prevent further spread.

But now the rules have changed.China is now reporting over 500 deaths in chickens – directly from viral infection. H5N1 is preying on domestic birds, and it’s killing them at an alarming rate. Bear in mind, too, that whenever China gives out information, that you must evaluate that information in light of China’s reluctance to reveal anything negative. So, one has to wonder if the numbers might not be much higher.Both Derek and I write from the headlines – we extrapolate today’s news into a five year advance future. I wrote AS in 2004. You do the math.