June 19th, 2014


HBO 12 -- Robocop 2

Twelfth session: Robocop 2
As mentioned yesterday, we're out of sequence in my alphabetical tour of their library of SF movies. I have professional reasons to do research on Robocop -- the original movie, as the recent remake didn't happen -- but since they don't have Robocop, I figured on the sequel.

Haven't seen either 1 or 2 in years. Was amused to discover that several set pieces, including the fake TV commercial for the electrocution anti-theft car seat, were in 2 and not 1. I know I saw 3 or rented it, but it was a long time ago. Don't remember hardly anything about the TV series based on Robocop, other than like Alien Nation or even Buffy, it had a different cast and a somewhat different feel.

The movie opens with a new red liquid synthetic drug -- Nuke. Wasn't the drug in Alien Nation red, too? And maybe even Outland? Don't take the red pill! And Omni Consumer Products, OCP, which runs the Detroit police, has slashed wages and cancelled the pensions. Wait, is this a 1990 premonition? Or has the governor's office been using the OCP playbook for dealing with Detroit?

Amusing sidenote -- based on the Kindle's somewhat misguided auto correct, I just realized that OCP is an anagram of COP. Huh. No doubt I am the last fan of Robocop to notice that.

And I am a fan. Yes, the story plots are ludicrous, the robot alternatives to Robocop have severe flaws and what's with that lack of a full armored face shield? I mean you want to stop Robocop, don't shoot him in the armor, shoot his mouth. But the heavy footed foot stomps, the turn the head and then turn the body moves to change direction, the noisy servo motors everywhere -- Peter Weller does a great job.

Still, you can tell this is 1990. During the fight between Robocops 1 and 2, some of it is clearly stop motion Clash of the Titans type special effects with miniatures. And Houston stands in for Detroit.

But I like the flat black piece of crap cop cars, the padded and armored and helmetted human police. And the disgustingly vicious corporate elite. And you thought James Cameron hated big corporations. And kids? Let's just say that kids are not nice and cute creatures here.

It's all over-the-top camp, reasonably good fun and ultimately not as good as the original, saddled with some very lame, bad and stupid plot elements.

Almost done. Robocop has just beaten the crap out of the drug addicted evil Robocop 2. Next up is The Day After Tomorrow.


Huh. The valet parking attendants have figured me out. The Blazer was parked right in front as I was wheeled outside. No waiting. Service. This is so cool.

After HBO, back into the construction parking jam on Michigan. Then into Allendale and Physical Therapy -- first time since May, other than two PT visits in the hospital to check whether I could get around with the 50% weight restriction on my left foot. Alas, IVs and HBO made scheduling very difficult, so I couldn't get my usual therapist on Tuesday. But I got a 4:30 appointment with a very nice therapist. I updated them on all the developments and said we wouldn't do any walking, stairs or trying to do a floor transfer.

So what's left? Well, we're checking leg strength, range of motion. And the old problem of the occasional pain in the inside of my left knee. Basically, although the AFO is wonderful and lets me walk, it also locks the foot into position, which puts some strain on my knee and hip. So they rip the knee out, hammer it with an aluminum meat tenderizer mallet, drag it across the street, and then stuff it back in. No, that PT massage doesn't hurt one bit. (It burns, my precious, it burns!) But as per usual, it feels better today.

Dr. Phil


The Good News

Woke up at 4:19am Wednesday morning, probably due to the heavy thunderstorm going on. Just as I was considering heading for a pee break -- Lasix is very busy -- there was a tremendous bright flash and a near simultaneous rrrip-Ka-POWWWWWW! of the sound of electrons jumping from ground to sky, ripping apart the instantly ionized atmospheric gasses in a concussive shock wave.

As the light just started to dim, I could hear the fans spinning down and then it was dark, lit only by the surrounding nearly continuous lightning all around. I started counting... at four the night lights and the fans were back on. Our Kohler automatic backup generator was online. Check the garage, double red LEDs, as expected. I went back to bed.

This is good. I'm not sure I could've operated the manual release on the garage door given my current limitations -- I am not climbing a ladder right now.

The Bad News

It's 2:03am Thursday morning and the generator is still running. Oh I'm not complaining about Consumer's Energy. As near as I can tell, the power was back on by 10:15am at the 5:56 Mark. I heard the concussive compression of the neighbor's generator shut down. But when I checked the garage, I could still hear our generator running and the transfer switch displays were dark. What the hell does that mean.

We thought we had a bad controller board in the transfer switch. Sometimes we'd find a rapidly blinking light indicating that the generator had failed to start. But Tuesday morning I heard it complete its weekly self test exercise cycle and we had double green.

So did it fail to transfer when the power came back and we're still running on the generator? Or did it transfer back to the line and merely fail to shutdown. Near as I can tell, it's the former, based on the brief dimming when the air conditioning compressor came on. (And I had to reset the DSL to get this posted after the impedance voltage drop of the compressor start just now...)

I'd let it run while I was at HBO, so I could get back into the garage. And I called into the electrical contractor at 4:40pm. The tech will be out in the morning. I knew that there were more thunderstorms coming in the early evening. And I wasn't going to stand on my bad foot and try to work the transfer switch panel. And given I need to keep the dressing dry, I surely was not going out to the generator and shut it down there.

So I'm basically off the grid for an extra 24 hours. We've run the generator for days -- it's hooked up to our 250 gallon LP tank, so we have plenty of fuel. And we have power and comfort.

I didn't want to leave us in a state with the solenoid switch in the wrong position and the generator switched off. If it is the circuit board, it'll be something like $800 parts and labor.


Dr. Phil

HBO 13 -- Robocop 2 -- The Day After Tomorrow

Thirteenth session: Robocop 2 (conclusion)
So watching Kane succumb at the end, tell me what is the point of having a next gen Robocop who can't talk, just makes grunts and howls, as a computer generated Lawnmower Man face on a screen leers at you with five o'clock shadow? And he's still a better character than the evil corporate honchos.

I particularly liked the CEO walking OVER a woman on the ground getting emergency medical attention.

The Day After Tomorrow
This was on cable Tuesday night, but since I knew it was coming in the rotation, I waited until Wednesday to see it in my tank.

I remember when we first saw this, I had a lot of snarky comments about the science. But this 100% oxygen summer film festival has given me some perspective. The faux meteorology in Day After Tomorrow is orders of magnitude better than the faux weather effects in The Core. Way better. Still, why do all the bad things seem to happen to big cities -- multiple killer tornados in Los Angeles, for instance. And that rapidly sinking and ultra deep freeze cold air is coming from the thin upper atmosphere. It shouldn't fall so well to the ground because of its density and the increased pressure below. At the same time, the heat capacity of cold air isn't huge. This storm shouldn't work this way.

Also, hurricanes don't form over land? Nor'easters are big cyclonic storms and the so-called winter hurricane have finally gotten Winter Storm names. So... maybe.

Don't know why Dennis Quaid thinks he can drive from DC to NYC in a pickup truck... in all that snow. In fact, given the scenes elsewhere, why wasn't the highway more drifted over? And his rescue mission takes a bite out of that poignant moment where he tells the White House to triage the North and his boss tells the Veep that Quaid's son is in Manhattan. Yeah, and he's abandoning everyone else to try to rescue that son. As opposed to, oh, doing his job.

And of course everything is a Checkhov's gun. Show wolves in the zoo? Yeah they'll get out and threaten our kids on their emergency trip to the Russian freighter parked outside the NYPL. Check. Our hero's adventure buddy of twenty years? Yeah, he'll buy it in a New Jersey shopping mall. Check. Wife or ex-wife concerned about nice little bald cancer kid on her ward? Yeah, he'll be left behind because the ambulances didn't get him. Check.

Up to just after the eye of the storm has ultra frozen everything and our intrepid high school scholars are having a quiet moment in the New York Public Library with the fireplace burning books. Next up, Field of Dreams.


And then the road construction traffic got really bad. The I-196 exit to College Avenue was backed up for a mile. Merging in from the far left, I wasn't able to get all the way over. So I went on to Fuller and turned around, getting off at College westbound instead of eastbound. Two lanes of jammed cars south on College towards Michigan. Except it was really one. Only when you got to Michigan, did one notice that the right turn lane was closed. Cars were bailing at the parking lot before the intersection, and then looping around. The detour sign said straight ahead. I hit the left turn signal and managed to merge left without delay. The detour wasn't well marked, but shuffling along a few narrow streets and I was around the construction area.

The skies to the west, far beyond the hospital were utter dark black. End of the world type black. People on the sidewalk in front of the hospital entrance had their cellphones out, taking pictures. The rains were just starting as I got into the wheelchair. Darla from HBO was waiting for me just inside the door. By the time was about to be slud into my tank, you could hear it pouring out there.

The Blazer was out front again on the inside of the circle. It took a moment to negotiate stepping down off the high curb and into the Blazer. I turned west instead of east and went down the hill, getting onto I-196 from Ionia/Ottawa. That turned out to be far easier than from College, where you have to merge left two lanes -- an exit lane and a Lane Ends. From Ionia, the merge lane IS the exit to US-131 North, which is what I wanted. Who knew? I don't deal with these downtown Grand Rapids exits much.

With Mrs. Dr. Phil coming in tonight from her ASEE conference in Indianapolis, I stopped at Jimmy John's in Allendale and grabbed a couple of sandwiches. Then home.

When I got up from my nap, Mrs. Dr. Phil was just coming in the door and the dark overcast of the afternoon was replaced by blue skies and sunshine.

Dr. Phil

He's Dead, Jim -- I'm A Doctor, Not An Electrical Contractor

So Robert came by this morning from Belasco Electric. I had hauled out haiku, our Verizon 3G credit card sized WiFi hotspot, which I'd put a month of time on for WisCon and Indianapolis. With that, Kindles and laptops, I told Robert we were fine to have the power cut off as needed.

At 9:19am, after exactly 29 hours, the generator was shut down.

Eventually Robert came in with a circuit board. Controller was fried. There were maybe four ceramic disc type capacitors and at least two were blackened and burned. Also he got no resistance readings on the two solenoids that throw the transfer switch. If we're lucky, Robert will be able to get the parts in Grand Rapids today. Until then, should the power go out, we'll be dark.

It's quite likely that one of the really close lightning strikes which kicked us offline Wednesday morning also fried the boards. I'm assuming those big capacitors were part of a surge protection for the board.

Yes, it'll be expensive, but the generator and transfer switch were expensive to begin with. It's been what, maybe eight, nine years since it was installed? It's going to cost to maintain things.

So... the good news.

-- Now we're glad we didn't get the controller replaced months ago, as we might have had to do it twice.

-- Really glad I had reliable backup power when Mrs. Dr. Phil was out of town.

-- Also, gravity feed IVs don't require electricity, as he was working this morning.

-- Finally, Robert suggested I check with our homeowners insurance. The lightning strike might be covered.

-- It's a pleasant day in the neighborhood, so we're not high on the probability charts for having the power go out.

I'll take whatever good news I can get. (grin)

Dr. Phil


Ring... ring... Hello?

Annoying pause.

Recorded voice, poor quality, woman's voice speaking slowly... "You're computer is transmitting dangerous warnings and alerts. Please press 1..."

Oh you ARE a piece of shit, aren't you. (hang up)

Honestly, where do these morons come from? And really, how would they know if my computer was transmitting anything?

Real phone calls give names and have people behind the veil.

And no one of repute would have a phone call like this.

I am assuming I am bitchin' to the choir here, that you aren't the type to fall for this sort of phishing trap. But do your parents and grandparents know?

Dr. Phil

HBO 14 -- Day After Tomorrow -- Field of Dreams

Fourteenth session: The Day After Tomorrow (conclusion)
We only had maybe ten minutes to go after the eye of the megastorm drops its thin icy air on everyone. But I have a question -- what base were all those helicopters operating out of?

BTW, when the movie started and the opening credits were rolling, I'd forgotten that Ian Holm was in this. The whole British weather station in Scotland. And so much more collegial as scientists than Mr. Full of Himself played by Stanley Tucci in The Core.

There are a lot of great visuals in this film, from Russian freighters floating down the street to the storms from space. The science may be suspect -- it's Hollywood -- and the President's speech at the end is too preachy, too much, felt false.

I will say, however, that the idea that global warming CAN cause localized cold weather is something I have talked about for years. After this winter, maybe this movie came out too early.

Field of Dreams
If you build it, they will come. And they have, to the movies and to the actual farm in Iowa. One of techs in the hyperbaric unit said that one of the morning news shows had a piece that the cast was gathering for a 25th anniversary reunion. That it was a perfect day to see this movie.

Just like Tom Cruise, there are some people who are not fans of Kevin Costner. But it's Costner in a baseball movie! And it's got James Earl Jones! [edited to add] Oh, and another James Horner score.

Amy Madigan is cute and perky, perhaps too cute and perky and over-the-top rah-rah 60s. Timothy Busfield is great as the sincere but misguided businessman worried about his sister's farm. Up until rookie Moonlight Graham steps into Doc Graham and he suddenly sees -- and is quietly escorted out of the movie.

Even after a number of viewings, that surprise we felt the first time of the where-the-hell-is-this-going plot still lingers. Very satisfying. We can watch this every year, along with For Love of the Game, another Costner baseball flick, and Bull Durham, somewhere around February as the first hints of spring training begin suggesting that winter may be coming to an end. And not every movie can become a tradition.

So what is it doing on the Science Fiction list? Well, it's really a SF/F list. And I guess you could chalk this up to fantasy. But somehow, through the magic of the game, isn't it more than that? (grin)

Up to nearly the end, and on to Frequency.


Had to get gas at noon-ish and so tried a different way in to Butterworth. M-45 through the Standale construction zone -- they weren't doing a thing, perhaps letting it dry out after Wednesday's heavy rains -- to I-196 to the Ottawa Avenue exit. You can't make a left turn onto Michigan from the merge lanes from I-196, they have a concrete barrier. You have to go around the block. The irony was that the College Avenue exit wasn't backed up like yesterday, so maybe it would've been okay. But going down the hill to Ionia to hop onto I-196 to US-131 is definitely easy.

Dr. Phil