Monday, September 28, 2015

NOAA on Mermaids

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued a statement on mermaids. This is your tax dollars at work. Let’s see how they did.


A Mermaid by Waterhouse
public domain

They state that “The ancient Greek epic poet Homer wrote of them in The Odyssey.” No, Odysseus encountered sirens, not mermaids. They were part bird.


Sirens by Hans Thoma  

Then they state, “The belief in mermaids may have arisen at the very dawn of our species. Magical female figures first appear in cave paintings in the late Paleolithic (Stone Age) period.” But those were similar to this rotund, faceless carved image.


 This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust,
a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom.

They give their final statement: “No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found.” So there. I can’t show their picture of a mermaid, since I’m not sure of its copyright status, but you can see it at their website. It doesn’t compare well with any of the above.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Movie Review—Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Thomas and his friends, having escaped from the maze, can now relax and get some rest in a quasi-military atmosphere, sleeping in real bunks instead of on the ground or makeshift beds. They don’t have a care in the world—or do they? And where did Teresa go?

Soon they have to go running into the Scorch—the desolated badlands left after whatever apocalyptic disaster devastated civilization. Besides ruined, deserted buildings, there’s not much out there. How will they survive?


The Scorch Trials is a very different movie from the first one, The Maze Runner. (See my review here.) The Maze Runner spent a good amount of time developing the characters—except for Teresa, who was just the “girl”—and then having a good amount of action. The Scorch Trials takes off a few minutes from where The Maze Runner left off and assumes the viewers already know the characters.

So some critics say this is a lousy movie because of the lack of character development. Although we see Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is the dominant leader, Minho (Ki Hong Lee) is still the strongest and bravest, and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) is the most able to question Thomas and provide skepticism, we do not really see the personalities of the rest. (Teresa especially is a cipher, but that is on purpose.)

This reminds me of the time that Siskel & Ebert reviewed Rambo III. Ebert said he liked the action but wasn’t sure what to say about the movie overall. With an amused look, Siskel said, “It delivers.” The same is true of The Scorch Trials. Normally I don’t like a movie that is so focused on the action that it doesn’t take a couple minutes to develop the minor characters, but this was a great movie. This was not mindless action where we don’t care about the characters; I cared about whether each character survived, and the action-packed story was interesting.

To kind of state the obvious, I don’t think they could all sprint so fast after being forced to give massive blood samples, or after running out of water while traipsing through a desert. And for the evil organization to be pronounced “Wicked” is kind of childish. But I have to hand it to The Scorch Trials. It delivers. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Alpha Shift—Trapped in an Elevator

Do you like elevators?

In my work in progress, the science fiction novel Alpha Shift, Captain Christina Chechi was introduced in a previous post. She has been brutally attacked, with injuries to her right arm and tailbone. She has made it inside an elevator and is going for help. (The elevators on the ship look much like the elevators we have on Earth, since buttons are more reliable than voice commands when there is damage.)



She slid down the smooth metal wall, then shrieked when her rear end touched the floor. She found the least painful position was on her left side. Dizzy from pain, spots passed before her eyes.

Her head cleared. She tried the voice command for the elevator. Nothing. Of course not.

She looked up at the buttons, so distant. She would have to claw her way up with her left hand and hold herself steady long enough to slap at the button with her right, though that arm was stiffer than ever.

Christina took a huge breath and rolled from her left side onto all fours. She grabbed a railing and pulled.

The pain in her tailbone was excruciating as she stood. Huffing rapidly, she focused on the button panel. She hit the correct button with her right hand.

Nothing but pain in her arm and shoulder.

She hit it again. And again. She stopped and checked her vision. She was obviously hitting the right one.

Weaker now, Christina felt the blood draining down into her legs. She stabbed at the open button. Nothing. She tried again, but her strength failed.


She collapsed, landing on her right side, jarring her arm. Trapped, all Christina could do was roll onto her stomach. Then her mind went dark.

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