Edison & Westinghouse

The Current War

The Current War is a 2017 American historical drama film inspired by the 19th century competition between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse over which electric power delivery system would be used in the United States.

Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and written by Michael Mitnick, the film stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Edison, Michael Shannon as Westinghouse, and Nicholas Hoult as Nikola Tesla.

A rather by-the numbers film of this historical drama. In the first half, it meanders a bit before the narrative focuses on the rivalry in the second half. Westinghouse comes off as a more sympathetic character. Why Cumberbatch was used (apart from name recognition) is not clear. He does seem to be a generic American.

It’s Shannon’s portrayal of Westinghouse that is better and he has a clear character path.

Win 1.0

On this day in 1985, Microsoft Windows 1.0 is released.

Microsoft had worked with Apple Computer to develop applications for Apple’s January 1984 original Macintosh.

It runs as a graphical, 16-bit multi-tasking shell on top of an existing MS-DOS installation. It provides an environment which can run graphical programs designed for Windows, as well as existing MS-DOS software.

Despite positive responses to its early presentations and support from a number of hardware and software makers, Windows 1.0 was received poorly by critics.

Critics felt Windows 1.0 did not meet their expectations. In particular, they felt that Windows 1.0 put too much emphasis on mouse input at a time when mouse use was not yet widespread; not providing enough resources for new users; and for performance issues, especially on systems with lower computer hardware specifications.

Windows 1.0 was declared obsolete and Microsoft stopped providing support and updates for the system on December 31, 2001.

Clermont Council

In 1095, at the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban II calls for a Crusade to the Holy Land.

The Council of Clermont was a mixed synod of ecclesiastics and laymen of the Catholic Church, called by Pope Urban II and held from 18 to 28 November 1095 at ClermontAuvergne, at the time part of the Duchy of Aquitaine.

Pope Urban II

Pope Urban’s speech on November 27 included the call to arms that would result in the First Crusade, and eventually the capture of Jerusalem and the establishment of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In this, Urban reacted to the request by Byzantine emperor Alexius I Comnenus who had sent envoys to the Council of Piacenza requesting military assistance against the Seljuk Turks

Several accounts of the speech survive, the one by Fulcher of Chartres, who was present at the council, is generally accepted as the most reliable.

Hopeless Harry

Hopeless Harry: Cadet Second Class
by Matt Medlock (2014)

Harry is hopeless, it’s as simple as that. It has long been his dream to be an intrepid space explorer, and despite being severely unqualified and prone to clumsiness and terrible luck, his dream comes true and he becomes a space cadet, second class. Much to the horror of the universe.

At last, another decent comedic science fiction author. Although it’s only Novelette (15K words) long, it is packed with wry humour and fun. A lot of this comes from the writing style, but equally from the characters and their actions. There is also puns in the names of planets, places and character names.

So worth a read, plus there are more written and at only a dollar each, worth it.



2287 A.D. – After Destruction
(The Ashlyn Chronicles #1)
by Glenn Van Dyke, Renee Van Dyke (2016)

2287 A.D. follows the lives of Ashlyn Parker and Steven Sherrah, the man who is in command of Earth’s last surviving starship. He has been struggling to keep the handful of Earth’s survivors alive, hiding from the most vicious and powerful enemy humanity has ever known, an enemy that is relentless in his determination to see that every last human is killed.

His life is turned upside down as Ashlyn, a woman genetically engineered to be mentally and physically perfect – the next step in humanity’s evolution, awakens from stasis. For her protection, she had been cryogenically frozen when Earth was attacked. Her return is brutal, for she awakens fifteen years later into a post-apocalyptic Earth to find that everyone she had known before is gone, the world destroyed.

It sounds like a good premise, has a sexy cover. But the predominance of one star reviews should have been a clue. Very little of the story makes sense. While the writing is OK, after a while it feels like an editor is needed to cut out all the explanations, internal dialogue and wandering about.

There may be a better novella in there, but it’s buried by the slow pacing.

Rotten 2

Episode 1 – The Avocado War
The avocado’s rise from culinary fad to a must-have super-food has made it a lucrative crop — and a magnet for money-hungry cartels.

Episode 2 – Reign of Terroir
In the south of France, frustrated wine growers go to extremes to fend off cheap imports from Spain and new competition from China.

Just another case of rich people complaining about something that doesn’t matter.

Episode 3 – Troubled Water
The explosive growth of the bottled water industry has driven companies to dip into public water supplies and left vulnerable citizens thirsty.

Episode 4 – A Sweet Deal
Exploited workers, altered ecosystems and political power plays; behind the scenes, Big Sugar is anything but refined.

Episode 5 – Bitter Chocolate
For much of the world, chocolate is pure pleasure, but the long journey from bean to bar is packed with misery; an upstart company hopes to turn the tide.

The amazing fact was that most of the world’s chocolate comes from a small region on the west coast of Africa. The current industry seems to be a by-product of colonization, with middle-men taking most of the wealth. This industry may be going the way of the coffee industry, with a more direct route between the grower and consumer.

Episode 6 – High on Edibles
New marijuana laws have sparked a surge in edible goodies, but the fast-changing food comes with risks for consumers.

I thought this would be not interesting. Turns out that pot gets put into anything. And the whole billion dollar industry is based on the stupidity of people that will eat things not covered by food or drug regulations.

Princess Bride

The Princess Bride is a 1987 American fantasy adventure comedy film directed and co-produced by Rob Reiner, starring Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Wallace Shawn, André the Giant, and Christopher Guest.

Adapted by William Goldman from his 1973 novel The Princess Bride, it tells the story of a farmhand named Westley, accompanied by companions befriended along the way, who must rescue his true love Princess Buttercup from the odious Prince Humperdinck.

I’m sure I saw this on film when it was originally released, but have not seen it since. I did read the book in 2010 for the Sword and Laser podcast. But I didn’t think much of it. Mainly because the framing story of the Boy and his Grandfather was expanded in the novel and just detracted from the main fantasy story.

The film shows it’s age for a fantasy. Everything is perfectly lit and clean, unlike the modern grittier styles. The witty dialogue remains and this would be the main reason the film is so popular.

The other noticeable thing is the age of the main characters. Robin Wright was 21 and Cary Elwes 26 when they made this. They just seem too old for the characters they play. Nowadays they would have chosen teenagers. My favorite character was Wallace Shawn as  Vizzik, a rouge, thief, and professional liar. He is marvelously evil.




Rotten 1

Episode 1 – Lawyers, Guns & Honey
With demand for honey soaring just as bees are dying off in record numbers, hidden additives, hive thefts and other shady tactics are on the rise.

This covers colony collapse and other generally well-known issues.

Episode 2 – The Peanut Problem
Taking a look at the increasing body of science around the proliferation of people who suffer from severe food allergies and the accountability of restaurateurs in caring for their most vulnerable diners.

This covers medical cases to the detriment of the issues raised.

Episode 3 – Garlic Breath
Cooking shows turned the humble garlic bulb into a multi-billion-dollar crop, but a lawsuit raises troubling questions about top suppliers.

Probably the best of the series. The legal case explored in the second half of the show was a fascinating case of self-interest and money.

Episode 4 – Big Bird
The ruthlessly efficient world of chicken production pits vulnerable growers against one another, leaving them open to vicious acts of sabotage.

Most of this material has been covered by other documentaries.

Episode 5 – Milk Money
Looking to boost profits, some dairy farmers are switching to produce upscale organic milk or “raw” unpasteurized milk, but it comes with the risk of pathogens that can sicken — or even kill — consumers.

The whole ‘raw’ milk thing seems to be based on ignorance and stupidity. And businesses taking advantage of it.

Episode 6 – Cod is Dead
As the global fish supply dwindles, the industry faces crises on all sides, including crooked moguls, dubious imports and divisive regulations.

A good history of the fishing industry as a whole.

Scorpio Transit

Transit to Scorpio
(Dray Prescot #1)
by Alan Burt Akers


Kenneth Bulmer is the pseudonym of Alan Burt Akers, and this is  book one of the 52 volume saga.

Dray Prescot is transported by magical elements to a fabulous world where people speak English. He embarks on adventures, well part ones as I never finished this book.

Written in the 1970’s the prose can get a bit purple. So while competently written, it fails to draw you in as a modern writer would.

But in the end it was the rather poor plot that finished my reading. It just feels like a string of episodes linked together for no apparent reason. Anyway, with 51 more in the series there are a lot more better books out there.