Albert

All posts tagged Albert

An episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” interacted with our home entertainment system this evening.

The Amazon Echo Dot (2nd Generation) is a hands-free, voice-controlled, internet-connected device that can play music, control smart home devices, provide information, etc.

It is now possible to change its wake word from “Alexa” to “Computer”, just like the Enterprise D’s voice-controlled computer. As a result, the worlds of Star Trek and today’s technology collided.

Our new Echo Dot responded to Geordi La Forge’s command (look for the blue ring to appear on the bottom right when he says “Computer”).

If you don’t see it the first time, replay the clip; it’s only 12 seconds long.

I am working on getting our X10 home automation to respond to voice command as well; more about that when I succeed.

Another media room interaction: when Mr. Data's cat meowed, Albert's grooming halted while he assessed the situation.

Another interaction occurred when Mr. Data’s cat Spot meowed. Albert’s grooming halted while he assessed the situation.

Wet neighbor cat Albert relaxing after a chamois-down.

Neighbor cat Albert relaxing after a sojourn in the rain this weekend.

On Amazon Prime last night, we watched an episode from the eighth and final season of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, which stars Larry David, co-creator of “Seinfeld”. Clearly, Larry had a huge influence on the Seinfeld series, and “Curb” is a hilarious show, too. A “Seinfeld” reunion is part of the plotline in the late 7th season.

Rather than gobble up the remaining episodes, we next turned to an episode of the short-lived HBO series, “Hello Ladies” (also on Amazon Prime). It stars Stephen Merchant, Ricky Gervais’ writing partner on the original British series, “The Office”. It’s about an out-of-it lonely guy on a quest for romance.

This episode ended with the Al Stewart tune, “Year of the Cat” (an easy year in Vietnamese astrology), in bitterly ironic juxtaposition to the story line. I can certainly identify with Stephen’s geeky character. It doesn’t hurt that he is a lanky 6’7″, which I also was when the song was on the charts. (I’m now a slightly less lanky 6’6″.)

1977 was the year of “Year of the Cat” on the radio, but it wasn’t my year for soft contemplative songs. But as sometimes happens, the brilliant use of a song as counterpoint in a movie or series forcefully reminds you how good it is.

This also happened to me with Nancy Sinatra’s version of “Sugar Town” in the third season of the HBO series, “Girls”. (The tune was written by Lee Hazlewood, born in Mannford, Oklahoma.)

I often missed the meaning of songs in the 70s, due both to inattention and my inability to parse out the lyrics. For example, at one point in “Year of the Cat”,  I had thought he said “sweet Delores” when it’s really “Peter Lorre”. Pathetic.

So I went in quest of both the lyric and its meaning this morning. Quite a few interpretations out there, but on the most basic level, the song is about an unexpected romantic, cinematic interlude in an exotic foreign land (see lyrics and comments at http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/17850).

I now realize the song has grown on me. It probably helps not being as hung up on hot-lick guitar playing anymore.

In one of the comments at the above URL is a YouTube clip (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppIL5V-fcQ8) with a brief explanation of the lyric by Al and a TV performance (lip-sync) of the song.

All this research was done on my smartphone, and I now have an easy way to get a YouTube from it up to the big screen: Chromecast.

I copied the URL, but found that the YouTube app doesn’t have a place to paste it. So I pasted it into Google, hit search, and it asked which app in which to complete the action. I selected YouTube and up it came on the phone.

Paused it immediately, then clicked the ‘cast icon at the top right in the phone’s YouTube app. It found my Chromecast device and I selected it. The video appeared on the big screen, displacing “Morning Joe”, which I had ‘cast up there from a Chrome browser tab on the office PC.

When through watching, click the cast icon again and select disconnect.

Typical YouTube exploration is more natural with Chromecast than with Roku or other set-top devices.

Over the weekend, my Roku LT (back in service after the Roku 3 got fried by lightning) developed a new habit of going to sleep and not waking up until rebooted. I decided to do a Factory Reset and re-register it, but Roku’s servers were swamped by all the Xmas shoppers with their new Roku SEs. I put it aside for a few days and have been using the Chromecast and the TiVo instead.

The one big deficiency of Google Chromecast is that it lacks Amazon Instant Video. The two corporations are arch-enemies; Amazon does not support the Chromecast device and banned both it and Apple TV from their site; Google has not released any of its own apps for Amazon’s Fire devices.

So we watched the shows last night on TiVo’s Amazon app. But if you use Netflix, Hulu Plus, etc., Chromecast could do it all for you.

After Thanksgiving dinner last week, I showed one of our phone-centric nephews how to get his iPhone’s NFL Sunday Ticket app up onto our big screen TV. He liked it a lot.

The new Chromecast.

The new Chromecast.

As a result, both nephews will be receiving the newest version of the Chromecast for Christmas. There is a really good deal at the Google Store today (“Cyber Monday”), 2 for $50. Since it’s for Christmas, I got them the festive red and yellow ones. The color will remind them to take the device with them after using it at friends’ houses.


The Year of the Cat, a year of ease and relaxation, comes every twelve years. The last one was 2011, next is 2023. But for Albert (pictured at top), it comes every year.

Commander Albert serving as officer of the watch.

The heroic Commander Albert serving as officer of the watch on our starship bridge.

We do “Sci-Fi Saturday” with MeTV, but while I was a big Wonder Woman fan in college, the shows today offer only intermittent entertainment, mainly when WW is running around in costume (come to think of it, not much has changed).

We have also seen the original Star Trek way too many times in recent years. So we feel free to substitute other content, such as Star Trek: The Next Generation and other sci-fi from Amazon Prime, Netflix, or our own sci-fi content (e.g., The Outer Limits) on Plex.

Comm panel with X10 ceiling fan, overhead lights switch

Enterprise com panel over X10 remote control ceiling fan & ceiling lights switches

Oops, the tribbles got into our quadrotriticale again.

Tribbles got into our quadrotriticale again. The remote also controls X10 devices.

It’s interesting that the original Enterprise’s bridge viewscreen is almost exactly the same aspect ratio (shape) as the 65″ plasma TV in our theater room. So on Saturday, we think of the room as our bridge, complete with command chairs (Laz-E-Boys). Armed with a phaser and communicator app, we’re ready for the Gorn or any other foe. A com panel/door swoosh device on our wall annunciates entries as well as exits for galley and head runs.

I found out our subwoofer was dead (Jim) while playing around with a starfield simulation for the room. One final casualty of the lightning strike. Video Revolution wants almost as much to fix it as the original 2002 cost, so I think it’s time for a new one. For now, we get surprisingly good bass out of my old AR-12 speakers (purchased at SEVCO in 1977).

Anyway, I found a high-def video on Alien Couch Potato’s YouTube channel, created with Space Engine: “a free space simulation program that lets you explore the universe in three dimensions, from planet Earth to the most distant galaxies. Areas of the known universe are represented using actual astronomical data, while regions uncharted by astronomy are generated procedurally. Millions of galaxies, trillions of stars, countless planets…”

As detailed in my previous post, Saving YouTubes, viewing with Plex, I saved an .mp4 file of the simulation to one of our computers. It is now playable in the theater room with Plex or Emby on Roku, Chromecast, or my Raspberry Pi computer. (Enterprise D ambient bridge sound is included to complete the experience.) Playing the file on our home network saves internet bandwidth.

Our starship bridge. Mr. Sulu, arm the karaoke machine!

Mr. Sulu, arm the karaoke machine!

This video can give you a visceral understanding of the vastness of space, even in our immediate “neighborhood”.

To give you some perspective:

The Robinson family of “Lost in Space” was trying to get to Alpha Centauri, 4+ light years from Earth. (This is one of the closest stars to us, as Dr. Sheldon Cooper instructs.)

Even if they were able to travel near light speed the entire distance (not even feasible, according to Einstein), they would be looking at around 5 years to arrive, though they wouldn’t have aged much due to the relativistic effect of time dilation. They would need some really good brakes, or they wouldn’t be stopping to look around.

At the impossible speed depicted in this video, that super-fast 5-year mission would take 1/3 of a second. The video lasts an hour and 18 minutes.  You go 70,000 light-years, about 7/10 of the way across our Milky Way galaxy. The galaxy background scene changes almost imperceptibly at this speed.

The galaxy closest to us, Andromeda, is 2,500,000 light-years distant. That means that the light from it hitting our retinas today started its journey 2.5M years ago. A video showing this trip at the same speed (15 light-years/sec) would run almost two days.

Our galaxy is one of 100 billion in our universe.

That’s big.

The only way you could ever experience the incredibly faster-than-light speeds depicted in these videos is if someone invents a warp drive. (Zefram Cochrane, where are you?)

In actuality, the best speed a craft with a feasible propulsion system could attain is a small fraction of the speed of light.

There was a “conceptual interstellar spacecraft design”, Project Longshot (Wikipedia). by NASA in 1988 to reach Alpha Centauri orbit with an unmanned, nuclear-powered probe.

Wikipedia: “The journey to Alpha Centauri B orbit would take about 100 years, at an average velocity of approximately 4.5% the speed of light, and another 4.39 years would be necessary for the data to reach Earth.”

All this, Commander Albert probably ponders from from his Laz-E-Boy, er, command chair.

Albert the surf cat

Albert, as seen from above the Laz-E-Boy

Echoes_Waves

Albert, our neighbor’s cat, decided to cool off on my Laz-E-Boy chair in our media room today.

The ceiling fan was on, as was “Echoes of Nature: Ocean Waves”, an environmental recording on CD I had ripped to my laptop Windows 7 PC.

I used the Raspberry Pi computer running free PleXBMC software to pipe it in from the PC, in 6-channel stereo. I also put the album on continuous play.

He really seems to appreciate it.

AlbertOnTTM

Albert relaxes at a workstation.

No cord-cutting in this post.

I was messing around on our office computer, when who should appear in front of my screen but Albert, our neighbor’s friendly cat. He apparently got cabin fever on this snowy day and felt like visiting a different cabin (ours). I brought up his favorite tag on this site.

As you may recall, Albert (a “tuxedo” cat) was named after Al’s Formal Wear in Tulsa. Here is a photo of “Weird Al” posing at that establishment last year.

Someday we’ll have to get Albert a top hat, cane, and monocle to complete his ensemble.