Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Full Speed Ahead, Mr. Scott

As we were driving home from work today, we heard the original Star Trek theme on the radio. I knew that meant that another original cast member had died. James "Scotty" Doohan, who, despite being Canadian, stormed the beach at Normandy, has died at the age of 85. He had Alzheimer's and developed a fatal pneumonia. He was an icon of my misspent sci-fi youth, and seemed to be a genuinely nice guy. Of the cast members, he was the one with whom I'd most liked to have shared dinner and some beers.

His NYT obituary is below:

James Doohan, who faked a Scottish burr to create one of television's most endearing characters, Chief Engineer Montgomery (Scotty) Scott of the U.S.S. Enterprise, died today at the age of 85.

Mr. Doohan, who had Alzheimer's disease, died of pneumonia at his home early this morning, said his agent, Steven Stevens.

Whenever Captain Kirk said "Beam me up, Scotty" or its many variants, he was talking to the character played by Mr. Doohan, an irascible engineer whose cries of "Captain! The engines canna take nae more!" and references to warp speed and dilithium crystals have resonated through popular culture since 1966, when the original Star Trek's three seasons began.

He later appeared in seven Star Trek movies and in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," a series set 75 years after the original Star Trek was to have taken place. (The time gap was explained by Mr. Scott's having jury-rigged a form of suspended animation by sending himself into a pattern buffer in the transporter and keeping his matter circulating in the unit through continuous diagnostic loop. Like all Star Trek explanations, it sounds good if you say it fast.)

In that show, Mr. Scott expressed astonishment at the approach of that ship's engineer, Geordie LaForge, to telling his captain how long it would take to work through a particular problem. "Oh, you didn't tell him how long it would really take, did you?" When Mr. LaForge said he had, Mr. Scott replied with exasperation, "Oh, laddie, you've got a lot to learn if you want people to think of you as a miracle worker!"

James Montgomery Doohan was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, on March 3, 1920. He was the youngest of four children, and his father, Mr. Doohan would later write in his memoir, "Beam Me Up, Scotty," was an abusive alcoholic. Mr. Doohan served in World War II, and was struck by six bullets during the D-Day Invasion in Normandy. One of the bullets blew off his middle right finger, an injury he would later conceal from the Star Trek television cameras.

Married three times, he is survived by his third wife, the former Wende Braunberger, and seven children. The four children from his first marriage, now grown, are Larkin, Deirdre, Montgomery and Christopher; his third marriage produced three children: Eric, Thomas and Sarah, who was born in 2000 when Mr. Doohan was 80.

When he first auditioned for the role of ship's engineer with Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, Mr. Doohan read the lines with a variety of accents, including French and German. "They both decided an engineer has got to be a Scotsman," Mr. Stevens recalled.

Mr. Doohan became so closely associated with his character that it was difficult for him to get other parts. But if he resented having taken a role that all but ended his acting career, he did not show it, said Walter Koenig, who played Ensign Pavel Chekov in the original television series and rode the lucrative convention circuit with him.

"He accepted it," he said. "He delighted in the attention."

Mr. Stevens, the agent, said that Mr. Doohan "loved the idea that he'd be in an airport and somebody from Kenya or some Middle Eastern country would come up and say, 'You're Scotty!' And he'd stop and take pictures." He even enjoyed the endless gantlet of conventions, Mr. Stevens said. "Some people might think, 'Ugh - the poor guy's got to sit and sign autographs.' He'd have done it for free."

Mr. Doohan influenced a generation of engineers, who saw him as role model. The Milwaukee School of Engineering awarded Mr. Doohan an honorary doctor of engineering degree in 1993 "after a survey of students revealed that a large number of respondents said the character Scotty's 'engineer' title piqued their interest in the field," said Kathleen McCann, a spokeswoman for the school. "He brought the field of engineering to the forefront of pop culture," she said in an e-mail response to questions.

When he attended a special James Doohan Farewell Star Trek Convention last summer, using a wheelchair but alert, one of the people who spoke at the ceremony was Neil Armstrong, the first person to actually walk on the soil of another world and a "Star Trek" fan. According to accounts of the event, Mr. Armstrong said he hoped his next command would be a Federation starship, and added "if I get that command, I want a chief engineering officer like Montgomery Scott."

Mr. Koenig said that the night before the event, he held a dinner in Mr. Doohan's honor. There were many tributes and many stories, Mr. Koenig recalled, "and a lot of laughs all around." Mr. Doohan - as always - basked in the attention and love.

Mr. Koenig said that at the end of the evening, as Mr. Doohan was being wheeled out, he slowed for a word. "He said it was nice, but it was a lot too long," he recalled with a laugh.

Mr. Doohan requested that his remains be shot into space, and his family has arranged through Space Services Inc., a Houston company that provides "memorial spaceflights" and which also sent the remains of Mr. Rodenberry and Timothy Leary into space in a 1997 flight.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Iter Baby!

I talked to my good friend Jim about a great many things last night, one of which was this. ITER sounds like a great idea to me, even if the physics are way over my head.

Friday, July 08, 2005

300 Pounds, Baby!

This morning, I reached my goal of bench-pressing 300 lbs. I had hoped to do this by Summer's end, but I found myself in the mood to give it a go today. My new goal? To be able to bench press whatever Hatch's weight has ballooned to by Summer's end.

Well, Screw Them, Too!

It looks like anti-Americanism is rearing it's ugly head in the Olympics. For the first time since 1936, a sport has been removed from the Olympics, this time two of them. Baseball and softball were voted out by secret ballot. Story here.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Hah! We ARE Tougher Than You

Apparently, studies are showing that men, not women, actually have a higher tolerance for pain. Of course, I'd never say that. Besides, women do have to "put up with" us men.

See The Comet

One of the benefits of working at Vandy is the Dyer Observatory. Here's a link to their Deep Impact footage, just click on the Vanderbilt bit down at the middle of the bottom of the page. It's a huge file, and will only be there for the next 25 days or so.

Officially Strong

Finally. After much struggling, I am now "Officially Strong". According to my good buddy Mike, you're not officially strong until you can bench press 225 lbs ten times. I've been stuck at nine reps for a couple of weeks, but had my breakthrough this morning. I'm still working towards my goal of benching 300lbs by the end of the Summer, which I should be ready to do, according to the single-rep calculator at I did 275 lbs the other day, but I won't try the big 300 for a while, though, and definitely not without a good spotter. My gym, if you could call it that, is primarily frequented by senior citizens, women, and freaky Euro-trash guys who couldn't lift my lunchbox.

Die Scrushy, Die!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Pancreatic Cancer and Rolling the Dice

A big part of my job is counselling cancer patients, many (if not most) of whom have a very poor prognosis. When I first started nursing, pancreatic cancer was pretty much a death sentence, with a five-year survival rate of (essentially) zero. I had the pleasure of telling a pancreatic cancer patient today that he had, based on his tumor, it's location, and his response to treatment 15 times the chance of survival that most pancreatic cancer patients have today. That is, he has a 15% chance of living five years.


But still, it's better than it was, and believe it or not, the guy was relieved to hear this.

Where's Rick Deckard When You Need Him?

Here's a Japanese-produced "skin job"(human-appearing robot), named Repliee Q1, who had her "coming out" at World Expo 2005. "She" is fueling the fantasies of paranoid Luddites and Japanese perverts like nothing before.

For those of you who don't know, Rick Deckard is a character in the Philip K Dick novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", and also in the movie version "Blade Runner". His job was to hunt down and kill sophisticated androids, who were difficult to distinguish from humans.

Here's an interesting take from Hollywoodjesus.

The Repliee site, even with some short video clips.