Strange New Worlds: All Those Who Wander

A bug hunt.  How I hate bug hunts.

Spoilers for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 9 “All Those Who Wander”.

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Strange New Worlds: The Serene Squall

What can I say?  They can’t all be winners…

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Sixteen years

Still going.  I’ve been writing this blog on and off — really, mostly “off”, but hey — since this date in 2006.  That’s weird to think about.

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Strange New Worlds: Spock Amok

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds continues to impress. “Spock Amok” has all the ingredients for an epic disaster, yet…

(spoilers ahead, Captain!)
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More inanity from the author of “Ending Online Church”

This piece (7 Thoughtful Reader Responses on Ending Online Church, NY Times, 2022 Feb 6) reeks of the same dismissive (and unimaginative) hubris as the first. With obvious great reluctance, the author admits – halfway through and fleetingly – that whole swaths of people are necessarily and deliberately left out by in-person worship. It’s nice to see that acknowledged, rather than blithely downplayed (“churches have been dealing with the homebound for centuries”), but the author is clear to inoculate her arrogance by first showcasing a convenient “we’re immunocompromised but agree 100%” story that gets paragraphs, before tucking away the counter argument in a short bit sandwiched between two “you’re so right” pieces. Seven insightful responses but only one that can be read as disputatious. But what struck me the most was the “insightful” response that the author chose to emphasize by putting first and at length:

I am 76 years old … [and] not frightened by Covid, whose main harm is that it causes increasing community isolation

7 Thoughtful Reader Responses on Ending Online Church

Its main harm is increasing isolation? Its main harm? There are roughly 900,000 (and counting!) dead Americans who might disagree with your analysis, doctor, not to mention the literal millions who are “isolated” from their loved ones by having seen them die from this disease.

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Crossing timelines: Revisiting the Sixth Season of Doctor Who

Watching “A Good Man Goes to War” led me to re-watching “The Wedding of River Song“, and of course that led back to “The Impossible Astronaut” and the start of Season 6. So it’s out of order — so what? It’s a show about a time-traveling big blue police box. Watching it doesn’t have to be linear.

I think Season Six is my favorite season, and Matt Smith is my favorite Doctor. They’ve all been great but Smith’s Eleven is the one whose Doctor seems to be having the most fun. Eccleston‘s Nine is haunted and gloomy, and Tennant‘s Ten is much too the wounded bird. I like Capaldi‘s Twelve but let’s face it — Clara Oswald drags him down, down, down the rankings. Not his fault but you can’t really separate a Doctor from his/her companions. Whittaker’s Thirteen is sharp, too, but just sometimes feels like she’s trying too hard, or rather the writers are — and Chibnall simply doesn’t have it together as much as Moffat (and let’s face it, Moffat was madly juggling plates thrown in the air by Davies).

But Smith is having fun, and his Doctor is having fun, and Steve Moffat is beyond doubt having fun — he’s the showrunner/writer who most gets that this is a show about time travel and it doesn’t have to make sense but it all has to hang together (if you know want I mean).  Sure, a lot of the plot of “The Impossible Astronaut” / “Day of the Moon” doesn’t quite hold up and the motives and actions of both the aliens and the humans are slightly askew.  But some of the plot holes (like, why does the Silence keep letting Amy escape) turn out later in the season not to have been plot holes at all.  And the romance between the Doctor and River Song is, quite literally, one for the ages. (I know, I know, it’s a broken base issue but I like it.)

I have to admit, though, that the coolest bit of “The Impossible Astronaut” / “Day of the Moon” — cooler even than the Moon landing or its use within the show — is, without a doubt, Canton Everett Delaware III. Alright, the name could’ve used a tweak, but the character is played by Mark Shepard and that pays for all. Mark Shepard is the link among dozens if not hundreds of sci-fi and genre shows, and he’s always something to watch — from Badger on Firefly to Jim Stirling (like the machine gun, not the engine) on Leverage. Heck, I’d probably watch Mark Shepard read the phone book.

Actually, let me amend. Mark Shepard is the second-coolest bit. The coolest bit — and this runs throughout the whole season — is the score. Murray Gold hits it out of the park and into orbit. It’s extraordinarily listenable and memorable, even divorced from the particular episodes. Not many original scores can achieve that. Once you know the soundtrack, watching the episodes is even richer. In the moment, the score is subtle (usually), hovering in the background. But at the crucial times it soars, and Gold captures in audio exactly what adventuring with the Doctor would be.

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Back online

Quite possibly no one noticed but me, but this site has been down since August 2020, when my web hosting service altered the name of their database server.  It should have been a quick fix, and eventually was, but 2020-2021 were such crazy times that I couldn’t set aside the approximate hour I estimated it would take, until yesterday.

The fix came just in time for the blog-aversary of The Mongrel Dogs Who Teach, whose first post was on 2006 June 12 — fifteen years ago, believe it or not!

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FB Recap: Social Media and the Body Politic

originally posted on Facebook on 2018 March 25

Here’s the thing. This week we’ve learned about massive breaches of trust and the evils that the superconnected Internet can bring. But we’ve also seen truly inspiring and uplifting photos that speak to real change — and not only would we never have seen these pictures without social media, the protests and rallies would never have HAPPENED without social media.

Is social media going to save the world? Probably not. Is it going to destroy the world? Probably not.

A sense of history is in order here: After the fascist triumphs of the 1930s, there was a lot of ink spilled about the evils of radio, used by those fascists to whip up the populace. After imbroglios like the Spanish-American War, there was much angst over the power of newspapers. It didn’t take long for the printing press to be decried as the devil’s work.

You know what the common thread was? Some bad actor early adopters managed to grasp the potential of the new medium and used it to spike a fever in the body politic. Then, the body politic developed antibodies — the new and brazen became known and boring, and got worked into the usual order of things. I feel that’s where we are now. So #deleteFacebook if you think it’s important or if the bargain you’ve made with Zuckerberg no longer matches your priorities. But whether you give up or not, social media is now part of our ecosystems … and I honestly believe, that’s not in the end a bad thing.

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FB Recap: Major Tom is Everyman, and That’s the Problem

I’ve liked this song since the 1980s but this has bothered me almost as long:
All systems are go, are you sure?
Control is not convinced
But the computer has the evidence
No need to abort
The implication is, Control should have aborted the mission based on their gut feeling. But if the computers have the evidence, why is Control not convinced? If Control has other evidence, why isn’t it being considered? If there is no other evidence, then Control wasn’t correct, just lucky.
This fits a larger pet peeve of mine, which is that we remain mired (in terms of arts and literature) in an Age of Heroes mentality. It’s the lone actor struggling against the impersonal unfeeling “system”. But in fact, far more tragedies happen because we ignore the evidence than because we follow it. When gut reactions work out, we celebrate it as heroic and when they fail, we say, “Oh, well, sometimes the odds are stacked against you”.
We live in the most interconnected complex society ever, during the most dangerous century ever. Systems, professionals, and procedures may all, admittedly, be faulty.
But we hold as our paragon the people who work around procedures rather than those who try to fix them. Why? I suspect because it lets us off the hook. If the system is irreparable then we’re justified in not exerting ourselves to repair it. If guts trump process, then we have tacit permission to give free rein to our laziness, our proclivities, and our prejudices.
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FB Recap: Sociology of Exponentials

Explaining the socioeconomic tyranny of exponentials, via examples students can relate to: Let’s say kids are given the whole period to complete a lab. Some students work faster than others because they’ve got a better sense of the underlying theory. So they finish early, meaning they can then move on to work on other stuff. Students struggling with the lab don’t get that opportunity, so their other works looms waiting to be done, increasing their stress and likely reducing their capability. So next time, the students who finished early are more likely to finish early AGAIN, and the students who struggled are probably even further behind.
The economy is like that. If you earn more than what you need to survive, you can invest the excess into yourself — maybe a class, maybe just reliable healthcare, maybe things to reduce your stress and enhance your productivity … meaning your earnings will grow even more, even more exceeding the threshold — creating a virtuous cycle.
But if you earn too little, you’ll have to make up the difference by working a second job (blowing through your personal health capital), or taking on debt, or some other mechanism that negatively impacts your productivity … meaning you’ll need even more debt (or whatever), a vicious cycle.
Sure, in real life, there’s a lot of noise there. Your cost of living fluctuates and so does your earning potential Small chance events can put you over the break-even line, or drag you under it. Life is pretty precarious right on that line. But the effects of small bits of luck (good or bad) become massively amplified by this exponential factor. Yeah, it’s possible that you boost your earnings by hard work alone — but once you clear that break-even line, most of the heavy lifting is going to be done by the network effects that create the exponential feedback loop.
I wish I could end this with a simple solution. I don’t have one. But understanding the exponential aspects of life at the break-even leads me to believe, strongly, that we need to flatten out the curve proactively.
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