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12
Apr

Finally Understanding Star Trek

I like dire fiction.

Battlestar Galactica

Humans driven to near-extinction by their own robotic creations struggling to survive.

The Wire

The War on Drugs in Baltimore, shown equally from the perspectives of the police and the dealers, never depicting either side as overwhelmingly good or evil. It’s just a mess.

Firefly

Humanity expands to the far reaches of the galaxy, but installs a tyrannical, monolithic government that causes horrible problems for its people.

Dollhouse

A pharma-tech company creates a way to program human brains. Terrible, terrible things ensue.

picard

Learning to Love Star Trek

This list could keep going, but the point is that I am typically drawn to dark, gritty, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad-type fiction.

Throughout my decades of love for science fiction and science fantasy, I never enjoyed Star Trek. At different points in my life I thought it was “too cliché,” “too geeky,” “too boring,” or more recently, “I can’t picture actual humans living on the USS Enterprise.”

Too Cliché

Wrong. Most of the stuff I thought was cliché in Star Trek was created by the show.

Too Geeky

No one is perfect. One of my flaws was believing that lines could be drawn, “I may be a geek, but I’m not that big a geek.”

It was dumb, and it took a ton of people recommending the show for me to realize that I should swallow my pride and enjoy it.

Too Boring

It’s true that Star Trek and Star Wars are dramatically different types of stories.

The Enterprise is a research vessel, and most of their conflicts are derived from local planetary politics and scientific discovery. Whereas Star Wars is an epic war story.

But I love politics… So it was enthralling.

“I can’t picture actual humans living on the USS Enterprise”

My crass way of explaining why I couldn’t get into Star Trek was, “I can’t picture anyone taking a dump on the Enterprise. It just doesn’t feel real to me.” I still can’t.

After watching 176 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I finally get it (I got it earlier in the process, I’m just getting around to writing it down).

Star Trek isn’t about the future. It’s about the future that you want. It’s a beautiful future where the sick are easily healed. Where anything you desire exists in abundance. Where people get along with one another regardless of externalities. Where the primary struggle in life is making yourself better as an individual.

It’s a beautiful future, and one that I am happy I experienced.

The Measure of a Man

Season 2, Episode 9 is entitled The Measure of a Man. It features a trial to determine whether the android Commander Data is a sentient being deserving of the same rights as any other citizen.

This is one of the most beautiful hours of television I have ever seen. It’s a masterpiece so fine it made me weep.

Try it. See Star Trek at its best. it’s a hell of a journey.

4
Feb

New Facebook App “Paper” is Stunning

I don’t recall ever using the word “stunning” to describe a mobile app. Facebook’s new alternative app Paper is the first one that has left me stunned.

There are some magnificently designed apps out there (Clear comes to mind), but using Paper is the first time I have used an app and thought to myself, “it’s time to rethink the way you approach application interface design.”

Facebook Paper

It’s just pretty. Really pretty. And easy to used. And fun.

The only big flaw (barring some bugs that I am sure they will squish with updates) is that it makes Facebook.com feel ancient, stodgy and boring. Granted Facebook has never been a beauty, but the juxtaposition between Facebook.com and Paper is pretty shocking. I hope we can expect to see more of this kind of design work from them in the future.

For a company whose mobile application was the model for mediocrity a couple of years ago Facebook has done something special here. I strongly recommend you try it out if you have an iOS device.

Facebook Paper

29
Jan

Stephen Colbert Must Speak at 2014 RSA Conference

RSA the makers of one of the most prolific digital encryption systems was outed for taking a $10 million bribe to weaken their security, so that the NSA could break it more easily.

Dongle

Dongle

Setting aside that $10 million seems like the NSA bought RSA’s integrity for an incredibly low price (who says government always has to pay top dollar?). The biggest problem here (even bigger than state surveillance) is that you cannot weaken security for just one party. If RSA security is easier for the NSA to break, then it is easier for everyone to break.

It’s messed up.

It’s horrible that the NSA asked them to compromise their product.

It’s insane that RSA complied.

What does this have to do with Stephen Colbert?

RSA has an annual security conference. It was a big deal in tech circles (until this year).

This year many security experts have rightly decided to boycott the conference. In its place they will be speaking at, TrustyCon.

Colbert is still scheduled as RSA’s keynote speaker and many in the tech community want him to cancel. Fight for the Future, an Internet advocacy group that I typically agree with is circulating a petition asking Colbert to do just that.

It says, among other things:

“Whatever speech you had planned, we’re sure it would be amazing. We want to hear it; we really do. The 2006 White House Press Corps Dinner? You killed it. But this isn’t that. Not only will your speech not be broadcast to the public–it’s also really hard to make jokes about surveillance that don’t distract from how scummy and dangerous it is.”

Fight For the Future is wrong. Colbert needs to speak.

Non-tech geeks don’t care about RSA Con, or the intricacies of Internet security. And while more people should be interested in what folks like Christopher Soghoian have to say, they just aren’t.

Colbert can draw attention to it. A lot more attention.

It won’t be broadcast… But I’m willing to bet that it will find its way to YouTube. If RSA tries to censor the video, it will only spread more rapidly.

“It’s hard to make jokes about surveillance that don’t distract from how scummy and dangerous it is?”

Really? Have they seen his show?

I have faith that Colbert will rise to the occasion, and deliver a speech that will help to push this conversation in a productive direction. If he cancels, that doesn’t happen. If he goes to TrustyCon and speaks to a friendly audience on their own turf, it loses a lot of its potential.

Guys like Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart are at their most powerful when they are lighting fires in the belly of the beast.

(Image via Wikipedia)

19
Jan

Victory at Escape the Room NYC [Review]

The door is locked, and you have 60 minutes to find the key, to exit. This is the premise of Escape the Room NYC… But it’s all a bit more complicated than that. 85% of teams fail.

“The Room,” located in a Midtown New York office space at first glance looks like a fairly normal office, but is actuality a series of puzzles within puzzles. Word puzzles, number puzzles, pattern recognition puzzles, logic puzzles piled upon one another to test a team of 10 or so people. I won’t give away more details because that would spoil the fun.

My badass team successfully completed the puzzle in 51 minutes, 40 seconds. To put this time into perspective the fastest the puzzle has been completed to date is 48 minutes and change.

Left sign says "51:40!" and the right sign says, "Winners!"

Left sign says “51:40!” and the right sign says, “Winners!”

Should I Do This?

If you like the idea challenging puzzles that require cooperation between a number of people (presumably your friends), then this is going to be a blast.

It’s about $27 per person, and I strongly recommend you buy up all 10 tickets for your time-slot, so that you can participate with only people of your choosing.

When they have new puzzles, we’re going back. And I can’t wait.

Escape The Room NYC – Facebook

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