Slackers and IT

Go read “Science Fiction Is for Slackers.”

As a rule, science fiction may be the laziest of all genres, not because the stories themselves are too facile—they can be just as sophisticated and challenging as those of any other genre—but because they often revel in easy solutions: Why walk when you can warp? Why talk when you’re a telepath? Technology in such stories typically has more to do with workarounds than it does with work.

I do love science fiction. From robots/AI to star travel to virtual reality. I love it all. I may even love it BECAUSE of the laziness. I’d love to have all these things to make my life better. And much of science fiction influences technologists into making decisions to make the fiction a reality.

The How Shatner Changed the World (mock) documentary talks about the technologies of Star Trek and how scientists work towards making these things reality. Faster than light travel and cybernetics are still aspirant. But cell phones and personal computers were influenced by technologists familiar with the show and movies.

At times I worry about automation putting me out of a job, but then I remember my career goal is always to replace myself with a tiny shell script. Why click when I can script? Why script when I can tell an AI to handle it? Sure it takes away some of my responsibilities, but what I am supposed to do has always changed. And I get better challenging work when I free myself from mundane tasks.

Guess this is why I told Puppet Labs my job is an Automation Evangelist. It’s not universal. I have allies, but convincing people of the good in automation is much like changing their religion.

Back in college I was encouraged to become a librarian. More specifically, people thought I should become an automation librarian. I guess the automation part stuck?

Invention vs Sustaining

Alien Light
Alien Light

Alien 7… I mean, uh… Prometheus opened today. I am going to see it with some friends Sunday. One star or five, I would go see it. Heck, several other movies by Ridley Scott got me to buy a ticket just because of the first Alien movie.

Naturally this movie is going to take bad to a stellar level. Nevermind the original director has come home again after decades. That did not make Star Wars better.

So why is it that sequels and especially prequels tend to be so bad? After all, there is plenty of lore upon which to write a script. Hollywood pumps millions into these movies. There are plenty of good actors, writers, producers, and directors to ensure a quality movie. Make a good sequel and fans of the series will love you forever.

I wonder if creating something new is easier than sustaining something existing. With a sequel, maybe that lore becomes a weight tying the hands of the writers and directors? There are boundaries set regarding the world, the characters, and most importantly what they can or will do. The movie becomes predictable. Money does not overcome this. Being willing to break the mold does.

My next thought was maybe movie creators should take a page from comics. There are close to as many alternate versions of Spider-Man as I have years in age. When something gets old and tired, reboot it with a new universe. This does not solve the actual problem of sustaining the brand on its own.

One has to be willing to make a new brand. It has to be a new invention not much constrained by the original. J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek had some of the familiar elements including an old school Spock. What I liked most was the highly emotional new Spock. New boundary. (Okay, yes, I know teenage Spock in Search for Spock excepted the rule.) It might have the same name, but it must feel new.

Or… As described in the Demise of Guys, I played too many video games and have a addiction to novelty. Too many sequel movies are the same movie I have already seen.

Tearing the Fabric of the Cosmos

Scientists plan an ultrapowerful laser to tear apart the fabric of spacetime to see what is inside. Everyone knows when you cause a rip in the spacetime continuum, bad things happen from Star Trek. Know science wants to destroy the universe.

arielwaldmanFreakin’ laser beams! Actually one of the most awesome lasers coming from of science in the next few years: t.co/3RTGF5vo

Ariel Waldman

The laser requires 200 petawatts of energy, aka 200,000 terawatts. A problem is world-wide production of energy by coal, oil, natural gas, solar, wind, nuclear, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass combined is just 21 terawatts. So they plan on huge batteries to store up the power. That seems like a really bad and enormously expensive idea. Saving up that much power when resources are already on edge increases the price for the rest of us.

A Laser to Give the Universe a Hernia? : Discovery News

3 days ago … Those pesky physicists are at it again; they want to build a laser so powerful that it will literally rip spacetime apart.

 Discovery

Originally posted to Storify.

Every Movie Geek Needs His Quotes

GeekDad published a list of top 100 Geek quotes. I happen to like movies and quotes. However, this list seems lame. None of my favorites even made the top ten.

  1. “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” Obiwan Kenobi, Star Wars. Of course, I got more attached to this quote when a coworker used this to perplex our boss. I’m sure there are days he regretted hiring so many twenty somethings.
  2. “Half of writing history is hiding the truth.” Mal, Serenity.
  3. “I’ve done far worse than kill you. I’ve hurt you. And I wish to go on… hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me, as you left her. Marooned for all eternity, in the center of a dead planet… buried alive. Buried alive.” Khan Noonien Singh, ST:TWOK
  4. “I must not fear. / Fear is the mind-killer. / Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. / I will face my fear. / I will permit it to pass over me and through me. / And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. / Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. / Only I will remain.” – Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, Dune
  5. “How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life, wouldn’t you say?” Captain James T. Kirk, ST:TWOK
  6. “Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda, SW:TESB. Yes, I have a teeshirt about this.
  7. “Raspberry. There’s only one man who would dare give me the raspberry: Lone Star!” Dark Helmet, Spaceballs.

What are your favorite movie quotes?

Feedback Loops

Remakes don’t scare me. Some are good. Some are bad. 

The thing to remember is, “Its just a movie.” The world won’t end over a poor movie. There’s always another one in a few weeks to either like or hate. If it stands up to the test of time, then you’ll buy the Blue-ray and next three formats over the next 30 years. If not, then just ignore it ever existed… Much like I’ve done with Superman III, Superman IV, Star Trek The Final Frontier, and hundreds of other movies.

Getting worked up over change? Not worth it.

Quibblers would have kept “Star Trek” more like its old self. Quibblers inhibit revolution. Quibblers would deny the basic law of forward motion in pop culture:

If you love something, they will remake it.

But if you really love it, you will set it free, and let them.

The Trouble With Quibbles

Film makers should keep in mind, the types of people involved in  fads: connectors, mavens, salesperson. Fans are mavens. People are going to trust the opinion of these fans. So if the fans’ concerns are just a few quibbles but still an endorsement, then the general public will flock to the movie. If these quibbles amount to wide rejection of the movie by the existing fans, then the general public will mostly stay away from it.

Quibbles are not really the issue. Endorsements are. 

I think you missed that there is a life-cycle to most such endeavors, and feedback is very useful at specific times, and disruptive (in a bad way) at others.

So, the problem with “fan feedback” non-stop is that they tend to fall into a mob mentality, off being “trolls” about any innovation. But, that said, remember that early forms of the Batman movie with the Heath L Joker was shown to fans (at a Comic Con) to get feedback on the style and whether too over the top. The feedback was used to find the balance and deal with the nature of the ending. Fans were given leaks and teasers (semi-trailers) along the way as well, but the mob rule was not allowed not hound the people making it.

That said, what makes a movie work or not is very different from what made its source material work. The reason the Spiderman movies worked for a large audience who knew nothing about the comics had a lot to do with the simpler nature of the comics. Batman has always been more complex in the psychology of its heroes and villains, as much by what does not happen as what does. Watchman is trickier given its narrative model and how much it connected with its time (Cold War, etc).

— PaulK
The Downside of Feedback

Design by committee sucks. So fans should not take over the process. However, total rejection of fan criticisms probably will result in rejection by the fans and slow sales.

Christmas Blog Post 2008

Last night I read Uncle Bill’s Christmas letter. He mailed it, but he apparently doesn’t have my postal address so I got the electronic version. Woohoo! His letter recaps the year for his family. Do any of you have such a tradition? Or a family member who does? Oddly my blog doesn’t provide much basis as it is devoid of personal information.

So here goes….

Family

Mom went off to Houston in January to consult with one of the best doctors in the country about a health issue. How things fell into place to allow her to get better amazed me daily. I got to grandparent sit for a week where I made Nannie tell stories so I could post them on Youtube. 😀

William married Nicole, his high school sweetheart. I finally have a sister. It rained on us briefly, so if you are into superstitions, that means either: 1) kids, 2) money, or 3) good luck.

I met Dad’s girlfriend, Sally, this year. She is definitely very nice. I’m happy with the match.

Friends

My only New Year’s Resolution for 2008 was to read 25 books this year. I completed that goal back in October. I’m thinking for 2008 to do a similar resolution. This time I’ll count up the number of pages and set a goal to read 20% more pages.

Some fellow Flickr users started an Athens Flickr Meetup. I’m hoping this is something to continue in 2009 as the weather improves. (Though who knew Georgia would be 20 degrees Farenheit above normal in December?)

RingsAdrianne and Britt asked me to be the photographer for their wedding. I spent hours looking at professional photographer portfolios for ideas about what I should capture. You see, while I do have a camera, I had never really taken photos at a wedding. Heck, few people invite me to weddings, so I was a little unclear what happens. In the end, I think it all turned out pretty well. Adrianne is happy. So I am happy. Working in computers became a profession because it was a hobby. Maybe photography will end up the same in the end? Posted 840 photos to Flickr this year. Started freelovephotography.com to show off my photography.

Las Vegas in July? Dumb. Star Trek: The Experience made my geeky heart soar.
NCC-1701-DNCC-1701-D @ ST: TXP

NCC-1701-D

 


NCC-1701-D, originally uploaded by Ezra F.

No flash lets one see the lights better than with flash.

Taken at the Star Trek: The Experience at the Hilton in Las Vegas. If you want to catch it, then you need to go by there before September 1 when it closes. 🙁

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ST:XP Shutting Down

Star Trek: The Experience is shutting down September First? Geeks don’t make the annual pilgrimage to pray at the alter of the captain’s chair. Maybe Vegas is too expensive. Between dropping hundreds monthly on movie tickets, DVDs, comics, and video games, spending three months rent to see ST:XP doesn’t have the right magic.

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Anger and computers don’t mix

Ex-Boss Describes Sys Admin’s Anger During PaineWebber Sabotage Trial | June 8, 2006:

On the day a system administrator at UBS PaineWebber learned his annual bonus had fallen short by about $15,000, he leveled an ultimatum at his boss: give him a written contract for more money or he was walking out the door, according to testimony Thursday in the federal criminal computer sabotage trial.

But prosecutors charge that quitting his job wasn’t the only thing on his mind in late February of 2002. They say Roger Duronio, a three-year employee in the financial giant’s IT department, had already hatched a plan to plant malicious code on the network that would wipe out critical data across the country and drive down the company’s stock price.

Once Duronio packed up and was escorted out the building that day, he headed straight to a broker’s office to buy stock options that would pay out if UBS suffered a setback. And that, the government contends, put the final stages of Duronio’s plot into action.

C’mon people… I know we can all quote Kahn from Star Trek II, “Revenge is dish best served cold.” We also have seen the fraction of a penny scam in Office Space. Look at the end results. Kahn died suicide bomber style killing only himself and others on his ship. The Enterprise escaped. Everyone lost their job at Innatech.

This goes even for you non-technical people who think you can do something in the heat of the moment and the system administrators will never know. Believe me, all too often I have had to give to a boss a report of what people did in terms of deleting data. Computers leave a trail which we can follow. Maybe there are people who get away with it? Is it worth jail time that you might be the one who does?