This is an odd age for me to get into politics. People generally become active younger, in college, or older, post-retirement. Its easy to guess this is about when people have time. People my age are generally starting/growing a family or advancing their career. Personally, I'd love to be spending my free time on boardgame design. But I have a good-paying job (at least for now, as my company is being sold to a competitor), and no dependents. So, regardless of age, I am in a position to give my time to this.
While it was a fluke of the calendar, I think it makes sense that the day I arrived in Texas was the day I turned 36. It was a fitting day to start a new life with a new direction.
So what did I do today? First I attended a training session on how to use a voter canvassing app. Then I canvassed 20 houses in Austin. It took about three hours altogether. Was this a huge contribution to the fight to save my country from the mess it has gotten itself into? No, this was barely anything at all. But it was infinitely more than I'd ever done before. And it feels good to contribute even a little effort.
There are 359 days until the next election. It isn't a presidential year, but here's what's at stake:
I'm going to be ramping up my involvement. I hope to canvass at least as many houses as I did today each week. I also hope to contribute in other ways, using my skills in analytics tools. We won't win every office. But each one we do will help us save lives.
Most of you are not in my position. You have responsibilities that can't be set aside and wouldn't move across the country even if you could. That's perfectly fine. But I invite you to look up your local state party's website. Find out what events they are holding and just show up to one. Like I said, today I spent about three hours, one of which was training. Do you think you could give that much once a month? Just a couple hours a month? Give it a try. You can always stop later.
But, please, give it a try now. Don't wait 11 months, when it will be too late. Every time you turn on the morning news or see a tweet about a new terrible thing the president is doing, let that be a reminder to you: you can do something about it. Join me in getting off the bench.
Star Trek Canon
So much discussion of culture these days pivots on the detestable concept of nerd cred, but I'm going to dispense with that here. I won't discuss how many Trekkie gamerscore points I've earned, because people who think like that are loathsome and should go away. Even someone who has never heard of Star Trek before this show is entitled to watch and have an opinion on it. If they weren't, CBS would force you to take an online quiz proving your worthiness before allowing you to stream it. If they're willing to take your money, you have every right to speak about their product.
But I do want to say that over the years, my allegiance to the holy gospel of canon, regardless of fictional franchise, has all but disappeared. Canon is useful only in the sense of helping consumers understand the context of a piece of fiction by using already familiar related pieces of canon as a jumping off point. The canonical notions of warp drive, phasers having a stun setting, and Starfleet's mission are useful because it means that every new piece of Star Trek fiction doesn't have to re-explain those concepts.
On the flip side, canon for canon's sake is silly. James T. Kirk's birthdate may be "canon" somewhere, but if a new movie needs to change it to April 1st for a plot point, why the heck not?
All of this means I long ago stopped caring about the Star Trek "official" timeline. I don't care when the Klingons got forehead ridges or what they looked like. Neither of those points is important to helping me understand what the Klingons' motivations or methods are in the new show. So, while my time spent enjoying previous incarnations of Star Trek certainly guides how I view and interpret this show, I won't examine deviations of this show from the franchise's canon.
What I mean by that is that starting with The Next Generation, Star Trek was an ensemble story. The Original Series had two main characters, Kirk and Spock, with a third, McCoy, whose primary role was someone for the other two to bounce off of. All other named characters were set dressing with occasional throwaway storylines given to them.
The Next Generation was no longer so singularly focused on the captain of the ship. Quite often, the captain stayed on the periphery of storylines. Most of the recurring cast grew and developed significantly over the course of the series. This was helped by running for seven years, but even early episodes had the focal character shifting around. This is a formula that was more or less followed for each series since.
By halfway through the first episode, I was convinced that this show was more like the original series. It had two main characters, the captain and first officer (though in a shift the first officer was the focal point, not the captain). It had a third character, the science officer, whose purpose is to contrast against the captain and first officer in different ways. I'm not even sure any other crewmember was even mentioned by name more than once. This was interesting enough.
But at the end of the second episode the show pulled the rug out from under me. It now looks like this is a singular character study of the first officer. This is something no Trek show has done before. Even when Deep Space 9's Sisko took larger and larger chunks of screentime in the later seasons (to mostly good effect), it was still an ensemble show with characters having full storylines that didn't always intersect with Sisko. It's possible the show will pivot again after the second episode back to an ensemble story, but right now this looks like something new.
Parts of these first two episodes are told from the Klingon antagonist's point of view. At first, it was somewhat disappointing that they would so quickly go to the Klingons instead of something new. However, the show does well in establishing the presumed series villain's motivations, goals, and plan for achieving them. Their story makes sense without falling into the generic evil rage that marred the villain in the 2009 reboot movie. The only downside of these scenes is the pacing. Some great lines are dragged down by a too-slow delivery. This was probably to safeguard against viewers not being able to keep up with the subtitled dialogue while still appreciating the visuals, but it still hurt what could have been genuinely interesting villainy.
From a technology standpoint, the CBS All Access service is... meh. The streaming quality on a Monday night in primetime was good. No graphical artifacts or slowdowns. The phone app takes 5-7 seconds to load up, which I can deal with. It works perfectly with my Chromecast Ultra
What is not acceptable are the ads. I'm not talking about the top banner for shows on the service. It has actual, unrelated, ad network ads at the bottom of the screen when you open up the app. I'll remind that this is a service I am paying for. And I am specifically paying for the "No Commercials" option. And while commercials are not being inserted into the stream I am watching, the placement of a third-party ad inside their subscription app is ludicrous.
The design of the app is something very clearly made by a TV network. There's no way for me to make a to-watch list or queue. The other shows it highlights have nothing to do with what I watched. Instead, they show you other shows that THEY want you to watch. The website suffers the same problems.
To sum up: the streaming experience is fine. Everything surrounding it is hot garbage.
What drives me most crazy about this is that there is even a separate service. Now, I have no problem with additional payment. If I could add CBS All Access shows to my Netflix subscription for the same amount of money, I would jump for joy. But having to have a separate service, a separate app, a separate login, a separate... This way madness lies. If I wanted to buy a dvd online, I would go to Amazon and just buy it there, and then Amazon gives Paramount their money. I don't have to create an account on Paramount's own DVD selling website. Streaming should be the same. This isn't about cost. I'm fully willing to have to pay more to get more content. I just don't want to have to pay it to 20 different companies in 20 different places. I fear that's where we're headed with television streaming, and it's a shame.
And the craziest part of this is that people outside North America do get to watch this new Star Trek show on actual Netflix! It boggles the mind.
Given all the problems I have with CBS All Access, why did I decide to fork over a year's worth of money in advance?
Because while the service is maddening, the content is good. And the first two episodes were good enough I want to make sure the show doesn't get cancelled midway through the first season. Hopefully my watching just those two episodes and then signing up shows up as a blip on their internal decision-o-tron and keeps this show going for now.
Pirating the show wouldn't do that. VPN-ing to Netflix from a German IP address wouldn't do that. Money will do that. Toss mine on that firey pile, CBS.
Next week I'm taking a few days to look for apartments in the city I'll be moving to in October. In preparation, I was making a map of prospective location to do a travelling salesman analysis and optimize my routes.
That, plus this week's events have made me think about the path that led me here. To start with, here is the path I've followed for the first 35 years of my life.
From this set of locations, you could take a good guess at the kind of life I've lived and probably hit the mark. You can guess my values and where I'm likely to be in five years. At least, until my plans changed early this year.
The close friends I've spoken to about this are as surprised by my plans as I was when I conceived them half a year ago. Leaving the NYC area was as foreign an idea to me as anything. I pictured myself always being here. It's where life feels... "natural" to me, if you'll forgive the phrase. Whenever I've chosen to travel, I've always felt strange and alienated from my temporary surroundings. I'm never more comfortable than when I'm walking the streets of New York.
So, it is no minor thing for me to say I've been apprehensive about this plan from the moment I decided on it. And this week's events have me scared. Of course, I'm a privileged person and don't have to face the dangers that are a fact of life for too many people. But those people are why I'm doing this in the first place.
I don't imagine I'll make a massive difference. I just hope I can make some, or at least help others make a difference. It would be more than I've done over my entire 35 years so far combined. That's reason enough to go. It's time to get off the bench.
Register at connecticon.org
Today I traded in my car. It wasn't my first car, but I got it as a graduation present from my mother 10 years ago. In that time, I put about 20,000 miles on it in that time. I didn't drive it much, but was great for trips to regional conventions. Over time, things broke, but they broke in a way I came to understand exactly how the car handled and how to get it to do what I need. I say this as someone who is absolutely not a car guy at all. I don't enjoy driving, but sometimes its the easiest way to get things done.
While living in NYC for the past 10 years, I rarely drove. Last November, I moved to Connecticut and started having to drive about once a week instead of once every couple of months. In the process, I had to spend way too much money to keep the now-15-year-old car going. With convention season coming up, I decided it was time to get a new car which I wouldn't have to worry about breaking down hours from home. An actual brand-new car, something I've never had.
Not being a car guy and not knowing what to even look for in a car, I turned to Car and Driver and Consumer Reports, looked at their best-of lists, and picked four models. One Saturday of test drives later and I'd settled on my new car, which arrived today. Despite taking a very methodical process during the selection process, I've been a nervous wreck about whether I'd regret my choice as soon as I got it.
I don't know why, but as soon as I saw "my car", I smiled. To me, it's nothing but a tool chosen for its practicality and reliability. But I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy sitting down inside for the first time.
Of course, it would be silly to buy a car to drive to a couple of conventions. The real reason I decided to buy a new car is because I'm preparing to start a new phase of my life. One as far away from my NYC-born-and-bred, subway-riding, pavement-pounding lifestyle as I could imagine. I'm moving to Texas.
It's a pretty terrifying thought for someone who has never lived more than two hours from NYC. But there's some things I want to do down in Texas and they're more important than my comfort. For awhile now I've been wondering what my next life goal would be. I now have one and it's time to act on it.
Fortunately, my current company has an office in Austin. Last week, I received approval from my manager to transfer down there. So I won't have to worry about both moving and finding a job, which is a privilege not everyone has.
The scariest part of this is, without a doubt, the inevitability of losing my friends. I have been fortunate to meet and befriend an amazing group of people in my post-college life. This includes people within the boardgame community and without. Sure, there will be conventions and maybe a trip back to NYC once a year. But, day-to-day, month-to-month, I'll be at square one.
Come October, I'll be driving halfway across the country in my new car. It's the scariest thing I've ever done. But if I can make a difference down there, it'll be the best thing I ever do.
archive by Andres Gleixner from the Noun Project