Star Trek: The Next Generation Top Three Episodes- The Best of Both Worlds Part One

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This is the seventh entry in my “Top Ten Star Trek: The Next Generation” episodes.

Brief synopsis: The race of people introduced in “Q Who?”, the Borg, make their long-awaited appearance in the Alpha quadrant. They kidnap Captain Picard and the show ends on a cliffhanger about whether Riker’s order will result in the death of Captain Picard.

Memories of the Future

Absolutely no list of the top episodes of Star Trek would be complete without this seminal episode. This episode has been listed as the best episode of Star Trek ever, across all the franchises.

I remember seeing this episode when it first aired. I was eight years old and this episode scared the crap out of me. I asked my parents if everyone was going to be okay. Of course, this was the season finale and we had to wait months to find out what happened. I spent every night that summer carefully tucking my blankets completely around my body because I thought somehow that would prevent the Borg from finding me if they invaded my bedroom while I was sleeping.

I am listing this episode as my third favorite episode of TNG. (Yes, for you actually still reading my series, I have three episodes to talk about after this one, I haven’t miscounted.) This is without a doubt a wonderful episode, but it wasn’t my favorite one. I went in thinking this would be my second favorite episode, but it got knocked down a little way.

My blame for the displacement of this episode is the fatigue I have with it. When the Borg were the most terrifying enemy the Enterprise had ever encountered in “Q Who?” this episode was fraught with danger and tension. In the nearly 25 years since this episode aired the Borg have lost a lot of their menace and what made them an interesting villain in the first place. I primarily blame Voyager for this.

It was strange going back and seeing this episode because there are so many things that happen in the episode that you just don’t remember because you are waiting for the Borg to show up. The Borg are in here surprisingly little. That was interesting to observe.

The Borg

The Borg were introduced in “Q Who?” as a test concocted by Q to see if he could get Picard to grovel for help from the omnipotent super being.

I think The Borg are the only characters we see who are more technologically sophisticated than The Federation. The other traditional enemies of The Federation that you see are The Klingons and The Romulans. Those villains are never a real threat because they are clearly never going to take over the Federation. I don’t think that is ever really their end goal.

The Klingons fight because that is what they do. They’re like a dog chasing a car. If they ever caught it they wouldn’t know what to do with it. They are like Sir Pelinore chasing the Questing Beast. It isn’t about the end goal, it’s more about the process of wining glory on the battlefield and dying in combat.

The Borg are the only enemy that ever poses an actual, real threat to the Federation. The Borg have more in common with a disease than anything else I can think of. The Borg are like an antibiotic resistant bacteria that is out to infect everything it touches. They are a computer virus that is on autopilot to replicated itself until your storage fills and your hard drive crashes.

It is easy for me to imagine us giving birth to The Borg. Our increasing reliance on computers to do everything for us and the ease of overlooking the consequences of one line of programming logic is all that stands between us and the Borg. I think if anything the Borg have become more terrifying in the twenty five years since this episode aired because of how much closer we get to them with each passing year.

The Borg became less terrifying in the episodes after this one because the writers began changing the nature of the Borg and tried to make them more human, which I think was a mistake. I know when you get something that works really well you want to keep using it and running it into the ground. Unfortunately, that happened in Voyager with the two best villains from TNG: The Borg and Q. What Voyager did to Q was unforgivable. Grr…

Riker

The biggest reason this episode stayed in my top ten after the rewatch was primarily due to the conflict between Commander Riker and Commander Shelby.

This episode marks the second time Riker is offered command of his own ship. We know that a character isn’t going to leave the show for a promotion, especially back in 1990 before we had the bloodbath era brought on by Joss Whedon. I think it is interesting that the writers actually addressed this fact this close to the beginning of the series.

Normally in real life if you are a young hotshot, you are going to go as far and as fast as you possibly can. That isn’t an option for Riker. Most of the other characters can be given promotions without leaving the ship, but the only other step up the ladder for Riker is Picard’s seat.

I know that the writers were flirting with the idea of killing of Picard. They didn’t know if Patrick Stewart was going to come back, so creating this tension of setting up Riker to take over the Enterprise for Picard was somewhat necessary.

What went above and beyond this necessity was the conversation Riker has with Troi about why he is hesitant to leave the ship. This is a piece of character development that gives Riker some dimensions he didn’t have before that might have just been ignored or disregarded on a lot of other TV shows. The fact that the writers put some thought into it and were able to give a good character explanation for him sticking around shows just how far they came from the terrible writing in Season One.

Riker and Shelby

The biggest plot point from this episode that I latched onto was the character of Commander Shelby. Shelby was brought on to be something of a foil for Riker. She is who Riker was five years ago before he “made it” and got comfortable with where he was.

Shelby is a strong woman. I am sure that the same people who hate Skyler White for being and emasculating bitch also hate Shelby. I think I remember not liking her at the time because she wasn’t really meant to be likable, which is a shame.

I have been in her situation. At my last job I joined a reestablished team of people who were not really eager to welcome me into their group. I wasn’t with them months earlier when they were at the office for 48 hours trying to reach a deadline. I wasn’t there when they would grill brats out in the parking lot while drinking beer. It’s really hard to come into an established group of professionals and make your voice be heard.

People are used to doing things a certain way and they don’t like it when someone comes in and wants to shake things up. When you are working with the same people every day you are used to how they work and trying to deal with someone whose habits you don’t know yet can be kind of rough. It really sucks being the person trying to break into the group, especially if people don’t really want to welcome you there.

Shelby was pretty well screwed. I think she was in a no-win situation. When she went to the poker game and squared off with Riker there really wasn’t a way to win that. By winning her hand and calling Riker’s bluff she annoys the audience who is rooting for Riker. If she lost then she would lose her credibility and be dismissed as incompetent.

I know as a woman trying to figure out my way in a male-dominated field it can be difficult figuring out the best tack to integrate myself into a group of developers. The only successes I have had are when the other people in the group are predisposed to giving me a chance. Having been in a situation like Shelby of being the interloper in a group of people who have worked together on their own for at least a year, it was kind of painful and uncomfortable for me to watch her trying to gun for Riker’s seat.

I wish we lived in a society where there was more sympathy for the Commander Shelbys of the world. Until that happens, I will just have to keep trying to figure out how to walk a line between being assertive and being a bitch when I am fighting for the right to have my voice be heard.

Conclusion

I guess I don’t really have all that much to say about this episode. This episode has been covered by so many people that there really isn’t a lot of new ground to cover. It was paced well. The episode had a really great villain who was still fresh and hadn’t been spoiled by overexposure yet. There was genuine tension at the end of the episode about whether the writers would kill of Picard.

Given that the first Star Trek didn’t survive after its third season, it seems fitting that this is the last episode of TNG’s third season. It’s kind of like a big “Fuck you, we are here and we are staying” flag that gets planted to make the point that TNG isn’t going to disappear for several decades like its predecessor did.

AVFoundation Audio at CocoaConf Chicago 2014

Overview

Two weeks after I had my first tech talk I had my second tech talk. This second tech talk was at CocoaConf in Chicago.

My Door

My name isn’t in lights, but it’s still pretty awesome!

In some ways, this talk had higher stakes than my first talk did. CocoaConf is a more hard skills conference. CocoaConf is invitation only. Most of the people who speak at CocoaConf are well known developers in the Cocoa community. My talk was only going to be in front of 20-30 people, but those people were going to be very well known people. Additionally, CocoaConf is very reputable about having well developed talks.

This was a very important opportunity I was being given. It was very important to me that I not embarrass myself or let down the people who were giving me this chance.

Considerations

I was trying to figure out how in-depth to make my talk. From speaking with other people, I was under the impression that most people think that doing audio programming is hard. Part of what I wanted to convey with my talk was that audio programming doesn’t have to be hard, but then since audio programming is easy, then why am I doing a whole talk about it?

Janie Talking

Picture of me delivering my talk in Chicago

I decided to err on the side of just showing what could be done easily. I spoke to a few people about how hard people expect what I talk about to be and I was told that no one was expecting WWDC-level complexity.

Also, I hoped that by focusing on audio session-based demos that it would have a nice, cohesive block of information that I could cover in an hour without glossing over anything or running out of time.

I tried to think about what the fundamental things were that people would want audio for. I know that I personally would like to build a synthesizer, but that it would take years to learn and what I am interested in is highly specialized.

Most of what people use audio for is just recording and playing back. These are things you can do with a few lines of code that used to take hundreds of lines of code. I made a determination to focus on things people could implement easily and achieve quickly.

Preparation

I knew based on what happened with my first tech talk that I really needed to make sure I practice my talk in front of an audience. After I finished that talk I approached Brad from Bendyworks about performing my talk at their workplace so that I could get an idea of how much material I have versus how much I need.

I got to perform my talk three days before I got to do it for real. I had a rough draft of my slides and working demos.

I am posing with the door that has my name on it :)

I am posing with the door that has my name on it :)

Everyone I talked to said to not include too much information on my slides. I did that in my first tech talk and that went badly. I was so nervous that I forgot to talk about things that weren’t on my slides. I know it isn’t super dynamic to have a lot of slides, but I wanted to make sure that I was providing the information I needed to.

One thing I figured out by practicing my talk was that if I just brought up a demo and tried to find the code I wanted to talk about I tended to stumble over it and not be able to find it while people were watching me. One change I made was to take screen shots of the code I wanted to talk about and include it as a slide rather than try to find what I wanted to talk about in the code base.

When I didn’t include code in my slides my talk was only half as long as I needed it to be.

I included a quiz in the talk because I wanted people to be engaged in my talk. One thing I added was to have multiple choice answers for the quiz because people tended to not remember the choices. Hell, I wrote the talk and I couldn’t even remember all of them off the top of my head!!

Having gotten an idea about what wasn’t quite working properly and how to pad out the talk somewhat I was ready to proceed to the main event!

CocoaConf Chicago

I had the great privilege to be in the first group of speakers after the keynote. I was planning to spend five minutes before my talk with my headphones on listening to music to get myself psyched and focused. That didn’t happen. I forgot that the Kleins ask you to pitch your talk to people in the morning, so I had to go up and do my spiel about why people should come to my talk.

Kyubey posing with my special pink CocoaConf mug

Kyubey posing with my special pink CocoaConf mug

Then everyone dispersed and immediately went to the rooms for the talks.

I had 10-15 minutes before my talk where everyone was waiting around in my room. I didn’t really want to start my talk early because I didn’t have enough material for that and there was a possibility that someone might come in at the time the talk was actually supposed to begin.

We had a few hiccups with my set-up. I didn’t think I needed a microphone or speakers, but Chris Adamson very wisely advised me to have some and since we had a bunch of time before the talk was supposed to begin we had plenty of time getting those things taken care of.

Still, after all of this set-up there was a substantial amount of time where there was waiting. I threw on my psyched music and I got to have five minutes of meditation before I had to perform.

One thing that I did for me was I had a stuffed Kyubey doll that I used as a prop in my talk. Kyubey is a character from Madoka Magica that makes contracts with girls giving them a wish in exchange for them battling evil.

I know he isn’t real, but having a “safety net” there where I could pretend that if things went really badly I could just make a wish to get another bite at the apple really helped me to not panic. I know that only one person in the audience understood the joke/reference. I hoped that if I didn’t spend too much time on it that if it didn’t go over well then it wouldn’t derail the whole talk.

Another thing that I did was I brought a bunch of candy with me. I didn’t want to just stand up there and talk to myself for an hour, so I brought candy to bribe people to engage me in conversation so that they weren’t just spending the whole talk checking their email and doing things on Twitter.

Yes, I have been told that I talk with my hands. A lot. Also that I should have pulled back my hair.

Yes, I have been told that I talk with my hands. A lot. Also that I should have pulled back my hair.

Overall, I think it went okay. I did have a few periods of my talk where I got really nervous. One thing that happens when I start having a panic attack is that I develop a speech impediment. This happened twice during my talk. I felt it coming on and I was able to shake it off before it got too bad.

I know that after I do more of these they will get better. Considering my level of expertise and comfort with doing something like this it could have been much worse. I know if I do more of these my delivery will get better.

Aftermath

So, I spent several weeks focusing on this talk. I was not employed at the time I was preparing for this talk so this was the only thing I had to focus on.

I was really happy that I got to go first. I could get the talk out of the way and enjoy the rest of the conference. Another aspect about going first that I didn’t take into consideration was how energetic people would be at the beginning of the conference. I noticed that with some of the later talks the next day people were tired and a little burned out. This was something I observed when doing my first talk. I didn’t think about what a gift it was to get people who were bright eyed and alert over people who were looking forward to going home to crash.

One thing I didn’t take into consideration was how keyed up I was about doing the talk. After I got done with the talk I crashed a little. I was sitting in another talk when I realized that I was done. It was over. This thing I had been waiting for a month to do and preparing for was over and I had nothing else I was looking forward to after it was done. That was a little sad.

My slides are here and my demo projects are here.

Comments

While sitting down to write this blog post I finally bit the bullet and read my comment cards.

I was expecting a lot of what I saw. People said I seemed nervous. I did some silly things in my talk. People said they wish I had not relied so much on my slides.

The one that I saw that really disappointed me was that many people complained that I didn’t tackle a hard enough topic. One person said they wished I had tagged this as a beginner talk and that they were expecting me to go more in depth with what you can do with audio programming rather than just the easy stuff.

I needed to make a decision about how hard to make the talk. I erred on the side of talking about something easier rather than harder because I didn’t want to frighten people away from audio programming. That might have been a mistake. I know it was something I struggled with and hoped I made the right choice on. I don’t know if the choice I made was right or wrong, but having more than one person explicitly say that it was the wrong choice makes me feel bad.

One thing people did not comment on that I expected to have commented on was my use of Kyubey. I didn’t utilize him as best I could. If I had been smarter or less stubborn I would have cut him from my talk. I included him just for me so that I would feel comfortable and that isn’t really a good thing to do.

In the future if I am going to include a prop I am going to include a prop that is a reference more than two people in the audience will understand.

Conclusion

Having the chance to talk at CocoaConf was one of the most amazing opportunities I have had. I am grateful to the Klein family for giving me the chance to speak. I hope that I did a good enough job that they would be open to me speaking there again.

I know if I want to be a better speaker I need to do it a lot more. I have been pitching a few talks to different conferences later in the year. I hope to have opportunities to learn and grow as a speaker.

One of my goals as a developer is to be able to share my knowledge with other people. I would like to write books and do talks. Being able to give back to this community is very important to me and I hope that I will be able to continue to contribute in the future.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Top Ten- Deja Q

This is the sixth entry in my “Top Ten Star Trek: The Next Generation” episodes.

Brief synopsis: Q is stripped of his powers (and his clothing). He is deposited unceremoniously on the Enterprise bridge. Zaniness ensues.

Q

Au contraire, mon capitain!!

Au contraire, mon capitain!!

Yes, at long last I am now speaking about a Q episode. Back when this idea was floated to me and before I created my list I would have said this was my all-time favorite episode of Star Trek. While this is still a very good episode, it simply does not have the degree of emotional resonance as some of the other episodes on my list.

Q is among my favorite Star Trek characters. My all-time favorite character on Star Trek is Garak. I am very drawn to morally ambiguous tricksters who are snarky and cause trouble. I had more Q episodes in my top ten, but I realized I needed to diversify my choices a little because, honestly, Q is fairly one-note. He shows up, wackiness ensues, then he leaves and everything goes back to normal.

The best Q episodes are ones that push the boundaries this formula. I have another Q episode left to talk about in my Top Ten, so trying to avoid writing about that one here.

It is hard to remember, but Q wasn’t really in that many episodes. I think he averaged one episode a season. His character was just such a change of pace from a normal Star Trek character that it was delightful any time he showed up. Until he got to Voyager. Best not to talk about that…

Data and Q

Which of these is a real boy?

It also might be hard to remember, but way back in the dark ages of the early 1990’s most TV was not serialized. Since you didn’t have streaming and DVD releases of TV shows it really wasn’t all that common to have a recurring character that shows up once a year that everyone just knows. I think that is one reason Q stands out so much.

I think they walked a good line with how many types of human experiences they could have Q go through. They didn’t dwell on them for too long and we got to have a nice laugh at Q’s expense.

Has anyone else ever thought about how weird sleep is? The scene where Q is talking about being sick and losing consciousness was beautiful. Seeing him needling Doctor Crusher while he was having a back spasm was also great. We all know that you don’t piss off the person who is in charge of your physical health and can cause you pain. The less said about Q and the chocolate sundaes, the better.

Q and Data

Data  and Q

Those chocolate sundaes aren’t sitting quite right…

The central relationship of this episode is the one between Q and Data. Most appearances of Q are a power struggle between Q and Picard. I think this is the only Q episode where Q’s primary sparring partner is not Picard but Data.

I honestly never really got into Data’s search for humanity. I know that every Star Trek series has an alien character who provides a non-human perspective. I know one of the reasons Dr. Pulaski didn’t work out was because the creators were trying to replicate the relationship between Spock and Bones, but it didn’t work well because Data is very child-like and it looked like bullying at his expense.

I personally think one of the failings of long-running Trek series is when they push those characters on the path to being human. The Holographic Doctor was my favorite character on Voyager for the first season until he started changing and trying to be less abrasive. Then they replaced him with Seven of Nine and had him training her to be human and then it was just, no.

Deep Space Nine did things right by having their non-human character, Odo, embrace his otherness. He did try to figure out the “solids” and did things to try and fit in with them, but he never deluded himself into thinking he was one of them. Ironically, he is the only one of those archetypical characters that actually succeeded in achieving humanity, albeit briefly.

Deja_QHaving a character like Q, for whom humanity is a massive come-down, was pretty awesome. One issue with having a human-centric series where everyone wants to be human and belong to the Federation is that they don’t often explore why someone might not want to be human. Humans kind of suck. It’s convenient that we can outsource all of our negative traits to different alien species like greed (Ferengi), aggression (Klingons), and obsession with meaningless bureaucracy (Cardassians).

Back to Data, putting Q in a situation where he is dealing with someone who doesn’t have buttons to push was a great move. Q takes a great deal of pleasure in making the people around him angry and placing him with a character without emotions lends an interesting dynamic to his character.

Q’s gift to Data at the end of the episode is a nice finishing touch on the episode. In spite of the fact that Q seems oblivious to the wants and needs of other people, his gift was just right. Giving Data a minute of emotion is all I ever want to see from him. All the hammy overacting in the films was a bit too much :p

Q and Guinan

Okay, there were 176 episodes of Star Trek: TNG and there are only two episodes with Guinan and Q together. Why? Why? WHY??!!

The five minutes of screen time John de Lancie and Whoopi Goldberg share during the course of the series are a true high point.

You don't fuck with Guinan

You don’t fuck with Guinan

Guinan was the last character Gene Roddenberry created. At the time Goldberg was on the A-list and won an Oscar for her role in “Ghost”. She was a life-long Star Trek fan because as a child she saw the original series and because very excited to see a black woman on TV who was not a maid. Her presence in this series, especially in the first few seasons, lends this show a degree of gravitas that even Patrick Stewart could not contribute.

I would love to have more of an explanation of how Guinan and Q know one another. Why the writers thought that having a two-part episode that takes place during the Gold Rush with Guinan over an episode exploring her relationship with Q is beyond me.

Of course, anything they came up with would probably not be nearly as epic as anything I could imagine. I know what the topic of my first fan fiction is going to be!! ^_^

Final Thoughts

DejaQRiker

Riker doesn’t want your fantasy women! He has an epic beard!

I supposed one could make an argument that “The Trouble with Tribbles” was the greatest episode of the original series. It is the most cited episode and one that most everyone has seen. However, when you compare it to “The City on the Edge of Forever”, you have to admit that just because it is a funny and well thought out episode, it doesn’t mean it is the best episode made.

As much as I love this episode, I do have to admit that it isn’t the best episode ever. I even had to admit it isn’t in my top three. It does however have arguably the best ending ever.

You haven’t seen the last of Q! Stayed tuned for more of my favorites coming up later!!

Star Trek: The Next Generation Top Ten- Preemptive Strike

This is the fifth entry in my “Top Ten Star Trek: The Next Generation” episodes.

Ro in the Marquis

Ro in the Marquis

Brief Synopsis: Ensign Ro returns to the Enterprise having redeemed herself in the last few years. She is tasked with an important mission to infiltrate the Marquis and help the Federation destroy them. After immersing herself in their organization she has a conflict of conscience and must decide if she will go through with her mission.

Ensign Ro

“Preemptive Strike” is the penultimate episode of Star Trek: TNG. When the creators came up with the concept for DS9 the intention was that Ensign Ro would be the first officer on the station, but Michelle Forbes didn’t want to be a regular on a series, so the character was retooled to be Major Kira (which most people agree worked to the show’s advantage).

Guinan and Ro Laren

Guinan and Ro Laren

It seems strange that the writers would have chosen to spend the second-to-last episode of the series tying up this particular loose end. TNG did not have the same depth and breadth of supporting characters that DS9 did, but I don’t think there were a hell of a lot of people who would have stayed up nights wondering what happened to Ensign Ro.

That being said, I think this decision was made because someone had a story they wanted to tell, and what a story it is.

I feel on some level that Ensign Ro became the character Tasha Yar was supposed to be. Both grew up on planets where the benevolence of the Federation hadn’t really reached yet. She was a tough woman who had some rough edges and trouble dealing with authority. This seems to be a character archetype on Star Trek (Yar, Ro, B’elanna Torres, Kira…) that is done to better and worse degrees. For my money Ensign Ro is the most successful of these experiments due to the fact that we don’t see her week after week for years at a time. She can do something unexpected and disappear because she isn’t a main character.

Ro and Picard

I think of all the relationships in Star Trek, the one that resonates with me the most is the one between Picard and Ro. I deeply associate with Ro. I have had troubles figuring out where I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing.

Ro and PicardI know I have had many people come to the conclusion that I am deeply intelligent and creative, but I have trouble with authority. I will do what I think is right and it has caused me a tremendous amount of trouble. It takes so little to destroy another person’s reputation when they are at the beginning of their career that it leaves many people vulnerable to malicious behaviors.

I understand her aversion to authority. I understand why she feels the way she does and why she acts the way she does.

I love how in the first episode she appears on she wins over Picard. Picard is very open to giving people chances. She proved herself to him and he nurtured her in a way no one else did. They clearly had deep affection for one another, which is the only reason this episode works.

On its face, this episode could have been very heavy handed and sanctimonious. You have a bunch of people who are being displaced off their land who just want to be given the right to be left alone. They are being persecuted by their government for the benefit of an evil alien race (the Cardassians) that we have been made to hate through the whole time they have existed. This should have been a clear choice, pick the nice humans over the evil Cardassians, but it wasn’t.

The only thing that keeps this in balance is Ro’s unwillingness to betray a man who believed in her when no one else did.

That is a terrible conflict.

Who would want to betray Picard? Picard is the archetype of the father/boss/mentor everyone wishes that they had. No one would want to let him down, especially when he put his reputation on the line saying that you are trustworthy. Had Picard not had that relationship with Ro this episode would have been over in five minutes.

The AV Club does a write-up of this episode that probably does a better job of speaking about this relationship than I do, so if you want more, head on over there.

Choices

I don’t know about anyone else watching this, but this conflict was so hard. I understand being in a position where you know what the right thing to do is but you can’t pull the trigger on it because it would hurt someone you care about.

Preemptive Strike

This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.

You know that she is going to go and join the Marquis, but the fact that they were able to leave it up in the air so long shows what an agonizing decision it was.

At the end when Ro asks Riker to tell Picard she is sorry, you can’t help but feel for her. The trust and connection she shared with Picard just wasn’t enough to get her to go against her conscience and do what she thought was wrong.

Picard’s reaction is wonderful as well. It would be way too much for him to either fly off the handle at her for stabbing him in the back or for him to say, “Oh well, she made a choice and I hope she is happy.”

Dude is deeply betrayed. He knew on some level that this was a bad idea and when they have their last meeting you can feel his silent imploring to her to please not do what he knows she is going to do. He understands why she did it, but it doesn’t soften the betrayal at all.

The comment at the end by Riker about how she didn’t seem to care that she betrayed the Federation but was deeply upset at the idea of betraying Picard is spot on. The Federation is just an anomalous, faceless entity that is making a bad decision, but Picard is the face of the people she is betraying, and that fucking sucks.

Snow*Mobile 2014

Personal History

SnowMobile

Snow*Mobile 2014 Logo

I started my blog a little over a year ago. The reason for starting my blog was because I was speaking to Ray Hightower at Snow*Mobile in 2013 about a book I wanted to read. He told me when I finished it he would love to read about what I thought about it on my blog. I was like, “I don’t have a blog…yet!”

I never read the book or wrote a blog post about it, but I have done other things and I have come a very long way in the last year.

I am very pleased that I had my first opportunity to speak at a conference at the same conference I first attended: Snow*Mobile.

I attended as a student volunteer last year. It was my first experience going to a conference. I had no idea what to expect and no idea about how much it would change my life.

Talk Preparation

After attended a half dozen or so conferences over the last year, I had semi-formed ideas about how I wanted to do my talk. I wanted to do a Steve Jobs-like talk where I am having a conversation with the audience instead of going up and rambling for an hour while people play with their phones and laptops.

I was urged by a lot of people to not really use a lot of slides. I think everyone has had an experience of seeing a speaker who just reads their slides while people lapse into unconsciousness. I know that every other speaker was using slides. I also had to do a tech talk for class where I didn’t use slides and I was informally told that it was expected that I would if I ever wanted to speak at a conference. I figure after I have been doing this for a few years I can go in and change things up, but my first talk I am not going to be arrogant enough to try and reinvent the wheel.

My talk was titled “Sound: The Silent Partner in User Experience”. I studied sound design and I have been spending years trying to find a way to get people to care about sound design in their apps for the purely selfish reason that I want people to pay me to do it. Sound is something that I think most people don’t think about because it is like lighting: You only notice it if someone does it badly.

Wasn’t really sure how to show sound on a slide, so I tentatively decided to not use a lot of slides. I was planning to play some examples and talk about them. I knew from when I used to do forensics in high school that I tended to choose pieces that were way too long and go over time. I did not want to do that again, so I tried to constrain the breadth of what I was talking about.

I was supposed to go to the CocoaHeads meet-up before the conference to try out my talk. This did not wind up happening because the weather in Wisconsin all winter has been simply miserable. It wasn’t safe to drive in and the meet-up was cancelled.

Snow*Mobile 2014 Logo

Snow*Mobile

After arriving at Snow*Mobile and sitting through the first few talks I realized I was in a little bit of trouble. I didn’t consciously think about how long a half hour really is. When you are doing forensics you have seven minutes to tell a story. That is a quarter of the time that you have to speak.

The morning of my talk I started working on doing a sample project to show the audience. I wasn’t planning to show any code because part of my pitch was that my talk is platform agnostic. If you are an iOS programmer, an HTML5 programmer, or an Android programmer you should be able to get something out of my talk.

So I started working on this demo about three hours before I had to give the talk. That was fun.

I tried to do things a couple of different ways. The first way was more complicated and I couldn’t debug it in the time I had, so I reverted to the “easy” way of adding sound to a project.

I compiled the project and got a weird crash. I was so nervous about everything that I had a minor panic attack and went to my teacher and was like, “OH MY GOD! IT DOESN’T WORK AND I DON’T KNOW WHY!!!!”

Luckily, Wil LaFrance was there to help me out. He showed me some debugging methods (that I really should learn sometime soon…) and we got it working. Huzzah.

I realized that the winter took a toll on everyone in the audience. When I came here last year everyone was really energetic and enthused to be there. This year the energy of everyone was dragging. When I went to the party the day before my talk everyone was very lethargic. Trying to get any energy into anyone was like pulling teeth.

My talk was scheduled for forty-five minutes after lunch. Everyone I talked to all day said they were on the verge of falling asleep.

I really wanted to earn the attention of my audience and I knew I needed to do something. I thought about what might get people engaged and I decided to make everyone stand up and dance for a minute before my talk. This was great because it got people to wake up and it killed a minute or so of my talk.

I realized very quickly that it would have been very helpful for me to have had the opportunity to work through the talk at least once. I relied on my slides more that I thought I would. Things that I was planning to speak about extemporaneously flew by because I didn’t give myself landmarks to keep myself on track.

The demo I crafted before my talk only used up about a minute of my time. This was both bad and good. It was bad for me because I thought it would take longer, but it was good for the audience because I showed how easy it is to add sound to your projects.

The conference was live streaming my talk. While I was doing a demo on my phone I got a notification from Alan Francis telling me he was watching me in Scotland. That was a really amazing thing to me that someone I talked to online and had never met in person took time to go online and watch my maiden voyage into being a conference speaker. I was very touched that he did that.

My talk wound up being 12 minutes short. I took some painful Q & A until Jim put me out of my misery by starting the afternoon break a little early.

Post-Mortem

Everyone came up to me and told me what a great job I did, which convinced me it must have been terrible because otherwise people wouldn’t have been so emphatic about telling me I did a good job :)

I don’t remember who said this, but someone asked me if I was having the post-talk thinking I failed and looking for a roof to jump off of. That was the best thing anyone said to me after the talk because it let me know that freaking out thinking you did a bad job is something other people feel too.

I was assured I didn’t embarrass myself or the conference organizers. I learned a lot of lessons from this talk that I applied to my next talk (which I will write about a little later). The first thing I did after I got done with my talk was to find Brad Grzesiak to ask him if I could come into Bendyworks to perform my next talk before I had to do it for real.

So, the takeaway I want to give for anyone doing their first talk is to do it in front of an audience at least once! I didn’t do that and I think it would have been far better had I done this. I know everyone told me to do that and it just didn’t work out.

I am incredibly grateful that I had this opportunity. I am glad that the stakes were relatively low. Being later in the day and having people not really expecting very much was helpful to me to be able to try something that didn’t necessarily work as well as I would have liked. Next time will be better!

Star Trek: The Next Generation Top Ten- The Chain of Command

This is the fourth entry in my “Top Ten Star Trek: The Next Generation” episodes.

Four Lights

How many lights do you see??


Brief synopsis of this episode is that Captain Picard is lured off the ship on a spy mission, leaving another captain in command of the Enterprise, Captain Jellico. Why they couldn’t just get Commander Riker to take the big chair, especially when it’s been offered to him and filled by him in the past is beyond me.

Anyway, Picard gets captured and is then tortured and humiliated by the Cardassians while Captain Jellico unleashes his own reign of terror on the Enterprise.

“Chain of Command” was an episode I had heard a lot about but never saw until I did this marathon watch. If I had to pick one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that I thought everyone should see, this would be it. (Yes, I am aware of the fact that this has two parts, but I am treating it like one cohesive whole.)

There Are Four Lights!

Chain Of Command

I guess there are worse things than assimilation…


Captain Picard has had some really terrible luck as the captain of the Enterprise. He was assimilated by the Borg and then this happens.

I honestly don’t remember what the purpose of the torture was or why Captain Picard was targeted for torture because it genuinely doesn’t matter.

Over the years Picard has become synonymous with the ideal leader. We have Picard Management tips on Twitter for a reason. Everyone wants to have a boss/mentor like Picard.

It is seemingly simple. All Picard has to do is tell the Cardassian torturing him that there are five lights when there are clearly only four. Picard can’t do it. He knows that if he capitulates to the Cardassian and tells him something they both know isn’t true that he will lose a part of himself. He will show that he can be broken and submit his will to someone else.

This is a power struggle. As long as Picard can hold fast to his version of reality he has power. The second he says there are five lights the game is over. Picard will have lost any power he has. It might seem strange to say that a man who is stripped of his clothing and tortured has any power, but that is not the case. He has not allowed the Cardassian to corrupt his reality and that means something.

chain of command

All your lights are belong to us.


The technique used to break Picard is known as “Gaslighting”. The term comes from an Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name about a woman who is made to feel that she is going insane. Gaslighting is most commonly associated with women in abusive relationships. One reason it is so pervasive in those situations is partially based on cultural bias. We readily believe that women are crazy. Think about how many men talk about their “crazy” ex. It is very easy to ruin a woman’s personal and professional reputation by spreading rumors that the woman is crazy and to do things to her to make her question her own perception of reality.

I have been on the receiving end of gaslighting and it is a terrible experience. You feel like you don’t have a grasp of your own reality. It is a terrible thing to do to another human being.

It is wrenching to see this magnificent leader in the process of being broken. It is so meaningless and cruel. It also shows that as capable and impressive as Picard is, he is a human being. He had tremendous strength which allows him to survive through the initial punishment.

He is rescued before he breaks under the pressure, but I think it speaks volumes that when he is speaking with Troi at the end of the episode that he started to question his sanity and started to wonder if there were in fact five lights. The fact that this rock-solid, impressive character admits that he not only nearly broke, but actually started to question his own sanity is such a huge thing.

Captain Jellico

Jellico

Fetch the microscope! I need to micromanage!


Oh. My. God. I don’t think there are words to describe how much I hate this fucking asshole. If Captain Picard is the boss we all wish we had, Captain Jellico is the composite of all the worst bosses we’ve ever actually had.

The first thing he does when he come aboard is he disrupts the flow of the ship. He orders Riker to reconfigure all the work shifts and since he only has two hours he better get cracking. There was a reason the ship was not following that particular type of schedule but rather than find out why he disrupted the routine of everyone on the ship.

It is important to be able to go along with change, but if you are doing things that disrupt vital ship functions and places the ship in danger just to play musical chairs is really stupid. How difficult would it have been to give them until they created the next shift schedule to implement the change? I guess this is indicative that labor unions are dead in the twenty-fourth century.

Anyway, making meaningless disruptive change is stupid.

Jellico and Riker

Damn! I wish I had paid more attention when Data taught me the Vulcan Neck Pinch!


Captain Jellico also does the classic management thing where he manages upward. That means that he doesn’t really try to nurture or manage the people under his command. He honestly doesn’t give a damn about them as people. He just wants to snap his fingers and get them to jump. I think one reason Picard has been seen as a paragon of management is because he actively worked with his crew to try and push them to do better. Many people in management only worry about cultivating relationships upward for advancement without really caring about or noticing the people under them.

When I used to do radio news I really wanted to be a producer. My producer was a very unpleasant human being and I wanted to be in charge. I was briefly given a producer job on the Wednesday night newscast.

We had a live interview fall through and we needed to move on to the next story. I wrote this information down and gave it to the anchor. She took the piece of paper and set it aside without reading it.

She did the intro for the interview and did her, “And now speaking with us about this is our guest I-Forgot-His-Name. Hello. Hello??”

I ran in and picked up the piece of paper and held it in front of her face to get her to read it. She looked at it and went back to the microphone and said, “Oh, it looks like we aren’t going to talk to I-Forgot-His-Name. Our producer screwed up the interview and we have to move on.”

I can not tell you how deeply angry and powerless I felt at that moment. I could not believe the lack of professionalism this person displayed. I also couldn’t do anything about it. I couldn’t just jump on a microphone and tell everyone that I told her about this but she didn’t read the note and so she was the one that screwed up.

As unpleasant as my news producer was, there was no fucking way anyone would pull something like that on her. It would not occur to anyone to even try it. She would make your life not worth living if you even thought about pulling that crap on her.

The moral of this story (and how it relates to this episode) is that you can’t just put a person in charge and expect everyone to do what they say. There is a difference between a boss and a leader.

Redecorate Jellico

Oh, you’ve redecorated! I don’t like it!


Captain Jellico’s attitude seemed very similar to the one I had before becoming a producer. I assumed that since I was in charge people would do what I say. I was wrong. If people don’t respect you or don’t think you are strong enough to follow through on things you will either get mowed over or you will earn the eternal hatred of everyone underneath you.

I think it is possible to cultivate leadership, but I also think some people are born with a natural proclivity for it. Some people don’t. I don’t. I could spend a bunch of time cultivating it, but honestly, it really isn’t that important to me. I would rather focus my time and energy on other things.

Conclusion

This was a powerful and complex episode of Star Trek. I kind of took Captain Picard for granted before this episode. I am looking forward to going back and watching previous episodes to marvel at how well he leads the crew.

The way the writers constructed Captain Jellico was perfect. He wasn’t overly exaggerated and he was seen less as an evil person and more as a misguided person who was out of his depth. If he wasn’t such a prick I would almost feel sorry for him.

Star Trek episodes occasionally lack subtlety and will beat the viewer over the head with whatever message they want to convey, like the terrible first season conversation between Tasha Yar and Wesley Crusher about drug addiction. All of the characters in this episode showed sufficient complexity and human ambiguity. They tackled a difficult subject and did credit to it. Kudos.

Properties and Headers and Ivars, Oh My!

So I have been seriously coding Objective-C for about a year now. I have spent a lot of time just sort of typing things only having a surface knowledge of what I was coding and why.

One thing I noticed in my independent iOS studies is that there are a lot of different places to create variables. Also, there are variables and there are properties.

Why pick a property over a variable? Why declare the property in the header file instead of the implementation file?

Properties

If you are coming from a language like Java, you will know that you are required to write getters and setters for all of your properties. Back in the olden days of Objective-C, you used to have to do this as well. A few years ago Apple decided to introduce a @synthsize property to do the getting and setting for you. Then a few years ago they decided that since it was best practice to do that anyway, it is all baked into the code for you. Just because you aren’t doing it and you don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening under the hood.

Properties are backed by instance variables. So, if you declare a property in the implementation part of your .m file, a backing ivar is created.

So, if you have:

@property (copy, nonatomic) NSString *myString;

you will then be able to access it in your methods by using:

_myString = @“Hello, World!”;

In this instance _myString is an ivar of the property *myString.

Header Vs Implementation

One thing I wondered about a lot while working with tutorials is why you would choose to place things in the header file over the implementation file. Back when I was just typing until something worked I put everything in the Header files because they would show up in the autocomplete. Then I started seeing tutorials where they declared properties in the implementation file and used ivars.

If you want a property to be accessible by another class, you need to set the property in the header file. You don’t always need or want a property to be accessible to another class because it is something you are using internally. In those cases, use either a property or an ivar in the implementation file.

Apple’s best practices say to always use a property for data encapsulation. There is some debate about whether to use them or not, but that goes beyond the scope of what I am going to talk about here.

There is a wonderful blog post from the Big Nerd Ranch discussing this issue. In this post I am simply exploring what the scope of everything is, so if you are interested, then check it out.

Ivars

Instance Variables (or Ivars) are created in the @interface of your .m file. They are immediately differentiated by the fact that their declaration begins with their type and not with @property.

It is a coding convention to begin Ivars with an underscore. When you create properties that are backed by instance variables those will always start with an underscore, so it keeps things consistent in your program to start yours with an underscore as well.

Demo

I created a small demo project on GitHub to just generally show better examples of this code in action.

Conclusion

This is intended to be a gentle introduction to the scope of various properties and variables. I want to explore some of this topic further, such as what the strong, non-atomic, copy, retain all mean and why you use those, but that is a large enough topic for its own blog post.

If you have any suggestions about Objective-C minutiae you would like clarified and explored, drop me a line on either Twitter or App.net at @RedQueenCoder. Happy to take suggestions!

I hope this clarifies for you how to choose where you set your properties, or at least answers your questions about why they are set in so many different places.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Top Ten- Hollow Pursuits

This is the third entry in my “Top Ten Star Trek: The Next Generation” episodes.

In honor of Singles Awareness Day, I am going to do a write up on Hollow Pursuits.

Hollow_Pursuits

Mr. Barclay wants his martini shaken, not stirred.

Brief synopsis of this episode is that a socially awkward engineer feels more comfortable in the simulated reality of the Holodeck than dealing with the complexity of normal human relationships. This sounds like nearly everyone in my freshmen engineering classes.

I don’t know about anyone else, but the first thing that pops into my head when you say that there is a virtual reality technology that is virtually indistinguishable from reality is “Why would anyone ever leave??”

This isn’t a unique thought in popular culture and science fiction. In “Parable of the Talents” by Octavia Bulter one character has never seen her mother because her mother lives in a Holodeck and never leaves. In Batman Beyond there is an episode where characters can create virtual realities to conform to their desires and they become addicted to the joy and thus become drug pushers for the villain who manufactures the technology. The whole Matrix trilogy is based on this idea of creating a comfortable virtual world away from the nastiness of reality.

I am glad that the writers on Star Trek decided to address the elephant in the room by doing an episode based on something we as viewers thought would happen if this was a real thing.

The Goddess of Empathy

The Goddess of Empathy. Gag reflex engaged!

I am sure I am not the only person who has become enamored with a virtual world that I wished I could visit and be a part of. Based on the number of LARPers in the world and the number of people who dressed up like Hobbits to go to see the Lord of the Rings movies at midnight on opening night, I know I am not alone.

Things only get to be a problem when you have trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality. In reality I am never going to be a Magical Girl. My pug isn’t going to make a contract with me that allows me to go out and fight witches. As cool as that is, it isn’t real.

I have a lot of things about myself that I don’t like, but I have a lot fewer of them than I did a decade ago because I wanted to change. I wanted to be a different person. I wanted to be the kind of person I liked, respected, and admired. Rather than hiding from those flaws I looked them square on and I worked to change them. There are still a lot of things about myself that I wish were better, but I keep working on them and I try every day to be better and over time it accumulates.

To quote a wise old wizard: “It doesn’t do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

The thing that strikes me about this episode is how innocent it is. Yes, you have the two female characters stripped of their agency and they exist to comfort Barclay and make him feel loved and accepted, but this is a far cry from a lot of the problems we are seeing today, specifically in the gaming industry.

You don’t see Barclay raping either Councilor Troi or Doctor Crusher. He doesn’t assume that because they are women and they speak to him that they are going to drop their panties for him. He seems mortified when Troi discovers his fantasy. This is a far cry from a lot of the behaviors we are seeing exhibited in the gaming industry.

Booby Trap

When you are touching the ship, you are touching me…

In fact, the closest thing I have seen to that kind of behavior was in the episode “Galaxy’s Child” when Geordi meets the woman who designed the ship. He, in the earlier episode “Booby Trap”, interacted with a hologram of her and he expected her to be far different than she actually was. His behavior in that episode was profoundly disturbing. He expects her to reciprocate his feelings even though he is a stranger to her. When she doesn’t he gets very angry with her. When she discovers the holodeck program he had of her, he tells her he was just trying to be nice to her with his voice dripping with contempt. He is angry with her for not being the perfect, compliant woman he made himself believe she was. Seriously, watch the clip.

I wrote earlier about characters being mismanaged, and sadly Geordi was one of those characters. LeVar Burton said he thought the writers didn’t know how to deal with black male sexuality so they didn’t really know what to do with Geordi. I can believe that. Between him creating a virtual female representation of the ship and the episode where he goes into a dead crew woman’s cabin, read her mail, and sit on her bed with her dog, there is very little the writers could do to make Geordi more creepy that would still fit into the nice, happy formula of Star Trek.

“Hollow Pursuits” wasn’t a perfect episode, but it went about as dark as it could while still feeling like a Star Trek episode. It brought the recurring character of Barclay that allowed the show to explore a character who wasn’t perfect but wasn’t a main part of the ensemble. I am glad that the show took pains to occasionally show us people who were not perfect who were struggling with their lives and careers rather than just giving us people who always know the answer and always do and say the right things.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Star Trek: The Next Generation Top Ten: Parallels

This is the second entry in my “Top Ten Star Trek: The Next Generation” episodes.

Brief synopsis of this episode is that Worf accidentally travels through a quantum singularity and starts hopping through parallel dimensions that get further and further away from his starting dimension.

Parallels

Multiple Worfs!


I know that Star Trek has done a lot of alternate reality episodes, so why pick this one over “Yesterday’s Enterprise” (which I will be speaking about later)? Honestly, I just like the story structure better.

In “Yesterday’s Enterprise” the writers hit you over the head with the fact that. “Hey! Look! Tasha Yar is alive. Holy crap! We’re not in Kansas anymore!!”

With “Parallels”, the distinction is far more subtle. The first thing that we see change was the flavor of the birthday cake. If you are watching for the first time a lot of these things don’t stand out until they start getting more disparate.

You also aren’t really sure what is going on for a little while. Is Worf going crazy? Is this some elaborate Romulan plot to take over the ship? It takes some time to suss out what is going on and I like the fact that the writers set up a trail of breadcrumbs that stand up on repeated viewings.

Another thing I want to address regarding this episode and “Yesterday’s Enterprise” is the use of two underutilized characters: Tasha Yar and Worf.

Tasha Yar

Are you fully functional?


Denise Crosby left the show in the first season because she didn’t like the direction they had her character going in and honestly, I can’t blame her. In “Encounter at Farpoint” we were promised this badass female security officer. She was being set up to be a similar character to Major Kira and Ensign Ro. So what do they do with her? This:

TNG had a real woman issue its first season. Denise Crosby quit and they fired Gates McFadden. Marinia Sirtis was on the verge of quitting but was talked out of it by panicked producers realizing that all of their female actresses were gone and that they needed to retain at least one piece of eye candy.

Michael Dorn stuck it out through the bad first few years of TNG. His character was poorly written and stereotypical. It was a thankless role that he stuck with for seven long years and I am pleased that they gave him something to do because he is honestly great in this role.

Early in the episode he asks Troi to be Alexander’s godmother, but the title is closer to step-sister in Klingon. Troi reminds him that would make her mother his step-mother. Dorn’s reaction to this is priceless.

Merry Man

I protest! I am NOT a merry man!


I think he was one of the most under-appreciated actors on the show. If you look at the terrible Star Trek: Insurrection the scene where Picard asks Worf if he knows Gilbert and Sullivan and he say, “No Captain, I have not had a chance to meet all the new crew members.” This is a terrible line. It is a terrible joke. I think it is extraordinarily difficult to say something that is supposed to be funny with a straight face and be able to sell it, especially when it is that terrible. In that scene with Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner gleefully singing “A British Tar” the real stand-out in the scene is Worf’s horrified head shaking when ordered to join it. That is the only redeeming part of that whole movie.

It takes a special kind of balance to be able to be constantly cranky without being unlikeable and to work through the make-up. I think if they had given this episode to any of the other characters it would not have been nearly as interesting or well done.

Another thing I didn’t realized while watching the series from start to finish was that they didn’t instantiate the Worf-Troi relationship until this point in the series. It was about halfway through the last season. Why bother??

I know earlier they had Troi helping Worf with Alexander, but they didn’t formalize this relationship until now. It seems like a wasted effort, especially when they move Worf over to DS9 and hook him up with Dax right away. Everyone knew that Riker and Troi were going to be together, so this just seems superfluous.

Seeing how different the universe could be, especially the chilling Enterprise from the Borg-infested parallel dimension, was a nice touch. This let the writers do a sort of AMV Hell of “What-if?” episodes.

Was this the best or more important episode of Star Trek ever? Probably not. It is one that I look forward to seeing more than once, so it earns a spot in my top ten.

Star Trek Top Ten- The Pegasus

This is the first entry in my “Top Ten Star Trek: The Next Generation” episodes.

“The Pegasus” was one of the episodes I saw when it was first on. It was one that I remember pretty well, which I think may be one reason this is on my top ten list.

The Pegasus

The Pegasus stuck in an asteroid


The general synopsis is that Commander Riker’s first commanding officer, Admiral Pressman (played by Terry O’Quinn from Lost), comes aboard the ship to retrieve wreckage from Riker’s first ship that was destroyed in action. We eventually discover that the ship was not in fact destroyed. The ship had an experimental cloaking device on board that was in violation of a Federation treaty (explaining why the Enterprise and the Federation does not have cloaking technology). The crew died while attempting a mutiny. Riker, who was on his first assignment, sided with the Captain and followed orders. This decision has haunted him throughout his career and is partially responsible for the man he is today.

“The Pegasus” taps into themes that will probably be beaten to death over the course of these posts: Authority and moral ambiguity.

I have a fascination with how people respond to authority. The Milgram Experiment demonstrated that people will do unspeakable things when directed to do so by an authority figure. I have a book on my bookshelf called “Ordinary Men” talking about people who were in the SS in Nazi Germany.

Riker was put into a situation where he was being asked to do something that went against his conscience. It didn’t occur to him at the time to disobey that order, but over the years it ate at him. Had he disobeyed the order he would have died along with everyone else. Because he did something morally repugnant he was in a position to bring it to light later. Had he not been there it is likely no one would have known what happened.

The episode also asks the question of whether we should act in good faith when the people we have made a truce with have no such intentions. This episode was from pre-Deep Space Nine where moral ambiguity was most fully explored in the “real” Star Trek (not that horrible JJ Abrams crap). Finding out that the Federation was breaking a treaty and trying to cover it up was some pretty heavy stuff for TNG.

I have gotten myself in trouble over the years by thumbing my nose at authority. When I was in college I worked for the school newspaper. My editor sent me out on a story that wasn’t real. I told her it wasn’t real and she told me to just make something up to take up the space she had allocated for it in the paper. I told her I would not because I found it to be unethical and I received a scathing email from her raking me over the coals for letting down the paper and for my unprofessional behavior. The newspaper teacher got involved and took her side because he wanted her to learn to trust her instincts. This is one of many reasons I didn’t go into journalism.

I have an almost pathological aversion to doing something I find to be morally wrong, even when I know I can tell myself that my view of the situation is overly extreme and it isn’t a matter of life and death. I know my family would have been far happier had I learned to swallow my pride and just do what I was told.

I know a lot of people claim to value honesty and integrity, but they really don’t. There is a lot of willful ignorance out there in the world and people do not like it when you break the illusion of their chosen reality. Me, I want to know what is going on, even if it is painful. I want to be able to work effectively with the way things are and not how I want them to be.

Pressman and Riker

There are two sides, light and dark…

If I had just made up a story, it isn’t like I would have been kicked out of school. I don’t think it would have earned me any brownie points with the editor and I don’t think it would have influenced my decision to walk away from journalism. I felt good because I stuck to what I thought was right, but I had to drop the class and it caused trouble for me later when I had to find something else to take in order to graduate.

This episode interests me because I know if I had been Riker I would have gone along with the mutiny. But then I would be dead. Twenty years later the tech would have been covered up and no one would have known the truth. It is difficult for me to acknowledge the fact that sometimes you have to go along with things you know are wrong because it is the best choice at the moment. You remember and you wait for the time when your actions can be effective rather than throwing your life away over a useless gesture.

I know that this wasn’t the intended moral of the story, but I did appreciate that this episode asked a hard question without making it a heavy-handed, cut and dry morally unambiguous story. Plus, in the cold open they had “Captain Picard Day” complete with Riker making the Picard doll intone: “Make it so”. Who could ask for anything more??