Category Archives: Rants

Thoughts on the “A.I. is Inevitable” Bandwagon

What with starting the year off with a Public Domain post, I’ll continue in the intellectual property realm with a topic currently being discussed and debated mightily amongst indie artists and writers I know: how artificial intelligence (aka “A.I.”) is starting to do creative jobs.

Author Chuck Wendig has some choice NSFW words on this matter.

(Graphic via Chuck Wendig’s blog)

I especially appreciate him tackling the fact that the existence of technology neither means its inevitability nor that it will be implemented a specific way with no societal discussion. Naturally, those who stand to profit from a particular technology and specific implementation are going to push for whatever way benefits them. He touches on this and, sadly, that recurring theme of technology implementation has a high probability of impacting a lot of independent artists, writers, and voiceover artists — the last group being the main topic of the article above.

As someone who both works as a voice actor and casts voice actors for an audio theater troupe, I can’t imagine relying on artificial voices. Theater itself is about collaboration and connection, including with an audience. Its value isn’t derived from its efficiency. And, as Wendig points out, in this economic system, making a living is a reason for creative work too, so, hey, A.I., maybe don’t steal fizzy lifting drink?

Patton Oswalt: Galactic Cinema Scoundrel

I’m going to save some of my posts for Banned Books Week for, well, the week itself, but I mention it here in order to spur you on to make a reading selection, possibly from the website, possibly from visiting your friendly local library.

Instead, we have Patton Oswalt rating his top 5 and bottom 5 films with the zeal and wit you have likely come to expect.

Now, knowing that Oswalt is a total cinemaniac, I kinda wanted a longer list with more deep cuts, but it makes sense to me that he’s not going to do that for the bottom five. I mean, the odds of someone deciding to watch Independence Day are far greater than someone clamoring to watch Defcon 4… so he’s doing everyone a favor by getting some people to pause on the former.

I especially like him raising the concept of films getting audiences to buy into too much — which really is a sin when it comes to sci-fi films: they’re already getting you to buy into any of a number of not-strictly realistic worldbuilding anyway. Besides which, my experiences have been that audiences of fantasy and sci-fi fare want to know how this particular world works, so they are both up for the unusual, but impatient with the patently illogical.

For my own top 5 science fiction films, we’ll see if they’re the same as my 2020 sort. I suspect they will be different.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, of course the headline was clickbait. But tell me you wouldn’t want to see Patton Oswalt as, say, a smuggler in a Star Wars film. “Even I get boarded sometime and I wasn’t about to let those illegal lanyards hang about my neck!”

A Friendly Reminder about Daylight Saving Time

Because it really shouldn’t still be a thing.

Da Vinci: Code for “Meh”

I had another post slated for today, but, I figured I’d be a bit more timely, considering the video above came out this past Sunday.

John Oliver can lambaste and rant with the best of them, and his snark regarding the pop culture phenomenon of The Da Vinci Code speaks to me. Why? Because I was convinced by a number of very energetic people to go forth and read now –right now– The Da Vinci Code and in the history of things people have urged me to watch or read or listen to “right now,” this is possibly the most mismatched. Tain’t my thing. Watch and perhaps you can guess why…

Every Episode of Every Star Trek Series, Ranked

As long-time readers of this blog know (all seven or nine), I am a bit of a Star Trek fan, as may be deduced from my manic series Crisis of Infinite Star Treks alone.

Cue theme music!

Where that series delves into fannish hand-wringing and minutiae, it did remind my of how much I enjoy Star Trek in its seemingly infinite combinations. I wanted to do something special for its official 50th anniversary, but life has intervened (quantum filaments, holodeck mishaps, Borg incursions… the usual).

So what better way to express rampant fandom while looking back at the history of Star Trek than to rate each of its 700+ episodes? Think of it as a gift of the pandemic (well, for those of us in Sector 001).

Regardless, doing a retrospective of previous TV Trek seemed appropriate before now… and by the time I was fully invested in rewatching and ranking everything, new TV series started appearing (and may never abate). Yes, Lower Decks, the next seasons, of Discovery and Picard, and who knows how many other series will all find their way into the rankings ’cause I’m as foolish as Stamets wanting to do one more jump.

Oh what I wouldn’t give for a fortuitous temporal anomaly right now.

Anyway: to the links! (Not great links, perhaps, but links none-the-less)

Rigorous and logical

The Methodology
The short version? Every TV series (even the original animated one) is in. I had to make command decisions on how to judge two-parters and continuing storyline episodes, so I did. Movies are not included.

Time for peer review!

How to Rank ‘Em Yourself
Even an honest Vulcan will tell you their logic is susceptible to mortal foibles as emotions and other intangibles creep into their calculations. It could be that ranking Star Trek episodes objectively is a no-win scenario, but tell me your Kobayashi Maru solution in the comments, whether it’s the top 10, the whole list, or anything in between (be civil, please).

What if you Object, Dislike, or Outright Hate My Rankings?
No self-respecting Starfleet captain nor honorable Klingon commander would take such injustice lying down. Do something about it!

Is judging better in the original Klingon? I guess we’ll find out.

The Lists

Re-watching (and in some cases, watching) all 700+ episodes of Star Trek took an inordinate amount of time over the past few years, so there’s no way I wasn’t going to comment on everything, including both spoilers… and a certain amount of irreverence. If you’re not ready for potential spoilers and snark, stick to the links marked “episode names only.”

(As alluded above, these lists will be updated as new episodes premiere.
The lists below include all episodes for all series before July 2020)

The Whole Enchilada (All Series)
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only

Star Trek (The Original Series or TOS)
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only

Star Trek (The Animated Series or TAS)
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only

Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG)
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9)
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only

Star Trek: Voyager (VOY)
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only

Enterprise (later Star Trek: Enterprise or ENT)
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only
Viewing Guide

Star Trek: Discovery (DSC)Up through the first two seasons
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only

Star Trek: Short Treks (ST)
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only

Star Trek: Picard (PIC)Up through the first season
With Comments (includes possible spoilers & snark) | Episodes names only

Star Trek: Lower Decks (LD)
(To be added ideally before season three.)

Star Trek: Prodigy (PRO)
(Ideally, to be added in 2022)

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (SNW)
(To be added after season one completes, so… maybe 2023?)

I hope reading these lists reminds you of some of your favorites, encourages discussion, and maybe prompts you to a check out an episode –or a series– you may have overlooked.

In whatever you do, live long and prosper… unless it’s breeding tribbles. One way or another, that will probably end badly.

Wouldja Believe? It’s a Five-Year Blogiversary!

Obligatory if somewhat dated pop culture reference.

Back on March 1st, 2015, I re-entered the web world with a personal website, something I really hadn’t had since the 90s, which in Internet terms is ancient history.

Perhaps because March 1st doesn’t correspond with any other anniversaries in my life, I keep on meaning to do an annual retrospective about posts and such on the blog, but keep on forgetting.

This year, however, I made sure to set a reminder for myself. As with any eponymous blog, this post is mainly a self-indulgence, but for anyone who wants to go back and check some of the posts (over 400!), here’s an accounting of the “greatest hits” and some of the “deep cuts.”

Star Trek

Of course, these posts topped the list. My series, Crisis of Infinite Star Treks, lasted almost the full five years. There were long and short entries and ones that I thought were better than others. The three that seemed to best represent the series are:


I was pleasantly surprised to see how many of my posts about writing got so many views. Writing and trying to do more work as a writer is near and dear to me… and frankly, one of the reasons I’m online anyway.

Granted, most of the posts are mainly linking to or commenting on articles or resources I found online, but it’s been great to share what I know. Some of the most read have been:

Integrally linked to many of these articles are the posts which talk more about motivation (one of them is up there). That was led to several posts about finding purpose, meaning, and motivation… often explicitly disconnected from a paycheck. These were a lot of fun to write (and probably helped me work through some thoughts):

Personal Favorites… and other odds and ends

As indicated above, part of the fun of a blog is the ability to indulge your whims and flights of fancy, often without a care for deadlines or the editorial rigor you yourself might expect from a magazine article.

Many of the posts grow out of articles I read online that I want to expand on, which include.

Less fun, but very cathartic, has been writing remembrances

Finally, there’s a few that I enjoyed writing just for fun and I fully expect to add to that category in the next few years:

So for those of you who have popped over to this blog, thank you. I hope you’ve enjoyed the links and the articles and the geekery.

I’ll probably do another of these sooner than five years hence.

Sorry Cinema Scrooges: Die Hard is a Christmas Movie

Now I have a Christmas ornament: ho, ho, ho…

It has come to my attention that some people out there on the Interwebs still cling to the notion that Die Hard, the celebrated action film starring Bruce Willis, is not a Christmas movie.

Look, Gremlins counts as a Christmas movie, Edward Scissorhands counts as a Christmas movie, and  –Lord help us all– Santa Claus Conquers the Martians counts as a Christmas movie. So yes, “the Christmas episode” of action movies does indeed count as a Christmas movie.

Consider the following:

  • The protagonist is there because he’s trying to re-unite with his estranged wife at Christmastime.
  • The antagonists are specifically there at the Christmas party because the Christmas party helps their plans.
  • “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (aka “Twas the Night Before Christmas”) is recited with alternate verses.
  • Halls, people, and pretty much everything gets decked.
  • Santa hats are used for great comedic effect.
  • The end of the film reunites the protagonist with his family, whom he now values more than ever, and they spend Christmas together.

Friends, there are many pressing questions about the holiday season from what the deal is with the Feast of Seven Fishes to the order to light Advent candles. Die Hard‘s place in the Christmas movie canon should not be one of them. Watch it with Yuletide joy… perhaps after the younger ones are in bed (there are some violent bits, after all). Twinkies are appropriate.

Yippee ki yay to all and to all a good night!

But, you know, maybe make sure to wear some shoes. Trust us on this.

Getting Rid of Gerrymandering

I have friends and colleagues all over the political spectrum, so their reactions to last Fall’s election was quite varied, though perhaps all of them might agree that our country, post-election, feels more fractured and partisan than ever.

In wanting to be more politically engaged, I also wanted to find something that all (or, I guess, most) of said friends and colleagues could rally around as Americans. Surely we can all unite in eliminating gerrymandering.

You know what he’ll say. Also, he’s from Canada.

What is gerrymandering? It’s gaming the system for craven political advantage. Christopher Ingraham has a great explanation of it here, which I highly encourage you to stop and read if you haven’t already.

Seriously, it gives you both a good visual guide to how awful this is, plus examples of how its used to erode the whole notion of representative democracy.

Now having read that, I can see how cynical thoughts might pop into people’s heads:

  1. My side controls districting in my corner of the country and will always control it, so let’s leave the system as is.
  2. Gerrymandering will always be in place. There’s nothing we can do.

For #1, we can all agree that nothing lasts forever, especially in politics. And for #2: guess what, non-British subject? You can make changes that you and future citizens will benefit from!

And that’s the kicker, because there’s no way that you will not benefit from more accurate districting. Even if your party’s candidate loses the election, the other party’s candidate can’t ignore you as a constituent. Odds are they needed some of your party’s voters to win! In other words, when people aren’t gaming the system to make districts “safe,” there’s a far greater chance of candidates who have to moderate their views… and that also means a greater chance of elected officials who have to listen to a greater range of their constituents.

Right now, if you’re in a gerrymandered district (which you almost certainly are), even where the elected official is a member of your party, they don’t have to listen to your concerns as much, because they’re safe. And yes, even with less or no gerrymandering we’ll still have districts that “reliably” vote one way or another, but they won’t be so absurdly constructed.

This is where some visuals really help. Take a look at the difference between rationally divided districts based on the populations of census-defined neighborhoods and gerrymandered districts divided to maximize political “safety.” Here’s how North Carolina’s districts are currently divided:

We would have all hated geometry if we had to figure out the area of the shapes above. (Graphic from the Washington Post)

We may agree that politics is naturally crazypants, but I contend the gerrymandering above spastically dances over into the unnaturally crazypants column. Quite simply, that’s not the representative districting we’re looking for.

But there is a solution! Take a look at these districts by comparison.

Visually less Lovecraftian, no?
(Graphic also from the Washington Post)

Note those smooth, sensible districts. Those are the work of Brian Olson. Olson, a software engineer, decided to write an algorithm based on 2010 census data and based on census blocks, the smallest geographical unit used by the Census Bureau.

It especially hit home when I looked at how my own state (commonwealth) of Virginia could be changed.

Now I know things aren’t simply a matter of pointing at the algorithm above — and perhaps the algorithm above isn’t the definitive method to allocate districts. But it’s straightforward. How fair and transparent is your state’s system? Odds are, it could be both more fair and more transparent — and again: every voter benefits.

Obviously, these gerrymandered systems are in place because various people and organizations do benefit from districts being distorted. Not only that, elected officials seem to be even more annoyed at that pesky “will of the people” these days. Nevertheless, now is an ideal time to see what you can do in your state. The next census will be coming in 2020. Between now and then, there are many state and local elections. It’s a natural time to put in some reforms, even incremental reforms, for how your state apportions district.

For Virginia, there’s already a constitutional amendment proposed to address redistricting proposed by my state senator (SJ68) which I’m going to look at closer. An organization dedicated to establishing fair redistricting, OneVirginia2021, also mentions several other bills that have been introduced, including:

  • SB 59 Congressional and state legislative districts; standards and criteria for drawing districts. (which relates to SB 495 and HB555)
  • HB 553 Congressional and state legislative districts; criteria for General Assembly to observe in drawing.
  • HB 26 Congressional and state legislative districts; standards and criteria for drawing districts.

There’s also a very in-depth hour-long documentary about gerrymandering in Virginia you can watch and share.

You’ll see that the bills have been introduced by members of both major parties. Fair bills could have bipartisan support, but they’ll likely need prodding from constituents to pass them.

Odds are there are some efforts going on in your states. I’m guessing if you hunt down your state’s version of the legislative system, you’ll find bills making their way through the process that could use a little push. There might also be local groups looking to help with the pushing (and they’ll want some help to).

Check it out. It’ll take a lot less effort than it took to become non-British subjects, though timing may be everything.  The election to make things happen might be this year.

Good luck. He’s counting on you.

Update, Thursday, March 30th:  Added a few more bills introduced in the Virginia legislature as well as linking to the GerryRigged documentary.

Update # 2, Friday, March 31st: I’ve done a bit more research on SJ68, the redistricting constitutional amendment my state senator introduced.

In a manner worthy of the old maxim about the making of law and sausage, SJ68 was replaced by SJ260 which was then incorporated into SJ231 (finding out about all this transmogrification was not straightforward). Then, if you read the full text, the idea appears to have moved from the independent redistricting commission that kinda favors the existing majority parties, to having members of the redistricting commission always includes state legislature leaders. In fairness, it also includes three public officials that would be more independent than legislatures, those being the Auditor of Public Accounts, the State Inspector General, and the Executive Director of the Virginia State Bar. Still, it’s not the independent commission I had hoped for — and there appears to be ample room for politicking.

One silver lining in researching this was that in addition to trying to get more of a hang of Virginia’s online legislative information system, I also discovered Richmond Sunlight, a site that has all the legislative information the government site has, yet seems to organize it in a way that’s clearer. If you’re researching what the Virginia legislature is up to, I highly recommend using both in tandem.