Archive: February, 2018

Discovery Thoughts

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So...is it good?

When it premiered in September, I wondered if Star Trek: Discovery would end up being good Star Trek, or just good science-fiction? Due to the serialized nature of the new show, it wasn't obvious from the pilot, or even the first half of the season, if we were seeing something that fit within the overall Trek concept or something that was taking way too many liberties in the interest of being "fresh" or "appealing to the masses." Now that we've completed the first season, I can say, yeah, this is Star Trek. Even pretty decent Star Trek.

It's not without flaws, and I don't mean the sort of things I complained about in September. Mostly, anyway. It's a much less egregious form of the problem with the recent JJ Abrams movies, which is simply lazy writing. (There's a common element between those with executive producer Alex Kurtzman, who is also listed as "co-creator"; not saying it's necessarily his fault—especially since screenwriter Bob Orci was the prime screwup on those films—just noting the connection.) There are plot points that either don't make a lot of sense or are just way too convenient, plus fairly obvious alternatives that would have made for stronger storytelling. TV constraints might factor into this—not budgetary, as Discovery seems to have everything it wants there, but available time, as in, "there are only so many screen-minutes we have available to us." But the streaming model might take most of those away, so perhaps allowing for time constraints is too generous.

Take the season finale episode, for instance. (SPOILERS AHEAD, proceed at your own risk.)


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Occam's Razor Applies to Coding, Too

In the previous post I mentioned temporarily frakking up the comments here aboard StarshipTim.com, done while testing a feature I was putting together for a different project, and thought that since I'd solved the issue over there, fixing it over here would take all of five minutes.

Three nights later, I finally have it working. I still don't know quite why it broke in the first place; a compatibility issue with PHP versions and software updates and associated whooziwhatsises, to be sure, but specifically...still beats me.

However, I still could have fixed it in maybe half an hour instead of three days if I'd remembered the Holmesian credo to respect the simpler solution in the face of more complicated ones. I wanted my code to work within the bounds of nested PHP and MySql tables and cooperate with the database-oriented CMS. But the conflicts were making me tear my hair out (which is thinning enough on its own, thank you very much) and it finally occurred to me that I could accomplish the same goal with two lines of Javascript.

If you don't need the whiz-bang goodies and fancy whatsises, then—revelation—you don't have to use them. Go figure.

Anyway, the comments work now.

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The More You Overthink the Plumbing...

I've been spending a lot of time over the past couple of weeks delving more deeply into web dev stuff, creating some site guts that can be offered as "ready-made" sites that might compete ever so slightly with the Squarespaces and Wibblys of the world. (I hate those guys. I hate those guys so much. They steal potential clients with their marketing and phony promises of "low cost" sites that are only low cost until you've paid them for a few months, and then you have to keep paying them every month for the life of your site. After a year's worth of monthlies you'd have spent more than you would have if you just paid me to build you something custom up front.)

Anyway, in so doing, I've used StarshipTim.com as a guinea pig when I've needed to test something out in a live setting and occasionally in doing so I frak something up.

Right now the comments are frakked. Oops.

I've solved the problem on the dev side, but you know what, I'm tired and I choose to let it be for now and fix it here later. Not like I get many comments here anyway, it's just a matter of professional pride. All must work. And it will, just not tonight.

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It Was a Different Time

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Those were the days...

I'm a little late to the party on this, but I just tonight watched David Letterman's new Netflix episode interviewing Barack Obama. It was kind of refreshing, really, to remember that it wasn't so long ago that we didn't live in the clown-car universe of the Trumpster fire--it reinforced the idea that we could one day live again in the reality-based community.

Dave closed the show by telling Barack that, even though he was taught to respect the office of the President no matter who holds it, that he, Barack Obama, is the first person to be President that he genuinely and wholly respected. I don't quite echo that as I retain a great affection/admiration for Jimmy Carter, and despite Carter's flaws (micromanagement, difficulty communicating to the masses), I respect him fully. But Barack Obama is definitely the only other one of my lifetime and maybe further back than that (who else? Lincoln, one would think, at least, but even FDR has internment camps to answer for).

The fact that we went from one of the best Presidents in the history of time to the absolute worst overnight--or, orvernoon, if you want to get technical--might turn out to actually be a good thing. The extra shock to the system, switching from extreme to extreme, might give the added impetus necessary for us to enact protective reforms to prevent Trump 2.0. Once he's gone, assuming there's still a USA then, many of the norms we've taken for granted as a society need to be codified into law, and new laws addressing one of the points Obama made in this interview--that ours is the only advanced democracy on Earth that actively discourages voter participation--need swift enactment.

If we'd gone from Bush to our current nightmare administration, the shock value wouldn't be as great. We'd be in worse shape, of course, as we'd have started the nightmare from an already-low point, but we might have been more complacent.

(On the other hand, we wouldn't have gone from GWB to DJT nonstop because the existence of a non-white POTUS was a catalyst for much of the DJT cult in the first place. Still, hopefully you take my meaning.)

Regardless, the interview is great and worth an hour of your time. Check it out.

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Abuses of the Department of Justice by Congress

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Congressman Devin Nunes, R-Donald Trump's colon

So, the memo was released. I read it. I’ve not heard any news about it today yet, but I sure heard all the hype ahead of time that Republicans and Fox “News” have been spewing. I was concerned that it would be so much cherry-picked information and half-truth nuggets about the FISA warrant process in general and Carter Page in particular, with so many key omissions and maybe some outright BS added in for fun, that the lemmings that watch Fox “News” and listen to Alex Jones would be so convinced of a nefarious “deep state” oppression of poor, poor Donald Trump that it would spread to mainstream media outlets and actually gain traction with the public.

It still might; I mean, Americans can be pretty damn stupid. Trump’s approval ratings actually went up after his apocalyptic State of the Union speech that announced zero policy or agenda items and stoked fear of immigrants with bullshit about how brown people are coming to kill your children.

But the memo itself? It ain’t all that. If one actually reads it fully—and, you know, knows words, the best words or even some words—it actually undermines the Trumpster brigade’s claims.

It’s also full of shit, of course, no doubt with the intention of confusing and distracting from the big picture by giving us other things to refute and argue about. Even if you allow the title—“Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Abuses at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” which itself implies a conclusion not found—it chooses not to be subtle in propagandizing.

Referring in section 1) to the Steele Dossier as compiled “on behalf of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign” omits the fact that before anyone associated with the DNC was involved it was started by and funded by the Washington Free Beacon on behalf of Republicans. It goes on to allege “political origins” of the dossier—which may be true, but those origins were not from the DNC or any Democrats—and claims that Christopher Steele was “working on behalf of—and paid by—the DNC and Clinton campaign,” which is utter bullshit.

It goes on in section 2) and 3) to attempt discreditation of Steele himself, alleging violations of protocol and suggesting that his “desperation” that Trump not become President was the source of, rather than result from, his findings while investigating Trump. Section 4) characterizes the dossier as known to be “salacious and unverified” (portions have since been verified) with the implication that those terms somehow mean “incorrect,” which they do not, and reiterates the suggestion that Steele fabricated his findings due to a pre-existing political agenda. Section 5) ties in the “scandal” of the Pete Strzok/Lisa Page text messages that were critical of Trump (the memo makes no mention of the fact that these messages were also critical of Clinton, Sanders, other Republicans, other Democrats, and evidenced no clear preference for any one person or candidate; nor does it mention that Strzok was removed from the investigation when these text were found, lest there be any appearance of bias), but to do so has to acknowledge that the investigation that the Carter Page FISA warrant was a part of actually originated with another Trump staffer, George Papadopoulos, in July 2016. The memo begins with stating that the issue at hand is the October 2016 FISA warrant, which is the date of a renewal of an already existing warrant to surveil Page.

The thing is, none of the bullshit matters.

In terms of factual, relevant information that shows an improper granting of a FISA warrant or other abuse of power, the memo has exactly zero content.

The origins of the Steele Dossier might have relevance if it were shown to be false, but to date nothing in it has been disproven and several items have been verified. Christopher Steele and his agenda are not the issue, the issue is whether or not Trump staffers (in this case Carter Page and Papadopoulos) are acting as agents of a hostile foreign government. Probable cause had to be shown at each renewal of the warrant, and the memo itself describes the Steele Dossier as “part of” the warrant application. This means that there was other evidence in addition to Steele’s findings that went to establishing probable cause. Nothing in the memo even suggests that any item within the dossier is inaccurate, it simply impugns the investigator. It also admits that at the time of the initial FISA warrant on Page that examination of the Steele Dossier was “in its infancy,” meaning it would not have had much bearing on whether or not to grant the warrant, and that even then it was “minimally corroborated,” meaning that what little they had examined had been corroborated.

Devin Nunes, probably with help from the White House, concocted this document for political reasons only, to attempt to paint Christopher Steele as a partisan who fabricated his dossier because of a hatred of Trump, rather than a concerned investigator who developed a fear of Trump because of what he found while compiling the dossier. It is supposed to be a document that shows “abuses” by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, but gives no evidence of any kind that the FISC issued a warrant improperly.

No careful reading of this memo can lead to conclusions other than motives of purely partisan obfuscation and distraction by someone with something to hide.

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