Do

If a person were given a set amount of time to accomplish a goal, how might a person use that time? This is a question I ask myself more often lately as colleagues from around the world tend to finish projects late, if they finish at all. Excuses abound and fingers are pointed but, at the end of the day, objectives were not met. Then I'm asked to get involved and, after a handful of conversations, enough information is gleaned from various project stakeholders to understand what's needed and how to fulfil whatever goal was set. A couple of days later, the impossible becomes possible and people move on to the next problem. This has happened so often in the last 18 months that it's pretty much a running joke within the organisation ... but why?

Do Things You Love

Five years ago I wrote about an experience I had with some software developers at an automotive company where the people tasked with creating the software that would control the brakes or engine in our cars had zero interest in their work. They did it because they were told to do it, not because they wanted to. When I look at some of the tasks that I'm handed at the day job after people give up, I wonder if it's for a similar reason. Are people unable to complete tasks because they have no interest in them, or for a different reason? I'm genuinely curious.

While we cannot always have our dream jobs, there are always aspects of ourself that can be brought to any task. For me I try to observe the concept of "doing it well", which is best described by this single sentence:

Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

A lot of what I've created in the past could certainly have been done better, but I do try to complete the tasks in front of me to the best of my abilities. Should time avail itself in the future — which it rarely does — I can go back with new or refined skills to improve upon that earlier work. This idea was introduced to me by a manager back when I worked at Burger King in 1997 and it's been an important element of the perspectives I bring to every task.

At the end of the day, we all want to contribute and accomplish goals. Some of us just need the opportunity to complete the tasks that best line up with our skills and ambitions.

Disenchantment Doesn't Disappoint

The last few months have been a little weird, in that rather than read books on various topics, I find myself watching videos. This started with some YouTube clips, then moved on to movies late at night, then TV shows I've missed over the last year or so. As a result, it really should come as no surprise that yet another "non-review" will be published based on a highly anticipated show from Matt Groening that has received an incredible amount of negativity from purported fans: Disenchantment.

Disenchantment — Bean and Luci Enjoy the Night

Like so many recent works of creation that have been panned online, I rather enjoyed this show. Like Futurama, each episode contains multiple layers and, unlike The Simpsons, the protagonists show a bit of growth with each episode. Much of the negative press I've read on Disenchantment seems to focus on elements of the show that haters are projecting onto the characters rather than any actual faults in the writing. If the last few weeks has made anything clear, it's that the English-speaking Internet is a toxic cesspool of misdirected rage and anxiety. It's almost not worth reading anymore, as so many of the stories I've enjoyed recently have been all but rejected by people who claim to be fans of a franchise or creator.

Disenchantment is a show that is wholly encapsulated within its name. The main character, Princess Tiabeanie, is a royal yet is essentially powerless. At multiple times throughout the first season her father reminds her that she is little more than a gift to be married to a neighbouring kingdom in order to solidify treaties. The king, too, is trapped by circumstance and forever seeking something he cannot possibly have1. The supporting characters have their goals and ambitions, though we don't spend too much time with them. And while the stories and gags are sometimes predictable, they are quite enjoyable. The comedy is not as prevalent as it was in either Futurama or The Simpsons, though there is a good bit of dark comedy for people who enjoy wordplay. The one thing the should could have done without might be the Leela-and-Fry situation between Elfo and Bean, but I wouldn't give up on the show just because the old trope was trotted out again.

All this aside, you don't have to take my word for it. If you enjoyed Futurama, and if you enjoyed the first dozen seasons of The Simpsons, you'll likely enjoy Disenchantment, too.

This will likely be the last review post I do for a while. There are so many other half-finished posts that could be polished off and shared ...


  1. though he does receive it at the end, and it's not at all what he expected

Missing

Kitiara Pascoe wrote an interesting piece in The Guardian talking about some of the emotional struggles she experienced while sailing the world. In the two years that she was gone from her circle of friends and family, two people had passed away and three had been born. Along the way she missed a lot of the joys and sorrows that people share as life throws curveballs their way. On several occasions she wished more than anything to be in England with people rather than on a sunny beach halfway around the world. Ms. Pascoe is not alone in this feeling, as this seems to be a common thread in articles written by people who have spent time away from friends and family, be it for school, work, or adventure. Oddly enough, this is something I have never knowingly felt.

Is there something wrong with me?

In August of 2002 I moved to a city 4,700km west from my nearest relative in order to find myself. Five years later I moved another 7,800km westward, so far across the globe that I went east and crossed the planet’s largest ocean. Despite the vast distance I have never felt far from my family. They’re just a phone call away and, since the advent of the smartphone, richer interactions are immediately available.

During my 16 years away celebrations have been had, people have been born, people have passed away, children have grown up. At no time was there a pang in my chest and a desire to spend time with the community of family I grew up with because the geographical distance is minuscule compared to the emotional distance. I have kept myself separate for as long as I can remember. Perhaps it’s a result of my parents splitting up when I was 5. Perhaps it’s protection from the pain of loss when things inevitably come to an end. Perhaps it’s a result of autism1 reordering priorities and rendering literally lifelong relations as somehow less important than current events … which would be odd considering I am very much attached to the people in my home.

Are there things that I miss about Canada? Of course there are. There are experiences that I would very much like to enjoy from time to time. Be they attending a Canada Day celebration or enjoying a Nanaimo Bar with an overpriced cup of coffee. I do enjoy spending time with my family, too. There’s always a lot of laughter and fun when everyone’s in the same general area. But I don’t miss people. Does this make me a bald person? A bad son? A bad brother?

When reading stories about people who embark upon long journeys, I rarely see any mention regarding the absence of the people left behind. The discussion is always about the goals, the physical challenges, and the potential rewards. It’s interestijg to read about the human aspect these journeys expose, and how the traveller overcomes them.


  1. I have not been tested for this by a psychologist, but all signs point to being very much on the “highly functional” side of the spectrum based on a couple of books I’ve read with the pseudo tests built in. One of these days I’ll have to work up the nerve to go see if I am actually autistic.

After the Rain Has Fallen

This past summer was incredibly hot and dry. Plants withered. Vegetable prices almost doubled at the grocery store. Parks turned yellow. However, after what feels like six months, the rains have returned. Two typhoons have passed overhead in recent weeks and a three-day drizzle has finished to reveal some lovely blue sky above.

Watching the Sunset from Home Plate

Autumn has arrived, and Nozomi can once again enjoy a walk in the park.

Discovered

CBS, the company who currently owns the rights to non-movie versions of Star Trek, did a pretty good job of draining any enthusiasm I might have had over the most recent addition to the franchise. First was the lawsuit against Axanar, a fan-made, studio-level creation that would look at the story behind Garth of Izar. Next was the set of restrictions placed on fan-made productions. While companies are in the right to protect their intellectual property, CBS had shown very little interest in doing so for almost two decades. My beef with the company wasn't the re-assertion of control over the franchise they own, but the manner in which they went about it. As a result, I chose to not watch the new show.

This changed on Wednesday, though, as I used some downtime with the day job to watch Discovery and see whether the show warranted all of the criticisms that have been levied against it. Nearly every aspect of the show had vocal members of Trekdom foaming at the mouth. From the technology displayed to the range of species on the bridge to the dialog to the ship itself, everything was said to be an abomination of the highest degree.

However, having completed all 15 episodes, I am not seeing why there was so much rage vented at the show. Much like I found with Rogue One, the tone and pitch of the criticisms levied are disproportionate to any actual problems with the story.

The Discovery

Discovery had some high expectations to meet from a lot of the traditional fanbase and, as someone who has been an ardent fan of the series since before The Next Generation was ever announced, I can understand why these expectations exist. That said, the only thing I found "wrong" in the entire run of 15 episodes is the ship. Much like the J.J. Enterprise from the movies, I simply do not like the design of the U.S.S. Discovery. It's ugly. It's crude. It's not at all inspiring. Everything else was pretty darn good. Ah, and the speed at which the Klingons spoke their native tongue. I thought it was a little too slow for a "native speaker" of a language. That said, it's not an easy tongue to master.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham? She nailed it. Excellent acting. Excellent character growth. Doug Jones as Saru? My goodness, man! He took a character that started out as meek and turned him into a real captain. The cast as a whole was quite solid, which made the story believable. At the end of the day, that's more important than whether the Discovery should be using technology that is ahead of what we saw half a century ago in the original series.

Tuning Out the Haters

Some time back I started watching the "Everything Wrong with {movie}" videos put out by CinemaSins on YouTube. I watched these in order to laugh at the little things that slip by in movies — even the ones I enjoyed. However, I became tired of the negativity that just seemed to nitpick every little thing. It lead me to wonder if the people who found these little issues ever actually watched the movie, or if they were choosing to go through a creative endeavour that required tens of thousands of hours by hundreds of people to shit on the minutia in a bid to compensate for their own failures.

One lunch hour, rather than waste time with another takedown by CinemaSins, I decided to watch an "Everything Right with {movie}" by CinemaWins, which approaches movies from a different angle. The positivity was incredibly refreshing. Over a period of several months, I watched a number of these positive reviews of movies and even looked at all the things "right" with movies that have long been panned by fans, such as the Star Wars prequels and even the J.J. Star Trek reboots; movies that I have also had very strong, negative opinions of. However, after watching the positive review I would go and watch the actual movie again ... and I would enjoy it. I would see some of the scenes and story arcs that were highlighted in the positive review and see the brighter side of the stories, making the overall pastime much more entertaining.

This is likely nothing new to anybody, but the Internet is awash with angry people complaining about ... everything. Anger seems to attract attention, and that gives rise to larger groups of angry people who try to shout over each other about who is the most offended by things that have nothing to do with them. Many years ago I stopped reading most tech sites because of all the faux rage about shit that didn't matter. Many years ago I stopped reading most news sites because of all the faux rage about shit that doesn't matter. Now I'm choosing to not read any of the sci-fi sites because of all the faux rage about shit that has never mattered. If people want to be angry just for the sake of being angry, that's up to them. But I'm tired and just want to enjoy things when I'm not at work. There's already enough for me to be upset about. Why would I want to negatively colour my perceptions about a movie or TV show before having the opportunity to judge it by its own merits?

Alas, I've gone way off topic. Either way, I may not like some of the decisions that CBS has made with regards to Star Trek over the years, but the first season of Discovery was a pretty decent show. The story has a number of parallels with current events and the outcome is incredibly optimistic. Regardless of what angry Trekkie "purists" might have to say, Discovery was very much a Star Trek story. I just hope that the next one does not rely so much on decimating entire populations.

Just $550?

A few days ago I wrote about an email scam that's making its way across the Internet and likely scaring people enough into paying stupid sums of money for no valid reason. I had thought these messages were just being sent to English-speaking people, but it seems there are a lot of people in Japan who are also getting demands for BitCoin. Below is a message that a colleague received to his work account.

Scam in Japanese

There are a couple of notable differences between the English and Japanese versions of the message. First off, there is no password anywhere to be found. Instead the perpetrator uses an old spoofing technique to make it look like the email originated from the receiver's account. Only someone who has experience reading email headers would be able to work out that this is coming from a machine somewhere in South Africa1. Who knows if that's where the scammers also reside.

The second difference is that the amount being requested is about 1/10th of what was demanded from me. At $550 USD, there are likely more people who would be scared into buying and sending BitCoin.

Third is the lack of a contact count. In the dozen or so emails I've received from these dolts, the number of contacts they threatened to send my pr0n history to varied anywhere from four people to seventeen. Given how much time has passed since the first message hit my inbox, I've had exactly zero people get in touch with me to report receiving a digital package of embarrassments featuring my face and a list of URLs2.

While this is just wishful thinking, I truly hope that people see this as an opportunity to improve their own understanding of protecting themselves when using the web.


  1. The source IP address was reported as 41.144.134.125. This, too, can be misleading.
  2. Any list of URLs that would be sent to people would likely 404 as I haven't visited the shady side of the web in quite some time. Given the number of bad people doing bad things with JavaScript and other tools, I simply don't trust a lot of sites with access to my computers. If I wanted to see some sort of porn, it would make much more sense to visit the local video rental shop, which is quite empty in recent years, than to risk any personal device on a shady website.

Sleeping Puppy

Sleeping Puppy

Nozomi's sleep schedule this week is all messed up because I'm working nights to collaborate with numerous colleagues on the other side of the planet. Despite the lights and sounds that surround her during these late hours, she continues to be patient with me.

What a lovely puppy.

Stars in the Night Sky

The working schedule this week is quite a bit different as I am remotely participating in meetings with colleagues on the other side of the planet. What this means is that when they all stop for lunch, my clock reads 1:30am and the stomach is not at all interested in food. That said, this is a lovely time of day to head out for some fresh air and look at the night sky.

Telescope on a Mount

One of the many nice surprises of living in the new house is the clarity of the night sky. For most of the 11 years I've spent in Japan, the vast majority of stars have been obscured by light pollution. Even from the old apartment, a mere 4.2km from the new house, a person would be hard pressed to observe more stars than are in Orion's Belt without some sort of ocular assistance. That said, looking at the night sky from my yard, I can observe hundreds of stars with the naked eye.

As the boy grows up and learns about the universe, I would very much like to show him things that my parents could not show me. I'd like to get a nice telescope — ideally with a camera mount — to witness some of the interesting things that make our local part of the galaxy so intriguing.

A UFO Sighting?

While walking Nozomi tonight I wanted to grab some photos of a man that I often see practicing his skateboard in the park. We've spoken a few times, as I find it interesting that a man in his late 30s is learning how to do various tricks on his board, but I've never been able to take a decent picture of his routines due to the lack of natural lighting after sunset. However, as I tried to capture the scene within the constraints of a cell phone camera, something odd was being picked up in each photo.

A Plume of Light

It looked at first like a star but, as the phone moved, so did the point of light.

A Solid Point of Light

A Different Part of the Sky

This last photo is interesting with its lens flare, and it also provides an interesting clue as to the source of the light.

Light With Lens Flare

As a UFO sighting, this would be easily debunked. Not only because we're looking at a fuzzy point of light, but because this fuzzy point of light has a very clear source: the lens itself.

During the five weeks that my wife used this phone after (accidentally) smashing her phone's screen, the device was thrown roughly into her purse and tossed in other places. Not only has the metal back of the phone been scratched up by keys and other loose objects, but so has the lens of the camera. Looking at the smooth glass closely at home, there is a very fine pin-sized chip in the sapphire that is reflecting additional light into the sensor. Lovely.

So while this is most certainly not a UFO sighting, it does make for a simple explanation as to how some supposed ET sighting videos with points of light flying randomly all over the sky at crazy speeds can be made.

Routine

A decade ago, during the rise of Twitter and Facebook, some of the bloggers I subscribed to who were known for posting daily started having staggered publishing schedules. They’d sit down on a Sunday and hammer out seven quick posts for a week, either for the future or the past, then go quiet until the following Sunday. You’d see them on the larger services, though, interacting with people dozens of times a day. Eventually the blogs would be abandoned or the occasional post would come out every few months where the author would state “they had nothing to say” despite the hundreds of interactions they’d clearly enjoyed on another medium.

Interestingly, many people I’ve talked to about starting a blog or joining a social network over the last few years have also used this line of reasoning for not putting words online. What I never understood when people would say this is why they thought they had nothing to say. While Tim Berners-Lee may have created the Internet with the expectation it would be a collaborative Wiki of human knowledge, ambition, and reason, it was never expected that everything we shared online would need to be profound or meaningful from a historical perspective. Why wouldn’t people want to share their ideas with the world and, with luck, find people to interact with? The lack of interest has confused me until recently.

Over the last few months I’ve been investing some time into learning more about existentialism; particularly the differences between cosmic existentialism and nihilistic existentialism. This has been done by reading a number of very dry books on the topic as well as watching some videos around the web to learn some different interpretations of the philosophy. While doing this, I take notes of concepts, considerations, questions, and sentences that — I feel — warrants further thought or investigation. One such idea that was scribbled in haste outlines people’s general boredom with their own life, as every day consists of routines interrupted by ephemeral moments of difference.

This offered a question: do you think you have nothing to say because every day is essentially the same?

This question was asked to a tiny sample of 7 people who have abstained from blogging and social media, and six agreed with the sentiment in the unscientific question.

What fascinates me about this isn’t so much the clean Boolean answer, but the thought that people could feel this way about their own life. Even when our days are driven by routine as a result of responsibilities or circumstance, there’s enough interesting things we observe or consider throughout the day to share them with friends and family verbally.

This said, I can understand the desire to not share everything online. Some things are better kept between friends or within the confines of our minds. The idea that routine can dampen a person’s perception of their words’ worth? This is a new concept for me, as I find ideas of little value until they can be shared.

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