On the 10th Anniversary of the Return of Doctor Who

We recently re-watched “Rose” for a movie night and the episode held up fantastically well.

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The show was radically reimagined from the old series, and yet still worked in a way no other movie or story reboot ever could. Maybe it’s because the idea of reinvention, or regeneration, is built into its foundation, but I think more crucial was that, unlike so many other reboots that have come over the years, this one held onto its core, not as a collection of gimmicks or winks to throw at fandom, but out of a love for what it was and represented.

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I love Star Trek and Star Wars, but Doctor Who has always had a special place for me. Craig Ferguson called it, “the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism”. I can’t think of a better way to explain it really.

At io9 they posted a good piece today explaining why Christopher Eccleston was perfect in the role and for the time to bring it back:

If the Ninth Doctor had not been the man he was, from looks to personality, there stands a very good chance that there would be no Doctor Who to talk about today.

Over at Tor.com, they review the “Rose” covering why it was a perfect reintroduction:

Whatever Doctor Who has become, whatever it might be in the future, that is where it began (again). With Rose Tyler running onto the TARDIS, grinning and giddy, perpetually inviting us on the adventure of our lives. And ten years later, we’re still along for the ride.

And to mark the occasion, over at Radio Times, they’ve quoted a number of Doctor Who alumni’s happy birthday wishes and gave Peter Capaldi, the latest Doctor, who himself was a lifelong fan before getting the role, the closer:

Peter Capaldi on the 10th anniversary of the return of Doctor Who

Here’s a video of Capaldi saying the above:

Doctor Who has some really talented fans. One of them put together this great retrospective (BBC hire this guy!):

Happy Birthday Doctor Who.

On the passing of Leonard Nimoy

There have been many great tributes posted about Leonard Nimoy, who passed away Friday, the anniversary of Fred Roger’s death 12 years ago.

With tributes like this salute from astronaut Terry W. Virts, from the International Space Station, on Twitter, it seems almost ridiculous to add to chorus, but I think I do have something to add.Terry W. Virts from the International Space Station Tweet

I’ve long been planning a series of posts and essays around a theme of taking the messages we get from fiction way too far, and well, sometimes there is no time, like the present.

Spock is among a small group of fictional characters that represented father figures and positive male role models in my life, in the absence of real life ones, while growing up. It feels good to get that off my chest. It feels a little cheesy, and cliche, to admit that fictional characters could have such an impact, but I can’t help it, it’s true.

People who know me well might find it strange I’d include Spock in such a list of influences. I’m not someone that lets logic take complete sway in the choices I make in my life, but that’s the thing, neither did Spock. No, I’m not going to comment about his character’s internal struggle with his Human and his Vulcan side (although it is a compelling part of the character’s story), but with his external relationship with James T. Kirk and Leonard McCoy.

The three formed a triumvirate that at times, in their open conflict with one another, had a discourse that enabled Gene Roddenberry to surface what he thought were important aspects to leadership, to curiosity, to passion, to ethics, governance, and morality. They were at times the Ego, Id, and Super-Ego, and at times the Body, the Mind, the Spirit. Not always the playing the same roles in relationship to one another, but always, empowered by their trust to speak their truths, and find shared meaning in their mission and friendship. Paraphrasing Jen Ferrin, “Think like Spock, Feel like McCoy, Act like Kirk”. In a real way, it was their relationships to one another, that influenced the kinds of friends I seek and keep. They take courage on my part, similar to the kind Joe Campbell expresses in a recent post called “The Lies I Tell Myself”. You friends know who you are.

I’m watching “The Undiscovered Country” today, while my family is out doing some shopping, as my own way to give a tribute to co-creation of Leonard Nimoy and Gene Roddenberry. It features a story written during the fall of the Soviet Union, about the potential fall of the Klingon Empire, and the peacemaking that’s needed, before a desperate war would probably commence between it and The Federation. Spock helps coordinate a dialog. There are actors on both sides, including Captain Kirk, that do not know how to foresee a future without the military balance of terror. Shenanigans happen, including the assassination of the Klingon protagonist of the peace process. It’s an underrated movie. I wish I could share a link so that you could view the documentary, the “Perils of Peacemaking” included on the bluray. There’s mention of the fall of the Soviet Union and the compassionate, proactive role we needed to play, in order to make sure that what remained of the Soviet Union would not devolve into a collection of failed states. Looking at Russia today, it seems we have failed, we have let the youth of the world down, and that’s frightening.

The last word, from Leonard Nimoy himself, a man who will live on in the character he brought to life, in his writing, in his art, in the people he helped to inspire:Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 5.49.19 PM

See Daleks in a new light

Check out an archive of The Dalek Chronicles on Flickr. Amazing artwork from the 60s that predates their appearance on Doctor Who. Charlie Jane Anders calls it probably the most beautiful Doctor Who artwork ever created.

Eleven fans are probably in a bad mood since Christmas day

Emily Asher-Perrin, at Tor.com, published a good read for those mourning the latest regeneration event.

Old-time Doctor Who fans know the feeling all too well.

“The Gentle Seduction”, by Marc Stiegler

Marc Stiegler wrote a short story for Analog Magazine in 1989 called “The Gentle Seduction” that is a hopeful take on the Singularity. It reminded me of a much older short story by Isaac Asimov, “The Last Question”. Both are thought provoking.

Favorite Reads for 2012

Following is a list of books, essays, and articles I read (or re-read) which feel worth sharing or re-sharing on on New Years Eve:

Books

“Thinking in Systems: A Primer”, by Donella H. Meadows

“Release It!”, by Michael T. Nygard

“Language in Thought and Action”, by S.I. Hayakawa, Alan R. Hayakawa, and Robert MacNeil

“The Stars My Destination”, by Alfred Bester

“One, Two, Three: Absolutely Elementary Mathematics”, by David Berlinski

“Information Diet”, by Clay Johnson

“The Great Stagnation”, by Tyler Cowen

“One Way Forward: The Outsider’s Guide to Fixing the Republic”, by Lawrence Lessig

“The Waste Land”, by T.S. Eliot

“Race Against The Machine”, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.

Software Engineering Related Essays, Posts and Papers

“Up and Down the Ladder of Abstraction”, by Bret Victor

“Analogy as the Core of Cognition”, by Douglas R. Hofstadter

“On Being a Senior Engineer”, by John Allspaw

“Quality With a Name”, by James Shore

“Out of the tar pit”, by Ben Moseley

“Paxos Made Moderately Complex”, by Robbert van Renesse

“How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost the Internet”, Gizmodo

“The Future is Hypermedia APIs”, by Mike Taczak

“Ubiquitous Programming with Pen and Paper”, by Awelon Blue

“Leverage Points: : Places to Intervene in a System”, by Donella Meadows

“Unicorns and Strong Typing”, by Michael Bevilacqua-Linn

“Big Ball of Mud”, by Brian Foote and Joseph Yoder

“Intrinsic and Incidental Complexity”, by Noah Sussman

“An Introduction to Graphviz via R. Kelly’s ‘Trapped in the Closet’ Hip Hopera”, by Rob Rhinehart

“Damn Cool Algorithms: Log structured storage”, by Nick Johnson

“The Humble Programmer”, by Edsger W. Dijkstra

“Simple Made Easy”, by Rich Hickey

“The Long Tail of Technical Debt”, by Michael Feathers

“The Carrying Cost of Code: Taking Lean Seriously”, by Michael Feathers

“No Silver Bullet”, by Fred Brooks

Making A Difference with Software Engineering

“Homegrown Computer Science for Middle Schoolers”, by Tess Rinearson

“Blue Collar Coder”, by Anil Dash

“Government As A Platform”, by Tim O’Reilly

“How Do Committees Invent?”, by Mel Conway

“Anyone can do it. Data journalism is the new punk”, by Simon Rogers, The Guardian

“I believe a computer program can stand in…”, by Lisa Williams

“How Team Obama’s tech efficiency left Romney IT in dust”, Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica

“How To Tell A Story With Code”, by Rob Spectre

“Urban Storytelling with Open Data”, by Mark Headd

“Making Philadelphia Better Together”, by Mark Headd, Programs & Technology, Office of the Managing Director, City of Philadelphia

Society, Governance, History, Health, Art and Music

“The Condition: Chronic Self-Disclosure”, by Bethlehem Shoals, The Awl

“The Busy Trap”, by Tim Kreider, NYTimes

“The Web We Lost”, by Anil Dash

“A Self-Made Man Looks At How He Made It”, by John Scalzi

“Laws of Physics Can’t Trump the Bonds of Love”, by Tara Parker-Pope, NYTimes

“What I’ve Learned About Learning”, by Reginald Braithwaite

“The Builders Manifesto”, by Umair Haque

“How Will You Measure Your Life”, by Clayton M. Christensen

“When They’re Grown, the Real Pain Begins”, by Susan Engel, NYTimes

“Sincerity, Not Irony, Is Our Age’s Ethos”, by Jonathan D. Fitzgerald, The Atlantic

“Young Worf”, GregOttawa, Reddit

“Believe You Can Change”, by Aaron Swartz

“Going Numb In The Summer Of The Gun”, by Jen Doll, The Atlantic

“Horatio Alger, RIP”, by Jim Tankersley, National Journal

“The 10 Doctors”, by Rich Comics

“Looking back at Star Trek: The Next Generation on its 25th anniversary”, by Brian Phillips, Grantland

“Babies Are Born Scientists”, by NSF.gov

“America, The Fixable”, The Atlantic

A letter from Thomas Jefferson to Joseph C. Cabell on Republican Government

“Welcome to Hell: Philadelphia Has a Serious Case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”, by Steve Volk, Philadelphia Magazine

“You Can Feel The Difference”, Nathaniel Popkin, Hidden City Philadelphia

“Poverty, College and A Dream Deferred”, by Chris Lehmann, Practical Theory

“Clinging to the Skin of this Tiny Little World (The TV Movie)”, by Philip Sandifer, TARDIS Eruditorum: A Psychochronography in Blue

Fun read: Tor.com on why we really love Princess Leia

Tor.com: Emily Asher-Perrin: Can We Talk About Why We Really Love Princess Leia?:

Forced to be a sexual object for a crime lord? Choke him to death and get outta dodge. Find out your stealth party was spotted on by the enemy? Hunt them down with their own vehicles. Meet a strange new species that doesn’t speak your language? Share food and make friends. As we’re shown time and time again, there is nothing that this woman cannot do. She makes Luke and Han look practically incompetent if you’re actually keeping a scoreboard — Luke only has one or two solid goals that he feels obligated to follow up on, and Han spends half his time in the trilogy jamming to The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” You need Leia to keep it all together.

“Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.”

I went on an interesting journey online last night that led me to the source of the above phrase, a poem on mortality, entropy, memory… and databases. Yes, you read that right.

I read Tor.com’s wonderful blog almost once a day to check up posts on books, favorite sci-fi and fantasy TV Series, and more. Yesterday they had a post featuring a striking photograph by Cat Valente of some haunting graffiti with the title of of this post scrawled out. She had recognized the line from an earlier post in Tor.com’s Poetry Month series, “John M. Ford’s sonnet ‘Against Entropy'”. Reading the comments in that post led to the original source of the poem, where it was written and shared for the first time.

In 2003 Patrick Nielsen Hayden posted about how moved he was by Andrew Brown’s writing about the slow and terrible death of a friend’s wife. He lamented, If I were a better writer I’d conclude by yoking the trivial to the tragic, relating the twin inevitabilities of death and database error by means of a rhetorical figure involving worms.. In the comments of that post, John M. Ford, the writer Neil Gaiman said of, my best critic … the best writer I knew, wrote the following:

The worm drives helically through the wood
And does not know the dust left in the bore
Once made the table integral and good;
And suddenly the crystal hits the floor.
Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
The names of lovers, light of other days —
Perhaps you will not miss them. That’s the joke.
The universe winds down. That’s how it’s made.
But memory is everything to lose;
Although some of the colors have to fade,
Do not believe you’ll get the chance to choose.
Regret, by definition, comes too late;
Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.

A poem, written in a blog post comment in 2003, shows up on a physical wall in 2012.

The poem speaks loudly about the ends of things, our role, and even the work I do, which has everything to do with building systems that can adapt and grow in the face of bit rot and lack of attention.

Damn it, I don’t care if it isn’t hip, I still love the Web.

My Favorite Classic Doctor Who Episodes

This is a handy list of older Doctor Who episodes to watch while waiting for the new season to start. For new fans, if you can get past the special effects, and imagine a series where most episodes were more like ‘The Empty Child’, slower, and a whole lot creepier, and maybe imagine yourself as a 7 year old, watching on a small black and white TV in the middle of the night alone, these will be fun. Enjoy!

  1. Fourth: The Brain of Morbius
  2. Fourth: The City of Death
  3. Fourth: The Genesis of the Daleks
  4. Third: The Three Doctors
  5. Fifth: The Caves of Androzani
  6. Fourth: The Deadly Assassin
  7. Fourth: The Robots of Death
  8. Third: The Spearhead from Space
  9. Fourth: Pyramids of Mars
  10. Third: Planet of Spiders
  11. Fourth: The Arc in Space
  12. Third: Inferno
  13. Fourth: Planet of Evil
  14. First: The Unearthly Child
  15. First: The Daleks
  16. Second: The War Games
  17. Second: The Evil of the Daleks
  18. Second: The Tomb of the Cybermen
  19. Fourth: Logopolis
  20. Fifth: Castrovalva
  21. Fifth: The Five Doctors