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

Do you have a personal kanban that you’ve shared?

Jim Benson challenges us with the idea that your Personal Kanban board isn’t just for our own private use, but is something to be shared with your family, and with your team.  How many folks would be comfortable with that level of transparency? There is real value to be uncovered by trying I think.

For more on what a Personal Kanban board is, read Personal Kanban 101 from Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry.

Using git for authoring papers

I’ve been exploring plain text formats for keeping notes and authoring papers. Kieran Healy wrote a fantastic post on the subject that I won’t attempt to replicate, read it.

Just over a year ago I posted to Facebook a small PDF that contained a collection of aphorisms, some personal, some collected over many years, that I try in keep in mind. I figured today would be a good day to convert this to Markdown and upload to Github for evolving and growing. Feel free to check it out, correct any misattributions, or just poke full of holes.

– https://github.com/kmartino/lessons

One of the things I need to get corrected in that doc is fixing its citations.

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The thing I treasure about science fiction is its utility as a toolkit for thinking about the relationship between technological change and human beings. This is why I value “design fiction” so much: an architect might make a visualization that flies you through her as-yet-unbuilt building, an engineer might build a prototype to show you what he’s thinking of inventing, but through design fiction, a writer can take you on a tour of how a person living with that technology might feel. That’s the kind of contribution to the discussion about which technology we should make, and how we should use it, that can make all the difference.

Cory Doctorow, at Locus Online, on “Cold Equations and Moral Hazard”. Read it.

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Consider a system to be made up of procedures, some of which are stateful and others which aren’t. We have already discussed the difficulties of understanding the bits which are stateful, but what we would hope is that the procedures which aren’t themselves stateful would be more easy to comprehend. Alas, this is largely not the case. If the procedure in question (which is itself stateless) makes use of any other procedure which is stateful — even indirectly — then all bets are off, our procedure becomes contaminated and we can only understand it in the context of state. If we try to do anything else we will again run the risk of all the classic state- derived problems discussed above. As has been said, the problem with state is that “when you let the nose of the camel into the tent, the rest of him tends to follow”.

As a result of all the above reasons it is our belief that the single biggest remaining cause of complexity in most contemporary large systems is state, and the more we can do to limit and manage state, the better.

“Out of the Tar Pit”, Ben Moseley and Peter Marks, 2006

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The means by which we live are marvelous indeed. And yet something is missing. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.

King Jr, Martin Luther (2012-11-06). A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings (King Legacy) (pp. 76-77). Beacon Press. Kindle Edition.

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The “software crisis” was first identified in 1968 and in the intervening decades has deepened rather than abated. The biggest problem in the development and maintenance of large-scale software systems is complexity — large systems are hard to understand. We believe that the major contributor to this complexity in many systems is the handling of state and the burden that this adds when trying to analyse and reason about the system. Other closely related contributors are code volume, and explicit concern with the flow of control through the system.

“Out of the Tar Pit”, Ben Moseley and Peter Marks, 2006

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Only through the bringing together of head and heart— intelligence and goodness— shall man rise to a fulfillment of his true nature. Neither is this to say that one must be a philosopher or a possessor of extensive academic training before he can achieve the good life. I know many people of limited formal training who have amazing intelligence and foresight. The call for intelligence is a call for openmindedness, sound judgment, and love for truth. It is a call for men to rise above the stagnation of closedmindedness and the paralysis of gullibility.

King Jr, Martin Luther (2012-11-06). A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings (King Legacy) (p. 43). Beacon Press. Kindle Edition.