March 28th, 2012

Lower Decks

I’ve been working my way through Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix streaming and I’m in the last half of the last season. I thought I had seen most episodes of the show, but I think there’ve been more I haven’t seen.  Regardless, it’s been a great ride and has reawakened my inner Trekkie.  After this, I’m thinking of starting Deep Space 9, because I’ve seen maybe three episodes of that one.

Yesterday I watched an episode that I had seen before, but didn’t remember that well.  It was called “Lower Decks,” and I’ll let the IMDB synopsis tell you about it:

A mission of the Enterprise as seen through some junior officers who are up for promotions, as questions of duty and honor arise among some of them, such as a Bajoran whom Worf has designated to be promoted to operations.

Because I’ve been watching the series in order, I remembered the Bajoran from the previous episode she was on, “The First Duty,” where she (along with Wesley Crusher)  covered up an accident they were involved in.  There’s more, but it’s not important.  You’ll get to that when you watch through the series yourself.

It ended up being one of my favorite episodes in the whole series. Seeing the ship from the viewpoint of people who weren’t the same characters we’ve seen every week was very interesting. The secondary characters circled around a storyline that sort of happened in the background with the main characters, until the end when the storylines sort of became the same.

I’ve said before how much I love the idea of space travel. I love the idea of an Enterprise wandering around at warp speed, checking things out and getting into crazy adventures. I do not, however, love the idea of actually being on the Enterprise.  Aside from the whole “submarine in space” thing, it just seems like living in the place you work is a bad idea. The Enterprise-D has a little over 1,000 people on it, which is fewer than the amount of people at the school where I work. So you see the same people during your 8-hour shift, and then you see those same people in your 16 hours of off-time (minus sleeptime). There’s pretty much just the one hangout place, and Guinan’s there most of the time, so there’s always the danger of her butting in and making you learn some sort of life lesson.

Aside from having to figure out how to keep coming up with small talk in a place where the weather never changes, there’s also the lack of privacy. Anytime the senior officers want to know where you are, they ask the computer and the computer tells them. “Ensign MadMup is hiding behind some crates in Cargo Bay 4. He is playing Angry Birds 4000 on his spacephone.” The kids on the Enterprise can’t play hide-and-seek because the computer ruins everything.

Speaking of kids, what kind of psychotic parent brings their kids on a spaceship whose job it is to seek out new and unexplained phenomena??  “Well, the Crystalline Entity was pretty scary, but I’m sure there’s nothing worse than that.  Now, what’s this ‘Borg’ thing you were talking about?” I don’t know what the Starfleet approximation of Child Services is, but any parent that wants to take their kids on a starship should probably be assumed to be an unfit parent.

How often did the non-major characters even know what was going on, anyway?  The ship’s being torn in half, but I never noticed anyone getting on the intercom and saying, “Hey, we’ve run into some slight quantum turbulence, so buckle in and put your tray tables up.” It really seems like a horrific experience all around.  Sure there’s replicators and holodecks, but Barclay can’t even run a simple holodeck program with the senior officers as inferior-to-him beings without being found out, so what chance does your “I am Superman mixed with Spider-Man on a planet of chocolate” program have of not being used by everybody?

I’m completely in favor of space exploration. When I’m appointed President, I’ll make sure NASA gets a nice budget (and I will share my ideas with them). I just don’t want to be the guy out there in actual space.  Vulcans are totally cool, but I can wait til they come here for a visit.


March 3rd, 2009

When I Grow Up

I don’t remember ever knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up. I knew there were some good dreams out there – astronaut, fireman, policeman – but I don’t remember ever wanting to be any of those. I knew pretty early on that I didn’t want to be a mechanic. My dad is one, and I never got his ability to fiddle with mechanical things, and it was far too dirty a job for my tastes. Once we got a wood stove and most of my winter Saturdays were spent gathering wood for it, I figured out I didn’t want to be a lumberjack, either (even though they’re mostly okay).

When I got to high school, specifically my Geometry class with Mrs. Jackson my Sophomore year, I decided I wanted to be a math teacher. That’s the earliest memory I have of wanting to be a particular something. Of course, once I hit Senior Math (a kind of pre-calculous, I think), that went out the window along with my ability to understand what was going on. Still, I liked the idea of being a teacher, and I really liked literature, so I went to college as an English Education Major.

I think it was my Junior year when I figured out I wouldn’t be very good at that. (Suggestion: figure that out earlier in your college career if you can help it.) I switched over to Speech as a major, because by that time I had figured out I liked performing. Turns out that was a really bad semester for me. The worst semester of my college career, as it happened. It ended up that I would have needed to retake most of those classes, which I didn’t really want to do. So I looked at what majors were left and what I had the most credits toward already. Hello there, General Studies! And, hey, English Minor. Might as well keep you, too.

My first job out of college was Director of Student Activities at the college I graduated from. I actually had the job while I was finishing up my degree, but had it afterwards, too. It was a job I always wanted when I was in my first years at college, but once I was in the job, I wasn’t a very good fit for it. I accomplished one or two major goals, but moved on after three years of it.

Next job was webmaster and sorta-tech support at the college. I liked computers, but didn’t know much about them. Turns out the secret to being tech support is to know just a little bit more than whomever you’re trying to help out. That I was able to manage. I had that job for a year (webmaster for three total – it overlapped), and then moved here.

I was looking for a job, kinda interested in computers but still not knowing much. One place I dropped off a resume was willing to teach me, so they hired me on as a computer tech. I learned all about troubleshooting computer hardware problems and, really, became a mechanic, just like my dad — only it was on something slightly cleaner than cars.

From there I moved to a school corporation and from there to my current one, still doing computers, just not the hardware side. I like my job, and I hope I’m there for a long time. So that answers the “what do I want to do?” question.

Now, what exactly do I want to be?

That question’s a bit more difficult to answer. I have general ideas, and I even have put together this idealized version of me that I think it’d be nice to be, but I’m a better thinker than I am an act-er. I can think through what it would take for me to become this well-rounded, interesting, helpful, in-shape person, but that’s usually as far as it gets. Just like the books and scripts I’ve got floating around in my head that I’ve never written out, this Plan For Me doesn’t get any farther than my head.

How does a person go from making plans to carrying them out? I don’t think I’ve ever had that ability, but I sure would like to. Is there a trick to it? Some sort of 7-step procedure? It’s not as simple as “Just do it!” so don’t get all Nike on me – there’s more to it than that. I just don’t know what it is and I’d like to.

I’m way past being ready to be what I’m going to be when I grow up.

May 1st, 2008

Same As The Old?

Today is New Boss Day at work. The boss that hired me retired last October, and we’ve had an interim boss since then. Today’s the first day for the new fellow.

I can’t speak for the rest of the people in my department, but I’m a little nervous. I like things to stay the same, and it’s pretty much a sure thing that they won’t. There’s been rampant speculation on what might change, but no one knows exactly what will happen until it happens. We’re meeting as a department tomorrow, so I imagine we’ll at least get a partial picture of things to come.

Getting a new boss is trickier business than getting a new job, I think. When you get a new job, you know things will be different. With a new boss, you’re more in limbo, unsure of what’s going to happen next.

When I was the Director of Student Activities at the college I worked, I made a pretty big change my second year, one that required meeting with the President of the college several times, along with a few other higher-ups. It took a lot of convincing, but they eventually let me implement my ideas. What was the main impetus behind the change? My getting hazed seven years prior as a freshman in that same college. When students joined a society (kind of the small Baptist college version of fraternities and sororities, sorta…), there was one big night where the new members were inducted. Whereas it had once been a fancy affair with dinners and whatnot, by the time I was in college it had become a “throw eggs at the new person and yell at them” kind of thing. It left a bad taste in my mouth, and for the next seven years I noticed every bad thing about the current society set up that there was, and used them as my supporting arguments for change. I got the Dean of Men on my side and let him run with a lot of the details, and together we put together an alternative that focused more on helping people than throwing eggs at them and making them do push-ups.

You never know how something like that will work out, but they’re still using that system now, almost ten years later. My brother works at that college, and tells me that there’s good and bad with the system, and there’ve been some tweaks to it here and there, but it still seems to be working fairly well. I know that’s got nothing to do with me, but it does serve as a reminder that sometimes change is okay.

I’ll let you know in ten years how this one ended up.