Who Programs the Enterprise?

Star Trek: The Next Generation follows the adventures of over a thousand crew members on their highly advanced Galaxy-class USS Enterprise. As flagship of the Federation, she was designed to go on deep-space exploration missions that may involve being out of contact with Starfleet for periods of time We see a lot of pseudo-engineering on the show: Geordi ‘n pals have academic-levels of knowledge regarding warp drive propulsion and are often pressed into service maintaining these highly complex systems.

Aiding them in it all is a highly refined computer system that utilizes a rather sophisticated AI which allows command staff to verbally create miniature programs by speaking in natural language. This all seems natural: programming is largely rooted in logic, and especially for small programs it should be expected that most of the crew would be familiar enough with the systems to create small functions on-the-fly.

This guy? His job was to stare at this button and occasionally press it.

What we don’t see any of, however, are the software engineers on-board the enterprise. It’s not a stretch to assume that Starfleet regularly patches software onboard its ships, and likely would rely on the skills of deployed engineers to diagnose and patch bugs while on missions. New features seem also quite likely: probes need to be programmed, diagnostics modified, and research applications developed.

So who are they? The propulsion engineers almost certainly don’t have in-depth knowledge in computing software: they frequently seem limited to only running diagnostics on the computers, and may not even have write access to production source. Data appears to have slightly more skills and access to the computing systems, but he’s unique: other starships don’t have that kind of dual-purpose engineering talent that he possesses.

It’s likely they just weren’t anticipated during TNG and the subsequent shows of that generation. And even if they were, they’d be like Stellar Cartography: sometimes mentioned and rarely seen.

Seattle Mariners 1995 ALDS Radio Call

Almost twenty years ago on October 8th, 1995, the Seattle Mariners and the New York Yankees were in a pivotal game 5 of an American League Divisional Playoff. After falling behind in the series 2-0, the Mariners fought back to tie it at two games each. In front of the home crowd, the Mariners came back to tie the game in the 9th inning and force it into overtime.

The game, of course, features one of the most well-known radio calls in Seattle history as Edgar Martinez hit “The Double” to win the series.


The local radio call was handled by Dave Niehaus. Finding a copy of the precise call isn’t difficult, but I always wanted to get the local radio broadcast of the entire game. Turns out this quest wasn’t impossible, but it involved ordering a series of cassettes from a fellow over on the East Coast. Following some delightful conversion of these tapes into digital, you too can listen to prelude to the call.

I started this clip in the middle of the 9th inning, when the Mariners pulled their starting pitcher and replaced him with Randy Johnson.

If you’re impatient, the bottom of the 11th inning starts at 49:00.


Adventure in the Alps

For our vacation this year, Tracey and I decided to go on a more hike-oriented trip through the Alps. Hitching a ride on one of our My Way Alpine Tours, we packed our bags, left scorching Seattle, and started our adventure in even more scorching Salzburg!

The itinerary roughly went East-to-West, and is likely best visualized with a very handy map.

The Handy Map


Flying out to Munich via Reykjavik, we landed Saturday afternoon, cleared customs, and immediately took Munich’s hybrid commuter rail system to the main train station in town. Grabbing our tickets, we settled our tired selves into one of the hourly trains to Salzburg, Austria.

Arriving in the very warm and muggy Salzburg was especially fun. Trudging to our AirBnB we quickly settled in before going off to buy groceries and water. Lots of water. The time is 17:40. We quickly find that the store closest to our apartment closed at 17:30 and reopened on Monday. Well, okay, so we started walking to the center of town: surely there is a store open later there, right? Spending our energy in the form of sweat, we discover that this is indeed a terribly incorrect assumption: everything is closed until Monday. Things are not looking so great when I dash off a quick tweet of forlorn sadness about our current situation. And then an angel appeared in the form of a coworker who had edited our book section on Salzburg a few months before and noted that the Spar in the train station was open until very late in the evening. We were saved! The recon was correct! The night was warm, but we settled into the warm apartment at least on the road to hydration as the skies filled with rolling thunderstorms.

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Life ‘n Things: September 2015 Edition

I seem to have acquired a new trait: writing draft posts and then never actually completing and/or publishing the. The canonical answer seems to be that I wrote them mostly for my own cathartic reasons, and they weren’t very interesting for anyone else. This is perhaps true.

While I’m working on my long-form post regarding our trip to the Alps in August, it’s time for a recent “things I’ve been up to and stuff” post.

Talos Principle

I’ve been playing the hell out of The Talos Principle recently. If you like puzzle games with a fairly nuanced plot that deals about the philosophy of AIs and the end of the world for humanity, it’s highly recommended. The puzzles are challenging, the voice acting superb, and graphics beautiful. Somewhat rare for a game now, Talos features a large number of easter eggs that are fun to discover and experience.

Photo Editing

I’ve found it’s a particular challenge to try to pare down a huge number of trip photos into an album that’s not only interesting to me, but maybe to other people as well. An average of around 10 photos a day seems to be a pretty good average, but man, it’s certainly difficult.


Our tricolor male corgi puppy named Sherwood, alas, did not come to pass. The breeder we were talking with had always warned us that it’s possible he would take up to two puppies for himself. However, days before our actual time to pick up the dog, he announced he would take five puppies for himself, including both male tricolors.

So uh, no dog for us right now. It’s quite disappointing after ten weeks of getting updates, viewing photos, and even visiting the puppies.

Little Life Updates: June 2015 Edition

guess I didn’t publish anything for two months. Once it gets warm my creativity juices dry up and my motivation levels quickly drop to near-zero levels. There’s also the weird thing with blogging that it mostly fills up a niche where the 140-characters of twitter doesn’t cut it, but you need to have enough content to make writing something worthwhile.

So here’s an attempt to make something cohesive.


We’ve been trying to fit in hikes whenever our schedule allows it. This doesn’t happen often enough, sadly, but we’ve been on an alpine lakes theme this year. Lake Twenty Two was a short jaunt to a pristine lake.


Lake Serene, well, it was very serene. And also aggressively cloudy.


I think there’s a lake somewhere there.

Ham Radio

Recently got my Technician-class Ham radio license. Not entirely sure what I’m going to use it for yet, but it seems like a fun hobby and a useful thing to have.


I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my camera setup lately, especially inspired by Ken Rockwell and his articles on how to carry less, and decided to start transitioning to full frame due to the increased dynamic range and low-light performance of the bigger sensors. The Canon 6D is aging quickly, and I decided to hold off until the much-rumored Canon 6D MkII is released in the first half of next year. In the interim, I know I needed an ultrawide to replace the APS-C only 11-16.

That replacement was the Canon 17-40 f/4L. Although an ultrawide on full frame, it’s also a very useful midrange zoom for APS-C, and I plan to take only this lens to Europe this fall. It should be a fun experiment.

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Alpine Europe

Speaking of Europe, Tracey and I are doing the Rick Steves’ My Way Alpine trip this year. It’s a trip where the transportation and hotel is paid for, and the rest is up to us. The Alps aren’t a region we’ve been before, so it should be a super interesting experience with lots of hiking! After the trip, we’re spending a few days in London.


I got an unread copy of the History of United States Naval Operations in World War II by Samuel Eliot Morison, and it’s a fascinating read. I specifically targeted the 1984 printing, and I’m reminded that we were really good at printing books in the 80s before slowly forgetting this art in the face of digital technology. The  print quality is outstanding.

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I’ve been listening to a lot of Power Glove, Florence + The Machine, and The Long Winters the past few months.


Tracey and I have been cultivating a small p-patch garden on our apartment building roof. It’s been a somewhat rough time as a few of our crops quickly bolted, but we have high hopes for our pepper and basil plants.

Canadian Adventure

While in the middle of a company Christmas cruise last holiday season, Brian texted a fairly sloshy Nikky and asked if I was up for a week-long trip that started in Montreal and ended in Toronto. Never really one to shy away from a new adventure, I said “sure!” and let the logistics handle themselves.

Come May, we set off to visit the central core of our northerly neighbors.


Aggressively French, Montreal feels like someone took Paris and smooshed it together with the Portlandia stereotype of oppressive hipsters. The first day the forecast was to fairly moderate in temperature and not terribly rainy, so we decided to go on a walkabout the city first and then explore the hill park (Mont Royal) that the city is named after before capping off the day by visiting a few brewpubs and scarfing down Montreal-style bagles by the dozen.


The next day was planned to be the museum day! Yay! Except it was Monday. And on Monday in Montreal, everything is closed. Everything. Even the cat cafe. After much consternation, we found a small natural history museum on the campus of McGill university to visit. It had dinosaurs and fossils, so things work out.

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Montreal featured a well-ran and convenient public transit and metro system, and we were able to use it to quickly and cheaply get ourselves around this rather sprawling city.


On Tuesday (my birthday!), we took the train to the capital of Canada. Ottawa felt a lot like if you took a the rather backwater capital of Washington, Olympia, and bolted on a federal government of a much smaller United States onto it. There was a university that we stayed near, and the entire town was very walkable.

The night of my birthday, we went to a wood-fired pizza place and then enjoyed some different kinds of Scotch at an Highlander pub. It was fairly low-key, but we needed to retire early for the big day we had planned in Ottawa. Why was it a big day? Because we only had one full day in the city, and had a lot to cover!

After checking out the big public market and grabbing some pastries, Brian was ambushed by a local news crew.

We checked out the parliament and library, including a short guided tour through the building.


At the Canadian War Museum we saw lots of exhibits that were very proud of the fact that the Canadians beat the tar out of the Americans whenever we tried to invade. But the real cool part of the museum is that they had Weather Station Kurt, which was a WWII-era automated weather station landed on Canadian soil by a U-boat and discovered decades later.

Ottawa also had lots of spiders and sculptures.

That night, we signed up for one of the “escape room”-type adventures all the cool kids are doing these days. Brian, Andy, and I met up at the place with the three other people we were assigned to, and spent the next 45 minutes barely failing the room. We had all of the clues figured out, but the coordination wasn’t perfect and we ultimately didn’t put them all together for the final box that would have had the solution.

And then we were done with Ottawa.


On the train to Toronto, the three of us had facing seats, with a fourth person sitting with us who was randomly assigned. He was a very interesting fourth person, who had a locked suitcase with him that he would occasionally open to grab documents with the Canadian government seal marked “Secret,” and then use his Blackberry(!) to talk to people about trade deals. Otherwise the trip was largely uneventful and we arrived in Toronto.

Or as we soon called it, the “more Canadian version of New York City.” As in, if you removed all of the smell, interesting people, and cool things of NYC, you had a rather sterile metropolis. Toronto was largely a disappointment, although we did see the Hockey Hall of Fame, which featured aggressively hipster sweaters.

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We toured Fort York, which was an interesting oasis of historical property smack dab in the middle of town. Once again, they made sure to point out that the Americans ultimately lost to the Canadians. It was a common refrain.


Toronto has a large island park right next to the downtown core, which we went and visited for an evening. It’s a fairly unique feature of the city.

And that’s it really about Canada.

The Trip Back

Our flight plans both ways involved flying from our Canadian city to Seattle through Chicago. The flights over went well, but on the flight back we were on a smallish regional jet getting ready to take off when the flight attendants thought they smelled chemical burning. The pilot came back and checked, and he got a big ‘ole wiff of something smelly. Thinking it was the chemical oxygen generators (which are a big issue if they just go off on their own), we pulled back into the gate, deplaned everyone, and had to figure out what was going on. We got in a big line to find alternate flights that processed about 2 people every half hour, so after an hour of standing around doing nothing, they announce the flight is back on and we all get back on.

The pilot reported that the smelly smell had been identified, and we just had to wait for security clear us. Since even though it wasn’t a security incident, they still had to have security clear us. Because of reasons. Eventually we take off and I overheard the flight attendants talking about the source of the smell. What was it?


Montreal was fairly accurately billed beforehand, and we had a lot of fun in the city despite all of the attractions being closed one of the days we were there. It was mostly our fault for planning the outside day when the attractions were open, and planning an inside day when the attractions were closed. I’d definitely go back.

Ottawa was a city we wish we spent an extra day there. It had lots of museums and government buildings to see and do, and turned out to be a fun time.

Toronto was ultimately disappointing: it was a rather generic large city without a lot of unique things to see and do. It could be a rather sterile alternative to NYC if you dislike smelling hot garbage all the time and don’t mind a crappier metro. We could have easily shifted the second full day in Toronto to Ottawa and had a much better time.


Creative Commons, Photos, and Me

Back in High School, I briefly flirted with the idea of trying to do something professional with photography. Luckily, I quickly realized this was a fairly terrible idea and decided to focus on cultivating it as a fun hobby that let me pretend I was creative while wielding massive pieces of glass and metal around like a modern-day warlord.

Eventually the whole concept of Flickr and publishing photos online appeared, and I was like woah now here’s how I can publish photos super easily! This is great! And soon the sticky issue of licensing my works appeared. Did I want them to be locked down and deny everyone the chance to reuse my photographs on the off chance some Generic Megacorp wanted to use it and pay me enough money to buy an abandoned missile silo deep in Eastern Washington? Turns out the answer was “YES” while in college. And that plan didn’t work out so well.


Instead I decided to license everything under Creative Commons Attribution 2 (CC BY 2.0). It’s a swell way to share your work with everyone (including businesses!) and try to make the world a better place. Or at least one that’s slightly more free (as in speech. And beer too, I guess). A side benefit of this is that you can see all of the odd places online where your photos were used by googling your Flickr handle. Crosscut liked a picture of some Ghost Highways. NPR in Northern Colorado thought some library pictures were swell.

If you’re into seeing your work show up in new and exciting places, Geotagging, manual tags, and full-resolution uploads are the way to go. Let’s be real here: this is how everyone searches for photos on Flickr.

So if you have a surplus of images that you ain’t doin’ nothing with and want to maybe have it be useful to others, license it with some form of Creative Commons! Flickr makes it super easy to do, and you have plenty of different licenses to choose from, including options as to how derivatives are handled and if commercial enterprises can use the photos.