Google can read my mind.

Google really blows me away sometimes, and I honestly feel like it (the search engine) can read my mind.  Logically I know that it learns based on my search history and browsing habits, but I’m still blown away by the results I get from daily use.

As an example, for some reason I was trying to think about a cartoon I watched when I was in high school or university.  I knew the title of it was in the back of my head somewhere – it had something to do with a “six”, and the lead character was a genetically engineered heroine (or a robot, I can’t recall exactly).  When I couldn’t think of the show name, I turned to Google.

teletoon cartoon about genetically modified heroine
teletoon cartoon about genetically modified heroine

So I typed “teletoon cartoon about genetically modified heroine” – because that’s the best way I could think of to describe the show.  I expected I might get some results at the top close to what I was looking for, but what absolutely surprised me was that the first result was exactly what I was looking for.

The Wikipedia entry for "Cybersix" was the first result!
The Wikipedia entry for “Cybersix” was the first result!

I’m not going to be talking about the show today, but I highly encourage you to read about it.  The point is, I was looking for the Wikipedia entry for this show, but I couldn’t remember the name for the life of me.  Based on that vague search term I was able to find exactly what I was looking for.

I’ve done this with other search terms too.  I can’t remember them all right now, but the result is the same: I type in some broad search terms, indicating about as much as I can remember, and Google is able to serve up what I’m looking for.  Sometimes it’s not perfect, but more often than not it works.

The point I’m trying to make is that I’ve discovered today (and during the process of setting up this blog) that keywords are really important online if you want to get your stuff found.  It’s basic knowledge, but it still surprises me every day.  I can’t wait until Google’s Assistant is fully baked into my phone, instead of just on Allo.

2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts

I’ve gotten into curling a lot more in the past few years than I had been in the past; sure I watched the Scotties and the Brier, but not actively and not really understanding the strategy behind the shots.  I still don’t make the time to watch the games all the time, but I try to make sure to watch all of the big games.

This year’s Gold Medal game was a rematch between Manitoba (Englot) and Ontario (Homan); Manitoba had won their previous two matches (1 round robin, the 1 vs 2 page playoff game), making an otherwise perfect Ontario team look deeply flawed.  They forced them off their game and made some pretty good shots in their own right.  It was shaping up to be a great final.

And trust me, it was a fantastic match-up.  It started off pretty much text-book for Homan: they started the game without hammer (last rock), so they forced Manitoba to take a single point.  They took 3 points in a brilliant shot, and forced another point to take the hammer back.  It was looking pretty good, but there were some mistakes made, and resulted in a tie game after the 7th end.

What struck me is that both teams made more or less equal amounts of mistakes, but at any one point one of the team members pulled off a shot to save the end.  It was really great to watch, even if it was nail biting.

It ended up going to extra ends, and Homan had to make a really difficult shot to secure the win.  It’s hard to describe – so you should watch the highlight reel instead.  Be sure to watch for the broom flip at the end.   I am 99% sure that this was inspired by the likes of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

The full game (and all of the Scotties matches) should be available on Curling Canada’s YouTube channel soon.  Until then, whet your appetite with Manitoba vs Canada 1 vs 2 page playoff.

 

Filmspotting Madness 2017: Pantheon Challenge

One of the long running podcasts I listen to is Filmspotting. The brief summary is that two hosts review films, but that’s not germane to this post.

In the past few years, they’ve run what’s known as Filmspotting Madness, their take on the popular March Madness NCAA Basketball tournament. They’ve pit actors, directors, and films against each other to determine the last one standing. I don’t normally take part, but this year I will.

This year, they are putting movies that are in the Pantheon against each other. The Pantheon is basically the “hall of fame” of movies for Filmspotting. 

There are some pretty tough choices in the brackets, and some of them are Oscar Best Picture winners too (oh yeah, that’s on tonight!). It might even inspire a movie night playlist if you’re not a fan of watching the Oscars. 

The NHL – 2016 Mirror Universe

I recently found a free hockey simulator called “Hockey GM“, which is an off-shoot of Baseball GM, which itself is an offshoot of Basketball GM.  It’s a fun text-based simulator where you run a team, and control everything from ticket prices to player movement.  I uploaded a fan-created NHL database to Hockey GM, and ran the Ottawa Senators for the first season.  Here’s what unfolded in this mirror universe!


The season started on a sour note for the Ottawa Senators, playing to a 2-5-3 record after 10 games.  In those games, the Sens allowed 36 goals while scoring only 18.  The worst loss in that stretch was a 7-0 thumping at the hands of Colorado Avalanche.

After 35 games, the Senators sat with a record of 10-18-7, good for 27 points and last in the NHL overall.  That 35-game stretch included a 10-game winless streak, which started with the 7-0 loss in Colorado, that wasn’t snapped until a close 2-1 victory against the Florida Panthers.  Craig Anderson made a solid 21 saves to earn the victory, while Ryan Dzingel and Zack Smith picked up the goals for Ottawa.

While Ottawa hoped the victory would be a turning point in the season, they continued their poor play going into the half-way mark of the season to sit with a record of 13-19-9.  Still last in the Atlantic Division, but at least 3 points up on top of the New York Rangers for second last in the Eastern Conference.

In the end, the Sens finished with a record of 34-35-13, good for 7th in the Atlantic Division / 11th in the Eastern Conference.  They did NOT make the playoffs, though they did hold the 8th spot for a few games as they climbed their way back to respectability.

Unfortunately for the Senators, Craig Anderson decided to retire so the priority for 2017 is to find a new number one goaltender.

Team Leaders:
– Points – Erik Karlsson – 66 (37G-29A)
– Goals – Erik Karlsson – 37 (Finished 10th in scoring)
– Assists – Mark Stone – 40 (25G-40A-65P)

Some individual game stats of note:
– Mark Stone scored 4 goals and Derek Brassard had 3 assists in a 6-3 win over the Minnesota Wild
– Erik Karlsson scored 3 goals in a 4-3 OT win over the Nashville Predators
– Mike Hoffman and Erik Karlsson each had 3 assists in a 6-5 OT loss to the Montreal Canadiens
– Erik Karlsson scored 3 goals in a 6-5 win over the Minnesota Wild

Awards:
Stanley Cup Champions: Dallas Stars
Playoffs MVP: Tyler Seguin (DAL) (10G-12A)
Best Record – East – Pittsburgh Penguins (60-18-4)
Best Record – West – Chicago Blackhawks (53-24-5)
Regular Season MVP: Ryan Getzlaf (ANA) (65G-39A)
Defensive Player of the year: Erik Karlsson (OTT) (279 Hits, 337 Blocks)
Goalie of the year: Braden Holtby (WAS)
Rookie of the Year: Connor McDavid (EDM) (43G-32A)

Notable Retirements (* Demptes players named to Hall of Fame)
Jaromir Jagr*
Joe Thornton*
Roberto Luongo*
Vernon Fiddler*
Chris Neil
Henrik Sedin
Craig Anderson

Podcast Subscription Post

I almost labelled this as the “Monthly Podcast Subscription Post” but thought better of it.  I’d like to have this as a regular feature on the blog, but I don’t know yet if it’s going to be monthly or maybe less frequent.  Either way, I think the format may change, but you’re going to see this kind of post pop up more than once!

I subscribe and listen to a lot of podcasts.  Usually, I don’t have the time to listen to more than a few in a day, so I tend to be pretty picky when it comes to adding or dropping shows.  I have no problem trying out new shows if I like the description or it comes recommended, but I quickly drop shows from my rotation if it doesn’t “do it” for me.

These posts won’t have much info added to them, with the exception of new subscriptions & dropped subscriptions.  For those, I’ve got a brief write-up of why I added / dropped the subscription.

With that said, here’s my current subscription list, pulled from my OPML file in Pocket Casts:

Active Subscriptions
(Podcasts with an episode in the last 90 days)

  • Cynical Cartoons
  • Overthinking It
  • Filmspotting
  • Toronto Blue Jays Podcast
  • Harry Potter and the Sacred Text
  • A Cast of Kings
  • Make Dad Read Comics
  • Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast
  • The Night Time Podcast
  • CBC Radio 3 Podcast
  • Writing Excuses
  • Mission Log: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast
  • Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder
  • A STORM OF SPOILERS
  • Hokey Religion: The Star Wars Podcast
  • The Benchcast
  • Missing & Murdered: Who Killed Alberta Williams?
  • Sens Callups
  • Almost Educational
  • Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin
  • Good Job, Brain!
  • Transporter Room 3: The Star Trek Podcast
  • Under the Influence
  • Anthology – The Twilight Zone and Classic Sci-Fi
  • Birds All Day
  • Polaris Podcast

New Subscriptions

  • Side Hustle School
    • Why I added it: I’m skeptical of this one but the subject matter is something I’m interested in: “A daily show for everyone who works a regular job and wants to start an income – earning project on the side . In each episode , listeners will hear a different story of someone who ‘s started a side hustle – along with what went well , how that person overcame challenges , and what happened as a result . The show is written and hosted by Chris Guillebeau , the New York Times bestselling author of The $ 100 Startup , The Happiness of Pursuit , and other books.” 
  • Twenty Thousand Hertz
    • Why I added it: this was based on description alone.  It sounds like it’s a podcast about Sound Design, something that is inherently COOL: “You may not think about the sounds you hear every day but somebody has . The voice in your phone the effects in your video games that drum machine in your favorite song There are people – and stories – behind every one of them . Join your host , Dallas Taylor , on an exploration of the stories behind the world ‘s most recognizable and interesting sounds.”
  • The Pitch
    • Why I added it: based on the description, I figured I’d give it a try. After all I like Shark Tank / Dragon’s Den a little: “A show where entrepreneurs pitch investors for funding Like Shark Tank , but smarter”
  • Steele Wars : Star Wars Podcast
    • Why I added it: Steele has appeared a few times on Plumbing The Death Star and I wanted to add some more SW content to my list.

Dropped Subscriptions

  • Beware & Warning
    • Why I dropped it: The humour just wasn’t for me.  I felt that the length of the shows was also too long for what I wanted from the episodes. I respect the work they do but it’s just not a show for me.

Inactive Subscriptions
(I haven’t declared these “dead” yet…)

  • Eric and the Legion
  • Radio Free Burrito
  • The Adam Sandcast
  • The 6th Sens Podcast
  • Rathole Radio
  • TV CRIMES
  • Memories of the Futurecast
  • Days of Old

Archie Comics

I recently got turned back onto Archie comics when I decided to dive into Jughead, which is currently being written by Ryan North (of Dinosaur Comics).  I’ve only read the first two issues (this part of the run currently by Chip Zdarsky) but it’s fantastic. Very reminiscent of the classic Archie comics I remember reading. 

So I think I’m going to start picking up the Archie digest comics every now and then. My brothers and I used to read them ALL the time when we were kids. In fact, I’ve been meaning to pick up our old collection again next time I’m at my parents house. 

The greatest thing about these comics is that they’re easy to read through, and are funny no matter how old you are.  And I don’t think the humour has changed in the over 75 years the comic has been around. I love that each writer keeps the same overall style while brining their own flair to the series. 

I just found a book that must be from 2008 or so. It’s things like this panel that crack me up every time. 

Who knew Archie comics had this wonderful invention built into their books this whole time?
Who knew Archie comics had this wonderful invention built into their books this whole time?

I’ll do a full review post of the Jughead run once I finish it. But spoiler alert – it’s fantastic and you should read it. 

The Connectome

I was listening to the official Star Trek podcast (as you do) the other day, and there was an episode that featured Morgan Gendel, the writer of The Next Generation classic episode The Inner Light, to discuss the episode and various topics.  The whole episode was interesting, but he was particularly focused on what’s known as the Connectome.

Here’s a description of the Connectome, from Wikipedia:

A connectome is a comprehensive map of neural connections in the brain, and may be thought of as its “wiring diagram”. More broadly, a connectome would include the mapping of all neural connections within an organism’s nervous system.

The study of the connectome was described in the podcast as akin to mapping the human genome.  Basically, understanding this aspect of the human brain would be HUGE in terms of understanding how we work, and also in adapting technology to fit our needs.  I won’t go into all of the specifics and ruin it for you, but some of the ideas broached in the episode with Gendel and Hoffman talk about some really cool, and also slightly terrifying, things that could theoretically be done with an understanding of the connectome.

If you’re not into Star Trek, just ignore some of the trappings of the episode and focus on the interview.  It’s really good, and is a good way to kill an hour while you’re at work or commuting.

My Personal Comics Renaissance

I was never a huge comic book reader when I was younger.  In fact, minus a few issues that have fallen apart or I’ve given away, I still have all of the books I’ve ever owned since my days as a youth.  Spoiler alert: that’s not very many comics.  The point here is that I didn’t have a large collection, and definitely wasn’t using my allowance to buy a new comic book every week or month.

I remember liking the idea of super heroes – Spider-Man specifically – but I don’t know how I got into that kind of thing, or how I ever first realized I “knew” Peter Parker’s origin story.  I guess it’s just one of those things that gets ingrained into popular culture that we’re aware of all the time.

I added to my collection when I was in high school, a little bit, when I found some cool Star Wars comics that I enjoyed.  Still not on the ground floor of when Star Wars came back into pop culture either – I was still more into the novels than the comic books.

But recently after discovering podcasts like Make Dad Read Comics, I’ve been getting more into comic books.  Some of them are pure indulgence (such as Civil War) but I’ve been largely more judicial in choosing comic books to read.  I’m not extremely interested in the super-hero genre, but tend to gravitate more toward the “literary” comic book.  More independent stuff.  I’m not counting Vader in that category, mind you.

But I also used to read web comics all of the time.  This is one area I’ve struggled to get back into, and I don’t know why.  Web comics are basically like news paper comics, but there are some really good ones out there that deserve attention.  Unfortunately I’m having to discover that all over again.  Dinosaur Comics is perennially my favourite, but I can’t say I can name others right now.

I think my personal renaissance stems from there being more choice these days.  The quality is also higher than what I remember as a youth – even 15 years ago, the quality was not as good as it is today.  I think it’s amazing what some people are able to come up with, and I’m always in awe of what people are able to draw.

Got any good comic recommendations?  Web or otherwise?

Vader Omnibus – Volume 1 Review

I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Vader comic book series, and it was recently recommended to me by Patrick of Make Dad Read Comics to read it – I had a $50 gift card burning a hole in my pocket so I finally picked up the first 12 issues, collected in Vader Omnibus – Volume 1.

If you haven’t come across this comic book before, the general idea behind it is that it follows Vader’s antics immediately after the destruction of the first Death Star.  It joins the long standing tradition of comics and novels filling in the space in between films, which I can always get behind.

I finally finished the book over the weekend, and I can say that I really enjoyed it.  One of the interesting things that it does is knock Vader down several notches.  He’s somewhere in between his status in A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back; he’s still taking orders from other Imperial officers (Tagge, this time), but isn’t quite as fearsome as he appears in ESB.

What’s interesting is that the Emperor is really displeased with Vader in this comic series.  The destruction of the Death Star at the end of A New Hope is a big failure for the Empire, and for Vader in particular.  At this stage in the comics, Vader must really prove himself to the Emperor again, while being placed under the supervision of an Imperial officer.  What results is Vader taking it upon himself to gather his own covert forces to track down Luke Skywalker.

There are several cool flashback moments in the comic that re-contextualize Vader a little bit.  It made me realize that he was probably thinking of his past at a few different points in the movies, even though the prequel trilogy came much later.   But the real highlight of these first 12 books are Captain Aphra and her droid factory (I’m hit or miss on Triple-0 and BT but more on the hit side than miss).  I just found out today that she’s going to have her own comic book series – and I think I want to check it out.

I would gush more, but I need to give this another read through.  Especially since I also just learned that the second volume is coming out Feb 28th, so I have another book to pick up soon.  Suffice it to say that the Vader series is well-written, well-drawn, and is fun to read through.  I definitely recommend it!

I really want to meet Robert Picardo and Ethan Phillips

This is going to be largely another podcast recommendation, but if I’m ever asked what celebrity I’d most like to meet, it’d be Robert Picardo and Ethan Phillips, together in the same room.  Those two are downright funny, and also (mostly) down to earth.

Apparently they know each other quite well since starring together on Star Trek: Voyager, and have crossed paths several times.  I learned today that both Picardo and Phillips were cast in Cowen Brothers movies – and I specifically want to seek out Inside LLewyn Davis now.

I would definitely want to meet both of them, but if I had to choose, probably Robert Picardo.  Anyway, if you want to hear some proof of their genius together (and apart), have a listen to some episodes from Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast.  I’ve listed them in order of newest to oldest.  Don’t worry, inside jokes are kept to a minimum.