Avengers Infinity War – Review (Spoilers)

I put “spoilers” in the title, but they’re probably pretty mild.  Honestly, I need to see this movie a second time to really take it in.  There’s a lot going on here.

I'm pretty sure this is an accurate representation of Thanos' Gauntlet.
I’m pretty sure this is an accurate representation of Thanos’ Gauntlet.

I liked the movie.  Quite a bit more than I expected to, honestly.  What I expected was a mostly coherent movie with all of the established movie characters on screen thrown together.  What we got instead was a very coherent movie with all of these characters on screen, but they were put together in a very logical manner.  What I thought worked very well for it was that it featured the cosmic players primarily (i.e. Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, Dr. Strange to an extent), with Earth’s heroes crossing over.

Essentially, similarly to how Captain America: Civil War was basically an Avengers movie, Avengers: Infinity War was basically a Guardians of the Galaxy movie.  This makes sense to me, because the villain (Thanos) is cosmic in scale, so it follows that we would be dealing with characters that operate on a cosmic scale.  It’s rather interesting to me that Earth is only important in that two of the stones are there, but it’s not important enough that Thanos personally wants to go there until the very end (he sends his “children” to go get the stones).

Some pieces of the movie I didn’t completely like.  The part at the beginning with Vision trying to pass as a human in a relationship with Wanda was interesting, but I feel like we jumped quite a bit from his attempts at domesticity in Civil War to being in love with Wanda here in Infinity War.  I was told about a Vision comic book story line recently where he tries to start a family, so I guess that’s where this came from in the movie.  All of the other characters seemed to have made logical progresses, but this one was a big leap.

I also didn’t completely like Banner in this one.  I hope that there is a logical reasoning for sidelining the Hulk (I wonder if it’s possible they’re going to split him into two characters?  I think that’s a thing that happens in the comics) in part two of Infinity War.

One last nitpick – Infinity War seemed to undo a lot of what happened in Thor: Ragnarok.  In that movie, Thor discovers – he doesn’t really need the hammer.  He loses an eye.  In Infinity War, he regains an eye (comically stolen by Rocket) and gets a big axe.  Now that I think about it, looking at The Hulk and Thor specifically, a lot of Ragnarok’s work is reversed with Infinity War, for some reason.

Overall, I appreciate how Marvel has really widened the scope of its movies over the years since the first phase: we started with individual hero movies, with only secondary characters overlapping (Fury, Coulson), leading up to the big collaboration movie: The Avengers.  That was The Big Event movie.  While each individual film dealt with mostly Earth-bound villains, The Avengers was the first to open up the Earth to Space (well, technically I guess Thor did that first).

Then they slowly started building up the universe – crossing characters over in The Winter Soldier, and then the larger cast in Civil War.  There are still some isolated movies, like Black Panther and Ant-Man movies (and presumably, the upcoming Captain Marvel movie) but I don’t think there will be many more ‘primary character only’ movies with the OG Avengers.

I can’t think of much more interesting things to say about Infinity War without watching it again.  I highly recommend you listen to these podcasts, which go much more in-depth than I ever could:

And, I haven’t listened to it yet, but Make Dad Read Comics did an episode about the comic for which this movie is based on, The Infinity Gauntlet, if you’re interested in some background comic information.

 

Anela & The Early Hours – Yesteryear

Originally posted on Alternative Airwaves

I received this email submission back in June 2017; so right off the bat, a slap on the hand to me for not getting to the review until now, nearly a year later. Yesteryear by Anela & The Early Hours Anela & The Early Hours is an indie pop group out of London, Ontario.  Yesteryear is their debut album; here are some of my thoughts about it. Right off the top, I have to be honest and say that this album did not "wow" me.  I feel that it is a solid, well-produced album, but it doesn't stand out as something special to me.  That said, I would still recommend giving this album a listen. Like I said, it sounds well-produced.  It's "radio ready", in the sense that it sounds good over my speakers and headphones - the sound isn't too flat or anything like that.  Guitar work in the 7 tracks is delicate but has a presence, and the drums have a certain "pop" to it.  I like lead singer Anela Navarro's voice, though it doesn't fluctuate through very much range (however it sounds like she potentially has a wide vocal range in her if she chose to use it). Singles from the album include "Space" and "All Alone", for which there are some YouTube videos you can watch: here and here.  The stand-out track for me though was "Stuck With You" - I liked that one the best. Overall, "Yesteryear" is a good album and I recommend it.  3/5.  You can purchase it from iTunes, or stream it on Spotify/Soundcloud/Bandcamp (link above).

Data Dump

Back in March, I got a Samsung Gear S3 smart watch to replace my FitBit Charge 2.  I’ve been doing a lot more tracking, etc. with it than I ever did with my FitBit.  But until now, I haven’t really looked at the data.  Well, now’s my chance.  Here’s all of the health data I’ve recorded.

Sleep

My data actually goes back to January – I assume that some data got imported when I did some syncs with different apps.  Here are my average sleep times for each month:

  • January – 7 hrs 26 mins
  • February – 7 hrs 47 mins
  • March – 7 hrs 56 mins
  • April – 7 hrs 0 mins
  • May (to date) – 7 hrs 2 mins

My average sleep efficiency recorded for April/May was 90%.  I’m not actually quite sure what “sleep efficiency” is, and whether or not that was a metric that Samsung came up with.  It turns out, it’s an actual number you can figure out yourself.  Here’s how verywellhealth.com defines it:

Sleep efficiency is the ratio of the total time spent asleep (total sleep time) in a night compared to the total amount of time spent in bed. For example, if a man spends 8 hours in bed on a given night, but only actually sleeps for four of those hours, his sleep efficiency for that evening would be 50% (four divided by eight multiplied by 100 percent).

So it looks like I’ve been sleeping pretty well, on average.

Steps

  • March – 8112 average daily steps; average distance 6.07km
  • April – 8247 average daily steps; average distance 5.63km
  • May (to date) – 8813 average daily steps; average distance 5.92km

I seem to be fairly consistent with the average daily steps.  My goal is 10,200 currently, and I’ve hit that 18 times (according to my ‘badge’ list – the last time I hit it was this past Monday).  The most steps I’ve walked to date was March 14th, when I hit 16,838 steps.  The previous record before that was 13,392.

Exercise

  • March – 99 average active minutes
  • April – 103 average active minutes
  • May (to date) – 115 average active minutes

You can tell that I’ve been more active as the weather gets better.

Heart Rate

  • March – 46 bpm Minimum | 68 bpm Average | 200 bpm Maximum
  • April – 45 bpm Minimum | 67 bpm Average | 171 bpm Maximum
  • May (to date) – 49 bpm Minimum | 69 bpm Average | 177 bpm Maximum

I’m not sure how to analyze this data, to be honest.  Is that good?  Bad?  Looking at the average, specifically; I figure that the minimums/maximums will probably be outliers anyway (and the max would be recorded during exercise).

I did some brief research, and found a formula for figuring out targets for training at least.   Using that formula, my max heart rate should be 186-188.  So it looks like except for March, I’m well within that range and have some room to work harder.  I found a Livestrong article that suggests 60 to 100 bpm is “normal” for ages 10 and up.

So there you have it.  I’m interested to see how my numbers compare for June/July/August.  I anticipate that my steps / exercise will probably increase vs the comparable numbers for March/April/May.  I think that it would be realistic to shoot for a 65 bpm average as well.

Timing

Recently I posted about some goals I had and one of them was to fix my swing for softball. I think in my head I had some ideas about changing my mechanics and maybe swinging up at the ball, or something like that. In my head I was going to hit home runs, probably.

I didn’t put any thought or practice to this other than just going up to the plate and start swinging.  I went to one practice a couple of Fridays ago, and that’s where I started to work on it.  My first step to everything was to just ease into swinging – I haven’t swung a bat all Fall/Winter, and judging by how sore I’ve been the last week, my muscles are geared toward curling, not softball (and especially not running).  This part was easy – I think I would score 100% on “taking it easy” in the first practice.

But the results weren’t great.  Mostly a lot of weak hits, a lot of opposite field, a lot of foul balls.  Fast forward to the first two games and I hit a heck of a lot of little ground ball dribblers.  I couldn’t tell you for sure but it felt like I was either just on top or just below the ball with the bat.  I definitely wasn’t making solid contact.

We had another practice this past Saturday.  I came in with a specific focus: I needed to fix my swing.  I spent a bit of time watching everyone else hit, until finally I took my turn up to bat.  I know you should always practice the way you want to play, but since I wanted to hit a lot of balls, I was going to swing at everything.  In a game, I probably want to avoid the “bad” pitches, but I’m also not going to get nearly as many pitches as I would in practice.

Making the decision to swing at everything was my first step to fixing my swing.  The second step was again to just ease into it – I wasn’t concerned about how far I was hitting the ball, I just wanted to make solid contact.  I made sure to take some practice swings, remaining cognizant of my wrist positioning and keeping the bat level, and not “swooping” it up.

When I first got to the plate, I had a sudden realization: I was waiting too long to start my swing.  For two seasons I’ve been going opposite field, and had many weak grounders (because I was on top of the ball, usually).  All because I was swinging late.  With that in mind – and the decision that I was swinging at everything – I just started my swing a little earlier than I had been, and not waiting on it to see where it would end up across the plate.

And I was hitting everything.  Solid contact across the board.  Some hits were a little shorter than others – probably due to the height of the ball across the plate more than anything.  But I had some real good, solid line drives.  I hit to the fence (including the top of the fence), to the warning track.  You name it.  No home runs but I wasn’t worried about that.  I was also pulling everything again, something I hadn’t done in a long time.

I was really excited after my at-bat.  At the time of writing I haven’t played yet – I will add an update before posting though.  I’m not sure how I’m going to approach the in-game situation – I don’t necessarily want to swing at everything.  But I know at least that I can’t decide too late for my swings.


Game update:

I think I hit 3/6 or something like that across two games.  I didn’t have everything going too well in the first game, but the second game was a marked improvement.  My last hit in the 2nd game was a grounder up the right side because I decided too late to start my swing.  However – I would rather be able to change which side I hit based on timing, rather than making it obvious and shifting my body.

All in all, a good week of softball!

Project: Scan CD Barcode & Play in Spotify – Part Two

Read up on Part One before continuing on – otherwise this post makes no sense.  Why are you reading it out of order?


Day Four – Things Are Working

You’ll remember at the end of Day Three I was getting frustrated with how things were working out, and that I might need to head to a different direction.  In fact, in the intervening days between pausing the project, moving to a new house, and continuing today (Tuesday), I even came across ANOTHER option that might even take all the hard work away from me:

Lifehacker: Stream a Vinyl Album By Snapping a Pic of Its Cover Art With This App

I think this project sounds awesome and is probably a better implementation of what I want to do, but at this point it’s merely a back-up option that I’m going to hold onto.

So I know for sure that using the “auto input” option (described in Day Three) definitely works – but to me that’s very clunky and goes against the entire point of what I’m trying to do with this project.  I did some extra digging and found a barcode for Maroon 5’s Red Pill Blues album (Best Buy is very handy with listing EAN barcode numbers, it turns out).

I went back to AutoSpotify and figured out how to get it to search and return results properly.  I fiddled around briefly with broadcasting intents, and they worked to some extent – but not the way I wanted.

In the end I realized there was a “play media” function with AutoSpotify that I wasn’t leveraging before.  I was able to play the album directly from the URL (obtained from the AutoSpotify Search).

Just to drive the point home, I want to say again – it worked.  I took the barcode from the album (Red Pill Blues), searched the EAN database for the name, plugged the name into a search of Spotify’s database, and then automatically played the album.

I haven’t tested it fully with the barcode scan – that’s next.  But just a quick summary again of the apps I needed to make this work:

  • Tasker
  • AutoTools (JSON Read)
  • AutoSpotify (Search & Play Media)
  • Also need an EAN Database API login (free version)

Full barcode test is next.


Day Five – Putting It All Together (Again)

Finally, it all came together!  I grabbed some CDs from my collection.  Only one of them worked – The Sheepdogs’ Learn & Burn.  That’s okay – I fully expect some of these scans not to return any information (or the correct information).

The ultimate point is that I was able to scan a barcode, look up the album name in Spotify, and play it automatically.  It took me a while to get there, but I’ve got it all set now.

I think the next step will be to add some checks – for example, if it can’t find product information, tell me so that I can decide to try to look it up via image search (the one I mentioned from Day Four).  That type of thing.  Make it a little smarter.

Anyway, if you want a copy of the task (assuming you have Android, and all of the required apps / plugins), let me know and I’ll make it available after I clean it up.

Project Time: Scan CD Barcode & Play in Spotify

It’s been a long time since I’ve started a fun tech project.  I’m not too hands-on when it comes to the hardware, but I like dabbling in the software side of things.  Without further ado, here’s what I’m trying to accomplish, in a nutshell:

Using my phone (or a tablet, that works too), scan a CD barcode and play it in Spotify (or whatever music app I happen to be subscribed to at the time).

This post is being written as I walk through the project.  There are quite a few pieces involved in getting it to work, and I’m piecing it together one at a time.


Day One – Gathering Materials & Initial Tests

This is where I figure out what it is that I need to make this thing work.  As far as I can tell, this is what I’ll need:

The first test I came up with was to figure out how to trigger everything in the first place.  I found this handy Reddit post that used a different method to scan barcodes as a starting off point.  To save you a click though, I’m triggering the task by launching when the Barcode Scanner app is open AND the clipboard is set (that’s how the app works – it copies the barcode to the clipboard).

In the task itself, I want to look up the barcode information.  Apparently you can do this using EAN, which stands for International Article Number (it was originally European, hence the “E”).  Autoweb has a web service to look up product info from the EAN database, which is perfect! So in Tasker, I am sending the barcode (which is stored in the clipboard at this point) to the EAN database, which returns a bunch of different results from product name, description, category, etc.  Well, as long as all that information is in the database, that is.

Grand & Toy Highlighter
Grand & Toy Highlighter

I tested it with the closest object I could find with a barcode – a Grand & Toy highlighter (pictured).  Unfortunately that test didn’t give me any meaningful results, so I had to test something else.  I tried a bag of chips (it was free – technically expired, from the vending machine) and still, nothing came up.  I seem to be doing something wrong.  I think the rest of Day One will be spent trying to figure this out.

So I figured it out with a different method.  I couldn’t figure out how to use the Autoweb API action, so I decided to just eliminate that variable and use an Autotools JSON Read (you can view a tutorial here).  In conjunction with the JSON Editor Online (link), I figured out how to get Tasker to display the information I needed.  After some fiddling, success!  “Roundedge Yellow Highlighter” (incidentally the EAN entry for Grand & Toy has the company name entered as “Grand & Tory”).

Now that I’ve got this basic, most important part of the process figured out, I can now start scanning CDs to see what information comes up in the JSON file and look up via Spotify.

I’m having mixed results – my personal CD collection is packed away right now, so I’m using my parents’ collection to test.  I got a positive match for “Crazy for Gershwin”, but looking up the barcode for Gordon Lightfoot’s Gord’s Gold gave me the following product description:

Lorcos Cinnamon Orange Christmas Cat In A Boot Single Soap Bar 10.5 Oz. From France

So…this might not be the smoothest exercise, but it DOES work.  Sort of.  I count this as a success.


Day Two – Connecting with Spotify

Connecting to Spotify has been somewhat problematic.  While I’ve been able to read barcodes and get the album name, searching the Spotify database hasn’t been so easy.  I used the Tasker plugin AutoSpotify to run a search.  I think I’m just not clear on how the plugin works because no information would return to me.  None of my attempts to get the Spotify API in Autoweb to work either.

So that’s frustrating.  To top it off, randomly my “HTTP GET” action (the function that is reading the EAN database) is failing.

All said, things are not going as smoothly as I would like.


Day Three – Changing things up

I was getting frustrated on day two trying to get the Spotify automation to work.  So I decided to change things up and go back to methods I know have worked for me in the past.  Enter AutoInput; it’s another plugin that simulates and automates user input.

I created a test task with a pre-set search string.  It opens Spotify, clicks on the search icon, pastes the search string, and clicks on the top result.  For the two tests that I ran, I used “our lady peace clumsy” and “oasis what’s the story morning glory”.  In both cases the top result was the correct album.  So this part of the puzzle works fine.  The next step was to put the barcode read and the automated search function and put them together.

I’m not having very much luck.  I think the problem is that I’m sorely lacking in CDs to test with; I did one test at Wal-Mart, but came up with nothing.  I think if I had the CD in hand I might be able to see if it returned actual artist / album information as opposed to what I’ve been looking at (an amalgamation of the two on a greatest hits album – reportedly, greatest hits albums aren’t reliable for EAN scans).

Leaning more toward the much more manual intensive process of printing QR codes for each album. I’d rather not put that much work into it, however.


To Be Continued…

I’m going to put this project on hold for now.  The bones are there, I just don’t have the time or the materials present to continue testing.  There will definitely be a follow-up to this entry though!