Goals For 2017

open-road-757949_1280Cloudy Open Road – Original photo: https://pixabay.com/p-757949/?no_redirect

I hesitate to make these kinds of posts because then it (technically) means I need to publicly follow up on them.  But I recognized that I didn’t actually set any goals for myself this year, so in search of content, this seems to be a good place and time to set them.

  1. Remain organized.
    Sometime over a year and a half ago, I started a Bullet Journal because I needed a way to become organized – something that I couldn’t figure out digitally despite all the available tools.  I’ve found the Bullet Journal system to be amazingly helpful, and have molded it to be useful particularly to me.  My first journal is almost complete, so the goal this year is to just keep it up.  I’m not worried about adding complexities to it, but will probably change things up a bit in my new book.
  2. Be a positive example.
    Too often we are quick to complain and vent on social media.  This isn’t something I do a lot, but am completely guilty of it from time to time.  The reason this came to mind – last week I had a poor experience at a fast food restaurant, and considered posting about it in comparison to my experiences working in fast food.  I decided not to.  I want to be more willing to forgive, and be more patient, putting things in perspective.  If I’m driven enough to complain, then I should go through official channels and do so (such as company surveys, etc.).
  3. Lose the weight.
    This one is simple.  I lost quite a bit of weight in the past, but I’ve put it back on.  The goal is to take it off, and keep it off.  This will always be a struggle.
  4. Learn more about driving social media engagement.
    I’d like to get more engagement from social media for both my podcast and this blog.  My goal for this blog specifically is to get people reading my stuff and talking to me / asking questions.
  5. Write more.
    This is the general purpose of this blog.  There will be some things I’ll write that won’t see the light of day on the blog, because I write them in a notebook, but I’ll do my best to transpose anything that I don’t type to this space.  Currently I am posting something at least once every day, and I’m a day ahead.  That won’t last forever – there will be some days that will have either really short entries or no entries.  Just trying to maintain momentum right now.
  6. Read more.
    Technically speaking, I met my reading goal last year according to Goodreads.  Great, but I’ve been stuck reading the same book since April of last year.  Yikes.  So most of the “read more” goal is more about making time to read, rather than just reading more.

Follow-up on these items will take place quarterly – next update being sometime in April.  Heck, let’s mark it.  April 18th, 2017.  I’ll start a draft post as a reminder.

Next Generation Memories

I mentioned in a previous post the Mission Log Podcast; currently they’re covering THE NEXT GENERATION (and in a recent episode, indicated they should be getting to the movies in about a year).  It got me thinking about the episodes I remember most fondly compared to the episodes that I appreciate today.

I don’t clearly remember too many episodes from the first three seasons of TNG; in fact I’m pretty sure I never watched season 1’s first run on a regular basis – though I think I can remember an episode where Klingons escaped from the brig by taking their uniform apart.  Beyond that, I couldn’t tell you what happened in that episode.  Season 2 is a bit spotty for me as well, but I remember some bits like Elementary, Dear Data and The Big Goodbye (and my memory fails me even now – I just remembered that’s a season 1 episode!).

Season 3 is a little clearer – I still don’t remember all of it (and that’s not surprising – it aired in the 1989-1990 season, so I would have been only 5 and 6 years old), but one of the standouts was Yesterday’s Enterprise, and of course The Best of Both Worlds.  Looking back at the episode list, some of them seem familiar in premise only.  I remember watching Geordi and a Romulan find their way off a stormy planet (The Enemy); Data builds a daughter (The Offspring); and the Ferengi kidnapping Riker and the Troi’s (Melange A Trois).  But watching season 3 in order revealed a lot of things I don’t remember seeing before.

I don’t think I have clear memories of TNG until Season 5 (Darmok being a favourite), but going back to my original point: the episodes I remember really liking were gimmicky shows.  Geordi and Ro are thought dead, but really they’re “phased”; Scotty comes back and drinks something green!  Worf fights a bunch of Datas in the Holodeck as a cowboy.  The crew of the Enterprise travel back in time to the early 20th century.  Data dreams of Troi as a cake.  Q takes Picard back to his academy days.  Stuff like that.

But it strikes me that I’ve learned to appreciate episodes like Family or The Inner Light more than I would have growing up.  I think these concepts would have gone straight over my head when I was younger, because I was more interested in the action-y bits.  But through my teenage to adult years, I became more interested in story and writing, which is why I got into DEEP SPACE NINE so heavily and it’s still my favourite series.  So I now appreciate those deeper TNG episodes.

But while some people contest that the gimmick shows don’t really hold up (and they don’t, as good stories or Star Trek), I still really like them.  I’m able to look past their flaws and still get a kick out of Geordi sending a Romulan through the window, even while asking “well why don’t their feet fall through the floor?”.

Controller Drop

There’s not much more satisfying than playing a really close-matched hockey game and coming out on top.

NHL 15 for PS3

This past weekend I played two of the better games I’ve had against the CPU player in my Be A GM Mode. The first was against Montreal. My team – Ottawa – is dead last in the Eastern Conference in March, so not much to play for. 

Before I continue, allow me to digress a bit. I’ve played EA’s NHL series since NHL 98 and this is the most challenging and realistic version I’ve played yet. In previous years, even the most difficult mode would become the easiest once you figured out the ins and outs of the game. I still haven’t moved up to the hardest level, because the CPU is actually challenging (and not because they get cheap goals, though that happens sometimes too). Which is why my team is last place in the East. 

Anyway, I traded most of my good players away for draft picks in order to improve my team through the draft. I knew I wouldn’t be able to outgun Montreal, so I played conservatively. The Canadiens scored early, but I was able to hold them to a 1 goal through 2. I tied the game and eventually took the lead, holding a one goal lead to the last minute when I scored an empty net goal to seal it. 

That game was so close even the shots were identical for both sides. It was a good match, and that made the win feel extra good. It’s after games like that when I just turn off the PS3 and do something else, because I sure as heck won’t top it.

A Star Wars Christmas

I have a bunch of Star Wars toys that I’ve collected over the years (and I have no shame in amditting that I still buy them), and this year I finally had a place to display them. So naturally I created a “Merry Christmas” photo for 2016.

A Star Wars Christmas
A Star Wars Christmas

I think next year I’ll try to get a little more creative with it, but in the meantime I have an idea for a Father’s Day photo shoot.
If anyone wants to add anything to this photo digitally – go for it!

Arrested Development Season 5?

I just read on Thursday that the full cast of Arrested Development has signed on for Season 5, an article that opened with:

““Arrested Development” fans, prepare yourselves: Season 5 is all but inevitable.”

OK, but do we really need another season?  It sounds like the producers are working hard to create a season that is a little more “organic” than the last season in 2013…the gist I get out of it is that it will likely end up being closer to the first three seasons in terms of scope, rather than the slightly disjointed season 4.

I liked season 4, but I understand why some people didn’t.  It had a very similar style to the original show, but deviated in that it was presented out of order with a lot of information purposefully withheld until the later episodes.  If you were expecting something identical to seasons 1-3, you’d be disappointed.

Frankly I thought it was smart to try something different.  I heard that there was an edit in the works that presented the series in chronological order, but based on the way it was filmed/edited originally, I’m not sure that’s even possible.  I think it might have been boring if it had used the same formula as the previous seasons.  In fact, I would have been happy if they ended it with season 3.  I certainly wasn’t disappointed with that ending.

I won’t be rushing to watch it but likely will if it’s a shorter season.  I think season 4 ended up being a bit on the long side.

Playing Photographer

I’ve always had a fascination with photography.  I can’t say whether it comes from my Dad taking pictures all the time while we were growing up, or if it’s just something I’m drawn to.  But it’s a thing I like to dabble in.

I’m limited by the equipment that I have, for the most part.  But I feel like I have a good eye for composing a nice shot.  The featured image is one that I really like.  I really wish I had the money for a nice camera, but photography can be an expensive hobby that I just don’t want to put money into.  So I do my research and read about how to take a good photo, using the equipment that I have.  Which right now is a Sony Cybershot DSC-H300, and my Samsung Galaxy S7 edge smartphone.

dsc00941
The Moon – I think this is the best I’ve ever captured the moon on camera.

I don’t think one camera is necessarily better than the other.  They certainly excel in different situations.  If I have the time to stop and compose a shot, the Sony DSC is my number one choice.  However, the S7 edge is way more portable, and is certainly capable of composing some great photos.  So most of my pictures are taken from my S7 edge.

The main difference is that the S7 edge provides a lot of tools to make good shots for you. For example, there are numerous plugins you can download for the Samsung Camera, including the awesome “Selective Focus” or “Portrait”.   Whereas with the Sony DSC-H300, I have to think about what I’m doing and make setting changes with a little more thought behind it.

I like to have the option to do both.  Like I said, my phone is inherently more portable than the Sony camera, and I almost always have it on me.  And I’ve taken some great pictures with it – the Pro mode is amazing.  But if I plan for it, I love playing with the Sony Cybershot.

20161126_140432
Woodpecker – I would never have captured this guy if not for my smartphone.

My favourite subject is always going to be the Moon.  Since learning how to manipulate the camera settings I’ve been getting better and better pictures of it.  One day…I’ll figure out shot composition and playing around with photoshop, etc. to make an amazing shot.

What’s your best photo / photo subject?

Podcasts For 2017

I consider podcasts to be one of my areas of expertise.  I’ve been listening to them for over 10 years, and have hosted one for almost as long.  I listen to podcasts almost every day, and subscribe to a lot of them – so I’m always adding or subtracting from my active subscriptions.

Here are three recommendations for 2017 – some of these are older and have been around for a while, and others are a little more recent.  I’m 99% sure that most of these will NOT show up in your typical Buzzfeed list of “most popular podcasts”.

  • The Night Time Podcast – This is a Canadian-produced show based on mysteries and other strange occurrences, mainly in Atlantic Canada, but also stories across the country.  Host Jordan Bonaparte has strong focus on The Curse of Oak Island and Emma Fillipoff and gets some good guests for discussion.  If you were ever a fan of ABC’s Unsolved Mysteries, you’ll like this one.  Can be rough around the edges but Jordan is growing into his hosting duties.
  • Harry Potter & The Sacred Text – OK, this one might show up in one of those “top 10 podcast” lists as it’s been gaining a lot of momentum since it launched sometime in 2016.  The hosts of this show aim to analyze and discuss the Harry Potter book as they would a religious text.  The result is some different view points while reading through the book that I may not have considered before.
  • Mission Log: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast – This is one that ends up on my lists all the time.  The mission statement is simple: the hosts watch each and every episode of Star Trek (including the animated series – they’re on TNG Season 5 right now), and discuss the morals, meanings, and messages presented.  You don’t need to watch the episodes alongside – they do a great recap – but I highly recommend it, because I know I’ve missed a lot of things I hadn’t noticed before when watching casually.

I subscribe to many more, but a lot of them are even more niche than the ones I recommended above.  If you want some more good ones, ask in the comments!

The No Format Blog

This is the No Format Blog.  It draws direct inspiration from the (unfortunately) now-defunct No Format Podcast.  What I liked about that podcast was that they felt free to explore whatever topic they wanted to discuss – movies, photography, technology – they weren’t limited to one single topic.

While that concept is hardly a novelty, there weren’t really very many podcasts like it when the show was updating regularly.  Still, they pulled off the concept a lot better than most “guys-around-a-mic” podcasts do in 2017.

But enough about them.  My name is Stephen (you can call me Steve too, I won’t complain).  I needed a place to just write about anything that interests me.  I’m not doing this for money or popularity; in fact my only hope is that people read it and interact.  If only 5 people do just that I’ll be happy.  But there isn’t one single topic that I want to focus on, so creating a blank slate was really helpful.

I’ve blogged before – in fact, I technically already have a blog space that I can do this with.  But I wanted to start fresh and try to build an audience without any preconceptions.

So what’s in store if you stick around and read my blog?  I have a wide variety of interests, but I bet the predominant topics will end up being about media in general (with an emphasis on podcasts, TV, and film), a little bit of photography, writing, Android-related stuff…that’s all that comes to mind off the top of my head.  There will probably be other things popping up.  I definitely want to throw in personal bias and experience in wherever possible.

But at the same time I recognize that I’m not a celebrity.  A random reader probably doesn’t care who I am or what I’m eating for breakfast – so you’re not likely to see that unless I really want to share a recipe with you.

Please be honest and feel free to criticize any writing I post here.  Challenge my views.  Or agree with me 100%.  All good.  As long as whoever is reading this gets some kind of satisfaction after doing so.

Thank you!

 


Steve

A Beautiful Weekend

When last I wrote, the Jays were heading into what was looked at as a pivotal series.  It was May 2nd, and the Jays were starting fresh after taking a series against Tampa Bay.  The Jays were 12-14, which was at the very least reverse of what was expected going into April.  It wouldn't surprise me if most fans were expecting to be 24-2 at the start of May.

The Jays ended up winning that series, but that's where the fun stopped.  After a fantastic opening game against LA, the Jays went on to lose 8 of their next 11 games - including a 5-game losing streak (oh, and there was a bench-clearing brawl in Texas, too).  The sky was falling, and fans were pushing the panic button as if they were waiting for an elevator car that just won't come.  That was a terrible simile, but you didn't pay to read this, did you?

But a trip to Minnesota brought a change to the lineup - Bautista leading off?  What sorcery is this?  But it seemed to work - since May 18th, the Jays have gone 7-3.  At the time of publication (Top of the 9th, vs the Yankees), this brings their record for May to 15-11, two outs away from making it 16-11.

The offense is starting to heat up - there's no questioning that.  The starting pitching faltered a little in the middle of the month, and the bullpen is still terrible.  I even heard talk today of moving Sanchez to the bullpen (please don't do that if we're not bringing a better starter).

But what I wanted to highlight was a fantastic series vs the Red Sox, May 27 - 29.  I was lucky enough to be able to witness the game on May 28th, which was a walk-off 10-9 win.  Why was I lucky?  I didn't get the game Ortiz sat out.  Bautista served his suspension the night before.  I got to see Big Papi hit one over the fence mere feet away, and the Blue Jays still won the game.  I saw a rare (this season anyway) Russel Martin home run.  I saw an absolutely fantastic walk-off single and celebration by Devon Travis.

But I think the best thing I saw?  Bautista's reaction to the fans in front of me who were trying to get his attention.  I was setting in 113 DR so had a great view of both Jose and Mookie Betts.  While the fans in front of me were unsuccessful in getting Mookie's attention, Jose delivered some excellent fan service.  Oh sure, he waved a few times - I'm sure that's not the first time he's done that.  But what I'll remember from Saturday was this one moment in the late stages of the game.

Our section was filled mostly with Jays fans - a few Red Sox fans peppered here and there.  But it was the row of (presumably) drunk fans that were the most vocal; this one fan in particular was calling out Jose to hit a grand slam, constantly and boisterously.  Then, with perfect timing - as per usual Jose Bautista - he turned to our section, and made the most fantastic Jose hand motion I've ever seen and likely not caught on any camera: the drinky drinky motion.

Thank you for a memorable afternoon, Jose.

The Bat, Flipped

I don't think there was a single bigger moment in 2015 than the infamous Bat Flip.  The biggest proof of that is that I can say "bat flip" and you probably know what I'm referring to.  For that reason, I think the series starting tonight vs the Texas Rangers is likely the most anticipated meeting of the year so far - the return of 2015's ALDS opponent to the Rogers Centre.

But the team hosting the series is very different from the one that won the ALDS last year.  Or is it?

While it's only been one month, the 2016 Jays are playing sub-.500 baseball.  For April they went 11-14, scoring 95 runs while allowing 102.  In the 2015 ALDS & ALCS, the Jays had a record of 5-6, scoring 52 runs and allowing 57 runs.  Doing some very rough extrapolating, the 2015 playoff Jays over 25 games would have a record of about 11-14, with 118 Runs For and 130 Runs against.

For those of you doing the math, their actual RF/RA differential this year is -7, and the theoretical 25 game record above is -12.  Pretty similar!

I'm not suggesting that it's time to panic, or pack it in.  At only 26 games into the season, with a 12-14 record, it's far from over.  I have to wonder though...at what point do we accept the team's real record?  Last year, the Jays had a poor first two months - both below .500, and didn't turn it around until June when they went on their first 11-game winning streak of the year.  Even then, July was a losing month.  It wasn't until August when they really took off.

I guess what I'm suggesting here is that you can't assume the Blue Jays are going to continue to be as bad as they are this year, but you also can't assume they're going to be as good as they were at the end of last year.  However, their 2015 playoff record pretty well matches what they put together in April of this year.

I think the Jays need to look at their bullpen options, as that's been the real issue, but it's hard to not want to wait it out a bit longer to see if some of the struggling players (read: the entire team outside of the starting pitching staff) pick up their play and start playing to their potential.