Twitter ↓, RSS ↑

My style of news consumption has changed a bit as of late. Twitter has been a bit ‘off’ for me for the past year or so. I have a few rules with Twitter:

1.) Never go off the timeline. Don’t willingly wade into the mire.

2.) Be liberal with unfollowing/blocking/muting.

3.) Use the ‘muted words’ option - it is your weapon against ‘what are we mad at today?’ type stuff.

Even using these rules over the past year, Twitter is sometimes reaching upwards of 15-20% garbage for me. Part of it is Twitter showing the likes of people I follow. Not a single person I have ever conversed with about Twitter enjoys that feature. Just get rid of it. I think in a few years that “feature” may be the looked upon as the start of the downfall.

That being said, Twitter is still handy as a channel for finding interesting things. So I have come up with a solution that cuts away most of that 20%, and it involves just good old RSS.

Here is the summary of how I am doing most of my news consumption over coffee in the mornings. Most of this is kludged together via a Feedbin account:


DOTA 2 Logo

My history with MOBA’s is tenuous at best. I remember when Defense of the Ancients was all the rage from Warcraft III and I just never got into it. I remember thinking that I didn’t understand wtf they were creating a “clone” called League of Legends (LOL). I didn’t really think it was going to be anything other than a niche game.

LOL 2015 Crowd I was fucking wrong

There was a time when I got into Smite a good bit. I had a former coworker go to work for Hi-Rez studios a good number of years ago when Smite was in its infancy and had been following them a good bit because the studio is based in the same suburb here in Atlanta. I think Smite appealed to me because it was “almost” a first-person shooter vs. the top down usual MOBA fare. I started playing it on PC and then slowly migrated to the Xbox version when the game was released hoping I could capitalize on the fact I could migrate accounts. I still got my ass whipped; however it was fun. The game slowly faded for me on Xbox although sometimes I will pop up a stream of the big yearly Smite tourney here in Atlanta to see the progression of the game and if it is growing at the insane numbers that LOL did.

I read a lot about AI/ML and keep tabs on significant accomplishments just for my knowledge and have had a lot of fun keeping up with Musk and Altman’s brainchild OpenAI which has its hands in a lot of cookie jars at the moment. One of the cookie jars I am most interested in is the OpenAI Five (OAI5) which is a team of neural networks (5!) that learn via self-play how to beat humans at Defence of the Ancients 2 (DOTA 2). Having played some MOBA’s in the past, I felt I needed to learn the intricacies of the game to appreciate the results that they are getting. I picked up the game a few nights ago and have played 4 or 5 matches. My goal is to get into the game enough to where I can watch a game (OAI5 vs. humans) and know what is going on and objectively judge how well the AI is doing/progressing.

Here is a quick list of observations on playing the game so far. More incoming in the next few weeks:

More reading:

  1. Competitive Self-Play
  2. Welcome to Dota, You Suck

Solo and Last Shot

Last Shot Cover

Spoiler filled

So I wrapped up Daniel Jose Older’s Last Shot this weekend just in time to go see Solo in the theaters this past Sunday.

My thoughts…

Once I heard that Rogue One was officially announced I was very giddy about the Star Wars “one-shots” that Disney was planning on developing. I think it was a great move to put a one-shot in between each of movies in the final trilogy of the Skywalker Saga. Rogue One had me off the bat after seeing the first trailer. I thought that the story was going to be compelling and I didn’t remember anything from Legends that touched on it very deeply.

I remember exiting the theater after seeing Rogue One and honestly was torn about it. I felt that the story was strong and I loved the visual mood of the movie. My only pet peeves were Tarken, who I thought looked awful (note: my wife didn’t even realize it was CGI) and I didn’t feel like Jyn’s background matched where she was in the present situation. What I did enjoy were the side characters. New characters like Baze and Chirrut where exactly what I wanted to see in a new SW movie that was not directly* related to a Skywalker.

After watching Rogue One a few more times, it grew on me and pretty much became my favorite Star Wars movie since the Original Trilogy. I enjoyed both TFA and TLJ, but I think that because I read a lot of SW books/comics the continuation of the Skywalker story has had its time and I am just along for the ride for that narrative arc. However, with these one-shots (and the subsequent Benioff/Weiss and the Favreau series) I feel like I am going to REALLY enjoy some of the stories we are going to see not directly related to that arc.

So about Last Shot and Solo…

** I mean it, really really spoiler filled from here on out***

As for Last Shot…

Last Shot was decent. I enjoyed the story. It made sense and introduced a few new contexts in the universe that have been hinted at before but had not been brought into canon. I also liked seeing what I consider a darker (horror?) story coming out of the new Solo context material.

Some brief thoughts on the book:

As for Solo the movie…

I loved Solo. I unabashedly loved this movie. It was everything I wanted in a Disney Star Wars movie - amazingly fun, action-packed and some new storylines introduced and some added to. That being said I look at it as a completely different type of movie than Rogue One.

Rogue One was a background story that we were filling in, but Solo felt a lot less restrained, and the main concept of the movie (how did Han get to be Han?) had a lot fewer rails than Rogue One which I think worked in its favor considering its faster story pace.

More brief thoughts:

At first I thought Enfys’ helmet removal scene felt like it was supposed to wow the audience into knowing who she was but sitting in the theater I couldn’t think of anyone (maybe Sana?) that she could be, later on I realized that the “wow” of it was for the audience to recognize that she was young and that the rebellion was young and these people had a fighting spirit and that youth could attract youth to grow the rebellion. Raise your fist but also raise your children.

In conclusion and other stories…

I picked up pretty much all the books around Solo. Pablo’s Official Guides are pretty much always must-reads for me, and I love going through the “Art of” books for each new release. Both are excellent, and I highly recommend.

Overall I am quite happy with this year’s movie/books, and movie novels release around Solo. I picked up Most Wanted and will probably read it after I get done with these three Lando Legends books. So I may talk about Most Wanted at some point also. My SW queue looks like this at the moment:

80s Lando Legends Books

with the Beckett one shot also in the queue when it hits.

If you are still reading this and haven’t seen Solo (I hope you didn’t spoil it, I gave ample warning) do go see it. Totally worth it to see on the big screen.

Channels I support on Patreon

A few months ago we decided to join the 764,000 other people who finally cut the cable cord in Q1 of 2017. We dropped our $160 a month DirectTV bill and decided to go with the following combo:

I honestly don’t watch TV much other than sports. My wife watches a lot of TV dramas that she records on DVR, and my kids usually have Disney or Nick turned on while they do something else in our playroom.

So far it has gone pretty well and other than adapting to the hardware needed now (Apple TV/Roku/Xbox One) we have moved on past cable companies for the most part. We also have moved past “time window viewing” (that’s just what I am calling it) so that 90% of the time the show we are watching has been time shifted with few exceptions (looking at you Jon Snow).

As I mentioned above, I don’t watch much TV to begin with, but over the last few months, I have found myself usually coding, researching, or general futzing around on the internet until about an hour before I go to bed. At that point, I usually make me an ‘Uncle Pappy’s Cough Syrup’ and head to the couch to chill and watch an episode of something on Netflix. Currently, my loves are Castlevania and all the seasons of Archer I have missed the last few years. After I watch an episode of something on Netflix, I have found myself turning to YouTube and watching videos for about a half hour. I have always used YouTube before we cut the cable to watch videos, but it was usually in a way to reference methods for something I needed to do. What I mean by that is that I would have some question about how to do something (for example install base cabinets) and I would watch a video or two on how to do it. I never really used YouTube for entertainment per se.

Now I find myself browsing and watching about 10-12 channels nightly. The amazing thing is that this is almost 50%+ of my “tv” viewing now. Most of these creators are making high quality stuff and putting a lot of time into the finished work. Since this is about half of my lazy sitting on the couch entertainment, I felt like I should contribute financially to these creators. Subscribing is good and creates more popularity for the channel, but I felt that donating to these shows monthly (and in some cases per video) was a better option to help the host more directly.

Here is my current list of who I give to via Patreon. I highly recommend all these shows.

1.) The Nerdwriter

Even before we cut the cable, I was donating to the Nerdwriter (aka Evan Puschak). Well researched essays + great editing of each video makes this a channel that I love seeing pop up on my feed. Usually, there are 2-3 videos a month that discuss mostly cinema but also other types of pop art including music, politics, etc.

2.) SciShow

Always entertaining and always not too long. The hosts get to the meat of a subject pretty quickly and each show usually initiates with a question to draw the viewer into the show. All the hosts seem very knowledgeable about the show’s subject regardless of host and the info provided is usually sourced well.

3.) Star Wars Explained

I have been a new canon geek since Disney made the purchase and love getting my monthly comic delivery in. I read most of the new canon books and try to keep up with all the different aspects of the Star Wars Disney juggernaut. This series is very well written/edited and comes out almost daily. Never too long and dragging, it gets right to the point. It is a bonus that they are from here locally in Atlanta. Great show.

4.) Binging with Babish

Oliver Babish has been a watch for a few months now. Always on the cusp of pop culture knowledge and then mixing with a fantastic recipe. I watch cooking episodes a lot on YouTube, and this guy is an amazing chef in his own right. Adding in the show/movie references just makes it even better. I also enjoy how sometimes he branches/splits the recipes and gives a full version and a shortcut version. My only complaint may be that if I were following along at home, there would be a ton of pauses because sometimes the show moves very quickly in what I think is stuff that is very easy for him but hard for us laymen cooks. +1 for being a beer guy also though.

5.) Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell

Kurzgesagt is a very original style of YouTube channel. I started watching after someone sent me a link to the CRISPR show. There are a few imitators out there (doesn’t mean they don’t produce good info videos) but these guys seem like the original. I love not only the stylistic decisions made in the videos but also the info they present is excellent and seems well researched. I also have a small drinking game for when the presenter says “there you have it”.

Things I read while I drank coffee this morning (7.8)

I tried and failed to find newspapers and wire services who would purchase my photos. But the soldiers had fed me and given me a seat in their Humvees, and the refugees had tolerated my presence on some of the worst days of their lives. They very rightly expected that I would tell their story.

Amazing photoset and read by Kainoa Little

No One Would Buy My Photos, So Here They Are For Free: Mosul 2017

This album has been on my ‘to take to a desert island’ lists since it came out. (Holy shit 20 years ago). Palo Alto will always be my image of the valley.

On ‘OK Computer,’ Radiohead Saw the Future: Ours

The human race, West says, has been saved by innovation and innovation thrives in cities. Unlike countries, companies and humans, cities seem to be immortal. In the last century cities have been de-industrialised, starved and some have even been attacked with nuclear bombs. And yet they always seem to survive. Ten years ago humanity passed the point by which those who lived in cities outnumbered those who didn’t. Every day a million more people move into cities, and this shouldn’t worry us.

The cities will save us all. Good read on the pace of change and why groups of people slammed together are needed for minds to create and build upon each other.

Are our cities immortal?