TV review: Star Trek Picard

Since we’re in Stay-at-Home lockdown, we picked up a subscription to CBS All Access for a couple months to catch up on some shows that we have been wanting to see. In particular, Star Trek Picard. We finished watching it last week and so I thought I’d share a few thoughts. I’ll be getting in to spoilers later on, but this first little bit will be generic.

First off, I’ve been a huge Trek fan since I was a kid. I was right there, glued to the TV, when Next Generation came out, and loved the original movies. When I heard that they were bringing Picard back for another show, I was obviously intrigued, as he was one of the best characters of any of the series. I was excited to see what they wanted to do to expand his story.

Unfortunately, mentioning “story” means that I need to start with one of my bigger dislikes of the series. I felt like the overall arc of the story was the weakest part of the series, and in many ways distracted from what I was hoping to get out of Picard. The story for this season felt so incredibly rushed that I kept shaking my head at how random plot points just jumped out of nowhere. There was SO much more than could have been explored in this season, and the fact that it was just breezed right on through was a huge disappointment.

I’ll dive into that more in a moment, but let’s divert to some things that I liked. The nostalgia factor was huge in the show, and for the most part I felt like it wasn’t just playing fan service. There were nods here and there, but they were handled really well. Seeing old favorites getting to interact together was amazing, and so heartwarming. In fact the chemistry when members of the original cast were together was beautiful.

The visuals were also incredibly well done, and I felt like they upped their game when it came to Star Trek. I loved the introduction of new technology, and new interfaces to it. This isn’t a huge spoiler, but at one point Picard has to interact with a VR, holographic, control and can’t figure it out. It just shows that technology continues to march onwards. Star Trek has always leaned in to its role as a visionary of what the future could look like, and this series is no different.

Despite what I’m about to get in to, I didn’t hate the show, and I encourage other Trek fans to watch it. However, I do need to take a moment to express where I feel that everything fell apart.

***** SPOILERS ****** SPOILERS ****** SPOILERS

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And of course I get sick in the middle of a pandemic…

First, before anyone panics, it’s nothing related to COVID. Earlier this week I started getting a bit of a sore throat, and soon after developed a large white blob on one of my tonsils. No fever, no breathing issues, no cough. I talked with a nurse, and they said that I really should have a chat with my doctor. However, they’re not seeing patients in the clinics unless required, so they set up a video conference.

A little after 8am this morning I got on the call with my doctor and we talked through my symptoms. Because it was a video call I was even able to show him inside my mouth and illuminate the back of my throat, and he could directly see the area I was referring to. It’s a simple bacterial infection, so a 10 day course of antibiotics should clear it up. However, it’s never fun to have any type of symptom when everyone is on edge about COVID-19.

Yet, the really cool part of this story is how I was able to talk directly, face-to-face, with my doctor and even show him the issue. Because of the technology that we have available to us today it wasn’t that much different than going in to the doctor’s office. I had a thermometer so I was able to take my temperature, and strangely we also have an Oxygen sensor, so I could let him know those numbers as well. We were able to talk with the same candor that we always do and it felt pretty darn normal. He was able to call in the prescription, which I then picked up at a drive-thru window.

The world is probably going to change a lot when this is all said and done. We’re finally realizing how powerful our technology is. I’m really curious how this is going to change the very nature of work going forward.

Quick Review: Logitech G432 headset

With the advent of full time working from home, I decided to invest in a new headset. I’d been wanting a full over-the-ear gaming headset for a while, so I looked around and found a good deal on the Logitech G432. It arrived the other day and I’ve had it for a couple of days of meetings and video conferences now.

This is a USB headset, and so simply plugging it in gets you up and running really fast. The cord is nice and long, and the overall fit of the earpieces is what I was expecting. It’s a large-ish headset, but the bar along the top is padded for more comfort. I’ve been wearing it for hours at a time and haven’t noticed any discomfort. The only issue is that the ear cups are secure enough to cause my ears to sweat just a little bit after I’m done with a long session.

In terms of audio quality, the sound is really, really good. I’ve listened to music and videos as well as teleconferences, and the quality is really outstanding. I need to do some deeper dives into the different ranges, but for now I can say I’m very pleased with how these sound.

My one disappointment is with the mic audio quality. It’s a bit thin and tinny, and I wish I had access to some type of software equalizer for these. I want to round out the mids and lows more, but there’s no customizable option for that. If these had one failing, it’s the mic quality. Thankfully, for my work calls, it’s not a huge deal, but I know I’ll need something else if I ever start doing podcasting or more video work.

I managed to get these on sale for a good discount, and so that made these a good deal overall, especially considering the really good output quality.

 

Exploring the Hardwood Trail

The wife mentioned going for a longish bike ride today, and so I took a look at some trails that we hadn’t ever explored before. I settled on the Hardwood Trail that starts in Hugo, MN. As you head north the trail eventually changes to the Sunrise Prairie Trail near Wyoming, MN, before continuing on all the way to North Branch, MN. All total it’s about 25 miles one direction.

We were interested in something shorter, so we parked in Hugo and headed south for a half a mile before hitting the southern end and turning around. We then proceeded northward until we turned around at 11th Ave. The ride north was really nice and pleasant, for one simple reason. The wind was at our backs.

We knew that there was a bit of wind from the south, but what we didn’t know was how incredibly strong it was. It turns out that 20mph sustained wind with gusts over 30mph really isn’t that much fun. Whereas we had been cruising along at an easy 14mph on the way up, the return trip barely registered 10mph. My average heart rate jumped 20bpm on the trip back, which was a pretty big indicator of how hard we were working.

It took us 47 minutes to get back to the car, and it was hard earned. That was one of the more difficult rides I’ve done, and I think in the future we should probably check the wind on the weather report before picking our route. However, besides the wind, the trail was really lovely.

IMG_0954It’s a railroad grade trail, meaning it’s pretty much flat. It’s rather exposed to the elements (which didn’t help in today’s wind), but on an overcast day I could see this being a wonderful trail to ride. Granted, we didn’t get past Forest Lake, so perhaps it’s a bit more shaded to the north.

The pavement was well maintained, and all of the street crossings were easy to navigate. Because it’s a straight line it was really easy to follow, and it meant we could just ride and enjoy the scenery. Today’s wildlife spotting’s included a couple of beautiful swans grazing in a farm field, as well as a bald eagle riding the wind currents.

I’m excited to try out more of the trail, and maybe get a group together to ride the whole 50-mile out and back distance sometime.

 

Product review: Groove Life rings

My wife and I have wanted to get silicone based rings for a few years now, but just haven’t pulled the trigger. We’re avid outdoors people, and having something other than a band of metal on our fingers is a good option not just for nasty things like avulsion fractures, but general comfort.

We took our time deciding what to do and ended up going with Groove Life rings. The design we chose was their Tidal design, and we were able to get matching his/hers versions. They arrived last week and we’ve been wearing them since. We had been debating between Qalo and Groove Life, and in the end, the patterns we could get on Groove Life is what make us select them.

Now that we’ve had the rings for a few days I can report that they’re very comfortable and easy to wear. They’re lighter than metal, and I notice them less than my traditional ring. My wife went from having a ring with a stone, to just a band, and that’s made a huge difference for her when using her hands.

The rings seem nice and breathable, and they have channels on the inside to help with that. They feel very strong and resilient, despite being rather thin, but of course the real test will be in a year’s time. Sizing feels true, and they even have a little smartphone app you can download to ensure you get the correct size.

Finally, the pattern on the ring is a nice change. I can rotate the ring, or flip it the other direction, and change what I see on top of my hand. That’s a fun feature of having a ring like this that I didn’t expect.

Overall, very satisfied, and am looking forward to many years with this on my finger.