It's Star Wars: Clone Wars Week

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

I’m probably being facetious with this comment, but I’ll go out on a limb anyway: If you consider yourself a Star Wars fan, the animated Clone Wars show is an absolute must watch. So much so that I don’t think fans who haven’t watched Clone Wars are allowed to have outspoken opinions about Star Wars lore.

In preparation for Season 7, I’ve watched every episode from S1:E1 to S6:E12 in entirety — yes, even the episodes with Colonel Gascon (rolls eyes). And the story building inside Clone Wars is second to none. We see:

  1. Additional reasons — better, believable reasons — for Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side, namely in how the Jedi Council treats his padawan.
  2. The sheer toll of the Clone War on all participants — the clones, the Jedi, the Separatists, the civilians — and how the sentiment surrounding the war in Episode III is one of desperation and not hope. I have rewatched Episode III twice since finishing the Clone Wars series and don’t feel the level of desperation to end the war that is depicted in the animated show.
  3. The depth of the deception of Darth Sidious, up to and including the very creation of the clone army. We knew he was responsible for creating the clone army, but who Master Sifo Dyas was, how he contracted out the creation of the army, and how this was a direct manipulation to make it look like the Jedi created the army to take over the Senate was never properly explained in Episode III.
  4. The humanity of the clones, among many other valid life lessons.
  5. The unbelievable character arc of Darth Maul and how he may be responsible for driving multiple prequel stories and between-the-trilogies stories. I imagine many would-be watchers would roll their eyes when they discover Maul survived his dismemberment in Episode I. But once it’s explained, Maul’s story arc is one of the greatest Star Wars stories ever told.
  6. The unique story of Ahsoka Tano. She begins as an annoying know-it-all teenager, but grows into a wise Jedi. More importantly, Tano’s story is a much more believable and valid reason for Anakin’s treachery than anything related to Padme. Ahsoka acts as a perfect rendition of humanity today (or, perhaps, humanity in the late 2000s and early 2010s) and her personal growth is very easy to admire and to relate to. She’s a tremendous character, one which would be duly served as a live action character in a television series.
  7. Hondo Ohnaka. He gets a reason all unto himself.

That’s seven reasons, but I could go on — Season 6 in particular depicts how and why the clones turn their back on the Jedi and how Yoda becomes the first Jedi to learn how to become a Force Ghost after death (which, by the way, directly contradicts Ben Solo’s ability to become a Force Ghost).

Disney Plus currently has a special “Clone Wars 20 Essential Episodes” section with all the required watching before Season 7 debuts on Friday. If you have an alternative method to watch, the episodes are:

  • S1:E1: Ambush
  • S1:E5: Rookies
  • S2:E5: Landing at Point Rain
  • S2:E6: Weapons Factory
  • S2:E7: Legacy of Terror
  • S2:E8: Brain Invaders
  • S2:E12: The Mandalore Plot
  • S2:E13: Voyage of Temptation
  • S3:E2: ARC Troopers
  • S4:E21: Brothers
  • S4:E22: Revenge
  • S5:E6: The Gathering
  • S5:E1: Revival
  • S5:E14: Eminence
  • S5:E15: Shades of Reason
  • S5:E16: The Lawless — This is the best Clone Wars episode in all the seasons.
  • S5:E17: Sabotage
  • S5:E18: The Jedi Who Knew Too Much
  • S5:E19: To Catch a Jedi
  • S5:E20: The Wrong Jedi

If you have additional time, watch the first four episodes of Season 6, the last four episodes of Season 6, the General Krell storyline beginning at S4:E7 and ending at S4:E10, and the Clone Wars animated movie, wherein Ahsoka Tano is assigned to be Anakin’s padawan. This will build out more than enough story to comfortably enter into Season 7.

The Clone Wars timeline is governed by a beginning and ending, so it’s understandable this story can’t go on forever. But to know Season 7 is the actual, for-real-this-time final season is truly bitter sweet. This is Star Wars storytelling at it’s finest.

The linked YouTube video is a tad rough around the edges, but it perfectly discusses why The Clone Wars animated TV series is the best Star Wars story available today.

Supported By

The Multi-Generational Supercomputer

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

While perhaps not as intuitive as the home-buttoned iPads, Apple’s glowing slate of glass continues to amaze and baffle me. Almost without fail, you can hand an iPad to any person — from a 2-year-old learning to gently touch the Pencil to the glass to a 90-year-old looking for a book to read — and be amazed at the speed at which they can zip around the device.

There’s an element of guilt as a parent, though. We’re told not to put our kids in front of a screen. Ever. Or at least so minimally that they can’t get immersed in anything they’re doing.

But the iPad has so much teaching potential, I’m increasingly tempted to buck the conventional wisdom. I can show my daughter a picture of a puppy, followed by the sound the puppy makes, followed by my drawing of the puppy, followed by her attempt to scratch out that same puppy, and she can be practicing her puppy panting in the process.

The learning potential doesn’t stop there — I spoke to a colleague today about how powerful the iPad can be for post-secondary studies. Load up a textbook/PDF on one side, GoodNotes on the other, and watch a lecture in picture-in-picture mode. The iPad can quickly fulfill a multitude of learning styles and even meet different learning style needs at the same time.

The iPad is a stunningly powerful computer, no matter the age of the hands it’s in.

I Drive An F-150

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Aaron Gordon writing for Vice:

The sidelining of the environmental benefits of EVs aligns with the role Hummer and other gigantic SUVs have played in our environmental challenges. The Hummer, in all its militaristic aggressiveness, is the very embodiment of the wasteful excess that contributed to the climate crisis in the first place. Cars are inherently about projecting a self-image, and hundreds of thousands of Americans chose to project one of profound, pathological selfishness. The electrification of the Hummer is not a signal of climate progress. It is a declaration that it’s still OK to be an asshole.

Boy, this article is just oozing with compassion. If I drive a big SUV, I’m a jerk. Good. Great! If I purchased a car, it’s because I’m trying to project a self-image, not because I need four wheels to get to work everyday. It’s -40 Celsius outside with snow blowing across the highway, but according to the masterminds over at Vice, I’m a swear word for choosing a gasoline-powered vehicle instead of a bicycle or something.

This is so tiring.

John Gruber’s linked post (where I found this) has just a little more compassion (but only just a smidge):

I recently rented a Chevy Tahoe because we needed the storage capacity for a day trip. I can’t believe anyone chooses to drive these things daily. It’s like driving a car inside a car, no feel for the road at all.

I drive a Ford F-150. It has the smallest 2.7L EcoBoost engine because I wanted to be as fuel efficient as possible, but these days I’d prefer the larger 3.5L EcoBoost because I’d like to be able to tow more. I have two young girls who are strapped in their car seats safely in the back during snow storms and we carry strollers and other family paraphernalia in the truck box. In the future, my wife and I hope to buy a camper so we can spend more time as a family out in nature during the summer. We want a third child — because children are amazing — which may mean having to get a larger SUV which has the towing capacity, seating capacity, and carrying capacity our family would need.

And I’m a jerk for wanting this?

I’m just so tired of the myopic points of view floating around these days. The world is a very big place, with all sorts of people attempting to make their ways through daily life. Instead of vilifying everyone who does something we don’t initially agree with, why not take a deep breath, look in the mirror, and just carry on.

Ben Lovejoy on Subscription Apps

Thursday, January 30, 2020


But just like actual cups of takeout coffee, the costs add up. Let’s split the difference here and call it $4.50 a month. If you have 10 such apps, that’s $45/month, or $540 a year. If you have 20 apps, it’s over a thousand bucks a year. Use them for five years, and that’s over $5,000. That’s a lot of money for iPhone apps.

The conversation on Twitter feels like it’s gaining heat and intensity, which automatically feels like you’re not allowed to comment on one side of the story. Some jerks will argue that app developers are greedy — we can write those opinions off in an instant. Conversely, anyone who says all apps need to be paid or subscription-based also have no grounding in fact or reality, either.

The fact is that there is a finite appetite to pay for apps (it’s called a “market”). Each person will have a threshold for what they’re willing to pay for apps and services in a given year. Each app and service is vying for a larger piece of that pie. And subscriptions eat into that threshold much, much quicker than one-off $4.99 purchase prices.

Said another way, we’re testing the boundaries of app price elasticity here.

For some reason though, Apple’s app market is different. Like the overarching parent company, there’s a huge amount of passion in this arena. I’ll find a free app that looks like it’s well made and I immediately feel an obligation to throw the developer a few bucks. To a degree, the purchase decision becomes charity.

This isn’t right, nor is it wrong. How a person spends their money and the reasons for why they spend their money are entirely personal. But I don’t think peer pressure — or in this case, community pressure — should play a role.

Sometimes, you simply can’t afford an app subscription. Sometimes, the app doesn’t provide enough value for the money it’s asking for. Sometimes, throwing money at the developer doesn’t make sense.

That’s business. That’s life. That’s saving.

If you feel like being charitable, great! — sign up for a few apps and support the developers you love. If you find great value from the app and want to pay for it, great!

But you don’t have to feel guilty by not subscribing or having to cancel a subscription to cut costs. Sometimes, you need to look out for number one.

Mistaking Familiarity for Intuitiveness

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Matt Birchler coming to the defence of the iPad after all the hot-takes on the iPad’s 10th anniversary:

Most people get maybe 2% of the potential of their Macs and Windows PCs today. Have you watched most people use a computer laterly [sic]? Most people I see have all apps in full screen all the time, no matter how big their screen is. Most people I see use keyboard shortcuts for copy and paste, opening new tabs, but basically nothing else.

My two cents: I get to train new accountants/bookkeepers for businesses all the time. Most of these young workers don’t have a clue how to navigate through Windows with anything other than point and click. Alt + Tab is foreign to them. Most don’t know that you can use two fingers to scroll on a trackpad. Even fewer know how to use Page Up and Page Down for moving between tabs and sheets. I’ll get comments that I’m a wizard with how fast I navigate through the software, and I know I’m really not.

I don’t know if the “unintuitiveness” of the iPad is entirely fair. Sure, it may be inconsistent. But I think there’s an overall misunderstanding of how enlightened many people are on laptop OSes these days.

My Very Initial Impressions of the Canon EOS R

Monday, January 27, 2020

Canon EOS R

The Canon EOS R has pleasantly surprised me over the last few days.

It might be too early to say the Canon EOS R and Canon’s mirrorless RF mount have been revived, but I also don’t think it was an overly successful launch. Judging from those who know better than I, and judging based on major holiday sales, my suspicions are the EOS R hasn’t flown off shelves since inception.

Apparently though, dropping the R’s and RP’s price was some sort of magic steroid — it’s been hard to get your hands on an EOS R in an instant. I ordered one in the very first few days of 2020 and received it three weeks later, suggesting a bit of a backorder.

I can understand why the EOS R hasn’t flown off shelves, at least at its original $2,300 USD/$3,000 CAD price tag. Specs simply don’t match what Sony is pumping out, and a general lack of professional necessities — like dual SD card slots, among others — have left the RF mount wanting.

Which isn’t to say this system is a failure. RF mount glass, though expensive, has incredible reviews nearly across the board, with gargantuan lenses like the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L and Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L pushing lens technology to new heights. And the only relatively affordable lens — the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM — is small, light, fast, and even comes with a macro option for the tempting price of $500 USD/$650 CAD (I bought mine for only $300 CAD with a rebate).

With this in mind, I wanted to try my hand at my first Canon camera. It’s the most popular camera brand for a reason, so I knew I was in for a treat.

So far, the honeymoon phase is in full effect.

Here are a smattering of thoughts after my first weekend and first shoot with the EOS R and the 35mm f/1.8 Macro.

Ergonomics: I’ve been around the block now — I’ve jumped from Olympus to Sony to Fuji and now to Canon, and the EOS R’s ergonomics are the best of any camera I’ve tried so far. The R’s grip is deep, comfortable, and fits my hand wonderfully. Even with, especially with, big winter gloves, this extra grip is awesome. For the first time in a few years, I can shoot outdoors in the winter without taking off my gloves to feel some tactile feedback.

Touchscreen: I haven’t had a touchscreen on the back of a camera before, and it turns out I chose the best touchscreen available on the market. The EOS R’s touchscreen is sublime. Touch targets are easy to tap with a fingertip, swiping and pinching to zoom work well, and menu systems can be navigated with a finger. Even Touch to Drag AF works very, very well, though not ideal for left-eye shooters or for shooting with gloves on.1

Buttons and Dials: The EOS R’s buttons and dials are the best I’ve ever used, as well. Each button has a noticeable weather-sealed padding feel, yet enough of a press/depress to know you’ve properly pressed the button. I’m most impressed with all the knurled dials — again, even with gloves, it’s very easy to spin the dials and feel the dials click as you cycle through settings.

Eye AF: Of the four hottest topics for me, Eye AF is the most significant revolution to my shooting kit. Either it’s operator error, or the Fuji X-T2 and Sony A7II before it weren’t the best cameras for keeping a subject’s eye in focus. The EOS R puts both those cameras to shame in the Eye AF department (and it should, considering it’s more than three years newer than the aforementioned Fuji and Sony cameras). Two or three quick settings and the R locks onto a subject’s eye and does a surprisingly good job in not letting go. The camera seems to struggle with my six-week-old daughter’s eyes (I’m thinking it’s the lack of pronounced pupils), but has no problem with any other eyes I’ve thrown at it so far. I expect functioning Eye AF to have the biggest impact on my shooting in the coming months and years.

Some things I don’t care for: Indeed, the EOS R’s Touch Bar feels half-baked. Right now, I only have it set to function during playback/review mode. I think there’s something here, but it’s not there just yet.

The on/off switch is on the left side of the camera. I simply don’t understand how this design feature makes it through review. Flat out, this is the worst camera design decision ever made. No matter what, the EOS R requires two hands to begin operating.

I’d really like to see a focus point joystick, as this here left-eye shooter struggles to have room for his right thumb. My current solution is to slide my left hand back from the lens and use my left thumb instead.

A single SD card slot isn’t a dealbreaker, but I can see why this gives professionals pause. It gives me pause, heading into my first wedding this coming summer.

On the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM Lens

I don’t know if there could be a more jack-of-all-trades lens available today. The RF 35mm f/1.8 pulls double — even triple — duty in my photography kit:

  1. The lens is a great size and weight for daily carry or street shooting, as is the 35mm standard focal length.
  2. The lens has a macro option for super close focusing and really honing in on the details. For all the product photography I do, you’d think this wouldn’t be my first macro lens.
  3. At $650 CAD, this lens is basically a sure buy for any Canon EOS R or RP purchaser. This price probably explains why it’s out of stock everywhere right now.

I’m not disappointed in image quality at all with this lens, though I think I expected just a tad more sharpness wide open. My expectations were unreasonably high though, as nearly all the other RF mount lenses are showing stunning results at all apertures. Even still, reasonable sharpness plus strong Eye AF means nailing focus on my ever-growing little girls.

The macro option is a ton of fun, especially when testing out a new lens. We’ve had some nice warm weather recently, resulting in some beautiful Manitoba hoarfrost on the trees and bushes. No better way to test a new macro lens than with hoarfrost.

This one in particular — you probably wouldn’t have a hot clue what the photo is of if you hadn’t read above. Macro plus f/1.8 means a whole new world of ensuring a larger depth of field to maintain focus and context.

Wrap Up

Again, these are very early days, and I’m in a full-on honeymoon. I’m pricing out the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 as we speak (write?), and the sensationally small RF 70-200mm f/2.8 seems like an obvious addition to nearly every EOS R shooter right now.

Though if I count it all up, I might need a disbursement from the mortgage to make it happen — RF glass is very expensive right now, with the majority of the lenses available lining up in Canon’s premier L lens lineup.

Perhaps this is the start of a fun new relationship with the EOS R. I haven’t turned my back on my trusty Fujifilm X-T2 or X-Pro 2 just yet, but their days may be numbered.

  1. And since I have a fairly long nose, I have had the occasional nose-tap focus point mess up a photo.