I’m still a bit conflicted on Avengers: Infinity War. It’s effectively what all of the MCU has been working for since Iron Man released in 2008, though the villain, Thanos, first appeared in The Avengers in 2012 (still a long time). Much like the first Avengers movie, bringing together heroes from the existing MCU films of the time, Infinity War brings all of them in, to varying degrees, to battle the greatest threat to the universe.
And it’s a big threat, as Thanos’ deal is “universal population control,” wiping out half of life in the snap of his fingers.
The film is at times deftly navigated, while also convoluted. Each character seems to “get their due,” but at the same time, Thanos gets so much time it really does seem like it’s more his movie than an Avengers movie. I suppose we’ve seen most of these characters together as recently as Captain America: Civil War, though the original team, it’s been since 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron (and some of those characters, notably Hawkeye, aren’t even in this one…). I guess I’m saying that I’d have liked to see a bit more interaction between the main Avengers squad, because, you know, it’s an Avengers movie.
That said, we still get to see everyone, and Thanos really does seem to be the threat he’s been played up to be all this time. The audience has been exposed to the Infinity Stones over multiple movies now, so finally getting to see them “assembled” (see what I did there?) and added to the Infinity Gauntlet was indeed a thrill. Thanos, himself, took some getting used to as he’s entirely CG, but I think Josh Brolin‘s performance mostly came through. Everyone else was as great as they’ve always been, but again, it just seems like we got so much less of them, even in a 2.5 hr movie.
Ultimately, I think I liked it, but it’s just so hard to judge without seeing Avengers 4. This movie ends on a cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers, effectively blowing up the MCU, and we’ll have to wait another year to see how it all pans out. There’s a lot going on in this one and I think, for the most part, it’s handled as well as could possibly be expected.
Brooke had been meaning to get into the hives for the past month or so, but the weather simply wouldn’t cooperate this Spring. March and April had very few warm-ish days and they were typically followed by long rain sessions. Then, if we actually had some good weather on a weekend, we’d be out of town and still unavailable.
Eventually, after Girl’s Weekend, Brooke was able to leave work early and open up the hives and see how the bees were doing. We’d noticed that there wasn’t much bee activity coming out of the hives on the warm-ish days, but again, as weather was back-and-forth for awhile, we couldn’t be sure whether there was a problem or whether the bees simply didn’t know what was going on with the weather situation.
Unfortunately, there were no bees. Our original hive from 2016 was completely empty and was likely “robbed” by another hive of bees. There was still some honey in the 2017 hive, but no bees to speak of, so they likely took their queen and swarmed sometime earlier in the year. The food Brooke put in late in Winter was still there, so it’s likely they left sometime shortly after she was last in the hive.
In many ways, we count ourselves lucky, as many beekeepers lose 1/3 of their hives in a given year and we didn’t lose any last year, so we were probably due to have something like this happen. We’re going to “re-set” the hive boxes to be lifted up a bit before putting any more bees in there, so in some ways, it’s a good opportunity to take stock of how we’ve been managing them and correct a few things before any new bees take up residence.
Thankfully, we’ve still got a decent amount of honey available to get us through the next few months. We think we may be able to score an extra package of bees from Brooke’s Dad in the next few weeks, depending on how his bees hold up. It’s the right time of year for bees to be delivered, so we’re hopeful that if Mark doesn’t end up having extra, someone else will, and Brooke has enough contacts now that we can probably get something going.
I went for a “long run” today, as the rest of the family were elsewhere and the weather was passable for part of a weekend (it’s snowing in KC right now…seriously…April in Missouri…). I was hoping I could make it the full 13.1 mi today, but settled for breaching the “double digit” line for the first time. I ran around much of Marshall, which is almost required when the town isn’t all that large, but I still only hit the 10 mi mark when I was within a block of our house on the return trip.
I spent much of the rest of the afternoon laying on the couch watching the Cardinals game, and as of now, it sure feels like I pushed those leg muscles to their limits. I wouldn’t say it “hurts,” per se, but I feel my legs every time I stand up and move from room to room. I’m interested to see what tomorrow brings…
I suppose I’ll need to step it up more slowly, but the next few weeks will get more convoluted due to various meetings and work. Once we’re clear of school, I should have more time for these longer runs (and they’ll probably need to be in the mornings…I ordered a hat to keep my bald head from burning if I run in intense sun…). Based on the time I put in today, I suspect that I’m on track to do a half-marathon in under 2 hours, and honestly, I think I could have finished it off today, but it probably wouldn’t have felt all that great tomorrow (or Monday, for that matter…). Assuming I can keep on schedule, I’m pretty confident I can achieve a respectable time by October.
So, last year I joined the Human Anatomy & Physiology Society, mostly as a means of professional development, but also for some networking opportunities. I didn’t do much with them last year, but this May’s annual meeting was to be in Columbus, OH on Memorial Day weekend. The cost was going to be substantial, though Missouri Valley was going to cover most of it.
Anyway, a little over a month ago, HAPS sent out a note that a regional meeting was going to be held in St. Louis on March 24th for far less than the full-size meeting in May. This weekend was also the start of Meg’s Spring Break, so it presented a unique opportunity to spend relatively little and get a weekend in St. Louis for Brooke and I. Win-win all around.
After dropping the kids off in Columbia (thanks Mom and Dad!), we continued on to St. Louis. Brooke’s parents were kind enough to share their season tickets to the Blues game Friday night, so we rushed in through good old fashioned St. Louis traffic (and rain…which exacerbated said traffic…) and made it just after the game started. It turned out well for the “boys in blue,” as they ended up winning 4-1. We had a good time!
We went to McGurk’s for dinner afterward (I was quite hungry…), as it was a few blocks up from the Airbnb we rented in Soulard, our old stomping grounds. There were tons of folks there for some live music, but it was one of the few places we figured would still be serving food after 9:30 pm in the neighborhood. Mmmmmm, tasty…
The next day, Brooke dropped me off at my conference while she went and ran some shopping errands and got some reading done at the apartment. She had a rainy, albeit relaxing, day. 🙂
For my part, I really enjoyed the conference. There were less than 50 people there, but the sessions were good at focusing on information retention and other teaching-related subjects, stuff that I can use some ideas on, as they’re what I’ve been thinking about quite a bit this semester. I saw a few SLU grads from my tenure there, too, so it was a good opportunity to catch up and follow through with that “networking” I mentioned earlier. Regardless, I came away excited about some new things I can try in the classroom.
The meeting was over around 4:00 pm, so we headed back to the apartment so I could change out of my “conference clothes,” allowing us to head out and see some of the microbreweries that have popped up since we moved in 2014. First up, Earthbound Beer off of Cherokee Street. The beers there looked interesting (and all of the sampler set we had were impressive!) and they also had some food (grabbed some BBQ nacho concoction…mmmm…) to tide us over until dinnertime.
Second, we went by Side Project Brewing in Maplewood. The Maplewood Coffee Crawl was going on that day, so they had some extra “coffee beers” available, though they were barrel-aged and pretty “high octane.” They were good, but not exactly what we were in the mood for when we knew we had to drive back to Soulard. We also tried a saison and a farmhouse ale, both of which I enjoyed, but Brooke wasn’t as big a fan. They were close to closing, so we weren’t there for all that long. They seemed solid, but of the three we visited, it wasn’t our favorite.
Third, we hit up The U.R.B., Urban Chestnut’s Research Brewery. I’d been to their bierhall across the street a few times, but a buddy from college recommended trying the research brewery, as they had pretty decent pizza, as well. The concept is that Urban Chestnut tests three difference recipes and sells you three tasters for $1 (total) from which you are asked to answer some questions via digital survey on your phone. This is all to help them get some feedback on their wares so they know what to scale up into a full release.
The option for Saturday were Radlers, which aren’t exactly our favorite. One was more lemon, the other more grapefruit, and the third…I dunno… The grapefruit one was the best, in our opinion, but all three were “drinkable.”
After we had those, we grabbed a pizza that was pretty solid. It wasn’t Joanie’s or anything, but it was good.
The next morning, we hit up Hammerstone’s for breakfast before heading out (yum…). Moseying around Soulard was pretty great and we hope we can get back there again soon. The Airbnb we stayed in was really, really good, and was probably in the perfect place for us, so it was nice to re-live some of our favorite times, even if for only a few nights.
The drive home was uneventful, aside from stopping off at a few more shopping locations. We had a great time! Let’s hope we can do it again sometime!
I’ve beefed up my jogging a bit in the past few weeks. Over the Winter, I was able to get in some frequent jogs despite the chilly weather. Around that time, I started investigating the possibility of trying for a Half Marathon sometime this year. Based on how long I’ve got available over the Summer, and distance to travel, I decided the Kansas City Half Marathon in October seems like an appropriate option. As such, I upped my nearly daily jogging time from 20 minutes daily-ish to 25 minutes whenever I could get around to it. In the last few weeks, I’ve consistently fit in 3.5 mi runs on a semi-regular basis.
Over Spring Break, the weather wasn’t particularly pleasant so I had to go jogging at the Malcolm Center on campus to get some treadmill time in. Meg was in school, so I had plenty of time available to push it a bit further, hitting 8 miles on one occasion (in ~75 min) and the next day, another 7 miles (in ~60 min).
That second run (literally the day after I ran for the longest I’ve ever run…) got a bit painful, so I’ve tried taking it a little easier since.
This week, put in a few more 60 min runs, hitting 7.21 mi the first time (Sunday) and 7.44 mi today. The extra rest between days helped my feet (though I threw in a short-ish run yesterday), but I also picked up some new shoes late last week. I broke them in yesterday, though I wore them around the house this weekend to flex them a bit.
As I alluded to, today’s run went significantly better than Sunday’s did, despite the temperature being a little colder. The new shoes are certainly “bouncier” than my old pair, though I’m sure I’ve put enough miles into the old ones that they’re past their prime. This is my third pair of Asics and they’ve been serving me well enough.
I’ve got a few months to keep pushing, and once school’s out in early May, I should have plenty of time available. I’m hoping to try running for 13 miles sometime next week when the kids are out of town for their Spring Break, just to see how far I can get. If I can actually maintain my pace, I should be able to do 13 miles in under 2 hours (a valiant goal!)…but as I’ve never actually run for that long, who knows what my legs will feel like when I’m done (my guess: probably bad).
Still, I want to give it a try when I have fewer responsibilities to take care of during that 2 hour period of time. If I can do 13 miles in a semi-reasonable amount of time next week, a half marathon in October should be a piece of cake!
Or I’ll wreck my legs and quit running for awhile. Whichever comes first.
It’s been a long time coming. This Winter was quite a bit colder and, more recently, wetter than last Winter, so while we’ve wanted to get out in the garden to get things started, our schedule and the weather simply haven’t worked out.
Case in point, I was on Spring Break this past week and for the first 3 days of it, the temperatures were below 40 F and were rainy and gross. Granted, I was on Break and wasn’t particularly motivated to do anything, but oh well…that’s my excuse.
Regardless, Brooke ordered some seeds and tomato plants from Jung Seed, so we needed to get the ground usable prior to their arrival.
For the last few years, we’ve kept the leftover stalks and grass clippings on the gardens for the season. Last year, Brooke burned it all and we opted to do the same thing this year (this time with a permit, so a bit more legal…). It was just windy enough to feed the fire, but just damp enough so that it would take a little time to burn it all away.
After the fires were done, I used the neighbor’s tiller to turn it all over and make it look all pretty like.
I’m still impressed by how dark the dirt is after using it the past few years. We haven’t had to add much compost, though we did add some manure last year (just a sprinkling, really…not much).
The garden plots are going to get rotated again, but I’ll post more about that once we actually plant some stuff. For now, the plan is to put the carrots, radishes and lettuce are going to go where the tomatoes and peppers were last year. We’re planting all that stuff a week or two later than last year, but whatcha gonna do?
I’ve posted on this subject before and figured, now that we’re in “post-mortem” mode, I should mention a few thoughts at the completion of season 1.
I still think the acting was great. Especially compared with previous outings like Enterprise and the first few seasons of Voyager, just about every actor in this season was top notch.
The writing…faltered a bit as the season went on. Other posts from the internet illiterati harped on it to a degree that was a bit hyperbolic, in my opinion, but they do have a point in that the writing of this season dealt in a lot of fan service for the sake of fan service. Case in point in the final shot in the season, pictured above: the USS Enterprise shows up with Captain Pike at the helm. The series takes place 10 years prior to TOS, so yes, the Enterprise should be flying through the cosmos…but did we really need to see this? Doesn’t this invite all kinds of other questions (because, you know, Spock is on that Enterprise…and his sister we didn’t know anything about is on Discovery…soooooo…how are they gonna play that off??). At the same time, the geek in me says “ooooo, oooo, oooo, it’s the Enterprise!!!!!” I guess I’m cautiously optimistic, but the writers did this all season, from the appearance(s) of Harry Mudd to visiting the Mirror Universe. Revisiting old characters and environments rather than “braving new worlds, seeking new life and new civilizations”… It’s a “two steps forward, one step back” sort of problem.
I liked the Mirror Universe arc. Again, it wasn’t entirely new in the annals of Star Trek, but I think Discovery kinda fleshed out an interesting place that really brings our current times (i.e. Trump) into stark perspective of where we humans could go in a few generations if fascism were to take hold.
In the end, I think the writers did a decent job of “hanging a lantern” on the fact that this season has been pretty “dark,” as a whole. Burnham’s speech draws attention to this aspect and says “no, we’re better than that.” If anything, it provides a platform for a “re-set” for season 2 that allows them to move in a more hopeful, “Star Trekky” direction.
Ultimately, I was happy with the season. Would I prefer it be on network CBS or be on Netflix? Sure? But it was worth the extra money to pay for CBS All Access. Could the writing have been tighter? Yes, but they were serving quite a few masters this season, just to prove they could bring the audience (and by all accounts, CBS All Access gained viewership solely because of it).
If anything, I’m encouraged by the zeitgeist surrounding Discovery. Most of the news outlets I follow had a plot synopsis after each episode. Granted, the internet is a far different place from when Star Trek Enterprise left the air, but I just can’t see plot synopses being an important aspect of the internet just after airing back then. I feel like the world cared far more about this than any previous property since TNG. Even though fans wrung their hands at certain aspects of the season, the fact that they watched showed that people still care about Trek on television, rather than relegating it to the movie franchises.
I’ve been meaning to post something for a bit, but with the weather we’ve had these past few weeks, we haven’t done all that much! In the past month, we had a few nights in the -10 F range and at least a week where we didn’t go above freezing. Last Tuesday, school was cancelled for Meg because we weren’t expected to get above 10 F, and apparently waiting for a bus when it’s -3 F in the morning isn’t ideal…
Anyway, this past week, temperatures started getting up into the 40 F range for once, getting rid of the snow we had last week… Yesterday, we made it into the 50s (though I was on campus working with a Science Olympiad competition we were running, so I didn’t get to really enjoy the weather all that much), and today, we’re in the mid-60s. Not bad for late-January!
We’ve been keeping an eye on the bees throughout this process, as they don’t survive well when it’s below 0 F for extended periods of time. Generally, as long as you’ve got enough bees in a hive, they can surround the queen and flap their wings enough to keep everyone warm and survive. We had some much colder days this winter than last winter, though, so we weren’t sure how they’d handle it.
Based on the picture above, they did just fine! Brooke got in and put in a solid feeder “cake” sort of thing to get them through the rest of winter (at least, most of the way there) and she pulled off the super to keep them concentrated in the lower portions of the hive. They’re pretty active on a day like today, so hopefully they don’t burn through the rest of their food supply thinking it’s Spring (hint: it isn’t).
In other news, in keeping with this blog’s need to post everything garden-related possible, here are some popcorn ears Brooke finally picked. Because, you know…it’s January.
Like I said, we had some snow last week on Martin Luther King Day when both kids were off school, so it was the perfect time for Calvin to go sledding for the first time. Again, it hasn’t gotten than cold the past few years and, incidentally, we haven’t had enough snow for sledding since we first moved here, so Calvin hasn’t been old enough to enjoy it yet.
Let’s be honest: I really wasn’t planning on seeing Justice League in theaters. I didn’t particularly care for Man of Steel, I thought Batman v Superman was pretty dumb, and critics largely panned Justice League. But, Travis thought it’d be fun to see The Last Jedi and Justice League back-to-back (refillable popcorn and soda, right?), so I obliged.
DC did a pretty good job with Wonder Woman, which I rented before seeing Justice League. Her character is probably the best developed of all of the DC superheros on the big screen, at this rate, as Batman has only appeared in this iteration in one movie, and Superman spent much of his time “becoming Superman” in his first movie that we didn’t really get to see much of the hero himself until Batman v Superman (which was a bad movie). Of all the characters, the viewer cares about Wonder Woman, whereas most of these rest of these characters are just unlikable.
I shouldn’t go that far: we hadn’t even met Cyborg, Aquaman or Flash before this movie, so we had to “get to know them” for a pretty solid chunk. All three are…”fine”…but viewers had little reason to be invested in their backstories. Marvel did a far better job of this in the MCU by breaking out all of the Avengers into their own separate movies before throwing them together against an all-powerful villain. In Justice League, we spend so much time learning the backstory of Flash, Cyborg and to a lesser degree, Aquaman, that we don’t have much of a reason to care about their presence.
Speaking of “all-powerful villains,” our baddie in this movie was Steppenwolf. Seriously. Who the heck is Steppenwolf, you may be asking? Well, besides writing “Born to be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride,” he apparently first appeared in the 1970s and shows up literally “from time to time” in DC comics history. The Wikipedia entry on this guy illustrates how “not really interesting” this villain is. Certainly no Lex Luthor or Doomsday (who was utterly wasted in Batman v Superman)… It’s likely DC only went with Steppenwolf to foretell the appearance of Darkseid, but seriously, DC, what were you thinking?! An entirely CG character that most people have never heard of as your first villain against your “super team” for what should be the biggest movie in your universe??!!
So yeah, the villain, not so good. The character development, not so good. Effects? Well, the last 30-40 minutes were filmed on a green screen. Just about literally. And it was very noticeable.
Ultimately, not a fan of this one. I really didn’t expect to love it, but glad I saw it so I can rail on it more intelligently. It definitely had a few comedic lines, but it’s no wonder Ben Affleck wants to run from the franchise as soon as he possibly can…
I generally liked Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the film prior to this one in the more modern take on the classic Star Wars franchise. My main gripe with The Force Awakens was that it was in many was a rehash of the very first Star Wars movie. It was a very well done “rehash,” but it was basically the same thing with prettier effects and better acting.
The hope was that the next movie, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, would build upon that foundation without becoming a rehash of The Empire Strikes Back and, for the most part, it isn’t that. Instead, it mixes and matches elements of Empire with Return of the Jedi, while also trying to drive the franchise in a somewhat different direction.
Regarding the plot, we pick up just about where we left off after Force Awakens: the First Order is chasing the Resistance, trying to stamp them out after they successfully destroyed the Starkiller Base in the previous movie; and Rey is trying to get Luke Skywalker to return to the fold and take on Kylo Ren. Again, in many ways, this is how Empire Strikes Back took shape, as Luke was seeking Yoda’s help in exile. This movie doesn’t involve taking refuge in Cloud City, but instead involves a race against the clock where the First Order capital ships are slowly picking away at Resistance ships as they run out of fuel. Various characters try to get help in order to ensure that our heroes make it safely to an old Rebel base where they hope to wait out the First Order and survive to fight another day.
Ultimately, this part of the story wasn’t all that impressive to me. It seemed “small” to me. Not really “galactic destiny hanging in the balance”-type stuff. I suppose Empire Strikes Back wasn’t really about that either, but oh well.
The real story in this movie centers on Rey and Luke, and then Rey and Kylo Ren. Luke Skywalker is resistant to returning because he feels responsible for what happened to Kylo. At the same time, he recognizes the same power in Rey that Kylo had, so he doesn’t want to screw up with her like he did with him.
There are quite a few spoilery elements that could be avoided, but I’m going to mention one here because it’s been making the rounds among the internet illiterati since the movie came out. The Force Awakens takes great pains to not tell the viewers who Rey’s parents are, even though she’s trying to find out, herself. Everyone speculated that she’s somehow related to the Skywalker line just like Kylo Ren is (whose parents are Leia and Han Solo). In The Last Jedi, we found out that her parents are…nobody! Just random traders who gave her up for cash, effectively.
Personally, I’m fine with this. However, it opens up a “can of worms,” so to speak, where just about anyone is now capable of using “force powers” (this is alluded to in a few other scenes near the end of the movie). Some feel that “the force” is cheapened, where you don’t have to be “special” anymore to wield a lightsaber or control minds. If Rey is, in fact, a “nobody,” then anyone can do this if they train for it. It also calls into question why, exactly, the Jedi died out in the first place, if they could have just made more Jedi.
So yeah, again, I’m fine with this revelation about her heritage. But this seemingly significant change to Star Wars canon (among many others that show up in this movie) make me question where they’re going for Episode IX. The Last Jedi contains elements of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, so it kinda wraps things up and doesn’t leave much else aside from a final confrontation between Rey and Kylo Ren. While I’m sure that could be interesting, I’m a bit afraid they’re going to keep milking this for longer than they should. They need to be done with this leg of the franchise after Episode IX and should start an entirely new trilogy in a decade or more with Episode X.
The Last Jedi sets it up for “The Next Generation” to take over better than The Force Awakens did, but I’m afraid they’re only really leaving one movie for that to happen. Which means Episode IX has a lot to do in order to bring this trilogy to a close effectively.
I hope they can do it. This movie was solid and entertaining. It was well made, well acted, and though long at 2.5 hours, it didn’t feeltoo long. There were too many CGI characters, but most of them were focused in a few scenes that I forgot about it after awhile.
Ultimately, much like The Force Awakens, it’s tough to fully judge The Last Jedi until we’ve got Episode IX available to watch.