Four Things I Wish I Learned in High School

School is back in session! Are you lamenting the end of summer vacation (or maybe celebrating it)? I’ve been out of school for a few years now, and it still feels strange not heading back to class after Labour Day. Looking back on high school, I definitely learned a lot, both inside the classroom and out. But there are a number of life lessons I wish we’d all learned in high school. If you’re a student, know a student, are a teacher, or know a teacher, let me know if you agree! Continue reading

Smartphone Astrophotography with Novagrade

Hello all — I have returned from Starfest, Canada’s largest annual astronomy/camping conference! We had fabulous weather and clear skies for (almost) the entire week straight. There were lots of opportunities to use telescopes, binoculars, and even our eyes to observe the skies, especially the Perseid meteor shower! While real-time observing has its merits, many Starfest attendees are also heavily involved in astrophotography: taking photos of planets, stars, galaxies, or the night sky in general. This year at Starfest, I tried out smartphone astrophotography for the very first time.

Heading into this week of astronomy, I brought my 10-year-old automated telescope along with me. My only camera is a Nikon point-and-shoot. It’s not suited for long exposures or detailed images, both of which are important for “imaging” astronomical objects. However, I’d recently heard about a new trend in astrophotography that would take advantage of a camera most people already have: their smartphone.

It’s not enough to hold up your smartphone to a telescope eyepiece and snap a picture, though. You have to keep incredibly still, and if your phone moves out of alignment, you’ll see nothing but a black screen. That’s why Joe and I decided to make a purchase through Red Raven Marketing, one of Starfest’s vendors, at this year’s conference:

The Novagrade Phone Adapter for Smartphone Astrophotography

 Smartphone Astrophotography with Novagrade

The phone adapter is a device that latches onto any reasonably-sized smartphone or mini tablet. The side clamps are spring-loaded, and the back of the device has an adjustable hole to accommodate any camera placement. We found that it was easier to have the adapter hold the phone upside down. That way, thee little knob above the phone (see above) would support the phone’s weight instead. The adapter then twists onto a telescope eyepiece or camera using a compression ring.

 Smartphone Astrophotography: Novagrade Compression Ring

For our first foray into smartphone astrophotography, also known as digiscoping, we used 2″ eyepieces and a Samsung Galaxy S6. We used the Pro Mode of the phone’s built-in camera app to take pictures. That allowed up to 10 seconds of exposure, and we could play around with brightness and focus to try and optimize our images. Some turned out really cool, but we struggled with some others. We’re still learning! I’ve just used PicMonkey to apply some filters to these images. (That’s known in the astrophotography world as “post-processing”, apparently.) Take a look!

The Crescent Moon

 Smartphone Astrophotography — The Moon

Saturn

 Smartphone Astrophotography — Saturn

Jupiter, and some of its moons

 Smartphone Astrophotography — Jupiter

The Double Cluster in Perseus

 Smartphone Astrophotography — Double Cluster

(Okay, it basically looks like a bunch of stars…)


Another important aspect of this process was the Twilight app. We were taking photos in the dark and looking at faint objects in a telescope, so we didn’t want to ruin night vision for ourselves or the other campers around us. This program applied a red tint to everything on the phone screen. This way, our eyes didn’t get blown out by bright white light every time we looked at it. The only downside was having to take a break every couple hours to look at all of our images in full light, to make sure they still looked good!

Want to use this technology for yourself? You’ll need a smartphone, an adapter like ours, and something with an eyepiece. That could be a telescope, a birding scope, perhaps binoculars… or maybe even a microscope! And as for me, Joe and I are going to keep experimenting with our Novagrade Phone Adapter!

How do you enjoy the night sky?

Disclaimer: This post is not affiliated or compensated in any way. I just enjoy sharing about cool products!

Starfest: The Ultimate Astronomy Camping Experience

Happy Tuesday — it’s a very exciting day! Starting today, my family and I are taking our annual camping vacation to River Place Campground for a much-anticipated event: Starfest!

What’s Starfest?

Starfest is Canada’s largest “Star Party”. That’s an amateur astronomy conference event. By day, Starfest is a camping trip with the added bonus of speakers, workshops, access to astronomy equipment vendors, kids activities, and campground amenities (yes, that includes showers, thank goodness. And there’s a pool!). Some of us also take the opportunity to embark on day trips to nearby small towns for sightseeing and shopping. By night, everyone breaks out their telescopes to observe or take astrophotos.

If you don’t have a telescope, fear not! The night-time entertainment also includes a guided Sky Tour as an intro to astronomy for newcomers. Plus, many campers with large telescopes would be happy to show you what their telescope is viewing — as long as they don’t have a camera plugged into the eyepiece instead! During the day, there is also a chance to do some observing of the Sun using specially-crafted filters to protect your vision.

Believe it or not, I didn’t first hear of this event while studying physics in school. In fact, I’ve been a die-hard attendee since I was three years old. My dad has been an astronomy hobbyist for years, and he began bringing the whole family along in 1996. Here we are, twenty years later!

Who should attend?

  • Anyone with any level of interest in astronomy, telescopes, or space science — and their families and friends!
  • Anyone who has been meaning to book a camping trip all summer, and just hasn’t gotten around to it yet..

The campground is located about two hours north-west of downtown Toronto. That’s fairly close to the GTA compared to a lot of other camping destinations. And you get all of the extra perks of an astronomy conference as well!

What’s special about Starfest this year?

2016 is the 35th anniversary of Starfest, and the conference theme is “Big Astronomy”. That means galaxies, black holes, solar storms, and massive telescopes. If you’ve ever been amazed by the sheer scale of our universe, this year is for you!

Does it start today? How do I register in time!?

Don’t worry! I’m just a keener and going up to Starfest early. The official event starts on Thursday evening and runs until Sunday morning. Feel free to arrive and register at the door anytime before noon on Saturday. You can also set your departure date as any day as well. Keep in mind, though, that the keynote speaker will present on Saturday evening — followed by the highly-anticipated door prize draw for all registrants. Come one, come all: you have to be present to win a prize! I was extremely fortunate to win this beauty as the grand prize back in 2005:

 Starfest 2016 — My Telescope

What if the skies aren’t going to be clear?

Ah, the age-old Starfest question. Everyone devoted to the hobby of astronomy hopes for clear skies every single night. The campsite was chosen specifically because of its dark night skies, compared to the Toronto area. However, if there are some clouds, or even if it rains (or if there’s a tornado or two…), you still get every other perk of attending the event! Why waste an opportunity for a mini-vacation? So in my opinion, if the skies aren’t going to be clear, come anyway! It’s going to be great!


Well, folks, I’m heading off to Starfest — hope to see you there! Clear skies!

Pokémon Go Problems

It’s the gaming craze that’s swept the nation, and it’s a very fun and surreal bandwagon to hop on. Pokémon Go has people literally searching their neighbourhoods for Pokémon, with many of them reliving their 90’s childhood in the process.

But Pokémon Go is not without its problems. Its many, many problems. Problems such as…

When your country’s release is over a week after the USA’s.

Canada and Europe freaked out online when America got Pokémon Go before they did. Of course, everyone figured out the workaround, but then panicked, believing the rumour that it would get them banned from the real game once it launched. Plus, there were huge risks of inadvertently downloading malware along with the game if the source was unsafe.

In spite of all that, after six days of watching US social media blow up, I figured I should try it out anyway. And that led me to problem number two.

When the Pokémon Go servers are down.

All the time. Whether you’re logging in or in the middle of gameplay, the servers get overloaded so frequently.

I feel bad for Niantic, to be honest — the level of engagement in this game was totally unprecedented. How could they have known they would need server support for the biggest mobile game ever, especially with its regional launch strategy? Nevertheless, Nintendo probably should have tipped off their developers to the phenomenon they were about to unleash.

When your phone isn’t supported.

Canada finally got its release on July 17th, less than a week ago. I opened Google Play and searched for Pokémon Go, and… it wasn’t there.

Oh, come on!!

Turns out my Samsung Galaxy S3 is so ancient now that it won’t support the game. Boo. And because of everyone’s favourite No Buy July challenge, I can’t get a new phone until August!

Luckily, Joe’s got an S6 and he wasn’t super intent on playing alone, so we made an account with my Gmail and decided to share the Pokémon-catching responsibilities.

 Pokémon Go

When you catch (or hatch) yet another Pidgey.

It didn’t take long to learn that Pidgeys are everywhere. Of course, we started evolving and powering up one of our Pidgeys with the “Pidgey Candy” earned from the others. But how are we supposed to catch ’em all when all we can find are Pidgeys? (And yes, someone has [essentially] caught them all. Something tells me he’s a little more dedicated than we are.)

When you hurt yourself because you’re staring at your phone.

There have been some really horrible injuries and situations caused by Pokémon Go. Luckily, I’ve managed to avoid any danger, and I want to encourage people to be safe, look up, and be aware.

Psst: The battery saver mode of Pokémon Go can help you stay alert while you play! It dims your screen when you lower your phone, but keeps the app on so it will still buzz to notify you of nearby Pokémon. Though you should use these tips to avoid any glitches while using the mode.

When the game glitches.

Here are some of the glitches I’ve experienced so far:

  • The images of Pokémon disappearing in combat so I can’t hit them with Pokéballs
  • Pokéballs freezing on screen without letting you exit combat
  • The GPS going crazy, thinking I’m running around a huge area when I’m sitting still and tilting my phone
  • Screen freeze

And on it goes. I’m hoping Niantic can work out the kinks before the fad dies down!

When you use up all of your data.

Pokémon Go is a data-heavy game. And last night, Joe and I hit 95% of his monthly data, which won’t reset until the end of the month. Thanks to No Buy July, we will not be purchasing any additional data to facilitate our Pokémon obsession. Looks like we’ll have to take a break from Pokéwalks for a while.

When you smile and wave at someone else playing Pokémon Go on the street (as everyone tends to do) — except they’re just using their phone like a normal person and now you look nuts.

Awkward.


In spite of its problems, Pokémon Go is probably one of the most hilarious pop culture events I’ve seen. I love that it’s bringing people together, getting them outdoors, and taking complete advantage of that nostalgia factor. I can’t wait to see how far this thing goes.

Have you run into these Pokémon Go problems while trying to catch ’em all?

Todoist — My New Favourite Productivity App

Sometimes I discover something that gets me so excited that I have to share it with the world — and Todoist is one of those magical finds!

As a checklist addict, I’m always on the hunt for solid productivity tools. I love my physical Erin Condren planner, obviously, but there are limitations to the power of paper. When it comes to collaboration and recurring events, digital is the only way to go. My coworkers and I use Trello for assigning tasks and keeping track of the goals for the week, but Trello has some serious deficiencies that impact my workflow:

  • No checklists. Once you create a card (or a to-do item), it’s either there or it’s not. You can create checklists within the card, but there is no way to mark the entire card as complete. You can archive, but those closed tasks will no longer be easily accessible for historical purposes.
  • Limited nesting. In Trello, there are three tiers: lists, cards, and checklists. Beyond that, you’re SOL. And as I mentioned, they don’t all have the same functionality.
  • No recurrences. This one is a killer, especially in a department like mine, with lots of weekly or monthly tasks to remember.

The recurrences issue was what drove me to seek out a new tool for keeping track of my daily, weekly, and monthly tasks at work. (Full disclosure: This issue came to light because I forgot about a weekly action item…)

Enter Todoist.

Todoist is a checklist app for smartphone and desktop (plus a browser plugin). Side note: the Android app looks just like the Gmail app! There is a premium version, but for the sake of this review, I’ll stick to the free features (since I’m not that dedicated yet!). You can add tasks with due dates and priorities, make them recurring, and assign them to “projects”, i.e. folders. You can also add collaborators to your projects, so that your friends, family, or coworkers can view and edit your lists together. Here are some of my favourite features:

View by Project or by Upcoming Due Date

A lot of checklist apps have calendar views in addition to categorical views. I like Todoist’s approach in particular, because the by-date arrangement is still formatted like a checklist to give you that consistent experience.

Indentation: Sub-Projects or Sub-Tasks

At any point, you can “indent” a task or project so that it falls under the category of the one above it. And, of course, you can drag it up or down so that the item is assigned to the right parent. Parent Projects are helpful if you want to be able to view multiple lists at once, but still have them broken down by subcategory.

Todoist: Nested Checklists

Pretty neat, huh? The colours indicate priority levels, so you can sort by those as well. (Side note: this is not my real to do list…)

Recurring Tasks

Yay! There is now an easy way to set up those pesky repeated tasks, without having to select any dates by hand. You can easily set up recurrences by typing something like “Every Wednesday” or “Daily at 3pm” or even “Every 5 days starting July 5th” into the due date slot. Todoist will interpret your request accordingly. It’s actually pretty fun to test the limits of the Quick Add date selector.

Postpone

Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. But that’s okay! Todoist has a built-in Postpone function that will shift your due date either one day or a full recurrence forward. You can always change the actual due date if you prefer, but this is a nice, quick fix that doesn’t make you feel so bad about yourself when you don’t accomplish everything you hoped to!

View Completed Tasks

This feature is pretty simple and neat. At the bottom of any project list, you can click a button to display all completed tasks. Plus, you can then uncheck them if you want to revive them on your checklist.


Now, of course, no app is perfect. But given the way I work and the features Todoist has, it’s a definite improvement over my previous system, or no system at all!

In short, I would definitely recommend you give Todoist a try at work, home, or both!

What are your favourite apps for getting things done?

Course Selection Tips for First-Timers

For all of you high-schoolers out there, summer is rapidly approaching! Many of you will have already accepted offers to colleges or universities for this coming September. Congratulations! But there is still work to be done before you can head off to school in the fall. Yes, I am referring to the dreaded “course selection”. As I helped my sister work through the process of choosing her classes this past week, in preparation for her first-ever course selection appointment, I realized that a lot of the information available to incoming freshmen is either super vague or too complicated.

Know Your Appointment Time.

You should have been assigned an enrollment time. Make sure you are available to be at a computer with good Internet at that time. It’s also important to know how early or late your appointment is, relative to the rest of your school. If your appointment is late, you may find that some of your courses or class times are already full. Keep in mind that you may need backups!

Get a Piece of Paper.

You don’t want to have the extra stress of memorizing your class schedule and course names, so write it down! This is the chart I’ve used:
Course Selection — Planning Chart

I’ve got ten slots here for courses, so that means five for Fall and five for Winter. If you’re planning on completing your degree in more than four years, just add columns and delete rows.

Use Full Course Codes.

In my experience, Canadian universities use course codes that usually consist of four letters for the department, and three or four numbers to specify the course. For example, my first-year physics class was titled “PHYS 104”. If the course code has a letter following it, such as BIOL 101A and BIOL 101B, that usually means there are two sections of the course, often offered by two different professors or at two different times. Keep track of the course codes for each course. That’s the only way you’ll be able to search for and find them when you go to sign up.

The first digit of the number in a course code usually refers to the year of study the school expects you to be in when you take that course. However, if you have the pre-requisites fulfilled, it often doesn’t matter what year you’re in if you want to take a higher-level course. (More on pre-requisites later.)

Find Your Program Requirements.

You will find your program’s requirements to graduate in your faculty’s “Academic Calendar”. For example, here’s the program I completed:

 Course Selection — Program Requirements for Queen's Physics

My university used “units” to quantify courses. 3.0 units meant one semester-long course. If you take 5 classes per semester, and two semesters a year, that equals 120 units over four years, which is a full degree. My plan had 72 units (or 24 semester-long classes) specified, meaning I had 16 semester-long classes left to pick for myself.

Fill in your chart with all of the required courses in each year. Record full-year courses twice: once for each semester. How many slots do you still have open for more courses?

Pay Attention to Pre-Requisites.

One of the first things I recommend doing when considering your university career is to look for any third- or fourth-year courses that really interest you, whether they’re in your program or not. Look at the pre-requisites for those classes, and see if they fit into your plan. But do those pre-requisites have pre-requisites of their own? Work backwards to figure out what you need to do to take those courses.

If you’re not sure what courses will interest you in the coming years, that’s okay! Focus on your program’s requirements first.

Be Well-Rounded: Check Your Breadth Requirements.

Many universities have breadth requirements, which are categories of courses in which you have to take a specified number of classes to make you more well-rounded. They might require you to take one course for a full year in each of science, arts, and humanities, for example. Choose whatever interests you in those categories, or whatever will help you prepare for your future career!

Tutorial or Not Tutorial? That is the Question.

Some courses have mandatory tutorials/discussions/seminars to go along with a lecture. Each lecture may have multiple tutorials taught by the same or different Professors or Teaching Assistants (TAs). The rule of thumb I’ve discovered is that if a course has tutorials available in the course selector, they’re probably mandatory. Also, if a lecture takes up less than three hours a week, it probably has a tutorial as well. That way you’re still getting 3 hours per week of instruction. You can always check in the course description — it will tell you whether a course has a mandatory tutorial component.

Some classes may also have laboratory components. Those usually work the same way.

If the course code for the lecture has a section (e.g. BIOL 101A or BIOL 101B), make sure you sign up for a lab or tutorial in the same section (A or B).

Course Selection for Electives!

Electives are the fun part! Electives are courses taken in any department, especially those that don’t fall under the umbrella of your program. You can take extra courses in your department if you want to, though, as long as your fulfill any breadth requirements you may have.

If you’re in a specialized program, such as engineering or commerce, your schedule may be filled up with required courses in the first year or two. That’s okay — you may still have space for electives in third or fourth year.

If you’re in a more general program, you may only have a couple of required courses in first year. That means first year is the perfect time to take some electives! Just make sure you prioritize the electives that satisfy your breadth requirements.

Be Prepared.

 

When your course selection appointment arrives, you will be able to submit your schedule for the semester or the year (depending on your school). But the online portal will allow you to pre-build a schedule before your appointment. Make sure you do that!

In addition, if your electives are super popular and your appointment is relatively late, do some searching to find backup electives that will fit your schedule, so that you can swap them out at a moment’s notice.


That’s all I have for you today, future frosh! Good luck with your course selection, and comment if you have any questions!

For those of you who have gone through this process before, what course selection tips do you have for the Class of 2020?

Fantastic Commas and Where to Use Them

I love commas. I truly believe that they can greatly improve clarity in writing of all kinds, and I cringe at missed commas on a daily basis. While it’s true that commas can be misused, I think many people are so afraid of run-on sentences that they abandon sentence structure altogether. But, honestly, what’s the point of writing if your language has no natural cadence? In the interest of bringing the joy of the comma to all of my readers, I would like to share some advice on comma use that you can employ in essays, in emails, or even in text messages. These tips specifically refer to grammatical situations I seem to encounter all the time. Grab a cup of tea and take notes!

Before a Conjunction that Begins a New Phrase

Consider the following:

I would love to help you but I can’t do it today.

I would love to help you, but I can’t do it today.

Are either of these examples incorrect? Technically, no, but one of them would be much clearer when skimmed through in the body of an email, and that’s the one with the comma. The comma in this case helps suggest a slight pause or breath in the sentence where it may not otherwise be assumed. It’s super helpful when you’re trying to get your point across.

Lists (i.e. Oxford Commas)

I’ve discussed the Oxford Comma before on this blog, but it’s still a point of contention for me. For the uninitiated, the Oxford Comma is the comma between the last two items in a list:

I need to buy peas, lettuce, and pickles.

The commonly-taught rule is that in a short list like the above, you don’t need the red Oxford Comma, but I and others disagree in many cases. For a very clear example to explain why this is the case, check out the graphic in the other post on this topic (click here for that).

Sentential Adverbs

I had to look up the name of this particular grammatical construct, but once I explain it, you’ll know what I mean. A sentential adverb is one that modifies the entire sentence, not just a particular noun. In this case, I’m talking about the ones that appear at the beginning of a sentence. For example:

Obviously, I believe commas are fantastic.

“Obviously” is the sentential adverb here. Because it can be removed from the sentence without consequence to its grammatical structure, it needs a comma immediately following it. Otherwise, it may distort or obstruct the meaning of the sentence. An example without a comma is as follows:

However she thinks this sentence is confusing.

The lack of comma here makes it look like the “however” is referring to “she” or to “she thinks”, rather than the sentence as a whole. In fact, it sort of seems like this is a sentence fragment that is trying to describe the manner in which she thinks!

The moral of the story here is that you need that comma.

Asides and Other Partial Statements

My general guiding principle is that if part of a sentence could be removed without destroying the structure of the rest of the sentence, then it should probably have commas around it, where applicable. For example, consider the sentence:

I’m a nerd, to be honest, and that’s okay.

If you remove the middle fragment, the sentence still works:

I’m a nerd and that’s okay.

However, if the piece of the sentence you’re considering could be a standalone sentence itself, then this is not the place for a comma. This calls for a semicolon, or perhaps even a new sentence altogether.

I wasn’t born yesterday, I know a run-on sentence when I see one.

You can fix the above sentence in one of the following three ways:

I wasn’t born yesterday; I know a run-on sentence when I see one.

I wasn’t born yesterday. I know a run-on sentence when I see one.

I wasn’t born yesterday, so I know a run-on sentence when I see one.

The Word “Like”

Yes, I’m talking about the typical “teenage” usage of the word “like”: as a filler word, replacing “um” and “uh”, for instance.

In formal written language, this isn’t really an issue. In texts, it might pop up, but not as often — it simply adds length or emphasis to the sentence, which doesn’t lend itself to the brevity required in a text message. However, the worst offenders for this grammatical misdemeanor are casual Young Adult Fiction writers. For example:

“I was like so excited,” he said.

Ugh, stop. That makes no sense, and it drives me nuts. The word “like” here can be considered an aside, as in the previous example, so the correction would be:

“I was, like, so excited,” he said.

Notice that the commas indicate that the removal of the word “like” would not break the sentence structure. That’s much better.


I would love to get into the nitty gritty of punctuation in dialogue here, but I think this is enough for one post! Let me know if this was helpful, and if you’d like to see more!

What are your best comma tips?

(P.S. Did you get my awful Feature Image joke?)

B is for Books - Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer

What I’m about to share with you is a review of a science fiction novel. And I’ll warn you right now, while it’s set in the near future and in Canada (of all places, haha), it’s still got some potentially intimidating, though partially fictional, science. If the title, Quantum Night, is making your eyes glaze over, then perhaps my recommendation won’t apply to you.

That said, I really enjoyed this novel, and I would love to tell you why.

Robert J. Sawyer is currently my favourite science fiction writer for a number of reasons. He explores a number of complex ideas, like consciousness and various fields of physics, but in a way that’s not too overwhelming. He clearly writes for an audience with an interest in science and psychology, but perhaps without a formal education in either. I’ve got education in one but not the other, so I find his explanations of new topics nice and clear. Characters in his novels are relatable in general, though, to be honest, I do sometimes find myself having to suspend my disbelief when it comes to their internal monologues, especially for female characters. Sawyer is also a Canadian author — and when I say Canadian, I mean blatantly Canadian. Each of his novels that I’ve read so far has either clearly mentioned or been set in Canada, with landmarks, current events, and clichés pointed out all over the place. It seriously cracks me up, eh? 😉

Rather than summarizing the novel myself, I’ll let Sawyer’s publishers do the work for me, via Amazon:

Experimental psychologist Jim Marchuk has developed a flawless technique for identifying the previously undetected psychopaths lurking everywhere in society. But while being cross-examined about his breakthrough in court, Jim is shocked to discover that he has lost his memories of six months of his life from twenty years previously–a dark time during which he himself committed heinous acts.

Jim is reunited with Kayla Huron, his forgotten girlfriend from his lost period and now a quantum physicist who has made a stunning discovery about the nature of human consciousness. As a rising tide of violence and hate sweeps across the globe, the psychologist and the physicist combine forces in a race against time to see if they can do the impossible–change human nature–before the entire world descends into darkness.

I bought this book before going on vacation, with the intention of reading it on the beach and during any downtime over the 10 days we were gone. But you know what happened? I read it in the first three days. I really enjoyed the pacing of this book; I found it ramped up at exactly the right points, and I was very invested in the outcome of the plot as I neared the end. I won’t go into any more detail, lest I spoil it.

The book alternates viewpoints between the main character, Jim Marchuk, and other characters, both in the past and the present. Sometimes I find viewpoint switches to be jarring, but I liked the way it was done in Quantum Night. There’s no discernible change in the tone of the writing, but the tense simply shifts from first to third person and back. For contrast, I’m currently reading The Martian, and while I really enjoy reading the log entries from Mark Watney’s perspective, the complete shift in tone and tense for the non-Mars scenes totally throw me off. I think that may be one of the reasons I stalled about a quarter of the way in.

Back to Quantum Night. While this book is one of many of Sawyer’s that is set in Canada, I’d say it is the most dense when it comes to Canada references, especially in regards to current and future politics. This book was only published a month ago, so yes, it even discusses PM Justin Trudeau. I worry that this sort of reference will quickly date the book, but because I read it within a month of its release, I’ll just say that I enjoyed it.

Now, what about the “sci” part of “sci fi”? The concept of this book is that quantum mechanics, biology, and psychology come together to create a theory about psychopathic tendencies. From my physics education, I was pretty familiar with the jargon and concepts used in this book on the quantum side of things. The rest I knew nothing about, so I took what Sawyer wrote and cited at face value — which I figured is okay, since it’s fiction, after all. But since it’s fiction, I had to make an effort not to think too hard about the physics, since obviously it wasn’t real and therefore didn’t make much sense. By the end, the book was edging closer to the thriller genre than to sci fi, so I left my scientific concerns behind and focused on the plot like I was supposed to do in the first place.

So, in my opinion, who would enjoy this book? If you like sci fi, adult dystopia, and/or clichéed Canadian references, then Quantum Night is for you.

(Actually, to bring The Martian back into the conversation: if you watched [or read] The Martian, what was your favourite part? If, like me, your favourite part was watching Mark Watney successfully conquer the challenge of farming potatoes on Mars, then you should definitely check out Quantum Night!)

Also make sure to check out Robert J. Sawyer’s other books! The WWW and Neanderthal Parallax trilogies are my favourites.

Thanks for reading! See you on Monday for the letter “C” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge!

The Good Wife Conspiracy Theory

I heard the Superbowl was yesterday! No, I did not watch it, for a number of reasons:

  • I don’t have cable.
  • I hate football.
  • I’m just not a fan of sports in general.
  • Binge-watching The Office made way more sense at the time.

However, I did catch up on a few of the highlights on Facebook afterwards. I saw the infamous Beyoncé almost-stumble, found out who won (yes, that came second), and heard about some of the ads. One of those ads was for the *gasp* final episodes of The Good Wife. The show has been cancelled!

Before anyone spoils it for me, I’ll say right now that I’ve only watched up to the end of the sixth season, because I’m only watching on Netflix. I really like the show. But here’s the thing: I’ve known since the first episode of the fifth season that the seventh season of The Good Wife would be its last.

Am I the only one who saw this coming? Someone else must have figured it out, too!

If you didn’t, here’s my reasoning:

  1. In the first season of The Good Wife, each episode had a single-word title.
  2. Season 2 only contained episodes with two-word titles.
  3. In Season 3, each episode had a title with three words.
  4. In Season 4, the episodes were named with four words each.

Are you seeing a pattern here? Perhaps I was only privy to this because I was watching on Neflix. It likely wouldn’t have been as clear to anyone watching as it aired, unless they specifically looked at the TV guide or googled the episodes. And then, the unthinkable happened…

Each episode in Season 5 of The Good Wife had a three-word title.

Dun dun duuuuuunnnnn!!!

Okay, so it’s really not that shocking. But I realized the second I pressed play on the Season 5 premiere that they were counting down, back to the one-word titles of Season 7 episodes. So I think it’s pretty funny seeing articles and blogs abound this morning, talking about the series cancellation “shocker”. Considering the fact that they kept another…certain…plot point (I won’t spoil it, in case you haven’t watched the show) secret for months, I have no doubt in my mind that they’ve been planning this finale since the beginning, or at least since Season 5. You can read some vague references to the overall story arc coming to a close in Season 7 here.

So I have to ask, did you predict the “surprise” ending of this show – or any other show you watch?

X-files

The first two episodes of the long-awaited X-Files revival aired this past Sunday and Monday night, to mixed reviews but high ratings. I watched both episodes with my parents at their place (mostly because Joe and I don’t have cable). We even had a bowl of sunflower seeds to snack on – Mulder’s treat of choice. Now that we’ve all seen one third of the mini-series, I figured I’d share some of my thoughts on the new episodes, and the show as a whole. Spoilers ahoy!

FOX is in on the conspiracy…

Some people like football. Okay, a lot of people like football. But FOX, if you’re going to bring back a show and make us all get really hyped for it, must you make us wait through 25 minutes of post-game commentary (and ads)? Really? You can’t keep the truth from us!! (My condolences to those who PVR’ed the premiere and therefore missed half of it.)

Intro & Theme Music

It’s back!

I mentioned a few weeks ago that Joe and I were re-watching the original X-Files series as an introduction and a ramp-up to the 2016 version. One of the minor changes, yet biggest disappointments, in the later seasons was the switch from the original intro sequence to an “updated” version.

While the original was kitschy and very 90’s, it had charm, and it really embodied the feel of the series. The updated intro felt like it was trying too hard to be modern. At the time, David Duchovny had also begun backing away from The X-Files (in favour of Californication, as I understand it), so there were a lot of frustrating changes coming all at once.

Anyway, the new series brought back the original intro – complete with 90’s hair and everything! It definitely enhanced my nostalgic geeking-out experience.

Mulder and Scully’s Relationship.

Nailed it. Their interactions felt so much more authentic than in 2008’s I Want to Believe. Scully seems much more outspoken and quick with snappy comments these days, but I think that’s a welcome character development. I was a little concerned about character credibility when Mulder started falling for Joel McHale’s crazy theories. I’m relieved that he seems to be coming to his senses and regaining some of his humour.

Alien-DNA-Mind-Reading-Abductee

As soon as Sveta was introduced, my first thought was, “Where’s Gibson Praise?!” If you don’t recall, Gibson Praise was the child chess prodigy in Seasons 5/6/9 – with alien DNA, who could read minds. Sound familiar? Perhaps they’ll actually revive the character. Jeff Gulka, who played Gibson, has not denied any involvement in the revival…

Hey, wait a minute! I just went over to Jeff Gulka’s Twitter so I could add a link here to one of his tweets I read on Sunday night. Someone had asked him whether he was involved, and he said something along the lines of “Time will tell…” But the tweet is gone!!! WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?!?!?!

Conspiracy of Men

I’ve seen a lot of people griping about this online – that it’s a cop out, that it’s just the Illuminati all over again, that it’s too far-fetched, that it’s not true to The X-Files.

Let’s think back to the finale of Season 4, when Mulder becomes convinced (via Kritschgau) that the whole alien conspiracy is just a government/military cover-up, etc. And it takes him a trip to Antarctica a season later to rid himself of these doubts and want to believe again.

My guess? It’s happening again – and it will take us until the mini-series finale for everyone to finally be on the same page about the reality of an alien conspiracy. (Wow, I sound nuts. I know it’s a TV show. I promise.)

Mytharc Monster of the Week

Back when the series was still on the air, everyone knew that there were two types of episodes of The X-Files: Monster of the Week and Mythology (Mytharc). It was usually pretty clear. Monster of the Week episodes had, well, a monster – or someone with paranormal abilities, or a supernatural scenario of some kind. Mytharc episodes were those that forwarded the overarching plot, they were usually double episodes/premieres/finales, and you’d get all of the big names as guest stars (Cigarette Smoking Man, Krycek, the Alien Bounty Hunter, etc.).

My favourite thing about Monday’s episode was its ability to be both: it forwarded the plot, while incorporating some of those Monster of the Week qualities that viewers would look forward to when they needed a break from the heavy mythology. Given that there are only 6 episodes to cover an entirely new Mytharc, I imagine that Episodes 3-5 will also be hybrids (haha, get it?) like this. And I’m very much looking forward to it.

Overall, I’m feeling pretty positive about the revival. I’m still hesitant about the direction of the plot, but I’m looking forward to next week’s episode! (How weird is it to actually have to wait for a new episode of a TV show, now that we all have Netflix?)

What did you think of the two-part premiere?