Star Trek: Discovery: Seasons 1 & 2

If Picard represented a brave new world of solid storytelling for Star Trek after more than 35 years, Discovery is, well, the same old thing, lightly refurbished to meet modern dramatic television sensibilities. Since I subscribed to CBS All Access to watch Picard, I decided to give Discovery another try, despite the first episode having been so bad that I mocked it live on Twitter.

Overall the show is, well, better than that first episode, but not very good. The first season is very hard going, partly focused around a war with the Klingons, but also spending several episodes in a strange digression. The second season is more coherent and generally improved, but still kind of disappointing. The general feel of the series is one of flamboyant and nonsensical plotting, without much of a message. The characters are generally pretty flat. Overall it feels very much of a piece with NextGen and the later series, albeit with a rougher edge, but that’s not really a good thing.

Lots more – with spoilers – after the cut:

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Trying the Official Twitter App

(This post is an adaptation of a Twitter thread I wrote on the subject last night.)

A few days ago I decided to try out the official Twitter app for macOS and iOS. Twitter has been slowly cutting back support for third party apps, so I was curious whether their app was any better than what I’m currently using.

For me, the answer is… a little yes, a lot of no.

For a while Twitter had dropped their macOS app entirely, but the Mac Catalyst technology prompted them to port their iOS app to the Mac. I probably wouldn’t have tried this experiment otherwise.

My current Twitter client on both platforms is Tweetbot, which is great, and would probably be even more great if Twitter weren’t slowly crippling it by cutting back on what third party clients can do with their APIs.

Here’s what I thought of the official clients, across both platforms:

The Good

  • Being able to see the count of responses and likes to a tweet (the “ratio”) is nice. Tweetbot shows like count but not retweet count, presumably because Twitter’s API doesn’t provide it.
  • Being able to see polls inline is very nice. I often see tweets where someone asks a question and I just respond, and sometime later realize it’s a poll.

    I believe Tweetbot can’t show polls due to Twitter’s API deficiency. I always have to open a poll in a browser to vote.
  • Pinned lists are very nice, probably the one feature I don’t think Tweetbot really has which I wasn’t expecting and immediately found useful.
  • The bookmarks system looks nice, but I haven’t really used it. I had no idea it exists. Presumably because Twitter’s API doesn’t vend it for third-party clients.

The Odd

  • The iOS client has a sidebar which is just the search field and “what’s happening”. Not very useful. I miss the responses sidebar from Tweetbot.(Which used to also show most notifications until Twitter’s API dropped support for that.)

    So I mostly hid the search bar in my trial. Which was weird because then the timeline doesn’t get any wider, it’s the same width with a whole bunch of whitespace on either side, and no way to adjust it. Seems like poor design.
  • Tweetbot has a nifty muting system where you can choose where people are muted (everywhere, only in lists, etc.). I use this a lot to manage my lists, following people and then muting them in my timeline but not elsewhere. I was concerned the Twitter wouldn’t give me that control, but muting only mutes from the main timeline, so it’s fine, but took some trial and error to figure out. I’m not sure whether more fine-grained control here is something I’d need.
  • It’s annoying that I can’t (AFAICT) mute individual accounts for limited periods of time like in Tweetbot – that functionality only seems to be available for keywords. I use this a fair bit (e.g., if someone is going on about some subject I don’t care about in volume I’ll mute them for a day), so I would probably miss it at some points.
  • Tweetbot seems to have its own separate mute list data, so I had to go through and re-mute dozens of people. I don’t know whether this is because of Tweetbot’s richer muting system, or a deficiency in Twitter’s API. But it was annoying.

The Bad

  • The client doesn’t show me the number of unread tweets for my main timeline or whatever list I’m viewing. I missed this a lot.
  • The client doesn’t keep my reading spot in lists. So at some point when I open a list it will scroll me to the top, no matter how many tweets in the list I haven’t read yet. This is extremely annoying and on its own almost enough to send me back to Tweetbot.
  • It seems my reading spot in lists and the main timeline are not synced among my various devices. This is also extremely annoying, as scrolling down to find where I’d last been reading is not really feasible.
  • Sometimes when I come back to Twitter after a while away (such as overnight), the client shows a “Show more tweets” prompt above my last spot in my timeline, but clicking it almost always shows me the newest tweet in the gap, not the oldest, so I have to scroll back down to get to where I was.
  • The threading in the client is nice in some scenarios, but pretty annoying when scrolling upwards, to see the most recent tweets in a thread first (i.e., at the bottom). This seems like a poorly-thought-out user experience. It would make sense if one scrolled down to get to the latest items in one’s timeline (which, TBH, is kind of what I want anyway, but they’re never going to do that).
  • The notification system is pretty annoying, as it supplies a lot of customizability but most of it I don’t want. I pretty quickly figured it would just be easier to deny it notification privileges at the system level. This needs some user-quality-of-life evaluation to simplify these settings, probably cutting about 75% of them.
  • Holy cow there are a lot of ads, excuse me, “sponsored tweets”. I felt like I saw 2x-5x more ads on Twitter than on Facebook. Tweetbot shows me none of this nonsense (which is presumably why Twitter doesn’t want you using third-party clients).

    Ads might be more bearable if I could assign them a different background color or something.
  • There’s no way in the app that I can find to set a show/hide keyboard shortcut on macOS, which I use all the time in Tweetbot. Maybe I could do it through a macOS system pref, though I did a short search and couldn’t figure it out. It would be a much more useful app pref than all the notification stuff.

I could probably live with a lot of the Twitter app deficiencies if it remembered my reading spot in all lists and synced across devices. But overall it needs a lot of polish, so I’m likely heading back to Tweetbot.

I’m not sorry I tried it out, but I am kind of surprised that the app – on both macOS and iOS – feels like it has a lot of maturing to do.

Quar Wars Day

Debbi’s birthday falls on Star Wars Day, which is convenient since she loves Star Wars, especially the original trilogy. In these days of shelter-in-place with no vacation plans for the foreseeable future, we decided to both take the day off.

The night before we re-watched Knives Out, which we saw in the theater in January and enjoyed tremendously. It holds up very well on re-watching, partly because it’s funny and lively, and partly because knowing what’s coming throws a different shade on some of the earlier scenes.

Debbi made pancakes for breakfast before our current set of eggs expired, and we turned on the original film, as some TV station was showing episodes 1-8. And, well, watching them is most of what we did for the day. We’d talked about driving to a nearby park or trail to go for a walk somewhere other than the neighborhood, but neither of us felt like it. So we each went for a local walk instead, and otherwise had a lot of couch time.

I picked up lunch from our local Hobee’s, which reopened for take-out a week or so ago, and for dinner we picked up from QBB. I puttered around doing a few chores, and Debbi got calls from friends and family, but otherwise we watched five Star Wars movies: The original trilogy, The Force Awakens, and The Rise of Skywalker, which other than Rogue One are the five best films in the series. (It’s ironic that we watched and enjoyed Knives Out, because its writer/director Rian Johnson also did The Last Jedi which is as joyless and glum as Knives Out is otherwise. Some people think it’s because it was produced by committee, but I also think it’s much worse than the two Abrams films. I’m perfectly happy to not see it again, as with the prequel trilogy.)

So, it was a low-key but pleasant day. If nothing else, we’re grateful that COVID-19 waited until this year to strike, so we still have the fond memories of Debbi’s awesome 50th birthday weekend from last year (which somehow I never did an entry about). Small favors, etc.

Anyway, happy birthday to Debbi! Hopefully we can do something more exciting for it next year.