Why ‘Star Trek Discovery’ Season 1 was a cosmic dud

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This post contains spoilers for the season finale of Star Trek Discovery — but also points out why you may not want to bother watching it. 

From the moment its name was unveiled to a packed Comic-Con crowd at a panel of Starfleet alumni, I was personally rooting for Star Trek: Discovery to succeed. 

What we had here, CBS told us, was a true 21st century Trek, fit for the new Golden Age of streaming television. A Trek that could proudly stand alongside Game of Thrones and Black Mirror. Not to mention a Trek that would justify the cost of subscribing to CBS All Access, a channel that otherwise had nothing you couldn’t see on terrestrial TV. 

Indeed, Discovery seemed to have the right stuff. It was not the trying-too-hard-to-be-Star-Wars J.J. Abrams reboot movies; not Trek’s last TV outing, the safe, dull, mostly forgotten Enterprise; not the too-familiar monster-of-the-week format. For the first time, a season of Trek would tell a single story — “like a novel,” said showrunner Bryan Fuller before his still-unexplained ouster — and it would do so with the most diverse cast in the franchise’s history.

As the first season wore on, I gave Discovery every  chance. I defended the somewhat lackluster first two episodes, in which Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) commits mutiny, as setup for the excellent third episode in which she is snapped up for service aboard the top-secret Discovery by the even more mysterious Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs). On board Discovery, Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) leads research into a “spore drive” that could jump our characters travel to anywhere in the universe, instantaneously. Promising!

 The bizarre mid-season finale, with its scenes of Klingon rape and a twist that saw Discovery jumping into an entirely different universe altogether, left me cautious but hopeful: okay, let’s see where this thing is going

But by the time Season 1 ended on Sunday, however, I had no defenses left. My shields were down as the show fired photon torpedoes of poor choices at any desire to care about the characters or keep watching. 

A vast season-long interstellar war between Klingons and the Federation wrapped up so fast, it was as if nothing ever happened. One moment a Starfleet admiral is revealed to be plotting planetary genocide; in the next, she’s handing out medals to the crew, who have apparently forgotten her war crime. 

Then in the final moments, the Discovery answers a distress beacon. Surprise! It’s the USS Enterprise!

A show that had spent a season refusing to hit the reset button had just hit the biggest reset button of all. After promising to take Trek to risky and interesting new places, Discovery left us on the oldest, safest, most recognizable piece of Trek fan service ever. 

In many other circumstances, I’d be thrilled to see the Enterprise appear. Like many of us, I grew up watching that ship in reruns. But the show had simply not earned this moment. After the season that was, it so clearly seemed a bit of handwaving to distract us from the dog’s dinner of a drama we’d just witnessed. 

What had gone wrong? With the benefit of hindsight, we can identify a number of poor storytelling choices, some of them seen into the narrative from the beginning, that boxed Discovery into a place where a disappointing end was practically inevitable. 

Aspiring sci-fi writers, please take note.

1. Too many Klingons (too many Klingons)

Who are these guys? How are we supposed to keep track of their squabbles? Why should we care?

Who are these guys? How are we supposed to keep track of their squabbles? Why should we care?

The first scene of the first episode foreshadowed one of Discovery‘s biggest ongoing problems. A long, subtitled debate between various Klingons tried its damnedest to make viewers invest in some internecine struggle between Klingon families that I, a representative of the nerdy target audience, have now completely forgotten about. 

It was as if Game of Thrones had opened with lots of Dothraki talking in Dothraki about things that were  really only of interest to Dothraki. At least in that instance the actors would be easier to tell apart. 

Not so the Klingons in this production, who were both more elaborate and less interesting than in past Stark Treks. Their immovable masks made it impossible for us to read any nuance of emotion on their faces. Distinguishing between them was hard work. Caring, more so. 

That’s more a production problem than a plot problem, but still — surely those interminable Klingon scenes could have been edited way the hell down in post-production.

Thrones viewers mostly cared about the Dothraki in relation to a character they already cared about, Daenerys Targaryen. Likewise, the only time I had any strong emotion towards a Klingon character was when Ash Tyler was apparently raped and tortured by one. (Or was he? We’ll get to that.) 

Speaking of …

2. Lt. Ash Tyler. Or is it?

Gotta get that juice.

Gotta get that juice.

Dammit Jim, I really wanted to like Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif). Discovery‘s erstwhile security chief developed into an important character with whom our hero, Michael Burnham, had a tender romance. Given how much of her emotional time she expends on him, he’s arguably the number one dude in the whole narrative.

But here’s the thing: the manner in which Tyler joined the crew was so damn shady: in episode 5, he was found in a Klingon cell with notorious con man Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson, a bright spot in a season that was at least well cast). 

You don’t just find major characters in Klingon cells in chapter 5 without the viewer knowing something’s up. Was he a Klingon spy, a plant, a sleeper agent? Frequently lazy on the character front, the show did almost no work to alleviate our suspicions. Starting a fling with the hero, story-wise, just mades him even more suspect. He was a gender-swapped femme fatale.

So it wasn’t that big a surprise when Tyler turns out to be a Klingon sleeper agent. Except in that he actually had a Klingon inside him, somehow, implanted in some way that had fooled Discovery’s medical scanners! And his female Klingon Dr. Moreau had to rape him too, because reasons! Surely not just to give Star Trek fans their first official canon sight of Klingon boobs.

It was hard to understand when Tyler was going to be himself or Voq, the murderous Klingon inside him, and Burnham had (like us) pretty much just stopped trying to figure it out. He goes off to reunite the Klingon Empire with … the woman who raped and tortured him, who now leads the entire species? And is sort of a Klingon hero now? 

Was the show now trying to tell us that Tyler was Voq during that sex scene, not himself, and so everything’s cool now? A writer who cared about story might have taken a moment to all address this. 

All in all, Tyler was the season’s greatest waste of character development. Kidding! He was the second greatest waste, behind only … 

3. Captain Lorca, RIP?

Hero or villain? Why not both?

Hero or villain? Why not both?

Here was one of the best twists in a season that loved its twists. Gabriel Lorca — the bend-the-rules captain of the black ops science ship Discovery — turned out to have been the version of himself from an evil Mirror Universe all along. He deliberately drove Stamets to the brink of madness by getting him to jump Discovery to his home universe. A long con if ever there was one. 

That, of course, made Lorca an instantly fascinating villain. We’d just gone through several varieties of hell alongside him. He was our pal. Becoming evil didn’t stop him being ridiculously watchable. Especially when the evil dude in question is Jason Isaacs, who could invest the eating of a ham sandwich with dark charisma. 

The show was in desperate need of such a complex character amidst its rubber-masked villains. So what did the showrunners do for an encore after this reveal? They killed Lorca off in the next episode and pretty much never mentioned him (or his supposedly-dead non-Mirror version) again. 

That’s not a shocking twist a la Game of Thrones, it’s story self-sabotage. Mystifyingly, Isaacs’ name hung around on the opening credits until the end, as if to say: look what you could have had. 

4. The Emperor of the Goddamn Universe

Captain Georgiou. No, wait, Emperor Georgiou. No, Captain Georgiou again. Wait, where'd she go?

Captain Georgiou. No, wait, Emperor Georgiou. No, Captain Georgiou again. Wait, where’d she go?

The reason Star Trek Discovery thought it could get away with killing off its most magnificently evil bastard starship captain is that it was in the middle of attempting to create another one: Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). 

Georgiou, who had a complex maternal love-hate relationship with Burnham at the start of the season before her death, showed up again in the Mirror universe as the Emperor of the whole damn Terran Empire, but one who had the same maternal love-hate relationship with Mirror-Burnham. 

Then, before we really had a chance to settle in with this idea, the ADD script deposed the Emperor and yanked her back into our universe, where Starfleet seemed perfectly happy to stick her in a captain’s uniform. Again, none of this felt earned. Mirror-Georgiou’s motivation was all over the place. 

Science fiction is an inherently unbelievable genre. That’s why its best writers have to work so hard to suspend our disbelief by investing in characters. I don’t think the Discovery writers cared about nurturing believable characters at this point. I think they were on sugar and caffeine highs, playing mad libs with the script. “What if … Georgiou! Turned out to be the … Emperor of the Universe! And then became … a Starfleet captain!”

Everyone has an “I’m out” moment, where some piece of sub-par science fiction or fantasy fails to meet their minimum believability standards. Captain-Emperor-Captain Georgiou was mine, and I should have listened to my gut. 

From this point on, she was a chess piece to be moved around. Nothing she did or said in the final episode made a lick of sense — and neither did Starfleet’s decision to just let the most dangerous person from another universe roam free in ours.

5. Everyone else (except Tilly)

Remind me of your names?

Remind me of your names?

In previous Treks, we’ve known enough to care about pretty much everyone on the bridge of the Starship or space station. Not so in Discovery. Instead we got officers who were repeatedly seen and almost never heard, much less fleshed out as characters. 

Given that most of them were women or people of color, this is particularly problematic. I had to look up the names of the characters in the GIF above, Joann Owosekun and Keyla Detmer. Here’s hoping we learn literally anything about them in Season 2. 

The minimal time in the script that might be left over for these characters was given to Cadet Tilly (Mary Wiseman) in engineering. Tilly consistently brought something the show was otherwise lacking — a sense of humor. 

She was also bumbling, babbling, proudly ambitious, occasionally quite mean, mostly loving. That’s how you do it, Star Trek Discovery. That’s how you make a character seem real. 

Ironic, then, that everywoman Tilly — the character who made you feel you too could be a Starship Captain someday — effectively pushed a bunch of other women out of the script. 

Who’s left? Paul Stamets, despite the best efforts of Anthony Rapp and the best boyfriend in the late Doctor Hugh Culber, never quite gelled as a character. He began as a brilliant if bitchy scientist, took a left turn at mad prophet and martyr, met himself in the Mirror universe, and finally … decided to give up on his beloved spore drive? 

Again, the show conveyed this last change with a throwaway line at the end that destroyed the character’s last shred of apparent ambition, making Stamets little more than a blank slate.

Likewise, Saru (Doug Jones) had been doing yeoman’s work as a sit-in captain throughout the entire Mirror Universe arc — and then it is casually announced that Discovery would hire a new (still unknown) captain from outside. The viewer is naturally going to want to check in on how Saru feels about that. Too late! The show is already warping to its next plot point.

Maybe this is a result of trying to jam too many characters into a single show. Then again, plenty of writers of ensemble TV drama handle this sort of problem weekly. Discovery‘s problem thus far is that it never wanted to focus on character; it wanted to zip between cool twists at ludicrous speed. Even Michael Burnham only feels real because of Martin-Green’s incredible acting chops, not her straight-as-an-arrow dialogue.

I hope this can change in Season 2. I hope Discovery can boldly go into meaningful motivation and complex characters with clearly drawn personalities and long-running arcs. 

Given that its cliffhanger focused entirely on a spaceship, however, we probably shouldn’t hold our collective breaths. 

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It’s okay to have fake plants

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I came home from my holiday vacation feeling terrible about myself. 

The trip had been lovely, but I was exhausted from a twice-delayed flight and could feel the ominous soreness that precedes a cold coming on. I was anxious about my to-do list. My personal life was not exactly at its peak. And, of course, I had a classic case of post-vacation blues. 

As a consolation prize, I longed to go home to my beloved apartment, with its squishy couch, its soft blankets, and my beautiful two-year-old peace lily. I loved that plant, primarily because I’d spent so much time trying to figure out what kind of plant it was. (I inherited it from a former roommate who hadn’t known, either.) 

We’d been through a lot together, the peace lily and I — a lot of light levels and watering frequencies, at least — and I looked to it as a constant, hardy presence in my everyday life. Even when everything else sucked, and even if I guessed wrong on its favorite temperature, the peace lily’s waxy, enormous leaves still came out on top.

But when I walked into my bedroom, the peace lily was dead. Not just wilted or a little brown: dead. Murdered. Completely gone.

I was, predictably, devastated. I’d arranged for the plant to be cared for while I was gone, so I couldn’t figure out what had caused its untimely death. I concluded that I had made a mistake — I’d  left the apartment too hot, or too cold, or too wet, or too dry. I’d finally messed up, and now my plant was dead.

This made me feel even worse.

I’ll be honest: the experience made me feel so useless that it almost turned me off plants entirely. But a few weeks later, I bought an adorable miniature fern, and it’s doing great!

It’s also a polyester-silk blend.

I know, I know, I’ve betrayed the plant care community by adopting a fake (or faux, if you want to sound more artful) fern. But since I live in a residence cursed by sticky summers and dry, radiator-heavy winters, it’s the only way I can get the aesthetic of a plant-lover’s paradise without continuously risking my money and my self-esteem. 

For the most part, this is not what the plant care influencers would have you believe. To be sure, plant care can be a rejuvenating form of self-care, and it’s certainly touted as such. Keeping another living thing alive feels good, and filling your space with the fruits of your labor is nothing short of moving. But if you place so much of your self-worth in your ability to keep a plant thriving, what happens to that self-worth if the plant dies? What happens if it was beyond your control? What happens if you don’t know why?

Plants — real ones, mind you — are a huge part of digital lifestyle culture. They’re certainly all over Instagram, where they adorn the stylish apartments of one-succulent minimalists and tropical paradise maximalists alike. Plant care tips are everywhere. Last December, Mashable published a guide to the best plants to give as gifts, which is basically the gift equivalent to assigning someone a packet of leafy green homework.

Fake plants, then, provide a more accessible way into the plant décor community. Some are expensive, but that’s not the case for all of them — in fact, Amazon Prime has quite a few at reasonable prices. (If you want to get fancy, you always can.) 

And after you buy your fake plant, that’s it. You don’t need to buy plant food. You don’t need to repot. You don’t need to leave that sad corner of your apartment bare because it’s too dark to sustain life. You can do whatever you want! And that freedom is a form of self-care, too.

So will I ever adopt a real plant again? Probably. There’s nothing quite like nurturing a living thing into bloom. But will I feel bad about my adorable fake fern? No way, man. I love my fake fern. 

And I’m never going to come home to its corpse.

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Melinda Gates explains how she and Bill can work together without fighting

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Melinda Gates

  • Bill and Melinda Gates are among the most famous married couples who work together in the world.
  • Both of them work at their charitable foundation, which they say employs 1,500 people in offices on four continents.
  • One question they are frequently asked is how they deal with disagreements as they jointly run their foundation.
  • Melinda Gates had some insightful answers about how to co-lead with someone who has a reputation as a demanding boss.

Bill Gates has never had a reputation for being the easiest guy to work with. Back when he was CEO of Microsoft, he was pretty much known as a "brilliant jerk," a tech-industry term for the guy who is so clearly the smartest one in the room that he has little patience or tolerance for those who can’t keep up. In his younger years, Bill was known for being demanding and impatient with a tendency to yell.

But those days are long gone as Bill now spends most of his time focuses on his philanthropy work and working with his wife, Melinda, to run their charitable foundation. 

In the couple’s annual letter for their charitable foundation, Melinda Gates had a little fun with this. The letter was written in a Q&A format this year in which the two of them answer a bunch of the most common, and somewhat prying, questions they are always asked.

One of the questions that they answered was "What happens when the two of you disagree?"

Melinda answered first by writing, "We never disagree. Just kidding. Bill almost never gets this question. I get it all the time."

She said there’s two types of people that tend to ask her this: "journalists hinting that Bill must be the one making the decisions" and other wives who are also running foundations with their husbands.

But she did answer it seriously. The most important thing, she said, is that the two of them share "the same values." This is symbolized by a present they received when they got married. 

"For our wedding, Bill’s parents gave us a sculpture of two birds side by side, staring at the horizon, and it’s still in front of our house. I think of it all the time, because fundamentally we’re looking in the same direction," she said.

Bill and Melinda Gates

She also says that people have misconceptions about what it’s really like to work with Bill. "Bill is very open-minded, which isn’t necessarily how people perceive him. I love Bill because he has a kind heart, listens to other people, and lets himself be moved by what they say," she wrote.

He may ask her for more data on something she proposes — as she’s a fellow geek who loves data, such a suggestion wouldn’t offend her. And she doesn’t feel like he’s doubting her or discounting her or her judgment.

She admits, though, that it took them a while to learn how to work together. When Bill resigned from his day job at Microsoft in 2008 and went to work full-time at their foundation, which had been mostly her domain, it was tough on Melinda.

"He was used to being in charge," she said, while she had been focusing on raising their kids at home.

"There were times I felt that disparity — in meetings when I was reticent and he was voluble, or when the person we were meeting with looked toward Bill and not me," she explained.

They got through that by committing to each other that they were equal partners at the foundation. On days when things didn’t go well at the office, they would discuss the situation later, at home, she explained.

To prove the point of how well they now work together, Bill chimed in by writing in the letter, "I agree with all of this!"

He also added that he’s the one that can get exuberant and he counts on Melinda to reel him in. 

"When I get really enthusiastic about something, I count on her to make sure I’m being realistic," he wrote. "She helps me understand when I can push our teams harder (as I pretty much always did at Microsoft) and when I need to ease off."

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Here’s what might happen if North Korea launched a nuclear weapon

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Why Olympus Mirrorless Cameras are Top Notch for Travel Photography

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From entry-level to pro, the Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds OM camera series has something for every aspirational travel photographer.

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Camera – Olympus Mirrorless E-M1 with kit lens at 38mm, 1/250th, f/14, ISO 400.

Are you looking to get serious about your digital photography and move up to an interchangeable lens system? Or maybe you are looking to upgrade to a pro level weatherproof transportable system?

Are you off on a journey of a lifetime and looking to record every moment? You want to be sure there’s no danger the camera won’t be up to the task – so which will you take along?

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Camera – Olympus mirrorless E-M10 Mark II, Lumix G 20mm lens, 1/125th, f/2.2, ISO 200.

The Olympus OM Micro Four Thirds system could be heaven sent. In this article, we’ll look at the OM-D E-M10 entry-level camera and the top of the range OM-D E-M1 through almost 12 months of use.

Why Olympus mirrorless systems are phenomenal travel cameras

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus EM1, kit lens at 14mm, 1/5th of a second, f/22, ISO 3200.

This was taken handheld, showing just how good the image stabilization is on these cameras.

The important considerations for travel cameras are size and weight, versatility, durability, performance, and picture quality. Ideally, you want a light-weight system that will easily move between landscape, street, and portrait photography.

Let’s look at each of these considerations in turn.

Size and weight

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

The flagship model Olympus EM-1 weighs in at just under 500g (1.1 pounds), the smaller and lighter EM-10 at an incredible 342g (0.75 pounds). Both are smaller in size than my hand.

Incredibly, they both fit in a parka-style coat pocket when fitted with a 14-42mm kit lens. Look at the size of my Sony DSLR in this picture below to see just how much of a space saving there is comparatively.

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

There are obvious advantages to the smaller cameras in regards to luggage on a plane, and carrying gear around all day. But the small size is also non-threatening if your shots include passers-by. Plus you can take it places where professional style cameras are not allowed.

The Micro Four Thirds System also means lenses are much more compact. For instance, the Olympus 75-300mm zoom lens measures 130mm and weighs in at 430g (just under a pound). The equivalent focal range for a full frame camera is 150-600mm. That kind of glass for a DSLR would weigh in at about 3kg (6.5 pounds)!

Versatility

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

There is a good range of lenses available for the Micro Four Thirds mount including ranges by Lumix and Panasonic, as well as Olympus. The range will take you from a fish-eye pancake lens, through wide-angle primes to long zooms. The image stabilization system built into the camera means the lenses are both light and affordable.

Extension rings with electronic connections to allow your lens and camera talk to each other are also available allowing you to make the best use of your available lenses. Two lenses and one converter will take you from wide-angle to macro to long zoom without missing a beat.

Durability

Both these cameras look and feel solid and durable. Having used them both for almost a year in sometimes inhospitable conditions and on long hikes, I have had no issues with these cameras or the lenses I use.

If you look at the pictures the condition is still like new. They even get taken along on motorbike and camping trips in the winter!

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus E-M10, 40-150mm zoom at 150mm, 1/400th, f/7.1, ISO 200. Despite the dark and overcast day, the camera produced good detail straight out of the camera in this JPEG image.

Performance and Picture Quality

Firstly, I should mention I am using systems that were current when they were purchased at the beginning of 2017. They have both been upgraded since with some notable improvements. The EM-1 now has a Mark II version with a 20MP sensor rather than 16MP chip, and improved AF tracking. The EM-10 moves up from Mark II to Mark III with more minor improvements.

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

The camera has a fantastic viewfinder with 100% picture coverage as well as a touch-control rear screen, a feature that will feel familiar if you use a smartphone. A massive range of buttons allows you to set up the camera to suit your style with several where you can assign the functions. The menu system will feel familiar if you’re a DSLR user. It has a very useful one-click user “Myset” comprising four customizable options for configurations that you use frequently.

My set screen - Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

The 5-axis stabilization is excellent, making handheld shooting easy and rewarding. The AF system has 81 points and is surprisingly good though tracking is not up to that of the weightier and roomier APS-C cameras. This is one of the trade-offs for having the compact size.

As the cameras use electronic viewfinders or the rear LCD screen, batteries get used up quickly. Battery packs are available, but this adds to the size. So if you attach one the camera won’t fit in a pocket anymore.

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus E-M1, kit lens at 35mm, 16mm extension tube, 0.3-second exposure, f/7.1, ISO 400. I adjusted levels in post-processing to lighten the image and create a fine art feel.

All the photographs in the article are taken with either one or the other of these two cameras, so you can judge for yourself the quality of the results. The newer versions of these cameras can only be even better.

The cameras provide great results for landscape photography, handling a range of tones well, especially with the added use of the HDR function to bring out details at both ends of the scale.

At lower ISO levels, up to 1600, there is little evidence of noise, although it increases in the dark areas as you approach that mark. Quality is acceptable up to ISO 6400, in my opinion.

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus E-M1, 82mm, 1/200th, f/9, ISO 1600. Look, I’m Pinnochio! Grab shot – love the skin tones and the AF got the near eye, spot on.

Skin tones are good, producing great portraits and color handling is great. Low light shooting isn’t a problem for this camera, especially at the lowest ISO.

Millstone beach - Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus E-M10, Lumix 20mm, 1/80th, f/1.8, ISO 200. Fabulous colors despite the overhead canopy and reduced light.

CONCLUSION

Both of these Olympus mirrorless cameras are fantastic pieces of kit for almost every situation. Picture quality is good, handling with the stabilization is awesome, AF and exposure are solid. With an entry-price of about $500 for the EM-10, the value is terrific.

The pricier EM-1 is also a good value, especially when considering the price of additional lenses. A Mark I at less than $1100 represents astonishing value. However, I do aim to upgrade to the EM-1 Mark II when finances allow, knowing I already have a decent range of accessories for it.

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus E-M1, 75-300mm lens at 270mm, 1/40th, f/6.7, ISO 400. The quality of this shot is fantastic, just look at that tail!

As a travel camera, I don’t think these two Olympus mirrorless cameras can be beaten at their respective price points. If you are new to system cameras, the EM-10 would be a fantastic introduction, with its straight-forward layout. A more seasoned photographer may prefer the customizable options and total control of the EM-1

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus E-M1, kit lens at 22mm, 1/60th, f/22, ISO 2000 using Aperture Priority. Straight out of the camera JPEG file. Great results even if you’re not a Photoshop fan.

Either way, you won’t be disappointed with the results. You can take that once in a lifetime trip knowing you’ll bring back images of your travels to be extremely proud to show off to friends.

The post Why Olympus Mirrorless Cameras are Top Notch for Travel Photography by Janice Gill appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Playa Encuentro

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  • Destroyer: As the name suggests, this shallow peak is dangerous. The rip currents have challenged the best of swimmers. When conditions are perfect, locals surf here to avoid the crowd. If you’re not an advanced Surfer check out some of the other peaks instead, the shallow waters and sharp, jagged corals are not to be taken lightly. This peak works best with a North Swell.
  • The Left: On a beach with mainly rights, this peak goes left. The left tends to draw a crowd of highly skilled Surfers because only works on a good day, and it brings tight, fast barrels (since the floor is mostly sand with patches of reef.) This peak works best with a North Swell.
  • The Right: Located in front of the stretch between the Restaurant and Chino’s Surf School, this is the central peak of Encuentro. Beginners are not allowed to surf here (for their safety), and inexperienced Surfers are recommended to surf elsewhere as the locals here take their waves seriously. You can take lefts here too. This peak works best with a North East Swell.
  • Bobo’s Point (also referred to as 3-2-1):
    Also primarily a right that can go left. Beginners surf in the whitewash and are asked to stay here. The lineup is less crowded here than the Right since most surfers want to avoid beginners. This peak works best with a North East Swell.
  • Coco Pipe: On big days Coco Pipe breaks biggest and breaks world-class waves. Beginners should not surf here as the water is shallow. Paddleboarders can surf here and nowhere else in Encuentro for safety reasons. This peak works best with a North Swell.

Here’s how to make The Boring Company’s flamethrower

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Obligatory disclaimer: Don’t be dumb.

What follows is a video showing high level instructions on how to build a nearly exact copy of The Boring Company’s flamethrower. Basically, gut this $125 Airsoft gun and insert a propane torch. The total bill of goods should be under $200, well under the $500 The Boring Company was charging until it sold out of the 20k units.

As many pointed out before, The Boring Company Flamethrower is muddling the definition of a flamethrower. It’s more of a large torch like those used in roofing or to clear brush or melt ice.

Whatever. It’s okay to have fun sometimes.

Elon Musk said following launching a Tesla Roadster into space, “It’s kind of silly and fun, but I think that silly and fun things are important.” I agree. This DIY flamethrower is silly and fun and it’s the type of project that could inspire and engage someone into discovering mechanical engineering. Just don’t be dumb. Please.

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New DNA nanorobots successfully target and kill off cancerous tumors

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Science fiction no more — In an article out today in Nature Biotechnology, scientists were able to show tiny autonomous bots have the potential to function as intelligent delivery vehicles to cure cancer in mice.

These DNA nanorobots do so by seeking out and injecting cancerous tumors with drugs that can cut off their blood supply, shriveling them up and killing them.

“Using tumor-bearing mouse models, we demonstrate that intravenously injected DNA nanorobots deliver thrombin specifically to tumor-associated blood vessels and induce intravascular thrombosis, resulting in tumor necrosis and inhibition of tumor growth,” the paper explains.

DNA nanorobots are a somewhat new concept for drug delivery. They work by getting programmed DNA to fold into itself like origami and then deploying it like a tiny machine, ready for action.

DNA nanorobots, Nature Biotechnology 2018

The scientists behind this study tested the delivery bots by injecting them into mice with human breast cancer tumors. Within 48 hours, the bots had successfully grabbed onto vascular cells at the tumor sites, causing blood clots in the tumor’s vessels and cutting off their blood supply, leading to their death.

Remarkably, the bots did not cause clotting in other parts of the body, just the cancerous cells they’d been programmed to target, according to the paper.

The scientists were also able to demonstrate the bots did not cause clotting in the healthy tissues of Bama miniature pigs, calming fears over what might happen in larger animals.

The goal, say the scientists behind the paper, is to eventually prove these bots can do the same thing in humans. Of course, more work will need to be done before human trials begin.

Regardless, this is a huge breakthrough in cancer research. The current methods of either using chemotherapy to destroy every cell just to get at the cancer cell are barbaric in comparison. Using targeted drugs is also not as exact as simply cutting off blood supply and killing the cancer on the spot. Should this new technique gain approval for use on humans in the near future it could have impressive affects on those afflicted with the disease.

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Focus on the Idea, Not the Outcome

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What would you try in your professional life if you weren’t afraid of failing? Would you finally write that book of short stories? Strike out and open your own shop? Convince your manager you deserve to be in charge of a larger team?

For Eve Ewing, a teacher, artist and writer, the potential for failure is all part of the process. “Small failures and confusions, I think, are really generative,” she says in an interview with The Creative Independent, in which she talks about letting your ideas guide you, compartmentalizing creative time, the temptation to do work you don’t really want to do for a brand-name employer, and that when you have a bad day at work remember it could be worse—you could be packing meat. Her advice is aimed at creatives and writers (Ewing published Electric Arches, a hybrid of prose and poetry, last year), but most of it can apply to anyone who wants out of their work.

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“There’s something in our culture where people are focused on the accomplishment and not the actual art or the idea,” she says, detailing how she she wanted to write something—specifically poems or essays, or the next Great American Novel—and beat herself up when she hadn’t published something by the age of 17. She just didn’t have an idea, and that made becoming the author she wanted to be, well, difficult. Then, when she had an idea for a poem that started turning into a short story, a form she doesn’t consider her strength, she just along went with it.

This book that has been one of the easiest, most pleasurable, and one of the best things I’ve ever written. It’s also been a fairly pleasurable experience that has just happened. All these times that I tried to write fiction and I totally bombed out. It reaffirmed for me that you can’t really be obsessed with the form or the function; there has to be a concept beneath something. And when you have a concept, it just goes.

It was okay for me to say, ‘I don’t have a good idea for a fiction thing right now,’ and I should have just said that and allowed myself, alleviated myself the suffering, the self-castigation. But I’ve been amazed, it’s challenging my notions of myself and what I’m able to do.

She goes on to explain the benefits of trying things just outside our comfort zones, to build ourselves up with small successes on the path to a larger success, or honing a certain skill. To understand that we won’t succeed at everything immediately, and that’s ok, as long as we try to “be a little bit better the next day.For her, one of these activities was knitting, which may not seem like the most instructive example of overcoming failure, but taught her a lesson that applies in facets of life beyond crafting (emphasis added).

When you make a mistake [knitting] you have two choices. One is you can accept that the final product is gonna be flawed, and maybe no one will ever see it but you will always see there’s a little hole right there. The other alternative is to start over. And either of those options is totally fine. I would knit and be like, oh I made a mistake three rows back and rip it out. And people watching me would be like, how can you?! They just saw me labor over building a garment loop by loop, which is a ridiculous enterprise, right? How can you undo it? And I’d always be like, well, I did it once and I’ll do it again. And now I’ll do it better.

What it comes down to is taking failure in stride, perhaps by trying more things you’re uncomfortable with. You may fail more often, but you’ll also succeed more often than you would by playing it safe.

Natural talent—I don’t actually know how much I believe in such a thing. I do know that there are things that if I work hard at them, I will get better. 2018 is gonna be a year of writing a lot of different things that I’ve never done before. I’m writing a lot of things that I’ve never done.

Here’s to 2018 being the year you focus on the idea, not the preferred outcome, and step outside your comfort zone.

Read the full interview here.

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Lemon Water Doesn’t Do Anything

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Photo by Cindee Snider Re.

Water: refreshing. Lemons: also refreshing. Combine the two, and you get a drinkable liquid with sprightly flavor. That is all you get. Not a detox elixir, not a metabolism booster. Let me repeat: when you add lemons to water, you just get lemon water.

(And if you also add sugar, you get lemonade.)

If you like to start your day with a glass of warm lemon water, I certainly won’t stop you. But let’s take a look at the supposed benefits of this ritual.

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It’s not a magical metabolic tonic. Reader’s Digest, in listing “12 insane benefits” of drinking lemon water, cites a study to support the idea that some of the compounds in lemons “prevent weight gain”. The study was in young mice (who are still growing, hence the study of weight gain) and rather than a morning glass of lemon water, they were given a mixture of polyphenols, chemicals extracted from lemons, in an amount that made up 0.5 percent of their diet. The results were somewhat promising, if you remember that these weren’t people, they weren’t drinking lemon water, and they weren’t losing weight.

It is made of liquid. Another weight loss benefit of lemon water is that it fills your belly so you don’t eat as much breakfast. This is true, but also applies to regular water.

It is very low calorie. Reader’s Digest, again, points out that water with a slice of lemon has fewer calories than if you filled the same size glass with the sugary juice of many oranges. Yes, that’s true. Lemon water is made almost entirely of water.

It won’t “detox” you. Because that’s not a thing.

It’s not full of electrolytes. “Not that I was drinking it straight, but half a cup of lemon juice has about 125 mg of potassium compared to about 211 mg in a banana,” Dina Gachman writes at Prevention. Okay, but if you’re not drinking a half cup of the stuff, what good does that math do us? Here are the numbers for the amount of juice in one lemon wedge. Check out all those zeroes!

Minerals in the juice from one wedge of lemon. Thanks, Nutrition Data.

It doesn’t help you digest anything. Stomach acid is acidic, and lemons are acidic, so surely lemons help you digest your food, right? First of all, stomach acid is only involved in one small aspect of digestion, so boosting it wouldn’t do much for your body. But it turns out you can’t really change the acidity of your stomach. If you eat something alkaline, your stomach cells squirt out more acid; if you chug lemon juice, they’ll hold back.

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It doesn’t provide pectin or any other fiber. Unless you’re chewing and eating the lemon slices, in which case you’ll get a tiny bit.

Don’t get too excited about vitamin C, either. One wedge gives you 4 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin C. If you love your lemon water and drink a whole lemon’s worth, you’re up to 36 percent, which makes it a pretty good source of that vitamin. But you’re getting vitamins in the rest of your food, too, aren’t you? I trust that if you were in danger of developing scurvy you’d hop off your pirate ship and grab a juicy whole orange (138 percent of your daily requirement) on your way to the doctor’s. If you’re just hoping to prevent colds, vitamin C doesn’t do that, but it may shorten colds if you take large doses. As in, way more than what’s in a glass of lemon water.

In conclusion, lemon water is made of liquid, contains few calories, and arguably tastes good. That’s what it has going for it. A glass of lemon water each morning might help you give up a coffee habit (why though) or help you feel like you’re getting your day off to a healthy start, as you gaze out the window and envision the yoga routine you’ll try later. Fine. Whatever. But that’s all it can do.

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Researchers use nanorobots to kill tumors in mice

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Our current methods of fighting malignant tumors are wildly inadequate. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments, while sometimes successful, come with massive side effects, mainly because every other cell in the body is also getting bombarded with chemicals and radiation even though the main targets are the tumor cells. Finding a way to specifically target tumor cells while leaving healthy cells alone is something that many researchers are working towards and a new study out today demonstrates that nanorobots made out of DNA could be an effective option.

The research team took DNA from a virus and turned it into a sort of DNA sheet. That sheet was then loaded with an enzyme called thrombin — a chemical that can clot blood — and the sheet was then rolled into a tube, with the thrombin kept protected inside. To the ends of that DNA tube, the researchers attached small bits of DNA that specifically bind to a molecule found in tumor cells, and they served as a kind of guide for the DNA nanorobots. The idea is that once the nanorobots are introduced into an organism, they’ll travel around and when those guiding bits of DNA come into contact with those tumor-associated molecules, they’ll attach. Then, the DNA tube will open up, exposing the thrombin within. That thrombin will then clot the blood supply to the tumor, effectively cutting off its nutrients and ultimately killing it.

To test their nanorobots, the researchers injected them into mice infected with human breast cancer cells and human ovarian cancer cells as well as mouse models of human melanoma and lung cancer. In each case, the nanorobots extended the life of the mice and slowed or reversed tumor growth. Further, in the case of the melanoma model, the nanorobots appeared to be able to prevent the spread of melanoma to the liver and with the lung cancer model, the lungs even showed an ability to begin repairing themselves once the tumor growth had slowed.

Of course, the ability to treat tumors would be moot if the nanorobots themselves posed a risk to people. But the team showed that the bots didn’t clot blood outside of the tumors and they didn’t trigger any significant immune responses in either mice or pigs.

While they’re still experimental and haven’t been tested in humans, these nanorobots show a lot of promise for treating cancer. "Our research shows that DNA-based nanocarriers have been shown to be an effective and safe cancer therapy," Guangjun Nie, one of the researchers on the project, said in a statement. "We are currently working with a biotech firm to translate this revolutionary technology into a viable anti-tumor therapeutic."

The research was published today in Nature Biotechnology.

Source: Nature Biotechnology

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