Flashback Fourth – Check out my July 4 ‘Evening Jazz’ from 2014

An American flag is on display at Arden Fair Mall in Sacramento, California, on Feb. 9, 2009.

An American flag is on display at Arden Fair Mall in Sacramento, California, sometime before 2009.

Many of you may know that I was a volunteer disc jockey for North State Public Radio for about eight years. From 2008 to April 2016, I was one of a rotating set of hosts for “Evening Jazz” (most often hosting on Mondays and Fridays) and sometimes “Blues People” on Saturdays. It was my third gig as a volunteer DJ, after starting at KSDT in college and having a show at WMTU in Michigan.

During my nearly eight years, I hosted on Independence Day once or twice. I recorded the July 4 episode from 2014 for my personal enjoyment.

Given the July Fourth holiday, I thought I would temporarily share that episode from my archive.

[Link]

I loved all of my shows and approached each program as an ongoing exploration of music for both myself and the audience. I don’t think I ever presented myself as an expert in any genre, just someone who loved good tunes and checking out past greats and what’s new.

Every so often, “Evening Jazz” would fall on or near a holiday. I would often take advantage of the occasion by presenting music appropriate for the day. For example, I tried to find songs from Boston and Vancouver performers during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Another year, I did a combined Presidents Day/Valentine’s Day episode.

The 2014 July 4 episode was a little different from my usual episodes, as it tried to encompass different elements of the holiday.

Enjoy and happy Independence Day!

Edited to take down the broadcast link.

‘New’ CurlingZone doc ‘Anything is Possible’ to debut July 4 on YouTube

The documentary "Anything is Possible" is set to debut on YouTube on Saturday, July 4, 2020, on YouTube.

The documentary “Anything is Possible” is set to debut on YouTube on Saturday, July 4, 2020, on YouTube.

I first posted this on r/curling on July 4, 2020.

CurlingZone is debuting a documentary “Anything is Possible – An American Curling Story” on YouTube at 6 p.m. ET tonight (July 4).
https://youtu.be/RqeBwXAf0Lc

By all appearances, this looks like it might be a rebranded update of “Making Curling Great Again” that first appeared a year ago. The title card for both films appears to be very similar and the YouTube page for “Anything is Possible” refers back to a “Making Curling Great Again” page on CurlingZone (with dead links to the original documentary). The description of “Anything is Possible” also sounds like it covers the same territory (curling in the United States up to Team Shuster winning gold).

When the documentary first appeared last year, many, many people disliked the overly political nature of the title, including on Reddit. That thread got only 47% upvotes and shows no overall upvotes (which is probably one of the most lukewarm responses I’ve seen on this usually friendly group). Several redditors noted that the documentary itself wasn’t overly political (and they had other critiques of the film).

Gerry Geurts started a thread on CurlingZone introducing the film and defending the choice of the title.

The title “Making Curling Great Again” was adopted as a way to take back the power of these words and try to bring people back together again, though I didn’t fully understand the depth of hurt this title had for many people as a parody of the more contentious slogan that has become a battle cry for a cause. This was strongly debated internally as to the direction, but we ultimately felt that the title fit in so many ways and we’re comfortable with trying to create conversation. We just wish it could be more constructive and less about winning and losing and the insults that flow from the debate.

Ultimately, I think a lot of curlers didn’t want to engage in that conversation because the name of the doc. Many curlers I know will share anything related to the sport, but I don’t recall seeing many shares when the original film came out. The number of views on YouTube didn’t appear to be high compared to other CurlingZone docs.

The Twine-Time blog delved deeper into the name controversy in a post last July.

Personally, I’m more willing to share info on a film entitled “Anything is Possible,” even if it is the same film (and the new name isn’t very eye-catching). I’m interested to see what is posted later today on YouTube.

Winter Olympics – Curling replays

Swedish skip Niklas Edin prepares to deliver a curling stone during a game at the 2018 World Men's Curling Championship in Las Vegas on Monday, April 2, 2018.

Swedish skip Niklas Edin prepares to deliver a curling stone during a game at the 2018 World Men’s Curling Championship in Las Vegas on Monday, April 2, 2018. Team Sweden won the silver medal for men’s curling at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

This is a re-creation of pages previously hosted by the World Curling Federation linking to replays of curling games from the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics. The replays are hosted on OlympicChannel.com, as of this writing.

One of the great things about the Olympic broadcasts is that they’ve recently broadcast every game from each session. At most curling events, the broadcaster picks a game from a featured sheet or two when there are four or five games happening at the same time.

I’m very thankful that the World Curling Federation, International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Broadcasting Services has made these recordings available for viewing.

PyeongChang 2018

Sochi 2014

PyeongChang 2018

Mixed Doubles – Feb. 8 to Feb. 13

Day Date Time Draw Sheet A Sheet B Sheet C Sheet D
Thursday 08-Feb 09:05 MD1 USA v OAR CAN v NOR KOR v FIN CHN v SUI
20:04 MD2 FIN v SUI KOR v CHN OAR v NOR USA v CAN
Friday 09-Feb 08:35 MD3 KOR v NOR USA v SUI CHN v CAN OAR v FIN
13:35 MD4 CAN v FIN CHN v OAR USA v KOR SUI v NOR
Saturday 10-Feb 09:05 MD5 CHN v USA NOR v FIN CAN v SUI KOR v OAR
20:04 MD6 OAR v CAN SUI v KOR NOR v USA FIN v CHN
Sunday 11-Feb 09:05 MD7 NOR v CHN FIN v USA SUI v OAR CAN v KOR
20:04 MDTB CHN v NOR (Tie-breaker)
Monday 12-Feb 09:05 MDSF CAN v NOR (Semi-final)
20:04 MDSF OAR v SUI (Semi-final)
Tuesday 13-Feb 09:05 MD Bronze NOR v OAR (Bronze Medal game)
20:04 MD Gold CAN v SUI (Gold Medal game)

Women’s tournament – Feb. 14 to Feb. 25

Day Date Time Draw Sheet A Sheet B Sheet C Sheet D
Wednesday 14-Feb 14:05 W1 JPN v USA OAR v GBR DEN v SWE SUI v CHN
Thursday 15-Feb 09:05 W2 CAN v KOR DEN v JPN CHN v OAR GBR v USA
20:04 W3 CHN v GBR CAN v SWE USA v SUI KOR v JPN
Friday 16-Feb 14:05 W4 DEN v CAN KOR v SUI X SWE v OAR
Saturday 17-Feb 09:05 W5 SUI v SWE OAR v USA JPN v CHN DEN v GBR
20:04 W6 OAR v JPN CHN v DEN KOR v GBR USA v CAN
Sunday 18-Feb 14:05 W7 X GBR v SWE CAN v SUI CHN v KOR
Monday 19-Feb 09:05 W8 USA v DEN JPN v CAN SWE v KOR OAR v SUI
20:04 W9 GBR v SUI DEN v OAR CHN v USA JPN v SWE
Tuesday 20-Feb 14:05 W10 CAN v CHN USA v KOR GBR v JPN X
Wednesday 21-Feb 09:05 W11 KOR v OAR SWE v CHN SUI v DEN CAN v GBR
20:04 W12 SWE v USA SUI v JPN OAR v CAN KOR v DEN
Friday 23-Feb 20:04 W KOR v JPN (Semi-final) SWE v GBR (Semi-final)
Saturday 24-Feb 20:04 W JPN v GBR (Women Bronze Medal game)
Sunday 25-Feb 09:05 W KOR v SWE (Women Gold Medal game)

Men’s tournament – Feb. 14 to Feb. 24

Day Date Time Draw Sheet A Sheet B Sheet C Sheet D
Wednesday 14-Feb 09:05 M1 DEN v SWE CAN v ITA KOR v USA SUI v GBR
20:04 M2 CAN v GBR KOR v SWE SUI v ITA NOR v JPN
Thursday 15-Feb 14:05 M3 USA v ITA NOR v CAN GBR v JPN DEN v SUI
Friday 16-Feb 09:05 M4 X ITA v DEN NOR v KOR SWE v USA
20:04 M5 JPN v SUI SWE v GBR DEN v USA CAN v KOR
Saturday 17-Feb 14:05 M6 KOR v GBR SUI v NOR CAN v SWE JPN v ITA
Sunday 18-Feb 09:05 M7 NOR v DEN USA v JPN X SUI v CAN
20:04 M8 SWE v JPN DEN v KOR ITA v GBR USA v NOR
Monday 19-Feb 14:05 M9 ITA v KOR SWE v SUI USA v CAN GBR v DEN
Tuesday 20-Feb 09:05 M10 GBR v NOR JPN v CAN KOR v SUI ITA v SWE
20:04 M11 SUI v USA NOR v ITA JPN v DEN X
Wednesday 21-Feb 14:05 M12 DEN v CAN GBR v USA SWE v NOR KOR v JPN
Thursday 22-Feb 09:05 M SUI v GBR (Men Tie-breaker)
20:04 M SWE v SUI (Semi-final) CAN v USA (Semi-final)
Friday 23-Feb 15:35 M SUI v CAN (Men Bronze Medal game)
Saturday 24-Feb 15:35 M SWE v USA (Men Gold Medal game)

Sochi 2014

Women’s tournament – Feb. 11-21, 2014

Day Date Time Session Sheet A Sheet B Sheet C Sheet D
Monday 11-Feb 14:00 W1 CHN v CAN SUI v USA SWE v GBR RUS v DEN
Tuesday 12-Feb 09:00 W2 SUI v DEN SWE v CAN RUS v USA KOR v JPN
19:00 W3 GBR v USA KOR v SUI DEN v JPN CHN v RUS
Wednesday 13-Feb 14:00 W4 JPN v RUS USA v CHN KOR v SWE CAN v GBR
Thursday 14-Feb 09:00 W5 X CAN v DEN CHN v GBR SUI v SWE
19:00 W6 SWE v DEN RUS v KOR SUI v CAN JPN v USA
Friday 15-Feb 14:00 W7 KOR v CHN GBR v JPN USA v DEN RUS v SUI
Saturday 16-Feb 09:00 W8 CAN v JPN CHN v SWE X GBR v KOR
19:00 W9 USA v SWE CAN v RUS GBR v SUI DEN v CHN
Sunday 17-Feb 14:00 W10 DEN v KOR JPN v SUI SWE v RUS USA v CAN
Monday 18-Feb 09:00 W11 RUS v GBR KOR v USA JPN v CHN X
19:00 W12 CHN v SUI DEN v GBR CAN v KOR SWE v JPN
Wednesday 20-Feb 14:00 W GBR v CAN – Semi-final SWE v SUI – Semi-final
Thursday 21-Feb 12:30 W GBR v SUI – Bronze Medal Game
17:30 W SWE v CAN – Gold Medal Game

Men’s tournament – Feb. 11-22, 2014

Day Date Time Session Sheet A Sheet B Sheet C Sheet D
Monday 11-Feb 09:00 M1 RUS v GBR SUI v SWE DEN v CHN GER v CAN
19:00 M2 USA v NOR DEN v RUS CAN v SUI SWE v GBR
Tuesday 12-Feb 14:00 M3 CAN v SWE USA v CHN GBR v GER NOR v RUS
Wednesday 13-Feb 09:00 M4 DEN v USA NOR v GER X CHN v SUI
19:00 M5 GER v CHN SUI v GBR RUS v CAN DEN v SWE
Thursday 14-Feb 14:00 M6 SUI v RUS CAN v DEN NOR v SWE GBR v USA
Friday 15-Feb 09:00 M7 X SWE v CHN USA v GER CAN v NOR
19:00 M8 GBR v DEN RUS v USA CHN v NOR SUI v GER
Saturday 16-Feb 14:00 M9 SWE v GER DEN v SUI CAN v GBR RUS v CHN
Sunday 17-Feb 09:00 M10 USA v CAN GBR v NOR SWE v RUS X
19:00 M11 NOR v SUI CHN v CAN GER v DEN USA v SWE
Monday 18-Feb 14:00 M12 CHN v GBR GER v RUS SUI v USA NOR v DEN
Tuesday 19-Feb 09:00 M NOR v GBR – Tie-breaker
Wednesday 20-Feb 19:00 M SWE v GBR – Semi-final CAN v CHN – Semi-final
Friday 22-Feb 12:30 M CHN v SWE – Bronze Medal Game
17:30 M CAN v GBR – Gold Medal Game

2019 Continental Cup builds to an exciting finale

On the closest sheet, Team North America (skipped by Brad Gushue) sweeps a stone into the house against Team World, lead by Bruce Mouat, during the 2019 Continental Cup on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

On the closest sheet, Team North America (skipped by Brad Gushue) sweeps a stone into the house against Team World, lead by Bruce Mouat, during the 2019 Continental Cup on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Today is the final day of the 2019 Continental Cup at the Orleans Arena. Judging by the first three days of competition between Team North America and Team World, the final day could be electric.

The final two sessions are at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. PT. Coverage streams online at ESPN3 and broadcast in Canada on TSN.

The World team has definitely had the better of the North Americans in the first three days. Team World has a commanding five-point lead in the race to 30.5 (17.5 to 12.5). Team North America had been further behind, but swept the final round of scramble play for a crucial six points.

Setting the points aside, the competition has had numerous highlights over the first nine rounds of games. There have been blowouts, close battles, barely missed shots at the absolute worst time and clutch shots to seal the win. Last night’s double by John Shuster of Team North America is a great example of a key shot.

I’ve said that curling is fun to watch, but it’s even more fun to play. The atmosphere at the Orleans Arena almost makes me want to change my position (although I may have different thoughts when I step into the hack for my Monday night league).

The level of competition has been outstanding. It’s thrilling to watch these world-class athletes perform and consistently make shots that would be daunting for the average club curler.

The fans are definitely a key contributor to the fun atmosphere at the Orleans. As a volunteer, I’ve been able to interact with many fans and they’re virtually all positive and upbeat about curling. When the fans are in the stands, the setting becomes dynamic.

The audience doesn’t cheer through the whole game. This is another area where curling is like golf — it can be a quiet as a mouse when a team is setting up a shot, However, the crowd definitely shows its appreciation for great shots and good wins.

At the end of Saturday night’s games, the applause was thunderous after Team North America swept the session. It was awesome to see thousands of cheering curling fans — it’s something that’s not too common at events in the United States (although more common in Canada).

Today, it comes down to the final two rounds of competition — the skins game. Continental Cup supporters like to compare this event to golf’s Ryder Cup and this is one area where the comparison is apt.

There’s a lot of points on the table — five per game. Each end (like a baseball inning) for the first six ends is worth 0.5 points. The last two ends are worth a whole point.

It’s not easy to win a skin. The team with the hammer scoring advantage has to score at least two points to claim their prize. The non-hammer team can steal the skin by scoring one point. If neither team reaches their objective, the skin carries over and the pot grows slightly larger.

WIth a total of 30 points on the table today, either team has a shot to win the Continental Cup. Last year, Team World had been behind, but finished with a strong skins performance — resulting in the first-ever tie at 30-30.

Team North America won the tiebreaker as North America’s Brad Gushue edged out World’s Thomas Ulsrud in a playoff to see which team could get a single stone to the center of the house.

We’ll see today whether the 2019 competition will be as close as last year. Will Team North America complete its comeback or will Team World hold them off and win its first cup in six years? I’m excited to find out.

Getting my first pair of shoes at the Continental Cup

A pair of curling shoes purchased from Brooms Up Curling Supplies at the 2019 Continental Cup in Las Vegas, Nevada.

A pair of curling shoes purchased from Brooms Up Curling Supplies at the 2019 Continental Cup in Las Vegas, Nevada.

A lot of people new to the sport of curling often ask if it’s expensive to participate in. Thankfully, the answer is no for the individual curler.

In a lot of ways, getting into curling is like going to the bowling alley. In bowling, you pay for a lane or a certain number of games. In curling, you pay for ice time.

The sport of bowling calls for bowling balls and shoes, but the alley often makes those available for casual participants.

It’s similar in curling — you need a broom to sweep and a special slider for the bottom of your shoe, but most clubs have some available for newer players to borrow.

(Also, the curling stones are owned by the club, just as a bowling alley owns the pins).

As I’ve gotten more involved in curling, I’ve slowly started acquiring personal equipment. Many curlers recommend getting shoes first because that would have the biggest impact on your game.

Unfortunately, shoes are a little pricey, so my first purchase was a curling broom (which was about 45 percent of the cost of shoes). I felt it was a good upgrade compared with the heavier house brooms. I certainly feel more effective with my own broom.

I’m now in a position to buy shoes, but there aren’t a lot of physical curling stores in much of the United States.

Thankfully, one of the American vendors, Brooms Up Curling Supplies, has a mobile showroom that travels to different curling events — including the 2019 Continental Cup.

While many supplies are available for purchase online, I enjoy being able to browse gear in person and try it on for size. The Brooms Up trailer is good for this, as the owner Gary carries a lot of the major manufacturers gear (but not all).

With the Brooms Up trailer parked between the Orleans Arena and the casino, a lot of curling fans drop by after  draws. I was able to drop by Friday and buy my first pair of curling shoes.

As you can tell from the photo at the top of this post, they’re not the most glamorous but I’m hoping they will do the trick. The left shoe includes a built-in slider (currently covered by a rubber gripper) that will help me glide across the ice. With the gripper on the left shoe and a rubber sole on the right, I should be able to walk on the ice with confidence.

My next challenge will be actually using these shoes. Even a small change to my delivery can have a big impact on the game and these new shoes are a big shift.

Also, I’ve never previously moved around on the slider after delivering a stone. Instructors and anyone with common sense caution standing up on a slip-on slider and I’ve certainly fallen a couple times when I forget.

I imagine it will take me a while to used to shuffling around on a slider. I’ll certainly exercise caution, but I’m excited about this next step in my curling experience.

Getting the joke at the Continental Cup

Mixed doubles during Draw 5 of the 2019 Continental Cup in Las Vegas on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019.

Mixed doubles during Draw 5 of the 2019 Continental Cup in Las Vegas on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019.

Watching curling in person can be a unique experience, especially at this weekend’s Continental Cup in Las Vegas. Watching with several thousand enthusiastic fans who are knowledgeable about the game really takes it up the next level.

Watching curling in person offers fans a chance to watching multiple games at the same time (versus TV focusing on one game with highlights from the rest). That increases the likelihood of watching an interesting play develop.

At the same time, it can be a little daunting for a newer fan. The first international competition I attended was the 2018 World Men’s Curling Championships, also in Vegas. There were four sheets in play (as opposed to three here this weekend). It was easy to focus on a specific sheet and be a little late noticing something interesting happening elsewhere on the ice.

I had an easier time watching with the three sheets in play this weekend, but I still missed one or two key plays.

If you can’t make it to Vegas for the final two days of the competition, watching a curling competition on a screen does have its advantages especially if the broadcasting team clicks with the audience. Certainly the TSN crew airing the Continental Cup gets a lot of kudos. Fans in the U.S. can watching online on ESPN3 (or on Curling Canada’s YouTube channel about two days after each individual event airs).

Some fans in the audience get the best of both worlds — watching in person and listening in on the TSN broadcast team of Vic Rauter and former Olympians Cheryl Bernard and Russ Howard. Fans who purchased tickets to every event received a headset that allowed them to listen to the TSN feed.

Fans who bought tickets to the entire event received ear buds that allowed them to listen to the network broadcast in the arena.

Fans who bought tickets to the entire event received ear buds that allowed them to listen to the network broadcast in the arena.

Apparently, a lot of people bought this package. At some points during the competition, most of the audience erupted in what appeared to be spontaneous laughter. It wasn’t necessarily in response to something happening on the ice (although some of the athletes like to joke around and fans indulge them with laughs).

I quickly wondered if there was some joke that I was missing. That was literally the case — it appears everyone tuning into the TSN broadcast was able to hear some quip and reacted appropriately. (Sample joke after the camera spotted a couple dressed as characters from “The Flintstones” — There’s Fred and Wilma. And Pebbles is on the ice. That’s relatively funny and super corny if you’re a curling fan)..

I was a little sad that I missed the joke, but it definitely shows how many diehard curling fans are in the audience.

Watching the world’s best curlers in Las Vegas

A decal stating Las Vegas Curling Rocks is posted on a door at the Orleans Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, on April 3, 2018. The casino is hosting the 2019 Continental Cup.

A decal stating Las Vegas Curling Rocks is posted on a door at the Orleans Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, on April 3, 2018. The casino is hosting the 2019 Continental Cup.

Today is the first day of the 2019 Continental Cup of Curling at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. If you haven’t seen this event before, I would say it’s well worth your time if you’re a fan of the game. In the U.S., games stream on ESPN3 online (with replays shared on the Curling Canada YouTube channel about 48 hours later).

Six of the world’s best teams are competing this weekend in a format similar to the Ryder Cup. This time, it’s Team North America against Team World.

Teams include gold medalists from the 2018 Winter Olympics including women’s champion Team Hasselborg of Sweden and men’s champion Team Shuster of the United States. The rest of the roster is loaded with top athletes, including four Canadian teams, five additional European teams and Team Sinclair from the U.S.

One of the things that sets the Continental Cup apart from other international events is that it’s generally more fun and not just because it’s in Las Vegas. As far as I know, the stakes are little lower because the outcome of the event won’t affect any of the teams’ chances to qualify for a national championship or a spot at the Olympics.

Teams do play for pride and a share of a decent-sized jackpot, but it appears to be a chance for athletes to have a little fun in the middle of the season before going off to national championships (in the case of Canada and the United States).

The Continental Cup often shakes things up, on and off the ice. On the ice, the competition is arranged so individual squads are broken up and recombined in various ways — including setting up pairs to play on mixed doubles squads or assembling new teams for the new team scramble format.

The traditional teams of four will have regular matches, but even that’s mixed up over the course of the weekend as the final day features a skins format.

Off the ice, the teams have areas to cheer their teammates on. This is generally different from other competitions, where teams who aren’t playing usually don’t come the arena.

All of this adds up to something special. The athletes look like they’re having a lot of fun and the competition is a blast to watch. Last year’s event ended in a tie that had to be broken with curling’s equivalent of a shootout.

The Continental Cup is also a great opportunity to see different teams from around the world face off. Last year’s event preceded the Olympics and the games offered an excellent preview of what happened in South Korea, including the fact that John Shuster was ready to make a splash on the international stage.

There are three rounds a day today through Saturday. On Sunday, there are two rounds of skins games. Coverage from every round (or draw) airs live on TSN in Canada and is available on ESPN3 in the U.S.

It will be exciting to see how this year’s event unfolds.

A comment on commenting systems, specifically Kinja

My Kinja profile pre merger

My Kinja profile pre merger

It seems like there are very few good commenting systems on the Internet. Based on my experience, the free or low-cost services can be very barebones, sluggish or just a pain to use (I guess you get what you pay for). After being saddled with Facebook Comments for several years, I was happy when my previous employer switched to Disqus. It’s not perfect, but it was the service I was most familiar with and it offered a fairly robust series of moderation tools that I _definitely_ put to use.

I no longer have to moderate comments on a regular basis but I’m still partial to Disqus, especially because it’s the system used on one of my favorite websites — The A.V. Club. Commenters there have a love-mostly hate relationship with Disqus, particularly during the service’s hiccups. At the same time, A.V. Club stories garner dozens and hundreds of comments and Disqus (mostly) handles the workload.

Unfortunately, that’s apparently about to change in the next few months. In the past few years, The A.V. Club and its sister publication, The Onion, were purchased by Univision. The Spanish-language broadcaster has been expanding into different sites and also added the Gizmodo network (formerly Gawker). One of Gizmodo’s assets is a content management system called Kinja.

Based on previous media reports, it appears that The Onion and A.V. Club will move over to Kinja. Although there wasn’t official confirmation at the time, it’s started a series of comments on A.V. Club. (NOTE: The move has been announced after I first wrote a draft of this post and is taking place Aug. 23.)

In a recent comment, someone asked what was so bad with Kinja. Here was my stab at a response —

I’m not sure about _all_ the objections about Kinja, but the biggest annoyance for me is that posters and their initial posts start off in a “pending” status.

When you’re in pending status, your comment is out of view unless the reader clicks on “View Pending.” Even then, the pending comment is displayed in gray and tagged “PENDING APPROVAL” to reinforce how “pending” it is.

Posts can be moved out of pending if they get enough likes/stars. I also believe that the posters can earn a trusted-sort of status but the process of how this is done isn’t well explained.

I must admit I haven’t seen _too_ much spam on Kinja sites lately, but trolls still abound. Generally, the system puts up unnecessary hurdles to interaction.

All in all, it’s a clunky system. Also, as I understand it, It’s the underlying content management system for the blogs that use it (like Deadspin). It makes it easier to swap content between sites, but they all look bland and cookie-cutter.

For as much as people gripe about Disqus on A.V. Club, the users there have built a vibrant community centered around a common love of pop culture. It’s gotten a bit more combative as the site has published more politically focused articles (which seems somewhat understandable, given the current president’s symbiotic, yet toxic relationship with the media). The comment area has also remained a reliable fixture of the site, even as it undergoes changes (with some longtime features being cut and some dubious elements added — including some sponsored content that the commentariat lustily mocked).

Despite the increasing politicization, The A.V. Club comment area remains a mostly positive forum full of inside jokes, truly awful puns and considerable passion. I sincerely hope that the switch to Kinja doesn’t negatively affect this oasis.

10+1 images from my first year back in Utah

At the end of May, I marked the first anniversary of my returning to Utah. To celebrate the occasion, I reviewed the photos I took from the past 365 days and picked ten that highlighted some of the fun activities from 2016-17. There’s also a bonus picture — the first photo I took upon my return.

Click any photo to embiggen…

Hitting 11 million image views on Google Maps

My profile on Google Maps.

My profile on Google Maps.

Just a year ago, I passed 2 million views on Google Maps. Imagine my surprise when my images surged past 10 million views just a couple of months ago. The 190 images I’ve published on Google Maps has been viewed 11.1 million times as of this writing.

I wish I could claim total responsibility for this accomplishment, but it seems like it’s more a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Since I started uploading photospheres to Google Street View, none of them had exceeded 1 million views (although one was close at 970,000 views). Following the Oroville Dam crisis in February, I had two photospheres reach past the one million mark, with one reaching past two million.

In my experience, the most successful spheres are those that are featured in Google’s search results. I don’t have definitive proof that this is the case, but I’ve found the images that featured in the search results seem to perform best. The example that came to mind was my photosphere for Bear Hole in Bidwell Park. I was surprised when I saw it suddenly surge beyond 100,000 views. I wasn’t sure why it was performing so well.

The most plausible explanation was that it was featured on the search results on Google Map. When I searched for Chico, CA in Google Maps, the search engine returns a map of the city, but there’s also a card showing useful information — and photos of the city. Often times, these are popular pics of major landmarks or the like. Google also includes photospheres. This is often from its own Street View service, but it increasingly appears to include photospheres taken by its users.

A Google Maps card for Oroville, California on Monday, May 29, 2017. The top image is from one of my photospheres.

A Google Maps card for Oroville, California on Monday, May 29, 2017. The top image is from one of my photospheres.

I think this is behind my most “popular” photospheres, including ones taken at regional parks, train stations or other landmarks likely to be searched by people.

Adding credence to my theory was another photosphere of Bear Hole taken by another user. I saw that it too was featured at times in the Google Maps search results and it had a view count similar to mine,

That brings me to the incident that brought my views surging to new heights. In early February, there was a natural disaster that prompted the evacuation of more than 200,000 people in Northern California. Although the emergency spillway at Oroville Dam didn’t breach, I imagine there were a lot of people interested in learning the location of Oroville Dam and the surrounding area.

Indeed, the most popular photospheres featured the now-destroyed main spillway at the dam. It’s interesting that my most popular image is something that no longer exists.

The second most popular image for me was a photosphere of sculptures at Centennial Park in Oroville. It’s not associated with the park because there’s no entry for the park on Google Maps, but it is the first thing that comes up on Google Maps when someone searches for Oroville.

Several other images from Oroville have jumped following the Oroville Dam crisis, but those are by far the most popular.

I don’t know if a view is counted merely because someone sees it on a search result or if someone actually clicked through to see the full image. I would like to think it’s the later, but information on Google support forums indicates that merely seeing an image in a search result counts as a view.

Ultimately, I would like to think that people are viewing my images — it’s nice to think that millions of people are seeing my work. If it’s true, these images are the most popular thing that I’ve ever done.