ST:TNG Treadmill Review #6: Contagion

Contagion
Season 2 Episode 11
Original airdate: March 18, 1989

Netflix Synopsis

Capt. Picard and the crew respond to a distress call from the Enterprise’s sister ship, the USS Yamato.

My Brief Review

Boy, the Yamato had a troubled and brief existence. In my first review, it featured — merely as an illusion — in a surreal sequence where it was destroyed, and in this episode it is destroyed for real. But its demise leads to an intense and exciting episode, wherein the Enterprise travels deep into the Neutral Zone, pursued by angry Romulans, as it attempts to uncover the mystery of a series of system failures that led to the Yamato’s explosion.

A mysterious probe launched from the ruins of an ancient, highly advanced civilization was the source of the problem, and the contagion — a computer virus, of sorts, not a biological one, for once — spread from the Yamato to the Enterprise and to the Romulan ship. Picard leads an away team along with Data and Worf — no red shirts dying today! — to the site where the probe was launched, where they discover a portal that the ancient society had used to teleport instantly between worlds.

This kind of episode may not be everyone’s cup of tea (Earl Grey, hot), but I love it.

Memorable Moment

Speaking of Earl Grey, hot… this was the first episode wherein Captain Picard ordered his signature beverage from the replicator. Only, due to the computer virus, he is served a potted plant instead.

Crew Rando

Ensign Williams. She isn’t really that memorable, but hey, a crew rando who actually gets a named, credited role! At least she wasn’t sacrificed on the away mission.

I should also note that I skipped an episode here, S2E9, “The Dauphin,” which Netflix summarizes thus: “Wesley Crusher suffers from the pangs of first love when the Enterprise is tasked to transport a young woman, Salia, back to her home.” No thanks.

Distance Rating: 5K

IMDb score: 7.7/10

All the Albums of 2019

It’s been an annual tradition here on Underdog of Perfection: Around the end of November, I post a list of all of the albums I’ve purchased that year, and then a couple weeks later, I rank my top 5.

Well… I skipped it altogether last year, because I hadn’t been paying much attention to new music. The trend has only accelerated this year. It’s partly because I’ve been delving deeply into jazz from the ’60s and ’70s, but it’s more because… man, pop music really sucks these days, and I just haven’t been too interested in the more obscure new stuff either.

And of course, who “buys albums” anymore?

So, here then is my complete list of all the new albums I purchased in 2019. Ones I think are especially good are in bold.

Christopher Willits — Sunset
The Claypool Lennon Delirium — South of Reality
Com Truise — Persuasion System
John Coltrane — Blue World*
JV’s Boogaloo Squad — Going to Market
Lizzo — Cuz I Love You
Mario Alberto Silva — Pan-American Sonata
Steve Hauschildt — Nonlin
The Bad Plus – Activate Infinity
The Bird and the Bee — Interpreting the Masters, Volume 2: A Tribute to Van Halen
TOOL — Fear Inoculum
32nd Street Jazz — self-title**

* Technically a new release!

** OK, I didn’t buy this… I made it, along with my bandmates. But hey, it’s a real release… we even got a ton of airplay on Jazz 88 in August and September! (And yes, it is one of my favorite albums of the year.)

And while I’m at it, here’s my complete (and considerably longer, but still short) list of all the new albums I purchased in 2018, favorites in bold.

Aphex Twin — Collapse EP
The Bad Plus — Never Stop II
Brad Mehldau Trip — Seymour Reads the Constitution!
Christian McBride — Christian McBride’s New Jawn
Courtney Barnett — Tell Me How You Really Feel
The Decemberists — I’ll Be Your Girl
Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio — Live at KEXP!
Elvis Costello & The Impostors — Look Now
Geotic — Traversa
Halloween, Alaska — Le Centre
Helios — Veriditas
Joshua Redman, Ron Miles, Scott Colley & Brian Blade — Still Dreaming
Justin Timberlake — Man of the Woods
Kamasi Washington — Heaven and Earth
King Crimson — Meltdown (Live in Mexico 2017)
Myriad3 — Vera
OMEGA Danzer — FUTURA the Album
Optiganally Yours — O.Y. in Hi-Fi
Steve Hauschildt — Dissolvi
X-Altera — self-title
Yellowjackets — Raising Our Voice
Yes — Fly From Here (Return Trip)

Using The SEO Framework with Advanced Custom Fields

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that I am not the only WordPress developer who in recent days (in the wake of their obnoxious Black Friday dashboard ad) has switched allegiance from Yoast to another SEO plugin, and that many of those who find themselves in a similar boat (to mix metaphors) have switched to The SEO Framework.

I’ve only been using it for a couple of days, but I already love it. It does all of the things I actually used Yoast for, without any of the other stuff I did not use it for. I mean honestly, maybe readability scores and “cornerstone content” do provide an SEO boost, but I barely understand how to use these tools, so good luck explaining them to my clients in a meaningful way. I suppose they’re more of a tool for full-time SEO consultants who need to pad out their billable hours. (Sorry not sorry. My opinion on the business of SEO hasn’t changed all that much since 2011.)

It wasn’t until the Black Friday ad that I really admitted to myself how much I don’t like Yoast. It does a lot of important things, and does them very well. But it’s obnoxious as hell about it. Pushing features you don’t really want or need into every page of the WordPress admin, and plastering its own over-designed admin screens with tons of garish ads promoting its “premium” features.

Yuck.

The SEO Framework encapsulates all of the key features I liked about Yoast into a single configuration screen, which kindly adheres to the standard WordPress admin UI design language instead of infusing its own brand style into every button and metabox border. It’s refreshingly boring to look at. And it just has the stuff I actually use, like title and description, OpenGraph tags, sitemap XML, the basic elements of SEO that unequivocally matter and can be a pain to build and maintain on your own.

But enough about all of its great features. There’s one key thing it lacks: support for Advanced Custom Fields. My standard “modular design” theme relies almost entirely on ACF’s Flexible Content fields to work its page layout magic, and with all of the page content stored in custom fields instead of post_content, there’s nothing for The SEO Framework to latch onto to auto-generate meta descriptions.

Fortunately, the developer has built in some hooks to allow you to customize the meta description output.

Here’s a barebones starting point:

function my_seo_framework_description($description, $args) {
  if (empty($description)) {
    $description = ''; // Add your own logic here!
  }
  return $description;
}
add_filter('the_seo_framework_custom_field_description', 'my_seo_framework_description', 10, 2);
add_filter('the_seo_framework_generated_description', 'my_seo_framework_description', 10, 2);
add_filter('the_seo_framework_fetched_description_excerpt', 'my_seo_framework_description', 10, 2);

As the developer notes, it’s very important for SEO not to just output the same static description text on every page. You need to have a function of your own that will read your ACF field content and generate something meaningful here.

Fortunately in my case, I had already done that, for generating custom excerpts from ACF content, so I was able to just stick a call to that function into the // Add your own logic here! line. You’ll need to customize your function to suit your specific content structure, but here’s the post that I used as a starting point for my function.

Have fun!

Still wish you were using Internet Explorer 6?

If you’ve never visited this site using Internet Explorer 6, you probably are unaware that up until now doing so would load a big ugly alert box explaining how foolish you were being to do so — being that I am an arrogant Mac and Firefox user, not to mention that IE6 is dangerously insecure (besides not supporting alpha channel transparency in PNG images, which are the building blocks of this site’s design).

Today I had the chance for the first time to see just how horrible the new design looks in IE6, and as much as I don’t want to support that browser, I also couldn’t handle thrusting visitors into the hideous mess of this site in IE6 without at least giving them a taste of what it’s supposed to look like first. To that end, I’ve created a more friendly “welcome” page for IE6 users, giving them one last chance to upgrade before proceeding, and in the process showing them a hint of the site’s actual design as it’s intended to appear.

But of course, since you’re not using IE6 (are you?), you have no idea what that page looks like. So, I thought I’d show it off a bit. Here it is. Enjoy. Or not. Actually, it’s not really intended to be enjoyed, so don’t. (I’m really only posting this link so I can test the HTTP_REFERER link functionality I embedded in it. [And yes, I know the correct spelling is “referrer.” Tell that to whoever created the names of the HTTP host headers. I mean whomever. So there.])