by Jared Francais | Aug 6, 2016 | Blog, Slopitch
This year I switched co-ed slopitch teams to play with the @JaysSloPitch. I was looking to play a bit more in tournaments and the Jays were off to compete in SPN Nationals to try and improve on their silver medal from 2015. The team is a great group of folks and I thought it was a great opportunity to play some more tourneys, maybe help them improve on that medal and win a National title. (another one for me I should say :P)
So this past weekend we were off to Calgary to compete for a National title. We ended up bringing home the silver again. I know it is something to be proud of, but I have to admit it was a pretty frustrating weekend of ball. Let’s just say mother nature really didn’t want to cooperate. We had rain and hail pretty much every day. The Jaycee crew did an AMAZING job. The diamonds had lakes in them every day. They worked long hours to get us playable diamonds between the downpours, but it did end up effecting the tournament a lot. First delays, then round robin games were shortened to 5 innings and hitters were started with a 1-1 count to speed the game. Then…. more downpours (and hail!)….. and the rest of the round robin games were cancelled. All teams made championship Monday with single life. We were seated 2nd based on record and runs for/against, giving us a first game bye. We wheeled off a couple quick wins and made it to the final. It was a hard fought, very competitive and very close game all the way. We ended up losing by 3 to a VERY solid team… Konfusion from Red Deer, AB.
As a competitor, it is easier to get over a loss if you lost to a better team, and left it all on the field. Konfusion was a great team, they definitely deserved it. But for me it was frustrating that I can’t say I left it all out there. With the shortened schedule and the winning streak in earlier games, that meant it was tough to make changes and turn the lineup over. That meant I missed playing in most of the Championship Monday games. I got the opportunity to get in in the last inning of the last game (hitting a double, making the best of my AB) but was left frustrated that I couldn’t be on the field to help the team over the top and win that elusive championship. I did my best on the weekend to be a great team player, contributing the best way I could (coaching 3rd most of the weekend, catching a few illegal bats in play, etc). I think that contribution helped, but as I said, it was frustrating not to be able to be on the field and do more to help the team to victory.
So right now I still look back in frustration, but I know in a few weeks that will be gone and I will be able to look back at the weekend for what it was. We can be proud of a silver against a very good team. I had a lot of fun, met a lot of great players from other teams (shout out to the @FNFSlowpitch team) and I was even able to catch up with a couple of Calgary-transplanted former teammates. Something I can look back on and be proud of.
So as the season winds up, I’ll remind everyone to enjoy your time out there on the field, take the opportunity to do your best when you get your shots, contribute anyway you can, and most importantly, have some fun out there. After all….. it is a game 🙂
All for now,
PS – And “don’t think; it can only hurt the ball club” – Kevin Costner, Bull Durham
by Jared Francais | Jul 14, 2016 | Blog, Movies, Music, Technology, TV Shows
So a while ago I talked about Plex, and my love of using it as a platform for sharing media. I briefly talked about RasPlex/Raspberry Pi, but I thought it might make sense to expand on it a bit. A quick refresher on Plex, it is a piece of server software that centralizes all your media on that server and can then stream all that media to any Plex clients you have available. That works great for using Plex clients on your phone, your computer, etc. But what exactly do I have hooked up to my TV(s)?
In my case, to access Plex from my couch I have to pieces of gear that are essential, a flirc, and a raspberry pi. Here is a description of each:
1. Raspberry Pi – the raspberry pi is a tiny and cheap computer that was developed as an inexpensive way to build small computers that don’t draw a lot of power and can be used for many things. There are a huge number of projects people have built using a Raspberry Pi (home automation controllers, video game consoles, smart picture frames, etc). One of the projects for that platform is RasPlex, a software client to access Plex. Another is OpenElec (Kodi, the platform for all those android tv boxes out there lately). It is a great little device that has all you need for making a media center computer….. network connectivity, usb ports, hdmi output, etc. The new version even has onboard bluetooth and wifi. (well almost everything, I’ll get to that in a minute) You can buy one of these kits from amazon.ca for about $100. So go, grab one of these from amazon, and then go download/install RasPlex on the memory card. Hook up to TV with an HDMI cable and you are off and running. If Plex isn’t your thing and you want to try Kodi instead, give the OpenElec project a try. (I’ll do a Kodi blog one of these days to compare with Plex). You will need to control the device by using an app on your phone/tablet, by using a specialized USB/Bluetooth remote, by using a USB keyboard, or ……
2. by using a Flirc. This is what I use. I wanted to use the same remote I use for my TV as I do for my media pc. This fantastic little device will allow you to program any IR remote to control a computer by converting each IR signal to a button press. So in my case, I set the AUX setting on my universal remote to be programmed to some random VCR code so that it sends out IR signals that don’t control any other device I own. I then used the Flirc to record those signals and convert them to key presses. Once done I plug in to the Pi and pressing the standard remote now controls the Plex client. (Up/Down/Left/Right/Play/Stop on the VCR remote sends those appropriate key presses to control the computer connected to the TV. It is awesome. Only one remote, and it functions just like a store bought player device would. That is the one thing missing from the Pi itself that I think is worth it for a media center PC, an IR receiver, and this is a smart one on steroids. It will cost you $40-50 to get it here, but it is WELL worth it.
So that is what I have connected to my TVs in house. This little machine gives me access to all my media from the comfort of my couch. The interface is great and is works very slick. If you are a techy and you want something a little more customized than a Roku or Apple TV for your streaming client, I don’t think there is a better platform. And if you find it isn’t working for you in the future, you can always re purpose the machine into a fantastic other project (give RetroPi a look).
by Jared Francais | Jul 11, 2016 | Blog, Family
Well, another update…. we have replaced the Kia with this beauty…. a 2016 Subaru Crosstrek in Hyper Blue. We told Cole the next vehicle we got would be blue for him, so he kind of chose the colour. No way we are getting lost in the parking lot anymore 🙂
by Jared Francais | Jul 4, 2016 | Blog, Family
Well, we took the opportunity to sneak out of town for a few days on the long weekend. We packed up and headed to my folk’s place at Little Bear Lake. It sounds like we picked a good weekend as the weather there was great and by the sounds of things, not so good here at home.
Erin brought the camera, so we braved the bugs (I’ve never seen it so bad) and got an updated family photo. It has been a few years since the Francais clan has been convinced to all step in front of the camera, and us boys generally need to be dragged kicking and screaming to get there. With the bugs being so bad, this time was no exception. Luckily my wife is a brave and patient soul and she was able to make some fantastic lemonade with us lemons.
doing some convincing
OK, if we follow grandma
now we have the hang of it
fun times with Grandma and Donna
trying out the side by side
back in the forest
building Lego with Uncle Sean
the Francais clan
our little piece of that puzzle
king of the stump
The second bit of fun this weekend was the quadding. In the past Cole hasn’t wanted to go anywhere near them. The weekend looked like it was going to be the same, but I convinced him to sit with dad and start it up. The noise wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be, so I convinced him to go for a bit of a drive down the driveway as long as grandma was beside us. Well that was all it took. Now he is hooked. We did 4-5 little tours on the quad this weekend, all going a littler further and a little faster. (By the end….. go faster Daddy, go faster!) So I think we will have to hunt for a better helmet and two up seat for more adventures to come.
So in all, it was a nice weekend to get away and relax. I hope you had a great one as well
PS – Oh ya, the car sold. That happened much faster than I was expecting. So this week I get down to car hunting again. Wish me luck!
PPS – The nice looking pictures, those I can’t take credit for. My wife Erin handled those, isn’t she talented? credit Finelite Photography & Design
by Jared Francais | Jun 29, 2016 | Blog
Vehicle is in nice shape and has lots of built in-features
- Power windows/locks/foglights
- 2 way remote start installed
- Am/fm/mp3/CD player/Sirius, and usb port that connects usb for other media or devices
- heated seats with lumbar support
- Just over 57k km on the vehicle/ factory warranty util 100,000 or Jul 2017
- Roadside assistance
- No accidents, regular maintenance completed
- Summer tires are at 7/32ns wear
- Includes set of winter tires and rims (winters measured at 10/32s front 9/32s rear)
- asking $9,900
Been a great car, just time for an update
Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org in Warman, ask for Jared
by Jared Francais | Jun 20, 2016 | Blog, Music
I’m sure everyone has their preferred way of listening to music these days. Whether it is buying it online from a music store like iTunes or listening via their favorite app, everyone seems to have something they have locked on to. I figured I’d share my experience and what I use. I’m currently doing a little of both, putting music files on my phone and streaming music for things I don’t have.
First, the music I have, I put in iTunes. I hate iTunes. It sucks. It is buggy, it is slow, it doesn’t handle big music libraries very well. BUT, if you are using an iPhone and want to store music on your phone (and have access to control the music from most newer car audio systems), it is pretty much the only real option. I wish there was better, but I just haven found it. So my tip, what I do is convert everything to mp3 before putting in iTunes. Almost every player will support that. Then I use the program mp3tag to ensure all the tagging/artwork/etc is all filled out and consistent. I may do a blog on that piece of software later on, it is really handy. then I put in iTunes. I also go through iTunes and rate songs with the star rating system. I do that so I can set up smart playlists using genre and rating. (My country playlist is all songs with a genre Country and rating 4 stars or better). It takes a little time but it makes for easy management of a few favorite playlists.
I also tried Sirius radio for a while. I have it in the car (a small bank of time transferred from our other vehicle when we sold). They have an app too for streaming. It was alright, but I found what you pay for isn’t worth it. After a while the channels start to play pretty much the same playlists and you are at the mercy of what they play. I also found live sports were hard to find or non-existent, a benefit this should have. I took my Sirius budget and put it into streaming instead.
For streaming, I’ve tried a bunch of options. I tried to give Apple Music a try because it has better pricing for families and *should* integrate with iOS better. Problem is, it doesn’t. The UI is awful, and it is confusing what is on your phone and what isn’t. It also doesn’t integrate very well. I was expecting it to work great with my two vehicles since they support iPhone, but it is buggy and only a few auto generated playlists show up. I couldn’t seem to find a way to make the apple music play nice like the music on the phone. All the things Apple Music should be, it isn’t. It is just a streaming app with access to a large music library and a weak interface. Maybe the next version in the fall will be better.
So I ended up with Spotify. I like it quite a lot. They have support for many platforms, including Windows, iOS, Android, etc. In it you can search for Artists/Albums/Genres/Moods/Etc. You can create your own playlists or pick from other playlists already curated. You can even share playlists. If you pay for the app $9.99 per month, you get no music ads and can skip and pick/choose to your hearts content. The free version (Apple Music doesn’t have one) is ad supported and limits skips/etc. The other benefit of buying is that you can sync playlists down to your device so you can listen to it without using mobile data or needing a connection. It has a large music library, not everything is there, but a large chunk can be found. I don’t find I’m missing much. I also find sound quality suitable to my taste.
There are still some downsides to Spotify. It won’t integrate with your car stereo super well. You will need to pick what you are listening to on your device first and then you may be able to skip forward/backward/pause from the head unit. I’m hoping it will have Siri integration in the future to make that better. Secondly, the pricing isn’t great in Canada. $9.99 per month per user, no family discount. And you can only stream on one device at a time. they have family pricing elsewhere but haven’t brought to Canada yet. It would be nice to be able to get for the family for $15-20 per month for all the devices. And lastly, I find that all the curated playlists are fairly short and quality wise don’t seem to be the greatest. What that means is that you can be constantly searching for a new or better playlist. I’m hoping as more people come on board and share, this will get better. If you are hunting for a playlist, I have created a Coffee Cafe playlist that is currently at 74 songs and growing. You can add it to your Spotify here. I hope to keep adding to and working on my playlists as I continue to grow my library.