A Rogue One Story

It’s hard to believe that Rogue One came out almost two months ago. After trying to avoid (but eventually riding) the hype wave, soaking it in on opening night, and ingesting it twice more, it still feels like an excellent addition to the Star Wars cinematic universe. It sits in that awkward place of not being a good standalone experience but being a perfect fit to expand and add flavor to the existing saga. I still love it, understanding that I am square in the center of its target.

As has been reported, the third act of the movie is tremendously exciting, culminating in a very tense final sequence that leads literally into the opening of the original film. By the third act, I was a little unsure how I felt about the film; I was enjoying it immensely, but it had a distinctly unique tone that didn’t have much of a “Star Wars feel”. But as the third act kicked in, I could feel the wonder, tension, and joy flood back in. The movie might not take off from the get-go, but it sure does build to a fantastic ending.

I was born in 1985, much too late to see the original movies in theaters. I’m sure there were showings here and there over the years, but I was pretty sheltered as a kid (I can only remember seeing a handful of movies in theaters through my high school years), so my introduction and viewing of the original trilogy was limited to a VHS recording of the USA syndication airing (which saw a lot of use). The Special Editions (released in 1997; I was 12) were the first opportunity to experience Star Wars in a theater atmosphere, and I was only able to persuade my mom to take me to A New Hope.

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2016 Year in Review

Welcome to 2017 everyone! I’m a bit late on this year-in-review post; been picking at it for weeks (despite it’s short length), but it’s better late than never. As promised, here’s my list of some major, personal positive notes for the past 12 months. (Rather than stick photos in the body, they’re arranged above.)

  • Obtaining My PMP Certification: I finally earned some certifications this year! Neither were strictly related to web development, but by far the most significant was the Project Manager Professional (PMP) certification. I learned about this certification while trying to apply to an internal Project Manager opening. Despite not being chose for the position, I received permission to go to training for the certification in April. I attended in May, purchased a ton of study materials on my own, and had my nose in books, exercises, and practice tests all the way through November. The preparation was long and grueling and the test was a four-hour nerve-racking ordeal, but I made it out the other side a success. Look for some posts related to this in the coming year!
  • Finished Guest Bedroom: This is one of those topics that may seem pretty mundane to those of you who don’t know me personally, but I can’t stand unfinished or untidy spaces. All of my work and living areas have always ended up with some kind of order, color, and sense to them in one way or another. But since I purchased the house in 2013, I’ve never quite been able to figure out this middle, guest bedroom. Until this year! With the help of Pinterest, IKEA, online mattress providers, and friends, I finally finished the room to my liking (complete with an HDMI splitter to the wall TV). It’s pretty cozy now!
  • Trips and Vacations: Cliché, but I really did have a wonderful set of experiences in 2016 outside of my routine. I ventured off with Erik to the Smoakhouse Ranch near Branford, FL for springs swimming, kayaking, and Star Wars watching; partied, go-carted, and In-n-Outed with Rob and Michael in Reno; jumped on an impromptu trip floating down Ichetucknee with my Jacksonville friends; dragged Rob to his first trip to Anastasia Island State Park for a morning ocean dip; enjoyed our amazing, filled-with-hiking-and-food now-annual outing to the Blue Ridge; ran with Rob’s idea to hit up the “crop” maze in the fall; played in the snow in Chicago; and ended the year with a wonderful day at Blizzard Beach (my first time back since 3rd grade).
  • Back Issue Identified: All year I dealt with some lower back pain, specifically around my right hip (until it spread to the left). The last several months of 2016 were filled with doctor visits, physical therapy, X-rays, orthopedists, and other nonsense. And that sounds pretty negative, I guess! But in November, I discovered I could “pop” a joint in my lower back doing a certain stretch. I redeemed a Groupon (a gift from Erik for my birthday) to visit a chiropractor for an adjustment and deep-tissue massage (my first), and he confirmed that the “popping” was me resetting my SI joint to its proper place. I started doing this regularly (and still do), and it seems to considerably reduce the pain I’ve had all year. I still have a rough road ahead to figure out how to exercise, stretch, and work on fixing my body so the joint doesn’t fall out of place many times a day, but I’m really, really thankful that the pain can be dealt with for the time being and that I’ve all but identified the issue after so many months.
  • Pokémon Go: Let’s face it: Pokémon Go basically isn’t a game. But it is an app that got me excited enough on day one to careen all over UCF with Rob in search of critters and loot. Over the year it’s encouraged me to walk and get out far more than I would have otherwise, and I still launch it daily. I’m thankful for the adventures it’s taken me on all year, and I hope it continues to do so in 2017.
  • Rogue One: It’s not a perfect movie, but boy was it a welcome, immensely satisfying sigh of relief of a first Star Wars spin-off. Eventually the Disney acquisition of Star Wars will end up generating too many movies too often, but for now, it is one of the most welcome feelings around the holidays. Both last year and the year prior, I was able to see the new Star Wars movie with Rob on opening night (two of the best movie-going experiences of my life) and travel home for the holidays to see the movies in 3D with my mom and brother. I haven’t been disappointed yet, and here’s looking forward to Episode VIII this December!

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The Life and Times of the Neighbor Tree

April 19th, 2014. The random day I decided to create a brick ring around our single front-yard tree and fill it with red rubber mulch. The ring worked out nicely and has survived erosion moderately well.

For some reason, our odd, adorable neighbors decided this specific day was also the best time to quickly and hurriedly plant a new tree in their front yard. When I say quickly, I mean within an hour, 5+ family members, from kids to grandpa, had dug a hole, dropped a sapling in, covered it, tied it up with stakes, and surrounded it with a mulch mound.

We watched the whole scene with amazement and bewilderment, but at the very worst, we’d… inspired more tree planting?

That family has since sold the house, which was purchased by an investor to immediately rent. It took us some time to even realize the house was being rented. The yard has slowly fallen into disrepair, with all of the grass dying and being replaced, the flower beds being overrun with weeds, and the exterior fence decaying. Often a family member’s vehicle is parked halfway onto the grass.

Yesterday, we found the tree on the side of the road, in their front yard. It had been uprooted after being jostled by the hurricane and thrown to the curb, too much trouble to take care of, a gaping hole in the yard left unfilled.

Poor little neighbor tree. You were hurriedly planted for reasons unknown and were cast aside in an equally baffling manner. We barely knew you. RIP.

Pulse and E3

Back in college I made a few E3 game trailer mashup videos. It wasn’t very technically challenging, just good practice and a bit of fun picking my favorite moments and preserving them to some music. I dropped it after 2006 because the work was getting to be too much for the fun it was offering.

It felt like it was going to be fun to do one this year, with this generation of consoles hitting their stride and some updated consoles on the horizon.

Then the Pulse nightclub shooting happened, literally hours before the video game festivities were going to begin.

When I first heard about the shooting, it was a little shake of my head and a sigh before going back to whatever else was going on that morning. It didn’t even phase me. America, at it again. As the details, horror, and magnitude of the situation filtered in, it started to rip at me. It transformed the weeks to come, living in and working in Orlando. Even the digital highway signs read “#OrlandoUnited” around town. It was simultaneously a sense of dread and a strange affirmation.

E3 wasn’t the same after. How do you demo a dance club gunfight after something like that? Almost every presser started with a moment of silence or acknowledgement that the industry stood with the victims and LGBT fans. Almost every presenter wore a rainbow ribbon on their lapels to show their support. It felt a bit like insurance from backlash at the violence they would focus on in their games, but it felt mostly genuine. E3 was fantastic this year.

I have tried for the last few months to find a way to mash these two events together into some meaningful, touching video. E3 means so much to me; the shooting left me feeling numb. Was there some crossover here? Something to say about glorifying gun violence, or escapism, or the way games model anger and comfort? I picked a song, sliced it in Premiere, collected clips from YouTube of news coverage, game trailers, anti-gay propaganda, and threw it all together, repeatedly, hoping I could get it to stick.

It never did. I spent too many nights at work trying to make it work (including tonight), trying to say something. I’m admitting defeat tonight. All the clips and the project files are in the trash now.

But it hurts so much to walk away from something like this where I needed to say something. So here I am, saying a few things.


The song I had selected was If This is The End by Greek Fire. It was written to raise money for their drummer’s sudden cancer diagnosis. Give it a listen; buy it somewhere if you can afford it.

The basic themes I was striving for included “games help us work through emotions with modeled but alterable realities” and “individuals who dehumanized LGBT folks didn’t cause this event, but they certainly cultivated a culture that made it more likely to happen”.


The 2016 election is closing soon and the issues at stake in this tragedy don’t seem to be factoring in much. No changes in laws were passed. Pulse is a fleeting memory to the electorate, but that isn’t a total loss; better to forget terrorism than offer it any legitimacy or any additional opportunity to negatively impact lives.
Despite this, I’m hopeful we’ll make some progress on gun control in the
coming years, specifically in purchasing, licensing, and assault
weapons. It won’t solve everything, but that isn’t a reason to not solve anything.

The OneOrlando Fund was thoroughly supported, thankfully. You can still donate here.


I’ll close with a video I stumbled across that probably does a better job of inspiring positivity than mine ever would have. The Parliament House bit always gets me.

Be nicer to people. Try to understand people before judging them. And then try again. Assume the best in people. And I’ll let you know when I can do any of that half as well as I should.

Three Smiles, 9/26/16

This exercise is fun! I challenge you all to periodically pick three
positive things in your life recently or things you are thankful for,
write a little about them, and share. It’s been shown to increase
positivity!


BioFreeze

I’ve been having some problems with my lower back for most of the year (not positive!), so I’ve been in and out of the doctor, physical therapist, and orthopedist. One incredible discovery from all of that: BioFreeze. Think Icy Hot, but just the icy part! It feels incredible, like incredible enough that I bought a number of tubes on Amazon to keep some at work and around the house. It’s hard to describe what’s so good about it without experiencing it on a sore muscle or stiff knee, but a little seems to go a long way, and it’s a fantastic, relaxing contrast to the Florida heat outside.

Pokémon Go

Yeah, I know I know. I should have a motivation to go outside and move my body besides completing a meaningless virtual collection. But I don’t! So I’m pretty thankful something like Pokémon Go exists!

In all honesty, it’s wearing off a little, but I’ve still seen more new places in Orlando I the past couple months than I did the previous 12, almost entirely due to the extra motivation of progression in this game. Sitting about 1/3 of the way through level 23 currently.

SEARS

My manager recently decided that, while still perfectly okay with disregarding the dress code for shorts, nose rings, and open-toed shoes, printed t-shirts were no longer acceptable. I’d been meaning to find some new polos anyway, so sure, good excuse!

Kohl’s is mostly devoid of nice stuff for a good price in Florida in September, so I checked online to see who else carried Arrow polos. SEARS! On a whim, I dipped into the store at a local mall—and right into a random massive (probably season-end) clearance of button-downs and polos. A few more SEARS and a week later, and I’m up two polos and five button-downs for about $50 total! Score.

Last weekend I hung them all up, cleaned out the closet and dresser a bit, took three bags of clothes to Goodwill, and took all my company-branded work polos back to work. Feels good!

See Salt

New iPhone! Pre-ordered mine Friday morning, 3:08am: 7, Black, 128GB. Stepping down from my 6S Plus (sorry telephoto). A second camera isn’t enough to justify 1/3 more weight for my tiny baby hands. I am a little salty about missing out on that extra gig of RAM though.

I couldn’t care less about the headphone jack. Bose Bluetooth headphones at work, a UE Boom and an Echo at home, Bluetooth in the car (or even better, CarPlay: audio and charging with one cable!). An acceptable trade-off for a future with more component space in these wonderful little technology miracles. I hesitated for so long before purchasing the Bose I use for at least four hours a day at work, and the move to wireless is worth any pain. It’s just such a vastly better experience. It’s worth forcing.

image

Despite being the butt of jokes, dude, these AirPods. Bluetooth headphones, no wires, incredible battery life for essentially no mass. 3 hours of playback after 15 minutes of charging. I can’t think of a better companion for the occasional stroll through a retail store or a client call. It solves all of the problems in that space: size, charging, storage, pairing, phone calls, music, and UI. Unless the audio quality turns out to be poor, I can’t see myself passing on these.


You’d think the internet outrage at any change, any sacrifice, or any improvement to anything anyone cares about would bounce off me at this point. No, Apple didn’t do a “stupid” thing, or a “wrong” thing. They made a choice and now they have to live with it, for better or for worse. People are not “idiots” for appreciating something that you don’t. People aren’t “ill-informed” if they make a choice contrary to yours.

Die-hard fans feel as if their passion is proof of their studied and honed opinions, that somehow they’re more valid than the next. Something about the internet seems to make people feel more die-hard than they really are.

I like Apple phones. This is the next, best Apple phone, and I’m pretty damn excited to have it. I realize it’s an incremental improvement, and I’m more than fine with what it is. Now let’s see some Mac updates!