January 24, 2020
Podcasts I like
Blockbuster - even if you’re only a modest Star Wars fan, or just a movie enthusiast, you’ll want to listen to Blockbuster. In six episodes the series covers the years leading up to the release of the first Star Wars movie and the challenges and adventures that George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, John Williams and many others played in the creation of that history making franchise. Another aspect that sets this podcast apart is it’s distinction as “the world’s first bio pod” with impressive sound production and voice acting that rivals the film namesake. The team that made this did an amazing job and it’s well worth checking out. Listen to Blockbuster here.
City of the Future, by Sidewalk Labs (an Alphabet company) - I stumbled on City of the Future on a recent car trip and quickly got addicted. In each episode the hosts __ and __ examine a potential fascinating technology in building that could make a huge difference in large urban areas. The hosts have an amazing chemistry that make listening a delight. In the somewhat stressful world in which we live I find the optimism for the future very refreshing. In a lot of ways this show, and the company behind it, reminds me of that positive futurism that Walt Disney envisioned when he was dreaming up the Experimental Prototype City of the Tomorrow.
Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby - Since I was a kid I was always really interested in Greek Mythology, and in my teen years I watched a fair amount of the Hercules and Zena Warrior Princess shows. That said I really don’t know/remember much about Greek Mythology. This podcast features an interesting topic or character each episode and gives in-depth explanations. The show’s host, Liv, is also a true fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and so there are quite a lot of references to Buffy that I appreciate.
The /Filmcast - part of the /Film film blog, the /Filmcast is a weekly update on new films. I really enjoy David Devindra and Jeff’s takes on films. They dive into all sorts of cinema, from blockbusters to art house, and give honest reviews. Listen to the /Filmcast here.
WTF with Marc Maron - Netflix’s Glow got me interested in checking out comedian Marc Maron, so I tuned into his podcast and couldn’t stop listening - I appreciate his honesty and humility in how he approaches topics, people and life. He’s seems very much a curmudgeon, but a curmudgeon with a decent heart buried inside. Listen to his show.
On Being - a podcast by Krista Tippett that explores philosophy, spirituality, and community. I discovered the show while listening to an interview with Irish theologian John O’Donohue where he describes his fascination with the beauty of this world. Listen to On Being here.
NPR Podcasts - I’ve been an NPR stan for decades. It’s my go-to source for in-depth analysis of what’s going on in the world. I listen to a lot of their live shows and they also have a some podcast exclusives that I really like. Up First is a great way to get a heads up when you start your day. I really liked listening to Kelly McEvers on my commute home from work listening to All Things Considered, so I was sad to hear she was leaving last year. However, hew new project, Embedded is a really amazing podcast that delves deep into one particular issue each episode.
Pod Save America - keeping up with all of the politics takes more brain energy than I usually have left, but this show helps keep me informed and is very entertaining, if for nothing else just the way they read ads is hilarious - the hosts of this show (Jon, Jon, Dan and Tommy) and have amazing chemistry which makes discussing the circumstances of our current politics a lot more bearable. Listen here.
Shop Talk Show - Chris and Dave do a nearly weekly podcast on all things web design-related. When you work in design/development it takes a lot of work to stay on top of all the latest technology. It’s frankly exhausting, but I find shows like this very helpful it keeping in the know. It’s also fun to hear from some of the top brains in the industry about what’s going on.
Toolsday - another great bi-weekly podcast on new and emerging podcasts. I heard Una give an amazing talk at a conference a couple years ago and then discovered the podcast she co-hosts and have been addicted ever since.
Podcasts I want to check out
Office Ladies - two of the actresses from The Office recount stories from each episode. Listen to it here.
Serial - everyone raves about this one, but I’ve never had time even though I’m a huge TAL fan :( Listen to it here. Revisionist History
Revisionist History - My friends have raved about Malcolm Gladwell’s re-examined events from the past. Listen here.
January 23, 2020
Engage! 2020 in Science Fiction
2020 is shaping up to be a great year for science fiction!
Today the much anticipated Star Trek Picard is released on streaming services. I spent my younger years watching episodes of The Next Generation, the Star Trek series which will always be my Trek! Picard explores Jean Luc’s future decades after The Next Generation and the subsequent films that followed the TNG cast. There is also more Discovery and another new animated show, Lower Decks, releasing this year.
New Half Life
A surprise announcement came last November with the news that there is a new Half Life game set to be released soon - not Half Life 3 (or Half Life 2: Episode 3) - but a prequel to Half Life 2 titled Half Life Alyx. It was announced that the biggest team ever to work on Half Life game has been working on Alyx, and that it will be a VR-only game. I really hope this means in the next couple years there will be a new VR sequel to Portal!
Dune, the ultimate science fiction book is getting a new film adaptation from Denis Villeneuve, who previously directed Sicario, Arrival, and the outstanding sequel to Blade Runner.
I read Dune in high school and it really stuck with me. It was a captivating story that I read through a few times to really get all the different elements of the story. The allegory to dependence on fossil fuels, the class warfare, the environmentalism, the fear of technology … all seem like story elements that are incredibly relevant today.
Dune has previously been put to film twice - first in 1884 as a film by David Lynch (who turned down an opportunity to direct the second Star Wars to instead direct Dune) - and in the early 2000s the SyFy channel (or SciFi channelel as it was then named) produced a mini-series of Dune and it’s sequel Dune Messiah. The David Lynch Dune has received some criticism for being
January 6, 2020
The tools I use
When you’re building a house, you need the right tools. And after my years of construction I have a set of tools that are my reliable go-tos. My framing hammer with a waffle sticking surface and magnetic divot to hold a 16-penny framing nail makes it easy to start a nail in the top of a wall without needing to find a step ladder, and it’s weighted just right so that it drives a nail in with ease. My speed square is invaluable as so many 90-degree angles appear in construction - it helps me mark boards for cuts on a compound mitre saw, provides an edge to score a vinyl tile with a utility blade (be careful doing that, I lost the tip of a finger once - it grew back), and many other useful functions. Likewise, when building a website I have a reliable set of tools that I refer to as well.
Here are my web-building tools:
Firefox Developer Edition - the developer edition of Firefox is really enhanced with the developer in mind. I usually have all versions of Firefox installed (standard, developer, and nightly) but Developer Edition is where I do most of my dev work. I’ve been a Firefox fan/advocate for well over a decade. The popular Firebug extension is the tool that first really helped me dig into code. Developer Tools, the evolution of Firebug, contains so many helpful tools for digging into code. The CSS Grid and Flexbox panels are great for visualizing these newer layout tools.
VS Code - for the kind of work I do, any text editor will do, and I have tried a lot of text editors. I can’t really say that one truly is the best -and you can’t go wrong with any of them. But VS Code just happens to be so incredibly reliable and fast, and I really like that it comes with Emmet and a lot of other useful extensions built-in. I have a soft spot for the Atom text editor, and often switch back and forth between the two. I used Notepad++ quite a bit and if I was working primarily in Windows that tool would be in my bucket for sure.
iA Writer - there is something to be said for a simple clean writing interface. I like that it allows me to focus on one sentence at a time. But I really like how iA Write offers grammar-syntax-highlighting (not to be confused with code-syntax highlighting found in text editors) which is incredibly useful is visualizing how you’re constructing sentences.
Sketch - I’ve been using Sketch for a few years for mocking up web design. The UI is so simple and intuitive for web design. I love the grid features for doing layout. I’ve also really liked using Adobe’s copy of Sketch, Adobe Xd, but as I mention later, I just can’t get my mind around the monthly subscription cost.
Affinity Photo/Designer/Publisher - sure at work I use Adobe products all day long. They are the industry standard. But I just can’t get my mind around the idea of paying an infinite recurring subscription to Adobe for my personal work. Affinity’s products faithfully recreate the features of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign and only cost a one time payment of $50 each! I know you get a lot with a Creative Cloud subscription but I just don’t need most of it, and I can’t stomach that monthly price tag. I really wish Adobe would offer a discounted Creative Cloud option for independent freelancers/enthusiasts that was priced similar to a Netflix subscription. That would be a no-brainer for me, but until that day comes, and it probably never will, I’ll be using Affinity’s versions that do nearly the exact same thing. I’ve also tried a lot of open-source design alternatives (here is a blog post I wrote about an open-source alternative to Creative Cloud a couple years ago) and while I’ll highly suggest giving them a try too, I do recognize that their UI is a challenge, and frankly getting Inkscape to run on a Mac is a chore. Considering the very low cost for Affinity and much better UI, and familiarity with Adobe, I can’t suggest Affinity enough.
Scout-App is a great open-source tool for compiling your CSS.
Hyper - An open source alternative to your terminal window. Having a highly customizable terminal window is a really nice way to make working in a terminal a lot cooler!
Spotify - music makes me more productive. Spotify is just easier to access across devices/platforms.
January 1, 2020
2019 in review
The ending of a year, and with it one decade comes to an end, and another begins. The Twenty-tens are finished and now we greet the Twenty-twentys.
2019 was a really amazing year in my life, there is a lot I am truly grateful for but before I can get into it a note about 2018. 2018 was also an amazing year as well, but more because it was one marked with unfathomable change.
My dad passed away suddenly in 2018. Still just thinking those words feels unreal to me. I may have come to terms with this reality but I cannot really believe in it, if that makes sense. The truth still feels foreign to me, like a dream, a dream I want to wake up from and forget. I just really want to be able to say ‘hello’ to my dad again.
I was kind of lost for most of 2018, which may be why I had a lot less to blog about. I’ve been kind of picking up the pieces of myself ever sense. The year after you lose someone close is really tough. Losing my dad was a crushing life-altering event.
In an odd way, going through this kind of trauma can provide even more clarity of how important someone was, and is, in your life. So much of who my dad was has shaped who I am, and so much of that carries forth in my life. I am ever more aware and appreciative of the gifts contained in this experience we call existence thanks to my amazing father. His physical life may be over, but I am not alone, thanks to the kindness and wisdom he left behind in my memories of him. It’s almost as if having lost my father I actually feel never more closer to him.
It’s hard to think of 2019 in any way other than a reflection of 2018. 2019 was a year focused on discovery, survival, and appreciation. I discovered renewed desire to learn and grow in my career. I survived the devastation of great personal loss. I appreciate the enormous gift that is life and it’s infinite treasures.
Here are some highlights from this year.
- I celebrated my father on the one year anniversary of his loss. (There was one request he made to me years ago, which was to play taps at his funeral. In the chaos of the funeral after his death I was not able to make that happen, so on the anniversary our family met and I fulfilled that request.)
- I learned a lot about web and interface design.
- I saw some pretty great movies.
- I went to my second web design conference in Denver, where I learned a ton more. I also turned that trip into a vacation spending time with my oldest niece Hannah, speaking of…
- I saw my oldest niece Hannah four separate times (in Virginia twice, the beach once, and Colorado once - that was a record).
- I started walking a lot! I will no longer underestimate the benefits of walking every day!
- 2019 was all about games! I started playing a slew of new board games with friends, and some I deemed worthy I shared with my family. This has been transformative really. Playing a variety of board-games has added a lot of enjoyment to my life, and allowed me to share that joy with others.
Do I have resolutions for 2020/the Twenty-twenties? Yes indeed. Don’t stop dreaming. Don’t stop learning. Don’t stop playing! Don’t stop appreciating the gift of life!
December 24, 2019
Cutting the cord – cable alternatives
A couple years ago I got tired of the rising cost of cable, and the lack of control as a consumer I felt over that cost, so I decided to ditch the service. A couple things made this an easy choice: 1) HBO Now came out so I no longer needed a cable subscription to access streaming premium Sunday night entertainment and 2) some new cable streaming alternatives (particularly SlingTV) had entered the market. I did a test of Sling and found that the little app on my Roku as actually a much better and faster experience than the old cable box I was previously relying on. I can also add it to my phone or computer so it was available anywhere I had internet access, making it a lot more accessible. In addition to being a better experience, Sling was a service I could cancel and reactivate at will, so no contracts involved, and it was a good deal cheaper than cable.
There are now several choices for cable streaming alternatives: SlingTV, YouTubeTV, ATT TV Now. (However, sadly the Playstation Vue service is going away.)
I have since completely cut off cable alltoghter but I like that I can reactivate Sling or Hulu+LiveTV anytime I want for a month at a time to watch something like the World Series, the Olympics, World Cup, etc.
If you’re looking for a free cable alternative you might consider PlutoTV. Being that it’s free, you’re not exactly going to find a lot of premium content on PlutoTV but the ad-supported service does have a lot of content and it is presented in a traditional live tv format. But their is a surprising amount of content, and a surprising amount of good on-demand movies - and all for free. Among the channels available are a channel streaming all the classic James Bond films, a channel with endless reruns of American Gladiators, channels dedicated to all sorts of genre’s from westerns to holiday films. And there is lots of Comedy Central content (Pluto is owned by Viacom). You’ll also find a lot of live news sources (such as live CBS News) that could make individual news apps unnecessary.
Outside of live sports and tv news, there isn’t a lot of reason to want a streaming cable alternative.
As for live news, I have found the CBS News live service is on par with their cable alternative. But there are a bunch of other free news services that anyone cutting cable should consider. First and foremost, if you want to be informed, I always rely on NPR and PBS. You can get your local NPR station on your Roku using the TuneIn app, or if you have an Apple TV you can use the NPR One app. You can get PBS with their own app, or stream their daily broadcast of NewsHour right off YouTube. If you’re looking for local news, chances are the NewsON app offers a lot of your local news stations. My favorite news app to recommend is the ReutersTV news app - it’s available on Roku, or just steaming in your web browser. The interface design of the Reuters app is excellent.
I use a Roku but all of these suggestions would be available on an Apple TV or Amazon Fire device as well.
My favorite iOS apps
There are an infinite number of “best apps” lists, so I thought, “why not make another one?” So here is a list of my favorite apps…maybe some of these will be lesser known gems!
- Dark Skies - there are so many weather apps, but they either seem to have too much or too little info. This app is the perfect balance of just what you need, and it’s extremely precise!
- Transit - there are lots of popular navigation apps (WAZE, Google Maps, etc) - what makes this one awesome is that it’s focus is on helping you navigate public transit. The UI is awesome. I’ve always thought that public transit can be a little frustrating to figure out, but this app makes the experience easy to understand.
- iA Writer - I really love the iA Writer app’s minimal distraction-free writing interface.
- Brave - all browsers that run on iOS are required to use the WebKit rendering engine. This is a requirement of Apple for a browser to be allowed on the App Store, but Brave comes with built in add blocking and the HTTPS everywhere extension built in.
- Spotify - music, podcasts, a great UI make this the best music app on iOS
- Pixel People - I was really sad because my favorite iOS game was gone for a long time but now it’s surprisingly been resurrected! It’s kind of a city-building game like the original Sim City with the added job or repopulating humanity. The graphics are in the style of retro games from the 8 and 16-bit era. It’s amazingly fun and addictive.
- Downwell - a very fun game with simple mechanics, a retro 8-bit style macabre art style. The user falls down a well (hence the title) and uses gun-boots to blast enemies as they plummet further down.
- Flipboard - I’ve always liked the way that Flipboard presents interesting articles.
You’ll notice I didn’t include any social media apps in this list. Well that’s because it’s become clear to me that social media is a form of digital poison that should be minimized in our lives.
December 23, 2019
Web Privacy Tips
Recently I’ve had some conversations with family and friends and realized that I probably take for granted some privacy tips that I should share. In this day and age where our every increasingly tracked behavior is a product sold by marketing agencies, and in a world were we can’t assume our governing bodies will have consumers best interests at heart, it seems all too critical to be vigilant in protecting your digital privacy. So here goes: my tips at basic privacy protection.
The TL;DR version
- Use Firefox as your browser with the following privacy-focused extensions:
- Make Duck Duck Go your default search engine.
- Control your DNS by setting your router’s DNS settings to OpenDNS.
- Use a VPN - here is a guide to choose one.
Choose a good browser
First, rather than the default web browser that came on your machine (Microsoft Edge, or Safari if you on a Mac) I highly suggest using Firefox as your web browser. Firefox is the best browser when privacy is your concern**. Be sure to configure it to clear your browser cache when you close the exit. Here is how to do that. Use the Do Not Track feature that Firefox pioneered – this is now a default setting. Firefox is also available on the iOS app store, and they have an ad blocking tool, Firefox Focus, that allows you to protect against ads on the default browser Safari. Other browsers seem to eventually catch up with Firefox when it comes to privacy, but Mozilla Org being a privacy-focused non-profit has a vested interest in your privacy unlike competitors Microsoft and Google which have a vested interested in knowing as much as they can about you for marketing purposes, as a result Firefox is often giving you the best access to control your privacy. Also, side note, as a web designer I find the dev tools in Firefox to be outstanding! I actually suggest having a few different browsers for surfing the web, and configure all of them with browser focused extensions (see below). Besides Chrome and Firefox, there are lots of other good ones: Opera, Vivaldi. **Another excellent browser you should consider is Brave, from the co-creator of Firefox – It comes with Ad Blockers built in, as well as HTTPS Everywhere (see below).
Second: Whatever browser you use – always make sure it’s updated. Most browsers will update automatically by default.
Third: Do not enable Flash on any browser. Most browsers are configured to block flash be default now. But if a site wants you to enable Flash, always say “no”.
Use privacy-focused browser extensions
I am usually hesitant to install a browser extension unless I am certain it’s from a reliable source. Here are some that are known to be very reliable and helpful:
Use DuckDuckGo as your default search engine instead of Google, Bing or Yahoo. DDG is a search engine that doesn’t track you. I find the results are just as good (or darn close) to using Google. Here’s how to set it as default on Firefox.
Use an Ad blocker to prevent that item you were thinking about buying from following you around from website to website. Ad blockers prevent unseen advertising companies from tracking your every step on the net. There are lots of Ad Blockers and they are not all created equal. uBlock Origin is the best. Get it for Chrome. Get it for Firefox. Ad Blockers also have the benefit of making your internet faster because all those ads aren’t loading, as well as making your browsing safer when visiting a site that may unintentionally be serving up a malicious ad via an unreliable ad network. To see the difference: Install uBlock Origin and then go to any YouTube video and you’ll see dozens of ads blocked in the extension’s indicator.
Use HTTPS Everywhere – from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization founded on users’ digital rights and civil liberties - this extension helps ensure you’re visiting the secure version of a web site for every visited web page. The Wirecutter does AN AMAZING JOB of explaining the differences of viewing a non-secure (HTTP) verses a secure (HTTPS) web page - highlighting the granular data an ISP can collect about you in a non-secure page. Obviously HTTPS provides a great deal more privacy than HTTP - my ISP may know I went to Amazon, but at least on a secure version of the URL they can’t determine based on the query string which items I am interested in buying. Extrapolate that to other searches like health concerns, etc and you can get a scary idea of the kinds of profiles your ISP can generate about you.
Use Facebook Container - Mozilla, makers of Firefox, have provided an extension that traps Facebook’s tracking abilities from cross-site tracking. A lot of people don’t realize this but Facebook injects tracking codes on lots of sites you might visit in a given day, and if they know you’re the same user they are storing data about (even if you don’t actually even have a Facebook account) they can map your behavior. This extension traps each tab in a separate session and prevents cross-site tracking from Facebook.
Control your DNS
Configure your domain name server (DNS) to NOT USE your internet service provider’s default DNS. Unfortunately thanks to a recent decision from our government to overturn a provision to protect consumers from their internet service providers (ISP) from tracking their customers’ online behavior and building profiles of their users, it is now more important than ever to use secure (HTTPS) sites and. Your ISP can now even send you to one of their own bogus domains if they do not recognize the domain URL you are trying to visit. I noticed this not long ago when I tried to visit a website for a web design conference that had been shut down, but since the URL was no longer valid my ISP redirected my browser to their own bogus link farm which looked like a hacked website, rather than a standard “page cannot be found” message. Fortunately there are some things you can do to prevent this from happening. Typically when you have an ISP they route your URL requests through their own domain name server (DNS) but if you happen to own your own router and modem (which is always good idea), you can configure the DNS manually to go though a responsible DNS server just by logging into your router and (while you’re in there be sure to change the router log-in into something other than the default). Google provides reputable DNS IP addresses, as does OpenDNS. Here is an explanation on configuring your router to use Open DNS as it’s domain name server.
Use a VPN
When you are on a public wireless network your data is not safe from prying eyes, so it is highly recommended to use a VPN. If you must use a public internet connection, using a VPN will keep your data encrypted. The best VPN is debatable but Wirecutter provides some decent suggestions. Most importantly, make sure the VPN is reputable and a paid service (the free ones sell your data).
Avoid social media (Facebook especially)
Avoid (if you can) Facebook. I know it’s hard to get by without Facebook, but just know that whenever you use that service you are handing over your personal data to be sold to anyone. YOU are the product that they sell for massive amounts of marketing dollars, and you have no idea who’s buying that data. You might be amazed at what they know and can determine about you with algorithms. Here is how you can view all the data Facebook stores about you. BTW, if you use Instagramor WhatsApp you’re just another part of Zuckerberg’s empire.
By all means, do not use Facebook as a means to log into other services. I see this a lot lately. This is just a way for Facebook to know more about you, and prevent you from leaving Facebook for fear of loosing access to those services. Whenever possible do create a unique account for every unique service.
Put a piece of paper of your computer’s web camera. it’s old school, but even Mark Zuckerberg does this. Firefox will allow you to set when it’s ok for a site to access your web cam or microphone. Pasteabout:preferences#privacy into the URL bar to access your privacy controls. Nefarious website have been known to hijack cams and secretly record users.
Don’t jailbreak your iPhone or Android and always update whenever Apple/Googleprovides system updates. They often patch security vulnerabilities.
Use 2-factor authentication for all of your important services (email/financial/medical/etc). 2-factor authentication requires that when you log in with a password you get a text message to your phone with a random authorization code. This prevents a hacker who may have already acquired your password from accessing your personal info. For an even more secure log in, many services offer a way to use an encrypted app to provide 2-factor authentication.
December 22, 2019
What I've Learned This Year, and What I Want to Learn Next
This year I feel pretty good about what I’ve learned in web design/development, and as always I am excited about what I can look forward to learning next.
This year I’ve learned a good bit about:
- SASS and CSS Variables
- CSS Animations
- CSS layout with Grid and Flexbox
CSS is my favorite part of web design/development. My CSS skills feel like they are improving a lot in the last year. I like using CSS variables to create art. Here is an example of the American flag created with a base unit defined as a CSS variable. All other measurements are based on that root variable using the calc property. I also spent some time exploring CSS Animations as in this example of a CSS dog I created named Codee (pronounced “Cody”).
Probably the most exciting thing I learned this year was how to layout a page using CSS Grid. Here is an example of a world made with CSS Grid.
Next I want to learn:
- Development Frameworks: React, Angular, but especially Vue
I like that Vue is independent from a big tech company. In the same way that I prefer Firefox over browsers provided by large corporations (Chrome, Edge, Safari), I also like the idea that Vue is not from a large tech corporation (React is from Facebook, Angular is from Google). Diversity in browsers, frameworks, software is a good thing. The independence of Vue is a big pro. But I know that knowing all of these frameworks is indispensable, so while I will start with Vue, I will progress to trying all of them. From what I’ve read they are often used in conjunction.
I’m also interested in trying out some Static Site Generators, and 11ty is at the top of my list.
December 18, 2019
CSS Grid is the web layout standard of the future
Today I Learned that Mozilla has a great guide for comprehending CSS Grid!
If you have been a web designer/developer for any length of time you’ve surely used your fair share of float:lefts and clear-fixes to arrange content on the web, and despite the frustrations of that, you gladly accepted them for giving up the old way of table-based layout back in the pre-responsive web design days. And you probably gladly switched to the grid-based Bootstrap approach despite having to load in all that extra code, because up until now there was not a built-in layout language for the web. That all changes with CSS Grid (and Flexbox), a layout structure that is built-into CSS and widely supporting by the major web browsers. Best of all, Grid (and Flexbox) seamlessly with with older techniques so you don’t have to choose one of the other.
CSS Grid is certainly the layout tool for future web development, and it’s worth noting that it can be used hand-in-hand with Flexbox (or ‘Flexible Box Model’) which has a lot of similar features, attributes, naming conventions and so on. It’s a little confusing at first, but once you at least kinda* get the hang of it creating layouts for the web is a dream. (*I say Kinda because no one would be expected to be a repository of everything there is to know about Grid, or Flexbox, or the rest of CSS for that matter - this is one reason we have Google).
One way to distinguish Flexbox and Grid is know that Flexbox is one-directional (horizontal or vertical) and Grid is bi-directional (horizontal and/or vertical), as this article clearly explains.
CSS Tricks also has an excellent reference for Grid (based on their reference for Flexbox) that I use every time I work with Grid. And my favorite version of my favorite Browser, Firefox Developer Edition, has some amazing tools built in for visualizing and working in Web.
November 26, 2019
I am in awe of the new Watchmen series on HBO. Every episode takes me deeper into the intrigue and masterful story-telling.
I truly loved the original comic series upon which it was based. But I was skeptical that a series based on the comic could tap into it’s beautiful layered symmetry. I remembered how the Watchmen film although aesthetically rising to the occasion, missed the mark with the substance, and the depth of context that would only seem possible on the printed page.
I also loved Lindelof’s previous work on the HBO series Leftovers. That show, particularly the first season, was something incredible and new. It was addicting. Nevertheless, a spin-off show on such a challenging story seemed like a moonshot attempt, and yet it seems to be doing exactly that.
Lindelof’s Watchmen has what Snyder’s Watchmen did not - timing, synchronicity, the deeper meanings reverberating across timelines that is the very soul of the original comic - it is beautiful to behold.
The Streaming Shake Up
We have lived in the golden age of streaming thanks to the disrupting streaming platforms that have been available in recent years, but with more people ditching the over-priced cable model, and major media corporations moving their content to streaming services, the days of saving by cord cutting may be coming to a close.
We used to be able to get by with a couple streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO) but it’s becoming an increasingly crowded set of choices. We now also have CBS All-access, Disney+ and Apple TV+, and soon we’ll also have Peacock from NBCUniversal, and WarnerMedia is rolling our HBOMax which will combine HBO with the rest of WarnerMedia content. With all of these new services, that means a shakeup is in the works with content bouncing around between different platforms.
HBO, Netflix and Amazon Prime have been the staples of original content, but Netflix Amazon and Hulu have benefited from lots of classic content. Right now Hulu is my favorite streaming service because it has the overall best selection of shows that I enjoy (many of which are classics) such as: Firefly, Saved by the Bell, It’s Always Sunny, Rick and Morty, Brooklyn 99, Party Down, etc. But, it’s now clear that many of these shows will move off of Hulu to other services as they launch. For example, Rick and Morty will go to the new HBO Max, as will Friends, West Wing and the Fresh Prince. Netflix will lose the Office and Parks and Rec to NBC’s Peacock.
If you happen to love Star Trek like me, you’re only choice to watch the new Star Trek shows (of which there will be 3 choices next year) is CBS All-access.
Here is a rundown of current and upcoming streaming services, and their pricing:
|Netflix||$9/$13/$16*||Stranger Things, Glow, Atypical, The Crown, etc|
|Hulu||$6/$12*||The Handmaiden’s Tale, It’s Always Sunny, Firefly, Party Down|
|Amazon Prime||$10||Fleabag, Catastrophe, Man in the High Castle|
|CBS All-Access||$6/$10*||Star Trek shows: Discovery, Picard, Below Deck|
|Disney+||$7||The Mandalorian, Star Wars, Marvel Cinematic Universe|
|Apple+||$5||Snoopy, New original content|
|HBO Max||$15||HBO shows, Studio Ghibli, Sesame Street, Rick and Morty, Friends, West Wing, the Fresh Prince|
|Peacock||TBD||Parks and Rec, The Office, reboots of Saved by the Bell and Punky Bruster|
*Netflix plans range from $9 to $16 depending on number of screens and picture quality | Hulu’s $12 option is ad free, CBS All-Accesses’ $10 plan is also ad free
So if a consumer attempts to keep up with all of the content we’ve traditionally had available it will soon become more expensive than the traditional cable services. Making the whole point of cord cutting a moot point. If their is still one upside to these content disruptions, at least we have the choice to forgo advertising, and choose when and where we consume content.
November 24, 2019
Movies in 2019
The year is not over and I suspect Rise of Skywalker will make a good case for being my favorite film of the year, however here are what I’ve enjoyed the most so far.
John Wick Chapter 3: full disclaimer I have not yet seen the first two John Wick action movies, but that might not really matter that much. The third one does pick up immediately after the conclusion of the second but that all becomes pretty obvious after a few confusing minutes, and I’m not sure really knowing the whole backstory makes a difference. I went in expecting a pretty good action film, but what I didn’t expect was all out hilarious comedy that the movie was. It’s basically a modern day Three Stooges, and it pulls off the best slapstick comedy I’ve ever seen.
Jojo Rabbit comes from Taika Waititi (creator/director of What We Do In Shadows, Thor Ragnarok, Eagle vs Shark …) known for oddball goofy comedy. The story revolves around a 10-year old boy in Nazi Germany whose imaginary friend is Hitler (played by the director), encouraging him through difficult times. Meanwhile he becomes aware that his mother has a young Jewish girl, Elsa, hiding in their home, and exposing her would risk the life of his mother, so he is involuntarily complicit with his mother’s secret. But over time Jojo begins to realize Elsa’s humanity and they begrudgingly form a bond of friendship. The movie is filled with humor and also beautifully sweet moments.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is one of the best Tarantino films yet, the story is an interesting take on the true crime genre, specifically the grizzly murder of actress Sharon Tate, retconning the story where instead of a gruesome murder two unlikely heroes intervene in the most hilarious ways imaginable.
Parasite: Subtle meanings, deep subtexts containing a message about society permeate the film. The story in Parasite, a Korean film from the director of The Host (one of my favorite monster thrillers) is beautifully told, beautifully filmed and beautifully acted. There is no way to describe the plot without giving away shameful spoilers so I won’t go into details, but there are no real protagonists, no real heroes, just victims of an unfair world trying to survive anyway possible. It juxtaposes moments of humor with our profound despair so brilliantly. The complex story and stunning visuals reminded me of a masterpiece on the same level as a Hitchcock film.
The end of two Marvel Eras
With the acquisition of Fox by Disney it can be said that we’ve seen the end of the era of the X-Men (and related) films. I’d say that of all the super hero films, the Fox X-Men series was my favorite. Not all were successes, but they ventured into some different territory with some side characters and darker R-rated films. In particular the Deadpool films, Logan, The Wolverine, and Days of Future Past stand out to me as amazing films in the series. Now that Disney owns the Fox films it will be interesting to see how they weave mutants into their already successful non-mutant Marvel story lines.
The other end of an era was the conclusion of a major story arc in Disney’s Marvel films with Avenger’s Endgame. Disney certainly has no plans to stop churning our Marvel movies, but Endgame felt like, and was certainly meant to be, a capstone on the stories up to this point. Considering the film includes the deaths or retirements of some of the most prominent figures in these films it’s clear this is at least a passing of the torch to a new generation of characters.
In a way I’m starting to become tired of all of the super hero movies. I’ve given up on the DC Universe, which growing up was my favorite comic universe, but the DC Universe has been a lot of misses. I didn’t really give Wonder Woman or Joker a chance but after Batman vs Superman there was just too much missing or broken with that series. I’ve also missed a lot of the recent Disney Marvel films such as both independent Spider Man films, Captain Marvel. There is just too much to take it all in.
State of the Web
I like to look over various annual surveys pertaining to web design/development. It’s a great way to stay on top of emerging trends, technologies, working situations, etc. I just discovered the HTTP Archive Almanac which I’ve excited to look over. I discovered Tailwinds popularity in this year’s State of CSS survey, and I learned about the interest in the Vue framework in last year’s State of JS survey. The Stack Overflow survey is a great place to see what technology is most popular, and where you rank income wise, incase you need to make the argument for a raise, among other things.
Labels: web development
November 23, 2019
Playlist - relaxing by the sea
Just a little relaxing playlist I made, heavily inspired by Eagle vs Shark.
Here is a little world I made out of CSS and pieced together with CSS Grid.
March 17, 2019
One Year Ago
One year ago I saw my dad for the last time.
(Technically I saw him for the last time in an unresponsive state in May of last year after he fell and sustained a very serious brain injury. He was on life support by the time I got to the hospital and there was nothing that could be done.)
So it was really one year ago, in March, when I last spent time with my father. He visited me in Charlotte on a beautiful Saturday and we had an amazing weekend just the two of us. He got up and left to come here so early he had to take a nap as soon as he got here, and he forgot to bring some clothes so he ended up borrowing some of mine. We played cards with my friends. We went to one of the nicest parks for a walk. I made him dinner one night, and we went out for breakfast twice. The last meal we had together was at a diner I took him to years ago that he always wanted to go back to. He had biscuits and gravy. We watched some TV and just enjoyed spending time together. If I knew it would be the last time I’d spend with my father I could not have planned it better.
When it came time for him to leave, I said I hoped he knew just how much I loved him. I hoped he knew how much of amazing dad he was for me, how much of an amazing friend. He did know all of this of course, just as I know how much he loved me.
Anyone who knows me well knows how much my dad meant to me. And they know we had more than a typical father and son relationship – he was my best friend. My dad did so much for me growing up. He was usually the one making dinner for the two of us after he got home from work. He took me to movies, to baseball practice, to the arcade when I was a kid. He took me to Bush Garden’s theme park (and rode some of the rides with me that were safe for him after his heart surgery – usually the ones that involved getting wet, or the bumper cars). He loved going to the beach with our family, and the two of us talked about it all year long. We joked that we liked talking about and planning for the beach even more than actually going.
He taught me so many things. He had a lot of sayings, like “Any job that’s worth doing is worth doing right.”, and “Don’t put off to tomorrow what can be done today.” He taught me to mow the grass, how to drive and take care of my car. He taught me how to make things in his workshop (We re-drywalled the downstairs ceiling together, and I helped him fix the bench he loved to sit on in the front yard, and he helped me make various shelves for the different places I’ve lived). He taught me so much but the most important thing he taught me was how special life is, and how important love is.
We went on lots of walks together over the years. At first he was the one encouraging me to get walking to lose weight, and in later years it was me encouraging him to walk with me to keep his heart strong. We had a bench in Purcell Park where we often took a break on our walks. It was a beautiful place to take a moment and survey the beauty surrounding us. He went on some hikes with me, even once up to the top of Hump Back Rocks on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which I know was a challenge for him. The view from the top is really amazing. He always thanked me for encouraging him to go, every time we walked.
We also went on a lot of road trips over the years. The summer before he passed my my mom, dad and I went on a trip together across the West sightseeing in our amazing National Parks. Later that Fall the three of us also went for a drive up on the Skyline Drive.
My dad was such a kind man. That is what I would describe as his defining characteristic. He had a lot of really tough points along the way in his life, especially growing up very poor. But all of that helped to make him become the incredibly loving and kind man he was. He always used to say he was the richest man in the world because of all the love in our family.
Losing my dad, my best friend, has been the most difficult thing I’ve experienced. His loss to me is overwhelming. I know it will take time, probably the rest of my life, to deal with this loss. I realize that Love is a gift that comes with an enormously heavy price tag. And it seems like I have two choices. I could just accept that I’ll never be able to overcome the sadness of losing my best friend – which is true – and just give up. Or I could use what time I have to show appreciation for that love, to give as much kindness to this world as I can. I’m pretty sure I know what choice my dad would want me to make.
December 2, 2018
What time is it Mickey?
The image of Mickey is entirely made with CSS.
November 2, 2018
My Disney Trip
I recently attended the An Event Apart conference in Orlando. It was a great conference and because it was located in Disney World I got to spend some time exploring the Happiest Place on Earth. Below is a video of some of the things I experienced.
October 5, 2018
Life After Dad
This is a blog post about my dad passing away.
On May 25th just after midnight and having had a wonderful day with my mom, my dad had a very bad fall that caused a traumatic brain injury that was so bad it was all the doctors could do to keep his body alive long enough for our family to be by his side before they removed life support. His body faded quickly, which I felt as the warmth leaving as I held his hand. And like that I lost the greatest friend in my life.
I'll never forget that moment when I first saw his face in the hospital. I knew in that instant that he was gone. I knew there was nothing that could be done. Something I was very afraid of was really happening and now I'll spend the rest of my life trying to adapt. I'm still trying to make sense of this new reality where my dad is missing, but I find traces of him everywhere in everyday life and they usually bring with them both the joy of remembering his gentle kindness and the pain of that loss. At night my dad sometimes makes visits in my dreams. I've woken early in the morning dreaming of hearing his footsteps and not wanting to believe he's not here, wanting instead to wake back up into that other place where my dad is still breathing and is waiting with a big grin to give me a big hug when I make a visit home. I can still hear him saying my name when I'd walk through the front door.
A couple days after my dad passed away I had an interesting moment where I walked outside and looked up at the stars and had an honest talk with whomever is responsible for this universe. I said two things: I didn't think I'd ever understand why this had to happen, or how any good could come from it, and also I'd happily pay this price of feeling the empty sadness in my heart for the rest of my days if that was the price for having had such an amazing father. But instead of sinking further into the emptiness I felt the most calm peaceful feeling I've ever known. It was a reassurance that everything is ok, it always was, and my dad's love will live in me always. This feeling of relief completely answered the pain in my heart if only just for a moment. It was a glimpse into something bigger and more profoundly reassuring than the weight of all the sadness I felt, or ever could feel. All my troubles were just misunderstandings because the true beauty of this world is right before our eyes if we just allow ourselves to realize it. How I came to this moment is a mystery to me, but one thing I do know now is that I don't have to know how everything makes sense. I don't have to worry about what I've lost. I don't have to know how it happens, or could even be possible, but I simply believe that someday I'll look at my dad again and say "it's good to see you again."
May 13, 2018
Happy Mother's Day
Here is my Mother's day card. To all the mothers in the world, thank you for everything. Without you there would be nothing, but instead we have everything. We have blue skies, we have mountains and seas and stars. We have life, we have reason, we have love, we have home.