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!