I'm still enjoying Overwatch, as evinced by the 376 hours I've spent playing it. For reference, Steam says that I played Skyrim for 345 hours, Borderlands 2 for 232 hours, Fallout 4 for 214 hours, and Portal Stories: Mel for 30 minutes. I enjoy the fact that Overwatch matches are quick, self-contained, and always fresh, even though I haven't branched out from the few heroes I play the most.
There are no major spoilers in these reviews.
Narcos, Season Two:
The second season of Narcos feels pretty obligatory, focusing on the real-life decline of Pablo Escobar's drug empire. It's pretty slow-paced for only being 10 episodes, and it introduces too many minor characters with minimal payoff. It's okay if nothing else is on and you don't mind endless Spanish subtitles. Free on Netflix.
Final Grade: C+
10 Cloverfield Lane (PG-13):
I'm torn on this movie. For the first 90 minutes, it's a claustrophobic psychological thriller featuring John Goodman as an unsettling doomsday prepper. Then, the last 15 minutes changes tone completely and feels utterly out of place with everything that came before it (apparently in an attempt to tie this movie to the world of the Cloverfield movie, which I never saw because shaky cam is dumb). I loved it up until then.
Final Grade: B
Blurryface by Twenty One Pilots:
Songs from this album of well-crafted pop music comes up on multiple Pandora stations I have, so I finally bought the whole thing. It's great shallow pop music with few duds, although it feels a little ridiculous to hear twenty-somethings sing about how they're too old and want to be kids again.
Final Grade: B
I gave this turn-based world conquering game a try because LA Mike is super into it. After 8 hours, I can see why fans of this genre enjoy it, but it didn't do much for me. There's too much complexity in the various game systems and an overabundance of micromanagement and clicking required to coordinate your empire. Units have such restrictive turns that it feels like nothing ever gets done in a single turn -- that's the whole point in an epoch-based timeline, but it just felt too slow for me. Luckily, I got 20% off with my Prime discount.
Final Grade: C
How much you know about me? Hover your mouse over the right column to see the correct answers.
What is my current ringtone?
What was my most recent unhealthy lunch?
Why don't I do overnight trail hiking?
What kind of comment am I most likely to make while watching a movie?
Which book did I NOT throw out during Fall Cleaning this weekend?
How many miles does my four-year-old car have on it?
How many consecutive carpet cat vomits does it take before I escalate from Oxiclean to the steam cleaner?
How many times have I washed my car this year?
What tool do I NOT keep in my computer desk drawer?
What service was my most recent credit card charge for?
When Clinton and Trump applied for the position of US President, I did my due diligence as hiring manager. In Clinton, I saw a career politician with strong policy credentials and an inability to prevent self-inflicted political wounds. The email controversy, while serious, was no worse than established practice of other politicians before her (although her flippant comment about wiping the server with a cloth incites Hulk-levels of rage in me to this day). In the "Miscellaneous" portion of her resume, I liked the symbolism of electing the first woman president.
In Trump, I saw an erratic, ineloquent businessman with no experience in politics. His actions and words showed clear racism and misogyny, and he used fear to gather and excite his voting base. Subjectively, he gave me the impression that I would be wiser to interview the advisors he surrounds himself with to prepare for the day (somewhere in Year Two) when he got bored of governing.
Both candidates were flawed, yet one clearly had the stronger resume for this specific job. The hiring recommendation I submitted was based on what I felt was best for our country in spite of my personal feelings. In the end, I was overruled and Trump was elected.
There are arguments to be made about all of the reasons that this was possible -- the Electoral College is an outdated institution, the spoiling effect of third party votes, or media oversaturation -- but these are just trifling details. Simply put, Trump won because people voted for him. REAL people, some of whom you might see on the street or at work every day. REAL people with legitimate concerns in search of a solution. I remain highly skeptical that Trump will be the solution that these voters had hoped for, but I can empathize with the feeling that their voices were finally heard.
So what will the US look like under a Trump presidency beyond a loss of international prestige and an uncertain, fluctuating market? As it has for every presidency, that remains up to us as citizens of this country and the world. We are still the best defense against institutionalized hate and we still have the power to accept or reject the qualities we want in the communities we establish.
If you're feeling despondent right now, go ahead and take a day to get that noise out of your system -- torture yourself by browsing all of the online "what-if" punditry, finish off that bottle of stale caramelized dessert wine, and rewatch Dave. When you wake up tomorrow, here are my suggestions for what you should do instead of giving up in despair (simplified into a Buzzfeed-friendly list of 3):
1) Nurture your local community
Exemplify the type of person you want to be around. Love your family, take care of your friends, and say hello to your neighbour before you dart into your suburban house to hide from real social connection. Practice the values of diversity, civil rights, and personal responsibility that you hold dear and let them virally infect your personal network and beyond. No amount of negative policy changes at the national level will ever be enough to overcome a strong, loving community.
2) Strive to understand the anxieties of the "other side"
Dismissing the concerns of the voters who put Trump in power dehumanizes almost half of our country. It's very easy to adopt an "us vs. them" or "enlightened vs. never-went-to-college" viewpoint but this will never heal the divide. In the face of manufactured factions, we need to remind ourselves that we're not as far apart as we have been led to believe. Make a conscious effort to empathize with other peoples' concerns even if surface appearances suggest an obvious bias. Be skeptical of your own stances sometimes and read news stories from sources you normally wouldn't deign to consider -- not to change your mind, but to see issues from a different perspective. It will never be as simple as saying that "everyone who votes for a racist is also a racist".
3) Work within the system to change the system
Our political system is imperfect and in need of change, but protest voting simply doesn't work. If you seriously want a third party candidate to ever win at the national level, start them organically from the local level in one of the big parties and give them a platform with broader appeal beyond people that want to smoke pot, get Wifi cancer, or abolish all government. If you dislike both big party candidates in future elections, consider choosing the one that would have a net positive impact on humanity in spite of your personal views. It's possible to work within the system without abandoning it wholesale -- as an outsider, Trump used every flaw in the process to get the nomination of a political party he doesn't truly represent and then went on to win.
We are still the same good people we were before the election, and in spite of its problems, our country is still a better place to live, raise a family, and thrive than it ever has been. If you believe that yesterday's election was a giant step backwards, it is your responsibility to keep the trail maintained until we can move forward again.
I've had an unusually busy week, so I'll delegate responsibility for today's post to you. This has been a peculiar year to date, and there are still 50 days to go! We probably have room for at least one more alignment of the stars that manifests itself in a crazy, unexpected event, big or small. What are your predictions for something that will happen before the year is out?
At the age of 7 going on 8, I finished out the school year in Mrs. Hutt's third grade class and matriculated up to my favourite year of primary school. I was still a child free of obligations or regular activities, since it would be another year before I started things like band or Cub Scouts.
I don't really remember much about the summer between 3rd and 4th grade, but it was probably spent with my grandparents in Michigan taking the occasional piano lesson, getting scratched by their surly cat, Cody, and painting cheap clay sculptures that always broke after a couple days.
In the fall, I joined Mrs. Sharkey's class, yet another teacher who lived across the street from the school (these teachers were an oddity for the fact that you knew they had a life outside of the building an didn't just plug in to the nearest robot closet to recharge). She was one of 3 fourth grade teachers, including Mr. Hazzard and Mr. Cmiel, who split the duties of teaching different subjects. In the morning, the Talented and Gifted students would go to Mrs. Marmarino for language arts. We spent several weeks creating snake-themed dioramas for an imaginary town called Snakeville. My contribution to one group project was the "Snake-ifieds" section of the snake newpaper, full of hissing puns and snake want ads. I also wrote a children's story called The Orge Family about a bunch of clumsy kids that lived in a castle.
Around 11, we would go to Mr. Hazzard's class to learn about Virginia history. I would eat the snack out of my lunch to stave off the hunger, usually a fudge brownie or cheap Oreo knock-offs, because lunch wasn't until 1 PM. After lunch, we'd have science or family life with Mr. Cmiel. I got straight As across the board and my report card blurb says, "A fine citizen, an A-one student, and a wonderful personality makes Brian 'a teacher's delight'. Outstanding, delightful, and creative!"
My best friend in 4th grade was James, and our primary activity was to build things out of Legos (mainly the town-themed sets). I also continued playing PC games, mainly those published by Infocom and Sierra Online, likes King's Quest, Space Quest, and Police Quest. I would take the hint book maps to school and let my friends play the games with their imagination at the lunch tables, and then go home at night and write really bad text adventure games in the BASIC programming language.
My favourite book series was the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander and my favourite movie was Back to the Future. I did not yet listen to music, so I only knew about things my parents listened to, like the Broadway cast recording of Phantom of the Opera.
A children's book written in fourth grade language arts class
Once upon a time, long, long ago, King Orge and his queen had sextuplets.
Their names were: Worge, George, Horge, Morge, Corge, and Dwaborge.
They were always clumsy.
Dwaborge would pull the cat's tail while...
...George put a match in the gas stove.
"We must do something about these kids!" the cook exclaimed.
They never got the problem solved.
By the time they were all 30...
...they became fighters and warriors.
They were still clumsy.
Morge was fighting when...
...his helmet fell off!
One day, Corge took the King's throne.
He didn't have a queen so he put up a vacant sign.
Then he married a woman named "Torge".
He was still clumsy. He went right past the castle after the honeymoon.
When Corge called for a limousine and a driver...
...it turned out to be a Volkswagen and a moose.
A boy named Vorge broke a window, and...
Corge didn't have a lawyer or insurance.
Then the water tower broke.
In the Orge family, everything has been the same forever.
If you listen across the ocean at night...
...you just might hear Corge's spirit yelling "I want my lawyer!" or "Who broke that window!"
After almost 14 years of working full-time for FGM (later renamed Novetta), I have a new job as a senior software engineer for a tiny commercial startup. This will pull me back into the trenches a little bit, away from the ivory tower architecture and proposal writing that I've been mostly focused on over the past couple of years. My last day "in the building" is today, and I start the new job on Monday after Thanksgiving.
It's a little scary to leave stability and awesome benefits behind when your entire career identity is intertwined with a single company, especially for a risk-averse individual such as myself. However, I felt like this was better to do on my own volition now than at some unforseen point in the future for unforseen reasons. I'm looking forward to doing nonstop coding again and delivering software as a tangible end result that I can point at with pride (not unlike enjoying the lines on a freshly mowed lawn).
The new job is also a refreshing reminder that the core skills in my career apply to pretty much every sector out there and not just Defense and Intelligence. It will be nice to be out of the world of incessant acronyms, constantly expiring badges, and dreadful security training classes for a little while. As a safety net, my security clearance remains open for 2 years, so all will not be lost if things don't work out.
I kept rigorous logs of the hours I worked while full-time at Novetta, right down to the specific time I started each day (between 5:30 and 6:30 AM throughout the years). From the data, here's how many hours I worked overtime or used as paid time off over the past 13 years:
Among the highlights that I remember:
Final Grade: I would give my tenure a solid A-
There are no major spoilers in these reviews.
Silicon Valley, Season Two:
Silicon Valley continues to charm in its second season, hitting the sweet spot between funny and absurd.
Final Grade: B+
Fundamentals of Caring: (TV-MA)
This Netflix Original stars Paul Rudd as a depressed everyman starting a new job in home care. While it does hit the emotionally manipulative story points in a paint-by-numbers way, it's a low-key, funny affair that will be most enjoyed by people who are already Paul Rudd fans. Free on Netflix.
Final Grade: B-
Homeland, Season Four:
New life is somehow found in this season of Homeland, as the writers are finally able to toss some plot baggage to the curb (like Brody's teenage daughter). The story is constantly grim but full of good twists. It builds nicely, although the last episode is tonally out of place with the rest of the season. The main negative feeling I had was that this is a show where no one ever wins, so this is a pretty grim slog if you're already tired of the unchanging personality of the main character, Carrie.
Final Grade: B
Lovesick, Season Two:
Formerly called Scrotal Recall and renamed for broader viewership, this is a great series that effectively balances emotion and hilarity across a story that's told through well-orchestrated flashbacks and present day progression. The characters are well-formed and worth rooting for. This is the show that How I Met Your Mother should have been. Free on Netflix.
Final Grade: A
New photos have been added to the Life, 2016 album.
November's Final Grade: B, Lots of changes in the works, but too soon to judge their effects.
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