Challenges and Opportunities

04/18/2019

Sometimes I write for other sites:

> All of this is to say that the privacy landscape is changing. For consumers, these are changes for the better. Proper regulation of the collection and protection of private information is probably long overdue. For marketers, we have a new challenge — how do we comply with these regulations and remain effective, without risking legal repercussions?

I tackle privacy and more in a post for my day job.

MCU Movies – The Definitive Ranking

03/19/2019

There are many lists of Marvel movies, but this one is mine. There’s no particular criteria for my rankings, though “rewatch-ability” is very important. Here is the Definitive Ranking of Marvel Cinematic Universe Films (in order starting from least favorite):

  • Thor: The Dark World — This movie just kind of a mess. It’s like a less-good remake of Thor (which itself wasn’t great.)
  • The Incredible Hulk — The forgotten MCU movie. This is the most-optional of the films, so feel free to skip.
  • Thor — I think of it almost like two movies. The first movie is all of the “sword and board” action and royal politics. Most of these scenes are a snooze fest. The other movie takes place on Earth, and it is really fun. Sadly, there is too much of the former to overcome the latter.
  • Iron Man 2 — It’s Iron Man and it’s fun, but it’s the weakest of the trio.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron — This movie felt overly long and I never quite understood the motivations of the antagonist (voiced by the always great James Spader.)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — A visual spectacle, but this movie has always seemed like one of the least necessary entries in the MCU. Other than advancing Quill’s daddy issues, I’m not sure what this film did other than set up Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp — Low-stakes, lighthearted, and enjoyable.
  • Doctor Strange — Our introduction to the mystical side of Marvel, this was a fun film. Stephen Strange is an arrogant asshole, but his origin story was great.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger — It took me a couple of viewings to really appreciate this film. I think this is one film where having an understanding of the origin of Captain America really helps you understand why this movie was actually pretty good. Though if you don’t like it, you don’t like it.
  • Ant-Man — I did not expect to like this one as much as I did. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly were great.
  • Avengers: Infinity War — Part 1 of the big payoff for all of these films. It’s still hard to believe that they managed to center this film around an entirely CGI character and make it work so well.
  • Captain America: Civil War — Almost an Avengers movie, there was conflict, politics, and solid action. This also introduced Tom Holland’s Spider-Man into the MCU.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy — This was the point where Marvel really started flexing. Up to this point, their films had been headlined by relatively established characters. Guardians was something else. With it, they absolutely nailed the introduction of a new universe of characters who were virtually unknown to non-comics readers. The script was hilarious and the casting spot-on.
  • Iron Man 3 — A slight shift in tone and stakes from the other two entries, but a solid film. Ben Kingsley steals the show.
  • Thor: Ragnarok — Maybe the funniest MCU movie? This one made me want more Thor films.
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming — I love this iteration of Spider-Man (long my favorite comic character) and what Tom Holland brings. So great.
  • Marvel’s The Avengers — The gang finally comes together. Fun action, though I still think helicarriers are dumb.
  • Captain Marvel — The first solo MCU movie with a female protagonist. Loved every minute of it.
  • Iron Man — The first film. This one set the stage and the tone for the MCU. Somehow they lucked into casting Robert Downey Jr. and the rest is cinema history.
  • Black Panther — This was the first MCU film that actually felt important. Black Panther had things to say about race, isolationism, oppression, and family. An incredible film that could stand on its own outside of the MCU.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier — I loved everything about this film. I think it had the best action scenes of any MCU movie to date, and echoed some of my favorite thrillers like Three Days of the Condor and [Marathon Man](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marathon_Man_(film)). To me, this is the most re-watchable entry in the MCU, and that’s why it is at the top.

End of Watch

02/14/2019

NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity Concludes a 15-Year Mission – The New York Times:

Opportunity, the longest-lived roving robot ever sent to another planet, explored the red plains of Mars for more than 14 years, snapping photos and revealing astonishing glimpses into its distant past. But on Wednesday, NASA announced that the rover is dead.

“It is therefore that I am standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude that I declare the Opportunity mission as complete,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, said at a news conference.

I wasn’t around for the moon landings, but space exploration has captivated me my entire life. I follow every mission, every discovery, every grainy photo from distant probes. The Mars rover missions have easily been my favorites. Not just flybys of distant objects, these were actual up-close exploration. Crisp, beautiful shots of an alien landscape. The rovers represent some of the best of what NASA can do. 

Essential Apps

05/10/2018

This is an ordered list, but it really has no particular order. I use all of these apps every single day and are essential to my productivity.

  1. 1Password: I addressed this app earlier in the week.

  2. Bear: A note-taking and writing tool. I’m using it to compose this post. I use it to take meeting notes, write memos, and blog.

  3. BBEdit: I’ve been using this app since at least 1996, making it the oldest program I use (yes, this dates back to classic Mac OS.) This is just a text editor, but what a text editor it is. I use it for composing HTML, CSS, and editing Python and JavaScript. It handles very large text files with speed that few other editors can match. It has powerful find and replace functions (want to do a find and replace with regular expressions? Want to do it across dozens of text files simultaneously? With BBEdit, you can.)

  4. Soulver: This is the best calculator I have ever used. It allows you to work through math functions just like you would do on paper — building out your functions and calculations, and even giving them text annotations and headers. It fills a niche for me that would be cumbersome with a spreadsheet. I use Soulver dozens of times per day to calculate advertising spends for my clients. I use it on my Mac and on my iPhone.

  5. Things: My second brain. All of my tasks, to-dos, shopping lists, and projects go in here. An email comes in that I need to act upon? It gets forwarded into Things. We need more dish soap? Into the shopping list in Things. I receive a Slack message that requires a follow-up? Thanks to Zapier I can star the message and it will be automatically dumped into Things.

Passwords

05/05/2018

Via: The Verge

Like sunscreen, it can be a hassle to apply, but it’s an easy way to stop yourself from getting burned.

The reasons are simple: you need strong, unique passwords for each of your online accounts, otherwise the chances they’ll get hacked by some unscrupulous character are much higher. If your passwords aren’t strong (e.g., if they’re one of these , or if they use information like your spouse’s name and birth year) then hackers can guess them. And if you use the same ones for different sites, when some big company gets hacked ( like they do all the time ) your digital keys are basically available online for anyone to grab.

The Verge needs to pin this article to the top of their site every month as a reminder for everyone: do not use the same password for everything.

I’ve been a user of 1Password for 5 or 6 years. All of my passwords are stored there. If you held a gun to my head, I could not tell you the passwords for any of my email accounts, my Amazon account, or the dozens of others that I might have to use in a week. They are all unique and very secure.

I have a single password that unlocks my 1Password information and then the software does the rest whenever I need to log into something. I can rest easy knowing that if any of those services are compromised that it won’t mean the rest of my accounts are also in peril.

If you are using the same 1 or 2 passwords for everything that you do online, then your information has probably already been compromised. That is no exaggeration. Do yourself a favor and get a password manager, and start living a more secure life.

PCXL Magazine November 1998: Ping-Free Partying

03/03/2018

via Donde Quake 2:

Who Needs Online Gaming When You Can Lug Your Kit Around Town to Shout Abuse at Complete Strangers? Online Gaming is Dead. LAN Parties Are Where It’s At.

In retrospect, online gaming was just getting started, and most kids today can’t tell you what a “LAN party” is, but this is still a fun look back.

The LAN party culture of the late 1990s and early 2000s defined the multi-player gaming we enjoy today. I was in college during these years, and LAN parties were a huge part of my life. Lugging my computer to another dorm, or to another apartment, and gaming until the next day. Online gaming is certainly more convenient, but there is something incredibly satisfying about staring down your opponent after a victory.

Those were fun times.

Burning Out: What Really Happens Inside a Crematorium

03/02/2018

via Popular Mechanics:

Four decades ago, less than 5 percent of American were cremated when they died. Now that figure stands at nearly half. This is how cremation actually works, and the story of what happens to a culture when its attitude about how to memorialize the dead undergoes a revolution.

Really interesting article. I had a surface-level understanding of this process, but they really dig in with some interesting details about the cremation process.

The cremator’s rule of thumb is that 100 pounds of human fat is the equivalent of 17 gallons of kerosene. If you have a body that weighs 400 pounds, at least 200 of it will be fat that will burn rapidly. If you put that person into a very hot machine, as the cremation unit tends to be at the end of the day when it’s been running for hours, the chamber may emit smoke and odor out of the stack.

I don’t know if it’s a matter of growing older or simply growing up, but I do find myself thinking about death more often these days. I suppose I should have a plan in place for what to do with my remains, but I have no idea what to do.

Email is your electronic memory

02/15/2018

From the FastMail Blog:

Yesterday, Google announced that Gmail will use AMP to make emails dynamic, up-to-date and actionable. At first that sounds like a great idea. Last week’s news is stale. Last week’s special offer from your favourite shop might not be on sale any more. The email is worthless to you now. Imagine if it could stay up-to-date.

More:

Over time your mailbox becomes an extension of your memory – a trusted repository of history, in the way that an online news site will never be. Regardless of the underlying reasons, it is a fact that websites can be “corrected” after you read them, tweets can be deleted and posts taken down.

I agree with FastMail here. I look to my email as a source of “truth”. I can count on it to be static and unchanging. I have an archive of emails stretching back to around 1996, and I count on all of remain unchanged forever, safe in my archive.

Also not to be discounted are the legal ramifications of dynamic emails. I work in politics and, while not frequent, my emails have had to be turned over for discovery in litigation. That entire process assumes that the contents of emails have remained unchanged and will be turned over in the same state. AMP tosses that entire premise out the window.

AMP for email is a bad idea.

Also, if you’re in the market for a new email provider, FastMail is fantastic. I’ve been using them for a number of years and they are absolutely the best. Fast, reliable, trustworthy, and inexpensive. Visit this link to sign up.

Apple Backs AV1: What Does This Mean for the Future of Video Codecs

02/06/2018

Apple Backs AV1: What Does This Mean for the Future of Video Codecs:

Earlier this month, Apple joined the Alliance for Open Media (AOM), which is working on the next-generation AV1 video compression standard. It’s interesting that Apple is now supporting AV1, after having just announced backing HEVC in both devices and software tools (i.e., publishing, browsers).

The importance of free and/or open high-quality video standards cannot be overstated.

Site Transition

01/21/2018

I think I change my website CMS as frequently as I do my keyboards…

Anyway, this site is now running on WordPress. It’s still in an Azure-hosted VM, but now I’m just another WP drone. I think the last mainstream CMS I used for my personal site was MovableType, from maybe 2002-2007. Since then, it’s been static pages, either hand-coded or generated with Pelican. Last year I moved to Ghost but it left a lot to be desired.

I think I’ve gotten it mostly configured how I want, and most of the content (sans images) has been migrated. The theme still needs some tweaks, but I’m relatively happy with things.