Aug 242017
 

The Florence Freedom are an independent baseball team in Florence, Kentucky (obviously). If you live around Cincinnati or Florence and you have not been to the UC Health Stadium, you should check it out some day. It is an extraordinary stadium, especially for independent baseball. On August 19th I was there for the first ever Florence Freedom Legends Game. This particular Legends Game brought back players from the Reds and the Chicago Cubs. There were autograph sessions and a 7 inning baseball game. If you timed everything right you could get all of the players autographs. It was also really cool to see some of those guys get back in the batters box but the crowd was pretty small, and that is very unfortunate.

The Legends In Attendance

As I said, there were former players there from both teams; obviously I was there more for the former Cubs players than the Reds. The players that were in attendance are:

Kyle Farnswoth at Florence Freedom Legends Game

Me with one of my favorite players from the 2003 season, Kyle Farnsworth

I was lucky enough to get to see Farnsworth and Patterson play when the Cubs almost made it to the World Series back in 2003. However, I have never seen the other guys swing a bat. I think, of all the guys there, the most surprising was Lenny Harris. He still has some quick moves and he can still make the throw from 3rd to 1st.

Something else that made the game entertaining was watching these former players give each other a hard time. Lenny Harris and Bill Madlock were especially entertaining. Madlock would take up the position of 3rd base coach and give meaningless signals to the batter and Harris would try to stall the base runner until the ball was thrown to him.

Take Me Out to the …. Crowd?

The total capacity of UC Health Stadium is approximately 4,500 seats; however it seemed as though there were barely 500 people there. I was surprised by this considering the caliber of the former Reds players as well as the free autograph session. During the game, someone who works for the Florence Freedom came down by our seats and sat across the aisle from us. He commented about how they “were expecting twice as many people”. They thought that by bringing together two teams with a long rivalry would attract more fans. I certainly understand his conundrum.

On the other hand, I feel like this event lacked sufficient advertising. I only heard about it because I have a friend on Facebook that “liked” the Florence Freedom page which was advertising the game. I never saw anything about it on the local stations nor on the radio. I was even more surprised by the latter since they had two radio DJs as pitch hitters for the Reds. One of them is a DJ for a station I listen to every day, thus my confusion as to why the game was never mentioned on the air.

Granted this was the “first ever” Florence Freedom Legends Game so perhaps one of their lessons learned was to advertise more. I hope there will be a “second ever” Legends Game. I’m even considering attending a couple of Florence Freedom games as well. They are in first place in the Frontier division and UC Health Stadium really is a beautiful ball park. I highly recommend getting out there for a game and keep your eyes and ears open for next years Florence Freedom Legends Game.

(Coming Soon: A gallery of pictures from the game)

minions_icon

I could accomplish so much more if I only had minions!

 

Jul 312017
 


If you are living under a rock then you are probably unaware of the fact that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Star Wars: A New Hope. The movie that created an unstoppable franchise and an endless universe. Perhaps the anniversary is why I am seeing a lot of talk about the “despecialized movies”. If you are unfamiliar with the “despecialized editions“, they are a version of the original trilogy before the Special Edition re-release in 1997. Obviously these were not created in an official capacity; it was Petr “Harmy” Harmáček, an English teacher in the Czech Republic that created them using a series of fan edits. He alleged that the altering of the movies for the Special Edition was “an act of cultural vandalism“. Whatever.

Troglodytes Unite!

On Star Wars Day (May 4th) I celebrated in typical fashion by watching the original trilogy. I was asked on three occasions if I was watching the “despecialized” movies. My reply was simply “I own the Blu-ray editions”. Apparently that drew some sneers which was confusing. I own a big screen television with surround sound, of course I will watch the Blu-ray versions because that will provide the best viewing quality. It’s baffling that 20 years after the release of the Special Editions and people still whine about the changes to the films. The digital enhancements of the movies are necessary to accommodate the advancing technology.

The feeling of nostalgia is a product of the story, the music and the characters. As someone who embraces home theater technology, I want to watch the movies that also embraces that technology. I’m not so old-fashioned that I will seek out hacked together fan edits that some troglodyte English professor created. The color adjustments alone are pivotal (i.e. correcting magenta tones), especially if you are watching the movies on bigger screens. Darkening the tones of some scenes creates a more ominous scene thus adding to the drama.

I Don’t Support All the Changes

Most of the technical changes I fully support because I believe it adds cinematic value to the movies. However, I don’t fully support all of the changes; I’m just not butt-hurt by them. The one that everyone keeps going nuts about is the infamous “Han Shot First” controversy and I agree changing this scene is ridiculous. George Lucas’ reasons make sense but the man is labeled as a “scoundrel”. A scoundrel doesn’t politely wait for the other guy to shoot first. However, this little change does not ruin the special editions for me.

There are really only two other changes that slightly bother me and it’s actually on the DVD release of the movies, and they occur at the end of Return of the Jedi. I did not like that they removed the Ewok Celebration song and replaced it with the Victory Celebration track. I understand why it was done. The music wouldn’t match the victory montage but I still prefer the Ewok track. Second, why did they remove Sebastian Shaw as the Anakin Force Ghost and replace him with Hayden Christensen? I prefer the image of the man who found his way back to the light, as opposed to the man who lost his way.

Everything else is just too petty and minute for me to care let alone allocate approximately 25 gig of hard drive space to store them. I’ll stick to the ones that are professional edited and produced. I just don’t agree at the despecialized movies are special enough for me.

The Force. It calls to you. Just let it in.

Jul 252017
 

The biggest Comic-Con of the year was held last week; the San Diego Comic Con (SDCC). It’s the Comic-Con of Comic-Cons; the one everyone looks forward to and one I hope to attend some day in the future. Aside from all the amazing Cosplay revelry, trailers for highly anticipated movies are also what everyone expects to see at SDCC. This year there are a couple of trailers that really had most of us giggling like school girls. Continue on to see this years best SDCC movie trailers. I provided a few remarks after each video but I am interested in your thoughts as well.

Ready Player One

If we ever have a discussion about favorite books I’m sure Ready Player One will come up. It is in the top 2 of my all time favorite books. Every gamer and/or child of the 80’s I talk to should be reading this book. The teaser trailer has me a little concerned. I really do not recall a car chase scene in the book, however I know Ernest Cline (the author) is consulting with the production of the adaptation. On the other hand, Steven Spielberg is the director and he has a tendency (lately) to be ostentatious. In preparation for this film, I’m going to have to go back and read Ready Player One again. Also, don’t wait for the movie and go read the book. Regardless of the final product, I’m sure the book will still be better.
Release Date: March 30, 2018

Justice League

This is the movie that immediately follows the events of Batman vs Superman and this trailer is pretty good but I’m still not a fan of Ben Affleck as Batman. Among the DC fanatics that puts me in the minority but I’m not a big DC fan anyway. I enjoyed Batman vs Superman, even with Ben Affleck but I also enjoyed Suicide Squad which also puts me in another minority group. I have not seen the Wonder Woman movie yet but I do believe all the glowing reviews the movie is receiving. I think Cyborg looks amazing but I’m a bigger fan of the Grant Gustin portrayal of Barry Allen and I’m still not really sold on Jason Momoa as Aquaman. This is a movie I will see as the DC nerd in me really wants to see a Justice League movie.
Release Date: November 17, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok

The first two Thor movies were mediocre. Well, I’ve heard the second movie wasn’t any better than the first as I still haven’t seen The Dark World. I think Ragnarok has the potential to break the cliché that sequels often get worse. The trailer actually looks pretty good and, again, I really love Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner. I think he gives Bruce Banner the same lovable demeanor Bill Bixby did back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I feel like some of the actors from the first two films didn’t really fully embrace their characters, but now they are finally making them their own.
Release Date: November 3, 2017

Avengers: Infinity War [REMOVED]

There was a leaked trailer for the next Avengers movie but it seems to have vanished. Obviously they were not ready to leave it out there for everyone to see just yet. I did not get a chance to see this trailer before it was removed but I suspect we will see it in an official capacity soon. If you happened to see the footage, please leave your remarks about what you thought.
Release Date: May 4, 2018

film_reel“The screen is a magic medium. It has such power that it can retain interest as it conveys emotions and moods that no other art form can hope to tackle.”
– Stanley Kubrick

 

Jul 242017
 

Smart Home

It was November the last time I talked about my Home Automation and Lab projects; it is time for some updates. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot to tell. The last eight months have been busy on the work front and on the home front. If you know me at all you know that November through the end of December is my craziest time of year. There were a few things I had to sort out that were pretty significant changes to my work and home life. Changes that also require some time to adjust and acclimate. Here is a quick reminder of the projects I have on deck and in progress:

In Home Network

MythTV, Plex and FreeNAS (DVR and Media server)

Home Automation Phase I

Home Automation Phase II – with Raspberry Pi integration (still in progress)

Home Automation Phase III (still in draft mode)

Best Laid Plans …

I am behind, to say the least. I guess I try to do too much in a day and when there is time to work on these projects, I often don’t feel like sitting in front of the computer. There is also the little problem of the SD Card reader I bought to use on my main PC to install the Raspberry Pi software. It doesn’t appear to be working properly. It is either that or the SD card I am trying to use has gone bad. Either way, it’s a huge roadblock!

I also discovered that my Plex server suddenly stopped allowing me access to my own movies. Typically this issue can be resolved by updating the plug-in within FreeNAS. Unfortunately that isn’t the case this time. There are several people who I have given access to my movies so fixing that has taken a higher priority. On top of all of that work has increased in intensity thus I am working late hours.

So all that to say, I’m behind. I’m trying to catch up and I don’t really have anything else to update.

halI’m putting myself to the fullest possible use. Which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do” – HAL 9000

 

Jun 192017
 

So I was out for a jog on a rather warm day; therefore I’m alone with my thoughts, again. We all know that no good can come from that. I am drenched in sweat after 3 miles when its 85 degrees and humid. On the final leg of my run through my neighborhood I think to myself “a jump in a pool right now would feel amazing!”. Then I begin to wonder …

Imagine you are just sitting in your house, facing your backyard with a sparkling swimming pool. Perhaps you are watching TV or just enjoying a book when you notice this sweaty guy walk into your backyard and just fall into your pool like a shot stormtrooper. It would be an interesting story to tell at the next holiday gathering. Or it would be a great story to tell how you met if both of you were single. Honestly, I don’t know what I would do. I would probably go out and see if the person were all right (and to make sure they’re not dead). I watch way too many crime dramas and would not want some poor shooting victim or some poisoned sod falling dead into my pool.

What would you do, if that neighbor were you?

The things that go through my mind when I’m alone with nothing but my thoughts for entertainment is dangerous. Some might even say eccentric. Consider this your warning about today’s Random Thought of the Day

 

Jun 092017
 

IT Consulting is Great Building Your CareerI was only out of college for three years before I started working as a consultant. It wasn’t your typical consulting work; I joined a firm that paid you a salary and they found the clients. It has been over nine years now. I have learned a lot in the industry in those nine years but the most important takeaway I have discovered is that consulting is great for building your career. This is especially true if you are at the beginning of your career. The experience you have may only be what you obtained from college, and perhaps from a summer internship. The IT industry is vast and its constantly changing so it’s up to you, in most cases, to stay on the bleeding edge.

Consulting On The Bleeding Edge

When you are working every day at the same company where changes in technology are slow, keeping up becomes very difficult. It often becomes an extra curricular activity, outside of work. Granted there are some companies that may provide training opportunities or accounts to online tutorials (ex: Pluralsight); but there isn’t time during the day to complete them. If you are single you might have the time but if you have a spouse or a family, that free time is reallocated.

What I found most intimidating about consulting is the same thing that provides the greatest benefit. It is rare, in consulting, that you are brought in for staff augmentation. You are primarily recruited to work on a specific project, for a brief period of time and then you move on to the next client/project. Therefore you find that you are essentially “starting a new job” each time you start a new, on site, project. Some folks may find that very uncomfortable; I admit that it was probably one of my least favorite aspects of the job.

However, the fact that you change projects often is also a great way to improve your skills. Depending on the project, you may work on something that is bleeding edge. You never know where, in the plethora of technical solutions, a client might be building their product. There are some companies that want to keep up with the latest browser and mobile trends. Therefore they may be using the latest .NET or JavaScript framework (i.e. Angular, bootstrap, etc) which gives you the opportunity to work on the “latest and greatest”.

For what its worth, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to have to work on older frameworks and solutions; keeping those skills fresh is just as crucial.

Consulting Builds Your Network

A tenant in life that I often dispense unto others is “only half of life is what you know, the other half is who you know”. As a consultant you will change clients a lot and you will get to work with a lot of different people. It isn’t just other developers/IT staff but other project managers, business analysts, line of business, etc. Whenever I started a new client, I didn’t just build rapport with the developers, but anyone I spoke to or saw on a daily basis.

If you don’t have a LinkedIn account as a consultant then you are doing it wrong. LinkedIn is your greatest tool when you are changing clients/projects a lot. I always made it a point to connect to someone via LinkedIn as I wrapped up a project. You never know when that contact might be useful for your firm or even when you need a list of references. It’s always good to build your network and consulting is a great way to do that. It is especially useful if you are moving to a new city (as was the case for me).

Pipe Bomb: After 9 Years, I am No Longer a Consultant

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics*, as of January 2016 the average number of years an employee stays with a company is 3-4 years (in Professional Services). The fact that I was with my company for nearly a decade is quite rare. I was at my prior job for 2 1/2 years and I vowed that I would stay at my next employer longer. It’s been 9 years! I would say I succeeded in keeping that vow. However, all good things often come to an end. I have left the consulting world and returned to full-time employment.

My departure was on my own terms, which is not always the case for everyone. I just felt that it was time for a new chapter in my life. Consulting has many great benefits, especially at a professional level, as I outlined above. However, since you are rarely at the firms office it becomes difficult to form relationships with your co-workers because you rarely see them. Obviously that doesn’t mean I haven’t made a few friends over the past near-decade. Working in consulting has been instrumental to acclimate to a new city and state, not just geographically but socially as well. It’s an opportunity to make some friends with whom you will most likely share similar interests.

After nine years I have picked up a few tips for anyone who is currently a consultant or might be joining a consulting firm. I like to refer to these as:

Artifacts of wisdom:

  • Build rapport outside the team – As I mentioned earlier I always tried to chat with the people on other teams or in other departments. You never know what you might learn or who you might meet; which could benefit you in the future.
  • Never attempt to change the culture – Since I work in software development I prefer the adage “break the code but never break the culture”. You are there to help improve the product; you are not there to reorganize the team culture. Whatever team dynamic the client is using is obviously working for them; any attempts to “fix” it will only ostracize you.
  • When in Rome, do as the Romans do – You are already going to feel like an outsider because you are not included in company events/meetings, but do what you can to fit in. Take advantage of relaxed dress codes, work from home opportunities, whatever helps you feel integrated into the team. The more you ingratiate yourself the more cohesive the team will function.
  • Take verbose notes; mark dates of completion – This is a CYA (Cover Your Ass) technique. In some organizations the consultants can easily be blamed when something goes wrong or something seems doomed to fail. You need to protect yourself. Always take notes and date when you started something, when you contacted someone for help and when you completed it and marked it for testing.
  • Save important email – This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. Any email that contains instructions on what you are working on, when you finish it, or any details someone might try to use against you, you should save it! Save it in triplicate if you need to! I have done this and I still have those messages saved securely on removable media and off-the-grid servers. You must be responsible for protecting yourself.

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a lot of great people. I have grown professionally and socially. Consulting is now the cornerstone on which my entire career is built. Perhaps, in about 30 years, I will go back to consulting as part of my retirement. It is also entirely possible that I may go back sooner; it all depends on what the future holds. If you are a former co-worker reading this, I wish you the best of luck, thank you for sharing your knowledge and I hope I reciprocated equally.

* Bureau of Labor Statistics Economic News Release

minions_icon

I could accomplish so much more if I only had minions!