• Why I Marched

    Women's March on Austin

    Like most Americans, I’ve been distraught since the election last year. For the second time in my life, the majority of votes were not heard, and the minority candidate won.

    I know I needed to do something. To be more involved, I just wasn’t sure how.

    Marchers on AustinWhen I heard about the Women’s March on Washington I thought that maybe Ali and I could be a part of it, but the logistics were difficult. When they started expanding the march to other cities with Austin on the list, I knew Ali and I could be a part of it.

    Yesterday, Ali and I and a few co-workers took part in the Women’s March on Austin.

    We met downtown and walked about five or six blocks to the Austin State Capitol Building. The sidewalks on both sides of the streets were jammed packed full of people heading north to the Capitol. By the time we got to there we could barely get in the grounds.

    On a normal day it’s really cool driving or walking down Congress Street in Austin with the giant Capitol building smack in the middle.

    The Women's March on Austin - The Texas Capitol

    Yesterday during the Women’s March on Austin, it was even cooler.

    Women's March on Austin

    Estimates are around 50,000 participants in Austin. It felt amazing to be a part of that large a group. I can’t even begin to imagine what the marches in D.C., Chicago, Boston, New York City, or Los Angeles and across the rest of the world felt like.

    Women's March on Austin

    Women's March on Austin

    Women's March on Austin

    Yesterday I marched. I marched for my amazing, strong, and beautiful wife. I marched for my mother, sisters, aunts, and cousins. I marched for my friends. I marched for my niece.

    Yesterday I marched for my country. For progress. To keep pushing this country and its people to be better. Equality. Healthcare. Being a good citizen in the world.

    Like most Americans, I’m angry. Trying to figure out what to do to make sure that Trump and his cronies are only in power for four years. To make sure we start flipping seats in the House and Senate in 2018. To do anything to get back on a path of progress.

    A Few Ways to Get Involved

    Action

    Here are some ways that I’ve found to get involved. Most are quick actions. Do them, and do them often.

    Donate

    Donate to causes that are important to you, especially if they are in danger of having their federal funding cut. These organizations need our help now more than ever, and we need them just as much.

    Be angry. Stay angry. Get involved. Give time if you can. Give money if you can. Call your Senators and Representatives, and call them often. If you are lucky enough to have Democrats for representatives, call them and thank them for their support. Don’t let them forget why we’re here and what we’re fighting for.

    Whatever you decide to do, make sure you protect yourself online.

    Featured image by Mike Holp

  • Best of 2016

    Best of 2016

    Man, 2016 was a rough year. We’ve lost so many important people. Losing Bowie alone was crushing. But the rest of the musicians, actors, athletes and dignitaries that died compounded that feeling.

    And then add the train wreck that is President Elect Trump and man, 2016 was just the worst.

    I usually hate seeing end of the year posts on social media because the same people complain year after year that current year was awful and they can’t wait for the next year to begin. And repeat every year.

    Other than President-Elect Trump, 2016 was another great year for us.

    We saw several concerts, including The Avett Brothers, Iron & Wine, The Counting Crows, Rob Thomas, Goo Goo Dolls, Morris Day and the Time, Seu Jorge, and one of our new favorite bands, The Suffers, four times this year.

    We spent an amazing week in Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is honestly one of the coolest places that I’ve ever been to and I can’t wait to go back at some point.

    We also spent a week in Wildwood, New Jersey for a vacation with my family – the first one that we’ve done in almost 20 years.

    Our niece and nephews continue to grow in wonderful little people, and we will start off 2017 with a new niece or nephew in March!

    We continued our exploration of Texas by taking a few road trips which has been doing nothing but psyching me up to do a big Texas road trip. One day that will happen.

    On to the list! As a refresher, these are things that were new in 2016 that I think were awesome.

    Best Comic Book (Series)

    Huck
    Huck is a miniseries written by Mark Millar with art by Rafael Albuquerque. The series follows Huck, who is a gas station attendant in a small town. But Huck has abilities, and he uses those abilities to secretly do one good deed a day. Sometimes it’s rescuing a baby from a fire, finding a lost dog, or finding a trinket thrown out in the garbage. He doesn’t do it for fame or fortune, just because he’s a good person who wants to help. (Superman fans will recognize this theme – Millar is a massive Superman fan).

    Huck by Mark Millar and Rafael Albuquerque

    However, when word gets out about Huck, people show up to try and use him for their gain. Huck’s fame also brings his past – and his origins – in a bad way.

    You can order the collected series of Huck on Amazon.

    Best album

    Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead
    I think this album surprised a lot of people when it was announced. One day Radiohead nukes all of their social media sites, then a few days later we’re presented with this video:

    And then Moon Shaped Pool came out shortly after.

    Honorable Mentions: Gore by Deftones, The Suffers by The Suffers

    Best TV show (comedy)

    Angie Tribeca
    I love zany off the wall comedies, and Angie Tribeca is a great one. Created by Steve Carrell and Nancy (Walls) Carrel, it stars Rashida Jones as Angie Tribeca, a detective in Los Angeles.

    It’s written and crafted in the same vein as Airplane! and the Naked Gun movies.

    Best TV show (drama)

    Stranger Things
    Holy crap this show. It came out of nowhere. We started watching it one night after work and literally stayed up all night to finish it. Watching Stranger Things feels like you’re watching an 80’s sci-fi show, but more than that. It wraps up Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, and others all into one.

    It follows three friends, who are trying to find the fourth of their group who mysteriously disappears. While looking in the woods for him one night, they find a frightened girl. From there, the show unravels into part sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and monster movie as the friends learn more about the mysterious girl and where their friend is, and how they are connected.

    Best Movie (tie)

    Other People
    I heard about this movie on Twitter and we watched the trailer on iTunes and rented it that night. It’s an insane emotional rollercoaster. Other People tells the story of the writer’s life, dealing with his mother’s cancer, and death. Jesse Plemons plays the role of the son, who moves back home to help his mother and family. The movie is funny and heartbreaking.


    Arrival
    I didn’t know what to expect going in with Arrival. It’s one of the few movies I wanted to see without ever have seeing a trailer. All I knew about the movie, was from the poster. I had no idea if it was an invasion story, or what.

    Arrival is an invasion story, but not in the traditional sense. The aliens show up over 12 sites across the globe, and are trying to communicate with us. It tells the story of a linguist (Amy Adams) who has been tasked by the military to try and communicate with the aliens.

    It’s a sci-fi movie, but also political. If you’re opposed to sci-fi or alien movies, I urge you to still watch this.

    Movies not out yet, but have potential: La La Land, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Passengers

  • Trump

    Man. What an absolutely shitty couple of weeks it’s been. Donald Trump winning the election was nothing short of a punch in the gut.

    I’ve been able to sum up some of my emotions about the election in the following gifs.

    alan-rickman-table-flip

    emma-stone-ugly-cry

    mr-bean-wtf

    Trump is going to be an absolute train wreck for this country. White supremacists and the KKK are applauding this victory and even planning parades. He’s even appointing racists and white nationalists to top positions in his White House and cabinet.

    The biggest hit though, is all of the progress we’ve made in the last 8 years. Man, we have such a long way to go. But fuck. Healthcare reform. Rebounded economy. Marriage equality. Expanded LGBTQ rights and protections. All of those things, plus other incredibly important issues could be done away in an instant. And with the Republicans controlling the White House, Senate and House, they will likely fill quite a few Supreme Court seats, which will have a massive impact on our country for the next 30-40 years.

    We’re in for a hard four years. And I believe it will only be four years. And I have to hope that in two years the House and Senate flip blue after Trump and his cronies start fucking everything up.

    Long hard four years ahead of us.

    Trump supporters, spokespeople, and even Trump himself, are threatening dissenting voices both in the media and people like you and me. If you are going to speak out, there are some things you should consider to protect yourself. We’ve seen the Russians get involved in the election, and there is no reason to believe that the hacking or attacks will stop.

    Protecting Yourself Online

    Here is a great guide on things a regular person like you or I can do to secure ourselves online. I’ve highlighted a few below that are incredibly important.

    Strong Passwords

    Passwords are a huge problem. Not enough people use strong passwords, and too many people reuse passwords on multiple sites. This is horrible. If a site is hacked, like LinkedIn was not too long ago, hackers can sell user name and passwords. Hackers may try to use those stolen logins to break into your email or social accounts. They did it during GamerGate, and they’ve done it during the campaign.

    Two Factor Authentication

    You may want to start blogging, posting to social media, or doing other online activities. If you do, you should definitely take some precautions to protect yourself.

    Start with using two factor authentication on all of your accounts. It can be a little inconvenient at times, but the peace of mind more than makes up for it.

    Here are some quick links to help you set up two factor authentication on some popular sites:

    WhoIs Protection

    If you’re going to blog, or create a website consider using WhoIs protection. WhoIs is a look up service where anyone can see who owns a domain name. Not only your name, but your email address, home/business address, and phone number. All information that you need to provide when you purchase a domain name. WhoIs protection masks that personal information. It’s usually a couple of extra bucks when you purchase/renew a domain name every year. Definitely worth it.

    HTTPS/SSL

    If you’re hosting a website, consider moving it to a secure protocol (https:// over http://) SSL encrypts communications between the user and the server. Whatever data that is requested and served is encrypted at the server, and decrypted at the end user’s machine. SSL helps prevent hackers, and the government from eavesdropping on your communications. I think SSL will be standard in a few years. Major sites like Google, Facebook, Twitter all serve there content over SSL by default now. You can tell what sites are secure by looking for a lock or green text in the site address bar.

    Encryption

    Piggybacking off of the last point, encryption is important. Privacy is so incredibly important, and should be defended unlike anything else. This is one of the few problems I’ve had with Obama during his terms, and I see it getting worse under Trump and Republican control. Messaging services like Apple’s iMessage is encrypted, and is getting stronger every year, locking out not only hackers, but also the government (which is a good thing).

    However, cross platform texting, like iPhone to Android may not be secure or encrypted. If you’re worried about privacy, here’s a list of cross platform apps that will keep you safe.

    Taking Action

    I’m not sure what I’ll be doing next. I want to get involved, but I’m not sure how just yet.

    In the short term, I’m sharing information. Any articles or stories I find, I’m sharing. I encourage everyone to do this. The more facts that we get out there to over power the made up news the better.

    Another thing I am doing is donating to causes that are important to me. I’ve set up recurring monthly donations to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Human Rights Campaign. I’ll probably add more donations as time goes on, too.

    I urge you to also donate to groups that are important to you if you can. They need us now more than ever. And we will definitely need them.

    If you’re like me, you’re angry. You want to take action. Be vigilant. This is not normal. We can’t let hate rule us. We can’t let Trump and the right undo all of the progress we’ve made.

    Not sure what to do next? Don’t worry, there’s HOLY FUCK. NOW WHAT?

    Be careful out there.

  • WWDC 2016 Wishlist

    WWDC 2016 Wishlist

    It’s almost June so that means that Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference is right around the corner. That means it’s time for my WWDC 2016 wishlist.

    watchOS

    I don’t have an Apple Watch, but I’m very strongly considering buying one whenever the second generation comes out. That said, I’m not incredibly familiar with the operating system, but from what I’ve read I’m hoping for an update to watchOS that adds some speed , plus makes the Apple Watch rely less on the iPhone being around.

    I’m also hoping that Apple gives developers more freedom and APIs to develop apps for the Apple Watch. Apps are what makes the iPhone and iPad so great, and this will continue on the Apple Watch.

    tvOS

    I love my Apple TV. Well, the last generation one. The latest (4th) generation got a brand new operating system and remote. I really think Apple missed the mark on this generation of the Apple TV. The remote is crap. It’s incredibly difficult to navigation with it, and I’m always having connectivity issues with it so I end up using the iOS remote app (which isn’t a great app itself).

    I’m hoping Apple pushes out more updates to refine the Apple TV experience, because it has taken a device I loved using and turned it into something that causes me nothing but frustration.

    OS X 10.11/ macOS

    Many people think that the OS X name is going away and will turn into macOS. That could be very possible as OS X is over 15 years old. Granted, there have been major overhauls in those 15 years, but a name change is probably due. Calling the desktop operating system macOS would unify Apple’s OS names across all products which is great for marketing. I’m surprised Apple didn’t go for this in 2014 with their 10.10/Yosemite update. A design refresh would have been the opportune time for a name change.

    Siri

    Every year I have one big want for the desktop OS, and that’s Siri on the Mac. Siri has been built into the iPhone since 2011. Five years later, Siri is long overdue on the Mac. Hell, she’s long overdue on the Apple TV, too. I want my god damn J.A.R.V.I.S. in my home. From the rumors going around, it seems like this year may be the year for Siri on the Mac.

    iTunes

    I’d also love to see a brand new iTunes from the ground up. Apple did make some pretty decent UX changes in the last update a month ago, but more is needed with iTunes. Let’s take the apps for the iPhone and iPad out of iTunes. I’d wager to say that most people download apps and iOS updates over the air now. I’m sure Apple has the analytics for that. If iOS truly need to be on the desktop they should be on the App Store on the Mac. iTunes needs a fresh overhaul. Optimize it for music, TV shows, and movies. Make it easier to play music in your library.

    I have an older iMac (mid-2010) so I don’t have some of the features from OS X 10.11 (El Capitan) like handoff, and I’d expect that trend to continue with any huge releases in 10.12, including Siri. I’ve already decided that I need to upgrade my iMac this year, so that’s a little bit more of an incentive.

    iOS 10

    The iPhone is the big daddy for Apple, and where I have the majority of items on my wishlist.

    iCloud Storage

    One area that Apple is still a pain in the ass with is backup storage space in iCloud. Never mind the fact that their entry level phone is still 16GB (way too small – I opted for the 64GB iPhone 6S and love the extra space) – the included 5GB of iCloud storage is too small. The base level should be whatever the smallest hard drive size they sell in a phone to allow for full backups.

    3D Touch

    Last year’s introduction of 3D Touch was interesting. It’s a cool feature, but I don’t think it’s being used enough. 3D Touch should be added to everything, such as the settings app for most commonly accessed settings available right from the home screen. This would be even more powerful in Control Center as shown in this video still from MacStories. Below you can see how activating 3D Touch on the wifi icon gives you some options: toggle wifi on/off, or join nearby networks. This saves a lot of taps getting into the wifi settings in the main settings app.

    3D Touch Improvements

    In this screen shot they even show how third party apps would look in Control Center. Something I would most definitely like to have.

    Messages

    Messages and the iMessage protocol is probably one of if not the most widely used app on the iPhone, and there is a lot of room for improvement here. Here’s another screen shot from the MacStories article I linked above that has a lot of what I want in Messages. Rich text and media previews of links you send, easier to find (search) emojis, and granular read receipts.

    Messages improvements

    Rich Text and Media Previews

    A lot of chat apps, like Slack, will pull in a media preview when you post a link. If it’s an image or a video like YouTube it will display image or video inline. This reduces the need for Messages to open up a different app to complete a task which isn’t always needed. Messages shows photos and videos you send via iMessage or SMS, and this would be extending that functionality.

    Emojis

    Emojis are fun to use, but if it’s an emoji you don’t use very often and isn’t on your Frequently Used list, good luck finding it. A search field, or shortcut structure (with predictive capabilities similar to Slack) would be perfect.

    Granular Read Receipts

    I like having read receipts on for messages with my wife and family, so they know that I saw their message but may not be able to respond immediately, but I know they saw my message. However, I may not want all of my friends or coworkers to know I saw their message and haven’t responded yet.

    Platform Enhancements

    Having the ability to respond to not only iMessages on my Mac, but also standard SMS (text) messages is great, although not always flawless. I would love to see some improvements there. If I’m out of town for an extended time, or if my Mac is off for longer than a few hours, it takes forever for Messages to catch up and load in all the messages that the machine missed while it was offline. These should load faster, and silently in the background.

    Night Mode

    I’ve come full circle on Night Mode. I’ve seen people ask for it for years, but I didn’t get it. However, a lot of apps now build the feature in, and now I’m a believer. If an app offers it, like TweetBot (see screenshot comparison), I use it. I find Night Mode easier on the eyes at all times during the day.

    Light mode vs dark mode

    I think Apple should implement this in iOS 10 with a system wide on/off switch for available apps, (and make it a requirement of any non-game apps).

    Enhanced Security

    In a post-Snowden, post FBI vs. Apple world, I want everything encrypted. Apple does a great job of this with iMessage, but there is still some work to do, and it sounds like Apple is working on it, which is awesome. The more privacy is protected, the better. I love that Apple is taking this stand for our rights. It’s also a sad that we need a corporation to protect us from our own government. Our elected officials and judges don’t understand technology, (and/or don’t care how it works and write something that would outlaw something completely harmless) which would allow our Constitutionally protected rights to be trampled over by bad legislation (or attempts at writing the legislation) or clearly wrong court decisions that force people to self-incriminate.

    Sorry, I got on my soap box there for a minute, but it’s an important topic, and one I care deeply about. Privacy must be protected at all costs. The government should not be snooping on us, and corporations like AT&T and Verizon should not make it easier for the government to spy on its citizens. Thankfully Apple is standing against them.

    Siri Improvements

    Siri yet again is the big ticket item on this list. Apple has a lot of catch up to do with Siri to meet Google Now and Alexa.

    Siri doesn't listenNumber one, I’d like Siri to do what I ask, and what she hears. Siri will also often play Pink or Daft Punk when I ask for punk music, which is not even close. She clearly understands the command, which you can see in the screenshot, but chooses to ignore it for some reason.

    APIs for Siri would be huge. The rumor mill is strong on this, but it is every year. Telling Siri to complete a task in a third party app would be game changing for the interface.

    Misc. Items

    • Hiding stock apps like Tips, Stocks, etc.
    • Force apps/websites to handle animated gifs as animated gifs and not videos that take over the device audio
    • Contextual alerts for holidays and alarms for upcoming holidays – For example, Siri should ask you, “Next Monday is Memorial Day, should I turn your 6:30 am alarm off for that day?”
    • “Clear all” functionality in Notification Center
    • Better location privacy options

    That’s it for this year’s predictions. Hopefully I can cross a lot of these items off, especially ones that have been lingering for a few years.

  • Best of 2015

    Another year come and gone. Some big changes for the Rastiellos in 2015, namely I said goodbye to my friends at LyntonWeb and joined Rackspace.

    On top of that, we traveled to Arkansas, Chicago, and Memphis, and New Jersey twice (not to mention several road trips within Texas). We saw my youngest sister get married, and our awesome niece and nephews grow even more awesome.

    We celebrated Ali’s 40th birthday, and my mom’s 60th.

    We saw a ton of concerts, including Foo Fighters (twice), Faith No More, Ben Folds, Sarah McLachlan, Leon Bridges, and we’ll be closing out the year with The Suffers at the Houston House of Blues on New Years Eve.

    I also opened up The Restorative, a store on Etsy that has been pretty successful for the short time it has been live.

    mike-ali-dave

    2015 was a great year.

    Last year I started doing a year in review, and this year I’m making it a tradition. 2015 keeps on giving! Some categories remain, others were dropped. It’s my website and I’ll do what I damn well please.

    2015 was a stacked year, so there are multiple picks for some of categories. Again, my website, damn well please.

    Best of 2015

    Best Game(s)

    The Room 3

    The Room series of games are awesome. You are essentially trapped in a room (or series of rooms), and need to find objects and solve puzzles to move through the room to escape. The graphics are amazing. The puzzles are fun and challenging, and is great for multiple replays. Apparently there are different endings depending on what you do. I haven’t replayed yet, but I will do so soon.

    The Room 3

    ($4.99 on the App Store)

    Domino Drop

    Domino Drop is a great casual game for when you have a few free minutes and need to take a break from what you’re doing. Very easy to play, match the colors/numbers to clear them out and don’t run out of room (similar to Tetris, but you can’t rotate the pieces). It’s a paid app, but there are no in app purchases that hinder play of the app.

    ($1.99 on the App Store)

    Shooty Skies

    This game is super fun. Shoot your enemies, and dodge their various projectiles. Very easy to learn, and play, but watch out for those projectiles! This is a free app with in app purchases, but the in app purchases are unobtrusive and by no means necessary to play the game.

    (Free on the App Store or Google Play)

    Best Comic Book (Series)

    Fight Club 2

    Fight Club 2DC has really let me down. I’ve dropped so many DC books from my pull list. Marvel was in a transition period for most of the year. One of their series, Secret Wars: Civil War was really good, but not good enough for this list.

    Fight Club is one of my favorite books and movies, so it goes without saying that I was looking forward to this book ever since I first heard about it.

    The story picks up about 10 years after the book. The narrator (who currently goes by Sebastian in the comic) and Marla are married and have a son. Sebastian is medicated, and Tyler is gone. Until he isn’t. And then Tyler kidnaps Sebastian and Marla’s son.

    Plus there are amazing covers by David Mack who I gushed over in my Daredevil post a while back.

    Best Music (tie)

    Wow, what a year for music.

    New Faith No More, Modest Mouse, Foo Fighters, Beirut, and two from Beach House and so much more.

    Coming Home, Leon Bridges

    One of the best weekly newsletters I receive is the music newsletter from NPR (this particular week was a great week for new music). NPR’s music stuff is awesome, check it out if you never have. I’ve discovered so much great music through it, and the best artist, by far, is Leon Bridges. It only took one listen of the song for me to go purchase the few he had available on iTunes, and then pre-order his debut album.

    Leon Bridges is a young soul singer who sounds like he’s from the 60’s. Just an amazing voice. Ali and I saw him in concert in November and it was so much fun.

    I’ve told everyone who will listen to me about Leon Bridges.

    The Most Lamentable Tragedy, Titus Andronicus

    Titus Andronicus is a punk band from my home state of New Jersey. I found them through a thread on Reddit a few years ago listing out great Jersey bands (also check out Lifetime if you’re into punk or Streetlight Manifesto if you’re into punk/ska). I didn’t know the album was out until a few weeks after the fact, and I immediately tracked it down. The Most Lamentable Tragedy is a pretty epic 90 minute rock opera that deals with themes of the lead singer’s experience with manic depression. It’s pretty intense.

    Best TV Show (Comedy)

    Life in Pieces, CBS

    It’s very likely Ali and I wouldn’t have found this show if it wasn’t for being at her parent’s house and them watching the terrible Big Bang Theory. I about peed my pants with laughter when we first watched it. It’s probably my top two or three comedies right now, with Brooklyn Nine Nine and The Mindy Project.

    Life in Pieces tells four stories of a family. Sometimes they are connected, sometimes they aren’t. But they are always hilarious. I can’t do the show justice, so here are some clips:

    Just do yourself a favor and watch the damn show. Or watch more clips here.

    Best TV Show (Drama)

    Mr. Robot, USA

    Mr. Robot came out of no where. I heard some people talking about it who like geeky things like me, so I decided to check it out. The lead character works for a cybersecurity company by day. By night he’s a hacker who hacks into the online lives of people he meets in real life as a way to connect with them. His hacking leads him into a group of hacktivists who are hell bent on taking down E Corp and erasing the world’s debt.

    It’s part Matrix, part Fight Club, and total mind fuck. This sneak peek doesn’t even begin to show the roller coaster ride that this show is. It was picked up for a second season before it even aired on TV.

    Best Movie (2 way tie for runner up)

    Ex Machina

    Ever since I saw Inside Llewyn Davis two years ago I’ve been a huge Oscar Isaac fan, and I love sic-fi so this was an easy sell. Ex Machina tells the story of a person similar to the founders of Google. Oscar Isaac’s character founded a search engine company, and is now tinkering with building an artificial intelligence. He recruits a member of his staff to test the AI to essentially see if the AI could pass a Turing Test. Typically with AI movies, if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. They all tell the story of becoming aware and killing all humans. Terminator, I, Robot (the movie, not the book), The Matrix, and so on. But Ex Machina breaks the mold and tells a really dark and compelling story.

    The Martian

    I don’t know what it is, but I really like watching movies where people are really good at their jobs. They come together to solve an impossible problem, like Apollo 13.

    The Martian is about an astronaut, Matt Damon, who is stranded on Mars after his team had to escape a vicious storm. His crew thought he was dead, and they had no choice but to leave him behind. Matt Damon was in fact not dead, and had to try to figure out not only how to survive on Mars for five years (how long it would take NASA to get back to him) but to notify NASA that he was still alive.

    Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Ultimate movie of the year)

    I had this post queued up before The Force Awakens had opened, so I have to add this addendum. Star Wars is definitely the movie of the year for me. The previous two were really great, but The Force Awakens blows them away. I am, however, leaving them on the list.

    Since the movie is still so new I won’t post anything so I won’t spoil it, and I’ll only say that it blew away every one of my expectations.

    Here’s one of the trailers:

  • The Restorative

    I’m a hobbyist. I jump from hobby to hobby all the time. Photography, electronics (briefly), now I’m crazy into collecting and listening to records.

    But my latest hobby, has been making things. We had a garage in our house in San Antonio, and it was at that point when I was able to build a workbench and start buying a few power tools and begin making things in a little workshop in the garage.

    Workbench in the old garage

    At first I started with making small things, like Christmas ornaments for the kids, but it’s grown since then.

    Superman Christmas ornaments

    This is really when the bug bit me. I wanted to keep making things like these.

    When we were building our new house in New Braunfels, I had to make sure that our garage had plenty of room for a workshop. It’s the main reason I insisted on adding 4 feet to the length of the garage. Now I have a bit more space to work, so I’m really pumped.

    Workbench in the new garage

    I’ve always wanted to make things and sell them, so I started thinking about what I could sell. My photos were definitely on that list, and by far the easiest thing for me to sell. But I wanted to actually make something, so I started keeping my eyes open when we’d go to antique stores, craft stores, and really, every where.

    Texas Christmas ornament by The RestorativeWhere we live is filled with antique stores. We’re also close to a ton of small Texas towns like Gruene, Johnson City, Blanco, all of which have a lot of antique shops as well as Texas gift shops. And that was my inspiration and starting point, Texas gifts. I started with Christmas ornaments and photographs and I kept running with that theme.

    I’ve slowly been adding new products like coasters and signs, and I’m always thinking of what else I could add.

    New York City tile coasters by The Restorative

    The biggest hurdle for me was the name and branding. I was making things before I even had any of that in mind. I’m big on names and branding (hi, I’m a marketer), and the name for this had to be perfect. The name is what has held me back for so long. It had to be a strong name that would reflect what I would make and sell. Quality products with a vintage flair.

    But not just the name, the look of how I would present my products and my store. I probably drove Ali nuts with this back and forth on the name, but one day on a drive back to New Braunfels from Houston I had her trapped in the car for two hours and I was adamant that we’d have a name when we got home. After an hour or so we had a list, with one definite option.

    As soon as we pulled in the driveway I ran into the house and set up the store name on Etsy. I began working on a logo and branding. It needed to be simple, bold, and timeless. The packaging also had to reflect the store’s brand, and I think I did just that.

    The Restorative packaging

    I haven’t been promoting the store at all while I was adding more products and trying to make sure everything was perfect. However, people starting finding and favoriting some items here and there. After a few weeks I made my first sale, and I was ecstatic. Since then I’ve managed to sell a few Christmas ornaments and tile coasters without really announcing to my circle of the Internet that I embarked on this project. I had something in the back of my head that I had to be “finished”. I needed to have all the products that I had in my head on the store before I started promotion. Well, that’s crazy. I’ll never be done, so I was just delaying this because I’m a crazy person.

    But not anymore.

    Now I’m ready and very excited to cut the digital ribbon on The Restorative.

    The Restorative

    Vintage inspired designs and creations using wood, fabric, photography, and a little blood, sweat, and tears. And maybe some slight cursing. Also, whiskey.

  • Daredevil – The Man Without Fear

    daredevil

    Thanks to Marvel Unlimited I’ve read about 11 years worth of Daredevil comics over the past few months.

    I had started reading Daredevil monthly in 2009 or so, but shortly after Daredevil premiered on Netflix, one of my friends suggested that I go back and read everything starting from Volume 2 (from 1998) which was about 133 issues. I’m glad I did. I don’t know if I have ever read, or will ever again, read a series so consistently well written and illustrated.

    Volume 2 starts out with an eight issue series written by Kevin Smith called Guardian Devil, but the series picks up majorly when David Mack, and later, Brian Michael Bendis come on board (who wrote 60 some odd issues). Ed Brubaker came on after Bendis and continued the epic run.

    The whole series pretty much deals with the mob and gangs in Hells Kitchen. No crazy alien invasions or world threatening events. Just a blind lawyer with enhanced senses who is a skilled fighter/ninja. He has a few superpowered friends who show up from time to time including Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Spider-Man. Also, later there are ninjas. Of course.

    Throughout everything that happens to Matt Murdock and Daredevil (and quite a bit happens) his secret identity is published in the press and Matt fights nonstop to prove he’s not who they say he is (but he totally is, guys).

    I don’t want to go into much detail because I don’t want to spoil any of the story for people, but I urge you to read this series.

    David Mack’s artwork early on is stunning, and how he uses it to tell a story is amazing. There is so much detail on every page. It really is beautiful.

    Daredevil by David Mack

    Beyond the prominent text there is so much more detail on each page that adds layers and layers to the story and characters. Mack’s origin story of Echo (Daredevil #51-55) was a great story enhanced by Mack’s art. Echo is deaf, and learns how to mimic behaviors and activities by watching someone doing them once and being able to replicate them expertly. Hence her name, Echo.

    Then Alex Maleev takes over on art and his style is so perfectly suited for Daredevil. The darkness and grittiness of the artwork is intense. You can feel the emotion in every panel, on every page. More so than most artists I’ve ever seen.

    Daredevil by Alex Maleev

    While reading Daredevil I couldn’t help but think this is what Batman should be like.

    Red BatmanOver the years Batman has been turned into Bat-god. The superhero who can do it all and take on any villain (or hero) and win handily. Batman’s just a guy. He has no powers. He’s an expert fighter in marital arts and a world class detective. But lately his comics have been getting further and further away from him being the world’s greatest detective. He’s taking on gods in Apokolips, and in the movie, taking on Superman (which come on, Superman would destroy Batman so fast).

    I loathe Joker, and think he is so overrated as far as Batman’s rogues gallery goes. My favorite Batman stories are where he’s dealing with the mob in Gotham, where he is the detective and protector of Gotham. Stories like The Long Halloween for example. Even the first to Dark Knight movies, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight (which has Joker in it, but still).

    Bendis, Mack, and later in the run of volume two, Ed Brubaker write Daredevil perfectly. The conflicts between Daredevil and “The Kingpin” Wilson Fisk, Matt Murdock and the press and public hounding him about his secret identity, and the fallout of both arcs and everything in-between made for such compelling reading that I could barely pull myself away.

    Reading through these back issues I came to the realization that Daredevil may have become my favorite Marvel character. He has such a great origin, and story. The best part about him is he patrols and protects Hell’s Kitchen, an area roughly one square mile in size. Not an entire city, region, or world. This keeps Daredevil grounded and realistic (as far as superpowered heroes go, that is). Sure he’s gotten involved in the big Marvel events, but he’s a street level hero, fighting to protect his neighborhood. His secret identity as a lawyer is also great because it can enhance his stories and give so many additional layers to those stories.

    I’m glad Marvel made a serialized version of Daredevil on Netflix instead of making a movie series for him. Daredevil is a great character and I’m sure they’d make an incredible movie series around him, but they can do so much more with this character on the small screen. And they did. The first season of Daredevil was amazing. Probably one of my favorite things Marvel has done with their cinematic universe.

    Daredevil, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Iron Fist by David Mack

    Daredevil is well worth the price of a Marvel Unlimited subscription ($9.99 a month) for this series and any other series you want to read. Though they do hold back new comics six months, so something published this week wouldn’t be available until February of next year. That’s bad if you want to catch up to read something current, but it’s better than buying trades which will cost a lot more and come out just as long.

  • The Last Episode of The Daily Show

    Jon Stewart

    Last night was Jon Stewart’s last night of hosting The Daily Show, something he had done for the last 16 plus years.

    I watched The Daily show here and there when Craig Kilborn was the host, and sporadically when Stewart took over, but Ali and I became faithful viewers during the year before the 2008 election. We’ve watched almost every episode for over seven years, and next week without the show is going to be very weird.

    Stewart changed direction of The Daily Show on their first day back after the September 11th attacks with this emotional monologue:

    After that night, Jon Stewart turned The Daily Show into our checks and balance on not only the government, but the media reporting on the government.

    The Daily Show called out all politicians, the cable news networks and their anchors on their misinformation and lousy reporting. He would shame them when the cable news networks would rush to report on a story to be first, while seldom being right.

    There were no checks in place to make them accountable on their faulty reporting because as soon as we learned the facts they (the media) had already moved on to the next story. With Stewart around, he could call out CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC when this happened. And he did, often.

    The Daily Show launched spinoffs such as The Colbert Report, The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (who puts all their clips on YouTube), and while Colbert will be moving on to replace David Letterman this fall, these shows were just as important as The Daily Show. Specifically Last Week Tonight which does a weekly format show with a deep dive into one topic. Many credit his show on the topic of the FCC and Net Neutrality with introducing the topic to a large audience after it went viral online. This awareness helped push the FCC towards fully supporting Net Neutrality much to the chagrin of Internet service providers and Republicans in Congress.

    Last night, Jon Stewart had one last monologue, and it was about bullshit.

    This is his legacy. Don’t accept things as they are presented by politicians or the media, because somewhere, someone has tainted the story to fit their needs, views, or advertisers.

    Then, in the only way Stewart could end his last episode of The Daily Show, he introduced Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to close it down with. The song Stewart requested? Land of Hope and Dreams off of the incredible Wrecking Ball album.

    Land of Hope and Dreams by Bruce Springsteen

    Grab your ticket and your suitcase
    Thunder’s rollin’ down this track
    Well, you don’t know where you’re goin’ now
    But you know you won’t be back
    Well, darlin’ if you’re weary
    Lay your head upon my chest
    We’ll take what we can carry
    Yeah, and we’ll leave the rest

    Big wheels roll through fields
    Where sunlight streams
    Meet me in a land of hope and dreams

    Well, I will provide for you
    And I’ll stand by your side
    You’ll need a good companion now
    For this part of the ride
    Leave behind your sorrows
    Let this day be the last
    Tomorrow there’ll be sunshine
    And all this darkness past

    Big wheels roll through fields
    Where sunlight streams
    Oh meet me in a land of hope and dreams

    This train…
    Carries saints and sinners
    This train…
    Carries losers and winners
    This Train…
    Carries whores and gamblers
    This Train…
    Carries lost souls
    This Train…
    Dreams will not be thwarted
    This Train…
    Faith will be rewarded
    This Train…
    Hear the steel wheels singin’
    This Train…
    Bells of freedom ringin’
    This Train…
    Carries broken-hearted
    This Train…
    Thieves and sweet souls departed
    This Train…
    Carries fools and kings
    This Train…
    All aboard

    This Train…
    Dreams will not be thwarted
    This Train…
    Faith will be rewarded
    This Train…
    Hear the steel wheels singin’
    This Train…
    Bells of freedom ringin’

    This Train…
    People get ready
    Don’t need no ticket
    All you gotta do is
    Just get on board

    On board this train

    This song so echoes Stewart’s message after September 11th. The dream of America is not lost. We can achieve it by helping each other out. We’ll get there.

    You can watch Jon Stewart’s last Daily Show in full here.

  • WWDC 2015 Wrap up and OS X 11 and iOS 9 Previews

    WWDC15

    WDDC came and went two months ago and I never did my follow up post because I was busy and lazy, but mostly lazy.

    Right off the bat, Apple TV was a no show, but there are rumors it may show up next month. So we don’t need to discuss these items but I do hope that Apple includes the items on my wishlist for it.

    OS X 10.11

    el-cap

    I liked the name Mojave, but Apple went with El Capitán. Very fitting since it is a big refinement update, so like the Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6) update to Leopard (OS X 10.5) they went with El Capitán, the granite monolith in Yosemite National Park (Yosemite being the current code name of OS X 10.10).

    Unfortunately Apple demoed OS X 10.11 (El Cap) without showcasing Siri on the Mac. They could still announce it as a surprise feature when the operating system comes out this fall, but that’s doubtful. So my biggest wish for OS X lives on for another year.

    What Apple did demo in El Cap was a big overhaul with much needed improvements and refinements. Some of these improvements were mentioned, but not really worth me going into since smarter and more technical people have tackled these items.

    There were some new features released, such as split view, allowing you to put two windows side by side easily (something Windows added back in Vista), an updated Mission Control, and they also gave Spotlight a much needed update. Apple also revamped Mail, Maps, Photos, and other apps. You can check out more on Apple’s site.

    I’m currently running the public beta of El Cap and it’s pretty solid. I like the pinned tabs that they added to Safari (a feature I sorely missed from Chrome). However, I don’t like that every new Safari window that you open has those pinned tabs. This may just be the way that I work, but I have one main Safari window open all the time. When I’m working on something, or if I know I’m about to open a ton of new tabs for researching something, I’ll open a new browser window. Well right off the bat there are my pinned tabs cluttering up the view. I’ve submitted feedback to Apple on this. Hopefully others feel the same way and have submitted similar feedback.

    Other than a few other bugs in the beta of El Cap that I’ve reported I’m incredibly happy with the operating system and can’t wait for the full release this fall. Even without the addition of Siri.

    iOS 9

    First off, I want to say I’m super impressed that iOS 9 will support so many old devices.

    iOS 9 Supported Devices

    I’m also annoyed because some of those iPhones and iPads are very old, and the technology in those devices are incredibly dated. The iPad 2 (which will never die) came out in the spring of 2011 and iPhone 4S came out in the fall of 2011. As far as technology goes, especially technology as small as these devices go, are very old. I have an iPad 3 and it’s incredibly slow while doing very basic things like switching the screen orientation or sliding to unlock. I find myself using it less and less because of this. Maybe the iOS 9 update will breathe some life into it, but I’m looking to upgrade to the newer model that Apple is sure to release later this year.

    As for features in iOS 9, Apple didn’t disappoint and did a nice upgrade to Siri. They didn’t incorporate my “conversation mode” or having the “Hey Siri” listening function turned on all the time, but I have a feeling that may need more powerful technology that is most likely coming in the next year or two.

    searchSiri got a major upgrade along with Spotlight (search). If you swipe all the way to the left you’ll get a new search screen with contacts to connect with often, apps you’ve used recently, and at the bottom, current news. The coolest part of this screen is the “Nearby” module that shows you a few categories of things to do around you. Since I took this screenshot at 7pm, it’s showing me restaurants and movies in the first two tabs because iOS 9 knows at this time during the week I’m likely going to be going out to dinner, or to the movies. During the morning it may be showing me coffee houses or breakfast places.

    But what about your privacy? You don’t want Apple knowing where you’ve been. Well, neither do they. All that information is compiled on your device and never sent to Apple or other services.

    Apple updated the Multitasking pane on iOS, and it’s something I use a lot. I’m also running the iOS 9 beta, so I can say I like the look of the updated iOS 9 multitasking pane, but I’m not loving the experience with it. Apps slide away too fast for my liking. Hopefully this is still being refined.

    deep linking in apps

    One of the things I love a lot, and it’s an incredibly geeky thing, is deep linking. What that is, is that if you click on a link from search, Messages, email, whatever, you’ll see a “Return to {previous app}” message in the top left of the screen, making it easy to get back to the previous app once you’re redirected to Safari, the App Store or whatever.

    Apple beefed up a bunch of apps like Notes, Maps, Music (though technically that came out in iOS 8.4). The one I am most excited about is News. I used to be a huge fan of the app Flipboard, but over the years the developers have really stripped out what makes the app so good, and that’s content from good, reliable sources (however maybe it was the content creators that pulled their sites and content from the app). I used to be able to get news from respected online news sites, but now it’s all clickbait articles and the same listicles over and over again. The app is useless, and I deleted it. In the beta, News seems like it will be a great replacement.

    Here are some of the publishers that will be on Apple News for the launch:

    Apple News Publishers

    The best parts about iOS 9 are the boring things that no one cares about because they aren’t sexy. iOS 9 is more secure, more stable. You’ll may not notice these when using your devices, but they are definitely there and a lot of these upgrades will help Apple roll out great stuff next year in iOS 10.

    For a complete run down of everything iOS 9 check out this article on iMore.

  • Mac OS X 10.11 / iOS 9 Wishlist

    WWDC15

    Apple’s annual developer’s conference WWDC is right around the corner and it’s time to bring out my annual pre-WWDC predictions and my OS X 10.11 and iOS 9 wishlist. But before I get to that, I want to talk about one of my favorite devices in my house and its possible future.

    Apple TV

    Apple TVIt’s speculated every year that Apple will release a new Apple TV and every year comes and goes without one. The Apple TV was last updated in 2013, and while that is old for an electronic device the third generation Apple TV still runs very well in my opinion. Ali and I use ours almost every day, and sometimes all day on some weekends. The only issue we have with the device is that it needs to be restarted once in a while, but so do all computers, phones, whatever. The Apple TV could stay as is and still be a great device.

    However, some upgrades would definitely make it the incredible product that people want and set it apart from the competition.

    Siri

    Adding a microphone and speaker to give Siri a voice in your living room is my number one wish for Apple TV. I’ve written about it before, so I won’t go into too much detail, but putting a Siri enabled device in your living room would really put Apple in the center of people’s lives. But it needs to go beyond searching for content like the Amazon Fire TV does. Having the Apple TV read off baking instructions, or putting on a certain song or album that I call out, and other normal Siri tasks would be so great.

    However it needs to have its own speaker. If I need to flip the TV over to the Apple TV input to hear Siri talk back to me, it’s useless.

    Also, it would be cool if Siri on the Apple TV knew who was talking to her. If I ask Siri on the Apple TV to remind me to do something in a few hours, Ali shouldn’t get a reminder set on her phone for that thing. However, it would be cool if I could tell Siri to remind Ali to do something, or vice-versa. That’s probably still a few years off, though.

    More Channels

    Apple does a good job of pushing out new channels, but they aren’t always something I’m interested in. I know that’s not their fault, but I hope they can convince more content providers to come on board, especially with the successful rollout of HBO Now.

    Remote

    The current Apple TV remote is okay but it can definitely be improved. The remote app for iOS is decent, but takes too long to reconnect when you close the app or your iPhone locks. Whatever remote is made, it should be Bluetooth, not infrared like it is now. The remote for the Amazon Fire TV build quality isn’t great, but it connects to the device over Bluetooth and it never misses a button click. Hopefully this article from the New York Times is correct about a new Apple TV remote.

    Apple dropping the price of the Apple TV earlier this year is a strong indicator that a new Apple TV is coming, hopefully with some of the above features added in.

    OS X 10.11

    No speculations from me on the name, but I do like Mojave as an option. So there’s that.

    Siri

    Yeah, Siri again. I want her on the Mac. I don’t know why this hasn’t happened yet, but it really needs to. I want to be in my office and be able to tell Siri to add something to my calendar, start an email for me. Siri is a digital assistant and it’s time for the app to work that way more on every Apple device.

    Volume Control

    This has been a feature on Windows since maybe Vista but definitely since Windows 7. On Windows this feature lets you set a master volume system wide, but also lets you turn down the volume on all running apps. That means if you are watching a video on YouTube that has very low volume and you crank up the computer’s speakers so you can hear it you won’t go deaf when when an instant message or new email notification sound goes off.

    That’s it for OS X, just like last year. Performance enhancements and bug fixes are other things I’d like, but I am very happy with OS X.

    iOS 9

    Siri

    SiriSiri improvements will be on the top of my wishlist every year, and Apple should never stop improving Siri. To their credit they have been, as slow as it may seem. She’s getting better at simple tasks, with less errors, and they are adding new features every year. Keep it up, Apple.

    Siri’s voice could definitely be improved. Both the default female voice and the male voice are still very robotic sounding. Both Microsoft and Google are ahead in this department.

    I love using the “Hey Siri” feature that was introduced in iOS 8. This is especially helpful in the car. I can call out the command while the phone is charging while driving and get directions to where I’m going, or to set a reminder to do something. However, I’d like to use this feature to be available all the time, not only when your phone is plugged in.

    However this would lead us to a big problem. Imagine saying “Hey Siri” in a coffee house. Do you know how many phones would instantly be awaiting a command or question? Apple needs to find a solution so things like this don’t happen. Perhaps the solution is allowing users to customize the name. The feature would be called Siri, but you could change the name to something of your choosing. This would cut down on that problem.

    Another way to improve the “Hey Siri” feature would be “conversation mode”. That would mean once Siri is active, she stays listening to you until you dismiss her by saying, “thanks, Siri”, or after a few seconds of silence.

    For example, if I ask, “Hey Siri, what will the weather be like tomorrow morning?” After she tells me, I may still want to ask other questions on this, or another subject. So, after I ask her about the weather in the morning, maybe I want to know how the evening will be. However, at that point I need to wake her back up to ask the question.

    Delete/Hide stock apps

    Crapple AppsThis is a carry over from every other year, and I feel like this one is never coming, but it’s the biggest thing I want and I see so many other people asking for it year after year. There are at least 8 useless apps on my phone from Apple that I’d like to hide. The clock, calculator, and weather aren’t the best apps but they are tied into core functionality in the phone, so I’m okay with those being in a junk folder, but Tips, Podcasts, iBooks, Apple Watch, and Stocks apps are useless to many people and could easily be hidden without being missed.

    I know Apple can do this, they do it with Nike + iPod, but some of the apps I listed above are revenue streams for Apple so we may never get this.

    Notification Center improvements

    A few weeks ago I went through and turned off almost all of my notifications on my iPhone and iPad. Those dings and boops for every little thing are so annoying and distracting. Now the only time my phone shows me a notification is if someone is trying to communicate directly with me. That means phone calls, FaceTime, text/other direct messages (like Twitter mentions), and email. I don’t care if someone checked in at a coffee shop in town, favorited one of my tweets on Twitter, or if someone added a new board on Pinterest. Things like this have no impact on my life and I don’t need to know about them as they happen.

    It may sound like a little thing, but it means I am more in control of my attention, and that my phone gets less of it so I can focus on other things I’m working on.

    I really like what Apple has done with Notification Center. Simplifying it to two tabs really improved the interface, and the widgets on the Today tab are super helpful. The biggest improvement I would like here is an easy way to clear all notifications in the Notifications tab.

    Control Center upgrades

    There should be a way to open the Music app from Control Center.

    It would also be great if you could customize the shortcuts. The timer shortcut has little use to me, but the alarm clock definitely would. I don’t need easy access to Bluetooth, so maybe I would want that to be a shortcut to the Music app.

    Also, the ability to tap and hold on an icon to get to the settings would be great. This would be mostly helpful for WiFi and Bluetooth.

    location-optionsLocation privacy

    This isn’t a sexy wish, but I feel that it’s really important.

    All apps should have three options for location services:

    1. Never
    2. While Using the App
    3. Always

    Foursquare (image to the right) has all three of these, which is great. I don’t want Foursquare running in the background. There’s no need for me to have it running in the background all the time killing my battery just for it to send me a notification that there is a great burger place near where I am, or that I’m close to a record store or other item I’ve listed as a favorite in the app.

    Other apps have only two options:

    1. Never
    2. Always

    That’s a battery killer. The NHL app has these two options only. Why does the NHL app need to know where I am 24/7? I understand that they may need my location if I am trying to watch a game through my premium NHL account. They need to make sure I’m not in a blackout area for the game, but the times I’m not watching games? There’s no reason for Gary Bettman to know where I am.

    These apps having only the two options is very creepy, and frankly, I have privacy concerns. If any of these apps are hacked, all that data could be accessible to hackers. I don’t like that I can’t control or opt out of that data being collected.

    Misc.

    • If I am on my home network (or a trusted wifi network which I’ve previously specified and confirmed with my Apple ID and security passcode) and I’ve authenticated myself in the last X hours, don’t ask for Touch ID/passcode or App Store password.
    • An easy way to clear app cache, one of the biggest reasons you see that “storage almost full” warning.
    • Better pop ups modules for volume and screen brightness. These are just annoying and stay on the screen too long often times covering what you are trying to watch.
    • Fix AirPlay. We use AirPlay a lot and it’s buried on the Control Center tray instead of on the video player. It’s just not as accessible as it previously was.

    That about wraps it up for my 2015 wishlist. Some carryover from last year, but hopefully these will all be addressed.