Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame poster

Growing up I was big into comics, especially the Marvel titles. My favorite comic was probably Infinity Gauntlet #4. That’s the issue, where the hero’s team up with Dr. Doom to lose in a fight with Thanos wielding the Infinity Gauntlet. My buddy Wes and I read and would draw pages from that comic on many occasions, it was great.

So when the Marvel movie machine started 11 years ago, I was excited but also skeptical. Up to that point, Hollywood always seemed to fine a way to ruin years and years of great comic stories and plots.

The 11 year run has been pretty great. I’ll never forget how excited I was when they revealed Thanos at the end of the Avengers film in the post credits. I instantly knew what was in store, just didn’t know how many films and years it would take to get to the end.

Avengers: Infinity War was pretty great. If focused on Thanos and ended with the snap. An iconic moment that any fan of the 90’s comics knew was inevitable.

The conclusion to 11 years of Avengers: Endgame was great. I had a couple of theories going for how it would turn out, and I have to admit they surprised me quite a bit. It made 3 hours and 1 minute go by in a breeze.

While the quality of the films and storytelling has been excellent and exceeding my expectations, I can never get over at how the films have gone so mainstream. Growing up, only a few of us were hooked on this amazing world.

Last night I couldn’t even begin to count how many people were there to share the end of this story. People of all different ages and backgrounds, sharing a common interest. It was pretty awesome to be a part of.

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OUTC19

OUTC19 Hackaton Winners!

Attended the OUTC conference in Anaheim, CA again this year. Presented again on Using Google Lighthouse to Find a Faster Website.

The trip out there was a little rocky with a decent amount of turbulence. While I typically do not travel very well, I was happy to not feel super lousy when arriving at LAX! Usually I’m in bad shape for the first day after a flight.

I was able to check in super early at the hotel, and took a much needed shower. I do think that was a key factor in me not feeling too poorly that day.

Arriving early on Sunday, we headed out to Irvine Regional Park. This place was awesome! The mountains, openness, so many cool things to do. Though I probably only saw 1% of the park, it was pretty awesome to take in all the differences that I would not find in New Jersey. A great experience.

Getting back to the hotel, we were served In-N-Out Burger from a food truck. The Double Double really it the spot, I was starved. It was great to meetup with earlier OUTC friends Caleb and Mark. They’re good guys.

Later that night, with a little bit of hard work was able to get HBO Go to stream on the large TV in the hotel room. On the west coast there was the option to watch it a t 9:00 pm or stream it at 6:00 pm EST. I had to present the next day and flew in that morning, so getting it to stream and watch the early time was a great success.

On Monday the sessions kicked off. I presented at 2:00 pm, and while I think I got off to a shaky start overall I think it went well. It wasn’t a very talkative crowd, but I could tell most everyone was following along and testing their site out using Google Lighthouse. It was fun.

The OU Campus 11 demo was pretty cool. I am excited at the direction the interface is going in. I think our content managers will be very happy with the coming updates.

I always look forward to hearing about their Product Roadmap, and that took place on Tuesday. The mentioned the following:

  • WCAG 2.1 (April 25)
  • Web Hooks (June) – Trigger actions outside of OUCampus. Can be assigned on folder.
  • Image Size Sets (July) – Set size (crop or not), group to set, assign to folder
  • File Uploads for LDP Forms (September)
  • Feed Manager (Winter) – easier feed management
  • OUCampus 11 (Winter)
    • Phase 1 – look and feel
    • Later phases to workflow
  • Formstack – available in Marketplace
  • Looking Further Forward
    • OU Calendar
    • Layout Builder
    • Accessibility Check/Insights Improvements
    • V11 Phase 2+

We’re exciting to see exactly how Web Hooks will work. There is some decent potential there.

I attended the Gadgets workshop again on Wednesday. It was a different take on that workshop, and I did find it to be useful. I’m always looking to improve my javascript game.

Later that night was the Hackaton. While I’ve been lucky enough to of been on the winning team in the last two events, I wanted to try a different role this year. I partnered up with Aaron, Soe, Fernando, and Nick in that order based solely on seating position when the Hackaton begun.

Aaron really wanted to develop a command line interface for OU. Fernando was all in with the idea, and quite frankly I was a little on the fence. In the past I’m leaned on user driven ideas, not so much admin. But Soe and Nick were all in, and I really wanted to try to enter with someone else’s idea this year.

I can’t say this enough, but we really worked so well as a team. Fernando was a command line genius and Aaron and Soe were great coders as well. They did such a great job, and far exceeded what I thought would get done in that timeframe.

Nick and I decided to focus on the presentation and marketing aspect of our team. We came up with talking points and images to be used. We even used the official presentation template (since I was a presenter) and got some big chuckles from the audience. Presentation can be a big factor in hackathons and we had a lot of fun with that.

It was a good thing that we worked so well as a team as there was some very stiff competition this year. Translation tools, image compression gadgets, XSLT data parsing, so many great entrants. In the end we did win, and I somehow would wound with with three in a row. Insane.

The last days workshops were very cool too, but there was so much going on in them I will have to revisit my sandbox and review the code before I forget too much. I’m very interested in learning more about PCF data outputs, especially outputting to JSON.

The flight home was smooth and a great way to end a great conference. While I’m not learning quite as much as I used to, it is fun to be in the role of the veteran who is now sharing knowledge with the newer folks to the platform. Glad I was able to attend again and looking forward to working in all the new ideas that were shared!

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OUTC18

Finally back home from the OUTC18 conference which took place in Anaheim this year. This is now the third OUTC that I have attended and I continue to come back impressed. Getting to meet and discuss not only colleagues from other schools, but also the development and support staff is very beneficial.

The flight over wasn’t too bad. I did feel quite lousy for a good part of Sunday after the flight which unfortunately is the norm for me with travel. But, I was able to get close to normal after a In-N-Out Burger courtesty of OmniUpdate at their welcoming/registration. So within a few hours I did check off a big to-do from my California list within the first few hours. Not too shabby.

Monday had some solid sessions. The opening keynote and panel discussion were interesting. Learned about some new offerings from OmniUpdate and also got some insights as to where some folk think things are going.

I also took part in a Feedback meeting with members of the OmniUpdate development team and a colleague from Dartmouth. It was nice that the OmniUpdate folks took the time to learn about our longterm goals and how they may be able to address them in the future. I did appreciate their time.

Later that evening OmniUpdate had invited us to dinner in Disney California Adventure and we had a few hours to walk around the park. I didn’t go on any rides as there really wasn’t much time, but walking around and taking everything in was pretty interesting. Radiator Springs from the Cars movie really stood out as well as A Bug’s Life were interesting too.

Day two I presented early in the morning. I felt pretty tired and lousy as I just hadn’t adjusted to the travel, time zone shift and the lack of sleep. I don’t feel as though my presentation went very well, and was through my slides in about 15 minutes (for a 45 minute presentation). However, we went over the allotted time with some excellent questions and answers. It was great to be able to give advice to other schools looking to successfully migrate in a similar manner as we did recently.

The Tackling Quality Control with XSL had some excellent suggestions that we will certainly look into, and Turn OU Campus into a Marketing Machine really got me excited to try out Google Optimize. Both those sessions really stood out to me as something we could certainly benefit from.

I did enjoy the workshops more this year than in years past. I’m not sure if they were better or if I was just better prepared with a couple years under my belt. I certainly learned a lot and am eager to share with the team.

Wednesday night was the Hackathon. Even though I was on the winning team last year, none of my teammates were to be found as this year’s OUTC. So I asked a random guy who was sitting alone if we wanted to team up with me. Our team was formed.

We bounced around a few ideas, but thought that leveraging the Google Vision API (which is amazingly powerful) to suggest or apply alt tags to images would be pretty amazing. If you feed the Google Vision API and image it will analyze it and suggest what it thinks the image is. We testing a dog photo out. Not only did it respond that is was a dog, but it also responded that it was a golden retriever. We were sold.

With only a few hours to work with, we split up the tasks and went right to work. Ryan was developing the Gadget that we would use within OU Campus and I went to work on the Google Vision API portion.

While we realized that we weren’t going to be able to complete the task by the deadline, we did focus on getting the core functionality done, so that we could demo the power of what we thought we were only by leveraging that particular API.

The 7 or 8 teams gave their short presentation then the judges left the room to pick a winner. While they were gone, I was pretty sure that the team that developed the file lock would win, with maybe the Insights project.

The judges returned and after a group drumroll announced that the Google Vision team had won. Both my partner and I sat there looking around for several seconds. We both assumed that they had announced another team as we winner. We were truly shocked and not prepared for that. It was an extremely fun time and felt pretty great to be able to win the Hackathon again.

All in all it was a very beneficial conference, and one that I was very glad to attend. While I wasn’t as impressed with Anaheim as I have been with San Diego or LA, it was still a pretty amazing adventure and the weather was perfect (even though I was indoors for almost all of it). Great and very useful time.

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The Last Guardian

The Last GuardianCo-worker Kevin was kind enough to lend me The Last Guardian. He hadn’t even opened it yet, so I asked he open it before officially lending it to me. I thought it would be wrong if I opened someone else’s game.

Overall I did enjoy the game very much, but it did have some fairly big flaws.

The controls are very tough and the game just throws you out there. While I would eventually enjoy both of those as I progressed, it was tough in the early going and I’d suspect most would bail out of the good stuff as a result. There was one part where I knew exactly what to do, but it took around 45 minutes just to get him to dive where we needed to go.

Your pet pal Trico is awesome. Each movement, sound and reaction give this massive dog bird such a realistic and warm experience. The more you play the more attached you get to the big guy. It’s really amazingly well done.

As the game progressed I really got into it. Solving the puzzles with the help of Trico was very rewarding.The tale was very well done and the story was expertly crafted. You really start to care about Trico a great deal, and the ending is pretty rough to to through. It’s amazing sad and happy at the same time.

While I’m not sure this game is for all, if you do play it though I think you’d be very pleased. One of the better and more unique games I’ve played in a while.

Currently 4.5/5 Stars.

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Horizon: Zero Dawn

Horizon: Zero DawnI couldn’t turn down the great Black Friday deal a few months ago and picked up a PS4. Since then I’ve been going through some of it’s greatest titles, The Last of Us, Ratchet and Clank, Uncharted 1-4, and The Witness. All were extremely excellent games.

Thus far the one that hooked me the most was Horizon: Zero Dawn. While I played through all of the above, I really spent the most time exploring the open world of Horizon: Zero Dawn.

The game was vast and the production values were top notch. Extremely impressive down to the blades of grass. It really is amazing how far the art in games has come along.

The story was pretty solid too. It’s amazing how impressive character development is. You really want to genuinely help a couple of the characters you meet in the game. Plus having your friends play a role in the end of the game was great way to end it.

I’m looking forward to upcoming DLC expansion packs to keep the world going. This was a really fun one for me and I’m glad I picked up a PS4 a couple of years late so there was so much great stuff to play through.

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Crazy Stormy Kayaking Adventure

I signed up for a L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools Full-Moon Kayak Tour. I’ve never kayaked before, and they provide all the equipment, teach you what to do, etc. It was great, I was really impressed with the guides, equipment, and overall thoroughness.

I went over there with Stacey and all was going well. We happened to get blue kayaks that were the Manatee model. I know nothing about kayaks, but I do know that I like manatees. So I was excited.

When I first got in the the water I was a little wobbly, but you do get the hang of it pretty quickly. I think I was trying to go a bit too fast at first, but once I settled down things went much smoother.

The lake where the took us was really nice. There was a winding part called “the Amazon” which was really cool. Having to maneuver in the tight quarters is a little tricky to start, but you do master it after a few tries. We were given glow bracelets that we clipped to our life jackets and headlamps which were very useful once it began to get dark.

On the way back from the halfway point I looked up and said, “the sky looks angry”. I wasn’t the only one who noticed this and the guides hurried to get us back asap. The speed of the storm was intense. Within seconds the winds kicked up big time, of course mostly gusting against our path.

It was really intense. Guides were yelling to one another on where and when we should leave the water. All I know is that it sure is amazing how much better and faster people can paddle when they have to get the hell out of a scary storm!

The way back was rough. I kept looking back to make sure I wasn’t losing Stacey, but she’s such a trooper and just kept paddling away. It was a treacherous journey, but we all did make it back ok in the downpour and intense winds.

I felt really bad for one of the other folks on the tour, Rhonda, One of the guides paddling her back in herself, and I helped to pull Rhonda ashore. She was literally shaking in fear. I can’t really blame her, it was quite an intense experience.

Despite the crazy weather, I had a blast. In fact I think the obstacle of the storm was a factor in that for me. It was so unexpected and creepy at the same time. The staff were great. They got us all back ok, and offered us a card so we could get another adventure at some point since ours didn’t go exactly as planned due to the crazy weather. Lot’s of fun and highly recommended.

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