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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Spring 2017 Kickball Season

I think this was my seventh year of playing SJSL kickball (I could be off a year). I’ve definitely have seen much change over the years to the league and to my Honey Badger roster. But the one constant is that I always have some amazing teammates and we always play tough yet not too serious.

This season we had some new faces, and didn’t see some longtime Badgers return. Gone this season was legendary Honey Badger Kevin. I think our longtime spark plug has retired after a long and illustrious career. Truly a one of a kind character.

This season we surely had our struggles and had a hard time fielding a consistent squad out there week in and week out. It really has become quite the challenge to field a full roster every week. We had some fun moments and some terrible performances.

However, we truly did save our best for last. In the playoffs we played our finest kickball of the season.

Our opening kickball game was an instant Honey Badger classic. We faced off against the offensive juggernaut, the Slobber Bobs. Due to our seeding I was able to choose which field our game would be played on. Given the extremely strong wind blowing in from the shore and their strong legs, without hesitation I chose for us to play into the wind. With the intent of limiting the long ball and turning it into a defensive struggle.

Our team was great holding the Slobber Bobs to a 5-1 victory. Our squad was great. We played such a solid defensive game, and did such a great job of keeping our kicks low and not into the wind. Our opponents on the other hand struggling with the wind, and we were able to shut them down and frustrate them. It was great, and an amazing team effort!

We then advanced to the finals where we faced off against the Almost Athletes. Unfortunately for us they chose to play the final on the other field and it was a wise choice on their part. Their kickers got off to an amazing start with their perfectly placed kicks.

We were down by a huge margin early on, but we never threw in the towel. We battled back and actually made it a game again. But alas, they had another big late inning and were just too much offensively for us to prevail. They soundly defeated us.

Even though we didn’t win the championship, we had such a strong conclusion to our season. Our players did such a fine job when it mattered most, and gave it their absolute all. It was really great. So proud of these Badgers, and am amazed Dustin and I have survived so many SJSL seasons.

 

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OUTC 17 Day 1 and 2

mpus is the CMS solution that we use at work, so it’s always exciting to go and learn as much about it as possible. This year I was also presenting, so that made things a bit more exciting as well.

The flight in wasn’t too bad. Typically in the past I wind up feeling pretty sick after such a long flight, but this time around wasn’t so bad. I did eventually get a bad headache later that first night, but nothing nearly as bad as how I had felt in the past. So that was a plus.

The conference took place at the Paradise Point Resort and Spa in San Diego. It’s a very pretty and unique location. It’s on an island in Mission Bay, and all the rooms seem to be little bungalows scattered throughout the island. Not the traditional 20 story hotel. It’s pretty nice. Palm trees, beaches, pools and little ponds all over the place. Very scenic and fun to just walk around and take it all in.

The opening keynotes were pretty interesting. Not as interesting to me as last year, as we’re not brand new to OU Campus any longer, but still well done. The sessions on days one and two weren’t as interesting as last year for the same reasons, but meeting everyone and discussing similar issues and solutions is always very helpful, and I’ve been enjoying doing that.

I do seem to be having some sort of allergy out here. I awoke Monday morning with my right eye nearly completely shut. I suspect it’s a reaction to some plant/pollen out here, but who knows. There’s many new variables in play for me out here. I was a bit bummed that I have had to wear my glasses more than I’d like, especially when I was presenting. But oh well, it’s better than my eye getting irritated¬†further.

My presentation took place on the first day at 3:15 pm. It was titled,¬†Surviving the Migration from Homegrown CMS to OU Campus. I went over how we had gone through our migration. The audience was primarily individuals who had not migrated yet, so it was the ideal audience. I don’t present too often, and this was the first time I had to wear a mic when presenting, but I must admit I wasn’t nervous at all.

Per a random request I played elevator music that I had found on YouTubTube leading up to the presentation. It think the silliness calmed what little nerves I may have had going in. The presentation went fairly well and lasted the full 45 minutes. I didn’t notice anyone who left the presentation early, and there were many questions at the end that were a pleasure to answer.

At the end I had several people come up to me afterwards and thank me for speaking in a language that they understood. They are going through a very similar situation and sharing our success and regrets was very beneficial to them. It felts nice to be of help.

Later that night we had a steamboat dinner cruised through Mission Bay. They bused us from our hotel to the steamboat where we got on and for a few hours calmly went around the bay. It was pretty nice and definitely a unique thing for me. The food was solid and the company entertaining. A fun little trip.

Checking out a some more sessions on Tuesday and looking forward to the workshops and hackathon to come later in the conference.

 

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