Monday, September 8, 2014

Excel 365 - A Thing Which Deserves Your Attention

Hey, so pay attention to this:

My buddy Darian is trying to get this project up and going, and he's turned to Kickstarter for help.

Kickstarter is a pretty fantastic little application - people with mad ideas can log in and pledge a certain amount of money towards a goal.  If the goal is met, then the funding goes through, and said mad person can go to town, putting together their crazy little experiment for the good of all mankind.  If the funding DOESN'T go through, then no money is charged, and all those backers can rest easy, having wasted nothing.

*ahem* It's 2014.  I'm pretty sure everyone already knows what Kickstarter is.

Anyway, so the project above is a calendar specifically designed for users of Microsoft Excel, a program which has been known to kill folks of a weaker disposition.  The idea is that, each day, the lonely office employee who looks at his or her work calendar, wondering if the weekend has gotten any closer than it was five minutes ago, can take the moment to educate themselves on one of the many obscure yet useful functions Excel has to offer, thus becoming more able to fend for themselves the next time the Excel ravagers come through.

It's a great idea, and one that I'm more than happy to pledge a few bucks to, myself.  If you've got the cash to spare and are interested in funding a worthwhile project (and maybe wouldn't mind snaring one of those spiffy calendars for yourself), you can head over to Kickstarter and check it out.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How Braddy Spends His Time

Happy 900th blog post to me!

Obviously, I'm not devoting too much time to the whole blog thing nowadays, which is kinda funny when you look back at my history and see there was a time when I thought my day was a failure if I didn't post some silly cartoon or snark about the most recent goings on at DC Comics. So, if I've not been blogging, what exactly HAVE I been doing?

I'll be honest - most of it is work or volunteer stuff that probably means nothing to anybody. However, I have been dedicating a bit more time to a creative project I'm super excited for.  I've talked for a while about creating a webcomic, and by gum, I think I'm going to go for it!

If you've seen me on Facebook, you've probably seen some of these pictures before. I'm doing a lot of concept sketches and character designs for a story I've been planning for a few months now.  I'm still in the really early stages, but I've got quite the framework to build off of.

Obviously, I still have a lot of issues to figure out still (mostly on the technical side - making sure the pictures aren't too big for the computer screen, for example). So, yeah, pretty stoked about that!

If you've got any feedback, I'd love to hear it!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Braddy Reads The Butterfly Mosque

Two blog posts within a week... I must be regressing.

Honestly, I haven't been doing much reading lately.  I've actually missed book club for the last couple months, because I haven't had time to read the material.  However, when I saw what our discussion would be about in August, I knew I had to give it a try.

I wish I could say that I knew the name G. Willow Wilson from the articles she'd written about being an American Muslim convert, or from her life in Cairo, Egypt.  I wish that I'd maybe read her other novel, Alif the Unseen.  But, of course, I know the name G. Willow Wilson because she recently started writing a superhero comic for Marvel.  It's not shameful knowledge in and of itself, but I'm starting to sense it's representative of a larger imbalance taking place in my life.

Maybe that's why The Butterfly Mosque was such an important read for me at this point in my life - it's ALL ABOUT finding balance.  At least, it's about seeking for balance.  Sometimes, balance is something you don't find.  Rather, you find surrender - maybe even assimilation.

I'm getting ahead of myself - The Butterfly Mosque is Wilson's memoir about her conversion to Islam and her subsequent relocation to Cairo, how she there met the man who would become her husband, and how she sought to reconcile her Western upbringing with the values of the religion she has so wholeheartedly embraced as well as the culture of her new, adopted home.  She struggles with the idea that there can be no such reconciliation - that the American system within which she was raised is incompatible with Cairene sensibilities.  Yet she, with her husband, manage to create something of a "third culture" within which the two of them can be happy, if not always secure.

I have, like, about a half-million ideas that have been swimming around in my head ever since I started reading this book.  I've spent a lot of time thinking of myself and my relationship to God, especially after Wilson mentions a friend who says "God is the love between you and religion."  I've also thought a lot about how selfish I've been, an idea that's been shaken up ever since reading a discussion Wilson took part in with some classmates ranking the culpability of various individuals involved in a tragic murder by their failure to live up to their social responsibilities.  I've questioned my own biases as I've read of brief, transcendental encounters between Muslims of different schools uniting in prayer.  And I've been thinking... and thinking... and thinking...

I doubt I could really explain everything I've been thinking since I started The Butterfly Mosque.  Now that I've finished it, I can tell you that it's made my shortlist of books that have changed my life upon reading, right up there with East of Eden and My Name is Asher Lev.  And, guys, that's really high praise.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Big Screen Breakdown: Guardians of the Galaxy

Obviously, I've been letting the blog lie fallow for a little while as I've focused on other projects (mainly just watching a lot of cartoons while standing directly in front of my house fan), but I figured getting to see one of the biggest movies of the summer* early was a pretty good reason to break the silence.

I've finally learned something I think the rest of the non-geek population seems to have figured out a long time ago: All of these Marvel movies are pretty much the same. Same plot points, same story rhythm, same overblown finales. The only differences are largely cosmetic. Those differences, however, have a pretty big impact on the overall movie experience. Captain America distinguishes itself with its period-piece aesthetic, while Iron Man shines the spotlight on RDJ's frantic performance, and Thor sets itself apart by sucking.

Now we've got Guardians of the Galaxy, a largely unknown property, gracing the big screen. What the heck are we to make of this new entry into the Marvel cinematic canon?
  • None of the Marvel movies have been completely joyless, but Guardians of the Galaxy is the most overtly comic of all the films we've seen thus far. This is both the films greatest strength and weakness.

  • This movie is just chock-full of characters who know not to take themselves or their situation seriously. Everyone snarks at the most inappropriate times - and guys, I love me some snark!

  • Unfortunately, the humor does not balance well against the darker moments - specifically, Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser. Ronan is a pretty terrifying presence, and Pace plays him very well. He just feels like he should have been in a different movie.

  • This could be the most quotable movie of the summer. It is REALLY DARNED FUNNY, and just about every character from the main cast has their moments.

  • Surprisingly, Dave Bautista's Drax, a fiercely literal thinker, gets some really funny moments. And Bautista's not a bad actor, either, so his scenes work better than I'd expected.

  • The biggest disappointment in the film is Gamora. Zoe Saldana performs well enough, but after everything we saw from Black Widow in The Winter Soldier and The Avengers, I expected our Smurfette to be a little less... damsel-y, I guess. She doesn't fall victim to the worst of the "strong independent woman" tropes, but her character is largely forgettable.

  • Me favorite moment in the film is actually one that we see in the trailers: Chris Pratt getting all freaked out about the guard at the prison confiscating his Walkman. It plays out a lot different than you'd expect.
  • Actually, all those fun 70s songs we've heard in the advertisements are used quite effectively in the film. Almost masterfully, I'd say.

  • So there's that big climactic moment, where countless lives are in danger as destruction rains down from the sky (not a spoiler - in a Marvel movie, it's a given). I was prepared to get all uncomfortable with how many people were dying, when *SWOOSH* - in comes Rocket Raccoon to save the day. That's EXACTLY what superhero movies should do.

  • Rocket Raccoon, a misanthropic, trigger-happy mercenary, saves more people in this movie than Superman did in Man of Steel. Something is wrong with the universe.
  • If nothing else, this is the movie where Glenn Close (?!) gets in a discussion with John C. Reilly about what percentage of a $@&# Chris Pine is. That example alone should be enough to tell you whether you should see this movie or not.
  • Verdict: I am Groot!
*citation needed.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cooking with Braddy (and Rarity, I Guess): Black Bean Burritos

Look, it was either leave them in the picture or clean off my kitchen table, and ain't nobody got time for that!

I'll admit it - I've long disparaged the idea of the "dump and run" dinner, consisting mostly of opening various cans and jars of stuff and throwing it all together into a bowl before putting you face in it. Last night, though, I broke out another recipe from my mom's old Desperation Dinners book and learned just why the "dump and run" dinner is so delightful:

It's FAST.

The most time-consuming part of the preparation was cutting the onion and grating the cheese. As a whole, it took maybe twenty minutes to get dinner on the table. Which, you know, is good, cuz I didn't get to eat until after nine o'clock.

This is a recipe which will call for some fiddling. The core is good and simple - beans, cheese and tortillas are kinda hard to screw up - but the flavor's really missing something. I'll need to add something spicier. Maybe just "hot" salsa.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What Do New Friends Do?

They don't have much in common, do they?