The new year is coming soon and that means it’s time for my yearly look back at my life and industry. This was an odd year for me since I didn’t do many conferences and stayed home to solve some issues and work on the film.
The year home did me a lot of good. My health is even better and first year without major kidney stone issues. If you’ve read my blog for a while, you might remember that I did this last year.
After being curmudgeonly about turning 50, I feel a lot better about it now that it’s behind me. I still don’t feel like retirement is coming soon. Luckily since I’m mostly teaching, most days I have time to code on my own, continue to make films, and be available to my family. I’m a very lucky person. I Here are some categories of my life.
It’s been an interesting year for me. I’m actually surprised how much hasn’t changed this year. I’m still doing mostly Vue.js and ASP.NET Core teaching and programming.
I’ve dove headfirst into the container world and learned a lot about Kubernetes and Docker compose. With the release of .NET Core 3.x, I’ve spent a lot of time just updating my Pluralsight courses this year, including:
Building a Web App with ASP.NET Core, MVC, Entity Framework Core, Bootstrap, and Angular
I also built a new course for Pluralsight:
I’m mostly looking forward at Microservices as a way to simplify complex scenarios (but it’s not for the faint of heart and shouldn’t be used in simple cases ever).
I also think that APIs are evolving into a shared space. We have to get rid of our ‘winner takes all’ approach and think of it more as a polyglot for APIs (as I wrote here).
I’m looking forward to getting rid of Visual Studio entirely for VSCode, but I’m still not there.
In case you’ve never read my blog before, you might not know I’ve been working on a documentary film for the past three plus years. You can read the synopsis and watch a teaser here: helloworldfilm.com.
The film is just about finished as we speak (the final cuts are done and the music and sound mixing are being completed). We’ve submitted to our first film festivals and hopefully I’ll get it sold and get it on Netflix, Disney+ or Amazon in the near future.
My health is better than it’s been in years. I still have weight to lose, but this year home has helped my mental and physical health immensely. We think we have the kidney stone problem solved, my heart has been without incident for over a year. and I’m embracing fifty like I never thought I would.
Because I’ve been working on the film so hard this year, I didn’t get to see as many films as I usually like to. But I do have my favorites listed below. If your favorite film isn’t on this list, I likely didn’t see it yet so I didn’t want to include it.
Avengers: EndGame: A fitting end to
Phase 1 (I know Spiderman was last, but come on!). Had the excitement and pulled on my heartstrings in the perfect way. I’ve rewatched it a number of times and it still holds up. To see some of these characters take their turns and change the Avengers forever was a huge treat.
Captain Marvel: As an avid fan of Brie Larsen, I was up for this film. I thought it worked on most levels. Haters can detest her being overpowered, but I loved it. Even the de-aging of Sam Jackson worked.
John Wick: Chapter 3 –
Parabellum: Amazing action. I was disappointed by the lazy writing of the second Chapter of this series,
but then the third chapter blew me completely away. If you like action, this is a non-CGI lesson in amazing
Stutterer: A short film I missed from a
couple of years back. Amazing storytelling in a short format and great use of showing instead of telling. Watch
Booksmart: Not usually my sort of film, but
this coming of age story was funny and emotional. The two main actors are both set for an amazing career. As a first film, Olivia Wilde impressed me with a deft touch that could have ended up a cheesy comedy instead of a touching film. Not enough people saw this film.
Alita: Battle Angel: I am not a huge fan of CGI for its own sake so I was a bit suspicious of this film when I first saw the trailer. But it changed my mind. I believed that Alita was a real person, not a motion captured CGI. It worked. Story is great, and the action is better.
Us: Not as good as Jordan Peele’s first film, but watching Lupita
Nyong’o acting her heart out for two hours was amazing. Disappointing ending, but enjoyable nonetheless.
The Lobster: This is a tough film to watch. It doesn’t make a lot
of sense at first, but stick with it. It’s made me think all year. The ending says more about humanity than most
films I’ve seen.
Polar: This hidden gem of a film is on Netflix right now. It’s a
touching tale (often told, but usually not well done) of a retired hit man. Good script and I absolutely love
Mads Mikkelsen is everything he does.
Upgrade: I missed this last year, but is as visually stunning as it is weak in script. But watch it and enjoy. Action is rarely this good. I was impressed by Logan Marshall-Green
(whom I call the poor man’s Tom Hardy).
In the Shadow of the Moon: A surprising Netflix
original that was a really well told time-tripping film. Kept me guessing the entire run-time. Great performances for the most part. I was afraid it was a ‘movie of the week’ sort of acting, but it was way better than that.
Warning, to help me with my film, I watched a lot of these this year. These are the ones that had a real impact.
Tell Me Who I Am: I didn’t know what
to expect with this amazing telling of a story of two brothers and one who loses his memory. It will stick with
you. Best Doc this year in my opinion.
Who Let the Dogs Out: Bear with me. Yes, this is a movie
about the song. But even more it’s a film about who owns ideas. Well told and entertaining, a lot more than it
For the Love of Spock: This loving documentary by
Leonard Nemoy’s son tells his story and will surprise you no matter what you think you know about our Mr. Spock.
Hail Satan?: Not what it seems. This critical look at the first
amendment and separation of church and state is fun and watchable. These so-called satanists are doing it just
to make the point of not letting church and state collide. Loved this.
The Legend of Cocaine Island: Tells a story you
won’t believe. Many of the participants didn’t believe either. Entertainingly told, even if you don’t like
documentaries, you’ll love this one.
Bleed Out: This heartbreaking story of malpractice was told from the filmmaker’s own difficult story. It is a hard watch but well worth it.
Abducted in Plain Sight: Unbelievable story of how a
family let a pedophile into their lives without realizing it. Be ready to be angry.
Free Solo: This Oscar winner was deserving, but the main character
is so unlikable I didn’t love it. But the camera work in this film is worth seeing for yourself.
The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon
Valley: Cemented everything that
annoys me about vaporware Silicon Valley. You have to see this if you’re in tech (even though this is about bio-tech).
Behind the Curve: A humorous look at the flat earth movement.
You won’t believe what they believe, even if they actually believe it (which I doubt).
Heart Transplant: A Chance to Live: This BBC
film that shows a heart transplant as it happens in real-time is mesmerizing.
At the Drive-In: I love films about small, weird communities
and this has exactly that. A small group of people who come together to save a Drive-In with old slasher films.
Ghosts of Sugar Land: Crazy story of the people who knew
an American who became an ISIS fighter, told from behind the masks of the American Muslims that knew him.
A User’s Guide to Cheating Death: A bit of confirmation bias as it
might be. This is a well-told series that aims to debunk most of the psuedo-science out there in a variety of health-care
Fire in Paradise: The amazing story of Paradise
California fire with unforgettable footage of what happened.
TV is really come into it’s own the last few years. Though I’ll admit, that some of what is on this list is not ‘great’ TV but still very entertaining. Here are a few of my favorite series this year:
Chernobyl: Oh my god, this was so great. Tight script, great visuals, and excellent acting. Sure they took some liberties, but not with the truth of why it happened. Being alive when this happened, it really touched me. The humanity of what happened was surprising. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and give this a view. It’s only five episodes.
The Mandalorian: I can’t say enough about this great Disney+
series. It renewed my faith in Star Wars. Going back to its western in space vibe, the pacing is great. Each episode is a different chapter in the story and you’ll fall in love with the characters. I won’t say anything else to avoid spoilers. Remember, Disney+ has a 7 day trial which is enough time to binge this amazing series.
Gogglebox: A show only my UK and Aussie followers might know. But I’m obsessed with this awful show about people watching TV. It’s amazingly meta.
24 Hours in A&E: Note sure why I watched so much of this
UK show about emergency room visits (reality tv), but I’ve been missing my mom who was an ER nurse so that’s
probably it. It’s nice to see families huddle up when one of them isn’t well.
Game of Thrones: Most people I know hated this last season, but I
really enjoyed it. No way to please everyone, but I think it worked mostly. Sure I have nits, but overall it was
Watchmen: I’m still not done with this first season and it’s making the
list. I can only watch an episode a day because the writing is tight and dense. It gives me the
Barry: I watched both seasons this year. Opened my eyes to how good Bill Hader
really is. One episode in season two blew my brain apart with its execution. Watch it!
Russian Doll: Always been a fan of Natasha Lyonne, but this was
amazing beyond comprehension. Surprising thought provoking and beautifully shot, I loved it.
Girls Incarcerated: Watching these young girls come to grips with their crimes and trying to become women, mostly before their time, was a fascinating watch.
Stranger Things: The third season didn’t disappoint me at all. I
enjoyed the continual romp and don’t like that these kids are growing up.
Criminal: UK: This three episode short series has great acting. Just
three police interrogations. That’s it, and David Tennant reaffirmed my faith in his acting.
Broadchurch: Speaking of David Tennant, he and Olivia Coleman make
this tense amazing crime drama worth watching. I still wish they had ended after the first series, but is still
These films weren’t in my favorites but I thought they were important to mention:
Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker: I was glad that the
series ended and it had a satisfying conclusion, but it was not a great film. The way they used Carrie Fisher
was distasteful, the shoving in of a back story for Poe, and the sidelining of Rose was shameful. But like I
said about Game of Thrones, no one was going to love a last episode. Thankfully we have The Mandalorian.
Spider-Man: Far from Home: I enjoyed this movie, but
it had little substance. I found the plot holes were huge in the end of the film and the love story was a little dull, but I had just seen EndGame whose scope seemed huge for no Avengers to come help.
Being home most of the year means that I played more video games than usual. But after trying a number of new games, I ended up only really playing five games at any length. I don’t like multi-player games much (MMOs being an exception) and most of these games have quite a lot of exploration that scratches my gaming itch.
Elder Scrolls Online: By far, this is the game I spent the most time playing. I was in the original beta and decided not to play the game after realizing it wasn’t just an MMO version of Skyrim. In the meantime they completely changed the game and created a ton of new areas to explore. They continue to add new content. I got deep into the game and played through a lot of end-game content. I love their dungeon matchmaking (it makes it easy to group if you don’t like people). Great quest writing and decent crafting system. You can really do your own game style.
The biggest thing that drew me is that you aren’t gated from any part of the world (though you do need to purchase expansions for brand new areas) by your level. The world is scaled to your player so different levels can play with each other with no problem. It’s great.
The Outer Worlds: I’ve been looking for the next Skyrim or Fallout for a while. Last year’s Fallout 76 was a huge disappointment. I anxiously awaited this game as it is from the people who made Fallout New Vegas! They really delivered. A space game with multiple planets, great writing, funny experiences, and choice about how to approach end-game. While it’s relatively short (20-30 hours) I’ve replayed it with different play styles five times. Love this game!
No Man’s Sky: I purchased No Man’s Sky when it was released and it was a huge disappointment. The nature of its exploration still intrigued me and I played a bit. In the last two years, Hello Games have released a ton of free updates to this game. It’s completely different, very deep and interesting. The main quest is finally interesting and crafting is one of the deepest in any game I’ve ever played. If you like space games, ignore what you’ve heard and give it a try. It’s great.
Jedi: Fallen Order: To be fair, I haven’t finished this yet. The first 30 minutes of this game was the best Star Wars film I’ve seen ever. Usually these games are bad, but this one is really great. Nice story, great controls, and doesn’t coddle you.
Untitled Goose Game: Admittedly, I didn’t spend that much time playing this game, but it’s a genius idea. I haven’t laughed so much in a game in a long time. I wasn’t interested in ‘solving’ the game. Instead I loved watching how annoyed I could make the humans. It can’t be explained, just try it.
Darkwood: Lastly is an older title that I picked up. Part of the idea of this game is that you start out without knowing anything about the game. The story unfolds through exploration. Its top-down perspective works so well to play with light and fear. It’s a perfect Switch game (though it’s available on PC too).
Xbox Game Pass: This isn’t a game, but a surprising service. I thought it was just for Xbox One, but I found out it’s actually for PC too. For $10/month ($1 for the first month) it allows you to play dozens of games. In fact, that’s how I played The Outer Worlds, Forza Horizon 4, and Gears of War 5 (as well as trying out a bunch of other games). Best value for the money if you have time to try new games. It doesn’t have super-popular games, but if you like indies and year old games you didn’t get to try.
I’m looking forward to getting back on the conference circuit and seeing old friends and making new ones in the year ahead. Keep an eye out on this site for my calendar to see what events I’ll be making this in 2020. Once the film is complete, I’ll also be going to some film festivals if you happen to be interested in them. And, in case you’re curious, I have already started work on my next film. Unfortunately, for most of you who read my blog, it is not about technology at all. Once I get a little further along, I’ll share more about it.