The Big Three

Posted: April 6, 2018 in Making the Most of your Life

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Before I discuss The Big Three, I have to share with you the worst thing that’s ever happened. It’s not relevant to the topic. I just want to tell you about it.

Back in 1975, when my dad was 22, he and my grandmother and aunt sang in a small choir of about 50 people. The church put on an Easter concert that year, and somehow someone managed to record it (which is impressive considering the decade).

Anyway, on Easter this year, my family listened to the recording. As you can imagine, such a small church contained a mixed bag of talent (overall, they sounded great, though), and some people were given solos when they shouldn’t have. There was one solo in particular that sounded so bad that I started laughing. I couldn’t help it – the guy’s voice cracked at one point. I kept hounding him and hounding him, and every time I said something, my mom and sister laughed hysterically. I thought it was because they agreed with me. Turns out…

Well, I asked my dad how he kept a straight face while this guy sang. He said he couldn’t laugh, that he wasn’t able to. I asked him why. I figured it was because he’d have gotten into trouble or something. BUT IT WAS ACTUALLY BECAUSE THE GUY SINGING WAS HIM.

I’ve never felt so awful for something in my life. I could’ve died.

Okay, so about The Big Three – the whole reason you’re here. I’ve found that there are three things critical to leading a fulfilled life – and when you think about it, for most people in typical situations, they’re pretty easy. They are:

Get enough sleep …because nearly every aspect of your day depends on your ability to function. Running at 100% will enrich your life in ways that are surprising.

Do whatever you need to stay healthy …because a healthy body usually means a healthy soul. Don’t obsess too much about this though. Just casually make good habits (like eating modest portions of food that aren’t absurdly bad for you).

Walk closely with the Lord …because doing so will give you wisdom and peace. It goes without saying that this is the most crucial of the three. Everything hinges on it. God will bless you, guide you, love you, and tend to your needs. Nothing could be more important, and it all starts with spending time alone with Him in prayer.

Satan loves to trick us into thinking these are hard. It’s because his goal is to discourage you and steal your quality of life. Don’t let him fool you. Your life is precious, especially in the eyes of God.

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Whoa, Nelly. This was a good game. Most video games are fun enough to keep me entertained on a Friday night, but The Last of Us was simply insane. I can’t believe I waited this long to play it. Well, in all fairness, I didn’t own a PlayStation back when Naughty Dog released the original. I finally bought the remastered version last November, and the game just sort of existed unplayed in my library until a couple weeks ago.

Few games (if any) can be readily compared to this one, at least when you examine the storytelling. Even Naughty Dog’s more recent Uncharted 4 doesn’t stack up, however good. Halo tells one of my favorite stories in gaming – but only because I’ve read the books – and the Mass Effect trilogy certainly took me for a ride I’ll never forget. Yet neither of those tugged on my emotions quite like The Last of Us. In fact, I can’t think of a movie, book, or any other medium that hit me in such a profound way.

I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re going to take this game for a drive, buckle your seatbelt. I teared up more than once before it was over.

What I didn’t like: A lot of you are going to disagree with me on this, but I thought the first hour or so after the prologue felt dry. As a character, I guess Tess was fine. Marlene – not so much. I was glad she didn’t play a major role throughout the meat of the game. Boston was only interesting after Ellie showed up.

What was just okay about it: Joel was okay – at least in the first half. I actually really liked his character by the end of the game. There were several occasions when he was a massive jerk to Ellie, and more than one of them seemed forced for the sake of character development. In those moments, I didn’t find him to be likable or relatable. Generally, though, that wasn’t an issue.

What I liked a lot: Ellie. Freaking Ellie and her relationship with Joel. That whole father-daughter thing going on between them was the game’s meat and potatoes, and boy was it good!

As a character, Ellie is the most well-developed one I’ve seen in a game. Easily. Naughty Dog had to have spent half their development budget on her design. That’s how complete she was. Ashley Johnson’s voice acting performance was spectacular. Couple that with the game’s incredible writing, and Ellie was supplied with just the right dose of color to make her seem unbelievably real.

And that’s just it. Ellie practically was real, and by the end of the game, my brain felt confused by the fact that she isn’t. When she was first introduced, her mannerisms were typical of a spunky teenager overflowing with naive curiosity and humor. As a rather subtle element, Naughty Dog made her body language lively. During gameplay, she often picked at the ground with her feet or adjusted her ponytail or examined things in the environment. If you stand in one spot too long (like when you get up to go to the bathroom or something) she gets annoyed. She asks questions and tells stories and makes jokes. All this happens constantly. Oh – and this is one of my favorite things about her – in combat, she makes hilarious remarks if you kill an opponent in a particularly brutal way. It’s like she’s amazed and amused and grossed out all at the same time. A nice touch, if you ask me. 

But as the story progressed, things happened. Bad things. I won’t spoil what they are, but I will say there were times the game was hard to play. The writers created the story in a way that actually made me feel empathy for Ellie, and that was tough. If you’ve played the game, I’m sure there’s one scene in particular that comes to mind.

After that, she was changed, damaged – even bruised. Once the storm had passed, so to speak, Ellie wasn’t the red-headed spark she was before. She was quiet and reserved. She no longer fidgeted or cracked jokes or played with her hair. As Joel scavenged various places for supplies, sometimes she’d sit quietly without saying a word. It was sad to see her transform that way, and yet given what had happened, it made a lot of sense.

Joel grew on me by the second-half of the game. Bonding with Ellie really seemed to changed him. Instead of viewing her merely as cargo to smuggle, she became his daughter. This dynamic seemed to fill the void in his heart that was created during the prologue, and more importantly, he was there for Ellie when it mattered. He became the trusted refuge she could count on.

I also loved the game’s ending. I think Naughty Dog really nailed it, as I left feeling satisfied and pleased with the way things turned out.

I rate this game: 9.7/10

I’ve always wanted a daughter, but The Last of Us made me want one so much more. Man, this game slapped me right in the soul.

Oh, and here’s one of my favorite scenes. It’s the only one I can show you that doesn’t contain spoilers. (Note: Whoever was playing stopped to watch the giraffes around 2:20 and stayed like that for the rest of the video.)

Prescribed Fire near Rockwood

Posted: March 6, 2018 in Drones

At my dad’s farm, we’re close friends with all the neighbors. It must be because our houses are far enough apart so we don’t annoy each other. For real though, they’re fantastic folks, and it’s a huge treat whenever I get to hang out with them.

We have a lake that we share with two other families. One is the Pruitts, the other the Aycocks. The Pruitts offered, since they’re experts at this sort of thing, to perform a prescribed fire on the Aycocks’ land, and to complete the neighborhood set, I filmed the whole thing with my drones. My friend Jacob helped me out with that too – he flew the Spark while I flew the Mavic Pro. For all you drone experts out there: I bet you can’t tell which drone filmed what part of the footage. 😉

Trick question – you can’t. I compressed the 4K video from the Mavic down to 1080p so it’d all look the same. Maybe you can just tell from how bad Jacob is at flying. 😂 (Kidding there too.)

One last thing before I embed the video. If I hear that song ONE MORE TIME, I’ll actually light myself on fire. Editing videos means listening to the same song over and over and over and over and over and 🔥.

 

I fly Drones

Posted: February 14, 2018 in Drones

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Back in September, my parents gave me a Phantom 3 drone for my birthday. Which is insane. First, drones are expensive. Any drone made by DJI might as well be a gold-plated flying robot – that’s how costly they are. And second, why would you put something that flies hundreds of feet in the air in my hands? I crashed into a hill on day two. Lord forgive me for what all came out of my mouth over the next five minutes.

Anyway, Amazon replaced it, and I was back in the air within a week. After that rather embarrassing lesson, I made a concerted effort to get as educated as possible. I learned all about how not to crash, all the FAA regulations, and how to take really cool photos and videos with it (I’m still working hard on that one).

Eventually, my second Phantom malfunctioned and landed in a tree about a hundred feet in the air. That was back in December only a couple days shy of Christmas. Fast-forward to today – two months later – and it’s still there. At least I can say it wasn’t my fault this time. After looking online, I saw that older Phantoms were notorious for uncontrollable fly-aways. Yikes.

I bought two more drones though, so I’m good, albeit broke. I got a DJI Spark, which is a small quad about the size of a smartphone. It can do some pretty fancy tricks with hand gestures, and when it comes to whizzing about capturing sky-high videos, it flies with the best of them. I also picked up a DJI Mavic Pro. I wanted something more stable in the wind than the Spark. It’s significantly larger and heavier, so it has a way of really grabbing the air. Not to mention, the Mavic’s camera can record in 4K (compared to the Spark’s lackluster 1080P) and take long-exposure night-shots. Needless to say, it’s a neat toy.

I’d like to share with you my drone footage. I fly quite often, and the hobby has become a pretty big deal for me. Don’t judge too harshly, though. You’ll see pretty fast how bad I suck at video editing (I’m especially talking to you, JFBC media guys).

Here is my collection of drone videos to-date. I’ll post them in the order they were created:

Landing the Phantom 3

I took this video with the original Phantom 3 – you know, the one I wrecked like a day later. There was no video editing involved with this one. It’s purely a recording of a flight with no music accompanying it. Note the beautiful, sexy expression on my face at the end.

Flight over Rockwood 

This was taken with the second Phantom 3, the one that’s still parked in my neighbor’s tree. Phantoms, man. It’s a straight flight away from the cabin at my dad’s farm. I brought it about three quarters of a mile out before returning home.

Chopsticks

I kind of wish I hadn’t done this one, but I was still a new drone pilot at the time. In hindsight, while legal-ish, it was sort of stupid taking the Spark over people’s houses and cars and whatever else. I flew it over my parent’s neighborhood for a little less than a mile before bringing it back. The video is called Chopsticks because I was trying to see if I could make it all the way to the restaurant where I used to work. I almost made it. If you know where to look, you can see Chopsticks at the furthest point of the flight. Also, on the way back, the Atlanta skyline makes a grand appearance on the horizon. That’s the best part, if you ask me.

The Trout Pond at Hillcrest

Also filmed with the Spark, I spent 3 entire batteries and almost 45 minutes recording in the back field of Hillcrest Farm in Virginia. Luckily for you, I edited that down to a little over 3 minutes. One of the key features of the video is the Spark’s Active Track ability. It can automatically track and follow objects (or people), which is how it followed my truck while I drove. At the end of the video, I nearly ran off the road because I kept glancing over at the drone’s RC controller.

Christmas, 2017

At the time I made this video, the only drone I had was the Spark. Sadly, the Phantom had already killed itself by playing a good ol’ game of Tarzan, and I hadn’t bought the Mavic Pro yet. This video details several flights that happened over a span of about a week at Hillcrest. You’ll notice a huge editing mistake in the second scene. I made the footage play at 2x, which means that since the Spark normally records at 30 FPS, you’ll experience a nauseating jump to 60 FPS. My goal was to make it feel like the camera was skimming the ground at extraordinary speeds, but instead it turned into…you’ll see. Try not to throw up. After that scene, the rest of the video plays at a comfortable 30 FPS.

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I wondered why God’s been so “quiet” lately. I’ve felt His presence during my prayer times, but my spiritual walk has definitely been a dim one. It’s difficult to describe, and maybe you’ve been there. You know those days you pray for a little while, but the rest of the time you accidentally forget God exists? I’ve been that Christian lately, the one who neglects his relationship with God without noticing.

I believe there’s lots of possible causes to God’s quietness, but He finally showed me what’s been going on. Without getting into too much detail, the lesson He taught me is this:

It’s easy to get too desperate about something – desperate to the point of making your desperation an idol (pardon the redundancy). For my part, I became so desperate to fix the problem that it ended up being all I cared about. My trust in God was replaced with panic. Then the panic turned to heartache, then the heartache to utter numbness.

I saw this girl online who talked about how her faith was more of a relationship than merely a religion. She wrote that God is her best friend, and she desires to run the race as hard as possible because of that. Truly, she loved God with all her might. With all her might! Think about the concept of that, what it means. To love God with all your might. With all my might.

I wasn’t loving Him with all my might because desperation had become my idol. All I’ve thought about lately are the things that trouble me. And while I prayed about them often, in my mind, God was never part of the equation. The future I feared was indeed one without His presence and action.

After reading that girl’s post (I hate calling her “that girl,” but I can’t remember her name), God made clear to me what I’ve been doing wrong. So, I asked Him to forgive me and be close to me once more. I used words much similar to how I’ve begged God to let me meet my future wife, because those words were appropriately adequate when describing how badly I need Him. God forgave me and then opened my eyes to the key: There is no desperation in Christ.

I’m on OkCupid

Posted: August 29, 2017 in Miscellaneous

Ladies and Gentlemen, the first two paragraphs of my OkCupid self-summary:

I’m an enormous obese man who dresses up as an evil clown for children’s birthday parties.

Lol hey, I’m kidding. I’m not obese, and hopefully I’m not a clown either. But I might be. We’ll see. If I do turn out to be one, and you’re also very lucky, I may let you hand-feed me marshmallows while honking my nose. It’ll be breathtakingly romantic.

Oh, yeah. This’ll win the girls.

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I’ll admit it: I’ve got nothing to talk about. So, if you’re cool with a blog post about three completely unrelated topics – great. If not, go read Leviticus or something.

Topic #1

Let me tell you a story called Everyone is in the Way. It’s about how when I drove home from the farm last Saturday, four people pulled out in front of me so that I had to slam my brakes. One of them proceeded to drive real slow for the next five miles, so I passed him as rudely as possible at the earliest opportunity. I made sure to get a good look at him, too, because, well, you know how we all want to see what bad drivers look like. Another two people didn’t go when the light turned green. I honked at them both. The amazing thing is that one of them looked up at the light and still didn’t go. You peasants are why we need self-driving cars, and also why I nearly stroke out every time I drive.

Topic #2 

My job is amazing, and if any of you reading this are on staff at my church, I probably love working with you. I’ll let you guess who I don’t love working with. (That was a joke. Don’t read into it.) Lately, as one or two of you may already know, I’ve been working on a project regarding all our Macs. By itself, it would normally only take a few hours to complete, but I’ve had an unusually high number of helpdesk tickets lately. That, combined with the fact that some Mac users proved difficult to track down, made the whole thing take about two weeks. Oh, those helpdesk tickets. The ones I had to stop my work to answer. I love answering most of them, but some of you – let’s just say my boss doesn’t think “why don’t you try praying over your printer because I’m busy” is an appropriate response.

Topic #3

If you’ve kept up with my blog, you already know how much I like trolling my mom. Today, I took scripture out of context to show her how the Bible says we should be communists. For the record, I am not a communist – at all – and neither is my mom. Also, the Bible doesn’t advocate communism, obviously.

That certainly wasn’t the funniest joke I’ve ever made, but it’ll do.

Goodnight everybody. 😏