My Favorite Bible Software for Android

When I’m sitting at my computer, I usually do Bible study using Blue Letter Bible or e-Sword, depending on whether or not I have internet, but when I’m anywhere else, with internet or not, I use AndBible on my phone. I was going to write up a blog post on all the things I like about it and how to use it, but then I thought it might be easier to demonstrate it in a video.

It’s definitely my kind of software; simple, functional, and it even has a dark color scheme. There are no user accounts, no sticker packs, and no way to put emoji in your favorite verses. Everything works, everything works offline, and it’s really obvious how everything works. If you have an Android device, make sure you check it out. 

The New Live Action Animated Jungle Book

elephants

Heidi and I recently saw the new Jungle Book film. I may be a CNC Machinist by day, but I’m still an animator by night, and a Kipling fan, and an amateur Disney historian, so I was very eager to watch this retelling of the classic story, even if only to see the animation and other technical details. And what details!

First and foremost, the new movie is a visual masterpiece. The design, animation, lighting, and rendering are just plain incredible. It should be noted that almost everything in this movie that is not Mowgli is completely computer generated. All the backgrounds, nearly all of the plants, and every single animal. Ironically, while this film is one of Disney’s many “live-action” retellings of their animated classic films, this one actually has more animation in it than the original.

The animators at MPC and Weta Digital should be credited with two amazing feats: creating believable wild animals, and making those wild animals into believable emotive actors. The engineers also deserve credit, because after the animators created the skeletal animation, every animal got a soft-body muscle stimulation on top of the bones, a cloth-based skin simulation on top of the muscles, and finally a dynamic fur and hair simulation on top of the skin. Every bit of water the animals touch and every bit of foliage they brush against is also simulated. Everything in the film feels real.

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Todoist: the To-Do List Program that does (almost) Everything

todoistphone

Recently my sister-in-law Nadia, told me about a new program she was trying out to help her manage her projects, to-do lists, shopping lists, and other lists. We often “talk shop”, as Nadia’s husband calls it, and swap ideas on household management, everything from organizational tips, menu ideas, and helpful computer programs or apps, to laundry solutions or child training ideas. It’s often very helpful to bounce ideas off of someone else who’s in a similar stage of life, and get ideas on how to do what we’re doing faster or better. This program is called Todoist, and it has been a game changer for me.

I love lists; I love making lists, and I love checking things off my lists even more. I’m constantly trying out new methods of list-making for various projects and seasons of life. I’ve used Excel Spreadsheets, Word documents, Apple Reminders, Google Keep, Evernote, random mobile apps, post-it notes, notebooks, scratch paper, and more. At various times in my life, all of these have been helpful, but this new system tops anything else I’ve used thus far. I don’t use this as a substitute for Google calendar (where I put actual appointments like dental appointments or dinner at someone’s house), but it’s perfect for all those daily things I can’t forget to do or the house would fall apart, but there’s no exact time for them.

Here are some of the most helpful features:

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Puritans, Witches, and PR

TheWitchPuritans

Last week, an interesting film came out. I haven’t seen it, and I don’t plan on seeing it, but I’ve been reading reviews and commentary on it for a few days. Written and directed by Robert Eggers, The Witch is a simple horror story set in the American wilderness of the 1600s. What’s more interesting than the film itself is what it reveals about film critics, audiences, and Satanists.

I had the opportunity to talk to Kevin Swanson about this film on his Generations Radio program, which you can listen to here:

The film revolves around a family of Puritan caricatures, who are building a little house in a big woods. Complications ensue when witches begin killing members of the family, starting with the baby. The film is not ambiguous about this; viewers actually see the witch sacrifice an infant and do blood ritual stuff on screen.

Things go downhill from there, with everyone mysteriously disappearing or dying horribly on screen, until only the 14-year-old daughter is left. It is bleak and horrible, and unlike the semi-triumphant endings of most horror movies where the main character finally defeats or escapes from the monster, this protagonist loses everything, and then joins the coven to become a witch herself.

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Experiments in 3D Printing

Earlier this year I printed some 3D objects at Shapeways. 3D printing is a fairly new technology, with lots of methodologies and applications. In its simplest form, it’s just like regular inkjet printing, but instead of the print head laying down a drop of ink, it lays down a blob of plastic, and once the first layer is done, the print head starts printing plastic on top of the plastic. After several hundred layers, a 3D object is finished, and can be assembled into a UAV, or a rifle reciever, or a magazine.

Different printers can print different types of resin, plastic, ceramic, and even metal. Some printers have an ink nozzle right next to the media nozzle, so it can paint objects in full color while printing. Other dual-head printers can print a rigid plastic and soft rubber at the same time, or ABS and wax. This is useful for objects with a lot of non-touching moving parts, like gears. The gears and axles can be printed in hard plastic, supported by the printed wax until the object is done and the wax can be melted or crumbled out.

Objet Printed Gear Widget

There are even experiments in printing blood vessels and human organs, cell by cell, custom designed for transplant surgeries. As the printers get more sophisticated, they can do more things. Researchers are building machines than can print optics and electronic sensors directly into objects during printing. One of the great advantages of this system is that the cost is the same to print one object as it is to print a thousand. Mass production of injection molded plastic still might be cheaper in the long run, but there’s no setup cost to print a single custom product.

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Brave Part II: Story and Theme

This is the second part of my random thoughts on Pixar’s Brave. Please read Part 1 first; it talks more about the art and character of the film. This half will look a little deeper into the story.

Brave vs. Tangled
Story-wise, Brave is much more similar to Disney’s 2011 film Tangled, since the prevailing conflict of each film is a strong-willed princess daughter rebelling against a mean ol’ (step)mother’s rules while being personally conflicted about their relationship. Axe-wielding ruffians, magic, and big hair are tangentially involved in both films.

Rapunzel and Merida

There are some major differences, though. In Tangled, Rapunzel’s mother figure is a kidnapper, which means that the audience can overlook any disobedience. It’s a clever trick of the writers, but Rapunzel doesn’t know this, so she’s being genuinely defiant to someone who she thinks is loving and trustworthy. When she runs away from home a happy adventure ensues, wonderful things happen to her, and everybody’s life gets better (except for her stepmother’s life, which gets shorter). It’s kind of a problematic message for kids, when you think about it.

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Brave Part I: Art and Character

I don’t have time to write a full review of Brave, but I do want to comment on it. I’m a huge fan of Pixar, and Brave has a number of strong elements that vividly demonstrate those areas where Pixar’s films are truly superior. Unfortunately, the film also has some significant weaknesses, mostly in areas where Pixar’s films used to be truly superior. This makes it a great film to analyze, so here are some quick, unorganized thoughts, with deeper analysis to come next week. This post will contain heavy criticism and spoilers, so be warned.

In short, the story is pretty simple. The tomboyish daughter of a boorish king is constantly fighting with her prim and proper mother, ruling queen of the realm. As she kicks against this overbearing child-training from her admittedly loving parents, she destroys the trust that they have placed in her. Then she tries to solve this rift with a hastily-purchased witch’s spell, but this backfires when her mother is magicked into a bear. Her distraught father attempts to kill this bear, which he thinks killed his wife, and so mother and daughter flee into the woods. While hiding out together, they bond, and eventually everyone sees everyone else’s side, the spell is lifted, and everything goes back to normal.

Brave vs. How to Train Your Dragon
There are a lot of obvious similarities to the 2010 Dreamworks film How to Train Your Dragon, and if Brave hadn’t experienced so many delays during its seven(!) years of production development, they might even have gone head to head at the box office. It reminds me of the old days when Pixar and Dreamworks would compete with similarly themed films (Antz vs. Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo vs. Shark Tale, Monsters, Inc. vs. Monsters vs. Aliens, etc.), and the pop-culture, gag-based, teen-centered Dreamworks movies never could match the methodical, story-driven, family-centered craftsmanship of Pixar.

Things are different now, though. The Dreamworks Animation team have vastly improved their story departments and art direction, and while the tired Shrek and Madagascar franchises still rely on celebrity voices and raunchy jokes, How to Train Your Dragon featured an ex-Disney director (more on that later), great structure, good art, and lots of fun. Meanwhile, Pixar’s recent films have been slipping in many ways… so how do these two movies compare?

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Review: Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn

As most of you know, I’m a pretty big fan of Steven Spielberg’s directorial ability. I also grew up loving Hergé’s masterful Tintin books, and have a lot of respect for Peter Jackson, so I approached the Secret of the Unicorn with great anticipation. Unfortunately, Spielberg’s project choices and story-telling motivations have declined in the last few years, Jackson’s filmography is more miss than hit, and Hollywood’s record of adapting older stories for newer audiences is pretty terrible, so I also approached the film with considerable trepidation.

Fortunately, I can now report that Tintin was brought to the screen without any of Crystal Skull’s franchise-breaking silliness or King Kong’s over-sentimentalized faux historicalism, adapting Hergé’s stories straight up and without too much theatrical mugging. Also, much of the franchise’s character survived intact.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the series, Hergé was a Belgian comic book author who, from the 1920s to the 1970s, wrote and illustrated 23 books about a young journalist’s adventures around the globe. Tintin and his dog Snowy faced down an increasingly realistic series of villains as they investigated lost treasure, counterfeiting rings, museum robberies, and political intrigue. Tintin’s friends, the tough sea-faring Captain Haddock, the brilliant but deaf Professor Calculus, and the often misguided Thompson and Thomson from Scotland Yard, usually ended up in the middle of gang wars, military invasions, lost tribes, scientific expeditions, and more.

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Camera Review: GoPro Hero HD

A useful tool for videographers over the past decade or so has been the tiny “point-of-view” or “lipstick” camera that modern image sensors have made possible. POV cameras are great for getting tricky shots, so they are often used on sports shows or documentaries. They’re easy to Velcro onto a car’s dashboard, boom over a cliff edge, or snake down a groundhog burrow.

The Sony HXR-MC1 is a solid recent version, with a splash-proof 1.5” wide camera head tethered to a larger camera body, which records 1080i into 16mbps AVCHD. It’s made by a professional video camera company so it has a lot of professional features, like a proper zoom lens and a 1/5” sensor, but its downsides include the short nine-foot tether and the large $2,500 price tag.

If that’s a bit too much to spend on a camera that you will use rarely or you’re looking for something more rugged, there is an alternative available from the extreme sports crowd. It may not have manual controls, moving lens elements, or even a viewfinder, but it’s waterproof to 180 feet, fits in the palm of your hand, and shoots full HD video
for around $250.

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Film Review: Avatar

Twelve years ago, James Cameron made the world’s most expensive movie, which turned out to be the world’s highest grossing movie (unless you adjust for inflation, of course). A vast majority of its colossal budget went to the painstaking detail of historical authenticity; custom carpets woven by the same companies that outfitted the real Titanic, handmade mahogany furniture built from 1911 blueprints, and costumes fit for the wives of turn-of-the-century rail barons.

Unfortunately, Cameron then populated these precisely replicated sets with 1990s characters speaking lines from his 1990s worldview. True stories of romance and heroism were ignored so that a fictional tale of forbidden love in a fabricated class war could be told. Needing more villains for his melodramatic conclusion, Cameron rewrote the historic words and actions of real White Star crew members seemingly at random, erasing or misrepresenting their legacies.

Despite all that, or perhaps because of it, Titanic went on become a global phenomenon, which teenage girls would buy tickets to see again and again. The tremendous scale of Cameron’s artistic vision overshadowed his flat characters and cheesy dialog to create an overwhelming spectacle. These same strengths and weaknesses are also apparent in Avatar, but with more of a videogame feel.

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