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I'm Justin Berrell. And I endorse this welcome message. heh.

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Curiosity Lander

Curiosity Lander

It’s landing in T-2HRs!  Unfortunately for me, Verizon FIOS doesn’t carry the NASA channel so I am relegated to watching it via CNN through some kind of crappy video link.  It’s not even 1080p!  Oh, the injustice!

- WOOT! I found NASA TV on channel 25!  I take back all the bad things I said about Verizon Fios!

- TOUCHDOWN!   Who said 256×256 pixels can’t be beautiful?  Gonna be a great day to watch how this thing unfolds.  Methinks I’m gonna record it all day.

And to finish off the night, play some Louis Armstrong for me.

The Amazing Spiderman

The Amazing Spiderman

I saw it!  It was good.  Well, it was really good.  Did I mention that I really, really liked it?  Oh good, because I was afraid I didn’t mention that it was a very good reboot of the franchise and the casting was spot on.  The story’s slightly different this time - no Harry no Green Goblin.  This reboot gives us a spunky cool girlfriend played by Emma Stone (great job!)  And we have Rhys Ifans (aka Nigel ‘The Leg’ Gruff – I loved him in The Replacements) as a Lizard / not-so-much-a-mad-scientist-scientist-rather-one-who’s-forced-into-doing-something-he-knows-he-shouldn’t-but-does-anyway-scientist instead.

I saw the 2D version instead of the 3D version.  You could tell which scenes were shot specificially for the 3D audience.

Andrew Garfield is the perfect cast for Peter Parker.  He’s a breath of fresh air in his portayal of Peter Parker and should not be confused in any way shape or form with Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker. I’m glad that the writers went in the direction of Peter being a very brainy kid because the Peter Parker toys were a great addition to the movie.  The gadgets lent quite a bit of definition to Peter’s character.  Emma Stone’s always good with whatever you throw at her so her portrayal of Gwen Stacy was a perfect counter-part to Andrew’s Peter Parker.  It’s always great to get a chance to see Denis Leary.  I positively love that sarcastic dry sense of humor he has.  Mr. Sheen and Ms. Field were great addition to the cast as was the “Hey look!  It’s C.Thomas Howell!” moment when he was Jack’s Dad (His son was too afraid to get out of the burning car.)

  • Andrew Garfield (Spidey/Peter Parker)
  • Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy)
  • Rhys Ifans (Dr. Curt Connors)
  • Denis Leary (Cpt Stacy/Gwen’s Dad)
  • Campbell Scott (Richard Parker/Peter’s Dad)
  • Martin Sheen (Uncle Ben)
  • Sally Field (Aunt May)
  • and C. Thomas Howell (Jack’s Father) got a part as well.

So everyone go see it.  Take friends and/or family.  You’ll be glad you saw it on the big screen.

Redshirts

A book cover!Redshirts is a fast read and true to John Scalzi’s style, it’s very concise writing.  It’s one of the reasons I love reading his work.  Mr. Scalzi’s style doesn’t lose anything by being concise.  He always tells a great story while not being bogged down in overly wordy books that are purposely overly wordy for the purpose of being overly wordy.

I saw one tweet about Redshirts being about the writing process and once I got to the Codas, I realized the guy was right on target.  Redshirts is as much a novel about the writing process as it is about some folks who figure out they’re lives are in trouble if they go on an away mission with any of the ship’s bridge crew.

I still think John and Wil Wheaton got this whole idea rolling after a few beers at Comic-Con.  It’s a very enjoyable book and if you haven’t read it, you really should.

@scalzi @wilw #omganothergreatbook! #writingwithcrayons

Cling to hope

1 Corintians 13:11 (NIV) When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

In January 2009, I sat down on the side of my bed and prayed in earnest to God for the first time in a couple decades.  I was finally sick enough of my life that I decided to go back to trying to do things God’s way and not my own.  Since then I’ve been reading my Bible and praying and actually trying to grow as a person and as a Christian.  It’s been by no means easy.  Thirty years has passed and it feels like trench warfare.  I’m still the same guy I was before – with one exception: I’m trying again.  I hadn’t really tried at anything since Dad died back in 1982 and when it feels like doors constantly close for you in life, it has a way of reinforcing that defeatist attitude.

I remember standing outside Dad’s bedroom door knowing he’s breathing his last breaths mad at God that Dad had to die and saying to God, “You’re not going to make me go in there and watch that man die.”  I carried the pain of that event around with me like a lodestone along with my defeat.  That wasn’t what God wanted from me then or now.  The lesson I wish to this very day that I had learned was this: God wants us to emphatically and completely trust him.  “Trust me, Justin.  I know what I’m doing with your life.”  It took me twenty-seven years to learn that fact.  You might think, “But, twenty-seven years…” and yes, my life would be completely different had I learned that December 23rd, 1982, but at least I learned it.

One of the first (and most hopeful) passages I read was Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV).  It’s also one of my favorites.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.   12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. [b] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

The whole passage is about restoration.  God loved Israel when Jeremiah wrote it and He loves it just as much today.  He loves each and every one of us equally as well.  As young people, we are filled with so much hope and optimism but often we let life run us down.  That’s life.  There’s highs. There’s lows.  How each of us approaches calamity in life is what defines our character.   I am one hundred percent positive that the reason why we suffer through calamities such as the loss of a parent or child or loved one is God wants to use that event as a catalyst to draw us towards Him and as a testimony on how we handled it when we do trust him through the hardship.  In the short time I’ve been going to CrossRoads Community Church, I’ve seen this act of trust displayed on numerous occasions.  It’s been people of good character trusting God through the hardships, clinging to their spouse and weathering the storm.  When asked, they can say, “We trusted God and we got through it.” Trusting God and the hope are like two tightly woven helicoids of DNA.  They are implicitly bound to one another.  Trusting God gives us hope.  Through hope we persevere.  Through perseverance, we gain character, we grow and we learn that our trust was not in vain.  That, in turn, reinforces our trust.

As we get closer to the day of Christmas and the closing out of the year, find someone to encourage.   If not for them, do it for you.  Be encouraged and be an encourager!  If you think the year has been a lost cause, remember God’s hope and promises.  Cling to hope.  Keep trying.  Don’t quit.  I’ll leave you with this one promise of hope: John 3:16-17 (NKJV)

 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Wow, what hope!  Have a great Christmas and be safe this holiday season!

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Star Wars: The Old RepublicBioWare’s plunged head-on into the Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) arena with their impending launch of SW:TOR.  I’ve had a chance to play a couple of the beta weekends.  The class quests are just top shelf.  So far I’ve tested out the Bounty Hunter and Smuggler class.  The Bounty Hunter companion (Mako) heals you.  The Smuggler companion (Riggs) shoot stuff.  More on this later.

Tron: Legacy – The sequel

In 1982, a movie named Tron hit the screen.  Tron was an adventure set in a digital world constructed with neon and day-glo colors inside a computer system controlled by the Master Control Program (MCP).  Tron starred Jeff Bridges (Kevin Flynn / Clu – Codified Likeness Utility), Bruce Boxleitner (Alan Bradley / Tron), Cindy Morgan (Lora / Yori), Peter Jurasik (Crom) and David Warner (Ed Dillinger / Sark / MCP).  Gladiator games ruled the digital frontier.  Programs fought for survival in disc ring combat, light cycle combat and other such now-iconic modes of warfare on the Grid.  The MCP’s rule of the Grid was absolute in this digital world.  In an attempt to thwart Flynn’s interference from the outside world, MCP used cutting-edge technology to digitally store Flynn inside the computer world which it controls.  Three adventurers – one human (Flynn), two digital (Tron and Yori)  - set out to wrestle control from the MCP and get Flynn back to the real world.  There’s only one place this can happen – the uplink tower at the heart of the MCP’s citadel.  Thus, our adventure began.

Nearly thirty years later, we revisit the world of Tron in Tron: Legacy starring Jeff Bridges (Kevin Flynn / Clu), Garrett Hedlund (Sam Flynn, Kevin’s son), Bruce Boxleitner (Alan Bradely / Tron) and introducing Olivia Wilde (Quorra) to the story.   Lured to the old arcade shop where his Dad used to work by Clu, Sam begrudgingly seeks to find out what may have happened to his estranged father – a father nearly twenty years absent – seeking the answer to one question: why did you abandon me?  Finding a system clock running with over twenty years of run-time on it, Sam – like his father – is transported into Grid where he now faces both foes old and new – as well as an upgraded Grid.

With the MCP gone, the Grid has come  under complete domination of Clu – Kevin Flynn’s surrogate program who’s sole purpose was to create a perfect environment.  Clu seeks to eradicate anything he deems not “perfect”. Kevin Flynn – part of this imperfection himself – manages to escape Clu’s purge into exile to the rugged undeveloped part of the Grid.  In his absence, Clu assumes complete control.  Once again, gladitorial games are afoot on the Gaming Grid.  Once again, programs are forced into combat against one another in a game of digital survival.

Enter one Sam Flynn.

Sam is immedately thrust into the gladitorial games upon being digitally downloaded by Clu while in his father’s old workshop.  Coming to his rescue is Olivia Wilde (Quorra) complete with cool all-terrain car, martial artist, weapons and vehicle expert and all-around good-looking gal.  Along the way, Sam meets colorful characters such as Castor / Zuse, Sirens of exquisite beauty and grace, and a Terminator-style killing machine known as Rinzler.  Sam reunites with his father only to realize that he’s a pawn in Clu’s bigger game. The story moves to its logical conclusion with Sam, Quorra and Kevin reaching the uplink tower all the while being doggedly pursued by Rinzler and Clu’s minions.  It’s a straight-line plot.  There are no fancy twists and turns.  No unexpected revelations.  Yet, Tron: Legacy accomplishes exactly what it set out to do: tell another piece of the Tron story in good cinematic fashion – and tell it well.

Tron: Legacy‘s punctuated by such fabulous performances by the likes of Michael Sheen (Castor / Zuse) in his role as the End of Line bar owner; kick-ass techno music by Daft Punk, some seriously sick combat sequences and stunning visual effects throughout.  Beau Garrett, Serinda Swan, Yaya DeCosta, and Elizabeth Mathis add a sense of the exotic as our Sirens in the movie.  Ring combat and light-cycle combat along with other familiar components lend a continuity to both films. In addition, we get to see new vehicles and dazzling ground and aerial combat sequences in Tron: Legacy. All of these elements work together to bring another chapter in the Tron universe right to your doorstep live and in technocolor.  Whether you see this in 2D or 3D, you’ll want to see it on the big screen – or if you have one at home, a big screen of your own should you choose to wait.

From all of us, to all of you: Well done boys and girls. Well done, indeed.

Matt Stover

It was really cool to hear Matt come and talk on Sunday morning June 13th.  He talked about his walk with God and how that’s affected his outlook on his football career, his family, and especially last season when the Ravens never called him back.

During the summer, the Jets called him offering him his friend’s job.  Matt’s a very decent fellow.  He called his friend Jay Feely and asked how things were going over there.  Their kids played together, they’d hang out together.  After 19 years in the NFL, its natural to develop real friendships and relationships.  After Jay found out the Jets were negotiating with Matt, he spoke with the Jets and let them know he’d heard that they were looking to replace him.  Naturally, the Jets accepted Jay’s offer.  Matt’s told his manager afterward that he’d talked to Jay about the Jets job offer first.  Needless to say, initially, that didn’t go over too well.  Matt assured his manager that he felt like they’d be fine.   More weeks pass and it’s already the third week into the season when the Colts call him and ask Matt to visit.

There are two forms of commitment that a player can expect from a team: something monetary in the form of a signing bonus or something verbal.  Matt went to the Colts and kicked for them.   Matt named off all the shots he had to make (he only missed one).  Keep in mind, he hasn’t practiced with a team all season.  Matt let them know he was committed to them by saying he was ready to kick them into the Super Bowl.  They signed him the same day.  He went on to doing exactly what he said do.  Joe Flacco’s fourth quarter pick-off in the 2009 AFC playoffs made Matt’s previous field goal the game winner — which launched the Colts into the Super Bowl against the New Orleans Saints.

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