150 (ish)-Word Movie Review: “Godzilla”

WHAT: Godzilla
WHEN: Friday, May 16, 7:15 p.m. show
WHERE: Bemidji Theatre

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So, I really liked this movie. A lot. It felt entirely too short on the monster-on-monster fighting action, and I was caught off-guard a bit by the fact that Godzilla was never really attacked by human armies (although they were planning to blow him up as collateral damage to kill the two monsters they *did* want to kill), but overall this movie was really fun. You can really appreciate what can be done with modern special effects, and the scope of city destruction in this movie just further hammers home how far overboard the Superman/Zod fight went in “Man of Steel.” The roar was great; Godzilla looked like a believable, modern Godzilla; they had the good sense to include the nuclear breath as a finishing move; the “bad” monsters were very cool and were suitable Godzilla foes. They also dropped a subtle, but awesome, Mothra reference.

I’d go see this again in the theaters without hesitation.

Review: ‘Infamous: Second Son’ for PS4

A few weeks back Melissa borrowed “Infamous: Second Son” from a co-worker; as she had monopolized our time with “Thief,” the previous game she had borrowed in this fashion, I made sure to start playing right away. I’ve played all the way through it — it’s the second PS4 game I’ve completed after “Knack” (and Infamous is a significantly better game than Knack), and I have to say I am enjoying it quite a bit. The game allows you to take two divergent paths — good karma or evil karma, dependent on the choices you make in the game (typically revolving around the characters you decide to kill or not kill). My first play through in normal difficulty was on the good karma path, and I’ve started a second play through on expert difficulty on the evil karma path.

What I like:
• This is a very pretty game. The game has an impressive draw distance, and some of the views you can get from certain vantage points in the city are just beautiful.

• I liked the characters. Delsin Rowe’s a well-developed protagonist, and his brother Reggie provides a grounded balance for him. Even the game’s main villain became somewhat sympathetic by the time the game wrapped up, which I thought was interesting. I’ll be curious to see how the ending differs with evil karma rather than good karma.

• The control scheme is straight-forward and the game does a good job of slowly doling out your powers to give the player a relatively flat learning curve. The game is easy to control, and once you are comfortable with firing off your various smoke-powered moves you’re pretty much set for the rest of the game, even through the three power shifts.

• The side missions are fun. The graffiti missions are a neat touch, and I very much enjoyed the “kill the DUP spy” missions. Neon power made these more enjoyable; oftentimes you could locate and assassinate the spy without getting close enough to trigger his flight response and start a chase through town. However, I sort of felt like the game needed one additional collectible layer to encourage exploration of Seattle’s various towers and tunnels. I’ll be forever spoiled by the Riddler trophies in Batman: Arkham City.

• I like that the trophies all seem obtainable if you put the time into the game to earn them. My biggest frustration with the Batman: Arkham series is the insistence on making you grind the sidebar combat scenarios to earn a significant volume of the game’s trophies. I don’t enjoy playing that kind of content, let alone farming it. Those side missions are entirely separate from the main game and are in no way required to progress, and as a result they have effectively walled me off from even wanting to chase the platinum trophies. Second Son isn’t like that at all — you can earn every single trophy by simply playing the game. I love that. I definitely have an opportunity to have this game be my first platinum trophy, which is going to be pretty cool if it happens.

• Related to that point, the game is challenging but not difficult. It’s a game that you can beat if you have some competency with video games and decide to put the time in to play it. There were two boss fights I struggled with, but that was more a matter of execution on my part than the fights being too challenging for me to complete. But in general the game seemed difficult enough to feel like I had to put effort into completing it, but not so difficult that there were points that frustrated me to a point where I was tempted to quit.

• Delsin’s travel abilities are so much fun to use and the scenery for the game is so great that I essentially ignored the fast-travel option.

What I didn’t like as much:
• I was hoping for more divergent play styles to emerge from the different power sources; there are some distinctions but for the most part the four different powers play essentially the same. For example, neon’s only real difference from smoke is to make you a more effective sniper (which is great); video’s only real difference from neon is that you move from sniper to stealth melee as a secondary way to kill enemies (which is fun but only useful situationally, and you can’t stealth-assassinate heavily armored enemies); concrete is essentially the same as smoke but forces you to chain-kill your enemies so you can move from one to the next and drain them for power. Beyond those minor differences, Delsin primarily fights as a mid-range caster with some heavy-ammo abilities for taking out vehicles and armored mobs in all four power configurations throughout the game. He has melee abilities, but they are far more suited for situational use in defensive situations; Delsin’s certainly not meant to be a primarily melee damage-dealer.

• Once you get concrete, if you still have side missions to complete there’s really no reason to choose any of the other three power sources. You burn through your resources faster, but concrete hits so much harder and gives you a travel ability that’s so significantly better than the other three powers that it doesn’t make sense to not use it.

• I didn’t feel that there was enough punishment for killing civilians once you went down the hero path. If there was a group of DUPs with one civilian in it, there wasn’t much hesitation to using a rocket to take out the whole group and deal with some collateral damage. I didn’t do this often just because I was making an effort to stay in the blue, but there seemed to be effectively no consequences for the occasional accidental killing of a civilian. I didn’t want to test it too thoroughly, because it seemed like the bump you got from a busting an individual drug deal — the only way to farm good karma other than healing injured people — seemed similarly insignificant and I didn’t want to see how many drug busts it would take to balance out a grip of dead bystanders.

• For me the control schemes took awhile to get used to. The timing and positioning of smoke-dashes to use the red vents for vertical travel took me awhile to figure out, and it’s really only on my second play through that I can jump right into them without fumbling around and charging into the wall a couple of times before successfully finding my way into the vent.

• Enemy AI is a little weak in some places; you can bait some of the DUP troops into running back and forth between the same two cover spots which can make them easier to take out.

• You can get juggled in some of the boss fights — taking a series of repeated hits that you aren’t given time to recover or move in between — which can get frustrating.

• There’s effectively zero penalty for getting killed, other than whatever pull you’re working on gets reset when you pop at the respawn point. At first this seems like a plus, as it somewhat emboldens you to jump into situations where you’re crazily outmanned just to see if you can pull it off, but by the time you get to the second island it serves to encourage sloppy play.

• There’s a dead spot in the environment in the underground lair where you confront Eugene and get the video power where the game slows to a crawl and the game freaks out a bit if you try and approach a certain video monitor.

• I wish Delsin would’ve had a chance to meet the DUP phone operator to whom he places the crank calls announcing he’s defaced the billboards and triggering the zone-defense missions (which in general I felt were all too easy). Solid opportunity for future downloadable content there, Sucker Punch.

• The free mission that’s available with the download code in the package isn’t available for purchase on PSN. Since we borrowed the game, and the code had been used by the original owner, I’m unable to play that mission. I would’ve paid for a download without hesitation. Hopefully that’ll be included in the game’s inevitable DLC.

• There are exactly enough powered shards in the game for you to drain as currency for your ability tree as you need to max out your skills in all four power trees. And since you do not get concrete until you defeat the final boss, there are significantly more shards available to you than there are moves to spend them on in the first three power trees. It means you can stockpile shards until you hit the correct hero/villain level to unlock new powers and fully charge them immediately, and there are no legitimate choices to make regarding your powers. For example, while you certainly can make a decision to delay a four-shard upgrade in order to chase down one more drone and take a five-shard upgrade first, the shards are so easy to acquire that you likely wouldn’t feel much of a pinch by simply taking the four-shard upgrade and then farming up five more shards in relatively short order.

The negative things are mostly nitpicks; I really enjoyed this game. It’s one of the very, very few games I’ve ever played that I knew without question I would replay once I finished it for the first time — not only for the experience of going down the opposite karma path, but also because it’s just fun to play.

20140507-BartlettMetrics for May

I have updated my monthly measurement of social media follower data on the Big Two channels of Facebook and Twitter for the institutions in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

Audiences for the seven state universities were measured on the morning of Monday, May 5; the two-year colleges were measured around noon the same day. The methodology is simple; the channels are all visited and whatever follower number is being represented by the service is entered into a Google Docs spreadsheet by hand. The spreadsheets are available publicly; you can visit them here:

• state universities
• state colleges

MnSCU State Universities

There isn’t much to report this month; there were no real standout changes in any category for any of the seven schools, and for the most part everyone’s growth was slightly down from April.

  • Bemidji State went over 15,000 total followers with 11,877 on Facebook [0] and 3,449 on Twitter [0]; we picked up 413 total fans since the April measurement and our total audience is still more than 300 percent of our enrollment.
  • St. Cloud State is about two months away from being the first of the MnSCU state universities to go over 30,000 in combined fans and followers. Their Facebook growth was up [0] to 22,392, and Twitter’s up to 6,892 [0]. They’re on pace to hit 30k sometime in the second half of June.

As an aside, St. Cloud State’s audience is one of the reason I’m considering adding a column that shows changes by percentage rather than a raw number. For example, their growth of 370 is a 1.68-percent bump from last month, while our growth of 309 is a 2.67-percent bump. It still means we’ll never catch them, but some additional context for data is always helpful.

  • Minnesota State had probably the only really significant milestone for this measurement period, edging over 20,000 total fans and followers for the first time. They’re the second MnSCU university to get there; St. Cloud State got there sometime between Dec. 17, 2012, and Feb. 13, 2013 (I didn’t do a measurement in Jan. 2013). They went over 15k on Facebook and should be at 5k on Twitter when I do my next measurement in June. They continue to grow at a pretty impressive rate; they gained 641 total fans and followers since the April measurement, a 3.27-percent bump (another reason I’m considering percentage changes).

Across the other universities, Winona State picked up another 313 total and is at 12,890; MSU-Moorhead went over 3,000 on Twitter for the first time; Southwest Minnesota State edged over 4,000 on Facebook for the first time; and Metro State continues to add a dozen Twitter followers a month despite not tweeting for four years (which reinforces the notion that, while these numbers may be fun and somewhat interesting, in the grand scheme of things they don’t mean a whole hell of a lot).

MnSCU State Colleges

This was the fourth month that I measured audience size for MnSCU’s state colleges in addition to the state universities. The data is new and the audiences are comparatively much smaller than the state universities[0], so there’s not much to say regarding trends – particularly since I’m still discovering new data points that haven’t found their way into the previous measurement periods.

One thing that jumped out was Anoka Technical College on Facebook; I had them at 454 fans in my April 2 measurement period, which was exactly even with what I had them at on March 3. However, this week they were up to 948. I’m curious to know what they have been doing; 109-percent growth in a month is pretty crazy, and the gain of 494 was higher than any of the state universities (even St. Cloud).

Minneapolis Community and Technical College added 120 Facebook fans; they’ve been growing quickly there[0] and have overtaken Lake Superior College for the largest audience among the two-year colleges at 6,329[0].

Finally, Itasca Community College joined Twitter last month and already has 116 fans. Welcome to hell, y’all.

Using Day One as a job journal

I’ve been subscribed to the 99U email updates from Behance for awhile; sometimes I pay attention to what’s in them, but often they just get lost in the sea of 14 billion other things I’ve subscribed to over the years that bombard my inbox like a hailstorm every day. However, yesterday one of the entries caught my attention and I actually read it – “The Art of the Done List.” This drove me back to an article from last week, “#labrat: Are Daily Logbooks Worth the Work?,” which I thought was great. It includes some photos of handwritten daily job logs and some screenshots of electronic logs that were submitted from various points around the Interwebs, and I always love seeing insights into how other people think and record their actions.

I’ve read a lot about the usefulness of a daily work log, and I’ve been sporadically keeping one in Day One (which, unrelated, I totally love) for a while now – checking my entry history shows that the first post I tagged with “Job Journal” was on July 8, 2013. I had a couple of subheads: “completed”, “meetings”, “contacts” and “social/other”, and basically it was a simple little list of the eight things I thought to make note of that day in those four categories. Over the last two weeks I have refocused my attention on maintaining this daily logbook. I’m not entirely sure how many of these I have done in total since I started last July, mostly because I went through stages where I paid no attention to tagging posts when I was done.

However, for the last nine days now (I’m keeping a running total of how many consecutive days I’ve done the log in the log – which is a pretty solid motivator) I’ve kept this, which I would feel fairly confident saying is my longest streak so far. I’ve been adapting and adding content over time; for instance, this week I started copying the content from a daily affirmation email on leadership topics from Fieldhouse Leadership [1] into each daily entry, and I’ve switched to categorizing tasks under a common action verb rather than the previous general categories of meetings, contacts, etc. – words like “draft”, “update”, “write”, and “FUP” (my shorthand for “followup”).

I’m also trying to make a concerted effort to be active in a couple of online communities related to higher education marketing and social media, and I’m maintaining a separate “post” entry as a reminder for when I’ve contributed to discussions in those different venues.

I have to say that while this seems like it might be a waste of time, it has proven to be incredibly helpful during the times I have needed to refer back to something and found that I actually remembered to enter the event on that certain day. Email is an easy archive and replacement memory – I have tens of thousands of email messages going back years, and while because of the way Apple’s mail.app threads messages finding a specific message is slightly more challenging than necessary, it can be done relatively quickly. But what of phone calls? Or chance meetings in the hall? I was discovering that those things were lost to the ether, particularly if they were in some way noteworthy but did not lead to information that ended up in my inbox or find its way into a to-do item in Wunderlist.

Sometimes I just want to check and see how many days it’s been since I called someone to check in about something or another. So, ultimately, in addition to becoming a daily list of “these are things I did today” (which is good for the psyche), these lists in Day One have become a de facto low-tech CRM system.

I’m enjoying what I’m doing with Day One in terms of job journaling, and as my work becomes increasingly more complex and intensive because of our seemingly infinitely expanding scope of responsibilities, it’s proven to be a useful tool in the arsenal of toys I’m using to keep work under control.

  1. Thanks to @BradFolkestad for turning me on to that

#BartlettMetrics for April 2014

#BartlettMetrics for April, 2014

My monthly #BartlettMetrics update, measuring and reporting on social media audiences on Twitter and Facebook for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, has been updated for April, 2014.

Audiences for the seven state universities were measured a bit before noon on Wednesday, April 2. The methodology is simple; the channels are all visited and whatever follower number is being represented by the service is entered into a Google Docs spreadsheet by hand. The spreadsheets are available publicly; you can visit them here:

• state universities
• state colleges

MnSCU State Universities

The total followers for the seven MnSCU state universities on Twitter and Facebook reached 94,042, with the audience still skewed heavily toward Facebook. The system’s universities total 71,990 fans on Facebook and 22,052 followers on Twitter.

Bemidji State had an excellent month; it seems clear that our advertising campaigns for both general recruiting and for our online MBA program launching this fall have had an impact on the pace of our growth. We picked up a total of 661 fans (taking us to 14,913) across both channels as compared to the March 3 measurement data; it was our largest increase since we picked up 657 total fans in July of 2013. Per-channel increases were similar; we gained 440 fans on Facebook to reach 11,568; that marked our largest single-month jump since I started doing these systemwide measurements on a roughly monthly schedule in Feb. 2013. We picked up 221 followers on Twitter to get to 3,345, our biggest monthly jump since gaining 227 in July 2013[0]. My “official” report on our social metrics, which I prepare for our Office of Communications and Marketing monthly staff meetings, will be interesting.

Our total audience is also at 300 percent of our enrollment [0]; with 14,913 total followers and a fall enrollment of 4,952, we’re at 301.15 percent. None of the other six MnSCU state universities are at even 200 percent.

Metropolitan State University gained 56 fans on Facebook and sits at 3,102, and gained another 14 Twitter followers to reach 3,581 total followers.[0]

Minnesota State University still hasn’t replicated their crazy growth from October and November of 2013, but they’re still growing at an impressive pace. The Mavericks added 679 total followers for the month, and while they didn’t reach any new milestones on either Twitter or Facebook they’ll be the second state university to go over 20k total audience sometime later this month.

Minnesota State University, Moorhead had a nice month on Twitter, picking up 124 new fans for their second-biggest increase since September. They’re at 2,893 and should be the fourth of the seven state universities to reach 3,000 Twitter followers later this month. They also gained 87 fans on Facebook, which is about in line with their average over the last seven months (which has been 83). The growth helped them go over 9,000 combined followers (9,118); they’re on pace to hit 10,000 sometime in August.

St. Cloud State was off a bit this month, gaining 566 total followers to reach 28,768 total. Their Facebook growth was down; after averaging an increase of 379 new fans per month over the last seven months, they were down to 272 – their lowest single-month increase since October 2013. They still were the first MnSCU institution to go over 22k on Facebook – at 22,022 fans, the Huskies have more followers on Facebook than any of the system’s other institutions have for total followers on Facebook and Twitter combined. Like us, St. Cloud State had a good month on Twitter, picking up 294 fans; that was their biggest increase since a 342-follower bump in Sept. 2013.

At their current pace, the Huskies could be the first MnSCU institution to hit 30,000 in total followers sometime in late May or early June.

Southwest Minnesota State had their typical month, picking up 41 fans on Facebook and 62 fans on Twitter; both are below average for them this academic year (since August, their average gain has been 56 fans on Facebook and 84 followers on Twitter). Had I measured them at a different time of the day, they’d probably be at 5,500 fans; their total now is 5,499, so I’ll hopefully have a milestone to talk about for them in May.

Winona State University finally inched over 10,000 fans on Facebook; they gained 235 for the month and sit at 10,214. They also gained 121 on Twitter – identical to their growth there last month, which was interesting. Consecutive identical numbers in data like this always stands out.

MnSCU State Colleges

Highlighting the April #BartlettMetrics report for the two-year colleges are a number of new data points. Thanks to Andrea Steen at the system office, who helped me track down a variety of accounts that, for whatever reason, I had overlooked on my first attempt to inventory the state’s two-year colleges. Here’s a list of what’s been added:

• Twitter data added for Anoka Technical College.
• Twitter data added for Anoka-Ramsey Community College.
• Facebook and Twitter data added for Central Lakes College.
• Facebook data added for Century College.
• Switched Facebook account to track for MState.
• New campus: MState Moorhead (Facebook and Twitter data added)
• New campus: MState Wadena (Facebook and Twitter data added)
• Added Twitter data for Northland Community & Technical College.
• Added Twitter data for Riverland Community College.
• Added Facebook data for St. Paul College.
• Added Twitter data for St. Cloud Community and Technical College.
• Vermillion Technical College renamed to Vermillion Community College; added Facebook and Twitter data.

There is a combined “MState fan page” presence for the four-campus MState institution, and MState’s Wadena and Moorhead campuses each have unique Twitter and Facebook presences. As a result, the MState fan page is reported separately, and I have added new standalone measurement data for the Moorhead and Wadena campuses.

With the number of changes made to the data this month, there are no real meaningful comparisons to be made (for example, St. Paul College gained 5,119 fans on Facebook since the last measurement, but only because I wasn’t previously including that channel in its data). After this round’s additions, there are only four schools with missing data points – and all are Twitter accounts. As a result, comparisons and trends will begin in the May release of the data.

With this month’s increases and the additions of new data, across the 30 campuses being tracked the two-year colleges in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system have a combined total of 77,179 followers – 61,342 fans on Facebook and 15,837 followers on Twitter.

MnSCU aggregate followers

2-year colleges: 61,342 on Facebook, 15,837 on Twitter; 77,179 total
4-year colleges: 71,990 on Facebook, 22,052 on Twitter; 94,042 total
System-wide: 133,332 on Facebook, 37,889 on Twitter; 171,221 total

#BartlettMetrics for November

MnSCU social media follower data

For the last few months, I’ve been sharing some notes about social media following totals for the seven state universities in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system on Twitter.

I started compiling the information for use at work, just as an easy way to compare us to the other six schools, on a “when I remember to do it” basis back in mid-2011. This fall, I started updating it at the beginning of each month so I could include the data in some monthly metrics reports I give at our Office of Communications and Marketing staff meetings. After seeing that the information was going to be updated regularly, I decided to make the Google Docs spreadsheet where I’d been stashing the data publicly available and to give shout-outs on Twitter to the other schools when they passed some noteworthy follower milestone.

Yes, I know that the raw number of followers isn’t a particularly good — or even useful — way to measure an organization’s social media presence. There are some useful insights to be found in the data, however, especially if you’re looking for patterns or trends and not necessarily at the raw number of followers.

#BartlettMetrics

The #BartlettMetrics hashtag was born in October during a direct-message exchange with the social media manager at St. Cloud State. Make no mistake – it. is. awesome. Especially given my background in sports information, I love this and am rolling with it.

This month, I decided to expand a bit on the few tweets I sent out this morning and play with the data in a bit more detail.

#BartlettMetrics update for December, 2013

Looking at the spreadsheet that was updated this morning and the first thing that became immediately obvious to me was “growth is in the tank across the board.”

We only picked up 80 new Facebook fans since the last measurement, and both Crowdbooster (+102) and Sprout Social (+126, net +110 with 16 un-likes) reported us as having far lower-than-usual new fan counts for the month of November.1 As a point of comparison, both were our lowest in the last 12 months (since Nov. 2012, in fact).

New Twitter follows were down also; after six consecutive months of adding more than 200 per month, we were down to 143 in November (Crowdbooster reported a gain of 81 followers in November, and Sprout Social reported a gain of 129.2)

Others were off as well; Minnesota State added a total of 601 followers in November, far and away the highest total of the seven schools I’m tracking, but their lowest in six months and coming off of back-to-back months adding more than a thousand people. Winona State only added 210 after picking up 1,500 over the previous three months. Southwest Minnesota State only added 71 after gaining about 550 over the previous three months. MSU Moorhead stayed relatively on course with 171 new fans, on par with where they’ve been for four of last five months.3

So everyone is a bit off, even though none of this is remotely scientific.

In terms of milestones, then, there wasn’t much to report. Minnesota State went over 4,000 followers on Twitter. I was expecting Southwest to go over 5,000 total followers for the month, but they fell just short at 4,942.

And Metro State’s account somehow continues to add a few Twitter followers every month despite not tweeting for years.

What can you take from all of this? Not much. Everybody’s trends are off for the month, but looking back this mirrors what happened with us in November of last year as well. We will see if everyone rebounds in December.

Pct. Enroll stat

One thing I haven’t managed to update for everyone is the total followers as a percentage of enrollment stat. This is primarily attributable to the fact that everyone in the system was down in enrollment this year, and only us, St. Cloud State and Winona State had fall enrollment releases on our respective websites. I’ll add that back in for everyone at some point in the future, once their fall enrollment can be gathered from other sources (I should just call them all and ask).


  1. And, yes, it drives me absolutely nuts that the Crowdbooster (+102) and Sprout Social (+110) numbers are different. It’s the kind of situation that makes it quite difficult to take any of this seriously. 

  2. See [^1], above. 

  3. Moorhead’s outlier is a gain of 403 in August; aside from that they’ve been around 190 for the last five months. 

The Price of Software

The Price of Software

Earlier today, I jumped into an interesting Twitter discussion on the price of software started by iA. iA makes Writer, which I use at work almost every day. It’s become the go-to place for me to draft the various things I have to write as part of my job.

iA dropped a hint today on Twitter that it’s giving some thought to increasing the price of Writer for the upcoming Version 2. And not just by a little bit. They said this:

https://twitter.com/iA/status/403198445940662273

…and this:

https://twitter.com/iA/status/403199654973956096

It’s an interesting situation to think about. Much has been written about software’s seeming trend toward “free” as a price point; Ben Thompson wrote a good piece about this at Stratēchery back in October. If iA is going to attempt to swim against this current, it’s going to be interesting to watch.

Writer is great — as I said, I essentially use it daily. But it would be interesting to see if they would have success with this sort of business move. I am reminded of my early days working in the sports information office at Kansas State; not long after I graduated from college, I decided I wanted to be able to take some of my work home with me, so I spent $169 to buy my own copy of Pagemaker (I think it was the Adobe-branded version, just after they had purchased Aldus). That seemed crazy at the time, but since I wanted to work at home it was really my only choice. It would be another several years before I would have a laptop at work, and about six years and a new job until I had an Apple laptop.

That same “it was really my only choice” doesn’t exist today, and it certainly doesn’t exist for Writer. There are plenty of capable competitors that exist in Writer’s space — lightweight, minimalist applications that exists to facilitate a clean writing environment. Byword, for example, is completely capable, has a couple of features that Writer does not (like built-in ability to publish to a blog), and has Mac and iOS versions. Draft is a web app that has similar functionality. And that’s just a start; there are plenty of alternatives to Writer.

It’s difficult to imagine that Writer could add a killer feature that would be so game-changing that it would justify anything in the neighborhood of a 200 percent price increase.

Still. The very fact that they’re talking about it is going to make me pay a lot of attention to how they talk about Writer 2 going forward.

What I’m Reading

Missed New Comic Day last week, so Helen and I caught up today; today’s pull included G.I. Joe #10, Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #23 and Batman #25. Pretty light haul for two weeks; Star Wars #11 was out today but the shop’s copy or two was already gone by the time I got there. I’ll have to look elsewhere.

NCMPR presentation

Since I have been tragically poor at reporting in at the ol’ blog, I’ve missed out on sharing some fun stuff over the last two months. Notably, for the first time ever, I presented at a regional conference. On Sept. 24, I gave a breakout talk at the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations District V conference in Bloomington, Minn., called “Using Off-the-Shelf Software to Build a News Clip Tracking System.”

I wrote a bit about my initial process for building a system in Filemaker Pro for tracking media mentions back in July; it took me until just a few days before the presentation to get everything perfected, but the system is now working the way I had originally envisioned.

I had about 45 minutes to present, and my breakout was late in the conference and opposite a session with tips for online advertising. The conference was small to begin with, about 65 attendees to start, so by the time my presentation rolled around I had maybe 18 in my session. So it was a nice small audience for me to deliver my first presentation.

I started out pretty well, but nerves hit after about 15 minutes and I’m not sure I ended very strong. I thought I had some troubles explaining my general concept for building the application — assigning a unique identifier to each news release in a list of stories, tagging media clips with that unique identifier when necessary, then using Filemaker functionality to make a list of clips that are tagged that is accessible directly from the release list. If I had a chance to give the presentation again in a different venue, I have some ideas for how I’d completely redo this section with some better visuals to make what I tried to do more clear. I know I could do better the second time around.

Overall, though, the presentation was successful; I got a lot of questions afterward, some of which branched out into other topics like social media measurement that weren’t even part of what I had prepared for. Most importantly, I learned a lot about processes for presenting and what sort of things I need to keep in mind to polish up when I next have an opportunity to present. The presentation also reinforced that I’m on the right track for my general presentation philosophy — lots of full-screen graphics when necessary, and very minimal text on the screen. My presentation ended up being heavy in terms of total number of slides (I was around 70 for what turned out to be about a 25-minute presentation), but I thought it was clear and kept the reading burden for the audience to a minimum.

It would be fun to find another opportunity to present and continue to practice. I think it’s something I could get to be pretty good at in time.

Pouring one out for the Lutes Circle house

So, my old neighborhood is gone.

First, some back story. This past Friday, Helen and I were having some random conversation about things that are of import to eight-year-olds, and at some point she started asking about stitches – specifically, if I had ever had any. I told her I had, and told her about my largest wound that necessitated stitches – the puncture wound in my left palm from a sharp rock when I was in the second grade. She asked where it happened, so I told her about the place I lived at the time – on a corner on Lutes Circle in Fort Bliss, Texas.

Due to the power of the Internet, I told her “I can even show you exactly where I fell. We will get on Google Maps and I will show you my house and the park where I got hurt.”

It didn’t work out that way. I found the neighborhood easily enough. But every single house in it is gone. The only thing left of the entire housing development are paved roads and dirt.

I lived here.

You can see these odd marks in the dirt with residual vegetation that show you where the houses sort of used to be. Emphasis on “used to be” – they’re all gone, every single one of them. Single-family houses, some 2-3 story apartment buildings, the little convenience store in the middle where I can remember buying pens and comic books. Just gone.

I haven’t seen any of those buildings in 30 years, but it’s still a little weird to look at this picture and realize the whole thing is just… gone. You think of houses being lost to things like fires or natural disasters or something like that; my old neighborhood had a stray foundation for a house that had burned down and never been rebuilt. We used that foundation as a launching pad for bike jumps. So you just know that kind of thing can happen. But an entire neighborhood, just wiped away? That’s a little weird.

I’d really be curious to know why this happened. It looks as if the neighborhood was leveled in 2011 and is planned for replacement because the homes had basically fallen into disrepair.

http://www.elpasotimes.com/ci_22827516/fort-bliss-commences-final-stage-housing-expansion

It looks like the neighborhood is being replaced with this: http://www.ftblissfamilyhousing.com/