After Hours Blog

This is a personal and professional blog by me, Brad Bice. I've combined all of my opinions, reviews, technical learnings and other writings and ramblings into one stream of consciousness. Thanks for stopping by!

Goodbye Twitter, on to Mastodon

Where I say goodbye to a now horribly run company, steered into the ground by yet another horrible rich person.

Goodbye Twitter, I’m moving to Mastodon

Twitter as a service had become my go-to tool for collecting news over the past 5-10 years. I quickly learned that following select resources that deliver consistent value - and eliminating any “fluff” accounts that I don’t really care for or follow - is the best way to get the most value from the service.

I also quickly learned to download a 3rd-party app to access Twitter, and found Tweetbot by Tapbots to be the cleanest, best experience for me.

I also learned to use Lists - groups of related Twitter accounts - to consume news and info. I had lists for News, Sports, Weather, Apple news, Entertainment, and more. This way I could read only targeted information on what I was interested in at the time.

Life was good.


In October 2022, the world’s richest person (that is, before he lost more money than anyone ever, due to his horrible decision making) acquired Twitter and took it private, and subsequently began firing many of the executives and teams that he deemed were no longer needed. His decision making is covered in the excellent Twitter is Doing Great! blog, highlighting what an absolute dumpster fire it has been, and showcasing how arrogant, inept, childish, and insecure the new owner really is.

Among terrible decisions including allowing anyone to buy a blue Twitter “verified” checkmark (leading to multiple account impersonations, many fooling news organizations with their fake announcements) and forcing employees to buy in to a toxic and intimidating culture of working harder and for longer hours, Twitter devs were instructed to cut off 3rd party access to Twitter data.

Cutting off 3rd party access meant that apps like Tweetbot, Twitterific (click through to see their eulogies) and many others are unable to exist. As alternatives to the official Twitter app, they did not have ads and operated under their own subscription fees. On a random Thursday evening, access was cut off without any notice or terms. A tweet from the Twitter Dev account mentioned cutting off access for breaking rules, and then subsequently invented and added those rules in the following days.


All to say, I’m leaving Twitter. I will not be posting there, I will not be following anyone there that I can not elsewhere, and my use of the service will be relegated to emergency use for checking updates by local and national accounts that have yet to get their act together and move to a reputable service.

The current, most popular alternative is Mastodon. Mastodon is a Twitter-like activity posting service, but differs in that it is federated: no one person, company or server owns all of Mastodon’s posts or foundations. Anyone can be followed - just like Twitter - by any other user. It’s free from ads and algorithms that tell you what you want. Probably 80% of the people and companies I followed at Twitter are on Mastodon, and roughly 60% of them have moved there exclusively.

Tapbots have developed a Tweetbot-like app named Ivory that is very well done, and allows me to seamlessly transition to Mastodon without skipping a beat. Ivory is in the early stages still - with some bugs and features yet to iron out - but it is very much functional and worth every penny of the subscription fee ($25/year).


I’ve also taken the opportunity to own more of my own data. I post as many “micro posts” here on my website as I can, instead of directly into Mastodon. This way I keep my data, and it gets shared to Micro.blog (another Twitter alternative) and to my Mastodon account. Micro.blog also cross-posts to my Twitter account, but I think I’ll be turning that off (Edit: turned off).


This is kind of a template now, similar to my Goodbye, Facebook post in 2018 (now updated).

Blindly following tyrannical and in-compassionate people and their causes is a pet peeve of mine. Not having the decency to respect those that have stood by and for something enough to give them the time of day is another. Twitter is a dumpster fire that will surely consume itself over time - if not within the year then surely over the next 5. And I’ll be happy to post all about it over on Mastodon.

What do I do?

A question I get often, and often struggle with answering, is: “So what do you do for work?”

Quote from the movie "Office Space": "What would you say you do here?"

I am currently Principal Product Designer, Design System at Pluralsight.

I work on design systems, which are basically groups of tools, resources, principles, and libraries that designers and developers use to create digital products. Tools include color palettes, design program setups, and other items used to create digital art or products. Resources include research histories, best practices, documentation, and communication connections. Principles define what the design system and its parts are trying to accomplish, and why and how people should apply the systems to their work. Libraries include groups and types of elements that make up a digital product, including pieces like buttons and form inputs, and shared resources like icons and digital art.

That can be a lot, and design systems can be vital to a product, brand, or team in helping to align toward a single source of truth. This often requires a person or an entire team to be dedicated soley to curating and maintaining them as a product.

I work closely with our design and engineering teams to help bridge communications, establish best practices, and ensure that all of our people have the tools and resources they need to work and produce fast and efficiently.

New job: Principal Designer at Pluralsight

I’m happy to announce I have started as Principal Product Designer, Design System at Pluralsight!

Pluralsight logo

Pluralsight logo

After 7 years and 3 months at Cars.com, I began a new position with Pluralsight in May of this year as Principal Product Designer on the Design Operations team. I’ll be work on the Design System team with two very experienced and talented engineers (and hopefully more members soon) as we take the Pluralsight design system to its next level of evolution.

Working at Cars.com was a truly beneficial experience that brought me many opportunities, challenges, and experiences throughout my time there. I loved working in downtown Chicago, in two separate and beautiful office buildings right in the heart of a city that would captivate me on a daily basis. During my tenure there, I grew from a “Visual Designer” that could develop some frontend web pages to a Senior Manager of Product Design, leading the design system efforts as well as the direction of our Product Design practice.

At Pluralsight I have been fortunate enough to be welcomed onto a great team of people, which was the main draw for me. Working with and around (virtually, at least) experienced, knowledgeable, empathetic, and helpful people helps motivate me, and also helps me grow as a designer, employee, and person. Pluralsight as a company also exhibits many of the culture and professional aspects I’ve been looking for, including working toward a good cause, being inclusive, and emphasizing a good work/life balance.

There’s a lot to do to get where we want to be with the design system at Pluralsight, and I’m very excited at where we’ll be going over the next year. I’m gracious and humbled to have this opportunity.

Even More Movie Ratings Groups

Time for some more groups of ratings, folks!

In these series of posts, similar to the last one, I post groups of related movies I’ve watched and compare their ratings. This time I’m going to add some other stats as well.

Batman movies

  • Average score: 58.43%
  • 80s/90s movies average: 45.25%
  • Nolan trilogy average: 76%

Star Trek movies

  • Average score: 54.5%
  • Originals average: 50.33%
  • Next Generation average: 53.25%
  • Kelvin timeline average: 69.5%

Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 1 movies

  • Average score: 71.2%

Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 2 movies

Average score: 54.5%

Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 3 movies

  • Average score: 66.25%

Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 4 movies

  • Average score: 68.5%
  • MCU total average: 65.11%

New ratings, June 2022

Newly added ratings in TV and Movies for June 2022

As always, all ratings are in the Library.

Movies

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” was a great popcorn movie. There was enough craziness and special effects to forgive a less-than-stellar plot (and Benedict Cumberbatch’s stiff acting, he does much better in other roles) and it kept me interested throughout, something the previous installment did not do.

“Dune” suprised me as I went in thinking this would be more of a Stargate clone, but it relied more heavily on dark cinematography and drama, which worked. The size of the visuals is worth the price of admission here, and I’m excited to see a sequel if it’s made.

TV

“Moon Knight” started out hot but then got its feet caught up in the sand and too many levels of Egyption-type lore. Also having little-to-no connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe hurt it a bit, as I was waiting for that to happen all series. Ultimately decent and entertaining, though not as good as I was hoping for.

“Obi-Wan Kenobi” was saved by incredible Darth Vader scenes, and the return of James Earl Jones and Hayden Christiansen as Vader in and out of suit, respectively. Ewan McGregor is fantastic, as usual, but the series didn’t have enough vital “meat” to it to feel truly significant.

“The Boys” is shock-TV superheroes for a Trump-era America, basically poking fun at everyone who thinks conservatism will save America. Some funny moments, some cool drama and tension-filled scenes, some over-the-top blood, sex, and gore… It’s not something I’d recommend to almost anyone, but it’s been a fun ride for what it is so far (2 seasons in).

“Yellowstone” started out hot: my wife and I were absolutely hooked about 3-4 episodes in. Season 1 was all over the place plot-wise, but it was fun to watch. Season 2 was bad, and season 3 was slow. Season 4 picked back up a little, but it ultimately never hit its high spots ever again. Worth watching, for sure, and we’re looking forward to season 5, however we’re hoping it can gain back a little of its lost luster.

New ratings, April 2022

Newly added ratings for TV and Movies

As always, all ratings are in the Library.

Movies

“The Lighthouse” was a “beautiful in a creepy way” telling of a classic going-mad tale. Willem Dafoe is brilliant as always, underscoring my new appreciation for his acting prowess. The film style lends to the drama and suspense as well, providing a thrilling atmosphere of suspense and fear.

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” didn’t live up to the hype for me, though I was spoiled by the reveals having waited until it was available to rent to see it. Ultimately it seemed a bit of an overstep for the formula, repeating a lot of the same types of jokes and stretching the cast and story a bit too far without fundamentally changing it enough to be fresh. Hopefully this is the last for this rendition of Spider-Man, and maybe we’ll see a new take (but keeping within the MCU continuity).

TV

“Severance” is brilliant. Its combination of comedy, drama, sci-fi, and suspense, all built on top of a very intriguing and intertwining mystery, made it a must-see for me each week. Those benefitting from being able to binge this entire season will love it. There were hints of Stanley Kubrick as well as Black Mirror-type storytelling and settings throughout, which added to the thrills.

Winter Cleaning, 2022

It was time for some cleanup around these parts, so here’s a list of what was fixed.

I spent some time this winter diving deep into this website and cleaning up what was initially a lot of add-on, messy, and less-than-optimally organized code. I also made some design updates and basically rounded off a lot of sharp edges. Here’s a roundup, for posterity:

Design changes

  • Standardized link hover states
  • Removed sunruise lines from homnepage
  • Fixed heading sizes in article-stubs
  • Changed up and fixed some dark mode colors and styles
  • Standardized button and form specs across the site
  • Fixed some movie rating layout issues
  • New menu button location and fixed header
  • Tweaked the Blog header to use a less-repeating image of the Chicago skyline

Code cleanup

  • Moved seasonal styles to date-conditional class
  • Restructured articles layout, and basically re-wrote the entire structure of every page
  • Changed colors to use hsl()
  • Converted all font-size px values to rem
  • Fixed some broken links across the site
  • Converted all modals to the new <dialog> element
  • Changed the primary branch from master to main

Content

What’s next

This was a clean-up and bug-fix phase, and now I have a list of some enhancement, performance, accessibility, and usability fixes to come next. Not to mention that it’s about time for a design refresh soon. This is a 2018 special that’s been going strong, and I’m happy with it still, but the itch is forming.

  • Core Web Vitals work
  • Lazy loading ratings images
  • Performance! ~Currently scoring a 60 (94 on desktop) on the homepage. Embarrassing.~ Edit: That was actually some adblocking scripts getting picked up. All good with 100 now!

More Movie Ratings Groups

Rating groups of movies, just for fun.

Let’s bring up some groups of movies and compare their ratings, ok?

Christopher Nolan movies

Quentin Tarrantino movies

Star Wars (release order)

Tom

On your birthday, a goodbye letter that’s a year overdue.

When someone from my direct family leaves us, I usually have the opportunity to stand up and say a few words from my heart about what that person has meant to me, what they’ve meant to all of us, and the lasting impression they will leave now that they are gone. I wasn’t exactly given that opportunity in a formal setting, so I feel this has been an unchecked box for quite a while now.

Tom left us too early, with so much more potential for life talks, inappropriate jokes, supportive phone calls, Michigan football games, and family get-togethers that we feel robbed of by his absence. We look back on the past 5 years that he’d suffered through (and that Karen had beside him as well), and our hearts ache that any person would have to go through the pain and the anguish, and the anxiety of “is this going to be the time?”, let alone someone so close to us. And we’ve been just far enough way, and buried in our world of jobs and children (our oldest was born at the same time Tom had life-threatening heart surgery), that we’ve had to anguish with them but from afar, both physically and mentally.

But I guess that’s the thing: We instinctively think of the past 5 years and think “That’s a shame about what Tom went through and how it all happened.” But after that fades, there’s a sense of yes, it was bad, however that is 5 years that we had to still talk with Tom. That is 5 years that Tom was able to watch his grandsons grow older (and one be born). That is 5 years of occasional get-togethers, birthdays, holidays, and going out to eat. COVID definitely diminished this, but that doesn’t detract from what we were able to do. Phone calls were still there, and Facetime visits were still there. Masks and nice weather allowed some in-person visits, as well.

The point is that the more time is put between us and those 5 years, the more I guess I look back on that time as a blessing rather than a curse. And without diminishing the significance of the bad parts, we can look back on that time as extra time given to us and to our boys to know their Grandpa and to have conversations, take photos, and make memories.

Watching his grandson

Tom watching his grandson ride his bike, something his doctor promised him he would be able to do.

And sometimes, I get tired of thinking about what went wrong in Tom’s life, and I just want to think about all the things that went right. Like how he became a great father for his daughter to talk to. How we’d have so much fun watching the Detroit Lions lose. How he’d love to take long train rides across the country, and visit us in Chicago, and spend way too long reading every placard in the museum exhibits. He loved his sausages and tuna sandwiches and visiting a loved restaurant and a glass of beer. He loved spending time with his friends and family, and yucking it up and complaining about the liberals. He loved walking out to the lake with his dog and enjoying the sunshine and the fresh air. He loved the newspaper and the crossword and his latest history book.

Tom wasn’t perfect. He made mistakes as we all do, and he paid for some of them, as we all do in our own ways. But Tom was mostly just a great person. Ask anyone that’s ever met the guy. Did he ask you how you are first before talking about himself? Did he quickly get off the subject of his medical issues to find out about that trip you took? Did he wear his heart on his sleeve? You’re damn right he did all of those things.

Tom’s legacy lives on in our hearts and in our memories, and in our stories and photographs. He’s not gone, but just transferred from a person that can only be with us sometimes, to an idea, a feeling, a presence, and a thought that can be with us forever.

“So, there we were, in the Florida sunshine, my wife of 35 years, my daughter, and my son-in-law. Folks, it doesn’t get any better than that for me. Would I go back and change any of that? Not on your life.” - Tom Fett

My Favorite Holiday Movies, Ranked

Here are my favorite holiday movies, and how I’ve rated them.

The criteria for the rating system is explained here, and does not necessarily take into account which is the best holiday movie. This list is fairly accurate however. As you can see, guilty pleasures like “The Holiday” and “Love Actually” represent the corny – yet necessary – side of the holidays.