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!

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.

Introducing Dark Mode

I’ve added a dark mode to bradbice.com, as well as some quick and simple ratings comparisons.

Dark mode

My website has been a little too bright lately, so I’ve implemented a dark mode which will activate according to your OS settings. Thanks to CSS custom properties and the (prefers-color-scheme: dark) media query, this was really simple to do and was completed in about 30 minutes and around 20 lines of CSS. Most of the time was coming up with alternative colors (granted mostly shades of black, gray, and white at this point) and checking color contrast ratios.

I hope it’s a little easier on your eyes if you’re viewing the site at night or if you’ve turned the rest of your computer dark.

Movie comparisons

My other side project is rating movies. Here I’m collecting every movie I’ve ever watched in my entire life, documenting them, and rating them. My wife will join in when we watch the same movie together.

At times, I may want to compare movies of a certain run, certain eras, that have similar actors, etc. Now I’ve created a simple shortcode in Hugo that allows me to do that by passing in a list of movies like so:

blog-movies "batmanbegins:thedarkknight:thedarkknightrises"

Now I can compare any types of movies, and as many as I can list (as long as I’ve already rated them).

However, as of this writing I’ve only rated 153 of 737 movies (21%), so I’ve got a ways to go before I can fully utilize this feature.

Apple Event, September 2019

My take on this year’s “iPhone event”, Apple’s yearly event to showcase their new hardware.

I didn’t mean for this to be my first full blog post since last year’s event (almost to the day), but here we are.

iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max

I was generally warm on this year’s model after seeing it revealed at the event. THe focus is mostly on the camera, and while there are some great new features, the camera is not the function I use the most on my phone. So I was convinced I was not going to get this year’s model and stick with my XS from last year.

However, that only lasted for about 12 hours and then I preordered a Midnight Green 256GB iPhone 11 Pro. I also ordered a clear case this year, after having the leather case for the last 4 years. I really want to see this new phone’s color so I want to give this type of case a try.

Apple Watch Series 5

The always-on display is very intriguing. It got me to look up how much I could get for my Series 4 on trade-in, but it wasn’t enough to justify buying this watch now. The Series 4 has the health, notification, and activity features that I need now, and while always-on display is a game-changer, I can hold of on that for a year or so.

TV+

I’ll be a subscriber to this for buying a new iPhone, but I would have gladly paid the $4.99/month for this service just to test it out, if nothing else.

The original shows that Apple has lined up aren’t that interesting to me, though “The Morning Show” could be good. My main question is what else we’re getting with the service (movies, TV shows, etc) if anything?

Arcade

I’ll also be trying out Arcade, Apple’s video game subscription service. I’m not convinced that I will maintain a sustained subscription, since I’m not a huge mobile gamer, however a couple of features have me intrigued:

  1. Over 100 games to choose from
  2. Apple devices are including support for PS4 and XBox controllers
  3. These games are expected to work on iOS and tvOS, which means I can play them on my iPhone, iPad, or AppleTV.

Overall the event was a little lackluster, though much of what Apple is unvealing was already leaked and I was privy to since I follow all fo the Apple news channels. It will be exciting to check out the new services from Apple, and see if they will compete with or compliment cometitors such as Disney+, which is another one I’m very excited to check out this Fall.

Apple Event, September 2018

Today’s Apple Event is dubbed “an ‘S’ year”, so the big reveals weren’t groundbreaking, but there’s some real substance there.

Here’s my take:

iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR

I will likely stick to my iPhone X this year. No really compelling reason to upgrade to a XS. Speed, slight camera spec bump, gold, larger size… none are needs or even big wants.

Though that would mean fixing my malfunctioning screen on my current model, so maybe I just talked myself into it.

Apple Watch Series 4

Now this I want. This I need. I’m still wearing an Apple Watch (often referred to as “Series 0”) which is the first iteration of the product. It’s over 3 years old now, but is now 4 generations behind. This means it will not support watchOS 5, is extremely slow compared to newer models, does not have GPS, a lower-brightness display, low tolerance to water, older bluetooth, and no cellular connectivity (though I doubt I would spring for cellular versions, anyway.)

One of the best features of Series 4 for me is the new suite of health and heart-related functions. Heart-rate monitoring has taken a huge step up with both high and low heart rate monitoring, ECG report generation, and generally better Health app integration. As I get older this becomes more of a big deal for me.

I wear my Apple Watch almost every day now, so an upgrade here makes sense.


Overall, this was an important event that unfortunately was spoiled by some Apple leaks that might have lessened the impact of some of the announcements for everyone. Apple is moving forward on some of their products here, with another event rumored for October for some iPad and Mac-related announcements. That’s the one I’m really excited about, though my bank account is not.

And Now... The Movies

A lot can happen when you’re sick and the wife and child are away. Movie ratings are here.

I’ve had a bit of an upper-respiratory infection (undiagnosed) this weekend, and the wife and child are away for a couple of days, so I’ve had a lot of time to sit around the house. This also has meant watching a few movies I normally wouldn’t have.

I’ve long wanted to add movie ratings to my site and so now I’ve done it. Now Natalie and I can both rate movies as we watch them and tally our scores. Check it out at the Movies page.

It’s sparse for now, but we’ll be adding more as we have the time. I’ll also want to redesign the Movies home page a bit to better show our top rated movies, as well as being able to sort by criteria such as rating, genre and date. All in due time.

Enjoy!

Goodbye Facebook

After thinking it over for the past few weeks, I’ve finally pulled the plug and deactivated my Facebook account.

Good-bye! I haven’t fully deleted my account just yet, in case there’s some reason I’m forgetting that I should maintain it. Deactivating it just means people can’t see my timeline or search for me. I’m also assuming it means advertisers can’t access my data, though this link at Facebook’s Help site doesn’t explicitly state that.

It’s not that I don’t want to connect with everyone anymore — it’s that I just don’t use Facebook to do it. I wasn’t posting anymore, I don’t really derive much happiness from browsing it anymore (I am using Instagram a little more often lately for keeping up with friends,) and the recent privacy scandals have really sealed the deal about me putting too much of my life information on there.

So, bye-bye Facebook. It’s been real.