2016 LA Rams Season Wrap-Up

I wrote earlier this year about how my Rams fandom started, and that my wife and I had bought season tickets for their return to LA. Needless to say the season hasn’t gone quite as I or any other Rams fan had hoped. The excitement of having my team back in my city that had grown during training camp and the first two games of the pre-season quickly faded during the disaster that was the Monday Night Football game against San Francisco. That 28–0 loss quickly grounded me back in reality and reminded me that these were still the Rams, and a move to a new city wasn’t going to change that.

The home opener against Seattle was a slog to a 6–3 that would be the only home victory Fisher and the Rams would produce to date. The two wins that followed were hard fought, but were enough to create some excitement. It was the first time that we’d go into week 5 with a 3–1 record since 2006. I’ll let that sink in for a little bit.

The 30–19 loss to the Bills at home stung, but if I’m honest with myself, I saw it coming. They were coming into the game emboldened by the shut out they had handed New England the week before. The game in Detroit the following week, I think, is where I realized that this wasn’t going to be the season that I’d hoped. It showed me that it didn’t matter if the offense finally found it’s flow. That game would be the best game of both Case Keenum’s (QB) and Kenny Britt’s (WR) careers. Yet the defense couldn’t hold the Lions back, and ended up losing the game 28–31.

The “we get in our own way” losing continued against the Giants in London, losing 17–10. But then we had a sweet respite, the bye week, followed by their return to LA for a home game against the Carolina. But again no dice, The defense kept the Panther’s score low, but the offense couldn’t deliver the goods in front of a frustrated home crowd who booed each dropped pass and began calling for Jared Goff. This 13–10 loss cemented the fact that Case Keenum would not be starting at the Coliseum again.

In Case’s final game as the starter in New York against the Jets, the defense kept the Jets to 6 points, but the offense was again anemic, winning the game on the leg of Greg Zuerlein (K) who scored 9 points. The following week it was announced that the prodigal son, the #1 overall draft pick Jared Goff was finally ready to make his grand debut in front of a home crowd in LA to take on Miami. The Weather and the Dolphins had other plans. We were ahead until the last 5 minutes of that game. It was pouring down rain, and when the Rams were on offense, you could hear the thundering “DE-FENSE clap clap” Chants from the Miami fans at the game. To be honest, it was demoralizing as a fan, I wanted to melt in my seat.

The two road games against New Orleans and New England were equally demoralizing, we didn’t even stand a chance. We were outclassed in every sense of the word, losing the games 21–49 and 10–26 respectively.

Our next home game against Atlanta was equally embarrassing. The Rams’ performance was so bad, that even Falcons fans were confused and began to feel pity for us, celebrating a Rams touchdown with us. We would lose that game 42–14.

The Monday after this game, the Rams decided to fire Jeff Fisher, which is something all of Rams fandom had been calling for for Months (or a couple of years if they followed the team in St. Louis). It took a while for me to wrap my head around the idea that this was a real thing. Elation took over my Twitter stream. John Fassel (our ST coach) was named interim head coach, and he was a breath of fresh air during press conferences. A Stark contrast to the obviously rehearsed and tired and retreaded lines Jeff Fisher would feed us ever week. Hopes were high, even if not for this season, we had something to look forward to next season.

Following the short week and coaching change, we met Seattle in Century Link Field to be publicly embarrassed by personified highlighters on Thursday Night Football, losing 3–24. The following week on Christmas Eve we played San Francisco at home. This game was reminiscent of the Miami game, and Coach Fassel said as much in his press conference after the game. Even with the 21–22 loss, this game was quite enjoyable. There something to be said about sharing a stadium with fans who are just as beaten down and dejected as you are.

Our last game of the season was the New Years Day home game against Arizona. And while the game was a 6–44 blowout, I have to say, I couldn’t even be mad. There were a couple of plays during that game, the direct snap to Tavon Austin that got called back due to illegal motion (bullsh*t?) and the lateral to Pharaoh Cooper who then threw it (quite well I might add) to Todd Gurley, which was intercepted, that made the game exciting, even though they didn’t work out as intended. And also, after waiting a whole season, we saw a successful punt fake throw from Johnny Hekker. And I just don’t hate the Cardinals, I know they’re our division rivals, but I actually kinda like them. And the fans weren’t like other fans, after the game, there was no chanting in the tunnels, there was not snap-chatting of Rams fans while asking them how they feel about losing to “X” team. They just went home happy.

Like I said at the top, Overall, the season isn’t what I’d hoped. I don’t think it was what any fan hoped. While a part of me knew that with Fisher at the helm at the beginning of the season, it’d be more of the same, I wanted to believe it’d be different. Obviously it didn’t turn out that way, it’s the worst season we’ve had since Fisher took over, but it was still fun to be at the games. As I noted when I bought my season tickets, being there in person and FEELING the excitement in the air during the pre-season, and during the flashes of brilliance throughout the season, was well worth it. I know some of it is the fact that it was they’re first season back, and I’m the first to admit that a lot of my negative feelings about this season are downplayed by the joy of having the team back in Los Angeles. So while the season didn’t go as I’d hoped, I had a great time. And I’m definitely hopeful for the future.

See you next season Ramily. Horns Up.

Congress' Encryption Working Group Agrees "Back Door" Laws are Harmful

The House Judiciary Committee & House Energy and Commerce Committee Encryption Working Group released their year-end report on the ongoing encryption debate between tech companies and law enforcement. While the debate has been going on since encryption became a thing, it was intensified last year after the FBI tried to force Apple to create a backdoor to it’s iOS software on the phone of the San Bernardino shooter’s phone.

The whole document is worth a read, but there are a few things in particular that stood out to me:

Representatives of various private companies told the EWG that a mandate compromising encryption in the U.S. technology sector would simply shift consumers to products offered by foreign companies. These forces might incentivize larger companies to leave the United States, and render small business and other innovators in the field obsolete. If a U.S.-based company moved operations to a country with a more favorable legal regime, the law enforcement and intelligence communities might lose access to everything in that company’s holdings—encrypted or not.

Congressional action in this space should weigh any short-term benefits against the long- term impacts to the national interest. Congress cannot stop bad actors—at home or overseas— from adopting encryption. Therefore, the Committees should explore other strategies to address the needs of the law enforcement community.

This has been the crux of the technology sector’s argument. Even if congress were to weaken encryption at home, or force US based companies to install backdoors for law enforcement, those laws would only affect companies in the US. That would affect their bottom lines and create an incentive for them to leave the country. Not only that, but there are plenty of other options for bad guys to encrypt their data.

Overall, the considerations of the committee are very smart, and it’s clearly falls on the side against “back doors” in encryption.

Congress should not weaken this vital technology because doing so works against the national interest.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Spoiler-Free Review)

Now I’ve seen Rogue One twice and feel like I’ve had enough time to let my general thoughts on this percolate around in my head. So let’s start with the TL;DR. Rogue One is amazing, and if you’re even a half-way dedicated Star Wars fan and you haven’t gone to see it, what are you doing?

When Rogue One begins, there’s some mandatory exposition into the central character’s backstory, and introduction to several other supporting characters. When I first saw the film, this part made me feel like this movie wasn’t going to work out. It was a bit slow going with alot of transitioning from location to location. It also felt like the only thing Star Wars about this movie was some superficial set dressing and Storm Troopers. Man, was I wrong.

Once the movie gets past setting up the story points, everything starts flowing, and it gets a familiar Star Wars feel. From the humor, to the action, to the way the symphonic music plays to the action happening on the screen. It was mesmerizing. There also plenty of call backs and Easter eggs for anyone paying attention, all the way from some blue milk on a counter top to a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-it references to the Star Wars: Reblels animated series. X-Wings and Star Destroyers and mentions of the Force are the big rocks that make this a Star Wars movie. They could have stopped there and been done, but those little flourishes are what fill out the gaps in between. As a long time fan, it makes the film that much more fulfilling. And if you aren’t hard core enough to catch something like a one second call out to Star Wars: Rebels, there are other little cameos and throw away lines that fill in the gaps.

The difficulty for Lucasfilm & Co. with Rogue One was always going to be two-fold. One, Creating a compelling, completely self-contained story to which the majority of moviegoers already know the ending, and two, create a cast of several brand new characters who the audience feels they know over the course of a single film. I’m going to start with the characters. The central cast of characters are people who we have never seen or heard of in any previous Star Wars property, so the writers had to create connections to the audience completely from scratch. In my opinion, they excelled at this. We don’t get complete back stories for every single character, that’d be impossible for a single film. But we get enough through dialogue and interactions that we understand the relationships between characters, and their individual personalities.

On the story front, all the writers had to go on was somehow, the rebels obtained some plans to the Death Star. Man, did they do an awesome job to flesh that out. There are so many ways they could have messed this up. I was looking, waiting for that moment where I say “…but in Episode 4, they say this, but now they say this.” Hell, George Lucas fell prey to things like this in the prequels. Like Obi-Wan clearly knowing who C-3PO and R2-D2 are, but in A New Hope saying, and acting like, he didn’t know them. Or Leia saying she remembers what her real mother looks like, but Padme dying as she was being born. Things like that seem trivial, but they gnaw at my mind. There was no such flaw that I was able to notice here in my two viewings. The story is fun, action packed, and transitions beautifully into A New Hope. It kept me engaged from beginning to end, and though I knew the ending, I didn’t know what was happening next.

In the run up to this film, I was cautiously optimistic, just like I was for The Force Awakens. I’m not a prequel hater, I actually enjoy the prequels. But those were my first full on Star Wars at the theater experience. I was born in 1985, after the release of Return of the Jedi. I didn’t have a mom or dad who enjoyed the films. I first watched them at a cousin’s house, I was bored and they happened to own all three movies, so I popped in A New Hope. I devoured them in one sitting. Every time I went to their house, it’s all I wanted to do. I never owned my own copy until the Special Editions were released. So while I admit, that even though the prequels were clean and didn’t have the same “this is a real place” feel that the originals had, I did and still do enjoy them. But the Originals are my favorites. Hands down.

The Force Awakens was a step in the right direction, an admission that Star Wars had lost it’s way, a sort of re-centering of the franchise. An apology of sorts in film form. Rogue One, I believe, is a statement. It says that Lucasfilm and Disney understand what makes Star Wars feel like Star Wars so well, that they can make a film set in that galaxy without the story centering on the Skywalker family. There’s more to it than just the Skywalkers and the Jedi.

The galaxy can be and is much bigger and filled with hundreds if not thousands of interesting people. The Force Awakens made me excited to have another Star Wars movie again. Rogue One made me feel like I was watching Star Wars for the first time again.

When Legitimate Publications Become Fake News

Loren Grush at the Verge:

Last night, a twitter account by the name of @solikearose tweeted out a surprising image of CNN broadcasting porn instead of Anthony Bourdain’s scheduled show Parts Unknown. And then without really much questioning, a bunch of news sites ran with it, claiming that the network showed the footage for about 30 minutes. […]

It looks like the chaos all started when The Independent wrote up a story from this person’s tweets, which was then tweeted out by the Drudge Report. After that, it spread fast. Mashable, The New York Post, The Daily Mail, Esquire, and Variety have all published a story, and pretty much all of these articles are based on one or two tweets from @solikerose. […]

I would expect this from teenagers giving hot takes on Facebook. These, however, are supposed to be legitimate publications. Just because someone tweets it does not mean it’s true, this is internet 101. This is lazy journalism in an attempt to get the clicks.

Loren again:

[…] this is exactly how fake news spreads. Even if porn was aired on CNN, it’s clear that a lot of publications ran with a story based on tweets from one person before verifying the facts. Many of the headlines already implicate CNN, claiming the channel aired 30 minutes of porn without giving any context.

The stakes might not seem very high in this case, but fake news seems to have played a major role during the 2016 presidential campaign. Mistakes like this won’t be very funny when they cost us more than a laugh.

About Last Night

I, like so many others, had a rough night last night. The election results were not what I expected and I experienced shock, anger, and fear. I have never felt so overwhelmed by emotion. It’s took me until late this morning to truly wrap my mind around everything. I’ll be honest, I still don’t understand all the emotions I was experiencing, but I do know that one was fear. Fear for Americans who are not white, male, straight, and Christian. The thought of leaving the country crossed my mind as a legitimate possibility. I am Hispanic, my wife is black, and my kids are a wonderful mix of the two. I feared for my family. My faith in the American political process was so shattered that I immediately began envisioning Nazi Germany in America. That may be hyperbole, but it feels like the beginning.

I was also heartbroken. I love this country. There is no doubt in my mind that The United States is the greatest country in the world, but last night, I doubted that for the first time in my 31 years of life. How could the greatest country in the world elect this to our highest office? I’ve always felt America still had more to do, there’s still racism, sexism, and xenophobia. But we were making progress, the conversations were being had. Now, we’ve elected someone who represents everything we say we’re against? This is not the America I love.

It wasn’t until this morning when I was shaken out of my shock that I began to start thinking clearly. There’s a lot of hate right now. There’s a lot of resentment on both sides. This makes us weak. We have to love each other. Whether we’re white, black or any color in between. Whether we’re Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Wiccan, atheist, or whatever you brings you spiritual fulfillment. Gay, straight or questioning. Cis-gender or transgender. Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter. We are all Americans. We are all humans.

There are plenty of Republicans for whom Trump is also the nightmare scenario it is for Democrats. They feel Trump and his ilk have hijacked their beloved party and turned into a sick abomination of what it once was. I sympathize with them. Some voted for Hillary, others third party, but either way, they see Trump for what he is and understand the danger he poses.

Now, what’s done is done. Trump is our next President. All we can now do is look towards the future, and the future is not as bleak as this setback would make it seem. We got complacent and allowed the dark underbelly of America to reach our highest office. These four years will be a struggle, but our democracy was designed specifically for this. No President has all the power. He can’t do anything without 535 checks from the the congress and 9 from the Supreme Court. The First Amendment to the Constitution also puts 319 million roadblocks between this President elect and his unconstitutional campaign promises becoming the law of the land. There is a path forward.

We have to mobilize. We have to continue to expose Trump for what he is. We have to fight him with protests to any backwards and dangerous policy he tries to implement. Above all else, we must turnout in 2020 and push him out in such numbers that we show the world that America has not lost it’s way, we just got distracted. We are still bright beacon of democracy and freedom.

Welcome to the #Ramily!

My wife and I finally bought Season Tickets for the LA Rams.

It’s been a long road to get here.

My wife an I have been hoping the Rams moved back to L.A. since we were in High School. Admittedly, I never saw them, or even knew who they were, the last time they were in L.A., my family wasn’t into sports when I was growing up, unless it was soccer, and that never much interested me. My first exposure to the Horns was fairly recent, Super Bowl XXXVI, I had gone to a Super Bowl Party, and you know, you have to pick a side. The side I chose was based on two factors:

  1. The Rams were favored to win thanks to The Greatest Show on Turf.
  2. The Girl I liked, and my future wife, was rooting for that team. (Yes, my wife got me into Football)

I had no clue what the hell was going on, up until this point, I’d only watched Football in passing and had never watched a High School Football game. But I had fun. I enjoyed watching that game. I couldn’t tell a Tackle from a Pass, and half the time, I didn’t know who was on Offense or Defense, but I still Enjoyed the experience.

Fast forward thirteen years, and my wife and I attended our first live game. It was the San Diego Chargers against our then St. Louis Rams. You want to talk about an experience, Man. I was hoarse after the game, I had started getting a migraine half-way through (it was hot and I have an issue with drinking water, but hey, lesson learned), but man, I didn’t care, it was great. The Fans, even though they were—gulp—Charger Fans. But to experience that game live, literally FEELING the excitement as the cheers echoed and vibrated through the stands. Wow. We’ve always talked about wanting the rams to come back to LA, have them close to us, but more so after we went to that game.

There’d been rumors for years that they’d be coming back, but it was always next season, next season.

Well, next season finally arrived. January this year, when the NFL gave the go ahead for them to move back, they wasted no time in taking deposits for season tickets. That was a painful process, first, my wife and I weren’t expecting it, I don’t know why, but the day and time caught us off guard. Secondly, Ticketmaster buckled under the pressure a few times, but we kept trying, because we were getting our season tickets. When we finally got in and were able to put down our deposit, 37 minutes had passed. An eternity. But the excitement set in, it was happening, it was real, we had taken our fist step to buying those season tickets.

Then started the wait. The Long. Torturous. Wait. No information was ever made available about when the tickets would start going on sale, just “later in the spring”. Alright Apple.

But we waited, me a little more patiently than my wife (if you haven’t caught on, she’s a bigger Football Fan than me). Last month, the news that sales would start and would be done in waves was announced. The first wave got their emails telling them to get ready. The Rams started the @LARamsServices Twitter account to answer questions and help with problems.

Then the bad news. That first wave covered only the first two minutes. We weren’t ever going to get tickets. Panic began to set in; What if there weren’t any seats left? The second wave came, the first 10 minutes. The third wave, the first 15–20 minutes. That was progress, but still we were convinced that the only season seats we were getting were at a Buffalo Wild Wings, and only of we got there early, because those fill up fast too.

It was around this time that my wife and I started getting really worried, and really frustrated. The lack of information about what the inventory of seats looked like and the fact that there were season tickets already on sale at StubHub caused me to go a little twitter rant. Luckily, the @LARamsServices Twitter account was awesome. They DM’d my wife and I and even offered to call to talk to us to discuss our concerns. They were great.

Then it happened, we got our email, wave four was our wave, June 9 at 3 PM was our window. But still, we couldn’t see what was available, so we had no idea what we’d be getting; Behind a goal post? Outside in the parking lot? But once again, @LARamsServices to the rescue (have I mentioned this guy and gal duo are great?) they offered to have us call them a an hour or so prior to our window opening so they could tell us what was available. When our window finally opened, we knew where we were buying our tickets.

We put down our money and made one of the most satisfying purchases of our lives. I’m excited, like really excited. I’ve been craving that feeling again, the rumbling of the stadium, the cheers. The seats may not be in the section we originally wanted, and they may be a little higher up than we had hoped, but we’ll be there, full rams gear, screaming our lungs out to support our team with the rest our #Ramily. Horns Up.

Windows 7 Beta: First Impressions

Windows 7 Beta has been out for a little while now, and I finally decided I’d give it a shot. So I downloaded the install from Microsoft (pretty hefty, weighing in at about 4gb), got my activation key and was off to the races. After a rather long download (about an hour and a half), I loaded the image to my USB Flashdrive and restarted my computer, booted from it and began the install. That took about 20 minutes, then after the reboot started setting up for first time use.

At first glance, Windows 7 is very reminiscent of Vista (which up until very recently I would’ve had to hold back the gagging at the very mention of), but as soon as the task bar loads and you get to fiddling with it, you start to get the feeling that Vista was the ugly step sister to 7’s Cinderella.

Obviously if you’ve been keeping up with any Windows 7 news, you’ve heard praises about the new task bar, and possibly also some stuff about how it’s a rip from OS X’s dock, but hey if it works, why not use it? Yes it is the same concept, but it’s executed slightly different. But regardless of who came up with it first, I love it. Being able to dock frequently used apps for easy access and also combining that same icon as it’s icon for a window’s minimized state…I love it. The fact that the background can be turned into a slide show is pretty cool. The new library system is pretty interesting, you can create libraries in which you can include multiple folders that relate to each other for easy management in one place. The default libraries are the Documents , Pictures, Music, and Videos Libraries.

Something I noticed was that paint finally got a make-over, it now uses a similar ribbon interface like Office 2007.

Overall, in the 5 days that I’ve used it so far, crashes have been minimal and since it runs of the same core as Vista, anything that I was able to run in Vista runs fairly reliably (meaning as reliably as it did in Vista) on Windows 7. So fare I’ve installed Firefox, Skype, iTunes and Avast! Antivirus, and all are running reliably, with the exception of a hiccup with the release version of Skype, I had to install Skype 4 Beta 3 for it to run…I guess beta’s get along. No blue screens of death thus far, although I’ve read that some have experienced at least one during their trials.

So overall, from what I’ve seen so far and been able to mess with, If Microsoft stays on this course, Windows 7 has the potential to be the best Windows release to date. The GUI improvements are nice, it’s taxation on system resources is reduced to that of Vista, and it just has an overall comfortable feel. You use it and you feel like this is the way Windows is supposed to be. Microsoft, you may finally have a winner on your hands!

New Year, New Hope

As the New Year arrives, I can’t help but look back and reflect on the year that has past. 2008 was marred by the continuing housing crisis in the United States, and also the beginning of the Global Financial Meltdown that has hurt so many people worldwide. It was also marked with the deaths of some of entertainment’s more well known, including George Carlin, Michael Crichton, Paul Newman, Don LaFontaine, Isaac Hayes, Bernie Mac, Tim Russert, Charlton Heston and Heath Ledger. It was also marked by the last leg of a long and historic election that ended in what, for many, was the only glimmer of hope for a better tomorrow.

But as we look back, one also must look at it all and see that as bad as it was, we survived it. All of us here made it through. Though analysts and others, including President-Elect Barrack Obama, say that the financial crisis will not be solved or begin to seem solved until close to the end of this new year, and the continuing war in Iraq, and the recent violence between Israel and Palestine, why look forward to 2009 at all?

2009 is the Beginning. It can be the beginning of a better future. We may not see this better future during the course of the year, or only catch glimpses of what’s to come, but it is our foundation. That’s something to be excited about. There’s realization among the people that we must stand together as human beings, not just Americans, or Australians, or Japanese, or Germans, or Mexicans, or Indians. Not just Christians or Muslims or Jews, or Athiests. We must Come together as one people, united, or face the fate of our ancestors and watch our civilizations crumble under the weight of war, corruption, division, and self-sabotage.

2009 will be the new beginning, when diplomacy, not aggression, serves as our primary ally when dealing with other countries. When world leaders realize that these petty rivalries must be overcome if we are to overcome the plight that we are in and secure the prosperity of all nations on this planet. I for one have hope that this year will bring forth much of what is needed begin the shift in this direction. I believe this will be our year. This will be the year that we not only talk about making a difference, but help be the difference.