Top 10 Reasons I’m Going to Miss My Jeep Wrangler

Jeep Wrangler Front

Recently I went through a process of selling my Jeep Wrangler to an online service.
Read about how that went here.

Before I sold the Wrangler, I made a video of the Top 10 Reasons I’m Selling My Jeep Wrangler.
I figured I would express that even though I made that video and sold it, I’m still going to miss my Wrangler.

These are the top 10 reasons why I’m going to miss my Jeep Wrangler.

10. Maintenance
Doing your own maintenance on your vehicle is something enjoyed by many and the Jeep Wrangler makes it easy and enjoyable. Over the four years I’ve owned my Jeep, I performed a wide variety of tasks in my garage without issue. The oil plug and filter location makes oil changes a breeze. The last time I did an oil change, it took me about 15 minutes and 10 of those minutes were letting the oil completely drain. The overall ground clearance of the Jeep made rotating and swapping wheels easy as well. I even replaced the front brakes last year and was surprised at how easy Jeep made it. It’s like they knew most people get in there and tinker with stuff so they make it self-service friendly.

9. Fun-factor
Having a Jeep Wrangler is fun. It’s much more capable than your standard SUV and comes with a lot of cool tricks like the removable top and doors. It rides and drives like a truck so you get that feel for it too. Overall the Wrangler is fun to drive around, even with its compromises.

8. Off-road
Coming from a series of boy-racer type cars, having an off-road capable vehicle is a dramatic shift. Not having to worry about curbs, parking barriers, and potholes is nice. I never officially took my Jeep to an off-road trail or mud pit, but I did take my mall crawler off the road. Wether it was in my yard, the random dirt road, or the occasional grass parking lot, I can say my Jeep went off the road.

7. The Jeep club
There’s a large (unofficial) club of Jeep Wrangler drivers and owners. The day you start driving a Wrangler your in this club. Just about every other Jeep driver waves at you and gives you the feeling like you are in a community. I’ve had countless people come up to me and start a conversation based solely on the fact that I was driving a Jeep Wrangler. It’s weird, but at the same time I think I’ll miss it.

6. Ruggedness
Everything about the Wrangler is rugged. It looks rugged, the interior has rugged textures, and most of the time has all terrain tires on it. You can leave your top down/off in the rain and not have to worry about anything getting damaged. I recall a time I was at work and my soft top was down and my doors were off. It poured for probably an hour. Afterwards I went out to asses the damage. I pulled the plug in both floorboards and the almost three inches of water drained out. The sun then dried up everything else and by the time I left for the day it was dry. No damage done.

5. Convertible
Speaking of having the top down, you may not realize this, but the Wrangler is a convertible. Optioned with either a soft top or hard top (I had both), the Jeep’s top can be removed or retracted for an open-air experience that’s like no other. Taking off all four doors and having the top down is one of my favorite summer activities in the Jeep.

4. Aftermarket accessories
As one of the most popular vehicles in the United States, there are a lot of aftermarket accessories for the Jeep Wrangler. You can change almost anything the Jeep with the available third-party market. I added pre-runner lights to the grille, swapped the grille inserts for matte black finish, added a smaller antenna, wired in a 30″ light bar on the hood, upgraded the spare tire carrier to support bigger/heavier tires, added brighter reverse lights to the back bumper, and wired a LED brake light ring inside the spare tire.

3. The look
I really like the look of the current Jeep Wrangler. Prior to model year 2018, the Wrangler looked ugly and outdated to me. When they redesigned it, I was immediately interested in being a Wrangler owner.

save the manual sticker

2. Stick shift
The manual transmission, standard, and stick shift all mean the same thing. Shifting your own gears is a dying art as most cars today come with an automatic or dual-clutch transmission and only two pedals. In 2013, I decided to buy a Ford Focus ST that only came in manual transmission. I thought myself how to drive it and then never looked back. Since then, I’ve had two more vehicles both with stick shifts. The number of new vehicles being produced with standard transmissions is at an all-time low and with the electric revolution coming, it may go away for good.

1. The color
I’ve always wanted a green car. It’s my favorite color and you rarely see cars any color except white, black, gray, or red. My previous two vehicles have been yellow/orange and blue and I finally got my green car. Mojito! the name that Jeep gave this version of green is an exciting color and gets noticed everywhere I went. It was a limited run color so there aren’t a lot of Jeeps around with that same color. Someday I hope to see more green vehicles for sale and I’ll do what I can to get another one.

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Working From Home – Two Years Later

Shallow Focus Photo of Woman Using a Laptop

On this day in 2020, my company sent out an email with details on alternative work strategies for the next 14 days. This meant we were being kicked out of the office and forced to work from home. The CDC and our local government were issuing guidance surrounding the impeding COVID-19 global pandemic. Two weeks was the average timeframe floating around for the lockdown. We had originally planned for a technology test day where most people would work from home to test the strength of our remote infrastructure. At this point, we weren’t a heavy work from home company and more of a in the office everyday type of workforce. This technology test day never happened and we were thrust into the work from home life for the next two weeks. As you probably know, it didn’t last two weeks. In fact, my company has still yet to define how the future of working will look, whether that’s full-time work from home or a mix of in-office and at-home work strategies. Over these last two years I’ve learned a lot about me, how I work, and how I can do my job from anywhere.

Shortly after starting to work from home, the two week estimate grew into “TBD” and we started to settle in. I posted an article (Working Whilst Home) and also shared it with my company. This was my take on effective time and space management working at home coming from a previous telecommuter. This article still holds true two years later and I’d encourage you to read it before we dig into what has happened since.

Read more

Which AirPods Are Right For You?

AirPods_hero

AirPods are completely wireless earphones that go in your ears to provide music or other audio from your Bluetooth device. Apple again revolutionlized music by making earphones that didn’t need wires and were super easy to use. They even went viral during their launch that made AirPods the trendy must-have accessory.

Five years later, Apple now sells four different versions of AirPods, and like some other product categories can be really confusing, especially when buying for others.

AirPods Max are a different kind of listening device and are more of a headphone than an earphone product.

I’m going to talk about the three white wireless versions of AirPods. These are always great gifts for the holidays and are still immensely popular with the younger crowds, but which AirPods are right for you?

AirPods (2nd-Generation)

The now iconic shape of wireless earbuds were refreshed in 2019 to offer additional features like “Hey Siri”, longer battery life, and wireless charging case. Other than the new features, the AirPods shape and design remained the same. It’s impossible to tell a generation 1 product from a generation 2 just by looking at them.

Like the EarPods that proceeded the AirPods, they were designed for a wide variety of ears and rest on the antitragus and intertragal notch. When they were first announced, everyone exclaimed that they were going to fall out of ears and get lost. Based on how EarPods always popped out, it was a hard sell. About 10 minutes after AirPods were in wearer’s ears, they were a hit. So much of a hit, they immediately faced a supply issue. I remember showing people my AirPods and they were in disbelief of the fact that they would stay in my ears, even while jogging.

AirPods Pro

With the success of the first generation AirPods came a lot of outcry that they just didn’t work in some ears. Additionally, the AirPods didn’t isolate sound and were basically useless on airplanes. About six months after the second generation AirPods were announced, Apple announced the AirPods Pro. These featured in-ear silicone tips that completely isolated sound and increased sound quality. Most people were familiar with earbuds that featured the same design, but Apple made the earbud a lot better. Noise cancelling, transparency mode, and increased frequency response were touted as the main features of the Pros. The biggest change was the shape. Gone was the long stem that projected out of people’s ears and was replaced by a stouter, less obvious version. The in-ear portion has silicone tips (in three sizes) to seal in the sound. The case was bigger and wider so the new style could fit in to charge magnetically like the original AirPods.

Apple will inevitably announce second generation AirPods Pro, but probably not until Spring 2022 at the earliest. The Pros being the flagship AirPods, they’ll probably receive new technology before it trickles down to the non-Pro AirPods.

AirPods 3

In October 2021, Apple announced what they’re calling the AirPods (3rd generation) but I’ll be referring to them as the AirPods 3 for confusion avoidance. This was the first time AirPods have changed shapes in almost five years. They look strikingly similar to the AirPods Pro by shrinking the stem and adding more speakers to the in-ear portion. The headlining features of the AirPods 3 are spatial audio, sweat/water resistance, and longer battery life. They also changed the controls to match the Pros by adding a force sensor to the stem so you can squeeze instead of jackhammering your ear. In a rare Apple move, the price also decreased from $199 to $179 for the wireless charging case.

Enjoy my ear as I cycle through wearing all three AirPods

Which AirPods Do I Want?

This is quite the subjective question because all ears are not created equal. The complicated answer falls into three categories to determine which AirPods are right for you.

  1. I want the cheapest AirPods, I don’t care about price.
    • AirPods 2nd generation are right for you, if you can find the 1st-gen, grab those instead
  2. I want to use my AirPods for working out and casual listening.
    • The added sweat resistance and comfort level of the AirPods 3 is great in this scenario
  3. I travel a lot and want to use my AirPods on planes, trains, and automobiles.
    • AirPods Pro offer noise cancelling and adjustable listening modes to aid you when traveling
Some caveats to those recommendations

AirPods (2nd generation) fit in most ears, while AirPods 3 are a bit larger and have trouble staying in ears with smaller openings. If you’re interested in moving from 2nd-gen to 3rd-gen, be aware that the AirPod is larger than the previous. My wife was able to wear 2nd-gen with no issue, but 3rd-gen do not stay in her ears.


AirPods Pro seal off outside noises and can cause you to hear internal noises while you’re ears a blocked. Think chewing and walking thumps. To me, this is the most annoying part of the Pros.

Tech Specs Showdown

AirPods 2nd-gen
AirPods Pro
AirPods 3
Price

$129

$249

$179

Active Noise Cancellation

No

Yes

No

Spatial Audio

No

Yes
Yes
Sweat/Water Resistant

No

Yes
Yes
Battery Life

5 hours

4.5 hours

6 hours
Wireless Charging Case

No

Yes
Yes
"Hey Siri"

Yes

Yes

Yes

Controls

Double-tap

Squeeze

Squeeze

Size (weight)

1.59"x.65"x.71" (4g)

1.22"x.86"x.94"(5.4g)

1.21"x.72"x.76" (4.28g)

Read more about Apple Products on Beard Blog

iPhone 13 Pro Max -A Beard Blog Review

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
Review

The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max are all-new this year, again. Every year, like clockwork, we get new iPhones. Just like last year apple announced four new phones with a new number, 13. Last year’s all new design was a great departure from the rounded bars of soap we’ve had for six years. If you’ve been following iPhones for a while, you may know that they like to do what most people call an “S” year. Starting with the 3GS, then 4S, 5S, 6S, and XS, we’ve come to understand that an “S” year is less new design and more internal upgrades.

The iPhone 13 should have been an “S” year. Not sure why we didn’t see the iPhone 12S, but I was betting on it. Literally, bet lunch on it being named the iPhone 12S.

So in the iPhone 12S 13 we get better cameras, bigger batteries and a new processor. The Pros got 120hz display and even better cameras.

I opted to replace my iPhone 12 Pro Max with an iPhone 13 Pro Max. As long as they’re making giant pro phones, I’m buying them.

I’m not going to go into the new features or what Apple is marketing on the device, you can see that at apple.com/iphone.

The Good

  • The 120hz display makes motion buttery smooth, and I smile whenever I notice it
  • The camera upgrades while minor year-over-year, have a huge impact on everyday photos
  • Macro photos are fun and a game changer
    Beard Blog iPhone macro photography deep-dive
  • Same squared-side design that looks modern and still feels new
  • Sierra Blue is a refreshing take on a silver finish
  • OLED screen is brighter, which is useful in direct sunlight

The Missed Opportunities

  • Moving to USB-C should have happened this year
  • The camera / Face ID notch got smaller-ish, but it’s size still feels outdated
  • Same software limitations running on a super-fast SoC
  • Night Mode could be better with the new camera hardware
    Beard Blog iPhone Night Mode deep-dive
  • My phone shipped with eSim enabled, but I still have an ugly SIM card slot
  • The physical mute switch is great, but someday it’s gotta go
  • Speaker holes are still asymmetric

The Bad

  • Front-facing camera feels old and needs updated like other Apple devices
  • Rear camera bump is huge, more noticeable on smaller phones 
  • Telephoto (3x) rear camera has more reach, but less quality
  • Face ID hasn’t seen any major improvements since it was debuted on the iPhone X, while iPads can see faces in different orientations
  • The back face of the phone is still slippery and fragile

Changing to USB-C, upgrading the front camera, and making it more grippy, might make this a 10 / 10 for me.

We’ll see what next year’s iPhone brings, which I’m sure will be named iPhone 14. Will we see USB-C finally or just no ports at all? Stay tuned, here and only here, for iPhone hot takes.

The Top 100 Songs: 1990s

When you think about the best decade of music, you might immediately think the 60s or 70s. Some may argue it was the 80s or 90s. I was pretty sure the best decade of music was the 2000s, but now I’m convinced it was the 1990s.

This started as a top 10 list of 90s music, which was really hard because of all the different sounds during this era. Expanding the list to a top 100 was poised to be my most ambitious list yet. Turns out, my love for music and making lists made this a simple task. In the end, I decided to rank them using an online ranking generator allowing me to compare songs 2 by 2. I input my list of 110 songs into the ranking generator and did over 400 comparisons. The end results were very surprising.

The rules for this list, made up be me:
– No repeats for main attributed artist (e.g. Michael Jackson & Janet Jackson – Scream counts as an entry for both of them)
– No covers, original recordings only (e.g. Whitney Houston – I’m Every Woman originally recorded by Chaka Khan in 1978, not eligible)
– Must have been released as a single or on an album after December 31, 1989 and before January 1, 2000
– No complications, best of, or greatest hits releases apply

For your and my listening pleasure, I’ve created this list as both an Apple Music and Spotify playlist (see below)

 


The top 100 list is below in order based on my opinion, and because I’m me, there are 10 honorable mentions afterwards!

Did your favorite 90s song make the list?

Artist

Title

Year

Rank

Lauryn Hill

Doo Wop (That Thing)

1998

1

Bone Thugs -n- Harmony

Tha Crossroads

1995

2

Usher

You Make Me Wanna...

1997

3

Michael Jackson & Janet Jackson

Scream

1995

4

Whitney Houston

I Have Nothing

1992

5

2Pac


Changes

1998

6

Luniz

I Got 5 On It

1995

7

Boyz II Men

End of the Road

1991


8

Big Pun

Still Not a Playa (feat. Joe)

1998

9

Sublime

What I Got

1996

10

Mariah Carey

Fantasy

1997

11

Hanson

MMMBop

1997

12

TLC

Waterfalls

1994

13

Aaliyah

Are You That Somebody? *

1998

14

Alanis Morisette

You Oughta Know

1998

15

Hootie & The Blowfish

Hold My Hand

1994

16

Warren G & Nate Dogg

Regulate

1994

17

Dr. Dre

The Next Episode (feat. Snopp Dogg)

1999

18

Snopp Dogg

Who Am I (What's My Name)?

1993

19

Kci & JoJo

All My Life

1997

20

Blackstreet

No Diggity (feat. Dr. Dre & Queen Pen)

1996

21

No Doubt

Spiderwebs

1995

22

Alice in Chains

Rooster

1992

23

T.Q.

Westside

1998

24

Ice Cube

It Was a Good Day

1992

25

Outkast

Rosa Parks

1998

26

Blues Traveler

Run-Around

1994

27

The Notorious B.I.G.

Mo Money and Mo Problems (feat. Mase & Puff Daddy)

1997

28

Matchbox 20

3 am

1996

29

Ginuwine

Pony

1996

30

311

Down

1995

31

Ma$e

Feels So Good

1997

32

Rage Against the Machine

Bulls On Parade

1996

33

Do or Die

Po Pimp

1996

34

Soundgarden

Black Hole Sun

1994

35

Destiny's Child

Bug a Boo

1999

36

*NSYNC

Tearin' Up My Heart

1997

37

Jay-Z

Big Pimpin' (feat. UGK)

1999

38

Salt-N-Pepa

Shoop

1993

39

The Presidents of the United States of America

Peaches

1995

40

Beastie Boys

Intergalactic

1998

41

Eminem

My Name Is

1999

42

Green Day

Basket Case

1994

43

Ini Kamoze

Here Comes The Hotstepper

1994

44

Barenaked Ladies

One Week

1998

45

Juvenile

Ha

1998

46

Bush

Comedown

1994

47

Everlast

What It's Like

1994

48

Puff Daddy

I'll Be Missing You (feat. Faith Evans & 112)

1997

49

The Smashing Pumpkins

1979

1995

50

Third Eye Blind

Jumper

1997

51

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Under the Bridge

1991

52

The Cranberries

Zombie

1994

53

Spice Girls

Wannabe

1996

54

The Goo Goo Dolls

Iris

1998

55

Next

Too Close

1997

56

Keith Sweat

Nobody (feat. Athena Cage)

1996

57

Montell Jordan

This Is How We Do It

1995

58

DMX

Party Up (Up In Here)

1999

59

Metallica

Enter Sandman

1991

60

Backstreet Boys

I Want It That Way

1999

61

Wu-Tang Clan

C.R.E.A.M.

1993

62

Sugar Ray

Fly (feat. Super Cat)

1997

63

Lenny Kravitz

Fly Away

1998

64

Master P

Make 'Em Say Ugh

1997

65

Aerosmith

Crazy

1993

66

Mark Morrison

Return of the Mack

1996

67

Brandy

Sittin' Up In My Room

1995

68

The Chemical Brothers

Block Rockin' Beats

1997

69

"Weird Al" Yankovic

Amish Paradise

1996

70

Color Me Badd

I Wann Sex You Up

1991

71

Radiohead

Creep

1996

72

Kid Rock

Cowboy

1998

73

Will Smith

Gettin' Jiggy Wit It

1997

74

Ol' Dirty Bastard

Got Your Money (feat. Kelis)

1999

75

En Vogue

Free Your Mind

1992

76

Marcy Playground

Sex & Candy

1997

77

Naughty By Nature

O.P.P

1991

78

Crazy Town

Buttefly

1999

79

Jamiroquai

Virtual Insanity

1996

80

The (Dixie) Chicks

Wide Open Spaces

1998

81

Robyn

Show Me Love

1995

82

Ace of Base

The Sign

1993

83

Oasis

Wonderwall

1995

84

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

The Impression That I Get

1997

85

The Tony Rich Project

Nobody Knows

1995

86

SWV

Weak

1992

87

Sisqo

Thong Song

1999

88

702

Where My Girls At?

1999

89

Beck

Loser

1993

90

LeAnn Rimes

How Do I Live

1997

91

Mary J. Blige

Real Love

1992

92

The Prodigy

Firestarter

1996

93

Kris Kross

Jump

1992

94

Crystal Waters

100% Pure Love

1994

95

Babyface

Every Time I Close My Eyes

1996

96

Nine Inch Nails

Closer

1994

97

Snow

Informer

1994

98

Garbage

Only Happy When It Rains

1995

99

New Edition

Hit Me Off

1996

100

Honorable Mentions:
101. Shaggy – Bombastic (1995)
102. Meredith Brooks – Bitch (1997)
103. Jewel – Who Will Save Your Soul (1995)
104. Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991)
105. LFO – Girl On TV (1999)
106. Lil’ Troy – Wanna Be a Baller (1999)
107. Vitamin C – Smile (1999)
108. The Offspring – Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) (1998)
109. 98º – The Hardest Thing (1998)
110. New Kids On the Block – Step By Step (1990)

*Aaliyah – Are You That Somebody? is not available on any digital platforms.

In Memoriam: Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Tupac Shakur, Big Pun, Bradley Nowell, Lisa Left-Eye Lopes, Aaliyah, Nate Dogg, Layne Staley, Christopher Wallace, Chris Cornell, Adam Yauch, Dolores O’Riordan, Earl Simmons, Russel Jones, Keith Flint, Chris Kelly, and Kurt Cobain.

Credits: Wikipedia, Apple Music, Pub Meeple

Working Whilst Home

Some of us are working from home full or part time for the first time ever. As a technology professional that’s been in the game for more than 10 years, here are my thoughts.

wfh
My standing desk WFH setup

Working from home (WFH) isn’t easy if you’re used to going to an office or another location every day. Some people love and others hate it. I come down somewhere in the middle. In my past I’ve had a job where I consistently worked from home at least once per week, by choice. Now that some of us are forced to spend both our working day and personal time at home, things need adjusted.

Simulating A Normal Work Day

Firstly, you should have a dedicated space where you can go work. Not your living room sofa, dining room table, or garage work bench. Hopefully you’re fortunate enough to have an office space or a spare room you can isolate yourself in. This allows you to have a place to go to start working and to leave when you’re done. Additionally, if you share your shelter with other people, you can use this space as an off-limits working area.

Before going to your work space and after you get out of bed, try to do some normal things just like you would before you would go to work. Take a shower, get dressed, make coffee, have a snack, or whatever you can do to make it a normal work day. Once you get to your computer you should be ready to work.

I’ve tried to replicate my work setup from my office as much as possible to be the most efficient. I have a standing desk at work so a few months ago (not knowing there was going to be a pandemic) I purchased a smaller sit/stand desk at home. Being used to standing while working all day and then sitting at home doesn’t work for me. Now I can stand all day just like I do at work and not feel the pains of sitting for eight hours per day.

Technology

A hurdle that most people have when they work from home is not having the same technology they’re used to from work. You may find yourself being stuck using a 13-inch laptop now instead of your dual 20-inch monitor setup at the office. Yes you can go out and buy monitors for home, but in reality you probably can accomplish up to 80% of the work you previously were able to do just fine on your laptop. It may take some adjustment and learning periods, but it’s definitely possible. If you find yourself using your own personal technology for work, you may want to make sure you have a compatible computer with your employer’s systems. Hopefully your IT department will be able to give you some guidance on that.

Most of our jobs in 2020 do not require you to print. If you’re used to being able to print anything/everything in the office, that doesn’t mean you need to do that at home. Try reviewing documents on a computer or tablet screen prior to needing to print. Your IT support people will thank you for not having to support a home printer.

Be sure to stay in touch with coworkers and family during this time. Zoom, FaceTime, Teams, Skype, and much more are great ways to communicate with people not in your same geographical location. Try to do video calls as much as possible instead of a voice call. This will allow you see other faces and feel a little more connected.

Staying Busy

Some people say they are more productive at home (me included) because there are less distractions or interruptions. Sometimes you are so productive at home that you may run out of things to do. An important part of working from home is staying busy so you’re not watching the clock or doing too many non-work related tasks. One way you can stay busy is dig through that pile of projects or tasks you’ve been putting off for the last year. Most of these things are time consuming and require concentration that you may not have in your normal work day. What else do you have besides time at home now, it may the right time to take a stab at them. Another way is to ask your peers or manager for things you can be doing. Every company I’ve worked for has organizational tasks that can be done during slow periods. You may even find yourself learning something new when helping out a peer.

Breaks

Taking time for yourself during the day is essential to your mental health during an extended work from home period. Be sure to take ample breaks and get away from your workstation for a few moments. Some ways you can take a break can be walking your dog, throw in a load of laundry, go grab the mail, take a shower, or make yourself an espresso.

Some things you should not do during a break are scroll through social media, watch TV, read the news, get a snack, or play a game on your phone. Activities like these lead to decreased productivity and a feeling of doing the same thing over and over again. It’s important to physically move around during the day, especially if you’ve been sitting a lot. Also, set aside a time of day to catch up on the news. Don’t stress yourself with reading everything as it comes in.

Snacking

When you’re at home all day, nowhere to go, no one to see, it can be easy to head for the pantry for a snack. It’s paramount to your health, and food supply, to avoid snacking more than usual while working from home. Try not to eat more or worse than you would on a normal work day. An easy way to prevent this from happening is simple, don’t buy any bad snacks. If you don’t have chips in the house, you won’t want to go look for them.

Pick a good stopping point or time to eat lunch. During this time you can focus on something else other than work. Make a sandwich and sit down and have a chat with someone or call a relative.

Distractions

I’ve long believed distractions can be good and lead to higher productivity. As long as the distractions are short and constructive, you can try to implement some of these into your daily routine. In addition to the suggestions I went over in the breaks section you can try other short brain stimulating activities that allow you to focus on something else for a few moments. Some activities I would suggest are a quick game of table tennis with a spouse, work on some language learning in Duolingo, shoot some hoops, work on a puzzle, check the oil in your car, or sit on your porch and enjoy the weather.

After one of these activities you can feel refreshed, distressed, and ready to get back to work. You’ll start to notice that you will be looking forward to one of these distractions and might even try to work harder to get there quicker. Don’t be afraid to schedule things during the work day, providing your employer doesn’t make you stay glued to your computer all day, you could have a standing chess meeting with cohabitant.

Make The Most Of It

The single most important thing about working from home more than usual is to make the most of it. Of course it’s not ideal for some, but if you sit and pout about it all day, that doesn’t help anyone. Try some of the suggestions above to make more of your day and don’t forget to stop working when the day is done. Just because you’re still at home and can work doesn’t mean you should. Take time for yourself, your family, and/or your friends.

Oscar Nominations 2020

The 92nd annual Academy Awards (Oscars) air Sunday February 9, 2020 on ABC

Back again for 2020 are the Beard Blog Oscars picks.

I made a determined effort to see as many nominated films this year before the awards.

Overall I feel like this year was a hell of lot better than last year. Some big names really showed out this year and put forth a plethora of legendary performances. This is a very difficult year to not only predict but also decide on which film / whom I thought was the best.

Overall, Once upon a Time…in Hollywood was my favorite movie but I’ll admit I’m partial to both QT2 and LDC3 and I think they put together a great movie. Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie also had great parts in OUATIH.1

Scarlett Johansson had a great year with an amazing performance in Marriage Story and an interesting portrayal in Jojo Rabbit.

Parasite seemed to come out of nowhere and while I wasn’t excited about reading subtitles throughout an entire movie, they disappear into the great story behind them. This is also the 12th time a foreign language film was nominated for Best Picture. And also for the second year in a row after last year’s nomination for Roma.

1917 was a great war epic that was uniquely shot and looks fantastic. This will probably win a lot of awards thanks to the director/writer’s personal ties to the film.

I felt like Joker was a bit overrated, but I can see why people hold it highly just based on the performance by Joaquin Phoenix. This is considered to be another comic book movie, but if you’ve seen Joker, you’ll realize it was just set in the world of Gotham City.

One of the longest movies ever nominated (Gone With the Wind holds the record) The Irishman. This seems like the final chapter in a long career of great films between Martin Scorsese, Robert DeNiro, and Joe Pesci. If you can get through the over three and a half hours this clocks in at, you’ll be delighted by how the story wraps up.

Knives Out was a great take on murder mysteries that also seemed to come out of nowhere. A great cast and superb writing could make this a sleeper this year.

I felt Ford v. Ferrari was a great bio film but may leave some audiences out if they don’t appreciate motorsports and/or the history of cars.

Jojo Rabbit is a weird look at WWII Germany. I found it entertaining and witty, but not Best Picture worthy.

The nominees are below, in bold is who I think should win, and in italics are what I think the academy will give the Oscars to.

  • Best Picture
    • Ford v Ferrari
    • The Irishman
    • Jojo Rabbit
    • Joker
    • Little Women
    • Marriage Story
    • 1917
    • Once upon a Time…in Hollywood
    • Parasite
  • Actor in a Leading Role
    • Antonia Banderas – Pain and Glory
    • Leonardo DiCaprio – OUATIH1
    • Adam Driver – Marriage Story
    • Joaquin Phoenix – Joker
    • Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes
  • Actress in a Leading Role
    • Cynthia Erivo – Harriet
    • Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story
    • Saoirse Ronan – Little Women
    • Charlize Theron – Bombshell
    • Renee Zellweger – Judy
  • Actor in a Supporting Role
    • Tom Hanks – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
    • Anthony Hopkins – The Two Popes
    • Al Pacino – The Irishman
    • Joe Pesci – The Irishman
    • Brad Pitt – OUATIH1
  • Actress in a Supporting Role
    • Kathy Bates – Richard Jewell
    • Laura Dern – Marriage Story
    • Scarlett Johansson – Jojo Rabbit
    • Florence Pugh – Little Women
    • Margot Robbie – Bombshell
  • Directing
    • Martin Scorsese – The Irishman
    • Todd Phillips – Joker
    • Sam Mendes – 1917
    • OUATIH1 – Quentin Tarantino
    • Bong Joon Ho – Parasite
  • Writing (Adapted)
    • Steven Zaillian – The Irishman
    • Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit
    • Todd Phillips – Joker
    • Greta Gerwig – Little Women
    • Anything McCarten – The Two Popes
  • Writing (Original)
    • Rian Johnson – Knives Out
    • Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story
    • Sam Mendes – 1917
    • Quentin Tarantino – OUATIH1
    • Bong Joon Ho – Parasite

Disclosure – Movies on this list I have not yet seen at time of publishing:

  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  • Harriet
  • Little Women
  • Pain and Glory
  • Richard Jewell
  • The Two Popes

Check out my Oscars predictions from last year!


1 Once upon a Time…in Hollywood
2 Quentin Tarantino
3 Leonardo DiCaprio

Beard Blog’s five best albums of 2018

My picks for the best 5 albums of 2018, ranked not by best to worst, but by release date. These albums were selected for their overall enjoyability. It is becoming more rare that albums are enjoyable from beginning to end.

Man of the Woods by Justin Timberlake – 2/2/18

Motw

Justin Timerblake’s 5th solo album (counting 20/20 experience as two separate albums) explores new sounds. JT is dabbling in some country styles and it lands very well with his new “Man of the Woods” persona.

Beerbongs and Bentleys by Post Malone – 4/27/18

Bb

The second album by Post Malone shows his growth in the music business as well as proving that he’s for real and here to stay.

Dan + Shay – 6/22/18

D+S

The third and self titled album by country duo Day + Shay who are famous for taking the Rascal Flatts style and bringing it into modern country music.

This One’s For You Too by Luke Combs – 6/1/18

LC

The re-release or “deluxe version” of This One’s For You released a year prior by Luke Combs. The 2018 album completes his debut into country music after being discovered from Vine.

Kamikaze by Eminem – 8/31/18

Mm

The 10th album by Eminem and according to Marshall, a makeup for his last pop-ish album. This album goes back to classic Eminem with funny lyrics, great rhymes and personal attacks. No holds barred.

 

Take time, before we get too deep into 2019 to take a listen to these albums if you haven’t yet.

Bonus: Here’s an Apple Music playlist with all 5 albums 

The Eternal Jukebox

My Last Ten Albums, Ever

eternal-jukebox

Music is Important to Me

A co-worker and I were having a music discussion around how satisfying it was to have physical media when we were younger. This co-worker and I often have analytical conversations around movies, music, and technology. Most of the time we fall on the same side of the arguments. The latest confab got me thinking…. What if something in the world destroyed the ability to access music so effortlessly like we do today. Since I was about nine years old, music has been something I enjoy listening to everyday. Whether I’m sad, happy, or indifferent, music is always there to appease me.

There Are Some Rules

Music streaming is gone, iTunes has shutdown, Sam Goody is gone for real, and all you have left is one jukebox. This magical jukebox can play any ten albums for as long as you live, as many times as you like. Before all the music is destroyed you have to quickly pick ten albums to fill the jukebox. [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”Today we have 50 million songs at our fingertips which is great and potentially life changing…”[/perfectpullquote]

These ten albums should be the ten albums you could listen to for the rest of your life. They shouldn’t be the best ten albums ever made, that’s always subjective. Your favorite ten albums could also be a mistake since you might be missing out on music that makes you feel all sorts of emotions. Ten albums are all you get, forever.

Because this is a artistic exercise, our eternal jukebox cannot play “greatest hits” or other types of compilations.

Eternal Jukebox Library

Here’s my list, these ten albums will forever be in my mystical eternal jukebox.

  • Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – E. 1999 Eternal
  • Dirty Heads – SWIM TEAM
  • Ed Sheeran – X
  • Hootie & The Blowfish – Cracked Rear View
  • John Mayer – Continuum
  • Ma$e – Harlem World
  • Michael Jackson – HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I
  • Nelly – Country Grammar
  • Sam Cooke – Ain’t That Good News
  • Sublime – Sublime
  •  
    Honorable mention: Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

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    Artificial Intelligence: The Downfall of Humans

    Us humans are programmatically extinguishing ourselves out of existence

    ai-brain

    Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the latest buzzwords you hear in the media, but it’s been around for a long time. AI is defined as intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast natural intelligence is displayed by humans and other animals. Even the simplest of machines or activities can have AI. Think about the last time your received coupons in the mail for a grocery store or department store. Using AI, that company determined the set of coupons you should receive to increase the probability of you visiting to their store or website. It’s straightforward and sometimes helpful, but that’s just the tip of this very large iceberg.

    When I think about artificial intelligence, machine learning, and autonomous machines I get excited for what the future holds. At the same time I start to ruminate about what all of this will mean for the future of us mortals. If we continue to build machines that learn, think, and live on their own, without our interaction, we could be creating our own extinction. [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”The key for that machine to be successful is knowing what is right, wrong, fake, real, or useful. “[/perfectpullquote]

    Humans are currently the most advanced and smartest race on the planet Earth. Most of us have compassion, foresight, and morals which lends us to save inferior organisms like plants and animals. The plants and animals also offer us the resources we need to survive. Machines that aren’t based on needing plants, animals, or humans will have no use for those objects. Last time I checked, the advanced computers and machines using AI today don’t have any compassion or ideologies to prevent them from one day purging the Earth of humans.

    Creating an Artificial Existence

    Let’s start to perceive how AI evolution would occur that might force us humans out of continuation. Humans have created complex machines that can think for themselves as well as learn new ideas. Because humans are so diligent, most of the world’s information is procurable digitally on the internet. A high-powered machine could easily graze through all the information on the internet and learn everything, thus making that machine the smartest being in existence. The key for that machine to be successful is knowing what is right, wrong, fake, real, or useful. This machine, that I’m going to call BAE (Ben’s Artificial Existence), after years and years of studying old and new enlightenment, would be more powerful than anything we’ve seen to date.

    Let’s assume BAE has learned all the factual bits from the internet. BAE now knows how to speak, read, and write in every documented language on the planet. It also knows how to build anything (provided it’s blueprints were available on the internet). Lastly, with all the programming language information available (especially on the subject of AI) BAE is now a world-class artificial intelligence and machine learning expert. Because BAE is smart and is, presumably, self-aware it now has the means to upgrade itself. BAE can make phone calls (in any language), open bank accounts, trade on the stock markets, take over other machines; the list goes on and on. After a while BAE could start to reprogram other machines, creating a botnet army. BAE could also invent new technologies to make itself and it’s army untouchable. Before we know it, BAE has millions of machines that are self-sufficient, self-aware, and no longer have a use for the human race.

    Now let’s crawl back up out of that rabbit hole. All of this seems far fetched and is a lot like the plot of the movie ‘Transcendence’. The way people are advancing technology and all the information we have out there, it does seem that someday it could be possible. It’s also entirely possible that there are a few intelligent and prudent humans who can program compassion, sacrifice, and self-worth into machines. In that case we would have the ultimate personal assistant / companion.

    Humans aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, at least not from machines taking over the world. In reality, it seems humans will destroy ourselves before something else.

    Beard Blog Movie Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

    Raped while dying and still no arrests? How come?

    three billboards
    Mildred Hayes and her billboards

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a dark and twisted tale about a mother and the tragic loss of her daughter. Frances McDormand plays a foul-mouthed smooth talking country woman who seems to have reached the end of her wits. After almost a year since her daughter was brutally murdered and no news from the Police, Mildred (McDormand) calls out the police chief in a very public way, on three billboards.

    This movie isn’t about catching the murderer of Mildred’s daughter. It’s not about how she was raped and burned alive. It’s also not about how small town police departments are often notoriously complacent. This movie is about exactly what the title says, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The billboards go up and the the small town around them comes crashing down. [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”An emotional ride with plenty of laughs, tears, and surprises.”[/perfectpullquote]

    Sam Rockwell is becoming one of my favorite lesser-known actors. After Three Billboards… he cements himself on that list. Rockwell’s performance should land him an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Officer Jason Dixon. Throughout the film you can see his character evolve and by the end you start to feel sorry for him, even after almost two hours of hatred.

    The rest of the cast is great and they all turn in amazing performances. Woody Harrelson somehow jerks the tears right from your face while still making you laugh. McDormand’s rough exterior eventually cracks and you can see the shining light that’s been trying to get out for the entire movie. John Hawkes has a great supporting role as Mildred’s estranged husband. There’s even a surprise role by Peter Dinklage. Dinklage’s portrayal of James is delightful and well-spoken as usual.

    In summary, Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri is fun, but deep down it’s tragic. We are carried through various instances of death and despair but writer Martin McDonagh peppered in enough comedy to keep us sane.

    Who should see this movie?
    Fans of dark comedies, viewers looking for an original movie, and people who like great screen performances.

    Who shouldn’t see this movie?
    People who don’t like natural (vulgar) language – It is rated R. That’s it. Everyone should see this film.

    Score

    9 / 10 – An emotional ride with plenty of laughs, tears, and surprises. One of the most original ideas I’ve seen in a long time.

    See more of my movie reviews here

     

    Spoilers

    Caution! Spoilers ahead.

    Read more

    SUV Search: Complete

    Most new SUVs are good, but none are perfect.

    suv-search

    My wife and I are in the market for a new SUV this fall. We are looking to replace our 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, not because we hate it, but because our lease is about to come to an end. There are so many options out there that fit our needs, which could be why this segment is becoming the most popular among car manufacturers today.

    Feature Rich

    We have a very specific wishlist for this next SUV, mainly because of what we have already been accustomed to. Most of the items are luxuries or technology based goodies that we feel every car should have.

    • Remote startpullquote
    • Heated / ventilated front seats
    • Large panoramic sunroof
    • Heated steering wheel
    • Apple CarPlay compatible stereo
    • LED daytime running lights
    • Factory-installed hitch
    • Powered lift-gate

    Not that bad of a list right?

    In addition to those refinements, we really need a car that has an engine that can really move when we need to. We previously had a vehicle with an undersized engine and while it was good on gas, merging onto the highway proved to be somewhat dangerous. Some of the options we’re looking at vaulted us into the luxury SUV space which we didn’t want to tread in. Companies like BMW, Lexus, and Jaguar have great offerings but we did not want to get in on the low-end of their trim levels to meet our budget.

    Narrowing It Down

    In January of this year, we traveled to Detroit for the North American Auto Show to take a look at some potential new models. We came away from this show mostly disheartened by the fact that our beloved Jeep was not changing and thus not keeping up with the influx of technology in this space. The early leader leaving the show was the newly redesigned GMC Terrain. Remember that car I mentioned earlier that had a very underpowered engine? That was a 2013 GMC Terrain with a 4-cylinder lawnmower engine that would redline going up the slightest hill. Needless to say, we only owned that car for about six months. There was some hesitation to lean towards the new Terrain, but the new 2.0 turbocharged engine seemed like a good upgrade that we’d be happy with. Leaving the show I was just about set on getting the new Terrain, in fact, if they would have offered a trade right then and there, I probably would have taken it. They didn’t offer me a new 2018 GMC Terrain on the spot, so we decided to sleep on it.

    Fast forward eight months and we’re still looking at new cars coming out and deciding what we’re going to do. We have a slight deadline because our lease is set to expire sometime in October of this year. Lots of time ahead, but we aren’t taking this decision lightly. While the GMC Terrain is still in the running, we’ve had some other potentials come into view. The 2017.5 Nissan Murano checks all of our boxes and looks pretty cool too. We took a Sunday trip to our local Nissan dealer (because they are closed on Sundays) and eyeballed some new Muranos. This spelled bad news for the Murano because it just doesn’t look at good in person as it does in promotional photos. Now back to one again, the original GMC Terrain that started courting us in January.

    There has always been one wildcard in our race, but it only had the support of half the votes. I have really admired the Volvo XC60 since it’s redesign last year, and even added it to my list. Volvo is a great car company, and they know it, which is why the are now moving up the price list and becoming more of a luxury brand than ever before. My wife has never been impressed by either the XC60 or XC90. “Volvos are for old people, and I’m not old yet” exclaims my wife every time I mention the Volvo SUV. I’ve realized that’s a fight I cannot win, and thus we move on.

    The Winner

    A strange, almost divine series of events have unfolded lately that lead us to pick our next SUV. I was doing more research as I always do and found that the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokees were soon entering production. I thought to myself, “I wonder what’s new on the 2018 model year?”, turns out, just enough. The upcoming Grand Cherokee updates included one key feature that was missing from all previous Grand Cherokee models, Apple CarPlay. This was the one feature we had to have, not because it’s cool, new, and easy to use, it’s because most car infotainment system are downright horrible. The ability to essentially mirror your iPhone on your car’s screen for music and maps is monumental. Along with the addition of CarPlay, Jeep brought back a new special edition trim called High Altitude which fits our styling tastes perfectly. The basics of this special edition are removing all the chrome accents, including the Jeep badges, and replacing them with matte finish dark accents. This creates a very modern take on a more luxurious trim.

    If all goes well with finances and timing, we will be leasing a 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee High Altitude in white.
    IMG_5768

    How I Did The Research

    Over the last 10 months I’ve been researching mid-size SUVs as they are announced and adding them to a spreadsheet to compare the specifications. I have posted it here so that you all can see the various types of specs I was comparing and how the different vehicles stack up. You’ll also notice that I went after specific trim levels on each SUV and only cared about certain features. This was mostly due to the fact that almost all SUVs in this class are going to perform the same and have the same overall sizing.

    I hope you have enjoyed reading about my research and hope this will help someone else make a decision on a very large purchase. I will definitely post an update once we finally get our new SUV.


    Click here for spreadsheet