Star Wars: Thrawn

Chiss do not make idle boasts or promises. Once they set their minds to something, they succeed, or die in the attempt.

When Disney removed decades of Star Wars Expanded Universe content from canon, fan-favorite Grand Admiral Thrawn was on of the few characters who managed to stay onboard. He is the only non-human officer in the Galactic Empire, rising from nothing all the way to their highest rank, and considering how racist the Empire is generally portrayed as, that’s saying a lot already.

Thrawn fist appeared in the Star Wars universe in 1991’s Heir to the Empire, and to the relief of many fans, they took the opportunity of the canon reset to give Thrawn a far more fleshed out origin story in 2017’s Thrawn. A year later, it was adapted by Marvel Comics as Star Wars: Thrawn. I usually don’t review adaptations, but as anyone would, I’ll make and except for the Grand Admiral.

The story opens with an Imperial patrol finding the Chiss exiled on a barren planet. He claims to have vital information of the horrors that await the Empire in the Unknown Regions. He is quickly escorted back for an audience with the Emperor, who quickly takes a linking to Thrawn and has him put through the Imperial Academy.

Thrawn is not alone on his journey. Eli Vanto serves as his translator and quickly becomes his protégé, and Arihnda Pryce helps Thrawn navigate the Empire’s treacherous politics. Thrawn’s prowess and unique approach to strategy, illuminated by a fascination in his enemy’s culture and art, propels him through the ranks, shocking naysayers, and leading him towards his first appearance in TV’s Star Wars Rebels.

As with many adaptations, the art is no Kingdom Come. It can be flat at times, but the shadows really come through when it matters. The real highlight is Timothy Zahn’s story, which has far more layers than most comics on the market today.

The adaptation preserves almost the entirety of the Zahn’s story, and you’ll strongly feel all of Thawn’s frustrations and victories, arriving at perhaps the most satisfying understanding of a main villain you’ve ever had. Though, is Thrawn truly a villain in service of the Empire, or does he have an anterior motive? Time will tell. 

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LA County Fair – 2018

Yesterday, Sarah and I went to the LA County Fair, a childhood tradition of mine that I hadn’t been to in around 18 years or so. It was great to see all of the familiar sights, mixed in amongst entirely new things, and I’m really glad to see that the contest winners are still displayed prominently throughout. I took a few photos, and look forward to taking a few more next year.

Vader’s Story

Say what you will about the Star Wars prequels, I’ve already written about why I didn’t like Attack of the Clones, but above all I have been a life-long fan of Star Wars. In the original trilogy, Darth Vader only appears on screen for a total of 34 minutes, yet he’s one of the most iconic villains in film history. For the majority of the original trilogy, Darth Vader is largely a one-note villain until the very end when he (spoiler alert) saves his son’s life. This redemption story is so important to the character that it even survives alternate universe takes on the series.

The prequel trilogy threw that one-note approach on its head by focussing on Anakin Skywalker, the man who would become Darth Vader. Suddenly, a one-note villain became the Star Wars character with the most depth, further expanded by additional TV shows, books, and comics. You see an ambitious boy grow into a hero, that hero begin to question things to the point that he falters from his path and becomes the villain, and you see that villain realize at the end how far he’s fallen. You may not believe me, and that’s fair, but this short video should put all of that into context:

The next time you watch Star Wars in its entirety, I recommend following this order, and keep in mind the journey of Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader and back to Anakin Skywalker.

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Ice House Canyon Trailhead

Yesterday, Sarah and I stumbled across the trailhead for the Ice House Canyon Trail on Mount San Antonio. Well, we didn’t really stumble across, we just drove a bit further than planned, it’s actually not hard to miss. We took a few photos, and since it’s roughly an 8-mile hike, we plan to be back for more when we’re better equipped. 🙂

WordPress 4.9.6 Released

WordPress 4.9.6 has been released, and it provides new tools to assist with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance. The update is recommended for everyone, because the GDPR protects all European Union citizens, regardless of where your site is based.

All users can safely update from Dashboard -> Updates or download and update manually, though you should probably backup first just in case, unless you’re already using VaultPress, which you really should be.

The release post will offer some how-to information, and more info will appear in your Dashboard when you update WordPress. Also, if you are a theme or plugin developer, do be aware that there are some important notes for theme and plugin developers.

The tools provided by WordPress only cover the data that WordPress itself collects. All of Automattic’s products have a general page for GDPR info, and WooCommerce has a very helpful guide on managing your store in compliant with the GDPR. If your theme or plugins collect any data, you should definitely check with their documentation or support for specifics on GDPR compliance.

Overall, these tools only assist you with compliance. It is up to you as your site’s owner to take the steps required to be compliant with the GDPR and any local variations that may be introduced.

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Earth Day, 2018

Today is Earth Day, a day to reflect on this planet we call home, that means today is a great day to start saving the environment for free and donating to The Conservation Fund.

While you’re doing that, please take the time to consider ways you can help the environment yourself with just a few changes to your routine, like switching out your lights for LED bulbs, walking or biking to closer destinations rather than driving, taking a train or bus whenever possible, planting a tree or two, and even something as simple as properly separating your recyclables from your trash.

Please spend some time outdoors today, or enjoy this video if you can’t, and do your part to help our planet thrive, at least as long as we still have to live here. 😉

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Desk Army

I work from home, so keeping an entertaining desk is pretty much a must. Over the past few years, I’ve been collecting figures and toys that have some sort of meaning to me in order to build what I call a Desk Army. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ve already seen these, but since I’m starting to slow down a bit, I figured it was a good time to post about it here.

Soldiers in the Desk Army have been recruited, retired, replaced, and wounded over the years, but the current version embedded below is as follows from top-left to bottom-right: an X-wing from Star Wars, Astolfo (Rider of Black) from Fate/Apocrypha, Artoria Pendragon (Saber) from Fate/Zero, Yuuki Asuna from Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale, Mikasa Ackerman from Attack on Titan, a TIE/sf from Star Wars, Mega Man X from Mega Man X, Ruby Rose from RWBY, the tenth Doctor from Doctor Who, Optimus Prime from Transformers G1, Jack Harkness from Torchwood, Oliver Queen from Arrow, the Green Ranger from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Sabine Wren from Star Wars Rebels, Wolf Link from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Boba Fett from Star Wars, the Green Lion from Voltron: Legendary Defender, and Donald Duck from Disney.

Desk Army 12

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Photos from the Huntington Library

Just last week, my Jetpack support team (we’re big enough to be 4 teams now) had our annual team meetup so that we can grow as a team and build great things that could only be built in person. One of our moments away from work involved going to The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, which is a really wonderful place that not many folks outside of Southern California know about. There was a lot to cover in not much time that day, so Sarah and I went back for more later.

If you’re in the area, I highly recommend visiting it to at least experience the botanical gardens and the fascinating Orbit Pavilion.

Here are just a few photos from the two trips:

Happy New Year! the 2018 edition

2018 begins today, so it’s a great time to start using some basic privacy tools, make sure your browser is up to date, update all of your passwords, and setup two factor authentication wherever you can.

This site’s top five items last year were Custom Fonts Without Plugins for WordPress Themes, Modern Aircraft Accident Investigation Equipment and Techniques, Fix for Stuck Health App (iOS 8), Cloudup: Free File Sharing from Automattic, and Postmodern Jukebox’s Great Arrangements, so I guess those old items really do have some staying power. 🙂

We’ll need more people sharing their voices and experiences this year, so please considering launching your own site with WordPress (and Jetpack) or WordPress.com, or start posting again if you already have one!

Now, let’s all have a great 2018, or perhaps 12,018 HE!

The Definitive “Leviathan of the Ancient Deep” Recording

leviathan album artAfter 8 long years of work, the magic of modern recording and digital techniques have helped Sarah to produce the definitive recording of her Leviathan of the Ancient Deep Concerto! The 25-minute piece was Sarah’s Master’s thesis under Claremont Graduate University’s composition program, and even though 8 whole years have passed, it’s still her favorite. The Leviathan Concerto features a vibrant six-string electric violin lead, backed by synthesizer, electronic wind instrument, and a full orchestra. You can hear a sample on the announcement post.

This definitive recording is available for a limited time, and exclusively for her Backstage Members, but don’t worry, the cost of membership is only $12/year. That’s right, for roughly the price of one album a year, you’ll get this recording and every other new album she produces!