Just read: 'Boys Among Men' by Jonathan Abrams

Just read: 'Boys Among Men' by Jonathan Abrams

For my money, the NBA is currently about as interesting as it’s ever been. I definitely don’t watch as much professional basketball as I did while I was in college, high school or even younger than that, but I love loosely keeping up with the league and its current generation of fun young talent: Giannis Antetokounmpo with Milwaukee, Anthony Davis with New Orleans, Karl-Anthony Towns with Minnesota, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid with Philadelphia, even the he’s-only-25-years-old Brad Beal, of University of Florida fame, with Washington.

If the NBA hadn’t changed its rules in 2006, though, these players could potentially have much different careers right now. That was the year when the NBA began disallowing players to enter the league straight out of high school, requiring prospects to play one year of basketball elsewhere — either in college or professionally overseas — before entering the draft.

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My work-in-progress 'Batman' comics reading order

My work-in-progress 'Batman' comics reading order

I started reading Batman comic books two years ago now. This post from 2016 outlines my thought process when I began reading, including my first attempt to figure out a Batman reading order by referencing guides from multiple websites, and my thoughts on that olde great debate of whether you should read physical or digital comics.

Since that post, I've read a good amount of comic books, though perhaps not as many as I expected from myself. The reason behind that is largely due to my keeping up with reading non-comic books and listening to lots of podcasts, but that's neither here nor there.

I'm making this post to serve as a permalink to my work-in-progress Batman reading order, as I’d like to stop linking to my previously mentioned post when I need to link to something. A surprising number of people have been interested in the order I’m following and the reasoning behind it. As I make changes, additions, or feel the need to tweak the order represented here, I'll just update this singular location. The list has already been tweaked quite a bit as I’ve made my way through about 20 books so far; the more I read, the more I get intrigued by certain pieces in these books and the more I want to explore where I can find more along those lines.

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Just read: 'Sharp Objects' by Gillian Flynn

Just read: 'Sharp Objects' by Gillian Flynn

Next up on the reading list is Sharp Objects. I started this one for two reasons: I wanted to read the book before watching the much-acclaimed HBO miniseries, and I also joined an online book club that my friend Sarah started which chose this book first.

In short: This book is one intense ride! It deals a lot with psychological trauma and mental illnesses. I knew it would be a dark, psychological thriller, but large chunks of the novel can be harrowing at times. The main character in the story, Camille Preaker, is a journalist from Wind Gap, Missouri, who lives in Chicago and works for a low-circulation newspaper in the city. Her boss, Curry, assigns her to cover a story in her hometown regarding the murder of a young girl and a second girl who has gone missing.

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Predicting every major college football game in 2018

Predicting every major college football game in 2018

For the third year in a row, I've built a spreadsheet formatted so that you can pick the winner of every single Power 5 conference game in the upcoming season of college football. This one is coming in a bit late this season, with the 2018 campaign already underway as I type this -- I've got Purdue and Northwestern tied at 14 in the second quarter on TV right now, and it just feels good to hear Kirk Herbstreit droning on over the sound of pads popping.

Like I said, I created this sheet in 2016 and then did it in 2017 as well, predicting correctly 71.6% of my picks in 2016, then following that with 71.94% accuracy last year. I didn't write a recap of last year because I neglected to tally my own accuracy until just a couple weeks ago, when I began this year's sheet. So my benchmark for success is pretty clear -- 72% is improvement, and 73% would be much improved. The goal of the sheet is ultimately to predict the Playoff participants and a rough top 25, but it's more fun to track the overall accuracy of guessing each game.

Here's the public link for this year's spreadsheet; instructions for using it are located in the first tab.

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Dan Campbell & Ace Enders - "Thunder Road"

Dan Campbell & Ace Enders - "Thunder Road"

I basically use this blog for almost anything except personal content / life updates, but this post will firmly straddle the line of something personal while also being music-related, which is something I write about plenty enough.

Katie and I got married in March. We had an awesome wedding and reception in Gowanus, and I'll always think it's cool that while living in Brooklyn we were able to host 120 family and friends for our wedding at a place that was just a 20-minute walk away from our apartment.

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Just read: 'The Martian' by Andy Weir

Just read: 'The Martian' by Andy Weir

The book is usually better than the movie. Since I haven't seen The Martian movie yet, I figured I'd better read the book first. The book is very good.

I think the general plot of The Martian is well known enough due to the popularity of the film adaptation -- astronaut gets stranded on Mars, must fight to survive, must make a load of potatoes. In essence, The Martian amounts to a series of obstacles that are overcome by insanely quick thinking from an insanely smart main character.

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Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire'

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire'

While I was excited to dig my teeth into The Sorcerer’s Stone, The Chamber of Secrets and The Prisoner of Azkaban once again, most of my highest-level excitement regarding this re-read of the Harry Potter series centered around revisiting books 4-7. Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire is the clear-cut turning point in the story of Harry, Ron and Hermione -- indeed, you can pinpoint the very page where the story takes a sharp turn into a darker, more serious tone and never looks back.

Goblet of Fire is not only the book where the stakes are permanently raised for our heroes, but also stands alone as a masterpiece for author J.K. Rowling, who pieces together an intricately woven tale that leads to one of the most satisfying revelations I’ve ever enjoyed from a plotting perspective. I’ve mentioned in my past blogs for the first three books in this series that Rowling consciously foreshadows pieces of the Harry v. Voldemort endgame as early as the first chapters of the first book. While Goblet of Fire does contain even more endgame foreshadowing, it’s also plotted like a whodunnit within its own pages.

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Just read: 'It's Your Ship' by Captain Mike Abrashoff

Just read: 'It's Your Ship' by Captain Mike Abrashoff

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Since I was hired at DIRECTV in May 2015, and since DIRECTV was acquired by AT&T only a few short months after, the company has been through several departmental re-organizations. The running tally amounts to an average of one and a half or two re-orgs per year since I joined the company. But throughout all that shifting, my focus has remained mostly the same -- up until recently, I was responsible for digital content strategy with a focus on marketing and messaging in the effort to acquire new DIRECTV subscriptions.

With the most recent re-org, though, I earned a promotion and am now managing a team of 12 people with a slightly different focus. This is my first time in a management role, and I accordingly dove into It's Your Ship: Management Techniques From the Best Damn Ship in the Navy on my Kindle. It's a book I'd picked up a while ago and hadn't gotten into yet, but my promotion gave me a good excuse to highlight plenty of notes while going through this short read.

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Just read: 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Just read: 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I took a lot of "Advanced Placement" classes during high school, which were great classes to take in a large public school such as the one I went to, where my graduating class consisted of about 1,100 students. Many of my AP classes offered closer student-teacher interaction, the type that should be the norm at every school, but proved to be an exception at Everglades High in Miramar, Fla. It was in AP classes that I learned calculus from Ms. Woerner, and began an early interest in psychology from Dr. Schear.

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A good ranking of classic Disney animated movie soundtracks

A good ranking of classic Disney animated movie soundtracks

The following is an objectively good ranking of classic Disney animated movie soundtracks. The criteria for the soundtracks considered in this list is very simple: I focused on the best soundtracks from what is considered objectively the best run of theatrical animated features from Walt Disney Studios.

The run I'm referring to begins in the fall of 1989 and ends in the fall of 1999. Throughout this one single decade, Disney produced the following animated classics (this is not a comprehensive list of all films released in this decade, mind you): The Little MermaidBeauty and the BeastAladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Mulan, and Tarzan. You'll notice that this list excludes some crucial titles -- namely, Toy StoryA Bug's Life, and Toy Story 2 -- which are purposefully left behind as I've always viewed the Pixar x Disney partnership to be separate and have produced a superior product when compared to Disney's in-house animated films.

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Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban'

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban'

After my inability to pace along with Binge Mode while revisiting The Chamber of Secrets, I'm proud to report that I've gotten myself somewhat under control now. While revisiting Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban, I completed my listen of the book after two of Binge Mode's four episodes devoted to it were released! It's still pretty easy to blast through these audiobooks in 2-3 days because of how short they are, but this should become less of an issue now that we're moving into much longer book territory.

All that to say: These audiobooks really are as engrossing and incredible as I imagined they would be when I started The Sorcerer's Stone. I've already said it, but Jim Dale is a master narrator. Once I start one of these, I just can't put it down -- or take my earbuds out, I guess. I'm really happy I went the audiobook route for this journey and, again, would recommend it as highly as possible.

My overall sentiment for Stone was joy; for Chamber it was duty; and for Prisoner it's going to be kinship. Interestingly, since I think this word is most often associated with blood relatives or familial ties, I mean it in this case exclusively in its secondary meaning -- a sharing of characteristics or origins. I mean to use kinship here as a substitute for affinity, or brotherhood, or possibly friendship.

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Just read: 'Gumption' by Nick Offerman

Just read: 'Gumption' by Nick Offerman

This is the current stopping point for me in a little mini-run of listening to audiobooks read by their comedian authors. in 2016-17, I read Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance, B.J. Novak's One More Thing, Tina Fey's Bossypants and Nick Offerman's Paddle Your Own Canoe. This year, I've done Rainn Wilson's The Bassoon King and most recently Amy Poehler's Yes Please, now wrapping up with Nick Offerman's second book, Gumption

The book's subtitle, Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America's Gutsiest Troublemakers, sums up very well what we're getting ourselves into with this read. Offerman hand-chooses a list of 21 people, all Americans, who he views as great in some way. He proceeds to write what amounts to a mini-biography of each person's life, delving most deeply into instances or characteristics that support his thesis of what makes this person great. In many cases, for the folks on Offerman's list who are alive, he was able to sit and do an interview with them for this book, and he describes these conversations with relish; throughout the read, it's clear that Offerman took a lot of joy in writing this book.

In most every chapter, Offerman also applies the greatness of the American currently in question to society in a broader sense.

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Just read: 'Yes Please' by Amy Poehler

Just read: 'Yes Please' by Amy Poehler

First things first: Poehler is perhaps the least talented book writer of the bunch I've read so far, though it's tough to tell with Ansari since his book had a cowriter attached to it. Whatever shortcomings Yes Please has in terms of form or function -- which I'll get to -- are actually made up for a bit by the structure of the audiobook itself.

Poehler speaks directly to the listener at times and has special guests come into the booth to read portions of her book; in most cases, these were portions that were actually written by the special guests. Seth Meyers, Mike Schur (creator of Parks & Recreation) and Poehler's mother and father are guests that have extended portions, and Meyers reads an entire chapter that he wrote for the book. It's fun to hear Meyers and Schur with Poehler, cracking jokes and running through a list of alternative names that Schur considered for the Parks & Rec character Leslie Knope. The result is a feeling that you benefitted from choosing the audiobook medium, like you got a little something extra, which is nice.

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Just read: 'The Bassoon King' by Rainn Wilson

Just read: 'The Bassoon King' by Rainn Wilson

Returning to my 2016 trend of listening to audiobooks read by by their comedian authors (Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance, B.J. Novak's One More Thing, Tina Fey's Bossypants and Nick Offerman's Paddle Your Own Canoe to date), I recently went through Rainn Wilson's The Bassoon King. This is a memoir that falls most in line with Fey's book out of that bunch, but stands out for how deeply it delves into religion, spirituality and fuck-ups.

Wilson grew up learning the ways of the Bahá'í faith, which is a religion that extolls the value and worthiness of all religions, and emphasizes the worth and equality of all people. Bahá'ís believe that there is one God, regardless of whatever name any specific religion assigns to that God. Wilson's walkthrough of the faith is holistic, and he references it in moments of storytelling about his own life to provide insight into his thought processes, or as a pillar to bounce retroactive thoughts off.

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Podcast recommendation: The New York Times' 10-part dive into ISIS, 'Caliphate'

Podcast recommendation: The New York Times' 10-part dive into ISIS, 'Caliphate'

The New York Times has just concluded its 10-part narrative podcast, Caliphate (Apple Podcasts / Overcast), which follows reporter Rukmini Callimachi as she investigates and reports on the Islamic State. Callimachi is the primary reporter here, and along with reporter and producer Andy Mills, they tell a story that begins by trying to answer the question of, "Who are we really fighting?"

While the series begins with that mission statement, it's easy to think while listening that Callimachi and Mills veer off-script at some point. The first part of the series is driven by an ISIS source that the pair travel to Canada to interview; this conversation then gives way to a trip to Iraq, during which they cover the defeat of ISIS in Mosul. They find a briefcase with documents that reveal how self-sufficient ISIS has become, and learn about the insanely real extent to which ISIS is capable of actually governing people. They interview an ISIS official who was captured in the prison where he's held, and interview a girl who is returned to her family after years spent in captivity of ISIS.

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Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets'

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets'

Only one book into the series, I've totally gone off the rails. Most of my everyday internal thoughts are imagined in the voice of Harry Potter audiobook narrator Jim Dale, whose Wikipedia page I looked up and learned that he was a pop star in the 1960s; this man is an 82-year-old living legend. The original plan to follow along with Binge Mode's Harry Potter podcast releases is shot, too -- I've finished The Chamber of Secrets before they've even released one episode on this installment of the series. Alas.

Having your mind inhabit the Harry Potter wizarding world is extremely good for the soul and brain. It's made me hungry not just to continue my Potter journey, but to start reading even more than I already have been this year -- I've been on a pretty good pace in 2018, by my own lackadaisical reading speed standards -- and I'm now thinking I'll get through at least 25ish books this year, which would be a real personal accomplishment for me. Three years ago, if you told me I'd ever be reading two books per months, I would have asked you how you managed to secure me a Time Turner. My soul is filled with joy when I'm in this world, and my brain is filled with the relaxed contentment of spending time in a fictional place, flexing the creative and imaginative muscles that much too regularly go unused for significant periods of time in the daily activities of working and living.

My overall sentiment for Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone was joy. Today's sentiment, for Chamber of Secrets, is duty. As I listened to Dale masterfully narrate me through Harry, Ron and Hermione’s inevitable path down through the sink and into the Chamber of Secrets, it became clear on this revisitation that these three second-year Hogwarts students never stood a chance. Not that they never stood a chance to solve the mystery of what lies within or how to gain entry into the Chamber, but that they never had a chance to not take on this dangerous voyage. It was, beyond any doubt, their duty to do this thing, otherwise Hogwarts would close and the Ministry of Magic would never find another qualified Auror candidate.

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Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone'

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone'

Inspired by this week's kickoff of Binge Mode: Harry Potter, I re-subscribed to Audible and listened to Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone this week. As I got through the approximately 8.5-hour audiobook in about 26 hours of real-life time, you could say I Binge Mode-ed it myself.

First, a bit about Binge Mode, which is becoming a highlight in my podcast feed. It's the only show I'm currently listening to from The Ringer's podcast network, and it has recently been featuring Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion dissecting a recently released movie or TV show each week. These weekly episodes often take on the same format: Mallory and Jason recap the plot of whatever they're discussing, then choose a main theme from the work, then go through and call out specific points to show how the media represents that theme. It's a pleasure to get this type of analysis for newly released films, because it's often much more thoughtful and put-together than the types of podcasts that release show from a more instant reaction-based point of view.

This week, though, they began their jaunt through the entire Wizarding World of Harry Potter. They're going through The Sorcerer's Stone this week with five hour-ish-long episodes all week, with the first four episodes splitting the book up into chapters and investigating the overarching themes in those chapters, and the final episode focusing on the movie. From the first episode, I knew I'd want to accompany this with a revisiting of the Harry Potter series myself.

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Just read: 'The Vision: Little Worse Than A Man, Little Better Than A Beast' by Tom King

Just read: 'The Vision: Little Worse Than A Man, Little Better Than A Beast' by Tom King

Tom King's run writing The Vision for Marvel Comics lasted only 12 issues, collected into two trade paperbacks, but it made a mark in terms of critical and fan acclaim. After hearing enough about it online, I purchased both trade paperbacks -- the first six issues are collected in Little Worse Than A Man, while the back six are collected in Little Better Than A Beast -- during a big Marvel sale on comiXology last year, and I finally got around to reading them when it became a topic during a recent Do By Friday episode.

King enjoyed such positive acclaim with The Vision, along with previous successes, that he ultimately parlayed it into an exclusive contract with DC, where he's currently roughly halfway through a 100-issue run as the writer of Batman. Not a bad gig to jump to following a project that nobody had particularly high expectations for; The Vision was announced right around the time the character was playing a large role on-screen in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, so King's run could have easily been a quick, heavy-hitting action story to expand a bit on the history of Marvel's best-known A.I. character. No one would have blamed King and Marvel for going that route, or for taking Vision on a short journey that followed the events of Ultron

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Just read: 'Friday Night Lights' by H. G. Bissinger

Just read: 'Friday Night Lights' by H. G. Bissinger

The position Friday Night Lights has assumed in the general pantheon of pop culture is pretty remarkable considering it started out as a simple inspiration to write about high school football. H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger's best-seller, written about the 1988 Permian Panthers football season, seems like a far-fetched project in retrospect. Bissinger, a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, was granted a leave from his day job only about a year after winning a Pulitzer Prize there for investigative reporting. His goal was to find a small town and write about big football.

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Just read: 'The House on Pooh Corner' by A. A. Milne

Just read: 'The House on Pooh Corner' by A. A. Milne

After reading through the marathon that was The Stand, I decided to switch gears and get into a book that was a little more on the lighter side, so I downloaded The House on Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne for my Kindle.

Aside from the relief of reading something that dealt very minimally with an apocalyptic world or death in any capacity, the book is extremely enjoyable on its own and I would recommend it as a palette cleanser the next time you need one. It's short, at under 200 pages, and its 10 chapters mostly function isolated from one another so you can read a quick chapter each day, which is what I did.

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