House of the Future

Sarah and I recently moved into a new home. It is a nice gigantic home that will allow us to put in studio space as well as have room to get 30 or 40 more cats. When we were getting ready to move Harper got really excited and sent us all sorts of neat things to make our home more automated.

As I played with these automation devices I realized that I don’t need a lot of things automated. Or I realized the things I want automated are not available for the single family home of a middle class family.

Here is what I have tried out:

  • LifX bulbs – Color changing fancy light bulbs
  • Phillips Hue – Color changing fancy light bulbs
  • SmartThings – Used for automating and tracking
  • Sonos – Music
  • Nest – Thermostat taken to the next level

Some of those aren’t automation but they put me in the same frame of mind: Making the HOME OF THE FUTURE!!!

What worked

or what worked for me.

Bulbs

Both bulbs work great. The LifX bulbs where easy to set up and don’t have a hub so don’t take up a spot on your router. The iOS app is well made and works. Response time between your phone and the bulbs is quick. I did experience a time when it would lose connection and I would have to restart the app to get them to work.

I like the LifX bulbs because they remember settings. If I set it one way and then shut off the switch when I turn it on it will be the same color/brightness it was when I turned it off.

The Hue bulbs worked well and considering that the setup was more complex it wasn’t difficult. Plug in hub, screw in bulbs, open app and push the button on the hub. The problem is that we are energy conscious and having to open up an app to turn off the lights was a pain. When you flip the switch off and then back on they return to the default white.

Where they shine is in the app. The ability to design color schemes based on a picture is a neat feature and makes creating a new theme a snap. Also the ability to link bulbs and adjust until you are happy with it is nice.

I have had more problems with my Hue bulbs then the LifX ones. I had to change out my router and in doing so craziness happened. The Hue app wouldn’t work even after quitting it and resetting my phone. It just started to work again but it was a frustrating week.

When it comes to fancy color changing lights I would recommend the Hue bulbs. The presentation is slicker and they support a ton of bulbs. But, I don’t feel the need to have different colored lights. The auto-off/auto-on features can be nice but I am not so lazy I cannot use my fingers for that.

SmartThings

SmartThings are cool. Not super useful but cool. I set them up once we moved in and did not find the options to be useful. There was a lot of neat potential but I found the execution to be lacking. Part of that could have been me.

The SmartThings app is a pain to use. I found that it was counter-intuitive for a lot of things and didn’t update as fast as I wanted.

The one thing I wanted to be able to do with my SmartThings was tell if my garage door is open or closed. I couldn’t get the magnetic sensors to work in a way that made sense so I ended up using the motion sensor. Motion meant garage open, no motion meant closed. This worked ok. The sad thing was is that it ate the battery so fast. Like a month.

The other part of the SmartThings that was cool but failed was the outlet. We used it to turn our Xmas lights on and off. It was plugged into an outlet in our garage and was destroyed by the polar vortex or something. It stopped working in about 3 weeks. When the outlet was working it was magical. It would turn them on and off at a set time or we could do it from our phones to turn them on.

We also used the key fobs but that felt like I was tracking Sarah and didn’t have a purpose other then that.

Sonos

The Sonos system is awesome. Do you remember when you could stream itunes to speakers connected to your airport. Remember how that never worked. Especially if you were trying to stream to many speakers. Sonos fixed that.

The Sonos system is independent of anything else. They have apps for just about every device. Once you link your music services to your Sonos you can listen all day long without any trouble.

Setup was super easy. I got it setup the day we moved so that we could rock out. Open app, add component, push button on Sonos and listen to music.

Another thing that Sonos does which makes me happy is the ability to have every Sonos’s play different music. Great for when I am writing in one room and Sarah is hanging out somewhere else. Also adding components is easy and since they are wireless you can just plug it in and add it.

Nest

Nest is by far the best thing for a house of the future. Nest is a fancy thermostat that learns your life and temperature needs. It has a motion sensor which allows it to go to away mode when it doesn’t sense motion for a certain amount of time.

When you adjust the temperature it makes a note and if you do it consistently it will anticipate your needs. This means you don’t have to program your thermostat, it programs itself.

The other nice feature of the nest is the ability to turn on your heat or whatever from anywhere. There were many times this last winter where Sarah and I would be on our way home from somewhere and it was cold. I would get in the app and turn the heat up in the house so that it would be nice when we got home. I am looking forward to this feature this summer with the AC.

I would say of all the things that will make your house the house of the future the Nest thermostat is the way to go.

What did I learn

I learned that I like some automation but not too much. When I feel like my house is stalking me I get worried. Colored lights are neat but they are not for me. I want my lights to work on a switch and not have to deal with an app to change them. I love to have my music work wherever I am and for my house to manage the heating/cooling for me.

If you are thinking of automating your house figure out what you want to automate before getting started. And make sure you understand what is possible and what isn’t with the current tech. Also… get a nest thermostat they are awesome.

Writing Stuff and Things

I have been doing a lot more writing in the past couple months. Unlike a lot of my past writing this has been super focused on a single piece. In the past I was much more likely to write short little pieces without a lot of thought and planning. I wrote one of those pieces a while ago and shared it with Harper.

He suggested I explore the idea further and try and make it into an eBook. I was intrigued by this idea and gave it a try. I increased it from 500 words to over 7500. I then pruned it, making it easier to read and trying to make sure it made sense.

After all of that I sent it to an actual editor. This process was amazing. Here was someone looking at my work from the outside. Not family, friends or anyone I even knew. I learned so much from this process. The editing process showed me that I have a bad habit of using weak words in description and using this is/that is statements.

Hopefully I have learned enough so that my writing gets better. Or at least I will be able to be more effective in my editing before I send it to a real editor.

On the other side of writing I have started my serial story. It is over at Fancy Cadaver. My hope is that this will become a place for me to experiment with fiction. I started my first story on April 7th. I am going to do my best to publish a section every Monday until the story is done and then continue with a new story.

Writing fiction is hard. I seem to do OK in the non-fiction space. This is because I have spent a lot of time writing for school and this blog. I haven't spent very much time writing fiction. Which is the whole purpose of the serial story: To write more fiction.

The tools I have been using are pretty simple:

  • iPad – this is my current go to computing device since I am laptop free currently. I occasionally use my mac mini but not as often.
  • iPad keyboard – I use a Logitech one recommended by wirecutter.com. Once I got used to the small size it became easy to use.
  • Karma Hotspot- Sometimes I need internet while writing.
  • Draft – This is my favorite place to write. It is clean and simple and made for writing. I also like that I can snag an editor within the program and it makes sharing drafts super easy.
  • Pages – When I am writing offline. Works well and automatically syncs with the desktop.
  • Markdown – The markdown syntax has been a little tricky to learn but it is what Jekyll uses and Draft supports it so that is great.

These tools allow me to work anywhere I need to. That has allowed me to be more productive in my writing. Instead of having to find time to write I let time find me. I almost always have my iPad with me so when the mood hits or I have time I can throw down some words.

I have done a lot of reading and research on workflows for writers and what others are using. I ran into a bunch of clunky programs that didn't allow me to just write. A lot of the apps I tried were about the gimmicks and not about writing. I need to put words on a page not have a background picture.

Draft and Pages are just that. They are simple and easy to use and are just for writing. This also applies to the platform I publish on. For this blog I use WordPress and have for a long, long time. For Fancy Cadaver I am using git hub pages/Jekyll/markdown. I wasn't a fan at first. It was different then WordPress and was therefore evil.

Then as I played with it more I realized that it has everything I love in my writing tools. It is simple, easy and allows me to put words up. There are no bells and whistles. Jekyll isn't perfect but it works for what I need.

Moving forward I am going to be writing a lot. I don't know that I will consistently hitting 1600 words a day but I would really like too. I will also be posting about the whole process of writing the eBook once I get the publishing figured out.

Meanwhile, feel free to checkout Fancy Cadaver for some fun fiction and let me know what you think.

Drop Lines

I don’t remember when it was but one time Harper and I got talking about public speaking and performance. We were with a group of people and Harper mentioned that his time spent performing as a juggler taught him how to react when something goes wrong. Jugglers call them Drop Lines. What you say when you fail. I have been thinking about this quite a bit since I have been performing more and more. A good drop line will save your act.

While I like to think that I am an amazing juggler I drop a lot. I have upped my practice regimen to hopefully change this but alas I still drop a lot. The perfect drop line is dependent on the prop you are using and your audience. For instance, when I drop a juggling club I say “That was on purpose so I could show you this” and I then do a kick up into juggling(which looks as cool as it sounds). If I drop again I say “For those of you that missed it last time” and then I do the same thing.

This works because while I am pretty sure that the audience doesn’t believe that I did it on purpose I covered in a way that makes it seem like maybe I did. It keeps them on their toes and gives them something else to think about. They don’t think about how I just failed but about how I handled that failure.

The hardest part about drop lines is that you have to plan on failing. You have to look at the presentation you are about to give and think “What will I do if X happens.” This is hard to do because everyone hates failure. Luckily drop lines get easier the more you have to do them plus as you make more and more presentations you fail less often. But how do you plan for failure?

I have found it best to think of what the absolute worst thing that could happen during your presentation. Typically for me this is when I drop on a simple trick. Though truth be told it would probably be lighting myself or someone else on fire. After you have brainstormed everything that could go wrong figure out how you will handle that situation.

There is no right way to handle a drop or failure. However, there is a wrong way. The number one wrong way is to get frustrated or angry. I always tell myself that if I get frustrated the juggling prop has won. Keep that in mind. Most likely nothing horrible will happen to you if you screw up so just go with it. Sometimes the easiest way to handle a failure is to own up to it and move on. Don’t make excuses (unless they are hilarious) and don’t pretend like nothing happened. Because everyone saw it happen. But also remember that you are in charge of your time during your presentation. Don’t get flustered and let the focus be that you screwed up.

Remember that you and every member of the audience are human.

Serial-essly

I have been working on writing outside my comfort zone more. I am fairly comfortable writing in this blog style or even longer pieces in the non-fiction preachy style of so many self help type books, however I am not good at fiction. That being the case I have been trying to find a way to write more in the fiction area while getting immediate gratification. Then it hit me!! Serial Stories!!

Why has no one done this before. Here is how it will go down. I will write a chapter at a time and post it as soon as I am done. Then at regular intervals I will release another chapter… Until the story is done.

Is your mind blown? It should be. I think this is a project that could catch on and other people could start doing it. How neat would it be if you could go online and read a chapter from many different stories. And then go back later and read more.

Crazy!!

I have been writing a lot more lately and I have discovered that I really enjoy writing. It helps me clear out my head as well as allowing me to get ideas out on the page. I have been working on a piece lately that I really like and am hopefully going to publish soon.

Part of that process has been getting it edited by a professional. This is both amazing and scary. Truthfully it is just amazing. I learned that I use a lot of that is/this is statements as well as a lot of weak words when describing things. Hopefully this process will make me a better writer.

As soon as I have the piece finished up I will post a link. Also I am pretty serious about this serial idea. Stay tuned because there may be some interesting things happening. Or not.

Heckling

Heckling happens. Probably it happens to me more often then others as I am a performer but it does happen to everyone. And we all do it, maybe not overtly but we still all participate in heckling in some way almost everyday. It is because people as a whole are snarky and mean. Individuals are nice but the group is mean.

An extreme example of heckling happened to me this last weekend. I was street performing in downtown Greeley(which you should come and watch on Fridays…just saying), and this gentlemen had had a little bit to drink. One of the highlights of my show is that I juggle fire. This is because fire equals tips and tips equal me purchasing new toys. I build this up a lot during my show to get people excited. This gentleman wasn’t happy with me juggling fire suggesting instead that I juggle grenades. I mentioned that unfortunately that juggling grenades was frowned upon by the local police so I couldn’t do it. He mumbled something involving him having an Ak-47 and whatever.

Now a normal person may have been nervous with the basic threat of violence. And now I realize that what he said wasn’t cool. What I did instead was push back. Not saying anything mean or rude but basically telling him that the people weren’t there to watch him, though if he had a show I would be happy to stop mine and allow him to perform. He spluttered a little bit and then sat silent for a while.

What I did was bring the spotlight to him. Most people think they are hilarious add drinking to that and you get a perfect storm. By putting the spotlight on him he was forced to face the blunt force that is the general public. Most people don’t want this. In fact if you aren’t expecting this it is hard to react in a way that doesn’t make you look like an idiot.

I figured that I had silenced him for the remainder of the show. Unfortunately I underestimated the amount of alcohol he had consumed as well as his need for attention. At one point during the show he yelled that I should do the splits while juggling. What? It was weird. Then he proceeded to get up and drop into the splits. Even more weird. This showed me that he was ready for the big time. He now had to be part of the show. I had to get him on my side in order to be able to finish the show.

Luckily it was about time for the finale. I cut the Diabolo bit short and moved on to the torches. I set up the rola-bola, got the torches dipped in fuel and asked for a lighter(knowing full well that he had one). He said he had one and brought it up. I let him light the torches while I held them. Thanked him, got the crowd to applaud him and sent him back to the audience. He was now invested in the trick/performance. I did my bit with torches and was finished.

While collecting my tips he approached and dropped a five in the hat, said that he was ex-military and was glad to help out with my show. I thanked him for helping me with the torches and moved on. I had converted a potential trouble maker into a fan simply by acknowledging him and making him part of the show.

Truthfully that is the trick. In life when someone is up in your business it is important to make the part of what they want to be part of and not alienate them. If, instead of including the dude, I had laid into him I could have had a problem. I would have made an enemy that could have spent his whole evening following me around making performing hard. This isn’t easy to do.

But how do you do this? In a business setting you can do this by asking for feedback from people who are constantly second guessing you or making you crazy. You don’t have to do what they say but they will fill more included if you ask for their opinion or just ask how things are going. In life in general it all goes back to the golden rule. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Simple.

Happy Birthday Thanks

A lot of people wished me a happy birthday on facebook and I wanted to say thanks for those wishes. I had a really nice birthday and it was nice of all of you for taking the time to say happy birthday to me.

Shame on those of you who didn't…

I had a bundle of fun over the weekend with Sarah. We saw movies, did some shopping and even cleaned our house. Sarah got me Pikmin 3 and The Wonderful 101. My parents got me some spices, Minecraft Legos and a set of Phillips Hue Bulbs. Harper got me tickets to see the Cirque Du Soliel in the spring. I am very excited.

Thanks family for helping me have a fun birthday. More writing later in the week.

National Pride and the Luge

The Olympics start today. I love the olympics. The olympics were one of the events that my family would rent a TV for. I loved watching all of the events and listening to Bob Costas commentate. Now that I am an adult I still love the olympics but it is a lot more focused. I would probably watch every event and love it but since I have real responsibilities now I am unable to do that. Also I don't have regular TV so that makes it a little harder, unless netflix or hulu is streaming them…

At the Summer olympics it is all about gymnastics. I love all things gymnastics. It always amazes me to see what amazing things they can do on all the different apparatuses. Also I used to do tumbling and coach gymnastics so I have an idea of how hard things are. I watch other events in the summer olympics but I am not as hooked as I am on gymnastics. 

At the Winter Olympics there are a lot more events that I like watching. Figure Skating is number one. My mom and I used to watch them together all the time. I remember when Nancy Kerrigan got Tonya Harding'd. So much drama. 

The Winter Olympics have more danger. A majority of the events I like to watch involve sliding down an icy hill on skis, bobsleds or luges. This is insanity at its best. The luge was always my favorite, those people are crazy. 

Growing up we had a camp bed/cot thing. The mattresses was orange with green and yellow stripes. It was one of the things we would get out when it was time to watch the olympics. And honestly it was an imaginary luge for a long time. Harper and I would take turns leaning into the turns.  I am pretty sure we also played two man bob sled with it as well. 

What is sad about the olympics now that I am older is that they have become filled with a lot of negativity. Instead of being an international celebration of sportsmanship it has become an international celebration of potential terrorism and homophobia. 

Russia is a pretty homophobic place according to news that I have read. Apparently that is a big deal. I have heard a lot of people talk about how horrible it is and how we should boycott the games because of this. And part of me agrees. However we need to look at the fact that there are more states that do not allow gay people to get married then those that do. In fact overall I would say that  we, as a country, are as bad as Russia. 

Sure Obama has spoken out for gay marriage whereas Putin seems to be dead set against it. We almost had that same thing here. If Romney would have won do you think gay rights would have gone as far forward as they have?

Another thing I am tired of hearing about is how Sochi is a terrorist hotbed, or next to a terrorist hotbed. Isn't everywhere near a terrorist hotbed? Sure we don't have the Taliban blowing up stuff near us but we are north of one of the most violent places in the world. We are north of a place that the citizens have formed militias to fight against the cartels because the government won't.

I bet those Mexican citizens wish they had oil so the great USA would come and blow up the bad guys and help them make our systems work for them. I can't wait for the Rio olympics. No terrorists just millions of poor people. To me that seems like a fixable problem. A problem that should be brought to the attention of the rest of the world. I wonder if the poverty of Rio will get the same amount of press as the terrorists in the mountains near Sochi.

All that aside I am excited to see what these olympics bring. We have some good figure skaters who should do good and there are always the host countries new events which are fun to watch. Also dudes on boards sliding down icy pipes. Awesome. 

Everyones assignment, especially those without TV is to watch Cool Runnings and The Cutting Edge. It will get you in the mood for the olympics. 

Help I’m Cold

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It is cold today. Really cold. According to my phone (which is an iphone so it has to be correct) it is -40 with windchill in Greeley today. WTF. That is stupid cold. I am not a fan.

Here is the deal though. I have a house, food and a car. I am super lucky. I was whining to myself about the fact that my car’s heater was slow at getting warm. Then I drove by a dude digging through a dumpster for food. Made me feel like a super big douchebag.

Please keep this in mind when you are dealing with the cold. Not everyone is lucky enough to have heat, a bed or even a coat. If you are able to please help people out. Have an old coat? donate it to a homeless shelter. Have some extra money? Give it to those that need it.

It is really easy to look past the homeless and poor but it is important to provide support for those that need it. Don’t assume that someone else will help, because that someone else is assuming you will help.

The nice thing about helping others is that you feel good afterwards. Even something as simple as giving someone all your change will make you feel better the rest of the day and potentially help them make it through another day.

When I worked for graphicly I would see the same dude every week as I left town. I started giving him all the change in my slurpee fund. I also started to buy an extra cupcake when I went to Tee and Cakes for Sarah and I. He would get that extra cupcake.

As time went on I noticed that he was wearing nicer clothes. Not a suit or anything but he was wearing cleaner clothes. One day he had a decent backpack and water bottle. I don’t know where he got all of these things but I know that he was helped through the generosity of others.

After I got laid off from graphicly I always wondered what happened to him. I hope that he continued to get the help he needed to get on his feet.

For more information about donations or how to help check out this place.

OMG MOAR SNOW

We are having a real winter in Colorado for the first time in a while. We have snow on the ground for extended periods. Normally it just snows and then melts the next day. Because of this a lot of people don’t know who to drive in snow. I thought I would try to break it down into three easy tips.

  1.  Drive slower- Notice the -er at the end of slow. This means that your speed needs to reflect the road conditions. It doesn’t mean that as soon as it snows you need to go five miles per hour everywhere. Because this makes your fellow drivers annoyed and angry. When it has stopped snowing and is still cold remember that there is sneaky ice under all that snow. There is no need to rush around because sense there is snow on the ground people understand if you are running late.
  2.  All Wheel Drive- Know what that means. It means that you have better traction on ice and snow because all your wheels are going. It does not mean that you stop faster it just means you can drive faster. See number one about going slower. Also for all those people who lift their cars: we are all impressed by the size of you vehicle but please re-aim your headlights and think about how having your vehicle lifted does not make you stop any faster then me and my non-lifted car.
  3. Lanes, they still exist: I know that all that white stuff has covered them up and makes it confusing but a four lane road still has all four lanes. If you straddle the lanes you will not make any friends. Also the turn lanes still exist, please use them when you are turning. Speaking of turning: remember to use your turn signals so other drivers know what in the world you are doing when you slow down in an intersection.

These three things are simple and should keep us all safer and allow us to go about our business without crashing. If you don’t feel comfortable driving in the snow, don’t. Or take the time to practice on non-busy streets. Thanks.

Dress For the Job You Want

Not the job you have.

I love that saying. Why? Because it is true. If you don't dress for the job you want you will never get there. That being said I am bad at doing this. I am not very good at wearing clothes that reflect what I want to be.

Of course I want to be a professional entertainer. And for the longest time the entertainer type I wanted to be was a clown. And dressing like a clown is not a good way to keep your current job. Plus dressing like a clown is a great way to get some strange looks in the grocery store and apparently there are people who are afraid of clowns.

Recently I have shifted my focus to being a professional magician. As a magician I tend to focus on close up magic or magic that is done close to the spectator. I would love to get into stage magic but I feel I would be more David Copperfield then Penn and Teller. Granted Copperfield is an amazing magician there has just been a lot of feathered hair and feathered outfits.

So how do I dress more like a magician without looking like a douchebag? I love top hats, however a full size top hat makes you look strange no matter what. Luckily Harper bought me an awesome short crown top hat. Which is basically a short top hat it looks a boxy derby. Sure wearing atop hat all the time is strange but on me it just looks cool.

One trend in magic that I avoid like the plague is what a lot of the street magicians wear. Eyeliner. I understand that it makes you look cool… but does it? As someone who wears makeup when performing as a clown I fully understand using makeup to make your features stand out and make it easier to communicate with your audience. Unfortunately a lot of street magic is performed mere feet from your audience. If they can't see your facial expressions then you are failing as a performer.

So I probably won't start wearing sequins or eyeliner to work, but how can I dress more like a magician while still being professional? I have my awesome hat which helps, I carry cards with me all the time which is a bonus but how do I convey that I am a magician? I work in a real estate office as a broker which means I need to look professional and not super crazy, so a tuxedo is out. Any suggestions?

Book ‘em Dylo!

I have been stuck in a little bit of a reading rut. I read the same books over and over again. On the plus side I really enjoy the books I read, on the minus side is the fact that I rarely experience the joy of surprise that comes from reading a new book.

In high school my future brother-in-law went to all the teachers he respected and asked them for a list of books that he should read. I don’t remember how long it was but he committed himself to making his way through it. Seems like a pretty fantastic plan.

I have set up a form via google for people to submit books to. It is here. Please take the time to suggest one or more books. I will also make the list view able so that you can check if the book you are suggesting is one that has been suggested.

Please suggest books. I will be compiling a list by the first-ish of the year and try to read as many books as possible in 2014. I have to finish reading the Harry Potter series for the thousandth time first so you have books 4, 5,6 and 7 to suggest books. After I get some books I am going to try to create a random chooser to help me make the list.

Thanks 

As I walk Through the Shadow of Thanksgiving

I shall fear no evil.

How was that for a fantastic title. This year Sarah and I hosted her family for Thanksgiving. It was our first Thanksgiving in our new house and it was amazing. We made everything: Turkey, stuffing, green beans, a can of cranberry sauce cut into hearts and mashed potatoes. Everything turned out amazing. Oh and did I mention that we, and by we I mean Sarah, made a pecan, a pumpkin and an apple pie. Because that is how we roll.

It was nice to see Sarah’s family and share some super tasty food with them. I don’t like to brag, thought as you all know is not really true, but our turkey was the best turkey that has ever been made. Seriously. I cannot exaggerate enough about how good it was. I imagine that when Jesus cooked a turkey for the first Thanksgiving before giving the Native people smallpox blankets, his turkey couldn’t even touch ours.

And the pies!!! Sarah’s makes delicious pies. The pumpkin was a pumpkin custard pie… did you read that last word CUSTARD!!!! It is amazing. I am pretty sure that when pumpkin pie was invented this is what they meant to happen. It is creamy and delicious and I think I personally have eaten most of it. I don’t share pumpkin pie very well. It is pretty much my pie. Sarah also made a pecan pie which I didn’t eat because of the previously mentioned pumpkin pie but I heard good things about it. The apple pie is baked in a brown paper bag, which means it is extra delicious. This is Sarah’s pie of choice for the holidays. Sadly we only have one slice of each left for dessert tonight. :(

After the success of our Thanksgiving my family came over for desserts for dinner and board games. Harper brought Wits and Wagers and some super complicated that involved strategy and reading. So we play Wits and Wagers. It was a lot of fun. It involves guessing numbers. What year was the first appearance of Mickey Mouse? Then everyone bets on which guess is probably closer. Then the answer is revealed and winning happens, or in my case you watch other people collect chips while slowly crying about how bad you are at winning.

Saturday was my families usual crazy Thanksgiving extravaganza. It was toned down a little bit because everyone was tired. A bunch of people came over and hung out. After eating I had to head to downtown Greeley and do some juggling prior to the start of the parade of lights. I did my usual street show but without the begging for tips, though I think I would have cleaned up. It went well with the fire juggling making everyone explode with glee.

Sunday was nice. We got to meet our nephew for the first time. He is a super chill little dude of about three months. We had brunch with Sarah’s sisters and then headed to meet my family for some japanese food and to say good by to Harper and Hiromi. Sarah and I headed home and decided to go and see Catching Fire. Because nothing ends a week with family then a sad movie about how horrible the future could be.

Audience Training

As an entertainer so much of my job is audience training. I have to teach the audience how to react to things. I blame the internet and TV for this. I remember when I was a child if I saw something cool I would applaud or laugh or at least smile. And while I may have been a little bit of a weirdo as a child I don’t think my reactions were different then my peers.

Recently I have noticed a change in this. When I first started juggling and performing people reacted with similar reactions. Laughter, smiles and applause were what I lived for. They were what pushed me forward to learn to do cooler things. Now I am lucky if people applaud at all. Most of the time people watch and I get a general reaction of Meh.

It is entirely possibly that my act sucks and that is why I am getting those reactions. I tend not to think so as I have recently become a better juggler and have added new cooler looking tricks to my repertoire. Even when juggling fire while balancing on a Rola-Bola I get a Meh reaction. That is hard and looks cool. Protip: People love fire.

What I have started doing is at the beginning of my show I make sure to use the “It’s ok to clap at the hard ones” or “This is only 3 months of my life” type jokes to jumpstart a reaction from the audience. I also start off with really simple stuff made to get a reaction from the audience. I also make it my personal mission to call people out when they are using their electronic devices during the show.

The next time you are lucky enough to see a variety arts performer remember that they have spent a lot of time learning their skills. Sure they can’t all be as awesome as me, but they are trying, Make sure you give them your full attention and participate in the show. This allows them to spend more time amazing you and less time training you to react correctly to what is going on.

Juggling- That Shit Ain’t Easy

I have been juggling a lot lately. I have been juggling for a long time. About 15 years now and I have been doing the same tricks for about 14.75 of those. Why? Because it was easy. I have been focused the last decade and a half on perfecting my patter and audience management. As such I didn’t really need to have a thousand tricks I just needed about 20 that are hilarious. I also spent most of my time trying to figure out how to get more gigs and performing for children. And to be perfectly honest I was lazy.

Because of dislocating my elbow while running a juggling I had to relearn juggling a little bit. Because of that I juggled a little weird for a long time. My left arm was “special”. Some tricks like chops look weird. I have done very little to fix that in the 10+ years since the accident. Luckily I have been juggling a lot more often and that has forced me to rethink how I do certain tricks which in turn has forced me to relearn some tricks. This is great.

The hardest part about juggling is that the most impressive tricks are rarely the most difficult. And the more difficult the trick the less impressive it looks. There is almost an inverse relationship between the difficulty of a trick and the amount of applause you get. This is why a lot of jugglers that I have watched perform make the “Its ok to clap at the hard ones” joke. That one line starts to educate the audience about what is hard and what isn’t.

One of the harder things about learning new jugging tricks is that it is hard to know when they are performance ready. Is it when you can do it flawlessly? or is it when most of the time it is flawless? or is it as soon as you can do it sometimes? I never really know but to be totally honest I tend to be the kind of person that throws a trick into the routine as soon as I do it once. I also rely on failure to get a lot of sympathy tips… that may not be for everyone.

Embracing failure has been an important part of my juggling show for a long time. This was because I never practiced. I just performed and then waited until my next performance to juggle again. I wouldn’t recommend this as a good juggling practice plan. Since I have been juggling for at least an additional hour on top of my performances I have found tricks that used to be difficult are now second nature and I am more likely to try out a new trick or do the same trick with flair.

I still have drop lines that I use all the time but I find myself getting frustrated when I have an evening of the drops. If I drop more then twice during a show it is incredibly maddening since I know that I can do better. I think this is a step forward for my performances but I am not used to getting frustrated by screw-ups.

How to be a Less Annoying Co-Worker

Lately I have been becoming more and more grumpy. Actually angry might be a better word. Or annoyed. I am not sure what the exact term I am looking for is. It all came to a head last night when my exceedingly patient wife sat me down as was like “Duude, what is going on with you?” <— Those are not her actual words. The words she used are far to powerful for the internet and would cause everyone in the world to chill out. And if that happens who will I argue with on facebook?

Work has been the cause of this frustration.

See how I didn’t go into details about what it is. That is because this is the internet and some shit needs to stay private. But it is similar to what I have experienced at other jobs. So I thought I would write out some awesome tips for people that have jobs that force them to work with other people who also have jobs. Say in an office setting.

  1. Know what your job is – If your job says that you have to do X, then at the bare minimum that is what you need to do. You should do no other things until X is done. If you really want to do Y, X sure as hell better be done.
  2. Listen to people – When some one is speaking to you, you listen to what they are saying instead of thinking about what you are going to say next.
  3. Discuss, don’t argue – Arguments get nothing done. Discussion is how the cool kids do it.
  4. Your co-workers are not out to get you – Even if you think they are, they are probably trying to get through another day. Just like you.
  5. Be a professional – Every email program I have encountered has spell check… use it. It prevents you from looking like an idiot. Also using italics in an email to signify sarcasm makes you look like even more of an idiot. Using them to give emphasis to a word that you just mis-spelled… makes me not want to work with you.
  6. Be a part of the Team – I have never worked in an environment that promoted cut-throat tactics for anything. Everyone that works for a company is truly on the same team.

I am not even sure if that is everything. But seriously, work together everyone. Pettiness is never worth the cost. It is possible to work with someone who you don’t like, your co-workers do it everyday.

Get up, Stand up

This past weekend I did my first stand up performance ever. I think it went pretty well. It was a different experience then most of my previous entertainment. Most of the entertaining has props. This is a great thing as it gives you a bit of a buffer if you mess up. If a joke bombs you can do a trick to distract the audience. With magic so much of the performance is based around the cards that most of the words you say are build up or misdirection. Guess what you hid behind when doing stand-up?

I knew I was doing this about a week in advance. Which may have been too much time. There was a very slim possibility that I would be able to juggle in this venue. And when I arrived I realized that wasn’t going to happen. Since juggling was out I decided that I should just go for it. Make the leap and hope the net opens in time to catch me.

I told variations of posts from my blog. I talked about injuring myself while entertaining, having a famous brother and the romantic trials of a young balloon sculptor. And I got laughs. I don’t know if I had a joke that failed to get a laugh. Talking to the proprietor of the comedy club he said I needed to work on my pacing to get the laughs faster. Which I will do.

I am so used to having the safety net of props that I was super nervous. Before my set I sat at the bar and fiddled with cards, burning nervous energy and watching the other comics pat each other on the back. It was funny in a really sad way. Also comics are very (surprise) ego-centric people. They are competitive but very complimentary.

I want to try more stand-up but I am too much of an early to bed/early to rise guy to go to open mics. Seriously who is up at 8:30pm? Not me. If open mic is at 6:30am I am golden. I will keep my eye out and will get up there again.

The Cowards Method

You may have read the Harper Post. I wrote that over the course of a month or so and it is probably one of the posts that I thought most about. I wanted to be able to express a point without making anyone feel like I slighted them. I have, at times, had a lot of younger sibling bitterness. Because of this bitterness I have not always expressed my feelings in a way that doesn’t hurt peoples feelings. I am sometimes bad at words.

When I finished up the post I almost deleted it. I was scared of how it would be received by my family. I didn’t want them upset because of anything I said. I didn’t want to come off as super bitter or hateful. This terrified me. It lingered in my drafts file for a long time. I didn’t know what to do. Then I had the best idea ever.*

Those of you that have hung out with me for any length of time know that I can be a little bit scatterbrained. I forget things a lot. Like whether it is lunch or dinner we are currently eating. I am also the best person to tell secrets to as I will most likely forget them before they ever come up again. I decided to use this knowledge for good.

Here is how it went down. I finished making sure that the post was finished. Then, in a moment of brilliance, I set the publish date for a random day in the future. I worried about it for like an hour and the promptly forgot.

A couple months past when suddenly I received a couple of RT of an auto tweet that happens when I publish a blog. All I could think was “Well I can’t unpublish it now.” It was a great feeling because I had posted something that I felt strongly about while not having the stomach wrenching guilt that follows posting something that may upset people I care about.

I think it worked like a charm. A hilarious charm. And of course I didn’t need to worry. Everyone was cool with it and rereading it I don’t really know what I was worried about.

*Idea isn’t probably the best ever.

The Three Headed Butcher Monster

As you may or may not already know a tornado touched down in Greeley yesterday. Let me say that again: a TORNADO!!! touched down in Greeley. It didn’t do any damage that I have heard about and no one was hurt or killed by it but it is still crazy. Tornados are amazing things. They destroy stuff like nothing else. Luckily this one was kind of a pussy and make horrible things happen.

I have lived in Greeley for 30 years (or so) and I don’t remember a tornado touching down like this one did. I don’t remember the sky going all green and crazy. I don’t remember tennis to softball sized hail happening. It was nuts. Where was I during all of this? It is kind of a funny story.

Sarah and I had decided that we needed to make up a batch of cookies. We make them up in batches of 40 and then bake them as necessary and we were down to our last three. Unfortunately we were also out of butter. It was decided that one of us needed to run to the store and retrieve butter and a few other items from the store. Being a brave and upstanding member of our household I decided to brave the storm. Sarah even asked “Are you sure you should go out in this?” All I could think was that never before had a tornado touched down, so I said “Yeah, nothing is going to happen.”

Those are what would have been famous last words, but I made it through. As I was driving to the store I noticed that the sky had changed to a weird green color. I also remembered a teacher mentioning that before a tornado the sky turns a weird green color. I admit at that moment I was thinking something along the lines of “Oh shit, oh shit, I am going to die.” Not really. I panicked a little but figured I could run in grab the stuff and make it back home before shit went down. I was wrong.

I arrived at Safeway, hopped out of my car and headed towards the store. I noticed what seemed to be a large number of Safeway employees standing outside. One of them motioned me over and directed me to head towards the back of the store. Apparently there had been a tornado siren (which is apparently a thing) and Safeway’s plan was to stick us all in one of the freezers. Specifically the meat counter freezer. Where they chop up the meat. So me a 50 of my new closest friends all head into the freezer. It is cold in there. And of course there are children present. We all start to slowly freeze.

About that time one of the Safeway butchers realizes that they have an entire closet full of butcher coats. These are like lab coats but made to hide bloodstains. Or at least I assume that is the difference. He comes in with an arm load and like good people war give them to the children and the elderly first. We all start eying one another to figure out who we will have to eat first.

Standing next to me is a women with three of her nephews. These kids are maybe knee height. They are shivering and sharing one coat. I hear in the most pitiful voice possible “I’m scared.” I hate it when kids are scared. I kneel down and say “What are you scared of? You are part of a Three Headed Butcher Monster.” He looked up at me, smiled a tiny bit and then raised his hands into claws and growled. Other people laughed, fun was had by all and the overall tension in the freezer went down.

They did find more coats and everyone(including me) got one to wear. It was like the international butcher convention. I found the coat to be quite comfortable. Not only did it cover me up but it had two conveniently located pockets for holding your cell phone and keys. After about 30 minutes of freezer-ness the storm went away. The Safeway people let us out of the freezer and led us back to the front of the store. Sadly thy took back the butcher coats.

Out in the store I went about my shopping. I grabbed all the stuff I needed and realized that I didn’t have my keys. I had to hunt down one of the employees and have them take me into the back. We dug through pile of about 75 butcher coats when I finally found my keys. Phew.

Throwing Things at Your Face

I am pretty sure I have written a version of this post before but whatever.

Learning a new skill is hard. It doesn’t really matter what it is it is difficult. Learning a skill similar to another skill you already have is much easier. It is like a synergy bonus to all skill checks. This is why people tend to specialize on a group of skills. Once you learn one computer language understanding another is easier and your learning is faster. Truly the best example of this is Juggling.

When you first attempt juggling you do that two ball pass one between your hands business. This is legitimate juggling… kind of. Juggling is the art of keeping multiple things in the air at once. There is probably a better definition but this is what I tell myself I am doing when I juggle. Learning to juggle involves getting three similar objects and practicing first tossing one between you hands in an arc, then two, then three and so on from there.

Once you have mastered balls you are ready for other things. Clubs, knives, torches, plungers, chainsaws; the list goes on and on. But the basic idea is the same. Keeping multiple things in the air at once. As you progress from balls to club like objects you are adding a single thing to juggling. Which is the flip. The flip isn’t hard but if you tried to master it while learning to juggle you would fail.

Juggling doesn’t just cover balls, clubs and rings. It also covers cigar boxes, diabolos, shaker cups and many other skill toys. It is when you start learning these things that you realize that while you have a better understanding of gravity then a non juggler when it comes to these skills you don’t have a frame of reference for how these individual props will behave once they leave your control.

I have started working on learning hat tricks recently. This is flipping a hat to my head from my foot, back catches, body rolls and the like. What this really means is I spend a large amount of time throwing a really nice juggling hat at my face. Like hours at a time. It is probably hilarious to watch. Of course I am getting more comfortable doing it as I do it more but that just makes me cocky. I start trying to do double flips and BAM hat to face. Flipping a hat onto your head isn’t that hard. It is basically flipping the hat end over end once and making sure your head is under it so it lands nice. The problem is that getting the right amount of rotation is hard. I drop so much.

But when you drop what do you have to do? Pick it back up and try again. And again. It is the same with any skill. You start off throwing something at our face and eventually you have a skill that people want to pay you to do or that you at least enjoy doing. Keep this in mind when you are trying to teach yourself something. That if you drop you are trying. The juggler that doesn’t drop isn’t trying new things.

10,000 Hours

There is a saying that basically says that if you want to perfect a skill do it for 10,000 hours. That is a long time. Like more then a year of your life only doing that thing. This isn’t learn a skill and then a little over a year later you will be a master. This is spend 10,000 hours actually doing that skill.

Like computers. If you want to be a super bad-ass computer programmer, program. Don’t learn how to do one thing and do that over and over again. Keep trying new things that will force you to solve new problems.

I am a professional clown/entertainer. I would not claim to be a master of any of the skills that I use to entertain except my ability to make people laugh.

This 10,000 hour rule is why it is so hard to be a master at something. And also why it is important to keep learning about your chosen skill(s). Here is an example that I have encountered:

I was at an event that I do annually. I was all decked out as Dylan the Clown. Not only was I wondering around interacting with children I was also the MC for the event. One of the volunteers lets me know that another clown has shown up. Inside all I can think is “Awesome, someone else to interact with and to hang out with the children whilst I am on stage.” So I head over to introduce myself and learn a little about his skills/if he is interested in playing around.

It was horrifying. His makeup was poorly done, not very well thought out and frankly scary. He had used yellow around his eyes instead of white(or blue or pink or almost any other color). He looked sickly. He was also under the impression that clowning just involved being rude and loud. On top of that he had brought his 6 or 7 year old daughter who just followed him around. It was creepy.

Figuring that he didn’t know any better I went over and introduced myself. After a few minutes of interaction in front of the children I asked if we could chat for a moment backstage before we continued. He agreed. Upon our arrival backstage I asked him how long he had been clowning, why he was clowning and why he had come to this event. Turns out that he thought that it would be a fun way to spend time with his daughter and had just thrown together his face/outfit this morning when he read about the event in the newspaper. Sigh.

At this point I was frustrated. I pride myself on my appearance as a clown as well as the thought that I have put into costumes and the way my clown acts. I told him that there were some things he could do to adjust the experience people had with him at the event. He started to shut down. I told him that he needed to make sure that he was letting people come to him and not just push his way into peoples space by being noisy and pushy. I told him that I would be fine with him following me around so I could show him the ropes of crowd interaction. He wasn’t interested. Whatever.

The last part of our conversation I tried to set up time for us to meet out of clown and discuss clowning. He told me quite frankly that I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about and he was going to do what he wanted. After he stormed off I went back to doing what I was doing while keeping a eye out for the other “clown”.

I found out later that he was scary children and they asked him to leave.

The sadest part of this story is about ten years prior I was that guy. This is because no matter how much training you have, studying you do or mentors you have the first time you put on your clown you are absolutely terrifying. You don’t know how to move, you feel uncomfortable in your new skin and you have the urge to overcompensate. I auditioned for Ringling Bros. (via the old fashioned VHS tape method) wearing some of the most terrifying make-up I have ever seen.

Since that time I have put in an insane amount of time studying clowning, practicing clowning and thinking about clowning. No where near 10,000 hours but enough that I feel confident that I do a good job and look/act like a professional.

So what the is the moral of the story? Don’t ever think you know enough about anything. Accept help. Keep studying. You may think you are the best at something but there is probably someone better.

Also in that story above I don’t feel like I handled the situation the best that I could. I wish I could have spoken to him outside of the event and really helped him understand why what he was doing was wrong. Alas taking criticism from a clown is harder then it sounds.

The “Harper” Post

If you live under a rock you may not have heard that Harper was the CTO for Obama’s campaign. Which is/was amazing. I have wanted to do a post about it for a while but couldn’t think of the best way to write it. I was worried that it would come off as a little brother being jealous of a successful older brother. Which I totally am. No lie. I am super jealous of Harper.

The thing about me being jealous is that it is covered by how proud I am of my brother. Harper has worked his ass off to get to where he is. He broke how technology and elections work. He treated the campaign like a high stakes start-up. At one point during the campaign I remember Harper saying that he can’t fuck this up but he didn’t have enough control to prevent that. He couldn’t control how people voted but he knew he could get blamed if they failed.

The hard part for me about Harper being on the campaign is that all I heard about was how awesome it was that Harper was working on the campaign. Over and over again. I would read something about Harper online and then meet my parents for dinner and they would tell me about the same article. Thanksgiving was a little rough because that is all anyone wanted to talk about. When Harper got the job I realized that it didn’t matter what I did nothing I did would top working for the Obama 2012 campaign. I realize how negative that sounds but it helped me get over a mountain that has been in my way for years.

The sibling competition that I had set up in my mind between Harper and I. The prize was my parents love. Not that I felt unloved. I just always felt second to Harper. But when Harper became internet famous I realized that while I would never be as well known as Harper or work to make the world a better place like Harper has been I can finally become the person I want to be. This didn’t all come from Harper being CTO. It has been evolving over the years as my relationship with my family has improved and I have learned more about myself. I think I finally see the same person when I look in the mirror that other people see.

Harper and I both want the world to be a better place. Harper seems to operate on the macro level. He uses technology to make things change and to influence things he believes in. I am much more micro. I help people change tires, make people laugh and wish everyone did the same. One of the people who works for my dad said, “Harper is going to change the world and if everyone was like Dylan we wouldn’t need to.” Aside from making feel pretty cool it also made me think that I need to focus on little things I can do that will make the world a better place.

I may never cure a disease or help a president get reelected but I can bring joy to people whenever I can, I can work with organizations I believe in at the local level to end child-abuse or educate people on the importance of reading.

Doing good is hard. It is almost always easier to not do good. Doing good requires that you give of yourself in someway. Every year for at least the past 10 years I have been the MC for the Weld County Children’s Festival. It is the one event every year that I do for free. I have been on the board for it in the past and will probably get back on it again in the future. The Children’s Festival is an event that gives a book to every child in attendance. THat is something I believe in and so I am willing to give up an entire Saturday to make sure that people have fun. Anyway, back to Harper and having a famous sibling. I have a few pro-tips if you ever find yourself with a famous sibling. Most of the things that are annoying about famous siblings are also amazing. First the pro tips.

Never read the comments: This was a lesson I had to learn. I am aware of the greater internet fuckwad theory, but I didn’t realize how that would effect me. When the news of Harper being the CTO broke it was a big deal on the internet. Articles were written, the same photo was used over and over again, people made comments. I was excited for Harper so I would read the articles which would lead to the comments. In turn that would lead to me getting pissed off. People who didn’t know Harper were saying horrible things. It was upsetting. Harper is my brother and I don’t like mean people or bullies. I never responded and stopped reading comments.

They are what people are going to want to talk about with you: Most people don’t have a famous sibling, so they don’t realize that hearing about in every single conversation is really really annoying. They also don’t know how many times you have heard the same comment or discussed the article. So be polite. Discuss it with them. It better to have people be excited about it then to rant about it.

You can’t win: Because it isn’t a competition. Everyone has different strengths. Focus on what you are good at and don’t worry about what they are good at.

People will get confused: I had one of my dad’s employees thank me for my work on the campaign. It was super awkward. Harper and I look similar except that Harper has a big ol’nasty beard, huge holes in his ears and red hair. But this will happen. So be cool and don’t be a dick about it.

Well Crap Sandwiches: Update

This is not a good news update. Of course it is not a bad news update. Just an update of sorts.

I haven’t received any news of my balloon stuff being found. I have checked pawnshops in Greeley and talked to the police. Strangely this isn’t a top priority for the police. I have resigned myself to having to get a new balloon set up. I am going to go with the Twist-em-up apron again as it has been the best apron I have used in the 16 years I have been doing this. I am thinking about getting one of the more colorful aprons as opposed to the all black on I got last time. I am thinking the red multi-color is the way to go. Though I do like the purple… I have to get the Jumbo because of the quantity of balloons I carry.

Balloon wise I am completely out of balloons and need to order some up.  To get 36 colors of balloons(which will fill the apron completely twice) it is about $220. I think that will last me longer then the summer, though I seem to be getting busier all the time so who knows. I order through T Myers Magic. I have been researching other options for maybe getting balloons cheaper but I have a history with them and they have always taken good care of me. Pump replacement will be about $15 and I am pretty sure I have a couple spares lying around.

To carry it all I kind of want to get this. I think  it is the upgraded model of what I have. I plan on putting signs all over it once I have it as well as some sort of message that says: Contains Balloons Not Computers!! That should prevent future stealing of my balloons. Or I hope it does.

What is frustrating about the whole things is that I haven’t had to order a full load of balloons in a while. I have been just filling the gaps in my balloons and using up old stock for the past couple years. I also acquired my apron, briefcase and pumps over the past 15 years. Having to drop the $400 to replace them is annoying.

I have now replaced all my balloon stuff except the briefcase thing. My parents told me they have something that will be perfect for me to carry it all in. So I just need to go get that sometime.

 

 

Well Crap Sandwiches

On Friday my briefcase with all my balloon sculpture stuff was stolen.  I keep it all in a hard briefcase. The kind of briefcase that always holds loads of cash in movies. I have had the same case for 7 or 8 years and it has served me well.  Also in the case was about 1200 balloons, a custom balloon apron, two pumps and some stickers.

What is not in there is a camera so I can see the look on the face of the person who stole it when they finally get it open. Because I kept it locked. All that effort to steal something worth stealing, break into it imagining being able to sell or use the contents and bam: BALLOONS!!

  • Briefcase: $50
  • Balloons: $60
  • Pumps: $30
  • Apron: $60
  • Turning someone from a thief to an entertainer: Priceless

That is my hope. That they open it up and decide to stop being a dirty stealer head and instead use the internet to become an amazing balloon artist. I would love to go to an event and see some dude with my briefcase rocking out the balloons like a boss. I wouldn’t even be mad. I may ask for one of my pumps back because it is the first one I bought and I have been using it for 16 years.

Now I get to order another apron, a whole mess of balloons and find a new way to transport them.

Happy New Year!!

I guess I may be a little late on this. Whatever.

Things that have happened so far this year. I was laid off by Graphicly because they no longer need an android tester(what?). At least that is what I was told. I looked for a job. For about 4 weeks solid I hammered the internet pavement and the real world pavement looking for a job. I found none. Apparently the job market sucks.

Luckily my dad always needs help. And even though I am pretty sure I said I would never go back to that place I have been enjoying it quite a bit. I think that I have grown quite a bit as an employee and so it should go better.

I have been clowning a little bit more then normal for this time of year. Not a lot more… but a little more. I was lucky enough to see Eugene Burger at a conference I attended with Harper. It was amazing. He does things with cards that I only dream about. The best part about it was that I am now inspired to start being more hardcore with the magic.

I went to Sun Valley Utah(actually Idaho but I was told it was Utah leading up to the trip) for Dent(This would be the conference referenced in the last paragraph). Harper was speaking there and he had a +1 so I joined him. It was a good time. I will post more about the fun that was the conference later.

In other news I received a Wii U from my parents, harper and Sarah for my birthday. I love it. Sarah and I have been playing the shit out of some Mario. I love being able to help Sarah with the platforming without being in the way like on the other Mario coop titles. I have been playing Black Ops 2 and Lego City Undercover(forever referred to as GTA:Lego). I think that Nintendo created a wonderful product that once again is pushing what a console should do. I am not sure it is as groundbreaking as motion control was but I think it adds to gaming in a positive way.

Now that I have a normal job I hope to rock out some new projects and finish up some older projects. Check back for a post on that as well.

Thats what I have been doing for the last couple months.

 

I AM SO AWESOME!!!