Saturday Hackfest

It’s probably obvious to most people who follow any of the content I make, that I’ve been spending most weekends at home doing projects and otherwise NOT GOING FLIPPIN’ ANYWHERE for most of 2020. I’m not bitter about it, I swear. Anyway, this last weekend I went on a really inconsequential journey. One that most people might not give a flip about. I’m about to get super nerdy, so if you don’t care, just turn back while you can. Otherwise, strap yourself in and grab a cup of Mountain Dew.

On Friday of last week, I got the wild idea that I should try to build a streaming box. In other words, I should just game on my gaming PC and send all of the “bits” that make up a stream over to another machine that actually can do all the encoding and streaming. This used to be super common before on-GPU encoding chips came along, and I wondered if I would benefit from in.

The inception of this idea came from the charity stream. I experience some pretty insane frame drops when playing Red Dead Redemption 2 with Jacob. It really bummed me out because I was sure that I had done it before without much issue. I just got curious about what a stream box would look like.

Let’s solve problems! I already had a capture card for capturing console stuff like my PS4 and switch, and Sam had my hand me down PC. He wasn’t using it, so my hardware needs were pretty much handled. On to the real stuff!


The first thing was trying to figure out how I would get audio over to the stream box. I still wanted to use my microphone on my main machine because I videoconference with it. I also had no need to podcast off a stream machine. That kind of streaming wasn’t the least bit resource intensive, so I needed all my main hardware to stay connected to my gaming rig. But HOW was I going to get the audio over to the other machine. Enter my buddy, Zaepho, and the suggestion of VBAN!

VBAN is an audio streaming tech built into a software mixing application called Voicemeeter. Voicemeeter has become a major part of my content creation workflow because I can route and control audio on my PC without needing a hardware mixer to do it. It’s a very powerful piece of software and FREE. VBAN is a way to send any of the channels in Voicemeeter to a remote voicemeeter or VBAN receiver of any type.

I had a blast playing with VBAN. It couldn’t be easier. Once it’s setup, you just configure the IP of the receiving machine on the host, and tell it what “bus” to send. You can do your main output, or breakout each channel into a separate “stream”. On the receiving machine, you indicate what IP you expect to get audio from and then tell it what destination “bus” to send it to. Basically, think of it like a cable being plugged into an output and into an input, but that cable is your home network and you can change where it goes on the fly.


Once I got that wired up and working, I needed to figure out how to get the video signal from my machine over to the other one. I could capture it when playing a game, but I wanted to use my webcam on my main rig. I didn’t want to have to move it to the other machine, and I definitely didnt’ want to have two of them. That’s when I thought about NDI.

NDI is a technology for sending video signals over the network. Luckily, my software of choice, OBS Studio, has a plugin to support this thing. So all I had to do was install the OBS plugin and it’s requirements, then tell OBS to output the main window as an NDI signal. It automatically starts up and allows NDI receivers to connect to it. I created a “scene” in OBS and made my webcam the only item in that scene. So I had a big ol’ 1080p signal from my webcam to send across via NDI.

On the remote machine, I installed the same OBS plugin, then added an NDI source. My signal from the host machine was already available, so I just chose it from the drop down and BOOM. I had a webcam signal from my gaming rig on the remote rig that I could resize and manipulate with ease.


This was easy peasy. I already had the capture card, so all it took was running an HDMI out from my PC to the capture card, then an HDMI cable from the “output” on the capture card to my monitor.

It was easy, but it also is where my plan started to fall apart. I have two 1440p 155hz gaming monitors. I love these monitors because everything is so sharp. The bummer with the pass through is that the capture card could only send a 1080p signal. This would be great, but it makes everything SUPER fuzzy on a 1440p panel. On top of that, you can’t mirror a high res signal to a low res interface without it adjusting the high res to the lower resolution. I tried everything I could, but it just wouldn’t work that way.

On top of that, I only have two monitors. So if I wanted to have the high resolution stuff for when I work, write, or do literally anything other than game, I needed to have the HDMI on a separate input. That meant that I had to hit physcial buttons on my monitor and switch inputs when I wanted to make sure my game was going through the capture card and I wanted to see it at the same time. That’s stupid.

The fix for THAT particular problem is a hardware cost. There ARE capture cards that allow for you to pass through up to 4K 60fps content. That would have done the trick, but I”m not spending money on that. That’s crazy pants. This is meant to be just a fun project for me.

So I put that away. In the process though, I learned one more thing.

Remote Desktop

Through all of this, the whole thing hinged on me being able to use the remote PC … remotely. That also meant that I didn’t want to have a monitor hooked up to it. This is generally referred to as a “headless” system. It’s popular with servers because no one really needs to *see* it. They just need to be able to use it when necessary. The thing I discovered was that as soon as I unplugged the monitor, my remote software stopped working.

I tried using TightVNC. VNC is a very popular cross platform Remote Desktop protocol that allows you to see your machine from another machine. I had to go this route because for some reason Microsoft decided that Windows 10 Home users don’t need Remote Desktop. They’re wrong.

With that, I made the discovery that I couldn’t connect when the monitor was disconnected. I found a couple sites with supposed workarounds but none of them worked for me, and the overwhelming majority of websites suggested there was no solution to this problem. It’s possible it’s because of my Windows Home edition but I have not gone that far into it yet.

I even tried a piece of software called Anydesk that was recommended by my friend, TVsTravis, that was also supposed to do the trick. It didn’t work for me, but I’m keeping it around because I really dig the interface for it. It’s nifty and free for private use.

The solution come down to a tiny dongle that you plug into your HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort, or VGA (depending on the dongle you purchase) that tricks your system into thinking it has a monitor attached. This dummy dongle keeps the underlying windows display systems alive so you can connect remotely.

To be honest, that last part was seriously frustrating, but it was also pretty fun! I learned a lot from it.

The Resolution

After all of that nearly day long hacking, I came to a resolution.

I’m just going to use the one box.

The main reason for this is that it turned out that my fix was a simple change within OBS Studio that completely resolved my frame rate problem. Turns out that OBS was so confident in my hardware that it automatically set the capture frame rate to 60fps. That seems awesome. Who wouldn’t want buttery smooth 60fps content to watch. The problem was that with high end games, even using the NVENC (hardware) encoder, it was too much for my GPU to handle and it was choking trying to process the extra frames.

I dropped that little value down to 30 and voila! It worked like a charm. No more stuttering and a less than noticeable difference in the actual streaming content. Now it ran at a satisfying yet not optional 30fps and looked good enough that it doesn’t bother me at all.

You may ask, but you didn’t end up with a box and you did all that work to try to dual-PC stream. You’re not wrong, but I gained a lot from the experience. Not every wild hare you have ends up with a successful project, or even attaining the goal you set out to accomplish. But it can teach you things you didn’t know before. Not only that, I had an absolute blast. I haven’t spent that kind of time just hacking on a personal project in ages. It was wonderful exercise and was really relaxing despite all the ups and downs of the project.

If you made it this far, pat yourself on the back. That was quite the slog in the age of immediate gratification and Buzzfeed. This was fun. See you next time.

Book Juggling

I haven’t been keeping up with the reading list. I also haven’t been keeping up with this blog. Both of these things are shameful. I should be doing better, and you, dear reader, deserve better. I’m not going to promise that I’m going to write every day or anything, but I’m going to try to be more active.

The tough thing about trying to be active in this space is that I need two things: time and energy. I don’t typically like to say “I don’t have time,” because I do. The issue at hand is that I don’t have quite as much disposable time (that’s a horrible phrase) as I used to. So I have to figure out what to shove in there. To make matters worse, the hours of the day that I can claim as my own, are ones where I kind of just want to switch my brain off after a long day. That’s not a good place to be either.

But, I didn’t come here to gripe about the number one first world problem of “not having enough time.” Because that’s silly. We have enough time. We have the same 24 hours in a day that everyone else has. it’s how we use it that matters. So, on to the real topic.

I have been reading a TON of books. I usually have one or two going at any given time, but I think I’m up to four at this point. I’ve increased my time spent reading the Bible because I’m choosing to make that a priority in my life. I was gifted an Audible subscription by the wonderful Jacob and Ashley. I have a fiction book, a study book, and an non-fiction book. This is all happening at the same time! AH!

I thought it would be hard to manage that much, but I’m finding it pretty easy to keep up with each considering that they are all so far from each other in terms of genre. It’s not like having three fantasy novels going at the same time. I’m really enjoying all of these and am digging into them all at different times of the day, which helps to keep them separate in my mind.

So, I say all that to say, you have a few reading list items to look forward to soon. This is the list I’m working through now:

All of these are serving a different facet of my life, and I’m digging them all for different reasons. Reviews coming soon!

Also, I’m looking for a suggestion for my Audible credit for the month. I generally enjoy biographies, autobiographies, and non-fiction stuff via Audible, so let me know if you have anything cool I should check out!

Dragon Con Pro

I’m currently in an overwhelming state of gratefulness. Ash and I were able to accomplish something we were unsure would ever happen. We played a show at Dragon Con. Not only that, but it went incredibly well. I have no idea why people decided to line up, but I’m forever grateful to those people for the gift they gave us. We walked out of that show feeling like we belonged there.

The entire weekend was magical for me. I’ve been to Dragon Con now four times, and I’ve never had an experience like this one. We usually went to see some podcasts live, line up for celebrity panels, and go see some cosplay. I went this time with the sole desire to see my friends and meet some new ones on the digital media track. That truly made it worth doing. I feel like a part of something, and a peer with the folks I respect so much.

I think it was just being part of something authentic that made it so much better. It’s nice to go see celebrities smile and do their thing, but I found a group of folks in the basement of the Hilton that get to do their thing, but they also get to just be themselves when the lights go down. I got to be a part of that. To stand around and ask each other about what we do, or hear them talk so passionately about the reason they want to talk about stuff on the internet.

I sat at a table with people I respect and talked about stuff other than podcasting, just to get an idea of what they like to do and find out more about who they are.

What I walked away with is the most important thing. Ashley and I belong there. We got a place at the table, and we discovered that it was because we had something to contribute. We sat there as peers. Having just been audience members for years, we’re now part of the team. I want to definitely continue and I want to expand what I was able to do this year and help more. Now I’m itching to moderate a panel, to join in the conversation, and to keep these relationships going.

Our show was recorded and we’ll get the master audio and video soon so other folks can hear what went on. I have so many people I need to thank for this opportunity, but I know I’ll miss someone. So mainly I just want to say thanks to everyone who has supported us as we’ve done this show. Now all I can think about is how much it all means to me. Everyone who has ever downloaded the show has contributed some small piece of joy to me. That makes it all worth it.

Dragon Con was unbelievable. I cannot wait to do it all over again next year.

Uh, Live

Dreams come true, man. Sometimes it takes a while. Sometimes it happens in a flash. Sometimes it happens when you decide to take action.

Horseshoes & Hand Grenades was performed LIVE in front of an audience last Thursday at GalaxyCon and I’m still floating on cloud nine when I think about it. It was more than I could have hoped for. Ash and I were hoping to get even 10 people to show up in the room. No one had any idea who we were, but decided to pop in anyway. I will be grateful forever for those 20-ish people who decided to spend a couple hours with us super late at night to play some games and laugh a bit.

On a personal note, it’s rare that I find myself fearless. I mean, completely devoid of anxiety or nerves that make me get into my head about what I’m doing. The last time I was ever completely fearless, or in the zone, was performing live for folks back in high school when my band had a show. This was one of those times.

I’m kind of an introvert, but you put me on a stage and I can come to life. Give me a microphone and the power to pretty much roll with whatever I think needs to be said, and I’m in a zone. These were a bunch of strangers I’ve never met before, and watching them be entertained and laugh with me was such a joy. It’s the closes to high I’m going to get considering I don’t do drugs.

Ash was on point with her stories and jokes too, and it just made for such an awesome dynamic. We played games with the audience and they dug it so much. The participation was great and I think they truly dug the show we put on for them. They stayed the whole time and I think that’s saying something.

If I learned anything from the experience, it’s that we need to ask for gigs when we want them. All we did for this one was ask to do it. I have to credit Ashley completely for this. I didn’t think they’d want our show, and she believed in it from day one. I was a nay sayer and she was like, “we’re doing this and I’m going to make it happen.” We never would have gotten the opportunity without her persistence. She’s amazing.

Next up is Dragon Con, where we get to do our show live in front of strangers and friends. If we can do as well as we did in front of an audience of complete strangers, then I can only imagine what we can do in front of our friends. I’m so excited for it.

Until next time!

The Reading List: Lonesome Dove

The Reading List is a segment of the blog where I let you know the thing I just read and some thoughts about it along with the next book in my list. Should you want to read along with me, let me know in the comments!

For a long time, Lonesome Dove was a bit of a joke in my family. My dad watched and fell in love with the miniseries back in the early 90’s. His taste in movies is pretty much limited to things with horses so his love for it was kind of written of as, “it’s probably just another horse movie.” Yet he would tell everyone he could that it was one of the best stories ever written and that everyone should watch it.

Thirty years after he initially told me to watch it, I picked up the book. I could have just turned on the show and watched it and been done with it, but I’m a reader, and a believer that if there is a book of it, you should read it. I was inspired not by my dad telling me I should read it, but by a booked call “1000 Books to Read Before You Die” by James Mustich. It’s on his list, and therefore I should read it.

This book is a treasure to me.

This is a long story, but it’s one that you can learn to take your time with. It doesn’t get in a hurry. It’s cadence is much like the pace of the characters on the journey in the book. They go slowly, but they go with purpose. We meet our first characters, Augustus McCrae and Woodrow F. Call, right out of the gate. These two people are some of the most well written characters in literature. Augustus, or Gus, is crotchety, wise, clever, fun loving, and lazy. Call is everything opposite of that. He’s stubborn, quiet, and everything is about work. They play off of each other so well, and I think many of us could hope to have a relationship like theirs.

There are a whole bunch of characters that come into play as you read, like Deets, Jake Spoon, Newt, Pea Eye, and of course, the lovely Lorena. Lorena is what they refer to as a “sporting woman” who pretty much everyone is in love with but she won’t give them the time of day. All she wants to do is get to San Francisco.

Our character begin their journey when they find that there is a paradise far north of Texas called Montana, and it’s nothing but beautiful country unsettled and still wild. Call gets wind of this and decides it’s time to close up shop in Lonesome Dove and drive some cattle up there. The fates of several characters become intertwined thanks to this one decision and from there the adventure takes off.

I could sit here and tell you the whole story, but I’d rather just tell you that inside this book are some of the most real and believable moments of any book I’ve ever read. Over the 855 page read, you will get attached to them. There’s no way to avoid it. I cared so deeply for some of these folks because the writer, Larry McMurtry, takes so much care in writing about their fears, joys, and shortcomings. They’re breathing people in my head. I will say that I was driven to tears at least three times while reading this book for different reasons.

I love stories about journeys. Sometimes those are physical and sometimes it’s just character growth, but they work for me. This one is full of both. I love Gus as a character so much that I named my latest work laptop after him, and I’m sure I’ll do the same with something else. Maybe a pet…or a kid..or something.j

I ended up watching the miniseries after reading this and I have to say that it holds up incredibly well. The book is better because you get to understand what the character is feeling, but may of the actors in the show do an incredible job with the source material. Nothing of significance is added or taken away, and I’m super grateful for that. I kind of wish they would remake it these days, but I also can’t see anyone but Robert Duvall as Gus. He played him exactly as I saw him in my head. It really is a masterpiece.

Anyway, I think you should read this. It’s fantastic. Just set aside some time and pace yourself because it’s a big book.

Now I’m off to something else. I don’t know what yet, but I’ll post here when I figure out what it’s going to be. I’m open to suggestions. Comment here if you have a book you think I should read!

Enema of the State – 20th Anniversary

Enema of the State – blink-182 – 1999

Back in 1999, I was a fourteen year old kid still listening mostly to stuff his parents liked and occasionally venturing into classic rock. I was testing the waters of a handful of different bands like Everclear, Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and some other bands that I had heard on the radio before. I was starting to look for something that spoke to me and who I was at that age.

Along comes a little band called Blink-182 and their racy album with a porn star on the cover. I didn’t know much about it at the beginning until All the Small Things hit the radio and MTV. It blew the roof off music at the time. We were living in the Lou Perlman era of popular music. Boy bands were being cranked out of a factory and that was the thing most accessible for a lot of us, but we needed something else. Blink came along with their fun lyrics, Tom’s unlikely singing voice, and an accessible form of punk rock that would create a rift between kids who liked that, and purists who only believed in bands like The Dead Kennedys or Screeching Weasel.

I finally got a chance to pick up this parental advisory stickered opus and my musical world was blown right open. I didn’t just hear songs that I could toss to the side. I heard a way music was being played that called to me. I grew up avoiding rock completely. I didn’t even think Green Day was something I should listen. For some reason the bright tones, fast guitar, and drums of Enema of the State pulled me in. From track to track to track, I was enthralled.

I eventually bought a red electric Squier stratocaster from the music shop in town. It was one of those deals that came with a small 13″ amp and was just enough to get started. I got home with it and called my best friend Patrick to tell him what I did.

He had done the exact same thing and bought a bass.

It was a match that worked for us and we will always have that musical camaraderie that I don’t think I’ll ever find anywhere else. We learned every song that we were capable of on that album. We played All the Small Things until we could play it in our sleep. We enlisted our friend Jason to play drums and before we knew it, we were in a band, learning songs, and trying to be as good as all the bands we were learning about.

I found MxPx and Green Day first, then Sum 41 came along and just about every band on Drive-Thru Records followed. Pop-punk wasn’t just a genre. It was the music that I could identify with. It didn’t spend all of it’s time on politics, anarchy, or global turmoil. In the pop-punk/emo world, you could hear songs about things that actually mattered on a micro level. Not only that, it was perfect for high school me.

Enema of the State is still one of my favorite albums of all time. The difference in Mark and Tom’s voices give each song a different flair. Tom’s guitar playing is fast and aggressive, but it’s also bright and melodic. Mark’s bass is a perfect accompaniment to it. It goes without saying that Travis Barker is one of the greatest drummers in the world and his skills are on full display here. What luck it was for this “crappy punk rock” band to get Travis on their drums.

I have a Tom Delonge signature strat in my closet that I got for Christmas at 16. It still has a warm place in my heart. I took that guitar everywhere. I bled on that guitar at shows that my band played when I nicked my finger on the strings. I wrote an album with Patrick and Jason with it. It’s a treasure to me and despite my musical tastes developing to a place where it doesn’t do everything I need, I still love it. It’s a gorgeous, bright yellow music machine.

Blink-182 is still around these days with Matt Skiba as the guitarist in place of Tom. I love Matt Skiba. I think he’s great. But this isn’t my Blink. The combo of Mark and Tom was something special, and it created a few very special albums that worked. New Blink is fine, but it’s missing a crucial element in the sound that I can’t put my finger on. There is something about Tom’s playing that will always be missing. Same goes for Tom’s band, Angels and Airwaves. It’s missing something in the melody that Mark always brought to the table.

I’m feeling very nostalgic as I listen to this stuff. I miss my high school days, and playing music in the garage. All I can really do now is play when I get an opportunity and maybe introduce Sam to this stuff some day. If he wants to play music, I’ll be right there to support whatever grabs his attention. I know when Blink got me, I was never the same. A world opened and I wanted to see what I could find. Sam is going to find a door to his own world, and I’m pretty pumped to see what’s behind it.

The Reading List: Not a Fan

The Reading List is a segment of the blog where I let you know the thing I just read and some thoughts about it along with the next book in my list. Should you want to read along with me, let me know in the comments! 

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the reading list, and I read this book a while back without actually writing about my thoughts on it. It’s unfortunate because I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would love to have had fresh thoughts on it. In the future, I’ll try to be more disciplined with this reading list so you guys get a better understand of where I’m coming from and what I actually got out of all this reading.

Not a Fan is certainly not a book for the faint of heart. It’s a book that basically tells you whatever you’re doing is not enough when it comes to following Jesus whole heartedly. I struggled with my own life decision while reading it, but in a good way if that makes any sense. There are plenty of times when I have been more of a fan than a follower, and I’d argue that it’s more of my baseline than the exception. It’s not that I don’t absolutely believe with 100% of my being that Jesus is the Son of God and the way to a full life. It’s that that way can put you in some really tight spots and as a person that generally avoids conflict, that can be more challenging for me.

It basically boils down to the fact that a fan may throw on a WWJD bracelet (sorry for the 1997 reference), or slap a Jesus fish on the back of their car. A real follower will go to the homeless shelter on weekends, not pass up an opportunity to share the gospel with anyone they find, and do some seemingly irrational things in order to keep themselves in line with what God would have them do.

This probably occurs in America more than a lot of places. I would imagine because we are a country that for whatever reason considers ourselves a “Christian nation.” I don’t really know why, but that’s a topic for another post. We are just pretty happy for the most part going to church services when it’s convenient and acting like we’re doing the right thing just because we say we believe in Jesus. It’s not that we don’t, or we’re going to Hell or whatever. It’s just that we’re not getting all that a life of following Christ can give us. I don’t mean stuff either, for you Joel Osteen fans. That life is a hard one and the fact that we don’t discuss the sacrifice more often is kind of a shame.

Being a follower of Jesus cost early Christians everything. These days, we can just sit around and act like following him will provide all the things we want. This book was all about saying that it might cost you that trip to the beach you wanted or that new car because someone else needed you at the time for some greater good.

This book opened up a whole lot of questions for me and brought a lot of things to light that I had not thought about in a long time. I’m still not in line with where I probably should be, but I’m thinking a bit differently about it. Thinking isn’t going to get me any points at the end of the day, but if I’m a bit more mindful then I can be more conscious of the steps I need to take.

Next up on the list: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Red Dead Redemption II

There are games that I’ve played that have left an impression on me. Each one for a different reason. It’s kind of why I have an issue with top 10 lists. I don’t know how to create a top 10 list because I might have three games that all deserve the top spot but for different reasons. Maybe it’s for the gameplay, the story, the graphics, the challenge, or any other category. Red Dead Redemption 2 might be the first game that carries all of them for me.

RDR 2 starts a few years prior to the original game, so it works as a prequel to the story of John Marston, which I won’t get into here. It’s 1899 and civilization is encroaching on the Old West and the outlaws that run it. Some folks welcome the opportunity, while the outlaws see it as an encroachment of Uncle Sam on their freedom. You play as Arthur Morgan, an admittedly bad man, but one who holds to a code. “Kill those that need killin’, save those that need savin’, and feed those that need feedin’.” So these folks are bad people, but they aren’t bad people. It’s hard to make sense of that until you see how they all interact with each other.

Arthur starts out as a bit of a clean slate for the player. Play him how you want. Be a killer or a hero. The game rewards you with honor points based on your actions and they absolutely effect the way the world operates for you. Do enough bad deeds and the world reacts in kind. Do enough good deeds and you might see that people are more kind, and more doors are opened to you since you aren’t a notorious killer. This basically boils down to never shooting first and never stealing from people that don’t deserve it. It’s not hard to be a good guy despite the fact that the games missions routinely make you stand on the wrong side of the law.

I’ve played it the entire way through as a good guy. I helped people when they asked, I made the good decision when it was offered to me, and I generally didn’t rob from random strangers. As I started my second play through to see how the game plays as a bad guy, I find it incredibly challenging. I read through Arthur’s journals, which is an entirely optional thing though I would recommend it, and what I read is the thoughts of a decent man. I have a hard time playing as a ruthless killer, when the man himself is actually a decent human being. He even has thoughts on the things that I’ve made him do. I’m too empathetic to be the bad guy.

It’s a weird thing to feel empathy for characters in a video game but if there has ever been a video game that does it, it’s this one. The animators did an amazing job making these people feel real. It’s not just the animators though. The voice acting is absolutely incredible. There are times when I’m convinced I’m watching a movie. There are heavy moments in Arthurs journey and there are facial ticks, and emotions in the eyes I didn’t even know were possible with a video game. I’m not going to lie. I cried more than once in my play through. There are some truly heartbreaking moments, and of course, huge moments of redemption.

My journey with Arthur was much like a lot of other peoples, but Rockstar did an amazing job making it feel like he was my Arthur Morgan. Almost like he was a living, breathing human who was just trying to find a way to be free of the life he’d led and become who he really wanted to be.


Along the journey, Arthur ends up getting tuberculosis. I never saw it coming, and when it happened, it was a major shock, and a game changer. How does a man approach his bad life when he’s facing certain death? My Arthur approached it by helping everyone he came across and handing money over whenever given the opportunity in order to see someone else live better. The game changes dramatically after the TB diagnosis, and I can only imagine that it was a huge decision amongst the developers to decide that the hero we’d been riding with was going to die. There was a certain urgency brought to the game when it happened. I’m so thankful for that story decision, and the roller coaster ride it took me on.

I’m in my second play through now, and I’m taking my time with it this time. The first time through I was just tryin to beat the game, but the second time, I’m trying to explore and enjoy the world that the fine folks at Rockstar built. This game feels tailor made for me in terms of subject matter, story, and gameplay. I love everything about it. Some folks got completely immersed in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and found it to be endless in terms of activities. I’m finding that same joy in Red Dead Redemption 2. I’m still enjoying it, and I probably will for the forseeable future.

I haven’t even tried the Online stuff yet. Can’t wait to dive into that with Jacob and start wandering the Old West in our very own posse.

Reading List Update

If you follow along with my reading list, you know that I planned to read One Thousand Risks by Chad Johnson. It sounded like a great book about living with less fear because you have Jesus. It wasn’t quite what I was looking for. Lots of stuff about randomly approaching strangers and praying over their broken leg, or back pain, or whatever ailment they may have.

I’m not down on faith healing or anything. I think I serve an amazing God who can perform all kinds of incredible miracles, but this book was a bit focused on it. I feel like there can be a danger in promoting it all the time. Imagine you’re a person who has just been diagnosed with some sort of illness and you heard tale of a person who was praying over folks and then they found themselves healed. Man, that would get my hopes up for sure. Then, let’s say the guy prayed over my illness and I didn’t get better. What would that do to my feelings about how God cares about me. I think I might feel pretty let down.

Anyway, I’m just not keen on folks acting like prayers are going to save everyone from any ailment they have. It just doesn’t work that way. God isn’t a vending machine. Now, Chad sounds like a wonderful guy who has done and seen some amazing things. I just couldn’t get into the book. It didn’t speak to me. It might speak to you, but I just couldn’t get through it. I rarely intentionally put a book down, but I had to with this one.

In other news, I picked up Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman. It’s legit. It’s terrifying. It’s powerful. It’s exactly what I was looking for to dive into a deeper understanding of what a relationship with God should be. I’m enjoying it in the right way. Feeling convicted, and learning how much we can do when we’re properly aligned in God’s will for us. It’s not a self help book. It’s a book about understanding what it means to truly follow Jesus rather than just play by the “rules.”

I’m reading that one if you’d care to continue this reading list journey with me. It’s good. I’m almost done, so I’ll have a full write-up when I am. It’s hard to put down.

The Reading List: John Adams

The Reading List is a segment of the blog where I let you know the thing I just read and some thoughts about it along with the next book in my list. Should you want to read along with me, let me know in the comments! 

I bought this book a few years ago as I was headed down an educational path to learning about our founding fathers and who they *really* were. I’m aware of the god-like status we’ve given all of them, but I wanted to get down in the weeds with them and figure out what kind of people they really were. What were their flaws? What did they really believe? What characteristics have we ascribed to them that they actually didn’t have? There are a lot of myths we’re fed about these people and it’s important to journey back in time in order to separate the fact from fiction.

I could not have picked a better book to read at this time in our country. We think we’re in a place where our country has never been so polarized. Where news media is hellbent on spreading messages directed at a certain demographic without bothering with facts. We think all this stuff is new. I’ve learned through reading David McCullough’s incredible book that we have not changed in the slightest. The animosity between parties during Adams’ term as president and leading up to it can not be overstated. People were at each other’s throats regarding which president was a secret monarchist, and which cabinet member was going to destroy the new government from the inside. Newspapers sprung up everywhere trying to prove one side or the other, often without any evidence. There were opinion pieces galore trying to influence the population to one side or the other.

Despite all the fuss and fighting at our country’s inception, these folks seemed to build an incredibly strong foundation for government, despite their differences. Adams in particular was one of the strongest voices for independence in the entire continental congress. He was willing to stick his neck out for unpopular opinions, and risk his reputation to ensure that fact and truth ruled above all. We’re talking about a man that actually defended the British soldiers during the trial for the Boston Massacre. The people of Boston wanted to burn these folks at the stake, but Adams insisted that a free people must be a people ruled by laws, and that barbarically putting these men to death without trial would ruin any hope the aspiring nation had. He actually managed to get these men acquitted of wrongdoing in Boston by a Boston jury. “Facts are stubborn things,” was one key quote I pulled from this defense. He was not a loved man after that, but he was a respected one, and I believe it’s this defense that led him to be a representative. He was reluctant, but like many of our founding fathers, found that it must be his duty to perform the task asked of him.

One hero from this tale that shines above so many others was his wife, Abagail. She was a thinker and a fighter in her own right. She spent years away from her husband, raising children and tending the farm. Their letters to each other tell an amazing story of two people sacrificing greatly so that they, their children, and their children’s children could have a future with a secured freedom that they longed for. The way they addresed each other in all their correspondence was so sweet, but even they bickered in letters as they dealt with all the challenges. Adams was away in France for years trying to negotiate deals, and was often too busy to write. Abagail took great offense to only receiving a letter every month or so. She was so frustrated in writing that John Quincy, who was with his father, wrote her to tell her to give his dad some slack.

This is an amazing portrait of life in the 18th century that we should be so thankful to have. In the acknowledgments of the book, I read that there miles of microfilm containing John Adams letters and correspondence. He never got rid of anything, and thankfully we have the privilege of seeing his life through his own eyes and the eyes of those who worked closely with him. The picture you get is of an honor bound, trustworthy, bold, appreciative, kind, angry, vain man, who so aware of his own flaws, tried to be the best he could be. He attempted to give everything he could from his life so that others could have one more fruitful. That being said, he enjoyed his time. After being president, he retired to his farm and spent his remaining days in the quiet. He worked hard, walked three miles a day, and even managed to ride horseback until his early 80’s. I got the picture of a man at peace as I read of his twilight years. He was proud of all he had done, and was able to look forward to the next great adventure. In contrast with Thomas Jefferson, his life long rival and friend, who wanted to do go back and give it another try.

I can’t recommend this book enough. If you aren’t into history, you might want to skip it, but if you are the least bit curious about the life and times of an incredibly interesting man from the 18th century who just happened to be the second President of the United States, then I say give it a shot.

Next up: One Thousand Risks – Chad Johnson