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Christmas Eve at the movies

I had myself a merry little Christmas Eve. I went to the movies yesterday. I love going to movies alone. I realized today when my mother-in-law commented on it that I may be in the minority of solo movie-goers.

I love a solo movie. I love sitting in an empty theater with a huge screen and surround speakers. I love reclining back and putting my feet up because our closest theaters all have reclining seats now.

I love losing myself in another world. Listening to a story told by the thousands of people it takes to put a movie together. I love trading my afternoon away for an escape to a new world or to rejoin old friends in a familiar place.

I went to three movies today. It wasn’t my plan when I woke up at 9am without an alarm set. But when I looked at MoviePass and saw it had nothing to offer me, I decided to take advantage of the cheap, morning pricing of our local AMC.

First on the docket today was Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse.

I will be the first person to nod along when you say Sony made too many spider-movies. I often think of the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt joke where Titus tries out for Spider-Man Too: 2 Many Spider-Men. Sony had one superhero card to play. So they played it. On repeat. For years. We saw 2 Many Spider-Men come and go. None of them particularly memorable.

As if they were stuck in Bill Murry’s nightmare in Punxsutawney, the spider-men kept reliving the same tragedy. The same story. Trapped on a turntable spinning them round and round into battle against never-ending foes and next time resetting and starting fresh.

This is a new movie. This is a movie that can laugh at itself and as it glosses over the story with a winking “and you know the rest”. It skips the origin story and tells what comes after.

A story about feeling alone. Then learning there are people who know what you’re going through.
A story about family problems (and boy are they!)
A story about figuring out who you are and how you want to be seen by the world.

And that’s just one of the Spider-men.

It was a lot of fun and told an interesting story with a unique style. I enjoyed the comic-book infused style that reminded me of Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk but taken to a greater level and refined.

This film also offered up the single greatest still from a movie this year.

Miles Morales' Spider-man taking a leap of faith and falling upwards towards upside down buildings.
Spider-man taking a leap of faith.

After Spider-man, it was time to get some exercise. Popcorn and Coke don’t work themselves off. There is a large lake that’s about a mile around near the theater where I was. So I walked about it a few times while I decided how to spend my day next. It was cold but the walk was good. I need some exercise and the moving helped me think and process the movie I’d just seen.

I like to sit with something after I watch it. Even if it was just an animated spider-movie. Nothing that’s going to change my life or leave me thinking about it deep into the night. (Although the Rubik’s Cube…)

I walked for about three miles, caught dozens of Pokemon, took over two gyms and then decided it was time to see Once Upon a Deadpool. I will admit I wasn’t entirely sure what it was before going into it. But Aquaman wasn’t playing at a time that worked for me and the other movies either didn’t appeal to me, I didn’t need to spend the money to see them on the big screen, or they were ones I wanted to see with my wife.

Movie theater marker for Once Upon A Deadpool at 2pm.
PG-13 Deadpool is still Deadpool.

So Deadpool it was. As it turns out, a PG-13 re-cut of Deadpool 2 can still be a lot of fun. I had just watched Deadpool 2 earlier this week so it was fresh in my mind. The Fred Savage parts were fantastic. Especially the scene where Savage wants to f***t Matt Damon. There were a couple of things cut out like the naked butt of Juggernaut and a comment about the softest mouth in the Ice Box. But overall, it was still a fun movie.

There was a short tribute to Stan Lee at the end of the film after the credits rolled. I don’t have a deep comic connection but I couldn’t help marvel (ha!) at the man who had created so many characters and brought so much joy to millions of people.

I have done movie double-headers before in a theater. I’ve watched three movies in a single day before. But never have I seen three movies in a theater on the same day. Until today.

As I was leaving Deadpool, I got a text saying we (the family) were going to see The Grinch that evening.

Movie marquee featuring Mary Poppins Retuns (missing the R in returns) and The Grinch.
I took this picture without realizing it said Mary Popping Retuns until the next morning.

I was impressed with The Grinch. Having seen the 1966 original countless times growing up and the 2000 Jim Carrey version a few times, I didn’t think there was much new ground to cover with the grumpy green monster.

I was wrong.

The Grinch’s personality grew three sizes this day. He has motivation and a backstory. There’s a reason he hates Christmas (and maybe it’s not Christmas at all.) He’s much more developed than I remember in either previous iteration. I feel sorry for the poor guy. With only his little dog for company.

It wasn’t just the Grinch who has a developed personality. Cindy Lou Who is worried about her single mother trying to get by. Her mother is single and that’s a major plot point. There’s a Who of Color played by Kenan Thompson. Pharrell Williams’ narration sounds just like Al Letson from Reveal. I thought any minute now we were going to go behind the scenes of scandals in Whoville.

The gadgets and whatsits were high points for me. The various inventions the Grinch comes up with to aid in his theft of Christmas is a delight. Many of them made me laugh out loud, though the extendable sleigh to reach between houses was my favorite.

I haven’t seen either other Grinch movie recently, but I put this one up at the top of Grinch list. It capped off a wonderful Christmas Eve at the movies.

I rated all three films at Letterboxd. where I put everything I’ve seen this year including 70 I saw using Moviepass.

Zoo Lights

We went to see the Zoo Lights tonight before the shutdown affects the Zoo’s functioning. In all the years I’ve lived near DC I never remember going before.

It was fun to walk through a familiar place at night. I enjoy the zoo because I see something new every time I go.

The animal houses were closed tonight. And even if they weren’t, the animals are sleeping.

Though I was hoping to see the kiwi bird they claim to have there. I’ve looked a dozen times and never seen the small sneaky bird.

One thing that struck me from my youth was the various statues of animals there. Specifically the bear cubs and the anteater. I remember climbing on those statues when I was a kid.

I don’t have many firm memories from the zoo, but I do vividly remember those statues.

Employee Spotlight

It’s an honor to be nominated.

Last month I received an email from work I didn’t expect.


An employee spotlight article in an upcoming edition of the FACT will spotlight you, and your career at the FDA. Please answer the following questions and include a picture of yourself to accompany the article. Since many of us work at home, or in separate locations it is always nice to get to know a little about our fellow coworkers. 

It asked a few questions about my for an upcoming employee spotlight for our newsletter. I responded with far more than they needed but I never know how much to write or what they’ll pick out to use.

Please describe what you do in your current role to support the FDA.

My current role at the FDA is a Rich Media Engineer. In short, that means I help support the WebEx, Video Teleconference, Streaming TV, and Cable TV at the FDA for the agency of 25,000 and anyone externally they interact with nationally and internationally.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?

The biggest challenge I face in my role is information sharing and institutional knowledge. At FDA, information lives mostly in email and in various SharePoint silos where it quickly gets out of date and forgotten. When I worked at NIH when we had an enterprise wiki where all our knowledge lived. When something was out of date, it could be updated instantly, by anyone so we had a living set of accurate documents.

What do you enjoy most about your position?

I most enjoy the challenge of supporting a diverse set of collaboration and information tools. I like to educate customers about the technological options available to them and work with them to assure successful events.

What is your career history? Where have you worked before joining the FDA account; what did you do there?

I came from the quick printing industry where my father owned and operated a chain of stores called Copy General (based in Sterling, VA). I spent about a decade working in Desktop Support at NIH, The Atlantic Magazine, Honeywell, and the City of Richmond, VA. For the past 5 years I’ve worked in collaboration support, first at the Department of Labor, and currently at FDA.

Personal interests – What are your hobbies? Have you been on a recent vacation?

I enjoy walking around the local parks, my favorite being Lake Needwood. In my off-time, I like to tinker with technology toys, read (current favorites are John Scalzi and Jonathan Maberry) and play video games (current addition: Destiny 2).

What do you see from your office? Do you have a favorite place to visit in your area? Please include a picture with a description of what you are seeing “out your window” to accompany the article.

My office doesn’t have a window so a brick wall wouldn’t be interesting, so here’s a picture from my window when I work remote.


I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in Creative Advertising.

Where do you reside?

Rockville, MD


My wife is an Art Therapist running her practice in the DC area. My brother founded and runs Read The Docs, an open-source platform for documentation.

This is what they ended up using in the newsletter that went out to everyone.

Employee Spotlight: Carl Holscher

View from the building where I work at the FDA.
View from the hall window where I work at FDA (since I sit in a windowless room.)

Carl’s current role at the FDA is Rich Media Engineer. He helps support WebEx, Video Teleconferencing, Streaming TV, and Cable TV at the FDA; this includes providing support to anyone the FDA interacts with nationally and internationally. The biggest challenge he faces in his role is the process of information sharing and institutional knowledge. Carl states, “At the FDA, information lives mostly in email and in various SharePoint silos where it quickly gets out of date and forgotten”. The most enjoyable aspect of his role is the challenge of supporting a diverse set of collaborative and informative tools. Carl likes educating customers about the technological options available to them and works with them to assure successful events.

Carl came from the quick printing industry where his father owned and operated a chain of stores called Copy General (based in Sterling, VA). He spent about a decade working in Desktop Support at NIH, The Atlantic Magazine, Honeywell, and the City of Richmond, VA. For the past 5 years, he has worked in collaboration support, first at the Department of Labor, and currently at the FDA. Carl graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in Creative Advertising.

When he is not in the office, Carl enjoys walking around local parks, his favorite being Lake Needwood. He also likes to tinker with technology toys, reading (his current favorite authors are John Scalzi and Jonathan Maberry) and playing video games (currently: Destiny 2). Carl resides in Rockville, MD.

The picture above is from his window when he works remotely. (This is where I forgot to update the text before I sent it. The picture is from FDA’s White Oak Campus, which I cannot see from my house.)

It was really nice to be selected (either at random or using some criteria I’ll never know. It’s nice to be recognized, even to have a little interview about yourself for your co-workers to get to know you better.

Sprint Day

Clear Sky, 39°F
Sprint Day

Sprint is offering free service for a year. That’s a $1,200 savings over our current T-MOBILE plan. I don’t have any reason to leave them but free is better than not.
There’s no contract or limitations. So if service is bad, we leave Sprint and switch back. But if it’s OK, then we have free phone service until next December and an extra $100 in our pockets every month.

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Grocery Game

I play a game to see how quickly I can scan, bag and pay for my items when I am checking myself out.

When I pay at a cashier, I play the game of trying to keep up with the cashier. I try to get items into the bags as fast as they can scan them and send them along.

There are some places which are terribly designed for a single person to scan and bag. Other places where there is no room for bagging whether you’re scanning or not.

Aldi has the right idea where they don’t bag at all and stick your items back into a different shopping cart. They have a long shelf area along the front of the store where customers can bag their items if they wish. It gets people through the lines quickly and the bottleneck becomes at the bagging area. But if you’re run in for a few items, it gets you in and out quicker than any other store.

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