Review of My 2014

What a year 2014 has been.

This was the year I started to turn Uncovering Oklahoma around. This was the year I’ve gone from making a few updates a month to a few updates a week, writing over 100 posts for my travel blog. This was the year I got the most traffic. This was the year things started to fall into place and look up.

This was a good year.

Let’s recap.

2014-06-12 Film Row-04 Leslie and Dennis holding Press Passes

In late January I released Uncovering Oklahoma’s 2014 Date Idea Book. The book wasn’t the overnight success I dreamed it would be, but I’ll talk more about that later.

I had written article early in the year of a list of 14 Things I want to do in Oklahoma in 2014, which was rather popular. Sadly, I only managed to do three of the items on my list: Air Donkey Zipline Adventures, a painting class, and watch at movie at the deadCENTER Film Festival. However, all three were a blast!

How did I fair this year in video interviews? I made five: Starbase Studios, Take 9 Variety Show, Rough Cut at deadCENTER, Air Donkey Zipline Adventures, and HeyDay Entertainment. If I have to pick a favorite, I would go for Air Donkey because of the action and flow. Though, the one on Take 9 had a fast pace and visiting both Starbase Studios and HeyDay were fun. Overall: I’m happy with what I’ve made.

This year was the fifth year I’ve been doing Uncovering Oklahoma. I celebrated by releasing a free book about some of my Experiences of Uncovering Oklahoma. The pdf book contained a journal about the first day, my interview questions, history of the date idea book, some of my favorite photography, and questions I’ve been asked. The book was short, around 30 pages. Check the post about it here.

This year I started publishing local restaurant recommendations on Uncovering Oklahoma. (In the past, I only did video interviews and date ideas when it came to food.) The first one I did was Seven47 in Norman, which the post was more pictures than review until my second one I wrote on OMG! Fusion Restaurant in South OKC. Throughout the year I featured more and more places, landing me a spot in Urbanspoon’s Top 10 Oklahoma City Metro food bloggers. The most read food review (that wasn’t about H&8th) was on Hurts Donut Company, with the second and third being Ludivine and The Bleu Garten. One of my photos of Glacier Confection, a chocolate shop in Tulsa, was featured in the Diner Photos of the Week. As a top contributor to Urbanspoon, I received some cool swag that included a t-shirt, sticker, and bottle opener.

Dennis in Urbanspoon shirt

It’s been a great year for my question and answer interviews too. My Tuesday Treats that I started last year are still going strong. I experimented with an artist exhibit interview that went well, which I will do more of in 2015.

Uncovering Oklahoma has become increasingly influential. A person I met at a charity event who was friends with a restaurant I featured, had told me the place had seen a spike in traffic because of my recommendation. I can’t tell you how much that comment made my day and made me feel like the new direction I was heading with the site was working. I’ve been invited to several events throughout the year, including deadCENTER, a murder mystery party, and a Foodie Foot Tour.

I made a few videos for work, all of which have won awards and prize money ($50 per each of the two videos). I can add Contest Winning Videographer to my title now.

I had two major travel trips this year. The first was to Eureka Springs and the second was to Atlanta. I never went to down Texas this year, which is a bit odd, but I went other places instead.

As you can tell, Uncovering Oklahoma has been my major focus this year and my creative projects have taken a hit – no – my creative projects have been set aside to be refined and developed more. Yeah! That’s it!

Now, for 2015.

There will be a revised edition of the 2014 Date Idea Book for 2015. The revised edition will drop the year from the title and will only contain corrections and minor updates. I’ve given the date idea book series some deep thought and decided to go in a different direction. I’m working on a new book full of adventures and activities to appear to broader audience. The revised date book will be out soonish. I just need to sit down and do it. The brand new adventure book will come later in the first quarter. I also I have an idea for another Oklahoma themed book, but it’s only an idea at this point.

More books! I have an urban fantasy that is getting close to being done.

I will be offering new services on Uncovering Oklahoma, including video production and public speaking. So far next year, I will be speaking twice about Uncovering Oklahoma at the Norman Public Library. I’ll set up a page about my full range of services soon.

The big goal for 2015 is to quit my day job and become a full time writer. Believe it or not, but I manage Uncovering Oklahoma while working over 44 hours a week. Imagine all the stories I’ll create with more time. It’s going to be spectacular! I can’t wait! First, I have to get everything situated to pull this feat off. If all goes well, I should be a full time writer in the first half of the year (perhaps even the first quarter). If you want to help, please refer people to here, Uncovering Oklahoma or one of my books, follow me on social media, and keep visiting!

Here’s to an even better 2015!

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Recommendation: Pebble Smart Watch

I brought myself a Pebble Smartwatch after Christmas last year and I think it’s time to write just how much I love it. The case I want to make for owning a smart watch is that I don’t feel like slave to my phone. If I get a message or notification, I can simply look at my wrist instead of having to dig my phone out. I can always feel the vibration of the watch while sometimes I won’t feel my phone or think it vibrates when it hasn’t. Overall, wearing a smartwatch makes owning a phone less of a distraction.

The Pebble is on the lower end of smart watches in that it cannot call or text people and the black and white e-paper display, but the trade offs are worth it. For starters, I only have to change the watch once maybe twice a week on average. Honestly, if I want to call or text to someone, I’ll just pull out my iPhone.

The watch is durable. I wear it to work, banging it on things all the time, and it only has a few scratches. I’m right handed, but I wear my watch on my right hand because it feels natural to me. Water doesn’t bother the Pebble either since it doesn’t have a microphone or camera.

My favorite feature: I love hooking my phone up to speakers and controlling the music with my watch. There are other remote apps available too, but I only use the music one. I can’t forget to mention all of the watch faces and being able to change the look of it. So cool.

The firmware updates that have been released over the past year have made the watch even better. One of the updates was low battery notification. For me, when it warns I’m at 20%, it’s a clear indication to change the watch at the end of the day. (The watch has always lasted the rest of the day, even if I get this warning first thing in the morning.) There was another update where pressing a button was able to clear the notification from my phone. Pretty much every software feature I wished the watch could do when I first bought it has come out.

The Pebble smartwatch is great buy with its remote capabilities, notifications, and days of battery life.

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Halloween Porch with Cityscape and Giant Monsters

Group Action Shot!
This year for Halloween, I participated with a group of friends in making a cityscape themed front porch. Everyone dressed up as something relating to giant monster movies, such as Godzilla and Pacific Rim. I went as the TV News Reporter for Channel 13. You can see me on the right with the yellow tie and crazy jacket I bought at Goodwill.

Mothra and King Ghidorah
Stand back, citizens! Here we have Mothra and King Ghidorah fighting in our fair city of NormanTokyo! Buildings are on fire! Smoke is everywhere! Police lights flash as people run! Oh the horror! The horror!

The Army General Attacks!
The brave Army General attacks!

2014-10-31 Halloween NormanTokyo-36
Everyone enjoyed watching the monsters fight. We even encouraged people to take pictures in front of the city with the monsters. Some people were too scared to take pictures, but many did. How often do you get a chance to pose with giant monsters in a city? Well, you could’ve had a chance if you came this porch.

Here’s a short video of how the monsters, Mothra and King Ghidorah, fought each other throughout the night.

King Ghidorah costume.
Above is a friend dressed as King Ghidorah, easily the best costume of the group. (I wish I could tell you how he made his costume, but he hasn’t posted it.)

People pose for pictures
People pose for pictures.

People were allowed to kick down the white styrofoam blocks for fun
Here’s the city, dubbed NormanTokyo, during the day. People were allowed to kick down the white styrofoam blocks for fun thus becoming monsters themselves. I took a sharpie and made windows and doors on the styrofoam pieces to make buildings. My thighs are still sore from bending up and down drawing those street chalk outlines.

Some kids enjoyed kicking the buildings more than the candy! We had some Elsa’s that were just so destructive. I wish I would’ve gotten some more pictures of trick-or-treaters destroying the city, but I was busy handing out candy.

We had some great crowds this year. Many parents and kids told us the porch was the best one they’ve visited this year. I had fun doing it and I look forward to whatever we plan for next year.

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HeyDay Entertainment with Uncovering Oklahoma

Yesterday, I went to the ribbon cutting event at HeyDay Entertainment in Norman. They reopened their doors with more fun. HeyDay features laser tag, a ropes course, miniature golf, an arcade, food, and bowling. In this video, I interviewed Trey Bates and Brad Little.

As for my personal thoughts, the place is fun and it’s really cool looking inside. The improvements they’ve made are simply incredible. I do wish they would’ve expanded the arcade more as with the few people that where there, it felt cramped. I’ll be going back for date nights and hanging out with friends.

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The Dinner Detective

The Dinner Detective
The Dinner Detective is a national interactive murder mystery dinner show and made it’s debut in Oklahoma City in early June. Each Dinner Detective show begins with a cocktail interrogation session. During this time, all of the guests are encouraged to speak to the other guests. Unbeknownst to them, the show has already started.

Last night, Leslie and I attended one of the special Halloween shows where people had the option of arriving in costume. I received complementary passes for running an article on them on Uncovering Oklahoma. I had been looking forward to going to the show as I’ve never been to one before, other than ones I’ve made myself with my Movie Murder Mystery Party book.

The Dinner Detective with Detectives Guns and Roses
We had some hesitations about the show as the last few live shows we’ve seen fell flat. Those hesitations went away when Detectives Guns and Roses burst down an imaginary door because the Sheraton Hotel wouldn’t let them bust down the real doors. The actors were fantastic and energetic–and I’m not saying that because I knew most of them. It was a bit strange for me when I first saw someone I personally knew and I was given a look that told me, “I don’t know you.” When I saw more of my friends, who all turned out to be actors for the show, I had to play along that I didn’t know them. It’s kind of weird pretending not to know someone. After the show, I apologized to some of my friends for not being like friendly, but they knew I was playing along and were glad I didn’t blow their cover.

The show included a simple four course meal. Leslie and I had gotten the fish. Some of the other people at our table got the chicken. No one at our table had any complaints about the food other than that dinner could’ve be brought out a little sooner and maybe some more bread. The cash bar was standard, which a good selection of drinks.

The Dinner Detective
As for whodunit, I’m not going to tell. I will tell you we didn’t guess the murderer correctly, despite the edge of knowing which some of the guests were actors. The person who I thought was the murderer, ended up getting killed in the show. I was told after the show, that several people guessed I was the killer. Perhaps it was because of the clue I found? Yeah, let’s go with that answer.

In summary, The Detective Detective was fun a evening. If you do go, plan some extra time for parking and bring some friends.

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