The Georgia House and Senate are having some differing opinions on Sine Die, the final day of the General Assembly legislative session.

House Bill 280 and Senate Bill 71, the latter of which was gutted and replaced with the text from House Bill 51, have been disapproved by the House and Senate, respectively.

For House Bill 280, which looks to allow concealed carry on college campuses, the House has disagreed to a Senate substitute which added “any specialized school for high school students” to the list of exemptions of where permit holders could carry.

Rep. Ballinger (R-Canton) said the House agrees on the principle of the substitute, but had concerns about the phrasing, and therefore motioned for the House to disagree.

Senate Bill 71, which passed the Senate as a bill regarding assets and property exempt from bankrupty, was gutted in the House and replaced with text from House Bill 51, after HB 51 had been tabled by the Senate Judiciary committee. HB 51, aimed at revising how colleges deal with felonies involving students, drew criticism for how it may affect sexual assault victims.

Following the House substitute, the bill went back to the Senate, which disagreed.

Both will now go to a conference committee later today.

In a conference committee, three members of the House and three members of the Senate meet and work to reach an agreement on a final version of the bill. This final version then goes before both the House and the Senate floor for a vote. These committees often occur when time in the session is running short, and therefore add pressure to legislators who often do not want to be called into a special session.

Follow me on Twitter and stay tuned to redandblack.com for Sine Die updates.

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Arguably one of the best features of Windows 10, as well as perhaps creepiest, is the inclusion of the digital assistant Cortana. A late-game introduction to the world of digital assistants long after Siri and Google Now had pretty much cemented their place in their respective ecosystems, with manufacturers like Samsung trying to produce their own assistants and have them baked into their products, and a swarm of personal assistant apps in both the Play Store and App Store, Cortana seemed like a last-ditch effort to jump aboard a train that was about to pull out of the station.

Much like Windows 8 was for a tablet interface, Cortana, though seemingly thought through at launch, seemed as a whole to be thrown together into infancy quickly at a time when Siri and Google Now had already hit puberty. Not to mention it was stuck on Windows Phones only, which then and still today only make up a fraction of the market compared to iPhone and Android.

Fast forward over a year, and finally Cortana expands to the most popular Windows device, the PC. She’s been smoothed out a bit, made a bit smarter and a bit faster (though Bing, be its literal inferiority or its publicly-perceived inferiority to Google), and ready to hit the general public. Still locked inside the Windows ecosystem, she integrates with multiple devices almost seamlessly, something that Apple, which is usually hailed as the king of inter-connectivity, has yet to do with Siri on a Mac, and something that Google is capable of, but doesn’t necessarily advertise on the digital assistant front.

But now, a big leap forward for Cortana. Cross-platforming, on iOS and Android.

Big deal. Google Now is technically on iPhone and Windows Phone as an app. Yes, but with the inability to change default apps on an iPhone, there is little chance of someone going into the Google app rather than just holding down the home button to bring up Siri.

In a recent app update, Cortana can now be activated by a swipe up from the home button on an Android device, an action that traditionally brings up Google Now.

That’s right, Cortana wants to become your go-to search app, and will go to great lengths to prevent Google from popping up on your screen.

The question is, will she surpass Google.

The short answer is no.

The long answer is maybe. Let me explain. Obviously, now that Cortana is on PCs running Windows 10 and is reaching out to Android (and soon iOS), she could very well be the first digital assistant to run on all major platforms. That’s a lot of potential power. Power that could very well be wasted if not recognized, but power that could be very influential should it be seized properly.

So what does “properly” mean? Well, sadly, Cortana will never run off Google, which means it has already set itself back by sticking with Bing. But believe it or not, Bing isn’t the laughingstock it used to be. It’s moved out of the catch-up phase and has entered the copying phase. In fact, Bing technically beat Google to its own product, with Bing Search doing what Now on Tap is supposed to do as far as searching a screen for search queries (more on that later). But Bing will still have to improve. The team behind Bing has to compete with a company whose name has become synonymous with searching for something on the Internet, whether you actually use the Google search engine or not. That’s no small feat, and it’s a challenge that will have to be met with creative innovation.

Outside of the brains of Cortana and onto the functionality, again it’s the catch-up and copy game. Right now, Cortana does reminders and search queries and jokes. But, sans the jokes for Google, Google and Apple do them smarter. Location-based reminders, predictive reminders, recommendations. Receiving information without having to remember to look for it, that is the future of the digital assistant. Right now, a Cortana user still has to do much of the grunt work. Google Now is fantastic with predictive information, and Siri is getting an overhaul on iOS 9 to catch-up. Cortana has to evolve now, or be left in the dust.

Integration is also vital, and here it gets tricky. No one assistant does it perfectly as of now. In fact, Siri is seeking to improve app integration in iOS 9, and an update to Google Now recently shows that the company is focused on the idea as well. While Cortana can integrate with the phonebook and herself on other platforms, app integration is seriously lacking right now. And it’s not her fault. Cortana is new, and it takes time for developers to accept her, especially when she was in such a small market. Now that she’s putting herself out there, I expect that she’ll be more accepted and perhaps included in the app integration party.

Fragmentation is not something I would expect from a digital assistant, but the Bing Search app does seem a bit alarming. Bing is owned by Microsoft, and powers Cortana. Now why would Cortana and Bing be separate apps? Google Now and Google are one in the same. Siri isn’t a search engine, but Apple doesn’t own a search engine. Microsoft has both a search engine and a digital assistant, but has kept them separate, which very well may lead to brand identification confusion. And with Bing’s new “Now on Tap”-like feature, swiping up on the home button on an Android will search the screen for web queries. Swiping up on the home button, the same exact motion that can be used to activate Cortana. That’s right, Cortana is competing with Bing. And in a world where a user has to decide between the digital assistant it can talk to or the search engine that will grab info from the screen, they’re going to go to Google Now, which can do both.

I know Cortana is in beta right now, and flaws are expected, but if the team at Microsoft really puts the effort in, they can make something powerful. If only they had put thought into the name, and not gone with a cheap and rather pathetic video game reference.

Outgoing. Approachable. Encouraging. Caring. Always positive.

There are many words that people use to describe who Michael McClary was. Some knew him as the dedicated young man focused on excelling in class and majoring in criminal justice. Others knew him as the guy who would be up on the tables downtown dancing like nobody was watching. Still others knew him as the guy who they could talk to, no matter how late it was or how busy he was.

But across all different accounts of who Michael McClary was, one thing remains unanimous: it just clicked.

McClary was a sophomore at the University of Georgia who came from McNair High School in Decatur.

“He always talked about how the graduation rate at his school is kind of low in his hometown, and how he ‘made it out’ and came here to UGA. It is really a success story; he would always joke about it,” said Briana Clark.

Many people described McClary as someone who wanted to support his family and help people, and was very driven to achieve his goals.

“Overall he was a really great achiever” said Morgan Wynn, who had an anthropology class with Michael at the University. “I made a B because I tried to pick up my mess afterwards, but he was one of those go-getters from day one. He was a fighter from day one.”

Academically, Stephen Clark, McClary’s AP World History and AP U.S. History teacher remembers McClary as a very dedicated person.

“I taught at McNair for five years and the students and classes run together sometimes; not Mike though. He was special. Michael was a history whizz. He would always get the highest grades on our tests,” Clarke said.  “It was five years ago but I can still picture the tenth grade project he did on Vladimir Lenin clear as day. I learned so much about Lenin from his project when he presented, even though it was over most of the other students’ heads. That is the kind of kid he was: a learner, a thinker, a leader. The other students always respected Big Mike because he was always himself; not afraid to be smart, not afraid to pursue academic or athletic achievement even if it went against the culture sometimes.”

Briana Clark, who took Greek mythology with McClary at UGA, can attest to his academic knowledge.

“He was really into Greek mythology. He knew way more than me about it. He would help me out a lot,” she said.

“He was always a very intelligent guy,” said Wynn. “He actually got an A in the course, and he worked for it.”

Many of those who knew McClary mention his love for sports. While attending McNair, he played football – outside linebacker – as well as golf, making history at McNair in making the state golf tournament his senior year.

Stephen Clark, who was also McClary’s golf coach at McNair, recalls an eagerness to learn.

“I remember many times him sitting in my classroom after school and before practice watching golf instructional videos, working on his grip, his takeaway, his stance. Then going over to Sugar Creek’s driving range and watching how quick he applied what he had just learned. His strength was off the tee,” he said. “I rarely watched his first shot, I usually watched the reaction of the other coach if they didn’t know Mike. Not many offensive linemen play golf, and McNair is not known for the sport at all, so they would usually watch in somewhat awe as he pounded the ball 250-plus down the fairway. And then smile! His smile would light up anyone around him or any room he was in. I remember vividly when I gave him my old driver, a Cleveland Hibore Monster, he smiled the whole hour on the range as he crushed shot after shot.”

Michael McClary often answered to and even introduced himself by his nickname, “Big Mike.”

“People called him that before he came to college, but when he got here, one day I introduced him as Big Mike kind of a joke from the movie ‘The Blind Side,’ but it fit him,” said Baskin. “He had that cool swagger about him.”

McClary was also very much into fashion, especially shoes. According to Baskin, McClary “had tons of Air Jordan [tennis shoes], and tons of boots.”

Faris Raza said shoes are what brought he and Michael together.

“We talked about [his shoes] all the time. He loved, loved, loved his sneakers. We would talk about shoes for days,” he said. “The first thing I think about when I think about him are his shoes.”

Raza met McClary during his freshman year.

“He lived right around the corner of my freshman dorm in Brumby Hall,” he said. “He was one of the probably most approachable people I have ever met. He was really, easy-going, always giving me a hug as soon as he saw me.”

This school year, McClary lived in East Campus Village, but spent most of his days in Reed Hall, to the point that some people thought he lived there.

McClary’s father is a pastor, and many who knew McClary recall his strong religious faith. Both Baskin and Wynn remember McClary and his influence on them and their Bible study groups.

“Whenever things got serious, he would bring the word of God in or quote a scripture,” Baskin said.

“I did not get to talk about faith with many kids but I did with Mike all of those days in the van driving to the golf course,” Stephen Clark said. “His faith in God was strong so I do take peace in that.”

To many of those who knew him, McClary was like a brother. Briana Clark recalls a memory of Michael the week of finals, where when a friend was not feeling well, McClary stepped in and made sure that the friend was alright.

“He barely knew her at that time, but he did everything he could to make sure she was okay,” she said, “and that was the moment I knew Big Mike was going to be my big brother forever.”

“He was my best friend. Everyone on campus called us brothers because we looked alike,” Baskin said. “He was like my brother basically.”

Christa Evans said that “there was never a dull or boring moment with him.”

“I met him at O’House. He introduced himself and I introduced myself, and somehow we got on the topic of Steak n’ Shake and how the one in Athens messed up his chocolate-covered strawberry milkshake, and how much he loved chocolate-covered strawberry milkshakes,” she said. “He told me that if I ever come to his hometown, I have to get a chocolate-covered strawberry milkshake.”

“Not many kids from McNair go to UGA, or play golf, but that is Mike for you,” Stephen Clark said. “He made my job easy on hard days, even though he has passed he had a heck of an influence on others and no question on me.”

“Big Mike was the kind of guy that made you feel like anything you are going through really did not matter. He always saw the light in everything,” Wynn said. “One time, I used to be really, really bad with self-esteem, and he really made me feel beautiful in a genuine way. He taught me how to appreciate myself, he really did. He really contributed to my self-esteem.”

“He is irreplaceable. There never, ever will be another Big Mike.” Briana Clark said.

When asked how she would work through the difficult time, Briana Clark said that she and other people who knew him would get through it together.

“[We and those who knew him] are going to hang out a lot, watch movies, because that is what we enjoy doing, what we would do if he were here,” she said. “Why stop doing what were would normally do? In honor of him, we have to keep moving.

When asked how he would honor McClary, Baskin said he is “going to live like Mike.”

“I know that sounds cheesy, but it is true. I am going to do what he did,” Baskin said. “I am going to enjoy everything, take the time out of my day to smile and laugh. Everybody has a bunch of issues; he did too. But he overcame those issues and just had a good time. He never really thought about failure; he always thought about the next step. I have to move forward.”

So who should Michael McClary be remembered as? Baskin said it simply:

“The best person you will ever know. That is it.”

Interstellar is… a Christopher Nolan film. From the director who turned a comic book superhero into a socio-political debate that commented on morals and messed with the psyche, as well as other non-comic book movies that commented on morals and messed with the psyche, comes a movie that comments on morals and messes with the psyche. That being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. From the trailer, the movie looks like an action movie, an astronaut going up into space to find a new planet and save the human race that, once again in cinema, have found a way to screw up the environment. It seemed like a cross between Avatar and Armageddon. However, the moment the name Christopher Nolan flashes up on the screen, it becomes pretty clear that we will be dealing with 2001: A Space Odyssey-like ideas. In fact, I would be willing to argue that the ending of Interstellar is more confusing and ambiguous that the ending of the Stanley Kubrick masterpiece.

This movie was supposed to be this year’s Gravity, and while many parts were visually stunning, unlike Gravity, this movie seemed to actually have a plot that called for a script longer than the front and back of a single sheet of paper. On that note, discussing the plot, this movie seems to take a while to get going, a likely reason for its 167-minute runtime. However, as can be expected by Nolan’s films, small confusing plot points introduced at the beginning will come back later in a grand “ah” moment. Still, until you get through the movie and the beginning at least makes some sense, the plot kicks into gear by nothing more than a series of complete coincidences, and from there rushes the audience into the action quickly without really giving time for adjustment to the new world. One moment the characters are living in a farmhouse in the middle of the 21st-century Dust Bowl, and two minutes later, Matthew McConaughey is being interrogated by a robot marine shaped like a large chocolate candy bar, and the audience is just supposed to accept it. Five minutes later, McConaughey is preached exposition by Michael Caine playing basically himself and kisses his daughter good-bye. In the course of fifteen minutes, he goes from watching a Minor League baseball game to entering cryogenic sleep on his two-year journey to Saturn.

The plot thickens, and gets much more complex, but for the sake of keeping the integrity of this film, which right now I will say is certainly worth seeing, I will merely summarize that, after entering a wormhole near Saturn, McConaughey and his team must follow up on previous missions of possible habitable planets. And now for something completely different. I had no idea that Anne Hathaway was in this movie, and from what I say, she did a pretty good job. I’d say at least comparable to Sandra Bullock in Gravity, though still maintaining her… Anne Hathaway-ness. Michael Caine is Michael Caine. Matthew McConaughey did a fantastic job. He sold the farmer/engineer/pilot/savior of humanity thing beautifully. Be it his voice or actual talent, it was enjoyable to see him up on screen. And while there was lots of driving, it was either a Toyota pickup or a spaceship that looked like the metal part of an iron (no Lincoln, bummer).

As for what the movie was trying to get across, let me just ask you this: do you believe in the fifth dimension? Because Christopher Nolan does, and he is dead serious about it the entire film. Dead serious. Of course the film did have some comedic parts to it, it was definitely not one of those films that you can passively watch. It is definitely worth watching, notepad and pen in hand so you can keep up, and please check your logic in at the door, you won’t be needing it for nearly three hours. The spacey mumbo jumbo was interesting, though I’m sure Neil DeGrasse Tyson will walk out if he ever sees this movie. The movie overall was great… except the ending. I won’t spoil it, but let me just say that I didn’t like it when they did it in Star Trek: Into Darkness and I didn’t like when they did it here.

Overall, if you don’t mind questioning reality and the governing rules of physics that we live our lives by each and every second, then go and enjoy a stunningly-shot piece of art that brings into question reality and hope. If you’d rather accept that we will never understand the world completely, or think that we already know everything, then still go and enjoy it as a stunningly-shot piece of art. Either way, make sure you see this movie.

Okay, as you guys can see, I’ve created a blog, and…yeah, that’s pretty much it. Just check up and see what’s going on, since I don’t get to talk to a lot of you on a regular basis. Ok, bai! 😀