All posts by Douglas Hwang

A Broad Look into the New Star Wars Canon

*Material recent as of Oct. 27

It’s no secret that I’m a big Star Wars fan. In 1997, on their 20th anniversary release, my cousin took me to the theaters and that was the beginning of my fandom. I wrote a little bit about Star Wars recently by reposting the original Tumblr post (and if you go back a bit, I wrote reviews on a few of the other great Star Wars “Legends” books as well – Thrawn Series, Darth Bane).

Today, I want to write a bit about the new canon.  Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, and in 2014 announced that  previous Expanded Universe stories would fall into the Legends banner and not be included in the official canon. From there, with their new official storyboard team, Star Wars created a whole new canon.

First off, I think this was a great idea. Yes, we may miss out on the amazing Thrawn series, fan favorite Mara Jade, and the future of Luke and Mara’s children. We may even miss out on the Knights of the Old Republic era, or the great Darth Bane series explanation of the Rule of Two. But, we finally get a cohesive storyline (hopefully), no more retcons, and a chance to see the story expand under the leadership of Disney. If the Marvel Cinematic Universe is any indication, then I’m very excited for what’s to come.

Exploring the new canon so far (as of Oct, 2016), there’s a lot of material to digest. Between the movies, cartoons, books, and comics there’s something for every fan. There’s actually a great interactive wiki on all this, but I want to simplify and scratch the surface into each of the stories. I’ll use the movies as the timeline markers, and give my personal opinion of each.


[MOVIE] Episode I: The Phantom Menace

[MOVIE] Episode II: Attack of the Clones

[TV Series] The Clone Wars: This cartoon series is amazing. I felt the first couple seasons were a little slow, but it gets really good. You can binge watch the whole thing on Netflix.  It’s long (6.5 seasons – some “lost” episodes you have to watch on, but I say it’s a must-watch.

[Comic] Darth Maul – Son of Dathomir:  If you liked the cartoon series, then this is a great way to figure out what happened to Darth Maul (note: they never finished the cartoon series so they expanded that material onto other mediums). There’s also a potential connection down the timeline in the Journey to the Force Awakens Shattered Empire comic. If you’ve watched the cartoon, then it’s a must-read. Otherwise, you could probably pass.

[Book]  Dark Disciple: Like Darth Maul, this is a fallout from the cartoon series. You’ll learn more about Quinlan Vos, and see what happens to Ventress. It’ll might be a little hard to follow if you haven’t watched the series, but if you do, then this is a must read. One of my favorite Star Wars books, Christie Golden does a fantastic job.

[MOVIE] Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

[Book] Lords of the Sith: This story is entirely about how ridiculously powerful Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine are. It’s action packed and entertaining, but (IMHO) not necessarily critical to the core storyline. Fun read, but not critical.

[Book] Tarkin: This book takes an in-depth look at our favorite Grand Moff Tarkin. We get a glimpse of him in the Clone Wars series of his beginnings, but this fills it out completely - how he grew up and how he came to be the Grand Moff. It was good, so if you’re  fan of his character then it’d recommend it, but I wouldn’t consider it a must-read.

[Comic] Kanan – The Last Padawan: If you like the Rebels Series, then I think this does a great job in settling the stage of Kanan’s beginnings and character. You get a good appreciation of what happens after Order 66. I’m a big fan so far.

[Book] A New Dawn: This book tries to set the stage for the Rebels series. It’s mostly a story of how Hera and Kanan meet. It does a good job, but unless you’re a huge fan of the Rebels series, I don’t think it’s necessary crucial to the storyline. It’s a nice-to-read.

[TV Series] Rebels: This is fantastic cartoon. The team has done a good job creating new characters (Ezra and crew), as well as mixing in nostalgia from the previous Clone Wars series (e.g. Ahsoka Tano, and Darth Vader cameos). This show tries to setup the beginnings of the rebellion in Episode IV. I’m excited to see what comes next.

[Book] Lost Stars: This is my favorite book of the Journey to the Force Awakens series (I don’t mind if it’s a “young adult” novel). It tells a Romeo and Juliet inspired story of two kids who grew up together, and eventually land on either side of the war (Empire vs Rebellion). It takes a different cross-sectional look at Episodes IV through VI, and concludes in Jakku. Must read.

[MOVIE] Episode IV: A New Hope

[Comic] Princess Leia: After Episode IV, Princess Leia goes on a mission to save Alderaan survivors. So far, it’s my least favorite of all the new  Star Wars comics book series to far.

[Book] Smuggler’s Run – A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure:  Another young adult novel, that more or less is what is advertised in the title – A Han Solo & Chewbacca adventure. I felt that this one was also pretty forgettable without many hints of Episode VII. I’d take a pass on this one.

[Book] Heir to the Jedi: Set soon after Episode IV, this explores Luke and his struggle/thoughts to understand the Force. Overall, of all the new Canon novels, this was my least favorite and mostly forgettable. I think this book is a pass.

[Book] The Weapon of the Jedi – A Luke Skywalker Adventure:  I thought this one was great, and in some instances does a better job of showing Luke’s struggles of becoming a Jedi than Heir to the Jedi. There’s some great references to the Clone Wars series, some nods to Episode VII, and potentially some hints of Luke’s Jedi ambitions. If my hunch is right, I think it gives of a hint of Luke for Episode VII. It’s short, and enjoyable.

[Comic] new Star Wars: With this, Disney/Marvel re-launched  the new Star Wars comics, taking over from the Dark Horse days. The series skips around the timeline quite a bit, but it’s mostly set between Episode IV and V. Some of the story arcs are pretty good (Skywalker strikes) and others are less interesting (Han Solo’s wife!?!). I would say it’s a should-read given the importance to the canon as a whole.

[Comic] Darth Vader: My favorite series of the new Star Wars comics. Tells the story from Vader’s perspective and leads to his understanding of who Luke is, as well as planting the seeds to what eventually happens in Episode V and VI. I’m a huge fan.

[Comic] Lando: My 2nd favorite of the new comics. Doesn’t really add to the storyline much, but gives you a glimpse of why Lando’s character is so interesting…and a look into the Jedi/Sith artifacts that Emperor Palpatine holds (there’s a small connection to the Shattered Empire comics). Super fun, but not necessarily a must-read.

[MOVIE] Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

[Book] Moving Target – A Princess Leia Adventure: Of the 3 young adult adventures, this might be my favorite. This is the only story that’s set between Episode V and VI so far, so there’s less hints about Episode VII but more about how they learned of the 2nd Death Star. Similar to the other adventures, it’s short and enjoyable. But by no means a must-read.

[MOVIE] Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

[Comic] Shattered Empire: This series is set days after Endor. Gives us a glimpse of Poe Dameron’s (from Episode VII) parents, and a look into Leia and Luke. (IMHO) It’s not particularly exciting, but seems important for a storyline perspective. Must-read only because of the storyline implications.

[Book] Aftermath: The beginning of a trilogy that sets the stage of Episode VII. It gives some small hints of what various key characters are doing (e.g. Han Solo and Chewbacca), and some insights into the beginnings of the Knights of Ren, but it’s mostly about how the Empire gathers itself after Endor and the fall of the Emperor. For me, I thought the story was a slow start…it didn’t pick up until halfway through the book. It was an okay story, but given the importance to Episode VII, it’s a should-read.

[MOVIE] Episode VII: The Force Awakens

So far, that’s what I have. As more material comes out, I’ll try to update my list.

As a comparison here’s an image what Star Wars released themselves a few months back at the Star Wars celebration in Anaheim:


Needless to say, I’m excited for the Force Awakens. And, apparently, it’s no different from the rest of my generation. I’m just bummed that that I now represent the “past”…let’s see if the Force is as strong with the future as well.

Comic Review: Lando, Star Wars, and the new Canon

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I wanted to break the silence by posting my review of Lando #1 of the new Star Wars comics. It was originally posted on comiXology’s tumblr.

A comiXologist recommends:

by: Douglas Hwang

Ever since Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, Star Wars fans have been wondering how their beloved franchise would change. Then in 2014, it was announced that previous Expanded Universe stories would fall into the Legends banner and not be included in the official canon. This was a major change to the Star Wars universe as we knew it (Emperor Thrawn? Mara Jade?). But, as we’ve learned this year, they have a lot planned for the franchise aside from the new movie, Episode VII Force Awakens. With a new cartoon series, numerous new books, many new movies planned (Anthology Series) and many new comics, the new canon has been streamlined and put together in a cohesive way that was never done before.

As the Princess LEIA mini-series of 5 comics came to an end a few weeks back, a new 5-part mini-series appears and we learn more about fan favorite Lando Calrissian in the new LANDO Marvel series. From Episode V and VI, we know that Lando was the previous owner of the Millennium Falcon before Han Solo and the Baron Administator of Cloud City. But how does he get to where he is? How does he obtain the Millennium Falcon? Will we even get to those questions in this comic series? Well, in this first issue we learn that he smuggles something big…and maybe out of his league.

To learn more about the new Star Wars canon I would also recommend the new Marvel STAR WARSseries based in the canon between Episodes 3 and 4, the new DARTH VADER series which interweaves the new Star Wars comic series in Vader’s point of view, and also the Kanan series where we learn more about the backstory from one of the protagonists from the new Star Wars Rebels cartoon series.

It’s been fun ride for Star Wars fans, but we’ve quickly come to learn that the Force is strong this calendar year. Can’t wait for the movie in December.


DOUGLAS HWANG is a Product Manager at Comixology, lives in Brooklyn and is crazy about Star Wars, Portland Trail Blazers, and the great outdoors.

Book Review: The Sports Gene – Why I Won’t be an Olympic Sprinter

In the 2013 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, there was a great panel between David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene – Inside the Science of Extraordinary Sports Performance, and Malcolm Gladwell. The panel was less of a debate, but more a conversation of how you need BOTH nature and nurture to be a top sports athlete in our current society. From that panel, the book was on my to-read shelf, and having just finished it, I highly recommend it to others.

The book mentions numerous cases of why choosing the right “parents” is a key reason people can be elite athletes. From exploring Jamaican sprinters – both the culture around sprinting and unique heritage, Kenyans – their unique genetics and the environment they are raised in, to unique genetic markers that correlate to a high VO2 max, or ability to pass doping tests, it’s a excellent way to expand one’s knowledge of the amazing way we are all born, and the unique environments that determine who we are. For every person who dreamed of being in the Olympics, to every child who dreamed to be in the NBA (yours truly), this book helps to look at sports training and development in  a whole new light. There is no “one way” to train, “one way” to do this…rather, all our genes and bodies are different and we all may respond to different things.

Which means…….there are more questions. It seems that this subject’s surface is only scratched. Though genetics may explain one’s ceiling on VO2 max or development of fast-twitch muscles to be a better sprinter,  it can’t yet explain free-throw percentage? catch and shoot situations? ability to see and track down a fly ball? effort? heart? motivation?

I may not have the genes to be a  gold medalist in the 100m, but I’ve never see a 3-point shot that I didn’t like. And, as Francis Collins in Language of God writes about the amazing infinite complexity of the genome, I also cannot help but be more awed by the miracle of life the more I learn about it. Perhaps the dream (though quickly diminishing at my age) of the NBA is still alive 🙂

Introduction to Sabermetrics through edX

A few months back, I took edX’s Sabermetrics 101. It’s a BU class, taught by Andy Andres, and I had a lot of fun. I try to do one of these online classes once/year (the last one I did was the Stanford Database class) to 1) stay on top of the emerging EdTech space, and 2) learn some new things.

In this class, you’ll learn about

  • Key Sabermetrics concepts
  • A basic intro to SQL and R
  • Some really cool history surround Sabermetrics

For those that are new to Sabermetrics, this is a great way to learn about the field. A little bit of technical know-how is a nice to have, but that’s the only way to really understand Sabermetrics is by diving head-first into the data. Though, knowing SQL anyways is super useful (and something everyone can and should learn!). This class could be a great way to catapult yourself to learning more.

For me, being an annual attendee to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, the history was probably the most interesting (as I already have a familiarity with R and SQL).  Getting a history lesson about the key figures that helped create Sabermetrics, and seeing how that influences how the game is evolving now is really cool to see. Also, looking at the background of the interviews, a lot of the industry interviews were done at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, so it was rewarding to see how the conference is helping bring these topics to more popularity.

Super pumped to see how this field grows and expands. And remember “The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth.”

Raising the Bar in your Organization

Finding top talent is HARD. Even if talent is coming to your company, and you’re interviewing them by the groups, it’s super HARD to figure out who is a good fit or not. In my 10+ years of being on recruiting teams for big companies (GE, Amazon), and smaller ones (Etsy), I’ve had the unique opportunity to do a lot of it. I’ve taught classes/sessions internally in the companies I’ve worked at, and was encouraged to share a few thoughts publicly.

When interviewing/recruiting in general, here’s a few principles I tried to adhere to, as my compass when making tough hiring/recruiting decisions.

  1. The cost of making a “mistake” is high. You’d rather “accidentally” turn down a good candidate vs “accidentally” hiring a bad one.

Taking an analytical view, the (null) hypothesis when interviewing is that the candidate is NOT a fit for your company. That’s the default. The process is a test for that the company+the candidate to prove that hypothesis wrong.  Of this “test” there are 4 potential results.

A) Best Result: The Candidate is a Fit and the Company Hires that person.

B) Neutral Result: The Candidate is NOT a Fit, and the Company does NOT Hire that person.

C) Bad Result: The Candidate is a Fit, and the Company does NOT Hire that person. This is Type 2 error, a False positive. Though, you missed out on a good candidate in retrospect, you can always go back to that candidate sometime in the future. There’s never a “never.”

D) Worst Result: The Candidate is NOT a Fit, and the Company Hires that person. Type 1 error, a False negative.  This is very destructive to the culture, and the team. The company will spend lots of resources training this candidate, only to realize they may have to let this candidate go, and taking into account the opportunity cost of not having hired a contributing employee.

2. Recruiting = Marketing

During your in-person interview you’ve realized the candidate is bad, what do you do? Abort after an hour, or “waste” time with everyone else in the loop?

Companies should go for a really good candidate experience. Word gets around, and how you treat a candidate is also representative of how you treat your customers/employees, etc. Treat them well, even if you made the mistake of bringing in a bad candidate and you know it’s not a good fit. Here, you can substitute in junior interviewers to have them hone their interviewing skills or use one interview slot to give the candidate a tour. You don’t have to stick to your “script” that you created for the candidate, feel free to improvise. Then, even if the candidate did not hired, they can tell their friends and colleagues that your company was a really cool place.

If you give a bad candidate experience, then word gets around, and that really matters since the world is small and it’s hard to hide these things. The interview/recruiting process is an intimidate 1:1 marketing opportunity, and even if a candidate doesn’t get the job, they should be able to say “wow, I was impressed by the company” even though, they did not get the job.

3. Focus on your hiring/recruiting as you would any one of your business or technical problems — aim for efficiencies.

A) When hiring, I’ve been in some organizations where everyone in the loop has to say “yes.” In small organizations I fully support this concept, but in big ones this tends to be a major time sink. Rather, it’s important to have a few key decision makers, while everyone else is influencing the decision makers. Examples include the hiring manager, and site lead. One focuses on the competencies/needs of the job, and the other focuses on culture.

B) Ensure that you have cross-functional team evaluating the candidate, so it’s not just focused on the job, but also the culture. You do not want a person hired for just a singular position, since the company, trends, market, and competition can shift so quickly.  You want a candidate that fits in the company, and will also grow/adapt/adjust with it.

C) Train your interviewers. Too often, I’ve seen people just “thrown” into interview loops. Like everything else, practice makes perfect. Make sure the interviewers have all gone through some sort of training; whether it be an internal info/training-session, shadowing other interviewers, and/or have received feedback on their interviewing style. And, make sure the recruiting/interview team is on the same page – use the same language, look for the same key values, and have a structure to measure the success of each candidate. This way, if someone in the loop is sick or on vacation, the whole process isn’t halted…rather, you can trust another’s judgement to step in their place.

D) Teamwork. It’s not just an “HR” team or “Recruiting” team or “Manager” job. It’s everyone’s. To get good candidates that fit the company culture, that will succeed at the company, that will raise the talent bar, everyone needs to get involved. From junior to senior employees, to managers to the top leaders. When candidates are waffling back and forth, it means a lot to have your VP or CEO reach out. To get good employees, the personal referral goes a long way. Scale the recruiting team from a few individuals to the entire company.

I know there are tons of books and other awesome blogs on recruiting. Here’s just a few of my own personal thoughts.

Book Review: Console Wars. The Battle that Defined Me, and the rest of my Generation

Thinking back to my childhood, there are only a select few number of things that really really stick out. For me, many of my memories was playing video games. I can definitively say, it helped shaped who I am (in both good ways and bad ways). Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation written by Blake Harris, and audiobook narrated by Fred Berman is a great read that covers the back story, main decisions and the key players that helped bring the video game industry alive.

The book talks of the marketing decisions beyond the awesome commercials such as this and this. How marketing was used to split people/children into Sega people and Nintendo people. It mentions the various innovations that changed the video game industry as we know now.  Just to list a few:

  • Sonic Tuesday, the idea of treating video games like movies and doing a major marketing releases of them.
  • The video game rating system
  • E3

More than the story, another reason why I liked the book so much, was that it was a story about the team, the people, and how they worked together. About David beating Goliath (the uprising vs the entrenched), about doing crazy unconventional things, about creating everlasting bonds with one another. It’s a team (the Sega team) that anyone would love to be on, a team that I would love to be on. In the whole startup age, as much as we care about perks and sky-high valuations, often the deepest work satisfaction comes from the team that you go to battle with, the work that you do together, and the relationships that come from it.

A few things that stood out to me about the team.

  • Everlasting friendships. They often worked with one another in various capacities after Sega
  • The leader – who cared about his team almost more than the work itself
  • Why it was fun – taking risks, working hard, making an impact. The most fulfilling work is often not the work with the most work/life balance work.

I for one, was a Sega person. And, perhaps that already reveals a lot about me already.

Book Review: Dreamland – Learning to Cat Nap

Finished this book on sleep. Written by David Randall, audiobook narrated by Andy Capole, Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep

Dreamland talks about the science of sleep, and shares a lot of super interesting stories. It’s entertaining learning about all the odd things that happen to people. But for takeaways, there’s some straightforward advice to improve one’s sleep, and thus improve one’s life.

Here are my takaways:

  • Sleep more = better life
  • More connected to circadian rhythm = better sleep
    • sleep when dark, wake up with sun
  • Better diet = better sleep
  • Regular exercise = better sleep
  • Not looking at your computer/TV/LCD screens before sleeping = better sleep
  • Less alcohol/caffeine before sleeping = better sleep
  • If you have sleep apnea, you can do a few things to help
    • If overweight, lose weight
    • Talk to a doctor – potentially use a mask

Book Review: Everything and Everything: The Everything Store

I just finished the Everything Store by Brad Stone and it’s a fantastic read (or you can listen to it via audiobook).  It details the beginnings of Amazon, how Jeff Bezos came to be, and the imagination of how the future may be continuously disrupted. It’s a terrific story not about how Amazon necessarily disrupts industries, but how the future will inevitably disrupt industries and why companies must not keep to the past, but continue disrupting themselves to have a place in the future (it reminds me a lot from the recent TED interview with Larry Page).  For anyone in tech, and/or anyone with aspirations to build a company/change the world, this book will help inspire that.



NYC $Bike-onomics

I’ve now been riding my bike in New York city for a little over 6 months , well over the entire humid summer, nice fall, and part of the polar vortex winter. Commuting to work in NYC is a very scary daily adventure. In the morning, I’m dodging massive trucks delivering fish in Chinatown, and in the early evening, I’m dodging delivery people biking the WRONG way with motorized bicycles. It makes me appreciate being alive every day.

Outside of the risk of dying…I’ll share some of thoughts on what’s the monetary cost/benefit analysis of riding my bike in NY (versus walking, subway, and taxi).


To start off, what does it cost to ride the subway? List price: one-way is $2.50 per ride, but since we get an additional 5%  when purchasing $5 or more, the true cost of a subway ride is closer to $2.38.

NOTE: Since I ride my bike to and from work at least once/week, the monthly pass won’t apply to me (based on my calculation, it would take around 10-11 trips a week to make up for the cost of the monthly).

If I average more than once/week roundtrip over the year, say 60, then for the year I will have saved:

~$2.38 * 2 * 60 = $285.60 for the year.

On top of saving money, having a  bike enables you to do some events that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. Hence, its value is a non-zero health/social benefit. Examples include: going on a long-bike ride on the weekend with friends, riding events like the NYC Century and 5 Boro Bike Tour.

Let’s amount this value to $200/year – the rough equivalent would be renting a (nice) bike for these weekends/events.

  • The total benefit is  ~$250 (subway savings) + $200 (event enabler) = $450/year
  • Non-financial benefits: exercise, social/event enabler, enjoying the city, getting some hipster cred


Taking a look at entry level road bikes at REI, we can estimate to a bike costing say $900. For all the accessories (clips, pedals, shoes, lights, etc…), let’s conservatively guess a cool additional $300 investment.  Then, annual maintenance for tires, cleanings, things that break, new clothes, say $100/year (Mint blog suggests, ~$25-$60/month).

  • Starting capital: $900 (bike) + $300 (accessories) = $1200
  • Annual maintenance $100/year – $720/year (NOTE: I find $720/year absurd, even taking into account bike theft risk)
  • Non-financial: Annoyance of having to take care of it, store it, the worry of making sure it doesn’t get stolen, fear of death (i.e. getting hit by a car/taxi/ delivery person)


In NYC, one must also take into account Citbike, the bike-share program. It costs $100/year for a membership, and again, acting as a replacement for subway or taxi rides, it’ll be $2.38/trip savings.  So you’ll need to do about 42 subway replacement rides to get your value out of it.

Myself, I don’t use a Citibike to bike to work,  it’s too heavy/slow/not as enjoyable, nor to any “events.” I just use it to substitute for the subway, taxi, or cabbing.


Just buying a bike for commuting in NYC, may or may not financially work out depending on how much you’re spending on maintenance (and of course the bike). If my maintenance is on the lower of end of things (which is what I guess), I’ll probably pay back my investment in about 4 years considering depreciation. The non-financial benefits, for me, are pretty big and helps me to enjoy the city a bit more.

For Citibike, I’ve already gotten the full-value in the 8 months I’ve used it, I’ve easily logged over 50 rides on it. Those rides aren’t always subway replacements, some are taxi, and some are walking replacements (i.e. it just saves time).

As for time savings, it’s a wash. The subway isn’t always faster than riding into work (for me). On average it is by a few minutes, but I find the variance going to and from work much larger.

Mt. Rainier: The Pinnacle of Seattle

Mt. Rainier. The largest mountain in the Pacific Northwest. In the two years I lived in Seattle, it looked over me, laughed at me, and dared me. The last week before I left Seattle to go to grad school, I finally summited that beast. One of the coolest things I’ve ever done my life, and one more thing I get to cross off my bucket list.

Here’s a bunch of pictures I recently discovered going through my old stuff.