Wednesday, September 19, 2018

International Talk Like A Pirate Day

In celebration of Talk Like A Pirate Day, Jason (Bosun Gee) and I (The Dread Pirate Nerdbeard) raised the mast on the Steadfast and, faster than a bareback seahorse sailing an uncharted sea course, we set off on our mission as pirates with zero ambition. Our destination: The local Long John Silver's where they offered free fish and fries for anyone who dressed like a pirate and a free deep fried Twinkie for anyone who talks like a pirate. We didn't have any elaborate costumes by any means. Jason wore an eyepatch and I wore a party favor pirate mask.

Upon arrival, I approached the cashier and said "Arrr matey. I be wantin' a chicken plank and a medium drink along wit whatever freebies ye be given me". The guy laughed so hard that he said he was going to give me two deep fried twinkles instead of one. Truth be told, I could barely finish the one. But, the fish and fries were as good as I expected.

The Fabled Treasure of Long John Silver


Monday, September 17, 2018

Extra Strength Excedren Limited Edition

This is an interesting marketing idea. Excedrin has issued a number of "limited edition" extra strength geltab packages with the tag line "We See Your Pain". I don't think that these are actually hitting store shelves. I assume they're just promotional items, as I got one in the mail yesterday as a freebie after filling out an online form a few weeks back. I had chosen "Adulting", but "Bad Date" and "Commuter" were also available. If I were in charge, I would have also made "Too Much Screen Time", "Bills Piling Up", "Hungover Again" and "Kid Forgot Her Homework".


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

How High Is My Electricity Bill?

The energy bill scammer who called Clovis was pretty aggressive. He wasn't in the mood for any of Clovis' shenanigans. Just listen to how angry he sounds when he asks for Clovis' zip code. And when Clovis goes on to describe how hot it has been this summer, the scammer just hung up.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Spider-Man PS4 Game

I've been playing Marvel's Spider-Man for the PS4. This new endeavor by Insomniac Games seeks to make you feel what it's like to actually be Spider-Man. I'm not the kind of guy who buys many video games to begin with, and I'm certainly not one to pre-order a game, but I pre-ordered Marvel's Spider-Man because I was so excited about the prospect of having a fully immersive Spider-Man video game.

A Selfie With My Spider-Bro
And it truly is an Amazing game. Spectacular, even. The narrative, while taking some very interesting character diversions from the Spider-Man mythos (Otto Octavius being a mentor to Peter, Mary Jane working for the Daily Bugle, etc etc) is incredibly engaging. I would watch the cutscenes of this game as if they were their own Spider-Man movie. Despite a small initial learning curve, swinging around as Spider-Man is incredibly fun, and I found myself mastering the technique after just a few hours of play. I'm still trying to get the hang of combat and I seem to get creamed whenever I drop down in the middle of of a gang of thugs. Button mashing is NOT your friend in this game. Being methodical about combat takes time, but pays off, especially if you want to go the stealth route. I've embedded a video below of me playing in the Spider-Man Noir suit and taking out a gang of Fisk's men silently. I love Spidey's quips and the various snippets of conversation Fisk's goons are making.


Monday, September 3, 2018

Cutting The Cord With Philo TV

I don't have much use for cable these days. In fact, I spent almost the entire Summer burning through 8 seasons of Shameless on Netflix and catching up on various other shows on Hulu. There are really only a few shows on cable that constitute "appointment" viewing for me, those being "Better Call Saul", "Rick and Morty" and "Venture Brothers". Those shows are important enough to me that I've hesitated to cut the cord completely. Until now.

Enter Philo TV. Philo is a streaming service that offers 40 channels for $16 per month or an extended package of 49 channels for $20 per month. Here's the channel rundown:

Philo $16/month package 

  • A&E
  • AMC
  • Animal Planet
  • AXS TV
  • BBC America
  • BBC World News
  • BET
  • Cheddar
  • Cheddar Big News
  • CMT
  • Comedy Central
  • Discovery Channel
  • DIY
  • Food Network
  • FYI
  • GSN
  • HGTV
  • History
  • IFC
  • Investigation Discovery (ID)
  • Lifetime
  • Lifetime Movies
  • MTV
  • MTV2
  • Nickelodeon
  • Nick Jr.
  • OWN
  • Paramount Network
  • PeopleTV
  • Science
  • Sundance Channel
  • Tastemade
  • TeenNick
  • TLC
  • Travel Channel
  • TV Land
  • Velocity
  • VH1
  • Viceland
  • We TV

Philo $20/month package (Includes All Channels In The $16 Package)

  • American Heroes Channel
  • BET Her
  • Cooking Channel
  • Destination America
  • Discovery Family
  • Discovery Life
  • Logo
  • MTV Live
  • Nicktoons
You can watch any of the channel streams on Philo live, or you can watch the individual shows on demand. You can also save any show to your own personal DVR space and it will be available for 30 days. 

But how do you watch Philo? Well, the channel is available for Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, IOS, Android and various internet browsers. My own personal solution is to watch Philo via the Chrome browser on my Chromebook and run the HDMI stream through it to my TV. The result actually looks pretty good: 


I think, overall, Philo is a pretty good deal for $16/per month. Your mileage may vary depending on what you're into watching. But, for a guy who likes certain channels and who isn't into watching sports on TV, it's a no brainer buy. The channel line-up doesn't include AdultSwim/Cartoon Network but I can catch those shows via the channel's streaming events. And I'm hoping that they'll eventually roll out support for the PS4. 



Wednesday, August 22, 2018

There's Nothing Enchanting About Disenchantment

I'm a huge fan of early Simpsons episodes. I'm also a die-hard Futurama fan and have been clamoring for more ever since its most recent cancellation. So, it was with much anticipation that I logged on to Netflix to binge watch Matt Groening's latest creation, Disenchantment. It's the story of Tiabeanie Mariabeanie De La Rochambeaux Drunkowitz (better known as "Baen"), the rebellious, irresponsible, alcoholic Princess of Dreamland, her companion Elfo and her "personal demon", Luci.

What can I say about this show? It's trite, predictable, and ultimately, underwhelming. But, that's how I felt about Futurama when it first started. There may be some potential in Disenchantment. Aside from the lazy humor, I think that Disenchantment, which purports to be about a rebellious princess going on quirky adventures, is really about an entitled drunk stumbling from contrived situation to contrived situation. It's just not funny. And it's hard to connect with a show when the main character is so unlikeable and unrelatable.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Kansas City Royals at White Sox 8/18/2018

I was up in row 1 of section 537 which offered a great view of home plate at Comiskey Park (Guaranteed Rate Field can KMA) on Saturday to check out the White Sox as they took on the Kansas City Royals. The White Sox suffered a pretty stunning 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Royals. It started out looking like the White Sox would have a great game, especially after Covey picked off Merrifield and Delmonico hit a solo homer to right field. Alas, it was not to be, as the Royals played a consistently better game and ran up 3 runs.

It was Tim Anderson bobble head night at Comiskey Park, and, I'm sorry to say, Anderson played like an actual bobblehead.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Linkedin Recruiter Calls Me

A head hunter ran through my Linkedin page and tried to get me to apply for a VMWare contract job. Rather than deal this shyster by telling him to Eff off, I sent him Clovis' number, telling him that he was a great fit for the position. When the recruiter called Clovis and said that Thomas Mac had passed along his contact info, Clovis became enraged, wondering if the recruiter and I were friends and wanting to know where I was at because I owed him money after wrecking his car at a Taco Bell.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Blue Apron Is In The Red

Over the last several weeks, I've been a pretty big fan of Blue Apron, the meal kit delivery company that has been the source behind my "Expectation VS Reality" posts. Despite my rousing endorsements, Blue Apron's stock has been in free fall recently. As of this writing, the stock is trading for around $2.20 per share, which is a huge drop from its 52 week high of $6.25 and very near is 52 week low of $1.72. So, what's happening? The meal kit market, which is fad based to begin with, has become heavily competitive. Hello Fresh recently surpassed Blue Apron as the market's biggest meal kit delivery company. Also, grocery stores like Wal-Mart and Whole Foods are looking into providing their own meal kits at a fraction of the price. The other issue is customer retention

So, what can Blue Apron do to turn this situation around? I have a few ideas:


  • Offer some cheaper kits: Most Blue Apron kits are priced at around $11 per serving with a minimum of 2 servings per kit. Cheaper alternatives are hitting the market and Blue Apron needs to pay attention. Blue Apron could easily provided cheaper, less complicated kits for around $6 per serving in addition to their usual kits. 
  • Enter Into Strategic Alliances: Blue Apron has already teamed with Costco in a pilot program to provided Blue Apron meal kits at select Costco stores. Blue Apron needs to expand on this partnership and possibly enter into similar partnerships with other grocery stores.
  • Focus on Customer Satisfaction: Customer retention is a huge issue. Blue Apron spends quite a bit of marketing in order to gain customers, but only 15% of those customers end up sticking around. My own experience is that on-time delivery is unreliable and variety is somewhat lacking. But, whatever the reason why Blue Apron is bleeding customers, they need to address it ASAP. 
  • Lose The Weekly Subscription Requirement: Blue Apron has recently allowed its customers to refrain from committing to a weekly subscription and just order kits on an as needed basis. Personally, this is what made me return to Blue Apron. In order to encourage subscriptions, perhaps Blue Apron could offer some sort of monthly incentive if a customer successfully took 4 weeks of delivery. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

The TommyMac Turns 45

My birthday is today, and I find that one day a year is not enough to properly celebrate my awesomeness. So, I spent the weekend celebrating. It all started when I got my car back from the body shop after I took it in to repair the deer damage. I had friends over for an epic celebration. I ran a 5K for the first time ever and didn't collapse while doing so. I caught a 20th anniversary showing of The Big Lebowski, which I had never seen before (odd since I am a big fan of the Coen Brothers). I watched the season premieres of The Venture Brothers and Better Call Saul. And, of course, I heard from friends, family and various well wishers. It's very humbling to have such an outpouring of affection from everyone. If I weren't such a super hero, I might actually tear up at the thought. Don't get your hopes up, though.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Expectation vs Reality: Soy-Honey Chicken And Rice

Blue Apron scored again with yet another on-time delivery. A guy could get used to this. The fine folks over at Blue Apron actually called me last week to see if I was satisfied with the boxes I had purchased in the past. I told them that one of the reasons I buy from them is that they allow their customers to buy kits whenever they want rather than forcing them to commit to a weekly subscription.

Tonight's meal was Soy-Honey Chicken and Rice with Togarashi Peanuts. This one took a little bit of skill and flair, but the description made me want to try it anyway: "Fragrant with dried orange peel and hot and sweet paprikas, togarashi (a classic Japanese seasoning) stars two ways in this dish. It lends bold flavor to roasted vegetables mixed into our side of brown rice and coats the crunchy peanuts that garnish our sweet and savory chicken". I followed the directions to the letter and fired up the grill to prepare the chicken.

Here's the Expectation vs Reality for comparison:
Expectation

Reality


So, how does it taste? I thought that the rice was the real star of this dish. The Soy-Honey sauce had just enough lime zest in it to give it a hint of lime which really brought all of the flavors together. The chicken was pretty standard since it just grilled chicken. The peanut garnish was interesting and added a nice bouquet to the dish. I'd say that this one was a winner, so kudos to you, Blue Apron.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Finding My Keys With Tile

I'm always losing my work keys. Once, I lost them for about three months and ended up finding them in a jacket I hadn't worn for a while. If I had some way of easily locating my keys, then I wouldn't have had to have bugged my co-workers to let me into my office a few times a week while I continued to look for them. Enter Tile.

Tile is a little square keychain thingy that you can easily attach to various things that you don't want to lose. For example, your keys. You put the Tile on your keys, download the app and connect the Tile to you phone via bluetooth. The Tile then keeps its location updated by getting your phone's location via its bluetooth connection to it. So long as your Tile is within 100 feet of your phone, you can use the Tile app on your phone to make your Tile play a ringtone so that you can easily find it.

Let's say that your phone and your Tile are separated. Perhaps you left your keys on your desk at work and you went all the way home without realizing that you left them somewhere. Well, you can call up the Tile app to give you the last known location of that Tile. Even better, you can share tiles with other people which means that, if you need help from the Tile community to find a missing item, you can share your tile out and other people can help you find it. Imagine losing your keys somewhere at work and enlisting various Tile using co-workers to scouring the office campus sending out Bluetooth ringtone pings to find it.

But, what if you lose your phone but not your Tile? Well, your phone is considered a Tile itself, so, you can use any of your connected Tiles to find your phone. Just double-click on the action button on of your connected tiles and your phone will ring, even if it's on silent. I know that this will be a very useful feature for me, because I lose my phone at least once a month.

So far, I've got a Tile on my work keys and one on my personal keys. I'm thinking that I'd like to add one to my wallet and one to my messenger bag, and perhaps one to my suitcase. I do have to wonder what having three bluetooth signals at pocket level for over 8 hours a day will do to my sperm count.

If you're interested in checking out Tile for yourself, and if you're keen on having me consider you to be "cool", then why not sign up via my referral link?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Toronto Blue Jays at Chicago White Sox


My sister, two of my brothers and my daughter and I caught the Toronto Blue Jays at Chicago White Sox game last night. It was also Marvel Super Hero Night which included an Iron Man bobblehead set atop a White Sox baseball platform. Attendance seemed pretty sparse, with a number of open seats easily visible. The folks behind Super Hero Night at Guaranteed Rate Field (Comisky Park) may be inclined to blame the Thanos snap for the low attendance, but, the blame rests squarely on the abysmal White Sox win/loss record.

It was looking like the Blue Jays were going to walk away with an easy win after they scored several times in the early innings. With Toronto up 4-1, Yolmer Sanchez homered on a fly ball to right field giving the White Sox a glimmer of hope in the bottom of the 4th. With Toronto up 5-1, Nicky Delmonico knocked one into the stands at right-center field for a home run in the bottom of the 7th. A rally in the bottom of the 8th put the White Sox ahead 9-5. The Blue Jays couldn't catch up during their last at-bats and handed the White Sox a stunning come from behind victory.




Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Goldfish Recall

Remember when you could buy crackers without worrying about salmonella? Pepperidge Farm recalls! Er....I mean, Pepperidge Farm remembers!

Pepperidge Farm has instituted a voluntarily recall for four varieties of Goldfish Crackers due to fears of potential salmonella contamination. The company took the action after one of its ingredient suppliers notified Pepperidge Farm that whey powder used in a seasoning may be contaminated. Really? No whey!

The Goldfish Crackers recall covers Flavor Blasted Xtra Cheddar, Flavor Blasted Sour Cream & Onion, Goldfish Baked with Whole Grain Xtra Cheddar and Goldfish Mix Xtra Cheddar + Pretzel. Pepperidge Farm has posted a chart with the product codes on its website.

The FDA website has more detailed information about the recall that involves more than just Pepperidge Farm's Goldfish. Some of the other companies and products involved include Hungry Man Chipotle BBQ Sauced Boneless Chicken Wyngz and Mrs. Freshley's Swiss Rolls

If you have eaten a recalled product and are showing signs of illness (bloody diarrhea, fever, chills, headache, and abdominal pain), call your doctor and ask them to order a "stool culture to rule out salmonella" with the diagnosis "possible salmonella exposure from [recalled product name]". If the culture comes back positive for salmonella it will be further serotyped (DNA fingerprint) to find the exact strain of salmonella. The report will then get sent to CDC, and if the strain matches the strain from the contaminated whey, the CDC will handle logistics of informing public and tallying the numbers of confirmed cases across the country.

Personally, that’s the last time I eat a Goldfish. Petsmart was starting to get mad anyway.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Again With The Energy Scammers

These energy scammers just won't let up. This time, Dustin, from NGE called tried to get me to sign up for a discount on my Com Ed bill. He said he wanted to check my eligibility. I asked him what he meant by checking my "legibility" and wondered if I had written something for him. When he asked my zip code, I asked him if he meant my work or home zip code. I also kept asking him what his name was and then repeating it back incorrectly. When he asked me whether or not I got government assistance, I wavered on my understanding of the term and he finally gave up and told me that I didn't want his services and hung up.