Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Conquered By Hot Sauce

I used to think that I had a very high tolerance for hot sauce. When I was a child growing up, my father often concocted chili that was so hot, it was possible to see through multiple parallel dimensions after consuming it. I think he even snuck hot sauce into my scrambled eggs on more than one occasion just to make sure I could handle it. So, it wasn't without reason that I confidently bragged to a friend who was hosting a Christmas party that I could easily tolerate his home made hot sauce.

I defiantly slathered the hot sauce onto a spoonful of chili. The sauce was flavorful and certainly brought the heat. I thought very little of the lingering effect as I put my coat on and prepared to stroll home. Soon, I felt as if the sauce was melting a hole through my cast iron stomach. It was a mere 20 degrees out yet I was sweating bullets. My legs began to buckle as I trudged through the snow. The only thing keeping me from collapsing into the snow was the distinct fear that I would wake up to the ghost Sir Alec Guinness telling me that I had to go to the Dagobah system.

By the time I pushed through the front door, I was crawling on the floor. I made my way to the bathroom where I ended up flushing the chili, the sauce and a large percentage of my pride down the toilet. Whatever was in that sauce was not meant to be digested by us mere mortals; it could only be consumed by Prometheus himself.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Degree Connections Calls Me

A recruiter from Degree Connections called me today. When she told me her name, I made as if I believed that she was a close friend of the family, asked her why she hadn't visited for Christmas and then began to regale her with tales from the family Christmas party. She could hardly get a word in. Have a listen for yourself below.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tron: Legacy Review

Jason and I went out and saw Tron: Legacy last night. We were going to try to catch it in 3D, but, since I got the times wrong, we settled for the normal version.

There has been quite a bit of critical panning of the film and unadulterated nerd rage over it. This is bound to happen with any "big picture" film like this. Tron: Legacy is supposed to be a look inside the head of a technocrat, and this particular technocrat is a person whose mind is a generation ahead of what most critics have any connection with. A lot of the story is in the visuals, yet people who don't pay attention to the dialog or just dismiss it as nonsense because it invokes concepts many people sneer at, such as Zen philosophy won't get the story. They will see the screenplay as vague and poorly explained.

That's not to say that the screenplay is Shakespeare. It needs some tightening up here and there. A number of things need to be justified and explained better so that an overage of thought isn't required to work backwards and rationalize why some things happened. Still, there are some great ideas here that work very well which, in some ways, makes up for a less-than-perfect script. A recurring theme in the story centers around the illusion of perfection which makes complaining about the flaws ironic if taken too far.

We also need to remember that the iconic character in the film series is not Tron (whom, granted, we see very little of), it's Kevin Flynn. He's a hero to a generation of geeks, and is the originator of the modern "space cowboy" hacker persona. I love Jeff Bridges in this film, but, let's face it, the guy is old. After so much time, we can't expect him to slip back into the role, hence the inclusion of Sam Flynn and the "Legacy" part of Tron: Legacy.

What seeing the elder Flynn does for us is give us the idea that we're on a tour of Flynn's vast imagination set in a postmodern environment that we never saw. Kevin Flynn no doubt had all sorts of adventures on the Grid that we never had a chance to witness. Because of that, there's more than a bit of sad nostalgia when we see that Kevin Flynn is past his prime.

In short, it's a beautiful, visually stunning film with a lot of subtext and more than a few flaws. However, it was worth the price of admission and, like the original, will benefit from multiple viewings.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Where The Dickens Did This Christmas Madness Come From?

So, the big day is nearly upon us. As we venture towards yet another Christmas I've noticed among the tide of revelry, the old familiar tinge of Christmas humbug. It's little more than annoying background noise, but it comes in two forms: cries from people who want to put "Christ" back in Christmas and objections from those who can't handle the onslaught of religious imagery that accompanies the holiday season.

A few centuries ago, Christmas celebrations were little more than community-based or church-centered observations and did not approach the level of festiveness that we see today. Indeed, the were highly reverent, utterly boring observances. Christmas just wasn't considered that big of a deal after the pagans went underground and the Puritans got hold of it. Easter was the higher holy day.

All of that changed in the late 1800's after the publication of a little novel called "A Christmas Carol". You know the story. Even if you haven't read the book or haven't seen a classical movie adaptation, you must at least be aware of the Mickey Mouse or Billy Murray versions. Even Mr. Magoo blindly attempted an interpretation. Anyway, after the publication of "A Christmas Carol", Christmas had a revival. However, instead of a stolid religious observation, Christmas became a family oriented festival of generosity.

Whether or not you attach a religious significance to the holiday, the traditions that have developed over the last 100 years are important because they bring us together as a nation. Christmas has become a time where we can express our love to friends and family and recognize our good fortune in life by giving to those who are not so fortunate. It is also a time for children to bask in their innocence while allowing adults to briefly re-live those carefree days of youth.

In short, Christmas is here and it's not going anywhere. No matter which side of the argument you're on, you need to let it go. Quit yer bitching and have yourself a glass of spiked egg nog and enjoy yourself.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tonight's Lunar Eclipse

Tonight, at 6:38pm Eastern Standard Time the winter solstice will occur. The winter solstice occurs exactly when the Earth's axial tilt is at its farthest away from the Sun at its maximum of 23° 26'. One of the effects of the winter solstice is that it marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. It also just so happens that there will be a lunar eclipse tonight as well, which will make tonight an especially eerie evening for folks given to superstition.

One of my favorite stories about lunar eclipses involves Christopher Columbus. He and his crew had been stranded in Jamaica for a few months in 1504. Initially, the natives welcomed him and his crew and provided them with food. At some point, however, the crew stole from the natives and the food shipments stopped. Consulting an almanac he had with him, Columbus noticed the date and the time of an upcoming lunar eclipse. Columbus then requested a meeting the native tribal chief and told him that his god was angry with the local people's treatment of Columbus and his men. Columbus said his god would provide a clear sign of his displeasure by making the rising full Moon appear "inflamed with wrath".

I can almost hear the chief laughing in Columbus' face. Of course, the red moon appeared on schedule, and the natives were both impressed and frightened. They came running from every direction to Columbus' ships laden with provisions, praying to Columbus to intercede with his god on their behalf. Columbus timed the eclipse with his hourglass, and shortly before the totality ended after 48 minutes, he told the frightened indigenous people that they were going to be forgiven. When the moon started to reappear from the shadow of the Earth, he told them that his god had pardoned them.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ringing The Bell For The Salvation Army

I had the opportunity to do some work-sanctioned volunteer work the other day. I chose to become a bell ringer for the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army is one of the world's largest providers of social aid, helping more than 32 million people in the U.S. alone. The American Institute of Philanthropy constantly rates The Salvation Army highly, indicating that they're a good, safe cause to donate time and money to. Besides, I had always thought that being a bell ringer for the red kettle looked like fun.

So, while wearing a goofy Santa hat and a pair of festive sunglasses, I took up the apron and bell and started my tenure as a guardian of the red kettle. Donations started coming in almost immediately. One young child passing by admonished me for not singing. I resisted the urge to sing "Hells Bells" and struggled to think of a Christmas carol that I knew all of the words to that hadn't been written by the creators of South Park. The best I could do was muddle through a few verses of "Let it Snow".

About thirty minutes into my ringing, I pivoted around wrong and aggravated a leg injury I had sustained while I was in college. I bit my lip hard to avoid screaming out in pain. I couldn't put any weight on my leg. I leaned back against the wall to balance myself, still ringing the bell. Moments later, an elderly man hobbled over to me, looked me up and down and said "You know, you're allowed to take a break, son". I smiled and indicated that I would be okay after a minute or two.

It turns out that the old timer had been a long time bell ringer for the Salvation Army but had to eventually drop out due to failing health. "It's always nice to see someone volunteer to help keep the crap pot boiling who isn't homeless or a convicted felon". He continued on to tell me about how he worried that the kettles and the ringers were becoming little more than scenery and background noise during the Christmas season. He blamed some of this on the so-called innovations that had begun to crop up. "You know, they have self-ringing kettles now? Some kettles even take credit cards", he told me.

My new friend took a moment to belt out a few verses of "Silent Night" with his towering tenor. All the while, people shuffled by. Some of them donated, some of them didn't. And before he left, the old timer gave me some advice: "Stay warm. Celebrate any donations, but don't take rejections personally. Keep a smile on your face.  And, above all, keep that bell ringing". I'd say that's good advice for just about any situation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Christmas Coffee Miracle

I braved the cold earlier this morning to drag my frozen self down to a Christmas reception thrown by the administration office. In the past, these receptions had been somewhat grand affairs, offering some very satisfying hors d'oeuvres. This year, however, there wasn't much to pick through. Instead of sweedish meatballs and nacho chips with queso dip, there were sugar cookies and sliced fruit. It seems that the poor economic conditions have trickled down and dried up the budget for holiday festivities. I suppose I should have expected it, as last year's fest offered hot chocolate that seemed to have been made by running dust bunnies through a filter and dunking a few Hersey bars into the mix. Alas, there were no hot drinks this year, so I had to confront my arch nemesis, the Gourmet Coffee Machine, in the hopes of finding a hot beverage to warm my chilled bones.

Avid readers of this site will certainly recall examples of how this particular machine likes to troll me. So, it wasn't without a great degree of hesitation that I approached the machine. I made sure that the power was on and that the buttons were working correctly. I then opened up the beverage receptacle and ensured that there was not already a cup sitting in there, as it had happened to me before. Nervously, I put my dollar in and picked my selection. Good old 1-H-3. French Vanilla.

The machine whirred to life and I heard a cup drop down. I looked into the receptacle. Crapola! The cup was caught in the chute. With lightning reflexes, I reached into the receptacle and put the cup in its proper position just as the coffee began to flow. Thirty seconds later, I was drinking a cup of hot, delicious French Vanilla flavored coffee.

This victory alone was enough to fill me with the Christmas spirit for the next few weeks. Now, I'll have no need to visit with those three ghosts Jacob Marley keeps bothering me about.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Quoting Benjamin Franklin

I've been a party to a lot discussions recently, both on and offline, regarding the latest enhanced screening procedures enacted by the TSA. In an effort to detect emerging threats to airline security, the TSA has begun deploying backscatter x-ray machines which leave little to the imagination and allow the screener to see more than some people are comfortable with. Those who do not wish to be x-rayed may opt out for a thorough pat-down instead which involves touching of the genital area. Is this a necessary evil to allow for our continued safety or is it a violation of the 4th Amendment? Personally, my mind isn't made up yet. I'll do so once I've had to endure the procedures myself.

A certain quote, attributed to Benjamin Franklin is making the rounds in reaction to this debate. If you've followed the debate at all, you've probably seen some variation of it: "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety". It's a good quote. It succinctly sums up the argument against the new TSA enhanced screening procedures. The trouble is, it's not necessarily attributable to Franklin. The quote appeared in that form on the dedication page of a book titled An Historical Review of the Constitution and Government of Pennsylvania authored by Richard Jackson. The book was published by Franklin in 1759. 

It would also be correct to use this specific derivative of the quote: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety". The quote, in that form, appeared sometime in early 1775 as part of Franklin's notes for a proposition at the Pennsylvania Assembly. When he wrote it down, however, he wrote it between quotation marks. Was he intending to quote Richard Jackson? Franklin had admitted that he himself was responsible for some small parts of Jackson's book, so perhaps what Franklin write in 1775 was the quote in its true form.

The two quotes above are almost certainly descended from something Franklin wrote in Poor Richard's Almanack in 1738: "Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor liberty to purchase power".It doesn't quite convey the idea with the same passion as the previous quotes, but the seed had been planted, to be sure.

It's all just minutia anyway, right? The exact wording doesn't really matter so long as the thought is still conveyed correctly. What's really important, in this case, is that we ask ourselves whether or not we are willing to give up certain freedoms in order to feel secure. And, if we are indeed willing to give up those freedoms, were we truly free to begin with?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Proxy Pro

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Proxy Networks. All opinions are 100% mine.

Being a computer guy is a lot like being a doctor. Customers are always asking me to diagnose their computers based simply upon a laundry list of vague symptoms. Unlike most doctors, however, I'm expected to make house calls. There just isn't enough free time in my busy schedule to allow me to visit every single client I have who has a computer problem. That's why I think that PC Remote Access is an excellent product.

Proxy Pro 7 Remote Desktop Software allows you to remote control any computer in real time that is connected to the Internet. This means that you can remote control Windows based computers as well as MACs and Linux computers. Even if that computer is hibernating, the program can take advantage of Wake-on-LAN capabilities to wake the computer up so that you can work on it remotely. And there's no need to worry if the computer is using a firewall or is hiding behind a NAT device because Proxy Pro can work right through them.

This program is ideal for people working at help desks or in any sort of distributed computing environment. And you need not worry about security because Proxy Pro 7 connects via 256-bit encryption which is the highest in its class. This means that any potential hackers who might be listening in on your network will be easily thwarted.

Using Proxy Pro instead of relying upon visiting every workstation in need is both cost effective and saves time. You don't have to take my word for it. Download the 30-day free trial and see for yourself.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Another Kiddie Birthday Party Gone By

I threw a birthday party for my daughter this weekend. Although there were a gaggle of kids running around the venue and a lot of planning had been left to the last minute, I'd have to say that this was the most stress-free birthday party I had ever thrown for her. It made me think of the chaos that we had to endure when my daughter had her birthday party at Chuck-E-Cheese a few years ago.

Despite its reputation for inciting spontaneous bouts of white-trash boxing matches, I figured that a party at Chuck-E-Cheese would be a cakewalk. I was more concerned about remembering to buy birthday candles and was kicking myself for waiting until we were on the way to Chuck-E-Cheese to do so. I ran in to a Wal-Mart near the Chuck-E-Cheese, grabbed a pack of candles, and was on my way to the party in no time. My parents would be meeting me there with my daughter. I arrived early in order to set things up and found that the place was packed to the gills. A feeling of dread began to sink in.

When my parents arrived with my daughter, my father looked around at the unholy human sea that surrounded all of us and said to me "Tell your mother to call me when you're done" as he turned around and walked out the door. Lucky bastard.

The insanity was kept to a minimum while my daughter and the rest of the kiddies in our party ran around playing games. Although the chaos was nowhere near the level that I had read horror stories about, I began to understand why Chuck-E-Cheese serves alcohol. Still I thought everything was going to be okay and we'd have a calm, breezy party. It wasn't until the big birthday presentation that discovered how epic a screw-up I had committed.

Just after the animatronic birthday show stopped, we lit my daughter's candles. She tried to blow them out, but they just re-lit. They then began to spark. This freaked my daughter out and she screamed louder than I had ever heard her scream. The room was packed so tight with other party goers, she couldn't get out of her chair to escape. I tried to blow out the candles myself, to no avail. It was then that I realized that, in my haste, I had bought trick candles.

"Oh crap! CRAP! CRAPOLA!!!", I exclaimed as I searched for something that would douse the flames. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a mysterious figure grabbed the cake, held it out of sight for a brief moment and returned it to the table, having extinguished the trick candles. I looked upon this figure with awe and wonder as I asked "Are....are you an angel?". It was Chuck-E-Cheese.

It's memories like these that makes me glad that I've gotten a small reprieve from the craziness of the kiddie parties. For the foreseeable future, I expect the parties to be somewhat calm affairs. That is, at least until she becomes a teenager.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The GlideTV Navigator

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of GlideTV. All opinions are 100% mine.

It's the Holiday Season again, and you've no doubt got a few people on your list who seem to have everything already. If that certain someone enjoys watching Internet videos, you'll want to seriously consider purchasing the GlideTV Navigator. GlideTVis for anyone who wants to connect their computer to their HDTV so that they can watch Internet videos from the comfort of their couch instead of from behind a computer screen, or, worse, hunched over a laptop.

The GlideTV Navigator acts like a remote control, replacing your keyboard and mouse. It features a sleek touchpad yet it also fits comfortably in the palm of your hand. Combined with  the included software designed for your HDTV, it makes it easy to both find and watch Internet videos on your HDTV. Just connect your computer to your HDTV and let GlideTV do the rest.

Personally, I'm thinking that my father would love this. He's always watching Internet videos on his dinky little computer. Being able to watch Internet videos on his HDTV while relaxing on the couch would go a long way towards helping him relieve the stress on his lower back. And, at just $49, it makes the perfect gift.

But, don't just take my word for it. Check out GlideTV for yourself. Even better, "Like" GlideTV on Facebook and you can enter to win a FREE GlideTV Navigator to give as a gift or keep for yourself. It doesn't get any better than that!

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Beavis and Butt-head Answer The Phone

I do like to have fun with telemarketers. However, I didn't have a lot of time to deal with this telemarketer, so I thought I'd see how quickly I could get him off of the phone. During this particular telemarketing prank, I answer the phone as Beavis and then switch to Butt-head. It lasts about 30 seconds.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Setting Up This Year's Christmas Card Photo

Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry is one of my favorite places to visit during the holidays. My favorite childhood memories involve my grandfather picking me and my siblings up and driving us to the museum to spend the day. This was especially great during the holidays when all the Christmas trees were up. I liked doing this so much as a kid that I have passed this tradition on to my daughter. Every year around Christmas we take a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry.

This past Sunday, my daughter and I visited the museum, took a look at all of the Christmas Trees, strolled down Yesterday's Main Street and looked at all of the cool exhibits. At the end of the day, I thought it would be nice to have a picture taken of my daughter by the huge Christmas tree in the middle of the museum. It was up on a platform which was roped off and sported several signs warning people away from sitting up on the platform. Seeing that the area was clear of museum rent-a-cops, I put my daughter up on the platform and steadied my camera for a shot. This would make a great Christmas card.

I felt a finger tap me on the shoulder. No doubt I was going to get a stern lecture from some disgruntled security guard. I steeled my nerves as I turned around. To my surprise, I was met by a kindly looking elderly lady. She commented  that my daughter looked beautiful next to the Christmas tree and that I should have my picture taken with her. She offered to work the camera for me. I figured I'd let her. It would be nice to have a picture worthy of putting on the Christmas card this year. Besides, if she tried to run off with my camera, I was fairly confident I could take her in a fight.

I thanked her for her offer, handed her the camera and offhandedly said "Okay, but if security catches us, I don't know you". She looked puzzled but lined up the shot anyway. One swift click later, we were done. My daughter and I jumped down from the platform and I retrieved my camera. I thanked the nice elderly lady and walked away just in time to see a security office heading in our direction. He stopped us, motioned us back to the lady who had taken our picture and said to her "You shouldn't allow your son and granddaughter up onto the platform. It's off limits".

I smiled at him and replied "What are you talking about? I've never seen this lady before in my life. Merry Christmas to you though". With that, my daughter and I walked away, leaving the old lady and the security guard with puzzled looks on their faces.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Slactivism At Its Finest

Today marks the culmination of a Facebook campaign asking users to change their profile picture to a photo of a favorite childhood cartoon to raise awareness of child abuse. The campaign doesn't seem to have originated with any official organization, although it appears to have caught on. Maybe you've seen it. Here's what the status messages say:

Change your Facebook profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood. The goal? To not see a human face on Facebook until Monday, December 6. Join the fight against child abuse. Copy & paste to your status and invite your friends to do the same.

In an act of unapologetic cynicism, I changed my profile picture to one of Homer Simpson strangling Bart. As of this writing, I'm down 3 friends.

I think that the vast majority of people who are changing their profile pictures to cartoon characters are just doing so for fun, but a sizable minority actually think that they're accomplishing something. This campaign is little more than a blatant act of armchair activism that has enough people convinced that they've done something when they actually haven't done anything at all.

It is indeed a very sad thing that, at this very moment, children all over the world are being abused. However, I guarantee you that those children don't care what your favorite cartoon character is or that your changed your Facebook profile picture. But, that's not the point, right? The goal of this campaign is to raise "awareness" about child abuse. Are there people out there who aren't aware of child abuse? And what exactly is "awareness" anyway? How is it measured? How do you know when you've become more aware?

It will no doubt be argued that enough of discussion about the issue has been raised and enough people have been motivated to do a little research into child abuse and enough people have been somehow inspired to donate that the campaign served its purpose. After all, any forward movement is progress, right? I have to wonder, however if this campaign is doing more harm than good. Yes, some of the folks may be inspired, in a roundabout way, to donate to a related charity. However, I'm wondering if a greater majority of people will have felt that they have accomplished something simply by changing their profile picture and then will not be inclined to donate. Whereas, had they been approached by more traditional means, they'd have been more inclined to donate.

In the end, all of the evidence on both sides is anecdotal and this is just Facebook we're talking about anyway, so little of this really matters. Personally, it took me about two days to figure out why He-Man was going out partying Friday night, why Smurfette was home with a bad cold, why Scooby-Doo was reading "Shit My Dad Says" and why Rainbow Bright was going out to shake her bootie with her ladies.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Telemarketer From EarnMyDegree.com

I recently got a telemarketing call from a representative of EarnMyDegree.com and used the opportunity to mess with him. At the time he called, I had been listening to Third Eye Blind's song, "Semi-Charmed Life", so you'll notice that I made a few Meth references during the course of the call.

The rep from EarnMyDegree.com was a good sport during the whole process even though it's obvious that he was incredibly uncomfortable. And he didn't seem to understand that my character is supposed to be male, despite the female sounding name.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

LG Unveils The Optimus 7

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of LG. All opinions are 100% mine.

Back in June, when I attended Microsoft's Tech-Ed event in New Orleans, there was a lot talk and excitement surrounding the new Windows 7 phones. Now, just few months later, LG has launched it's first phone to utilize the Windows 7 phone OS: the LG Optimus 7 . Thanks to the blending of Windows 7 and LG's own unique technology, you'll be able to do what you want while taking fewer steps to do so. But, don't just take my word for it, check out some of the great features for yourself:

 

  • Integration with XBOX Live and Zune services which gives you access to both your  games and music.
  • A 5 megapixel camera with a includes a number of technological advances straight from LG like Intelligent Shot and a Panoramic Mode. It also boasts a 16:9 aspect ratio capture and playback for shooting and viewing movies in widescreen format.
  • 16GB of internal storage, which is enough to store hundreds of MP3s, hours of video and hundreds of applications.
  • An extra large 1500mAh removable battery which will give you several hours to surf the internet, read some e-books or play games. And let's not forget about talk time.
  • All of these features are displayed on a 3.8 inch WVGA LCD display which allows you to see every detail in a photo. This display makes the Optimus 7 large enough for so that you'll feel comfortable web surfing, yet it's still slim enough to fit in any back pocket.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

A Little Car Karma

My car has been acting more and more erratic lately. The speedometer and RPM indicator have been spontaneously cutting out. Worse, for the last two weeks the car has become increasingly more difficult to start. After a herculean effort, I was able to get it going so that I could drive up to my folks' house for Thanksgiving. And, by sheer luck, I able to, after several attempts, get it started again so that I could get back home the next day.

Several mechanic friends have indicated to me that there must be a short somewhere in the wiring. Slamming my ass down on the driver's seat in just the right way seems to clear the short and allows the car to draw the power necessary to start. Problem is, that method has become less and less successful over the last month. I resolved to fix the issue myself yesterday after several more failed attempts to get the car to start. I inspected the wiring and traced back what I could. It was little better than a bowl of spaghetti. It had been messed with quite a bit and I could see pin-pricks in some of the wires indicating that someone had been testing them. Someone had even patched in speaker wire at some point, probably a year ago when the car was in the shop for about three days. Still, none of my tweaking did any good. I was tired, hungry, and was at wit's end.

I don't problem solve well on an empty stomach, so I hiked down to the local Walgreen's to get some snacks and clear my head. When I emerged with my Doritos and Dr. Pepper, I found myself face-to-face with a Salvation Army bell ringer. He was dressed as Santa Claus and was singing Christmas carols. With a smirk and a shrug, I figured "What the hell....I could use some good karma right now". I dug into my pockets and put all the money I had into the kettle.

As I approached my house, the Dr. Pepper putting out the fire on my taste buds that had been started by the habanero Doritos, I noticed that the hood of my car had been popped. Had I done that inadvertently while troubleshooting? I opened the driver's side door and looked in...it wasn't possible to accidentally trip the release. I took another swig of Dr. Pepper and proceeded to undo the hood's latch, raising it up so I could access the engine. For a moment, I thought about checking the fuses, but thought better of it because others more mechanically inclined than me had already done so. Out of nothing more than instinct, I pushed the battery further back into its seating. Instantly, I heard the friendly ring of the car's reminder signal telling me that I had left the keys in the ignition.

"It's ALIVE!", I exclaimed.

Sure enough, when I sat down to start the car, the beast roared to life on the first try. So, what does this mean? Does it mean that the battery clips and contacts simply need to be cleaned? Does it mean that one of the connector wires is faulty? Is there indeed a short somewhere and pushing the battery back gives the wires in question enough slack to clear the short? I don't know. What I do know is that the Saturn S series, is persnickety when it comes to anything electrical to begin with, and, whatever the problem is, it couldn't hurt to buy a little karma here and there to help get it working

Friday, November 26, 2010

The LG Optimus One

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of LG. All opinions are 100% mine.

Readers of this blog know full well about my love for the Android operating system. There are a lot of cell phones out there that use it, but none of them are like the LG Optimus One.  LG just recently launched the Optimus One, which was created in order to deliver the ultimate smartphone experience while allowing for  easy accessibility for the growing number of consumers looking to purchase their first smartphone. Check out some of the great features they've included:

  • A lightning fast, user friendly interface which allows for two to three times faster and smoother internet browsing, web-page loading, application pop-ups and multi-tasking.
  • The LG App Advisor, which will recommend 10 highly rated applications for you every two weeks.
  • A camera with face tracking and smile detector technology for taking that perfect photo to post to your Facebook wall or Twitter feed.
  • A 3.2" wide HVGA screen back by a 1500mAh capacity battery for long lasting power.
  • Synchronization with your Outlook Calendar.

Since the LG Optimus One uses the Android 2.2 operating system, the phone is already optimized to use use popular Google apps like Google Voice, Google Goggles, Google Shopper and Google Maps with Navigation.

 

Visit Sponsor's Site

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Crying Crocidile Tears To Kaplan University

I got a call recently from a recruiter for Kaplan University. I decided to take a different approach this time and informed him that the person he was looking for had recently passed away. I then erupted into tears. I wanted to see how well Kaplan University trained its callers to handle this sort of emotional situation. Have a listen below and see how he did:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Art Imitates Life In World Of Warcraft

The latest notoriously bad behavior by the TSA has quickly become the biggest hot-button topic in America. In a clear dig against the TSA and their latest invasive search procedures, the folks over at Blizzard Entertainment have created a scenario in World of Warcraft where players conduct searches of NPCs at the gates of capital cities while the inside of the cities themselves are filled with dozens of obvious cultists. One of the strengths of any good MMORPG is the ability to integrate topical content in a fun and meaningful way and this is just what World of Warcraft has done with the "Show Me Your Papers" quest.

Announcing The New Enhanced Screening Procedures
Although I personally see it as a dig against the TSA and their new procedures, the content is vague enough, I believe, that the quest line could be seen as a show of support for the TSA. After all, a grave new threat has risen to threaten the security of the capital cities and the searches that the player conducts does uncover valuable evidence against the cultists and furthers the quest line along. Plus, the good guys win in the end. That's what so great about this particular political reference: it can be taken either way.

Personally, I would have found it even funnier if the fine folks over at Blizzard had added "Don't touch my junk!" to the NPCs' repository of reactions to being searched. And, although it's a tad risque, it might have been fun to have a character, while searching an NPC, automatically utter "Is that a dagger in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Car Donations for Homeless Veterans

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Vietnam Veterans of America. All opinions are 100% mine.

Do you own a home? If you do, isn't it nice to have a a warm place to spend the night? Can you even imagine having to sleep in a cardboard box or spend the night in a shelter? We Americans often take for granted the items we own and the advantages we have been given. Imagine if all of that were to be taken away from you. What would you do? Could you survive?

In order to guarantee our freedom and to protect the advantages we as American citizens have been given, our United States Veterans put their lives on the line. If you'd like to show your support, Vietnam Veterans of America is accepting car donations. Maybe you have an old car that you're trying to get rid of. Perhaps you don't want to go through the hassle of trying to sell it. If that's the case, then donating your car to Vietnam Veterans of America is a great way to get rid of that old car while helping out some of America's veterans.

For over thirty years, Vietnam Veterans of America has been supporting our veterans and their families by providing them with food and shelter. However, during these tough economic times, they are struggling to keep up with the high demand for help. In order to help raise funds and to continue meeting the challenges of providing help to our veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America is now accepting car donations. When you donate a car to Vietnam Veterans of America, you will be helping those who have given so much for us already. Your charitable gift is also eligible for an IRS tax deduction.

For instructions on how to donate a car, make sure to visit the Vietnam Veterans of America's website. Our veterans need your support and, if you have a car that you are able to donate, 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Beatles Are On iTunes

After years of negotiation, The Beatles finally arrived on iTunes yesterday, with tracks from their catalog available for purchase individually or as complete iTunes albums. The much hyped announcement met with some fanfare, but was generally regarded with little more than a yawn. Still, hours after their songs arrived on iTunes, music from the Beatles began steadily climbing the iTunes Top 20 list.

Once you get past the Monday morning hype that Steve Jobs put out there, making the Apple fanboys get their panties in a twist over what they perceived to be a forthcoming announcement regarding the next step in iPad/iPod technology, this news may seem petty. Indeed, the casual music lover probably doesn't see this as a big deal. After all, most Beatle fans probably have all of their CDs and have ripped the songs into their iTunes library already. The reason why this is newsworthy is because one of the most influential bands in the history of popular music has finally embraced digital distribution. This is an acknowledgment that using physical media to distribute music is going by the wayside. The CD isn't going to disappear anytime soon. However, when we look back upon the scrapheap of history, the Beatles showing up on iTunes will be seen as one of the major indicators that the major music labels began to concede the demise of the physical media distribution model.

Now, if only we could get The Beatles to release The White Album Demos, Live at the Hollywood Bowl and the Threetles version of Now and Then.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I Have Heeded The Call Of Duty

I called Jason up a few days ago to gloat about getting a copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops.

"I've joined the legion of neckbeards ganking noobs on Call of Duty: Black Ops multiplayer", I bragged.

"So, wait, you bought a PS3?" Jason asked.

"No...I bought Call of Duty: Black Ops for the Wii", I explained.

A huge cackle of laughter exploded from the other end of the phone. "You bought Call of Duty: Black Ops for the Wii? You may as well have bought it for an Atari 2600, or maybe the PS2".

Okay, I see his point. The Wii is an underpowered, lobotomized gaming platform that no hardcore gamer would take seriously. And the Wii version of Call of Duty: Black Ops features graphics that are inferior to the PS3 and XBOX 360 versions of the game. And, yes, the Wii version of Call of Duty: Black Ops is missing a ton of features as well, including the ultra-cool zombie map, "Five", which features JFK, Richard Nixon, Fidel Castro and Robert McNamara fighting zombies in the Pentagon.

Still, I stand by my decision. As merely a casual gamer, I don't need the ability to record entire multiplayer theater encounters or the Kill Cam so that I can review the footage later. I don't need an emblem creator and my character doesn't need custom face paint. And the PS2-era graphics don't bother me....much. Honestly, for a guy who just wants something to occupy his gaming time until World of Warcraft: Cataclysm comes out, Call of Duty: Black Ops is an excellent game for the Wii.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Photos From My Geocache

Back in March, I hid a Geocache not too terribly far from my home. Geocaching is an outdoor activity in which the participants use a Global Positioning System receiver to hide and seek containers that usually hold a log book (to record your visit) and perhaps some small trinkets. It's basically a high tech game of hide and seek. For a little extra fun, I put a disposable camera in my camera and invited everyone who found it to take a picture of themselves. The camera ran out of film recently, so I had it developed. Some of the film was damaged, probably due to water leakage into the original container I had used. You'll find a decent set of pictures below.


Monday, November 8, 2010

What I Like About Visiting Home

I ventured up to see my folks and some old friends this past weekend and, on Saturday, a meeting of the mindless occurred when former Kitchen Sink co-host, Jim, graced the Mac estate with his presence. We discussed the usual issues including the likelihood of either of us ending up on the radio again. The verdict, as usual, was that it's pretty damn unlikely.

In the midst of all the discourse, I made a little video blog describing the things I like about visiting home. You'll find it below, in glorious widescreen, just above a list of music I recently added to my ipod.



Recent Additions To My iPod
San Francisco - Brett Dennen
Via Con Me - Paolo Conte
Too Late For Us Now - Roger Manning
Half Of My Heart - John Mayer
Acoustic #3 - Goo Goo Dolls
In Love With A Girl - Gavin DeGraw
Your Woman - White Town
Sunrise - Simply Red

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mt Lyon Institute Calls Me

The fine folks over at Mt Lyon Institute rang me up recently. I was actually prepared to take the call this time and managed to stay in character for the duration. The rep from Mt Lyon Institute was impatient from the get-go and cut me off a mere three minutes into the call. She must have already gotten her recruitment quota for the month

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stick Bug

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the phasmatodea, better known by it's colloquial name, the stick bug. Phasmatodea are an order of insects whose natural camouflage makes them resemble small sticks or leafs. I found this particular one crawling on the wall of Jason's garage two weeks ago. This specimen decided to play dead when I picked it up.

Nice tactic. Had it been a chillier night, this stick bug's excellent camouflage may have gotten it tossed into a bonfire.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ben Folds: Lonely Avenue

I've been a fan of Ben Folds ever since my days at WXAV when the debut album of Ben Folds Five was pushed into main rotation. I often cite him as one of my favorite musicians, ranking him just below Miles Hunt and Paul Westerberg. I have tended to liken him to a younger, more indie Billy Joel. He has created some of the most beautiful ballads along with some very catchy/poppy hooks. I've come to expect a lot from Ben Folds, and, most of the time, he doesn't disappoint. That being said, I had some very high hopes for Ben's latest album, Lonely Avenue.

Something happened with his previous album, Way To Normal. Ben Folds stumbled. I only liked about half of the songs on Way To Normal, which was surprising as I could usually listen to one of his albums track-to-track. When I learned that Ben Folds would be collaborating with Nick Hornby in a quasi Elton John/Berni Taupin type of team, I was certain Lonely Avenue would mark a return to greatness. Now, however, after listening three times to Lonely Avenue, I have to ask: What's the punchline?

This album is a tragedy. There's so much talent between Folds and Hornby that you'd think that they'd be able to come up with at least one track that was listenable. They didn't, though. There's nothing on Lonely Avenue that I can latch onto. The album feels like a collection of over-produced first-draft demos. It's like Ben tried to force the lyrics into fitting the music and tried to hide the fact by adding too many layers to the production. The songs drag, fail to build and fail to go anywhere. It's just a bunch of words and music thrown together with no direction.

I hate to say it, but I enjoyed Ben Folds' collaboration with William Shatner more than anything on Lonely Avenue.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Boo!

I took my daughter trick-or-treating with her half-sister and her half-sister's father yesterday (can you follow that? Did that make sense?). Last year, I picked a costume to match up with my daughter. She was the statue of liberty and I was Uncle Sam. This year, however, my daughter decided to be a vampire, and, due to the hectic events of the past week, I had no time to rent or buy a costume. After finally setting foot in my house for the first time in nearly a week, I tried to think of some last minute costume ideas. Here's what I came up with:

  • Wearing a sandwich board that says "HTTP 404: Costume not found" 
  • Putting a bunch of quarters in a bag and carrying a hammer. This would make me a quarter pounder. 
  • Taking all the cigarette butts that are littering my backyard and attaching them to an old baseball cap. This would make me a butt-head. 
  • Wearing my lab coat and stethoscope along with my pig-face mask and calling myself "Dr. Pigface". This went over fairly well at GenCon 2010
  • Walking around in my Samuel Adams shirt and cap along with an empty Samuel Adams glass and an empty bottle of Octoberfest and passing myself off as a man in need of a beer.
In the end, I didn't go with any of the above as time was way too short and the kids were having a good enough time even without their fathers participating in the costume-themed fun. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More Car Weirdness

My car is on its last legs. If it were a horse, it would wake up every morning and faithfully do its duty, but I'd still have to shoot it. My 1999 Saturn SL-1 has been a good little car, but lately, it has been acting like a dementia patient. Ever since I replaced the battery, starting the car has been an issue. Every so often, I will turn the ignition and all of the electricity will go out. Quite by accident, I discovered that shaking the car in just the right way will take care of the problem and allow the car to start. I've checked the connections to the battery numerous times and everything seems okay. 

It's obvious that this little car is ready to go to that great parking garage in the sky. I was just hoping I could squeeze another year out of it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Landing On Planet Wiener

I had the opportunity recently to chow down on some hot dogs and fries over at Planet Wiener, a newly opened restaurant near my home. The name maybe sort of a gimmick, but the food is out of this world. They've got a variety of different hot dog concoctions to choose from, and you can even create your own by choosing from the dozens of different toppings available.

Now, don't get me wrong, the hot dogs themselves are pretty damn good. They're beef based, cooked very well and are reasonably priced. For me, however, the real star of Planet Wiener has to be the chili cheese fries. Too often, when you order chili cheese fries from other restaurants, you get bland chili topped over skinny fries. Planet Wiener gives you a generous portion of steak fries topped with chili and cheese that has a little kick to it.

For nostalgia sake, Planet Wiener might not eclipse the place in my heart that the old hot dog stand in my home town currently occupies. Still, it's an awesome place to grab a hot dog and fries.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Walden University Endures My Rantings

It appears that the bug in which Google Voice drops calls upon recording them has been fixed. This afternoon I was able to record an incoming call from a representative at Walden University. At first, I didn't think that the call would last more than a few seconds before being dropped, so, when you listen to this call you'll notice that I change accents. The poor lady hung on for over 13 minutes before I decided to have mercy on her and let her go. Along the way, we talked about how John Lennon wrote "Walden Pond", the sexiness of Dan Rather, that mean old Nigerian Prince scammer and the healing powers of Lionel Ritchie.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Walk

I took my car into the shop the other day, figuring that, since I didn't need it few a few days, I would just arrange to pick it up this morning right after I got paid. So, bright and early this morning, I hiked up to the service center and handed the mechanic my debit card so that I could pay my bill. DECLINED. What? Okay, not a huge deal. Every so often my paycheck is about two hours late processing. Yet, two hours later, after a long walk to my office, when checking my balance online, I saw that there was no direct deposit waiting to be processed. I called my bank. Turns out that they had changed the routing numbers and I had somehow missed the memo. Payroll graciously cut me a check later that afternoon. Thus, after work, with my daughter in tow, we undertook the longest walk we had ever taken together.

We walked from my office to my bank, which is about a half a mile. I had to get to my bank in order to deposit my check so that I could pay for the repairs to my car. We walked along a back street, the afternoon Sun blaring down on us and reflecting back from the blacktop. When we reached the bank, my daughter and I both drank several cups of free water in the bank lobby. I deposited my check, kept a little money back, and we were on our way. This time, we had to walk to the mechanic, a good two miles from where we were. My daughter was a little trooper, but, with blisters erupting on my feet because of the shoes I was wearing, I felt like a Volga boatman. I think I even subconsciously sang a few bars of Эй, ухнем! to myself. We stopped along the way to get a bite to eat and to rest. More importantly, we talked. We talked about the past, the present, hopes, dreams and fears. I might even dare to say that it was the first REAL conversation we ever had.

Too often, there is this barrier between us. I'm the parent. She's the child. It's not unlike the supervisor/employee relationship at times. Yet now, sitting in an empty restaurant sipping on sodas, we were just two people caught up in the midst of a very difficult afternoon. We were on a mission together.

We pressed on. We got the car and drove to the store for some drinks. When we got back into the car, I went to start it, only to find that the battery had died. I groaned in agony at the thought of having to hike up to the auto parts store to get a new one. Screw that. I called Jason for a lift instead, as he was now off work. We'd had enough adventure for one day.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Praying Mantis

Early last week, I was out on my porch watching the kiddo ride her scooter up and down the street when I looked over at my screen door to find a rather large praying mantis hanging out there. I figured that the mantis would jump off the door the second we opened it to get back into the house, but it kept clinging to the door even after we opened and closed it several times. In fact, the praying mantis hung out on the door for about three days.

The visit from our praying mantis inspired the kiddo and I to look up some information on them. The praying mantis is thought to be a cousin of the cockroach, branching off their common ancestor, a predatory proto-cockroach with mantis-like forelegs, in the Cretaceous period. They are ambush predators who lie in wait for something that they can devour to pass close by so that they can be caught and held securely with the mantis' grasping, spiked forelegs.

One can't look up information about the praying mantis and not run into a discussion about sexual cannibalism. In captivity, female mantises have been observed devouring its mate's head during the mating ritual. Researchers initially believed that the removal of the male’s head was a reproductive strategy that enhanced fertilization while allowing the female to obtain sustenance. Other research has indicated that the behavior appears to be an artifact of intrusive laboratory observation.

Kiddo and I learned a lot about the praying mantis and were a little sad to find that it had left after a few days. It was nice to have a visit from an insect that wasn't related to a wasp for once.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blizzard Technical Support Comes Through

Last week, I got home on my lunch break from work and decided to fire up World of Warcraft so that I could do a little work on the seasonal Brewfest achievements. Before doing so, I checked my e-mail. Blizzard technical support had sent me an e-mail indicating that they had suspended my account because of a chargeback. I knew what had caused this. Just a few weeks back, my account got hacked by a gold spammer and it took me ages and several calls to Blizzard technical support to get my account back and to get my World of Warcraft characters restored. Obviously, when my account got hacked, the gold seller used a stolen credit card to buy time on my account. I figured it should be an easy enough fix.

And, to be honest, it was. After talking for a mere 5 minutes to a Blizzard customer service representative, my account was restored. I didn't even have to tell him the problem, I just mentioned the chargeback, which made him look up my account and he saw via previous trouble tickets I had opened that my account had been hacked. Bravo. I was happy about that. The only real issue is that it took me over an hour on hold to actually get to a representative. One has to wonder, if a Blizzard customer service rep could so easily determine that I had been hacked and that the chargeback was not my fault, then why would I have to initiate a call in order to get it removed? With all the gold scammers running rampant on the World of Warcraft servers, and all the chargebacks resulting because of them, Blizzard obviously has their hands full. Still, it doesn't take much of a leap to put 2 and 2 together and figure out what had happened to me.

I guess it really doesn't matter. An hour on hold isn't a huge deal when you consider that the problem got solved once and for all.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Purchasing Electronic Books

I've been on a huge reading kick lately, but there's a real dearth of new reading material in my house. I tried to fill the gap with issues of Time and Wired to no avail. I wanted to tear into a book and work through it. Yet, since I bought my Roku streaming device, I have been very anti-clutter. And books just add to the clutter. That's why I decided to try out some electronic books. I don't have a device like a Kindle or a Nook or even an iPad, and I'm not so sure that I even want one of those things. My trusty iPod touch is still plugging along and is perfectly capable of reading e-books either through its native iBook reader (available for iOS 4.1 or greater) or the download-able Amazon Kindle app.

I went with the iBook app for now because I like the interface better, although the selection on the iBook store leaves a lot to be desired. Kindle offers a fuller catalog of older books but iBook has a prettier user interface and takes Paypal as a payment option. So, I purchased "Sh*t My Dad Says" by Justin Halpern and "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs" by Chuck Klosterman. Reading them in the iPod touch is pretty easy and I don't find myself needing a larger screen in order to do so. In other words, I still do not want an iPad

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dual Electronics XDMA6630

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Dual Electronics. All opinions are 100% mine.


My current car audio solution leaves a lot to be desired. It's outdated, underpowered and just not sexy. How bad is it? I'm sporting a tape deck! I need to get hold of something that will not only pound out some mad notes, but will also improve my cool factor as well. Enter the XDMA6630.

The folks over at Dual Electronics have unveiled their latest mobile receiver, the XDMA6630. This new head unit is just what a guy like me needs to improve his car audio experience. The XDMA6630 has some amazing new features including Bluetooth connectivity, high speed functionality, a front panel USB connection for direct access to control your iPod and/or iPhone as well as a 3.5mm auxiliary input & 2-RCA preamp outputs.

If you're looking to get the most out of a car audio system, upgrade what you've currently got or even just crank up your cool factor, then check out the XDMA6630.

Visit my sponsor: Dual Electronics new car audio receiver...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Mac Brothers Take Wrigley Field


The Mac Brothers with Harry Carey

I don't often get to hang out with my siblings without the spouses, kids and other distractions. So, when I decided that I would head up to Chicago for a weekend to relax and see some old friends, it felt like a great opportunity to get some of the family together to catch a ballgame. The Cubs just happened to be playing yesterday, so myself, CJ Mac and Mike took in the game with Jason tagging along. It would have been even better if I could have gotten Johnny Mac and our sister to attend, but this thing was so short notice, it was impossible to get everyone together.

Next year, though, we're all committed to getting together for a game. This time, the White Sox.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Hotel Room Is A Little Small

While we're bumming around downtown Chicago this weekend, Jason and I have opted to stay at the historic Chicago Essex Inn. It's a decent looking hotel, but our room is incredibly small. It feels like we got shoved into a maintenance closet. The room is so small, that when one of the Chicago Essex Inn staffers brought up the rollaway cot, he had no clue where he could possibly put it.

Watch Jason's rant about the issue below.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Work Within The System

I swear, I'm trying to be a kinder, gentler TommyMac. A TommyMac that is less prone to resorting to zany schemes when confronted with a problem. A TommyMac who tries to play by the rules just like everyone else. In keeping with that, when I discovered that kiddo's mom was in the hospital yesterday, I offered to bring the little one out to see her in the hopes that a visit would make her feel better. Now, I had been prevented from bringing my daughter into the hospital for visits before, and knowing that those arcane "no children under 16" visiting rules were still in place, I figured I had two options. I could either sneak her in like I had done before, or I could actually appeal to the hospital administration, explain the situation, and see if a solution could be arrived at that would make everyone happy.

Putting on my very best professional voice, I called the hospital and was eventually connected with someone who had an influence on the hospital visiting hours policy. The policy is a leftover from the H1N1 scare last year. It was enacted to help prevent the spread of the disease to young children. I was informed that, since the scare is over, the policy is currently under review by a committee. And, we know that committees work at the speed of bureaucracy, so the policy just hadn't been re-written yet.

I prevailed upon the administrator on the other end of the phone to allow an exception for my daughter as I felt that a visit from her would be an essential part of the healing process for her mother. The administrator readily agreed, guaranteed that I would be allowed to bring the kiddo in for a visit and assured me that she would contact the appropriate nursing station to advise them of the situation. With that, I happily brought the kiddo in for a visit without being accosted by an angry nurse with a strict adherence to policy.

It's nice to work within the system when you can. I want you all to know, though, even if my request had been rejected, I still would have found a creative way to sneak my daughter in for a visit.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'm A Work Of Art

When I attended GenCon last month, I had the opportunity to meet and speak with a number of artists in the Vendor Area. There was a lot of talent there, but I was really impressed with the work of Brent Woodside of Woodside Illustrations in particular. He has done some spectacular work on various Lucas Film projects as well as some TOPPS trading card limited edition sketch cards. If you have a look at the online gallery, you'll see that he has a very distinct style that successfully merges realism with cartoon/fantasy elements.

Anyway, Brent did a pencil sketch of me in the guise of a typical World of Warcraft human rogue character. It arrived in the mail yesterday and I have to say that I really like the result. It's drawn in pencil on good quality 11x14 paper. He successfully captured what I would call the "essential TommyMac elements" which includes the high forehead, the cockeyed self-deprecating grin and the side-ways head tilt. I haven't had anyone attempt to do an artistic rendering of myself since getting a characterture done of myself at Navy Pier some 15 years ago. Upon seeing what Brent Had come up with, I knew right away that I should have had him do the picture in color when I had the opportunity. There's always next year. Meanwhile, I'm very pleased with what I've got. It might even be suitable for framing. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hand Meets Glass

I resolved this weekend to finally get my home workspace cleaned up. It was in dire need of it, too as I had let it go far too long between cleanings. As I surveyed the mess, I briefly considered employing a shovel to expedite the process, but, instead got down on my knees to tackle the mess with using my own two hands. As I began to sort through a pile of clothing, I heard a distinct crinkling sound; it was a sound I had become all to familiar with over the years: it was the sound of broken glass. By sheer, klutz-contaminated instinct, I lurched forward, losing my balance and sending me to my knees. I reached down to block my fall with my right hand, and that's when I felt it. The swift, burning pain shot through the palm of my hand and up to my elbow. I screamed loud enough for my dogs to bark wildly after me. Looking down only confirmed what I already knew: I had pierced the palm of my hand with a large shard of glass.

I'm not sure where it came from, perhaps the remnants of an old achievement certificate I had gotten from work and put up in the closet. It doesn't really matter. All that mattered was that I now had the dilema of whether or not I should remove the large glass shard from my hand, or leave it in. What could I do? I pulled it out! And, the moment I did, blood gushed all over. I grabbed a shirt from my closet and held it to my wound.

It is at this point where my tendency to get wordy with my stories has to be over-ridden. You see, 12 stitches later, my hand is killing me and typing isn't helping the matter. So, I'm going to make a long story short. I drove myself  to the hospital, got fixed up in no time, and counted myself very lucky that, when I fell, I happened to have my hand over my heart when I tried to break the fall. Had I not, the damage could have been much worse. So, it seems that Fate watches over fools, little children and people named TommyMac.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Coffee Fail


Should Have Checked For Cups

I haven't bothered to replace my coffee maker at home yet. I can't decide whether I want just a basic coffee maker or if I want to scale up and get some sort of coffee/espresso hybrid machine. It hasn't been a huge burden to deal with, because I can usually make coffee at work. That is, until I run out of coffee at work, which is what happened today.

Luckily, I had a dollar bill in my wallet, which would be enough to buy a cup of French Vanilla cappuccino from the gourmet coffee vending machine that trolls me at every opportunity. My need for coffee was so great that I decided to risk it. I wish I hadn't. As fate would have it, a full cup of coffee was already sitting in the coffee vending machine when I purchased my beverage. This, of course, resulted in the machine filling the cup that was already there to overflowing, thus denying me coffee.

Not the best way to start a Friday morning.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Twisted Legacy Of F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of such works as The Great Gatsby, This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned, is widely regarded as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. Indeed, his contemporaries like J.D. Salinger, Ernest Hemingway and T.S. Elliot heaped praise upon him for his writing, often crediting him as an inspiration for their own work.  When he wasn't writing novels or short stories, F. Scott Fitzgerald spent his time working on his lesser known, yet more preferred hobby: trying to plunge the world in chaos.

Born in 1896, F. Scott Fitzgerald was a distant cousin and namesake of Francis Scott Key, author of The Star Spangled Banner. Growing up, Fitzgerald hated our national anthem due to the fact that it was sung to the tune of a popular British drinking song, To Anacreon in Heaven. Embarrassed by this blatant act of plagiarism and horrified that his distant cousin was lauded for his work, Fitzgerald took to alcohol and began to identify with a much closer blood relative: Mary Suratt. Suratt, who was first cousin once removed to F. Scott Fitzgerald, had, by the time of Fitzgerald's birth, already become infamous as one of the masterminds behind the Lincoln assassination. Seeing Suratt as a martyr, F. Scott Fitzgerald became determined to act. Yet he was fearful of being caught, jailed and forced into a life without alcohol. Fitzgerald meticulously planned a covert operation to disrupt the working of the American government by taking the lives of the wives of important government officials. He planned to do so though the use of contaminated feminize hygiene products.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's father had been a prominent salesman for Proctor and Gamble, which, at the time, sold candles door-to-door to housewives. As Proctor and Gamble grew into a multinational seller of consumer goods, F. Scott Fitzgerald used his father's connections to devise a plan with like-minded Proctor and Gamble research scientists to introduce to the market tampons that were too absorbent. So much absorption would substantially increase the growth of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, resulting in toxic shock syndrome and death. Fitzgerald had intended to see to it that Elanor Roosevelt, Sarah Jane Garner and even Bess Truman used the contaminated products, thus causing their deaths. This would result in a terrible distraction for the American leaders, keeping the United States out of World War II and ensuring a Nazi victory. It's not that F. Scott Fitzgerald was a Nazi sympathizer; he just wanted the world to remain in an era of despair so that his novels, which were primarily about struggle and strife, would keep selling.

Illness due to alcoholism would get the better of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his plan would not be put into action. Decades later, however, while rummaging through old files in the hopes of resurrecting old ideas, researchers at Proctor and Gamble stumbled upon the formula for the super-absorbent tampon that Fitzgerald had planned to use. Not knowing its origin, the Rely tampon was swiftly put into production in 1980. Thirty-eight deaths resulted from the toxic shock syndrome cases caused by the tampon.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Google Voice Is Spoiling My Fun

It looks like the most recent update of Google Voice for the Android operating system has a pretty nasty bug. Whenever a user tries to record an incoming call, the caller is unable to hear the person who has been called after about 30 seconds. Of course, this usually leads to the caller hanging up. Reports of this bug are all over the Google Voice user forums and hopefully a resolution isn't too far away from being implemented.

But, what does this mean for me, personally? It means that some great opportunities to mess with telemarketers have been lost. I've gotten a few calls over the last week that have gone completely sour due to the Google Voice bug. Here are a few schemes that died because of it:

  • Telling a representative from Capella University, an online educational institution focusing on business administration curriculum, that I wanted to pursue a singing degree with them. They are, after all, "Acapella University" 
  • After telling a recruiter from University of Phoenix Online that Thomas Mac had been killed tragically, I proceeded to pretend to rant and cry like a distraught relative. I insisted that it had been his dream to attend University of Phoenix Online and that University of Phoenix Online should enact a memorial scholarship for him. By the time I explained that Thomas Mac had been killed after being run over by a beer truck driven by the Incredible Hulk, I realized that Google Voice had dropped the call. 
  • I asked someone from Walden University if they had a Klingon-American studies program. Thanks to Google Voice, the question fell on deaf ears. 
 I can only hope that someday soon, this Google Voice bug will be fixed, because, in the meantime, some great opportunities are being lost.

Friday, September 10, 2010

My Car Reaches A Milestone

While driving back from my road trip to Dave and Melanie's last weekend, my car went through what is considered a solemn right of passage for any automobile: It crossed the 100,000 mile threshold. I found this to be a particularly auspicious occurrence because I've never owned a car that even passed the 75,000 mile mark. I was obviously bemused enough to pull out my camera and take some pictures and video of the changeover, though I wouldn't have been if I had known what the car had in store for me when I got home. I swear, the second I got the aging beast of an automobile into my driveway, it decided to blow its brake pads and rotors. Never mind that the thing already was in dire need of three tires and a complete windshield wiper mechanism overhaul. So, in celebration of reaching over 100,000 miles without spontaneously combusting, I took the car in today for some much needed repair and maintenance work.

My mechanic couldn't be happier.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Get Your Masters Of Art In Teaching Online From USC

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of USC. All opinions are 100% mine.


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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Horror Of Instant Coffee

By early yesterday morning, I was still catching up on my sleep. Somehow, I managed to ooze out of bed and into the kitchen. I attempted to heed the pleas of my daughter to make her some cereal, but it was no use. I needed to jump-start my brain with some coffee before I could even hope to function.  I filled my trusty coffee maker with water and added a few plungers worth of my favorite ground coffee, clicked the START button and waited for the friendly gurgling sound to start. Nothing. Had I forgotten to put in the water? Nope.  It appeared that my coffee maker had decided to take Labor Day off.

I briefly considered bothering the neighbors for a few cups, but as the one to my left had recently moved out and the one to my right would most likely turn to ash upon contact with direct sunlight, I decided that I had no alternative but to settle for instant coffee. Instant Coffee. It pains me just to type it. It's an abomination. So, it was with much regret that I stuck a mug full of water into the microwave and reached for the tiny package of Folger's Instant Coffee that had been hidden in the darkest recesses of my cabinets.

The concoction that resulted from my adding Folger's crystals to hot water can most politely be described as vile. It was like I had added organic fertilizer to water. Sure, it was coffee in the strictest technical sense in that it was brown, had caffeine and had once long ago descended from a coffee vine, but what I ended up drinking would no doubt be a violation of the Geneva Convention had it been served to prisoners of war.

Reluctantly, I choked the revolting bile down and hoped that it would kick in as soon as possible. If nothing else, it heightened my appreciation for real coffee and has motivated me to replace the old coffee maker as soon as possible

Monday, September 6, 2010

Panic!

It looked like it was going to be a great night on Friday. I was spending time with my friends Dave and Melanie and had gotten to see my god-daughter, thus partially fulfilling my promise to her that I would come around more often. We played a few rounds of cards, I played the old songs on the guitar and we talked about years gone by. I even discovered a great beer from Capital Brewery that incorporated wheat from Washington Island, a place I often visited with my family as a child. Life was good, or so it seemed as I started to drift off to sleep, thus ending a 48 hour insomnia cycle.

As I began to lose consciousness, something strange happened. My legs went numb and my mouth dried up. I staggered to my feet but then promptly fell to my knees. My heart rate kicked into overdrive and I began to hyperventilate. I recognized these symptoms. I was about to go into a panic attack. I've had them on rare occasions over the years, though this one felt much more intense than any I had ever had previously. I reached for my cell phone, took it apart into its component pieces and scattered them across the room, thus ensuring that I would not be panic dialing anyone.

I tried to calm myself down by repeating my name and the name of my daughter over and over again, intermixing those thoughts with a chorus of Aupres de ma Blonde (nothing like trying to focus on the lyrics to a bawdy French tune to keep your brain from melting). My body was in full rebellion against my mind. My body wanted to sleep, but my mind was determined to stay awake at any cost. I managed to pull myself up and walked to the bathroom where I let part of the 72 ounces of Capital Brewery's Wheat Beer that had been working through my bloodstream out into the toilet. I felt no sensation. I began to wonder if I was truly standing at the toilet. Perhaps I was passed out on the floor, barely awake as I pissed myself. I pinched myself. Did I feel something? I couldn't tell. I did it again. Inconclusive. I began to pace the room back and forth, my fingers brushing against the wall as I searched for sensation. I heard myself snoring as I walked.

I snapped back to consciousness for a moment and stumbled back to the heap on the floor when I had earlier been trying to sleep. My legs gave out and I collapsed on the floor. My arms were completely numb. I was convinced that I was dying. Was I having a heart attack? A stroke? Whatever was happening, as terrified as  I was, I was determined to fight it. I rolled over and my back scraped the cold tile. As I laid there, I felt like I had been put on a slab in the morgue. I was dead. I died in the home of a life-long friend. His kids would never be able play in that room again. My daughter would grow up without a father. My parents would outlive me. I'd have a craptacular funeral because I didn't write down anything that I wanted. There were so many things I needed to say to people. There was so much I still wanted to do.

No! I would not let this happen. My mind rebelled against the notion of dying and I once again crawled to my feet. I stumbled to the bathroom to pee again and to get a drink of water. Again, I pinched myself. Again, the results were inconclusive. Maybe I was dead and Dave's finished basement was some kind of limbo. Maybe I'd flush the toilet and the divine light of Heaven would shoot out of the bowl and show me the way home. Maybe this lack of knowing whether I was alive or dead was Hell. I went back to pacing the room in a sleepwalking stupor, my hands reaching out for any kind of sensation that would confirm to me that I was indeed alive.

I know now that it was the Sun breaking through the basement window, but, at the time, I thought it might be God coming to take me. I collapsed on the floor again, awaiting judgement. Before I gave up, I made a deal with God. If He let me live, I 'd right certain wrongs, live a better life, etc. The exact details of what I'd promised are a subject for another post. All I know is, the moment I said to myself "Okay, I surrender", I heard a door open and little footsteps coming down the stairs. It was my god-daughter.

"Is it time to wake up yet?", she asked.

"Yes", I said. This was the confirmation I needed. Whether it was all the result of an insomnia induced panic attack or a near death experience, I was indeed alive. "Yes, it is".

Friday, September 3, 2010

Ant Swarm!

As if the sensed that the approaching severe thunderstorm was near, I found a large swarm of ants on my driveway early last night. I don't know what they were up-in-arms about, but it made for a somewhat interesting video.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Video Conferencing With Facevision

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of faceVsion Technology USA. All opinions are 100% mine.

FvWith the economy being in the tank lately and our travel budget being close to nonexistent, the boss has been all about video conferencing. While video conferencing allows everyone involved to have a much richer conversational experience than a traditional phone call, it has always taken a significant amount of investment to get a system up and running. Small and medium sized businesses just can't afford the video conferencing solutions offered by major brands such as Polycom, Tandberg, and Radvision because of their high cost.


Maybe you've felt the same pain as I have when it comes to video conferencing. Thankfully, there's a solution out there and the folks over at faceVsion have it. How does a Skype-certified webcam that is capable of delivering full screen 720p streaming video over the Internet sound? That's exactly what the FV touchcam N1 offers. I have no doubt that, had I had one of these while my daughter was trying to show my mother her loose tooth, the video quality would have been excellent.

You might be tempted to go out and pick up some other webcam that has "HD" stamped on it, but the fact is that most of those supposed HD webcams cannot stream true HD quality over Internet. Sure, you'll get HD quality video, but you will only see it locally, you won't be able to stream it over the Internet. That's where FaceVsion Technology USA excels. Their built in H.264 hardware encoder is the key to making true HD quality video calls over Internet.

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Midnight Souvenirs

Peter Wolf. You may not recognize the name, but you have heard his voice. He's the former lead singer of the J. Geils Band, the group behind a number of 80's hits like "Centerfold" and "Love Stinks". Since leaving J. Geils Band in 1983, Wolf's career path has been along the road less traveled. It's a road that isn't lined with radio hits and platinum records, but it's a road that lead him to become a more accomplished musical artist and "Midnight Souvenirs", is a continuation of the maturation process which culminated with his 2002 release, "Sleepless". "Sleepless" was noted as one of the Rolling Stone's 500 greatest albums and it sold only 40,000 copies.

With "Midnight Souvenirs", Wolf further mines the country, blues and soul vibe that went over so well on "Sleepless", but opens himself up more on this particular album by working with Shelby Lynne, Neko Case and Merle Haggard. As there aren't many radio friendly tracks here, "Midnight Souvenirs" as a whole is greater than its individual parts. All of these tracks work together to make a solid recording.

I realize that the album came out back in April, but I haven't had time to sit down and give it a solid listen until last night. If you're unfamiliar with the solo work of Peter Wolf, sample a few of the tracks online, and if you dig the Rolling Stones/Exile On Main Street vibe, make sure you pick the album up.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Homecoming

One of the highlights of DJing the wedding last night was being able to spend some time with my old friends, Dave and Melanie. Dave and I went to high-school together and ended up as room-mates in college. After we graduated and Dave married Melanie, we still hung out quite a bit, and I became a regular visitor to Peoria after they moved there, and Dave's sister-in-laws and brother-in-law became part of my own extended family. Dave and I don't get to see each other much, now that we've both got children and careers and other responsibilities, but every time we do, it's like things haven't changed.

Dave sat behind the DJ booth with me for a while watching me pick songs that would keep the dance floor moving. I picked a certain song which made him ask "That's an interesting choice. You sure you want to play that?".

"It's a similar sound and beat to what's playing now. It's a good follow up" I said. When the song in question came on, the dance floor erupted with excitement. I smiled at my old friend and said "Never doubt my power".

He smiled back and said "I never have".

It reminded me of all those years we spent through high school and college behind a computer pounding out BASIC, PASCAL, FORTRAN, COBOL and C++ code. Instead of the satisfaction of watching out work compile and successfully execute, we had the pleasure of watching our kids have the time of their lives together. It felt like coming home.