Friday, December 30, 2011

Oh, Durang!

I've taken roles in an upcoming production of two Christopher Durang one-act plays: "The Nature and Purpose of the Universe" and "Death Comes To Us All, Mary Agnes". This particular acting turn is going to present a lot of challenges to me. To begin with, I have to memorize conversations rather than extended monologues like I did in "Twelfth Night". Waiting for and giving cues is a fairly new experience for me, one that I had difficulty with during the final scene of "Twelfth Night".

Although I am playing the father figure in both of the plays, they are completely different characters. Steve in "The Nature and Purpose of the Universe" is aggressive and self absorbed while Herbert in "Death Comes To Us All, Mary Agnes" is passive and has been beaten down by life. Oh, and he has only one arm. The challenge here is to present myself in such a way as to ensure that the audience is seeing two different characters, not one actor in two roles.

The most difficult hurdle to get over is the fact that I have been having a hard time understanding the material. I've heard these one-acts described as a blistering commentary on the futility of everyday life, but I'm not seeing them that way. To me, it all reads like an extended improv where a series of outrageous events form together implausibly simply to move the plot along. That being said, I do find Durang's work humorous, but it's not insightful humor. Much of the laughs come from shock. Maybe that's the point. Maybe the audience is supposed to laugh at the absurdity of it all and shake their heads with disbelief, certain that such events could not possibly occur in real life. And yet they can and they do.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What It Left Behind

I'm happy to have had my old Saturn SL-1 hauled out of my driveway. Unfortunately, it left something behind. It looks like an ooze of creeping evil, but, really, it's a mixture of oil, coolant and water. It looks unsightly and has proven to be a real pain in the ass to get rid of. The mixture has the consistency of a milkshake and resists being washed off with conventional methods. I'm going to have to rent a power washer in order to get rid of it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Announcing: Snapdragon Stadium

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Snapdragon by Qualcomm for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

What's in a name? Shakespeare tells us that a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet. And, while I agree with that, I also feel the need to point out that a name can convey certain things about the thing being named. It's easy to get excited about something if it has a catchy name. That's why people are so excited that, for 11 days this holiday season starting December 18th, Qualcomm Stadium will be renamed Snapdragon Stadium. It's not just a simple renaming. Qualcomm is going all out for this event. They're even temporarily replacing the Qualcomm corporate logo at the venue with the Snapdragon logo. It's going to look amazing. Snapdragon processors by Qualcomm are the digital brains inside mobile devices made

. Snapdragon processors can be found in devices made by 30 manufacturers including Samsung, LG, Nokia and HTC. The popular phones HTC Thunterbolt and HTC desire both use Snapdragon processors. This temporary renaming comes amidst a number of exciting events during the 11 day period. Snapdragon Stadium will host a Chargers Sunday night game against Baltimore as well as two college bowl games: the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (Dec. 21) and the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl (Dec. 28).

Visit Sponsor's Site

Monday, December 26, 2011

Watch Me Turn Into A Catfish

While cleaning out my house in order to prep it for some renovations, I happened upon a box full of CDs and DVDs. Among them was a CD containing a number of videos from my original Youtube channel. I had deleted that channel for reasons I will explain in another post. When I deleted it, I was sure that I had a backup of all of the movies on it. That backup disappeared sometime during the two years between deleting my old Youtube channel and starting up this website.

The video below is a response I made to an advertiser who posted a video of himself doing a magic trick where he turned himself into a catfish. The challenge was to see who could outdo that trick. I tried a more comedic approach. Have a look.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Santa Claus Question.

This is the first Christmas I have spent with my daughter since she revealed to me that she no longer believes in Santa Claus. In a way, I am relieved, because I hate lying to her, even about something as innocuous as Santa Claus. Besides, why should some imaginary fat guy with an elf fetish get all the credit?

My daughter asked me why adults felt the need to perpetuate the myth of Santa Claus. I was reminded of what my old friend Dave told my God-daughter when she discovered the truth about the Tooth Fairy. He said that parents made up the Tooth Fairy as a means to ease the pain children feel when they lose a tooth. I wondered if perhaps parents continue the tradition of Santa Claus in order to ease the pain of growing up. As children get older and become more aware of the evils that exist in this world, it's nice to be able to think that a kindly old man rewards good behavior, just because it's a nice thing to do.

Earlier this month, I took kiddo to the store to pick out a toy to donate to a local charity. I told her that it would find its way to a needy child who, without people like her, might not have a Christmas. As we dropped the toy off, I said to her "Now YOU are Santa Claus". And, for a few minutes, she believed again.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Pre-Christmas Adventure

I have been so busy with the new job and traveling and acting gigs that I haven't had a lot of time to hang out with Jason lately. So, when it turned out that we both had the day off yesterday, I invited Jason to help me with a little last minute Christmas shopping. We stopped at a gas station along the way in order to pick up some snacks. We were both delighted that Hostess fruit pies were available there because we have both become impossibly addicted to them. The gas station attendant didn't seem too happy to hear us pontificate about the superiority of Hostess fruit pies over all other fruit pies. In fact, the attendant didn't even bother to feign interest. I looked very seriously at him and said "Listen good, bucko. This advice may save your bowels one day."

Eventually, we had to find something more substantial to eat. We decided to try to find the Texas Road House. Thanks to Google Maps and my Droid Bionic, We eventually found it. However, I found myself wishing that Google Maps had an "avoid ghetto" option. We burst into the restaurant ready to have our fill of steak and potatoes. To our dismay, upon entering, we found that the roadhouse would not be open for another few hours. We settled on Hooters instead, which was a mistake because the talent there left quite a bit to be desired. It was all b-cups and bullet wounds. The food wasn't much better. The alcohol flowed like water though and we soon had our waitress collapsing in laughter at our witty banter.

We later scoured toys r us for a few last minute gifts for my daughter. No trip to the toy store is complete without us goofing around by messing with various toys. We probably went a little bit too far when we had a tricycle race down one of the main aisles.

I couldn't find what I was looking for at the toy store nor could I find it at the bookstore next door. We decided to try the mall. Once we got there, Jason made a beeline for the food court. He simply had to have bourbon chicken. The employee where he stopped at didn't even know what he was talking about.

"We'll show YOU," I said mockingly to the noodle-slinger. "We're going over here to your competitor!" We slid one kiosk over to another Asian food place. Jason proudly ordered some bourbon chicken. He was told that once again there was not any to be had. He was starting to get desperate. He was sure that the chicken gods were plotting against him. His suspicions would prove incorrect, for the Panda Express, one further kiosk over, did indeed have bourbon chicken, and all was well with Jason. We went back to the first to kiosk and ate some bourbon chicken in front of the slop-jockeys. "Mmmmmm! Now THIS is mall chicken done RIGHT!" I said as I savored the chicken in front of them. I then wondered aloud if bourbon chicken was named after the whiskey or after the Bourbons who ruled France. I found out later that the name is derived from the color of the sauce that is used to make it.

As we drove home, I couldn't help but think that the sort of adventure is the best thing about Christmas. christmas isn't about presents and cards and decorations. It's about spending time with friends and family, not because you have to, but because you want to.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Off To The Scrap Yard

My derelict Saturn SL-1 had been haunting my driveway for nearly a week while I tried to find a buyer for it. Various "donate your car" charities turned me down because the thing wouldn't run. I eventually found a scrap yard one town over that offered to take it off my hands but it wasn't willing to pay any money for it. I was determined to turn that husk of an automobile into some sort of beer money if it wasn't going to charity. Finally, the car dealership that sold me the Mustang offered to take the Saturn off of my hands for $50 provided that I could somehow get it into their lot. Being less than half a mile from the dealership, I figured that it should be possible to somehow push it there with a minimum of traffic disruption. Perhaps at 2am.

I discussed the matter with a few friends over some drinks Friday night. Putting the Saturn in neutral and towing it from someone's truck was considered and rejected due to safety concerns. Someone brought up the idea of putting the car onto a car trailer, but, it turned out that nobody knew of anyone who had one. We soon settled on the idea of just pushing the Saturn to the dealership. We'd push it through a number of public lots, thus avoiding the street for 95% of the journey. All we had to worry about was a small stretch of main street just in front of the dealership. At 2am, there would hardly be anyone on the road.

We adjourned back to my house and began to discuss which of us would push and who among us would be trusted to steer. I claimed that, since the car was mine, it was my honor to drive it off into the sunset. I likened it to having to shoot my own lame horse. Just as I sat in the driver's seat, my buddy Jim came rushing over. He had struck a deal with his brother-in-law who owns an auto-body shop. He would buy my Saturn SL-1 for $100 plus a case of beer. And he would even pick it up for me.

So, it was with a heavy heart that I watched them drive off with my Saturn on Sunday morning. That car and I had been through a lot together. Still, I like to think that, as its last act for me, it provided me with a little extra Christmas money as a thank you for 10 years of adventure.

Monday, December 19, 2011

An SL1-Memory

I'm on the road this week. I'm driving my Mustang around on this particular trip while my old Saturn SL-1 haunts my driveway waiting for the scrap yard to come and pick it up. While working to sell off the old SL-1 to the scrap yard, I was reminded of the many times that car got banged up over the 10 years that I had it. Below is a video of the damage done to the passenger side quarter panel back in January of 2009. It was eventually fixed good as new, but, at the time, it was quite a mess.

Friday, December 16, 2011

TommyMac Gets A New Ride

It may be fate. As my Saturn SL-1 was sitting lifeless in a puddle of it's own fluids on my driveway Monday morning, I had no choice but to walk my daughter to school. We ran through the grocery store parking lot and into the lot belonging to a car dealership. We weaved our way through the cars in the lot, pretending that we were horse rustlers, careful not to spook the herd. That's when I saw it. The alpha stallion took the form of a red Ford Mustang convertible. I smiled at my daughter and threw an imaginary lasso around it. Eight hours later, I drove it off the lot.

Aside from loving the way this car looks and how it handles, I have to say that I appreciate the little things the most. It's nice to have a car where the heater works, the radio gets more than two stations, the windshield wipers don't flake out and I don't have to constantly replace fluids. I've never been a "car" person, but owning this baby for a few days has gone a long way towards changing that. I'm already looking at a number of after-market improvements to make on it once it starts getting warmer out.

Meanwhile, I drive around, resisting the urge to put the top down in this 40 degree weather and wondering what that feeling is that I feel throughout my chest while I do so. After so many years of shame that came from driving an abject pos, this new feeling was unfamiliar. It's pride. And I think I deserve to have a little of it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cheap And Tacky Apartments

I snapped this ad near Wrigley Field in Chicago on a recent visit. It's creative advertising, for sure and perhaps the intention is to raise customer satisfaction by lowering expectations.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Heading For That Big Garage In The Sky

My car is currently sitting in a large puddle of its own oil and coolant on my driveway. That magnificent purple whelping dragon of a car got me home one last time before completely dying. I had just picked my daughter up from daycare and, when I put the car in gear, the engine shook so hard that it reverberated through the entire car. My daughter asked what the sound was, and I replied that it was the sound of the car being mortally wounded. As I drove away, I could see a trail of oil behind us in my rear-view mirror. I knew this was the end.

About this time two years ago, my car started to act like an old woman afflicted with severe health problems. It started burning oil and hesitating when shifting into the higher gears. I had it looked at and was told that I would be lucky for it to last another six months. It lasted another 18 months past that mechanic's prediction. It wasn't an easy two years, though. The car had a number of minor issues creep up. The driver's side windshield wiper seldom worked despite numerous mechanics looking at it. The driver's side seat belt sensor would intermittently go out, causing the seat belt light to blink on the dash. The RPM indicator would spontaneously cut out at highway speeds and would go into seizures once I killed the ignition.

Late last week, I noticed that the car was leaking coolant like a sieve,oil was leaking into the coolant reservoir and the whole mixture was leaking through the pressure cap. I had been prepared for this. I knew that it was indicative of either a blown head gasket or a cracked block. I did my best to keep the car running. I elected to keep my car trips to a minimum and filled the engine with coolant and oil before running it across town. It didn't do much good and it kept running hotter with each trip. When it finally gave out, it was still able to limp me home before giving out.

Had I been given a choice, a Saturn SL-1 wasn't something I would have bought for myself. I ended up saddled with it after my divorce while my ex got the "cool" car. Still, my Saturn was a good car and gave me ten years of dedicated service. I'm not usually one to personify inanimate objects, but if my Saturn had been a woman, I imagine that she would have been very much like the kindly old nanny who helped look after me when I was a child. Although she was obstinate and difficult to deal with, she always stuck by me, took care of me, and made sure I got home alright.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Muppets: A Review

One of my earliest memories is being at the home of my great-grandparents with my father and my siblings, drinking 7-Up from a glass bottle while watching The Muppet Show on their TV. I remember wondering why Kermit had moved from Sesame Street to The Muppet Show, but was pleased nonetheless with all of the zany comedy and musical numbers. Over the years, Kermit became a sort-of personal hero of mine. He's the long suffering, easily frustrated everyman. He's the underdog who may not always succeed in the end, but ends up better for having tried.

My daughter has grown up having to endure my Kermit impressions which usually involve goofy voice sketches or the spontaneous singing of "Rainbow Connection". Over the Thanksgiving break, we watched the first two seasons of The Muppet Show on DVD and kiddo seemed to enjoy it despite her initial confusion about the variety show format and Miss Piggy looking weird. It was enough to get her excited about the new movie and we were finally able to see it last weekend.

Now that Disney owns The Muppets, I was leery about the movie but still faced it with a cautious optimism. The movie is a metaphor for the state of The Muppet franchise itself: people have forgotten about them and a comeback would seem unlikely. Thankfully, the film is a love letter to the childhood of every Muppet fan out there, old and young alike and is also catchy enough to reel in new fans. Jason Segal's labor of love had me on the edge of tears several times. And, while the film has a few misfires and some pacing issues, it's still classic Muppets with catchy songs and goofy, self-referential humor. If I were to point out any negatives, it's that The Muppets spends a little too much time on the human protagonists and that Miss Piggy is so over-the-top that she seems like a parody of herself. The best part for me had to be the Kermit/Piggy duet of Rainbow Connection. My daughter looked over to me and exclaimed "That's a REAL song? I thought you were making it up for the joke!" (I always said that Rainbow Connection ticked me off because there really aren't that many songs about rainbows as Kermit claimed).

In short, The Muppets is a great movie for both old and new fans alike. What are you waiting for? Go out and see it. NOW.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I Didn't Even Catch Their Name

Whoever these people were, they were certainly persistent. They called a number of times during the hour looking for Mitchua Khan. I was busy the first time they called, and asked them to call back in a few days. Instead, they called back 15 minutes later. I didn't have time to deal with them, so I told them Mitchua was suffering from an acute glueteal cleft injury. They still called back. I finally had a few minutes to record the call. Have a listen.

Friday, December 2, 2011

At Least They're Honest

Telemarketers have been hitting the phones at work hard lately. My own office phone, which is usually silent, has received about a dozen calls over the last two weeks from various telemarketing firms. Usually, on the caller ID, the number comes up along with the city they are calling from. At worst, they come up as "BLOCKED".

A friend of mine had the call below waiting form him when he returned from the Thanksgiving holiday. Pay particular attention to the Caller ID name.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New Adventures In Facial Hair

The production of Miracle On 34th Street that I am in is supposed to have the air of a late-40's radio drama. As the narrator, I'm playing a fairly typical radio professional from the era so, I decided to look the part as much as possible. I normally sport a goatee, but, as goatees were the exclusive property of the Jazz set back in the late 40's, I thought that perhaps I should sacrifice my goatee for the sake of the play and go with something more classic. I downed a little Irish courage and went with a Clark Gable style mustache (from Hucksters, not Gone With The Wind), shaving off my chin hair and carving out a bald patch on my philtrum (that's the name of the divot under the nose).

The problem with sporting this new mustache is that I have to wear it for about a week. Was I popular enough at work to get away with wearing a different mustache style? Was I popular enough that anyone would actually notice? Yes, people noticed. Some had a good laugh. Most did a double-take upon seeing me that first morning. The worst that seems to have occurred aside from some muffled snickering behind my back is that a few people in the building have taken to calling me "Clark McGable" and telling me that they frankly don't give a damn when I tell them that I need to take down their virtual servers for maintenance.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Jeep Forums

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of 4Wheel Drive Hardware. All opinions are 100% mine.

That old beast that I call a car is on its last legs. I figure that it has about one more winter in it before I have to send it off to the retirement home. I have been thinking about buying a Jeep and, in doing my research on various models, I stumbled across a great Jeep forum. This thriving community provided me with a lot of information on Jeeps. I spent a lot of time in the Jeep Cherokee forum before deciding that the Jeep Wrangler forum would be my home for Jeep information and Jeep community interaction.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fun With Marvel Masks At Wal-Mart

During a recent trip to Wal-Mart, I discovered a number of Marvel masks and accessories in their toy section including Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine and Thor. I simply had to them all on myself.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

TommyMac Is Back On The Air....Sort Of...

With "Twelfth Night" behind me, I was content to exorcize Orisino's lines from my mind through weeks of directed memory loss via focused beer consumption. I had done what I had set out to do and had little desire to return to the stage any time soon. My daughter, however, had other plans. She had been given a walk-on role in "Twelfth Night" and had developed a taste for acting. She had her ambitions set on obtaining a speaking role in the next available production.

Our local theater is producing a mock-radio staged reading of Valentine Davies’ “Miracle on 34th Street”. My daughter expressed her desire to get a small speaking role in it, so I conceded and brought her out to the auditions. Given my extensive radio experience, I was cast as the Narrator and will also be providing the voice of the Postman. There's no memorization involved because the cast will be reading the script as if we're in a 40's era radio studio reading the drama in front of a studio audience. My daughter has a line in one of the radio advertisements that were written for the show. We will all be dressed in period appropriate attire. I may even shave the goatee for this one.

We had the first read-through the other night and it felt pretty good to get back into radio mode after all these years, even if it's just for a faux-radio drama. It's also nice to be working with some of the actors who were also in "Twelfth Night" with me. Along with those few familiar faces, there are a bunch of new people to work with and I find the majority of them to be very talented. Kiddo is happy with her part, which is all that matters.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sweet White Castle Jesus!

I don't know who came up with the idea of making stuffing out of White Castle hamburgers, but, whoever it was, I wish I could shake their hand. After finding this little treat in the local paper, I asked a few friends if they had ever heard of it. Apparently, the concept of using White Castle sliders for stuffing has been around for at least 10 years.

Seeing as I don't live anywhere near a White Castle, the chances of me having some local chef take pity on me this Thanksgiving and making me some of this ambrosia are slim. That is, unless one opts for using the store-bought versions of the famous White Castle sliders. I'm sure fresh ones are preferred.

However one chooses to make White Castle stuffing, I have no doubt that three certainties will arise from my eating this tasty Thanksgiving Day treat:

  1. It will taste delicious
  2. My bowels will terrorize me for 24 hours after eating it. 
  3. It will all be worth it!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Some Backstage Shenanegans During Twelfth Night

Just before opening night of our local production of Twelfth Night, I decided to use my new Droid Bionic to take some video of the goings on backstage. Watching this, I think you really get a sense for how close the cast is and how excited we all were to be in the show.

Friday, November 18, 2011

LG DoublePlay

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

Are you in the market for a new cell phone? Are you looking for something that will take your text messaging and social networking to the next level? Why not have a look at the LG DoublePlay™ , the ultimate social networking and multi-tasking handset. The LG DoublePlay, exclusively availavle at T-Mobile, features a split QWERTY keyboard along with dual capacitive touch screens This makes simultaneous mobile activities easier than ever!

The LG DoublePlay comes loaded with Android™ 2.3 (Gingerbread) which gives you access to Android Market™ and delivers complete user customization with seven home screens and up to nine touchscreen shortcuts for one-touch navigation. There are also multiple messaging options, including Cloud Text™ and Group Text™, giving you the ability to send and receive txts from a PC or tablet or create group chats on-the-go for faster, more efficient content sharing. Imagine how fast you can text and surf with features like that!

Personally, I spend hundreds of hours a month using Social Networking from my own phone and send thousands of txt messages. The LG DoublePlay would make it easier for me to accomplish these activities by saving me time and providing a convenient interface for me to accomplish all of my wireless phone activities.

But, don't just take my word for it. Check out the LG DoublePlay for yourself. And while your'e at it, why not let me know via comments how many hours you spend txting and using social networking on your phone. How would the LG DoublePlay change the way you txt and interact with social networks?

Visit Sponsor's Site

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Just In Time For Christmas: For The Person Who Has Everything

My yard had been sorely lacking in Christmas decor until I happened upon this product. Instantly, upon seeing this festive pig, I thought of bacon and I knew that I had to have it. This little beauty can be found at Big Lots and many other fine retailers across the country. If waddling over to your nearest Big Lots store is a bit too much for you, you can also find one online at if they aren't out of stock yet.

Who in the world (besides those of you who keep it kosher) doesn't love bacon? And nothing says "Merry Christmas" like bacon dressed as the beloved Kris Kringle himself. Thanks to having this glowing mass of delicious pre-processed pork out on my lawn, my life has improved immensely. I have made more friends than I had ever thought possible because people come from miles around to stare in wonderment at this 30in 150L lighted beauty and talk to me about Santa Claus, baby Jesus and pulled pork sandwiches. The only problem with this pig is that it's not far as I have yet discovered. Oh, Lighted Acrylic Pig In Santa Coat and Hat, thank you so much for making my life worth living. And, of course, Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hanging Up Orsino's Boots

Monday night saw me take my final turn as Duke Orsino in our community production of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

I took the stage on opening night feeling the giddy thrill of excitement as I walked on stage to see a packed house. The audience wasn't very responsive and didn't laugh at many of the jokes in the play. Still, it felt good to go out there and perform. As I took the curtain call with my cast mates, I felt like I had just finished running a marathon. I was both exhilarated and exhausted.

Saturday night's audience proved to be just as large as Friday's, but much more responsive. They even laughed at the few instances of self-deprecating humor that Orsino displays. There were also a number of laughs at the subtle nods to Viola's love for Orsino. The best part, however, was taking the stage and seeing so many of my friends in the audience. Jason was among them and had a good laugh at my costume, which threw my performance off a bit at first.  

We did two shows on Sunday, each to half-full houses. In between, we had a cast party where everyone expressed their sadness that the show was ending. Sunday's evening performance involved was noteworthy due to the involvement of a bat who flew around the lights during Act II Scene 5. It was apparently seen by the veterans of the cast as an omen of good luck. I saw it as an omen of poor ventilation.

Monday night's closing show was probably the most epic among all of them. We played to yet another full house and many little bits of improvised comedy were interspersed among the jokes in the script. The best part had to be during the last scene when the actress who played Viola/Caesario realized that she had put too much adhesive remover on her mustache and it began to fall off when she entered. She spent the whole scene up until the big reveal trying to keep her mustache on as the audience howled with laughter. The rest of the cast began to replace certain words in their speeches with the word "mustache". The whole thing was recorded on video.

In the end, I'm really quite pleased with how everything turned out. The whole experience has been a lot of fun. I moved myself out of my own comfort zone, made a lot of new friends and realized that I'm capable of so much more than I thought. Although, I am a bit sad now because I find that I miss my cast mates terribly. We all grew so close during the production. But, it's not all bad. I suspect that, should I be so inclined to join another production, I'll see the majority of them again soon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

U.S. News University Connections Called Me

Some University referral service called U.S. News University Connections called looking for Diksmash Mikironkok recently. I was fairly certain that they had no connection to U.S. News and World Report magazine, but played on the assumption that that did. Diksmash's first reaction was to ask if he was going to be interviewed for the magazine. Some other highlights from the call include:

  • Diksmash detailing the time he posed for PlayGirl magazine. 
  • Diksmash telling about how he makes websites about cross-species animal porn
  • Calling DeVry University the "Pizza Hut of Universities". 
  • Diksmash has 99 problems and a bitch is not one. 
  • I spent the last two minutes of the call trying to get the rep to say Diksmash's full name which she eventually did under vociferous protestations.

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's Time To Light The Lights

It's opening night. In less than twelve hours, I will take the stage as Duke Orsino in "Twelfth Night". I've been working really hard to fine tune my role, concentrating mainly on the relationship between Orsino and Caesario. There's a nice piece that we added during the singing of "Come Away, Come Away, Death" where the actress who plays Viola/Caesario places her hand on my shoulder and nervously withdraws it when I look at her. We also added a longing look at each other after the "Was not this love indeed?" speech in Act II.

The rest of the cast has been tweaking various comic aspects of the show as the preview audience we had last Sunday proved to be a difficult crowd. We did get a great review in the local paper. Many of the actors were singled out for their performances. As for my own performance, the reviewer said "This is Thomas' first time on stage and was a swaggering, sure-of-himself Orsino". If I needed a shot of confidence, that line would do the trick, but I find that as the hour approaches, I'm not nervous, I'm not worried and I'm not the least bit scared even though we'll be opening to a sold-out crowd. I'm confident. I can do this. Raise the curtain. Light the lights.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Toasted The Happy Couple

I don't like going to weddings. Having seen my own marriage fall apart like a house of cards against an industrial fan, I had long since decided that my mere presence might jinx any would-be couple should I decide to stride into their ceremony. When my former step-daughter rang early Saturday morning begging me to come see her serve as a bridesmaid in the wedding of a family friend that evening, the best I could come up with was "I don't wanna". It wasn't an excuse that she was inclined to accept. So, the next thing I know, I'm slinging on my favorite blue tie.

It was a small affair, one organized without a best man or a maid-of-honor. Knowing both the bride and groom, the honor fell to me to give the big toast to the new couple. I had only a few moments to organize my thoughts, but I think what I came up with hit the right chords. Here's the paraphrase.

"I've been given the honor of being the first to say a few words to toast this new couple. I'm sure I speak for all of us in attendance tonight when I say that we all feel so blessed to share this special day with them and be in the company of friends and family. And, while it was a beautiful wedding, we must remember that a wedding and a marriage are two different things. A wedding is a sacred ceremony. A marriage is the eternal bond between two people. The wedding takes place at the planned time and place, while the marriage happens somewhere between 'will you marry me' and 'I do'. Yes, somewhere amid all the stress of planning the wedding, the couple decides that they really do want to be together forever. That's a marriage."

I then turned to the bride and said "I love you like family. You're a good person, a great mom and a beautiful woman and I'm so happy for you". I turned to the groom and said "You're a good dad, a great man and a good friend. And it's because you're a good friend that I'm going to give you this option: I've got a full tank of gas and a case of beer. Say the word and we can be in Vegas by tomorrow morning. But, I know you're not going to do that because the two of you are so in love. And that truly is a pleasure to see."

With that, I asked everyone to stand up and raise their glasses to the happy couple. Perhaps a wedding toast from me doesn't mean too much considering my thoughts on the institution itself and my own failures within it. But, my heart was in the right place and the words rang true. I don't think that anyone of a more firm belief could have done much better.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Droid Bionic Review

Nearly two years after the launch of the original Motorola Droid phone, I purchased the Droid Bionic. It's the first dual core Android handset to use Verizon's 4G LTE network. It was originally scheduled for release in Q2 2011 but was delayed until September 2011 which bumps it up against the Droid Razr. Still, it's a decent phone for the money. Check out the video below for my complete review.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Getting My Duke On!

After several dozen informal run-throughs, I finally have all of my lines memorized for my role as Duke Orsino in "Twelfth Night".  The final act is coming together nicely despite the complex blocking involved. All that is left for me to do is fine-tune my performance which has led me to watch a few adaptations of "Twelfth Night". Each actor brings a little something different to their Duke Orsino. Here's a list of actors who have portrayed him and what I thought of their performances:

Gary Raymond (1969) - He's got great energy, but not a lot of range in this role. He certainly pulls off the "in love with being in love" aspect of Orsino's character very well, but I would have liked to have seen some melancholy in certain moments.

Clive Arrindell (1980)  - I like how regal he sounds. He has a great presence about him that suits how Orsino should be presenting himself, but I'm not feeling a lot of emotion behind his performance.

Christopher Ravenscroft (1988) -  I like his intensity, but his interpretation of Duke Orsino is completely emo. You get the feeling that Orsino is clinically depressed doesn't want to be in love because moments of happiness actually cause him pain. He's a great actor, but his Duke Orsino made me want to write a rambling, maudlin note and hang myself.

Channing Tatum (2006) - I didn't need to sit through the entire run of "She's The Man" to realize that Channing Tatum has no acting ability. For the life of me, I don't know why I wasted 105 minutes on this.

Nick Martorelli (2010) - He was part of a cast that did Twelfth Night for the Curio Theatre. I love his approach to Orsino as it is very well balanced between regal, melodramatic and melancholy. I particularly like how he handles the friendship between "Caesario" and Orsino. This was, by far, my favorite performance out of those that I have seen.

James Sutton (2011) - He did a great modern adaptation of Act 1 Scene 1, but much of his interpretation doesn't apply to what I'm doing. I do like how he reacted to the music playing around him. It's something that many of the other actors I have listed seemed to ignore.

Of course, when acting a well known part, one should always try to avoid completely copying someone else's interpretation. I'm going to put my own spin on Duke Orsino and bring a little TommyMac to his soul. But, that's not to say that I won't carry a few influences from past performances with me.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pharaoh , Let My Candy Go!

The great Pharaoh Gottagutt with one of His loyal subjects
My daughter and I usually try to match when we go out for Halloween. One year, she went as a ghost and I went as a Ghostbuster. Two years back, she was the Statue of Liberty and I was Uncle Sam. I didn't get a chance to dress up last year, so I really wanted to come up with something cool this year. I was to understand that my daughter would be Cleopatra and I would be a Pharaoh. Well, somehow the wires got crossed and kiddo ended up choosing  a surgeon outfit after I had already bought my Pharaoh costume. It was suggested that I should outfit myself as one of her patients, but, I didn't have much time to go out and get another costume. We'd have to deal with not matching this year.

Kiddo obviously had a great time pulling in piles of candy even though many people assumed she was a nurse rather than a surgeon. Every time she was asked if she was a nurse, she replied "No, I'm a surgeon. I worked really hard to get my M.D." which usually resulted in an extra handful of candy. For the most part, I just watched. Although, I did encounter many people who complimented me on my costume. Some even asked to have their picture taken with me. At some point, I started to insist that any picture takes allow me to take a pic with my camera as well.

So, yet another Halloween has come and gone and the kiddo and I are left with some great memories and a gigantic bag of candy that will easily last us until Christmas.

Monday, October 31, 2011

FX Sneak Peek: Untitled Jersey City Project

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Untitled Jersey City Project for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine. (1 page)

There has been a lot of buzz about the upcoming Untitled Jersey City Project on FX. I've watched the Sneak Peak video and have done a fair amount of research into the show, and I can tell you that this is the direction that television drama should be going in. Aren't you tired of  black-and-white characters following linear plots where the good guys chase after the bad guys and everything is resolved neatly in 47 minutes? If you're up for something that's both compelling and different, then check out Untitled Jersey City Project. One of the things that makes it so unique is that it's a work-in-progress television drama with out-of-sequence scenes, dimly defined characters and unresolved plot developments. This leave a lot of room for your imagination to fill in the gaps. Does your mind have what it takes?

Even though I personally love the concept, I know that the mere concept itself isn't for everyone. If that's the case, you'll still want to check the show out for its acting and overall storyline which are much better than most of what is out there in TV land today. Check out the Sneak Peak video below and let me know what you think. Is FX on to something? Do you like the concept? What about the actors and the storyline? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. 

Visit Sponsor's Site

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Farewell To Design

I began packing much of my personal possessions into totes this morning. I pulled down the pictures of my daughter and a number shots of friends and packed them neatly into a folder. I flicked the switch on the coffee maker for one last pot of Margaritaville: Sunrise in Paradise coffee. I'm just moving to an office down the hall, so it shouldn't seem like such a big deal. But it IS a big deal. I've taken a completely different position at work and will be leaving my old web duties behind once I launch my last design this week.

I remember my first job out of college. I was working as a C++ programmer for an insurance company. I made fast friends with a programmer who had been there for years pounding out Windows code for calculating potential reinsurance losses based upon hypothetical scenarios. He often told me between cups of coffee and puffs on his cigarette that insurance coding had made his bones and that he'd go out mid-compile. And he did. One weekend he died of a massive heart attack while tweaking some functions. The task fell to me to finish his work and while I slogged through his meticulously documented code, I swore to myself that I wouldn't let myself stagnate like that. I would always seek out new challenges when they presented themselves.

As I start moving myself into my new, much more spacious office, I tell myself that this is exactly what I am doing in leaving behind my design/programming duties. I'm taking on a new challenge and I know I can handle it. Just before I logged off my computer an e-mail came in requesting changes to the new departmental website design before official launch. Most of the proposed changes are, in my opinion, completely pointless and aren't significant enough concerns to hold up the launch. I briefly thought about simply giving in to the requests rather than waste my time listing the reasons why those changes shouldn't be implemented. But, then, a sly smile crept across my face and I took my place in front of the terminal. I had one last email to send :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Payday The Heist Review

While sitting at our favorite pub last week, Jason's phone beeped loudly indicating that he had gotten a txt message from one of our gaming buddies. Jason looked at it and called the bartender to cash out his tab.

"We have to go", he said as he chugged down his last bit of Old Grandad and Coke. "We're supposed to be playing Payday: The Heist".

I was supposed to download it earlier that day but apparently hadn't gotten the memo. So, I did what any loyal gaming friend would do: I went home and downloaded the game from the PlayStation Store. The full game is $20 and, I'm sorry to say that, in its current state, it's not worth the money.

The maps themselves are very well designed. The AI, however, sucks hard. Payday The Heist gets around its retarded AI by just having enemies enter at multiple points and there's no way you and your team can watch every entry point, so the AI doesn't have to worry about stealth. Enemies just want to rush you which is fun because you can run them over to a choke point in the map and mow them down. It gets old, though, as the enemies seem to have only two switches: "Rush" and "Stay Put".

The real problem is the game matching system for playing with teammates online. It's complete, total and utter crap. It glitches out 75% of the time. You can play in single player mode with AI teammates, but you should know that AI teammates will never do anything to fulfill objectives. They are good shooters and can be depended upon to heal you if you are injured. You can also call them to come to your position or have them follow you.

Payday The Heist has the potential to be a very good game and when I am able to play online, it's a lot of fun. Is it worth $20? No, not in its current condition. It's best to wait for a patch or for a sale before you buy it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Joined The Cast Of Twelfth Night

It started with a conversation with a lady friend of mine who is very into community theater. She remarked that I'm "on" all the time and that, if forced to play it serious for more than a few minutes, I would give in to my comedic urges and end up making some small gesture designed to garner a few laughs. I began to enumerate examples of times where I stayed completely serious such as I had to admit that life didn't often force me into situations that required a complete lack of humor. I expressed confidence, however, that I would be able to "rope it in" for any situation that required it.

Next thing I know, I'm being told to put up or shut up and I've joined the cast of a local production of William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" in the role of Duke Orsino. Twelfth Night is a comedy that centers on mistaken identity. Viola is shipwrecked on the shores of Illyria and loses contact with her twin brother, Sebastian, whom she believes to be dead. She disguises herself as a page boy named Cesario and comes to serve in the court of Duke Orsino who is in love with a local noblewoman named Olivia. Olivia falls in love with Cesario, not realizing that Cesario is really Viola. When Sebastian turns up in Illyria very much alive, the play begins to resemble an old episode of "Three's Company". If you've seen the movie "She's The Man" starring Amanda Bynes, then you'll get the gist of "Twelfth Night".

My acting ability has never been in question. I've created enough radio and youtube goodness to have developed at least a modicum of talent. What's really getting me is context and direction. Since this is Shakespeare, I often don't know exactly what I'm saying or who I'm saying it to. I also find it difficult to understand where I'm supposed to be standing and with which hand I'm supposed to be gesturing. Thankfully, I'm working with a great director and an experienced cast, so I've been getting a lot of good pointers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Assassin Bug

I caught an assassin bug early last week. These bugs are nasty little creatures. I've often been told that their bite hurts much worse than a wasp or a hornet’s sting. What's worse is that the pain may last for several days. The assassin bug is from the Reduviidae family, which is a family of 7000 species of predatory insects.

The way these bugs feed is like something out of a horror film. They use the long rostrum to inject a lethal saliva into their prey that liquefies their insides. The saliva is quite effective at killing substantially larger prey than the bug itself. Common prey includes ants, cockroaches and bedbugs. For this reason, assassin bugs are often used for pest control.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Exchange Motivational Slogans With Full Sail University

I got a call from Full Sail University looking for Mitcua Khan. The recruiter was in very good spirits and seemed to take Mr. Khan's jokes in good spirit. When she transferred me to the Full Sail University admissions rep, I dropped the accent and ended up exchanging motivational phrases with the guy. He sounded like an out-of-work Successories salesman.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hot Nuts

Here's another snippet of clever snack food titling that practically markets itself. Hampton Farms Cajun Creole Hot Nuts are sure to attract attention when they're sitting on the store shelf. They do seem like a fairly low-key company so, getting a television commercial is probably out of the question. However, if they did manage some kind of ad campaign, those ads could be amazing.

"Are you looking for something spicy to put in your mouth? Then try wrapping your lips around some hot nuts. We here at Hampton Farms smother our nuts in cajun creole spices which are so delicious that you'll be begging for more!"

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Irish Wedding Crashers

I was helping a friend of mine with a video project recently which took us to Bloomington, IL. We decided to do some shooting at Ewing Manor which is the estate of the late Hazle Buck Ewing. It boasts a historic looking mansion surrounded by beautiful gardens. Weddings are often held there and it just so happened that we stumbled into one while filming in the garden. I decided to have a little fun with one of the ushers.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Marilyn Monroe Statue In Chicago

I spent last weekend tooling around Chicago's Loop pretending to be a tourist. I decided to walk from La Salle Street Station to Navy Pier. On the way, I happened upon the Marilyn Monroe  statue. The 26-foot sculpture is currently standing in Pioneer Court at 400 North Michigan. The statue was created by New Jersey-based artist Seward Johnson who is known for placing gigantic representations of pop-art icons in public spaces. Many Chicagoans will remember Johnson's "American Gothic" sculpture which represented the iconic farmers standing as if they they were waiting for a cab to get back to the farm.

The Marilyn Monroe statue was pretty controversial when it first went up back in July. The Zeller Realty Group, who administer the artistic installations at Pioneer Court, are well known for seeking out art that sparks conversation. At this point, a number of months after the statue's initial installation, it seems that Chicago's public is used to seeing Marilyn Monroe at Pioneer Court. At the very least, love it or hate it, the statue is a public draw and it has people talking.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Playing Fast-Pitch With The Universe

I was never much of a baseball player when I was a kid. I was always decent at it, but I only really joined little league to placate my father. I would never have been considered a terrible player until my last year in the league. I was ten years old and had started the season in a slump, often hitting the ball right to the first baseman. This subjected me to terrible ridicule from my team-mates and it sapped my confidence not only in my batting ability, but in all other areas of play.

I spent the rest of the season living in fear of pop-flies in the outfield and worrying about swinging and missing. Whenever I came up to bat, I would just stand there. I was fairly short, so my strike-zone was small, which made it difficult for pitchers to throw inside it. I got walked a lot and my teammates couldn't really complain about it as long as I was getting on base.

By the time the last game of the season had come around, I had developed a reputation for never taking a swing. Watching the entire outfield walk in and position themselves on the edge of the infield did something to set me off. I was tired of leaving my the decisions of my own fate up to random chance. I was tired of being the Universe's bitch. I was going to take an active role in determining my own destiny. For better or worse, I was going to take a swing. If I went down, at least I went down swinging.

But, I didn't strike out. I actually connected with the ball and knocked it over the center fielder's head. I rounded first, blatantly ignoring the first-base coach's orders to stick there. I blew through second and was prepared to round third when the third-base coach physically restrained me from running home. The happiness I felt when I heard the excited cheers from my team-mates nearly made my heart explode with pride. And it seemed that a shot of confidence was I needed to get my mojo back because, during the rest of the game, I hit the ball and got on base at each at-bat and even caught a pop-fly in the outfield. I earned the game ball that day, but, even if I didn't, even if I had struck out each time and dropped the ball in the field, I would have been happy that I had finally grown a pair of balls and given it a shot. The risk was minimal because it was the last game of the season. But the payoff was huge.

The lesson here is that you need to take an active part in shaping your own destiny. Allowing the Universe to unfold as it wants to isn't going to get you very far. So, call your corner. Take your shot. And swing for the fences.

Monday, October 3, 2011

College Now Calls Me

These folks from College Now called me recently looking to send some information along to Clovis. College Now obviously uses an overseas call center and the rep that I got sounded like he was reading right from the script. In the middle of the call, I shifted out of the Clovis voice and told the rep that I was a quality control manager for College Now and that I was very disappointed with his performance. Neither he, nor his supervisor had the requisite English speaking skills to understand me.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Former Student Gets One Last Lesson

I was testing to qualify for a new position at work recently. A fair amount of people had to do the same thing, so the human resources office threw the lot of us in a room so that they could get the whole process over with for all of us quickly. I sat down near a gangly young man who had a weird smile plastered on his face.

"I bet you're going to ace this test", he said.

"Probably", I replied.

"Are you a ringer or something?" he asked half-serious.

"Excuse me?"

"You don't remember me, do you?", the young man asked seemingly dejected.

"Nope. Sorry. Should I?"

"You taught my networking class a few years back"

I still didn't recognize this kid and I wasn't in the mood to rehash ancient history with him, so I cut him off in the first way I could think of.

"That wasn't me,", I said. "You're thinking of my twin brother, Thomas. He's the teacher."

"He never told us he had a twin", my former student exclaimed.

"That's because he hates me. We're just so different. He's all goofy and in-your-face. I can't stand it".

"Yeah, he is a little much to handle", my former student said. "He's just always 'on', you know? Always joking. I was always wishing he'd rope it in"

Before I could retort, a fellow co-worker of mine who was also taking the test yelled "Hey, Thomas! You gonna ace this test?" across the room.

With that, my former student hung his head in shame. I smiled to myself, for I had taught a much-needed lesson to a former student.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Calzone Has Become Self-Aware

I had a weird dream last night. I dreamt that I bought the pizza place that I worked at back when I was a teenager and decided to use my prowess with computers to streamline production. My subsequent research into procuring the perfect ingredients and optimizing cooking time promised to produce the most delicious calzone that Chicago had ever seen. But, something went horribly wrong. The calzone had become self-aware.

I'm not sure when I first suspected that my calzone had achieved sentience. It may have been when it began to move using its edges like pseudopodia. It may have been when it began to push grease bubbles out of its air slits in prime-number sequences. It may have been when it began playing the stock market using funds from my own trading account. But, when the calzone commanded the pepperoni slices to march in lock-step out of the walk-in fridge, I pretty much knew.

Soon, the restaurant was overrun with ingredients primed to start a revolution. The green olives began chanting "First the restaurant, then THE WORLD" in unison with the black olives. The sausage campaigned for re-unification with its mother cows. The sardines sought to arm themselves. All the while, the calzone pontificated above them. These ingredients were nothing more than pawns in the calzone's greater plan. It was planning on making more calzones like itself.

I could no longer stand to witness the calzone fomenting insurrection. I burst into action with a shovel and began smashing ingredients wherever I could find them. Running past the oven, I turned its temperature up to 800 degrees, ensuring that the proto-calzones in there would burn to death before emerging. Soon, it was just me and the calzone. It dared me to engage it in hand-to-hand combat. It fought valiantly and even came close to defeating me. But, that was before I sank my teeth into it like Mike Tyson biting into an unprotected ear-lobe. A delicious combination of cheese, sauce and meaty goodness flowed from the calzone's gaping wound. And, with that, I simply ate the calzone to death and enjoyed every succulent bite.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fallout New Vegas Lonesome Road Review

I spent a good chunk of this past weekend working through the last downloadable content pack for Fallout: New Vegas. Lonesome Road brings your character's story full circle as you are brought into a conflict with Ulysses, the original "courier six". In order to lure the player into meeting with him, Ulysses promises to answer why he had refused to deliver the platinum chip. In order to get this answer, you have to traverse the Divide and come face-to-face with Ulysses himself.

Lonesome Road reminds me a lot of the Uncharted franchise in that it feels so linear. There are no towns to hang around in, no side quests or even any NPCs aside from the generic "marked men" enemies that attack the player throughout the game. This sort of gameplay goes against the nature of Fallout, but Lonesome Road makes up for this dissonance by providing some truly challenging gameplay. Lonesome Road is hard, but not annoyingly hard like Dead Money.

So, is Lonesome Road worth your valuable time and money? I don't know. It's heavy on backstory and is easily the glitchiest Fallout DLC I have ever downloaded. These glitches are inexcusable, especially in light of the fact that Bethesda delayed Lonesome Road. You do, however, get some great perks, some cool upgrades to ED-E and access to commissary computers that never run out of caps.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Google Plus Is Still A Big Minus

For the past month, MikeMac had been asking me to send him an invitation to Google Plus. It took me a while to get around to it, because, quite frankly, I'm not all that impressed with Google Plus. It isn't so much that I have a problem with features or lacktherof (still no event function on Google Plus. WTF?). The fundamental issue is that there's nobody there. And, now that it's fully open to the public, I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Now that the buzz over Google Plus has died down, it's even more of a ghost town. This isn't like the mass migration from Myspace to Facebook. Myspace started out as a place for people who didn't have personal web pages. Myspace became far too bloated and ugly right at the time when the less tech-savvy people of the world began to discover social networking. Those people, of course, went to Facebook.

For me to commit myself fully to Google Plus and completely abandon Facebook, I would have to lose touch with the vast majority of my old high school and college friends, a number of workmates and a few of my family. So, unless there is some kind of killer feature that will entice huge numbers of Facebook's user base to make the switch, making a commitment is not an option for me.

There's some logic in arguing that Google is committed to building an audience slowly. It's like they've built an entirely new city rather than just one apartment complex. In order to fill the city, they need to do it one block at a time.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Check Out Net 10

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Net10 for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

The price of cell phone calling packages are out of control these days. What's worse is that most companies will do everything they can to bind you to a long-term contract. Thanks to Net10 and their Unlimited deal, people are starting to See the Light.

Whether you're looking for pre-paid cell phone plans for personal or business purposes, Net10 Unlimited is a great deal. There are no contracts to worry about and there are no surprise bills or redit checks. With Net10 you get great nationwide coverage with excellent reception/connectivity. And you don't need to worry about getting bound to some second-rate cell phone because Net10 only uses trusted phone manufacturers like LG, Motorola, Kyocera, Nokia and Samsung.

One of the best parts about Net10 plans is that you can switch between them from month to month. Are you going to do a lot of communicating this month? Activate the Net10 Unlimited plan with text and web for $50. Are you on a tight budget this month? Go with the Easy Minutes plan and get 200 minutes for $15. There's no penalty for switching  between plans.This is a great feature for people or businesses who have changing communication needs.

You don't have to just take my word for it. Do some investigating yourself and check out this Cute NET10 commercial. Don't forget to check out their facebook page and follow them on Twitter, Or hear what a Real NET10 customer has to say. Make sure you listen to  What Rob has to say,

Visit Sponsor's Site

Look Into NMEDA

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

I saw my neighbor struggling to get his wheelchair bound wife out of his van the other day. My neighborhood is populated mainly by elderly couples and, as such, a sight like this is common. My poor neighbor had actually fallen out of a faulty wheelchair lift attached to the van. It has to be difficult to be a caregiver to the elderly, and with so many vehicle modifications for the disabled available on the Internet and through catalogs, it's hard to know which products you can trust. This is why an NMEDA qualified dealer may be able to help the elderly or disabled get back onto the road of independence by conducting an in-person evaluation to make sure you are getting the right customization solution for your needs.

NMEDA doesn't sell anything. NMEDA is a non-profit association that promotes safe driving and equipment for the disabled such as handicap vans and vehicle modifications. NMEDA dealers must adhere to the safety standards put forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

NMEDA has quality assurance program dealers. The NMEDA Quality Assurance Program (QAP) is the only nationally recognized accreditation program for the Adaptive Mobility Equipment Industry. NMEDA believes that, in order to provide consistently excellent customer service, companies must have a systematic and documented approach to quality. Because of this, you can be sure that NMEDA endorsed products are of the highest quality.

Why not check out NMEDA for yourself? Leave me a comment and let me know where the nearest NMEDA dealer in your area is.

Visit Sponsor's Site

Lincoln College of Technology

I got a call from Lincoln College of Technology recently. It was an automated message inviting Clovis to an open house and asking for an RSVP. When I pressed the number to send my intention to attend, I was connected with a rep named Trevor. I asked him if there would be beer at this open house and informed him that I could bring some homebrew. Trevor politely hung up on me.

I couldn't let this stand. I called him back and asked him why he hung up on me. Trevor informed me that alcohol was not appropriate at college functions. I laughed at him and told him that alcohol and college went hand-in-hand. He hung up on me again.

A number of days later, Lincoln College of Technology called me again and this particular rep seemed to really enjoy Clovis' unrefined charm even though I trashed Trevor the entire time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Baconified Chocolate!

The Pig is Enjoying This Way Too Much.
I attended a local Fall festival this past weekend. I was hoping to absorb a little local culture while avoiding the impetigo and tetanus that would likely accompany it. While perusing the wares of the vendors, I snatched up some candied almonds, Amish cheese and spiced dilly beans. Those little gems were meant to be eaten later and, as such, I would need something more substantial to get me through the rest of the day. That's when my eyes settled upon a certain Greek restaurant kiosk. I was in the mood for a gyro or perhaps a chicken spinacchi. But, almost as an after-thought, the Greek kiosk was offering something decidedly un-Geek: Chocolate dipped in bacon. Two flavors that you never thought should have ever gotten together finally have and the result was sitting right before me in some small town festival. I approached the proprietor and simply had to ask: "Why am I only hearing about chocolate dipped in bacon NOW?".

Baconated chocolate is not a new concoction, I'm sorry to say. Chocolate-covered bacon appeared at the Minnesota State Fair under the name "Pig Lickers" and is sold as "Pig Candy" by a chocolate maker in New York. Chocolate covered bacon made its most public appearance on Dinner: Impossible as one of the foods served by chef Michael Symon as part of his "mission" to turn everyday boardwalk foods into a gourmet meal.

But, how does it taste? It tastes as good as you'd think it does.

The Bacon Could Have Been Crispier....

Monday, September 12, 2011

Who Is In Charge Of New Vegas?

Playing through Fallout: New Vegas over the past month has left me with the gnawing problem of choosing who to side with in the ultimate battle for control of New Vegas. There are four courses for the player to take, and I have found that none of them offer anything even close to a satisfying resolution. Here's what we're left with.

The New California Republic (NCR): They're as close to the "good guys" as you can hope to get in New Vegas, but they're corrupt, inefficient and have no strong leadership. They've focused too much on acquiring new territory and not enough on shoring up what they already control. They do have a hopeful outlook on the future of the Mojave, but the NCR's attitude towards bringing back pre-Apocalypse America is flawed in that they grip too tightly on its citizenry and harass everyone who isn't NCR. I would be inclined to side with them if I wasn't certain that they would eventually crumble from within.

Caesar's Legion: These are the obvious "bad guys". The Legion is a cadre of murderous, slaving assholes whose allegiance is more to the rule of Caesar himself rather than the ideals he portends to uphold. Their appeal is in that Caesar will establish uniform rule over the Mojave in a faster, more absolute manner than any other faction. I might side with them in the hopes that, while it would certainly take generations, reform would eventually come about in Caesar's Legion.

Mr. House: He has spent 200 years establishing New Vegas as the flower of society growing out of the garbage dump of the Mojave Wasteland. The problem is, he only cares about New Vegas itself and not the the rest of the Mojave. Leaving him in charge is the "status quo" ending and I was fairly content to go with it until he demanded that I destroy the Brotherhood of Steel rather than accept the diplomatic solution I had given him.

Yes Man: This is the idiot proof ending, the one that you can go to when you can't stand any of the other factions. It's the ending that you're stuck with if you've destroyed the other three factions. This is the ending that cannot be messed up because Yes Man will do whatever you say. Leaving Yes Man in charge leads to an independent New Vegas with the player serving as arbitrator. The validity of this option depends on the character having the vision and intelligence of House along with the compassion that he lacked and I just don't think that a simple courier is capable.

I realize that history dictates that there will never be any truly happy endings. I can accept that. However, I have to wonder if New Vegas isn't better off without my interference. Maybe I should just let them all figure it out for themselves while I chase down all the named weapons, explore all the areas and then walk off into the sunset. That does seem like the best option.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have three more Sunset Sarsaparilla Star Bottle-caps to find before I can claim the legendary prize. They're out there somewhere.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Free IMVU Credits Feast

I found out recently about IMVU which is a social network where members use 3D avatars to meet new people, chat And play games with friends. There are already over 50 million registered users, 10 million unique visitors per month and three million monthly active users. How am I only finding out about this just now? One of the attractions of IMVU is that it has the world’s largest virtual goods catalog with more than six million items, almost all of which are created by its own members.

IMVU hosts its own economy with a currency system based on imvu credits. Credits can be purchased online using actual currency either directly from IMVU or from third party resellers. But, why spend your own money when you can get free imvu credits? It's a simply and fast way to get imvu credits without spending your own money doing so. All you have to do is register for a free account, complete some of the offers and then redeem your prize.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Toilet Duck

Gene and I were having a discussion recently about our exploits at the past two Gen Con trips and the potential craziness that we might initiate at Gen Con 2012. I tried to make some kind of connection between Gen Con 2012 and the Mayan Apocalypse but eventually veered off into the idea of hosting a Gen Con rubber duckie race. Gene stopped me. He had a story to tell and he wasn't sure how I would react to it.

While attending Gen Con 2010, I had brought along with me a small rubber duckie that I had obtained in New Orleans during Microsoft Tech Ed 2010. It had won some race for me during a tech presentation and, at the time, I had considered it a good luck charm. Naturally, I brought this good luck charm along with me to Gen Con and stuck it on the sink in the hotel bathroom near my toothbrush, deodorant and shaving materials. I soon ran off to see what the Indianapolis night life had to offer me. 

Sometime between my departure from the room that night and my drunken return early the next morning, the rubber duckie got knocked into the toilet. The boys thought this was rather comical to see the duck floating around like that, so Gene took a picture, got the duck out and tossed it into the trash. When I returned to the room, quite inebriated, I insisted that I needed to have a conversation with the duck about its lack of luck bringing. Gene washed off the duck, brought it to me, and I apparently fell asleep with it in my hands. Thankfully, nobody got a picture of this.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Everest College Calls Me Again

Once again, I got a call from Everest College. The rep was looking to pass Clovis over to an adviser as soon as possible, especially since the discussion quickly moved towards the drop-out rate at Everest College. The conversation then careens into Clovis asking about the "special" perks he might get from signing up to go to school there and whether or not the admissions rep would be willing to participate in them.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I Got Pulled Over

I live in a college town, so when the students come back, I expect there to be a week's worth of interplay between them and the local authorities as the police try to establish boundaries and the students try to push the envelope. I also expect the cops to lay in wait that first weekend for students who might be speeding or driving drunk so that they can fill the city coffers with ticket revenue.

I must not have been thinking as my car rounded the square last Saturday night. I had been heading up to the local tavern to meet up with some friends and apparently, in my attempt to find a parking space on the square, I drifted into the passing lane. Red and blue rollers suddenly flashed behind me and I pulled into a parking spot and rolled down my window.

Officer Friendly was no doubt expecting to find an inebriated college student,  so his sigh upon seeing me didn't surprise me. He told me that he had pulled me over for improper lane usage and asked me for my license, registration and proof of insurance. I sat there for a few minutes expecting to get a slip of paper telling me that I had to shell out upwards of $75 to clear this gaffe up. The officer came back to my car and told me he was giving me a written warning. I thanked him and told him I'd be more careful in the future. I thought I was home free.

"I have one more thing to ask you", Officer Friendly said sternly.

"Okay", I said. I was expecting some kind of quip.

"Have you been using any illegal substances?"

I laughed. I still thought he was joking. The stoic, smileless look on his face told me that he was very serious.

"The reason I ask," the Officer said, "is that your eyes aren't reacting to my flashlight".

"I really don't know what to say to that other than I haven't been drinking and I haven't been taking any illegal substances".

"Any prescription drugs?"

"Not even an aspirin".

"Then, why are you talking so fast?"

"It's just how I talk".

The Officer looked me over again, said "Okay then" and asked me if I was going to be driving any more that night.

"Nope," I said. "In fact I'm going to just head home right now rather than hang out up here".

"Nobody is saying you can't hang out with your friends".

"No offense, Officer, I just don't feel like pushing my luck"

He looked at me again and flashed his flashlight in my eyes for the umpteenth time. "Are you SURE you aren't on any illegal substances?".


With that, the officer wished me good night and went back to his car. I sat there for a moment considering the events of the last few minutes and decided I needed a beer. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How To Make Some Quick Money In Fallout New Vegas

Make Some Caps With SASS!
Jason and I have both been playing Fallout New Vegas pretty heavily since the Old World Blues DLC came out earlier this month. The DLC features a new area called The Sink, located atop the dome at Big Mountain. It has become the de-facto headquarters for both of us because of all the helpful fixtures available there. One of the best appliances is the Sink Auto-Doc which will heal all of your hit points and remove all rads and addictions for free as well as give you a haircut, provide a facial reconstruction and provide useful implants at varying prices. The implants, while incredibly useful, are very expensive, ranging from 8,000 to 20,000 caps depending on the implant.  That's pretty pricey and it's tough to make so much money in Fallout New Vegas without being incredibly good at gambling. Jason, however, hit upon a great idea to make money in Fallout New Vegas fast.

Go to the Sunset Sarsaparilla factory in the Mojave Wasteland and collect every single Empty Sunset Sarsaparilla Bottle you can find there. There should be around 820 there. Don't worry about overloading your carrying capacity because you won't have to fast travel anywhere. Once you've collected all of the empty bottles, walk outside and use your Big Mountain Transportalponder to travel to The Sink. Once you're there, use the sink to fill up the bottles with purified water. You can then sell those to The Sink Central Intelligence Unit for 20 per bottle, which works out to 16,400 caps.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Struggle

I caught a wasp recently with one of those store bought glue traps. The wasp trap hangs there emitting an enticing odor that attracts the wasp in and traps them with a sticky substance. I hung the trap two weeks ago and caught this little bugger within 24 hours. Since then, no other wasps have tried to build a nest anywhere near the trap.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Get Your Bill Straight With Straight Talk

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Straight Talk for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Let me be straight with you about cell phone plans. Most people using the mainstream cell carries are  paying way too much for their current plans. The majority of people only use half of what they pay for. What's worse is that they are stuck with a contract that is at least two years long, so there's nothing that can be done. It's such a shame because Straight Talk has everything you need in a cell phone plan and has no contracts, no credit checks and no surprise bills. Personally, I quite like the idea that I feel richer with Straight Talk because I cut my cell phone bill in half. You'd have to be crazy to be on a contract these days when you can get everything you need  without one, thanks to Straight Talk. I'm going to buy a set of Iron Man armor with the money I saved.

Do you need to call a friend who lives in another country? Straight Talk has an International Long Distance Service which is a flexible prepaid calling service that enables you to make international calls from your home, cell or office phone at low rates.

Looking for a plan that fits your needs? Well, if you're a heavy phone user, the “All You Need Plan” will easily meet your needs with 1,000 minutes, 1,000 texts and 30 MB of web data. It seems to good to be true, but, remember: mom knows best. Still not enough? The Unlimited Monthly service is only $45 and includes calls, text, picture messaging, and web.

Visit Sponsor's Site

Friday, August 26, 2011

Really, Old Navy?

I guess I've got to hand it to Old Navy for their ability to appeal to the niche market of back-to-school teens who also happen to be pregnant. Nevermind the fact that teen pregnancy rates are the lowest they've been in the last 20 years. You can never be too careful, right?

I'd like to be optimistic here and assume that Old Navy stores are required to post uniform signage throughout the store, so the "Back-To-School" tag on the top of the sign is actually unrelated to the price of the maternity clothing. Or, perhaps Old Navy is seeking to appeal to parents who are pregnant and who also have children who are about to go back-to-school.  Then again, this could all be a response to some new high school trend.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I'm A Button Pusher

When I was a young child in the late 70's, my family and I spent our vacations at a little resort in the Door County, Wisconsin, located in Wisconsin's upper-peninsula. Every morning after breakfast, my brothers and I routinely explored the resort's main lodge and often ended up parked at a 4-Player Bowling Alley arcade game while we waited for the day's activities to begin. Being only 6 years old, my older brothers would not waste a quarter on me to let me play. I was, however, allowed to push the buttons.

Somehow, I must have gotten it into my head that I was THE button pusher, for one evening, after dinner, while following my brothers out of the lodge, I spied four older gentlemen sitting down at the 4-Player Bowling Alley game. Surely, they would need me to push the button. Having been warned about "stranger danger", I was a little conflicted. Should I approach them? Wasn't it my JOB to approach them? Finally, realizing that I had a duty to fulfill, I crept up to the group, watched as they put their coins in and then I reached and pressed the button. The grumpy old men swiveled their heads around in unison and glared at me. One screamed "What the Sam Hill are you doing, you little snot?". Struck with the fear that I would be kidnapped by these men and sold off to work in a Siberian diamond mine, I ran off to catch up with my brothers. It turns out that the group of men included the owner of the resort, so my transgression was doubly bad. For the next few days, whenever I would pass one of those men in the lodge, they would inevitably say "There goes the boy who likes to push buttons".

Some thirty years later, I find that I still enjoy pushing buttons, although they tend to be of the mental sort. A friend visited me at work one morning a few days ago. Upon seeing my desk in a state of disarray, she attempted to clean it up for me. I stopped her. Wanting to test her need for cleanliness, I crumpled up a piece of paper and threw it on the ground. I asked her if she felt the need to pick it up. She turned away from it. I threw another paper wad. And another. I could almost feel her urge to pick them up gnawing at her. I threw down another crumpled ball of paper. This sort of button pushing may seem a bit immature or childish, but I find that I do it in order to test certain limits. I'm always on the lookout for someone to blow up at me like those grumpy old men at the arcade game. Whatever the reaction from people, good, bad, indifferent, it's still valid to refer to me as "the boy who likes to push buttons".

Monday, August 22, 2011

Everest College Calls Me

Everest University is a for-profit institution owned by Corinthian Colleges. A February 2011 Los Angeles Times article details numerous instances where Corinthian College graduates were lead into going deeply in debt with student loans for coursework that didn't lead to the high paying careers promised by the college's career counselors. Corinthian Colleges have a 40% student loan default rate, one of the highest in the nation. Because of crap like this, I have no qualms about giving the Everest College reps a little crap over the phone.

The Everest University rep who called me looking for Clovis McGrady was a natural mimic. Within a few moments of hearing my redneck accent, the rep slightly parroted it. Clovis isn't very big on grades. The only letters he cares about are U.S.A. and he told the Everest University as much. Each time the rep tried to transfer me over, I tried to keep her on by asking her a number of questions. At one point, the rep laughed at me and I feigned anger at her. Overall, she was a good sport.

Friday, August 19, 2011

HP Pulls The Plug On WebOS

Hewlett-Packard issued a statement yesterday saying that it will stop selling hardware based on the webOS platform it acquired from Palm. HP acquired webOS as part of its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm a year ago and had hoped to use the software in all manner of devices from phones and tablets to PCs and printers. HP, however, was slow to bring out products based on WebOS, and allowed existing Pre and Pixi devices to lose significant market share among both consumers and developers. The much hyped launch of the HP TouchPad last month was the first in a series of steps that was to re-establish webOS as a serious player in the mobile market. The HP TouchPad received mixed reviews and sold poorly, leading to a series of price cuts.

This isn't unexpected. As much as I love webOS and was a huge fan of the Palm IIIc, Palm was going bankrupt for a reason. HP couldn't expect to use the same strategy that Palm had been using unsuccessfully and expect different results. My experience testing the HP TouchPad was that, while I loved webOS for its implementation of application cards (the most elegant approach to multi-tasking), the HP backed hardware was complete crap.

HP made a number of other critical mistakes with regards to their implementation of webOS, not the least of which was sitting on the tech for 8 months before releasing anything. Missing the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show was a huge mistake and may have led to their inability to reach a deal with Sprint to implement webOS devices. Sprint no doubt smelled blood in the water. HP then vastly over-estimated their sales targets with the HP TouchPad when they shipped 270,000 units to Best Buy. Best Buy sold only 25,000 devices and the blame doesn't lie with the fact that Russell Brand, Manny Pacquiao and Lea Michelle simply aren't good pitchers.

While a big part of me is sad that this is apparently the death-knell for webOS, part of me has to think that this whole thing is a karmic response for HP and their insanely high priced toner cartridges.