Monday, December 31, 2012

My Stolen FexEx Package Showed Up

You've most likely read recently about how I had a FedEx package stolen from me. After the driver insisted to me that he dropped it off at my house and that it must have been stolen, I chalked it up to bad Christmas Karma and had Macy's re-ship me the order (free of charge). Well, the original package just showed up at my doorstep today. It hadn't been opened, so I doubt someone took it off my porch, and it showed no signs of rough wear, so I doubt it was sitting at the bottom of a FedEx truck. So, what happened? If the driver lied to me and delivered the package to the wrong house, then why did it take so long for the person to return it to me? If it was lost in a package sort or lost on the truck, why did the FedEx guy say he delivered it to me? If someone stole it, why didn't they open it and why did they return it?

I guess it doesn't matter what exactly happened. What matters now is what do you do when you report a package stolen and it shows up anyway? I called both FedEx and Macy's to explain the new developments, thanked them both again for their great customer service and prepared to return the shipment. Macy's told me to keep it. But, I have no use for two extra dress shirts. So, I returned them anyway. It seemed like the right thing to do.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Minecraft PE

Kiddo and I have been playing Minecraft Pocket Edition a lot lately during Christmas Break. Like me, she's got a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, and since she's off school and I've been home from work fighting a nasty cold, we've been playing Minecraft PE together via Wi-Fi. I'm nowhere close to being an expert on the game. That's my daughter's department. I think it's fun to mine resources, build structures and fight monsters with my daughter, so I'm always delighted to play when she asks.

The big accomplishment this morning was the creation of the Nether Reactor which, when turned on, created  a huge room made of obsidian and spawned a few zombie pigmen.

The Nether Reactor

The Obsidian Room Generated By The Reactor

Friday, December 21, 2012

The World Didn't End

I did it! I just saved the world from the Mayan Apocalypse. The world was supposed to end at 11:12 GMT time this morning (the exact time of the Winter Solstice). At 11:11, I wished for the world to keep on going. We're still here, so it obviously worked.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

For The 80's Fan Who Has Everything

Wondering what to get that 80's fan on your Christmas List? Tired of picking through a bunch of Rhino re-issues in the cut-out section of Wal-Mart just to find a vaguely appropriate gift? Well, I have the solution for you. 

I was shopping for gift boxes at Big Lots recently when I happened upon this little gem. It's a Joan Jett and the Blackhearts semi by Hot Wheels. Apparently, the Tour Haulers line also boasts semi trucks for AC/DC, KISS and The Who, so you can match the band to the fan you're buying for.

As a child who spent most of his formative years listening to music in the 80's, I appreciate the kitsch value in these things, especially the Joan Jett one. The thing is, the product is recommended for children from 8-13, most of whom probably have no idea who Joan Jett is. It is also heavily marketed to "Joan Jett fans who are also Hot Wheels collectors" which you would think would be two parts of the population that seldom intersect.

The Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 vs Nexus 7

I recently chose to ditch my Nook Color. It was a good little tablet, especially since I rooted it and installed a better version of Android on it. In the end, the proprietary charging cable and its overall sluggishness. As great as the Nook Color is as an e-reader, it sucks as a tablet, even with a customized version of Android on it.

I soon found that I was wanting more from a tablet, and I narrowed down my search to the Nexus 7 or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. I would consider both to be the top contenders in the 7 inch Android tablet market. Ideally, I'd like to have a hybrid of those two devices, but, that's not an option. So, for those of you who were on the fence like I was, here's a nice comparison of features of the Nexus 7 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab 2.

Please Note: I am declaring "winners" in various categories based upon how certain features fit my needs. Your mileage may vary. Compare the technical specifications for the Nexus 7 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 and decide for yourself.



Screen Resolution:


Nexus 7: 1,280 x 800 Pixels
Galaxy Tab 2:1,024 x 600 Pixels

The Nexus 7 is the winner here boasting a slightly better screen resolution than the Galaxy Tab 2.

Camera:

 
Nexus 7: 1.3mp front. No Rear-facing camera
Galaxy Tab 2:0.3mp front. 3mp Rear. 

Personally, I don't have much use for a rear facing camera on a tablet, so I'll give the win to the Nexus 7 on this one because of the better front facing camera.

Processor:


Nexus 7: 1.2 GHz Quad Core
Galaxy Tab 2:1.0 GHz Dual Core 

Even though I've been able to overclock the Galaxy Tab 2 to 1.5 gig, the Nexus 7 is still the clear winner here.

Expandable Memory:


Nexus 7: None
Galaxy Tab 2:Up to 64GB via microSD slot  

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 easily takes the prize on this one.



In the end, if you have to choose between the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 and the Nexus 7, it's all going to come down to  what you're intending to use the tablet for. Personally, I need a lot of expandable storage because I take a lot of movies and music with me on trips and don't expect to have access to the cloud during travel time, so abundant local storage is a must have for me. This, along with the price (you can get the Student Edition of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 via Best Buy which includes a keyboard and dock for a lower price than the Nexus 7) sold me on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. If you're looking for a state-of-the art, cutting edge Android experience, then the Nexus 7 is the one for you.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Shopping As A Game

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

Christmas time is getting closer, but it's still not too late to take advantage of a fun, inexpensive way to take care of that last minute Christmas shopping. You can even make a game out of it. I'm talking about DealDash, of course.

I'm sure you've heard about Deal Dash before. It's the best of all those new penny auction sites you see popping up lately. The thing is, with all the rest of those penny auction sites, you lose all the bids you've bought even if you don't win the item. Where's the fun in that? Even better, shipping is free within the United States and Canada. So, not only is Deal Dash the fun way to Christmas Shop, it's also going to save you money.

I'm sure that you're thinking to yourself that there must be some sort of catch. There isn't. But, you don't have to take my word for it. Check out this great DealDash Review and then decide for yourself. What have you got to lose? Go out there and see what you can win today!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My FedEx Package Got Stolen

With Christmas quickly approaching, I have been getting a lot of packages delivered via UPS, FedEx and the USPS. Nearly every day, I have something waiting for me on my porch that won't fit in my mail box. Late last week, one of my deliveries turned up missing. I live in a neighborhood that doesn't see much traffic and is inhabited by a number of elderly shut-ins, so I have never given much mind to the thought of someone snatching a package off of my porch. Still, when I know a delivery is coming, I try to be there in order to pick it up. I was at my house within 15 minutes of the time that FedEx listed the package as "Delivered" and it was nowhere to be seen. Thankfully, it was just a few dress shirts from Macy's and not an important Christmas gift. But, this begs the question, "what do you do when your package gets stolen?".

The first thing you need to do is call the delivery provider. I rang up FedEx right away and they asked me a few basic questions like "are you sure nobody else in the household has it?" and "could the driver have delivered to the wrong house?". I assured the FedEx rep that the driver knew my house well, as he had just delivered a package to it two days prior to the incident. FedEx contacted the driver directly, who showed up to my house to show me where he had placed the package before it was stolen.

So, the package somehow disappeared into the abyss. I can hardly expect FedEx to conjure up two new Macy's dress shirts from the ether. At this point, it was time to contact Macy's to let them know what had happened and inform them that I had already tried to resolve the issue via FedEx to no avail. Macy's quickly arranged to ship out two new dress shirts. This time, via UPS.

I want to stress here that the reps from FedEx and Macy's provided stellar customer service during this incident. The FedEx rep was kind enough to even call me a few days later to make sure everything was resolved to my satisfaction.

So, to recap, here's what to do when your FedEx or UPS delivery gets stolen:

  • Be aware of when things are being delivered and try to be there to meet the driver. The USPS and UPS and FedEx all offer electronic package tracking, so you should have a pretty good idea of when your package will be delivered. If you can't be there, you can always leave a note asking the driver to leave the package in a more secure place around your home. 
  • If your package does end up missing, try to resolve it through the delivery service first.
  • Once you have exhausted all the options via the package service, contact the store that shipped the item. It's their responsibility to make sure that the package gets to you. If they don't re-ship, then file a dispute with your credit card company (or PayPal if you used that).  
  • File a police report. The boys in blue aren't going to tear the town apart looking for your stolen merchandise, but, it's possible that your theft may have been one in a string of many, so you'll want police to be aware and keep an eye out. 
UPDATE: The original package eventually showed up which casts some doubt on the FedEx carrier's story. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Legend of Zima, Part III

When I played The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past back when it came out, I always wondered about the Chris Houlihan room. It was a room full of rupees that Link would access via a number of different odd means. The talk box in the room identified itself as Chris Houlihan's secret room. Turns out that Mr. Houlihan had won a contest in Nintendo Power and the prize was getting his name in the game. Kinda lame, if you ask me. I would have much preferred having an NPC named after me or something.

Anyway, this next part of my Legend of Zima saga is a take on the Chris Houlihan room.


Friday, December 7, 2012

But....That Would Be Awkward For All Of Us.

There is little more disturbing during the holidays than running into a display saying "Delicious Nuts: Share  With Friends & Family".

No, thanks. Let's keep our nuts to ourselves.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Full Sail University Is Not A Nautical Experience

The fine folks at Full Sail University called the other day hoping to talk to Clovis. Clovis was excited to hear from them because he had been hoping to become a ship's captain. Clovis thought that the name "Full Sail" was misleading as it does not offer and nautically based degrees. Turns out that Full Sail University is an entertainment media university, but, Clovis was willing to change and adapt. Clovis wondered about becoming a singer, but was told that the recording industry curriculum handled the "behind the scenes" aspects. This rubbed Clovis the wrong way and Clovis insisted he didn't swing that way and he liked girls.

All in all, the rep was a really good sport and seemed to enjoy the call.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Facebook Privacy Notice Is A Hoax

I thought that my Facebook news feed would end up being much more peaceful after the recent election. No such luck. Now, my Facebook news feed is clogged with innocently misguided folks posting a privacy notice on their walls because they mistakenly believe that it will protect their copyright and privacy rights.

Here's one example of the notice:


For those of you who do not understand the reasoning behind this posting, Facebook is now a publicly traded entity. Unless you state otherwise, anyone can infringe on your right to privacy once you post to this site. It is recommended that you and other members post a similar notice as this, or you may copy and paste this version. If you do not post such a statement once, then you are indirectly allowing public use of items such as your photos and the information contained in your status updates.

PRIVACY NOTICE: Warning – any person and/or institution and/or Agent and/or Agency of any governmental structure including but not limited to the United States Federal Government also using or monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, you do NOT have my permission to utilize any of my profile information nor any of the content contained herein including, but not limited to my photos, and/or the comments made about my photos or any other "picture" art posted on my profile.
You are hereby notified that you are strictly prohibited from disclosing, copying, distributing, disseminating, or taking any other action against me with regard to this profile and the contents herein. The foregoing prohibitions also apply to your employee , agent , student or any personnel under your direction or control.

The contents of this profile are private and legally privileged and confidential information, and the violation of my personal privacy is punishable by law. UCC 1-103 1-308 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITHOUT PREJUDICE

The Facebook privacy notice is a hoax. In reality, nothing has changed about Facebook's privacy policy aside from Facebook changing the way in which they take feedback from users on future privacy policy changes. Facebook has not explained the new method for soliciting feedback, nor has Facebook made any privacy policy changes for which feedback would collected. Further, the fact that Facebook is now a publicly traded entity has no impact on copyright protection or privacy rights.

Here's are the things you need to remember:

  • You control all the content you post on Facebook
  • Facebook does not own your media
  • Before you can use Facebook, you must accept its terms of use, which you can not alter simply by posting something to your wall.
  • Very few of us post anything on Facebook that is worth copyrighting. 
  • UCC 1-103 1-308 covers the sales of certain goods and does not apply to Facebook

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Legend Of Zima: Part II

I hadn't planned on continuing the story any further, thus relegating my original movie to a mere one-off joke. After getting a number of nice compliments, though, I decided to see where I could take the story. So, here's Part II of our story. It picks up right where we left off.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Billboarding With Chex Cereal

Looks like Chex cereal has done a bit of creative advertising with their box covers. My daughter and I were trolling the breakfast cereal aisle recently when we happened upon the Check section of the shelf. When arranged correctly, the Chex cereal boxes make a continuous billboard. Our local grocery story is obviously missing a few flavors of Chex like "Yellow Shirt Chex" which is Apple Cinnamon Chex and "Purple Shirt Chex" which is Honey Nut Chex.

I wonder what happens when someone manages to put all of the Chex cereal boxes together. Perhaps a portal to Chex world opens up and you become a Chex warrior clad in Chex armor and set out upon a Chex quest. Or, maybe the guy that designed the boxes cries tears of joy because someone has finally noticed his hard work.

What Ever Happened To Frosted Mini-Chex?

Monday, November 19, 2012

TommyMac: Future Hero

This video was delivered to me from the future. Apparently, I'm going to come up with a world-changing innovation that will lead to a new era of global posterity and will culminate with me winning the 2020 Innovation Prize. I'll try to look surprised when it all happens, but, until it does, you can view the video for yourself:


Friday, November 16, 2012

Hostess Goes Belly Up

A true American icon has died. I'm talking about Hostess, the makers of Twinkies and Ho Hos and Ding Dongs and, of course, Hostess Fruit Pies. The company closed its doors today after 82 years of operation. Almost immediately, Facebook erupted with the news and went into full-on psycho mode as many people re-posted articles blaming the closure on everything from Obamacare to the Mayan Apocalypse. In order to understand what's really going on here, a little background is needed.

Hostess didn't just suddenly decide to shut it doors based upon who won the recent Presidential election. No, Hostess' problems have been plaguing them since their merger with Continental Baking back in 1995. Since then, the company has filed for bankruptcy twice, with the most recent filing being in 2011. This recent filing came after Hostess gave  a 50% stake in the company to Ripplewood Holdings and had received a loan from GE Capital. Hostess soon began struggling to remain current on the $700 million loan while keeping up with mandatory pension payments. Depending on who you talk to, the reasoning for this will differ. Some say that poor management decisions from a corporation bent on milking every last dollar out of the company while inflating upper-managment salaries in an economy where consumer trends had turned against them killed the company. Some will say that greedy labor unions refusing to make financial concessions to keep the company afloat delivered the death blow to Hostess. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

What we have now is a shuttered company and 18,000 workers, both labor and management, out of the job. This is the free market at work. This would have been the likely fate of the Detroit automakers had the government not stepped in to bail it out. Now, the vultures will descend to pick at the corpse of Hostess. With Hostess being such a popular brand, it's very likely that the rights to its products and recipes will be picked up by a corporate entity or group of entities. Perhaps that insulin-inducing whore, Little Debbie will give some of those products a new home. The Twinkie will no doubt rise again.  It's just a matter of time.

Meanwhile, I'm stocking up on Hostess Fruit Pies and hunkering down in order to get through this Twinkpocalypse. I hope they're not gone too long. I don't think I can stand the switch to Mrs. Freshly's.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

When Fast Food Takes Too Long

Call me uncultured, but I've got a thing for McDonald's breakfast. There's something about wolfing down two Sausage McMuffins from the dollar menu and washing them down with a large black coffee that gives me just the rush I need to jump start my day. I don't do it every morning, but, when I do, I always see it as $3.20 well spent.

I walked in to my local McDonald's early last Saturday morning to find that the line reached nearly outside the door. Only two people were working the registers and the line for the drive-through didn't look promising either. My hunger for sausage patties smothered with cheese-food nestled inside an english muffin would not be denied. I decided to wait. People were understandably frustrated.
I bided my time by reading some news articles on my phone and checking Facebook. I hardly noticed the line slowly oozing forward. My attention was eventually captured by some Stepford wife emitting a loud sigh and exclaiming "I hate this place" just loud enough for the rest of us to hear her.

"Then why are you here?", I asked.

"Because I like the sweet tea....although that's none of your business".

"When you say it loud enough for me to hear it 20 feet away, you're making it my business. But, fear not! The breakfast Gods have heard your anguished pleas and have taken pity upon you, for I will shell out a dollar to whomever is currently on deck at the register in order to buy you a sweet tea".

As I waved a dollar bill around in the hopes that the person next-in-line to order would take it and deliver a McDonald's sweet tea to the frustrated woman, I heard her huff and stomp out of the restaurant. I get it. You go to McDonald's because you want your food quickly and when there's a line practically out the door, it sucks. I've posted about this before, but it bears repeating: If the worst thing you have to worry about is that you've got to wait 10 minutes in line at McDonald's, then you're actually doing pretty good.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Legend of Zima: A Drink To The Past

One of my favorite games to play on the Wii is actually an old school Nintendo game: The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past. After playing for the past week, I decided that it would be fun to do a quick parody of
the opening scene.

When an evil wizard kidnaps Princess Zima, TommyMac must go on an adventure to find her and claim his reward of a bottle of Samuel Adams Utopias Beer

Thursday, November 8, 2012

DealDash The Fun Way To Shop

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

Christmas time is just around the corner, so, if you're looking for a fun, inexpensive way to do some of your Christmas shopping, DealDash is the way to go.

Deal Dash is the best of all those new penny auction sites you see popping up lately. You sign up in order to purchase bids. Each bid costs $0.60 and raises the auction cost by $0.01. This fee makes the massive 95% off savings possible! The auction clock restarts from a maximum of 30 seconds every time someone bids. If no new bids are placed before the clock runs out, the last bidder wins.

It gets even better, though. DealDash wants you to win so bad that if you don't win after purchasing your first bid pack, they are willing to give you back those bids at no cost to you! Go check it out and see what you can win today!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

So, Who Is Moving To Canada?

It happens every four years. Every four years, we elect a President, and, inevitably, one of the big two party candidates wins, and one of them loses. Politics has become such an intense spectator sport that, inevitably, the outcome inspires mocking victory cries from those who backed the winner and statements of exasperation from those who backed the loser. My Facebook feed has been chocked with friends expressing a desire to run off to Canada in the face of Romney losing, or, worse, exclaiming that we as a country are sunk because Obama got another four years. I had silenced them all several months ago, but turned them all back on this morning in the hopes of getting a chuckle or two, but, instead, I got very shocked at what I saw. Many of my Romney backing friends have already moved past shock and guilt and are currently stuck in the anger stage. Meanwhile, many of my Obama backing friends are lording his re-election over everyone else. There's some scary stuff out there coming from my friends on both sides of the aisle that I would never have imagined I would have heard.

I understand where it's all coming from. It's tough to have your candidate lose after a long, intense campaign. This past one in particular seemed to be much more bitterly divisive than the last. But, running off to Canada or deciding that you'll just sit under a rock for the next four years while the country implodes is not realistic. That's not the America I know. Americans don't just give up when they lose a battle. They continue the fight because this country is worth fighting for. If your guy won last night, great. Don't be complacent. There's still a lot of work to be done to move this country into the direction that you want. Keep pushing for what you believe in. If your guy lost, step back, understand why he lost and how you can fix that in the next cycle. Until then, though, don't take your pail and leave the sandbox. The President is just one part of the this great system given to us by the Founding Fathers. Use the other parts that they put in place for us to work for the change you want.

I have to admit, though, that the concept of a staunch Republican moving away to Canada intrigues me. At the very least, it would make for a good sitcom. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Behind The Music: Pocket Cookies

This is the untold story of the most popular band you've never heard of. Pocket Cookies took the world by storm in the mid-90's and then faded off into obscurity with the turn of the millennium. Who were they then, and where are they now? Tune in and weep for what was and what might have been.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Closing Night For The Hallelujah Girls

Saturday night was closing night for our local production of The Hallelujah Girls. If stage acting has taught me anything over the last year, it's that the craziest things happen on closing night. In advance of the curtain going up, I knew that several of my friends and fellow actors would be in the audience, so it was not much of a surprise to walk out onto stage and see the audience filled with familiar faces. I had heard talk of someone sleeping in the audience but was unable to locate that person.

At intermission, one of the board members of the theater approached me and wondered how my parents were enjoying the show.

"I don't see how they could enjoy it when they're not here. I told them I'd send them a DVD", I remarked.

"No, I'm pretty sure they're in the audience", the board member insisted.

My father is having health issues and would not be able to attend a play. And my mother is not the type of person who would surprise me by showing up to the play unannounced. I chalked the whole thing up to a big misunderstanding. The couple were probably the parents of someone else in the play.

When I went out for the last big scene, I head it. Snoring. And not just soft snoring. This was the snoring of a person in a deep sleep. I glanced around the audience and found that the source was an older woman in a wheelchair. The lady sounded like she was sawing logs with a rusty saw and it was disrupting the play, throwing all of us off of our lines. I didn't recognize her, though.

After the final curtain call, I worked my way through the crowd and absorbed all the accolades. The woman in the wheelchair was nowhere to be seen. As I grabbed my coat, one of the other board members asked how my parents liked the play.

"They couldn't make it", I said.

"You mean, that lady in the wheelchair and her husband aren't your parents?"

"No. Why do people keep saying that?"

"We were about to close the door when they walked in. I told them we were sold out, but they said their son was in the play and they pointed to your picture. I thought they were your parents, so I let them in".

Obviously, they were not my parents. And, judging by the way the woman was sleeping, probably not people who had an overwhelming desire to see the show. Whatever their reasoning for telling the front house that I was their son, they left without revealing it to me.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Barstool Economics Fallacy

With the election coming up, Facebook is littered with politically slanted postings. I've put a ton of my friends from both sides of the aisle on silent simply because I don't go to Facebook to read about someone's political leanings. There's one post that pops up a lot that I feel the need to address, though. It's often referred to as "Barstool Economics".

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing. The fifth would pay $1. The sixth would pay $3. The seventh would pay $7. The eighth would pay $12. The ninth would pay $18. The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. 'Since you are all such good customers, he said, 'I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20. Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?' They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:
The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings). The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings). The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28%savings). The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings). The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings). The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

'I only got a dollar out of the $20', declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man,' but he got $10!'

'Yeah, that's right', exclaimed the fifth man. 'I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!'

'That's true!!' shouted the seventh man. 'Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!'

'Wait a minute,' yelled the first four men in unison. 'We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!'

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

The most egregious error with the analogy is that it shows a deep misunderstanding of how our tax system works. The nation doesn't get a bill at the end of the year that we then divide up based upon some arbitrary setting. We have a known percentage per tax bracket that we owe, regardless of what the nation spends. There are also other methods of taxation in play that this analogy doesn't consider, such as sales tax, social security, medicare, property tax, capital gains tax, etc. The closest thing that this barstool economics analogy fits is a graduated flat tax system, which is completely different from progressive taxation.

We also need to consider that the payment ratios in this bar stool economics post are quite inaccurate.  The very wealthy pay, at most a 39% tax, so 59/100 of the bill is very far off. And 39/100 is the maximum, although, in practice, no wealthy person pays the maximum percentage. Things like capitol gains taxes, offshore banking and corporate detectible losses allow for an effective tax rate of around 18% while many lower-middle-class people end up with a 30% effective rate.  

Of course, all of this also assumes that the ten people cited in the barstool economics post would actually go to the same bar, would drink the same type of beer, and would drink the same amount of it. That's essentially saying that everyone involved has the same opportunities, the same economic advantages and all equally benefit from the system. And we all know, that's simply not the case.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ice Cream Sandwich Comes To The Bionic

It has been more than a year since it was first introduced, but as of this morning, my Motorola Droid Bionic has finally gotten the official upgrade to Android 4.04, Ice Cream Sandwich. Had ICS been released for the Bionic when I bought it a year ago, it would have been a truly amazing phone. Imagine, the first dual core Android phone to have both 4G LTE support as well as Ice Cream Sandwich. It would have been glorious. But, it was not to be. Instead, the Droid Bionic was released with Gingerbread which made for a shoddy connection to Verizon's 4G LTE network. The Droid Bionic was so buggy with Gingerbread, I rooted my phone and put Android 4.1 Jellybean on it. I went back to stock this week in order to get the scheduled OTA update.

There is a long list of improvements, so here are just some of the cool things about Ice Cream Sandwich on the Bionic:
  • The buggy 4G LTE connection issues seem to have been fixed. Under Gingerbread, the connection dropped a lot. However, you no longer have the ability to turn 4G LTE off in favor of 3G CDMA.
  • Face Unlock, a feature that allows users to unlock handsets using facial recognition software. This takes some training and isn't a fool proof security feature, but it'll keep your friends from jacking your phone and playing pranks on you. 
  • The ability to disable apps, which helps when dealing with the bloatware that Verizon makes you deal with. No more will you have to contend with the Slingbox, Blockbuster and GoToMeeting app. 
  • An improved camera app with zero shutter lag, time lapse settings, panorama mode, and the ability to zoom while recording 
  • Integrated screen capture. Just push down the Volume Down and Power buttons.  
  • Auto syncing with your Chrome bookmarks. 
Motorola has announced its intention to upgrade the Bionic to Jellybean at some point, but no release date has been announced.  If you're not up for rooting your Bionic in order to get it now, then Ice Cream Sandwich will certainly tide you over for now.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Call From Futurecareers.com

Got a call recently from an English-challenged woman claiming to be from an education website called futurecareers.com. Don't bother going there. It's just a parked page. The caller ID says that the call was from 877-299-0775 but a call back to the number only got a busy signal. Anyway, the rep went right in with the script asking me if I wanted to further my education. I told her that I needed to be an executive with a big desk and a secretary because, for now, I'm working at the car wash. She took that to mean that I wasn't interested in college, so I had to correct her. She mentioned that the call was being recorded for training, so I asked her what I was going to be trained for. She soon hung up on me.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Glo Balls

These are basically Hostess Sno-Balls colored orange for Halloween. As much as I love Hostess for all of their snacky goodness, I have to admit that I'm not a fan of the Sno-Ball line, not because of the pr0n connotations, but because I hate coconut. Although, admittedly, there's something so unwholesome about shoving a set big glowing orange balls into one's mouth.

The Hostess Sno-Ball line also includes other colors for various different holidays. I seem to recall seeing a green version for St. Patrick's Day called Lucky Puffs.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Well, Hallelujah!

The cast and crew of the local production of The Hallelujah Girls have been working hard over this past week to make the show a success. This has been a week of full costume and tech rehearsals and I feel that I've finally started to approach the level of talent that the rest of the cast has brought to the show. It has been tough being a rank amateur among this group of accomplished actors, but I think I absolutely nailed my role as of last night. That being said, I do have a few issues I need to work on before opening night.

  • I'm somewhere around 15 years younger than the actress playing Sugar Lee, which means that attempts have been made to age me a little bit. One night, I sprayed white colored hairspray all over my hair. It looked fine up close, but, under the lights, it looked like a nuke went off on my scalp. I'm going to stick to a light spraying around my temples. 
  • Every time I run in to say "Ladies, we've got trouble!", I end up doing it in a Scottish accent for some reason.  
  • My short shorts have been getting progressively shorter with each costume fitting. Last night, they were so short that the bottoms of my boxers were starting to show.  And, seeing as I have really fair skin, I have been trying to darken the tone of my legs so that I don't blind the audience when I come out. I've been using bronzer cream to do this. I don't know if it's working on my legs, but the palms of my hands are noticeably darker.
  • I decided to try something when I come out after the wall collapses. Normally, I just brush the dust off of my shoulders. Last night, I added a move where I seemingly cough up dust. The dust-filled cough got huge laughs from our small test audience, but ends up making too much of a mess. And it's murder on my lungs. 
  • During one of the scene changes, "This Kiss" by Faith Hill plays in the background. I am often back stage doing the chicken dance to the chorus, which cracks up the rest of the cast. 
  • I order to believably drop the gasket, I've had to bring a little of the TommyMac goofiness to Bobby Dwayne. I'm not sure it works. 
  • I have written an acceptable biography for the program complete with a few personal shout outs of thanks to a few people who lent me some priceless support. 
Opening night is tomorrow, and, as I have been accustomed to saying, I will not only break a leg, I will break both legs and lose my way to the stage. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Argos University Calls Again

Argos University called me again last week. This particular rep was a little less aggressive than the one who called me earlier, but, as we haggled over her ability to turn off the call center recording, she kept trying to re-direct me. Eventually, the phone call deteriorated into me trying to get her to sing me a Michael Jackson song. When that didn't work, I tried for Conway Twitty. Still no dice. At about 5 minutes in, the rep got frustrated and hung up on me.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Horlicks

The imported food section can always be counted on to yield some food pr0n. Today's find comes to you courtesy of the United Kingdom. Our crazy cousins from across the pond use this malted milk beverage to promote better sleep. Supposedly, malted milk helps you sleep better by staving off late night hunger.

When I first encountered this stuff, I was sure that its name was a derivative of horehound. But, that's not the case. Horlicks gets its name from James and William Horelicks, two brothers who created the beverage in 1873 as an artificial infant food. In recent years, the term horlicks has somehow become part of British slang. It's often used in place of the word "bollocks". It has also been used to describe something that is very disorganized.

Horlicks is roughly comparable to Ovaltine in the United States. There are even those who claim that Ovaltine helps you sleep. All things considered, I would be more more comfortable asking someone for some Ovaltine than I would be asking someone for some horlicks. 


Is It Any Wonder Why Little Orphan Annie Preferred Ovaltine?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Generating A Bio

I've been putting off writing my bio for the program for The Hallelujah Girls. It's not something I've ever done for a play before. No production company had ever been interested in listing anything but my name, so I was at a bit of a loss to come up with something to say. I decided to go with something funny:


Thomas Mac is really a twelve-armed alien being from the planet Xeralamaph. He enjoys drinking fine glaxanar and playing the occasional round of frazzbarg. He has assumed human form so that he can better study the strange rituals of humanity. Thomas says that becoming an actor while disguised as a human has not only given him unique insights into the human condition, but has been a mentally rewarding experience as well. "An alien pretending to be a human pretending to be a middle-aged Southern gentleman? How meta!".  

 That bio was quickly rejected. It's something TommyMac would come up with, and, as much as everyone loves TommyMac, the production company wants people to know about Thomas Mac instead. That's a taller order, so, aside from listing the bland details about my personal life, I'm at a loss for what to write.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Argos University Calls Me

I got a call from Argos University last week. The rep actually asked for me by name rather than Clovis or Otto or any of the other characters that usually tend to be attached to the number that they call me on. Anyway, the conversation started out normal enough, but devolved into a contest of who could talk louder over whom.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Closer Look At The Fox

I live just a few blocks away from the car dealership where I bought my Mustang. I head over there once a week to get to take advantage of the free car washes the offer to customers. While waiting in line for my turn, I spied my pal, the fox lurking among the construction site where they are building a new addition to the dealership. I had been worried that I hadn't seen the fox running around my neighborhood in a few weeks. With the rabbit population rebounding, I thought perhaps animal control had gotten to him. I'm glad he's okay and has made some new friends. Turns out the auto dealership has adopted him as an unoffical mascot. The CarFox.

Show Me The CarFox!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fixing Up My Spare Room

I made so many trips to Home Depot this past weekend that I ended up being on a first name basis with most of the staff. I felt like I deserved my own name tag.

It was finally time to fix up one of the spare rooms in my house. This room had been used by the previous owner as a place in which to run his kidney dialysis machine. Water damage from the machine caused part of one of the hardwood planks to rot, which resulted in the previous owner covering it with plywood. I was aware of this when I bought the house, and had the room carpeted and painted before I moved in. The contractor who handled job also outfitted the walls with cheap, mismatched ceiling trim. He did the job so poorly that he only put up three planks rather than four. I used the room for various things over the years, but, over the last two years, I just stopped using it for anything other than storage.

I tore up the carpet to find that the underlying hardwood floor had been covered with four different types of tile. No problem. I'd just have a loose-lay vinyl floor installed over it, and, thankfully, Jason just happens to be the best flooring guy around. Before he could get the floor in, I'd have to paint the room and re-do the trim. I pulled down the first trim board without a problem. The second one, however, was stuck fast to the wall. In my fervor to pull it down, I ended up putting a 4 inch hole into my ceiling. I filed that problem away for later and began painting my room in a bold blue, one suited for doing blue-screen movie work.

After the painting was done, Jason and I attacked the ceiling hole problem. A 4 inch crown molding board would come pretty close to covering up the hole, so we made quick trip to Home Depot to get the materials we needed to put the molding up. Not only did it cover up the hole very well, but it also looks great. We had a few issues with one of the boards bowing slightly, so we called in Jim to help us fit the plank in between the flair pieces. Now, all that's left to do is to paint the closet doors and the floor trim and we can finally get this floor installed and declare this room "done".

Even though I had a ton of help putting this room back together, I do feel pretty good about having had a hand in doing it. I feel like I have triumphed, at the very least, because a contractor would have charged me much more to do all of this. Although, a contractor probably wouldn't have put a 4 inch hole in the ceiling either. So, maybe it's a draw. Either way, I'm happy to have this room in a usable state again and I chalk the experience up as a personal success. 



Friday, September 28, 2012

I Nearly Became Road Pizza

When I was seven years old, a friend of mine and I were walking on the sidewalk near my house. We were one house away from home when my teenaged neighbor pulled out of the driveway at idle speed, knocked my friend back and ran him over in her little Gremlin. I had narrowly escaped simply because he had been walking in front of me. The incident didn't do much more than traumatize the poor kid and mess up his clothing. That memory stuck with me, though. Over thirty years later, I still have nightmares about it. I can still hear him screaming as he goes under and I can still hear him crying while he's trapped under the car. Sometimes, I dream that it's me accidentally running him over. And, because of that, I have always been paranoid about making sure pedestrians aren't in front of me when I pull out. It never dawned on me that I'd actually be the pedestrian in that situation.

This afternoon, while I was walking to lunch with a friend, it happened. We set out into the cross walk, me first, him following. A college aged lady wasn't paying attention and proceeded to attempt a right turn on red while I was right in the center cross-hairs of her SUV. She was just idling, but her vehicle nudged my arm and she kept going. I nearly lost my balance but managed to brace my hands against her hood as I walked backward to attempt to keep from falling under. And, right in my mind, I saw my childhood friend falling under that Gremlin. I beat relentlessly on the woman's hood while getting dangerously close to the cross street. Thankfully, she heard the ruckus and stopped before any harm could come to me.

For the briefest of moments, I thought to myself how crappy it was that I was going to get pasted to the street by an SUV. I always imagined it would be a runaway beer truck. It had been such a good day. I had just dropped my daughter off at her grandmother's after an early dismissal and had promised to bring her McDonald's for dinner. I wondered how close I came to not being able to keep that promise. Later, though, I thought about how we all need little miracles like this to remind us not to take the world around us for granted and to live life in the now. And also to pay better attention to our surroundings.

Look right. Then left. Then right again. THEN turn.

I'm going to go crack open a bottle of Samuel Adams Octoberfest. And, I suspect it will be the best beer I've ever had.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Jalapenos Are Growing. Finally.

I have probably joked about my brown thumb on this blog every year for the past three years. My lack of gardening skills were never so evident as they were this past Summer where, due mainly to drought-like conditions, I managed to kill off several flowers and two large evergreen bushes. My jalapeno plant hung in there like a champ, though. Even though it flowered several times over the Summer, it never bore any fruit until just recently.

We had what seemed to be an incredibly hot Summer, and, I have learned that in high heat, jalapeno blossoms tend to drop off at temperatures over 90 degrees before pollination can occur. And, of course, without pollination, there's no fruit. So, now that the heat wave is decidedly over, my jalapeno plant has already sprouted at least 5 little fruit buds. Now, the trick will be to judge when to pick them. Mature jalapenos are usually 2 to 3 1/2 inches long and exhibit lines or small cracks on the shoulder.

I'm hoping I end up having enough to make a decent chili.


What's Happening, Hot Stuff?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I Saw The Metlife Blimp

It's not often that you see a blimp in the air when you walk out to your car to go to lunch. But, that's exactly what I saw the other day. It was one of the Met Life blimps. They've got two, actually. They're both A60+ models named Snoopy 1 and Snoopy 2. It was the Snoopy 1 that graced my sky the other day. The MetLife blimp's primary mission is to appear at sporting events and support special fly-over events for employees and clients. Basically, it's a great way to advertise.

I'm no by blimp fan by any stretch of the imagination, but, if you are, then the MetLife blimp has a lot of resources for you, such as The MetLife Blimp tracker, MetLife Blimp Twitter account and event schedule.


Monday, September 10, 2012

A Large Undertaking

About five years ago, I wrote a script that was essentially a parody of the VH1 series, Behind The Music. I drew from my own experiences as a musician, DJ and radio personality and ended up putting together a script that was proclaimed as hilarious by everyone who read it. I even tried to film some of it but the footage was nearly all unusable. So, the script sat in a folder in my desk for years until I happened to bring it along with several other scripts and half finished ideas to a local gathering of actors and writers.

I had been hoping to polish up a script I had that was essentially a serious look at a troubled man in a mental institution. It ended up bringing this normally jovial group down, especially since they had expected me to have something comedic. In order to redeem my clownish reputation, I showed everyone my old Behind The Music script and was encouraged to get out and bring it to life. After all, I had a group of actors at my disposal and the means to turn this vision into a reality.

So, for the past month, I have been doing exactly that. It has been incredibly difficult casting, filming and editing this piece. I'm used to coming up with an idea, shooting it and editing it within a few days. Here I am a month into this and I'm barely halfway done. I've filmed about a dozen bit parts and have about three more to fill. Adapting to the schedules of other people has been tough, and sifting through footage for "the" cut I want is even tougher. Along the way, I've worked with some amazingly talented people and have found enough inspiration to add some last minute jokes to the script. The ending is still somewhat up-in-the-air as I've never been 100% pleased with how I ended the story originally. So, it has been a good experience working outside of my comfort level, but there's still a lot more to do.

Look for the results of my labor in about a month or two.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Little Something About Labor Day

I drove my brother's Cadillac around all weekend with the windows down, the sunroof open and the tunes blasting. I don't get to see JohnMac more than about once a year due to how far away he lives, so when he suggested picking me and kiddo up and us all driving up to hang out with the parents and the rest of my siblings, I readily agreed. What ensued was a Labor Day weekend filled with pizza, beer, cookouts, basketball tournaments and friendly discussions about whether or not my Mustang was superior to his Cadillac. Not a bad weekend for the unofficial "Last Weekend Of Summer".

My brother was off to see a bunch of his old high school friends and graciously allowed me the use of his Cadillac during the day while he was gone. I drove around through Chicago, zig zagging through the railways and recalling how many of the worker benefits we enjoy in the United States today such as the eight hour work day and the celebration of Labor Day were borne out of the Chicago labor movement.

We've come to see Labor Day as the the last change to have an epic weekend before the weather starts to turn. What we often forget, however, is that we owe thanks to organized labor for making this sort of celebratory experience possible. Labor Day was first proposed as a holiday back in 1882 by organized labor officials (reports vary as to which specific individual deserves the credit). Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894 in the aftermath of the Pullman Strike in which 13 strikers were killed and 57 were wounded, many of them at the hands of US Military which had been called in by President Grover Cleveland to break the strike.

It's almost ironic now that retail corporations see Labor Day as the perfect time to have a sale, thus forcing employees to work longer hours.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Tommy Stark Is Iron Mac

This is an effects test video for my upcoming spoof called "Iron Mac: The Apathetic Avenger". This was done with the help of the folks from InstFX and should give you an idea of how the short movie will shape up once I finish it in a few months. Aside from testing the effects, I was able to make this particular video funny as well.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sausage Fest!

While in Indianapolis for Gen Con, I picked up a local entertainment magazine to get a handle on the events going on downtown. One of the things I noticed was a Sausage Fest at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church.

It was nice to know ahead of time that there wouldn't be any women there.


Well, At Least They're Honest.

Monday, August 27, 2012

I Joined The Cast Of The Halleluja Girls

I was pleasant surprised to hear from the director of a local production of "The Halleluja Girls" telling me that I had gotten the part of Bobby Dwayne. "The Halleluja Girls" is a bright little comedy set in Georgia. It tells the tale of a group of feisty females who shake up their lives. Hilarity ensues when Sugar Lee's old high school flame, Bobby Dwayne, shows up to help the ladies turn an abandoned church into a spa. And Sugar Lee's arch rival is detarmined to steal the spa away for herself.

The play, by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten reads like an episode of The Golden Girls yet skewed a little younger. It's a pretty funny script and I'm thrilled to have some great one liners to deliver. There are a lot of challenges ahead for me with this production. The production company is one that I had not been involved with before. This means that I'll be interacting with a somewhat unfamiliar cast of actors. I will also be acting in front of larger audiences It will, however, be a quite welcome change to do pure comedy for once.

Rehearsals start next week, but, looking at the script, I'm already saying "Halleluja!".

Friday, August 24, 2012

Vipre Antivirus

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of GFI for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.
I first encountered the folks from Vipre Antivirus at a Microsoft Tech Ed event several years ago. I had always thought that they had an interesting, innovative product, but had thought they ony marketed to corporate clients. It turns out, that's not the case, as I had recently had the opportunity to test out Vipre Antivirus on my home PC.
The first thing I noticed was how easy it was to install. It's a smooth, quick, no-fuss installation which is quite a welcome change from other packages I've used in the past such as McAfee and Symantec.
A Quick And Easy Install!
Vipre Antivirus has all of the antivirus program features that a modern security program should contain, including antivirus and antispyware protection. And Vipre doesn’t just protect your computer from viruses and spyware, but it also removes rootkits, trojans, worms, keyloggers, dialers, adware, script kiddies, and  many more types of malware. Vipre's advanced heuristic technologies dynamically locate malware on your computer before it even has the chance to cause any problems. And, unlike other virus programs I have used, Vipre has a very efficient scanning engine that is free of unnecessary bloat and memory leakage. It has a light footprint so your computer won't seize up while Vipre is running.  To top it all off, Vipre’s antivirus software is exceedingly simple to use. Setting specific scans on a schedule or adjusting settings are a breeze.
Best of all, if you do run into a problem with Vipre, they offer free US based customer support. Although most common issues can be fixed by consulting the Vipre  Knowledge Base, user guide or support forums, you can contact the service department through email, phone, or online chat if you'd prefer.
Don't just take my word for it, folks. Try Vipre Antivirus yourself. Check out their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/GFIVIPREAntivirus or visit them at vipreantivirus.com for more information.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Scottish Rite Cathedral

We took a break from out GenCon activities over the weekend to take a tour of the Scottish Rite Cathedral in downtown Indianapolis. The Scottish Rite Cathedral is a historic building designed by architect George F. Schreiber and was constructed between 1927 and 1929. The Cathedral is one of the largest Masonic buildings, and is considered by many as the finest example of Neo-Gothic architecture in the United States. It is also the most popular historic building in Indianapolis. Check out some of the pictures below.

Monday, August 20, 2012

GenCon 2012 Pictures

Yet another GenCon has come and gone and yet another good time was had by everyone in my group. We only had a trio this year, but we still managed to have a lot of fun and accomplish a lot.

One of the best things about GenCon, aside from the non-stop gaming is the costumes that certain gamers wear throughout the convention. Have a look at the slideshow below and see what they came up with this year.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

GenCon 2012

Greetings from GenCon 2012!

Jason and Gene roused me out of my sick bed late last night to head to GenCon 2012 in Indianapolis. We had planned to have a few great days running around the convention center and causing havoc amidst the Indianapolis nightlife, so my health issues would have to take a backseat to the plans we had made.

The first thing I did was film a an effects-laden video starring myself as a Tony Stark type figure imbued with a glowing arc reactor and repulsor blasts. In only five takes, we had the sequence down. Now, we just have to wait a week or two for the effects to process.

Most of today was spent walking around with the three of us dressed up as Star Trek characters. Jason went as Kirk, I was Spock and Gene was Scotty. It was a lot of fun being approached by various con-attendees and being asked to pose for pictures with them. I felt like more of a celebrity than usual. Just before leaving the con for the evening, Jason and I played a few rounds of Dance Dance Revolution as Kirk and Spock, much to the delight of various onlookers. It was murder on my knees, though.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wal-Mart Masks

I've developed the habit of haunting the toy aisle of my local Wal-Mart whenever I have my daughter with me. It's a nice distraction in the middle of grocery shopping and we usually make a toy aisle run just before shopping for cold and frozen stuff. For some reason, I started taking pictures of myself wearing various superhero or cartoon masks that Wal-Mart sells. Here's a compilation of them:


Monday, August 13, 2012

Grand Canyon University Calls

Clovis has been looking for a Christian University to attend, so he was incredibly happy a when Grand Canyon University called. Some of the things Clovis did:
  • Told the rep that he wants to be an exorcist
  • Said he can "get anything you want" for $50 when asked if he had a high school diploma
  • Insisted he was born in America when asked if he was a Native American
  • When asked if he was an Indian, replied "Would that be dot or feather?"

Friday, August 10, 2012

Oops! Wrong Turn!

I stopped at a Starbuck's for an iced caramel frappucino last week. Those things are basically liquid desserts. Anyway, the location I stopped at was unique in that it was raised a good six feet above the adjacent parking lot. Drive-through customers had to curve to the left after getting their order, yet the forward view is obstructed by hedges, so drives cannot see out into the street.

When I got there, a woman had misunderstood everything and tried driving off directly to the right rather than the left. This made her wedge her car on the curb between the two parking lots. They had to temporarily close the drive-through while the woman and her husband and some onlookers pushed the car back.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Pushing Up Against The Big 40.

"I'm one year away from a prostate exam."

That's what I thought when I woke up Monday morning. My birthday. I'm 39 years old now. I didn't like having the spotlight focused on me when I was not in control of the situation, so I stopped having birthday parties when I was 10. In my later adult years, event went so far as to remove my birthday from a company intranet database so that it would not ever be displayed in the "upcoming birthdays" portal. I didn't want the acknowledgement from co-workers, worse, I didn't want to be surprised with a small party or something similar. It would just make me too uncomfortable.

I've been slowly changing my attitude about this whole birthday thing over the past few years. The previous two years boasted epic out-of-town birthday celebrations. This year was no exception, although I spent it in town. There was birthday cake, presents, and, most importantly, celebratory drinks among several close friends. I even went so far as to allow Facebook to show my birthday and I was thrilled to received kudos from old friends. The most unexpected birthday wish came from the guy that I bought my Mustang convertible from. He sent a card that said "Happy Birthday! I didn't think that when you bought the convertible that you could have the top down EVERY day". And it felt good to cruise around on my birthday with the top down and the music up.

My mother remarked to me that this sort of open acknowledgement of my birthday and celebratory reverie is extremely out-of-character for me. "What's that all about?", she asked.

"Progress", I said. For, despite my age, I feel like I'm still growing up. I have a lot more to learn and experience. I have a lot of living to do and I'm not planning on growing up just yet. Maybe next year.

Monday, August 6, 2012

American Intercontinental University Online

The fine folks at American Intercontinental University Online called me recently looking for Clovis. I purposely misunderstood the name as American Incontinental University and pretended to be happy that someone was going to teach me how to handle my bladder's low shutter speed. The rep tried several times to end the conversation after that, but I managed to keep him on the phone for another two minutes talking about Clovis' bowel and bladder difficulties.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Foxy!

Early last week, I stepped out onto my porch to let my dogs out and noticed two foxes sitting on my lawn staring at me. When I say "fox", I'm not talking about the Megan variety, I mean I saw two Vulpes vulpeses, or, as they are more commonly known: red foxes. I wasn't completely surprised, as I had been seeing indications of their handiwork for the past month. The neighborhood had been attracting the attention of some turkey vultures due to a sudden increase in the number of rabbit carcasses. I knew SOMETHING was keeping the rabbit population down and I had heard some more distant neighbors mention fleeting sightings of foxes, but that didn't prepare me for seeing two of them on my lawn.

And these foxes are quite large. I would have expected to see a pair of ankle-biters, but the foxes I saw would easily measure up to my knees. The pair of them stared at me possibly expecting me to throw them some scraps of food. It wasn't until my dogs barked at them that they sprinted off of my lawn and into a ditch two houses over.

Red foxes are increasingly found in populated areas mainly due to the availability of food. It even appears that these urban foxes are evolving away from their rural counterparts to develop a taste for man-made food, an awareness of busy streets and a reduced fear of humans. I'm also told that it somehow results in urban foxes growing larger than rural ones.

I managed to snap a somewhat blurry picture of one of the foxes last night. So far, they haven't been a disruption and have been quite the curious spectacle in the neighborhood.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Full Sail University Calls Again

A lady from Full Sail University called again recently. She was looking for Mitchua Khan and when she launched into her disclaimer about recording the call for quality purposes, I set into a crazy rant about how she was working for the Feds as part of a drug sting. She eventually transferred me to her manager and I spoke to him in my normal voice and pretended to be outraged that his rep had said so many nasty, ugly things to me. When I asked the manager if he had listened to the call and he replied that he had, I knew he was full of it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Little Big Planet Karting (BETA)

I got into the public beta of Little Big Planet Karting this week. It's a kart racing game set in the Little Big Planet universe. Racers compete against each other by driving karts on themed tracks. The primary goal is to come in first, with the secondary goal being to grab special content in order to customize your racer, kart or headquarters. Comparisons to Mario Kart are going to be inevitable, but, so far, LBP Karting blows that game away. And it's nice to finally have a kart racing game on the PS3.

The biggest draw to LBP Karting is the user-generated content. Unlike Mario Kart Wii, LBP Karting allows players to make their own custom levels and share them with the rest of the world. When creating a track in the level editor, players have the ability to customize the track as well as weapons and the rules of the race. Racing against other players online has been a breeze and has been a lot of fun, but I'm hoping that LBP Karting will offer split-screen racing for off-line multiplayer.

So far, I've had a great time playing Little Big Planet Karting, and I'm pretty confident that, once it gets out of Beta testing, it's going to be an awesome game.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dark Knight Rises Review

I managed to find some time to catch The Dark Knight Rises over the weekend. It would be easy for me to parrot the professional reviewers and simply say that the movie was amazing. It was. But, it was also so much more than that. Nolan's epic conclusion to his Batman saga provides something we rarely see in superhero movie sagas: closure.

The Dark Knight Rises is a visually stunning, multi-layered film that is bold and emotionally thrilling. Comparisons to The Dark Knight are inevitable and Nolan wisely chose Bane as the villain this time out. Unlike the Joker, who challenges Batman's very philosophy, Bane is a pure bruiser who seeks to break Batman physically and emotionally. Tom Hardy plays Bane as a brutal yet articulate adversary. Anne Hathaway as Selena Kyle had me worried, but her take on the character is refreshing and she has a lot of fun with the good girl/bad girl dance. She's obviously channeling a little Eartha Kitt in her performance, which is good, but a little goes a long way. Thankfully, she never went full purr. Bale, Caine and Freeman are, of course, as brilliant as ever and the introduction of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an aggressive, idealistic young cop adds a lot to the story. Unfortunately, the talents of Marion Cotillard are under-used so that she is practically wasted. I would have liked to have seen more of her character, but there's only so much you can fit into a story as complex as The Dark Knight Rises.

I do have a few issues with the film, but they are largely just nit-picks:

  • Nolan gives us a tale where Batman has gone into hiding for 8 years and Bruce Wayne goes into seclusion over the death of Rachel Dawes. While it does somewhat fit in with the Bruce Wayne that Nolan has given us, a man who dreams of a day when Batman is no longer necessary, the comic-book Batman would never do this. Nolan's Batman is more concerned with stopping organized crime while, in general, most (if not all) takes on Batman have him wanting to prevent the sort of street level crime that took his parents away from him. 

  • The Dark Knight showed us that the people of Gotham are generally good, yet The Dark Knight Rises supposes that the people of Gotham would rise up against the upper-class on the whim of a criminal who is threatening to detonate a nuke. It doesn't wash.

  • Alfred Pennyworth would never, EVER give up on Bruce Wayne. Period. Even Nolan recognized that in Batman Begins, so having this sort of rift in The Dark Knight Rises makes no sense. There's too much water under that bridge to allow a note from an ex-lover come between them. 

  • Matthew Modine? Really? UGH! 

  • There's no real sense about how much time is passing. Bane somehow finds the time to spirit Bruce Wayne across the globe to some prison and Wayne eventually escapes and makes his way back to Gotham (how? Wayne is practically bankrupt). Yet, the streets are still clean, maintenance is apparently still being done and Bane's equipment is still running on gasoline. 

All things said, I wish Nolan's Batman didn't have to end. He could have stretched it out for a few more movies or Warner Brothers could have given the reigns to another director and cast to continue forward with Nolan's vision. Thankfully, Nolan got to formulate a very satisfying conclusion to what will probably become the definitive take on Batman for decades to come. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tiny Mouse Begging For Food

We were having dinner outside at the local Meatheads burger joint when we noticed a tiny mouse practically begging for food. It was an aggressive little thing, having few few qualms about getting within stomping distance of several diners. Generally, the mouse would appear and would seemingly beg for food. After some bit of burger of fry was thrown in the mouse's vicinity, it would grab it, take it into the bushes and then re-appear to start the whole cycle again. I took a brief video of that cute little bugger. Have a look.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ghost Town?

"You're going to be disappointed", Jim said to us.

Jason and I were pretty adamant about visiting a ghost town we'd recently read about on the Internet. Supposedly, a town not too terribly far away had been abandoned for quite some time and had a pretty fair share of abandoned buildings. It sounded like a great idea for a day long road trip. Jim had been there before, though, and he said the trip wasn't worth it. We were determined to prove him wrong.

It took a while for us to get out there, and we stopped for lunch just a few miles from the old town, which looked like a smudge on the map. The locals at the nearby Burger King knew a little bit about the place. One old timer said that there had been a small airport connected to the place back in World War II and when that went under, it took much of the town with it.

We initially passed the place up. Had Jason not noticed the abandoned gas station at the turn off, we would have missed the entire place. Turns out that this supposed ghost town was still very much alive. Sure, it had become a tiny farming hamlet, but the town boasted a few nice houses attached to some farms as well as a newly built church. The Internet had lied to us! What's worse, we'd have to tell Jim that he was right.

It wasn't a total loss, though. We did get to explore an old gas station and an old mercantile building. The buildings were pretty well destroyed, though. Thankfully, neither of us stepped on any nails in the process. Some pictures are included below.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Latest Science News Plus Coupon Codes

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of SciTech Daily for PayPerPost. All opinions are 100% mine.

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I just recently read a very interesting article on Pluto and how astronomers have discovered a fifth moon orbiting it. This moon, designated P5, was recently discovered by the Hubble telescope in preparation of the arrival of the New Horizons mission in 2015. I had personally thought of Pluto and Charon as binary dwarf planets, but, as no such classification exists within the IAU, Charon is considered a moon of Pluto. The other moons are named Hyda, Nix, P4 and P5.  

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But, don't just take my word for it. Head on over to SciTechDaily, read some of the articles and decide for yourself.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Colorado Technical University

I got a call from a rep at Colorado Technical University recently. She seemed pleasant enough, yet also seemed to be pretty anxious to move through the call without any fuss. She asked if I had a high school diploma and I told her that I did indeed. In fact, I had recently purchased one at an estate sale, crossed the deceased's name off of it and wrote in my own. She didn't stick around much longer after that.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mediacom Thinks You're Stupid

While in the middle of watching Hell's Kitchen last night, my Mediacom issued Motorola DVR box spontaneously shut off. Everything else in the room remained powered on. I had thought for a moment that one of the dogs had sat on the remote again. But, no. Attempting to turn the box back on with the remote and with the button on the DVR itself did nothing. The box had obviously overheated. So, I pulled the plug out of the wall and let it sit for a while. But, still, upon my return, the box would not power on.

I called Mediacom from my cell phone this morning and got connected with their automated customer service line. When asked for my home phone number, I went blank. I couldn't recall it. Nor could I recall my Mediacom account number. I just skipped through those options. I eventually reached a menu item that described my problem. And here's where it gets weird.

The recording told me to unplug my DVR from the power outlet. I couldn't do that because I wasn't home at the time. Still, I waited for about 30 seconds and pushed the * button on the phone to indicate that I had done as I had been instructed. Then, the recording said that Mediacom was pushing a program update to my DVR. But, not knowing my account information, how could they know which cable box to push an update to? And how would that work with the DVR power being off? Obviously, this was a trick concocted by the tech support douchebags at Mediacom to ensure that the #1 troubleshooting tactic was employed before escalating the incident further up the tier to an actual support engineer. Removing the power cord from the outlet is the cable-box equivalent of rebooting a computer.

Why would Mediacom pretend to push a program update in order to get you to unplug your DVR? Why wouldn't they just say "Please try unplugging your DVR and then plugging it back in"? Because they think you're too stupid to think of it as a possible solution and they think you wouldn't do it if you were simply told to. As a former computer support monkey, I can tell you that a large number of people calling in with computer issues would claim to have rebooted their computer when they hadn't just so that they could escalate the call faster. The tech support people at Mediacom were probably running into a similar situation with their DVR boxes.

In order to make sure people tried rebooting as a trouble shooting measure, my old tech support team often told customers WHY they needed to reboot (for example "Just to make sure there isn't a program hogging up all the processing capacity"). Mediacom would do well to follow this same approach. As it stands, they're only treating their customers like they're stupid, and that's piss poor customer service. Although, I gues that assumes the customer catches on like I did.

Frustrated with the whole process, I just hit "0" a bunch of times and got connected with a customer service rep. I explained the situation, gave her enough info to have her pull up my account info and told her I had already tried unplugging the DVR. She told me I could go to my local office and swap the DVR.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Sneaky Dolphin Splashes Unsuspecting Kids

There are a lot of fun things to do at the Indy Zoo. During our trip last week, I was asked by one of the ticketing agents if my daughter would like to be a "Junior Dolphin Trainer" during the dolphin show. She'd get to help out the actual dolphin trainer by issuing a bunch of hand-motion commands to the dolphin. All for the low, low price of $10. I figured, if my daughter was helping the trainer out, shouldn't the Indy Zoo be paying us rather than the other way around? All kidding aside, I felt that the Junior Dolphin Trainer schtick was worth the money. The folks involved in the show go out of their way to make the kids feel important and special and all of the kids involved seemed to enjoy getting so close to the dolphins.

The dolphin trainer played a neat little trick on the kids during the show. The children were going through the hand motions and then turned to wave at the audience. The dolphin trainer had prepared for this and, as the children turned their backs to the dolphin and waved, the dolphin jumped up out of the water and splashed the kids. Have a look at the video below: