Monday, December 9, 2013

A Christmas Video

Starring in "Miracle on 34th Street" got me into the Christmas spirit, so, I decided to put together a little Christmas video for all of my readers out there.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Something Evil Lurks In The Wal-Mart Toy Aisle

I know that Halloween has long since passed, but, it seems to me that the dolls I found in the clearance aisle of Wal-Mart would have been perfect for someone's Halloween decoration. They're sold under the name "Move and Play Twins" but they're just a generic set of twin dolls who talk to each other. To me, they look like something out of Children of the Corn. I kept expecting He Who Walks Behind The Aisles to appear and demand my blood as a sacrifice.

The Blue Man! Yes, the Blue Man!

Make sacrifice unto Him! Bring Him the blood of the outlanders!

A time of tribulation has come. A test is at hand... the final test.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Another Miracle on 34th Street

It's practically a Christmas tradition now for one of the local theater groups to put on a performance of "Miracle on 34th Street" as a live-radio reading. I signed on again this year as it seemed to be a pretty easy gig.

They've got me playing both R.H. Macy and Thomas Mara (NYC District Attorney) which means, at one point, I, as Thomas Mara, have to cross-examine myself as R.H. Macy. My  R.H. Macy is inspired by J.K. Simmons' portrayal of J. Jonah Jameson in the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy: brusque with a gravely voice. My Thomas Mara is pretty close to my own manner of speaking except I'm going non-rhotic to make it more authentic to a New York accent.

The last time I performed in Miracle on 34th Street, I was given the parts of the narrator and the postman, so it seems like I've graduated to more substantial parts this year. Even if I hadn't, it still would be a fun show to do.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

1 Second Everyday

While rehearsing for The Foreigner back in October, I caught wind of a neat little Android app called 1 Second Every Day. You use your android phone to take a video every day, and, after you've taken some, you use the app to create a compilation video that samples one second from every video you've recorded within a specified date range. I'm sure there are better uses for the app than what I had come up with, but, for what it's worth, you'll find my 1 Second Everyday video below:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Another Production Is Behind Me

Being a part-time actor certainly takes its toll on me. I had the male lead role in a local production of a heretofore unproduced play written by a local celebrity who has been deceased for some time. The challenge in working on a play that has never been performed before is that you have no reference upon which to base your performance.Rehearsals were rough for a while as everyone started to build various aspects of their characters and there were points when I thought that we wouldn't be able to pull this show off. But, we did, and it was all worth it when we performed to a full house Saturday night which included the playwright's son who traveled all the way from New York to see our show. I'm told that he was so moved that cried at the end. And I got a standing ovation at curtain call.

Every night, I'd get caked in ghost make-up and have silver hairspray blasted all over my hair. I'm going to be scrubbing this stuff off of me for days to come. My skin was starting to react adversely to the blithe spirit make-up and I had nightmares about tearing my face off while removing the make-up. There was a small amount of behind-the-scenes drama as egos clashed and opinions were thrown around, but that happens in nearly every production. And, of course, there was a lot of hard work involved in memorizing the lines, memorizing the blocking and reaching inside my mind to dig up emotions that I could apply to my character's situation.

In the end, it's all worth it, not just for the applause, but for the chance I had to make new friends and re-connect with old ones thanks to being in the show.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Google Chromecast Pros And Cons

If you're not already familiar with Google Chromecast, you soon will be, as it's promising to be the next big thing in streaming entertainment to your television.  Chromecast is basically an HDMI dongle that plugs into the HDMI port of your television and receives streaming media from your computer or tablet, which acts as the remote. So, you can stream media from certain apps on your computer or tablet into Chromecast via your wireless network and onto your television set.  I got mine in the mail the other day and was able to give it a few good test runs and while there are some great things about it, there's definitely room for improvement.

Pros And Cons of Google Chromecast

Chromecast Pros:

  • At $35, Chromecast is an inexpensive way to get into streaming media
  • You can cast anything from your computer so long as you can open it up in your Chrome browser. If you want to stream an MP4 or AVI movie file, just hit CTRL O, in Chrome, browse for the file, open it and hit the Cast icon.
  • You can cast Netflix, Hulu, Google Movies, Google Music, Pandora and Youtube from your mobile device
  • It's a much more portable device than a Roku or Apple TV. It fits in the palm of your hand. 

Chromecast Cons:

  • There's currently no way to cast locally saved videos from your mobile device to Chromecast. So, all those movies you ripped and put onto your micro-SD card are not currently usable.
  • There's no security to speak of. Anyone who has access to your wireless network can take control of your Chromecast.

As of right now, we're on the cusp of realizing the true potential of Chromecast. Once Google releases the API and third party developers begin making apps for it, Chromecase will truly be a versatile streaming media solution. It's not there yet, but I'm confident that it will be soon. If you've already got a streaming media device like a Roku or a gaming console,  you can probably skip Chromecast for now. However, at only $35, why wait?  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Bitstrips Sucks

Leave it to the Facebook community to find something even more annoying than posting photos of your breakfast via Instragram or changing your profile picture to a giraffe. I'm speaking of Bitstrips, the annoying app that encourages people to post comics of themselves in contrived situations with other Facebook friends. The Bitstrips app was recently released for the iPhone and went straight to #1 due to the abundance of soccer moms discovering that they no longer needed artistic talent to create an annoying comic. And, of course, Bitstrips caters to the need that some people have to idealize themselves.

Although Bitstrips comics start out pre-captioned, the app does let you edit the caption and add speech balloons. The thing is, most folks I know don't even bother with those two options. They just post their Bitstrips comic pre-captioned, tag their friends and go merrily on their way, blissfully ignorant of the shitstorm of annoyingness they've contributed to. The net result is a Facebook News Feed jam packed with dozens of different versions of the same comic. If Bitstrips comics look like they're a bit of an anachronism, with their Seinfeld references and aging clip-art, it's because Bitstrips has been around since 2008. Blackstock started Bitstrips five years ago as a website for people to create their own comics without having to redraw their characters over and over again. The comics didn't truly become popular until the Bitstrips app allowed for easy sharing on Facebook. And now, Bitstrips has become the Crocs of Facebook.

The good news is that you can easily keep those Bitstrips comics off of your Facebook News Feed so that you won't have to see them. Here's all you need to do:

 How To Block Bitstrips From Your Facebook News Feed

  1. Click on the Facebook Account Settings icon, and click the Blocking option on the left side of your screen.
  2. Scroll down to the Block Apps option at the bottom.
  3. Type in Bitstrips.

Or, you can just you hover over a Bitstrips post on your News Feed, click on the drop down menu in the top right corner of the post and click Hide all from Bitstrips

What's With The CRT Monitor Here? More Evidence That Bitstrips Is Stuck In The 90s.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Wanna Taste My Mr Bumpy?

It has been a while since I've featured some inappropriately named food. I found these in the discount aisle of my local grocery store. According to the Global Brands website, Mr. Bumpy wafers are cookie sticks "with a vanilla creme surprise filling". Come on. Tell me that Global Brands didn't intend the Mr Bumpy name to be suggestive.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Android 4.3 Comes To The Samsung Galaxy S4

Over the weekend, the Verizon Gods smiled upon my device and sent out the Android 4.3 update to my Samsung Galaxy S4. It comes with a number of improvements including:

  • Autocomplete for the dial pad
  • Restricted profiles
  • A tab for disabled apps
  • TRIM support
  • New Samsung Keyboard
  • Move-To-SD card feature
  • Bluetooth 4.0 (aka "Bluetooth Low Energy" for use with devices such as smart watches) 
Of course, since Verizon is involved, some crap has to come along with the update. They've bundled a new version of the NFL online app which means that it re-activated itself after I had it disabled for so long. Also, there's the Samsung Knox app which is supposedly useful for people who use their phones for both business and personal data.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Minecraft Mobs Wear Pumpkins For Halloween

How Cute! How Physically Impossible!
After taking my daughter around trick-or-treating, I settled in and relaxed by playing a bit of Minecraft. I went out to check my mob spawners and was met with a frightening, yet festive sight. Apparently, zombies, zombie pigmen, skeletons, and wither skeletons have a chance of spawning with pumpkins equipped as head armor if you play on Halloween. Baby zombies and baby zombie pigmen will also have a chance to spawn with pumpkins equipped, but they won't wear them correctly; the pumpkins will float over their heads.

Ever since Minecraft version 1.4, the game automatically checks the date on your computer, and, if it's Halloween, all naturally generated mobs will wear pumpkins. It's also worth noting that, when a zombie wears head armor, they are immune to sunlight, so this Minecraft Halloween easter egg is a bit more insidious than you'd imagine, especially with the baby zombie mobs. Those little buggers were overpowered to begin with. Adding sunlight immunity to them makes them that much tougher. However, the pumpkin does add a 1 block height to the hit zone of the baby zombies and baby zombie pigmen, so they will be easier to hit. Keep in mind, though, that while the pumpkin adds height to the hit zone, it does not prevent baby zombies and baby zombie pigmen from entering spaces with only a 1 block high entry way.

Trick Or Treat! How Do You Like My Jack Skellington Costume?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Jack O Lantern Idea

I can't claim credit for coming up with this. I saw it on Facebook or Pinterest or something like that. For pumpkin carving this year, kiddo and I shamelessly ripped off the idea of buying small ghost pumpkins (sometimes referred to as "Baby Boo" pumpkins) and using plastic vampire teeth for their mouths. The thing to remember about Baby Boo pumpkins is that, since they're small, they tend to rot faster than their larger counter parts. Personally, I think that a little bit of rotting makes them look even scarier.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Minecraft 1.7.2 The Update That Changed The World

A new version of Minecraft came out on Friday, one which includes a number of interesting changes. Referred to as "The Update That Changed The World". A bunch of new biomes have been added, most notibly the various flavors of mesa biomes. You'll also find that glass can be stained a bunch of different colors and that the various dyes to do so are derived from a bunch of new flowers. Fishing has also become more interesting in that there are now several more kinds of fish (I've already caught salmon, clown and puffer fish) and that junk and treasure can be obtained randomly through fishing.

I spent a few hours last night playing 1.7.2 and it has already proven to be a very fun enhancement to the overall game. A list of everything that has been changed is below: 


(This update includes 1.7 and 1.7.1)
+ Added lots of new biomes!
+ Added “AMPLIFIED” world type
+ Added Acacia and Old Oak wood types
+ Added Stained Glass
+ Added Packed Ice, Red Sand, Podzol
+ Added a bunch of new flowers, including double-height flowers and grass
+ Added more types of fish
+ Fishing rods can be enchanted
+ Achievements are now world specific
+ Gaining achievements now announced to other players
+ Added a few new achievements
+ Servers can now have a “server-icon.png” that is displayed in the multiplayer list
+ You can see who’s online before joining, just hover the player count number in the server list
+ New /summon command
+ Added Command Block minecart
+ Links in chat are now clickable
+ Click on somebody’s name to send a private message
+ Added a bunch of new graphics options
+ Added some shader tests (click on the “Super Secret Settings” a couple of times…)
* Biome placement has been improved, and oceans are smaller
* Portals to the Nether can now have different shapes
* Fishing is now more interesting
* Maps in item frames are now extra big
* The achievement screen is zoomable
* Preparations have been made to offer name change in the future
* You can now have multiple resource packs loaded at the same time
* Resource packs can now hold sound effects
* Servers can recommend resource packs
* Network code has been rewritten
* Sound manager has been rewritten
* Many many bug fixes…
- Removed the Rose flower
- Removed Herobrine

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I Drew My Own Blood

I'm fairly used to the process of getting my blood drawn. It has happened so much over the last year that I can go through the motions simply by relying on muscle memory. I go to the receptionist. She always recognizes me, and tells me to have a seat and wait until my name is called. I wait for about five minutes. A nurse walks into the waiting room, calls my name, and I follow her to one of the lab rooms where I sit, make a little small talk, get a needle stuck in me, give up three vials of blood, and then get a band-aid over the wound. I always thank the nurse for making it a painless process, even if it wasn't.

Yesterday, however, the process changed for a bit. The nurse was new and, after she led me into the lab room, she left for what I thought would be a brief moment. Some ten minutes later, I got bored. I picked up a piece of scrap paper and began to doodle. A few moments later, the nurse walked in and the following exchange occurred:

Nurse: Are you ready to have your blood drawn?
Me: Oh, that won't be necessary. I've already drawn my blood for you.
Nurse: WHAT??
Me: (Showing the picture I drew of my red blood cells at a rave). Here. Have a look.
Nurse: (Definitely not laughing) .......
Me: What? I didn't have time to color it.
Nurse: Hold out your arm.
Me: Don't you want to tape it to the fridge or something?

And THAT, dear readers, is why my arm still hurts this morning.

They're Supposed To Be Red Blood Cells, Not Donuts.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Psychic From Sears Calls Again

It has been six months since I first started looking for options on my kitchen remodel. Out of all the companies whose forms I've filled out, Sears has been the most aggressive. I have politely told them several times that since they insisted on using non-local employees to do the work, then we wouldn't be doing business as I wanted to use my funds to help out the local economy.

Sears calls every few weeks and I've long since stopped being polite and have kept messing with them at every opportunity. They called again last night and I acted like I thought she was a psychic seer who somehow divined that I was in need of a kitchen remodel (possibly through contacting my dead grand father). The rep on the other end took it with surprisingly good humor until I accused her of going through my trash and stealing my old hard drives.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Samsung Optical Reader Via Verizon Galaxy S4 Update

My Verizon backed Samsung Galaxy S4 got a system update early this morning. I had hoped that it was the Android 4.3 update, which I am anxious to receive since it supports Galaxy Gear connectivity. Alas, no, it was just a cruddy build update that Verizon is using to placate a number of customers who bitched about the Samsung Optical Reader app not being available on its initial Galaxy S4 release. That's not to say that there aren't a number of bug fixes and feature enhancements in the 150mb update, but, it's all minor stuff. The Samsung Optical Reader is what stands out the most in this update. And, I have to ask: Is it really necessary?

On the surface, it sounds like a neat little app. You take a picture of a business card with your rear camera and the Samsung Optical Reader puts the information on the card into a contact on your phone. It will also translate printed foreign language phrases for you. I was interested enough to launch the app so that I could test it out. The second you launch it, though, it tells you that it needs to download more files in order to run. And, for that, you have to sign in to the Samsung App Store. Great. Yet another lame attempt by Samsung to force customers into using the Samsung App Store. I haven't logged in to it since I bought my Galaxy S4 and don't ever plan to again. Besides, Google Goggles does everything that the Samsung Optical Reader claims to do and more. I'm told by some of my fellow Samsung enthusiasts that the Samsung Optical Reader has a better UI than Google Goggles, but, that's not enough of a motivation to get me to sign in to the Samsung App Store in order to find out.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dinner Time For The Praying Mantis

There have been a number of praying mantises all over town this past month. I've seen them on the sides of cars, on playground equipment and on lawn furniture. I encountered this particular praying mantis on my porch the other day and found him dining on a cricket yesterday afternoon. Unlike many other insects, the praying mantis doesn't inject its prey with a fluid that liquifies its internal organs. The preying mantis eats its prey alive. I'm not sure which of the two options I find more terrifying.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pandigital SCN02 Photolink One-Touch Scanner Review

Example of an image scanned by the Pandigital SCN02
After inheriting a number of photo albums belonging to my grand parents, my folks now have thousands of old photos tucked away in albums in various states of disarray. My siblings and I delight in looking through these albums whenever any number of us are visiting my parents. These things aren't going to last forever, though, so I wanted to preserve these memories digitally as quickly and as easily as possible. Using a flatbed scanner is far too time consuming, so I went looking for a portable scanner that I could use to get the job done.

For less than $50, I purchased the Pandigital SCN02 Photolink One-Touch Scanner which allows you to autofeed your photos into the mechanism and then scans the image to a memory card while feeding it through. The instructions tell you to use the included clear plastic sleeves to scan your photos, but I would not bother with them as they tend to either not catch properly on the unit or will create lines on the photo. I was fairly pleased with the results of my scans. You get a 300dpi 1.5 mega pixel jpeg for 3x5 and a 2 mega pixel jpeg for 4x6's. This is fine for displaying on a digital frame or posting on social media but not nearly high enough resolution to do any real editing to or print enlargements.

There is one rather pervasive problem with the Pandigital SCN02. There seems to be a tendency for scanned photos to start exhibiting scan lines after some time. I've had the issue myself and found that the problem was due to static holding dust on the scanning mechanism. This problem can be fixed by moistening the included cleaning pad with some anti-static screen cleaner. I hear, though, that the most effective solution is to simply fog your breath into the slot like blowing on an old Nintendo cartridge.

Overall, I'd say that the Pandigital SCN02 is a great item for the price, especially if you're willing to take good care of it. If you're looking to do a bunch of quick photo scans, I would recommend it. However, for extensive photo editing, you'll have to stick with the old flatbed scanner.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Minecraft PE vs Survivalcraft

I recently won a $5 Google Play credit through the Hershey's Android KitKat promotion. With that credit, I decided to purchase Survivalcraft which is a game in the same vein as Minecraft Pocket Edition. I had heard that Survivalcraft is much like Minecraft PE yet with more features. And, I can honestly say that, truly, Survivalcraft has a lot more features than Minecraft PE and feels much more like the PC version of Minecraft than Minecraft PE does. One does have to wonder why Survivalcraft is able to include such goodies like electricity, caves, fire animation and so much more while Minecraft PE is lagging so far behind that it only offered buckets and eggs three revisions ago. Survivalcraft also allows you to directly download additional content like maps and texture packs while Minecraft PE does not. Let's also not forget that Survivalcraft beats Minecraft PE on the price point as well.

As much as I love Survivalcraft and think that it represents a lot of what Minecraft PE should be striving for, there are a few things that I simply cannot get past. Survivalcraft takes an age to load and, every time I start a new game, I'm met with that stupid introductory sequence where the ship leaves my avatar on the island. Okay, I get it: They won't be coming back, so I'm stranded and I need to survive on my own. Does the game really need this sequence? Can't I just jump right in to playing? The user interface on Survivalcraft is much clunkier than the one on Minecraft PE. Perhaps I am biased because I started out on Minecraft PE, but I have a very hard time navigating the Survivalcraft interface and have a difficult time even moving around the Survivalcraft world. The ultimate deal breaker, however, is the lack of multiplayer on Survivalcraft. One of the reasons why I bought Minecraft PE in the first place was so that my daughter and I could collaborate together via our tablets. It's so much fun to be able to explore, build and play with someone else and I find that it's almost essential to this type of gaming experience.

Pros and Cons of Minecraft PE and Survivalcraft aside, I'd like to stress that they are both great games. There's room in this world and on your device for both. That being said, I think that, if you're going to be playing alone, Survivalcraft is probably the better option. If you're hoping to play along with someone else, then Minecraft PE is for you. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

I Survived Yet Another Opening Weekend

I wasn't doing to well during our rehearsals for "The Foreigner" last week. Working all day, then cooking dinner, helping my daughter with her homework and then running off to rehearse for four hours before coming home and going to bed had been taking its toll on me. By Thursday night's final dress rehearsal, I was dropping lines and missing ques. I performed so bad that Friday night found me trying to force lines into my head a mere 10 minutes before curtain went up like some burned out college kid trying to cram before a final.

At some point, every actor has to realize that they've either got everything down or they don't. So, as the lights went on, I put my script down, grabbed my props and hit the stage. There must be something about having an audience that makes my synapses fire correctly, because I was spot on that night. It's almost like I was riding their laughter like a wave from line to line.

After the opening night show, the director came back stage and said to me "I knew once I got you in front of a packed house that you'd run away with it!". And I did the same thing with the next two shows during the weekend. We've got three more shows to do this upcoming weekend, and, once our run of "The Foreigner" is over, I'm heading over to the theater across town to pick up a minor role in a brand new play being produced there.

Monday, September 23, 2013

I Joined The Cast Of The Foreigner

For the past few weeks, I've been working on my portrayal of Froggy Leseur for a local production of "The Foreigner" by Larry Shue. It has been difficult, primarily because I haven't done a play in nearly a year and I'm finding it hard to nail the nonsensical dialogue that permeates the script. While the overall script is incredibly funny, it suffers from having characters getting caught up in eddies of nonsensical dialogue. For example:

BETTY. (Having noticed something in the woodbin.) Well, would you look at this.
BETTY. Two of 'em, this time. That boy.
BETTY. It's that dumb little Ellard Simms, looky here. He takes one o' my apples, bites out of it, then decides he don't want it, and dumps it in here.
FROGGY. Oh, yes.
I would guess that Shue wrote the dialogue this way in order to better emulate real conversation which is often peppered with overlapping interjections. As an actor, trying to memorize these interjections is difficult because they cannot be properly queued off of. This results in a tendency to jump lines and miss entire passages of actual conversation.

My own personal solution to this is to memorize my lines in blocks and to end each block at points where Froggy Leseur is supposed to fumble with interjections. Also, I've noticed that Shue tends to write his interjections in threes, which makes them a little easier to memorize.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ancient Greeks Thought Redheads Turned Into Vampires When They Died

There's a new meme gumming up my Facebook news feed this week. It boasts the extraordinary claim that ancient Greeks thought redheads turned into vampires when they died. Of course, the originators of the meme never point to a source that can document this supposed fact. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus, while describing the Budini people as predominantly redheads, never mentions the belief that they turned into vampires. No we're just supposed to take the meme at face value, tag our redheaded Facebook friends and have a laugh over it. The thing is, the claim that ancient Greeks thought turned into vampires when they died is absolutely not true.

Contrary to popular belief, redheads weren't exactly uncommon in ancient Greece. It would seem that the ancient Greeks associated those with red hair as being Thracians, who lived to the North of the ancient Greeks. The ancient Greeks did indeed regard Thracians as barbarians and were considered by Plato to be high spirited and war-like. It's not hard to believe that ancient Greek citizens may have made up a number of legends regarding these redheaded barbarians, whom many regarded as bloodthirsty to begin with.

While the notion of vampirism has been around since at least the rise of Mesopotamia, the modern-day concept of vampires are firmly rooted in medieval legends. Still, the ancient Greeks did have a belief in creatures that could be thought of as less sophisticated vampires. Specifically, ancient Greek myths referred to the Empusae, Lamia, and Striges. Over time the first two terms became general words to describe witches and demons respectively. Empusa, the daughter of the goddess Hecate was a demonic, bronze-footed creature who feasted on blood by transforming into a young woman and seducing men as they slept before drinking their blood. The Lamia preyed on young children by sucking their blood in their beds as they slept at night. Striges feasted both on children and young men and were later regarded as spirits who were too evil to enter the afterlife.

So, where did this claim that the ancient Greeks thought redheads turned into vampires when they died come from? It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that the originator of the meme probably confused ancient anti-Thracian propaganda with ancient legends of the Stirges. And a healthy amount of misunderstanding and/or poetic license and you've got a recipe for numerous postings on Facebook.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fred Delicious And The Hospital Health Car

There’s a car that haunts my dreams. Well, it’s a car in the strictest technical sense, anyway, being that it has four wheels, an engine and has some means of being controlled by a driver. I don’t know that you could really call it a car, though. It’s as if a Toyota Camry and a Plymouth Voyager had a child car together and the Camry thought that the offspring looked an awful lot like that PT Cruiser that’s always parked down the street. And when that baby car grew up, instead of becoming something respectable like a family sedan or an airport shuttle or even a taxi, it decided to disgrace its parents and become a theme car for this car looked up to the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile growing up.

My local hospital recognized the car’s talent for showmanship and gave it a job driving around to schools in the area to lecture students about good nutrition. To aid the car in its job, they embellished it with decorations and prosthetics until it looked like that evil clown who scared the literal piss out of me when I was 5 and I got lost at that sketchy circus. But, unlike the memory of that gin-soaked clown, I cannot suppress the memory of the Hospital Health Car.

The vehicle haunts my darkest nightmares. I dream that it is chasing me through the streets of my neighborhood with a three headed, six horned, sweaty toothed doctor behind the wheel. And, just when it is about to capture me, put me in a specimen jar, and return me to the hospital to perform avant-garde experiments on my spleen, I dispatch it with a golden apple whom I've named "Fred Delicious".

It always starts the same way. I’m driving down that lonely, dimly lit stretch of highway in my Mustang with the top down. There’s always a lady sitting in the passenger seat. Usually, it’s Reese Witherspoon. Sometimes it’s Christie Brinkley. Once it was my mother, but I don’t want to talk about that. As I drive past the hospital, the Hospital Health Car hangs a tight left at the intersection and begins its pursuit. The doctor’s evil laugh cackles out of the windows as it gains on me. I drop my foot on the gas as if my shoe had been crafted from cloth woven from a neutron star. All of the little horses in my engine take off running. Reese Witherspoon or Christie Brinkley is thrown back so hard that I fear she may have gotten whiplash and will sue me.

The road narrows as my Mustang screeches through the streets of my neighborhood. Behind me, the maniacal doctor drives the Hospital Health Car furiously, his hands clamped to the steering column, the wheels tearing up the asphalt as that villainous vehicle thunders after me. I take a right and blaze down my block towards my house. I’ve misjudged the ludicrous speed of my Mustang and I crash it into my garage, exploding my hot water heater and blowing up my home. Christie Brinkley or Reese Witherspoon is nowhere to be found in the debris. Hollywood is going to be really angry and really happy with me. The doctor catches me from behind and tosses me like a rag doll onto the ground. “Show me your spleen!” he crows at me. He pins my knees with his boots and retrieves a rusty scalpel from his coat pocket. “You’ll feel a little pinch!” he says. I’m certain that the procedure won’t be covered by my HMO and I’ll have to pay out of pocket. Again.

And that’s when I remember him. Fred Delicious. My apple. My friend. Dad always said “Quit naming and personifying your food, Thomas, it’s embarrassing”, but he also always said “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. So, from my pocket I pull out the apple, show him to the doctor and exclaim “Say hello to my little Fred!” as I shove the apple down the doctor’s throat by taking the long way. The doctor keels over and disappears in a puff of purple smoke that smells like the cologne my grandfather used to wear when he’d go to a funeral for one of his military buddies.

And I wake up, safe in my bed, covered in sweat but glad that I had gone to the grocery store the night before and had bought some chili, soda, milk, crackers, macaroni noodles, sour cream, shredded cheese and an apple named Fred.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's Jason's Birthday

Let's face it, when people think of September 11, Jason's Birthday isn't the first thing on their minds. It seems to me that another history-making event is primarily on their minds. It has to suck be to have your birthday on 9/11 and be so overwhelmingly overshadowed, so, in order to lift my buddy's spirits, I decided to put together a little tribute video for him.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Highland Lawn Cemetery

I spend my part of my Labor Day weekend in Terre Haute, IN. After wandering around for some time, I passed by the Highland Lawn Cemetery and decided to go in and have a look around. The grounds of the cemetery are vast and gorgeous, featuring a number of ornate headstones and mausoleums. Immediately after entering Highland Lawn Cemetery, one is greeted by a headstone belonging to someone with the ominously appropriate name of H.C. Dies. There's also a large statue of an elk not too far away. The rest of Highland Lawn Cemetery seems to be an exercise in hosting a "who can build the biggest funerary obelisk" contest. Aside from that, there are number of famous burials, such as poet Max Ehrmann (writer of "Desiderata") and silent film star Valeska Suratt.

The Legend Of Stiffy Green

Local folklore has it that Highland Lawn Cemetery is haunted by a dog nicknamed Stiffy Green. According to legend, when John G. Heinhl died in 1921, his loyal pet bulldog refused to leave his side, even after Heinhl was placed in the family mausoleum. The dog growled at anyone who approached, and stood guard by the burial site until his death. The bulldog was then stuffed and had green glass eyes added (real eyes dry out) and placed inside the mausoleum so that he visible through the entrance grate. When curious visitors shined flashlights through the door, the dog's fake green eyes would light up. This earned the dog the nickname of "Stiffy Green". Stories also abound of people who have heard a dog barking in the distance when they approach the Heinhl mausoleum. A little research indicates that the Stiffy Green legend is just that. The truth is that the dog in the mausoleum had merely been a concrete statue that belonged to Mr. Heinhl and had stood on the front porch of his home. Don't bother looking for old Stiffy Green if you happen to visit Highland Lawn Cemetery. He's not there anymore. He was moved to a replica of the Heinhl mausoleum at the County Historical Museum in Terre Haute after teenagers shot bullets into the actual mausoleum in the 1980s and shot out one of the statue's green eyes. Still, if you want to have a look at the Heinhl mausoleum, it's picture #5 in the set below.

Martin Sheets And His Taphophobia

Before he died in 1910, Martin Sheets, a Terre Haute businessman, had a phobia of being buried alive. Thanks to the invention of the telephone, Sheets was able to somewhat alleviate this fear by arranging to have a phone with an active line placed with his mausoleum once he passed away and made arrangements in his will to pay for the line for many years after his death. His tomb was also constructed in such a way that that he could open it from inside if he needed to. The phone was also set up that a light would turn on in the Highland Lawn Cemetery office when the mausoleum phone was lifted, even if no words were spoken. Of course, the light never came on and the direct line to the cemetery office was eventually removed. However, the actual phone line remained live as long as the money from Sheets' will paid the bill. Legend has it that several years later, Sheets' widow was found dead laying on her bed with a telephone receiver clutched in her hand and a look of terror frozen on her face. She was placed in the mausoleum next to her husband and, when the cemetery workers entered the tomb, they noticed that Martin's phone was off the hook. You'll see a picture of the Sheets mausoleum in picture #4 in the set below.

Highland Lawn Cemetery, a set on Flickr.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Android 4.2.2 Comes To The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2

My Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 has finally gotten the Android 4.2.2. update this morning. The update package appeared to be about 900mb in size. A number of improvements to the interface are included in the Android 4.2.2 update. Many of them are very subtle, so, you might be asking yourself what the big deal is.

Improvements In Android 4.2

  • Dedicated customizable notifications panel in the status bar

  • New lockscreen widgets

  • Support for multiple user accounts

  • Better accessibility, 

  • Daydreams screensaver mode

  • New widgets and launcher from the Galaxy S4. 

  • Improvements in performance and battery life.

For me, the biggest draw for Android 4.2 is the support for multiple user accounts. It's nice to be able to set up a "Guest" user in case someone wants to borrow my tablet.

How To Add Users In Android 4.2

  1. Go to your Settings 
  2. Tap User Profiles
  3. Tap Add User (might be in the upper-right hand corner)
  4. Tap OK to confirm that you want to add a user
  5. Tap Set Up Now in the pop-up menu to confirm that the person for whom you’re creating a profile is close by.
  6. Enter the new user’s Gmail address and click OK
  7. After you click OK, it will take a bit to sync up the new account.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Age Of Ultron Is Upon Us

Ever since the announcement that the sequel to "Marvel's The Avengers" would be titled "The Avengers: Age Of Ultron", speculation has been running rampant about how Ultron will come into existence. For those of you who don't already know, Ultron is one of the Avengers' greatest enemies. He was an artificial intelligence experiment that had gone horribly wrong. Hard core comic book fans already know that Ultron was originally the creation of Hank Pym, the Avenger known as Ant-Man (and Giant Man, Goliath, Yellow Jacket, The Wasp, etc etc etc). But, as Hank Pym wont be introduced until Phase 3, there's really only one possible creator for Ultron: Tony Stark.

That's the obvious conclusion, mainly because Tony Stark has already created a sophisticated artificial intelligence: J.A.R.V.I.S. (who was a mere human butler in the comics). In Iron Man 3, Stark was able to have J.A.R.V.I.S. control multiple suits of armor, which, while cool, raises a huge problem. If the Iron Man armor can be controlled via remote, then why do we need Tony Stark? Ultimately, having some aspect of J.A.R.V.I.S. evolve into Ultron solves the iron army problem created in Iron Man 3. Stark then needs to get back into the suit because he can't trust an A.I. to run it.

Still, birthing Ultron out of a currupted J.A.R.V.I.S. seems too obvious and lazy. There has to be another route. Remember that robotic arm that Tony constantly refers to as "Dummy" and "Butterfingers"? Maybe, just maybe, Tony gives it an upgrade and it gets tired of taking Tony's abuse. Whatever the circumstances of Ultron's creation, I'm hoping that we'll get some hints of Ultron in the next few Phase 2 movies. I'd really hate to have Avengers 2 open up with Tony Stark tinkering around, creating Ultron and then calling the rest of the team to help him defeat him. That's just uninspired. I liked how we got hints of a greater threat all throughout Phase 1 which was then revealed in the Avengers movie. Let's hope the go that route again. Then again, maybe we've been getting hints of Ultron since the first Iron Man movie. 

On a side note, I find it odd that the folks in charge are choosing to name the second Avengers movie after one of the worst comic book events in recent memory. The comic book version of Age of Ultron was basically a post-apocalyptic story that featured a time-traveling Wolverine while showing very little of Ultron. I understand the need for name recognition, but you'd think that the folks in charge would have gone with something that was a little better received. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Gen Con 2013 Pictures

IMG951825IMG95294920130817_121457IMG_0906IMG_0905Geeks Of Steel
Gen Con 2013, a set on Flickr.
Even though I only spent one day at Gen Con this year, I still was able to take quite a few pictures of people wearing some pretty awesome costumes. Have a look for yourself. Maybe you'll see someone you recognize.