Friday, May 10, 2019

Expectation vs Reality: Golden Girls Dorothy Chia Pet

At our last Faculty social of the semester, I was the stunned winner of the door prize, which is usually something goofy. This time, it was the Golden Girls Dorothy Chia Pet. "Thank you for being a friend!", I exclaimed as I accepted the prize. The organizers of the social asked if I would document my growing experience. I was trepidatious at the prospect, as I am known to have a a real brown thumb when it comes to growing things.


So, it was to absolutely nobody's surprise that my first attempt to grow a chia-pet resulted in something that fell far below advertised expectations. You can see the results in the comparison below:


Expectation

Reality


Ultimately, the issue seems to be that the Golden Girls Dorothy Chia Pet grew mold, which, I am told, is somewhat common with chia pets. Part of the issue may be that I didn't rotate poor Dorothy in the window. Her face was always looking inward, so I suppose her crown and forehead didn't get enough sunlight. Or maybe I'm completely wrong. I have no idea. Like I said, brown thumb.

Those White Fluffs Aren't Little Chia Sprouts

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Credit Card Scammer Gets A Wrong Number

Another credit card scammer called me. When he asked me for my name, I told him that my last name was "Rotchhurtz" and that my first name was "Mike". I then asked him to say my first and last name together. So when he said "Mike Rotchhurtz", I asked him what he did to it to make it hurt.

The rep then asked me if I wanted a zero percent interest rate. He asked me if I had a card with a large balance on it. I told him that my Mastercard is perfectly balanced, as all things should be and wondered if he could snap his fingers and decimate my interest rate. When the rep asked for my card number, I feigned stupidity for a bit and then gave him a fake number. He figured it out pretty quick yet still tried to get my SSN and zip code. He then went offline for a bit and told me that I had provided him with wrong info.

I started to give him some new number and told him it was "5178 GO F--- YOURSELF". He promptly hung up on me.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Merkury Innovations BR30 Smart Light Bulb

My father is enjoying his smart home deployment so far. So much so, that he asked if I would install some smart bulbs into the recessed light fixtures in his room. I have a number of recessed light fixtures in my own living room, and, for them, I went with Merkury Innovations Color Smart A21 Light Bulbs simply because I had already had them on hand. For my father's recessed lighting, I wanted something that would be a better physical fit, so I went for the Merkury Innovations BR30 Smart Light Bulb which cost only $14.88 at Wal-Mart.

Like all other Merkury Innovations smart bulbs, the BR30 is controlled through the Genni App which is easily managed via Amazon Alexa and/or Google Home. The bulb's teardrop shape fits perfectly into the recessed lighting and operates as expected. Dad wasn't too keen on having a color changing bulb, so the BR30 fits his needs just fine. There isn't a Merkury Innovations branded version of the BR30 that supports color, but there is a Geeni branded version.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Energy Scammer Gets Busted

Yet another one of those "Lower your energy bill" scammers called me. When he said the word "Kilowatt", I asked him why he killed that watt. He responded that he didn't like him. I quipped back with "WATT did he ever do to you?".

I changed the subject and asked the rep's name. He said it was Jason Green. I laughed and said "Not with that accent". He kept insisting, so I asked him where he was located. He said Chicago. When I asked him what the temperature was, he said 24 degrees. That day in Chicago, it was 64 degree. He knew he was busted and started laughing. When I asked him who the White Sox were playing, he clearly had not even heard of the White Sox.

I then asked him to tell me why he was working for a company that scams people out of money. I could tell that he was offended. He indicated that this was the point where he would end the call. I managed to keep him on a bit longer. I told him that, if he wasn't scamming people, then why would he lie about where he was located?

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Graduate

About four months ago, I began shopping around an idea I had for a theater production that would be guaranteed to put a lot butts in the seats of whatever venue deigned to support me. Most theaters plan their seasons out about a year in advance, so I didn't expect immediate progress. However, the rinky dink little theater that I had walked out on in a huff over three years ago had heard about the project and enthusiastically called me in with an offer: They'd take up production of my proposed show if I would agree to help them get their current show, which had been mired in production hell for months, off the ground. How hard could it be? It was essentially project management. I didn't even need to act in the play. I'd just need to round the cast up, organize rehearsals, motivate the director and get enough people to buy tickets so that the theater could turn enough of a profit to finance my show. Easy, right? Wrong.

When I started calling the cast back to start rehearsals, I discovered that most of them had moved on to other projects and couldn't or wouldn't re-commit to the show. While I had most of the smaller roles covered, the actors who played Benjamin, Elaine, Mrs. Robinson and Mrs. Braddock had bailed. So, I started making calls. The director had suggested dropping the Mrs. Braddock role from the show, but the character adds such a unique comedic element that I felt it should be kept if possible. I rang a supporting actress whom I worked with before and sweet talked her into accepting the role. Elaine was a bit easier to cast, as I just rang the first actress I thought of and she readily accepted. Casting Benjamin was a bit tougher, but I solicited some suggestions from other actors and found someone who perfectly embodied the awkward shyness I was looking for. This just left Mrs. Robinson and I kept coming up empty.

The role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, while not the lead per se, is the most iconic role in the show. The line "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me" is arguably more famous than "No, Luke. I am your father!". Simon and Garfunkel even wrote a song about her.  I knew that I needed somebody who oozed sexuality on the surface that hid a degree of damage just below it. I was able to get some actresses to audition but couldn't find someone who had the right mix. I was about to go with a conventionally attractive actress until I found myself sitting down with one of my closest female friends describing the situation. She took a drag from her cigarette, shook her head as she exhaled the smoke and then popped off a sarcastic remark. And that's when it hit me. She'd be perfect. Sure, she had never acted before, and her life situation was crazy, but we could work through that. At first, she didn't want to do it. I told her that acting helps provide focus to one's life and that the role of Mrs. Robinson would be a catharsis for her. She'd also be a role model to those who were in her same situation who sought to find some way to rise above it. Then I told her that I was desperate and that she owed me. We had our Mrs. Robinson.

After a week of read-throughs, the actor playing Mr. Robinson dropped out. Rather than hit the pavement looking for another actor, I decided to step in. It would allow me to shore up any acting issues with Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson more directly. And then there was my own catharsis with the role. A week later, the actor playing Mr. Braddock dropped out. I hesitated to push the director into playing the role, as he was already burned out on the entire thing. However, we couldn't afford to delay any longer, so I convinced him to take yet another hit for the team.

Rehearsals weren't without issues. The director wasn't doing much actual directing. He offered very little in the way of motivation and Benjamin was coming off as way too nervous. And both Mrs. Robinson and Benjamin were having issues remembering their lines. In the scene where Mr. Robinson confronts Benjamin, I had to go from playing a lawyer-like interrogation and turn it into a loud barrage of accusations in order to pull Benjamin through the scene. I couldn't offer much help to Mrs. Robinson since we were not in many scenes together. The best I could do was try to help her memorize her lines as much as possible during our downtime. It was during one of these off-hours pizza and soda punctuated line-running sessions that I advised her: "Ignore what you've seen in the movie. Don't play Anne Bancroft playing Mrs. Robsinson. Play yourself playing Mrs. Robinson. Act how you would act as that character in that situation". Me giving acting advice to someone? High school me would want to have a very serious talk with adult me and possibly arrange an ass kicking.

Just before we all took the stage for the first time in front of a paying audience, Mrs. Robinson was stricken with the worst case of stage fear that I had ever seen. But, group hugs and words of encouragement got her through it. There's something very satisfying in watching someone who hasn't acted before come out and totally own a role. It's even more satisfying when it's one of your closest friends. And, as for me, I'm just glad that I was able to wield an actual axe during the climax and not cause an accident with it. The wedding scene in The Graduate is crowded and clunky and with Benjamin dropping lines all over the place, I decided that acting overly-aggressive and chewing the scenery would be a good distraction. It played really well and got a great audience reaction.

In the end, we pulled off a great show and even had a few sold-out nights. And that's how I saved the production and am the greatest. Now I can do my vanity project....as if my ego wasn't already big enough.

Monday, April 8, 2019

TP-LINK HS210 Kasa Smart 3-Way Kit WiFi Light Switch

I've reached the point in my Smart Home deployment where I've run out of regular switches to replace and am now replacing my three-way switches. A three-way switch is a setup where two switches control the same light. You typically find them in living rooms, hallways and staircases. I decided to replace my main hallway switches with the TP-LINK HS210 Kasa Smart 3-Way Kit WiFi Light Switch.

The 3-Way Kit comes with two switches, one for each end of the circuit. There are a number of reviews out there that say you only need one switch out of the kit in order for the circuit to work properly. I wouldn't know if that's truly the case, as I opted to install both switches, mainly because I wanted the switches in my hallway to match. But, to be honest, I'm not really convinced that you only have to use one of the 3-way switches and still get full functions from it. 

These switches were so easy to install, mainly because they have actual screw-in terminals for the hot and traveling wires. This means that you only have to use one twisting cap (for the neutral) rather than three, which means you've got more space in your switch box to accommodate the smart switch. I was able to get both of these switches installed in under 30 minutes which is about how long it usually takes for me to install a single one of the wire twist switches. If I have one complaint about the TP-LINK HS210 Smart 3-Way Switch Kit it's that the actually physical feel of the switch is weird. It's a rocker switch with the contact at the bottom which feels inverted to me. I can get past that, though. Eventually.

Overall, I liked the TP-LINK HS210 Smart 3-Way Switch Kit enough that I'm going to buy it again to install it in the 3-way switch circuit that resides in my home office.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Shaving With Harrys.com

I used to love shaving. There's something about the ritual of applying the shaving cream, preparing the blade and then calmly gliding the razor over your skin that's very soothing and relaxing. It's an act that we men do not only because it makes us look good, but because it makes us feel good about ourselves. Over the last year or so, shaving changed from a joyful task that I looked for ward to and turned into a daily chore that I wanted to get done as quick as possible. I had cheaped out on blades and shaving cream and from the moment I did, my joy of shaving started to decline until it fell into a black morass of razor burn, blade cuts and skin care despair.

The girlfriend had gotten it into her head that she wanted me to shave the goatee and see what I looked like clean-shaven. I told her that I wasn't willing to endure the constant skin irritation around my lips and chin, and having the goatee hid the blotchy skin around those areas. She doubled down on her request and followed up with a care package from Harrys.com. I was pretty surprised when I got this big box of stuff and opened it up. There was a lot of stuff in it and I made an effort to use all of it. Here's what I think:


The Shave Gel: This is something I've never put too much thought into. All shave gels are created equally, right? So, the store brand that runs you 99 cents for a big can should perform as well as Harry's which runs you $6. Is there $5 of extra value? For me, I think that there is, most especially because when I put Harry's shave gel on my face, it doesn't feel all "chemical-y". One of the reasons I've traditionally avoided shave gel in favor of shave soap is because of the chemical feeling that gels usually have. I don't know if it's thanks to Harry's shave gel being paraben-free and sulfate-free, but I know that the gel feels great and works wonders on my face.

The Truman Razor: It feels pretty slick and looks great. It's hard to make a razor exciting, but Harry's has done it. Or maybe I'm just a sucker for eye-popping colors and clever marketing (German engineering! For your face! Zounds!). Ultimately, it's the product that matters, right? So, how well does it work? Overall, it's lightweight, the grip feels good in my hand and shaving comes naturally. Plus, yeah, it looks cool. Not that anyone is actually watching me shave.

The Blades: Harrys.com blades feature a pivot head that conforms to the contours of your face very well. It also boasts a very cool trim tool which is great for edge trimming or removing hair from other unwanted places on your face. The most important part of a blade, of course, is how well it shaves. A bad blade can give you a piss-poor shave that will ruin your day. Thankfully, Harry's blades give a very close shave. The thing that I really noticed was how long it took for my five o'clock shadow to emerge after shaving at about 7am with Harry's blade. Usually, my five o'clock shadow gets noticeable after about 8 hours. My shave with a crisp, new Harry's blade has been pushing that up to about 12 hours. It's a little bit less after using the blade once, down to about 10 hours after using the blade twice which is still pretty good. I can get two great shaves and two acceptable shaves out of one blade set before having to throw it away. For comparison, the safety blades that I have been using over the past several months give me one good shave and one mediocre shave before I have to toss one.

The Post-Shave Balm: I did it. I got rid of the goatee. I trimmed it down with my electric and then shaved it off with a Harry's razor. And there it was - the skin blotch that comes with not shaving your facial hair for a good 12 months. Removing my facial hair after having it so long made me feel weird enough, but looking at the blotchy skin that remained undermined my confidence in my appearance. But, I had committed to this, so I applied the Harry's Post-Shave Balm to my face. It's after-shave, but better. After a few days of using the post-shave balm along with Harry's face wash cleared up my skin issues and made me feel pretty good about my appearance.

Body Wash: Okay, I admit it: I'm an Old Spice guy. Old Spice Fiji is my go-to body wash, deodorant and body spray. That habit is going to die hard and the girlfriend knows it. She put three different types of Harry's Body Wash into the care package in order to try and break me of the Old Spice habit.  Okay, yeah, I like the stuff just fine and I said I'd commit to using all of it until it runs out before making a final decision. I see what she's doing. She's trying to wean me off of Old Spice Fiji. It won't work, I tell you! I will not break!

So, let's talk about cost. The blades is where they get you, right? Wrong. If you buy direct from Harry's.com you can get blades for as little as 1.88 per blade depending on how many you buy. that's a pretty incredible deal. Best of all, if you don't want to deal with having to remember to buy your shaving supplies on a regular basis, you can purchase a subscription to Harrys.com and get a box of supplies every month (cancel at any time).

Overall, I'm digging the Harry's experience and if you're thinking that you're burned out with your shaving routine, then you should check them out yourself. Pick up a blade and some gel and maybe some face wash and see how you feel. You'll fall in love wish shaving again.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Shopping Shenanigans

It was time for a new leather jacket. The one I had been wearing had served me well ever since Jason slapped it on me early last year. "You need a better look and I'm too fat for this now", he said at the time. It was a good jacket and I got a lot of compliments on it. But, it started to fall apart and now it's in dire need of being retired. So, it was off to the local Wilson's Leather to pick up a new one.

I do most of my apparel purchases online these days. However, if I'm going to drop $300 on a jacket, I'm going to want to see what it looks like on me before I start counting out the cash. Of course, I brought Jason along just to confirm that my choice in jackets didn't make me look like a doofus. Not any more than usual, anyway. We walked into Wilson's and while I looked for a few jackets I liked, Jason skulked around the store looking for ways to annoy me. He spied one of the older sales ladies and brought her over to get her opinion on how the jacket I picked out looked on me.

"How does this jacket look on him?", Jason asked the sales lady while I stared daggers at him. The sales lady began putting her hands on my shoulders and shoulder blades to help gauge the fit of the jacket on me, which made my skin crawl because I hate being touched by strangers. I resisted my urge to scream "I need an adult....I NEED AN ADULT" while the lady checked the fit of my jacket. Satisfied that I didn't look like a goon, I decided to purchase the jacket.

"Do you want to buy some leather protector spay for $6.95?", the saleslady asked me while she rang up my purchase.

"Nah", I said. "I bought a leather sport coat not too long ago. I still have that stuff", I replied.

"Well, you're just amazing. But, I bet you hear that all the time". The sales lady was apparently working hard to hold any potential buyer's remorse in abeyance.

"I do. But it's still nice to hear", I grinned.

Jason's eyes rolled so hard that he nearly got whiplash. "Yeah, you're all pizza and pixie farts, aren't you?"

"Sarcasm is the lowest form of comedy, but, in your case, I'll allow it for this one instance. Just know that I expect more of you", I said in a mock-scolding tone.

The saleslady cut in with "Where did the two of you get your curly hair from?"

"Our mother!", Jason and I replied in unison. Even though we're not related, and I don't have curly hair at all, we're often mistaken for cousins or brothers because of how we interact with each other. The fact that we both replied the same thing quickly just shows how well we know each other.

"I'm sure that all the women love it", the sales-lady said. Geez, she was really working it.

"Well, they love it on ME", I quipped.

Jason rolled his eyes again as he ushered me out of the store.

We happened upon yet another closing retail place and picked through the boxes of random crap for sale. In one box, I found a winter glove that was merged with a windshield scraper.

"What an awesome time we live in", I said out loud. "We must keep this technological marvel from the serfs lest they rise up and dethrone the landed gentry!".

"It's great for when it's really cold out and you have ice on your windshield", the cashier said, having overheard me.

"That's what my daughter is for!", I shot back. And it's true. My daughter, who just got her own car a few months ago, currently finds scraping the windshield to be a novel thing, so she scrapes both her own car and mine.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself!" a large, well-fed old woman bellowed at me.

"Oh believe me, lady, I AM ashamed of myself. For MANY reasons. None of which have anything to do with my daughter scraping my windshield".

"Whatever. We both know you have no shame", Jason said.

"No....but I have un-iced windshields!".

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Social Security Card Scammer Calls Me

I got a robo-call saying that my Social Security Number was going to be cancelled due to fraud. I got connected with a heavily-accented rep who proceeded to ask me what my name and Social Security Number were. I told him that my name was Ben Dover. After I gave a fake Social Security Number, I was asked which state issued it. I knew that the jig was up because I didn't have the conversion table to tell which state would have issued my fake number. The scammer obviously looked it up on the SSN table and knew that I was faking. He actually asked "Do you think we're a fool?".

Monday, March 25, 2019

Touch Enabled 2-Gang Smart Switch

Despite the recent trade war between Donald Trump and the Chinese, it seems that the Chinese are still flooding the American market with electronics. You'll find a number of smart switches that are essentially the same thing, but with a few cosmetic changes and different brand names. I picked up a two gang set from Amazon recently to install in my two gang front hallway box so that I could control my front porch light and my front hallway light.

The no-name brand that I purchased on Amazon is a touch-based switch rather than a physical switch. I managed to get it to work with my oddly wired two-gang box which has some kind of weird cross-over that powers the bathroom vent switch that sits on the opposite wall. Admittedly, out of the box, the switches looked a little cheap. But, when they're actually installed and working, they look pretty good and accent the hallway wall quite well. The best feature is the friendly blue glow that shines from the switches. This essentially acts as a night light in the hallway once it gets dark.

Just like the rest of these no-name Chinese switches, mine works with the Smart Life app and was easily integrated into my Google Home environment.



Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Inbox By GMail Is Going Away!

I opened up Gmail Inbox last night and was met with the troubling message that Inbox will be going away on April 2nd. Since its public release in 2015, Inbox has implemented a number of useful features like:

  • Undo Send
  • Smart Reply
  • The Unsubscribe card
  • Snoozing emails
  • Nudges
This is all a part of the overarching Gmail overhaul that has been going on recently. Inbox was used to test potential new features and supposedly most of the popular Inbox features will be making their way to the Gmail app if they aren't there already. 

Personally, I'm going to miss the look of Inbox. The Gmail app is such a mess. All of my mails: traveling, work, announcements, promotions are dumped into the main screen so that just feels like a downgrade compared to Inbox. You can get some semblance of that interface in the Gmail app by going to Configure Inbox which will allow you have a tabbed inbox for Primary, Promotions, Updates, etc. However, it has been my experience that those tabs look awful and are a massive downgrade from the subject, day, and Highlights separations that Inbox has.

So, Inbox, despite how much we'll miss you, we bid thee farewell. It is a far, far better thing that you did, than you have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that you go to than you have ever known.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Colorado Christian University Calls

A rep from Colorado Christian University called looking for Clovis. Clovis was so excited to hear from her that his exclamation of "Hallelujah" took her back a bit. The rep said that she wanted to introduce Clovis to an admissions counselor but Clovis said he wasn't dressed for a meeting.

Clovis was interested in becoming a Televangelist. When the rep asked Clovis if he was interested in studying "online", Clovis said he wanted to study "The Bible". The rep kept trying to get Clovis to understand the concept of online learning.

 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Lori Loughlin And Felicity Huffman Charged In Massive College Cheating Scheme

According to multiple media outlets, more than 40 people, including actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, have been charged with fraud for their alleged involvement in a massive college admissions scheme. Those involved in the scheme allegedly tried to get students to gain admission to top-tier colleges and universities by paying bribes up to $6 million, getting students to be admitted as recruited athletes under false pretenses and helping them cheat on entrance exams, per court documents that were unsealed on Tuesday. If convicted, those involved could each face five years in prison.

Oh no! Not Lori Laughlin! What will become of Season 5 of Fuller House and the proposed spinoff involving her and John Stamos? And who will star in the next Hallmark Channel Christmas movie about an advertising executive stranded over Christmas in a sleepy Vermont town due to a snow storm? Hopefully Candace Cameron-Bure is available to take over, or the 2019 holiday movie season is ruined!

On the bright side, we can be rather well assured that Lori Laughlin will use her upcoming experience in prison to write, direct and star in a Hallmark Channel movie about a white collar executive incarcerated in a federal prison who overcomes her emotional issues just in time to help spruce up the GenPop area for the holidays. And maybe even make some friends along the way. It'll be called Jingle Cells!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

TP-Link HS110 Smart Plug with Energy Monitoring

The room was ominously dark except for one lone spotlight shining down on the subject.

"Where are your rebel friends NOW?" the interrogator asked as he entered into sight. He was toying with the subject. He knew that the question would be unanswered. Conversely, the subject knew that there would be no help arriving. There would be no escape.

The interrogator looked at his clip board and read menacingly from it. "Samsung. Model #WA52M8650AW. They say you have high efficiency. They say you have achieved Energy Star rating. We shall see if that distinction has truly been earned". The interrogator gleefully called out to an unseen assistant. "Attach the device....".
TP-Link HS110 Smart Plug

Live with any smart home deployment long enough and you'll begin to wonder if you're actually saving any energy by using smart devices. Think about that long enough and you may even begin to wonder how much energy your various appliances draw on average. If you're keen on monitoring energy usage on specific electronic devices, then there are a fair amount of smart plugs on the market that offer energy monitoring capabilities. I went with the TP-Link HS110 Smart Plug with Energy Monitoring. It should cost you around $15 depending on where you buy it from.

I'm in a fairly poor position to evaluate smarthome energy consumption in my house because I have no benchmark to compare my current consumption to. I had a number of smart bulbs installed the moment I moved into the house and had the Nest thermostat put in soon after. Still, the installation of smart home devices has fed my desire to compile and analyze data. Also, I thought it would be interesting to monitor the energy consumption related to the running of my washing machine, so I attached the TP-Link HS110 Smart Plug to it upon getting it out of the box.

Of course, the plug also allows you to turn itself on and off just like any other smart plug does, but I'm not using that function in relation to the washing machine just yet. I'm not even sure why I'd want the ability to turn my washing machine on and off remotely. Perhaps if I wanted to have a load started before I got home from work so that it wouldn't be sitting in the washing machine all day growing mildew.

The TP-Link HS110 Smart Plug uses the KASA app to interact directly with the device. You can link KASA to Google Home and control the on/off toggle. However, if you want to check current energy consumption or if you want to get a report of past consumption, you'll have to go through the KASA app. That seems to be par for the course for that sort of thing. For example, I can set the temperature on Nest thermostat via Google Home, but if I want to access any historical functions, I'll have to go through the Nest app.

So, what good is an energy monitoring smart plug if you don't have the desire to track energy usage? Well, in my case, my laundry room is located at the far end of my house and my bedroom is located at the opposite end. If I'm in my bedroom when the washing machine buzzer goes off, I won't be able to hear it, thus potentially inconveniencing any of the other residents in the house who are waiting to wash their clothes. Thanks to the magic of IFTTT, I could create a custom routine to set an alert to notify me when "current power" drops under, say, 500 watts. I know what you're thinking: I can just make a mental note to keep better track of when I expect my washing load to be done. But, with the TP-Link HS110 Smart Plug and IFTTT, I don't have to.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Another SEO Scammer Calls Me

A rep from one of those SEO Optimization companies called me hoping to get me to sign up. I transferred them over to Clovis who began by bragging that he knows more about the web than a spider. When the rep began to tell Clovis about website promotion, Clovis said that his website deserved a promotion from Captain to General. The rep explained that they would scan the website for issues and Clovis said that he had plenty of shoes to identify. The rep started to talk about identifying an I.P. to which Clovis said that he wasn't into golden showers. Clovis then asked how much the rep would pay him in order to have the rights to promote the website. Clovis asked for $10,000. Clovis then remarked about his drinking problem and asked the rep if he liked to get drunk at work. The rep seemed desperate to hand Clovis off to an account manager and asked Clovis to hold on. Clovis began to sing "Baby Hold On" by Eddie Money. The rep hung up.


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Nest Protect

I feel sorry for the little smoke detectors that came with my house. I'm sure they worked incredibly hard over the years, valiantly sitting watch around the house ready to detect smoke with total vigilance. All they asked was a yearly battery replacement and self-test. Then my family comes in and, like an Initech business consultant, I start asking "What would you say......you do here?". Next thing you know, the kitchen smoke detector has been retired to the tool closet and a Nest Protect is sitting watch in its place.

The big question is, why would the average consumer want to purchase a Nest Protect at $110 over the traditional puck style smoke detector which costs around $25? Does the Nest Protect offer $85 worth of value over the puck? In my opinion, it does. To begin with, the Nest Protect has a sleek and stylish look boasting a square design with rounded edges, and a stainless-steel mesh cover that looks not only looks great, but gives smoke and CO2 a bunch of access points for better detection.

The Nest Protect is also an essential part of your smart home deployment, as it can alert you via the Nest app when smoke and/or CO2 has been detected. Just a few hours after installing a Nest Protect in the kitchen, the girls decided to cook some fried chicken on the stove. I was at rehearsals when the Nest app alerted me that smoke had been detected. The girls later told me that the Nest Protect announced that smoke had been detected and if it continued, the alarm would sound and that it would be loud. In cases like this, when there's just a little smoke due to un-vented cooking, the alert can be silenced via the app or by physically pressing the button on the device. If there's a large amount of smoke, however, silencing will be disabled.

The Pathlight feature on Nest Protect is very handy. Pathlight is like a night light that turns on when you walk by, so you don’t need to stumble around in the dark. So, when Nest Protect detects you walking by in the dark, i it will illuminate
a soft white light in order to help you find your way. Ten seconds after you pass by, Pathlight turns off.

If you have a Nest thermostat, then the Nest Protect can work in partnership with it. So, if the Nest Protect detects Carbon Monoxide, you have the option of allowing the Nest Protect to turn your furnace off via the Nest thermostat. This makes sense, as the furnace tends to be the primary cause of Carbon Monoxide emissions.

The one drawback I see with the Nest Protect is that it doesn't integrate with Google Home. I know that some folks out there want to have the ability to have the connected light bulbs turn red during an alert or perhaps have some bulbs turn on to 10% brightness when Pathlight detects movement. Those are minor concerns for me. While I hope that Nest offers Google Home integration in the near future, it isn't a deal breaker for me. I'll be deploying Nest Protect devices in other areas around the house over the next few months.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Virtual Sink 10th Anniversary

It was 10 years ago today that I pointed the domain name, virtualsink.com to the blog that I had been working on for a month prior. As explained in my introductory post, The Virtual Sink was borne out of the ashes of the radio shows that I did in Chicago throughout the 90's. It escaped to the Internet where it died a quiet death after the birth of my daughter. It rose from the ashes when the demands of being a father took up less of my time. Some said I would get bored of it within a year. Some said I'd never be able to keep generating content. Most didn't care either way. Regardless of your opinion, I'm still here spewing content.

So, what's next? I had initially envisioned The Virtual Sink to be a collaboration between myself and the former co-hosts of both The Kitchen Sink and The Virtual Sink. That never happened because, surprisingly, their apathy level far surpassed my own. And, yet, I can't keep doing this for another 10 years, can I? I don't know. Maybe I invite some guest bloggers once or twice a month. Maybe I do some wider Youtube collaboration with some of my acting buddies. Maybe nothing changes at all and I keep plugging along until either I have nothing left to say or some foreign telemarketing scammer decides that they've had enough of my petty shenanigans and tracks me down to exact their revenge.

Whatever happens, I'm here now and the last 10 years stand as a testament to my commitment to my own bloviations.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

LifeSmart LED Colorlight

Just One Of Many Lighting Effects
For those of you who love the idea of having a set of Nanoleaf light panels in your bedroom, but don't want to shell out several hundred dollars, there's a cheaper alternative available. Check out the LifeSmart LED Smart Light Panels. At around $40 for three panels and a stand, they make the perfect nightstand lamp. You can buy larger kits, up to 10 on YescomUSA.com, or you can buy individual panels should you want to expand your current setup.

I've had my eye on the LifeSmart LED Smart Light Panel kit for a few months now. Every so often, they will show up on some deal site like Slickdeals.net where they will get snapped up before I can manage to buy some. I've tried to buy direct from YescomUSA only to find that they are constantly sold out. So, they must be pretty popular, right? Either that or they need to ramp up production in the sweat shop. I was finally able to get my hand on a kit last week and I was pretty excited to put them together and see how they looked on my nightstand.

The first thing I noticed when I got the kit out of the box was how small the panels are. These things are seriously tiny. Have a look at the picture below and you can see how they compare in size to my Google Home Mini and "Chomp" my small alligator head (I usually set the Google Home Mini inside Chomp's mouth so it appears as if Chomp is speaking). The next thing I noticed was how cheap the whole setup felt. The panels and the base both feel like they are made from the same type of molded plastic that you'd find in a kid's action figure playset. And mounting the panels onto the base does not feel very secure. It feels like the panels are staying in place thanks to gravity and fervent prayer. I was worried that a stiff breeze from the air vent nearby might blow the whole setup over.

Despite my reservations about the cheap feel of the kit, I do have to say that the LifeSmart LED Smart Light Panels have performed very well. They can shine in 16 million colors and have a number of pre-programmed and customizable effects. The kit can also be controlled via Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. There are some limitations, though. You can't command individual panels, so if you ask Google Assistant to turn the Colorlight red, then the entire kit is going to be red. And I don't think that there's a way to have your smart hub enable a certain effect. You'll have to use the LifeSmart app directly for that.

Overall, even though I've been referring to them as "Redneck Nanoleaf", the LifeSmart LED Smart Light Panels are not a serious substitute for the Nanoleaf. They'll never be the big showpiece of your smart home setup. The panels are, however, perfect for a desk lamp or a nightstand lamp and they are priced for that sort of function.

The LifeSmart LED Smart Light Kit Next To My Google Home Mini And "Chomp", The Gator Head

Monday, February 18, 2019

Patient Care Service Calls Me

Kim, a rep from Patient Care Service called me. She asked if I had pain in my back, hips, knees or ankles. I was struck by how bland her reading of the script was and asked her when she had lost all passion for her job. She responded by saying that she was only reacting to my vibe. At that point, I suggested we rewind the conversation and start again. Which we did. And I responded with much more enthusiasm. This cracked her up.

My words can't do justice to the entire conversation, so you'll have to have to listen to it yourself:


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Frenchie Update

We've had our little French Bulldog for 4 months now and I thought I would provide an update on her. We've named her Luna. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed having a dog around the house. I hadn't had one for about four years since my shih-tzu/poodle mix passed on back in 2015.

We've watched her grow from a tiny little 4 pound puppy into a 10 pound food vacuum with a very distinct personality . Here are some of the more interesting things about her:


  • Loves everybody and will attack even strangers with a barrage of affection 

  • Barks at her reflection in the mirror

  • Squats down outside and pretends to pee in the hopes of getting her training treat right away. 

  • Charges after dogs three times her size hoping to play with them but leaves dogs her own size alone. 

  • Has an odd obsession with cardboard and prefers cardboard tubes to any of her toys

  • Desperately wants to play with the cat. Kitty is not amused. 

  • Has developed the ability to climb over the baby gate so that she can get into the kitchen when dinner is being made. 

  • Scratches at the dishwasher door because she wants it down so that she can sit/lay on it. 

  • "I'm ready to help wash the dishes!"
  • Loves belly rubs.....but only from me. 


I was at the local pub the other day and bumped into the vet-tech when I walked up to order a round of drinks.

"Why do you look so familiar?", she asked me.

"I'm an actor?" I offered.

"No. Definitely not that".

"You're the vet tech at my vet's office".

"Right! What's your name again?"

"Tommy Mac"

"......"

"My dog's name is Luna"

"OH YEAH! The FRENCHIE! OH MUH GAWD HOW IS SHE????".

Only four months old and already her reputation is overshadowing mine.


Monday, February 11, 2019

The Impossible Slider

After an impromptu Pocket Cookies reunion show in the South Suburbs this weekend (we were terrible, but the audience was kind), I decided to head on over to the local White Castle for some delicious burgers. While awaiting my usual gallbladder-busting order, I noticed something called "The Impossible Slider" for $1.99. A quick Google search revealed the concept behind this burger. I added one to my order.

Impossible meat is the brain child of Impossible Foods, a company that develops plant-based substitutes for meat and dairy products. The so-called Impossible Burger is said by many to be a very close approximation of the taste, texture and flavor of an "actual" burger. How do they achieve this "impossible" feat? Scientists at Impossible Foods discovered a plant-based heme molecule. The heme molecule, when present in meat, is a key factor in how meat behaves. Heme gives blood its red color and helps carry oxygen in living organisms. It is abundant in animal muscle tissue and is also found naturally in all living organisms. Plants, particularly nitrogen-fixing plants and legumes, also contain heme. Using heme along with proteins and fats derived from plants, Impossible Foods created a burger that sears and "bleeds" when cooked.

But, how does it taste? You know what, if I had to eat this stuff for the rest of my life, I wouldn't be tempted towards suicide right away. Unlike the regular 99 cent veggie slider, which tastes like packed ashes, the Impossible Slider does actually taste like an traditional burger. I had hoped that it would be more like an approximation of a regular slider, but that's apparently not what they were going for here. The Impossible Slider is a thicker patty so it tastes a lot like a burger shot slider. Not what I was expecting, but still a pretty decent burger.

If you're interested in trying an Impossible Slider yourself, they are available at all 377 White Castle locations. Further, different types of Impossible Burgers are available at over 3,000 different locations in the United States and Hong Kong.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Energy Scamming Rep Goes Full 2400 Baud On Me

A rep calling himself "Henry" called me trying to get me to sign up for some kind of energy savings scam. I pretended to constantly forget his name, often asking him to remind me what it was and then calling him something completely different. I started to stall when "Henry" asked for my Com Ed account number. At that point, the rep put me on mute and chimed back in a few time to make a noise that sounded like a bad imitation of a modem connecting. He went full 2400 baud on me! He ended the call by pushing a bunch of buttons on the phone.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Zinus Armita Smart Boxspring

I recently got a new bedroom set for the master suite in my home. This included a new king sized bed, which, of course, meant that I would need a new mattress and box spring. The prospect of hauling a both a box spring and mattress from one of the local furniture stores didn't appeal to me, and neither did the thought of having to fit a stiff box spring around the delicate corners of my house that lead into the master bedroom. A mattress is much more supple than a box spring and can take the corners easier. The slats of a box spring might crack if worked too hard into a doorway. Thankfully, a solution came in the form of the Zinus Armita Smart Boxspring.

How is this for a concept: Assemble your box spring inside your bedroom so that you don't have to haul that behemoth in a pick-up truck or work it around the corners of your house. This is the convenience that Zinus Armita Smart Boxspring offers. I know that there are those of you out there that are at least a little bit daunted by the thought of having to put together your own box spring. But, never fear! Putting together the Zinus Armita Smart Boxspring was so easy that I had it done within 15 minutes. The hardest part was zipping the cover over the box spring once I had all the parts assembled. I don't recommend doing that part alone with a king sized box spring as it can be a bit unwieldy.

The Zinus Armita Smart Boxspring is made of steel rather than wood, which makes the box spring a bit less heavier than a traditional one. If that gives you pause, I do believe that there is a wood version available, but I honestly don't think that there's any difference in stability. Whichever version you purchase, there's a small but significant savings in the purchase price over traditional box springs. Where you really save is convenience. Overall, I liked the Zinus Armita Smart Boxspring enough that I purchased a full sized one for my daughter's new bed and she's very happy with it.

If you're interested in how one puts together the Zinus Armita Smart Boxpsring, I've included pictures of the directions below:


Friday, January 25, 2019

George Washington University Calls

I visited George Washington University briefly during my trip to Washington DC this past Summer. George Washington himself had wanted to establish a university in the capital of the United States. His wishes were finally fulfilled in 1821 when President James Madison signed the charter for what would become George Washington University. Since then, George Washington University has become a very prestigious institution. So much so, that when they started calling looking for Clovis and inquiring about enrolling him in one of their graduate programs, I was convinced that it had to be a scam of some sort. Perhaps they were calling from George Washington Carver University or George Warshington University. But, no, it was actually the hallowed institution itself.


An admissions rep from George Washington University called Clovis looking to see if he would be a good fit for their Masters program. Clovis wanted to know what George Washington was really like and if he still hung out on campus. Getting a tepid response from that, Clovis then recalled a documentary he had seen about an alumnus named Josh Baskin who spoke to a machine as a little boy and magically turned into an adult (this is a reference to the Tom Hanks movie "Big". Hanks' character claims to be a graduate of George Washington University). Again, a tepid response. Clovis then wondered if he got a Masters degree, would everyone have to call him "Master"? That actually got a laugh out of the rep. The call ended when Clovis asked if George Washington Carver was related to George Washington or if he was just the guy who cut him up.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Geeni Switch + Charge Smart Wi-fi Outlet with 2 USB Ports

Wi-fi smart plugs are practically a dime a dozen these days, right? Part of me thinks that there's just one factory located in Southeast Asia manufacturing all of these things, that they then ship off to various companies who program them to respond to their proprietary app, etch a brand logo on them and then resell them to the consumer. What I'm saying is, aside from the app being used to control the plug, there isn't much physical difference in wi-fi smart plugs. Every so often, a company will throw in a few extra features and see if they stick. Enter the Geeni Switch + Charge Wi-fi Outlet.

What it is and what it does is obvious. It's a wi-fi smart plug that you can command through Google Home or Amazon Alexa. In addition to that, the Geeni Switch is also boasts two USB ports that can be used to charge any number of your compatible devices. This little plug is perfect to put near your nightstand. You can plug a lamp into the outlet and then use the two USB ports to charge your phone and tablet overnight. Problem is, if your device supports Quick Charge, you won't be quick charging from these USB ports.

People tend to mis-read the information provided by Geeni regarding it's USB ports on the Geeni Switch + Charge Wi-fi Outlet. In order to support Quick Charge, a USB port has to be capable of delivering 2 amps. Many people who buy the Geeni Switch + Charge think that each USB port on the switch charges at 2 amps. That's not the case. Each USB port charges at 1 amp, so two 1 amp USB ports equals 2 amps. For that fuzzy math to work out to a Quick Charge rating, the Geeni Switch + Charge would have to claim a total of 4 ams (Two 2 amp USB ports = a total of 4 amps on the device).  The USB ports are always on as well, you cannot shut them off via the app. Neither those things were deal breakers for me.

Overall, the Geeni Switch + Charge Wi-fi Smart Outlet has been a fine addition to my smart home deployment. At a cost of around $15, you get reliable, easy to install, easy to manage smart plug that just happens to boast two USB charging ports.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Records Recovery Services

After buying a new home last month, I received an official-looking letter from Records Recovery Services asking me to spend $87.00 to receive a copy of my deed. The letter included a "due date", my property’s parcel number and other information about my home and land.

The thing is, land records can be obtained from your county's Recorder of Deeds by anyone, including companies like Records Recovery Services, which probably has small offices in every state from where they harvest the publicly available land transfer information, generates these letters, and attempts to sell deeds to the property owners at hugely inflated prices. Usually, copy charges from the Recorder’s Office are $2.00 for the first page and $1.00 for each additional page for a total of $5.00. Selling that report for $87 seems unethical and quite shady to me. You know what? I wouldn't mind paying $10 in order to avoid the trip to the court house. If I'm feeling generous, I might even be up for paying $20. But, $87? That's far and beyond unethical, in my opinion.

I spoke with a rep from Records Recovery Services. I'll give him props in that he didn't try to scare me into paying the $87. I tried to bait him by asking if I could be arrested if I didn't pay the money, but he didn't go for it. I told him that I had an offer from one of his competitors for $60 and asked if he could match that price. He said he didn't have the authority to do it. I then asked him to tell me why I should spend $87 on this and where the extra costs factored in. After promising to connect me with someone who could explain it, he hung up on me. That should tell you all you need to know about how Records Recovery Services operates. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Red Dead Redemption 2: Painful Screw-ups Part IV

I've been busy outfitting the house with smart home devices and with getting furniture in for the new place and getting stuff set up and put away. Still, I managed to get some time in this weekend to play Red Dead Redemption 2 a bit more. I'm still plugging away in Chapter 3. I've managed to hunt down most of the legendary animals and have started fishing for the legendary fish. I am comfortable with the game and am immersed enough in the story that I am focusing on getting story missions done on a regular basis.

No matter how skilled I am at playing Red Dead Redemption 2, I will always have my share of fails. I still get distracted looking at the radar and end up crashing my horse from time to time. And, of course, I'm also taken by surprise on occasion and get killed by a wild beast. Check out the video below for Part IV of my Red Dead Redemption 2 fails:


Friday, January 11, 2019

The Nest Yale Smart Lock

When I was growing up, my father was paranoid about house keys. We had gotten robbed when one of my brothers' friends swiped his key and used it to enter the house when he knew when we'd be away for the weekend. So, in my dad's mind, between my parents and my siblings, there were seven keys representing seven potential security breaches. When I was in high school, I lost my key while studying in the local library. I informed my father who then bemoaned the prospect of having to replace seven keys. I figured that, since neither my name nor address had been etched into my key, anyone who found it would have no clue what house it went to, so, theoretically, they'd have to blindly go house to house in order to find the correct deadbolt. And anyone who took the time trying the key in every deadbolt in town probably deserved to have our stuff. My father wasn't pleased with my "logic" and the lock was quickly changed out.

The Nest Yale Lock in All Its Glory!
My point in telling that story is that locks aren't the end-all of home security. Yes, a lock is a deterrent, and is a first-line of defense, but, if someone really wants to break into your house, a deadbolt isn't going to stop them. A front door lock is a means of managing access. To that end, I purchased a Nest Yale lock to integrate with my smart home. The Nest Yale smart lock requires a Nest hub in order to work with full capabilities and integrate into Google Home, so, if you're thinking about purchasing one, make sure that you buy the model that comes with the Nest hub or get one separately.

Installation was pretty easy as the Nest Yale smart lock installs much like a traditional deadbolt. The issue is that the deadbolt has to fit perfectly into the latch in order for the lock to work as expected. Previously, we had been closing the door and pushing it in an extra inch in order to securely lock the deadbolt. This meant that the original deadbolt had not been seated properly. So, when I would ask Nest to lock the door, the deadbolt wouldn't be able to fully extend, which would lead to an error.

Upon further inspection, I discovered that the locks had been changed more than once and that a number of previous screw holes had been put into the door and into the latches. I had to buy some wood putty in order to fill in the old screw holes so that I could properly screw in the Nest Yale lock.

One issue that I have with the Nest Yale smart lock is that it doesn't come with a door handle. My whole purpose in buying the lock is so that I won't have to worry about carrying my house keys. So, I can either unlock the door via the keypad using the keycode I gave myself or I could unlock it via the app on my phone. Yet, having a lockable doorknob on my door defeats the purpose of having a smart deadbolt. So, I had to replace the doorknob with a handle that matched the Nest Yale smart lock. I get it: Nest and Yale don't want to get into the complex issues that come with having to offer multiple iterations of their lock. Offering three colors is enough. Best to push off the handle issue onto the consumer in order to keep things simple. It's still a tad frustrating.

Overall, I'm pleased with how my Nest Yale smart lock works. Everyone in the house has downloaded the Nest app and have created their own code for access to unlock the front door. There was, however, one noticeable objection to this system: In a "you're not my REAL dad" moment, one of the teens wondered if I was using the lock to keep track of their comings and goings. Okay, yes, in theory the Nest Yale smart lock could be used to do that. But, I really don't care who is locking and and unlocking the door and I don't care when they're doing it. I just want to be able to get into my house without my keys if I need to. So, for those in the house who don't want to be tracked, they can use the side door or the back door which still have traditional locks on them. For now.

I haven't made use of Privacy Mode yet, which turns off the outside keypad so that even people with access can't use their codes. They can still open the door via the app though. I'm sure I'll enable it when we go on vacation in March.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Energy Scammer Gets Angry

A telemarketer pushing an energy savings scam called me yet again. When he asked if I received federal assistance to help me pay for my electric bill, I went off on a rambling tangent about getting lost trying to find the federal assistance office. He was a bit impatient, but overall seemed to handle that tangent okay. Then asked me to get a pen and my Com Ed bill. I then launched into a story about my favorite pen and where I had bought it. This really seemed to piss him off because he kept threatening to cancel the deal and ordering me to give him my Com Ed account number. I told him to hold his horses and then started to tell him about how I had just gotten my Com Ed bill when he finally hung up on me.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Setting Up Amazon Alexa

In order to give my bedridden father quicker access to his Ring Video Doorbell, one of my brothers and I decided that it was time to bring him into the world of Smart Home assistants. We debated back and forth for a while about whether to go with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. I lobbied for Google Home as I have experience with it and could get it up and running easier. However, I had to admit that, since Ring is owned by Amazon, going with Amazon Alexa is the more logical choice. So, for Christmas, we bought my father an Amazon Echo Show and managed to get our hands on a free Amazon Echo Dot.

Amazon Alexa Vs Google Home


Setup


Setting up the Amazon Echo Dot isn't all that different from setting up Google Home Mini. Just download the Amazon Alexa app onto your cell phone, then plug in the Amazon Echo Dot and follow the instructions. I was surprised that, unlike Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa doesn't require you to do a voice check as part of its setup process. Setting up the Amazon Echo Show isn't much different than setting up the Google Home Hub, though much of the setup on the Echo Show is done on the actual device rather than via the app on your phone. This opposite is true for the Google Home Hub.

Usage


Amazon Alexa and Google Home both operate in similar manners. One of the things that I like about the Amazon Echo devices is that they light up with a blue light to indicate that a device is listening to you. Google Home devices light up in a way that, to me, is not nearly as noticeable. A huge issue I have with Amazon Alexa is the trigger word. Saying something like "Hey, Alexa" to activate a device is fine so long as you don't have someone with a similar name living in your house. Yelling across the room to someone with a similar name activates Amazon Echo devices and suddenly Alexa is telling me that she doesn't know how to tell me what she wants for lunch. I'm sure you can change the trigger phrase if need be, but, since it isn't an issue for my father, I figured it would be easier not to muck with it.

The Amazon Echo Show integrates with the Ring Video Doorbell well enough. I still hate that there's so much lag involved, though. My father will say "Hey, Alexa, show me the front door" and then Alexa will say that it's contacting Ring which takes anywhere from 5 to 10 seconds. That just seems way too laggy for me. I don't yet have a Nest Hello so I can't make a good comparison. Maybe that sort of lag time is normal. I guess I just figured that, since Amazon owns Ring, the integration would be much snappier.

There are two huge advantages that the Amazon Echo Show has over the Google Home Hub:

  1. The Amazon Echo Show features a larger (albeit bulkier) display with a better speaker. 

  2. You can do video calls via Skype on the Amazon Echo Show. No such luck with the Google Home Hub, as it does not have a camera attached to it. 

Overall 


My father is happy with his Amazon Echo Show and its integration with Ring. The lag time between Alexa and Ring doesn't bother him, which is much more important than any minor annoyances I have. The system is working well enough that I'm looking at adding an August Smart Lock to his smart home so that he can lock and unlock the door via his connected devices. I still, however prefer the Google Home infrastructure.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Into The Spider-Verse

I got dragged, over my vociferous protestations, to "Welcome To Marwen" last weekend. I'm pretty sure that being forced to watch that movie is considered a form of torture by The Geneva Convention. At the very least, I consider it grounds for a break-up. So, in order to soothe escalating movie-watching tensions, I chose "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse" as our movie option yesterday afternoon.

"Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse" has been called the best Spider-Man movie to date. I can see where people could plausibly make that claim. Don't let the fact that it's an animated feature put you off. "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse" has a lot of depth to it and every character gets their moment to shine. Moreover, the story itself was satisfying yet also lugubrious at times. "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse" details the life of neophyte Spider-Man, Miles Morales, as he copes with his newfound powers and tries to climb out of the shadow of Peter Parker's original Spider-Man. Meanwhile, Morales is pushed into attending a boarding school, where he is uncomfortable to the point of being humiliated a multitude of times. This discomfort and isolation leads to him feeling insecure about his newfound capabilities. Enter alternate universe Peter Parker who has had a number of setbacks himself. This "hobo Spider-Man" mentors Miles as they and other alternate Spider-heroes try to stop a threat to the entire multiverse. Miles eventually overcomes his insecurities and ultimately takes a “leap of faith” allowing him to realize his true capabilities. This heroic feat leads to a cathartic denouement.

So, is "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse" the best Spider-Man movie ever produced? Well, I liked it, but I think that distinction still goes to the cut-scenes in "Marvel's Spider-Man" PS4 (look for the PS4 Spider-Man costume in the Spider-Lair on the far left in "Spider-Verse"). Still, "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse" is well worth the price of admission despite a few glaring flaws and plot-holes here and there.