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Category Archives: Ideas

Keep It Going

Happy After-V-Day.  So, how did it go?  Did you brave the crowds or stay home?  Did you feel yourself up or were there others involved?  Doesn’t matter.  The day for that is past, now it’s just normal life again.  Well, except for the bros out there just tapping their feet waiting for Feb 21 – Steak and Blowjob Day.

Me, I spent a lot of it in airports and in the sky and on the road.  My V-Day dinner was alone at Wendy’s.  Not really alone, there was a family there.  I’m not sure if there were celebrating V-Day by fighting or arguing or disagreeing or just having an intense conversation.  Everyone has their relationship rituals.

But, there a secret that the marketing firms don’t tell you about V-Day, and it’s not that there is such a thing as Steak and Blowjob Day.  It’s that you don’t have to wait until February 14 (or 21) for you to get your candy, flowers, attention, steak, blowjob, or arguments.  You can do it as often as you wish, every day even.  Buy a bag of gummy bears.  Every day, eat one, give a blowjob and have a fight about it.

Or you can be normal humans and just care about each other every day.  Or whenever you feel like it or whenever it is required or appropriate.  Do it in your own way.  Some people show love with food, some with fighting, I guess?  Here’s a few random ideas for you and your partner.  Stupid kids who have no relationship experience like to call bullshit like this #RelationshipGoals.  Don’t make it a goal, just do it as something.

First off, have a movie night.  But give it an edge.  Make it slightly dangerous.  Go to a pawn shop.  Wait, hear me out.  If you haven’t been to a pawn shop before, you would be floored at the number of DVDs they have.  And they want to get rid of them, badly.  They are cheap as hell.  It’s cheaper to buy than to rent.

And when the price is so low, there’s no emotional investment in choosing a good movie.  The emotional investment should be with each other, anyway.  So here’s the deal.  You each choose one or two movies each and you must watch them to the end, together.  You’re going to find some weird stuff at the pawn shop, for sure.  If the movie sucks, have sex while it’s playing, it still counts as watching.

Maybe movie night is an all-day thing, maybe not.  But here’s an idea for daytime.  Do you think you’re well-grounded in reality?  Do you think you’re pretty run-of-the-mill normal?  Do you want to challenge those impressions of yourself?  Maybe have a fierce battle with inadequacy?  Well, this date idea will do it.

Go on a model home megatour at some housing developments.  Maybe you’re not living in a place that has a lot of real estate booming going on.  That makes it even better, drive to one and you’ll be able to resist the siren call easier.  But if you haven’t been home shopping, it’s like going shopping for Maserati’s.  See, because no one makes cheap homes anymore.  Cheap homes are used homes, older homes.  Builders can’t make money on starter homes.  Even if they could, and maybe they would try, they are not going to make a model house show you what you can get for bottom dollar.  That’s not how things are sold.

So tour a bunch of model homes.  You’ll see excess and grandiosity and features and fixtures that will leave you shaking your head.  When you get to the 4,000+ sqft house with multiple game rooms and a bathroom that could be a studio apartment in itself, you will have a new appreciation for the simple life and a fresh disdain for the metaphorical Joneses you’re supposed to keep up with.  And hopefully, if your partner is of the same mindset as you, which I would hope so, you will walk away collectively stunned and grateful to have each other and that you share the same values.

Finally, and this idea is simple, generic, and simply honest.  Do something together that exposes a vulnerability.  You always want to show your best side to your partner.  You always want to be perfect.  But, it’s healthy to let your guard down occasionally.  Let your partner know you really are human and can do embarrassing things, or can fail to do something correctly or well.  Couples painting?  Wall climbing?  Ice skating?  Karaoke?  These are things that don’t have to wait for V-Day or Steak/BJ-Day.  You can do them whenever and as often as you want.  And it’s perfectly fine to suck at them, because those things are not your relationship.


The Eye in The Sky

There’s a lot of people that are really paranoid, scared, and angry about “the police state”, government surveillance, and loss of privacy.  I’m sort of in that group, but not really at the level some people are at.  There are other people who just sit back, point their finger and say, “Hey, you asked for it.”  These people are referring to technology like GPS, cookie tracking, integrated Facebook everywhere (that goddamn Like button on every web page that tells FB you’ve been on that page without you doing anything), and more recently, bullshit always-on microphones like on Alexa, Google Home, and Apple Home.

Those are all personal privacy invasions, and they are all opt-in.  You have to buy the devices that snoop on you.  You have to visit the websites that track you.  The other level of privacy invasion is at the societal level.  Things like security cameras, traffic cams, EZ Pass in your car, GPS on your phone.  Things that monitor and track you while you are in public.  At no point did anyone really opt-in to being monitored while in public.

Advocates will argue that these systems provide a great improvement in public safety (albeit reactive and not really proactive).  Detractors will say it’s not worth it to be watched all the time for the rare case something bad happens.  And the finger-pointing starts – If you’re not doing anything wrong, why are you opposed to it.  So, security by this means is naturally controversial.

And with that lead-in and disclaimer that I understand what I’m going to get into, I’m going to propose more surveillance.  And it’s for a very specific police use that would piss off some people.  But you know what?  I don’t fucking care, because you people need to be shut the fuck down.

Have you ever seen a video of a car fleeing the police on a highway, flying through traffic, weaving in and out of the other cars?  Of course you have.  That is what it is like driving to and from work every day for me.  That is every fucking day.  Every day, there are people who drive 15-20+ miles an hour faster than others and cut in and out between 3 and 4 lanes of traffic.  I am sick to fucking death of these people.  This needs to fucking stop.

These assholes cause trouble for everyone else in multiple ways.  The most obvious is that they could wreck into someone and kill themselves (boo hoo) or others.  And when wrecks happen, we all lose.  Traffic comes to a crawl or a standstill.  Do the goddamn math sometime you are in a traffic jam.  Count how many cars you see, measure how much time you are losing on your drive and multiply that by an average wage to see how much money is being lost sitting in traffic that didn’t need to happen at all if people didn’t drive like fuckasses.

There are not enough officers on the road to enforce better driving practices and even when they do enforce them, the fuckasses still ruin it for everyone, because we all have to slow down for emergency vehicles.  An asshole gets pulled over and we all pay for it.  But another issue is that an officer on the side of the road monitoring traffic may not be able to spot a fuckass.  The officers only have a limited view and even if they are running radar, they may or may not catch the driver when they are embedded somewhere in 3-4 lanes of traffic.  So this leads me to my solution.  Aerial surveillance.

Leave some quadcoptors hovering over the highway where they can monitor traffic at a greater level.  You can spot drivers that are weaving through traffic and generally being unsafe.  This is something you can’t do at ground level.  Once a car is spotted behaving erratically or unsafely, a trooper can be dispatched to intercept.  Or it could be handled later.  Record the video and address it in person at their house.

It doesn’t even have to be speeding.  I came up with a formula to calculate a driver’s assholosity based on speed and number of lanes changes per mile.  This targeting could almost be completely automated with machine learning (formerly known as AI).

Does this sound invasive?  I don’t fucking care if you think it is.  This is a problem that affects all highways drivers in both safety and financial aspects.  And while the problem is chronic, it isn’t widespread.  The few are ruining it for the many, and we shouldn’t have to live that way.  There’s a lot of that shit going on right now and I’m pretty well sick of it.

…As Long As You Both Shall Live

Bruce Dickinson is the lead singer for Iron Maiden and has also done a number of solo albums.  On one of his later albums, The Chemical Wedding, the title track, Chemical Wedding, has always had a particular interest to me.  On occasion, I am able to “visualize” a song, which is pretty much like viewing a music video in my head.  If I had cinematic talent, equipment, locations, and personnel, I think I would be able to make a compelling music video for this song.  Alas, I have none of those things.  I considered maybe writing a screenplay for my video, but concluded that wouldn’t really be an interesting read.  So I decided I would try and turn the video plotline into a short story, which might result in having the song appear to be influenced by the story, even though it happened the other way around.

The car pulled away and left me alone in the beach parking lot.  I stayed put and watched the car turn onto the roadway and drive away.  The transaction went smoother than I expected.  In my hand was a small bag and within that bag, a small vial of Demerol.  It’s something I’d been reading up on and from the sound of it, Demerol was going to be much more effective than the Oxy I’d been taking.

I have to admit, the only positive thing to come out of my parents’ move to this crappy harbor town is how easy it is to get high.  With as many people that come to vacation here, the dealers are plentiful and easy-going.  Back where we used to live, pot was pretty much the best we had access to, but this place is like rich-ville.  They have everything and people are able to pay for it.  My dad changed jobs and all of a sudden, we’re like, upper-middle-class or something, complete with beachfront house and disposable income for me.

My friends were bummed I had to move away, especially since we were just getting into senior year, where school is a blow-off and we’d be partying like, every night.  I would invite them out here and we could really get lit, but damn, it’s like nine hours each way.  You couldn’t even really manage that in a weekend.

I never really made any friends here, although I did make some solid connections with some dope suppliers.  So, having so much free time alone by myself allowed me to do some experimentation.  I found out I didn’t really like uppers and speed; I preferred to chill out and relax.  So after working my way through pot, I eventually ended up loving Oxycodone and Codeine.  But then I learned about Demerol.  It was supposedly like heroin, but was medically kosher.  That’s perfect, because the one thing I’m not is a junkie.

I walked out of the parking lot down to the beach.  A half moon shone through the fog, which illuminated everything in a sort of off-white glow.  A little spooky, but actually the perfect atmosphere for chilling out.  The large rocks at the shoreline are a perfect place to sit and take in the sights and sounds of nature and since it’s late at night, no one would be bothering me.

As I carefully climb over the mound of boulders to find a nice sitting place that’s not within sight from the parking lot or houses, I glance back to my parents’ house.  I don’t want to be too far or too close.  I’ll make my way back once the high settles in and can sleep it off in bed.  This spot here looks almost perfect.  It’s almost like a throne and it has a nice flat ledge to hold my supplies.

I settle down in the chair-like cluster of rocks and open my latest purchase.  Inside the bag is a small glass vial, just like you see at the doctor’s offices, and two small syringes.  That was nice of him, to give me a spare.  The glass vial has a label with Demerol printed in a simple, light green, sans-serif font.  A lot of other small type was on the bottle as well.  It looked so professional.  I felt like a professional.

Considering it was the first time I had ever considered using a drug with a syringe, I was surprised how calmly I was handling all of this.  It just seemed to be natural and normal.  Pills suddenly seemed so pedestrian.  Anyone could toss a pill in their mouth and swallow it.  This was serious business and required skill and knowledge.  You could kill yourself by injecting air into yourself, so you need to be good.

And I was good.  I took the time to prep everything well.  I had brought a tissue to cover the injection site and stop any minor bleeding.  I made sure I had a nice clean draw, and I held the syringe up to the moonlight.  The liquid was clear and pure, just like water – no bubbles at all.  The waves were crashing all around me.  And in that moment, as I stared at the fluid and listened to the hissing of the sea foam in the rocks around me, I almost felt like I didn’t need this.  It was like the anger of the waves was trying to tell me to stop.  But that’s just silly.  Being around the ocean was great when I was high, but I wasn’t high yet.

I settled back into the stone throne and stretched out my left arm.  I pumped my hand a few times to get my veins up and even in the mild moonlight, I could see the shadows on my forearm – my targets.  I chose one of the smaller veins, since I had no idea what would happen when I poked one.  Keeping my eye on the vein, I lowered the syringe to my forearm.  My right hand was steady and I carefully angled the needle in line with the target.  I had a brief moment of doubt where I thought maybe I should have someone else do my first injection, but I shook it off and pushed the needle into the skin.

There was a small pinch and I assumed I was in.  I slowly started pushing the plunger and immediately there was a wash of fatigue all through my body.  Everything wanted to relax instantly.  That sensation spooked me and I got worried about two things.  One is that I wouldn’t get the full dose, so I pushed the plunger harder.  This caused a slight burning in my arm and increased my second fear – that I would pass out with the needle still in my arm.  I’m no junkie.  That’s not going to happen.

I swiftly pulled the empty syringe from my forearm and struggled to get the tissue onto the injection site.  Everything was fading out.  The yellow-white glow of the moon took on a bluish tone.  It’s like when you see those color temperature comparisons with light bulbs.  The world went from warm white to cool white.  I felt like I was sinking into the rocks, sliding between them like melted wax, like my body was becoming a liquid.  Maybe I would just become part of the ocean.  But I wasn’t afraid, this was something I wanted.

I don’t know how much time passed there at the shoreline, but I do remember the zombie time.  In a trance, I gathered up all my stuff:  the vial, the syringes, the bloody tissue paper.  I had it all in the bag and began my walk back to the house.  The house wasn’t far, and the trip was absolutely heavenly.  I came down from the rocks as if I knew exactly where every stone was.  I didn’t slip once.  It felt like I was walking on air the whole way home.  I didn’t feel a single thing, like I weighed nothing and my feet weren’t even supporting any weight at all.

My parents were already asleep when I got in.  I floated to my room and sat down on the bed.  In a daze, I emptied the bag onto my nightstand and stared at it all with curiosity.  I just used that, I thought to myself, and I smiled.  It was a great success.  I was a professional.  I could be a doctor.  Maybe I should top myself off and get a great sleep.  I wonder how the sinking feeling would feel in bed instead of hard rocks.  It should be amazing.

Like everything I did in the zombie state, I prepped a new shot with incredible smoothness.  My motions were so fluid, it was like I wasn’t even in control, like something else was managing my movements.  The needle went in with no pain whatsoever and the push was steady.  It felt like a giant foam mattress was pushing itself against me, pushing me down into the bed.  Every inch of my body felt a wonderful calming pressure, like I was sinking into Jell-O.

Then, everything became light.  The pressure and weight pulled away and I felt like I was weightless, floating, but still lying on the bed.  I sat up and turned to my bedroom window.  There was a light outside, like the moon had gone from half-full to full.  I stood up and went to the window.  The fog had disappeared and the sky was completely clear.  A single light shown in the sky, shining directly on me.  The light split into three, then seven, then a dozen.  The light kept splitting over and over.  Every beam was focused on me and even as the number of lights grew by the hundreds, they all remained within my vision.

Then, the lights made a small pulse and rapidly started combining again, collapsing in to the center light and as they did so, the beam got larger and stronger.  The focused beam became more white and more pure as each outer light combined with it.  The light began pulling me.  With the weightlessness I had, it was impossible to resist the traction of the light.  The lights were converging together and the pull continued to grow.  The beam was captivating and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.  I thought I would be blinded from the brilliance, but it was only pure white, not anything artificial or generated.  At first, I was afraid at being pulled away, but that fear faded as the beam grew larger and larger.  The strength of the light was comforting.  As I felt the pull lift my feet from the ground, I took a look back into my bedroom.  My body was still lying on the bed.  And with that image fresh in my mind, the light quickly pulled me away.

The next morning, from where I was, I saw my mom discover my body lying in bed, with a syringe hanging out of my arm and the bottle of Demerol on the nightstand.  911 was frantically called and the paramedics arrived only to say there was absolutely nothing that could be done.  There was a lot of hysteria and my dad tried to comfort my mom as best he could while the medical examiner came and collected my body.  Then the white light surrounded me again and that’s all I could see.

When the light faded, like coming out of a fog, I was looking down at a casket at a graveyard – apparently my interment. There was a surprising number of mourners present.  Obviously my parents were there, but my grandparents and aunts and uncles, and also many people from my old school.  They all travelled the nine hours to be here for me.  Some people from my new school were there as well.  I never even really considered any of them friends, and here they were.  I was able to see each and every person clearly.  I could see their grief and sorrow in excruciating detail.

Where I’m at, I feel.  The pain of everyone at my funeral is felt by me.  At one point during the ceremony, a funny memory of me was brought up and I could feel the sensation of laughter shoot through me, and then just as quickly, the sadness was back.  I had no way of telling them I was ok now.  I couldn’t will them to move on without me.

The ceremony ended and the despair grew in a crescendo, overwhelming my spirit.  The white light returned and I was left alone with my feelings, which weren’t my feelings anymore.  The only feelings I had were the ones others held for me.

Chemical Wedding
Bruce Dickenson

How happy is the human soul
Not enslaved by dull control
Left to dream and roam and play
Shed the guilt of former days

Walking on the foggy shore
Watch the waves come roaring home
Through the veil of pale moonlight
My shadow stretches out its hand

And so we lay, we lay in the same grave
Our chemical wedding day

Floating in the endless blue
My seed of doubt I leave to you
Let it wither on the ground
Treat it like a plague you found

All my dreams that were outside
In living colour, now alive
And all the lighthouses
Their beams converge to guide me home

And so we lay, we lay in the same grave
Our chemical wedding day

Tip Fraud

Again.  Fucking AGAIN.

A restaurant altered my credit card charge post-sale.  This time, it wasn’t the usual $1 tip added on.  This time, they took a $2 tip.  Just for the record, this bullshit happened to me only 3 months ago.

Ok, ok.  Calm down.  After talking to the restaurant manager, it turns out that it wasn’t a case of theft, just incompetence.  Another person’s tip was put on my card.  But it still remains that tip fraud is a very real and a very easy-to-do form of credit card fraud.

I have an issue calling out these restaurants for this fraud.  The places certainly have a small hand in the problem in that they’ve hired a piece-of-shit thief, but it’s not their policy to hire thieves and I’m sure they would be fired once exposed.  So, you know, I can dispute the charge with my CC company, but that just hurts the restaurant.  The thief gets away with their scam.  I could write a yelp review calling the place out, but again, that just hurts the restaurant.  I need a name.  I want to expose this person and make it difficult for them to just move on to another restaurant and continue their scamming operation.

As I’ve said multiple times in the past, I log my receipts then reconcile them with downloaded transactions from the bank.  If you aren’t doing this, you will be unaware that you are being stolen from.

There is a way to retroactively check and see if you have been ripped off.  But it will require that you remember how much you tipped, if you tipped at all.  First, you need to enable alerts on your credit card so you get an email or a text message for every charge on your card.  I originally had mine set to alert me for charges over $20, but now I’ve set it to $2.  When you have this alert set up, you will then have a record of the pre-tip amount.  You can then compare the amount in this notification to your CC statement to see if it differs from your finalized amount.

I have an idea to assist in exposing cases like this for people who do not log their receipts.  With many people relying on online-only solutions like Mint or their bank’s website, there needs to be a way to capture the tip amount prior to finalization.


My Capital One card shows me pending transactions.  What if I could view the details of the transaction and enter the tip amount I charged, then that new total could be used when the transactions settles to see if there was a discrepancy?  Sounds pretty wonderful right?

But I know that many people aren’t going to log in to their CC website and enter their tips any more than they would use MS Money to track their transactions.  So here’s another idea.  Bots are the new hotness in the programming world.  People are also very responsive to talking with computers now.  What if Capital One texted me with new transaction notifications?


Doesn’t that sound amazing?  So if the transaction settles for anything other than $14.48, you would get an alert of the discrepancy.

Alternate Music Timelines

This is an idea I’ve had for quite some time but it was not really big enough to really write about.  You know, some things are more Twitter-length, but if you don’t want to get sucked into multiple social broadcasting/publishing platforms, what can you do?  So, I just held on to the idea.

Then I had another of the same idea.  Now I’m up to two and it’s almost enough to make a post about.  All I need is a few paragraphs of intro/filler material (right here!) to describe the origins of the ideas so I can pad my word count.  But then, I had a third idea.  Now I was really set to go.  All I had to do was make sure I had enough words for each idea.  So, here’s the post proper.

You know sometimes when you hear a song, you think, “That sounds like this other band.”  Well, like everyone else, I get those thoughts too, but I think it happens less frequently, but more intensely with me.  Giving it some consideration, it’s not so much that one song sounds like another band did it, it’s more that the song would sound better by the alternative band because the song in question contains elements that that this other band does naturally.  I’ll try to explain how this applies for each song. 

So, for the 1000+ albums I’ve listened to, it might be strange to only come up with three cases where I would love to hear a one band’s song done by another band.  And if some of my reasons seem somewhat tenuous, you do have to consider that there’s a lot of music that sounds like other music and I don’t have a list of 100’s here.  To only have three instances must account for something.

Circle In The Sand, by Belinda Carlisle, performed by Fleetwood Mac.

This is actually part of a bigger “fantasy” of mine.  Fleetwood Mac was a little lost after Stevie Nicks moved on to her solo stuff and eventually separated.  This led to their album, Time, with Bekka Bramlett instead of Stevie Nicks, which was not well received.

I thought Belinda Carlisle would be an excellent replacement for Stevie Nicks because they both had a trademark vibrato in their voices and they both loved the fuck out of cocaine.  Not to mention, Fleetwood Mac was part English and part Californian, while Carlisle was Californian but grew some European sensibilities by moving to France.

In this Van Hagar-ish mashup, I would imagine Fleetwood Mac throwing a couple of Belinda Carlisle songs into their live set to give her something to sing comfortably, and one of those songs should be Circle In The Sand.  Fleetwood Mac has a real gift at creating moody atmospheres, like in Rhiannon and The Chain.  If they could apply that sort of mood to Carlisle’s song, that would sound incredible.  In my opinion, of course.

Sensurround, by They Might Be Giants, performed by Rush.

I’m sure that’s about at WTF as you can get.  Where would I even get that idea from?  Quite simply, the guitar.  Sensurround is a guitar-heavy song, a style featured on many TMBG tracks, but the playing on this track is unlike others that I’ve heard.  There are a few style elements that stand out to me in the song.  First is the use of very dense chords.  Another is the staccato chords used in the verses, reminiscent of Rush’s Natural Science.  The other is the arpeggiated chords in the chorus similar to those in the chorus of Tom Sawyer.

Maybe that sounds like a stretch to only have elements from two Rush songs validate an idea that Rush could have done the song, but that’s only the genesis of the idea.  To imagine how the song would sound with the drumming and bass work of Neal and Geddy would be awesome.  And Rush are no strangers to quirkiness.  Although they don’t have any silly songs to their credit, they do show a sense of humor in their live shows.  So maybe make the lyrics a bit darker and more serious, Peart-style, and it’d be complete.

Give A Little Bit, by Supertramp, performed by Yes (circa 1970).

I recently purchased a Supertramp compilation CD and although I’ve heard this song before, I didn’t know who had done it.  As I listened to the song, it reminded me of some jangly Yes songs, particularly, And You And I.  The vocal line seemed to be well within Jon Anderson’s range and even the lyrical subject was similar to something he might write, maybe from the Anderson-Bruford-Wakeman-Howe era.

Getting Lit For Christmas

This year, I am following through on an idea I had two years ago when I first re-acquired my house.  At the time. I was very interested in getting more community-focused.  I have lived in my house for 12 years now, So I think I’m a fairly established community resident.  But I have seen over my years here that fewer people are interacting with each other, and I’m certainly not helping in that regard.  So, in 2015, I planned to do a community event.  I registered an Internet domain for it and everything.  And it didn’t happen.  In 2016, I wanted to do it again, but in December, the GF and I ended up on a cruise for vacation, so there wasn’t really much time to organize it.  I should have started much earlier than December anyway.

This year, I committed to doing the event.  Right after Thanksgiving, I put flyers on everyone’s door announcing my plan and asking for replies.  Surprisingly, I did get some replies, so the event was a go in my mind.  What event?  What the fuck are you going to do?  Yeah, I hear you, I’m getting to that.

I had already assumed I wasn’t going to have any assistance from the community, so I budgeted all the supplies as if I was going to do the whole thing myself.  As it turned out, there were almost a dozen people who contributed, so my supplies were way, way, way overbought.  It’s fine, though.  I consider them backup supplies, and maybe I’ll need them next year.

Ok, so here’s my plan.  I want to decorate the whole neighborhood with… LUMINARIES.

All you need are paper bags, lights, sand, and lot of effort.  I did a quick estimation of how much roadway I’d need to cover in my neighborhood and estimated I’d need somewhere close to 1000 lights.  Holy shit.  So I got online and ordered supplies for 1000 lights.


Shortly after placing the order, I realized that my measurements were wrong.  I didn’t take into consideration that there wouldn’t be any lights placed in front of driveways.  That significantly trimmed down the required roadway to cover, so I have plenty of extra.  Plus, some people did choose to provide their own lights, so that’s even less.

So I spent days and days folding the lips of bags to keep them upright and sturdy.  Then, the day prior to the installation, I began filling the bags with sand.


And more


And more


And more


And more


That’s 430 lights.  How many will go out, I’m not sure.

This is the day of the event and regretfully, I haven’t really communicated with the participants.  With a week to go, I placed flyers on all the community mailboxes with a bright “One Week To Go!!!” message at the top.

The witching hour came and with the assistance of AK and Husband, the final assembly of the luminaries took place – placing the lit LED light in it.  Then the lights were taken to two waiting vehicles.  Once those vehicles were filled, the extras started going out on the lawn.  That’s when the people started showing up.

My neighbors across the street all came over and collected lights and took them away for their property.  Then they came back and took more for further down the road.  Then trucks started coming and loading up more lights in the trailer beds and driving them off.  I can’t say it was incredible participation of the neighborhood, but the ones that were into it were really into it.  There wasn’t any complaining to be heard, just getting it done.

The three of us headed up in one car to begin filling in the gaps.  I chose to start at the far end and work our way back.  We emptied the car after completely covering one area.  It was a little depressing to see the lack of participation in that section, but that’s why I got so many.

I swapped cars and we began filling in more empty areas.  And sadly, we ran out with maybe 10 houses left.  We went back to the house and scrambled to make some more luminaries.  We stopped at an even 500 and that limit was due to lack of sand to weight the lights down.  It made me a little irritated that I must have squandered what sand I had for the early lights.

We drove back out and placed the remaining lights.  We were still about 5 houses shy of fully covering the neighborhood and most unfortunately – for me – we did not get the lights out to the main roadway, which would have been a pleasant invitation for others to visit.

Nighttime photography is not easy, and this is my first attempt at it.  Take it for what you will.




Annoying You Into Better Passwords

There are some people that have, over time, integrated security into their daily routine.  It’s just the way it is for these people.  And I would encourage everyone to begin working towards that goal.  There are other people who see security as nothing but a hindrance, an obstacle to them getting done what they want to get done.  Even after getting hacked multiple times, security is still a burden to these people.  And this burden is most often felt in the workplace.

It is sad, really, when people don’t take security seriously and their lack of concern becomes a liability for their employer.  And when the employer tries to enforce their required security practices, the users simply try to get by with the least amount of effort possible.

The two main constraints on passwords in the workplace are complexity and expiration.  The password must contain certain characters and be a certain length and you have to change it on a regular basis.  A recent article came out where NIST (The National Institute of Standards and Technology) made the following recommendations:

  • Remove scheduled password change requirements (must change password every 90 days)
  • Remove complexity requirements (one upper-case/lower-case/number, no two successive characters)
  • Require screening of new passwords against lists of commonly used or compromised passwords

On one hand, I think this is good, but I also don’t think the average user could be trusted to not create a secure password, even if it was checked against a blacklist.  So I have what I think is a better solution.  And the solution has the benefit of discouraging bad behavior.

Keep the first two items.  Eliminate complexity and expiration.  But, in place of (or addition to) the third item, there should be a server on the network that tries to crack account passwords 24/7, via both dictionary and brute force.  When it succeeds, the compromised account gets locked and the user has to change their password.  The cracking server would also send an email explaining that their password was cracked in X number of hours/days and they need to choose a more difficult password.  The email would provide tips for creating a better password.

The result of this process is that the people who choose weak, shitty passwords will have to change their passwords more frequently.  Those that choose more difficult passwords will be rewarded in that they don’t have to change their passwords often at all.  If you’re sick of getting your account locked out, the fix is simple.  Make a better password.

Time For A New Product

When I was up in the wasteland, I was out driving one afternoon and saw some yard signs that said “Watch for Motorcycles!”  This isn’t a new message to me.  I see it all the time on bumper stickers where I live.  This might be the first time I’ve seen it on a yard sign, though.

Anyway, the message resonated differently this time.  When I read it, I thought to myself, “Where can I get one of these?”  Where could I buy one?  Not a sign, a watch for motorcycles.  I mean after all, there’s advertising for them all over the place.  Half the cars and trucks down here have a sticker that says “Watch for motorcycles!”  Now there’s yard signs for them too.  Someone is really missing out.  All it would take is some Hammacher Schlemmer (wow, spelt it almost perfectly the first time!) writer to promote it.

The Watch For Motorcycles

Imagine your motorcycle sitting alone in its garage.  It’s cold, alone, and desperately wants to get outside and into the sunlight.  The days pass by with no visitations or consolations.  The sun rises and falls each day and your poor motorbike waits for you.  Wouldn’t it be a joy for your motorcycle to know the actual time of day so it could anticipate your arrival?  The arrival which never comes?

HamSchlem is proud to be the exclusive distributor of the watch for motorcycles.  You’ve seen them hailed on bumper stickers and on yard signs: “Watch for Motorcycles!”  Now, the opportunity to own one of these heralded and yet non-acquirable objects is here at last  Present it to your motorcycle as a token of your affection even as you let the gas go bad in the tank and allow the tires to dry rot.

Fashion trends show that motorcycles have always loved bling and more caring owners lavish their bikes with bling even as they ignore them for months at a time.  You too can be a part of this ridiculous crowd and gift your motorcycle with its very own watch so it can tell time.  At least until the watch battery dies from the neglect you’ll inevitably heap upon it.

So, anyway, that’s a great product idea.  However.  It’s already been done.  Presenting, the “Watch For Motorcycles” watch for motorcycles:


Halloween Scenes – Peep Show

Larry the Rat was just finishing up his dinner when he heard a knock on the front door of his home.  Who would be visiting him now?  Maybe it was a package.  But it was late for package delivery.  Larry was suspicious.

He’d only moved into this house recently.  It was a long move from his hometown, but sometimes long moves are needed.  Long moves can be good.  A new start, right?  He didn’t want to be called Larry the Rat anymore.  Just Larry would be fine.  And when he started making some new friends, that’s who he would be.  Just Larry.

When Larry was back in his hometown, he had what a lot of people would consider a thankless job.  It wasn’t a good job or a bad job, and by that I mean, he didn’t work specifically for the good guys or the bad guys.  He worked for both.  He was a rat.  Larry the Rat worked his way up the chain.  You wouldn’t think a rat could get away with the same trick twice, but the good guys did enough to keep the bad guys guessing and Larry was never the one to blame.

But, Larry the Rat didn’t feel he was compensated well enough for the amount of risk he was taking.  He was in the system pretty deep.  Both systems, in fact.  Larry had a special gift for living two lives.  And this last summer, he determined he was going to live one life for the rest of his life.  No more helping anyone.  A free agent with a clean record.  The good guys told him it was a smart career move and provided some excellent record cleaning assistance.

As you would expect for a professional like Larry, he told no one where he was going.  Not the good guys, and certainly not the bad guys.  He bought a typical house on a typical street in a typical neighborhood in Nowhereville.  The perfect place to ditch his rat surname.

But the preparations didn’t end there.  He built a panic room in his new house – completely impenetrable.  And although it wasn’t obvious from the outside, all the windows of the house were reinforced.  It would take a very large-caliber rifle to blast through on a first shot.  Any other attack would require multiple shots, which no one would risk that kind of exposure in a neighborhood like this one.  At the sound of the first gunshot, Larry would be squirreled away in his panic room, calling the good guys for a quick favor.

Not only the house windows, but the doors were completely reinforced, too.  No shooting through them, no way.  He’d also seen enough drug raids to know how battering rams worked and what was effective in slowing them down.  Again, just more time to get to the panic room.

Tonight, the massively-reinforced front door was being knocked upon.  And Larry the Rat was suspicious about that.

Walking silently, out of the view of the reinforced windows, he came up to the front door.  Larry listened closely for any indication of who it could be, friend or foe.  The heavy door gave no clues who was on the other side.  Larry looked through the security peephole in the door.  It was black.  Larry saw nothing.

The knock came again and Larry started, jumping in place.  “Damn it.” he cursed himself.  Did he make any noise?  If he did, should he just man up and ask who’s there?  Should he turn on the outside light so he could see who was out there first?  Either one would expose his location.  Larry looked back to where the panic room was.  How many windows were between the front door and the panic room?

Larry calmed his mind for a moment.  What a crazy vision.  The whole mafia lined up at each window, blasting away fruitlessly at the thick glass while he dashed down the hall.  His house was more secure than most any bank.  He had time to live.

His calm was immediately broken by a sheet of paper slid partially under the door.  He pulled it through.  Legal-sized paper?  The paper had an advertisement on it.  In big, bold letters at the top: PEST REMOVAL.  The logo was an upside-down rat in a cage.  Larry dropped the paper without seeing anything else.  He didn’t want to see.  But curiosity got the better of him.

Larry moved back to the peephole.  Still black.

Without warning, although the delivered flyer should have been sufficient warning, Larry’s eye was pierced.  A long, thin, metal rod fired through the peephole, into his eye and with enough force to spear his brain and exit dramatically through the back of his head.  Larry’s shock denied him a scream of acknowledgement that his assailant had hit his mark.

The man outside was quite aware of his success as he watched his end of the rod shudder and then incline as the section inside the house was pulled down from an unseen weight – the weight of Larry the exterminated rat.

Inside, Larry was trying to bargain his way out of his imminent death.  “Next time, reinforced peep hole.  No, external cameras.  Yeah.  With night vision.  And maybe… maybe… hmmm.”

Halloween Scenes – Lesson Of A Lifetime

Another workday for Randy.  He gathered up his racks of snacks and drinks and cheerily set out on his daily route.  He did love his job.  He loved meeting all the people, people busy doing their own jobs.  And he was glad he could provide them with a little daily happiness.  Maybe the happiness was coming from his cans of Coke and Pepsi and bags of Doritos, but Randy liked to think they enjoyed his friendly banter each day.

“Having fun yet?” Randy queried the first person he met in the office.

“Every day,” the random person replied.  Randy didn’t need to know the details.  He just wanted to show he cared enough to ask.  Another person was up ahead.  Randy prepared his next witticism.

“Working hard?”

“Hardly working, Randy.” Aw, that guy got him good.  It’s almost like he was ready for it.  Randy chuckled to himself and entered the break room where his machines were.  Without any care, he replenished each machine in turn.  He did this every day, the process was quite routine for him.  He liked filling the machines, but the machines didn’t have that same interactive quality he got from people.

Randy reloaded his truck and went on to the next stop.  Another office building – he liked the people there.  “Hey, working hard?”  “Having fun yet?”  And more machines.  More change in his large canvas bag.  Boy, the banks were annoyed when Randy showed up.  He was either asking for a bunch of change or was giving them a bunch of change.  Always such a hassle.  “Working hard?”  Absolutely, Randy.  You make us work very hard.

Heading home from another productive day, Randy found himself in a bad situation on the interstate.  A semi truck had swerved to avoid a reckless car cutting in front of it.  The semi weaved back and forth, then began to topple over, right onto Randy’s truck.  The accident was over in a flash.

The next morning, Randy woke up in his bed, ready for work.  It was another workday for Randy.  He had people to meet and machines to fill.  He arrived at his first stop on his route and went to the break room.  A man was sitting in the corner at a small round table.

“Hey!  Having fun yet?”  Randy announced his arrival to the man.  No response.  Oh well, Randy thought, not everyone is as happy at their job as me.  He went to the machines, but they weren’t his.  Well, they looked just like his, but his key didn’t work.  He looked them over and determined they seemed stocked well enough for another day.  He’d bring backup keys tomorrow.

Randy went to the next office on his route and engaged the first person in the hall he saw. “Working hard?”  Again, no response.  Geez, must be a Monday, thought Randy as he continued on.  But just like the last place, his keys wouldn’t turn in the machines’ locks.  Randy thought something was very strange about all this.  Had he been replaced?  Was there another Randy on his route, filling his machines and cheering up all the workers?

Randy ventured out of the break room and into the office halls.  Everyone he met had no response for his witty queries.  “Having fun yet?”  “Working hard?”  “Having fun yet?”  All met with silence.  Most just kept right on walking.  Was this a prank?  A conspiracy?  Randy got more agitated with the workers.  “Working hard?”  “Hey!  Working HARD?”  “Having FUN yet?”

Finally, Randy had enough.  He stood firmly in front of a man walking in the hall, blocking his path. Pointing accusingly, he demanded, “You!  Having fun yet?”  The man paid him no mind and walked right through Randy.  Randy’s eyes grew wide.  His memory slowly began filling in.  The drive home on the highway.  The truck.  Then waking up in his bed again.  The reality dawning on him brought a sadness.  The thought crystallized that this was all he knew in life and he had taken it to the afterlife.  It was his afterlife, forever.

Randy woke up the next morning in his bed.  He wasn’t excited to do his route today.  He grudgingly arrived at his first stop and trudged his way to the break room.  “Having fun yet?”  “Working hard?”  No response.  Randy was learning a thing or two about working hard and having fun yet.  And his lesson would go on and on.