My tagline, let me show you it.

Tag Archives: entertainment

Florida, The Bakery

I’ve been seeing a lot of billboards lately with a new slogan: “Drive Baked, Get Busted”.  It just kind of appeared out of nowhere and suddenly, it was everywhere.  Ok, yeah, police want (stupid) people to know that driving after getting high is a bad thing. 

I looked this promo campaign up and yes, it is new this year.  Supposedly, it’s because of the new medical pot law in Florida.  If we’re going to have medical pot, we need to let people know that you can’t take your “medication” and go for a drive.  Here’s the funny part.  The ad campaign is primarily targeted to 18-34 year olds.  Exactly the ones that would need medical stoning plants.  Secondarily, the ads target 55-74 year olds.  You know, the ones that smoked pot all the time when they were… 18-34.  But anyway, fuck yeah, Gen-X!  You’re not targeted as pot smokers.  And I find that really dumb, because everyone I knew growing up was perpetually high.

It kind of got me thinking about the whole PSA campaigns for any sort of impaired driving.  First of all, what idiot doesn’t know that driving under the influence of anything is bad? (Anything but driving under the influence of Jesus)  Second, if the person doesn’t know naturally that it’s bad, is a billboard really going to educate them?  Sometimes, I see messages on the traffic warning signs that say, “DUI – Decide before you drive” and I think a lot of people are like, “Already done.”

You just wouldn’t believe the frequency I see impaired drivers on the highways.  If it’s not some drug, then it’s probably tiredness.  Tiredness is an impairment that doesn’t get enough attention.  Maybe a billboard or two would help: “WAKE UP, MOTHERFUCKER!”


Lack Of Drive

The other morning, I was in RaceTrac getting my usual breakfast and there were a couple of kids in the store.  I say kids, but I don’t mean like little kids.  Probably teens, probably 16.  They were milling around and eventually bought some stuff, then milled around a bit more.  A few things struck me as kind of odd about that.

First, there weren’t any parents with them.  I’m not sure why I thought this, since they’re old enough to be out and about on their own.  But the idea that they didn’t just go in the store, buy stuff, then leave made me think they were chaperoned.

When I was growing up, when you got to your teens, you wanted to be independent.  You demanded independence.  Because I lived in such a tiny town, I would drive almost 45 minutes just to eat at Wendy’s.  I would drive over an hour to go to a decent mall.  Even today, I still don’t see any problem driving half an hour for food.

As a completely-unrelated aside, this current era is nothing like my youth.  I distinctly remember standing alone in a checkout line and the cashier wouldn’t even acknowledge my existence because I didn’t look old enough to buy anything on my own.  Kids now have purchasing power and don’t get ignored if they want to buy something.

But back to these teens, when they made their purchase, I expected them to head right outside and leave.  One probably just got his or her driver’s license.  But, because they remained in the building and just hung out, it was pretty clear they didn’t have their own vehicle, which is another oddity to me.

I’ve read plenty of articles saying that the new youth have little care for cars, which completely boggles my mind.  Having a vehicle is freedom.  It lets you get out and see more things, on your own terms.  I must assume that because so much entertainment is at hand via phones and TV, there is less desire to find entertainment through exploration.  Also, since everyone is so isolated in their virtual worlds, there is also little desire to get away – because they are always “away”.

The GF is the same way.  Maybe it also has to do with growing up in a small town, where you had to have transportation to do anything or see anything interesting.  But that desire to see and explore continued long into our lives.  On a vacation a while ago, while driving on some random highway, I observed that unlike other couples that sit at home and watch TV, this (identifying the car seats) was our couch, and this (identifying the windshield) was our television.  It’s not like we couldn’t see other places and other things by sitting home on the Internet, but that’s unsatisfying for us.

Recently, we wanted to go to touristville, which ended up with a crazy meal at a steakhouse.  Instead of taking the interstate, which would have been a minimum trip time of an hour (with no defined maximum due to traffic), we chose to take all back roads, which gave us a more predictable, although longer trip time.  But more importantly, it gave us something to experience other than stopped traffic.

Similarly, when I moved from the wasteland across the great commonwealth, I would sometimes return home to visit friends.  The first (or last depending on direction) leg of the return trip, I had a choice to take an interstate or take a smaller, alternate route.  Without fail, whenever I chose the interstate for time concerns, I always regretted it because the drive was so uninteresting and fatiguing.

Driving is embedded in my being.  If I lost the ability to drive, I think I would have a very difficult remainder of my life.  Driving is freedom; driving is experience; driving is risk and reward.  America is a big country and deserves to be seen down low, not from far above.

A Good Time, Spoiled By An Explosion

During the holidays, you are supposed to be reflecting on how your year has gone, for better or worse.  Then I suppose you make future plans based on that evaluation.  It’s like how it is at work for me, with my annual review being in December.  I don’t really have much to worry about in my professional life, and my personal life has been pretty good for a solid number of years.

The GF and I have pretty much been loners throughout our coupledom.  We share a friend here or there, but this year, we are both very grateful for new friendships.  Well, one is new this year, and one was budding almost a year ago.  It’s really weird to actually analyze how friendships form as adults, especially when you’re not really a person, you’re a collection of you and your partner.  But suffice to say, the GF and I have been very fortunate this year.

And, like so many of my posts, that’s not even what I want to talk about.  I want to talk about the time where there was a lot of promise and it just blew up in our faces.  Literally.  This couple was neighbors with the GF, and there was a huge falling out over an incident (not this incident) that is not my story to tell and these neighbors have since moved away, blah, blah, blah.

Now, it was a fall or winter evening, a cold night, and they had invited us over for a evening around a fire pit.  It’s an activity I never really understood – staring at a fire and getting smoke in your eyes – but I know people love doing it, so I’m not opposed.  And so we went over and hung out with them in their driveway, with what I assume was a brand new fire pit.

The pit was metal and round and was pretty ornate.  It sat on the ground and had the decorative cut outs in the upper portion of the flat-bottomed bowl.  The neighbors had built up a good fire by the time we got there and some drinking was involved.  It was cold enough for jackets, despite the fire.  (Another thing about fire hangouts – one side of you roasts and the other freezes.  Fun!)

The night wore on and nothing was terrible at all.  We got along pretty well.  But, without warning, the fire pit exploded.  Yeah, nothing more to say.  It just blew up.  The thing launched probably about 5 feet in the air and it began raining fire and ash down on all of us.  No big deal, really.  That doesn’t happen often to me, if ever, but in this specific case, my jacket bore the brunt of the cinders, melting holes in multiple places.  The GF took some cinders to the hair, which lit on fire.  It was fine, we got the hair put out without any disfiguration.  And after the panic subsided and some neighbors came out to find out who dropped a bomb on the area, we took note of the damage.

There is a lesson to be learned here, and that lesson is, don’t put a flat-bottomed fire pit on the ground and especially do not put it on a concrete surface, like a driveway.  Elevate that fucker.  I deduced what had happened pretty quickly and it was confirmed later.  The fire pit, resting flat on the concrete, heated up moisture and air that was trapped inside the concrete.  With nowhere for the heated pressure to escape, it eventually exploded like a cheap pressure cooker.  This is actually what launched the fire pit into the air.  And underneath, where the fire pit had been, was a substantial hole in the driveway.

Fortunately, we have had no explosions with our new friends and as for those old friends, it was probably prophetic as to how it would turn out in the long run.

New To Me Old School

I am literally 10 years behind the times.  But on the plus side, I’m saving lots of money by doing so.

As I’ve mentioned, I have two new idiot boxes in my house.  I still don’t watch a lot of TV, so I needed to find a use for them.  The obvious consideration was to get a video game system.  On top of the entertainment value, it could work for some social interaction as well.  You know, for all the guests I have over…

But what game system to get?  I haven’t played video games seriously for 20 years, when the controls became so complicated and all in 360 degree, 3D style (if you want to know precisely when I quit, it was ID Software’s Quake that put me over the edge).  So, looking at XBox/PlayStation nonsense was more of a detraction than a motivator.  But there exists a game system for people like me, the casual gamer.  The Nintendo Wii.  Yup, it’s 10 years old now.

I’d played Wii at a friends house only a couple of times.  I found it very curious, since it relied on motion input instead of traditional directional controllers.  Moreover, the gameplay wasn’t hyper-competitive, just fun.  That was right up my alley.  So where do you go to buy a 10-yr old game system?  To me, it was just like buying a 10 yr old music keyboard or guitar or effect unit – the pawn shop.

I’m definitely no stranger to pawn shops, and I have a pretty good sense as to what to buy and what to avoid there.  I had a pretty good feeling about getting a Wii.  At the very least, you could look it over for damage and whatnot.  So, I made my rounds of the local shops, seeing who had what available in the best condition.

I ended up getting a system and some games on new year’s eve for $52.  The next week, I bought some more controllers, some games, and a balance board for $48.  So I had a full system for $100.  That’s pretty good.  When the Wii first came out, it was $250 for the base system, $40 for an extra controller, and $20 for the nunchuk. The balance board was $90 at launch.

And it’s been a good system.  It’s fun and doesn’t require a ton of dedication or effort to use.  It’s been enough fun that the GF has been considering getting one for her house.  So today, I went on the hunt again.

The pawn shops around my workplace have historically been excellent for finding good deals on whatever I’m looking for (or something I wasn’t looking for).  Today, with a planned purchase, I wasn’t disappointed.  I got a Wii with one controller and nunchuk for $35, plus another controller/nunchuk for $12 – similar to what I spent last time.  I figured we could share the balance board for a while.  On a whim, I stopped at another pawn shop and was surprised to see a balance board sitting all by itself.  Originally $10, it was marked down to $7.  That was an immediate cash purchase and out the door.  The only thing I regret is not buying the $2 copy of Wii Fit to go along with it.  I’ll get that next week for myself.

So now we have Wii’s.  Whee.

Music In The Valley

Last weekend, I had a pretty productive CD run.  I think I picked up a dozen new ones.  One of the “why not” buys was a disc called “The Best of Starship”.  It was a cheap-looking CD.  Really cheap.  Like one of those compilation CDs that companies make just for some quick bucks.  It turned out to be something really different, though.

I don’t own any Starship albums, but I do know the songs pretty well from the radio.  When I put the CD in and played it, I didn’t immediately recognize the music.  After the song played a little longer, I recognized it, but something was still off.  The singer’s voice was familiar and all the notes were right, but the production of the track was different.

I looked at the album cover for clues.  In small type at the bottom was “New Recordings by the Original Artist.”  How strange.  What I was experiencing was the Uncanny Valley effect.  That effect is typically associated with robots, how people’s perception of them rises as their realism improves, then suddenly drops off as people get really creeped out by the tiny inconsistencies.  I’ve also had the same thing with software, where if the replication of an application isn’t exact, the little differences drive you crazy.  You notice all the little things.  At that point it’s better to create something entirely different.

And that was the case with this album.  It wasn’t a live album.  You know you’re getting a different sound when buying a live album.  It was a studio album, but it wasn’t like studio outtakes or demos or alternate takes.  It was just doing it again.  And it wasn’t like redoing it with the intent to improve on it, it was trying to remain faithful to the original.  But it wasn’t.  The production was much more sparse – less overdubs, less polish.  It almost sounded like a MIDI sequence plus guitars, plus the original vocalists.  It was good enough to be recognizable.

I have to say, it’s the strangest CD I’ve ever come across.  I’m torn between throwing it away because of (to borrow the uncanny valley’s terminology) the revulsion at what I was hearing or keeping it because it’s such an oddball recording.

Everything’s A Phone Now

A recent post on a blog I follow informed me that there was a great deal happening on an entry-level, budget Windows Phone – the Lumia 435.  I could pick one up for $30.  That made me pause for a moment.

A brand new smartphone, capable of running Windows 10 Mobile, with expandable memory that can take an SD card up to 128GB.  What if I bought it, never put a cellular SIM in it, maxed out the memory and just used it as an MP3 player?  Huh? What’s stopping me?

Let’s look at some current MP3 players.  They are really dwindling in numbers, because, well, smartphones do everything now.  16GB Sony Walkman – $80.  8GB Sandisk Clip – $35.  160GB iPod – $399.  32GB Zune HD – $275.  This phone – $30.  128GB MicroSD card – $50.  And I don’t even need the 128GB card now.  I have a 32GB card from my old phone.  Consider this a done deal.

So now I have another Windows phone.  It’s going to be my new MP3 player.  And better than other MP3 players, it will do Internet and Bluetooth audio, and games, and whatever else I want (except phone calls).

I began setting it up by installing the 32GB SD card I had around and upgrading the phone to Windows 10.  Boy, what a drawn-out process that upgrade was.  When I was done upgrading, I then uninstalled every app except for the ones I needed – primarily Groove Music.

Ok.  Now, how do I get my music on there?  I keep the music on my computer in WMA Lossless.  That format works with Zune.  But you can’t sync to anything other than a Zune device using the Zune software.  And although I can copy the files right to the phone, I don’t want to use my lossless files since they’re around 25MB per song.  I was dreading the idea of manually transcoding my entire library just to copy it and delete it.  Surely there has to be some software that would automate that.

Enter the old stalwart, Windows Media Player.  This software will not die, nor should it ever die.  Windows Media Player can sync files to another device that is nothing more than a memory card.  And in the process of doing so, it can transcode the files to a different bit rate – Exactly what I need.


Then you choose what you want to put on your device, and drag it to the Sync pane.  Then Windows Media Player just does its thing.


So, with my test using the 32GB card, I got about 40-odd percent of my music on there. There’s some stuff I can take off because it’s not really mobile audio stuff.  I also discovered that Windows Media Player encodes to WMA format, so I probably don’t need a high bitrate of 192k.  192k in MP3 is moderate quality, 192k in WMA is very high quality.  Bringing that down a notch to 160k should reduce the space usage.  And I see I also need to get cracking on cleaning up my album art.

But!  Once that’s all done, I will have a pretty sweet MP3 player, that isn’t a phone, but really is a phone, just not being used as a phone.

Late Night Thoughts (But Torture Is Discussed)

I’m coming down with a cold (I don’t get sick).  Last night was the transition from a scratchy throat to a runny nose.  Obviously, I was kept awake.  During one of my wake-up sessions, I had a thought:  Getting death threats from people could be pretty scary.  But if you got a death threat from a death metal band, I don’t think it would be scary at all.  How could you even take it seriously?

“I’ll rip out your guts!” – Yeah, ok.  I hear ya.

“I’ll murder you while you sleep!” – You said that on your last two albums.

“You will be tortured for years and years!” – Blah, blah, blah.

And threats like that, whether you hear them from a death metal band or from someone who is trying to express how they don’t like you, are, by-and-large, empty.  It’s what I will call a “smorgasbord of torture.”  The person has no clue what they are going to do to you, so they say they’re going to do it all.  Break your legs, crush your skull, rip out your tongue.  Yawn.  Do they even know how much effort those things take?  Do they even know how a body works?  Clearly, you can’t rip out someone’s guts and torture them for years.  It’s not realistic.  And what, in the realm of death metal music, is ever realistic?

Now, what you have to watch out for is someone who makes a threat and then starts making the threat more and more specific and detailed.  This person knows.  This person has a plan.  This person is the one to be feared.

So yeah, I hope I feel better soon.  It’s the holiday season, after all.

Christmas Startup Costs

This is the first year I’m going to be celebrating Christmas.  When I say that, I mean this is the first year I’m going to be doing the traditional tree and trimmings.  In years past, I did a tiny 3-ft, pre-lit artificial tree.  You know, the bare minimum.  I’m approaching this as a multi-year project, building up a little each year.  Maybe next year will be exterior decorations.

The point I’m making is that I’m starting with nothing.  I don’t even think I have a single tree ornament of my own.  So, if you are considering doing your first Christmas, consider this list for the things that you will need.  But, keep in mind, most all of these will be reusable next year, so you can spend a little more and get quality stuff that will last year after year.  Normally, I would factor in whether I wanted to have something new each year and budget for disposable items.  But I think Christmas stuff should have a sense of stability and memories each time they are used.  And if your approach is also a multi-year vision, decide what you want for next year and hit the after Christmas sales.

So, this is what I started with:

Tree Skirt

This was the first advance purchase.  The GF and I were evaluating our options at Old Time Pottery and we found one with the fabric we liked, but not the right colors.  Later, we were at Lowes and saw one we both immediately liked.  We noticed that Lowes’ Christmas supplies were really selling out (impressive), so I grabbed it right then to avoid any remorse over missing something we both agreed on.  Price: $30.

Tree Lights

Wow, so many options.  When I was growing up, we had one option for bulbs.  I think they are classified as C7.  But now, you have the LED lights and all these different shapes and colors.  This is where I had to start thinking.  I could do a themed tree, like all gold or silver or blue, in which case, I’d probably get a single-colored set.  Or, I could go traditional and get the multi-colored sets. 

I like the look of themed trees, but they seem so boring to me.  I wanted a more interesting tree, with ornaments of all different types, to encourage exploration and to capture different moments.  So, the lights I choose will either be multicolored or dual colored.

I started at Lowes.  What the hell.  They’re down to less than a full isle of Christmas stuff.  Less than a full isle! They didn’t have the lights I wanted.  Ok, let’s try Sears.  Sears usually surprises me with prices and selection.  Nope, Sears is down to thin pickings as well. Ok then, I know Target has them because I saw them the day before when I bought my tree stand.

I bought a 200-bulb string and two 50-bulb strings, for a total of $63.  All LED, all sphere shaped.  The 200-bulb is shiny and faceted and the two small strings are solid pearl lights.  That’s about 100 ft of lights, at $.63/ft  Not cheap, but much better than I budgeted.

Tree Ornaments

Consistent with my choice to have a non-themed tree, the ornaments will be a collection of many different shapes, colors, and styles.  One thing I am against, though, is “shatter-resistant” ornaments.  These plastic bulbs with the visible molding seams are cheap and tacky.  I understand their place in families with dumb children, but for the record, I never broke a glass ornament when I was growing up.  And since my household is not and will not be child-friendly, I’m having nice high-quality glass ornaments.  Although, after discussing with the girlfriend, we’re going to have to put shatterproof ornaments of some sort at the bottom to account for curious cat and clumsy dog – their first Christmas with a real tree.

There’s no shortage of variety when it comes to ornaments.  And the prices are all over the place, too.  You’ll probably start with some multi-sets, then in future years, buy unique individual pieces to create memories.

I hit two places at first, Old Time Pottery and Michaels, and got some basic red/green/clear balls and a spire tree topper (which I’ve learned is called a Finial).  Total running cost: $47. Then I did another run at Big Lots, Sears and JCPenney.  The quality is getting better and plenty of diversity.  Total now: $104.  At this point the cat thinks this is going to be the best Christmas ever.


Then I hit Pier 1, Hobby Lobby, Bealls, Target (again), and Michaels (again).  And I think we’re done.  Total: $195.  We did decide to go with the fancy ornament hooks instead of the simple wire hooks.  I have to say, they’re worth the investment, both in looks and usability.

As far as what we ended up with, there’s probably close to 200 ornaments on the tree, between glass balls, icicles, bells, diamond and ruby gems, a few birds, a bird nest, individual personal items, and some novelty items.

The Tree

The tree is going to be a live tree.  The initial reason for this is to have the more traditional experience.  If I find I don’t like it, I can always go artificial next year.  But I think I owe it to myself to try the real tree first.

We went to a tree stand that’s always been coming to town since I can remember: “Booger Mountain”.  We picked out a tree.  A big tree.  8 feet high and dense and wide.  They only took cash, and it was a chunk of cash.  $90.

Tree Stand

Since I’m going natural, I’ll need a tree stand.  I might as well get a nice one.  I had a couple of gift cards from Target, so I figured I’d use them there.  I ended up with a nice plastic stand with an easy watering opening for $20, $10 after gift cards.  I thought that was a good deal until I stopped at Walgreens and saw a stand on clearance for $7.  But what’s done is done.  My stand is good for an 8’ tree.  It did the job just fine.

The Complete Damage

Adding up everything, I’ve spend $390 on this project.  All but $90 will be reusable in future years.  The girlfriend spend $300 on her own exterior home decorating (first year for that, too) and all of that will be reusable in future years.  So, it looks like we’re even.

Finding The Unexpected

My new section here on my blog for the MCA Master Series has all its images backed by my Flickr account.  I’m keeping an album on Flickr for any CD covers that are particularly rare or aren’t available in high quality.  Like I semi-mentioned in my previous post, albums can be re-released by different labels or even by the same label and they may change or update the artwork.  This is rather true for some of the MCA Master Series albums where the artist wants to break free from the consistent design imposed by the label.  So in that case, I feel it’s important to preserve the album art consistent with the version I have, because whenever I search online for the artwork, I get the newest revision.

So, on Flickr, I have all my MCA Master Series covers, along with some others as I’ve been scanning them.  As I was scrolling through the album, I noticed one of the covers had an abnormally high view count relative to my others.  Like a 100:1 difference.  The cover was Albert Lee – Gagged But Not Bound:

So I started to do some research.  I wanted to know who found my scan and what they thought of it, good or bad.  I looked for any Albert Lee fan sites/forums.  I looked for album art blogs, I couldn’t find anything.  I thought maybe it had ended up in Flickr’s Interesting list or maybe a group there.  Nope.

I didn’t have a Flickr Pro account, so I couldn’t see any advanced statistics, like where the traffic was coming from.  After a couple days of searching in vain, I broke down and paid for a Flickr Pro account.  And of course, the stats weren’t historical.  I had to wait for more people to view the image.

A couple days later, I checked up on it and sure enough, I had stats – useful stats.  The cover was being found through Flickr search, not from an external website or search engine.  That’s odd.  Why would they find that image and not any of my others.  Then I drilled in deeper and looked at the keywords being searched.  Oh.

I guess people use Flickr to search for erotic bondage pictures.  Photos involving people being “gagged” and “bound”.  And, among their expected search results, my CD cover scan is in there, and it’s intriguing enough for them to click on.  On one hand, I’m disappointed my stuff is being found in a search for a fetish, and on the other hand, I think it’s surprising that my stuff is actually interesting enough to be viewed in that context.

Triangulating Everything

Today, I drove to lunch taking a back road to avoid the usual stress of traffic and I got to thinking about the tradeoff triangle, you know, Good/Fast/Cheap – pick two.  But that didn’t really make sense for what I was doing.  I was trading time for a better driving experience.  It was something more like Cheap/Fast/Pleasurable. 

I thought I was on to something there.  I tried applying it to some other modern conveniences.  I have someone wash my car every few weeks.  That costs a little, but it also frees up more time for me to do what I want.  That fits.

In fact, there’s a whole lifestyle philosophy that promotes that when you get to a certain level of net worth or earning potential, you need to stop doing some things because it isn’t worth your time (in a somewhat literal sense).  A breakdown of that philosophy may be for a future post.

But what if you enjoy doing something and the cost isn’t important to you?  Like mowing the lawn, you could get someone to do it cheaply, but you enjoy it.  You’re sacrificing time for cost and pleasure.  Ok, that still fits.

What about upgrading to Business Class when flying?  Sacrifice cost for pleasure.  There’s a lot of things you can sacrifice cost for extra comfort.  That’s a common one that fits well.

But the equation doesn’t work for everything.  There are some legitimate sources of tasty fast food, where it’s a balance of cheap, fast, and pleasurable.  So what’s the sacrifice there?  That’s a better fit for the Good/Fast/Cheap equation, where you can usually argue that you’re giving up quality for the others.

I guess we need some definition as to when to use Good/Fast/Cheap and when to use Cheap/Fast/Pleasurable.  It seems G/F/C applies to things you receive and C/F/P applies to things you experience.  Tangible and intangible.

Now I have a problem with Cheap when dealing with experience, because that has a negative connotation.  How about Economical?  That makes Fast stick out, but wow, that’s a hard one to replace.  I can’t think of any -able or -ible terms to fit in there.  That will have to wait.

Great.  I now have a physical and emotional tradeoff triangle for my analytical processes.