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Thursday, August 30, 2012

WUMF: August 2012 Edition

It’s the end of the month. You know what that means?

Hurricane Isaac
NOLA just can’t catch a break. Almost seven years to the day from Hurricane Katrina, Isaac comes knocking on New Orleans. Meanwhile in Tampa, the RNC is holding their event and unless Governor Christie comes out onto the beach in a speedo, telling everyone to GTFO, I think they’ll be fine. Even if Isaac becomes a Category Cantore, it will be OK for them. Now, not that I want anyone to be harmed by such a destructive force, but it begs the question that if the Republican Convention were to be hit by the full force of the hurricane, would Pat Robertson say they deserved it? Somehow, I think not.

And Isaac? Come on, Isaac is not a hurricane name. Isaac is a cruise ship bartender. He’s a scientist. He’s not a hurricane. Just like Andrew, which was a really destructive storm was not a good name. “Hey everyone, Hurricane Andrew is coming.” No one flinches. “Hurricane Katrina is coming!” You get your shit and move. Hurricane Bill? That sounds like something you get from the insurance company.

Fat Guy At the Water Park
This weekend I will be going to Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky. Now, last year, at this time we went to Splash Lagoon and I think they might have recovered all of the lost water. You can always tell when I am next on the water slide. Just look for the water to stop flowing at the bottom. Then comes the sound of a submarine collapsing under the pressure of the deep water. Then, you see the tsunami appear at the opening of the slide and WOOSH!

Now, my wife insisted that I book us a King bedroom with whirlpool tub. This is the same woman that drug me camping in a tent last weekend and now we have a fireplace in our hotel room. Go figure.  BTW, Is it coincidence that they just aired a Fat Person On A Waterslide segment on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo Child?   People are going to be looking at me, all judgmental and shit.

Kindergarten Blues
My daughter started Kindergarten this week. Now, there was a lot of hesitation and nervousness about going to the bus stop, getting on the bus, spending a whole day at kindergarten, and then riding the bus home, hoping to get off at the right stop. But, a brave front was put up and only a few tears were shed over the whole event. My wife got through it. :)

However, I’m not exactly sure I like all these new rules for school kids. I understand, 1980 is a far cry from 2012. The kid had homework the first day?!?!? Granted, she had to color in stuff. She does a good job of staying inside the lines but she did have one bad screw up.

Now, the handbook was pretty strict about absences and such which got my wife and I a little miffed. The kid is only five. If she were to miss a day, not due to illness, she might not learn that Friday is the last weekday. I think we can make that lesson up at home. However, there was a lot of speak about records and courts and I was thinking, “This kid is going to have a record because we went on vacation a day early?” I can see her future, “You daughter cannot be admitted to Harvard because she missed out on Yellow day back in Kindergarten.” So, apparently, there are five year olds smart enough to skip school and go do Pixie Sticks under the stadium bleachers. How do you punish a five year old for what their parents did? I guess, ask the folks who think the deportation of illegal kids brought over the border, by their parents, is a good idea.

OK, so I have already talked about my Minecraft addiction. But, as of late, the game is somewhat lax in exciting features. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still an awesome game and some of the latest features, like temples and trading with villagers is really cool, but having to start over on a new “world” to get these things to generate is a bit problematic.

However, I’ve been watching the Yogscast videos for a long time and apart from being hilarious, they’ve got me wanting to try Tekkit. The idea behind this is that I thought, “Man, wouldn’t it be awesome if I could build some kind of power plant, only primitive.” Nothing like a nuclear plant, but perhaps a water wheel to generate power for furnaces and mine carts. Redstone mechanics still escape me.

So, as I got into the later videos, I saw that they were starting to build stuff in Tekkit, which is a collection of mods, I guess. One of them is called Industrial Craft. These mods, bundled with a launcher and a kick ass texture pack like Sphax BD Purecraft have made the game extremely fun, if not infuriatingly complex.

It took forever for me to remember how to build some of the machines like a piston or enchanting table and now, with a whole bunch of new ores and minerals, it’s like learning chemistry all over again with a third grade level education.

You can literally automate an entire process of macerating an ore block into dust, smelting it into a bar, and placing it into a chest with a few cables, pipes, and basic engines. Not only that, but you can automate all of this further by building a quarry that will dig a large hole in the ground, sucking up all the blocks, passing them through pipes that can filter out items like dirt and rock from Iron and Diamonds and then pass them through the process or into chests.

It sort of breaks the game, though. There is a lot of setup to doing all of these wonderful things, but once you accomplish setting up a quarry that runs on fuel derived from an oil well or volcano and it automatically processes everything into chests, you don’t have to leave your house. You don’t have to fight monsters. You don’t have to mine. It’s like playing an RPG and once reaching level 20 or so, you go back to that first area that kicked your ass with your leather helmet and dagger and you say to the little bug monsters, “Who’s the bitch, now?”

Still, I will probably waste a lot of hours doing all this. If you are even the least bit interested in this, look up the Tekkit Wiki and go watch these videos.

Duncan is a member of the Yogscast and even though I do recommend watching the funnier Simon and Lewis or Sips and Sjin videos devoted to Tekkit, Duncan is more focused on showing you how to setup all of the machines and wiring associated with Tekkit.

OK, I’m out like a light. Have a good Labor Day.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Camping Is In Tents

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to do something I haven’t done since I was a sophomore in college some 17 years ago. I went camping. Now, there’s a reason I haven’t done it in 17 years. That reason is that the ground and I aren’t on the best of terms. It’s hard and cold and unfeeling, and I’m applying 280 pounds of weight in one spot all the time. That’s like having a needle sticking in your back, which is what it felt like sleeping on the ground Saturday night.

When I was a young Mongo, and not so angry, I used to go camping at Prince Gallitzin.  If not staying there, we would visit our friends who had a camper up at Cutty's campground, which is in between route 711 and 31, in Saltlick, PA.  But the most recent trips I went on were in college, either camping on the fringe of Ocean City, MD or at Shawnee State Park.  However, this weekend, we stayed a little closer to home, just deep enough into the mountains of Fayette Nam and into Somerset County.

We took the little one and the LP (La Papa as my wife and her friend used to refer to my father-in-law as when we met) up to visit my sister-in-law at Scottyland which is way up there in the Laurel Highlands, near Seven Springs. Now, Scottyland is one of those places where people get rooted in their camping ways. They pay somewhere around $1200-$2200 a year for a site. Some have no hookups, which they call “primitive” and some are full supersize sites, which the other campers call “snob knob”. Some people, up there, take their camping seriously. One trailer looked like a mini two story house, complete with a stone walled deck and outdoor wet bar.

The site we stayed at was right on the lake, which to be fair was more of a pond that you could walk across. It was along the main drag around the “lake” where campers were butted up against each other and most people know what their neighbors are doing at 2AM when the lights go out.

We pitched a tent… not in a good way… in the back yard next to the fire ring. We spent the bulk of the day fishing for the same blue gill and watched the drama unfold in another scintillating episode of Red Neck ER as two guys from the Off-Off-Off Broadway run of O’ Brother Where Art Thou performed CPR on a fish that had swallowed a hook. The action was suspenseful in that it took them at least 30 seconds to get out an entire sentence. One guy was stationed to our left and the other guy was stationed to our right and they proceeded to have a conversation over top of our campsite that was just quality stuff and I could hang on every word…. From a noose… in a tall tree.

“Heeeey…. Dooo yooou haaaave some neeeedle noooose plierrrrrs?”

“No, we don’t.”

“Ohhhhh, allllllll riiiiiiiight. Thannnnnks.”

Then his buddy chimed in from the bank on the other side of us.

“Whaaat haaaapened?”

“Welllll, I thiiiink heee swallloowed the hoooook.”

The next hour was spent watching as both men, knelt on the ground over the fish, performing open mouth surgery trying to retrieve the hook.

Really? Now, I’m no fisherman, which is apparent from this story, but I would think that the fish should have been dead long before Cleetus over there spit out the word, “hoooook.” Which means, why be delicate? Gut the dead bastard and retrieve your hook. Still, as I said, I’m not a fisherman, so I don’t know if a fish can live for an extended period of time with a hook in its belly. I know if can probably live a lot longer than it can sucking wind on the bank of a pond. What was so special about that hook? I’m guessing it Cleetus’ last hook or only hook or maybe these two just weren’t the brightest crayons in the box. When my wife asked me how long can a fish live out of water, I replied, “Till the end of a Faith No More video.”

After Red Neck ER went to commercial, we took a tour of the campground, performing a ninja mission to retrieve a picnic table. One was supposed to be at the site but there wasn’t one. We also got to see what the “primitive” sites were. These were sites that had no plumbing or electric. You were roughing it with a few wooden outhouses along the way. Paddle faster, friends, methinks I hear banjos.

After that, we ate. We ate good. I had homemade deep fried potato chips, hot dogs, chili, awesome clam dip, deer kabobs, and bacon and cheese stuffed jalapenos. Now, we did all this with full awareness that the men’s side of the bathhouse was locked due to, what I was told was “fecal vandalism”, and that the toilet in the camper was not working properly. So, needless to say, there were some tense times in the tent.

Now, the best way to disguise the sound of that dinner coming back on you is to go joy riding in the golf cart. The wind will carry away any fumes and the sound of the engine will cover up the audible. One thing I learned about golf carts at the campground was that most of them had huge tires and lift kits. Apparently, there was some correlation between the size of your truck and the golf cart. Also, this being Southwestern Pennsylvania, you can rest assured that a lot of the campers, no matter how run down and awful they appeared, were fully equipped with a 47” or better flat screen television hooked up outside and tuned to the Steelers-Buffalo game. Some things are non-negotiable when it comes to camping. Meanwhile, I had no cell reception the entire weekend. Other sights to behold was the construction light trees set up to illuminate what must have been a phenomenal game of corn hole. So phenomenal that they couldn’t just quit because of darkness. We also saw one of those huge Paul Bunyan statues that scared the crap out of my kid.

At the end of the night, we sat around a fire that proceeded to cook us like marshmallows. My legs became Deep Fried Woods Off. I’m pretty sure that stuff shouldn’t be exposed to an open flame and our fire big enough to be picked up by Curiosity on Mars. The kid crashed and my wife and sister-in-law nearly did after taking a late night golf cart ride down through the primitive area where an overturned outhouse prompted my sister-in-law’s drunken statement, “They shipped the flitter!”

In the morning, I punched the ground for making it so hard on me and we gathered up our stuff and headed home. We drove on out of the campground, passing by the glittering beer cans that littered the corners of each site. The Sunday morning dew mixed with the effervescent remainder of Milwaukee’s Beast and Budweiser, with just a subtle hint of Skoal filled saliva. Ahhh, camping.

From what I was told, there is a guy with a bit of a mental handicap that goes around and collects all the beer cans from the various sites. If you ask him about the owner, he will tell you that he is a “peepee and an asshole”. And, if that wasn’t enough of a visual for you, he points to each body part as he announces it; hopefully in the right order.

So, that was our camping trip and I will never forget all the good times; fish surgery, flitted shippers, peepees and assholes. Those will be my memories.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pittsburgh Geography By Bruce Willis

I am a self proclaimed excellent navigator. My wife will argue that, yet she’s the one that sent us up and over the mountains of West Virginia on our way to the beach. However, there are times when I will get turned around, believing I am in an area I recognize.

Now, when I was a kid, there was the great rescue mission in Prince Gallitzin. Not really a rescue, more like a search party for one of the kids in our group who had taken a walk and gotten lost in the campground. I took the remaining kids and fanned out into the various loops and managed to find our missing friend. After dark, we found ourselves on the other side of the campground with no sense of direction. Somehow, I managed to lead us to back to our site before anyone noticed we were gone.

However, last week, driving back from work, I realized I would never make it home with the amount of gas I had in the car and the Pirate game just starting. Traffic was pretty screwed up. I knew there was one gas station, just before the tunnels, off of 51 South. From there, I could catch a bridge back over by Duquesne and drop down onto the parkway before the Oakland exit.

I got the gas and managed to screw up and take the Wabash tunnel exit, following a car who seemed to know where I was going. I made a right, then another right, then a climb up a hill and I was lost. I could see the Steel Building and the rest of downtown, but could not figure out how to get down there. So, I just kept driving parallel, believing that I would magically end up on the Parkway East via Striking Distance movie logic. Unfortunately, I didn’t have Bruce Willis in the car with me. I managed to see two places I’d always about but never had been to. I never even knew how to get there; Mount Oliver and Carrick. I did a major detour and managed to come down into the South Side by Primanti Bros. I was home free… or so I thought.

I misread the directions on the bridge signs which said, “Oakland, next left”. I didn’t want to go to Oakland, I wanted back on the Parkway. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t an exit for Oakland but an exit for a road that led to Oakland, namely the Parkway. So, I stayed straight and was forced to turn left because I wasn’t a bus. Now, I was headed back downtown and managed to get turned around and head back the right way. What could have been a 45 minute drive turned into an hour and a half thanks to my sightseeing tour of South Pittsburgh.

Let’s just say, I’m glad I got gas.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Techno Clutz

So, I’ve gotten into texting… little bit. I resisted as long as I could. My wife does a lot of texting with her piano students; rearranging schedules and what not. Me? Not a lot going on there. I text my sister and my best friend. I even text my wife… lol.

I don’t have a data plan or even a smart phone. I’m clutching my LG Cosmo for as long as I can. I’ve resisted because I don’t want to pay for a phone… Remember, cheap bastard here. I didn’t want a phone in the beginning, so why would I pay for one. That being said, whenever this one shits the bed, I’ll have to get a smart phone, which means data plan, which means rage quitting the mobile device world.

But back to texting. I don’t have the fingers or thumbs for texting. The banana hands or meat hooks I have make it hard to get the letters out. Thankfully, I have a QWERTY keypad, but I tend to stay away from T9word. I don’t want any autocowrecks. I usually take awhile to text back in most cases. I just don’t live on my phone like some people. Usually, by 9pm, my phone is on the counter or plugged in to be charged and I don’t pick it up again until 6am the next day.

I also don’t text while driving. The temptation has been there. I have an hour long ride to and from work, but it’s just not worth it. Case in point. Yesterday, I was walking through the office, texting my sister back about something and I managed to run into two cube walls and walked down the wrong aisle.

Needless to say, I do not need to be texting while driving. I could end up lost in Mount Oliver… again. Stay tuned for that.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Hatless Yokam

There a few things in this world that truly scare me.

One is death by drowning. I’ve always had this intense fear of dying from drowning. I don’t know what causes it. As a child, I grew up spent as much time in the water as I could. I could spend all day in a pool with a mask and snorkel, simply floating along. When we’d go to the beach, I’d be out there trying to test the boundaries of where I could stand and where I couldn’t. Loved body surfing and riding on those big green and yellow canvas rafts. They seemed to last for years in comparison to the ones we have nowadays that seem to last one summer, if that.

But something about not being able to breathe and having water slowly fill my lungs, allowing me to drown, my eyes open, fully aware I was going away scares me out the crap (as my five year old puts it). In fact, when I had surgery 12 years ago to correct an issue brought on by wisdom teeth extraction, causing me to have packing in my nostrils, I had a dream I was drowning, only to awake to realize my covers had slipped up over my mouth, stifling my breathing.
That fails in comparison to what really scares me on this Earth.

Oh, another thing that scares me, horror movies where there is no sight of the monster. The most effective film to do this was The Blair Witch Project. I didn’t sleep for three days because I kept thinking about that ending. The fact that we never once saw a witch or anything didn’t matter. My imagination had already dreamt up something more sinister than the filmmakers could have inserted into that film. That image haunted me for days. Even though I had known it was fake, it still shook me to the core to think about an evil spirit lurking in the woods, waiting to be captured on film at any moment. It was just as jarring to have seen the alien in Signs as it passed by the camera on a “home video”. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when you have a stinger note to accompany the reveal.

Still, the real thing that scares me most is out of this world.

Yes, as the title suggests, the thing that scares me the most is The Hatless Yokam.

You see, there are two Dwight Yokams.  There's the cowboy hat wearing, country singing, fast as you Dwight and then there's the hatless, psycho home invading, abusive boyfriend Dwight that makes my inner child hide under the covers.  He is like bizarro Clint Howard.  He scares me so.  The Hatless Yokam nibbles on my soul.

Hatted and Hatless Yokam

Friday, August 10, 2012

Phone a Friend

A coworker brought this up to me and it made me wonder the following:

“Do people spend long amounts of time talking to their close friends on the phone?”

By that, I mean, the friends that they see on a regular basis. Not the ones they haven’t seen since childhood or went to college with and only see like once in decade. I’m talking about classmates, coworkers, neighbors.

The reason I wonder is that with the technology we have, the ability to talk on a phone is probably the least of the features people want when they shop for a phone. People want texting and Internet and apps. And do people even worry about home phones anymore?

If talking on the phone with a friend for more than ten minutes is a out of date practice then I weep for the new generation. Let me set up a scenario for you.

Circa 1987, there was a show on MTV called Remote Control. Most will only know that this is where Adam Sandler became well known and moved onto Saturday Night Live from there. At its zenith, MTV could balance shows with music videos but… that ended with a loud thud around 1992. That’s another story.

Anyway, after a long day of seventh grade, I came home and turned on the television to see this new show on MTV. The next day I told my friend about it and he said he had seen it, too. So, the next time it was on, I called him and we pretty much sat on the phone for a half hour, bullshitting while watching this show. There was no important discussion; no need for a call. It was just two friends watching the same show, in two different houses, at a time when a stretched phone cord could be considered lethal to someone under five foot had they ran from one room to another.

I cannot remember the last time I spent a half hour talking with someone on the phone without an explicit purpose. “We have Facebook and texting and email, who talks 30 minutes in a row? How do you get anything done?” We’ve become so task oriented in life. If we can’t get it done while doing two other things, we don’t do it. I can’t sit in a meeting unless I’m troubleshooting one issue, reading email, and IM’ing another person about another issue all at the same time. I am not that important of a person. I could only imagine someone with three letters in their title. You probably never see those people laying on their bed with a phone pressed to their ear to the point of sweatiness discussing their favorite show with their friends. These are things we don’t do anymore.

Do teenage girls call teenage boys anymore? Is this something I’ll need to deal with when my kid is ten years older? Her generation will never know the pains of my generation when it comes to a house telephone. We had one line, no call waiting, and no answering machine before 1984. That was when we had two high school students in the house at one time.

When we moved into a new house in 1984, we had a second line set up for my brother and sister, but still no call waiting or answering machine. In fact, we still had two rotary phones and a push button one, all corded. Then, when my brother and sister were off to college or working late nights, my parents had another push button phone put into their bedroom. Still no call waiting but we did have an answering machine by 1987.

In fact, I don’t think my parents have call waiting in 2012, but they have upgraded to wireless handsets and both have cell phones. That’s why I don’t know how much of an impact the phone will have in my life when my daughter gets to be a teen. She’s certainly not getting a cell phone… at least one that can text or take pictures until she’s 18. (I know. I can wish, right?) If anything, I’d like her to be only able to call us or the police from a cell phone until she’s 18, but I know that’s not going to happen. In any case, I have a cell phone. My wife has a cell phone. We don’t use our home phone that much except for other calls, that we usually don’t answer as it is. We mostly have the ringer turned down because stupid calls come at inopportune times. We can called ID on our television, so we know if we want to answer it, anyway.

But even in the most extreme cases, I won’t care that my kid is on the phone, unless she’s talking long distance to a friend, for hours, or if she’s calling a nursing home for me. Then, I might cut the cord. Or… at least the power.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Help Support Captain Feline on Kickstarter

I posted this over on the Store Blog and I am putting here in order to get the word out. 

Indie shirt companies are what’s going right with the world.   It’s not a big corporation sucking the life out of its employees and not rewarding their hard work.   It’s not a huge conspiracy to mask some political gain.   The pureness of the indie brands is that it’s a person or a handful of people committed to something they love to do, regardless of failure or success.     They care about their work and they care about their fans and customers.   They also care about their peers.  

A few years back I was a struggling entrepreneur and blogger.  Let’s face it,   I still am.   I started putting some designs up on some Print On Demand sites just to see if they’d sell.   They did… a little.    Then, the community of shirt designers stepped in and noticed.     And, we’re not talking a friend of a friend of a brother’s former roommate.   We’re talking folks from Spain, England, and Australia.    I started seeing some tweets and shares, of my stuff, around the net.   Their kindness and welcoming attitude paid off in brand awareness.   Soon, I was getting mentioned in Podcasts and on their sites.   

Eventually, I was being asked to participate in giveaways.    I felt like part of something great.    That’s what being a part of the shirt design community is.   It’s being a part of something great and exciting and stimulating.   Nothing smells so sweet as the blood, sweat, and tears on your hard work.   Looking at that finished project and just sort of smirking, as if to say, “FUCK YEAH!”   Pardon the expression, but “FUCK YEAH!”

So, because that community was so inviting and supportive to me, I pledged to help a Kickstarter project for one of those businesses that I’ve benefitted from over the years.  I am paying back a fraction of the rewards I’ve reaped from being part of their world.   And I’m not even part of their world, really.    These folks do so much more than my lazy, cheap ass, hack of a shirt designer.     There is some pure talent and creativity in this work and I am giggling at the work because it is pretty awesome.

Take a look at their work over at Captain Feline.  

Here’s the gist.   Amanda and Dave of GritFx shirts have taken the leap of launching a full indie brand line of shirts.   It mixes iconic characters or scenes from pop culture with cats.    

Imagine the following visages as anthropomorphic cats; Frank N. Furter, The MIBs, Gandalf, Ripley and Newt, The Usual Suspects, The Bride from Kill Bill, and even Easy Rider…. CATS ON MOTORCYCLES.

They are in the hopes of raising the funds needed to launch, maintain, and improve the brand through Kickstarter, and you even get some awesome swag if you pledge.I’m getting a shirt, some postcards, and some comfort in knowing I helped make this awesome idea a reality. 

Better hurry, their deadline is around the last week of August, so GET TO DA KICKSTARTA! GO NOWWWW!

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