jesse leo dot com - 2014 edition
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11/21/14: -- Was planning on spending the weekend raking the yard, that is until I read this. Hey, it's science...
11/20/14: -- Every day as I'm leaving for work, the dogs sit at the edge of the stairs and give me a major guilt trip (above). It takes a Herculean effort to leave them. Ok not really.

-- The cutest thing you'll see today: these adorable kids doing Baby It's Cold Outside. And I love this kid-friendly rendition, substituting "soda pop" for "cigarette", and ditching the pervy, date-rapey "Say, what's in this drink?" in favor of "Was that a wink?".
11/19/14: -- So AT&T recently sold its CT uVerse business to Frontier Communications, and things have gone rapidly downhill. The issues with TV service and internet connectivity are widespread and well documented, and I for one submitted a complaint to Consumer Affairs (along with oodles of other subscribers - Facebook made it so easy!). The kicker for me has been the spotty internet connectivity, which in turn causes our phones to dive deeply into our data plan unbeknownst to us. So for October AT&T is hitting us with a data overage fee. To its credit, Frontier did knock $50 off of everyone's first bill. That will cover the extra damage from AT&T. But I still don't think we're getting the bandwidth we pay for, maybe tonight I'll run Speed Test and terrorize some Frontier customer service rep. Assuming I can get though.
11/18/14: -- Steve Carell usually plays such a goofball, but in Foxcatcher he looks absolutely terrifying. And that's just the trailer.
11/17/14: -- So I guess this wind farm off the Block Island coast is really happening, eh? I'm all in favor of clean energy of course. But even at the cost of that amazing view we cherish so much every summer? I'm accustomed to scanning the horizon from the beach and having nuttin', nuttin' at all until what... Portugal? And then there's that whoosh whoosh whoosh whoosh whoosh, would that be audible from the island? I suppose I sound like a Kennedy - supporting green power so long as it doesn't mar the sunsets from my Cape Cod compound... I'll go hang my head in shame now.

-- Oh good, CL&P jacking up rates for the new year. This is going to be an interesting winter, to say the least. Can we come sleep at your house? That's a question aimed at everyone...

-- Is this the best Christmas commercial ever?
11/14/14: -- Writers with odd tics - So I've been plodding along through the Millennium series (I use "plodding" not for anything negative about the novels, they're great - it's just that I have so little time to read these days), and am noticing a strange tic that author Stieg Larsson frequently resorts to. Coffee. Sandwiches and coffee. In almost every scene, someone pours coffee or makes sandwiches and coffee. Googling around, I'm definitely not the first person to have noticed this. Weird, right?

Another series came to mind - Lee Child's Jack Reacher, whose default reaction to any situation is to shrug. Read The Killing Floor, Reacher shrugs almost every other sentence. Seriously. Child obviously caught on, because beyond that first novel there is much less of it.

Ever come across an author with a similarly bizarre tic in your readings? Do tell. Meanwhile, I'm going to fix a sandwich and put on some coffee.


-- This here is one ugly fish.
11/13/14: -- Check out these awesome goings on for our dear friend (and former employer) to benefit Parkinson's research... all coordinated by his peach of a daughter Zoe. I still see Jeff all the time, his outlook on life and his handling of the diagnosis is truly inspiring. Here's a link to help out.
11/12/14: -- I realize that the results of our annual pumpkin ale tasting contest are way overdue, what with Turkey Day right around the corner. But hey we've been busy, and these things simply cannot be rushed!

First, however, we have one final review - Red Hook Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter: Sampled this one way back around mid-October, so the review is based purely on the notes taken at that time. This one poured a dark and pleasant nutty color, and after the first sip there was a barrage of many things at once - nutmeg, cola, cloves, and twelve other flavorings that I couldn't recognize. "Interesting" is what I had jotted down. But by sip #3, an odd smokiness kicked in, and my interest in this one fizzled. Alas, my final note on this one was "overdone".

So there it is! Rien ne va plus. All of my empties are in the recycling bin, and at this point you'd be hard pressed to find a package store that is still stocking pumpkin ales - which is too bad, really, as I'd go on drinking them into December. The holiday beers get too malty and syrupy for my liking, and I lose all interest in beer until September of the following year... I am reviewing previous entries and will announce our winner ASAP.

**UPDATE** We have posted our winner below:


-- In the end there can only be one ... It's important to remember that these pumpkin ale reviews are spaced out over the course of two months, usually just two or three per week. So in coming up with the winner, it comes down to more than simply reviewing the tasting notes - we must ask ourselves - which one do we actually remember sipping? Which one really stood out? Which one am I scurrying around to stock up on post-Halloween? And so with this in mind I am pleased to announce that, for the second year in a row, Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale takes top honors!

I hear that collective groan, and hey, I get it. I would much prefer to have selected the winner from a small-town mom and pop brewery. But I'm just keepin' it real - to me this one strikes just the right balance of pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon, walnut, caramel, and spices. It's a gorgeous bronze color to behold in the glass, give an aggressive pour and admire it up by the light. And for me it evokes sentiments of this golden time of year. Some time around early September when it first appears on shelves, I get a jolt of excitement as the countdown to Halloween is officially underway. There is exactly one bottle remaining at the bottom of the fridge, and I just can't bring myself to open it... Ah hell, who am I kidding? Cheers.

11/11/14: -- Admit it. Those soldiers surprising their families videos get you every time. Today especially.

-- Absolutely loving The Oatmeal's response to a moronic Net Neutrality tweet by Senator Ted Cruz. It puts him in his place and is a great Net Neutrality 101 primer as well. Eat this crabwich for only $2.99!
11/10/14: -- Jakey and I drove to Battleship Cove this past weekend to spend a night with some of his Cub Scouts cronies on board the USS Massachusetts. How those sailors spent all those months/years sleeping in those teeny tiny cramped bunks I'll never know (I slept maybe 25 minutes. Maybe.) But I found the exhibits and the stories extremely interesting, and there was even a Q&A session with an old-timer who served two amazing years on board. Those guns, holy crap those guns... and that was over 70 years ago. It's frightening to think what a modern warship is capable of...

And hey, Jakey had a pretty good time as well.


-- A handful of teenage gals remake the Ghostbusters trailer to perfection.
11/7/14: -- Happy birthday to my gorgeous wife. Tex Mex tonight? I think it's a must.
11/6/14: -- New Hobbit: TBOTFA trailer! I SO want to ride that badass mountain stag thing that Legolas' dad rides (around 0:38).

-- WoW is still going strong after all these years, and a huge expansion pack comes out next week. The game isn't nearly as popular as it once was, but I find it amazing that there's still such a massive player base - 7.4 million people - all paying $15 a month!

I do miss this game terribly, but frankly can't dedicate enough time to it to justify the monthly fee. Maybe if I can find one of those play free for a month deals floating around I'll hop on for the holidays and do a few Greatfather Winter quests. Earn rewards by bringing him milk and cookies! Ahh, the memories...


-- Grandma Nanclyn called me out for my grammar faux pas from the previous photo caption, this is I vs this is me. For shame!
11/4/14: -- An interesting bit about sleep and athletic performance. More sleep = better performance, duh. But wow, that much of a difference?

-- Not sure what to do with those leftover pumpkins and decorations? Give them to a big cat.

-- Sounds like my kind of workplace... Where can I apply?

-- Perhaps Siri in her (his? its?) infinite patience has the answers? Siri will never tire of hearing Aidan growl and ask if he sounds like a zombie, over. And over. And over. And over. And over. And over...
11/3/14: -- It was a beautifully crisp, classic fall evening for tricks or treats. The rain came eventually, but by that time our work was done. We ended up hitting Grandma's neighborhood, and while fun I have to say it was a bit subdued. There were way too many dark houses (I know you were hiding in there, lame people!!!), and only a few throngs of fellow costumed revelers skulking about. Maybe next year we'll try somewhere else. The boys, nevertheless, came home with bulging treat bags and smiling faces, so all in all it was ok.

It seems ridiculous, but for me November 1st is one of the most depressing days of the year (second only to December 26th). It's not just the passing of the holiday itself, of course, I mean let's face it -- all that build-up to Halloween actually amounts to a 90 minute walk. My melancholia is multifaceted...

It's trite, but what I'll truly miss is the entire month of spooky decor, pumpkin carving, scary movies, fiery golden foliage, pumpkin ales (one final review pending!), fall festivals... all that corny stuff. It's a vibe that I absolutely cherish, and we spend every weekend soaking it in. "Septober" is far and away our favorite time of year, until November butts in and rudely sends it packing. We've gained an extra hour of sleep, true, but we've also embarked on the rapid descent into frigid grayness and beefed-up utility bills.

Perhaps most painfully (and philosophically), one more Halloween in the books emphatically marks the passage of time. The brevity of youth. A bit more magic expended. All Hallow's Eve is such a kid-centric holiday, and every year the boys seem a little less into it.

Ah well, we certainly made it count this time around. The wilting jack-o-lanterns now resemble cranky old men... maybe tonight I'll light them once more to give them a proper send off. Tomorrow they will be compost, but tonight they blaze in all their glory. And hey, get this - Halloween 2015 falls on a Saturday! Cue the wicked Vincent Price laughter...

10/31/14: -- So here it is! The big night! In this house, 10/31 is right up there with Christmas. We have no idea where tonight will bring us, but one thing is certain - there will be candy. Oh yes. Have fun!

Oh yeah, and one other thing... Thriller.

10/30/14: -- How is it that I've never seen Benedict Cumberbatch's Smaug audition before? Cumberbatch!

-- So apparently Taylor Swift makes a lot of money...

-- Ouch, please tell me you heard/saw that scathing piece about the Red Cross this morning. Empty Red Cross trucks driving around disaster areas "just to be seen." What an eye opener.

-- Yes, I was a distracted driver the other night. But I absolutely had to get a shot of that sky, unbelievable.
10/29/14: -- If our little pumpkin ale contest was about bottle art and name awesomeness, Two Roads' Roadsmary's Baby would win hands down. I mean come on, look at that. I'd hang that up in the house as a poster year round, not just in October. Bring a six pack of this to a Halloween party and you'd get high-fived as you walked in the door. As a beer, however, well... I found it a tad bitter and less than impressive overall. The lackluster flavor couldn't live up to the spooky excitement generated by that logo. It's inoffensive and drinkable, I guess, but definitely not a fav.

-- I love this - Halloween today vs Halloween in the 70s. Take me back! Since this Halloween actually (awesomely) falls on a Friday, I'm hoping to at least re-enact the bit about passing out on the floor at 1AM with a stomachache, still in costume... And oh yeah - I'm still waiting to find an apple in my treat bag, with or without a razor blade.
10/28/14: -- I would like to apologize on behalf of my gender.

-- Sweet - a GOT video game is in the works. This could kind of be a big deal.

-- This Halloween we have a new prime directive: seek out the richest neighborhoods in the area and Trick-or-Treat them to death. Here's why...

-- Sunset Overdrive sounds dangerously fun. Santa? You there? Hello?

-- They say if you die in your dream, you die in real life. And it's my belief that you get one (and ONLY one) auto-wakeup Get Out of Death Free card. I was forced to use mine the other morning...

The details are fuzzy, but apparently I was in some busy city during a monster monsoon. Tidal wave after tidal wave came crashing through the city streets, and the waves were picking up tons of trash as they swept along - cars, garbage, shrubbery, furniture, and all other pieces of flotsam and jetsam. Suddenly I found myself in the path of a massive wave that pounded down on top of me, and this particular wave was carrying bedding - a stack of about a dozen foamy mattresses, more weight than any mortal person could move. I was smooshed and immobilized in complete underwater darkness, lungs running on empty. The voice in my head: So this is it. But then another voice, more like my own: No, you need to get up now. I sat up quickly and looked around. It was 5am and no, I did not go back to sleep.

So that was it. I can only hope that when my time really does come that it'll be a bit more dramatic than that. And that maybe I'll have some say in the matter. I always imagined the Big D would find me with broadsword (or perhaps lightsaber) in hand, the corpses of my slain enemies piled high around me. Or maybe my chute won't open as I skydive into the Amazon jungle to retrieve a billion dollar artifact from a lost temple. Or maybe my heart will explode on my 104th birthday as I carry my supermodel 7th wife across the threshold... I'll take anything more exciting than being buried alive under wet mattresses.


10/27/14: -- LeVar Burton reads that 'Go The &*#@ to Sleep' book. I had to stop watching after a few seconds, it was ruining my life.

-- Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love - that makes life and nature harmonize. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one's very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

 -George Eliot

10/24/14: -- Quite possibly the best Halloween prank. Ever.

-- RIP Amazon Fire Phone? Well that didn't take long.

-- The ten most haunted places on the planet. And you thought your attic was bad...

-- People are posting some spectacularly spooky home decor pics on the Today Show FB page.
10/23/14: -- What's weird is that I've never even seen the entire Monsters vs. Aliens movie, maybe bits and pieces here and there. But I am absolutely obsessed with the Halloween special Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space. You have no idea. After first seeing it on NBC back in 2009 I combed every retailer in existence looking for the DVD. I ended up paying ridiculous shipping charges and getting it on eBay from some bloke in the UK! Such was my mania. For whatever reason it wasn't made available in the US right away (apparently due to some deal with Tesco grocery stores).

The plot is pure screwball, of course. On Halloween night a mysterious alien saucer sprays a pumpkin patch with a green goo, morphing the gourds into candy craving monstrosities. The monster team is called in to investigate as the mutant pumpkins lay siege to Modesto, CA, snatching candy from trick-or-treaters. Eating candy, as it turns out, causes the pumpkins to expand in size and strength. Can our beloved monsters halt the the pumpkin attack before "the whole world becomes their pumpkin patch!"???

I dunno, there's just something about it. Gorgeous animation, hilarious celebrity-voiced banter, and Halloween imagery that makes me wish we lived in a trick-or-treatable residential suburb. See the whole special here, or better yet come over and watch it with us!


-- Wired's review of the droolworthy new retina iMac. My goodness that's a lot of pixels. Santa, you listening? Hello?
10/21/14: -- A new virtual autopsy reveals that King Tut had myriad physical problems - a rare bone disease, a busted leg with a clubfoot (not to mention man-boobs, judging by that computer generated portrait) - and likely died of malaria around age 19. This stuff fascinates me for some reason.

-- Cats stoned out of their minds on catnip. And once again I ask: what did we do for entertainment before the internet???
10/20/14: -- A grim collection of two-sentence horror stories to keep you awake tonight.

-- October is flying by and there are still a few more pumpkin ales to review. We tried Southern Tier Warlock recently, which most of the online beer testing community seems to love. For me, however, it felt a bit out of my league. It pours black as midnight, at first I thought someone had snuck me a Guinness. The flavors blast right out of the glass as if shot from the tip of Saruman's staff - I got a walnutty charcoal, caramel, a splash of pumpkin, root beer, and maybe a dozen other things that my unsophisticated palette couldn't name. Eye of newt perhaps? This one is complicated, powerful black magic. But alas as a part-time beer guy it's just not my thing.

-- Browser Wars: a comparison of the top five. What are you using these days? Safari has been in my good graces lately.

-- Your Fitness Age. It's important.

-- Who knew Blake Griffin is such a good writer? And how creepy is that story of his first meeting with former (and now exiled) Clippers owner Donald Sterling?

-- RIP Google Glass?
10/17/14: -- Aidan's "Friday Letter" (which, we're told, he typed by himself with very little help):

Dear mom

Myjob was to pass out the bus passes. I gave the teachers our bus pases. I did goodjob. Thanks for your Support.

love, aidan


-- A collection of reptilian eyes. Rapture.

-- Stripped Down: A friend wanted proof of me having swam last weekend out on Block Island, and this shot of my bike and clothes is the best I could do. True, this isn't exactly ironclad evidence. I may very well have disrobed, took the snapshot, and went on my way. But I was alone and there was no way I'd risk wrecking my phone in the ocean to get a selfie... Hey you all know me, one last dip in the Atlantic was not something I'd pass up. The water was bracing, yes, but oh so invigorating. I splashed around, giggled out loud like an idiot, and caught one final wave back to the beach. A chilly tingle stayed with me all day, as did a big smile.
10/15/14: -- It's been a while since we've done any pumpkin ale sampling, so I thought I'd share our thoughts on Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale. Now I know what you're thinking - any beer that is prominently displayed by the entrance to Big Y Supermarket can't be worth a damn. But this one is like comfort food to us, though we usually need to dummy up the rim of the glass with some cinnamon sugar to give it some oomf. It's a bit watery, but you'll eventually get the requisite hint of pumpkin, orange, and nutmeg. Overall this one is safe, inoffensive, uncomplicated... and sometimes that's just what you need.

-- Can this be true? HBO to offer stand-alone streaming subscription in 2015? This is huge. We could dump the hundreds of channels we never watch and keep internet, HBO, and maybe Netflix. Boom done. We'll save a bundle and still have access to Westeros.
10/14/14: -- By now you guys know the drill. First day back from a Block Island trip you normally get a looooong melancholy post about the island and her cruel, unrelenting grip on us. And then I ponder whether it's better to have Blocked and come home depressed, or to never have Blocked at all... I'm still looking for answers.

So I'll spare you all that, at least for today. Suffice to say that October might someday dethrone September as my favorite time on island. The autumn vibe. The colors in the sky. The sleepiness of Water Street. The hoodie sweatshirt nights. The goldenrod. The empty beaches. The birds. The seals (saw two!). The plump Stripers, locally referred to as Block Island cows (we didn't fish, but they're out there). The clear and yes - still swimmable Atlantic. The long, empty stretches of Corn Neck road that beg to be biked. The shopkeepers willing to do whatever it takes for a few final sales.

Yeah. October.

10/11/14: -- Once more unto the breach... err, beach. The rumors are true. Against all better judgement, we are ditching the rascals and spending the long weekend on Block Island. We'll be sharing a closet-sized room in a hostel (hostile?) with our dear friends (though we'll see if we're still speaking to one another by Monday) Mary and Jeremy. Assorted family members are generously sharing in the babysitting duties, and guys, you will never know how much that means to us. A worry free weekend to read our novels, take in a sunset or two, and "find our smiles" (to steal a corny line from City Slickers) feels better right now than a winning lottery ticket. 'Til Monday !
10/10/14: -- Study shows that multitasking lowers your IQ. This explains why I've morphed into a blathering idiot over the past few years.

-- Dreamt last night that hunters were hiding up in the trees surrounding our property and shooting down moose, one after another. So I come out to yell at them, and it turns out that one of the shooters is a kid that I went to elementary school with - fully grown as a man, of course, but still with the same little boy face I remember from 2nd grade.

No more late night TV for me...


-- Do we have our next Bond babe?
10/9/14: -- James Earl Jones to reprise the most memorable voice acting role in movie history. I knew there was a reason I got out of bed this morning.

-- The Carlton thing from yesterday got me thinking about other actors who have been typecast by a particular role. Usually this cripples their career, as is the case with our friend Alfonso. But others, such as my beloved Frasier - errr, Kelsey Grammer, are able to shake it off and move on - Grammer has obviously enjoyed great success as a producer and in film/TV post-Frasier. To me however he'll always be pleasantly pompous Frais, sipping a latte with Niles at the coffee shop and bemoaning his love life. But I digress...

A few more off the top of my head who have not fared so well: Poor Tom Bosley, who never could escape being Mr. Cunningham. John Heder, who I'm sure would love to move on from Napolean Dynamite. Ain't gonna happen. (Speaking of Heder, please tell me you saw this). Ralph Macchio? Sorry, Daniel-san.

I'm sure there are dozens more, who else comes to mind?


-- Zelda the Battery Park turkey has died. No, I didn't know her either. But I'm sure she was a fine bird.
10/8/14: -- It seems Grumpy Cat has met her match.

-- Sampled Ithaca Country Pumpkin Ale recently. Two swigs in, I got pumpkin... juuuuust enough.  The brew itself was whispering in my ear as I drank: I'm a pumpkin beer, and that's all I ever wanted to be. This one doesn't strive for greatness, but it certainly exceeds mediocrity. I wouldn't hesitate to fill a cooler with these for a Halloween party.

-- For the record, I'm not a fan of DWTS. Not even a little bit. But I ain't too proud to admit that seeing Carlton do The Carlton (around the 2:26 mark) made me tear up just a little bit. And it's worth mentioning - how cute is his partner??!?!?!

-- See, Mom? I should've stuck with video games...
10/7/14: -- So Twitter is suing the US government. Wait, what?

-- Ok enough of this Harry Potter comeback rubbish.

-- Theeeeere's a bad moon on the rise...

-- Jakey is famous, part 2: you no doubt recall he was pictured in the Block Island Times recently, well here he is in the October 2nd edition of the Litchfield County Times. That's muh boy.
10/6/14: -- It's like the Gods of Fall in New England conspired yesterday to produce the quintessential October day for Uncle Bubba's Annual Pumpkin Party. Things were looking grim on Saturday, a miserable gray washout. But yesterday while carving and gutting I kept glancing up into that blue sky and shaking my head in disbelief. There was a (mildly) haunted hayride, there was a fire cauldron, there was homemade apple cider grinding, there were horses, there was pumpkin carving, there were sack races, and of course there was food. My goodness the food. I did my part - blew the dust off my world famous chicken soup recipe (more like a slop, really). Here's how I make it:


HA! Nice try. I'll take that recipe with me to the grave...

Anyway. If my Halloween spirit needed a kick in the pants, yesterday did the trick. Viva October!!!

10/2/14: -- So NPR has officially declared that Saturday morning cartoons are dead. But in this age of instantly available programming via the internet, I would argue that they'll live on forever. If only our kids would buy into this and let us sleep in once in a while...

-- Now that we're into October, the pumpkin ale sampling is in full tilt. Here we have Jack-O Shandy by Traveler Beer Company, which came across as wheaty with strong hints of lemon. My head perked up and I was all like "Oooh!". But by the third sip the novelty had worn off - some odd and slightly unpleasant aftertaste kicked in. I put it down shortly thereafter.

A bit later in the evening I moved on to Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale. This one finished quite high in last year's contest, and it will likely do so again this time around. It's spicy, big, and bold - you might even say regal. You'll get a pleasant, creamy blast of malty brown sugar with just enough pumpkin. More like pumpkin pie, really. It's high in alcohol - 8.0% - so you can't, well, shouldn't plan on more than one per sitting. Better to nurse this one throughout the night during a late October spooky movie marathon.

9/30/14: -- Here's your daily dose of depressing global warming news. Do your part, folks. Install those curly light bulbs. Ride your bike to work instead of driving. I read somewhere that the small things add up.

-- Disregard my post from yesterday evening about Windows 9 (scroll down), Microsoft's next OS will actually be called Windows 10. No, I don't get it either.
9/29/14: -- There's already talk of Windows 9?

-- A professional photog field tests the iPhone 6 camera.

-- We've long been fans of Martha Ball's column in the Block Island Times, so what a treat it was to see a photo of our Jakey in the most recent issue!

-- Fallon and Robert Plant do that Duke Duke Duke Duke of Earl thing, gotta love it.
9/26/14: -- Qwerkywriter is a computer keyboard that mimics the keys of an old-school typewriter. I will die if I do not have this.

-- So we sampled another pumpkin beer last night, this one called Blue Point Brewing Pumpkin Ale. The word that kept coming to mind was "safe"... From the kinda boring bottle art to the subtle pumpkin notes, this one plays it safe. It's a pleasant pumpkin beer that neither underwhelms nor overwhelms - it's juuuuust right. I would chill with this beer while raking leaves or hanging Halloween decorations. There's nothing sensational enough about it to steal the show (or win our little contest), but that's perfectly ok. 7 out of 10.

-- There hasn't been a decent Lord of the Rings video game since, well, ok there's never been one. They've all been terrible. So I am absolutely thrilled to read the early Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor reviews, this one from Wired and this one from IGN. Orcs, beware!

-- I was not aware that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has purchased the LA Clippers. And apparently he's really excited about it. Maybe a little too excited (observe the players' faces around 0:39, they are genuinely terrified). But that episode pales in comparison to some of the earlier on stage freakouts during his Microsoft stint. Hey Steve: might wanna switch to decaf there, buddy.
9/24/14: -- Ok so first on the list we have Magic Hat's Wilhelm Scream. Don't you just love the tortured soul pictured on the bottle? I took a whiff and was reminded of homemade bread, for whatever reason. After a few tentative sips I was finding it rather thick, frothy, and malty. Maybe some apple. There was pumpkin alright - smack dab up in yo' face pumpkin, but it came across as... fake somehow. Not a bad one, but we were pretty much done after half a bottle. 6.5 outta 10.

-- The stage is set for the 2014 Pumpkin Beer challenge! We've been wafting and sipping for a couple of weeks now, and while this year's pool of contestants may be slightly smaller than last year's (it's getting harder and harder to find untried specimens), rest assured there will be no shortage of tense moments and drama. Cheers!
9/22/14: -- Martha has nailed it once again, here's her most recent Island Notes post: Window of Summer.

-- Our summer was quite bearable, in fact I think we only turned on our cheesy little window AC unit twice. But globally, 2014 was the warmest year ever. And 2015 may be warmer still...
9/19/14: -- Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the gym... Insanity MAX:30 coming in December!

-- 12 second book review: The Marseille Caper by Peter Mayle - Ahhh, I've devoured a number of Mayle's tasty little saussisons over the years and have yet to tire of them. Beautiful people, beautiful places, dazzling French cuisine... seriously I wish Mayle would dedicate an entire book just to the description of fine meals and wine... The mischief here is lighthearted but believable, and of course Sam Levitt gets his man. Fans of Mayle's Provence series will enjoy this and his other fictional little offshoots like a second round of pastis. The verdict: Recommended, mais peut etre pas pour tout le monde.

-- WXCI does a "guilty pleasures" show, I discovered this while driving to work the other day. It was Wake Me Up Before You Go Go that lured me in, and things only got worse from there...
9/18/14: -- Fruity tree mystery solved (refer to 9/17 post below)! From Averill Farm:

Hello from Averill Farm,

The tree in the photo is a crabapple tree. We have several different varieties of them scattered throughout the orchard, mainly to enhance pollination as the bees LOVE crabapple blossoms. Come again!

Regards,
Susan Averill

9/17/14: -- Tech columnist Farhad Manjoo reviews the iPhone 6 Plus, aka the phablet. Still too big for my liking, but I'll officially withhold judgement until I've visited an Apple Store and actually tinkered with one.

-- Apple picking last weekend at a local orchard and happened upon this lovely little tree. I spammed various family members - even including our very own beloved owners of Kent Greenhouse - but no one is exactly sure what it is. Those tiny yellowish fruits are rock hard, way too hard to be peaches. Too dense and clustered together for apples. We are told cherry season has already come and gone. Quinces perhaps? I've even gone so far as to email the photo to the orchard, fingers crossed they'll reply. Any ideas? I'm losing sleep over this.
9/16/14: -- Enjoyed this recent Q&A between an English teacher and author Stephen King. And if you've never read King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, do yourself a favor and pick it up. Even if you have zero writing aspirations and couldn't care less about dangling participles, the first half chronicles his inspirational rise from humble beginnings to striking it big with Carrie.

-- The Ebola outbreak is far worse than most people think. From the article: The Ebola epidemic in West Africa has the potential to alter history as much as any plague has ever done.

-- Spare the rod, spoil the child? Scroll down and check out the comments section, a heated debate underway.
9/15/14: -- Hey kids - wash those hands! Enterovirus D68 is a comin'...
9/12/14: -- Real life archeologists hate Indiana Jones (via Kottke).

-- That sky in September, it's... a deeper blue, or something. Bursting with nostalgia. You can make a squinty face and look towards the sun to warm your face without roasting it. At night the stars are intense. And the bugs and the critters in the grass are louder, perhaps saving their best chorus for the very end of summer? I wonder if they all die when the cold weather comes. If so, do they know their end is nigh? Having fulfilled their purpose, do they care?

This time of year always finds me deep in reflection. And days like today are what make the dreary New England winters actually bearable.
9/11/14: -- 9/11: Do you remember where you were? Of course you do. I was driving down Route 53 en route to work, listening to the radio and freaking out. I'm glad this date is still a big deal to people, because it really needs to be.

-- Sad to hear that Richard Kiel has died. You no doubt remember him as Jaws, the hulking James Bond villain with terrifying metal teeth. Hey, I'm not gonna sit here and claim that those Roger Moore-era Bond flicks were Oscar material. But of course as a lad I couldn't get enough of them, and even now they bring me back to simpler times. Comfort Food. And Mr. Kiel was a big part of that.
9/10/14: -- Folks, if you're so inclined - support the ABLE Act. It could really help us out one day. There's an easy way to do it right here. Hugs!

-- Wow, Destiny is officially the largest ever video game launch. I'm passing on it, even though the Youtube footage I've seen is gorgeous. But Shadow of Mordor drops on September 30th, much more my genre. And games are just too damn expensive to grab every single one.

-- Dreamt about Stevie Wonder last night. I don't remember any details, aside from the fact that he was crying. And then while driving to work this morning I heard Sir Duke on the radio. Weird, right?

-- Ok now that I've calmed down a bit, here's my 18 second take on yesterday's Apple announcements:

iPhone 6: For me, whenever a new iPhone is released, it's all about the camera and the cpu. And this one has vastly improved upon both of those. I take a ton of photos with my phone, many of which end up on this lame blog. So SIGN ME UP! The Retina HD display and faster WiFi are the icing on the cake. I'll pass on the 6 Plus, however, it's too damn big! It'd be like holding a pizza box up to your ear to talk.

Apple Watch (don't you dare call it iWatch!): I guess if I were a person who wears a watch, this would be a big deal. People are raving about this thing, and it does indeed have a bunch of nifty features. But I'm thinking this is nothing more than Apple's way of screaming to the haters: See? We CAN still innovate in the post-Jobs era!!! So yeah, meh for me. But don't get me wrong - if Santa drops one in my stocking, I'd rock it.

Apple Pay: This technology seems long overdue, clearly this is the beginning of how we'll be buying stuff in the coming decades. More retailers need to join the party, of course. And then there's that whole security thing...

No new Macs announced? Lame sauce...

New U2 album for FREE! Kookie.

9/9/14: -- WANTWANTWANTWANTWANTWANT!

-- Will you be watching the ARS Technica liveblog covering today's big Apple event? Of course you will. Engadget also does a good one.
9/8/14: -- What you might not have known about Robin Williams is that he was a huge World of Warcraft fan. So much so that Blizzard decided to pay homage to the great man by creating an in-game likeness of a certain genie, who might just emerge for players who happen upon a certain magical lamp... Man that's good stuff.

-- This morning's NPR interview with Robert Plant was so good I had to listen twice. I just love the way he continues to reinvent himself, even now still considering himself a student of music. And good lord I had never seen Heart's performance of "Stairway to Heaven" (embedded about halfway down the interview), not being particularly fond of the song. But they absolutely nailed it. Spectacular.
9/5/14: -- I see your wimpy little T-Rex and raise you one Dreadnoughtus schrani... I WIN!

-- RIP Joan Rivers (June 8, 1933 - September 4, 2014): Never a huge Joan fan myself. I dig some of her old standup stuff, and of course I'd chuckle listening to her rank on someone's Red Carpet fashion faux pas. But if nothing else, respect the work ethic. Here is Ebert's beautifully written review of the recent JR documentary A Piece of Work, which I imagine is seeing a massive bump in rentals right about now.

-- Yes, the rumors are true - we will in fact have our 2nd Annual Pumpkin Beer Challenge, and indeed a bit of sampling is already underway! We welcome your suggestions - if we can find it for sale around here, we'll give it a shot! Will anyone dethrone last year's champ - Sam Adams' Harvest Pumpkin Ale? There's a ton of work to be done between now and Halloween, let's hope I'm up to the task...
9/4/14: -- Absolutely loving Pee Wee's tweet to the late great Joan Rivers...

-- The new Jack Reacher novel drops today. I've done the first 18, no stopping now !

-- Target hacked late last year. Home Depot more recently, and no doubt numerous other retailers and banks have been compromised that we don't know about. Then there's last weekend's iCloud celebrity photo debacle. And who can forget Matt Honan's harrowing tale from a few years back? There needs to be... something... some kind of fundamental change to the way data is kept, and accessed - whether it's 10,000 credit card numbers or some guy's photos of Spencer the Basset Hound... nothing seems safe up there. This isn't a problem that will go away on its own, and it feels like we're all hurtling towards digital disaster.

-- Buy Under Armour or Gisele will kick your ass.

-- A Margay is the coolest cat you've never heard of.
9/2/14: -- A metaphor for my life...

-- Leaked naked celeb photos everywhere. Apple has investigated, here is their official statement. No breach!
8/29/14: -- Eating bananas on top of the world. I'll pass, thanks.

-- Well that's a relief - Star Wars VII is back on track, thanks to Han Solo's accelerated healing powers.

-- So Apple has announced another one of those super sneaky events for 9/9. Hmmmmm... iPhone 6? iWatch? What other goodies will be revealed? All of the tech world will be watching. And everyone else, for that matter.
8/27/14: -- Proud of the missus for taking the plunge into T25. She inspired me to get off me lazy arse and revisit the program myself during lunch today. Whoa Nellie, I guess that's why they say use it or lose it... I've been taking it easy (well, easier) in the past few weeks - squeezing in the occasional run and playing hoops when possible, but little else. It's actually been kinda nice not being sore, and using my lunch break to run errands, read, or whatever. But I'm hearing the calling once again, a voice whispering Come on, break time is over. And with less frequent exercise there's been a noticeable difference in my stress levels, sleep quality, etc. Not to mention the waistline. So yeah, off I go. Will probably start a mashup of various P90X3/Insanity/Asylum/T25 routines, along with some random stuff outdoors - September and October are ideal for running!

-- The fascinating story of an actual real-life hermit. I'm having a hard time believing that he survived almost thirty of those frigid Maine winters sans fire, how about you? Via Kottke.
8/26/14: -- Bird feeds dogs. You know, it's these types of things that has me wondering what we did for entertainment before the internet...

-- See mom? I should've held on to those comic books.

-- Billy Crystal nailed it last night. He just nailed it. And now I'm just as sad as I was two weeks ago.
8/25/14: -- True Blood wrapped up its seventh and final season last night with a finale that seems to have sparked outrage across the interwebs. Honestly, I have yet to find a single article or commenter with anything positive to say about the episode, in fact the TV.com reviewer is downright angry. EW is equally disappointed, and Vulture as well ("Miss Stake", hah)... I could link to a dozen others. Perhaps last night's biggest faux pas was shafting everyone's beloved Lafayette and dedicating far more screen time to less interesting characters.

For me the show had rapidly descended into silliness after that spectacular first season, so much so that there are probably episodes in later seasons that I skipped altogether. But I won't deny having grown attached to these characters after so many years, and I'm always a sucker for happily ever after closing montages - especially when a bittersweet Led Zepplin tune is involved (Entourage pulled that as well, using Going to California as the final credits rolled!). For all its faults this show has long been a staple of summer - unapologetically gory and naughty, a beautiful bloody mess of an hour to close out Sunday nights. We'll miss Bon Temps.


-- I can vividly remember saying to Jakey as we waited for his school bus: "This is it, buddy, last day. When you get off this afternoon you're home free. What do you wanna do this summer?". That was back around mid-June, but it seems like ten minutes ago. And there go the boys back to school, and I'm sitting here wondering where the hell did the days go? Our summer 2014 to-do list still has way too many unchecked items, **sigh**
8/21/14: -- Here it is, the scene that spawned a million wannabe wine snobs. I remember visiting local vineyard a few months after seeing Sideways, so many people were actually doing that crap... Mmmmmm this one feels earthy, with just a hint of leather, chocolate, and radish. Powerful, oaky finish. Folks, the whole industry is based on perception. Smoke & mirrors. There is ample data to prove it. Taste is far too subjective, so I say if that $7 bottle tastes good to you - DRINK IT! If that $45 bottle does not - SKIP IT! This does not make you a philistine. And for god's sake, if the garcon asks you to approve the bottle before dinner, DON'T smell the damn cork. Know what it'll smell like? A cork! Take a sip.
8/20/14: -- Date Night last night (props to G-Ma for watching the rascals), we snuck out to take in The Hundred-Foot Journey. Fifteen minutes in you can pretty much guess how the plot will play out, but that's not to say you won't find yourself smiling and laughing and yes, salivating. This coming from a guy who hates Indian cuisine. Helen Mirren is lovely and radiant as ever (even with a less than convincing French accent), and when she's in a scene it's all about her (hear her recent NPR interview here). But the supporting cast is terrific as well - Om Puri as a lovable curmudgeonly Papa will melt your heart.

Whether your preference is Tandoori or Bouillabaisse, you should grab your sweetie and aller au cinema tout de suite.

8/19/14: -- Wild animals wandering grocery store aisles. Because why not?
8/18/14: -- Spent a pleasure-filled weekend in Rhode Island for some fun n sun, and - dare I say it? - to bid adieu to summer 2014... Makes me sad.

Dragged the rascals to Jim's Dock for some pier jumpin', expecting the usual litany of complaints and refusals to participate in anything outdoorsy... but I'll be damned they overcame their initial fears and had a blast, nary a handheld electronic device to be found.

8/15/14: -- I can confirm that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is quite worthy of the hype, now I know why that bright yellow book jacket could be seen peeking out of everyone's beach bag all those years ago. Now I can't wait to rent the movie, dying to see how that handsome bugger Daniel Craig handles the part of Mikael Blomkvist.

-- It's official: Shark Week has jumped the shark. The wildly popular and once educational Discovery Channel special has been reduced to a series of completely fabricated tales of Great White sharks in search of human flesh. It's too bad, really, with that massive audience the Discovery Channel is squandering an opportunity to spread the word about the perils faced by these noble creatures.
8/14/14: -- Had intended to make it to early morning hoops today, something I will only be able to do for two more weeks - once school starts my mornings will be spent scurrying around getting the boys out to the bus on time. But today I was too exhausted for basketball since the damn cat had me up at 1:14am to make me aware of the mouse she had captured, poor thing was wriggling around in her toothy maw. Then she woke me up again at 2:15am to be let back inside (I had tossed her and her prey out the back door). Up again around 4-ish because she wanted to cuddle.

I don't feel that this is a good reason to have missed hoops.

8/13/14: -- UPDATE on my post from earlier (below): this is much worse than I dared imagine - Big Y has already put out their Halloween stuff! It's not even mid-August! We might as well brace ourselves for the annual onslaught of pumpkin flavored everything... And why not? Let's queue up at Walmart for those Black Friday deals.

-- The lads will be back in school in two weeks, how the hell did that happen? Summer 2014 has been an absolute blur. I already catch myself scanning the tops of trees for reddish gold, won't be long now. I never got around to boxing up my flannel shirts for the summer season, at this point why bother?
8/12/14: -- Nathan Lane's statement on Robin Williams' death. Lane starred alongside Williams in The Bird Cage, one of my all time fav comedies. That opening scene in Starina's boudoir is simply beyond classic.

-- Robin Williams (7/21/51 - 8/11/14) was a real-life genie who had the power to make us laugh and feel good. What greater magic is there than that?

Read David Edelstein's tribute here. Matt Zoller's here. Garp! How could I have forgotten about Garp?!
8/11/14: -- A terrifying tale of stalking in real-life, not that stuff you see in the movies. Unimaginable. (via Kottke)
8/7/14: -- Time Magazine on playing as the monster. Jakey and I are really excited about Evolve, the notion of playing either the hunter or the hunted is absolutely delicious... such a breath of fresh air compared to the countless first-person shooter games that are released each month. Don't get me wrong - they're beautiful to look at - but completely lacking any soul (I'm talking to you, Destiny). Sadly we just learned that Evolve will be delayed until February 2015.

-- Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water... fascinating SharkCam footage from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
8/6/14: -- How is it that I can toil away for hours trying in vain to grow pretty things in our garden, but then the maintenance guy at the office can simply toss a handful of seeds into a planter and get these lovely results?

-- Watch the video. It's like Kobe is some creepy stalker, completely obsessed with MJ and has dedicated countless hours to the study and replication of MJ's arsenal (to great effect of course)... or is this just a case of clever video editing?

-- Warms the heart: Elephant enjoying his new life after a half century of torment and tedium. His previous owners should be castrated. No seriously, castrated.
8/4/14: -- This will no doubt max out any remaining space on my iPhone, but SO worth it...

-- 2011 called, and it would like its book back now... I'm so late to this party, but I picked up The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo to see what all that fuss was about. Just a few chaps in and yeah, I can already see it.
8/1/14: -- NYT Magazine: The kids who beat autism. I'm still digesting this one, particularly as it applies to our Duppy Conqueror. Bottom line is no one knows for sure why some kids take to treatment and others do not. How to tell if your kid is one of those that might benefit from intensive ABA sessions, and eventually be "cured"? Are you doing the kid a disservice by not quitting your job and/or emptying out the bank accounts to find out?

My favorite line (and perhaps most important takeaway) from the article is: It's fine to hope -- it's good to hope -- but don't concentrate so much on that hope that you don't see the child in front of you.


-- Questlove wrote a beautiful tribute to Richard Nichols, the Roots' manager who passed away last month.

-- Started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to Jakey at night. I've always been really excited to re-experience my favorite books with the boys as they get older, and so far with certain books it's gone well and with others it ended miserably after two chapters. Happy to report that so far he's loving HP. And hey, there's certainly no shortage of material - these will keep us busy for many months to come.

-- Apparently Facebook is down. I didn't do it.
7/31/14: -- Napping. You're doing it wrong.

-- So is camel's milk a thing now?
7/30/14: -- Jakey and I snuck into a local cow pasture last weekend to grab some intimate shots of the local bovines. We did indeed get a few lovely photos, however they came at great cost - exposure to poison ivy puffed up Jake's right eye, and by morning it looked like he'd gone 15 rounds with Apollo Creed.

-- Well well well, Mr President... As it turns out, the oft-reviled former president Warren G. Harding had quite a flair for wooing the ladies with pen and paper. Here's one juicy snippet from this recently published collection of letters, this one to his mistress:

Honestly, I hurt with the insatiate longing, until I feel that there will never be any relief until I take a long, deep, wild draught on your lips and then bury my face on your pillowing breasts...

And that's one of the tame ones!

7/29/14: -- So what did you think of the trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies? You guys know I'm a sucker for this stuff, and though I will agree that the overly CGI'ed and stylized Hobbit films are subpar compared to LOTR, I will of course be lining up on opening night. I live for those sweeping battle scenes, how many times have I paused the DVD and screengrabbed bits of the Battle of Helms Deep? If for no other reason I'll be going for this, **SPOILER ALERT** quite possibly my favorite scene of any book ever and I cannot wait to see what Peter Jackson does with it - from Chapter 17 of The Hobbit, entitled The Clouds Burst... all seems lost as the battle weary Thorin and company are completely surrounded by wargs and gobins, when:

In the last hour Beorn himself had appeared... He came alone, and in bear's shape; and he seemed to have grown almost to giant-size in his wrath. The roar of his voice was like drums and guns; and he tossed wolves and goblins from his path like straws and feathers. He fell upon their rear, and broke like a clap of thunder through the ring. The dwarves were making a stand still about their lords upon a low rounded hill. Then Beorn stooped and lifted Thorin, who had fallen pierced with spears, and bore him out of the fray.

Swiftly he returned and his wrath was redoubled, so that nothing could withstand him, and no weapon seemed to bite upon him. He scattered the bodyguard, and pulled down Bolg himself and crushed him. Then dismay fell on the goblins and they fled in all directions.


Chills.


-- Apple gives its line of Macbook Pros a bump, reduces price on older models. So now's your chance to BUY ME ONE !

-- In my next life I'm going to be Red Abalone diver.
7/28/14: -- Thrones bloopers! It still weirds me out to see these people smiling and goofing around with one another. How about Oberyn Martell almost catching his hair on fire!

-- And speaking of the Walther PPK (see below), I stumbled upon the interesting story of how that particular pistol became Bond's firearm of choice, read on...
7/25/14: -- 22 second book review time... ready, GO: Carte Blanche by Jeffrey Deaver. Overall I'm a fan of the modern, iPhone-using take on Bond we've seen in recent years. And I'd be surprised if this one isn't considered for a film adaptation - it seems-tailor made for Daniel Craig, with maybe Janina Gavankar as the two-fisted Bheka Jordaan and Lupita Nyong'o as femme fatale Felicity Willing. And damn if the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman wouldn't have been perfect as the creepy necrophiliac bad guy. What didn't work so well for me was an overall, I dunno, generic spy thriller feel to this thing. In checking the author's website, this is indeed the first Bond adaptation he's written. One could probably swap in any modern spy character and get the same results, so at times it felt as if Bond-ish details (overtly sexual women names, the Walther PPK, occasional interaction with Q-Branch, etc) were thrown in as reminders that this is in fact a Bond novel. But I nitpick - this was good fun, and I'd love to one day see it adapted for the big screen before Craig gets much older.

-- This nifty device can charge your mobile phone in 15 minutes. WANT!

-- OS X Yosemite public beta drops today, here's an early look. Me likey.

-- So apparently Ray Lamontagne is a jerk in real life...
7/24/14: -- Next time I'm thinking of having a fundraiser, remind me to include Bill and Hill...

-- Thinking of starting the 52 week money challenge. Or maybe I should do it in reverse? What's worked for you? E-moi.

-- Neglected mommies everywhere are gasping and biting their lower lips - the 50 Shades trailer drops today!

-- Another day, another bungled lethal injection. If ever I find myself on death row I'll be formally requesting a firing squad or guillotine...
7/23/14: -- Verizon strikes again, here's a quick and entertaining horror story. In my line of work I communicate with them quite a bit, and let me tell you they are absolutely the worst.

-- The recent fracas over that woman who was arrested for allowing her 9-year old kid to play alone at a local park compels me to come clean about something... this is kinda sorta tangentially related, in that it's something that was perfectly acceptable a few decades ago: while cruising around Block Island we may or may not have flipped up the seats in the back of the Element for the greater convenience of carting multiple youngsters to and from the beach. Meaning they would have been sitting on the floor, sans seat belts. I will not positively confirm this, as doing so may put me in handcuffs. But it's worth mentioning that during the entire vacation we never once exceeded 18 mph (you really can't out there).

So how can I justify this atrocity? Well in my youth I was transported around in the back of a Datsun pickup truck - sometimes at 60 mph (the top speed for that vehicle) on I-84. And here I am all these years later, alive to boast about it...


-- Please please please please someone buy these mugs for the wife and I!
7/22/14: -- If movie trailers are to be believed, The Imitation Game will be terrific. Cumberbatch!

-- Not sure how I feel about this. Bill Gates... Sting... and now Philip Seymour Hoffman - snubbing their kids out of the will. I get it - you want your children to experience life's travails and build character, etc. But damn. Being broke sucks. If you have amassed something that will help your family be comfortable for generations to come, and it can be shared in a responsible way, why be a d*ck? Didn't any of those guys ever see the ending of Mommy Dearest? E-moi your thoughts.

-- Another day, another "it might be this" article about possible autism causes. I've pretty much stopped looking at these.
7/21/14: -- Been back already for a week and never got around to recapping Block Island. Where to start? It was chaos, what with the 1,948 young children in the house. But this was not unexpected, and we knew what we were getting into back in February when the plans first came together! Fortunately the yard was well suited for games of pickle and the like to keep the young-uns occupied. The house wasn't perfect but we spread out and made it work.

Weather-wise I'd give it a 9, we absolutely lucked out with 78-ish degrees almost every day. And I'm told it rained buckets for three days after we left! Every day was highly beach-able, and we took full advantage. Then we'd get back to the house around 4 or 5-ish, shower, and fire up the grill for mass outdoor feedings. To cap off the night we'd grab ice cream in town, or I'd drag everyone kicking & screaming out to some remote stretch of sand to take in an excellent sunset. One night we saw live blues music on the beach. Another night we had everyone over for mudslides and Uncle Jeremy's epic homemade grilled pizza. It was a life-affirming evening with a thousand laughs...

For me the greatest joy was seeing the boys - Jakey in particular - solidify a love for the sea. He'd stay in that chilly Atlantic for hours on end, boogie board at the ready. It was beautiful to watch - the next generation of wave-riders on BI. Aidan would dart around in the foamy shallows doing his thing. At night they slept like logs, as did we all.

The mornings were a treat for me as well, I'd set the alarm to get out and about early with H Dawg before the madness of the day commenced. I love strolling down Water Street at 6:30am... walking a deserted Scotch Beach in search of sea treasure and photo-ops... grabbing the day's first coffee at Juice n Java... I simply cannot justify sleeping in while we're there. There's so much to get to and a week flies by so damn fast.

Until next time, BI.

7/18/14: -- So apparently men with flower beards is a thing now. Man tights, too (Meggings? Mights?)...
7/17/14: -- A sprig of Cyperus rotundus a day keeps the dentist away.

-- Loving this heated debate going on over the supposed benefits (or lack thereof) of drinking almond milk. The stuff always seems to find its way into our fridge, though personally I prefer soy. Thoughts?

-- Glad to see I wasn't the only one completely befuddled by new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's rambling email to all MS employees. I'll be honest - I couldn't make it all the way through the darn thing. It vaguely alluded to big organizational changes, so I guess it should come as no surprise that 18,000 folks are getting the boot...

-- Your life is meaningless if you don't own a selfie toaster.

-- Ok Weird Al, consider yourself redeemed in my eyes. Word Crimes isn't just good, it's borderline brilliant (note the proper use of an apostrophe in it's).
7/16/14: -- Big hullabaloo over the woman who was arrested for letting her 9-year old play in the park alone while she worked. Again I go back to my kid self, I remember vanishing for hours on end down at Rogers Park to play ball, swim at the public pool or whatever. This whole business of helicopter parenting has gotten so out of hand, there are seriously negative long-term effects to be considered. Independence... risk-taking... self accountability... these are important for development, no? But at this point I'm too terrified by the threat of incarceration to allow my children out of my sight for 12 seconds...

-- Apparently while we were out on BI someone bought a $1M winning lottery ticket at the local pharmacy. UUUUUGGGGGHHHH!!! I was in that store multiple times!
7/15/14: -- Back! Exhausted. Stressed. Broke. Melancholy. Overwhelmed... and already thinking about next time! More later, right now my work email inbox is threatening to cause a state-wide power outage.
7/6/14: -- Every year there's this long list of things that we promise ourselves we'll take care of waaaaaay in advance of our vacation... Yeah those things. And of course here they are all coming back to bite us in the arse again at the 11th hour. But there's no turning back now!

I'm not bringing our laptop to Block Island this time around on account of it having died, so alas it's unlikely that I'll be able to blog. But rest assured Maria and I will be uploading drool-worthy photos to Facebook at every opportunity, and of course I'll have a full recap here if we ever decide to come home.

7/3/14: -- Gaming workstation. Yes, please.

-- Wonder how many guitar strings Rod y Gab go through in one performance... Here they are doing The Russian Messenger live for NPR, I only wish I was 1/10000000th as good at something (anything!) as they are with their instruments.
7/2/14: -- LeVar Burton's Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign has ended, and the original $1M goal was absolutely annihilated - $5,408,916!

-- Driving to play hoops early this AM I got to thinking about the Butterfly Effect. Or at least what I presume to be the Butterfly Effect. Chaos Theory perhaps? Are those the same thing? See, I got all the way out to the driveway before noticing I didn't have my basketball sneakers, so back into the house I go - this delayed my departure by about 90 seconds. Getting into Danbury I was stopped at a railroad crossing to witness a sloth-like Metro North commuter train creep along, slow to a near stop as if unsure of what to do, then continue on its leisurely way. All told this set me back about 4-5 minutes. But see? Had I remembered my sneakers that never would have happened. Next I find myself at a stop sign about to pull onto South Street when I'm forced to wait once more, as a bedraggled old rascal on a bicycle peddled by... there was no one else on the roads, so what are the odds that he and I would meet at that very intersection at that precise moment?? Add another 15 seconds (again, the sneakers), but waiting for HIM made me JUST MISS the green light at the hellish South Street/Main Street/Rogers Park intersection. See? Sneakers--> railroad crossing--> guy on bike--> longest stoplight in Danbury. At that point things were looking very Truman Show-esque, though nothing really eventful happened once I finally arrived at the gym. But it got me thinking... that small delay while I ran back in for the sneakers, did that save me from some catastrophic car wreck? Or maybe had I gotten to the gym just a bit earlier and made the first game, would I have torn a hamstring? Waiting for the second game gave me more time to stretch out/limber up. That woman I held the door for - a gesture which she seemed to greatly appreciate - had I arrived earlier she would've had to get the door herself. But as it was, maybe that gesture put her in a better mood and will inspire her to be nicer to her kids tonight, who in turn will go on to do great things one day. And to think it all started with a pair of forgotten sneakers...

Driving myself mad thinking about this, need to go lie down for a while.


-- It's official - Sherlock will be back !
7/1/14: -- Vicious is way over the top, and yes, you may tire of the rapid-fire insults... but episode 1 aired on PBS this past Sunday night and I was chortling out loud. If you have a pulse, so will you. Ep1 can be streamed here (but be warned - you will need to endure the same lame sponsored message a few times). Recommended.

-- Browser wars: Chrome is winning. Well, IE is actually, but who counts that?
6/30/14: -- In celebration of Do The Right Thing's 25th anniversary, Vulture has ranked Spike Lee's films from worst to best. There are several here that I have yet to see, so I can't really comment much. It was however lovely to see this list acknowledge Gator from Jungle Fever as Samuel L. Jackson's finest role, which it is by a long shot... I dunno, give me the 25th Hour rant scene any day. And move He Got Game up into the top 5.

-- Yes, it was in fact a handball.

-- Well I suppose it counts as a pool in that it contains water and is large enough to accommodate a human being or two. Must admit, I was skeptical at first - I thought it would be just one more thing taking up space on the lawn. But the boys love it, and it's been a great way to cool down on these balmy afternoons. It makes for some interesting Marco Polo games - there are, after all, only so many places one can hide...
6/27/14: -- Off to the mall after work, I have an appointment at the Genius Bar to see if there's any hope for our ailing 2009 Macbook Pro. I suspect they'll run some hardware diags and tell me it needs a new logic board or whatever, in which case it instantly becomes a large paperweight...

-- Apple has announced that Aperture and iPhoto will be going away...

-- Hot coffee on a hot summer day? It actually makes sense, because science.

-- Amelia Earhart is currently airborne in her single-engine plane, hoping to successfully complete an around-the-world flight. No seriously, that's really her name and that's really what she's doing... Track her progress here.
6/26/14: -- Who knew? The squiggly little design on the Apple keyboard Command key (which I affectionately refer to as the "splat" key) actually comes from a Swedish castle...

-- Autism and pesticides link? Still feels like they're grasping at straws, but at least research is being done.

-- A disturbing series of maps shows you how hot this country will be in the coming decades. Up here in New England we seem pretty safe for the forseeable future, but still... yikes. Look at Texas.
6/25/14: -- I never really thought about the double standard that tends to emerge during events such as the World Cup or the Olympics. Or is this even a double standard at all? I mean... women athletes have been objectified by the media for decades, why shouldn't the Buzzfeeds and the Gawkers and the Jezebels of the world have a little fun? To be clear - I'm not insulted by articles focusing on manly bulges and rippling abdominals, quite the opposite in fact. Should I be? To me it's all in good fun, and I'll high-five any ogler of such sports-oriented smut. I suppose this makes me a part of the problem. It's just that there are countless options on the interwebs for no-nonsense sporting news and World Cup updates (or would that be World Cupdates? Ha!). I'm gonna venture to say the average sports fan is wise enough to realize that the aforementioned "social news" outlets are catering to a different kind of crowd.
6/24/14: -- Slate has posted a great video explaining that confusing soccer (errr, futbol that is) Offside rule. It's maddening to see an amazing goal negated by this little infraction, but there's no denying that the game is better for it.

-- See? Facebook isn't completely useless - yesterday I received about a trillion birthday well-wishes. Thanks much everyone, you made this old guy smile.
6/23/14: -- The missus surprised me at the office with iced coffee and a Sesame Seed salad. Birthday bliss...
6/20/14: -- Brienne speaks! On training for that epic fight scene with The Hound - "I was just knackered." And so we have my new favorite word.

-- Zelda (well, Link actually) through the years. That is beautiful.

-- Ladies, control yourselves. This man is a violent criminal.

-- Sex sells. Or does it? Maybe not like it used to. If anything, seeing those beautiful kids on the 12' x 12' posters outside the Abercrombie store makes me less inclined to shop there... I never have and never will look like that. They're glorious. I'm lame. Then I spend the next hour wallowing in self-loathing in the bathroom behind the food court.
6/19/14: -- I call bullsh*t on the IRS' lost emails. Assuming they use an Enterprise-class server based email solution such as Microsoft Exchange Server, the messages wouldn't actually be stored locally on individual (erasable) workstation hard drives. And yes, backup tapes can be reused/overwritten, but almost any organization worth a damn sends a batch of long-term backups off site and retains for many years... But hey, Dubya got away with it too.

-- There's a small stream behind my workplace, and quite often I see this guy lurking in the branches overhead hunting for fish. It's a lousy picture, but whaddya think - blue heron?

-- A and I were walking around a local park recently and we happened upon a picturesque little pond. We sat for a while, and it was lovely - frogs were croaking and the water's calm surface was dotted with floating vegetation and pretty water lilies, to which he noted "Just like Claude Monet." Chalk one up for Little Einsteins...

It was a nice moment. And I think it left an impression on him, because about a week later out of the blue he started giggling and mimicking the throaty honking sound that the frogs were making. Methinks we'll be going back there soon.


-- So Amazon has unveiled a phone that apparently will make it much easier to buy stuff from them. The "dynamic perspective" camera thing does sounds interesting, though.
6/18/14: -- Nice to finally see Dr. Oz getting called out for the BS he peddles. Freakin' quack.

-- Unlimited Super Mario Bros 1-up glitch discovered... and just like that, all is right with the world.
6/16/14: -- Thirteen GOT questions that damn well better get answered next season, which will premiere... so many loooooong months from now.

-- Forget the Top 40 stuff. For me, Casey Kasem's voice brings me back to carefree childhood mornings spent camped out in front of the tube, inhaling sugary cereal. Zoinks, Scoob! Like those goofy ghosts are headed this way! Yes, Shaggy always has and always will do that for me. When being a grown-up has me feeling overwhelmed it works every time. RIP Casey, and thanks.

-- Never been a big Spurs fan, but I can definitely appreciate the old-school, fundamentally sound, pass-and-cut team ball approach they used to systematically dismantle Miami in 5 games. Respect.

-- I'm told the RI ocean temp is way colder right now than it was a year ago at this time, that dreadful polar vortex is to blame... we seriously need two full weeks of 90-plus days before our vaykay...

-- Dad's Day... Game 5 of the NBA Finals... Thrones Season Finale... yesterday was a good day to be alive.
6/13/14: -- About a year ago a turtle on the side of the road that I declined to help eventually ended up as road pizza, and I've been living with that guilt ever since. But the other day I saw my chance for redemption, and by golly I went for it! A big guy - probably quite old by the look of him - was lumbering along next to Route 7 (ROUTE 7!!!!) near New Milford High School. It was rush hour, so I'd put his chances of successfully crossing all four lanes at around 0.00000001%. I pulled a pair of U-Turns and navigated the heavy traffic to find a safe place to pull off and make my way over to him. This was probably the ugliest turtle in recorded history, and he did not much care for being picked up and carried far inland away from the road - he opened his toothless maw and thrashed his prehistoric clawed feet in protest - but he's still alive and my soul feels all the better.

-- If asked to choose my all-time favorite GOT scene, it's got to be this one. Charles Dance is just brilliant.

-- Vintage 1955 Huffy radio bike. WANT.
6/12/14: -- Tricks of the trade and props used in Thrones to achieve maximum grossness.

-- Checking in on LeVar Burton's Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign (to which I made a very modest contribution, pardon this brief pause while I pat myself on the back), glad to see that the original $1M goal has been absolutely obliterated.

-- Everybody's talking about Jim Carrey's recent commencement speech, where was this when I was 20 ???

-- My childhood has officially been ruined. Wish I could un-see those.
6/11/14: -- Wired's guide to BSG binge-watching. This has me craving a re-watch of a few of my favorite 'sodes, hmmmm.
6/10/14: -- The damn bear was back again last night. He emptied out the trash can and tried to get at a birds nest near our front steps - we found these little buggers shaken but seemingly ok. Their nest sits inside a decorative birdhouse, which fortunately held its own against the nocturnal marauder. But the nest occupants had been jostled around and were almost falling out of a seam, so I had to rearrange the nest a bit and maneuver the babies back into place, ever so gently. They look about two days old, hopefully they'll be ok. Now to go about bear-proofing...
6/9/14: -- Thrones last night took my least favorite storyline and ran with it for the full 54 minutes, and you know what? I still didn't blink for the entire episode. This season has gotten so ridiculously good, after next week's finale we might as well unplug our TVs until April 2015.

-- Camped out at Clatter Valley on Saturday night for the Cub Scouts end of season ceremony, during which our boy was promoted to a Bear. Go Jakey!

I was a bit nervous going into the big night, as it had been quite a while since we've spent the night in a tent. But I learned that the key to getting a decent night's sleep is to bring yourself past the point of complete and total exhaustion the day before, as I had (a work thing had me at the office around 4AM). Wet, shivering, a rock stabbing me in the kidney, didn't matter - I zonked right out 'til the break of dawn.

6/5/14: -- The bear (or whatever) isn't the only critter stirring around our neck o' the woods these days. These little guys recently hatched in a shrub off our back deck. Approach the nest at your own risk, however, as both Maria and myself have both been walloped in the back of the head by a very protective Mama Bluejay.

-- It seems there was a visitor while we were out of town - the suet feeder was ripped down and the garbage can was looted (with kitty litter in it - ew!). That nasty bugger also absconded with a jug of bird seed that was left outside. So... bear? Hungry neighbor from up the hill? A pack of marauding squirrels?
6/3/14: -- So, the nickel recap from last weekend:

We dragged A to see two specialists in the Boston area - a Pediatric Neurologist and a Pediatric Neuropsychologist - both highly regarded in the Dup15q community (it's worth mentioning that Dr. Morgan spent over an hour of her own time with A free of charge, as insurance balked at covering our eval), and both a veritable treasure trove of information. The long and the short of it is 1: We are quite fortunate to have a highly dedicated team at SNIS, most parents fight the school system tooth and nail to get the bare minimum of services... 2: A has great skills, but that will only take him so far if he is unable to stay focused (try different meds?)... 3: Seizures, common in many Dup15q kids, are less likely in our boy since they haven't happened yet (**knock knock knock**). And if they do, they would likely be mild in nature. Whew!

As for the rest of the weekend - good times! We danced to a top notch live band (did a damn good cover of Peg) and drank tasty drinks and ate yummy food at the wedding, and man I have never before seen so many beautiful young folks on one dance floor. We also found time for stops at several touristy spots: Quincy Market, the Franklin Park Zoo, and Boston Common. It was enough of that fine city for one lifetime, though I have a feeling we'll be back one day...

6/2/14: -- A wacky, wondrous, whirlwind of a weekend up in Boston... I'm still playing catch-up here at work, so for now suffice to say it was a hoot! I stole this pic off of FB, that's my cousin and new bride... how friggin' cute are they?!
5/29/14: -- Off to Boston for an evaluation by a clinic at Mass General Hospital that actually specializes in A's condition. One of two such clinics in existence, as far as we know. Oh yeah, and a wedding! Should be a hoot. Back Sunday night, be good!

-- I've never donated to a kickstarter before, but I have a feeling that is about to change. I love LeVar's mission to get kids reading, now if only it would work on my guys... By the looks of it Reading Rainbow will indeed be back - the initial goal of $1M has been crushed, and at this moment the pledge total is up over $1.8M and climbing steadily.

-- My cousin Nina turns 40 today! A few of us met up at The White Horse last night for a proper celebration. I've always liked that place. A bit noisy in the pub section, but it's not hard to see why the parking lot is completely full every night o' the week.
5/28/14: -- That storm last night was kind of a big deal. I was bitchin' and moaning about not having power all night, but I guess we were lucky compared to other folks...
5/27/14: -- Shot up to RI for the weekend to properly celebrate the 40th birthday of a dear friend. There was live music, never ending tacos, cornholing, s'mores & bongo drums around the fire, and maybe even a Corona or three. Can't think of a more pleasant way to have kicked off Summer 2014.
5/23/14: -- Ten reasons any self-respecting gamer should be excited about the coming months.

-- If ever in your travels you spot a sloth in the water, leave it alone. It'll be just fine.

-- Cassatt and Degas - were they or weren't they?
5/22/14: -- Absolute magic. Take a few minutes and read Steven Frank's Arcade Story (via Kottke). Took me back in time, such a happy, carefree time. I actually had a very similar experience in the late 80's at the Danbury Mall playing Rastan. Anybody remember that one? I had some brainless mall job, and I'd sneak up to the arcade in the back of the food court and... well suffice to day I usually went over my allotted 30-minute break. How was I not fired? But damn I could play me some Rastan, and crowds would gather. **sigh**

-- How to win at Rock-Paper-Scissors... to predict your opponent's next move, think win-stay, lose-shift - clockwise.

-- Celebs reading mean tweets about themselves on Kimmel never gets old...
5/21/14: -- Climate change and coffee beans: worse than you think.

-- If you use eBay y'oughta change your password, pronto.

-- I'm guessing it was staged, but this impromptu jam session between complete strangers made me smile. And maybe even dance a little.
5/20/14: -- Aidan perseverates, we've all seen him do it a million times. It's usually whatever show he's into at the moment, he'll repeat the lines over... and over... and over... Lately he's been on a Powerpuff Girls kick (a truly dreadful cartoon), the character named Buttercup in particular. He'll recite dialogue from the show containing her name for hours on end. Maddening! But yesterday Maria overheard him say something interesting, so much so that she jotted it down: "I don't know why I can't forget things... Like Buttercup." Wow. Was he recognizing what he's doing and expressing a desire to purge it from his brain? For him that would be unprecedented. I just did the same thing with a Coldplay song the other day... Or maybe that was just another line from the show? Guess we'll never know for sure.

-- Will Rio be ready in time for the 2016 Summer Olympics? Maybe not. But don't they say this every time around?

-- Wolfenstein: The New Order is released today, just in case you're wondering. Time Magazine's review is here, mine will surely follow once I've saved the world and re-written history.

-- It's your special day, Kate. 39 never looked so good !
5/19/14: -- So 43 years later, some clowns decide to sue Led Zepplin for stealing the opening of Stairway to Heaven...

-- We were sad to see that the exceptionally harsh winter damaged much of the hedges and flowering shrubbery around our house, however these colorful guys are doing just fine. For two weeks every spring they burst with color and optimism, but then quickly fade again to drab. Spring is just too darn short.
5/16/14: -- Experiment: send complimentary emails to thousands of college professors at the highest levels of academia across the country asking for a chance to meet with them. The emails are all the same, only the names change. The results are depressing. Charles McNamara? You're in! Kwame Jackson? HA, good luck.

-- So wait, FDR could walk?
5/15/14: -- A fascinating look at tears under a microscope, tears which are apparently quite different depending upon what caused them. So belly laugh tears look nothing like saying goodbye tears, which look entirely different than losing a loved one tears.
5/13/14: -- Animal firsts! Awwwwwww.

-- Where in the world is Casey Kasem? This makes me sad.
5/12/14: -- Is Michelangelo's David in trouble? Blame it on weak ankles...

-- An exceptional day yesterday to celebrate the exceptional moms in our lives, it was the perfect 10 that we've all been dreaming about since that dreadful Polar Vortex. Gawd, remember that?

I did my best to give the mother of my children what I suspect she desired above all else -- a break. She hit the movies with Grandma Rie-Rie and I'm told they had a lovely afternoon. Meanwhile the boys and I headed down to Danbury to share some yum yums with my spectacular mom and equally spectacular grandmom (pictured above).

Driving around yesterday I made a point of nosily peering into other cars. I was looking for moms, of course, and there were lots and lots of 'em out and about. And I'm pleased to report that each and every one of them was smiling.
5/8/14: -- Stumbled across a bag of leftover Easter candy the other day. I picked a bit, yes, and later felt really guilty and decided to throw away the rest. Throw it ALL away. And now I know how Frodo felt, staring into the fiery precipice of Mount Doom but unable to release the One Ring... But I gathered myself and I did it! And am the better man for it.

-- NYC'ers - check out this handy dandy coffee shop locator.

-- Grooves with hidden tracks! Floating angel holograms! Jack White will really be pushing the vinyl with Lazaretto. I need a new turntable.

-- Apparently the new improved Godzilla is way bigger than his predecessors.

-- Just in time for Mother's Day, here's NBA star Kevin Durant thanking his mom during his MVP acceptance speech. Have Kleenex at the ready - you've been warned.
5/7/14: -- A beautifully written piece about sending your first kid off to college, written by... wait a minute, who? Rob freaking Lowe? Who knew?

-- Oh, the stuff they don't teach you at Flight Attendant Academy...

-- I turn on the TV this morning and Monica is all over the news again. Wasn't that dress green, not blue?
5/5/14: -- Our ridiculously talented friend Mary Walsh had her first (of which I'm sure will be many) art show yesterday in Hawthorne, NY. There was a massive turnout and lots of red dot stickers on her pieces (meaning someone called dibs!). We even picked up a small-ish Block Island landscape that we just love. So thrilled that she's finally putting herself out there, she's just too damn good to keep her creations from the world any longer.
5/2/14: -- Animals enjoying sunlight. Our Teddy is a champion at this.

-- 11 second book review: The Silent Wife, by A.S.A. Harrison. I suppose this one falls under the "Psychological Thriller" category. It's unusually paced - the chapters take turns rotating between his and her perspective - but intensely readable. This is the story of an extremely dysfunctional marriage - Todd the successful businessman/womanizer, Jodi the classic enabler who swims in denial. And vodka. But finally Jodi has had enough, and the situation quietly (and thrillingly!) spirals towards catastrophe. Recommended.
4/30/14: -- Have you ever seen the hysterical note that Tom Hanks sent to the The Nerdist a few years back? Absolute gold. And now I want to start collecting old-school typewriters.

-- A horribly botched execution in an Oklahoma penitentiary, what a nightmare. In this day and age there has got to be a better way to get the job done.

-- Re: the Donald Sterling affair, sorry but I side with Mark Cuban... horrendous and despicable as his (Sterling's) racist remarks were, it would be unlawful to force someone to surrender his or her property on account of jackass-ness.
4/29/14: -- How awesome is LeVar Burton (aka Kunta Kinte aka Geordi La Forge) promoting Free Comic Book Day - this Saturday May 3rd! See you at Krypto Comics.
4/28/14: -- What Google knows about you might freak you out a little. Now it's worth mentioning that this only applies if you frequently login to GMail, Youtube, etc. If you search and watch videos sans logging in, you're probably ok. But even so, kinda scary.

-- The birthplace of peppers. Now you know.

-- And this is why the playoffs are awesome...
4/25/14: -- Net Neutrality... Good while it lasted.

-- I take back every bad thing I've ever said about the Kindle. Last night I was struggling to figure out how to change the time zone on Maria's, so I figured what the hell? I'll try the built-in video chat tech support thingy. Sure enough, within 10 seconds I was face to face with a handsome, helpful kid who talked me through the process. It was nifty, too, he was able to place a colorful checkmark over each menu option that he instructed me to tap. I think tonight I'll connect with a technician and tell him or her that I can't get our kindle on the internet... Get it?

-- So apparently Knights vs Snails was a thing back in medieval days...
4/24/14: -- Remember a few months ago when everyone was predicting Apple's downfall (yet again)? Dummies.

-- I was never able to develop a taste for scotch, but this gentleman makes me wish I could.
4/23/14: -- An alarming visualization of how many nuke-scale asteroids have pounded the earth in recent years. I'm digging a hole and hiding.

-- Nifty: a shark-deterrent wetsuit designed based on scientific study of shark vision. Now if only the suit could provide protection from sharks with laser beams attached to their heads...

-- Chromeo on Kimmel!

-- Back in business. Sort of. As it turns out I have been paying all along for some toned down AT&T insurance policy on that iPhone, so they overnighted me a replacement - a 5S, in fact! My old one was a lowly iPhone 5. But the devil is in the details, there was a fairly hefty deductible on that policy. Ah well. Still better than buying a new phone outright. The problem is that all of my contacts, ringtones, photos, notes, calendar reminders, etc were on the old one. I have a fairly recent backup of all that on our laptop... the laptop that recently DIED. Maybe I should've opted in for those iCloud backups after all... The notion of having all my dirty personal secrets up on Apple's servers has always kind of creeped me out, but in this case it would've saved my bacon.
4/22/14: -- New G Love & Special Sauce today!

-- Easter has passed, yes, but that doesn't mean we can't marvel at a man who eats 100 marshmallow Peeps in two minutes.
4/21/14: -- A whirlwind of Easter Sunday activity yesterday, starting off around 6:30AM with an indoor Easter basket hunt and an outdoor egg hunt, followed by a hike in the woods (during which my iPhone went MIA), fine dining with relatives in Brewster, and a quick stop for pleasantries at Grandma Nanclyn's on the way back up north. An exhausting but rewarding day overall, until we got home to sadly find that Soccer, one of our beloved guinea pigs, had passed away in her sleep. So there I was in the wooded area near our house, shoveling away by the light of a lantern to give the poor thing a proper resting place. It's a wonder the neighbors didn't call the cops, thinking me an axe murderer burying the missus...

So yeah, my damn phone went missing. I'm usually uber careful with it, it must've tumbled out of my pocket during the morning hike. I retraced our steps about 30 minutes later, calling and calling from another phone. Oddly it was going straight to voicemail after one ring, which is very telling since it was fully charged and definitely ON. Did someone pick it up and shut if off? Doubtful, I didn't see anyone else on that trail. My theory is that it fell into a stream or was lying in direct sun and shut itself down due to the heat. Fortunately I've kept the 4-digit security code active, so if someone picks it up they shouldn't be able to get to my stuff. And even if they connect it to a computer, the only available option would be to erase and set it up as a new phone. I hope. Moving forward I will definitely be enabling "Find My iPhone", this way I could use the Lost Mode functionality!

4/18/14: -- They're back! Mom and the boys spent this past Spring Break week in Atlantic City at GMa and GPa's timeshare - such a better way to pass the time than putzing around the house staring at electronic mobile devices. So yeah, I've been a swingin' bachelor all week! It was nice and quiet, though not as relaxing as one might think. Every night after work I'd have to sprint home to let the doggies out (eight hours of 'holding it' is asking a lot of them), and then on to assorted chores. I really wanted to finish painting Jakey's room and clean up a bit before everyone got home. And yeah - I missed them. No, really! They were all smiles in the Facebook posts and photos, and it looks like they had a blast. Though Mom no doubt needs a vacation from their vacation. I resolve to give her a break this weekend whenever possible.

-- Start your Good Friday off properly with a collection of odd or unnecessary quotation marks. The captions are LOL-worthy for sure.
4/17/14: -- Kudos to Donald Rumsfeld (wow, did I really just type that???) for including this brilliant note with his 2013 tax return. The fact that the process and the documents are as convoluted as they are -- so much so that reasonably intelligent folks need to pay someone a lot of money to do their taxes for them -- it just makes no damn sense (via Kottke).
4/16/14: -- Please tell me you watched the series premier of Fargo on FX last night, I think they did a terrific job. Episode 1 gave us top-shelf acting (Martin Freeman! Billy Bob Thornton!)... That bleak sense of snowy, freezing-cold hopelessness and dread... Gruesome acts of violence delivered so matter-of-factly, almost comically... all of the things that propelled the movie to instant classic status, it's all here. In case "re-tellings" aren't your thing, it's worth mentioning that this is a very different tale (so far) than the movie. Count me in for the rest of the season. Yah, you betcha.
4/15/14: -- I take back every bad thing I've ever said about Facebook. On Sunday I let the doggies out as usual -- they are fortunate enough to have run of the yard and surrounding wooded areas (and no doubt a few neighbors houses). We've grown to trust that they will always come back, because well, they always do. Until now, about 30 minutes was the longest outing they'd ever had. And Honey and Teddy always stick together, so when Teddy showed up sans H, I knew something was up. Hours passed. Panic was setting in. She had never done anything like this. I comb the woods, calling and clapping in vain. I even introduced myself to a neighbor and asked her to keep her eyes peeled. Fearing the worst, I decide to drive the surrounding roads. But on my way out the door a young woman pulls up and asks if our dog is missing. WHEW...

Long story short: that neighbor I visited had mentioned it to her girlfriend, who later noticed a Facebook post to some local dog group or whatever. Something to the effect of "Anyone missing a dog? Golden Retriever showed up this morning and looks lost..." etc. Luckily I had given my address to the neighbor, so they were able to find me. The kind folks who had taken her in were close by, so I trek down to their place and that was that.

So what's up with H? I'm guessing she's all out of sorts since Maria has been out of town. Needless to say the free wandering days are over...


-- Visited a local nursery over the weekend with Grandma Nanclyn (a happy belated birthday to her!!!), they had a magnificent lion statue that I simply cannot do without. Assuming I could come up with the trillion dollars to pay for him, I wonder how I'd get him to the house. Throw a saddle on his broad back and ride him home?
4/11/14: -- The first videos are surfacing from last night's Nirvana performances at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction show. We'll have to wait a month or so until HBO airs the real deal. Is there anything better than Dave Grohl pounding away back there like Animal from The Muppet Show?
4/10/14: -- Strange thing - in the past two days during my commute I witnessed two separate people crying in their cars. Both were women around my age, both driving alone. One gently dabbed her eyes and battled valiantly against the tears, the other was sobbing uncontrollably. She probably should've pulled over. I dunno. It struck me as odd because I don't remember the last time I've ever seen someone crying while driving, and then to see two people in two days... It reminded me that everyone has a situation, everyone has a story.
4/9/14: -- Reason #317 to never use the Stop & Shop self checkout: when purchasing Tonic Water (or any carbonated beverage in a bottle for that matter), you have no choice but to place it on the conveyor belt, which then hustles it down the line towards the bagging area... SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE, watch it tumble. There is no way around this. Try as you might to stand the bottle upright, it inevitably falls over when the belt kicks on. Bypassing the belt is no good, the sensors need to feel the weight of your purchase or it assumes you're stealing something. There is no way to avoid a rude, fizzy surprise when you open the bottle a week later. Confound it!

-- Ok so this Heartbleed Bug is kind of a big deal. Be on the lookout for suspicious goings on, folks.

-- Apparently our beloved Life is Good festival is taking a pause in 2014. This has been an event that we absolutely cherished every September. Life is Bad.
4/8/14: -- Reminder: Windows XP's Day of Reckoning is close at hand. Like, as in today.

-- Wow, am I really paying almost $18K/year in health insurance premiums? I thought the prez was fixing this sh*t...

-- A nice writeup on Kevin Durant, who is quietly killing it this season. Those numbers are absolutely staggering.

-- Lime shortage? This isn't jiving well with my Summer 2014 margarita plans.
4/7/14: -- Getting Aidan to do homework is torturous for all involved, and most nights we consider ourselves lucky if we can get him to so much as read to us. But last night something extraordinary happened when I sat down with him to labor through a worksheet. It was nothing new, we get these fairly often - a few paragraphs describing a family event (in this case, dinner: Jane's mom cooked the chicken while Jane peeled the potatoes, etc). Then a handful of questions on the next page to test recall (Who peeled the potatoes? Who didn't want to eat his salad?, etc).

Normally after about three minutes of this, the nuclear missiles start flying. But last night was surprisingly different. Together we were able to dig up each correct answer from the story, and he wrote out his answers - pretty darn legibly, I might add - and seemed genuinely pleased with himself at the end of the sheet. And twenty minutes later I almost keeled over when he asked to do it again!


-- Words of wisdom, Thrones style...

-- For Jakey's recent birthday party he asked that his guests bring donations for the local animal shelter in lieu of presents. So proud of muh boy.
4/4/14: -- Yes, that is a toilet and yes, those are ticks. What else am I supposed to do with them? Let 'em go? The onset of the warmer weather has them out in full force. H-Dawg comes in every time covered with these loathsome little bloodsuckers after just a few minutes outdoors. The other day I pulled 13 off in one sitting, and those were just the ones I could see. She and Teddy are Frontlined, of course, but that only kills the ones that latch on. Only a flea & tick collar actually repels them, however the chemicals used in those things are far more dangerous than any insect. What to do?

-- Kinda makes you wanna run out and buy some graham crackers, don't it?

-- Letterman to retire. I say bring on Ellen!
4/3/14: -- A collection of indescribably beautiful GOT posters, each depicting the demise of a major character.

-- Everyone is gushing about Amazon's Fire TV. While I agree that it looks extremely cool, one can't help but wonder: how exactly is it better than Apple TV? Cuz you can talk to it? Play Minecraft on it? Meh.
4/2/14: -- Good news for procrastinators - using Form 4868 you can get a six-month extension on your tax deadline, just like that. You don't even need to concoct a good reason. Who knew?

-- Light It Up Blue for World Autism Awareness Day 2014. Seeing the famous landmarks and monuments around the globe all lit up makes me sad for some reason. Happy, but sad. Tomorrow the lights will be back to their normal color, business as usual.
4/1/14: -- The ultimate three minute Thrones recap! Protect the realm! Get yourself up to date!

-- It's for the kids... it's for the kids... it's for the kids... We had to keep reminding ourselves Saturday night and into Sunday morning whenever insanity started to take hold. There were five (six?) shouting tots, along with a handful of assorted family members at Jake's Minecraft-themed party last weekend. My ears are still ringing. The house is still trashed. But... it's for the kids. And I truly think they enjoyed themselves, geeking out on laptops and tablets and eating sugary foods well into the night. The ordeal nearly killed us, BUT - I'm still glad we did what we did as opposed to yet another bland Stew Leonards/Chuck E Cheese/Monster Minigolf/Wherever birthday party, plus we saved a bundle. Next year? Well, let's not think about that for another 11 months. K?
3/27/14: -- Never thought we'd see the day - MS Office coming to iPad?

-- 1 in 68.

-- Hey, it's the AOL "You've Got Mail" guy! I always assumed it was a computer generated voice or something.
3/26/14: -- So my boy Nakey Jakey turns eight today, and this is kind of a big deal because now I feel really old. But I do love him so and will do everything in my power to ensure he has a stellar day!
3/25/14: -- Hercules! The Rock looks weird with hair, dontchathink?

-- The Daily Show trashes the laughably bad media coverage of the missing Malaysian jetliner. And deservedly so.

-- Lotsa folks talking about this article from The Atlantic, and the harm we're doing our kids by smothering them with parental protection. This is something that troubles me every day, yet I feel powerless to stop it for reasons I can't quite explain. Thinking about how I spent so many countless summer days in my youth... Hopping onto my Hutch BMX bike in the morning and basically disappearing for the entire day - sans helmet! Sans cellphone! I remember neighborhood-wide Kick the Can games played well into the evening, then football under the glow of a street lamp 'til waaaaaay after dark. Prowling the block with my cohorts, lookin' for hearts to break... Building and testing comically unsafe bike jumps... Wrastlin'... Games of Kill the Carrier... Wading into streams and ponds... Not a parent in sight. And you know what? I'M STILL ALIVE!

I wonder if it's even legal for a child today to spend a day the way we did back then. And what's the consequence? A generation of kids who are afraid to take risks, test their limits, resolve their own arguments, strengthen their bodies, explore the unknown. These sound like valuable experiences to carry into adulthood, no?

3/24/14: -- If you seek the best animated gif of all time, look no further. But be warned, you may never be able to watch The Sound of Music again...
3/21/14: -- Just booked a massage (don't look at me like that -- gift card!), is it odd that they automatically assume I'd prefer a woman therapist? We were going back and forth on the phone about the scheduling when the receptionist person said: "We do have Thursday the 27th at 7:30PM, but that would be a male therapist. I'm not sure if..." (awkward pause). So... is it supposed to be like a sex thing? Is there supposed to be some kind of intimate connection? I've had three professional massages in my life - one by a man, two with women. I recall enjoying each and every session, but none of the therapists themselves really stand out in my mind. I tend to zone out to the point of near drooling, so after ten minutes the masseur/masseuse morphs into a nameless & faceless entity doling out relaxation. Nothing more. One hears tales of optional Happy Endings, and of guys pitchin' a tent under the sheet during a good rub down, but no. Just no. Give me the employee - guy or gal - who is best capable of removing this knot of stress that has taken up residence between my shoulder blades.

-- It's official... I'm in love with Khaleesi. Clearly she needs me in her life.

-- Another day, another goofball Disney movies are all connected theory.
3/20/14: -- Yesterday at the Big Y checkout I happened upon the most geektastic conversation ever - the cashier and the bagger (both barely 18, if that) were in a heated debate over whether TV/video game zombies are more effective as the mindlessly slow, ambling types (think Walking Dead), or would their undead condition grant them enhanced speed, agility, and cunning (a la I Am Legend). Lucky for them I was in a hurry, otherwise I would've joined in and kept those two boys there way past their bed times.

-- Chicken from Hell! I get way too excited about this stuff. Remind me why I didn't become a paleontologist... ?

-- A crucial age-old debate reaches its... ummm... climax.
3/19/14: -- More fuel for the raging anti-SAT fire, this time from a college president. Can we agree that this absurd tradition should finally be removed from the higher education application process? It is almost completely useless. Or maybe I'm just bitter because I scored so terribly low on mine all those years ago... Here's my idea for an alternative: instead of meaningless questions to be answered via endless rows of multiple choice bubbles, each student would be given a pencil, pad, and one question: What's your story?

-- Undertook to help a friend of a friend set up a new PC the other day, and of course it was pre-loaded with Windows 8.1. I was excited about the prospect of finally seeing Redmond's latest & greatest in action, and promised myself I'd give it a fair and unbiased look. No, really!

But my God it truly is a mess. First - that home screen! What were they thinking? I felt a nervous breakdown coming on, so immediately looked up how to load a normal desktop at startup. But here's the thing - from there if you click the start button at any point, which Windows users have been doing since the mid 1990's to access programs, browse folders, etc, that horrid home screen rears its ugly head again. Grrrrr... I went to reboot, and apparently to do this you need to right click the start button (again, undoing a 19 year-old habit of left clicking). Ok don't be such an old fogey, I kept telling myself. Some UI changes are inevitable. Deep breaths.

Moving on, I pop in an AOL CD so I can get my friend set up on her account. But it no worky. The CD drive recognized the disc I'd inserted, and even asked me if I wanted to proceed with the installation. But nothing happens. Run setup. PC, run setup please. No? Ok I pull out the CD, reinsert. Nothing happens. Ok I'll download the installer from AOL.com, that worked. But... jeez!

Installed a USB printer, this actually went ok. Windows dutifully picked up on the printer model and started the driver installation (though I did wonder for a while why the process was stalling, then noticed the blinking warning on the task bar - I had to give Windows permission to proceed).

I dunno. Much as been written about 8's shortcomings, and my brief encounter gave me very little reason to recommend Windows 7 users upgrade any time soon.


-- Just labored through X3 Accelerator... medic!

-- My boy Jakey is featured prominently on his school Twitter feed!

-- When he ain't Walken, he's dancin'! There will be no need to visit Youtube again after today, because nothing will top that. Ever.
3/18/14: -- Foul play can't be ruled out yet, but this theory about the fate of that Malaysian jet seems quite logical and believable.

-- So apparently a 3D Peanuts movie is in the works. Not sure how I feel about this. There was a wave of somewhat modernized animated specials that came as follow-ups to the iconic Halloween and Christmas specials, and they're kind of terrible. In my mind, Charlie Brown et al should not be touched.

-- My stomach is strong, but reading this made it turn. Absolutely disgusting, despicable, unthinkable. If something like this ever... mmmmm, so help me.

-- No blogging yesterday, too damn busy. What needs to be done to make sure St Patty's Day will always fall on a weekend from now on? A Monday just ain't cuttin' it. Speaking of St Patty's, here are some depressing misconceptions about our favorite day of revelry...
3/14/14: -- Green Mountain Coffee, who owns Keurig (who knew?) and the unbelievably popular line of single serve K-Cup brewers, is implementing technology that will block unlicensed competitor's K-Cup pods from working properly... as if they aren't already making enough money off these damn things. I'll admit they're terribly handy if you need a quick cup on the run. But if you use K-Cups exclusively, the actual cost per pound of joe might surprise you. And it just might prompt you to blow the dust off that old-school Mister Coffee with the basket filter...

-- Speaking of the WWW (does anyone call it that anymore?), it just turned 25 this week. Wow, a quarter century... can you remember when you first took the plunge? For me I guess it would've been sometime in the late 90's? Decided to get online to see what all the fuss was about. Signed up using one of those AOL CD mailers, remember those with the oddball activation passwords? I still remember mine - WAKENFLIPS. And thus was born my old-school gaming handle, Dr. Wakenflips. Gamers of a certain age may have seen me wreckin' shop in the occasional online deathmatch. But I digress... So with a 33.6bps modem connected to my PowerMac 7500 (amazing machine), I set up an AOL screen name that I'm sure involved my birth date numbers in some way. Why oh why did we all do that???? Eventually I'd ditch AOL for various other providers, and Netscape Navigator became the browser of choice. Oh how I miss those shooting stars hurtling across the sky behind that big stately "N". And then there was the day when ADSL service was actually available in my area, oh man. Pretty sure I took a sick day so there'd be no chance of missing that AT&T installation guy.

Looking back and chuckling at how primitive it all seems, it's staggering to wonder what we'll be using 25 years from now... looking back at 2014 and chuckling some more.

-- So apparently no one actually reads anything on the Internet. If someone shares an article with you, chances are they haven't actually read it themselves. Why am I still typing? You've probably already moved on to something else... (via theawl)

-- Your iDevice might be telling you there's an iOS update available. Here are the details.

-- Now that's what I call a guitar lick. Ha! Get it? Because you, ummm... lick. The stamp. And a lick is also a bunch of guitar notes that kind of roll together. And... Jimi was really good at them. No? I guess no one actually licks stamps anymore. Ok so forget it.
3/13/14: -- Another oopsie celebrity smartphone gaffe - first Ellen at the Oscars, now LeBron.

-- For those of you who use your smartphone to pay, Starbucks is updating its app so that it will prompt you how much you'd like to tip your barista. How thoughtful of them! But if they're charging me $4.25 for a hot chocolate, I'll make it nice and simple: ZIPPO... Yesterday Marketplace had an interesting bit about tipping in this day and age. And it seems that restaurants aside, the gratuity rules aren't very cut and dried. What are your thoughts? Bars... Hair salons... spas... where else is tipping more or less expected? What about a Bed and Breakfast? Yes? Then why not a regular hotel? Is the restaurant standard 15-20% acceptable in those types of establishments? Uh oh, I'm feeling a Reservoir Dogs tipping scene coming on...
3/12/14: -- Goodness, Clint Eastwood's son is a handsome devil. Good genes, I guess.

-- I'm ashamed for having posted that cute/hot/life-affirming 'First Kiss' video (scroll down) yesterday. Come to find out it's just another clothing ad starring beautiful models and actors. I feel cheated.
3/11/14: -- Do yourself a favor and set aside the time to read this beautiful piece from Sunday's NYT - Reaching My Autistic Son Through Disney. What a story. Have kleenex at the ready.

-- On a more serious note, still no trace of that Malaysian airliner. Unbelievable. I thought this stuff only happens in Clive Cussler novels.

-- By now you've no doubt seen the 'Strangers Kissing' video that's bouncing all around the Interwebs this morning, but here it is anyway. I may or may not have watched this more than once. That dude with the beanie is one lucky... ok maybe I've said too much.
3/10/14: -- What have we here? The Coen Brothers are turning Fargo into a TV series? Why am I just finding this out now?

-- Cousin Michael Sears did a book reading/signing yesterday at The Hickory Stick in Washington Depot. We are of course extremely proud to have a published author in the family, and let me tell you - we're not just gushing over Black Fridays and Mortal Bonds because of our relation to Michael. These are damn good reads. Prior to its release a few years ago I had the great privilege of previewing an advance copy of the 'Black Fridays' manuscript. I spent most of a rainy afternoon at the Bank Street Coffee House flying through the chapters, and in those few hours my old passion for novels (stolen from me by adulthood, 9 to 5, fatherhood, etc) was reignited.
3/6/14: -- Wow - check out Andre 3000 as Jimi Hendrix.
3/5/14: -- He reacts this way whenever Pharrell Williams' Happy is on the radio. Sometimes he even sings along. Makes me happy.

-- I LOL'ed, watch Betty White get all kinds of hot and bothered over Khal Drogo.

-- The single most important chart you are likely to see today...
3/4/14: -- Well well well, NYC's finest restaurant failed its most recent health inspection.

-- The vaccines and autism link debate rages on... this morning NPR ran a story about the challenges involved with changing the minds of conspiracy theorists. Even in the face of incontrovertible data, ego may compel a person to defend his or her stance to the last.

The story itself isn't all that interesting or surprising, but click on the comments icon and scroll through. FINALLY some intelligent debate on the vaccination topic, not the usual internet trolls trading insults.

People sometimes ask my opinion on vaccines, and I am quick to assure them that I am no Jenny McCarthy - your kids should get the MMR and the other biggies, of course they should. The benefits simply outweigh the risks.

But not everything she says is bunk. She has questioned why the sheer number of shots has tripled in the past few decades (aside from more money going to Big Pharma), and as far as I know no one has given a straight answer. Please correct me if I'm wrong on that. Babies pop out with very little in the way of an immune system and are quickly given the pin cushion treatment. I'm well aware that there's no science in place supporting the Too Many Too Soon rallying cry, but I'm not so quick to dismiss it. In Aidan's case, of course, we have a genetic condition that differs from what I assume is considered "traditional" autism. So we have more or less distanced ourselves from this entire argument. But I can tell you that shortly after receiving a bombardment of shots, our guy became quite ill. Shortly thereafter, the symptoms of autism were on plain display. And to an uninformed parent who is desperate for answers, that is very real.

The reality is that our bodies are under siege today in ways that we could never have imagined 30 years ago - the proliferation of wifi & cell phones, the toxic garbage in our foods, air pollution... I think these are far more likely contributing factors. Maybe we'll never know for sure. But I'll throw this little nugget out there - if a vaccines/autism link was ever proven, would we even hear about it? Would Big Pharma ever come clean and admit to having wrecked an entire generation of kids?

I smell a John Grisham novel in there somewhere...


-- Tick tock tick tock... Microsoft will officially drop support for Windows XP very soon. Problem is, lots of folks are still using it.
3/3/14: -- 959 area code coming to CT later this year. I'll be auctioning off my 203 and 860 to the highest bidders, anyone interested?

-- The alternate Harry Potter ending that everyone is talking about. Personally I think it's clever but I must be missing the point... I'm fine with the way things wrapped up (minus the cutesy-wootsy epilogue at the train station of course).

-- Finally an awards show worth missing some sleep for -- I thought Ellen did a nice job last night hosting the Oscars. Funny thing - that legendary epic selfie that crushed all retweet records and temporarily crashed Twitter was taken with a Samsung Galaxy phone (which Ellen was waving in front of the cameras all night). Backstage and off camera, however, Ellen is most definitely an iPhone user...
2/28/14: -- We've all seen this deep sea freefall video a thousand times, but it never fails to dazzle.

-- Get back at those pesky squirrels by humiliating them with their own horse-head feeder... They're nothing more than rats with bushy tails, I tell you!

-- Today is Rare Disease Day! If you're able, please extend a helping hand to support an amazing cause.
2/27/14: -- #Londonpoo is trending on Twitter. Here's why. Gross!

-- What's this? A new Bill Watterson cartoon? Yeah, I guess that counts.

-- 23-year old world chess champion Magnus Carlsen has created an app that lets you challenge him in simulated games based on his skill level at various ages. His 5-year old self will no doubt kick my ass in eight moves, but nevertheless I do intend to try this.

-- Is it possible to declare an upcoming new show your all-time favorite, based solely on the trailer? I just did.
2/25/14: -- Head lice cases amongst teens are on the rise, and selfies are to blame!

-- The story behind the Too Cool pencils. I love this.
2/24/14: -- So this Apple security flaw is apparently a big deal. Update your phones/pads at once. And stay off those damn coffee shop wifi networks for a few days.

-- That boy of ours, he turned 10 yesterday! Man, ten! Double digits!
2/20/14: -- Got the munchies? Clever Girl Scout sets up shop in front of a pot clinic.

-- Well this is handy: instead of combing through the App Store looking for that perfect weather app, do this. It's free, awesome, and ad free!

-- Deductions, deductions... scraping together the 2013 stuff for our tax guy, I stumbled across a veritable treasure trove of knowledge for our particular situation. Hey, every nickel helps.

-- The agony of defeat... here are 30 spectacular Olympic wipeouts. I've topped all of them, that day about 15 years ago when I navigated Outer Limits pretty much on my forehead. Good times.

-- Home cookin' last night in Sochi! I demand a recount! Or something.
2/19/14: -- In defense of the mile. This is a great read and supports my ever evolving outlook on running - and this is not to detract in any way from the accomplishments of my handful of friends who have completed marathons and half-marathons, because those are staggering accomplishments... but for me with my frenetic schedule, the mile is the ideal fitness gauge and something I hope to work on as the weather warms. Distance running simply doesn't suit my lifestyle any more. Mile training on the other hand entails short but intense workouts - get to the track, get it done, and still be home in time to enjoy some daylight.

-- For whatever reason there has been a serious run on wood pellets in the past week or so, nobody is selling them. We have a decent stash in the basement, but the way this cruel winter is going we'll be burning the p stove straight into May. If you stumble across any, buy 'em! We'll pay you back with interest!
2/18/14: -- The End is Nigh: A massive asteroid will pass alarmingly close to our planet today.

-- North Korean defector sketches the atrocities he endured during his three years in a prison camp. It's amazing that the UN may actually be doing something about this, too bad it's taken a few decades...

-- The entire gaming industry all just went "whoa" in unison: major shakedown at Irrational Games, makers of Bioshock Infinite.

-- Interesting bit on NPR today about the SATs, which most of the civilized world agrees are a completely unrealistic/unreliable method of determining student aptitude. Frankly I was surprised to hear kids are still taking them.

-- The other day during that snowstorm - I don't recall exactly which one, at this point they're all kind of blending together in my mind - I was driving home and needed to quickly park in my neighbor's driveway for a few minutes. See, the town plow trucks had built up a massive snow wall at the tip of my driveway that needed shoveling out before I could even think about getting in. Our neighbor is a 70-ish guy we've only spoken with once or twice, but he's nice enough and - bonus! - has a lovely old collie dog. So I asked his permission to park for ten minutes and he agreed, on the condition that he "gets to keep the next deer I shoot". He may or may not have been kidding. Only in New Milford...
2/17/14: -- J'ever wonder why your mouse pointer aims slightly to the left? Well now you know why.

-- J.K. Rowling is working on a second mystery novel under her super secret nom de plume, Robert Galbraith. Doggone it I haven't even read "The Cuckoo's Calling" yet...
2/14/14: -- When a plunger just isn't enough...

-- Unless you live in a cave you've no doubt heard that De La Soul is offering its complete catalog online - free! Now close your web browser, you'll find nothing more newsworthy than this today. Or maybe ever.
2/13/14: -- Study: as the planet warms up we are slowly running out of cities suitable to host the winter games. Troubling, to say the least. In Sochi today it's about 60 degrees, there are photos of shirtless spectators at various events. Personally I love skiing in corn snow (thick, pea soup conditions usually found after March), however it makes for lousy competition.

-- Really hoping the feds shoot down Comcast's TWC acquisition. That company scares me enough as it is. Check out this alarming graphical depiction of a post merger US.

-- Sweet - Netfilx has struck a deal to air the sixth and final season of the excellent Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

-- Aidan emerged ravenous from his bout with stomach flu, now unfortunately it's mama's turn. Wicked the way these things bounce around the house.
2/12/14: -- Star Wars inspired runway fashion. I just... no.

-- Much has been written about Bob Costas' eye issues. It goes without saying that social media would pounce.
2/11/14: -- A collection of hilarious and odd signs spotted at the Sochi games.

-- The House that Puke Built: So Jakey was barfing a bit over the weekend, but we didn't think much of it because he recovered very quickly. But as of last night Aidan was blowing chunks of his own, and today I woke up flu-ish and shivering (though I've been spared the stomach stuff for the most part, knock knock knock). Feel free to pity us, but I'd suggest you keep your distance.
2/10/14: -- Finish line carnage !

-- Update: Doc says it's actually a torn plantaris. Not the end of the world, just really annoying. No running or frolicking about for a month. And salsa dancing is definitely out.

-- Thrones! OMG Thrones!

-- Was playing well on Saturday morning - shots were falling and I had a pep in my step. The creaky ol' knees were cooperating for once, and I was getting nice elevation on my jump shots. And then someone snuck into the gym and hurled a golf ball at my right calf as hard as they could. Ok not really, but that's exactly what it felt like. I even looked around the gym in bewilderment for the perpetrator before coming to my senses... It's not like I was performing some spectacular feat of athleticism at that moment - the ball wasn't even in play. Just took a step. WHAM! Cue pain.

Seeing a doc in a few hours, fingers crossed this isn't a show stopper. I just don't have time for this.

2/7/14: -- Celebrities reading mean tweets. Ooooh, man.

-- As Sochi is eight hours or so ahead of us, the Opening Ceremony is already underway. And apparently this happened. Heads will roll!

-- Appreciate the Google logo these past few days, a nice stick in Putin's eyeball.

-- I hate hate hate hate the whole Lego Universe thing. The books. The video games. Hate all of it. But review after review for The Lego Movie can't sing its praises loudly enough... might have to suck it up and bring the boys.
2/6/14: -- Well I guess I didn't win that big Esurance Twitter sweepstakes, but a sweet young couple did. And by the looks of those promo numbers (200K entries within the first minute!), Esurance is also a winner...

-- iPhone: you're doing it wrong.

-- Bookstores for your bucket list.

-- Wow, Brad and Scarlett look great sans makeup...
2/5/14: -- Everyone and their mom is sharing their personalized Facebook movie nowadays. Mine consists mostly of photo after photo of my wife drifting around the screen... funny thing that her lovely mug seems to generate the most "likes"...

-- Journalists arriving in Sochi are finding (and tweeting about) laughably subpar lodgings (thx Aunt Marion). Even more alarming is the guarantee that any smartphone or computer used in that vicinity will be compromised within minutes. And then there are the terrorism threats... Ya think maybe the IOC is regretting their choice of host for these games?

-- Please join me in saluting CVS this morning.
2/4/14: -- Fresh off the jaw-dropping Season 3 finale - all of your burning Sherlock questions - answered! Well, a few of them anyway.

-- A follow up to yesterday's story about the man who survived over a year drifting at sea (scroll down) - here's a scientific look at what a human body needs and how someone could have conceivably survived that ordeal. Survival tip: Don't drink your own pee!

-- Ok fine, I'll link to the Sherlock vs the muppets bit that has everyone squealing (thx Kate).
2/3/14: -- So siked that our local bookshop is staying open after all.

-- Did this man really survive 13 months floating at sea?

-- I was thinking about this scene on the way into work, but Slate Magazine beat me to the punch. Philip Seymour Hoffman had so many amazing roles over the years, but for me nothing compares to these two minutes or so in Boogie Nights, Scotty showing off his new ride to Dirk. No actor on earth could've delivered that scene like Hoffman did. Such a terrible loss.

-- Super Boring XLVIII: The morning after the Super Bowl usually finds me busy at the keyboard recapping the game highlights and providing snarky commentary on the zillion dollar commercials. But today I got nuttin'. The event was completely unremarkable. The game was a blowout from the opening snap. The commercials (aside from the self-deprecating Radio Shack 80s thing, of course - Kid N' Play! Alf! Teen Wolf!) were meh. And the halftime show, well, I despise Bruno Mars. I'll give him credit for the high energy, old-school vibe, but... maybe the night could've been salvaged if the Red Hot Chili Peppers had more than forty seconds on stage.

Shortly after halftime I switched over to Downton Abbey/Sherlock and never looked back.

1/31/14: -- Another beautiful tribute to D&D on its 40th.

-- The missus and I were tentatively eying Labor Day for a sappy date night movie treat, or maybe V-Day viewing? Hey, sometimes you gotta do what ya gotta do. And besides, KATE! But after reading David Edelstein's, ummm, less than favorable review, I'm not so sure...
1/30/14: -- Thrones!

-- Yet another adorable Budweiser Super Bowl commercial lined up for Sunday. There, I saved you the trouble of having to suffer through the game.

-- Check out my cousin the trainer lookin' all badass while doing things that look really painful.
1/29/14: -- Aidan's drawings are seldom discernible, so you can imagine my delight when I found this in my iPhone's photo library. At some point he must've snuck on there and used the Free Paint app. My smile was almost as big as the one in the drawing.
1/28/14: -- I love this bit in The Awl about T25, errr, more specifically Shaun T. The article is spot on - Shaun is able to connect with his audience in an almost mythical way. You're exhausted beyond measure, but you feel as if stopping would be letting him down somehow. So you find a way to keep moving.

So what about the program itself? Does T25 actually work? How does it compare to the oodles of other home workout programs out there? I've given this much thought, and having gone all in with the Beachbody programs - P90X, P90X2, P90X3 (in progress), Insanity, Insanity Asylum Volumes 1 and 2, and of course T25 - I believe T25 is the ideal starting point for a beginner or moderately fit person. That's not to say it's easy by any stretch, oh no. You will suffer plenty. You will beg for mercy. But the difference with T25 is the emphasis on "modification" moves. The fit and lovely Tanya marches alongside Shaun and performs a modified version of each exercise. Not yet ready to get airborne? Stick with Tanya. Traditional pushups too tough? Join Tanya for the on-the-knees variety. And so on. Eventually the regular versions of the movements become quite doable.

And come on, 25 minutes? There really are no excuses. Oh God, I sound just like those dreadful infomercials...

So what about the other programs I've mentioned? I'm short on time (the gym beckons!), so here's a quick blurb about each:

P90X - Old school. Weights. Push-ups and pull-ups. Great for building a basic foundation of strength. Damn long though. And aside from that one plyo workout, not much for the endurance junkie.

P90X2 - New school. Med balls and balance balls. Emphasis on core strength, stabilizing muscles, balance, and sports performance. I don't think this one sold very well, which is too bad - I loved it.

P90X3 - I'm only a few weeks in, but so far so good. They've obviously taken a cue from the success of T25, as these workouts are a brief but intense 30 minutes. Oddball movements. Fun. I'll review more in depth upon completion.

Insanity - Tough! The infomercials don't lie. Leg burn like you've never imagined. Emphasis on burning fat in a hurry, using your own bodyweight. I still re-visit these workouts once in a while, though they trashed these old knees of mine. If you've finished T25 and you're up for a challenge, well, you've been warned...

Insanity Asylum (Vols 1 and 2) - Supposedly these are designed for sports performance, but let's face it - these are endurance workouts, sick and twisted masochistic endurance workouts. Seriously, Olympic track athletes would struggle through these. You'll never be happier to see that clock hit 0:00.


-- Google Glass has a new look. Sorry, but it's still nerdy as hell in my opinion. And the technology itself is just plain creepy.
1/27/14: -- Anyone have an old IBM Model M Keyboard you're looking to unload? Oh how I miss it so... Clickety clackety clickety clackety!

-- Catch the Grammy Show last night? How about those Daft Punk robot guys? I felt like The Geek in Sixteen Candles: "Take those ridiculous things OFF!"

Ooooh, and then there was Trent Reznor with a few choice words for the network, who opted to cut to commercial halfway through Trent's jam with Queens of the Stone Age, Lindsey Buckingham and Dave Grohl. Laaaaaaame.

I was only watching the show in chunks (Hello!? Sunday night! Downton! Sherlock! Hello?!?), but it's on the DVR. All 19 hours of it. Maybe tonight I'll go back and FF through all the junk to check out these acts everyone's yappin' about. Who should I skip? No wait, that's probably a long list... Who should I not skip?

1/24/14: -- Whoa, was Gmail really down for almost an hour today? Say it ain't so!

-- My new favorite website: conferencecall.biz. It would be hilarious were it not so tragically true to life...

-- Depressing stat: 1/4 of American adults did not read a single book in 2013. Hey don't look at me.

-- Chess is cool again thanks to this young man.

-- These new limited edition Oreo cookies are further proof that God exists and wants us to be happy.

-- Our pellet stove picked a baaaaad night to blow a gasket (or whatever the hell happened). Got dressed this morning in the basement practically hugging the antique Glenwood Oak wood stove... felt like old times at the Harrison Street house.
1/23/14: -- It's ok if you tear up a bit reading the highlights from Mark Hamill's recent Reddit AMA. I did. Hamill on Yoda: "The minute I looked at him, he was real to me. You notice that with small children, the puppeteer isn't hiding what he's doing but the kids are zeroed in on Oscar or Grover or whoever, again it's that childlike ability to believe and I never want to feel like I lose that."

Amen.


-- Romantimatic is an app that periodically reminds you to tell your significant other how much you love him/her. Awwwwwww. *barf*
1/22/14: -- The WSJ has posted a series of photos of New Yorkers busting their asses on slippery sidewalks. Cruel! Now stop laughing.

-- The 25 most common passwords... please tell me you don't have one on that list. PLEASE.

-- The world's biggest coffee drinkers, visualized. The Netherlands? Really?

-- Socotra Island in the Indian Ocean has an abundance of plant life not seen anywhere else on earth. Those trees are straight out of a Dr. Seuss book, take me there at once!

-- Cats about to sneeze. Because why not?

-- Today is the real polar vortex. Dangerously cold out there right now.
1/21/14: -- Not into March Madness? Well you may consider getting involved this year - Warren Buffett is offering $1 Billion for a flawless bracket.

-- Striking images of betta fish. It's funny - I randomly spent a good 10 minutes last night staring in rapture at Gottfried, our betta. We've had him for a year or so but for whatever reason I've never really stopped to admire what a lovely little creature he is. I'll try to get a pic of him if he'll pose for me.

-- D&D is turning 40 this month, here's a great bit in Salon about life lessons learned from the game. Wish I could climb into the Hot Tub Time Machine and go back for one more geek session on mother's side porch... Brandishing swords. Casting spells. Sneaking past the guards. Sprinkling a sleeping potion into the Ogre's can of grog... No computers or tablets required (what the hell are those?) - just paper, pencils, and a handful of funny-looking dice. Oh yeah, and something called an imagination.

-- Healthcare.gov - far from secure.

-- My new knee routine. Maybe it's just mind over body, but it seems to work for now so I'll milk it for all it's worth.

-- Wow, has it really been 30 years? A look back at the Macintosh.
1/20/14: -- Amazon to employ Jedi mind powers to ship your stuff before you know you want it. First the drones, now this. Anyone else getting a little creeped out?

-- MLK's Letter from Birmingham Jail. That's how it's done.

-- "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
1/17/14: -- Mother, I hope you're having a stellar day. I can already taste the margaritas. Happy B-day!
1/16/14: -- Sugarless Haribo Gummy Bears? Think twice. "When the rumbling started I sprinted down the hallway and made it to the bathroom just in time for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to stampede from my backside..." Be sure follow the Amazon link at the bottom of the page, some of the reviews are absolute gold. The guy with the German girlfriend, my God...

-- A mathematician has calculated how to survive the first half hour of nuclear war. I'm sticking with my previous plan, which is Step 1: put head between legs. Step 2: well, you already know step 2.

-- DrumPants. Is this for real, or just some Jimmy Kimmel hoax?

-- Your daily dose of people doing insane things...
1/15/14: -- Apparently online gaming addiction is also a serious problem in China, as well as South Korea (scroll down to 1/9 post). 300 consecutive hours of Warcraft anyone? The kid mentioned occasional naps taken right there in his gaming chair, but I wonder if he took bathroom breaks... or perhaps adult diapers did the trick?

-- During the day when the poochies are home alone, Teddy licks and licks and licks and licks Honey's face for whatever reason. All day. She just sits there and takes it. Who knows, maybe it feels nice. So for the past several months she's had gaping, oozing, painful looking sores as a result. We've tried that bitter ick anti-lick spray stuff for dogs, no luck. Finally we ended up banishing Teddy to Grandma's last week, if for no reason other than give the sores some healing time. Well Teddy's back (see above), and today we applied a generous amount of apple cider vinegar (which - who knew? - supposedly has all kinds of health benefits for humans) around her head and face area. Stuff smells awful. But if it doesn't work I suppose we'll need to separate the mutts during the day, which they'll hate. Suggestions anyone?
1/14/14: -- The best use of Photoshop I've seen in quite a while. Just brilliant.
1/13/14: -- Wow, who knew RDJ could sing??? Check him out with Sting.

-- Last night was serious TV overload, what with the season premiere of Girls going up against The Golden Globes, Downton, and others. There was a interesting bit in the NYT about this Sunday night phenomenon, evidently the networks' decision to jam-pack that night of the week with our favorite guilty pleasures is based in science and psychology. From the article: "It has both the anticipation and dread of the following week, so you're in an emotional state... It's the perfect evening to play off the emotions of your viewer." DAMN YOU, networks, for knowing me better than I know myself. And DAMN YOU for playing off of my Sunday evening back-to-work-tomorrow blues! Now pass the popcorn.
1/9/14: -- South Koreans loooooove their Starcraft. So much so that the government has placed gaming addiction in the same bracket as drug addiction. Read on.

I never fell as far as the slack-jawed, glossy eyed zombies described in that article. But in my WoW heyday I could certainly feel the pull. Suffice to say I wasn't getting the proper amounts of sleep back then... Hey, it's science. Dopamine. Those kids need help.

1/7/14: -- Had a thought: is this the coldest weather I've ever experienced?
1/6/14: -- Watch this and get depressed. What have we become? I just threw my iPhone into a river.

-- Downton Abbey resumed last night after what seemed like an eternity. S4 Ep1 was a monstrous two-hour behemoth of an episode, but what diehard Downton fan would dare complain? Personally I'm not finding any of the new story lines terribly interesting, and yet last night was still intensely watchable. Such is Downton Abbey. Vulture's recap is terrific as usual.
1/2/14: -- So here's the thing about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. This is not the children's story you read in 7th grade. To say that Mr. Jackson took a few liberties is a major understatement. There are volumes upon volumes of content not found in the book, and a come hell or highwater attempt to link these movies to the global events that would follow years later in The Fellowship. There's Freckles from ABC's Lost (not in the book). And Legs (also not in the book). And a thrilling if a bit ridiculous barrel ride (weren't the dwarves supposed to be sealed up inside those barrels?). And lots more Radagast. And crooked politicians in Lake-Town...

I could go on and on. But don't worry - it is quite possible to cherish the book, but put it aside for an evening and enjoy the heck out of this movie. I just did.

Noteworthy randomness: the CGI Smaug is dazzling. He looks and moves exactly like every old-school D&D'er imagined a classic red dragon would... We finally meet Beorn, one of my all-time favorite Tolkein characters. But sadly, there just wasn't enough of him or the fun dialogue from the Queer Lodgings chapter... Kinda growing weary of Legolas' apparent invincibility. He's appeared in four films and has yet to miss, and he's personally responsible for the deaths of 719 enemies. I don't remember him being this whirlwind of death in the novels...


-- Woman eats/drinks nothing but Starbucks for an entire year. As for me, I feel guilty stopping there once or twice a month...
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