Sunday, October 30, 2011

Those Were The Days

Well, maybe not THIS long ago...
Like the sentiment behind the lyrics to the song Archie and Edith used to belt out together every week, I think I too am getting to that middle-aged melancholy state where the current just doesn't live up to the past.

For all the so-called advancements in technology and all, I'm surely not the only one of my generation or older who feels that we've not progressed in our standard of living, as an American society, but have quite considerably regressed in many ways.

Here are just a few of the subtle downgrades in our quality-of-life we've come to endure in recent times, in my humble opinion...

Parking lot and gas station lighting: Used to be good ol' sodium arc and metal halide lights flooded these wide areas with a bright, safe illumination keeping the scary night at bay. Now with low-level LEDs and induction lighting you can barely see a thing! I always feel there are nefarious people taking advantage of the deeper, darker shadows. But, in the name of cost-savings and "going green", the bright lights of our 20th century past are surely becoming the murkey havens for crime and malfeasance like our gas-lit 19th century. Welcome back Jack the Ripper!

Switched digital video: Like I was ranting about in the previous post, cable providers are getting mighty neglectful of doing just that...PROVIDING a quality service. Since it costs them more to flood cable nodes with all channels a subscriber should have access to, they've devised a way to rig the system to allocate signal for any given channel on an ad hoc "on demand" basis. And, since it's a way to cut corners and probably cook the books in some way, they pay cable distributors less, bill the customer the same and only allow the most popular channels access to the broadband at any given time. Sorry Granny, I know you want to watch "Murder She Wrote" on TVLand...well you live in an area where they're isn't enough old fogies like you watching it so your screwed! Hey Black Girl, you want to check out "Mo' Nique" on BET but you live in Pocatelo, Idaho...guess what, you're screwed! Hey closeted Gay Guy attending Robert Welch University, ready for an afternoon marathon of "RuPaul's Drag Race" on LOGO...you're screwed! Talk about red lining!

Cellphones: Another of my recent rants involved these supposed vital tools of our modern lifestyles. Not for me. I see it as a degradation of the very thing it was designed for: communication. Once upon a time, you could potentially hope to meet new friends or maybe even that "special soul-mate" while shopping for melons in your local grocery. Not anymore. Everyone's mesmerised by their freakin' cellphones. They have invisible tethers binding them and the people they already know, encompassing them all in a mysterious bubble shield that allows no interlopers. Another restriction on "happenstance" communication is the fact that cellphones are, usually, in the possession of the owner only. No chance chats with the roommate of your friend you wanted to get to know better.

Red Light Cameras: Oh but they can cut down on auto accidents and serve as a cost-effective deterrent freeing up law enforcement from mundane lurking duties and allowing them to go after the real bad guys. Huh? Oh Sweetie, what world do you live in? Poor thing. No, my dear, those cameras are not only for the obvious: to escalate the gross dollar amount of traffic ticket revenue by automation. They're there as a more sinister revenue generator for city and state coffers (and politico's pockets, of course)...data mining. Many companies would pay dearly for information about a person's whereabouts any time of day and wherever they went. What stores do they shop at? What billboards do they pass by? What kind of cars do they drive? What kind of clothes do they wear? Yes Darlin', it's Big Brother to the corporate database's rescue! "To Protect and Serve?"...sure, for these guys.

Oh I got lots more to gripe about, believe you me. I may have to make this a series. Meanwhile I'll just sit in my little room and reminisce about my bygone civilization that slipped away quietly in the name of "progress".

Friday, October 28, 2011

More Bright House Bullshit

Last month I finally ditched my old tube TV and got a Samsung LED HDTV. The TV works great but Bright House's HD service sucks, to say the least.

First, when I traded in my regular digital box for an HD converter, I was given a banged up used unit. Sure enough, I had problems right away.

Every few days or so I'd go to turn on the TV and the picture would show up with no sound. Then some text appeared saying that the HDMI couldn't be read and it suggested I use another hook-up configuration. Calling customer service was, like in the past, a waste of time. They told me what their support pages on their horribly-designed website told me: unplug the box, plug it back in, and let it reboot.

Another problem that frequently occurred was that when clicking over to certain channels the show wouldn't be there. Instead it would be a graphic that just said: This channel is currently unavailable. Please try again later. And it indicated that I could press the yellow triangle "A" on the remote to "Try Again", and, of course, it would just keep displaying the same message. Again, customer service gave me directions to reboot. They also managed to click on something to do a "more powerful" reboot from their end. All that failing, they sent out a tech.

The tech replaced my converter box with a brand new one. But now the picture quality looks more washed out than before. Could the box affect that?

And the previous problems?

Still there.

I just love paying for crappy cable service.

Too bad I'm in a north-facing apartment. Otherwise DirectTV might look pretty tempting.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Beer And Board Games Fan

There's a lot of stupid ass shit on YouTube, of course, but so many amateur comedy skit things really come across as either a.) TOO amateur, b.) poorly written or c.) poorly acted. What's more, good comic humor can be written and directed well but unless the actors have natural comedic timing and sensibility, they can easily suck. This is even more vital when it's a comic duo or a group and essential when the material is mainly improv.

I present to you one of the best comedy video series, IMHO, on YouTube today...Beer and Board Games.

The premise is quite simple. Four guys get together and play a board game together while drinking exotic beers (chosen by viewers who have donated money) and film it all for YouTube.

Now, truth be told, it's not quite totally amateur. The guys are members and contributors of Blame Society Productions and are responsible for a few already successful YouTube video comedy series (Dr. Moley and Chad Vader to name a couple). Matt and Aaron (and perhaps others) also have at least some "real" professional bullet point accomplishments (ie. real jobs) they could include on their resumes.

The good buddy rapport these guys have seems so entirely genuine. Whether it's the four we see in the video example included below or it's a group swapping out Dylan and Jason for equally funny alternates (especially Aaron's brother Andrew), the way-too-short sub-10 minute clip is sure to have you literally pissing your pants laughing.

Monday, October 17, 2011

You Know I Wanted It

After many hours of research, in the end I decided to go with what I knew I'd regret not getting had I chosen anything else.

That's right, I got an iPad.

It really looks and feels like a work of art.

I find there are a few things I have to learn to get over like the subtly different way apps work as compared to the way programs work on "bigger" computers. And though I don't miss most Flash scripting on websites since they're often utilized as irritating ads, it takes getting used to. (Although the iPad does a great job at replacing Flash applications that are integral to the proper utilization of key site features like YouTube videos.)

While it's simply gorgeous and futuristic and handy as a quick-reference guide, I doubt I'll ever again use this to post again. It's tedious, I can't use "compose",and it sometimes uses predictive text to complete what it think's I'm trying to write, it gets it wrong frequently.

I actually don't have too much in the way of buyer's remorse despite the way this post is tending to sound...I really do like it, and, like I said, I really do think that I would have constantly wondered if I was "settling" had I gone with even a fine competitor like a Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Well I do have many things to do with my new toy today so I guess stop tapping these virtual keys now.

UPDATE: Well within 2 days of this post, buyer's remorse had indeed gotten the best of me and I returned the iPad. It was beautiful, as I mentioned, but $500 less in debt sound even more beautiful.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Best Bargain Portable PCs?

So I get this email from Amazon today boasting about their soon-to-be-released restyled Kindle selections including the Kindle Fire which looks like it's not just an e-book reader but a pretty functional full color touchscreen Android tablet. At $199 it looks like a really fine option.



Hmmm, but could I do better, I wondered?

I surfed around and found there are a few tablets for just $100 out there. Here's one:



Hmmm, but then I noticed on the side bar one going for just $35!!! What?!!!



BUT WAIT...HERE'S ONE FOR JUST 10 FREAKIN' DOLLARS!!!!



Makes me wonder how much this one would go for...maybe A PENNY?

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Reality Bites

Suspicious Minds

We're caught in a trap
I can't walk out...

Suspicious Minds - Elvis

The Junta faction, the Free-Thinkers and the Gestapo are all gearing up for an all-out war.

"Where?" you may ask..."some video game or a novel you're reading?"

No, it'd be less scary if it were just fiction, but it's real life...

It's my workplace.

The rumor mill is grinding its wheels in high speed lately and there have already been victims...

The Clinical Assistant reportedly "chose" to not return to her position she'd held for several years once she delivered her newborn baby. Yes, very understandable, but I think there may be more to the story. She never mentioned this intention until just before delivery due date. Very odd.

A much-beloved and long-term member of the kitchen staff was fired suddenly. And now her replacement has been let go after only a month or so on the job. Failed background check, so we've heard. BS, I say. This place wouldn't let me or June start our first minute on the job until all checks came back crystal clean. Now kitchen staff aren't direct care so they may have different background checks done but I doubt it. They still have very close contact with the residents and I'm sure they vet them as fully before they start their first day as well.

And now Scott's been fired. Why? No one knows and even the most specious of rumor threads can only speculate it was something recently that was simply the last straw on the camel's back. He was a bit of a Free Thinker and that may not be the best party to be on in the eyes of the Gestapo.

Speaking of eyes, Chris W., a trusted Free Thinker pool person and also long-time employee has seen a lot over the years. He confided in me he has reason to believe there may be credibility to a rumor that the Gestapo (headed by Helen, of course) is asking residents to spy on staff.

Huh? If this is true, how inappropriate...no, actually, how criminal is that! Asking mentally ill people to spy on their caregivers and presumably report back to administration? How could any professional in this field knowingly plant seeds of suspicion and fear into the minds of people who have a long and arduous history of struggles discerning reality from fiction?

Many of these folks believe the Mafia is out to get them, for cryin' out loud! One lady even props a tambourine behind her front door each night so she'll hear it in case Vito "No Nose" Gambini comes a callin' with his silenced snub-nosed .38 special!

And this morning, one resident tells me that she feels embarrassed that I saw her naked one night while I did rounds. She said she never saw me since she was asleep, but Helen told her about it.

With so many stories flying around, it really makes me wonder if I work at a place where the really crazy people are the ones running it all!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Goodbye Steve

You will be missed.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

VIDEO SCRAPBOOK: '70s Robots On TV

Here are some memorable, and not-so-memorable TV show clips from the '70s and early '80s featuring robots:











Monday, October 03, 2011

EPCOT: The World In My Belly

The 2011 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is now underway and I had a wonderful afternoon sampling what the world (or at least the parts of the world represented) had to offer me as I strolled through the World Showcase in search of tasty culinary delights. And alcohol, of course.

I arrived at Epcot around noon today and first made my way to Spaceship Earth. Hard to believe that I hadn't been on this iconic ride since before it was refurbished in early 2008. It seems smoother now (not so much clickity-clack as before, and no more old machinery/burning oil smell) and much more up-to-date. (It was a little sad before the refurb, as late as the mid-2000's, seeing the "future" diorama showing people with cell phones as big as toasters LOL!)

Next I went to my favorite ride here, Mission: Space. More Intense Orange queue of course! A lady in my pod feared she'd get sick and had the sickness bag at the ready before the ride even got under way. Whew, luckily, she didn't need it. She said she'd never go on it again though. Ah yes, I remember years ago being a bit intimidated by this ride. The g-forces are a bit intense at times but that's the fun of it!

By now my tummy was growling and as I made my way toward the World Showcase (moving in the traditional clockwise pattern) I could smell the wonderful array of grilled and steamed foods filling the warm air.

Speaking of the air, the weather could not have been more ideal today, high in the low 80's, low humidity, a gentle breeze and not a cloud in the sky! Fall seems to have arrived here in Central Florida, and I'm lovin' it! I was able to soak up lots of luscious rays today; much needed for my Vitamin D deprived, night-dweller self.

My first festival stop was Argentina (What? Where's Argentina? Some of you who've been to Epcot may say this...well during the Food and Wine Festival they have lots of nationalities in kiosks that don't have a permanent showcase "land" here...doesn't that fact alone make the Festival more appealing? "Not a paid spokesperson for Disney, just a fan:)").

Here I had the Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Purée paired with Terrazas Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon. Yummy! The sauce on the beef was like a pesto with lots of garlic. It sat on top of a dollop of what tasted just like scrumptious mashed potatoes. The wine was bold but smooth. I kinda expected they'd have a nice Shiraz. I associate that variety as being especially good from South American vineyards.

Next was Mexico. Here I sampled the Rib Eye Taco with Chipotle Sauce in a flour tortilla and a Strawberry Lime Margarita on the rocks. The taco was tasty, but runny and I forgot a napkin, LOL! And the margarita, very weak on the tequila. Ugh!

I passed over Scandinavia and China since the items I would have wanted to try there would be available either at IKEA or any local Chinese buffet respectively. Instead, I made a B-Line for South Korea.

Here I tried Boolgogi BBQ Beef with Steamed Rice and Kimchi and a Lettuce Wrap with Roast Pork and Kimchi Slaw. I have never tried Korean food before but I'd read about it and was very curious. Now that I've had it I can honestly say...FABULOUS! Oh, I need to find a Korean restaurant now! I loved the Kimchi!

But now it was time to commence the beer drinking. Fortunately Germany was right around the bend. I remember years ago the Epcot food and Wine festival really focused on the wine and relegated the beers to afterthoughts. No longer. Beer is available at almost every kiosk and it's fresh and good. I expect they'll rename it to the Food and Beverages Festival sometime in the near future, eh? Anyway, I digress, back to the day's events...

In the German "land" they had a kiosk that was entirely devoted to just beer. No food, no wine, just beer. But about 12 varieties of beer! I chose the Radeberger Pilsner (German Pilsner) 22 oz. in a plastic collector's mug with the Food and Wine logo embossed on it. This beer tasted VERY fresh. It reminded me when I visited Germany...the real one...and drank fresh-brewed beer. I was feeling a little buzzed after this.

I went to the food kiosk for Germany and got a Nuernberger Sausage in a Pretzel Roll. It came with a dab of mustard on the paper plate. Ah, it reminded me of street kiosks selling bratwurst sandwiches in the real Nuremberg. Absolutely delicious!

Next I strolled over to the nearby Poland kiosk. Here I ordered Kielbasa and Potato Pierogie with Caramelized Onions and Sour Cream; Golabki (pork-stuffed cabbage). It was like I was a child enjoying Christmas Eve dinner again. Oh, this was good stuff!

I sat at an Italy area table to eat my Polish food and sip the remainder of my German beer. Once finished, I meandered over to Singapore. Here I sampled Shrimp Cake on a Sugarcane Skewer with Singapore Noodles paired with a Tiger Beer. I was surprised the noodles were cold but they were very tasty. (The cold noodles were on purpose, BTW...I have to say, the folks at Epcot were tremendous...I watched as workers ferried battery-electrified carts to the various kiosks, insuring the food would be kept hot...and it was!)

I sat for a while, soaking up some much needed sun, then, after I finished my Tiger Beer, I went to Japan and got a 16 oz. Kirin beer. I sat and watched a Japanese drummer presentation.

Afterwards I walked sipping my beer. I was feeling too full to try anything else but after a while I found just enough room for dessert.

I got a chocolate covered cannoli at a permanent Italy kiosk and after eagerly munching it down I sat near the Piazza San Marco and watched a mime show. After that there was a troupe of Italian women belting out traditional Italian favorites. They also put on a show incorporating members of the viewing audience. Guess who was called up to participate? Yup, me!

I was wrangled up to play a part in a simple play and I loved it. I was told to pretend to be crying as a "parent of the bride" in the play we were preforming and I did so with relish. I was asked to stay to assist in the next skit as well. It was really a lot of fun!

It was getting close to the concert time so I grabbed a Sam Adams 16th Anniversary Boston Lager from the American kiosk and sipped on it as I waited at the American Adventure Stage for .38 Special.

The band was great! Classic Southern-rock standards from the mid-80's!

After the show, as the sun closed in on the horizon, I made my way out of the park and headed home. A belly full of world foods and drinks. Now, yes, it did cost more than $75 for this feast (that's just the food and drinks, of course, we're not counting the park admission since I have the annual pass) but it was well worth it!